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A Life of Your Own

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It was nearly three in the morning when Erik stumbled through the door and fell straight onto the couch. It had been a rough night and no one had seemed to understand the words “last call”. Drunk people really sucked sometimes. They tip well, though.

He barely felt like moving and had just about persuaded himself to sleep on the couch without pulling it out into a mattress when he noticed light leaking out from the bottom of the bedroom door. He groaned and managed to pull himself up.

He rapped the door gently with the back of his hand before opening the door a crack. His sister was slumped over her desk, holding her head up with one arm braced on the table. He pushed the door open the rest of the way and leaned against the frame.

“Mia, it’s three AM, what the hell are you doing up?” He tried to be stern, but his exhaustion kept his voice soft.

Mia looked up from the textbook splayed out in front of her and rubbed her eyes a bit as she replied, “wanted to make sure you got home safe.”

That was rare. Mia usually wasn’t open about her feelings when it came to loving or caring about her brother. She was in high school now and was “too cool” for that.

/She really must be tired./ Erik thought to himself, and as if on cue Mia stifled a yawn.

“I did text you that I was going to be late.” Erik flipped open his phone to check that it sent.

“I know I know,” she said as she pushed her chair back and stood up. “And I /did/ go to bed. I just woke up later and thought I’d get some reading done til you got back.”

“You sure there aren’t any comic books hidden in there?” Erik teased, reaching toward the textbook. He pulled back quickly before she could slam the book shut on his hand.

“Don’t be a dick.” There was no heat in her words. Yet another yawn was pulled out of her and she turned her desk lamp off before walking over to the bed. “Good night, Erik.”

That was code for “get the fuck out of my room and close the door so I can sleep.” He followed her silent instructions, rolled his eyes, and turned back to his own bed. Well, couch at the moment. He sighed, resigning himself to a delayed sleep by yanking the cushions off the couch and setting up his bed properly.

He looked back at the closed door. Something had changed in his sister since starting high school. She was still his annoying kid sister, stubborn as a clam and headstrong to boot. But there was something new about her lately. She pretended to not care about school too much, but a determination burned in her eyes that he hadn’t seen before. He also noticed from the tests he was able to sneak peeks at that her grades were improving too.

Best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. If something was inspiring her to do better he was not about to ruin it by prying. Besides, he had a double shift tomorrow at the restaurant and he /needed/ that sleep.

——-

Nine in the morning was one of Eleven's favorite times of the day. The computer class had just let out and the library was practically empty. All of the students were in class or electives, and all of the teachers were there with them. It was during this time that he could really get his work done. He reshelved books, updated documents, fixed the file folders (the students still didn't seem to know how to keep them organized, no matter how many times he showed them), and most days his friend Serena would come and join him for a cup of tea. Serena was the school nurse, which you would think was a calm job compared to other doctors offices, but boy would you be surprised at just how accident prone high schoolers were.

As Eleven turned out of the aisle with his cart of books, he noticed a shock of blue hair poking out from behind the wall of a study desk. He chuckled. Not /all/ of the students were in classes, then.

"Back again, Mia?" he asked with a grin, folding his arms on the wall and resting his chin on them. She jumped a foot, then noticed who it was.

"Geez, Mr. Erdrick! You scared me! How are you always so damn quiet?" She sat up to face him fully, muttering "goddamn ninja..." under her breath.

"Language, Mia, and I told you to please call me Eleven," he said with a smile.

"Sorry..." she mumbled. "Eleven Erdrick. That's just so /weird/," she said before clapping her hands over her mouth. "I'm sorry! That was so rude."

That had Eleven full-on laughing. "You're right, it is weird. And also a question I have posed to my mother many many times." Mia seemed to slump back in relief that she hadn't upset him. "What are we reading today?"

"Some journals on biochemistry," she said with a shrug.

"Biochemistry? Wasn't it astrophysics last week?" He shook his head. "You do know you're a freshman, right?"

"I didn't say I /understood/ it. I'm just looking into which would be easiest."

"Easiest she says," Eleven scoffed. "None of the subjects you've been looking into are easy, Mia. This free hour was supposed to be so you could pick an extracurricular to take, like music or art. Not that I mind you being here of course!" he added quickly as she glared up at him.

"Music and art don't make you money," Mia said matter-of-factly, crossing her arms.

"I know quite a few people who would disagree with you..." Eleven murmured. He knew it was a moot point. This girl wasn't going to budge. "Well if you need any particular books or references, I'm always here," he said with a smile.

"And so are your computers." Mia smiled innocently, and Eleven chuckled as he wheeled his cart along to leave her to her studies. What an interesting kid...

---=--
"For the last time, Sylv, this is NOT a gay bar." Erik sighed. Whatever made him believe this guy would make a good friend? Oh right, the fact that he owned the bar he worked in.

"Erik, honey." Sylvando gestured to Erik and then himself. "You're gay. I'm gay. We're here in this bar. That makes this a gay bar."

"That makes this a gay city..." Erik mumbled.

"What was that, darling?"

Erik smartly chose not to repeat himself. "Doesn't a gay bar have, I dunno, glitter and naked men dancing?"

"You wish," he replied with a wink. "But no no no! We must not fall into stereotypes! What good will that do? People cannot be who they are if they are being what people tell them to be!"

