I wasn't going to add to this story, really I wasn't, when I had a very special person ask me about Carlos' healing process. And then I realized that, you know, as much as I might like the way my fic ended from an artistic kind of view, it wasn't fair to my readers. You deserved more, you deserved an ending. Because there are people out there who deal with this kind of thing every day and they have to get some kind of closure. Their lives don't cut off where it is artistically convenient.
This is dedicated to everyone who has ever been a victim of sexual assault. You girls are so strong, even if there are times when you don't feel like it.
During the three weeks his seventh grade history class spent on ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, Carlos learned about the gods of the Aztecs and the Mayans. Kukulkan, better known as Quetzalcoatl, was drawn as a feathered serpent and worshipped as the morning star. He thinks of Quetzalcoatl, the sun and creator, god of war and wind and knowledge, as he watches the sun climb over the horizon and cast its golden light across the land. There's the bitter taste of Kendall in the back of his throat and the scorching burn of James' rejection on his face. He feels like he's turning into ashes, his skin and bones bursting into flames, marrow dripping through his flesh, burnt black before it hits the ground. The fire is eating him alive, heart and mind and soul, every inch of him.
"Hey Carlos." Logan settles beside him on the couch, a book in his hands. "You're up early." Logan's fingers skate smoothly across the pages of his novel and Carlos thinks about the potential in those hands. They could give him everything James won't, everything Kendall says he's craving so deep down inside, everything that's buzzing angry as a swarm of bees inside his head.
"I felt like watching the sun rise." Quetzalcoatl took arrows to the chest and his fiery, warrior's heart became the center of the morning sky.
"Huh." Logan clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, the sound noncommittal, disinterested. Logan's too caught up in his reading to process anything he could possibly have to say.
Logan's mouth is warm and curled up in surprise when Carlos leans over and kisses him, wraps one hand firm around his chin to hold his face in place. Logan's mouth goes slack and he shoves his tongue in past his teeth, giving as good as he gets, putting everything he feels into the demanding, frustrated, aching thrust of tongue. "Carlos, what the hell?" Logan shoves him so roughly away he tumbles off the couch and hits his head on the coffee table. There's a sharp crack, a violent ribbon of pain that streaks through his vision and down his spine. "Oh shit." Logan's helping him up before the unbearable pounding in his head has a chance to dull. Logan's hand touches the spot at the base of his skull and his fingers come away streaked red with blood. "I didn't mean to push you that hard. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." He's not fine, he's not anywhere in the vicinity of fine. He's somewhere so far beyond it, floating desolate out in space.
"What the fuck were you thinking, dude? I'm dating Camille and you're, well, I don't know, but we're not like that, not you and I. We're friends." Logan mops up some of Carlos' blood with his sleeve, his eyes apologetic and water-bright. "Got it?"
The times Carlos can sleep, his dreams are thick, smothering things that choke his heart and soul. He feels like he's trapped underwater and with each breath he takes, a little more water rushes inside him until he drowns in it and overflows.
"You were crying out in your sleep." James has a hand lying light on his shoulder, cotton-soft. If he wasn't awake, Carlos wouldn't even know that it was there.
"Don't touch me." He tells him, because James wrenched inside him that night he said what Carlos couldn't and twisted until he snapped muscle and bone.
"Carlos." James starts, but he trails off like he doesn't know what to say. Of course he doesn't. Carlos doesn't even know what he wants James to say. If James said yes, if James would give him what he's supposed to want, he doesn't think it would make a difference. He'd still feel dirty inside and he'd soil the clean of everything he and James were and will never again be. He ruined it. He ruins everything.
Kendall ruined him like moisture can rot a house from the inside out.
Anger builds inside him like helium fills a balloon. He pops often and easy and when he does he never knows if he's going to laugh or cry or punch until his knuckles are bloody and raw.
He punches Logan in the face one afternoon. Logan grabs his shoulder without warning him and he's back there in an instant, struggling to get free under Kendall's warm weight and panting breath. His fist collides with Logan's jaw and the pain flares up in his first three fingers and runs up along the length of his spine. He's sorry for it immediately, so, so sorry, and Logan stares at him as though he's something horrible and wrong.
