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It's always been you

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That's how the appendix had to feel. This useless part of the body that swells red with rage and would only hurt terribly. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Useless, without any functions. Only unnecessary baggage. Nick felt like the embodied garbage. Nobody wanted him.
His mother had dumped him to his uncle to give him new perspectives.
Basically, she was overwhelmed with him and didn't feel like taking care of him anymore. At least that's what Nick thought. He couldn't find any other explanation in his battered teenage soul. The fact that his mother had remarried and was pregnant with a little girl did the rest.
Not that he was jealous of a foetus… was he? However, this constellation did not help him to believe that his mother only wanted the best for him and therefore sent him to a small town to his uncle, deported him, threw him away.
He hated it.
He hated everything.
He hated everyone.
He couldn't blame her for remarrying. His father was, in his own humble opinion, a piece of shit. He hadn't given a damn about Nick before. This time it was no different.

His uncle Pete was already waiting outside on the street for Nick's arrival. It was a wonderful day. Pleasantly warm and the sun was only slightly caressed by clouds but never completely covered. Of course, it had to be that way. Everything looked great. But for Nick it was raining inside of him, it was dark, and the sun was well covered.

"Hey, Nick. Wait, I'll take your bag", said Uncle Pete and reached for Nick's travel bag, which he immediately ripped away from him. "No thanks. I can carry it myself". His uncle raised his hands like, ‘I'm unarmed and I'm not gonna hurt you’.
“Okay then. Follow me. I show you your room.” Nick just grunted and followed him.
The two went through a bar, which at this time had only one or two guests, went around the corner at the storeroom just to go up a staircase. What used to be an office was now Pete's apartment. It had all been a bachelor needed. A well-trodden grey sofa, a leather armchair and a television. An open kitchen with a dining table right in the middle. Somehow the table almost looked like a room divider Nick thought.
"Here. I've arranged a room for you." Pete pointed to an open wooden door. He didn't acknowledge it verbally, but he could smell the fresh wood, see how the colours didn't quite fit together. Obviously, his uncle had redrawn the wall and bought new furniture. Bed, small desk, a chest high bookshelf.
He hated it. No, in reality he felt welcomed and grateful, but that did not fit in with his hatred of the world. So, he carelessly put his bag on the floor, grabbed a book, grumbled, "Thank you." and walked out the door.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"Out."
“You will be back at 11pm sharp.” Pete got a little hand wagging from his nephew as he rushed down the stairs. Since Nick had nothing better to do and wanted to escape from this situation as quickly as possible, he looked at the city, if you could call it that. It was more a sweet little Town where everyone knew everyone. Or at least almost. However, someone like him, a new stranger in town, was conspicuous enough that people stared at him and started whispering.
Annoyed, he sighed and looked for a quiet place to hide. At the end, his hiding place became a big old tree, with wide and strong branches that he could climb on. He sat down and looked over and saw across a wide meadow with a small pond. Judging by the colour of the pond, the pond had too many nutrients and too few fish to inhabit. Some ducks swam around.
The sun began to set, and everything was bathed in a warm orange light which only made Nick sadder. It was beautiful to watch, but it caused a deep sting in his heart that made him cry.

Unnoticed by him, a young guy stood behind him watching him. The guy could see a slight trembling of the shoulders of the person sitting in the tree, one of his own favourite places.
Luke sighed disappointed. Now his secret little quiet place where he always went to think or just to have his peace was occupied by another person. A shame.
He wandered around for a while until he came home. There, his little adoptive sister Clementine used her pencils to paint in a colouring book for adults, which belonged to their mother.
Luke hung up his Jacket in the hallway and took off his boots. “Hi Clem, what are you doing?” He kissed her on top of her head. She grinned up to him and gave him one of her pencils. An orange one. He put down his discoloured backpack and sat down next to her on the floor. “I’m drawing in mommy’s book. Look how pretty.” Clementine showed him the last page shed coloured. A big elephant.
“Very nice, little one.”
Clementine was already six years old and was perfectly capable not to draw over the lines. She was a bright little girl and Luke adored her. She was his angel.
While he coloured a flower with his orange crayon in, he looked at her when he looked up for a moment. She grew up so fast. Next year she would go to the first grade of primary school and he would help her with her homework.
The front door opened with a loud clack and Christina, Luke’s and Clementine's mother came in.
She took off her high heels with a loud groan and a "thank God."
"Hi, Mom. We're in the living room." Luke called out to her. When his mother came into the living room, Clementine tore the colouring book away from his nose and ran to her mother.
"Mummy, mummy, look what we drew."
While standing in front of her mother, she jumped back and forth. Her hair, braided into little pigtails, jumped up and down like her.
She lifted her daughter onto her arms and examined the book with interest.
"Very beautiful. And your brother helped you?"
"Only with the flower. The elephant is only from me. Look!"
"Since I'm not needed, I'm going to my room."
His mother put Clementine on the sofa while she said "Do that. Oh, is your father already home?"
Clementine shouted, "Daddy's bathing. With lots of foam." Christina opened her hair from her bun.
"I don't feel like cooking today. It was super stressful today in the office. Should we order some take out? Get food ordered?
"How about we eat some burgers at Pete's?" Luke suggested.
"Sure, good idea. When your dad's out of the tub, I'll change, and we can go. Does that suit you? Clem? Some burgers today?"
“Yaaaaaay” She raised her arms up in the air.

