Duration: April 2014
Leigh, Bastien, Kayla - Dolly at School
Nemo, Adrian, Mrs. Williams - Me
It relaxes me, the man reiterated in his mind. Then something is eating you up. Something grave enough for you to resort to such dire means. For some reason, it piqued his interest but Nemo knew better than to claw further than this. He was well aware Bastien didn't trust him just yet. If anything, the sharing was just a slip of the brat facade from having kept things locked away for so long. This was simply chance, not a gift of trust. That would be the kind that took time to gain. It already satisfied him to know this much now. As the adage goes, all things are revealed in due time. This wouldn't be the last for sure.
"You really don't need a reason besides that you just want to?, "he offered as an explanation of sorts, unclasping his hands and raised them in emphasis, "If you smoke joint because it relaxes you, then why can't you just talk of things simply because you want to? It's not a crime. Go ahead. Talk. We have all the time in the world." Speaking of the time... What time was it? He sat up, straightening up and rolled his sleeve upward. The blond pause to check the time. They've been gone for an hour? That long already? It was then he realized that he had left his phone on the charging dock. Was anyone looking for them yet? He turned to face the boy, hands flat against his thighs and slightly hunched forward. There was something about the teenager that rubbed him in a wrong way but at the same time told me that it wouldn't be right to turn away now. Nemo frowned slightly at the thought, bemoaning internally at the 'health hazards' of his new job.
"And for your information, there's no such thing as a normal family. Normal family's are the stuff of fairy tales, Bastien. Mine's certainly anything but normal, thank you very much. But that aside, I fail to see how your brother doesn't care about you as much as he does for your little sister. And he has every right to be angry with the situation you're in, take note: the situation, not you, It's normal. It's a given. Regardless if you deserve it or not, he'd have no choice but to get over himself at some point and then help you get over yourself too. Tell me something, why are you so afraid to make him mad? You tell me why, I won't judge."
The blond trained his eyes on the younger brunet, spurring him to speak while he listened on. Say something, anything. Didn't matter. If Ien wanted to comment about anything under the setting sun, so be it and he'd be all ears still.
He wouldn't deny that it was funny that Bastien seemed insistent that he wouldn't give so much a damn simply because he was a brat. Well, newsflash again. The blond was anything but a saint as well around the teenager's age.
'He's too busy to spend time with me.'
The eureka moment. The moment of truth. The golden hour. Suddenly everything it clicked. The sound of the proverbial chorus of cherubs singing Mozart's Hallelujah.
But somehow, Nemo felt the need to invoke the right to doubt and question his hypothesis rather than to outright presume. The idea seemed plausible enough for him truth be told. He needed much more than being able to put one and one together however.
"T'che...." the sound came out as soon as Nemo checked his watch. "All the time in the world, huh?" he muttered sarcastically. He shook his head and put his candy bar into his hoodie pocket. "You're so full of sh*t," he decided, turning on his heels and shaking his head a little.
He didn't have to explain himself to this guy. He didn't have to explain himself to anyone. He started back inside the building, shoving his hands into his pockets as he walked. He stopped after a moment and turned to look back at Nemo. "Oh, and for your information, it's just Weed," he said matter-of-factly. "It's not like I'm snorting coke. And I'm not afraid of my brother."
He went back inside the building then, leaving poor Nemo out there on the bench. He wasn't afraid to make his brother mad... he was afraid of disappointing him--not that he would ever admit that out loud. He hated it when Leigh got pissed at him, because then they fought and his pride prevented him from being able to open up to the man.
It sucked having an older brother who doubled as a father. He couldn't talk to him the way he felt he should be able to talk to his brother. He couldn't confide in him. It was like having an older brother dangled in front of him, but not being allowed to get near him.
Now it was his turn to brood and stare out into the open.
More than happy to take over the now vacated bench, the man inched towards the center with a rather stern expression.
While the conversation did not turn out for the most ideal, at least the goal of having Ien return into the premises had been achieved. That had been his intention in the first place. He glanced over his shoulder and watched Bastien step inside, greeted by the guard on duty while scrawling something obscured on by the outdoor podium used by the security. New record for entry, the blond thought. He couldn't help the snicker that escaped his lips when Ien all but ignored the man and disappeared further into the building.
There should have been some kind of feeling of relief, even accomplishment swelling in his chest but all he could express was a degree of numbness that came with hollow victories. Nemo snapped openly, violently rubbing at the back of his neck and hissing in frustration. This was so not on the job description for either copywriter or personal secretary. Shouldn't his concern right now be about taking after write ups, typography and even clients from hell? Dejectedly, he slumped against the bench and crossed his arms, unconsciously pouting. This was decidedly mature, the blond said sarcastically. Very adult indeed.
He let time pass, ignoring the moralistic tug of conscience that egged him to get over himself and get back inside. Nope. Nemo was feeling pretty put out right now and somehow letting it pass just like that felt like the best idea right, despite it seeming otherwise.
Eventually, he grew bored and began to fidget in the silence, then decided it was time to go back. The blond wordlessly, quietly and hoping not to be noticed as he skulked through the office corridors to the comfort of his desk. If anyone dared to question Nemo's prolonged absence, he would chuck it to 'space' on the grounds that he wanted Ien to go ahead and he'd follow shortly.
When he did return, the brat was sitting at his desk. That's right... there he was, like nothing had ever happened. He'd taken off his hoodie, and it was... probably in Leigh's office. He was leaning on the top of his desk, his chin resting in his palm as he looked at something on his computer. He sneered a little, apparently reacting to something he was reading. So, he sat up and typed something with a smirk.
That was when he saw Nemo coming. He straightened up and closed whatever he was doing on the computer, before sliding his hair back and spinning in it. "Took you long enough," he said with a little grin. "I thought maybe you'd quit."
