Chapter 1: Just Another Party
The colorful lights made the room seem to spin, or maybe it was his own head spinning. Keith tightened his grip on his red solo cup and began pushing his way through the half alive bodies as he stumbled to the couch, he sat spread eagle to insinuate he didn't want company. He closed his eyes and let his head fall against the back of the couch. The bass from the music was shaking the ground and made his stomach churn.
Lance danced around the room, casually grinding up on whoever was in the mood. His eyelids half closed, hands on the hips of a platinum blonde, guiding her body with his, his hot breath bouncing against her ear. He released her and continued through the room. Next, he saw a big, buff guy looking him up and down. Lance smirked, making his way to the jock, and meeting together to dance. From behind, the jock ran his hands up and down Lance's sides, and Lance turned his head back to make out with the attractive guy before he had the jock's face in his neck, licking, sucking, and playfully biting. Lance melted in his grip, giggling as he ran his hand through the jock's hair, pressing him deeper into his neck, and purring with pleasure, biting his own lip.
The song changed and Lance quickly got bored, leaving behind the jock. He found the kitchen to get another drink, filling his cup with whiskey and coke, looking to his right and seeing Keith in the living room. He noticed how Keith had isolated himself as usual, as well as how he looked extremely attractive how he was sitting. It made his heart beat faster and he couldn't hold himself back. He had enough of flirting with strangers and just wanted Keith. He walked over, making his way through the small crowd and, without warning, dropped his ass into Keith's lap, which made Keith shoot his head up aggressively, his eyes squinted and his brows scrunched.
"The hell?" Keith spat, getting ready to push whoever off of him. Then his face softened, realizing it was his boyfriend, Lance. He used his free arm to grab under Lance's legs to pull him closer and centered in his lap.
Lance smiled with a chuckle, "Just me." He wrapped his arms around his lover's neck and pulled his head down for a kiss, connecting their lips. It didn't take long for the kiss to turn into them eating each other's faces.
They broke away from making out for a quick adjustment. They sat their drinks on the coffee table to free their hands. Lance adjusted himself to toss his legs over Keith's, towering over and straddling him, then returning their lips together. Keith relaxed into the sofa, grabbing Lance's waist, and slowly moving his hands down to the other's back pants pockets, keeping his hands in them, applying pressure with his fingertips.
"Mmm." Lance hummed into Keith's mouth, tugging at his dark black hair. Sometimes the mullet had its perks.
The noise made Keith pull Lance closer, no space left between the two. The music seemed to fade out for both of them.
Chapter 2: Drugs
Trigger warning: This chapter contains explicit drug use.
Of course there were drugs. There was always drugs. Of course Lance's favorite was available. The spoons, the syringes, fresh and used needles alike, the lighters, the different tourniquet options. An all too familiar collection.
Lance knelt in front of the couch, holding the syringe between his fingers as if it were a simple cigarette. His other hand rested on Keith's right knee. Lance looked up at his boyfriend with his brows raised, ensuring Keith was still comfortable with his choice. Maybe it was the way Lance's eyelashes fluttered, maybe it was the soft grit in his voice when he asked, maybe it was to please him, maybe it was the guilt, but Keith accepted. Keith wanted to make Lance happy. He believed he owed him that. Keith nodded as if to say he were ready. Lance's eyes smiled along with his sensual grin, and Keith's doubts disappeared.
Lance ran his finger tips slowly up Keith's arm, it sent shivers down Keith's spine. Lance tied the blue tourniquet while his eyes locked on his lover's, biting his lip. Something about exposing Keith was arousing. The deep level of trust, a new form of intimacy.
Keith winced at the needle piercing the skin at the bend of his elbow. He noticed Lance loosen the tourniquet, then he felt the room pause, and the only thing he could see was his boyfriend in front of him, looking up at him like he was a prize. Lance pulled the needle out, gently pressing his thumb over the injection site, and released the blue band completely, tossing the supplies on the coffee table behind him, then turning back to Keith, looking up at him with hunger in his eyes. He used Keith's knee to raise himself up enough to meet their mouths together. He thought about what Keith must be feeling, the first time experiencing wonderland. He felt warm inside, hoping that it would erase Keith's pain.
Keith's body felt... different. He noticed that all the pain was gone, he almost felt lightweight, and if it weren't for Lance being right there, Keith wouldn't know anything going on around himself. It felt euphoric, and he finally felt at peace. His broken leg, his bruises, his muscles, his cuts, his mind.
Why hadn't he done this sooner?
Because, he had seen glimpses of the negative side of it.
It was late at night, and thunder roared the skies. Keith tapped his finger tips against his thigh. Nights like this had become a regular occurrence, riding with Lance to dark or quiet places and waiting in the car while Lance bought more heroin. As he waited, he had plenty of time to get lost in his thoughts. At first he worried about Lance's safety, but then he quickly learned that Lance knew how to take care of himself, so his mind had to find something else to occupy it. He often thought about his failed attempt. More so reflecting on it. Was there a reason he survived? Did he have a purpose to still be here? Was he still here because of Lance? Would he feel like that again? Bad enough to try.... again? How was Lance holding up afterwards? He started to need heroin more often, is that how he was coping with it? Or had Keith just never known exactly how much Lance was using until they moved in together?
Lance suddenly swung the car door open and got in the driver's seat, his lip was busted, blood seeping out, and his cheek was a deep red. He slammed the door, and his eyes were filled with rage.
"What happened?!" Keith pressed, grabbing Lance by his chin and turning his face to see the damage, his thumb lightly brushing over the bloody bottom lip.
Lance wiggled out of his hold, eyes focusing on the street in front of him as he turned the keys in the ignition. "An idiot thinking he could pull something on me."
"Did you get it?" Keith asked, knowing Lance needed more, or he'd go through withdrawal.
"Hell yeah, I'm not about to let some kid scam me. Got extra, at that." Lance winked, pulling out the car, screeching his tires.
Keith walked in Lance's apartment, calling out for his boyfriend as he sat the Chinese food and his keys down on the kitchen counter. It was strange that he wasn't waiting at the door to wrap Keith up and shower him in affection.
Keith walked through the small apartment and into his boyfriend's bedroom, no sign of him there. He then went in the bathroom where he saw the counter covered in supplies and Lance propped against the bathtub, pale skinned, sweat on his forehead.
"Lance!" He shouted as he rushed to his side, cupping the other male's face in his left hand as he used the other to sit him up straight.
Lance's eyelids fluttered, he attempted to smile but couldn't. "I'll be... fine." he said softly.
"Huh?" Keith asked, wiping sweat off Lance's face. He adjusted himself to sit, still holding up his boyfriend.
"I'll be fine." Lance mumbled again quickly, his eyes bouncing around to find Keith's, and staying locked on him. He looked dazed, however he had the most sincere expression, almost like he was grateful to see Keith.
Lance seemed more aggressive when he had been using. He got set off easier, he had little patience. It didn't take much for him to snap at anybody. Except Keith. Sometimes it scared Keith, seeing how his boyfriend turned into a completely different person. He tried to ignore it, since it was never directed at him, but he never liked seeing that side of Lance.
He came home with bruises and blood on him more often than not, however he never really went into detail as to why. Keith wondered if it was because of drug deals gone wrong, if it was the crowd Lance surrounded himself with, or if Lance pissed off the wrong person with his combative behavior.
No matter the reason, it seemed to be a common response. Fight. The scariest thought Keith had was what the other person looked like after. Lance was only slightly banged up, but seeing the aggressive side of him could only make Keith assume the other person ended up pretty battered. Lance always seemed to have to prove something, almost no matter the cost.
*End of Flashbacks*
Even after seeing all the negatives, somehow, Lance had convinced him to try it. It wasn't malicious, Lance genuinely thought Keith could benefit from it. He knew that Keith was struggling with pain since he broke his leg. He knew that Keith was struggling in general. The failed suicide attempt, his injuries as consequences, the depression. He just wanted Keith to have a break. Lance thought that if it could help with the voices inside his own head that it could help Keith with his.
Chapter 3: Jump
TRIGGER WARNING: This chapter contains EXPLICIT self harm and suicide attempt.
Three weeks ago
Five stories up.
'Why waste your time, just get it over with finally.'
Keith's hands trembled, he squeezed his right hand tight around the blade, and soon blood began running down his palm, dripping into the sink.
"Come on!" He yelled to himself. He was begging the blade to hurt, to sting bad enough to snap him into focusing on that pain. He opened his hand and saw it only cut deep on the corners, he threw the blade in the sink, rinsing his hand off. The water mixed with the blood, swirling pink into the drain.
He gripped his hair, pulling tight. His breaths became heavier, and his body started shaking. He was too far gone, the panic attack had begun. He gasped for air, feeling like his chest was caving in on itself. The rapid breathing making him lightheaded. He steadied himself on the sink, hoping the shaking would stop quickly. He shut his eyes tight and the tears started. "Dammit." He thought to himself.
He opened his eyes as he gulped in another deep breath, and he saw the silver blade again. He needed to do something, anything.
'If it didn't work the first time, why would it work now?'
"But... it used to work." His voice shook in the low tone. Desperation. He needed it to work.
'It will never truly get better. You are just dragging this along. If you die it'll stop hurting.'
"No. No. No. Please, no." He whispered, grabbing the blade again, this time in his left hand. He looked at his bare right arm. Pale with blue veins just barely visible. It was clean, smooth, unscathed. He had always used his legs, since they were easier to hide. He wondered if it would possibly work better since there was less muscle? He pressed the blade against his fresh skin, his body still shaking so bad that he couldn't hold it still. He dug it in, and barely felt anything as he drug it across his skin. He tried again. And again.
'Who would miss you, really? Your mom abandoned you because she didn't want you, your dad is dead, Shiro only took you in because he felt sorry for you, and Lance will find someone else.'
The tears fell harder. The blood poured down his arm faster as he pressed the sharp object deeper. That was his greatest fear, that no one truly loved him.
'Aren't you tired of the panic attacks? Of feeling worthless and unwanted? Of wanting to die? Then do it. It'll all be over.'
"How?" Keith asked, releasing the blade, letting it fall to the floor, splattering tiny red dots on the tile. The shaking stopped, and he felt his heart slow down. The numbness took over.
'Fast, or someone will find you in time. No pills, no waiting to bleed out.'
Keith walked out of the bathroom, back into his dark bedroom. The only light was coming from the window. That was it. He unlocked it, raised it, and popped the screen off. He sat on the window sill, the cool wind hitting him. No one was in sight. A sense of freedom rushed through him.
He pushed himself off.
The way that Lance looked at Keith in the hospital was... heavy. He looked petrified, empty. That look would stay with Keith forever.
Maybe someone would miss him.
Keith had broken his right tibia, and had a few small fractures in his ankle. He had a few deep cuts on his back from scraping against the brick building. They said he was extremely lucky those were the only physical injuries. He didn't feel so lucky. The minute he saw an opportunity, he and Lance left the hospital. He refused to be put in a mental facility.
Lance drove, he wasn't sure how with his watery eyes. Keith remained silent in the passenger seat, seemingly empty. Once they arrived at Lance's apartment, Lance carried Keith into the bedroom, laying him down on the bed. Lance crawled onto the other side of the bed, only to scoot as close as he could to Keith, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him against his chest, resting his head against Keith's back. Lance began to cry, shivering from the intensity of emotions. He squeezed Keith tighter. It was as if he was saying how scared he was to have almost lost him.
Keith's eyes filled with tears at the sound of Lance crying. He could literally feel Lance's pain.
That was when Keith moved in with Lance. Because Keith's apartment now had a memory that couldn't be forgotten.
He couldn't look at that window again. He couldn't walk on that sidewalk again. Lance insisted, wanting to keep Keith close with the recent events. Lance wanted to protect him, and keep an eye on him.
Lance's apartment was a fresh start, a redo. Keith let that be his motivation, that maybe things would get better. And even if he didn't believe it to be true, he still tried to get better. He saw how Lance was broken after the attempt. The guilt made him push through.
Maybe that was when things took a turn for the worst with Lance using heroin. Although Keith couldn't pinpoint it to one certain thing, it was definitely something that could've helped cause it. Maybe that's why Keith never tried to stop him, because he thought it was his fault.
Chapter 4: Kiss it Better
Trigger warning: This chapter contains mentions of self harm and suicide attempt.
Nineteen days ago
Lance put his hand under the shower water, checking the temperature. It bounced against his palm like rain on a sidewalk. He turned back to Keith who stood in the corner with his arms crossed, looking down. Lance walked over to him, brushing his messy hair out of his face, pressing a gentle kiss on his forehead.
"You ready?" Lance asked in a soft, low voice as he held Keith's face in both hands, looking deep into his boyfriend's violet eyes that refused to meet his own.
"Want help?" Lance offered as he tugged on Keith's shirt sleeve.
Taking hold of the bottom of Keith's black shirt, Lance carefully lifted it up and off of him, his hand lightly grazing the pale skin. That was the first time he was seeing the cuts and scratches all over Keith. He saw dark bruises, nicks, and scratches. He then saw Keith's back in the mirror behind him, and saw where he had scraped against the brick wall, deep gashes ran the length of his back, dried blood the whole way down. The wounds looked painful.
Lance then pulled down Keith's gray sweatpants, and saw his thighs covered in scars. He knew they were there before, Keith explained it one of the first few times they slept together, however he made sure to really look at them, in case more showed up. Some looked more recent than others. Guilt hit him hard, like a boulder demolishing a building, knowing he should have seen them. He had Keith step out of the sweatpants, which revealed his swollen and bruised leg and ankle. Lance could just imagine it throbbing. He finally took off Keith's boxers, and stood back up, turning to look towards the shower.
Keith just stood there, blank faced.
Lance looked back at Keith, and could see the hesitancy. "How about I join you?"
Keith's eyes finally looked up to meet Lance's. He nodded.
A small smile leapt on Lance's face. He undressed himself, then took Keith's hand and walked over to the shower, pulling the curtain back. He motioned for Keith to step in first, following behind him.
The hot water stung as it ran over Keith's wounds, he winced in pain. Lance noticed the obvious discomfort and brought Keith into a hug. They stood there for a long while as steam danced around them. When they finally broke apart Lance took a washcloth and ran it over Keith's chest, trying to clean out the wounds as gently as possible. He turned Keith around and poured shampoo in his hand, running it through his boyfriends black hair. The suds trickled down Keith's body as the water hit his head. Lance continued scrubbing Keith's hair until all the soap rinsed out. Finally Lance took the washcloth and carefully went over Keith's back, cleaning all the dried blood from his skin. Keith stood there letting the water run down his face.
Turning the faucet in the off position, Lance stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. He grabbed Keith's towel and did the same for him, taking a smaller towel and using it to dry Keith's hair.
Keith got dressed in a loose shirt and boxers, while Lance wore just a pair of pajama pants. Keith returned to the bed, crawling onto his side, putting his back to where Lance would lay. Lance walked over to Keith's side, sitting down on the edge of the mattress while looking at his broken boyfriend.
