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The rest of the week didn't fare much better for Milo compared to Monday, either.

Tuesday, right as Milo and friends left the bus stop, local crossing guard (or rather, Safety Czar) Elliot Decker, overheard the middle schoolers as they approached the crosswalk.

"Come on, Milo", Zack comforted. "You still have four days to get the tango right."

"Tango? What's that all about?" Elliot questioned the kids. "And what has that Milo to do with it?"

"For your information, Elliot", Melissa chided, "Milo and Amanda are entering a tango competition, and they have to do it right if they don't want to lose against some pompous hacks that hate losing."

"Hmm, so my ears still work perfectly (as they should for a Safety Czar like me), but I still can't believe what you say", Elliot monologued.

"What's so hard to believe about that?" Amanda asked.

"You really had to ask that?!" Elliot replied in disbelief. "Do you kids even realize what you're saying?! Doing something as precision-requiring as the tango, with that chaos-causing menace to society?! That can only end in disaster, with the dance hall destroyed by chaos!"

Milo cringed in shame as he looked down his feet. And his friends, naturally, were straight-up offended at Elliot's remark.

"O-kay, that's enough, Elliot", Melissa spat, as she, Zack and Amanda carried Milo across the crosswalk, with scornful faces directed at the self-proclaimed Safety Czar.

"Yeah, we don't need your endless prattle just to badmouth about Milo", Zack jeered.

"Of course you three reject my message", Elliot ranted, "but you know you only hate me because I told you the truth!"

Now, Milo knew deep down that what Elliot said was very mean and not worthy of even thinking about, but that didn't stop his brain to unconsciously hide 'menace to society' deep in his mind, like with the rest of quotes that made Milo feel insecure.

And sure enough, Elliot's awful remark popped up during Milo's tango section in the free periods, alongside the usual suspects. Milo stumbled and fell against Amanda, his face right upon her chest. Milo felt really embarrassed.

When he and Amanda went to practice at the Lopez residence, Milo was wondering if it was just him, or that Amanda's parents, her father in particular, seemed more nervous than usual. He hoped it was just him.

The practice session at Amanda's didn't go particularly well, either. Seventeen times did Milo step on Amanda's foot by accident.

"I just got a text from Melissa, she and Zack are improving", Amanda noted after the practice session was over. "Stepped only three times on each others' toes each."

She didn't say it, but she was wondering why Milo wasn't improving just like Melissa and Zack. In fact, it seemed only getting worse...?


Then came Wednesday. Like every other Wednesday, PE class was done early in the day, outside, and without Coach Mitchell, hence why Mr Drako is taking his place instead.

What was different today is that Milo's class was joined by some students from Middletown Middle School. It was part of some kind of temporary trade program between the two schools, where one class of a school gets to join the class of another school for the day, as was explained by Mr Drako.

"I know this sounds like a contrived plot point made up by an amateur fanfiction writer, but it was an order by the superintendent after he found out about the Speech and Debate League of Death and Destruction Cross Town Explosion Event, so please don't complain to me about it", Mr Drako said about it.

Somewhat later, Milo was approached by Wendy, that one overachieving student from the Middletown Middle School's sports club, the Middlemen.

"Hey, I heard that you're gonna compete against those two preppy guys from Park Shores Estate Middle School in a tango competition", Wendy said.

"Wow, I guess world really does travel fast", Milo responded. "I guess you wish me and Amanda good luck, right?"

"What? No, of course not! I wanted to say you might as well give up!" Wendy scoffed. "Those guys from Park Shores Estate are tango experts, and you're a hoodoo! You're never gonna win against them!"

Amanda came in to defend Milo after overhearing the conversation. "Hey, that's not very nice of you to say!"

"Maybe so, but it's true", Wendy shrugged.

It did not exactly help for Milo, and so, his tango practices for this day were also mucked when he was reminded of Wendy's 'hoodoo' comment. Stumble upon misstep on a constant during the free periods, and at home after school, Milo tripped over Amanda's feet, and even over some looser spikes in the flooring.

