A/N: Hi all! Sorry for the long wait. I rewrote this chapter a few times, because it kept coming out so terribly. Some drafts were long an boring, others didn't go where I wanted them to. I feel a bit more confident with this chapter, though. It definitely moves a bit quicker than the other drafts, but maybe that's for the best. It's time for Light to stop acting like a coward!
The next chapter will be coming up quickly, though. Matt will finally be coming back, as well!
It had been a week and a half since my life went to shit. Or maybe it was the greatest week and a half of my life. It's hard to judge from this cell. The paint on the walls has chipped away from years of neglect. The copper stains in the toilet may be older than me. And the man sitting only a bench away from me won't avert his gaze. I know the look. I've seen it before. How his eyes squint, how he keeps flexing his fists. His anger shields the need buried deep within. I stare back, almost telling him to just fucking take me, and stop being such a bitch about it. If I turned my back on my family, he should at least be able to turn me around.
I run my fingers through my hair. The cell smells like someone dribbled some lemon on a piss puddle. The circulation in my toes is beginning to falter. My gaze never wavers from the man on the bench, though. His chest hair pops out of his button-down flannel. The shirt hangs off his body. I could advise him, let him know he's not playing up his strengths, but at this moment, I can't distinguish them from his flaws. His nose is bent, as if someone smashed a chair across the cartilage. Patches of wispy hair are layered across his cheeks, as if someone had burned off half his beard with a lighter. My eyes, already watery, burn. He's ugly. Disfigured. I wonder if he feels the same about me. I scratch my arm until my fingernails peel off some skin.
Something is building up in my chest. A shout, a cry for help. The hillbilly will be the only one who hears it. And I'm not sure if his ears are good enough to hear my laments. I know how I sound. I know how cruel I am. But at least I can recognize my own selfishness. He probably doesn't even notice his own nose peaking through his peripheral.
My life was mapped out for me. But I rebelled. I found a spec of integrity hidden beneath the personality my father built for me before I was even conceived. I fought him. Sure, I lost badly, but I stood up against him. By the end, I was coughing up blood. And instead of calling a hospital, my mom handed me a paper towel and sent me on my way.
I sure as hell don't deserve to be locked up for embracing who I am.
After I ditched the rest of class, I begged L to take me back to his place. He complied after I offered him an eight-ball. We picked it up, then headed back to his overly-decorated apartment. As we walked through his halls, I let him know how tacky the fountain downstairs was.
"Do you want some water?" he simply replied.
When we reached his room, he tugged his uniform off. He peeled the fabric off his sweaty body and began to meticulously fold his shirt. "How are you doing?" he asked as he creased the elbow.
"Don't you think that fountain is tacky?"
"I'll just assume you're fine, then." He smoothed his white t-shirt, running his boney fingers up and down his chest. "Would it be unhygienic if I wore my uniform again?"
"Before you washed it?"
"Probably. Just toss it in the hamper."
He examined the shirt-square sitting on his desk. "I only wore it for half a day."
"Then don't wash it." I retrieved the eight-ball from my pocket. "Want some now?"
He began to pace, drumming his fingers along the dresser. "If I wear it later, but know I wore it for half a day already, will I feel sloppy halfway through the day?"
"I don't fucking know, L." I threw the baggy on the floor. "Can we just do this?"
"Will you shuffle my shirts around? It may just be all in my head," he tapped his forehead and widened his eyes.
"Shut the fuck up."
"It's just a simple question."
I wound up agreeing to it. When he turned his back, though, I just threw the shirt into the drawer. "There. Done."
He smiled and held up the baggy.
A few minutes later, I picked my head up from his dresser and took a step back. I wiped my nose and placed my shaking hand on the arm of the swiveling computer chair he was sitting in. He swung the seat back and forth, almost knocking me over. "Watch what you're doing," I snapped.
"You're the one who's leaning on my spinning chair," he pushed his feet against the desk and rolled backwards. "Will you sit with me? It helps me think"
"No." I scratched my nose again. "What am I going to do? Fuck, L, everything is ruined. Because of a picture. I have to do something. I have to make a public announcement, claim it was a misunderstanding. I was just bored, you know? We all make mistakes when we're bored. The public will have to understand. My father will have to understand."
I was so wrapped up in my plot, I hadn't noticed L stand up. He grabbed my face, pressing his palms against my cheeks. "Relax," he said, squeezing my cheeks. "You're getting yourself too worked up. You'll be fine."
"Get off me," I knocked his hands away. "You don't get it. I won't have any money, family, friends. I won't be able to afford an Ivy league school on my own. I'm going to be alone."
