S T R E E T L A M P S
A/N: This is a product of a craving for an Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction that had an AU (alternate universe) setting that wasn't a borrowed plot line. So, I pondered, wrote a little drafting, listened to tons of music and worked and re-worked and re-worked and re-worked the plot many times over. I wanted to really make this a good piece. So, here is the first chapter. I hope that this is as much fun to read as it is for me to create.
"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."- Mark Twain
"So…..Matthew…..what's your favorite animal?"
"….The polar bear." The reply was unsure, unsteady, as if person to whom it belonged was deathly afraid of a smack across the face for saying it. The couple who had asked the question could see the uncertainty tainting the atmosphere like the emotion were a sort of dye or smoke, plainly visible.
Perhaps he was abused as a child? the male of the two thought. If the teen was that discomfited with them around, he might've experienced some truly scarring events. If that were the case, the wannabe parents couldn't necessarily blame the blonde for his timid demeanor around adults.
An internal wave of disappointment slithered through Matthew as he noticed the looks of pity on his interviewers. He had seen that type of face too many times to number- most of the wearers under the impression that he had been victim of severe beatings as a youngster. I didn't even KNOW my parents, let alone abused by them, he pondered, irritated. Can't any one of these couples go through an interview without jumping to conclusions? He tried his hardest not to sigh as he waiting patiently for the next question. Occasionally, he'd meet a rare couple that postulated the correct background- that he was merely a shy guy- or, if luck happened to be riding on the orphan's shoulders, someone who would actually interrogate him about his past in a neutral way, assumption-free. This pair, much to Matthew's chagrin, most likely belonged to the common variety, but there was always that slight chance they understood.
"Has anyone ever…bothered you or hurt you excessively before you came to the orphanage?"
Matthew's tiny balloon of hope deflated. "Um….no, ma'am…I have been bullied in the past [and still to this day], but not physically hurt….and I never knew my birth mother and father." The latter bit was added as a subtle intimation in the hopes all previous theories would be eradicated.
The young lady's face watered in a more defined expression of benevolence. "Oh, how awful! I'm terribly sorry to hear that…."
Matthew knew the woman meant well, but he couldn't quell the numbing grief in his stomach whenever the absence of a guardian was mentioned to him. It had remained a set in stone fact for the entirety of the sixteen years of his life, yet the pangs of remorse refused to cease. The pain wasn't as bitter as in the past, but it still sunk its teeth into his heart nevertheless.
The blonde resurfaced from his brief depression as the couple continued the interview, but Matthew didn't need to even look at the two adults to catch the waning interest between them. In a matter of five minutes, the pair rose to their feet, thanked the teenager for his time and departed.
Correct posture was discarded once the door swung back on his hinges. Violet eyes were shielded from view, a breath shaking Matthew's abdomen as he waited in silence, not bothering to make out the muffled voices beyond the door. How many rejection had he faced in the time he had lived here? 245? Something like that….245 pairs of adults, 245 rounds of questions, 245 introductions. The varied amounts of rejections was just as numerous-young couples, old couples, black couples, white couples, Hispanic couples, Oriental couples, couples with different ethnicities, single men and women, even gay and lesbian couples. You name a combination, Matthew had been interrogated by them. Most of the couples didn't even come close to adopting him, for whatever excuse they had conjured, and left him with that stale emptiness within his heart.
But it wasn't like the blonde expected to be adopted in any case. Being a teen, Matthew knew adoptions made in his age group were as rare as towering skyscrapers in rural Pennsylvania, especially at his age of sixteen. His caretaker, Yao Wang, often consoled him after each of his rejection, but it seldom helped improve the situation. Hope had been freed from the box long ago.
Matthew drew his attention to the door as Yao entered the room. His brown eyes were soft with sympathy. "I'm sorry, aru," he pulled over a chair from the opposite side of the table and settled down next to the teen. "I know it must be extremely hard to deal with this over and over, but I want you to know tha-"
"'There's always tomorrow, aru.' You've said that to me just as many times." From the way his caretaker flinched, Matthew could sense that the bitterness in his voice hadn't been anticipated in the least.
Yao's fingers picked at the ponytail swung over his shoulders, a nervous tic he had developed in the twilight of his childhood. Yao was talented at placating young children over the most complex matters (he had to be in order to run a successful orphanage), but teens well past fourteen were difficult to console. Matthew, a lifetime resident, normally was quite easy to comfort, but when it came to adoption interviews, Yao was better off letting the fuse burn out on its own. Despite this fact, Yao still felt the obligation to at least offer some sort of emotional support to the blonde, even if the sour mood did not improve.
Matthew, feeling a heavy weight of guilt sink into his stomach, cradled the underside of his chin in his hands, elbows propped on his flattened thighs. "I'm the one who should be sorry, Yao. It's not your fault no one wants to adopt me." A thin hand rested upon the Oriental man's shoulder opposite his ponytail. "And that's no excuse for me to take out my anger on you."
