As per the norm, Daniel Smith is bored again. His heavy eyelids droop closed for what must be the hundredth time today, his chin lazily resting on the palm of his hand as he leans on the counter-top, where the till lives. It has been, without a doubt, another Saturday well wasted in this lifeless old shop on the street corner.
It wasn't exactly his choice to be here; taking the offer for the job from his elderly neighbour who owns it was an awful idea, but when he had mentioned it briefly to his mum, she had forced him to take it, threatening to go and tell the man herself. As a result of the job, Dan hardly has a social life any more (well- if he really had one before), thanks to the job! All he ever says is sorry, I'm working, working. Work. Work! He hardly even gets time for himself, apart from the hours of which he is asleep.
What sort of seventeen-year-old wants to spend the entirety of their weekend, and every other weekday after college, in a shop? It goes far beyond boring. Hardly anyone ever comes in unless they either need the essentials- bread, milk, gas, electric and so on- or they need alcohol (which could be argued as an essential). Legally, Dan isn't allowed to serve or sell alcohol because of his age, but nobody ever checks. Anyone who comes in never cares, of course. God knows how the place has lasted so long.
As he does most nights, Kyle Simmons has itchy fingers. The constant need for the satisfaction of taking something again is far too mighty to ignore, and although he doesn't want to let the urge suffocate his body, he knows it eventually will, anyway. He hates it. He despises the need and the voice that controls his every movement. A nasty habit that the boy can't seem to kick, one that has been with him for longer than he'd like to admit but short enough so he doesn't really know how to combat it.
He's fully aware it's driving him down a road that he isn't really that keen on going down, but he just can't help it.
The corner shop on the corner of Hudswell Avenue in North London seems to be pretty empty, which calls out to Kyle straight away as a potentially easy target, and the voice in his head agrees. The teenager tries his very best not to listen to the things the voice says, but it's not like he can put some headphones on and block it out.
He digs his nails into his palms to try and distract himself from the thoughts, but it doesn't work. The need to steal is so strong and he can't rid himself of the desire that is so hungrily eating away at him.
"You're an idiot. A massive fucking idiot." He tells himself, pulling the sleeves of his hoodie- slightly too large- over his hands, and his hood up to defend himself from the late September winds that battle the country. He casually saunters into the shop and looks around.
The cashier, who looks roughly Kyle's own age, looks bored out of his mind, as if he would rather be anywhere else but here. He looks up at Kyle, strands of thick, dark hair waving as he moves. He smiles warmly at Kyle and Kyle does the usual you alright? smile back at him. Then, he disappears behind am ailse to look at an array of items laid out in front of him, calling his name like a siren.
Kyle doesn't do this out of want, need, or desire for the items that he steals. Nor does he do it because I can, or because it gives me a thrill. He does it because he has to. He can financially afford it, because, for one, the most expensive thing he has stolen has been a bracelet- although that was worth more than a few months pocket money-, it's because of his impulse to do it. He hates doing it, but it's too powerful for him to overcome by himself.
Kyle grabs an array of things that nobody really needs. A couple of lighters, one of those tiny pints of milk that he shoves deep into his hoodie pocket, putting his wallet against it so it doesn't look weird, a handful of paperclips and rubbers.
Then, as if he's done nothing at all, he strolls over to the fridge where the shop keeps their drinks bottles and cans, away from the milk, and grabs a two-litre bottle of 7UP, before strolling back over to the till and digging into his pocket to get the £2 coin out.
"Is this all?" The boy at the till asks, a little more lively than he was before. Not trusting his own voice, Kyle can only grunt in response and nod. "Do you need a bag?"
"N-no, thanks," he murmurs, handing him the coin and receiving his luxurious change of 75 pence. The till closes with a crunch. "Should be alright."
The cashier looks down at Kyle's hands, one of which is wrapped around the bottle and the other resting on the counter. They're shaking like crazy and Kyle worries he knows something is wrong.
"Is it cold out? It looks it," he states, nodding to Kyle's hands and then looking out of the window. Kyle wishes his hands were shaking from the cold, but it's the fear and adrenaline.
"Yeah," he lies- not about the temperature because fuck, it's cold, but about his hands, "Can't be expecting too much of England in September though, can we?"
The other boy laughs, nodding. "True. 'Supposed to pour it down all week from Monday," he sighs and shakes his head, "Luckily I'm stuck in here all the time so I miss most of it. Well, I say luckily but... Not really."
Kyle shrugs and wonders why the cashier is speaking so much to him, but then he guesses if he's here all day, he probably laps up all conversation he can get.
"That's England for you. Anyway, I might see you sometime in the week."
"Well, I'm the only bugger who's ever here- apart from Mr Woody, the guy who owns the store. He only comes in when I'm at college, though." Kyle vaguely remembers seeing the owner of the shop whilst he was playing football once and accidentally kicked the ball right at his grandson's head, which, whilst the kid actually laughed about it and was fine, his grandpa swore his permanent ban from the shop. "My name is Dan, by the way."
Why the fuck am I making friends with the cashier of the store I just stole from? Fucks sake, Kyle, don't say your actual nam-
The voice in his head curses him to oblivion. He tries to ignore it.
"Hopefully see you soon,"
Dan smiles, "Yeah. Hopefully."
Kyle sprints home as fast as his legs can possibly take him, his mind crippled with this awful anxiety about getting caught. It smothers him every time he does it, though it never dissuades the voice from telling him to do it. If only the cashier- Dan?- knew...
As soon as he reaches the familiar threshold of his home, he rushes straight upstairs and throws the drink onto his bed to be forgotten about and shamefully pulls the stolen goods out of his pockets. There isn't much there and the total sum doesn't add up to much at all, but if he was caught... God, it scares the daylight out of Kyle.
There's a voice in my head that tells me to do it- but I'm not crazy, I promise.
No one would ever believe him. He would sound like a liar, just like his aunt on his dad's side told him when she caught him stealing when he was just twelve. He never really got on with her after that.
He observes the random stuff and frowns at them, before bundling it nervously up and throwing them into the locked box under his desk, where homework is scattered. The milk, however, is thrown on the bed. Of all things, one pint of milk. One?
Slowly, he picks the milk up and closely inspects it. What on Earth can he do with just one pint of milk?
An idea pops into Kyle's head which makes him feel somewhat like a thieving genius- not that it's anything to aspire to. He goes to walk out of the room, but before he leaves, he pauses and taps on the wall five times, counting under his breath as he does so, certain to get the number right.
I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I just want to get on with my evening.
Stood downstairs in the kitchen, Kyle attempts to pour the one pint of milk into the remaining two pints left over from a four-pint carton. He stands, concentrating on it so he doesn't spill any.
The sound of his mum's voice makes him jump, and he drops the remainder of the milk, which clatters to the floor and spills into a large, white puddle. She appears in the doorway, curious of the sudden noise.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you!" She says quickly, then looks down at the milk on the floor, "What were you doing with the milk?"
"I just... I just dropped it, that's all," he says, his voice shaking. He fears she will hear the nerves in his voice. "I'm really sorry. I'll clean it up."
"Was it the pint that your Grandma sent up?" She questions. Kyle looks down to the shelf in the fridge and sees another carton of milk there.
Christ, they look like they are a family of hardcore milk-drinkers.
"Yeah, it was. I'm sorry." He glances to his mum and quickly screws the lid onto the milk carton, which is now full, and he puts it in the fridge, next to the milk his Grandma sent up. She has a habit of sending up the food and drink she doesn't think she'll use.
Mrs Simmons leaves the room for a moment and Kyle takes the short freedom he has to quickly screw the lid off of Grandma's milk and quickly drink the entire thing, chugging it until it is all gone. He throws both cartons- the stolen milk and the milk he's just drunk- into the bin before his mum comes back, holding some paper towels.
You're digging yourself a hole, Kyle.
"Here, let me clean it up,"
"It's alright, Kyle. It goes out of date tomorrow, anyway. Here," his mum hands him the towels, and glances up at his face. "And stop drinking out of the bloody milk carton!"
Kyle sheepishly, or rather nervously, laughs, then begins to wipe down the mess he has made.
The clock hits eleven in the evening and as they do every night, the Simmons' household all retire to bed for the night. Kyle has already brushed his teeth and stripped himself down to his boxers, and he stands by the bathroom door, right next to the light switch.
Please let me go to bed. I'm so tired.
If you do go to bed, you won't have a family when you wake up, Kyle.
The voice tells him, bitterly.
Kyle sighs, his eyelids feeling like lead and his own mind stressing him beyond words. He flicks the light switch off, sending the room into darkness.
He says, focusing on the numbers.
The room is bought back to life with light. "Two."
"KYLE!" His dad roars, making the boy jump, "Stop playing with the damn lights and go to bed!"
Kyle groans, closing his eyes. "Dad! Just... Just five minutes!"
"Kyle! You're going to break the light bulb, stop messing about!" He demands from the master bedroom.
"Dad, the sooner you let me get it done, the sooner I'll stop. Please, just let me do it." Kyle basically pleads, starting again. "One. Two. Thre-"
"KYLE!" Mr Simmons yells, making Kyle lose his temper. He slams his fist into the wall again and again until he slinks down the wall, bringing his needs to his chest and feeling like he's going to cry. "What the Hell is wrong with you?"
His dad appears by his door.
"Dad," he begs, almost choking on his own breath, "Please, let me just do it. Just don't talk about it, don't ask what I'm doing, just don't get involved. Please."
"What's going on?" He asks, "Can I he-"
"No, the only way you can help is by letting me get on with it. Please."
Hurry up and do it, Kyle.
"No, the only way you can help is by letting me get on with it. Please." Do it. Hurry up and do it.
Mr Simmons looks concerned, "Kyle... I only want to help you. You do this every night... Y-your hand is bleeding."
Kyle wipes his face on his arm. "I'm fine. Just go and let me get on with it, please..."
Mr Simmons disappears again, and Kyle squeezes his eyes shut, reaching up to the light switch, and pressing it. "One."
He keeps his hand, shaking, over the light switch for a second. You messed it up. Do it again.
Kyle throws his head back, groaning. Please let me go to bed. Please. I'm tired.
That doesn't matter. Do it.
He presses the light switch once again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and many more times until the voice finally allows him to go to bed.
Hurt and bloody hand forgotten, Kyle lies on his bed in the dark, sniffling.
Why the fuck does it have to be me?
It isn't long at all before the wild-haired teenager finds himself sitting back behind the till at the boring old corner shop. He would usually despise being here when there is so much that could be done at home. Today, however, he is hoping that Kyle- was that his name?- might be there. It had made the day a bit brighter, given he actually stood at talked to him whereas most people would buy their stuff and hurry out of the shop without so much of a thanks, cheers mate.
He allows his thoughts to drift slightly as he sits down on the stool, hooking his feet over the bar at the bottom. It couldn't have been that cold last night- it certainly wasn't when he locked up, so how could the boy have been shivering like he was? And with such a thick hoodie on, too.
The bell above the door to the shop jingles and it brings Dan out of his thoughts, making them drop from the forefront of his mind.
A stranger saunters in, not even looking at Dan as he fetches what he needs, and Dan sighs. It's going to be a long day.
Kyle sits in his bedroom, at the end of his bed with his hands in his hair and fingers tightly gripping and pulls at it from the stress. He bites the side of his cheek and counts as he does so. The pain makes five feel like five hundred, and even when he gets there, it doesn't satisfy him. The compulsive repetition brings blood to his mouth, the metallic taste repulsing him, but he has to do it.
The voice has told him he won't see his family again if he doesn't.
It makes him seem childish when he says it like that, but he can't help but believe the voice.
He despises himself. He despises the voice inside his head which is responsible for him doing all of this. He despises how he can't tell his parents exactly what is happening, what is going on in his brain. Then again, he doesn't know how his parents haven't clicked on in the first place. How could they not notice the cuts, the bruises, the stupid, stupid things he has to do?
Footsteps echo along the hallway as they approach Kyle's bedroom, making the teen panic as he quickly moves to try and neaten his hair, to make it look somewhat normal. His heart is hammering in his chest, but it's hardly as if he's been caught doing something wrong. It would just be hard to explain.
His dad appears by the door, a warm smile on his face.
"We're going into town. Do you want to come with us?"
If you go with them, you'll get into a car accident and they will die. It'll be your fault.
His breath catches in his throat. That's not fair.
The boy tries to reason with the voice, asking why? Why can't I go? But it just repeats itself, a gruff voice reminding him you have no right to argue with me.
Instead of going against the voice, or asking his dad for help, Kyle only gives him some sort of queasy, unsure smile before he looks down to his hands, noticing how ugly they are. One of them is badly bruised and scabbed from yesterday, and the skin around his nails is red and tough from how much he bites it.
"No, Dad," his voice lacks to the confidence it takes to be even the slightest bit convincing. "I'll stay here."
Remaining in the doorway, his dad only frowns, but Kyle doesn't see it as he focuses his eyes on a particularly uninteresting spot on his hand. Mr Simmons knows there is something going on in his son's mind, but he just doesn't know the easiest way to bring it up.
He only wants what is best for Kyle, though he doesn't know how to get him there.
"You sure, Kiddo? It'll be nice! We'll go out for a meal or something, too," the man tries to hide the worry in his voice as he steps into the room, glancing at the spot by the light switch where Kyle had punched last night, noticing the little drops of blood there. Concern flares inside of him, but he'll ask about it later. "You, you do know you can talk to me or your mother about anything, right?"
Kyle only nods, listening to the voice when it tells him not to look up at his dad.
"And we only want what is best for you. No matter what happens, as long as your heart is beating, you'll always be our son. No matter what's going on in here," he points to his head, then to his heart, "Or here, I'll always love you, you know?"
The boy smiles, but it drops quickly.
Downstairs, the front door clicks shut followed by the sound of the lock crunching, and then the family car rumbling down the street and out of earshot. In all honesty, Kyle is upset he cannot go with them- he really enjoys spending time with them, and going out into town would've been a nice treat. On top of that, he's hungry, too.
He hates the fact that his mind denies him the simple luxuries in life that he once took for granted.
His breathing is heavy as he sits on the floor by the foot of his door, his knees pulled to his eyes and eyes closed. His bruised hand holds the other as they wrap around his legs, and he rests his forehead against his knees.
It's obvious his dad tried to get into what's going on, but, like Kyle, he has no idea how to go about it. He wishes there was some way he could suddenly ignore the voice that tells him no. He wishes he could go to his parents and open up, tell them he needs to see a doctor sooner rather than later.
Truly, it feels like he is wishing for the impossible.
The guilt that sits on his shoulders is so heavy he doesn't doubt that one day, it will just break him. He can't say anything to his dad, and he can hardly even react to it most of the time. His dad had looked defeated and hurt as he left, and that's something Kyle won't forgive himself for.
Google, for once, had given him some pretty useful advice when he had attempted to search what it is that is wrong with him- unusually, it hadn't suggested anything like a brain tumour or cancer as it usually does. Instead, it told him OCD is more than just the need of making things neat and tidy, or washing your hands more than once.
There are hundreds of different forms of it, and the one that rings true in his head is intrusive thoughts- things in his head that he can't push away. He just wants to be a normal fucking teenager and his mind won't even allow him that. He has laid awake many nights, tears rolling down his face and just pleading to be normal, for just one day.
