[Master Post – Glass]
Fandom: Viridian Legacy: Glass
Characters: Arkady, Betty
Rating: M (L3 N3 S3 V2 D0)
Warnings: References to violence and rape, bizarre teenage drama
Notes: Somewhere along the way, I realised I never finished telling this story, and it’s a huge part of the second book. So, yeah. Got off my ass and finished that. I’m not taking crit on this unless you find a typo or a grammatical error. It’s weird as hell, but it’s supposed to be. There’s some shit in here that only makes sense in a larger context that isn’t written yet.
The first thing he was sure of was that he didn’t want to be touched. It worked out well, since she didn’t want to touch him, once she saw the split lip.
"Who did this to you, Evan? I’ll kill them. All of them." Liz paused long enough to close the door, a grim smile splitting her face. "You’ll have to help me bury the bodies, though."
"Not now," he breathed, his eyes slipping shut as the enormity of the situation washed over him again. "Not today. Just… I just have to wash it off. There’s blood…" he trailed off, trying not to think about it. Any of it.
Liz’s head tipped to the side, as she studied him. She could see the bruises starting to rise under the powder on his face — ugly blue-black stains on his white complexion. But, his lip had stopped bleeding, and it looked like he’d packed the split with lip balm. It was a good choice, under the circumstances, she reflected. "Where else—" she stopped. "No, come on, bathroom first. You get washed up, and then I’ll put you back together. Tomorrow, they’ll think you’re invincible," she assured him.
"You sure they won’t just try harder?" he tried to joke, but his voice cracked. The almost-mechanical smile tore his lip open again, and the lower rims of his eyes turned damp.
"Oh, my Ebony. What did they do to you, my dearling doll?" She finally reached out, and his hands closed into fists at his side. A flinch. The only motion of his body.
A long moment passed before he reached up to her hand, where it had stopped, inches from his arm. "I can’t. Not today." He felt as though he were falling, and he squeezed her hand. "Please, just make it go away."
His eyes closed and he tipped his head back, the tears running down into his throat, instead of down his face. He would not be caught with smeared eyeliner. Not now; not ever. It was that last glimmer of sick pride that let him open his eyes again and follow Liz down the hall.
She held the door for him and closed it behind them. This was different, she reflected, looking up at his face, as he stepped past her. Usually, he was angry. Sometimes, embarrassed. But, always, he was self-deprecating and dramatically pitiful. This time, he was strangely quiet, and his eyes looked hollow. The few flickers of life she’d seen so far had dropped the bottom out of her stomach — it was as if he held in some ravening despair that threatened to burn its way out through his eyes.
Wordlessly, she found a washcloth and the soap they both liked, and bringing those to him, she squeezed his hand and met his eyes in the mirror. He closed his eyes and held tightly to her fingers, taking deep breaths.
It’s over, he reminded himself, It’s over and Liz will make it all go away. It was as close to truth as he could get. She always made it better. This time, too. She’d make this better. He held on to that faith as he let go of her hand, to slowly and methodically wash his face. By the end of it, he was leaning over the sink, whispering fragments of unfinished invective, as blood drizzled from his lip.
"I’m sorry about the washcloth," he finally managed. "I’ll buy you another one."
"Bleach," she declared, dismissively, and gently clapped him on the back.
He winced and the world turned inside out. Time passed, but his only awareness was the consuming pain in his chest. As it faded back to a nagging hum, he came to his senses, clutching at the counter, panting and whimpering, over a sink full of vomit. Adrenaline raced through him, and the entire situation drifted into nightmarish surreality, for him. "I guess I shouldn’t have swiped your fruit cup," he joked, staring into the sink in horror.
"Evan? Sit down." Liz pointed to the closed seat of the toilet, as she pulled the bag out of the tiny trash bin, and handed the bin to him. "Just keep your head in that, while I clean this up. Don’t you dare barf on the rug, in here. I’ll never be able to explain the laundry."
There was something calming about the way she just took charge. No jokes, no shame, just direction. Evan was more than happy to just let her take over. He could take direction. Maybe he could even stop thinking, if he didn’t have to focus. Just let it all fade out behind that wall of white noise. Liz would fix it, just like she always did.
He shifted his leg, and memory echoed through his body. Wrapped around the tiny trash bin, he vomited again, and shivers began in the small of his back, creeping like echoes into every muscle in him. The pain in his ribs throbbed sharply, and he fought back panic. "Liz? It’s bad."
