A/N: I should reeeealy be working on AKMD at the moment... Instead of writing angsty depressing oneshots. Anyway. I owe all you guys an apology for the huge gap in writings; I should be back on track, though, since school's FINALLY out, as of two hours ago, and Al is grounded from video games again (I get the laptop!)

This is a true story, to the most extent. Enjoy - you deserve it!

Matthew flung his backpack down on the couch, falling next to it and leaning back with a sigh. He winced; the boys had caught him again last night, and his chest still hurt from their beating if he breathed too deeply. He cast a glance around the living room, assessing the situation. There was work to do.

He had a routine worked out, after school every day; first he would walk back to the house from the high school—sometimes run if the boys were after him—and then he'd make sure everything was taken care of. Most of the time hardly anything was, and that left him with the usual chores before dinner; cleaning up and doing the laundry, mostly. Sometimes there were other things, like checking the fridge to make sure there were no spoiled leftovers or walking to the store to buy them more milk or eggs, but he normally simply made sure everything was taken care of, since his mother didn't do much. Now, Matthew pulled himself wearily to his feet and headed out of the room to get the laundry hamper.

His mother had just recently decided she was going to get help for her depression, but if anything, the counselor she was seeing had just made it worse. She'd been even more fragile over the past months—like tiptoeing over broken glass through every conversation Matthew had with her, constantly making him have to calculate his next words or twist them so they wouldn't offend her. When she was offended, she got angry. Which led to suicidal thoughts. Which led to her blaming Matthew for her depression. Which led to his father believing the stupid, misplaced blame and punishing him. There was a cycle to his life. And until something changed, he would never truly have a place to call home.

"How was school, Matthew?"

He and his mother stood side-by side in front of the washer, as she handed him the clothes from the basket and he soaped the stains and threw them into the water. She had actually decided to help today—but far from being grateful, all Matthew could worry about was getting away as soon as possible so she couldn't pick a fight and get him into trouble.

"Er, good," he lied cautiously, scrubbing out another stain. To tell his mom about the whispers of faggot and man-whore that followed him through the school hallways would be like giving himself a death sentence. But he couldn't help that he was gay—nor could he help that he looked a fair bit more feminine than the other guys. Everyone except his two fiercely loyal friends, Gil and Miguel*, hated him for it.

He'd used to have three friends. Until the fight had happened.

It had been clear that he and Alfred had chosen separate paths for themselves for almost two years prior to when he'd finally snapped, and he still secretly envied the handsome, athletic boy with a burning jealousy. He had everything that Matthew didn't; a perfect family, parents who cared and loved and accepted their son for who he was, and an entire busload of friends. Alfred was contagiously happy and carefree, great at sports and confident and loud and open and cool and so fucking annoying. Just seeing the boy with his crowd of fans made Matthew's stomach turn in anger and fists clench, itching to punch the traitor's face off and not really sure why, because he'd known it would happen sooner or later. When someone was blessed with Alfred's great looks and insane level of talent, you didn't expect them to hang around with the scared, wimpy, gay loser of the school. Oh, no; those kind of things didn't even happen in movies.

Matthew was a wreck. He felt like a complete failure compared to his former best friend; he was shy and silent, nervous all the time, deathly afraid of people and angry to top it off. The walls he'd built himself were so thick now that he could barely even glimpse the world beyond. He had so many secrets bottled up inside of him that if he kept many more, he would explode. Snap. Become mentally unstable, just like his mother. He had been cutting himself since seventh grade, and whenever he wore short sleeves or a tank top, was practically unable to function properly because he was so afraid someone would catch sight of the large, jagged red scars slashing over his forearms and mauling the pale flesh of his shoulders, and angry with himself for putting them there. Fresh gashes often appeared in the mess. Matthew had trouble sleeping at night and getting up in the mornings, was almost never hungry anymore, and felt like all this stupid guilt was ripping him apart inside, piece by piece. After all, if he just hadn't been so petty and envious and hateful, the fight never would've happened and he might actually still have a best friend. But at the same time he was so jealous of Alfred, longing to be carefree and popular just like the jock was. There were times when he wanted to confront him and scream in his face as he'd been longing to do for months now, ever since the fight. He wanted to yell at Alfred for being so fucking perfect, for making him act like this, for throwing this guilt on his shoulders and making him snap and never listening and leaving him in the dust—even though none of those things was really his fault. Matthew felt guiltier.

So instead, he sank into the shadows with the vow to never care about himself again. There was no point. All it did was end up wounding others, and making him angrier by tenfold. Where there had used to be life and joy and curiosity in his violet eyes, now there was nothing but dark, glazed, inconsolable misery.

