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Nightmare in Henrietta

Chapter Text

The dark.

That’s all there is.

All there ever will be.

He awoke with a jolt, body covered in sweat, and his breathing heavy like he had run all the way to Jersey and back.

Obviously, he hadn’t.

But that’s how badly he couldn’t catch his breath.

This wasn’t a new scene. It’d been happening every night since he had gotten to this backwards town a week ago. The nightmare would be different sometimes but it always ended the same.

Him waking up in a panic.

Sometimes it was simply his oldest and worst fear – darkness. That one was something he had faced since he was little; always fighting with the dark. It had gotten gradually worse, the nightmares of the dark, becoming, somehow, darker and even more terrifying.

And sometimes, the nightmares were something far worse. It sounded completely crazy because Joseph never thought he’d face something worse than his oldest enemy.

The murder.

The blood.

The body.

It was all there and, just like Joseph guessed, always on repeat.

This fucking town made everything even worse. It amplified his nightmares to such realistic levels that Joseph had never faced. He had no clue why but deep down, he knew it was because of Henrietta.

He hated it here.

Sighing once his breathing had come slightly under control, Joseph got out of his bed and went out to his adjoining balcony. If there was one thing he liked about this room, it had to be the balcony over looking their backyard. He didn’t even know backyards came this huge. It made his backyard in Jersey seem like a baby and Joseph had been extremely proud of that backyard when most people barely even had a miniscule balcony.

Hell, this whole fucking house put his huge one to shame. His house in Jersey was considered ginormous for where they lived. This place was like a castle to him. It was like California extravagant in a way.

Joseph didn’t like it.

It was beautiful, yes. There wasn’t anything wrong with it.

But it wasn’t home to him.

Probably never would be.

So while he absolutely hated his room because it didn’t feel like his, Joseph kind of liked his balcony. Easy access to the outside air was nice. The air here was fresher than in Hoboken. Although, it did have one problem.

“This place has fucking suffocating weather,” he grumbled into the still April air. Why the fuck didn’t a breeze exist? “Because this place is shit. Duh.”

Resting his arms on the railing, he stared out into the darkness of the night which was the only darkness he liked. You couldn’t see the stars in Jersey the way you could here. At least that was a plus for this stupid town. Henrietta would never be home for him and, truthfully, he didn’t think he wanted it to be anyways.

But that meant no sleep. He hadn’t gotten a ‘Joseph version’ of a full night’s sleep since his forgery was born but here in Henrietta, everything was even worse.

“Maybe if you bothered to try to make your room an actual room, you might like it,” he muttered to himself. All his shit had made it from Jersey but besides for making sure he set up Peanut in a corner that was now hers, he hadn’t bothered unpacking. Joseph hadn’t even changed his clothes in a week which, yes, was kind of gross but he was just that unmotivated. His mother had taken notice of his clothes and threatened to strip and shower him herself if he didn’t do it.

Maybe he’d change in the morning then.

She didn’t know how bad his sleep was. He refused to let her know that he woke up from nightmares every night. All her life, his worries had become hers. Joseph was sick of putting his weight on her. This was hard enough on her; he wasn’t going to make it worse than it already was.

Exploring the redneck hole he was living in hadn’t even occurred to him. He didn’t want to. Only once had he left the house and that was when his mother asked if he’d go grocery shopping with her. She had smiled and said that it could be fun, plus they could buy loads of junk from Walmart. Who didn’t like that?

It was a good question because who didn’t? Walmart was like Barney’s magical bag or some shit like that. And because this town was so small, it didn’t really have that much stores anyways.

Walmart it was.

So he had gone, picked out so much shit for Peanut that she didn’t even need, bought a goldfish, an Xbox 360 with some games along with a controller, and a box of Swedish Fish because why not. The fish became known as Goldfish because it suited it just fine and lived in a vase Joseph had found in one of the boxes when his mother asked him to help her at least fix the living room.

He had ended up helping her fix everything because he didn’t want her doing it alone. Funny how he wasn’t bothering with his own space though. Joseph hadn’t even opened the Xbox; it was just sitting on his floor with all his boxes. It was amazing that he didn’t trip all the time from all the shit just sitting around on his floor.

Looking down when he felt something soft brush against his leg, Joseph bent down and hoisted his old cat in his arms, letting her see the view too. Peanut was a little hesitant about the whole move at first but was slowly warming to the place. She liked the backyard especially because of all the plants to hide and weave through. Joseph was a little worried she’d fall in the pool it seems they had but so far so good. It was like she knew no good would come of touching the water.

“This is supposed to be home, girl,” he murmured into her fur as they stared out at the view. “But I don’t think it’ll ever feel that way to me.” Rubbing her head to which she purred, Joseph added “But you make sure you make it yours. You have to be comfortable. Old ladies have to rest, you know.”

Joseph had felt out of place in life – in school, sometimes at home even before shit went down. It was normal. But now the feeling was even greater. Not only in town, but just in general.

Even in his head.

The forest wasn’t somewhere he enjoyed being anymore. It was like it was affected by his knew psyche. It wasn’t friendly, barely even let him be there sometimes. Joseph had tried once since hell occurred two weeks ago to take something from his forest and while he had been successful, it was a terrible experience.

Everything there had become his enemy; everything wanted a chance to hurt him. He had wakened with cuts on his arms from where a rosebush had clung to him when he had barely gotten there, not wanting him to move. Luckily, he had been able to break away but fuck had it hurt.

The forest was against him because he was against himself. If God hated himself, then his world did too.

And Lord did Joseph hate himself. He was so disgusted by his being that he didn’t even look in the mirror anymore. Why should he? All he’d see was the monster reflected back.

When Peanut was practically asleep in his arms, Joseph walked back into his room and put her in her bed after shutting the door to the balcony. Plopping down into his own stupid bed in the middle of the room, Joseph stared at the ceiling in thought.

Something about this town was different from Hoboken. Technically, a lot about this town but that wasn’t what he was getting at. It was just…

The place felt…different. Odd.

Electrifying.

Joseph had thought a lot about his decision in picking Agshit as a school. He hadn’t had a lot of choices but why had he picked here? This place?

For some reason, Joseph felt like it hadn’t been entirely in his hands that day. Something…in his head maybe? Something had drawn him towards Henrietta. And it wasn’t the school.

Henrietta was different.

Special.

He could feel it in the air sometimes, the electricity that buzzed through this place. Not only that, but dreaming felt magnified when he had tried when he had first arrived here. It was a thousand times more vivid.

More real.

This place was doing something to him, to his power, and Joseph had no idea what it was.

It was kind of worrisome if he were being honest.

Whatever it was, Joseph knew one thing.

Henrietta, his time here, was going to be interesting.

Very interesting.

“Bring it on,” he smirked to himself, unfazed. “Show me what you got, hick town.”

Chapter Text

“Maybe paint the room?” Nikol suggested over the line. Vesela’s older and only sibling called every day, probably at least three times a day. They had spent their whole lives together in the same city, same house until they each married, and even then, there had been only a street between them once Ivo had bought their house.

The distance now was horrible and something they were completely unaccustomed too.

“I’ve no clue,” Vesela sighed in defeat as she strolled in Walmart. She couldn’t handle being in the house any longer so she had decided she was just gonna walk around. Walmart was huge so it suited her purpose just fine. Plus, she might decide she needed something. She had tried convincing Joseph to come with her but he refused, saying he was too tired. “He still hasn’t changed or showered either. He’s literally starting to smell and Joseph never smells. Nothing I say can convince him and I’m going nuts.”

She was worried.

Actually, that was such an understatement.

Whatever the word was for super worried, that was what Vesela was.

He wouldn’t unpack, wouldn’t fix his room the way he liked, barely ate, and didn’t shower. Vesela was convinced he didn’t sleep either. All he had done was help her set up the house and her room, made sure Peanut was comfortable, and then completely disregarded himself.

What she needed was some way to get him to brighten up a little. But she had nothing.

“Push him in the shower? Hose him down?”

Stopping in the paint section because maybe it was an idea, Vesela answered as she looked at some swatches “I threatened that actually. Told him I’d hold him down, strip him, and shower him myself.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.” Maybe blue? Joseph liked blue. Maybe like a navy or something. Or maybe she’d learn to do a design of some sort. What would he even like though? He wasn’t a stripes kind of guy…definitely not dots.

“I think redecorating that room would be a good start,” Nikol said, trying to sound hopeful for her benefit. “Make it feel a bit more like his own space, you know? Maybe that’s why he isn’t settling in yet. It doesn’t feel like a home.”

Yeah, she had already figured that out. But it didn’t help when he didn’t want to help make it a home. Her eye caught on a small can of paint as she strolled down the aisle, still holding two kinds of blues, trying to pick which he would like better. “Chalkboard paint? Does that make your wall into a chalkboard or something?”

“Think I’ve heard of it. Pretty sure Anka asked Yulian to get her some and pretty sure he said no.”

“Why?” she mumbled as she lifted a can and read the description. Who didn’t like to write on their walls? Joseph had had this habit when he was younger to write his favorite quote from the current book he was reading somewhere. Sometimes his body, sometimes furniture, a couple times his walls. Maybe this was a good idea?

“He told her she had enough mess, they didn’t need to add it to the walls.”

True. Anka was their artist and it was odd if you didn’t find her with marker or paint on her body. Her room was packed with craft and art supplies. “Fair enough, I guess. Bet she wasn’t happy.”

“Nope. Pouted for a day and a half until Yulian told her he’d buy her a big chalkboard and she could use that instead.”

“Always gives in to her,” Vesela laughed while deciding what color chalkboard paint to get. This idea was a good one. “It’s funny because usually one of the boys ends up being the father’s favorite.”

“Nah, you know Yulian. Anka’s his baby.”

“And she loves rubbing that in Andrey’s face. Blue and black would look cool you think?”

“Paint?”

“Yeah. Black chalkboard and maybe regular blue. Or should I do it all chalkboard? Maybe he needs lots of space to write stuff? He reads a lot so maybe he needs lots of space to write quotes.”

“Not all black though; his room will be too dark. We’re trying to sunshine the child, not encourage his depression. One wall needs to be different or something.”

Stopping at wall decals because she was thinking of something for maybe her room, her eye caught on one of a map. “You still on the computer?”

“Yes ma’am. What am I checking?”

Great idea number two formed in her head. “What’s the biggest map of Middle Earth that I can buy?”

“Tapping into his nerd side. Brilliant, you are,” Nikol snorted in amusement as Vesela heard her tapping away on the keyboard in the background. “He got a bookshelf yet? Or twelve?”

Surprisingly, no. But he wouldn’t even unpack so maybe unsurprising. “He will by the time I leave Walmart.”

 

  


 

When he came out of the shower, he was met with quite a surprise as he stood in the doorway of the bathroom connected to his room. “What are you doing?”

His mother turned to him with a smile on her face, ignoring as best she could how bad his body looked as she continued taking his boxes out and putting them in the hall. “I don’t want them to get dirty.”

Crossing his arms as he leaned on the doorway in nothing but his towel, he asked “Is there a reason they would?”

“Paint gets everywhere even when you take precautions.” She laughed as she walked back in, grabbing another box “Or so I’ve heard since I’ve never actually painted before but hey, first for everything.”

“Paint.”

“Yup.”

Sighing as he rested his head on the doorframe, thankful that his scabs were healing, Joseph asked again “Mayko, what are you doing.”

“Pretty sure I gave plenty of clues,” his mother replied as she pushed a heavy box out. Probably one of quite a few containing books. “You’re smart. Guess.”

Okay, he knew what she was doing but he more meant why. “Okay, why are you doing.”

Shrugging as she stood with her hands on her hips now that she got all the boxes out, she answered “Because I’m bored. Your room has now become my pet project as I experiment with chalkboard paint.”

Walmart was nothing if not inspiring apparently. “Chalkboard paint.”

“Yup.” She pointed to the wall directly opposite to him, the largest out of the four. “That one is going to get something special,” she pointed to the one connected to the balcony, “That one is going to be blue chalkboard. And that one,” she pointed at the one where the door was, “is going to be black chalkboard.”

“And this one?” he asked about, tapping the wall beside him, though he could care less. She could do whatever the fuck she wanted with the room. Joseph wasn’t stupid – he knew she was trying to get him to like it better.

“Plum purple.”

“Plum…purple…”

His mother shrugged again, her eyes sparkling. “C’mon, that’s a cool color. Admit it.”

Joseph admitted nothing. “Is it also chalkboard?”

“Yessir. I’m going to make this room a-fucking-mazing, baby.”

He didn’t like the little stirrings of excitement in his chest. Feelings weren’t supposed to keep existing. Why couldn’t they just fuck off already?

But…maybe they could fuck off another day.

“Do you need help?”

Excitement blazed through her beautiful green eyes. “I sure as hell do!”

Getting dressed quickly while ignoring the twinges of pain he was in after yanking random clothes from his suitcase which was also still unpacked, Joseph ran his fingers through his hair. That’d have to be close enough to brushing for now because of how painful it was to actually brush before he walked out of the bathroom to help. After they had managed to get his mattress and bed frame out once they had pushed out the dresser, she threw a tarp at him. “Cover the floor. We’re not making this place look like Anka’s carpet.”

The memory of his cousin’s paint splattered carpet was bittersweet. He missed all of them but he refused to speak with any. When he had said he was cutting ties, he had meant it. Maybe it didn’t make sense to some people, but it sure as hell did to him.

Laying out the tarp on one side of the room while she laid out another on the other half, Joseph asked “Are we trying to finish this all today?”

“Maybe span it over two days,” his mother replied as she placed the paint buckets on the floor and popped open the purple with a screwdriver. The blue followed soon after. “Purple or blue?”

“Purple,” Joseph answered but rolled his eyes when she smirked like she knew he’d pick it as she stirred the paints. “What’s the something special?”

“Not telling,” she laughed as she held out a paint roller to him. “It’s a surprise.”

“Whatever,” he muttered in annoyance after taking the roller because now it was going to bother him in his want to know.

They each poured their respective colors into pans and began the process of painting. Peanut tried multiple times to walk into the paint and he’d have to run over before she actually went and did. Eventually, he decided she deserved to make her own mark. Dipping one of her paws in the blue, he pressed it up on what was done of the purple wall. He washed the paw off right after to make sure she didn’t lick it and then sent her on her way out of the room.

Dipping one of the smaller brushes into the blue, he walked back to the purple wall and wrote ‘Peanut was here’ next to her adorable paw print. “Done,” he couldn’t help but smile after writing the last ‘e’. Turning around to put the brush in water, he blushed when he found his mother smiling at him. “Stop.”

Winking to make sure he knew that she totally saw that, she turned back around to her wall and said “So you showered I see.”

Joseph had been genuinely worried that she’d actually hold him down and shower him. “I didn’t want to have to have my mother scrub me down. My junk is private.” Along with scars, wounds, and a variety of shit that’ll cause you to worry.

“I would have, you know.” Joseph couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. “You were starting to stink.”

“I’m a guy. Guys do that sometimes.”

“You were never the smelly type. So for you to start smelling?” She did an overdramatic shiver. “Ew.”

“So fucking dramatic,” he muttered as he continued his purple wall. Maybe they’d finish the first coats today and then the second tomorrow. It was odd when he realized she stayed silent instead of carrying on their banter. “What’s wrong?” Joseph asked, turning around to find her staring at him in concern.

Sighing while shaking her head, his mother murmured “Is the language really necessary?”

That earned her an eyeroll. As if language was the worse of his vices now. How about murder instead? “I’ve got a very large vocab filled with colorful words. Might as well start using it. No point not to.”

His mother seemed disappointed by the answer but said nothing else before she turned back to her practically finished blue wall. “Your tétka says hi.”

Trying to get him on the phone with his tétka’s family was one of his mother’s missions. Joseph refused every time. “That’s nice.”

“She’s dying to hear your voice.”

“Not like she’s never heard it before.”

Huffing but going silent, Joseph knew his mother was running through different tactics in her head in her silence. She didn’t understand why he was cutting off everyone and was trying to find ways to make sure he didn’t but none worked. Never would.

He just didn’t give a fuck.

“Do…you want some nice news?”

Half shrugging, Joseph yawned “Sure.”

“Andrey and Ivet are finally a thing.”

A smile grew on his face as he continued his wall. His cousin had kept the promise. That was good. “Finally. Jesus fuck, he took his time.”

Joseph knew the minute of quiet before she spoke was because of his language. She wasn’t a fan obviously. “Right? I hope they do good together.”

They will; they were made for each other.

Wish I had that.

Mentally telling the idiot part of himself to shut up, Joseph said aloud “Five bucks says they’ll be popping babies soon.”

“Oh God, I hope not!” she laughed. “That’ll be way too soon. They need to time to see how they work as a couple before they think about making kids.”

“Nah, see, they won’t be thinking about making kids. They’ll be thinking about how badly they want to fuck and then they actually will and accidently make a baby in the process. Ten bucks says they’ll forget the condom.”

The next bit of silence that came was because both the language and the sex talk. Sex talk had always occurred with Ivo; that man had always been open for any questions Joseph had. His mother was a bit more conservative in speaking about it. “Not a bet I want to take. They’re not stupid though.”

Shrugging as he finished the last bit of the wall, Joseph replied “Not stupid, just forgetting or rushing probably. Black next?”

She had finished a few minutes before him. “Yup. But I’ll start that. I want you to go measure your bed’s width.”

His brow rose in questioning. “Measure my bed?”

Nodding as she popped open the black and stirred, his mother said “I want to do something but I need to know how fat your bed is. Go measure and bring the measuring tape with you.”

“’Kay.”

Finding the measuring tape took a while because he had no idea where everything was but eventually it was located in one of the kitchen drawers. Peanut followed him as he went back up the huge ass staircase that was all fancy, coming to a halt with him at his bedframe. He measured, memorized the number, and went back to the room before pulling out the measurement on the tape. “Here.”

Where the pencil came from he didn’t know, but his mother marked a little notch on the wall before nodding. “Thank you. I-” She was cut off by the doorbell ringing.

Scrunching his nose in annoyance, Joseph muttered “Who the fuck is gonna come here?” He really hoped they didn’t have those types of neighbors who wanted to be all chummy or something. Bring cookies or do block parties.

Gross.

“Probably the delivery. Can you go sign for it, please?”

“Delivery?” he asked as the bell rang again.

“Yeah. Bookshelves don’t fit in my car, sweetheart.”

Ah. More of the forcing him to like his room.

Damn Walmart and its ability to have everything a person needed.

Chapter Text

Two days later and they were officially done.

And despite how much he didn’t want to admit it, didn’t want to give in to the little bits of excitement and happiness, Joseph couldn’t go around it anymore.

He kind of liked how his room came out.

The bed had been pushed up against the black wall with the door and his dresser with the blue and the balcony. His closet door, which shared the wall with the bathroom, had been ultimately been painted black because Joseph thought it looked cool with the purple. The bookcase his mother had bought was like a wall itself the way it was at the end of his bed. But it faced in where the shelves were to him and the bed instead of out. The black paint came out from the wall of the door to the width of his bed so it was like it was surrounding the bed only. A nightstand was beside his bed, against the wall with the something special.

The something special was this huge ass map of Middle Earth.

Joseph fucking loved it.

His mother had also bought him a small low down wooden coffee table, placing it in the middle of the room, his beanbag the only chair adorning it. Peanut still had her corner which Joseph had turned into her own little paradise by setting up all her scratching posts and hidey holes and shit. Her litter box was out on the balcony which now had a little metal patio set of a circle table and two chairs. He was actually thinking about putting up a shade when the summer came.

That’s how much he liked how the whole thing came out.

Placing his last model car on a smaller shelf she had bought and pushed beside the bathroom door, his mother turned and smiled wide. “Well?”

Trying to hide his smile but eventually giving in because hers was just so fucking pretty not to smile too, Joseph replied “It looks…pretty damn nice, I guess.”

“I guess,” she snorted with an eyeroll while walking to his bed and then taking a seat. She patted the spot beside her, “Sit.”

Resting his head on her shoulder once he sat, Joseph murmured “Thanks, mayko. I love it.”

She wrapped her arm around his shoulders before placing a soft kiss in his hair. “You’re welcome. It came out pretty great, huh? Not gonna lie, better than I thought my abilities were.”

A soft laugh escaped him before murmuring “You got the sickest skills, girl. Don’t doubt.” Peanut jumped up to join them, shoving herself in Joseph’s lap because she was a jealous soul. He rubbed her head until she purred. Glancing at his books in his new shelf, Joseph asked “So who’s quote gets to go on the wall first?”

“Ooh, do I get to pick?” his mother questioned in excitement. “Something from Lord of the Rings. To go with the map and stuff.”

Appropriate choice. “Have you by any chance seen my notebooks while we were unpacking?” He kept a few notebooks filled with the quotes that he liked from the various books he’s read over the years. The notebooks were a bit of a mess from basic wear and tear over the years but still alive.

“I put them in the bottom drawer of your dresser.”

“I thought you don’t like it when I donate a drawer to become my junk drawer,” Joseph snorted in amusement as he stood and walked to his dresser, yanking the junk drawer open.

“I don’t like when your clothes end up on the floor because your filling multiple drawers with junk,” his mother replied with her epic eyeroll. “There’s a difference.”

Grabbing the notebook specifically for Tolkien only stuff, Joseph sat on the floor and flipped through the pages as he tried to decide which to put first. He was about to turn another page when his eyes caught on the last line he had scribbled on the page. Kavinsky wouldn’t like the quote at all; he’d think that it was completely stupid.

But Joseph thought that right now, it sounded like the most beautiful hope. Something he didn’t want to let go of completely just yet.

Standing and grabbing the bag of chalk that his mother had bought because she hadn’t been able to decide what brand to get, Joseph went back to his bed and sat upon it on his knees, facing the largest part of the wall. He set the notebook down unto the bed as he took out a pack of chalk. “Color?”

“White and blue,” his mother answered before she picked up her phone off one of the bookcase shelves when it began to vibrate. She made a face at the name and Joseph had a feeling who it was.

Ivo called everyday but his mother never answered. The only time she had spoken to him was when they had arrived. Even then it hadn’t been through phone call – she had sent him a simple text saying that they were safe and had made it.

That was it.

“Mayko,” Joseph murmured once the phone stopped ringing as he started to write the first word in the best handwriting he could manage. “Mayko…you can answer, you know. Just because I don’t want to talk to him doesn’t mean you need to cut yourself off. I don’t mind.”

And he really didn’t. Joseph had already won the battle by having her with him here. He didn’t want to keep taking from her. So if she wanted to talk to her bastard, he wasn’t going to stop her or get upset. She deserved to be able to settle in too.

“Let me worry about that,” she replied as she stood after pressing a kiss to his head. “I’m gonna go make us something to eat. Love you.”

“Love you too,” he replied, already more focused on making sure his letters came out nice. He doubted he’d actually eat much but he’d try for her.

After a good ten minutes, Joseph leaned back a bit and examined his work. It actually looked really good and he wondered how impressed his teachers would have been with his handwriting. You couldn’t even tell that it was his horrible chicken scratch from how nice it came out.

But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.

 


 

“Hi,” Vesela murmured once the line opened.

Silence came before the sound of Ivo’s voice did. “Hi. I…didn’t expect to get a call back.”

She hadn’t been planning to. Vesela’s plan had been to ice out Ivo for as long as she could manage. Had Joseph not told her that it was fine with him, she wouldn’t have bothered calling at all. “I wasn’t going to.”

“Oh,” Ivo whispered. “Well then thank you for actually doing so. How are you?”

“Fine,” she replied as she stood in the fridge, trying to decide what to make. What could possibly get Joseph to eat? Shutting the fridge as she moved to the cabinets while marveling at how huge this kitchen was – this whole house actually – Vesela asked “You?”

“Alive.”

Nikol had told her how Yulian had literally beat Ivo the day they had left. And how when they saw each other the next day, Yulian told her how Ivo had looked even worse. They all assumed Raul had had a few things to say too but no one ever asked. “That’s good.”

Ivo was probably thinking like her that they had never had such awkward conversation before. Even when they had first met. “House nice?”

“It is but way too huge.” Her hand pulled out a can then went for another to see what she had. Chili or ravioli? Maybe both and put him a little of each? “We didn’t bother furnishing like two other rooms because it’s literally ridiculous.” She cringed a little when she realized she had said ‘we.’ Vesela hadn’t planned on mentioning Joseph at all. Even in the form of ‘we.’ Ivo didn’t deserve to know anything.

“How…h-how is he?”

“Not your concern,” Vesela said stiffly while opening the ravioli. If it wasn’t the right choice, she’d just make the chili later. “It’s not like you give a shit anyways.”

“That’s not fair,” Ivo murmured in hurt. “I care.”

Vesela would die for those words to be true. “So it’s because you care that you beat him? Is that it? Is it because you care that you couldn’t accept him? We’re not starting this again.”

Her husband was quiet for what felt like ever as she poured the ravioli into a pan and started to heat it up. He was quiet for so long that she actually thought that the line had died or something. “Ivo?”

“Still here,” came his quiet sad voice. “What are you doing?”

Mundane things she could talk about. “Making lunch. Well more heating up lunch but all the same.”

“What are you making?”

“Ravioli. Chef Boyardi style. Maybe chili if the ravioli wasn’t the right choice. Dammit.” Talking about Joseph was so normal that trying to subconsciously filter everything was just plain hard. “I didn’t say that last sentence.”

A soft laugh came before Ivo said in a quiet voice “Erased from my mind already.” Another bout of silence came before Ivo murmured “Vesela…why did you actually call back? Why bother if you didn’t want to?”

Should she tell him the real reason? They had all been through so much suffering the past two weeks that she wasn’t even sure she wanted to cause anymore. Her eyes caught on Joseph coming down the stairs with Peanut behind him, giving her a small smile as he walked to the connecting door of the garage and going in. He was probably going to get the last couple boxes of his.

Who had suffered more than him?

Not Ivo, that was for sure. Maybe he could use some more.

“Complete honesty? Joseph said he couldn’t care less if I talked to you or not. That just because he had no desire to speak to you again, it didn’t mean I needed to cut myself off for his sake. Which was kind of what I was doing.”

What she had expected was more silence but surprisingly it didn’t come. “Ah, I see. What good am I, right? No reason to speak to me or anything.”

Despite that Ivo was trying to hide how hurt and offended he was, Vesela’s trained ear caught it easily. Being with him all these years came with that skill; honed it very well.

And if Ivo was bothered by Joseph not wanting to speak to him…maybe he was regretting? That was a good thing, right? Maybe he’d like to ask for that forgiveness soon? Cut this hell stay short? That’d be nice. Vesela was so homesick for her house and her family that it was ridiculous.

But then maybe he was bothered because he just thought this would all blow over already. That they’d just get over it and they were being dramatic or something like that. Maybe he didn’t realize how serious this all was.

That or he was in denial.

“Ivo,” Vesela started, “You beat him for kissing his boyfriend. Beat him to the point where it looks like he got jumped in an alley. Would you forgive someone that easily for doing that to you? Don’t even factor in the kissing, just the beating. How many stories have you told me where you wouldn’t speak to Yosef for a week because he beat you? Does Joseph not get that right?”

“I gave him his week. I gave him two because I’m that nice. It’s called getting over it.”

And now the anger was back. There was no point to a conversation once Ivo started to get angry. Early in their relationship, she had tried talking him through it and calming him down. It had never worked. Only Emiliya ever seemed to have that power over him. Yulian had literally called Vesela stupid once for trying and said ‘all you gotta do is ignore the fucking bastard.’

Somehow, that seemed to work more often than not.

Pulling the ravioli off the stove and thankful that it didn’t burn in her forgetfulness, Vesela opened another cabinet and poured half into the bowl she took out. Setting the pan back on the stove, she murmured “If we’re going to fight, then I’m hanging up.”

The door opened from the garage and Joseph came in carrying a box, holding the door open with a foot as he waited patiently for Peanut to stroll back in with him. Once the slowpoke finally did, he removed his foot and let the door shut. At least he was trying with his room now that they had fixed it up.

Baby steps.

“Lunch,” she called to him before he made the climb up the stairs. “Come eat before it gets cold.”

“Lemme just take this box up and I’ll be back,” Joseph replied as he carefully went up, box in hand, and Peanut in tow.

“How’s he settling in?” Ivo asked. It amazed Vesela that he actually sounded curious. “Okay?”

A part of her wanted to give in and answer because it was stupid and thought maybe they could already fix their mess. The smarter part of her knew that nothing had changed.

The smarter half won out.

“Not your business,” she said easily while pouring Joseph some ice tea.

Annoyance was brimming just on the edge of Ivo’s voice. “All I’m asking is how he’s doing. You can answer that. I’m sure you tell Nikol, so you can tell me.”

Bad reasoning he had there. “I tell Nikol; you’re right. My sister has a right to know how her nephew i-”

“And your husband has the right to know how his son is doing,” Ivo interrupted with a frustrated snarl. “What, if Yulian called, would you tell him before ever telling me?”

Yeah, actually she would. Something deep down told Vesela that if Andrey had come out as gay to Yulian, her brother-in-law would have accepted him so easily and readily. Nikol probably would have had more trouble than him. “He’s not your son, remember? He’s my faggot. Did you forget that, Lord Kavinsky?”

Ivo went silent as he was probably thinking about this. Vesela really wasn’t in the mood to talk with him anymore so she said “Anyways, I gotta go. Bye and take care of yourself.”

And she hung up.

She wasn’t sure if she’d ever call back anytime soon.

Chapter Text

It was funny, really. He’d always heard stories of how much homeschooling sucked. However, Joseph was actually loving it. There was no one to bug, bully, or distract him. It was just him, Peanut, and his awesome little coffee table. Of course the beanbag chair he had his butt set in too.

Didn’t get cooler than that.

The homeschooling was so he could finish up eighth grade which he had been pulled out of. ‘Family circumstances’ his mother had claimed to the school once she had enrolled him in a homeschool that she thought sounded good. He was almost tempted to ask her if he could just do high school this way too but then changed his mind. Joseph would at least try Aglionby before complaining. Maybe it wouldn’t be so horrible? Or maybe it would be interesting enough where he could overlook how much it sucked?

His classes for the coming year sounded pretty good on paper. Biology, Algebra 2 because he had already done 1 and was currently doing geometry, English, P.E., geography, and the history of public safety. His elective sucked but that was because they had enrolled so late. Hopefully the year after would be better. They hadn’t had room in any of their foreign language classes which also sucked. Another hope for next year.

Finishing the last problem for his math homework, Joseph rested his head atop his papers and sighed while shutting his eyes. He was just…tired. Tired because he didn’t sleep and just tired of…life. All of it. He didn’t want it anymore, if he were being honest. What was it worth anyways?

“I hate my life,” he whispered into the quiet of the house. Peanut raised her head from her fancy little hammock thing he had bought her and blinked at him. Like ‘huh, never would’ve guessed.’ “Stop staring at me,” Joseph griped at her. She continued to stare for another minute or two before setting her head back down and shutting her eyes.

Taking a deep breath, Joseph got up and walked out onto his balcony, resting his arms on the railing. Maybe he should actually bother to check out Henrietta. The place always seemed like it was calling out to him or something. There was just this weird tug pulling at him.

However, he had no idea how to answer it.

Because that tug? It pulled his subconscious. It wanted his head, his brain, his imagination.

His dreams.

And Joseph was too afraid to answer that call. The forest – his head – wasn’t a safe place.

It was dangerous.

Taming it hadn’t happened yet. More practice, more attempts at retaking what little control he had had was down right dangerous full of high risk. But Joseph wanted that control back.

Henrietta also seemed to want him to get it back.

Which was, well, kind of creepy. Why the hell did a small redneck town have this kind of power? What in the fucking fucks of all fucking fucks of hell? What the hell was this power anyways?

Sighing again because you could never have enough of those, Joseph rested his chin on his arms as he gazed down at their pool. It was a nice pool, good size and stuff. But trying it didn’t sound that fun because all it would bring was memories of happier times of playing in the water with certain people.

People he was trying to forget. They were better off without him anyways.

In a sort of automatic gesture, Joseph rubbed his wrist in absent thought.

That movement alone caused a harsh pang to strike his already sore heart.

Joseph’s wrist was just that. His wrist.

Empty.

Emilio’s bracelet that Joseph had promised to wear for both of them had been taken off. Placed into his special box to be kept safe with both of his grandfathers’ crosses and the recreated leaf bracelet his grandfather had given him. That part of his life he had to move on from. Taking off the bracelet was the natural step.

But Jesus fucking Christ had it hurt.

“Hey Joseph?”

“Yes, mayko.” He didn’t bother turning his head to look at her as she came up beside him on the balcony, copying his stance.

“I was gonna go out for a bit and figure this place out a bit more, you wanna join me? I promise fast food.” His mother’s words were said with so much hope that Joseph felt bad for her. Why did she keep having to try so hard and make him feel guilty? Didn’t she get he just didn’t want to bother with anything anymore?

“Thanks but I’m good. Not in the mood.” Probably never would be.

His mother went silent as she stared out at their backyard with him. “Yeah, me neither,” she whispered in sadness at his refusal. “Me neither.”

Joseph had expected some guilt to flare up from causing her sadness but surprisingly none came. For some reason, that made him incredibly happy. He didn’t want to have to keep worrying about hurting people. She hadn’t exactly been on that list but oh well.

She’d just have to be good practice.

They stood that way for a while, each one of them lost in their thoughts, gazing out at the backyard. It couldn’t last of course because his mother was intent on getting him out of his shell. “Do you wanna sit in the backyard with me? We could test out that new patio set.”

“Not feeling that either.”

“Or anything else I suggest, huh?”

“Exactly.”

Huffing in what sounded like defeat, his mother murmured “I’m really trying here, you know.”

Yeah, Joseph was aware. He wished she wouldn’t. “I know. And it’d be nice if you just stopped already.” He had known that the words would hurt and from the way she suddenly let out a humorless laugh and just walked away, Joseph knew the words had hit home.

Good. Maybe she’d just give up finally. That way he’d just finally be fully and completely alone.

That’s all he wanted.

 


 

She glanced through her bleary tear-filled eyes at the name on her phone. Half of her wanted to answer and just cry all her worries away and the other half loathed it.

Vesela answered.

“Hey!” came Nikol’s chipper voice. Vesela knew her sister was trying to always be there and sound happy to make her feel better and while sometimes it worked beautifully, today wasn’t one of those times.

“Hey,” Vesela mumbled.

The sadness was caught in less than a second. “What’s wrong?”

“My life,” Vesela laughed in her tears. “My stupid life.”

“If I said comeback and live with me, I’d be talking to deaf ears, huh?”

God, she’d do it in a heartbeat. They literally had only been here a month and Vesela was just dead. How was she supposed to last at least four years? “Sadly. But not because of me.”

“Guess he’s not any better. Worse?”

“He’d like it if I just stopped giving a fuck.”

“He said that?” Nikol exclaimed in shock. “Seriously?”

Letting out a shaky breath and wiping her tears before lying back on her bed to talk to the ceiling, Vesela replied “Well, not those words but I know what he meant. Hurt like fuck, Nikol. I’ve been hit by words before but those were just…I’m trying for him and he doesn’t even want it.”

Trying so fucking hard. Everything was always ‘no’ or ‘not feeling it’ or ‘another time.’ Why couldn’t he just once say ‘yes’ or something? Even just to one thing? Just so she could feel like she was actually making a difference here.

So she could stop feeling like such a horrible failure. So she could stop thinking that she ruined her life for nothing.

Coming to Virginia was a mistake. Nothing was changing. Hell, nothing was going to change. Joseph was getting worse as the days passed. In his attitude, his mannerisms, in his disposition for fuck’s sake. Vesela could barely even remember when he had last smiled a real smile.

Goddammit she missed her child.

What was worse was that something deep down told her that things were only going to get far worse than they already were.

“Maybe…he just needs more time?”

Not even needing to see her sister’s face to be able to tell that she didn’t even believe that, Vesela snorted “Time? Time’s just going to make him even worse.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Nikol, in a matter of a month, he’s become worse than he’s ever been. He barely speaks, barely eats, barely leaves his room. I’m convinced he doesn’t sleep…”

  


 

“…because he looks like shit. Oh and when he does speak, his mouth is as nasty as Ivo’s. Does that sound like getting better to you?”

Joseph’s hand froze mid knock. He had planned on coming and telling her that maybe he was actually feeling like sitting outside because he was starting to feel slightly guilty. The more he thought about the way she left his room, the more Joseph’s feelings rose up.

But now after hearing her telling probably his tétka about him?

He was just plain pissed; he was no one’s business. What happened in this house was no one’s problem. It wasn’t people’s business how he was doing or what he was like. Why did they deserve to know?

They didn’t. Plain and simple.

“The fuck are you saying,” he snapped as he burst into the room, his anger flaring. It was like a privacy invasion telling people who he didn’t want to tell stuff about him.

His mother’s gaze was filled with shock, her eyes wide in disbelief. Joseph could easily tell that she had been crying as she sat on her bed cross-legged, phone in her hand. “Excuse me?”

“It’s nobody’s fucking business if I don’t sleep or whatever other shit you said. It’s my own god fucking problem and no one else’s. I never said you can go telling people shit.”

She was starting to look angry and Joseph figured it was mostly because of the language and that his tétka was hearing all this. “Okay, number one? You do not speak to me like that. Ever. Do you understand?”

“No, bitch, I don’t,” Joseph hissed back, watching as her anger took one second to turn to hurt. “You do not have the right to go and tell people stuff. I said no one gets to know and that means no one. Maybe if you bothered to listen to what I say, I’ll take the time to listen to you.”

Her hurt was morphing with fury as she was getting angrier by the second. “I’m gonna have to call you back,” his mother said in a stiff tone to his tétka before closing the phone and almost slamming it on her nightstand. Standing, she walked over to him, eyes blazing as she stood before him, finger to his chest. “You never speak to me like that again. Understand?”

Thing was, Joseph did understand.

He just didn’t feel like listening today.

“What part of ‘no, bitch’ didn’t you get? You can’t go around telling pe-”

“She’s not people!” his mother interrupted with a shout, her frustration and irritation getting the best of her now. “She’s my sister, your aunt! And being that I’m the mother in this situation, I get to decide when I think something needs to be told! Not you!”

Since he was little, his mother had always told him that she and her tétka got their tempers from their own mother. The woman was the sweetest woman in the world but when she got pissed, she got pissed. Joseph on the other hand, since he was little, was always Ivo in everything according to everyone.

Nowadays, that included his temper.

“A mother?” Joseph laughed in that sick way that Ivo used so often. The one he knew his mother hated more than anything. “Bitch, as far as mothers go, you’re on the bottom of the entire fucking totem pole! You’re a load of fucking bullshit! What good are you as a FUCKING MOTHER! WHAT GOOD HAVE YOU EVER DONE ME!”

Eyes even wider than before, his mother stared at him like he was a complete stranger. And maybe he was to her now. He was never going to be the same Joseph after everything he went through. The sooner she understood that, the better.

“Get out,” she whispered, her voice on the edge of crying. Tears were welling in her eyes and yet Joseph couldn’t even bring himself to care. “Get out of my room, Joseph.”

“Gladly,” he snorted while rolling his eyes before walking out. He knew he shouldn’t have given in to his guilt.

Her door slammed shut once he reached his own room. In reply, Joseph slammed his own just to be a totally extra asshole. Throwing himself onto his bed facedown upon reaching it, he breathed a heavy sigh into his pillows. “I hate life. Fucking hate it.”

Maybe he needed some actual air. The air here was actually cleaner than that of Hoboken’s. Maybe Joseph needed to inhale some of that fresh air. Refresh his lungs and thoughts or whatever. Joseph had been cooped up in the house for the entire month they had been here besides for the once he went to Walmart.

Perhaps it was time to see what Henrietta had to offer him.

Chapter Text

“Left or…right…”

It was a good question.

“Very good,” he muttered while trying to decide. Joseph had totally jacked his mother’s keys and taken her car. If you were going to explore shit town, you had to have a vehicle. And to make sure that no one thought he was from this place before they heard his accent, you had to drive something better than what they had.

Hence his mother’s Audi s4. It wasn’t Joseph’s dream Evo but it was a car and it was fucking nice. He probably wouldn’t even get his car if he were being honest. Ivo kept his promises but would he keep it to his faggot son?

“Fuck no,” Joseph snorted at his stupidity. “Definitely fuck no.”

So he’d have to buy his own car then. Where the hell was he going to get an Evo in Henrietta?

His head.

Duh.

Something to work on then. For right now, however, he seriously needed to pick a way because he was just sitting half in-half out of their long ass driveway. Left or right…

“Fuck it. Right it is.”

Out of everything right now, the only thing he was worried about was getting pulled over and the cop finding out that he had neither license nor permit. But this place was filled with so many rednecks, letting underage kids drive had to be a thing. Joseph wasn’t worried about his driving technique or getting into an accident. He was actually really confident in his skills. Maybe he had been driving for barely even two weeks but despite the horrible things Ivo was, he was a damn good teacher.

Coming to a halt at a stop sign, Joseph had to make yet another decision. He had no clue where he was going. All he knew was that he needed to get out of that house before he did or said something horrible to the only person he had left. Conflicting feelings were piling in on him. Joseph didn’t know whether to be mean to her, hate her, love her, cherish her…

Joseph just didn’t know. Confusion had taken over when it came to his mother. He didn’t want to shun her but what if that was what was best? But then…what if it wasn’t?

Definitely no clue what the fuck to do.

Right now, what he needed to focus on was where the fuck he was going. Maybe he’d find stores if he just kept driving. Walmart definitely existed somewhere in this hell hole. Even if it was there he stopped, at least it was somewhere.

Jumping when someone honked behind him, Joseph shook himself back to the present and decided to go straight. Where it took him, he’d just have to find that out.

After a series of lefts, rights, straights, and even u-turns, Joseph was finally willing to admit that he was totally lost. How he got lost in crap town, he had no idea and it was honestly just goddamn embarrassing. Pulling over to the side of the stupid road, he shut off the car and rested his head on the steering wheel. “Fuck.”

What was sadder was that there wasn’t even anyone to ask for directions. The fucking street was empty and Joseph didn’t own a phone.

Maybe he should fix that second thing.

There wasn’t even a pay phone which was ridiculous. What kind of place didn’t have pay phones on the streets? You couldn’t walk a block in Jersey without passing at least one. Sighing while tapping his fingers on the wheel, Joseph finally decided that sitting here was kind of stupid too. He could at least drive until he either saw someone, a building, or a pay phone.

With this plan of attack, he pulled back into the street after starting the beauty he was driving. Trusting his gut even though it didn’t always make the best decisions, he decided to keep following the road and hope for the best. After driving for another ten minutes and noticing that the road went from four to two lanes, Joseph cursed out his gut but kept going.

The road became even narrower, which, for a person from the tri state area of the east coast, wasn’t actually a cause of worry. You could drive in a one lane one way street in Manhattan and there would be four cars next to each other. Joseph had never actually driven in the city but he paid good attention to his mother and Ivo when they had.

What did cause a tad bit of worry was how the road turned more like dirt than asphalt. He didn’t want to scuff his mother’s car. Coming to a stop and shutting off the car after throwing up the handbrake, Joseph got out and took in his surroundings.

It was like some abandoned…something. Field? There were floodlights that looked like they hadn’t worked in years. This obviously used to be something but what?

Time to explore. However…

“I’m so not getting murdered by some creepy axe murderer,” Joseph grumbled as he opened the car and leaned in to reach the glove compartment. Popping it open, he took the knife he knew his mother kept there for extreme emergencies. After the stuff with Damyan, Ivo had tried convincing her to keep a small gun instead but she had refused.

“I’d probably end up shooting myself trying to use the thing in a panic before I shot who I was supposed to.”

Shutting the car once more and making sure to put the alarm, Joseph put the knife in his pocket and began his walk. The place was huge but literally all of it was rundown. Hell, even the ugly grass and weeds. There wasn’t really anything interesting around. The huge empty field was kind of cool if you ever needed a place to bury a body but other than that?

A complete waste of time. Not that his time was worth anything anyways so…

No problem there.

Joseph made sure to keep track of where he walked just in case he got lost. That was all he needed. Not only get lost in the car but also with his own stupid feet. That’d be pretty lame.

Eventually the grass gave way to cement and then little…booths maybe, started popping up here are there. There were a couple buildings that, after checking them out, yielded him nothing interesting besides being old and empty. As he walked out of yet another empty warehouse thing, Joseph backtracked when his eyes caught on something that looked sort of like a map that you’d see at a zoo.

Wiping it clean with the bottom of his shirt and regretting that action seconds later after looking at his shirt, Joseph studied what was in front of him. “Fairgrounds. Huh…” Maybe their fair sucked so much that they had to close it down. “Totally could be true. This place is bullshit.”

But if it was abandoned…it meant nobody wanted it, right? Giving the place another wide sweeping glance, Joseph bit his lip in thought.

Maybe he wanted it.

 

 

It was dark before he actually made it home. Not necessarily because he was still exploring his new found kingdom but because it seriously took him that long to find his way home. But at least he had managed it.

Score for him.

Shutting off the car and getting out, his gaze caught on his mother sitting on the step of their porch. From the way his heart constricted, Joseph knew that shunning her was a horrible idea. For now, at least. He didn’t like seeing her hurting.

Pocketing her keys after making sure he armed the alarm, he walked over to her curled up form, her head resting on her knees and covered by her arms. After he took a seat beside her, Joseph rested his head on her shoulder, still not used to the fact that he was way taller than her now. When she neither spoke nor moved, he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tight. “I’ll wash your car in the morning.”

That earned him a slight laugh because obviously, she couldn’t see the dirt in the dark and that was probably the last thing she was worried about.

But still, she didn’t speak or move.

“Mayko,” he whispered, clutching her even tighter than before. “I’m really sorry about earlier. I didn’t mean any of it.” Some of it…

When the wonderful woman in his arms still refused to speak, he pressed his face into her and mumbled “Say something, please.”

His words were met with a tired sigh as she raised her head and rested it against his chest, remaining in his embrace. “You smell terrible.”

Surprise fluttered when he actually laughed. “Shower before bed. Message received.”

“You better wax and buff my car after that wash tomorrow. Look at the poor thing all abused and nasty.” She was about to brush a piece of hair out her face before she stopped and noticed how dirty her hand was. “Wax and buff your clothes too. Sheesh, Joseph.”

“Let’s just call it adventuring,” he laughed in reply. “I totally got lost and then ended up in some abandoned place and then well, got lost on the way home. You know this shit hole doesn’t have pay phones? What kind of place doesn’t have pay phones on the streets?”

“Not a single one?”

Resting his head on hers, he answered “Not that I saw. I think I need a cell phone, by the way. If there’s no pay phones around here, then I need a line of communication.”

She hummed in what he figured was thought as she rested her hands on his. Finally, she murmured “I guess we can go buy one. You’re old enough and we can’t have you getting lost again.”

He was appreciative that she had some humor in her voice. If she was willing to joke, then maybe she wasn’t so upset anymore. “Something nice though. I shall pull no stops here in claiming my rich kid heritage.”

“We kind of are already living in the rich kid neighborhood,” his mother pointed out. “Plus, you hate flaunting that. Why start now?”

Because this is the new me. Kavinsky doesn’t mind making himself out to be an asshole. Instead of voicing his thoughts, Joseph simply shrugged. “Why not start? Who gives a fuck how I portray myself? I hope you don’t actually think I’m going to bother with people. Home and school, that’s it. I’m not going to bother making friends.”

Joseph could easily tell from her stiffness that she hated his answer. But like him, she didn’t voice what she was actually thinking. “We’ll make a deal. You get a phone if you come shopping with me.”

“Deal. Walmart better have decent phones though. I think I want like your iPhone. They sell it, right? Also, Peanut needs more litter.”

“Noted,” she snorted in amusement before stretching and getting up. “C’mon, dinner awaits.”

 


 

“Is this my call back?” Nikol asked curiously.

“That it would be,” Vesela sighed as she washed the dishes from their dinner. At least Joseph had eaten his plate. ‘Adventuring’ had made him hungry. Maybe he needed to do it more often.

“Where’s little monster Ivo?”

Putting a cup upside down in the dish rack, Vesela snorted “Don’t call him that. And he’s in the shower.”

Silence followed her answer before her older sister said carefully “Vesela, what the hell is with him. Literally, all I could imagine is the way Ivo looks when he yells. Joseph never had a temper like that.”

That wasn’t exactly true. It’s just his temper was never explosive. And never done in front of his aunt. “He’s just…”

“Don’t tell me you’re about to start making excuses. ‘It’s the move’ or ‘he didn’t sleep.’ C’mon, Vesela.”

Shutting off the water after clearing the garbage disposal, she leaned on her arms over the sink. She was just tired of everything. “Excuses are the only way I can make it sound like I know what is going on. Because I seriously don’t know shit. He took my car, you know. After we fought. I didn’t even know he could drive.”

“Your bastard apparently taught him while we were gone.”

No wonder they had sounded so cheerful. God, if only it had stayed that way. “That would explain it then.”

“Did he just come home?”

“Pretty much. I sat and waited on the porch for two hours when he finally showed up. Says he got lost and, surprisingly, I believe him.”

“Do you tell Ivo anything about him?” Nikol suddenly asked in a curious tone.

Talk about unexpected question. “No, why?”

“His choice or yours?”

“I…I’ve only talked to Ivo twice since we got here. A couple texts too but that’s it. But he does ask; in both phone calls and whenever he texts.”

Vesela could literally see the surprise on her sister’s face. “You don’t talk to him? Gotta say, girl, I didn’t think you had it in you. I’m so proud.”

“Shut up,” she couldn’t help but laugh as she straightened and walked over to their dining table, plopping down into a chair. “Why do you ask though?”

“Well, you see, today I had this visitor. It was just me and Timotei home so I go to open, and lo and behold, your p.o.s. is in my face. Mind you, this is legit the first time I’ve seen him since you left. You wanna guess what the first thing I did was?”

Snorting while rolling her eyes, Vesela answered “You totally slapped him.”

“Damn straight I did. Right across his stupid face. He rubbed his cheek for a bit before sighing and muttering that he deserved that. I told him he deserved far worse. He agreed. I ask him what the fuck he thinks he wants and guess what he says?”

Biting her thumbnail in thought, Vesela came up with nothing. “No clue. What?”

In a mocking tone of his voice and accent, Nikol replied “’All I want is to know how Joseph is. Please.’ I say ‘go fuck yourself’ before I try slamming the door. He sticks his shoe in to stop the door before pushing it back open. Then it’s ‘Please, Nikol. Anything.’”

To say she wasn’t surprised would be a lie. Ivo had actually wanted to know about Joseph that bad where he had gone to Nikol? The woman that he genuinely hated?

Damn.

“So what’d you say?”

“I didn’t know if you were telling him anything or if I was supposed to tell him anything. So I just told him no. That unless you tell me to, I ain’t saying shit. He actually looked super upset by my answer but I wasn’t going to give in. Unless you want me to?”

She had no idea and her heart jumped when the shower shut off upstairs. How sad was it that she was scared of Joseph hearing her on the phone? She wasn’t talking about him but after the fiasco this morning, she didn’t want to take any chances. “I’ve no clue…what do you think?”

Her sister was quiet as she thought before responding “Well…he’s gotta care, right? That’s why he came and asked?”

What Vesela was hoping, yeah.

“So…,” Nikol continued, trailing off as she continued to mull it over. “Maybe, like, the bare minimum? You keep stonewalling him but I could give a word or two a month. Make him hungry for the info.”

“Maybe…” Sighing and not wanting to deal with anything else today, Vesela murmured “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Monster done from the shower?”

“Oh my God, Nikol, stop,” Vesela laughed with a shake of her head.

“Hey, hey, you used to call Andrey a brat all the time. This is payback.”

Standing and pushing in her chair, she snorted as she walked over to the stairs “Whatever. Talk to you later.”

“Bye, dork.”

“Screw you.”

Chapter Text

Joseph groaned in pain. Slamming into the floor was not cool. Next time, he’d prepare for it. “Oh Jesus,” he mumbled as he sat up from the dirt floor. Couldn’t he have at least fallen onto grass? How the hell did he even fall though? From where?

Whatever. He was here and that was what mattered.

And that the pill actually worked.

Nice.

“Okay, now I’m in.”

He was in.

For the past week, Joseph had been working on successfully moving in his forest. He could get in but it was troublesome because once he was in, the forest wanted him out. Every time, he’d end up waking with some kind of wounds. Joseph didn’t want to give up his ability just because his forest was a bitch.

Hence the pills.

They were something he had actually been working on since Jersey but he had never used them besides that time he needed to kill dream boy. Each pill did something different and were color coded to keep shit simple. The one he had been perfecting lately was the green pill. It was supposed to thrust you in and then help you thrust yourself out.

A couple of kinks still needed straightening but he felt confident in today’s trial. The main problem he was having was taking shit back. Because this was an ‘in and out’ mission, there was just no time to perfect what he wanted. So every time he did manage to grab something, it generally came out shitty.

But today felt different. Maybe this was it.

Diana hadn’t shown up in weeks. Joseph had no idea what the hell had happened to her but while she didn’t show her face, he was sure she was around. People just had that ‘aura’ thing. You knew when someone was around and if you knew the person well, you could feel it was them.

Joseph could literally feel her lurking in the shadows. Not just her but horrible black heavy anger. And it wasn’t even just anger but something deeper than that.

Hate.

The entire forest reeked of it.

Which was what made taking things even worse.

Rushing through the trees because this was all about speed, Joseph’s gaze darted through the bushes and roots before he finally spotted what he was looking for. It wasn’t anything special but he needed to practice small again before going big. Grasping his object, he stepped on a branch that was about to grab him before he ran off once more. He needed to be clear of any and all flora and fauna which enjoyed hurting him.

“Wake up,” he whispered quickly. “Wake up, dammit.” There was a screech of something that he didn’t even want to know what it was. “Wake up, wake up, wake up.”

Okay, new kink discovered in this particular pill.

Either it takes you or you get the fuck out.

 


 

She knocked but got no answer. After a couple more knocks and still hearing nothing, Vesela rolled her eyes and just went in, basket of laundry on her hip. If she was gonna catch him naked or whatever, it was his fault. Maybe he should have bothered to answer. Better not be like…masturbating or something. I’ll be scarred for life.

“Joseph,” she sighed as she walked in, Peanut watching her from one of her towers while flicking her tail. “Baby, laundry. Your lazy ass could at least help, you know.” Dropping the basket on his coffee table which had a mess of junk all over it, she turned and noticed him in bed, sleeping. “Oh. Never mind, you do that. I’d prefer you get some sleep.”

Not scarred for life. Nice.

Pulling out his clothes, she folded as she hummed with Peanut’s heavy gaze literally tracking her every movement. “Cat, you are such a freak. Stop staring.”

Vesela was about to grab two socks to fold them together when she heard some weird heaving behind her. Turning to look at her baby in bed, the comforter covering only half of his now long body, she stared and waited to see if the noise would come again. Nightmare maybe?

He had them far more frequently than he used to. She wanted to say since they moved but really, Vesela felt like it was since the fight with Ivo. Beating not fight. Fight means it was fair. That was usually why Vesela figured he didn’t sleep. Joseph was a horrible mess; his eyes were sunken in and blackened from exhaustion and he was literally just bones. He ate but it was the bare minimum to the point where his ribs were almost visible and that terrified her. All methods of getting him to eat more had been tried but, typical of things coming to Joseph, nothing worked.

Dear God help her in raising this child because she was doing terrible. Vesela’s best just wasn’t doing shit.

When the noise didn’t come again, she returned her focus to the laundry only for the noise to come the minute she did. Dropping the socks into his basket, she walked over and crouched down beside the bed, her face in his. “Joseph. Joseph, sweetheart, wake up.”

To her credit, she didn’t start to freak out until, besides for his shallow breathing which was somehow getting shallower, he started to twitch. When that happened, she carefully grasped his shoulders and tried harder to get him up. “C’mon, baby, wake up.”

His twitching turned into slight thrashing and then he began to choke. That’s when she was more than freaked and started to panic. What kind of person choked in a dream? Could you even choke in a dream?

It must be possible because now her son’s hands were scrabbling at his neck like there was actually something there. Grabbing his hands to stop him from gouging out his throat because he was already scratching it open with his nails, Vesela stamped down her panic and yanked them away from him. “Joseph,” she said in a firm voice because her timidness wouldn’t wake a fly, “Joseph, wake up.”

Maybe she should shout. Could a person breach another’s subconscious? Whether they could or couldn’t, she needed to try because his body was getting more desperate by the second, fighting her grasp and the dream’s hard.

“Joseph! WAKE UP!”

 


 

Sirens were blaring in his brain as the vines clung harder to his throat and his air supply was freakishly low. Oxygen seriously needed to get to his brain.

Now. Like right this fucking second.

But for some reason, something was restraining his hands. Some invisible force he couldn’t even see or feel. Joseph kept mentally telling himself to wake the fuck up before he died but nothing was working. He wasn’t sure he could actually die because he had died in his dream but he sure as fuck didn’t want to find out right now.

WAKE UP!

Jolting awake and heaving from all the air now invading his deprived lungs, Joseph was shocked when his mother’s panicked face was in his. Maybe it really had been her voice that he’d heard? He had thought that he recognized it but he hadn’t been sure.

“Joseph?” she whispered in worry, tears nearly falling out of her beautiful eyes that he adored. “Baby, you okay?”

It took him a few minutes before he was even able to calm his breathing. In that time, he realized that the invisible force had been her as he looked down at her hands still holding his wrists tight. Clearing his throat, Joseph replied with a hoarse voice “Totally fine.” When she still hadn’t removed her hands, he mumbled “You…gonna let go?”

His mother looked like she really didn’t want to and it showed in her extremely reluctant removal. “Nightmare?”

“Something like that,” Joseph whispered back, eyes downcast as he played with a loose thread from his comforter. “But I’m okay.” His neck seriously ached and his throat hurt like a bitch but he’d be alright. Ivo had given him worse.

He flinched in surprise when her hand was suddenly at his throat, softly rubbing along it. The touch had been unexpected. “P-Pretty real nightmare.”

You have no idea. What had she seen on her end? “I guess.”

“You guess,” his mother snorted with a shake of her head before she got up on the bed beside him and hugged him close. Having that ‘mayko scent’ engulf him was the most comforting thing in the world. He curled into her as best as his frame would allow when she murmured “Joseph, I literally saw you choking, possibly to death. Do you get how terrifying that is?”

So he was choking without the actual noose – vines in his case – showing. If it wasn’t for him nearly dying, he’d say that was kind of cool. “Choking?”

“Yeah. You started making this noise while I was putting away the laundry and then you did it again so I tried waking you. Then the terrifying stuff started happening. Including but not limited to watching you almost rip your throat out while trying to take off some imaginary God knows what.”

For a mother to see that, yeah, terrifying was a good word. Extremely good. Joseph was surprised she was as composed as she was. Raising a tentative hand to his throat, he felt along the dried cuts from his own hands. Holy shit. Could I have killed myself like that?

Neither did he know or want to know.

Taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out, he mumbled “Thanks for waking me. Definitely appreciated.”

She hugged him tighter, “You’re so freaking welcome. No lie, when I walked in, I was worried I was gonna catch you jerking off or something. Definitely not half dying in your sleep.”

A huge laugh erupted from his tired lungs despite himself. “Oh my God, mayko. If that happened, I’d legit die.”

“I’d be scarred for life,” his mother grumbled and Joseph could imagine her rolling her eyes. She gave a dramatic shiver. “Ew. Two things that’ll scar a parent for life are seeing your kid masturbating and catching them having sex.” His mother shivered again before adding “Jesus, don’t ever do that to me.”

“No worries,” Joseph laughed. Yeah, there was no way he’d ever let that happen. Plus, when he did have sex, he was kind of hoping that he’d never have to bring the girl home. That was how attachments grew and the last thing Joseph wanted was for some girl to get attached when all he wanted was sex.

Did that make him sound like an asshole? Yes, yes it did.

But no one ever said he wasn’t one.

Pulling out of her warm embrace and stretching, Joseph yawned before getting out of bed. “I think I’m gonna shower. Should wake me up better.”

Shrugging as she too got up, his mother replied before walking out “Put away your laundry!”

After a very comforting shower, Joseph got dressed before checking the house and finding his mother not home. She would’ve told him if she was leaving, wouldn’t she?

Trudging back up their long ass staircase, Joseph went to his room and plopped back into bed before grabbing his new iPhone off his nightstand. Obviously his contacts included his mother but it also included his family. Even Ivo. You never knew when there was some life or death situation. He wouldn’t give his number to the man but Joseph would keep his just in case. His relatives also didn’t know he had a phone but it was better that way. Knowing his luck, if Andrey found out he had a phone, he’d go buy one just to be able to call and text Joseph.

That stress was not needed in his life.

So relatives technically only included his tétka, his tetíncho, and their house number. He had also put in bába’s number because maybe one day he’d need it. Who knew.

Other than calling or texting his mother once in a while, Joseph honestly didn’t use it for much. Some books had been put on it but he preferred reading actual print, not so much digital. He had seriously thought about signing up for some kind of social media but then decided against it. What was the point? Not like he had anyone to add or whatever.

Clicking her name and smiling as her picture came up, he put the phone on speaker as he laid down and listened to the dialing. He even bothered to get comfortable and covered himself with his blanket.

“I left you a note,” his mother laughed when she answered.

“Oh. Yeah, totally missed that wherever it is.”

“Table, sweetheart.”

Turning his head from staring at his wall and his now many quotes, Joseph glanced at his table. The note was a piece of paper folded in half so it could stand.

He wasn’t even sure how he had missed that. And even though she had told him to do it, she had been nice enough to put his laundry away.

“Huh…okay then. Well, I’m too lazy to roll over there soooo where’d you go?”

“You’re not going to like my answer.”

“Oh?” Interesting that one. “Do tell, my lady.”

“I totally stopped at that place we saw the other day that bragged about the best tuna sandwiches.”

Choking was the theme of the day apparently as his laughter got stuck in his throat. They had passed the place the other day and laughed about how they could make a claim like that. Had the maker tasted every sandwich in town?

Obviously they hadn’t tasted his mother’s.

“Verdict?”

“Good but mine are better.”

“No duh. I coulda told you that. You gonna be long?”

“Eh,” she mumbled around a bite of sandwich. “I’m thinking to check out some more of the place and then getting us something from out for dinner. Sound good?”

Shrugging even though she couldn’t even see, Joseph replied “Yeah that’s cool. Don’t forget my milkshake.” He had discovered this small shop that made fucking amazing milkshakes.

Like beyond fucking amazing.

“No problem,” she laughed. “Try not to have a nightmare while I’m away, yeah? Peanut is about self-preservation, she might not wake you.”

He scratched his head as he turned to stare at his blank ceiling. Maybe they needed to paint that too because it looked horribly plain compared to everything else. There was no intention to have a nightmare. There never actually was; they just happened.

But he had the full intention of using her time away to try and get into the forest again. And with fingers crossed, he wouldn’t get almost choked to death by an evil forest that was supposed to be him. Such a load of bullshit.

“Peanut is a nasty soul. We all know it. Don’t for-”

“Forget your milkshake. I know,” his mother finished and he would bet that she was rolling her eyes while munching that tuna of hers. “Love you.”

“Adore you.”

“Cute. And cheesy. Don’t do it.”

With a snort of amusement, he shut the phone before setting it on one of the shelves of his bookcase.

There was dreaming to be had.

Reaching under his bed and pulling out the biohazard box where he hid his acids and pills, Joseph opened it up and picked out another green pill.

Time for round two.

Chapter Text

In and out.

Reality to dream.

Dream to reality.

Rinse and repeat.

Simple as that.

Or, most nights it was as simple as that. Some were like a few days ago with evil vines trying to stop him. Or evil roots, evil bushes, evil trees, hell, even evil grass.

Evil evil bitches those guys.

But Joseph had realized the secret to it. You go in with target in mind, you get to come out with said target in hand as long as you were fast enough.

In and out like a thief.

A motherfucking thief.

He started with small things; a watch, a book, a fancy invisible ink pen.

Then Joseph worked his way up to where he used to be.

Like a baby squirrel that he put in his backyard. Joseph was sure his skills were back up to par because the thing came out the way it was supposed to his first try. No spilled guts or anything. The pills definitely helped in dreaming.

Not so much his health though.

Joseph always felt sick now because of taking three or four pills a day. They were taking a toll on his stomach and head. Headaches were constant with his mind feeling heavy and fuzzy. He threw up at least once a day for the past few days since starting this endeavor. But there was no way in hell that he was going to give it up. Without the pills, Joseph could barely access his forest and definitely couldn’t take anything that was any good.

So the pills were here to stay.

Laying himself down on the hood of his mother’s car in the abandoned fairground’s field, Joseph took a deep breath as he popped a green pill out of his pocket. He held the oblong shaped pill up at the sun, squinting at it. Today, he was after a prize much bigger than what he had been doing.

And probably just as complicated as a human.

“In and out, Joseph,” he whispered as he brought the pill closer to his face, examining it close. “Like a motherfucking thief.” Sticking out his tongue, he set the pill on it. Down the hatch it goes.

And he swallowed.

Jolting into the forest, he saw what he wanted and went for it before he thrust himself awake. Time was of the essence and there was definitely none of it within the forest when you used the pill.

Especially when you were a thief too.

He jerked awake, gasping for breath. The pills forced you asleep, practically rendering you at a near death state. Either you were fast, the forest got you, or the pill did. This particular set of green fuckers were actually a little better than the last one that had nearly gotten him killed. They didn’t lower his heart rate at such a scary rate where you couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive. Technically, he had never actually seen how he looked when he dreamed with the pill but he could easily imagine.

These new pills lowered his heart rate, yeah, but not to that terrifying level.

“Fuck,” he groaned upon seeing what was in his hand. What he wanted was not supposed to be the size of his stupid ass hand. Sighing as he sat up, Joseph glared in annoyance at the miniature Mitsu Evo in his hand. “Fucking lame.”

His day ended up that way. Joseph would go in hoping for his Evo and come out with, well, an Evo. But it was never actually the car – the life-sized car. It was just miniature bullshit every single fucking time, each one slightly different than the last which got him nowhere. When his phone vibrated, he pulled it out of his pocket and answered his mother’s worried call. He had been hoping to try at least one more time and take his seventh pill of the day but maybe it was better that he had been interrupted.

Just because they were dream pills didn’t mean he couldn’t overdose on them. At least, he thought so.

“Hola.”

“It’s almost eight, Joseph.”

Flicking up his right wrist to look at the time on one of the two watches he had jacked from Ivo before he had left, Joseph nodded. “That it would be.”

“You don’t sound even mildly concerned.”

Sighing and sliding off the hood, Joseph replied as he gathered up all of the failed cars “Should I be? I mean, seriously mayko, there isn’t a single threatening thing in this fucking trailer trash town. Like legit, you don’t even read about crimes in the newspaper.”

The sound of the sink turning on came over the line and then dishes clanging together. She had probably made dinner and was waiting for him. “Most people would take that as a good thing. Nobody actually wishes for bad things to happen.”

“True, true, however my dear lady, since there is very little to no crime in fuck town, I think my curfew should be changed,” Joseph said as he popped open the trunk and dumped his failures into a bag. He’d have to remember to take that down before she saw them and wondered what the hell was up with all these. “Plus, I’m older. Why do I have to be in house by five? Lame, mayko. We kept that time because walking in Jersey during the evening and night could be dangerous for a kid who was short as fuck. Also the son of a big time mobster. Said kid is now 5’ 11’’ and there are no mobs or mafias around here.”

A heavy unamused sigh came from the other end of the line. “Fine. Curfew is flexible starting tomorrow. In house by eight. How’s that?”

“That I can work with,” he smiled in delight from this small victory. Slamming the trunk shut, he made sure his pills were safe and secure in his pocket and checked around the car for any odd evidence before getting in and turning the beauty on. He reversed and turned the car around after shutting his door and fastening his seatbelt. “Be home in a bit.”

 

 

“Birthday is in a few weeks,” his mother said after swallowing her bite of moussaka. “Anything in particular you want to do? Or want?”

Joseph couldn’t help the snort that erupted from him. For as long as he could remember, his birthdays were always celebrated with everyone either at home or in a park. For the past seven years, his best friend’s family was always invited.

Now there was no relatives, no friends.

No Emilio.

It was just him and his mother. The fuck were two people supposed to do? Plus, this one would be painful in more than it just being them. Ivo had promised him his Evo for his fifteenth on the night of his fourteenth. There was no Ivo and there was going to be no car.

How funny how time had passed. On his fourteenth birthday, he had sworn it was the best day of his life. It was the day the boy he loved told him that he loved him too. The day he learned that he could be gay and it wasn’t wrong.

Yeah, he had been ridiculously stupid a year ago.

Being gay meant you were a faggot and just one big ass disgusting thing that deserved to burn in hell. If Emilio wanted to spend eternity in hell with all his sexuality positivity, he could. He wasn’t Joseph’s problem anymore.

Stamping down the part of him that protested to that thought, Joseph replied “I don’t want anything and I don’t want to do anything. It’ll be any other day; nothing special.”

“Your birthday is special, silly.”

“Calling me silly is cute when I’m five,” Joseph snorted, “Not practically fifteen. I don’t want to do shit and I don’t want shit. So don’t do shit.”

From the way she stabbed her fork into her food, he could tell she was annoyed. Probably upset too. “Fine. How about I just don’t talk to you that day too? Make it even better.” Huffing, she abruptly stood before she grabbed her plate and practically threw it in the sink. He had to admit, he totally thought it was going to chip or something.

“Mayko-”

She completely ignored him as she walked to the stairs, slipping off her slippers before making her way up. He watched as she walked until finally she disappeared from the balcony/hallway into the ‘closed’ hallway with walls, the slam of her door echoing in the big empty house.

Turning back to his food although now what little appetite he had had was gone, Joseph stared down at his plate. He hadn’t meant to hurt her but he was serious. Joseph didn’t want to celebrate anything when his life wasn’t worth celebrating. His gaze flicked down when he felt something at his leg. A small smile came on his face as he lifted Peanut into his lap. “Hi.”

Obviously she was unable to say anything but his adorable cat gave him a purr which was good enough for him. Rubbing her soft head between her big ass ears, Joseph mumbled “I guess telling you ‘I hate my life’ would be sounding like a broken record, huh?”

Her pretty green eyes looked at him steadily before they shut in content and her tongue popped out. “You’re such a freak,” Joseph murmured in amusement before he stood, keeping her tight in his arms. “We might as well clean the kitchen for her. Something tells me she isn’t coming down for the rest of the night.”

Peanut was a lazy ass which wasn’t news to anyone so Joseph had to clean the kitchen by himself. After the table had been cleared and the food put away in containers for tomorrow, he began the dreaded task of dishes. He could do sweeping, vacuum, wiping down, and all that other stuff with little complaint. But dishes?

Dishes were such a bitch. Kind of like evil plants.

So they got lots of complaints.

“Why don’t we just use the fucking dishwasher,” he grumbled as he scrubbed the pan that the moussaka had been cooked in. “It’s brand new and shit. I don’t see why we don’t just put it to use instead of this ridiculousness.”

“Because you have to rinse the dishes anyways.”

His hand stopped scrubbing as he turned to look at his mother standing behind him. When she wanted to, she could be as quiet as Ivo. “True that.”

Crossing her arms and sighing as she leaned back on the counter behind her, his mother said quietly “Joseph, I’m sorry.”

Raising a brow in confusion before remembering that the water was still running over his hands, Joseph shut the faucet and turned to face her. “For what?” he asked while wiping his wet hands down his sides to dry them off.

“If you don’t want to celebrate, I shouldn’t get upset by your wishes. If that’s what you want, then…” she paused like she still didn’t want it to be that way, “then that’s what you want. No celebrating, no nothing.”

She seemed so upset by it that it actually was making him rethink his choice. The woman knew how to play the guilt card really well. “Um,” he began, playing with his fingers, “We can still have cake. Ice cream and I’m pretty sure I saw in Walmart Carvel cakes.” They usually drove a half hour to North Bergen when they wanted Carvel ice cream. Obviously these were frozen prepared cakes but good enough.

The smile that grew on her face wasn’t just happiness, it was literally like she was saying that she won. From that smile alone, Joseph knew she had played him, trying to get him to give some slack.

His mother was good.

“Sounds like a plan! I’ll finish those dishes for you,” she winked as she walked to him, tugging him into a tight hug. “Love you.”

Rolling his eyes before returning her embrace, Joseph replied “Love you too.”

Totally played him.

Chapter Text

Heaving into the toilet, Joseph coughed out everything in his stomach and then some.

Yellow pill?

Definite no-no.

Like seriously, unless he wanted his actual stomach – the organ – to come out of his throat. Or erupt in his body. It had literally felt like a bomb had gone off inside of him. The yellow pill definitely needed some revisions.

Major revisions.

He was trying to create another pill that would amplify his dream powers even more. The green pill was great, knocked him out at the correct heart rate now and everything but it just wasn’t good enough for heavy duty stuff. At least, not at its current state. Maybe he’d end up revising it again.

When he had thought of creating the ‘yellow pill,’ Joseph had wanted it to be the green pill on drugs in an ironic sense because it was already a drug.

But whatever, that wasn’t the point.

All mister yellow had done for him was make him sick with serious stomach pain.

Getting up off the floor and flushing the toilet, Joseph dragged himself to his sink to wash up. His entire body felt like it was vibrating which wasn’t as pleasant as it might sound. Once he was cleaned up, he dragged himself downstairs to the kitchen, specifically the fridge in hopes that they had something to calm his stomach. Finding a can of 7up which would do fine, Joseph grabbed it before shutting the fridge and getting a straw.

He never realized how far away his stairs were. Jesus fuck had this thing beaten him down.

Stupid yellow pill. He was going to revise it but no way was he keeping the color. It was a complete bitch like everything else now. Maybe purple? “Nah,” he mumbled as he practically crawled back up to his room. “I don’t wanna ruin that color too.”

Red. Red would be perfect, all full of warning and danger.

“Red,” Joseph nodded as he sat down in his beanbag chair. “Perfect.”

Maybe there was another way to enhance his dreams though? The pills were good, they helped for immediate slumber but…he needed more. Something to push him over that edge he was stuck at. What Joseph needed was some kind of…something that would make things more vivid…

“Hallucinogens,” he murmured in thought. “They gotta make things richer…bolder…” But did he want to do that to himself? You’re already taking pills anyways. Dream pills but all the same shit, right?

How bad would it be to take some kind of hallucinogen? It couldn’t be that terrible, could it? It all depended on what he took but Joseph could handle it.

Research time.

Standing, albeit shakily because the drug was still being a pain, Joseph walked over to his mother’s room and went in. The lady of the house had gone out, claiming the need of air. Joseph didn’t blame her; staying home around here could drive you insane. There were only so many hours she could spend talking to his aunt, she’d say.

He didn’t blame her for that either.

Grabbing her laptop from the bed and thinking that he should buy one for himself, Joseph wobbled back to his own room, plopping down onto his comfy bed that he hadn’t made today. He was getting lazy, he knew that but couldn’t help it. It’s not like anyone besides him, his mother, and Peanut saw his mess anyways.

Once the laptop was up and running, he started his searching. He knew the basic hallucinogens like PCP and LSD but Joseph wasn’t sure if he actually wanted to take that stuff. Plus, where the hell would he get it in Henrietta? Maybe he should just go simple and do weed. That didn’t really affect you in a negative way and he could probably buy some here. No way not one those rich fucks in Aglionby didn’t sell marijuana. Someone had to.

“It can’t be that bad…” he mused as he read up on marijuana. Getting stoned actually sounded pretty relaxing. Would it matter that he was still on his antidepressants though? Joseph wasn’t sure and a search on the internet returned him nothing. Like literally. All he got was that there was barely any research because people on antidepressants rarely reported the use of cannabis.

Scratching his head as he thought of what to do because he was getting nothing, Joseph muttered to himself “Okay then…worth the risk or not?”

It was simple. Did he want to access the depths of his brain to dream better or not?

Joseph sure as hell fucking did.

Weed it was then.

Bouncing off the bed and grabbing his phone from his nightstand, Joseph dialed his mother and set it on speaker while he changed. “Hiya mayko.”

“Hey, what’s up?”

“You gonna be long? I need the car.”

She was silent before wondering “Need?”

There was no way he could tell her he was going to go buy weed. She’d just have to get her panic attack later on when maybe she caught him or something. “Yeah, I realized Peanut doesn’t have any dry food left. I want to go get some,” he lied, thinking quick. Peanut had food but he could just buy extra to make his mother believe him.

“Oh okay. Do I need to rush? I was enjoying walking around this shopping center.”

“Uh,” Joseph thought aloud as he slipped a shirt over his head. “Actually, I can take my board. Don’t worry about it.”

“Can you board while carrying food?”

Putting on the Yankees cap that had been among the things he had taken from Ivo – he was against keeping anything that man gave him but he didn’t mind stealing from him – Joseph sat on his bed as he slipped on his shoes. The hat was probably the most expensive from Ivo’s collection and was so special that even Ivo had only worn it once.

He couldn’t help but wonder how Ivo reacted when he realized he was missing four hats, two watches, and one of the knives he had brought from Bulgaria. The hats were more than two hundred dollars together, the watches were also over two hundred.

Two hundred thousand.

Joseph had had no clue what he had grabbed. All he had known at that moment in time was that he was going to take advantage of Ivo being out so he went to his closet and picked out what he wanted. The hats he had gone for what he liked and technically the same for the watches. However, Joseph was dead set on wanting a Rolex. He didn’t even care what it was specifically; all he knew was that he wanted one despite that he’d probably never wear it.

It wasn’t until he got to Henrietta and looked up what he had grabbed did Joseph learn that he had taken some rare classic worth hundreds of thousands.

It was in his special box now because he was so afraid of scratching it.

Ivo had probably had a freak out about his Rolex.

Oh well.

The other watch was an Armani sports watch worth a little more than a couple hundred. That was his everyday watch now.

“Yup. I’ll just buy a small one and when we go grocery shopping, I can get a bigger one,” Joseph answered while tying his Vans. “You enjoy your time.”

“You sure?”

Taking his board out from his closet and putting his wallet in his pocket, he replied “Yeah, yeah, it’s cool. Bye and love ya.”

“Love you too and don’t forget to lock the house.”

He was about to remind her how this was shit town and it didn’t really matter but it wasn’t worth the breath. “No probs. Bye.”

 

 

Coming to a halt in front of Aglionby Academy, Joseph stared at what would be his school after the summer. The place itself seemed nice and clean and all but just…

Ew.

It was so prep school that Joseph was going to throw up. For God’s sake, he had grown up in Jersey public schools and he was coming to this? When the bell rang and students started to come out, he scrunched his nose in even more disgust after catching sight of their uniforms. I have to wear that shit? Damn.

Okay, so there was nothing wrong with chinos. Joseph actually wore them all the time and was literally wearing a pair right now with his black V-neck. He thought the tan color looked nice on him but still. A tie? And what about that ugly ass sweater?

Double ew.

“This is what you picked,” he grumbled to himself. “Actually, it’s what your freaky subconscious picked.”

Scanning the crowd, he tried to determine which of these fuckwads would sell weed. Just because they looked all prim and proper didn’t mean they were. Generally, it could be the guy who looked a little shifty, maybe a little too chill. But then…it could actually be the head of whatever their sport was, selling because he wanted to up his status or whatever.

Oh the dynamics of high school. “Not looking forward to this shit,” he muttered in disgust as his gaze caught on the parking lot.

Holy shit their cars. Sure, Joseph loved a beautiful car but he at least knew about cars. Knew their stats, what went into them, how to fix them, and even how to make them better. Hell, when he actually bothered to watch a show, it was usually a car one. What the fuck did that blonde idiot over there know about driving a Porsche 911 Carrera? From here, Joseph couldn’t tell for sure but he thought it was the new S version that had come out last year.

He’d bet the Armani around his wrist that the answer to his question was nothing.

These fucking fuckwads.

Even if Joseph had wanted to make friends, these people didn’t seem like his type of people. They were so typical rich boy that they made him sick. Maybe he was trying to make himself out as one of those assholes but at least he wasn’t actually like that.

Staring harder at the blonde, Joseph watched as the kid took out a cigarette and lit it up while leaning on his Porsche. A couple other guys joined him and the cigarette was passed around.

“Hell…” Joseph muttered, his gaze examining them closer. “That’s gotta be a blunt.”

Which was what he needed.

How did one go about buying marijuana? Just ask? Act cool? Maybe he’d mix both…or he could try winging it. “Not gonna get nothin’ by just standing here like an idiot.”

Taking a deep breath and preparing himself, Joseph set his board on the floor and skated over, weaving between other extremely nice cars before coming to a stop beside the blonde and his Porsche. Here we go. Wish me luck everyone.

“Yo, idiot, watch the paint,” Blondie snorted in irritation, giving Joseph an unimpressed once-over. “It ain’t your mama’s van.”

Man, this kid was trying so hard, Joseph wanted to laugh. He would have gotten jumped in seconds back in Hoboken. Any chance of Joseph not acting like an ass was erased.

Kavinsky would start making his name today.

“My mama drives an Audi but noted,” he smirked as he leaned himself and his board against the Porsche, making clear that he didn’t give a shit about the paint job. Rubbing his hand along the hood, Joseph made a mock impressed face. They didn’t need to know he was actually ready to drool right now. “She’s a beauty.”

Blondie didn’t seem enthused about carrying conversation with him but his pride beat out his will. “911 Carrera S. Fully tricked out even with the PDK transmission.”

Lucky bastard. He probably didn’t even know what that meant for his car; just threw around the name because he knew it was an extra that had to be paid for. “Damn. I’ll admit, I’m jealous.”

With those words, Blondie and his group of idiots laughed like it was the funniest thing they had ever heard. “Of course you are. Look at you. Jersey trash much?” He kicked Joseph’s board to the floor, “Your daddy buy that for you?”

Staring down at his board as he nodded slowly, Joseph replied “Actually, my mom.” The one Ivo had bought him for Christmas was back in his closet in Jersey. Picking his head back up, Joseph shrugged like he didn’t care and focused back on the car. “So full shebang, huh? 3.6 liter engine with 345 horsepower?”

That was actually a lie. The regular Carrera had that engine, not the S. But Joseph wanted to see if his theory about Blondie was true or not.

The other boy looked slightly unsure but only for a second before he nodded with a cocky smile. This idiot. “Yeah, totally. Everything.”

“Even had a torquette installed into the engine? Fuck, really jealous now.”

“You should be,” Blondie laughed again while nodding. “I got everything under that hood.”

Oh my God, you’re such a fucking idiot. Torquette wasn’t even a word. Joseph had made it up right this second as another test. A torque was part of the basic specification of an engine; the power output of the engine. This poor car is abused under your care.

Nodding again, Joseph couldn’t help the laugh that came out. Like seriously, how stupid could you get?

“The fuck you laughing about?”

“You,” he snorted in amusement. “There’s no such thing as a torquette, fuckwad. And this car runs a 3.8 liter engine with 385 horsepower. Not a 3.6. I’d be fucking surprised if you even knew how to shift properly. You probably grind the gears while hitting the clutch wondering why it won’t go. I mean, holy fuck, you’re an idiot.”

Blondie wasn’t amused like his buddies around him who were trying to hide their laughs and smiles. “At least I have a car and I’m not just some wannabe with a skateboard. Who gives a fuck if I know what’s under the hood?”

“No one,” Joseph shrugged nonchalantly. “Well, besides me because you’re just an insult to cars but no one else. Though I bet they find it horribly amusing at how much of an idiot you just made yourself out to be.”

“Why don’t you just fuck off before I get even more pissed.”

With a roll of his eyes, Joseph replied “Is this the part where you tell me ‘you won’t like it when I’m angry?’” When Blondie didn’t get the reference, Joseph dramatically face palmed. “You don’t even know the Hulk? Now that there? Fucking sad.”

“Just fuck off,” the other boy snarled, just about done with him. Joseph felt like this particular group of guys weren’t as tough as they made themselves out to be. Which was a good thing for him, just in case.

Shaking his head, he revealed “Look, I just came over because I think you have something that I want. You sell?”

A look of confusion passed Blondie’s face before glancing down at the joint between his fingers. Opportunity glowed in his eyes. “You wanna buy a joint?”

“More like I want to buy a month’s supply of weed. I don’t want to have to see your ugly ass face tomorrow when I want more.” Joseph didn’t even know if weed was what was going to help his dreams but better that he was prepared.

With a smug smirk of satisfaction, Blondie took a puff as he leaned on his car. “Got nothing for you, bitch.” Joseph’s eyes caught on the corner of a Ziploc sticking out of Blondie’s pocket. He had what he wanted.

And Joseph really wanted.

“How much?”

“Not selling to you, darling.”

“Cheesy but not as cute as you might think, sweetheart. Ima ask again. How much? You don’t want me asking a third time.”

What that threat meant, Joseph had no clue. Kavinsky, on the other hand, was more than ready to just break Blondie’s nose and jack everything he had. Depending on how Blondie answered, something would happen.

Taking another drag, Blondie passed the blunt to one of his buddies and faced Joseph. Blondie was about two inches shorter which was awesome because it had taken years for people to be shorter than him. “Not selling. Go fuck yourself.”

Nodding and resigning himself to having to take out Kavinsky to get what he wanted, Joseph ran a hand through his hair after lifting his cap before putting it back on backwards. Oh, this idiot in so many ways. “Final answer?” he asked with a large smile.

“Final. Go back home to your plastic trash mama.”

Very very wrong thing to say. Now even Joseph wanted to break this piece of shit’s face. Maybe his mother had boob work but nobody got to judge her on that. Blondie obviously had no clue that his mother had actually had work done but the trashy Jersey stereotype still made his blood boil.

Resting a hand softly on Blondie’s neck causing the other boy to tense, Joseph whispered “I really wish you hadn’t said that. Both things, really. I was being all nice and was gonna pay and everything. Now I’m just gonna take.” He patted the boy’s neck softly, “Sorry, baby.”

The look of annoyance and confusion only had a second to register on Blondie’s face before Joseph slammed his face into his fancy ass car.

Hard.

Joseph was sorrier for the car rather than the bleeding boy sliding down to the floor with his friends staring with wide eyes. He leaned down and took the bag of joints from Blondie’s pocket then rifled through his other pockets and found some loose weed in another Ziploc. Was this guy loaded or what? Joseph had no idea what the price of weed was but this amount had to be worth quite a bit.

Putting them into the pockets of his chinos, Joseph was about to go when he decided to say one last thing. He crouched down in front of Blondie and his broken nose, Ivo’s sick smile on his face. Patting the face before him almost tenderly, he whispered “Should have just sold to me, princess.”

“Look, man,” one of Blondie’s friends said quickly, probably worried Joseph was about to do more. Hell, maybe he should. “You got what you wanted, now just go.”

Smiling because he never realized how amusing this all could be, Joseph decided to up his game because who didn’t want to be even more amused than they already were?

He flicked out Ivo’s knife and held the point right under Blondie’s chin. “Next time I ask for something, you just give it to me. Got it?”

The boy looked ready to piss himself which was actually a very hilarious look. Joseph seriously had to try this on more people. “Totally got it. I s-swear. A-All yours; you don’t even need to pay.”

“Aw! That’s so sweet!” he cackled loudly as he patted Blondie’s cheek a few more times, the blade still open his hand. “You the best, baby.”

“Liam,” the terrified dude whispered with his bruised and bleeding face.

“Liam,” Joseph nodded with a smile as he put his knife away and stuck his hand out for a proper introduction. Liam seemed so confused but eventually took the hand and shook it. “Nice to make your acquaintance.”

Clearing his throat and trying to get his bearings back, Liam murmured “And who am I acquainting with?”

Standing before dusting off his chinos, Joseph’s smile grew even deviously larger as he winked and replied with the very simple answer that everyone in hick town would eventually come to know.

“Kavinsky.”

Chapter Text

The weed?

Worked fucking wonders. Best choice he had ever made.

The wonders weren’t to the point where Joseph was able to drag out his Evo but Jesus fucking Christ, dreaming was so vivid that it was insane. The good thing was that it didn’t seem to have too much effect on his antidepressants.

Or they canceled them out.

He wasn’t actually sure. Smoking had been part of his new diet for the weekend including Friday, so like three days. That wasn’t a very long test period but Joseph still felt like there was something that had changed. He was restless and swore the other day he had some sort of hypomania episode. But then yesterday, his mood had literally hit a low that Joseph hadn’t hit in at least a year. So either his drugs weren’t mixing well or they were canceling each other out.

Whatever the case, one of them had to go.

