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LIMITS // lrh

CHAPTER TEN

"So what was it like getting a ride home from Mister Robot last night?" Mikey asked me as he took a seat next to me at my dining room table and handed over my coffee mug. I thanked him quietly before scrunching my eyes up in confusion.

"Mister Robot?" I asked, my eyebrows shooting up in confused amusement at the nickname Michael had picked out for Luke. He shrugged, and I quickly went back to typing up the introduction to the new story I had an idea for.

"Yeah, you know the tall blonde asshole who doesn't have any emotions?" I huffed, finally getting his lame joke and I sighed, shrugging my shoulders as I began on the lengthy exposition for my novel.

"It was..." I trailed off as I thought back to the previous night. My mind filled with images of goofy smiles, clenched jaws and rolling eyes. I felt my cheeks begin to flush as I thought about the way Luke reprimanded me like I was a young child, all for being a little sassy. "fine." I finished lamely, hoping Michael wouldn't keep prodding, but of course, it's Michael.

With a snort of laughter, he sipped his black coffee before arching his eyebrow. The black metal of his eyebrow piercing caught the sunlight through the window and sent a glint of light across the room. "It was fine?" With a huff, I pressed save on my document and closed the screen of my laptop so that I could hold a full conversation with my best friend.

"Well, no... It was awkward. I don't know why he even bothered offering me a ride home if he was going to act like a complete ass." I mumbled behind my large coffee mug as I took another sip, letting the sweet taste of vanilla coffee creamer and rich coffee swirl around in my mouth.

Michael chuckled, taking another large gulp from his cup before placing it down in front of him and fiddling with the handle. "Did he actually talk to you at all?"

I nodded, feigning boredom as I set my chin in the palm of my hand. "Yeah," I said with a snort, rolling my eyes and a pang of nervousness set in my stomach as I did so, thinking back to what happened last time I rolled my eyes. "Although I almost wish he didn't." I huffed as I took another large gulp of my coffee.

Michael snorted, shaking his head before answering me. "Oh please Em, stop being dramatic. It couldn't have been that bad."

"Oh but it was," I assured him with a chuckle. "It was probably worse. That guy honestly gives me the creeps." I shuddered at the memory of his raspy voice and the taught skin around his Adam's apple as he clenched his jaw in quick anger. There was just something about him that pushed me away yet pulled me in at the same time.

"That's fair, Casey doesn't seem to like him much either." Flashes of Casey's annoyed huffs and tight smiles crossed my mind as I absentmindedly ran my fingers through my long raven hair.

"Yeah, what's Casey's deal with that? She's like one of the nicest people ever, he must be an even bigger asshole than I thought for Casey not to like him." I thought out loud as I readjusted in my seat so that my heels were digging into the bottom of the seat, my arms wrapped around my legs and my chin resting on my right knee. "And what's up with his voice anyways? Casey and Ashton both started to talk about it and then just left it, and when I tried to ask him about it on the ride home he just like, blew me off completely. Said it was a 'long story', like what the hell does that mean?" I had almost forgotten that Michael was still seated right across from me as I released all of my pent up thoughts out loud, until he cleared his throat.

"Earth to Emily? Em? Think any harder and I swear you'll have a stroke. Why so curious anyways? I thought you liked Ashton?" He said, dragging out the drummer's name in as flirty of a way as he could. I rolled my eyes before concentrating on an old coffee ring that stained the mahogany wood of the dining room table.

"I don't like Luke," I said with a scoff, "I just find him... interesting I guess." I finished with a shrug, running my thumbnail against the grain of the table. It was quiet as I waited for a response from Michael, and when there wasn't one, I looked up to see him smirking at me. "What? I don't like him, Jesus. I just want to know why he's so secretive. Plus, he's not my type, I'm not attracted to cocky assholes." I heard Michael snort in laughter and I looked up at him once again, an eyebrow cocked as if asking him to explain his thoughts.

"Not your type? You mean tall and hot as fuck isn't your type?" Michael's arms shot up as he caught the smirk on my face. "He's drop dead gorgeous, okay? I'm more than comfortable enough with my masculinity and sexuality to admit when another man is attractive." We both broke into fits of laughter at Michael's confession and as the laughter began to subside, Mikey moved to set his coffee mug down, placing it down just a little too hard.

