Setting: The bar in the party room of the SIN-dicate headquarters around midday
Modry marched down the hallway, a frown on her face and an annoyed lecture already starting to take form in her head. Nephrite was late for the SIN-dicate meeting... AGAIN. It wasn't the first time the scrawny leader had failed to make an appearance at a meeting he himself had organized, but it was the fifth time in a row just this week, and Modry was sick of Nephrite's excuses.
"Chill Modry! I was just browsing around at the retail shop, and finding a cool new outfit took longer than I expected. You think looking this swag is easy? It's not! Just the hair alone is a nightmare! It's so hard to get that perfect balance between not-a-tangled-mess and devilishly-hansom-scruffiness!"
That was the excuse he had used the last time he was late. She was getting really annoyed by most of his excuses involving his need to look, as he put it, 'swag'. There had only been one excuse Nephrite had given that had seemed like a genuine reason to be late rather than just a cover story to avoid getting into trouble with his second-in-command.
"Yo, sorry Modry! Would've been here sooner but I promised Seraphina I'd buy her something at the jewelry shop today, and the movie we watched before hand ran later than we expected. I couldn't just go back on my word and cancel the trip to the jewelers!"
Seraphina was Nephrite's latest girlfriend, and Modry was mildly surprised at how long the relationship had lasted already. Most of the girls that Nephrite managed to talk into giving him a chance dumped him a week or two after they started dating, usually saying that he was too annoying or too noisy or too much of a party animal, all of which were accurate descriptions of Nephrite. Seraphina on the other hand seemed to actually plan on sticking around, a fact that had Nephrite in a seemingly constant state of jubilation. Modry couldn't really get too upset at him for being late for the sake of keeping a promise to the only girl that had manage to tolerate his... unusual personality for six full months. This occasion however had her more upset than normal. Zondigen had said he'd seen Nephrite arrive back at the base, yet he hadn't come to the meeting. Nephrite would have a very hard time talking his way out of this one.
Modry stopped walking as she reached the door at the end of the hallway that led into the party room. She had already checked Nephrite's room, and he hadn't been there, so if there was any room in the entire base he'd most likely be in other than his own room, it was the party room. However a certain smell that just barely wafted from the other side of the door caught Modry's attention, and caused her to hesitate. It was a smell Modry was very familiar with. The stench of it often clung to Nephrite, especially during parties. It was the smell of alcohol. Nephrite was drinking again. Modry's annoyance escalated into full on anger. She had never approved of Nephrite's extreme alcoholism, and if the smell was anything to go by, he was drinking a lot more than usual. For Nephrite, that meant a level of alcohol that would probably be dangerous if not for his poison-purging semblance.
Modry braced herself to face a wave of liquor-based fumes before she reached for the door knob. It was high time Nephrite got the stern talking to he had earned over the past week. Modry opened the door and, as expected, instantly was greeted by the nose-burning sent of a large number of mixed drinks. Thanks to all the time she'd spent around Nephrite, she was able to distinguish the sent of certain liquors from others. It smelled like Nephrite had been drinking mostly vodka. That was odd. Vodka was one of Nephrite's favorite alcoholic beverages. He usually only broke open his vodka stash for special occasions.
It took less than two seconds for Modry to pinpoint Nephrite's exact location in the party room. There wasn't a party currently going on, so there was no crowd to scan, and the burning stench of vodka had already told her that he'd be sitting at the bar. And there he was, his face buried in his arms as he rested his head on the counter top, which was littered with more bottles than Modry cared to count. Based off of how Nephrite was positioned, she guessed he had passed out. Not something new for her to have to deal with. She marched over to Nephrite, ready to give him a lecture that would make him regret even looking at those bottles of vodka.
"Nephrite!" She said as she walked over, speaking louder than her usual quite and monotone voice in an attempting to wake Nephrite in such a way that would surely worsen his inevitable hangover headache. "This is the fifth time this week you've been late for a meeting! I let it slide with a warning the last few times but this is..." she stopped mid-sentence. She had grabbed Nephrite by the shoulder upon reaching him, and yanked him in such a way as to force him to face her. The expression she was greeted with shocked her, as it wasn't at all the one she had been expecting to see.