Amanda figured that by now, Milo should be able to improve at least a bit, but he still has trouble with Murphy's Law.

She was starting to wonder if it was even Murphy's Law at all.


Thursday arrived, and Amanda was chatting with Mort in the school bus, Milo overhearing the conversation.

"I don't get it, Milo should be able to at least improve a little at this point", Amanda ranted. "I'm certain he's not deliberately dancing terribly, and I know he's good at dancing. What's holding him back?"

Mort thought. "Maybe he's cursed...?"

"...Really?" Amanda groaned in disbelief.

Hearing Mort's hypothesis, Milo immediately thought of Murphy's Law often being compared to a curse. Milo knew Mort never treated him as a menace though, so he didn't think much of the comment.

In spite of that, the comment did return to his mind during the tango practices of today, torturing him along with the other mean comments Milo's had in the week, making him trip, stumble and pratfall each and every time.

When Milo joined Amanda at her house, he had a feeling that her parents didn't really like him anymore, as he noticed aside glances towards his direction, and overall seemed more distant towards him compared to last Sunday. At least Ariana appeared as peppy as ever.

Just like at school, the practice session at the Lopezes went disastrous for Milo. He wasn't even sure he could keep up anymore with way too much worry on his mind: Burden, jinx, liability, menace, hoodoo, cursed...

Amanda was also at a loss. Glaring with intrigue and befuddlement, she really wanted to know what truly was wrong with Milo's performances. He always deflected that it was due to Murphy's Law, but she doesn't believe that anymore, as Milo always handled Murphy's Law perfectly before.

This was something deeper, and she hoped that she can figure out what and help Milo about it as soon as possible.


Friday. Milo woke up from a rather tiresome night. This week had been way too tiring for him thus far. He didn't see how the final school day of the week would be able to turn it around, but he knew skipping school was a bad idea, so he went up anyway.

He joined Amanda in the school bus with Zack and Melissa following him, when he saw Amanda's concerned face.

"What's wrong?" Milo asked.

"This video has been sent to me earlier this morning", Amanda replied, opening a video on her phone. It was from Anthony and Ashley.

"Hey Lope, I bet you and Murph are thinking this will be easy peasy", Anthony began.

"But let us burst that bubble and show you what you're truly up against!", Ashley continued.

Music began to play, which Amanda recognized as Románticamente furiosa, a very fast-paced tango track that many say is difficult to dance to. Despite that reputation, Anthony and Ashley danced to it like it was nothing. Many difficult figured are performed nigh perfectly and to the beat, without a single misstep.

As the music stopped, Anthony and Ashley finished with an open embrace, smiling smugly at the camera.

"Newbies like you probably don't come even close to what we just did", Ashley commented.

"So better get the lawnmower, hedge trimmers and trowels ready, Lope", Anthony taunted, "'cause there's no way you and your deadweight will ever be able to top this!" Then the video ended.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but they're right", Zack finally said. "We might as well give up and forfeit."

"Oh nonononono, we're not gonna chicken out", Melissa berated. "It ain't over until the fat lady sings!"

Melissa shot a glance at the bus driver. "And don't you dare to jinx it, Mrs. Decker!"

"...I'm only driving you kids to school", Margaret muttered.

"Besides, I really doubt they're gonna win that bet anyway", Melissa smirked. "Zack and I have improved a lot since that bet was made, so I'm not demotivated by that performance. Gotta stay strong!"

"But they still lose!" Zack shot back, gesturing at Milo and Amanda.

"Right, so if we want to win, Milo has to improve", Amanda added, looking more determined than ever.

Milo made a small smile, appreciating Amanda. He can't help himself finding her pretty when she gets serious.

Still, he wasn't sure he'll be able to improve so much within 24 hours.


