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The Trees and the Bramble
Paris watched the server walk around. He'd never realized Danielle could also be a guy's name. Not such an attractive one, that particular Danielle. He glanced back and Soren was staring out into space like he'd been punched in the gut, whatever that meant.

Paris almost asked if he was alright but it wasn't needed. Danielle came to take Soren's order.

"The Mex Surprise?" Paris nodded in approval. "Hah, good choice." Paris didn't realize Soren liked spicy food.

"And yeah, exactly!" Paris was pretty enthused. "That's the spirit, dude. Itinerary's flexible, I don't think we even have return tickets booked yet." He'd have to ask Mom about that. "I know our flight is one stopover in Charlotte, then Madrid where we spend... first three days, harsh. Not a lot of time, huh?" Paris pantomimed a hustling motion, shoulders hunched and arms pumping. As he did that Danielle returned with the pile of cheesy pepper and cumin drenched meat and vegetables that was Soren's surprise. Looked pretty decent. Paris finished off a few more fries and contemplated getting some of that other dish for himself.

if you gave me a (second) chance(s V2) I would take it
I will do it myself if you don't so please do go ahead! :0

if you gave me a (second) chance(s V2) I would take it
Oh, huh. Of course I forgot that happened. In that case I'd be cool if they were friends and Kyran protected Rachael in some incidental way and she's since come to trust him! Especially since he's a bit more closed off so she might feel more comfortable since the relationship isn't overly heavy past a point that might get her anxieties up. If that makes sense.

Everything else sounds good!

if you gave me a (second) chance(s V2) I would take it
Oh hey there! Thanks for the compliment on my tracker, I do always do my best to pour pointless amounts of effort into thing! Alright, so I glanced through both profiles in some detail...

I'm going to leave Rachael mostly out of it? Maybe she casually knows Wendy through others like Felicia and Jasmine (assuming those relationships are in any way confirmed) but not so close or intimate? Nothing to do with either of your characters its just that I'm very comfortable with the small compact size of Rachael's friends group now and I'd rather not further expand it.

Okay, as for Paris! Paris and Wendy could be interesting? Perhaps Paris flirted with Wendy but it kind of went overhead and eventually he lost interest? And now they could just be good friends who are both popular, he's pretty cool with her in his usual 'eh' way and then when she started her quest to be more academically proficient he might occasionally offer aid in the foreign languages and English when he cares enough about her.
Paris might have known Kyran in middle school? They'd have been cool and maybe Paris was one of the dudes Kyran could talk to back during that troubled time in his life. As unreliable was he otherwise was and is he was at least sort of cool. Later on they could share the guitar hobby, actually. Maybe make a few videos/covers together.

The Fox and the Crow
“No.”

It was an odd feeling Jasmine had gifted Paris, what with the surprise kiss and all. It all seemed kind of melodramatic. Paris was a bit relieved when it was over, but he guessed it hadn’t been all that bad.

That Monday when they saw each other in class Jasmine would ask about it, and he’d sort of remember.

((Jasmine King memories concluded))
((Paris Ardennes memories continued in A Sweet Little Lie, I Cry Wolf, Cry))

The Fox and the Crow
Love was a strange word. Paris wrapped his arms gently around the curve of her waist. There wasn’t much tension or power to the gesture, his forearms only softly draped over her fabric-dressed skin.

“Yeah. Love you too.”

Love could mean all sorts of things anyways.

The Fox and the Crow
Had she stopped smiling? Anyways, he followed her stony gaze in idle curiosity. Number four was plated over the door of her home. Off by one, that was kind of a funny coincidence. Paris backtracked through the conversation a bit, physically drifting a bit ahead, enough so that both their arms would stretch up and their shoulders would tug to hold them together.

“Oh yeah, they have a Long John’s up there don’t they? And a Crab Shack… I never liked either of those places much but somehow they’re still nostalgic, if that makes any sense.” It was the smell of fresh caught and fresh cooked seafood that was the lingering memory, not the taste. Paris could smell that smell again, upwind of Jasmine. He paused himself, drinking the scent in with deep inhales that gently ebbed and flowed through his chest.

He looked back at Jasmine and smiled innocently. Another squeeze of his hand, the awkward sensation of flesh melding to flesh.

“Not ready to go back yet?”

He supposed he could spare a few more minutes. Maybe Jasmine wanted to hang around in the park nearby or something, so they could keep chewing out teachers. Not such a bad use of time.

