Berwald's first years had been spent in a small, not particularly well-off, but reasonably nice neighborhood. His mother had stayed at home to raise him while his father worked as a carpenter, building furniture. The things that stood out in his memory were the smell of sawdust that clung to his father, and his hands. They were scarred and callused from years of hard work, and huge. Berwald had been able to fit his entire hand in just the center of the man's palm. The two of them were almost exactly alike, mussed blond hair, stern expression, tall and powerfully built, right down to the glasses. However, Berwald had gotten his stunning blue-green eyes from his mother, a slim, tall blond woman who was as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside.
The darkness had always frightened Berwald a little, or at least the things his child imagination conjured up to hide in the darkness did. Whenever he was alone in the dark, he always found comfort in his mother's lullaby, and had sung it to himself for hours once when he couldn't sleep from nightmares. But here, now, the dark wasn't so scary, not with his pappa beside him, not with the large warm hand that wrapped around his driving away the fears. Nothing would be able to hurt him when his pappa was there.
The shadows in front of them were particularly deep, nothing penetrating them. They were taking their shortcut home, like always, even though mamma didn't like it and would scold pappa for going through there, especially with Berwald. The shadows moved. Berwald noticed, but his pappa did not, and before he thought to point it out, a figure broke from the darkness, shouting something at them, but Berwald didn't hear what. He was too distracted by the gun aimed at his pappa. The gun barked three times, and Berwald's pappa was on the ground, one hand gripping at the spreading blackness on his chest, the other tightly secured around Berwald's. The little boy crouched beside his father, watching as the life bled out of him onto the cold cement, and he started to sing. That was how he was found later by the police, singing a lullaby, his head pressed to his father's shoulder.
Tino's parents had never fought like this before. He was, of course, far too young to understand why they were arguing, and what it meant when his father accused his mother of having an affair. All he remembered later was that his mother had suddenly screamed, and the car had swerved, and then his parents weren't there anymore. He couldn't see through the red running into his eyes, and while at first all he felt was numb, soon pain began flaring up all over him. Then everything went black, and the next thing he remembered was how badly it hurt when someone pulled him out of the car. He started screaming and struggling, crying for his äiti and isä until his throat felt raw. When he saw the tarps on the ground, and saw a hand hanging out from beneath one, he immediately fell silent. He passed out again in the ambulance, tears still running down his face.
He woke up again in the hospital. It had already been days from the wreck, and someone had brought his favorite teddy, a little white puppy, and set it beside his bed. A lady came in and told him that when he got better, he had to go live with a new family. His äiti and isä were gone. The tears started up all over again.
Berwald had changed after his pappa's death. He was quieter, more distant and reserved, no longer a happy, bright nine-year-old as he should have been. He changed even further as he grew older. He knew his mother tried, but something in her had broken as well, and then she got sick. Berwald never let his emotions show. On the outside, he could seem perfectly calm and unruffled, but on the inside, he was a storm. One day at school, after he had gotten next to no sleep for listening to his mother crying all night long, he was cornered by a group of boys in the bathroom. It didn't matter to them that he was bigger than they, that he was bigger than all the boys in their grade. What mattered was that he was strange, a geek, and always alone.
They followed him in, and he turned, suspicious on instinct. Sure enough, they were spreading out on either side of him, going in for the kill. Their leader, a short boy with a round face and silvery blond hair, began the mocking, starting with Berwald's glasses. How unoriginal, the larger boy thought to himself. None of the taunting was. He had heard it all before, from a million and one other kids. He didn't care anymore. He was tired, and wanted to get this over with. He attempted to pass around the other boy. The boy punched him, sending his glasses flying.
Berwald was never quite able to explain what happened next. Something snapped inside the boy, filling his insides with ice, and suddenly, he was crashing into the smaller child, throwing him across the bathroom. The other boy's head cracked against the sink, blood seeping from the wound, and he screamed. Berwald was on him again, pounding a fist into the kid's face repeatedly, until blood spattered from his nose and his lips were split and the boy was sobbing uncontrollably. His friends had just stood there in utter shock before several teachers rushed in and dragged the raging boy off his classmate.
Berwald wound up in the principal's office with his mother, who just managed to convince the man to give him a second chance. His grades and previously clean record, as well as the tragic event in his past, barely scraped him out of the realm of outright expulsion and into that of detention, every day, for three weeks. Better than nothing, he supposed. Not like I have anything better to do.