"Logan, I didn't mean to—you just snuck up on me."
Logan spits out a mouthful of deep red blood. It's a color Carlos remembers scrubbing off the insides of his thighs. He remembers shitting blood for three days afterwards, feeling hot and throbbing and torn. He's damaged forever down there and if anyone looks, if they ever see, they're going to know and call him a damned and dirty thing.
"Shit, dude." Logan's jaw is already beginning to swell and more blood dribbles over his lips as he talks. "I didn't mean to frighten you, but seriously, watch the right hook."
"I will, god, I'm so sorry. Let me go get you some ice."
There is no ice in the freezer so Carlos makes do with a bag of frozen corn and peas. Logan accepts it like Carlos is offering him an olive branch, like it's a treaty for peace.
His war isn't with Logan; the only battle he's fighting is against himself.
Kendall holds both sides of his face while Carlos sucks his dick. His grip grows impossibly tighter the closer he gets and there are moments he's afraid Kendall's fingers are going to go right through the skin of his cheeks and meet in the middle somewhere between his teeth.
"Fuck, you want it so bad, Carlos." Kendall's dick touches the back of his throat and Carlos has never had anyone that deep inside him before. Kendall's his first for everything, as much as he may not want him to be. "I love you." Kendall thrusts harder, less controlled. His hips falter and soon enough he's pushing forward too fast for Carlos to do anything but hold his throat open and suck air in through his nose. A few weeks of this and his gag reflex is nonexistent. It turns out deep throating is easy to learn whether you're an eager slut for it or just a fucked out whore. "Shit, I love you, I really think I do."
No one has ever told him that before. If no one could love him on his best of days, he doesn't know how anyone is going to be able to do it now. Kendall might be the best he's ever going to get. There's something sad about it, that Kendall is all he's ever going to have. No girl wants to be with someone like him. They'll see him as too broken; even the nicest girl doesn't want someone's sloppy, dripping seconds. There's only one other option and Carlos, who has never been attracted to a guy in all his life, is certainly never going to go that route now. Kendall's imprinted him, burned something deep into his flesh.
"Thanks." He says once his mouth isn't full, once Kendall pulls out and he has to swallow. Come doesn't taste like much of anything but the flavor makes him feel sick all the same. His stomach twists to knots and ribbons and the bile inside him seems to dissolve away skin and bone.
"Thanks?" Kendall stops buttoning his pants and looks up. Usually he sticks around for a while after and Carlos is never sure whether he should be relieved or disappointed the times Kendall doesn't want to stay.
"Am I supposed to answer?" There's nothing he could possibly say. He can't respond to something that intimate, that cherished and deep. What he feels for Kendall is a mix of salted barbed wire and nostalgia so bitter it hurts. "What the fuck do you think I'm going to tell you?" He's so angry these days it feels like the anger is going to bury him alive. He's up to his neck in hurt and if he isn't careful soon he's going to slip completely beneath the surface.
Kendall's face goes dark and thoughtful. Carlos feels like there are rubber bands wrapped tight around his heart.
"You know," Kendall tugs on his shirt, runs a hand through his hair. "I don't think this is working out, you and I. This was a mistake." Kendall can't say that to him because it invalidates everything Carlos has become, everything that he feels. Discontent moves like ripples over water through him and it's akin to being adrift at sea. There's an undertow beneath him, trying to drag him down and Kendall's only given him more of an incentive to sink rather than swim.
"Fuck you." He says and then his forearm is embedded with shards of glass. He punched the bedroom window, he realizes, the muscles in his arm quivering as his severed veins gush blood. Mrs. Knight gets a towel to try to stop the bleeding and Logan is already on his cell phone with 911.
"Kendall, what happened?"
Kendall looks as shocked as Carlos feels.
"We were fooling around and he missed." Mrs. Knight accepts the statement at face value, of course she does. He's Carlos; the accident prone idiot who everyone believes could actually slam his fist through a solid pane of glass.
