I feel kinda bad for abandoning Gold Stick Heels. But that story was stressing me out, and none of it ended up the way i wanted it to. So you can just pretend it had a happy ending, okay? I had one in store.

Anyways. God bless Nina who made me pseudo-ship PruCan. This n's for you. (I'm prolly gonna make this one like... 5 chapters. 3 chapters. Something. I don't know. Best not get carried away.)

EXPLICIT SELF HARM. LIKE, REALLY TRIGGERING SHIT. Turn back if that ain't your cup o' tea. Don't flame me either.

Matthew never understood it, but every time he looked at that kid's face, he wanted to throw up. It was never a good feeling, nothing like the 'butterflies in your stomach' kind of thing. It was like something was clawing its way up his throat, fucking with his head and shaking his gaze. It was a beast inside of him, pounding behind his eye sockets. Most of the time, he was fine. But every time he looked at the square jaw, pale skin—he only felt sickness.

Most of the time, he spent his days asleep. Everything was better when he was asleep—he could sleep through his problems, could fend off anxieties and the urges that plagued him. He could fend off the beast in himself. So when school ended each day, and he stepped off the bus at the corner, he walked inside and slept.

Because anything was better than the feeling of looking at something he could never have.

He'd barely ever even talked to the kid—for all intents and purposes, he was invisible. He didn't exist. For all the physical matter he was, he created far too few ripples in the pond. Even now, it was getting harder and harder to talk, because people were less and less inclined to listen.

The beast had gripped his throat, and he let it. Talking was ineffective for him, anyways. His voice was always too soft. He was always too soft. He hid behind a pair of glasses and a book and a hoodie every day, blocked out conversation with headphones—but he watched. As painful as it was, he watched the tall pale kid in each class. During all the hours he spent awake, he thought about the sharp curve of his jaw, the freckles lightly dusted over his cheeks and nose, the deep rasp in his voice when he laughed along with his friends.

Because, you know, people have friends, at least the normal people. All Matthew had was the beast, and it effectively tore him apart.

Another night spent detached. Another night spent on the toilet lid, leaned against the wall with his feet on the counter. Bare legs. A blade in his hand. For each time he looked at something he can't have, another cut. Lately there were more.

He could never bring himself to be reckless about it. It was never passionate, like you hear about in movies and books and the soap-opera style bullshit they play at three-thirty AM on Monday nights. It wasn't methodical, either, though. There wasn't really any exactness to it. There were short, straight lines across both legs—most below his left hip, perhaps because he was left handed. They ran like train-tracks all the way to his knees. Most were old, some were faded, but you could still feel them. The small ones were just whitish ghosts of lines, but others were deep grooves and mountains in his flesh. Some were slightly red, some inflamed, some scabbed and some bandaged. Differing stages of healing all throughout.

The corner of the razor dipped in again and he felt his skin start to tear. There was always that inconsistent jerkiness of the blade and it made his skin crawl. Most of the time it was rather quick—just one flick of his hand and it pulled through, suddenly the shining skin that was never supposed to be seen was exposed to the air. There was that shock—no blood, just pain and shame and the beast laughing in his stomach, then red droplets formed from the wound. And they formed. And formed, and kept coming.

A few drops dripped down his leg and hit the floor, and Matthew felt himself laughing.

It was getting harder to walk. He thought maybe he should buy some sweatpants or something, because blue jeans were irritating his wounds. He clutched his books to his chest and braved the stairs.

Chemistry was the next class he was going to. He knew the boy would be there, and he knew the beast would scratch his throat and pick his scabs, or maybe that was him. In any sense, he could never keep his eyes off the olive skin. It was unblemished, and he found himself feeling the ladders of scars through his jeans. Irreversible. He'd never be attractive to such a person—and each time he looked at that boy, he hurt himself again to prove it.

The chemistry teacher introduced herself—she didn't really need to, this was only the start of second semester. Matthew had her last semester anyways, so there were only a few students requiring the introduction. The boy was one of them.

Like any cliché romantic story, it started as lab partners. Matthew was upset.

Anyone in the entire class, and the teacher had put him with the most harmful person. This person who'd built him up and torn him down, and he'd never even spoken a word to. He couldn't look at him, but he couldn't keep from looking at him. And now he was required to look at him.

The class stood from the temporary seating arrangements, and he found his feet rooted to the floor. He forced them, achingly, begrudgingly, to carry him to table eleven, in the back. His scars started to burn, and the beast's sharp claws reached their way into his mind.

And the boy stood, and he moved. With such carelessly uninterested movements, he sealed Matthew's heart, and sealed his lips. He reached out his hand.

"I'm Gilbert."

The extension of his hand caught Matthew off guard, and he flinched backwards. His eyes were trained on it, like it was a foreign object. An alien thing, a handshake. He couldn't bring himself to shake it. Not even close. But with those two words Gilbert had awakened a pain in Matthew's heart. Don't ever love someone, don't ever fall in love, don't ever love someone, you can never have them, they'll never love you back—

Matthew's eyes trailed progressively up Gilbert's arm, to his shoulder, to his jawbone, to his lips, finally meeting his bewildered gaze. Eye contact. Matthew was stuck there, scared out of his wits by the sudden interactions, the interest sparking in the pinkish-red eyes, interest for him. He was stuck, gripped by a pounding heart, gripped by the beast.

