A/N: It is February 13th, 2011
I was supposed to read English homework, beta a few stories and work on some writing projects. Instead I spent the entire day writing this. It is now two AM and I am editing other people's fics while trying to read my English homework in the dark because my roommate has to get up in like three hours to go down to the school dairy. Because she's a dairy major. Yeah, that's a real thing.
I listened to "The Pot", "Heroes" and "One Headlight" by Tool, Shinedown and The Wallflowers respectively while writing this. I don't know if that means anything to anyone.
I don't own House of Anubis or 'The Pot".
Water Wolf 100 was my beta for this story, a huge thanks to her for fixing my stupid mistakes, and reminding me that the boys are on the bottom floor.
"Hello?" The voice on the other side of the line was scratchy, fizzling out through bad reception.
Jerome pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand, clutching his cellular to his ear with the other. "Yeah," he breathed letting go of his nose, "I need more money in my account; you forgot to put this month's in."
Just as he had expected, his mother hadn't recognized his number.
"Of course, I'll get right on that."
For a moment neither party said anything, but neither hung up either. Jerome and the Ex-Mrs. Clarke had nothing to say to one another, nothing to share or confide. They were still family though, and even if that meant nothing to either of them, it seemed as if they should have something to say to one another, anything at all. It had been over five months since they had seen each other after all.
"How school?" It sounded forced. Like she was an actress in a sitcom, playing the caring mother. Only she wasn't very good at it, about to be replaced by someone younger and less cold. At least that's how Jerome thought about it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if life worked like that? If someone could just come in and replace her?
She didn't care how school was, that much he knew. Sometimes he wondered why she would ask every few months. Maybe it was an attempt to ensure he didn't emancipate early and she would lose the child support owed to her for the next two years. He would never do that though. As much as he didn't like his mother and she didn't care for him, the general animosity between he and his father was greater. Emancipating would only hurt his mother and free his father.
"It's fine," he told her, trying to keep the tension out of his voice.
"That's good." She was every bit as uncomfortable with this as he was.
For a moment, just a moment her tried to pretend he wasn't who he was. That she really did care about him and didn't see him as just a way to get more money, and maybe, while he was at it, his father didn't see him as a grievous accident. Maybe he could be one of those happy accidents so many other children were.
And then he was back. His life wasn't that happy story about the strength of love in hard times. No, in hard times love was the last thing on his mind.
He was alone.
"There's a parent visitation day coming up, the 17th." No there wasn't.
"The 17th you say?" She says like she's interested. She's not.
"I'm sorry, I'm going to be in Dublin that week."
"Wait, I mean the 24th, sorry, I was looking at the wrong week." There's not one then either.
His lips turned in a cold sneer as he heard her stammer. He's caught her in a lie; she doesn't want to come see him. Pretending she cares for a minute or two while on her way to do something worthwhile is one thing. Taking a whole day out of her schedule just to look at him and feign interest in his life would be devastating.
"Oh, uh. I don't think I can. I mean, I have, uhh…"
"Love you too Mum." And with that he snaps his cellular closed. For a moment he sits on the edge of his bed, holding the phone in his hand in front of his face before stowing it away in his pocket. He takes a deep breath and runs his hands through his mass of hair before standing, sliding a cocky smirk into place and heading out into the hallway
He tries to push it out of his mind, the conversation-if you could call it that-with his mother. It's nothing new, nothing unusual. Maybe it should be, the thought that his parents don't actually love him. His steps falter and he stops in the middle of the hallway. It's not the feeling that the thought gives him that makes him stop; it's the fact that there is no feeling at all.
No one loves him, and he doesn't care.
Jerome could still remember being younger and crying quietly to himself because of it. He remembered feeling alone and scared with no one there to quiet the feeling. It was still there, he was all alone, but he wasn't afraid anymore. It didn't matter; it was just how it was.