"Here's how I see it." He took his place in the computer chair, crouching on his heels. "If you lived here for a year, you could keep steady contact with your sister, correct? Maybe she could provide a bit of money." He jumped up and began to walk in circles. "Any university would admire the attention you receive from the press. You just need the right kind of attention. Think about it. Your father is despised among the LGBT community, and probably other demographics, as well. And you, his only son, stand up against him? You could be a hero."
"That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard," I lied. "I'm not going to be some fucking fairy king. I'm straight, L. What are you refusing to accept that? This was all a huge mistake. I got wrapped up. I just want to fix it."
"Why are you so consumed with hiding how you feel?"
"Because I don't feel anything," I snapped.
He watched me, and I suddenly did feel something. My fingers trembled and I sat on the bed. He took the seat next to me, crouching on his heels. His face, only inches from mine, contorted as he asked, "why were you bored two weeks ago?"
"I watched you in biology. There was nothing to do in that class except study our peers. I had learned everything two years before. You were particularly interesting. At first, every student seemed to flock to you. They laughed at everything you said, and you were more than happy to provide them entertainment. But steadily, you ignored those around you. You began to doodle, and roll your eyes after your so-called friends turned their backs. You tapped your toes when the teacher lectured. A few days before I picked you up, I noticed you didn't button your shirt correctly."
I couldn't even remember when my buttons were done properly. My cheeks burned. "So?"
"The wall you worked so hard to set up was beginning to crumble."
"What wall? What the fuck are you talking about?"
"You're the personality your father has always wanted you to be. And you've reached the age when you're beginning to question who you are. Do you always want to follow in your father's oppressive footsteps? Let him continue to stomp on your dependence? Who are you?"
"I'm who I've always been."
"You're happy. I see you smile in biology. You sit there, listen, and you smile."
I shouldn't have been angry, but I was. He was absolutely right, but who the hell wants to admit when someone knows you better than you do? Instead of giving in, though, I stomped over to his dresser and tore his shirt drawer open. "This," I held up the shirt he had just folded. "This is the fucking shirt you wore today." I grabbed another identical shirt. "Isn't it stupid how wrapped up you got about a piece of fabric?" I grabbed a handful more, and threw them out the window. One of the shirts caught his fire escape. The arm flapped, waving lazily to the traffic below. L sat there, staring out his window.
"And you know what?" I opened his other drawer. "Why would you need your uniform pants?"
Just as I went to throw a bundle of grey slacks out the window, L caught my arm and pushed me back. He punched me in the nose. It felt like someone shoved lit matches up my nostrils. I stumbled back, clutching my nose as blood poured out. I curled my hand into a fist, about to retaliate, but he knocked me against his bed, pinning my arms into one hand.
"Do something," he laughed.
I opened my mouth to shout, but he slapped his other hand over my mouth. I struggled underneath him. My feet kicked out, but he was surprisingly strong. Adrenaline pumped through my veins. His grip on my face widened. The air from my lungs escaped, and when I tried to breathe again, I realized he was choking me. He began to rifle through my pockets, throwing its contents to the floor. So I snapped my knee up, hitting him right between the thighs. He fell to the ground, grinning.
"What the fuck?" I shouted, trying to catch my breath. "You could've killed me."
"Yes, that's possible, but you didn't let me."
"This isn't some fucking game."
I tried to hit him a few more times than I care to admit. He dodged every punch, asking me to relax over and over. For a few minutes, it seemed like the heavy stream of testosterone would never end. But just as quickly as my anger escalated, my heart rate began to slow down. It was almost as if L heard it. He sat down on the floor and crossed his legs. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"How do you think?"
"Okay. Well, then what do you want to do about it?"
"Fight." The word came too easily.
The bastard was smiling at me. "Good."
The next few hours, we bounced ideas back and fourth. He struggled to convince me that lying would only make matters worse, at least in the long term. But I couldn't see it like that. How could I maintain my lifestyle if I didn't have access to my father's bank account? Where would I sleep? How would I afford a good school? Somehow, L had answers for everything. And I hated every one of them.
He kept asking why I went out with L in the first place, why I swallowed the ecstasy Matt slipped into my mouth, why I slept with him. "I was bored," became my mantra.
"You're in denial," was his.
We were both lying on his floor, his head by my feet and mine by his. He wiggled his toes in the air, stretching them, and flexing them again. The wrinkles on the soles of his feet kept winking at me.
"Fine," I finally admitted. "You're right. But what the hell am I going to do?"
He propped himself on his elbows. "Like you said: fight."