Grabbing Keith's right hand that was curled near his face, Lance pulled it to his lips, pressing a soft kiss onto the deep cuts of his palm. Keith's eyes shot to Lance's, and sadness rushed over him.
Lance then kissed each of the three self inflicted scars on Keith's arm. He bent down and kissed the scar on Keith's cheek, staying there for a minute, stroking his thumb along his cheekbone.
Motioning Keith to turn slightly on his stomach, Lance raised his boyfriend's shirt enough to kiss the deep scratches on his back, noticing Keith didn't flinch at the action. He shifted himself to the foot of the bed so he could kiss Keith's leg and ankle where it was swollen and discolored, and Keith rolled back onto his side. Lastly, he leaned down and started to kiss the numerous self inflicted scars on Keith's thighs. Keith rolled to lay on his back although it hurt like absolute hell, because he knew Lance wasn't going to stop, so he made it easier so lance didn't have to lean as far down. Lance put his hand under Keith's thigh and continued, pressing hundreds of kisses on his thighs.
Each kiss made Keith realize that someone did love him, and would miss him.
Chapter 5: Someone Take Me Home
Eighteen days ago
"Wait in the car, I'll be back." Lance said, giving Keith a quick peck on the lips before getting out of the drivers seat of the car. He opened the door to the backseat and got a few moving boxes out.
They had gone to Keith's apartment to get some of his stuff. The important things. Keith didn't care about the furniture, it was just pieces of his life leading up to his attempt. The couch was a reminder of when he moved out from Shiro's house, leaving the only family he had. He bought it for his first apartment, where the loneliness returned. The oak table where he would eat, it reminded him of when he was younger, sitting across from his dad at dinner time. He could still taste the canned ravioli. The bed, where he would try to sleep. Where the bad thoughts flooded his head.
The important things consisted of daily essentials such as his toothbrush, medicine, and clothes. Personal belongings such as his books, electronics, the few photos he had, and specifically the fireman's helmet in his closet. He didn't have much to begin with. He was used to starting over with little to nothing.
When Takashi Shirogane, a best-selling author, went to the orphanage to donate clothes and toys, he never expected to take a child home. But the little boy sitting in the corner caught his eye. He knew what it was like to feel like an outcast. He couldn't help notice the hopelessness evident in the kid's eyes.
Soon enough the paperwork was done. Keith, the thirteen year old boy, was going to live with Takashi Shirogane. The man who believed greatness was within everybody, they just needed a chance. The man who thought someone needed to give the kid a break.
"Aright kid, let's grab your things." Shiro said, standing at the door to the bedroom where Keith had been staying.
Keith quickly walked to the door to meet Shiro, eyes looking up for some sort of direction. He never imagined he would be chosen for a home. He thought he would age out. Yes, it was only a foster home, but it was more than he thought he would get.
"Where is your stuff? I'll help you." Shiro offered, about to walk past Keith into the bedroom.
"This is my stuff." Keith murmured, lifting the red fireman's helmet up, revealing a couple of pictures sat inside.
In that moment Shiro's heart shattered into billions of pieces. His face immediately turned into sadness, as he felt sorry for Keith. The twenty three year old's eyes became glossy but he blinked repeatedly to prevent himself from crying. That was when he felt like it was the right decision to take Keith in.
"I'm ready to go, Mr. Shirogane." Keith announced, attempting to break Shiro out of his frozen state.
Feeling a lump in his throat, Shiro coughed. "You don't have to be so formal," he choked, "I'm just Shiro."
*End of flashback*
All of these emotions ran through Keith at once. He felt ashamed that he was weak enough to actually try to kill himself, and weak enough he failed. He felt guilty that Lance had to take care of him, that he put Lance through hell, and put him in this position. He regretted ever opening the window, ever listening to the words in his head. He was sad that Lance was a part of his life, because he broke Lance's beautiful heart that night.
It partially felt like a dream that he jumped, though his injuries proved otherwise. Although he felt completely numb, and seemed to have shut down after the attempt, he still feared that the thoughts would return. Jumping didn't cure him, it just numbed him. For now.
Walking through the front door made Lance's heart race. It felt like the ghost of Keith was left there. The atmosphere he had always felt comfortable in was now eerie.
As he carried a small moving box into the bathroom, Lance immediately noticed the razor blade on the floor, surrounded by dried drops of blood. That was where it truly hit him. He could only imagine the pain Keith had to be in to do that to himself. He now knew the true gravity of the situation. That all the scars he had seen countless times on Keith's thighs were most likely there to prevent him from attempting before. He wondered how many times Keith had gotten close to taking his own life. 'There are hundreds of cuts.' He thought to himself of Keith's thighs. He was so lost in thought he hadn't noticed that tears had formed in his eyes until they began falling down his cheeks.
Lance quickly tossed all the items from the bathroom into the box, then bent down to pick up the blade and trash it. He ripped off a few pieces of toilet paper and ran them under water from the sink and cleaned the blood from the floor.
As Lance was taking the box of bathroom items to the living room, he stopped and looked at the window in Keith's bedroom. It was still open. He wanted to look through it, to see how far it really was, but he couldn't walk close to it. Maybe he didn't actually want to know. Maybe it would break his heart more.
As Lance walked into the closet, he began grabbing Keith's clothes, shoving them into one of the bigger boxes. Tucked into the corner of the top shelf was the red helmet Keith asked for. It was dirty, and scratched. He carefully picked it up. It read the name Kogane. Next to the helmet was a small shoebox, and inside were the few photos Keith had from his childhood. Most were from after he moved in with Shiro. But there were a few with an unfamiliar face. The fireman.
Chapter 6: The Firefighter
Twelve days ago
The two had had a few drinks, eventually settling down to watch a movie on the couch. They were curled up to each other. Lance held Keith in his arms, never taking a moment like that for granted again.
A warm hand made it's way under Lance's shirt, trailing upward, going over the defined abs and continuing up to his chest. It made his heart skip.
"Can we...?" Keith asked, looking up with hopeful eyes.
Lance turned his head from the movie on tv, meeting his eyes to Keith's. He moved his arm from Keith's shoulders, so he could twirl his fingers through the mullet. "Won't it hurt your leg?"
"Everything hurts my leg. At least I'd enjoy the cause." Keith smiled, changing the direction of his hand downward, tracing his previous movements, and heading towards the top of Lance's pants.
That was the first genuine smile Lance had seen from Keith since the event. Seeing that was all the reason Lance needed. He leaned down, connecting their mouths together. Soft lips danced along with his, teasing with tiny nibbles.
Keith wasted no time in speeding up the kiss, taking control and winning the battle of tongue, though he was convinced Lance never put up too much of a fight. He quickly took off Lance's shirt and laid him down underneath him, running his hand up and down the tan skin as he watched his chest rise and fall. Keith sat up on his knees to take his own shirt off, and Lance gripped the pale hips that were slightly peaking out from the dark jeans, running his hands up and down Keith's sides, applying pressure with his fingers. Keith leaned back down, pressing his face in the crook of Lance's neck, sucking and biting aggressively.
"Mmm," Lance moaned, moving his hands to Keith's low back, "that's the Keith I know."
Keith chuckled at the comment, responding by biting Lance's shoulder, which caused Lance to lightly dig his nails into the curve of Keith's back. Missing the taste of his boyfriend, Keith continued leaving lovebites, while Lance moved his hands between their bodies and started unbuttoning both of their pants.
Keith was laying on top of Lance, head against his chest, taking slow breaths. Lance had his arms wrapped around him, playing with his black hair. Their bare skin together once again.
"I'm sorry." Keith whispered, it was as loud as he could say it without instantly sobbing.
The sudden words surprised Lance, making him play back the last half hour for any reason for the apology. "Why?"
"You know..." Keith sniffled, which gave Lance the hint to what he meant.
His suspicions were confirmed with tears falling on his chest. Lance lifted his head from the couch to look at Keith, hoping to meet eyes. "Kei-" He started to say, but was interrupted with a shaky voice.
"I just... couldn't make it stop. I thought I'd be better off gone." Keith admitted, fully weeping at that point.
Pressing a kiss on top of his lover's head, Lance regretfully asked "Why would you think that?"
"It wouldn't hurt anymore."
"What is hurting you so much, babe? You know you can tell me." Lance's words were soft, trying to comfort as best as he could. It hurt him to see the person he loved so broken.
"Everything." Keith gave a simple answer.
What he really wanted to say was 'My dad is dead because of me. My mom didn't want me. Shiro just pitied me. Adam actually wanted me but he's dead now. I'm not good enough for you. A small thought flies into my head and I just can't get it out, it festers and turns into a black hole. Then there's the panic attacks, and I think that it'll all stop if I just cease to exist. Maybe I'll see my dad and Adam again. And I try to fight it. I really try, I do. I've tried for years. Because there was this small fragment of hope that maybe I was wrong. And I met you and it helped because I had a reason to want to stay alive. But then I questioned if you actually wanted me too. And I can't bare the thought that you don't because I'm so invested in you.'
With little information, Lance decided he was going to ask more specific questions. "Does it have something to do with that firefighter?"
Keith's eyes shot wide open, he tilted his head to where he was rested on his chin to face Lance. Tears fell down his cheeks and made a puddle on Lance's chest. He hesitated for a moment, but quietly replied. "My dad? Yeah, kinda."
Feeling relieved he was getting somewhere, Lance continued. "Your dad? Wanna talk about it?"
Keith gulped, turning to lay on the side of his face again and avoid Lance's eyes. "He..." a warm trickle of a tear ran down Lance's skin. "died trying to save me."
Lance froze, unable to respond. Suddenly Keith felt heavier laying on top of him. His heart slowed, but with harder beats. Keith could hear it change pace.
"I was eight. My dad was at work. I was at a friend's house, playing hide and seek. I climbed up a tall tree in the backyard and was too scared to get down. Then I noticed the house had smoke. My friend wanted to try one of his older brother's cigarettes, and he didn't like it. He threw it in the trash. The flames grew too much before the fire department could get there. My friend, his brother and his mom got out of the house, but when the firetrucks got there, they all thought I was still inside somewhere, stuck. My dad ran in to find me..... he didn't make it out."
Lance's face was now soaked with his own tears, he held Keith tighter. That was the beginning of Lance breaking down the multiple walls Keith had up. He had a long way to go.
Chapter 7: Blood Stains More Than You Think
Trigger warning: Self harm, suicidal thoughts, mentions of drug use.
Nine days ago
It was the middle of the night. Keith began slowly waking up, stretching his muscles as he rolled over on his other side to face the middle of the bed, taking in the view of Lance sleeping inches away. Keith had fallen asleep in the early evening since he had trouble sleeping the night prior. The voices in his head were always worse at night.
The room was dark, however a small bit of glow from a street light outside of Lance's apartment shined in, illuminating a portion of the bed. It hit on Lance's bare back, a blue hue against the tan skin. Toned arms folded under the pillow that held his head. A soft face, with eyes peacefully closed. It still surprised Keith how breathtaking Lance was. How damn lucky he was to be next to him nightly.
'What a shame, you ruined him.'
Guilt built up inside Keith, blaming himself for who Lance had recently become. After the attempt Lance began using more. Almost always high or drunk. Keith thought he made Lance's life so miserable that he had to be high just to get through the day. That it was how he was coping with almost losing someone. That it was how he handled the stress of taking care of Keith.
'Of course it's your fault, he was fine before he met you.'
Suddenly his heart began racing. He couldn't even argue with the voice. Lance only used a little when they first met, now he couldn't live without it.
'You don't deserve him. He is too good for you, cleaning up the mess you made, trying to save someone who can't save themself. You're just dragging him down with you.'
The urge to reach his hand over and entangle it with Lance's was extreme, however he stopped himself, refusing to wake Lance from his slumber. Somehow, Lance had a way of making the voices go away, usually by holding Keith close, telling him he was safe and the thoughts weren't true.
'If you had died he wouldn't have gotten this bad. You're going to be the death of him if he keeps using at this rate.'
Keith shot up out of bed, his chest burning from the words in his head. He believed it was true, that he caused Lance to use more, that he was a burden that Lance wouldn't have had to bare if he just died that night, that he was hurting the person that meant the most to him, that he was killing him.
Keith tiptoed to the bathroom, quietly shutting the door behind him, locking it. He opened the medicine cabinet and grabbed the box of band-aids. He took out the razor he had hidden inside and stared at the shiny blade. He couldn't help but feel like he deserved it, causing so much pain that it ruined Lance's life. At the very least it would stop the bad thoughts. He started to think about where he could cut, so that Lance wouldn't notice.
'If he found out, it would hurt him more.' Keith thought to himself. He couldn't do it. He couldn't risk having Lance find out. He tucked the razor blade back down in the box of bandages, closed it and put it back in the cabinet. He slid down the wall to sit on the floor, closed his eyes and put his head in his knees.
Shiro was in his office, typing hundreds of words to bring his new story to life, unbeknownst to what was going on down the hallway.
Adam got home from work earlier than he said he would, he decided he would go grocery shopping the next day. He went upstairs to ask what the other two males wanted for dinner, but as he passed the bathroom he heard a hiss followed by a sniffle.
Two light knocks on the door startled Keith. He knew Shiro's schedule, he would write until sundown, so he shouldn't have left his office yet. His stomach dropped and his heart started beating so fast he had chest pain. He was so startled by the knock he hadn't even thought about responding.
"Keith?" Adam quietly called, not wanting to alarm Shiro.
As soon as Keith heard the voice, he knew it was Adam. It didn't make sense, Adam said he wouldn't be home for another hour or so.
Using all the strength he had, Keith prepared himself to answer. "Yeah?" He hoped Adam would just leave, assuming he was just using the bathroom.
It wouldn't be that easy. Adam knew something was wrong, he knew Keith sounded like he was in pain. His mind wondered what had happened. Did he fall in the shower? Was he seriously injured? He knew Keith would pretend he was fine, no matter how bad it was. Keith didn't want to inconvenience anyone, so he would lie and say things weren't as bad as they really were.
Knowing this, Adam wouldn't let just words be enough. "Keith, open the door."
Sitting on the closed toilet, Keith's leg bounced up and down rapidly. He knew he couldn't clean the blood off his thighs in enough time, he didn't know how to hide the blade quickly, if he just pulled his jeans back up it would stain them, and he didn't to ruin the clothes Shiro bought for him.
The only thing he could do to try to keep this a secret was to buy himself some time. Trying to steady his words as much as possible Keith replied "I'm naked, just got done showering, do you need something?"
Something in his gut just knew something was wrong with the falter in Keith's voice, so Adam pressed more. "Then put on a towel and open the door." He demanded, leaning his head against the doorframe hoping to hear something that would give him an idea to what was going on.
Looking down at his legs, seeing the glistening crimson, Keith took a deep breath. "Can't it wait until I'm dressed?" He kept up his facade.
"No, and if you don't open the door right now, I will break it down." Adam had enough, he was going to find out one way or another.
Shutting his eyes as tight as he could, tears fell like waterfalls down Keith's face. He knew Adam was serious, and wouldn't hesitate to break the door, he was a police officer, after all. "O-okay. I'll unlock it, but you have to come in, be quiet, and lock the door. Just you." Keith negotiated with no more false strength, his voice cracked beneath him. He knew his secret was going to be known and there was nothing he could do about it.