Joseph was thinking the antidepressants. He happened to like the weed too much to give it up already. Funny how years ago he and Ivo had talked about taking drugs and Joseph had said he wasn’t stupid to even try that.

If presented the opportunity, Joseph was pretty sure he’d try that.

Marijuana had already happened anyways and he had promised Ivo that he’d talk to him first before trying it. “Ha! As if I’d ever talk to him now anyways,” Joseph snorted as he took another puff on his first joint of the day while laying atop the Audi in his field.

His field. That was it; Joseph was officially claiming the place. It was perfect for practicing dreaming. There were no prying eyes, it was away from everything and everyone, and if something freakish happened, Joseph didn’t have to worry about explaining it.

Essentially, the place was perfect.

With an arm rested behind his head, Joseph stared up at the sky as he smoked. He had to admit that it was nice actually being able to just look up. Depending on where he tried this in Hoboken, he’d be met with the faces of buildings or just the ugly ass street. Although there was that park on the Hudson that was beautiful to hang out in. Lie on the grass and just enjoy the scenery. Or Central Park. They hadn’t gone often because his mother and Ivo pretty much hated going to New York but it was stunning.

“Look to the future, not the past, idiot,” he mumbled around his joint as he took another drag. “And what my future needs right now is a god fucking Evo. Maybe a laptop too.” Among other things. Joseph had it set in his head that he wanted to lose his virginity sooner rather than later. The earlier he had sex with a girl, the sooner his faggot feelings would be completely erased.

And as with most things, the sooner the better. All he had to do was realize how much he actually liked girls. The whole ‘relationship’ thing he had tried with Emilio was just him being confused.

That was it.

I thought you said you’d stop lying to yourself?

“Shut up, inner monologue. Nobody likes your fugly ass face.”

Inhaling the smoke deep into his lungs, Joseph sat up and made sure to stamp out the stub left of the blunt in a little plate he had brought along. All he needed was to start a fire because he was fucking stupid. Getting as comfortable as a person could on a hood of a car, Joseph popped a green pill in his mouth and shut his eyes.

He was doing this.

Thrust harshly into sleep, he couldn’t help but smile in glee when a literal Evo was right before his eyes. He made sure his steps were quiet as to not alert the forest of his presence. That was another key in getting what he wanted; no one could know he was in.

Like a thief.

In and out.

Getting into the beautiful car, Joseph grasped the steering wheel tight and shut his eyes, praying for wakefulness. Which he got, surprisingly. Maybe that weed was actually doing a big part in all this.

Blinking his eyes open, Joseph couldn’t stop the huge grin that erupted on his face when he realized that he was still sitting inside the car. Sitting in the car and he was in the field.

Which meant that he was awake.

Awake and with the fucking Evo.

Holy shit.

“I’m so fucking awesome!” Joseph laughed in delight, reaching for the door handle to get out and check the exterior. Except there was a problem.

Like major huge fucking ginormous problem.

Yup, his delight ended in the matter of seconds. Milliseconds even.

There was no fucking door handle. And the reason for that?

Because there were no fucking doors. He was literally trapped in a car that had no opening doors. There weren’t even the indentations of where the doors were supposed to be. Just windows – in the correct locations shockingly – and a smooth ‘wall.’

No fucking doors.

Slamming his head back on the head rest and shutting his eyes, Joseph groaned his frustration out. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” He slammed his hands down onto the steering wheel, “Fuck!”

All he had made was a fucking car with no doors. It was like a capsule with windows, a coffin with windows. What good was that?

“Nothing!,” he shouted in annoyance. “God fucking nothing because what the hell can a person do with a car that doesn’t even have doors!”

Joseph rested his head on the steering wheel and closed his eyes as he tapped his foot on the carpeted floor. Okay, so it didn’t come out right. What was he getting upset for? Did he actually expect it to work on the first try? Things always took him time and he shouldn’t just assume that just because he was dreaming on drugs now that he could easily take an entire car out of his fucked up brain.

So he had to try again. Simple as that.

With that decision come to, Joseph sighed as he sat up and glanced around the interior. At least it looked like he got the insides right. He had been researching the car since he decided that he was going to dream it because he wanted it to come out exact. Exact to the point where you’d think he had bought it from a dealer.

That exact.

A perfect forgery.

This here?

Definitely not perfect. Fuck, not even decent.

“Now…how to get out…” Windshield or window? Either way, he’d have to break glass. The real question was if he wanted to shimmy through a window or climb through a windshield… “I always wanted to try shimmying…”

Shimmy it was. What were a few cuts? Nothing new to this body. Because there were no doors, there were no buttons either so no window switches. Taking his shoe off, he looked away to protect his eyes and slammed it into the glass until he got it to break. Once that was done and after putting his shoe back on, Joseph slipped out of the car, thankful that he was both thin and tall.

That was two points for his genetics which had spent so many years failing him.

“Okay,” he nodded while ignoring the stinging taking place on his torso. “Let’s check this shit out.”

He walked around the Evo, taking in all the details. It hadn’t occurred to him to dream of the color that he wanted so it was just plain white. When he had this all down, he’d worry about color though. “Like seriously, figure out some doors first, fuckwad.”

There were missing taillights and the grille was super funky. “More to my list then,” Joseph murmured as he walked to the door to pop the hood when his hand completely missed the handle.

No doors was really going to eat at him.

Shaking his head while letting out a whopping sigh, Joseph stretched through the window while ignoring the pricks of glass and pulled the handle to pop the hood. Maybe I should see if this thing actually turns on. Reaching around the wheel, his hand went for the ignition and found…

Nothing.

“Okay! So no fucking keys either!” he couldn’t help but shout in irritation, yanking his hand out of the car to throw it up in the air with the other. “Because, you know, cars don’t need keys or anything!” Kicking the tire just to be extra, Joseph huffed as he rounded the front to lift the hood.

God fuck did he hate life.

No engine. Like legit, no fucking engine.

There was no engine, no radiator, no battery, no oil filter, no anything.

“Fuck you, brain! Fuck YOU!” Joseph was about to rant some more when the sound of his phone ringing interrupted. Yanking it out of his pocket, he answered his mother. “Hmm.”

She didn’t like his tone if her tone was anything to go by. “Hi.”

“Sorry,” he sighed, leaning against the garbage Evo. She didn’t deserve to face his annoyance. “What’s up?”

“You have the car and there happens to be no toilet paper. Solve the puzzle.”

Sparing a glance to his watch and seeing that it was a little past noon, Joseph replied “Got it. Toilet paper on my way home. Anything else?”

“Sooner rather than later would be nice being that I’d like to be able to use the bathroom without worrying about toilet paper.”

“Guess you can’t just hold it in, huh?” His question was met with silence. “Okay, okay, I’ll be home sooner rather than later. With toilet paper and Mcky D’s for lunch. Sound good?”

“Yeah, good. Be safe and love you.”

Closing the phone with a sigh after passing his own love, Joseph slammed the stupid hood shut before trudging over to his mother’s car. Toilet paper and McDonald’s. Such fun.

If anything, a McFlurry would brighten his mood.

 

 

Walking through the aisle that held a variety of household paper products, Joseph stared at the array of toilet papers in front of him. Why they made a necessary commodity so expensive if you wanted the good stuff, Joseph had no idea. Charging eight bucks just for a six pack was completely ludicrous. Poor people deserved the good stuff too.

He was about to grab the usual one they bought – ultra strong because they liked clean asses – when his eye caught on a girl stretching to reach a certain brand of paper towel up on the top shelf. She was short, maybe a bit less than a foot shorter than him, and was…

Different.

But not in a bad way. The girl just had this very specific sense of being with her short choppy hair filled with clips and what he could only call punk rocker boots. She had on purple leggings with ripped up jeans shorts on top and a loose blue draping sweater atop a white tank top.

The girl was just so ‘her’ and, well, Joseph liked.

Really liked.

Walking over to her, he grabbed the roll she was going for and handed it over, making sure he was wearing that extra charming smile he noticed people loved. “This one?”

She blinked at him for a few seconds before accepting the paper towel with a quick nod, setting it in her basket. “Thanks, but I had it.”

“No doubt in my mind,” Joseph laughed as he casually leaned against the shelves. Facing her now, Joseph knew for a fact that he definitely liked her. She was completely disinterested in him, that was obvious from her posture, but hell, Joseph just liked her even more for that. And fuck, she was pretty.

Potential girlfriend material right here. Something Joseph needed to get himself like yesterday.

“Love your boots,” he complimented while tapping one softly with his own shoe. “You paint the clasps or did it come like that?”

The girl literally rolled her eyes like ‘there’s not enough time in my day for your ass.’ “Myself and I have to go,” she answered before turning away and beginning to walk off.

As if he was that easily discouraged. Nobody was more stubborn than him. Except maybe the cute girl walking away. “Hold up, hold up,” he laughed as he caught up with her and her purposeful steps. “Am I not allowed to compliment the amazing way you dress? I love it.”

Sighing, she came to a halt, put her hands on her hips after setting her basket down, and glared at him. Ivo used to say he loved when Joseph’s mother would glare at him because it was damn sexy. Joseph had never understood that reasoning.

Until he was being glared at by this fierce shortstuff.

It was pretty hot.

Faggot feelings, you’re being erased little by little, my enemy. This girl is going to be my very hetero savior. In your fucking face.

And when the time came for sex, well, with enough friction, Joseph was sure he could keep it up.

Problem nipped in the fucking bud.

“Look, just leave me alone, okay? I’m not interested in you or anything you have to say for that matter.” Rolling her eyes and huffing, she added grudgingly “And thank you.”

Feisty and polite. Damn.

“You’re welcome,” Joseph smiled, reaching down and grabbing her basket for her. She seemed to get even more annoyed from that small gesture. “I can carry for you.”

“Sad how raven boys only have manners when they want something,” she snorted, yanking her basket back. “Goodbye.”

And she walked off once more. This time, however, Joseph let her go. This town was small; there was no way he wouldn’t see her again. He had to ease her into the idea of wanting him was all. He’d read and watched so many things where enemies become friends then, sometimes, lovers.

Joseph could totally work with that. Kavinsky wanted her and well, Kavinsky got what he wanted. That was how this part of his life was going to work.

So when the time came, he’d get her. Easy peasy.

Lemon fucking squeezy.

“Am I a raven boy?” he muttered in sudden questioning. What was that anyways? A woman passed him with the accent he had come to associate with the native people around here. Feisty girl had had the same accent. “Excuse me?”

The older woman paused and gave him a once-over that meant she totally didn’t want to bother talking to him. What was with these people? “Yes?”

“What’s a raven boy?”

A laugh erupted from her that Joseph totally wasn’t expecting. How was what he said funny? “Oh, you are a card.”

Adorable. Joseph was a card.

Resting a hand on his shoulder which he didn’t appreciate, the woman snorted in amusement “You Aglionby boys are!” She patted his cheek before walking off, “You silly thing.”

Never in his life had he wanted to hit a lady – except sometimes Ivet because if he was going to get hit, she deserved it back – but he was definitely considering it now. Doing a dramatic shiver in the middle of Walmart before going back to get what he came for, Joseph mocked “’You silly thing.’ Oh Jesus.”

So he was a raven boy then? Maybe a raven was Aglionshit’s mascot. He actually didn’t even know and wouldn’t need to until school started. It was truly amazing how easily the natives sniffed out raven boys. Hilarious, actually. They were like fucking bloodhounds.

Feisty may not like raven boys but he was going to get her to like this particular one. She was in his future.

Look to the future, not the past.

Chapter Text

For whatever reason, his mother looked kind of nervous. But why would she? They were fine a second ago when she woke him shouting ‘happy birthday.’ Joseph was sure that she had wanted to jump on him too. And she had been fine as she practically suffocated him in a tight hug while pressing gross kisses to his head.

He knew she made them all slobbery on purpose.

Also, his mother had been fine when she said they got to have ice cream cake for breakfast. It was all he had asked for this year for his birthday and she had met all his meager requests. So why nervous? It’s not like she had to worry about buying him the wrong present or anything. Not that she ever had before; she was the best gift giver.

Ah.

“Mayko, I’m not gonna yell at you if you bought me something.”

Face relaxing just a bit, her smile became a tad stronger on her beautiful face. “Okay, good. I was wondering how in the world I was gonna give it to you without you having a fit. You’re totally going to love it.”

“Probably,” he shrugged while licking the delicious blue cream from his spoon. “You’re the best at presents, so I expect it.”

Cutting a bite of cake, his mother said before eating it “You’re tétka was going to send something but I told her not to. I have no clue if she’ll listen or not so…prepare for that, I guess.”

Typical tétka Nikol. Birthdays in this family were always a thing they loved celebrating together so there was no way she didn’t want to at least send him something. He would bet that she had begged his mother to get him on the phone so she could wish him a happy birthday.

It was a good thing his mother was stubborn. Joseph wouldn’t have appreciated having to hear everything that he had left behind.

But…he could deal with whatever she sent. And knowing her, she definitely sent something.

“No problem,” he shrugged again. Joseph was trying to put his mother at ease and yet she still looked a little worried about something. What else could there be?

She ate the rest of her cake in silence, looking like she was thinking hard about what she wanted to say. He simply watched and waited for whatever was coming as he started his second slice of Carvel cake. Surprisingly, the Walmart frozen ones were almost as good as the ones they got fresh from the actual store.

When she finished her slice and licked her spoon clean, she sighed and rested her head on her palm, elbow seated on the tabletop. “Okay…ready for the next bit?”

“From your face and voice, I honestly have no clue.”

Straightening in her seat while rubbing and squeezing her hands together, his mother nodded before murmuring “Joseph, your bashtá sent you a gift.”

Oh. Well then.

“I don’t want it.” He had tried convincing his mother to say Ivo instead of any sort of fatherly word – mainly bashtá because that brought happier times to his head – but she never listened. As she put it, Joseph may be pissed and hate him but whether he liked it or not, the man was still his father. “I don’t even know why he bothered. He shouldn’t have.”

Joseph would love to know what his mother was thinking right now as so many emotions filtered through her face at once. “Before you say anything, I didn’t tell him to send anything.”

“I know that,” Joseph nodded because he actually did. His mother didn’t say a word about him to Ivo ever. Maybe to his tétka no matter how much he told her not to but never Ivo. “This is just him being incredibly stupid. As if I’d accept anything he gave me. Why does he think I left behind half my shit?”

Working the side of her lip between her teeth, his mother finally replied “Do you want to see it before you say no?”

“Seriously?” Joseph snorted incredulously. There wasn’t anything Ivo could send that would make him forgive him. The only way Joseph would maybe consider forgiving him was if he groveled at his feet. But only maybe. He might change his mind about that. Maybe groveling just wasn’t enough for him to waste the time to listen. “No. I don’t give a shit whatever the fuck he thinks he can bribe me with.”

“Despite not wanting to defend him, it’s not a bribe, Joseph.”

“Then what? He just didn’t want me to think he forgot me? I’d prefer he just forgot. I don’t want whatever thing he thought-” He halted abruptly as he started to actually think. No, Ivo didn’t do bribes.

He kept promises.

“It’s a car, isn’t it.”

“You can just save the epicness for my sixteenth. Get me my Evo.”

“Even better,” his father said in an excited voice, “I’ll get it for your fifteenth. That way when you practice for driving, you practice in your car.”

“For reals?”

“For damn reals, homeboy. Promise.”

A look of surprise lit his mother’s face. “Yeah, how’d you know?”

“He promised,” Joseph whispered, feeling worse than he had in weeks. All the car did was make him feel like complete depressed shit. It made him remember better times – happier times – when everything was okay.

When everything didn’t hurt so much to just think about.

“If…you don’t want it…I can try sending it back. I mean, if he shipped the car that easy, it can’t be too difficult, right?” The question was mostly directed at herself as she sat biting her nail thinking carefully. “Shipping crate probably.”

Did he want the car? It’d be pretty hypocritical to keep it but…shit,it was an Evo. Joseph was not only dying for a car of his own but his car. His Mitsu Evo that he wanted so badly to the point where he was drugging himself just to pull one out of his head. Maybe…maybe Joseph should just keep it. Who gave a fuck if he was a hypocrite?

“I want it. I don’t care whatever his gesture was supposed to be and I don’t plan on making it easier on him because of it. I just want the car. That’s it.”

With a sigh and a slow nod, his mother said “Okay. Fair enough.” She stood and walked to the door only to stop and raise a brow at him, “Don’t you want to see it?”

“Oh,” Joseph mumbled, jumping up from his seat and going to her before he came to an abrupt halt. “Cake needs to go in the freezer,” he called to her when she stopped again to look at him as he rushed back to the table. Quickly closing the box up, he pulled the freezer drawer open and carefully set his cake in. He only followed her once he was sure the freezer was closed. Nobody liked melted ice cream cake.

Stepping out of their fancy ass double front doors, Joseph stood on the porch, staring at his gift just sitting in the driveway in awe. “Holy fuck.”

His mother already had one of the doors open, looking at the interior, as Joseph came up to her. Running his hand on the sleek black roof, Joseph whispered “Shit.”

“It’s beautiful,” his mother murmured as she sat down in the driver’s seat. “I know this might sound stupid but I’m surprised it’s a four-door.”

Unlike her son and husband, his mother was so far from a car person that she was allowed to be as stupid sounding as she liked. “Because guys want sport cars with two?”

“Something like that,” she laughed as she got out, gesturing for him to take a seat. “Let’s hear it. I imagine something loud and obnoxious that gives headaches.”

“Oh God, I hope so,” Joseph couldn’t help but laugh in excitement. It may be a gift from Ivo but he planned on taking full advantage. Plopping down into the beautiful racing seat, Joseph ran his hands softly along the steering wheel. “Fuck, this is sick as hell. I can’t believe this is mine.” A thought struck him as he put the key in the ignition causing him to turn to the leaning figure of his mother in the door. “I don’t have a license.”

“Yeah…that hasn’t exactly stopped you before.”

“No, I mean, whose name is it in? Can’t be mine.”

“Oh,” she nodded, understanding. “It’s in mine so when you get your license I can switch the title and insurance to you. I’ll pay for the insurance though, so don’t worry about that part.”

“How’s it in your name though?” he asked curiously. She obviously wasn’t in Jersey to sign for it. “Forged your signature?”

“Hardly the most illegal thing he’s ever done,” she snorted with an eyeroll. “It’s not a big deal. He knew it’d be easier to transfer to you this way.”

“You said you didn’t know he was sending something.”

Raising a perfect brow in question, she replied “I didn’t. I opened the door to get the newspaper this morning and was met with a very cheerful delivery guy with a big ass semi on the street saying he had a wonderful gift for me. I sign, he gives us ‘my’ car.”

“It doesn’t bother you that he forged your signature? How do you know he doesn’t do that for other stuff?” Joseph couldn’t get over it. Yes, it was not even close to the worst illegal thing Ivo had ever done but still.

“He always tells me before he does. Except this time obviously. But it’s not important. We’re supposed to be gushing over your car. Now turn it on.”

“Yes ma’am,” he saluted before turning the key and bringing the beauty to life. “Oh…my…shit…” he whispered in awe as he listened to the rumbling of the engine. Despite all the shit with Ivo, he couldn’t help but add “I fucking love it.”

“Well, you can drive us around in it today. I’m a bit worried being in a car with you but…”

“C’mon, mayko” Joseph snorted in amusement. “I’ve been driving for two months now and doing a really good job. Don’t start the whole ‘you’re a bad driver’ shit with me. Anywhere you wanna go, I am your taxi for the day.” He set his hand on the gear stick, totally ready right this second without brushing his teeth from overly sweet cake.

Except…he had a problem, he realized.

Looking down at the stick, Joseph bit his lip in annoyance. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but dammit.

No driving yet.

“I…” Joseph started in an embarrassed voice, “can’t drive stick.” His mother’s Audi was automatic and when Joseph had learned, the Camry had also been automatic. The concept of driving stick shift he actually knew; it was all about how fast you were going. But he had never put these concepts to use.

“Dilemma,” his mother laughed. “Neither do I so I believe you have some practicing to do before we embark on our taxi trip, huh?”

That was definitely something that needed to happen.

For the entire afternoon, Joseph spent his time teaching himself to drive stick. He felt like he was doing well although sometimes he didn’t shift as clean and effortlessly as he’d like. For now, he was sticking to the lower gears and speeds before he moved up. Joseph wanted a handle on basic shifting before he tried to go higher. The last thing he wanted was to screw up his car.

Reaching his fairgrounds, Joseph parked and got out before going over to his crappy dream Evo. Should he still keep trying anyways? You never knew when you might need a new car right? But then, he had a brand spanking new car right behind him. Why would he need another?

“If anything,” he murmured to himself as he stared at his horrible creation, “I can just keep practicing for the hell of it. I mean, that’s how I started with people and look what happened.” I ended up needing one…

So he’ll keep trying then.

Turning back to look at his new car, Joseph wondered if he should get the color changed. It looked sick as fuck in black but black was Ivo’s color. What Joseph wanted was as much distance as possible between him and the horrible man.

So no black car. It was a rebellion in a small sort of way.

“Maybe white? That’d be the ultimate rebellion.” But white was so plain…where the hell was the fun in white? “Okay…maybe white and something…pattern maybe? That could look good depending what it was…”

Maybe he could do a white car with a black design? That’d look pretty cool. But what could the design be? Scratching his head as he walked back to his Evo, Joseph figured it’d come to him eventually. Right about now would have been a good time to have Anka and her creativity around.

Too bad.

After a blunt while staring up at the sky and thinking on the mysteries of dreams, Joseph made his way home, being sure to shift with care. Being an expert like Ivo was going to take some time and lots of practice. All in good time, I guess.

“How long have you been sitting there?” Joseph asked his mother as he walked into his room, finding her sitting on his bed. She was doing something on her phone while his gift was beside her, all wrapped up in blue.

“Not as long as you might thing,” she replied, distracted by her phone as he put his wallet and keys in the top drawer of his nightstand. “Can’t wait ‘til you drool over my gift.”

“I’m sure I will,” he replied in surety because there was no way he wouldn’t with whatever it was. He set his watch next to the lamp on his nightstand and was about to change when his mother suddenly sat up and yanked him closer by his shirt. “Uh…” The confusion only lasted a second as he realized what she was doing. Maybe he should have let himself air a little longer.

She was grinding her jaw but was surprisingly silent, releasing his shirt and slightly shoving him. “Change out of that crap. We’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

Nodding and thankful that she didn’t want his birthday to end with fighting, Joseph shucked off his shirt before grabbing a clean one from his drawer. He changed his shorts too just for good measure and put his weed smelling clothes into the laundry before sitting down on the bed beside her. “Can I see my present now,” he murmured when she stayed silent.

Sighing and looking more exhausted than she had only seconds ago, she grabbed the long box beside her and handed it over. “Hope you like it.”

Joseph ripped the wrapping paper off, his hands freezing when he could see what it was even though he hadn’t removed all the paper. “Shit.”

“Thought you might like your own instead of using mine.”

Tearing off the rest of the wrapping from his new Macbook, Joseph nodded, not having the words to express his delight. Opening the box and removing all the protective shit, he stared down at the laptop in his hands. “Fuck.”

Yeah, that was all he was capable of right now.

“I’m gonna take that as the good kind,” his mother snorted as she rested her head on his shoulder. “Nice?”

“I love it,” he said, his voice filled with the amazement he was feeling. Setting the box and computer beside him on the bed, he hugged his mother tight, resting his head on her shoulder. “Thank you, mayko.”

She kissed the side of his head and clutched him tight. “You’re very welcome. Happy birthday, my beautiful boy.” Kissing his head again and hugging him even tighter, she repeated “Happy birthday.”

Chapter Text

Breakfast had been uncomfortable. Like so extremely uncomfortable that Joseph hadn’t even been able to meet his mother’s eyes or eat his food.

That uncomfortable.

When the stifling silence continued as they cleaned up, Joseph had finally broken the tension.

“Could be worse,” he mumbled ever so softly. That way if she didn’t hear, then oh well. At least he had tried.

But from the way she slammed a fork into the drawer, Joseph was positive she had heard. However, she kept her unwavering silence as she grabbed the plates from the dish rack to put away.

“You…gonna spend the day not talking to me?” Not something he’d like.

After closing the cupboard, she rested her elbows on the counter and set her head on her fists. It took a couple seconds but finally, with her eyes closed tight, she said “How long.”

Figuring she was talking about how long he had been smoking, Joseph answered “No more than a month. Maybe like three weeks? I’m not sure on the exact date…”

She nodded, her head still rested on her hands and her eyes shut. “So what? Go out, smoke, and call it a day? Air out before I smell the stench on you?”

“Something like that,” he whispered, waiting for her to blow on him. “Like I said, could be something worse. Weed’s not that bad, mayko.”

“No, of course not,” she snorted sarcastically. “It’s not an illegal drug or anything. Nothing that can land you in jail.”

Okay, so maybe that was a good point. “Mayko, it’s just a joint. Maybe two.” Or more, but Joseph definitely wasn’t going to mention it. “It’s really not that huge of an issue. Again, just weed. And it’s not like I go smoke in public places to get caught.” He shrugged and added “Literally no one’s around where I smoke.” It wasn’t an abandoned fairground for nothing.

“That doesn’t make it okay!” she finally yelled as her head flew up and she turned to face him. His mother’s eyes were lit with anger which Joseph had expected for when she found out. He hadn’t expected the tinges of worry he found there though. Stupid him, really, because why wouldn’t she be? “Joseph, sweetheart, it’s not just about getting caught! Do you know how bad that crap is for you? For your lungs? And what about your pills? Do you even know how it’s been affecting them and you?”

Another round of yelling then. She wasn’t going to like his answer. “I stopped taking them.” Turns out Joseph was wrong because that sentence struck her into complete silence so he continued on. “I never liked taking them anyways and I think them and weed weren’t mixing well…”

One look from her killed his words.

“So stop taking the more important one? Not the one that’s completely detrimental to your health?”

“Technically, marijuana is used medically so…”

Grinding her jaw with her hands on her hips and her eyes something fierce, his mother ground out “Do I look like I’m in the mood for a smartass?”

“No,” he mumbled as he tore a hole in his lip and played nervously with the hem of his shirt. “But really, mayko, it’s not a huge issue. It’s not like I’m…” Joseph tried grasping something drastic, “It’s not like I’m snorting coke. That would be an issue, yes. But weed is just weed.”

Shaking her head while crossing her arms and sighing, his mother said nothing as she walked past him and up the stairs to her room.

While the conversation hadn’t been pretty, Joseph figured it could have gone way worse. After giving Peanut the brushing of a lifetime and telling her that he needed to find her a new doctor that lived around here, Joseph grabbed both keys and wallet after changing. He had needed some air and well, if he found a vet as he drove around, bonus for him and Peanut.

Blasting Bulgarian hip hop from his lovely system because Joseph was very proud of his heritage, he came to a stop at this little corner store that looked like one of those knick knack places. It looked weird from the outside but he was convinced they’d have something interesting inside. He wanted to find some sort of apology thing to give to his mother and unique was always better. Maybe a whale of some sort? If he was lucky, they sold glass figurines and if Joseph was even luckier, they had a whale one.

Two of his mother’s favorite things.

Locking his car once he shut the door, Joseph walked into the shop, a little bell chiming over his head as he did. The place kind of reminded him of that time he and his mother went to antique stores in New York.

“Hello!” a girl standing behind a glass counter called with a smiled. She had long brown waves flowing down her back with sparkling hazel eyes. The girl was pretty but Joseph had his mind still set on Feisty. If shit didn’t work, maybe he’d bounce to this girl.

But shit would totally work. He wasn’t worried.

“Hello,” he replied, full blown smile already plastered on his face. “You wouldn’t happen to sell anything that’s a whale, would you?”

Leaning on her arm rested on the counter, the girl made a dramatic thinking face while winking at him. Kind of weird how he wanted the girl who was very obviously not interested in him instead of trying with someone who was. “I might.”

“We do,” came a grumbly voice from the back of the store. An older gentleman walked over, giving the girl a look like he didn’t like her flirting with him. Joseph didn’t blame the guy; he wasn’t a good person to bother flirting with. But ‘murderer’ and ‘asshole’ weren't branded on his forehead so no one would ever know until they started talking to him. The asshole part, not the murderer one. No one would ever know about that. “Anything in specific?”

Shoving his hands in the pockets of his jeans, Joseph replied “Glass figurine would be nice.”

“I’ve got a couple,” the man nodded as he gestured for Joseph to follow. The girl winked to him again with a huge smile as he passed. Joseph gave his own smile in return. “Maia, go finish packing the stockroom, please.”

Sighing, the girl muttered ‘okay’ before heading on her way, grumbling something like ‘ruining my chances.’

Poor thing didn’t know that there was never a chance. You didn’t win Kavinsky over, that wasn’t how this worked. No, Kavinsky chose and then took.

Right now, Kavinsky chose punk rocker girl. So when the time came, he’d take.

Pointing at a tall bookcase, the man said “Bottom two shelves are all sea animals. Check what you like.”

“Thank you,” he called after the guy who left so quick. Why build a rich boys school in the middle of redneck world? Especially because said rednecks resented outsiders very existences.

Crouching to examine his choices of sea animals, Joseph’s hand went for a humpback whale that was supposed to look like it was breaching from the ‘water’ of its stand. It was pink and beautiful and he sure as fuck was getting it. As far as apologies went, he was sure this one would be perfect. He flipped the glass figure to see the price and was shocked when it had a three-digit number. Was this shit usually so expensive?

Jesus fuck.

Yeah, he wasn’t carrying that much money with him. Did normal Aglionby boys? Jesus. He’d have to get with it then. But who walked around with that much cash? Debit cards probably. Okay, so he’d need one of those too.

Sighing as he stood and walked over to the old man who now took over the girl’s position, Joseph handed him the whale. “Can I put this on hold for a couple hours?”

“Don’t do holds.”

He’d bet money that that was a load of bullshit. The guy probably didn’t do holds for raven boys is what he meant. “Please? I won’t be long, I just have to get the rest of the price. I didn’t bring that much.”

The words made the man laugh and Joseph was reminded of the woman in Walmart. He knew for a fact that he was not that funny and these people constantly laughing at him was making him pissed. “An Aglionby boy without enough money? Do you know how many times I’ve been told by one of yous how easily they could buy and sell me? Not even my store, but me.”

“Sounds like the endorsement of slavery to me,” Joseph snorted with an eyeroll. Those people sounded like idiots if that was the best way they flaunted their money. That wasn’t even a joke because people were still bought and sold like slaves. Ivo had literally bought people before.

But not in the way people would think.

“You…just said you want the whole family…” Joseph trailed in confusion. He could handle knowing his father ran guns, drugs, and money but he drew a line at people. “Like a human family.”

Turning in surprise, his father pocketed his phone and tilted his head. “What have I said about eavesdropping?”

“Doesn’t count if you leave the door open.” Joseph had come to ask his father something and found him speaking on his phone in his office.

About buying people.

“Fair enough,” his father nodded as he pulled out his chair and sat down. “I did say the whole family.”

Well then. “You…buy people? How could you?” He’d never been so disgusted in his life.

With a sigh, his father replied “Joseph, do you actually believe I buy slaves?”

“Unless you have a really good explanation for what you just said,” he snorted while crossing his arms. “Although, there isn’t one that I could possibly even think of.”

“Yes, I buy people. And yes, that sounds horrible at face value. But I’m actually helping these people.”

“How’s that even possible when you’re buying them like they’re some object,” Joseph couldn’t help but snap. His father wasn’t someone he was supposed to snap at but seriously, there wasn’t a chance he could hold himself back at hearing this.

“Watch your tone,” his father warned before continuing. “There are a lot of people who, very similar to my own story, need to get out of their country because of bad situations. These people don’t have the time or money to go about it legally or have been denied legally. They go through lesser means of getting here like smugglers or becoming something like indentured servants. For some people, those methods work and they get here safe and sound. That doesn’t work for everyone. Some people are forced into slavery – most of the time women and girls – and are sold or forced in whore houses.”

Trying to think of a better reason for his father buying people, Joseph murmured “So you buy those people and…help?”

“Exactly. Obviously, I can’t go around saving everyone but I try to help as many people that come from Eastern Europe as I can. Buy them and then set them up with a place to live and a job that doesn’t include sex or degrading themselves.”

“There’s no way you can pay for all that though,” Joseph countered.

“Very true,” his father nodded as he set a foot on his knee. “That’s why once they have a stable job, ten percent of their monthly earnings comes back to me as a thank you. When the year finishes, the mob gets another fifteen percent of the entire year’s earnings.”

“So you take their hard earned money.”

Shrugging, his father responded “Do you think they prefer, usually, sexual servitude and daily dangers or safety and a roof over their head with their pay docked? I believe you’ll find the answer to be the latter.”

“Look, just an hour,” Joseph sighed in hopes that this man would give in. If it were the girl, she’d give him a whole fucking week. “I’ll…pay a deposit fee or something. Twenty bucks extra for holding it.”

The man seemed to like the idea. “Thirty and you have exactly an hour. Also, the thirty up front.”

“Fine, fine,” Joseph grumbled as he pulled out his wallet and gave the stupid guy more than half the cash in his pocket. “I’ll be back.”

Once he had returned with money in hand, Joseph was in the process of buying the beautiful figurine when his eye caught on a little flyer pile sitting on the counter. It was one of those coupons for fireworks – the small pathetic kinds of course – telling people to get ready for the Fourth of July.

Crap to another holiday then. Joseph’s family loved the Fourth of July almost as much as they loved doing birthdays. Christmas barely beat out the two. Usually for the Fourth, Ivo would acquire piles of illegal fireworks and they’d go to their special spot all the way in Pennsylvania.

There wouldn’t be any of that this year for him or his mother. He wondered if everyone back in Jersey would carry on the tradition or not.

“You guys have firework shows for the Fourth?” Joseph asked as he set the flyer back neatly in the pile.

“County show you can see over at the courthouse. It’s nice.” The man was much more chatty now that Joseph had paid him over a hundred bucks. “That’s it though. Over twelve feet is illegal around here and the stores don’t sell much.”

“They’re sooo boring,” the girl complained as she walked back over, having finished stocking probably. “I’d love to just once see something interesting. Big explosions and beautiful bright colors.”

“I like the county show,” the man said while wrapping the whale carefully so it wouldn’t break. “Of course, there are some people around here who do their own. I don’t know why they waste their time.”

The girl, Maia if he remembered right, came and leaned beside him, ‘casually’ giving her long hair a flip. “Some of the guys from Aglionby get illegal ones and light them. Don’t know from where though. My friend’s boyfriend is gonna get some just for us this year because our parents don’t let us go to their parties.”

“Bummer,” Joseph replied, trying not to sound as interested as he was. There was something here that he could do, an idea taking shape in his head. It’d make his name big, inflate it to gigantic proportions.

Get him known.

Snorting, the man said as he handed Joseph his change “There’s a good reason, Maia. Bad things happen at those parties. I don’t even like Eva’s boyfriend but at least he seems slightly decent compared to others.”

Joseph flicked a curious glance between the two people who you could tell were relatives. Maia caught his glance and answered the unspoken question. “Uncle. My mom has a doctor’s appointment and dad went with her.”

Nodding and wondering if she’d give him her social security number from how easily she trusted and gave out information, Joseph took his bag from the man. “Well, this is my first fourth here. We’ll see how it goes. I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Thank you,” he added as he walked towards the door with his prize.

“Hope to see you again!” Maia called as he walked out. He gave her a half-hearted wave that he didn’t mean as he unlocked his car only to stop in his tracks. He put his gift in before walking back to the store, going in with the sound of the bell. “Yes?” Maia asked excitedly.

“Your friend…Eva was it?” Maia nodded, questioning written all over her face. “What’s her boyfriend’s name? Who knows, might need him for fireworks.”

“Yeah, good idea!” Poor girl probably thought Joseph was going a roundabout way of being interested in her. “Liam. Tall, blonde, and handsome as Eva likes to put it. Drives this beautiful car. I think a Porsche. Dad actually let him take me and Eva to the theater in it.”

A huge smile erupted on Joseph’s face. Perfect. “Liam, huh? I’ll, uh, keep my eyes open for him then. Thanks again.”

Getting into his car with the smile still on his face, Joseph couldn’t help but laugh as he turned it on and backed out of the parking space. “Oh, my dear Liam. It seems our paths are going to cross once more. Can’t wait!”

Chapter Text

Deciding to find a vet and Liam before going home, Joseph drove on through town, slowly getting better at shifting. With practice, one got better at what they were doing which was the same with driving. One day, he’d be so good that he’d race someone.

And win of course.

Joseph had no idea if there were people who raced around here but with all those Aglionby boys and their fancy cars, there had to be someone. Not too far off from the fairgrounds, Joseph had found what seemed to be a drag strip. The weeds and grass were overgrown but the place looked to be alright. Disused maybe, but that was it.

Maybe he’d bring it back from disuse.

Joseph wasn’t exactly sure where he was supposed to find Liam because it wasn’t a school day and he didn’t know the guy and his habits. He could just wait until the weekend was over but that felt too long. There was a plan in his head and every detail needed to be planned out as soon as possible.

Liam was one of those details.

As he was driving around, Joseph ended up passing an animal hospital. Making a u-turn, he drove back and went in, signing up Peanut like the good parent he was. However, he only signed her up after checking out the place and speaking to the current day’s vet. Seems they had two and if Peanut had to see the other one, then Joseph was going to subject them to an interview first. The facility seemed clean and the doctor genuinely caring so he filled out the paperwork for his spoiled brat as he decided that he’d bring her in for a check-up next week. Joseph wanted to be sure that the move hadn’t been too stressful on her health, although, she seemed perfectly well.

But you never knew. It was always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Once that was taken care of and realizing that he was surprisingly hungry, Joseph pulled into the parking lot of a burger place that looked good and actually smelled it too. He could literally smell the fries from here. Out of his car and locking it up, he noticed something that made him smile once he turned towards the building.

Perfect.

Walking over to the stunning Carrera, Joseph ran his hand along the roof in admiration before leaning up against it, facing the building. He made sure to have a huge smirk on his face as Liam caught sight of him from inside. Giving a little wave, Joseph mouthed Hey, princess. There was a part of him that lit up in glee upon seeing the distress on Liam’s classically featured face. The guys who were sitting with him saw him too and even they looked worried. Or maybe it was annoyed.

Whatever. Already making a name for myself. Perfect.

It looked like Liam sighed before he and the other two guys got up, resigned to talking to him, and cleaning the table before coming out. “What,” Liam muttered as he walked over to Joseph, his buddies behind him. “The fuck you want.”

“Well, my dear dear Liam, maybe I just wanted to see your lovely face! Is that wrong?”

Sighing again, Liam leaned on his car beside Joseph, crossing his arms, not in anger, but defensively like they’d protect him. “Seriously, dude, what do you want?”

“So unfun,” Joseph mock cried as he rested an arm around Liam’s shoulder. The other boy seemed extremely uncomfortable by this gesture but didn’t move. “Look, it’s simple. I just need a favor is all.”

“I don’t have any more weed right now, okay? You took everything I had and I’m not getting more for a while.”

“Not what I was looking for right now, actually,” Joseph shrugged. That wasn’t a problem for at least another month. Or at least until Joseph learned to dream his own. If he could dream working pills, then he can damn sure dream some pot. “Nah, I heard something through the grapevine. Tell me about your fireworks.”

“Fireworks?” Liam replied in questioning. “What about them? Illegal around here, no fun ones either. You’re better off-” He immediately stopped speaking as Joseph flicked out his knife, not putting it on the other boy but just brandishing it like he was looking. “Um…”

“Keep going. Tell me more and well, tell me the truth.”

Clearing his throat, Liam stuck his hands in his pockets and mumbled “I get a couple illegal ones from my dad.”

“Nice,” Joseph nodded, still looking at the knife like he’d never seen it before. “Guess what I’m going to say now, Liam my buddy.”

“You want some?”

Joseph clucked his tongue to the negative as he flipped the knife closed. “I want them. Not just some, princess. All.”

“But-” The other boy’s voice died in his throat when Joseph opened the knife again. “I…I was saving them for me and girlfriend to do together, alright? Her friend too. They can’t come to the party me and a couple other guys always do so…”

“You were being a sweet boyfriend,” Joseph nodded solemnly. “Commendable. Really. But ask me if I give a shit if you’re sweet or not.”

For some reason, one of his buddies thought it was his place to answer. “You know what? No one gives a shit what you want. Who the fuck do you think you are, Jersey trash?”

Raising an unamused brow at the freaky buff dude in front of him, Joseph replied “Well, who do you think you are? What the fuck are you anyways? What the hell kind of high schooler needs muscles like that?”

The kid looked pretty proud at being recognized as built. But then, how could someone not? The fucker was huge. “I’m a lacrosse player who can kick your sorry scrawny ass.”

“Fascinating,” he shrugged because he wasn’t even worried. In this situation, Joseph was the one with the knife. Knives generally won. “Truly, truly is. Anyways,” Joseph laughed as he turned back to sweet Liam, “I need fireworks. You’re going to get me fireworks. I don’t care if their yours or not, just get me some by next week. You can keep yours for Eva and Maia.”

A look mixed with confusion and worry crept onto the blonde boy’s face. “How…”

Patting his cheek, Joseph whispered “I know everything, princess.” He didn’t but hey, no one actually knew that. “Remember that.”

“I have the urge to break your face in right now,” Lacrosse boy interrupted with a fierce snarl. “Do you know that?”

Giving one last pat to Liam, Joseph turned his attention to the almost raging dude before him. Despite himself and despite the past two months he’s spent on killing his disgusting thoughts…

The guy was something.

Which was very bad because Joseph wasn’t supposed to be getting attracted to guys anymore. His focus was the girl with the weirdest sense of style and fiercest attitude. Not this…sexy looking Asian guy.

Fuck.

“Totally sensed it,” he smiled, acting like he wasn’t just thinking about how much he might like those muscles. Joseph wasn’t going to allow himself to fall into that hole again. No fucking way. “Because I know everything, remember? But despite how much you’d love to cause me bodily harm…you won’t. Because you’re not that stupid.”

His gaze flicked for a second to the knife then back to Joseph as he nodded. “I’m not stupid at all.”

“Great! Fantastic!” Joseph focused back on silent Liam, “So what are you gonna do for me, baby?”

“Fireworks. As much as I can. By next week,” Liam mumbled in such a sad voice that Joseph almost wanted to feel bad for exploiting and threatening him.

Only almost.

Because Kavinsky relished in that sadness. Thrived for the pain he was causing.

And this was Kavinsky’s show from now on.

 

 

“Mayko!” he called as he walked into the house, his gift in hand. There was no way she wouldn’t love it. Hanging his keys on one of the little hooks they had by the door, he set the bag down on the entryway table as he checked out the mail he had brought in. “Commercial…ads…commercial…” his hands froze their filing work as he stared down at an envelope with his name on it.

He knew the handwriting.

Joseph put the rest of the mail on the table beside his bag before carefully opening the card-sized envelope. From it, he pulled out two things as his mother came down the stairs with Peanut behind her, calling a hello. If he were paying attention to her instead of being frozen by what was in his hand, he’d notice that she didn’t sound angry or upset anymore. That was always a good thing.

The card was beautiful and Joseph knew it would be because nobody that he knew was as good as Anka at this stuff. It was handmade; the front done with what he thought was watercolor, blotches of color on the white heavy paper. There were thorned vines working their way along the border with black roses in the corners. It was their thing, their design for when they got their matching tattoos. They wanted vines crawling along an arm with black roses growing on them. It was both a homage to their heritage and their grandfather – rose for Bulgaria and black because of his grandfather’s casino The Black Sea Rose. The black also brought in the Black Sea where his grandfather’s hometown bordered.

In the middle, there were the simple words of ‘Happy Birthday’ done in gold ink calligraphy. Anka had definitely gone all out because he knew how much she didn’t like to use her gold ink because it was so expensive.

Jumping a little when his mother was suddenly wrapping her arms around him and resting her head against his arm, Joseph bit his lip and whispered “It’s beautiful. Even better than if they had sent a gift.”

“If that girl doesn’t become some famous artist, I’ll be offended.”

“So true,” Joseph laughed as he wiped a stray tear trying to break free. Just this simple thing brought on so many thoughts and memories. Opening the card, Joseph read the paragraph left for him silently as Peanut sat on his foot, purring in content. Why, he had no idea because sitting on a shoe wasn’t comfortable at all.

Dear Joseph,

Happy birthday! We honestly have no clue if this will get to you on time but close enough will be fine. We’ve spent the past two weeks trying to convince your mom to let us send you something but she kept saying no and you wouldn’t want that. We all figured a card couldn’t hurt. Anka spent a week sketching and painting the perfect idea. (I’m actually the one writing this if you didn’t recognize my writing. We all know that everyone else’s handwriting sucks. My parents said I have to write like we’re all talking because we are and I can’t take credit for everything even though I want to.) Hope you love it and we all miss you so much that you have no clue. If you’d just talk on the goddamn phone, it wouldn’t kill you.

“Five dollars tétka saw her write that and crossed it out,” Joseph snorted in amusement through the silent tears sliding down his face.

“Should’ve used pencil not pen,” his mother said as she stretched up and kissed his cheek before wiping away his tears. “She probably didn’t want Anka to start going on a rant.”

I hope you know we all love you and really want to see and hear from you. Also, Anka is offended she didn’t get her own letter and Andrey says that if you didn’t know, he kept his promise. Mayko really wants to hear from you and tatko wants you to know that he beat up your dad for you.

“Tetíncho…” Joseph trailed in shock, staring at the words like he imagined them.

He could feel his mother nodding against his arm. “Day we left. Almost was tried for treason for it but your bashtá wouldn’t let them. Raul also did later that day.”

Mr. Vidal beat up a mob boss for him.

Damn.

“You didn’t tell me anything.”

With a shrug, his mother replied “Your bashtá doesn’t get to hear about you and you don’t need the headache of hearing about him. Simple as that.”

Shaking his head as Joseph still tried to wrap his mind around this new information, he turned back to the card.

Me and Andrey don’t talk to your dad anymore and mayko only does it when she has too and tatko for work. We’re all on your side.

Anyways, we all really want to hear from you and hope you have a nice birthday. Don’t forget us just because you’re far away because we think of you every day.

Love,

Anka, Andrey, Albena, Timotei, tétka Nikol, and tetíncho Yulian

Everyone had signed their own names, Joseph being able to recognize each one’s handwriting, besides for Timotei who it looked like his tétka wrote. It wasn’t the poor child’s fault; he’d be surprised if the two-year-old even noticed Joseph and his mother weren’t around anymore.

P.S. We couldn’t get over not buying you something so spend the money on something super nice

The second thing that had been in the envelope was a hundred dollar bill. What he’d do with it, Joseph wasn’t sure but the thought was sweet of them. Maybe he’d just buy Peanut something. Actually, a lot of somethings. “No offense to my amazing laptop but this is even better than it and the car combined.”

“I actually agree,” his mother murmured as he handed her the card to look at closer. “It’s absolutely beautiful. I love it.”

“You and me both,” he whispered as he picked Peanut up and cuddled her close. She liked when he’d pull his shirt up so he could wrap her in it like some pouch thing but this was one of his nicer shirts. He didn’t want to stretch it just so she could get swaddled. “You’re so fucking spoiled,” Joseph couldn’t help but laugh as he poked Peanut in the nose. “Pampered brat.”

“Annoying pampered brat,” his mother snorted as she put the card back in its envelope. “You should hang it or something.” She grabbed the bag holding her whale off the table, “What’s this?’

Looking up from poking Peanut again and again, Joseph replied “Oh, that’s for you. I bought it for you. Um…like an apology for…being a weed smoking ass?”

Sighing as she stuck her hand into the bag, she asked “You’re not going to stop, are you? What is it?” His mother held up the figurine that was still covered with the ‘safety’ paper. Ripping it off carefully, she took a sharp breath as she looked at it. “Wow...sweetheart, this is stunning.”

“Wait!” he said quickly when he remembered he hadn’t taken off the price. She didn’t need to know how much he spent on it. Taking it and flipping it over after putting Peanut on the floor, he ripped the little tag off before handing it back with a smile. “Okay, now enjoy it.”

With a smile and her emerald eyes sparkling, she took it back and checked it out. “L-o-v-e it. Like so much.”

“Don’t see why you had to spell but score for me,” Joseph said in response with a small laugh. “I knew I was awesome in your eyes.”

Chapter Text

“Nice,” Joseph nodded as he looked in the small trunk of Liam’s Porsche. “But is this really all you could get your hands on?”

In reality, Liam had done a good job getting him fireworks. They were all the large kinds that he remembered doing with his family. There were maybe twelve which seemed like a good number to him when they exploded so huge. Maybe he should get some small ones too? Probably would be a good idea… Pass them out or something?

Running a hand through his silky hair that Joseph couldn’t help but wonder if he blow dried or not, Liam replied “Okay, so…I kept a few. Like literally a few. Only three. I already promised Eva months ago and I’m not breaking that promise.”

Nodding once more as he checked out his new stash again, Joseph pulled out one of the fireworks and handed it to Liam. He couldn’t be a complete asshole. It was yellow and orange so he wasn’t really going to miss it anyways. Until he established himself, Liam was someone he needed. “One on me.”

He was still staring at the firework in surprise but eventually Liam smiled and said “Uh, thanks! Do you need help loading…?”

Shrugging and grabbing a few before walking to his own car, Joseph called behind himself “If you’re feeling extra helpful.” The fact that Joseph had a high school junior under his thumb was not lost on him. How many kids could manage that? Joseph wasn’t even a freshman yet and he had the seventeen year old wary of him.

Talk about skill.

“So what are you going to do with these anyways?”

Blondie probably wasn’t going to be happy right now. “I’m hijacking your yearly party.”

Liam let out a huge huff that was just suffocating in annoyance but he didn’t protest as he set his load of fireworks in the trunk. “Guess I’m in charge of invites?”

“Yessir,” Joseph answered as he grabbed another handful and set them in his trunk. This party would become his thing – what everyone would know Kavinsky for.

It was perfect. Put on a show, make a name, become everything everyone’s jealous of and wants to hate but also wants to be

Become Kavinsky.

“You got a location?” Liam asked once they finished, shutting his Porsche’s trunk. For someone who didn’t like him, Liam sure seemed to like to be helpful. “I usually use this huge ass parking lot little past downtown. Fits a good hundred people, sometimes more depending.”

Joseph would need much more space than that. Aglionby alone had at least a thousand students. The other high school probably had more being that it was public and was where all the girls attended. Anka would be so offended that they only made Aglionby for boys. Hell, she’d probably say that it was wasted on them being that girls were smarter than guys. Sometimes, Joseph completely agreed.

So he couldn’t have just a small place for all these people. No, what he needed was something bigger and better to make sure he brought in everyone he could.

Joseph needed them all.

“Thanks but I’m checking out something already…” he trailed as he thought about the drag strip he had found not too far from the fairgrounds. It didn’t seem like it was used much so there couldn’t be a problem from him using it, could there? The place needing lighting but other than that…

It could work.

What Joseph also needed to do was get people’s attention. Having Liam’s word backing him up was good but people weren’t just going to come from the junior’s word alone.

A trial run was needed. Practice party. The Fourth was a little more than two weeks away…

“Next week.”

With a brow raised while leaning on his car, Liam asked “What’s next week?”

Leaning on his own car as he bit his lip and had his brows drawn in with deep thought, Joseph replied “Party. People aren’t just gonna show up because you say something. They need sort of like a promise that it’s worth their time.”

Nodding as he now too thought, Liam crossed his arms as he chewed on his thumbnail. It was cute that he seemed like he was genuinely worried about helping. Hopefully the idiot wouldn’t think that they were going to become friends or something.

Joseph didn’t do friends anymore.

“First time I did a party, there was the promise of weed and alcohol. They need an incentive to get them coming, you know?”

“Okay,” Joseph murmured as he continued thinking. “So I need something to get them…” Drugs and alcohol were a teenage dream – not his but that didn’t matter. The drugs he could do; he had pulled out his first batch of successful weed yesterday. It had the same exact effects and properties as real marijuana. He also had the pills he did but those were specialized for dreaming. If Joseph wanted to promise pills, he needed to make different ones. Then there were the drinks. “How’d you get your alcohol?”

“My dad,” Liam yawned with a shrug.

Joseph didn’t think he had a fake id so that seemed like the right answer. Except… “I thought you board? What, he brings shit when he visits?” Also, what kind of father just gave out alcohol to his kid? Ivo being Ivo and yet even he put his alcohol under lock and key.

“Something like that. I’m a bastard child, Kavinsky. Bastard children need to be silenced so they don’t ask for money. Plus, my mom didn’t want me anyways. ‘Have a life’ or whatever.”

“So…your dad bribes you with lots of illegal shit and lets you do what you want as a way to convince you to board here and keep your existence quiet?” Damn. Joseph actually felt kind of bad for the other boy.

“Pretty much. Lucky me, right?”

Was it better to just naturally be unwanted or to become unwanted after you had the taste of what a relationship was like? He felt like losing the relationship was worse because you knew exactly what you had lost. “Damn. I’d say ‘sorry’ but no point in lying. But I kinda feel for you if that counts for anything.”

“Jordan offered to beat the shit out of him the next time he came for a visit but I said no.”

Knowing his face looked as confused as he felt, Joseph said “Jordan is…”

With a roll of his deep blue eyes, Liam snorted “You’ve met him. He hangs with me all the time.” When Joseph still looked lost, Liam added “Buff Asian?”

“Ah,” Joseph nodded. Buff Asian. He didn’t like buff Asian. The asshole caused Joseph to have thoughts he swore he wouldn’t have anymore. What was worse was that because he hadn’t seen Feisty since that first time, the thoughts invaded his head regularly without her to distract them. The sooner he saw her again, definitely the better. “Don’t like that dude.”

“Too bad,” Liam said with a one shoulder shrug. “He likes you just fine.”

His heart literally stopped beating. “What?”

“Jordan. He thinks you’re badass as fuck. Hot too.”

What the almighty holy fuck.

He knew that he looked like a deer caught in headlights right now but there was no way he could fix his face. This was just pure insanity. “He’s a fag?”

“Dare you to say that to his face,” Liam laughed. “I’m not telling you so you can make homophobic dumbass issues. Just sayin’ is all. Case you go that way or whatever.”

“I don’t fucking go that way,” he snarled as he got in Liam’s face, finger pressing hard against the other boy’s chest. He left that part of him, those nasty truths, behind in Jersey. Dead in his room where he had died.

There was no fucking way in all holy hell that he was going to let them be rebirthed here.

Swallowing and looking a little worried, Liam stuttered “I-I didn’t mean nothin’ by it! I-I swear. Just forget I said shit. Really.” Joseph lowered his finger but kept glaring at the slightly trembling boy before him. “Let’s talk party, yeah? You need one, you’re right. It’s a good idea. Next week is great. Friday is best. I-I’ll bring the drinks and some weed. I’ll even get the word around.”

Well, that worked. Joseph had been planning on telling Liam to handle the alcohol but weed was welcome too. That way he didn’t have to exhaust his already exhausted brain. Backing up a bit to give Liam some breathing room, Joseph replied “Sounds good. They use the drag strip around here?”

“We…have a drag strip?”

That answered his question then. “Give me your phone.”

“Aw, c’mon! Can’t you buy one instead of jacking mine?” Liam grumbled but nonetheless he pulled his out of his pocket and handed it over. “I at least want the pictures of me and Eva.”

Sighing and shaking his head as he typed his number in as a new contact, Joseph said in a tired tone “Fuckwad, I don’t want your phone. I’m giving you my fucking number. I’ll text you when I got place and time set up, you tell everyone.” He handed the phone back, “Deal?”

Relief washed over Liam’s face. “Oh, okay. Then yeah, sounds great.”

 

 

The next few days were a matter of prepping and preparing. Obviously Joseph told his mother nothing about having a party, especially one that included drugs and alcohol. Liam had sent him pictures of the insane amount of alcohol he and Jordan had procured so Joseph wasn’t worried about that part. The blonde had also sent him pictures of the weed he could manage. It wasn’t much but it was decent enough to add to the stash Joseph had built up. He kept a storage bin filled with bags of joints in his closet. Ten to a bag because it was both easier for him to be able to count and also, when the time came, to distribute. Joseph wanted at least another four bags as extras because he had no clue who would actually show up or who would bring extra people.

As for the pills, the stash was much smaller. Like so much smaller that it was sad. But he had no intentions of getting someone sick, or worse, dead. Mass production from his brain didn’t start until Joseph felt like the pills did what they were supposed to and were safe enough. Being that there was no one to test them on, he became his own guinea pig. It wasn’t ideal but he was who he had and well, it worked.

For a weird sense of humor, Joseph made these pills blue. And little. Because that was funny, wasn’t it? He thought it was and anyone who disagreed were just idiots with no sense of humor. The little blue pill acted like an amplified version of weed and it’s ‘stoning’ properties while delving into the depths of ecstasy. While Joseph had never actually taken the real thing, he had conducted an in depth study to find out the effects.

And from what he tested, it worked perfectly. As long as no one was an idiot and took a shit ton, everything would end up going fine.

The party would be at the fairgrounds, Joseph had ultimately decided. He wanted to save the strip for his Fourth party and didn’t want to have to do clean up after this one. The place where the party would be was down the road of where Joseph dreamed. For his dreaming ‘lot,’ the road before you hit the fairgrounds was where a person had to go. But that road was thin and dirt and overgrown so Joseph wasn’t worried that anyone would find it.

The fairgrounds were ideal for the party because of two key factors. One was that it was out of the way of the lights of Henrietta and two was that no one was ever around.

Perfect for delinquent drug using alcoholic teens.

Liam had gotten into contact with his father who had gotten into contact with the electric company and had them fix up the huge floodlights at the fairgrounds. Joseph had actually offered to pay but Liam had refused saying that he was more than happy to make his bastard father waste his money.

Despite himself, Joseph was starting to like this guy.

Which wasn’t a good thing.

They had also had them fix up the ones at the drag strip to get ready for the Fourth of July party. Everything in his grandmaster plan was coming along nicely so far. He still had another two days to dream up more blue pills to fill his storage bin and Liam had said that all the invites had been taken care of. Everyone who mattered knew that Kavinsky was throwing a party at the abandoned fairgrounds in a couple days. Bring something to get something even better.

It was perfect.

Except for two things.

The minor one was that Joseph really wanted to find punk rocker and invite her.

Problem two was a much bigger issue.

Like how in the hell he was going to get his mother to let him stay out until at least midnight. If you were going to be the cool guy who passed out shit and did shit, there were no curfews. It diminished your credibility. Kavinsky couldn’t have his mother calling him at eight wondering where he was.

Going about this would be tricky.

Knocking on her closed bedroom door, Joseph waited for her to invite him in while hoping this went alright. If she said no, he’d still go but he’d have her mad at him. But Kavinsky had to show up to his own party. It wouldn’t work otherwise.

“What’s up?” she asked as he walked in. She was sitting in her bed, back against the headboard while on her laptop.

“Uh, well…” Joseph mumbled as he sat on the edge of her huge bed. What she needed with an entire king size, he had no clue. She said she liked the space and plus, what if he wanted to join her one night? You never knew according to her. Joseph had downgraded to a twin size because he wasn’t going to waste space when he barely slept. “I want to ask for…permission…”

Setting her laptop down beside her, she raised a brow in question, her beautiful eyes sparkling in curiosity. “For…”

“On Friday…there’s this…thing that I want to go to. It’s at night though.”

“A thing being…what exactly?”

He’d have to tread carefully here. “Um, well…I met a couple guys who already go to Aglionby and one of them is throwing like a…thing…”

Man he sucked at this.

Resting her elbow on her crossed leg and her in chin in her palm, his mother said in a disapproving voice “A thing like a party. That word your trying so hard to avoid.”

It was stupid of him to think that he could pull one on his brilliant mother. “Well, uh…”

“No parties.”

Crap. “But-”

“No, Joseph,” his mother interrupted in a dismissive tone. She was done with the conversation. “I’m not an idiot. As if I can’t easily imagine what goes on at a high school party full of prep school brats.”

“That’s kinda what I am now…” he trailed while biting his lip. He’d really prefer that he could do this without her getting pissed at him. “Plus, can’t you trust me to make the right choices?”

A snort of amusement came with an eyeroll. “Maybe I could have before I found out you were smoking behind my back.”

Oh.

Yeah, there was that.

Scratching the side of his head, Joseph replied “Mayko, please? I know I lost some of your trust with the weed but I mean…” He tried to think of something, anything, that could help his case. Of course he had nothing.

“I’m happy that your trying to get to know people but I’d much prefer they weren’t the ones where I have to worry. No party and that’s it.”

Grinding his jaw to keep himself from saying something stupid, Joseph stared down at the carpet, attacking it with the glare he was trying not to give his mother. He understood her point, he really did, but she didn’t get that none of that mattered anymore.

She didn’t get that he was the one that was going to become the one everyone worried about. Kavinsky was going to be the one that parents didn’t like and other kids feared.

“It’s Friday,” he finally murmured, preparing himself for the backlash. “And I already said I was going so I’m going. I’d appreciate if you’d just trust that I’m not a complete idiot.” He stood as he felt her gaze hot on his back as he walked to the door. Pausing before he walked out, Joseph added “A little bit of faith would be nice. Just saying.”

Chapter Text

“You seem nervous,” Liam whispered as he stood beside Joseph where they leaned against the Porsche.

The statement wasn’t wrong. Joseph was nervous as hell. This had to go perfect or else everything that he was aiming for was as good as fucked. If this party sucked, then his chances of throwing an epic Fourth one were shot into the dirt. Everything had to go perfectly or else the name Kavinsky would only bring mocking laughter.

That was something that couldn’t happen.

All morning his nerves had been buzzing from his worry. He had made sure to pack his two tubs of drugs in his car early in the morning so his mother wouldn’t catch sight of them and even covered them with sheets just in case. From there it had just been a matter of wasting the day in anticipation for the coming night. The past two days had been quiet as his mother was still upset with him but as he had been getting dressed to leave, she had come into his room with her arms crossed and a sigh.

“Just…be safe, be careful, and please please don’t do something stupid. I’ll tolerate your stupid weed phase for now but I swear to God if I smell alcohol on you, you’ll be in so much trouble.”

He had made the promise of no drinks and kissed her cheek goodbye. Joseph actually had no intentions of drinking tonight; maybe eventually but definitely not today. He needed his full wits about him to make sure this went perfect.

“You’re not?” Joseph said quietly in reply. “Don’t know about you but I don’t want this to be shit.”

“Me neither,” Liam replied as he lit up a blunt. “But it won’t. Relax and attempt to enjoy yourself. It puts people at ease that you’re not some shady drug dealer or something.”

Accepting the offered smoke, Joseph took a drag from the joint between his fingers before snorting “I am a drug dealer, idiot. I’m passing out weed and pills. I thought you go to a smart ass high school?”

A laugh erupted from the other boy as he accepted the joint back. “Okay, good point. But hey, you’re not shady so that’s something.”

“Fair enough,” Joseph murmured as he watched the first car drive up. At least there was someone. Now no one could say that nobody had showed. “Know ‘em?”

“Yeah, Alan is the dude driving and the other guy is Dustin. Okay guys. They’re a grade under me. I sell to Dustin a lot. That guy is like the definition of a pothead.” They watched as Alan shut off the car and got out, followed by Dustin. Three girls came bouncing out of the backseat, all smiles. “Girlfriends and girlfriend’s sister. Honestly, I don’t like them.”

“All three?” Joseph asked curiously as his first ‘guests’ walked over. “Can’t be that bad.”

“Dustin’s girl is okay but Lisa and her sister are bitches,” Liam snorted. “Also Lisa is a serial cheater. Alan don’t give a shit though which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Joseph couldn’t help but agree as Alan stuck his hand out. Taking it, Joseph introduced himself. “Kavinsky.”

“Nice to put a face to the name,” Dustin said as he too shook hands. “For some reason, I expected you to be blonde.”

“Yeah, that’s all I need in my life,” he couldn’t help but snort in disdain. He flashed a quick glance to Liam rolling his eyes. “Full offense, princess.”

The girl who he figured was Lisa because of the way she draped herself on Alan gave a giggle so Joseph turned her way and flashed her his megawatt smile. Something told him she would love to make him her next cheating prospect. But while Joseph was willing to do a lot to be a complete ass, that was where he drew the line. No way was he going to help some bitch cheat because he knew exactly what the damage was. Had seen and felt how infidelity tore people down.

Not happening.

“So where’s the good stuff?” Alan asked as he crossed his arms. “Prove you got actual shit to show for this party.”

“Aw, baby,” Joseph laughed in an almost maniacal manner. “Liam did explain how this shit works, didn’t he? You bring me shit, I give you even better. Only thing that’s free here is a joint or two and the cheapest alcohol possible. Oh and my charming disposition. Music too because I’m just that fucking nice.”

Lisa gave another giggle and Joseph delighted her with a wink. Yeah, he didn’t like her at all. Too…giggly and eager to please. Not his thing. Her boyfriend looked slightly pissed but it was more because of Joseph’s words and not his girl’s opportunistic excitement. “So what do I gotta exchange for the good shit? What is the good shit?”

“Exchange is an open thing, my not friend. You show me what you got and I’ll decide if it’s worth it. As for the goodies, just two choices for the night. I do well then maybe I’ll entertain the thought of more.” He was serious about that part. If he was going to be a goddamn drug dealer then he was going to be the fucking best. “I’ve got better weed and a pipe that you get to borrow for the night or,” Joseph took out on of his blue pills, “this.”

Big brown eyes glowing in interest at the mention of weed and a pipe, Dustin said “I brought a 24 pack of Corona. Will that get me a pipe for the night?”

That could get the dude two pipes but Joseph wasn’t going to be generous tonight. Kavinsky didn’t do generous. “All yours, man.”

“Wait, wait,” Alan cut in, his voice barely climbing over the bass of the music playing from Joseph’s extremely sick system. He pointed at the little blue pill, “The fuck is that?”

His fake buddy beside him had asked the same question when Joseph had showed him the tub filled with them. “This here is where the fun is at. No name for it,” Joseph said as he gazed at the little pill held between his fingers like it was the most amazing thing in the world, “But I like what it does. Ever taken E?”

Figuring it was Lisa’s sister because she looked a bit like her except with a pointy chin and bleached hair, the girl said excitedly “I have! That shit is in-sane. I love it.”

Hello drug addicted party girl. What kind of teenagers took ecstasy? He wasn’t sure if he an Emilio were ‘normal’ or just the lame dudes behind in everything. To them, a fun time was sports or games or just doing something incredibly stupid. Like daring each other to eat an entire serrano pepper in a minute with no milk.

Joseph had lost. Spicy he could do but Jesus, there was a limit. Emilio had claimed with a bright laugh that he had won because he was Hispanic.

“Spice is my life, boy-o.”

Shaking out these memories that he didn’t need, Joseph said “Well, this baby here is a mix of amped weed and a touch of the happy pill. A very amazing high with a very small crash.” Having a sudden idea, Joseph smiled to the sister and said “Open.”

Seemingly eager, she opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue a little. Joseph set the pill on her tongue before grabbing her a cheap beer from the roof of the Porsche, popping the tab, and handing it over. “Down the hatch, sweetheart.”

The fact that she trusted so easily was slightly terrifying as she took a gulp and swallowed the pill down. How stupid was she? Joseph wasn’t trying to kill her or anything but what if he was? Did it ever occur to her that he might roofie her? How could she just trust his smile and do what he said?

“I want one,” Lisa said quickly, a small shadow of jealousy still left in her eyes after having watched the interaction. It freaked him out a bit when she suddenly hugged him tight and smiled up at him. Anka and Ivet would slap her for being a complete needy idiot. “One for me?”

But this was what Kavinsky needed so he’d just have to deal with that…neediness. Plastering his huge smile on his face, he pulled another from his pocket as he wrapped his other arm around her slender waist. “One for you, baby. Don’t worry. Open up.”

He did the same thing for her as he did for her sister. Dustin’s girlfriend with the nose piercing shook her head when he offered her one but was eager for a pipe which Joseph obliged once Dustin handed over the Corona. Giving freebies to the ladies, he figured, was a good idea that would get him some points. But the freebies would only be for today; he needed to show what he offered, not run out of his shit. More people started to show so the initial group went on their way to lounge and drink and smoke. Liam introduced him to everyone although there were actually some people he didn’t know.

Joseph took that as a good thing. It meant word had reached far.

Kavinsky would be known by tomorrow.

Eventually Jordan arrived, carrying over a box which he dropped at Joseph’s feet. “All yours.”

Looking down at the box, he kicked it with his shoe as he nodded. “I always wanted a box, darling. Thanks.”

“Open it, idiot. I thought it’d help out the party a bit.”

Crouching down to pull off the lid, Joseph tried to ignore that he was sure this guy was trying to impress him. After Liam had told Joseph that Jordan was into him, he tried to avoid the guy as much as possible. It wasn’t only that but he swore that sometimes the guy just…gave him this weird feeling. Joseph’s sirens literally went off every time he saw him. Like he needed to be wary of the lacrosse player or something.

Generally, his instincts were smart.

So Joseph trusted this one.

With the lid removed, Joseph stared down at a box filled with packs of cigarettes. Why hadn’t he and Liam thought of that? Not everyone wanted to smoke pot. “Wow, thanks.”

“Thought, you know, pass a smoke to everyone. Don’t know if there are enough but…it’s all I could get.”

“It’s great, really, thank you,” Joseph replied as he stood. “Seriously. If you could do the honors of passing one out to everyone, it’d be even better.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jordan nodded quickly, stooping down to pick up the box. Before he walked off, he took out a pack and handed it to Joseph. “Enjoy yourself a pack.”

Accepting it, he put it into his back pocket as Jordan walked off. Something told him that if he started smoking cigarettes, he’d get addicted fast. Not to mention his mother could smell a smoker from a mile away. So for now, no smokes.

The party had filled up wonderfully with a steady stream of people coming in. There were at least a hundred people right now with more still driving up. There was music, drinks, drugs, and people. Didn’t get better than that. Score tons for him because holy shit, he had managed it.

With Liam’s help but still.

Most people had brought something with them, the majority being alcohol because that was what they could get their hands on the easiest. Almost everyone had had at least one drink and that was evident in the flushed faces and sloppy behavior. He had been watching this guy and girl for the past ten minutes making out against a car and as ridiculous as it sounded, he really hoped one of them remembered to bring a condom. There was no way they weren’t getting to that point.

“I have an urge to spray them with a hose,” Liam snorted as he sipped water, he too both watching the couple and staying away from alcohol. They both had to drive home today. “They annoy me.”

“That’s not you with Eva?” Joseph murmured around the rim of his own water bottle. He was hoping to make that him and Feisty but Joseph still hadn’t found the girl and now he was regretting letting her go in Walmart.

“Pft,” he blew. “We’re way classier than that.”

“Is it possible to be classy after getting drunk?”

“Good question,” Liam laughed with a shake of his head. Downing the last of his water, he crumbled the bottle and tossed it in a random direction. It wasn’t appreciated being that Joseph would probably be the one cleaning up but he said nothing. “Why don’t you got a girl? Expect you would.”

It was a curious thing. Why did Liam expect him to? Is that how he presented himself? Because if it was then him killing his inner fag was working wonderfully. But he stated none of this and simply shrugged in the dark with only the sickly light of floodlights illuminating the place. “Working on it. Girl I want I haven’t seen since the first time.”

“Guess it’s better,” Liam said as he stretched his arms up and shaking out his shoulders. “That way you can fuck all the girls you want before tying yourself.”

For a guy with a girlfriend, the words sounded terrible. Actually, just for anyone. “That what you did before Eva?”

“Hell yeah,” the other boy cackled loud. “Eva was supposed to be just a fuck like every other girl but I liked her a lot so she stayed. I think we go great together actually.”

Joseph had never even seen Eva so he couldn’t say but it did get him thinking. Why did he have to just wait for Feisty? The plan was to get with her and then they’d have sex but maybe he’d just have sex until he finally got her. Why waste all that time that it might take for her to want him? It’s not like she was special or something to save his virginity for her. Who gave a fuck?

New plan for the rest of the summer.

Get laid. Maybe more than once.

Surprised when a body suddenly collided with him, Joseph stared down in confusion at Lisa once again hugging him tight. Except this time, she was practically humping his leg, her pupils blown wide. Joseph wasn’t sure if it was because she was high or horny. Probably both. “Hey, sexy.”

“Sexy yourself,” he laughed, acting like it totally didn’t bug him the way she was just holding him. If there was one thing Joseph hated, it was when people touched him who weren’t allowed to. Besides his family and, once upon a time, his close friends, Joseph didn’t tolerate touchiness. But being that this was Kavinsky’s show not Joseph’s, he’d have to get over it. “How can I help you?”

She barely came up to his shoulder as she set her chin in his chest and looked adoringly at him. “I wanna another pill, baby.” Looping her arms around his neck and bringing him down so there was less than a space between their lips, Lisa added “And I want you.”

For the past few months since he had arrived here, Joseph had been telling himself that everything with Emilio had been a lie. He wasn’t gay, he hadn’t loved his best friend, and he had just been confused since he was eight when he realized that he might like boys. Joseph was straight just like everyone one else; he wasn’t a fag and girls turned him on.

If all of that was true, then why the fuck didn’t Lisa rubbing on him have any affect? Being this close to lips that looked that delicious?

Because they were on the wrong sort of person.All this did was make him feel slightly sick and ashamed.

Ashamed because he was so far from hard that you’d think it was some disgusting hag humping on him instead of this beautiful bright-eyed girl. All he wanted to do was shove her away and tell her to fuck off. To get her away from him before she decided to grab his crotch thinking that he was as into her as she was to him. The only thing her grabbing would discover was how limp his dick was.

“Sweet,” Joseph smirked like he wasn’t having extreme inner turmoil in his head right now. “But baby, I don’t want you.” Her eyes went wide in hurt before he pulled out a pill and pushed it into her mouth, letting his thumb linger in her mouth for a few seconds before popping it out and wiping her lips. “Enjoy your night and find someone else to fuck your brains out.”

He could literally read in her body language the slap she was about to give him so when she suddenly raised her hand, Joseph grasped it and spun her around to where her back was facing him. With a little push after releasing her, he laughed “Think you need to walk that way, sweet thing. Find your boy and let him dick you out.”

Flashing him a glare over her shoulder, she stalked off with exuberant amounts of swagger like she hadn’t just been rejected. That was fine with him; he wasn’t willing to play adulter in her stupid ass games. He didn’t watch his mother and Ivo suffer through two infidelities to go and be partner in one.

“Not your type?” Liam asked curiously as Joseph once again leaned back on the Porsche.

Turning his head to stare at the fuckwad beside him, Joseph replied in a salty tone “After the lecture of her being a cheating bitch, you seriously wonder why I didn’t want to fuck her?”

With a shrug, Liam yawned “Alan don’t care for whatever stupid ass reason so if she wants to be fair game then…”

“How would you like it if I went and dicked Eva?”

A fire lit in Liam’s eyes. “I’d beat the shit out of you.”

“Okay then. Why the fuck am I going to help that bitch cheat? Even if her boy don’t care, I’m not gonna be some player in a bullshit game.” Maybe if it had been some single girl…

Who was he kidding though? Joseph hadn’t gotten even remotely aroused in a situation that a lot of teenage guys would have. If a girl couldn’t turn him on, how the fuck was he supposed to have sex with one?

Maybe…maybe he just needed to analyze his situation more. Joseph wasn’t a faggot; he refused to be one. He just hadn’t gotten hard because…because Lisa was a bitch.

Duh.

Chapter Text

“We should get fancy cheese,” Joseph said to his mother beside him as they stood staring at Walmart’s cheese offerings. He pulled a pack of sliced gouda off the hook only to grab Havarti when he saw it on the hook above it. “Or lots of fancy cheese.”

“What’s wrong with regular old Kraft?’ his mother laughed as she set a pack of boring American sliced cheese in the cart. “It melts the best.”

With a snort, Joseph put his cheese selections in the cart on top of plain old Kraft. “Our burgers should be ultra fancy, mayko. Kraft is for regular days.”

The Fourth was tomorrow. One day until his huge party that he was terrified would go bad. He didn’t think it would but hell, you never knew. His substance party – dubbed by popular choice apparently – had gone fantastic. Minus Lisa getting all pissy but hey, that definitely wasn’t important. Even facing his mother at one in the morning had gone good.

Walking into his room, Joseph wasn’t even close to being surprised on finding his mother sitting in his bed, reading a book. Peanut had already settled in for the night apparently as she dozed beside her grandmother’s feet. “Hey.”

She didn’t reply or even look away from her book. Raising a hand, she crooked her finger twice – the universal sign of ‘get your ass over here.’ He obliged, not even nervous because he hadn’t done anything except lean on the Porsche and share blunts with Liam, sip water, and stay away from Jordan when necessary. Also pass out shit and discourage humping cheating bitches. Well, bitch. A lot of girls had ended up hitting on him but none the way Lisa had. They had stayed classy with just some flirting.

Flirting he could easily handle.

Patting a spot on the bed beside heselfr, his mother stayed focused on her reading as she turned the page. When Joseph sat down, she motioned for him to come closer. Scooting over to where their sides were pressed together, Joseph turned his head to face her with a smile he couldn’t seem to keep off his face as she practically commanded “Breathe.”

Rolling his eyes but still smiling, he huffed on her knowing that his breath only smelled like weed and maybe the candy he and Liam had decided to binge on. “Well? Verdict?”

Finally closing her book, she faced him with the raised brow of utter power. “Weed makes you smell like crap.”

He clucked his tongue as he got up, emptying his jeans so he could change. “But no alcohol, right? Because I didn’t touch shit.”

“No, no alcohol,” she conceded as she watched him put his wallet and watch away while setting his phone on his nightstand. He was suddenly extremely thankful that there were no pills left in his pockets. She’d kill him even though he hadn’t even had one. When he reached into his other pocket to grab whatever was left, Joseph froze.

The pack of smokes had completely passed his mind.

“Mayko,” Joseph said quickly, trying to hide his panic. From her searing gaze alone, he could tell how she had noted his lack of movement. “I swear to God I didn’t and completely forgot that someone had given them to me.” She’d have to believe him; it wasn’t like the scent of cigarettes wasn’t distinct.

Holding out her hand, she replied “Let’s see whatever it is.”

There was no reason to be nervous because he hadn’t done anything but he still felt the butterflies fluttering like there was a party in his stomach as he handed over the cigarettes. Looking down at them with an unhappy purse of lips, his mother said stiffly “I’m keeping these.”

“Keep them,” he rushed out to show her that he hadn’t been planning on using them. “I swear, someone gave me them and I totally forgot about them.” Joseph pointed to the still closed plastic around the box, “See? Still closed. And you would have smelled it on me.”

“True,” she nodded as she got up, taking both the book and smokes with her. “And I believe you, sweetheart. No need for a heart attack.” With a kiss to his cheek, she wished him goodnight before walking out to catch her own sleep.

Liam told him that he had people texting him for Joseph’s number, wanting to get in touch with him themselves to ask about the pills he had given out. But Joseph wasn’t ready to extend that hand out yet. People needed to get needy for him; it was too early to do sales.

If you wanted the pill, then you’d have to come to the Fourth of July party.

Joseph was sure that twice as many people who had showed up for the substance party would show tomorrow. Somehow, Liam had managed him more fireworks although Joseph hadn’t really needed more.

Because he had dreamed himself some fantastic ones.

Fireworks didn’t require the heavy duty red pills that Joseph had created. Those he was saving for practicing the Evo. No, green was plenty and after some trial and error, Joseph had created some beauties that lit up the sky. He had done the testing at the fairgrounds and once he had been satisfied with the three kinds he had made, Joseph went into ‘mass production’ by dreaming ten of each. It had caused him to walk around with a headache for a couple days, relief barely arriving today but totally worth it.

The Fourth was going to be perfect.

Hopefully.

This morning, he had made his mother breakfast and served it to her in bed in hopes of smoothing over the conversation he had wanted to have.

“Another party.”

Yup, she didn’t sound happy even though she was munching on the almost amazing omelet he had made. The edges were a little crisp but it still looked fantastic. “Fourth of July and stuff, you know? After that…none for a while. Promise.” His brain wasn’t a fucking machine anyways – he’d kill himself if he kept trying to drag shit out at such a high rate.

With a sip of juice, she snorted “Am I not fun enough to spend the Fourth with?”

Shit. It hadn’t even occurred to him that she’d be lonely and probably be thinking about what they used to do in Jersey for the holiday. But he didn’t let that faze him as he quickly thought of an idea. “Don’t be stupid, mayko. We’ll spend the day together. We should do like a barbeque or something and test out our pool. And then we can do fireworks when I get back.”

His mother had eventually very reluctantly agreed though he could tell that the idea of him going to parties was not sitting well with her.

“I like Kraft,” his mother said as she opened a box of eggs to make sure that none were broken. “But you can have your fancy ass cheese, rich boy.”

“Ha. Ha. You’re hilarious, dear.”

“Damn straight,” she laughed as they walked over to the fridges with the drinks. “Grab a milk while I get a lemonade.”

Scratching his head under his Yankees cap as he walked over to the respective fridge, Joseph froze after opening it, his hand simply sitting on a milk gallon. He blinked harder thinking that he was mistaken but when he stared more, he realized he wasn’t imagining things yet as he watched Feisty pick out different yogurts from the open fridge a little ways off. “Shit.”

Grabbing the milk quickly and setting in their cart after walking over to where his mother was, Joseph said hurriedly “I’ll meet you in the bread aisle.”

He was about to dash off when she grabbed the sleeve of his tshirt. “Whoa, whoa, where to?”

Casting a quick glance to the yogurt section to make sure punk girl was still occupied, Joseph replied “I…need to talk to someone real quick. Meet you there.” When she pulled him back once more, he couldn’t help it and literally whined. “Mayko.”

With a look around, his mother’s eyes, unfortunately, caught on Feisty who happened to be the only one around at the moment besides some old dude. She knew that wasn’t who he was rushing for. “And she is…”

“Someone. I’ll be back.”

“She’s…interesting…” his mother said in a slow examining tone as she took in Feisty’s outfit. It was some cut up…type of shirt with a bright blue tank top peeking through the holes paired with jean shorts and combat boots.

This girl was nothing if not original.

“That doesn’t sound very nice,” Joseph couldn’t help but laugh. Yogurt must be this girl’s life because she was literally reading each brand to see what she wanted. “I’d say…eccentrically cute.”

Giving her a once over from where they stood, his mother murmured “Cute, huh? If you were into girls, would she be it?”

And that’s when the conversation wasn’t fun anymore.

His fist was clenched tight as he tried to reign in his anger. He was into girls, she was wrong.

Joseph could totally be into girls.

“Mayko,” he said, voice barely away from a snarl. “One? We don’t bring that up, ever.” Her eyes lit with surprise. “Two, I’m not a fucking fag-”

“Don’t ever call yourse-”

“That’s what gays are,” Joseph hissed quietly because he wasn’t going to make a scene in the dairy section of Walmart. “I’m not fucking gay. That whole year, I was just an idiot who was…taken advantage of by his idiotic bifaggot ex friend.”

Oh Jesus did those words hurt. It was so far from the truth that it was crazy. Joseph literally felt like his heart had ruptured or something.

It was a mix of emotions that filled his mother’s face as she ground her jaw. Hard. “I truly hope you don’t believe whatever homophobic bullshit your bashtá spat at you because I know you’re better than that. I know that you’re not stupid enough to erase the beautiful thing you and Emilio had just from the words of a homophobic bigoted piece of shit. And if you are, then maybe it’s better that it ended because Emilio deserves better than that. He wasn’t there for you all those years for you to drag him like he’s shit beneath your feet.”

Joseph stared at his mother completely stunned. He couldn’t even formulate the proper words for a reply before she added “He loved you. Genuinely and truly thought that you were the most beautiful person in the world. I didn’t need to know about your relationship to see it. Maybe it’s for the best that he can’t hear the shit your saying because you’d break him.”

“Mayko-”

“Don’t,” she said, cutting him off with a fierce glare. “I love you the way you are. Emilio loved you the way you are. I was ready for boyfriends or gay porn. I never expected, never imagined, that instead I’d be facing some born again homophobe.” Grabbing the handle of the cart, she abruptly turned, saying before she stalked off “Go on, chase your little savior bitch if that’s what you’re so intent on.”

Born again homophobe.

The scary part was that it was so true. Then there was the fact that she had been waiting for him to get a boyfriend which had literally just blown his mind. More than her catching him watching gay porn. Joseph had actually tried watching porn after his failed arousal of Lisa and her humping. Just straight up regular porn with a dude and a lady. It had worked…kind of.

Joseph was sure that normal guys didn’t need as much time or rubbing as he had.

It had gotten him wondering why making out with Alicia had aroused him if porn was barely doing it. His conclusion was that he liked both her and the way she kissed. Her hands were talented too. Which took him back to thinking that if Lisa wasn’t a bitch, he would have gotten at least a little hard. That thought brought him back to thinking about porn. Maybe if he watched enough of it, jerked off to enough of it…he could get hard for a girl. He just needed to watch enough women, tell his brain that this was who he should be getting hard for, and then…well, then he’d have actual sex with one.

Simple.

With a sigh and shake of his head while he wondering if his mother still wanted his company or not, Joseph glanced over to the yogurts and wasn’t surprised by Feisty not being there any longer. If he got lucky, he’d find his hetero savior somewhere here before she left. Stuffing his hands in the pockets of his basketball shorts, Joseph began a stroll down the aisles, hoping to run into the girl before he made it to his mother.

For once, God actually felt like being helpful.

He found her in the baking aisle, crouched down and looking at pie fillings. Joseph strolled over and crouched down beside her, flashing her a smile when she turned her head to look at him. “Hello.”

Looking entirely unamused, the girl focused back on pie fillings. “Leave me alone.”

“Any chance you remember me?”

“No.”

“Damn,” Joseph laughed because he could easily tell that she did. There couldn’t be that many guys with heavy Jersey accents walking around in Yankees caps around here. “Well, I could reintroduce myself.”

“Not like you introduced yourself the first time,” she snorted as she grabbed a can of cherry and stood. “Leave me alone.”

Standing himself and walking with her, Joseph replied “See? I knew you remembered me. I definitely didn’t forget you. Love today’s outfit too.” He lightly touched her shirt, “How do you come up with these anyways?”

Halting abruptly which made Joseph nearly trip on her tiny frame hadn’t he stopped in time, Feisty said in an annoyed tone with crossed arms “What part of ‘leave me alone’ don’t you get?”

Joseph put his hands up in surrender. “Look. I really like you or…I’m sure I will if you’d just take the time to speak to me like a human being.” She opened her mouth to say something but he hurried along, “It’s not a big deal. I get it, you probably have to fend of assholes all the time from how pretty you are.” That earned him an eyeroll. “But I just want to invite you-”

“No.”

“Lemme finish,” he couldn’t help but huff. Jesus, she was something. “I’m having a Fourth of July party tomorrow and I’d really like it if you came. I had a party last week and wanted to invite you to that but I couldn’t find you. But I’m inviting you to this one.”

Feisty let out a huff before saying “I’m not interested in Aglionby boy parties.”

“It’s an everyone party,” Joseph corrected. “Everyone and anyone is invited to enjoy fireworks and shit, you know? It’ll be fun. And I hope you can come.” He was trying to make it sound like she would come unless she had something important. From the way she was looking at him, Joseph knew that saying ‘hope you will come’ was more like it. “It’s at the drag strip and it’ll be great, I promise.”

Brushing a piece of short hair from her face that had fallen out of its clip, she replied “Look. I’m not going to come so you should seriously stop trying. Especially because you could care less if I showed up or not.”

This girl had no idea how important she actually was.

“I’m not gonna stand here and beg,” Joseph began, “But I really do hope you’ll come. It’ll be fun and we’d have a nice time together. Think about it or at least act like you’re thinking about it so I can walk away with a smile.”

Surprisingly, she actually had the start of a smile at the corner of her mouth. It was a pretty mouth, Joseph decided. He couldn’t wait until he got to taste it. “I can act but that’s it. Don’t expect me tomorrow.”

“At least I get something right?” he laughed as she rolled her eyes again before walking off. “Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!” Joseph called after her just to be an ass.

Not that he wasn’t one already.

Once she was out of sight, Joseph let out a depressed sigh because all of his excitement and charm were now used up.

Time to go find a mother who probably didn’t want to have burgers with him tomorrow anymore.

Chapter Text

Reading the box of onion soup mix as he sat on the kitchen counter and watched his mother season ground beef, Joseph asked “We making soup?”