He was such a brat, but it was more obvious now than ever that he was doing this for the attention. Not for attention from anyone--specifically Nemo. He could have been off harassing anyone else, but he was here. The grin on his face wasn't as devious as it had been before. It was just boyish and simple--amused and maybe a bit mischievous. Maybe he was starting to come around. Maybe he kind of liked Nemo. He was certainly fun to f*ck with, that was for sure.
Well I'll be damned.., he thought to himself in honest awe more than he wanted to let on from the outside. The blond was surprised indeed. Nemo's eyes widened briefly then furrowed against his brow and eventually softened into a casual, neutral expression. This was something he wasn't not expecting to come back to. Apparently someone had taken the liberty in tinkering around his work space in his absence, and even without his permission. Nice, like you own the place. He offered the younger brunet a small smile in turn and pulled one of the chairs in front of his work desk for him to sit on. Today, he decided to concede and let the boy have the chair.
Nemo leaned over towards the charging dock and grabbed his phone, swiping it active and began to peruse through his inbox for any new messages. "Was enjoying the view from outside. No harm in that," he stated while his eyes breezed through the messages and his fingers tapping out his responses. Nothing unusual, nothing interesting. Just things. Then he locked the screen, pocketing the device and arched his brow at Bastien at the teen's suggestion that he had already quit, "Me? Quit. You must be out of your mind." The blond looked like he was about to laugh at the impossible suggestion. Nemo then planted his hands firmly on the arm rests and smiled widely, "I'm touched you're showing concern over my employment but no, you won't be getting rid of me that easily."
He wasn't sure if the boy was still testing him or was taking sport in him like a roadside jester so the man couldn't help but be on guard. At the same time, the blond was aware that somehow Ien didn't really mean any harm despite being rather dangerous seeming. It confused him a great deal. Nemo wasn't sure just how to treat his boss' younger brother at all.
"I'm not a quitter."
Ien laughed at that. "You can have your desk back," he said, getting up. "I was just keeping your chair warm." He snorted a little and got to his feet with a shrug. "If I wanted to get rid of you, though... I wouldn't make you quit." He smiled at Nemo. It sounded like a challenge, but that smile said it was just Bastien being playful. He shook his head and walked away from Nemo's desk, heading back into his brother's office. Nemo didn't seem to notice or care that he'd been using his computer. That was good, at least.
It was just about five o'clock, and people were already neatening the piles on their desks and shutting down their computers for the night.
"Nemo," Leigh's voice suddenly called out. But he didn't wait for Nemo to come to him. He stepped over to his doorway and leaned against it. "I'm taking the brats to dinner. Come and have a few drinks with me." And dinner, though that was implied, he figured.
"That's awfully nice of you," he commented laughingly, watching Ien leave his chair and walk into the doorway of his boss' office, "I didn't know you could be nice too, Bastien. And oh, before I forget, please to meet you and make your acquaintance. See you later." The blond teased back as well with a hint of laughter in his voice. Seeing that his desk was once again for his use, Nemo got up and returned to his chair, giving it a good spin or two and relaxed against the contours.
Then he directed his attention onto the PC on his desk in a strange bout of curiosity to figure out what the Ien was doing while he was gone. The blond opened all the internet browsers and began scanning through the history tab for previously visited websites. And just to be safe, Nemo activated a virus scan while looking for tracks that were left behind.
And that was how he spent the remainder of his office hours until he caught Leigh's voice from the doorway. He spun on his seat, turning to face his boss. Drinks after work. To his mind, the blond couldn't help but think that it was another 'test' of sorts. In the past, he'd had bosses who took him out for drinks to discreetly look into his personality outside of work and judge him as a whole. Nonetheless, drinks are drinks. Nemo still smiled at the thought, obviously interested at the proposal and hummed in agreement, "Sounds just about good. What time do we go and where? I assume we'll meet up somewhere after you've had your dinner with them?"
He obviously didn't think that he was on the guest list for dinner with Leigh and his siblings. The man thought along the lines of... yeah, that. It wasn't his thing to impose and invite himself into family affairs, let alone assume he was going to be.
The only thing the boy had done, luckily, was log into his Facebook. But he hadn't actually logged out, so if Nemo clicked on the url, it would open his page, still logged in with a message box at the bottom. That's what he had been doing, chatting with friends. No big deal, except the subject matter was questionable:
Lex Raphael: hey got a can in u want in?
Bastien Morgan: mayb a dime bag
Lex Raphael: suck my dick ill give u 3g
Bastien Morgan: go f*ck urself
Lex Raphael: think bout it
That was the end of the conversation, as Nemo had walked up and interrupted them before it could go on any further. The grammar and spelling of high school boys was a beautiful thing, apparently. Other than the visit to Facebook, there was nothing else on the computer.
"Don't be silly," Leigh said with a snort. "You're coming to dinner. I need someone to drink with. They want Olive Garden--you up for some Italian?" He smiled at Nemo. "We'll leave in like ten minutes... I have a phone call to make."
"Oh." So he was on the guest list. Somehow, the blond didn't think he'd end up on their guest list soon. But here he was. Smiling at that, Nemo nodded. Yes, Italian was good. "Fine by me. I'll make my own calls myself and shut down the PC for the day. Will let the maternal unit know I'll be out for the night."
His best friend was out on a campaign in Europe so they had the apartment to themselves until he returned. So there was no doubt on his mind that mother would be quite insistent to have her firstborn around during such time. She always did insinuate she was lonely, and so were her babies---her term of endearment for her 1001 bonsai plants and tropical fish.
Once Leigh was out of his hair, Nemo spun around, pleased that Facebook had loaded in then found that there was an active conversation. Taken with interest, the man leaned closer while reading it. He frowned instantly.
