A/N: I will try to make this as coherent as possible :) Now that the Big Reveal has happened I can say a proper Thank You to Lady_Ten who provided the prompt for this at the LiveJournal AHS Exchange. I know you thought your prompt was too vague, but it was perfect for me. I honestly loved writing this fic and your prompt gave me the freedom to really indulge my love for Violate and Los Angeles (which I fangirl almost as hard as Tate & Violet) and got me over the writers block I've been having with AHS since season 2 started. So thank you for that because I wasn't even supposed to write for this round, and when Jandy sent out the call for a backup writer I wasn't entirely sure I could do it. But I am so SO glad you liked this, and I am absolutely floored and flattered by the enthusiastic reception this got. Winning Favourite Feel Good Fic, Favourite Tate, and Favourite Non-Violate Character has pretty much made my month.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. It wasn't fair. Tate had spent a week tracking her through the halls of Westfield, catching glimpses of her as she flitted between classes, desperate for a chance to talk to her, find out her name - fuck, anything. She could have spit in his face and he would have been incandescent with happiness.
The fact that he bothered to show up at school at all was a testament to the pull he felt towards her. He'd even ditched English - his favourite class - to be on the right side of campus when the lunch bell rang just so that he could trap her in his net. Today was going to be the day. And he'd watched in disbelief as the one friend he had left ruined everything.
She was halfway across the football field, unlit cigarette hanging out of her mouth when she walked right in to Paul while digging around for her lighter in her bag. Gentleman that he was, he pulled out his own lighter and lit her cigarette for her as his girlfriend Danielle and her friend Stephanie watched, looking bored.
Tate had seethed anger and jealousy as his feet carried him closer to the small group. But by the time he caught them up his mystery girl had vanished behind the bleachers. He sidestepped Paul and Danielle, ignored the frown Stephanie turned upside down just for him, but she was gone.
Foiled once again he retreated to the only sanctuary he had in this shithole. The steel door ricocheted off the drab plaster wall of the library. The librarian shot Tate a vicious glare, but he didn't even notice as he stalked back into the stacks.
But by the time he made it to the loneliest corner, favourite book about birds tucked under his arm, his anger had fizzled, the last explosive burst being vented on the library door. He flopped down in chair, dejected.
The day hadn't been a total loss, he had heard her voice, learned her name, a gift carried back on the wind. Violet. He liked the way it rolled around his head, tried how it felt on his tongue. Tate flipped through Audubon's Birds of America without really seeing the pictures, only seeing her. She was already there in his head, every dip and curve of her body mapped out in his imagination, but the name gave her personality, filled her out, made her fully formed.
Even though he had never spoken to her, he knew she was like him. Not because of the way she dressed or the mean little smirk that was just as much a mask as his perpetual scowl. Or even in the way that she seemed just as invisible to the other students as he was. No one had any idea where she came from, what her story was; she had sunken into the sea of high school without causing a ripple.
But Tate knew she was like him, just like him. He knew it in the way everything shifted when he laid eyes on her for the first time, that feeling in the pit of his stomach like gravity had disappeared out from under his feet, moved from where it was centered on him, to her.
And he could have sworn that over the last week he had caught her looking at him too, could have sworn he felt her eyes on the back of his neck making his skin prickle even if she wasn't there when he turned around, eyes wild and searching.
The bell rung, ushering students towards fifth period, and recalling Tate from his thoughts. He looked down at the book in his lap, page open to show a picture of a Mourning Warbler. It made him smile. It was like Violet; fragile boned and cloaked in a plumage of earth tones shot through with mustard yellow. It was a bird he'd probably only ever see in a book; it's native habitat of northern New England made it a rara avis in southern California.
Heat sizzled up from the pavement in waves, burning Tate's feet through the thin soles of his Chuck Taylor's and made his curls lay limp and greasy against his skull. He had been pilfering tens and twenties from the Cocksucker's wallet long enough to afford a car - a shitty car maybe, but a car nonetheless -, and on days like this when he was sweltering under layers of cotton and wool it seemed like a good idea.
The door of Murder House made a soft flump against the air-conditioning the same way a refrigerator door does when you open it. Before he could do more than wipe the sweat from his face Constance emerged from the den, followed closely by Larry like the good little lap dog he was.
Her hair was tousled, eyes rimmed red, and breath thick with bourbon. "They're going to take him away," she wailed as she stumbled across the foyer to paw at her one perfect child. "They're going to take Beau away."
Tate couldn't help but appreciate how quickly the authorities acted when they got an 'anonymous' tip about a mentally handicapped boy chained in an attic.
But after seventeen years close observation he knew the Cocksucker's hysterics had more to do with what would happen to her reputation when every news station in the city parked in front of Murder House and told the entire L.A. basin what a monster Constance Langdon was. And from there it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to the story of Larry, Lorraine, and a pair of bar-b-qued little girls and the reasons behind it.
She would be completely humiliated. It would be beautiful.
Constance gave a loud, wet sniffle and pushed herself away from her son's chest, eyes blazing. He felt the air shift between them and dread cinched tight around his lungs. He would never know what gave him away. Maybe a twitch of his hands, or a shift of his eyes; maybe just taking a second too long to show the reaction he knew was expected of him.
"How could you? How could you betray your family, your blood that way?" She shrieked, each question punctuated with a sharp smacking sound as she hit him. "Do you know what happens in those places?"
Larry made no move to stop her, living up to his nickname of Mr. Milquetoast, so Tate did what he always did: collapsed in on himself, cringed away from her blows. In her drunken fury Constance caught him in the eye with an elbow, a sharp burst of pain so different from the open-handed smacks she usually bullied him with that he cried out involuntarily.
Not that it gave her pause. She kept going until the muscles in her arms burned in protest every time she raised them again, until she ran out of every horror story she'd ever heard about what happens behind asylum walls to spit in his face. Finally she tottered back into Larry's arms, rage spent, so he could soothe her with promises of lawyer's and injunctions and another glassful of liquor.
Tate's face was stinging red and wet with tears when he met Addie hovering nervously at the top of the stairs. When she reached out for him he threw her off with nothing more than a glare and a snarl.
He slammed his bedroom door shut behind him, throwing the lock out of habit, and paced around, pulling at his hair. He hated Constance, hated her so much it filled his stomach with a sickness that twisted and writhed inside of him.