They were on speaking terms but Joseph knew his mother was unhappy. Both because he was a born again homophobe as she had dubbed it and because fighting was so frequent between them now. When they had gotten home from shopping yesterday, he had thought she’d want to try talking about it again but she hadn’t even brought it up. Simply asked him to help put the groceries away and then they went their separate ways until dinner.

It was like nothing happened if you didn’t see the tired lines on her face.

He didn’t enjoy being the cause of her exhaustion.

“No, I use that to season the meat. I use it when I do meatloaf too.”

“Huh,” he murmured as he gave one last glance to the box before setting it down. “I hope you’re not making more than four because between me and you, I’m sure that we can barely handle even that.”

A small smile crawled onto her face as she began to split portions. “Only three. One for each and then we’ll split one. We’ll fry some fries next to them and maybe do a salad to get some veggies in.”

“Sounds good. You can have your sad American cheese on yours and then put my cheeses for the other two.”

Putting the three lumps of ground beef on a small pan, she handed it to him and said “Fridge please. And noted. Do you want frozen fries or homemade?”

Opening their freaky huge fridge, Joseph set the tray on top of other stuff before he took out a juice box for himself. You could never get old for juice boxes. “Homemade is good. Yours are bomb.”

“Why thank you.”

Staring at his mother’s back as she washed her hands and whatever dishes there were, Joseph wondered if maybe he needed to take the first step. She hadn’t even laughed like she usually would have when he passed out compliments. Not even a hint of humor in her voice. Why could they never last without fighting nowadays? “Mayko.”

“Hmm,” she answered before shutting off the water and turning to face him. Maybe she was waiting for him to stir the air.

They weren’t the words that he wanted to say but somehow, they were the ones that he blurted under the pressure of her gaze. “Do you hate me?”

Her eyes flew wide in shock and her mouth opened to speak but she was completely speechless. Joseph simply stood there and waited for her answer, sipping his juice. When she was finally able to formulate words, she whispered “Why would you even think that? Sweetheart, I love you more than anyone in this world.”

He shrugged but couldn’t meet her gaze that could bore holes into him anymore. These doubts and questions were frequent in his thoughts. For anyone, not just her. How could people love him when he was such a horrible mess? A horrible person? Joseph was so far from being worth anyone’s time that it was ridiculous. Hilarious even.

Flinching when hands suddenly held his face with the softest touch in the world, Joseph bit his lip and still tried not to meet her eyes even though she had turned his head to face her. She rubbed soothing circles over his sunken cheeks as she murmured “Baby, look at me.”

Joseph preferred that he didn’t but nonetheless, he flicked his gaze up to face hers. There were so many emotions going through her beautiful emerald eyes that Joseph couldn’t keep up. However, the one that was the easiest to point out was worry. It wasn’t just written in her eyes but in the tired tilt of her mouth and drawn in brows. Why had he never noticed how exhausted she looked? He couldn’t even remember a time when his mother had had shadows under her eyes. She just looked so horribly stressed and tired. And he hated that it was because of him.

“I love you, Joseph Kavinsky. And I’ll love you until the end of time and more than anyone on this entire planet. Those are things I want you to never ever question.”

“But I’m a mess,” he couldn’t help but mumble. “And a hassle and so full of issues and-”

“Stop,” she interrupted, determination now glinting on her. “You could have a thousand issues and that will never matter to me. You could be the biggest mess and that will never matter. And you can hassle me as much as you like but that won’t change anything. You’re my beautiful little boy and that’s never going to change. I love you and don’t think otherwise just because we get mad sometimes.”

Irrationality was something he knew he was dipping into but he just couldn’t help it. It was like Joseph had two halves in his brain – the rational one who knew that he was being paranoid and the other one that only saw a billion faults and reasons and illusionary hate. Lately, that half was always the winner in choosing his emotions and reactions. He could easily fake a smile and force a laugh but deep down…

Deep down he was just so dead and done.

And there was no revival in sight.

Even weed which was supposed to make you happy didn’t do shit. Some days, he swore it only made his depression and anxiety worse. Made him feel like he was doomed and trapped in this invisible cage where there was nothing and no one. It made him feel more isolated than he already was. There were other days where he didn’t even need the weed to feel that. He just felt plain horrible because…he did.

He was being tugged down the rabbit hole fast and there was no escape in sight. Even if he tried explaining to his mother how he felt, how his emotions were so opposite and exploding from one spectrum to the other, Joseph couldn’t begin to even fit the proper words in a sentence. ‘Sad’ sounded stupid and didn’t even encompass it all. ‘Anxious’ sure but they already knew that. ‘Alone’ and ‘afraid’ weren’t bad but were hardly enough. ‘Terrified’ wasn’t a big enough word and ‘angry’ didn’t capture his fury. Hell, ‘fury’ didn’t capture his fury. There were sometimes where he was just straight up paranoid. Or tired.

No matter what words he tried to fit together, they weren’t a proper explanation of how he was constantly and confusedly feeling.

“I love you,” she repeated when he still said nothing. She had no way of knowing the war that was going on behind his blank façade. “Tell me, Joseph.”

Sure that he had cut his lip because he swore that he could taste the tang of blood, Joseph whispered shakily “You love me. Nothing will change that.” Just like with his emotions, he couldn’t find a way to explain how he really knew that but his head wouldn’t let him accept it.

Pulling his head down and kissing his forehead, she once again said “I love you so much, my wonderful child.” Smiling as she held his face so his gaze was level with hers, she said in a stronger and much happier voice “Now, we should probably clean that pool before getting in.”

 

 

“I could do it, y’know,” Joseph said as he rested his arms on the cement, the rest of him enjoying the water. He hadn’t gone swimming since he had grown this tall and he had to say that it was pretty awesome knowing there was only a foot between him and the deep end.

“I like grilling,” his mother replied while flipping one of the burgers. Their backyard had one of those built in grills accompanied with a small burner which was currently frying their fries. Talk about fancy. “It’s not actually a ‘man’ thing for your info.” Rolling his eyes as he heaved himself out of the pool, Joseph dripped over and hugged her from behind to which she shrieked. “Excuse you!”

“What,” he laughed while rubbing his wet face and hair into her shoulder. “You aren’t gonna die if you get wet.”

Shoving him off with her own smile, she tried slapping him atop his head. Too bad he was taller than her. “These aren’t getting wet clothes!”

Looking down at his mother’s wardrobe, Joseph snorted “Mayko, you’re wearing a tank top and lounge pants. Doesn’t seem like a problem especially because you’re wearing a swimsuit underneath.”

“My pants didn’t want to get wet,” his mother grumbled after turning back to the grill to flip the burgers.

“Do we have any fish in the freezer?” he asked curiously as he leaned beside her, a sudden idea hitting him.

Making a face as she thought, she answered “I think there’s a tiny fillet in a Ziploc. Why?”

“Be right back,” he said as he toweled himself moderately dry before going into the house. After what felt like hours moving stuff around in the freezer to find his prize, Joseph grabbed the bag and then ran upstairs and grabbed Peanut. She wasn’t happy by suddenly being awakened if her angry meow was anything to go by. Although, it could be because she was pressed against a damp body.

Once he was back outside, he handed his mother the bag. “Grill it for Peanut, please.”

“So spoiled,” she snorted as she took the bag.

“Hey,” Joseph laughed as he took Peanut and went and lounged on a chair, setting her on his stomach. Or lack of stomach. His old lady stared at him, still annoyed, before curling up on him. Because she was Peanut and a nasty soul, she made sure to prick him a few times first. “I’m her dad, I get to say that shit. Grandma’s are supposed to be nice.”

Tossing the fish on the grill, his mother called in an amused tone “Yeah, because bába is so sweet.”

“To me she was!”

“Whatever. C’mere and put the stuff on our burgers,” she said, pulling the patties off the grill before getting out the fries. “The full works. Make ‘em stunning.”

Peanut was, once again, very unamused at being disturbed but she was getting a fish so she had to deal. Walking over, he spread ketchup – no mustard for either of them – set down the patties in their fancy toasted onion buns, put cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes on top before closing them. Realizing he forgot the pickles, he lifted the top bun of each burger and slipped them in. “I can sell these burgers for fifty bucks in a fancy restaurant.” When his mother gave him a pointed stare, Joseph corrected “We can sell them.”

“That’s what I thought.”

After enjoying their food and some swimming, Joseph went up to take a shower and get ready for his night. The worries of it going bad had evaporated now that the time was practically here. He could do this; make the party something everyone would talk about.

Totally can do this.

It was extremely hot and stuffy which he figured was appropriate for a July evening but it still sucked. The air was gross and…gross. Because of this, he settled for just a white tank top instead of a tshirt to give himself some breathing room. Grabbing a pair of slightly ragged grey jeans because he didn’t want to ruin nice ones, Joseph pulled them on before getting his belt off a hanger and slipping it through the slots. They had actually had to make an extra hole in it because he was too thin for the precut holes. The band of his underwear kind of peeked out despite the belt but oh well.

Joseph was cool like that. Well, as cool as being possibly severely underweight could be.

Ruffling his hair with his fingers to get it to dry a bit more before he pulled a fitted Yankees cap on, Joseph grabbed his watch and latched it around his thin wrist. Maybe he needed more junk food or something. Even he could admit that his lack of weight was slightly ridiculous.

He halted in front of the mirror on his dresser and stared at the face reflecting back, eyes examining who was before him. If he stared hard enough, looked deep enough, Joseph felt like he might be able to see the boy who used to be happy and have smiles on his face. Deep deep down in the dark abyss of his eyes, Joseph knew that he was in there somewhere.

But the one who reflected back wasn’t him. It was a murderer, an asshole, a complete manipulative bastard. The guy who ruined his own life and planned on screwing with everyone else’s.

Kavinsky.

Maybe Joseph would make an appearance again one day. Maybe he’d be able to climb up the hole he was in, digging his bruised and bleeding fingers into the dirt walls and scrabble back up. Fight for his chance to find his happiness.

One day.

Today, however, tonight especially, was all about Kavinsky. That was who everyone was looking for, who everyone was expecting. So that’s who they would see when they looked at his haggard face with blackened sunken tired eyes and cheeks that hollowed more with the pass of time. It had to be attractive if all those girls who flirted him were to be trusted. Joseph always knew he was good looking but that was before he looked so…so this. But he still had to have something, he figured. Maybe they just thought it was his drugs doing this to him and not the horrible mix of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and paranoia. They didn’t know he didn’t actually use the stuff he had given out.

Well, he did use the green pills but those didn’t count. No one even knew that those existed.

Getting out a pair of black canvas slip-ons from under his bed and putting them on, Joseph was ready after putting on his mother’s necklace that he had ultimately kept. The gold chain and little gold key were like a token of comfort. He knew that his mother was always with him in a way.

Now he was ready. Or at least, he thought he was once he grabbed his wallet and phone. He took a deep breath before standing, nodding his head slowly.

Joseph had this.

Tonight was going to be epic.

Chapter Text

Checking the last car and turning it on to make sure it worked well, Joseph hit the gas pedal a few times, revving the engine of the Altima before shutting it off. “Where’d you even get these?” Liam asked as he got out of the Camry beside him.

Joseph had decided that besides for banging fireworks, he needed some form of fun and entertainment. He was on a drag strip so racing was the obvious. Not everyone had cars and not all those Aglionshit rich boys wanted to burn rubber with their own so Joseph had needed some sort of compromise. Until he could pull out a fully functioning car from his head, he had needed to think of something else.

Luckily, he had happened upon a used car lot on the border of town. Wasting Ivo’s money didn’t bother him at all so Joseph had dropped a nice pile by buying eight cars that people could use. The guy who owned the place didn’t care for governmental paperwork as long as Joseph put down extra cash.

Extra cash was not a problem.

He had driven each car over to the strip and tested them out, making sure there was nothing faulty for anyone to die from. The Corolla had needed more coolant and oil so Joseph had bought some and filled her up, not minding at all. Other than that minor thing, the cars were in good working order.

And ready for some fun. They weren’t your ideal ‘racing’ cars but they were cars and could run. For their purpose, they’d do just fine.

“Used car place,” he replied as they walked back to their own cars. “We could use some entertainment and shit.”

“Nice idea,” Liam nodded as he followed. Joseph popped his trunk and they took out the packs of red cups. Buying alcohol hadn’t been a problem this time because they had so much left over from the substance party. Saved Ivo some money if that mattered to anyone. “I’m still impressed by all that.”

His not friend was referring to Joseph’s huge pile of fireworks, the majority being pulled from his head. Not that Liam knew that of course. “I aim to amaze, beotch.”

“But not to please,” Liam finished with a laugh. It was their running joke right now. “Anything besides the fake ass Viagra that is definitely not Viagra?”

“Not this time, no.” His brain was so exhausted that when he had actually tried to make another drug, he hadn’t been able to pull out anything or even go into the forest after that. He was too tired to even dream from all the shit he had been pulling. “It’ll be plenty with the weed and drinks. I’m not a magician, you know.”

But wasn’t he?

“The pills are enough,” Blondie agreed. “Just wondering if you were gonna amaze me some more. Jordan is bringing more cigarettes and also some extra drinks so no worries on that end.”

“Wasn’t worried.”

“You can at least be a little grateful,” Liam snorted in annoyance as they leaned on the side of Joseph’s car and mentally prepared themselves for the night. “Wouldn’t kill you.”

Lighting up a joint and deciding he was going to be an ass and not share, Joseph replied “Wouldn’t help me either. Don’t get all pissy on me now.”

Liam was silent for a time as they waited. Eventually after lighting up his own roll of weed, he said “Can I ask you something?”

He hated when people asked that because the entire world knew that they were going to ask regardless. What was the point? “No.”

Of course, the other boy completely ignored him. “Why do you act different?”

“What?” Joseph asked in confusion as he turned and stared at the boy beside him. If he looked too hard, Joseph would realize how he liked the way Liam’s eyes were shaped – angular and yet soft – even in the ugly light of fluorescents.

That’s why he never looked too hard.

Not meeting Joseph’s gaze and staring out at the road where a car was coming up, he clarified “You act different with different people. You act different with me than with Jordan or other Aglionby boys or with girls or with girls you think are bitches. Or adults. Probably with your mom too. Why?”

“Because the only one in this entire fucking world,” Joseph hissed, annoyed by the idiot’s perceptiveness, “who deserves to have the real me is my mother. The rest of yous I don’t give a fucking shit about. I treat you mildly decent because you seem decent enough. But you’re right, I should just treat you like every other shitface in this hell.” When Liam tried to say something, Joseph cut him off. “Shut up. It’s done. We got people.”

“Sorry,” came the ever so soft whisper before some people came up to them.

They spoke after but conversation was a little less smooth than it normally was. Maybe Liam shouldn’t have been such a perceptive bastard. When Joseph felt like a good enough amount of people had shown up, he lowered his music before getting up on the roof of his car with a blow horn.

Yeah, he had bought one just for this.

“Happy Fourth, motherfuckers!” The crowd cheered with excitement in response and damn, if that wasn’t exhilarating. “Let’s be real, no one celebrates this crap day for independence! We all just want a reason to light shit!” Another cheer, the loudest coming from Liam and Jordan who were still on the ground. Joseph had wanted to get away from Jordan but the buff fuck was glued to Liam and well, Liam was the only one Joseph had.

So Joseph had gotten stuck and stayed.

“And in honor of lighting shit, I’ve got some beauties ready to hit the sky. You ugly fucks ready?” Screams of enthusiasm met his words. “Then lets light shit! Liam! A firework, my good man!”

The blonde grabbed one from the trunk and handed it over. Joseph set the blow horn down as he checked out the pick. The flashbang was a good one. It wasn’t a literal police flashbang but Joseph had made it where when it flew up into the night, it popped in bright lights of yellows. Setting it steadily on the roof of his car, Joseph pulled out a long lighter to light the bitch. He was neither worried about the paint or himself.

He had been practicing.

Lighting the fuse, Joseph simply stood as it burned to the actual firework to the confusion of everyone. The fuse had been designed where he had enough time to stand and get comfy. He was still a little afraid that it could go wrong and blast on him. When he had first starting practicing, all he could remember was when Ivo nearly blasted off his hand from a defective firework.

No one needed to know that though. And no one would see his fear; he wouldn’t allow it.

Because Kavinsky was a fearless bastard.

Taking a bow once he counted the fifteen seconds, the firework shot off high into the sky before exploding huge with a loud bang. The night lit up with hues of yellows, bright and shining. In the time it took to shoot up, Liam handed him another which he sent up seconds later, bursts of oranges joining in and then reds. The crowd was cheering and whooping in excitement, literally screaming ‘HAPPY FOURTH, BITCHES!’

Joseph had told Liam to put that at the end of the text invites.

As he lit another, Joseph’s eyes caught on a figure on the outskirts of the crowd, looking entirely lost and maybe even slightly self-conscious. It was some short girl in a white crochet tank on top of a regular purple one with hair filled with colorful clips.

There was only one girl in this town who dressed like that.

Lighting one last one before handing off to Liam so he could take over, Joseph rushed over through the crowd, his heart beating in excitement. She actually came. After all her talk and she had shown up.

Holy fucks.

Reaching her and making sure his charm was two hundred percent, Joseph tapped her shoulder to get her attention. She turned quickly as if ready to smack someone but stopped when she saw him. “Hey,” he said in absolute delight. Feisty had actually fucking come on his invite. He hadn’t personally invited anyone except her.

And she had fucking come.

“Oh, uh, hi,” she replied, glancing around. She seemed nervous. Maybe parties weren’t her thing? They weren’t his either but he faked until he made.

“Thought you weren’t coming?”

Pursing her lips and raising a brow in challenge, she snorted “It’s a party for everyone, right?”

With a huge smile, Joseph laughed “That it is. Welcome and seriously, thank you for coming. Means a lot.” He could tell she didn’t really believe that but it was the truth. It did matter to him because he kind of sort of needed her. “I, uh, never got your name.”

One arm was crossed around her stomach and the other had her thumbnail in her mouth. “I never got yours, Kavinsky.”

“Well, you’ve apparently heard it but you can just call me Joseph if you want.” He hoped she would. If they were going to be a thing, calling him by his last name would be plain weird.

“Joseph.”

“Yup…?”

“Blue,” she finished.

Looking around in confusion, he asked “What’s blue?” What were they talking about?

Huffing and looking annoyed, she answered “My name, idiot. It’s Blue.”

Dumbfounded, Joseph couldn’t help but say “Your name is seriously Blue?” Then he realized how much of an ass he sounded like and quickly added “That’s fucking awesome. It’s different.” Giving her a syrupy once over that was only a winner for some girls while hoping she was a fan of them, Joseph added “I like different.”

Even in the dark with only the floodlights and fireworks shining, Joseph could see a small blush on her face. And also how angry she looked at giving him that small win.

Yeah, he liked.

Blue was almost toppled over by some already drunk dude bumping into her, his face flushed and walk unsteady. The guy burped a ‘sorry’ before walking on. “This your thing?” Blue asked in slight disgust, her eyes trailing the drunk dude.

“It’s the people’s thing,” Joseph shrugged, evading actually answering the question. “You like fireworks?”

“I guess.”

“Then we should light some together,” he grinned as he offered her his hand. He could just dive in and hold hers but he wanted her to feel comfortable, not forced. She accepted it but Joseph could see how reluctant and hesitant she was just with that movement. “Got a favorite color?” Fingers crossed he had it.

Walking with him, her hand loosely in his, Blue replied “I like lots of colors. Don’t do much black though.”

Black was one of his favorites. Irony. “Fireworks don’t come in black so I think we’re good.” Reaching his car with Jordan giving a pointed look to Blue, Joseph took his hand back as he checked out what was here. “How about…purples and blues?”

“Okay,” she shrugged, shrinking closer to him because she didn’t seem to appreciate being in the center of the crowd. “I like yellows too.”

Joseph grabbed a yellow one too. Three was plenty. “Liam!” he called over the music to the blonde still on the roof lighting fireworks. “Lighter, sweets!”

The lighter was tossed down, Joseph easily catching it. He wasn’t a baseball player for nothing. Deciding that Blue probably didn’t want to hold his hand, Joseph smiled to her and said “Off we go!”

 


 

If you asked Blue what she was doing, she wouldn’t be able to give a good answer. Or even an answer at all.

Not only did she come to a raven boy party but she was hanging out with one. The one who personally invited her. Maybe if it wasn’t summer break, she would have heard more about the guy through the gossip grapevine before making the impulsive decision to come to his party. She was supposed to be smarter than this.

But somehow, he was a charmer.

Following him to a clearing a little ways away from all the commotion and people, Blue started to get a little worried. She’d been nervous since she had arrived but now she was kind of scared because she literally just followed a total stranger into a clearing. A clearing where no one could see or hear them over the boom of fireworks and music. Not the smartest move, Blue.

They came to a halt and Kavinsky smiled to her in such a sweet way that she didn’t even know was possible in an Aglionby boy. Maybe this was ‘Joseph’ and less typical Aglionby. “What color first?”

Raven boys were almost always from out of town and everything about him screamed ‘outsider’ from his accent even to his face. It wasn’t like the people of her quiet valley. There were more angles, more sharpness, and yet there was a beauty to it.

Great.

Now she was thinking he was good looking.

“Let’s go purples,” Blue replied, her arms crossed around her midsection as if it was her protection against this foreign boy.

“Purple it is,” Kavinsky said as he crouched down and set the respective firework on the floor. He set the others aside, she assumed, to make sure that they didn’t get lit in some freak accident before holding out the lighter to her. “Not fun if you don’t do it yourself.”

“Uh, yeah.” Walking over, she crouched down beside him but made sure there was space between them as she accepted the lighter. Why did he even have to smell nice? His cologne is probably some expensive stuff. So Aglionby.

And now she was thinking about his cologne.

Clearing her head, Blue asked “Shouldn’t we put something under it?” The dirt floor didn’t seem very safe. But then, he had literally stood right next to them as he shot them off the roof of what she figured was his car. Safe didn’t go in the same sentence as Kavinsky apparently.

“Should be fine. No worries, Blue.”

She couldn’t help but wonder if he had meant that he liked different. He had looked at her like he had but anyone could do that. Maybe he was just a lying player thinking she’d give him a kiss for the night. How wrong his thinking would be then. Blue was certain that at fourteen, she hadn’t just found her true love but still. Going around and kissing boys wasn’t what she did.

“How old are you?” she asked, the sudden question coming to her mind. She literally knew nothing about him except his name.

That gossip grapevine would have been really helpful right about now.

“Fifteen,” Kavinsky shrugged. “Turned last month actually. I start high school this year. We…came early.”

Figuring that ‘we’ must be whatever family he had come with, Blue couldn’t help but be a little surprised that he was only a freshman. Also, why did he pause like he had to think? “Held back?” No one could get in Aglionby unless they had the grades – and money – for it.

“Too many absences one year,” he replied, although he didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about it. “You?”

“Fourteen,” Blue said automatically only to pause. Rolling her eyes, she corrected “In a month. But that month doesn’t count. My mom always said I was mature for my age. Sensible.” Besides for coming here.

Nodding and looking like he was thinking about something, he finally said “I like sensible.”

“You like a lot of things, apparently.”

A smile grew on the boy’s gaunt face. It made him softer, more approachable. What was he really like? “I’m an easy to please kind of guy. And, well, everything about you pleases me.”

Don’t do it. Don’t blush. Her face was heating, she knew that but she was hoping that he couldn’t tell. It was enough that he had caught the other time earlier.

But from his smile growing wider all the way to his wink, Blue knew that he totally caught it. And wanted her to know that he had caught it. With an eyeroll, she focused back on the task at hand, putting the mouth of the lighter to the end of the interestingly long fuse. “Fifteen seconds,” Kavinsky said.

Tilting her head after she turned to look at him, she asked “What?”

“How long you have,” he explained, pointing at the fuse. “Exactly fifteen seconds until it reaches the chamber and then-”

A firework exploded from where they had left everyone.

“That.”

How did he know the exact time? Did he count or something? Instead, all Blue said was “Oh, okay. Fifteen seconds.” She was a little nervous about this whole thing but she couldn’t show it, especially when Kavinsky had literally stood right beside the ones he had done. The boy was fearless.

Clicking the trigger of the lighter, she watched as the flame came out and ignited the fuse with a little bright spark. Stupidly, she just sat there and stared as the fuse burned shorter. Not until she was suddenly dragged back and hauled away that she realized that stupidity, however. The firework shot into the sky less than a second later, going off with a loud boom and explosions of purples ignited the night.

It wasn’t until the firework officially finished that Kavinsky, who was sitting beside her on the dirt floor, turned to her with his dark eyebrows high on his forehead. If his hair hadn’t been styled back, they probably would have disappeared behind it which looked like it was normally soft, able to rest on his forehead.

And now here she was thinking about how soft his hair probably was. For God’s sake, Blue.

He’d look even nicer if he hadn’t put gel.

Get a hold of your thoughts, girl.

“Look, I know I said fifteen seconds, but that doesn’t mean keep your face in it until the last second. Unless of course you just don’t want a face.”

Blue’s face burned in embarrassment. She knew that, she had just…lost her thoughts. “I’m not an idiot,” she couldn’t help but snap. There was not much she hated more than being thought of as stupid.

Especially by a raven boy.

Putting his hands up in defense like he had yesterday, the boy said quickly “Not sayin’ you are. Just saying that you need to be careful. That was dangerous as fuck.”

“You seem the type of person who would like that.”

Smirk growing on his full lips, Kavinsky replied “Not if you end up in the hospital. Kind of would hate to see that happen. Also, y’know, you won’t have much of a face left.”

“Whatever,” Blue snorted, getting to her feet and feeling relief that their legs weren’t pressing together anymore. That their bodies weren’t sharing the such close air space. After her last two fireworks, she was leaving. This wasn’t her thing and it was stupid of her to show up anyways. “Let’s finish these.”

Chapter Text

He didn’t want to light the last firework. Something told Joseph that Blue wanted to leave and would once they had lit it. The last thing he wanted was for her to leave. He had thought that everything was going well but she seemed…distant. Like she was regretting coming.

Not good. But how was he supposed to get her attention? In a good way? She didn’t seem like the type of girl looking for a smoke or pill. Asking would probably just insult her and that was something Joseph couldn’t have happening. Maybe he just needed to make this simple on both of them.

“You don’t like me.”

Blue blinked at him with round eyes as she set the last firework on the floor. “I…”

Don’t rush to a defense now. Sighing, he sat down on the floor, one knee up for his arm to rest on and the other leg stretched out. “I didn’t force you to come.”

With a huff from where she was crouched, she sat down and crossed her arms. “You practically begged me in the middle of Walmart. I was being nice. You could be a little appreciative.”

People seemed to keep reminding him of that tonight. And what was up with her tone? He had only been nice to her this whole time and she was talking to him in a way that was just…kind of mean. “I am and told you that I was. I was really excited that you came but you don’t seem to be enjoying yourself at all.” Not to mention that she wasn’t even trying to.

“Parties aren’t my thing and neither are Aglionby boys.”

“That’s a stupid way to judge someone,” he couldn’t help but snort because, yes, he was getting annoyed. “For all you know, an Aglionby boy is a thousand times better and nicer and sweeter than some of your local rednecks.” Joseph knew she’d get pissed from the insult but he couldn’t help what came out of his mouth when he was pissed.

“And you’re one of those?” she asked skeptically, her eyes flashing at the redneck comment like he had predicted.

Leaning back on his hands and shrugging a shoulder, Joseph replied “I’m just me. Take that how you want. I really wanted to have a nice time with you but you seem so intent on not having one with me for some stupid ass reason.”

“Maybe every guy shouldn’t expect some girl to just enjoy his company or that they’d fall head over heels for him and give him a kiss for the night.”

Joseph stared at her in confusion. It wasn’t a date, it was supposed to just be fun. “I wasn’t expecting you to kiss me and I wasn’t going to ask either. I’ve been nothing but a gentleman to you and you’re acting like I’m some perverted ass. I didn’t even try to hold your hand when I noticed you didn’t like it.”

She actually looked a little embarrassed but she didn’t apologize or even acknowledge it. “I think I’m leaving now.”

Something told Joseph this whole relationship thing wasn’t going to work between them. Blue was just so damn intent on not liking him without any merit behind her choice. He knew that if she’d just give him a chance, she’d like him.

But no, she didn’t want to give that chance.

Fuck her. And too bad because he had been serious about liking her being so different from people like Lisa. She was unique all the way to her name.

“Fine,” he snorted, knowing his irritation was tinging his words. “Go home. My fault for liking you.” Remembering that it was night and she was not yet fourteen and even if she was it wouldn’t matter, Joseph asked “Do you need a ride? I can take you home.”

“I’m not stupid to get in a car with a stranger. I’ll call my cousin back. Can I use your phone?”

Unbelievable. Why? What was he going to do? Rape her? Murder her? Jesus fuck. Yanking his phone from his pocket, he walked over and wordlessly handed it to her. He stood over her, waiting as she dialed and then told whoever it was to come get her. Once that was done, she handed it back with a quiet ‘thank you.’

“Welcome,” he replied, walking back to where he had been, taking a seat. Might as well wait with her in case some drunk idiot tried something.

Blue looked at him, then the remaining firework. “Aren’t we gonna light it?”

As if he wanted to do shit with her now. Completely ruined his night. Joseph could handle rejection, he wouldn’t be an ass about it if she truly didn’t like him. But she wasn’t even giving him a chance. All she was doing was judging him because of the fucking school he was going to go to and deciding that that was plenty to assess him with.

Bitch.

See if he treated her nice after that bullshit. Treating him like he was the smallest worthless piece of shit she’d ever seen. She wasn’t better than him.

“Not stopping you.”

Probably hearing the difference in the way he had been talking to her, she turned her eyes away and shrugged. “Nevermind. I’ll just wait.” Under her breath, Blue muttered “Knew I shouldn’t have come.”

Ignoring her because if she wasn’t going to be nice to him then he’d be the same, Joseph pulled out his phone and acted like he was doing something way more interesting. He was actually just answering a text from Liam asking where he was by saying that he’d be over there in a bit.

“You from New York?”

He couldn’t help the snort that escaped him. As if. Joseph was a very proud Jersey boy unlike people he knew at school back home. Some people hated that they were born on the ‘wrong’ side of the river. However, rather than saying all this, he stayed completely silent, acting like he was still doing something on his phone.

“Fine, don’t talk,” Blue muttered, once again crossing her arms. They were silent for only a couple minutes before she said “Don’t take rejection well, do you.”

Joseph ground his jaw hard, trying not to speak until he couldn’t take it anymore. “I can take rejection just fine if you had bothered to get to know me. There’s probably a lot about me that you’d like but you don’t even want to try.”

Blue stayed silent, not even denying that it might be true. They said nothing to each other as they sat there waiting for her cousin to arrive. When said cousin did, they called back on Joseph’s phone. He was going to toss it to Blue because he didn’t feel like getting up but decided that throwing his new phone would be very stupid. Going to her, he handed it over and once again stood over her. When she was done, she got to her feet and handed it back, her eyes going to the firework.

“Take it,” he shrugged. “Don’t give a fuck.”

Giving him a look that he couldn’t even tell what it meant, she walked over and grabbed it off the floor before following him back to the party. It felt louder than before to where his head was going to explode and everyone was definitely either drunk or high. Some girl crashed into him and was about to probably yell at him but when she saw who he was, smiled instead.

The power of a name apparently.

“Hey!” she laughed like they knew each other so well. Joseph had absolutely no idea who she was and didn’t remember even vaguely if she was one of the ones Liam had introduced. The girl crowded closer, holding his hips in a firm grasp like he might get away. “You wanna dance?”

Not a chance.

“Sorry, not today, baby,” he replied, prying his hips away from her. Spinning her around, Joseph added “Another time,” before sending her off. He wasn’t going to bother looking at the disappointment that would flit on her face.

“Kavinsky!” some other girl’s voice shouted. He definitely wasn’t going to waste his time trying to track it down. Plus, Blue was starting to look annoyed. Hell, maybe she was jealous. That’d be nice. But he wasn’t going until he saw her to her car. Who knew what could happen between here and there? The invitation had been from him so it was his responsibility to make sure she left safe.

Pushing forward through the people, he ended up having to take her hand because it was the hardest thing to move through everyone. Eventually getting through the masses, he let go and they walked to the edge of the clearing of the drag strip, a car at the start of the road. “Bye and sorry you didn’t have fun.” He could end this like a decent person.

She seemed surprised by his apology as she stopped on her way to the car and turned around, the firework still clutched in her hand. It was like she was debating with herself before her ‘sensible’ side took over and she walked away after giving him one of those curt nods that were supposed to mean something. Joseph simply stood until she got into the car and the driver turned around and left.

And that was that.

So much for a relationship.

Maybe he should just fuck.

“Sigh,” Joseph muttered as he turned around and trekked back to his party. It was time to get some cars on the strip anyways.

 

 

“This is how this works,” Joseph said through his blowhorn, once again standing on the roof of his car. Liam was seated beside his feet, his legs draping over the side. “You can use your car or if you don’t got one, you can use one of the decent ones I got over there.” He pointed to the eight cars parked in a line, waiting to be awakened. “You win? Well, that’s nice. I don’t give a fuck. You lose? Learn how to fucking drive.”

A laugh came from the crowd as they looked up at him excitement, almost everyone having a red cup in their hand or a glow something with them. Joseph had no clue who brought glow sticks and necklaces and all that other shit but they had passed some around which was cool.

“I ain’t letting no drunk getting in though. I don’t give a shit about your life, I care about my cars.” Another laugh, everyone thinking it was a joke.

It kind of wasn’t. If you were stupid enough to get in a car while being so stupidly drunk, then you got what was coming. Don’t be stupid next time. His tetíncho had learned that the hard way so these people could too.

“That’s all I got for you, bitches. Knock yourselves out.”

Sitting down beside Liam as the crowd cheered, Joseph said “You watching for drunks or you gonna make me do it?”

He slid off the roof in an easy slide. “Nah, I got it. I wanna see how this goes anyways. You gonna race?”

Joseph had actually been debating that since he had thought of the idea. He was a much better driver with his Evo now and could go at pretty high speeds without trouble…but what if he fucked up? Him or his car, that wasn’t favorable.

But how could Kavinsky not race?

“Yeah,” he nodded slowly, a smile growing on his face with the excitement growing in his chest. “I think I just might.”

Jumping down after grabbing his blowhorn and tossing it in the trunk before slamming that shut, Joseph got into his car. Before shutting the door, he told Liam “Music from your car. I’m not fucking up my eardrums today.”

Honking and flipping off the idiots standing in front of his car, Joseph drove out to the asphalt and prayed he knew what the fuck he was doing. He lined his car up to where he had decided the starting line was before getting out and shouting “Who’s up first?”

It was ironic that the car that drove up beside him was an STI. Race of the rally cars.

Way cool.

The stats of both cars were already running through his brain. They were pretty well matched so really, it just depended on who was the better driver. Joseph hadn’t been driving for that long but he felt he’d be good enough. Plus, he couldn’t lose at his own game.

The window of the Subaru rolled down and Alan’s flushed face appeared. The dude wasn’t exactly a big fan of his so Joseph couldn’t say that he was that surprised.

But he was a little worried. The other boy had been drinking and popping pills and smoking weed since he had arrived. Joseph didn’t think he was mentally fit enough to drive let alone race. But Liam had said he was going to check everyone so…

Oh well.

“Sounds good,” Joseph smirked at Alan as he bounced back into his car. He could do this.

Making sure his windows were shut all the way and shutting of the air condition even though he’d probably sweat to death, Joseph kissed the key of his mother’s necklace for good look and thumbs upped to Liam that he was ready. Alan must have also given the ‘ready’ signal because Liam raised his arms as he stood between the two cars, getting ready to start them.

It wasn’t a complicated track or barely even a track for that matter. All it was was a sprint to the finish line which was in a straight line ahead of them, almost at the end of the strip. It had to be simple enough for Joseph to be able to do it and win his first race. Was that kind of rigging it? Cheating?

Maybe but this was his party and his name that had to become sacred. So who gave a fuck?

Foot ready on the gas pedal and hand on the gearshift, Joseph loosened his shoulders and watched Liam carefully for the tiniest twinge that meant his hands would drop.

He was ready when they did.

Joseph hit the gas and flew from the start line, Alan and his STI next to him. He shifted quickly to match his speed. When he shifted from third to fourth, Joseph felt like he didn’t get the best shift he could have, per usual. For some reason, that shift was the one he always seemed to fuck up. He didn’t bother to focus on his competitor, merely himself and the gearshift under his sweaty palm.

As he neared the finish line, he flicked a quick glance in his rearview mirror and smiled wide when he saw Alan behind him. Deciding that there was plenty of wiggle room for him to be a showoff, he shifted down as he slowed to do a messy slide past the finish line. Hitting down on the clutch and steering to the left, Joseph yanked up the handbrake then hit the gas a second before releasing the clutch.

Yeah, he had totally been practicing that.

Bringing himself to a firm halt and putting the car in park before getting out, Joseph stood by his car which was now facing the way he had come with a smirk on his face, knowing that only Alan would see it. Everyone else was too far although their cheers and screams of excitement reached his ears all the way over here. He gave a wave just to be that sort of ass.

Alan came to a halt, but stared at Joseph through his windshield, looking very pissed. Joseph didn’t understand why; you lost then you lost.

Get over it. Don’t be a bitch about it.

Starting the walk over to the other boy – probably to rub the win in, he’d decide then – Joseph was surprised when the engine revved.

And the car shot towards him.

There wasn’t enough time for him to even contemplate jumping out of the way because he was barely even comprehending the fact that someone could be that much of a sore loser. But then, the guy was impaired with drinks and shit so…it was possible.

Luckily, Joseph was close enough where the car wasn’t going too fast as it hit his side, tossing him onto the hood before Alan reversed to slide him off onto the hard asphalt.

It may not have been going fast but Jesus fucking Christ above did he want to shout in pain. Especially when he rolled hard onto the floor, making it a thousand times worse.

Groaning as he dragged himself to his knees and tied to ignore his side which was screaming in agony, Joseph whispered in pain “Fucking shit.” He thought he heard Liam call his name and turning his head to the side proved that with the blonde boy running over with Jordan on his heels.

Joseph could do without Jordan.

With a cry of pain and the thought of how in the hell he was going to explain the bruises and scrapes to his mother, Joseph got to his feet while clutching his side and limped over to Alan. The bastard was sitting all smug, his face not only flushed from the alcohol but also his satisfaction.

Let’s see how satisfied you are after I bust your face in.

Yanking the car door open and dragging the drunk out just as Liam reached him, Joseph slammed Alan hard into the door causing it to shut and snarled “You think that’s funny, you piece of fucking shit?”

“Hilarious,” the other boy slurred with a laugh. The laugh was cut off as Joseph jammed his good knee into the bitch’s crotch, cutting off the blood flow.

The boy practically keened as Joseph hissed “Not laughing now, are you bitch?”

“Hey, you alright?” Liam asked quickly, probably wondering if he was supposed to break this up or not.

He wasn’t.

“Oh, I will be in a second,” Joseph answered with a devilish smile before turning back to the drunk in his hand. “In a second.”

There was a loud thud as Joseph slammed Alan’s head back into his car before pushing down on his shoulders so he met Joseph’s ready knee hard as he smashed Alan’s nose in. The other boy cried out in pain before letting out another once Joseph stepped him down onto the floor, smashing Alan’s dick with his foot.

After a minute or two because it wouldn’t be nice to completely ruin the guy’s penis, Joseph stepped off and crouched down, paying no mind to the furious hot pain igniting his entire left side. Jesus help him tomorrow when all the soreness would crash down on him. “Don’t fuck with me, bitch, or I will make your life a miserable hell. You hear me?”

When there came no reply and only the bloody boy staring up at him in an almost fearful way, Joseph grabbed the collar of his shirt and dragged him close to his face. “I said, do you fucking hear me?” Alan nodded quickly. “Good boy,” Joseph laughed as he tossed the boy down before standing. “Nobody fucks with me, sweetheart. No one.”

Or Kavinsky would burn them down.

Hell, maybe he’d do it anyways.

Chapter Text

“You sure you’re alright? You’re limping.”

Of course he was fucking limping, Joseph had just been slammed by a fucking car. His side was screaming and he was worried to see what he’d find when he got home and removed his clothes. “I’m fine,” he grunted, stamping down the pain so it wouldn’t come out in his voice as he got out of his car. He had driven back to where his car had been in the beginning, in the middle of everything. If anything, this whole ‘accident’ gave him an excuse not to have to race again.

He felt like he still needed more practice.

“Oh my God!” some fake redhead came running over practically shouting.

Another person who he had never seen before. Where had these people come from? And why the hell was she so concerned and worried? It’s not like he knew who the fuck she was.

“Are you okay?” She crowded him close, her bare stomach flashing from her crop top pressing against his crotch. Jesus, she was short.

Yeah, he didn’t miss those days.

Shrugging and trying to think of a way to get her off him without seeming rude because that definitely wouldn’t get him laid with anyone, Joseph replied “Fine.”

Pressing in closer and wrapping her arms around his waist, she asked “Are you sure? That looked like it hurt.” She was making this overly concerned face that included batting her eyes and pouting her lips.

Joseph wasn’t a fan.

But did he have to be? He had already thought of how maybe relationships weren’t the way to go. Did he have to like a girl to have sex with her? Not necessarily…no, he didn’t. She just had to be…sexually pleasing enough, pretty enough, and everything would be perfect.

Giving a glance to the redhead happily latched to him who now rested her head on his chest and stared out at the crowd, Joseph figured that well, she was pretty enough. Redhead just might work. There wouldn’t be sex tonight because of the basic fact that he didn’t have a condom on him and no way was he risking shit but…

He was more than sure she’d love to share some kisses.

Wrapping his own arms around her and setting his hands so they were softly cupping her ass, Joseph smiled down at her when her head flew up to look at him. He’d bet anything that she had been making a smug face at anyone who had been looking because he hadn’t pushed her away yet. Now she had him with his hands on her and something told Joseph she’d be bragging by tomorrow.

Fine by him.

Resting his forehead against hers with their noses touching, Joseph said just loud enough to be heard over the music blaring from Liam’s car “It hurt a lot, actually. But…I think you might be able to make the pain disappear?” He left it an open question just to make sure he wouldn’t pressure her too much. That way she could easily refuse.

Not that she would.

The girl gave him a huge smile, her face glowing in excitement and her brown eyes that were lined with black in anticipation. “I know I can.” Kissing her softly, she added “I’ll make all the pain go away.”

 

 

Being pressed up against the metal of a car door had to be uncomfortable but the redhead was hardly complaining as Joseph held her up against the Altima which someone had parked away from all the lights and people. He had no idea why but he wasn’t going to whine about it when it granted both something to hold her against and privacy. How long they had been going, Joseph didn’t know because he wasn’t keeping time but it had to be a good while because he was actually kind of hard.

For a teenage boy making out with a pretty girl, he knew ‘kind of’ sounded sad when all it had ever taken with Emilio was just his beautiful laugh but for Joseph it was something.

Something called progress. His dick and brain were going to learn that friction was friction and kissing was kissing and he didn’t need a hard body to get it going. Soft, smooth, and boobs could totally work for him. He could do this.

Redhead was definitely enjoying herself as she not only held his shoulders tight and mauled his mouth but also grinded herself against him with her legs wrapped at his waist. Thank God he had the ‘no condom’ excuse because he had a feeling she’d love to go all the way.

They broke apart for some air, her head rested on the car and his on hers, breathing heavily. “Wow,” she laughed and Joseph thought it was a pretty nice laugh. That was a good thing. Laughs were good at causing arousal, weren’t they? He was half hard, sure, but if she suddenly decided to grab him, he’d appreciate her finding more than a pathetically aroused dick.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” he said when he had enough breath to get some words. Jesus, did this girl know how to kiss.

“Definitely is, sexy,” she giggled as she brought her lips to his again and pressed a soft kiss on them. “Not feeling that pain much now, are we?”

Actually, his side was on fire because of the weight of holding her up and the iron grip of her legs. He had to admit though, she had some sexy thighs that were shown off with her tiny shorts. That was a good thing too, right? If he thought that her strong beautifully thick thighs were nice, then he wasn’t a fag, right? Fags couldn’t appreciate a woman’s body, could they?

Joseph had no idea.

His leg also wasn’t happy but he said nothing of it all. “Not much, no,” Joseph whispered against her lips. “I wouldn’t say it’s all gone though.”

Stupid wasn’t something he was because Joseph knew he was manipulating her, trying to get her to maybe press or kiss harder. Something to just prove to himself that he could get fully hard with a girl. Joseph had with Alicia but she was different and he knew it. Not only had he barely been introduced to the magical world of his newly awakened penis, but he had known her, liked her personality, and well, he had allowed her to touch him there. Over clothes but same shit. Joseph was too afraid for some strange girl to reach for his dick and find it not as happy as it should be. With Alicia, it hadn’t mattered. She wouldn’t have said anything and she wouldn’t have made it an issue. She would have just thought of it as a mission to get him up.

He had no idea how the girls around here would be. Maybe they’d laugh at him or start rumors that he didn’t need.

Definitely didn’t need.

Grinding herself against his crotch which Joseph appreciated because it kept his half-mast stable, she said with a wicked smile “I can suck you off. I bet that’ll make all the hurt go away.”

If he had been eating or drinking something, Joseph would have died choking. Like literally. Suck me off…shit…

That inkling alone got him excited. Not just him mentally being like ‘holy shit, a girl wants to give me a blow job,’ but his blood literally flew south. A mouth was a mouth, right? Joseph could get hard for a mouth. Hell, his half boner was already blooming in anticipation at such a thought.

A mouth was a mouth and Joseph could just close his eyes. That way he could not only not have to look at the fact that it was a girl on her knees instead of a guy but it could be that he was just enjoying himself. And he was sure he would so even better. It wouldn’t be a lie.

Yeah, he could do that. Joseph could totally do that.

“I even swallow,” she added with a dirty smirk.

“Fuck,” he couldn’t help but whisper, his eyes wide as he stared at this girl whose name he didn’t even know. Shame on him but who gave a fuck? Not him who was about to get his first blow job. “I’m sure I won’t even remember that I got hit after that. Blow my mind, sweetheart.”

 

 

Lord had she blown his mind. He knew he was still wearing a very satisfied smirk as he came and leaned on Liam’s Porsche beside the other boy but there was no way Joseph could wipe it off.

Jesus fucking Christ.

The other boy spared him a glance before turning back to the crowd which was a little thinner because it was so late. “You got laid.”

“Didn’t,” Joseph replied as he grabbed a water bottle and twisted the cap off. “But I’m pretty sure I blew my brain right outa my dick.” With a dirty smirk, he couldn’t help but add “Straight into a very talented mouth.”

Liam let out an impressed whistle before he laughed and shook his head. “You shoulda just went the whole mile if she was that willing. Not a whole ton of girls are for that. At least out of the ones I’ve been with.”

He was almost tempted to ask if Eva was one of the ones who did but Joseph didn’t want to be an ass to the one person who was almost a friend. Almost because Joseph didn’t want any, not because Liam didn’t want to. Joseph was sure that Liam would love to be upgraded to an actual friend who Joseph would hang out with outside of needing shit and parties. One time, the other boy had tried just texting Joseph for fun, making small talk.

Joseph had ignored all the texts and when he saw him the next day, acted like he never got anything. Blondie never tried again after that.

“No condom,” he replied with a shrug. “Not a big deal anyways.” And it wasn’t. Joseph was sure there were quite a few girls who wouldn’t mind having sex with him if he asked. With such willing opportunities, Joseph wasn’t even concerned that he’d lose his chance.

“Pft,” Liam blew, “Bet it isn’t. You’ve probably gotten laid so many times, you just know there’s at least one girl willing to spread for you.”

Never fucked in my life but I ain’t gonna correct that. Let the rumors fly. “Nice to be me. Don’t be jealous now.”

“Nah, I got my Eva…I mean, we haven’t had sex yet but that’s okay. She’s special and I’m not going to rush her into something she’s not ready for yet, you know?”

Surprisingly, yeah, he knew. He had been ready before Emilio and he had tried not to be pushy in convincing him to have sex. Good thing they hadn’t though. There wouldn’t be any going back from fag world then.

God, he had been so stupid. Anal sex with a guy. Joseph couldn’t help but let out a snort from his thoughts. Good thing he hadn’t reached the point of no return with Emilio. Then he’d be screwed for eternity. Stuck on the fag bandwagon.

“Good of you,” Joseph replied as he lit up a blunt. “Don’t push her or she might resent you for it.”

“Yeah, see that’s what I was thinking,” Liam said with a nod. They fell silent for a time as they shared the joint, the pulse of the music felt through the floor and igniting their feet. Eventually, Liam asked “What happened to the girl?”

“What girl?”

“The one who got down for you? I’m surprised she wasn’t all clingy.”

Another snort erupted from him. Oh, she had been clingy. Like she was expecting them to be something just because she blew him. He had been an asshole in response.

But no one should expect any less from Kavinsky around here.

“You’re welcome,” she whispered as she was about to press her mouth to his, having put him away and zipped his pants before fixing his belt.

There was no way Joseph was kissing her after where her mouth had been and what she had swallowed. Not a chance. He was clean and showered all the time but only fags knew the taste of dick and come and he wasn’t one.

So no kissing.

Turning his head away to her surprise, Joseph replied after pressing a kiss to her cheek “I ain’t kissing that mouth, baby. Those flavors are all for you. But thank you, blew my mind straight outa there.”

She looked hurt and confused as she said “It’s your dick.”

“Yeah,” he drawled while sucking on her neck. She was trying to push him off to get him to face her but eventually gave up when the sensations took over. “But baby,” he mumbled against her skin, “dicks are for sexy bitches to enjoy. Not me.”

The girl didn’t speak until he separated from her neck, satisfied that he left a damning mark. With her face flushed, she hugged him closer, her arms around his neck. Hurt was still reflected in her eyes and worsened when he unwrapped himself from her and grabbed his hat off the hood of the car. He pressed one last kiss to her temple before walking off and laughing “Thanks for the good time, sweets.”

“You just left her after saying thanks?” Liam asked in disbelief. For a guy who said he used to fuck around before Eva, he sure looked offended. “You could have, I don’t know, reciprocated or something. I mean, did you even give her a kiss?”

Joseph wasn’t going to explain the whole ‘dicks for bitches’ thing. “Why would I? I’m not gonna give her ideas that I might want more than a fun time. She offered to suck my cock, I said yes, she blew me fantastically, I got off, and everyone’s happy.”

Redhead wasn’t but Joseph really didn’t care. He had just been excited that when she pulled down his jeans and underwear that he had been hard. And that he had gotten off because of a girl.

In your face, faggotness.

“That’s fucked up,” Liam muttered after a snort of disgust.

“Don’t expect anything more of me than that, princess.”

It looked like Liam had something else to say but Joseph’s attention was cut off as some guy started shouting. Joseph couldn’t make out the words over the music and people who were still cheering or shouting or whatever the hell they were doing. Pushing his way through the crowd to where Joseph could sort of make out his stalky form, the guy yelled something again but the words still carried off into the music.

“Shut off the music,” Joseph told Liam as the guy continued shouting. A foreboding feeling pitted in his stomach. Something had to be wrong.

Liam cut off the music to the boos of the crowd but now the stalky boy’s words came through. “Someone help, please!”

The beating of his heart picked up a little because something bad happening was not what he had planned for. But when he spoke, Joseph made sure his voice was steady as he called out to the boy. “Something wrong?”

Turning quickly to find who spoke, Joseph waved the guy over as their gazes caught. He rushed over, relief on the borders of his eyes. “Please, I need help-”

He cut him off with a raise of his hand. “Skip the needs and wants and pleads. The fuck is wrong?”

“My brother. He’s unconscious,” the boy said quickly, the panic coming out with this revelation. “I can’t get him up.”

Shit.

Fuck.

Shit fuck.

He had tried to make sure he only gave each person three pills but there was no way Joseph could keep track of who gave who what. Plus, it could be alcohol, right?

Joseph doubted it.

Setting his water bottle on the floor, Joseph gestured for the kid to lead the way. “Lemme see.”

Quickly pushing their way through the crowd, the stalky guy took them to a prone form on the floor. Joseph knew he looked completely calm on the outside but Jesus fucking Christ was he panicking on the inside. He was proud for not having it show though as he crouched down beside the other kid.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” the brother said on the border of hysterics. “He just won’t get up.”

Don’t be dead, don’t be dead, don’t be fucking dead. Reaching a hand out, Joseph checked for a pulse and breathed a sigh of relief when he found a faint one. It was dark but…the guy’s lips were looking blue…

Shit.

Putting his ear to the guy’s mouth, Joseph bit his lip hard as he focused to feel something.

The guy wasn’t breathing.

Oh Jesus fuck… “I think he overdosed,” Joseph said quickly, looking to the stalky boy. “You call an ambulance?”

“S-Should I?”

“Should you?” Joseph practically shouted because no one was dying today. “Yes, you fucking idiot! Do you want him to fucking die?” Yanking out his own phone, he quickly typed in 911. “I’ll do it.”

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“Yeah, uh, this guy I think overdosed. I need an ambulance. Fast.” This wasn’t the way the night was supposed to end. Jesus fuck, he was on the verge of a panic attack. “Now.”

When the operator asked for details, he handed the phone over to Liam to deal as he focused back on the guy. There was a crowd watching them now, watching as Joseph felt like the most useless person in the world.

“Do we know what he used?” Liam said, probably repeating what the operating asked before tapping on Joseph’s shoulder. He flipped his hand like ‘do we?’

Joseph could figure but if he handed over one of the pills…

He’d be in so much shit.

Running a hand in his hair after removing his hat, Joseph bit his lip as he tried to decide what to do. This guy’s life depended on him but…Jesus, he’d be in so much trouble. With the law, not even just his mother.

Dear God, help him.

I’m not gonna kill another person. Nodding quickly as he made up his mind, Joseph replied “Yeah, yeah we do.”

Chapter Text

Opening the door to see who rang the bell, Joseph’s heart fell out of his chest as he came face to face with a cop.

Oh Jesus. Don’t panic, act normal.

“Can I help you?” Joseph smiled, trying to stuff his nerves down into a huge hole so they wouldn’t show their ugly ass faces.

A week after the party and Joseph had been sitting on pins and needles, just waiting for shit to trace back to him. They had gotten the other guy to the Henrietta hospital once the ambulance came, Joseph giving one of the blue pills to the brother.

Along with a threat.

Flicking out his knife, Joseph put the tip on the soft spot of the underside of the boy’s chin. It was just them and the unconscious brother who they had carried together over to the edge of the drag strip to wait for the ambulance. Moving him might not have been smart but Joseph wanted the paramedics away from the commotion of the party.

“I’m saving your brother’s life but don’t you dare say that this came from me. Or else I’ll take yours.”

The threat was empty because Joseph really didn’t want to kill someone after his two horrible experiences but the stalky brother didn’t know that. He gave a panicked nod before Joseph put the knife away as the ambulance sirens became louder.

OD boy had lived, his stomach getting the charcoal treatment. It seemed the kid wasn’t even from around here which had shocked Joseph. Word had reached far if a kid and his brother from three counties over had come to the party.

“You…” the uniform flipped a page in his notepad, “Kavinsky?”

“Yessir. Something wrong?”

With a gaze that was sizing him up, the cop replied “Parents home?”

“No,” Joseph answered. Thank God, she wasn’t. “My mom actually just left. Sorry.”

“S’alright,” the cop nodded, actually looking relieved. Maybe he thought he could talk to Joseph easier without her here. Technically because he was a minor, he wasn’t supposed to be talking to a cop without adult supervision. The cop knew that. “Wanted to chat with you, actually. Is that okay?”

“Sure.” No, no it wasn’t.

“You hear about the boy who OD’d?”

Joseph nodded, crafting his tale carefully in his head in case he needed it. “Heard he’s okay.”

“Yes, he is. But it seems he took something that no doctor has ever seen before. They were a bit confused by this little blue pill that they actually thought was Viagra. His brother doesn’t know where it came from and talking to a few other kids got me the same stuff. A little redhead said she didn’t know either but she wished this other guy had OD’d on it. I ask who. Guess what she said?”

That damn bitch. “I…guess me, sir.”

“Yeah, you,” the cop nodded. He was a stout man who looked like he thought like Blue in that raven boys weren’t worth the ground they walked on. “Said you deserved it more. Think maybe you wanna tell me why and if anyone offered you a pill? I can’t seem to get a list of who went to or held this party so anything you know would help.”

“Spurned lover,” Joseph said with an easy shrug. “She wasn’t my thing. And no, no one offered me anything but…” Best part about a lie was making it believable with a little bit of truth. He could do that. “I threw the party, sir. I don’t know who brought the alcohol or these apparent pills. I’m sorry, I didn’t expect it to get so out of hand. We were all just supposed to have some fun. I’m really glad the guy is okay, though. I was really scared when I found him on the floor not breathing. And thankful that I had my phone.”

Did that sound good enough? He sure hoped so and thought it did.

The cop seemed lost in the explanation, nodding as he thought with the tip of his pen in his mouth. “The operator didn’t get a name for the call. You did that?”

“Of course,” Joseph said with a smile. Technically him and Liam but who was keeping track of technicalities? “I hardly wanted someone to die, sir.”

“You know nothing about them pills?”

“I really wish I did,” he said in mock sincerity. God, was he good at this. Andrey, you would be proud of my talents. “And if I hear anything, I’ll let you know. Do you have a card, sir?”

He stared at Joseph like he was the most confusing thing in the world before shaking himself out of it. “Yeah, yeah,” the cop murmured as he pulled one out of his pocket. Joseph didn’t think most beat cops did but then…Henrietta had a sheriff’s department so they were way more small town than Hoboken. Not to mention that they didn’t have ‘beat cops’ per se. Nobody walked the streets around here like in Jersey or New York. Handing it to Joseph, he said “Thanks and good job saving the kid.”

“Thank you,” Joseph grinned like the praise meant everything. To the old Joseph, it might have. “And I’ll definitely let you know if I find out anything. Have a good day, officer.”

Once the cop was gone and Joseph shut the door, he heaved a heavy sigh as he slid down the door onto the floor. The pain in his side wasn’t too bad anymore, just twinges here and there. It was actually just more ugly than painful now with mottled bruises here and there. “Oh Jesus fucking Christ, that could have gone horrible. Thank you, God, for being nice for once.”

  


 

Handing over her debit card because this small shop only had one of those small scanners where the cashier had to do it, Vesela stared curiously at the older woman before her who kept staring at the card with scrunched brows. “Is something wrong?”

“Your last name is Kavinsky?”

“Uh, yes…”

The woman made a displeased face as she slid the card through. “Debit or credit.”

“Debit. Is something the matter?”

Looking at Vesela like she was a disgust, the cashier and her chapped lips replied “Not much of a mother are you?”

“Excuse you?” Vesela said incredulously once she got her words working. What the hell? Who the hell did this woman think she was? And for that matter, it’s not like she knew Joseph for her to judge.

“I mean, I shouldn’t expect much from Aglionby mothers. I’m surprised you even came with yours. Most just dump them in the dorms. They don’t want the headache that comes with them and expect us to deal with it.”

“I think you need to watch how you speak,” Vesela all but snapped. Was it rude to slap an older lady? Probably but seriously, what the fuck?

Rolling her eyes as she handed Vesela’s card back, she replied as they waited for the machine to process the transaction “Dear, my grandson came back from a party your son threw smelling like alcohol and pot. I even heard a boy overdosed on something no hospital has even seen. Your rearing skills obviously need work.”

She knew she was blinking stupidly at the woman but she couldn’t help it. Joseph threw the party? But…what? That didn’t make sense.

“Oh,” the woman laughed as she handed Vesela her receipt. “Your face says you had no clue. Oh, that’s cute. No Aglionby boy is innocent, dear.” She pushed over Vesela’s bag, “Especially not yours.”

Grabbing her bag on almost autopilot as she walked out of the store and to her car, Vesela couldn’t wrap her head around what she’d heard. Joseph didn’t throw parties, no way. And alcohol? Just…no way. She had smelled him when he had come home just like the first time and there had been nothing but weed. As she got in and put her bag on the passenger seat, Vesela wondered if it was just the woman being an ass. But then…how would she know their last name?

There was only one way to get answers.

Walking into the house and slamming the door shut once she made it home, she dropped her bag on the island of the kitchen and shouted “Joseph! Get your ass down here!”

Her son came in seconds, staring at her warily as he bounced down the stairs with Peanut hot on his heels. How could this adorable cat-loving freak hold drug-filled parties? “Something wrong? Why are you yelling?”

Scratching her head because she was just so confused, she crossed her arms and raised a brow. “Answer me honestly or hell will be dragged in today. Did you throw that party you went to on the Fourth?”

Vesela knew the minute that he bit his lip that he had. Joseph had become one hell of a convincing liar but that habit always caught him. Hooking his thumbs in the waistband of his shorts, Joseph replied “Mayko, I didn’t. I just went to one. C’mon, I know no one and I’m gonna throw a party? Really?”

True but still. She’d seen and heard crazier things. “Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not-”

“Don’t.”

Rolling his eyes, Joseph snorted “I’m not ly-”

“Stop fucking lying to me!” she yelled in frustration causing him to clam up and stare at the floor. This was just insane. Joseph threw a party with alcohol and drugs.

Joseph.

“When you leave this house, when I let you go out, I put the trust that you’re not doing something stupid or dangerous. I trust that my son knows better than that. How wrong I was.”

Picking his head up and crossing his own arms, he said in an exasperated tone “Mayko, it was just a party. That’s normal.”

“Just a party where there wasn’t only alcohol but drugs too. Where a boy fucking overdosed. That sound normal to you? For that matter, the Joseph I know would never even care to throw a party. He’d be disgusted to be around people who’d do those types of stupid things.”

“Did it ever occur to you,” Joseph hissed, the vein on his forehead pulsing as he got angry, “That the Joseph you knew doesn’t exist anymore? That maybe he realized how fucking stupid he was and decided that he was going to be something better?”

“This is better to you?” she asked with a raised brow and a slight touch of disgust. “This?”

Letting out a dry laugh that reminded her too much of Ivo, Joseph snorted “At least like this, nothing can hurt me because like this I could care less if I hurt someone. Like this, I can take and take and take and not care. And I don’t care. Hell, I had a girl get on her knees for me and I didn’t even give her a kiss saying thanks.”

That struck her into silence as she was once more for her day resorted to blank blinking. Joseph just smirked as he waited for her reaction, satisfaction all over his face at striking silent. Catching her words, she said “I’m sorry, what?”

Smirk growing larger, her child repeated “I had a girl on her knees for me.” With a laugh, Joseph added “Oh the wonders of oral sex, right? And she liked to swallow. Even better, I think.” Her jaw literally fell open causing him to laugh some more. “Surprise, Vesela! Your son had a girl sucking his dick and blew his load down her pretty throat! A fag can’t do that but I sure could! Know why? Because I’m not a fucking faggot!”

And they were back to where all of their problems stemmed from. Ivo’s opinion to her son had always been higher than hers because he worked so hard to earn his father’s attention and love. So no matter how many times Vesela told him not to speak that way, that he was fine the way he was, it never mattered.

Because Ivo said he was a fag. And that was the only opinion Joseph would ever acknowledge on the subject.

Correcting him would just get them into a new shitload so instead she focused on the other problem. The apparent girl. Grinding her jaw, she ground out “I wouldn’t be so proud for using a girl.”

“But see, Kavinsky don’t give a shit,” he explained, like it made complete sense. It sure as hell didn’t to her. Kavinsky? But then, that was how the woman had known them.

“Kavinsky,” Joseph continued, “gets to use whoever he wants. He gets to ruin whoever he wants whenever the fuck he wants because no one can take him down. No one is going to make him feel like shit the way they always just trampled over Joseph.” She could see the muscles of his jaw tensing as he himself ground his teeth. “No one. So he is going to use and ruin every single fucking person he meets. And everyone who gets in his way.”

It was hard to believe that it was her beautiful son standing before her. He looked like him, seemed like him, but it wasn’t. His eyes were never filled with such hateful fury, his stance never so aggressive. It just wasn’t Joseph. Hell, Vesela wasn’t sure that it ever would be as he gave her a pointed once over and practically growled “Everyone.”

Nodding because she was tired and couldn’t do this anymore, she said while barely keeping the tears out of her voice even though they were streaming down her cheeks “Nice to know how much I mean to you.” Turning to the island and pulling out the little box of fresh cheesecake she had bought for him, Vesela set it out and added “Enjoy the cheesecake I got you. I thought it looked delicious.”

He said nothing but something flickered in his eyes behind the thing that was covering her child’s beauty. With as much dignity as her stupid crying self could manage, Vesela walked over to the staircase, slipping off her shoes before climbing up to go cry in the dark of her room. The heat of his gaze burned her back but she refused to look down.

And when he knocked in the middle of the night asking to come in with the sweet tone of her baby filled with remorse, she refused to answer.

Chapter Text

“School starts tomorrow,” he murmured before taking a bite of toast. He left it a little too long but he wasn’t generally a waster so he still sat eating it.

“That it does,” his mother replied, entirely focused on the newspaper in front of her.

He was waiting for her to say ‘excited?’ or maybe ‘ready?’ but it seemed that was all that would come out of her mouth this morning. Sighing, Joseph went back to looking down at his meager breakfast that somehow seemed able to fill him up. He was sure that it could barely even fill Albena and yet it made him feel like a pig.

This scene wasn’t something new; for the past month and a half, ever since they had fought, his mother would barely speak to him. She could chat a storm or laugh so loud to where it echoed throughout the empty house with his tétka or even his tetíncho but for him?

Nothing.

Joseph couldn’t even remember her ever giving him a smile the past weeks. They could say ten words to each other for the whole day and she’d think that was plenty enough. It was nothing to Joseph who only had her. His mother was literally the only one in his life that he had and yet he had fucked that up too.

But wasn’t that what you wanted? You knew what your words would do. However, when he had said them, he had just thought that, well, she’d get over it. He’d apologize and everything would be fine like when they usually had a fight. But his mother didn’t want to give him anything at all. Not even a centimeter and Joseph was ready to just lay on the floor and cry.

Not that he didn’t cry in the dark of the night already.

Her silence was unnerving and shattered his already cracked heart into thousands of pieces. Joseph had no idea what it would take for his apologies to be accepted but nothing was working. He had gone to her room in the night the day of the fight but she hadn’t even responded to him. Just completely ignored his pleas to come in. After spending at least ten minutes throwing up the cheesecake from guilt, all he had wanted was maybe a hug. Her beautiful voice telling him that it was okay and that everything would be fine just like she always did.

None of that had happened. She hadn’t even asked the next morning about him throwing up. Just ignored him like he was nothing. He knew he was nothing already but he didn’t need his mother reiterating the point. Mothers weren’t supposed to do that.

When their fight had first happened, Joseph had made a point of staying home for a few days to show her that he didn’t need to go out and that she could trust him. Not that it mattered because she didn’t even register the fact that he was home. Or rather, she just acted like he wasn’t. Also, there was the fact that every time she went out, her frown was larger when she looked at him and something told him those rumors that made him infamous to students were making it to her ears.

Disappointment literally came off in waves from her; Joseph could actually feel them, striking him one after the other. He understood, really, but that didn’t mean he liked facing it. She probably heard the rumors of how he was the one passing out the drugs, the one who planned the whole thing, the one who – per rumor obviously – fucked any girl he wanted, or the one selling weed.

Yeah, he had taken Liam’s business. He gave the blonde boy a cut to be nice but he knew it was a bitter point between them right now.

The cops had gotten wind of the drug rumor and had come knocking on his door once more. His mother had been home but in the shower and Joseph once again thanked God that He was being helpful in this situation. More questions had come and Joseph gave them half-truths that they seemingly believed. Two cops had come and while the first one walked away, the woman cop gave him a look full of meaning.

“I can make this all disappear, you know.”

Looking at her with a raised brow because he actually didn’t know what she meant, Joseph replied “Sorry?”

Rolling her eyes, she said as she stuck out her hand “Grand and it’s all gone.”

The hand was between them and it took Joseph a minute to realize that she meant a thousand dollars. She wanted him to bribe her? Joseph thought his lies were plenty and convincing but if she could make this all disappear… “Yeah?”

“Yup. Put it out, rich boy.”

Was that what rich boys around here did? Bribe people to get what they wanted? Surly a mobster’s son could do it too? Do it even better? “Fifteen ‘cause I like you.”

The woman’s eyes brightened in excitement and Joseph knew she wasn’t just trying to play him and get him in trouble. “I’m down.”

Joseph had only recently made a bank account so he could carry around a debit card. He had put in whatever money he had saved through the years which wasn’t much and kept some as cash. But what kind of Aglionby boy went around broke compared to the other ones? Not him. Definitely not Kavinsky.

So he sent money from his mother’s account to his. Forged her signature and everything. If Ivo did it, why couldn’t he? Plus, it wasn’t stealing from her, it was stealing from her bastard.

And that was totally cool with him.

He knew that Ivo could easily see who took his money and where it was going. It didn’t matter though because Joseph knew that the man wouldn’t do anything about it. He’d maybe check into the account once in a while to try and find out what Joseph was doing with the money but that was it.

Because he was now rich with the money actually being in his control, Joseph had taken out thousands in cash over weeks to put away just in case. Sometimes, cash was required. That moment with the cop had been one of those moments. The officer must have kept her word because no one ever come around again and there wasn’t a peep from the sheriff’s department.

Problem solved.

“We should go shopping for school supplies,” Joseph added, trying to get a conversation going. She used to love when they’d go shopping together but now she wouldn’t even bother asking him, she’d just leave. “I need a backpack too. Also, we haven’t gotten anything for their uniform code.”

Her only reply was a shrug with her saying “You have a car and money. Knock yourself out.”

“You don’t wanna go with me?” Please?

Another shrug. “Too tired. I’m sure you’d prefer being alone anyways. Cool kids don’t drag their mother’s around.”

Frustration ready to explode forth, Joseph stood from his chair causing it to shriek on the tile as he grabbed his plate and cup, practically slamming them into the sink when he reached it. “Fuck you,” he couldn’t help but snap as he walked passed her over to the stairs. “Just fuck you.”

He made sure to slam his door as hard as possible once he was in his room before he threw himself on his bed, letting all his pain and frustrations flood out in tears. It wasn’t fair; he was trying and trying and she just wouldn’t budge. What did she want from him exactly? Apologies had been given in every single form possible and nothing was good enough. Was it fun shunning him? Was it fucking amusing to watch him hurt?

Peanut ended up joining him as he felt her body curl up into his side, purring and trying to comfort him. He even heard the roughness of her tongue getting caught on his shirt as she licked it. Or maybe she just missed her fur and ended up getting him.

Joseph only got up when he heard her in her bathroom washing up. Flushing his face with cold water to get some of his dried tears cleaned up and maybe help with his puffy eyes, Joseph opened his door and went to her room. He didn’t bother with knocking or asking, just went in and sat down on her bed. His mother spared him a glance when she came out of her bathroom but said nothing as she went to her dresser and opened a drawer.

“You said you don’t hate me,” he mumbled in misery, not able to stand her silence and indifference any longer. “You swore. You said it didn’t matter about fights or hassle o-or m-m-messes. You s-swore, mayko.” The tears were back and breaking his words as he dropped his head into his hands. “So w-why d-do you hate me?”

His breath caught in his throat when arms suddenly wrapped around him from behind, clutching him tight as her chin rested on his shoulder, her cheek pressed to his. “P-Please, m-mayko. D-Don’t hate m-me. Y-You’re all I have l-l-left.”

A kiss pressed on his temple while fingers brushed his messy hair back. Being deprived of such simple touches for what felt like forever made him hungry for more. Hold him even closer or cuddle with him on the couch or the bed as they enjoyed comfortable silence.

Just something.

“Joseph,” came her soft voice, her breath hot on his ear. “I don’t hate you and could never hate you even if you were the most horrible person to me. I swore and I mean it.”

“T-Then why w-w-won’t you do anything with m-me?” he stuttered as he hiccupped. “W-Why won’t you talk o-or s-sit w-with me o-o-or…anything.”

Scooting so he felt her sitting right beside him but making sure that she still held him, his mother whispered “Sweetheart, look at me.” Joseph shook his head; he didn’t want her to see how pathetic he was, face stained with tears and nose dripping with snot. “Joseph.”

“You swore,” Joseph repeated, his voice breaking on the words. “You swore, you swore, you swore. You k-know how m-much you’re killing me? H-Hurting me?” The only explanation that he could come up with was that she thought this was funny. It had to be just oh so amusing for her.

“Do you know how much it hurts to be told by your only beautiful wonderful child that he’s willing to hurt you because he doesn’t care? Because he wants to? Because he thinks it’s cool? Do you know how horrible it makes a person feel?”

He didn’t have a child, so no, but he knew how horrible it felt to have your mother shunning you. That had to be close. “Terrible.”

Joseph literally wanted to whine at the loss of her warm embrace but he felt her hands on his knees and knew she was crouching in front of him. Her hands pulled his away and picked up his face by the chin just enough so they could look at each other. Pain reflected in her eyes but they weren’t angry or disgusted.

They were just his mother.

“Terrible,” his mother nodded, repeating his answer. “Absolutely terrible and horrible and agonizing to hear your child tell you to your face that your completely worthless to him. Terrible, Joseph. Baby, we didn’t leave behind hell to make ourselves a new one. We’re supposed to be happy and living, not falling into a pit where we’ll never climb out of. Where we say horrible things, hurting each other for fun.”

“I was ready for boyfriends or gay porn.”

Was she really? She brought them here so Joseph could get away from everything but he had never imagined that she wanted him to…well, to live. To enjoy.

To be himself.

But Joseph didn’t know how to be himself anymore. Hell, he didn’t even know what that meant or who that was. That person was too afraid to come out, to show their face to the world and be blatantly rejected because he was a nerdy fag. Who liked that? “I don’t know how to live, mayko.”

The flash of distress that passed through her eyes was so sharp and painful to look at that Joseph wished he had kept the truth locked in. He didn’t want her worrying more than she always had. Cupping his face in her small hands, she replied “You live the way you always have, baby. You read, you smile, you laugh, you build things, you draw things. Do things that make you happy, not things that you think people want from you.”

“I don’t know how to be happy,” he whispered, his tears welling once more. That was the first time he had said that aloud and he never realized how true it was until it was out in the world. “I can’t do it.”

“Do I make you happy?”

He blinked at her in surprise, his tear-filled eyes wide. “Of course.” Why did she think he had been so miserable without her?

Smiling and kissing him on the tip of his nose, she said “Then we just have to spend lots more time together. And we can do everything that used to make you happy until you remember how much you loved them. How’s that?”

It sounded…good. That had to help, right? Gnawing on the corner of his bottom lip while a small flame of relief hit his heart, Joseph murmured “That sounds okay.”

His mother stood and hugged him tight, pressing millions of kisses to his hair. Maybe not millions but all the same. It felt good being pressed into her, the scent of her alone able to calm him down. “But when we draw cars, don’t laugh at mine. Art is not my thing, history is.”

Joseph had asked his mother once years ago what she had wanted to be when she ‘grew up’ and why she never went to college. She had said that her dream was to be an archeologist but then it became a historian focusing on the Slavic people. College hadn’t happened because she wanted to feel and enjoy ‘being an adult’ without school pressuring her. And then she married his father and wanted to feel ‘married life.’

And then Joseph had come along after a couple years.

For a time, he had wondered if she wasn’t happy that she didn’t get to live her dream but when he asked that, she had replied with a huge smile and sparkling eyes.

“My dream now is watching my boy grow and make himself a wonderful person. And, you know, maybe a grandchild or two.”

Wrapping his arms around her, Joseph was actually able to give a small laugh in reply. “’Kay, I won’t.”

“Now,” his mother said as she crouched down once more, “I’m pretty sure you have chinos and button shirts in your closet.”

“Well…yeah but…I need to go pants shopping. I only have one pair of chinos and if I have to wear them all week, I should have two so I can switch out.”

Slapping her forehead in a playful way, she laughed “But of course! It would be terrible if you couldn’t switch!”

“Don’t laugh at me,” he snorted in amusement as he stood, grabbing her hand in his and taking her to his room. Just hearing her laugh for him was already making him feel a bit better. Letting go of her hand, he grabbed his chinos from the laundry basket and held them out to her. “These are all I’ve got. I need another. And I only have one white button down, I need at least three.” He was supposed to have picked up his uniform sweater yesterday but Joseph hadn’t gone. Maybe today then. Also, wasn’t he supposed to wear a tie?

Fuck this uniform.

With his pants held up, his mother looked between him and his chinos, seemingly confused. “Baby, these fit you?”

Of course they fit him. He had worn them only a few days ago. Joseph hadn’t gone out for the past days because he had a headache from so many failed attempts of a life-sized Evo. There was always something wrong. One had a huge ass wing that didn’t make sense. Another, no doors except this time there was literally no doors. As if someone had yanked them off. There were many others and so many other mistakes.

It was ridiculous.

But he wasn’t going to give up because he knew he’d figure it out eventually, just like he had with making people.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t they?”

She gave another glance to his legs before handing them to him. “Put them on. They look short.”

“Mayko, don’t be stupid,” he snorted as he yanked off his shorts. Standing in front of his mother in just his boxer briefs didn’t bother him in the least. Hello, she was his mother. “Why would I suddenly get taller out of nowhere?” Pulling the pants up his meager waist and thinking that he might have lost more weight, Joseph looked down at his feet in surprise. “The fuck?”

The bottom of his pants came above his knobby thin ankles.

“Shit, I grew…” A smile unwittingly bloomed on his face. “I fucking grew!” Joseph couldn’t wait to measure himself. He had to be past six feet. What if he was as tall as Ivo? Fuck, that’d be so cool.

Shaking her head as she laughed at his reaction, his mother said “Looks like we’re shopping for more than chinos then. Might have to replace all of your pants.”

Chapter Text

No wonder Emilio had hated biology.

This shit sounded hard. God help him when chemistry came around. God help Emilio when chemistry came around. Of the two of them, Joseph had always been the more academic one. And if chem was going to tear him down then it was going to ruin Emilio.

Joseph actually liked learning science but Aglionby made everything seem harder than it actually should be. Probably because the school thought that it was all high and mighty. It was lunch hour now and he’d been to four of his classes so far. Joseph was pretty sure that he disliked all four of those teachers.

Man, this was going to suck balls.

He was sitting on a bench on the ‘green’ flipping through the bio teacher’s syllabus when a bag suddenly dropped onto the tabletop. Liam plopped down beside Joseph seconds later with Jordan sitting across from him. The dude still made him uneasy but Joseph had yet to figure out why. It was more than knowing that the guy had a thing for him. There was an underlying of something that had Joseph worried.

If he was lucky, the worry was unfounded.

“Don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so sharp,” Liam snorted in amusement as he pulled his lunch from his bag. “Or without a cap. Who knew there was hair under there?”

“Ha. Ha,” Joseph replied, still reading the syllabus. Four exams a semester with a quiz a week? And a research paper? Jesus fuck. “Anyone can tell I have hair being that a hat doesn’t cover my entire head, fuckwad. Fucking dress code doesn’t allow hats which is complete bullshit.” Bullshit that he might end up breaking because really, who banned hats? He’d just wait a bit so he didn’t get in trouble his first few months here.

Hopefully.

“You don’t gotta wear a hat all the time,” Jordan jumped in, pulling out his own lunch which turned out to be just a bag of chips. “Not like you’re bald with that nice mop of black hair.”

Something told Joseph the guy was trying to compliment him in a subtle way. Maybe Jordan should’ve added ‘no homo’ at the end. It’s not like he wasn’t a little obvious. “Don’t be jealous now.” Turning to look at Liam because his food smelled really good, Joseph stared in curiosity as his very not friend opened a bowl container. “What’s that?”

“Soup.”

“Who the fuck eats hot soup in the summer,” Jordan laughed as he looked to Joseph, probably wanting him to play back up in the joke. Joseph had no intentions to because he was more focused on finding out what this delicious smelling soup was.

Also…Aglionby had a microwave? Definitely not a public school thing. Fucking prep school.

Leaning over Liam’s shoulder causing the other boy to give him a look, Joseph asked “What kind of soup? Smells really good.” It was red and looked like it had something in it. Maybe if he learned what it was, he could convince his mother to make him some.

“Oh,” Liam said with a smile. “Yeah? This is part of my heritage right here, dude. I actually made it myself too. Sometimes you get annoyed just eating sandwiches or out food or whatever the dorms are serving, y’know?” Stirring his soup and taking a spoonful, Liam added “I told you how my mom never wanted me?” Joseph nodded. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how horrible it would’ve been if his mother hadn’t wanted him. “Well, she kept me until thirteen because dad was paying her and stuff and just had a nanny look after me.”

“That fucking sucks,” Joseph couldn’t help but interrupt.

Shrugging, Liam replied “At least my nanny wanted me, so it was okay. I loved her the way I should love my mother and me and Helen were super upset when my mom and dad sent me here. Helen’s my nanny. Anyways, so she liked showing me who my family was from photo albums my mom kept around the house. My maternal grandparents came from Hungary and it seems Helen actually knew my grandma before she died because she’s been working for the family for generations and shit.”

“So she taught you about your grandma and culture?” Joseph asked. He liked this Helen. “That’s cool.”

“Right? She taught me lots of stuff including food. Even dug through the attic to find my grandma’s recipe book. She gave it to me before I left and said to make sure I didn’t grow fat on fast food.”

“Huh,” Joseph murmured as he thought of how much it would suck not knowing where he came from. He was very proud of his heritage and the thought that people grew up without recognizing or simply ignoring theirs was crazy. How could Liam’s mom not want her son to know about his culture? Or maybe she just didn’t care enough about him to bother. “So what’s the soup?”

Taking another spoonful, Liam answered “Halászlé or fisherman’s soup. I heard it’s really popular in Hungary though I’ve never been so that could be Wikipedia conjecture. It’s spicy with lots of paprika and then there are a couple vegetables and some fish. Usually carp but Henrietta doesn’t have that so I just settle for any kind of white fish I can find.”

“Can I try some?”

Liam looked surprised at Joseph interest. He didn’t know why; who didn’t want to try new food? “Uh, yeah, sure.” He dug through his bag until he came up with a bag that had bread in it. “I like to dip it sometimes,” he explained as he handed Joseph a piece.

Taking his ripped piece and scooping into the soup, making sure he didn’t stick his fingers in while getting a piece of fish, Joseph popped it into his mouth before he dripped. After swallowing, he said “Fuck, that’s delicious.”

“Yeah?”

“Hell, yeah. Whatever recipe you use, gimme it so my mom can make it.”

“Yeah?”

Raising a brow as he stole another piece of bread, Joseph asked “Why are you so surprised? It’s fucking good.”

“Most people aren’t excited about Hungarian food. Or, at least, certain people.” Liam shot an annoyed glance at Jordan, “Most don’t even know Hungary unless they’re making fun of the name.”

“Then they’re idiots,” Joseph snorted, knowing full well he just indirectly called Jordan an idiot. “Also, I like trying new foods and Hungarian food can’t be that far off from Bulgarian.” Or maybe it was, he had no clue. He’d only had this soup so far.

“You’re Bulgarian?”

“Yessir,” Joseph nodded. “From both sides. My-” he froze, realizing that he had no way of explaining that Ivo came from Bulgaria without saying some sort of paternal word. “Uh…my…” Liam was staring at him in confusion, wondering why he was faltering. “My mom’s husband,” Joseph finally decided upon, “was born there and came here at seventeen. My mom was born here but her parents come from Bulgaria.”

“Mom’s husband…so your dad?” Jordan tried to clarify.

Playing with the corner of his syllabus, Joseph said in a firm voice “I don’t call him that.”

“But he’s your dad?”

Frustrated at not having the words he needed, Joseph finally ground out “In the biological sense, yes. But I don’t consider Ivo a father anymore.”

“Ooh sob story,” Jordan laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world. Even if this guy didn’t make Joseph’s sirens alert, he wouldn’t like him. He didn’t have a good person hiding in there like Liam did. “Let’s hear it. Liam’s shared plenty with you.”

The ass made it sound like Liam sharing carried over to his sorry stupid face. Joseph didn’t think he knew a single thing about Jordan beyond the basics.

Somehow, Liam knew that Joseph was getting pissed and wasn’t willing to share. “Dude, drop it. Not your fucking business.” Turning back to their former conversation, he asked “So Slavic?”

He was still glaring at Jordan but finally said as he focused back on Liam “Yeah. It’s funny when you say you come from Eastern Europe and people automatically ask if you’re Russian. Fucking annoying ignorant idiots.”

“Yup,” Liam nodded. “I said that once and this guy was shocked that there were more countries there than Russia. Like are you fucking serious?” Going back to eating his amazing soup, Liam added “Also when they call me a Slav. Like fuck you. Nothing against Slavs but Hungarians aren’t Slavic. I may be still learning about my heritage but I know that much.”

Damn, was he liking this guy more and more. But he wasn’t going to break his ‘no friends’ policy. Joseph knew that only trouble would come from it. Friendship wasn’t worth the head or heartache.

“Hey, so any parties any time soon?” Jordan asked, nudging Joseph under the table to get his attention. “People been asking where they could buy shit but Liam said you ain’t selling anything beyond little bits of weed. People want those pills, man.”

As if he’d do parties right now after he had finally gotten his mother to forgive him. “School just started, bitch. Can’t get thrown out my first semester.”

“Just pay the headmaster.”

“The what.”

Jordan looked at him like he was an idiot which Joseph didn’t appreciate. “Thee head-master.”

“Saying it slower don’t change shit, piss-shit,” Joseph snapped, getting annoyed. “Do you mean principal?”

Smirking and making that face that meant ‘such a primitive creature’ – yes, there was a face for that – Jordan said even slower “Yes. The prin-ci-pal.”

“Fucking prep school bitch,” Joseph replied while flipping off the piece of shit in front of him. Headmaster. What kind of bull was that? Damn fancy ass school. Too good to even use the word principal? “How about I smash your fucking face into the table?”

“Thought you didn’t want to get in trouble the first semester?”

“Go fuck yourself.”

“How about I fuck you instead?”

That’s when Joseph had enough.

 

 

“Sorry,” he sighed as his mother walked into the fancy ass office of this stupid fancy ass school, taking a seat beside him. They had to speak to ‘headmaster’ Child for his ‘misconduct.’

Bullshit.

“Lemme hear it from you before your principal,” his mother huffed, slouching into her seat.

“Headmaster.”

“What.”

Yawning and wondering what he was missing in Algebra, Joseph mumbled “Apparently in fancy ass schools, the person is called a headmaster. Bull if you ask me.”

With a snort, his mother replied “Stupid if you ask me. So, what’d you do?”

“I slammed a dude’s face into a bench during lunch. His nose ended up broken because I slammed him two more times after that to make a point.” He probably would have done worse if Liam hadn’t yanked his hands off Jordan.

“Joseph,” she groaned, her head falling into her hands, her long braid falling forward. She kept saying she needed a haircut but had yet to find a salon that satisfied her. Now that Joseph thought about it, he probably needed one too. “It’s the first day, sweetheart.”

How was he supposed to explain that he hadn’t planned on getting in trouble? It was just a reaction, he couldn’t help his anger. “He said he’d like to fuck me. As the only person who understands the mess of my sexuality and all my issues, you should be surprised that slamming his stupid face was all I did.”

Face still in her hands, his mother said quietly “Who the hell goes around telling people that he wants to fuck them.”

“Idiots,” he snorted in reply. “Also, I may have heard around that this principal likes bribes, so if they threaten my ass, we should pay them off.”

“Mrs. Kavinsky?” a man said from the room across from them, standing in the doorway.

“Yes,” she replied, standing and nudging Joseph so he could follow. “The principal?”

“Headmaster,” he corrected as they shook hands. “Headmaster Child.”

Joseph could tell his mother wanted to make another joke about that but stayed silent as they walked in and took their seats. She opened her mouth to speak but Headmaster Child beat her to it. “Mrs. Kavinsky, my school is very high standard and held to one. We have very little tolerance for misconduct, especially those of a violent nature. Your son has the grades to be here but he also needs to have the manners. I’m not convinced that he does.”

His mother had that pleasant smile on her face but Joseph knew the difference between her smiles. This one meant that she didn’t like this guy one bit. “I understand fully your meaning but I also have come to understand that my son was provoked. Was violence the answer? Perhaps not but he wasn’t the one who began the confrontation. I know my son and I know his manners. They can be impeccable. His behavior didn’t prove that today but I know otherwise.”

Even Joseph was convinced from her speech. Damn, had she been rehearsing? “You have my sincerest apologies,” Joseph added to his mother’s words. “I should have held my temper instead of confronting. This school has a standard and a good name and I’m sorry for tarnishing that with bad behavior. It won’t happen again.”