"...Matthew? Are you even listening to me?"

He jumped as his mother's voice cut sharply through his train of thought, smashing it to dust with the dangerous tone. She was all too close to one of her breakdowns.

Matthew turned to her, closing the lid to the washer and turning the knobs to set it. "Sorry, Ellen," he said quietly. Most people found it odd that he called his parents by their first names. They thought it sounded more respectful. They demanded his respect—but secretly, that was the one thing he would never give to them.

His mom nodded curtly and continued on talking, watching as he picked up the laundry basket and started up the stairs, and following close behind. "Matthew, I know you don't like to talk about school, but I want to know what's going on in your life! After all, I am your mother. We've lived together since you were born. Don't you trust me?"

False concern. False interest. Ellen didn't really want to know. Matthew put away the laundry basket, turned back to her and looked her straight in the eyes. Maybe all the thoughts about Alfred had made him angry and reckless, because normally that stupid, corny line from her mouth would've been like a warning siren screeching in his head, but now he didn't really care anymore. Matthew glared into her eyes and uttered a single word:


The reaction was immediate. Brown eyes welled with false tears, and his mother broke into an enraged stream of yelling; Matthew winced as soon as he'd taken the bait.

"Oh, I see how it is! I'll never be good enough for you, will I? I don't even know why I try to care about your day anymore! I've never given you a reason not to trust me! You stupid, ungrateful—"

Her voice faded out of Matthew's head as he quickly glanced at his watch. He stood up. His father would be home in five minutes.

And that meant Matthew had to get out of here—fast.

Unless, of course, he'd like another emotional beating.

Matthew folded the last shirt and headed out of the room, his mother still following close behind. "Don't you turn away from me, you coward! Look at me when I'm talking to you—"

He ran down the hall, grabbed a light jacket that he knew wouldn't be enough against the pouring rain that was now drumming angrily against the roof, and leapt out the front door, not really caring that he'd be freezing soon. All he wanted was to get away. It slammed in his mother's face as he ran out into the rain.

Matthew dashed out of the driveway, turning down the road and picking up the pace for all he was worth, sprinting furiously with his heart jammed uncomfortably against the inside of his ribs and a lump beginning to rise in his throat. He choked on sob and forced it back down. He didn't know where he was going, and he didn't care—he just wanted to get away. Away from his miserable life, away from his dysfunctional parents, away from the house he'd never felt was home. Matthew didn't have a home. He never would.

The cold had seeped into his skin now, but he didn't stop running, his own pulse and the strength of the wind rushing in his ears. Rain splattered into his face and clouded his glasses, but he didn't care—he just let his legs carry him, not thinking, reveling in the frigid drops rolling down his back and soaking through the thin jacket. Salty tears streamed down his face, but they mingled with the freshness of the rain as he put on another determined, angry burst of speed against the wind. Matthew's muscles ached from their bruises and cuts and scars, his legs burning with exhaustion already, but he didn't stop.

The rain stung his eyes as his tears turned bitter, and Matthew suddenly wanted to scream. He wanted to kick something, or throw something, or punch someone dead in the face and feel their nose crack and warm blood spurting over his fingers. He wanted to yell at the top of his lungs. Matthew swiped at a rock and sent it flying into the woods alongside the road, but it didn't even begin to give justice to the months and months' worth of anger and hatred all bottled up inside him. He wanted to explode. A ragged sob ripped its way out of his throat, and soon he was crying so hard with bitter, angry tears he could barely run anymore. Matthew squeezed his eyes shut and let his legs carry him.

When he finally opened his eyes again, he was so thoroughly soaked and frozen he could no longer feel his fingers and toes. He was standing in front of a big white house, its wide windows lit with an inviting golden glow that only made his heart ache more and anger bubble more furiously as he stood just beyond the front walkway, staring at it like a small, lost puppy dumped in the rain. The warm light in the windows twinkled cheerfully against the rainstorm. He felt so lonely and sad, but it was bitterness and hatred that were gnawing at his stomach. He wondered which could win.

Shivering and soaked, Matthew trudged slowly up to the big glass front door, lit with the beautiful golden light. The room beyond was distorted by the patterns in the glass, but he could see the darker figures of two people moving around, and another flopped down on the couch. He knew who the one on the couch would be. But still, he had nowhere else to go.

Matthew took a deep breath, reached out, and rung the bell.

The boy on the couch looked around, and through a moment of dread he felt his stomach drop and considered running away again, spending the night outside tonight. But almost as soon as that irrational idea slipped into his mind, the door had swung open, and there stood Alfred.