The click of the door unlocking sent relief over Adam. What he would see next would diminish that feeling instantly. He slowly opened the door, and was met by the fifteen year old's empty eyes, tear stained cheeks, and bleeding legs. Adam's world came crumbling down.
Shaky legs slowly stumbled in the small bathroom, Adam locked the door behind him, as Keith requested. Adam took a couple more steps and knelt down next to Keith, grabbing his wrist. Taking hold of the bloody blade, Adam couldn't hold back tears, he couldn't even count how many scars he saw engraved into the pale skin.
The younger male remained silent, waiting for Adam to say something. They just stared at each other, unable to form words. It surprised Keith when he was pulled into a tight hug, as he was expecting anger. He bawled into Adam's shoulder, soaking his shirt.
"What about your clothes? It will stain them..." Keith's words were muffled as he spoke against the other male.
Adam tighted his grip, sobbing. "It doesn't matter."
After helping Keith clean up and calming him down, Adam set up an appointment with a doctor for the next day. He respected Keith's request to not tell Shiro. Keith wasn't ready for Shiro to know yet, out of fear he would be sent back to the orphanage.
Chapter 8: Swing
TRIGGER WARNING: Major homophobia, physical abuse, drug use, mentions of suicide attempt.
Three days ago
"I'm exercising demons, got 'em running 'round the block now." The radio played.
Upstairs in his apartment he knew Keith was safe, and sound asleep. A sense of security he had wanted for weeks now, that when he returned home, Keith was alive. Keith was safe.
Keith, the boy with the prettiest eyes.
Keith, the boy with the softest hair.
Keith, the boy who had the warmest voice.
Keith, the boy with the half smiles, his small eye tooth peeking out.
Keith, the boy who when he laughed, which wasn't often, could make Lance's heart skip a beat.
Keith, the boy who caught Lance's heart and didn't let go.
'What the hell do you mean you like boys?'
The words replayed in his head, the memory of his father's voice still clear as day.
Large hands grabbed his shirt, lifting him in the air, his legs dangling. His body slammed into the wall, knocking the breath out of him. He tried to pull the hands off of him, clawing at the wrists of the other male, to no avail. Immense terror ran through the fourteen year old, tears dripping on the fists holding him. Evil eyes looked at him with fury, leaving a permanent image that he'd see for the rest of his life.
Unable to pull in full breaths, he grunted to form words. "Dad," he sucked in another shallow breath, "y-you're...hurt...ing..me." he tried kicking his legs to get himself free, but it was useless as his father was much bigger than him.
"Just when I thought you couldn't disappoint me anymore, you turn out to be gay?" His father snarled, pulling him from the wall just to throw him into it again, harder. "You're going to hell."
Broken sobs filled the room, he felt like he was already there. He didn't stand a chance to fight off his father. He tried searching his father's face to find even a small trace of his dad instead of the monster that was in front of him.
One of the large hands let go, he thought it was over, and he gasped for more oxygen. However, he saw the fist returning with a swing towards him, colliding with his face. It felt like his top teeth were knocked out from the force, but it was just his cheek throbbing. Another swing, hitting his temple, causing an instant headache. Another swing, grazing his eye, blurring his vision. Then punch after punch into his stomach, making him writhe in agony.
He was in too much pain to resist anymore, his body fell limp in his father's hold. The other hand let go, instantly dropping him to the floor. 'Now it's over.' He thought to himself, catching his breath.
Suddenly a foot made contact with his abdomen, and he felt like he was going to throw up. Another kick, hitting his hip, he screamed in pain, attempting to curl into a ball to protect himself, but was met with the foot again, stomping him flat on the ground.
"No disgusting gay ass is going to be living in my house." His father declared as he walked out of the dining room.
*End of flashback*
The orange flame swung back and forth under the silver spoon. Lance had just gotten home after buying more heroin, and couldn't wait to go inside.
Needle to vein,
Silence his brain,
Erase the pain,
Spoonful of peace,
Mind at ease,
The voices cease,
He leaned into the steering wheel as he felt the drug coursing through his body. His body relaxed, he hadn't even noticed how tense he was.
Recently the memories replayed more and more, and he kept hearing his father's words. It haunted him.
The words from his past only came every now and then before, which he learned to drown out with heroin. But when he met Keith, they filled his head more frequently. When Keith had tried to kill himself, Lance was heartbroken, and he realized he couldn't lose Keith, he loved Keith. That was when the words constantly flooded his head. He felt wrong for loving Keith. Ashamed, and fearful. If he was falling in love with Keith, he had to finally accept his sexuality. Bisexual. A word he was taught to disgrace.
It was easy to be with someone as long as it was temporary. Keith wasn't temporary. Keith was different from his hook-ups, different from James. Keith slithered into his life, and his venom was love. Unconditional love. Something Lance had never experienced.
He was afraid of falling in love with Keith.
Chapter 9: There's Someone I Want You to Meet.
Self harm, suicide attempt.
The sun was setting, the clouds painted the sky with pink and orange hues. The car had been silent for the last half hour as the two drove to Shiro's house.
Shiro had invited Keith over, but since it was an hour away, Lance offered to drive him and sit in the car while Keith was inside. Lance wasn't ready to be introduced yet, some parts of Keith still felt like a stranger, especially when it came to Shiro. Keith had mentioned he had a brother, but that was all the information he would give.
Keith had a skewed perception of his and Shiro's relationship. He knew Shiro did a lot for him, that he was a great brother, that he gave Keith the best life he could, and that Shiro genuinely cared about him, but his anxiety made him believe Shiro only pitied him, and that was the only reason he took him in. That was what he believed ever since Adam died.
The silence was too much for Lance, so he turned to look over at Keith who was staring out the window. "So... why don't you tell me more about Shiro." Lance suggested, focusing on the road ahead of him again.
Whipping his head to look at Lance, Keith scrunched his brows, as if he was confused by Lance's curiosity. Realizing he hadn't shared much about Shiro, Keith relaxed. "He kind of adopted me. You know, since my dad died, I was placed in an orphanage. He took me in and after a few years, he was going to adopt me, but the paperwork never got finished. But we're like brothers."
Lance gripped the wheel, he never knew that Keith and Shiro weren't actually related. He never knew about the orphanage. He thought Keith just went to live with his older brother after losing his dad. Suddenly, Lance realized there were many more layers to Keith than he thought.
"He did his best to give me a good life. Gave me everything I needed. But after his fiancé died, part of him died too. We kind of both isolated ourselves, so we grew apart towards the end. That's why when I turned eighteen I moved out." Keith sounded empty, like he also lost a part of himself back then. Because he did. He lost Adam.
Adam, the man who saved him countless times.
Adam, the man who didn't judge him.
Adam, the man who helped him get better.
Adam, the first person to see he was broken and try to fix him.
Adam, the man who wanted to adopt him.
Adam, his family.
Sad eyes turned to face Keith, who looked emotionless. "That's pretty heavy, losing his fiancé." Lance said, thinking to himself 'like when I almost lost you.'
Leaning his head back to the headrest of the seat, Keith sighed. "Yeah."
Silence filled the car again.
They finally arrived at Shiro's house. It was huge. Lance couldn't believe it, it was a mansion. Expensive cars parked on the side of the house under a covering. A gated property.
Mouth open as he gawked, "I didn't realize he was... well off?" Lance muttered, looking past Keith at the house.
"Oh yeah, he went on a huge spending spree after his fiancé died. Guess it was how he coped. I suppose you can do whatever you want when you're a grieving, rich author. Ever read 'Altea'? Or 'After You'? Yeah, he's Takashi Shirogane." Keith groaned, quickly getting out of the car and shutting the door before Lance could ask anymore questions.
'Oh my god.' Lance thought, remembering the name.
"I'm trapped, waiting for a sign from you. I can't mail the papers, because it is the last thing you wrote. It's the only place I'll see your name as it should be.
I need you. He needs you. He is getting bad again, but won't talk to me. It's like I'm a stranger to him again. I found razor blades hidden in the box of bandages, tapped inside the helmet, even in the birthday card you gave him. I don't know how to ask him. You always did. I tried to take him to the appointments, but he doesn't leave his room. He needs you. I'm not you.
I failed him. I failed you. I should have made you stay. I should have said 'I do'. I should be able to save him, but I'm not you."
It was the last book Lance read. It was what kept him occupied as he hid away in his room when he was younger. It wasn't fiction. The book meant a lot to Lance, since it was about a man losing his soon-to-be husband. He was able to relate, not being able to be with who he wanted. He lost his first boyfriend Lucas. Not by death, but it might as well have been.
'That means... he was talking about Keith. Not his son.' It felt like someone stabbed Lance in his heart. The puzzle was coming together and it wasn't a pretty picture.
Keith rang the doorbell, hearing it travel through the house. It had been a while since he saw his brother. They were both grieving in their own ways, and Keith left. He was happy that Shiro was slowly healing, so he didn't want to ruin the progress with his own problems.
The door opened, and Shiro stood there with the brightest smile. It was strange to see him that happy. Maybe it was because it had been so long and he was glad to see Keith in person.
"Hey, come in!" Shiro motioned his hand to invite Keith in.
The door shut behind him, and suddenly arms wrapped around Keith. Squeezing him tight. Keith awkwardly hugged back. He wished he could see Shiro as the same person as before Adam died. But, he couldn't help but feel like he was just an obligation.
"Dinner is just about ready, if you want to get comfortable in the dining room." Shiro said as he walked towards the dining room, then towards the kitchen.
"Yeah, sure." Keith sat at one of the corner chairs that had a plate sat at it.
The dark cherry walls were decorated with dark wooden shelves and lots of plants. The China cabinet filled with beautiful plates. The dining table could sit twenty people, but there were only three placemats, three plates, three glasses. Keith assumed Shiro never broke the habit of making the table for three. That all of these years he continued to put a plate for Adam.
Carrying a pan with pot holders, Shiro entered the dining room and put the lasagna on the table. "I'll bring the salad out, would you like wine?" A grin still on Shiro's face.
Keith nodded, questioning if Shiro was actually as happy as he was showing. Shiro brought the salad bowl and a bottle of wine, filling up two of the glasses. Keith sipped his wine as he stared blankly at Shiro, who had yet to sit down.
Then the doorbell rang.
Watching as Shiro skipped through the house to the front door, Keith was confused. He stood up from his chair and was going to follow, until Shiro walked back to the dining room with a tall dark male.
"Keith, there's someone I want you to meet. This is Curtis... my boyfriend." Shiro was beaming, his hand around Curtis' waist, pulling him close.
The words didn't seem real. Keith stared at the two, replaying the words to make sure he heard them correctly. Remaining silent, Keith sat back down at the table, trying to make the best of the situation.
The three began eating dinner together. Keith listened as Shiro told of how he met Curtis. How Curtis worked at a bookstore, and how Shiro kept visiting and buying more books, but actually went to see Curtis again and again. How his bookshelves were overflowing because he kept buying books. Keith kept drinking wine, until he was four glasses in, without the other two males noticing.
Curtis sat his cutlery down, holding onto Shiro's hand. They both looked towards Keith. "Keith, If I could have your blessing, I'd like to marry Takashi."
No, he didn't ask that.
Without saying a word Keith suddenly pushed his chair back and stood up, walking through the kitchen, and out the backdoor.
Hearing the door slam, Shiro rushed to follow Keith, and as he stepped outside he saw Keith standing in the middle of the backyard, staring up at the sky.
Grass crunched under Shiro's feet as he approached Keith, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Keith..." Shiro was disheartened.
"Is this why you invited me over?" Keith spat, eyes still looking up, though clearly enraged.
"Yes, I wanted your permission before-" Shiro began, interrupted.
Keith yanked his shoulder forward away from Shiro. "My permission? What about Adam? You're... you're just going to forget about him like that?" Tears filled Keith's eyes as he turned to face Shiro with pure anger.
"Keith, I will always love Adam." Shiro's voice began to shake, but he tried to compose himself, seeing how hurt Keith was.
"Then why do you want to marry someone else? You can move on that easy?" Keith spoke between closed teeth, trying to control his temper.
Tears finally fell from Shiro's eyes at the last remark. "It hasn't been easy, Keith. Not one damn minute of any day has it ever been easy." Shiro cried, clenching his fists.
Keith snapped, "Seems like it's been easy for you to fall in love with Curtis enough to want to get married."
"It's been eight years, Keith. Eight years of me waking up to an empty side of the bed, with only the memory of what I had. It's been eight years that I've opened the closet to a police uniform that hasn't been worn. It's been eight years since the worst day of my life. It's been eight years. And it's been five years of an empty house, because you left. You were all I had, and you left. You left when I needed you most. Do you know how much that hurt?" Shiro was bawling, his cheeks had trails of where tears had ran down. The moonlight in the reflection of his eyes. Desolation clear on his face as he looked at Keith.
Tears pouring like faucets, Keith yelled. "I left because you didn't want me, you just pitied me. Adam was the one who actually wanted to adopt me. You wanted to wait, and then when he died, you never went through with it. You know why? Because you didn't want me, I was just a nuisance to you. A responsibility you had because you made the mistake of deciding to foster me. You want to talk about hurt, Shiro? Just a month ago I tried to kill myself. Yeah, I'm still depressed, still cutting, because I'm still hurting just as much as I was eight years ago. Adam knew I was broken, but he tried to get me help. I was doing better! Until he was gone. He didn't give up on me. You did." The words cut like knives, because it was all the pain Keith had held inside for so long, finally reaching the surface.
Frozen in shock, Shiro just looked at Keith, shaking. 'He... tried to kill himself? He's still cutting? Does he really think I don't want him, that he's a nuisance? He's my brother... my best friend. He thinks I gave up on him?' He thought to himself. He didn't realize Keith was still struggling that much, never even knew he got so bad he considered ending his own life. He began reaching his arms out, walking forward to wrap Keith in the tightest hug possible.
Keith took a few steps back, rejecting Shiro's attempt. "I hope you have a happy life with Curtis. Don't contact me, ever again, shithead."
Keith sprinted past Shiro, leaving him alone once again. As he entered the house he saw Curtis distraught, who was feeling guilty for causing the upset. Keith continued darting through the house and back to Lance's car, slamming the door as he got in the passenger seat. "Let's go."
Lance wanted to ask, to comfort, but he didn't want to stay and something else happen, so he drove away quickly, wondering why his boyfriend was crying.
Chapter 10: "After You." By Takashi Shirogane.
Trigger warning: mentions of self harm.
Day 23 After You
I poured two cups of coffee again today.
Not to mention I almost used expired milk, since I didn't have you to tell me, waiting just before I turned the carton enough for it to pour. You always liked to tell me just seconds before I ruined my coffee.
You always paid attention to that kind of stuff. When milk expires, when the electric bill was due, when I walked away from the stove for 'just a second' and you'd almost let the food burn just to tease me about how I'm not as good of a cook as you.
You were right. I can't come close to your cooking. I miss the taste of your favorite recipes. A small piece of life I know I can't find elsewhere.