She had expected Nephrite to be dazed and half-conscious, with his eyes completely out of focus due to the high intake of alcohol, and perhaps a silly grin on his face knowing his drunken habits. None of these things were present on Nephrite's face. His expression was a mix of surprise and sadness, making it obvious that he hadn't expected Modry to come find him. What worried Modry though was his eyes. They were completely focused, a sigh that Nephrite had been using his semblance to keep himself sober, something he rarely bothered to do, but that wasn't the worrying detail. His normally crazy and joy-filled green eyes were red and puffy, filled with un-shed tears, and were the source of several long tear tracks running down his cheeks. Nephrite had been crying. That was a VERY bad sign!
Other people might not have thought about it much, everyone has bad days. But to someone like Modry, who had known Nephrite her entire life, who had grown up as one of his closest friends and knew him better than anyone else, she knew that Nephrite and 'Crying' belonged in the same sentence about as much much as she and 'Noisy' belonged in the same sentence, which is to say, not at all. Nephrite hardly let anything get to him at all. Even on days where one of Nephrite's previous girlfriends had broken up with him, the most negative he had been about it was a slight mopey-ness for a few hours.
Nephrite was a bounce-back kind of guy. Something getting him to be mopey was difficult, but something making him cry was almost completely unheard of! Sure, there had been a few times when he was younger where he'd cry because he was too young to understand that the monsters in the haunted houses they sometimes visited at Halloween weren't real, or when he'd tried to pull off some insane stunt and gotten himself injured, but those were all things that had happened when he was a lot younger, and none of those instances of him crying were caused by sadness, always fear or physical pain. This time, his expression said differently.
Modry's concern grew slightly as his surprised expression change solely to one of absolute misery. He lowered his head to the counter again, this time with his chin resting on his arms. Tears continued to roll down his cheeks, and he sniffled frequently in an attempt to prevent his nose from running. What he said did nothing to ease Modry's worries.
"If you're gonna yell at me, just get it over with. Can't possibly make my day any worse than it already is."
His voice was hoarse to an extent that indicated he'd likely been crying for hours now, and the fact he was resigning himself to Modry's initial show of annoyance without making any excuses or cracking any jokes was very out of the ordinary. He raised a bottle of vodka that Modry only just now noticed he had been holding in his right hand to his mouth and took a long swig from it. Apparently it had been the last swig too, because Nephrite gazed down the neck of the bottle momentarily to check it's contents, and then promptly gave it a half-hearted toss onto the pile of previously discarded liquor bottles before reaching for the next in the line up.
Modry was still trying to wrap her head around Nephrite being sad, but that didn't distract her enough to prevent her from quickly snatching the remainder of Nephrite's vodka bottles away from him and moving them far out of his current reach. She expected Nephrite to protest, as he normally did anytime she so much as threatened to take away his alcohol, but instead, he let his hand drop to swing on the opposite side of the counter, still using his left arm as a means of propping his head up. Modry took a deep breath to help clear her thoughts before carefully choosing her next words.
"Nephrite, Zondigen informed me that you had arrived at the base, but you weren't at the meeting. Is there any particular reason?"
Nephrite seemed to shrink down into the bar counter as fresh tears filled his eyes. Modry wanted to ask what was wrong, but she was hesitant to ask right away. Sure Nephrite had been her friend for as long as she could remember, but that didn't entitle her to know everything that was going on his life, and if something bad enough to make Nephrite genuinely cry out of sadness was going on, was it really something that was any of her business anyways?
"I'm sorry Modry." was all Nephrite said. No excuses, no blame dodging jokes, not even the nervous chuckle he often gave out when he was caught doing something Modry disapproved of. Just an apology. Something was very VERY wrong.
"Apology accepted, but you still haven't answered my question. Is there a reason you're late?"