The temptation to peruse through his inbox was high but he wasn't that kind of person. But he didn't have the luxury of time nor the heart and simply shut down the browser and eventually the computer. He pressed his lips into a thin line and sighed deeply.
Soon enough, Leigh was leaving his office with Bastien and Kayla in tow. Kayla was holding Ien's hand, and the poor kid had somehow ended up carrying both his and her backpacks. "I want dessert please," the little girl was saying. "I want the Z stuff!"
"Zeppoli," Leigh said with a laugh. He locked his door and looked over at Nemo. "Want to follow me in your car?" he asked him, pitting his keys into his pocker. He reached out to take Kayla's backpack from his younger brother. "It's not far... maybe ten minutes."
"Can I drive?" Bastien asked with a grin.
"No, your eyes are bloodshot," Leigh said, giving his brother a knowing look. The boy shut up and lowered his head immediately.
He was silent, unusually so even after being addressed. At any given time, the man would've simply answered promptly and curtly, glad to be out of anyone's hair on the instant. But no, not that time. The blond pressed his lips into a thin line with squared up shoulders, looking rather tense. Eventually he relaxed and shook his head, looking a little downcast.
"I don't have a car," Nemo finally admitted. He disliked it whenever situations presented themselves to remind him what a charity case he was. More than aware that people rarely didn't say or do things to make him feel upset, the emotion was still hard to avoid nonetheless. Majority of people of his age were probably well off and settled into their professions already. Not leeching off their better off friends and living for free bed and breakfast daily at someone else's pad. It ate at it's insides to be reminded at how little he truly had and owned.
"I'll take the public transport. I might take longer but I should be alright," he offered, backing up his claim with a smile and a sidelong glance on his wrist watch.
Leigh snorted. "Oh, don't be stupid. Come in mine," he said--like it was nothing. It was nothing to him--lots of people didn't have cars. He didn't get his first car until just a few years ago. He didn't even have a driver's license until then. "Ien, you're in the back."
"What??" Ien asked.
Leigh whipped around to look at him. "Don't even push your luck right now. You're lucky I don't ground you for lighting up near my office."
"Lighting what up?" Kayla asked with a smile.
"Nothing," both brothers said together, followed by a sigh from Leigh, and a guilty look from Ien.
Leigh looked at Nemo and shook his head a little as if to say 'kids' before nodding his head. "Come on. I'll drop you at your place after."
Seeing that Leigh had put everything in order, even without his opinion in the matter, the blond had very little choice but put up with it. He sighed, nodding and followed in tow. Nemo pulled out of his mood when he was designated to sit at the front beside the brunet. He was then just about to clutch the handle of one of the doors at the back. When Ien jumped out of his skin and bellowed, he gave as much a questioning look at his boss but was smart enough not to argue.
Nemo slid into the passenger seat across the brunet, fastening his safety belt. More like fumbling. The man's hands were unsteady. He paused, looking up at Leigh then returned to the task at hand. The blond didn't respond. Oh no, he thought. He wasn't ready how to explain his unusual living conditions paired up with his rather somber lifestyle. Instead, he propped his elbow on the arm rest and tucked his folded hand under his cheek, gazing outside the window.
He felt it too soon to let Leigh privy into his present life. So the idea of having the man drop him off at his place... made him sick. In other jobs where he was practically nobody, it had been easier for him to explain himself and his then en conditions. When they finally moved in his friend's flat, it was awkward to explain to current bosses and peers but eventually they understood or simply didn't bother. Nemo was fine with that, they were just assembly line faces to him. They would forget about him eventually.
But Leigh knew who he was and had an idea of what he had been. It was nerve wracking. The last ten years had been spent avoiding people from his past life and tearing up, burning and deleting high school reunion invites. Nemo wasn't quite ready to face the music yet.
Leigh wasn't going to care. He'd lived on the streets for three years, and in and out of shelters for the next two. It wasn't until he was 18 that he was able to get a small, one bedroom apartment for himself and his siblings. They had lived there for two years, until he could afford a two bedroom. Kayla had taken the smaller one, and he and Ien shared the other--though half the time one of them slept on the couch.
He understood better than anyone how hard it was to make it on your own.
His car was a simple small SUV. Nothing fancy, but it was safe, and big enough for the kids. The back seat was a mess with Ien and Kayla's sh*t, and no matter how much he fought with them, or how much time he spent cleaning it, it always ended up that way. He'd pretty much given up trying.
"Can I drive home after dinner?" Ien chimed up suddenly.
Leigh rolled his eyes and looked at Nemo with a sigh. "We'll see..."
"I'll take the public transport home." He finally decided to break his silence, never once tearing his eyes from idly observing the late afternoon through the tinted glass. Apparently, Nemo appeared to be taking much interest. But really, he was simply diverting himself and avoiding. The blond had not prepared himself getting caught in these kind of situations. He hadn't even thought of it since he got home. Too taken by the fact he had a stable and financially secure job for once rather than making ends up meet each time. Shouldn't have known better it would not come so easily. "Thank you for the offer though," he added not to sound rude towards Leigh in a quiet voice, "Maybe some other time."
Seemed polite enough. But yeah, the man wasn't ready enough to open up about his living conditions too soon.
If Leigh was crafty enough, he would learn that his past work record of a seeming jack of all trades would not equate to the high rise and ritzy address that was pegged on his resume. It didn't make sense why a man who had worked as a waiter and a plumber would be living in the richer sides of town. Even more so now stumbling over his steps tipsily and handling a resume to an ad agency when for all appearances, Nemo looked like he was in a good place. And if the brunet pushed even further, it would seem that his new personal assistant didn't own the place but lived it in anyway.
At first glance, it would seem like he was a kept man being housed in an expensive flat, with his mom in tow. Of course that wasn't the case.
