Author's Note – I just can't leave this fandom alone, can I? Suppose I should tell you how this story was born. A few weeks ago I was in Kansas City, staring at the beautiful urban photo opportunities from inside the car. Something about the littered streets and graffiti-stained buildings inspired me so as soon as I got back home I was on the computer, writing. I'm too in love with the characters from HIC to give the story to another fandom, so I decided to try my luck with an AU. This will be very AU, so be warned. But I did my best to keep the personalities of the characters as intact as possible.
I will try my hardest to update as quickly as possible, just know that school and my job keep me busy.
Hope you enjoy and never be too shy to drop a review. :)
Shutterfield Mercy House
March 18th, 1987
Matthew Campbell despised mornings.
Brown hair askew and gray eyes sullen he sat perched upon the front porch of his home, one leg drawn close to his chest while the other hung limply from the wood railing. The early light painted the neighborhood with pastel colors that cast a pleasing tone over the rundown houses, settling an illusion that downtown Bridgeport was actually a favorable place to be.
Matt had lived here his entire life, born into a low-income family and raised in the frugal lifestyle without complaint. He was accustomed to the cheap life and there were never any thoughts on his mind that it would ever change. The house he currently reposed against was his own, well, at least half of it. Two stories with muted white paint that curled up in peeling strips from the outside walls, it wasn't a spectacular piece of architecture, but it was home. The first floor belonged to his own family, but the second was the home of the Jennings. The Campbells rarely had issues with the fellow family but there was always a harsh tension that hung thick in the air when Mr. and Mrs. Jennings could be heard arguing loudly above. Those were the times when Wendy and Mary would come downstairs to visit. It had taken a few months for Matt to warm up to the girls, his only positive outlook on them being that maybe his younger brother Billy wouldn't bother him as much now that he had a new friend. But after three years of numerous nights spent with Wendy and Mary Matt eventually considered them friends and then finally acknowledged them as siblings, an instinctive protectiveness dwelling between all of them.
Twenty till eight. Matt's jaw clicked as he yawned, the bones in his legs popping loudly as he stretched them. He hated mornings, but he couldn't ignore this one. He swung his legs from the banister and padded down the concrete steps leading to the street, taking a deep breath of the frigid morning air before setting off down the sidewalk. Hands in his pockets and head bowed he trudged on in silence, gray eyes focused on his shoes. This was the route he walked each Saturday. Every intricate detail was memorized from the smell of the bushes to the spider web of cracks in the pavement. Despite the hum of occasional cars passing by there were few sounds to distract.
Maybe that was one good thing about morning.
It was quiet.
At home, Matt had precious little time to just relax and ponder over things that didn't matter. On the fifteen-minute walk to Shutterfield he could let his mind wander, become ignorant to reality and pretend that there was no world to worry about. No responsibility. No other person but himself.
"Campbell!" Time was up. Matt pulled his head up slowly, squinting past the morning sun to the silhouette calling to him from across the street. He slipped a hand from his hoodie pocket and shaded his eyes, letting the figure's features become clear as he walked closer. It was a man, two heads taller than himself with a blunt face accented by wrinkles around his mouth and eyes. In his left hand he loosely gripped a smoking cigarette, bringing to his lips as soon as Matt came near. The man, known as Keith, inhaled the toxic mix and a deep chuckle rumbled from his chest as his dark brown eyes roved over the young Campbell. "Every Saturday at nine. You're quite consistent."
"Reluctant but ready." Another petulant laugh slipped from his mouth. "Shit-load of work today, so wake up. Allison has your assignments inside." Matt lifted his eyes to the building they were standing outside of; a reputable brick monument decorated with graffiti and dirt that cast a hefty shadow across the street. The back door was a pitiful thing, a flimsy and splintered board of wood hanging from crooked hinges. But it did its job. Above it hung a small wooden sign from a rusted nail, three words painted onto it with care.
Shutterfield Mercy House
"Go on." Keith wrapped his fingers around the handle of the door and with some difficulty thrust it open, ushering Matt through the threshold. Once inside, the familiar scent of vomit and hand sanitizer assaulted the teenager's senses but after being in the shelter weekly he had become used the stench so his sense of smell quickly adjusted. He crossed through the kitchen, narrowly avoiding the bustling workers as they struggled to maintain some level of order. Allison could be seen by one of the serving stations but before Matt could get near a pair of thin arms wrapped themselves around his shoulders and pulled him back. The sudden weight of a body behind him upset his balance and he barely just managed to grab onto a counter before he could be brought to the ground, coughing when the arms slipped up to his neck before releasing.
