This was bad. Whatever this was, it was very bad. His friends were going to kill him if they ever found out.
“Hey, Earth to Garmadork, are you there?”
Lloyd was okay, he had to be. He always brushed off these kinds of things with such ease that it almost made him jealous. This was normal. Staring off into space and looking dead from the inside out was...pretty normal.
“Lloyd?” Chen repeated this time, using the latter’s real name instead. He wasn’t even sure if Lloyd could hear him anymore.
The crowd of cheerleaders dispersed to go to their own homes, leaving Chen and Lloyd alone. Chen knew that Lloyd wasn’t really mentally all there, but he didn’t expect it to be this serious. He groaned in annoyance, trying to hide his regret.
“Dude, come on, it’s not that bad.” Chen lightly kicked Lloyd’s foot. He didn’t move. “Don’t you take the bus home or something?”
After a few seconds of silence, Chen pulled Lloyd up by his arms and walked him over to the bleachers. Sitting him down, Chen noticed the dullness of Lloyd’s usually green eyes, they seem to be at a loss of color.
“If you stare at the sun too long you’ll burn your eyes out.” Chen laughed at his own joke after picking up Lloyd’s bookbag. Lloyd didn’t laugh. “That was funny, snap out of it already.”
Waving his hand in front of his face, Chen rendered their conversation pointless. Luckily for the two of them, they didn’t live far away, somewhere in the middle of the city. Just Lloyd’s unusual behavior alone was enough to send shivers up his spine. Grabbing the green hooded boy’s hand, he led him downtown, avoiding any eye contact with pedestrians that passed them. He silently wished for Lloyd to do or say something that would make him not look like a fool.
Lloyd trudged behind him slowly, only stopping once to pick up a rock Chen had tripped on once. Every once in a while, Lloyd would start scratching it, as if he’s trying to feel for something. For a second, Chen felt bad for whatever he did earlier to just make Lloyd lose himself all together for however long it’s been.
“You know,” Chen sighed once they reached their apartment building. “When you’re done spacing out, you owe me, Garmadork, big time.”
Taking the elevator, Chen let go of Lloyd’s hand but Lloyd seemed to insist on just holding it. His eyes searched for something that wasn’t there, looking to say words but nothing came to mind. Chen just felt all around weird holding the hand of Lord Garmadon’s son alone, secluded, with as little space as possible.
Usually, Chen was used to seeing Lloyd take his shoes off by the door and then walking inside. Today, Lloyd stood with him, his weight was heavier than the cheerleader pyramid Chen would help create during practice. Taking a look down the hall both ways to make sure no one was listening or watching, he knocked and waited. Lloyd’s fingers flinched against his.
“Hold on, Brian, just a minuteー” Lloyd’s mom answered the door, just as he hoped. Chen turned to walk away to let her handle it but Lloyd was locked to him, refusing to let go. Fine. “Oh.”
“Actually, I’ll call you back,” Koko said into her phone and turned it off quickly. Her face changed from concern to fear so fast that Chen was sure that she was going to have a heart attack. “Lloyd, honey, can you hear me?” She placed her hands on Lloyd’s face. “Lloyd?”
Lloyd only responded with a shudder in his breath, on the verge of tears.
“Do you want to go to bed, Lloyd? Would that make you feel better?” Koko spoke softly and pulled Lloyd’s hand away from Chen’s, the cheerleader sighing a breath of relief. Lloyd looked up at her slowly and nodded, the first actual interaction Lloyd had made since almost forty-five minutes ago.
She smiled when Lloyd nodded again.
“Please, come inside.” Koko’s face instantly turned serious and Chen straightened up instantly.
It’s been ten minutes since Chen had been invited inside, the only voice he’s heard coming from Lloyd’s room was ironically Koko’s, he only caught a few glances of Lloyd with a dragon plushie. After that, Koko had come back out and now they were engaging in a silent staring contest. He didn’t want to say anything in fear that she’ll cut him with her sharp eyes.
“Tell me exactly what happened.”
That caught Chen off guard, as much as he didn’t like the Garmadons, there was no use in lying to Lloyd’s mom, especially not in this state. Chen didn’t want to lie, but, it was his only option besides risking his entire life.
“I found him after school just laying in the grass, staring into nothing, I have no idea if he was okay or not.” He said. “I saw a couple of guys bother him until he just froze out of nowhere and fell.”
“Do you know what any of them said to trigger him?” Koko shook her head. “Actually no, do you know who said it?”
“I don’t remember, I’m sorry,” Chen confessed.
“Fine...fine, it’s alright,” Koko left Lloyd’s closed bedroom door and unfolded her arms. “I’m sorry you had to experience that, it’s not the first time he’s been like this, and I fear that it won’t be the last.”
“What do you mean?” Chen sat up fully on the couch. “If you don't mind me asking.”
“You're Chen, right? Lloyd talks about you often.” Koko nodded, dodging his question. Chen bit his lip and just hoped for the best. He did not need a lecture. “He speaks very fondly of you, he likes the way you're confident enough to be the only boy on the cheer team.”
Chen coughed, he was actually not expecting that.
“Lloyd wants to be friends with you, Chen. You should give him a chance, he’s a good kid.”
The thing was, Chen knows that Lloyd was a good kid, and he felt bad for bullying the crap out of him. He could try to at least talk to him, make him feel better for a start, and then, maybe they could build a relationship from there. After a full minute, he let out a slow breath.
“Can I talk to him? If, he’s not asleep already.” Chen didn’t mean to sound so nervous, but Lloyd’s mother was very intimidating, and the amount that she cared for her own son? He could practically feel it.
“Please talk to him, I would appreciate it if you did. And I think he would too.”
“I’ll try my best.”
Chen had the strangest feeling that she already knew what he had done to hurt her son.
Lloyd was facing the wall on his bed, holding the plushie Chen had remembered seeing earlier. He didn’t turn when Chen had sat down on the edge nor did he engage in conversation at all. It’s fine, Chen wanted to apologize to him anyway.
“Hey,” Chen started. “I am so, so sorry, Lloyd. I didn’t mean toーI wasn’t trying to hurt you, honestly. I don’t even know what I said to mess you up like thisー”
“You asked me to divide myself by zero,” Lloyd told the wall. “I can’t do that, it’s illegal.”
“It’s just bad then?”
“No, it just means that you’re bad at math.”
Lloyd turned around to face him, now sitting up. Chen cringed at the puffy and red eyes Lloyd had born on his face. But, Lloyd’s expression wasn't the only thing Chen had found off.
“Dividing me by zero doesn’t make me not exist, okay? It only makes things worse, you can’t get rid of me, I’m your error in your calculator.”
“I should maybe go,” Chen got up. Lloyd held his arm and gave him a nervous look.
“Please don’t,” He pleaded. “Can you stay here? I want to help you on your math homework.”
Looking down at his phone, Chen figured out his dad wouldn’t mind him being home a little later than usual. And by the looks of things, Lloyd really needed his help and comfort. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, Chen gave Lloyd a little smile.
“Yeah, I guess I can stay for a couple of hours.”