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shattered stars

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Nobody saw it coming. The constant smiles and portrayed happiness threw everyone off. It wasn't until last year when Riley was found alone, drunk off her ass with a half empty vodka bottle at her side, that people began to open their eyes. Cory and Topanga tried their best to help but she had just turned eighteen and was set on college next fall and it was out of their hands.

 

She began to go out every night, tagging along with strangers and heading over to the more dangerous parts of the city. Sometimes when she would come home drunk at 4AM, she would lay down on the bathroom tile and cry screams of "Why aren't I good enough?" and "Why can't I be happy?" Other times she would come in completely calm with glassy eyes and simply say, "I'm just tired," before crawling into her bed and burrowing herself under the covers.

 

"She'll snap out of it and go right back to normal, just wait," Maya would say, sounding more and more unsure of herself as more time went on. Maya stuck around for a little while. She waited at the bay window every night, waiting for Riley to come home. She would have a glass of water and an Advil ready. But then one time Riley lashed out and screamed,"Stop watching over me like I'm a fucking child and go find a life, Maya. I don't want you around anymore," and then Maya eventually stopped waiting at the window.

 

And then Riley was at college (sort of), sharing a tiny, dingy apartment with several of her party friends. The place was constantly littered with red solo cups. The kitchen counter was filled with liquor bottles, majority of them empty. The dining room table was stained with dried up beer from dozens of games of beer pong.

 

Riley went to class occasionally; it depended on her mood that morning.

 

Little by little, her old life disappeared. Soon enough, there was very little evidence that she was ever a straight-A student who wore colorful dresses with a radiating smile always etched on her face. But there was one thing that remained constant: Farkle. Riley just couldn't shake him off. Every insult she hurled at him he ignored. "Why can't you just leave me alone, Farkle?" Farkle's response was the same every single time. He would simply say, "Because I love you," and then continue to hold her hair back as she puked or carry her from the floor to her bed. She never responded; it was as if she pretended not to hear.

 

Sometimes Farkle would see a glimpse of the old Riley. "I hope Maya's okay," she would say. "Thank you for everything," she would say. "I'll be okay someday, right?" she would say. But then like a switch, she would push Farkle away and take another swig of her beer before getting up to join the others in another game of beer pong.

 

But Farkle stayed. 

 

Chapter Text

Farkle has his own place, he swears. He just spends majority of his time at Riley's. In fact, he is even on a first name basis with all of Riley's housemates. In fact, he doesn't even knock when he comes in anymore. 

 

Farkle is seated in the creaky, worn out sofa in Riley's living room. The house reeks of alcohol and weed and there is a loud thumping bass coming from a large speaker set near the front window. There are random people everywhere, as there is every night. Most of them are familiar faces but some have crashed for the free alcohol and bud.

 

Farkle always finds himself coming to these parties. He'll be driving home from his classes and he'll be thinking about maybe doing some homework or watching the latest documentary on the making of Star Wars but then he's taking a right when he should be going straight and pulling into Riley's driveway.

 

Riley has gotten used to his arrivals. For the first few days, she would say, "What are you doing here?" or "Go home, Farkle, this isn't your scene." But now she'll glance at him expectantly as he walks through the door. Sometimes she'll give him a small smile, depending on her mood.

 

Tonight, she was too busy talking with some guy to acknowledge Farkle's presence. Farkle watches Riley on the other side of the room carefully; she is getting a little too close with the guy who's name he probably remembers but refuses to acknowledge. His hands are rested on Riley's hips, itching towards her ass. Riley doesn't seem to mind (she never does). But Farkle thinks she's too intoxicated to even contemplate whether she minds or not.

 

When Riley leans in to kiss him, Farkle looks away and his face heats up with... anger? Jealousy?

 

Someone snickers and Farkle looks up to find the culprit: one of Riley's housemates, Erin, who is seated on the love seat across from him. 

 

"I don't know why you keep doing this to yourself, dude," Erin says. She has a cigarette in one hand and reaches it out, offering it to him.

 

"Doing what?" Farkle asks before shaking his head at the offer.

 

"You're so obviously in love with her. That's why you stick around, isn't it?" Erin says.

 

"I stick around because she needs someone there for her," Farkle answers.

 

"She's long gone, dude," Erin says, taking a drag of her cigarette. "That girl's a hurricane. She'll keep chewing you up and spitting you out. Get out while you still can."

 

Before Farkle can respond, Erin gets up, flashing him a sad smile, and leaves towards the kitchen.