Nephrite once again seemed to deflate. Whatever the reason he had for being late was, he seemed very hesitant to talk about it. Yet another odd behavior from the raven-haired crime boss. On top of being a party-er, Nephrite was usually quite the talker. There was very little he wasn't willing to share about himself, and what he did keep secret was a secret for a reason. Nephrite released a series of sniffles before responding.
"I... I'm sorry Modry. I... " He seemed to be choking on his words. "I've had a really crummy day. ...I know that's no excuse. I'm sorry. Y-you can yell at me if you want."
The situation was getting more worrying by the minute. He wasn't even trying for an excuse, and he was practically inviting the expected punishment. Did he seriously expect Modry to just not take notice of the fact he was crying? Or failing that, did he expect her not to care? The latter of the two possibilities bothered her somewhat. She knew she wasn't the best at expressing herself, but surely Nephrite knew that her social awkwardness wasn't caused by a lack of sympathy.
"...I'm not going to yell at you Nephrite, at least not right now. If you're having a bad day, I don't want to add to that."
Modry hesitated to ask her next question. She didn't particularly like butting her nose in on situations that she might not be welcomed to hear. But this was Nephrite she was talking to, he was her best friend, and he was an open book to most strangers. If anyone could get Nephrite to talk about what was bothering him, it was Modry.
"Do you by any chance want to talk about why your day was so bad?"
Nephrite's face scrunched up slightly as a fresh wave of tears hit him, and Modry was afraid she had only upset him further. He did his best to choke back the sobs, but clearly talking about why his day had been a bad one was painful for him to think about. Modry quickly made an attempt to remedy her mistake as best as she could.
"If you don't feel like talking about it you don't have to. I just thought that getting it off your chest might help."
Nephrite didn't really respond to this statement. He simply continued to fight back the tears, and possibly his urge to reach for one of the vodka bottles that Modry had stolen. It was an odd feeling for Modry, but for once, she almost felt bad about taking away his alcohol. She still didn't approve of him drinking so much, but she still felt a little bit guilty about having removed what had apparently been Nephrite's only coping mechanism. Modry released a sigh and decided it was probably best to just leave Nephrite to his thoughts for a while. He was a strong individual. Surely he could handle whatever it was that was bothering him given enough time. Modry turned on her heels and started walking back the way she had came.
"I'll just leave you be for the time being. I'll inform the others that the meeting will be rescheduled." She stopped walking long enough to ask him a question. "Do you think you can manage to get to the meeting if I reschedule it for this evening?"
The question might have sounded like she was asking if he would be late again, but her real meaning behind asking it was to see if Nephrite felt like he could recover by then. At first, it seemed like Nephrite wasn't going to give a response. He simply sat there, choking back sobs and staring at nothing. Modry sighed.
"Perhaps tomorrow morning would be better." Modry turned back towards the door and was about ready to walk out when she heard Nephrite give a faint response.
"She cheated on me."
Modry froze in place. It took her a few seconds to put the pieces together, but as soon as she did, the picture that formed in her mind was not a pretty one. Her worry for Nephrite was now mixed with a deep rooted anger towards Seraphina. Modry hated people that cheated, and the fact that her best friend was now the victim of such cruel carelessness only made her more upset. Modry turned back towards Nephrite and walked back over to his side. She waited patiently for Nephrite to say more, unsure of what exactly to say herself.
"I was walking past a cafe on the way back to base. She was hanging out with some jock looking dude." Nephrite had to bite back a sob before he continued. "I didn't think much about it at first. I thought that maybe he was just a friend or a relative or something... but... " Nephrite hesitated, clearly troubled by the memory.
Modry hesitantly put a hand on Nephrite's shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. She wasn't overly fond of physical contact, but this was one occasion where she could make an exception. Nephrite buried his face in his arm as another wave of sobs hit him. He shook violently as he cried, and Modry wished she was better at dealing with people so that she could better help her friend. Nephrite reached up and grabbed Modry's hand, drawing on what little strength her presence provided in order to regain his composure. He took a shaky breath before continuing his story.