"Shit," He cursed as coffee slopped over the side of the rim, and he retracted his hand quickly from the mess.

"It's okay," I started, swiftly standing up and letting my chair screech back across the hardwood floor. "I've got it." Before Michael could protest, I was racing into the kitchen and tugging the dish towel from the oven door and carrying it back into the dining room. Just as I had begun mopping up the mess that Michael had made, I heard the familiar creaking of the stairs and knew my grandfather was finally awake.

"Why is it that every time you come to my house, Michael, you somehow manage to make a mess?" I heard my grandfather's taunting voice as he rounded the corner to enter the dining room. Michael pouted, feigning a hurt expression as he turned to look at my grandfather who had now joined us at the table.

"Why must you always roast the hell out of me, Pops? What did I ever do to you?" My grandfather snorted, picking up some of his research papers that he had left out on the table.
"Besides eat me out of house and home? You know you don't live here, right Michael?" Pops looked up over his paper, his reading glasses sliding down to the tip of his nose as he quirked an eyebrow in our direction. I stifled a laugh as I once again picked up my coffee mug to hide my smile. Mikey sighed dramatically, leaning back in his chair.

"You love me, Pops. You don't know what you'd do without me."

"I'd probably be able to enjoy my morning coffee in peace, that's for sure." I couldn't hold in my snort of laughter anymore at my grandfather's sassy retort, and I raised a hand to cover my mouth as I spluttered at the look of disbelief on Mikey's face. I let my grandfather and Michael bicker back and forth as I made my way into the kitchen, listening on in amusement while I prepared my grandfather a cup of coffee.

As I stirred a spoonful of sugar into his black coffee, I couldn't help the smile on my face as I listened to my two favorite people go at it. I was so grateful to have both my grandfather and Michael in my life, and I can't imagine my life without them.

I met my best friend back in the sixth grade when we had to sit in assigned seats at lunch time. I sat alone, seeing as I had no friends in my homeroom class, and right in the middle of my peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, a scrawny pale boy with sandy blonde hair came up to me. I remember it like it was yesterday, because he had sat down right across from me and stole my bag of carrot sticks, stating that he was kicked out of his class's table and that's why he was sitting with me. To say I was confused was an understatement, but ever since that moment, Michael and I had been inseparable.

"You would be so depressed without me in your life, Pops, and you know it." Mikey's voice broke through my memories and I chuckled, shaking my head as I sat the cup of steaming coffee down in front of my grandfather and kissed the side of his head.

"Oh yes, how would I live without you eating my food and sleeping off your hangovers on my couch?"

From the moment I brought Michael home, I knew him and my grandfather would have a special relationship. They were both bull-headed, sarcastic and incredibly witty. Michael keeps my grandfather young, and my grandfather keeps Michael grounded.

Michael spent almost every day at my house growing up, as he was the youngest of three siblings and his mother worked the night shift at the hospital. My grandfather basically raised both of us, helping us with our homework and telling scary stories at our weekend sleepovers, he was the father that both Michael and I never had.

"How come you never talk to Emily like this?" I heard Michael pout, once again pulling me from my thoughts and to the conversation at hand. My grandfather sighed, taking a large sip from his coffee mug and setting it down carefully just to pick his papers back up.

"Because I actually enjoy her company."

"You hate me."

I sighed, cleaning up my crumbs from the bagel I had earlier and grabbing the three now empty coffee cups that sat on the table.

"Well, as fun as it is listening to you two fight, we really need to get going." I groaned, standing from the table and walking towards the kitchen. "I have history in two hours, and you have a paper to write." I scolded, pointing a finger to Mikey as I placed the cups into the sink and ran the water. He threw his head back with an enormous groan, running a hand through his light green hair.

"But-"

"Nope, no excuses. You've been putting off that anthropology paper all week. You're running out of time!" I could practically feel Michael's eye roll from across the room, but nonetheless, he stood up and followed me into the kitchen. He leaned against the oven door as he watched me rinse out the cups, and he played with the overstretched neck of his distressed teeshirt. "Do you own any clothes that don't have holes in them?" I questioned with a sickly sweet smile as I looked at him up and down, taking in the worn state of his shirt and the tattered black jeans that clung to his thin legs.

