There is no greater glory than love, nor any greater punishment than jealousy.Lope de Vega
University of Britchester Student gym
The clinking of the metal, mixed with the light moans due to the strenuous activity, was somehow mesmerizing to Vivien, she stopped her own efforts on the treadmill to hydrate and wipe down a little, but got caught up watching him instead, unable to tear her eyes away.
Naturally he noticed, slightly distracted at first he continued, then stopped to look at her directly.
“Nothing. Can I not look at you?”
“Look, yes. But you have been staring. See anything you like?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, you arrogant prick. Just didn’t know there is a timer on such things.”
Without a response he got up, to face her, somehow he seemed taller than usual as he stood before her.
“Water?” she offered her bottle.
“Got my own.” he retorted.
“Well, mine’s right here.”
He took the bottle, smirking, and before he started drinking said
“Hopefully your water is better than your cooking.”
She lightly punched his chest which barely affected him, chuckling he finished off the contents of her bottle.
“Ouch, damn you’re hard like a rock.”
“That’s what she said.” he retorted, followed by a burp.
“That’s disgusting, all of that. You are disgusting! But seriously … man Liam … I knew you were athletic, but I don’t think I ever realized how ripped you really were. You could model for some sports line like this.”
“Well, been working out a LOT over the past year. Helps keep me balanced with all that learning. Gotta blow off steam somehow.”
Running her fingertips over his muscular chest through his hoodie, damp with sweat, she looked up at him.
“You need a girlfriend. We need to get you back on the market pronto. It’s a sin to let this go to waste.”
“Waste? Jeeze, you sound like my dick’s gonna fall off tomorrow or something. I don’t have the time or nerves to waste on some chick right now, too distracting all that drama always, plus, I get all the drama I can handle with you! And we talked about it, you know my stance on this: No additional estrogen on my full schedule until maybe after graduation and once I have a job and all that, even then all I am willing to commit to is maybe some light dating, the no-strings type, but no promises … May just go the nameless one-night-stand route.”
“LIAM! You are fucking 21 years old! You need a real relationship, you have been single for almost 2 years straight. When is the last time you have even gotten laid? Probably too long ago, that’s why you’re always so grumpy.”
“Aaaaaand we are DONE with this workout and chat. We’ll save the how much action my below the belt region is seeing these days discussion for some other day, after a bunch of beers probably when my diarrhea of the mouth sets in anyway to make your interrogation easier, but right now I’ll take my grumpy sweaty firm 100% single and loving it ass in the shower. Oh, and Viv … I know how you get when you latched on to something you think you need to fix, but please try to stay out of the men’s locker room … this time!”
Vivien blushed when he reminded her of a faux pas of hers from some weeks ago when in a sort of study daze she needed to talk to her boyfriend Malik urgently, who had been working out at the U-Brite gym with Liam, and without thinking ended up busting into the male locker room on about a dozen barely clad male students, including Liam and Malik. Whoops.
Chuckling, Liam left her to simmer in the memory of that day. Yikes.
University of Britchester On-Campus Housing Cameron/Vatore
Later, back at their home on campus, they were debating about dinner, when someone knocked. It was Malik.
“Hey baby … guess who set a new record on the stationary bike today. My ass should be hard enough to crack nuts by now.” Vivien greeted him after he entered.
“Hmmm … I’d like to hear more about dat ass…” Malik wrapped his arms around her, hands on her rear end, as they began to make out.
“I wouldn’t!” piped up Liam.
“Sorry L-Man. What’s up, brother?” Malik said grinning, as he and Vivien pulled away from each other.
“Not dinner!” Liam retorted.
“Gets grouchy when he’s hungry. Like an old man.” Vivien explained.
“PIZZA!” Liam whined.
“Nah, I got a better idea. I can hook us all up. I took a wrong turn the other day and stumbled onto this handmade burger place …” Malik said.
“Not burgers AGAIN!” complained Vivien.
“Hear the man out. What about those burgers?” Liam stood up, listening.
“Okay fine, we’ll do the burgers before Liam here gets off on you talking about them. My treat, for the two bestetsestest, most amazing dudes I know. Except family of course.” Vivien said, while reaching for her purse.
“I AM family.” Liam said.
“Distant family. I meant immediate. But you count either way, Liam.”