For a long time he assumed all parents were like the Cocksucker, putting on a mask of affection in public and being domestic tyrants behind closed doors. He thought every kid had to live through being beat and belittled. It wasn't until he got older that he realized what she did to him was abuse, that it was wrong. And he hated her for it, but he hated himself more because tall and broad shouldered as he was now he still couldn't fight back.
Sure, he could call Protective Services for Beau, take the blame for something to save Addie a trip to the Bad Girl Closet, but every time Constance struck him he felt as helpless as he had at six years old when she stormed into his room and beat him until he stopped crying for his father to come home.
When putting a few fist shaped dents in the wall wasn't enough to stop the blood thundering in his ears he reached for his favourite razor.
Sometimes there was a whole little ritual to Tate's bloodletting, and those times the ritual was more important than the actual act, but times like these when it felt like the pressure was building up to a point of critical mass in his head it was just swift sharp cuts borne of desperation. The groan of relief as the blood slipped between his fingers was pornographic, indecent.
He flopped down on the bed, telling himself sternly that what he did, he did for Beau and not to punish Constance. He forced his thoughts back to Violet, finishing the job punching the wall and slicing his wrist had started.
Tate imagined her for the ground up. Dark red Chuck's and grey tights and a tatty thrift-store dress three sizes too big over a dark red shirt. And her voice, the way it had been quiet and even - free of the fake excitement so many people affected when meeting someone new.
There was something about hearing her speak for the first time, learning her name, that had thrown his imagination into overdrive the rest of the day. That kept him imagining peeling off all those layers she wrapped herself with and revealing the soft skin underneath.
He imagined little toes with bubble-gum pink nails, and pale slender legs that would wrap around him. He imagined what his name would sound like in that low voice of hers as it road out over a moan when he pushed inside of her for the first time.
Before he knew it he was kicking out of shoes and shimmying out of his jeans. He thumbed a thick stripe of blood up the side of his cock, curious if that was what it would look like if Violet was a virgin, and quickly found himself in the classic male quandary: did he want a girl who would only ever know his dick, or a girl with enough experience to know what to do with one?
Eventually his fantasy eclipsed his mental musings, and after coming and cleaning up and laying lax and boneless for a while he reached over the edge of the bed where he'd thrown his bag, and came back up with the book about birds from the school library. Tate flipped it open and found the page he was looking for almost immediately.
He liked birds - always had -, admired the way they could fly away from all their problems. Tate wished he could do that too. Away from Addie's crying and Beau's chains scraping across the floor and Constance's yelling. Away from the phantom voices that seemed to come from nowhere and belonged to no one, but that followed him through the rooms of Murder House and whispered things to him.
A few times he'd come to his senses in the basement with no idea how he got there, or how long he'd been there for. That scared him less than the fact that when he had woken he was nodding along with the voices telling him to send people to someplace clean and kind. Images of thousands of ways people inflicted pain on each other flashing in the velvet dark behind his eyes.
Before Violet had mysteriously appeared two weeks before, he had vague and hazy ideas about turning the fat roll of cash stuffed in his box springs into a cache of guns to paint the walls of Westfield crimson with; high school, after all, was the model of society.
He traced the wings and tail and spindly legs of the bird he had deemed Violet's doppelganger, feeling sleepy and sluggish and soothed by thoughts of her. Maybe one day they could fly away together.
There is nothing beautiful about Los Angeles in the Fall, Violet thought as she drove home. It wasn't a world rendered in aquamarine and salmon and soft sea green like a Hockney painting. It was dessicated brown, sickly yellow; all the moisture and life parched from the city by the harsh Santa Ana winds ripping out of the east from mountains to coast.
She missed Boston. Missed the rainbow of autumnal colors Fall would bring with wind and rain and weather cold enough to turn her nose pink. She missed people who didn't spew bullshit, and didn't care about designer labels and designer drugs. Most of all she missed the family she thought she had that she was sure wasn't going to reappear no matter how many 'fresh starts' because their problems had moved with them just as easily as Vivien's fancy Williams-Sonoma crockery.
When she pulled into the driveway and saw that both her parents cars were there she knew she would be walking into World War III; Ben was only ever home before Happy Hour when he fucked up.
The kitchen was empty and quiet, but her parents rarely put on a show. Violet crept up the stairs, keeping to the sides so she didn't make any noise. And sure enough she heard the familiar tones of her mother's anger and her father's pleading behind the closed master bedroom door.
"I told you if you lied to me one more time we were done, Ben."
"I didn't lie to you, Vivien."
"Really? So Hayden's not pregnant?"
"I have no idea if she is or not. I haven't seen her in months. And even if she is, it's not mine. She's a liar; all she's trying to do is stir up trouble so you'll leave me. She thinks if you're gone I'll go back to her."
"No! She was a mistake, nothing more. I love you."
Violet might have only been a teenager, might have only ever had one boyfriend, but even she knew her dad was full of shit. And she knew if Vivien really wanted to leave him she would have by now. Sure, she'd probably have to endure her mom making threats about Florida, but she could only cry wolf about that so many times before it stopped making Ben's heart stutter in fear.
"I'm really trying here, Viv, but you've got to trust me a little," Ben said, sounding just a shuddering breath away from breaking down in tears. It was his ace-in-the-hole, his trick card that got Vivien to cave every time.
Scenes like that were so common they shouldn't have bothered Violet anymore, but they did. More than she would ever admit and for reasons she would never, ever give voice to. And the only way she knew how to handle it was to add to the neat collage of scars that covered her wrist because dealing with that pain was so much easier than dealing with the pain Ben and Vivien caused her.
It took three slices to undo the knot in her throat, and once the porcelain in her bathroom was pristine white and her razors were safely stashed again she laid on her bed, thinking about a boy with blonde curls and black eyes set against pale skin until her room went dark and she felt herself suffocating under the weight of her parents dysfunction.
Tate slid down the drainpipe outside his bedroom window. He would have walked out the front door like a normal person, but when he'd stepped out of his room Addie had pushed him back in, telling him that Constance was cloistered downstairs waiting for a call from the county about Beau, a powder keg of drunk despondency just waiting to blow.
His foot caught on some brickwork and he more or less fell the last few feet to land on his ass on the front lawn. He froze for a second, deer-in-the-headlights, to see if Larry or Constance would burst out the front door. Ever since the 'negroes got uppity' and rioted bumps in the night sent them into panic mode, giving 'white flight' a whole new meaning.