His voice was high, as if with fear, but otherwise strangely calm and flat. There was nearly no inflection in it. A chill ran up her spine as she turned back to him, a bottle of drain cleaner in one rubber-gloved hand and a sponge in the other. "It’s just puke, dearling."
Carefully, he set down the impromptu barf-bucket. He’d have shaken his head, but he wasn’t sure it wouldn’t just fall off. It sounded stupid, even in his head, but there was this nagging sense of the bizarre, as if, suddenly, anything were possible. Instead, he took a deep breath and peeled off his shirt.
"Oh my god. I’ll kill him. I’ll kill them." The sponge went into the sink, the bottle on the counter, and the gloves were off with a pair of snapping sounds. Liz dropped to her knees next to the toilet, squinting at the bruising and the gash on Evan’s chest. "How many of them? I’ll hang their skins for curtains. What have they done to you?" The last is rhetorical. She can see it, or at least she thinks she can.
"I can’t tell if it’s broken," he muttered, deflecting the question. He’d had a few broken bones, and it was always hard to tell, at first. No compound fractures. Nothing had ever broken skin, so there was that lag, where he’d always be left staring at the swelling, wondering if it was just sprained. Sometimes it was. Sometimes it wasn’t. Ribs don’t have nearby joints, though, so whatever it was, it wasn’t a sprain. He just wasn’t sure if it was really broken, or if he still ached from the edge of the trash bin digging into him. "It’s bad," he repeated.
"It’s big, but it’s shallow. Probably bled like a fucker when it opened up, but it looks like it’s almost scabbed over. Don’t wash that, yet, or it’ll open up again." She studied the bruises around it, trying to figure out what he got hit with, but it was like staring into a river after a cow passed through it. There were ripples, but the trail was gone. The edges of his open skin sat inches from her face, until finally she looked up at him. "Oh, Evan. My Ebony…"
He put a hand uncertainly on her shoulder, and his face twisted — suddenly, unattractively. He couldn’t find the words. He didn’t want to tell her anything, but there should have been words. Something. Anything. From somewhere in his skull, the horrors tried to claw their way out through his eyes. The pressure filled his head, and a sharp tingle flashed across the back of his eyes. Remembering became no different from seeing, and for a long moment, with terrified despair stamped on his face, he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t claw out his own eyes, just to stop seeing. But, if he did, he’d never see any thing else, again. His memories would be the whole of his vision, and that he could not abide. Tears pooled in the corners of his eyes.
Another chill ran up Liz’s spine, as she watched him. Something was more wrong than usual. Usually, he shouted and whined, complained about everything. He didn’t cry. Well, no. He did, but not about getting his ass kicked. She reached up and touched his bruised face, but as soon as her fingers made contact, he grabbed her hand, a wild look in his eyes.
"No… I didn’t…" He looked panicky, as if he wasn’t sure whether to move or even breathe, but he squeezed his eyes shut and kissed her fingers. One breath and then another. Her fingers smelled like the rubber gloves, but under that, she smelled like herself. He leaned forward and rested his chin on her head, trying to ignore the pain in his ribs, as he smelled her hair. This was Liz, he reminded himself. Everything would be fine.
"Come on, sweetie. Let me tape this up for you, and then we’ll get something to eat." She sounded calm, almost flippant, like there was nothing in the world to worry about. In her mind, there wasn’t. Eventually he’d tell her who was responsible, and then she’d make sure they never thought of doing something so stupid, again.
"Oh, god, Liz. No." There was the whining, finally. He looked wretched and tired, at last. No worse than he usually did after a few blows to the head. "No dinner. I’ll throw up again. Coffee?"
"You’re already shaking, and you want coffee? Dork." She poked him in an unbruised spot on his chest, and he hissed, sharply.
"Make coffee. I want a shower." He slowly pulled himself together, again, letting go of her hand and sitting up.
"You sure you don’t want me to take a shower with you?" she teased. It was a running joke between them.
"Liz! No!" The horror that flashed across his face surprised them both. "Sorry. I just really need to wash it off. All of it. There’s, um, blood in my hair." He was guessing. He hadn’t actually checked, but it seemed likely.
She stood up, as he rubbed his face with both hands. "I’ll get you a towel. A clean one," she offered.
As she turned away, he staggered to his feet and reached out to her. "Liz, I’m sorry. Thanks."