Tears begin to fall down his face, and he curses himself stupid and weak for letting this pathetic behaviour control his life- had he had a strong head on his shoulders, maybe none of this would have happened, and he would be able to ignore and overcome the voice, and get on with his perfectly normal, happy life. Kyle isolates himself because of the voice in his head- he has no one.
Just as he thinks he might be given some freedom for the few moments, the voice wakes up and commands him yet again. This one isn't as bad as the rest, though. He can live with this one.
Go and the see boy in the shop.
When the bell above the door gives it's little jingle to notify somebody entering the shop, the cashier lives his head in surprise. Besides from somebody clearly both high and drunk coming in about half an hour ago to buy a single pint of milk and a bag of Roast Beef Monster Munch- the best flavour, if you ask Dan- nobody has been in.
It would be better if he worked in a supermarket, or somewhere even the slightest bit busier so he wasn't sat by himself all day longing for some, any sort of interaction.
His heart lifts when he recognises the boy walking towards him, a smile breaking out onto his face.
"Hey," the boy says to him with a voice that shakes. He smiles at Dan, and Dan, equally as lanky although just a tad shorter, sees that everything, even his smile, seems shaky, just as his hands did yesterday. He decides not to comment on it, just beaming back a bright smile back at him.
Honestly, Dan hadn't realised how much he enjoyed his company previously, and how much he had longed for it today. Then he calls himself stupid, they hadn't said more than a few sentences to each other, yet he's acting like they have spoken none stop.
"Hello there, stranger," Dan laughs back, slightly surprised that the boy saunters to the till as opposed to grabbing whatever it is he wants to buy. Kyle tries to stifle the insulting thoughts circling around in his head. "What are you doing here, then?"
Kyle gives a weightless shrug as he realises exactly what it is he is doing. He's purely doing it because his head told him too, and perhaps somewhere inside of him, he did want to come and see him.
"I... uh..." His mind draws a blank. Good luck making yourself sound normal, now... "My family went out and I was bored. Thought you might fancy, like, a chat or something?"
The voice laughs in his ear, telling him how pathetic he is. Smooth. Real smooth, Simmons.
But Dan can only grin back at him, ignoring the stumbling, rambling words of the boy. The thought of Kyle even thinking of him makes him smile, nevermind actually going out of his way to pay him a visit!
"Yeah!" His voice is laden in enthusiasm, but then he tries to calm himself down. He struggles to hide how flustered he is, even if he does try to play it off as cool. Why is he getting so flustered and giddy about Kyle all of a sudden- this time yesterday, he had no idea who he was. "I mean, yeah- that's cool. Here, sit next to me- oh, actually, grab those sweets behind you. Mr Wood will never know we're eating them."
Kyle grins and grabs the packet, quickly joining his new friend behind the desk with a smile on his face. It's weird how quick he has clicked with Dan.
Once Kyle hands the packet to him, he rips it open, retrieving a handful of thin, strawberry laces from the plastic before handing it back. They sit next to each other, like two old women sat in a cafe.
"Come on, then," he says, typing one of the laces around his index finger before shoving the lace into his mouth, "Tell me things about yourself."
Ugh. It's always shitty when you get asked this question, and it's hardly like he can be completely truthful, anyway. If he is, he'll sound like a freak.
I have a voice inside my head that makes my life a living nightmare. I can never go to sleep without flicking my light on and off five times, or my family will die. I want to die, though, which sucks because the voice never tells me it's me who is going to die. When I do sleep, it sucks anyway because the voice doesn't leave me alone even then.
"Well," he tries his best not to blurt out everything in his mind, "What is it you want to know about me?"
At his words, Dan laughs. "Right, okay then. You're one of those people, the ones who can't just tell me, like, your age or something interesting about you straight away,"
Kyle rolls his eyes, although to his friend's wishes, he shares his full name, his birthday, and what he's doing in terms of education at the minute- which is pretty much nothing. He doesn't mind giving the boy this information, he just hopes he doesn't realise how much of a freak he is.
When Dan asks him more questions, Kyle can't help but smile, "What is this, twenty-one questions?"
Dan becomes flustered in a mess of heated cheeks and rambling apologies, which makes Kyle giggle. He wishes his mind wasn't telling him that Dan is lying, acting fake because he doesn't actually care about him. He's just bored, fucking around with you because there's nothing better to do, he is reminded as he tries to smile through it, keeping the sleeves of his hoodie over his hands. It gets hard to keep up a large facade of being your regular old self when it feels like everything in the world, including your own mind, is fighting against you.
"I'm sorry," the boy mutters, his cheeks bright red, "I am so sorry, honestly, I am. Go on, then. Ask me questions- anything you want."
So, Kyle does. He questions Dan about every topic he can possibly think of- where he went to school, what his friends are like, what he wants to do in the future, and so on, so forth. He learns that he and Dan are pretty alike in the sense that they both feel like they are lost at sea (although Kyle would say he isn't just lost, he's drowning)- they have no idea what to do in their lives and it doesn't look like there's any land in sight to provide any answers.
"One foot in front of the other," Dan had told Kyle, shrugging.
Kyle nodded in agreement.
"So, what are you doing after your shift?" Kyle finally gets the courage to ask when the laces in the packet are gone, and said packet is discarded into the bin, littered with forgotten receipts, by the side of the desk. Getting away from you as soon as humanly possible, he is told by his mind, like a punch to the gut. He likes to think that Dan is better than that.
"Nothing. I'll probably be going home, taking a nap. Whatever, really. I never really usually have any plans, anyway. Why? Do you want to do something?" The cashier can feel the heat creep up his neck and invade his cheeks again. Why the Hell is he so flustered around him? It's so stupid. "I'm up for it, if you are!"
Kyle nods with a grin which matches Dan's, and a face equally as red and as warm.
"Yeah. I'm up for it, too."
"Dude, your parents are the coolest parents ever,"
The two boys walk upstairs and into Kyle's bedroom. His parents hadn't so much as grumbled about Dan's sudden appearance in the house, something they usually would moan about. Usually, people don't really come over. It's mainly because his mum likes to make sure the house is clean and pretty much perfect before somebody comes in, and his dad just likes to rest after work.
"They're so chilled out about me coming over. With my parents, I have to book six years in advance just so they don't yell at me." The boy laughs as he speaks, a rucksack hanging over his shoulder. Kyle should be smiling right now, but his thoughts are elsewhere. He feels horribly, cripplingly nervous about Dan being in his bedroom- there's a mark on the wall where he punched it (the blood was cleaned before he came out), and he knows the voice, out of everywhere in the house, is at it's strongest here. It's because it knows where Kyle keeps his stuff- the pencil sharpeners blades, the headache tablets stolen from ASDA a few months ago. Everything and anything that can and will be used against him.
"You there, Kyle?"
The boy drags Kyle out of his nightmare and back into reality, and he tries to find some sort of distraction so that Dan doesn't see how truly messed up he is. He wishes he could speak up about it more, tell somebody. Maybe that would help.
"We should, uh... Watch a film?"
Even though they've known each other for just a few hours, it feels like they've been best friends for years as they lie together on Kyle's bed, Kyle flicking through the menu of a film that the two of them have agreed on.
At one in the morning, Kyle wakes up in a daze, the nightmare he's just escaped from remaining to terrify him. He takes a few deep breaths and struggles to work out where he is, and what the Hell that weight is on his shoulder.
You're in your bedroom.
He tells himself, steadying his breaths even though his hands still shake and his eyes are still watery.
That's Dan. Lying on you.
As the early hours of the morning creep around the corner, though the sun still refuses to show it's face, there is a disturbance in the air that agitates Dan out of his sleep.
His bleary eyes struggle to make out Kyle's finger in the dull moonlight that filters through the thin curtains, sat on the edge of the bed.
The last he had known, he had been lying next to the boy, his head resting on his shoulder as he drifted off to sleep. Vividly, he can recall the warmth of Kyle's hand in his own, though he's not certain that actually happened.
"Kyle?" His voice is raspy and quiet when he hears something come from the boy. It sounds half like a shallow, heavy breath, and half like a choked sob- Dan can't quite make it out.
A shift in the bed makes Dan sit up as another shaky breath follows. He leans forward, holding his arm out and reaching to support Kyle, to provide him with some sort of comfort. It might not help him, though sometimes it's just nice to know that somebody is there.
His hand lands on Kyle's shoulder, and Dan is surprised to feel that his t-shirt is damp, so much so that it sticks to his shoulder.
"Kyle, what's up?" He asks, shuffling forward a little bit, kneeling just behind the boy. When Kyle doesn't give an answer, the worry that was once a kindling fire within Dan's chest begins to burn stronger. "Here, Kyle, come on, lie down with me. Just talk to me, okay?"
Kyle follows his orders wordlessly, a headache pounding his head and making it feel stuffy, just like his nose. Tears fall down his face, and whilst he knows Dan probably knows he is crying, it brings him some relief that he can't see his ugly, tear-stained face.
The voice in his head, Him, as Kyle has come to refer to him, is hissing horrible things in his ear that drown out the world around him.
The younger teenager begins to stutter, his words catching in his throat before he can even spit them out.
"Please, please can you just hold me?" He spits out after a few attempts. He feels stupid for asking it, but he feels so impossibly unimportant right now, he just needs somebody there.
Dan doesn't question it or even let the boy continue talking as he wraps him up into his arms, pulling him close. He can feel Kyle shaking so much in his arms, he begins to rub his arm in case he's cold.
"Hey, we're okay, look. Everything's alright, I've got you," Dan says calmly, moving his hand from Kyle's arm to his back, rubbing it to help him breathe more. Not only had he not expected to even spend the night here, he certainly didn't expect to be comforting the sobbing boy.
A short period of time passes, where they are sat in complete silence. Neither of them really know what to say nor do, but Dan knows that Kyle is in the best place he could be, right in his arms. Kyle doesn't argue- it stops him from doing anything stupid, anyway.
Excuses fill Kyle's mind as he tries to think of the best one he can, so he won't have to tell Dan the truth. He knows he deserves to know what is wrong with him, but the voice in his head warns him not to, threatening the boy, so he keeps his mouth shut.
He likes Dan. He doesn't want to lose him.
Trying to leave the worrying for tomorrow, which he knows there will be a lot of, Kyle tries to get to sleep. The nagging thoughts tell him to get up, do the lights, Kyle, the lights. He'll do it when Dan has fallen asleep, though- yeah, that'll work.
He reasons with the voice, and, perhaps for the first time, it agrees.
When the sun doesn't feel so shy, Dan wakes up to the sound of his phone's alarm, which he mutes before it can wake Kyle up, who has his head resting against Dan's chest.
When he looks down at the boy, whose hair is askew, he cannot help but worry about him. He looks so calm, peaceful, even almost beautiful as he lies there, it would be impossible to guess the events of the previous night.
Honestly, all Dan would really like is some sort of confirmation that Kyle is okay, that whatever it is that had upset him so much can be worked out and a solution can be found for it. He's never seen anybody in a state like that before- sobbing, shaking, unable to speak- and he doesn't want to see anyone like it again. He really likes Kyle- he really, really does, and he only hopes for the best for him.
It feels stupid- they've only known each other for a short amount of time, yet Dan thinks so highly of him that you'd have thought they have known each other for years. His friends from college aren't really friends as much as they are classmates- so having somebody who takes time out of their day, someone who wants to come and talk to you, makes all the difference.
Instead of waking Kyle up like he originally thought might be the best idea, he decides to leave a note on the bedside table on a pink post-it note he found on Kyle's desk, using the pen he found on the floor. His shop stocks these sorts of pens, which makes him smile- he's forever reminded of the shop, even when he's not there.
He tries one of the draws to find a home for the pen, but the biggest one is locked. Instead, he quickly drops it into the first draw.
Kyle, I have to go to work. You know where I am if you want to talk.
Call me later,
He leaves his number on the note, but he debates on scrapping the note because of the kiss.
A kiss, Dan? Really? He finds himself asking, frowning at the cross. The idea of putting it there had worried him for a brief moment- what if Kyle thinks he is flirting with him? It's not something Dan would be completely opposed to, though. He'd be open to the idea of it, but he knew it would come across as impersonal if he didn't put one.
A single kiss is friendly enough.
His friend wakes up at noon and immediately notes the lack of warmth and comfort surrounding him, and he realises with a heavy heart that he is no longer in Dan's arms, and that he's nowhere to be seen. He misses him already- in their warmth he forgets how cruel and cold his mind can become. Hell, in his flurry of tears, sobs, and shaking last night, he somehow managed to fall asleep before Dan, which meant he forgot about the lights. The pride, as it always does, comes before the fall as he realises he will absolutely be paying for it later. That scares Kyle- it's never a good thing.
The note left for him on his bedside table, scrawled out in Dan's character-filled handwriting, makes him smile. The kiss on the end makes him feel stupidly giddy and slightly flustered. There's something about Dan that makes him feel soft and warm- perhaps it's how much he helped him last night, or just the fact that they click so well, but he really does like the boy. The thought of Dan kissing hi- he means, leaving kisses- leaves him feeling something he was certain he never would feel.
He is still wearing his clothes from yesterday as his mum enters the room, and he still holds the note in his hands, half asleep.
"Kyle," she says softly- she was on her way to wake him up anyway. Her son has a bedhead, and his eyes are fogged with sleep. "Do you want to go out today? With your dad, too. We need to do some stuff and talk about stuff, okay?"
Even in his sleepy daze, Kyle knows something isn't quite right as soon as she stops talking. There's a caution in her voice and on her face- fear? Confusion? Things Kyle can't quite pinpoint.
I cannot say no. He tells the voice in his head, almost pleading with it to release him just for today. He feels like a prisoner, held captive by somebody he doesn't really know- but he will never be rescued. The only way he can get away from the voice is by ceasing to exist, and some days, it's rather tempting to just do that.
Then go. They'll finally tell you what a piece of shit you are. It's all your fault, Kyle.
He squeezes his eyes shut, and plays it off as some sort of method to wake himself up, but he's really just trying to blank the voice out. It's not my fault, it's not my fault. They love me.
He can hear laughing, and when he opens his eyes, his mum is stood there still smiling, clearly not the one who was laughing. He swears internally at the voice, but smiles through it anyway.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll come."
I love you guys!
Merely a short hour later, when the world is moving at full-pace, Kyle sits with his parents in the local Weatherspoon's restaurant, feeling rough around the edges and in dire need of a hot drink. He's still tired and wants to go back to bed, though his knew his parents would be less than happy if he palmed them of with some excuse like he did last time.
His parents sit opposite him, making him feel small. It's not their fault, but his confidence is draining away with every passing second. He distracts himself by looking at the rough edges around his finger nails, like he does every time he finds himself in a cloud of self-hatred in public. He feels self-conscious of how they look, so he shoves them under the table and looks up at his mum and dad, deciding to strike a conversation.
"It's quiet here," his voice is nigh on silent when he speaks to his parents, glancing around the building, that he has to repeat himself.
They agree, though instead of actually talking to him, they simply murmur and nod, which makes Kyle worry even more.
His dad goes and orders for them- Kyle getting simply a cup of tea and a sandwich- and he is left alone with his mum, who is neatening the menus on the table.
