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"I could be an accident, but I'm still trying, that's more than I can say for him."
You ran away?!” Cassie’s shrill voice rang through the small apartment. “Marley!!”

“I know!” Marley shot back. “Fucking sue me, okay?” She threw her hands into the air in a helpless gesture.

“I thought that’s what you wanted?” Cassie’s face showed her confusion of her friend’s actions. “I thought you wanted it to be out, so you didn’t have to hide.”

“It’s so much more than that, Cass.” She mumbled, not feeling like having this conversation, not here, not now when everything was still so vivid in her mind.

A disgusted scoff left Cassie’s lips and Marley stiffened, sensing the change in attitude. “He’s trying!” Cassie stood, beginning to pace the room, “You hold your relationship in front of his face like you’re ready to try again and then yank it away when it gets close!” The anger in her voice was apparent now and Marley felt her cheeks growing hot as anger from the accusations Cassie was shooting at her sunk in.

“What would you know, Cassie?” Marley spat, “I’m glad your relationship with Kevin is SO fucking perfect and mine has gone to shit! Is that what you want to hear?” She asked, stepping closer to Cassie’s angry stance in the middle of the floor.

“Kevin and I have nothing to do with this.” Her voice was lower, calmer and Marley took a deep breath trying to calm her self down. “This is about you and Joe and you doing stupid, stupid things that are only making it worse for the both of you.”

“Stop it!” Marley yelled tugging at her hair, not wanting to face the facts. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” She pulled out her phone in the silence and dialed a familiar number, holding the cell phone to her ear with a shaky hand. She needed an escape, anything to get her mind off of Joe and Cassie and the words running over and over again in her head.

“Marley? Hey.”

“Hey Kyler.” She breathed, ignoring the incredulous glances from Cassie. “Uma33;”could youa33;”do you want to go take a walk and grab some coffee or something?”

The line stayed silent for a second and she sensed his hesitation. “I mean...you don’t have to, I was just asking, because...”

“No, no.” He cut her off, “I want to!" His voice was a little to eager and she smiled, "a33;”I mean, yeah, yeah that sounds cool.” He tried correcting himself only making her smile more.

“Okay, meet me at the south entrance of Central Park in twenty?” She asked, still smiling into the phone.

“Yeah, yeah. Sounds great.”

Marley hung up the phone after her brief goodbye with Kyler and took a deep breath, turning to face Cassie.

“What are you trying to prove, Marley?” Her voice was sadder, softer, full of disbelief at the attention grabbing actions of her friend.

Marley shrugged, her attitude still boiling. “I’m going for a walk, Cassie. I don’t need to prove anything. I’m just doing what I want, I don't want to hear it anymore.”

“No!” Cassie’s voice was prominent. Marley had never heard her yell, she was always so soft spoken and polite, this was all new and she didn’t know how to handle it. “You caused it, you’re going to hear what the effects are…” Cassie narrowed her eyes and continued, “Put yourself in Joe’s shoes, you left him, you lead him on, you go out with this guy, for what? To make him see you don’t need him? Cute, Marley." She spat. "Then you continue to make him think there’s still a part of you that wants him.”

“I do want him!” She cried out, silencing Cassie’s mutters and finally breaking her barrier of tears. “I want him so bad it hurts! So bad it’s practically killing me to stay away. All this time I’ve been trying to protect myself but all I’m doing is tearing myself up on the inside!" She finished her rant, breathing deeply and letting the tears roll. " Is it so wrong to try and distract myself from that?" She asked softly.

Cassie's features fell and she stepped forward, holding her hand out, "Marley, all I'm saying is--"

Marley shook her head, wiping her face and heading to the bathroom, turning and facing Cassie before shutting the door, "I've got somewhere to be." She shrugged lightly before shutting the door and ending the conversation.

--

“Joe! What were you thinking?” Martin’s wild hand movements would usually make Joe laugh, but today they were adding to the stress of the situation.

"I was thinking..." Joe spat, "That you handle the public aspect of my life. Not the personal part, and you need to but out."

Martin's palms landed flat on the table and his eyes bore into Joe's. "When you bring your personal life into the public, it turns into my business."

Kevin and Nick sat quietly at the end of the table, watching the argument take place their eyes darting back and forth between the two men.

"It's never your business!" Joe yelled. "All the shit you've forced on me ripped her away from me!" Joe yelled, standing to match Martin's position. "You made me push her away!"

"When are you going to learn, Joe?" He shook his head, laughing bitterly. "I didn't make you do a damn thing. You listened. You chose to do it, not me."'

Joe narrowed his eyes, the anger that had been boiling inside of him since the first day Martin mouthed off to him.

"You know what Martin?" He laughed humorlessly. "You're right." He nodded, watching a smug look cross over Martin's face. "I chose it and I have to face the consequences."

Martin smiled then, but not backing away from his stance leaned across the table. "I knew you'd come around Joe." He held out a hand for Joe to shake.

Looking at the outstretched hand, Joe let his left hand clasp with Martin's, holding a firm grip on it. Martin's eyes went wide at the realization that Joe's hold was to strong to be the agreeing gesture he thought it was and his now nervous eyes settled on Joe.

"But, Martin, you messed with my life and now it's your turn for consequences." He spoke through clenched teeth, his right hand balling into a fist at his side.

"Joe!" Kevin leapt from his chair, finally breaking his frozen state at the realization of what his brother was going to do, leaving Nick with his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open in shock. Before he could reach the two, the loud thud of Joe's fist colliding with Martin's jaw echoed in the room, leaving the older man sprawled out on the table, sputtering out sounds of disbelief.

