a/n: I know, I know, I know; this took along ass time and you all probably want to slash my tires or something. Like… I don't even KNOW what happened while I was writing this; it was much harder than I had anticipated it would be :/ wah. Sorry! But I mean, if I'm throwing out reasons why this took a million plus years, it's that basically, I took some time out to make sure this chapter would be amazing x10 (same with the reaming chapters), so aside from the fact that I was just struggling with writing this, that's what happened, hence the long wait for an update. I'm quite the perfectionist and I didn't want you guys to read something unless I was 110% satisfied with it (: That being said, here's chapter 27 and I hope that you guys enjoy! I don't own anything.
You shout it out, but I can't hear a word you say. I'm talking loud not saying much. I'm criticized but all your bullets ricochet. You shoot me down, but I get up. I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose, fire away, fire away. Ricochet, you take your aim, fire away, fire away. You shoot me down but I won't fall, I am titanium - David Guetta ft. Sia, "Titanium"
Carlos exhaled slowly, and then inhaled deeply, his chest rising and falling peacefully as he lay on his back in his bed. He stared at the ceiling, restless and unable to sleep. He grew tired of looking at the clock, being reminded of how many hours of sleep he had until his first day back at school since he was in the hospital. He just couldn't sleep right now; he had way too much on his mind. In retrospect, almost everything he couldn't stop thinking about had to do with tomorrow.
His biggest concern was his bullies. What would they say, or do to him? In fact, what would the whole school have to say about him? There was no doubt in his mind that everyone knew what happened, and they would definitely have something to say. Was he ready to hear it? Could he handle everyone talking about him behind his back – or worse, was he ready to face them and what they had to say to his face?
Sighing, Carlos turned his head to the side, looking at James and Kendall, who were fast asleep on the air mattress by his bed. The two of them offered to stay the night with him, in case he needed them for anything. He contemplated waking them up, but he quickly decided against it; just because he couldn't sleep, didn't mean they shouldn't get to. But despite his current bought of insomnia, Carlos smiled a little at his sleeping friends. He knew that no matter what happened tomorrow, they would be there for him, and that made him feel just a little bit better.
Carlos sighed heavily and rolled over onto his side, closing his eyes before he could catch a glimpse of the clock on his bedside table, and slowly drifted off to sleep.
"Since when do you drink coffee mijo?" Mrs. Garcia asked her son, who currently had his face, more or less, inside of his mug.
"Since I got probably an hour of sleep?" Carlos mumbled, stifling a yawn. The raised the cup to his lips and took a long sip.
Mrs. Garcia sighed. "Maybe you should stay home today," she mused.
"Sylvia, he's fine." Officer Garcia insisted, giving his son a small smile. "He's a Garcia. We bounce back like super balls."
Carlos smiled at his dad and drank some more of his coffee, hoping it would wake him up a little. His mom looked disbelieving but didn't say anything, and returned back to the kitchen to finish up the dishes she had abandoned previously. Officer Garcia looked over at his son, worry lines evident in his forehead that Carlos hadn't noticed before. "Are you sure you're going to be okay today?" he asked him.
Carlos forced a smile. "Like you said dad. Super balls." he replied simply. Officer Garcia smiled at his son, and much to Carlos' relief, that was the end of their conversation. As anxious as he was about returning to school the last thing he wanted, or needed, was his parents worrying about him. It was bad enough that James and Kendall had been watching over him like a pair of mother hawks since last night; he didn't want to burden anyone else anymore.
Speaking of the devils, James and Kendall appeared into the kitchen, greeting the Garcia family with "good morning"s. "Morning boys," Mrs. Garcia smiled at the two of them.
"You ready to go, Carlos?" Kendall asked, adjusting his backpack straps on his shoulder. "We're going to be late if we don't get going soon."
Carlos sighed. He wasn't anywhere near ready, but once again, he forced a smile and stood up. He then decided at that moment it was good he didn't have any breakfast because he was almost positive he would've thrown it up right then and there. "Yeah. Let's go," he said. His mom gave him a kiss goodbye and demanded that he call her as soon as he got home from school, and his dad joked about driving him to school in his police car – which Carlos politely declined. The three boys said their goodbyes, and they exited the house, getting into Kendall's car.
