Luce Worth is ten years old and he is bored. It's noon on Saturday, and he sits on the swing in his back yard, frowning at the brown grass and wondering how his little sister has already made friends and gotten invited to a slumber party when he hasn't so much as looked at anyone yet in his classroom at school.

It's noon. He's already cut all the hair off his sister's dolls. Pulled off their heads, too. Luce misses Australia. He wants to go home.

He looks up when he hears the sound of something falling into the grass and sees a dirty old baseball rolling to a stop at his feet. He squints at for a moment and then kicks it away, moving his gaze to the fence it had soared over and waits. Soon enough, he sees a round, black-haired head pop up over the fence.

Lamont Toucey lives in the ugly little house behind Luce's big, pretty one, and the only reason Luce knows his name is because his sister had tauntingly told him, "You could try to make friends with Lamont Toucey, but Mum and Dad probably won't let you, and he wouldn't want to be your friend anyway because he's eleven," and Luce had told her it's not like he'd want to make friends with Lamont Toucey anyhow. And then he'd pushed his sister and she had cried and they both ran to the kitchen trying to tattle on the other one first.

Lamont doesn't even see Luce as he peers over the fence, only sees his baseball, and he hefts himself up and over, feet hitting the grass a little clumsily. Luce pauses, peers at him, and then decides that he's taller than Lamont and hops from the swing when Lamont picks up the baseball.

"Oi, fatty." Hands in his pockets. Sneer on his face. Trying not to slouch so he'll look older. Lamont looks a bit startled at being addressed, but then looks down like he's trying to think of something to say. After a moment, Luce says, "Wot's th' matter, you retarded, too?"

Lamont looks up, brow furrowed. "No." He pauses. "And I'm not fat."

A furrowed brow is hardly the offended expression Luce was hoping to see, and so he scowls and kicks Lamont sharply in the shin. Lamont drops his baseball and skips back a step, clutching his leg.

"Ow! What was that for!" He's glaring. He's angry. Luce grins.

There's a spurt of blood and it makes his knuckles ache nicely when he punches Lamont in the nose. Lamont clutches his face with a wet cry of pain, and Luce can't help but launch himself at him. He kicks and punches and scratches, laughing hysterically when Lamont grunts and hits the ground, flailing around a bit. Luce hangs onto Lamont's shirt when he feels a shoe on his hip trying to kick him off, and smiles when Lamont lands a heavy fist on his eye and another on his mouth. Luce feels a happy twinge of pain when his lip bursts and tastes copper on his teeth.

The pain distracts him, which is too bad because Lamont is able to shove him off, thickly shouting things like, "You're crazy, what's the matter with you, get off me - " and scrambling to his feet. His face is all bloody and his hair is rumpled and Luce can see scratches bleeding on his arms. He grins triumphantly as Lamont staggers back to the fence. Luce laughs, watching Lamont try to climb back over with one hand, using the other to weakly try stemming the heavy flow of blood from his nose.

Luce lies on the grass with a contented smile on his face for ten minutes when Lamont disappears back over the fence, prodding at his split lip, before going inside his house. His smile disappears when he goes to the kitchen and remembers his parents.

His mother squawks immediately and lifts him so he's sitting on the counter, fussing over his face while his father bends down in concern and asks, "What happened, Luce?"

The peroxide stings and Luce tries not to smile, and his parents are starting to get angry when he avoids answering their questions and so finally he hunches his shoulders and looks at the floor and mumbles, "I beat up Lamont Toucey..." He knows he's in trouble.

There's lots of screaming and Luce is surprised because most of the expressions that cross his parents' faces are of horror instead of anger, although there's plenty of that, too. Eventually they start talking to each other, while Luce sits on the counter, swinging his legs, ignored. He's barely listening, since he knows he's grounded and is just waiting for them to banish him to his room for the night, and he hears things like "is that safe?" and "certainly the boy's told his parents what Luce has done" and "perhaps an apology will settle things quietly" and when Luce finally pipes up, "Can I go to my room?" they both round on him and shout, "No!"

Soon his father pulls him off the counter and has an iron grip on his wrist, and he says sharply, "You're coming with me, young man," and Luce finds himself tugged out the front door and into the car.

"Where we goin'?" Luce asks, buckling himself into the backseat as his dad starts the car.

"We're going to apologize to the Touceys for what you've done to Lamont," his father snaps.

"Aw, Dad - " Luce starts to whine, but his father cuts him off angrily with, "Why the hell would you do that to him, Luce? What exactly did he do?"

Luce glowers out the window, sulking. "I dunno..."

