𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟𝐟 - update chapter

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UPDATE, better off

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UPDATE, better off

italics — rues narration

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"cover your eyes!" the excitement in athena's voice made the boy roll his eyes, "i'm not doing that." he said. she frowned, "please! you're gonna ruin the whole thing." ash huffed out a big breath as he placed his small hands over his eyes, athena guiding him to the living room. "i hate surprises." he stumbled a bit, not fully trusting athena to walk him to the living room.

"i know, but you're gonna love it." he could tell she was smiling as she spoke, which made him a little bit more excited. athena looked around the living room for a quick moment before she made ash move his hands. she had perfectly set up a star wars themed birthday party for the boy, since it was his thirteenth and fez wasn't home.

he had been gone for almost three months. after a month and a half of sulking in her bed and crying, athena had grown out of her heartbroken state. although she was hurt and angry, she decided to move on with her life. she knew it was pointless to wait around for someone who didn't even put in effort to call her, to even let her know that he was safe.

she knew ash was keeping in contact with him but she never asked if he asked about her, and he never told her if fez talked about her. even though he always did.

rue, her mom, jules, cassie, mckay, and maddy smiled at the sight of the birthday boy entering the living room, the lights dimmed but not completely off. athena invited her friends to keep him company, since he didn't have many friends of his own.

athena placed her hand on his shoulder as she reached over to the light switch, "okay, ready. open!" she flicked the light on as soon as he moved his hands, a bright smile appearing on his face as soon as he saw everyone jump out of their hiding spots. "happy birthday!" they cheered. instead of welcoming the guests or saying thank you, ash turned around quickly and hugged athena.

athena froze for a second, not being used to the affection from the little boy. "thank you." he muttered, not wanting anyone else but her to hear him. she grinned, "you're welcome. now go eat." she pointed to the many pizza boxes on the table that her friends were already digging into.

he nodded as he walked over, everyone moving to let the birthday boy eat. rue walked over to athena, a slice of pizza on a paper plate in her hand. she gave it to her, "this is fucking amazing." she said, lifting her own slice from the plate and taking a bite. "thanks, i just wanted to give him a good birthday." she watched as mckay talked to ash, the smile still on his face. "you still didn't hear from fez?" rue asked.

in all fairness, she hadn't been asking athena about fez. she knew it hurt her to think about it, let alone talk about it. and if she could save her the pain, she would. athena shook her head, "no." she said. "did he wish ash a happy birthday?" she shrugged her shoulders. "i don't know, he doesn't talk about him much." ash had taken a seat on the couch, nobody sitting beside him.

athena barely motioned to rue, but enough to lead the girl over to the couches with him. he didn't say anything, but his expression showed that he appreciated it. "you having fun?" she asked. he nodded, pizza grease dripping from the side of his mouth. "ash." she complained, making the boy chuckle as he wiped his face with a napkin.

"you're so gross." she admitted, his phone interrupting her mid sentence. as he pulled it out of his pocket, his face froze up. not in a scared or shocked way, athena couldn't really decipher it. however, he answered.

the voice on the other line made athena feel sick to her stomach. suddenly, everything went quiet and the only thing she could hear was his voice.

"hey, lil bro. happy birthday, man." fez's voice spoke from the other line, rue looked over at athena in a concerned way. "yo, thanks." ash replied. "you threw yourself a birthday party?" he chuckled, seeing the star wars decorations behind his head. "nah, athena did it." he said. she could hear fez shuffling on the other line, but she refused to look over. she didn't want to see his face, let alone hear him.

he didn't say anything for a moment, which made her feel even worse. "she's there?" he asked. "yeah." ash spoke hesitantly. he didn't know where they stood, or how they felt about each other. he knew the energy was off, he didn't have to question it. "can i talk to her?" he asked. ash looked over to athena, who looked at the phone quickly.

seeing his face for the first time in three months, she felt weird. he looked different. she contemplated it, thinking about how the conversation would go. it felt like forever before she shook her head, "no."

ash nodded, "nah, she good bro." he said. fez didn't say anything in response. "ight. look, ima be home soon. just a little while longer, i gotta lay low. i'm sorry i can't be there for your birthday..." once fez started to get sentimental, ash passed his plate to athena for her to hold and got up from the couch to have some privacy.

the sick feeling in her stomach didn't leave, she wasn't hungry anymore. "you okay?" rue asked. she nodded, "i'm fine." she lied. she didn't know how to feel. deep down, even though she wouldn't even admit to herself, she missed fez. she wanted to see him again. but the rest of her hated his guts, and couldn't stand the sound of his voice anymore.

she was conflicted, it was written all over her face. rue took a bite of her pizza, "men." she scolded the situation, making a disgusted face. athena chuckled, "yeah, men." she went along with the joke, watching ash walk back into the living room. his smile was gone, his hard exterior back on his face.

she hated when he didn't have an expression on his face, because it reminded her of fez. she looked away from him, the thought of fez still lingering in her mind. she didn't know where he was or how he was doing, but part of her still wanted to find him. part of her still wanted what they had, even if, for now, it was unattainable.

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