A/N: i can't write fanfiction anymore i don't know what i'm doing
He gets out of juvie on a very rainy day, and it's hot enough for all the moisture to stick to his clothes and skin, and by the time he gets to the bus stop, he's drenched in sweat and humidity. There's only one person on the bench, an older woman, and she looks at him like she's scared of him, so he doesn't sit down next to her. He pushes his back against the railing and waits.
His mobile is already buzzing with violent fervor. He'd thought they'd wiped his memory card clean with the amount of snooping they did, but it still works, as much as it did before. Pest's name and a blurry picture of half his face pop up on the screen. He got out before Moses. The most he got was a month in juvie for the THC in his system when they found him. Moses has been gone for six months, enough time for the probation worker to prove that he didn't slaughter all those people, with eye-witness reports from Dennis's sister and Sam. Biggz offered to take the stand but Probation Worker Bethany said she didn't think he could do it. He's gone mental, that's what everyone said; he never even came to visit Moses.
Pest did, but Moses didn't accept the visitations after the first one. It was hard. He hoped Pest didn't hate him for it. He probably didn't because now that Biggz has retreated inside his mind, they're the only ones left. Moses missed Dennis and Jerome's funerals. Pest told him that he hadn't even been invited, all wide eyes and angrily thin lips, but Moses didn't expect anything different. He might as well have slaughtered them, too.
The bus screeches to a stop in front of him. Pest's name disappears from the phone and the screen flashes: one new voicemail. Moses deletes it without thinking twice.
The inside of his apartment is still singed mostly everywhere, but Probation Worker Bethany arranged for the gaping hole in the side of the building to be repaired. All that's left is a little clean-up but Moses is too tired to do even that. He starts peeling off his clothes, slowly, cracking open the window to feel a bit of the breeze. Everything starts getting really quiet and Moses can't take the silence; he starts thinking, and he starts remembering. He half-expects the door to swing open, for Dennis to be standing there with a stolen frozen pizza and a bag of chips, with Biggz and Jerome in tow. Pest would be a bit late, coming up with an excuse for his nan. He'd have the weed. They'd sit around and talk about nothing and everything, until Pest would doze off on Moses's shoulder, and Biggz would collapse in a ball on the bed, and everyone would wake up at noon to the sound of Jerome's mobile blaring.
Dennis and Jerome are buried far under the ground. Dennis stopped existing the moment Moses watched his throat get torn open. The last he heard of Jerome was a faint scream. He won't answer Pest's calls. He refuses to think about it. He refuses to think about anything.
The breeze gets stronger, whipping around clouds of ash in the room, and Moses tucks his knees to his chin and presses the back of his head to the coffee table. He starts humming, until the humming becomes a buzzing noise, until the buzzing is an audible hiss and he can't feel or see or hear anything anymore.
He wakes up without ever realizing he fell asleep. The room is dark and the city below sings with the sounds of nighttime; the rushing of wheels and horns and laughter. Moses aches with longing to go back to the times when he was down there, laughing and showing off the tricks on his bike, and watching everyone else try to keep up.
His wristwatch says it's almost midnight, and he's feeling a little restless and can't go back to sleep now, so he pulls himself to his feet and starts searching blindly for his clothes.
And the doorbell rings.
Moses knows who it is but he freezes in the spot because he doesn't want to answer it. He doesn't want to see Pest. He can't be reminded. He can't, he can't, he can't.
"Mose!" His voice is deeper somehow, desperate and hoarse. "You're fucking in there, you wanker. I know you're fucking in there."
Moses clutches the fabric in his hands and starts slowly towards the door. His body is shaking. He doesn't know why. He can't feel like this again, not after Dennis, not after Jerome. Not after what he did to them. All by his fucking self.
The knocking becomes a pounding and the angry whispers are shouts. "Fucking let me in, Moses!"
The door bursts open. Pest stands there in his stupid as fuck The Who shirt that he bought when he went through his gay classic rock stage in the seventh grade. Light spills in, yellow and warm like sunlight. His eyes are red like he's been crying, and he still is, and Moses stands there in his boxers and his jacket clutched in his hands.