 

Farkle thinks she's probably right. Riley may be a category five hurricane but Farkle's prepared with hurricane shutters and a backup generator. Farkle will be the body of cold water that slows her down.

 

Farkle looks over to the other side of the room where Riley and the guy are now making out, drunkenly and messily. Then he takes her hand, leading her toward the hallway where the bedrooms are.

 

Before he realizes what he's doing, Farkle springs up and makes his way over to them. 

 

"Came to join us?" Riley says with a smirk when she sees Farkle, her speech slurring and her eyes unfocused. 

 

"What do you think you're doing?" Farkle says to the guy, ignoring Riley's comment. He takes hold of Riley's other wrist.

 

"Uh..." The guy mumbles, releasing his hold on Riley's hand. He lifts his hands up in feign surrender. "She's all yours, man," he says before rolling his eyes and walking away.

 

"Riley..." Farkle says. Realizing he's still grasping her wrist, he lets go. "Let's get you to bed."

 

Riley nods, wobbling and leaning against him. Farkle puts his arm around her waist, holding her up. He walks her to her bedroom and leads her to the bed, where he tucks the comforter over her. He sits by her side, waiting for her to fall asleep.

 

"Thanks," Riley mumbles just before falling asleep. Her hair is knotted and all over the place, fanning against the pillow. She's also wearing an outfit that Farkle swears she wore yesterday but she looks so peaceful in her sleep that he just doesn't want to wake her to change.

 

So instead, Farkle just leans down and kisses her forehead before leaving. 

Chapter Text

For the first night in months, the Riley & Co house is eerily quiet. The stained dining room table has been wiped clean. The mess of red solo cups and scattered liquor bottles found their home in a large black garbage bag that's settled near the sliding glass door. The usual swarming mass of sweaty teenagers is missing. 

 

It's midterms week. It's one of the few times in the academic year that everyone in the house bunkers down and pulls out their dusty, unopened textbooks. The coffeemaker seems to be always brewing and the housemates crawl out of their study holes only to grab a cup of coffee or a Red Bull. Erin is perched on the love seat with an open statistics textbook on one arm of the chair and a laptop balancing on the other. Sarah, another housemate, has been pacing in the living room with a stack of biology flashcards. Ethan, the other housemate who is also Erin's twin brother, has been in his room for the past seven hours practicing the same melody on piano over and over again for his music exam. Riley, on the other hand, is in the backyard seated in a wooden patio chair. There are no textbooks or study materials near her though; those are strewn all over living room table in frustration. She had slammed her textbook shut before going outside to clear her head.

 

The sun has set already and there is a light breeze that's rustling the large oak tree in the backyard. Riley's legs are pulled in towards her chest, with her chin resting on her knees. She's frustrated; she has realized how hard it is to study for a class she's barely even attended. So instead of studying and reviewing, she's attempting to teach herself two months worth of instruction. It's only college algebra, Riley thinks to herself. She should know this.

 

She lifts her chin off her knees and reaches into her pocket. She rummages a bit before pulling out a joint she had gotten from Ethan that morning. Riley doesn't smoke, at least not usually. But sometimes she gets a bit stressed and she needs something, something, something, or she's going to grab a bottle or something worse.

 

She reaches in her pocket again and pulls out a lighter. She lifts the joint to her mouth, lights it up, and takes a long drag. She inhales deeply, wisps of cloudy white smoke roll out from her mouth and nose, lighting up the air around her. Then she reaches into her pocket once again, pulling out her phone. She quickly scrolls for a second through her contacts before finding who she's looking for. She presses call before reaching it up to her ear.

 

"Hey," Riley says into the receiver after someone picks up after the first ring.

 

"Riley," Farkle says. "Are you okay?"

 

"Yeah,"  she says. "I mean, I don't know. Can you come over? I know you're busy with studying but--"

 

"Riley, I'm on my way," Farkle says, cutting her off quickly. 

 

"Thanks, Farkle," Riley says.

 

"See you soon," Farkle says. The line clicks and Riley takes another inhale off the joint.

 

--

 

Fifteen minutes later, Farkle is parked in the driveway. While carrying a few plastic bags and his laptop case, he makes his way to the door. With his hands full, he uses his elbow to turn the knob. Stumbling inside, Farkle takes a second to take in the quiet house.

 

"Hey Farkle," Erin, who is still seated on the love seat, says without turning around. "It's been a while."

 

"I was here two days ago," Farkle says.

