This Side of Redemption

Chapter One

The air smells so much sweeter when it isn't hindered by an electric fence and monitored by armed guards. This I can promise. It's been five years since I walked through these doors and now that I'm walking out, I feel – scared. I realize that it seems stupid, I realize that I'm being irrational, but there are moments when I wonder if this is the best thing for me. Inside I had structure, outside I feel like I'm floating in the atmosphere with nothing to tie me down. I take a deep breath, shut my eyes, and count to eight. When I open them again I feel grounded but that's probably because I can see Max's car pulling into the parking lot but more importantly, I can see Iggy in the passenger's seat.

I just watch as she parks, still incapable of staying in the lines. Before the car even rolls forward Iggy is out and pats the hood impatiently. Max catches sight of me, waves, and this lump of emotion threatens to choke me. Normalcy is just a few hundred yards away and I'm not sure that I can handle it.

They walk towards me and my heart beats painfully. This transition is harder than I thought it would be.

"Fang," Iggy walks in front of Max's lead and eventually breaks away, walking a few steps without any guidance. It makes me nervous and I rush up to meet him, putting a hand on his shoulder but he quickly pulls me in. "I'm like flipping out here, dude! It's so freaking awesome that you're out. I made dinner for us back at the apartment!"

"He did, he's been working on it since six this morning," Max rolls her eyes and I give her a smile around Iggy's shoulders, he hasn't let go of me yet and I don't want him to.

His warmth spreads throughout my limbs, his heart beats against mine, voice vibrates in my chest and somehow this is how I know I'll be okay. Because I will, you know, be okay.

~.~.~

The apartment is small but nice: there are three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living and dining room all in possibly the biggest building I have ever seen. It feels strange to walk inside even though I know that my best friends live here – that I live here. When I went into prison they were just graduating and now most of them are college grads with stable jobs and bank accounts. I've never felt so young.

As soon as we're inside, Iggy ditches me as his lead and heads to the kitchen, I follow him because I'm not sure what else to do. The stove has braille over the buttons, everything is neat and clean, the cabinet doors are all closed, and the chairs at the table pushed in. It's obvious that a blind guy lives here – that is, if you know what you're looking for – and it makes me nervous. I don't want to mess things up.

"You alright," Max asks me as I slide into a chair, she rubs my shoulder and the contact feels good and not so good at the same time. I have a lot of trust in Max, but touch on the inside isn't such a great thing. "You look overwhelmed."

"Yea, I'm fine," I nod, returning my gaze back to Iggy, I hunger to see him and I selfishly watch as he pulls things out of the fridge and reheats things he made in the wee hours of morning, "Just taking it all in."

"Come on, I'll show you to your room," she moves down the hall and I follow her quickly, "Your room is across from Iggy's, sometimes Gazzy stays here when he visits on the weekends but if you need your space we'll put him on the couch."

"I don't want to kick him out of his room," I mumble, I already feel like I'm imposing and I have this terrible feeling that they'll get annoyed with me or angry and regret their decision to let me stay.

"Hey, don't worry about it," she says, she catches my eye with her dark brown gaze and I'm once again overwhelmed by the alien feeling of familiarity. It's like I already know all of these details about my friends and family and yet, I don't recognize any of it outside of prison, "He won't be coming around much until he graduates college. He has a couple years left."

"Right."

"Fang, this is your home now," Max sits on what I'm guessing to be my bed and brushes her fingers through blonde hair. I forgot how beautiful Max is, I also forgot how much I depend on her, "You can relax here, be comfortable."

"I know, it's just- I don't know. This all feels so surreal and it's li-"

There's a crash in the dining room and a curse uttered loudly, when Max and I rush out to see what happened, Iggy is picking up a kitchen chair – my kitchen chair.

"Shit," I mutter and run up to him, checking him for injuries, "I'm so sorry, I- Jesus, Iggy, I totally forgot- I'm sorry-"

"Fang, it's fine," he smiles at me, that stupid smile that only Iggy can pull off because he's so goddamned beautiful, "It's going to happen, Max does it all the time."

"I do," she agrees and gives me a meaningful look, I'm not sure what it means exactly, just that I'm supposed to get something out of it. Women.

Iggy fumbles for my shoulder and squeezes it tight once he's found it. I feel like crying because I don't know what to do with myself and I want everything to feel normal again but it won't because my brain can't catch up. I'm so frustrated and all I can do is swallow everything I'm feeling because there's nothing else to do.

