Paranoia

Polska – I haven't written anything, and I mean ANYTHING, since I last updated this story. Okay, I wrote one line of the novel I'm working on. Congratulations, Polska –rolls eyes-. But yeah, I'm going to try my best. I love this story a ton.

I usually thank all my reviewers through replies but here's an extra special thank you for sticking with this story even after my incredible flakiness! I love you all.

PS: Shit's about to get real in the next couple chapters, YES!

As the spinning circuit spins wildly out of control, secrets will crack and reveal themselves to the tainted world.


REVELATION

n. something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not yet discovered

CHAPTER EIGHT

"And I built a home

For you, for me

Until it disappeared

For me, for you

And now it's time to leave and turn to dust."

-To Build a Home, Cinematic Orchestra

Nothing can stay locked under hollow delusion; nothing can stay secret forever.

It becomes a veritable inevitability that begins to circle tauntingly, unable to be locked away.

The lie will be revealed when everything spirals out of control.


"Which room is Blossom Utonium in? I'm her sister. She was just admitted tonight."

The nurse glances up at her coolly, askance, eyes judging her lace corset and loose black waves; perhaps wondering why this woman is standing in her hospital looking like a promiscuous Morticia Addams.

Buttercup is used to the judgement. She taps her long crimson nails on the nurse's counter impatiently, gaze settled intently on the pudgy brunette nurse in front of her. She watches as the nurse clicks on the keys of her computer before adverting her eyes and speaking to Buttercup for the first time.

"Miss. Utonium," the nurse says, speaking authoritatively, "is in room 208. But I'll have you know, young lady, that visiting hours are quite over and…"

Her voice trails off as Buttercup disappears down the hall, boots shuffling across the pristine, albeit worn, linoleum. She keeps her gaze locked straight ahead, hating the sight and the smell of sick people, shuddering unnoticeably from the strange taste in her mouth. She hates hospitals and is dreading ever having come tonight.

Selfishly, she resents Blossom, dragging her siblings and friends out to the hospital in the middle of the night. She knows it's unfair and she worries for her sister, but then she thinks of Brick and, strangely, of Butch and a haze of selfishness clouds every level but the one she's on now. She resents Blossom for being so goddamn wonderful.

Tightness envelopes her stomach and she pauses in the middle of the hall, collapsing back against the wall. 'Goddammit, Buttercup,' she silently scolds herself, 'stop being so selfish for once. People would love you just the same if you were in Blossom's place right now…'

But perhaps she knows that's not true.

Lifting herself off the wall, Buttercup resumes her pace and rounds the corner to see her sister, her husband, and his brothers settled in stiff-cushioned chairs in a squared off waiting room. Brick is leaning back in his chair, head tilted to the side, expression hollowed and empty. Butch has his eyebrows furrowed and looks especially troubled. The group sits in tense silence, the air stilled with awkwardness and thick-cut hostility. Boomer sits away from the group, occasionally looking up and sending Butch hard, angry glances. Bubbles remains oblivious and jumps up when she sees her sister appear.

"Buttercup!" Bubbles exclaims and races towards her. "I'm so glad you made it!"

Buttercup allows herself to be enveloped in Bubbles' tight grip, noting her sister's unkempt blonde waves, knee-length wool sweater, and slipper-covered feet. At least she is wearing shoes.

Brick avoids her eyes as she follows Bubbles to the chairs. Irritated, she sits down next to her blonde sister and waves half-heartedly to the remaining Ronalds' brothers.

"So…is anybody going to tell me what happened?" Buttercup asks impatiently after a few moments of silence. "How did Blossom end up in the hospital?" She can't keep her contempt out of her voice.

Brick's head shoots up at her tone but before he can speak, Bubbles cuts him off.

"Dr. Layton just told us she was dehydrated and stressed and that they're keeping her overnight. I mean, it kind of makes sense lately, if you've seen her, I mean, have you ever seen Blossom so stressed, it's really strange if you ask me, she's never been like this before," Bubbles babbles on. "I've barely even talked to her and that's really strange 'cause before we used to talk all the time, she even used to call me and I actually don't even remember the last time she called me, but I guess she's really busy now…"

Buttercup fades out of the conversation as her gaze slowly travels towards her husband. He's staring at her unblinkingly, expression indescribable. The air between them is uncomfortable, prickling down her skin with the tip of a blade. She wants to hate him and she wants to kiss him, but more than ever she wants him to love her again.