“Ahem … yay? Never felt more special …”
Malik took the money Vivien had pulled from her wallet while talking, kissed her a little too long for Liam’s taste, causing him to protest, so Malik left, flipping him off, grinning.
“You are such a whiny baby! I think you boys call this getting cockblocked. You cockblocked me, Liam!” Vivien told Liam, leaning against the door.
“I don’t care if you screw him right here on the floor, AFTER we have food, I am fucking HUNGRY! You and Malik get it on often enough, walls are still paper-thin, I can hear you guys even with noise-cancelling headphones on, so I am sure you can wait until after dinner to jump his bones. I am wasting away here!” Liam held back.
“Seriously, you are too much sometimes! Living with you for so long has thoroughly toughened me for life, that’s for sure! I don’t even know if I want kids one day or not, but if I ever have one, no whining in the world could even faze me, thanks to ‘Patience Bootcamp Liam Cameron’!”
“I am the Patience Bootcamp, huh? I spent 4 years listening to you either howling that stupid, repetitive, nerve-grinding shit you call singing practice, followed by the same fucking chords on the guitar over and over and over and over almost every damn day! I have to be the most patient fucker in the world, tungsten steel nerves or else I would be dangling from a rope on the ceiling in my room, swaying to the rhythm of you and Malik’s wall-shaking humping in your room! Self-preservation is what that’s called!”
“You have a vivid imagination, Liam! Malik and I don’t do it as much as you pretend and even if we did, my bed doesn’t even touch the wall that borders your room, there is no way you could feel or hear anything! But I am in a good mood now, because Malik is going to spend the night and you bet we are gonna get kinky because I have barely seen him all week, so I will ignore your low-blow. But wow, Liam, you know what just occurred to me? 4 years is a LONG time if you think about it. We’re like an old couple, you and I. Minus the couple part of course.”
“Yeah, gonna be really weird after graduation when we move back home and there’s 6000 miles between us, meaning we’ll see each other for holidays and family events only like before.”
“I am gonna miss you so.”
“Me too. Despite the terrible noise level and it smelling – and looking – like someone boiled a rabid cat in here every time you try to cook.”
“You can be such an asshole! How can you go from super-sweet to full on douche bag in a split-second like that? I thought we had a moment there! Besides, you know that my mom and her side of the family couldn’t teach me how to cook, you know very well why. And do you really think my celebrity grandparents and father sat in the kitchen to bake cookies with me in between tour bus, performances and recording studio? They all managed to get me and my siblings fed, but none of them would even think to do the step-by-step for kids routine with any of us. I had to learn what little I know from YOUR grandma during Windenburg visits and wing the rest. Win some, lose some.”
“Well, now you know why I am the only man on record who can cook a decent meal at 21 years of age, my mom and her mom are chefs, my other grandma and sisters are very domestic and I grew up having to cook and bake with them all. But still, I’d like to keep my balls and not turn into the stay-at-home mom around here every day. Man needs a break.”
“Oh, boohoo. Full of yourself much?”
“I am going to be an attorney, so that is a pre-requisite. Can you imagine a shy lawyer trying to convince judge and jury of something? No, me neither.”
“Yeah … good point. Wish I had half of your confidence. Whenever I perform, I get more and more nervous the more people come to watch. Gonna be hard if I ever open for my dad’s concerts. Yikes.”
“Ah, you’ll be fine. You’re like the incredible Hulk. All we need to do is piss you off and you rock that shit. When Vivien Vatore is angry, nothing can scare her. Not even a million of her father’s fans, most of them frustrated housewives and pubescent teen girls all with their panties on fire for Blaine in his tight jeans. Tough crowd for sure.”
“You know I don’t have concerts yet, right, so why do you piss me off so much then?” she quipped.
“Need to stay in training for when the big day comes, so I can shine then and come through for ya.” he quipped back.
“Oh Liam. I am not looking forward to not living with you anymore. Honestly, frightens me a little.”
She leaned against him with a comfortable ease and he just automatically folded his arm around her, then sighed.
“Yeah, me too.”
Malik arrived with the burgers, they ate together, laughed, watched two movies in a row. Well, Liam watched. Vivien and Malik missed most of whatever happened on screen.