His father glares out the windshield and says, "You can expect the belt when we get back home tonight." Luce decides not to tell him that ten years old seems too old for spanking and how discipline like that doesn't exactly have a negative effect on him. The ride takes less than two minutes, since Lamont's shabby neighborhood is just behind Luce's, and the whole way there he can't help but notice his father looks nervous. He wants to ask why, but he doesn't have the time because soon his dad is saying, "Out of the car, Luce," and he obeys, pouting.

The walkway up to the little house is narrow and cracked with weeds sprouting up through it, and Luce remarks, "This neighborhood is gross, Dad."

His father's hand closes firmly around his wrist again and he says, "You shut your mouth, Luce, and prepare to say you're sorry to that boy, you understand?"

Luce does understand but he doesn't have to like it, so he whines wordlessly until his dad rings the doorbell. A man answers the door, a very big, scary-looking man with dark, heavy-lidded eyes, and Luce has the sense to be mildly alarmed and scoot a little closer to his dad's side. He peers past the big man into the house and sees Lamont, bruised with bandages on his face and arms, looking at him from a lazy position on a couch.

Luce hears his father introduce himself and then ask, "You wouldn't happen to be Mr. Toucey, would you? Lamont's father?"


"My son here, Luce," says his dad, his voice again turning sharp and unhappy, "has apparently gone completely off his rocker and beat up your son. He would like to apologize."

Luce pokes out his lips in a pout, shifting uncomfortably as Mr. Toucey slides his gaze down to him and says, "So that's why he came home all bloody. He wouldn't tell us that's what happened. Huh." He leans casually against the door frame and calls over his shoulder, "'Mont, you've got a visitor."

A moment later, Lamont sidles up to the door, rubbing the bandage on his nose, and says, "Hi." It isn't the greeting Luce was expecting but it makes him grin crookedly and say it back.

Luce's father nudges him. "What do you have to say for yourself, Luce?"

"Sorry I busted yer face." He rocks back and forth happily on his heels, and when his father squeezes his wrist warningly he whines, "Wot? I said sorry!"

"Can I go now?" Lamont asks Mr. Toucey, who nods with a smile and looks back at Luce's father, who immediately takes over the apologizing. Luce stops listening after "I don't know what's gotten into him, but I can assure you, sir, he will be properly punished, again I'm very sorry."

Luce Worth is ten years old when he's sent to his room without supper, pressing on his tender black eye with a smile, and thinks Australia wasn't so great anyway.

Luce Worth is thirteen years old and he is grounded again. His parents have taken his sister out to have her picture made. They have forbidden him to leave the house but he's pretty sure once he gets bored enough he'll leave anyway. Until then, he occupies himself by sewing buttons back onto his shirts, ones Lamont has popped off during their fights.

Lately when Luce sews and pricks his fingers with the needle, he has to pause and chuckle lowly to himself, wait for the sting to fade before returning to his task. He's a teenager, so it makes sense for his hormones to be a little out of control, even if what riles him up is a bit...peculiar. Luce has yet to try anything drastic, to get a feel for this particular quirk of his. Mostly it's "accidental." Brushing his hand against a hot stove. Stepping awkwardly in a pothole so his ankle twists just right. Dragging his fingernails raggedly across the skin of his inner thighs. Tame things like that. Not that anyone knows, of course; not even Lamont, the first person Luce will proudly inform of his naughtiest dreams.

It's not that he cares what Lamont will think. Luce just...doesn't want him to know, is all.

Luce has pricked himself four times in the past ten minutes, and he wonders if that's the Universe trying to give him the green light, so to speak, and when he pricks his finger a fifth time, he looks at the little spot of blood for a long moment before checking his watch, thinking of how long his parents have been gone, and then undoing the buttons of his jeans.

He focuses more on the needle than himself, jabbing at his fingertips repeatedly, breath hitching sharply with each puncture. He grins sloppily to himself, heart rate quickening as blood blooms at the pinpricks. Soon all five fingers on his hand are red, and he moves down to his palm, pricking and puncturing and loving it, barely having to touch himself elsewhere to feel a roll of pleasure.

"Dude, are you getting off on stabbing yourself?"

Luce will maintain well into his thirties that he did not yelp when Lamont's voice sounded right beside his ear, but will admit that masturbating on the couch in the living room was not his brightest idea.

Luce leaps from the couch, stumbles with his pants somewhere mid-thigh, bangs his shin on the coffee table and then whirls to glare at Lamont and snarl, "The hell are you doin' here!"

Lamont blinks and then directs his eyes pointedly at the ceiling, gesturing vaguely at Luce's pants. Swearing loudly, Luce yanks them up, and will also maintain well into his thirties that he did not turn red as he demands again, "The hell are you doin' here!"

"Your parents are gone, you're grounded, not allowed out of the house, the door was unlocked." Lamont shrugs, looking back at him when he hears Luce's zipper. "Figured I'd save you the trouble and come over here myself. But you're obviously having a pretty good time here on your own." He smirks and waves at Luce's bloody hand. Luce hides his hand pointlessly behind his back and scowls viciously at Lamont. "Pain, huh?"