_______

There is always this one moment when time suddenly seems to stand still. Everything holds its breath. Voices, noises, screams everything blurs and becomes silent for a short moment.
Luke couldn't breathe when he saw who or what came through the bar door. A young guy, with beaming blue eyes he has never seen before. His dark eyebrows were grumpy and tightened, and this facial expression caused wrinkles between his eyebrows and his still young forehead.
His cap didn't even remotely cover those eyes.
As far and blue as the ocean, in which a storm raged and stopped at nothing. His facial expressions showed anger, his eyes sadness.
Luke didn't know how to breathe anymore.
“Ah, there you are.” Peter Joseph Randall, the owner of the bar, called to the unfamiliar boy. No. Nick. He had called him Nick.
Luke took mental notes.
"Come here. I'd like you to meet some friends." He grabbed his nephew by his shoulders so that he wouldn't run away and pushed him to the family at the table.
People, this is my nephew Nick. Nick, this is Christina, Alexander, their son Luke and their daughter Clementine."
Christina wiped her hands on the napkin, stood up and offered him her hand. Nick just stared at her hands until she said with a firmer tone, "It's nice to meet you." She invoked respect immediately, a trait that had developed in her male-dominated job over the years. Now she was one of the top managers in the firm.
“Likewise.” He shook her hand and even the little Clementine gave him her hand. “Hello. I’m Clem. You are?”
“I guess you weren't listening…I’m Nick.” Clementine shrugged her shoulders and turned back to her food consisting of chicken nuggets, fries and an apple at the side. “Nope. Adult conversations are boring.”
“Can’t argue with that.” Luke grinned at their banter. It was cute, and he had immediately a warm feeling inside of him.
Was it weird that he suddenly had this feeling? No. No.
It certainly had nothing to do with Nick but with Clementine who was sweet as always. That had to be it.
What else could it be? Maybe he was just sick instead of having a warm feeling. Exactly.
That had to be it.
After all, he had eaten his burger very quickly from hunger and was already lunching on Clem's fries.
Never could it have anything to do with Nick.
He was about to turn around and leave, but Peter stopped him. “Where do you think you're going?”
“Upstairs. Why?” Nick walked away. He followed him. It was probably best if they didn't make a scene in front of the guests.
“No.No.No. You will help me out.”
“What?”
“Don’t argue with me boy. Grab an apron, a piece of paper and pen. Now.”
“But why? I haven't done anything wrong.”
“Why do I still hear you arguing? Ever since you got here, you've been pulling a face. I've got a pretty good bullshit detector, so watch out: I know it's not all easy, but we both are spending some time together now and I don't want your shit. So, you're gonna help me out at the bar, but keep your hands off the alcohol. You will go to school here and be home by 9 p.m. at the latest. Do we understand each other?”
Nick thought for a moment about what he could do now. That his uncle, whom he hadn't seen for ages, who gave him orders now, pissed him off. How dare he?
How dare he?
Nick had to admit it was kind of nice. Here stood someone who cared for him. Nick had to admit it was kind of nice. Here stood someone who cared for him and cared for his well-being. Someone who set limits for him even if he didn't want those.
“Okay.”
“What?”
“I said okay Uncle Pete.” He grabbed a Mauve toned apron that he hung around his hip plus a note and pen. Without further request from Pete, but still grumbling with an annoyed tone, he went back to the table where the little girl was sitting and asked, "Can I get you anything else?
"Yeah, a Coke for me, please."
"A Cider Berry and a Cider Pear please" ordered the father Alexander with full mouth.
"And you? Luke asked his sister. She leaned forward and whispered into his ear. "CheBa."
"A what?" Nick had no idea what that was supposed to be.
"She wants banana and cherry juice. Do not stir, that’s what makes a marbled pattern." Luke explained to him. "Sounds disgusting," Nick said, but wrote it down anyway.
"You should try it. It's not so bad at all."
Nick didn't return anything. He might give it a try. Preferably with him. This pretty blonde boy who came from a perfect picture book family (and therefore probably was hetero).
A shame, Nick thought.

