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Charles could tear him apart with a bored, halfhearted, heavily-lidded glance over one shoulder, and they both knew it.

That was the part that was unfair—that Charles knew everything.

Charles, Jay thought. It almost didn't fit him, the stuffy, British-prince turn of it chafing with the floating pale hair and the languid smirk; and at the same time, it was effortlessly encapsulating. Jay couldn't wrap his head around it, and they both knew that, too.

Damn it.

There was no abbreviating Charles. He was not Chuck, or Charlie, or anything else the mind could conjure; he was Charles, simple and complete and unconcernedly irrepressible. He persisted in existing on his own personal level of the world, as if he was playing three-dimensional chess, and the rest of them had just one board to look at.

In essence, they were doomed.

Charles. Jay was stranded amongst the lot of them—Samuel and Erik and Sarah and Odette and Metis (whom only Charles could condense to May)—people with full, uncompromising, multisyllabic names. And there he was, the manifestation of a single letter, drawn out into three lame, overcompensating pieces—J-A-Y. Like blue jays and other things that stared at you curiously with bright eyes until you came too close, at which point they flitted dramatically away.

Except that Jay was snared around one foot, as a woodcock to his own springe, justly kill'd by his own treachery.

Damn it.

He didn't know why he couldn't let it go (except that you could never really let it go, because that was the whole point). It was all wretchedly masochistic—and they both knew it, of course. In Charles's hands, Jay was an open book in large print. Probably something trashy. Something Charles was content to set aside and forget about until the rare occasion when it once again became relevant.

That hurt.

It all hurt.

Which was why Jay looked out through the wispy, blurred edges of his bangs with a kind of resigned desolation that he hated, because they both knew it was an insufferably emo approach to things.

Was that why Charles pointedly ignored him, or was it because Charles was just so good at ignoring him in the first place that it'd be a waste of his God-given talents if he paid attention?

Jay blew out a breath, and his bangs danced briefly, like mischievous shadows (he liked the dye; it was unrepentantly interesting), before settling again.

Jay didn't like to think of himself as weak. He didn't like to think of himself as pliable. Most of all, he didn't like to think of himself as pathetic. But Charles made all of those things terribly true, and they both knew it. Jay would bend over backwards until scoliosis got the better of him, and whatever he wanted or liked or wished to think, that was the summary of it. He wrecked himself endlessly on Charles's shore.

He also utilized a lot of somewhat dubious metaphors.

It made sense, though, didn't it, since Charles could turn Metis into May, transforming two exotic syllables into a soft, springy standalone—why shouldn't he be able to take Jay's single sound and reduce it to nothing?

If you looked at it that way, it wasn't even his fault.

He liked to think it wasn't his fault.

But they both knew better, didn't they?