Your pillow still curves where you last laid your head. Some nights when I'm having an nightmare, I like to imagine that perhaps you are laying next to me, causing the indentation. I also became accustomed to sleeping without a blanket covering my back, because you always stole all the covers.
In the shower I smell your shampoo, to remind me of how your hair smelled.
Can I be honest with you?
I don't know how to get through the day without you. I can't remember how I survived before I met you. These habits and routines are so hard to break, and I'm not sure if it's because I've been doing them for so long, or because I don't want to break them. I still want to pour your coffee in the morning, as a small gesture of affection. I still make enough coffee for both of us. I'm not sure I want to live without you. I'm not even sure how to. I can't even imagine that there will be a day when I wake up and only make one cup. I can't imagine the day when I realize you aren't coming home. How can something, someone so significant just complete vanish?
I drove past the pet store, and thought about how everytime we did, you would ask for a cat. I always said no, talked you out of it. Now I regret not getting one. One that I could have now that you're not here, one that you would have loved and spoiled. Now if I were to get a cat, you wouldn't have spent a moment with it, and it wouldn't be the same. I wish I would have just let you get one, so that you would have had that joy in life. You deserved the world and I kept part of it from you.
His grades are dropping. He hasn't spoken more than ten words to me. Most responses are just hums and nods. I don't know how you did it. How you came into both of our lives and changed us. You were actually able to get a smile out of him.
Dr. Khan says he is just having a hard time handling another loss. Losing another stable male figure, especially one who was as understanding as you with his struggles. She wonders if it has a similar feeling to when he lost his dad, since you were a police officer and died on the job. I don't understand as well as you did. Will he grow out of cutting one day? I keep disposing of the razor blades I find, but what if he is just hiding them better?
I know I had fostered him before I met you, but I never suspected the self harm. You discovered that. You were able to gain his trust enough for him to open up to you. I felt like I had built such a strong bond with him, he seemed happy here. He's my little brother. I want the best for him and that was having you here. He's already had a tough life, and I don't know how to make it any better. I can't bring back his dad. I can't bring back you.
Chapter 11: Stuffed Animal
Trigger warning: mentions of self harm and suicidal thoughts.
Pulling into a gas station, the tires crunched gravel. The bright lights blinding Keith, who got a headache from crying so much.
The car beeped as Lance got out, leaving the door open as he put the gas pump in the car, hearing it trickle in the tank. He leaned against the backdoor, crossing his arms, closing his eyes, still wondering what happened at Shiro's house. Worried about his boyfriend who was still sniffling. It was the worst sound in the world, hearing the love of his life cry. Lance decided he would try to make Keith feel better, even if Keith refused to talk. Leaning back in the car Lance grabbed the cash he had in the console, and shut the door, walking to go into the store of the station.
Searching the aisles for something, anything to get Keith, a pack of powdered sugar donuts was in front of him. 'Who doesn't like these?' Lance thought as he grabbed a pack from the shelf. He continued to walk the store, and got a can of beer from the cooler. Drinking helps, right? Keith's vice was alcohol. On one of the aisle end caps were small, cheaply made stuffed animals. A purple hippo with crooked teeth caught his attention.
The cash register rang, and the cashier gave Lance his change. He walked proudly back to his car, the white plastic bag swaying with each step. As he got into his car, he hoped Keith would acknowledge him, but the black haired boy was still leaning against the window, eyes closed, sniffling. Lance simply sat the bag in Keith's lap, and put his seatbelt on.
Feeling the weight of something placed on him, Keith opened his eyes to see what it was, and an ugly, beady eyed hippo stared at him. A small chuckle escaped.
The world felt okay again, hearing the simple sound fill the car.
Digging through the bag, Keith grabbed the can of beer, opened it and began chugging. Gulp after gulp. He wanted to forget.
Noticing the fist of Keith's left hand, Lance reached over and took hold of it, working his fingers to lock with Keith's. He felt relieved that the items he bought actually made Keith feel slightly better.
"He's going to marry someone else." Keith explained, trying to give Lance an idea as to why he was upset.
Squeezing Keith's hand tighter, Lance brought it up to his lips and pressed a kiss on his knuckles, lingering for a while. He watched as Keith looked forward, his eyelashes were shiny from crying, his eyes were red and puffy, his cheeks had dried lines where the tears had traveled.
"I know I should be happy for him. He should be able to move on, to find love again...." It was almost as if Keith was talking to himself, thinking aloud. "But I don't even know this new guy, he never told me about him. It doesn't seem fair to Adam. The guy was nice! He was so nice, Lance!" It was like the battle in Keith's head was on display.
Lance just watched as Keith spoke, letting him vent. The stress was literally radiating off of Keith, and Lance couldn't help but feel glad he was opening up.
"After Adam died, Shiro just faded away. Who am I to blame him? I know exactly what it's like. But any time he tried to do something for me, I felt like it was a chore for him. I convinced myself that Shiro didn't care about me. But, Shiro did care, Lance. I just pushed him away because.... I didn't want to get attached, in case he sent me back to the orphanage. And... I didn't think I was worth saving." Keith's words were heavy, like his heart.
"But you are, you're worth so damn much." Lance whispered, wiping a tear off of Keith's cheek, his thumb tugging the pale skin.
"Shiro gave me so much. Without him? I would have died a long time ago. I'm sure of it. I started cutting when I was twelve in the orphanage, and I'm sure it wouldn't have been long after that, that I would have tried to kill myself. I had no reason to live, felt disappointed every day I woke up again, I had no one. But then, Shiro took me in. He took me to the store and told me to pick out anything. He took me home and made grilled cheeses. He took me to carnivals, took me to the beach, took me to different cities when he had book signings." Keith kept remembering all the good times. The moments that gave him hope.
A smile slowly crept on Lance's face, hearing Keith talk about his past. The good parts of it, at least.
"I guess I took Adam's death hard because I was finally able to relate to someone. He was depressed. He never told Shiro. He said he had seen a lot of bad stuff being a police officer and it just got worse for him. How he had a great childhood and amazing parents but he couldn't help but feel hopeless. And the person I trusted most, just gone. That's why I'm afraid to let new people in my life. I'm afraid to lose anyone else." The last few words stood still in the air. Keith realized what he had said, and turned to face Lance.
The glimmer in Lance's eyes, the way he held his mouth open, still processing the confession, the way the white lights shined upon his skin.
Keith realized he was scared to lose Lance, and afraid he lost Shiro.
Chapter 12: Loose Romance
If Keith was so afraid of losing people that he refused to let people in his life, then what happened with Lance?
The first night they met and hooked up, they thought it was a one time thing. They thought they would never see each other again. Wrong.
Keith got home from work and shut the front door, remaining still.
'Imagine your lungs filling with smoke, unable to breathe. You put up with the suffering because you are looking for someone. You can't see through the flames. You are screaming their name, begging, pleading for them to appear. But they don't. They let you die. And when you get to the other side, they aren't there waiting for you.'
"I didn't know!" Keith yelled, punching the front door. His hand throbbed, staying in a fist.
'If you weren't so scared, he wouldn't have died.'
Tears poured down his cheeks, collected at his chin, and dripped to the floor. He couldn't bite down any harder, or squeeze his eyelids shut any tighter. "Don't you think I know that?"
'He is waiting on the other side.'
There it was, tempting him with death again. Serving it on a silver platter, accompanied by enticing reasons.
'You know it would be easy. You have that bottle of pills in your nightstand, just waiting to be swallowed. You've been considering for long enough.'
"Agh!" Another punch to the door. He was really trying to ignore it. To avoid the inevitable. His legs were still burning from earlier that day. He didn't leave room for later.
Distraction. Distraction. Distraction. He needed a distraction. He opened the front door again and went back to his car. Anywhere but home.
Images of the city flashed through his mind, trying to decide where to go. Then he remembered a club not too far from his work. Alcohol? Check. Other people? Check. Distracting? Check.
The bass of the music twisted his stomach. Blue lights flashed around the room. His body sunk into the one of the booths against the wall. Three shots in.
"Body on my, losin' all my innocence, yeah
Body on my, grindin' on my innocence, yeah"
Walking back to meet up with his friends Matt and Ryan, Lance was carrying 5 beers, his fingers curled around the necks of the bottles. With a skip in his step, he sang along to the lyrics. Then, something, or someone caught his eye. It was the guy from the party two weeks ago, just slumped on the booth. 'Hm, what's he doing here?' Lance thought, unable to take his eyes off of him. He took the beers to his friends and went back to where he saw the party guy sat.
"Hey again, handsome!" The words jumped out with ease for Lance, a smile across his face.
Giving Lance a death glare, Keith thought it was someone who knew him from the bar. He hated being recognized by customers outside of work. "Do I know you?"
Instantly Lance's face dropped, he was immediately offended. "Uh, seriously? We hooked up in my car? Want me to remind you?"
"Well, I'm not going to say no."
Holding out his hand to pull Keith from the booth, Lance then lead Keith to the bathroom, locking the stall door behind them, biting his lip, looking at the black haired male with an appetite.
Running his thumb over Lance's mouth, pulling it from his teeth, Keith grinned. "Oh, now I remember those lips." He smashed his own lips to meet Lance's. Familiar, yet unknown.
*End of flashback*
But he didn't get attached from two hookups. No, it was the time and time again. It was the gentle touches and the soft voice, it was the positive soul, the energy, the person he caught glimpses of during the hookups. It was his distraction. He needed a distraction. The small cracks of jokes, the flirty one-liners Lance would throw out, the hums and the snores. The way Lance could be serious one moment and playful the next. It was the comfort of making it through another day. It was the understanding that life sucks. It was the way Lance went out of his way to cheer Keith up.
In fact, he got so used to Lance being around, he once asked for clarity of what they were.
A smooth hand brushed Keith's hair back, revealing his forehead, and Lance pressed a small kiss just above his eyebrows.
There was the tenderness. This was becoming a regular occurrence.
Keith turned to open Lance's front door to leave, but before he stepped out he turned back around, to catch Lance's eyes again. "What is this? What are we doing?" Confused puppy eyes searching for an answer.
"Ya know, I like you Kogane." Lance admitted, reaching to play with Keith's hair, brushing it behind his small ear, running his hand down to the ends of the back.
The quiet boy remained bewildered, "Thanks?" He couldn't understand why.
"You don't care about what people think of you. I envy that." Lance explained, tilting his head, taking in the view.
'Hmph, if only you knew.' Keith thought to himself. He actually did care. In fact, he cared a lot.
"But, I just got out of a pretty bad relationship. I like having freedom to mess around. I'm still getting comfortable with being bi, and want to keep exploring that." Lance then placed a hand on Keith's shoulder and continued.
"But I also like you. You're the first person I've wanted to see again, and again. So, if you're up for a loose romance..."
That was perfect for what Keith was wanting at the time. "I'm good with that, as long as I get to see you often." Keith winked, gaining his confidence again.
To solidify his offer, Lance gave Keith a key to his apartment.
*End of flashback*
Chapter 13: Adam
Mentions of self harm!
Clutching his phone in his hand, Keith trembled. Tears fell from his eyes and his head dropped. He pulled the phone up to his ear, and listened as it rang. He was expecting it to ring all the way to voicemail after what he had done.
After three rings, there was a click.
"Keith?" The voice on the other side seemed surprised.
Sucking in the biggest breath he could, Keith began spilling his thoughts. "Shiro, I'm so sorry. I want you to be happy and Curtis seems like a great person who makes you happy. I'm sorry that I didn't appreciate everything you had done for me, and that I kept so much from you. I'm sorry that you tried and I pushed you away. You were hurting too and I should have been there for you. I'm sorry and I get it if you hate me." Keith wept, gripping his phone. The seconds from the time he stopped speaking to when Shiro responded felt like an eternity.
Shiro closed his eyes, heartbroken to hear the words, but thankful Keith was actually talking to him. "Keith... we're good. I understand, I didn't tell you beforehand about Curtis and you felt blindsided. We both lost a lot that day. I could never hate you." Shiro tried to be strong, holding back his own tears.
After finding out about Keith self harming, Adam started taking Keith to and from his doctor and therapy appointments. Keith and Adam bonded during the car rides. Adam told Keith about his depression and how he understood part of what Keith was dealing with. Keith opened up about his dad's death, and how he wondered why his mom didn't want him. Adam comforted Keith, "You have a family that wants you now."
After a few weeks of therapy, Keith decided he was ready to tell Shiro about his struggle with self harm.
Walking into the dining room with Adam following, Keith approached Shiro who was sat at the table. He couldn't help but look terrified to say the truth. "Uh, Shiro?"
Turning to see what Keith wanted, Shiro noticed the fear, and sadness. Adam was stood behind Keith, a hand on his shoulder. He was expecting to hear that Keith accidentally broke a vase or that Keith did something bad at school. What came next was the last thing Shiro would expect.
Keith took in a deep breath, squeezing his hands together behind his back. "Adam hasn't been taking me to baseball practice. He's been taking me to therapy." There it was. The truth.
Scrunching his brows, Shiro was clearly taken aback. "Therapy?" He turned to look at Adam for an explanation, unsure of why Adam would have lied to him.
Dropping his head to look at his feet, Keith's eyes got watery, knowing the next words he was going speak would change everything. "I....I c-cut m-mys-self. I have for th-three years." Tears fell on his own feet as he stuttered, each word was difficult to get out from his throat.
Instead of the negative reaction Keith expected, Shiro yanked him into a tight hug, holding the back of his head with one hand, while the other was gripping onto his shoulder.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Shiro's words were quiet, trying to be gentle.
"I thought if you knew you'd send me back, I thought you would hate me." Keith's voice was muffled against Shiro's shoulder.
Shiro pulled Keith away, cupping his face in his hands, both bawling. "I would never send you back there, okay? Don't you ever think that. And I would absolutely never hate you. We are brothers, and we will always be brothers. No matter what happens."
*End of flashback*
"Can I ask you something?" Shiro's voice shook, trying to remember everything Keith had said a few nights prior.
Gulping, Keith answered "Yeah."
"Did you ever read After You? If you had, you would know the reason I never officially adopted you. It wasn't because I didn't want you, or that you were just some obligation I got myself into. It was because of Adam." Slowly gaining strength in his words, Shiro began to explain.
As his eyes widened, Keith stuttered. "A-Adam? What about Adam?"
"We were going to adopt you together. And he had already signed the papers... but he wrote his last name as Shirogane." Shiro had a small smile grow on his face, remembering back to the day.
One night, Keith had gotten up in the middle of the night and wanted a snack, so he went downstairs towards the kitchen. Just before he turned to go in the kitchen, he overheard voices, so he stood quietly behind the wall.
"Takashi..." Adam's voice was soft, putting his hand on Shiro's bicep. This was a conversation he had wanted to have for a while.
Shiro closed the refrigerator. "Yeah?" His eyes met Adam's, which were big and wide with hope.
Handing over a stack of papers, Adam smiled with glossy eyes. "I want to adopt Keith, with you."
Tears instantly filled Keith's eyes as he listened, 'I finally have a home.' He thought to himself. After being in the orphanage for five years, and living with Shiro for two years, he had a permanent home.
