Chapter 1: Catastrophe
Jade wandered around the fenced-in backyard aimlessly, red solo-cup in hand, still nearly full of beer. She wasn’t much of a drinker.
Neo and her had been invited to their friend Yellowtail’s party, one Jade couldn’t remember what it was in celebration of. They’d been here for a few hours already, talking it up with friends from around town and just generally relaxing for once. Neo had since gone inside to find the bathroom, but that had been quite some time ago. Jade was starting to wonder where she’d gone. Placing her cup down on the railing post of the stairs to the deck attached to the back of the house, Jade went inside to find her partner.
Once inside, her ears were blasted with loud music and laughter from others, which didn’t help her slight headache at all. She made her way to the stairs leading to the second floor, simply nodding to those who greeted her, most slightly drunk already.
Ascending the stairs, it instantly became much quieter. Jade heard familiar voices coming from the room down the hall, so she decided to investigate. Pushing open the nearly closed door, Jade was met with Neo and Yellowtail simply conversing, Neo sat in Yellowtail’s desk chair while Yellowtail himself sat on his bed, scrolling through his phone while talking. In Neo’s hand was a glass beer bottle, empty. Hopefully she hadn’t drank the entire thing herself.
The door creaked as Jade entered the room, causing both others to look up suddenly.
“Oh hey Jade! Figured you’d be out talking with someone.” Neo smiled at Jade, fiddling with the neck of the bottle in hand.
“Hey guys, whatcha doing?” Jade asked.
“We were thinking of some fun party game ideas! Here’s what we’ve got so far, if you could help us decide what to pick.”
Neo then proceeded to list off a number of group games that could be played with four or more people.
“... Or cards against humanity, maybe some co-op video game if we want to bother setting up the console and kicking the guys out of the living room, they’re watching a sporting event right now…” Neo paused to think for a moment. Her face suddenly lit up, presumably having an idea.
“Oooh, we could play spin the bottle! I’ve never played it before, maybe we could round up a group to play with us!” She exclaimed.
Jade wasn’t too keen on that choice, never was a fan of matchmaking games involving intimate acts.
“That actually sounds kinda fun! Let’s go downstairs and see if Smokey and Viper wanna play, maybe Orca too. And whoever wants to join in I guess.” He suggested.
Neo nodded, looking to Jade.
“You’ll play too, right Jade?” She asked. Jade opened her mouth but no words came out. She wasn’t sure how to answer. Did she say no and let Neo play with a bunch of drunk partygoers who’d get the chance to kiss her? Or did she comply so she could keep an eye on the game, maybe she’d get that chance? The latter sounded like the better idea. Not that she wanted to kiss her best friend, that was weird. Not normal at all, definitely not how Jade truly felt about Neo.
“... Sure, I suppose I’ll play.” Jade finally replied.
Neo stood up and patted Jade’s shoulder. “Thanks, let’s go get some others to play with us.”
Neo passed Jade, as did Yellowtail, and went downstairs and immediately began asking others if they wanted to join in on the game.
A few moments later, many footsteps and voices could be heard coming up the stairs. Jade had made herself comfortable on the floor of Yellowtail’s room, waiting for the two to return with others. When she said others, Jade didn’t expect 7 other people. Not that she didn’t know who they were, just that… that many possibilities to land on made her chances of hitting Neo very slim, plus someone might get that chance first. She shook her head to clear it. Not now Jade, this is strictly a platonic party game. … Right?
“Ok guys, let’s sit in a circle on the floor, we all know how this goes.” Neo sat opposite Jade, while everyone else took up a spot around the newly placed beer bottle in the center of the circle. Looking around, Jade began to put names to familiar faces.
Orca was there, of course she wouldn’t miss a chance to show everyone up. Tempest and Sheeran had decided to join, Jade was surprised they weren’t off with their other friends instead of playing a game. Smokey, Viper, and Krypton, the siblings, had decided to join (probably a bad move to play all at the same time, considering they were siblings, but they would probably get a pass if they spun one another) as well as Cormac, a newer friend of the group’s, but still a pretty good guy overall. Jade wasn’t expecting a game like this to be his type of party game choice, but whatever, to each his own.
“Alright, let’s begin. Who’d like to go first?” Neo asked.
“I’ll go.” Yellowtail volunteered, reaching to give the bottle a spin.
The bottle clattered around for a moment, eventually coming to a stop. The neck pointed towards Orca, the group giggled and snickered at the bottle’s choice. Orca merely rolled her eyes, leaning towards Yellowtail to get it over with. The kiss was light and quick, but still counted. Turn 1 done.