His smirk returned, though this time of its own accord, colder and more malicious as he continued walking. Maybe, just maybe, his heart had finally given up trying and had sealed itself over, as had been the goal for years now.
Because if he had no love to give, then it wouldn't matter when no one had any for him.
Everyone else was already in the main room, lounging lazily across the living and dining room. The scent of breakfast and the dread of the school day hung in the air.
"Happy Valentine's Day Jerome!" Amber yelled suddenly. She appeared to be the only one fully conscious in the room, her hair pulled back in pigtails to keep it out of her shining eyes and off of the small red heart on her cheek. Her coldness towards him from the election seemed to have evaporated magically with the spirit of the useless holiday.
He wondered if she knew that Saint's days were on the day they died.
Jerome felt his shoulders slouch involuntarily and spirits deteriorate rapidly. Damn it. He had forgotten what today was.
He nodded her way with a patronizing smile before slipping past, sitting down next to Alfie at the table.
"Come now Lovelies, breakfast!" Trudy beamed at them all, far too perky for so early on a Monday morning.
With equal parts annoyance and anticipation the rest of them came lurching over to the table, passing around the heart shaped pancakes Trudy had so artfully prepared. Jerome couldn't help but scowl at the offending shape in front of him, disgracing the wonder that was Trudy's pancakes.
"Are you OK Alfie?" Nina asked from across the table after they had all begun eating. "You don't look so well."
Jerome spared him a glance and then laughed. "He spent all day yesterday watching Doctor Who. He barely slept last night."
Alfie shuddered, eyes wide and bloodshot. "Had nightmares. The Silence, the thing on Midnight, the Angels…oh God the Angels."
Patricia smiled, eyes lighting up. She leaned forward, voice dropping to a whisper. "Don't. Blink."
Alfie shuddered again, dropping his head to the table.
"He's killed me Sir," Jerome made his voice deadpan. "He's killed me and taken my voice."
Alfie shook his head violently, trying to cover his ears.
"He's coming for me!" Jerome raised his voice an octave, impersonating a frightened woman. "Oh dear God he's coming for me!"
"Stop it!" Alfie begged.
"Molto bene!" Patricia closed her eyes and smiled dreamily.
Everyone laughed as Alfie groaned again.
"Sorry Alfie, I'll stop." Patricia smiled. "I was watching Torchwood yesterday, actually. I have come to the conclusion that Jack and Ianto are the most adorable couple on all of television."
"No, that would be Merlin and Arthur," Jerome corrected as seriously as he could.
"No way," Alfie interrupted, getting in on it. "It's totally Merlin and Gwaine."
"Sherlock and Watson are so much cuter, did you see that final scene, by the pool?" Mara smiled.
"You are all wrong," Fabian insisted, forcing a serious look on his face. "It's definitely Roy and Moss."
Everyone exploded in laughter, falling about their breakfast.
"What are you guys talking about?" Nina finally asked, looking innocently curious.
It takes a minute for the laughter to die down, and another for them to realize she's serious.
"What's Doctor Who?" Alfie demanded, incredulous.
"Torchwood?" Patricia adds in, looking annoyed.
"Merlin?" Jerome throws out. She's American, of course she's never heard of these shows. Probably too busy watching The Jersey Shore, or some other trash. He's just enjoying her look of growing uncertainty. He can see it in her eyes. It looks like she feels like she doesn't belong, like she might cry about this later. And honestly, he finds it quite funny.
"Sherlock?" Mara isn't cruel or imposing, but more pitying. She sees Nina's awkwardness as well.
"The IT Crowd?" Fabian adds, half wincing as he realizes her hurt.
She shakes her head, looking rather small. "Never heard of them."
Patricia and Alfie roll their eyes as one.
"They're just stupid TV shows, don't worry about it," Amber tells her, looking annoyed that they're even talking about such things.