She breaks Brick's stare and looks down the hall where she's certain Blossom's room is located. An unfamiliar anxiety rises up and she bites her lip. What if Blossom is seriously ill? Buttercup chides herself on her previous selfishness as guilt combines with unease and caresses her spine until she squirms awkwardly to rid herself of the foreign sensation. How could she accuse her sister of being with Brick when she could be lying on her death bed?

"Can I see her?" she interjects through Bubbles speech, anxiously running her hand through her black hair.

"She's unconscious," Brick says shortly, as if it is her fault. She does not face him, looking expectantly at one of the others to answer her.

No one speaks and Brick's words hang in the air, painful and daunting insights of reality.

"Bubbles," she says pointedly, ignoring Brick and slicing the tension once more with her words. "Can I see her or not?"

"Didn't you hear me, Buttercup? She's unconscious," he says loudly, forcing her to turn around to face him. He's leaning forward in his chair, his hollowed mask replaced with one of judgement and unadulterated fury. The look shocks her and she is speechless. Butch is looking at him with surprise, matching the expression on Bubbles' face. Boomer, however, remains seated at the end of the row, staring down the hall and looking utterly disinterested.

Buttercup recovers almost immediately. "That doesn't answer my question," she snaps, feeling a furious rise in her tone. "And I wasn't asking you. I was asking my sister."

"Oh, you remembered you have sisters, did you?" he snarls back at her, now rising from his chair. "You didn't seem so keen to visit your other sister when I told her she was in the hospital." He stands at the edge of his chair, eyes fixated solely on her as if the others do not exist and they are merely in the comfort of their own apartment; not a familiar comfort that she desires, but something to which she is unaccustomed, something she knows she should have seen coming.

"I was processing the news that you were with the brother you hate and the girl you used to love!" Buttercup shouts, the words slipping out before she can control them.

There is silence and a clatter as Butch stands from his chair and shoves it away. He does not look at them and begins making his way down the hall.

"Where are you going?" Bubbles asks, sounding desperate to change the subject. Buttercup grits her teeth, noting that Bubbles does not seem the least bit surprised to hear that Brick had been with the two people he claims to despise the most (or at least had once claimed).

"To see if Blossom is awake. I don't want to listen to this bullshit," Butch snarls at them without looking back once.

Buttercup collapses into a seat and rolls her head back against the wall, feeling suddenly tired. She does not have to look to hear Brick leave the group without saying a word and feels Bubbles' hand encase her own. Tears slowly well up behind her eyes but she is too slow to blink them away.

What has happened to us…


November 30, Present Year

Dear Dr. Ronalds,

I don't know if you know, but I've written so many letters to the Professor over the past few weeks I have lost count. I have not received a single response from him, not a single letter, email, or even a phone call. Every time I've called I have received a busy signal or else the answering machine. I would be worried if I weren't so angry at him…

I feel like he is doing this on purpose, foolishly and like a spiteful little child. And frankly, that would be exactly like him. You know how he is and how spiteful he can be when something doesn't go his way. I hate to speak ill of my parent, adopted or not, but I'm angry and I'm frustrated and just completely confused as to why he won't answer me.

I'm not sure where you are either, Dr. Ronalds. Perhaps you are with the Professor, maybe you're elsewhere and don't know what's going on with him either. Either way, if I wasn't so busy I'd be up there to visit the pair of you in a second. And I'm seriously considering it.

I hope you have some answers for me.

The boys are doing great.

Love, Bubbles


Blossom blinks into a haze of fluorescent light. Her body feels tight and her head nearly pounds her back into a state of unconsciousness. She tries to groan but there is a rasp in her throat that limits her speech, voicing the knowledge that there is something horribly wrong. She gazes down her arm, at the IV lodged into the back of her hand and connected to the stand next to her bed. Horrified, she looks around the room, noting the barren ivory walls and old Panasonic television attached to the wall. She is dressed in a hospital gown patterned in green dots. The silence is deafening.