Finally realizing how dismissive he had been for that time, Nemo briefly glanced over the backseat then flitted his gaze over to the driver's seat to scan for any negative reactions. Best if they simply didn't care though.
Leigh looked surprised, but he nodded his head a little. "Sure," he said with a half shrug. "Whatever you want to do."
Aside from Ien and Kayla bickering now and again in the back seat, the drive to the restaurant was quick, and quiet, and somehow, like a spell had been cast on them, as soon as they walked in the door the kids were quiet and respectful. Even Ien. He sat down on the bench by the door quietly as they waited for their table, kicking his legs back and forth slowly.
He looked up at Leigh and Nemo. Maybe it was a good thing Nemo was with them. Leigh wouldn't flip out if he told him about being suspended if someone else was around, right?
"Thanks for joining us," Leigh said as he leaned against the wall, waiting for them to get a table. "It'll be nice to have an adult conversation during dinner for once, and to not have to talk about the latest episode of My Little Pony."
Little did he know that Ien was planning to actually use dinner as his opportunity to possibly tell Leigh about the suspension. Or the fact that he was going to be used as a meat shield. At that time, Nemo seemed contented with the apparent silence, keeping to himself and speaking only when he was addressed. It was quite a far cry from the boy that he was in high school. The blond didn't find himself at ease with silence, always sighted engaging others in a conversation no matter the time of the day. He was good looking, had a good head on his shoulders and was quite charming.
The blond's lips quirked into a small smile then gave the brunet a sympathetic glance. "I know how that feels all too well. It was Nickelodeon all day, everyday for me.. Sometimes, Cartoon Network. Soon enough, it'll be all those tweenie romances and young adult pocket books. At least, you're at 'that' stage. Have to admit though, it wasn't so much a torture to watch cartoons back then with a sibling than it is now. I actually miss how animated shows used to be made seeing the stuff on TV." Nemo felt a tad nostalgic all of a sudden, looking back and briefly walking down memory lane. He turned to Kayla then asked, "Do you watch Adventure Time?"
Actually it was more like, the man just needed the right trigger to start talking and talking. He was and had always been selective with who he opened with, but was much more gregarious in his youth and thus ended up in bad company. Nemo socialized much but didn't open up to just about anyone. Often than not, it had been idle chatter to pass the time than a real, genuine conversation.
The fact that Leigh started on a brotherly subject was more than enough to get him started and start talking. It was a topic he could find himself contributing to.
Kayla shook her head, raising her brows innocently. "No. Ien watches that show, though. I don't like it."
"That's cause you're a baby," Ien said with a chuckle. Kayla didn't seem to argue. She just smiled at him, witch made Ien snort. "Baby."
Finally, they were summoned to a table. Bastien walked behind Nemo, and reached up to touch his sleeve. "Sit next to me," he said softly, before sliding into the booth.
It didn't seem like Nemo would have much of a choice. Leigh helped Kayla into the other booth, and slid in after her. It would be easier to talk to Nemo if they were facing, after all. "Tomorrow I have a meeting with Volkswagen. They aren't happy with their current agency. Could mean big business."
He decided that he liked their playful banter between the two siblings. The blond found himself chuckling then let out a thoughtful rumble from his throat, "Then I suppose you're a Disney Princess fan..." Of course this was thinking out loud and addressed to Kayla. Though if Ien answered to that---well, that would be quite the surprise if ever.
Nemo didn't expect that the teenager followed Adventure Time though. Guess you learn something new everyday then. And this was just the nth learning of the day about his employer's siblings. It was wise to think that the proverbial ball had just started rolling.
The man was taken aback by the quiet request by wordlessly agree to it. Then again, it seemed like the two siblings had conspired to get him to sit across Leigh. He slipped into the booth, after Ien had settled in and was directly facing the older brunet. Still, he had no idea what the teenager was possibly going to drop on them during the meal. Not a single cloud of doubt.
"So I take it, this is the new account you spoke about yesterday during my orientation, then?" Nemo asked.
"I like them, but I'm getting a little too big for them," Kayla said decidedly.
"No, you're not," Ien said with a shrug. "I mean, Jasmine is hot."
That made Kayla laugh, and Ien, in turn, grinned proudly as he opened the menu.
"Yes," Leigh said, ignoring the conversation between his siblings. "It's really huge. I want you to come to the meeting. It'll look good if I have an assistant in the meeting--it'll make us look bigger than we are." He opened up his own menu. "Kayla, what do you want?"
As Leigh was talking, poor Nemo was falling victim to Ien's harrassment. The boy was playfully kicking sideways toward him under the table, all the while keeping his eyes on the menu. "I want chicken parmesan," he said, mostly to himself, as he stared down at all the options for them.
Everything was so casual between them all. It was like Nemo had always been around. The kids were comfortable with him--and if Leigh was forcing it, he certainly didn't show it.
"Nonsense! No one's too old for Disney Princesses. Tell that to everyone and their mother who have Disney Princess themed debuts for instance, Kayla."The blond responded with an arched eyebrow and a hand raised in a dismissive gesture. It was a throwback to his previous jobs waiting from fast food to high class restaurants. And he had seen a fair share of those in his day. He cracked his menu booklet open, eyes scanning through the selections. He broke out into a wide grin and hummed in agreement, "Fine choice, Bastien. You have an eye for good details there. Belle's more my type however: smart, a little weird and well...brunette. The hair always gets me." Nemo chucked a laugh at the end and shook his head in amusement.
When Ien's shoes impacted against his legs, the relaxed grip on the menu tightened considerably. The blond gave his seat mate a sidelong glance and sighed, deciding to ignore the first kick. Nemo wasn't quite sure what he'd have that evening... Lasagna Classico or Garden Salad? He'd had too mu--- And again. Inhale. Exhale. The boy was still at it. He not-too-gently flipped the page and checked the beverages, then discreetly scooted a little farther in an effort to avoid Bastien all together. Maybe fettucine alfredo and flavored tea. That seemed pleasant enough.