He didn't say anything, just uneasily stared back at Gilbert.

Noticing the tension resonating from Matthew's stance, he slowly dropped the offending hand and turned to the lab table, breaking the panicked eye contact. "You don't talk much." Matthew found himself still unable to respond. "It's okay. It's just chemistry. This stuff's easy."

Chemistry, easy? What ever gave you that idea?

Later, for the second day in a row, Matthew brought out his blade. Normally it was two or three days a week, but today he needed comfort from it. A strange thing to find comfort in, but at least the blade didn't meet his eyes, force him to yield all thoughts like those red ones that burned him almost as much as the claws of the beast.

He cut deep that night, as well. The first one tore almost a quarter inch wide, quickly over, and he was on to the next. Streams of red were running down his legs before he finally decided it was time to press some tissue to it and get to bed.

Tonight he decided band-aids weren't enough, so he wrapped some ace bandages around his leg too. Couldn't hurt. The pressure on it felt comforting. He limped to bed, and fell asleep.

The next day he dreaded chemistry. It was a deadly toxin that made him weaker, made the beast stronger. He swore he could hear it laughing. He wondered if he needed help.

As soon as he entered the classroom, he marched a painful march to table eleven, and waited for the bell to ring. Gilbert came in as well—only a minute later. The classroom was still mostly empty. Perhaps a quarter of the students were present. The rest were bustling around in the halls.

Matthew looked down at the table when the tall boy sat down next to him. He trembled a little bit. He wasn't supposed to look at him at all. He wasn't supposed to be here. He shouldn't be here—he should ask for a class change, he should talk to the teacher about moving his seat, changing his partner. But that would require talking in general, and attention would be on him—even just one person was too much. Too much attention, he needed to be alone—

"How are you today? You don't look so good." The voice was so perfect, so crisp and it cut through all of Matthew's defenses like a knife. Like a razorblade in thigh-skin.

Matthew still didn't respond. Should he break his resolve? Maybe… just a few words to him—it couldn't hurt. Or perhaps it would, later, with his legs propped on the counter.

He still couldn't bring himself to open his mouth, for the beast was too close to the top of his throat. If he talked, it would jump out—it would kill him, for all intents and purposes, and he would have nothing left if the beast jumped out. So instead, he brought out a notebook.

I'm sorry.

He wrote the words in his slightly lopsided, small, square handwriting. Gilbert tried to look at Matthew's face, but it was hidden by his hair as he looked down.

He didn't look sure of how to react. He probably wasn't—that was nothing he expected, but it was better than Matthew embarrassing himself using his whispery, unlikable voice. Gilbert stammered.

"Y-y-you're apologizing? For not lookin' so hot? Maybe we should get you some water, little bird." Gilbert leaned closer to him, trying to peer under the blonde waves shielding Matthew from him. Matthew shook his head a little hurriedly, and took his black pen back to the notepad.

I'm fine. You don't have to.

The 'I'm' smudged a little bit under his hand as he wrote. He cursed being left handed.

"Don't be like that. Here, I'll run to the drinking fountain. I've got a water bottle…" He was up before Matthew could stop him or write something else, snatching the bottle from his side of the desk and slipping quickly out into the hall. Class would start in only a few more minutes, and kids were starting to file in and take their seats.

Matthew looked up to find himself staring after Gilbert, wondering what it took for someone to notice him suffering.

Every time he looked at Gilbert, it made him want to tear himself open even more. Sometimes he did, sometimes he just ran the edge of the blade across his skin to feel it sting and bite without bleeding fucking everywhere and cleaning it all up. Either way, he cut each day. It was more often, more important than other things. He found himself making time for it in his day, and he felt disgusting.

Matthew now found himself conflicted, because he'd promised himself he'd never want someone like he wanted Gilbert, and yet he became more and more prolific on the notepads, carrying out conversation with the white-haired boy.

Each class, he'd grow bolder. Not by much, but he'd have another thing he would be willing to share with Gilbert—another inch closer he was willing to shift. He still hadn't made eye contact, though, and told himself he might not for a while. It seemed realistic enough.

He was picking at a stray thread on his old red hoodie when he heard Gilbert say the thing that would cause the beast to overbear him—"Hey, do you wanna hang out some time? You're way too shy, birdie, but you're actually kind of… pleasant. Let's be honest. Not a lot of people in this school really are."

Matthew had to stand up and exit the room, leaving an expectant Gil behind him.

He walked from the classroom to the restroom out in the hall, locking the door to one of the stalls and slumping against the wall. This was everything you've ever wanted, right? Why don't you just fucking grow some balls and say yes? The beast said that. He concluded he really might need mental help.

He could never really have Gilbert, though. He was just some fucking weird kid who was his lab partner. That's all. He spent a few more minutes getting the beast under control, finally forcing himself to stand and return (albeit slowly) to the classroom.

Gilbert stared at him expectantly as he walked back in, like he still wanted an answer. God, he was so patient and so kind and so perfect and—

I'm sorry. We can if you want. I'm just not… used to people asking that. I'm sorry.

He only realized he repeated himself after he'd finished, so he looked down again and hoped Gil didn't care.

Gilbert only gave him a curious look, before smiling a smile that Matthew knew was a warm smile, and replying, "Damn, birdie. You sure do get a guy's heart pounding. So we're on!"

Matthew swore he could feel his heart stop, and he didn't know if it was the beast or if it was love.