Yao's cheek twitched into a slight grin, but it curved downward in the same moment. "It's no one's fault but the couple, aru. Don't blame yourself for a decision someone else made, aru. If you didn't appeal to them, then that's that, aru." He braced himself for another caustic comment about how musty of a condolence that was, but he only received a less depressed expression from Matthew. The younger person's lips parted, as if to have words leave them, but a sobbing toddler burst into the room, distracting Yao from their conversation.
Matthew proceeded to exit the premise, leaving Yao to tend to the youth in peace. He made a right, strolling down the shorter end of the hallway before he stood in the foyer.
"Hey, Matt!" Some unidentified object soared down the stairwell behind him and latched itself onto Matthew, arms coiled around his neck area and legs clamped themselves to his waist. Taken aback, Matthew lost his balance and plummeted face-first onto the floor, glasses propelled into the air, clattering to the wood.
Whoever had caused the disturbance rolled off Matthew's back and rose to its feet. The blonde lifted his head from the synthetic planks, his violet eyes only recognizing hazy shapes and figures. A humanoid blur was bent down, as if picking something off the floor. He squinted, aiming to acknowledge the figure, but it wasn't until the person spoke that name corresponded with a (blurry) face.
"Sorry about that, da ze." Yong Soo apologized, holding out a fuzzy pair of eyeglasses for Matthew to take. As soon as his vision clarified, Matthew caught sight of his roommate's sparkling brown eyes and mop of chocolate brown hair that lay straight, aside from one stubborn curl that protruded out of the rest of his hair.
Yong Soo helped the disoriented Caucasian to his feet. "I thought you'd be able to hold me, but I forgot that you were a weakling."
Matthew shot the Korean an irritable glare. "I'm not a weakling." He rebuked, "I beat people two times my size in hockey. You of all people know that."
A pink tongue emerged from its house in Yong Soo's mouth. "So what? When you're off the ice, you're no match for me! Anyway, how did the interview go?"
"Take a guess." Matthew growled as he stomped up the stairs to the room he shared with Yong Soo.
"Hey, hey! No need to get touchy about it."
Matthew shuffled to a stop in front of the door to the dorm, another sag in his posture. "I know….It's just….I'm fed up with interviews. They don't accomplish anything, yet I'm still in there answering questions to a couple who isn't going to take me home anyway."
"I feel ya." A strong clap on the back was delivered to Matthew. "but hey! We only get, like, one interview every, what….two months? At least it's not every day."
"Mmmhmmmm." He pushed the door open, making himself home to a green swivel chair at a desk nearby. "I just wish Yao would give up making appointments with any new couples period. I mean, I'm going to be eighteen in two years. What point would a guardian serve if they could only provide care for so little time?"
"Ugh, same here," Yong Soo groaned, plopping onto the bottom mattress of the metal bunk bed, submerging his fingers into his jean pockets, minus his thumbs. "It's completely useless. Plus, none of the good people want older teens. The last time, I got this family of three who had the world's bitchiest eleven-year-old. She wouldn't stop asking me these useless questions." Here, Yong Soo scrunched up his nose so his nostrils were as prominent as possible, curled his upper lip, and talked in a high-pitched valley-girl voice. "'Do you have, like, rabies because you've been, like, living here and a dog might've, like, bit you? Oh my god, mom! What if he's, like, from North Korea and is a terrorist and might, like, kill the president or something? We should, like, check his room for bombs.' Dude, you have no idea how much I wanted to punch her through a wall."
Matthew's only response was a bout of uncontrollable laughter. He threw back his head, hands gripped around his abdominal area as he howled. He rocked forward occasionally, tears of mirth escaping the corners of his eyes.
A frown curled Yong Soo's lips downward as he folded his arms across his chest. "Stop laughing at my pain. I would've had to put up with that brat for the rest of my life if the couple had considered me."
Matthew, newly acquainted with his friend's pouting, brought down the chuckles to a lower rate. "Sorry, Yong Soo, for laughing, but that impression was just too ridiculous," he responded between breaths.
The Asian's mood was lifted as he realized the true reason behind his roommate's snickering. One of his infamous smirks replaced the glower previously worn. Matthew beamed back, his distress chased away by his laughter. Somehow, Yong Soo managed to stick a smile on his face, no matter how bleak the circumstances.
After a moment of silence passed, the Korean's eyes augmented, as if an incandescent light bulb had gone off in his head. "That's right! I had something to talk to you about."
Matthew leaned forward, eyes sparked in interest. "Yes?"
"Well, I was talking to Lovino the other day and he mentioned this little problem Feliciano is having…"
The words "Feliciano" and "problem" were a virtually inseparable pair. Whether the auburn haired-male was the source of said issue, or the person to whom which the issue was affecting and/or targeting made no real difference; both varieties occurred in virtually equal amounts. Lovino was certainly no exception to the rule. In nine out of ten cases, the older of the Vargas siblings would be sucked into the drama, leaving him in a fouler mood than usual. It baffled Matthew how anyone, even utter cravens like the Vargas brothers, could be such trouble magnets.