"Who's your friend, then? I don't remember you mentioning anyone to us," she says, showing a genuine interest. She knows how Kyle feels about things, how he feels like nobody really cares about him, but she does. He is her only son, her only child, she would go to the ends of the Earth if it meant Kyle would be happy, Kyle would be okay.
An image of Dan flashing through Kyle's mind, and a warmth spreads over his shoulder as he recalls the way Dan's head had rested there. He cannot help but smile at the thought of him.
Maybe he's taking this too quick, too seriously. He hardly knows Dan, but he would love to know him more. To be closer.
"His name is Dan," he tells his mother, trying not to let his excitement show in his voice. "We've not known each other for long- we just fell asleep, so he wasn't supposed to sleep over, but..."
"Well, did you have fun?"
Kyle nods. "Yeah. It was nice- he's really nice,"
His mum just smiles.
"So... What's all this about, then?" He asks with a calm voice when his dad comes back, and he finally gets his cup of tea. Even though he has a calm voice, his mind is the complete opposite. It's racing with worry- he knows this is about him because of how silent they have been through the entire journey- especially his dad.
He feels sick. Nervous. Unsettled. His mind is running at a mile a minute trying to convince Kyle that they're going to drop some bomb shell that we never loved you, or we've decided to abandon you, as if that's something that would ever happen.
His parents pass an uneasy look between themselves as they remain silent, then they look up at their son. They look concerned- scared, almost.
Is he going to be told he's dying or something?
Gently, his mum takes his hand in her own. The simple action, so calm, so innocent between a mother and son makes his anxiety rise through the roof.
"We're worried, Kyle," she says with a voice as soothing as can be. Her thumb gently brushes over Kyle's bruised knuckles. "About you, about your behaviour... Turning the lights on and off, getting moody when we ask why- we're not angry, we just want to know what's going on in your mind?"
And thus, the boys stomach plummets through the floor. He wishes his parents wouldn't ask about it- but secretly, he wanted them to ask. He knows the only way this will get better is if he talks to them, but how can he with the voice yelling down his ear constantly? He doesn't like the things the voice tells him it will happen.
"Please, Kyle. We really want to help you if we can, whatever it is that is going on, okay?" His dad, for the first time, speaks up, noticing how uncomfortable his son is getting. He really does think the world of him, but he wishes he would let his parents in to help. You are not alone in this, he wants to tell him, if you tell us what is going on, we can help you. "Please. Just tell us."
As much as he wants to pour his heart out, to express his fears and his worries, the boy can only shake his head. His voice disappears somewhere, as though he will never speak again.
"Why? Why can't you tell us?"
His mum has some sort of desperation behind her voice.
"I just... I just can't..." He whispers quietly, biting his quivering lip. Fat, heavy tears pool in his eyes as he diverts his gaze, fearing they will spill over. He doesn't want to cry, not here in a restaurant and definitely not in front of his parents. "It's just, it's not like that,"
"Why isn't it?" She presses, concern etching on her features now more than ever.
Kyle has always been a shy kid, one that doesn't really do anything without permission. She's never had any reason to be concerned as much as this.
"You can't explain what's going on in your head." He says quickly, bringing his hand up to try and hide his face a little bit. "It's hard. And there's somethings he lets me says, and some things he doesn't. This is one of them things I'm not allowed to explain."
He can't bare to look his parents in their eyes.
His statement gives them more than they've bargained for, Kyle realises, as a strange look takes over their faces.
"Who?" His dad questions, eyebrows furrowed. "Who are you talking about, Ky?"
"The voice in my head." He spits it out before his mind can stop him, squeezing his eyes shut to try and block out the heavy migraine that is setting in. He knew this would happen if he opened his mouth.
It's like his mind is waging war on itself.
Both of his parents sit in a stunned silence as tears begin to stream down the boy's face. He clenches his jaw to try and stop himself, but it doesn't work that well.
They are interrupted as the server brings his food. He hides his face, trying to act like he's not there in the first place. His head is pounding and he feels sick- he's not as hungry anymore. He leaves it on the plate, not daring to even open his eyes.
"Kyle," his dad says quietly, breaking the silence. As his mum did, he reaches over and takes Kyle's free hand- he doesn't do this often. "You can't help what happens in your brain. Whatever you need help with, we will help you. We'll take you to the doctor and try and sort it. We'll support you all the way, okay?"
Kyle nods weakly, his breaths short and choked.
"We love you always, no matter what."
"Hey," Dan smiles into the phone when he realises who it is calling him. The shop has been the slightest bit busier today, so he hasn't had much chance to think between serving people, stocking shelves, and trying to order new products for the shop. "How are you?"
Kyle pauses. He still feels rough, and his eyes feel bleary and his head is heavy. Should he tell Dan? "I've had better days, honestly, Dan. But, anyway, I was wondering, how's your day going?"
Dan grins, leaning against the counter and glancing to the CCTV cameras outside to make sure no one will walk in whilst he's on the phone. "It's going alright! It's been a bit busier, but it's the same shit, different day," he laughs, Kyle joining in lightly.
"Well, are you hungry?"
"Yeah, actually. Haven't had chance to eat yet today. Why?"
He can basically hear the grin in Kyle's voice as there's a moment of silence.
"Well, I'll be there in ten, Daniel. See you soon."
Hey dudes! So I just wanted to say thank you for reading, voting, and commenting on this story! I really appreciate it beyond what words can describe.
Anyway, if you fancy giving my Instagram a follow @theannoyingghost, please do! <3
Dan had really enjoyed both the pizza and the company he had. It was risky, eating it in the shop- if somebody had walked in whilst they were eating, there would be a high chance that they would either have to share the pizza, or he would end up getting reported to his boss, which means Dan would be likely to be fired.
It probably would bother his mum more than it would Dan, but she would probably kill him if he did get fired.
Having Kyle there with him was nice- the way he sat and listened to the stories Dan told, quietly laughing along to them. As nice as it was, he wished Kyle would speak more.
At ten o'clock, they lock up the shop for the night, Dan counting all the money in the till, turning off all of the lights and the electric, and then putting the shutter down over the front windows and door. Even though it's cold, neither of them want to go home.
So, they find themselves sat in a lonely, distant children's park, sat on a large, metal slide that is colder than ice.
"It's hardly like we have anywhere else to go," Dan says quietly as he lies down. The slide is large enough to let them both lie next to each other, arms pressed against each other in an attempt to keep warm against the bitter wind.
"I'm not complaining," the other boy replies in a mere mumble, his thoughts pre-occupied with the events of today. The voice has been causing chaos all day within his mind, hurting him, driving him mental. He feels like he is in a constant battle with himself usually, but now he is debating whether or not he should tell Dan about everything that is happening.
After all, they are friends, and Kyle doesn't want to suddenly reveal hey look how fucked up I am! to the boy. It would be better to tell him this is what I'm dealing with, I'm going to get help.
Nervously, Kyle rests his hands on his stomach, the cold metal of the slide uncomfortable under his head. He feels Dan's arms move until they are under his head, so he can gaze up at the stars above them, drowned out by the light of the city built up around them.
"I want to talk to you," the boy says quietly, his heart hammering in his chest. He can feel a sickness dwelling in his stomach, but he can't tell if that's his nerves or the voice in his head acting up. "I, I need to tell you something,"
Lying next to him, Dan turns his head so he is looking at Kyle's figure, hardly visible in the darkness. He just wants Kyle to know he is listening.
"I'm sorry for waking you up last night," he spits out quickly, trying to ease into it, "I didn't mean to, and I'm sorry,"
"It's alright, don't worry about it," Dan moves so he is lying on his side. Kyle follows, and they end up face-to-face, both of them having to hold the rubber of their shoes against the slide so they do not slide down it.
Dan grabs Kyle's hand.
"No- it's not alright, 'cos there's... There's something wrong with me," squeezing his eyes shut so he can act like he's not actually there, Kyle lets the words fall from his mouth before he can stop them. Saying the actual thing, though- that's the part he struggles with. "I... I can't say the words,"
The other boy frowns, though he holds Kyle's hand slightly tighter. "You don't have to tell me, Kyle. You can tell me when you are ready."
"No- I need to... I need to tell you, it'll kill me," tears are forming in his eyes and beginning to trail down his face. "I have a voice in my head,"
The words come out of his mouth before the voice can do anything to stop him. He tells Dan about the voice, what it says, what it threatens to do to him, to people he loves, to his family if he doesn't do it. He tells them it keeps him awake and ruins the little sleep he does get. The pain it brings, the paranoia, the depression- Dan listens to it all, about how Kyle has to do what the voice says or else.
Recently, the voice has been pushing Dan's name into those thoughts more often than not.
There's something about Dan that is immediately comforting for Kyle. Maybe it's just the way he is, gentle and caring, or maybe it's just how he's willing to listen, but it makes him feel closer to him than he has ever felt to anyone before.
"Hey, come here," Dan whispers, pulling Kyle into his arms. Kyle, with tears streaming down his face, presses his face against Dan's chest, his breath getting caught in his throat as he breathes. He wants to stay like this, he realises, feeling stupid about it."That is so fucking unfair man. I'm sorry. But I will help you all the way through this."
He rubs Kyle's back, holding him there. The boy is shaking in his arms, trembling like a wet puppy.
"Do your parents know?"
Kyle nods against him.
"Well, at least that's step number one."
The boy tries to calm his shaking hands and shoulders. The voice is blinding him with anger and rage, and the disgusting taste of blood fills his mouth but he's almost certain it's just the voice making it taste that way.
"Thank you," he whispers to Dan, finally finding his voice. He's been searching for it since he stopped talking.
"I'm here for you, man. Always." The teenager gently kisses to the top of Kyle's head, and the recipient doesn't quite know what to make of that. "I don't wanna lose you as a friend,"
Sometimes, when he and Dan are sat together, he likes to imagine what it would be like if they were something more. Kyle knows it's just his mind running away with itself, but it's nice to think about.
Dan carries on rubbing his back and holding him until it's almost a quarter past eleven, when they decide that they are too numb, too cold, and too tired to stay out any longer. Honestly, Dan didn't want to leave Kyle, so he walked him back to his house, holding his hand the entire way, and left him at the doorstep with nothing more than a tight hug and a I'll see you soon, I promise.
You're pathetic, Kyle. He doesn't love you. He's not a fag like you.
I just thought... I just thought that maybe, maybe-
Kyle feels more than defeated as he lets himself into the house, finding the house dark and asleep. He knows his mum will be awake in bed, listening out for him coming in, but the rest of the house remains in darkness. He flicks on the hallway light and puts his shoes away as he argues with the voice.
You're stupid to think somebody could even love you. You're controlled by me and I'm just a voice inside your head. Look at yourself, you're a freak.
"I know," Kyle whispers, hanging his coat up. "I know."
His hand burns where Dan had held it, keeping the memory alive. Maybe it's the voices retaliation for him actually liking something for once, or maybe it's just his mind tell him it's alright to like it.
The stairs squeak under his weight as he trails up them to his bedroom, feeling more and more exhausted with every step. Perhaps it's the number of emotions he has been through today, hating himself, crying more times than he cares to think about, feeling sick.
It took Dan twice as long as it would usually to get home, but he wanted to make sure Kyle would be alright. Leaving him on the doorstep was difficult- he wanted to keep Kyle with him all night, have him there and at least make sure he would have someone there if he needed them, given everything he had told him.
The conversation plays on his mind as he changes into his pyjamas- one of his brother's old t-shirts and a pair of boxers, and sits down at his computer. Honestly, he doesn't have any idea how to help Kyle. If the boy ever needs him, he has no idea how he would help him. How he should help him.
He spends hours scouring through the internet, reading forums, Tumblr Posts, Asks, and Reddit questions about what it is Kyle could have, and how to help him.
It's eventually three in the morning when he closes the computer down, feeling slightly better because of everything he has read. Some people have told how their family member got better, or how their friend is fine now.
Dan knows Kyle will be fine, eventually.
He goes to bed feeling warm.
Silence almost suffocates the family car when they leave the doctor's office after Kyle's appointment the following morning. It hadn't been particularly pleasant, having a doctor sat there and telling his parents that he's pretty fucked up. Obviously, it wasn't in those words, but he had confirmed Kyle's fears. Ocd, intrusive thoughts, what the teenager had suspected, anyway.
They have trialled him on some tablets Kyle didn't understand the name of- he has to take two in the morning and one at night. They have no idea if they will work at all, but it's a new discovery that we need to trial on patients with symptoms like yours.
Apparently, therapy might be better in the long run, but they just want to use him as a guinea pig first, as if his suffering wasn't already bad enough.
The low rumbling of the car is the only noise Kyle can hear as it moves down the roads, his parents sat in silence as they drive. They've barely said a word to Kyle, and he can't help but feel that they feel ashamed of him. He wouldn't blame them, if they are- who would want a kid like him? A kid who can't even think what he wants, nevermind actually do it.
Fuck. He despises himself.
Good luck trying to get rid of me. You know you'll never escape. You're stuck with me forever.
The boy squeezes his eyes shut in shame, listening to every word being hissed down his ear. He just wants to be free of this, to escape it. Slowly, his head begins to pound, but he doesn't bring it up to his parents as his mum drives and his dad looks out the window. They've done enough for him today, he'll feel bad if he bothers them any more.
He thinks back to the voice- God, when he thinks of it like that, he really does sound fucking crazy. He has to bite his quivering lip and pray his parents don't look at him.
He hates himself.
Later that night, as Dan and Kyle lie on Dan's bed, pressed together like they were last night, when they lay on the slide together, pressed against one another as if they would freeze otherwise. Perhaps it's just Kyle's mind, but it makes it feel like they might actually be something someday.
"What did the doctor say?" The older boy speaks softly and holds his friend's hand as they lie together, both facing one another.
Repeating the doctors' words, Kyle refuses to make eye contact with Dan as the words escape him. He feels awkward explaining it, laying out his weaknesses for all the world to see. It makes him feel pathetic and stupid. Weak.
But what's wrong with that? It's hardly like he can control it. He has to keep reminding himself that sometimes, things happen in the world, in your body, and in your mind and you can't always explain it. It sucks, but it's nobodies decision.
"They're meant to kick in after a week," he concludes, still looking down and refusing to make eye contact still. He can feel Dan's fingers on the hand not holding his own trace up and down his arms, leaving a trail of goosebumps behind. Dan loves Kyle lying with him.
"At least you're helping yourself, though. That's one of the biggest steps to make," he says, their faces merely inches apart. Every time he looks at Kyle, his breath gets caught in his throat a little bit, his heart thump.
The other boy, however, just remains quiet, nodding into Dan's chest and holding his hand tight. Dan's wearing some aftershave which smells divine and lingers in his hair, and Kyle takes in deep lung-fulls of it, filling his nose with it.
"Hey, Kyle, Look at me," Dan whispers, gently guiding Kyle's face up until they're looking at each other, feeling intense under each other's stare, "I know you're in a bit of a shitty place and you probably aren't feeling your self-worth, but I think you're really great, okay? And I really, really like you. I feel like we've friends for years."
There is a very brief moment of silence as the words settle in the air around them, before Kyle rises and presses his lips against Dan's. The voice is laughing down his ears, but he ignores it. He wants to be with only Dan right now. Everything feels electric between them as they kiss, and Kyle moves quickly to sit on top of him.