And Pest says, "I fucking hate you, I really do," and he's still crying, and Moses feels like flying away.
Pest grips for his shoulders and fumbles with the taut skin, and his hands are cold on the back of Moses's neck, and his face is slick and wet where it pushes into his chest, and Moses has ruined everything. He drops his jacket, listens to it fall with a muffled thud, pushes his hands into Pest's hair and remembers the last time, and the last time, and the last time.
Dennis and Jerome are dead. He doesn't say that out loud. He doesn't have to. They know, they know, they watched it happen. Pest said he can still remember the blood pouring from Jerome's mouth, choking his screams for help. And Pest couldn't do anything.
The clock ticks slowly to midnight. Pest doesn't stop crying. Moses tries, but his eyes stay dry.
Looking at him is hard, so Moses avoids it as much as he can. Pest wakes up a little past noon and scrubs his face tiredly, glancing around the room.
"Your probation worker had them fix up everything?"
Moses nods quietly. "Mostly everything."
Pest's eyes are still red but they don't talk about that. It hurts to think about their sudden vulnerability; they used to be so strong, and the idea of their weakness becoming prevalent to everyone is terrifying. Biggz was the one who they always had to protect. Now they have to protect each other, and the feeling is strange and bitter on the inside of their mouths.
"Biggz is —" Pest cuts himself off, swallows hard. "He's okay, you know. I've seen him a couple times."
Privately, Moses thinks that seeing Biggz twice in the past six months doesn't mean shit for his mental health, but he doesn't say that. He wants to hope, too, even if it's foolishly. "Maybe we can go see him."
Pest nods hopefully. "Yeah, he's just — he moved away from here. A ways away from the block. His mum — you know."
Moses doesn't know, but he can guess. Biggz's mum moved him away from the block just so that Pest and Moses couldn't see him, because they were always bad influences on her precious kid, and now that this — now that Dennis and Jerome — she must've decided now was the best time.
Pest tilts his head at Moses and he knows exactly what Pest is looking at. The scar on the side of his face won't go away; he'd been given antibiotics, everything, but the gash is still there, barely even scabbed over, ugly and big. The doctors told him it won't go away. Moses instinctively puts his hand over it, glancing away.
"Mine won't, either," Pest says, tugging up his pant leg to show Moses the bite wound. "I'm gonna walk with a limp forever, cuz."
Moses doesn't look at him, doesn't even answer. "Where does Biggz live, then?" Everything starts closing in and if he doesn't leave his flat soon, he feels like he'll suffocate with the force of the memories that still linger on the walls.
Pest doesn't smile, but his lips flick upwards in the beginnings of something.
Biggz moved to a subdivision. All the houses look the same, every last one of them, and the bus ride out there took at least a half hour of deafening silence. There's a cobblestone driveway and everything. It makes Moses a little sick to imagine Biggz living out here, away from them.
The door opens very slowly, and Biggz's mum peers out warily. "Boys." Her voice is thick and raspy. Moses thinks she might be ill. "Out of juvie, then, Moses?"
"Yes'm," Moses mumbles, struggling to meet her eyes. "Is, ah, Biggz in?"
A misty look goes over her eyes and she cranes her neck slightly before nodding, almost reluctantly. The door swings open and she ushers them in. "He's in the back room. First door on the left of the hallway."
Pest leads the way, and Moses imagines that he's been here only once before, imagines that Biggz was still holed up in his room even then. The door clicks open and creaks a little, and Moses has to bite his tongue from saying anything, because he expected this, he did.
The room is dark, the absence of light made even more obvious by its only source: a flickering telly, cartoons playing at a low enough volume for Moses to wonder how Biggz even hears it. Biggz himself is curled up on his bed, wrapped in a blanket, and he barely even moves his head when they step onto the shag carpeting.
"Out of juvie, Moses?" His voice is so different, so quiet, so unlike Biggz, and it makes Moses regret ever coming to see him.
He can almost see the blood on his hands when he stares at them. "Got out yesterday."
