NOTE: "Sloanne" is not a person, but rather a collaboration made up of Funkiechick and B (StudentNumber24601.) Mind the falling Sloan references; they're everywhere in this story. That said, enjoy!
Everything You've Done Wrong
A welcome to my friends
This house is a home
And a home's where I belong
Where the feelings are warm
And the foundation is strong
If my soul has a shape
Well, then it is an ellipse
And this slap is a gift
Because your cheeks have lost their luster
-Pavement, Blue Hawaiian
One: The Apple and the Tree
Racetrack wondered for a moment who was playing drums right next to his head. Then, groggily, he realized that the banging was inside his head, he was incredibly thirsty, and very, very hung over. He also realized he wasn't in bed, he was lying on someone's couch. Groaning at the effort, he sat up and tried to remember where he was and how he'd gotten there. The previous night was little more than a blur.
"Freaking... sun..." Race squinted against the light pouring in through the window, and he peered about, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. If he'd been coherent--which he wasn't--it wouldn't have taken him five minutes to remember that it was Mush's living room. Only Mush had Broadway posters on the wall.
Mush's living room. Right. Mush and David had dragged him to a party because of... David's sister's boyfriend? It was too early in the morning for details, but it had been something like that. With the public school kids David was friends with. And since he hadn't known anyone, he'd decided it would be a great excuse to drink. Which apparently, he'd done extensively, judging by the size of his headache.
Slowly, and with a great deal of groaning involved, Race rolled off of the couch. In any other situation, Race would have gladly stayed in any sleeping arrangement for as long as possible. But he was in someone else's house, he couldn't take up their living room much longer... and he really had to piss.
Still too groggy for his liking, he lurched to his feet and groped his way in the direction of the bathroom, assuming he remembered the layout of Mush's house right. But he couldn't count on that; he didn't remember much more than his own name at the moment. He stumbled into the next room, the kitchen, and saw that a disgustingly cheerful Mush and David were sitting at the table, eating pancakes, chewing loudly enough that he was certain people a continent away could hear them.
"Mornin' Tony!" Mush beamed from his seat, and taking a long swig of water ("No Juice!" Mush had proclaimed a week earlier. "I have to watch it, you know.") David nodded his greeting; like Race he still remotely understood the insanity that waking up the morning after a party actually was.
Race groaned an incoherent response, and Mush continued, oblivious to the fact that every word he said brought Race's head a step closer to exploding. "Haven't seen you do that to yourself in a few years, huh?" he commented, and under any other circumstance that would have earned a death glare from Race, but Race was too busy being hung over to notice anything else.
"You want an aspirin or something?" David asked, finishing off his pancakes. Race didn't respond, and David took this as an indication that perhaps he hadn't been heard. "Tony? Tony, do you want an aspirin?...god, you look awful." That did earn a response, but not exactly of the friendliest sort. Race had a tendency to flip people off when he was mad.
David rolled his eyes, but was nice enough to get up and find an aspirin and get Race a glass of water. "At least you didn't have to be hospitalized this time," he commented, once Race had choked down the aspirin and was practically inhaling the water. God, water felt good.
He paused long enough to snap, "Shut up," and finished draining the glass.
David, having the mouth that he did, looked ready to keep pushing the subject. But Mush shook his head, and no one liked to go against what Mush said when his eyes had that pleading expression. So David merely gave Race a hearty pat on the back, and started to wash his dish, which was coated in syrup, in the kitchen sink.
Race finished his water, set the glass down on the table, and started to ask where the bathroom was. He didn't have to, though; Mush pointed down the hall. "Last room on the left, Sunshine. Take a shower. You smell like booze."
"An' you look like a girl in that shirt," Race grumbled, giving a sneer to the light blue polo shirt that Mush considered a personal favorite. Normally, Race would hold back the insult, but his head hurt and Mush's didn't--so he deserved it. In Race's logic anyway. He slumped/walked out of the kitchen, mumbling something about 'idiots not minding their own business.'
He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror as he stepped into the bathroom, and David was right. He looked awful. Bloodshot eyes, rumpled clothing, hair which actually seemed to be defying gravity, it was so snarled. He wondered what he'd done the night before as he relieved himself, then went to wash his hands. He frowned. Someone's number was written in marker on the back of his left hand, but by the time he noticed, the digits had smeared out of recognition. Where'd that come from? he wondered as he peeled off his disgusting clothing.