Dan lets his hands ride up Kyle's baggy shirt slightly, his hands resting on Kyle's bare waist whilst his thumbs rest beneath the waistband of his tracksuit bottoms. He feels Kyle try more, his hands going to his face, and then to his hair.
His actions spur Dan to take control, and they switch positions so Dan is almost lying on top of Kyle, his knees either side of him and his mouth on his neck.
It feels weird, how quickly everything between them has changed. In the span of two seconds, they have no made their feelings more than clear.
"Dan-" Kyle moans suddenly, a whine in his voice, "I don't wanna-"
"It's okay," the boy's breath is husky and full of love, but he knows and respects what Kyle means, "I won't go any further."
You're fucking gullible, Kyle.
It's been three weeks and a day since Kyle's first doctor's appointment, and exactly three weeks since he started taking the tablets. He would like to say they instantly cured him and made his life a billion times better- but no. For the first week, they made everything a billion times worse. Some days, he would be almost paralysed in bed from the voice sending him migraine after migraine. Some days, he would sleep on the bathroom floor, right next to the toilet for when the next migraine came and made him violently throw up everywhere.
Some days, his parents wanted to take him to the hospital because what the Hell is going on?
But, when he'd been on them for a week and three days, he could finally live his normal life. The voice wasn't as strong in his head as it would usually be- he would still have to flick the lights every night before he went to bed, and he still found himself doubting himself, but he was coping better than he ever had been.
Despite the fact it has been beyond overwhelming that he no longer has to put up with the demonic voice manipulating him in his head, he now lives under the constant crippling fear and anxiety that the voice is looming over him, waiting for a moment where he will forget so he can take him back, destroying him from the inside out. He knows it's just around the corner, but that corner might be a metre away or a mile away, and that changes everything.
"Good morning," Dan smiles through the phone as he speaks to Kyle. He's lying in bed, surrounded by the comfortable warmth that his quilt brings. Luckily, today is one of those days he doesn't have to be at work, so he lounges around lazily in bed, "How are you feeling today?"
Kyle can't help but smile back, the knowledge that he, for once, managed to sleep through the entire night without waking up from a panic attack, and he didn't even have to do the lights, filling him with joy. He woke up to peaceful, happy thoughts on his own accord this morning, which is a rarity in its own right.
He could get used to this.
"Good, Danny. I'm really, really good." There is a slight whimsical tone to the way he speaks as he answers, smothered by happiness. Happiness, something he believed he would never feel again. "How are you?"
He can hear the beaming smile in Dan's voice. "I'm good, Kyle. If you're good, you know I'm good." As always, Dan greets the morning with confidence.
These last few weeks, the boys have made their feelings abundantly clear. They have kissed, touched, and generally loved each other, although nothing has really been said about the exact status of their relationship. They have spoken about everything and found out each other's stupidest secrets, funniest memories, and favourite everythings over the last few weeks. For what it's worth, they might as well have known each other for years.
They talk a little while longer, fill each other's minds with nonsense. Dan talks about the dream he had in which he was on the run from the police, and Kyle talks about how he sneezed whilst brushing his teeth last night and created chaos.
Finally, when they both fall quiet for a few minutes, Kyle asks, "Dan, what... What are we?"
There is uncertainty in his voice, as if Dan would ever turn and say we're just friends.
Instead, Dan just laughs slightly. "Oh, Kyle," he says, "I think you already know what we are,"
A load of gibberish falls out of Kyle's mouth and the older boy laughs some more.
"You just don't want to admit it to yourself huh?" He teases, "You know."
This time, somehow finding the confidence within himself, it's Kyle's turn to laugh. A grin warms to his face, warmth bubbling from the very pit of his stomach and smoking through his body.
"Oh," he says, "Do I, now?"
"Yeah, haven't I kissed you enough time to work it out?"
Kyle's face burns bright red.
"I've called you Babe, Love, God knows what else. Ky, let's put it this way: If you haven't worked it out by now, I fear you never will."
There's something about the way Dan talks, the cockiness in his voice, or perhaps the confidence, but Kyle thrives off of it.
"So funny." Even though he rolls his eyes, Kyle's voice is full of amusement. The heat in his cheeks refuses to cool, and he is left, smiling like an idiot on his bed. "But, you know, some people prefer to be told, not shown."
"I do believe me calling you babe is me telling you..."
"Yeah, but sometimes, it just doesn't, you know, click? Perhaps asking someone, then they would understand."
Dan grins at his
boyfriend, crush, lover, more-than-friend and his witty response. "Oh, right. I, uh... I guess you're one of those people, then?"
"I am indeed."
There's something hanging in the air between them, even if they are over the phone. It's halfway between anticipation and excitement of sorts, but neither of them can properly identify it.
"Right... Right, o-okay. So, so, er, uh..." And suddenly, he's not the calm, confident boy he was before. He sits up, so he's on the edge of his bed, and runs his hand through his hair. Perhaps, he realises as he's sat in his Weird Science t-shirt and his slightly too-big boxers, he's not dressed for the occasion.
He has no problem flirting with Kyle, kissing him, calling him sickly-sweet names, but to actually have to ask Kyle to be his boyfriend? No. No, that's mental.
"I'm growing old here, Daniel," Kyle can feel his heart race as he teases Dan through the phone. It's been weeks since they first made out on Dan's bed, but that wasn't the last time. He briefly relives the moment.
"Sorry, Dan? Did you say something?" Kyle stifles a laugh as he continues teasing Dan, "I didn't quite catch that..."
"I fucking hate you," Dan growls, but Kyle can only laugh. He takes a deep breath to properly prepare himself.
"Will you be my, my boy-boy-boyfriend?"
A grin bursts onto Kyle's face, "Of course I'll be your boy-boy-boyfriend, Danny. Thanks for asking."
"Actually go suck a dick."
"Come over, then."
Kyle feels stupidly giddy as they both hang up, and he carries himself to the bathroom, feeling light on his feet. It's time to take his tablets, now, part of his daily ritual, something that doesn't feel as foreign as it once did.
He retrieves the plastic beaker from the side and quickly swirls it out with water, before promptly filling it and opening the mirrored cabinet to get the tablets. It feels like everything is finally beginning to look up for him, like the world isn't going against him, and his mind isn't waging war on itself.
Using his fingers to slide the cabinet shut, Kyle glances into the mirror to see what he looks like- he's looked increasingly better, increasingly healthier these last few weeks. But, as he looks up, he realises he's not alone in the bathroom.
It'll only get worse if you take them.
If the voice had scared him in the past, it was nothing compared to what this is. He feels like his nightmares have come true, the blood running from his face and the beaker falling from his grasp and to the floor as he turns around, water splattering all over his feet and legs, though it doesn't phase him.
The figure in front of him is easily nine feet tall, taller than anyone Kyle has ever seen, and the very appearance of it makes his skin crawl. He has no nose nor mouth, just a pair of blank, red eyes staring back at him, a cloud of purple dust floating around him as if he were a spirit from a nightmare. His fingernails are long and sharp, like rusty nails, and his skin is a dark purple. He feels like he's stepped straight into a horror film.
Sit down, Simmons.
Kyle does as he is told, slowly sinking until he is seated with his knees up to his chest, fat, ugly tears welling in his eyes.
"Don't hurt me," he pleads, his hands covering his eyes, shaking.
I was never going to.
It's the same voice, though now with a face to it. It's how Kyle imagined it to be, especially when he first started getting it, some two years ago.
He never expected it to come to life.
I told you you wouldn't get rid of me. You'll be wishing you were dead.
The figure that had suffocated the room and scared Kyle beyond his minds comprehension of fear has now withdrawn back into the shadows, back to where Kyle cannot see or hear him. Back to where he belongs.
The long-suffering teenager can't understand why the voice has suddenly come back, and even though he was expecting it, he doesn't know how to cope with it. He knows he cannot take advantage of the moments where it does not show his face, nor make his voice be heard. The voice is always there, supervising him.
Even though his heart is hammering and his thoughts are running at a mile a minute, he wants to talk to Dan. He can't tell him that everything is so suddenly much worse, but he needs to talk to him.
Kyle sits on his bed with crossed legs, his laptop sat on a pillow in front of him. There's an overwhelming fear that hangs in the air around him as he watches the screen waiting for Dan to answer. He hadn't even messaged him beforehand and he has no idea if he's even home, but he prays for him to answer.
How can he ever get through this?
Suddenly, a picture of Dan's bedroom appears on the screen, though Dan is nowhere to be seen.
"Hang on!" He hears the boy call, his voice echoing through the tinny speakers of his laptop. A few seconds pass and Dan appears on the screen, pulling a jumper over his head. "Sorry, I just got out the shower."
Kyle smiles, "I should've texted you before," he says, leaning back slightly. "I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it. I do have sopping wet hair, though," on camera, Dan runs his hand through his hair, which stays in the direction he has pulled it in. "Anyway, what's up?"
"Just bored," he shrugs casually, as if that's all it is. "Thought I'd call you,"
Dan is smiling dopily at the centre of his screen, his eyes full of love. "Well, I'm glad you did. How are you?"
"I'm alright," he doesn't want Dan to worry about him, so he supposes it would be better for them to die. Then again, it's not like it's his first experience with the voice. It's like going back to when he was there every day, controlling him. It's going back to times Kyle never wants to relive, ever here he is.
Dan's smile turns into a bit of a frown as he looks at the rather distant look on Kyle's face. "You're just alright?" He questions quietly, not really wanting to put any thoughts in Kyle's head. "Are you sure?"
Kyle hesitates with his answer, and Dan spots it from a mile away- the way he nervously twitches his mouth and looks away, hiding his eyes from Dan. That's never a good sign. The teenager runs his hand over his growing beard- he doesn't even like the blood thing growing there, he just can't really be bothered to shave it. Besides, when it grows out properly and it's less patchy, it might look alright.
"Yeah." He can't bear to look at Dan from the fear of feeling guilty. "I'm good, I promise. How are you?"
Dan doesn't believe him much, but he's prepared for Kyle to have his off days. "I'm good, Kyle. I'm going out with my dad later, do you wanna come?"
Kyle contemplates his options, but he eventually decides against it. He's never met Dan's dad before, what if he doesn't like him? Or what if the voice comes back whilst their out? That would be his worse nightmare.
"Thanks, but I think I'll stay here," he tells Dan, trying to act like he isn't fucking terrified right now.
"Eh, I wouldn't neither, but he wants me to go and look at some car with him, or something, as if I know anything about cars."
Dan watches Kyle start to laugh at him, but, as quick as he had begun to laugh, his face drops and his head snaps across the room, his features conveying something that's almost fear but almost sickness.
"Nice." Dan smiles. He loves Kyle so much- he never even suspected he'd like boys. Then again, Kyle swept him off of his feet. He doesn't care what other people have to say.
Suddenly, Kyle's head shoots up and across the room, his face filling with something that half represents fear and half sickness.
"I'm gonna go, Dan. I'll call you later, right? Bye, I love you, bye," he says, quickly slamming the lid of his laptop shut, leaving Dan staring at the call disconnected message that has flashed on his screen.
What the fuck?
He tries to call Kyle back as worry sets in the pit of his stomach. Why would he have left in such a hurry? Over the last few weeks, he's never done that when they've been on Skype.
Something is wrong, something is wrong.
The call rings off with no answer, and he immediately clicks the button to try again. Halfway through the new call, Dan's phone buzzes from next to him.
I'm sorry, my mum really needed me xx
The message doesn't convince Dan in slightest.
Kyle wasn't left alone until nearly four of the following morning. The voice tormented him, made him cry, beg, and plead to be finally left alone. He almost threw up as he barricaded himself into his room so his parents wouldn't walk in.
The voice likes to laugh at the psychological damage he has caused Kyle.
It pledged to return as it disappeared, leaving Kyle to finally get some sleep.
This time, like all others, the voice stuck to its word.
He's helping his mum with dinner the following day, though she left Kyle to help her husband with something to do with the car. She trusts that the tablets have worked, judging by how upbeat her son has been recent, though Kyle hasn't told either of them that the tablets have made everything worse.
The dark figure is stood in the corner of the room, staring at Kyle with no expression on his face. Kyle turns around and glances at it, as if it is a family pet that he is used to.
"Will you just leave me alone, please?" He mumbles, looking down at the carrots he is cutting. He knows if he gives the figure any more attention, he will get himself worked up. They ver look of it scares him. "Please."
That's funny. Idiotic, too.
Kyle doesn't respond to the comment. Like Dan had when Kyle had first told him, Kyle has spent a lot of time looking it up on the internet. A lot of the comments and threads he has read have been supportive, but a few have told people they make it up for the attention. As if he sits there and thinks these horrible lies to himself.
Are they lies, though?
You should kill yourself.
The comment catches Kyle's attention and he looks down at the knife, which is one of the sharpest they have.
"No..." He mumbles back.
Fucking do it.
His ears are burning. He can hear his parents talking to the doctor about him, and he wishes he had the words to apologise to them with, both to his parents and the doctors who had worked so hard to save him. He's so ashamed of what he has done- to himself, to his parents, to Dan.
He is lying in the hospital bed in a ward of other teenagers, all of them here for various reasons. He knows his parents aren't very happy with him, though they have their Kyle with them still, so he knows they'll not tell him as such. His mum had only come back in because she had taken out the wrong screwdriver, so discovered the boy, collapsed on the floor, and there was enough time to get him help. Apparently, he had done quite the work on himself, the doctor had said to his parents as the boy lay there, recovering. He was awake, though he wasn't really in a state to be talking to anyone.
It stopped the voice. That's all that matters to Kyle.
"Has Kyle's medical history changed over the past five years? Anything that may have caused this?" The doctor questions, a note-board in hand. His parents don't know of anything he has done to himself, the result of the voice spitting down his ear late at night when he saw no other option, so, in their minds, it's strange that he would've done this.
He wishes Dan was here with him now.
They explain the situation to the doctor, how he had been diagnosed and the tablets he was put onto, and how they thought they were helping him. Kyle can hear everything that they're saying but he doesn't have the energy to even move himself.
The doctor leaves a few moments later and his parents are left with their son, alone. Kyle's mum runs her hand through her son's hair- his skin is so sickly grey that she can't help but worry that he might get worse. The doctors have said he won't, but it scares her.
"You know that boy that Kyle's been bringing over? His name is Dan," Mrs Simmons questions her husband, trying to distract herself from the situation at hand. Mr Simmons nods as he looks out the window, too nervous to look at the boy in the bed in fear he might get upset.
"Yeah," he says quietly, his voice highlighting his hidden distress. "The boy with the hair."
There is a pause and Kyle listens as carefully as he can- which isn't very careful at all. Everything sounds muffled and drowned out, so it's difficult to focus on things.
"I think they're something more than friends," she says as she moves her hand to hold Kyle's, running her thumbs over his red knuckles. "He's spent so much time with him, and they're always on the phone, Skyping with each other. Just... More than I've ever heard him speaking to anyone else, any of the friends he used to have. I just... I want him to tell us before we make these assumptions about him."
Mr Simmons shakes his head. "He doesn't need to tell us. Let him come to us one day with Dan and say they're at a relationship, it doesn't need to be anything more than that." Again, there is another pause. "Should we call him? Daniel, I mean."