First school period is science. Mrs Murawski gave the class an assignment on protective finishes such as varnish, explaining what materials it's made of, and once again using her beloved desk as an example of a varnished piece of furniture.

The class writes down notes, as there will be a test about it next week, and so does Milo. Nothing wrong so far-

"Deadweight!"

SNAP!

Milo was caught off-guard when Anthony's insult suddenly popped up in his head. So far, the quips he had to endure all week only appeared when Milo was practicing the tango, but this appeared in science class?!

As a result, Milo accidentally broke off the tip of his pencil.

"Um, Mrs Murawski, can I use the pencil sharpener?" Milo asked, hand in the air.

"Of course, but please be quick", Mrs Murawski said. "I still would like to go in excruciating detail on the molecules that make this magnificent desk of mine so alluring and lustrous..."

Milo ignored Mrs Murawski's pleasuring of her desk and walked to the class pencil sharpener, rotating the crank as his teacher got distracted and began kissing her desk's legs and surface, while everyone else tried looking away with all their might.

It was actually very easy for Milo to ignore Mrs Murawski's inappropriate behavior, because he himself was already lost in his own thoughts and concerns.

"If I keep getting pestered by these remarks even outside of doing the tango, then I'm not sure I'll keep up myself..."


School's out, and Milo and Amanda went to Milo's home, with thankfully no homework. In fact, Milo noticed they haven't had homework to do at all in the whole week. That's great, because they can use that free time to practice the tango, especially since the practices in the free periods didn't go well either. And considering tomorrow is when the Tango Teen Couple Dance-Off takes place, this may be the most important afternoon yet.

Arriving home, the two students noticed a second car has been parked in front of the yard. Milo has seen it a few times before, but it was Amanda who recognized it immediately.

"What are my parents doing at your house?" Amanda asked Milo.

"I don't know", Milo shrugged. He was surprised too, given that he believed her parents were quite distant towards him yesterday.

Milo rang the doorbell and Brigette let him and Amanda in.

"Good to see you two", Brigette greeted. "We have guests, by the way." She gestured towards the dining table, where the two can clearly see Amanda's parents and sister sitting by, as well as Sara, and Doofenshmirtz. Diogee was sitting on Sara's lap, and Cavenpus, still carrying his egg, sat on Doofenshmirtz's.

"Mamá? Papá? Ariana? What are you doing here?" Amanda asked.

"Hello, cariña", Mrs Lopez greeted, "we decided to visit your friend's house because the big day is coming soon. Don't mind us!"

"Milo, you didn't tell me you had such an adorable pet!" Ariana shouted.

"Diogee? Well, he is the best dog in the world", Milo grinned.

"The dog?" Ariana questioned. "No, I meant this abomination thingy with the funny hat!" She gestured towards Cavenpus."

"Uh... Cavenpus is just our houseguest... I think", Milo corrected Ariana.

"And I'm certainly not an abomination!" Cavenpus scoffed offendedly.

"...Yeah, he doesn't like being called an abomination", Milo said. "Anyway, Amanda and I should go practice..."

Cavenpus jumped of Heinz's lap. "I suppose that's my cue-"

"Yes! I'd love to see it!" Ariana jumped off her seat as well.

Cavenpus stared with discontent at the little girl.

"This child gets to spectate too?" Cavenpus asked. "Are you kidding me?"

"Cavenpus, be nice", Milo chided. "Ariana's a nice kid. You don't have to be catty towards her just because she calls you an abomination."

"Fiiine", Cavenpus gave in. "But only because she still finds me adorable, and doesn't run away from me like many others."


Milo and Amanda made their way to the attic alongside Cavenpus and Ariana, who take a seat in the sidelines.

Amanda pulled out her phone and set to play a track known as Pasear por la noche, another slow-paced track, before leaving her phone to Cavenpus's trust. Afterwards, she joined Milo's side.

"This might be the last practice session before the dance-off, so let's give it our all this time", Amanda said.

Milo nodded with slightly furrowed eyebrows.