"Hey..." Alfred began, but his voice seemed to disappear as he saw Matthew standing there, drenched to the skin and his face flushed from crying. The grin on his face quickly dissolved to be replaced with a shadow of worry and confusion. "Matt?" he asked, voice suddenly a little hoarse. "What are you doing here?"

Matthew barely trusted himself to speak, his voice was shaking so badly. He swallowed the lump that had gathered painfully in his throat. "M-my parents... Ellen was at it again, I couldn't just stay there..." He looked up at Alfred, trying desperately not to cry and biting his lip to hold back the tears. "I didn't have anywhere else to g-go..."

Alfred looked worried and devastated enough to make Matthew's heart feel like it was cracking. Finally, the taller boy licked his lips and spoke. "You told me she was over that," he murmured hoarsely.

Matthew shook his head, lower lip quivering. He didn't trust himself to speak.

"God, I'm a shitty friend," Alfred muttered, swallowing hard. "Please don't tell me you walked all the way here in the rain, Mattie..."

"Ran," Matthew forced out, the tears in his violet eyes finally welling over to slip down his cheeks. Alfred just stood, watching him for a moment. If Matthew hadn't been staring at the wet ground, he might have caught sight of his blue eyes shining with tears as well. Alfred quickly blinked them away, holding the door open for his friend.

"C'mon in, Matt—there's plenty of room for one more."

Matthew risked a glance upward, wiping furiously at his eyes, and smiled a little when he saw Alfred standing aside. He gratefully stepped over the threshold, into the warm glow of light and happiness inside the house washing over him. The TV was still on, paused in the middle of Alfred's video game, and his parents stood in the doorway to the kitchen, fingers laced together as they watched him step inside. Arthur and Francis smiled a little sadly as their son stood protectively behind Matthew, with one warm, calloused hand on his shoulder.

"He needs to stay with us," Alfred told them. "He can have the spare bed in my room."

Arthur nodded, stepping toward Matthew and looking at him for a moment before pulling him into a hug, not seeming to care that he was soaked to the skin and freezing.

"You might as well be our second son, lad," he murmured in a warm British accent as he felt Matthew tentatively hug him back. He held the small boy tighter. "I want you to know that we love you like one."

"There's some times when I just... want to blow up," Matthew whispered.

He and Alfred sat across from each other on Al's American flag bedspread, and had been talking for hours now, the rain outside pattering against the window and trickling like tears down its glass. Al had demanded to know what had been going on in Matthew's home since the fight, and much to his surprise, Matt had actually told him. And here they sat, Alfred listening intently and Matthew carefully letting out bits and pieces as he forced himself to talk to his former best friend. Was it sad that he'd nearly forgotten how to talk about something deeper than what the weather outside was doing? And it was painful, stomach-wrenching the way Alfred simply sat there quietly and listened. Why couldn't he have done this earlier, when things still could've been repaired?

"Why don't you?" Al asked quietly. "Why don't you explode?"

Matt hesitated, twisting his hands nervously. "My mom can't take it," he finally forced out. Alfred sighed.

"No, Mattie. There must be a better reason. You want to know what I think it is?"

Matthew looked up into the blue eyes that were painfully honest and open, and slowly, cautiously nodded.

Alfred went on, taking Matthew's hand across the bed. "I think it's because you don't see that you are the kindest, smartest, sweetest, most wonderful person there is on this earth. And you think you'll just hurt others if you let it all out, so you hide your feelings. You're so scared that if people see what's really happening to you, they'll run away and leave you—like I did. And I was the stupidest bastard on the planet for doing that, Mattie. I knew that from the second I was out the door. All you wanted was to be left alone—but I decided that I just had to know everything that was going on, with no idea of how serious it really was. You were in pain, Matt, and you might still be, but just know that I care. Okay, bro? I'm not ever walking out on you again."

Matthew held Al's hand tighter, blinking back tears. It wasn't that simple. Alfred didn't know. And yet, Matthew felt like if he ever let go of that warm, strong hand, his lifeline and hope and what was left of his happiness would be lost completely, forever. He clung to Al.

"You're a genuine American idiot," he whispered.

Al met his eyes, a hint of that cocky grin sneaking into his gaze. "How so?" he asked, only half-teasing.

Matthew took a deep breath, blinking furiously to try and clear his eyes of tears, and forced himself to speak. He was already braced for what would probably be the very end of his and Alfred's friendship after this, because oh God, he'd reveal too much and it would all come pouring out and Al would never meet his eyes again because he was so disgusting, and dreading it more than death itself. But once he'd started, he couldn't stop.