Everyone else at the table looks about ready to rip Amber's throat out for her blasphemy against excellent television programming but she takes no notice. "Besides, it's Valentine's Day, there are far more important things to worry about than stupid aliens or whatever."
Just as about five of them were about to tell Amber what, exactly was stupid, Trudy burst in from the kitchen. "Alright, alright, everyone out. Time for school."
With the general grumbling and off handed comment about what they thought of school, they were headed out across the grounds.
"So, you got a special girl in mind for today?" Alfie goaded, looking slightly less terrified than before.
Without meaning to Jerome found his gaze sliding to Mara, where she was walking a few feet off, hand in hand with Mick. Dumb meathead.
Just as quickly he snapped back. He supposed he should find some pretty girl to chase today. Day of romance and what not; it was an easy day to woo a girl into a senseless snog until she came to her senses and realized that it being the 14th of February had nothing to do with actual romance. For once though, he really didn't feel like it.
"Maybe, maybe not," he answered aloofly.
"Ohh, aren't we mysterious." Alife waved his arms around dramatically and laughed. He leaned in close, his words taunting. "Going to try and steal Mara away?"
Jerome narrowed his eyes, still staring straight forward. "How about you, a certain angel maybe?"
Alfie stopped laughing and slumped his shoulders. "You're a jerk. I had almost forgotten…" He stalked off as Jerome barked a laugh, letting him leave.
Valentine's Day turned out to be a bigger thorn in Jerome's side than he had originally anticipated. Everywhere he turned love seemed to be there in one form or another. It was making him sick. It didn't seem fair, to be completely unable to love or be loved, and yet be completely submersed in the idea.
He had heard rumors of schools banning holiday celebrations due to some students' ideological beliefs. Why couldn't that be this school? The entire day was imposing upon his right not to think about such trivial and disgusting things.
Hearts were everywhere, the gaudy things. That wasn't even what hearts looked like. They were a contraption of valves and veins and arteries, all forming a bloody mess of a lump that pulsed and shuddered in a sickening manner if ever you were to really watch it. And it only beat for so long before it gave out, leaving nothing but regret and sorrow behind. It seemed far better a mascot for love than the paper cutouts of pretty two humped shapes, trimmed in glitter and lace. Those things had nothing to do with love.
Not that it mattered, not that he cared.
He closed his locker with more force than was necessary. A nearby group of girls startled at the noise, looking up with wide eyes and defensive stances.
He paid them no mind as he made his way to class, dodging the hoards of students decked out in more red than the uniform required, all smiling and giggling and flirting with one another. Why did they do it? What did it matter? Their pathetic little relationships wouldn't last the year, or most of them the month.
The feeling crept upon him often, the desire to make someone else hurt, to pull others down with him in his abyss of nothingness. Never before could he remember the feeling being stronger than right now. Someone had to go down with him, right now. Someone had to pay.
That wasn't fair though, no one did anything to him, no one but his parents. But he hadn't done anything to them, so life wasn't fair. It was just a lesson he was passing on to others.
Through his next few classes the feeling was only growing, twisting inside of him and building upon itself, there was no stopping it. Jerome was twitching and moving in his seat, agitation pouring out over into his physical being. When the final bell rung and released him from this Hell of hearts and flowers and laughter he bolted. There was nothing in the world he wanted more than to get to his room, collapse upon his bed and sleep until the 15th came.
He gathered his things quickly from his locker, stuffing them into his bag before heading out the doors, not bothering to wait for Alfie or figure out where he was. The sooner he was out, the sooner this was over.
All day he had been careful not to bump into anyone, to not touch anyone else on this cursed day. As if everyone carried a disease and maybe if he so much as brushed them, he may become contaminated as well. In his hast to leave, he accidentally touched someone for the first time that day on the grounds.
"Watch it Clark!" Mick snapped, turning around to snarl for a second before returning to what he was doing.
Jerome twitched in disgust at having bumped into him. He turned to continue as well, not even bothering with a retort, when he noticed what Mick was doing.