Maybe.

Headmaster Child nodded, his gaze flicking between the two of them, thinking. Joseph didn’t think they could be more convincing than that but maybe the dude needed money. Steepling his fingers in front of himself, Headmaster Child finally said “Very well. As this is your first offense, I’ll give you another chance. However, I wouldn’t push it if I were you.”

“Yes, sir. Again, my apologies.”

Nodding as he thought, Headmaster Child replied “Alright. Off to class. Watch your behavior, Mr. Kavinsky. I’ve heard plenty about it. Don’t bring it to my school.”

It was like when you were told you couldn’t have a cookie and then were caught with one. Stupid him had never thought about the rumors going beyond the ears of people around his age. “Of course, sir,” he smiled nervously after clearing his throat.

Once they stepped out of the office building that had some fancy name like every other building in this school, his mother clutched his arm and pulled him close. Whispering in his ear once she dragged his head to her height, she said “Watch your damn behavior. I don’t appreciate the looks I get when people know my last name. I didn’t get them for being married to your bashtá to be getting them because of you.”

“Sorry,” Joseph mumbled. They had just fixed their relationship and he wasn’t looking forward to screwing it up anytime soon.

With a sigh, his mother dragged him into a hug. “Love you and enjoy the rest of the day.”

“Love you too,” he replied after pressing a kiss to her hair. “See you later.”

The rest of his classes were similar in fashion to the earlier ones – syllabi and extremely complicated. Jesus help him in this school because from just looking at the papers and listening to the teachers, he knew he’d need it.

Uh.

Opening the door of his car and throwing his backpack onto the passenger seat, Joseph was about to get in when a voice he knew called him.

Double uh.

“The fuck you want,” Joseph said in the most bored tone possible as he turned and faced Jordan. From his eyes to the surrounding areas of his nose, he was bruised. He was surprised that the lacrosse player had come back to school after getting fixed up. But it was the first day so maybe Jordan hadn’t wanted to miss anything important.

Still looking pissed, Jordan hissed “You better fucking watch yourself. You’re not untouchable, bitch. Next time you decide to touch me, think twice because it’ll end with me beating you into the floor.” Giving Joseph a syrupy glance from his feet up, he added “You’re a fucking toothpick to the point where I can break you, twink. Maybe I’ll do more than that. And maybe you’d like that.”

Joseph was so caught up on trying to figure out what a twink was and if he’d ever heard it before that his brain didn’t bother to register whatever that last empty threat was. “Just fuck off before I decide to slam your stupid ass face into something again.” He looked to the Lexus parked beside him and pointed, “Into that.”

Instead of taking Joseph’s threat and the merit in it, Jordan’s smile grew large and there was this light in his eyes that disturbed Joseph to some serious depths. The dude liked him a little too much or something. Would he do something about it? Act on it?

Joseph sure hoped not.

“Whatever,” Jordan replied with an easy shrug. “Whatever you say, baby.”

Rolling his eyes and getting into his car, he called behind himself “Go fuck yourself, man. Leave me alone.”

He couldn’t see Jordan’s face but before Joseph shut the door, he heard “I told you, baby, Ima be fucking you.”

Chapter Text

He never imagined that Walmart would end up becoming his store of choice.

Not that Joseph didn’t like Walmart – he always had – but they never used to go that much. They’d have to drive twenty minutes to Secaucus to get there. But here in Henrietta, it was the one major chain store where you could pretty much get everything you needed or wanted. For English, his teacher specifically wanted a 1 ½ binder. No more, no less. So Joseph had come to specifically get that very specific size.

“Yup,” he said into his phone.

“Pepsi, please.”

Crouching down to check out the binders on the bottom shelf, Joseph replied “You called for a Pepsi? Jesus, mayko.”

“Hey, hey, I need my caffeine. Also, paper towel and don’t get their brand, it’s terrible. But not Viva either, it leaves behind fibers.”

Sidestepping like a crab as he was still crouched to find the correct size, he murmured “Kay. Good stuff, noted.” Stuffing his phone back into his pocket before focusing back on the task at hand, Joseph bumped into someone’s leg as he continued his crab walk. “Shit, sorry.”

Then he looked up to see the person he hit.

It was Blue.

Joseph actually wasn’t happy to have to see her again. She’d treated him like shit because of her whole ‘raven boy’ outlook or whatever bullshit she had called it. He just knew that she’d like him if she’d bother and it bugged him that she didn’t want to even try a little.

Bitch.

Her eyes were lit with surprise as she replied “Uh, don’t worry about it. Hi.”

As if he was going to waste the time talking to her. Turning back to the binders, Joseph muttered “Hi.” Blue’s gaze was practically burning into his shoulder but he said nothing as he found the size he needed and grabbed it. He found it very unfunny that the universe had given him a blue binder as his only choice.

Un-fucking-funny.

“Me and my mom lit the firework you gave me. It was beautiful. Thanks.”

Why was she bothering? That’s it, she was erased for him. Standing and facing her as he dropped the binder into his basket on the floor, Joseph crossed his arms and snorted “How nice.”

“I’m just saying thanks,” she snapped, her cheeks flushed from either her annoyance or embarrassment at how he didn’t seem to care. He wasn’t sure which because he didn’t know her that well because, well, the bitch didn’t want that to happen.

“Why? I’m a raven boy, remember? No manners or whatever else bullshit you said. I don’t remember because I really don’t give a fuck, bitch.” He actually remembered every word she had said to him and he did give a fuck but she didn’t need to know all that.

Now she was definitely flushed because of anger. “Well, you just proved the manners part.”

“Whatever,” Joseph said as he grabbed his basket. “It’s not like you give a fuck anyways. Acting like you’re all high and mighty and shit. I’m not beneath you.”

“I never said-”

“Don’t wanna hear it. Maybe it’s your poor ass beneath mine. Ever think of that? Maybe your so fucking prejudice against raven boys because you realized how fucking insignificant you are compared. Especially to me.”

She was red as hell while being a mixture of pissed and hurt, her arms crossed tight across her chest and the muscle of her jaw flexing where she must be clenching down. Joseph was happy that his words stung, it meant that she might have been having doubts about writing him off as nothing.

Missed opportunities for this bitch. However, for Joseph, the opportunities opened every second. He hadn’t lost out on anything.

“Got places to be, babydoll,” Joseph called as he walked off.

 

 

The next day found him and Liam smoking a blunt in the parking lot, leaning up against the Porsche. Joseph didn’t allow leaning up on his Evo often; it was a privilege. As he passed the blunt over to Liam, Joseph couldn’t help but wonder how Child held his school to such a standard when there was no way the guy didn’t know that students smoked in the parking lot. It wasn’t just them, but others too. Blunts, cigarettes, or whatever.

“So,” Liam said around the joint, “I’m having a ‘movie night’ in my dorm. Roommate is crashing at his girl’s place so you’re invited.”

“Ain’t coming if Jordan’s invited.” His mother probably wouldn’t let him go anyways.

Huffing, Liam snorted “C’mon, man. He was my friend before you. You don’t get privileges. Whatever’s between you guys, fucking bury it already.”

As if. “First, I’m not your friend. Don’t confuse my tolerance of you as friendship. Two, I don’t like the fuckwad so I’m not subjecting myself to his company. That’s the end of it.”

“You seriously piss me off sometimes.”

“As opposed to other times?”

Liam was about to reply when a couple guys walked up to them, the leader of them looking pointedly at Joseph. “Kavinsky?”

“You got him.”

Nodding as he walked closer, his hair swaying on his forehead because it seemed to be just that damn soft, the boy asked “You sell? Looking for a blunt or two and maybe a couple of those pills you gave out. That shit is insane.”

Was he selling today? He’d prefer not to on campus but…maybe it was somewhere he could capitalize. The pills weren’t up for sale yet – he only did weed – but Joseph didn’t have any plans for parties anytime soon… But pills were a hell of a leap. That was like hardcore drug dealer. Whether he was ready to descend into that was still up in the air. “Not today, sweets, but come back to me in a couple weeks. I’ll have something for ya.”

The guy nodded slowly before dipping his head to the joint Joseph and Liam were sharing. “How about just one? You obviously got.”

Plucking the roll of weed from between Liam’s fingers, Joseph held it out to the guy who had the sharpest cheekbones he had ever seen. Like seriously, how was that even possible? When the other boy didn’t go for it, Joseph shook his hand a little. “Take it. All yours. No charge because I can be nice sometimes.”

“Shit, thanks,” he said as he took it and stuck it between his lips. Pulling out his wallet, the guy handed him a fifty which Joseph thought was extreme for a half used joint. “I can be nice too.”

“Damn,” Joseph replied, slipping the bill from the guy because he wouldn’t say no to offered cash. “Why don’t you throw in a twenty for Liam here?”

There was a touch of reluctance in the other boy’s eyes but regardless, he nodded and pulled out a twenty, handing it to Liam before walking off. Joseph was surprised when the twenty was suddenly shoved at him. “It’s yours,” he said in surprise while trying to get Liam to take it back but failing.

“Keep it,” Liam snorted before grabbing his bag and began to walk off. Turning around, he added “I’m gonna go hang with my actual friend.”

Joseph didn’t catch Liam for the rest of the day, the blonde probably avoiding him on purpose which was fucking ridiculous.

But fine.

Sighing as he tossed his bag onto the floor of his bedroom before himself onto his bed, Joseph yawned into his pillow. Jesus, he was exhausted. School was making his lack of sleep even worse where there was just this bone deep weariness embedded in him. Even if he was lucky enough to get a decent night of sleep, Joseph’s eyes never went without the black under them. Around them. He was a mess, no two ways around it. Peanut joined him not a second later, curling between him and the wall before settling herself down with a purr.

He must have fallen asleep because the next time he opened his eyes, the light of sunset was filtering through the sliding door of his balcony. Checking his phone even though the only people he used it for were his mother and Liam, Joseph was surprised when he found a text from a number he didn’t know.

Outside

“What,” he muttered as he squinted at the number, trying to think if he’d ever seen it before. His number hadn’t been given to anyone and Liam knew not to pass it around so who was this?

Only one way to find out.

Dragging himself out of bed, Joseph didn’t even bother trying to make himself even slightly presentable before trudging down the stairs. The smell of dinner was actually making his stomach rumble a little as he passed his mother and the kitchen as she called out a greeting.

“Be right back,” Joseph mumbled when she asked where he was off too.

“Be quick, dinner’s ready.”

Flicking on the outside light before slipping his feet into some sliders, Joseph trudged over to the car at the end of his way too long driveway. He knew exactly whose Benz that was and even though he had been feeling a little bad about the way he had treated Liam, Joseph was full on pissed at him now. Where else or how else could Jordan have gotten his number?

“The fuck you doing here.”

Smiling at Joseph who was leaning through the passenger window, Jordan replied “Maybe I wanted to see your sexy face. You know, you’re entirely more fuckable when you’re a mess.”

Grinding his teeth and trying not to reach through the window to slam the asshole’s face into the steering wheel, Joseph snapped “What do you want.”

This must all be entirely amusing because the Asian fucker’s smile grew even larger. “Baby, I want a lot of things. You’re at the top of my list, actually. But for the moment, I want you to get in so we can go watch movies with Liam. So get in the fucking car, Kavinsky.”

It was amazing how this idiot actually thought Joseph would get in a car with him. “Not happening. Now fuck off.”

Surprise struck him when Jordan suddenly jumped out of the Benz, rounded the hood, and slammed Joseph up against the passenger door. It was seriously uncomfortable how little space there was between their bodies. Hell, you couldn’t even call it space because there was none. And Joseph didn’t like that being this close to a guy made the deep dark bit inside himself happy. The part that liked the feel of ‘guy.’ A hard lean body up against his was so much more arousing than that of a girl. But as much as that tiny part was happy, Joseph was far from aroused or excited.

Just plain pissed was his feeling right now. No one pushed him around anymore. Especially not this shit.

“Listen up,” Jordan breathed in his ear, his hand firmly grasping the front of Joseph’s shirt. Joseph hadn’t even bothered changing when he had made it home, simply taken off his sweater and dozed in his button up and khakis. Even shrugging off his shoes had been an afterthought. “You pissed off my boy, hurt his feelings with whatever bullshit came out of your mouth. Even if he won’t tell me straight, I can fucking tell. Now, you’re going to make it up to him.”

He kind of wished he had at least a percent of bulk on his body so he could reverse their positions but there was no way. Joseph barely even weighed more than his 5’2’’ mother. And he had more than a foot on her.

Depressing now that he really thought about it.

So since he couldn’t be intimidating with muscle mass, he tried with the gaze that he honed to be as sharp as Ivo’s and his cutting tongue. “Take your hands off me.”

Jordan’s snarl turned into a syrupy smirk that Joseph wished he could punch off his stupid handsome face. The hand that had been clenching his shirt flattened and rubbed Joseph softly and slowly. It made his stomach churn because touches like this shouldn’t feel so wrong. Make him feel so violated and disgusting. Touches like these were supposed to be beautiful like the way they had been with Emilio.

They weren’t supposed to make him feel so nasty. Taken advantage of.

But Joseph’s body was frozen because he didn’t know what he was supposed to do or how he was supposed to react. Was he actually being violated or was this just a joke? Maybe his brain that was always riddled with a harsh mix of anxiety, depression, doubts, and God knew what else was blowing this situation up? When Jordan’s other hand started to rub its way up Joseph’s side, his heart fluttered.

In panic.

There were quite a few things that Joseph didn’t like stemming from his own personality and his life experiences. Middle aged and old men made him hesitant, the dark terrified him, and anything having to do with sensual touches between guys apparently sent him into panic attacks.

Because the only thing he could see and hear was a replay of that day in his bedroom. Of him and Emilio telling each other how much they loved one another and Ivo walking in on such a personal moment.

And then there was everything that followed.

“S-Stop,” Joseph tried to say in a harsh tone but it came out far meeker. Jordan probably thought Joseph was some nervous straight boy afraid of ‘the other side,’ not that he was a newly created homophobe disgusted from his own faggot ass who was terrified of history repeating. He knew that it wouldn’t or even couldn’t, especially not all the way here in Henrietta, but it didn’t matter.

His mind was nothing if not irrational.

“It’s okay,” Jordan whispered and it was scary as fuck how those words sounded so sweet and endearing. Did he know that what he was doing was probably wrong? Joseph wasn’t playing hard to get or whatever, but he was playing straight and trying to avoid ending up on the floor throwing up and hyperventilating.

The hand that had been on his chest worked its way slowly to Joseph’s shoulder and then the back of his neck as the other rubbed small circles with his thumb. It was on his hip, over his pants, but the thumb was under the hem of Joseph’s shirt, the little circles feeling like they were burning into his skin.

Joseph was ready to have a panic induced vomit session.

“It’s all okay,” Jordan said again, his tone soft and careful as he leaned forward. There was so little space between their lips and even though Joseph knew what was coming, felt it in the stillness of the breathless air surrounding them, he was so far from ready.

The lacrosse player closed the rest of the space between them and pressed his lips on Joseph’s. The kiss didn’t invade him with some tongue or anything but the hard press and demanding eagerness of the other boy’s mouth on his was enough to make Joseph freeze, his blood going cold. He felt like he was hyper aware of everything suddenly – the buzzing of the air, the rumbling of the car he was pressed against, even the sound of crickets which normally didn’t blare like sirens.

His eyes were stuck wide open, frozen like the rest of him. Joseph didn’t want the kiss, didn’t want this boy pressed against him, and yet he couldn’t move.

Couldn’t even fucking breathe.

Because Joseph wasn’t moving or doing anything at all, Jordan pressed harder, this time sucking in Joseph’s bottom lip. He probably thought that Joseph was just hesitant, not terrified out of his mind. When he still had yet to react, the other boy cupped the back off Joseph’s head, his fingers getting caught in his bedhead mess of hair. The hand that had been branding circles wrapped around Joseph’s waist, pulling him flush against Jordan’s muscled body. In any other situation where Joseph wasn’t afraid or disgusted or just anything, it might have been hot how amazing the lacrosse player’s body was.

But it wasn’t right now. It was just all the more horrifying because he could feel the other boy’s hardness straining in his jeans.

Air must have been needed from sucking bruises into Joseph’s lips because Jordan pulled back a little and gave him an examining glance. Joseph was still like a deer caught in headlights, except maybe one that needed to puke the nothings in his stomach. But that look must not have been a turn off because Jordan pressed another kiss, this one much softer and sensual, to his lips before whispering “You’re so fucking delicious.”

Morning – or evening, whatever – breath was gross but okay.

Jordan’s hips hitched forward just a bit but it was enough for Joseph to finally wake up, slamming himself back and as far as he could even with a car at his back. That only caused the muscled freak to press closer and much harder. Everything could be felt very easily. “C’mon. I know you want me and I sure as fuck want you.”

While he may find Jordan attractive, Joseph wasn’t that fucking shallow to want someone just for that. To trust someone with himself because of that. Especially when the bastard was a complete…well, bastard.

Finding his bearings despite his shaking hands and furiously beating heart, Joseph aimed his knee at Jordan’s erection. He knew that shoving a guy who was way bigger than him wouldn’t have served him well. Jordan groaned in so much agony that Joseph was almost sorry because while he had experience getting hit in the dick, he hadn’t had the pleasure to know how it felt when he had a boner.

Thank fucking God.

“You need to stay the fuck away from me,” Joseph hissed as he stepped over the prone form on the floor. He didn’t look back once as he walked to up to his house feeling proud that his voice had come out so much stronger and sharper than he was feeling.

Because right now? Right now, all Joseph felt was utter disgust and the need to induce a puking period. To rid himself of the filthiness he was feeling. Not because Jordan was dirty or anything; the guy smelled fresh as hell, actually.

It was rather that Joseph was filth for getting touched by a boy that way.

Too bad it was practically death to gurgle with bleach.

Chapter Text

Liam hadn’t talked to him in a week and despite Joseph not wanting friends, he kind of missed their interactions. They made him feel a little less alone than he knew he was.

When he tried to find him at school, the bastard would avoid Joseph at all costs. Joseph had even tried texting and calling and still got nothing from the other boy. If that wasn’t blow enough, when Joseph had actually dragged himself to the fancy ass dorms to talk to Liam, the roommate had said that he wasn’t allowed to let him in.

“Bullshit,” Joseph said, half in surprise. Seriously?

“Look, man. Liam told me that if you come knocking around, not to tell you nothing. This is me being a good friend.”

Low fucking blow. “He’s not even here, is he?”

A touch of guilt flashed in the other guy’s eyes. “What? No, no, he’s here and he don’t want to talk to you.”

Shaking his head as he rolled his eyes, Joseph snorted before walking off “Maybe he should have employed a better liar.” There were only two places that Liam would be if not here – Jordan or Eva. While Joseph had no idea where the girlfriend lived, although if he asked Maia she’d probably tell him, he did know where the asshole was.

Making his way to the end of the hall of the second floor of the dorm building that housed Liam and Jordan, Joseph stopped at the Empathy door. He wanted to fall into a fit of laughter because there was some ironic bullshit happening right here if Jordan was assigned to the Empathy room. The whole concept of names instead of numbers was stupid anyways.

Knocking, Joseph waited impatiently as he heard some shuffling inside. It had also been a week since he had seen Jordan and their disgusting encounter had occurred. Joseph had spent the entire night either vomiting or hunched over the toilet because he felt like he needed to but nothing came out. He hadn’t even gotten to enjoy his mother’s cooking that had smelled so amazing. She was confused why in the hell he was suddenly sick but he obviously told her nothing.

The door eventually opened, Jordan leaning all nonchalantly against it, a smile on his face. Apparently getting slammed in the boner was not a turn off.

Wonderful.

“Liam here?”

“People say hello.”

“I’m not people,” Joseph said in a bored tone. He needed to get away from this guy; he was making his stomach churn all over again. “I just need a minute with Liam. Tell him to get his ass out here.” No way was Joseph going in there.

With a humorous snort, Jordan replied “Baby, Liam ain’t here. But that don’t mean I don’t want you coming in. Why don’t you just come in?”

He was sure the step he took back was miniscule but Jordan’s eyes trailed the movement. “I’ll pass.”

Irritation crossed Jordan’s face as he crossed his arms. “Why do you have to play so fucking hard to get? I want you, you want me, all’s fucking good. So what the fuck is your-”

The decision was a quick one but Joseph went for it anyways as he slammed Jordan into his door, flicking out Ivo’s knife against the lacrosse player’s neck. “Enough. I don’t care how much you want me, I don’t fucking want you. Leave me the fuck alone.”

Jordan didn’t even look mildly worried which pissed Joseph off to no end. How did he know that Joseph wouldn’t do anything with the knife? “Go ahead, baby. Slit me open. Dare you.”

Lip curling in anger, Joseph flicked the knife closed and shoved it in his pocket. He couldn’t do it and they both knew it. “Just leave me alone.”

“Baby, you’re the one knocking on my door.”

“I’m looking for Liam,” he reminded with a hiss. “I don’t give a fuck about you and your debase feelings, fag.”

While the knife did nothing to piss Jordan off, the word sure did as he grasped Joseph by the collar of his tshirt and slammed him into the wall just inside the room. Shutting the door with his foot before pressing hard against Joseph, Jordan snarled “Say that again, I fucking dare you.”

Joseph happened to like his face and didn’t want to have to go home and explain a black eye to his mother. Grasping tight on the arm holding his collar, Joseph replied “Let the fuck go.”

He couldn’t help but wonder if Jordan had ever seen a healthy relationship in his life because one minute he was angry and ready to cause pain and the next, he was mauling Joseph’s mouth like his life depended on it. Joseph had never seen Liam and Eva together but he knew Jordan must have and Joseph was sure that Liam wasn’t a horrible boyfriend. The blonde just didn’t seem the type. Maybe Jordan needed to analyze how his friend did relationships.

The kiss wasn’t returned because no way was Joseph going to. He tried shoving the larger boy but with all the muscle mass the lacrosse player had, it was doing no good. A hit to the crotch wouldn’t work either because Jordan had slotted his knee between Joseph’s legs when the mauling had begun.

The only other idea Joseph had was at least getting the larger boy’s mouth off him. Grasping the short hairs of Jordan’s head as best as he good – grossly earning Joseph a small moan – he tugged until the mouth was ripped off his. Jordan’s pupils were blown and his lips were puffy but Joseph knew his own were probably worse on account of being on the end of the offensive.

“Just kiss me back,” Jordan whispered in an almost pained tone while pressing his forehead to Joseph’s. “Promise it won’t be terrible.”

It was already terrible. Horribly horrible. It made Joseph feel so disgusting. “It already is.”

Anger flashed in Jordan’s eyes but he let up and shoved Joseph. “Liam’s right. You’re a fucking piece of shit. No wonder you don’t have anyone. Bet even your family hates your guts.”

Shrugging like the words didn’t bug him because right now, he was just relieved Jordan was no longer touching him, Joseph replied “Probably right. Wouldn’t be surprised.” Bouncing off the wall and grabbing the doorknob, he added before walking out “Next time you kiss me, I’ll break your face.”

 


 

Blue walked out of Mountain View High School, ready to just go home. High school was totally different than middle. The dynamics and everything. Also the work; why so much homework?

“-him? Isn’t it?”

Looking to the girls who happened to be walking beside her, Blue rolled her eyes to whatever the heck their conversation was. Why did teenage girls always have to worry so much about boys? They weren’t a big deal. Just plain annoying or gross or jerks.

“Oh my God, I think it is!” one of them ‘whisper’ shrieked. The one with the ponytail was practically bouncing in excitement. Blue felt like she might have her in one of her classes. “Should we go try and talk to him? We should!”

Who? Blue glanced around despite trying to act like she wasn’t interested. She couldn’t help her curiosity for whoever this boy was that was earning all this excitement.

Then she saw him.

Kavinsky.

He was parked on the street in front of the gate of the school, leaning back on his car, smiling and laughing with some girl. She couldn’t believe when a pang of jealousy struck her heart. How stupid was she to feel jealous of some other girl? He hadn’t even been nice to her…although in the beginning he was all manners and super sweet…

“C’mon,” ponytail girl said to her friend, trying to drag her by the arm. “We’re not missing the chance because you’re shy.”

The other girl with a long brown braid was blushing. “What if we make ourselves look like over eager idiots?”

“Lindsey, stop. Let’s go while he’s here.”

Why was he here? That didn’t make any sense. Unless he was looking for someone. Me?

Don’t be stupid, Blue. He wrote you out.

It bothered her how much she wished he was coming for her. She was stuck between wanting everyone to know that she knew him or just being angry and ignoring him. But he had invited her personally to his party…had he done that for anyone else?

Maybe she should just go talk to him? Some part of her wanted to rub it in all the lovestruck girls’ faces that she and him had done fireworks together, all alone. That he had wanted her to call him Joseph unlike how everyone was supposed to refer to him by his last name. She’d bet that not everyone even knew what his first name was.

But she did.

When she looked back to him, there was a larger group of people – mostly giggling girls – around him. Should she? Was that needy? Stupid? Both?

Making her choice and hoping that it wasn’t the wrong one, Blue walked over with her head held high on her short frame. She could do this and show up all those other girls in their fancy clothes that this girl here was different and Kavinsky liked that.

Joseph liked that.

Reaching the crowd, she stood on the outskirts of it, listening to see if she could figure out why he was here. He was talking to some girl with long flowing brown hair and hazel eyes that sparkled. Blue felt like they were opposites in not just looks but personality too. Did he like her better?

“-talking to our English teacher. She’ll be out in a sec.”

So he was here for some other girl?

“I just wanted to ask her about Liam. That’s all.”

The girl looked a little dejected that he was only around to ask for whoever this Liam was. “Oh yeah, sure. They’ve been hanging a lot this week.”

Joseph nodded but Blue felt like he knew something from the way he simply crossed his arms. Not in anger but just as a loose gesture. “That’s nice.” She couldn’t see his eyes because he was wearing sunglasses but she felt like he was surprised when the ponytail girl bounced up next to him. The other girl was so close that Blue was sure she had wanted to just hug him. Why? It wasn’t like they knew each other. People didn’t just go around giving out random hugs like idiots.

I think I’m getting jealous again. I’m such an idiot.

“Hey, Kavinsky!”

“Hi,” he smiled though Blue could see through it. It wasn’t the bright soft one he had given her at the party.

“It’s really awesome to see you! I came to both your parties but never got a chance to tell you how much fun I had. Are you having another soon? We could hang out? Or even outside a party, you know?”

Someone was straight forward.

“I’m glad you had a good time,” Joseph replied, “But no, I’m not having anything anytime soon, sorry.” He didn’t even acknowledge the blatant date invite.

Ponytail was probably about to try again but Blue didn’t feel like listening. He had been interested in her first. Maybe she was being as stupid as these giggly girls but maybe she wasn’t. It wasn’t her fault he had somehow dug a pike of jealousy in her every time someone spoke to him.

Pushing forward a touch and hoping he wouldn’t make her seem like an idiot, Blue said “Hey, Joseph, can I talk to you?”

All heads turned her way.

Not cool. Blue could feel the burn of judgement in them all.

Tilting his head and probably examining her under those shades of his, he eventually nodded. “Yeah, sure.” He gestured through the crowd, completely ignoring ponytail girl. “After you.”

Blue could easily feel all the glares and stares of surprise at her back. They were extremely hot, blazing into her back through her bag. Coming to a halt away from the crowd where she felt like they couldn’t hear them, she turned and looked up at him. She couldn’t believe she was doing this. Where was sensible Blue now? “I, uh, wanted to say sorry.”

His eyebrows rose into his hair which he hadn’t done today. She was surprised there was no hat but he must have come straight from school because he was still in the obnoxious Aglionby uniform minus the sweater. His shirt was half untucked and the top few buttons had been opened when he had removed his tie, probably when he had taken off the sweater. “Sorry?”

“Yeah…” she trailed, losing her courage as she took her gaze off him and stared down at the floor. “I…treated you badly without getting to know you even though you were nice to me. That was really messed up so…I’m sorry.”

Silence greeted her words causing her to be too afraid to look up. Would he say more mean words? Make fun of her in front of everyone? When the silence stretched on without either of them moving, she took the chance and picked up her head.

To an obnoxious smile.

Damn him.

The shades were hooked on his shirt, revealing his sparkling eyes, and his thumbs in the pockets of his khakis. “Sorry, huh?”

“Why do you have to smile like that,” she griped, crossing her arms. “You’re so annoying.”

“I can be, yeah,” he laughed. “But hey, aren’t we all just a bit? And I’m smiling like this because everyone loves being proved right.”

Was he being a jerk or trying to be funny? Blue had no clue as she got lost in the vibrancy of his brown eyes. They were deep and dark but very pretty. “Fine, you’re proved right.”

The smile softened into the one she remembered from the party. “I’m sorry for calling you a bitch. It just pissed me off how you didn’t want to try getting to know me before you made all these assumptions.”

But how wrong were her assumptions? Being in school had connected her to the grapevine and the things she heard about him made her seem right. Those weren’t all just rumors either. “So…?”

“So,” Joseph replied with a shrug, “Get to know me better. Find out that maybe there’s more to me than all the shit people say.”

It almost sounded like a dare. Would she take it?

“Kavinsky!” called a girl, rushing over to them. She had a head full of bouncy ringlets and her nails were painted a bright red. Blue felt like she had seen her before. Part of the student government, maybe?

Turning and looking to the girl who came to stand beside them, Joseph gave her a once over before asking “Eva?”

“You got her,” she replied, her arms crossed tight. She looked angry. “No.”

What they were talking about, Blue had no clue but he sure did as he snapped “For fuck’s sake! Five seconds is all I’m fucking asking for!”

“Liam told me that if you ever came around, to say no. This is me saying no.”

He clenched his jaw tight, a flame blazing in his eyes. Blue wondered how he was when he was actually angry; he seemed the type who blew. “Fine. Can you pass a message?”

Rolling her huge practically black eyes that somehow still shined bright despite their color, Eva huffed “I’ll listen. Can’t guarantee that I’ll tell him though. He’s been mopey all week because of you. I don’t like it when my boyfriend is mopey. It’s not as cute as people might think.”

“Look,” Joseph started, running a quick hand through his hair. Blue really liked it without the gel or whatever it was that he used. “Just tell him that I’ve…been as mopey as him this week. My bad for being an ass when he’s…kinda the only person here that I can put up with.”

So he didn’t actually like all those giggly girls? Maybe Blue really was his type? Oh my God, stop. Since when are you so worried about a boy liking you?

Boys were trouble.

“That’s a terrible apology.”

Snorting in annoyance and rolling his eyes in what she could only call an epic eye roll, Joseph replied “Just tell him what I said and let me know. Or better yet, he can just answer his god fucking phone and I’d tell him myself.”

“If he wanted to answer, he would have. But I’ll pass it, word for word. That’s it.”

“That’s all I’m asking.”

Glaring at him with a raised brow, Eva snorted “Fine.”

“Fine.”

“I don’t know what Liam sees in you.”

“I don’t know what this fucking world sees in me and yet here I am.”

“Whatever,” Eva said as she stalked of, making sure that her hair was bouncing just that bit extra.

Sighing while shaking his head, Joseph turned his attention back to her. “So.”

Oh man, she was probably going to regret this somehow.

“Help me get to know you, Joseph.”

The smile that he gave her was wide and shining. With that kind of smile, he seemed like a regular boy, just trying to impress a girl. Maybe that’s all he really was.

Dare taken.

Chapter Text

“My mom’s sandwiches are better,” Joseph said after swallowing a bite of his tuna sandwich. He was finally getting around to trying the ‘best’ sandwich in town. Late but hey, better late than never. The tasting of the ‘best’ sandwich wasn’t done in single company either.

It was done with a guest.

Blue rolled her eyes as she replied “Bet you my mom’s beat yours.”

“Pft, not a chance.” He had to admit, the sandwich was actually pretty good. Definitely not the best but pretty good was okay too. “I feel like we’re about to descend into ‘your mom’ jokes.”

“Ew,” she almost laughed. Almost. Her smile was so close to being huge and Joseph could literally hear the little breath of laughter stuck in the back of her throat.

Joseph would take that as a win.

It had come as a shock when she had apologized to him at her school. Joseph had actually completely forgotten that Blue went to that school when he had gone looking for Eva. Which was stupid because he knew she was a freshman like him and there was no other high school besides Mountain View where she could go. But it had worked out which was nice; something was finally going right.

Well, it’d be nice if other stuff would too.

Like the shit with freaking Liam. Why did he have to be so difficult? Yeah, maybe Joseph hadn’t been the nicest but…the other boy was being plain ridiculous. He should be happy that Joseph liked him better than everyone else. Liam was someone that Joseph could easily tolerate and actually kind of liked spending time around. Friends weren’t his thing anymore but Liam would have been a likely candidate if they still had been. The blonde sure as hell was no Emilio – their personalities were pretty different – but he wasn’t bad either.

Even Eva seemed cool; she reminded him of Anka and Ivet in a way. He hadn’t guessed that was Liam’s type though. She was the opposite of what Joseph expected for the other boy. Not because she was black but because she seemed like she could kick his ass if she wanted to. Maybe that was why Liam liked her; because she was so different than the girls Joseph assumed he had had sex with.

She’d better pass on his apology though.

What was interesting to see back at the high school besides for getting to meet Eva was the way how some people had given Blue looks after they had finished talking. A shit ton of them were girls ready to murder Blue with their savage jealous eyes. Because of those looks and others, Joseph had waited until his still possible hetero savior started her walk home before catching up with her to invite her for lunch. He didn’t want her to have to go through whatever stigma came with being associated with his name. Or the jealousy and whatever other shit came with him. Lord only knew.

They sat and ate in silence but it wasn’t the worst kind where it was all awkward as they listened to George Michael playing through the store’s speakers. Halfway through his sandwich, Joseph’s stomach made that flip thing that he knew meant he had better stop or else he’d end up vomiting.

Crap. Not something someone wanted to happen on a ‘not’ date lunch thing. Especially when said person finally got their chance at getting the extremely headstrong girl to give him a proper chance.

Setting his sandwich down while taking careful breaths to relax his stomach a bit, Joseph took a gulp of water in hopes that it’d help. The last thing he needed was to throw up when he finally had Blue at least curious enough about him. That would probably completely gross her out. “You have siblings?” he asked in lieu of conversation.

“No. You?”

“Nah, just me.” Sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder how his life would have been if he had had someone to share it with. But then he’d come back to the conclusion that it was best that he was an only child – Joseph didn’t want anyone else going through what he had.

Nodding as she sipped her juice, Blue said “But I’ve got like fifty thousand cousins and aunts. All women too.”

That wasn’t at all the weirdest thing in the world. Also, there was no way that that was even possible. He snorted in reply, “I don’t know about fifty thousand.”

“No, really. I got tons. And they all live with me and my mom. All in one house.”

Glancing up at her from his sandwich as he had been deciding if he should try eating again, Joseph raised a brow in both questioning and curiosity. Fifty thousand women definitely didn’t fit in one house. Even a house as huge as Joseph’s which he knew Blue probably didn’t live in. “All in one house? You’re bullshitting me, right?”

He liked the smile that came on her face. It was almost like ‘hah, in your face.’ “Nope. I’m completely serious. All of us in our little blue house.”

What the hell. It almost sounded like some weird fairy tale shit. Taking a sip of his water, Joseph asked “Do you find it ironic that you’re named Blue and that you live in a blue house? Also, there’s no way that many people live in one house. Just saying.”

Rolling her eyes with her mouth in that tilt that Joseph had come to recognize as her being unamused, Blue said “I fail to see the irony.”

Great. Now she was annoyed all over again. That was how they got into a mess the first time. “I don’t mean anything by it.” He picked a crumb off the bread of his sandwich; it was safer than taking an actual bite. “Why do you have to get bothered so easily?”

Crossing her arms and now looking officially pissed to his distress, Blue stared at him with a look that could probably rival his mother’s. “Why can you not be a jerk for five minutes?”

For fucks… “I’m just asking a question. I was making a goddamn joke, Jesus fucking Christ.” Yanking his phone out of his pocket as it began to vibrate, Joseph added “It’s not ironic and cool about your fifty thousand family members. Goddamn. My fucking bad.”

She looked a little less defiant like maybe she was regretting getting offended as he answered his phone. Maybe she was replaying the words and hearing the humor in them. “Guess Eva passed my apology?” he asked once he opened the phone.

“If that’s what you call that bull,” Liam snorted on the other end of the line. “That was a horrible apology. But hey, I expect no less from Kavinsky, the piece of shit bastard asshole.”

Talk about insults. Jesus. If he didn’t need or slightly kind of miss Liam, Joseph would tell the blonde to go fuck himself. “It wasn’t that bad,” he tried to tease. Joseph wanted them to fall back into the easiness of their joking. Hopefully, Liam was in the mood to forgive. “C’mon. You know you miss my stupid face.”

Silence followed his words but Joseph wasn’t worried. He was more than eighty percent sure that Liam would give in. It was just the way he had come to notice the other boy was. Hoping his stomach was in a nice place because he wanted to finish his sandwich, Joseph took a bite as he continued to wait. Eventually, Liam muttered “I hate your guts.”

“No you don’t.”

A groan came over the line before Liam sighed “I wish I did. Fine, forgiven. Don’t treat me like shit, asshole.”

“I make no promises but I’ll give it my best shot.”

“Whatever,” Liam mumbled and Joseph could easily imagine him crossing his arms in that way that he did and rolling those deep set eyes. “I’ll see you at school on Monday. Me and Eva have plans for the weekend, don’t bug us.”

“Pft,” he blew after a sip of water. “Since when do I bug you? Plus, to be honest, Eva possibly scares the shit out of me. I felt like she was about to bust my head in when we talked. Jesus fuck.” He couldn’t help but smile when a tiny one came on Blue’s face from his words. If this girl would just smile some more, everything would be cool.

“She wanted to and she probably would have been able to. Anyways, I gotta go. Don’t-”

“Bug you and Eva, yeah, yeah,” Joseph finished before closing the line and putting his phone back in his pocket. Focusing back on his company, he asked “You got a phone?”

“Nope.”

He couldn’t help but wonder if she actually didn’t or if she just didn’t want him to know. “Oh, oh well then. So, like, there’s no dudes living in your house?”

“Nope. Better that way.”

Man hater, much? “I guess. We can be total pains sometimes, you know?”

That actually earned him a real laugh.

A laugh.

Feeling really good about himself right now, Joseph added with a wide smile “Hey, we know how we are. Guys are totally extra in that way that isn’t cute.”

Blue erupted into another laugh and if that didn’t have Joseph’s self-esteem on the rise, then nothing probably would. “Not cute at all,” she said once she caught her breath. “But I guess being self-aware is a good thing.”

“I try,” he nodded solemnly. Picking off one last piece of bread from his so close to finished sandwich, Joseph stood before gulping down the last of his water. “Done?” Her plate was empty but maybe she still wanted to sit.

“Uh, yeah,” she replied as she too stood.

As he pulled out his wallet, he noticed that she was glancing around for something. “Lose something?”

Wrapping a piece of her hair behind her ear, Blue shrugged. “I forgot my bag is in your car. My wallet’s in there. Is the car open?”

Yeah, his mother would beat him if he ever made a girl he was sitting with pay for her lunch. Ivo would beat him a second time. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll pay.” It wasn’t like the sandwiches were expensive anyways.

When a fire lit in Blue’s eyes, Joseph realized that that was the very wrong thing to say to her. Their relationship was a bit like his and his mother’s – one minute they were happy and the next they were fighting. “I can pay for myself.”

“I’m sure you can,” he said quickly, hoping to defuse the situation. “But I invited you so I should be the one paying.”

“I don’t need raven boy money.”

Sighing as he shook his head, Joseph decided just to give in. He wasn’t up for fighting right now. “That’s not what I meant but whatever. I’ll pay and you can pay me back in the car. Good?”

That solution didn’t seem to fully sit well with her but regardless, she nodded before Joseph went to the cashier to pay. Jesus, this girl could be not only a headache but a handful too. Maybe he really had to stop with the whole relationship thing. Their personalities didn’t seem to be fitting together very well.

After he had dropped Blue literally a block from her house – her request – Joseph drove home. He reluctantly had accepted Blue’s money although he kept telling her that it wasn’t worth it. But she had been adamant so Joseph eventually took them. It had gotten ridiculous for them to continually throw the money at each other, back and forth. The cash ended up being given to a beggar on the street corner anyways. If there was one lesson that would always stick with him from Ivo, it was to always be generous and good to the people who were less fortunate.

One of Ivo’s better qualities.

“For fuck’s sake,” he grumbled as he turned into his driveway, passing the Mercedes parked on the street. The bastard just didn’t give up, did he? It wasn’t as charming as he probably thought it was. Once he parked and turned off the car, Joseph bounced out of his car with annoyance as he walked over to Jordan. “What.”

Freakily, the dude looked slightly embarrassed as he got out of his own vehicle and leaned up against it. “Hi.” The other boy winced when Joseph shoved him back against the car. “Ouch.”

Grasping the collar of Jordan’s shirt, Joseph hissed “The fuck you doing here.” It was best to act like he hadn’t seen the slight growth of Mr. Lacrosse’s pupils. “I don’t want to see your fugly ass mug.”

What was even more freaky was that Jordan wasn’t even on the defensive. All the other boy did was stick his hands in his pockets and look to the side with a blush on his cheeks. Jesus. He wasn’t going to apologize was he?

Joseph hoped not.

“Look…I just…I just wanted to say I’m sorry if I…maybe hurt you or something. I’m thinking I might’ve shoved you a little too hard into the wall.”

Fuck.

He apologized.

Goddammit.

“I hope you’re not like…hurt or something,” Jordan finished with a mumble and still not meeting Joseph’s gaze.

There actually had been some slight bruises discovered but because of his weak body in general, that was pretty normal. He didn’t bruise easy per se but he wasn’t a freaking wall either. Regardless of bruises though, Joseph didn’t want this asshole coming around with an apology.

When Joseph continued with his silence, Jordan’s entire face matched his cheeks in color as he turned to meet Joseph’s stare. Clearing his throat and, somehow, the blush getting deeper, Jordan said “I, uh, got you something.”

Oh Jesus no. “You got me something.”

“Yeah. For the apology.” He tried easing Joseph’s hand off his collar which Joseph allowed before reaching into his open window and handing Joseph a box.

It was even wrapped. Oh dear God.

Taking the offering, he merely stared down at it and the absurdity of this whole situation. The gesture was…sweet but dammit, Joseph didn’t want sweet and he sure as hell didn’t appreciate it. But it’d be so cruel to reject the gift, whatever it was, and be a complete jerk. Maybe that was what Kavinsky was but…dammit.

“You gonna open it?”

Sighing and giving in, Joseph ripped off the paper as he tried to guess in his mind what in the world Jordan thought he liked. When he popped off the lid of the box, he was caught with surprise.

The ass paid way too much attention to him.

“I noticed that you read a lot,” Jordan said, his voice slightly proud but also worried like he had committed an invasion of privacy. “Like sometimes before school, at break, or whatever, you read when Liam isn’t around. Obviously, you and Liam haven’t hung out in a while so that’s how I noticed. I don’t know what kind of books you like so…I just took a chance. I hate reading but it even sounded interesting to me so…”

Removing it from the box and flipping it over to read the blurb, Joseph had to grudgingly admit that it did sound interesting. It was about this kid, Eddie, and how despite being book smart, he tried hard to be a delinquent. He loved to read but he skipped school instead. Growing up in a crime ridden neighborhood, it was the norm; you had to be how you had to so you could make it.

Joseph wasn’t about romance so much but even that didn’t make it sound bad. Eddie meets a girl named Lupe who dreams of college and, Joseph assumes from the summary, is the reason of Eddie trying to make his life better.

Fuck, the book sounded good. He literally wanted to just start it right this second.

Jordan, of course, had no knowledge of any of these thoughts as he stood and bounced from one foot to the other waiting for Joseph just to say something. “Do you like it?” he eventually asked tentatively. “I thought it sounded good but if it doesn’t, I can get a different one.”

He pretty much hated Jordan but the gesture was just so nice… Maybe he could pull a little honesty for the thought. “It…it sounds really good actually.”

A huge smile grew on the other boy’s face, his eyes lighting up in delight. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Joseph nodded despite himself. Damn him and his soft spot for books and damn Jordan for his observance and good choice in literature. “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Joseph watched as the overly tattooed role model in front of him unpackaged a fresh needle after slipping on a pair of gloves. “There won’t be a whole lot of pain but it’ll hurt.”

“It’s fine,” Joseph shrugged as he stayed sitting in the seat. What was a little pinching pain? Hell, it was welcome. Plus, for someone who often hurt themself on purpose, it’d be nothing. “Do you have to warn that all the time? I mean, babies get pierced all the time.”

“Part of the rules. And anyways, don’t you hear the babies when they break out into heart wrenching cries?”

Actually, he had because when his tétka had taken Albena to get her ears done, Joseph had gone with them. The shop in the mall had used a gun and an employee had done it but according to his research, needles at a parlor seemed to be better. Joseph had been shocked when he had actually found a parlor in Henrietta, tucked into a tiny nook in a shopping center. After lots of questions and checking out the place with a very examining eye, he had deemed it both clean and safe. He wasn’t going to take stupid chances with his health just because the guy seemed to be the only artist in shittown. But Drake had passed all of Joseph’s questions and tests so all was good.

No diseases today.

“Heart wrenching, huh?”

Drake smiled as he gestured for Joseph to lay back in the slightly reclined chair. “Don’t tell me that hearing babies cry doesn’t affect you. Bet you that noise affects even the hardest dictator. Saddam Hussein or some shit.” The bearded man with the startling blue eyes stood and walked over to stand beside Joseph’s head. “It’s a baby.”

His eyes tracked Drake’s hands as he took the protective case off the tip of the needle before grabbing a swab soaked in iodine. “One, thank you for not assuming that I’m too young to know who Saddam Hussein is. Two, I’m not saying you’re wrong. Just didn’t expect big burly beard man to have a soft spot for crying babies.”

“Who doesn’t?” Grabbing the forceps, he motioned for Joseph to turn his head so he could look at his ear better. What was even cooler about Drake and his business was that the man didn’t look for parent consent unless you were so young where he couldn’t pull plausible deniability. In Drake’s mind, despite knowing otherwise, Joseph was eighteen.

He’d make sure to leave the guy a good tip on top of the price of the piercing.

“Sorry,” Drake muttered in his focus when Joseph jumped a little from the cold of the forceps. “Alright, here we go. Deep breaths, Jersey.”

It started as a cold prick until it became a burning sear going through his earlobe. But it wasn’t terrible to the point of him doing more than scrunching his eyes in the pain. It felt funny having a long needle going through his lobe.

Removing the forceps, Drake said “Putting the jewelry in now. You good?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Joseph made sure to sit still as he felt the tattoo master put the earring through the needle before the needle was pulled out through the back. That was a weird sensation. His ear was sort of burning but it wasn’t too bad.

Drake put the back on before swabbing his lobe with alcohol. “And done. I think it looks good.” Handing Joseph a mirror, he added “Make sure you keep it clean and don’t play with it for the next couple weeks. Try not to sleep on it either. You should be fine but if you see anything odd like discharge or it hurts or your ear starts looking weird, come back to me, alright?”

“’Course,” Joseph replied as he checked out his new piercing. It did look good; nice and straight and in the middle of his lobe. Drake was a magical piercing saint with good eyes. Joseph would definitely be back for more stuff. What, he still didn’t know because he’d have to go down this path carefully because of a certain woman in his life.

Man, she was going to be pissed when she saw him.

“All good?”

“Yessir,” Joseph smiled as he bounced off the chair after he handed the mirror back. “Looks great, thank you. I’ll probably be back for more shit, just a FYI.”

“Love to have you,” Drake called behind himself as they walked out to the front so Joseph could pay.

Flipping through Drake’s portfolio on the glass counter as the artist rang up the price, Joseph stared in awe at this guy’s skill. Jesus, he was amazing. Joseph couldn’t wait until he decided to start his own tattoo. He was thinking of starting with the sleeve of roses and vines that he and Anka had wanted. From what he researched, sleeves took a while to complete so he could have Drake start with his shoulder where it’d be covered from his mother’s eyes.

“Interested in a tat?” Drake asked after telling Joseph his total. “Got a lot of stuff you could look through and pick.”

“Interested, actually,” Joseph said while handing the money over. “But I have a design in my head already so I won’t need the books.”

Cashing in the money and putting the tip in his jar in the shelf behind himself, Drake replied “You wanna start today then? I’m free.”

“Nah, man,” Joseph laughed, sliding his glasses onto his face. “I gotta go home to my mother today.”

Before heading home to get yelled at by his mother, Joseph pulled into probably the best burger place here next to McDonald’s. When he was hungry, Joseph knew it was best to take advantage or else he’d miss his chance. And if he got extra food for his mother to smooth over the upcoming fight, then it was all in the name of good.

Walking in, a smile spread on his face when his eyes caught on a particularly short girl standing to the side. “Hey, Blue.”

Blue glanced up from where she was reading a flyer of some sort. A soft smile grew on her face which proved how much progress they had made in the past months. They didn’t see each other too often because Joseph felt like if he pressed for even just once a week, she’d push back into not liking him. And despite it being part of his normally generous nature, he had made sure not to buy her a gift for Christmas. Joseph didn’t think she would have appreciated it the way Liam had.

Even fucking Jordan.

Joseph hadn’t wanted to get the asshole anything but the lacrosse ass had gotten him that book and it would have been so wrong for Joseph to get Liam something and not him. It wasn’t anything too mindful or extravagant, just a lacrosse bobble head dude and a rope bracelet with a lacrosse stick charm. Thing was, Jordan hadn’t removed that bracelet once that Joseph had seen since Christmas a little more than a month ago.

That was a problem.

A niggling in his head was wriggling around. This niggling was that Jordan saw way more into the gift than Joseph had intended. It was just supposed to be a stupid cheap gift. Honestly, it looked like shit next to the sneakers he had bought for Liam but to Jordan?

He had a feeling that in Jordan’s eyes, it was like a fucking engagement ring or something.

Very big bad problem there. Joseph felt that the unwanted advances were only going to get more frequent. And way worse.

Fuck him and his idea to be decent sometimes. Just fuck. How hard was it to just be the fucking asshole that he was supposed to be? Hard apparently.

“Hey,” she said when he reached her. “That’s new.”

She was pointing at his very new earring. Diamond stud and all. Was he turning into the materialistic side of Ivo? “Yup. Literally just got it done like fifteen minutes ago. You like?”

Whenever he asked her if she liked something about him, Blue would blush. To Joseph that meant at least one thing for certain.

The punk rocker liked.

“It’s cool,” Blue shrugged, acting all cool about it like he couldn’t see the blush tinging her cheeks. “Came to eat?”

“Hopefully,” he snorted. “You?”

Over the months, they had slowly learned things about each other. Joseph knew that Blue had a serious liking of yogurt that was so deep that she’d pick it over a lot of other stuff. Blue knew that Joseph had really bad eating habits.

“Picking up; not for me.”

“Figured,” he nodded. There was apparently an aunt or something who was a big fan of meat foods or whatever. Were these aunts even biological? “Did you already order? We can sit together after I do.”

Her eyes flicked around the store, taking in who was sitting. Joseph had come to notice that she was hesitant to ever really be seen with him. They’d hang out usually in places where she felt like people who knew her wouldn’t see. She hadn’t explicitly said all this but Joseph knew it. “Um, I guess I can sit for a little. But my food is almost ready.”

“Well, that’s something,” he yawned. Better than nothing. Joseph actually enjoyed her company and he kind of figured she liked his since she still was hanging out with him.

“What up, Kavinsky!”

Shutting his eyes, he groaned under his breath. “Jesus fucking Christ. Why.”

Jordan was at his side in seconds, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. Sadly, he was on the side where a certain something could be noticed. “Oh shit. This is new. Sick as fuck.”

He tried to shrug the idiot’s arm off but it didn’t work, so Joseph simply huffed and crossed his arms. Blue was looking between him and Jordan, questioning in her gaze. “Yes it is.”

Nodding in thought, Jordan murmured “Love it.”

“95!”

“That’s me,” Blue smiled only slightly apologetically. “See you around.”

“See ya,” Joseph muttered as he watched her walk off. He’d much rather be in Blue’s company than Jordan’s.

“Hey, so-”

“I actually gotta go,” Joseph interrupted before Jordan got out whatever he needed to say. Pulling off Jordan’s arm, he turned and began to walk away, no longer feeling that urge of hunger. “But I’ll see ya.”

Not.

Or, hopefully not.

 

 

“What. In. The. Hell. Is. That.”

And it would begin.

“Well,” Joseph started nervously while brushing his hair after the lovely shower he had taken to prolong this conversation, “It’s a piercing.”

“No shit,” his mother snapped, crossing her arms where she stood in the doorway of his bathroom. Either she had been coming to just say hey or to ask him something. Whatever the reason, it had caused the inevitable that he had wanted to put off for as long as possible. “Why the hell is there a piercing in your ear?”

Clearing his throat as he put his brush away and turned to face her, Joseph smiled nervously. “Uh, well, I, uh, got it pierced. At a parlor because that’s safer than…” There was no way he could finish a sentence when she gave him that glare that could kill. Joseph settled for clearing his throat again along with scratching his head.

“One, parlors are required to get parent’s consent if someone is underage. I don’t remember signing anything so obviously this particular person pierced illegally. Two, I didn’t give permission. Three, I didn’t give permission.”

“Mayko, c’mon. It’s not like I haven’t been saying since I was like twelve that I wanted piercings. It can’t seriously be a shock.” Dear God help him when he started his sleeve. Or got more piercings.

Huffing and throwing her hands up in the air as she walked away, she griped mostly to herself “Stubborn bull-headed men in my life! Who cares if Vesela has an opinion! God forbid they listen to a woman!”

There was a small temptation to call out that it wasn’t about her being a woman and more that they were just nasty bull-headed men. But then Joseph realized that it really wasn’t worth the headache that would come with those words. No way.

Throwing himself onto his bed after grabbing Peanut so she could snuggle with him, Joseph yawned for what could be the hundredth time today. Yanking his blankets on top of them to keep them all snuggly and warm, Joseph closed his eyes with his face pressed into his cat’s soft fur.

Flicking his eyes open, Joseph was surprised to find himself in his forest. Nowadays, the green pills were practically required to make it in. So for him to actually be in just from sleeping?

It was worrisome. Not even exciting.

“Get up.”

Jumping up in terror, Joseph came face to face with Diana who hadn’t spoken to him in months. “Uh, hi.”

The dragon girl looked the same, if only aged like him. Her eyes seemed more angry but that was it. As if that’s not a problem… “Follow.”

As he watched her walk off, Joseph wished he could just thrust himself awake right now to get away. He didn’t know if he wanted to follow or not. What if it was some sick trap that his volatile mind had conjured up? Could he torture himself? What if he could?

“Stop thinking and follow, silly boy!”

With a sigh, Joseph dragged himself after her, praying to God as he did. Maybe he didn’t belive like he used to but still. A little prayer never hurt. He didn’t know if God existed in dream space or could hear from wherever all the way over here was but Joseph sure hoped so. He needed those prayers heard.

Because for all he knew, bad shit was about to go down.

Chapter Text

“You’ve been stealing a lot,” Diana said as they walked on. Joseph had been coming to his forest for years and yet could never memorize it because it was always shifting. The same sort of things would be in it – birds, ponds, tress, and whatever – but they’d be somewhere else than the last time. He didn’t know if it was the forest’s way of protecting itself or not which made no sense because Joseph was technically the forest but okay.

Okay.

But that was why he had no idea where they were or where they were going. Nothing even looked remotely familiar. Damn you, forest.

“Well maybe if I wasn’t attacked every five seconds, I wouldn’t.” Was being mouthy with a dragon girl thing a good idea? Experience and books had taught him no, not really, but to hell with experience and books. Joseph was kind of incapable of keeping his words to himself, especially nowadays.

Blame laid with Ivo and his lack of filter. It was apparently genetic.

Huffing, Diana came to halt and turned on him, fire burning in her eyes. That fire burning within her actually caused Joseph to take a step back. Maybe mouthing off was not the best idea. “Silly boy, how many times must I say we are you? How many times must I explain? You are smart and yet so stupid.” Turning back around and continuing their journey, she threw her hands up in exasperation. “Always so stupid.”

Not wanting to fall behind, Joseph picked up the pace so they were shoulder to shoulder. Rather, side by side because even though she too grew, she was nowhere near his height. “Full offense, Diana, but no matter how many times you say that? It don’t make shit difference. I don’t understand.”

“You never understand,” she snorted, half in contempt like she was dealing with a complete idiot. Although, apparently in her mind she was. “You’re not even close to your great grandfather. Most likely never will be.”

Joseph stumbled to an abrupt halt, staring after Diana who kept walking until she realized that he was no longer with her. “Wait, what?” She knew his prádyádo? How was that even possible?

Her only answer was a raised brow that he couldn’t tell whether it was like a challenge or her being bored. Scratching his head in his confusion, Joseph tried again with the wish that just once she’d answer him properly. “Did you know my prádyádo? I thought you’re a figment of my imagination. I thought I…I don’t know…made you?”

Laughing, Diana gestured to the forest around them, even doing a little twirl. “Joseph! This is all a figment of your imagination! You created this!” It was creepy her saying his name; he couldn’t remember the last time she had ever actually used it. “Don’t you ever understand anything?”

No, no he didn’t.

Diana walked back over to him, a passionate flame burning in those slits of her pupils like she was declaring his fate or something. Like she was the master and he the student. “Joseph, this is your imagination. Joseph, you made this world just like all the ones before you, with you, and after you.” She held a finger to his chest, her claws remaining retracted. “You, Joseph, were presented with the gift. Your mind was strong enough to accept it. Most people, those ‘normal’ fools, they can’t handle the pressure and power. So the mind rejects it. It goes to the recesses of their mush of a brain, forgotten.”

This was the most explaining the freak before him had ever done and yet he was still completely lost with this unloading of new information. Did she mean that everyone was born this way? That everyone began with his power but not everyone could access it? That sounded right but he knew if he asked for clarification, she’d just get pissed again, call him an idiot, and walk off.

“Everyone is born with imagination. Some have better than others. This,” she did a circle arc with her arm, once again referencing the forest, “is all imagination. Built upon that of others, again, again, and again. One after the other or sometimes together unwittingly.”

“If…” Joseph tried grasping the thought that was tickling the side of his brain. “If everyone is born with this power…wait…” Dammit, thought. He knew it was right there at the edge of his mind, waiting to be properly examined. It was just out of reach.

“Think about it harder.”

“I’m trying, dammit,” he muttered, biting his lip in concentration. “Some people can’t subconsciously handle the power…it’s rejected. Like an organ? Those who can…that’s a successful transplant, right? It’s all subconscious because people aren’t even aware it’s happening. I wasn’t.”

It had been the night of his seventh birthday and he had awoken in the forest. Under a pile of leaves, he had found his leaf bracelet. Had his mind been ready? Been able to accept the ‘organ?’ “What about people who reject it? Can it affect people negati-” He stopped abruptly, another niggling hitting his brain. Possibly a major niggling.

Ivo.

Had Ivo’s mind been strong enough? Able to accept the gift only for it to go wrong? Joseph felt that maybe his father was some sort of schizophrenic after some research but what if his mind had been damaged because the transplant had gone wrong? Hell, maybe he was both a schizophrenic and had a bad transplant with dream powers, making his head the mess that it was. Ivo had a good imagination, even as old as he was. He loved to read and get lost in those stories and spent time imagining what could have gone differently in something like a movie or show.

What if the power had messed with his father’s mind? Could that have happened? With the assumption that everyone was born with it…what if those who had it genetically had it stronger? More control? Maybe that was why Joseph was able to control his dreams at such a young age. Take out heavy duty things or make perfectly forged people with just weeks of practice. Maybe it took other people years. What if Joseph’s powers were so controlled – in the old days – because it not only came from his mother’s side but should have from his father too?

Am I onto something or is this all just conjecture? It makes sense but… “Can it harm someone if the transplant goes wrong? Or maybe something traumatic happens?” Joseph had no clue when Ivo started hearing and seeing things but what if it was triggered? Or at least, the worst of it was?

Shrugging without a care in the world, Diana replied “If it does then it does. Not anyone’s problem. They should have been able to handle it, not to revert back to the foolish normalcy.”

Joseph hated Ivo’s guts but if dream power transplant surgery going wrong was the reason the man had issues, then it was a fucking problem. Because that affected everyone around him. However, it wasn’t worth the fight. He knew that Diana didn’t grasp the concept of people and humanity. She never would no matter how much he said or tried to explain. “Okay, so did you know my prádyádo or not? Met him?”

Eyeroll. “You haven’t been listening to a word I just said.”

“Yes I did!”

“Nope,” she said in that tone that meant she was done talking about this. Turning with her hair swaying as she did, Diana began to walk off. “Let’s go!”

Shaking his head with a groan because this was the most he had ever gotten out of her and yet he was still kind of stuck at square one, Joseph trekked after her. But a few steps in, he realized how fuzzy the grass seemed. Not fuzzy like soft but fuzzy like the dream was wearing thin. He’d probably been in for a long time, the forest had to be growing tired. Or…his imagination?

He really had no idea. This was all so much bullshit.

When he felt around the forest with his mind, trying to keep the seams together, he felt them stretching with the contact. Joseph knew it was too late for anything else. Time was up.

“Fucking Diana,” Joseph muttered into his pillow when his eyes opened. He didn’t even get to find out why he was following her. They just had to stop and talk, didn’t they?

Sigh escaping him as he stretched, a smile grew on his face as Peanut started to purr next to him. Scratching her between the ears, Joseph whispered “You’re the best.” His cat replied by letting her tongue slip out. “Such a fucking dork.”

 

 

“And this is eventually going to be a sleeve?”

“That’s the plan,” Joseph replied, his chin set in his hands as he sat and watched Drake examine the quick sketch Joseph had done. It was trash next to what Drake could do but it was good enough to give the artist the idea. “Just grayscale. Maybe a little green in the vines but that’s it.”

Drake was nodding as he examined the sketch of the roses and vines, his eyebrows scrunched. Taking out a blank sheet of paper and grabbing the pencil sitting on the table, he began resketching, forming the idea into an even better one. “I think it’ll come out good. They’ll be some empty spaces between the vines where there aren’t any roses though. You good with that?”

“I might think of something to fill in the space but for now, it isn’t a big deal.” Let him survive getting just a rose without his mother murdering him, not to go thinking about filling in spaces. “I wanna start at the top of my shoulder and then over the months work our way down.” By his research, larger tattoos were usually done in sessions with healing time in between each. The healing time depended on the body but generally, between a week and a month.

“Sounds good,” Drake nodded once more, adding a few more lines into the vines. “Thorns?”

“Yes please.”

Another nod. “This will end up looking sick as fuck, no doubt in my mind.”

“I sure hope so,” Joseph snorted as he accepted the sketch to take a good look. This was going to be permanently etched into his skin. It better look sick as fuck. Examining the drawing before him, Joseph was sure it would. The roses and vines were much nicer than anything he could have ever drawn. Oddly, Joseph could draw the most complex cars but everything else always ended up looking like complete shit. “I love it.”

“Great!” Drake exclaimed as he stood and went to a desk pressed against the wall of the room, picking up a file and coming back. Taking his seat once more, the artist took out a couple forms and slid them over to Joseph across the table along with a pen. “Read everything. You don’t understand, make sure you ask. Then fill out what needs to be filled and sign.”

Pulling over the papers with a finger and snagging the pen, Joseph took the time to carefully read all the sheets carefully. He didn’t want to accidently sign over his life or something. Some people were such idiots where they didn’t even read what they were signing, just wrote their names like fools.

Such fools.

Once he was satisfied with his understanding of everything he had read, he filled in the medical information and then signed everywhere that required it. “Okay. All good.”

“Niiice.” Drake read over the papers and made sure everything was good before eagerly asking “Are we starting today?”

“Nah, man, I wish.” He’d wait for Friday, that way he had the weekend for the worst of the wound to heal without having to leave the house or accidently have harmful contact at school or something. “You good for Friday…three-ish? Three-fifteen maybe? After school.”

“Definitely. I’ll be all prepped and ready by three and you show up within the hour. Make sure you eat really well and drink lots of water. Both things will help a lot during the process. It’s your first tat and session so I’m gonna shoot for no more than four hours. Can you sit still that long?”

Joseph nodded after he considered the words. He could do that. Hopefully the ‘eat really well’ part wouldn’t be too hard but other than that, all was good. “Yeah, yeah, good. See you Friday then.”

As he drove home, he noticed a certain special someone on a bike. “Hey, Blue!” he called out through his now open window. The petite girl came to a stop and waved, a tiny smile on her face. Joseph knew to take those smiles in strides. They were worth a lot. “Need a lift?”

“Uh, no, I’m good.”

Rolling his eyes, he pulled over to park and jumped out of his car. “Bike fits in the trunk, you know. Well, more or less but same shit.”

She took a minute to think about it before shrugging and getting off her bike and driving it to the back of the car. When Joseph reached over to put it in after popping the trunk, Blue gave him a look. Sighing, he muttered “In my experience and everything I’ve grown up with, women like a gentleman.”

“Maybe but we aren’t helpless,” Blue replied as she flipped her bike into the trunk, struggling just a little. “We aren’t just waiting around for a guy to do everything for us.”

“Blue,” Joseph snorted as he carefully closed the trunk, tying it closed with a rope he usually kept around just in case. Ironically, in case of situations like this particular one. “I come from a family of very very strong women. Strong women who have actually beaten me up to prove that they could.”

“You seriously think I can’t take you?” Anka laughed as they stood outside in her backyard. “I may be a year younger and shorter, but I can totally take you to the floor.”

“No, you can’t,” Joseph replied although he was feeling a tiny bit nervous. Ivet could easily take him down but she was older than both him and Anka. No way his younger cousin could, could she? “I’d like to see you try.”

A sparkling smirk grew on his cousin’s face as she snorted “Okay, twig boy. I don’t need more than five minutes.”

She didn’t weigh more than him, did she? No way. But he was still taller regardless so- “Shit,” he said in surprise as a force hit him down onto the floor. Blinking up in surprise, he had the urge to punch his smiling cousin right now. “I wasn’t ready.”

Literally sitting crossed legged on his stomach – making breathing a serious pain – Anka’s smile grew even larger. “No one waits in a fight, loser.”

“Because of this,” he continued, leaning on the trunk of his car with Blue standing beside him, “I know very well that women are not waiting for a man on a shining horse to save the day. Trust me, I get it. But there is nothing wrong for you to just once accept my nice gestures. Just once, Blue.”

“I’m getting into your car for a ride, aren’t I?”

Yeah, he shouldn’t ask for too much. “I guess,” Joseph sighed as he walked back to the open door, getting into the car as Blue got into the passenger seat. “Where to?”

Brushing a loose piece of hair back behind her ear, Blue shrugged. “I was just leaving school so I guess home. I don’t have anything to do.”

A smile grew on his face. Hello, opportunity. “I’m not gonna offer lunch because you’ll just get slightly pissy but how about something fun?”

He could tell she wanted to say something about becoming ‘pissy’ but instead the eccentric girl closed her mouth and scrunched her brows in thought. After a minute, she murmured “What kind of fun?”

In reality, he had no clue. For some reason, he still couldn’t really figure out what the fuck she liked. “Whatever you’d like. Throw an idea out there and I’ll make it happen.” Hopefully.

Blue looked at him carefully, like she was studying him, before her gaze flicked down to where his hand was rested on the gear shift. “I’ve never driven before.”

Not what he was expecting but Joseph could easily work with that. “I can teach you?”

Still looking unsure, Blue finally looked back up to his face. There was slight apprehension on her face, possibly from the prospect of getting behind a wheel but there was also an underlying current of excitement. After a few more seconds of thinking, the excitement ended up winning over, causing her eyes to sparkle. “I think I’d like that.”

Chapter Text

She was scared.

Actually, understatement of the year.

Blue was terrified.

“Maybe…this is a bad idea…” Blue trailed off as she stood in the open driver’s door of some car. She had no clue what it was even doing here at the fairgrounds but she was thankful that Joseph wasn’t letting her drive his car. What if she messed it up for him? Plus, wasn’t stick way harder? This car was at least automatic. That sounded easier.

“Don’t be silly,” he replied as he popped the hood and got out, going to the front. What was he checking for? Lifting the hood and putting the stick thing, Joseph added “It’ll be fine. It’s sounds and looks harder than it actually is.”

Joining him as he screwed off some cap and pulled out some wire thing, Blue asked “What if I mess up the car or something?” She watched him wipe the wire thing with a napkin before sticking it back in only to take it out again. “What are you doing?”

Sparing her a quick glance from examining the wire, Joseph answered “Checking the oil and water and shit. Car’s been sitting here for a while so I wanna make sure it’ll run okay. It’s from the Fourth party; used it for racing and shit. And this car is pretty shitty anyways so don’t worry about messing anything up. Although, I doubt you will. Driving is a lot of common sense and even the technical stuff isn’t that technical. You’ll be fine; you’re way smart.”

Blush tinging her cheeks because this boy somehow always managed to get one from her, Blue thought about how nice it must be not worrying about ruining a car because it was ‘shitty.’ Aglionby rich. “Still…”

Shutting the hood after finishing his check, Joseph leaned on it as he turned to face her. “Scared?”

It didn’t sound accusing at all, it was just a question but it still infuriated her. She tried not to let it tailor her answer though. They had gotten into so many arguments because she always took his words wrong. “A little nervous maybe.”

He looked like he wanted to hold her hand or something but he didn’t. Instead, Joseph simply walked back to the driver’s seat, plopping in. Blue once more followed him and stood in the doorway. The gaunt boy seemed to be thinking about something before he looked to her and said “Have a seat.”

“Uh…where?” He was very obviously sitting in the chair even though she was supposed to be the driver.

With that particular laugh that Blue liked, he smiled charmingly and patted a leg. “Duh, here.”

Did he seriously mean… “O-On your lap?” Her face was so hot, an egg could probably be cooked on it. Could she bring herself to sit on a boy’s lap? On an Aglionby boy’s lap?

The charming smile grew larger. “Yeah. I’m thin as fuck and you’re small as fuck so we’ll fit.” He patted his leg again. “I don’t bite,” he cut himself off with a bout of genuine laughter, “Unless you want me to, that is.”

An entire steak could be cooked on her entire body right now. She was embarrassed by the nervous giggle that came out her mouth but how could she stop it? He was blatantly flirting and daring and it was all new to her. How was she supposed to handle it?

Taking a deep breath and knowing that if anyone she knew saw her right now, she was so socially screwed, Blue carefully got in, taking the offered lap. Blue took another breath because that was what was going to keep her going right now before closing the door. She felt horribly awkward as she sat still and stiff in Joseph’s lap.

She practically jumped when he suddenly moved, probably trying to get himself comfortable. When hot breath made contact with her ear, Blue knew that red was the new color of her skin. “Just relax, Blue,” he whispered before he looped that same piece of hair that had been bugging her all day behind her ear. “But we don’t have to do this if you don’t want. If you’re too uncomfortable. No big deal, Blue.”

It was the way he said her name, how he kept saying her name, that made her firm her resolve. It was him giving her an out if she wanted it. It was him being that gentleman he always seemed to be around her. “I’m fine,” she whispered, barely hearing herself over the fast-paced beat of her heart.

“You sure?”

“Mhmm,” Blue nodded before trying to get a little comfortable in his lap. He was…kinda bony but it had never been so evident until she sat on him.

Oh God, she was sitting on a boy.

If the giggle was embarrassing, the squeak when he softly adjusted her himself was. There had to be a smirk on his face but Blue couldn’t bring herself to look at him right now. She’d just end up entirely mortified.

“Alright,” he said, voice going back to normal, no longer soft and…seducing. “First and pretty important, can you reach the pedals?” Joseph practically choked when she jammed her elbow back into his stomach. “Ow.”

Honestly, she hadn’t meant to do it. It was an involuntary reaction to his question which was probably harmless. He most likely hadn’t meant it to sound insulting. “Sorry.”

The movement wasn’t meant to be sexual or anything, it was just him rubbing the spot where she had hit him. But in order to do so, he had to wrap his arm around her. Whether it was intentional or not, it was a good payback because Blue’s skin – finally having calmed down – flared hot at the contact even though there were layers of clothes between them.

“Okay,” he huffed, leaving his arm loosely wrapped and hand resting in her lap. “I assume you can reach. Now, keys are in the cupholder. Start her up.”

Grabbing them from the mentioned spot, Blue put it in the ignition and twisted. She wasn’t sure how long she was supposed to twist but had probably gone too long because Joseph carefully rested his hand on hers and removed it from the keys. But he said nothing of it as he continued. “Alright, foot on the brake then put it in drive.”

That wasn’t at all nerve wracking. Taking a deep breath, she stretched her foot and felt at the two pedals. One was bigger than the other…that was the brake, right? Blue was too embarrassed to ask and show how little she knew. But she didn’t have to as she felt that hot breath on her ear again, a whisper joining it. “Big one, Blue.”

Why did he have to say her name like that? It was so…sensual. Soft.

Kind of sexy.

Not good.

Pressing down on the brake with a nod, she rested her hand on the gearshift. Her nerves were getting the better of her as she was too afraid to actually get the car going. What if she crashed? What if something happened? They were at the abandoned fairgrounds and in a huge empty field but still. What if?

Joseph shifted a little beneath her to sit straighter while resting his hand atop hers. Was it normal for hands to be so warm? Actually, all of him was so warm. He was warm. The boy also smelled kind of nice; he’d smell better if there wasn’t that underlying scent of weed mixed with his smell and the cologne. It bothered her that he smoked but at least he never did it in front of her.

“Relax, Blue,” Joseph whispered with that very hot breath against her ear. “You can do it.”

I can do this. Taking a deep breath, she held the button to unlock the shift and pulled it back to the ‘D.’ Her foot ached from how hard she was pushing the brake but Blue was too afraid to lighten her step. “Now?”

His other arm grabbed her free hand and put it to the steering wheel. It seemed he was going to remain in sensual mode because he didn’t revert back to his normal tone. Maybe he could tell how it calmed her down a little. “Now we drive. Make sure you can see at least almost passed the hood. If not, I’ll move the seat up.”

The hood was visible but barely. “Seat, please.”

It bothered her how she felt a loss when the hand that had been holding hers on the wheel left to scoot the seat. Why should she feel like this? In fact, she knew she shouldn’t. It’d just bring trouble. How did this boy manage to make her so stupid?

Both hand and breath returned. “How ‘bout now?”

Adjusting herself a bit in his lap to see even better, she froze when a tiny noise escaped his lips. Blue suddenly became extremely conscious of where exactly her butt was. How boys and arousal worked exactly, she didn’t know because hello, she was a girl but it was all she was aware of right now. How easy was it for a guy to get aroused? Could it happen just from a girl in a lap? Scarlet was the color of her skin as she tried to see if she could feel anything. Wasn’t that how it worked? An erection could be felt through clothes?

Any comfort and relaxation she had gained had been completely drained from that one noise.

Nothing was being said and she wondered if Joseph was wishing he had kept quiet. He shifted just a tiny bit under her and his hand still holding hers on the gearshift clenched just a little. Was she…affecting him? As a teen girl, Blue’s heart fluttered in excitement. She had that kind of effect on a boy like him? Blue didn’t think she had it in her to be the subject of a boy’s…sexual…thoughts. An Aglionby boy at that. Joseph Kavinsky out of all of them. Literally all the girls in her school talked about him. There was even one who swore she had made out with him. More than that, she had given him oral sex. No one believed her and Blue didn’t know whether to either. She was sure the other girls didn’t believe it because they were jealous but what was Blue’s reason?

Am I…jealous too? No way. I am not shallow like them.

But she was the one sitting in his lap so…

“Can I ask you something?” she breathed softly, breaking the silence.

One of his fingers atop her hand on the gearshift traced one of hers. Up and down, down and up. Blue had no idea how such a simple gesture made her flush even darker and cause a tingling throughout her body. She felt like her heart was going to explode from her chest and her stomach was going to throw up butterflies. Thank God they weren’t facing each other. “You can ask anything.”

“Did…um, did that girl really…did she really, uh…”

There was always that dream of knowing what someone was thinking at a certain time. What was Joseph thinking right now? But before she could come up with anything, all thoughts were erased as a shiver ran through her body. All he had done was have his nose touch the tip of her ear but the reaction it created was insane. Her whole body ignited into flames.

Keeping the contact between them, he said softly against her ear “Would that bother you?”

Yes.

Flitting her eyes shut, she murmured as she felt him grasp her hand tighter “No. Just curious if she’s a liar or not.”

“Why?”

Because I want it to be a lie.

“Just wondering if she just wishes that she had.”

A snort erupted from him before Joseph pulled away and leaned back into the chair. The sudden loss of both contact and warmth was striking. She wanted them back. “It’s always interesting to listen to what people talk about me.”

It wasn’t an answer; it was one of those ‘I neither confirm nor deny’ and Blue wasn’t sure she was happy about that. She wanted him to say no. To tell her that the girl was just an attention needing annoyance. But why did Blue need that validation? Why are you so stupid around him?

“You still gonna teach me to drive?” she asked because silence fell, turning her head to look at him. His head was tilted slightly to the side as his blank face examined her carefully. “I didn’t mean to offend or anything,” Blue added hastily because maybe that was bugging him.

“You didn’t offend me.”

Then why is your face so blank? Your tone so dead? Why did you stop being close to me?

Why do I care?

Blue had no idea.

That was a problem.

“Oh…then…”

His arms suddenly wrapped around her waist. Not tight where she’d freak out but they were there nonetheless. Scooting himself in the chair to go back to the way he was, Joseph rested his chin on her shoulder, his mouth an inch from her ear. “Just thinking about something. Sorry.”

God knew that she’d love to know what he was thinking about. “It’s okay. So driving?”

“Totally,” Joseph replied, straightening and going back to his normal voice. There was a pang in her heart caused by missing his soft whispers that she tried to ignore. Even the arms at her waist loosened. “Ease off the brake and onto the gas. Super soft.”

The fear was back at the current task and Blue wished she knew how to ask him to go back to the whispers. To hold her a little tighter and squash the worries. But she had no clue how to ask such stupid things. What she did know, though, was a very certain thing.

She was so screwed for him.

Big trouble had to be coming.

Chapter Text

“Ready?”

“Uh…yeah?”

Drake laughed as he pointed to Joseph’s shirt for him to take it off. “You’ll be fine, Jersey. Yes, it hurts but I think you can take it. Just steady your breathing and think happy thoughts.”

Ha. Ha. Him. Joseph. Think happy thoughts. Good one. But he had already made it here, signed the forms, and signed his life away for when his mother would find out so…

Joseph yanked off his shirt. He could totally do this.

“Awesome, dude!” Drake sat down in his chair beside Joseph left arm, dragging the roller tray/table that had all his supplies closer. Joseph had watched closely and made sure that the tattoo artist had opened fresh needles from closed packages. No fucking diseases today.

They were going to start with a rose at the top of the outer side of his arm, next to the start of his shoulder. Drake cleansed the area, applied the stencil which Joseph would have to pay extra for because it was custom, and then applied some Vaseline. “Here we go, Jersey. Happy thoughts.”

And the machine buzzed to life.

Dear God, I know I haven’t been to church in almost a year, haven’t exactly been believing, but have mercy on me.

 

 

In short, they were some of the longest four hours of Joseph’s life. Also, some of the most painful. The pain wasn’t extreme, proving Drake right, but it still hurt like a complete fucking bitch. Joseph had cringed in the beginning but Drake had started making conversation and Joseph had started to relax a little. By the end of the first hour, the pain was more of an annoying dull ache that he was barely registering as he chattered on about how in the hell could Peter Jackson just erase Tom Bombadil’s existence.

Turned out Drake was a Tolkien fan too. It was nice having someone he could just completely nerd to when he was busy being everything he typically wasn’t on the outside.

By the end of the last hour, Joseph had been more tired than anything else. It had been a long day at school and then a long day at the parlor and he was just beat. Hopefully, he’d at least get through the weekend without his mother noticing the tattoo. Just a little peace was all that he was hoping for.

Arriving home, he called out a hello as he hung up his keys by the door and locked up for the night. They usually didn’t bother going out in the evenings and while Joseph still saw very little evidence of crime here, he made sure to lock the door at night. He was surprised that his mother didn’t greet him but as he trudged up the stairs and down the hallway to his room, he heard why.

“Ivo, I don’t know how many times I have to repeat- You’re just never going to get it.”

He wondered what it was that she had to keep repeating to her bastard. That she wasn’t coming back? It couldn’t be about Joseph; that wouldn’t make any sense. It had to be something about her because who else would Ivo ask about? Deciding that he felt like making a point in showing Ivo that he was being ignored, Joseph knocked on his mother’s door and opened, his backpack still on his shoulder. Just one because, obviously, the other was currently out of commission. “Hiya.”

Her face had looked annoyed but when she noticed him, it blossomed into her beautiful smile that he’d kill for. Joseph never thought he’d see the day where Ivo had to work harder than him to win that smile. It had always been the opposite. “Hey, baby! How was your day?”

Slightly painful. His shoulder throbbed to remind him of its existence and of what he had done. “Pretty good. I got a B on that math test which is pretty good I think. But I probably should have studied harder.” Instead of ‘teaching’ Blue to drive and stuff.

Blue had literally been terrified to drive. She had put the car into motion and eased forward but it freaked her the hell out to where she had slammed the brake.

“Oh Jesus fucking Christ,” he cursed when Blue suddenly hit the brake causing them to both jolt forward. Seatbelt. Seatbelt would be a fantastic idea right now.

“Sorry,” she cringed, her hands grasping the wheel tightly. “We…were moving.”

Yes, because that’s what was supposed to happen. “No problem, just caught me by surprise.”

Reaching back between the seat and the door, he grabbed the seatbelt and looped around the both of them. He made sure that the way he looped his arm around her wasn’t anything but he did leave his hand in her lap. Joseph felt like Blue was conflicted on whether or not she wanted him touching her or not. She seemed to enjoy it depending on the moment and touch.

And he kind of liked touching her. That had to be good. Fags didn’t like to touch girls, did they? Joseph liked being close to Blue, she calmed his brain down if that made any sense. “Alright, gas. Nice and soft.”

Why exactly she was afraid, he wasn’t sure but maybe she just didn’t like the fact of literally sitting in a killing machine. But the day definitely hadn’t been a waste. Not only was he pretty sure that she was at least just a tiny bit jealous of the redhead who had sucked him off but after enough of her and his moving?

Joseph had gotten a bit of a hard on. From a girl. And if that wasn’t a highlight of his week, nothing was. He had known that he would either piss her off or make her uncomfortable with the offer of his lap but he hadn’t expected it to go as well as it had. Hell, Blue had shivered. Yeah, he had totally felt that.

All the way to his dick.

Totally on the straight path already.

The phone was in his mother’s lap but with the line still open. “Not bad. Could have done way better though.”

“Yeah, I know. My lazy ass apologizes.” He had been busy with something way more important at the time. Erasing the grossness of his sexuality was hella work but Joseph liked to think he was making good progress.

She smiled and rolled her eyes as she said “Food is in the microwave. Go eat.”

“Thank you!” he called as he crossed the hall to his own room, tossing his bag onto his floor. He was careful as he changed his shirt, mindful of the bandage on his upper arm. At least the weather was still pretty chilly; it’d be easier to hide his new ink with him wearing a long sleeve. The rose had looked beyond amazing when Joseph had seen it in a mirror before Drake wrapped it up while preaching strict after care instructions. When it was done, the sleeve would definitely be beyond fucking awesome.

After dinner and spending some quality time with the two ladies in his life, Joseph went back to his room and got ready for bed. The day had been long and taxing and he was definitely ready for at least a good couple hours of sleep. He wasn’t greedy so he wouldn’t ask for more than that.

But of course, typical of his life, Joseph didn’t get what he wanted. When do I ever? Because once he had actually fallen asleep, the next time he was aware of himself, he could feel the waves of dreams. Dreaming world always had a different air about them.

Maybe him and Diana were going to finish that trip this time.

Or maybe…

Not.

Once his eyes were open and he was aware of his surroundings, Joseph realized that he wasn’t even in the forest. At all. Like not even close.

He was home.

Like literally home. In Jersey. Hoboken.

In his house.

The dream was extremely fuzzy and Joseph didn’t know if that was because he was just plain exhausted or it was something else. Was it because…yeah…he had no clue. But he wasn’t going to waste his chance of being home. He missed it so much that it was insane.

Rolling out of his childhood bed – when did I stop seeing myself as a child? – Joseph walked to his door and opened it up, sticking his head out. The house was silent, not a noise existing. Or, at least, so he thought.

Because there was a faint sound of…crying?

Stepping out, Joseph walked to the end of the hall, stopping at the top of the stairs. Downstairs seemed quiet so…that left only a couple other places. And since Joseph didn’t think anyone was currently occupying the two guest rooms up here, that left one.

His parents’ room.

With soft footsteps, Joseph backtracked from where he had come except this time passed his room to go a door down. Said door was slightly ajar and the noises were definitely from there. Because this was a dream…nothing could actually happen, right? That had to be right.

Except, at least in Joseph’s dreams, shit always happened.

Curiosity was a powerful bitch though…

Opening the door slowly, Joseph peered in to a sight that made his heart wilt in sadness. Didn’t Diana say that everything was literally a figment of his imagination in this side of the world? So he had to be imagining this. There was probably no truth in this scenario but…

Hell, Joseph wanted it to be true. And dreams were nothing if not what you wished could be.

With a soft breath, Joseph slipped into the room and went to sit beside Ivo. The older man was sitting on the floor, his back pressed against the bed, his head atop his drawn-up knees.

And he was crying.

Or at least sniffling.

It was so easy to hate this man. The hate was so damn easy because Ivo deserved every ounce of it. No one else was to blame for the ruining of their lives except the asshole currently beside him. He was a terrible human being, a sick one too, so loathing his existence was appropriate.

Despite all this, despite knowing that Ivo was abusive to both Joseph and his mother, and despite living in hell…despite all of that and yet…

Joseph just wanted his father back.

Anyone who knew the situation and heard that would think of him as stupid. The easy victim of an abusive relationship, always forgiving, willing to give in. Maybe there was some truth to that but Joseph didn’t give a fuck. Because he wanted his family again. He wanted to live back in this house, see his aunt and her husband, his annoying cousins, and Ivet and bába.

He wanted Emilio back too.

Every part of what his life was had carved a cavernous hole in him, nothing able to fill the emptiness. Joseph didn’t care about hurtful words or hair pulling; they were insignificant. His father had loved him, he knew that for a fact. And yet despite that love, the man had thrown it all away because of one stupid thing.

“I miss you,” Joseph whispered to the figment of his dream still seated beside him. These were words he’d never say aloud and never admit to while he was awake. But here in the void of his mind, Joseph let himself admit it. “I miss everything we had, everything that we were.”

“I miss you too.”

If only those words were true. This was just a dream, his mind conjuring up his wishes to be cruel. Throw them in his face. “I wish that were true.”

“Who said it isn’t?”

“Ivo Kavinsky would never miss his faggot son.” No way. Joseph was sure that Ivo missed Joseph’s mother but that was it. But his words hadn’t come out accusing, simply making a statement. “You beat me within an inch of my life. You don’t give a fuck about me anymore. I’m no one.”

Ivo’s head stayed rested on his knees, not ever bothering to look up or to the side. “I ask about you every day.” What bullshit. His brain was such an asshole like the person it occupied. It knew how to make everything hurt. “How do I get you to forgive me?”

Stopping the snort that came out him would never be possible. Forgive him? Yeah, Joseph wanted his fucking life back and yeah, he especially wanted his father back. But there was no getting those back. Even if Ivo was able to lie his way through an apology, it wouldn’t matter. Every time he’d look at Joseph, his brain would probably immediately go to catching him and Emilio. Joseph would forever be a fag in Ivo’s mind.

There was no going back.

“Only way I’d ever forgive you is for you to accept me,” Joseph whispered. He may be playing straight out in the world, may be working hard to erase the fag side of him, but deep down, Joseph knew what he was. Knew how he was. What type of people he wanted to love. “After a seriously amazingly sincere apology where you admit all the horrible things you did to me. After you swear that I’m not some nasty sin. That I’m gay and that…that that’s a beautiful thing.”

“Maybe I just need time.”

A broken laugh erupted from him as he wiped the silent tears streaming down his face. “You have no time left. You’re already dead. I’ll never get to hear you apologize, never get to hear you tell me that there’s n-nothing wrong with me.” Resting his head back on the edge of the bed, Joseph stared up at the ceiling as he let his tears run waterfalls down his cheeks. Or…lack thereof. “N-Never get to hear me tell you how s-sorry I am for k-killing you.”