James let Carlos sit in the passenger's seat and after the three of them were situated, Kendall started driving them to school. And that's when Carlos was sure he was having an anxiety attack. His chest felt tight, his stomach was flipping, and he couldn't sit still. There was no point in trying to hide it now, he was a wreck.
Jumping wildly when he felt a pair of hands on his shoulders, Carlos exhaled shakily as James started to squeeze his shoulders as if he were massaging them. "You're so tense," he muttered. Carlos just nodded in reply, exhaling shakily again. "Hey, it's going to be okay, Los." James told him. "Don't even stress over it; the day will be over before you know it."
"He's right, and we're going to be there all day." Kendall added. "And if you need us, don't hesitate to call or something."
"We'll gladly ditch class for you." James said, sounding almost proud of that statement, and Carlos forced a chuckle out.
"I'm fine," he mumbled, but even he didn't believe it.
"It's going to be okay," James repeated, patting him on the back. "You'll be alright. You're a fighter, Los."
Carlos bit his lip. A fighter, a super ball… people seemed pretty fond of calling him things he didn't even think that he was.
It was like something out of a movie; Carlos, James and Kendall had entered the halls and everyone went silent. Carlos was sure you could hear a pin drop as he awkwardly made his way down the hall, James and Kendall on either side of him incase they had to intervene in any way. But nobody made any movements; the entire student body seemed to just stop whatever they were doing just to stare at him. Like he was a ghost or something, like they couldn't believe their eyes.
Carlos hated being the center of attention. He had this nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach, and it felt like there was a weight pressing down on the back of his neck, keeping his head down as he walked to homeroom. And for some reason, the walk seemed further than it had been before; no long was he just walking down the hall to another classroom, it was more like he was walking from Minnesota to Los Angeles.
A single sound shattered the silence, and Carlos – as well as James and Kendall – nearly jumped out of his skin. But he finally raised his head, trying to pay no mind to the staring eyes watching his every move and for the first time all morning, a real smile stretched across his lips.
Laura abandoned her open locker and book bag to run to Carlos, who opened his arms immediately upon seeing her nearing him, and engulfed him in a big bear hug. She didn't ask how he felt, or how he was doing, she just stood there a moment with him and hugged him. And Carlos appreciated this kind of silence more than the silence of everyone staring at him like he was a circus freak, holding her tightly.
Before breaking their hug, Laura placed a shy kiss on his cheek before telling him, "I'll walk you to homeroom."
Smiling gratefully, for a moment Carlos forgot about everyone's eyes on him as he took his friend's hand and walked with her to his classroom, James and Kendall following silently behind him.
This day seemed to last longer than it should have, or at least that's how Carlos felt right now. It was only 9:22 in the morning, two more hours until lunch where he would at least be able to enjoy himself. Currently, he was just sitting in his English class, praying to be euthanized or something. At least he had Laura next to him to make the time a bit more enjoyable, as the two of them were passing notes to each other, commenting on their teacher's new up-do and how it made her head look like a lemon. Carlos liked this, stifling laughter and feeling genuinely happy with a good friend. It wasn't that Kendall and James weren't good friends; they were his best friends. But it was different with Laura because unlike Kendall and James, she wasn't concerned with his well-being or asking him how he was every five minutes or ready to launch themselves at anyone who looked at him the wrong way, Laura just wanted to make him smile. She knew to give him space, but not so much where he felt that usual loneliness. She was just what he needed on his first day back. Especially with everyone staring at him right now.
It was just like the day when Carlos realized everyone was starting to blame him for Logan's death. He remembered walking into his classroom, this exact same one, and everyone was staring at him. And it wasn't like how they usually looked at him, particularly after Logan's death when everyone would just stare at him with pity in their eyes and he could just tell that they felt bad for him. It transformed that day to some sort of looks that Carlos couldn't decipher, but it was as if they knew something about them that they didn't know; now Carlos knew that they were looking at him as a murderer.
Today was kind of like that day, but at the same time, it was like before – how everyone was looking at him, that was. Half of the people in his class, as well as the entire school, were giving him that pitied look, while the remainder still looked at him like he was the devil or something. They all probably thought that he deserved what had happened to him.
For a while, Carlos thought the same way.
