Ribbons of Red

A/N: This is in some ways the prequel to "Sorry's Always Hard to Say". It happens before that story, at any rate. Rated T for some slight language and themes. "Misery Me" belongs to the Streetlamp Band.

Every day's a tragedy, like

Raindrops on my walls

My own life is haunting me and

I got nowhere to fall

Exultant laughter bursts from my lungs like a song as I hold up my arms, palms up, under my creation. Forging things out of fire has never really been a talent of mine, and for years I've toiled to get it right. Now this twisting monolith of a beast above me pays tribute to those long nights of staring at candles, willing them to move, determining their movements, their properties, their shapes and desires. My desires.

Dimly I can hear screaming from the students in the stands around me, but they're not important. The boy facing me on the other side of the rink has lost his cockiness, his resolve. He thought changing my personal gravity was going to keep me down and out of this fight. He thought he had it made. He has to learn, not all things are mortal; not all things are muscle and bone. Suddenly, Boomer's voice hits me like a train and I'm snapped out of my reverie.

"Hothead! Hit the showers!" What the hell. I didn't do anything wrong. Grumbling, I wave my hand at the dragon and he disappears, leaving no small amount of black smoke behind him. The fire alarms sound in a panic behind me. The students panic along with it.

Faded gray defines me

Patchwork-covered shame

And if I was a painting

I swear I'd be the same

People didn't use to cross to the other side of the hallway when they see me walking along behind them. They collide with other students going the opposite way in their haste to get away from me. I feel a small bump at my elbow and glance over to see what made it. The boy who'd been standing at his locker mouths wordlessly in terror. He thinks I'm going to maim him right here. I look back at the ground as I walk away. Glancing back, I see that the kid is now sitting down and being comforted by some of his friends.

I never wanted this. The police were bad enough, dogging my steps, hauling me in for questioning every time some drunk managed to burn his own house down in the Ramps. They know my car, they watch me night and day. Now in school, where I can finally be free of them, I inspire even more dread among the students. To be fair, the teachers don't bother me much. The only thing that bothers me is that I bother all of these others.

But now even the teachers watch me, whispering behind their hands, moving back into their doorways as I pass them. Moving back in time. I never wanted to be like my father but it seems I have no choice.

Turn out the light

Let in the night

I know these words will take me

From the cradle to the grave

There's darkness twisting in my veins. It scares me. It takes control when I'm not actively forcing it back, like when I formed the beast in gym class. In the heat of the moment, something reared its head in me and bayed cruel laughter through my own throat. This was my father's power. This is my father speaking.

My face is sharp and angled

Like a broken ceramic doll

My puppeteer is laughing as

I stumble and I crawl

My father. How I hate you. I barely look into the mirror anymore because I see you so much in me. I might as well just tape up the old news articles and look into those instead. How do I look today? Well, just like you, it seems.

Layla understands that part, at least, but she's the only one. Everyone else thinks I'm letting myself go because I just don't care. She's taken to grabbing my head and running a brush through my hair every day at lunch. The nicest gestures are meaningless.

Hunt me down

Make me bleed

Misery, misery, misery


Yesterday, a boy wielded a crucifix necklace at me as I passed. What, does he think I'm the devil? Or a vampire? I just gave him a weird look and kept on going, but it gave me something to think about.

Lord, if I could have one wish, it would be for my life to change completely. Give me Will Stronghold's life, please? Why can't I be like him? Why can't I come home to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and have a great girlfriend and millions of friends. All the friends that I could wish for. And his father, a little dumb, but caring. What I would give for a few moments of father to son talk, for a minute of arm wrestling.

Wishful thinking, all. The bell rings and though the hallways are rampant with students, somehow the way before me is completely clear. It's the same way in the parking lot. Everyone knows my tan, bombed-out boat of a car. 1989 Chevy Caprice. I built the rocket engines myself. Sure as hell didn't come standard. Yeah, all of these kids have money coming from their parent's ears to buy a beautiful black chromed Mustang with dual-engine capabilities, but they learned not to laugh at my car long ago.

Home is never easy to go to. All I do is sleep there. All I do is sleep anywhere. As I pass the bathroom I catch a sight of myself in the mirror. I go back and look, really look. God, who is this person? The vertical white scar on my right cheek, the accusing eyes, the lank black hair. The kid was right to wave his crucifix around. The devil really does walk the halls of Sky High.

And if all the world's a stage

And if all I need's a sage

Knock on my door, knock on my door

It really don't matter anymore

It doesn't matter anymore. I don't really want to try. There's no charity for the damned sons of super villains. Even when I helped save the school last year, no one applauded or wrote massive newspaper articles about me, like they did for Will and Layla, even Ethan and Magenta and Zach. But Warren Peace does not exist. He waits, stagnant and congealed, apparently with his own agenda. He has no motivations other than world domination. Let the flashing bulbs of those cameras fall on the golden boys. Warren Peace will fall back into the shadows, where everyone expects him to be. Fall back into my rotted pit of stone. It's a beautiful blade I hold, three inches and black-hilted, both magnificent and grotesque.

The telephone rings and I hazily stand, slipping on the drowned floor. The blade floats in the toilet bowl, ribbons of red encircling it like a mother's loving arms. Stained handprints on the seat of the toilet, the blood thick and salty, encrusted. It's not the blood of a hero.

"Hello?" I say muzzily into the receiver.

"Warrrrrrrren?" The voice is elongated as it passes through my brain. I put a hand to my head and realize that I've got the floor and the wall all bloody. It's Layla. She says something else but it turns into the faint, droning buzz of a mosquito. The receiver drops from my hand, dangling from its cord as I slide to the floor. The mosquito's buzzing intensifies in pitch and volume but I crawl back to the bathroom on my hands and knees. The peeling tiles scratch at my hands as I vomit into the bathtub and then lay back down against the floor.

Turn out the light

Let in the night

I know these cards will take me

From the cradle to the grave

That had better not be an ambulance I hear. Dammit, Layla.

From the cradle to the grave.

The End.

A/N: I don't understand why I can't get this thing to indent, heh. Well, anyway...not my best work. I may have to go back and re-do this but I wanted to try and get it out there before I forgot it! Thanks to all of you lovely reviewers who've been checking out my other stories, you really make my day!