Since no one came out to drag him back inside he pushed himself up, walking out the gates, past the house next door he'd spent his years exiled from Murder House in - willed to Constance for being a dutiful whore when the guy next door died -, and down the street, ears alert for the telltale staccato of an air-cooled engine.
He didn't know if he really wanted to go out, but the house was feeling creepy claustrophobic. When Paul called Tate had been laying in bed for hours, feeling hopelessness gathering around him like storm clouds, heavy and expectant and steadily supplanting thoughts of Violet. It was the same feeling that had been haunting him since the start of his junior year a few months before, pouncing on him when he least expected it.
He could feel the darkness lapping at the edges of his thoughts, pulling him into the deep sort of sleep that usually preceded waking up in the basement. So he ran. Anywhere that wasn't Murder House even though there was still some lingering resentment about Paul and Violet and his plans falling through.
Weak headlights washed over Tate as a beat up VW van swung around the corner and screeched to a halt. "No girlfriend?" He asked, surreptitiously scanning the backseat as he climbed in.
"Just dropped her and Stephanie off at Patriotic Hall," Paul replied, street lights glinting off his horn rimmed glasses, turning them momentarily opaque. "Christian Death's playing their last show."
"Well, shit," Tate dead-panned. "What's the Goth Queen gonna do now that her death rock idols are calling it quits?"
"It's not like she's really passionate about this shit, she just listens to it because she's supposed to as part of the goth rock repertoire. I put on Bauhaus a few weeks ago and the only song she got excited about was Bella Lugosi's Dead. Fucking poser. She probably only likes it because it's on The Hunger soundtrack."
"Probably won't stop her trying to get backstage, offer Rozz Williams a 'thanks for being pretentiously melodramatic douchebag' blow job."
"The fact that you know their singers name is shameful, my friend, makes me wonder what you listen to when you're alone."
"Does it bother you that your girlfriend has shit taste in music? I mean, I may know their singers name, but she's the one dressing up like Siouxsie Sioux and going to see them in concert."
"Stephanie just didn't want to go alone, and Danielle didn't want to come with us," Paul defended.
"Just keep telling yourself that."
"Fuck you, at least I have a girlfriend. And I think Stephanie would rather suck your dick than Rozz Williams'."
"How is she any different from the cheerleaders who will only hook up with guys on the football team? Now that I'm no longer tainted by the stigma of being an athlete she wants to get on my dick? Fuck that, and fuck her."
"I think that's what she wants," Paul smirked.
Tate started pelting him with everything within reach; crumpled up hamburger wrappers, empty soda cans, cassette tapes. It was the latter that finally made Paul lash out and punch him in the shoulder when one caught him in the head.
"Asshole," he muttered, throwing the tape in Tate's lap. "I think that's going to be her new band du jour. They played Sin-A-Matic last month and she hasn't shut up about them since; keeps trying to get me to listen to it."
Tate flipped the case over to the front revealing a picture of a fucked up claymation family and Marilyn Manson written in toxic green letters. He checked the tape was inside, and promptly threw it out the open window.
Paul pinched his lips shut, trying to hold back a laugh, but a minute later it burst from his throat. It felt good to laugh, Tate couldn't remember the last time he did, but it warmed him, made his muscles ache and his throat sore in the best way.
Eventually it petered out into amicable silence and Tate watched the city slide by. There was something soothing about it, hypnotic in the way the glow from the street lights brightened and faded. The city still showed the scars of the riots; great hulks of burned out buildings stood lonely and dark, businesses shuttered and abandoned.
When the violence moved from South-Central to Koreatown, just a stones throw from their neighborhood, Constance had stocked up on canned goods and barricaded the doors. Tate sat on the roof smoking a joint and watching the skyline flame red and orange. The sounds of gunfire, constant and rapid and filled the air as thick as the smoke and ash.
Tate remembered sitting in the living room with Addie watching on live TV as a news helicopter hovered over an intersection when a man was pulled from his gravel truck and nearly beaten to death for being the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time. It took fifty deaths, thousands of assaults, and millions in damage and destruction before the National Guard was called in to forcibly subdue the unrest.
Sometimes he couldn't help agreeing with whatever it was that spoke to him in the house. The world was a filthy place, full of pain, and the only thing that would change it was taking people someplace else, someplace clean and kind.
Tate shook the thoughts away as they passed under the web and freeways and into downtown, clattering through the maze of one way streets that would take them from the south where they were, to the north where they needed to be. "You still want to break into the Subway Terminal Building?" Paul asked as they passed it.
"The tunnels are supposedly still there. Be kinda cool to walk them; see how far they go," Tate said noncommittally. The truth was he hadn't thought about it in months, not since moving in with Larry.
"Yeah, well, supposedly the lost kingdom of the Lizard People is under the central library," Paul said in his best spooky voice.
They passed Saint Vibiana's, constructed over a hundred years before when Los Angeles was still dirt roads and orange groves and the building could comfortably hold more than a tenth of the cities population. Tate had always found it incredibly ironic that it was the resting place for the Patron Saint of Nobodies, considering what the city eventually grew into.
After crossing the optimistically named Los Angeles River they found themselves in an industrial neighborhood, the only bright spot of life a tall brick and mortar building, part hotel, part commercial space, home to prostitutes and drug addicts and artists; the poor, wretched castaways of society.
There was no sign advertising their destination, you either knew about Al's Bar, or you didn't. It was one of the last links in a daisy chain of clubs that stretched from Seattle to San Diego, stuffed to the rafters with people who had mastered the art of not giving a fuck while simultaneously caring too much about the things that really mattered.
A vicious pixie of a woman with magenta hair and arms sleeved in tattoos guarded the door like it was the gates of Mecca, ruthlessly keeping out record company infidels. She waved Paul and Tate through the small knot of people crowding the door, offering the former a sisterly pat on the back. Since he'd been taking pictures for the most popular fanzine in L.A. for the last year it seemed like Paul knew everyone.
She refused their proffered five dollar bills for the cover charge before sharpieing thick black X's on the back of their hands and ushering them inside. Tate couldn't help grinning. It was the first place Nirvana had played in the area, which gave it the same status The Cavern held for Beatles fans in his estimation, but also because the place was the epitome of a dive bar.