"Apparently, Feliciano was changing the other day when he thought he saw a face looking through the window. He didn't worry about it at first, but the same dude was there at the same time yesterday."
Surprise dominated Matthew's features. Peeping toms were, by no means, rare, but he couldn't readily imagine who would be willing to spy on those two. "But isn't their room on the second floor?"he inquired, incredulous.
"It's near the fire escape."
Matthew's arguments ceased. He adjusted his glasses, eyebrows scrunched in contemplation. "Did they call the police yet?"
"Like hell. You how Lovino hates to admit that they're weak. Calling the authorities would be death to their dignity."
"Yeah, but isn't their safety of the upmost importance? This peeping tom could break in and hurt either one of them."
Yong Soo's angled his vision to the ceiling. "Oh, come on, Matt. What fun would calling the police be anyway?" He leaned over, grasping the blonde's shoulders. "Besides, we're orphan kids. We're supposed to be toughies that fend for ourselves, not a bunch of pansies they rely on others to solve our problems. Don't forget that I have a black belt in tae kwon do. This dude doesn't stand a chance, da ze." He flashed a triumphant smile at the teen.
Matthew exhaled deeply, jaw taut with frustration. "Yong Soo, there's a huge difference between being brave and being reckless. Taking on this challenge is being completely reckless. This guy could be twice as big as you and have a gun or some sort of weapon with him."
"Jeez, Matt, you're turning into Yao," the Korea complained. "Next thing you know, your hair will be brown and you'll be ending all your sentences with 'aru'." There was a brief pause before Yong Soo proceeded. "Look, you don't have to help me exterminate our unwanted friend, but Lovi's counting on me to take care of this and I intend to do so." A newfound sobriety gleamed in the dark brown depths of Yong Soo's eyes. "I'm not telling Yao, either. He'll worry and I don't want to stress him out too much. He's got enough on his plate already."
Matthew tapped the pad of his thumb on the side of his cheek, knuckles resting on the bone as he became pensive. "I guess there's no stopping you, huh?"
"Nope." Yong Soo firmly patted his fellow orphan on one of the shoulders he held. "Now, I've gotta go practice my moves. Lovi said the peeper has been spotted around 5:00 and it's 4:45 now. Don't wanna be rusty!"
With that, the energetic male leaped to his sneakers and jogged out of the room, not a speck of trepidation on his visage as he vanished into the hallway.
Nails idily scraped at the skin underneath his blonde locks as Matthew crawled onto the mattress his friend had left vacant. He extended his arm, allowing himself to become engrossed in the wiring of the metal bed frame above his head. A swarm of butterflies seemed to be colliding into the walls of his stomach as he conjured images of an injured Yong Soo: bruises from head to toe, gaps in his mouth revealing sore patches of gum where teeth should be attached, blood pouring out of nasty gashes in his skin. Even with his pressing anxiety, Matthew knew that Yong Soo did, in fact, have a bountiful amount of favor towards his success, but there was always the probability that the spinner of fate would land on the red danger zone.
And the price to pay for such an outcome might be too high for Matthew's liking.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
A drop of scarlet runs down the bridge of a nose and clings onto the rounded tip, before freefalling to the concrete, a little circle left behind to mark its existence.
But it's not a bridge anymore. No, it's broken. Shattered. Cracked.
A pool of blackish-blue discolor a section of skin on a calf, the surface throbbing.
They're all over the place. Arms. Legs. Face. Neck. Everywhere. You know why, don't you?
There is a figure, standing up, eyes fastened so tightly on the wounded body sprawled on the sidewalk, debilitated.
Don't try and hide the reason. We all know…We knew from the very, very beginning. Sucks that you didn't see it coming…
The figure has a fist clenched tightly, muscles straining, nails engraving crescents into the palm, knuckles decorated with the victim's blood.
They made a deal, didn't they? Not a fair deal, but a deal you couldn't have objected to.
Eyelids avert the figure's gaze as water leaks out of their corners.
You thought it would be the best way to go without so much pain. But there is pain. Pain in you, pain in him. Especially him. And did I mention the guilt? That ravenous monster that's gnawing away at your insides. It hurts, right? It really hurts. And it's that special kind of hurt that remains in you no matter what. The kind that can't be erased. I know you knew it would be this way. Yet, you decided to accept it anyway.
The injured boy shifts what he can move, looks into the other's gaze. The figure parrots the victim's sorrow, a genuine expression of melancholy. He faces the opposite direction and plods away, head bent to the ground, salty tears coloring his cheeks pink.
You hate them. You hate yourself. You hate everything you see because somehow it has to do with what just happened. Hate. Such a simple word. Only four letters. But it's more. So much more. You do realize they are happy now. They want to see the pain, the guilt, the hatred. They love it. They love the blood. They love the tears. They love how it drips, drips, drips.
A/N: One little side note: I snuck in some elements of a favorite movie of mine into the story. I give you a glomp if you know what it is. At any rate, see you all next update!