“You’re forgiven.”

Strangled laugh dying in his throat, Joseph covered his face and cried “God I w-wish that were true. I’m such a fuckup.”

“Well, I am too so I guess we know where it came from. Let’s be honest here, you’re only messed up because of how terrible of a father I was.”

“You weren’t always terrible,” Joseph replied after a slow deep breath, calming his cries. “No matter how much I hate you, there will always be wonderful things I remember about you. Nothing will ever erase them.”

He didn’t know if it was because he wanted to see his father so bad or because somehow, Ivo was as aware as he was in this dream but the man picked his head up finally and stared at Joseph. “Brat, I-”

Joseph jolted awake.

“Fuck!” he shouted in frustration. What if they were onto a breakthrough? It may only be a dream but he could at least get some closure from there. It would be fake and a lie but Joseph had always been a liar on behalf of himself. Why did this moment have to be different?

Jumping a little when his door suddenly burst open, he blinked harshly as the light was turned on. “Ouch,” he muttered when his mother came around the corner of his bookcase, looking half asleep herself. A quick glance to his clock made him realize that it was almost two in the morning. “Hi.”

Looking exhausted as she scratched her head, his mother muttered “What the hell.”

Rubbing his eyes, Joseph shakily smiled and shrugged. “Something wrong?”

“Oh no,” she replied sarcastically, leaning on his bookcase. “We all just shout ‘fuck’ in the middle of the night. I thought something happened to you, dammit.”

Yawning, he stretched his tired muscles that twinged in protest. For a second, he didn’t understand why his shoulder and upper arm ached so much until he remembered what he had done today. Scratch that, yesterday. “Sorry. I woke up at the best part of my dream.” Or at least he figured it was going to be the best part. What had Ivo wanted to say?

“Jesus Christ,” she grumbled, walking away with her horribly messy bun and bedhead. She slammed the switch to turn off the light before sighing a ‘goodnight’ and shutting the door.

His bad.

Chapter Text

“Cool, huh?” Joseph asked excitedly as Blue titled her head and examined his tattoo. She had to admit, it was pretty with the intricate black rose taking center stage and vines coming out from behind it. There was the temptation to trace them around his arm but Blue didn’t know if she should touch him. They’ve never exactly ‘touched’ beyond casual brushes.

And that time in the car.

Who was she kidding? He probably wouldn’t mind her touching.

“It’s really pretty,” she murmured as she softly traced his skin. Though it was flat art, it looked so real from the rose to the thorns poking out in warning. But the vines seemed to cut off abruptly. “Is it finished?” It didn’t look it.

Joseph shook his head as he tracked the movement of her finger, head rested in his palm, elbow on his drawn-up knee. “Nah, it’s going to be a whole sleeve. I have a long way to go. This is just from two sessions. But I’m liking how it’s going.”

“It’s coming out really nice so far.” Pulling down his sleeve for him, she turned back to looking out at the grounds of Aglionby. It was early morning and the weekend so there wasn’t a raven boy in sight. There wasn’t really anyone in sight on this fine Sunday morning. Sitting on roofs wasn’t really her thing but how could she say no to an opportunity like that? Especially when it proved to be a lovely morning.

It had been yesterday afternoon when she had been walking home from the store and the sound of a language she didn’t know rapping to a fast beat came to her ears. Over the months as she became more acquainted with Joseph, Blue had learned that he was bilingual and loved his heritage. So while she had absolutely no idea what the words were, she could recognize it as Bulgarian now.

So she hadn’t been at all surprised when his car pulled over beside her and the window came down to reveal the smiling boy. How this raven boy had caused her to not only find him charming but to actually enjoy his company, Blue had no idea.

But here they were.

“Happy to have accepted my invitation, huh?” he smiled cheekily. His face was covered with the sunglasses he wore but she could easily imagine that sparkle that came in his eyes when he was in a good mood. When his smiles were genuine. They didn’t happen often but were charming when they did.

Rolling her eyes, Blue snorted “You always have to rub everything in, don’t you?”

“No duh,” Joseph laughed as he took off his glasses and set them on his cap. “Where’s the fun if you don’t get to prove when you’re right? Uh, nowhere.”

“You’re so annoying.”

“Yeah but it’s the annoying guy who invited you to sit on a roof to see how pretty and quiet the mornings are. Win for him.”

It was definitely beautiful. There was no way around that. “Do you come up here a lot?”

He shook his head before turning and gazing out at the grounds below them. “I usually sit on my own. Seems my house had an attic that I didn’t know of. So I may or may not have made a way for me to be able to enjoy the sunrises from my own roof.”

She liked how he always seemed to like building or doing things with his hands. That was more than any other Aglionby boy; they usually just paid someone to do everything so they could lounge like jerks. “How did you not know you have an attic?”

“No attic in Jersey,” he replied with a shrug. “We had a basement that was connected to the garage. Not an attic. If we did, then I think our house would have been way too tall to be a house.”

“Which mansion is nicer? This one or Jersey’s?”

Joseph broke into a laugh, leaning back on his hands and smiling to her. “Who said I lived in a mansion? This house, yeah, because apparently that’s what people around here do. Back home, it’s just a house, Blue. Granted, a million dollar one but a house nonetheless. Three floors – basement/garage which was the ground floor, first floor although technically you had to use stairs outside to get to it, and then the second. Although I guess depending on how you count, the first floor could be considered the second and the second the third but whatever.”

“That still sounds like a mansion.”

Clucking his tongue to the negative, Joseph said “It literally looks like a tall rectangle. Surprisingly, it’s way bigger inside than it looks. Places in cities like that are usually super compact because there’s no space, you know? But I even had a backyard.”

“Is…that not a common thing?” She had a backyard. It was where her favorite tree lived.

“Pretty rare unless you’re like upstate New York or something. Staten Island. Most people have tiny rectangle backyards or balconies. Or they don’t have grass if they do have a yard.”

Interesting. Blue didn’t think she’d like not having a backyard. Or her tree. “Your dad must work a really good job.” She didn’t ever remember him mentioning that his mother worked so his dad had to be the breadwinner.

A shadow crossed his face and she was shocked by the quick flash of blinding hate in his eyes. They’d never talked about family much besides when they’d sometimes mention their moms. Was his father a topic that wasn’t supposed to be touched? “Something like that.”

Pushing more could end up in him getting mad but… “What’s he work?” She was Blue; he didn’t get mad at her just because of questions. Only when she was mean to him; judgmental. Questions had never warranted anger before.

Grating his lip between his teeth, the light in Joseph’s eyes died. His gaze examined her carefully like he was deciding if he wanted to talk about it with her. Finally, with that tone of voice that was so devoid of emotion, Joseph answered “He’s a mobster.”

Blue blinked at him in surprise. “Uh…seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“Like Italian mafia sort of thing?”

That was able to ear her a tiny smirk on his full lips though he still wasn’t like he had been. “No, like Bulgarian mob sort of thing. Italians don’t have a monopoly on mafias, Blue.”

The thin insult bugged her but she was more focused on the fact that she was literally sitting with a mobster’s son. “Does he…kill people?” Do you kill people? Mobster sons do that, don’t they?

“You’re starting to look worried.”

How could he read her so well? Blue didn’t have that skill when it came to him. “Just wondering.”

Softly taking her hand in his and scooting closer while setting their hands in his lap, Joseph whispered in her ear “Your fear is showing, Blue.”

Ignoring her fluttering heart at their proximity because it should be focusing on the more important thing of, hello, mobster’s son, Blue said stiffly “I’m not scared.”

“Good,” he continued in that sensual tone of his, nose just barely skimming her ear. “You shouldn’t be. I’d kill someone who bothered you before killing you.”

“You’re not funny,” Blue snapped, yanking her hand out of his and finding herself face to face with him. She may have sat in his lap before but their faces had never been this close, leaving less than an inch between their noses.

Dear God, he was something. Even with exhaustion written all over him. Why are you always so tired?

“You shouldn’t be scared. Just because he’s the head of a mob doesn’t mean I am.”

Wow. The leader. That had to be a big important deal. “I’m not scared.”

“Good,” he nodded. “You have no reason to be. At least, of me. You should be of him. Well, really, just mobsters in general. Gangsters. They be dangerous bastards.”

What she wanted to ask was if he was afraid of his own gangster father but Blue had a feeling that that would be one of those questions that would actually get him mad. That was too deep, too involved in his life. They may have never drawn lines for each other but she knew that there were some invisible ones anyways.

His father was probably one of those lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Actually, shouldn’t even be remotely approached. The man had to be or else why would Joseph come here with just his mother? Something had to be there that Blue would probably never be allowed to know. Truthfully, she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to find out. For all she knew, it was something horrible that she was better off not ever knowing.

“I’ll take your word for it.”

Joseph fell into silence but his stare was intense and, well, beautiful. She could get lost in the dark depths of his sparkling brown eyes. They weren’t shining now but when they did those rare occasions, they were stunning. As she studied his eyes, she watched them slowly work their way down, coming to a halt at her lips.

What would it be like for him to kiss her?

Kiss.

Oh no.

She still didn’t believe she had somehow discovered her true love in this boy, especially this Aglionby one at that but she did like him. Kind of a lot. That was bad. Maybe he really was her true love but they just hadn’t worked their way up to it yet. Love took some time and maybe theirs was still developing.

Oh no.

Please don’t try and kiss me. Don’t, don’t, don’t.

He was still staring at her mouth, his pupils just slightly large. But maybe that was the weed? There was a faint smell of it clinging to him so maybe?

Or maybe he wanted to kiss her.

Clearing her throat, she turned to look back out at Aglionby and beyond before Joseph decided to try something. He’d know that she turned away on purpose because he was a perceptive jerk like that but oh well. Excuses of why would probably be made up in his brain. None of them, of course, would ever get anywhere near the actual truth.

That she could very quite possibly kill him.

“My family is full of psychics,” Blue blurted, trying to not only track his mind away from the possible kiss but to also not feel that pressure anymore. She was kind of the freak around her classmates and she had always wondered when he’d hear about it. Maybe it was better if she told him herself.

“Psychics, huh? That’s interesting.”

His voice sounded…like he almost didn’t believe her. Or was thinking about something. Joseph probably thought that she was the biggest weirdo ever now. Family of psychics? Ha, yeah, okay.

“Yup,” Blue nodded, looking everywhere but him. She wasn’t embarrassed of her family and their skills but it was times like these that she just wished she were slightly more normal.

Shifting closer to her, Joseph asked “Are you one?”

Would he think of her as a freak if she said yes? She wasn’t but what if she had been? “Nope. No powers on my end. I’m the only one out of everyone.” It wasn’t entirely true because apparently she could make things louder for psychics. Should she tell him that? Maybe he’d think it was cool. “I kind of have a power, actually.”

“Oh yeah?”

The sound of interest…was it just her wishful imagination? “Yeah, I make it louder for psychics. Like I can make it easier for them to see and hear stuff.”

“Really?”

No way she imagined that little peak of excitement. Did he actually believe her? Think it was cool? “Yup. I don’t do it a lot though. Makes me tired. It kind of drains me in a way if that makes any sense.”

Silence came and Blue thought that she had completely blown it before Joseph whispered in deep thought “Makes way more sense than you can even imagine.”

That managed to finally get her to look at him. His words were coming out like he had any sort of understanding. But how could he? It wasn’t like he was a psychic and she was still skeptical on whether he believed her or not. At least about her family; Joseph seemed more or less convinced about her. “Yeah?”

Nodding while still lost in thought as he bit his lip, Joseph sat in silence, his mind somewhere else completely. At least he wasn’t thinking about the kiss anymore. After minutes of thinking, his gaze flicked up to her, his mouth opening to say something. He must have thought better of it or discovered his own answer because instead of speaking, Joseph closed his mouth and nodded again.

“You think I’m a freak, don’t you.”

Joseph’s head flew up in surprise, his eyes wide. “Not at all. Sorry, I was just thinking about something.”

“Yeah, okay,” she muttered, turning back to their view. The day was growing older, the sleepy town of Henrietta waking up. It was already afternoon but not many people got up before twelve on a Sunday. It was probably best if she headed home soon.

Squeaking in surprise when she was suddenly hugged tight, Blue turned her head and glared at a smiling Joseph. The sparkles were back in his eyes. “Excuse you.”

Grinning wide, he set his chin on her shoulder and winked. “I think it’s cool as fuck that you’re a psychic amplifier. Sexy as fuck, Blue.”

Blue looked away as her face burned. Sexy as fuck. Wow. “Um…thanks.”

“Aw,” he laughed, squeezing tighter. “Don’t get all shy on me now just ‘cuz a compliment.”

Yanking her arms out from his grasp, Blue tried pushing him off to his laughter. “Uh, you’re so-”

“Annoying! I know!”

Maybe she couldn’t push him because, apparently, even though he was a freaking toothpick, he was strong. Blue decided to settle for something better.

Grabbing his hat and glasses, she dropped them off the edge of the building to sound of his surprised shout. They both watched as gravity took its victims, hat and glasses landing down on the cement. The glasses would definitely suffer more than the hat but not her problem. Jersey over here was rich.

Mouth agape, Joseph stared down at his stuff, bedhead now apparent with the removal of its cover. She wondered if he had even brushed it today. What would it be like to run her fingers through? Maybe fix it for him? You’re getting stupider by the second.

“Damn, Blue…” Turning to her with annoyance flickering on his face, Joseph pointed down. “That hat is a fucking limited edition! You can’t just throw it around! Off a fucking building!”

That was news to her. He actually sounded upset too. “Sorry…?”

Annoyance was still evident in his eyes but he settled for a sigh instead of angry words. “’S’okay. Just…limited edition, yeah? Not again, please.”

When shame actually washed over her, Blue couldn’t believe it. How did this raven boy make her feel ashamed? What even? Why should she feel bad just for a hat that he could probably buy fifty of? It was limited edition, sure, but still. “Sorry.”

Rolling his eyes, he dragged her into yet another hug. The whole reason they had ended up in this mess in the first place. “Don’t apologize. It’s whatever. Just-”

“Limited edition, got it.”

Chapter Text

“New glasses?” Jordan asked curiously as they sat at a bench on the green. No matter how hard Joseph tried to keep distance between himself and Mr. Lacrosse, it just wasn’t possible. The bastard was like a hound dog; he sniffed out Joseph no matter where he was.

So Joseph just stopped bothering to hide. It was doing him no good anyways.

“Other ones got scratched,” he murmured in reply as he finished up his math homework for next class. The glasses had suffered from Blue’s homicide attempt yesterday. Poor things had to be retired.

He was still stuck on her saying that she came from a family of psychics. Could that be true? He didn’t think she was lying to him but he was more wondering if they were actually psychics or not. Was that sort of stuff actually true? It was sort of like blasphemy to his religion but…he wasn’t exactly religious…he had practically denounced God to be a complete fake not too long ago… And what about her being an amplifier?

Very interesting.

“These are nice too. Hey, so, you good with math, right?”

Stupid question to ask while Joseph was literally doing his math homework. “Yeah, why.”

“I need some help with my homework. Will you help me out?”

Liam, get here already, man. “You’re higher than me in math.” By literally three fucking years. “Doubt I can be much of help.”

Jordan looked like he was trying to think of some way to get Joseph to help him. “Well, yeah…but you’re smarter than me. I’m sure if you look over my notes, you’ll be able to figure something out. Please?”

Great. Not only was he stroking Joseph’s ego, he was begging. Goddammit. “Let me fucking see.”

A huge smile broke on the older boy’s face as he quickly opened his bag like he was worried that Joseph would change his mind in a second. Not that the notion was entirely wrong. He just might. “Shit,” Jordan muttered as he dug through his bag, “Think I left it in my room. Come with me to get it?”

Ha. As fucking if. “No.” Pulling out his phone as it vibrated with a text, Joseph groaned silently in his stupid brain. Somehow without knowing it, Liam was helping out his asshole lacrosse buddy.

Suspended for the rest of the day, come hang

Jackass across from him must have gotten the same text because he zipped up his bag with a small smile growing on his face. Depending which staircase they took in the dorm building where both Jordan and Liam stayed, Jordan’s room came first. Something told him that Jordan would make sure they took the specific staircase he needed to get them to stop at his room first.

Resigned to his stupid fate, Joseph shoved his crap in his bag before getting up and slinging it over his shoulder. “Let’s get your fucking crap before we go.”

The smile on Jordan’s face somehow got even bigger.

When they reached buff boy’s room, Jordan dragged Joseph in with him and shut the door. “Should be on my desk. Hold up.”

Letting out a sigh, Joseph leaned on the wall and watched as Jordan moved around the mess on his desk. He’d never paid attention to the room before but he was surprised when he noticed that there was only one bed. “No roommate?”

He flicked a quick glance to Joseph before going back to searching. “My mom paid extra so I don’t gotta share. She didn’t want no one bugging me.”

“Huh.”

“Found it,” the other boy said as he shoved the folder in his hand into his bag. Coming over to Joseph, he crowded close making Joseph’s stomach bubble in worry. For some reason, he could never bring himself to move when Jordan did something. Joseph was always just…frozen. His mind couldn’t handle a boy touching him so it resorted to his worst defense mechanism in the world.

Freezing.

Softly tracing a finger along Joseph’s ear until it stopped at his piercing, Jordan whispered “It looks really good on you.”

Not even a sarcastic ‘thank you’ was able to come out of his mouth. Joseph just stood like a fucking panicked idiot as Jordan pressed him into the wall until it was back to wall, chest to chest. Why can I never fucking move? Fight? Breathe?

Joseph had no idea.

“Why’re you so…fucking gorgeous…” Jordan trailed as he let his hand slowly work its way down Joseph’s jaw. It only stopped once it was carefully cupping his neck, Jordan’s thumb running along his throat. “What’s this from?”

Still lost in his head, Joseph had no fucking idea what this idiot was talking about until he really registered where and how the thumb was rubbing.

Damyan.

“Now if you move, we might cut something important. So?”

“Don’t move,” Joseph whispered through his shaky breaths as the knife pressed a thousand times harder.

When Joseph didn’t answer, Jordan shrugged and pressed in closer. The answer was apparently not at all pressing. Joseph cursed both Liam and Aglionby for getting him into this situation. Why did lunch have to be so fucking long?

Leaving little space between their mouths, Jordan breathed “So fucking gorgeous. And delicious.”

As many times as this had happened, Joseph still didn’t know how to prepare or react to the invasion. God, he was pathetic. He made sure to never close his eyes when Jordan kissed so his subconscious wouldn’t be stupid and get lost in it. Maybe even enjoy it.

Couldn’t have that happening.

Jordan let out a huff of frustration when his tongue prodding got him nowhere. Resting his forehead on Joseph’s, he asked “Would it kill you to just see if you’d like it? Plus, guarantee you, I can go down on you way better than that redhead from the party. It takes a guy to know what a guy likes.”

He hated how a tiny ball of arousal bloomed deep down. It was from the combined efforts of his memory and his desires. Joseph’s limited experience with oral sex had been beyond amazing and if that was just from a girl…

It must be fucking bomb from a guy.

Not that Joseph was willing to test out that theory. Even if it was someone besides Jordan offering, Joseph would never give in to the temptation. He couldn’t. “While I’m sure tons of guys enjoy your dick sucking efforts, I’m not going to be one of them.”

“I’m not a fucking whore, ass,” Jordan snapped, barely restraining himself from probably shoving Joseph harder into the wall. He wasn’t going to show up at Joseph’s house with another book apology, was he? Jesus, Joseph hoped not. “I’ve only been with three dudes. I want you to be my fourth.”

Three. To Joseph who had only gotten to enjoy his almost year with Emilio, that was a huge number. A slight tinge of jealousy burned in the pit of his stomach. Life was so un-fucking-fair. “Don’t want to be your fourth, bitch.”

Another flare up of anger was what Joseph had been expecting but instead, Jordan just smirked. “Baby, I think you do. You deny just a little too hard, yeah? Maybe you been thinking about trying dude but too afraid to fall off that straight path. Maybe you even been thinking about trying me? I think you have.”

Sitting in the back of his throat was a laugh that he wouldn’t allow to come out. Joseph had never been on the straight path, still wasn’t even though he was trying so hard. He really needed to fuck a girl already; that would be a defining moment in his straight career. Blue seemed to like him a lot more now so maybe he was on his way. Although, she had turned away from the then upcoming kiss…

Maybe he needed to think about that one.

Turning his focus to where it should be, Joseph snorted “Sweets, you’re the last person in my sexual fantasies. If I was gonna spend my days jerking to guys, I’d take a whole lot of other ones before ever picking you.”

“I guarantee that’ll change,” Jordan shrugged. He wasn’t worried by this development if his cocky stupid face was anything to go by. “Now since we’re talking about hand action, lemme tell you, baby, I jerk to your sexy face and voice all the time.” He pointed to his bed, “Right there. And if these stupid dorms had private showers, I’d be jerking in there too. Easier clean up, you know?”

How did one stop themselves from throwing up?

Simple.

They didn’t.

Hunched over on the floor and coughing out everything in his puny stomach that cows would laugh at, Joseph tried to turn off his brain. It was blaring with thousands of sirens, ready to throw him into the deep end of the panic game. The loudest sirens even had flashing lights.

WRONG.

DISGUSTING.

FAGGOT.

Those were his own words. Words that he was used to hearing all the time. Repeating all the time. What had knocked him down was when the panic game decided to induce memories that always made Joseph sick. Cry. Hurt.

Ivo’s words.

“YOU SICK DISGUSTING BASTARD! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU!”

“What the fuck do you think I want with a fag? The fuck are you even worth?”

“You’re fucking pathetic, fag.”

“Because I’m going to beat the faggot out of you.”

“I refuse. No son of mine is a cocksucker.”

“No son of mine.”

And then the gun shot.

Loud, brash, and echoing.

Guilt flooded in and broke all his barriers that he used during the day to keep out the world. Flood gates officially shattered, Joseph hunched over his pile of vomit, barely supporting himself up with his arms as he sobbed. It didn’t matter how much he hated Ivo, the guilt would never go away.

He had killed his father. And despite Joseph being the one who was wronged, he wanted to beg for forgiveness. But murderers didn’t get forgiveness. They didn’t deserve it.

Joseph was so out of it that he didn’t even react to the hand rubbing his back, up and down, down and up, almost as soft as his mother when she was trying to soothe him. His tiny ‘Jordan siren’ in the back of his brain was wailing loudly, telling him to get the other boy’s hand off him but it was being drowned out by the rest of his head. The parts that screamed murderer and fag and every other word Joseph knew applied to his revolting being.

They were louder than anything else.

Eventually the hand carefully cupped Joseph’s shoulder and pulled him up to rest against the wall. Through his blurry tear-filled eyes, Joseph took in Jordan’s worried face. Explaining this mess was not going to be easy. What was he supposed to say anyways? Sorry I threw up on your floor because the thought of being sexually appealing to a man triggered the hell out of me? Sorry that the thought of being gay makes me sick? Sorry that my dad attempted to beat the faggot out of me and it causes panic induced memories?

None of that sounded like a solid plan.

“I’m not going to ask if you’re okay because, very obviously, you aren’t,” Jordan began, “But…are you a little better?”

Wiping his eyes with shaky hands, Joseph replied “I’m fine. Never been better actually.”

“Uhuh.”

“Really.”

Jordan nodded slowly, ignoring the pile of puke beside them, before yanking off his shirt and handing it to Joseph. When Joseph raised a brow in question, he explained “I don’t have tissues.”

With a snort of amusement despite himself, Joseph took the offered shirt and made sure to get all the boogers possible in it before using a clean corner and wiping his face. Dropping it in Jordan’s lap, he repeated “I’m fine.”

“And again, uhuh.”

Taking a deep breath, Joseph said “Liam’s probably wondering if we died.”

“Liam’s the least of my concerns right now. Are you sick? Do you wanna see the nurse?”

No, no he didn’t. All the nurse would realize, if she were actually smart and not one of those who just thought a smile fixed everything, was that Joseph was battling depression. No news there. She’d refer him to a doctor and they’d try to get him back on his pills.

Yeah, not something he wanted.

“Just…stomach’s not agreeing with me.”

From the corner of his eye, Joseph could see Jordan once more nodding slowly. “And the breakdown?”

“Brain’s not agreeing with me.”

“Of course.”

Rubbing his eyes as he tipped his head up on the wall to stare at the ceiling, Joseph blinked up and sighed. Even ceiling staring was painful; it was a habit both he and Ivo had done so often that sometimes they had joined forces and done it together.

Fuck.

Silence overtook the air, each of them lost in their heads. Well, Jordan probably was. Joseph was just trying to keep his empty and stay the hell out of it. Lunch had to be ending soon and Liam definitely thought they died but they stayed put. The quiet was what Joseph needed right now, not school or Liam.

After some time, Jordan shifted a bit, copying the way Joseph was sitting and staring. “My older brother has problems with depression too. He started this therapy program though like six months ago. It’s been working really well. He takes antidepressants but also does therapy.”

“…counseling is for anyone and everyone who needs it.”

“Counseling is for everyone, Joseph.”

Great, now his brain was making him listen to Emilio and tetíncho Yulian. Talk about a day of memories.

“The therapy is good because he talks about his day. It doesn’t even have to be about what’s bothering him, just chatting. Unloading, you know? They even helped him set up this schedule where they help him plan his hours. So like every day at seven, before work, he goes out for a run. Exercise really helps.”

“Who says I’m depressed,” Joseph whispered. A damn flower could tell that he was depressed but he hated how Jordan knew what the problem was.

Part of the problem but same shit.

“Maybe if I didn’t have personal experience with my brother, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. But I do so I can.”

“I’m just tired.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that from him. Couple days later he tried to kill himself with a bottle of pills.”

Joseph wasn’t sure if he had reached that particular point yet but he wasn’t going to lie and say that ending it hadn’t occurred to him. The two main reasons he was even still alive were his mother and Peanut. He knew that a person was supposed to live for themselves but Joseph wasn’t worth living for. The wonderful ladies in his life were so that’s where he set his focus.

“I’m fine.”

A skeptical snort erupted from Jordan but other than that, the lacrosse player dropped the topic. “We should go check in with Liam before classes. Our boy probably thinks were ditching him, not showing up or answering his texts.”

Chapter Text

Fuck his life.

“Fuck my life.”

“You’re such a complainer,” Diana snorted as she stood over him, her hair dangling down over him. “I don’t even know why you are complaining. But you complain too much.”

Joseph was complaining because he needed to. Because he felt like it. Because waking up with Diana in your face was fucking terrifying. “Bitch.”

Arching her blood red brow, Diana said without a care “So?”

Why did insults never affect the freak? “What do you want? To tell me some more how stupid I am?”

“Nope,” she said, taking a seat beside him patting him like that was soothing or something. Only in her delusional freak head maybe. “Just to watch you fail again.”

Wow, way to rub it in. Maybe the Evos he continually pulled out of his head weren’t perfect but at least Joseph was able to see progress now. Every time he awoke with another, there was one less flaw. That didn’t mean much being that there were tons of flaws but still.

Progress.

He didn’t understand why he couldn’t pull out a car when he had pulled out two people. How was an inanimate object harder than a human being? Joseph’s head wasn’t healthy like it had been before but still. What the flying fucks?

Sighing, he sat up and glanced at Diana. “So…”

“No.”

“You don’t know what I was going to say.”

Rolling her eyes, Diana replied “I always know, silly boy.”

“Fine,” Joseph muttered. The invasion of his private thoughts sucked. Where was privacy in this place?

“There isn’t any.”

“Will you stop,” he griped as he stood, making his way over to the Evo waiting for his failure. “I don’t see why you can’t just tell me if you’ve met my prádyádo. How hard is that to answer?”

“Take out your failure and go, Joseph.”

Waking while sitting in his failure, Joseph wondered why, when it came to talking about dreaming, she referred to him by name. She never did for anything else. What was up with that? All he wanted to know was if she had met his great grandfather. Actually, Joseph wanted to know a lot of things but that was what was center stage in his head right now. It seemed pretty important to him.

Getting out of the failed car, Joseph decided to give up for the day. Three failures in a row gave him a massive headache and he wasn’t in the mood anymore. There was something he was missing. “Maybe I need more drugs,” he snorted while trudging to his actually functional car.

Deciding that he needed something to brighten his shitty mood and maybe distract him from his headache, Joseph drove in the direction of Blue’s house. He’d never gone down her street or even seen her house because she preferred he didn’t, but Joseph generally got lucky at finding her around there. At first, he had thought that she was embarrassed by where she came from and where he came from. Class differences or whatever.

Turns out, she just didn’t want the fifty thousand people in her home knowing about him. He kind of understood why; Joseph wasn’t exactly the prime specimen that someone would want their daughter hanging out with. But it would become a problem if they were ever to become a thing. Once was more than enough for him and secret relationships.

As he drove with eyes wide open, Joseph’s mind went back to their almost kiss a few days ago. She had definitely known what he had wanted to do. Her reaction had been to turn away and change the subject. Had she just not been ready or she didn’t want to kiss him at all? Joseph was sure that she liked him; her frequent blushes were enough proof. So…maybe she just hadn’t been ready then?

That was probably it. What else could there be? He was one hell of a charmer.

Reaching her street and lowering his music, he decided to try something new. Parking and making sure his car was locked up, Joseph made his way down the street, glancing at all the houses he passed. Hers was blue… Coming to a halt in front of one, Joseph felt like it wasn’t it. He didn’t know why he felt it but he did which meant that there were multiple blues on this street.

He kept walking.

Down the street, he saw another. Or…another two? The house was weird from this angle so maybe it was just the view but it sure seemed as though it was two houses put together. That couldn’t be, could it? As he walked closer, he took in how nice the lawn and beautiful tree were. For some reason, they brought him peace. Looking towards the back, he could see the tall branches of another tree coming from the backyard. Blue had mentioned that she liked to sit in her tree…

That had to be it.

Joseph didn’t bother going any farther than the tree on the lawn. He hadn’t planned on using the front door anyways. Plus, the whole thing of her not wanting him to be seen would be compromised. Psychics, if they really were, may be able to tell the future and shit but it didn’t mean they could see or sense everything before coming into contact with it. Joseph preferred they had no contact with his freak being. If they really were clairvoyants…what if they could tell whatever the fuck he was? Or worse, what he’d done?

Jumping the gate to the back easily – thank you, height – Joseph walked carefully and quietly around the corner, making sure no one was out. Thankfully, no one was so he walked farther in and turned to look at the house. Blue loved her tree so she probably had her room facing it. Meaning one of these windows were hers. His eyes rested on one that was slightly ajar on the second floor.

Risk and reward.

Please be the right window. Sparing a glance to the tree, he wondered if he would be able to see in. Not to be all creepy but to see if he could tell if it was her room.

Risk and reward was a bitch.

But here he went.

The tree was actually easy to work his way up. It was like it had grown for people to climb and sit in it. His backyard had trees but they were nothing special like this one. Why didn’t he have one like this? It literally radiated waves saying that it was special. He could feel it.

Once he reached an optimum height, he put his focus on the window he had picked. Joseph couldn’t see much but the slight flutter of green curtains was enough evidence for him. Blue, ironically, seemed to like green. Had to be her room.

Identify her room? Check.

Now he just had to come back later to check off another task.

 


 

At first, Blue thought that some bird was pecking around the house or something. A mouse scuttling around? They didn’t have a mouse problem but maybe outside? Henrietta was rural enough to have mice just minding their own business. But the more she listened to the weird sound as she read over her homework for English, she realized that it couldn’t be an animal. The noise was coming at regular intervals and sounded like-

Tap!

With a glance to her window, she waited for the noise to come again.

Tap!

Something was hitting her window. What could be hitting her window?

Bouncing out of bed, she closed the tiny distance between her and the window. Blue unhooked the locks and slid it open before sticking her head out.

Ending with her getting hit in the face.

“Shit, sorry. Bad timing.”

Oh God, he wouldn’t, would he?

The idiot totally would.

“What are you doing here?” Blue wanted to shout. Of course, she settled for an anger whisper instead. She didn’t need any of the local clairvoyants hearing her. Or seeing him. Or worse, sensing him. God, could they do that? They couldn’t…

“I wanted to see you,” Joseph said in a quiet voice, probably guessing that he wasn’t supposed to be seen. Or heard. Maybe even sensed if he believed about them being psychics. “I need a highlight in this crap day. Blue, you are my highlight.”

God, he was going to end up being some trouble. Actually, he was already trouble. He was a boy, she was girl. Boys liked to kiss girls. Not only was he a boy, he was completely Aglionby. “I can’t go out now. It’s too late.” This boy was just plain insane. Go out now? With him? In front of everyone? Orla would never let her live it down. It was bad enough she still teased her about going to the party. Everything would be a thousand times worse if her cousin knew that Blue was hanging out with thee Kavinsky.

This boy was completely nuts for showing up here.

In-sane.

And trouble. She needed to remember to remind herself of that.

Even from here, she could see his sparkling smile. “Duh, it’s called sneaking out. C’mon, it’ll be fun. Also, make your choice fast before my ass gets caught by fifty thousand psychic women.”

“Joseph-”

“C’mon,” he practically whined. Whined. Dear God, help her against this boy. Or dear spiritual whoever. Didn’t matter. “Be my highlight. Promise it’ll be fun.”

Times with him were usually fun… Am I seriously considering this?

“Look,” Joseph sighed, sounded so incredibly sad that it literally made her just want to blurt out ‘coming!’ in feverish excitement to make him feel better. “I’d really like it if you came. But I understand if you don’t wanna. I parked up the street. I’ll wait ten minutes; you come or you don’t it’s okay but I’d really like you to hang out with me.”

Watching as he walked off with a sad wave, Blue cursed her stupid soft heart. She shut her window before grabbing her coat from her closet and shrugging it on. Just his voice alone made her feel terrible. Like she was a monster for denying his wants. His needs.

Trouble, here she came.

  


 

“Huh,” Joseph muttered under his breath as he checked the time on the clock in the car again, “Totally thought the whine would get to her.”

It wasn’t that Joseph didn’t know what he had been doing, he had known exactly what he had been doing as he manipulated her with both words and tone. It was just that he preferred to ignore. No one ever said Kavinsky wasn’t a piece of crap. He generally wasn’t to Blue but when something or someone was wanted, there were certain things that just had to be gone about and done.

Like manipulation.

Sighing as the clock changed to make it ten minutes, Joseph buckled his seatbelt and was about to take the car out of park before his eye caught on a figure in the mirror. He could feel a huge shit eating grin grow on his face as he watched Blue get closer. “Ha! Ha! Manipulation you have not failed me yet, my dear friend!”

When Blue reached the passenger door, he unlocked the car and smiled sweetly to her as she sat down. The first thing she did was buckle her seatbelt with a deep breath before finally looking over to him. “This better be fun.”

Laughing, Joseph replied “I don’t even know what the fuck we’re gonna do. I just knew I wanted to be with you. Instincts, Blue.”

A slightly rosiness came upon her face. “And your instincts said hang out with me?”

“My instincts said do something or be with someone to put a smile in your crappy day. You happen to be the someone.”

“Oh. Well, what do you want to do?”

“What do you want to do?”

Blue rolled her eyes but nonetheless, she took the time to think while biting her thumbnail. “How about… How about just like…enjoying nature? Something like sitting on the roof?”

It was an idea… Looking out the window, he gave a quick glance to the darkened sky. “Do you like stars?”

“I love them.”

Smile growing on his face as he continued to stare up at the sky, Joseph said in delight “So do I.”

He drove them out to the fairgrounds thinking that it was the perfect place. The city lights barely reached at all providing the perfect place for stargazing. It was not only dark enough but also there wasn’t the obstruction of buildings or trees.

Perfect.

They got out of the car, Joseph popping the trunk and going over while Blue followed. His trunk was, surprisingly, clean. A far cry from his room nowadays that got him frequently grumbled at by his mother. The only things inside were his skateboard, a small toolbox, a tire iron, a container containing weed covered with a sheet, and an extra pair of shoes. He couldn’t even remember why those sneakers were even there but whatever. What he had come for was his sweatshirt that he kept forgetting to take down so it could get washed.

He handed it to Blue, her brow raising in question. “For you to sit on,” he explained. Or lie down. Whatever floated her boat. “Thought maybe you don’t wanna get all dirty and shit.”

Taking it with a shrug, Blue waited as he shut the trunk then they walked over to a nice patch to take their seats. Setting herself on his sweatshirt, Blue murmured “Thanks.”

“My pleasure, my lady.”

Snorting, Blue tilted her head back and stared up at the sky. She seemed mesmerized, taken by their shining beauty. It was almost like she saw more than just stars. Her eyes went deeper, her heart felt them stronger.

It made her even more beautiful in his eyes.

Leaning back on his hands, he also looked up. Stars weren’t exactly his thing; he wasn’t Linda to be able to name every single freaking constellation. But, probably like everyone, he did think they were stunning to look at. Something so far away and yet strong enough to shine brightly back at earth.

Talk about power.

“Do you dream about stars?” she suddenly whispered in the dead quiet of the night.

Pft, lord did he wish his dreams were peaceful enough to be about stars. Joseph couldn’t even remember the last time he had had a dream that was beautiful just for the beauty. One that served no purpose or had no goal in sight. Or one that didn’t try to kill him either. God, did he wish he could feel the wonder of dreams again.

Joseph just wished that he was normal. Fuck dream powers.

“I don’t dream,” he answered honestly. Because he didn’t. What happened in his sleep wasn’t dreams. “But I wish I did. I bet a dream of stars is beautiful. Calming. Not even literal stars but just…the beauty of dreams. Of having dreams. Potential. A reason for living. A value for existing.”

The conversation wasn’t supposed to go as deep as he had taken it but…there was no stopping it. Because it was all true. Joseph didn’t have dreams in the sleep sense and he rarely had them in the figurative sense nowadays. The future wasn’t something he looked forward to; it wasn’t something he sought. He lived day to day with goals set every hour. Eat something. Finish his homework. Clean Peanut’s litter box. Make his mother smile.

Remember that there were still two reasons that he needed to stay alive for.

Every day had the same end goal:

Stay alive for mayko and Peanut.

And every day that he did, Joseph put a checkmark on his wall. On the blue wall of his room, at the very top, he had very carefully written his mother’s name. Vesela Dobrev Kavinsky. And underlined it multiple times. For every day that he lived for her, a checkmark was done under those lines. On the purple wall where Peanut had done her print, he did the same. If he needed a reminder on a horrible day why he even bothered living anymore, it was all over his walls. Checkmark after checkmark.

When his mother had first noticed her name on his wall and all the checkmarks, she had been confused and asked what it was about. Joseph knew that there was no way that he could tell her the truth. All he’d do was cause her to panic and worry. Instead, he settled for the lie of it being his way to always remember to pray for her. Because she was the most important person in the world to him.

Because of that, she deserved all the prayers in the world.

Once this lie had been told, Joseph asked himself why it had to be a lie. She really was the most important person and she really did deserve all the prayers.

So he started making sure to pray for her as often as he remembered. Joseph hadn’t stepped foot in a church since Jersey – he doubted there was an Eastern Orthodox one here anyways – but he hoped that because the prayers were for her and not him, God would be nice enough to listen.

Hopefully.

“You don’t think you have a reason for living?”

The quiet whisper broke his thoughts as he tore his gaze away from the dazzling sky to look at Blue’s carefully schooled face. Besides for when she was anger or embarrassed, Blue was pretty good at not showing what she was thinking or feeling.

“I think I have very little reason.”

Chapter Text

How did someone think that? Blue knew that there were people who thought like that, sure, but she had never met someone who thought that there wasn’t a reason to live. And he said it so seriously too. Like he actually meant it. She hoped he didn’t or else that was worrying. All she had wanted was to explain to him about her dreams. Her thoughts encased in the stars. Blue hadn’t meant for it to turn so…morbid.

Sighing quietly to herself, she pulled her coat closer around her body. The night was turning chilly which was probably a sign for her to get home but the peace was so nice. Neither of them had bothered with conversation after that, instead finding solace in the quiet night and the stars.

When she yawned for what felt like the twentieth time in a row, Blue knew it was time to get going. She was exhausted even though she had stayed up longer before. Maybe it was the combination of homework and…homework. It was a powerful force to be reckoned with.

“Do you want to go?”

Heart nearly shattering her entire ribcage from the force of eruption, Blue turned in surprise to find Joseph practically glued to her. When had he gotten so close? How had she not noticed? He was blinking at her with his head tilted to the side, waiting for her to reply. Once again, they were caught in a situation where they were so close that they almost shared the same air.

Even after all this time, it was hard trying to figure out why she enjoyed being with him. She knew part of it was because of that pike of jealousy still in her every time some girl talked to him but the rest she had no idea. Why did she like him? He was Aglionby; a raven boy.

And yet when she looked into his eyes, she saw something else entirely.

“I think I have very little reason.”

Fifteen. He wasn’t very old. Wasn’t old at all actually. There hadn’t been enough years in his life for him to find no reason at all to live. Or little reason. Behind the layers of exhaustion on his face, behind the faces he put on for people…in his eyes, Blue thought she saw the boy he must be. Just barely though, because above that were mounds of grief. Sadness. Pain. It was all written if someone bothered to look.

Blue didn’t like seeing the pain and grief she found. It went down every now and then when she made him smile but…it never lasted. As stupid and as un-sensible as it sounded, Blue wanted to make it last longer. Make him smile more.

“Blue? Did you want to go?”

Most of the time, he was so sweet. Nice. A stupid gentleman. Despite his exhausted face and maybe too thin body, he was handsome. Nothing that she could find about him physically was really offputting from his long nose to his thick brows all the way to his lips.

Full lovely looking lips…

She hadn’t been paying attention.

At all.

Because if she had, Blue would have realized that she was staring at his mouth. Probably with a lot of intent that could be interpreted a certain way too.

Joseph interpreted.

Her mistake hadn’t been realized until suddenly there was so little space between their mouths that she could literally inhale his weed filled breath. She was breathing his breath. He was almost wrapped around her; when had she ended up between his legs? When had his hand cupped her cheek? Did he really want to kiss her? Eccentric weirdo Blue was desirable to a raven boy?

Thankfully, Blue’s brain woke up with these last thoughts. The last thing in the world that could happen was him kissing her. Sirens beginning to blare in her brain, Blue did the only thing she could think of in her panic in the last split second before his lips touched hers.

She shoved him.

Okay, maybe it didn’t sound that cool or awesome but no one ever said thinking during a panic was easy. Or that it created brilliant ideas. But the shoving served its purpose. Joseph was so caught off guard that he fell back easily with a ‘oof’ of air escaping him.

With a look of confusion and a tinge of hurt, he stared at her where he remained laying on the floor, propped on his forearms. “What the hell?”

I don’t kiss. I could have killed you. I like you too much.

You’re more trouble than it’s worth.

Pushing a piece of loose hair back with a shaking hand, Blue shrugged like she had no idea what he was talking about. “What?”

Annoyance flashed in his eyes as he sat up. “Seriously? You have the fucking nerve to say what? You just fucking shoved me to the fucking floor.”

Through the months, she had noticed how when he got angry, his sentences filled with a lot more language.

He must be getting angry.

Keeping her cool, Blue replied “You can’t just assume a girl wants to kiss you, pervert. As if I’d want to kiss you.”

Blue knew the words were harsh. She knew they were lies; he wasn’t a pervert or taking advantage of her. Her heart had wanted to kiss him and she knew it had been written on her face. But her brain was smarter and remembered that no kissing could ever happen. It didn’t matter how much she wanted to see how he tasted or to know if his lips were as soft as they looked. Or that she was just curious about kisses.

It didn’t matter.

Since it didn’t matter, since the universe didn’t care what she wanted, Blue had to make a choice. No matter how much she was going to disagree with it or how much she might end up hurting him, he was too much trouble. Too much temptation.

Despite the fun they’d had, the times she actually enjoyed with him, this had to end. And the only way she could think of making it happen was to be mean. Because as experience had shown, he didn’t take kindly to that.

This time was no different.

Joseph’s eyes flared with a nasty flame that actually made Blue want to scoot away from him. She had always wondered how his anger was. Now she was going to find out. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Even his voice was cruel, emotionless and yet biting. Such a far cry from the sultry sweetness he had whispered in her ear before. “I don’t want to kiss you and typical raven boy, you don’t care. You just do what you want.”

Not even just a flame was alive in his eyes now – an entire explosion was waiting to burst forth. His jaw was grinding back and forth as he ground out “Listen here, you fucking bitch-”

“Don’t call me that.”

“I’ll call you whatever the fuck I want!” he snapped harshly. It was like he was restraining himself from getting closer to her. Like he was afraid he’d do something to her. “How dare you! When have I ever treated you as anything less than a fucking human being? When have a I ever forced you to do anything! I’ve treated you like you’re a God fucking princess and you have the fucking nerve to accuse me?”

Princess was a little extra but he had always been good to her, he wasn’t wrong. But that didn’t mean anything in this context because she had to end this…thing they had, whatever it was. It was too dangerous as only five minutes ago had proved.

“You have the fucking nerve to say that I was trying to take advantage of you?” Joseph continued, his face, for the first time, taking on an ugly look with his anger. “After everything? I fucking like you, Blue. And even if I didn’t, I’d never take advantage of someone. Sexually assault them. Rape them. Is that what you think of me? Is that how low you see me?”

No, it wasn’t. Not even close. But this still had to end.

So Blue stayed silent.

Through the fiery rage, hurt flashed briefly when she continued to say nothing. Shaking his head and looking everywhere but her, Joseph laughed with such hate. Blue never knew a laugh could take that kind of tone. Laughs were supposed to be joyful. Happy. Joseph’s was the complete opposite.

“Okay,” he nodded, once again glaring at her. “Fine. Think whatever bullshit you like. I’m the fucking idiot who thought better of you. You’re just as shallow and worthless as every other bitch in this fucking hill billy town.”

“Excuse you?”

Standing before dusting off grass from himself, he started to repeat “You’re just as shallow-”

Now it was her turn to be angry. Getting to her feet, she snapped “Did you ever think that maybe there’s something wrong with you? That you’re the problem for every single person you meet?”

It must have been a lower hit or harder blow than she had anticipated because his eyes flew wide in shock. The shock didn’t last, however, as his lip curled in disgust. “I already know that there’s something wrong with me. But thank you for reiterating it.”

Her heart ached from how much she knew she was hurting him but this had already gone too far. It had to end now or else she’d never be able to muster the courage again. But had she done enough to make sure he’d never want something again? To make sure that he wouldn’t want to try for a third time? “Whatever, pervert, just take me home.”

Snorting, he yanked his sweatshirt off the floor before stalking off to his car, practically ripping the door open before getting in and slamming it with incredible force. Blue was slightly afraid to get in the car with him just because of that anger but…she didn’t exactly have a choice.

Walking over, she got in and buckled up, trying to ignore the heavy weight inside with them. What was bigger than an elephant? Whale. Definitely a whale in the car. Joseph was tapping his hand on the gearshift while the other gripped the wheel. He didn’t seem to be moving but she was too afraid to say something. It was easier to handle his explosive voice when they were outside for the air to carry it away. In here, they’d just congest the limited space in the car.

“For the record,” he finally said, more frustrated than anything else, “Don’t think you’re fooling me with your fucking bullshit.”

“I don’t know-”

He cut her off swiftly, turning to face her with his sharp eyes and pointed words. “You wanted to kiss me. It was written all over your stupid fucking face. You wanted it as much as I did. I don’t know what your fucking stupid ass problem is but don’t b.s. me. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.”

Glaring at him with her arms crossed both as protection and to show her irritation, Blue replied “You’re terrible at handling rejection.”

“Back to that, are we? Again, I can handle fucking rejection, bitch. If you had said you weren’t ready, maybe scared, maybe…I don’t fucking know but I would have been fine. I would have understood. I would’ve thought you pushed me because you were nervous, not ready to rush shit. But that’s not what fucking happened.”

If she had said any of that, that would have given him the impression that there was a relationship in their sights. There was definitely none of that. There couldn’t be any of that. “How about maybe I just wanted to be friends?”

A nasty smirk grew on those lips that only minutes ago she had wished to know what they were like. Now she just wanted to get as far away from them as possible. “Again, don’t b.s. me. I don’t know what your fucking problem is suddenly-”

“You tried to kiss me,” she couldn’t help but interrupt helplessly. He’d never understand how it was so much more than just a kiss.

“You wanted me to!” Joseph shouted in the silence of the car while slamming the wheel causing her to jump. He caught the movement and froze for a second before taking a deep breath like he was calming himself for her sake. “Look, I don’t understand why a mutually wanted kiss is such an issue. But fine. Okay. Too fast, too soon, okay, whatever. But it’s not worth throwing away the easiness we have with each other.”

You’re supposed to stay mad at me, not forgive. “I don’t want it.”

Hello and welcome back, anger. “Fuck you. Just fuck you. Here I am, trying to act like a decent fucking person despite you wronging me in a million ways in literally ten minutes and yet-” He broke off with a laugh and shake of his head.

It was amazing watching it. She knew that he was different with her, probably closer to actually who he was normally and yet it surprised her when Kavinsky flickered on. Like literally. His face, despite it being his face, just…changed personalities as his lip curled into a nasty smirk and his eyes flashed with wrathful harm.

“You know what? Okay, babydoll. Whatever you like. I was wasting my time with you anyways. I’m literally superior to you in every single fucking way. But I had to try me some of that country blood, you know? Get the flavor of bumbling hick because I’ve never tried it before. Think they let you out too early though because, baby, you are a nasty one.”

The words hurt, the words burned because she knew that none of it was true. She knew that he was conjuring up lies to hurt her and yet she couldn’t protect herself from them. They dug beneath her flesh, burying themselves in deep.

“But hey, I’m sure you’ll find some equally stupid ass person to appreciate you. Don’t you worry!” he cackled as he turned on the car and turned them around to get on the road. “To each his own, yeah? I mean, I knew that you were too stupid for me but you caught me with those dick sucking lips. Guess hick boy will be the one to appreciate them. You’d probably just bite my dick off thinking you were supposed to use teeth anyways. I’m not losing out on shit. I’ll just find that sexy redhead from the party. I’m sure she’d love to give me a repeat.”

Well…there was that confirmation. Not that she wanted it right now. Or ever.

“Stop,” she whispered, the wall of tears sitting in her eyes barely staying in. She would not cry because of this boy. She wouldn’t. She refused. Blue wished she could just get out here and walk the rest of the way home but it was both too dark and too far. Kavinsky and his car were needed whether she liked it or not.

“Aw, baby, learn to hear the truth! Mind you, hick boy will not be a gentleman at all. They don’t raise them right around here. No manners are taught in the trailer homes where daddy beats mommy. And really, in this backwards town, you’re not going to find anything else.”

“Stop.”

“Unless of course you go down to the level of raven boys who you think you’re above. Stupid thought, mind you, being that we’re obviously better than you and everyone in this place.” Kavinsky cut himself off with a disgusting laugh that Blue absolutely hated. “Or maybe you’ll just go down on one of them, huh? Get it?”

Blue got it being that she went to a public high school filled with idiotic guys. She knew what it meant to go down on someone.

“Well do you? It’s rude not to laugh at people’s jokes, sweet cheeks.”

“Stop,” Blue whispered for the third time. She had intended to sound way stronger than that but she couldn’t manage it. His words, his attitude, just him, were hurting her and breaking down her being.

Up until they parked at the end of her street, the onslaught didn’t stop.

Even as she walked down the street to her little blue house, all Blue could hear was Kavinsky’s nasty words echoing in her head.

Nonstop.

Chapter Text

For the past couple of weeks, something had Joseph in a foul mood. When Vesela tried to get him to talk about it, she had been shut down in seconds with his claim that he really didn’t want to end up yelling at her. She couldn’t believe that she had to walk on tip toes around her child. Parents weren’t supposed to be afraid of setting off their kid.

And yet here she was. Far more frequently than ever. How had they come to this point?

Sighing as she walked into his room to straighten it up because the boy was getting sloppier by the day, Vesela paused to stare at the wall with her name. It was freaky as hell; check mark after check mark like he was counting something. She didn’t believe his lie of prayers, not because she didn’t think Joseph didn’t or wouldn’t pray for her but that it just didn’t make any sense. Check marks for prayers? And if it was true, no offense to Peanut and all who had her own wall, but Vesela didn’t like being equated to the cat’s level of prayers.

There was something missing in the story but Vesela couldn’t figure out whatever it was. Hopefully, that wasn’t a major problem.

With a shake of her head to refocus herself, she started to pick up the stray clothes on the floor, throwing them on his unmade bed. It was usually the best way to make him fix his stuff. Put everything in his way and he’d be forced to fix it. She wasn’t his freaking maid.

“I’m not your maid,” Vesela snorted when she heard him walk in behind her as she took out his trash bag. “Clean every now and then if you don’t mind.”

What she guessed to be his bag dropped onto the floor before she turned around to look at him. He looked exhausted, per usual, and the anger that had been there for the past weeks was present too. But beneath all that, there was a tiny spark of amusement glittering in his beautiful eyes. That was more than she had seen in a while, causing her to smile to his raised brow and crossed arms.

Her own smile caused a tiny one to form on his face as he rolled his eyes. “I clean. Occasionally.” Vesela pointed to the pile of clothes on his messy bed. “Oh-kay, like once a week. That’s not too bad.”

“It’s bad. Put what needs to be put away away and whatever goes in laundry in the laundry. Trash goes-”

“In the trash and so on. I’ll get there,” Joseph yawned as he walked over to his bed and started to go through his clothes. “So…mayko?”

Vesela hummed in response as she sat down on his table to watch him work. He was thinner than usual and that was saying something because Joseph was always thin. What could she make that would get him to eat more? She’d been making sure to make all of his favorite foods, hoping that’d help, and while it did, it hadn’t done much. Maybe if she let him eat cheesecake for every meal, he’d eat?

Unhealthy but hey, Joseph could use some unhealthy.

Focused on folding a pair of sweats, Joseph said “Um, so, this guy at school, uh…kind of like a friend but not a friend, is gonna do like movies and shit tonight. Uh, like sleepover shit…”

“And can you go and shit?” It was his favorite noun to shove in every sentence. She hated it. “That’s what you’re trying to get to?” Turning to face her and taking a seat on the edge of his bed after shoving the clothes aside, Joseph nodded. “Where’s this friend not friend live?”

“He dorms. He has a roommate but he’s staying at his girlfriend’s house for the night so…yeah.”

Nodding as she thought about this, Vesela asked “And this friend not friend is who?”

Playing with the edge of his sweats still in his hand, Joseph shrugged “Liam. He’s a senior but I’ve known him the longest here and he invited me. He asked a few months ago but I didn’t think you’d let me so I said no.”

Liam the friend not friend was having a sleepover with movies and shit in his dorm where the roommate was out. Liam the friend not friend was three grades higher than Joseph. Liam the friend not friend probably drank and watched porn. Probably smoked too. Joseph already smokes that crap though…

But she definitely didn’t want him drinking. Porn she could probably handle. As long as she didn’t have to catch him watching it herself… “This Liam, does he drink?”

Another shrug. “Probably but he’s never when we’re hanging out. Or when he’s gotta drive or something.”

She nodded again. That could be promising. If anything, not friend wasn’t entirely stupid. “Smoke? Break the law, is an asshole, a player…I don’t know…a piece of shit?”

With a tiny smile on his face, Joseph snorted “Full honesty, he’s the guy I got the weed from. No idea about breaking the law outside of selling weed which is as much as I’ve done. And as far as jackasses go, he’s the least.”

Friend not friend just got a bad check next to his name. But…he sounded decent enough. It was just movies. How bad or dangerous could that be? And Joseph had been having a tough time recently, maybe this would bring a little brightness to his damper. “Do you know who else may or may not be going?”

Taking a minute to think about this, Joseph finally replied “I don’t think really anyone else besides maybe this other guy who’s like his best friend. I don’t think he invited his girlfriend or anything.”

“So no girls?” One would think that girls at a sleepover wouldn’t be important because Joseph was gay but Vesela wasn’t stupid. Now, at least. He’d have sex with one just so he could say he wasn’t ‘a fag.’

Fucking Ivo.

“Not that I’m aware of, no.”

“And this best friend?”

Joseph’s face darkened for a second while looking like the thought of this best friend pissed him off. “No lie, I don’t like the guy. But Liam will keep him in line should that be needed. He’s the guy, if you remember, that I slammed his face into the table.”

“Ah.” Yeah, she remembered. The ‘I’d fuck you’ guy. No wonder Joseph didn’t like him. “Are you comfortable being around him?”

“Eh,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “Sadly, I put up with him practically every day so I’m used to it. But like I said, Liam will keep him mannered.”

Tapping her finger on her mouth, Vesela considered this sleepover. Didn’t she want Joseph making friends? She wasn’t exactly sure why Liam had to be a not friend but Joseph must at least like him if he wanted to watch movies with the boy. What was the worst that could happen? It was movies and probably snacks. She wasn’t stupid though; beer was most likely going to be around. But Joseph had literally thrown two parties and not touched a sip so…

“Ground rules for said sleepover.”

A tiny flash of hope quickly glowed in his eyes with just a touch of excitement. “Anything.”

Raising a finger, she said “You don’t even get near the alcohol. Not ev-”

“There’s probably not any, mayko.”

“I’m not stupid, Joseph, don’t make me out to be.” She tapped the raised finger, “Do not touch any alcohol. Don’t even touch it if it tipped over and spilled on the floor. Friend not friend can clean his own damn floor.” A snort of amusement escaped Joseph’s lips. “Two,” Vesela raised a second finger, “No cigarettes. Preferably no weed either. You’re in a public building. A school building.”

“Anything else?”

Sighing, she stood and walked over to him, pulling him into a tight hug which he returned eagerly. For all his attitude and ‘grown upness,’ Joseph loved any affection he could get. From her at least. And once upon a time, Ivo. Maybe that time would come again one day. “Have fun and don’t be stupid.”

 


 

“Pick your poison.”

“You make it sound like I’m picking drugs or something,” Joseph snorted as he took the three movies offered and flipped them over to read what they were. Expendables sounded good because who didn’t like action movies? But then Kickass sounded funny… Then there was Inception which was about… “This one.”

Liam took Inception and shrugged before walking back to his t.v. “Inception it is.”

“Should be a voting system,” Jordan grumbled from the roommate’s bed. “Maybe I wanted something else.”

“He’s a guest,” Liam replied while putting in the cd. “So he gets to pick. You’re here all the time. Plus, he’s been in a bad mood so as friends, it’s our job to make him happy.”

They weren’t his friends but the thought was sweet of Liam. “Ain’t you just the sweetest little cupcake.”

“I can think of better ways to make you happy,” Jordan muttered under his breath before a handful of popcorn shut him up for a couple seconds. “Ways that include my mouth and your body.”

Joseph was about to snap a reply but Liam cut in with a stern tone. “Jordan. Leave it.”

With a stupid dramatic sigh, Jordan said “Just saying.”

“Yeah, well, don’t.”

“Fine, fine.”

Rolling his eyes from where he lay on the floor with a pillow under his head, Joseph asked “What’s wrong with Inception anyways? I thought you guys haven’t seen any of these movies.”

Bouncing onto his bed with the remote in hand after shutting off the lights, Liam answered “We haven’t. He just had his heart set on Sylvester Stallone.”

“It’s fucking Rocky, man. He’s a kickass actor.” A piece of popcorn landed on Joseph’s chest, coming from above. “Jersey, you seen Rocky, right?”

It was a bittersweet memory. Him and Ivo squished together on the bed in the guest room where they had finally put a television, watching the movies one after the other. They had been fantastic. “Yeah, I seen ‘em. Hella good.”

“Right? So why do we gotta watch Leo? For that matter, the dude isn’t as handsome as people keep saying he is. He’s just okay.”

Joseph would never say it aloud but he couldn’t help but agree. DiCaprio was eh, not what everyone made him out to be. “I picked it ‘cause the movie sounds interesting.”

What he also couldn’t say aloud was the actual reason that he had picked it. It was honestly kind of stupid but the movie was slightly personal. For fuck’s sake, it was like a sign.

It was all about dreams. The subconscious.

Obviously, it would probably be nowhere near what Joseph experienced but hell, the dreamer had to watch a movie about dreams. It’d be so wrong if he just passed it up.

“I guess,” Jordan sighed.

An hour and a half into the movie and Joseph was so entranced that he hadn’t even said anything when Jordan brought down a pillow and laid beside him. It was amazing. It was everything. Maybe it wasn’t the exact way he dreamed or how his dreams even worked but…Jesus. Dreams. The subconscious. A world inside a world so realistic that sometimes, the difference between dream and reality couldn’t even be told.

If he liked Leo for any reason, it’d be this movie.

Then it stopped.

“I gotta pee,” Liam said apologetically when Joseph groaned his annoyance. “Beer, water, and soda. Pissing really needs to happen right this second. Preferably not on my bed or floor.”

“Yeah but you didn’t have to pause,” he grumbled while rubbing his eyes and stretching.

Before the bathroom door was slammed shut, Liam called “I don’t wanna miss nothin’!”

“I’ll admit,” Jordan yawned beside him, “this movie is fucking good.”

“Agreed.”

Sitting up and snagging himself another beer, Jordan popped off the lid before offering it to Joseph. When he shook his head no, Jordan rolled his eyes before taking a gulp. “Why not? C’mon. You’re not driving home anyways. You can sleep it off here.”

Checking his phone as he waited for Liam to finish, he sent off a ‘goodnight’ to his mother. It was barely midnight and being that they were both insomniatic freaks, Joseph knew that she wasn’t asleep yet. “My mom doesn’t want me drinking.”

With a snort, Jordan laughed “Seriously? Who the fuck cares?”

“My mom.”

“Nah, dude, what I mean is that since when do you give a shit what your mom says?”

He actually always cared what his mother had to say, it was just that…sometimes he looked the other way. Weed for example. Being an asshole for another. So…why did he draw a line at drinking?

There’s a thought.

Holding out the beer once more, Jordan raised his brow in a dare. Was Joseph really going to go against the one thing his mother asked of him just because of a dare? He was no coward, no pussy, no man’s bitch. Definitely not Jordan’s.

So how could Kavinsky not drink? He was God in this town. God didn’t care what his mother wanted. Well, Joseph was sure that Jesus listened to Mary but he probably didn’t all the time.

Right?

Joseph could take the drink, he could fucking drink the drink because that’s what Kavinsky did. For that matter, Kavinsky always won a dare. He had to; it was the way things worked around here.

Mr. Lacrosse’s smile turned huge once Joseph grabbed the beer. Staring at it in his hand, Joseph hoped that it didn’t taste bad. Then he’d just look like an idiot. He raised the opening to his lips while stamping down his mother’s voice in his head.

And he drank.

Chapter Text

Jordan knew that giving Kavinsky a beer – pressuring him to take it – was pretty fucked up but…how was it a good time without some alcohol? The dude had to get with it.

And get with it he did.

On his second beer, Kavinsky’s smile came easier, his laugh louder. But somehow, these smiles and laughs weren’t…smiles and laughs. They looked and sounded harsh. Cruel. Sharp. Cutting. There was no humor in them. It was like the alcohol brought out all the malice, hate, and pain that had been lurking beneath the surface. Jordan had seen glimpses of them flashing through his eyes once in a while or from the way that Kavinsky spoke. But the beer just threw them out there in the forms of acts that should express delight. That were supposed to express delight.

There definitely was no delight being expressed. Maybe pressuring him into drinking had been a terrible idea. Scratch that, it was a seriously horrible idea now that Jordan remembered the breakdown the other boy had had not too long ago. Depression and alcohol?

Not two things that should be mixed.

Shit.

He should have remembered that before.

Flicking a glance to Kavinsky eating a piece of chocolate, Jordan felt the guilt settle in his stomach. He had meant well – he just wanted the other boy to let loose once in a while. Kavinsky was always so uptight and stressed. Jordan wanted him to relax and maybe see that Jordan was worth falling off the straight train for.

Gulping his own beer, he settled himself into his pillow resting against the foot of George’s bed and hoped for the best.

 

 

“If I showed up under Eva’s window right now,” Liam slurred, “Worse that could happen.”

Kavinsky sunk down further onto the floor as he thought about it. Or at least he looked like that was what he was doing. He had been perched like Jordan once he had started to drink. The boy’s shirt rode up as he slid and Jordan drooled for that strip of pale skin flashing out. Kavinsky was thin as fuck but he was still handsome. What would sucking on that pale flesh be like? Had to be good. Also, probably super easy to leave a sexy hickey behind on.

Jesus, he wanted this boy so bad. Kissing him had been amazing even if Kavinsky had yet to return said kisses. One day, he would. Jordan just had to keep trying. Try harder too.

“Worst?” Kavinsky snorted before taking a sip of beer. “Worst is that her dad is home and beats the shit out of you. Best? No one is home and you guys get to fuck like bunnies.”

He wanted to fuck like bunnies with Kavinsky.

“Huh…” Liam murmured, “I kinda like that… How good’re my chances of fucking like a bunny?”

“Dunno. Only talked to your girl once. Don’t know shit about her or her life.”

Personally, Jordan thought that going to Eva’s was the stupidest idea in the world. She’d never tolerate Liam being drunk. But if it got him and Kavinsky alone…then he was fucking all for it. Hopefully his buddy wouldn’t get beaten up by Eva’s dad, if he was even home. That’d be unfortunate. Actually, completely fucked up but Jordan really wanted alone time with the sexy Slav sitting beside him.

Liam made this weird humming noise – the drunk thinking noise – then laughed “Ima go and try fuck like a bunny.”

Please do. Go for it although you definitely will not be a bunny tonight.

“Good luck,” Kavinsky snorted as both he and Jordan watched Liam clumsily pull his shoes on before attempting to fix his hair. Really, Jordan felt like he shouldn’t have touched it at all but whatever. It looked way worse now.

It didn’t matter though; the faster he was out, the more time Jordan had alone with Kavinsky. “Get some!”

Making a quick thumbs up with a smile, Liam stumbled out, the sound of the door shutting echoing in the quiet of the room. The movie had finished and the light was back on.

And it was just him and Kavinsky.

Joseph.

Popping open another beer after taking down the last of his, Jordan took a deep breath. He’d get a kiss today no matter what. They both just needed to be a little more drunk.

And play a game of chicken.

Because if there was one thing Kavinsky didn’t do, it was lose.

Mind buzzing and fuzzy after God knew how many drinks, Jordan smiled as syrupy as he could with the little bit of actual conscious thought he had left at Kavinsky. They were both pretty much wasted right now. It took more for him than Kavinsky because this wasn’t his first time drinking before tonight – this morning – but the end result was the same.

So fucking wasted.

Jordan burped.

Totally unsexy.

Oh well. No one ever said being drunk was actually sexy.

Scooting closer to Kavinsky who was still propped against the edge of the bed except now he was munching a licorice, Jordan wrapped an arm around the other boy. Kavinsky tensed a little but not as much as usual.

Good sign that.

“So,” Jordan whispered in Kavinsky’s ear, “I think…we should kiss.”

A snort erupted from Kavinsky, sounding even more brutal because he was drunk as hell. “Your worst attempt yet.”

Okay, so some of straight boy was still awake. Jordan could work with that.

He could totally work with that.

“Why,” he continued in what he thought was a pretty sultry whisper, “Can’t do it? Kavinsky’s too afraid? And here I thought the jackass of the town was fearless. Took anything anyone threw at him.” It seemed like the other boy was processing these words but Jordan couldn’t really tell. Leaning away despite his reluctance at losing that warmth, Jordan added “Shoulda figured. You just one big ass liar.”

Was Kavinsky annoyed? He kind of seemed like it. His brows were drawn inwards as it seemed like he was taking the time to formulate an answer. Finally, those deep brown eyes flicked over to Jordan, an angry challenge in them. “I’m no fucking coward.”

“Obviously you are because you too fucking scared to take my dare. Kiss me, sweets. Prove me wrong.” Please do it. Please. “But I know you won’t because you just one big fucking coward hiding behind this face. Fucking pussy.”

That seemed to piss him off. Leaning close where Jordan could smell the mix of sweets and alcohol on his breath, Kavinsky hissed “I dare you to say that again, fag.”

Lord did Jordan despise that word. But he’d say nothing about it right now; he wanted Kavinsky on his side. “You know, the ones who hate the loudest, protest the loudest…You know what people say? They be saying that they be a fucking fag too. You a fag like me?” Jordan doubted that Kavinsky was anywhere on the queer spectrum but he needed to goad him with something.

“Do you want to get your face beaten in today?”

“Nah, baby,” Jordan whispered as he got into the other boy’s space. His lips were so fucking close. “I plan on getting a kiss. But you just so fucking yellow like cowboy shit, you know?” It was cowboys, right? The ones who called a coward yellow? Jordan hoped so but his drunk brain wasn’t exactly in its best intellectual place right now.

Eyes glittering with a mixture of malice and annoyance, Kavinsky snarled “I’m no fucking coward you piece of shit.”

Ah, so his reference was correct. Good. “Unless you kiss me, you are.”

It was brutal. Hell, it was borderline violent.

But it was a fucking kiss.

Jordan was pretty sure his lip was bleeding or maybe it was Kavinsky’s that was but that tang was there. Somebody’s teeth hit someone’s lip or something. The kiss was harsh pressure of lips against lips but that didn’t come close to mattering as Jordan took charge and shoved his tongue in between those stunning lips. He sure as hell was going to make the most of this chance.

Kavinsky was trying to pull away, probably thinking along the lines of his job being done. He had taken the dare, beaten the challenge. However, the last thing in the world that Jordan wanted was to lose this moment. He was keeping it, using it, and abusing it.

No way was he letting go.

Keeping a firm hand on the back of Kavinsky’s head – Joseph’s head – Jordan used his other to drag the other boy closer. There was some resistance but Jordan couldn’t, no wouldn’t, let go. He had wanted this so bad and if he had to be little forceful, well, then…he had to be a little forceful. Take control. Dominance. Authority. All of it, Jordan would keep in his hands and use to get what he so desperately wanted.

And that was Joseph.

Straight boy might resent him a little once the sun came up but he’d get over it. Plus, who didn’t want to have really good sex anyways? Hell, Joseph would thank him for taking charge come the break of day.

When did wanting a kiss become sex? Well, besides wanting to suck him off. Was he really going to push for the whole mile? Maybe Joseph didn’t want the whole nine yards? But then how could he not? Who didn’t? Especially with someone as hot and as sexy as Jordan. Fuck, he was the whole freaking package. With a really nice fucking package too.

Joseph definitely wanted to fuck. No doubt in Jordan’s drunken brain.

No, just brain. Right? His rational head was making all these decisions. Had to be. Jordan rarely got so wasted where he couldn’t keep his thoughts straight. Were his thoughts straight now? They had to be. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to let his inebriated mind make such serious choices for him. Especially something of this caliber that involved someone else.

Right?

Right.

Totally not wasted. Totally not allowing a wasted brain to make choices that involved the wellbeing of another person.

Right?

Duh.

Becoming more forceful in his kiss that was just so fucking amazing, Jordan made sure to scoot himself as close as possible to the sexy Slav while dragging him over. Could Jordan get him in his lap? Maybe. Pulling harder to a more resisting Joseph, Jordan hauled the thin gorgeous boy into his lap before pressing him as tightly possible to his chest.

Chest to chest, mouth on mouth, and Jordan was sporting the hardest boner of his life. Jesus Christ above, he was in literal pain from it. Relief needed to happen like now. Dear God, now. But his mind couldn’t come up with a way to make it happen while still making sure Joseph didn’t get out his grasp. He knew that the minute that happened, this beautiful dream would be over.

Anything could happen except that. Jordan needed this to be forever. Or at least as long as it took to at least get a taste of Joseph’s body.

Just a taste.

That was all Jordan wanted.

A beautiful, wonderful, and delicious taste of some delectable looking flesh.

Being locked in Jordan’s grasp, Joseph’s attempts to push away were growing weaker like he was giving up. Or maybe he was just tired of pushing against the big wall of muscle Jordan proudly was. Maybe he was just resigned that they were going to probably fuck like bunnies tonight.

Hopefully, that was where the other boy’s brain was at.

Fucking like bunnies.

Jordan had dreams of fucking like a bunny with Joseph.

Oh Jesus the fucking Christ, it was going to be phenomenal. Extraordinary. Amazing. Mind blowing. Jordan could go on forever being that English was his forte. Hell, he kicked ass on that fucking SAT. Fucking ass.

Moaning into Joseph’s mouth from the delightful thought of fucking ass – hopefully today and Joseph’s – Jordan allowed the other boy to pull away. He needed to breath too anyways so Jordan could work with it. It wasn’t like the Slav was going anywhere being locked in Jordan’s firm grasp.

Resting his forehead on Joseph’s while ignoring the hate and…fear? Jordan whispered against the other boy’s mouth “Can’t wait to taste the rest of you.”

That managed to awaken another flame in Joseph’s eyes but it was no use. It died the minute Jordan tightened the grip of his hand cupping Joseph’s ass. Now Joseph just seemed resigned. Dejected. Not to mention it was like he wasn’t even breathing. Frozen still liking the fucking ice age was happening all over again.

That was rude. Here was Jordan ready to make some damn good love to this idiot and he had the nerve to act like it was nothing. Worthless. This bitch. Maybe Jordan would have to get a little rough to teach him a lesson. Make him say please and thank you. That’d be good.

Yeah, really good.

Harder than ever even though the ass in his lap wasn’t even bothering with anything, Jordan dragged them both up and onto George’s bed. He’d hopefully remember to change the sheets for the guy. Joseph tried resisting again and while he was tall, that didn’t do much because of the toothpick that he was.

“Baby, stop fucking fighting it,” Jordan slurred with a slight grumble. Maybe he needed to get more alcohol into the Slav’s system. But…Jordan’s kisses were something someone could get drunk on…

Obviously Joseph just needed a lot more of those.

Rolling Joseph flat onto his back, Jordan straddled his waist and leaned down for some lovely kisses. They weren’t amazing because the jerk was still frozen and seemed to be breathing weird but they were kisses and they were with Joseph so they were good enough. “God,” Jordan groaned, pulling away reluctantly from the bruised plush lips before him, “You taste so gooooood. I can’t wait to have more. Can’t fucking wait. Can’t, can’t, can’t. Oh Jesus.”

Chapter Text

He was sore. Like all over.

Why was he sore?

He had a headache. A pounding horrible headache.

Why did he have a headache?

He was naked.

Why the fuck was he naked?

There was someone breathing softly beside him.

Why was someone beside him?

Blinking his eyes open, Joseph stared in confusion at a wall that was very much not his. For that matter, the way he was sleeping and facing…his bed wasn’t even in this position in his room. So not his bed and not his room.

What?

Trying to get his fuzzy aching head under control so he could think and process all this properly, Joseph very slowly sat up.

And, oh, that was a bad idea.

He was sore, yeah, that had been established already. But it seemed a shit ton of his soreness derived from his lower half. Specifically, his ass.

Why…?

Sunlight filtered into the room through the blinds, too bright and far too harsh for his eyes. For his head. For his entire fucking being.

And it showed way too much truth.

Truth that Joseph remembered nothing of.

The soft breather beside him, in the same fucking bed as him, was none other than Mr. Lacrosse. Jordan fucking Sarmiento.

Also naked.

So while Joseph’s mind wasn’t able to properly remember a single thing that had happened, it was aware enough to put the little pieces he had together. The image that was forming was not something that sat well with him. Neither him nor his stomach.

Jumping out of the bed and dashing to the small bathroom that only housed a toilet and a sink because Aglionby wouldn’t spring for private showers, Joseph slid onto the tile, right in front of the toilet. Vomiting every ounce of his being into the toilet, he heaved and heaved and heaved. And fucking heaved. It didn’t even matter that he was naked, he just knew that he needed to get all of this shit out of his stomach. This disgusting feeling sitting deep inside of him. He’d never felt more filthy in his life. Not because of the alcohol.

Because of everything else that his brain had deduced.

“Fuck, you okay?”

Lifting his pounding head from the toilet and his bucket-load of puke, Joseph blinked at Jordan. Kind of stupidly, actually, but he couldn’t manage it any other way. The other boy was just standing there the way he was born into this world without an ounce of shame. But then if what Joseph had deduced had happened, why would he have shame? They’ve apparently seen everything of each other.

He threw up again. In the toilet because he wasn’t a complete ass to throw up on someone’s floor.

Liam’s floor.

The sleepover. The movie. The snacks.

The beer.

“Hey, man, your first hangover is always a hard one,” Jordan said with a smile as he walked over, plopping down beside him. Being naked on the floor didn’t seem to bother this asshole either. “You good?” he asked, resting his hand on Joseph’s shoulder.

Caressing Joseph’s shoulder as he leaned over him and brushed his lips on his temple, Jordan whispered “Ima make you feel so good, baby.”

Flinching away from the hand, Joseph dry heaved back over the toilet, the touch awakening a sickening feeling pitted deep down inside of him. When the hand came again, this time rubbing the back of his neck, Joseph froze in place.

The touch felt wrong and yet sent sparks running through his skin. Maybe they were bad sparks? He was so out of it, so disconnected from his own body, that Joseph was barely even grasping an understanding of what was going on. What was happening anyways? The only thing he did know, could comprehend, was that he couldn’t move. One, from the weight atop him. Two?

Because his mind and body had shut down.

Disconnected.

Unplugged.

“Ibuprofen and water will help a ton, promise.” Jordan was suddenly all around him, enveloping Joseph into a soft embrace while pressing kisses on his cheek. “You’ll feel better in no time, bae.”

The bubbling in his stomach along with the fear and panic in his heart disagreed immensely but he was too afraid to do anything about it. The fear was crippling, holding him and his mind hostage. There was no moving, no protesting, no fighting back.

Like this morning.

This morning.

Joseph was incapable of vomiting once more because there was nothing left in his stomach. For that matter, he didn’t think he’d ever be able to get anything down there ever again. No way. When Jordan’s touches turned even softer, more of a soft loving caress than just a grasp, Joseph’s panic caught up with him. It had been kept just barely below the surface, not yet breaching through, but now there was no holding it back.

Fuck his life.

Body shaking and breath starting to come a whole lot shorter, Joseph tried to shrink into himself but Jordan’s embrace wouldn’t allow it.

He tried to push against the bigger boy’s chest or pull himself out of the iron grip but nothing was working. Jordan was just way stronger than he was.

There was no escaping.

Jordan pressed his face into the side of Joseph’s, placing soft kisses all over his cheek. “It’s okay, just breathe. I know, hangovers seriously suck.”

The small part of his brain that was still partially aware wanted to laugh at the idiot glued to him. Did he seriously believe that this was all because Joseph was spooked by a hangover? Well, he kind of was but that was more because it was just plain stupid of him but nothing else.

Carefully and slowly getting a handle on his out of whack breathing, Joseph whispered “P-Please let go. Please.”

Arms coming off him slowly, Joseph couldn’t bring himself to even glance at the boy beside him. That one glance would just send him into a downward spiral with no escape in sight. Shakily getting to his feet, Joseph made sure to look straight ahead as he walked back out into the room.

The place was like a fucking crime scene.

Beer bottles were strewn around the room. Trash of all their snacks was everywhere, wrapper after wrapper. But none of that bothered Joseph.

The roommate’s messy bed did.

On his shaky legs, he slowly stumbled to the trash can in the corner, leaning on the bed as he passed. He needed to know while at the same time…he was terrified to confirm his suspicions. Should he? Shouldn’t he?

He needed to. There was no way he could handle not knowing for sure. To just live in that limbo that was neither confirmed nor denied. The confirmation had to happen no matter what. Barely even breathing and knowing just from the prickling on his neck that Jordan was behind him watching, Joseph glanced down into the trash.

“You never said no.”

On the verge of hysterics as he ran a shaky hand through his bedhead while staring down at the horrible evidence in the trash, Joseph felt the push sending him on the descent to his panic. With a quivering voice, Joseph said “I never said yes.”

Annoyance was glaring apparent in Jordan’s voice. “But you never said no. Plus, you could have gotten up at any time. You never said no. And you came twice, so you were definitely enjoying yourself. Don’t try to twist what happened on me.”

Did this…did this idiot actually think that just because Joseph’s body had reacted how it was supposed to that he had given his consent? A fucking dick was going to come if you stimulated it enough.

He needed to get out of this room. Not just out but so far away and he’d never look back. Joseph felt like he was filthy; he needed to scrub himself so hard that he’d bleed. Frantically, he checked the floor and found his clothes thrown by the closet. Grabbing them, he quickly yanked them on without a care whether or not he was presentable or that everything went on right. He just needed to cover himself, cover his disgusting body from every eye. Not just Jordan’s but from this room. From the entire fucking world.

“I really don’t think freaking out is warranted. It was just sex, man. I made sure to use a condom; I’m not a piece of shit.”

You are, you are, you are. “I-I just need to get the f-fuck out like right the fuck now.” Pulling on his shoes with such vigor that his hands flung back into himself from the force, Joseph jumped to his unsteady feet as he felt his pockets to make sure he had all his shit. He was never ever coming back here and he didn’t want to leave anything behind.

“Look, Joseph,” Jordan said quickly, trying to block him from leaving, “hold up, man.”

“You seriously need to get the hell out of my way,” he tried to snarl but instead it came out as weak and pathetic. When the ass wouldn’t budge, Joseph whispered “Please, Jordan.”

It was the way he begged, the fact that this was probably the first time Joseph had ever said Jordan’s name, that made Jordan move. There was a look of worry and panic etched all over his face but the other boy said nothing as Joseph made his limping way out the door.

Thank God because if he had said something, Joseph wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t have ended up crying on the floor.

 


 

“Joseph!” Vesela called as she walked into the house, a couple bags of groceries in her hands. It was stupid but she ended up a little jealous that her child was growing up and wanted to do sleepovers with other boys rather than his mother.

Yeah, she was that type of mom.

So Vesela decided that she wanted to plan their own sleepover. Snacks and all. She was that cheesy.

“Hello!” she yelled out when there was no answer. Funny because his car was outside. Setting the bags on the counter in the kitchen, she sighed as she walked over to the stairs and made her way up after slipping off her shoes.

“Joseph?” Knocking on his door, she pushed it the rest of the way open and made her way in. “Baby?” Was that the sound of crying? What the hell? From…the bathroom. With a deep breath because it was always hard seeing him at his low points, Vesela turned the knob and went in.

Dear God.

Rushing him from where he was sitting on the floor, Vesela yanked the knife from his hand shouting “Stop, Joseph, stop!” Joseph tried to keep his grasp but there wasn’t much strength in someone who was bleeding from their arms. “Stop,” she said in stern tone as she tossed the knife out the door before yanking him into a hug, pressing his face into her shoulder as he sobbed.

It was just plain sad and embarrassing that she had no clue how to deal with him anymore. She was his mother for fuck’s sake and yet she was pathetic. God, she was always so lost on how to help him.

Brushing through the hairs on the back of his head softly and slowly, Vesela whispered “S’okay, sweetheart, I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” She was too afraid to ask what was wrong. It had to be horrible if he was sitting here sobbing after what looked like a painful shower from his raw red skin and practically ripping his arms open with slash after slash.

She needed to get those patched up.

“I-I’m s-s-sorry,” Joseph cried, clutching her so tight that she didn’t think she’d be able to breathe soon. “S-Sorry, mayko, sorry.”

“Why, baby.”

“B-Because I’m so disgusting a-and nasty. N-Nasty, nasty, nasty.”

What was she supposed to make of this information exactly? Why was he disgusting? Why was he nasty? She was at a complete loss. “I don’t think you are.”

Rubbing his face into her, Joseph sobbed “B-Because you’re my mom. You’re s-supposed to say that. I’m just a disgusting faggot excuse of a human being. So so nasty, mayko.”

Taking in a deep breath to hopefully help her think this through, Vesela replied after pressing a kiss to the side of his head “I say it because it’s true.”

He said nothing else, simply clutched her tighter and cried all the more harder. She in turn said nothing else, simply wrapped her arms around him as hard as she could. If only she knew what the problem was, if only she knew how to make his pain go away.

But she’d have to know what the problem was to be able to do that.

“I f-feel so dirty,” he finally whispered, “So utterly gross and disgusting. I scrubbed and scrubbed in the shower but I don’t feel any cleaner.”

“Joseph, you’re clean. I don’t understand.”

“You never understand,” Joseph mumbled miserably. And lord, did that make her feel like the worst and most wretched mother in the world. It wasn’t her fault that she didn’t understand. Maybe if he bothered to tell her things, she’d be able to understand and help. But no, when did he ever tell her anything?

“Then make me,” she said, pressing another kiss to his hair. “Tell me everything and make me understand.”

“God, I wish. I wish so bad.” Sniffling and turning his head to the side where he didn’t face her, he added softly “I wish.”

There was no point in arguing with him or trying to get him to speak. When had that ever worked? Absolutely never. “How about instead you tell me how I can help you right now. At this moment.”

“I wanna really big sweatshirt to hide in,” he murmured, turning to look at her. His eyes were so dead, so tired, and Vesela just wanted to cry from it. He was a baby for God’s sake. Fifteen and he was such a horrible mess. “Really big, mayko.”

Oh-kay… “I can do that. I’ll go buy you the biggest sweatshirt that I can find. What color?”

His eyes looked so hopeful, like she was doing him the biggest favor in the world. “Really? It has to have a hood too. I need a hood. And black because it’s a color people hide in.”

Hide from what though? Someone? Something? Vesela was the stupidest person in the world probably. “One huge black sweatshirt with a hood. No problem. Anything else?”

Biting his lip and trying to shrink into her but failing because he was so amazingly tall, Joseph added with a whisper “More soap. And like a pumice stone or something. Something super rough that I can scrub myself with.”

Tightening her arm that was around his shoulders, Vesela replied “Sweetheart, you’re going to hurt yourself like that. You’re nice and fresh and clean. Don’t worry about that.”

A look of betrayal crossed his face. “You said you’re going to help me.”

“Joseph, you’re going to hurt yourself if you scrub like that. Trust me, I’m helping.”

Making a frustrated noise and seeming like he was conflicted if he wanted to push her away or get as close as possible, Joseph broke down into a sobbing mess all over again. “I-I just need to f-feel clean. P-Please?”

Resting them back on the wall behind her, Vesela tilted her head back just enough to look up at the ceiling. She wasn’t going to let him see her tears because mothers didn’t break down and cry in frustration when they were supposed to be strong. But Jesus, she couldn’t do this anymore. Vesela didn’t even know what the hell she was doing. When had she ever? She just winged it and hoped for the best. Winging it was not working anymore.

“If I bathed you myself, would you think that’s weird?” she asked, an idea forming in her head. There was just no way she’d let him scrub his skin off with a freaking pumice stone.

That, very surprisingly, made him give a broken laugh and form a tiny smile. “What?”

Feeling confident that her tears had faded back where they belonged, Vesela turned and smiled at him. “Well, who scrubs better than mothers? We always know how to make sure our kids are nice and clean. Hell, we’re the ones who teach you to bath yourselves. Maybe you just need a little bit of motherly scrubbing?”

A sad snotty giggle erupted from him as he lifted the collar of his shirt to wipe his face and nose. Slightly ew. “That’ll make me clean?”

Vesela could literally smell a gallon of soap on his body but she nodded without protesting. “Of course. Mamas always know the best scrubbing ways.” Brushing back his hair with her fingers, she continued “We are the scrubbing pros. No one scrubs like we do; it’s all genetic in being a mom.”

Normally, Joseph would completely call out stupid bullshit like that but wherever his mind was at made him different. Gullible, hopeful, or whatever but those words seemed to reassure him. “Really?”

“Of course. What do you take moms for? Jesus, we push babies out of us. We’re fucking superhuman.” There was nothing particularly superhuman about how she had screamed her head off pushing out her little itty bitty bundle of joy but, hey, Joseph didn’t need to know that.

“I’m…not too old to be scrubbed by my mother?”

“That’s up to you,” she shrugged. She hated people who had to make innocent things perverted. As if it was wrong for a mother to help her child in a time of serious need. What was the difference between a nurse and a mother? “But if you might be uncomfortable, I can yell tips through the shower door.”

With another funky giggle, Joseph shook his head against her shoulder. “You know everything I’ve got and seen everything I’ve got so…”

Not after the age of ten but all the same. So puberty had hit. As if she was afraid of some pubic hair. If her son didn’t have any, then she’d be actually worried. “Go to the shower and I’ll grab the soap from mine.”

Chapter Text

“You look badass with a power tool,” Joseph said quietly as he watched his mother install a tv mount on her wall across from her bed. She’d apparently been planning a movie night for them because she had been ‘totally jealous’ of him wanting to hang out with other people.