Biggz sits up, and even that effort seems forced and unnatural. "There's a light switch right there." He points, and Moses flicks it up, blinking once or twice at the sudden flow of light. He can finally see Biggz fully, and there's a sick feeling in his stomach when he does. Biggz lost a lot of weight. He looks frail and fragile, so tiny, and it makes Moses hate himself.
"Hey, Pest." Biggz makes a visible attempt at a smile.
Pest lifts his hand awkwardly for a pseudo wave. "Hey, man."
"Everything okay in there?" Biggz's mum's tinny voice comes from beyond the door, and Moses imagines that she's standing there, wringing her hands nervously, waiting for something awful to happen.
"All fine." Biggz barely raises his voice but it seems to reassure her; Moses can hear her steps fading away from the door.
There's an uncomfortable silence for a moment before Pest clears his throat pointedly and says, "Well, we've come to kidnap you." He pauses and rephrases carefully. "Just for a bit of time in the city. We'll bring you back, bruv."
Biggz's shoulders quake slightly; Moses doesn't miss it, but it's gone after a brief second. "I — I don't know if I can. Maybe. You're coming, too, Moses?" His eyes have become sunken in and hollow, and Moses can't look away from them. They're almost lifeless, dull with the weight of something without a name, and he feels like those eyes reflect everything that Moses has been feeling for six months.
He shakes away the darkness and nods, slowly. "Just for a little while, yeah?"
Biggz pulls the blanket off him and stands shakily. Bile rises in Moses's throat, just looking at how weak he's become; his legs are nothing but twigs, and he wonders how Biggz manages to even walk on them, how they even manage to support his frame.
"Yeah. I'll go. I will, yeah. Let me just — gotta tell mum." His legs crack audibly as he disappears down the hall.
Moses glances at Pest, but he won't look at him. He was lying when he said Biggz was fine, because he's not, and they know it. Pest swallows loudly and fingers the strings on his jacket, not saying a word.
The city is having one of those weird cold days in the middle of summer, something to do with the breeze, maybe. Throughout the entirety of the dya, Moses notices one thing about Biggz: he doesn't smile anymore. Every once in a while, it looks like he's about to, his lips twitching, but it's like something in his brain tells him to stop, and they go right back to the perpetual lifelessness that has become his trademark.
And he doesn't eat. They nicked a few candies off the shelf at the drugstore, offering some to Biggz, trying to feel something resembling normalcy again, but Biggz doesn't even look at them. He says he's not hungry, but more than once Moses can hear his stomach rumbling in protest.
Signs have started popping up in and around the city for a movie version of the incident at the block six months ago. Moses tries to avoid looking at them; a white boy, some Zac Efron type, is playing the starring role, which is so typical that it makes Moses laugh for the first time in a long time.
"It's gonna be a load of shit," Pest says helpfully as they pass yet another sign for it. "Trust."
Biggz doesn't say a word, but Moses watches his shoulders shake again. Biggz has barely spoken all day. It makes Moses uncomfortable, considering how he could never get Biggz to shut up before. "I don't even want to think about it," he mumbles, and Biggz nods at that, his head bobbing up and down, too big for his body.
The night creeps up slowly, and they barely notice it. It's not that they're having too much fun to feel the passage of time, but that the day has been going by so slowly, almost ethereally, that they haven't felt anything but the weight of the city on their shoulders. Pest says that when he got out of juvie, he kept getting people at his doorstep, leaving flowers and chocolates and notes of condolence. Now that time had passed, everyone seemed to forget about the incident at the block, and the city began to move on. The world barely cared about the boys whose blood spattered the ground at the block. They cared about the aliens, the idea of a movie, the money spilling in from the note under the title: "Based on true events."
Biggz seems to drag on his feet by the time the city goes dark. Moses offers to take him back to his flat, before sending him home on the bus, and Biggz nods silently, tugging his shirt down over his bony waist.
The walk back is short, and all Moses can hear is honking in the distance, people shouting drunkenly, screeching of wheels. It's all so unfamiliar after so many months locked away from the world. He barely even notices where they are, where they're walking, before Pest tugs on the back of his jacket and hisses, "Wait. Biggz."