"I see." The urgency of the meeting was probably what inspired a want for drinks that evening. Not just the drinks maybe, he reflected. Perhaps even the want for a fancier than most dinner as well. Leigh wanted to unwind before a make or break meeting. Nemo lowered his eyes towards the table then continued, "Of course, that would be the best."
Leigh chuckled a little. That was Nemo's past as a rich kid coming through, he assumed. Rich girls had debuts, not girls like Kayla...which, maybe, was a little unfortunate. "Do people even still have...debut parties?" he asked with a small laugh.
Leigh grinned over at Ien. "I know. I'm pretty awesome that way," he said. He kicked the poor man again. He wasn't kicking hard--just enough to bump legs with him. It was like an awkward, pathetic attempt at flirting, which may have been how he meant it...but it was probably the last thing on poor Nemo's mind.
Or, maybe he was just being a brat.
"Leigh, speaking of parties, can I go to a party at Lex's house this weekend?"
Leigh looked up at his brother and thought about it. "We'll see," he said after a moment of consideration. "It depends on a couple of things."
"Things," Leigh said again, closing his own menu so the waiter would know he was finished deciding, and hopefully come to their table soon.
Nemo nodded grimly. "People still celebrate their debuts up to now. Some girls just can't pass up on the chance to dress up in a gown besides their own marriages." Of course the practice was still carried on up to now. It was practically an industry in itself with how people advertised and glorified the said so-called once in a lifetime chance of being at the threshold of adulthood. "I did have the honor of attending this one debut that was really interesting. The dress code was simply: black shirt, denim bottoms, surprising as it may sound. The buffet was there but the sequence of the ceremony was...hardly traditional. They had indie bands play throughout the night and the floor was open for anyone to dance. Quite an experience."
That had been the second to the last debut he had attended since his sister's when she hit eighteen. The debutante was a strange girl so it came as no surprise, her debut reflected her quirkiness.
At first, the man thought that Ien had just brushed upon his leg as an accident. It made him flinch and freeze up but fine. Then the teenager did it again, and again. Nemo was uncomfortable with the contact though it didn't register anything beyond bratty attitude to him at that point. He dare not even think of Bastien and his actions in a romantic or sexual context for two very obvious reasons: male and jail bait. As if, the first reason wasn't deterring enough.
The blond winced with his lips in a thin line and turned to the younger brunet, sending him a heated glance to express his discomfort. Something told Nemo that Ien wouldn't be so easily convinced to stop and that his obvious show of unease would only spur him to continue. What an attention seeking brat...
It brought back the conversation he had un/fortunately saw and the implications of drugs and other things took over his mind. Nemo glanced at the younger brother then Leigh in turn, pondering if his boss knew more than he looked like he was letting on.
"Huh... seems silly to me," Leigh said. "A waste of money. Whatever spare money I have is going into savings accounts for Ien and Kayla that they can't touch until they're eighteen."
"Really?" Ien asked, like that was the first time he was hearing it. "What for?"
"College," Leigh said, giving the boy a look. "And don't start on your 'i'm not going to college because you didn't' bullsh*t. You're going."
Ien made a face and sat back. When Nemo gave him that look, he just grinned a little--but he did, shockingly--stop. At least, for now. He shifted on the seat and took in a deep breath. "Um--"
He didn't get to finish what he was saying, because the waitress came to take their orders. "Can I offer any of you a taste of tonight's wine?" she asked. "It's a red."
Leigh shook his head. "No, I'll have a Bud Light draft, thanks," he said. "And she'll have a shirley temple."
"I'll try it," Ien said with a big smile. The waitress laughed and looked at Nemo questioningly.
"It is," Nemo agreed, tucking his folded hands against his chin and resting his elbows lightly against the edge of the table. His eyes were elsewhere, having caught the sparkles of the indoor lighting, leisurely scanning the restaurant's patrons and interiors in mild amusement. "But each to their own. There are even some men who celebrate a debut of sorts but at the age of twenty one. It's more informal, sometimes more of a men only drinking party than a garish ball though."
A great weight was lifted from his shoulders the moment he saw the boy give him a knowing smile in return and sit back. He was more than relieved that Bastien had ceased distracting him and decided to observe the conversation quietly.
He practically cooed at the suggestion of the house specialty wine. "I'll have that," he quipped happily, once he felt the waitress' eyes trained on him. "On the second thought, cancel my initial order. Replace my alfredo and herbal tea with the red wine and lasagna instead. I'd like something more filling after all." Red wine was smooth and fruity with the possible hint of apples and citrus would be delightful with the pasta he had decided on. "Serve it cold, kindly. My preference."
Once his order had been made, Nemo turned towards the two brunets and then focused on Bastien, "He makes a fine point, I'm afraid to say. Besides, the chap's serving it on a silver platter, you might as well take it and make the most out of it than refuse it."
Ien made a face at Nemo and sighed a little. "Whatever..." he mumbled softly. He sighed and leaned back, watching the waitress wander away.
He shifted his weight and looked at Leigh again with a little sigh. He looked down and exhaled slowly. "So, um... anyway," he mumbled softly. He licked his lips and looked at Leigh, who was preparing himself for what his brother was going to say. "I got suspended...for a week..."
Leigh tensed up, and closed his eyes with a shaking sigh. "...Ien..." he whispered. It was obvious he was using all his energy to keep from exploding on the boy. "What the f*ck happened?" he finally asked in a quiet, shaky voice.
Ien puffed his cheeks out briefly and looked down with a sigh. "This asshole Junior and his friends started a fight with me," he said with a deep frown.