Finally the groan escapes and she rolls her head side to side into the pillow. She'd fainted on her carpet, remembering the argument Brick and Butch had been having, how close her secret had been to escaping and how difficult it had been for Brick to try to protect it. The knowledge had dazed her and it had weakened her and all the stress that she had been feeling had taken over and nearly destroyed her and…

Her baby! Blossom moves her hand over her stomach as if expecting the baby to announce its presence and reassure her that it was okay. Her heartbeat quickens again but she breathes deeply to calm herself, hands pressed to her stomach in encouragement. She steadies herself and rolls her eyes up to the ceiling, wanting nothing more than to escape this bed and run away as fast as she can.

The clock on the wall tells her that it's three in the morning and she wonders how long she's been here, how long she's been unconscious. She feels pathetic and small in her oversized gown, wishing they'd dress her in one of her familiar pencil skirts or fitted blouses or at least her favourite silk pyjamas. The gown leaves her naked and vulnerable, the last thing she wants to be in front of the people she loves.

Had they been to visit her? She thinks of Brick, used to seeing her exposed, holding her when she is defenceless, comforting her because they are so at ease with one another. He would not have thought her as weak if he visited her, but maybe would have caressed her hair adoringly while she lay in a dreamless slumber like a prince from a fairy tale.

The thought soothes her as much as it shames her. She feels reliant on him, hating that she could be so weak. She is supposed to be more than this and her steady rock of control has slipped from her grasp and into an erratic whirlpool that threatens to consume her too. But though Brick had catalysed it, he had become her stability and though she hates to admit it, she knows she is not yet strong enough to lose him.

Blossom sighs. It crosses her mind on more than one occasion what would have happened if they had controlled themselves, if he had left her alone at his own wedding. She wonders if she would be happy without him, settled down with a nice man who wasn't married. There is a nagging thought that tugs at the back of her mind that reminds her this would be an inevitability. They had been drawn to each other and they always will be. She has never believed in soul mates but believes this is the closest thing.

There is a sudden knock at the door and Butch enters before she can say anything. He looks surprised to see her awake and runs a hand through his messy black hair, reminiscent of the way Buttercup does when she is anxious. He starts to approach her bed but thinks better of it and settles himself into the chair by the window.

"How you feelin'?" he asks after an awkward pause.

She looks at him and bites her lip. "A lot better. I guess the stress finally caught up to me," she manages to say weakly. She watches him purse his lips and nod, but he doesn't say anything. They sit in more edgy silence for a few minutes, both sullen and silently thinking.

Blossom remembers the conversation at her house, how close Butch had been to revealing their lie. She doesn't know how he would have found out but knows there was nothing else she could have said. She looks back at him and feels uneasy at the focused gaze and pursed lips that meet her.

"Butch, listen," she begins hoarsely, "there's really nothing going on—"

He cuts her off. "I know, Blossom," he says in a tired sounding voice, like he no longer wants anything to do with her secrets.

"But there's nothing to know," she protests, hating that she's confined in this bed like a prisoner with nowhere to escape. She can feel herself fading under the realization that there is nothing she can say to convince him of anything else.

Butch looks at her, irritated, and rises from his seat. He walks towards her and leans over her, placing his hands on the bed sheet. He leans in close, so close she can feel his breath tickling her nose, nicotine-scented. The scent, as disgusting as it is, reminds her of how he used to love her and in a way it soothes her.

"About your baby," he hisses and pulls away again.

Her heart drops to the floor and shatters, and she gasps out amid the collapse. It feels like a figment from her nightmares, her secrets spilling out from a waterfall of lies and everyone she's hurt begin to leave her, taking her deceptions with her. Her skin feels tight around her bones and her heart, what remains of it, hammers in her ears. If this is a nightmare, she wants to wake up.

"Butch, you don't—" she tries but he's having none of it.

"I—what? I don't understand?" he asks incredulously, pacing the room. "No, Blossom, I don't understand. I don't understand how you can be pregnant with your sister's husband's baby." His voice carries a snarl and she hates it.