Tino's new home was far from his old one with his parents. He had to say goodbye to his school friends, who hadn't known what to say to him, and relocate to a house where he had to live with three other children, two of them other foster kids. They all seemed okay. One was even more shy and frightened than him. But he decided to make the best of the situation. At least he now had sisters and a brother, where he used to be an only child. He had someone to play with.
It was nearly a week after he arrived at the house that he woke one night to a sound at his bedroom door. The door silently glided open, to reveal the only kid in the house who wasn't a foster child. He was older than Tino by several years, but nice. He had tried to help the boy feel more comfortable. Now, he padded into the room and shut the door, watching the younger boy strangely. Tino wasn't sure why he was staring, but it made him a little nervous. The elder came right up to him, whispering to him to be quiet, since they weren't supposed to be up and would get in trouble if they were too loud. Then he told Tino something bizarre. He told him how pretty he was. A hand reached out, fingers stroking down the younger boy's face.
Now, a ball of anxiety was resting in Tino's chest. Something felt very wrong, with how the other was acting and how he was talking and how he touched Tino. Then the older boy's hand reached down, brushing against Tino's private parts, and he slid back on the bed, hugging his stuffed puppy close. It was a bad move. The larger pinned him down on the bed, instructing him in a venomous whisper not to make a sound or he'd kill him. Tino complied, trembling beneath the weight of the other's body. Hands at his waist began tugging at his pajama pants, sliding them off along with his underwear, and then touching him again. The breathy whispers continued in the darkness, his foster brother telling him how sweet and pretty he was, over and over, and Tino felt sick. He saw the elder's pants slide down, and he was rolled onto his belly before a hand clamped over his mouth and pain shot through his slim body.
When he was through, the older boy left Tino lying on the bed, crying and hurting all over again, after threatening once more to kill him if he ever told. Tino lay still, unwilling to move for the pain that shot through his back when he tried. Something sticky and wet ran down the backs of his legs and on the blankets. The next day, he almost didn't get up for school, but he forced himself, and walked with a severe limp all day long. Instead of chattering with his classmates and playing, he stayed quiet and alone. His teacher asked if he was okay several times, eventually giving up when she was repeatedly stonewalled by the young boy. After that day, Tino regularly came to school with a limp, until one day, he was told to pack up his things, because he was moving to a new home. A sense of relief at this information filled him, and he was beyond thankful to be leaving this house. It was the first in a series of bad homes. He wished later he'd never gotten his hopes up.
After he survived the crash, everyone said he should have died. Everyone said his survival was a miracle. Everyone said he was extremely lucky. He must have angels looking out for him. He wondered what sort of angels would save a child from death just to have the child wish for it later on, because anything would be better than the hell he was suffering through now.
Berwald was thirteen when his mother was taken from him. The anger he had discovered that day in the bathroom had not left him in that single fight. If anything, it had grown more powerful. He would seem calm one minute and lash out unexpectedly the next, which was part of how he even survived on the streets. Rather than being left at the mercy of the child welfare system, he made the decision to run away, disappear before he was forced somewhere he didn't want to be. He survived any way he could, getting odd jobs with people who didn't care enough to ask questions, stealing when it was called for, - though he always felt guilty - sleeping wherever he found a place remotely safe and comfortable.
Often, in the back streets and alleys of the city, he was cornered by groups of other teenagers or adults, similarly homeless or desperate. Where they generally had a few friends to back them up, he was solitary, young, always alone, and thus assumed an easy target, despite his size and fierce appearance. This was swiftly proved otherwise, and after the first few street brawls, they learned to leave the intimidating teenager alone.
Some, as always though, never learned. There was a group of boys, all older than Berwald, that ran the streets near his part of town, and his usual territory and theirs overlapped. Generally, he managed to avoid a run-in, but on occasion, they would come across him and he would run, try to escape rather than fight, in an attempt to control the beastly fury that could rise at the slightest provocation. If he ran far enough fast enough, they gave up chase and left him alone. But in one case, they decided he needed to learn to stay away from their territory, and the best way to teach this was through violence.
Loping through back alleys, Berwald suddenly discovered he was being followed. It wasn't anything new. He was used to being stalked by those out to see he left their haunts alone. He recognized some of the boys though, from the gang that often ran him out of this portion of the city. Their boundaries seemed to constantly change, and he could never keep track of where they usually were. Now, for some reason, this group was following without giving chase. He sped up a little, determined to stay ahead of them so he could escape into his haven of broad, open streets around the park. He rounded a corner into an alley and froze. A line of teenage boys stood along the middle of the street. Waiting for him.