"You do?" Shiro's voice cracked, overwhelmed with joy.
Adam nodded, smiling with tears in his eyes. "We're a family." He gripped Shiro's arm tighter, running his thumb across the bare skin just beneath the shirt sleeve.
Shiro saw Keith as his little brother, so it meant the world to him that Adam saw Keith as family too.
Putting his hands on the sides of Adam's face, Shiro smiled, getting too choked up for words, and pressed a small kiss on his lips before wrapping him in the tightest hug he could. "Let's wait until after the wedding, that way it'll say Adam Shirogane on the papers."
"I can't wait." Adam wept, soaking Shiro's shirt, gripping the papers in his hand.
Not wanting to ruin the surprise, Keith snuck back upstairs. He slept peacefully that night, with a feeling of security. No more fear that he would be sent back to the orphanage. No more doubts that he was an unwanted burden.
*End of flashback*
"And I could have gotten new papers to sign after he was gone, but I couldn't do that to him. I knew in my heart that we would go through life together. I didn't need a document to prove that I'd always be there for you." Shiro continued, feeling his pain lift away, feeling relieved that Keith wasn't gone.
Exhaling, Keith felt heavy. "I still remember that day like yesterday."
Writers block was frustrating Shiro, he was restless in his chair, tapping his foot up and down. Keith was just getting home from school, tossing his backpack on the floor and going into the kitchen for a glass of water.
The doorbell rang.
Before Keith could turn around, Shiro was making his way to the front door, it was a much needed break from his book.
Expecting it to be a solicitor, Shiro whipped the door wide open to kindly decline whatever the offer was, instead, he was met with two police officers. Two officers he was friends with. It was Marcus and Ty.
The confusion didn't last more than a second, when he noticed the looks on their faces. Suddenly, it sunk in, confirmed by the next question.
"May we come in, Takashi?" Ty asked.
"This.... isn't... no, this isn't what I think. No, no! Don't tell me something happened." Shiro looked at the two men with fear in his eyes.
Marcus grabbed Shiro by the back of his shoulder and lead him to the couch, Keith walked into the living room, and saw the three men sitting down. Shiro had his face in his hands, already sobbing, knowing all too well what the visit was for.
"We regret to in-" Ty started, getting choked up on his own words. "To inform you that your fiancé, Adam Weston, was declared deceased-"
Glass shattered, and water soaked Keith's socks. Shiro fell from the couch to his knees, curling his body to the floor, weeping. Unbearably loud sobs and screams filled the house. Keith remained frozen.
Ty cleared his throat, trying to continue "In the early afternoon today. He was shot and killed while he was on the scene of a hostage situation, he successfully freed three young children from their abusive father. He was protecting the youngest when the suspect fired. The suspect is in custody."
"We are so sorry, Takashi. We know how much you loved him." Marcus said, breaking the professional appearance, putting his hand on Shiro's back for comfort.
"As the paramedics were trying to save him, he tried his best to speak through the pain.
He said both of your names, that he was sorry, and that he loves you both so much." Ty couldn't help but cry as he spoke.
Suddenly Shiro thought of Keith, and he sat up, face drenched, eyes were red, looking around the room. He saw Keith standing in a pile of broken glass, emotionless.
*End of flashback*
"Me too..." Shiro's paused as his voice broke, he thought back to that day. "Me too..."
Chapter 14: Concrete
Mention of suicide attempt.
A local club had hired Lance to DJ for the night, and if he had positive feedback, they wanted to hire him on permanently. It would be an easy job, something set in stone.
Purple and pink lights lit the room. Keith took a seat at the bar, his comfort zone. He wanted to drink away all the pain he had felt recently with blowing up at Shiro, to making things right, to remembering Adam. He only ordered a beer to begin with, his fingers wrapped around the cold glass, sipping on it as he watched Lance at the DJ stand, bobbing his head to the music.
After a while he couldn't help but notice the dance floor was full of people who kept going from person to person, grinding against each other, making out, taking hold of their hands and leading them toward the bathrooms for sex. He'd seen that plenty of times before. That was what Lance did. That's kind of how they met.
'He will find someone else, just give it time.'
Keith's stomach dropped hearing the voice again. Fear sinking in that he was falling in love with Lance and that he could lose him. He chugged the rest of his beer, ordered three shots of rum, and took them back to back. He looked at Lance again, noticing the smile on his face, entertaining the room, and he pictured him joining the crowd, finding more attractive people.
'They probably don't have as many problems as you. It'd be easy to love them. You're difficult to love.'
It terrified him to hear the voice again. He had been doing good, he thought he was getting better. He decided to leave the bar and walk outside, hoping if he left the cause of his thoughts that the voice would go away. He found a metal bench on the side of the building and sat down, lighting a cigarette. He wanted to get lost, so he stared at the overpass watching as cars flew by.
Smoke danced around his face as he exhaled. The cigarette met his lips again, sucking in deep, feeling the warm tickle in his throat, he sighed.
The moon was almost full, shining bright causing the black sky to seem navy, and stars were only partially visible from all the city lights. The street lights illuminated his surroundings, a light fog in the air.
After half an hour, the sound of footsteps approaching made him shoot back into reality. He whipped his head to see who was walking towards the bench. It was Lance. It must've been one of his breaks.
An all too familiar look was present on Keith's face, which immediately concerned Lance. The sad, glossy eyes. The emotionless brows. The slight frown.
Joining Keith on the bench, Lance confronted "Hey babe, what are you doing out here? Something wrong?"
Taking another long drag from the nicotine stick before answering. "I'm just... afraid you're going to find someone better." Keith admitted. He was really trying to get better at communicating his worries, so he didn't get bad again.
The words shocked Lance, "What? What makes you say that?" He asked, scooting over to be touching Keith, leg to leg.
"With all the other people you hook up with, it's bound to happen." Keith sighed, looking to Lance, the streetlights in the reflection of his eyes.
Lance gripped Keith's thigh, "First off, I don't hook up with anyone else. I haven't since I met you. It was only making out. In fact, if you haven't noticed I haven't done it in a while. Not interested."
Keith remained silent. His cigarette becoming smaller and smaller with each passing second, the ash sprinkling on the concrete sidewalk.
"I know that's what I said I wanted before, but not anymore. I know who I am, and what I want." Lance affirmed, taking the cigarette out of Keith's fingers and tossing it into the street. He leaned in close to Keith, staring into his eyes for a moment before crashing his lips into Keith's, squeezing his thigh harder, as if to say something without words.
I only want you.
Chapter 15: "After You." Part 2: Anniversary
Day 57 After You
Happy Anniversary, my love.
Today would have been two years.
Two years of smiles and laughs from you. Two years of my heart doing jumping jacks. Two years of pure love and support.
It would have been two years since you confidently walked up to my book signing, asked for my autograph, and then for my number. When I got flustered, you asked me to join you for coffee down the street at a local cafe. You didn't care about the line of people behind you, or the security guards watching you. I wanted to jump from my seat right then and there and follow you, but I had another few hours to work towards carpal tunnel. So, I agreed to go with you after, and you waited. You sat there in the bookstore for three and a half more hours and waited for me to finish the signing.
You bought me a cappuccino.
Two years that involved you getting irritated when I left fingerprints on your glasses, or used all the hot water in the shower. Two years of you getting excited over movie night, and sad the many times you spilled the popcorn. Two years of you feeling sorry when you asked me to taste dinner and didn't blow the spoon to cool it off, burning my tongue. Two years of you locking the car doors when I went to go pay for gas, refusing to unlock them until I loudly said "That's A-damn hottie in my Ferrari."
I don't even drive a Ferrari. And your own joke with your own name was so lame. It's A-damn shame I can't say it anymore.
I brought you flowers today, the biggest bouquet of roses I could find. 500 to be exact. It actually hurt to carry them because I had to tightly grip the thorns but I'd do anything for you, you know that.
Perhaps I was selfish, because I also bought a small bouquet of carnations for the dining room table. They remind me of you. I should have spent all the money for you.
I ran the bathtub and sprinkled rose petals in it, like we would do on special occasions. I used one of those fancy bath bombs and poured in some bath milk. The water was baby pink and glittery, spinning bubbles around. I put two glasses of champagne on the side of the tub, and cheers to you. You didn't drink your champagne so I did for you. When I blew out the candles and saw the smoke dance and twirl, I remembered our sloppy drunken dances.
I miss you stepping on my feet.
Chapter 16: Just Friends
Explicit homophobia, abuse. Mentions of self harm.
Everything around Lance was going great. Keith was doing better, he hadn't been cutting, and he was on good terms with Shiro. Lance and Keith's relationship was stronger. Lance got a permanent job as the DJ of the Allure Club. But, the better that life got, the worse his memories would be.
There was a guilt he couldn't shake. The happier he was around Keith, the more he fell in love, the more scared he became. He was expecting a terrible punishment was just around the corner.
"Dad, please," Lance screamed, backing into the corner of his bed, knees to his chest. He knew the reason for his father's appearance in his bedroom. "I'm sorry!"
Victor slammed the door behind him, shaking the walls so violently that picture frames fell off. The jingle of his father's belt unbuckling made Lance shiver, petrified.
"Why did my coworker, Lorenzo, tell me he saw you walking home from school holding hands with some baseball player?" Victor asked through closed teeth, pulling his belt through the loops of his pants, and taking two steps towards Lance.
"He's just a friend!" Lance flinched as he covered his head with his hands, tears soaking through his jeans.
An evil chuckle jumped out of Victor's throat, "Bullshit!" He yelled, whipping his belt on Lance's arms that were protecting his head, causing Lance to shriek in pain. A straight red mark left behind as blood rushed to the surface.
Lance's arm stung and burned, but he knew he couldn't move it. The leather slapped against his skin again, his body tightened. "I swear!" His voice cracking, begging for the pain to stop.
Then the belt whipped back to back to back to back, countless times. It broke the skin in multiple places, blood seeping out. Lance's body was convulsing uncontrollably at each sting.
'Dear God, if you can hear me... please... save me.' Lance prayed silently. He hoped that the same God his father believed hated gay people also hated murderers.
The fifteen year old believed he would eventually die at the hands of his own father.
"Two boys don't hold hands if they are just friends." Victor spat as he abruptly stopped whipping Lance.
Lance took a deep breath, still keeping his head covered, afraid to look at his father. He felt a slight sliver of hope and relief. 'Thank you, God.' He prayed to himself, believing his previous request had been met.
Victor walked away from Lance, yanking the door open and making his way down the hall. As the footsteps faded, Lance lifted his head, seeing his father disappear. However, the feeling of relief was overtaken by fear once again, as Lance saw his father returning. He held a metal baseball bat in his hand. The door shut again.
Curling back into a ball, Lance tensed up, waiting for the impact. A powerful swing connected the bat into Lance's side, surely breaking one of his ribs. Then the bat made contact with his thigh, causing his leg to kick in reaction, and his tight ball of protection opened slightly, making him vulnerable. Hit after hit into his body, knocking out his breath.
"How you like baseball now?" His father asked in a sinister tone, using all his strength as he slammed the bat into his own son once again, smashing it into his shoulder.
Lance began screeching, the most blood curdling scream echoed through the entire house. Something in his arm definitely broke.
A soft knock at the door interrupted the beating. The door slowly opened, and Lance's mother Maritza looked inside. "Vic, dinner is ready." She informed, and simply shut the door again.
The bat fell to the floor with a thud. Lance heard the door open one last time, and the sound of heavy footsteps leaving, a quiet click of the door shutting.
Slowly lifting his head, Lance inhaled the biggest breath he could, but his chest hurt as it rose, the blow from earlier was the cause.
Tears fell like waterfalls, almost every inch of his body was in pain, however, the worst pain of all of it was knowing no one in his family loved him. His mother knew, she saw, and she allowed it. His siblings turned the other cheek, reminding him that it was his own fault. His father hated him.
He was constantly told he would go to hell, but he felt like he was already living in it.
*End of flashback*
As Lance pulled the syringe back, filling it with the liquid on the spoon, he felt resentment and sadness.
Lance resented his father for the abuse of course, and he resented his mother for not protecting him. He felt sad because he didn't have a family, but guilty because he knew that Keith didn't have a family for reasons out of his control. Technically Lance had a family, alive and well, but he didn't actually have a family.
A family wouldn't do what they did.
Chapter 17: I'm Not Here to Forgive You
Mentions of abuse, drug addiction.
Laying on the couch, watching tv as Keith slept in the bedroom, Lance's phone started buzzing. Text after text coming in. Expecting it to be one of his friends or one of his dealers, Lance casually turned his phone over to see.
"Lance, dad was in a car crash."
"He is in critical condition. He's on life support."
"We're at Lexington Hospital, room 212."
"You need to come."
"Mom wants you to come."
"I know you said you never wanted to see him again but he is your dad, and you might not get another chance to mend things. If you don't say goodbye you will regret it for the rest of your life."
As Lance read the messages from his sister Veronica, his entire body went numb. It didn't seem real. Suddenly he felt an overwhelming sense of safety, a big breath escaped his body, feeling as though it had been stuck inside him for six years.
The white tiles seemed endless, as he walked through the hallway. Looking down at his feet moving without him wanting them to, he couldn't remember how he got to the hospital, or why he decided to go in the first place.
Closing his eyes, taking a deep breath to calm his nerves, Lance stood outside the door. He couldn't being himself to enter the room. The room was confrontation, anger, apprehension, reliving his past, facing his family, seeing his father's face again.
The door slowly opened, and his mother stood still, stunned to see Lance. She clearly wasn't expecting him to visit. Her eyes were wide, tears welling up, mouth ajar. She looked like a deer in headlights, because she wasn't prepared to see Lance. She looked over her son, seeing bruised arms and his cheeks slightly sunken in, his eyes clearly tired, like a shell of who he used to be. One thing stood out the most though, he was emotionless.
There was no fear or uncertainty in his eyes, no joy or sadness, no glimmer of hope left. Just emptiness.
"Lance, you look...." Maritza reached her hands out to touch, but was rejected as her son backed away.
Knowing she was shocked to see the effects of heroin, Lance continued for her. "Like shit?" He knew he wasn't getting near as much sleep as he should, that his habits of drugs and alcohol weren't doing him any good, he knew he didn't look healthy. But, he also didn't look as bad as she made it seem. He actually looked pretty good for the amount of heroin he was using. "Sorry, I'm not covered in bruises head to toe, I know that's how you remember me, right?"
Maritza's eyes shot to the floor, unsure of how to respond. Shame evident on her face.
"I'm not here for you." Lance made clear, looking past his mother into the room to see if the rest of his family was inside. They were not. "Is he actually going to die?"
A gasp left his mother, appalled by his blunt question. "We don't know. It's in God's hands now."
A sarcastic laugh escaped Lance as he pushed past his mother to enter the room. "I want to be alone with the monster." He said as he shut the door in her face.
Walking over to the bed, Lance noticed machines were connected all over Victor's body, continuous steady beeps filling the room. Lance looked at his father, and for the first time in nine years, he wasn't afraid of him. His father just laid there lifeless, unable to hurt Lance.
