Status: Done.


One of one.

Alex was talking about stars again. It was all he ever talked about anymore. Jack barely even needed to communicate as Alex just rolled out endless facts and dates, one after the other; long fingers alternating between sorting the vast quantity of books before him into neat piles and smearing hair away from his dark eyes.

Jack’s knees were folded under him on the floor, whilst he nodded slowly, occasionally adding an ‘mmhm’ or ‘wow’ at Alex’s extensive knowledge. He was still completely amazed by the fact that Alex’s hands could successfully alphabetise all of the books so quickly whilst also managing to stack them in right-angled, even piles; all the while reeling out an innumerable supply of information regarding nebulae and meteors and atmospheric gases. His voice halted, mid-sentence, staring at the paperback in his hand. Jack saw the look in his eyes, much different to the previous vacant gaze, and was on his feet instantly.

“No. No, this is wrong,” Alex stated, voice rising in pitch and volume. Jack didn’t have enough time and watched Alex strike out his arm, demolishing the flawed towers, and immediately began slamming the heel of his hand into his forehead. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

Jack was crouched now, and half lunged forward, circling his fingers around Alex’s pale wrists, holding on tight despite Alex’s protests.

“You don’t hurt yourself, Alex,” Jack repeated the ling in a flat monotone, he wouldn’t listen. He never listened. Alex bucked and struggled against Jack’s well practiced iron grip to no prevail, until his body slumped, aching forehead flat against Jack’s shoulder.

“Will you be good now?” Jack asked, slowly as though Alex was a child as opposed to a twenty year old man who should know better. He nodded and was released with an apology from Jack regarding the unfolding stains on his wrists and returned to scooping the novels up, eyes growing vacant again as he began rearranging them into their previous order. Jack eyed the scattered freckles of books on the carpet and sighed, beginning to push them towards the hunched form of his friend; swiftly leaving the room.

This was Alex, this was always Alex. His brain worked differently, not wrong, just different. Jack was used to it by now. And whilw couldn’t always be bothered with Alex’s tantrums he didn’t get pissed off. ’He can’t help it. He can’t help it.’ repeating those words had become Jack’s personal mantra since very soon after they met at the tender age of thirteen. Jack was the new kid in school; he wore his jeans too tight, and people refused to talk to either boys so it made sense for them to talk to each other. Jack had never really been able to shake Alex off and, by sheer magnetism, they ended up living together. Jack didn’t mind most days. Most.

Today wasn’t one of those days; he knew not to react badly to Alex’s mood, just disappeared away to his room. Kicking back on his unmade bed, limbs stretched in all directions, he pushed headphones into his ears and tried to ignore all thoughts and sounds of the world around him. His eyelids closed over dark eyes of their own accord, the soft guitar working the frown off of his face, and enjoyed the heavy peace of solitude.

It seemed like too short a time when Jack felt a sharp tap on his shoulder and parted his eyelashes to Alex’s unsettled face.

“What is it, Al?” he sighed then, carding his fingers through the knots tangled at the side of his head.

“It’s almost twelve thirty-one, Jack,” Alex whined the words as though Jack had purposefully created some sort of catastrophe, and he kind of had in Alex’s eyes.

“Right, yeah, sorry,” Jack’s knees cracked as he stood and Alex immediately began to mess with the covers and pillows; straightening them out and pulling them to even, right angles at the corners. Jack rolled his eyes and slumped after Alex to the kitchen. He made lunch while Alex straightened the cutlery and bottles on the table.

Jack picked at his food, watching Alex chew thoughtfully, bathed in warm sunlight that softened his features. Jack felt guilty. Alex was still such a kid in so many ways, it wasn’t rational for him to resent his behaviour. He listened to Alex trill random facts regarding galaxies and other related topics until one o’clock before Alex helped him do the dishes and Jack disappeared to his room again. Then it was six-thirty and he was being tapped again. He less begrudgingly ate dinner with his friend, conversing in a way that led Jack to believe that they could actually be normal. Sometimes.