Glancing back over his shoulder, Berwald saw that the other half of the gang had come up close behind him, and most carried some sort of weapon. The boy cursed before continuing warily into the alley, trying to keep tabs on both groups of teenagers. Closing in on him tighter and tighter, they stopped, as though waiting.
A shout cued them all to attack at the trapped boy. Berwald lunged for a boy with a heavy section of pipe in his hand, slamming him easily out of the way with his greater weight. A gap formed, but before he could make his escape, someone fixed a hand on the back of his jacket, dragging him back. He was flung by multiple sets of hands to the center of the ring. While the others prepared to strike, Berwald drew the knife he kept in his boot for emergencies, fight instincts overrunning him. The pack backed off warily at the flash of the blade. Despite their numbers and arms, none wished to be the one who fell on the knife. They continued to circle, testing Berwald, looking for good openings to get in without being slashed in the process. The first boy to get irritated with this process leaped forward, hefting a baseball bat, and was slashed down the arm viciously.
Screaming in pain, the kid was half-dragged away by his mates, all enraged at the injury to one of their own. The next several to leap were also slashed at, but Berwald only made contact with two before they sprang back out of reach. One had even managed a lucky shot to his left rib cage with another piece of pipe. The boy in the center continued to spin, turning every which way to prevent being attacked suddenly from behind, which is exactly what happened when he paused for breath. With remarkable reflexes, Berwald whirled, the knife flashed, and he felt it sink into something fairly soft.
The surrounding ring of boys fell quiet in shock as their comrade gasped on the end of Berwald's blade before collapsing with a gurgle. They all sprinted off into the darkness, leaving the dying boy on the alley ground, with Berwald crouching over him, hands pressed to the wound in suffocating guilt. Tears streamed down the face of the young man beneath him, and the boy grabbed Berwald's wrist weakly, just for something to hold onto. Blood oozed up between Berwald's fingers and ran from the boy's mouth, then bubbled as he breathed one last gurgle and relaxed, eyes still on the blond above him.
Tino had skipped three grades when he was younger. He was thirteen and a year from graduating high school when his great-aunt found him. He had never met the woman in his life, but she was willing to remove him from the foster system and give him a home until he came of age. When he heard she lived in Sweden, however, he experienced some wariness. He had never left Finland before, and there was something in him that didn't want to leave, despite the bouncing from home to home, never sure if he'd end up in one of the good ones or one of those personal hells, hoping he'd end up in one where the parents just didn't care. Now, he faced the tangible possibility of having a real home, something solid to hold on to. It was a strange feeling.
The day he moved to Sweden was the best day of his life, since sometime before the accident. His aunt was a kind old lady, related to him on his mother's side, and sharing the family's distinctive violet-hued eyes. She agreed to support him in any way possible, help him pay for college any way she could, generally improve his life by any feasible means, and treat him like a son. That was the best part of her agreement to Tino. He would be someone's son, not just a babysitter for the five other children in the household, or a burden, or a punching bag, or any of the other things he'd been in the past.
With his particularly brilliant mind, some searching and hard work, he managed to get a scholarship to college, not full-ride, but it meant that he and his aunt wouldn't have to find a way to pay for everything themselves. It relied on the condition of his grades though as well. Easy, he thought to himself. Things really couldn't get any better. He would get through college, become a psychiatrist, something he'd wanted to do since he learned about that career path during class research. Everything would be perfect. He'd be okay.
Sophomore year of college, his great-aunt died. The incident hit Tino like a brick wall. He lost sleep, didn't eat as much, his grades began flagging, and he knew at this rate he'd lose his scholarship. The one grade he was particularly worried about was, oddly enough, his literature grade. It had fallen into a downward slide along with him, and if he didn't fix it, he'd lose the scholarship, the inheritance his aunt had left him would dry up, and he'd have to drop out. It stressed him for weeks, before he decided to meet with his lit teacher and try to come to some agreement.
"Mr. Kirkland, you must understand, I need this scholarship," Tino insisted, barely blocking the all-out anxiety and borderline panic from his voice. "If I lose this, I have nothing. All my plans for the future go down the drain."