It took him a few moments to get the water running, as his perception was always off when he was hung over. Finally, he got the temperature to an almost boiling number, and pulled aside the shower curtain as he stepped in, letting the water run down his back. He loved hot water. Groggily, he reached for the soap, and tried almost entirely in vain to remember the night before, and where the hell the phone number had come from. Or who... Or more importantly, what she looked like.
He remembered getting to the party, at someone he'd never met before's house. The people there were all people David knew, but he and Mush had never met them, and Race felt distinctly out of place. They were the sort of people who made his mother clutch her wallet when they walked by, who his father sneered down his nose at. And they thought he was out of place too; he remembered someone had asked David why he'd bothered to bring some snotty rich kid with him... And then Mush had disappeared somehow, and David was off with friends and he'd been sitting there with nothing to do and no one to talk to and a bottle of beer... Well, at least he was fairly sure he'd started out with beer.
He'd probably gotten as drunk as he had because he was so bored, but obviously he couldn't have been that bored if he'd gotten a phone number out of it. He racked his brain, trying to picture a face, any face that would stir up a memory. But at the moment, all that was coming to mind was a bunch of 'hooligans' who called him a rich fucker when they didn't think he could hear them. Really, Race hadn't wanted to be there. The things he did for David...
Well, if it hadn't been for David, he'd never have passed chemistry, and he'd been able to get totally smashed out of the deal, so he supposed he couldn't be too mad. He wiped some of the water off his face, helped himself to a large dollop of shampoo, and went to work on cleaning his hair and remembering how he'd gotten the phone number. He had vague memories of becoming a bit more social as he became tipsy; arguing with someone at the top of his lungs about classic rock drummers. Or something like that. The memory wasn't very clear. He let the shampoo sit for a minute and just felt the water pouring against him, almost scalding him, and slowly he remembered her.
She had nice lips, he remembered that much. Big, red, full... and her hair'd been short. Which surprised Race because he'd always gone for the long locks type. An image started to form in his brain, but he wasn't sure if it was his wishful imagination or an actual memory. Eyes... yeah, she'd had nice eyes, hadn't she? Oh well. At least he'd gotten a good use out of her. At least, he thought he did.
He supposed it didn't matter; it wasn't as though he was likely to see her again. It wasn't as though David's friends would be any more interested in inviting him back than he'd be in going. He rinsed the suds from his hair and discovered his headache had abetted enough that he realized he was hungry, still thirsty, and that he was likely to be killed immediately upon his return home.
With that in mind, Race decided he would much rather stay here and have breakfast, because he was going to get screamed at anyway. Besides, his mother never made pancakes. Not that he was complaining about his mother's cooking, but sometimes good old fashioned, non-Italian cuisine could be a nice change of pace, though Race would never ever freely admit this. He let the water run down his body for a while longer before turning off the tap, and fumbling quickly for a towel; he had soap in his eyes.
His clothes were just as disgusting as they'd been before, and he hated having to put them back on, but didn't have much of a choice. They made his skin crawl. And he hadn't been able to brush his teeth, and had no hair gel... But he was clean, so he supposed that was good enough. After hanging the towel back where he'd found it, he wandered back to the kitchen, feeling vaguely refreshed. Though if Mush called him Sunshine again, he'd probably respond violently. The headache hadn't gone away totally, after all.
"Feel better?" Mush asked, and David wordlessly handed Race a plate with three neatly stacked pancakes. Race shrugged, and sat down. He snatched the syrup away from Mush's side of the table and started to lazily make patterns on his food. Maria always laughed when he did that. On her birthday once, he'd made a huge star pattern on her dinner plate, made up of linguini and home-made tomato sauce. He had a real talent for food art.
"Did I do anything stupid last night?" Race asked.
"Probably. I was too busy to notice." Mush grinned.
"I told you you'd like Blink," David noted. "But you did disappear for awhile, Tony. No idea what you did."
"Hmmm." Race thought about that as he ate his pancakes. At least if he'd humiliated himself, no one he'd be seeing again knew about it. That was worth something.
He heard David let out a snicker, and he glanced behind him with an annoyed expression as David poured himself coffee. "What?" He asked, irritated.
"That." David pointed to Race's neck. "Three hickeys. You look like a leper."
Race's eyes widened slightly, and he searched the kitchen for a mirror. "How big are they?"
"Coin sized," Mush replied. Race swore.
"I told you you'd like my friends," David added, and Race flipped him off again.
"Oh, and someone tried to call you a few times while you were in the shower," Mush told him, and gestured to where Race's cell phone sat on the table.