"That's not how it is!" she cries out. Butch stops and looks at her, utter confusion gracing his rough features.

"Then tell me how it is, Blossom!" he replies loudly and she glances at the door to make sure he hasn't caught anyone's attention. "Tell me how much Brick loves you and he'll leave Buttercup the second he finds out you're pregnant! Tell me just how much he'll love your baby like he's supposed to love you!"

"Brick does love me!" Blossom yells, unable to control the rising tone of her voice. "And I know he'll leave her because we belong together!" She feels tears prickling at the back of her eyes as the words she so desperately hopes, aches, to be true escape from her mouth.

Butch scoffs at her like she is a naïve child. "You belong together, huh?" he snarls roughly. "You belong together so much that he decided to marry your sister instead of you. He decided to hurt you just so that he could fuck you because you were the one prize he could never win." There is a bitter edge to his tone.

"But he doesn't get it," Butch says, more to himself. "He just doesn't get how much he hurts people. He pretends to love Buttercup and hurts her while he does it and fucks you on the side, convincing you that he loves you." He scoffs again. "He only does it because he's pissed that I got something first."

Blossom is speechless. She stares at Butch as he continues to pace back and forth across the room, speaking mistruths about her and his brother, slipping out that he viewed her as nothing more than a conquest.

"This isn't anything about you," she says coldly and he glances up in surprise at the change in her tone. "You didn't get me, Butch. I was young and stupid and I fell in love with an asshole who I thought loved me back. But you didn't. And you'll never understand how I feel about Brick now. Because you, Butch Ronalds, are absolutely pathetic."

He is shocked; she can see it in his face. A sudden rush of pride fills her knowing that she has rendered Butch silent for once. He shakes his head at her and makes his way towards the door. Before he opens it, however, he turns back to her.

"You can't hide this forever, Blossom," he says quietly. "I won't keep your lies secret anymore."

Before she can say anything he opens the door. A smirk suddenly appears on his face.

"Looks like you have a visitor," he says and opens the door to reveal Brick. Butch slips past his brother and leaves a wide-eyed Brick standing there in silence and a speechless Blossom wanting nothing more than to disappear forever.

What can we do now…


"No, Blossom, I don't understand. I don't understand how you can be pregnant with your sister's husband's baby."

The words sicken him and pluck at his gag reflex until he can feel bile rise up in his throat. He forces it down and resists the urge to slam his head against the door. He listens to the rest of the conversation in nauseated silence, fists clenching and heart breaking respectively at his brother's and Blossom's words. Butch has merely wanted to show Brick up this whole time…Blossom desperately wants him to love her…

He loves her, he knows he does. There is not an ounce of him that can't love her. He loves every part of her, every strand of red hair and every perfection and flaw he can find. She has created in him what he has longed for; a balance between romance and strength, not fully changing him, but changing him enough to allow himself to love again. The weakness he feels sometimes will never possibly change how he feels about her. He refuses to let it.

But…his baby. Brick has always tried his best to prevent Buttercup from getting pregnant. It's not that he bears ill will towards them; rather that he can't imagine a life with Buttercup tied down by children. He had made a mistake in marrying her and having children would render him into a state of misery and regret for the rest of his life. He could never leave his children and he could never leave Buttercup to mother them alone.

The revelation that Blossom is pregnant cripples him inwardly. He wants nothing more than to collapse on the ground and bury his face into his hands. How could he have let this happen? A pregnancy will unravel everything he's tried so meticulously to build. He can't march into Blossom's hospital room and demand that she abort that baby just to satisfy his present and his future. She would leave him then and he would have nothing.

He should have left Buttercup while he had the chance. No, he should never have seduced Blossom the night of his own wedding…God, what is wrong with him? In one year he has managed to single-handedly destroy every relationship in his life that is important to him. The second word gets out about his affair, he will have devastated everything that has ever mattered to him. And he can't imagine what he will have left.

The only light that remains is Blossom's decision; if she will even choose to have the baby. But even then he knows she will expect him to leave his wife and be with her if not just for the baby's sake. Blossom is progressive, but she has expectations. She expects him to live up to his word of loving her and to finally prove it to her; especially in her current state of constant, (now seemingly not unjustified) paranoia.