"I'm afraid I can't do anything about it, Mr. Väinämöinen. I would if I could. You have to find your own way to fix this." Arthur straightened his desk and leaned back against the edge. "I can try to help you fix it, if you're genuinely willing to try. It'll require a good deal of work, though."
"Fine. Anything. I'll do anything. I swear, I'll work harder than any of your other students. I'll do whatever you tell me."
"Well, that's definitely a start. I have a feeling you'll keep to your word. What do you say we start tomorrow? You come by after class and we'll start going over things you can do, and I'll help you fix your problem. Agreed?" The Briton looked him in the eyes sternly, verdant green gaze sparking.
"Agreed. I'll be here tomorrow," Tino promised, and practically skipped down the hall outside the classroom, the nausea that had built in him since the grade slide lightened.
"Mr. Kirkland?" Tino edged into the empty classroom the next day, violet eyes searching for his literature teacher. He dropped his bag on one of the front desks, preparing to wait for his teacher.
"Tino," Arthur greeted him, striding out of his office. "Nice to see you again. Just give me a moment. I need to get something." He disappeared back into the side room.
Tino absently wandered the room as he awaited the teacher. He weaved back and forth through the aisles, watching his feet all the while, sidestepping carelessly positioned chairs, and had nearly reached the top row when the Englishman returned, carrying a stack of heavy books.
"Okay," the elder began as he set the stack on a desk on the front row. "Now, you don't need to read all of this. I'm just going to point out things that will help you. Also…" He waved a sheet of paper in the air. "You'll want to read these. They aren't course material, per se, but they follow well enough, and it isn't difficult reading. At least they won't be for you."
"Deal." Tino bounded back down to the fore of the room. "So where do we start?"
It was nearly dark, and they were still poring over one of the larger books Arthur had brought from his office. The teacher stood behind his student, tracing his finger down the pages, pointing out the most important portions, explaining how Tino could strengthen different areas that would improve his grade. Arthur had leaned forward, getting into his explanation of the text, until the Finn could feel the other's warm breath on his shoulder. Unaware of quite how close his teacher was, Tino turned his head, and his lips met softly with the corner of Arthur's mouth. Both males froze before Tino jerked back, apologizing profusely for the incident, but Arthur reached out and touched the boy's cheek, turning him back to face into emerald eyes.
Tino, suddenly not caring about boundaries between teacher and student, or the difference between their ages, kissed the Briton full on the lips. The kiss was reciprocated with fervor, and he opened his mouth to allow the searching tongue entrance. He told himself he couldn't help what happened next. All he knew was that two hours after the fact, he found himself naked on top of his teacher's desk, worn out and sweaty, tangled with the Englishman. Arthur's fingertips traced down the center of the Finn's chest as the man held him close, wondering what sort of disaster he'd gotten himself and his student into.
On a back alley in the city's darker, shadier section, there was a large, ugly gray building shoved in among all the old shops and abandoned shells of apartments. Known to few, it was generally ignored as just another slum and passed without acknowledgment. The only reason Berwald succeeded in discovering what would be his new haven was a need for shelter in the outburst of a storm. He had, at one point, loved storms, appreciating their might, their ability to make him feel so insignificant. Now, they just served as another reminder of how things used to be, and where he was now, alone on the streets. He had ducked swiftly in the door when he found it unlocked, and had thus found himself in the middle of a crowded, deafeningly loud room, smelling of sweat and metal and the tang of blood. The soaking wet Swede had cautiously woven through the mass of bodies, all cheering or booing, to see the ring and the fighters.
He watched the series of matches all night long, lingering after the final one, when everyone else was exiting into the rain, rushing for vehicles and shelter. He was the last person left in the gym, save one man. He was shorter than Berwald by several inches, but built like a bomb shelter, with short, scruffy iron gray hair and clear, pale blue eyes. He finished the post-fight cleanup as Berwald watched from a corner, surveying the entirety of the gym uninhibited by crowds, then approached the young man.
"Somethin' I can help you with?" the man growled, not unkindly. His voice was simply very rough, harsh even, not unlike Berwald's own could sound. He appeared to be sizing the blond up, if personal experience on Berwald's part said anything, only he was used to more ill-intentioned eyes doing the sizing.