“Next!” Neo pointed to Cormac, who smiled slyly and spun the bottle hard. It once again clattered against the hardwood floor, finally stopping on Viper. Cormac nodded and laughed in triumph as Sheeran nudged him approvingly. Viper scowled.
“Don’t think this means anything, dude. Just a game.” Viper said, voice low. She grabbed Cormac’s shirt collar and quickly kissed him, pulling away almost immediately.
“Aww come on, that doesn’t count! Do-over!” Sheeran said, but Viper sat back down firmly, clearly not going in for a second try.
Sheeran volunteered himself this time, spinning the bottle and sighing when it landed on Smokey.
He sat up and leaned over to Smokey, placing his hand on the other’s shoulder and kissing him, not passionate, but not lightly either. Sheeran pulled away, leaving Smokey looking a bit dazed. Sheeran chuckled.
Tempest, who was sitting next to Sheeran, went next. She spun the bottle, having it land unfortunately on Orca.
“Oh c’mon, really? I don’t want to kiss a girl!” Tempest huffed.
“That sounds pretty homophobic of you.” Sheeran giggled jokingly, earning a light punch in the arm from Tempest.
“I see no problem with it honestly. Just like kissing anyone else.”
Tempest snorted, rolling her eyes.
“Alright, fine! Just make it quick.”
Orca scooted over to Tempest, giving her a quick peck on the cheek, then scooted back and settled in place. Everyone couldn’t help but notice Tempest’s slight blush.
The game went on for a few more uneventful turns, right up until it was Jade’s turn to spin. Her nervousness rising, she gave the bottle a good hard twist, waiting with baited breath as it clattered around on the hardwood floor, right until it stopped on… herself. She looked up, puzzled. She turned to the others, silently asking for the next step.
They others chuckled lightly. Jade felt very small all of a sudden, small and anxious to see how this turned out for her.
“When the bottle lands on you, it’s your choice.” Neo replied.
Jade felt her heart jump into her throat. Was this really happening? Did she finally get to kiss Neo? Would Neo even… reciprocate? Would she be disgusted that Jade would choose her?
So many thoughts ran around Jade’s head a mile a minute, it was making her dizzy.
“Well? Pick someone!” Krypton shouted playfully.
Jade snapped out of her thoughts, took a deep breath, and scooted in Neo’s direction. The crowd rippled with muttering and knowing looks as she did so.
Neo’s eyes visibly widened as Jade abruptly approached. Everyone went silent, anticipating what would happen. Jade was incredibly close to Neo at this point, so she decided to bite the bullet and go for it.
She quickly leaned in, pressed her beak to Neo’s lightly, and pulled back. Opening her eyes, she could see that Neo was incredibly red in the face, averting her gaze. Jade quickly scooted back, crestfallen. Neo hadn’t kissed back. She couldn’t even look at Jade after the fact. Had she done something wrong? Was everything going to be different now?
Jade knew she was way overthinking this, it was just a game. But she didn’t care. It might as well be the real deal to her. It touched upon some sensitive subjects in her life, smashing them together at high speeds: Neo and romance. She felt tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
“And that’s it! Our game is over, folks.” Smokey said, like he was some sort of sports announcer.
Jade was one of the first to leave as a few others filed out of the room. She headed down the stairs to the ground floor, her body feeling heavy yet weightless at the same time. She made her way past the other partygoers, opened the front door, and headed for her car. She fumbled with the keys in her hoodie’s pocket, trying to find the car’s key. She was going home, no need to embarrass herself any more than she already had.
A painfully familiar voice called her name. She turned her head to face Neo, who was hurriedly making her way down the front stairs, nearly tripping as her feet hit the driveway.
“Wait up! I wanted to talk to you, but you left so fast I didn’t even have time to get up.”
Jade felt the tears welling up again.
Neo saw her eyes glistening, immediately wiping the smile off her face.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
Jade turned away, not wanting Neo to see her cry. That option was out the window as soon as a choked sob escaped her throat. Jade suddenly felt an arm wrap around her lower back.
Neo was leaning into her right side, looking up at Jade. Jade wiped her eyes with her sleeve, sniffling. “I’ll be fine. Just go have fun with everyone else. It’s probably what you want more than to be out here with me, anyway.” Jade croaked. She felt Neo flinch at her harsh words.
“Jade, I… no, what makes you think that?” Neo asked, voice low.
Jade didn’t respond at first, taking a deep breath and exhaling. She was overreacting, she knew she was, but she didn’t care. If Neo had come out here just to friendzone her, she didn’t want to hear it. Maybe if she just didn’t say anything, didn’t even look up from her reflection in the car window, Neo would get the hint and make better use of her time.
Jade felt the tips of Neo’s talons graze across her chin gently, signaling Jade to turn and face her reluctantly. She didn’t bother to try and hide her reddened eyes, figuring Neo had caught on by now.