"I'm not here to forgive you. I just wanted to see if it was true, and to tell you that I'm in a relationship with a guy named Keith. We've been together for almost a year, he moved in with me. I bet it would make your blood boil knowing we have sex almost every night, huh?" Lance walked around to the other side of the bed, sitting in the blue chair beside it. "How could you? I was your son! I was your youngest child! You were supposed to teach me how to be a man, yet you only taught me how to be a monster. I shouldn't have had to lay awake at night afraid to close my eyes to go to sleep in fear you'd come hurt me! I shouldn't have been afraid of love! I shouldn't have turned out like this! Unable to make it a few hours without some kind of drug in my system to get you out of my head." The anger was clear in his voice. Years of suffering finally being released.
The machines beeping started to annoy Lance, and he looked at the screens drawing lines and mountains, flashing numbers. A simple combination of devices keeping his father alive.
"I don't want to live like this anymore. You can't hurt me anymore." Lance said as he walked over to the wall, yanking the cords out of the outlets. Machines all shutting off, silencing the beeps.
As Lance swung the door open, he saw his entire family, laughing happily in the living room of his old childhood home.
Shooting up in the bed, Lance was drenched in sweat, gasping for air, gripping the sheets. The sudden movement and sound woke Keith up, and since he was familiar with waking up from nightmares he knew exactly what was happening. Keith sat up in the bed next to Lance, pulling him into a hug and squeezing him tight.
"Hey, hey, you're okay, babe, you're okay." Keith softly said, putting his hand on the back of Lance's head and pulling his face down into his shoulder. Lance wept uncontrollably.
Never knowing what it felt like to be loved, he imagined it was something like that moment.
Chapter 18: Stay With Me
Contains mentions of drug use.
Also this may seem like an uneventful chapter, but it's necessary to build up.
After the nightmare Lance had, he started using more heroin. Weeks had gone by and there was only a fragment of him left, most was just a high. He was a stranger. An empty soul.
The memories of his past on a continuous loop. The nightmare of pulling the plug on his father's life playing on repeat. He was slipping further and further into a hole. His body in a constant state of numb, feeling like he was floating. His eyes barely open, his thoughts blurring. His words slipped out of him without thought.
This new Lance was concerning Keith. He knew it was getting to be too much. He knew Lance had a good grip on himself before, but he started noticing certain things that caused worry. Just a few nights prior he noticed the tan hand reaching for a simple utensil, shaking like it was a cold winter night, dropping his food on his plate from the violent tremors. The body Keith was so familiar with was becoming thin, Lance's skin seemed vacuum sealed to his bones, his face hollowing out, his ribcage visible. The bags under his eyes dark like the brusies decorating his arms.
It was as if Keith was watching Lance fade away. He tried reaching for his hand as he stepped into the dark fog, but as he finally reached the other male, attempting to grab him and pull him back, his hand went through Lance like a ghost and he disappeared. Consumed by his demons.
Keith knew he had to do something, he couldn't just sit back and watch Lance wither away. His eyes turned soft, "Lance, stay with me tonight." He begged, his hand around the other's wrist, slowly moving to hold his hand.
Scrunching his brows, Lance was annoyed by the request. "I am?" They lived together, of course he would be there.
"No, I mean... you. Not high you." Keith pressed, softly walking towards his boyfriend, intertwining their fingers. A silent cry.
Dropping his head and turning away, Lance clenched his car keys in his left hand. 'How dare he say that, doesn't he want me to be happy? He has no idea what I'm going through.' Lance thought to himself. He was the same exact person when he was high, just happier, or at least that's what he believed.
Tears began welling up in Keith's eyes. "Babe..." He wanted to see why he loved Lance, even for a short amount of time. Recently he couldn't even recognize the person sleeping beside him. He wanted to remember why he loved him so much, because not only did Lance look hollow, he acted hollow. He wanted the old Lance back. He wanted the Lance that made him want to be alive to be back.
Sighing, his voice laced with anger. "Can you let me go?" Lance lightly tugged his arm, insinuating he wanted Keith to release him.
Keith's eyes widened, threatening to spill the tears. 'He's not even going to pretend to care? He just wants to go get his heroin more than he cares about me.' Keith thought to himself as he looked down at the hand he was holding. Keith wondered if Lance had seen the hurt in his eyes, that he was desperate, before turning away. Keith dropped his hand, allowing Lance's to fall to his side. Keith faced his head down to his feet, his heart breaking.
Without hesitation Lance walked out of the room, and eventually Keith heard the front door shut and lock. He dropped to his knees, letting his tears fall and he bawled.
Chapter 19: Sleep it Off
Trigger warning: contains mentions of drug use, homophobia.
Two hours had passed. Keith made up the couch with a blanket and his pillow. He got comfortable and laid in silence for a moment, alone with his thoughts. 'I can't lose him too. But, I can't just tell him to stop either. It's my fault he got this bad.' His cheeks were stained with dried tears that he eventually got tired of wiping away, it was useless as they kept falling. His eyes were tired from crying, and his energy low. He sighed as he rolled over, facing the back of the sofa. And just when he thought he didn't have any more tears, they began falling again, however this time, more quietly, because he had already exhausted all of his strength earlier. He fell asleep with tears slowly running down his face.
Another hour later Lance returned home, slowly shutting the door behind him. He began to make his way to the bedroom when he noticed the lump on the couch. 'Why would Keith make the couch his bed?' He thought. Lance was ready to be next to his boyfriend, to plant kisses all over him and pull him close. He walked over and squatted next to Keith.
"Keith?" Lance whispered, gently putting his hand on his boyfriend's shoulder, curling his fingers inside his palm.
Keith remained asleep, his breathing pattern unchanging. Little purrs escaped the black haired boy. Lance brushed the hair back from Keith's neck, pressing soft kisses against his skin.
"Hey baby, I'm home." Lance murmured close to Keith's ear, waking him up.
Shuffling on the couch from hearing the voice, Keith realized Lance was back and was trying to be sweet. Keith grunted and pulled his blanket over his head, twisting his body closer to the couch back.
Resting his head on Keith's back, "Keith, come on..." Lance whined, stretching out his words.
"Just go sleep it off, already." Keith quickly nipped, tensing his body. Not only was he fed up with the lack of care Lance had shown, but he was hurt because he felt like Lance loved heroin more than him, and absolutely terrified that he could lose Lance.
Pulling away, Lance felt sad, knowing that Keith was clearly angry. Guilt rushed over him. 'Maybe I shouldn't have gotten more heroin. Maybe I shouldn't have done it tonight. Maybe I should've just stayed home. But I needed it...' That's what he told himself. The urge, the craving, the desire, the memories. He was stuck, and didn't know how to get out... or if he even wanted to get out.
Something finally was able to silence the voice in his head, eating away at him for his sexuality. He grew up thinking he was broken, wrong, that he was a disgrace. That's what his father said, he would burn in hell for his sinful choice, but it wasn't a choice. He couldn't help that his heart skipped a beat with certain guys around. He couldn't get the thought of what kissing them would be like out of his head. He tried to push away the thoughts. He tried to keep dating girls and sleeping around to wash away that curiosity. But, it never stopped. Sure, alcohol worked for a while. Weed helped a bit. But it eventually crept into his thoughts even with his attempts to drown them out.
The last guy Lance dated exposed him to drugs, gave him an 'escape'. And it worked. He got comfortable enough around James that he was only using every now and then to drown out the feelings of shame and guilt, he wasn't addicted. But Keith? He was absolutely in love with Keith. That scared him. That sent him back to fearing his own self. Hating himself. The shame came back. He turned to the only thing he knew that silenced his mind. He wanted to be with Keith, and his demons returned, almost like a punishment.
Their relationship was pretty easy at first, Lance still interested in casual physicality, and kept his lifestyle the same. Making out with strangers in clubs and flirting with everyone. Maybe he was hoping he'd fall for a girl during all of it, and it would all end. But no, the awkward guy at a party caught his eye. The conversation caught his interest. He dipped his toes in, and it was too late when he realized he had dove in. This boy had his heart. Someone who seemed a little disconnected too. But Keith was stability.
Lance was being eaten alive by his demons daily because he loved Keith. He unfortunately believed that the only way he could be with Keith and not be miserable by his guilt, was to take it away. That's why he was overly sexual when he was high, because he didn't have shame holding him back.
Standing up straight, taking a long look at Keith, Lance felt his heart break. Part of him wanted to just grab Keith and carry him from the couch to the bed, but he didn't want to make things worse. "I love you." He whispered under his breath as he woefully walked to the bedroom alone.
Chapter 20: Kill Me
Trigger warning: contains EXPLICIT homophobia and physical abuse.
It was a Thursday, and Lance had just recently returned home from school. Gray clouds filled the sky, causing a gloomy shadow to fall upon the town. Lance was in the kitchen scrubbing dishes, staring out the window. The house was quiet since he was the only one home.
The sound of the front door shutting was loud, which easily told him who had entered. He continued to scrub the dishes, hoping that would be able to postpone any beating.
Footsteps made their way into the kitchen, stopping a few feet behind Lance. His breathing began to shake, his chest aching with each inhale like his airways were closing. His hands began to tremble as he wiped a plate with the sponge.
The evil voice finally spoke. "I thought you told me you didn't want to be gay anymore." The words felt like an accusation, as if they had evidence and already decided to convict him.
Making swirls of soap streaks on the plate, Lance bit his teeth down as hard as he could, expecting something to hit him any second. When it didn't, he knew he had to answer. "I don't. I'm dating Whitney. I know it's gross and wrong, and I don't want to be that anymore. I prayed with Father David to rid me of those feelings." He was careful with his response, thinking meticulously of his word choice.
The footsteps began again, and his father was standing directly behind him. "Whitney came to talk to me, she was upset because she felt like you were just leading her on because you keep on going off with some guy named Lucas.... she told me he is on the baseball team. She wondered if there was something going on between you and him. Now, tell me again, do you still want to be gay?"
Keeping his eyes on the plate in his hands, Lance replied. "I already told you he is just a friend! She just wants me to be by her side every second of every day, and I can't do that when we have different classes."
"Lying pisses me off." Victor spat, little drops of saliva hitting on Lance's ear. "She saw you hold his hand, and he tried to kiss you as you two went into the bathroom. I will not ask again."
Remaining silent, Lance was completely frozen holding the plate. He didn't want to admit that he had been with Lucas the whole time, he didn't know what would happen to him if his father knew.
The sound of steal against wood, a small ting. Lance dropped the plate as a kitchen knife entered into his side, ceramic shattered in the shallow water as it made contact with the bottom of the sink from the quick impact. Lance's breath jumped out of him, leaving his lungs empty, his mouth ajar, shocked at the pain. It hurt even more as the sharp edge pulled out from his body.
Leaning closer to his son's ear, Victor spoke clearly. "If I hear another thing about you being gay, I'm going to kill him. You will be responsible for him dying, because you can't stay away when you've been told."
"I'll stay away from him! I swear!" Lance's knees shook as they tried to keep him standing.
Fingers curled around the handle of the knife, Victor put the tip of the blade to Lance's body. "Now tell me the truth, because if you lie to me again I will go kill him right now. Have you been dating him the entire time?"
Swallowing, Lance regretfully answered. "Yes." Tears formed in his eyes, knowing there wasn't a correct answer. But, the thought of his father killing Lucas was enough reason for him to confess.
The knife entered his body again, close to the previous wound, hurting just as bad, if not worse than before. "Have you two kissed?" Victor asked, holding the knife still inside his son.
A moment passed as Lance closed his eyes, dreading having to answer. His brows and mouth shook, trying to pull the word to his tongue. "Yes."
Pulling the knife out just to push it in again, making a new wound, Victor gripped the knife tighter for his next question. "And what about sex? Have you two had sex?"
The world seemed to stop for Lance. The pain in his side was suddenly gone, his mind seemed frozen, any sound seemed to quiet. But reality rushed back again, making him aware of everything once more. That was the hardest question. He couldn't bring himself to answer. Suddenly every place Lucas had ever kissed burned, like cigarettes to sheets, leaving small holes. But, if he could keep Lucas alive and safe, he had to answer. And he was afraid of lying, because somehow his father always found out. Victor's threat still hanging in the air, and Lance knew he would follow through. Pulling the word from deep within, fighting to bring it to the surface, struggling to unlock his voice. "Y-yes." He whispered, low and agonizingly.
Victor began twisting the knife inside of Lance, causing him to fall against the kitchen counter, screaming. As Victor yanked the knife out, he pushed Lance to the floor, the unexpected motion caused Lance's head to hit the tile since he wasn't prepared. Blood slowly made a pool under Lance. Victor dropped above him, holding himself up with one arm as the other sent punches to Lance's stomach.
Each punch knocking the breath out of Lance, and causing more blood to seep out. He was in so much pain he felt like he was going to throw up. He wondered if any of the stabs hit anything serious inside. He wondered how much time he had left. Lance attempted to hold his father back, to catch the fist, to take hold of his wrist, groaning between closed teeth at each hit.
Picking the knife up from the floor beside him, Victor held it above his son. "You disgusting piece of shit." He stabbed Lance in the other side of his body, trying to be careful to keep it on the outer part of his body, purposely avoiding organs.
Wiggling under the weight of his father, Lance was tired. Tired from the amount of pain surging throughout his body, tired from lack of sleep, tired from always being on high alert, tired of fighting, tired of protecting himself. He felt like there wasn't much fight left in him, that maybe he had bled out enough that his body was falling weaker. He let his body fall limp.
Victor noticed the surrender, and frustration grew within him. He held the knife to Lance's throat, applying pressure. "What? You would rather be a nasty gay than be part of this family?"
Relaxing every muscle in his body, Lance dropped his head to the floor, locking his eyes onto his father's. He wasn't afraid of death anymore, in fact, he accepted it, prepared himself for it, he wanted it. He wasn't going to fight anymore, no protecting himself anymore. "Just do it, kill me." He took a slow breath, expecting it to be one of his last. He closed his eyes, readying himself for what he expected to be multiple stabbings, but instead it was nothing. His father just sat on top of him, knife still pressed against his skin.
The words sat in the air. Victor dropped the knife beside him, standing up, causing Lance to open his eyes. He looked at his son with pure disgust, and shook his head as he walked out of the kitchen, heading to his bedroom.
Coughing as he sucked in breaths rapidly, Lance closed his eyes again, letting the tears fall down his temples into his hair. But fear rushed through him once again, realizing it wasn't completely over. It would never be over.
Using his elbows to lift himself up, Lance felt his body throb, ache, and burn. He couldn't help but groan at the slightest movement. His thumb accidentally slid into the small puddle of his own blood. He looked at his hand, seeing the crimson outline his thumbprint, reminding him that he was still alive, unfortunately.
Pushing through the pain, Lance stumbled to get one of his legs under himself enough to stand up, using the kitchen counter to pull up. He looked down and saw the blood smeared on the tile, it was evidence of what had just happened. Knowing that his father would be furious if anyone knew what happened, Lance pulled his shirt over his head and threw it on the floor, stepping on it and dragging it with his foot to wipe up the blood. He followed up by taking a few paper towels with water and making sure there wasn't even a drop left.