"Nn. J ust trying to get out of the rain," replied the younger with a shrug. He met the man's sharp eyes as best as he could, his nearsightedness making the world gently blurred, like the colors in an oil painting. He had recently misplaced his (slightly out of prescription) glasses at one of his usual haunts, and had been trying to make do without until he found them again.
"Mmm… Your parents don't mind you bein' out this late? 'Specially in this part of town?" the man asked. Berwald stilled, then shook his head. "You sure?"
"They're dead," confessed the blond, staring distantly off over the man's shoulder.
"Ah. My apologies."
"You couldn't've known." Berwald stood, flexing his broadening shoulders and turning to leave. "I'll get out of your way."
"Ah, there's no need. Could use the company, if we're bein' honest. Might as well stay a while. Keep you out of the rain, at least. Name's Axel, by the way, Axel Dahlstrom" the man introduced himself.
"Berwald Oxenstierna," replied the younger. They shook, and the warm, rough, callused hand Axel offered triggered memories in the back of Berwald's mind, of sawdust and varnish and a deep, soft voice. His grip tightened.
"Quite a handshake you got there. How 'bout we find you somewhere to stay the night, huh?" Axel offered. With a nod, Berwald followed him through the gym.
Things had worked out, as far as Tino could figure as he lay beside his literature teacher in bed, still waiting for his chest to stop its heaving breaths and listening to his partner's beside him. His back was to Arthur as he calmed himself, and he felt a hand brush his shoulder, fall still, and pull back. Tino paused, sensing the hesitation, and rolled to face the Brit. Arthur lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, expressionless.
"Arthur?" The Finn propped himself up on his elbows, gazing down at his lover. "Are you all right?"
"No," Arthur replied, uncertainly. "I don't think this is working." He refused to look at Tino.
The boy was stunned. His lips parted in hurt and surprise, and he searched the man's face for any sign that he didn't mean what he was saying. There were none.
"Wait, what do you mean, this isn't working?" Tino asked, voice trembling with suppressed emotion.
"I mean exactly what I say," Arthur told him. "This, what we're doing… It's wrong. I just can't do this anymore. I wish it didn't have to be like this, and I'm sorry, but we have to stop."
"What-- How can you do this to me? You know you're the only thing keeping me from failing and losing everything. You agreed after the first time. You said you would fix my problems. You can't just back out now. Not now, when I need this most. It's just a couple months until the end of semester, and I'll be out of your class, and you won't have to deal with me again. We'll both have gotten what we wanted."
"I met someone." Arthur finally met Tino's eyes. "I met someone, and I think… He's important to me. As much as I care for you, he means something more, something lasting. And I cannot, in good conscience, be with you behind his back, even if you need our deal to pass. I'm sorry. And though you're very mature, you're so young, Tino. You can find a way to make this better. I'll continue to fix your grade, even if we no longer continue the current arrangement. Does that sound agreeable to you?"
Tino felt numb, and just allowed his eyes to glaze over as he stared into space. He was being abandoned. His grade would be maintained, but he was being left for someone else, someone who "meant something more". He had never imagined that the breaking of their arrangement would hurt, certainly never this badly. It had been a means to an end to him, in the beginning. When he had developed any sort of sentimental feelings toward Arthur, he had no idea. And he resented the man severely now, for doing this to him.
"No. It doesn't sound agreeable to me. Screw you, Arthur. I don't need you anymore." Tino rolled out of bed and hunted for his clothing in a rushed silence. Arthur, of course, panicked. The Brit thought Tino would expose their affair out of anger and spite, which would lead to the loss of his job, and so much more. Tino curtly explained that he would never do such a thing before storming out the door, not once looking back.
Axel had become like a father to Berwald, giving him food, a place to stay, a job, getting him back into school, and teaching him how to fight for real, not just the street-brawl moves he already had. The old coach discovered a raw talent in the boy and now took the time helping him sharpen it until he became a truly formidable fighter, one of the most skilled Axel had trained, the man told Berwald. The other fighters became friends, almost like extended family. Life took an upturn. Berwald had an excellent shot at scholarships despite his lost time at school. Then he met Søren.
He met the Dane when he was sixteen, the other man eight years older. The moment Søren Christiansen first introduced himself, Berwald later realized, he should have known something was off. It was just a general feeling of something ominous about the Dane, an aura of danger he gave off. But Berwald ignored his better instincts, befriending the young man. Of all the mistakes he had ever made, this was to be the worst.