The Fox and the Crow
“Windy day,” Paris remarked. “Smells like up at the pier. You know, that one by itself on the coast up North?” He considered that scent nostalgic, even if Paris had only lived in Denton for the latter half of his life. Wherever he ended up after Europe: St.Johns, Fordham, whatever… Paris was going to probably fondly miss that particular smell. Smell of the sea, it was, kind of briny and a bit smoky. Like someone cooking a bit of fish.

Here and now he’d probably fondly remember this date for a bit. It had been peaceful and easy. Kind of like how Paris felt listening to the rumbling echoes from an altar. Profound, in some unknowable way.

Anyways, Paris would have study early tomorrow before Mass, Mom had already pressed a solid green polo on his behalf. He figured he could take the rest of tonight easy. He picked up the pace fractionally, a bit more eager for the creature comforts of home. But first, of course, Jasmine’s home.

“That’s it up there, right?” They turned a corner and a streetlamp pole onto what Paris was half sure was Jasmine’s block. Jasmine’s hand was closed around his, Paris casually offered a gentle squeeze, but nothing more. He could smell a bit of the artificial scent of her shampoo. It washed and bleached out the more familiar scent of an ancient memory.

“Is that how it is? Hah, I guess it’s impossible to escape bad teachers isn’t it.” Paris thought for a second, considering how he’d say goodnight for now or however long it was they wouldn’t be seeing each other. He started planning for his Sunday, additionally.

The Fox and the Crow
Short tan dude was walking around, Paris nodded at him friendly like.

Not long after that and Jasmine burst out of her room excitedly. She sounded excited, and she looked great. Paris had picked out that particular piece because he’d thought it’d be flattering without being too flattering. It looked great and it was acceptable Sunday wear.

“Hey,” Paris parroted Jasmine, with less emphasis. He made a show of examining her, slowly looking her up and down while nodding, ‘mm’-ing, and scratching his chin. “Well well.” He smiled. “If we actually had the money I’d say buy it. It’s pretty radiant.” The contour of the fabric draped flawlessly and sat on her like a king on a throne, a perfect and logical fit. She’d be turning heads if she showed up to, say, a school dance in this one.

That was probably the sort of thing she’d get a kick out of, if Paris had to guess. Maybe she could stand to lose a little weight but that was the one flaw. Paris would be keeping that particular observation quiet.

“We’d cut a heck of a pair at Homecoming next year.” More of an idle thought than a promise.




They’d walked all the way to Central and now they were walking back. Kensington wasn’t the closest neighborhood both ways but the walk was good exercise, it got the blood pumping and warmed the feet. He was going to walk her home, since her’s was closer. It was a nice warm night to be outside for so he set an easy and casual pace.

“... I’m just saying, Mr. Douglas isn’t so fair to any of the kids who aren’t first chair. Or at least that’s what, you know, all the kids who aren’t first chair like to say.” Paris shrugged. It was just rumors, not really personal experience. Jasmine would probably be correcting him promptly. “I think you’ve got the better music teacher, all things told.”

He cracked his neck with a quick swivel of his head before relaxing back into his lazy pace.

The Fox and the Crow
“Yep. You gotta have it before you can say it.” Paris completely agreed with her. It was important to practice what one preached and make the promises one could keep.

She did some little jig with her shoulders. Paris watched, then mimicked her. Left right left right. Felt kinda light and flirty, he had to smile and laugh a bit. Though it was probably also kind of silly looking. Now he was walking to the changing rooms and she was beside him. He checked out the clothes she was going to try on then signalled to the dressing room attendant, a short tan dude. Five pieces for him.

“Don’t take too long in there or I might have to check on you,” Paris joked a bit as they went to their rooms and then split up. Not like he’d be actually doing it though. He hung up his clothes, pants to one peg and shirts to another so he could mix and match. It took him a few seconds to pick out the first combination. Thin plain green shirt kind of scoop cut to show a bit of chest, nice and shiny leather jacket tight around his biceps, dressy grey slacks a bit tight around the rear. He’d have to get a size up if he actually bought these, which he wouldn’t anyways. He adjusted things around, tucked in the shirt, primped his cuffs and collar.

When he stepped out from the dressing room with a creak of the big wooden door Jasmine wasn’t out yet. He waited for her while casually inspecting himself in a nearby mirror. Not bad.

The Fox and the Crow
“You’re cool. Competent, the sort of ‘I win’ attitude that catches the eye.” Paris nodded. “Yep, that’s it exactly. Oh, that and you didn’t get mad when I shared my faith with you like other girls do. That’s a huge plus.” He did appreciate that in particular.