Next, Lance drained the sink and picked out each piece of the broken plate, accidentally cutting his fingertips on a few bits of the sharp ceramic. He threw them away and covered it with some of the trash already in the garbage.
Finally, he quickly finished washing the dishes, being sure to scrub the knife vigorously, returning it to the knife block and quivering at the sound of steal against wood again, the slice of air.
The room fell silent again. Every bit of proof of what occurred was gone. Lance tiptoed to his own bedroom, looking through his closet for a change of clothes. Thoughts ran through his head like a marathon.
'Surely I'm going to bleed out.' He thought as he pulled a clean pair of jeans from a hanger.
'Why didn't he just get it over with?' He thought as he picked a dark gray shirt, loose enough it wouldn't brush against his wounds.
'He knows, now he's going to kill Lucas...' He thought as he walked to the bathroom, cleaning the gashes with wet toilet paper, red soaking the thin tissue like watercolor.
'Why did he stop?' He thought as he covered the wounds with gauze and large bandaids.
'I need to get out, but I have nowhere to go.' He thought as he returned to his room.
'Will mom know? I can't tell her, she won't do anything. She will hate me if she knew I've slept with Lucas.' He thought as he pulled the fresh shirt over his head, the collar hugging his throat like his father's hand had many times.
'I hope I die.' He thought as he unbuttoned his pants and slid them down his legs, revealing dried red stains where blood had soaked through.
'I'm sorry, Lucas.' He thought as he stepped into the clean pair of jeans.
'It's not Whitney's fault, I was the one pretending to date her, I deserved her outing me.' He thought as he sat on his bed, putting on his shoes and tying the laces.
'I've slept with a guy, there's no going back, I'll never be forgiven by my family, by God...' He thought as he put his head in his hands, tears collecting in his palms.
'I can't breathe.' He thought as he felt his chest tighten.
*End of flashback*
Chapter 21: Against the Wall
Mentions of drug use, self harm, physical violence.
It had been a month since Keith had attempted to get Lance to slow down on his heroin use. The night on the couch went by quickly for Keith, as he actually slept through the night for once, completely drained of energy. However, it was one of the longest nights for Lance. Memories and pain that he had suppressed deep inside finally reached the surface. He wondered where Lucas was, how he was doing. He was ashamed for ever putting Lucas in that situation, and guilt still ate at him for it. So, he of course tried to wash it all away.
Doing what he did best when he was afraid of getting hurt, Keith started distancing himself to protect himself. Distractions. He worked extra hours at the bar to avoid going home. It wasn't that he didn't want to be around Lance, because no place was better than by his side, but he didn't want to be around the new Lance. He was scared that any time Lance used that it would be the last, that he didn't wait long enough, that he used too much. He was afraid that Lance would just drop dead. He couldn't handle it, so he avoided it.
The voices in Keith's head were returning but he didn't tell Lance. Instead, he went back to his method of coping. The razor blade. It didn't seem like Lance noticed the new scars, so he didn't feel like he had to hold back anymore.
Life was getting hard again.
Dragging his feet across the floor, Keith's eyes were heavy as he attempted to make his way to the bedroom. He just got off from a closing shift at the bar, and it was 3am when he got home. He was exhausted.
As Keith stumbled through the apartment, Lance stood from the couch, walking over and wrapping his boyfriend in his arms. This was their routine, Lance always waited up for Keith to return, it was partly to make sure he was safe and partly to get to spend some time together. Lance leaned in and Keith pressed a soft peck on the other's lips.
As usual, Lance tried for more, his hand loosely curled around Keith's neck, his finger nails just slightly grazing the skin of his nape, moving his mouth to move the kiss along. Keith pulled away, his eyelids barely open as he tried to continue walking to the bedroom. This was the first time Keith wasn't up for sex, he just wanted sleep. Lance stopped Keith from behind by wrapping his arms around his waist, resting his head on Keith's shoulder.
"Lance, not tonight." Keith groaned, slightly trying to push through the hold. His clothes still stunk of alcohol, and his feet throbbing from standing on them for 10 hours. He just wanted to prop them up and rest.
"Come on, babe. I'll make it quick." Lance begged with grit in his voice to turn Keith on, huddling up closer to Keith, hands traveling his boyfriend's body.
Resting his head against Lance's, shutting his eyes to take in the sweetness, Keith whined. "Noooo, I'm tired." The two rocked their feet side to side together, bodies matching in movement of a small gentle dance.
Tugging on Keith's shirt, slowing the dance, Lance exhaled a slow hot breath against Keith's neck. "Come on... Don't leave me hanging, babe." Lance persisted, whispering seductively in Keith's ear.
Keith sighed, his entire body sinking down. "Babe, I'm so tired, tomorrow, okay?" He made sure his tone was serious this time. He broke out of Lance's hold, taking a couple of steps forward, intending on getting ready for bed.
But, Lance had heroin, so he had been looking forward to sex for a while. He was upset that Keith was actually rejecting him, he never had before. Without thinking, Lance grabbed Keith's shoulder and jerked him around to face him, then pushes both of his shoulders against the living room wall, shaking the picture frames from the force.
Absolutely terrified from the action, Keith's eyes widened, his breath shaking and his body shivering from fear. He was fully awake now. Lance had never been violent towards him, so Keith was unsure what was going to happen next. He knew that Lance could really hurt someone if he wanted to.
The petrified look on Keith's face must have made Lance realize what he had done. Lance formed a tight fist, which Keith flinched at, and he pounded the wall behind Keith. His knuckles throbbed and his stomach burned. Lance dropped his head in shame, releasing Keith and slowly walking to the bedroom. 'I'm just like him.' He thought to himself, remembering his father.
Remaining against the wall, Keith tried to process what had just happened. Trying to steady his breath again, his eyes began to well up with tears, and he grinded his teeth to not let them fall. He stayed leaned against the wall for a few minutes before heading to the bedroom.
When he finally got the courage to enter their bedroom, Keith noticed Lance on the bed, completely covered and curled under the blanket, facing away from Keith's side. Wobbly knees continued into the bathroom, locking the door behind him, an action he didn't do normally. When he looked in the mirror, he saw his glossy eyes and puffy cheeks. He pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it in the hamper. He saw the red handprints on his shoulders, confirming the moment actually happened. He changed into his sleep shorts, and actually put on a sleep shirt for the night, another unusual action. Perhaps it was a layer of safety, a notion of closing himself off.
Once he finished brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed he unlocked the bathroom and slowly opened the door, seeing Lance was still laying in the same position on the bed. He quietly made his way to his side of the bed, carefully crawling in and remaining on the edge. His back faced Lance's, who was already snoring.
'He's never done that before. I don't know if he actually knows what he did. Was it the heroin?' Keith thought to himself, analyzing everything that occurred, trying to find a reason.
That was the night Keith decided he hated heroin. If it could turn Lance, the most gentle, caring, safe person into a violent, pushy person, it wasn't something he wanted in his life.
Chapter 22: In Deep
Mentions suicide attempt, self harm, drug use, violence.
Having the day off, Keith decided to drive to visit Shiro. He needed to talk to someone, because he didn't know what to do.
A piece of folded paper was sat in the passenger seat. Keith had written a poem a few weeks prior. Shiro always said he wanted to understand Keith's self harming, but he couldn't fully grasp it. Keith knew that it was hard to understand if you hadn't ever dealt with it. He tried his best to think back to when he started, why he started, how he started.
The details were blurred, but he remembered another kid in the orphanage, Dalton, who had told him about cutting. How it helped him feel better when he felt like he couldn't breathe. How it made all the pain in the world stop for a little while. Keith couldn't understand why anyone would do that, until one day he was in the midst of a severe panic attack, his mind screaming in every direction, his chest feeling like it would pop like an overfilled balloon. And it worked. Somehow he came back to reality, a blade in his hand, and blood on his thighs. Ever since that day, he was stuck.
When Keith arrived in the driveway, Shiro was waiting outside, Curtis by his side. Shiro knew something must be wrong if Keith drove all the way over to his house just to talk.
Turning off the engine and unbuckling his seatbelt, Keith sighed. He was nervous, but he needed help. Grabbing the note in his hand and sliding it into his pocket, he stepped out of the car and was brought into a side hug by Shiro, dragging him into the house. Curtis said a quick hello, before excusing himself, not wanting to overstep.
Shiro passed a bottle of beer to Keith, sitting on the couch.
"What kind of trouble are you in, now?" Shiro playfully sighed, closing his eyes and throwing his head back.
"Um, relationship." Keith's cheeks were red with embarrassment. He knew it would come as a surprise to Shiro, since he never spoke about his relationships with him.
Almost choking on his beer, Shiro coughed to clear his throat of the tickle. "O-okay?"
"I'm in deep, man." Keith put his head in his hands, tugging his skin as he rubbed up and down. "Like, deep in love and in deep shit." He raised his head to see what Shiro's reaction would be.
Raising a brow, Shiro sat his bottle on the coffee table. All focus on Keith now. "Elaborate."
Tightening the grip around the neck of the bottle, Keith looked down at the floor. He knew that everything was about to shatter. He knew that things were serious. He was afraid that Shiro would judge him for choosing to be with someone involved with heroin. "So, this guy, I've been dating him for almost a year. I moved in with him. His name is Lance. He was who took care of me after I tried to kill myself." Keith began, noticing the blank look on Shiro's face. "So he's seen all the dark shit in my life, which is why I feel like it's all my fault. He didn't sign up for a burden like me, ya know?"
The words Shiro was hearing broke his heart. His chest getting heavier with each second. "You're not a burden, Keith." The sentence fell out with ease, likely from the amount of times he had said it before.
"Well..." Keith let out a big breath. "He's addicted to heroin. It wasn't bad at first, but after taking care of me, and now I'm getting bad again... it's gotten worse. It's scary. And it's all my fault! If I hadn't put him in the situation of caring about me, he wouldn't be like this, Shiro!" Keith's voice cracked. He truly felt responsible for how much Lance was using.
Knowing that Keith was already upset, Shiro didn't want to make a big deal about the heroin. He just tried to console him. "Keith, addicts are addicts. You didn't make him an addict. It's a disease. Just like you can't help having depression."
"I love him. I really do. But I'm scared." Dropping his head in shame and fear, Keith turned away, eyes closed tight. "He... threw me into a wall." Then there was a moment of silence, and Keith's voice was a whisper at most. "I don't know what to do."
In an instant, Shiro went from sad to enraged. A fire burned inside of him, blood boiling at the thought of someone hurting Keith. Trying to keep himself calm, for Keith's sake, Shiro chose his words carefully. "Keith, I know it's probably not what you want to hear, but if he is laying his hands on you and becoming violent, you need to get out."
Whipping his head to look at Shiro, Keith's face showed how broken he was. "But... he's never tried to hurt me before! That's not him! It's just because of the heroin!" It was as if he was pleading to Shiro for a different answer.
"Okay, but if he can't stop using the heroin, then it can happen again, or something... worse." Shiro said, the words were wrapped with concern. He stood from the couch, looking down at Keith. "I'm going to get the spare room ready. You don't need to go back there, so you can stay with me."
Chapter 23: I'm Not Coming Home
Trigger warning: mentions of suicide attempt, drug use, violence.
Standing from the couch to be closer to Shiro's height, Keith's brows were scrunched, and his eyes showed regret for ever mentioning that Lance had pushed him. "No, Shiro! I told you, I'm in love with him. I can't just leave! There has to be something I can do... I-I..." he paused, scanning his brain for a solution that could sway Shiro's decision. "I can try and get him to go to a NA meeting!" Keith said, desperate and hopeless. He felt like Lance wouldn't actually hurt him, and that Shiro was overreacting.
"Keith... this is the last thing you need to be around with your mental health. It's a hole you can't get out of. You're already saying it's your fault! What happens if he hits you?" Shiro's voice was loud and took over the room, his eyes shook as tears began to fall. "Huh? What if it gets worse and instead of leaving, you try to end your life again? I'm not letting you go back. I can't lose you." His voice became lower, falling like a feather. Not giving Keith any time to respond, Shiro pulled Keith into the tightest hug possible.
Words weren't needed to say that Shiro was scared of losing his brother, the strength of the hold was enough. The heavy tears dropping onto Keith's shoulder was enough. The tight grip of Keith's hair, pulling him close was enough. The small shaky inhales and exhales as Shiro cried was enough.
"Okay... okay I'll stay." Keith's words were muffled as his face was against Shiro's shirt. The last time Shiro hugged him like this was at Adam's funeral, so he knew he couldn't leave.
While Shiro held Keith in the living room, Curtis took it upon himself to get the spare room ready, as he couldn't help but hear Shiro when he was yelling. He made the bed up, the gray sheets were flat and perfectly straight. The pillows fluffed. He lit a candle that smelled like a fresh crackling fire keeping the house warm in winter. Shiro had previously explained to Curtis the significance of the little lion stuffed animal that sat on the shelf in Shiro's room, so Curtis took it into the spare room and left it in the middle of the bed.
Shiro couldn't help but notice Keith flinch everytime sirens sounded past their house. One minute Keith could be laughing and having a good time, then the sound of an ambulance or firetruck would just make him freeze. Shut down. It broke Shiro's heart each time, to see the bright face turn to sadness. Maybe it was a stupid idea, but Shiro bought a little stuffed lion, and held onto it for the right moment.
Then, one night when they were eating dinner, and sirens rang outside, Keith sat his fork down. He just stared at the plate of chicken, roasted potatoes and broccoli.
Standing from the table and walking out of the room, Shiro went to his bedroom and got the stuffed lion. When he returned, he sat it on the table and went back to eating.
The strange action caught Keith's attention, and he looked up from his plate at the lion. "What is that for?" He asked, clearly confused.
Not making a big deal about it, Shiro continued to chew his food as he explained. "It's a lion to... remind you to stay strong with your head held high." He paused to swallow his food. "Paramedics, firefighters, police officers, they're all brave like lions. They have to be. Don't be sad when you hear sirens. Be happy that someone is going to help those in need."
*End of flashback*
As Keith walked into the bedroom, the first thing he noticed was the stuffed lion. A small smile crept on his face without his knowledge. The second thing he noticed was the smell of fire, igniting memories he kept buried, and the smile instantly vanished. He looked around and saw the candle burning, and walked towards it. When he read the label, at first he was mad at Curtis for choosing that scent. Then, he realized that Curtis most likely had good intentions. He simply put the lid on to put out the flame and sat on the bed.
Holding his phone, Keith's hands shook. He wrote a text message to Lance and pressed send.
"Hey babe, I'm not coming home tonight. I drank too much at Shiro's and can't drive. I'll text you when I'm on the way home! Love you."
Chapter 24: Empty Room
When Lance received the text message, he was disappointed, but not worried. He was glad his boyfriend wouldn't be driving drunk, posing the risk of a crash. And he also didn't think twice about it. Last time Keith went to see Shiro he had drank alcohol. It made sense.