It started with simple discussions, Søren talking about the people he knew, telling stories about fun times, et cetera. Then he began doing Berwald favors. These were no small favors either, and it became harder and harder, then absolutely impossible to pay the Dane back. Søren began trying to convince Berwald to join his crew. The Swede was uncertain, as he had been about Søren from the beginning. But Søren kept trying. And eventually the younger's resolve ran out. He one day found himself accepting the Dane's offer to meet a group of his friends after he got off work, and later found himself cornered in an alley by a pack of athletic, predatory males. Søren stood among them. They jumped him, albeit unsuccessfully, as he managed to fight the lot of them off, though not without sustaining several injuries. He would never forget the expression in their leader's eyes, the man he had presumed to be a friend, nearly a brother. Søren's eyes had been glacial ice as he observed Berwald's struggle to hold off the pack. He didn't call them off until each had been drubbed fairly well by the Swede, and aforementioned Swede was heaving for breath, leaning against a wall for support, face bloodied, body bruised. Thus had he been welcomed into Søren's "family."
Ever since, his life had been a violent blur, one fight after another, all at Søren's orders. He was the leader of what was essentially a mafia, as his father had apparently been before him. The older man had died, leaving his son to take over the "family business," which the Dane had done happily. He had ambition, and an insatiable lust for power and control, not to mention unbelievable cruelty. And Berwald was in deep with him. Søren had done so much for him before he had become a part of his organization that he couldn't back out. The Dane had made sure of that. Berwald's life belonged to Søren, would belong to Søren, until he repaid the man, or died. Whichever came first.
Tino wandered the streets for hours, unsure what to do now that he'd assured himself of a failing grade and the loss of his scholarship. Everything was dark, and most of the people about were shady at best, but he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts and hardly noticed any of them. Until a car pulled up alongside him at one street corner and someone rolled down the window, asking how much he charged for the night.
The Finnish boy was alarmed at the question, and was about to correct the man in the car when a terrible, terrible idea struck. It was stereotypical and definitely not how he'd ever planned to get through, but nothing of his life had gone according to plan. Why should this be any different? He already knew how to use his body to get what he wanted. Hadn't what he'd done for grades essentially been prostitution? This would just be a continuation of something that had been going on in his life for a very long time. Speculatively, Tino strode to the open window, leaning in to speak to the man in the vehicle.
In the beginning, he had little experience with sex and no experience with prostitution. He was just going off instinct, trying to get a grip as best as he could in as short a time as possible. He watched the other men and women on the streets, learning from them, and gradually found the best way to go about the business. To save time and gain money, he wasn't partial, and would service both men and women if asked, despite having a preference for men that occasionally still surprised him. The first time, he was stressed beyond belief, making the process as painful as the real first time, all those years ago. He had to learn to relax, learn what felt good, learn how to manipulate. In time, with his night job, he managed to make enough money to scrape by in college, despite often being exhausted, and sometimes, hurt or injured.
For some reason, it seemed men who feared their sexual preference for other males always gravitated toward Tino. He learned to recognize them after a time, usually angry, afraid to look directly at him, and often violent with him. He would come out of it bruised, bleeding, or broken in some way. This resulted in his wearing long-sleeved shirts, a lot. He had been choked a number of times, which left very obvious bruising on his neck that took forever to clear up, and was sore for days. Some of the wounds were more lasting, leaving scars, and he was always embarrassed when he couldn't cover up the hickeys, bite marks and bruises effectively.
He went through with this way of life for two years before something happened that convinced him to quit. A man he was servicing, one of the angry, fearful ones, took the usual abuse way too far. It had ended with a call to the police, the man being arrested, Tino being taken to the hospital for his injuries. People took photographs of him, examining the hurt done to his body, seeing everything he had tried so hard to hide and discussing what would happen to the man who had done this to him, but Tino decided he didn't care what happened to the man. He slipped out of the hospital when the police left, limping home through the streets alone.
The whole ordeal made him take a step back and look at the state of his life. He made barely enough to get by through selling his body to people who hurt him. He simply didn't think he could handle it anymore. Finally he understood what people meant about needing to hit rock bottom before you could face yourself and fix the mess. He just felt like he'd kept digging longer than most at this point.
AE: I will try to keep author's notes to a minimum, but this is my first time, so to speak. Feedback is much appreciated, et cetera, et cetera, and constructive criticism is always needed. Rated M for the obvious, and the fact that it will get more detailed later.