Hey, this is my first (and probably last) Skins fanfic. Set just after Ep. 5 ("Freddie"), Series 3.

Disclaimer; I don't own Skins, or any of the characters within in. P; Things would be much different my way, lol.

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He couldn't do it. It just wasn't in him. Much unlike the manifesto of abuse that ran through his veins; drugs with names so long it burned your eyes to read them, putrid solvents and of course, the daily dosage of liquid death.

Anything James Cook could get his hands on was declared his, as there was no-one there to say otherwise. It had always been that way, ever since he was in Primary school and demanded everyone's attention with his exuberant though destructive behaviour. He was the kind of boy who would push the student teacher to tears because he had nothing else to do. It had been that way with Freddie and JJ; and it had happened with Effy, just as he expected. But not this time.

And to think he had actually been laughing, snickering to himself as he waltzed his way in to Freddie's living room, angular face painted with his signature challenging smirk. Freddie had looked at him apathetically, the friendship they had nurtured for years completely void in his sultry brown eyes. Their mutual timid friend shuffled in after, not bothering to sit down, avoiding Freddie's eye; instead opting to perch quietly on the back of an armchair, nervously toying with a tuft of hair.

He knew things were going to blow up in his face. In fact, he craved it. He craved drama, chaos, destruction; anything to escape from this miserable, feeble existence. He knew he wasn't going anywhere, Freddie had told him himself, so he might as well drag everyone down with him. He expected Freddie to come with, as he always had, shrouded in the treacherous shadow he cast.

He should've seen it coming. Maybe he did. He should've at least smelt it coming; fucking up his sister's chances like that (as well as notoriously deflowering her), trying it on as best he could. Freddie lashed out because he had no choice. He could sympathize, he had shoved his closest friend into a corner and tortured him until breaking point. And it was fun. It was.

When Freddie's forehead had collided with his own nose, a red fury exploded in front of his eyes; the searing hot rush of blood, heart hammering in his chest. He couldn't do it. He couldn't harm the one person he cared for most in this world, even though they had just laid a knock-out headbutt square between the eyes. The love he had for the bronze-skinned boy was sewn permanently in to his being, and a curse that he had fallen helpless to once again.

And now he was standing in a bus-shelter that stank of stale booze and piss, knee-deep in fast-food wrappers and dog shit, barely listening whilst JJ whimpered quietly beside him. Frost-bite threatened to chew vicariously at his bare flesh, but he couldn't care less. Shards of glass implanted in his knuckles were beginning to weep blood droplets that ran down his fingers like spindling webs. A film of perspiration was drying on his forehead, making his skin clammy and cold.

"Jay, will you shut the fuck up," he snapped irritably, shivering in his thin cotton polo, the extra button done-up barely creating enough warmth to comfort. "It's fine, everything's fine."

"But.. but what about Freddie? You broke the picture of his mum, and I don't think his dad is going to allow us back to their house, and I really liked Freddie's house," JJ babbled incoherently, clutching at the buttons on his checkered shirt, cheeks damp with what he dismissed as sweat. He couldn't stand the thought of making JJ cry.

"Fuck Freddie, we don't need him to get home, do we?"

"Well, n-no, but your hand, and-- Oh my god, your nose is probably broken too, we can't go to the hospital," Rocking gently, JJ fidgeted, shivering in the evening cold.

He felt his nostrils gingerly, gently running a lone finger over it; he winced, the surge of pain reminding him of how hard Freddie's skull truly was. A vague shudder ran through him as a warm droplet of blood landed on his chin. Disgusted, he wiped it away.

"Look Jay, we're fine, I'm fine, let's just try and get home in one fucking piece, eh?"

JJ ceased his babbling, looking at him with his sharp baby-blue eyes, all the admiration and trust lying solely in the boy's reliant gaze; standing up, he swallowed a mouthful of spit and laid a gentle hand on Cook's arm.

"I'm sorry about Freddie," JJ said, voice surprisingly soft despite the surroundings.

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

His face contorting into a quizzical grin, he slapped the pale boy harshly on the shoulder. JJ winced, stumbling, cheeks reddened, and withdrew his hand.

"Nothing, Cook," JJ muttered, slipping his hands into his pockets, his gaze trailing the floor. A moment later the bus arrived, shattering the eerier silence that had descended between the two friends, as both of them piled on.

He refused to look at any of the passengers, selecting the back row of chairs on the bus and draping himself across two of them. Awkwardly, JJ sat opposite, smiling bashfully at a handful of shrieking girls a couple of rows in front of them. He stared out of the window, watching the array of streetlamps flicker as the bus rolled onwards toward their destination; he thought about Freddie, the way his friend had looked at him with such burning hate, the sickening crunch as they clashed. But most of all, he thought about the softness of Freddie's lips as he laid a hard, desperate kiss on his mouth.

Frightened, he pushed it from his thoughts as JJ mentioned that they were almost at their stop. The two clambered off the bus in near silence, a rarity for Cook. JJ said his hasty goodbyes, shoulders stiff and rounded to fend off the intense cold. He waved the young boy off, raising a vague smile to his lips, and they departed in different directions. His high had been crushed by the emotional backlash he had caused tonight, and for once, he felt guilty about what he had done to Karen, and what he had forced Freddie to do to him.

James Cook stumbled blindly down street after street, a vortex of consequences closing in around him. As the reassuring rush of narcotics ebbed away, his unstable complex of emotions ransacked his mind. Sprawled against a lowly garden wall, he sank to the floor, the frozen ground drawing every inch of warmth from within him. He felt empty, alone.

The truth was out there, rolling like a dark cloud above his head, thoughts he was too scared, too proud to confront. With his fingers he grazed his punctured lip, his wounded knuckles pressed protectively to the hallow of his chest, his heart pounding relentlessly in his chest. His throat tensed as he felt the waves of unconsciousness wash over him.

He really did love that boy.