"Alright, see you later then. You better make up for lost time when you return tho ;)" Lance sent in reply.
Throwing his phone to the head of the bed, deflating one of the fluffed pillows, Keith grabbed the stuffed lion and held it for a moment. The mane was tangled, but other than that, it was like it was bought yesterday. Memories ran through his mind, a sense of comfort taking over. He sat it on the nightstand.
Once the food was ready, Keith enjoyed a nice dinner with his brother and Curtis, a lot different from their last meal together. He noticed a lot of the same qualities of Adam in Curtis, which made him realize that Shiro had found a great guy. He was happy for them. Curtis even went out of his way to make Keith's favorite desert, warm gooey brownies with a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. It was definitely a sugar rush, but he couldnt help it, it was so heavenly.
A smile was on Keith's face the whole night, and he knew it with how much his cheeks hurt. He was happy.
But happy didn't last.
As Keith laid in the bed, he stared at the ceiling. The fan spun around and around, the switch chains swaying back and forth. He thought about how he never noticed the fan at Lance's apartment. Because he was always paying attention to Lance.
Lance wasn't there. Lance wasn't cuddled up next to him. How could Keith fall asleep without Lance next to him? Lance's arms weren't holding him tight to keep him safe throughout the night. Lance's little Spanish mumbling wasn't there. Lance's warm breath wasn't hitting on his skin. Lance's heartbeat wasn't there for him to fall asleep to.
'I miss Lance.' Keith thought to himself as he rolled to his side, noticing that Lance wasn't there to fit perfectly in the curve of his body. 'I'm going home tomorrow.'
It was a few hours before Keith finally drifted to sleep.
When morning arrived, the sun was shining in through the window, illuminating the guest room. Keith got out of the bed, making it up. He then got dressed and collected his belongings. He knew that Shiro would give him a hard time about leaving, so he was going to sneak out.
But to sneak out, he had to go out the window. A pressure filled his chest. 'You are on the first floor, you don't even have to jump. It's okay. It would be easier than Shiro catching you leaving. It's different this time.' He tried to calm himself down.
It took a couple of minutes to pass before he could bring himself to unlock the window, and raise it up. Once he got past his anxiety, he crawled out the window and made his way to his car to drive home.
About an hour later, Shiro and Curtis woke up. Curtis went to start breakfast, and Shiro went to check on Keith.
When there wasn't a response to his knock, Shiro assumed Keith was still asleep and slowly opened the door. He was met with an empty room. The stuffed lion sat in the middle of the bed, and the window was open. The curtains danced as the wind blew in. Shiro knew what that meant.
Then, Shiro noticed two notes sat on the bed under the little lion.
The unfolded note:
"Sorry I left so suddenly. To answer your question from last night... Yes, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to stay here for a while, I did have a great time. But it would be hell to be away from Lance. I love him, Shiro. I really do. I'm going to fix this. I know the Lance I fell in love with is still in there, and I'm going to find him. He helped me. Now I need to help him. I will be okay. I promise. Love you, - Keith."
Chapter 25: Keith's Poem
Trigger warning: self harm.
Then, Shiro read the folded note:
You were the company on the nights that I remembered that death swallowed my dad whole.
You are red like firetrucks.
You stayed with me every second of every day, I became comfortable seeing you.
I wonder if the burn I feel as I make new friends is the same as the flames devouring him.
Apparently you aren't the best friends to have.
So I keep you a secret.
A secret like an affair, sneaking into the bathroom for what little time I have, trying to remain silent.
Thinking about you as I go about my day, I am reminded of you while I am picking out an apple at the grocery store, it was clearly sliced by the box cutter.
It became a routine to be tempted by you as I shaved my face in the morning.
When I am at the lowest of lows, you always seem to comfort me more. A tighter hug than usual. Reminding me that I need you. Somehow each time I get worse, you seem to get better, like a reward for failing.
You were the only thing that I didn't fear would leave me.
I'm still trying to kick you out.
I keep sipping out of a glass where water is constantly filled half way.
People tell me to see it has half full.
But I can only see it as the glass that will eventually shatter, run out and trace the lines of grout in the tiles beneath me.
When a dog scratches me and leaves a mark, I thank them.
It reminds me of the comfort that I am told I don't need.
I know it is unhealthy, I know it is bad, I know that it is scary, I know that it is something for the people who are mad.
But it sings me lullabies, rocking me to sleep
The voices in my head finally cease
I have peace and quiet where I can rest
The warmth of a thick blanket relaxing my body
A romantic dim light from the moon just barely shining though.
Then I wake up, and I'm in the bathroom
The song was just the water I turned on to drown out the noise
The quiet was just me shutting down
The warmth was the burn of what I had just done
And the glow from the moon was just the night light that I plugged in the bathroom to hurt myself without waking you.
Because I don't want you to know
I don't want you to know because I don't want to scare you
I don't want you to know because I don't want you to blame yourself for my brokenness
I don't want you to know because I don't want you to be sad
I don't want you to know because I don't want you to think different of me
I don't want you to know because I promised I wouldn't do it again.
But I woke up on the cold tile floor
I had locked the door
But you still knew
I did it again.
Hands trembling, crinkling the paper Shiro gripped tightly. Tears now soaking through, causing the ink to bleed. He couldn't catch his breath. His legs gave out, dropping him to the floor. After a moment there was an arm wrapping around him, rocking him back and forth. Kneeling down and sitting next to Shiro, Curtis held his wrists to steady his hands, taking the note and setting it on the floor, tangling their fingers together.
Chapter 26: You Only Want Me When You're High
Mentions of drug addiction/use, suicide attempt, self harm, violence, homophobia.
Speed limit signs seemed invisible to Keith, as he drove with his mind in a jumbled mess. He swerved between cars and switched lanes as fast as the voice in his head spoke. Miles of road fell behind him faster than they should have, the radio played but no music fell on his ears. His foot pressed down on the gas pedal like he was stomping the voice he kept hearing.
'Has he ever loved you or just used you for pleasure?'
'He can't even touch you when he's sober. You really think it's worth "fixing"? Why save a relationship where you're just a toy?'
'Who could ever love you? You knew this going in, what would make him any different?'
'Or maybe you just want to stay so he does hurt you again because you're too much of a failure to succeed. You even failed at taking your own life. You really are good for nothing.'
'And running back to Shiro? You can't do anything on your own. He'd have to take care of you again like a child. You'd be an unwanted obligation.'
Tightening the grip around the steering wheel, Keith bit down on his inner cheek. "No. You're wrong. You're always wrong. Lance told me you are. Shiro told me you are." He said with a shaky voice. Tears began to fill his eyes, making his vision fuzzy. He blinked to clear his eyes, trying to focus on the cars in front of him.
'You really believe that? Look at yourself. The proof is there.'
"I'm not listening to you anymore." Keith stated in the car that only he was in. He reached over and turned the radio up.
Oh why'd I stay, to entertain your same old ways? Cause I just listen, and I just trust ya. Cause you're too wasted, and I'm too sober.
No way, get out! I'm screaming to myself right now, cause you say nice things, and I just trust ya, cause you're too wasted, and I'm too sober.
I'm in your kitchen, quarter to three, my tears they are falling, you will not catch them, why'd I ignore my friends and the warnings? I am so stupid, you start to snore now. This is my own fault, I'm running out of excuses to blame you.
'Really?' Keith thought to himself and turned the radio off. Was the world trying to tell him something? Maybe the voice was right...
Once Keith made it back to the apartment he shared with Lance, he went outside to the back patio and lit a cigarette. He needed to think about how to approach the situation, how he was going to bring it up, the result he wanted in the end. He needed to decide what he really wanted, what was best. The words Shiro said to him played in his mind, the things the voice said to him rang over and over. Hours passed as he waited for Lance to return, and he eventually went inside and sat on the couch.
Staring at the door, Keith's heart beat violently. His stomach ached, twisting into knots and tugging them to tighten. The sound of keys turning seemed to last forever. The door finally opened, and Lance wiped his nose with his arm as he entered the apartment, shutting the door and sitting his newly acquired heroin on the kitchen counter. Knowing that Keith would be returning, Lance had waited to get home before using it so he could have it just before sleeping Keith. Lance took a few more steps and saw Keith standing in the living room waiting for him, and the look on his boyfriend's face caused reason to worry.
"Hey babe, everything alright?" Lance asked, concerned by the strange welcoming.
With clear pain and slight anger in his voice Keith asked "Do you love me?" The question filled the room with instant silence. He felt sick to his stomach by finally putting his worry out in the air. He was petrified to know the answer.
Lance's brows dropped, "What? Y-" He was cut off.
"Do you love me, Lance?" Keith asked again, tears forming in his eyes. His voice more steady and firm. "Do you really love me?"
Feeling his heart shatter, Lance suddenly felt heavy in his own body. He thought Keith was having doubts due to his anxiety and depression, however the question came out of nowhere. Keith seemed fine until now, and he had been expressing his struggles clearly to Lance as they came, so it felt different. Usually when Keith worried if people really loved him he was more sad than angry. "Of course! You know I do!" Lance took a step forward, intending on wrapping Keith in his arms, however he stopped in his place at Keith taking a step back.
"Do you?" Keith asked, taking another step back, shaking his head, unable to believe Lance. He was set on finally knowing the truth. He knew he couldn't keep feeling like he had been. It would send him to that dark place again, of constantly wondering if anyone could actually love him.
"Keith, are you okay? Yes, I love you. Why do you keep asking?" Lance's voice was soft, as he was becoming more and more worried that Keith wasn't okay. 'He never presses this much. Did he already hurt himself and doesn't want me to find out? Was that why he backed away?' Lance thought to himself, his heart racing.
"You keep telling me you do, but you only want me when you're high." Keith's voice was filled with agony. It hurt Keith to say what he had been thinking for so long, like the lump in his throat finally swole too large and he had to say it to be able to breathe again.
"That's not true." Lance sounded so... broken. He wondered if Keith really believed that.
"Yes it is. Tell me one time you slept with me sober!" Keith's shoulders dropped. He already knew the answer.
"I-I....I don't know! You've always been okay with it!" Lance began to recount the months with Keith, searching for an answer. Maybe at the beginning, before the voices had returned, before he was in love with Keith. But he wasn't certain. He was under the impression Keith was fine with him using heroin, he never seemed to have a problem with it before, in fact he would usually go with Lance to get more. And Keith always seemed okay during intimacy, never complaining about him having heroin beforehand.
"No! I'm not okay with it! It makes me feel like you don't actually want me." Keith was just so full of emotion he began crying, tears falling off his face as soon as they left his eyes. He finally moved from where he stood, taking a small step forward as he spoke, throwing his arms up in frustration. "I just pretended to be okay with it because it was what you did from the beginning! And then it was my fault you got worse! But I can't pretend anymore! I'm sorry, but I want the old Lance back." Keith yelled, and as soon as the last word left his mouth he fell silent, realizing that his thoughts were no longer just thoughts, they were spoken, they were reality.
Hearing how Keith felt made Lance fall apart, "Keith...." Lance blinked and tears fell, soaking his cheeks. His voice shook, he was on the edge of bawling and tried to hold it together. "you... it's... it's not your fault. I-I..I have been dealing with my own demons." He choked on his words, realizing that his past was on the edge of hitting the surface.
Both stood in silence, realizing what had been said. Lance couldn't believe he just admitted that. He kept it to himself because he felt like Keith was struggling more and needed someone to be strong. He thought it wasn't fair to Keith, to talk about his own struggles. He wasn't as bad as Keith, he never felt like taking his own life. He wasn't sure Keith could handle knowing about his childhood, but he felt like there was no way he could suppress it anymore.
Keith's heart broke into a million pieces. He never knew. He feared he had been selfish, focusing on his own pain and recovery that he hadn't noticed Lance was also hurting. 'So, it was his method of coping...' he thought to himself. He felt like absolute shit for blaming Lance for using when he was just trying to make it by. Keith had been there, he knew what it was like.
Taking a slow breath in, feeling the world pause knowing everything was about to change, Lance broke the silence. "I'm sorry, I hate that I made you feel that way when I was trying to help you get better. It's not that I only want you when I'm high, it's just... the only way I can be with you." Lance began to explain, taking another deep breath to prepare for the hardest part. "Keith... my dad abused me growing up because I was gay... well, bi, so it still messes with my head." The words were heavy. The truth was out there.
Keith felt a new lump form in his throat. He knew exactly what that felt like, something messing with his head that he couldn't stop. But he had never been abused, so that was a weight he hadn't ever carried. "What? Why? Why didn't you tell me?" His voice was soft, and he took a few more small steps forward.
"Because, I didn't want you to know. I hate that I feel wrong for loving you. I didn't want you to know that and you try to hurt yourself again." Lance wiped his own tears away with his palm. He instantly regretted saying anything, fearing what Keith would do.
"Lance..." Keith wasn't sure what to say. He couldn't even imagine what that would be like. Then, he remembered how he felt when Lance had thrown him into the wall, that uncertain fear. Was that what Lance felt like growing up? Does that explain why Lance pushed him?
Lifting his shirt, pointing at the scars on his torso, Lance started to reveal everything. "You know how I told you I got these from a deal gone wrong? Well, I lied. My dad stabbed me when he found out about my first boyfriend. Before that it was just punches, and kicks, and hitting me with whatever object he saw fit that day." Talking about it made it all flash in his mind again, and when he remembered being held against the wall, he thought about how he had pushed Keith, and the shame filled him again. "I'm so.... s-sorry... I pushed you. I'm just like him..." He dropped to his knees, bawling, almost as if he was begging for forgiveness.
In that moment, Keith ran to Lance, dropping in front of him and pulling him into his arms. "It's okay... it's okay..." Keith whispered, trying not to bawl himself. "You're not like him, Lance. You wouldn't hurt me. I know you wouldn't." Keith tried to calm Lance, pulling his boyfriend's head into his chest, holding him tight. Keith believed that the only reason Lance pushed him was from all the heroin he had been using. It was so far from the Lance he had known, so he easily forgave him.
"I can't get the memories to stop, so I use heroin to drown them out, but it started to get worse so I kept needing more. But I'm not going to lose you, and I'm never going to hurt you ever, ever again so... I'll quit." Lance spoke against Keith's shirt, his words were muffled. He gripped Keith's shirt as tight as he could, weeping.
"Lance..." Keith whispered. Hearing Lance's promise, hearing his reasons, hearing his sobs, it all broke Keith.
Feeling tears fall in his hair, Lance lifted his head, catching Keith's eyes and wiping the tears from his boyfriend's face. "I'm okay, I swear. The only person I need to accept me is you." Lance had a small smile, then he brushed Keith's hair back and pressed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "I love you."
After Lance pulled away, Keith cupped his face in his hands. "I love you, too." Keith said with a smile, pulling Lance closer and connecting their lips for a quick moment. Then he pulled back, looking in Lance's eyes once more. "We'll get through this. Together."
Lance nodded in Keith's hands. Then, the two males wrapped in each others arms, and Keith leaned to the side, bringing Lance down to lay with him.
They laid in the floor cuddled up for hours, not wanting to let go of each other. Eventually falling asleep.