"Hey, come on, it's alright. Kyle is alive, okay?" Dan found Mrs Simmons at the reception of the hospital, waiting for him to arrive. As soon as she saw him, she erupted into tears and all Dan could do was stand and let her cry on his shoulder. They've only met each other a handful of times, but it's clear that she really needs somebody right now. Dan knows she doesn't want her son to see her in such a state.
He knew he should've headed straight to Kyle's house. He knew it. The teenager hates what Kyle has done to himself, but he knows it's absolutely not his fault. He knows the voice has come back.
"I just can't believe he'd do this," she whispers to him in a hurt voice, Dan's hand moving in a rhythmic circle on her back. It's not that she's not surprised by them both, but Kyle has never particularly been interested in anyone. Especially not girls. "I thought he was okay Dan, I thought we were going to be okay, and he would be happy. I can't even do that for him. How can I help him?"
"You know this isn't your fault. Those tablets are trial and error, some day, something will have to work for him. Someday it will, and you guys will be happy. Kyle will be happy."
When they make it up to the ward, Kyle is drowsy, but properly awake now.
Mr and Mrs Simmons give the pair a bit of space.
Dan reaches Kyle's bed and immediately locks eyes with him- pained, exhausted eyes staring back at him. His movements show how lethargic he feels as he reaches his arms up, one of the covered by thin bandages, enough to grab Dan's face and pull him down, planting their lips together.
"You scared me," the older boy whispers, holding his faces just centimetres from Kyle's. The entire situation comes crashing down around him and he realises how serious all of this is. Tears well in his eyes- it was easier to act strongly before he actually saw the boy.
"'m sorry," he whispers back, his eyes too sore for tears to be in them. Dan takes a seat by Kyle's bed, grabbing Kyle's hand and holding it tight. "Really sorry."
But Dan can only shake his head as the tears begin to fall down his face like thin raindrops. "I know this isn't your fault," he tells him, speaking quietly. He keeps his hand gripped on Kyle's and keeps squeezing it. "Is the voice back?"
For a moment, in his lethargic, tired state, Kyle looks distressed, and that's all Dan needs for an answer.
"It's really not,"
"I know it's not, but, the table-"
"They made everything worse," Kyle shakes his head and casts his eyes away from Dan. His voice is raspy and it gets caught in his throat easily. "The tablets did this."
Dan feels lost. What can he say to help Kyle with this?
"What happened?" He asks, feeling suddenly rather sick. "I don't understand?"
"I can see him, Dan. He's massive and he's horrible and he's scary. I would rather be dead than put up with him anymore. I can't do this- I can't keep putting up with him here."
One hand is gripped tightly in his hair and the other is gripped in Dan's soft hand as he sits with his knees to his chest, in the middle of a panic attack. He can hardly move his fingers- they feel like they're stuck in the position he has them in now. They shake from how nervous he is- about all of this, about what it will be like when he has to go home, about what his parents will say to him when he gets home. He understands it if they are, but he hopes they won't be too angry with him.
His skin, pale, though better than it was yesterday when they first bought him in, is covered by a thin film of sweat as he sits there, his mind racing at a mile a minute.
"I can't, Dan- I can't, can't tell t-them..." Voice, much alike hands, shakes- he feels like he is throwing up the words sat in the air surrounding them as he takes deep breaths to try and calm himself down, though it's clear this is failing him. Dan is sat on the same chair he was yesterday when he had sat with Kyle, who looked far worse for wear than he does now. He tries not to wince at how tight Kyle is gripping his hand. "They'll, they'll tell me I need therapy, that's what the doc-doctor said, but I don't need it. I don't need it."
Kyle squeezes his eyes shut, perhaps in an attempt to make himself believe his words more than anyone else.
"That'll make everyone think I'm mad. And I'm not mad, am I, Dan?"
There is a clear and strained desperation in the boy's voice as he almost pleads for him to agree. Dan chews his lips as the words play in his mind- how can he tell Kyle that therapy may be the best thing for him without it sounding like he's telling Kyle exactly what he's begging not be told?
"...Dan?" He adds quietly, looking up at Dan with fear and suspicion weaved through his words. He knew it- he knew Dan would think the same. It was ludicrous of him to ever believe that someone like Dan- charming, beautiful, popular- could ever love someone like him. He hates himself for ever believing it.
"No, Kyle, of course you're not crazy," it is now his lover's turn to take a deep breath of his own, and to play his own thoughts over in his head. "You can't help what goes on in your mind. But, these things, you need to tell your parents about them, they deserve to know. The fact he's back, the fact it's all worse and the tablets aren't working anymore- they can't help you if you don't tell them these things."
Tears are pooling in the younger boy's eyes as he attempts to hide them from Dan, casting them anywhere that isn't in Dan's line of sight. But what's the point of hiding it? Dan's seen him at his very lowest, so why is he fretting so much over some tears?
"I wish I could be normal,"
"I know, Love, but you can't choose what happens to you. Unfortunately, some people have to suffer through these things, and you're one of them- but I have every faith in you that you'll see the other end of this." Ironically, considering his usually pessimistic outlook, Dan tries to make Kyle feel as optimistic as possible, though it doesn't feel like he's doing a great job. "And if that means you've got to go to therapy, and talk to somebody about what's going on and get help with it, then that's what you need to do. People won't talk about you, or bully you, or anything like that because you need a little help, Kyle. I promise."
The hospital released Kyle the same night, telling his parents that they should keep checking in on him every so often to be sure, and advised them to book another appointment at the doctors, to try and see where they can go next. Probably because he's scared of what they might say, but Kyle wasn't as keen on that idea as he feels he should've been.
The four of them- Kyle, his parents, and Dan- pull up outside the Simmons' home. The building is a great relief for Kyle- he had only been in the hospital for one night, but that was enough. He missed his home comforts, though, in a way, it was relieving to be in a place where the voice didn't have as much control as it does in his room. Kyle's parents had offered to drop Dan back off at his house, though Kyle had other plans and asked him to stay the night.
His question had really been more of a plea than it had a request- he didn't like the thought of being left alone tonight, and his parents would definitely prefer somebody to be with him so he will not be alone. Like most parents, they cannot stand the thought of losing their son, their only child, their everything, even if he doesn't believe them when they tell him so.
As soon as they are inside the house, Kyle grips Dan's hand tightly and basically pulls him up the stairs and to his bedroom, where Dan gently seats himself on the end of the bed and the other boy at the head of it.
Whilst it's nice to be back here, on his own bed, with his own stuff, but it terrifies him. It isn't a nice place for him to be, especially when the voice can use everything in here to his advantage.
Kyle gingerly looks down at his arm- the protective bandages had been removed just before he was released since they did not see him as a threat of repeating his actions. He wishes they had kept them on, it looks so ugly. He can't help but look in disgust, either at himself or at the scars, he cannot decide, though he lightly traces his fingers over them- the older scars and the newer, burning red cuts and the bigger one that had almost killed Kyle. He knows they're going to be there forever, and he hates the fact that he will forever be reminded of the period of time.
"Please don't look at them like that," Dan says quietly, crawling over to Kyle, where he sits further up the bed. He takes Kyle's hand in his own and uses the other to gently- so, so gently- cover the marks on his arm. "They're nothing to be ashamed of. If you think this will change anything between us, or if you think it will change how I, or your parents, or anyone thinks about you, you are wrong. I love you."
The younger boy nods, though he casts his eyes away. "I've no idea why." He mutters, thinking aloud. The words hit Dan like a punch to the gut.
"We're all flawed, even me, as cool and awesome as I am," Kyle cracks a smile at Dan's words as he jokes with him, trying to lighten things between them. "Nobody is as perfect as they make themselves out to be. You've just got to see through it. We're all human."
They sit in a comfortable silence for a little while, too overwhelmed by something they cannot quite identify to speak to each other. They're so sickly in love with each other, that even as they sit there, silently thinking about everything that has happened, they're still inseparable.
At some point maybe twenty minutes later, Kyle feels suddenly exhausted. It's like the world, that has been spinning like a spinning top has suddenly slammed on it's breaks and has come crashing down around him, and he yawns and rubs his eyes. Dan watches him.
"Do you want to sleep?" He asks, already lying down on the bed and therefore in the prime position to hold Kyle. He doesn't want the boy to feel as though he is babying him, handling him like a fine china cup, but he just wants to be there for him and tell him as much. He wants Kyle to know how much he means to him.
Kyle remains wordless as he nods, lying down next to Dan and smiling as he is wrapped up in his arms.
"Love you," Kyle says quietly, closing his eyes. Dan smiles.
"I love you, too."
There's a pause.
Then, as if they're not in the situation they are in, Dan starts singing.
Not some powerful love ballad like Whitney Houston, no. Why would he choose something like that? Something that couples like, wedding songs, that sort of thing-
No, instead, You're The One That I Want from Grease comes belting out of him.
Kyle cries with laughter.
"Hey, Kiddo. It's just for two nights, okay? Just for the weekend. On Monday, you'll be back home, with us." Kyle's dad tries to encourage his son, quite clearly terrified, who stands at the door to the bedroom that will temporarily be his own.
As if it hadn't been obvious, the doctors' confirmed that the medication wasn't working for Kyle. Since it was only a trial, they didn't seem very surprised at all that it had had the completely opposite effect than what they had hoped for, than what Kyle had needed. So, they had got into contact with a teenage mental health unit. He didn't really like the idea of that- being away from his family, being somewhere completely different to what he is used to. Nonetheless, here he is- he knows he shouldn't be complaining since all of this will help him and such, but he just wants to be normal. Why is that so much to ask?
"Two days," he repeats to himself, squeezing his eyes shut in an attempt to try and calm himself down. Tears are welling in his eyes, which he tries to hide. "I just want to be at home."
Whilst the voice is still very much alive in his ears, it has disappeared back into a world unknown. It hisses down his ear like it always does, though he no longer has to live accompanied by a monster for a shadow.
Gently, Kyle's mum wraps her arms around him and pulls him into a hug. She is far shorter than her son, though she tries to act like she's not. "We'll be back before you know it."
"That's what everyone says."
When he is released from his mother's arms, Dan basically throws his arms around him and pulls him tight embrace, holding him there as if it'll be weeks before they see each other again. For Kyle, it certainly feels that way. Dan rubs Kyle's back calmly, his head resting on his shoulders. Kyle's face is buried into Dan's shoulder.
"You can do this, okay? We believe in you," he whispers down his ear, squeezing him for a moment.
Half an hour after Kyle is left alone, one of the doctors' comes to his door, introducing himself as Doctor Scott.
The room itself is small and plain, void of anything that may suggest it's anything other than what it is. There's a small sink in the corner and a bed by the barred window- which makes Kyle feel even more uneasy. It's not entirely unlike a prison cell. The light switch isn't even in the room.
The doctor is far more down to earth than anyone else that has spoken to Kyle so far. It all feels rather film like, the clothes they wear, the way they act. He doesn't like it. This doctor, though, he looks at Kyle as if he wants to know what's going on, like he wants to help.
He questions Kyle about everything that has happened and in no more than a mumble he explains it all, refusing to make eye contact half the time. He explains how the voice has been with him for years, but it all got too much for him, and then about the medication and the nightmare situation he found himself in then.
"And you did that because of the anxiety?" The doctor questions when Kyle mentions what the voice had made him do. The very thought of opening up to somebody as much as he has, especially when he met them not even ten minutes ago, makes him feel worse. It's putting him on the spot to try and cope with all that's going on his head as well as trying to get him to admit it out loud.
"No," the teenager says, briefly lifting his eyes to meet the doctor's brown ones, "I didn't want to do it. I didn't have a choice- the voice made me do it. I'm not suicidal- I wasn't, not when I did it. I don't want to do it again."
The doctor writes things down on his notepad as he speaks, and Kyle can only wonder how mental this is making him sound. "But have you been before?"
And he has. When he first started getting it and he wasn't used to it and oh my God I have no idea how to cope with this. He explains this to the doctor.
"And do you often feel like your life isn't worth living?"
Kyle has to pause and truly think about this question. A flurry of words stir in his mind and threaten to spill out of his mind, but he doesn't know which ones to use so it makes sense.
"It's not the fact that my life isn't worth living. It's the fact that I don't want to be controlled by this voice all the time. I can't do it anymore- I can't cope. But I don't want to die, necessarily." He discards his gaze to the floor, "I don't want to be here, though. I want to be at home. I want to be free and normal."
The doctor takes a moment to lap up what Kyle has said to him. After a few seconds, he gestures around him.
"Well, we're here to save you from yourself. This building is here so you can discover your full potential without the voice bringing you down. The world's not a bad place, Kyle, you need to step out of your comfort zone-"
"I'm not in my comfort zone!" Kyle argues back, "My comfort zone doesn't exist! I don't have one! As long as this fucking voice is in my head, I might as well be nothing, because that's what it feels like I am."
Christ. This weekend is going to be long.
Lying in the comfort of his own room, his own bed, Dan cannot stop worrying about Kyle as the world sleeps around them. He knows Kyle is probably still wide awake, too scared to let himself sleep. They took his phone from him so he has no contact with anybody else, but he knows it'll be worse for him since he'll have nobody there.
He feels sick at the idea that Kyle doesn't know where he is comfortable. He knows he doesn't deserve to put up with the amount of shit that he has to, but how can he help him? If he could take the voice out of his head himself, he would, without a doubt.
If it meant Kyle wouldn't be suffering, he would put it in his own.
Sorry. We could not deliver the message right now. Please try again later.
Breathing a heavy sigh, Dan carelessly lets his phone fall onto the soft pillow next to him as he looks up at the ceiling, which is clouded by the darkness of the night. He can't deny that he misses Kyle, and although he knows the boy will not have his phone, he cannot help but message him. He knows he won't get a reply, but he can't help but at least try.
He hopes Kyle is okay, and that he is fast asleep, worrying about nothing.
But Kyle is far from okay. He is oblivious to Dan's messages as he sits in the corner of his temporary bedroom, his hands tightly holding his knotted hair, sobbing his heart out at the horrible things being hissed in his ear. He wishes he doesn't have to live with this horrible voice in his head. He's already thrown up into the basic toilet in the room- there's not much more of this he can physically take.
The light switch is on the outside of the room, so he cannot go out and turn it off and on like he usually does. As per the norm, the voice is furious about this, and Kyle is suffering as a result. How can he continue to live like this? Hell, how can he get any better? He already feels like he cannot cope, and he knows it's only ever going to get worse.
It's almost as if he is shadowed by a demon constantly.
He hates it.
The boy has had, at best, an hour of sleep. It had been a night of absolute terror. He had been taunted, bullied, and humiliated by the voice. It told him that his family were relieved to finally be allowed some freedom from him. Then again, Kyle wouldn't disagree. If he could have a weekend away from himself, he would, too.
For the fifth time, Dr Scott opens the door to Kyle's bedroom and calls in. The boy is late for breakfast, though, judging by the deep, dark bags that hang under Kyle's eyes, he supposes he might not want any food.
"You're going to miss breakfast, Kyle," he tells him, sternly. He has been in this profession for years and years, and he has seen thousands of teenagers like Kyle, though not as many of them have been as bad as he is.