Jack was awoken in the middle of the night to an unwelcome, familiar yelling. The luminescent glow on his clock indicated that it was three-twenty four.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong,” closely followed by: “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

Jack stumbled, groaning, out of bed, twisting his palm into his eye to aid the blurred vision of sleep.

Alex was sitting on the floor, dragging his fingernails down his peach-skin cheek and leaving angry, red stains. Jack, as a reflex now, reached for the boy’s hands, yanking him to his feet unsteadily. Alex fought though, managing to catch Jack in the centre of his ribs with a sharp elbow and on the chin with a clenched fist. Jack growled in pain, frustration and anger pulsing in his fingertips. He let it go, losing all the control he’d managed to keep since he and Alex were barely teenagers.

His arm lashed out viciously, the back of his hand connecting solidly with Alex’s cheek. He earned a low whimper but didn’t stop, tossing his hand back in the opposite direction and catching a soft jaw. He kept going, whipping his hand down against Alex’s skin repeatedly. Most were just hollow slaps but his knuckles caught a cheekbone, a nose, a lip cutting against teeth harshly.

“Why can’t you just be normal?” he screamed in Alex’s pain-contorted face, one hand still raised as the other, weaker hand remained clawed into Alex’s shoulder. Jack clenched his fist now and went for one final, satisfactory crack.

“Jack,” Alex whimpered before the contact could be made. Jack finally surveyed the situation then, Alex’s face twisted in pain with two blood red cheeks and scarlet dripping from his nose, trailing down his upper lip and gathering at the corner of his lip; Jack’s fist pulled back, ready to propel forward and hit.

“Oh shit,” his arms fell limply to his sides as he stared uselessly at Alex’s damaged face; his shaking form with small groans of pain tumbling from his swollen lips. “I...” there were no words. Nothing he could say that would cease the compulsion to die at that moment, the agonising guilt at being such a despicable human being.

Wordlessly, he pulled his sleeve down over his thumb and reached up to wipe at the trails of blood here and there. Alex winced when his hand neared him which causes the guilt in Jack’s chest to flare and burn against his ribs and he cupped Alex’s cheek softly with the other hand. He was trying to show that he wasn’t...He wouldn’t do that. Not usually.

The blood left angry red marks on Alex’s face his cheeks wet. One hand still cradling his face, Jack leaned close, slowly, and dropped his lips onto Alex’s cheekbone fleetingly, then once more, closer to the corner of his mouth. He whispered ‘sorry’ three times and moved to disappear and curl into a ball of anger and guilt. Alex stopped him, reaching up to curl his shaking fingers around Jack’s skinny shoulders.

“It’s okay,” he murmured, voice quivering still, and leaned towards Jack. He pushed his lips directly onto Jack’s then, firmly so that his sore lips ached. He pulled back and looked directly into Jack’s eyes, dropping the gaze after a long moment, “Sorry I’m not normal. I’ll try harder.”

“Shit, Alex, no. I didn’t mean...I didn’t mean that, I promise,” Jack mumbled the last part because Alex’s lips had gotten close again so that they brushed against his. Jack felt the long fingers curling into the hair at the base of his neck before their lips met again, softer this time, moving extremely slow. Jack’s hands found Alex’s sharp hips, curving around them and pulling him closer.

They broke apart after a long while, Jack’s eyes heavy lidded as he stared directly into Alex’s bright irises. Alex, with no words, took Jack’s hand and led him over to the neat bed in the centre of the room. He pulled back the covers, pressing against Jack’s chest so that he knew to clamber into the bed, lying down on his side and watching Alex walk around the bed to the other side. He crawled into the bed: on his right side, hand face up under the pillow with his left palm flat against his thigh, pulling the covers up to mid-chest. Then, he reached behind him, finding Jack’s hand and pulling it around his stomach, he kissed Jack’s knuckles softly before allowing their tangled fingers to lie against his stomach.

He didn’t fall asleep easily as the new presence in his bed altered his routine and was awake until muted light began to fade in. Though when Jack awoke, his hand was cradled against Alex’s chest like a teddy bear, one of his silvery eyelids darkened with the shadow of a bruise. Jack kissed his shoulder and closed his eyes again, sighing as Alex pulled his outstretched arm tighter.
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