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Jaxon Sinclair

You can't wake up, this is not a dream

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Jaxon Sinclair

He didn't know how and he couldn't explain why (the why of any of it, not just the running—everything was a disaster), but by the grace of something higher than him, his legs were able to carry him away from scene of it all.  Away from @Radueriel Benson and his shell-shocked expression accompanied by apologies that were neither wanted nor necessary.  If either of them should have been apologizing, it was Jack—and he had.  He'd muttered some choked apology like he couldn't wait to get the words out of his mouth—like the taste of them burned his tongue until it reached the backs of his eyes with prickling intensity.  The sensation spread to an ache in his chest and a churning his stomach.  It wasn't nausea.  There was no urge to vomit.  Instead, it was more like his insides were going to drop through the floor and somehow find an exit through the soles of his boots.

Jack cursed himself.  He'd been so stupid.  All that time he'd put in to the exterior—to being an immovable force whose emotional range never wavered, stone-faced and stoic.  Steady as a beating drum, his father had once told him.  A little adult behind glasses too thick for his age, who wore wit like an armor and caged himself in apathy.  It was easier that way.  Nobody ever got too close.  Nobody ever got too attached.  A part of him had been programmed that way, something inherited through generations of cold calculation handed down from his father's side like a precious family heirloom.  A part of him had just never appreciated closeness and had never seen value in it.  Don't get too close to the neighbors, you're not like them.  Someday, your letter will come.  You'll leave and they'll stay and whatever this is—it will be over.

Then he'd gone and made friends here and he didn't quite know where to put all of that—didn't know where to draw lines, didn't know how to separate himself so that the distance between him and someone else was always parallel instead of touching.  No collisions, he'd thought.  Clean breaks were simpler, they healed faster.  But no breaks?

No breaks was always ideal.

Jack's boots carried him swiftly through the snow and he navigated the winter carnival with about as much finesse as a battering ram being used on a china shop.  He collided with people, stumbled out of their way, tripped over himself...he needed to get out of the crowd.  It was freezing.  See-your-breath freezing.  Frost-on-the-windows freezing.  Chilled-to-the-bone freezing—but he felt hot.  It radiated up from his collar like a furnace was under his shirt and when he finally broke through the crowd into the back of the gardens, it was like finally being able to breath after too long with his air caught up in his lungs.  He hyperventilated, gasping for it with cherry red lips stained by the candies that he carried in his pockets.  Lips that had...lips that had...lips that—

The first year choked on his own tongue, wiping furiously at his face because he was almost sure he was crying and how utterly humiliating but his fingers came back dry and he sank into one of the benches.  His hands dug deep into his pockets for those candies and Jack stuffed them rapidly into his mouth, crunching through them instead of sucking them into sharp, needle-thin points the way that he usually did.  The sugar would do nothing for his nerves, but the repeated and familiar behavior eased the frantic pounding of his heart, no longer drum-steady but beating so fast that it neared a hum instead of a throb.  

A couple of older kids came by, paying him no regard, but he was too acutely aware of their presence and his own disorganized state to react even remotely well and, without thought, Jack sank down into the snow and squirmed beneath the bench so that he could stare up at the wrought-iron bars that created the basket of the seat.  In time, hopefully, he would calm down enough to crawl out of his self-made tomb.  He could also wait the winter carnival out and make his way back to the Slytherin dormitories after everyone (especially Rad) was asleep.

Alternatively, he could just waste away die there under the bench.

That was preferable.

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Kelby Matos

Kelby was ecstatic for the Winter Carnival and Yule Ball because it was the first time in her life that she would be at some fun event with friends. The first year was generally grumpy and rude and a little mean because social interactions didn’t come naturally to her. Moving from school to school, she lacked the ability to make attachments when everyone was there one minute and gone in the blink of an eye. But Hogwarts had finally given her the stability she had always craved and the friendships she dreamed of, though she never thought that a life like this could possibly be real.

But even with the wonders of friendship and the feeling of belonging, Kelby realized one thing. She was still on the outside, just barely laying tangent to the circles she wished she could be a part of. Walking through the festival, she spotted people she knew, people she’d consider friends, but they were all with their more important friends. Jaxon stood with Rad in what seemed to be a serious interaction, while Winston and Bitsy were with their little gang – strong and solid, with impermeable walls.

And that left the Gryffindor wandering aimlessly, searching for a direction, but never truly finding where she fit. It was belonging in the cheapest definition of the word. Kelby constantly felt as if she were standing half in, half out, toggling the line as she tried to squish herself into a box.

