"Really? A double-date?" asked Miguel, raising his eyebrows while he pulled his math book out of his locker and stuffed it inside his backpack. He hadn't expected to get that piece of news from Hawk.
"That's what it sounds like," Hawk remarked, watching Miguel close his locker.
He'd been even more surprised when Moon had approached him before English class and asked him if he and Miguel wanted to meet up with her and Piper after school that Friday in Encino for dinner at the Veggie Grill.
They started walking down the hallway towards their classes when Miguel asked, "So, what did you tell her?"
Hawk shrugged. "I said I'd check with you first."
Miguel could appreciate how awkward it must have been for Hawk to be approached by his ex-girlfriend and invited to join her and her new girlfriend for a bite to eat. He wasn't sure how he would've reacted if Sam came out of the blue to see if he wanted to have a double-date with her and Robby. But the chances of that happening were slim to none.
Assuming a nonchalant air, he told Hawk, "I'm cool with it if you are."
Hawk furrowed his brows. He didn't want to admit he was hoping Miguel would give him an out, a reason to decline the invitation, that he would go into jealousy mode and put his foot down or something. And Hawk admonished himself for wishing for that. What a pussy move.
He kept racking his brain to think of a reason why Moon would suddenly extend this kind of invitation to him. The vigilant fighter in him warned that this was some sort of trap. But that didn't gel with the Moon he'd come to know. So he rolled his shoulders again. "It's one way to kill a Friday night, right?"
Miguel smiled and shoved his shoulder. "Like you had any real plans anyway."
Pulling his phone out of his pocket, Hawk hovered his thumb over his list of contacts before texting to Moon: alright we're down.
She wasted no time replying back: great! see you guys there at 5:30 on Friday :)
"Wow, it's more packed than I would've expected for a place like this," remarked Miguel when the four of them entered the restaurant. A lengthy line had formed, crowding around the front door. Only in bougie Encino would a place like this draw such a crowd, he thought to himself.
Piper nodded, noting, "Yeah, looks like this place is pretty popular."
"It's okay, I don't think it'll take long to get a seat," said Moon. She grabbed some menus from the front, handing one to each of them. "At least we can figure out what we want by the time we're seated," she pointed out.
The four of them stood there in line, reading over the selections. Hawk found his eyes glimpsing over the menu to watch Moon and Piper, noting the easy smiles on their faces as they discussed their choices with one another.
It made him feel like a third wheel, even with Miguel standing right beside him. He had to force himself to concentrate on picking out something to eat. There was nothing weird about this.
Trying to loosen himself up, Hawk elbowed Miguel with a smarmy grin, pointing to the menu. Under his breath, he commented, "Check it out, looks like the dipshits here don't know how to spell 'chicken.'"
Surveying the various items on the menu labeled as having "chickin'" as the main feature, Miguel remarked, "I think it's because it's fake chicken. Probably some kind of trademark thing. It's a vegan restaurant, right?"
"Oh. Duh, I knew that." Hawk laughed, trying to save face, but he felt his cheeks warm. He ought to have figured that out on his own. He'd been on enough lunch dates with Moon when they'd been together that he should've known something like that.
"Not to defeat the purpose of coming here, but is there anything on this menu with real meat?" wondered Miguel out loud, doing another look-over. When Hawk just shrugged, he added, "What do you think Sensei would do if someone tried to make him eat an Impossible Burger?"
"He'd probably feed it to the cow and then turn it into burger meat himself, with his bare hands," remarked Hawk, snickering along with Miguel as they both pictured how that scenario would go down. His grin faltered, however, when he caught the disappointed expression on Moon's face.
Miguel must have noticed it, too, because he didn't have any more jokes, either.
Meanwhile, Moon turned her attention back to Piper and asked, "How about the loaded red yams? They're only a hundred and eighty calories."
Piper slid a hand over one of hers. "Babe…."
Catching the implications and her own faux pas, Moon shook her head. "Oh, sorry. You're right, no more calorie-counting."