"So?" Luce waits for him to call him a sick bastard. He is a sick bastard, of course, even at thirteen, but that doesn't mean he particularly wants to hear Lamont say that.

But then Lamont just smiles and shakes his head, and Luce remembers why he's friends with him, because he can get away with pretty much anything when it comes to Lamont. "Don't gimme that bitch-face, it's not like I wasn't suspicious. But dude, I swear if you get a boner when we're fighting, I'm not gonna be your friend anymore."

Luce gives him the bloody finger and snickers, "Can't promise ya anythin'." He laughs when Lamont makes a face at the wounded hand and tells him to clean it up.

Luce Worth is thirteen years old when he watches the water turn red as it swirls down the kitchen sink and stops grimacing when Lamont starts using words like "masochist."

Luce Worth is sixteen years old and his parents think he's spending the night at his classmate Paulie Robinson's house to work on a Biology project, but he's actually spending the night at Lamont's house. But he's long since discovered his parents are a tiny bit terrified of the Toucey family ("You like those crime shows, Luce, surely you've heard something about the Mafia," his father had told him seriously when Luce was eleven and wondered why he wasn't allowed to hang out with Lamont) so he's used to lying casually about where he's going and heading straight to Lamont's.

Luce likes the Toucey family. He tells them he's not supposed to be there, and Lamont's dad will just wink at him and say his secret's safe with him.

Luce never directly asks Lamont if his family is really part of the Mob, even though he really wants to. The only thing that stops him is the idea that if the answer is yes, then Lamont's dad and a bunch of huge guys in fedoras will come slit his throat. Luce knows that probably wouldn't happen, but still. You never know.

Luce likes to drop hints to Lamont that he wants to know, though. He brags about how he plans to go to med school to become a doctor, and asks Lamont what he wants to do, and Lamont always shrugs and says, "Family business, most likely. Textiles." And Luce would call him a fag even though he's 99% sure nobody except Lamont's mother knows anything about fabrics in the Toucey household. Sometimes Luce will bring his favorite movie, The Godfather, over to Lamont's and pop it in his VCR, and he'll nudge Lamont and say, "Yer Italian, ain'tcha? You'd be much less of a pussy if yer family turned out t' be part'a th' Mob or some shit like that," and Lamont's gaze will slide lazily over to him and he'll grin and say, "Don't tell me your family's got you paranoid about that too. And hey, so I'm Italian, assuming I'm in a Mafia family is racist, you dick. Kinda."

Two of Lamont's "uncles" (Luce met them two years ago and found out they're not related to Lamont at all, they're just friends with his dad) Benny and Quincy stop by to see Mr. Toucey that night. Luce suspects they're part of the "textiles" business too, but they're really nice and nothing like the cliche gangsters Luce reads about in crime novels. The bring a pizza when they show up at the house, and Uncle Quincy ruffles his hair and explains, "We heard 'Mont had his toothpick friend Luce over for the night and we figured we'd try to get some meat on your bones tonight. Don't your hoity-toity parents feed you at all?"

Luce wants so badly for Lamont's family to be in the Mafia, just so he can have the excited satisfaction of knowing his best friend is a "Mob prince." Even if organized crime doesn't seem to be as gritty as the media makes it out to be, Luce still thinks it would be cool.

It's three in the morning when Luce gets up off the floor of Lamont's bedroom where he had settled down to sleep ("Dude, I've got an inflatable mattress somewhere, the floor's uncomfortable...then again, that's probably why you wanna sleep there. Never mind.") to stumble across the house to take a piss. To get to the bathroom would require crossing the living room, and when Luce steps foot in there, he's not exactly sure what he sees through his drowsy eyes, but he's pretty sure he sees Mr. Toucey and Uncle Benny and Uncle Quincy and three other guys Luce doesn't recognize, and a cold glint of silver an awful lot like a switchblade being shoved hastily into a pocket, and one of the grinning strangers peeling off a white shirt splattered with red quickly turns his back to him, and the first thing Luce says is, "Aw, fuck, I jus' need t' piss..."

And Mr. Toucey is at his side, a hand on the small of his back, lightly guiding him and saying politely, "You know where the bathroom is, Luce."

Luce tries to stare at the group of men in the room but Mr. Toucey fits his hand over the crown of his head and forces it around so Luce is facing straight ahead, and Luce can't help but smile groggily and laugh, "Heh, I knew it. Don't worry 'bout it, Mr. Toucey, I ain't gonna squeal."

"Nothing to worry about, Luce," Mr. Toucey says with a way-too-nice smile as he leads Luce to the bathroom door, keeping Luce's eyes straight ahead. "We're in textiles."