The excitement she felt that morning slowly began to dissipate as her face fell. She was ready for the best day ever with her friends and snow and laughter and Christmas, but she supposed it was infinitely worse to be surrounded by hoards of people while still feeling as though she was completely alone.

Kelby avoided every booth that advertised partners or pairings or groups because she knew it would remind her of the fact that no one would ever choose her first. Even her own parents had priorities that far outranked their daughter, and Kelby wondered what it would be like to run away from her life and start anew somewhere else. She wouldn’t, of course, because there were too many things in this magical world that offered her more opportunities than she ever thought possible, but sometimes, the temptation was there.

At that moment, the first year was struggling to carry the Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, and hot cider she had ordered from the snack booth back to a table. Though she was a singular person, she managed to get ahead of herself with wanting to try everything. The brunette almost managed to drop her cider, and her attention turned solely to the drink, causing her to miss Jack pushing through the crowd of people with a sense of urgency.

Looking back up, the first year saw nothing and continued on her mission to find a table. Ever the oblivious one, Kelby finished two of her cookies as well as her cider before realizing something peculiar was happening. While her glasses were only necessary when she was reading or on the computer (though Hogwarts had completely cut out that need), her long-distance vision was shoddy at best. Straining her eyes, she stood and started a little closer to the bench nearest to their booth when she realized there was a person under there.

And not just any person. Why would Jaxon Sinclair find himself laying under a bench? She started walking towards him, looking for Rad in case the smaller Slytherin boy was lingering nearby, but it seemed that Jack was all alone in his endeavor.

Something was very, very wrong.

Hot cocoa in hand, Kelby headed towards her friend, wincing when she realized that she would need to somehow get under the bench as well if she wanted to properly speak to Jack. As she planted herself in the snow and scooted downward under the bench next to him, all she could think of was the germs and the dirt and the gross little balls of bubble gum everyone seemed intent on placing under public fixtures. But Jack was worth it, no matter how much the idea freaked her out.

Taking a deep breath, she turned to look at the boy she considered to be the most put together person she knew; that was not the case today. He looked panicked, his breaths shallow enough to allow air in without properly oxygenating his body. Kelby reached a hand forward and placed it on Jack’s, even though they both weren’t the touchy-feely type, because she had experienced something like this before. A panic so deep, her thoughts were taken over by demons and what ifs. Most of the time, sensory information was all she could handle because the words were lost to deaf ears. The Gryffindor didn’t know if her friend was the same, but she did know something was wrong and he needed her help.

“Hey, Jack.” She patted his hand just once as she turned on her side to look at him after planting her hot cocoa in the snow beside them. “Talk to me. What’s wrong?”

Edited by Kelby Matos
taaaaags

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Jaxon Sinclair

It seemed that waiting until he calmed down and put himself back together was going to take much longer than he thought.  So long, in fact, that it could very well carry over into actually waiting the winter carnival out in his self-made purgatory, trying to pick out known constellations from the stars he could see between the metal slats of the bench.  His lungs burned from the cold and his breath reappeared from his mouth far too quickly in pale puffs of vapor that hung in the air like little clouds.  He could have his own sky under here, maybe.  He could just stay and never deal with the outside world.  

He stuffed more cherry candies into his mouth, the din of laughter and carnival sounds a distant second to the humming beat of his heard that rang between his ears.  He'd been so stupid, and being intelligent was something he prided himself on.  He made sound decisions.  He made logical choices and yet—here he was.  

Here he was.

Under a bench, wondering what had possessed him—what absurd idea had crawled into his mind and taken root so quickly that he couldn't weed it out?  What had taken control of the strings that connected to his limbs and piloted him like a puppet master with a marionette and made him do something so poorly considered and thought out?  It couldn't have been him.  It couldn't have really been Jack.  Jack didn't make mistakes.  Not like this.

His fingers, still clad in soft leather gloves, sank into the wool of the scarf around his neck and squeezed.  His knuckles were turning white inside the black material, nails biting into the lining until they nearly cut through—anything to take the edge off.  Anything to focus on that wasn't the lingering feeling of a mouth against his own, stunned into a marble state, cold and unyielding and then he'd apologized

Of all bloody things.