"I don't get you Mara, I helped you, why are you so mad?"
Jerome's interest piqued, a fight between Mara and Mick may just be the thing to raise his spirits. He froze, one foot forward and pivoted to face them.
"Because you cheated Mick! I didn't win by myself, and worse than that, you didn't believe that I could win." Mara's face was strained, holding back tears as she faced off with Mick as boldly as was possible for being Mara.
"I did," Mick sighed, frustrated. "I just wanted to make sure you won. I knew it would make you happy to win."
"But I didn't win, you cheated. I cheated."
"Trouble in paradise?" Jerome smiled; a hungry crocodile, stumbling upon a wounded zebra.
"None of your business Clark," Mick snarled.
"Yes it is," Mara corrected, chin held high. "Jerome, we cheated, Amber should be school representative."
"So the high and mighty Campbell cheated on an election, hm?" Jerome took a few steps closer.
"It's none of your business."
"I'm quite impressed actually. Didn't think you would know how to bribe a two year old, let alone a secondary school election."
"Shut it Clark." Mick turned from Mara, facing Jerome full on. Jerome cocked his head, staring down at Mick as if examining an interesting specimen. He was pushing Mick, playing with him, seeing how far he could go, and damn it felt good.
"I bet your father would be quite proud. You know, that you actually did something that required more than two brain cells for once in your life."
Jerome didn't see the punch coming until it was too late. All he heard was Mara yell his name, whether a scolding or a warning he wasn't sure. The world exploded in white as Mick's fist collided with the side of his face, pain shooting through his skull and the force throwing him off balance and sending him to the ground.
He collapsed on his side in the grass for a moment, dazed and in pain, trying to figure out what had happened. Something hot and thick poured over his tongue and he spit instinctively. Red clung to the blades of grass, glistening sickly in the sunlight.
And then he shrugged off his bag and rose to his feet and everything was gone in a blur. Fists were flying, shirts and throats being grabbed as he tore into Mick with everything he had and Mick did the same to him. Jerome was taller and thinner, while Mick was shorter and broader. Mick had him beat in sheer strength, Jerome was no athlete, but Mick didn't have the same desperation the Jerome had. He was sane and stable and had things to lose, things to return to.
Jerome had none of that.
They were dogs in a pit, nothing more. No thoughts or motives behind their actions. Both boys were taking out the stress and hate they had for everything else in their lives on the other. Pain was exploding through his nerves, pulsing in his head, but he had never felt better. Somewhere far off someone was screaming and voices were yelling. Maybe he was yelling at Mick, Jerome wasn't sure.
His fist connecting with Mick's face.
Mick's fist colliding with his stomach, doubling him over.
He got Mick in the groin with his knee. Fighting dirty was what he did.
Suddenly his fists were not his to swing, as someone grabbed him from behind. Across from him Fabian was wrestling with Mick, trying to hold him back.
"Calm down mate, he's not worth it!" Alfie was yelling in his ear.
The problem here, however, was that both Mick and Jerome were stronger than Alfie and Fabian. It was only a matter of seconds before they could pull free and return to beating the bloody pulp out of each other. And then out of nowhere Nina and Amber each had one of Mick's arms, clinging on like leeches, helping Fabian keep Mick's fists down. Patricia was in front of Jerome, throwing herself at him while Alfie did the same against his back, creating a sort of sandwich, holding his arms down and keeping him from moving.
Off to the side Jerome saw Mara for the first time since he had lunged at Mick. She was clutching her bag with white knuckles, her hands trembling as a few tears rolled down her cheeks. Horror was plain upon her face, shock and hurt as well. Jerome met her eye and held it for a second before he had to look away.
Why did she look so hurt though? As if he had done something personally to hurt her. It wasn't like he didn't warn her. He had told her he was rotten, that he wasn't kind. Maybe she was just naïve.