"EMTs are here." James lets them in the apartment and then time slows to a crawl slow as a snail and he still can't keep up with it. It's the blood loss, he thinks, it's the blood dripping out of his arm that's draining him dry.
"Carlos—," he hears and then he's gone.
At the hospital, he scratches at the skin around his stitches. They gave him morphine in his IV and he's pleasantly, pathetically pleased.
"Only you could almost go through a window, Carlos." Logan laughs and James is quiet and Kendall is nowhere to be seen.
"How many stitches did they give me?"
"Seventeen." It doesn't look like just seventeen when they're sitting neat and black inside him. They look like something foreign, something alien and invasive.
"Must be my lucky number."
James won't stop staring at him and the look on his face says that he knows exactly what happened even though he wasn't in the room.
"I'm going home for awhile." When he announces it, everyone turns to him as though there isn't any flesh over his bones. "I talked to Kelly about it already; she said I could go for a week."
"But—" Kendall takes a step forward and Carlos moves one back.
"My parents want to see me."
He's leaving whether they allow him to go or not.
He can breathe better in Minnesota. All the weight on his shoulders is suspended temporarily above him and he feels so free. The winter snow catches in his eyelashes when he goes for morning walks, bundled up in layers against the cold. California winters are bright sunny days interspersed with bouts of fog and rain. Minnesota is sub-zero temperatures and air icy enough to freeze the mocos in his nose. It numbs him, the snow and freezing winds do, and when he can't feel his skin he forgets about the tornado running rampant in his chest.
"It's so nice to have you home for a visit." His mamá runs her fingers through his short hair over and over, holds him close to her breast. She loves him so much he can't believe he ever forgot what it was like to feel wholly and truly and unconditionally loved. He doesn't know how he let it slip his mind. "We missed you; the house seems so empty when you're away."
"I missed you too mamá." He wraps his arms around her shoulders and he feels eight years old and the tension inside him slips away like a hockey puck slides over ice.
Kendall texts him his on his first day back home. He's watching a terrible telenovela with his mamá when his phone buzzes in his pocket.
Miss ya ;)
He stares at the screen until the smiley face really does seem to wink. He flips his phone shut, because he can't.
After three more texts from Kendall that night, he turns his phone off.
"Carlos!" The Cheung twins down the street tackle him when he's going for a run early in the afternoon. He likes the stretch and burn of it in his muscles, the way the heat builds inside him in contrast with the cold. His breathe rises in puffs of white and he's breathing hard as the kids push him into a snow bank and climb over him. "You're back!"
"Hey, you guys." He laughs, feeling better than he has since it happened. "Long time no see."
"Do you want to play hockey with us?" He's never played hockey with seven year olds before, but he has his helmet on and the pond is frozen over for another two months at least.
"Sure, get your sticks and let's go."
It turns out that Eric can barely skate. Carlos spends twenty minutes showing him how to keep his balance and he can' skate on his own yet, so he has to cling to Carlos' arm just to stay upright. "You know you have to be able to skate to play ice hockey?"
Eric gets the hang of it eventually. He wobbles around and puts too much weight on his stick, occasionally falling flat on his ass. He laughs and it doesn't feel forced to be so happy. There's something about being thousands of miles away from Kendall and James' silent disapproval and obvious pity that has him almost back to himself, albeit temporarily. He's considering moving back permanently, because his mental health is more important than the success of the band. It's a fleeing fantasy, though. He could never do it; he could never ruin James and Logan's dreams. He's sacrifice himself for them because he loves them, because that's what best friends do.
He doesn't turn his phone on until he's landed at the Los Angeles airport. His phone flashes almost angrily at him with the news that he has forty-five missed text messages and nine new voicemails and all of them are from Kendall.
I'm sry we fought
Dude, im worried about u
I love u
They go on like that, text after text after text.
And then, Kendall is there at the airport, waiting for him the second he gets away from his gate. Somehow he got through security and Carlos realizes that Kendall bought a ticket just so he could see him.