The door opens suddenly and Butch stands there, a smirk slowly etching into his lips as their eyes meet.

"Looks like you have a visitor," Butch says to Blossom and slips past him. Brick is too frozen to stop him, though he wants nothing more than to grab his brother and slam him into the wall. Instead he slowly enters Blossom's room, one steady step at a time.

She is lying in bed looking utterly drained. Dark crescents encase her teary eyes and the corners of her pale, cracked lips are turned downwards, quivering at the very sight of him. He doesn't approach but merely stands at the door and watches her, unsure of what to say.

"Brick…" She trails off and watches him, slow tears beginning to leak from her eyes.

"Why…" Brick tries to croak out. Clearing his throat, he tries again. "Why didn't you tell me?" The question comes out more accusatorially than he intends and he observes her wince with a wince of his own.

"I'm so sorry," Blossom whispers out, tears now falling freely down her pallid cheeks. "I've been under so much pressure lately, I only just found out yesterday, I…" She seems to run out of things to say or has otherwise succumbed desperately to the tears. She presses her fingers to her lips and her shoulders begin to shake with silent sobs.

Brick wants to comfort her. He wants nothing more than to cradle her in his arms and tell her that everything will be okay, that he will love her and their baby and take care of them because that's what he wants. But his body remains stationary and he is frozen in time, watching the supposed love of his life cry away her desperation as silently as she can.

"Blossom, I…I can't deal with this right now." And, like the spineless bastard he knows he's always been, Brick turns on his heel and bolts from the room, cowardly escaping his fate.

The air is cooler out in the hall and easier to breathe. He hates himself for abandoning her and considers going back. But his pounding heart insists otherwise and he chases after Butch, who he can tell has been slowly sauntering down the hall like he has accomplished something great. The swagger infuriates Brick and when he catches up with his brother he slams him against the wall.

"What the fuck—" Butch sputters out as Brick grips him by the front of his shirt and presses him into the wall.

"You've hated me, Butch, for as long as I can remember," Brick hisses, curling his fist deeper into Butch's shirt. "But you don't ever fuck around with Blossom or Buttercup because you're a jealous little fuckhead." Anger encompasses him completely and his eyes begin to blur red as he feels two hands press against his shoulders and push him away.

"Don't be pissed at me that your perfect little world is crumbling away before your eyes," Butch snarls as he frees himself from his brother's tight grip. He shoves Brick away. "It's about time someone smacked you back into reality." Butch shoves him again. "Face it, brother, your time has come. You'll finally learn you can't get everything you fucking want."

Brick snaps and throws his fist at Butch's face, delivering a solid punch to his right cheek. He can feel the flesh of his knuckles collide with the solid bones of Butch's face but does not wince at the pain. Butch stumbles backwards, hand pressed to his cheek. He looks up, eyes ablaze, and throws himself at Brick.

Brick falls to the ground with Butch on top of him. "You can't fuck around with my life because you're jealous of me!" he yells, attempting to shield himself from his brother's attack. "Mind your own fucking business!" He rolls Butch over so that he is on top and begins to deliver his own flurry of punches, never having been this consumed by anger.

Butch lets out a roar and knees Brick in the stomach. "You made it my business!" he shouts, lifting Brick to his feet and pushing him as hard as he can against the wall. Brick feels his head bang heavily against the concrete but ignores the throbbing pain. He launches himself back to Butch and finds his hands gripping Butch's shirt again.

"Nothing I do is ever going to be your fucking business, Butch! You have no right to dictate what I do with my life!" The roar that escapes his throat is inhuman and he finds himself being pulled back by four arms, two wrapped around his stomach and the other two around his shoulders. The red clears his gaze and he sees a security guard restraining Butch, who is flailing beneath the bulky grip.

"WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU TWO?"

Brick stops struggling and looks up to see a horrified look on Buttercup's face. Guilt takes over and he glances over his shoulder to see that Boomer and a nurse are holding him back from attacking Butch. Noticing his composure, they release him, though he can sense their reluctance, and he tries to go to Buttercup. She backs away from him.