Nemo smiled smugly at him, feeling rather pleased that he got under the boy's skin. He lifted his glass of water to his lips to hide the widening smirk, drinking while his eyes brimming with mischief were trained on Ien for a great while. Whatever: everyone's favorite way to end a conversation they had no means of winning.
Then he began to note how the younger brunet began to fidget and lick his lips. For all appearances, would seem the boy the nervous. His eyebrow quirked in curiosity. What was he up to? Wait... Could it be he was---
He was very surprised to say the least. It never occurred to him that Bastien would have decided to let his brother learn of the little mishap he incurred in school over dinner. The younger brunet was pretty wise to pick this opportunity though. This way, there would be no way that Leigh would implode on him on the spot and be forced to remain an image of seething calm until they got home. If the boy was lucky, by the time they were shipped back to their apartment, perhaps his employer would finally put himself to order. Plus there was a guest, aka himself, at their shared table so... even more so likely.
The man raised a hand, waving for a refill of his glass of water. So the teenager got into a fight. Fairly sure, he'd be told that it didn't matter who started the fight, the end result was still the same: there was a fight and fact would still remain that it was against the rules. But Nemo wouldn't deny he was curious though, Ien did say it hadn't been his fault.
Deciding not to interfere and keep quiet, he thanked the waiter and continued drinking water, seemingly in his own world.
He did glance briefly at Bastien and gave him a sympathetic gaze as if to urge him to talk and that it would be alright.
Leigh sighed and put his head in his hands. He exhaled slowly and shook his head, then looked up at him. "...Ien, you can't--"
"They called me a faggot and photo-shopped pictures of me--"
Leigh held his hand up quickly to stop the boy and took in a deep breath. He looked at his sister, who was watching with wide, curious eyes, then looked at Ien. "I told you I don't want you using that word in front of Kayla," he said quietly. He sighed and shook his head. "Does the principle want to talk to me?"
Ien nodded his head a little--looking both shocked and relieved. Was that it? Leigh wasn't going to blow up? Yell at him? Punish him?
"I understand why you got into the fight, but that doesn't make it right. You aren't going to the party," he started.
Ien sat up. "Leigh, that--"
"You aren't going to the party," Leigh said again. "And you'll come to the office with me and do your homework quietly until you can go back to school."
Ien gave a low sigh and slouched in his seat. "...this sucks."
The incident reminded him of his youthful transgressions. Before, it felt right; now it felt funny and downright embarrassing to admit to them. Once upon a time, the blond had supported those bullies and indirectly aided them in their goals. Though he wasn't as foul mouthed enough to call anyone out for being a 'faggot' or raised arms against them, the once-basketball varsity was known to antagonistic nonetheless. He gave them cold, hard stares and denied them entry into the basketball team. Even invoked boyfriend privileges to convince the student council president (who happened to be a brunette too now that he realized it) which clubs were to be denied sufficient budget and who wouldn't be sent to represent the school at competitions.
He was known to play dirty and under the table, sometimes between the sheets even, to appease his grudges.
Well save one case back in high school that involved a relatively unknown brunet came up to him one time and with moistened chapped lips, declared with undisguised sincerity that he had fallen for Nemo.
Yeah. That. The blond took that moment to spare to take in Leigh's highly strung image and turned away. At least, that brunet was doing good even after all that.
"It could have been worse, Bastien. It could have been decidedly worse..." He shifted in his seat, fighting the awkward smile on his face and leaned back against the booth cushions, exhaling deeply. Nemo rotated the glass in his hand, admiring the silver swirl of liquid before taking a gulp, "Words are just words. No one has the right to make you feel inferior without your permission. Those bullies don't deserve anytime of your day. Don't give them the liberty to even live in your thoughts."
Leigh smiled a little and looked at Nemo. He seemed to relax a little. Something about Nemo giving his brother encouraging words like that... it made him happy. He looked at Ien. "I'm not taking away TV or anything like that. Just no party."
Ien nodded his head a little and poked at the table. "Okay," he mumbled. He sighed and looked pitifully at Nemo. Well, he supposed that could have gone a lot worse. "Can we still get dessert?" he asked, giving a weak smile to his brother.
Leigh lifted his eyebrows and glanced to Kayla. "I don't see any reason to punish all of us for your fight," he offered lightly, sitting back when he noticed the waitress coming over with their food.
There. That's definitely better... It pleased him to see the older brother smile at him, even it for a while though Nemo didn't know why he gave him that look. Well that was something, he mused and gave himself a congratulatory pat on the back for his efforts. The blond decided he rather see Leigh in any other expression than a frown. Looked like things paid off. Nemo found himself smiling back then felt someone's gaze on him from the side.
He twisted to face Bastien and offered him a wider grin than the smaller, laid back smile for the boy's older brother. Lowering the glass on the table, Nemo reached out to clap a hand on the younger brunet's upper back, patting him in comfort. "Chin up. Don't slouch and scowl. You'll live," the blond said, in reference to what he had told him outside the agency's building. "It'll get better. I assure you."
Your older brother's definitely a testament to that.
Ien sighed a little, but he pushed himself to sit up as his food was put in front of him. "...I guess," he said. He looked happy about his food, at least. It still sucked being grounded, and now he had to spend the next 5 days in the office with Leigh. Great. He glanced over at Nemo, then grinned a little. "You get to spend a week with me," he said. It was almost a threat, and it made Leigh laugh.
"You'll be in my office doing your school work, you little sh*t," Leigh pointed out as he started on his own dinner once he was sure that Kayla was eating. "And I'm going to check each assignment."
"Aww, come on. I'm too old for you to be checking my assignments," Ien complained.
Leigh looked at him pointedly. "Yes," he said matter-of-factly. "You are."
