“Hey, watch it!!”
Hugh blinks and looks down to where the cry had come from- the very conspicuous box in the middle of the living room. His eyesight really must be getting bad if he hadn’t noticed it. He smirks. “Oh, you’re in the box again?”
Myriam jumps to her feet, box still draped over her. A few months ago, she would have thought his smirk was one of derision. Now, she knows that’s how he shows amusement... and that his face just has that condescending, punch-able look to it. “Just because I’ve been coming out of the box a little more doesn’t mean I’m giving it up entirely! It’s the best cover for stealth journalism-”
“You have to know the rest of us can see you in that. ...Right?”
“-and it’s so chic, too!”
Hugh gives a decidedly undignified snort. “Is that why you hid in it last week when Athena started complimenting you? Because of how fashionable it is?”
Myriam moans with embarrassment when she remembers the previous week.
// ~~ // ~~ //
Myriam had been minding her own business- not seeking any sort of attention from her partners or making much noise, just working on her latest report. She certainly hadn’t prepared herself for her most amorous girlfriend to suddenly decide she needed to drape herself over Myriam’s shoulders.
“What are you up to, mio tesoro? Je t’aime, Liebling. Bésame mucho!” Athena breathed into her ear. Myriam shivered. She knew she was a goner- when Athena started devolving into various foreign languages, she would never stop. Surely enough, Athena’s wandering hand found Myriam’s cheek as she continued showering Myriam with pet names. She pressed a gentle kiss to Myriam’s temple, then an even softer one to Myriam’s lips, and the journalist promptly turned thirty different shades of red. Without warning, she shoved herself under her box to hide her face.
For the next few days, Myriam hadn’t been able to look straight at Athena without blushing and stuttering. The redhead had found it incredibly cute, much to Myriam’s dismay (she’d write a mud-slinging article on her later to vent her frustration). The entire incident brought her a mix of mortification and unparalleled delight.
// ~~ // ~~ //
Myriam snaps herself back into the present moment. She steps closer to Hugh and accuses, “Like you’re some virtuoso on romance?? I seem to recall you awkwardly excusing yourself after Juniper fed you some dinner off her fork last night. Ah, don’t try to deny it! I took several photos.”
“Urk-!” Hugh holds up both hands as an offer of truce.
“I mean, it’s fine. Those saps act sweet enough for all five of us.”
“HEY!! What are we agreeing about?” In an instant, Robin marches from the doorway to insert herself between her partners.
“Nothing. And didn’t you ever learn not to eavesdrop?”
“I wasn’t eavesdropping! G-E-E-Z, Hugh!” The prosecutor-in-training juts out her bottom lip in a pout. “Everything in this house is common knowledge, anyway. That’s the whole point of Myriam’s ‘Gossip of the Day,’ right?”
Myriam removes her box, revealing her shaking her head. “It’s not /gossip/, it’s news. The people have a right to know that Hugh ate the last of Juniper’s cupcakes.”
“Curses! How did you know??”
“I’m everywhere. Kahk-kahk!!” she laughs.
Robin bounces on her heels. “Oh, this edition’s juicy! Let me go get Thena and Junie so they can-”
“We’re right here!” Athena shouts. She throws a smug glance in Hugh’s direction- he pales. “You should really know by now that there’s no lying in this household. No secrets either. I can /hear/ fear.”
Widget turns green and announces, “Robin calls Athena ‘my masterpiece’ when it’s just the two of them in bed!”
Athena clamps her hand over the device. “...Well, /that/ was supposed to stay a secret…”
Myriam curls her lip, looking as grossed out as she possibly can; Robin looks not at all perturbed, and Juniper covers her mouth with her hand, but she can’t keep from giggling.
Hugh tilts his nose in the air with superiority and makes a quick getaway while the attention is on Athena.
‘Really, this household is so boisterous.’ He looks back to his partners.
He’s only slightly surprised to feel happiness rather than embarrassment when it hits him that he really is one of them.