Kevin's arms encircled his brother, pulling him away from Martin before he could cause any more damage while Martin composed himself and stood, rubbing the sore spot on his jaw.

"I'm done taking your shit, you no-good bastard." Joe growled, shaking himself out of Kevin's grasp and heading for the door without glancing back.

--

Waking out of the small cafe', Marley hooked her arm through Kyler's as they headed back towards Cassie's apartment building, smiling to herself when she saw the grin stretched across his lips.

She'd let herself get lost with him, walking around the park and just talking about whatever came up. There was no pressure to impress him, he'd seen her at her worst and he was still okay with hanging out with her when she needed someone to lean on. He'd made the conversation easy and almost instantly cleared her mind of the thoughts weighing her down.

"So what's your plan after the gallery?" She asked, tossing her empty cup into the trashcan they were walking past.

"Hm." He hummed in thought, shrugging slightly. "The plan is to save up enough money and go to Europe and learn about all the paintings I've been taught about my entire life and only seen copies of or pictures of, but realistically? I'll probably stay here and see if I can get a job at a museum restoring paintings or cleaning them or something."

Her brow furrowed, "Why is that realistic? What about Europe? What's so unrealistic about that?"

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, "I don't know. Everything I've ever wanted has always been pulled away. I just feel like if I make it anything more than a dream, it'll be taken away."

Feeling the sudden awkwardness that had suddenly appeared for the first time that night, Marley smiled when she thought of a way to break it.

"Hey Kyler." She grinned when he looked down at her and glanced at the people walking the sidewalks she was about to embarrass herself in front of and pulled away from him, stepping in his line of vision.

The confusion pulled at all of his features, "Marley, what are you..."

"If you can dream iiiit." She cut him off, trying not to laugh, "Then you can do iiit." She sang entirely to loud and off-key. Kyler's smile became worth the embarrassment to the people who were looking at her incredulously trying to figure out what was going on. "I believe you can flyyy, I believe you can fly, to-Europe and be that guy, that you've dreamed of all your liiiife, um something else I don't know the rest of the songgg." She sang, biting her lip and feeling her cheeks tingeing pink as the adrenaline wore off. Kyle was now laughing, throwing an arm around her shoulder and pulling her to start walking again.

"That was the greatest thing anyone has ever done for me." He laughed and his smile was enough of a thank you for her.

"So, Europe." She said after a few quiet minutes, "You should go. It'd be a good thing, I think."

He nodded, "I know. I think your serenade convinced me." He chuckled.

"Hey." She held up her hands in mock defense. "At least it wasn't wasted."

The buzzing in her pocket distracted her and she pulled out her phone, opening the message from Cassie.

'Joe's here.

Her throat constricted and her heart began thundering in her chest. He came after her.

'I thought you were mad at me?' She quickly responded, not knowing what to say about Joe.

"What's going on?" Kyler asked, noticing the sudden nervousness washing over her face.

"Oh." She gulped, "Nothing...just Cassie...her and Kevin...uh...yeah." She finished, leaving him confused.

I didn't want him to ambush you and you run again.'

Marley sighed, knowing that most probably would've happened. Seeing him and running because she didn't know what to say made more sense to her than sticking around for a conversation that would make them more angry at each other and solve absolutely nothing.

'Tell him I need time to think?' She responded back quickly.

'Marley...'

'I won't be long Cass.'

Looking up at Kyler she sent him an apologetic smile. "I think I have to go." She whispered.

"Okay." He said unsurely. "Should I um--bring you somewhere, or..."

"No, no." She shook her head, "It's fine. I just have to take care of some things."

He nodded, still looking confused and pulled her into a hug, "Alright." He breathed into her hair.

Pulling back, her heart skipped a beat at the closeness of their faces. His eyes stayed locked on hers and she tried to gulp down the nervousness growing in her stomach. His face inched closer to hers and flashes of Joe flashed through her mind overpowering all of her senses and the urging sense to laugh and cry at the same time filled her up.

Quickly bringing her hand up just as Kyler's eyes shut and pressing a single finger over his lips, she sucked in a deep breath when his eyes snapped open.

"I can't do this." She whispered.

His brow furrowed and he backed away from her, nervously wiping his palms on his jeans. "I'm sorry--I ugh--I shouldn't have--"

"No." she shook her head, "I shouldn't have. I don't want to sound cliché but it's definitely not you, it's me, I'm not ready for this--and Joe--he--I just can't." She shook her head again, trying to clear the thoughts swimming in her head scrambling her words.

His hands landed on her shoulders and he smiled. Relief washed through her and she looked up at him sheepishly. "It's okay, Marley, I get it...I've got a little bruise to my ego but I'll be fine."

She finally smiled, realizing that she wouldn’t lose her friend from the awkwardness they’d just encountered and he pulled her into another hug.

“Go figure out what’s going on in that head of yours.” He grinned, ruffling her hair.

She made sure to smile back at him, shoving her hands in her pockets and turning on her heel, heading off to do just that.
Chapter End Notes:
Song: Where is Your Boy Tonight? - Fall Out Boy."
Okay, it's been a long time, I know, but I had a grand total of 5 tests last week and other stuff just got in the way...sorry and I promise you won't have to wait that long again. So...Kyler, got the rejection card...Cassie's had enough of Marley, Joe's DEFINITELY had enough of Martin, and now he wants to chat...oooh :)
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