He didn't move when Kelby got down beside the bench, not at first anyway.  For a second, he thought she just intended to sit there beside it in the snow.  She didn't seem the type to crawl around in it or to hide under furniture with gum stuck to the bottom.  Jack wasn't the type either, but in his state, he didn't even notice the gum.  He didn't even really notice her until he moved, like it was an instinct, and wriggled sideways to allot her more space inside his personal hell.  He wondered if he stayed, would they address his post to 'Jack Sinclair, under the bench in the rose garden, Hogwarts, Scotland' or would they just address it to Maggie so that she could deliver it to him, the newest hermit to take up residence at Hogwarts.

He didn't notice her hand, not at first, not until the heat of her palm seemed through his gloves when she patted him, and he opened his hand to lock his fingers with hers.  

"I'm just going to stay here and die," he told her, like they were discussing the latest Daily Prophet gossip column over afternoon tea.  "I kissed Rad.  And then he apologized.  And then I ran...and now I'm just going to stay here and die."

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Kelby Matos

When Kelby patted Jack’s hand, she hadn’t intended the gesture as anything more than a simple touch to show him that she was there for him, physically and emotionally even if she could barely handle her own feelings. She meant to yank her hand away, recalling it back to her side so they could continue to exist as separate entities when something strange happened. One second, her hand was hers alone to control, and the next, her fingers were locked in some tight embrace that Kelby had never experienced before. For a moment, she considered tugging her hand away because she wasn’t even sure if Jack knew what he was doing, but the first year stilled herself, trying not to move because who knew if Jack was going to turn into some small dog that could be scared off with the smallest movement.

It felt odd to lay so close to someone with hands interlocked between them. Kelby had not known physical affection before Hogwarts, aside from the cuddles given by her half-brother when she managed to see him once every six months. The only other instance she could manage to recall was those hugs when she was under the effects of a love potion, but this felt different. For the first time, she was distinctly cognitive of her actions, and the idea of laying under this bench holding hands with Jaxon suddenly became less terrifying.

Though she was definitely still terrified of this new territory the two managed to find themselves in. Kelby had never thought of herself as the comforting friend, but here she was, twice in one week helping Jack when he needed it most.

If anyone were to ask, she would insist until her dying breath that the shaking was simply because of the cold and nothing more.


Kelby opened her mouth as if she were going to speak, but Jack's consequent words knocked her off balance – or they would have if she were actually standing. Just a few days ago, Rad and Jack weren’t even speaking, and now there were kisses and apologies and death? How had their group gotten so messy? Where did this all come from?

It took the Gryffindor a few moments to gather words that felt proper, but she finally managed to decode the thoughts that had tangled themselves in her mind. “You… kissed Rad?” she reiterated, her voice barely above a whisper in case there was anyone listening to their conversation. “Was this on purpose? And why did he apologize if you kissed him?”

She realized that her questions were probably making the situation infinitely worse, and words failed her as she tried to think of something comforting to say. Perhaps she should insist that he and Rad would be fine, as they always were, once they got over the rather large pothole that had suddenly formed …. If their friendship was considered a road…? Kelby quickly realized she was bad at metaphors, and it was probably for the best if she just shut up before she made it worse for Jack. Plus, she wasn’t positive if they actually would make up. While Kelby was many things, she was not a liar.

Squeezing his hand just once, she took a breath before she finally was able to add, “Well, if you are going to stay here, I’ll make sure you don’t die alone.” It was meant as a joke, but neither of them were laughing.

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Jaxon Sinclair

Time still felt funny—like it was dragging its feet, trying to slow the tick of the seconds on the clock somewhere while Jack counted each of his heart beats.  Or, at least, he tried to.  It was still racing, pounding against his ribs like a prisoner trying to escape a cage, rattling the bars and screaming for some release that was never going to come.  The humiliation wasn't ebbing.  The heat on his cheeks could have melted the snow that he was hiding in, could have melted the very rock beneath it until he sank down into the earth.  It could swallow him up and he could stay there because it had to be better than the alternative, which was facing the emotional firestorm that was broiling in his head and tearing like a hurricane through what Kelby called 'the breakfast squad.'

But there was Kelby—neutral, bewildered Kelby who, from the very beginning of this mess two days earlier in the dueling chamber, had been trying to force Jack and Rad back together like they were two magnets of the same alignment, fighting to retake every inch that she gained.  He just wasn't sure that there was any regaining here.  He wasn't sure he wanted to regain, because it meant...

Well, it meant dealing with things.