Race swore again, picked it up, and checked his messages. All from home. He listened to part of the first one, his father yelling in Italian, then deleted it and the next four. They'd be the same anyway.
"He's in an enchanting mood," Race muttered, turning off the cell phone. "As always. Look, I gotta go." He didn't want to. In fact, he would much rather have stayed in Mush's house for the rest of his life. But getting away from his father was like trying to breath under water--it couldn't be done. "Thanks for the couch."
"Anytime," Mush said, and added, "Good luck."
"Yeah," Race acknowledged, thinking but not saying aloud, I need it. The drive home from Mush's was short; far shorter than he'd like, given how much he didn't want to get home.
When he neared his neighborhood, he suddenly wished he'd gotten in a car crash on the way there--that would have delayed his return. But then his dad would go on about how much Race's car had cost, and he'd be worse off than he was now. So he pulled into the garage, trying to think up excuses for being late in his head. That was useless. His dad didn't care about excuses. Rules were rules in the Valentinos's (No, he told himself, the Higgins's) household.
Nothing came to mind, unfortunately. He blamed the damned headache. Which is my own fault, which I'm sure he'll remind me of in a tone of voice that certainly won't help any, he thought miserably, and wondered how long it would take for his father to find him if he just kept driving. But he knew it wouldn't be long enough; he'd be found within an hour, probably. His father worked fast and had resources he didn't like to think about. So, with no other alternative and no brilliant plan, he pulled into the driveway, parked the car, and stepped out to see the disapproving figure of his father already waiting in the doorway.
Race let out a long sigh, and walked up the expensive, elaborate, and quite ridiculous steps to their equally expensive, elaborate and ridiculous porch. His father stood in front of the doorway, staring down at Race with a scowl. Race's height (or lack there of) had not been inherited from his father's side of the family.
"Don't call me that."
His father ignored that, which was probably for the best. "Inside. Now."
"Where did you think I was going?" he muttered before he could stop himself, the headache apparently affecting the part of his brain that told him to keep his smart remarks to himself. But either he was lucky or his father was saving the explosion of his temper for when they were inside, because his father just pushed the door open, followed him in, and slammed it shut again.
The slam echoed through the house, and Race winced. Not only did it set off all sorts of pain in his skull, but it also indicated this was the explosion of temper he'd been expecting.
His father turned on him, and Race could practically see the smoke blowing out of his ears. Hothead, Race thought, and didn't have to worry about laughing. These days, whenever he insulted his father in his head, he didn't do it to lighten the mood. Just to make sure the insults went somewhere.
"Where the HELL have you been?" his father growled. He managed to make his voice about a million volumes loud without shouting at all. Race winced slightly. "Oh, Racetrack, am I too LOUD?!"
"Jesus!" Race stepped back again. His head was killing him now.
"And I'll thank you not to take the Lord's name in vain, young man."
"Look--" Race started, knowing it was useless but unable to stand there and be yelled at without at least attempting to defend himself.
"Just a little hungover," Race interrupted.
"A little." His father raised an eyebrow and repeated in a voice that probably violated maximum decibel regulations in their neighborhood, "A LITTLE."
Race attempted to ignore the fact that his father was now actually trying to cause him pain and to stand up straight.
"And what else were you doing last night?" his father continued.
"Look sir, I had a bit to drink. That's it. Why would I lie when I-"
"How can I trust your words when you used to come home with your fucking pupils dilated, ranting about seeing things and acting like a junkie?" His father's face was close to his now. He smelled exactly like the cologne his mother bought for both of them. Race never wore it.
"I came home that way once," Race mumbled. But he knew the winner of the argument wasn't him. It never was.
"I suppose that's true. Of course, there was also the time I brought you home from the hospital–"
"I made a mistake--"
"But I don't do that anymore!"
"Well, perhaps you've heard the old expression, 'a leopard never changes his spots'?"
"Well, I've heard 'the apple never falls far from the tree.'"
Race knew he shouldn't have said it. Somehow his temper always got the best of him and ended up kicking him in the ass.
"What was that?"
"Nothin'..." Race mumbled, trying to work his way past his father. No go.
"No, Racetrack, I'm interested. WHAT was that?"
"Nothing, sir!" Race answered, very nearly coming to attention as he said it, hoping that a sudden show of respect--even if it was fake--would get him back out of trouble somehow.
"'The apple never falls far from the tree,'" his father quoted, and Racetrack winced. "Then why are you fighting me at every turn?"