It looked like a thick miasma had crept up the walls, disgorging graffiti and band stickers before pooling on the ceiling in the black tar of decades of tobacco smoke. It smelled like stale beer and humanity. The tables and chairs had survived bar fights and mosh pits and told more stories with their scars than the drunks lined up along the bar, 'tip of die' glowing neon and threatening behind the liquor rack. It was goddamn glorious.
There was already a band on stage - a couple of guys banging on piles of junk and shrieking out lyrics -, and the air was fucking electric. Whatever the sound system lacked in quality it made up for in volume and somewhere between the crashing and screaming and slamming of bodies people were having a religious experience, speaking in tongues and exorcising their demons. There wasn't a problem in the world a night at a show like this couldn't render small and unimportant.
Paul started threading his way through the crowd to the front pulling out his camera along the way, eager not to miss a good shot, but Tate leaned against the jukebox passively people watching before he dove into the malay himself.
The band on stage started banging out a new song that sounded vaguely familiar to him, drawing his eyes to the front of the room again. After a second his recognized the lyrics to Madonna's Burning Up. A ripple of laughter went through the room, quickly followed by hoots and hollers and people throwing themselves against each other even more enthusiastically as if to prove to everyone they could slam-dance to anything.
As the crowd surged and morphed in time to the music Tate caught a glimpse of dirty blonde hair and a small body being jostled around; a little bird buffeted by strong winds. His heart was in his throat and his feet were carrying him towards her before the word Violet was even in his brain.
As he wound his way towards her he saw her get shoved into the wall, hard. There was still a barrier of bodies between them when he caught the culprit giving her a wordless apology, but a few seconds later her did it again.
His desire to put himself between her and danger might just have been a knee-jerk reaction from being raised by a southern belle who etched the rules of chivalry into his brain from the time he could walk, but the desire to beat the fucker into the ground had a decidedly darker origin.
He sent bodies flying in his haste, but he wasn't quick enough and if he wasn't so pissed off he would have laughed out loud at the stunned look on the guys face when Violet caught him in the eye with a clumsy fist. She screamed something unintelligible, lost to the racket around them just as Tate appeared at her shoulder.
He might have been more shocked than hurt when Violet hit him, but the same wasn't true with Tate. Even over the music the snap of his nose breaking was audible. He landed in a crumpled heap, clutching at his face, eyes wide and terrified as he stumbled off.
Tate felt a hand on his arm and instinctively threw it off, whipping around and expecting to be confronted by a gang of the guys friends like he would have if the asshole was on the football team, but all he found was Violet looking surprised.
He took a deep breath, pushing out the remaining anger and placed gentle hands on her hips, leaning in close to shout in her ear above the din of the music. "Are you okay?"
"It's going to take more than that to hurt me," she shouted back, covering up the surprise of meeting her teenaged dream wrapped in a grandpa sweater with sarcasm and sass. "The Boston scene was much more violent."
The moment the band finished a slow smile spread across Tate's face. "You're from Boston?"
"Yeah," Violet replied, an eyebrow cocking up at his curious tone.
"You go to Westfield, don't you?"
She stared up him, debating whether or not to play along with his game. In the end she decided to play by her own rules. "You know I do, Tate," she said, looking for all the world like a silly, innocent little girl with big brown eyes and pouty pink lips.
The air shifted between them, her challenging him, watching narrowly to see if he'd rise to it or scurry off like other boys would, disappointed or annoyed that she wasn't going to play the demure damsel in distress girls are told to be. "So... is this part of you stalking or just happenstance?"
"Maybe I should ask you the same thing, Violet."
A brilliant smile lit up her face, and Tate decided right then and there that he always wanted to be the one who put it there.
"Hey, I didn't know you knew about this place," Paul said as he walked up, interrupting their tete-a-tete.
"First time." Violet spared him the barest of glances before turning her attention back to Tate. "I thought it would be cool to see the first place Nirvana played in L.A."
Tate couldn't help standing a little taller, smug and satisfied that the only person in the room she was interested in was him, but still shooting his friend a look that clearly told him to get lost. "Are you going to stay for the rest of the bands or...?" He asked once they were alone again.
Violet shrugged. "I guess. It's not like I've got anyplace else to go."
"So how long have you been living here?"
"A couple of months."
"Have you been going to Westfield that long?"
"No, Fairfax High at first."
"What, did you get thrown out for fighting?" Tate half joked; it seemed like a plausible explanation, anyway.
"Yes," Violet's voice came out a defensive hiss.
"I don't blame you," he smiled at her. "The place is full of assholes," Tate said dismissively, trying to ease the sudden tension between them. "So how do you know my name?"
"How do you know mine?"
"Heard you when you introduced yourself to Paul this afternoon."
Violet nodded, satisfied with their quid pro quo. "I asked this bitchy goth chick who sits next to me in Biology."
"I don't know, I didn't bother to learn her name," Violet scowled, feeling jealous. "Do you know her?"
"Why have you been following me around?"
"If you knew I was following you why didn't you let me catch you?"
Violet smiled up at him, too victorious to be fully sweet, and leaned in close to whisper, "maybe I don't want to be caught," just for him to hear, hoping to throw him off balance the way he was doing to her.
"Yes, you do," he said, reaching out to grasp her hips again as if to make his point. "If you didn't you wouldn't have been standing here talking to me for so long."
He was close enough that Violet could taste him on the air and it was all heavy breathes and melting bones at their sudden intimacy. "Usually the chase is the only fun part. The follow-through has always been... disappointing."
"Not this time," Tate whispered close enough to blow strands of her hair with his words.
Physics wasn't something Violet expected to be thinking about as she talked to Tate, but she couldn't block out a passage from one of her textbooks about resonant frequency, about how two objects that vibrated on the same wavelength could amplify each other and sometimes that was good and sometimes the things just destroyed themselves, or turned the other into dust.
She wasn't sure which way that was going to go with Tate. Because even though they were talking about books and music and movies - all the things she thought should warrant a resume or questionnaire so you didn't fall in love with the wrong person - she could sense the darkness in him, and the darkness in her was singing back, a persistent shiver under her skin no one else could see but she could feel.
And it was intoxicating. Better than any high she had ever had. Better than drugs and cutting.
Because he was right. This time was different.
He fed her need to be challenged, to be called out on her bullshit like she did to other people and no one had the balls to do to her.
When Tate asked her what she was listening to lately and she said Morrissey's Vauxhall and I, he'd scoffed and called him a pussy.