When it first happened, when Nate and his friends jumped him, he thought that all of it was like karma or something. Because it was like the universe was showing him how Logan felt for the longest time – hurt, beaten, ignored. And Carlos had felt it all at once, one blow after the other. So it definitely made sense to him that he deserved what he got, and for a while after it happened, he wished that the pills had worked just a little bit faster. Because it was only fair right? Logan had been treated like crap for the longest time, and he was blind to it. Now it was sort of like it was his turn to be treated like crap, to know what it was like to actually want to die. Logan had felt that way, Carlos knew it for sure, but instead of being blind to it like Carlos was to him, Logan helped him still. Even if he wasn't with him anymore, Logan still managed to save him.
Figures; even after death, Logan was still way better to him than he deserved.
But Carlos was determined to make it up to him, and he was going to do that in the only way he thought possible: he was going to make his life worth living. He wasn't going to live in fear anymore, or act like his life didn't matter anymore. It was like Logan told him when he saw him in his dream – "When you eventually do go back things are going to be… weird. The jerks who beat you up got suspended, and they keep their distance from now on. A lot of people feel bad about what happened to you, but I'm not going to lie, some will think you deserved it. All in all, it's just going to be another roadblock you're going to have to make it through but you will be able to make it through." – he would be able to do it. He was going to turn things around, starting today.
When the door to his classroom suddenly opened, Carlos felt his stomach drop. Walking inside was Nate, the guy who had beat him up just about a month ago. The guy who had been tormenting him and his friends for the better part of this year. The guy who probably treated Logan just as bad, if not worse, than that. And here was, right in front of him.
Carlos swallowed thickly. He had no idea turning things around would've started so soon.
Nate kept eye contact with him as he walked to their teacher, handing her his late pass. Carlos didn't look away, he couldn't, and neither could anybody else in the class. Perhaps the only person oblivious to it all was their teacher.
Finally, Carlos broke eye contact, looking down at his notebook. He could feel Laura's eyes on him, but she didn't say anything and neither did he. He took a deep, calming breath, reminding himself that he was strong and he would make it through this day, even if Nate was back. He was going to be strong and brave, and he was going to be okay. He had Laura, and James, and Kendall – the three of them had his back. And he had Logan in a way – angel Logan. Yeah, Carlos was going to be okay.
He glanced up and saw that Nate had taken a seat rather closely to him, and he felt his heart stop. 'It's okay' he told himself, only he wasn't entirely sure if that was a lie or not.
As soon as Carlos ended, Carlos was arguably the first person out of the room; he had left so fast for a moment he wondered if he even heard the homework assignment. But he didn't dwell on that for long; he had other things on his mind.
Quickly, he made a beeline for the boys' bathroom, the same one where Nate and his friends had beat the hell out of James previously – oh the irony, he thought – and he checked that he was the only person in there. Once that was confirmed, he grabbed his phone from his pocket and texted both James and Kendall, which was probably just a lot of gibberish because his hands were shaking terribly but he told them to come here as soon as they could.
In what was probably record time, the bathroom door was opened so roughly that it banged against the back wall and James and Kendall had arrived. "We saw Laura after the bell rang," Kendall explained. "And when we saw you weren't with her, we had a feeling something wasn't right."
"Your text kind of confirmed that," James added, waving his phone up in the air. Carlos caught a glimpse of it and yeah, nothing but gibberish on the screen. His cheeks flushed slightly at that.
"So what's up?" Kendall asked, a familiar panic setting off his tone.
"N-" Carlos could barely say it without the words getting caught in his throat. His heart started to pound a little bit harder than usual and he felt the need to suddenly throw up. "Nate…"
"What about Nate, Carlos?" James asked slowly, sounding torn between nervousness and sudden rage.
Carlos swallowed thickly, struggling to get his thoughts – and himself – together. "He's – he's back. At school," he explained softly. "I, um, he was in class today and… I don't know, I guess it freaked me out. Like, what the heck is he doing back? I thought he was suspended? How is he back the same day I am?!"
"Carlos, breathe, calm down," Kendall told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. Carlos took a deep breath, as per his instructions, and Kendall rubbed his shoulder a bit, hoping to ease away the tension. "Don't worry about Nate, okay," he told him. "I promise he won't lay a finger on you ever again. Not while me and James are around to teach him a few lessons,"
"And besides," James added. "He's on, like, major surveillance from all of the teachers. They know what he did to you and he won't be getting off easy-"
James was interrupted by the sound of the bathroom door opening and none other than Nate walked inside.