Chapter Text

For Alexander the day began very early in the morning. He got up together with his wife. While she was getting ready to go to work, he went into the kitchen and started making her a lunch pack. Whenever possible, he always tried to give her something healthy and warm. It was autumn and early in the morning it was already very cold. He could see the frost on the grass in the garden. Hmm, they had to think about something for the plants to protect them from the frost.

While he was preparing food for his wife, he also made lunchboxes for his children. Luke was an all-eater. He didn't care what he had with him as long it was edible.
Clementine for instance loved jam & peanut butter sandwiches. But instead of strawberry jam, she wanted cherry jam.
She had a strong affinity for cherries. He grinned, maybe they shouldn't have named her after a citrus fruit. While he did that, the kids got up and ate a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table. Luke's hair was all tousled, while Clem looked like an angel as usual.
Always in a hurry, his wife took the glass can with her food and gave him a kiss.
"I love you. I'll see you later.
"I love you too. See you tonight."
Luke always found his parents to be a prime example of a good relationship. The two argued, discussed and loved each other like no other couple he has ever seen. The two were connected in a fatelike way.
Sometimes he wished he could find someone like that. That special person.
Here and there he had already had someone at his side, but it was never like with his parents. This bliss. This love that always flowed from their eyes when they looked at or spoke of each other.
Almost like in a Disney movie where love conquers all.

 

A new school year began for Nick.
New city, new school, new teachers, new students... new friends? Well, when he looked at the people here who were strolling to the main entrance, he felt out of place.
A feeling which accompanied him since he was put in the train and then in the taxi to his uncle. He lit himself a cigarette. He was a non-smoker. The taste of the cigarette was disgusting and the burning in his throat and lungs was unpleasant.
Nothing about it was great.
Like the whole situation he was in. After all, it had not been his decision to come here. The smoke, the stench, the pain created a protective cloak around him. People shouldn't see how vulnerable he really was. How much his innermost screamed and cried. Hit walls with his bare fists until they bled.

Here he was an outsider. He wanted to present himself as such.
So, no one would get too close. No one would look for him if one day he just walked away. No one would stop if he would just die here and lay on the ground. They would just walk right over him.
He was alone. He felt so alone.
“Hey Nick!” Somebody called behind him. He got startled.
Who would know him here?
He turned to the voice behind him and spotted the cute blonde boy from the bar. He took a strong draft from his cigarette. Luke came jogging towards him with his bicycle at his side.
“Hey, how are you? Long time no see.”
“Yeah. Long time. So, we go to the same school?!”
“Seems so. But well that’s good for you. Now you already have a friend here. Ah but hey, as a friend I need to tell you smoking is not allowed here on school ground.”
Friend.
He called them friends.
Nick's heart suddenly pounded up his throat. He cleared his throat. “What?”
“Smoking.” Luke pointed to the cigarette. “Ah. Yeah well. I am not on school ground. As far as I can see it I am still outside this ludicrous gateway.” Luke grinned. The school had an elitist touch with its wall and large stone archway, so he must admit, Nick had a point. “I will wait.”
Nick took another drag. “Wait for what? Till you finished smoking.”
“But why?”
“Well, friends will do that.” He shrugged his shoulders.
Again. He said that again.
How could he call himself his friend? Wasn't that totally presumptuous?
He would have loved to have told him to his face what an arrogant, super friendly bastard he was... But somehow, he couldn't. Luke was nice. If he looked at him honestly, Luke was just a nice, incredibly handsome nice guy who wanted nothing bad for him. He took his last drag and flicked his cigarette off. “Well then come one. You still have to lock your bike. I will wait.”
At that, a big broad grin spread on Luke's face. He liked him immediately.
Sure, Nick was a stubborn guy who made himself look unapproachable. He couldn't guess why and didn't want to make any assumptions yet. Because they hardly knew each other. But he had put it into his head to get to know the boy with the sad blue eyes.

 

To both of their surprise, they had more courses together than expected and Luke could play tour guides most of the time and stay by Nick's side, which was a positive side effect.
Apart from the voluntary subjects where Luke had chosen sports and crafts, Nick chose subjects such as art and English literature, which surprised and strangely impressed Luke. He would never have guessed Nick for somebody who liked art and literature.
But the more the two were hanging out, the more Luke realized that Nick was a sensitive guy and rather calm in his everyday life when he was with other people. But Nick could also quickly get lost in his own mind and thoughts and panic about them, while Luke was more of a calculating guy, but also quicker to make decisions while Nick was thinking back and forth. In Luke’s mind, the two complemented each other very well.