"The guy asked when Seraphina was gonna drop 'the other guy' so they could spend more time together, and... and... S-Seraphina said she'd dump me as soon as she knew she couldn't get any more money out of me!"
Nephrite continued to shake as he cried, and Modry's anger grew at hearing what Seraphina had said. Cheating on Nephrite was bad enough, but hearing that she had just been using Nephrite to get to his money was infuriating. Modry was very tempted to punch Seraphina the next time they crossed paths.
Perhaps it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to Modry that Seraphina had been using Nephrite. Nephrite always liked to brag about anything he was capable of bragging about, and one of those things was how rich his family was. Everyone in the SIN-dicate knew Nephrite came from a wealthy family, but Modry was the only one that knew just how absurdly rich the Sin family was. They had mansions in all four kingdoms, all of which were outfitted with more luxuries than any normal person could ever need. Plus they provided most of the financial support for basic SIN-dicate operations. Calling Nephrite's family billionaires would have been an understatement. Seraphina knowing about this vast fortune would certainly explain why she never hesitated to ask Nephrite to buy something for her when she saw something she wanted.
Yet despite the warning signs, somehow neither of them had seen this coming. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck around for half a year without complaining about Nephrite's personality, or the fact she had made such a good first impression when meeting Nephrite's friends. As frustrated as Modry was, she could only imagine how terribly Nephrite must have been feeling right now. He was too simple minded to have considered the idea that someone would use him for his money, and he had clearly gotten very attached to Seraphina in the six months they had been dating. To someone as childishly innocent as Nephrite, a betrayal like this must be absolutely devastating.
Modry wished she could think of a better way to comfort Nephrite than just letting her hand rest on his shoulder, but what could she possibly say in this situation that would give Nephrite any sort of comfort? She could make the logical argument that someone like Seraphina didn't deserve Nephrite, but that wouldn't stop the betrayal from hurting. Should she try and get the other SIN-dicate members? Modry considered the idea briefly, but came to the conclusion it wasn't a good idea to inform the others. Nephrite needed someone to talk to, so she couldn't just leave him alone again, and while Nephrite might have been willing to talk to Modry about Seraphina's betrayal, she couldn't be sure he'd extend that same amount of trust to people that hadn't known him as long as she had.
Modry did the only thing she could think of that she had confidence would work. She gave Nephrite a hug. Giving out a hug was an awkward gesture for Modry given her discomfort with unnecessary physical contact, but she was at least somewhat use to hugs from Nephrite due to a combination of their life-long friendship and his overly excitable nature. Nephrite wasn't the best listener, so using words to comfort him wasn't the most effective method. But as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words, and Nephrite's response to the hug was almost immediate. He seemed caught off guard by the hug at first, but swiftly returned it, throwing his arms around Modry's neck and clinging to her like a life line. Nephrite continued to shake as he cried onto Modry shoulder.
"I just don't get it!" He spoke between sobs and sniffles. "I thought she actually liked me! What did I do to mess it up!?"
Seraphina was lucky Modry had such a great degree of self control, other wise it was very likely she'd be on the receiving end of a very angry punch the next time they ran into each other. How Nephrite was able to blame himself for this was baffling to Modry.
"I'm sure you didn't do anything wrong Nephrite. She just wasn't what you thought she was. This isn't your fault."
Modry hoped her words would get through to Nephrite, but based on how he responded, he either didn't listen to, or didn't believe what she had said.
"I did everything I could to make her happy! I took her out to dinner! I took her to see movies! I bought her gifts! I made jokes! I gave her a hug every day! What did I do wrong!?"
"Nephrite, listen to me. This isn't your fault. You need to stop blaming yourself."
Modry's advice continued to fall on deaf ears as Nephrite's crying continued. Modry was very tempted to pull away from Nephrite in order to escape the overwhelming stench of alcohol that was clinging to him, but given his current emotional state, she wasn't about to remove herself as a source of support for him just yet. Nephrite cried for several minutes before he spoke again, and his hug seemed to tighten ever so slightly, as if he was afraid Modry would decide that hugging him was no longer worth the trouble.