He kicked the edge of his dingy white converse against my ankle and I huffed, reaching into the sink to splash him with the soapy water that had gathered in the basin.

"Why are you such a mom?" He groaned, wiping the dirty water from his arm and flicking it back in my direction. I cracked a smile, reaching for the dishtowel to dry the cups.

"Why are you such a child?"

"Touche mon ami." I snorted, wiping off my hands on the hand towel and leaning back against the sink.

"Glad to see that one semester of French you took is paying off."

"My God, what is it? Gang up on Michael day? Damn." I chuckled, gathering all of my hair up in one hand and pulling a hairband around it into a bun on the top of my head. I adjusted my hair, pulling a few wavy strands down to frame my face.

"No, you just make it too easy." I shrugged, brushing passed him and towards the dining room where I had left my laptop. And of course, like expected, Mikey followed me like a lost puppy. I scooped up my laptop from the table and shoved it into my bag, as well as grabbing an apple from the fruit bowl in the middle of the table and stuffing it in my bag as well.

I adjusted the floral wrap dress that I wore, retying the strings that laid against my side and running my hands down the sides to flatten it. I watched as the small white and blue flowers ruffled under my touch and fluttered against the yellow background of the fabric.

"C'mon, Em, you're going to history class, you're not going home with Ashton, let's go." Michael whined, dragging out the 'o' at the end of his sentence, and as he did so, I could feel the blush crawling up my neck and over my ears.

"Michael!" I hissed, my head darting around to look at my grandfather who was still sat at the table with his research papers in front of him, the hint of a smile now playing on his lips.

"What?" He said obliviously, his head cocked in a shrug. "You like fine, now let's go. You have a class to get to and I have a paper to bullshit. Let's get going, girly." I rolled my eyes, hoisting my bag over my shoulder and wrapping my arms around my grandfather's shoulders and kissing him one final time on the side of the head.

"Okay, Pops, looks like we're headed out. I'll be back later tonight in time to make dinner, okay?" He hummed, kissing the side of my cheek, and returning to his papers.

"Sounds good, Pumpkin. Have a good class, I love you."

"What, no love for me, Pops?"

"Get your paper done, Michael."

* * *

"I was in class for an hour and a half, and during that time you only managed to write an introductory paragraph?" I questioned Michael in disbelief as we walked out of the humanities building and towards the parking lot where I parked my car.

"What can I say, I have writer's block." I rolled my eyes for what felt like the millionth time today as I listened to Michael drone on and on about how hard the paper was going to be to write.
"Well, it's going to be even harder now while you scramble to finish writing it before the due date Sunday night!"

"Whatever, mom, I'll get it done. Watch me." I pulled my keys out of my bag as we neared my car and I unlocked it before opening the door.

"Yeah, I know, and that's what pisses me off. I have no idea how you always manage to pull it off." I whined as I slumped into my seat, pulling the door closed behind me. Michael followed, falling into the passenger seat of my small car and spreading his long legs out in front of him as much as possible.

"Yeah, I know, sometimes I surprise myself with just how impressive I can be." I scoffed, pushing my key into the ignition and throwing the car into reverse.

"Whatever. Hey, you cool if I stop at the grocery store before we go back? I have to pick up some things for dinner tonight." I glanced over at Michael out of the corner of my eye to see him nod as he stared down at his phone.

"As long as I get to stay for dinner."

"When do you ever even ask?" I heard Michael snort as he continued to swipe his thumbs across the screen of his phone.

"Fair point."

The rest of the ride to the grocery store was quiet as we hummed along to the radio and Mikey gave his full attention to the phone in his hand.

Within fifteen minutes of leaving campus, we were pulling into the lot of "Carl's Local Grocery" and walking towards the entrance. I pulled a cart out of the rack and pushed it quickly, on a mission to get in and out of the store as soon as I possibly could. I hated grocery shopping more than anything else on the face of this planet, and I refused to be in the ice cold store any longer than I needed to be.

As I ran through the store, Mikey struggled to keep up with me, often tripping over his feet and begging me to wait up. "Jeez, Em, could you like, please stop running? You know I hate working out." he pouted as we entered the frozen foods section, huffing and puffing as he leaned against the cart.