And so, they began their dance. They made a few steps and figures to the beat of the music. So far, so good. But Milo was still fearing the worst to come-

"And Murph being your burden!"

There it was. The remark that started it all: Ashley's, last Saturday. Milo tried to endure keep up with the tempo, when-

"Go die in a hole and farewell, you jinx!"

The remark from the nightmare Amanda from Sunday night showed up, making Milo stumble-

"After all, Murphy's Law makes you quite the liability."

Then Bradley's remark from Monday-

"Doing something as precision-requiring as the tango, with that chaos-causing menace to society?!"

Elliot's from Tuesday-

"Those guys from Park Shores Estate are tango experts, and you're a hoodoo!"

Wendy's from Wednesday-

"Maybe he's cursed...?"

Even Mort's from yesterday, which all things considered wasn't even that mean to begin wi-

"There's no way you and your deadweight will ever be able to top this!"

And there was Anthony's from the video sent to Amanda earlier today.

The entire menagerie of comments caused Milo to do absolutely anything except dancing right: almost falling, constantly misstepping, tripping, trying to keep balance, hurting Amanda's toes, not keeping rhythm, flailing legs wildly...

"Milo! What are you doing?!" Amanda asked exasperated.

Unfortunately, it fell to deaf man's ears, as Milo was too distracted by his thoughts.

"Burden!"

"Jinx!"

"Liability."

"Menace!"

"Hoodoo!"

"Cursed?"

"Deadweight!"

"Burden!"

"Jinx!"

"Liability."

"Menace!"

"Hoodoo!"

"Cursed?"

"Deadweight!"

"Burden!"

"Jinx!"

"Liability."

"Menace!"

"Hoodoo!"

"Cursed?"

"Deadweight!"

"Burden!"

"Jinx!"

"Liability."

"Danger!"

Milo widened his eyes out of surprise. That was not something that was said about him this week. But he knew Elliot said it about him at one point:

"There's only one person in this town I need to stop and his middle name is danger!"

It was told to Zack right before Milo lost the signature page of his doctor's note, back half a year ago.

Suddenly, a flush of old, memorized comments invaded Milo's mind.

"I just want to go on record, that Milo plus boat equals bad idea."

That was what Milo overheard Bradley telling the teachers when they were about to board the SS Indulgence. It never bothered him before now.

"Milo, you weren't here at the fish hatchery this morning, were you?"

That was a quip from Melissa's dad. Richard Chase joked, but it did kind of bother Milo.

"Is this a game to you?"

Cavendish once asked him this when they were on Mr. Chase's decommissioned fire truck. At the time, Milo wasn't aware that Cavendish suspected him of deliberately sabotaging their missions, so this always struck as weird to him. But he knew that Cavendish was very cross to him, and it was during chaotic mayhem.

During all this barrage of unwanted memories, Milo still tried to dance, but he had lost all rhythm and focus, as he stepped his feet anywhere and everywhere. The only thing keeping him up is holding Amanda's hands, but that wasn't even on his mind anymore.

"There's nothing in that backpack for you now, is there?"

Milo thought that he never had to deal with evil pistachios ever again, but now he's bothered a comment from King Pistachion, reminding him that Milo is completely useless without his backpack.

"Your family and friends are now mine! Plants forever!"

Milo never felt truer hopelessness than when King Pistachion's son Derek had turned all his friends and family into vile Pistachions. And it probably could've been avoided if he didn't-

"This world would be a better place without him!"

Exist.

That last one, which he remembered was probably the cruelest thing Elliot ever said about him, was the last straw. He unconsciously let loose of Amanda's hands.

"¡AAAH!"

Both spun around, then fell flat on their faces. Shocked, Cavenpus immediately paused the music. Ariana similarly held her hands over her mouth as she let out a gasp.

Dazed, Milo tried getting up, even with his mind still riddled with disparaging memories.

Equally dazed, Amanda rubbed her forehead. "Ay, my head..."