Miguel pretended to still be poring over the menu. Hawk watched Piper smile and run her finger over the knuckles on Moon's hand before planting a quick kiss on her cheek. "It's alright," she said.
"What about the Immunity Bowl?" suggested Moon instead, pointing to it on the page. "Oh and look, they got carrot cake for dessert, your fave."
Piper's smile spread up her cheeks. "That sounds pretty tasty."
Finally, it was their turn to be seated when a table opened up. They made their orders and grabbed four cups of water, then sat down to chat, the girls sitting on one side, the boys on the other.
Crossing her arms over the table, Moon looked at Hawk and Miguel warmly. "It feels like it's been a long time since we've hung out."
Hawk couldn't think of anything at the moment to say other than, "Haven't really had much to talk about," before lifting his drink and gulping down some water. Since they weren't dating anymore, he and Moon were back to being in separate social circles, as far as he was concerned. It wasn't that he was avoiding her on purpose.
"Well, I still consider you both my friends," declared Moon, "and I hate to see friends lose touch. Like, a couple weeks ago, I was hanging out with Aisha and Tory at the roller rink. I tried getting Sam to come along, but she said she had other plans."
Hawk saw the way Miguel shifted in his seat, and he let out a faint scoff. "Yeah, I'm sure."
Moon shook her head, and her brows pinched together in exasperated confusion. "I don't get why it has to be this big rivalry between your dojos. I think you guys have a lot to learn from each other. I mean, we're all friends, right?"
In the chair beside her, Piper swallowed a sip of water and commented, "I honestly had no clue karate was apparently such serious business around these parts."
Miguel squirmed in his seat again and rubbed the back of his neck. "Um, maybe we should change the topic," he suggested. He recognized a landmine field when he saw one, and preferred not having to walk delicately around it. Not when they were all supposed to be having a fun time.
"Sounds good to me," agreed Hawk, leaning his elbows on the table.
The girls shared a look, but granted their request, dropping karate from the conversation. "So what's it been like for you guys, going out together?" asked Moon instead, sounding genuinely curious.
Hawk's tongue felt thick in his mouth all of a sudden. "Uh, fine. It's been great." Was this sort of thing normal, having one's ex-girlfriend ask about his current relationship so casually, like it was no big deal?
Moon beamed, ear-to-ear. "That's great to hear! Did I tell you guys, I joined the school's GSA group. Maybe you should check it out. There's a couple gay guys in the group, but so far the only bi people there right now are girls."
"And Taylor, they said they consider themself bi," added Piper. "But, yeah, out bi guys are in pretty short supply it feels like."
"Well, at the moment we're pretty busy with karate after school," Miguel pointed out, risking a rekindling on the subject, "but maybe we can check into it later." It hadn't crossed his mind that he should reach out in person to others like them, or get involved in anything like that. Then again, he'd only been out for a few months. There was still a lot he was getting used to.
"The group is really fun, and so friendly," remarked Moon. "They've been such a big help to me since I came out." She made eyes at the girl beside her and giggled. "Them and Piper."
Finding himself being drawn more into the conversation, Miguel admitted, "Mostly I've been looking up info online. That's where I heard people talking about, like, percentage attraction and stuff. Because I thought to be bi you had to be equally attracted, and it sounds like it doesn't have to be like that."
Moon looked relieved to have him engaging in the discussion with her. "Honestly, it's so freeing to be, like, who even cares about someone's gender, y'know?"
Piper winked. "Well, some of us do."
Miguel turned to her. "What about you?" he asked. "Do you just have a preference for girls? I mean, I still lean towards girls in terms of how many, numbers-wise, I think are attractive. Not that I'm really looking that hard right now, of course. At either girls or guys, or anybody else. But just trying to get a feel, y'know? Like, I was trying to explain it to Sam once, I feel like I'm about seventy percent—"
"Actually, I'm a lesbian," intercut Piper.