Moses turns around. Biggz had been lagging behind for a while now, but he's fully stopped now, staring at something on the brick directly in front of him. Moses knows what it is before he makes his way over to check. His heart sinks to his stomach and he stares, mesmerized, at the graffiti painted all over the wall.
He remembers the night they did this. Pest spent all his allowance on the spray cans, because the place they bought it from was notorious for its high surveillance. They had four, and they spent the entire night doing juvenile things like drawing penises on the school walls, laughing as they went, high off the cold air and the night closing in all around them like a heavy blanket of stars.
And they'd practiced, because none of them were artists, except for Jerome who wanted to go to art school, and they always dumped on him for that. Pest took the first turn, then Moses, and Jerome and Dennis next. Biggz was last, because Biggz was always last. Tiniest went last. That was the rule. They expected it to be painted over by morning, but for some reason, it stayed. And it still stayed.
Biggz breathes out through his mouth. His eyes start watering. Moses can feel something in the back of his throat. Pest clutches Moses's arm, like he'll fall over if he doesn't. And everything is very, very quiet, and very, very still.
Biggz wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. "I miss them," he chokes out, coughing up the words.
Pest flinches, like the sound reminds him of Jerome choking on the blood in his throat. Moses remembers Dennis screaming for help. Dennis looked at him in his final moments, before they ripped his throat out, and Moses could only stare at him, frozen with fear. The screams echo all around him. He thinks Pest can hear them too.
Biggz whispers, "I want to go home."
Moses looks at him, just as he collapses to his knees, shaking all over, crying like he hasn't in months, and maybe he hasn't. Pest tugs him to his feet and doesn't say a word. Moses forgot how to.
Suddenly, the block is too far away, as they start walking back, leaving the names painted on the brick.
They sent Biggz home on the bus a little after nightfall, making him promise to call when he got home, to make sure he was alright. Biggz didn't say anything. He didn't even look at them. But he nodded, promising that he would, and Pest and Moses watched the bus roll off apprehensively.
Pest had swiped some cough syrup when Moses wasn't looking, and he downs the bottle in a few swigs, shuddering with the taste. Moses lets him, because Moses doesn't know how to tell him to stop. He doesn't know if this will make anything better. He doesn't know how to make anything better. Six months didn't help anything. He can still hear the screams.
Pest slumps against him, whispering something that Moses can't hear. The world feels very small now. Like their entire life became shorter when Dennis and Jerome died.
After a few minutes, Moses starts to hear what Pest is saying. "It's not your fault. I know you think that. It ain't. We did that shit together, bruv. All together. All our faults. We killed that thing. All of us. Our faults. Everyone." His voice has gone deep and slurred with the drug, and Moses feels his hands coming up to his shoulders, but his eyes are squeezed shut. He doesn't want to see his face. He doesn't want to hear what he's saying.
"I watched Jerome die. You know? Blood everywhere. He wanted me to help him. I couldn't. He reached for me. I couldn't."
Moses starts humming again, drowning out the words. He can't. He can't. He can't.
"I thought you were dead too, for sure. I thought you were going to die. I didn't know what I would do. I heard the explosion. All the way in Ron's weed room. I heard all of it. Thought you died." He starts sniffing, the way he does when he's about to start crying but wants to stop it.
The humming grows louder. A buzzing noise.
"It's okay. To think about it. I try not to. But I do. It's okay. I'm okay. We're still here."
And Pest stops, finally. He pushes his face into Moses's shoulder, and he stops crying, and he stops talking, and he stops breathing. He becomes quiet and still. It's not like Pest at all. It makes Moses sick. Everything has changed. Everything.
"Biggz isn't okay, cuz," Moses says, like this is something Pest didn't already know. "He's not going to be okay."
He feels the pricking behind his eyes for the first time in years. Pest is heavy and numb on his side, like the dull weight of the world. Moses starts crying. The breeze rolls in from the open window, and the ash dances all over the ground, and Moses starts crying, and Pest clutches onto him, and they're the last ones left.
They're the last ones standing, the winners of the game. Moses doesn't stop crying until the sky turns pale blue with morning, and the sun peeks up over the buildings, and life still goes on without them, as it tends to do.