Through a yawn, Kyle mumbles that he's not hungry, his voice hoarse and sore. Closing his eyes tightly, Kyle buries his face into his pillow to try and hide them from the beaming light above his head. Most of the night was spent sobbing, throwing up, and wishing he was anywhere else but here, and Doctor Scott probably knows that.
"You need to eat. Food gives you energy."
There's a pause between them, and Kyle shows no sign of movement.
"You don't really have a choi-"
"Do I have a choice about anything in my life?" Kyle barks, frowning into the pillow. He cannot ignore the voice which tells him not to get out of bed, which threatens Dan's safety if he does so. "I can't."
There's a sign in Kyle's voice that he is upset, and it almost makes the doctor leave him there.
As the night turns to day, Dan struggles to stop thinking of Kyle. He spent a lot of the night worrying about him, hoping that he has a breath of fresh air, some sort of relief from the voice. As is the boy miles away but for completely different reasons, he is exhausted, with deep, dark bags hanging under his eyes and the desire just to sleep.
Somebody is browsing around the aisles, and Dan is lazily watching one of the CCTV cameras where a group of kids stand. He isn't suspicious of them, he's just bored and people watching.
"Long night?" The person teases, putting a pint of milk on the counter and a packet of Fruit Pastels. Dan jumps, looking up at the man.
"Uh... What?" He questions cluelessly, rubbing his eyes. The man chuckles, and Dan has to take a few minutes to collect himself. "Yeah. I'm sorry. I had no sleep. I wasn't out, or anything."
The man hands a £5 note to Dan, smiling to himself. "That's what they all say," he tells him, taking back his change, of which there is a lot. "We've all been there."
Dan laughs, too. "I'm serious, I wasn't out- it's just been a rough time, you know how it goes,"
Nodding, the man picks up the milk. "Well, I hope it all works out."
"Yeah," Dan sighs, "Me too."
Around eight, it felt like the voice had silenced for the shortest amount of time, allowing Kyle to get out of bed and get dressed. He even managed to quickly wash his hair and under his armpits in the small sink before going to see Doctor Scott.
He feels like he is beyond help at this point.
"I need you to tell me what it is the voice tells you," the doctor says as they sit alone in the room together. The setting is so professional that it almost throws Kyle off answering at all, and the voice in his head doesn't tempt him into speaking, anyway.
The doctor watches Kyle as he opens his mouth and goes to speak, and then, slow as ever, shuts it again, looking away from the doctor.
Your family isn't coming back.
"Kyle, please... You need to tell me these things in order for me to help you." The doctor pleads, but Kyle only shakes his head.
"It's not a please and thank you system. It doesn't matter how I ask. If I'm not allowed, I'm not allowed." Looking away from the doctor, Kyle feels embarrassed that he has even said that much. "I'm sorry. I can't do this."
"It's okay to not be okay, but when it gets this bad, Kyle, you sometimes have to go against what you are being told to do, or not to do."
Throughout the time in Doctor Scott's office, the doctor informed Kyle of several ways he could try and push the voice away, to try and turn the tables and make it so Kyle is the powerful one.
The one he most recommended was just to stand up the voice as if there would be no repercussions if he did. To tell the voice that I'm not doing that, and as a result, most of the time Kyle spent within the office was spent crying and shaking. He had screamed at the doctor at one point, with such power that the walls shook. He told him everything hurt and he couldn't listen to another word the voice hissed in his ear.
It was scary.
Eventually, mentally exhausted and with a fried brain, Kyle was allowed out of the office to calm down and to get something to eat. Despite the fact the downtime isn't long, Kyle is still relieved that he has some time to repair himself.
"Hey," somebody says as the boy sits in the large dining hall, on the table in the corner so he is away from everybody else. He had hoped to eat alone, and by the looks of it, so did the other kid talking to him. Though as he looks around, Kyle realises there are very few other seats. "I'm gonna have to sit with you."
The boy speaks quietly, his appearance somewhat mirroring Kyle's own, though he is just slightly younger than him. Deep, purple bags hang under his eyes, and a vibe of utter exhaustion radiating from him.
"Okay," Kyle replies, his voice equally as quiet. He knows he should probably strike up a conversation so he doesn't feel as alone in here, but truthfully, he just cannot be bothered. He just wants to go home and sleep, but he knows that won't be happening just yet.
"You look fucked," the boy tells him, putting a pre-made sandwich and a can of Vimto on the table. He picks at the sandwich, not particularly interested in it. "You look how I feel."
"I could be a lot better. I just want to sleep for forever." Kyle puts his head in his hands. His food, which wasn't particularly appetising in the first place, has been left on the plate when he realised he felt worse than he originally thought he did. "I mean, it's not actually great being here, is it?"
"You're telling me,"
They sit for a little while, not sharing many words together until Kyle realises that if he doesn't try and make friends with the boy, it will just be awkward whenever they see each other.
"My name is Kyle, by the way."
"It's great to finally have somebody not trying to avoid eye contact at all costs." Kyle chuckles, glancing at everyone. "Then again, I guess everyone has their problems, so who am I to judge?"
Nodding in agreement, Charlie opens the can. "We're all fucked."
Kyle laughs at that, relieved to have somebody who isn't pussy-footing around everything that is going on. To say everyone here is here to get help, nobody speaks about anything.
"For real, though. If you don't mind me asking, what's up with you?" He asks with a yawn.
Debating in his head whether or not to tell Charlie about everything that's going on, Kyle grabs his own drink and nervously opens it, bringing it to his lips and drinking it in an attempt to buy himself some time. But, really, it's unlike Charlie would judge him- they're all here for a reason.
"I'll go first if you want me to, 'cos you look like you're shitting yourself if I'm honest."
Shyly, Kyle nods.
"So, like, you know how you want to sleep? I really, really don't. I suffer from nightmare disorders, so, like I have these dreams where I'm being brutally murdered, or I've been kidnapped or something- all that good stuff in life. So yeah- I get majorly fucked up by the thought of sleeping, so I tend to just stay awake for like, four days until I pass out."
"Don't you go to school?" Kyle asks, slightly frowning.
"Nah, not really- well, definitely not for the last few months. I was falling asleep in lesson, screaming myself awake. I'm a fucking wimp, but fuck those nightmares, man."
It's kind of difficult for Kyle to comprehend that whilst he tries to always sleep, to give himself a place where the voice cannot capture him and ruin him, people like Charlie won't sleep until their bodies physically cannot hold them anymore because of the same fear Kyle has. It opens his eyes a little bit, makes him realise that whilst he has it bad, so do many other people.
Charlie looks at him, expecting him to share his own reason, now.
"What brings you to Hell?" He jokes, laughing softly to himself.
You cannot expect him to share and not tell him back. That's why nobody likes you.
"I'm going to sound mental,"
"We're all fucking mental, pal. Spill the beans."
Kyle tries to tell the voice to leave him alone, though it only laughs at him.
He explains the situation to Charlie the same way he did to his parents, the same way he did to Dan, and the same way he has done to the several doctors and hospital staff he has spoken to. It's not that he doesn't want to speak about it, because maybe speaking about it will make it easier on Kyle in the future, it's just that he doesn't really know what else he can say about it.
"You steal things?" Charlie echoes with open, alert eyes, nervously looking around them as if the police were searching the building. "Does anyone know?"
"No- and that's the fucking problem. I've been stealing from the shop my friend works at, I've been doing it for ages but I don't have the balls to tell him."
In turn, Charlie tries his best to think of something to say, something which may resolve the problem for Kyle. He looks so exhausted that Kyle wonders how the Hell he's still standing, but then he figures that Charlie must be used to it by now.
"I think you should tell him. He'll get into trouble if the boss ever finds out- and he'll probably be really pissed if he finds out it was you and you've been doing it in secret for all of this time." He advises him, shrugging. "The truth always comes out in the end, anyway. I'm only here 'cos they realised what was going on, getting isolations and detentions for being so fucking tired all the time and falling asleep wherever. Then I slept for, like, two days straight and woke my parents up screaming, and they realised I needed this. Not that they were particularly nice about it, but whatever."
"I had to tell my parents. They took me to the doctor, supported me and all that, but then the tablets they put me on fucked me up even worse, the voice turned into something visible rather than something just in my head, and then I almost killed myself 'cos he told me to."
"It can only get better from now though, right?" Charlie says, trying to convince himself more than Kyle, "I'm sure we'll make it in the long run. I hope."
As they were for lunch, they are allowed a short period of time in the evening before they are supposed to go to bed, which Kyle cannot wait for. The afternoon session hadn't been anywhere near as tough as the morning had been, but it had still been rough. It didn't help that Doctor Scott had told Kyle that it would be far more beneficial for him to stay another day- and as much as Kyle had argued it, his parents had already agreed to it.
Both of them are exhausted, and Charlie, who has been awake from almost three days, is growing wearier by the moment. In his own session, the doctor had advised him to think of nice things before he went to sleep, to try and distract his mind. Charlie had laughed in the doctors face- you should know, he told her, you should know that will never work. You've worked on me for long enough to know that will never work.
It had felt almost insulting that she would recommend something so stupidly simple. As if he wouldn't have tried that, anyway.
"When are you going home?" The younger boy asks, ripping up a handful of grass and throwing it in Kyle's direction.
"It was supposed to be tomorrow, but apparently it will be better for me if I stay another day..." Kyle sighs and plucks a handful of grass from the ground, kindly sprinkling it over Charlie's head. Charlie doesn't even react. "I can't wait to go home, though. I feel like I've been here too long already. What about you?"
Charlie just shakes his head and looks down at the grass before he shakes his head, grass flying from his hair. "It's complicated," he mutters, the enthusiasm leaving his voice. In all fairness, he should've expected it when he asked Kyle anyway.
"What do you mean? It can't be that complicated," the other boy obliviously asks, biting at the skin around his fingers.
There is a look on his face that Kyle cannot quite identify, though he speaks regardless.
"Well, I was meant to leave last month." He confesses, his voice suddenly going quiet. "Apparently, my parents don't really think twice about abandoning any of their children."
Your parents are going to leave you here, too.
Kyle tries his best to suffocate the voice, but the sudden fear makes his blood run cold. Sympathy drowns him, but he tries not to let it show in front of Kyle.
"It's just a shit show, you know? Apparently, they dropped me here, packed their shit and went M-I-A." Charlie takes a deep breath and calms himself, "Fucking good riddance, I say."
"I'm sorry, mate," is all Kyle can possibly think to say. "Can't the police do anything about it?"
"Can't find 'em. Found out they left the country, left me here, and they're trying to work something out for me- but whilst I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, they won't put me too far up that list."
It affects Charlie more than he will let on. It's not that himself and his parents ever had a particular kind relationship, but still- how could anyone not be upset if their parents abandoned them?
Saying that he can kind of understand why they did it. He failed all of his exams, wasn't allowed into any colleges, he woke them up all the time- there's just too much that happens which makes it feel justified. The therapist here has tried to get him to stop thinking these things, but how can he not?
That's Kyle's worse nightmare.
"No, like, foster care or anything?" Kyle questions, with very little idea of what he's actually talking about. He knows very little about the legal proceedings of child abandonment, or even about foster care- but it lets Charlie know that he is listening.
"I'm sixteen. Nobody will want me for, like, three years maximum."
It's been ten minutes since Dan gave the man his change back, and he still remains in the store, talking animatedly about everything and anything that comes to mind.
"Why are you doing this?" He asks a few seconds after the man stops talking, taking a break to have a long drink of the fizzy pop in his hand. He is quite kindhearted, he had bought a packet of sweets and immediately offered them to Dan to eat.
"Why am I doing what?" He asks cluelessly, screwing the cap back onto the drink.
"This. Hanging around, stopping and talking with me. I just don't get it," he had initially wondered if it was some sort of attempt to get closer to Dan so it makes for an easier robbery, but, honestly, it seems like the man just wants a chat. "It's a bit..."
"I'm being a complete fucking weirdo, ain't I?" The man groans, shaking his head. "I'm so sorry, man. I just know how shit it can be to work in a shop, you know? And I've walked past here plenty and it always seems empty, so I just thought I'd come and talk. I'll go, though-"
"I didn't mean it like that!" He argues quickly, "I just- nobody really stops and talks, everyone is in a rush to get somewhere, so I just wanted to ask. You can stay, though, if you want to. I'm not going to, like, kick you out or anything. I'm not intimidating enough for that shit."
Kyle lies in the bed with his eyes closed, though he doesn't sleep as he attempts to push away the voice, and tries to think of anything to distract himself. He has done, somewhat- though it's Charlie's situation on his mind that keeps the voice in his ear. How could somebody leave him like that? He seems like a really nice kid- and they're treating him like an animal because of the things he cannot help. He hates the thought of leaving him behind.
Your parents aren't coming back for you. They will ask them to keep you another week. Then a month. Then a year.
"Not how it works," he mutters to himself, closing his eyes to prepare for the impending migraine. It takes a while for it to set in, though. He just wants to go back home.
Charlie, on the other hand, sits in his room a few doors down from Kyle's, wide awake and wondering if he will ever see his parents again- though he doubts it since they're not even in the same country anymore. Part of him feels horrifically depressed at the thought that he is just another fuck up, another unwanted child that nobody will look twice at.
He always knew he would have difficulty growing up when he started having the nightmares every night, and when his parents tried to beat them out of him- though, obviously, that seems like a way to take their anger out on him. He thought he would be homeless by now, or something. Perhaps this is worse.
The other part of him, however, is excited. Kyle will be going home soon, which means he'll be comfortable once more. And hopefully, the time here will have helped him.
Charlie tries to forget he'll probably not see Kyle again after this. He has taken strongly to the boy, and the thought of never seeing him again pains him. He tries to push it away, though it's prominent in his mind.
The boy lingers in the office after his session the following day, on request of the doctor. Honestly, he just wants to go to his room and sleep, especially since it is tomorrow that he gets to go home. That's all that is keeping him optimistic right now.
"We need to talk, Kyle," the doctor says, and Kyle immediately worries that he's going to be told he will have to stay another few days. "About you and Charlie,"
The teenager frowns- he has known throughout the session that Doctor Scott has had something to say, though it seems he could never quite find the right words for it. It's clear he has picked his words carefully.
A billion thoughts race through his head and Kyle has to take a moment to consider what the Hell the man means. For a moment, he wonders if the doctor thinks they are anything more than friends. He thought he would be having this conversation with his parents, but with Dan rather than Charlie. "What? We're not- I'm already- we're just friends,"
"No! No, not like that!" The doctor corrects his patient quickly, waving his hand in a form of dismissal. "What I mean is... Well, what... Charlie becomes very close to people very quickly. He grows very strong attachments to anyone who shows him any sort of kindness."
Doctor Scott watches Kyle for his reaction, though the boy just looks confused at the moment. "So... I shouldn't be nice to him? I don't really get what you're getting at, here..."
"I don't mean you shouldn't be nice to him, Kyle. It's going to hurt him when you leave, it's going to hurt him a lot. It's happened before and he fell into a deep depression." Still, the doctor continues to watch Kyle, though, apart from a slight flicker of anger that appears in his eyes, his expression doesn't change much.
"That's not my fault," the boy argues, his tone almost demanding, "I really don't see any rush to help find him somewhere to live, so he's not constantly being hurt."
