Involuntary Isolation
rating: +36+x

A long yawn rumbled out of Finnegan. He couldn't quite call what he had just been through sleeping, and so the weariness from recent work weighed him down. He groaned and sat up, shifting his hat from his face to on top of his head. Joints popped as he tossed his head side to side, another yawn escaping him. After rubbing the sleep from his eyes he found himself sitting on a couch rather than on his mattress. In Indiana, not California.

At the foot of the couch was Jakeob Aldon, sleeping on a pile of blankets. She was curled into a loose ball, an even looser smile on her face. Nestled against her chest was Everett, the magic polecat she had apparently adopted after she poured it out of a faucet.

Finnegan took care to step well beyond her frame and eased himself off the couch and onto the carpet. The room itself was fairly cozy, if mismatched. The couch didn't match the armchair, which didn't match the coffee table they had moved to make room for Aldon. Assorted miniatures and collectibles adorned various shelves and countertop backsplashes. Nothing but things found on discount or scavenged during moves. It reminded him of home, which only made him want to leave.

He made his way over to the dining room, which was basically just the part of the living room that had a table and some chairs. To his right was the kitchen, which was separated from the rest of the room by a counter. It was little more than a nook with the bare essentials of a kitchen. He flipped open the various cabinets until he found some cereal, and then set about finding a pair bowls and spoons. At least the milk was easy to find.

After pouring everything and returning the milk to its home, he dunked the spoon into the bowl and sat down. He took a bite and blankly stared at the box. The ugly, offensively bright box. It looked like something produced in the fifties, if not earlier. Standard's Super Coco Pows. His eyes were drawn to text in the top right, within the tree, and within the box boasting of a prize inside. His subconscious mind paused the connections that the text was trying to force him to make, and he chuckled when he consciously realized it.

Super Coco Pows.

The crafty bastards.

When he finished the cereal he tilted his head back and drained the bowl. He slid out of the chair and rinsed the bowl and spoon, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. By the time he loaded them into the dishwasher, Aldon was up and groaning.

"Morning," he said.

"Mmng." Aldon never was much of a morning person. Bones popped as she stretched, and then she bent over and scooped up Everett. She pressed the creature to her face, splashing herself with water. She shook her hands and Everett reformed at her feet, where he pawed at her ankles playfully.

Clean-faced and clear-eyed, Aldon spotted the cereal box and grimaced at its design. Then her brow furrowed and she stumbled forward. She brought the box within an inch of her face and then dropped it. After a mutter of thanks she dropped into the chair and poured some into the bowl Finnegan had left out for her. When she realized she needed milk she set her forehead on the table and mumbled to herself.

"I'll get it," he said.

Her head snapped back up. "What- no, I can-"

"Getting it," he sang as he opened the fridge. He retrieved the carton and even attempted to pour it for her, but she smacked his hands in a flurry of limbs and snatched it away from him. She poured the milk herself and screwed on the cap, but didn't fight when he took it back.

She took a few bites and set the spoon back into the bowl. "It upsets me how good this is."

Finnegan chuckled. "Think it's anomalous?"

"Eh, doubt it. Magic food is hard. Sugarcomb is the only-" The spoon paused just short of her mouth. "Wait, are you being a smartass?"

"Maybe."

"Oh, fuck off," she said with a smile.

Finnegan took up a seat across from her, his vision roaming around the room. Eventually his gaze settled on her, and soon after his vision blurred as he really looked at nothing. He pondered all they had done recently, images and sounds floating around. Fond memories, by and large. Considered what they would do in the near future, all of which was about as clear as the the unfocused haze his eyes registering. He didn't see much point in thinking about it. Then Aldon stood and his eyes snapped back to attention. He thought about what they were currently doing. Not always exciting, but never really boring. A happy medium. Contentment.

"So I'm thinking about going back east," Aldon said. "To visit my folks while I have some extra cash."

