What’s That Sound? Poor Life Choices.

The world spun. The sun burned. The blankets stuck to her skin like an extra layer and they wrapped around her without regard to her desire for freedom. In the distance, the sound of vomiting was almost certainly what had woken her.
Sophia groaned.
“You’re awake!” The grating sound of a voice nearby made Sophia want to vomit, and not just because she was enduring the hangover from hell. No, it was because the voice belonged to Benjamin Morris. It was because the sweet moment between sleep and waking had faded away. It was because the memory of last night was flooding back all at once.
Mostly it was because she could still hear vomiting from the other room. Poor Madison sounded like she had it far worse than Sophia did. At least, as far as hangovers go. As far as poor life choices and terrible mistakes went, Sophia had her best friend beat.
“Go away.” She moaned, flinging an arm across her face to block out the light and all the dreadful things that came with it. The figure beside her didn’t budge. She hadn’t expected he would. This had been a long time coming, and no matter how hard she’d tried to fight it she’d still ended up in bed next to her best friend’s brother. She could almost feel the smug grin he was directing towards her.
“Come on, sweetheart.” He said, snuggling closer. “Don’t be like that.”
“Don’t touch me.” Sophia snapped. With her words, a sharp bite of electricity zapped out towards him. Benji yelped and jerked back. Sophia grinned, her eyes still closed. She’d meant to throw a wave of energy rather than electricity, but the effect was the same in the end. Hangovers always made her magic go haywire, it was lucky the results hadn’t been more dangerous.
“Soooophiiiieee.” Madison groaned out. The grin was wiped off of Sophia’s face. She pushed herself into a sitting position and dared to open her eyes. She struggled with the blankets, made all that much more difficult when half of them were tucked under and around the mistake laying in the bed beside her.
“I’m coming,” Sophia called, flinging the blankets off her. She wasn’t wearing much and the chilled morning air picked at her skin, causing gooseflesh to rise. She suspected half of that was from feeling eyes tracing over her almost bare body.
Sophia turned around with a glare and yanked the sheets from the bed. Benji yelped again, tumbling off the bed. She ignored him, wrapping the sheet around her shoulders and struggling her way into the bathroom. There, she found Madison Morris kneeling before the toilet that had become her weekend alter. Sophia ran a hand through her dark tangles and sighed.
“I’ve told you not to mix pixie dust and moonshine.” She said. Despite her exasperated tone, she kneeled down beside the other girl and held out a hand. Madison reached for her, grasping her fingers like a lifeline. Sophia dug deep into herself, finding the source of energy that normally came so easy to her. With her own hangover threatening to empty her stomach it was important that she concentrate in order to get this right. It wouldn’t do to kill or lobotomize her best friend because she wasn’t paying attention.
“Fuuuck.” The sound of Benji in the other room, complaining about some injury or other caused by falling off the bed filtered into the bathroom. He continued to grumble nonsense words that Sophie couldn’t quite discern. She knew that it was derogatory though, and so before she dared help her best friend she decided to quiet the other girl’s brother.
From the other room, a startled gargling sound drifted in. Then it cut off entirely.
“What’s that noise?” Madison complained, still gripping tight to Sophia. Sophie, now able to concentrate without the distraction of infuriating half-elven on again off again boyfriends, grinned. She focused on healing the pain in Madison’s head and the nausea that overwhelmed them both before she answered.
“It’s the sound of poor life choices coming back to bite me in the ass.” She said. She felt wholly more capable now that the headache was gone from her head and her best friend looked far more alive.
“Benji.” Madison sighed, shaking her head. She stood up off the bathroom floor and helped Sophia to stand as well. They both made their way into Madison’s room to find the sight of Benji sitting on the floor beside the bed. There were ties around his ankles and wrists, and a length of silk tied over his mouth. He glared up at Sophie, who only giggled at the sight of him.
“Kinky,” Madison said, stepping around her brother to make her way into the nearby closet. She vanished entirely into the thing, leaving Sophia and the bane of her existence alone together.
“Lr Mr Gr,” Benji grumbled through the gag. Sophia cocked her head to the side.
“I’m sorry, were you trying to say something?” She asked. Benji scowled harder. Sophia did not release him from the magical bindings. Instead, she began to pace in front of him and begin a speech she’d planned to give him before the night had turned towards the worst imaginable outcome.
“Look, we can’t keep doing this.” She started. The scoffing sound from Benji was ignored, except perhaps for the way the binds tightened in a threatening manner. “No, I mean it. This isn’t going to work, it never was. Whatever this is, anyway.”
Another disgruntled grunt came from Benji, but he was ignored.
“There are things you don’t understand.” Sophia continued, and she stopped pacing. Her gaze drifted into the middle distance. “What I am, and what you are. They don’t belong together. We don’t belong together. We’re through.”
“R ru griding mr?” Benji shouted through his gag. Sophie turned back to him and seemed almost surprised that he was still sitting there with bound wrists and gagged mouth. She blinked, and the binds disappeared. Benji scrambled to stand up, towering over Sophia. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
“No,” Sophia said, steeling her shoulders. “I mean it this time. No more sneaking off, no more random presents. Please. I can’t do this to myself anymore. I can’t do it to you, either.”