"It's not that easy, Kyle. It's not something that we can sort out in a flash- and Charlie has to have further measures, preventative measures. It's difficult, Kyle."
In all honesty, Kyle has taken a liking to Charlie. It feels weird, because they're only friends because of the fact they both have mental health issues, and under any other circumstances, they might not have been friends. Nonetheless, he would consider Charlie a friend and he only wants what is best for him.
"I just don't understand why he's got to be left here? What I really, really don't understand is how the fuck his parents dropped off of the face of the planet after leaving him here. How the fuck is that possible? You have their address, their number, their everything. So why the fuck can't anything be done? It's utter bullshit. It's sick, and no wonder he feels like a fucking burden when nobody will even help him find a place to live."
Dan had received a phone call sometime in the early afternoon from Kyle's parents, asking the boy to go over to their house when he has a chance to. Throughout the time he was both working and walking to their house, anxiety had bubbled up inside of him, and he had worried that something might've happened to Kyle. As per the norm, Will was stood talking to Dan in the shop and he had expressed such concerns at the time. Will, again, as per the norm, had given him some carefully constructed advice.
When the boy reaches the house, knocking on the door three times, it is quiet. There are no sounds of kids playing out, or dogs barking as there usually is. It is just peaceful. Kyle's dad opens the door and invites the boy to sit in the kitchen.
"Is everything okay?" He wonders aloud as he takes a seat at the family dinner table, Kyle's parents sat either side of him. It feels like an intervention, and Dan finds it hard to believe that this is the room Kyle's life almost ended in.
"Listen, before we say anything, we just want you to know that we really don't mind," his mum begins, smiling uneasily at Dan, who cannot help but distrust the smile. He listens to them, regardlessly.
"Mind what?" He echoes, confusion taking over his face. Although this would obviously be both better and easier if Kyle was there with him, not only so they could be together since Dan misses him like a limb, but so this conversation was easier.
"That you and Kyle are..." There's a pause, "Are in a relationship. We know, okay? And honestly, as long as he is happy, so are we. Out of all the boys Kyle has been friends with, he couldn't have made a better choice. He needs you more than anyone else, and we're happy for you both."
Mr Simmons, who has been speaking, squeezes his wife's hand, a small gesture for her to take over talking.
"We just worry that this whole therapy thing isn't going to work for Kyle. It takes a lot for him to open up- it took him years to open up to us. We're just concerned that he might..." She pauses and takes a deep breath, closing her eyes if only for a moment, "He might try and do what he did last time."
It's sad that the first thing she thinks of when she thinks of Kyle is him lying there, quiet, shy, living in fear, not the laughing, bright boy she had known before.
Dan has to interrupt them- it feels wrong, them talking about it as if it were Kyle's choice. "That wasn't his fault," he says quickly, shaking his head, "I know what it looked like, but I know it wasn't him. He told me what happened- it's-"
"We know," Mr Simmons' cuts off Dan's shaky rambling, though he doesn't particularly look convinced on what the boy is telling him.
Even Dan has to wonder if he ever intended to do what he did. Maybe it wasn't his decision 100%, but what if part of him had wanted to?
"Well, we are just concerned that he might do it again. And we cannot lose him, Daniel," His mum says with tears in her eyes. A sob sits in her throat, threatening to break out. The very thought that Kyle had even tried to kill himself in the first place breaks her heart- she feels like she has failed him, knowing that her child is suffering like this and there is nothing we can do. "We just need to know if he can rely on you."
Dan does that smile, where it's not exactly a happy smile, it just emphasises with the moment, "I promise I will, I swear."
It's about ten to eight the following morning when Kyle next sees Charlie, after he had dragged himself from bed at the sound of the soft knocks on his door and opened the door to reveal the boy stood there, looking sheepish under Kyle's gaze, with fat tears in his eyes.
He cannot help but feel slightly cautious of him, now. It's not as if Charlie is dangerous or anything like that, no, but he just doesn't want to hurt him. Kyle could brush him off right now and have Charlie be relieved he was gone, but hurt him in the process, or stay friends with him as they are now and have it hurt him anyway. He cannot stop suddenly talking to him, suddenly stop being his friend- that's far too unfair. Kyle would hate himself for doing that. He dreads having to leave Charlie here.
Saying that, though, the idea of going home today fills him with excitement. He cannot wait to see Dan, or his parents. He's missed them more than a regular teenage boy would ever care to admit aloud. He's decided to skip breakfast and have an extra half an hour in bed (Doctor Scott was less than happy about that, but Kyle didn't really care. He's going to see Dan today! Why would he care about getting out of bed at the right time when he's leaving, anyway?).
"You're leaving today," Charlie says, wiping his face with his fist. He sounds defeated. "You're going home."
In turn, the other boy frowns. He doesn't know how he can say he is without feeling like he's showing off- it's a difficult situation, he wants to go home, but at the same time, he doesn't exactly feel like this has been the help everyone said it would be. All he has been told to do is basically to tell the voice to fuck off, and then everything gets worse.
"Yeah. I am..." He eventually replies with a deadpan voice, lacking all and any emotion in it whatsoever. There's a short period of silence as Kyle glances awkwardly around, unreadable expressions on both of their faces. "Look, Charlie-"
"I get it!" He says quickly, swallowing a lump in his throat and trying to ignore the fat tears sat in his eyes, "I get it, everybody has to go home, and... And... I don't know. I just get on with you- I feel like you're my brother already. As much as I don't want you to go, I'm happy for you."
Charlie wraps his arms around Kyle, and he suddenly realises that Doctor Scott was right and Charlie does form bonds too quickly.
"I just don't want to be forgotten about again."
Kyle feels something punch him straight in the gut when Charlie's words sink in. Charlie probably does feel like everyone is forgotten about him when they leave and he never hears from them again. He can't decide if it is guilt or pity that hits him, but whatever it is, it hurts like a bitch.
"Charlie..." He says quietly, hugging Charlie back just as tight. He doesn't want to leave him in a state like this. "I'm not going to forget about you, Charlie. Look, I'll try my best to help you find somewhere, okay?"
As Charlie pulls away from him, his face lights up. "Really?" He questions with a wide grin on his face. "Like, you're not just saying that 'cos you're leaving, right?"
Kyle chuckles softly, trying to think of anybody who might be able to provide a home for the boy. "Of course now. I'm not that horrible."
Dan stretches as he wakes up in a completely unfamiliar bed, panic washing him for a moment until he realises he's actually in Kyle's bedroom. Mr and Mrs Simmons had let him stay over last night, so obviously he had slept in Kyle's bed- well, most of the night, he had spent wide awake, far too awake to actually sleep. A smile stretches across his face when he realises he is merely hours from seeing him again.
He's missed Kyle so much, and he's not even embarrassed or scared to confess it to anyone. He doesn't care what it is that people might say about them- he is utterly in love with Kyle, and whoever thinks anything bad about them can either keep it to themselves or just shut the fuck up.
Truth be told, he's not entirely sure how much Kyle will be helped by this time away. He's seen Kyle try and go against what the voice is telling him to do, and it never ends nicely. He hasn't mentioned it to Kyle's parents, who have been so loving and welcoming to him, though he feels like he should have.
"I've missed you," Dan holds Kyle tightly when they are finally reunited, in the small garden part of the centre, which is decorated with flowers and benches, though it doesn't really do much to raise morale. Neither of them can begin to describe how happy they are to see each other again. Kyle is relieved to see that Dan is still alive, still breathing, something that the voice told him would be impossible, last night.
Kyle's parents are talking to the doctor in his office, out of sight and out of mind for Kyle, who has one of his hands on the back of Dan's head, holding him just as tight. He's missed everything about him, and the way the voice made it sound, Kyle would never get to see him again, nevermind to stand here hugging him, holding him.
"Oh, Dan! This is Charlie," Kyle smiles when he sees the boy walk through one of the doors, a bottle of water in hand, the other hand squeezing itself repeatedly, pressing his nails into his palm. "Charlie! Come here,"
"Oh, hey," Dan smiles as he walks over, watches as Charlie sheepishly makes eye contact and kicks the ground softly with the tip of his foot, "I'm Dan,"
Charlie shakes his hand as they stand there, "Charlie," he says, dreading the fact that in ten minutes, he'll never see Kyle again. He's scared.
He's never been good at letting people go.
The drive back to the Simmons' home really didn't feel long at all. Then again, since they've been reunited, everything has felt like it's going three times faster than usual. Even though Kyle has checked his phone and clearly read them, Kyle hasn't mentioned any of the texts that Dan sent him- the sender is thankful for that. He decides he won't mention it to Kyle, either. Looking back, it is a bit cringe.
"Do you think it helped you?" Dan asks quietly as they lie on the bed together, Dan holding Kyle ever so tightly. The sun has long since set over the city, and they have eaten and are currently lying in bed together. Kyle has one hand over Dan's, which is wrapped around his waist as if he might disappear if he lets go, and his other is lying beneath him, unmoveable. Dan has missed this beyond what his simple words can ever explain.
The other teenager can only remain quiet as he has a moral debate within himself- he doesn't think this has helped him in the slightest. In fact, lying here with Dan, it is the quietest the voice has been all this time. He knows he needs some more help to find the solution for all of this, but he can't stand the thought of going away again. He's so glad to be home, he can't ever think of going back.
"Yeah," he says through gritted teeth, crossing his toes so Dan doesn't know he is lying. His other hand is beginning to go numb. "I haven't seen or heard it in ages."
It's a lie. It's all lies. Kyle knows lying is horribly wrong, but he's been doing it for so long that he doesn't even trust himself most of the time.
Dan kisses the back of Kyle's head, smiling as he does so. "Charlie seemed alright, by the way."
"I feel really bad for him," the other boy confesses, feeling his heart hang heavy. Charlie hadn't looked himself as he watched Kyle leave- he looked so dejected and distant from it all. "His parents just abandoned him there, he has nowhere left to go."
"Just abandoned him there?" Dan echoes as a gust of wind blows through the open window, and he pulls the blanket tighter over them both. "Like a dog?"
Kyle nods solemnly. He hopes and prays he can find somewhere for Charlie- he knows he can't just leave him there.
"That's fucking sick. People like that should be arrested,"
Downstairs, in the room below them, Kyle's parents stand a hug each other. Mr Simmons is crying into his wife's shoulder, and she is comforting him, rubbing his back. It's the only way she can think to support him at this time. The words of Kyle's doctor circle their mind- there had been practically no improvement.
"He will get better," she whispers gently, drawing slow circles and hearts on his back. Their family isn't religious at all, but they have both been praying all the time the teenager has been away that he will come back better, that he will have his son back. He wants nothing more, yet he feels he'll never get it. "Something has to help him, Love. He can't stay like this."
"But what if nothing helps?" The man questions with a voice equally as quiet as his wife's, tears falling down his face. He misses the times when he would tuck Kyle in at night and he would be fast asleep, or they would go out together and Kyle would be okay. Now he can't even spend a day without the voice interrupting them. "What if we never have our Kyle back?"
Mrs Simmons doesn't reply to that. She doesn't really know what to say because she is equally as scared as her husband- she's just better at keeping her emotions. "We'll all be okay in the end," she says quietly. "I hope,"
Charlie sits in the doctors' office, sobbing his heart out. He didn't mention anything else to Kyle- not the pretty red lines painted on his legs, not the fact it's his parents that are the main feature of his nightmares. He despises the fact they are his demons.
The doctor rubs his back, speaking softly, "You didn't tell him?"
Charlie can only shake his head, "No- if I told him, he'd have called me a freak and, and I can't handle it anymore. I can't handle anyone else calling me a freak"
His parents hated him. He lied about them to Kyle- they never actually cared, and the only true thing he said was that they left him here and never came back. Though, he wasn't expecting them to come back in the first place.
The doctor has helped Charlie since the first day he came here and his story has never become any easier to deal with. He's heartbroken for the boy, and if it was up to him, he would give him the home he deserves, though it's rules and legislation that means he can't.
"Oh, come on, Auntie Catch! Please? His name is Charlie- he just needs somewhere to stay for the next few years. I promise you'll love him! He's lovely!"
The only person Kyle could think of who might be willing to help Charlie was his Auntie Cath. He knows she has a spare room that was once her sons, and she has a hard time with that fact- but he knows that having someone else here could help her, the same way having a support system could really help Charlie.
"Kyle, you can't just take somebody in like that," she says to him, shaking her head. She isn't comfortable with the idea of adopting a teenager, or even fostering- Kyle had told her about his nightmares and what little he knew about the boys' past, and she's not sure he wouldn't be a problem. She's not sure she could cope with it. "He's not a puppy. He's a human."
"Exactly! So don't you think he at least deserves to be treated like one for once? He was denied every right of being a normal teenager, denied the right of going to a warm, loving home, getting a good nights sleep, or even having a place to call home. At this point, I'm sure they want him gone as much as he wants to go." He sighs, disappointment setting in as he realises he's let Charlie down. He's lied to him, "I really hoped you'd say yes."
Auntie Catch reaches over and takes Kyle's hand, taking a long, deep breath. It's difficult for her- she knows all about Kyle's situation from what his parents have told her, and as much as she adores everything about the boy, she doesn't think she could help anyone who might be in his position. Anyone like Charlie. "Look, Kyle..."
"He looks just like Luke." Kyle snaps his head towards his aunt, letting the words fall before he can stop them. "Me and Luke could pass as twins, and me and Charlie look the same. I swear to God, they look so similar."
The look on his Aunt's face breaks Kyle's heart into a million pieces. He knows she's never really gotten over Luke.
Luke was sixteen when he was killed. It would be easier to say he was in the wrong crowd, but he was completely innocent, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. After his funeral, which was the hardest thing the family could've gone through, Aunt Cath blocked herself away from the world, refusing to let anyone into Luke's bedroom. Kyle is partially convinced she's trying to ease the pain by erasing her memory of him, though Kyle has never understood it.
"Please don't," she says quietly, casting her eyes to the ground. There are a lot of memories in Kyle's mind of himself and Luke playing together, mucking about and challenging each other as if everything was a competition. He and Luke were incredibly close.
"At least meet Charlie before you make your mind up, okay? If you don't get along, it's fine, but you tried." Kyle smiles, the stupid smile he's always done when he wants something.
Will walks into the small corner shop, expecting to see Dan stood behind the desk as he usually is.
"Who are you?" He questions the cashier. He has grown used to seeing Dan here, and, fancying a chat as he does, Will is disappointed to find that he is not here.
"Uh... Who are you?" The other man questions, appearing to be only a few years younger than himself. Annoyingly, he's wearing a Plymouth Argyle t-shirt, though Will isn't necessarily a football fan, so he doesn't comment.
"Will. Where is Dan?"
He is met with a blank face.
"The other guy who works here?"
"I don't know, man. My dad owns the shop, I'm just covering for today, dude. I don't know who this 'Dan' is, unless he's the kid my old man isn't too happy with..."
The following day, Dan is facing the wrath of the man who might be about to become his ex-boss. He stands sheepishly in front of the man as he rambles on, fury in his voice and on his face. They're stood in the back room of the shop, which is stacked high with boxes of things that need to be put on shelves, though Dan has not yet found the effort to do it.
"Somebody has been stealing from the shop and you're the one serving them!" He roars, throwing his arms about to express just how angry he is. "We counted over fifty items missing in the last few months!"
