Chapter 1 - Enter

Arthur walked shyly, almost silently across the hardwood floor toward the center of the room, where everyone else was seated. He wished he were somewhere else, anywhere else. He wished he was normal instead of thin as a twig; he wished he could eat without feeling that terrible guilt...

But most of all, he wished his parents had never sent him to this place, this big, scary, hell-like place...

Well, if he was honest with himself the place really wasn't bad. It was spacious and calm, with sky-blue paint covering the walls, nice hardwood floors, large windows looking over the rest of the Center which was surrounded by green fields, and farther away a forest. The Center was in a rural area in New York, so the surroundings were quiet and calm, very relaxing. He saw a young deer run out of the forest and start to graze on the field.

He hated that deer.

He hated that field.

He hated everything about this place.

Hate. That was the only answer that made sense. His parents hated him, and that was why they just handed him a ticket, threw him onto a plane to New York and told him it was for the best, just before catapulting him away without a moment's hesitation, no consideration for his feelings.

They hated him, they wanted him out of their home. That was his final answer.

He sighed and took a seat, the last seat left. To his left there was a boy who looked about a year younger than him: no sign of self-harm, with probably early stage anorexia.

Lucky bloke.

He looked at himself, pulling the sleeves of his sweater down unconsciously, a habit that had formed years ago when he was about twelve, after his first time cutting. There weren't any new scars, he hadn't cut himself in months; though that was mostly to avoid getting sent away to some kind of self-harm center.

And of course, his parents found something else. Anorexia. Anything to get him out of the house and off their backs…

To his right, he found a surprise: another boy sitting there, not thin or sickly, eating from a bag of chips. He must have been one of the overweight patients, though, he didn't look that bad. The boy smiled broadly at him, "Hey!" He said happily. He held the bag out to him, "You want some?" He asked.

Arthur stared at the bag for a moment, as though it had come from another planet, and he shook his head slowly, "No. Thank you." He said, smiling a little at him.

The other boy just smiled, "Kay." He said. After a moment he put a hand out to him, "I'm Alfred."

"Uh…" Arthur hesitantly gave him his weak hand, which shook violently and was cold due to how thin he was. He hated it. "Nice to meet you. I'm Arthur." He mumbled. At that point a tall, handsome young man, the group therapist, made his way to the center of this circle.

The young man, who was probably about twenty-eight, looked Arthur over. The file he'd gotten about him said Arthur had done everything in the book: drugs, self-harm, and now this? And yet, there was no record of reported abuse by his parents or his three brothers, and as far as he could tell, Arthur came from a loving home...

Why else would they have spent all their money to send him there?

He's the third son, The young therapist thought to himself, He probably feels ignored, lonely. Maybe he get's bullied...

Internally he smiled a bit as he watched Alfred start to talk to him again.

"Arthur," Alfred whispered, "Are you cold?" He could tell that he was because of all the shaking. It bothered him a little.

Quiet, Arthur hesitantly nodded, looking down at his feet, wondering why he was there rather than just at home, where he belonged.

He jumped a bit when he felt someone gently drape something warm around him. A blanket?

He looked up and saw Alfred standing there, smiling down at him. He'd taken off his hoodie and draped it over his new friend, "Is that better?" he heard Alfred ask.

It was. The hoodie was thick and warm, causing Arthur to finally stop his shaking. He nodded quietly, "Y-yes, thank you." He said, giving him a ghost of a smile.

Alfred's smile widened and his bright blue eyes shone under his glasses, "No problem!" He said happily, before he sat back down. Even as he smiled though, Alfred couldn't help but be a little concerned for his new friend: Arthur's blond hair was lackluster, his emerald-eyes seemed to be in hollow caves, and he looked very tired.

Meanwhile Arthur looked at Alfred and was a bit confused: Alfred wasn't heavy at all! His body was muscular and toned and healthy! Why in the world was Alfred in a place like this?

But his thoughts were cut off as the young man sat down in the center of the group and said someone should introduce themselves.

"Castillo!" Alfred yelled, throwing up his hand, "I wanna go first!" He stood up, "I'm Alfred Jones! I looooooove French fries!" That was all he said before he sat back down, earning him a few scattered laughs, including from the therapist.

When he was through laughing the young man, Castillo, just sighed a bit, "Yes Alfred, I know. You tell us every day." He turned his gaze to Arthur, "And you are?" He asked in a gentle tone, but not so gentle as to offend.

Arthur straightened out a bit, turning red. He didn't like this, he didn't like talking to people, he didn't like having people look at him... He shrank down into his seat, "A-Arthur Kirkland." He said softly. However, he wasn't really able to feel awkward for long.

"Arthur's cool, Castillo!" Alfred half-yelled, "Can he be my new roommate?" He looked between the therapist and Arthur for a look of approval from somewhere.

Castillo smiled, "That's up to Arthur, Alfred." He said. After that he made his way over to Alfred, putting out his strong, callused hand, "Give me the chips."

For a moment Alfred froze, like his world had just crashed. But then his smile returned, a little smaller than before, "But Castillo, I'm hungry!" He whined.

The young man ignored him, smirking a bit at him as he took away the bag, "Yeah well, I'm hungry too..." He stepped back to his seat and moved on to the next patient, the one to Arthur's left, a boy named Emil.

Alfred huffed a bit, until Castillo said that since he'd already had his individual appointment with him, and would have one with Arthur later on, if Arthur agreed to be Alfred's roommate, the two of them could leave.

Hearing this, Arthur promptly stood, wanting nothing more than to just lie down for a while, "I'll be your roommate," he said, smiling a little bit at Alfred. His new friend, in turn, smiled broadly and led him outside to the sporting fields, between the housing building and the therapy building, which is where they'd left.

"You want me to show you around?" Alfred asked, "Or just go right to our room?"

Arthur was quiet for a few moments, dealing with a headache, "Can we just go to the room?" He asked quietly. He was so tired, he just wanted to sleep for a while...

"Yeah!" Alfred led him, being quiet for the most part unless he saw something worth noting, like pointing out the door to the library or to the nurse's office or to the cafeteria.

After a couple minutes they'd reached the room. It was a large room with plenty of room to walk around, two large beds, a large TV mounted on the wall with Alfred's PS3 plugged in, two desks, two closets, a bookshelf with about half the space filled.

Alfred smiled at him, "Here we are," he said, before he went and just lied down onto his bed.

"I like it," Arthur said softly. He smiled to himself and made his way over to the bookshelf: The Catcher in The Rye, Life in the Iron Mills, a collection of Shakespeare, modern works like the Gone series and work by John Green. This was great!

As he continued looking through the books he found one that caught his interest: a new looking, thin book, with one of those prize-metal shaped golden award stamps. The title: The Burnt-Out Flame, and the author: Raul Castillo, the young therapist.

I'll certainly take note of this. Arthur thought.

Alfred yawned, "I'm gonna take a nap," he said, before he looked over at him, "You might wanna go to your meeting with Castillo soon," he said, before he dozed off. After just a few moments he began to softly snore. Arthur looked over at him, and couldn't help but blush a bit as this handsome roommate of his slept on quietly.

Arthur sighed softly at the premise of going and talking with the counselor, but he knew it had to be done eventually. He quietly stepped outside, still wearing Alfred's hoodie, to go and find wherever the hell Castillo's office was...

End of chapter 1.

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