"C'mon now, Clifford, we both know you could use the exercise." I teased him as I grabbed a bag of frozen green beans and threw it in the cart.

Our time in the grocery store continued like this, Michael complaining and me telling him to suck it up as we practically ran down each and every aisle, grabbing the occasional item that I would need for the upcoming week. Within twenty minutes I had a cartful of items and we were in line for the checkout, carefully placing our items on the conveyor belt and packing them back up as they were scanned.

I hastily paid for the food, loading my arms with brown paper bags and wishing the cashier a good day as Michael hurried behind me, carrying a bag in each arm. Just when I finally thought I was home free, I felt a hard body crash into my own, slightly jolting me on my feet, and I clutched onto the bags for dear life, afraid to drop the bags in my arms and have eggs crack every where.

"Woah, I'm so sorry M'am I- Emily?" My stomach dropped as I heard the familiar nasal voice that sent butterflies fluttering in my stomach. I could feel the color rising to my cheeks as I peered over the top of the paper bags held in my arms.

"Uh, hi..." I mumbled in embarrassment, training my eyes on the curly haired drummer who stood in front of me. He was dressed in a beautiful navy button down that was half open, highlighting the sprinkling of light chest hair that he had, and a pair of tight gray slacks. I quickly noticed he wasn't alone, though, and I glanced over to see the one person I least wanted to see in that moment next to him. Luke stood tall, towering over Ashton by a good four inches. He was incredibly intimidating, dressed in a white teeshirt with holes in the collar and a ripped up jean jacket, he looked like the poster boy for Urban Outfitters.

Although he looked unbelievably rough and rugged in his ripped up clothes with his scruffy facial hair, I couldn't help but notice the red nail polish that lacquered his nails. They stood out in sharp contrast to the light colors he was wearing, and I couldn't help but wonder why? For someone who came across as gruff and scary, I didn't really peg Luke to be the type to embrace his feminine side at all. I felt a sharp elbow to my side and realized I must have been staring too long, my eyes darting over to Michael and he gave me a look as if to say say something, say anything.

I cleared my throat and blew a piece of stray hair out of my eyes. "So, uh, what are you guys doing here?" The moment the words left my mouth I groaned, mentally slapping myself for how dumb that sounded. Why were they at the grocery store? Gee I wonder why...
The sound of Luke snorting pulled me out of my thoughts. I turned to look at him, trying to appear unfazed as I cocked an eyebrow in his direction, although the red hue of my skin might have given away how I was truly feeling.

"What are we doing at the grocery store?" Just as he was about to open his mouth to respond to his own question, I saw Ashton shoot him a look, and he snapped his jaw shut, rolling his eyes with a huff.

"We're just picking up some things for the party tomorrow." Ashton finished, a warm smile lighting up his face. I was really grateful that, unlike Luke, Ashton ignored how dumb my question sounded and didn't make me feel any more embarrassed than I already did. "You're both going to be there, right?"

"Yeah, wouldn't miss it." Michael interjected casually, readjusting the bags in his arms as they began to slip. "But, uh, we have some frozen items in this bag that are probably beginning to melt, so we should let you get back to your shopping. We'll see you tomorrow night. Take it easy, guys." Michael added breezily, flashing a confident smile and a nod to each of them as he began to back away out the door that we were standing in front of.

Ashton looked bummed at Michael's quick dismissal of us, almost as if he wanted to say something more, but before he could, Luke clapped a hand on his arm and began to drag him further into the store.

"Yeah, see ya." Luke said in a bored droll, quickly turning them away and striding down the nearest aisle and out of sight.

When we had watched them disappear around the corner of the aisle, Michael let out a sigh of relief.

"Wow." He laughed as we walked out of the doors and towards the parking lot.

"Wow what?" I asked as I popped the trunk of my car, beginning to place the bags inside.

"Wow, as in, you are so fucking awkward I got second hand embarrassment just standing there during that." I groaned, slamming the trunk closed and walking around to the driver's side. "I mean, 'why are you here?' We really need to get you brushed up on flirting in the twenty first century, Em."

"Shut up and get in the car, Michael."

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