 

"Exactly. That's probably the longest you've been away," Erin says, finally turning around to smile at him. "Riley's in the back."

 

Farkle smiles and sticks his tongue out at her before dragging the plastic bags over to the kitchen counter. Instead of pacing, Sarah is now perched comfortably on the counter with her flashcards in her lap and a steaming mug of coffee in her hands.

 

"What's all this?" she says, motioning towards the bags.

 

"Brain food," Farkle responds and begins unloading them. "We got salmon, spinach, pistachios, green juice..."

 

"Ew, gross, take it back," Sarah says. 

 

"When's the last time you guys even ate a meal?" Farkle asks, now peering into the almost empty fridge. There's a gallon of milk, a pack of Red Bulls, a few leftover take-out boxes, and something in the drawer that seems to be rotting.

 

"Good point," Sarah says. "Now leave me alone, I'm trying not to fail my bio exam."

 

"Yes ma'am," Farkle says, making his way to the sliding glass door. He opens it and sees Riley settled in the chair, lighting the joint. The fire from the lighter is the only source of light in the backyard, besides the moon. It lights up her face, coloring it with shades of yellow and orange.

 

“Hey,” he says softly. He sits in the wooden chair next to her. He knows that Riley isn’t a smoker but he doesn’t comment. It’s better than the bottle, he thinks. “I brought dinner.”

 

“You didn’t have to do that,” Riley says, without looking over at him.

 

“I was at the store anyway when you called,” Farkle says. “It’s no problem, Riley. It’s what I’m here for.”

 

Riley doesn’t respond and instead takes another drag off the joint.

 

“Riley,” Farkle leans in and brings his hand to her chin, turning it gently so she is finally looking at him. “Are you okay?”

 

“Want to try?” Riley says, avoiding his question. She reaches out her hand and offers the joint.

 

Farkle’s hand is still on Riley’s chin. He grazes it against her cheek slowly before taking the joint. Why not?

 

He brings it to his mouth and inhales. Immediately, he begins sputtering and coughing.

 

After composing himself and wiping his watery eyes, he looks over to see Riley smiling at him. “If I have to cough my lungs out in order to see that smile, I’d do it again and again," he says.

 

Riley laughs, an actual genuine, real laugh. For a second, it's as if the old Riley is back. "Shut up," she says. She leans over and plucks the joint from his hand. It's burned out at this point so she throws it on the concrete tiles underneath her and squishes it with her foot.

 

"Now how about that dinner?" she says, getting up. She reaches her hand out to help Farkle up. He takes it and walks with her, side by side, to the house. When Riley loosens her grip to let go, Farkle simply squeezes harder.

Chapter Text

The wafting smell of salmon and spinach salad had all of the housemates crawling out of their study modes to eat together at the dining table. They all talk and laugh together and for once, the house seemed normal and happy, as if they were a part of some fictional television show. Even Riley joins in on the conversation, bringing in a few smiles and comments.

 

Farkle simply sits back and watches the scene in appreciation. He eats his meal in silence, popping in a comment every now and then.

 

They are currently having a discussion about fixing up the backyard, maybe planting in some flowers and herbs. Sarah gushes about how it would help convince her mom that they weren’t getting wasted every night and actually did normal, sober things in their free time.

 

The conversation reminds Farkle of back in their freshmen year of high school when he, Riley, and Maya had helped plant a garden at the school. It was all Riley’s idea. She had developed a whole presentation and printed out posters on why the school needed a colorful garden. She presented this in front of the principal and when the idea was approved, Riley was so happy and so excited that Farkle and Maya had no choice but to participate. They planted sunflowers and even strawberries.

 

By the end of senior year, the garden was browned and dying due to the fact that Riley no longer kept up with it. On the last day of school, Farkle vividly remembers Riley standing at the edge of the garden, staring at the shriveled sunflowers. Then she turned and walked away, never looking back again.

 

“You’ll help us right, Farkle?” Sarah says, pushing Farkle out of his thoughts.

 

“Of course,” he replies, glancing over at Riley, who is giving him a small smile.

 

“Alright, this was great, but I have to get back to studying,” Ethan says. His plate is shiny clean; he had eaten so fast that Farkle wasn’t sure if it was because he was in a rush to continue studying or because this was the first hot meal he’s had in months.

 

“I have some friends coming over,” Erin says. “I think we all need a little break.”

 

“Really, Erin?” Ethan says, bringing his plate over to the sink. “Fine, but keep the music down.” He sets his plate down before going to his room and shutting the door. Immediately, the sound of redundant piano playing wafts through the house.