"I'm total trash aren't I? I can't get anyone to stick around for more than two weeks unless the only thing they care about is my money. All I ever do is annoy people, even when I'm just trying to make them happy." Nephrite sniffled before finishing his thoughts. "I wouldn't blame you if you hated me too. No one should have to deal with trash like me, especially for as long as you have."
Nephrite's words worried Modry more so than his crying had. Modry's memories of Nephrite being hard on himself were more rare than memories of him crying. Hearing him talking in such a self deprecating manner made her worry just how much damage Seraphina had done to Nephrite by betraying him. Modry was really having a hard time convincing herself that punching Seraphina wouldn't be worth it. She took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her anger, and tried very hard not to think about her current hatred of Seraphina. Nephrite needed reassurance, and being angry at Seraphina wasn't going to help with that.
"Nephrite, I don't hate you." Modry intentionally emphasized the word 'don't'. "I've never hated you, and I highly doubt I ever will hate you. You might be a little... frustrating at times, but you're a good person, and you shouldn't be degrading yourself like this. You did nothing wrong. This isn't your fault."
Nephrite didn't give a response, which made it difficult for Modry to tell whether or not her words had gotten through to him, or if they had any effect. Nephrite just clung tighter to Modry and continued to sob uncontrollably. Modry hesitantly patted Nephrite's back in an attempt to provide further comfort. Several minutes passed, and the hug was starting to become rather awkward for Modry. However, Nephrite very slowly seemed to be calming down some, so she refused to pull away. She had gotten so used to the only noise being Nephrite's crying that it was almost startling when he finally spoke again.
"Hey, Modry, can I ask something really selfish?"
Modry wondered what Nephrite would want to ask that would make him refer to it as 'selfish', but given his current emotional state, it was possible he was still belittling himself by assuming that anything he requested would be selfish.
"What is it Nephrite?" She responded.
"Promise you won't ever abandon me?"
Modry was caught off guard by the request. It was both flattering and somewhat embarrassing to hear Nephrite of all people ask something like that in such a genuine and heartfelt manner. Nephrite almost never said anything in a heartfelt way. He could be dead serious when he said something, but rarely did he say it in a way that conveyed just how serious he was. Now he was asking Modry to promise not to ever abandon him, and it was one of those rare instances where he was being heartfelt. Before Modry could fully recover from her surprise, Nephrite continued speaking.
"I know I'm a pain to put up with, and I probably don't deserve a friend like you, but you're the only person I've got that I know can talk to no matter what. I know I've got the other SIN-dicate members, but the longest I've known any of them is a few years. I've know you for literally as long as I could remember. Loosing one of the others would hurt like crazy, but loosing you would be like loosing a limb. I don't want to loose my best friend. So please... please promise you're not gonna abandon me."
Modry couldn't help feeling slightly flustered by Nephrite's words. There were times she got so used to seeing him behaving in his usual wild and life-loving manner that she forgot just how serious he could be. She took a deep breath to calm herself down before giving her reply.
"Don't worry Nephrite. I promise I won't abandon you."
Modry couldn't see it while hugging Nephrite, but for the first time since he had overheard Seraphina talking about leaving him, Nephrite smiled.
"Thanks Modry. You're the best. Even if your hair does make you look like a bluebell."
"Yeah, ya know, blue flowers, a little bit darker than your hair."
Modry smiled slightly and pulled out of the hug. Nephrite was making jokes again. He was definitely feeling better.
"If having blue hair makes me a bluebell, then what does having black hair make you?"
Nephrite gave Modry one of his signature crooked ear to ear grins, and flicked his shaggy bangs in a dramatic fashion.
"Fabulous!" was Nephrite's only response.
Modry shook her head at Nephrite's silly response, but couldn't help smiling when she saw Nephrite grin. She knew he wasn't fully recovered and was just hiding what was left of the sorrow, but it was nice to see him smiling again. It always surprised her how fast she could start missing that grin during the rare occasions it disappeared.