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'til the clock strikes five

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Steve was not a creature of habit at all, but lately one could say he had found himself some kind of routine. Since BBA fought for him at that gas station, or maybe even sometime before that, he found out that he had to battle for himself, and for a while – after the pencil, the books and the lies – he seemed to be learning how.

But then the shooting happened, and the movements and the wind was hitting the trees in the exact way to make them whisper and everything fell into place, and OA… OA left him like everybody did. And it was even worse because he knew what she did, knew that she had stepped in the invisible stream that carries you away, and for that he was lost – not in the way he was before, but in a… in a Looking for Alaska kind of way.

(and tell no one, but he was a little obsessed with that book, in part because his girlfriend Angie secretly loved it, in part because it hit close to home with the grief and the loss)

How dare OA? How dare she change him and just leave? How dare she shake his world and then slip into a coma with little to no chance of coming back?

And more importantly, how could she make all those things, find a way out and not take him with her?

So he beat himself up, and he told Angie everything – everything, even if she’d think he was crazy afterwards – and then, for a while, he just dug his fingers in the humid dirt at the bottom of his fossa.

“Look, everybody hate your ass, me more than anyone,” French said kicking Steve’s foot one day when he came over to check on him. “But this is getting weird, bro, you need to go back to normal.”

“French, do me a favor, will you?” Steve replied not looking over at the jock. “Go fuck yourself.”

By the way French chuckled, Steve supposed it had been the wrong thing to say. As a matter of fact, Angie had pointed out that perhaps Steve wasn’t as depressed as he thought; perhaps… he was acting depressive because it was easier.

Now, that was a dick thing to say, but one of the reasons he fell head over heels for Angie was her sharp tongue, so it wasn’t as if he expected something different. The problem was that he really didn’t know. He had no clue if the despair he felt was real depression of if she was right. It was easier to numb out on everything else, but it was also hard to get up and out of this well.

“I think about it often, always did,” Steve told Angie one night when she arrived with curly fries and burgers for movie night and found him in the dripping bathtubs. “Ending this.”

He had scared the shit out of her, he knew. It was clear as day in her eyes and the redness of her skin, the way she pouted whenever she laid eyes on him.

Suicidal, Jesse had called him sometimes. You like toying with danger and death, that’s why you fell for OA’s talk so willingly.

“I wonder if I hate life enough to get through with it,” he confessed, avoiding eye contact with his girlfriend.

“Everyone hates life, Steve,” Angie said firmly. “The question really is, do you hate living?”

Steve thought of her hands reaching in the water to pull him up once it’d been way too long since she opened the door and found him immersed, when there had passed enough time for her to think that it was a prank. He thought about the way he cried on her lap, resenting the injustice of this world.

Today, the sign in front of OA’s house said SOLD. Prairie was in the hospital, in a coma, and she no longer lived in his neighborhood. He didn’t know where the Johnsons would live after she woke up, if she woke up, and he wasn’t sure they’d let him near her. He knew French and Buck had been sneaking up to see her, but Steve hadn’t had the courage to do so himself so far.

It had been so long since the shooting.

How strange this feeling of having both granted her wishes and disappointed her.

Steve didn’t know how to answer Angie, and he supposed she didn’t have an answer for him either. They were young, reckless and they had more questions than answers in their repertoire.

“Could you teach me the movements?” Angie asked him, surprising him beyond words. He looked up at her in shock. “Maybe… I don’t know, maybe it’s something to occupy your mind. Don’t they say that to addicted people, to do something else when you think about drinking or whatever?”

Steve chuckled. Damn, he loved that girl.

“I guess,” he said considering, and then he nodded. “Yeah, I guess I could. I mean, are you strong enough and did you leave your door open?”

“What?” she asked frowning. Steve dismissed it with a wave.

“Anyway, you can leave the door open next time.” He got up, kicking the clothes and books on the floor of his bedroom out of the way, but stopped short when he saw Angie getting up too, socked feet softly stepping on his carpet. “Do you really want to learn it?”

Angie shrugged.

“I mean, it is mesmerizing to the last. Wouldn’t hurt, I guess.”

Except it did, sometimes, in different ways than one would think of, but it also brought some comfort. The five movements of the angels. And she was his Angie. Fitting.

Steve planted his feet on the floor and she mirrored him.