"Heh." Jae's laugh was barely more than an exhalation of his remaining tension, but it was
a laugh, and it was genuine. "I think my parents are a little better than the paparazzi, at least. They'll make sure all the pictures are decent."
He felt... how did he feel? The pain behind his eye that had been threatening to become a full-blown headache had mostly receded. His heart rate seemed more or less back to normal. His hands weren't shaking anymore, from withdrawal or nerves.
He supposed that he felt good. Just good. Content, maybe. It had been a while since he'd felt that way.
"Thanks," he said, not entirely knowing what he was thanking Hazel for. She deserved his thanks for a lot of things, probably. For giving him a chance again and again, for being someone he could rely on when he needed it. For... all of this, whatever it might turn out to be.
Jae leaned forward for a moment, resting his elbows on his knees. He didn't say anything else for a bit, wanting to just snapshot this moment in his mind and preserve it. He felt good. Things were going to be okay. Whatever had been bothering him, it wasn't forever. He'd needed a good friend - maybe something more, but a good friend above all else - to remind him of that.
He closed his eyes briefly and exhaled once again before looking at Hazel. "We can talk about it later, if you want. We should probably go and actually look at that homework, and I think I'm going to start getting all mushy if I'm allowed to just think about things any longer. I don't think you want to deal with that right now." He gave her a lopsided smile before standing and offering her a hand up.
Even algebra homework didn't loom quite so forbiddingly over his head when he was in good company.
((Min-jae Parker continued in Hell is Other People