"You're so happy. All the time. It makes me wonder sometimes if you ever really cared about or understood anything I told you, because you have such a great life of your own and wonderful friends and grades and parents and your family has money. I felt like all I was doing was tainting that happy atmosphere around you, so I left. And you didn't protest. I felt like you shoved me out, even though a tiny piece of me realized it was my own fault. I knew that meant I'd been nothing more than a burden all along—and that stung.

"You never, ever mess up. There's not a single imperfection near you, on you or inside you. You're handsome, you're not a fucking fag like me, you're so upbeat you're like a magnet for friends and I've never seen you miss a shot in basketball. Your hair is hot and messy just like girls love, and your eyes are bluer than the sea. You've got that one curl that sticks up in the front, and it bounces a little when you run. You're gorgeous, Al. And don't you even fucking think of denying it, because I know you know it.

"I love it when you call me Mattie. It's a bit cutesie, yes, but I love the warm feeling it gives me—like I can count on you, and you know me better than anyone else ever will. And I love it but it hurts because after all I've put you through, even though part of me feels like you deserved it, I won't ever be able to repay you for all the unconditional care and devotion you've given me.

"And now we come to the bad qualities. You never listened to me. You were arrogant and ignorant and thought you knew what pain was but had no real clue in hell. When I'd try to talk to you, on some of the rare occasions, you'd wave it off as a game. I didn't know what to do anymore, you just made me so fucking angry, and you still do!"

Matthew's voice was raising now, shaking with suppressed tears, but he didn't even care enough to lower it again. He didn't care whether Al's parents heard or not, and he didn't care what Al thought of him anymore; this was a flood, and he was powerless to stop it.

"You passed everything off as a fucking joke when I needed you most, and you abandoned me! When I was open to you, wanting you to ask, and care, and wanting to talk to you, you would blow me off and go hang out with your stupid little jock friends. And then, once I'd given up on ever being able to talk to you about my problems, or secrets, or anything, you came sauntering back and started trying to break down my walls. It was too late, though—and I reacted before I could even think. I threw you out. It's a reflex, and a trigger mechanism for me anymore. Protect myself. And every time I've seen you since that fight, I feel guilty for being so mean and jealous because you have such a perfect life and I fucking HATE YOU FOR MAKING ME LOVE YOU SO MUCH THAT I JUST CAN'T FUCKING LET YOU GO!"

Matthew took a shuddering breath, tears running silently down his face. "I hate you and I love you and it's hell to be left wondering which will win. I'm afraid to close my eyes anymore because whenever I do, I always see you."

The silence rang for a few moments, before it stretched on, and Matthew let his gaze fall on the white stars in front of him on the bedspread. Alfred didn't speak, and he sat with his back turned to Matthew now, completely still and quiet.

But when Matthew looked closer, he could see the taller boy's shoulders shaking.

And then a quiet sob cut through the air.

Alfred was crying.

"Oh God, Mattie, did you really have all that shit bottled up inside you?" he whispered, turning around to look him straight in the eyes. It was clear he'd been crying silently since at least halfway through that rant, his deep blue eyes red-rimmed and dark pink dusting his cheeks and nose. Tear streaks glistened on his face, even as more flooded over to stream down his cheeks. Alfred reached over to touch Matthew's face gently, biting his lip. "I'm so sorry... I'm the fucking worst friend on the face of the planet," he murmured, another wave of tears spilling over. "Come here," he pleaded, holding out his arms.

And then Matthew was crying too, crawling over to where Alfred sat on the bed and curling up in his lap as his tears soaked the taller boy's shoulder. Alfred's body was shaking with contained sobs, as Matt clung to him—his only support, the one that kept him sane, kept him in touch with the real world rather than simply listening the ghostly voices in his head, like his mother did.

"I love you, Al," he finally whispered, choked with tears. "I don't care anymore if you hate me for the rest of our lives, I just want you to know I love you no matter what I do to you. Because it's not just me in here; there's voices, and monsters, and they take me over sometimes. But you're my lifeline. You keep me from becoming just like my mom. Please... don't leave me alone."

Alfred's grip on him tightened, pulling him closer to the strong, warm chest. "Oh God, no; babe, why the hell would I leave you?"

Matthew shivered, wanting to pull away and stay closer and forcing himself to not move. "Because you're beautiful and popular and all the girls love you and I'm just a problem to sort out of that mess."

"No, Mattie," Alfred breathed again, now stroking his hair with a strong, unbearably gentle hand. He let a sad chuckle ghost over the smaller boy's ear. "I want you with me. I want people to see you with me; guess I should've told you earlier that I'm gay too, huh?"

Matthew buried his face in his shoulder, still crying softly even as a smile returned.

"Stupid American idiot," he whispered.

The end is for you to decide. Hope you liked!


Love from Maple