“All done.” Juniper swipes her paintbrush in a spiral, then pulls it back to admire her artwork.
“Me too!” Robin grunts as she lifts a heavy sculpture off the crafts table and shows it to Juniper. Her eyebrows rise when she takes in Juniper’s creation. “Junie, that’s wonderful!!”
“It’s nothing, really… Myriam’s last box is a little beat up, so I figured for her birthday, she might like to get a new one.”
“It’s so P-R-E-T-T-Y!” Robin shifts her sculpture to one hand and uses the other hand to rotate the box and observe all its sides, careful not to touch the wet paint. “What kind of flower did you draw along this side here?”
“A white chrysanthemum. It means ‘truth-seeking.’”
Robin huffs as she looks down at her own creation. “Aww, man! Now I feel stupid. I just made a weird-looking panda, since she seems to like them.”
Juniper’s hand shoots out to cover one of Robin’s. “Your sculpture is wonderful, Robin! And really adorable.”
“Really? Thanks, Junie. You knoooow, since your birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, too… I was gonna wait but I JUST CAN’T!” She sets down her sculpture and excitedly shoves a ratty pink sweater into Juniper’s hands.
Juniper gently brushes her hand over the tree-and-squirrel decal woven into the fabric. “This is…”
“I /tried/ knitting you a sweater! I’m not as delicate with my hands as you, but you’ve tried teaching me so often that I… well, there you have it!”
“Oh, Robin, I love it.”
Myriam saunters in with characteristic stealth, her notebook in hand. “What are you two losers up to? Kahk-kahk!”
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” her girlfriends cry in unison. Robin gives her a crushing hug, and Juniper lifts both of their gifts from the table.
Myriam stands there for a few moments, stunned. After a couple seconds of overwhelmed silence, she immediately shoves herself inside her new box to hide her face. Too awkward to sincerely express her gratitude, she slips her camera under her box. A quiet /click/ is heard, and she shakily slides something through the eyehole in her box- a photo of her smiling face.
Robin can’t help but laugh, even as Myriam glares back. She assures Myriam, “I’ll treasure it forever! Pft… haha!” The prosecutor-in-training shows the photograph to Juniper.
“Yeah… whatever…” With jerky movements, Myriam lifts her box and gives each of her girlfriends a kiss on the cheek. “This is already a good birthday.” She quickly slips the box back on and rushes out of the room.
Juniper and Robin smile brightly for the next half hour.
Hugh sighs deeply as he inspects the wood on his bow- the ridges splintered from overuse… and the bottom adorned where his girlfriends had etched their initials: M.S, A.C, J.W, and R.N. Normally, the sight brings a small smile to his lips, but right now, the markings mock him.
Earlier, his partners had gently teased him for his encyclopedia-like knowledge of an older television program they had never even heard of. He hadn’t thought much of it at the time, but now he dwells on it.
He is 7 years older than his girlfriends. They grew up practically in different decades, with different films, different technology… Are they really well-matched? Back at Themis Academy, Hugh had always felt a little out of place, like he was presenting himself to his friends as something he wasn’t, like he didn’t belong with them. His self-consciousness plagues him from time to time about this.
Robin finds him on the sofa staring absently into space. Perhaps she can sense his state of mind, because she doesn’t start yelling and hanging over him as per her usual greeting. Instead, she sits beside him on the couch and rests her legs over top of his. “Hey, man. What’s up?” she asks. Her posture is girlish: her hands unclenched, her legs crossed. But her face is exaggeratedly determined, just like how he remembers her looking in her male persona back at the Academy.
Robin gives him a look.
“Alright, alright. I’m just feeling a bit… old.” He looks away and pushes up his glasses to occupy his hands.
Robin blinks like she hadn’t expected that at all. “Well, you are.”
Hugh sneers. “Thanks.”