"Oh, dearling. I haven’t done anything, yet, and neither have you. Give me your clothes, and I’ll throw them in the machine. You don’t want the blood to set."
There was a long, awkward pause. She waited. He looked at anything that wasn’t her. "Towel first?" he asked.
"It’s not like I’ve never seen you naked, Evan."
"Not today. Get me a towel?" He put his foot up on the toilet and the blood ran out of his face. Breathing carefully, he started to unlace his boot.
She cocked her head. "How bad is it?"
"I don’t want to talk about it. Hurts to sit down." His eyes didn’t leave his boot laces.
"Broken tailbone again?" she asked, expecting it. Kicking Evan in the ass, after he was on the ground seemed to be a tradition.
"Or something, yeah." It wasn’t quite a lie. He couldn’t lie to Liz.
She stepped in, again, catching his chin with one finger and forcing his face up. "I’ll take care of this, Evan," she promised, kissing the bruise at the corner of his eye. "Give me a sec, and I’ll get you that towel."
"I love you, Liz. I mean it."
She stopped in the doorway. "I know you do, dearling. It’s one of those things I like about you."
Like about you. And that was really the difference, he thought. He loved her. She liked him. Enjoyed him, even, but still didn’t love him. Of course, she’d been by his side since they were kids, and he’d never heard her say she loved anyone except her parents. He figured being her best friend put him a step ahead of everything else on the planet, even if she did keep getting boyfriends that weren’t him. She didn’t love them, either.
But, he still couldn’t tell her. He couldn’t even tell himself, and he’d been there for the whole thing. He just wanted to step out of his skin and burn it, but that really wasn’t practical, at all. He’d settle for washing. Maybe he’d feel better if he shaved again. That was supposed to remove the top layer of skin, anyway. He’d just peel it off and wash it down the drain. Liz would make some coffee and shake her finger at him, sternly, between layers of antiseptic and bandages. The worst of it didn’t fit into any of the carefully tended scenarios for beatings that he kept in his head, but maybe if he forced it into a box, the parts that didn’t fit would just scrape off and run down the sides, and he wouldn’t have to look at them, any more.
He twisted his arm around to look at his elbow, instead, as he pulled his socks off with his toes. Yeah, there was blood, and at least some of it was his. He hoped he’d broken that bastard’s teeth. If only he’d gotten in a few more good shots, like that one, but there were three of them and only one of him. He was pretty sure if there had been three of him, he’d have stood a chance. Not much of a chance, but better than this, at least. Staring at the floor, he absently opened his jeans, and tried very hard not to think about taking them off.
"Your towel, my dearling doll." While he’d been staring at the floor, she’d magically appeared with a fluffy, blue towel. "You want me to just hold this up and look away, while you pry yourself out of those jeans? It’s got to be easier than whatever you’re thinking of doing."
"What? Oh." He forced an uncomfortable smile. "Thank you, darling dear. Yeah, just hold it up. I probably need both hands."
She didn’t watch him struggle, but she’d seen it before. "I’d ask how you even get into those, but I’ve seen you do it. I’m still not sure how you manage."
"Talent," he grunted, tugging at a cuff, when the jeans got stuck on his calf. "I was born to wear these."
"If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were born in those." She leaned in and tied the towel around his waist, as the black denim moved into her field of view.
"Might’ve been easier," he joked, putting his arms around her. If he made himself touch her, if he held the girl he loved, maybe he could force it back. Sure, she’d belted him a few times, but it was different. He was never afraid of her, not even now. It wasn’t her. She wasn’t the problem, and he knew it. She’d smack him, he’d shove her. It was that kind of relationship. She respected him. She was never trying to destroy him, to ruin his life, or even to ruin his day. Just to get his attention, and that was fine by him. Sometimes. it was even a turn on. But, the idea that suddenly he didn’t want her to touch him? That scared him. He refused to accept that, and if it meant he’d have to spend a few nauseating minutes reminding himself that she was her, and he was him, and nobody was going to fuck that up, then maybe he’d need the barf bucket, but it would all work out. It always did. This wouldn’t be different. He didn’t have room for it to be different, no matter how much he hurt, or in how many new and horrible places.
"Evan? Your towel’s slipping."
His senses came back to him, all at once, and he grabbed at the towel. "Oh, shit. I think that’s a sign."