Frustrated and angered, he shrugged Patricia and Alfie off, assuring them he wasn't going to tear Mick's throat out. He didn't look any of them in the eye, just casually glanced around the scene. Amber, Fabian and Nina were still restraining Mick, a ferocity in his eye that told Jerome that as soon as they let him go, he was coming for him. Nonchalantly Jerome retrieved his bag, shouldered it and walked off. No one followed him.
In his room he lay on his back, staring at the few cracks and dents in the ceiling. He remembered him and Alfie laying on their beds and trying to figure out how they had gotten there. Jerome tried to put his thought into figuring out a reason, but he could think of none. His mind was little more than a cloudy haze, further obscured by the burning numbness of the bag of ice placed against his swelling cheek.
It was going to look awful tomorrow.
There came a knock at the door and Jerome tensed, he had been waiting for it. He wasn't sure what 'it' was, but there was little hope that after what had transpired that he would be allowed to brood in misery by himself. It didn't mean he had to respond to anyone though.
After a moment of him not answering the door cracked open of its own accord. He kept his eyes to the ceiling, unwilling to look at his visitor.
Why was it always Mara, sent to deal with him? Maybe because she was the only one who could. He didn't respond, just lay there, ear buds in and pretending her couldn't hear her.
"Who are you to wave your finger at me?" Tool hissed in his ear.
She sat down on the bed beside him, the mattress titling slightly under her light weight. It was difficult to ignore her now, she was right in his line of sight and if he turned his head it would be too obvious a refusal.
"I brought you your diner." She sat the plate and a glass of milk delicately on his nightstand. Her hands returned to her lap.
"You shouldn't have fought Mick."
Jerome sighed, hitting pause on his MP3 Player. "Well I did." He kept his thumb hovering above the play button, waiting for her to leave.
Jerome traced the scratches on the ceiling with his eyes, counting the seconds until she left.
"Shouldn't you be with Mick? Nursing his wounds or whatever?"
"Amber's doing that," she answered quietly.
Another moment of silence. "Why?"
"Because we broke up."
Jerome found that he had little to say to that. Hadn't that been what he wanted, for Mick to be out of the picture so he could make his move in? It didn't bring him the same feeling of satisfaction he thought it would.
"I'm sorry," he told her honestly, but there was little inflection in his voice.
"Yeah. He shouldn't have done what he did. Said what he said….and he shouldn't have punched you. I'm sorry." She reached out, as if to move his ice pack but he beat her to it.
"You didn't do it. You have nothing to be sorry for." He sat up, removing his ear buds and keeping his back to her.
"I know but…" She trailed off awkwardly. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine." He was responding quickly and certainly, trying to tell her she was excused.
"Jerome, what's wrong?"
Why couldn't she just leave? Go cry about her break up with Patricia or something, wasn't that what girls did?
"I've never seen you look like that, when you were fighting with Mick."
Jerome had his face in his hands, propping his chin up to stare off at Alfie's side of the room. The Doctor Who poster, the stuffed alien sitting in the corner, the drawers spilling over with clothes, clean and otherwise. He was counting again, waiting for her to leave.
She sighed, standing up from the bed and for one futile second he thought she was leaving. And then she was crossing around the bed to sit next to him, shoulder to shoulder.
"Had to call my mum today." He hadn't meant to say it, but something about Mara always brought things he didn't want to say to the surface. It was dangerous, being with her. His words were not his own, they were what she wanted to him to say, no matter if he didn't want to say them.
He didn't elaborate on the call, on what happened or his feelings or any of that nonsense. There was no need.
Her hand rested on his shoulder and his face fell into his palms. "If you don't love anything, then it doesn't matter when nothing loves you." Another thing he hadn't meant to say. But the words tumbled out of their own accord, unconcerned about whether he wanted them to be heard or not.
"That is a terrible way to think!" Mara scolded, taken aback.