“That’s not a bad thing! I mean, you’re older than us, but you’re only 25. You’ve still got a lot of time to do anything you want-!”
Hugh whips his head around to look at her incredulously. “That isn’t-! I’m not afraid that I’m running out of time.”
Hugh sighs, wondering if she’s being deliberately obtuse. He supposes that’s unfair- Robin can’t read minds. Not everyone is Athena, who can listen to a person talk about the weather and then tell you all about their childhood traumas and present worries.
She looks at him, her brown eyes open wide in curiosity and light concern. So he explains his earlier train of thought. She’s uncharacteristically silent while he does, and he feels a little nervous. He knows he shouldn’t- she’s just goofy, clumsy Robin. But she sure seems different, staying stock-still like that.
When he finishes explaining his worries, she moves suddenly. It startles Hugh- he had gotten so caught up in his own thoughts that he had almost forgotten Robin was there. She raises one hand to his neck and touches his friendship bracelet. “You see this?”
“Yes, but why-?”
She thrusts out her arm and rolls up her sleeve to display her own friendship bracelet. “I don’t make these for just anyone. They’re proof that we’re bonded together forever. FOREVER, okay, man?! Whatever you’re thinking about yourself, I assure you me and Thena and Junie and Myriam aren’t thinking that way. We’re just thinking you’re our silly, handsome boyfriend.”
“ANYWAY, we’ve been inseparable since before any of our secrets came out. And no little thing like age-” she nods to him- “or gender-” she gestures to herself “overcame that or ever will overcome it.”
Hugh looks away and mutters something about how cheesy Robin is. But then he meets her eyes and confesses, “I was… surprised when I found out you had kept such a large secret from us. Of course, I hid many things about myself as well. But it doesn’t matter now. My feelings for you and Juniper never wavered no matter what we went through.”
“AWW!! How C-U-T-E!” Robin throws her arms around Hugh’s neck. Hugh brings up one hand to run through her choppy brown locks, only to be shocked when he feels Robin’s lips on his neck. She seems intensely focused on marking the spot with her mouth.
“R-Robin… We have to visit Themis later today.”
“So??” she whines, not retracting. Her breath is warm on the crook between his neck and shoulder.
Hugh loses the willpower to resist her, and instead he slides his hands under Robin’s track jacket as she continues to suck on his neck. Any thoughts or concerns leave him as the world reduces to just him and the girl in his lap and his other girlfriends waiting in the next room.
He supposes he doesn’t have much reason to complain.
“How do you like the blanket I got you, Junie?”
“No, how do you like the grizzly bear slippers /I/ got you??”
Juniper smiles placatingly as Athena and Robin crowd around her. “They’re both very nice, thank you. I’m not cold anymore.”
Both of Juniper’s girlfriends grin smugly. Then, they make eye contact and sparks crackle between them.
Robin and Athena love to compete, but their rivalry is more of an excuse to flirt than anything else. This is evidenced by Robin jumping to her feet and getting in Athena’s face to tell her to ‘“BRING IT OOOOOON!” ; she lingers there, her lips centimeters from Athena’s. Not that Athena is any better, always teasing Robin to get a rise out of her, then smiling fondly when the other isn’t looking. Honestly, they’re just like children.
Juniper watches them with amusement. But when she looks back at the notes in front of her, the smile slips off her face. Studying to be a judge can be really stressful, especially with exams coming up. Her stomach growls, reminding her that she hasn’t eaten in hours. She stands and begins heading toward the kitchen. “I guess I’ll make some instant ramen…”
“NO WAY, MAN! Junie, you need protein when you spend all day working!!”
“Yeah, I’ll make you some traditional Japanese cuisine.”
“Or I could get you some D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S tea and biscuits!”
“Wrong,” a deep voice interjects. Hugh leans in the doorway to the kitchen, right in front of Juniper. He absently twirls a lock of her hair around his finger. “When Juniper is anxious, she likes to tear into some comfort food.” Juniper blushes. Hugh rummages through a drawer and extracts a take-out menu. “I’ll order you some barbeque ribs and creamed corn, alright? So just sit there and take it easy for a while.”