She gathered his clothes from the floor. "I’m going to make coffee and maybe some burgers. If you throw up, you throw up. It’ll be better than straight stomach acid." With a shrug, she pulled his razor out of the pocket of his jeans. "You don’t want to shave with my safety razor, and we both know it. Oh, and pour out the barf bucket, before you get in the shower, and splash a little bleach in it. The last thing you want is that smell when the room heats up."
"Oh, gross. Good save. Thanks." He opened the toilet with his foot, as she flicked her hand dismissively, and left the room, closing the door behind her.
When he finally stepped into the shower, the water felt good. It stung like murder where it ran into some not-quite-scabbed spots, but it was clean. The smooth strokes of the razor over his skin were calming. One thing about him was usually perfect — his looks — and he could feel that starting to come back to him. It would be a few days before the bruises faded, and a week or two before the cuts closed, but once the scabs were in place, he could paint over it, and only an intent study of his face would let someone see the difference. He would make himself inhuman, to the eye. Just like so many times before, no one would believe they could hurt him for long. And no one who tried believed for more than a day that they’d get away with it. He would wear his arrogance, his smug contempt, as a shield, and Liz would be his weapon, he decided, as he ran out of places to shave.
There was only one more place to wash, and he wasn’t sure it was anywhere you were ever supposed to wash, but he would never be able to forgive himself, if he didn’t try. He had to get it out, and the only way he knew how was to chase it with soap and hope for the best. The soap burned and the scabs opened up and every repulsive minute of it slammed back through him, in waves. He sank to his knees, sobbing quietly and gagging, trusting the running water and the closed door to hide the sounds. Just a few minutes, he told himself. Just get it out, and then put your face back on.
Carefully, he dragged himself back to his feet, washed his hands, rinsed his face, ran his fingers through his hair, one more time, to get rid of the last few clumps of loose strands. One more deep breath. A contemplative look at the razor — no, not in Liz’s house. He turned off the water and stepped out, wrapping himself in the fluffy, blue towel. Steam had condensed on the mirror, thankfully, and he wouldn’t see himself, even by accident. Wringing out his hair, he suddenly realised he had nothing to wear. There was no way he’d spent long enough in that shower for his clothes to be out of the dryer. In the dryer, probably, but not out of it. A moment’s reflection provided him with yet another reason to wear solid black: cold water wash. Still…
"Liz, I’m stealing your bathrobe!" he called out, wrapping the towel around his hair.
"That’s fine. You look cute in my bathrobe." She sounded entirely unimpressed, which was probably for the best.
He tied the belt on the heavy drape of faded red terrycloth, stuck a bit of tissue to his bleeding lip, and braced himself, before stepping into the hall. Just this once, he wished he was shorter, so the robe would reach past his knees. Stepping out of the steamy bathroom had put him directly into the draft of the cooler. He staggered awkwardly up the hall, clinging to just enough pride not to break into a run, just to get somewhere warmer, like the kitchen, where there was probably hot coffee.
"My god, Evan, you’re adorable. If I took a picture, we’d make a million dollars in a week." She held out a cup of coffee: two tablespoons of sugar, no cream.
"Oh, yeah, as the poster child for some battered teens shelter," he grumbled, taking the cup.
"It’s not that bad. Only one black eye, this time." She turned around and picked up a spatula, to get the second hamburger out of the pan. "You really should eat something. It’ll burn less if you throw up again."
"I’ll think about it," he conceded across the top of the coffee mug. "Do you have bandages? I should tape my chest, before it starts bleeding again."
"I think I still have the pads from that one time." With a last spoonful of relish, she stopped garnishing burgers, and wiped off her hands. "And you should let me tape it. Stretching like that’s probably going to open it up again."
"Linen closet?" he asked, looking warily toward the hall, again.
"I’ll get it." She swept past him. "You’re not wearing pants. You’ll catch cold or something. Will you sit down already?"
"My ass hurts!" he complained.
"So take a burger and go sit on the couch. It’s squishy. I’ll be there in a minute."
He could’ve been offended that she sounded so dismissive, but he found it comforting. If she wasn’t worried, he didn’t need to be. He knew he was going to have nightmares, anyway, but those weren’t real. Real was that Liz was going to bust some heads, tomorrow, and he’d have a couple months of peace. He really hoped he’d loosened Beaumont’s teeth, already. Even that would be worth something.
By the time she got back, he was sitting on the couch. His coffee and their burgers were on the coffee table, and he was staring contemplatively at the food. It smelled good. He probably did need to eat. He just couldn’t quite connect that to actually putting food in his mouth.