"I'm not. Sir. I just..."
"Just what?" his father demanded.
"I just don't want to do what you do. Sir."
"'What I do'" His father considered the words, his voice eerily calm. Race knew this routine. Calm before the storm, as it were. And more than anything he really wished he was back at Mush's house, sleeping on that couch. "What I do, boy, keeps this fucking roof over your head! If the family business is too good for you--"
"No, sir, it's... it's fine. Sir," Race babbled, feeling his face heat up.
"You're damn right it's fine. It's a family business, and you've been a part of it since you were born--you will not turn your back on it, or me, or this family. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand?" his father repeated, and took a menacing step forward. Race responded without thinking, trying to back up, but after just one step he felt the wall at his back, blocking any sort of retreat. Just as well; it meant his father couldn't shove him into the wall, as had happened before.
Their faces were close, and Race couldn't go anywhere until he agreed, submitted to his father, resigned himself to losing the argument--again. Still, a part of him hesitated, wishing that he could come up with something, anything at all, that could make his father choke on his words.
But, as always, there was nothing.
"I understand." Race muttered. His father did not move. "Sir."
His father backed away from Race, and took hold of his wrist. "Good, budiùlo. Come on then."
Race nodded, he knew he should have expected this.
"I think, given the circumstances, it makes sense to move your... test... to today."
"Yeah," Race mumbled. It had been two years almost exactly, and his parents still didn't trust him, and probably never would. It just didn't make sense to him, how his father was so desperate to get him involved in the family business, but so convinced he was a fuckup. Why did he want someone so messed up so badly?
Race followed his father up the steps, not saying a thing, and not even greeting his sister, Sophia, who he passed on the way up the stairs. She watched him wordlessly, as they walked out of her sight. This washroom (one of four) was his mother's favorite. It had taken her three days to decorate, and Race found it interesting that they chose this particular bathroom for Race to take his tests in. His father opened the cupboard, and then thrust a tiny cup at Race, before leaving the room without a word.
He hated this; it was humiliating. He was clean... Well, aside from the alcohol, but his family didn't really care if he drank. But anything else and he'd probably be disowned. Though sometimes he wondered if that would be such a bad thing... Well, at least he'd had enough to drink at Mush's that he could fill the cup without a problem. He did so, washed his hands, and walked back into the hallway, and handed the cup to his father. He knew he should just walk away, go change out of his disgusting clothes, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it. "You can believe me when I say I'm clean," he muttered, and walked away.
For whatever reason, God decided to give Race a break, and his father did not follow him as Race went up another flight of stairs, and tried to storm into his room. Another reason his life sucked--it was impossible to be dramatic and storm into your room when it was two flights of stairs up from the main floor. None the less, Race let out a sigh of relief when he saw the familiar drumming posters on the wall, and his beloved drum set in the corner. He had a very large room...
Impeccably neat, of course, his mother would accept nothing less. But he'd finally won the argument to let him decorate it as he chose, and so at least this small part of the house felt like home. The only place in the whole house that did. He kicked off the dirty clothes and for a moment reveled in letting them sit on the floor, then sighed, dumped them into his hamper and found a clean set.
Subconsciously, he found himself thinking about the party again as he pulled on a Sloan T-shirt his parents hated. He glanced in the mirror, and touched the hickeys on his neck. He was surprised his father hadn't noticed; but if he had, he was always kind of proud of his son with matters like that. Or as close to proud as he could get.
He considered. So he'd been at a party and hated the people. Minus, say, five points there. But he'd gotten three hickeys and a phone number off someone he remembered as hot, so he'd give that plus five. And he'd gotten drunk for free, which was plus another three. But then he had a hangover, which was at least minus five. But the pancakes were good, so plus two, leaving him at zero. But then his father... minus several million there. He groaned and collapsed on his bed, figuring he could just stare at the ceiling until his head stopped hurting.
Note the first: Italian!Racetrack and Bluepoloshirt!Mush brought to you by the letter M. As in, mm mm good.
Note the second: Shower Time Race Action Figure soon to be available at an adult store near you. Mush's Home Cooked Pancakes available at fine eateries everywhere.
Funkiechick's note: This was fun and full of planning and B rocks. Also, any Italian that is incorrect is purely my fault.
B's note: Funkiechick also rocks. I've never done six hours of planning straight before, and it was surprisingly fun. Any Italian that is incorrect is purely her fault. :-P Weird paragraphing, however, is mine.
Final note: The end of chapter one was celebrated with apricot pie.