"Don't. Come. Near. Me, Brick Ronalds!" she screams at him. "Don't come anywhere near me!" She turns and runs down the hall, away from them, away from him.

He can't bring himself to follow.

There's nothing left now…


Christmas dinner was at the Professor's house that year. I was going with incredible reluctance, having no desire to speak to my so-called father for as long as I could, but wanting to please my sisters who had all but begged me to come and spend Christmas with them. There was no hope in deterring them from visiting him…he had no problems with Blossom and Buttercup.

Boomer tried to persuade me. He would have succeeded had Blossom not been thrown into a rage and threatened to tell Dr. Ronalds. The doctor had a no tolerance policy when it came to holiday dinners. If one of her sons did not show up she would have marched to their homes and dragged them there by their ears. I almost wished the Professor had the same desire to see us.

It was our third semester at college and the threat of my future was looming. Law school was a desire of my father's and my own wishes did not factor into the equation. He had never had much tolerance for me. I was the nuisance, the particularly average daughter with no special talents or skills. He loved Blossom the most. Blossom was smart and beautiful and just Perfect Blossom. But then, everyone loved Blossom the most.

I was never jealous of Blossom because I loved her too much. But sometimes, when she became a little too overbearing, I found myself wishing that she would screw up, just once. Maybe then everyone could see that Perfect Blossom wasn't so perfect after all. And when she broke Buttercup's heart by stealing Butch away from her, I found myself relieved. Certainly I was heartbroken for Buttercup, but I found out something very important that day: Blossom was human and it made it much more manageable to be around her from that day on.

I got along with both my sisters better than most siblings do. We were nearly inseparable as children, discovering our own interests as teens but still close, and only until our late teens did we really begin to fluctuate as a group. The boys did not begin to matter that much until I found out that Buttercup was horribly in love with Butch. It was unexpected of her but incredibly endearing and I supported her endlessly. It was wonderful to see Buttercup so ingenuously fresh and, well, normal.

But the mess that followed was devastating to every relationship we had formulated amongst ourselves. I hated it. I prided myself in being cheerful and positive and that was who I was (still am, I'd like to think). But I was struggling. Buttercup and Blossom hated each other, Blossom was in an unhealthy relationship with Butch who I was sure was using her, Brick was devastated and had grown cold, and Boomer…my Boomer did not remain oblivious and it slowly drove an invisible wedge between us, one that I did not notice until years later.

He dropped out of state after two years and found a job in Massachusetts so that he could be near me. I protested his decision, hating that he would move so far to be with me after becoming a college drop-out. I stopped when he found a steady loading job and a tiny loft apartment for us and was just the most wonderful boyfriend. The prospect of graduating from Harvard didn't seem so daunting anymore as long as I had Boomer.

That winter he drove us through two states to Townsville where I had a feeling we would all reconnect once more when our post-secondary lives were complete. Townsville was that kind of place; even if you hated it you would always come back to it. It was home.

It was one of the first winters in a long time that snow blanketed the ground. It was a light layer of powder that flurried through the air as we walked through it but it was beautiful. As we drove down the street, I could feel my stomach clench at the prospect of seeing my family again. The last time I had seen them was the summer, when Boomer and I had flown out to California to surprise his brothers and celebrate their birthday.

Boomer knocked on the door and within an instance it had opened and I was engulfed into Blossom's perfumed grasp. She had changed in the months since I'd seen her; her beautiful red hair had been cut into a shoulder-length bob and she had been dressed so classically in a pencil skirt and blouse. She was graceful. She was beautiful. She was my Blossom.

"Bubbles, I missed you so much," she exclaimed after releasing me from her grip. "It's so lonely without you." Then, leaning in so that only I could hear, she whispered, "I wish I had gone to Harvard with you."

It was that realization that surprised me and made me suspicious. We had all known that the only reason Blossom had gone to California with the rest of the group was to be with Butch; and that inane decision had been the subject of judgement for years. This was her first acknowledgement of her mistake and frankly, it made me sad. Blossom was too smart not to do well in life but I knew she would regret abandoning her choice of Ivy Leagues for a boy.