Miguel nodded his head awkwardly. From the corner of his eye, he spotted Hawk drumming his fingers on the table. "Oh. Okay. That's cool."
Piper grinned again, amused at how obviously out of his element Miguel was. "Yeah, it is pretty cool actually."
"How about you, Hawk?" asked Moon, turning her gaze his way across the table.
Hawk met her eyes for a second, then glanced down at his tapping fingers. "I don't overthink things. I just know who I like." Miguel gave him an encouraging smile, but Moon and Piper just kept staring at him, like they expected him to say more. What did they want from him? "Look, I gotta go to the bathroom," he said, getting up from his chair.
Saved by his small bladder, at least.
He took care of his business, taking his time in hopes that Moon was exhausting the current conversation in his absence. As soon as he stepped out of the bathroom, however, Piper was there, leaning against the adjacent wall, arms crossed and assuming a neutral manner. "Hey, can we step outside and talk for a sec?" she requested, gesturing to the door.
Hawk swept his eyes across the crowded restaurant, over at their table. Miguel and Moon were still talking. "Yeah, sure," he answered, and followed Piper out the nearby exit.
They stepped onto the sidewalk, and Piper wasted no time letting him know, "I just want to say, I know this has to be kind of awkward for you, right?"
Had he been that obvious? Hawk didn't like the thought of being such an open book. He thought he'd gotten better about that.
He reflexively grinned, rolling his shoulders back. "Nah. Me and Moon, that's all in the past. I don't dwell on it. I live in the moment."
Piper noted, "That's not such a bad way to live."
A few seconds of uneasy silence settled between them. Hawk shifted his weight back and forth on the balls of his feet, wondering if that was really all Piper meant to tell him. So he took the opportunity to ask, "Hey, did Moon tell you why she's doing this? Hanging out with me and Miguel?"
"She just wants to make sure things between you and her are okay," answered Piper. "She's kind of got this peacekeeper martyr complex thing going on."
Hawk chuckled. That was Moon to a tee lately, alright. "Heh, yeah."
"Not that I'm saying that's a bad thing," Piper clarified. "Honestly, I think it's pretty cute. Most of the time, anyway." She paused again, licking her bottom lip to collect her thoughts before going on. "Look, I don't know everything that happened between you two, and I don't really consider it any of my business. But she doesn't hate you, if you're worried about that."
Hawk had expected her to be confrontational when she suggested they come out to talk, to reveal that she didn't think this double-date had been a good idea, but so far she was as chill as she had ever been since they all arrived at the restaurant.
"Worried? I told you, that's all in the past," Hawk half-lied. It wasn't like he lost sleep or anything over how things between him and Moon had ended. He was past that. He also knew she wasn't the sort of girl to hold a big grudge. But it was still nice to hear that she didn't hate him. And he couldn't help but ask, "So, it sounds like she's talked about me, huh?"
Arching an eyebrow, Piper slyly answered, "She's brought you up once or twice since she introduced us. Maybe you can clear something up for me, actually. A couple weeks ago, she made me promise never to get her name tattooed on me, no matter how long we've been together. I thought that was oddly specific, but then I put two and two together. So, am I right? Did you really…?
Hawk sighed and, after a moment's hesitation, pulled down his shirt collar, exposing the crescent-shaped tattoo on his collarbone.
An uneasy laugh broke out of Piper upon seeing it. "Oh wow," she remarked with wide eyes. Seeing a red flush spread over Hawk's face as he quickly readjusted his shirt, she tried to stop smiling, but that proved impossible. "Sorry. It's just, well, yikes, y'know?"
Pressing his lips in a thin line, Hawk frowned but said nothing. He wasn't in the mood to defend his choice to have it done, nor admit to anybody that he'd regretted doing it. He didn't need anyone making him feel like a fool, least of all this girl he barely knew. He had the constant reminder inked on his skin already.