"There you are." Kendall is hugging him, so tight and close. No one has ever hugged him the way Kendall does. It's soft and lingering and intimate. Kendall rubs his cheek against Carlos' and he stands there feeling like a cartoon character with a question mark for a head. He's so fucking confused. "Why wouldn't you answer me? I know you're mad and I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have broken up with you. I know you love me. It's okay." Kendall tries to kiss him and finally, as though some dam inside him has finally broken and all his pent up self-hatred and rage is sent crashing free.
He punches Kendall in the mouth. He pops a few stitches but nothing has ever felt so damn good. Kendall claps a hand over his bleeding lips and talks even as blood drips red through his teeth. "I know you love me too, you told me. Come on, don't be like that." Kendall is talking too fast and his mouth is drenched in blood and something in Carlos' bones just doesn't feel right.
"What the fuck are you talking about? I'm not, I don't know how dumb you think I am, but I know how I feel and I don't love you."
Everyone is staring at them.
He doesn't care who sees. He doesn't have much courage in him and he wants to get this done before he's back to being the Carlos he was before, the one who Kendall could take advantage of.
"You told me you loved right before our first time. You came into my dressing room. Don't lie."
Kendall is out of his mind.
"Dude." He says, backing up.
"You told me and you can't take it back, you can't, you can't take that back. You said we were going to be together. I broke up with Jo for you, for you." Kendall's talking faster than he ever thought could be possible, so fast what he's saying barely sound like words.
Kendall is literally out of his mind.
"Oh god, Kendall." He chokes out, because he didn't see.
The doctors call it a psychotic break. Carlos doesn't understand what most of it means as they all sit in the waiting room, so once the doctor goes off with Mrs. Knight Logan explains it to them.
"It's when someone enters a state of psychosis. It's like, well, psychosis can be a lot of different things, delusions, fits of rage, paranoia, and other stuff. The doctor says it was most likely caused by extreme stress and was exacerbated by lack of sleep." He never thought about how the pressure of Hollywood could get to Kendall. Kendall never had Hollywood fever and maybe there was a reason for it. Maybe Kendall kept it all inside him until he couldn't, until it poisoned his brain from the inside out.
"Is he going to be alright? Does this make him crazy?"
"No. It was temporary. They have him on medication right now. He's going to be fine." James hugs him without asking but he does it gently, like he never did before. James lets Carlos know he's going to touch him before he does with a hand on the back of his neck first, with a gentle brushing of their arms.
"I want to go talk to him. I need to."
They think it's because he wants to apologize for punching Kendall in the mouth. It isn't. He needs to work it out, to see. There's closure he needs to get. Going back to Minnesota helped him clear his head but Kendall is the only one that can clear his heart.
Kendall is drugged to the gills and even then, he won't look at him. Kendall stares at the white hospital sheets.
"Carlos, I'm sorry." He sounds like a robot, emotionless as a machine. "I really thought, it was like, it was like I had all these memories in my brain and they seemed so real."
"I don't forgive you." He doesn't. He never will. There's no excuse for it, drunk or high or temporarily insane. Rape is rape. Kendall might not have meant it, but he did it, and he can't take it back. He can apologize but that won't make it go away.
"You shouldn't. I can't, I can't Carlos. I can see it and the filter is off and I can't take it." Kendall's tears roll over his cheeks and drip onto the front of his hospital gown. "I thought you wanted it. I did. I never, you know that I wouldn't. Not if I was me."
Strange as it might seem; Carlos believes him. He spent so much time thinking there was a darker side to Kendall that now he's looking at his best friend and for the first time he doesn't feel fear. There's anger swirling around inside him only now there's guilt and sympathy in there too. Kendall wasn't himself inside his own body. He can sort of relate. "I won't, I won't ever come near you again."
"We're going to be okay." Kendall's shoulders shudder and shake under his hand. "I won't ever forgive you," Kendall makes a sad noise low in his throat at the words. "But I think we can be friends again."
"If we work at it hard enough."
"I can't forgive myself for it. What am I supposed to do?"
"You'll learn to live with it, that's all you can do. You just live with it until you can breathe again. It won't ever go away, but it'll fade. That's all you can hope for."