"So, what's for dinner," I ask quietly, he gives me that dumb smile again.

"Well, I made lasagna with this cheese sauce that I read about online but then I couldn't remember how you felt about Italian so I also made a few other things…"

I disappear in Iggy's voice, listening to every influx in tone as he lists the other things he made for me. In reality I could listen forever.

~.~.~

My room feels empty and – dumb as it feels – the loneliness of my room feels like solitary confinement. For the past five years I've had a constant roommate, someone who shares the same oxygen, the same space. It feels strange to be alone and I don't like it. The other two went to bed about an hour ago but I can still hear music oozing out from beneath Iggy's door. I'm glad it's him because he's oblivious to the fact that I'm not adjusting, he's too busy being glad that I'm back. Iggy's like that though, so caught up in one emotion that he just doesn't have the capacity for another. His joy is unquestionable but his anger is something to fear.

I peek inside his room, the door is slightly ajar and the lights are out – heh, kind of like I've been here before. His computer is on though, so I can see his face glowing brightly in the darkness. He wears bulky headphones but only over one ear and his strawberry blonde hair sticks out at odd angles. There's a tightness in my stomach, one that's hard to ignore.

Quietly I flip the switch, amused by the fact that he doesn't even notice. I've been away from his blindness for so long that I almost don't remember what it's like.

"Igs," I say, my voice is low, quiet, but I know that he will hear me.

He jumps slightly, his fingers jumping off his keyboard to push the headphones away from his ears, "Hey! You're awake."

"Yea, couldn't sleep."

"I thought you'd be exhausted," he's calmed down a lot since earlier, he almost sounds tired.

"It's just weird I guess, being back in the functioning world."

"Makes sense," he nods, does a few things on the computer, and shuts down the system.

He gets up and moves over to his closet, pulls off his shirt and I can feel by breath catch in my chest. His back is broad and filled out, far from the boy I left in high school, his skin is milky and smooth, contouring to the gentle muscles beneath. I bite my lip, hoping to alleviate the pressure building in my lower abdomen, I'm just glad it hasn't reached my pants yet. It's still too soon.

I lay back on his bed just before I hear the gentle pft of his jeans as they hit the floor, seeing him in his boxers would do me in and I just can't handle that yet.

"You have to work tomorrow," I ask, trying to distract myself.

"Nah, it's Saturday and I'm my own boss," I can hear the pride in his voice, "I have the whole weekend to myself."

"So what's this thing called, Pyromaniac?"

"No," he laughs, "It's Pyro-Tech."

"Sounds legit."

"It is. I'm good at what I do."

He is too, his business of computer software something or other has exploded over the past year and a half. People all over the world have been talking business with him. Somehow it makes me jealous but of whom I can't be sure.

Iggy lies on the bed beside me in sleep pants and a shirt from some restaurant in Florida, his baby blue eyes are sleepy, his hair a wreck but I feel so at ease as he rolls on his side to face me. Maybe this will be home, maybe this is where I belong. Those giant blue eyes stare at the wall above my head before flitting quickly to something else, I forgot how much his gaze wanders – but is it really a gaze if he can't see? I don't know.

Slowly his long-fingered hand reaches out, a serious look on his face, and lands on my stomach and moves up to my chest.

"What are you doing," I ask, sitting up just enough to see him better.

"Just making sure you're really there," he says quietly, "You have no idea how much I've missed you."

I think I do but I say nothing. I just want to look at him.

Before I know it I'm pressing a kiss to his mouth, it's awkward at first because I surprised him but I couldn't help it anymore. He smiles beneath my mouth and I break away. I'm glad he smiled, so glad, because I didn't know if he'd still want me after five years of visits behind glass but he does and my heart decides it will rest better in my throat.

He starts talking again, his hand soothing circles into my chest, and I'm helpless but to listen.

An hour later and Iggy has fallen asleep. His head is on my shoulder and I can feel my arm going numb but I don't care. This is what I've wanted, what I've needed but there's still something wrong.

I can feel it inside of me, a small voice that echoes through my bones that just won't stay quiet. It started after sentencing, growing in volume with each day I spent behind bars. I know what it is, I know why it's there and yet there's nothing I can do to be rid of it. What's done is done and now guilt is my constant companion.