When Violet discovered his love of the Romantics and asked if he quoted a little Keats and waited for panties to start dropping, he leaned in and whispered something in her ear that made her toes curl in her Converse and asked her if it was working.
They were a matched set and if she needed more evidence of it she got it when his thumb slid up under her sleeve to caress the gauze over her wrist because it takes one to know one and just because he didn't know her name until today didn't mean he didn't know something of her secrets.
She pulled away from him where they had been pressed up against each other in a booth, ignorant of everything around them that wasn't the other, but he held her fast with a strong hand and earnest eyes that revealed something softer under the arrogant confidence he had been exuding.
He shook his sleeve down to show her just how alike they truly were, fingering each line, laying bare his catalog of broken dreams and private torments for her. Just for her, because now that he had her he wasn't going to let go. He told her about his dad leaving and Addie and Beau. He told her about Constance, omitting the parts of the story that included him falling to her hand because he wanted Violet to know he was stronger than that, despite the evidence to the contrary.
If she was horrified by his stories of chains and mirrored closets she didn't say anything, but after a minute of dainty fingers ghosting over his flesh in a way that made his cock throb and his breath catch in his throat she rolled up her own sleeve and told him her life story.
All about Boston and her parents and dead baby brothers and Hayden; about moving and her parents threatening her with boarding school if she got kicked out of Westfield like she did Fairfax High, but handing her the keys to a car since they couldn't be bothered to drive her there themselves. "How's that for mixed signals?" she snarked. "I could probably drop dead and they wouldn't notice, but the second I'm an inconvenience to them I'll get shipped off somewhere."
Tate frowned, pained by the idea that Violet's parents didn't love her like she deserved, that they hurt her as much as they hurt each other without noticing or caring. "If you love someone you should never hurt them, ever."
Violet's answer came as much from her smile as the "I know, right?" that flew off her tongue, and he got lost somewhere between the upturned corners of her lips. And when he pressed his lips to hers everything else melted away. He didn't hear the chatter around them or the riot grrl band thrashing on stage. It was just her and him passing sins like Romeo and Juliet.
If he hadn't belonged to her completely from the first time he laid eyes on her, the feel of her lips on his, of her hand brushing the curve of his cheek, sealed the deal. He was done for. And he really didn't care that he was probably grinning like an idiot when she pulled away, finishing the kiss with a chaste little peck.
Because this girl... this girl made him feel alive, made him feel every fiber of nerve, every rush of blood; every breath, every heartbeat. She was hope shaped into a person and he didn't realize he was drowning in a sea of nothingness until she raised him up out of it.
He knew she was different from the moment he saw her. Unlike Stephanie her hair wasn't Aqua-netted into a birds nest of blond, her insecurities hidden behind a grotesque mask of black and white war paint like some gender-bent Robert Smith. Maybe it was a superficial comparison, but even the superficial can tell you something about someone.
She didn't dye her hair or tart herself up under ten pounds of makeup. She didn't don whatever the pages of Seventeen told her were fashionable. She didn't have to pretend to be something she wasn't because she didn't give a fuck what people thought about her. Shakespeare said To thine own self be true, and in a city built on dreams, where the facade was more important than what it hid she was a rara avis, his Violet.
Paul wanted to capture all the moments of life, big and small. The moments where you felt the first stirrings of love, or the first crack of your heart breaking; the moments where you laughed so hard you cried, or just cried for reasons you would never really understand but couldn't resist anymore than drawing breath.
Normally the only way he could catalog those moments was with the shutter click of his brain because with a predator lens between him and his prey people starting playing and posing for the camera, projecting the image they wanted others to see and not what they truly were. That was fine when they were on stage, where the performance became their reality, but not in real life.
Tonight was different though. Tonight he was able to document the enraptured, fervent look in Tate's eyes as he talked to Violet, unobserved. He caught the way the veins in his hands turned to peaks and valley's in the dim light of the club, the black and white expressionist lines of film noir juxtaposed against the smooth curve of her thigh where it rested. He might even have caught the split-second that Violet flipped her hair over her shoulder, coquettish for the first time in her life.
When the pager buzzed in his pocket, recalling him to the reality of a girlfriend needing a ride on the other side of downtown, the only thing that got him to put his camera down was the unequivocal truth that Tate had nothing on Danielle when she felt she was being slighted and ignored.
She was a ticking time bomb of pissed off female, so he knocked his knuckles sharply against the table Tate and Violet were ensconced at, whispering things to each other like little children sharing secrets.
"We have to go," he said gravely when they surfaced from whatever secret world they were in.
Violet looked from Paul to Tate, momentarily disconcerted. "I can give you a ride home," she offered.
Paul didn't have a metaphor for the overjoyed look on Tate's face, so instead he laughed to himself and waved goodbye.
Once the Old Punks gave way to the Old Drunks and Violet had enough of spilled drinks and slurred words intruding on her fairytale she grudgingly led Tate to her car. Honestly, she was surprised it was still there, fully intact. In tourist guides she was sure they neighborhood they were in was listed under 'sketchy as fuck'.
They hit up a drive-thru and a coffee shop on the way to Murder House, exhausting every reasonable excuse they had not to end the night just yet.
"Tell me something you miss from Boston," Tate asked her quietly as he leaned over to light her cigarette. He knew he should be saying goodnight, but he was desperate for another five minutes of freedom with her before he was forced back into his prison cell.
"Fall. Watching the leaves change."
"I love it when the leaves change. Not here - it's shit here -, but when I was kid the Cocksucker took me to Virginia to visit her parents and it was amazing."
Violet couldn't stop looking up at the house. It was huge and creepy and beautiful. She wouldn't have minded living there. "How long have you lived here?"
"About six months this time. They barely got the fire out when Larry moved us in."
Violet shook her head, in disbelief that Larry could be so callous and his wife could be so cruel. "That's so fucked up."
"I know. I swear you can still smell the smoke sometimes. The room's been gutted and refinished, but you can still smell it."
"Maybe it's their ghosts," Violet smirked at him.
Tate shifted uncomfortably in the passenger seat. "The house is supposed to be haunted."
"If it was really haunted don't you think she'd be terrorizing him and your mother? I would. Be kinda cool. Like death's consolation prize. 'Sorry you're dead, but hey, you get to totally fuck with the living'."
"They're not the only ones to die in there, you know."