 

“Yes! An excuse for me to stop studying,” Sarah says. She gets up, setting her plate in the sink. She runs over to the bar and excitedly holds up two liquor bottles over her head (one is a mango Svedka and the other is a Captain Morgan spiced rum). “So who is gonna take shots with me? Farkle?” She shakes the Svedka bottle and smirks at him.

 

“None for me, thank you,” Farkle says. He gets up and begins clearing the rest of the plates and silverware.

 

Erin and Riley, on the other hand, are already running over to the bar where Sarah is now pouring shots.

 

And then there’s a knock on the door and two, three, five, six, eight people are crowding the small living room.

 

Farkle carries a stack of dishes to the kitchen and makes himself busy by washing them and cleaning the cooking mess on the counters. He itches to go back in there and carry Riley to the safety of his own apartment, away from all these shots and all these people. But he resists the itch, knowing she would only hate him if he did so. Also, it’s not like Farkle would be able to keep Riley hidden away forever. Riley just doesn’t seem to want to be saved.

 

So Farkle carried on with the dishes.

 

--

 

A couple of shots later and with loud music pumping from the speaker, Riley is dancing wildly in the center of the living room, surrounded by a dozen other people. It seemed as though a new “friend” enters the door every few seconds.

 

The red solo cups make their way back to the dining room table. Riley’s textbooks and papers are pushed to the side of the table, dripping wet from a couple spilled cups of beer.

 

Farkle had finished cleaning the kitchen but he’s still standing there, leaning against the fridge. If he went out into the living room, he might not be able to suppress his urge to pick Riley up and throw her over his shoulder, getting her out of there.

 

“Whatcha doin’?” Erin says, popping her head in the doorway.

 

Farkle looks over at her and shrugs. “Not really sure, actually.”

 

“You know, you can just have some fun for once.” Erin reaches her arm out and offers him a shot of vodka. “Just let loose!”

 

Farkle just looks at the small glass and Erin sighs. “Fine—“

 

“Wait,” Farkle says. Then he reaches out and takes the glass from her, bringing it to his lips, and drinks it in one swift motion.

 

“Alright! Thatta boy,” Erin giggles in excitement. She downs her other shot and then reaches her hand out for him to take.

 

He takes it (her hand is really warm and really… nice) and Erin leads him to the living room, where everyone is still dancing. For a second, Farkle wonders if Ethan is getting anything done, considering how loud the music is.

 

Take it slow but it’s not typical

He already knows that my love is fire

 

Farkle quickly glances at Riley, who is still dancing. She looks like she’s in a euphoric bliss. Her eyes are closed and she’s swaying to the beat of the music. She’s not paying any mind to anyone around her. She’s in her own little world.

 

His heart was a stone

but then his hands roam

 

Erin, who has spun Farkle around and wrapped her hands on his neck, cuts his gazing short. She’s getting really close to him and she’s really, really warm. She presses her pelvis against his and begins swaying. Farkle can’t help but grab her hips to steady himself because he’s feeling a bit dizzy.

 

I turned him to gold and I took him higher

 

But then another hand is on his shoulder, pulling him around. Erin’s hands loosen from his neck and then disappear altogether; Farkle glances to watch Erin shrug and turn to dance with someone else. Riley is now in front of him, her eyes are glassy and so aware, so unlike that euphoria she was in just a few minutes ago.

 

But I’ll be your daydream

I’ll wear your favorite things

 

Her touch is almost harsh; she grips his shoulder like a lifeline and leans up to his ear. “You’re mine,” she whispers before giving a quick nip to his earlobe, sending shivers down Farkle’s spine.

 

We could be beautiful

 

And then Riley turns around, one hand still clinging onto his shoulder, and leans her ass into his groin. She begins grinding and Farkle is feeling too much, too much, too fast.

 

Get drunk on the good life

 

He’s never been this close to Riley. He doesn’t know if he likes the circumstances that brought her to be this close to him in the first place. But he can’t think because Riley is all over him. On his body, in his head, in his brain. She’s everywhere.

 

I’ll take you to paradise

 

Riley tilts her head up, nosing at his neck. She begins pressing openmouthed kisses at his jaw. This is too much and feels too wrong and Farkle puts his hands on Riley’s shoulders, pushing her away.

 

Say you’ll never let me go

 

And Riley is turning around, looking at him confused. “I can’t do this,” Farkle says and walks away, leaving her standing in the middle of the crowd.