"Yes," he started, confirming that he had, in fact, done the kissing bit.  He could still feel the buzz—like a spark of electricity skimming over his lips right where they'd pressed to Rad's winter-chilled mouth.  Frozen.  They'd been frozen, stuck—trapped—in that moment, like it would be stuck on repeat forever and Jack would be forced into a loop of reliving it over and over and over

He used his free hand, still clutching Kelby's palm with the other, to stuff candies in his mouth and let a few of them drop into her open palm.  It was par for the course for him to hand them to her now.  His sweet tooth was becoming something of a legend and Kelby benefited from it as frequently as she was able to.  "Yes," he repeated, this time to another question.  "I mean, no.  Maybe?  I didn't think about it.  I didn't...plan it.  It just...it was like...I think I meant to.  I just—I plan things, Kelby.  I don't do...this.  Spontaneity.  And he apologized."

Jack cringed, crunching through the candies in his mouth as he dug his fingers into the scarf at his throat.  Rad's scarf
—a cherished item of clothing already, one that Jack would never let Kelby have (unlike the rest of his wardrobe, which she so freely selected items from.)  

"I don't know.  I don't know.  Maybe he hated it.  Maybe he hates me.  I ran.  I didn't even stick around to ask why—"  He rolled his eyes, shifting a little bit to look at her.


For a second, he considered ignoring her humor but, like most things with Kelby, it was not something easily ignored.  It demanded a reaction.  "You can't," he said flatly, deadpanning and using his most serious tone of voice.  "If you stay here and die, who will beat Alvis in the tournament and take revenge for my wand?"

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Kelby Matos

Yes. Not one, but two yeses in a row answering questions Kelby had not anticipated. The confusion on her face was palpable because only days before, the two boys weren’t speaking, avoiding each other at breakfast and in the chamber as if one had committed some grand crime against the other. And now, there was news of them engaging in a kiss on Christmas of all days before the tales of apologies and fleeing began. She wanted to say something encouraging – something that would be considered supportive and insightful, to prove she was a good friend who Jack could count on in his time of need, but for the first time since she slid under her bench, her mind was empty while she tried to process just what those yeses meant.

“You meant to, but you didn’t plan it?” the Gryffindor asked, reiterating her friends' answers as she tried to decode the oxymoron that was being unloaded onto her lap. Spontaneity was more of Kelby’s chosen lifestyle because she felt plans took up too much time she was meant to be living. But Jack had always been the smarter of the two, the more meticulous between his notes and organization. It struck her as odd that this moment, of all the moments in his life, Jaxon Sinclair chose to act without thinking.

And now he was panicking.

 She took the offered candy from his hand and plopped into her mouth as she considered her words. “Okay, stop, back up for a second. Did you want him to apologize? Or did you… I’unno… did you like it?” Kelby couldn’t even fathom the thought of kissing a boy, too concerned with the exchange of germs and the like. Not only that, but she realized she would actually have to find someone she liked so much that she would attempt to place her lips on theirs, allowing them to linger close to her body as they exchanged an intimate touch. The idea practically made her nauseous, but she supposed Rad and Jack were … different.

If Jack would have started with ‘we kissed’ without alerting Kelby with the person who initiated, she would have bet all the money she had that it would have been Radueriel who leaned forward and engaged in the lip-locking. All the signs were there, even for Kelby who didn’t understand most social cues. Rad followed Jack around everywhere he went, complete with the lingering stares that almost felt too heavy for eleven- and twelve-year-olds.

Turning her attention back to Jack, Kelby frowned as she listened to her friend’s assessment. “Rad probably feels a lot of things right now, but hate is the last thing I’d guess.” She pressed her lips together, debating for a moment whether she should say more when the words started flowing from her lips. “I think,” she paused for a moment as she squeezed her friends’ hand, “he’s scared, Jack. You know the day you both skipped breakfast, he came to the Dueling Chamber practically interrogating me about you. I didn’t say anything because you trusted me, but someone like that wouldn’t hate you so easily.”

Kelby shifted onto her back, staring up at the bottom of the bench that was marked with gum from years past. Her fingers were still interlocked with Jack’s as she chuckled, causing her breath to be visible in the air. “That jerk. I hate him. I’ll beat him so severely, he won’t even touch his own wand again.”

It was wishful thinking, but Kelby was willing to try.

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Jaxon Sinclair

"I don't know!"  

That was the problem, wasn't it?  That he didn't know.  Or maybe it was that he did know and because he knew, it meant he had to ask himself questions that he wasn't ready to ask—because it changed everything...everything that he'd thought he had figured out...like he'd dumped it all into the garbage disposal and flicked the switch to listen to the blades spin 'round his life.  Maybe that was the problem—that he'd—that he—

Jack lifted his hands, empty of candies, and slid his fingers beneath his glasses to rub his eyes.  He exhaled into the leather that covered his palms, his shoulders tight and tense against the snow that they were nestled in.  He did know.  He imagined that Kelby knew, too, but that her presence at his side and her incessant questions were some way of making him see it himself or making him admit it out loud because it was the sort of thing that needed to be heard—needed to be felt.  Demanded it, really, like it had latched on to his heart and refused to retract its claws until he faced the reality of the situation he'd put himself in.