Violet cocked an eyebrow at him questioningly.
"There was a couple of nurses murdered here when the house was a sorority or something in the sixties; I found an article about it in the school's newspaper collection. I know the people who bought it after we were evicted when I was a kid died there - murder/suicide, I think."
There was one other death that Tate knew about, but he didn't tell Violet. His oldest brother offed himself right after they moved back in. She would probably tell him how sorry she was for his loss like everyone else had, and then he'd have to tell her exactly why he wasn't sorry the douche was dead, and he really didn't want to get into that.
"Does it bother you living where so many people died?"
"There isn't a house in L.A. that hasn't had someone die in it. If we were that picky we'd all be homeless," Tate replied, answering her question by not answering it. He didn't know what it was about the house that made him uneasy, but it did.
Violet took one final drag off her cigarette and flicked it out the window, leaning back in her seat with a sigh.
"Tired?" Tate asked her nervously, worried he was wearing out his welcome.
"No. Are you?"
"No." Silence fell between them, soft and white like snow until he picked up her hand, twisting his fingers between hers. "You want to come somewhere with me?"
"Okay," Violet said quietly, squeezing his fingers in hers for a moment before starting the car and driving away from Murder House.
The city was quiet and still around them as they drove down the artificial canyons created by apartment blocks and high rise buildings. But the closer they got to the coast the more alive it became. Los Angeles is a port city in addition to everything else, and the docks teamed with life no matter what the hour. Ships unloaded cargo made by political prisoners in China to be bought by suburban mom's in Glendale, too enamoured of low price to recognize the true cost.
He directed Violet north, away from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to a stretch of coast that he knew would be abandoned. In the summer it would be crowded with families eager to escape the heat and stench of the city, but this time of year the water was too cold to be pleasant even when the sun was up.
The air was salty and cold, a sharp wind pushing the chill through his clothes to pool against his chest. Tate tucked Violet against his side as they walked, enjoying the way one of her hands slid into his back pocket. They stopped at a shuttered lifeguard station, pulling themselves up to sit side by side on the raised platform of it, arms and legs tangled together.
"I come here when the world gets so small I can't breathe. I just watch the waves come in, stare out at this vast, limitless expanse, and remind myself that whatever shit is going on in my life... that's just temporary. It's just a blip in my timeline and I can do anything, be anything, if I don't get stuck in it."
"What do you want to do?"
"Leave. Travel. See everything outside of this filthy shithole of a city. Go to Boston and see your leaves change."
Violet rested her head against his shoulder, imagining what it would be like to walk down the streets of Boston the same way they had walked down the beach. She liked it, the idea of them together in her home, wanted it more than she remembered wanting anything else, and as they sat together she couldn't stop herself doing the mental math, counting months until it could happen.
Tate pulled her closer, into his lap practically, when he felt her start to shiver with cold, but it didn't seem to help. "Do you want to go?"
Violet sighed against him, the warm humidity causing his skin to prickle. "In a little while."
He looked around, hoping to find some driftwood for a fire, but came up empty. He did recognize the padlock on the door of the lifeguard station though. It was the same cheap brand he used for his school locker, and he knew with the right amount of pressure in the right spot you didn't need the combination to get it to open.
"What are you doing?" Violet asked with panic and confusion when he gently extricated himself from her.
"Finding you a blanket or something. I'm not going to let you freeze to death while we sit here." His leaned his weight on one side of the hasp and felt it spring open under his hand. He swung the door open and pulled out her lighter which had somehow ended up in his pocket sometime during the night.
The tiny room was barren, but there was another door on the opposite wall, a storage closet. He heard Violet's feet scuffling behind him and then the click the door closing. "No one's going to see us breaking in, Vi."
"It's not that."
"Then what is it?"
Despite the cold her cheeks flamed brilliant red, before she looked down at her feet, avoiding Tate's gaze. "I'm afraid of the dark," she mumbled, ashamed.
"So? I'm afraid of potato bugs. Every time I see one I scream like a little girl."
"You're such a liar."
"I'm not lying. Have you seen those things? Creepy as fuck. God, just everything about them is straight out of a horror movie." Tate waited until her heard Violet suppress a giggle behind her hand before turning his attention back to the closet.
For a moment he was devoutly thankful for whoever manned the station during the summer. There was all the usual paraphernalia he expected - first aid kit, bottled water, Baywatch-esque floatation devices -, but there was also a couple of sleeping bags and a flashlight.
He gave the closet one last rummage to see if there was anything else they could use before turning back to Violet. This time it was his turn to ask what she was doing as she opened up the sleeping bags and laid them out on the floor like two big blankets. "Getting warm," she smirked at him as she kicked out of her shoes and shimmied between them.
All he could do was stare down at her dumbly, tongue swollen and useless in his mouth as his brain spun with every fantasy he'd ever had of them naked and sweaty and... well, this.
"C'mon," Violet implored.
All he could was follow her directions. By the time he slipped in beside her the only thing keeping his dick soft was imagining Constance giving Larry a blowjob.
He laid the flashlight against the wall so it gave off diffuse light and then Violet curled into his front, his arms automatically wrapping around her. He let out a sharp hiss when he hands snaked up the back of his shirt. "Why do girls always have ice-cold hands," he murmured into her hair.
"You know what they say, 'cold hands, warm heart'."
"You really don't want to go home, do you?"
"Maybe I just like being with you more." Violet's cheeks burned again at the admission, but so did his. "Besides, you don't want to go home either."
She was right, he didn't, and definitely not now that they were like this. It had been so long since someone held him like this, with warmth and affection and tenderness. Not since Nora if he was honest about it, and he wasn't even sure anymore if he didn't just make her up in his head; the imaginary friend of a child who craved a real mother more than anything else.
He had called for her, looked for her, when he moved back in to Murder House, had even searched the basement for the ghoul who attacked him all those years ago, and found nothing. Looking back on those memories now they were so shrouded by the haze of time that he couldn't help thinking it was just a trick his mind played on him. It certainly wouldn't have been the first time.
But there was another thought that tickled at the back of his brain. He had been so careful to avoid saying anything about Constance hitting him; maybe Violet didn't want to go home for the same reasons he didn't.
Tate felt the ember of rage smolder into life inside of him. Felt it burst and flame at the thought of someone hurting Violet the same way Constance hurt him. And he knew if he found out that her parents had done more than inflict their 'benign neglect' on her, that flickering flame would ignite into a blazing fire, propelling him to protect her in a way he couldn't protect himself.