Paris smiled back at her, shrugged as he shoved the dress he’d been holding back to the rack. “Your sense of fashion also helps.” Sometimes questionable but credit where credit was due, when it was due. Paris was smirking mischievously. “I mean you’ve seen the weird stuff people consider trends nowadays. You’re not that kind of person,” Paris explained. His hand idly wandered to the next dress over. Then he abandoned the entire rack. The clothes he planned to try on were still on his arm and now he was walking to the dressing rooms, his back faced to her but his face tilted back over his shoulder.

“Coming?” He pivoted his neck back around so he could see where he was going.

The Fox and the Crow
Jasmine’s lips had a teddy bear fluff texture to them when they dusted against his nose. Weird.




She’d stayed attached to him for a pretty long time but eventually they’d gotten up to go to Central. Central’s big concrete facade looked more impressive at night than it actually was, when the streetlamp tones were hiding the flakes of peeling paint and rain weathering.

They entered through big doors into a sparsely populated section of the mall.

“Wonder if anyone’s going to be staying in Denton after they graduate?” It was an idle question Paris asked while not knowing there was any good answer.




Central didn’t have too much in the way of good mid-tier brands and usually Paris would travel to NYC with his Mom to go clothes shopping. Somehow against all odds there was an Armani Exchange so Paris had led them in. He was flicking a hand of fingers through a tall rack of women’s one-piece dresses, brushing each different dress aside one by one. The price tags were intimidating but Jasmine and Paris probably weren’t buying anything anyways, just browsing and trying on stuff. Paris already had a few nice cut pants and polos to model, slung over his free arm. Paris’ other hand stopped at one dress in particular. Lots of spaghetti-like straps and stuff. Probably showed off a bit too much shoulder.

He glanced at Jasmine, wherever she was, eyebrows raised and half shrugging.

The Fox and the Crow
“Yeah, that’s right,” Paris mused. He’d forgotten Jasmine’s friends didn’t usually sit in the cafeteria like he did. They did other things with their time, and Paris supposed he could have hung out with them more. And other people and all that. He had friends who hung out all over the school.

Jasmine skipped the Bible. Paris had expected that. So he spent a few silent moments still leaning back with his hands steepled, palms pressed together so they rested on his breastbone. Then Jasmine came back suddenly, so his hands were half trapped and sandwiched between her back and his front. He let his hands press and dig into his own body so the warmth of her skin wouldn’t mix up into his too much.

“Uh, sure. But move a bit so I can see the TV better.”

He craned his neck so he could get a better angle.

“... Yeah, it’s that one. Essentially that remote controls my Mom’s laptop, see?” It was next to the TV, plugged in and open.

The Fox and the Crow
Paris smiled back pretty casually.

“That’s true. Just for now, cause. If you had to pick between me or your group of friends-” whatever their names were, “to sit with in the cafeteria I bet you’d pick your friends.”

Jasmine continued to exist rather close to his body. The particles of her hair meshed onto the fabric of his sleeve. American Apparel, he’d bought it two or three months ago. It was a pretty cool shirt, his Mom had given him the thumbs up when he’d shown her. Paris shifted a bit, laying back with his back over the couch cushions so they both had a bit more room or at least he did.

“We can listen to it now, I’ve got Spotify on the TV as well. Or we can watch something, or y’know, whatever.” She still wasn’t actually grabbing something from the table though. “We could say a quick prayer before we settle down,” Paris said confidently.

The Fox and the Crow
She giggled a bunch in a pleasant tone, then settled against Paris’ chest in an awkward spreading of herself. Interestingly enough she was clinging onto him like a simian would dangle from a tree. Paris didn’t know how he’d remembered that particular bit of information from wherever he’d learned it, sixth grade biology, maybe.

He shifted a bit. His thighs clapped together tight and snug so she wouldn’t sink any further down. His neck straightened out so his cheek wasn’t too close to her head, or it could get too close or too hot or something else.

“That’s what a lot of people say,” Paris admitted, light humor in his tone. “I mean there’s gotta be other people in this world also worth talking to. As much as me.” Paris didn’t necessarily know that was true though. He was just throwing it out there for the sake of doing so.

“Have you heard anything from that new Pentatonix album?” Paris settled on a topic at random. “Apparently it’s mostly original songs. Their voices are still pretty good but then I don’t know so much about the composition itself.”

He couldn’t really reach for anything, his mobility was restricted by a body laid half on top of his own. The remote to the TV and the Bible would be hard to grab off the table.