Surprise pushed Finnegan's eyebrows up. In the two years he had known her, Aldon had only mentioned her parents once. To say she wasn't living with them anymore. Presently, she was staring at his face with a bit more scrutiny than was typical of her. No doubt trying to gauge his reaction. He gave her little to work with.

"How long?" The question was easy enough. So of course Aldon just shrugged. Now that the questioning light was on her, however, she refused to meet his gaze. The back of Finnegan's chair hit the wall behind him as he leaned back. "Do you want to talk about it, or is this one of those things where I just nod and let you do your thing?"

"I had sorta thought about it before we left," she said. She crossed her arms on the table and set her chin on her forearm. Her gaze remained focused on the floral print of the tablecloth. "And being at the drive-in just made me really… nostalgic, I guess."

Finnegan glanced at the ceiling absentmindedly. "Going alone?"

Her head tilted, her cheek resting on her arm. She was finally looking at him. "Yeah. That okay?"

He shrugged. "I'll try not to be offended."

A soundless laugh escaped her. She pushed herself back up and after a moment she stood. Finnegan followed suit, and they collected their things from around the room. Their host had already left for work long before either of them had awoken, so Finnegan took it upon himself to write a note.

Again, thank you for everything. We really appreciate it. Cereal box is from a Foundation front, by the way. You did know that, right? -A&F

Aldon caught sight of it and punched him. "What did I tell you?"

Finnegan just grinned and rubbed his stinging arm.

"Gimme that pen."

Thanks. Bye. -A&F

"Pertinent," he said, reading it as she jotted it down.

"As it should be," she said, tugging on her backpack. "Now. Let's dance."

"Ugh."

Standing beside each other, the duo glanced at one another. In tandem, they threw their arms up in opposite directions. After a flurry of arms and knees and burning cheeks on Finnegan's end, they ripped through spacetime and stepped into their Way.

Adjacent to the counseling center, with the food truck parked right in between them, was the Moonlight Theater. It was fresh in their minds, and bold in detail within their Way. Bits and pieces flickered as their mental pictures of it did battle, but as a whole it seemed much more real than the rest of the Way's contents. After a brief stride they were at their doors, and then they were in the Library. The walk to the door containing a Way to her hometown was made in silence.

"Guess this it," Aldon remarked when she reached the archway.

"Yup. You gonna be alright by yourself?"

Aldon rolled her eyes and began to turn. "Later, dude."

"Aw, come on." Finnegan held his arms out. "Humor me?"

She stepped into him almost immediately. It was hard not to chuckle. The embrace was short, but tight. When she released him she stepped back, sighing.

"It'll be fine," he assured.

"Yeah." She half-snorted. "Yeah! I'll see you later, Finn."

"Bye."

The walk back to their local Way was uneventful. Taking the trip from the library to their apartment was easy, quiet. He found the golems playing hide and seek, but their tiny bodies and lack of voices made it a hushed game. The enchantment around their room that prevented sound from entering or exiting, sans for noise made by the door, isolated him from the hustle and bustle of the street below.

To fill the silence, Finnegan activated his personal computer. The desktop quickly powered to life and he checked the various tabs he kept open. Once caught up on local events and goings-on, he opened up one of the various sound files he had been working on. He gave it a quick listen and then opened an editor to play around with it. After about twenty minutes he had to close the program, distracted by the growing bouncing sensation in his stomach. He attempted a different file, another project. It refused to garner his attention.

He closed everything and sat still for a moment. It felt like he had a stone sitting in his stomach. His gaze turned to the empty beds against the wall. At the door across the room, which was empty sans for clay.

For once in a very long time, Finnegan was alone. He had been by himself, surely, but it had always been a voluntary isolation. Aldon had always been right there, often trying to pull his attention away from his work when he was focused and ready to play when he grew restless. Even when she was at work, she often answered texts, and her guaranteed return had been something to anticipate. And now she was on the opposite side of the country, gone for an unknown amount of time.

Finnegan sighed, loud and long, into his beret.

"Oh gods, I'm bored."

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