He wished he had never hung out with those other people.

“Why thank you,” she laughed before she pushed the button on the drill to screw into the wall. She had literally bought both the tv and the mount yesterday after he had left. “Told you, mamas have super powers.”

They must because after her scrubbing the hell out of him, he actually felt a bit cleaner than before. Like he wasn’t going to crawl out of his skin. Now it just itched like he was a little grubby but that was way better than before. He didn’t feel like he needed to shed his skin, rip it off, to get away from his disgust.

Making sure the hood didn’t slip off his head as he adjusted himself on her bed, Joseph watched the most amazing woman in the world as she worked. He knew that he had freaked her the hell out but she sure as hell was handling it amazingly. How many mothers could manage what she could? He should buy her a gift or something. Or just not be such a fucking burden.

“Mayko? Am I too much trouble?”

He liked the snort that she let out like he was asking the dumbest question in the world. “Of course not. Now, maybe in a little trouble for that tattoo? Yeah, maybe. But we’ll save that for another day.”

She hadn’t said anything in the shower but her mouth had titled in a very unhappy way when she had found the rose on his arm. Showering had been a process because she made sure to bandage and cover his arms first. Once his arms had been cleaned, Joseph realized how much of a mess he had made of himself. He was surprised he hadn’t bled to death or something. He’d also been a little worried that she’d be upset about being a fully clothed soaking wet mess after the shower but she had just laughed and smiled in the beautiful way that he loved, calling him silly.

“’Kay,” he murmured, sinking into his giant sweatshirt that she had went and bought, dragging him along because she didn’t trust him alone.

Joseph had nearly had a panic attack from all the people in Walmart. It felt like they were all staring at him and his disgusting being. It was like they could easily read the dirty sin he had been involved in. He had worn a long sleeve and a hat under a hood but he still felt so exposed. And his clothes felt too tight even though everything was always a little baggy on him. But it was like his body was on display for all to see, especially the men. Joseph had felt as though they had all been staring at him for the whore that he was.

Tugging on the huge black sweatshirt had been the greatest relief of his life.

Watching as she set the drill on the floor while picking up the instructions, Joseph wondered how this woman did it. He wished he had her amazing strength. If anyone was going to protect him, it was her. She may be a circle but fuck, she was as tough as a square. “Mayko?”

“Yes, baby,” she murmured while her face was scrunched in thought, reading what must be confusing instructions.

Biting his lip because he knew he was going to sound like a freaking child, Joseph whispered “You’re going to keep my nightmares away, right? Because you’re helping me.” He had no doubt that they’d come for him tonight.

Smiling softly as she let the paper fall to the floor before bouncing onto the bed beside him, his mother ran her fingers through his hair where he lay staring up at her. “I’m going to kick all those motherfuckers’ asses. No nightmares allowed in here, lemme tell you. And when they try to get through the door? I beat them with a fucking bat into a pile of pulpy shit that they ain’t never getting up from.”

Caught in a surprising bout of laughter that made his mother beam in delight, Joseph replied “Promise?”

“Promise,” she whispered against his forehead before placing a kiss. “Now, I think I’m up for a Lord of the Rings marathon. How ‘bout you?”

“You need to hookup that tv first,” he couldn’t help but laugh. “No watching until that happens.”

“Smartass,” his mother snorted before pressing another kiss and standing. “Don’t doubt your mama’s skills.”

 


 

“Why the fuck aren’t you answering,” Liam mumbled under his breath as he once again reached Kavinsky’s voicemail. What the hell was up? Since Liam had finally made it back to his dorm – which had been both empty and a complete mess – Kavinsky wouldn’t answer his phone. It wasn’t odd for him to not answer once in a while but after hours? Hundreds of missed calls? Tons of ignored texts?

Something was amiss.

Well, Liam had known that the minute he had gotten back to his dorm and the mess that it was. If there was one thing Kavinsky didn’t do, it was leave a huge fucking mess behind himself. Interesting, really, because you would think an asshole like that didn’t care about such things but the Slavic boy did. But that was probably one of those attributes that Liam detected but knew Kavinsky didn’t let the world see.

Inside that guy, something was completely wrong. And not wrong in a bad way but wrong like he had been through something bad. Liam could feel it in the depths of the hate and pain that were always present in Kavinsky, even when he smiled.

Finally giving up after yet again going to voicemail, Liam huffed and got off his bed to finally clean the mess that was left behind. Really, he should drag Jordan’s ass over here to help him but he was just too tired to deal with him at the moment. His hangover left him with a headache and not to mention that throb still in his face from Eva slapping him.

Apparently, he had shown up under her window saying that they should fuck like bunnies. Whether this was true or not, Liam had no clue because he had been so out of his mind. Eva had come down and slapped him – that he remembered – and then dragged him into her house and practically threw him onto the couch. When morning had come, she had yelled at him for driving drunk like an idiot and then her mom had given him a lecture.

“Baby, I may like you a tad because you’re always good to my baby girl but don’t you think I won’t whoop your stupid ass.”

“I’m super-”

“Ain’t done, baby boy. I’m more upset about you drinking and driving than anything else,” Eva’s mom, a very dedicated nurse who worked at the hospital, interrupted with all her sass. Sass that Eva inherited. Eva’s mom wasn’t just a nurse during her shifts but out of her job too. There was no separating her from what she believed were her duties. “Maybe mommy and daddy won’t miss you but Helen and my Eva will. Don’t do it.”

He actually loved her mom a lot. Like extremely. The woman was fucking amazing. Eva’s dad on the other hand was…eh. The man didn’t come around much according to Eva, but he did love and care for his kids. At least that was something. It was more than Liam got from his own parents.

Sighing as he grabbed handfuls of wrappers, he walked over to the trash and dumped them in. Dirty assholes couldn’t even clean up after themselves. The least they could have done, or whoever had slept in George’s bed, was to fix it. That was just disrespectful to poor George. Grabbing the blanket which had fallen to the floor, Liam stopped when a crinkling sounded in his hand.

Assholes were even eating in George’s bed. Wow. They better have not gotten the blankets and sheets dirty because then Liam was stuck washing his roommate’s shit. Finding the offending crinkler hidden between the folds of the sheets, he paused as he stared at what was in his hand.

There had been no eating in George’s bed.

Worry clouding his heart because he really hoped it was all some lie even though he was holding a condom wrapper in his hand, Liam walked back to the trash. With a pencil from George’s nightstand because there was no way he was sticking a hand in the garbage after knowing what might be in there, he sucked in a breath.

“Jordan, tell me you fucking didn’t,” he whispered in the quiet of the room as he stared down at a used condom. “Please.”

If Kavinsky was fully straight or not, Liam had no idea honestly. But that didn’t matter because he knew that the other boy had never been comfortable with Jordan’s advances. Ever. So if they had had sex, it wasn’t consensual on Kavinsky’s part.

“Fucking hell,” Liam snapped as he dropped the pencil in the trash because George didn’t want that one now. It was contaminated. Practically stomping, he yanked the empty beer bottles off the floor and threw them into the trash. Alcohol. Jordan had made Kavinsky drink. Pressured him into it. Liam had just been too fucking drunk to stop it.

Yeah, he was a fucking friend.

“Dammit, Jordan.” Standing in the middle of his room with a hand in his hair, Liam tried to think on what to do. That had to be why Kavinsky wasn’t answering. Liam had no clue if Jordan had planned to get Kavinsky drunk on purpose for sex but it didn’t matter. He had taken advantage of him knowing full well that there was no way that Kavinsky was comfortable with it.

Jordan had raped Joseph.

Now what was Liam going to do about it?

That he didn’t know. Tomorrow. Tomorrow after sleeping on this incident, he’d know what to do.

Tomorrow.

 


 

“See?” Vesela said as she closed the bathroom only halfway, leaving the light on inside. “Nightmares don’t like light. No nightmares can manifest when there’s light shining.”

Joseph nodded like it made complete sense from where he lay under her blankets, bundled in the hugest hoodie in the world. He refused to remove it or the hood like it was armor protecting him. The minute he fell asleep, she was getting on her computer and seeing if she could find out anything. Maybe she’d get lucky by typing in what she had noticed. The internet had all the answers, didn’t it?

Shutting off the main light of the room, Vesela took in the room to make sure it wasn’t too dark for him. Joseph had always had a fear of the dark since he was little. When it had finally broken, he had been kidnapped and locked in a fucking dark closet. Hello, fear all over again. It had lasted years and had never truly broken. The nightlight was gone by the time he was eleven but sometimes he’d turn on the light in his bathroom and leave the door slightly ajar. Even here in Henrietta, he did it sometimes.

But the room seemed bright enough with the bathroom and small lamp atop her dresser on. It wasn’t so bright where sleep couldn’t be found but it was just bright enough to, hopefully, keep away the horrors. “Good?”

Looking around the room, Joseph finally nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Perfect,” she said as she walked over and got under the blankets on her side. Pressing a soft kiss to his forehead, Vesela whispered “Now close your eyes, my beautiful boy, and sleep. I’m not going to let anything happen. Promise.”

The undying trust in his eyes felt like such a burden. Obviously, there was no way she could make a promise like that because if his mind was going to conjure up nightmares, then it’d do it. But she prayed that her presence and the lights were enough to give him a few hours of restful sleep. “You’re the best, mayko.”

“No duh,” she snorted, causing him to laugh a little as she laid down. “Now close your eyes and sleep.”

Watching him for what felt like more than an hour, Vesela finally let out a tiny sigh of relief when his eyes stayed shut and relaxed, his breathing slowing down to that of slumber. She had thought that her staring might make him uncomfortable but he seemed to prefer knowing that she was watching him close. It was like reassurance that she’d keep him safe.

Lord, don’t prove her wrong by giving him a nightmare right now.

Vesela waited a little longer to make sure that he was actually asleep before carefully sitting up and grabbing her laptop from the floor. She’d type in everything that she had noticed about his odd behavior today and if she was lucky, Vesela would find out what was going on. He’d been okay yesterday so why was today so different? It wasn’t just different but completely foreign to his normal behavior. Vesela knew what his anxiety, depression, and other moments looked like but this was all new.

Meaning something had changed. And the only thing different from yesterday and today was that sleepover. Joseph hadn’t mentioned it once which had to be a sign of some sort. Something had gone bad maybe? Argument or something?

Something, Vesela knew that much. Hopefully this Google search would help her with some answers. Fingers crossed because she really needed help on what to do for him. On how to help him through this new mess of emotions. She could do this; Vesela would find her answers and she’d help her baby the way good mothers did.

Opening up Google, she began to type her observations.

Research time.

Chapter Text

Taking a deep breath, Liam knocked on Jordan’s dorm door and hoped for the best. What exactly the best was, he still had no idea. Technically, Liam still had no clue what the fuck he was going to do with the information he had discovered. He was beyond pissed on Joseph’s behalf but Jordan had been a good friend to him since he arrived in this garbage little town. Temptation had hit him to try and talk to Eva’s mom about it because she was the only adult figure he really trusted out here. It wouldn’t make any sense to call Helen and explain it over the phone.

Plus, she’d be pissed about the alcohol.

But telling Eva’s mom would open so much questions and…Liam just wasn’t sure he could handle answering them. Hell, even just talking about it. Rape was not an easy topic to open with someone.

“What up,” Jordan nodded to Liam once the door was open. The ass looked completely fine and unfazed and that seriously bugged Liam. He knew for a fact that Joseph probably wasn’t doing so well right now. Especially since still not a single call or text had been answered.

Fucking hell, dammit.

“We need to talk,” Liam replied as he pushed his way in, Jordan closing the door behind him.

“Sorry about leaving your place trashed-”

He couldn’t hold his anger in check. Trashed was the least of his worries right now. “How the fuck could you!” Liam blew as he spun around. Jordan was bigger than him in both height and muscle but Liam had never been afraid of his friend. Of course, they had never really gotten into fights before so…hopefully Liam wouldn’t get beaten up or something.

That wouldn’t be cool.

“Uh…it was just trash. Seriously, I’m sorry.”

This fucking ass. “That’s not what I’m talking about,” he hissed as he jabbed his finger into Jordan’s broad chest. “I’m talking about Kavinsky.”

Shadow crossing his face, Jordan ground his jaw in shame before his annoyance took over. It was like he was trying to justify himself. Like the realization of what he had done was maybe digging into him but his pride or dignity or whatever bullshit he had was winning over. “Did he cry to you or something? For fuck’s sake, it was just sex. Why the hell are you two making it such an issue?”

Kavinsky had said some words for himself. Good. “He didn’t tell me anything. In fact, he hasn’t answered his phone since the day before yesterday. The day I invited him to just have some fun with us. To watch movies the whole fucking night and eat junk. The day before you fucking took advantage of him.”

A small groan of pain escaped his throat when Jordan suddenly shoved him into the wall. “As I told him, he never said no.”

Pushing Jordan’s hands off of him and making sure he wasn’t cornered into the wall, Liam said with venom “You fucking idiot, that doesn’t mean yes. Did he say yes? ‘Fuck me, Jordan’ or something? Anything like that?”

The shame came back which was good because it meant his best friend wasn’t a complete asshole. He probably had been running through the whole scenario since it had happened, trying to justify it in as many ways as possible. Trying to not feel the guilt or maybe erase all the blame that fell on him. “He never said no.”

“I can’t believe you,” Liam groaned into his hands as he rubbed his face like it was going to help erase this all. “Jordan, you fucking raped him. You do know that, right?”

Startled panic exploded onto Jordan’s face as his eyes grew wide. It looked like he was trying to form words but they all were lost before making it out of his mouth. At least it proved that he hadn’t always had the intention of getting Kavinsky drunk for sex. It had just happened apparently.

‘Just happened.’

Finger quotes.

“Kavinsky was drunk as hell, man. You took advantage of that even if you were drunk too and didn’t know what the hell you were doing. There was no fucking way he could have consented anyways being as out of it as he was.”

“He came twice,” Jordan mumbled like he was embarrassed to say it. Like he knew that it wasn’t even close to justification for what happened. Because he knew as well as Liam that just because the body reacted, it didn’t mean the person was all for it.

Huffing as he shook his head and paced, Liam sat down on the edge of Jordan’s bed and dropped his head into his hands. How the hell was he supposed to fix this? Kavinsky may be a complete assholic jerk but, dammit, Liam liked him. There was good shit hiding in there, he just knew it. But after this shit with Jordan, there was no way in hell Kavinsky would ever trust Liam again.

“Look, I fucked up, alright? I know but it was still just some sex. I used a condom, you know.”

“How the fuck do you think I figured out what happened,” Liam snorted into his hands.

The bed dipped down beside him. “Right. Sorry.”

“Jordan,” Liam started as he let himself fall back onto the bed to stare up at the ceiling and hopefully, somehow, find the answer written up there, “Dude, it’s not just sex. It was fucking rape, man. Whether you didn’t use force or not, if you hurt him or not, he never said yes.”

“Stop saying that word. Makes me feel nasty.”

Anger flared up once more inside him as he quickly sat up and glared at the ass. “Fucking dipshit, I don’t care how it makes you feel. It’s what fucking happened and I’m not going to avoid the word or soften it up to make you feel better. You’re not the fucking victim here. Can you even imagine what hell he might be going through right now? Did you ever consider how he might be feeling?”

Looking down at his hands as he picked at his fingernails, Jordan whispered “Trust me, it’s all I’ve been thinking about.”

“Good. At least I know that my friend might actually be a fucking human being in there.”

  


 

Joseph felt like shit. Like legitimate shit right now. Like Peanut’s shit in her litterbox that he was currently cleaning because chores waited for no one.

Well, chores in regards to Peanut. In regards to himself…he really didn’t give a shit.

Despite how much she didn’t want to leave him home alone, his mother had finally been convinced to leave. Peanut was lacking both food and litter which were two necessities that couldn’t be gone without. Technically, they could feed her people food but Joseph had never done that and didn’t want her to get accustomed to it. And she could easily take a shit in the backyard but he definitely didn’t want to go hunting for crap in their oversized monstrosity.

His mother had tried dragging him with her but Joseph knew he wouldn’t be able to handle it. Even in his huge sweatshirt, which he had told her to buy another of for when he had to wash this one, there were just too much people around and Joseph could feel all of their stares on his body. Every single one of those people had judgement in their eyes, seeing him for the nasty used thing that he was. What was worse were the stares he knew men had to be giving him with an extra glint of interest in their eyes like they’d like their own turn with him. Using him.

Vomit landed in poor Peanut’s box.

Coughing out the last of it, Joseph stood on wobbly legs and went back into his room from his balcony, trudging to the connected bathroom. Washing up in the sink, he paused as he stared at his face in the mirror.

How was this him? There was a disconnect to who he saw in the mirror and who he thought he was. Or at least what he thought he looked like. He just…didn’t look like ‘Joseph’ anymore. His eyes were more sunken than actually existing, dark circles were the style of the year, and what the fuck were cheeks? Joseph had no clue being that he had none.

Joseph just wasn’t Joseph anymore. Or at least whoever Joseph was supposed to be. Whatever a Joseph was supposed to be. These days, the line was so blurred, the view so murky, that he had no idea who or what he was.

But there was one thing that he could determine as he stared at the strange creature gazing back at him.

He was filthy.

A simple wash up would do no good; no, what he needed was a good scrub. That would help. Make him feel a little better maybe. Stripping his clothes reluctantly because even though he was home alone and in his own bathroom, Joseph still felt exposed, he jumped into the shower. Maybe he needed his mother to scrub him again because he was doubtful on how well he’d actually be able to clean himself. He was just so fucking filthy.

Filthier than Peanut’s box which definitely needed a wash now.

That would be next on the list then, he figured, grabbing the loofah and putting piles of soap on it. The loofah wasn’t as rough as he’d like but if he scrubbed super hard, his skin would get raw and red. That had to mean he was doing a good job. Like shedding his nastiness for fresh stuff.

Loofah scrubbing would have to do for now.

Scrubbing as hard as he could until he was mildly satisfied, Joseph shut off the water and stepped out. He dried himself quickly and got dressed twice as fast. Being naked would just make him gross all over again so covering himself as fast as possible was important. Dear God, he had so little control in his life to the point where he couldn’t even be naked anymore. Scratch that, no control whatsoever.

Jesus, he needed some. Or maybe just the illusion of some. Or something. And he knew just how to give himself some.

Walking over to his nightstand, he took out Ivo’s knife and flicked it open before having a seat on his bed. Even just rolling up his sleeve made him feel exposed. The pain, the cuts, they’d definitely help right now because only Joseph was in control of that. Only Joseph could decide how hard, how long, and how deep. It was all in his hands. Joseph was the only one who could cause this sort of pain.

That was the most beautiful satisfaction ever.

He worked slowly and carefully, much different from last time when it was a frantic need to shed his skin. By the time he felt satisfied, by the time he actually felt that little spark of control, Joseph’s arm was bloody as hell and burning like a flame.

But that was okay. Because he felt a little better now.

After washing his knife and carefully cleaning his arm before pulling his sleeve back down, Joseph returned his focus to Peanut’s box which was even nastier than before after his puke explosion. Dragging it with him downstairs so he could wash it in the backyard, Joseph realized that Peanut hadn’t come back from taking her ‘walk’ in the backyard yet. He usually left the screen open just a crack for her to go out and in. Had he seen her since she went out this morning?

No, he didn’t think he had.

Worry filling a deep dark pit in his miniscule stomach, Joseph tried to convince himself that he was just overreacting. Maybe she just was enjoying the sun or found an interesting place to sleep. That had to be it. “Peanut!” he called as he walked outside, setting the dirty box on the cement before he walked onto the grass.

Don’t panic. She was a stubborn independent mind. When did she ever listen to him? Rarely unless she felt like it. “Peanut!”

Once Joseph was sure he had checked every corner of the backyard, he decided it was okay to give in to his panic now. She never went out of the backyard, why would she today? Although…occasionally she liked to lay on the grass out front because the sun hit better there. But she’d always go through the front door with him letting her out. Peanut had never jumped the fence and done it herself.

Maybe today was different. She just decided to do it herself rather than wait. Maybe he hadn’t been paying attention when she had asked him. If she had asked him. “Yeah, that has to be it,” he said quickly to himself as he dashed back into the house and out the front door. “Peanut!”

There was no Peanut. There was no fucking Peanut.

“Running away wouldn’t make any sense,” Joseph murmured as he gnawed on his lip. She just wouldn’t do that. Walking further down the driveway and eventually into the street – fuck shoes, who needed them – Joseph looked up and down like she’d just be trotting over. “Peanut?”

Tears filled his eyes when he caught sight of a blob down the street just lying there, a couple houses down. It could just be a squirrel. Probably was and he was just being extra. Peanut was practically the same color as squirrels. “A squirrel,” he whispered through his tears as he jogged over.

It wasn’t a squirrel.

“Peanut?” Joseph called softly as he crouched down beside her half-squashed body. Would it be better if she was alive or dead? He didn’t care if she ended up without back legs; he’d carry her everywhere and teach her how to drag herself. He’d move his bedroom downstairs so she didn’t have to climb up and down the stairs.

None of that would matter though as he stretched out a shaky hand and set it on her chest.

She wasn’t breathing.

“Fuck,” he cried, pressing a hand to his mouth. “F-Fuck. D-Dammit. We were s-supposed to grow old together, remember? P-Please get up.” Softly petting her head before closing her dead lifeless eyes, Joseph sobbed “P-Please. Promise I’ll take you to the best vet. I’ll build you a f-fucking walker thing and everything. Please, P-Peanut.”

Obviously, there was no answering meow or content purr. Because she was very dead and very much not getting up. Sitting down on his ass on the dirty street, Joseph had no idea what to do except one thing.

Cry. Because his beautiful wonderful cat was dead. Gone. Smooshed by some stupid fucking asshole who wasn’t looking where they drove. Not only that but they didn’t even stop for her. What if she had still been alive after? They left her to suffer.

His poor baby.

Rubbing her head because he couldn’t bring himself to touch her stiff body or look at her smashed lower half, Joseph sang a lullaby through his wracking sobs. She liked when he sang to her. It’d always end up with her purring and falling asleep on or beside him.

Dear fucking God, Peanut was gone. “Y-You’re going to like kitty h-heaven,” Joseph whispered. “T-They let you do whatever you want there. Better yet, they’ll let you v-visit Waddle over at the d-dog side. You guys will get to be together again, d-don’t you worry.”

Wiping his dripping snot on his sweatshirt, Joseph sat there in silence, petting her as much as he could. Because after this, he’d never get to ever again.

“Love you, Peanut.”

Chapter Text

God hated her. That was the only thing she could think of. The only reason she could think of on why her child had to have such a terribly rough life. It wasn’t enough that he came home a mess yesterday but no, God had to go and get Peanut run over.

Kissing the top of Joseph’s head as he sat down in the dirt next to where they had buried Peanut, Vesela murmured “I heard cat heaven is beautiful.”

“Me too,” he whispered in a broken voice. He was out of tears right now, having used them all for when she had found him sitting in the street petting his dead cat. “And she’ll see Waddle again. She’d like that.”

“No doubt,” Vesela replied as she took a seat beside him and held him close. She had actually been on the verge of her own tears when she saw the mess of Peanut in the street. It had been even worse when Joseph had begged her to be the one to pick her up because he couldn’t do it. “They’ll be extra happy together and get to poop wherever they want.”

A snotty giggle came from him as he rested his head on her shoulder. “They had manners, thank you.”

“But of course,” she snorted in reply.

They sat in silence until sunset was upon them, Joseph sniffling and Vesela softly rubbing his shoulder with her thumb where she held him. He didn’t want to speak and she wasn’t going to force him to. Although, lord knew she was dying for him to speak.

But not about Peanut.

She was looking to hear about yesterday and what she was worried may have happened at the sleepover. Google searches had yielded her some very concerning results. At first, Vesela thought that maybe she had somehow searched wrong. But after reading various websites and pages, she knew she hadn’t.

Which was terrifying because if it were true, it meant that someone had raped her child. She didn’t know if more people than just not friend Liam and boy Joseph didn’t like had gone to the sleepover but she felt like she knew the culprit. However, there was nothing she could do about it unless Joseph talked about it. Forcing him to speak was the worst thing she could do.

So she was stuck waiting him out. Vesela just prayed that the waiting wouldn’t take too long. The longer he let the horror fester inside of him, the worse he was going to get.

“Let’s go inside, sweetheart. It’s getting dark.” Joseph still kept his silence but shook his head. Kissing him, she repeated “Sweetie, we should-”

“I don’t want to,” he sniffled, wiping his face with shaky hands. “I don’t want her to be all alone.”

It wasn’t worth telling him that she wasn’t here anymore and plus, didn’t he remember that she was hanging with Waddle now? But she wasn’t going to make him worse by saying that. What Vesela would do is be the best mother in the world. “Then I’ll grab us some blankets and some food and we’ll sleep here. Like camping, huh?”

“I’ve never been camping before,” Joseph mused as he shrugged off her so she could get up. “How come we never went camping, mayko?”

Yeah, that was because she didn’t really like sleeping outside and Ivo had always hated bugs. So in turn, no camping. It had never been something she had wanted to experience anyways but apparently Joseph had. “Sorry. Not something me or your bashtá ever really liked.”

It didn’t seem as though he was really listening though because he was back to being lost, staring at Peanut’s grave.

Peanut’s grave. Jesus.

“Hello,” she sighed as she answered her phone while grabbing random crap from the cabinets. She didn’t care what Joseph ate, she just needed him to eat. These next few weeks were going to be hard on him meaning that keeping on weight was going to be difficult. More difficult than usual she should say.

“Hi. You…don’t sound so good?” Ivo asked in concern. “You okay?”

Tell him, not tell him… Fuck it. She needed to unload on someone. Nikol always helped but Vesela missed hearing Ivo’s thoughts. Missed him. “Peanut died.” Silence greeted her. “Ivo?”

“Fuck,” he finally murmured. He sounded genuinely upset which wasn’t a surprise being that he loved the wonderful cat as much as everyone else. Especially after she had practically been his home rehab partner after ruining his knee. “How’s Joseph?”

Dilemma. It was another tell him or not moment. Vesela never spoke of Joseph but…this was serious, wasn’t it? Ivo wasn’t stupid; he knew how hard Joseph crashed when something bad happened. Maybe…he was actually worried? If they were ever going to get fixed as a family…

She must have been taking too long for him because he interrupted her musings with an irritated voice. “Dammit, Vesela, I’m just asking-”

“Bad,” Vesela cut in. “Bad, Ivo. She was hit by a car and I found him crying in the street by her flattened body petting her. So, bad.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah, fuck.” Sighing as she grabbed a couple water bottles and dropped them into the bag she had taken out for their excursion snacks, Vesela murmured “I don’t know how to help him anymore.”

Vesela had tried explaining that to Nikol once, weeks ago. But her sister had never truly seen Joseph at his worst moments, so she never could understand. Nikol would give support, sure, but her older sister could never grasp how much weight it put on Vesela herself. Sometimes, it was just exhausting handling which sounded horrible at face value but it was true. Supporting his wrecked mental health was taking a huge toll on her own. Not just that, but her sister would never understand how Joseph literally made it hard for her to help him. It was like he was stuck in this limbo where he wanted her to be there but then he just couldn’t accept the help. He just didn’t want to accept the help.

The only one who would ever understand that was Ivo.

Her husband was silent but Vesela knew it was because he was thinking as she heard the sound of a glass being set down. Nikol had told her how Yulian said that Ivo drank literally every day. One time he had even shown up to work drunk which ended with Yulian dragging him home before anyone caught on to their lord’s state. As a man who had rarely ever drank before, Ivo seemed to be hitting it hard now.

Hopefully his liver was okay.

“The pills don’t help anymore?”

For someone who had done so good for the past year not telling Ivo anything, she was about to ruin her spotless record. She just needed someone to help her. Put out some good ideas or something. “He stopped taking those almost a year ago.”

“Oh.” He sounded annoyed at not knowing this. “Was it a good idea to take him off them?”

With a sigh and melting onto the kitchen tile, Vesela replied “It was neither approved by me or a doctor. He weened himself off them without me knowing. He didn’t like how they worked with the crap he smokes.”

Ivo didn’t even make a surprised grunt. Someone had told him about the weed then. “Maybe…fuck, I got nothing. Gimme a sec…”

Nothing was the story of her life nowadays. “Me neither. I’m out of ideas even though right now is the worst time to be idealess with the death of his lifeline and whatever the fuck happened yesterday.”

Shit.

“What happened yesterday?”

“Nothing,” she backtracked quickly, “Forget I said-”

“Vesela.”

“It’s noth-”

“Maybe I can help.” He was being smart; instead of sounding annoyed knowing that she’d just get pissed at him, Ivo was making sure the concern was oozing from his voice.

Where did people think Joseph got his manipulation powers from?

But this was an area that she didn’t think Ivo actually could help in because she was still on the fence on whether or not to believe what she had found. Coming to terms with the fact that someone may have raped her child was not easy. And seriously terrifying. “Just…I don’t even know. Something happened and he crashed hard.” Vesela hadn’t even told Nikol about it yet so the pressure on her tongue was heavy. Finally, she whispered “But whatever it was caused me to find him literally ripping his arms open with a knife. I’m surprised he hadn’t bled to death.”

A heavy silence was on the other line. She couldn’t even hear Ivo breathing. Was he scared? Worried? Vesela sure hoped so. “You can’t figure out why?” he asked after what felt like a lifetime.

“No.” But she definitely had her suspicions. Very terrifying suspicions.

 


 

“I hate my life,” Joseph whispered up at his ceiling which was still very naked looking compared to the rest of the room. “I’m just so tired.”

Exhausted.

Peanut was gone. Gone because some stupid fucking piece of shit ran her over.

“Some stupid fucking piece of shit.”

Bouncing out of his bed with a sudden energy that surprised him because where the fuck had that come from, Joseph went to his closet, practically slamming the door open. Grabbing what he wanted before pulling on his slip-ons and yanking on his hat, Joseph put on his hood as he bounded down the stairs. Luckily, his mother wasn’t in the kitchen or else he’d be stuck answering questions.

Thank you, luck.

Walking out his door, Joseph turned down the street where he had found Peanut’s body yesterday. My poor child. Steeling his heart because feelings would do him no good right now, Joseph stopped where he had found her and glanced around. Making what he felt was an educated choice, he walked up someone’s driveway and bent down to check out the front bumper and tires of some rich fuck’s Jaguar XKR.

He had to admit, he was shocked that the bitch hadn’t washed their car yet. But hey, that little smudge of evidence was exactly what Joseph needed. Maybe they hadn’t even noticed that they had hit something.

Which made Joseph even more pissed.

Getting to his feet and thanking Coach Rodriguez for teaching him how to hone his swinging stance, Joseph adjusted himself and his lovely metal bat for maximum damage. “This is for Peanut.”

And he swung.

Joseph was happy that whoever this was had stuck with the standard instead of going for the convertible. Way more glass to break besides the windshield. God, he should break shit more often because, Jesus fuck, was it the most satisfying thing in the world. Especially because it was for his beautiful legume. About to slam the rear windshield to make sure it matched everything else, Joseph paused only for a second after he heard a door open.

SLAM

SLAM

SLAM

“What the hell are you doing!” some man’s voice shouted in fury. Joseph took a minute to look at the ugly balding man in a suit – his neighbor apparently – before continuing his mayhem. He raised his bat high before slamming it down into the trunk, leaving a nice dent.

But not nice enough.

So he hit the same spot again and again to the shock and panic of the murderer.

“STOP!” the man yelled in anger before he suddenly ran at Joseph, tackling him to the floor.

Getting touched by a man – a middle aged one at that – and having him atop him was the most terrifying thing in the world. Talk about his triggers combining all at once. Now if this was happening at night, then it’d be even worse and a complete mindfuck.

Yanking the bat away, the man stood – thank God – and pointed at Joseph’s prone form with it, breathing hard. “I don’t know who you are but I’ll have you arrested! ARRESTED YOU DISGUSTING HOOLIGAN!”

Disgusting, yes, Joseph completely agreed. He didn’t think he was a hooligan though. Well, he had just literally smashed the hell out of a car so…

He was more sorry to the car. Actually, only sorry to the car. This piece of shit deserved what he got.

Other neighbors had come out of their stupid McMansions to see what the whole commotion was. They were probably like those gossipy suburb flies that were always in television shows, searching for the next big scandal.

When the guy tried to lean down and rip the hat and hood off Joseph’s head, Joseph reacted in panic at being touched or having his whore body being exposed to the world. He didn’t care if people knew who he was, he cared that their eyes would be on his body.

That was something that he couldn’t handle.

From a kick to the groin, the man dropped like a ton as he grabbed and clutched himself in pain, Joseph’s bat dropping with a loud clang. Grasping it and dragging it over to himself, Joseph rolled to his feet and walked back to the car. He wasn’t done yet.

“Kavinsky? What the fuck are you doing, man?”

Tilting his head to the side, Joseph blinked in confusion at the dude in flannel pants in front of him. They probably went to the same school because this was rich people neighborhood but Joseph had no idea who he was.

Oh. No, he did.

“Alan,” Joseph smirked as he rested the bat on his shoulder. He knew there was a nasty glint in his eyes but hell, he wasn’t trying to hide his hatred. Knowing that this guy might be Alan’s dad just made him all the more excited to ruin this car. “Move out of my way.”

Worry was on the other boy’s face as he scrunched his brows and his mouth tilted but he said “Dude, what the fuck. That’s my dad’s car. What the fuck.”

“That’s nice. Now move so I can finish my art.”

“I’m calling the cops,” Alan’s father said from the floor, still holding his groin in pain. “I’ll get you arrested.”

“That’s nice,” Joseph shrugged because he didn’t fucking care. Let him get arrested. Who gave a fuck?

“Joseph, what the hell?”

His mother now that he thought about it.

Turning with a huge smile on his face to the only being left in his life, Joseph replied with a laugh “Justice. Duh. This man killed my cat so this man gets to lose his car. He should be thankful it’s not him I’m beating with the bat.”

Anger and frustration blew in his mother’s eyes but she kept her voice steady. “Give me the bat.”

“Dude,” Alan interrupted in shocked fury, “You ruined my dad’s car for a cat? What the fuck? Who gives a fuck about a stupid cat? Maybe it shouldn’t have been in the street.”

An opportunity to add more onto that bullshit ridiculousness was ended quickly as Joseph swung into Alan’s stomach with his trusty bat. Maybe he’d polish it as a reward for being so good for him. Alan ended up on the floor like his father, coughing and clutching his stomach in pain.

But that was very much the last straw for his mother as she came from behind him and yanked the bat out of his hand. When he turned to face her, blinding rage was written all over. “House. Now.”

“I’m not done,” he whispered with a vicious smirk as he grabbed his bat back. She resisted but Joseph won out before he walked over to the hood of the Jaguar – practically with everyone of the street watching – and swung down with all the hate and pain he was feeling.

Again and again and again until he was satisfied.

Back on his feet, Alan’s father was already on his cell calling the police as he helped Alan up. But Joseph didn’t care. He simply took himself and his bat back to his mother before he smiled sharply to her disbelief and anger. “I’m done now.”

Her head shook softly like she couldn’t believe it, like she had no idea who was standing in front of her. And maybe she really didn’t grasp it because she had only really met Kavinsky once before. Wrapping her small hand around his wrist and pulling him in front of her, his mother dragged him home, slamming the door shut behind them.

Dropping his bat on the floor with a loud clang, Joseph laughed “I should probably piss before they come for me, huh? Heard cell bathrooms are gross as fuck.”

For all the strength she had displayed outside in front of everyone, his mother was broken now that it was just them. It surprised Joseph because he had never seen this woman break from just him. Usually it took Ivo to tear down such a strong woman. “I don’t care,” she whispered through her tears, “I don’t fucking care.”

Joseph blinked in surprise at her. She wasn’t supposed to say that; she was always supposed to be on his side. Always. His mother was what he had left not for her to just give up on him like everyone else. Mothers were never supposed to just give up; it went against all motherdom. She was breaking the rules.

“I don’t care,” she repeated as her lips quivered from the upcoming cries. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t.” Shaking her head and covering her face as she practically ran to the stairs, she cried “I just can’t.”

The echoing of her door slamming was the loudest thing he had ever heard as he stood in the very empty house. The distant sound of sirens came as Joseph stood in the middle of the huge empty monstrosity that would never be home.

Alone.

Because that was all he had ever been.

Chapter Text

“What up,” Liam said to Alan as the boy walked over to him and Jordan as they leaned up on the Porsche. Liam still had no fucking clue what to do about the whole rape thing and that had been three days ago. He thought time would help him figure it out but it was very obviously not.

It was just making everything harder.

Staying quiet was bugging him. He didn’t want to be that guy. The one who knew what was happening or had gone and kept his mouth shut in ‘support for his buddy’ or because it wasn’t a ‘big deal.’ Because it didn’t matter that Jordan was his buddy and it sure as fuck was a big deal. It was horrible.

Yet he didn’t know what to do.

Him and Jordan weren’t on the best of terms right now which was something, right? It meant Liam wasn’t a complete asshole? He hoped so. Every day, he called Kavinsky but it did him no good. Either the dude’s phone was dead or off. The thought to go to his house had happened but Liam decided against it. If Kavinsky had wanted to talk or see him, then he’d answer the phone. Maybe space was the best right now?

“Gimme some fucking weed, man,” Alan grumbled as he held out a fifty. “However much that buys.”

“Bad day?” Jordan asked in mocking concern as Liam took the money and pocketed it. Technically, Kavinsky was the seller now but he let Liam do some side sales when the opportunity presented itself. “Everything okay, dear?”

Alan practically bristled like a fucking porcupine. Someone was touchy today. Not that the dude was overtly friendly usually but geez. “No, it’s not fucking okay. Your asshole buddy not only whacked me with a fucking metal bat but beat the shit out of my dad’s car. Apparently, insurance doesn’t cover that which is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.”

Liam shared a confused glance with Jordan before turning back to Alan. “Kavinsky?” That was the only buddy he could think of.

“Yes,” he snarled back while Liam took out fifty bucks worth of weed, “Fucking Kavinsky. Says my dad killed his cat or whatever. Apparently, a fucking animal is worth more than a car.”

He knew it was a stupid thought but Liam was more stuck on the fact that he didn’t know that Kavinsky was a cat guy. It was like a secret that no one was allowed because it was too personal. “So Kavinsky smashed your dad’s car with a bat for his cat?” Maybe that was a good thing? Maybe it would help with whatever pain he was feeling after the assault?

After the death of his cat too apparently. Damn, Liam hoped he was alright. When he had been around seven, he had had a pet guinea pig named Stephen because he had just learned about the first king of Hungary from Helen. Liam had loved Stephen more than anything but one day he had gotten loose and Liam hadn’t been able to find him until poor Stephen had suffocated because he had gotten caught behind the fridge.

Lord, had he been devastated.

Helen, of course, had been the one who helped Liam bury him although they weren’t allowed to in the backyard. His mother didn’t want ‘that rat’ ruining her backyard. Wasn’t she the sweetest?

“That fucking piece of shit,” Alan muttered as he took the weed. “Police took him and shit but he was out easy, man. His mama paid bail and made a deal with my dad so no charges stick.”

“Deal?”

“Pays back the price of the car in full. In cash. Who the fuck has cash like that lying around? Her, apparently.”

That…was interesting. How did someone have cash like that just sitting around? Now that Liam thought about it, he literally knew nothing about Kavinsky. What did his parents work? Where did their money come from?

Why was he here?

Something told Liam he’d never get the answer to those questions.

  


 

“Oh my God, Lindsay, did you hear about Kavinsky?”

Despite herself and despite how horrible Joseph had made her feel and still currently feel, Blue’s ears perked up from where she sat a table away from the current speaker. It was the girl who had tried to get Joseph to go out with her. Even now, that pike of jealousy was still there. Smaller, but there.

Kavinsky had dug into her deep. Maybe it was because she had gotten to see parts of him that she didn’t think anyone else ever had. Parts that made him beautiful. Fun. Sweet.

Human.

“If you say he has a girlfriend, I’ll probably cry,” Lindsay laughed as her friend sat down beside her. Yeah, Blue might too. Okay, not cry but she’d end up a little annoyed despite how much she wished that she wouldn’t be.

It could’ve been me .

No. No, it couldn’t have. Blue needed to learn to keep her brain shut. Quiet. She needed to seriously get over it. If they really had been true loves, then fate wouldn’t have let them walk away from each other. Lately, ever since the whole kissing fiasco had happened, Blue convinced herself that she had just been stupidly infatuated because no other boy had ever given her that kind of attention before.

Simple as that.

“No,” the friend replied with a laugh of her own. The friend was probably grateful for that too. “He got arrested. Isn’t that like the coolest thing ever? Such a bad boy.”

Cool, no. Interesting, maybe.

“No way. For what?”

“Taking a bat to his neighbor’s car. Beat the crap out of it apparently.”

Blue stared down at her book in confusion. That wasn’t very Josephish. At all. But then…it was entirely Kavinskyish. What would make him do that though? He had to have been angry about something. Maybe it was the mobster son part of him? That was a thing, right?

Or maybe he just wanted to get arrested. That could be a thing to. Maybe he was just super tired of everything. He was the one who said he didn’t have dreams, didn’t see the stars. Even though she was hurt and angry because of him, Blue hoped that he hadn’t run out of reasons to live. Because even she would be upset.

Hopefully, there was at least one reason left for Joseph to look to the stars.

  


 

And they were back to silence.

His mother neither spoke nor looked at him. Joseph was convinced that she didn’t even listen to him when he spoke. Not that he had spoken much but at least he had tried which was more than she had done. Didn’t she understand that it was all for Peanut? Who cared if he was arrested? Had a mugshot? No one gave a fucking damn. He sure didn’t.

Looking at the wall with the checkmarks for Peanut, Joseph started to erase the chalk with the big black eraser in hand. No more Peanut so no more checkmarks.

No more Peanut.

God fucking damn.

Taking apart her cat towers and house had not happened. Joseph couldn’t bring himself to touch her stuff. Maybe it could be like her shrine or something. Whatever. Point was, Peanut’s corner wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Sighing once he was done while tugging at the sleeves of his sweatshirt and staring at the now blank wall, Joseph turned to look at his mother’s wall. What was the point of having a wall for her if he wasn’t important to her? Why did she have to be important to him but not him to her? Sounded pretty fucked up to Joseph.

Looked like Vesela was going to be erased too then.

Walking over, he began to erase every checkmark he had ever put. What good had living for her done for him? Nothing except make him see his cat dead and buried. The only time he felt a tiny pang of pain during this whole cleaning process was when he reached his mother’s name. Joseph paused for only a second before swiping it away with the eraser.

Now his walls were clean.

And now, very obviously, he had nothing to live for. Like that, his two lifelines were gone – one taken from him and the other had abandoned him. Just like that, his life was completely worthless. Had nothing left to it or in it. Almost sixteen years and not one was worth his time. He was just done.

Done.

Grabbing a piece of chalk from his junk drawer in the dresser, Joseph walked back over to what was formerly his mother’s wall and began to write.

Even bitches deserved goodbyes.

 


 

“How soon can you ship me a hundred thousand in cash?” Vesela was sure that Ivo thought it was a joke just from his silence. Just pure dead air over the line. “Love.”

“I’m sorry, did you just ask-”

“Yes. How soon can you get it to me?”

“Uh…couple days, I guess. I can send someone as soon as possible. Why the hell do you need-”

“Joseph got arrested.”

That shut her husband up fast. Even Ivo the mob boss had never been arrested. But then, that probably had more to do with how smart he was in what he did and how his men would so willingly take a fall if there had to be one. It didn’t halt the comparison though. Mob boss never arrested but mob son who had never done anything ever? Yeah, extreme shock all around. Nikol had had a freak out.

A very very large freakout.

“Joseph…”

“Got arrested, yeah. Bailed him already although I didn’t want to. Not at all. Should have let him rot and stew.” God, should she have. God, would he have deserved it.

“Uh…” Ivo’s waves of confusion were so strong that Vesela could feel them through her phone. Literally.

“He vandalized a neighbor’s car with a metal bat. A very expensive car that I now need to pay cash for. Can you get it to me asap?”

She could easily imagine Ivo running a confused hand through his hair. “Of course, I’m just…shocked. Except really, shocked is such an understatement.”

Vesela couldn’t even say that she was. Nothing about Joseph’s behavior shocked her anymore. She was just too tired to be shocked. Too emotionally dead and frustrated. Too done. “Yeah.”

“Vesela, are you okay?”

Brushing her loose hair behind her ear as she sat crossed legged on her bed, Vesela thought about the question. Was she okay? Honestly, she didn’t think so. When had she stopped being okay? It had to have been a while ago because her head always felt so heavy. She just… “I’m just tired.”

“Mentally or physically?”

He always had known her too well. “A little of both maybe.”

Today had been hard. Getting up, or just having that motivation, was hard. Difficult. Such a toll that she…

Vesela was just tired.

Now, was she tired or was she depressed? She felt her answer was the latter. And she wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. This entire year had been so taxing on her, mentally and physically. She wondered if Joseph still had his pills. Maybe if she started taking them…she’d feel better? They had always worked for him.

“Maybe…maybe you need to talk some more. Like get the weight off, you know?”

If only it were than simple. Was this how Joseph always felt? Trapped? “Yeah, maybe. Can you get me the money soon? That way I can get the annoying prick off my back. Thanks and love you.”

And she hung up.

Tired and done. So tired and done.

Getting up, she decided to see if the antidepressants were still around or if they had been dumped down the toilet. She felt like they could help and if she could get that help, then she was taking it. Once she reached Joseph’s door, she knocked but didn’t wait for him to invite her in. Vesela was not in the mood for him. She was still pissed, still hurt, and putting up with him while he was in one of his moods was not something she needed right now.

But upon walking in, she froze.

It was clean. All the checkmarks, hers and Peanut’s, were wiped clean. Even Vesela’s name was gone. In its place was something else in big slanted letters taking up the whole wall. What they said, freaked her the hell out.

I CANT DO THIS ANYMORE

I JUST CANT

They were her words from yesterday as she had cried before the cops had taken him. Her words thrown right back at her. What was he trying to achieve with this? Did he want to make her feel even worse? Why could he never understand how much he was hurting her, weighing her down, with his words and actions? Why wasn’t she allowed to be upset once in a while without being the bitchy villain?

However, as she mused on these words some more, Vesela realized that maybe he had a completely different aim with this.

Maybe he was talking about himself.

Panic took over her body leading to chills and shakes. Violent chills and shakes. “Joseph!” she called before trying to open his bathroom which was closed. Locked. He never locked it. Ever. “No, no, no!” She slammed on it, banging and banging as if that’d make a difference. She didn’t even know if he was in there for sure but that door was never locked.

Except now it was.

Realizing that her banging would get her nowhere, she tried to remember how Ivo had kicked in a door that one time she had watched him. Ironically, it was another time Joseph had locked himself in. Terrifyingly, it was when Joseph had tried to kill himself for the first time.

“Dear God, no,” she whispered through tears before slamming her foot under the knob a few times. She was nowhere near as strong as Ivo.

But she was a panicking mother who needed to get to her child.

Kicking it a few more times achieved her pain and success. Pushing the door fully open, she charged in but stumbled to a halt. Vesela’s brain was barely functioning anymore. It couldn’t even think in full sentences.

Joseph.

Floor.

Pill bottle.

DO SOMETHING!

“Do something!” she cried to herself as she dropped down beside her prone child. Okay, so…overdose? Probably. Phone. She needed a phone. Now. Right now.

GET UP!

Flying to her feet, she ran back to her room and grabbed her phone off the bed, frantically typing in 911.

“Please come save my baby!” Vesela practically sobbed into the phone once the operator picked up as she ran back to her child. “Please.”

If she lost him, Vesela wasn’t sure she’d survive.

Chapter Text

“…mama a scare, hon.”

“Huh…” Joseph slurred through his haze. Where was he? Was he even awake? His head felt fuckishly heavy; even his body did. Forcing his eyes open was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. And, fuck, he’d done a lot of hard things. Focusing his vision once he was able to get his eyes open was even harder. His surroundings were blurry no matter how much blinking he did to clear it.

So he closed his eyes back up.

“C’mon, baby boy, I know you’re there.”

Who the fuck was talking? What the fuck had even happened?

“Open, sweetie.”

Okay, so this person liked to use pet names even more than his mother. Jesus. “No…”

A warm hand held his and brushed his hair back. “Open up.”

Forcing his eyes open all over again, Joseph blinked harshly at the sudden light. Jesus, it was bright. Was he dead?

“No, baby, not dead. Close but not yet. And that’s a blessing, baby boy. A beautiful blessing.”

She kept calling him baby and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that. Only his mother was allowed to call him that. Not that she loved him anymore so maybe he didn’t get that anymore. “’S’not a blessing.”

He was supposed to die. Joseph had shoved so many pills down his throat, he should have fucking died. But it seemed that he was even a failure at that.

Lovely.

The warm hand smoothed his hair back again. Joseph refused to turn and look at whoever this was. He didn’t mind the touching since it was very obviously a woman. It wasn’t some man exposing or touching him.

Expose.

Awareness suddenly blinked on.

His arms were bare. His head was bare.

Panic started rising from the volcano deep inside as he suddenly sat up and glanced around in panic. Hospital room? Fuck. But that wasn’t a problem now because he needed his sweatshirt like now. The woman, it seemed, was probably his nurse and he couldn’t place her at the moment but she reminded him of someone.

When his sweatshirt wasn’t in sight, Joseph’s breathing became shallower and the sirens wailed. He was naked and the whole world could see his nasty whore body. The nurse touched him, probably to calm him, but it just made him worse.

She was going to use him. Just because she wasn’t a man didn’t mean she wouldn’t take advantage of him.

“Alright, hon, calm down. It’s okay,” the nurse said softly, making sure she wasn’t touching him in any way. “Tell me what you need.”

Not what was wrong, what he needed. His brain was trying to tell him she was a good guy, on his side, because she wanted to help. Need. He needed. “I-I…”

“There we go. Tell me what you need.”

A door opened – his door? – and suddenly his mother was there.

Holding a black sweatshirt.

She may not love him but she knew him and what he needed.

Walking over, she stopped beside his bed and held up the sweatshirt. “Nice and fresh.”

Joseph wondered how he looked after having shit in his system because she looked terrible and she was the one who hadn’t actively tried to die. Her face was puffy, her eyes red and raw, her nose blistered from too much tissue use. But he said nothing of this, simply took the offered article of clothing with a shaky hand and slipped it on.

Now he felt okay. Or at least, a little better. Not exposed, not revealed. Just nice and covered. A little dirty from his time in the light but he could scrub later. The feeling wasn’t overwhelming. Or maybe he was too foggy from drugs to really decide how dirty he was. “Thank you,” he whispered.

A soft smile came on her face and Joseph prayed that he wasn’t just imagining it. It was her nice smile, the one he loved more than anything. The one that he had lost after losing her. “Welcome. Better?”

He loved how she knew not to ask if he was okay. It was such a stupid question. People maybe got better but they were never just okay. “For this specific thing, yeah.” The IV wire was stuffed under his sweater, making him pretty uncomfortable but at least he was covered. When he tried to fix himself in his bed, he realized how wrong he was.

Yeah, no at least here. It was bothersome as fuck.

“Can you help me fix the tube thing?” Joseph asked his mother softly, praying that the smile she had given him wasn’t the only thing he was going to get today. She was a mother, goddammit, they weren’t supposed to abandon their children.

Because then children like him ended up dead.

Or they tried to.

“I can help you with that, hon,” the nurse said with a huge smile that Joseph decided he liked. He was a smile type of guy. “You don’t have to take off the sweater but pull out your arm for me, alright?”

Even that made him uncomfortable but it was just the two women and the nurse seemed alright… “Um…okay,” he murmured as he slipped his arm out, holding it up for her. Joseph watched as she worked quickly, pulling out his IV with careful precision before sticking it back into the top of his hand once his arm was back in the sweater. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she smiled as she helped him get comfortable in the bed. Joseph had seen a few people in hospital beds before and he always wondered why they complained when the bed didn’t look so bad.

His apologies. These beds were terrible. Although, the pillow wasn’t too bad. He sunk into it nicely where he didn’t have to meet his mother’s face. He couldn’t meet her face now that the panic was over. She’d want to know why and while Joseph had an answer, he couldn’t find a way to word it for her. Granted, he had done as much by writing on his wall but saying it face to face was way different.

“Now, Ima go get my things so we can check your vitals and I’ll be right back, okay?”

Joseph would really prefer that the nurse stayed because then it wasn’t just him and his mother but something told him the nurse knew exactly what she was doing. When the door shut quietly behind her, Joseph kept his face towards the window, not facing the woman he couldn’t.

A sigh escaped his mother but she surprisingly said nothing. That was fucking rude; she was supposed to express her delight at having him back, not sitting there in silence like a fucking bitch.

“Don’t rush to welcome me back,” Joseph couldn’t help but snort because the silence was pissing him off now. It wasn’t enough that she had been a part of the cause of this but she had the fucking nerve to keep her mouth shut too.

“For someone who didn’t want to be his father, you sure are.”

Turning his head as fast as he did made his head throb with dizziness. “The fuck is that supposed to mean?”

Not even looking his way because she was such a fucking coward, his mother replied “I must have done something horribly wrong in life for God to give me two manipulative abusive men. Not one, but two. A husband who knows how to hurt even when he compliments and a son who’s just as talented. I must be such a horrible human being to deserve this.”

Being equated to her bastard was not something he appreciated. At all. “I seem to be missing your point. And your supposed relief at having me alive. Not that I wanted to be but I must’ve done something terrible too because I got stuck in this bullshit world.”

“My point,” she murmured without an ounce of emotion, “is that everything is always about you. Or him. No one ever wonders how I feel or how I’m doing. But I’m supposed to just smile and love and keep my mouth closed. Take what I’m given. And I’m so sick of it. For you to actually believe that I don’t care that you’re alive is such bullshit. I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

Getting equipment to check his vitals was sure taking a while. The nurse probably went for fucking lunch while she was at it.

Biting her thumbnail while staring at the wall opposite of them, she added “It’s funny. I thought I’d cry once you were awake but it seems I used all my tears for when I found you. Or how about while I was sobbing on the phone with the operator while she was trying to tell me how to help you? Oh wait, no, it must have been in the ambulance, holding your cold hand and begging you to wake up. Actually, wait, wait, no, they were definitely used up while I was sitting in the hospital hallway waiting for them to tell me the news. Dead? Alive? Maybe brain dead or damaged? They even gave me my own tissue box. It ran out in seconds.”

Well, the tissue use would explain why her nose had looked so terrible.

“And yet,” his mother continued, her voice finally showing some feeling as it broke on her words, “yet you have the nerve to imply that I don’t care? You dare?” Arm perched on the armrest of the chair she sat in, his mother rested her head in her palm, soft sniffles coming from her. “Baby, if you had died I swear to God I would have killed myself right after you.”

“That’s not funny,” Joseph snapped. It didn’t matter if he died, he wasn’t worth anything to this world. But the thought of her dying? Her killing herself?

“Do you think it’s funny for me to find you unconscious on the floor?” she whispered, her face still turned away. “You’ll never understand what that feels like. Nor do I want you to. Ever.”

He hadn’t taken the time to think in his last minutes. All he had known right then and there was that he was so alone that he couldn’t even hear the usual birds who sang in his backyard. Joseph was the loneliest, nastiest, most horrible person alive and he didn’t see why he had to deal with that anymore. All these years of pressure and hell. He had just wanted relief.

Just a chance to breath freely.

Tossing the pills into his mouth had felt like that. Like suddenly the pressure was going to go away and the weight would be lifted off his shoulders. The memories would be erased. All of them; he didn’t even want the good ones anymore. They only served as a reminder of everything he had lost now.

Joseph wanted to feel okay just once. Not better but actually okay. Just for once in his miserable life, even if it was because it was over.

Only once. He wasn’t asking for a lot.

They both sat in silence, neither of them bothering to speak anymore. In all honesty, Joseph just didn’t know what to say. Her words had cut deep and opened his eyes to the reality of how it was true. He did expect her to smile. He expected her to love him. He expected her to always forgive him. She was a mother and he had always figured that she was doing her job.

But motherhood wasn’t a job. It wasn’t a requirement. It wasn’t a duty.

It was done because of love. And if she didn’t love him then she wouldn’t have spent so much of her life trying to build one for him. Caring for him. Doing things for him.

Making things better.

“Look,” he cried as he held out his new truck. He had been driving it outside through the dirt because it had to deliver the new load for his new farm when the back stick holding the wheels broke off. “I’s not gonna work no more.”

Taking the truck and stick with wheels, his mother glanced at both before smile. “I think I have an idea, Mr. Farmer. We’ll have your truck up and running in minutes.”

“Really?” Joseph replied in hope, bouncing up and down in their living room.

“Of course!” she exclaimed before taking his hand and walking them to the kitchen. Opening a drawer, she pulled out a tube of something. Glue maybe? “This here is a magical glue. Your truck will be able to deliver his load in no time.”

 

“Look, I’m bleeding!” Joseph said in panicked amazement as he ran over to her, his finger held high. It was so weird seeing his blood outside where it wasn’t supposed to be. “Mama, blood!”

She didn’t look worried at all. That was good because if she had, Joseph would have been even more scared. “Let’s see,” she murmured as she took his finger softly in her hand. “What’d you hit it on?”

“The edge of the slide.” It had been rainy and snowy for weeks and finally today had a little sunshine. He’d been dying to come play at the park.

“Hmm,” his mother hummed as she opened her purse and took out a tissue before wetting it with her water bottle. “We’ll fix you right up, good sir! Playtime mustn’t be halted!”

 

Hugging him tight to calm him down after a screaming match with his nightmares, his mother whispered “Better?”

Joseph nodded into her chest as they sat in his bed, the light of his bedside lamp glowing. He wasn’t as scared anymore but… “Can you keep singing for me?”

“Of course! Who do you think I’d rather sing for?”

 

“There’s no fixing it, mayko,” Joseph mumbled into his pillow in depression. He was never careless with books and yet he had ripped a page from The Hobbit. He still didn’t even know how.

Literally ripped it out.

“Don’t question your mama’s skills,” she laughed as she sat on the edge of his bed. She had taken out another sheet of paper, tape, and even glue but Joseph had no idea what she was thinking. After five minutes of silence besides the sound of her working, she said “Okay, look.”

Turning in sadness, Joseph’s eyes went wide. The page was fixed. It looked a bit odd but it was still readable and the book could close. “Wow…thank you!”

 

“Tell me what you need,” she whispered as she crouched down, peering at him where he was huddled in the small space between his dresser and the wall. He hated this new house. It’d never be home.

Blinking at her, he murmured “I don’t know.”

“Ah,” his mother smiled softly as she sat down, trying to squish herself with him. “But I do.” Wrapping her arms lovingly around him, she kissed his head and said softly “Hugs make everything better.”

Falling into her, Joseph could find no way to disagree.

 

“Good?” she asked once she shut off the main light to her room. There was a soft glow from the bathroom and the lamp she had left on.

He took a minute to look around the room again before he nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Perfect,” she replied while coming to join him in her ginormous bed. Calm washed over him when she kissed his forehead and whispered “Now close your eyes, my beautiful boy, and sleep. I’m not going to let anything happen. Promise.”

He’d laugh at anyone making a promise like that but lying here with her and the love in her eyes, Joseph believed it. She’d keep him safe no matter what. “You’re the best, mayko.”

“Can I have a hug?” he whispered, on the brink of tears because he was afraid of being rejected. He hadn’t even asked for forgiveness and he was already asking things of her. God, he was such a horrible human being. “Please?”

When she didn’t immediately get up or say anything, Joseph gave in to his pain and let his tears fall. Closing his eyes, he cried into his hands, ready to beg her.

But before he could, her warmth and scent engulfed him, a kiss being pressed to the top of his head as she brushed back his hood. Joseph was worried this would be his only chance so he wrapped his arms around her quickly, practically squeezing the life out of his mother as he cried into her.

Rubbing soothing slow circles into his back, she whispered “Things will get better, sweetheart. We’ll get there. We’ll get there.”

Chapter Text

“You’re more like a puppy than the Rottweiler I had always made you out to be,” his nurse, call me Gwen, hon, laughed softly as she strapped on the cuff to check his blood pressure. Being exposed was still a major issue but he didn’t mind with Gwen.

“Wet behind the ears,” his mother agreed with a humorous snort as she read a magazine, sitting in the chair beside his bed.

Shaking his head which didn’t throb as bad as it did yesterday, Joseph replied “I don’t even understand what you people are saying.”

Laughing in such a hearty way that, for some odd reason, made Joseph want to hug her, Gwen said “Baby boy, I live here just like anyone else. I’ve got four kids – three in high school. I know what the name Kavinsky is. Never seen nor known the boy attached to it though. One of my twins told me once she met you though. But I can’t seem to attach what I’ve heard to who I’m seeing.”

Joseph scrunched his forehead both from the constricting of the cuff and because that’s what happened when you thought with a fuzzy head. Wouldn’t he remember meeting twins? Although, she did say he had met only one… “I met one of your kids?”

“According to my baby Eva.”

Oh. That’d explain the familiarity then. Joseph had wondered if he had seen Gwen around town or something and that was why she was familiar but it seemed that Eva had similar features to her mother.

Also, Eva had a twin? He couldn’t help but wonder if they were identical or not. If they were…how did Liam decide which he liked better?

“Ah,” he nodded in reply, “Eva. Liam’s girl. She’s terrifying.” A huge boom of laughter erupted from Gwen as she undid the cuff after reading the numbers on the machine while his mother chuckled softly, still focused on her reading. “Well she is. Swear to God, I thought she was going to hit me on Liam’s behalf. No joke.”

“Friend not friend Liam?” his mother asked curiously, flipping a page to her magazine.

“No, hon, no,” Gwen lamented to Joseph as she shook her head while getting his temperature. “Liam’s a sweetheart even though a little stupid sometimes. I think his status needs to be upped.”

Explaining to Gwen that he wasn’t looking friends would probably just launch her into some kind of speech, so Joseph said nothing as she continued her work. Liam was nice, that wasn’t wrong. There was a decent person inside him that Joseph liked and didn’t mind spending time around.

But that was before. He wasn’t so sure he’d be able to handle even looking at Liam anymore. It was wrong and irrational to blame him for…for the thing that had happened but Joseph’s brain didn’t care. If there hadn’t been alcohol, if Liam hadn’t left, then maybe it wouldn’t have happened. But then…maybe it would have anyways. The blame was on Joseph’s shoulders so wouldn’t that imply that it would’ve happened anyways?

He was the root of the problem. It had been and still was his fault. Liam being there or not wouldn’t have changed a thing. No fault laid at Liam’s feet.

“Where’d he sleep?” he said suddenly, realizing that Liam had never come back that morning. He’d gone to fuck like a bunny and had never returned. Joseph was a hundred percent sure that bunny fucking had not occurred.

“Who, hon?”

“Liam. He was supposed to fuck like a drunk bunny. Shit.” Well, there goes the cover of no beer. His mother had never asked about the sleepover because of the obvious mess that had happened so Joseph had figured he’d be in the clear on that end.

Great.

“Knew it,” his mother sighed, literally still reading her magazine. It was a National Geographic special about some ancient civilization so her nose wouldn’t be out of it anytime soon. “I’m not an idiot, Joseph. As if I wouldn’t have known that prep school brats would bring alcohol.”

“I didn’t drink,” Joseph lied quickly. Their relationship was so up and down and being that they had just hit peace, he had no intention of it going down right now.

“Such a cute puppy,” Gwen snorted in amusement as she packed up her stuff. “As for Mr. Liam, he crashed on our couch. My Eva was very unamused.”

Letting out a snort, Joseph said “I’m not surprised. It was terrible idea.” Not that he remembered much from it anyways; he wasn’t exactly a heavyweight drinker yet.

Yet?

Hmmm.

“I’ll be back to check on you later.” His amazing nurse was making it sound like she didn’t come in literally every ten to fifteen minutes. Joseph had never met such an attentive nurse. Mrs. Vidal was amazing at her job but he couldn’t remember her going this far. “Mama, can I have you for a minute?”

Joseph looked between the two women in confusion. “Why can’t you just say it in front of me?”

“Because it’s for mama’s ears, not yours, baby,” Gwen smiled with an amused glint in her dark eyes.

“Rude.”

With a snort to his reply, his mother saved her page and set her magazine on the bedside table before getting up and kissing him on the forehead. “Be right back.”

Since he had awoken, she hadn’t left his side. And if she had, it had to have been while he was sleeping. Now with the thought of her stepping out, even just for a quick minute, it bothered him. He’d prefer that she stayed by his side the whole time. He couldn’t stand being alone because he knew he’d get lost in his fucked-up head. “You’ll be fast?” he asked quietly, getting lost in her beautiful emerald eyes. “Right?”

“Of course,” she whispered softly, pressing another kiss to his head. Brushing his hair back, his mother added “I’ll be right back. No worries.”

 


 

“What’s up?” Vesela asked Gwen the minute they stepped out. She didn’t want to leave Joseph any longer than she had to. She could tell how worried he had gotten just from that thought.

Pulling her over to two vacant chairs lining the wall, Gwen sat them down. The seriousness in her gaze made Vesela worried. Was there something wrong with his vitals? “Let’s talk about a few things. First, I think I’ll put in the request to either lessen or completely remove suicide watch. From what I’ve observed and what you’ve said you’ve seen, I’m feeling fairly positive in removing him. Now, that does not mean we don’t pay attention. Those wounds on his arms are extreme, Vesela. He’s being eaten on the inside and that seems to be his way of coping.”

Yeah, she was more than aware of that. He’d been doing it for years, not to the extent of his recent crazed session, but Vesela had never found a way to prevent it. People literally thought it was just that easy to hide sharp objects from a brilliant child. “I know.”

Gwen nodded in thought. “And?”

“And nothing,” Vesela sighed heavily, dropping her head into her hands that were perched on her knees. It was so hard to admit failure about normal things, not to have to admit it when it came to her only child. Thank God she had never had more because it was hard just handling her one. She was pathetic next to Nikol or even Claudia.

“Talk to me, mama.”

“I don’t know,” she ground out in frustration. “I’ve tried so many things and nothing helps. Even if it does for a little, it never lasts. It’s never enough.” And it never was. No matter how hard she tried, what she tried, Vesela always failed. She was a failure of a mother who had no idea how to help her beautiful boy. “I’m so useless,” she couldn’t help but whisper, “I don’t know how to help anymore.”

“Blessed, mama, no,” Gwen said softly as Vesela felt her cup her shoulder. “Vesela, if he thought you were useless, do you think he would have cared if you left that room? If you were useless, would you have known what he needed yesterday when he had first waken up? Which brings me to our next topic actually.”

“Let’s hear it,” Vesela muttered in resignation. More failures to her list.

“I want to talk about that little panic attack he almost had. Most people worry a little when they suddenly wake up in a hospital but that’s not what scared him. It was being in a hospital gown. It was being underdressed.”

Vesela had read about that a lot on various sites. Some rape victims felt too exposed, felt like their bodies were on display for all to see, and they needed to cover up.

Dear God, her baby was very possibly a rape victim.

“Okay.”

“Okay, well, mama, that’s not normal. I’ve seen that, sadly, a few times before. Mostly after a sweet girl has shoved a Plan B pill down her throat.”

Shutting her eyes, Vesela took in a careful breath. All Gwen was doing was reaffirming her suspicions. And while wanting to know for certain what had happened to Joseph was killing her, she didn’t want it to be true. “I know.”

“Mama who pays attention, good, very good.” Despite herself, Vesela couldn’t help but smile smugly at the praise. She always paid attention to his behaviors. It was the only way she could keep tabs on how well he was doing. “Most mamas don’t or call them phases. Now when’d you start noticing this?”

“When he came back from the sleepover,” she whispered in answer. Now she was for sure Liam hadn’t done anything. Not only because it seemed that the kid was pretty good but he hadn’t even been there after a time.

Realization hit her in seconds. But that had left Joseph possibly alone with the other kid. Was she onto something?

“Mama, I don’t live with you. I don’t know about no sleepover.”

“When Liam went to go fuck your daughter like a bunny or whatever.” She didn’t believe for a minute that Joseph hadn’t drank. But there were far bigger issues than alcohol right now.

Gwen’s grip became tighter. “Vesela, that was only a few days ago. This is the first record of him being in a hospital here in Henrietta.”

“I know,” she repeated for the thousandth time. She knew all this, dammit, but what the hell was she supposed to do? If he wouldn’t talk, there wasn’t much Vesela could do. How was she supposed to start a conversation like that? ‘Hey, Joseph, did you by any chance get raped at the sleepover?’

Yeah, that’d totally work.

The nurse was silent for a time before she murmured “Do you know if the possible assault was unprotected?”

Thinking about her child having sex was gross because mothers did not need to know details. But thinking about the fact that her son might not have only been raped but raped without protection?

Jesus help her, she was going to be sick.

“I don’t know anything,” Vesela groaned. Lord, she was such a horrible mother. “I don’t even know if he was…if…if he was…”

“Raped?” Gwen supplied softly.

Rubbing her face with her hands and trying to get control over this oncoming headache, Vesela replied in a quiet voice “Yeah. I just know what I’ve noticed and what I read online. It sounded pretty accurate. So no, I don’t know if there was a condom or not.”

Fuck. What if he caught some disease?

Shit.

Her head flew up as she stared at Gwen in panic. “What are the chances of some disease? Infection?”

“Well, mama, it depends on if a condom was involved. You said you don’t even know if the assault happened. But like you, I believe it might’ve from his behavior. Have you ever noticed-”

“Him obsessively cleaning himself because he thinks he’s filthy even though he used the whole bottle of body wash?” Vesela interrupted. “Yeah. So now tell me how we can get him tested because I have no idea about a condom and I’m not taking chances.”

With a huge smile of approval that just made Vesela literally beam on the inside, Gwen replied “Well, I imagine that since he hasn’t told you anything, that we shouldn’t tell him what we’re screening for. I’ll just need a urine sample and a couple tubes of blood.”

“Easy,” Vesela shrugged in relief. Thank God that was all it took. “Tell him you want to make sure the drugs are out of his system.” 

 


 

“What are these for again?” Joseph asked curiously as he watched his blood fill up a little tube. It didn’t make any sense to him why he needed more tests when they had already flushed out his stomach. There were no more drugs in his system now; the saline drip they had him hooked up to didn’t count.

“Just gotta make sure you’re all cleaned out,” Gwen replied as she filled the last tube. Three tubes so three tests? He felt a little light headed but Joseph was sure he just needed to get a little more sugar in his system. “I’m going to give you a cup and you’re going to pee in it for me.”

Fantastic. Peeing in a cup. So cool. “Okay but why?”

“I just told you why.”

“Right,” he murmured as he took the cup he was offered and slid off the bed. That didn’t make any sense at all. They had cleaned out his stomach yesterday and checked him too. Why would they suddenly want to do more tests?

Shutting the bathroom door behind himself, Joseph looked at the cup in his hand in distaste. Why’d they have to make these things clear on purpose? As if his mother needed to see the color of his piss. “She’s seen everything else already. Why not add pee while we’re at it,” he muttered as he pulled his underwear down and did his duty.

No pun intended.

Walking back out and thankful that he had actually needed to go, Joseph stared at his piss. “Is it healthy?” he asked Gwen when he handed it over, his mother helping him back into bed. Stuffing pills down your throat and then having them forcibly flushed out made a person weak, apparently. “What color is it supposed to be?”

“I’ll let you know if it’s healthy when we do a couple tests,” the lovely nurse laughed, “Not before, baby boy.”

They needed that many tests to see if he was clean? Joseph was definitely missing something as he watched Gwen walk out. Turning to his mother, he gazed at her as she read. There was no way she didn’t know. “Mayko, what are the tests for?”

“Make sure you’re clean,” she murmured in reply as her phone rang. She pulled it out of her pocket and Joseph saw a photo of Ivo. He wondered if she’d tell him what had happened. The rule was that Joseph wasn’t a topic between them anymore but he had to admit that he was curious if the bastard would care. “I’ll be right back.”

“Not long?”

His mother shook her head before kissing him and opening the phone, walking out.

Chapter Text

Sighing, Vesela plopped back into the chair she had been in not too long ago. Joseph was way too hard to fool; it was a good thing Ivo called when he did. “Guess my money made it?”

“Made it but you apparently haven’t been home since yesterday? He said he kept coming back but no one ever answered. He’s staying in a motel for now. Apparently, the town you’re in is hideous according to him.”

Vesela couldn’t help but laugh – her first real one in such a while. “It’s not that bad. More country than I’m used to but it’s not hideous. Tell him not to be ridiculous.”

“You can tell him when you see him,” Ivo said carefully, “So where are you?”

That minor happiness she had gotten from that little laugh evaporated in seconds. Ivo was Joseph’s father, dammit. He deserved to know. Plus, Joseph wouldn’t be able to found out that she told anyways. It’s not like he was talking to anyone. “Well, the hospital actually.”

Even though Ivo had been struck silent, she could hear the panic in the quiet. It was amazing how you could be attuned to someone as well as you were with yourself. “Hospital? Are you okay?”

Would the panic be the same if he thought it was Joseph and not her? “Not me. Joseph.”

Another panicked silence but there was also a tinge of annoyance in it. At least she knew that, yes, it still mattered no matter who it was. She could imagine Ivo grabbing the bridge of his nose as he said “Lemme guess, you told Nikol but I didn’t deserve to know shit, did I? Because I’m not his father-”

“I haven’t told anyone, Ivo,” she interrupted before he went off on some tirade. If he really did care so much, why couldn’t he just apologize? Why couldn’t he accept Joseph? Vesela knew that it wasn’t that simple but…

Sigh.

Nikol was going to go insane when Vesela got around to telling her. She’d tell her to come back, that they could fix the mess together but Vesela knew that just like Ivo apologizing, it wasn’t that easy. Her sister would probably also complain how Vesela waited so long to tell her but that wasn’t her problem. Her focus had been Joseph, was still Joseph, not everyone else. Plus, she had been way too broken yesterday to get on a phone. “I haven’t exactly had the time or even the strength so please just shut up.”

He actually shut up. She forgot that he actually listened sometimes. “Can you tell me now?”

Taking a deep breath because while it had been playing on repeat in her brain, Vesela had yet to say the words out loud, she whispered “He tried to kill himself.”

It was funny how whenever she expected silence, he spoke instead as if to always prove her wrong. She knew he didn’t mean it that way but somehow, it just happened. “Kill himself. Suicide.” He sounded so dumbfounded like the scenario wouldn’t sit in his head.

“Yup.”

“How?”

“Pills. Locked himself in his bathroom which he literally never locks. I totally imitated the way you kicked down the door that one time. Although, it hurt a lot more than it looked.”

She knew that he was surprised that she was trying to be lighthearted about it. Joke like it was any other day. “Yeah, it can be painful. Keep going.”

“I don’t feel like reliving the most terrifying moment of my life. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.” Terrifying was such an understatement to finding her child very possibly dead in his bathroom. Thank God she had gone to his room, thank God.

“Fair enough,” he murmured though she could tell that Ivo was far from satisfied with her answer, “How is he?”

A complete mess. Jumpy. Possibly a rape victim. Angry. Mean. Cruel. Everything he never was. Instead, Vesela settled for a long heavy sigh. Very long. Very heavy. She smiled at Gwen as she sat down beside her. “Alive. That’s really the best I can give you, Ivo, because really that’s it. Waking up alive was not in his plans.”

Vesela missed what Ivo said as Gwen suddenly boomed in that amazingly powerful voice of hers “Aw, baby boy, hello!”

“What the hell was that,” Ivo laughed despite the seriousness of their conversation, catching Gwen’s loud voice. The whole world could catch Gwen’s voice.

“Joseph’s nurse,” Vesela answered, more focused on the boy of the receiving end of such a warm welcome. He was blonde with some damn nice blue eyes, lean, and shorter than Joseph. The boy was carrying a box and blushing from embarrassment as he walked up to them. “Hold up a sec.”

“Um,” the boy mumbled as he stuck out a nervous hand, “Mrs. Kavinsky?”

“You’ve got her,” she smiled to put this poor thing at ease as she accepted his hand. “And you are?”

“Liam. Uh, friend of Kavin- I mean, Joseph’s.”

She never really understood the whole ‘Kavinsky/Joseph’ thing but maybe people only called him Kavinsky around here. Was that how he kept the two parts of himself separate? “Liam, huh?” That’d explain Gwen’s overly enthused reaction. “Nice to finally meet you.”

The blonde boy looked incredibly surprised. “Ka- Joseph’s mentioned me?”

Maybe this kid knew he was actually a friend not friend and not a full on friend. “Couple times, yeah. Also, apparently, your girlfriend is terrifying.”

Breaking his nerves, Liam erupted into a laugh, his blue eyes sparkling. She couldn’t help but wonder if Joseph didn’t want to up Liam to friend status because he was good looking. Maybe her son was worried what sort of feelings could be conjured up. “She can be, yeah, but that just makes me love her more.”

“Aw, hon, you so sweet,” Gwen chuckled. “Came for a visit?”

Nodding and looking nervous all over again, Liam replied “Um, if it’s not a problem. You mentioned he was in the hospital so I thought I should visit.” Turning back to Vesela, he asked “I hope you don’t mind? I’m sorry, I was being nosy and complaining to Eva that he wasn’t answering his phone and Ms. Posey mentioned that he…uh…yeah…”

It was an interesting thing when guilt suddenly flooded Liam’s face. There was something he knew that he wasn’t telling. And Vesela was sure she knew what it was. Now the question was, how much of Liam’s hand was part of Joseph’s assault? Outside of inviting Joseph over, Vesela could find none with the blonde before her.

“No worries, sweetheart, though I can’t guarantee he’ll want to see anyone. So I wish you the best of luck.”

Running his fingers through his hair in a nervous tick, Liam held the box out to her. “Can you at least tell me if my idea was stupid? I didn’t think he’d like flowers so I tried something else.”

“Ivo, I’ll call you back,” she said in quick Bulgarian into her phone.

“Whoa, whoa, hold up-”

“Love you, bye,” Vesela said as she closed the line and slipped her phone into her pocket before taking the box. Popping the lid off, she couldn’t help but smile as she looked down into the box. Liam apparently paid good attention to the people around him. “He’ll love them.”

“Really? It’s not like too cheesy or whatever, right?”

“Nah, go for it.” Handing the box back after closing it, Vesela winked “Good luck.”

 


 

Shutting the door softly behind himself, Liam took a deep breath. He had no idea how to face Kavinsky right now knowing what he did. What pitted in his heart even harder was that he was terrified that Kavinsky had tried to kill himself because of the rape. Liam wouldn’t even be able to look at himself in the mirror if that was true.

“I thought you said you weren’t going to take a while,” came Kavinsky’s voice. Liam was still standing behind the door where a wall covered him. Kavinsky probably thought it was his mother who had come in.

Side note, his mother was gorgeous. Like holy shit. And this was with her looking exhausted. She was probably beyond fucking gorgeous when she was all fancy.

He was boning over the dude’s mother. Liam was officially garbage now.

“Did you know that the Aztecs would prefer to cremate their warriors because it’d change their souls and make it easier for them to get to heaven? Sometimes they’d kill a dog and cremate it with the person so it could guide them to the afterlife.”

Did Kavinsky like history? Fun facts? Almost a year of knowing each other and Liam couldn’t say that he actually knew much about the guy. “Can’t say I knew that, no,” Liam said quietly as he stepped around the corner, coming into the main part of the room.

Jesus, he looked bad.

Disbelief glittered in Kavinsky’s eyes for a second before they hardened into irritation. “The fuck you doing here.”

Swallowing his worry because facing him was even harder than he thought it would be, Liam walked over and sat down on the chair that Mrs. Kavinsky must’ve been using. There was a National Geographic magazine in Kavinsky’s lap, probably where the fact had come from. “I heard and thought I should see how you’re doing.”

What was a person supposed to say to someone who had tried to commit suicide? I’m glad you failed? Thank God that you’re alive even though you didn’t want to be? Liam had no fucking idea. Should he just gloss over that fact?

Kavinsky stayed silent as he glared with the hardest sharpest look Liam had ever seen him give to someone. When it still seemed like he wouldn’t say anything, Liam set the box atop the magazine, careful not to touch him. He didn’t know much about victims of rape but he felt like it was wrong to touch them without them wanting you too. It was a breach of trust when they had had it taken away from them before.

Fucking Jordan.

“I hope you like them,” he said quietly, unable to meet the glare any longer, rather settling for his lap. “I didn’t think you’d like flowers.”

No movement occurred for what felt like hours but finally, Kavinsky opened the box as Liam dared to look at him once more. He was covered in a huge black sweatshirt, the hood pulled up on his head. Ms. Posey hadn’t told him how Kavinsky had tried to kill himself so Liam couldn’t help but wonder if there were any slashes hidden under those baggy sleeves. Larger than usual he should say. There were faint scars on his arms that Liam had noticed before but that wasn’t a topic you opened up with someone either.

Pulling out the little orange plush cat, Kavinsky stared at it like he didn’t know what it was. “I heard Alan’s dad killed your cat. Also what you did to his car for it – I would’ve done the same – but I thought maybe a plush would be nice? I didn’t know what your cat looked like but this one is cute.” Actually, he’d never do that to an adult’s car but showing solidarity was good for fixing relationships, right?

He set the cat down on his lap without a word and pulled out the book Liam had picked. “Apparently my worst kept secret,” Kavinsky snorted softly as he looked over the book, reading the summary.

“If you mean reading, then yeah,” Liam couldn’t help but laugh. “Dude, you read literally everything, down to the ingredients in my energy drinks.”

“Fair point,” Kavinsky murmured as he flipped through the book. “You ever read this? Sounds pretty good.”

“It’s really good,” Liam nodded in excitement. The harsh glare wasn’t as strong…maybe…they could fix the mess between them? Liam would never tell Kavinsky to forgive Jordan but it wasn’t fair that Liam had to lose out. “Me and Helen read it together. We used to do book clubs together.”

This note seemed to intrigue Kavinsky as he tilted his head in curiosity. “Just you two?”

“Pft,” Liam couldn’t help but blow with irritation. “Not like my mother would join us. That bitch.”

“Someone’s particularly bitter today.”

Actually, it was for the past couple days because she hadn’t even bothered to call him for his birthday. It was like it didn’t matter. He wasn’t asking for extreme love and attention, he had just wanted a courtesy call was all. His father who he had never even lived with did at least that much. Helen had sent him a huge box because she was awesome and while Liam had absolutely loved it, he just wished his mother would say the words.

That was all.

“She has that sort of affect sometimes,” he sighed. He nodded to his copy of Cryptid Hunters in Kavinsky’s hand, “Good choice?” Liam had given him his because Helen had always said that giving a well-loved book was better than a new one.

Looking back at the book, Kavinsky nodded “Yeah, it sounds good. Thank you.” Picking up the little orange cat, Joseph stared down at it and asked “Is this my reading buddy?”

Liam was a cheesy kind of guy, okay? Eva loved that. “Actually, yeah. Thought, you know, good company.” When a small smile came onto Kavinsky’s face, Liam felt the weight in his heart lessen. “Look, I don’t know exactly how you’re supposed to say this but…I’m really glad you’re okay.”

“I’m not but no one ever wants my opinion.”

His jaw was literally hanging open before he shut it with a click. Well, the dude wasn’t suicidal for nothing apparently. “I’m sorry about your cat.”

“Me too. She deserved better than to be run down like garbage,” Kavinsky murmured as he turned to the first page of the book, beginning to read. “Me too.”

“One hell of a shitty weekend,” Liam couldn’t help but mutter. It applied to both him and Kavinsky although the other boy’s was way worse. “Fucking mother. Fucking Jordan.” He froze with wide eyes when he realized whose name he had said aloud. He didn’t think you were supposed to say the abuser’s name in front of the victim. “Fuck.”

Kavinsky was staring at him with wide eyes, frozen as he looked like he wasn’t even breathing. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He could change the subject, right? “So the book has a sequel and I think there’s going to be more.”

Nothing. Not even a blink. What there was, however, was the ever growing panic in Kavinsky’s eyes. Why was he panicking? Upset, hurt, scared, maybe, but why panic?

Clearing his throat like he saw nothing, Liam said “I don’t know how accurate the book is in regards to science and stuff but it’s still really good. You’ll love it.” When there was still nothing from the other boy, Liam whispered “Kavinsky? Joseph? Hello?”

With a twitching eye – kind of creepy, really – Kavinsky swallowed hard before whispering “Whatever you think you know, it’s a lie.”

Now that there was a lie. Liam had more than enough evidence and a confession. “Forget I said anything. Anyways-”

“Whatever you think happened,” Kavinsky suddenly snarled in so much anger that Liam had never seen, “didn’t happen. Got it?”

Didn’t victims go through a period of denial? Or something like that. He really should do some reading. “Okay. Anyways-”

“Say it.”

“What?”

A blazing fury was in his eyes and, dear God, how was that so terrifying? Sure, Liam had been afraid of him a couple times in the beginning but definitely not terrified. “Say that nothing happened. Say that you don’t know anything. Admit it. Swear it.”

Oh man, Jordan, it was definitely not just sex to him. You fucking piece of shit. With careful words because he didn’t want to set him off, Liam said “Joseph-”

“How hard is it to just fucking say it!” he shouted with almost a literal boom. How could someone who was never loud actually have a voice like that hiding inside? Jesus.

“If you give me a minute, I can say it. Not that I believe it.” Omigod, idiot… Fucking Liam, learn to keep your mouth shut. Shutting his eyes and covering his face with a groan at his stupidity, he waited for the backlash that had to be coming.

“Get the fuck out,” Kavinsky hissed with so much malice that it actually hurt. “Now, you piece of shit.”

Lifting his head and surprised by the amount of vicious hate in Kavinsky’s eyes, Liam tried to think of a way to make things better. He was supposed to show Kavinsky that he was on his side but how was Liam supposed to explain that when every time he spoke, he was interrupted? “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“Get the FUCK OUT!”

That got Liam to his feet because there was probably no reasoning with a raging suffering dude. He had no idea how to fix this no matter how much he wished he could. “Okay, okay, I’m going but-”

For someone who looked terrible, who was in a fucking hospital bed for trying to kill himself just yesterday, Kavinsky sure moved fast as he was suddenly on his feet. He literally yanked out the IV needle from the back of his hand before slamming Liam back into the wall, a hand on his throat, a knee to his groin. Liam wasn’t even short but next to Kavinsky, he was now.

“Whatever you think you know,” Kavinsky repeated with a nasty snarl, tightening his hand around Liam’s throat, “it’s a God fucking lie. Got it? Swear it.”

He really wanted to breath without pain, so yeah, Liam got it. Nodding to convey that message, he waited for Kavinsky to remove his hand but the other boy didn’t. But he didn’t press harder either which was a good thing.

“Whatever you think happened,” Kavinsky continued, “if you tell anyone? I’ll fucking murder you. Not as a figure of speech, I will seriously kill you. I’ll put you into the fucking floor. Then I’ll find sweet Helen and kill her just to piss you off.”

A person would think that Liam wouldn’t believe all that but there was a terrifying glint in Kavinsky’s eyes that he didn’t like. That actually scared him. Maybe Helen wouldn’t get hurt but Liam felt like he literally just might.

“Got it?”

“Got it,” Liam whispered with a burn. “I got it. Joseph, let go.”

The eye twitched again – freaky as fuck, especially now – as Kavinsky let up a little.

But he didn’t let go.

“Don’t ever get near me again. Don’t speak to me, don’t even fucking look at me. You do? I’ll beat the shit out of you. I promise.”

Welp, there went friendship. Fucking Jordan.

“I don’t ever want to see you again. We see each other in school, you turn the fuck around. Avoid me until you graduate and then get the fuck out of here.”

Damn, harsh much? Liam had really liked him. Up until he threatened him and Helen but still.

“Okay,” Liam murmured in sorrow. Deep down, there was someone good hiding inside Kavinsky. Liam had always thought that he could bring him out but it seemed that someone else would have to.

Hopefully.

“How’s it goin- baby boy, what the hell are you doing! Mama!”

Thank God. Liam had no idea how to get Kavinsky off of him without touching and he knew touching was a bad idea. He wasn’t able to turn his head very well but he didn’t have to as Mrs. Kavinsky came up behind Joseph and very carefully gripped his wrists. My savior.

“Baby, let go,” she whispered where his ear was beneath his hood, literally on her tiptoes and even then she barely reached him. “Joseph.” Kavinsky looked conflicted as he ground his jaw. Pulling softly on his wrists but getting nowhere, Mrs. Kavinsky murmured “Sweetheart, let go.”