“Thank you,” Juniper squeaks.
“Did we just lose to Hugh?” Robin’s face contorts, looking incredibly displeased at the idea.
“On the one hand, no, because our end goal was for Junie to be happy and he just accomplished that… but on the other hand, yeah, we did lose. Now,” Athena sidetracks, eyeing the menu in Hugh’s hand. “Oh, great, handsome, smart, kind boyfriend of mine…” Athena begins approaching Hugh, Robin on her heels.
“No. Pay for your own meals.”
“No fair! You’re paying for Junie! Do you like her better than us?” Athena complains.
“Yes,” he teases.
Robin whines and punches him in the arm, and it actually sort of hurts. He scowls and rubs his arm. But then he sighs like he’s really put upon, kisses the top of Robin’s head, and tells both of his boisterous girlfriend, “Choose one item from the menu, under 10 dollars.”
They squeal in unison and each throw their arms around his neck. Robin plants a wet smooch on his cheek.
“I regret this already…” he mutters.
But Juniper giggles, some tension released from her posture, so her partners all can’t help but smile in turn.
Myriam wonders why she ever idolized these people. Back when she reported on them from afar, to her they were the stars of the school and the cool attorney who took down their creepy professor- no more, no less. Now, she knows more about them than she ever expected.
Since she is living with them, all the sloppiness and bad habits that people normally hide from others have been unearthed.
Robin breaks at least 3 things per day. It’s usually her own pottery rather than plates, but it still leaves a mess. And Robin also likes to sneak into Myriam’s closet and try on her dresses, now that Robin has the chance to explore her femininity. Myriam’s supposed to be the sneak around here! Robin should just ask! Well, Myriam probably would say no, then laugh in her face, then offer her one dress in exchange for some exclusive (perhaps raunchy) photos… but Robin still should ask!
Hugh, meanwhile, seems oblivious to his own strength. Myriam certainly doesn’t /mind/ when he rolls up his sleeves and pushes his hair out of his face, his biceps contracting, so he can lift the living room bookshelf (she does NOT have a thing for construction workers she tells herself again, unconvincingly). But it gets a little ridiculous. He once shifted the entire sofa to get at the remote control and didn’t move it back. How is Myriam supposed to get around under her box if their room layout keeps changing??
Not that Athena is any better. Little Miss Karate challenges Hugh any chance she gets. AND if that weren’t enough, Athena and Juniper are also early risers. Myriam is a zombie in the morning, so when her girlfriends are all peppy and urging her to watch the sunrise or go for a hike in the woods at dawn, she wants to strangle them. At least they don’t live with Apollo- Myriam is told the young defense attorney likes to shout in the morning. Robin thankfully leaves yelling for the afternoon.
Then again, Myriam supposes she’s not without her faults. Her multiple bandaids are a testament to her clumsiness and tendency to knock into things. Journalism isn’t exactly a 9-to 5-job; Myriam has to be alert for the scoop at all hours of the night. But bad eyesight mixed with a vision-obscuring box mixed with poor hand-eye coordination means she bumps into a lot of things and makes a lot of noise while her partners are sleeping. But other than that, she’s a saint, she swears!
Okay, maybe they can all annoy each other sometimes. But, when she takes a seat around the table sandwiched between Hugh and Robin, trades barbs with Athena, and grabs one of Juniper’s warm and cutely-decorated brownies, she can’t think of anywhere she’d rather be.
“Roller skating rink!”
“O-order in the mock court!” Juniper thunks her knitting needles against a desk. “Before passing judgment on the matter of where we should go this afternoon, I’d like to hear statements from both sides. Ms. Newman, if you please…”
Robin clenches her fist. “ABSOLUTELY, YOUR HONOR! The roller skating rink is the only choice! You can spin and do jumps and it’s just so much F-U-N!”