"Thank God you're here! There's so much to do and half the volunteers haven't even shown up yet. You can't imagine how much vomit and piss there is in the main hall." The low scratchy tone was easily recognizable.
"Nice to see you too, Jamie." Matt spun on his heel to face the girl. She looked back at him with a toothy grin, hands stuffed into the pockets of her oversized jeans and feet shuffling awkwardly on the tile floor. Her messy blonde hair was pulled back into a bun to fully reveal her dull hazel eyes and shallow cheeks spattered with freckles that extended across her upturned nose.
"Allison assigned you with me. We have to shoo out the hangover's from St. Patty's Day and clean up their mess."
"That's nice." Matt responded as two buckets were shoved into his hands; one filled with water and the other with rags. Jamie shouldered a mop and walked alongside him into the main hall, chatting amiably.
"You should've been here last night. I swear we've never had so many people. All the cots were filled and half of the people kept falling out of them," she laughed, "they were so juiced!" The mop was brought down from her shoulder and she motioned for Matt to set down the bucket filled with water. He complied and took a rag from the second bucket, dousing it in the liquid before going to work off a spot of vomit on one of the cots. There were sixty cots total in the shelter, organized neatly in three rows of twenty. The second section of the main hall consisted of the dining tables and benches; four of them already halfway filled with the morning usuals.
"Ugh, grody." Jamie scrubbed furiously at a urine stain on the tile, her face twisted upwards in whether concentration or repulsion Matt couldn't tell. He scratched absent-mindedly at an itch on the back of his neck and yawned, moving onto the next cot with lazy steps. He heard Jamie laugh behind him and turned.
"You awake yet, spangler? You're lookin' a little tired there," she leaned on the mop, one hand placed meticulously on her hip while her eyes roved over his form, "and skinny too. Getting ready for a pageant?"
"… … Sure." Matt's response produced another laugh from Jamie. A breath slipped past his lips and he turned to resume wiping down the cots with furious scrubbing. The buzz of conversations eventually put him at ease and he was able to adjust to a calm routine of cleaning and ignore Jamie's sly comments. She stopped altogether upon realizing that he wasn't listening. Some of the people in the dining hall would cast a glance towards the volunteers, only a few actually smiling at Matt. He was relatively new and even though most of the members warmed up to fresh volunteers easily there were others who were still wary. He got used to that.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"We're fine, thank you." A smooth tone, manipulative, new, and strangely unsettling. Matt snuck a furtive glance towards Jamie, watching as she struggled to stand responsibly under the frame of an impressive figure. It was man that stood before her, well dressed with an air of superiority that he easily boasted across the room. He stood rigidly straight as if there was an iron bar welded into his spine. A pair of spectacles perched on the tip of his nose flashed the florescent light from above, making it near impossible to make out where his gaze rested. Matt had never seen him before but the presence he brought to the room made the teenager shiver.
"Well-" Jamie swallowed before continuing, "The kitchen is open so if you guys are hungry help yourselves. If you're hoping to volunteer see, uh, Allison. She's over there." The man thanked Jamie and trudged past, patting her shoulder as he crossed. She blanched at the touch. Once the man was out of earshot she skidded over to Matt.
"I think I just shit myself." She muttered. "I turned around and he was just standing there, lookin' at me like he was ready to snuff me. Did you see his eyes?"
"Dead, man, like a scarecrow's. And that kid!"
"There was a kid with him?" Matt turned to look but before he could spot the stranger Jamie grabbed onto his shoulder and spun him back to her, shaking her head furiously.
"Just ignore it… That man has serious power. I don't know over what, but he seems legit." She released her grip on his shoulder and exhaled, gripping the mop with shaky hands. "Jus' keep working." Matt made as if to respond but his mouth was dry and only a breath escaped. He nodded, licked his lips, and scooped another rag from the bucket. Jamie smiled at him approvingly (a fake smile, but he accepted it nonetheless) and turned to leave.
"Jamie," his voice called out scratchily before she could get too far.
"What did he look like? … The kid?"
A few moments before the response:
"Young. Dark hair… Pale… He had the bluest eyes I've ever seen."