Grinding his jaw back and forth, Kavinsky finally snarled “I don’t want to see him again. Ever.”

“Okay,” she nodded, flicking a quick glance in Liam’s direction. He couldn’t help but wonder what she knew, if anything. “He won’t come again. Say thank you for his gift and let him go.”

Was she seriously asking for manners right now? Flicking his eyes back to Joseph’s harsh ones, Liam said as sincerely as he could “I swear.”

He must have understood what Liam was swearing to because Kavinsky eased his hands and knee off, letting Liam slide down to the floor. His throat was raw and ached so bad, not to mention his dick. He hoped it still worked.

Ms. Posey came over and helped him to his feet as Mrs. Kavinsky pulled her son back to his bed. Before Eva’s mom led him out of the room, however, Kavinsky called him back. Liam had to admit, he wasn’t all that enthused for convo right now but he stopped and turned to look at the other boy regardless. “Yeah.”

It was like he saw pain and sadness glistening in Kavinsky’s eyes. Was that…regret? “Thank you. For a lot of things.”

That was probably as close as Kavinsky would ever get to admitting that they could have been good friends. It literally made him want to cry like a complete loser.

When he got back to his dorm, he did.

Chapter Text

Blessings came in small increments. Joseph considered not seeing Liam in weeks one of those small blessings. It was better that way; they had gotten too close to friendship anyways. Ending what could have been was the best thing Joseph had done in months besides for beating the shit out of the Jaguar. The few times he and Liam had almost run into each other in the halls of Aglionby, the blonde had turned the other way like he was supposed to.

Joseph acted like he didn’t see the flash of sadness that happened every time. He also acted like he didn’t feel that flash of sadness either.

Sitting atop his car as he waited, Joseph smoked his blunt and bobbed his head along to the beat of the music he was blaring. In order for Kavinsky to get some control back, he had decided that a party was in order. These people flocked to him like a moth to a flame.

That was called power.

Also, a testament to their stupidity but that one wasn’t his problem. He even had more weight to back his name after getting arrested. Now he was the guy with anger issues who’d beat the shit out of a person. So not only was Kavinsky the person people needed, he was the person they feared. That was a thousand times better because it put so much more control in his hands. Kavinsky was infamous as he should be.

Now he just needed to keep boosting that reputation.

Keeping all the control and power in his own hands was also a big important one. He had spent too many years of his life having the control in other people’s hands and after having it stripped completely from him not too long ago… Well, Joseph wouldn’t let that happen again.

Simple.

Every ounce of control would remain in his hands from now on.

Of course, minus the times he couldn’t manage it. Like only yesterday when he had broken down in the shower because he had run out of soap before he had finished scrubbing away his filthiness. He had sat down on the tile and cried while trying to tear his skin off with his nails when his mother suddenly opened the shower door. She must have wondered why the shower had been running for so long. And being the amazing saint that she was, it was like she knew what he had needed.

Because in her hand had been a bottle of body wash.

Joseph wasn’t an idiot; he knew that there were a million things that his mother wanted to say or ask. He could read it just below the surface of her smiles or comforting words. But never did the words or questions come. She simply held her tongue about what she wanted to speak about and instead focused on everything that he needed. Maybe she didn’t get the answers from him but Joseph was terrified that somehow his mother knew what had happened. The very last thing in the world he wanted was her knowing the disgusting truth. But how else was she so attuned to his needs? How did she know when he needed what or even what he needed?

She had to know. How, Joseph had no idea, but something told him that she knew which only made him feel nastier. Besides for inside the confines of his brain when he was forced to remember, Joseph erased the…incident to next to nothing. It hadn’t happened. Nothing at all had happened.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

A smirk grew on his face as he watched people begin to file in, occupying the empty spaces of the abandoned fairgrounds. Drinks began to pop up in everyone’s hands while others occupied themselves with smokes and other substances. Joseph may be a worthless dirty shit of a human being who deserved taking it up the ass for being a fag but Kavinsky?

Kavinsky ruled the night. He ruled these people because they needed him. Feared him. Not only was he fucking king but he was goddamn God.

No one fucked with God unless they wanted to get burned.

Lighting a blunt, he slipped off the hood of his car to go do some milling with the people. Being around so many made his nerves buzz a bit but he’d manage. Kavinsky was no pussy to Joseph’s fears. And if anyone got a little too close, a little too touchy feely beyond what he himself initiated then…well, God burned them. Because people didn’t do something against God’s wishes.

Duh.

Or at least, he would if he had the chance before he was abruptly tackled to the floor.

His initial reaction was to panic because he could immediately tell that the weight above him was distinctly male. But Kavinsky didn’t have time for Joseph and his stupid fucking panic attacks so he stamped down that reaction as fast as he could. Making sure that all the hate in the world was reflected in his eyes, Kavinsky glared up at his assailant.

Alan.

Oh bitch, have you messed with the wrong person at the very wrong time.

The piece of shit was rearing his fist back, ready to punch before Kavinsky’s brain did the first thing it could think of. Once he had flipped them over to where Kavinsky had the upper hand as he straddled the other boy, he landed his fist twice in Alan’s fugly ass mug before reaching over to where his blunt had fallen. Yanking Alan up by the collar of his shirt so that they were face to face, Kavinsky hissed while everyone looked on “Don’t fuck with God, bitch.”

He could tell that Alan wanted to snarl something back but before he could, Kavinsky jammed the lit end of his blunt into Alan’s exposed arm. With a surprised and distressed shout, Alan tried to yank himself out from under Kavinsky but no way was he letting that happen. Punching his fellow raven boy once more, he smirked atop him and took a drag of his joint before burning Alan once more for good measure.

“Stop! Stop!” Alan whined in pain. “Please!” There was panicked fear on his face that Kavinsky couldn’t help but sincerely appreciate. And the way he begged? Oh, did he relish that. There was this little itching in his mind that told him he seriously needed to make people beg more often because Lord, did he love the way it sounded. No wonder people had done it to Joseph. It sounded like music.

“Mmm,” Kavinsky hummed as he smoked atop Alan, “I don’t know… I’m kind of enjoying myself.”

It wasn’t just that begging and fear that ignited Kavinsky into excitement, but the people. People were watching Alan beg him. Their attention had dissipated from the party to them and while Joseph felt sick at having so many eyes on him and his body, Kavinsky appreciated it. Thrived from it because now everyone got to watch on what happened when you tried to fuck with him.

“Kavinsky, man, please,” the boy beneath him practically cried. Those silent start of tears were pretty satisfying too…

Taking another drag, he leaned over and blew the smoke in Alan’s face. “I don’t think I’ve heard you say sorry, bitch. As delectable as your sweet begging is,” he laughed as he straightened before shrugging his shoulders, “Sweets, without an apology you might be stuck down there for a while.”

“I’m sorry!” he blurted instantly. He was trying to pull his arms out from under Kavinsky which he had locked in with his knees. Obviously, Alan was very unsuccessful. “I’m so so sorry! I’m a fucking idiot! I-I was just still kinda pissed. You get that, right? It happens!”

Joseph understood, however, Kavinsky didn’t care. “Princess, what happens when you play with fire?” Swallowing, Alan’s dark eyes flicked to the blunt between Kavinsky’s fingers but remained silent. Even in the ugly light of the floodlights, the other boy’s panic was a thing of beauty. “Answer me, baby, or things are only going to get uglier.”

“You get burned,” he whispered so low that Kavinsky was barely even able to catch the words over the beat of the music. Lip quivering, Alan added “I’m sorry, I swear. Won’t happen again.”

“Do you want to get burned, Alan?” Kavinsky questioned in all seriousness. It was a serious matter.

“I’d prefer not,” Alan murmured, trying not to hold Kavinsky’s gaze too long. Amazing how fast a person could be broken down with some threats. Not so cocky now, was he?

With one last long drag, Kavinsky put out his blunt in the dirt floor so close to Alan’s arm that the boy flinched thinking he was about to feel the biting burn once more. Blowing out the smoke through his nose, Kavinsky grinned wide with danger. “We don’t all get what we prefer, Alan. But I’m a nice guy. Right?” Alan nodded quickly. “And since I’m such a fucking nice guy…we can compromise. How’s that?”

Alan didn’t seem pleased by this even though he was nodding. That wasn’t very nice of him. Here Kavinsky was giving him some mercy and he wasn’t being thankful?

Fucking rude that.

Wrapping a hand around Alan’s throat to the other boy’s immense panic and struggles, Kavinsky snarled “I said how’s that. Verbal answers, bitch.”

The sensation of feeling someone’s Adam’s apple bob when they swallowed was actually more interesting than people gave it credit for. Kavinsky had experienced this with Liam not too long ago but having someone pinned on the floor made it all the more satisfying. “Thank you.”

“Good boy!” Kavinsky said with cheer, removing his hand. Patting the face before him, he smiled “Let’s find out how good you are at being a beck and call bitch, yeah?”

Turned out, Alan was pretty good at being a servant. Kavinsky said walk, then Alan walked. He said spin around, then he spun around. He told him fetch? Alan fetched.

“Such a good little bitch,” he laughed, patting Alan’s face in praise when he brought him a drink. It was Kavinsky’s second and he had to say, alcohol was definitely growing on him. He wasn’t going to lie, he watered his drinks down after making sure that no one was looking because fucking Joseph’s fear of getting drunk kept popping up. Luckily though, it just made it seem like Kavinsky could hold his liquor better anyways.

Small blessings.

Keeping his gaze to the floor, Alan simply nodded. Kavinsky imagined that being someone’s servant for the night was degrading, humiliating, and just plain sucked balls. But being in control of that servant? Jesus Christ, was it invigorating. Making someone feel as down and dirty as himself was beautiful.

Powerful.

Full of every ounce of control.

No one would fuck with Kavinsky unless they’d like to face consequences like dear Alan.

“Go ahead and have a seat,” Kavinsky added after a gulp of his drink. He was a gentleman; he wouldn’t make Alan stand the whole time. When Alan glanced up in surprise and then looked like he was about to climb onto the hood with him, Kavinsky clucked his tongue in the negative. “No, princess, down there,” he pointed at the floor, “Bitches don’t get to sit with God, silly. Have you ever heard of a whore who got to sit on a throne with the king that fucks her? No, because that’s not where they belong.”

Vicious hate flared in Alan’s eyes but was quickly dampened with shame before he slowly dropped down onto the dirt. Serves you fucking right, bitch. Let him be an example for anyone who thought to cross him. Then they’d at least know what to expect. Although…Kavinsky would probably change around what he did. Couldn’t end up being predictable because where the hell was the fun in that? People would end up thinking that they knew what was coming and really, Kavinsky did like a nice element of surprise.

About to ask his bitch to grab him a water, Kavinsky was surprised when a girl was suddenly between his legs. She smiled at him with a dark flush on her cheeks, probably both a little drunk and a little shy. “Hi!”

Blinking at her because she was acting like they knew each other, Kavinsky leaned back on his hands and tilted his head to stare at her. He made sure to make a show of how his eyes worked their way over what he could see of her body from the hood of the car, halting on her chest before bringing his eyes back up. Smiling syrupy slow, he smiled “Hello.”

Flushing even darker as she pushed some of her lovely curls behind her ear, she slowly rested her hands on his thighs. Joseph immediately wanted to shove her away, feeling pure revulsion at having been touched. Touched with intent. Most likely sexual intent. But Kavinsky choked that part of this human being and shoved it into a box before clicking on a lock. Kavinsky needed to fuck a girl and whether Joseph liked being touched or not, girl fucking had to happen.

Sliding down the hood a little before pulling her flush to him – barely containing his gag of disgust at being so closely pressed to someone – Kavinsky rested his hands on her butt and set his forehead on hers. The girl’s eyes were wide and…well, so fucking gullible.

Oh.

Gullible could so work for his advantage. Girls were stupid when it came to him; they thought they were getting some cool deal in hanging around him. They’d never understand how horrible or how dangerous he really was. But maybe that was better. Because Kavinsky could very easily manipulate that in his favor.

And he’d have all the power and control.

Maybe Joseph’s experience with…with sex had been…whatever. But Kavinsky’s? Damn, Kavinsky could fuck a billion girls and not once feel out of control. Or have a loss of power. They were all smaller than him or at least he’d pick the ones that were, so he’d have all the power in that dynamic. He could fuck the fag out of Joseph while keeping the control within his hands. He’d be the guy on top, no pun intended, and nothing could happen without his say or doing.

Gain control while killing the fag.

Two birds with one stone.

“How can I help your sexiness,” he whispered against her lips. From how close they were, he expected the girl to tell how badly Joseph wanted to be sick at their proximity but, proving his point, she was completely believing. Trusting.

Fucking stupid.

“Um,” she giggled nervously before sliding her hands higher up his thighs, coming to a stop right before his crotch. “Maybe I just wanted a kiss for the night? Because you’re such a nice guy.”

Well, seemed someone had been watching him threatening Alan. “The nicest. But is a kiss really all you want, baby?”

Her eyes widened while her mouth opened just a touch, like she was taking in a shocked and excited little breath. She knew exactly what he was asking. “You’re such a nice guy,” she whispered back while trying to get their bodies closer until her boobs were pressed up to his chest, “But I’d never take advantage of your beautiful generosity.”

The poor thing’s attempts at manipulation sucked terribly. Lucky for her, Kavinsky was already doing his own share of manipulating because he wanted to get in her pants as much as she wanted to get in his.

Power and control.

Gifts that he was getting back.

Tonight.

“Lucky for you,” he murmured after pressing a soft kiss to her red lips and tightening his grip on her ass, “My generosity is unending, yeah?”

Power and control.

Going back in his hands tonight.

Chapter Text

“Where the hell have you been?” his mother asked in irritation as she bounced up from the living room couch. She had actually been calling him all night but besides for texting her that he was out, Joseph told her nothing.

It wasn’t like it was her business anyways.

“Out,” he reiterated as he locked the door and hung up his keys after slipping off his shoes. People said you were supposed to feel different after sex but all Joseph felt was gross. That was not any different than he had been feeling for weeks now.

Pinning the girl’s hands above her head against the cushions of the backseat, Joseph pressed a kiss to her soft lips before whispering “Hands to yourself, baby. I run the show, not you.”

Chest rising and falling heavily with her breaths, the girl replied “However you want it.”

She was acting all confident but Kavinsky had a feeling this was her first time as much as it was his.

Fuck.

Not his.

Fuck.

Ramming his lips onto hers before he descended into a full blown freak out, Kavinsky focused on making sure her attention was on his mouth as he used his other hand to ‘wake’ himself up. She’d never be able to do it for him and the thought of her touching him in such a private place freaked him out.

He’d do the hard work himself.

“Do you know what time it is?” It was one of those rhetorical questions that were meant to get a person in trouble. The best sort of questions to answer back with lovely sarcasm.

“Hmm,” he hummed as he walked past her to the stairs, “Dunno. Sleep time, maybe. I think I’d like some of that. G’night.”

“Get your ass over here,” she snapped when as he made his way up the stairs, completely disregarding her and her confrontations. He wasn’t in the mood. Joseph wanted to enjoy the fact that he wasn’t a fag for a few seconds before the disgust and shame came crashing back down on him.

Turning at the top of the stairs to face her with a huge smirk on his face, Joseph laughed “C’mon, Vesela, it’s bed time. You know that sex makes a person tired.”

Oh, did that freeze her in place.

Most boys would be embarrassed about flaunting around their sex life – lack of? – whatever, around to their mothers but Joseph definitely wasn’t. This was monumental! He had had sex. With a girl. Girrlll. Yeah, Joseph Kavinsky the faggot had sex with a girl. Successful sex too. Maybe it wasn’t as fun as he thought it was supposed to be and didn’t make him feel completely mind blown or whatever but it was fucking sex. Where he was actually able to come at the end of it.

Bam. Fag in the trash.

Finally finding her tongue after standing there looking stupid for what felt like hours, his mother took a deep steadying breath. Running a hand through her hair to brush it back, she shook her head and leaned a hand on the rail of the staircase. “I knew it.” His mother shook her head again before making her way up the stairs, passing him like nothing and making her way to her room. “I knew it.”

“Knew what?” he couldn’t help but ask, following her and coming to a stop in her doorway. He watched her pull the blankets from her bed, sliding herself in. “Knew what?”

Facing the opposite wall so that her back was to him, she sighed “Nothing. Just shut off the light and go to bed.”

As if. Joseph wanted to know what the hell she thought she knew. “Mayko.”

“Go to bed, Joseph.”

“So what? Now I’m not good enough to talk to?” Joseph asked in annoyance. Why were the people in his life so good at abandoning him? It was like their exclusive talent. “Hello?”

With a very annoyed sounding huff, she sat up and tied her hair in a bun before crossing her arms. “What. What do you want me to say? Congratulations? I’m proud of you? Hooray! Joseph had sex with a girl!”

That couldn’t hurt. Hello, he had just put a knife in his faggot. He had convinced a girl to have sex with him in a car for fuck’s sake. Not his, thank God, because he didn’t want to have to worry about cleanup but come on. Sex. With. A. Girl. “I don’t understand what the fuck you’re upset about. Would you rather I kept secrets? You should be thankful that your kid has the courtesy to tell you these things.”

If anything, she just looked far more irritated. “Oh, yeah, I should be so thankful that my child is a fucking homophobe like his father. That-”

“If I recall correctly,” he snapped, a fire igniting within him because she was always so stupid, “You’re the one who told me that gay people are nasty. That they’re gross dirty sins. And see? I’m not gay! I had sex with a girl. A fucking girl! I came because of a girl. I threw away a condom that was used because of a girl. Do you get it?”

Grinding her jaw and looking pissed even though there was something else in her eyes that he couldn’t read, his mother replied “Well, at least your smart in something. I was worried you’d go get a girl pregnant to also prove a point.”

It was like a game to her. Didn’t she understand? Why didn’t she get it? “Bitch, do I look like I appreciate your jokes? I had sex-”

“With a girl. Yeah, I heard you. Congrats. Now get out.”

“You’re kicking me out?” Joseph asked in disbelief. Who the hell was this woman in front of him? Not his mother, that was for sure. His mother was caring and kind and knew that he needed to be treated…special. In a way. He required certain treatment. There. That sounded less spoiled and selfish.

“I’m tired after waiting until three in the morning for you to show up. So yes. Let me sleep.”

“Fucking bitch,” he snorted as he flicked the switch of her light with more force than necessary before slamming her door. Fine. If she wanted it that way then she could have it. Fuck. Her. A laugh escaped him as he started to strip for a shower once he reached his room. Nah, the fucking went to the sweet girl with curls.

Whoever the fuck she was. Carey? Sherri? Something that ended with an ‘i’ or ‘y.’ Joseph really had no idea. He had been way more focused on putting his dick where it needed to go. She had even offered to give him her number ‘for next time’ but Joseph didn’t believe in next times.

“Don’t do repeats, babydoll,” he breathed out in between sucking in her lower lip. Jesus Christ. Honestly, the sex had sucked but it was sex and he came so he wasn’t allowed to complain. He had done it.

Veni vidi vici.

He came, he saw, he conquered.

Conquered like a fucking motherfucker. Because conquerors have all the power and all the control.

Kavinsky had had all of that while fucking her. And damn if that didn’t make him feel good.

“Oh,” she whispered when she managed to pull her mouth away from his. She both sounded and looked hurt but that wasn’t Kavinsky’s problem. He had just needed a warm willing body. “Are you sure? I thought we had a good time?”

Pressing one last kiss before sitting up without squashing her because he was too tall for fumbles in the back of a car, Kavinsky snorted as he stripped off the condom and tied it shut “Baby, I only needed the good time. I don’t want your undying love or whatever the fuck you think.” How gross would it be to just leave it here in the car?

Super gross, who was he kidding. He needed to find a trashcan. Pulling on his underwear despite how nasty he felt, Kavinsky leaned back over to the girl who was still half naked – they had only bother removing their bottom halves – and looking hurt, stealing himself another kiss. He thought that maybe he liked kisses. Kisses were fun. “Thank you, princess.”

“Fuck,” Joseph muttered when he remembered that he was supposed to have bought a new loofah before the party because his wasn’t any good anymore. His vigorous scrubbing everyday had pretty much murdered the thing so he had thrown it away. He could just use a washcloth but he never felt that clean when he did. Loofahs were better.

Loofah or die, bitch.

Before, he would have been able to just wrap a towel around his waist and everything would be fine. But that privilege had been taken away from him. Now it was a matter of getting dressed again before he trudged to his mother’s room and hoped that she was over being a bitch. He knocked once and received no reply. Figuring that she had already fallen asleep because she actually did look seriously exhausted, Joseph quietly opened the door and walked in.

If the sound of her sniffles were anything to go by, she wasn’t sleeping.

Joseph considered just acting like he couldn’t hear her and get what he needed but he couldn’t bring himself too. Internally sighing, he walked quietly over to where she lay and crouched down in front of her. “Mayko,” he whispered, “Mayko?”

Huffing when she must have realized that faking sleep was not working, she opened her eyes and wiped her tears. “What.”

“Why’re you crying?”

“What do you need, Joseph?”

Joseph. Not sweetheart or baby. Joseph. She was still upset. Granted it was only a couple minutes past but…mothers weren’t supposed to hold grudges. Not against their children. “I…I forgot to buy a loofah so I was gonna use yours.”

“Then grab what you need.”

He wanted to say more, find some way to take out the comforting words hiding in the back of his brain but they wouldn’t come forward. It was like because he had worn the armor of Kavinsky all night, Joseph couldn’t bring himself out. He was stuck in this weird limbo of self-loathing and fury that Kavinsky capitalized on.

It wasn’t that ‘Kavinsky’ was a separate entity or personality but Joseph used that persona of himself to keep himself safe. Protected. Kavinsky was meaner, crueler, harsher, and didn’t give a fuck how he used or hurt people. His armor was all the horrible parts of Joseph on…steroids, maybe. Kavinsky was how Joseph made sure he didn’t get hurt anymore.

But lately, Joseph felt like he was merging with his armor. The lines were blurring more often than not.

Standing with a sigh, he grabbed what he needed and shut her door softly behind himself. His whole life was just one huge confusing clusterfuck that was fucking with him. Who was he? Joseph the nerd who was a fag? Kavinsky the asshole who found joy in hurting people? A mix of both with all the extra qualities in between? He had spent so longing playing roles that he had no idea how to be who he was even though he had no clue who that even was.

Originally, he had played regular old Joseph. This Joseph was straight and was the face he had worn for most of his life. Then there was the other Joseph who he had gotten to be for almost a year. That Joseph was still the same as the other except behind the scenes he got to be the loving boyfriend his gay as fuck being always wanted to have a chance to be. Then there was this Joseph here in Henrietta; a homophobe who had never been more confused and frustrated in his life. This Joseph was crueler than the other two had been but there was still some of ‘him’ lurking beneath the surface on a good day.

Then there was Kavinsky. Everything bad all the Josephs were combined into one huge fuckery of force. Fiery anger that flared when it felt like it and a tongue sharp enough to cut someone in half. An attitude that took no shit but dished it out to everyone he faced. Blinding hate for everyone and everything because it was easier that way.

So who was he really? Because while one of those roles was extremely close to who Joseph thought he might be, all of the roles played off one big lie. They all omitted one very important part of his life that seemed to run and ruin it.

The power of his dreams.

No one knew of it. No one ever would. Who would understand something as freaky as that? Only people who experienced it would understand and as far as Joseph knew, those people were few and rare. He’d gotten lucky with his grandfather but that hadn’t done him much good being that the man had died so early.

For once in his miserable life, Joseph wanted to be just that. Joseph. Joseph Ivo Kavinsky.

But who exactly was that?

Until he figured that out, Joseph knew that the funny little thing called happiness would always elude him. Dreams and a future would never come by and life would continue running him like it already did.

Until he figured that out, he’d never be in control of his fate.

Chapter Text

Her prescription was ready for pickup.

Her prescription.

“What the hell has she been prescribed?” Joseph murmured as he continued to stare at the house phone in his hand even though he had already closed the automated message. Answering phones wasn’t something he did unless caller ID proved that it wasn’t one of his family. Caller ID had said Walmart and Joseph had wondered if they had ordered anything that his mother hadn’t mentioned.

Technically, yes, but not what Joseph was expecting. When had she even gone to a doctor? Was she sick? She didn’t seem sick to him… “I’ll pick up the medicine,” he decided aloud as he rushed upstairs and grabbed his wallet and phone, “Then I know what it is without her trying to hide it.”

Why would she hide a doctor’s appointment though? That was silly.

“Hi,” he murmured as he stopped in her doorway before he would leave. They weren’t at their best right now. Personally, Joseph thought that four days of punishment were plenty but the woman was on a roll in the silent treatment. Hopefully this wouldn’t be like after she found out he was throwing parties. “I’m going out for a bit. Need anything?”

Flicking her eyes up from her laptop, she shook her head before returning her focus where it had been. He was dying for her to at least say ‘be safe’ like she usually did when he went out but something told him that that wouldn’t be happening.

“’Kay,” Joseph sighed before he walked away and down the stairs as he pulled his hood up. The weather was starting to get warmer which bugged him. How was he supposed to wear sweaters in the heat? Maybe he could find those long sleeves that had hoods on them. Or at least light long sleeves and then always wear hats. That might work.

Arriving at Walmart and walking over to the pharmacy section, Joseph waited for his turn impatiently. His mother looked tired, yeah, but not ill. What could be wrong?

“Hi,” he smiled to the lady behind the counter, “Picking up for Vesela Kavinsky, please.”

“Date of birth?”

“Ten, seventeen, seventy-two.”

“Kavinsky, you said? First name?”

“Vesela. V-e-s-e-l-a.” Duh. He literally just said that. “You guys called a little while ago.”

Checking her computer, the technician finally nodded. “Yup, I’ve got one. Let me grab it for you.”

“Thank you.”

Tapping his foot as he waited because what the hell did she suddenly need to take, Joseph prayed it wasn’t something serious. Maybe it was just some ibuprofen. That wasn’t a big deal. Pain killers were totally cool with him.

“Alright,” the lady said as she set the paper bag on the counter and took out the bottle of pills to scan the barcode. “We’ve got fluoxetine for her. No refills because she needs to talk to her doctor first when she finishes them. Also, it’s a new prescription for her so the pharmacist is going to give you a consultation to relay back to her, okay?”

“Uh, yeah, okay,” Joseph replied, only half aware as he scratched his head under his hood and hat. Fluoxetine. The fuck was that? And it sounded damn familiar too. Why?

“Go ahead and sign and push the green button.”

Joseph nodded almost mechanically as he signed on the screen and pushed the button while he tried to remember why he knew the name. His mind was still lost as he scooted to the other desk to consult with the pharmacist. Fluoxetine. Dammit, it was like he knew what it was.

Coming up to the desk, the pharmacist smiled to Joseph before launching into the information. “Once a day in the mornings so she can decrease her risk of having insomnia. She can take it with or without food. It shouldn’t be stopped without consulting her doctor and if she experiences anything unusual or any sort of allergic reaction, call immediately. Also, tell her to be aware of her moods because sometimes it takes a try or two finding the correct antidepressant for a person because it can affect them negatively. And if there are any questions about the medication, always call her doctor. Sounds good?”

Scratching his head once more without trying to show how much the guy just freaked him out by telling him his mother was going to take antidepressants, Joseph nodded. “Yeah, um, yeah, good. Should she start tomorrow then?”

“Tomorrow is good.”

“Yeah, great, thank you,” he rushed out of his mouth quickly before saying a fast goodbye and grabbing the bag.

Fluoxetine. It sounded familiar because Joseph had been taking duloxetine for most of his life. Jesus fucking Christ. What the hell did she need with an SSRI? No way she was depressed. Right? And what if the doctor had given her one that didn’t work for her? What if it made her sick or lose drastic amounts of weight or-

“Fuck,” he grumbled as he slammed into someone, completely lost in his panicking head. Glancing down to offer the person a hand because somehow his thin ass body had been enough to knock them over, Joseph blinked in surprise. “Fuck.”

“Screw you,” Eva snapped as she got to her feet. “Oh man have I been dying to run into you.”

“Fuck.”

“Is that the only thing in your vocabulary?” Eva huffed as she put her hands on her hips. Fuck, what if she was going to punch him for Liam? She seemed the type.

“Baby boy, is that you?”

Fuckkkk.

Gwen walked over with two others in tow. Neither of them looked exactly like Eva which meant either her twin was fraternal or hadn’t come along today. There was another kid, wasn’t there? No, but that was a boy and Eva’s twin was a girl. One of the girls came and stood by Eva and Joseph figured it was the twin. Her hair was cut close, cute little curls covering her head. Yeah, he could appreciate cute curls. Eva’s hair was gorgeous with her thick long poof of ringlets and her twin’s were short and cute.

Joseph was gay and a fag and didn’t he mention before that he was a very confusing mess? But he could still appreciate a woman.

The twin was slightly shorter which was saying a lot because Eva was already short. Not Blue short but short. Eva’s eyes were larger and darker than those of her twin with smaller boobs.

Yeah, Joseph could appreciate boobs, okay? He hadn’t really bothered with the girl he had slept with because at that time it was more important that he just had sex. But…boobs seemed nice. Maybe. Yeah, sure. He…could probably work with boobs.

“Baby boy, what you got there?” Gwen asked as she came up and hugged him tight. For some reason, he could tolerate Gwen’s hugs. Hell, he almost liked them as much as he liked his mother’s.

“Uh,” he said as he came back to his brain and stopped examining the Gwen clan minus one. The other kid with them was another girl, younger looking than her sisters. If Joseph remembered right, the brother was the oldest. The younger girl was literally a mini Gwen except her hair wasn’t straightened.

“I’ve been keeping my eye out for you so I know you ain’t been back to my hospital. That for mama?”

Glancing at the bag in his hand and then at the only other adult he trusted around here, Joseph mumbled “She’s apparently depressed.”

“So she did talk to the doctor? Good.”

“You know something I don’t?” he asked while raising a brow at her. How did that make any sense? He was her son; he should know everything that was going on with his mother before some nurse did. Well, Gwen wasn’t just some nurse, she was Gwen, but still. “Because I wasn’t told anything at all.”

Looking to Eva and her twin, Gwen said “Why don’t you guys go grab the rest of the stuff on the list? I’ll catch up. And Renne, don’t you dare start grabbing crap.”

Renne, the younger girl, rolled her eyes with a small blush tinging her cheeks. “Mama, I don’t grab extras. I told you, it’s all Eve.”

“Wow,” Joseph couldn’t help but laugh even though he was feeling like shit right now, “Eva and Eve? C’mon, Gwen, you could’ve done better than that. Ow!” Rubbing the spot where Gwen had slapped his arm gingerly, he grumbled “Nurses aren’t supposed to hit people.”

Keeping a straight face even though her eyes were sparkling with mischief, Gwen replied “Hon, I think of you like one of my own annoyances. Now watch yourself.”

“He’s too much of a jerk to be one of us, mama,” Eva snorted, her arms crossed so tight that Joseph was sure that she was restraining herself from hitting him.

“And here I thought you’d say too white,” Joseph laughed despite himself. That was usually the first thing someone would go for, wasn’t it?

“Off you go, ladies,” Gwen said as she shooed her daughters away with their cart. Turning back to Joseph, she took his hand and walked them over to one of the empty tables inside the in-store McDonald’s. “Now, how you been, hon?”

Setting the bag on the table, Joseph relaxed back into the booth seat and stared at the woman before him. For some reason, he could find absolutely no way to hate this woman. Or be mad at her, or irritated, or…anything really. She was just too…Joseph wasn’t sure what the word was but she was like a second mother which was kind of ridiculous being that he hadn’t known her for that long.

And yet he trusted her more than anyone else besides his real mother.

“I’m fine, but I want to talk about mayko. What do you know? And don’t say ‘doctor-patient confidentiality’ because she’s not your patient. Plus, you’re not a doctor.”

“No, but I do give her advice when she’s looking for it. We talk multiple times a week, actually, and I always ask how you’re doing. It’s stepping over the boundary of a nurse but…baby boy, I happen to have taken a liking to you.”

His heart actually fluttered at this revelation. He was that important to someone? “Really?”

Soft smile gracing her face, Gwen replied “Really. You’re my little pet project.”

“Ha. Ha. Funny. So you know about these?” he asked, nudging the bag in front of him. That was where their focus needed to be right now. “She’s not seriously depressed, is she? She seems fine.” Besides for being upset with him currently but yeah. Not depressed that he had noticed.

Although…she did cry a lot more than she used to. And where had her smiles gone? Not to mention she literally always looked tired.

Shit, was she actually depressed?

Gwen was looking at him with this pity look that he didn’t like. “Well, baby boy, sometimes life is a little stressful and we need a little help to make us feel better. I know you know that.”

Shutting his eyes and rubbing his face, Joseph mumbled from behind his hands “But she’s not supposed to be depressed. Mothers don’t do that. She’s supposed to be tough. She’s always been tough. Always.”

Calloused hands softly grabbing his wrists and removing his hands, Gwen stared him in the eyes. Her gaze was extremely intense, like damn. “Hon, mamas are the toughest but sometimes they get a little tired too. Sometimes life likes to be difficult for mamas. But she’ll get better, you’ll see.”

“Better isn’t good enough,” he griped, taking his hands back. Joseph knew that he was being immature about this but his mother taking antidepressants was not sitting well with him. It was like when she had said she would have killed herself; Joseph was the mess, not her. His mother was awe powerful not to be broken. “I want her the way she’s always been.”

A horrible realization struck him.

“It’s my fault, isn’t it?”

The pity was back but it was accompanied by a very stern look that was accented with a tilt of her mouth and firm brows. “Baby boy, don’t you dare start putting blame on yourself. She’s just a bit stressed-”

“Because of me!” Joseph all but shouted while pointing harshly at his own chest. He didn’t give a shit if people were staring. “I’ve asked a million times-”

Grabbing his hand fiercely and holding it tight, Gwen said firmly “Joseph, you are not a burden to her. She doesn’t think that and don’t you ever. She loves you, baby boy. Sometimes mamas get tired and right now she is. But that’s okay because she’ll get better. Don’t blame yourself. Especially because you’re having your own troubles. Don’t add that as one, understand me?”

Rational Joseph said yes, he understood. But rational Joseph was getting smaller as the days went by and barely ever was able to make an appearance anymore. His mother was becoming a mess because of him. Ivo had never successfully broken her but it seemed as though Joseph might.

Yanking his hand back and getting to his feet quickly after grabbing the bag with his mother’s pills, Joseph said “I gotta go. Bye and thanks.”

He heard Gwen call him back but he didn’t have time to stop for her right now. His mother was top priority at the moment.

“Kavinsky!”

Inwardly groaning, Joseph stopped for just a second because he knew if he didn’t, Eva would hunt him down. Spinning around to find her stalking towards him, he said quickly “Make it quick, I gotta go.”

Crossing her arms with her eyes screaming murder, Eva replied “Oh, I’ll be quick because I really don’t want to talk to you but I will for Liam.” She raised a finger, “One? You’re such a piece of shit. Liam has been there for you since you got here and you treated him like a pile of bullshit. He was good to you and really sincerely wanted to be your friend and you betrayed that by being complete garbage.”

Yeah, he already knew that. But he had done it purposefully because it had been for the best. No good would come from being his friend. It was for the good of Liam that Joseph had broken it off. “If you’re looking to fix-”

“I’m not,” she interrupted, her voice joining her eyes in being ready to commit murder. “I want to make sure that you suddenly won’t go back asking him for whatever because I know he’ll be stupid enough to forgive you. My boyfriend happens to suck at picking friends. It’s not like Jordan is any better than you.”

A little flash of panic rushed through his body at just the mention of that name. So far, Joseph had been extremely lucky in not seeing him around. And he really hoped to keep it that way. He didn’t question why he hadn’t seen Jordan around because it was actually weird how he had just disappeared. But that guy was not his problem anymore.

“Two?” Eva continued, raising another finger, “Don’t mess with my mom. For some stupid reason, she really likes you. Hurt her and I’ll kick your ass.”

Gwen was literally like a second mother to him. Somehow, the crazy woman had worked her way deep under his skin and seemed to be staying there. Why would he want to hurt her? Actually, it probably wasn’t about wants because he didn’t exactly like hurting his actual mother and yet he was a pro at it.

And she was going to start taking antidepressants because of that.

Fuck, he was such a lowly sick human being.

“Anything else,” Joseph huffed, barely even able to stop himself from snapping it out. It wasn’t Eva’s fault that she cared for the people she loved. Maybe Joseph needed to take some notes. “I need to go.”

“No. Stay away from Liam and don’t hurt my mom. Now get lost, jerk.”

Lost sounded way nicer than being stuck in the world as he was.

If only getting lost was that simple.

Chapter Text

“Because he’s a bastard,” the girl with a pile of dark brown curls beside her huffed to the other girl in their group who sat across from them. Blue had never found joy in group projects; shoving people together to do an assignment was the stupidest thing ever. How were they supposed to be productive if two of the four were ‘besties’ and never actually focused on what they were supposed to be doing?

The bestie’s mouth dropped open. Annie, if Blue remembered right. Or was that the other bestie’s name? One was Annie and one was Mandy.

Yup, the besties’ names rhymed.

“Did…you just curse?” Annie said in shock. Blue was more than ninety percent sure that this one was Annie. “Wow…”

Huffing once more as she slammed her pencil down onto the table, Mandy snapped “He’s a piece of shit!”

“Lower your voice,” Joan muttered with a flip of her long blonde ponytail as she continued working on her part of their project. Blue wasn’t sure if it was a good or bad thing that she had gotten the haughty smart girl in her group. On the one hand, she got the smart one and on the other, she got the one who would break you if you went in the wrong direction. “You’re so embarrassing.”

Blue couldn’t help it, she needed to find out who this bastard was that made Mandy and her curls so angry. “Who’s the jerk?” she asked curiously, turning her head to look at Mandy. Had to be a complete piece of garbage if it made Mandy the apparent non-curser curse.

Glancing around like she was suddenly afraid that their conversation would be overheard, Mandy leaned in closer to the whole table and whispered “Kavinsky.”

“No duh,” Blue couldn’t help but snort. Her mistake because now all three of the girls were staring at her like ‘what??’ When their stares continued, Blue muttered with eyes narrowed “What?”

“You sound like we should know that meaning that you know that, meaning,” Joan paused for an epic emphasis with a wave of her hand, “you know him personally. Spill it.”

Face flaming as she quickly turned back to her work so they wouldn’t see her guilty face, Blue blustered “No idea what you guys are talking about. Where would I know Kavinsky from? Don’t be ridiculous.”

“How do you know him?” Joan suddenly asked Mandy. Thank God that she turned her attention elsewhere. Blue wasn’t sure how to talk her way out of knowing Joseph yet. “Why’s he a bastard even though everyone knows that? I heard he burned some other guy with a joint. Burned him. That is a monster right there, let me tell you.”

There was no way Blue could explain that Kavinsky burned the boy, not Joseph. They were different people. Maybe not entirely but she felt like the Joseph she had been allowed to get glimpses of would never do something like that.

Now it was Mandy’s turn to have a bright red face. Spirits, she was worse than Blue had been. Brushing her hair behind her ear, she mumbled “I know about the burns…I watched. That happened before Alan became his bitch for the night and…before I…did something stupid thinking that it was brilliant.”

Juicy gossip was not Blue’s thing. At all. She was Blue Sargent. Ms. Sensible. Ms. Don’t Need That Stress In My Life.

But, man, did she want to know what the stupid thing was.

Covering her face, Mandy mumbled “I slept with him.”

That’s funny, I thought I killed you, pike of jealousy. Die already. Plus, Blue had never wanted to sleep with him. For that matter, sex wasn’t even in her thoughts. For spiritual’s sake, she wasn’t even allowed to think about kissing. Even though…she may have when they had hung out.

“You what?” Annie said in such a scandalously shocked voice, covering her mouth with a petite hand. “Like sex?”

“No, like they cuddled for the night in his bed,” Joan snorted with her whole tons of attitude. “Of course, like sex. Don’t be stupider than you already are.” She pointed at Mandy, her long finger tipped with pink and accusing, “I thought you were smarter than that. You went and had sex with him? What were you thinking?”

Well, at least it wasn’t as stupid as Blue thinking that she could be friends with him. Actually, he wanted more than that.

“I thought,” Mandy muttered as she set her chin on her crossed arms resting on the table, “that maybe…you know…”

“He’d give you his heart?” Joan laughed. But she was nice enough to do it quietly, at least. When Mandy blushed and looked away, they had their answer. Blue was feeling a little smug because she had a feeling that she could have had Joseph’s heart if she had allowed it. “Sweetie, Kavinsky doesn’t have a heart. He doesn’t care for people and he doesn’t love anyone. He’s a monster hidden behind an anorexic façade that some people, for some stupid reason, think is sexy. What’s sexy about a skeleton?”

He was handsome, Blue still couldn’t deny it. Sexy? She had no idea but the parts of him hidden away where he wouldn’t let anyone touch them were definitely sexy. Because they were him and Blue had liked that. Except nowadays – not that she’d seen him recently, thank God – he always seemed to just be Kavinsky. It was like he wasn’t good enough for himself anymore.

Or maybe he was just afraid of letting anyone else in.

 


 

“Stop squinting at me,” his mother muttered from across the dining table, her bite of dinner frozen on the way to her mouth.

If staring was what it took for her to initiate conversation, then Joseph was down. He’d tried talking to her before handing over the pills to see if maybe he could just magically solve her depression. One would think that he wouldn’t be so stupid being that he had never found a magical way to solve his own depression after all these years. But he had still wanted to try. He just wasn’t comfortable with the fact that his mother needed antidepressants. Joseph really didn’t want her taking them.

Obviously, his talk had done nothing. One, they weren’t on proper talking terms and two, depression wasn’t cured with one conversation. A pathetic conversation at that. So he had admitted to his failure and handed over the cursed bottle. Surprise had lit her face that he had picked them up but other than a thank you, she said nothing else.

So he in turn said nothing else.

It didn’t mean he was over it though.

Biting his lip while he pushed around a roasted potato, Joseph murmured as he turned his gaze to his plate “Do you really need them?”

“Would you prefer I wallowed and died that way?”

Talk about cruel. Why’d she have to be so mean? “That’s not fair.” Sighing as she ate her last mouthful, his mother grabbed her plate and stood, taking her dishes to the sink. “Mayko,” Joseph all but whined.

“Joseph,” she said quietly, still at the sink with her elbows resting on the edge and her head on her arms, “Baby, I’m tired. Just tired.”

Words like those were ones that Joseph knew were powerful. They meant so much more than what was presented at the surface. They were words that weighed on him for so long, a leader in his suicidal thoughts.

Simple words like those were dangerous.

“Well…how do I make you untired?” A small laugh escaped her throat, almost mocking. Sarcastic even. Getting out of his chair, he made his way over to her, coming to a stop beside her. Joseph wanted to catch her eye but his mother kept her head down, refusing him. “Mayko?” he whispered, “Mayko?”

Shaking her head against her arms, his mother said nothing. And when that silence continued, Joseph’s stomach turned into a whirlpool or maybe even the start of a hurricane. The heavy disgusting realization was hitting him for real now.

His mother was depressed. The woman who smiled and had so much cheer that it spilled to everyone around her, the woman with the brightest smile that everyone loved, was depressed.

And it was all his fault.

Eyes filling with tears of guilt, Joseph walked away, up to his room. Crying in front of her would just make her worse. As he quietly shut his door and dropped onto his bed, Joseph tried to get a hold of himself. Even if he was being eaten on the inside, the last thing he could do right now was show it. No, he needed to be perfect so she’d get better. It didn’t matter what happened to him or with him, Joseph had to hide it, bury it in the depths of his being. She’d get better if he did and while he knew that he’d never be better in his life, he could totally fake it until he made it.

What his mother needed was a seemingly okay Joseph. Then her depression would be gone and he’d have one less person on his conscience. Fake until he made. What was a little more pressure on his mind? What Joseph needed now was a way to be happy. The question was how in the world was he supposed to fake for that long? It could take a couple months for his mother to be okay. He didn’t think he could fake for such a huge span of time.

No, he needed a little something for help. Weed wasn’t good enough; Joseph needed a proper high. Something to get him nice and up there.

Something epically hardcore.

Alan’s bitch’s sister would know something, wouldn’t she? She was supposedly the hardcore party girl or whatever. “Yeah, yeah, she would,” he mused aloud, his face still smashed in his pillow. “I’m getting up, see?”

It took him another ten minutes before he was actually able to roll out of bed. But he did it, at least. Yanking on a clean shirt and sweater but leaving on his lounge pants, Joseph grabbed his hat before pulling up the hood. He was meeting with a girl but it didn’t mean anything. They could just as easily use him. Until he fucked enough of them, they still had the upper hand in the power game.

But that was a problem that could be solved. Soon. Very soon.

Grabbing his phone and wallet before leaving the room, he bounced down the stairs. “I’ll be back,” he said to his mother who was still leaning over the sink. She was definitely depressed; now that his eyes had been opened, he literally could see it in her every movement. And, dear fucking God, he was so worried for her. It was okay for him to suffer and be depressed but having it happen to his mother?

That didn’t sit with him at all.

His trip was a short one as all he had to do was walk a few houses down. Joseph had no idea where to find Alan’s girlfriend’s sister but he did know how to find Alan. He couldn’t stop the smirk that lit his face at seeing the fresh Jaguar – it practically made him want to smash it all over again.

Eh, maybe he would. Never knew. It did blow off wonderful steam.

Joseph chimed the bell only once; he didn’t need Alan annoyed before he got the information that he needed. The door opened a second later by an older woman. “Hello.”

“Uh, hi,” Joseph replied, both shocked and excited by the slight worry and fear in her eyes. He did that? He could actually make people feel like that? “I’m looking for Alan?”

Just from the way that she cleared her throat, Joseph knew that he was about to be fed a lie. “He’s not here right now. Sorry.”

“Uhuh,” he nodded as he peered over her shoulder, seeing nothing but a huge ass staircase similar to his own and an extravagantly decorated house. Taking his gaze back to her, Joseph smiled wide and acted like he hadn’t just heard her answer. “I’m looking for Alan?”

“He’s not-”

“Anna, have you seen-”

Joseph smiled even wider as Alan’s dad caught sight of him causing him to halt in his tracks. With a wide smile, Joseph exclaimed “Mr. Thompson! How are you?”

Striding forward with a purpose, he softly nudged Anna to the side. Maid? Wife? Joseph wasn’t actually too sure. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?”

Hands in his sweatshirt pocket, Joseph shrugged easily and with such a calm that Mr. Thompson was stuck staring at him in confusion. It was like the older man was wondering whether or not Joseph was the same kid who had smashed his car. “I just wanted to talk to Alan is all. Just a question about school. Is he home?”

Giving him a once over that, surprisingly, didn’t bother Joseph because he couldn’t detect an ounce of sexual nature in it, Mr. Thompson asked “For school?”

“Yessir. Quick question. Promise.”

The man probably had never looked so confused in his life. His face was literally blaring who are you and what happened to the hooligan??? “I’ll call him down. Go ahead and wait here.”

“Yeah, sure. Thank you.” Smart man not letting the monster that Joseph was inside his home.

Waiting took no more than five minutes, if that, before the door opened once more and Alan stepped out. Joseph smiled a greeting. The other boy’s eyes were wary – smart like his father, it seemed – as he slouched against his front door. “I don’t believe the bullshit about school. So what do you really want?”

“Your bitch’s sister. Where do I find her?”

Raising a brow and not offended in the slightest by the way Joseph referred to his girlfriend, Alan asked “Why?”

“I need something and she might have it. Or she’ll at least be able to direct me in the right direction. So, where do I find her?”

Alan was nodding slowly, consideration on his face as he stared at Joseph. “Faith lives with my girl and their mom at the trailer park. My girl is trailer trash but maybe that’s why she likes it dirty. Gotta love her.”

Jesus. How the hell did his girlfriend put up with him? Why, for that matter? “Trailer park. Cool. Got it. Thanks.” He was about to walk away when Alan called him back. “What?”

Smirking and crossing his arms, Alan laughed “Faith don’t sell, just so you know. Or at least, not traditionally.” With the ugliest sounding chortle or cackle or whatever the fuck you wanted to call it in the world, Alan winked and added “She’s a sweet fuck.”

Chapter Text

Joseph stared down at the bounty before him sitting on his bed. Was he really doing this?

He was really doing this.

Although, Alan was a big time liar – not that he shouldn’t have expected that but still – or Joseph just didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Because Faith was not a sweet fuck. At all. He had hated every second of it. And she wasn’t as…submissive? as the other girl. She wanted things her way. Joseph didn’t like that. Kavinsky hated that.

So Kavinsky made sure that he was the one taking charge.

Snorting as he picked up a baggie and stared at it closely, Joseph muttered under his breath “The dude is such a fucking man whore. Fucks Hope and Faith. Hell, I bet they’ve had threesomes.” The sisters had actually offered to have one with Joseph. It was bad enough that he had to fuck one so there was no way in hell that he was going to have sex with two.

Focusing on the Ziploc in his hand, Joseph snorted once more as he shook his head. It was funny how staring at a bag filled with cocaine brought up memories. Him telling his mother that at least he wasn’t doing something drastic like coke. Or him asking Ivo about drugs. Swearing that he’d never be stupid enough to use. Never in this lifetime or the next.

But see, Joseph wasn’t stupid; that hadn’t changed.

What he was was something else entirely.

Desperate.

Very very desperate.

And this? This white powder was going to make everything better.

It had to.

Taking a deep breath because despite himself, Joseph was actually afraid of doing this, he shut his eyes and thought carefully about what he was about to do. How bad was it to get high? Technically, isn’t that what he did with weed? It wasn’t the same, he knew that but…if he could just smile more, laugh a little louder…

Then his mother would get better. And that one small thing was all he wanted in life.

“Easy peasy,” he whispered before opening his eyes and picking up a straw. He’d gone to McDonald’s and grabbed a shit ton of straws. Apparently, they were great for snorting. And disposable was best to make sure you avoided not only suspicion but also to keep things sanitary. He had even pre-cut them all in half so he’d have one less thing to worry about.

Easy. Peasy.

Pushing the crap on his nightstand to the side just a bit so that he’d have a clear corner, Joseph grabbed the bag of coke and his debit card.

Easy. Fucking. Peasy.

Swallowing down his nerves because fuck them, he poured out some powder and used his card to line up two nice neat lines. “I can so do this,” Joseph murmured as he leaned over his rows, the straw just inside the opening of a nostril. Setting the tip of the straw at the end of one row and closing his other nostril, he inhaled deep all the way down the line. Honestly, it was weird and uncomfortable but the high was supposedly worth it, so he’d deal.

Breathing out of his mouth like he’d been instructed to do after snorting a line before going for the next one, Joseph formed one last line from the left overs of the other two and snorted that up. Breathing deep as he laid back on his bed to stare up at his ceiling, he grimaced from the ‘drip’ coming down his throat. Jesus, how was he supposed to get used to that? Super weird.

According to his research because he was just that type of nerd who researched before they drugged themselves up, it took five to ten minutes before the high kicked in. And the high should last generally at least an hour unless he had a tolerance built up. That was shorter than he would have liked but whatever. It’d do.

It was still a high and it was enough to make him smile easier.

Supposedly.

His skin was starting to feel kind of prickly, not to mention clammy.

Joseph couldn’t really say that he was a fan. Or at least, he wasn’t up until a few more minutes passed and the physical discomfort was way past his mind. He was feeling…

Kind of good.

And restless. Why was he lying down? He could be doing something or at least moving around.

Moving, yeah, yeah, he liked that idea.

Oh, he should smile for his mother. She loved smiles.

Bouncing out of bed with an energy Joseph hadn’t had in years besides for when he smashed Mr. Thompson’s car, he practically ran out of the room only to stumble to a halt. Spinning around on his heels, he went back to his bed and shoved all the incriminating magical powder into his nightstand. He’d deal with that later.

Walking with a pep in his step to his mother’s room, Joseph swung into the doorway and smiled huge. It would’ve been funny if she hadn’t even been in the room. “Hi.”

Looking up from her phone where she was sitting on her bed, his mother raised a brow and said slowly “Hi.”

For some reason, that just made him smile bigger. Jesus, if this feeling was what it meant to be happy, oh Lord, has he been missing out.

Lord.

Missing.

Out.

Yeah.

Bouncing over to her and jumping onto the bed before he scooted right beside her, Joseph pressed a kiss to her cheek as he wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “Do you want to do something? We should do something. When’s the last time we did something together?”

She was staring at him like he was insane.

Not insane.

Just high.

Oh, he was high.

From his nose.

That was funny.

Snorting made you high.

Funny that.

Still grinning wide and wondering if there was a way to make his eyes twinkle, Joseph watched as a small smile started to grow on his mother’s face. It was one of those smiles where it was like ‘what the almighty fuck???’

“Together?”

“Yeah,” he drawled before pressing another kiss. “I think we could use it. Ha. Ha. Use.”

Like drugs.

Ha.

Joseph was hilarious.

“We’re making things better, remember?” he added when she continued to stare at him. Why was she staring so hard? Such a weirdo.

Nodding slowly, his mother smiled wide and said “How about some baseball?”

Baseball.

Joseph was totally down.

Ha. No, no.

No.

Joseph was totally up high.

High, high, high.

A giggle escaped him and just for the fact that he giggled, he couldn’t help but laugh aloud. Staring at him funny all over again, his mother’s eyes tracked his entire face, taking in every detail. When she just kept staring and was no longer smiling, Joseph said “Baseball, mayko. Remember?”

Nodding although she was still subjecting him to her deep examination, his mother finally murmured “I remember. We’re doing something together because we’re making everything better.”

For some reason, Joseph didn’t like her tone. It was…sarcastic? That wasn’t very nice. “You don’t want to make things better?”

Sighing deep for no reason that Joseph could discern, his mother smiled – although Joseph swore it was more like she just plastered it on instead of meant it – and replied “Of course I do. Go get your bat and a couple balls. Let’s see who’s pitching skills are suffering more from our lack of practice.”

Grinning wide because hello, baseball, Joseph bounced out of her ginormous bed, bounded off to his room, and retrieved the supplies for a possibly fun afternoon.

  


 

His batting sucked.

Sure, batting had never exactly been Joseph’s forte but this…this was something else.

Something else entirely.

It was uncoordinated, half-assed, and a complete mess of a show of batting skills. And he laughed every time that he missed. Most people would just think that the laughter meant nothing. He was just laughing at himself for not doing well. Lightening the mood or something.

People would think that it meant nothing.

Vesela knew that it meant everything.

Just like she knew that he was high as hell.

She didn’t know on what but she wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t blind. No, Vesela wasn’t a lot of things. But what she was and had been for a while now was broken. Tired. Just fucking done.

It wasn’t Joseph’s fault; it would never be his fault. There was no part inside of her that would ever blame him for anything that was going on or for anything that had happened. The fault rested solely at her and Ivo’s feet.

And always would.

Ivo’s more than hers but still. She loved her husband and, despite that she knew that it was stupid for certain reasons, always would. She loved her son to not even the moon, but Pluto and back. But her problem had always been that she couldn’t find the balance between loving the two most important people in her life. It was always one or the other depending on the situation.

That there was the biggest and worst mistake of her entire life. But what was done was done; going back wasn’t something that could happen.

So here they were. Vesela was depressed and separated from her husband and sister. But what was that compared to anything and everything that Joseph was going through? What he’d already been through? Their lives were supposed to get better not worse.

Almost a year later and they were a thousand times worse from where they had begun.

“C’mon,” she laughed. She wondered if he was so high where he couldn’t tell whether or not her laugh was real. Joseph would be able to tell in an instant but maybe high Joseph couldn’t. “I know for a fact that you can do better than that.”

Smiling with his face shining in happiness – false happiness? – Joseph bounced on the balls of his feet as he swung the bat back and forth. “I’m out of practice. Not my fault Aglionshit don’t know what the good sports are. Lacrosse? The fuck is that bullshit.”

A shadow crossed his face and left so fast that if Vesela hadn’t been paying attention, there was no way she would have caught it. His high induced happiness had only dimmed on one word.

Lacrosse.

Why?

“Prep school. What do we expect,” Vesela snorted as she readied herself for another pitch. Maybe if Aglionby had a baseball team, Joseph would have had something to set his focus in.

Beyond drugs, of course.

It was funny how she wasn’t panicking. Joseph was taking something stronger than weed, probably only started yesterday or today, and yet here she was.

Acting totally oblivious.

But how was she supposed to act? Yell at him? What good would that do? It’d never worked before. Sit and cry? Yeah, but she did that all the time and honestly, she didn’t feel like wasting even more time of her pathetic life being more pathetic than she already was. Her life was ruined and now, despite that she was trying so hard to make it better, she was ruining her child’s.

She’d read everything that she could get her hands on, done everything that she thought could work…and well, yeah. Obviously, everything wasn’t working. It was her fault that Joseph was getting high, Vesela knew that. He probably thought that if he smiled more for her that he could get her to stop taking the antidepressants. That he could make her feel better.

Sweet of him but such misplaced concern. She wished that he’d worry about his own well-being as much as he was about hers.

“Ready?” she asked. Her son nodded, actually looking like he was trying to think through the fog he had set on his mind. Cocking her arm back, she pitched. Joseph missed but at least it looked like he had actually tried that one. “How about you pitch for me?”

“That’d make you happy?” he asked, head tilted to the side in questioning. “I can try harder.”

“Nah,” Vesela replied, walking over to him. If she didn’t believe her theory before, she sure as hell did now. “I haven’t batted in ages; I could use some practice.”

Could she reverse psychology this situation? He was set on making her happy, right? So that meant that her being happy would in turn make him happy. So…if she faked being happy…she’d actually be making him happy which would mean that…she could make him get better.

That was how the reverse crap worked, didn’t it? Vesela wasn’t too sure but it sounded kind of promising. It couldn’t hurt to try another plan. She was pretty much out of ideas up to this point anyways. She could act like she was getting better.

Fake until she made, right?

Chapter Text

She awoke to screaming.

At first, Vesela was too tired to even comprehend whatever it was that she had heard but then her brain pushed itself through the fog of sleep. Probably like most people, she had specific little sirens that wailed in her mind for certain situations. The one currently blaring loud and clear was for a specific special someone.

It was Joseph.

Later, when she wasn’t panicking and running to her screaming child, Vesela would think ‘well, who else would it be, exactly?’ It was just the two of them.

But that was later.

Practically slamming his door open and nearly tripping over God knew what Vesela dropped onto the bed beside him. He was awake now but he was curled into himself shaking violently. Ever so carefully, Vesela reached out and settled her hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t just shaking, he was crying and…

Bleeding?

Joseph had been screaming so that meant he had been trapped in a nightmare so where…

Later. It wasn’t important right now.

“Baby.” Joseph shook his head with harsh fervor, still curled into a tight ball. Leaning a little closer, she scooted nearer to him but made sure that there was still space between them. Maybe he didn’t want her touching him? “Joseph, sweetheart.”

Somehow, her voice just made him cry more or louder. She couldn’t tell the difference but it was something, that was for sure.

“I’m going to hug you, okay? You don’t have to talk, you don’t have to say anything at all, and I won’t either. I just want to hold you, okay?” If he said no, she was going to have to think of a better tactic. This was usually her go to and generally, it gave good results.

Thankfully though, she got a slow nod after a minute. Lying down beside him, she curled her body around him and held him as close as she could manage without suffocating either of them. She knew she had told him that she wouldn’t speak but he had always loved when she sang for him. “Can I sing?” she asked softly, “I want to sing for you.”

It took another minute of thinking but he nodded, his sobs more quiet cries now. As she started to sing his favorite lullaby while brushing back his hair and pressing kisses to his head, Joseph started to loosen in her grip, no longer as tense as he was. It was a lullaby so the song was short but she didn’t stop, simply kept singing it over and over like she always did until he wanted her to stop. It never mattered how exhausted her voice got, Vesela never halted until she knew that he was ready for her to.

When his cries became sniffles and he started to wipe his face in his blanket, Joseph whispered shakily “Thank you.”

Pressing another kiss to his temple, Vesela whispered “You’re welcome. Anytime. You know I love singing for you.” She liked to sing, always had found joy in it in whatever her hands were busy with, but singing for him was always different. It was more powerful, more special. It was their thing that no one could ever intrude on.

Resting her head on his, she shut her eyes softly and listened to his breathing as it steadied. Joseph put his arm atop hers, his hand clasping hers tight as she felt his long fingers stretch to her other hand. It was something he had always done – to both her and Ivo – when he was sitting in their laps or within their arms. For some reason, he had always found comfort in rubbing a finger across their wedding rings, etching every detail in his mind.

They had settled into a comfortable quiet so when he spoke, she startled a little, her eyes flicking open. “I miss him.”

Had he said something before and she had missed it? Miss who?

“And I know that I’m so stupid for missing him and yet all I want is life to be like it was.”

Ivo.

They never talked about it. Or, Joseph never wanted to talk about his father. Never wanted to talk about what they left behind; who they left behind.

Hell, they barely even talked anymore.

Pulling him in closer to her and holding him tighter, she murmured “He’s your father, baby. It’s okay if you miss him. It’s okay.”

Joseph said nothing as he continued to run his finger back and forth along her ring, studying each and every detail like he always did. A deep breath shuttered through him before he wiped his eyes again. The room was dark besides for the small glow that came from the nightlight plugged in beside his balcony. He’d asked her for one after coming back from the hospital and she had happily bought him one. People would say something stupid like ‘why does a fifteen year old need a nightlight’ but they could all go fuck themselves. If he wanted a light then he sure as hell was getting a light.

Tracing patterns on his pillow after switching the hand that studied her ring for the other, Joseph whispered “Bet you miss your dad.”

A snort erupted from her unchecked, loud in the silence of the night. Understatement of the year. Her mother had died when she was only six so Vesela had never had the chance to love and miss and want her mother back. But her father had been her and Nikol’s everything. She’d give anything to have him back. “Yeah, yeah, I do.”

“I bet,” Joseph said as he, she assumed, unintentionally scratched her with his nails in the fingers around her ring as he held it tight. His nails were short but crap, did that hurt. “You think…that maybe…”

Life would have been better with him around? “Yeah, I think so.”

Or he at least would have been able to help her figure out the mess her life had become. They would have gone to live with him and he would have known how to make everything better like he always had.

Things would have gotten better.

“I wish he were here,” Joseph sighed as he stared at a picture of his grandfather he had taped on his chalkboard wall. It was one of the last ones they had taken together as a family with her father. She had to admit, she was surprised Joseph had picked a picture with Ivo in it. There was a pile of other ones that he could have chosen.

And yet he went for the one with his father in it.

It had to be horrible to both hate and want your father at the same time.

“Me too, sweetheart,” she replied, kissing his cheek, “Me too.”

Her eyes caught on the thin lines along Joseph’s neck. They were hard to make out in the dim light but they were there, alright. It reminded her of when she had found him trying to rip open his throat in his sleep. Well, rip off whatever had been figuratively strangling him.

In the real world, of course, because obviously in his dream, it had all been very real.

Those on his neck weren’t the only wounds, now that she was turning her attention to the blood she had seen when she had first rushed in. His arms were filled with scratches and puncture wounds. Nothing serious, thankfully, but…Jesus. At least they weren’t bleeding anymore but where had it all come from?

Cautiously, she traced the scratches on his neck. She didn’t want him to get upset but she didn’t want him to think that she hadn’t noticed either. Vesela tried not to ask things when she knew he wouldn’t appreciate it but that didn’t mean that she didn’t want answers. Begged God frequently for just some stupid ass answers just fucking once.

Okay, so she was a little bitter about always being left in the dark about everything. But honestly, could anyone blame her?

Tensing a little as she continued to trace the marks, Joseph shut his eyes and let out a relieved sigh before he relaxed into her. What relief she was providing, Vesela wasn’t sure, but she was more than happy to give it. “I wish I could tell you everything.”

Vesela froze.

“And I know you say all the time that I can,” Joseph continued, not registering that she had stopped moving, “But…it’s…” A huff of frustration escaped him. “You wouldn’t get it.”

Get what though? Vesela liked to think that she was pretty open-minded. Maybe she hadn’t been before about homosexuality but that had changed and so could anything else. “Try me.”

Shaking his head softly, Joseph whispered “I’m not worth the headache you’d get from it.”

“I’d take the most excruciating migraine in the world if it meant I could help you. I’d shoulder the entire weight of the universe for you, Joseph. Don’t ever doubt that.”

She hadn’t expected him to look at her so when he turned his head and studied her with those deep eyes of his that were so much like Ivo’s, Vesela had to admit that she was a little surprised. Finally, he murmured “I don’t doubt that. I’ve never doubted that and never will. But trust me when I say, I’m not worth it. Plus, you don’t want to know my demons, mayko.”

Actually, she wanted to meet each and every single one of his demons. Vesela wanted to know what haunted him, what it was that was tearing down this beautiful boy before her. “I’d love to invite them for coffee and get to know them.”

Laughter was the last thing she expected and Lord, did it sound beautiful coming from him. Resting his head beside her heart, he snorted “What if they’re tea demons?”

“Pft, you grew up in a coffee household. No way they’re tea drinkers.”

“Mayko?” She hummed as she shut her eyes. Maybe if she slept beside him, he’d be able to get some rest. “I want to tell you something but…just let me say it, okay? No…no questions or comments or anything. Just listen so I can get it off my chest?”

That was something. “Go for it.”

With a deep breath inhaled and then exhaled, she felt Joseph’s eyes flutter shut against her chest. When a few minutes of silence passed, Vesela worried that he had changed his mind. Eventually, he spoke in a quiet steady voice words that would never make any sense to her for years to come.

 


 

Cocaine was a nasty fucker.

But that obviously didn’t stop Joseph from doing his first lines of the day. He’d had a long night – a very long night – and the thought of being at a carefree high was incredibly appealing.

Joseph had been a little worried about what would happen yesterday when the high wore off and the crash arrived. It hadn’t been too bad, a bit like when he had weened himself off of his pills. That was all luck though, he knew that. Once he started to use again and again and again…Joseph knew addiction would catch up with him fast. But he couldn’t even bring himself to care. How bad would it be if he was addicted for a while? Just a little until he made his mother happy again.

Simple.

Plus, she had smiled and laughed so nicely yesterday. He had to be doing something correct.

It had a hell of an effect on his dreams though. Joseph was more than half convinced that the reason his nightmare had been so bad was because of the coke. It enhanced everything in his brain or something. Sure, Henrietta made shit vivid but last night was insane.

And not in a good way.

Putting away his contraband, Joseph let himself have a couple minutes before bouncing out of bed to his bathroom. His mother had wanted to clean his wounds for him but he’d told her that they were nothing and he’d do it himself when he took a shower.

God bless that woman did he love her.

Stripping quickly and avoiding the mirror despite the fact that he was a tad curious to how he looked, he took the fastest shower in the world. Thinking on how cocaine affected his nightmare gave him an idea that needed to be tested.

Getting dressed twice as fast as he had taken his shower, Joseph reached out for his sweatshirt before his hand paused. One, his body temp made it feel like it was a thousand fucking degrees. Two…God didn’t hide. Wasn’t a coward. Joseph wasn’t sure that he could manage being uncovered though. He wanted to try because he couldn’t let that weakness win over him forever but just the thought alone made his stomach churn.

But he couldn’t hide forever.

Anyways, today was going to be spent at his lot, not with people. In the solace of his empire…he could do it, couldn’t he? And if he did have to see someone…it would be quick. He’d be able to handle it. All he had to do was get extremely high and shut off his brain.

Easy.

“Tell me yes,” Joseph said to his mother as she passed by his room.

Backtracking, she came to a halt in his doorway, blinking at him and his still outstretched hand curiously. “Yes for what?”

“Just say yes.”

She raised a brow in questioning but she did as he asked. “Yes.”

Nodding as he rubbed the key charm of the necklace around his neck, Joseph lowered his hand and took a deep breath. “Yes.” Glancing at his mother, he smiled and said “I’m going without the sweatshirt today.”

Shock lit her emerald eyes but a hint of genuine happiness crowded in. “Good luck. Put it in your trunk just in case though, okay? I don’t want you to push yourself if you’re not ready yet.”

God. Bless. This. Woman.

“Brilliant idea,” he laughed, the endorphins starting to rush to his head. Now that he thought about it, he should definitely take his coke with him. What if he needed it? Yeah, yeah, it went with him. “I’m going out, obvs,” Joseph said as he grabbed his sweatshirt and went back to his nightstand to grab his shit. “Probs the day. Shit to do.”

His mother wouldn’t ask what exactly this shit to do was, he knew that, but he also knew that she was dying to know. Plan more parties? Fuck more girls? Smoke more weed?

The list was endless when it came to the shit Kavinsky was willing to do.

And now that he was feeling better than he had in ages, thanks went to his friendly local blow, Kavinsky was ready to start pushing some limits. Both in dreams and reality.

His eyes caught on a colorful card sitting in the back of his drawer. Pulling it out, Joseph stared down at it and couldn’t help but smile. Maybe he was going to bother seeing someone today.

Couldn’t hurt, could it?

Slipping the card into his wallet and that into his pocket, Joseph whistled his way out of his room, down the stairs, and out the house. He whistled all the way into his car, out the driveway, and on his way to the abandoned lot.

The whistling didn’t stop all the way up until he popped a green pill into his mouth, laid down on the hood of his car, and shut his eyes.

Make way for Kavinsky.

Chapter Text

Now this was a car.

Grinning like a madman as he rubbed his hands all over every single piece of the interior of the Evo, Joseph turned the key in the ignition.

The engine boomed to life.

“Yes! In your fucking face, forest!” Joseph shouted in delight before he cackled wildly. He did it. He yanked an entire fucking car from his brain.

An entire functional fucking car.

It’d only taken him two tries today. The first was an epic fail in part that he had given the forest a chance to realize that he was there. Joseph had been a bit curious about the effects of cocaine so he had bothered to explore a bit.

Big big bad mistake.

The forest was not his biggest fan.

But that was okay. He had managed to get himself awake, patched up the wounds freakish evil plants had given him, and popped another pill after doing more lines of cocaine. If that was the shit that was igniting his brain to life, then Joseph was down. So he was doing cocaine. He no longer gave a fuck and didn’t give any fucks whatsoever what anyone else thought.

Except maybe, maybe now, for when his mother found out.

But until she did, Joseph was home free.

Jumping out of the car after throwing the door open, Joseph bounded all around the Evo, trying to see if there were any flaws.

Not a single one.

“Ha, ha, bitch! Kavinsky has conquered!” Going full Jersey and fist pumping, he whooped in happiness as he admired the design he had conjured up. The design was something he had been thinking about for months now, trying to come up with the perfect thing.

This, this beauty, was fucking perfect. Blared out a warning that everyone knew meant that he was dangerous. No one could claim that they weren’t warned if they tried fucking with him. “Maybe I’ll add it to my tats…” Joseph mused as he continued to admire the knife cutting down the side of his gorgeous new car.

His sleeve was growing nicely, the roses and thorns slowly working their way down. Going back after his…that thing that had happened had been a bit difficult. Drake was very obviously a man and had to very obviously touch Joseph.

It hadn’t been pretty in the beginning.

However, Joseph wasn’t a quitter and he seriously loved how his tattoos were going. He wasn’t going to give up just because he was a whiny bitch. Nope, that didn’t fly with him. After many failed attempts at being able to handle Drake touching him, Joseph had finally been able to grit his teeth, look away, and force some weird sense of trust between them.

Walking to the other side of the Evo to make sure that the wrap came out the same on both sides, Joseph murmured “Maybe on my other arm or my chest? That’d be cool.” Examining the design closely, he smiled in glee when he didn’t notice any major differences. Hell, not even minor ones. The black knife stretched across the body of the white car, splatters of greys behind the hilt.

Beautiful.

“Cocaine, my friend, you are glorious.”

Now he just needed to dream a little something for a special someone.

 


 

“Maybe.”

Blue covered her face so her groan wouldn’t come out. They were getting nowhere. Their English teacher had assigned them all into groups – dear God, why – and told them to pick a scene from a classic to perform in front of the class.

There were a couple problems that Blue had with this project. One was that it was just plain stupid. Two, she hated group projects, and three?

She got stuck with Annie, Mandy, and Joan once more.

Mrs. Lucas had said that they had worked so well together on their last project that she expected great things from them.

Uh.

What Mrs. Lucas didn’t know was that behind the scenes, they were hardly the prime example of a group. They were pretty dysfunctional in reality. Sure, they got the work done and it came out good because Joan did not go down with bad grades but still.

Uh.

“What about something from Romeo & Juliet?” Annie suggested, green eyes sparkling in excitement. “C’mon, that could be fun.”

“No,” both Blue and Joan said at the same time. Thank God.

Twirling her curls with a pencil, Mandy made a thinking face before she said “Tom Sawyer?”

Good story but Blue shook her head. “Nah.”

Joan took a bite of her burger and swallowed before spinning her pencil between her fingers. They had come to Good Burger to work because Mrs. Lucas said this was an out of class project.

Should Blue ‘uh’ again?

Uh.

Opening her mouth to speak, Joan stopped when the booming of music and the sound of an engine took control of the airwaves. Blue knew both those sounds.

She knew them well.

Oh no.

Managing not to run into Kavinsky wasn’t easy. Henrietta wasn’t that large and they frequented a lot of the same places. But she had managed.

Time was up it seemed.

“Oh crap,” Mandy whispered as she stared towards the door, her eyes wide. The music and engine had gone silent and the little bell over the door chimed as a customer walked in.

Kavinsky.

Blue was probably screwed. And really, she was screwed even more because she wasn’t alone. If it had been just her sitting, she would be able to handle whatever garbage he had to say.

However, it wasn’t just her.

When he walked past the cashier’s counter and towards their table with a smile, she knew for a fact that she was utterly utterly screwed. He came looking for her specifically?

Not good.

The air went out of all the other girls as Joseph came up to their table and scooted himself in beside Blue and Joan. Why did Blue have to take the outside of the booth? Why?

Despite how much she was thrown off and still upset about how things had happened between them, Blue wasn’t going to allow him the pleasure of seeing it. Gritting her teeth and turning her head to face his stupid smirk, Blue snapped “What?”

It bothered her how his smirk grew even larger as he took off his sunglasses and set them on that stupid limited-edition cap. But once those glasses were off, something else bothered her. It shouldn’t because it wasn’t her business but…he looked terrible. He didn’t look like Joseph anymore.

This was pure and plainly Kavinsky.

Pupils blown wide from spirit’s knew what he was on, dark circles even darker than ever, and body even skinnier, Joseph was a mess. He wasn’t Joseph.

“Oh hey, Blue,” he laughed, “Long time no see.”

Mandy’s eyes were brimming with jealousy. Blue couldn’t blame her though; if they had had sex, she must be pissed that he didn’t even acknowledge her. “Hi, Kavinsky,” Mandy said sweetly. If it were Blue, she would not be garnering his attention.

Turning to look at Mandy, Joseph took a second to examine her before he said slowly “Hello.”

Anyone could tell from his voice that he had no idea who she was.

Her group member wasn’t going to let that stop her though even if her face was flaring. “Mandy, remember?” Joseph blinked blankly. Blushing furiously from both embarrassment and probably anger, Mandy reminded in a low voice “We…slept together at your party…?”

“Oh,” he said, face still blank. “Right. Uh, yeah.” A laugh erupted from him. Blue knew what his laughs sounded like, had heard genuine ones, and this one wasn’t one. It was a real laugh, sure, but it wasn’t Joseph’s. It was Kavinsky’s. It was plain and simply disgusting. “Sorry, baby, I don’t remember but I’m sure you were great and whatever.”

The words weren’t aimed at Blue but they stung even her. Mandy turned even redder as she abruptly stood and rushed in the direction of the bathroom. Annie looked conflicted; did she want to follow her friend or find out why Kavinsky was here?

The latter won out as she stayed seated.

“Sensitive bitch, huh?” Joseph murmured to himself as he stared after Mandy. Shrugging, he brought his focus back to Blue. “So Yellow, where you been? Been looking for you.”

Yellow? He knew very well what her name was. Had even said that he had liked it. Had said it literally a minute ago. Jackass. “My name isn’t Yellow.”

Grinning wide because he knew that he was getting under her skin, Kavinsky – he wasn’t Joseph right now and maybe even anymore – replied “Aw, country babe, don’t be like that.” He leaned in close and Blue had nowhere to get away to because she was trapped between him and Joan. Nose brushing her ear, he whispered softly in her ear “I’ve missed seeing you.”

If it had been Joseph saying the words, she’d stupidly believe him and a thousand feelings that she had been working on crushing would resurface in seconds. But because it was Kavinsky, Blue knew that he was making a mockery of her. Probably even of Joseph himself. He was trying to dig a knife into both of them right now. “Can’t say I’ve missed you,” she hissed, trying to give herself some space by scooting closer to Joan. There was no space though; he only scooted closer and plus, the booth was meant for two people not three.

“Liar,” Kavinsky laughed, still in that husky whisper that used to give her shivers. Now it gave her them for all the wrong reasons. Shoving him away from her, Blue tried to push her way out of the booth. She wasn’t going to deal with him like this. Grabbing her by her wrist and yanking her into his lap, he snorted “No, no, I’m still talking here.”

Fuming and embarrassed that this was happening in front of people in the middle of Good Burger – especially in front of Joan and Annie – Blue stamped down hard on his foot causing him to lose his grip as he cursed. Slipping out of his grasp, she turned on him.

And then slapped him.

It rang out through the store, loud and clear and Kavinsky stared at her with wide shocked eyes. His cheek was flaming but he seemed so lost like he couldn’t believe that she had hit him. Blue didn’t want to be around when he came to his senses so she dashed off and out the door, group and burgers not her problem right now.

She’d already made it down the street when she heard her name being called and rapid footsteps coming up behind her. Blue didn’t stop or look back though. Not that his long legs didn’t get him to catch up in seconds.

Arm grasping her shoulder firmly, Kavinsky spun her around to face him. She tried to make out his expression but she wasn’t sure how she was facing him. Was he angry…upset…what? She had no idea.

“First off,” he snapped – angry it was, “don’t you ever fucking hit me again. No one hits me. Not anymore.”

Anymore?

“Second, I just wanted to fucking give you something, bitch.”

Pushing his hand off of her, Blue clenched her fists before all but snapping out “Then you should have just given it to me instead of being a complete jerk.”

Kavinsky was still angry but now his face contorted in ugly disbelief. “Why? You’re nothing special. Why should I treat you any different than I treat every single other person in your stupid town? No one treats me well.”

“I treated you well,” Blue couldn’t help but hiss in frustration, her nails digging into her palms as she clenched her fists even harder. From anyone else, she was able to guard herself and yet every time it was him, his words managed to lodge in. He made her feel so insignificant just from a couple sentences. “And yet here you are being a complete asshole.”

Huffing out a breath of disbelief as he shook his head and crossed his arms, Kavinsky’s face…changed. Well, not changed obviously but softened. The guard fell, the helmet of his armor coming off as Joseph made an appearance, turning off Kavinsky for a moment. “I treated you nice, Blue. I liked you. Why couldn’t you like me?”

  


 

Kavinsky watched as Blue literally flinched like he had hit her. It was hard making sure that he didn’t smile in satisfaction. Bitch had the nerve to hit him? She had the fucking nerve? He could hit back just as hard. Physically wasn’t required because he knew how to pack a punch with just his words. Knew what made every person he knew tic.

Blue liked him whether she wanted to admit it or not. She wasn’t over him and he knew it. Revisiting why she had freaked out from an almost kiss wasn’t worth it anymore. If she didn’t want him even though she really did then her loss. Joseph had moved on.

It didn’t mean he was above hurting her with her own regret though.

Fists releasing slowly, Blue blushed as she brushed her hair behind her ear as she turned her gaze down to the floor. “I did like you. I…”

Do like you . Kavinsky could hear the unspoken words and he did bother smiling this time sense she wasn’t paying attention.

“But you tried to kiss me,” Blue continued, raising her head. He quickly shut off his smile so she thought she was still talking to poor poor heartbroken Joseph. “I know you don’t get it and my explanation sucks…but…I really did like you, Joseph.”

Raising a brow, Kavinsky considered his next step. They could make up and he probably would be able to guilt her into a whole lot of shit. But honestly, he was done with trying out the whole relationship thing. Platonic and romantic. Liam and Blue were his two attempts and check out how those went. They could do the whole ‘mutual walk away’ thing but…that was hardly satisfying.

Nope, he’d just have to break her. Blue was strong though so maybe she wouldn’t break the way Mandy had. But bending was just as good for Kavinsky. He’d just keep bending and bending until one day, something would give.

Yeah, he was fine with that.

Shrugging like he hadn’t a care and hadn’t been considering how to snap her, Kavinsky replied “Yeah, well, too late. Waste of my time, babe. I don’t particularly like you anymore. Congrats on reaching bitch status, my dear. Waste of my air status too.” She was getting angry again and Kavinsky decided to stick one last thorn in. A good one that he was sure would hit home. “I mean, you’re such a fucking waste of an existence that your spirits didn’t even bother giving you powers like everyone else in your house. Pathetic.”

Tears. Oh, Kavinsky loved those. The ultimate proof of the pain he was causing. Blue didn’t let hers fall and there was a good mix of extremely pissed off in there but still.

Yum.

“You’re such a bastard,” she said in a steady voice, proof enough for him showing that she was trying her best to not show how his words hit her. “A mean horrible monster.”

Slipping his wallet out of his pocket, Kavinsky took out the card she had given him months ago. She obviously wasn’t psychic but she had offered to get one of her aunts to do a remote reading for him. Just one draw or a one off or whatever it was called. He held it out to her between two fingers and waited patiently for her to take it.

“What am I supposed to do with this,” she whispered in defeat as she held ‘The Devil’ card. Tarot wasn’t his thing so it was kind of beyond his understanding but apparently you weren’t supposed to take the card at face value or something. ‘The Devil’ had both positive meanings and negative ones but either way, Joseph had felt that the meanings were actually kind of appropriate for him at the time.

But not anymore. Now? Now was a time for something else.

Someone else.

“Whatever you want, sweetheart,” Kavinsky said as he pulled out a second card. The card was his dreamed gift for her and was the sign of his new start. The sign for the someone else. For the someone new.

Kavinsky.

There was no Joseph anymore. Whether intentionally or not, he was being swallowed whole by the force that was Kavinsky.

And, well, maybe it was better that way.

He wasn’t an artist but pulling shit from his dreams meant that he could make whatever he wanted. Kavinsky had made sure that the art was appropriate to what he was trying to capture. Trying to represent. Honestly, he should have dreamed two so he could keep one for himself because it looked pretty damn awesome.

Maybe he would go back and do that.

Holding out the second card to her, Kavinsky flipped it up so she could see. “It’s time for my rebirth, I think. Don’t you?”

Chapter Text

It didn’t matter what it was.

He had it.

Pretty much every single thing you could ever think of.

If you didn’t know Kavinsky for his parties, you knew him as the guy who smashed a hundred thousand dollar car with a bat. And if you knew neither of those, you knew him as the seller of weed and an interesting blue pill.

And if you didn’t know any of those?

You now knew him as the guy to get everything from. Drugs of amazing qualities, forgeries including the most popular choice of a license, or maybe the funkiest cocktail of a drink.

How you knew of him didn’t matter.

You just knew him. Or rather knew of him; no one truly actually knew Kavinsky. But wherever you were in Henrietta, even in the surrounding counties, Kavinsky was an infamous name.

No one actually liked him or claimed to even if they did. They were too busy being jealous, afraid, or in awe. Fear was a bigger one than most people liked to admit. So many rumors came attached to his name, some that were absolutely outrageous and others sounding so real that you weren’t sure whether it was a rumor or not.

Then there were the truths.

Street racing.

Vandalism.

Drugs.

Drinks.

The anger.

Some kid named Alan seemed to be a common victim of Kavinsky’s fury. Blue didn’t know what, if anything, this Alan had ever done but apparently, the boy was a now a shadow of who he was. The kid had lost his color so to speak. Some said that Alan had become paranoid and haunted with just the thought of Kavinsky lurking over his shoulder. It didn’t help that they apparently lived only a few houses apart. It was so bad that Blue had heard that him and his entire family had moved. Not just houses but cities.

Kavinsky had literally driven the kid out of town.

But just because Alan wasn’t around anymore didn’t mean that there wasn’t someone facing the anger. The fists. The cruel words. The victim changed the way you changed underwear – hopefully – frequently. All it depended upon was who said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Blue had even heard that sometimes even if someone said the right thing, it still could come back to bite them.

It just didn’t matter to Kavinsky.

Blinking down at the card in her hand as she sat in her tree, Blue murmured something she had been thinking for weeks. Since he had given her the card over a month ago. “I don’t like this rebirth.”

She held ‘Death’ in her hand, beautifully bright and vividly illustrated. There was a dragon, staring straight at Blue with its mouth opened wide and a large blaze flaming behind it. Before the dragon stood a fearless figure robed in black, its clothes illuminated by the light of the flames. There was no face, simply a deep abyss of black, and the only part of the figure that showed was a skeletal hand coming out from the robe’s long sleeve.

The skeletal hand held a black rose, thorns glinting in the blaze as they studded the long stem. On the boney wrist, the figure wore a bracelet made of what looked like wooden beads with three charms hanging down.

A black ornate cross.

A little key with a green gem set within.

And a demure gold cross.

Every time she looked at the card, Blue wondered why there were two crosses. Well, actually, she wondered a lot of things. The crosses were only one of her musings and not even the most confusing or the one that took her mind. What got her every time she looked at the tarot card was how in the world he had found a card that had a charm similar to the one that he wore around his neck. She had rarely saw a day pass where Joseph hadn’t worn that gold necklace with the key charm which rested just under his collarbone. The likeness wasn’t even similar; it was exact.

How?

The entire card screamed Kavinsky and she was so thrown off in how in the world that it did. You couldn’t just find the perfect card or even deck like that. Like it was easy. Psychics often had a special deck of their own, one that spoke to them, but Joseph wasn’t a psychic and hadn’t known much about tarot anyways before she had told him about it for him to be able to manage a perfect deck.

Literally perfect.

Taking in the card one last time for good measure before she did something irreversible, Blue took the top edge between her fingers and tore. It was pretty thick so it took that little bit of extra effort but Blue felt oddly satisfied once she had torn it up into little pieces.

Rebirth? Yeah, okay. It felt more like his descent to the bottom.

Much more like he was dying and decided to take the world with him.

  


 

Everyone knew.

Kavinsky smiled as a kid from Mountain View walked over to him, cash in hand, wary excitement on his face.

It was simple. You wanted something? Kavinsky had it. Even the most impossible of things.

He wasn’t stupid; Joseph knew that he was cheating the forest. He knew that he was going about the dream world wrong. Even though, if he really was the God or whatever else bullshit Diana had tried feeding him over the years, he should technically be allowed to go about shit in any manner that he pleased. But of course, that wasn’t how the dream land worked. The key wasn’t drugs no matter how he used them or how successful they were making taking things out.

Stealing.

In and out. He’d always said it, always practiced it, but now it was as essential as ever. The minute the forest caught on that he was in, he was as good as fucked. Joseph had more cuts, scratches, and scrapes than he could count that were caused by his own hand because of the forest being a bitch. But then there were those nights where all was good and fine and he stole what he wanted.

Those were what kept his business thriving.

Quite a booming business, if he did say so himself. Maybe he was made to be a businessman in another life. Or even this one. He was already one anyways.

Handing over a small silver capsule accompanied with a wide smile because he was a fantastic salesman, Kavinsky said to the hick “Don’t take that with citrus foods or drinks. It causes some weird ass side effects that you do not want. I promise.”

In order to expand his growing business, Joseph had needed some new inventory because people only wanted weed and the blue pill so often. Not to mention that if he wanted to reach other people, build himself more clientele, he needed more options. So, Joseph began to design a new line of drugs. He literally planned them out in a little notebook to try to make sure he kept everything straight. Joseph tried to make sure that everything stayed color coded. It was the simplest way to do things and kept it all nice and organized.

The capsule that he had just handed over to Mr. Cracker here numbed the senses, practically took you to the state of ‘nirvana.’ It wasn’t too bad actually and Joseph enjoyed its effects but it didn’t sit well with cocaine. Also, for some weird ass reason that he had yet to figure out, if you had any sort of citrus around the time you took the pill or even after, you ended up with a seriously bad case of diarrhea.

Joseph had learned that the very very hard way.

“Sure thing,” the redneck replied, looking way too excited for a drug. But Joseph couldn’t talk, could he? White boy here wasn’t the one addicted to cocaine. Country white boy, he should clarify. Because Joseph was very obviously white so technically, there was a white boy here addicted to coke.

