This drabble is dedicated to prostock69 for her support of my multi-chapter fic Tessellate. She wanted something about Hero, one of the supporting characters, so… here is what happened when I sat down to right with no plan in mind. :)

A Shoulder to Cry On

Sometimes, on days such as these, when there is crying girl pressed against his side, Hero Mercer wonders why he's the one stuck giving relationship advice. For some inexplicable reason, he's the one everyone comes to when they need a shoulder to cry on. He's empathetic, they think, the perfect nice guy. He'll know what to do. He'll say the right thing. He'll smile and nod and just let them cry.

He remembers how he got this reputation, of course. Years ago. Back in high school, when things were simultaneously wonderfully simple and dreadfully complicated. It was a perfectly innocuous spring day, full of sunshine and hay fever. The final bell of the day was blissful, and he went to his locker feeling perfectly carefree, humming some nameless tune. And then he got there and saw his locker partner Travis Cooper crying. Travis, who never cried in private, not even under the saddest of circumstances, was full-out bawling in a public, seemingly unconcerned with the hoards of people staring at him. Hero glanced through the crowd, and suddenly, he understood. For the first time in three months, Leo Zhang was nowhere to be seen. So he led Travis away from the locker bays to a somewhat more private bench, and he let Travis cry on his shoulder. He didn't make Travis tell him what happened. He just did what friends are supposed to do.

But that image spread through high school, and sure enough, he earned his reputation as the nice guy. The sensitive guy. A shoulder to cry on. The perpetual friend. And somehow—he doesn't even know, it's such a mystery—that reputation followed him over six thousand miles, across a continent and an ocean—to college. All new people who didn't know him at all—he had this wonderful chance to start fresh, change his image, be someone else entirely—and within a week, nothing had changed. His new friends viewed him the same way as his old friends. He understands that his expectations were, perhaps, unrealistic. He hasn't changed, after all, so it would be silly to expect anything else to change—but still. Sometimes, he just wishes things were different. Easier. Something. God, anything.

Because now, he's perpetually stuck in friend zone. Sometimes, he thinks it would be easier if he were gay. Sensitive guys don't have so much trouble when they're gay. When they're straight, however, they have to contend with female hypocrisy. Although almost every straight girl in existence will say she wants a sensitive boyfriend, when actually confronted with such a mythical creature, she will come to her senses and realize she really wants the nice guy as a friend. She doesn't want to fuck him. No, she'd really rather fuck the manly man—the jock, the lumberjack, the biker, the bad boy—not the sensitive guy who cries just as easily at sappy romantic comedies as she does. Most of the time, this isn't a terrible problem. Sensitive guy that he is, Hero isn't looking for casual one-night stands. He wants meaningful relationships. But sometimes, when it's a girl he really truly likes—in that ridiculous middle school puppy love I want to give you origami cranes on Valentine's Day sort of way—it bothers him a hell of a lot.

And that's how he feels today, with Ruth's face buried against his shoulder as she mourns her break-up with John. John, who wears leather jackets and is the star of the club soccer team. (Or football, as he should learn to call it. He is really far too American—too Californian—for London.) He runs his fingers through her thick, soft, dark brown hair. He sighs, inhaling her curious scent—peppermint, with a hint of vanilla—and he curses this moment because it will be over far too soon. He wants to delude himself that this is real, that Ruth could really be his. He could have told her—hell, he did warn her—that John would break her heart, but he never told her—he'll never tell her—how he could be everything she wants, everything she needs. He wants to be all of that and more, but—

He can't tell her any of that. She doesn't want to hear any of it. She just wants a friend, a shoulder to cry on. And if that's what she needs—he'll keep pretending he's content to just keep being her friend.

Um… So. The flow was totally off, but hopefully it wasn't too terrible?