"Why don't you want to go home?" His voice was tight and fierce, and though Violet had heard it through many tones and inflections over the night she hadn't heard this one.
She pulled away enough to look at him, but his expression was closed off, mask-like. "Why don't you?"
Close as they were, he felt a wall go up around her. She wasn't going to make herself vulnerable without making him just as vulnerable first. And if she felt his secret wasn't as valuable and exposing as hers he knew he'd get a lie, or a partial truth, in return.
He flopped onto his back, flinging an arm across his face. He needed to know the answer to his question, and there was only one way he was going to get it. The thought of divulging something he'd hidden for long made his heart race, panic stricken. But he knew he couldn't hide it from her, not if she was going to be around after tonight, and his need for that exceeded everything else.
"Why would I go home? To get beat on again? Once Beau is gone the Cocksucker will probably chain me up in the attic for 'betraying our family'."
"She hits you?" Violet snapped.
"How long has this...?"
"Since I was a kid. She started after my dad left. Well, she probably always did it to Beau and Addie, but her 'perfect child'," he sneered, "was spared until then."
As the silence stretched on between them the humiliation he felt at being exposed like that stoked the flame of that ember of rage inside of him. He imagined Violet looking at him with disgust or maybe pity, and he wasn't sure which one would be worse. When he finally came out from the hiding place behind his hands though her lips were a thin hard line, her eyes cold and distant.
"So are you going to tell me why you don't want to go home or not?"
She was so lost in her thoughts, in her hate for Tate's 'mother', that she flinched at the sound of his voice. It took her a minute to remember what had started all this, and when she did she rolled against him, burying her face in his chest. It would be an easier admission to make to make to his scratchy wool sweater than to his face because compared to his dirty little secret, hers felt childish and stupid.
"My mom cried for... I don't know... a while, after my brother died. Not that she shouldn't, but it hasn't been the same since then. I'm not enough for them, and maybe I never was, but now I'm old enough to realize it. And having to listen to them fuck every night, desperate for another baby... it just reminds me of that."
Violet waited for him to say something, but when he didn't she did. "I feel like an asshole now."
"Because there are people with real problems," like you, she left unsaid. "And mine isn't one of them."
"Everyone deserves to be loved, Vi." He hooked his hands around her elbows, nudging her up towards his mouth for a kiss. The force of his lips pushed hers apart, admitting his tongue. It wasn't the first time they had kissed like that, but it felt different this time, needy and demanding in a way it hadn't before; a desperate desire to know that despite what they had just admitted they both still wanted each other.
"Even you?" She asked when she pulled away to kiss a line down his neck, ending at the hollow of his throat.
"Yes." He had spent years believing the opposite, believing that if he was deserving of love his parents wouldn't have beat and abandoned him, but Violet changed things, her light illuminated his life in a new way.
Tate rolled them over, easily fitting himself between Violet's legs, each tearing at the others clothes, exposing more bare patches of skin to kiss and caress. When he tried to angle his hips away from hers - a half-hearted attempt to make his erection a little less obvious - she hooked a leg a over his back, holding him closer still.
"Then why don't you leave?" Violet's voice came out muffled as she helped him pull her dress over her head, leaving her in her leggings and undershirt.
"Addie and Beau-"
"Will be gone by tomorrow night probably," she reminded him as her hands smoothed up the planes of his chest. "And then what?"
"Well, why don't you leave?" He challenged back, but his brain was quickly losing the power of coherent speech, his bodies demands cleansing it every other thought.
"I've seen enough Unsolved Mysteries episodes to know that a young, penniless girl traveling alone has, like, a ninety-eight percent chance of winding up dead and defiled in a ditch somewhere," she huffed out against his shoulder.
He lost track of who was undressing who, couldn't really have cared less about it. The first brush of skin-on-skin, her bare chest sliding against his made him shiver with want, made him bite his lip to suppress a moan at the contact.
He dipped down and Violet arched into the warmth of his mouth on her, at the contrast between its softness and the rough feel of his calloused hand brushing against the sensitive tip of one breast while he laved at the other.
He had played out this scene in his mind so many times over the last few weeks, but reality was nothing like the fantasy. In his fantasy he had wanted to taste every inch of her, to wallow in her flesh, but all he wanted now was to be closer. He needed it, needed to melt into her until she absorbed him, until there was nothing left of him and they were one person instead of two.
Violet whimpered as he rutted against her, her panties slick with want, but barring the contact she craved, conversation long forgotten.
He slid down her body, disappearing under the makeshift blanket, licking a trail down her stomach before biting at the insubstantial meshy fabric wrapped around her hips, the only thing still separating them. Before he could do more than that though her hands knotted into his hair, and she pulled him back up, hooking an arm around his neck as her free hand worked awkwardly between them as they kissed.
"Please, Tate," she whispered as she guided the blunt head of his cock to her entrance. "Please, I want you."
A sound like a broken off sob lodged in the back of his throat at her begging and it took all of his control to hold his body still. They were so close; close enough that he could feel the heat radiating off her body, warming him; close enough that the scent of her curled up his nose, unfurled in his lungs. But her eyes were closed, and he needed that, needed to see her need for him.
"Look at me, Vi," he said gently and her eyes slowly peeled open, warm brown eaten black in lust. He pulled her hand out from between them, lacing his finger through hers and pinning it firmly above her head. He kept his eyes on hers as he pushed inside of her, until he couldn't look at her anymore because it was too much, the feel of her around him, the adoration in her eyes.
Violet let her head fall back in pleasure, a soft moan escaping her lips. Nothing had ever felt this good, even though the ache of her body stretching around his, nothing had ever come close to this. Not her first time, or the handful of times after that. And it wasn't just the way he moved inside of her. It was the way he touched her, the way he looked at her, the way he made her feel, all coming together to give her everything she had been looking for without realizing it.
The fingers of her free hand dug into Tate's shoulder, anchoring her like he was the only real thing in the world. He revelled in the drag of her body against his, in the way her hips met his thrusts, their bodies instinctively working out a rhythm between them, slow at first then building. He felt her muscles tense, her body shudder under him and he knew she was close, so he moved faster, reached deeper inside of her, urging her towards her end.