I saw Buttercup next and the vision of her absolutely floored me. Gone was my rebellious, laid-back sister; she was replaced by a high-class, sexier version of graceful Blossom. Her hair, always cut shoulder-length, skimmed her chest and she was dressed in a high-waisted skirt that was paired with a lace top and higher heels than Blossom. She was calm, confident, and collected. She was nothing like I remembered.

"Bubbles." I glanced up and saw the Professor striding towards me. A chill trickled loosely up my spine, pricking at my skin in warning. His hair was greying and he had lost his perpetual lab coat for tailored pants and a dress shirt. He did not look particularly happy to see me and it made me angry.

"Hello, Professor," I said stiffly. He did not look surprised to see my address of Professor; I had long since abandoned calling him 'dad'.

"Glad you could make it," he said after a long pause. He reached his arm out as if to wrap it around me but thought better of it and gestured towards the stairs. "Get settled in. You'll be sharing a room with Buttercup."

As an afterthought, he added, coldly I thought, "hello, Boomer." Boomer replied with a polite greeting followed by 'sir' and followed me up the stairs to get settled in.

The next night was Christmas dinner. I had helped Dr. Ronalds in the kitchen all day, preparing vegan alternatives to the turkey and dairy. She asked me questions about school and my relationship and if I had enough money for food at school but did not probe me about the Professor. She was a kind woman and it wasn't on occasion that I wished it had been her who had adopted me instead of the Professor.

I had expected the dinner to be awkward. I was not disappointed.

"Bubbles, how is Harvard?" the Professor asked me after spooning a large heaping of mashed potatoes onto his plate. I chewed on one of my organic potatoes slowly and deliberately, wasting time before I had to answer. He looked at me expectantly.

"It's okay, Professor," I said stiffly. "I'm not sure I want to be a lawyer though…"

The Professor smiled at me sympathetically. I hated that smile and his insistent desire to treat me like an inane child. "But you're doing wonderfully, my dear. I'm sure your sisters wish they had the same prowess as you. Well, perhaps not Blossom…" He looked indicatively at Buttercup, who swallowed a giant chunk of turkey and ignored him.

I cleared my throat. "I've been thinking about dropping out of law school." The words had taken a lot of time to verbalize. I had thought about them for months, unable to express them to anybody but my reflection in the mirror. They hung in the air solidly, taunting everyone to digest their meaning. The Professor glanced at me, so expressionless that I was sure he had even heard what I'd said.

"Don't be ridiculous, dear," he finally replied, cutting into a slice of turkey. Dr. Ronalds looked at him, shocked. "Law school will be good for you. Maybe you'll finally get over that…hippie phase you're going through." He gestured to my waist-length hair and loose paisley-print dress and matching headscarf with his fork.

I slammed my fork and knife down onto my plate and tossed my napkin onto the table. Without a word I stood from my seat and bolted upstairs. I hated him, I hated everything he had turned into and was trying to turn me into. It was childish of me to run up the stairs, into my old bedroom and collapse onto my bed to sob but there was nothing more I desired.

Boomer and I left the next day without a word to the Professor (Boomer was not on great speaking terms with the Professor, who refused to let it go that Boomer had dropped out of college) and barely a goodbye to our siblings. I regretted it, but needed to get out of that house as soon as possible.

I did not know when I would speak to him again. I was not sure if I ever wanted to.


Bubbles follows Buttercup out into the frosty winter night, visions of Brick and Butch's fight echoing through her head. It chills her bones seeing the hatred spewed between them. And yet she welcomes the distraction from her own troubles and Blossom's.

"Buttercup," she calls out, chasing after her sister. She has never seen such desolation on her usually emotionlessly composed sister. Buttercup is aloof and she is strong. But the world is collapsing and reality is burning and Bubbles knows that none of them are the same or will ever be what they once were.

"Buttercup," she breathes out as she finally catches up. Buttercup stops but does not turn around, instead collapsing onto the icy ground. Her shoulders shake in silent sobs and without a word, Bubbles kneels down and wraps her arms around her, the only comfort she can offer now.

They sit on the ground for what seems like hours. Buttercup cries softly into Bubbles' arms, the only noises she makes little gasps and hiccups from her tears. Occasionally Bubbles wipes the tears from her sister's cheeks, simultaneously rubbing her shoulders with her other hand to keep her warm from the biting air. She will protect her sister from completely losing control.

