𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐮𝐞: 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡

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"Stop that," Charlie's mother slapped at where his hands had been fiddling with his collar. His body itched all over. The fabric of his hand-me-down suit was like sandpaper on his tanned skin, and the knot of his bowtie choked him.

He glanced at his mother. She'd been even more on edge than usual since they'd walked into the party. They'd been invited to the celebratory gala in San Francisco by one of his dad's work contacts.

The moon was high, and the mansion's main hall was filled with people of an entirely different breed than his family. Far too crowded. The cloying haze of sweat and too much cologne suffocated Charlie. He had started feeling nauseous almost as soon as his family had arrived, and the tension between his parents had set into place.

"Just behave while your father networks," she hissed at him beneath the din of guest chatter.

From where he stood, it seemed like the only thing his father was accomplishing was an endless procession of pats on the back, handshakes, and sly smiles. All the while, his mother stood next to him, radiating discomfort.

"Patricia, I told you it would be better for him to stay back in San Diego, he's just in the way here," Charlie's father said, scowling at his mother.

"I can't help that my sister flaked on watching him. What did you want me to do? We couldn't exactly leave him alone all weekend."

They kept insisted that someone his age couldn't be trusted by themselves, even though he would be turning seventeen in three months. Charlie might be a little small for his age, but he was plenty old enough to be left at the house. Not that they had been paying attention to know that.

"Congressman, congratulations on gaining the majority," Charlie's father said to a man he hadn't noticed, though once he turned to see who his father was talking to, Charlie wasn't sure how he'd missed him. The man was huge, must have been over six feet tall, with thick shoulders and dark hair. He smelled like that amber liquor Charlie's father would sometimes drink. An Alpha, undoubtedly.

The Congressman grasped his father's hand in what looked like an overly firm shake. "Why thank you, it's about time the conservatives ruled the house, don't you think?" the man asked in a voice that cracked like a whip.

His father forced a laugh. "Yes, of course."

Charlie's mother clenched her small satin purse and spoke up with a wavering tone, "You have our sympathies for..."

"–Thank you, thank you," the Congressman cut her off with an easy smile. "Enjoy the party. There will be a pianist performing Moonlight Sonata later in the evening."

He slipped off, swift and smooth before either of his parents could say more. As soon as the man was out of earshot, Charlie's father cursed and mumbled something about not being able to make his pitch.

They spent another hour like that, moving around the room as a pack, while his father regurgitated the same greetings and made awkward attempts to mention his accomplishments as a staffer for the Mayor. Charlie finally managed to break away with the excuse that he was going to get some food.

He filled his plate from the buffet set out toward the back of the main hall. Though stuffed mushrooms were one of his favorite appetizers, they tasted off to him. Too heavy, he couldn't quite stomach it. Instead, he nibbled on the slices of fruit he'd scooped up as an afterthought.

Not sure what else to do with himself, and dreading the thought of returning to his father's side, Charlie wandered into a hallway near the back of the party space.

The walls were deep blue with dark wainscotting meeting them halfway up. There were a few photos hung about, most with the large Congressman from before beside various important looking people. Charlie could only recognize one with Stephen Hawking and another where Nixon joined him.

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