Stuffing her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket, Piper bit her bottom lip again. "So, are you gonna keep it?"
"What?" asked Hawk.
Piper tilted her head, and a sarcastic lilt rounded out the prior hint of insecurity in her voice as she said, "The tattoo. I mean, is this some sort of tragic symbol of long lost love, the one that got away?" Her smile widened when Hawk couldn't stop himself from snorting at that. "You gotta admit, from my perspective it's pretty weird knowing my girlfriend's ex is walking around with her name tattooed on him."
Masking his discomfort behind a cocky smirk, Hawk crossed his arms and retorted, "Why, are you jealous?"
Now it was Piper's turn to stifle back a giggle, shaking her head. "Uh, I don't think so. No offense. But doesn't Miguel find it even a little strange?"
It had been a long time since Miguel had even brought up the subject. Without ever really sitting down and talking about it, both had naturally figured out it wasn't a good idea to bring up their ex-girlfriends if they could otherwise avoid it.
And Hawk had been less concerned that Miguel might find it awkward that he still had the moon tattoo than he was embarrassed about Miguel thinking he was schmaltzy for having gotten it in the first place. It had been a bold, romantic gesture towards Moon on his part, one she hadn't asked for, and sometimes it still burned to be reminded of it.
"I dunno," answered Hawk, fidgeting with his shirt collar as he thought about it.
He knew he could always go ask Rico to remove it, or maybe design another tattoo around it to cover it up. And maybe one day he would. But in the meantime, he wasn't in a terrible hurry to deal with it, even if he couldn't articulate why. Perhaps, deep down, he wanted the reminder of his fuckup.
Despite all the progress he'd made, there was still a part of him worried he was one bad decision away from fucking things up again. Then Miguel would dump him, too, and he'd be alone. As long as the tattoo was there to refresh his memory of the last time he went off the rails, and what that had cost him, maybe it would cool him down before he did something stupid again.
A ping went off from Hawk's cell. A text from Miguel: dude did u drown in the toilet? what's keeping u?
Hawk chuckled again, pocketing his phone. "Miguel's wondering what's up," he told Piper. "I guess we should head back inside."
"Yeah, hopefully our food's arrived by now."
Piper turned around and grabbed the door handle, when Hawk called out, "Hey…." She paused, giving him a glance over her shoulder, and then Hawk's tongue felt thick in his mouth again.
He heard Sensei Lawrence's voice in his head, telling him not to act like such a simp in front of his ex's new partner. But then he heard the advice of his therapist, behind Sensei Lawrence's instructions. Piper wasn't his rival. And he needed to be more honest with his feelings.
So Hawk tried. "Could you let Moon know, she and me, that we're cool? I…I understand why things happened." He wouldn't trade what he had now with Miguel to go back, but he was sorry for the circumstances that led to Moon breaking things off between them.
Piper gestured to the door. "Why don't we go back in there and you can tell her yourself?" she proposed in good-nature. Hawk cast his eyes down at his feet at that recommendation, uncertain. "Listen, if Moon can keep trying to patch things between her and Yasmine, despite some of the things that girl has said, I'd say you're in pretty good standing with her."
Hawk's eyebrows rose on his forehead as he looked up. "You've met Yasmine? No shit, how'd that go?"
"Let's just say I'm not her biggest fan." The way she tried hiding those vague words behind a grimace gave away that there was a story there. Hawk didn't have to ask. It was Yasmine. He could make a few guesses about how she was probably taking Moon's new relationship.
"Me neither," he agreed. Sounded like they both tolerated Moon's continued interest in maintaining her friendship with Yasmine, but neither of them liked it. That was one thing at least he and Piper had in common. That and their great hairstyles.
Piper grinned again. A matching one lit up Hawk's face in the evening twilight.
"But for real," Piper then said, reopening the door, "let's head back in. I worked up an appetite something fierce in dance class today, and I could eat an entire cow. Fake cow meat, of course."
Hawk laughed and followed her inside.