“Could you grab, uh…” Paris trailed off, curious to see which thing on the table Jasmine would actually grab if he vaguely nodded his chin towards them. “Anyways. I’ve just been holed up listening to a bunch of albums recently. Trying to get up my play-from-ear skill a bit, so that I can someday be in the same ballpark as you there.” Yep, for now Jasmine was doubtlessly the superior musician. Technically, at least.

The Fox and the Crow
She trapped him again and she was holding on tighter. Paris squirmed a bit more, then stopped. He accepted that he wasn’t escaping anytime soon. He accepted that fate, but he didn’t tighten up his embrace of her like she had. His arms stayed where they belonged, only gently draped over her back.

“Fine, it has been a while. Isn’t patience supposed to be a virtue though?” He exaggerated a smile over his lips in response to her clearly theatrical pouting and complaining. She was in theater class or something like that. That was probably why she was able to make her expressions so intense. Paris thought it was pretty neat, how her emotions shone through clear and strong like that. It wasn’t his sort of thing. It was something pretty different.

“I was busy,” he admitted. “Gotta put in the work to stay smart, right?” Jasmine liked things he phrased like that. ‘Play smart’. ‘Work hard’. ‘Be tough’. Paris could get her going with a statement along those lines and a stupid little smile, whenever they studied together and Paris wanted her to do a bit extra of the work. He guessed that was one of the benefits of being intimately close with someone.

“Sucks that the other guys weren’t around though. You should have asked me, I could have called over one of my free friends to hang out with you a bit.”

The next act in her little play was a big frown. Some big words like ‘I love you’ as well. Paris didn’t hesitate to respond:

“Love you too.” He smiled easily, softly, though he wasn’t quite sure if ‘love’ meant the same thing to Jasmine as it meant to himself. He let her drag him in a bit closer, readjusted his hand so it was enveloping hers when they were just connected by that chaste touch. She asked for a seat. Paris saw nothing wrong with that. She pushed into him a bit with her upper body, he loosened his stance by the hips so he could stagger a bit backwards with her. Dancey and step by step. They got closer to the couch by the second.

“Upload them up to your Tumblr, yeah? You get a ton of likes whenever you do selfies, reblogs too. All that good stuff. So imagine how popular professional shots would be. You’d probably have to remind your followers you’re taken,” he laughed.

He could feel his butt touching down on the couch cushions. He incidentally provided a cradle for Jasmine to fall into.

“I’ll talk to Natali about it soon. But for now we should find something to do. Maybe something to watch or read, so you can rest a bit before we head out.”

The Fox and the Crow
Paris stood up smoothly when the door to No. 5 opened. He had a moment to get through a smile and half a nod. Jasmine looked good. She was wearing firmly cut blue jeans with a few rhinestones around the pockets and scoop necked velvet red tee where the neckline fell a little dangerously low. The skin around her nose and eyes had a healthy lighthouse glow to it.

She was running right at him and then tackling him. Paris stood firm, braced himself against the sudden body tackling into him. They collided chest to chest. Paris had to stagger a step back but he caught her weight on a well-planted ankle. Jasmine redistributed that weight into an awkward hug, her hands wrapping like bandages around the broadness of his shoulder blades. Paris hugged back but without his hands reaching as far, forearms only gently brushing right under her armpits.

“Hey,” he replied with a soft smile. He’d gotten used to how violent her greetings could sometimes get. He thought it was nice sometimes at least. Now was one of those times because she was cozy and warm like a blanket, so he lingered with his ethereal touch and presence for a few seconds.

“It hasn’t been that long since we last met, y’know,” Paris laughed teasingly. He paused for a second, inhaling in the scent of Jasmine he couldn’t escape, being so close.

“Anyways, hu.” And now he wanted a little bit of his personal space back so his arms slid away to his side, squirming like little fleshy worms. “Yeah, hasn’t been that long. Spanish after lunch, el clásico,” he said, the last few syllables said with a smooth and professional Spanish accent. “Did you text since? I haven’t seen if you did, where did you go after school? James was helping me with some homework out in the quad then I went home.” That kid’s name had been James, right, Paris was pretty sure.

“Saturday’s been lazy so far, I just helped develop photos with Mom. Nothing too dramatic. We should snap some professional photos of you sometime, I think you’d look great in them,” Paris quickly concluded with a solemn nod.

The Fox and the Crow
((Paris Ardennes : Pregame Start))

Paris spent a second adjusting the living room table Bible. The four corners aligned against the four corners of the table and he was satisfied with its prominence.

“Hey!

I’ll bring back dinner, Paris? What do you want?”

“You can eat out Mom, Jasmine and I will probably also eat. If you do bring anything back though we can have some kinda nice late night snack. I’m staying up late to study.”