"That's not my fault, I can't see everywhere in the shop!" Dan stubbornly crosses his arms, "Install some CCTV cameras or something, or put everything where I can see it,"
The ageing man can be nasty when he wants to be. Dan knows that.
But Dan knows also who it is. Part of him wants to be angry that he may be losing his job, the other half wants to yell at the boss that Kyle can't help it.
"Just one more chance? I swear I won't let it happen again." Dan sighs, pleading with his boss. He never quite liked the job, but it provided some money and some sort of social life. "Please?"
"One more chance, Smith, and if it happens again, you're paying for everything that has been stolen." The boss hisses down his ear. Dan nods, and scurries out the shop, almost bumping into Will.
"Christ, what was going on in there?" The man asks, stepping back to let Dan pass a little bit. "He sounded well angry."
"I almost lost my bloody job because my kleptomaniac boyfriend stole from here," Dan rants out, "But he wouldn't listen enough to reason. I have one more chance, but I'm debating leaving, anyway."
"Oh..." Will replies, not quite sure what to say. "What would happen if you did lose your job? You'd be okay, wouldn't you? As in, you'd have somewhere to live still?"
"A job like that wouldn't pay for rent, trust me," Dan laughs as they decide to take a seat on a bench a few minutes away. "I live with my parents, so I'd be fine. I just need the money for things, that's all."
Will nods. At least he wouldn't be homeless- like he was when he lost his last job.
The problem is, Will never really got on with his parents to the extent where he could always go to them if he needed something or some help. They would remind him that it's probably his fault. Part of him always suspected that he would be homeless at some point in his life, anyway, so when he got fired from his job and lost his house due to rent arrears, he slept on the streets for just under a year (spending a few nights couch surfing his friends houses), getting attacked by drunks down to the fact he was homeless, busking in the streets with an old, almost broken guitar earning just a little bit of change, and suffering just because he didn't have an address to apply for a job. This all changed when a company came along and offered to employ Will on the basis that he wasn't an alcoholic or drug addict. Only then did he manage to get himself back on his feet.
His parents still don't know what happened.
Somewhere along the line, the message got mixed up. Aunt Cath could've sworn she had said, 'no, Kyle. I can't support another person,', but apparently, Kyle heard, 'Yes, Kyle. I will give it a try!", and now, somehow, the teenager Kyle had told her about is sat on her sofa, nervously squeezing his hands into balls and releasing them once again. He has been here for a few days, but they still haven't become used to each other.
In all honesty, Charlie is a lot quieter than she expected him to be- then again, she expected another Kyle, someone who couldn't shut up if their life depended on it and who had more than enough to say for themselves. So, when Charlie, albeit Kyle's doppelganger, trailed in shyly behind the social worker, she was surprised at how little he had to say. He seemed far too nervous to say anything, and, sitting with his head down and tucked nervously within himself, she couldn't help but notice how he shied away from the world.
Sat in the living room decorated with artwork of capital cities and flowers, Charlie feels out of place. He has a cup of tea in his hands, though he hasn't drunk any of it yet. He doesn't dare lift his eyes- it feels like his anxiety has caught his tongue. What if he says something that upsets her? Or, God forbid, anger her? He can't stand that thought- of being hurt, of being ignored, or being a disappointment.
"Charlie, Love?" Aunt Cath finally breaks the stuffy silence of the room- it has been many years since she has had anyone living with her, let alone a teenager who looks scarily like her own son. She feels out of place in her own home, though she can't pin it on Charlie. "Are you hungry? Do you want anything to eat?"
"No, thank you."
Charlie sits rigidly in his spot on the sofa, a seat between himself and his guardian. His shoulders are squared and his legs are pressed tightly together, the sleeves of his hoody pulled far over his hands, which are wrapped around the luke-warm cup of tea that he doesn't dare to drink. He can't bring himself to lift his eyes- when he lives with his parents, the rules were very strange. Half of the time, he couldn't tell his left from his right. One day the rules were normal, and the next, everything got turned on their head and he wasn't given so much as a whisper of warning.
Aunt Cath has been informed about everything the boy went through- the abuse, the nightmares, the years of self-hatred and self-harm, but she had hoped he might open up even the slightest bit more, give her at least something to work with. Even though she knows it won't help the situation at all, she can't help but feel sorry for him.
"This is your home, now. You're allowed to eat, you're allowed to drink all you want, you know?" She watches Charlie carefully as his eyes gently lift to look at her, an apprehension in them. "You can speak to me."
But, Charlie just nods and quickly mutters a quick thank you of appreciation. He knows things have to get better now- they can't get any worse. After all, Kyle is coming over again tomorrow, his parents aren't here and can't get to him anymore, and he actually has somewhere to call home.
"So, shall I put some food on?" She asks again, reaching over and gently taking Charlie's hand. The boy lightly smiles, looking back down at his hands.
"Kyle, Love. We need to talk,"
The sun is setting and the two boys are lying in bed with each other, tangled up in each other's arms. The window is open slightly, allowing a slight breeze to come in, though the boys are wrapped in blankets, so it doesn't bother them.
The four words spark intense amounts of anxiety within Kyle, who lies with Dan, his eyes wide open in fear of what might come next, even though he already knows.
"I almost got fired yesterday. Someone has been stealing from the shop."
Before he can even stop himself, his words tumble out of his mouth- the habit of stealing has since died down slightly, and he's been able to not do it in Dan's shop. "Dan-"
"I know, Kyle. I know. And I know you can't help it, so I'm not angry."
Kyle closes his eyes and huffs at the voice, his heart plummeting.
"Can you just tell me next time so I can make it up in the till?" As much as he hates that he is having this conversation, he knows it's the only way he can stop his boss from taking further action. "Please?"
He's going to snitch on you.
"I'm sorry," he chokes out, tears in his eyes. "I didn't-"
"Don't worry about it, Kyle, I just don't want my boss to do anything- to fire me, or anything like that." He gently kisses the nape of Kyle's neck and slides his hand up his shirt. "I still love you. Always."
Charlie has never felt as though he's ever had a family more so than in this moment, sat across the table from his new guardian, eating spaghetti and drinking fresh apple juice. Most people would laugh and point out this is common for most families- but, Christ, it wasn't for Charlie's. Maybe it was the fact that he didn't like spending time with them, or maybe they didn't like spending time with him. It's probably a mixture of both of them.
Over dinner, they speak about everything and anything that comes to mind. Aunt Cath told Charlie stories about Kyle when he was younger and just as mischevious as he is now, and Charlie tells her about a pet dog he had when he was five called Belle, who mysteriously went missing just after his seventh birthday.
"Are you done?" She asks Charlie with a friendly smile as he takes a long drink of the juice in front of him. At home, his meals consisted of bread, butter, and possibly a glass of water. Some days he was allowed a cheese sandwich, but he feels pathetic for saying it felt like a luxury at the time. Then again, there are times that he feels bad for speaking badly about his parents. Charlie rationalises that they weren't bad parents, they just didn't like him as much as they probably should have- but in Charlie's mind, it was all his own fault. Often, they told him or showed him as much, and he landed hungry or bruised most of the time. Sometimes it was both.
Charlie nods. "Thank you. Do you want me to help wash up?" He offers, following her into the kitchen. He can't help but feel like a lost puppy as he follows her around.
They chat more as they stand at the sink, Aunt Cath washing the pots and Charlie drying them. He focuses on the task, making sure he does it to match the rest that are in the cupboards.
Everything is going well, until a plate slips out of Charlie's hands and shatters into hundreds of pieces on the floor.
He jumps at the noise, away from Aunt Cath, as the colour drains from his face. He knows what is to come, and he hates the anticipation leading up to it.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry- I'm really sorry. Sorry,"
Aunt Cath bends to pick up the shards from the ground, quickly putting them into the bin and thinking no more of it. "It's fine, Charlie, don't worry so much."
Charlie's heart thumps in his chest.
"I'm really sorry." He repeats, casting his eyes to the ground. There is another pause, before, in a very quiet, frightened voice, he whispers, "Are you mad at me?"
Just like the plate, Aunt Cath's heart shatters. He sounds so terrified that she doesn't want to say anything in case it pushes him over the edge and he gets upset.
"Of course not, Sweetheart. IT was an accident, and accidents cannot be helped. We've cleaned it up, there's nothing more to worry about."
The incident stays in her mind the entire night until Charlie finally says he is going to be, though he does so very quietly, and Aunt Cath wouldn't have even heard if she wasn't listening for him since she wanted to be sure he wasn't still upset.
Charlie disappears into his room, which is painted in a navy blue with a matching carpet. The doors, skirting board, and ceiling were once painted in a brilliant light which has now seen years and years of dust. It looks like the room has been cleared out of all of its belongings, which never entered again. He strips to his boxes and looks uneasily down at the colours on his legs, the horrible scars and burns which have highlighted years and years of memories he wishes he would forget.
Quickly, he covers them up with a pair of tracksuit bottoms. Aunt Cath shouldn't see them.
When Aunt Clare enters his room later that night, tears in her eyes from not only tonight's events but the distant, fading memory of doing this with her own son, she can't help but walk over to his bed, running her hand through the thick, dark hair atop the boy's head. He looks so much like her son, it scares her slightly. But it brings her peace.
"Goodnight, Charlie," she says quietly as the boy shifts softly, rubbing his head against the pillow.
She honestly didn't expect the very, very quiet, "Goodnight, Mum," to follow.
The room around the young couple is submerged into darkness as they lie in bed, too lazy to move to put the lamp on even though it's not quite late enough to sleep. Dan's soft voice is like a ray of sunshine, bright and as loving as always.
"Hmm?" Kyle feels the opposite- he feels tired and he just wants to sleep, but the voice hasn't told him it is okay just yet. Slowly, he feels Dan's hand creep over his chest, pausing over his heart.
"You know you can always talk to me, huh?"
"Yeah. Why'd you say that?"
Honestly, Dan doesn't want to bring the subject up. All he wants is for Kyle to be okay.
"You haven't mentioned anything about the voice recently. For as long as I've known you, you've not gone this long without it popping up."
I'm just not brave enough to tell you, he thinks, feeling his heart drop again. When silence remains, Dan speaks up again.
"Is it because you don't wanna go back to the centre?" He asks quietly, sliding his hand onto Kyle's bare stomach. Again, he takes Kyle's silence as a yes. "They won't send you back if it didn't work, Love. There would be no point to it. But, did it not work at all?"
Yet again, the taller of the pair hesitates for just a moment. He's not entirely certain that it did help, nor is he entirely certain that it didn't.
God, he has no idea what to do.
It's shortly past eleven when Kyle and Dan arrive at Aunt Cath's house. They spent the night together, as they do most nights, and they arrive expecting to see them doing something together ("Perhaps gardening." Kyle had suggested as they took the bus to get to her house, pushing away all the thoughts in his head telling him the bus will crash. "She always takes pride in her garden."), but, when they arrive, they find out that Charlie is actually still in bed.
Dan decides to sit and talk to Kyle's Aunt, who, after realising the pair were actually far more than friends, took an instant interest in Dan, labelling him as her 'Nephew-in-law'. Neither of them are sure that's a thing.
"Charlo?" Kyle speaks quietly as he opens the door to the room which he remembers only vividly from his childhood. For much of his teenage life, he was denied access to the room. Charlie is just sat on his bed, staring blankly forward with a bored look on his face. As Kyle speaks, however, the boy jumps, coming to life and sitting straight up. "What are you doing?"
"Can't leave my room." He tells him definitely, not daring to lose his staring contest with the navy wall in front of him. "Mum and Dad will be mad."
For just a few short seconds, Kyle is stumped on what to say or what to do. He knows what it's like to think things, or see things, or hear things that other people don't, so even though their situation is not completely identical, or, perhaps, even remotely similar, he can still relate to the worry written on Charlie's face now that Kyle is there.
"They're not here, Charlie. You can do whatever you want, now."
"They... They told me last night that they're mad at me," the other boy utters quietly, moving his eyes to the floor and speaking in such a way that implies someone might be listening to their conversation. "If I leave, they will be worse than they are now."
Kyle walks closer to Charlie, though he still refuses to look up at him. "Come on," he says softly, "They can't hurt you anymore. We can protect and help you, now."
Finally, Charlie tears his eyes from their spot on the wall, and finally looks at Kyle.
"Come on, I'll make us a drink."
Charlie moves slowly and follows Kyle out of the room, but just before they leave, he wraps his arms around Kyle in a friendly hug. "Thank you," he whispers, squeezing his eyes shut.
Kyle smiles. It feels a little bit like he has Luke back.
In the evening, when the sun is setting but it's still bright, Charlie and Cath are sat in the garden. Charlie isn't exactly sure why they're there, but the setting sun is facing them and keeping them warm, so he doesn't really mind.
Charlie has had to keep reminding himself throughout the day that his parents aren't there. They can't be mad. They won't be mad. They can't hurt him. Kyle, Dan, and Cath are there for him- he will be okay.
Out of the blue, Aunt Cath takes Charlie's hand in her own. He almost flinches from the sudden touch, but it's warm and loving. "You know you're okay here, don't you?"
Whilst she had hoped she would get an actual answer from Charlie, something to work with and continue the conversation a little, he just nods. Part of her feels disappointed- he hasn't really spoken all that much since he has been here- not that she particularly blames him. He must be anxious and unsettled.
"Do you want to talk about them?" She offers kindly as an attempt to get the boy to open up to her. She knows that, in good time, he might just do that, but if they don't start talking to each other, they'll feel like strangers, not a family, like they have the potential to become. "About your parents, I mean..."
But Charlie continues to say nothing, his nerves showing on his face. He hates thinking about them, nevermind talking openly about them and what they did to him.
"Did they... Did they hit you?"
Cath is well aware of what she is doing- how she is dipping her toe into hot water. She is a little bit wary of what his reaction could be- it could make everything a hundred times better or a hundred times worse.
The boy just nods, hanging his head slightly.
"With what?" She purposefully leaves the question open, to encourage him to speak to her.
"Anything they could find." Charlie's voice is very low and he doesn't dare to look up at her- he doesn't even consider it. He doesn't want that pitiful look that everyone always gives him. Through his eyes, it was all deserved. "Fists, feet, belts, bottles. Long as I learnt my lesson, didn't matter."
"To not talk unless I'm spoken to. Not leave my bedroom. Not eat, not complain. Not talk to them about anything in my head- don't care about it, you know? They told me I shouldn't care, 'cos none of it is real. None of it actually exists, I'm just making it all up, could just get rid of it if I wanted to. Locked me away, till I could convince them I was over it- acting like something was wrong."
The older woman feels physically sick at the thought of Charlie- younger than her own nephew and even younger at the time- being locked away from everyone and everything. "All alone?" She asks, her heart sitting in her chest.
Charlie nods, picking at a piece of the wood which has chipped off.
"Didn't you go to school?"
"Not secondary- wasn't good 'nuff for that, apparently. Thought I was too dumb- but I never would've made it through anyway, so they're right. School never liked me, so I just... Dropped. Dropped out of school, didn't turn up one day and never went back. Dropped off the face off the planet. Dropped out of existence and caring about anything- myself, my family, nothin'. I wanted to die- what sort of life was that?"