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Fate did not exist.
In fact, he strictly lived against that made-up belief. He didn't want to entertain the idea that his destiny had been pre-determined. It couldn't be. Because if it was, that meant whatever obstacles he had faced and pain he had endured, it was planned. He had no choice in them at all.
Fate belittled him.
So Lenny must've rattled him up pretty damn hard if the only conclusion he had found was fate.
Why was it her that he stumbled into that night? Why was it her that found his sketchbook, and spilled its contents? Why was it her that he needed to stay away from but couldn't for the life of him do? He thought it was bad luck, but three times a coincidence...
She basically had all the arson she needed to strike an arrow through his heart, and she didn't even know it.
“Hey.” Zach lightly smacked the top of his head. “Earth to Theo?”
He blinked. “What?”
His friend gave him a look. “If you hadn't noticed for the past thirty minutes, we have a huge problem here.” He gestured to their couch.
Or, specifically, who was on it.
A young boy was snoring peacefully, mouth parted slightly and his front against the pillows as one arm hung precariously towards the floor. Theo's brows furrowed with concern — it was obvious the boy was tired. Anyone would be, if they had travelled from the other side of the country.
But the hows and whys made his blood boil. He wasn't angry at the boy, but at the people who were pulling his strings; a fury that had been building up since he was fifteen. Theo knew why he was here, what they wanted him to do.
“What do we do with him?” Theo murmured.
Zach sighed, running a hand through his hair. “He's your little brother. You decide.”
“Hey, you know he's as much as your brother as mine.”
The two looked each other in the eye for a while. Zach didn't disagree.
Theo reached forward and gently shook the boy's shoulder.
The boy groaned, squinting against the sunlight, before finally adjusting his view. “Oh, hey. Did I fall asleep? Sorry.”
“You did.” Looking into those eyes, the same shade as his but with an innocence he never had, was not an easy task. “And it's fine.”
Chase let out a loud yawn and straightened up, stretching his arms wide, completely oblivious to the tension in the room. Then his eyes flickered to the person standing next to his brother.
Zach let out an oof! as Chase got up and tackled him, wrapping his arms around his shoulders tightly. After catching a few breaths, the blond relaxed and returned the boy's hug, an affectionate smile on his face.
“Missed you too, kiddo.”
Theo ignored the slight pain in his chest. “Chase,” he started slowly. “You can't stay.”
Chase froze as he let go of Zach. “What?”
“You can't stay,” he repeated, swallowing the lump in his throat. “You need to go home.”
“But — but I just got here!” The hurt expression on his face broke Theo's heart. Zach muttered an incoherent curse, looking away from the conversation. “You can't just kick me out! This is the first time I've seen you in months!”
“And with good reason!” Theo yelled back. He pinched his nose, steadying his breaths. “And I can kick you out. You're not here because you want to be, alright? This is all part of Mom and Dad's sick game — ”
“I don't care!” Chase's eyes were already glassy. “I don't care what you think or what they say! I'm here, and I'm staying. How many times do I have to tell you for you to accept it?!”
“A hundred and more times,” the older boy retorted.
“Fine.” The young boy held his chin up, and for the first time, Theo saw the strength he often didn't see in himself. “It's going to take you a hundred and more times to get rid of me.”
Chase was reading a college physics textbook for fun.
It was times like these where Theo wondered if they were actually related.
His little brother — this smart, bright, happy kid — who was the complete opposite of him. Another example was their reactions towards this exact outing: Chase wasn't frazzled one bit, lying down on the makeshift blanket with ease, but Theo had never felt more uncomfortable in his whole life.
“What are you, uh,” he cleared his throat, “reading?”
Chase gave a toothy grin. “Did you know that tidal waves are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun?” he sang, his mood a hundred-and-eighty from their fight earlier. “That means that the closer the sun or the moon is, the tides get higher. The highest waves are usually caused when there's a full moon — because ocean is drawn towards it. Did you know that?”