Instant silence fell upon the four boys, and Carlos swore he felt like he was going to go into cardiac arrest, as his heart was definitely working in overdrive right now. An eerie smile creeped its way onto Nate's face and he said, "The four of us together again. Some things never change, do they?"
Instinctively, James moved closer to Kendall but put on a brave face, telling Nate, "Just leave Carlos alone okay?"
"Or what?" Nate challenged.
"Or this time, you'll be in the one in the intensive care unit," Kendall replied instantaneously.
"Kendall," Carlos murmured softly, trying to get the point across to his friend that he didn't want any violence.
Kendall got Carlos' hint and took a deep breath, putting the flame out on his temper and said to Nate, "Just leave us all alone, okay? We don't care for you as much as you, for whatever reason, don't care for us. So how about we just avoid the hell out of each other? Okay?"
Nate rolled his eyes for a moment. "You just don't get it do you?" he asked them. "Any of you?" the other three boys were quite and Nate continued, "What gives the three of you the right to walk around every single day without a care in the world, when your so-called friend Logan is buried six feet under because of you three?"
Carlos flinched at the verbal blow but he held his ground. He promised to himself and Logan that things were going to turn around; no longer was he going to just stand by and let things happen. He was going to take action.
"What gives you the right to act like you know anything about us or Logan?" he snapped back, surprising everyone in the room. "You sure as hell weren't friends with Logan, how do you know-"
"Everyone knows," Nate cut in. "Okay, everyone in the whole school knew that the four of you stopped being friends and everyone knows that's why Logan killed himself; because you guys abandoned him,"
"You don't know that!" Carlos snapped, feeling his anger bubbling within. "You don't know a thing about Logan, or us, and frankly, I'd appreciate it if you stopped acting like you're doing the world a huge favor by beating us up because of what you think happened. You don't know Logan and you don't know why he killed himself – we do, though, and it isn't any of your damn business." Carlos took a step forward, closing the gap between him and Nate. Up close, Carlos was painfully reminded of how short he was in comparison to Nate, who was near Kendall's and James' height. But right now, he felt like he was ten feet tall. "But do you want to know the truth?" he asked. "Logan killed himself because people like you treated him terribly every single day of his life. Yeah, we didn't help the situation when we stopped being friends, but you and all of your ape friends who shoved him into lockers and stuffed him into trashcans and beat him up in the locker room sure didn't do anything to save him. So obviously, you're just as much to blame and if you want to rid the world of evil, why don't you try starting with yourself?" Carlos' chest was heaving, adrenaline pumping through his veins. Never had he felt so… he couldn't eve describe how he felt right now, but it felt amazing.
Nate didn't say anything for a long time, in fact nobody did. They were probably in shock that Carlos actually stood up for himself just then. Carlos was a little surprised himself; he had no idea that he had it in him. But a little voice in the back of his mind – a voice that sounded oddly similar to Logan's – told him that deep down, he knew he could do this all along.
"Look," Carlos said in a quiet voice. "I know that you probably think I'm awful because of what happened to Logan, but we can't go the rest of our lives just hating each other. We don't have to like each other, but spreading all of this hate isn't going to help anyone." Carlos extended his hand to Nate. "Like Kendall said, we can avoid each other all we want but… it's time to end all of the blame games we've been pinning on each other." He paused for a moment. "Truce?"
In what felt like hours, was probably only a few seconds, a minute at most, but still, the bathroom remained silent as Carlos stood there with his hand out, feeling nothing but vulnerable. Then finally, Nate took his hand and shook it. A smile spread across Carlos' face, and he watched as Nate, Kendall, and James all shook hands as well. Then without another word, Nate left them alone.
Sighing heavily, Carlos nearly fell back into James and Kendall's arms, who immediately pulled him into the tightest three-way hug imaginable, telling him how proud they were of him, how they knew he could do this, how amazing he was for doing what he did. And Carlos felt like he could cry right then and there because he was proud of himself as well.
Carlos smiled because for once, he truly felt like that super ball his dad said he was, or like the fighter James and Kendall said he was. But at the same time, he felt better than that.
He felt… titanium. Like nothing could break him. And he glanced up at the ceiling, hoping Logan was looking down on him, smiling and proud. A part of him knew for a fact that he was.
a/n2: I don't usually do notes at the end of chapters BUT I'm making an exception this time to tell you all that I'm going to try super hard to make sure the next update doesn't take as long lol and that I really hope you all thought this chapter was worth the wait :)