“Alright. Love you sweetie!”

“Hah, me too! See ya, Mom.”

The front door to their condo glided shut with a smooth thump. Now all the preparations for Jasmine coming over were complete. Paris checked his phone and it was probably a few minutes until she arrived, so he sat down on a couch and sent her a text saying the front door would be unlocked.

Jasmine had first caught Paris’ eye last year. She’d had eye-catching technique during recitals in music class, when Paris paid attention it seemed her fingers had danced neatly over whatever instrument she’d been handed. This year she’d also ended up in Paris’ English and Spanish classes. They’d worked on a few projects together and talked. She was competitive in extracurricular piano performances, she was smart, she had a nice looking Tumblr too, Paris guessed. All sorts of pretty cool things, and then at some point later he’d also noticed she looked pretty good, well kempt, on top of everything else. He’d asked her out, she’d seemed pretty thrilled about that.

She’d been honest and open minded when he’d informed her about the word of the Lord, he rather liked her for that. So they’d kept going out, which surprised Paris a fair bit. He knew they were never going to kiss on anything besides the cheek or anything like that, but he’d never even gotten that far before. It felt pretty nice. But of course he had no business letting his mind drift any further down that path. He’d asked Father Hernando and he’d recommended prudence and patience, excised in His name.

He enjoyed her company. She was sharp and held herself with dignity a fair bit better than some of Paris’ other peers. She was not above judgement entirely, of course. None on this Earth were. But they were well worthy of each other’s attentions, while the going was good.

He wondered where she’d want to go out to eat. Maybe they could hit up a store at Central after, like American Apparel or Zara, and model nice looking stuff for each other. He’d thought of asking her if she wanted to model for Natali’s portfolio work someday, if he paid for it. Maybe he could ask that tonight. Maybe they could hang out in the house for a bit before they went out because they probably still had plenty of time before the dinner rush, it was a Saturday afternoon. She’d promised him she’d show her some of those shows she watched that looked kinda weird. He couldn’t remember how long ago she’d promised that, but at least now he was actually marginally interested in the offer.

His thoughts fell silent and he meditated on nothing in particular for a minute. He was sitting very still, eyes half closed, when the front door gently whistled open.

The Trees and the Bramble
Paris sometimes wondered how Soren was going to afford the trip. His parents were some sort of white collar if Paris recalled correctly. Maybe it was just savings or some other sort of mystical miracle.

Paris glanced at the waiter when he returned with the menu. Then back at Soren, who looked vaguely alright as ever.

"Napoli, then?" Paris had an okay Italian accent, not the best because he slurred the syllables a bit too much. With more practice he'd get it better. "Then up north through the peninsula? Following the coast or the countryside, either way we'll be seeing all kinds of cool stuff." Supposedly the more interesting historical ruins were further inland. Churches, monasteries, that sort of thing. "What about Sicilia though? Maybe we'd want to double back at some point?" Paris didn't particularly know. He was just idly throwing ideas out there. It was all on the table after all, as long as someone brought a little extra money in the pocket.

"The islands like... Corsica, it's Corsica right? Those would also be interesting stops." Paris grabbed a handful of his fries and began to bite them down by the half. "You going to order anything?" He asked when he had a moment with a clear mouth and clear mind, nothing to say otherwise. "It's about dinner time, might as well. I can cover for you if you want, no problemo."

TWO TO THE ONE TO THE ONE TO THE THREE, I LIKE GOOD PUSSY AND I LIKE GOOD TREE
The small girl was a drinker, Paris was reminded that when she took a few more sips of her alcohol. He wouldn't have been indulging, had he been in her shoes. He supposed it was just one of those party things.

"Oh, okay. That's cool, so do they have one of those types of rooms down at the school?" Paris raised up a hand, rebuffing Chuck's offer casually. Paris watched Chuck for a second, looking right through him. Picking up two bottles at once seemed suggestive of something amiss, somehow. But Paris stopped thinking about that and glanced around. He swore there were somehow less people around then there'd been just a moment ago.

"This corner of the party's quiet... Well, I mean. Besides the music." Paris chuckled and nodded at the other two, at once. "Neither of you are dancers, then?"

It was a weird mental image, actually, imagining either of them busting out the moves. Pretty funny, actually. If he sniffed out Maxwell or Clio, wherever either of them had evaporated off to, he'd have to share the joke. Where had they gone, anyways? Paris swore they'd been near only a moment ago, last he'd been paying attention.

((Paris Ardennes continued in The Crow and the Pitcher))

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