"Jerome, look at me." Mara grabbed hold of his arm, peeling it away from his face. He didn't turn his head but watched her out of the corner of his eye. "You can't think like that," she insisted, eyes wide and innocent. Too innocent. She didn't understand the first damn thing about his life. Her hand was reaching up, fingers just brushing his cheek when he jerked away.
"I can think whatever I want to think," he snapped.
"Don't you have something you should be doing? Some girl you should be whining to about how much men suck or something like that?" He stood up, putting the icepack down and moving away from the bed, away from her.
"Stop trying to push me away, I just want to help."
He turned on her, his temper rising rapidly. "Well you can't. You can't make things better and all you ever do is make things worse."
Mara paused, a hand on her chest in surprise. The hurt was heavy in her eyes, her lips parted in quiet trepidation.
Jerome recoiled, pulling back in on himself and looking past her. "I don't care if you don't care about me Mara, but don't pretend you do." He took an unsettlingly shaky breath. "People shouldn't do that."
Mara's lips parted farther, eyes widening. "Pretending? Jerome, I never pretended to care about you. I really do. Why would you ever think I didn't?"
His mouth opened, but as soon as he did he realized he had no retort, nothing to say. Quietly he closed it again, hand tapping restlessly against his side. He was done.
He moved past her quietly, intent on ending the conversation and getting as far away from her as possible, maybe going for a walk or something cliché like that.
Mara's hand snapped out, grabbing him roughly by the tie. He gagged in surprise as she pulled him towards her, pressing her mouth forcefully against his.
Shock was the only emotion that registered as Mara kissed him, the one thing he had wanted for so long now. His hands moved of their own will, moving to cup her cheeks and running his fingers through her hair. Her lips were softer and more docile than he had imagined. She had started this, but he was quickly leading and she was placidly following.
They pulled apart after a few seconds, her hand still holding his tie and his hands on her face. Their noses brushed as they stared at each other uncertainly and shyly. Mara was breathing heavily, a blush dusting her cheeks and eyes heavy. And God was she adorable, standing there so defiantly, clutching his tie and holding him to her level. Normally the top of her head barely passed his collarbone.
She had never looked more beautiful.
He meant to tell her. "So I'm second choice then, right? Second best after the Golden Boy?" His cynicism wouldn't die. His distrust would not be quieted.
Mara glared at him, but there was no malice behind it. "No, you are the right choice."
His heart thudded hard against his rib cage. To his horror he felt his face heating up.
Jerome Clarke did not blush.
He shook his head slowly, smiling with no humor. "No, no I'm not." He moved his hands to hers, covering her fingers in his where she clutched his tie. "You're Mara, the good girl. I'm not a good guy Mara, not by a long shot."
Mara stared at him for a moment and then raised an eyebrow. "Are you about to start quoting Twilight at me?"
Jerome winced, he did sound rather like a bad romance novel at the moment. "Pop culture aside, you know it's true."
"I don't believe that," she told him. "And even if it is true, I can handle you." She smirked and he couldn't help but laugh.
Her one hand left his tie to move up to touch the swelling bruise on his cheek. He twitched at the feeling. He opened his mouth to snap back a retort, but she cut him off, kissing him once more.
Jerome didn't fight her off or try to push her away; he just let it happen. One arm made its way to her lower back, pulling her closer as she threw both arms around his neck.
She was going to destroy him, he knew.
If he tore down his walls and let her in, even a little, she was going to shatter his heart. What they had wouldn't last, the pulsing mass of veins and blood that was their relationship was going to stop beating one day, leaving nothing but a disgusting reminder of what once was. Mara was going to let him lean on her for a while and then leave, abandoning him and leaving him all alone. Just like everyone else. He was going to be even worse off than he was now when it happened.
For right now though, in this moment, he was willing to accept those consequences.
But srsly guys, have you seen the weeping angles in Doctor Who? I thought I knew what terror was.