When she did, she bit the impression of her teeth into his scarred wrist, swabbed away the blood with her tongue. A moment later her cunt fluttered and clenched, pulling him into the deepest parts of her as they had one perfect moment of cumming together; of the world shrinking down and it was only them melting into each other; of dying and being reborn in the same second.
Her hands were still shaking and their breaths coming in heavy, erratic bursts as he slumped, boneless, on top of her. "Run away with me?" He didn't mean it to sound like a question, didn't really remember forming it as a thought at all, but he knew as soon as the words were out of his mouth it was the right thing for them.
Violet's lungs were screaming for air, but her breath caught in her throat. She was afraid he was joking, afraid he wasn't, afraid to admit which one she wanted more. So she focused on the practical. "Where would go? We don't have any money, we're minors, if we get caught...," she trailed off.
Tate's heart sank that her answer wasn't an immediate, enthusiastic 'yes', so it took him a minute to realize it wasn't a 'no' either.
"I have money. Not, you know, a lot, but enough to get us wherever we want to go, and hold us over until we find jobs." He pushed himself up enough to look at her, to take in the way she chewed on her lip and the nervous flick of her eyes between his. "It won't be easy, Vi, but we can do it."
"What if they look for us?" Hyperbole aside Violet knew that Ben and Vivien would look for her, even if it was only the usual and expected of filing a missing person report and papering L.A. with flyers.
"The LAPD won't even take a missing person's report until thirty-six hours have passed with no contact. By then we could be out of the country," Tate scoffed.
He wanted to argue with her, make her see the truth of his words, the rightness of his offer, but he sensed that if he pushed she'd resist. It was a decision she needed to make, even if he knew that if they stayed in L.A. her parents and his would taint this, ruin their happiness. He knew that he wanted her for always, wanted to protect her and love her and keep her, and running away was the only way to achieve that.
As the sweat cooled between them she absently traced shapes on his back, processing everything he said to her, reconciling her desires and her fears and everything that had happened tonight. The logical part of her knew it was insane to run away with him, but there were other parts of her too.
"I will never let anyone, or anything hurt you," he mumbled against her neck, tasting the salt of her sweat on his lips.
One hand slid into his hair, the other resting on the back of his neck, holding him against her like something precious. "I know you won't." She did. If she had thought otherwise she wouldn't have followed him to a deserted beach in the middle of the night. No matter what the gossips at Westfield thought of Tate, she knew she was safe with him.
And she knew she could stay in Los Angeles, with her parents, but if she did she would be subject to their whims. Just like they'd dragged her across the country away from everything she knew and loved, they could do it again, take her away from Tate; to boarding school or Florida to her aunt's or wherever they wanted because in the eyes of the law she was powerless.
All they had done in the last few years had hurt her, set the course of her life from bad to worse until this moment, and they didn't care, not really. They told her they were sorry, but it was just lip-service. If they were sorry, if they wanted to be real parents, they would have put the needs of their child first, not themselves. They didn't deserve the tears or the blood she'd spilled because of them. And if they were going to be selfish, why shouldn't she?
"Please say yes, Vi," Tate said, his voice pleading.
She knew how to take care of herself, knew what she needed and wanted.
Violet cradled his face in her hands, lifting it up from where it was resting against her, and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek before whispering "yes", in his ear.
Tate's hand beat out a nervous tattoo against his thigh. Violet had been gone fifteen minutes and every second that ticked by he got more and more fearful that she had changed her mind. He half expected her to come out of the non-descript house he'd seen her disappear into only to tell him that she had changed her mind.
At seventeen minutes he lit one of her cigarettes and got out to pace next to the car, unable to sit still any longer. He didn't usually smoke, but it calmed him down, and by the time he had sucked down two-thirds of it he saw Violet step out of the front door with a couple of bags and a smile.
By the time they got to Murder House the sun was lightening the sky, turning it from inky indigo to transparent cobalt. "Do you want to come with me?" Tate asked nervously. He was still paranoid that if he let her out of his sight she'd change her mind.
Violet nodded silently, taking his hand once they were out of the car and stealthily followed him through the kitchen door and up the grand staircase, eyes devouring the finery of wood panels and Tiffany glass.
The house seemed to be completely asleep, but Tate still peeked through the cracked master bedroom door just to be safe and was unsurprised to find Constance and Larry passed out, fully clothed on the bed, empty liquor bottles littering the floor. He closed his bedroom door behind them softly. Addie was a light sleeper and he knew if she woke up and found them they'd never get away.
It was almost too easy to pack up his life into a black nylon bag. Still, every time he and Violet heard a bump or creak they froze, fearing discovery, but knowing it was probably the usual moans and groans of an old house shifting and settling.
Tate jammed his trench coat and boots into the overflowing duffle bag, just in case they went someplace with real weather and then crawled under his bed and started handing out rolls of cash to Violet. "Jesus, Tate, how much do you have?"
"Almost twenty-five hundred. Constance is usually so sloshed she never noticed a couple of tens or a twenty disappearing from her purse every week." When he rose and dusted himself off he found Violet watching him quizzically. "What?"
"What were you planning on doing with all this?"
Tate shrugged. "I don't know really, I just thought it was a good idea to have it."
"Yeah," Violet laughed a little, "I guess so. So is this everything?"
"One more thing."
Tate went over to his bookcase and pulled down one of the volumes, setting it on the bed and hefting his boombox and shoebox full of tapes next to it. Violet watched from his shoulder as he scribbled a note to Addie telling her that he wished she could come with him, but to be happy because he was now, and tucked it into the volume of Shakespeare's plays. "I read them to her," Tate explained. "They're her favourite."
But his hand hesitated as he started scribbling again, his eyes lifting to the ceiling where his brother was confined. "Do you want to say goodbye?" Violet asked him.
"No," he shook his head. If I go up there and wake him up he'll wake everyone in the house." He slapped a note on top of the stereo, 'for Beau' written in big block letters, and picked up his bags before he could change his mind.
"You did the right thing, turning Constance in," Violet said as she squeezed his hand in hers.
Tate expected to meet some obstacle as they crept down the stairs. Constance, Larry, Addie, maybe even whatever it was that spoke to him in the house. He felt his neck prickle in the same way he felt when Violet was watching him, but it was threatening, cold, in a way her gaze wasn't. But his steps never faltered, and hand-in-hand they walked out of Murder House, blissfully unaware of the dead body in the attic that would have changed everything.