Eventually Malik went to the bathroom, while Liam and Vivien cleaned up, talking, laughing, until they both turned and ran right into each other, Vivien ended up spilling a half-empty can of coke over him which she had piled on a stack of used plates.
“OW! Feels like I ran into a concrete wall! You really are firm!” she complained, while trying to frantically wipe his shirt clean with her bare hands.
“Thanks, you should feel my upper body then.” Liam joked while evaluating the ‘damage’ then just ended up slipping off his tee, tossing it carelessly on one of the chairs.
“Eeeew, that’s just gross!”
“What? My torso or my joke? After four years living with me you should be used to both.” he told her, while she stared at his now bare chest.
“I will never get used to this.” her words could mean different things, especially since she couldn’t seem to not stare at his exposed chest.
They teased each other a little more, tickled one another, then giggling ended up in a sort of friendly hug, Liam’s arm resting on her narrow shoulders, Vivien couldn’t help but playfully run her fingertips over his chest again.
“The fuck is that now?!” roared Malik from the door. He looked upset.
“Nothing …” Vivien said surprised at his tone as she quickly stepped away from Liam, who lowered his arm.
“What the fuck are you holding onto my girl for! And why are you all up in his business, fondling his shit?!” Malik’s voice made clear he was angry.
Liam glared at Malik.
“Chill man, what’s your problem?” Liam grumbled.
“YOU are my problem! That shit is disgusting!” Malik barked back at him.
“What are you talking about, baby?” Vivien wondered, trying to diffuse whatever this was, she stepped closer to Malik, but he stepped out of reach.
“You two, that’s what! I am talking about you two getting ready to take it X-rated!”
“We weren’t! He just hugged me … totally harmless.”
“So harmless that he needed to take his shirt of for it?! I always thought you two seemed a little close for family, but now I am pretty sure you’re fucking too. If I weren’t here you’d be smashing on the fucking kitchen table already!” Malik accused them, making Vivien gasp.
“Hey, dude, watch it! You are crossing a line!” Liam warned.
“Me? I ain’t crossing shit. I am not fucking my cousin, you fucking inbred entitled white asshole!”
Liam just punched Malik and the fight started. Vivien tried to break it up, but it wasn’t until she got thrown back trying to interfere, landing on her butt that both young men stopped, breathless.
“Shit! Viv, you okay?!” Liam was first to react, crouching down to assist her, under the angry glares of an explosively angry Malik.
“You know what?! Fuck it! Fuck this and fuck you both! You can have the cunt!” he yelled, then ran out, slamming the front door shut behind himself so hard that the dishes in the kitchen cupboards clinked.
“Malik!” Vivien called out, now back on her feet.
“Fucker was off his meds tonight!” Liam roared.
“Liam, what do I do now? Should I go after him? Even after what he said to me? Liam, you’re a dude, help me! What is going on here?”
“Trust me, you don’t wanna know what I’m thinking right now!” he growled, turning to the fridge to take out a beer, which he opened and chugged a few gulps smoothly, while Vivien just stared at him.
“LIAM! How can you stand there drinking beer like nothing happened?! Malik is angry with me over nothing, and he thinks we … OMG! That’s just …. urgh. What if he tells people and they believe it?! We have to do something!”
“What would you have me do? Fall to my knees, raise my hands to heaven and cry? Go after him and beat his fucked-up thoughts out of his skull? You know we’re not screwing, I know it, so he can kiss my ass. He’s a fucking dick, I thought that several times over the past few months especially. At first I thought it was just the stress about finals getting the best of him, like it does to all of us sometimes, but now I am just not buying his come to Jesus moment story anymore. Thinking he played nice so we help him study and you pay for food and entertainment, now that all that is almost over his real full assholey-ness keeps showing. You better be careful with that guy. Something’s not kosher.”
“What are you talking about?! I thought you liked Malik. You’re like friends!”
“I do like him, wouldn’t go as far as calling us friends though. I was nice to him because of you. Just don’t think you and he should be a couple. You are worlds apart in almost every aspect. Even Nikki thinks so, and she would know him best out of all of us, seeing how she’s his cousin and grew up with that dick.”
“Nikki?! Why would you know what Nikki thinks? Oh no … please don’t tell me you nailed my best friend! LIAM!”