“You idiot.” Benji laughed. He ran a hand through his shaggy hair and shook his head. Sophia glared at him and considered reapplying the bindings. The truth was that Benji was half-elven, though. He could have freed himself at any point and he’d chosen not to. Hope swelled within her that he would honor her wishes in this as well. The incredulous laughter he was letting out seemed to suggest otherwise. “(laughter) I’m sorry it’s not that funny. It’s just- you’re so smart but you still haven’t got it. I don’t care, Sophia. I’ve never cared.”
“What do you mean?” Sophia asked, eyebrow-raising. She’d never considered that this relationship meant nothing to Benji. He’d been chasing her since they were teenagers only beginning to understand the magic they had full grasp of now. From the closet, there was a crashing sound, and both of them glanced towards the partially open doors before returning to their conversation. Madison would call for them if she really ended up lost in there.
“I mean,” Benji started, and then paused. He glanced around the room, but Sophie didn’t she kept her eyes on the man she was trying to save from himself and from her. “Sophia, you aren’t exactly subtle. Did you really think that hiding your world dominations plans under your mattress was clever?”
“I didn’t-” Sophia started, but when Benji looked back at her she knew the game was up. “I mean, they were only ideas. I haven’t-”
“They weren’t bad.” Benji interrupted. Sophia’s mouth clamped shut and her eyes went wide. Benji grinned. “Really, I think they could work. But, I care about you Sophia and I think you’re making a mistake here.”
“Of course.” Sophia snapped, turning away. She didn’t want him to see the disappointment in her eyes. She hated herself for thinking, for even a moment, that this might work. Her plans would be set in motion in less than a week and this really would be the last time she and Benji could be together. He knew, and he thought she was making a mistake. He wouldn’t join her, just like she’d always suspected. This all would have been so much easier if she didn’t care what he thought.
She wasn’t going to stop though. She was going to take over the world and not even the doubts of the man closest to her would get in her way. She didn’t need him. She didn’t need this. She turned towards the closet and the only friend who had ever supported her choices in life.
“Sophia, stop!” Benji called out. She ignored him and ended up slamming into a wall of energy that threw her back into his arms. She struggled, fighting to get away from the one person who could stop her. He held her tight though, and all she managed was to turn around in his arms. “Sophie, please. Stop.”
“I won’t.” She growled, though she did stop struggling. “I won’t give up on this. I don’t care if you think it’s a mistake, I’m taking over the world and that’s it. Either you support me in this or you leave me alone. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” Benji responded, leaning down so that their foreheads pressed together. Sophia shivered and hated how the familiarity of the gesture made her doubt herself and her plans. She steeled herself again, preparing to resort to magic to get free. Prepared to call of Madison if she needed, though she’d never wanted to cause a rift between the siblings. “I think you’ve misunderstood me. I’m not trying to keep you from accomplishing your goals. I’m trying to keep you from falling into the cliche of a lonely villain. You don’t have to do this alone, you know.”
“What?” Sophia asked. She held herself tense and wary. She didn’t want to fall for this. she didn’t want to find herself in a trap years down the road because she fell for the tricks of a hero. Benji had always been her hero despite the antagonistic teasing that always passed between the two of them. Sometimes that teasing had felt more like flirting, after all. But still, she was going to rule the world. She couldn’t fall for some trick and lose it all right at the end.
“Sophia Scott, you are going to be the best empress of the world that ever there was. I believe in you, and I know you can do this without me.” Benji said, still pressing their foreheads together. As he did so, she felt emotions that were not her own, and knew that there would be no lies spoken between them. This was something that Benji had refused to do in the past, even with his sister. Honesty wasn’t his core foundation, yet here he was opening his mind to her. “You don’t have to do it alone though. You don’t have to wall yourself away and refuse love. World domination doesn’t exclude you from having an honest relationship, and I’m not going to stop you from doing anything except this. I will not let you ruin what we have.”
“Benjamin.” Sophia gasped, finally understanding what he’d been trying to say. Joy welled within her and she threw her arms around his shoulders, pulling him in for a fierce kiss. She could see it now, the missing elements to her plans. The parts of her life that wouldn’t have been as fulfilling without someone to share it with. She wouldn’t make Benji do anything he didn’t want to, but from the words and thoughts he’d offered her it seemed that there was nothing he wouldn’t do to keep them together. She was on the verge of crying when another crashing sound came from the closet.
They turned as one to stare at Madison, who was coming out of the closet dressed in a full leather suit and carrying a bayonet. In her other hand was a rope that led a pair of camels out of the little closet. Madison took them in with a raised eyebrow and Sophia gave her a beatific smile.
“Got that sorted then?” Madison asked, and without waiting for an answer she led the camels towards the bedroom door and called out to them over her shoulder. “Good, let’s get going. We have less than a week to iron out these plans and perfect our takeover. Long live Empress Sophia Scott!”

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