Furud walks over to his customary lunch table, trying to hide a limp. He's dressed in black as always, the silver torque shining in contrast. Perhaps less usual are the black wraps around his wrists and the bruises and scrapes that can be seen on his face and hands. He flops into the seat and starts to eat without speaking.
Merope looks up from her customary table some distance away. He rlunch is long finished, and having finally caught sight of Furud, she waves quickly and mouths a few goodbyes to her tablemates and walks over, trying to look casual. She slows as she gets closer, noticing the bruises.
Furud pauses with a mouthful of half-chewed food of some sort, then swallows it. "Oh hey Mero. Didn't see you there." He smiles in greeting, a little too brightly.
Merope "Hey. Hi. Um." She looks him up and down, trying not to stare. "Can I sit here?"
Furud shrugs a little, and waves to the chair opposite. "It's a free country, right?"
Merope "Right." She sits. "So, uh... I missed you at the party on Saturday. I mean, I saw you, but then you disappeared..."
Antares sort of slinks in, apparently wearing sunglasses today. She sort of eyes the tactical situation in the lunchroom, then sits at the same table as Furud and Merope, a couple of seats down. You know, casual.
Furud "Yeah, it was a great party. I should have stayed later, but I got dragged off, you know." He laughs.
Merope "Dragged off? Oh...." and she finally spots Antares. "Ohhh... Oh!"
Merope "Right. Well, um, okay, I hope you guys had a good time and everything, that's all."
Furud "Yeah, me and Antares spent the night together, and Maia joined us."
Antares "It was a blast," Antares says flatly, then looks like she wasn't supposed to be interested enough to listen.
Merope "Maia... um. Wow! Okay, that's... that's, wow."
Merope "I'm uh, glad you guys got everything sorted out."
Furud "Wow is definitely one word for it."
Antares gives up on indifference long enough to glare. "Nothing happened, Mero."
Antares "Oh, uh, happy birthday."
Merope "Um, thanks. And uh, thank you for playing and everything, you guys were great."
Merope "I was just worried that you all left so abruptly, but uh..." She looks at Furud's bruises again. "So long as it was, you know, nothing, that's cool, you know."
Merope "I still have the money for you guys, too. I was goona leave it with Casey but then I thought maybe I shouldn't do that.."
Antares looks briefly like she can't remember what Merope is talking about, then brightens. "Hey, thanks. You should give it to... uh." She stops, then recovers and says, "Hang onto it for now, we'll catch you later."
Merope "Right! Right."
Merope She pauses, not knowing where to look.
Furud "Yeah. More or less."
Antares "Anyway, uh, don't let me interrupt. Your thing."
Merope "Oh, no, um..." Merope pauses, paralysed with indecision.
Furud "It's not a thing..."
Merope "Yeah, we're not... in a thing, I mean."
Merope "I mean, because you guys are in a thing now, and... I mean, me and Furud are like, wow, ancient history, and so, you know, it's great that you guys are... that you coul go and, you know, nothing could happen. Um."
Antares hesitates a second, herself, shooting a questioning look at Furud that's foiled by her sunglasses.
Antares "What? Shit, no, we're not in a thing."
Merope "Oh? Oh. Um. Okay."
Merope gives up. "So the bruises aren't some kinky sex thing, then?"
Furud rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah I mean... I don't uh think we're official or anything... yet... but." He looks over at Antares "I mean you can't deny that something happened, can you?
Merope There's an awkward pause, as everyone tries to work out what everyone else just said.
Antares looks between the two of them, pulling down her sunglasses to show bloodshot, dark-circled eyes. "What the fuck is with you two? Look, I don't care, get back to your little gossip session. I was just... forget it."
Antares stands up abruptly and stalks for the door.
Furud blinks and stares after her. "What? Did I say something?"
Merope just looks a bit shellshocked.
Merope She watches Antares go, and then says "Okay, so it wasn't a kinky sex thing? Um. I'm sorry, Furud."
Furud "Shit." He drops his chin into his hand, and scoops up another bite of amorphous food.
Furud "It's not your fault. Probably. Hell I can't talk to her for five minutes without her wanting to punch me or something."
Merope Merope stares after Antaraes for a bit, and then shakes her head. "Okay, whatever, look, I came over here because, well.... I mean, did you two fight or something? Because you seriously look like hell."
Furud "I uh. I don't really want to talk about it. Maybe later okay?"
Merope "...yeah, okay."
Merope "...I mean, so long as like... you're okay, and everything..."
Furud "Yeah. Okay enough I guess."
Merope She looks meaningfully at Furud, properly concerned now, her mind finally having worked around to other possibilities. "Okay."
Furud "I wish I could sleep."
Merope Merope says nothing for a while.
Merope Then, she very carefully says: "..Furud?"
Merope "I uh, wanted to speak to you. About, um, star stuff."
Furud half flinches and looks at her guardedly. "Uh. What about it? You okay?"
Merope "Well, Ras and I were talking, and... well, I was thinking, you know, and after this last week... I just can't deny it any more, so... well, Ras and me want in."
Furud "You... want in." He shakes his head. "You want in now? Skies above, you have the best timing."
Merope Merope blinks. "I do?"
Furud "Listen... just... Just stay out of it, it's better that way."
Merope looks perplexed.
Merope "But you always said, you know, if we learnt how to focus, and control it... and after the Principal got jumped on Friday after he interviewed I've just felt scared, so I thought if I knew more about what was going on..."
Furud "Knowing more will not make you safer."
Merope just stares, her mouth half open. "Wha... but... you always..."
Merope "Furud, did something... did someone get to you?"
Merope She looks suddenly alert, edgy, her eyes darting around before returning to stare at Furud.
Furud "No. I just changed my mind about some stuff. I'm fine." He stabs at his plate fiercely with his fork.
Merope leans back a bit, looking from side to side. "Are they here right now?" she says, in a low voice. "Just grunt once for yes."
Furud "Uh. I damn well hope not."
Merope "So someone DID get to you! Oh, Furud, I'm sorry, oh god." She puts her hand to her mouth. "And I was talking about S&M..." She gawps at the bruises with renewed horror.
Furud points his fork at her, "Don't freak out in the cafeteria. I told you I'm fine. Just drop it."
Merope She looks at him, her lips pursed, one hand held near her mouth, her eyes starting to glisten slightly.
Merope "I just thought... maybe if I could control it, then I wouldn't do it accidentally, and..." She looks on the verge of tears, but she doesn't dare reach out to him.
Furud keeps his eyes fastened on his hands, flexing them slowly, focusing on the pain of his scrapes to avoid Mero's sympathy and horror. Abruptly he stands, and grabs his tray. "I have to go."
Merope "Furud, please... you can talk to me..."
Furud "No, Mero," he says distantly. "I can't. I still care about you, you know." And then his tray clatters onto the pile, and he is gone.