“No, I did not nail Nikki. She’s cool, we talk when she visits you, and Malik and you came up a couple times. She agrees. Thinks that shit was doomed from the start, both of us surprised it lasted this long. Besides, FYI – I don’t do small talk in the bedroom. If a chick gets too chatty, I shove my dick in her mouth to shut that down.”
“Quit being so gross! That’s just …. urgh …. We have a situation! I need your help!”
“What situation? You had a fight with your boyfriend. Couples fight, it’s a part of life. Give him time to simmer down. Maybe he’ll come crawling back apologizing tomorrow, like last time. Just know, he has a serious jealousy problem. I noticed that plenty. That’s never a good thing. I would know, speaking from experience here, I used to be like that.”
“He just loves me, so he gets a bit jealous sometimes, that’s normal. I wouldn’t like him talking to girls … not like I was talking to a boy that last time you are talking about, but … well, you were there. He just thought … but … it was harmless.”
“Yeah, and the time before that at the party we got kicked out of because of him, the time we got kicked out of the club because of him, the time he started something at the fairground, and the time before that when he laid out the pizza delivery guy because he thought he was hitting on you, when you just giggled while paying him … now this here tonight … it’s a problem, Viv.”
Vivien looked miserable, went to her room, trying to call Malik, but was sent straight to voicemail. Her texts went unanswered.
She ended up crying herself to sleep.
University of Foxbury Dorm house Cameron/Williams/et al
The next morning she tried in vain again, then went over to the Foxbury campus, where he lived. Ethan, another second cousin of Vivien’s and Malik’s roommate, opened for her.
“Is he home?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah … but …. Viv, if I were you, I wouldn’t …” Ethan hesitated.
“Look, I am sure you noticed, but … we had a bit of a fight …”
“Yeah, I know, so did we.” Ethan said.
“You argued with Malik?”
“Yup. He came in when I was on the couch with Sandy, you know, Netflix and chill kinda night since he wasn’t gonna be home, staying with you, until he came bursting in… and just laid into me, something about us Camerons being nasty inbreds, telling me to take my ‘thot’ elsewhere. Poor Sandra! She was almost in tears. I told him what I thought of his asshole move, and we almost ended up throwing down. Instead he went outside to punch some trees.”
“I know, totally psycho. Sandra left. He scared her. I almost went with her. He was like in a drunk rage, not even himself. I don’t know what happened between you two, but he is super-angry.”
“I’ll go talk to him.”
“Viv, I wouldn’t. He’s not much better this morning. Like on the douchemeter he’s topping out. If he doesn’t chill out, I am seriously gonna ask for a new rooming assignment. If I were you, I’d leave him be. No telling how crazy he could get.”
“Like I am scared now? Ha, watch this!” Vivien was fuming now.
Bursting into the boys’ shared room without bothering to knock, she could instantly see how upset he still was.
“Knock much? I could have been in the middle of fucking Nikki in here.” his words oozed sarcasm and anger.
“WHAT THE HELL, MALIK!? Did you hit your head or something? Quit it with the incest BS and why are you not answering my calls or texts? Clearly we have to talk. So if you got something to say, say it. But let’s be reasonable, okay?”
“Reasonable? Me? I always suspected it, but last night I got my confirmation … “
“What are you talking about?! Liam and I are friends! We have been friends since we were toddlers! We hug. We touch each other – but never inappropriately. He is my cousin and one of my best friends!”
“Second cousin, as you both like to point out. Now I know why. Makes it a lot less related and a lot less weird … at least for you two. For the rest of the world it’s still fucking nasty!”
“Stop it! Quit saying that! Liam and I never did … that. That’s disgusting!”
“Tell me about it.”
“Malik, baby, please stop this. I love YOU. Only YOU. You know this. I love my family … all of my family and we are all very close …”
“Yeah, I know. You love them all, but Liam just a bit too much for my taste. Now get that nasty incest ass out of my room.”
“Take that back!”
“Get out!” he pulled her to the door.
“Malik, if you do this, if you kick me out now, we are done. We’re over! I am warning you!”
“Perfect. Bye.” he had opened the door during her threat, now pushed her through it, then slammed it back shut behind her so hard that the walls shook.
In complete disbelief Vivien stood there, starting at the other side of the shut door, trying to digest the incomprehensible scene, while the first tears fell. Ethan tried to calm her but she just pulled away from him and ran out.