He had never been the sort to avoid his problems, having always much preferred facing the issue before it spiraled out of control the way that this one was sure to do so his only option, really, was damage control.  How much of himself could he section off to stop the spread of destruction from reaching his very bones?  What parts of his life could he disconnect from Radueriel Benson to limit how much this could really hurt?  

Because it could really hurt.  It already did.

"I liked it too much," he finally whispered, his voice barely audible above the din of the carnival happening not far from where they were huddled beneath the bench.  "Too much to be...to be—to be totally str—"  His words tapered off, caught up in his mouth.  It wouldn't matter if he said the words out loud.  He knew that.  Maggie wouldn't bat an eye.  His parents wouldn't bat an eye.  Kelby clearly didn't care.

But he cared.  He cared, because what if all of this gave Rad an impression that he didn't want.  What if it changed things?  What if that strangely fluttery feeling in his stomach when Kelby leaned too close was the same as the one that had occurred when Rad had handed him that scarf and what if Rad cared?  What if it bothered him?


Jack pursed his lips, his heart finally sliding back down his throat when it came to the conclusion that he would rather choke on it than vomit.  His hands found the scarf again.  "He made this for me," he told her lamely.  "What if he didn't like it?  What if he's just like...like you were that first day at the Slytherin table—so desperate to fit in somewhere that you agreed to anything to get that tie from me?  What if I'm not worth all this frustration—"  He stopped.  He didn't want to know the answer to that because deep down, under all his stoic bravado and his false apathy, Jack didn't actually think he was worth it.

"Want to go to the kitchens and eat until we forget this happened?"

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Kelby Matos

 

A sharp intake of breath followed Jack’s words as Kelby stared up, looking anywhere but her friend as she considered what this all meant. No longer were they the breakfast squad, a group who came together every morning to converse and eat together. Now they were experiencing mitosis, the division of their cell into two separate entities. If Jack and Rad became more because of this situation, all Kelby could think of was how segregated their group would become. The boys would become each other’s everything, and where did that leave her?

Exhaling slowly, she realized how selfish that sounded inside her own head, and she made a promise to herself to never reveal these thoughts to Jack. She wanted to be a good friend, one of the best, and that meant being happy for him even when the true implications terrified her in a similar manner.

She wiggled her fingers as she moved to take her hand out of the embrace that they had engaged in, the odd feeling of their gloves rubbing together finally went away as she tried to think of anything she could say to him. “Too much? I don’t think that’s true.” The Gryffindor smiled at her friend, a hint of laughter in her eyes though she did her best to keep that pushed that. “Too much to be straight? You only get one life to live, and who knows how long that life is going to be?”

Her advice was something she told herself almost daily as she made her choices, though her anxieties tended to get in her way. She wanted to be adventurous and wild, living her life to the fullest even when the situation got tough. Kelby realized in that moment that she wanted it for her friend too, more than anything. No one deserved to live in a closet and be forced to hide their true selves.

But finally, as Jack started asking panic-tinged questions (they really had switched places), Kelby let herself laugh. “It’s a beautiful scarf, Jack. He didn’t spend time on it for anyone else, so I think…. I think you need to stop worrying.” Her laughter quickly turned to anger as her friend started spitting out the same junk about worthiness that he had in the past. Kelby felt her blood boiling as she did everything in her power to keep from saying something mean that she would regret later on.

Instead, she just shook her head at him. “You are worth it. It, whatever that means, and a whole lot more.”

And even though she knew that Jack likely would not believe her, she felt at ease finally saying that to him in hopes that one day, if she said it enough, he might actually start fathoming the idea himself.

But today was not that day. Which she guessed made sense when she realized how much she had rubbed off on the boy when he asked for an escape (her specialty!) from their location and topic of conversation. “Uh yeah, totally. Plus, I was thinking I was going to get sick if I had to stare up at this gum any longer.” Sliding through the snow, she pushed herself out from under the bench and stood, holding a hand out to her friend to help him up. She may have been subpar at best with the whole feelings thing, but today, she was giving marking herself victorious.

 

~the end~

 

Edited by Kelby Matos

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