Neo’s eyes widened in realization.
“Is… Is this because of that dumb bottle game we played? Because you kissed me?” Jade was surprised not to see disgust or pity behind Neo’s eyes, but instead something she couldn’t read. Something genuine and kind. Jade nodded meekly, feeling ashamed that something so simply stupid could get her so worked up.
“... Are you afraid I’m mad at you for it?” Neo pried further, receiving another nod from Jade.
Jade felt Neo tighten her grip on her lower back slightly, leaning even closer and resting her head on Jade’s shoulder.
“Well I’m not mad. I’m shit at consoling people when they’re upset, but I hope you know I don’t think any different of you than before.”
Jade didn’t know if that made her feel better or worse. On one hand, Neo wasn’t actually uncomfortable with being around her anymore. On the other hand, she wasn’t sure what Neo meant by “I don’t think any different of you than before.” Was Neo rejecting her subtly? Or was she just saying that with no deeper meaning than on the surface? Jade had no idea and frankly, she was too distressed to try and figure it out at the moment. Instead she simply muttered a simple word of acknowledgement, feigning a smile as she glanced over at Neo. She was too close right now.
Jade wiped her nose with her sleeve, cursing herself internally for being so damn emotional over the smallest things. Suddenly, she felt Neo shift beside her, removing her head from Jade’s shoulder and bringing her arm back from around Jade’s waist. Jade suddenly missed the contact, making her feel even more conflicted.
“I think we need to have a chat. Somewhere more private than a busy house party. Mind driving us to the park down the street real quick? I’m sure it’s not busy, it’s almost 1:30 AM.” Neo quickly blurted out, face slightly red again. Jade considered declining and making some excuse as to why she needed to go home, but she figured it was hopeless either way. She’d just be rejected in the end, why not just get it over with now?
“Yeah, sure.” Her voice wavered, but she walked around the front of her car over to the driver’s side door, Neo getting in on the passenger side and situating herself. Jade quickly got into the car as well, making sure not to look at Neo too much.
The drive to the park was agonizingly long, despite the fact that it was less than 5 minutes away. The silence between them was awkward, both parties focused on their own thoughts instead of engaging in conversation together. Jade was relieved when she was finally able to turn the car off after parking (awfully) in the parking spots next to the sidewalk. The two unbuckled their seatbelts and opened their doors, soon making the painstaking walk over to the large tree at the center of the park’s main area. Neo sat down first, motioning for Jade to follow by patting the ground beside her. Jade complied. The two sat in silence for the first two or three minutes, before Neo finally spoke.
“It was actually kind of nice.”
Jade looked over to her, puzzled. “What was?” She asked.
Neo looked down at the ground, hands fiddling with the strands of grass next to her. It was her turn to be embarrassed now, it seemed.
“Your kiss. It was nice.” Neo’s voice was barely above a whisper, but Jade heard it loud and clear. Had Neo just…?
"...we should do it again sometime."
Those words made Jade's head spin. Yeah, Neo had definitely just said that, she wasn't going crazy.
Before Jade could respond, she felt herself being grabbed by the sweatshirt collar and pulled into another kiss, one much more passionate than the one she'd given during the game. Jade was stunned for a moment, but very quickly reciprocated, reaching her hands up to place them on either side of Neo's face. She rubbed her thumb over the long soft feathers under Neo's jawline.
The two eventually pulled apart, breathless. Neo hadn't realized she'd scooted so close to Jade, now sitting face-to-faxe with her. Jade felt her face redden at the realization of what had just happened. Neo really liked her too.
"Jade, did I truly upset you during that game? Because that wasn't my intention at all, I was just surprised is all. I just was sure I'd never get the chance to do that myself, and then there you were, incredibly close and kissing me for a dumb party game. I was sure you were just doing it for the game with no ulterior motives. When I saw you getting ready to leave I wanted to know why you rushed away so suddenly. I'm sorry if I hurt you." Neo rambled. Jade shook her head with a smile.
"No, no, not at all Neo. It wasn't you. Well, not entirely. I felt like…because you didn't kiss back, that you weren't into me at all, that it was just a one time thing, and I didn't want that to be true. I hated myself for agreeing to such a situation, for getting my hopes up so high. But now I know it was all so stupid of me." Jade replied.
Neo smiled at her, resting her head on Jade's shoulder and exhaling.
"I really don't want to go back to that party. It's probably wrapping up soon anyway." Neo mentioned. Jade hummed in agreement.
"Want to hang put at my place for a bit then?" Neo asked tentatively. Jade nodded with a chuckle, planting a kiss to Neo's forehead. This night had gone much better than she ever could have hoped.
Total= 69 AP
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