Nemo nodded, giving his shoulder a final squeeze before putting his attention towards the plate of lasagna that had been set in front of his side of the table. The blond gave the waitress a polite smile and a murmured thanks and began to poke at his food, eating in very small pieces at a time.
The comment got him to chuckle a bit as well. A week with Bastien at the office. A week of the younger brunet hovering over his desk and possibly taking over his chair. A week of the boy's mood swings.
Surprisingly Nemo's smile only grew with each realization as he turned to him and smirked, "Well, as they say... What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Very well, Bastien. How do kids say it these days...?" He paused, face frozen in deep thought and scrunched in concentration as he snapped his fingers trying to recall the word caught at the tip of his tongue. Then there, a light bulb moment, "Ah there, 'Challenge accepted.' "
Bastien snorted. "You're such a dork," he said to Nemo, shaking his head a little as he shoved a piece of chicken into his mouth. "I'm gonna bug the sh*t out of you," he promised with his mouth full.
Leigh didn't say anything. He just smiled and shook his head as he took a sip of his drink, watching the interaction between his younger brother and his... how could he even describe Nemo? Ex-bully? First crush? Secretary? Co-worker?
Yeah, that would have to do. "Be careful," he said to poor Nemo with a smirk. "He always keeps his promises."
Ah, so now he was a dork. That seemed a whole lot better than Bastien calling him a dick. Somehow the blond couldn't help but find this to be progress. He supposed the younger brunet was actually giving him a chance of sorts. It dawned upon him that while he was under Leigh's employ he would have little say of having to get along with these two children. So if the man wanted things to be easy breezy, he'd have to try and get along with them. At least keep things civil.
Nemo turned to the man across him with a smile, "Oh does he? Well at least that says something good about his character---Never mind the nature of his actions." The blond casted Bastien a brief glance then got back to his meal.
"I wouldn't want it any other way really," the secretary continued, cutting through his pasta as he spoke, "My chair is always open for you to warm up if you please. Just don't touch the 'weird trees'. That's my only condition."
And don't go through my stocks of this and that, Nemo finished off in his mind. The thought of someone else pilfering his stock of teas, coffee and chocolates made him shudder. The man made a mental note to move them into one of the locked drawers of his desk. Somehow the thought of Bastien knowing how to pick locks bothered him slightly He hoped otherwise.
Ien only laughed. And suddenly, the air around them was light and refreshingly snarky, like it had been cheerful the whole time. "I'm going to touch every weird tree," he threatened jokingly with an impish grin.
Leigh laughed and shook his head. "I give him permission to break your arm if you do," he told the boy lightly, glancing over at Kayla, who had her head on her arm and was poking at what was left of her food with a sleepy look on her face.
"What happened to dessert?" he asked her, reaching out to stroke her hair.
"I'll eat hers," Ien offered chivalrously.
He gasped in jest, as if surprised and taken aback by Ien's little threat. The blond narrowed his eyes on the brunet beside him and frowned a bit. Didn't last long however, there was everything but fear in the man's deep blue eyes that were trained on Bastien on the remark. The frown eventually faded into an easy grin as he shook his head in amusement then turned to Kayla the moment Leigh laid his hand to brush her hair.
"What happened to desert indeed...," Nemo repeated as he leaned forward to also take a look at Kayla. Seemed like the little miss was rather stuffed and was short of falling asleep on the table.
That's sweet of you, Bastien. Very kind indeed. The blond simply smiled at Ien's offer then went back at Kayla, "Maybe you should walk around a little. Under the supervision of a companion of course. So you can wake up a little for your z-stuff. That's practically the highlight of the dinner, Kayla."
Bastien blinked and watched Nemo as he spoke, then made a face. "Are you kicking us out so you two can talk about boring stuff?" he asked, then looked at his sister with a shrug. "Come on, La. Want to go in the store next door until dessert?" And suddenly, Ien went from annoying little brother, to responsible big brother.
Kayla nodded her head and smiled up at Leigh, who chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. He got up so Kayla could slide out, and reached into his wallet, pulling out a twenty and handing it to his younger brother. "I'll order dessert while you're gone, so it'll be here when you get back," he promised.
Bastien pushed the money into his pocket and waited for Nemo to move so he could get out. Well, that was surprisingly easy.
From the look of things, it...It was going to take some time for Nemo before he could adjust to Ien's bluntness. Yes, definitely a long while.
The blond shook his head violently at the flung statement. What. Hell no. "No! That's not what I meant---I didn't..." He was half gasping, half scowling at his seatmate. Nemo was practically glaring at the boy for ever thinking of such thing. But the man got up anyway and gave Bastien right of way so he could scoop up and accompany Kayla across the said nearby shop anyway. He frowned deeply, rather put out at having been misunderstood. He didn't mean to seem like he was getting rid of them. Actually, if Leigh would've asked it of him to accompany the little girl there, he wouldn't have minded either. Or if the older brunet went off---Nemo dare not finish the thought of being alone with Bastien. No, nevermind. He'd rather be in his employer's company than be around the little brother of said employer. Seemed he wasn't completely at ease around the teenager just yet.
Nemo sighed deeply, and adjusted the glasses on his face to mask his uneasiness, "I apologize for that... It wasn't my intention." And to hide the faint blush on his cheeks. Yes, the man was actually flustered. Though he'd like to blame the said color on his face on the account of the red wine he'd had. But yes, the blond's face had warmed up considerably at that.
Boring stuff eh. He wasn't even sure what was there to talk about.
Save the mention of the big thing tomorrow---the personal assistant assumed. But then, wouldn't it be too informal to speak about it at that time and place? There had to be a proper venue for things. Dinner didn't seem appropriate.
"On the bright side, the little miss should be a little more energetic upon her return," he continued, considerably sparing some effort at small talk.