"So?" she asked, dropping tape, bandage pads, and creams on the table.
"After a while. I’ll eat it cold." He stared at the burger a bit longer. "I don’t think I can swallow, yet."
"Oh, ew. That again?" It had freaked her out, when they were ten, but she’d gotten used to the idea that sometimes it took him a while to get from food out to food in. Usually, it was because something else was horribly wrong, too. "Yeah, ok, that might be broken, then."
"Told you." He shrugged out of one side of the bathrobe, moving very carefully. The bruising was starting to really settle in, a few blackening blotches and streaks. "God, everything’s flat. That hurts, but everything else … This room looks painted on."
She laughed, as he complained. Complaining was a good sign. "It’s shock. You probably broke a rib. It’s not supposed to make sense." She opened a bandage pad and covered it in some antibiotic cream. "Take a deep breath. You’re going to hate me."
The warning was timed perfectly. He opened his mouth to complain, and she stuck the pad across the gash in his chest, reaching for the tape with the other hand. "How did you not tear your shirt?" she asked, as he made a strangled sound of pain.
"Somebody grabbed it. I twisted out of it," he panted.
"Oooh. Shirtless? And I missed it?" she joked, taping down the edges.
"I’m shirtless, now. I’m usually shirtless, if we’re not in class. It’s not some huge thing." He picked up his coffee and rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, but you’re not usually shirtless and punching people," she reminded him. "Who do I have to kill, by the way?"
One slow, deep breath followed another, as he tried not to hyperventilate. He’d already decided to tell her that much, but it still meant so much more could come out. "Beaumont, Guzman, and —"
"Preston?" A look of confused disgust crawled across her face. Preston had some rumours following him, but no one was willing to take any of the complaints seriously. "What the hell would Preston want with you?"
"He didn’t really take the time to explain." Evan took a sip of his coffee, and then choked on it, as he was seized by a maniacal giggle. "Maybe he was still hung up on that mini, from last year."
Her eyes lit up. "Oh, that’s perfect! He just set himself up. I don’t think he’ll be bothering you again. I might have to beat good sense into the other two, but I think we’ve got Preston. And if I’ve really got Preston, he’ll beat the sense into them for me."
"What are you going to do?" Dismay crept across his face, as he started to put the pieces together.
"The rumour mill and I are going to have a little chat about mister violently straight’s reputation. When you wouldn’t agree to his deranged perversions, he set stupid and the horse he rode in on on you. It’s only the masculine end of your feminine wiles that kept you from ending up like everyone else." A nod. A look of smug satisfaction. She picked up her burger and took a huge bite.
"That’s pretty damn close to the truth," he admitted. "Beaumont’s horse teeth did a number on my elbow. But, what happens when he spins it? You know he will. Suddenly he’s kicking in the teeth of some desperate fag."
"With how often you’re seen with me? Nobody will ever buy it. You know they all think we hold satanic orgies with virgin girls, every Saturday night. The idea of you getting desperate about anything is ridiculous. Gay? Maybe. But, like, not gay gay. Just a little cock on the side. Desperate? Never." She tried not to laugh with her mouth full.
"No cock! Not even on the side! There is only one cock, here, and it is mine!"
"Bowie." It was the only word she needed to make the point.
"Oh, come on, that does not count. Everyone wants to do Bowie. That doesn’t even need a codicil — it’s not ‘straight, but Bowie’, it’s just ‘straight’. The ‘Bowie’ is implied." There was a jarring splice where his mind tried to check if the events of the day would have been hot, if Bowie, but none of the pieces went together, and it all just came apart, leaving him staring blankly, confusion smeared across his face. He’d really rather not run that check against anything else, he decided. Wasn’t that whole thing supposed to have gotten boxed and put away?
"Implied Bowie. One of these days, we’re getting backstage, so I can tell him you said that." She poked him in the forehead. "Not like he’ll care. I just want to see the look on his face."
"What?" Hollow-eyed, again, he blinked at her.
"You’re really a mess! You want to stay here, tonight, so you don’t hear it from your mom about being a space case?"
"I, uh…" He rubbed his knuckles against the unbruised side of his forehead, considering the options and the payload of potential drama for each one. "Yeah. Thanks, Liz. I love you. Really." He leaned to the side, against the unbroken ribs, and rested his head in her lap.
"Everyone loves me, dearling. It’s just I believe it from you." She brushed his hair back from his face, and smiled.