He leaned over the bar suggestively. "Besides, what would you do without all of the tips you get from our lovely young ladies?"

Erik shrugged as he cleaned out another glass. "Suck some dick in the back alley, I guess."

"Oh! You naughty boy!" Sylvando smacked him playfully. "Don't use that sass on the customers or we'll have a very boring night."

Erik rolled his eyes. "Yes, mom."

"Good boy." Sylvando kissed a finger and booped Erik's nose before Erik could smack him away.

-----

The doorbell rang, but Eleven ignored it. He was in the middle of folding laundry and knew Jade could get the door. He didn't feel like dismissing yet another salesman and his sister was closer anyway.

"El! It's for you!" Jade called from the door. Eleven sighed and pushed himself to his feet.

Jade just shrugged.

He sighed, knowing it was useless to argue with all three of them. “Fine.” Séréna jumped up, clapping her hands excitedly. “But only if Jade comes.”

“What? Why me?” Jade whined. She had shows she planned to catch up on. Not to mention a bottle of wine she had ready and chilled.

“If I have to suffer, you do too,” he said flatly. Jade knew he wouldn’t give up, and the pleading look on Serena’s sweet face had her weak. (Veronica couldn’t give a fuck.)

“Alright, alright, let me get changed first.”

———-

“... The Salty Stallion?”

The gang stood outside the bar, taking in the crisp autumn weather as they tried to persuade Eleven to just /go in already/.

“I’ve heard of this place,” Jade said. “I assume you brought us here because it’s good.”

Veronica stood before them, proudly poised with hands on her hips. “Of course! Would I settle for anything less than the absolute best?”

“It is a bit different than your usual bar, but it really is quaint,” Serena explained.

“And the food is /really/ good,” Veronica added.

“Then what are we standing around here for?” Jade asked, grabbing Eleven’s wrist and dragging him unceremoniously inside. The twins followed happily.

The place seemed normal enough. Groups of people chatting at booths, a few people at the bar yelling at a tv screen, and what looked like a stage in the corner that was currently empty.

The girls waltzed in before him, choosing an empty booth across from the bar. Eleven was about to follow, but decided a drink first would be best. He could use it to avoid too much conversation, not to mention the alcohol will help him deal with Veronica.

She was great, really, it was just when she drank she got even louder and more boisterous.

His thoughts were cut short however, when he reached the bar and the bartender turned to him.

“Hey partner, what’ll it be?”

Bright blue eyes met his own. How were they so bright? The bar was pretty dim but it seemed like daylight was sparkling in his eyes. That warm welcome smile wasn’t anything to ignore either.

Oh shit. He was staring.

“Oh. Um...” God this was why he hated going out. How did people just /talk/ to each other? And did this guy have to be so goddamn handsome? “Do you... have any recommendations?”

The smile of the bartender widened. “You bet! We have a variety of local brews and a few Salty Stallion specials, but those will probably leave you on the bathroom floor. Not that our bathroom floors aren’t perfectly clean.” He winked leaning against the bar. “It’s not. Save yourself.” He leaned back, reaching for a glass under the table. He spun it expertly in his hand before popping it under an unlabeled tap.

“Here.” He slid the glass gently toward Eleven who caught it easily. “Puerto Porter, made by a family just outside the city limits. As the name suggests it is a porter. Has the flavor with just the right amount of kick.”

Eleven took a sip and was surprised at the hint of chocolate in the drink. The bartender watched him expectantly and he gave him a quick thumbs up as he swallowed his drink. “Wow, you weren’t kidding.” He reached for his wallet. “How much?”

The bartender waved him off. “This one’s on the house.”

“Oh!” Eleven smiled. “Thank you.”

“I take that back.” He reached forward with an open hand. “The price is your name. I’m Erik.”

Eleven chuckled before taking the man’s hand and shaking it firmly. “Eleven.”

“Nice to meet you, El. Enjoy the beer.” Erik flashed him another grin, causing a flush to rise in El’s cheeks.

“You too. I mean- nice to meet you too.” He resisted the urge to bolt on the spot. “Um-yeah, see ya.” He forcefully walked toward the booth at a completely normal pace. He slumped onto the bench next to Jade and slammed his head onto the table.

“What. Was that.” Veronica’s stars burned through the back of his head and he looked up at her with a pitiable look on his face.

“I don’t blame you, Eleven, he is rather handsome,” Serena offered.

Jade snorted. “Yeah, if you like men.”

Serena choked on what seemed to be her own saliva. Veronica patted her back as she coughed and slowly regained composure.

“Problem?” Jade asked, eyeing Serena as if daring her to say something against it.

“Nah, Serena’s gay too.”

“Veronica!” Serena buried her face in her hands, blushing furiously.

“What? I mean you’re not /gay/ gay, you’re bisexual, but-“

“Just because I’m out doesn’t mean /you/get to out me!” She said indignantly. This started an argument between the two, which wasn’t surprising. Those two bickered at least once during any hangout. It was different that it happened so early in the night, though.

“Ook, I’m gonna go get us girls some drinks,” Jade said, scooting around Eleven and climbing out of the booth.

“Don’t get the special!” Eleven called after her.

———