Leigh laughed and shook his head. "He knows that," he said when they walked away. "He's just being a brat." He took another bite of his food and shrugged. "You're pretty good with them. Thanks for tolerating his obnoxiousness. He seems to have made you his new plaything. If he gets irritating, just tell me and I'll kick his ass." He chuckled a bit as he said it.
Despite everything, Leigh had turned out well-rounded it seemed. He was a totally normal adult--well, for the most part--with totally normal responsibilities and desires. "He really isn't so bad when you get used to him, as long as he's not causing trouble." He shrugged a little and finished off his beer.
"Oh," came the rather simple reply. Nemo had his head low as he began to rub at his throat anxiously. This was embarrassing. A teenager was getting the upper hand with him and he was letting it happen. Wasn't he the adult last he checked? How f*cking irritating... "A thank you should be due but I hardly feel I'm successful. Kayla is hardly trouble really. But Bastien...," the blond found himself reaching for his red wine, sipping as he spoke, "He's---quite a handful, Leigh. To be quite honest, I'll have to say I'm barely surviving." He laughed a little at what he said, mostly out of distress than it entirely being a joke though.
And owing to the suspension, that said 'handful of a brat' was going to be spending an entire five days of the working week at Holland Mark.
Ha ha ha. Nemo wondered where the proverbial earthquake that was more than willing to swallow him up whole was. Surely it was late?
Nemo lifted his head and turned to look at the brunet in surprise when it finally registered that apparently he now registered as 'plaything' to the younger Bastien.
"S-say what?," he asked in between his bites, "I think I may have heard you wrong. Did you just say, 'plaything', sir?" The blond looked up at him wide eyed and confused at how in the world was he now anything but a human to the teenager. "I mean Leigh. Force of habit."
Leigh snorted and sat back. "Yeah, I said plaything," he said. "You're his latest victim. He's just going to give you sh*t for the sake of giving you sh*t, to amuse himself. Just ignore him, or deal it right back, he can take it. If he really annoys you, like I said... tell me and I'll tell him to cut the sh*t. If he's paying attention to you it's because he likes you. He wouldn't bother with you if he didn't."
Leigh knew his brother well, that much was obvious. He watched Nemo, wondering quietly if the man had always been this insecure and just hid it well, or if it was something he developed after high school.
"Oh, and chill yourself out," Leigh said with a snort.
That should have served to be his silver lining right? It meant that Bastien dislike him, rather it was the opposite. The younger brunet had taken a fancy to him. So much that he was taken for a source of amusement. Something about that set up made him frown and shake his head for some reason. Nemo couldn't find it in himself to be completely happy, confused whether to smile or grimace at the thought of being Bastien's new 'plaything' and 'victim'.
So he was caught between an expression of worry and a smile, one moment smiling then frowning slightly then entirely void of anything as the blond sighed, settling for not reacting at all to poke at what remained with his food. He ate in small servings at a time and rather slowly.
"...Great idea," Nemo responded. Definitely a good one there, Leigh. "I'd love to just chill myself out just about right now." He scooped a serving of the lasagna into his mouth and exhaled deeply.
At least he wasn't at a total loss. Even with Bastien set loose in the paper jungle of Holland Mark, the blond still had a panic button in the form of Leigh. If the boy would prove to be too much to handle, there was always Leigh to save the day.
...but how scarring that was on his ego to have to resort to help. Damn.
"So tell me, how early is our meeting with the company tomorrow? Morning?
"It's at ten," Leigh said. "I don't like to have meetings before then, gives me an hour to settle into the office first. There'll be coffee and donuts at the meeting. Ugh, and I have to make sure Ien behaves and stays put while we're in the meeting," he remembered with a sigh.
"Maybe I'll have him bring his DS..." he mumbled, mostly to himself. He waved over the waitress when he saw her and smiled. "Can I get an order of Zepolli with chocolate and caramel?" He smiled at the waitress when she nodded. "Thanks," he said.
He looked back at Nemo and sighed. "So... we'll have to have a casual dinner with just the two of us to catch up," he said as he wiped his mouth and set his napkin on the table.
Ten in the morning.
Nemo smiled curtly, nodding and made a mental note to prepare the moment he got home. Drinks were out. Looked like it was just him and the punching bag until he'd managed to exhaust himself raw once he arrived home, but not enough to get him into a fix for tomorrow's meeting. This was his first inclusion into an account at work so the blond wanted to make an impression and make this count.
How about hog tying him up with a gag and stuffing him inside your closet, sir? That's certainly going to be keep him in check until everything's done.
He had to bite back on his lower lip before he accidentally said that out loud. The blond would like to think that the other man wouldn't appreciate his idea of putting Bastien in check with such an interesting procedure. Nope. Definitely not.
Dinner? "To what do I owe that said dinner for, Leigh...?" Nemo looked upon him with a questioning look before sinking against his booth, "Oh, to catch up. I see. It has been awhile after all. Ten years has been quite a time. I suppose an evening---what about the two? Kayla, Bastien?," he quickly asked, remembering that they weren't quite alone for dinner at Olive Garden.
He wanted to say no. He would have liked for Leigh to mind his own business and not poke at things that didn't involve him. Why did his boss have to take a hankering into knowing what had happened since then? Nemo didn't feel so comfortable at the thought but couldn't bring himself to refuse and simply resigned to keeping his thoughts in check. "When would this be? I hope you can make arrangements for them if that were the case."
If only the brunet was anyone else that he didn't know, this possible out of job post hiring interview thing would've been fine. But no, it just had to be made complicated by a shared history.
Someone f*cking hates me out there, Nemo thought to himself, groaning inwardly at his predicament. Soon enough, he'd have to let the world know of it all. He'd have to start somewhere though.
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