Luce goes into the bathroom and turns to face Mr. Toucey groggily and say, "Textiles, 'course. That's...fuckin' awesome, mate." And he means it, thinking of the blood on the other guy's shirt, because Luce is a sick bastard. He shuts the door to do his business, and when he emerges, Mr. Toucey is the only one left in the living room.

"You're a smart boy, Luce," he says, clapping Luce on the back, "and I suspect you know how to keep your mouth shut."

"No worries, I'm real good at that." And Luce winks and makes his way back to Lamont's room.

Luce Worth is sixteen years old when he kicks Lamont in the side and says, "Move over, asshole, I don't want yer dad to shiv me in my sleep," and crawls into bed with him, elbowing him for room and hogging the blankets.

Luce Worth is twenty-two years old when he surprises his family by going into medical school. They're shocked but pleased, because it looks like they've finally done something right with their trouble-making, possibly mentally disturbed son. It's not that Luce is doing it to make them proud or anything, but he decides against bursting their bubble. What they don't know won't hurt them.

"Y'know, when we first met, outta the two of us, I'd never have fig'gered you'd be the one makin' a livin' illegally an' I'd be the one actually strivin' to be a doctor," he snickers to Lamont as he smokes a cigarette, perched on the hood of his car.

"That's because when we first met, you weren't thinking 'Hmm, is he the mobster type or the respectable doctor type?' You were too busy thinking 'Hey, I'm gonna go make quite a first impression on his face,'" Lamont says beside him. "Seriously, you've been saying you want to be a doctor since you were fourteen, and I still have no idea why. Why would you want to be a doctor?"

And Luce grins widely, flicking his cigarette butt at Lamont's face and saying, "I'd have so much power over whether or not somebody lives or dies. An' that's jus' brilliant. My kinda job."

Lamont laughs his stupid donkey laugh, trying to smother it behind his hand. "Oh dear God, Luce. Heh. Heheheh, ha, oh Christ. That's terrifying. I hope you're never my surgeon."

Luce snorts and shoves him off the hood of his car, saying, "Naw, I'd let ya live. 'Course, I'd leave ya with a bigass, ugly scar that deforms ya and repels all the ladies, jus' fer shits an' giggles."

"You're an asshole. Heheh." He rights himself and leans against the car as Luce lights up another smoke. "You know you're not gonna have that much power over a patient, right? You're gonna be obligated to try your hardest to keep them alive."

Luce Worth is twenty-two years old when he plucks the cigarette out of his mouth and jabs Lamont in the cheek with the burning end and tells him to quit ruining his fun.

Luce Worth is twenty-five years old when he drops out. "Damn pretentious bastards everywhere ya go" and "too many fuckin' rules an' regulations" and "wasn't worth it" are the closest things to an explanation anyone gets.

His parents are outraged. There's screaming and fighting and tears (no tears from Luce, mind you) and it all ends horribly with Luce being more or less disowned, cut off from his family's wealth, and at eleven that night the front door of the Worth home is slammed so hard the three-story structure trembles, but two days later when Lamont asks Luce if he's alright, he says he's fine and he means it.

Luce Worth is twenty-five years old when he stops by his parents' house to tell his little sister not to have sex ever and doesn't say goodbye to Lamont before dropping off the face of the earth.

Luce Worth is twenty-eight years old when he calls Lamont from a payphone down in Louisiana, and says with a manic grin as he stares a glowing, ethereal symbol scrawled on his palm, "Ya gotta see this, 'Mont."

He's surprised by how quickly Lamont comes to find him, catching the first flight to New Orleans, but he's not too surprised that the first thing Lamont does upon seeing him is punch him in the face.

"I've been worried sick about you for three fucking years!" he snarls with such ferocity that Luce can't help but grin, gratified, and call him a queer.

"Aw, love, I didn't know you cared," he sneers, and then cuts right to the chase, shoving his palm in Lamont's face to show him the rune. "'Mont, yer not gonna believe what's out here."

Luce Worth is twenty-eight years old when he drags Lamont down into the paranormal underground.

Luce Worth is thirty years old when he finds a stick-thin, pale-faced, red-haired kid in glasses huddled in the back of a dark alley, trembling from head to toe.

He first finds a phone to call Lamont's cell and bark, "Oi, 'Mont, I need ya," which he finds himself saying a lot these days and doesn't really mind, before returning to the kid and practically carrying him into his office.

Luce Worth is thirty years old with Lamont glued to his side when they bend before the terrified boy and Luce says, "Wot's yer name, love? Don't you worry, Doc Worth'll fix ya right up."

It's really hard to write gen friendship fic for these two when you're writing while having a conversation about them having sex. Heh. Dedicated to my darling Mortal Plight, who is my inspiration, hurr.