Finally, Buttercup's sobs die down but keeps her face pressed into the warm wool of Bubbles' sweater. She feels small in Bubbles' arms, delicate almost; a laughable word that one would never use to describe Buttercup Utonium. Neither speaks, taking solace in the comfort of being in each other's arms.

"Everything I know…" Buttercup speaks, but her voice is so quiet, so whispery that Bubbles can barely hear. "Everything I know is crumbling. I can't help but think that everything that's happened tonight has to do with me. And I know that's selfish, but…I'm selfish. And it tortures people."

Bubbles rubs her sister's back, knowing that words are not what Buttercup wants or needs. She has been the protector lately, the lone sage of wisdom and guidance that had once been Blossom. She cannot pinpoint when things had changed but knows this is how things must remain, even though she can tell that her position is slipping and soon even she will have nothing left to which to cling.

She has mended the hole in her heart with messy stitches made from wire she uses to keep her mind in one piece. She can't predict when it will snap but knows the strain is beginning to be too much to bear. She is overloaded with secrets, a burden on her shoulder she doesn't want to carry. Blossom and Brick's affair, her sisters' collapses, Boomer's violence, Boomer's anger…the fury she had heard from the basement that night, how difficult it'd been to force her way downstairs and wake him.

"Do you want to stay over tonight, Buttercup?" Bubbles asks. "We can come visit Blossom in the morning."

Buttercup nods and she allows Bubbles to lift her up and take her cell phone to call a cab. When the cab arrives she sits in the backseat in silence and Bubbles sits up front making small talk with the cab driver.

At her house, Buttercup entwines her fingers with Bubbles' and offers her a soft smile, uncharacteristic of her, as they make their way up the small stone path and into the house. Bubbles helps settle Buttercup into her bed, draping her comforter over her soon-slumbering sister and wiping up the last of her dried tears.

Downstairs, Bubbles makes herself a pot of tea and settles in one of the chairs in the kitchen table. The chamomile soothes her and warms her from the leftover cold that has tensed her skin. She wants to sleep, wants so badly to sleep, but knows that after all the revelations tonight, there is one thing she must finally do.

Picking up the phone, she dials the number to Dr. Ronalds. She sips her cup of tea as the phone rings four times. After the fifth she considers hanging up and trying again in the morning when she hears a click and a fatigued "hello?"

Gasping, Bubbles quickly sets down her cup and grasps for something to say. "Um, hello? Dr. Ronalds?" she manages finally.

A slight pause. Then— "Bubbles? Is that you? It's three in the morning." To prove her point, Dr. Ronalds lets out a deep yawn and Bubbles hears scratching on the other end of the call.

"I know, I'm sorry," Bubbles says, truly apologetic. "I just wanted to speak to the Professor and it really couldn't wait until morning."

The silence that follows is lengthy and deafening. She can hear the doctor breathing but no words follow her heavy, weary breath.

"Bubbles…" Her tone is anxious, sadness intertwined between each syllable. "How could no one have told you? I've been in Europe for the last month. John passed away…"

The stitches unravel and her heart separates into two and everything falls and burns and crashes and Bubbles knows nothing but the sound of the phone clattering against the ground.

TO BE CONTINUED


Polska – I did it. I'm so excited I literally starting screaming things in Polish, which I pretty much only do when I'm really excited. I finished this in one day so I'm pretty enthusiastic about getting the next chapter up more easily. Anyways, I enjoyed this chapter up until the flashback scene. It was fine, but I feel like it could have been better. This is a big turning point in the story because now everything is starting to crash and burn, just as Bubbles felt. Don't feel too sorry for her though. She's not as innocent as she may seem ;). Well, review please! I LOVE ALL OF YOU AND THANK YOU FOR STICKING WITH THIS STORY. I am determined to get the next chapter up within the next month and you CAN take stock on that! LOVE U XOXO

PS: I took some artistic license with the fact that Bubbles is in law school in only her third year of university lol. Oh well!


NEXT CHAPTER
CONSEQUENCE