“Noted. Ms. Cykes…?”
“My co-counsel, Mr. O’Conner, would like to speak.”
“I’ll allow it. Hugh- I mean, Mr. O’Conner?”
“The aquarium is the logical choice. It’s the ideal date location for mature adults, like ourselves.”
“That’s not true!!”
“Robin- Ms. Newman, please don’t make me hold you in contempt.”
Robin perks up an eyebrow, intrigued. “And what does that entail…?”
Suddenly, Myriam shoots up from beside the couch. Smirking, she proclaims, “Surprise decisive witness! Bet you didn’t expect this.”
Athena raises her hands half-heartedly. “Whoa, I’m so surprised.”
Looking slightly more uncomfortable, the girl continues, “Myriam Scuttlebut, /professional/ reporter. This just in: rollerskates AND big slimy fish dangerous to journalists’ health!”
“Aww,” Robin coos. “You don’t have to be scared of skating, Myriam, I’ll teach you!”
Still, their level-headed adjudicator rules in Hugh and Athena’s favor. “This court prefers the aquarium. Sorry, Robin.”
Robin crosses her arms. “No, man, it’s only fair. You tipped the vote 3-to-1-to-1-abstention for the aquarium.”
Juniper gives her a lingering conciliatory hug while Hugh and Athena celebrate behind them. In her enthusiasm, Athena lifts and twirls Hugh in the air, who doesn’t look nearly as annoyed by it as he should.
Myriam mutters from the makeshift witness stand. Athena puts Hugh down long enough to go over to the journalist. “You know… you can use your camera at the aquarium.”
She lifts her head, her expression exuding excitement. “I- is that so… I guess I’ll go if you all want me there so much! Kahk-kahk!”
Athena takes her hand, and the five head out the door.
Impromptu Scary Movie Night goes about as well as could be expected.
Immediately after the string of gruesome flicks intended to inflict terror upon its viewers, the five inhabitants of the apartment attempted to fall into unperturbed sleep. Emphasis on attempted.
While Athena is used to German horror films (which are on an entirely different level) and Juniper is strangely unaffected as well, their partners do not share their thick skin. Thus, the two girls serve as anchors for their lovers, one of them in each of the two beds.
Hugh clings to Athena’s side, occasionally shivering, all the while denying his fear and proclaiming, “I don’t want you to feel scared.”
Myriam and Robin crowd around either side of Juniper and cuddle with her. “Robin, move over! You’re pushing me off the bed!” Myriam hisses.
“I need to stay close to Junie!” Robin argues. “You were just cowering under your box the whole time anyway- I actually watched the film, so I need this more than you.”
Myriam huffs. “You’re so brawny, no monster could get you anyway.”
In a roaring voice, Robin yells, “I’m petite and girlish! Say it! Say I’m girlish!” She reaches over Juniper to tickle Myriam.
Juniper covers her ears, and when Athena makes a hand gesture urging Juniper over to her bed, Juniper takes the invitation.
Myriam and Robin both whine and promise to behave. But Athena just pushes Hugh out of the bed she’s now sharing with Juniper and tells the three cowards, “Fend for yourselves for once!” Then Athena throws the blanket over herself and her childhood friend and cuddles her.
“Is this alright, Thena?” Juniper whispers.
“Yeah. Widget isn’t reacting to any serious fear in them- they’re just being dramatic. Let them comfort each other.” She burrows her face into Juniper’s neck, causing the other girl to erupt in a cascade of giggles.
Hugh and Robin and Myriam huddle together, muttering about cruel girlfriends. But, nestled in each other’s warmth and tired from the movie marathon, each of them is so tired that they quickly fall asleep.
Juniper peeks out over the top of the covers to observe her other three partners. She chuckles fondly, thinking how lucky she is. Then she wraps one arm around the girl by her side and follows her lovers into a deep sleep.