After she got up as well, Amanda turned to face Milo. She showed an expression of annoyance, with furrowed eyebrows.

"This has got to be our worst practice session yet, and now I've had it", Amanda spoke, as she approached Milo. "Milo, I'm absolutely certain something is bothering you greatly, and that you've been doing worse and worse because of it! But you never tell me what it is! Instead, you keep deflecting that it might be Murphy's Law, but frankly, all I know that it probably isn't Murphy's Law. So please, tell me what it really is! Maybe I can help you with it!"

Unfortunately, Milo couldn't really listen to Amanda. His mind was flooded with mean comments towards him, and all he saw was Amanda facing him and seemingly ranting while her eyebrows are furrowed. This led Milo to conclude one thing: Amanda was angry. At him.

And that led to plenty of unpleasant things Milo remembered Amanda told towards or about him. Real or fake, mean or simply cautious, it didn't even matter anymore.

"There's just so much can go wrong... in this general area."

"Um, Ms. Baxter? You might want to put on your safety goggles and take a step back."

"Just stay back, from everything."

"No, no, no! You'll just make it worse!"

"This is going to be a disaster! There will be wolves with bees on their heads, lobos con abejas, and a dinosaur made out of ham!"

"Thanks to you, we lost! Worse, we lost in the most embarrassing, most humiliating way possible!"

"GO DIE IN A HOLE AND FAREWELL, YOU JINX!"

Milo began hyperventilating, eyes fixated on Amanda.

Amanda's face softened, her eyebrows lifted in a sad expression when she sees Milo panicking. And... did she see that correctly? Are those tears forming in Milo's eyes?

"...Milo?" Amanda asked with concern.

And then the dam broke down.

Milo fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face as he began to cry, hands covering his face.

"Milo!" Amanda shouted in panic.

She was surprised to see Milo break down like that. She had never seen him cry, ever. Not even when Elliot told in his face that the entire world would be better off without him. Milo wore a doleful face, but he hadn't cried or shed a single tear. What happened to Milo for him to appear in such sorrow? Oh gosh, what if it was her fault?!

The tango practice, the dance-off tomorrow, and that stupid bet forced upon them... all of them, were the last thing on her mind right now. At the moment, Milo is top priority. She doesn't like seeing Milo ever being sad, and she'd never forgive herself if she did this to him. She dropped to her knees and faced Milo.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, Milo!" Amanda apologized, genuinely concerned about Milo. "I shouldn't have snapped at you! Are you alright? Is something wrong?"

"They're... *sniff* they're right! They're c-completely right!" Milo sobbed, sniffling occasionally. "I am a burden! I'm a jinx, a liability, a menace to society, a hoodoo, cursed to no end, *sniff* and a deadweight! I-I-I'm only bringing you down, Amanda, you-you're better off without me!"

"Milo, what are you talking about? I'm not better off without you", Amanda questioned. "What happened?"

She hadn't gotten a response. Instead, Milo continued bawling. Amanda's own face showed a doleful expression at this. She didn't want Milo to be sad. She wanted to comfort Milo. In fact, she needed to comfort Milo.

Amanda embraced Milo, and made sure Milo would embrace her back, letting his head rest in the crook of her neck, his tears flowing down in her clothes.

"Shshshshsh... it's okay Milo", Amanda whispered comfortingly. "Just cry yourself out. We'll talk when you have calmed down. I'm here for you."

Milo kept sobbing as Amanda kept embracing him in attempt to calm him down.

Ariana and Cavenpus were still sitting in the sidelines and saw everything. The two glanced at each other and came upon a silent agreement. Ariana gestured towards the hatch and Cavenpus nodded, as they quietly exited the attic, giving Milo and Amanda some alone time.

Author's Note:
It's Valentine's Day, and what do I do? Post this chapter with what is probably the most angsty moment of this fic yet. But it ends with a real sweet gesture on Amanda's part, so I hope that makes up for it.
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