Joseph had fallen down that hole fast. He always made sure to hide his coke on the off chance that his mother would, for whatever reason, decide to search his room. But the cocaine wasn’t doing it for him like it used to. In the beginning, Joseph would sky rocket, his mind catching the high in minutes. Now, the high just wasn’t as high and seemed to take a bit longer to even get to that point. Maybe he needed to take heavier doses? Or maybe more often. That would probably solve his problem.

Checking his watch, Joseph decided that it was time to leave. He didn’t wait on people’s time; people waited on him. He slammed the trunk of his white beauty shut on his contraband, ready to head home. The black Evo that Ivo had gifted was long gone having served its purpose and no longer needed. Joseph had sent it off with a gift of a couple special dream fireworks inside of it.

The resulting explosion had been one of the most beautiful things Joseph had ever seen.

It had also resulted in cops driving out towards his abandoned lot, only to stop when they caught sight of him driving towards them already on his way home. Waylaying him on the street was way better than them catching him at his lot. There were secrets there that weren’t anyone’s business.

“Yes, officer?” Joseph smiled as he rolled down his window. Lord, did he hate overly concerned citizens calling shit in. Such whiners.

“We got a call about an explosion coming from around this area,” the older man said in a grim voice like he knew that Joseph was the culprit. But then, with the reputation he had been steadily building, no one should expect anything else. Something happened in the city? You’d probably find the name Kavinsky attached to it. “You know anything about that?”

He examined the officer’s face closely, trying to determine whether or not he was one of the ones he had bribed before. Joseph wasn’t exactly sure how someone went about buying out a whole department – he wasn’t Ivo to know the finer details – but he did bribe a couple here and there when he could. Bribery was a careful process though because offer the wrong cop and then you were screwed. Luckily, that had only happened once so far.

Flashing his charming smile that worked more often than not, Joseph replied “No, sir, can’t say that I do. But I’d be more than happy to call if I hear anything around.”

The older officer nodding, processing Joseph’s words. “I imagine,” he said finally after what felt like years, “that you wouldn’t hear anything if I suddenly found myself with a thousand dollar bonus, don’t you think?”

Smiling growing even wider, Joseph agreed.

Reaching home, he parked, shut off his music, and turned off his car. Today’s business had been good and his guess was that tonight would be even better. He always sold more at parties.

  


 

Just like everyone in town, Vesela knew it. How could she not when she heard and listened to every single rumor? Every single truth?

She knew it all. She wanted to know it all. Hell, Vesela had to. She wanted to know every single thing that her child was doing, every single thing that he’d never have done if his life hadn’t fallen apart around him. Every single thing that wouldn’t have happened if Ivo hadn’t broken and ruined his son.

Every detail and happening, Vesela knew them all. And there wasn’t a single damn thing she could do about them. She’d tried, Lord she’d tried. Nothing was working and nothing was ever going to work. Vesela was ready to give up. She was fighting to give her son a life, fighting so hard for him, but instead they were just fighting each other. The whole ‘get high to make her smile’ thing hadn’t lasted. Or at least, Vesela didn’t think so because all they ever did was yell at each other nowadays.

Taking in a shaky breath as she heard the front door open, Vesela got to her feet and went to the top of the stairs. This was going to be her last try. She couldn’t do this anymore; she wouldn’t do this anymore. He didn’t care? Then fine, she was so fucking sick and tired of caring.

She was done.

“Hi,” Joseph said when he noticed her leaning on the rail. He was high – when isn’t he? – but he must have not hit it recently because he wasn’t like he was when he was high. Good, because this way was better. At least his mind was a little clearer. “How was your day?”

Bursting into a sarcastic laugh to apparent surprise as his eyes went wide, Vesela snorted “Fine, thank you.”

With a brow raised as he walked up the stairs and came to a halt in front of her, Joseph asked as he leaned on the rail and put his hands in his pockets “What’s wrong?”

It truly amazed her how he could ask something so freaking stupid. And it looked like he genuinely meant it too. Like he was actually confused on what could possibly be wrong in their life. Trying not to clench her teeth, Vesela answered “What isn’t wrong?”

He caught on quickly, immediately knowing that this was going to end up being another round of fighting. “Mayko, listen-”

“No,” she interrupted furiously. Vesela couldn’t take this bullshit anymore. “You fucking listen-”

“Don’t talk to-”

“I will talk to you however I like!” Vesela snapped, causing Joseph’s eyes to go even wider than before. “I’m sick of this! What? What in the fucking hell do you get out of all of this?”

Shrugging without a care in the world, Joseph snorted “Amusement. I like to be entertained, Vesela.”

The quick fire she had a minute ago quickly died. She was ready. “Fine, be entertained. Become amused. Do whatever the hell you want.”

His face fluttered into confusion. Vesela knew that he expected her to always be strong, to always be there and handle it all, but fucking hell, she couldn’t do it anymore. It hurt too much. Turning her back to him, she trudged to her room in defeat, shutting the door behind herself before she slid down and broke into tears. She tried so hard, so fucking hard, to give him everything and do everything, to be every single thing he needed and it was no good.

And it never would be. And well, Vesela was starting to find peace with that. Was ready to find her peace in that. She had tried multiple times and had never once given up. But she had ended up failing miserably and, well, here they were. She and Joseph in this stupid house in this stupid town.

Here they were.

And she was ready.

Game over.

Chapter Text

He broke her.

Joseph Kavinsky broke the strongest woman he had ever met; a woman who hadn’t even broken from a terrifying mobster. He had broken his beautiful mother and Joseph wasn’t sure he was comfortable with that. Kavinsky laughed at it because it just proved even more how powerful and in control he was. But it just made Joseph hate himself more.

He was disgusting.

Two days later and she hadn’t come out of her room as far as he could tell. But he hadn’t been home the whole time because of school so Joseph couldn’t be certain. All he could do was pray that she at least came out to eat when he wasn’t around. He’d tried talking to her through the door but he never heard a response. Rarely even heard noise except for at night when he’d catch ear of her cries.

At least he knew that she was alive.

Sighing as he stared up at his ceiling, trying to catch some sleep even though he hadn’t managed that since he was little, Joseph slowed his breathing to sound as though he were sleeping when a distinct noise hit his ears.

His door had opened.

The nightlight spread enough glow in the room for him to make out his mother sticking her head in around his bookcase. Joseph shut his eyes quickly, worried that she’d leave if she knew that he was awake. What was she here for? He’d tried a million times to get her out or to just say something through the door and suddenly, here she was. Why?

Wishing that he could open his eyes to see what she was up to, Joseph listened as her soft steps got closer and the sound of his drawer opening came. What did she need from his nightstand? Good thing he had left his drugs in his trunk. He had a little baggie of coke under his pillow though in case he needed an emergency hit.

A jingling noise came and Joseph recognized the sound of his keys. What the hell did she need his keys for? There was nothing wrong with her car – he always checked it for her – and anyways, she couldn’t drive stick. Joseph laid in his bed, his eyes still shut until he was sure that she had left the room, his door quietly clicking closed. Opening his eyes and sitting up, he checked his drawer to see if she had taken anything else before getting out of bed. But he halted in his tracks; was it smart to follow her? Or should he just let this play out and see what would happen when she came back to return his keys?

What could she possibly want from his car? All there was in there was some gum, a pair of sneakers, his bat, some baseballs, and his drugs. A couple forgeries too that he had yet to hand over. None of those things were stuff that she’d be interested in. Maybe she just wanted to see what he was up to? But that didn’t make much sense either. Deciding to let the situation play out, Joseph stepped back to his bed and got in, wrapping himself in his cover.

It’d be a decision he’d come to regret.

 

 

“Morning,” he whispered through her door like he did every morning since she had locked herself in. She had returned his keys but Joseph hadn’t noticed anything odd when she had. He’d been left confused on what her whole mission had been for.

He literally jumped when the door suddenly opened and his mother stood there, smiling like she hadn’t a care in the world. It…freaked him out just a bit. As much as he adored her smiles, this wasn’t normal. “Morning!”

“Uh…” Joseph said, dumbfounded to the max power. “Um, hi.”

“Hi,” she smiled, her eyes sparkling their beautiful emerald.

And that’s when Joseph saw it. When he knew exactly what she had been doing last night. “Mayko,” he whispered in horror while praying in his mind that he was so incredibly wrong, “are…mayko, your eyes…”

She was high.

Bitter bile churned in his stomach as he took in the woman before him who was most definitely not his mother. The woman before him looked like his mother, smiled like his mother, and sounded like her too but…

His mother would never get high.

“Something wrong?” she asked innocently as Joseph wared with his stomach, not wanting to throw up on the floor but too afraid to walk away from her. “Sweetheart?”

Finding trouble in catching his breath, Joseph bit his lip hard as he scratched his nails along his arm. “Mayko,” he whispered in a strangled voice, “What’d you do?”

Laughing like he had said the funniest thing in the world, his mother replied as she leaned on the doorframe “What? Problem, Kavinsky? I could’ve sworn that if someone wanted something, you were the guy for it. I wanted something to help me forget the mess my life has become and I found what I wanted. Do you want me to pay you?”

He fought with the tears building in his eyes as he clenched his jaw in a pathetic attempt to not break out into sobs. Did he want her to pay him? What kind of fucking bullshit was this? What nightmare had he fallen into? He could’ve sworn that he was awake. “You…” Jesus, Joseph didn’t even know how to form sentences right now.

“This stuff is pretty good,” his mother said when she noticed that he wasn’t going to speak. Really, that he couldn’t speak. Joseph was worried what the hell she had taken. His trunk was like fucking candyland; it had everything. But then, a minute later, he didn’t have to wonder anymore. Out of everything she could have grabbed…she went for the one thing that was addictive. The one thing he would want her to stay away from more than anything else.

She held up a little bag filled with white powder. “The drip is a little weird, I’ll admit, but I dig this stuff. I see why you like it. I always wondered which poison you had picked as yours. You don’t mind us sharing, do you?”

And that’s when he just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Standing and watching his high mother praising cocaine was the last straw for both his stomach and his sobs as he rushed to his bathroom and practically flung himself over his toilet. By the time he was done coughing out nothing because he hadn’t even had breakfast yet, Joseph was sitting there with his sobs racking his body.

Joseph hadn’t even registered that his mother had followed him until he heard her over his breakdown. “What? Why are you so upset? If you don’t care anymore, why the fuck do I have to? Why do I always have to be the one who has to sacrifice everything? I’m done. I’m sick of this town, of this house, of you. You’re on your own now, Kavinsky. But isn’t that what you wanted?”

Through blurry eyes, he watched spin on her heels and bounce out the bathroom and out his room. “I-I’m s-sorry,” he cried as he slid onto his stomach and cried into the floor. “I’m sorry.”

  


 

Liam packed the last of his stuff into a box before he stood and gazed around his room. It was weird; it’d been his home for the past four years and now he was leaving it for a new one. He had wanted to go home and see Helen before shipping himself off to Duke but there was no time in his shitty schedule. The minute he graduated from here, he had to go so he could start that beginning summer class his father had wanted him to sign up for.

It wasn’t fair; the man was barely in Liam’s life as it was not for him to get to make important decisions like that. Liam hadn’t even wanted to go to Duke but it was his father’s alma mater and how could Liam not go? Which didn’t make any sense at all being that Liam was the bastard son, so why did it matter? If Blake didn’t end up going to Duke, Liam was going to be pissed because that was extremely unfair.

Writing ‘books’ on the box with a sharpie, Liam walked over to his door as a knock came. No one visited besides for Eva anymore although he preferred going to her to get away from this toxic place. Also anyone looking for George now and then. So when he opened his door and found Jordan in front of him, Liam was both surprised and pissed. “What,” he snapped at the less than hulking figure standing in his doorway.

Jordan blushed as he fiddled with his fingers. They hadn’t spoken since Kavinsky had thrown Liam out of his hospital room. Liam couldn’t stand the sight of Jordan anymore. Maybe Liam wasn’t a good person because he still hadn’t told anyone what had happened but the least he could do was distance himself from a rapist. “Hi.”

“What, Jordan,” Liam hissed in annoyance, clenching the edge of his door firmly to refrain from doing something. He sucked at fighting but just the sight of Jordan filled him with utter hate. “What part of ‘stay away from me’ don’t you get?”

“I get it,” Jordan whispered, looking down at the floor. “Look…” he raised his head and examined Liam closely, “can we talk? Inside.”

He was lucky that they were graduating in a couple weeks and that they would probably never see each other again or else Liam wouldn’t have let him in. Slamming the door shut and spinning to face Jordan who sat down on George’s bed where he had committed his crime, Liam said “Well?”

“I…just wanted to say bye, I guess. We’ll probably never see each other again and well, I wanted to say goodbye for when that happens.”

“We graduate in a couple weeks, not tomorrow,” Liam snorted, leaning up on his and George’s entertainment stand while crossing his arms. “You could say bye at graduation.”

Ever since their falling out, Jordan had stopped a lot of things. Lacrosse, for one. Coming out of his room, for another. The effects were a sun deprived boy who had lost those hulking muscles that he had loved so much. “Yeah, I guess so. Look, Liam, I’m sorry for everything and I’d really like it if we left off on good terms.” Looking into Liam’s eyes earnestly, he added “So can we?”

The fact that Jordan actually believed that they could fix things was hilarious. “Oh, I don’t know, can you take back the fact that you fucking raped Kavinsky? You know he snorts coke? How much do you want to bet that the reason he is such a huge fucking mess right now has something to do with what you did to him?”

Kavinsky may have come to Henrietta with the intention of parties and whatever but so had Liam. And there was a huge difference between where Kavinsky had started and where he was now. It didn’t matter what Kavinsky did, Liam would always believe that inside him there was a good person. He didn’t care what he was presented with otherwise, he just knew that Kavinsky wasn’t Joseph.

And as weird and as crazy as that sounded, it made complete sense to him.

Shame, anger, and guilt were only a few of the emotions that flited through Jordan’s face. His former friend covered his face with his hands and with his voice muffled replied “Please stop saying that. Please. For all the good we’ve had-”

“Just because we were close doesn’t mean I will ever overlook what you did,” Liam interrupted furiously. It was bad enough that Liam hadn’t figured out a way to tell an adult. “You know how much it eats me alive that I haven’t told anyone? How much it hurt when Kavinsky told me to stay away from him? More than it hurt to dump your stupid ass.”

Abruptly getting to his feet, Jordan glared at Liam before he deflated and shook his head softly. “I’m sorry,” he whispered before walking towards the door. His hand rested on the knob but he didn’t turn it. Without turning to look at Liam, Jordan added “Thank you for being my friend all these years. And I’m sorry we came to this.”

With that, Jordan walked out, shutting the door quietly behind himself.

Liam wasn’t going to lie and say that it didn’t hurt, because it did, but he couldn’t handle being Jordan’s friend anymore. Not after everything that had happened. He felt like a dirty accomplice from just knowing what happened.

With a sigh and shake of his head to clear it, Liam focused back on his packing. He had wanted to make sure he had everything prepped and ready because with finals and graduation coming, he’d end up overwhelmed with all he had to do. Gaze catching on his box of books that had gotten him through four miserable years of this stupid school, Liam knew that he couldn’t drag them to Duke with him. Maybe one or two but nothing more. Maybe he could have them shipped to his mother’s house? Helen would make sure that they were taken care of but…he hated when books fell into dusty disuse.

Maybe…

Yeah, that could work. Whether the gesture would be appreciated he couldn’t know but Liam knew that his books would be well respected.

Nodding as he made his decision, Liam grabbed a paper and penned out a letter. He started and stopped it over and over again, and threw out around five drafts but eventually Liam was able to pen what he wanted.

His letter began with a simple sentence.

Please take care of these guys; they need a good home now that I’m leaving.

Chapter Text

I know that you don’t want to hear from me anymore but I’ll be graduating in a couple weeks and honestly, I couldn’t just leave like that. I’m sorry for everything even though nothing is actually on my shoulders. I feel like it is though. I miss the weird form of friends that we were but I understand. And it’s okay.

These are all the books that I brought with me from my mom’s house. They’re a bit worn from use but I know that you’ll love them the way that they are. Please take of them and enjoy the stories they bring.

And please take care of yourself. I can only imagine how hard things are for you. But…I always believe that things get better. Things will get better, Joseph. Please get better. I only hope for the best for you.

 

Liam

 

He watched as the blood dripped down from his arm onto the grass. Joseph wasn’t home – he couldn’t handle being home anymore – as he sliced his arms open. He wasn’t even sure why he was doing it at this moment beyond that he found it amusing to watch himself bleed. Plus, red looked pretty awesome on the green of the grass. Originally, Joseph had planned on sitting at his lot but as he drove, he noticed these pretty trees that seemed to call for him.

There was nothing spectacular about the place he was sitting at besides for the fact that it was a peaceful little clearing with a pond but Joseph found that he liked it. It helped him clear his mind and think. It was away from home, away from dreams and dream objects, and it was somewhere where Joseph could feel like Joseph.

Or at least think like Joseph. Feeling like Joseph wasn’t quite possible anymore.

His mother was getting high. Out of everything in Joseph’s life, that was the worst thing to ever happen. It was the one thing he couldn’t get a handle on. Vesela Kavinsky, the most brilliant amazing beautiful woman in the entire world, snorted cocaine. And it was all his fault.

Joseph had ruined her, he had broken Liam, and not to mention Alan who he had literally run out of town from bullying. Bullying. Joseph had spent his childhood being bullied and yet Kavinsky relished inflicting that pain on someone else.

Slice

But it wasn’t like he didn’t inflict pain on himself so maybe it was the universe balancing itself out. Now if the universe were smart, it’d help him rid itself of him.

No one ever said that the universe was smart though.

  


 

One of the things that Blue loved about Henrietta was how nature was literally everywhere. Sure, Henrietta was a tiny town with very little in it unless that thing was raven boys but at least there were woods surrounding the place.

It made it beautiful.

There was one spot that she liked in particular. It was a little clearing where there was this tiny pond where a bullfrog lived. It was Blue’s quiet spot after her tree in the backyard. She didn’t know how many people in Henrietta actually bothered exploring their surroundings but Blue guessed barely any. Or at least, she’d never run into anyone while she was out and about.

So when she walked into her clearing and found a hunched over figure sitting at her pond, Blue was shocked.

What shocked her even more was when she realized that it was Kavinsky.

“Joseph?” she whispered as she walked up behind him. She didn’t want to be civil with him but he seemed so…down. His head picked up and turned to look at her. Spirit’s, he was mess. Like really really bad. And he seemed so sad. Upset. Also, was that blood? When he kept staring at her, she carefully sat beside him, trying not to stare at the blood all over the floor and his arms. “Hi.”

He kept blinking at her like he was wondering if she was a figment of his imagination. Finally, he murmured “You should leave, Blue.”

This wasn’t Kavinsky speaking. In fact, this was as close as to the Joseph she had first met in Walmart than she had seen in a long while. “Leave?”

Biting his lip, Joseph said in a broken voice “I don’t want to break any more people this week. Please leave. Please.

She had no idea what he was talking about. “Break?”

Taking her hand softly in his bloody one and looking her in the eyes intently, Joseph repeated “Please, Blue, leave. Stay as far away from me as you can. This is the only warning I’ll ever be able to give you. I’ll ruin you.”

What he was talking about, she still had no idea but he seemed so honest and open with his emotions right now that she found herself knowing that she needed to listen to him. “Should I act like I don’t see the pool of blood on the floor?”

That made him scoff as he released her hand and turned his gaze away. His voice was stronger as he said “Trust me, this isn’t even close to a pool of blood.”

“Does that knowledge come with being a mobster’s son?” she couldn’t help but ask. Sue her, she wasn’t over that. She didn’t know they got those kinds of interesting people in her town.

Blue thought that she wasn’t going to get an answer as he remained silent but eventually, he murmured “It comes with being a monster. You shouldn’t sit with a monster, Blue. Leave.”

Getting to her feet without so much as a goodbye, Blue left.

The silence was their final goodbye.

She knew that.

  


 

Eva opened her door.

And slammed it shut a second later.

Or at least, she tried to but Kavinsky stuck his foot in to jam the door. “Wait!”

“What?” Eva snapped as she yanked her door back open. Her mother wasn’t stupid enough to give Kavinsky of all people their address, was she? Who was she kidding though, why else would Kavinsky be here?

She was shocked when he literally blushed. Kavinsky blushed? What the hell. “I…” Kavinsky stared down at his hands as he fiddled with his fingers. Wasn’t it a bit warm to be wearing a long sleeve? “I was just looking for your mom.”

“Why?” Of all the people her mother had to want to baby, why did it have to be him?

Biting his lip as he continued staring down at his hands, Kavinsky whispered “I just need to talk to her. She’s…the only one I know who can help. And I need help.”

His voice broke on the last sentence and Eva wondered if he was about to cry. Who knew that Kavinsky could cry? “She’s not here.”

It looked like he was trying to break his fingers from how hard he was squeezing his fingers. Kavinsky picked his head up and Eva tried to see what her mother saw. And with his eyes red with the start of tears, his face so thin and lacking any color besides the black around his eyes, Eva could see it. See the broken boy her mother and Liam saw. “No one’s ever anywhere when I need them,” he laughed, on the verge of hysterics.

Guilt was crashing down on her heart. “I can tell her you came by and-”

“No,” he said as he shook his head before wiping his eyes harshly. “Forget it. Don’t even tell her I came. Fuck it. Fuck you, fuck her, fuck this fucking world that hates me so much.”

Something told Eva to run after him as he rushed back to his car on the street. To help him or hug him or something. She wasn’t sure if it was her surprise at seeing Kavinsky break or just the whole situation but she was frozen at her door as she watched him drive off.

“Who was it?” Eve asked as she came up to her shoulder. When Eva didn’t answer her twin, Eve nudged her. “Hello, Eva? Who was at the door?”

“When does mama get off?” she asked instead of answering the question. She didn’t go after him like she should have but she could at least let her mother know that something was up.

“Seven. She grabbed Analise’s shift, remember?”

Seven. Eva flicked a glance to the clock behind her. Four hours sounded way too long to wait. Something was going to happen, she could feel it. Kavinsky was in a bad headspace and if he did something to himself, it’d be on Eva’s shoulders because she had a feeling that she was going to be the last one that he spoke to.

Closing the door, she ran up their stairs to her room, Eve following her and calling “Eva? What’s wrong?”

Pulling on her sneakers as fast as she could and not even caring like she usually did that she was going out in pajama pants, she said quickly “I gotta go tell mama something. I’ll be back.”

Eva had someone to save. Or at least, she had a feeling that she did.

  


 

He stared down at the phone in his lap, Ivo’s contact info opened. Joseph made sure to avoid his mother at all costs because looking at her being the hardest thing ever in his life. She was getting high, hitting it hard because she didn’t care anymore, and the one person Joseph went to for help wasn’t even around. But then, why would she be? Gwen was a liar just as much as anyone else in his life. Surprisingly, the only person who had never lied to him about anything was Ivo. Talk about irony.

When his phone dimmed and then locked because he was taking too long to make up his mind, Joseph unlocked it for what could have been the hundredth time. There was one person in the world who might be able to help his mother and it was the man he utterly hated. The man who utterly hated him. All it would take was a simple call and a simple sentence and then Ivo would try to fix Joseph’s mother. If there was anyone that she would listen to, it was her bastard.

But pushing the call button was a lot harder than it seemed.

Swallowing his nerves which were a lump the size of a fucking potato, Joseph picked up his phone and pushed call. It only rang twice before he hung up from his fear. The woman he loved was ruining herself and he couldn’t even bring himself to finish a fucking phone call?

Pathetic.

Inhaling through his nose with a deep breath, he released it from his mouth and tried again. This time he only made it to the third ring but that was progress. Another ten times and he was sure that he’d finally work up the nerve to make it all the way through with the call. And then he could save his mother.

Simple.

Joseph bit down on his lip, where he had been gnawing a hole all day, trying his hardest to just work up the God fucking nerve. Why was it so hard? When he hung up for the fifth time, he started to get angry at himself. Grabbing the little bucket that held his chalk from the bookcase bordering his bed, Joseph flung it against the wall as he shouted “Fuck!”

He ruined the most beautiful amazing woman in the world. Ruined her. And he was too fucking chicken shit to fix her. Drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms around them, he hung his head between his legs and gave in to his despair. Why was he such a fucking mess? For that matter, why couldn’t he be the type of mess that didn’t mess with everyone around them? How fucking hard was it to just kill yourself? Why was he such a monster? Why couldn’t Ivo just have convinced Joseph’s mother to abort him? Their life would have been so much better without him. There wouldn’t have been fighting or cheating or leaving.

His mother wouldn’t be an addict.

Ivo wouldn’t be dead.

To this day, Joseph wondered what in the world his mother had made of his apology in the dead of the night. Had she just attributed it to his nightmare? The cocaine? Why wouldn’t she? She had probably thought that he was out of his mind apologizing for killing Ivo.

“I’m sorry for killing tatko.”

She was barely even breathing as she took in his words; Joseph could tell because of the stillness pressed against him. He wasn’t sure if she was in shock because of the contents of his apology or because he had called Ivo ‘tatko.’ Joseph hadn’t called him that in a year, not for him to say it now.

When his mother finally caught her bearings, she stroked his hair back and kissed his head. “Sometimes bad things happen. It’s okay, baby, it’s okay.”

But how could his apology be worth anything if she just didn’t understand? And there was absolutely no way that Joseph could actually make her understand. How did you tell a person that the man they had been talking to for the past year was actually just a clone? A forgery of exemplary qualities. Was clone Ivo really that good though? His mother hadn’t spent enough time with him to truly examine him and the week they had spent before leaving she had stayed with Joseph in his room. Maybe if she had actually had the chance, she would have been able to find some mistakes.

Huffing as he wiped his tears and gathered his resolve, Joseph picked up the phone another time. He was going to save her, going to fix her. All he had to do was get through this call. Easy peasy. Pressing call again, Joseph listened to the ringing and when the line opened his heart stopped and nearly fell out of his body when a voice spoke. “Hello?”

Ivo had no way of knowing that it was Joseph; he didn’t have this number. But the minute Joseph spoke, he’d know. Ivo’s voice sounded the way Joseph remembered it, more tired maybe but that was it. There was none of that violent anger and disgusting hate within it; it wasn’t the way Joseph’s nightmares made him sound. But Joseph couldn’t bring himself to speak – his tongue was frozen, his body stuck in fear.

When the silence continued, Ivo repeated “Hello?”

Shaking his head quickly and violently, Joseph shut the phone and tossed it as far away from him as far as he could before he broke down into sobs. Pathetic. He couldn’t even say a sentence for his mother. Joseph was a useless pile of shit. The one time his mother needed someone and he couldn’t do it.

“I’m sorry,” he cried, “I’m so sorry.”

Chapter Text

When she rung the bell for a fourth time, Gwen grew worried. More worried would actually be more appropriate because she was already worried. Something wasn’t right. Both Vesela and Joseph’s cars were here and yet no one was answering. After what Eva had told her, Gwen was concerned that something was bothering Joseph. He wasn’t the type to seek out help and yet he had.

It had to be serious.

“Maybe…” she whispered to herself as she reached out to try the handle. What were the chances that the door was-

It was open.

“Thank you, almighty Lord,” Gwen murmured as she walked into the eerily silent house. Technically, she was trespassing but she didn’t think that Vesela would seriously sue her for it. Plus, this was for a good cause or at least, she believed it was because she was seriously worried for Joseph. If his unannounced visit had freaked Eva out to the point where her daughter literally ran all the way to the hospital to tell her, then something was definitely wrong. “Hello? Anyone home?”

She was met with silence. A silence that she didn’t like at all.

Rushing over to the stairs because she figured that Joseph’s room would be on the second floor, Gwen didn’t bother slipping off her shoes beside his sneakers. She sure as hell was not wasting time; they could vacuum the stairs later. “Baby boy? Where you at?”

Walking down the hall, she stopped at the first door and peeked her head in. The minute her eye caught on a shelf with model cars and a cat tower over in the corner, Gwen knew that she had found the right room. She walked in, not bothering to knock because it wasn’t like he had answered her calls anyways, and looked towards his empty bed. Turning, she peeked into his bathroom and felt her eyes go wide. “Joseph!”

His movements were slow but he picked up his head as she quickly took his arms in her hands after grabbing the roll of toilet paper. She’d typically like something thicker and stronger but this would do. “Baby, what the hell are you doing?” she said in a steady voice even though she was panicked for him on the inside. He needed the strong nurse right now though, not the terrified mother figure.

Gwen could tell that he had been crying with his face still red and puffy with streaks from his tears staining their path down. He said nothing as he watched her methodically wrap his wrists, silent prayers being said on her lips. If he had gone parallel instead of across, God help her. If he had used a jagged knife, God help her. If he had just dug a little deeper, God help them all.

Pulling out her phone with her now stained hands, Gwen called for an ambulance as she applied more pressure to his wrists and to the point in his elbow to slow the blood flow. “They’re on their way, hon. You stay with me now, okay?”

Tears filled his eyes and Gwen could feel her heart shattering at seeing him so broken. You heard the name Kavinsky in town and everyone said horrible things. She knew that some of those things were true but no one seemed to understand that they were the actions of a beautiful boy trying to cope with himself. They didn’t see how broken he was, how he didn’t know how to handle himself or whatever had brought him here, or what had happened in his life. She wished she knew the truth so she could help him better. Once, she had tried talking to Vesela about it but the other woman wouldn’t say a word. Gwen had a feeling that it had something to do with his father. Why else was the man never mentioned? Joseph had never said anything about him and Vesela only once. There had to be something there.

Stroking his hair back with one hand while she kept the other on his wrists, Gwen whispered “Talk to me, baby boy. Where’s mama?”

That question caused him to erupt into heavy sobs as he tried to push her away. As if she’d allow that; she pulled him tight into her embrace as she pressed kisses to his head. She knew that Vesela sang to him when he was like this but there was no way Gwen could manage some lullaby in another language so she settled for rocking them together. “Talk to me.”

Hiccupping as he pressed his face into her shoulder, Joseph said something but it was lost in both the approaching sirens and her shirt. Maybe the help he had wanted was something about Vesela? She was the only person that Gwen could think of that Joseph would want to get help for. The boy didn’t even get it for himself but he’d do it for her.

“Does mama need help of some kind?” Another hiccup, accompanied by a nod into her shoulder as the sirens blared even louder and then the sound of the front door opening came. “Okay, baby boy,” she whispered as she rubbed his back, “Don’t worry. Let Gwen handle mama.” She heard the paramedics calling out and yelled “Upstairs!”

Softly taking his face in her hands, she murmured “You gonna go with the medics and you gonna listen to them, okay? I’ll be right there after I check up on mama. Okay?” Joseph nodded quickly as he hugged her tight, the paramedics coming into the bathroom behind them. “Okay, go with them now, baby boy. I trust them and you’re gonna trust them, okay?” Another nod. “Okay,” Gwen said softly as she kissed his temple before easing him over to one of the paramedics. She had made sure to ask for women, knowing that convincing him to go alone with men would not go well.

Once she was sure that Joseph was comfortable with the medics, she saw them off before going back into the house. All this had happened and yet Vesela hadn’t popped out once. Whatever Joseph felt she needed help with had to be serious.

Making her way back up the stairs, she walked past Joseph’s room – making a note to clean up the bloody mess later – and went to the next room past his but on the opposite side of the hallway. The door was shut so Gwen knocked just to be courteous before opening it and walking in. Vesela was curled up in her bed, fast asleep if the soft rise and fall of her side was anything to go by.

“Mama,” Gwen said as she walked in further, “Vesela.” Sure, someone could be tired, but for God’s sake, an ambulance had come with its sirens wailing loud. “Vesela,” Gwen practically snapped because she couldn’t help the fact that she was mildly annoyed. Here she was sleeping while her son was ripping himself open? Fed up and annoyed for Joseph, Gwen more or less shoved Vesela, snapping “Vesela!”

The other woman’s head flew up, her eyes wide open in surprise.

But then, so were Gwen’s once she saw what Vesela was cradling in her arms.

“Oh, mama, what’d you do…”

  


 

He wanted his mother.

He wanted her to hold him and love him and sing for him like she always did.

Except, she wasn’t here like she always was.

Because he had ruined her.

So Joseph sat alone in his room where a nurse came in every ten minutes for ‘suicide watch.’ When he had been checked into the hospital the first time, Joseph had just figured that Gwen was overly attentive. Now he knew different. His wrists were bandaged tight and Joseph had had to have a blood transfusion but other than that, the doctor said that he was looking pretty good. Joseph had to admit that he was a little worried that they’d try to shove him in the psych ward – if they even had one – but he figured they couldn’t do that without consent from his mother.

Who was very much not here for him.

Gwen had said that she would follow to the hospital but she had yet to show up and it was starting to worry Joseph. What if she was abandoning him like everyone else in his life? He had already had that thought earlier when he couldn’t find her at her house but then she had come. Come to him, not him to her. That had to mean something, didn’t it?

Joseph stared down at his bandaged wrists. Thin frail wrists. How pathetic; both his wrists and his try at suicide. Another failed attempt. But then…maybe slitting his wrists wasn’t his best idea yet. It took too long and the slow haze that his mind had descended into as he waited to bleed out just made him think too much. He was supposed to not think. Who the hell wanted to wait ten minutes as they bled out, stuck with nothing but their thoughts?

Yeah, slitting wrists was a no. Cutting was a yes but slitting to kill? A definite no. It just didn’t work for him. Popping pills hadn’t either but it was something he still would consider for his next try. Maybe he should have just stuck with it instead of trying something else. Although, maybe his attempt sucked because he hadn’t expected to be interrupted. The last person he would have thought to come save him had shown up. Actually, the last person would have been Ivo. So not exactly the last, but he knew what he meant.

Sighing as he rested back into his bed, Joseph turned his head to stare out the window. If he was lucky, he wouldn’t have to share a room with anyone. He definitely wasn’t in the mood to put up with a neighbor. Joseph wasn’t in the mood for anything really but trying to take his life hadn’t worked. How long could he go on like this? What, was he going to try and kill himself every few weeks, get back up, and live on in his misery?

A knock interrupted his musings. Joseph didn’t tell them to come in but whoever it was entered anyways. Joseph didn’t even bother turning his head from the window to see who he felt was standing before him.

He didn’t look but it didn’t mean that he couldn’t tell who it was.

“Hi, baby.”

“High is the right word,” he murmured as a bird flew past his window only to swerve back and land on the ledge. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a rock dove. Joseph had always found pigeons funny because the common pigeon was actually a dove. People thought of doves as these beautiful white graceful birds and then in reality, there’s the ugly cousin who shits on you.

“Would you like it better if I stayed over here or came and sat with you?” his mother asked in a quiet voice. He didn’t need to look at her to know that she was biting her thumbnail. Habits die hard.

Shutting his eyes as he breathed in deep then let out the breath, Joseph whispered “I’d like it better if I were dead. But we don’t all get what we want.”

His mother silent for a time before she said “What else do you want?”

It was such an innocent question and yet one of the hardest. What did he want? A couple minutes ago, the answer had been her. Now he had her. That was literally all his brain had latched on to. But what did he truly want? As hard of a question as it was, Joseph actually did know the answer. “Do you want the truth?”

“I’d appreciate it.”

Nodding as he opened his eyes, Joseph made sure to put all his focus on the window. Not even what was outside but just the concept of a window. Somewhere to look other than his mother. “I want you to be happy again. I want you to not be a mess like me.” Those were the easy answers. “I want…” Shutting his eyes against his tears, he continued “I want my life back. I want to know what it feels like to have control. I wish I were normal. I wish I still had Emilio. I wish we were still in Jersey and around tétka and tetíncho and Andrey and Anka but staying away is also something I want. I wish-” His voice broke as the words got harder, “I wish I was comfortable being gay but then I wish so badly that I wasn’t a fag. I wish that tatko didn’t hate me and that I had him back and yet I hate him so much for hating me.”

There was one last thing that he wished for but he didn’t have the strength to put it into words. I wish I hadn’t killed him.

Wiping his eyes and his nose, Joseph cried “B-But just like being dead, I don’t get what I want. I hate me s-so much. Why couldn’t you have just gotten rid of me? Wouldn’t that have been so much b-better?”

Joseph heard her quiet footsteps as she made her way over to him and felt when she sat beside him, the bed dipping from her weight. He didn’t fight her when she pulled him into a hug and he said nothing as she pressed kisses to his head. “A life without you in it wouldn’t have been a life, Joseph. I don’t care how many fights we go through or how many messes we happen in to. I don’t care if we’re both messes addicted to coke because we’re idiots. You’re mine and I’ll never ever want that any other way.”

“Then you’re stupid,” he sniffled into her. “So stupid.”

“Hey, you had to get it from somewhere, right?”

Giggling because it was so fucking true, Joseph nodded and replied “Right.”

Chapter Text

Time was a circular fucking bitch that Joseph did not at all appreciate.

Because, really, what had changed? Fucking nothing. Everything was the way it had been. Joseph attempted suicide, him and his mother hugged it out, love here, hug there, they’d fight about something, silence here, frustrations there, blah, blah, blah.

Only a few things were different this time around.

Gwen checked in so often that Joseph literally wanted to punch her as horrible as that sounded.

He’d managed to wean himself to not needing a sweatshirt. When he went out, he settled for thin long sleeves. The weather was turning hot as fuck so that was going to have to change too.

And both he and his mother were coke addicts.

Hooray for them.

Joseph didn’t know if it was because he had spent the past year being his own drug guinea pig and so he had a higher tolerance than his mother when it came to these things but she was eating the effects hard. It barely took much to get her high and when she was high, she was in fucking space. So high in space that sometimes she barely even knew who he was. Hell, who she was.

It got that bad.

But he had no idea what to do about it. Gwen had tried convincing his mother to get into a rehab program – secretly hoping that it’d encourage Joseph – but it hadn’t worked. His mother was ‘done with shit.’ And really, how could Joseph blame her? He was so fucking done too. He just wished his mother wasn’t or could maybe find a way to be done without getting high.

That’d be nice.

Tétka Nikol had called the other day but Joseph knew that she hadn’t figured it out. His mother had been coming off her high and sounded relatively like herself even if she didn’t look it anymore. Her once beautiful silky hair seemed as dull and tired as she did. Her eyes didn’t shine like they used to and Joseph utterly despised her new smile. It bugged the shit out of him because he knew that it wasn’t her.

God fucking dammit.

Clenching a fist as he stared up at his ceiling, Joseph decided that he either needed to hit something…or do something stupid. He wasn’t really sure which and honestly, they could actually be the same thing. Or maybe he just needed to get extremely high… Choices, choices, choices.

He could get high and then do something stupid. Break something maybe? Too bad Mr. Thompson wasn’t around anymore; Joseph would love to smash his car again. “Fucking sigh,” he muttered, tossing the ball in his hand repeatedly up and down, down and up, hitting the ceiling. “Bored, bored, bored. Beat someone up?” Joseph clucked with his tongue to the negative. “Too much effort…”

Turning his head to stare out the door of his balcony after catching the ball, Joseph wondered how well he could land a two-story jump. They made it look so easy in the movies… All you had to do was roll or something, right? That’d make his day interesting. “Oh damn, what if I could jump into the pool from here? That’d be fucking awesome.” And if he missed…well, then he missed. Big deal. What were a few bruises? “Or, you know, possible broken bones,” he laughed as he bounced out of bed and walked over to his balcony.

Stepping out and glancing down, Joseph realized that the jumping trajectory wasn’t exactly the best. Actually, it was terrible. The pool was too far out from the house for any sort of successful jumping. “But do I want to be successful,” he mused quietly as he leaned on the rail of the balcony, staring out at his backyard. If he broke something… “Fuck it. Can’t drive with broken bones. Oh…I should go do vehicle terrorism.”

It was fun, really. He sped around Henrietta, going at insane speeds that if he crashed then he was as good as dead. It was relishing going that fast. And it was fun knowing that it freaked the fuck out of everyone else on the streets. They were terrified that he was going to hit them and yeah, it was possible but Joseph liked to think he was a kickass driver. Sometimes if he were lucky, someone would want to race. But those chances were generally better at night, not the afternoon.

He walked back into his room and took the wonderful time to get high before he got dressed. Once he was fixed for his activities for the day with wallet, keys, drugs, and a smile, Joseph grabbed his phone only to pause as it flashed with a missed call.

The mistake was his own; he should have never have cared. Ever since he had called Ivo about his mother, the man called back once a day, every day. Joseph had a feeling that Ivo knew who had called and wasn’t going to give up any time soon. He had considered both the pros and cons of answering and Joseph was still stuck on what to do. There was always the option of blocking the number but for some odd reason, that wasn’t at all favorable.

Sighing as he cleared the call and walked out, Joseph decided that Ivo was a problem for another day.

Something he decided every day.

 

 

Coming to a halt, Joseph stared at a car in the parking lot of Aglionby’s dorms.

A Benz.

Okay, so there were a lot of Mercedes around because it was Aglionby but this particular one was one that Joseph knew. There was no way in hell Joseph would ever be able to face Jordan because he knew that the minute that he did, he’d just descend into panic. No, that couldn’t happen but…he could totally face Jordan’s car. By the time Joseph was through with it, it wouldn’t be much of a car anymore.

The thought greatly appealed to him.

Something stupid, here he came.

Parking on the street, Joseph jumped out excitedly from his car after popping the trunk open. Lord, did he love his bat. Once he grabbed his trusty friend and slammed his trunk shut, Joseph turned only to come face to face with someone he wasn’t looking to see ever again.

Liam.

Well, that was a lie, wasn’t it? Joseph had actually liked Liam but…even if deep deep down somewhere in his heart he wanted to see how the other boy was doing, Joseph would never admit it. It was just better that way. No Liam, no stress.

“Uh, hi,” the blonde smiled nervously as his eyes roved over Joseph. It was almost like Joseph could see…disgust? in Liam’s eyes. But whether the look was actually there, he wasn’t sure because if it had been, it was gone in seconds as Liam looked to the bat. “Doing damage today?”

Was that disproval in his voice? Who was this bitch to think he had any say in any shit? “The fuck is it your business? Fuck off, bastard bitch, before I decide to use my bat on you.”

Liam only nodded, seemingly unfazed by both the insult and the threat. “It’s a good thing we aren’t friends anymore. I don’t like Kavinsky as much as I liked Joseph.”

Aw, he was cute. With a smirk, Joseph nodded as he leaned on his bat, the tip of it resting on the floor. “You’ve never met Joseph in your life, sweets. He doesn’t particularly like showing his face around anymore.”

“Shame because everyone would have liked him to the level that they hate Kavinsky,” Liam said as he shrugged nonchalantly, putting his hands in the pockets of his shorts. “But to each his own.” He began to walk off but Joseph called him back. “What?”

Honestly, he wasn’t sure. Joseph knew that he had something to say, a curious question, but it was stuck in the back of his head behind the shroud of cocaine. He couldn’t quite get his head to grasp the thought and for his mouth to voice it. His mind was stuck in a limbo of drugs and for once, Joseph didn’t appreciate it. Liam was still standing and waiting but the longer it took Joseph to try and find what he wanted, the other boy’s brows rose higher and higher until they couldn’t rise anymore.

When the silence continued, Liam laughed and shook his head. “Looks like the coke isn’t sitting too well with you, is it? I doubt Kavinsky would ever be able to remember half the random facts that Joseph knows. Tell Joseph to take care of my books for me, will ya?”

Joseph watched as Liam walked off once more. He wanted to conjure up feelings of anger but for some reason…all he felt was sadness. Abandoned. Like Liam should have put in more effort and saved him. Helped him.

Abandoned.

Just like everyone else in his life always did to him.

Feeling a sudden rush of anger along with a pile of frustrations, Joseph stalked over to Jordan’s fancy ass stupid bitch of a sedan. He got himself into perfect stance before swinging hard into the windshield. With a huge crash, the glass shattered, echoing in the quiet lot of the dorm lot.

“Fuck you,” he snarled as he slammed the bat down onto the hood, “and fuck Liam,” another slam, “and Vesela,” crack went the window, “and her bastard,” smash went window number two, “and this whole,” window three and four went off in quick succession, “entire fucking world!”

Swinging hard into the trunk, Joseph dropped the bat and clenched his wrist tight. “Fuck!” The reverberations were running up his arm, lighting it on fire. “Fuck! FUCK!

When one stood in the middle of the dorm lot not only smashing things but also screaming ‘fuck’ at the top of their lungs, it drew attention.

Joseph drew attention.

And yet not a single one of the students even dared to get near him. Fear was a powerful bitch; Joseph knew that firsthand. Straightening and grabbing his bat from the floor while ignoring the twinges running through his arm, Joseph slammed the back windshield and watched in satisfaction and glee as it joined the rest of the glass in shattering into millions of pieces.

It was poetic, he had to admit. The car was damaged, Joseph was damaged. The car was dented, Joseph sure as fuck was full of dents. The car was shattered.

He’d been shattered for years.

Yet no one ever helped him. No one ever fucking loved him or even liked him to help. They just right up abandoned him.

Abandoned.

Abandoned.

Abandoned.

Walking around the other side of the car, Joseph listened as some kid whispered to his buddy “Dude, isn’t that Jordan’s car?”

“Fuck, yeah, I think it is. Shit. What’d he do for Kavinsky to be all pissed like this?”

“Idiot, Kavinsky is naturally pissed. That bat could’ve been for us just like it had been for the car. All that matters is his mood, man. Just shut up and he won’t do anything to us.”

Fear, such a beautiful thing.

 


 

“Jordan!” some shouted on the other side of his door. “Dude, you need to come out quick!”

That wasn’t particularly appealing. Jordan hadn’t left his room in months unless it was for class, a shower, or to wash his laundry. Also to buy groceries to hide back in his room because he couldn’t even bring himself to eat in the café anymore. Just sitting around people made him feel sick.

He hadn’t really spoken to anyone in a long while, he had quite the lacrosse team to his coach’s chagrin, and he became the absolute definition of a dorm hermit. Jordan just couldn’t handle people. The guilt of everything would climb up his throat even faster than it usually did and he’d end up sicker than he usually was.

Dealing with that was not easy. But he had brought it upon himself, hadn’t he?

The knock came again except this time much harder and more insistent. “Jordan! Seriously, come out! Kavinsky is fucking up your car!”

That’s funny, it just sounded like he said that Kavinsky was-

“There’s not much left of it and if you take any longer, there won’t be anything! Hurry up! Everyone is too afraid to stop him!”

Fucking up his car?

He jumped to his feet with this thought but then he halted in his tracks. Could he bring himself to face Kavinsky? And then there was the even bigger question.

Could Kavinsky handle seeing Jordan? The last thing he wanted to do was induce some sort of panic or even fight for that matter. There was no way Jordan would be able to hit back just on the basis of his overwhelming guilt. It didn’t matter how many times he told himself it had been just casual sex because deep down, Jordan knew it wasn’t. It didn’t matter that he had been drunk at the time; that wasn’t an excuse. It’d never be an excuse.

Jordan had literally taken advantage of a drunk Kavinsky and…ra-forced sex upon him.

Even thinking the ‘r’ word was too hard for him.

The knock came one last time. “Say goodbye to your car!”

He…he kind of really liked his car but maybe if Kavinsky took out his anger on Jordan’s car…things would be better? The other boy could have just as easily been using the bat on Jordan himself. Or…maybe he couldn’t have because he wouldn’t have been able to handle seeing Jordan.

His…rapist.

“Fuck,” Jordan whispered under his breath, clenching his fists. Taking in a shaky breath before slipping on his shoes and a hat so maybe people wouldn’t stare at him even though they had no idea what had occurred, Jordan yanked his door open and rushed out.

If anything…he’d at least make sure that Kavinsky wasn’t arrested. Jordan could do that much.

Chapter Text

Fucked was an understatement to the mess that his Benz was.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Whoever had shouted for him through the door hadn’t been kidding when he had said that no one was going to do anything. There was a crowd literally just watching Kavinsky land blow after blow to Jordan’s car with a metal bat. There wasn’t even that much left of his car for Kavinsky to murder and yet he kept going.

Slam, after slam, after slam.

And yet, even while he watched this brutal destruction, Jordan didn’t even feel the need to stop Kavinsky. He just…couldn’t bring himself to. It was like…a weird form of justice? Like the car was in place of Jordan.

Jordan who deserved the beating.

Worry started to bubble in his heart when his eyes caught on the golf cart of Aglionby security. Kavinsky was vandalizing, sure, but Jordan didn’t want him to get in trouble for it. He just kind of wanted him to get everything off his chest. Maybe beating the Benz was a comping mechanism?

Maybe Jordan really was a rapist.

“Put the bat down!” shouted one of the security guards, a huge hulking mass of a man that literally terrified Jordan from his enormity. Talk about threatening. “Bat! Down!” Squinting, Jordan tried to make sense of what the guard was-

Fuck. Was that a taser? Shit, shit, shit.

Kavinsky turned to face the advancing guards, but he only lowered the bat instead of dropping it completely. “Oh hello!”

Right. Kavinsky snorted coke. Shit. He was probably high as fuck. Fucking shit. What if they searched him and they found drugs on him? Wasn’t that like a felony or something? Oh dear God. He couldn’t have Kavinsky getting arrested for that. No way. Shit. He couldn’t have Kavinsky getting arrested for anything. No fucking way.

Jordan and his conscience were dying for just a little relief. Just a little.

“Put the bat down, kid!” the other guard shouted, also having his taser out and ready to fire. “Put. It. Down. C’mon, we don’t want any problems.”

Laughing, Kavinsky pointed his bat at the first guard. “Pretty sure it’s illegal to tase a child. Tsk, tsk, tsk, mister!”

“The bat!”

They wouldn’t tase him, would they? No way?

Shit fuck, Jordan hated his life.

Kavinsky just smiled even wider and swung the bat around, testing the guards. It was like he actually wanted them to use the taser on him. He couldn’t be that stupid, could he?

Stupid, no.

Damaged, maybe.

Okay, Jordan could handle this. Jordan could fix this. Not fix, but at least do something. But he needed to do something in a way where Kavinsky wouldn’t see him. Jordan had no idea what type of effect he’d have on the other boy and he didn’t want to find out. Kavinsky would be better off without knowing that Jordan was around. He needed…

Liam.

Jordan’s eyes caught on the blonde head of his fr- former friend. Liam could do something.

“Bat! Put it down!” The big and burly guard – guard number one – seemed to be becoming either pissed or frustrated. Probably both, actually. “NOW!”

Any second now Jordan knew that the taser would end up going off. Fuck, he couldn’t have that. Jordan’s psyche couldn’t handle seeing that. Praying that Liam hadn’t changed his number in a passive aggressive fit, Jordan quickly pulled out his phone and shot off a text as fast as his fingers could go. He felt the milliseconds tick by as Liam pulled out his phone and looked down. When he finally looked Jordan’s way, Jordan waved the blonde boy over.

A wary glance was on Liam’s face but at least he came, right? “What.”

“I need you to tell the guards that I don’t care about my car. That they really really really don’t need to tase Kavinsky.” What if the guards didn’t listen? Fuck. What if Liam didn’t want to listen? “I don’t care if my car is smashed; I just don’t want to see him get hurt or arrested.”

Crossing his arms while Jordan felt like hours flew by, Liam replied “More than you’ve already hurt him?”

“Liam, please!” Jordan blew in frustration. The scene with the guards and Kavinsky was far more interesting than them so no one turned to see what was up. “I get it, I do, okay? But I can’t watch them tase him despite how much he is fucking asking for it. So, please. I’d do it myself but I don’t think it’s a good idea if he sees me.”

His nod was the slowest nod in the world. Jesus fucking Christ. “Yeah, that wouldn’t be a good idea.” Liam’s head turned to the scene before them, the guards far more closer, Kavinsky far more excited, and time running the fuck out. “I’ll stop them.”

Thank fucking God.

  


 

Honestly?

Kavinsky was feeling a little gypped right now.

Stupid, dangerous, and painful. Was that too much to ask for? You think he would have fucking cared if the guard had used the taser on him? The fuck no. Sure, he had completely forgotten about campus security and their stupid little golf carts but the surprise hadn’t been unwelcome. Kavinsky hadn’t minded. But noooooo.

Fucking Liam.

He knew that Liam hadn’t done it for Jordan’s car; it was ‘for Kavinsky.’ The blonde bastard probably didn’t want to see Joseph get tased. Why did he have to act all nice and shit? Kavinsky didn’t want nice and he sure as fuck wanted to get the electric shock. Just a fucking taste; he wasn’t asking for much.

What if he shocked himself? He could totally dream up a kickass taser. But…nah… It just wouldn’t be as satisfying. Kavinsky needed someone to tase him. Brought about the whole effect. Tasing himself would just be pathetic. Joseph was the pathetic one, not Kavinsky.

Maybe he could make the bitch tase him. She was typically high enough to pull off something like that.

Throwing his bat into the trunk of his car, Kavinsky slammed it shut before putting his hands on his hips and huffing. Day? Completely. Ruined. Mood? Ruined. But at least Jordan’s car was a big old fucking mess. Despite not wanting to think about him…Kavinsky had to admit that he was surprised that the lacrosse player hadn’t made an appearance. He was always fucking pretentious so maybe the ass just didn’t care.

Fucking bitch.

He really didn’t want to go home but he literally couldn’t think of a single place to go. Going to his lot wasn’t at all appealing and driving around to find people to piss off didn’t either. Maybe he’d just go piss off the bitch? It’d make going home way more appealing. “Fine,” he muttered as he jumped into his car, doing a line off the dash before he turned it on and drove off. At least he got the need to commit violence out of his system. The need to piss off never went away anymore so that’d have to be exercised for sure.

The house phone was ringing as Kavinsky walked in. It was tradition to at least check the caller I.D. so he walked over to fulfill the duty. For some reason, he actually…had the urge to answer. It’d been more than a year now and yet…

“Hello?” Kavinsky said in all his cocaine high cheer. What better way to piss off Vesela than to reveal to the world what she was doing? “You’ve reached the home of the eternally high Kavinskys. How may I help you?” Complete silence. Fuck, the caller wasn’t even breathing. It was honestly and fully hilarious. So Kavinsky laughed because why not? Jumping up to sit atop the kitchen counter, Kavinsky snorted “What’s wrong, dear Nikol, cat got your tongue?”

“J-Joseph?”

He snorted loud. “Fuck no, idiot. Joseph died years ago! No, no, you’re on the line with Kavinsky. Joseph’s gone gone gone. No more Joseph here except in his nightmares where no one can hide from the truth.”

“Jos-”

“I said there’s no fucking Joseph! What part of ‘he died’ don’t you get, bitch!” Joseph was a joke. Joseph was a loser. Joseph was a fag. Joseph was dead.

And no one would ever miss him.

The silence came again except it was one where he could tell that there was a lot of thinking happening. Thinking wasn’t supposed to be going on. No, no, not at all. Kavinsky only wanted to pass a message along, not have to hear whatever the older bitch Dobrev had to say. “Listen, listen, listen, miss Nikol. I only answered because I have the need to tell you an important announcement.”

“Okay,” she said slowly, “Go ahead and tell me then. And after you tell me, give me your mother to talk.”

Breaking into a fit of laughter both wonderful and painful, Kavinsky replied “Bitch, who do you think the announcement is about? You didn’t actually believe I was going to say something about myself, did you? No, no, no, no, noooooo. And once I tell you, trust me, you’ll want to talk to your sister.”

He barely caught the sound of a deep breath. Miss Nikol here was probably just barely keeping her temper in check. Shame because Kavinsky would love for her to blow. He’d never had the opportunity to yell at her before. “Then tell me, Kavinsky. Let’s hear what miniature Ivo has to say.”

Now it was his turn to be at a loss for words. This bitch dared? “Fuck you.”

“Yeah, he says that a lot. Always has. Practically his first fully coherent English phrase actually. So go ahead, tell me what I need to hear about my sister. I’m waiting, Kavinsky.

Every time she said his name, she spit it with so much venom that he was surprised he wasn’t poisoned from just the phone. “Well, bitch, I just thought you’d like to know that your sister doesn’t find the time to call you because she’s busy getting high. I’m pretty sure she’s burned through her septum faster than I have and that says a lot, lemme tell you. Cocaine ain’t no joke, Nikol. Hey, tell me, have Andrey and Ivet fucked yet? I’m curious.”

“Give me mayko,” Dobrev Bitch One said in such a harsh and stiff tone that Kavinsky actually looked at the phone in surprise like an idiot. He had no idea what looking at the phone was supposed to do but her tone literally caused the reaction. “Give me her to talk to now, Joseph.”

Oop, mistake. “Bitch, what did we-”

“Shut. The. Fuck. Up. Give me your mother. Now.”

“And if I don’t feel like it? This house has a lot of stairs. Such an exhaustion to drag myself up them. And there’s no way she’s coming down. She’s too fucking high!” Kavinsky broke into cackling laughs. “Get it? She’s high? Get it?”

“I get it,” she replied. It sounded like the dear aunt was gritting her teeth or biting her tongue. Man, did he wish he could unleash her fury. His words just weren’t working. “Now. Give me mayko.”

“Hmm…I don’t particularly feel like it, Nikol. And, hey, you never answered my question. Did they fuck? Or you don’t know? He doesn’t seem the type to tell…” He trailed off as he picked at a scab on his wrist. Yeah, Andrey so wouldn’t tell. “Maybe check if he has condoms in his drawer? But what if he’s stupid and doesn’t use them? Huh, possibility really. I guess that makes me the better grandchild of Dobrev’s, right? Only an idiot would want to accidently make babies. Or get nasty ass diseases. Not that I’m saying that Ivet has nasty diseases. Hey, did you know I had sex already? Twice. Well, three if you count a blowjob. Did you know? Did you?”

Her voice was far steadier like she took the time it took him to speak to get a grip on herself. “I don’t know if they’ve had sex. No, I won’t go through his things and I hope that if he is having sex, he isn’t stupid. And no, I didn’t know. Am I supposed to congratulate you?”

Kavinsky watched as his mother stumbled over to the stairs, making her way down slowly. “Yes, actually, you are. I came three times from three different lovely ladies. Ladies. And you all thought I was some fag? Ha! I proved all you bitches wrong.”

“Well then congrats, Kavinsky. While I have you in such a talkative mood, would you like to talk to anyone else? The Crippled Bastard has been glaring at me the whole time we talked and the Possibly has Fucked Brat too. I’m not as good as you at giving insulting nicknames. Maybe you need to fix them for me.”

He clucked his tongue. “Silly bitch, Kavinsky does nothing for free. Fix your own insults. And look! Your bitch sister has finally dragged herself out from her drug hole!” Grinning broad, Kavinsky waved to Vesela who was slowly walking over to the kitchen. She was coming off a high, he could tell. Her eyes looked just that bit of aware enough. “Hello, Vesela! Come talk to your sister! She and I have finished our chit chat.” Focusing back on the woman on the line, he laughed “I’ve no need to speak to anyone, silly goose! I only spoke to you so you’d know the truth. My mother was always good at being a liar. But fuck, where do we all think I got it from? Have a nice rest of your day, bitch.”

When she finally stumbled close enough to him, Kavinsky handed off the phone to his mother. He could just barely hear his tétka saying something but he was very much done now. Everything he had wanted to say was said.

Ironically, the only thing that stayed on his mind the whole rest of the day was whether or not Andrey and Ivet had fucked yet. He couldn’t help if he was curious.

Chapter Text

“That doesn’t bug you when you eat?”

Kavinsky spared a glance to the guy taking a piss in the urinal closest to the sinks. Who the hell talks while pissing? The water timed out before he finished washing his hands, so he hit the button again and resumed. “What?”

Zipping his pants and flushing, the boy came to the sink next to him and started to wash his hands. Thank God. He’d seen a couple guys who didn’t even bother washing and Kavinsky had never been more disgusted in his life. Glancing to Kavinsky in the mirror, the boy clarified “The piercing. That’s a piercing in your tongue, isn’t it? Doesn’t bother you?”

“Oh, nah.” Actually, it had bugged the fuck out of him in the beginning but it was fine now. He had just needed to get the hang of it was all. “Doesn’t bug you to chat while your dick is hanging out?”

The other boy smiled a crooked grin as he grabbed some napkins, handing a few to Kavinsky before drying his own hands. “I’m not ashamed of what I have. Plus, I just think I’m used to it. I had a friend who I’d known for years and we weren’t very good at boundaries. When you know someone for so long, anything goes, you know? Like brothers.”

Yeah, actually he knew. Well, Joseph knew. Kavinsky didn’t do friends. And it wasn’t that he cared about the talking, it was just the concept of urinals that bothered him. Always had really. People didn’t need to look at him, especially now because he knew he wouldn’t be able to handle even an accidental glance. “Yeah, I guess. You new?” He didn’t know everyone obviously but he felt like he’d remember if he ever saw a dude with such crooked shoulders or big ears. Those definitely made a person stand out. “Don’t think I’ve seen you around school before.”

“My first year,” the boy nodded, “Not the first of high school, just the first being here.” He held out his freshly cleaned hand for a shake. “Sasha Prokopenko.”

Huh, possibly Eastern European. Cool. But Sasha? Unless…whatever European decent this guy had in him was close to Bulgarian language. Sasho was a nickname for Aleksandar so maybe… Taking the hand, he shook it and replied “Kavinsky.”

Sasha’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Kavinsky, huh?” With a quick once over, he replied “Dunno if you’re what I expected or not. Heard a lot of shit about you. Not good shit which I’m sure you know.” He very obviously knew. There was no good shit attached to his name and never would be. “Didn’t you have like a tank or some shit at a party or something? My roommate says you did.”

Heh. The tank. Yeah, that shit was fucking awesome. It’d taken him a week of practice and a shit ton of drugs until it had come out from his head correctly. His first Fourth party had been epic and Kavinsky had needed a way to make the next one even more epic. Now how did one go about that when they already reached the bar? Duh, they raised the bar even higher.

So he dreamed up an entire fucking tank.

Then blew it to pieces.

Stuff of legend.

Leaning on the sink as he stuffed his hands in his pockets while not caring that he was missing class, Kavinsky laughed “I fucking had a tank. My parties are legend, Sasha. Your roommate went?”

“Yup,” Sasha nodded with a shrug, “He came during the summer. I just got here a week ago before school started. No one comes here because they want to so I dragged it out as much as I could. This place is like one huge fucking prison where rich people ship off their kids so they don’t have to deal with them.”

Kavinsky considered the boy before him carefully. Dare he think it but…he kind of liked this guy. Or at least, he liked his personality. His mindset. Kavinsky wouldn’t mind being friendly with the guy. Just friendly, though, nothing more than that. “Ain’t that the truth. Next time I got a party, you should come around. Bring the roommate too.”

The crooked grin came back along with a light in his hazel eyes. “Yeah, sure. Warning though, I don’t do drugs, man, so if you try to pressure me, I’ll beat the fucking shit out of you.”

Oh, he really liked this funky looking dude’s personality. Shrugging with a dangerous smile, Kavinsky snorted “Princess, I don’t peer pressure. I don’t need to because anyone who hangs around me? Worships the ground under my feet. Including my drugs.”

“My friend and I always wanted to be rebels,” Sasha said with a raised brow, defiance hard in his eyes, “I won’t be worshiping shit. If I ever decide to hop onto your happy train, it’ll be because of my own choice. Nothing to do with you, fucking asshole.”

With his dangerous smile becoming a manic one, Kavinsky broke into laughter. Yanking the new dude over, he wrapped and arm around his sloping shoulders to the other boy’s discomfort and replied “I like you. Rather, I like your personality. Don’t get the two confused, Aleksandar. Be-”

“Sasha,” the other boy cut in harshly. If the harshness was intense before, it was plain dangerous now.

He definitely liked.

“My name,” Sasha continued stiffly as he pushed off Kavinsky’s arm, “is Sasha. If you hate it when people call you Joseph, then have the same fucking respect for someone else. I don’t know how you know my name-”

“Your nickname.” Sasha glared at him with the only evidence of his curiosity a raised brow. Crossing his arms and once more leaning on the sink edge, Kavinsky said “Sasha. In Bulgarian, Sasho is a nickname for people named Aleksandar.”

Nodding slowly, Sasha replied “Ukrainian. Sasha for Aleksandr. But I hate it so I don’t use it. Named after a bitch who deserves to burn in hell.”

This guy got more interesting by the second. “I was named after an abusive grandfather so I guess we didn’t exactly win out, did we?”

Snorting while rolling his eyes, Sasha’s crooked smile slowly grew back onto his face. “Guess not. I gotta get back to class but…I’ll see you around.”

“Prokopenko is a fuck of a mouthful,” Kavinsky called out as Sasha walked away. The lanky boy turned and shrugged as if ‘and???’ “How about just Proko?”

It seemed like he had to think for a minute before Sasha finally nodded. He shoved his hands in his pockets and replied “I left behind everything important in New York. Might as well leave my name too.”

Ooh, a New Yorker. The pricks who thought they were better than Kavinsky and his fellow Jersey trash. “New York? Damn. Talk about irony, yeah?”

Hazel eyes sparkling with a smirk, Proko snorted “Yeah, ironic. Do know that I will call you Jersey trash, probably frequently.”

It was official.

Kavinsky liked this guy.

Walking back into class, he smiled wide as the teacher gave him a disapproving look. How did the guy know that maybe Kavinsky had been having bathroom problems? He didn’t. Kavinsky wanted to tell the guy to that degree but he didn’t feel like detention today. Too much effort. He took his seat in the back of one of the lamest classes in the world and resumed tracing his veins with a Sharpie.

Latin. Who the fuck decided that high schoolers had need for Latin. The fuck, man. The fuck-ing fuck. Sigh.

“Kavinsky. Mr. Kavinsky. Earth to Joseph Kavinsky!”

His head flew up from focusing on tracing, glancing around until he noticed the teacher once again glaring at him with his hands on his hips. With a wink and a smile, Kavinsky said “Yes?”

“The answer, please.”

The answer. Huh. Scratching his head and thinking that he might have accidently gotten some Sharpie on his face, Kavinsky tried to think if he had heard anything beyond his thoughts. He was pretty sure he hadn’t. “Well…what’s the question?”

Some kids snorted or tried to stifle their laughter. One in particular was staring at him like he wanted to know why Kavinsky even bothered. Honestly, Kavinsky wanted to know that too. The teacher who Kavinsky had yet to remember what his name was just looked tired. Like one of his colleagues had warned him and he had gotten exactly what he had expected. “Would you like detention?”

No way that was his original question. “No. Would you like to repeat your original question?”

“Would you like to check your attitude?”

Jeez. And here he was thinking that he was in a good mood. Maybe Kavinsky didn’t actually know his own moods because apparently he was expressing attitude. “Please hold that thought,” he murmured as he found a clean spot on his arm and drew a little meter. Filling it in less than half way, he wrote atop it ‘attitude.’ Raising his arm and showing his new meter, Kavinsky notified “It seems to be under the halfway mark, sir.”

More snickers. Golden boy who had been staring before rolled his eyes before turning around, losing interest. Mr. Whoever looked like he was nearing the end of his rope, the angry blush that had been crawling up his neck now flushing his pale face. “I’ll see you after class, Mr. Kavinsky.”

Like fuck he would. He stretched in his seat, “Can’t be late for my next one, sir. But I’ll keep an eye on my meter for you. Don’t you worry.”

Something, maybe the teacher’s face, told Kavinsky that he’d have a giant list of vocabulary to learn tonight. “Why don’t you go ahead and fill in an extra bar. I believe the meter is going up.”

“Huh,” Kavinsky said as he closely examined his meter, “Maybe, yeah. Gimme a sec here.” Pulling the lid of his marker with his teeth, he colored in another bar. “Looks like we’re hitting half now.”

“Try seventy-five percent and lunch detention.”

Go figure. With a sigh, he wrote ‘lunch detench’ under his meter and filled it up some more. “Okay, got it noted.”

The teacher did not appreciate his humor.

“The fuck am I supposed to do with Latin. How exactly does it prepare me for ‘my future?’” Kavinsky muttered as he started his extra three pages of vocab that the teacher had assigned him. If he was stuck in lunch detention, he might as well make use of it and get this stupidity finished. “Pater.”

“The fuck is a pater?”

Kavinsky picked his head up from the desk and glanced at Prokopenko who took the seat beside him. “Guess you don’t take Latin, huh?”

Prokopenko’s face took on a horribly skeptic look while he pulled out a notebook and dropped it onto the desk. “You take Latin? Why? Who in their right mind takes a dead language?”

So fucking true. But they had said he needed a foreign language and by the time he was allowed to register for classes, Spanish had been filled. Damn because he would have aced that class like nothing.

Despite everything, he couldn’t help but wonder how Emilio was right now. What he was up to. What he was doing right this second. Or how about abuela, his awesome Spanish teacher? Or Mrs. Vidal who was the sweetest woman in the world until, like her daughters, she got Puerto Rican on someone’s ass. Mr. Vidal was probably still kicking crime in the ass and coming home to his family where everyone was always happy to see the other. He couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to grow up in a family like that. His family wasn’t bad or devoid of love, Kavinsky knew that but…they weren’t exactly the most functional bunch.

And yet he loved them.

If he didn’t love his mother, he wouldn’t still be putting up with her in hopes that she’d get better. And if he didn’t love Ivo somewhere deep down in his obliterated soul, he wouldn’t still wish that he’d want Joseph back.

What was the saying? If wishes were ponies… “Everyone would have a pony, right?”

“What?” Proko said in a confused voice, obviously not at all tracking where Kavinsky’s mind had gone. “Ponies?”

“Nevermind,” he sighed as he sat up and focused back down on his stupid ass homework. “How do you know that I don’t want to be the Pope one day? Maybe that’s why I’m taking Latin.”

“Yeah and I want to be the King of England.”

“Can’t,” Kavinsky murmured as he jotted down definitions. “Even if you married a queen, you don’t get the title of king. And pater means father.”

He could feel Prokopenko’s stare on him for a few minutes before the funky shaped boy turned to his notebook. With the sound of pages flipping and a pen clicking, Prokopenko snorted “Cokehead and no less smart, apparently. I wonder what your brain is like when it isn’t covered in drugs.”

“Smarter than you’ll ever manage,” he replied softly, lost in a bit of nostalgia. It wasn’t that the intelligence was gone or that the random facts had gone missing but with a head full of crap, there was no accessing them. The other day, he couldn’t even remember the breed of cat that liked to swim. How much bullshit was that? Joseph Kavinsky, used to be future vet, the ultimate animal nerd, and he couldn’t even remember what the fuck a Maine Coon was?

Bull-fucking-shit.

“Probably yeah,” Proko said, not even close to imagining the turmoil Kavinsky’s brain was going through. There was a loud crinkling sound and Kavinsky glanced over to see his fellow raven boy opening a bag of Cheetos. Shaking the bag to him, he asked “Want?”

What the fuck was hunger? Kavinsky had no idea of the concept anymore. But…who could resist cheesy goodness? He could stomach a few chips before his body revolted. “Eh, sure, why not. What are you in for anyways? Apparently, my attitude was not at its best.”

Prokopenko tossed a few chips in his mouth before wiping his hand on his chinos and picking up his pen. He twirled it between his fingers before answering “Nothing major. Didn’t do my work for the past two days. Not that I couldn’t but I just wasn’t feeling it. I don’t feel much of anything anymore, to be honest.”

“Congrats,” Kavinsky snorted with an eyeroll. “We can be decently friendly, man, but I sure as fuck don’t want your sad little pity party and whatever. Boohoo, Aleksandr has a sob story. Cry, cry, cry.” Making an overly dramatic frown while wiping fake tears, he added “Cry.”

The burning fire from earlier was back and, lord, did Kavinsky relish its beauty. “Fuck. You.”

“Only fags fuck each other, Aleksandr.”

Curiously, the fire burned even brighter, the anger far more raw. Was the Ukrainian here a fag? Interesting concept because if he was, all bets of being friendly were sure as fuck off. Kavinsky was distancing himself from such disgusting concepts. “You’re fucking lucky I can neither hit you in here nor walk out so I’m stuck with your stupid fucking existence.”

Never hurt to ask… “You a fag, Proko?”

“I’m a decent human being,” he hissed back viciously, face contorted in such fury that Kavinsky really thought that he might get hit any second now. “A decent human being who doesn’t hate based on how people love. I hate based on actions and words.”

Wow, look at that. An Emilio-like quality. Kavinsky was unamused from such qualities now. Also, that…didn’t answer the question. Leaning back in his chair, Kavinsky asked “So…?”

One second, he was leaning back with all the power in the room in his hands. The next, he was flat against the floor in pain, suppressing a groan. Blinking up at the looming figure with the crooked shoulders, Kavinsky laughed “Okay, so, topic dropped then. Like you just dropped me and my chair. Rude, just so you know.”

Frustration mixed in with Prokopenko’s anger. “You’re fucking annoying. Goddammit.”

“Yup,” he replied, keeping his position on the floor because getting up was way too much effort. Was this the end of a blooming nonfriendship? “So?”

Shaking his head and returning to his seat and his work, Prokopenko snorted “So? So nothing. Watch your mouth. That’s it.”

He grinned.

Chapter Text

Tripping on a tree root that definitely wasn’t there a second ago, Joseph couldn’t help but laugh as he stumbled through his hell. Okay, so it was his forest but he totally called bullshit. Maybe monstrous forest hence…hell. Like that movie Monster House where the house was evil.

He honestly couldn’t believe that this place use to be his beautiful refuge. The place where he’d run away to so he didn’t have to put up with reality. Reality was fucked but then so was dreaming nowadays. “So what exactly is there for me?”

Who knew.

“Fuck,” he muttered as he stumbled down to the floor, the knees of his cargo pants now stained green from the grass. Honestly, he was surprised the forest even gave him grass to land on. That was a kindness he hadn’t had in a while.

“The forest,” came a voice that Joseph had no clue from where or from who it came from, “did nothing. The forest does nothing. You control it. It’s you.

Sitting up, Joseph glanced around warily. The only people who had ever been in his forest were Diana and his grandfather. Diana came when she felt like it which hadn’t happened in a very long time and his grandfather hadn’t come back in years. Joseph didn’t want him to come back; it was too dangerous for the sweet man.

Oh, irony there. Too dangerous for the mobster.

Ha, ha. Good one, Joseph.

“That’s bull, man,” Joseph replied to whoever had spoken, still not locating the culprit. Where was the fucker? He peered through the trees and bushes and over to the clearing he had been making his way to but there was no one. There wasn’t even movement or the sound of it. Joseph turned his head again to- “Jesus fuck!”

An older – older like grandpa old or more than that – man raised a bushy brow as he stared down at Joseph. He was wearing a white knit sweater but not where he looked cheesy. No, no, this man looked classy, distinguished even, with his fitted slacks and shining dress shoes. Was that a pocket watch chain? Damn. Joseph did not think he was fancy enough to have a guy like this walking around in his head.

Why the fuck was this guy walking around in his head?

“Such a filthy mouth,” the man disdained with a scrunched up nose.

Joseph couldn’t believe it but he literally felt embarrassed. What. The. Fuck. “Um, sorry.” The man was still just standing and staring down at him so Joseph took the time to examine him further. He looked…familiar. But he knew for a fact that he had never met this man so… “Um…hi…”

“Hello.”

Great, so the guy wasn’t going to introduce himself then. At least he wasn’t still scrunching his nose like Joseph was gross. He wasn’t because he had taken a shower before he had gone to bed.

Huh…his nose…

“Prádyádo?” Joseph tried tentatively. Only Dobrevs had noses like those. They literally all had the same nose except his mother’s and tétka’s were just a tad smaller than his grandfather’s. “Right? Atanas?”

The deep brown eyes roved over him, taking in every inch. “Can’t say I’m very impressed with what my legacy is.”

“You…would’ve liked me better a year and a half ago. I liked me better a year and a half ago. Really, I actually liked myself a year and a half ago. Now…”

“Not so much?”

Blushing and looking down at his hands, he bit his lip before he whispered “Not at all.”

“I know. I can feel every inch of hate in here. It’s quite suffocating.”

“Sorry.”

“C’mon, to your feet. I don’t allow mopers around me. Such a Debbie Downer. Up, Joseph.” Welp, time for a journey with a dead guy. Why not? It wasn’t like he was doing anything. “I may be dead but I’m far from senile. Up.”

Sighing because this place was such a fucking pain, Joseph dragged himself to his feet and stood before his very classy looking great-grandfather. “Question.”

“I’d imagine you have many.”

“Well, yeah but this is just off my head here…you a mobster?”

Atanas was very unamused if his look was anything to go by. “That is your question?”

Scratching his head, Joseph shrugged and replied “As you said, I have many. That’s just the first one. I come from a family of mobsters; I had to see if you were one. I never asked anyone before.”

Shaking his head in disappointment like Joseph was definitely not living up to his expectations, his great-grandfather nodded in a direction. “Walk with me, boy. Let’s talk.” They began walking only for him to pause, “And no. Not a mobster.”

“Oh. Hmm.”

“Businessman.”

He snorted. “According to Ivo, that’s the same thing.”

“Ivo?”

Right, this guy had died…what? A year or two before his mother’s family had met Ivo maybe? “The husband of one of your granddaughters. The man who sadly had a hand in my birth.”

Atanas nodded as they continued walking. The forest hushed into a quiet peace whenever they walked by. Did this man have that much power to quiet someone else’s mind? Or was it like a respect sort of thing? “Your father. You are the son of?”

“Vesela.”

“Ah,” his prádyádo said with a soft smile, “My sweet Vesela. But sneaky, my Vesela. She was the quiet to Nikol’s loud but no less strong, no less smart, and no less brash.”

Yup, that was his mother. Gnawing his lip, Joseph asked “Can I ask more questions?” Maybe he was like Diana and-

“I am no Diana. She is a beast, that one. Uncultured to the max. Truly, she is a lamya. Not traditional, of course, but no less one.”

Funny how Joseph never thought to think of Diana as a lamya when she was quite literally a hostile dragon in a Bulgarian boy’s brain. How was he supposed to know that he should connect mythology with his dreams? “Lamya are usually water spirits though.”

Swinging his cane around in a circle as they walked because apparently it was just for show and not walking, Atanas snorted “I did say not traditional. She is as she is and takes as she is given. She is a he and yet she is a she and then she is but a they. She is where she is and she is needed as she is needed. Diana is simply ‘be.’”

“The fuck…?” he whispered to himself. Dear Lord, he was more confused than ever. “You’ve lost me.”

“You’ve always been lost, now more than ever. You were on a track, a straight road, and you threw it away and now you are once more lost. You must be found. Find yourself, Joseph.”

“Honestly, you’re the reason I’m completely lost right now. I’ve no clue the fuck you’re saying.”

With a heavy sigh, his great-grandfather halted and rested a hand on Joseph’s shoulder. His gaze was a heavy one. Heavy in not only knowing but wisdom too. All Joseph could see in that moment was his grandfather. “You play this game, Joseph, of not knowing, of not owning who and what you are. You have potential and yet you’re letting your light fade. Ignite it, Joseph. You come in here with the intent to steal, with the pride of stealing when you are successful. What does that pride earn you, huh? Happiness for but a minute? That is what you want?”

Joseph…had already laid out his wants to his mother months ago. Wanting just wasn’t something he was allowed though. It as a sin just as much as him being a fag was. Being a murderer too because you weren’t supposed to go around killing people either.

“You have a gift, Joseph,” his prádyádo continued with full vigor, “Joseph, a gift. One more powerful than anything and yet you waste it. Why?”

It surprised him when he realized the bubbling growing inside him was actually anger. And once he recognized that it was indeed his fury, Joseph realized why he was angry. “Did ever occur to you that I don’t want this? Why can’t- why couldn’t I just be normal! You know how much better my life would have been? Could be?”

A stern but repressed anger flitted onto Atanas’ face. Joseph wasn’t understanding his point and the man didn’t appreciate it. “Joseph, if you were ‘normal,’ if you did not have the gift that you do, where would you be now? Whe-”

“Jersey!” he shouted, throwing his hands up into the air in frustration. “I’d be home and I’d be with my family and I wouldn’t be a fucking stoned coke addict! My mother would be happy and healthy! I-”

“But your father would be no less dead!” Atanas yelled back, red faced and lost in his own frustrations, “You shot him! You killed him! Put him in hell to burn for eternity! Do you actually believe your life would have gone back to normal had anyone known? Your trial would have probably barely even happened! These things take time; you would not have been simply let off the hook like that, you foolish child! Where would you be without this power, with that the ability to remake a man in a matter of hours? Jail! Rotting in a group home for troubled children!”

The murder flashed before his eyes in seconds. The yelling. The quiet pew of the gun firing with the silencer on. The blood splatters and pools and his father dropping like a ton, dead in milliseconds.

His father.

“Would minor things have been different? Sure! But nothing major in your life was affected by the blessing you were given! You are still gay, your father still once upon a time a homophobe, and you still would have been caught! You would have still been afraid! The gun still would have been removed from his waistband! You still would have been terrified! You still. Would. Have. Fired. That. Gun.”

“Stop,” Joseph whispered, tears building up in his eyes. “Please.”

Grabbing both of Joseph’s shoulders, Atanas said in a steady voice “Joseph, nothing would have been different. Nothing major in your life would have changed. It is how it is. It is written already and you simply follow your path. You killed him, Joseph. It may have been an accident in fear but it is a tarnish on your light and it happened. Nothing will ever change that. You were frightened and only the worst was running through your mind. You couldn’t have known that what you thought was never going to happen. But it’s okay; we can develop you on from-”

“What?” he interrupted with wide eyes.

Atanas looked confused. “What?”

His heart was pounding so loud, Joseph heard nothing but the panicked beat of his realization. “W-What you just said. The part…the part about…it never happening. What do you mean?”

Looking like he regretted saying it, his prádyádo stepped back and put his hands in the pockets of his slacks. Just a touch of sadness entered his shuttered face. “Joseph, he would have never have done it.”

Clenching his hands into tight fists with his tears streaming freely down his face, Joseph took in the words of one of his worst nightmares besides the dark.

The truth.

It took many shapes, many forms, many words. But it was what Joseph always feared and what Joseph could never get away from. It was why in his dreams he could only ever be himself – Joseph – but in reality, he pushed the lines and was Kavinsky. The truth was always lurking, could never be hidden, no matter how hard someone tried to bury it.

The truth never went away.

When his mind felt like tormenting him, he dreamed of happy times and of memories of when he actually had a family. He mostly dreamed of the times spent with his father and the beauty of them when he could hear his father’s laughter or see his smiles instead of hearing the shouting or seeing the hate. And when those parts played on constant repeat, Joseph knew that his father would have never have hurt him. He may have belted him, pulled his hair, hit him, or kicked him but those just didn’t matter. They were minor, minuscule repercussions that Joseph didn’t care about. They were irrelevant because he knew that he mattered to his father. It may have taken years but Joseph had found the realization and knew the truth. Which was why he knew a startling truth that haunted him every second of every minute of every hour.

His father would have never put a bullet in him. Joseph knew it for a fact in the truth of his dreams but hearing it confirmed…just made it all the more real that Joseph had killed an innocent man.

Innocent in that he wouldn’t have shot Joseph. His father was very obviously far from innocent.

“You didn’t even know his name a few minutes ago,” Joseph realized aloud. He turned accusing tear-filled eyes at his prádyádo, “You have no way of knowing what he may or may not have done.”

“Joseph, my child, I am in your head. All I have to do is reach out and feel every inch of your thought. You know as well as I do that he wouldn’t have shot you. And of course, you can always just ask him. From what I have discerned, you two have always shared secrets with each other.”

Snorting as he dropped down onto his ass to sit on the floor, Joseph just shook his head. Yeah, okay, ask him. Call him up and be like ‘hey, fake Ivo? Quick question. Were you going to shoot me? Oh, that’s right, your forged memory doesn’t remember it all. Lemme recap the beating for you.’

Yeah, okay.

“That’s not what I said,” Atanas sighed. “Ask him, not the creation of him.”

Wasn’t this guy supposed to be smart? “He’s dead. How the fuck am I supposed to ask?”

Looking up to the sky with his palms flat up like ‘dear Lord, grant me patience,’ Atanas looked down at Joseph while leaning on his uber fancy cane. “But you remade him. You took his memories, his thoughts, his personality, his being, and made him, Joseph. You did not pull those things from scratch; they’re from him. You are now intertwined whether you intended it or not. There are repercussions for actions, Joseph. That forgery now shares your life. You die? So does it. Physically, no, because that did not come from you but mentally, that’s all from your head.” He gestured to the forest around them, “From here.”

Picking at the cuts along his arm as he tried to catch up to all these ‘revelations,’ Joseph murmured “So…technically…?”

Atanas huffed. “In plain simple English although I believed you to be smarter-”

“Not in this world, man.”

“You own his life force. His energy, his vitality. I can use a different billion words in a billion different languages to express this concept. He runs on you, on this place.”

Joseph leaned back on his arms at stared at his great-grandfather curiously. “So…”

“Uh,” his prádyádo muttered, “Youth these days.” Crossing his arms, he snorted “So, if he’s a part of you now, a part of your head, and this place is only you then…?”

Then…

No, that would be crazy.

“Would it?”

Scrunching his face into thought because for some reason that actually worked for everyone, Joseph bit his lip as he considered this. Joseph took his father’s ‘life force’-

“Take it out of quotes. It’s a real thing.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Joseph grumbled under his breath, “Why can’t my thoughts be my own?”

“They are but we’re in your head, remember? They echo around here if you know how to tune into the proper frequency.”

Uh. Okay, so life force without quotations. Joseph’s head was pretty much its own world and housed a lot of shit that he no longer knew how to get to without drugs but that was on him. Now, Joseph made a copy Ivo and used up old Ivo’s spirit thing to do it. To give the body life. So spirit Ivo was alive as long as Joseph was. Spirit Ivo…

“C’mon, Joseph, think! You’ve seen him before, don’t you remember?”

No, that had been only a dream. A good one.

“Where do dreams come from but you?”

Chapter Text

Smiling to his Latin teacher who Kavinsky had still yet to learn his name, he waited until he was prompted to speak. It usually unnerved people when someone just stood and said nothing and, well, Kavinsky liked unnerving people. After another minute of quiet smiling before class started, the teacher finally sighed and gave his full attention to Kavinsky. “Yes, Mr. Kavinsky.”

At least he wasn’t bitter or anything about what had happened a couple of days ago. Kavinsky wanted him nice and fresh for today. “Just wanted to let you know that if you ever need me to check my attitude, I had a proper meter installed.” Kavinsky started laughing as he flipped his right arm palm side up for the teacher to see his newest tattoo sitting just above his inner elbow. Drake had thought the idea was hilarious.

It wasn’t large but in black ink was an empty meter with interval lines every ten ‘attitude points.’ Above it in a nice bold font was ‘ATTITUDE METER’ and beneath it in nice little letters was ‘black sharpie use only.’ He always had a Sharpie on him anyways so it was the best way to fill in his meter when needed. Kavinsky also had ‘notes:’ written right beneath the meter in case there was something extra like the lunch detention from before.

It was perfect.

Nodding slowly as he looked at it, the teacher finally replied “Well, thank you, I suppose. Go ahead and put in a ten for starters.”

“Yeah, sure,” he laughed as he pulled out his Sharpie from his pocket as he walked to his desk in the back of the room. Popping off the lid, he colored in the first bar and then held up a thumbs up with a smile. “Okay, all good!”

The teacher sighed but got up from his chair to begin class because, really, what else was he supposed to do. Kavinsky only listened to the lecture with half an ear as he doodled a car on his paper. It wasn’t anything like the beauties he used to be able to do but it was still a nice Viper. When the class phone rang, he paid it even less of an ear than he had been giving until the teacher called “Mr. Kavinsky. Take your things and head to the office.”

Picking his head up from his doodle, Kavinsky looked at his teacher in confusion. “Huh?”

He returned his focus to the words he had been writing on the board. “Office called for you. Take your things.”

Huh.

Packing up his things quickly because he couldn’t help the curiosity itching in his mind, he got up and walked out, making his way to the office building as fast as he could. When he walked in, there didn’t seem to be anything odd or out of the ordinary. Kavinsky went up to the secretary and asked “I was told to come to the office?”

“Kavinsky?”

“Yup.”

“You’ve been signed out for a doctor’s appointment to which you’re apparently running late for. Ride said they’re meeting you outside.”

“Thanks,” he replied in confusion as he walked back out. He knew for a fact that he didn’t have a single appointment. He also knew that his mother wouldn’t do something like this without them talking about it before hand. Plus, she was too fucking high anyways. He’d like to think that maybe she wanted to surprise him with something wonderful or even just them grabbing lunch together but until she was clean,