“You can pick out whatever you like,” Andy said, squatting down in front of Chrystal, “Your daddy gave me money for your yummy lunch, so you can go all out.”
The little blondie stared at Andy before turning and running over to one of the shelves, pulling down a box of Nella waffers. Andy slapped a hand over his face, but he wasn’t surprised. He did say whatever...
“Alright, alright, but you need something healthy to go with it.”
“Milk?” Chrystal asked, and Andy smiled as he walked over and handed her the basket so she could carry it like she wanted.
“Sounds good. And carrots maybe, or an apple. We could get you a yummy subway sandwich,” Chrystal’s face twisted at the thought of healthy food, but she nodded anyway.
They were just leaving the store when Andy heard a voice call out, “Chrysta!” he stopped and turned his head to see a man running towards them, the History teacher. Weird.
“Mr. Creed,” Andy lifted a hand in a wave, and Cal smiled at him before kneeling down in front of Chrystal.
“What are you doing, huh?”
Chrystal held up the box of cookies, “Lunch.”
Cal laughed, “Just cookies?” he glanced at Andy, who blushed.
“There’s healthy stuff too!”
“He’s making me eat carrots,” Chrystal pouted, and Cal nodded.
“Well if you eat carrots you’ll have super vision, did you know?”
Chrystal’s eyes got bigger, “Really?” and Cal nodded with a serious expression on his face.
“Yup. Has your daddy let you watch X-men? If you eat lots and lots of carrots you’ll be just like Cyclops. And did you know, if you drank planty of milk, you’ll be super strong like Superman!”
Chrystal dropped the box of cookies and looked up at Andy with big eyes. Andy just sighed and rolled his eyes as he pulled out one of the little packets of carrots, opening them before handing it to Chrystal, who stuck one into her mouth. Cal just laughed and picked up the cookies, handing them to Andy with a wink.
Andy just took the cookies and stuck them into one of the grocery bags, “Thanks. Maybe she’ll actually eat healthy food now.”
“A little white lie will take care of that.”
“Isn’t it bad to lie to children?” Andy asked, and Cal held his hands out.
“Probably, but that’s never stopped adults before.”
“You hardly act like an adult, Mr. Creed.”
“Now that’s just mean,” Cal pouted and smiled down at Chrystal, “So the coach’s somehow got you babysitting now? How’d he manage that?”
“Uh,” Andy shifted on his feet and looked down at where Chrystal was holding onto the pants leg of his jeans, chewing on a carrot and looking like she was concentrating hard, “Well... he mentioned that none of his former babysitter really worked out, so he decided to ask me as an alternative to PE.”
Cal frowned, “Can he do that?”
“I dunno,” Andy looked up, “I like her though, and she seems to be okay with me, so it’s worked fine so far,” his eyes wandered up, “I’m lucky she hasn’t put glue in my drink.”
“Coach said she would harass the babysitters by putting glue in their drink of glitter glue in their hair when they fall asleep... I’m glad she hasn’t done that to me.”
“Chrysta did that?” Cal looked impressed, “Smart kid.”
Andy gaped at him, “You and coach both seem happy about that. I’m pretty sure drinking glue is bad for you.”
“Tell that to six year old me, cuz he needed that lecture.”
Andy just stared blankly before looking down at Chrystal, “Well, anyway... she’s actually not too high maintanence. Never cries, never complains, she likes going to bed at night, baths, eating dinner. She doesn’t watcha lot of television unless it’s a movie, she’s incredibly smart, always asking to read with me,” he smiled at Cal, “She can actually read quite a bit. Coach has done an amazing job and so far has raised an amazing little girl.”
Cal hummed, watching Chrystal as she finished the carrots and held up the little bag for Andy, “Litter.”
“Good girl,” Andy took the plastic and stuck it in the grocery bag as Cal stuffed his hands into his pockets.
“Yup, pretty impressive how she’s turned out... but she’s still young.”
Andy felt himself tense up, hugging the grocery bags against his chest, “You think he’ll somehow mess up with her?”
“Hard to say,” Cal admitted, and Andy narrowed his eyes, which had Cal’s head reeling in surprise.
“Can I ask,” Andy started, “You and coach know each other, right? You’re cousins?”
“Ah,” Cal scratched his neck, “That situation is comlicated. We were related mainly because my mother married his uncle, but the man I thought was my father actually wasn’t, so... cousins by marriage I suppose, but not by blood.”
Andy eyed Cal, “You look a little like him,” he said, “Coach I mean... it’s easy to think you’re related,” he turned, “Never mind, we should go,” he held a hand out for Chrystal, who latched onto it, “One thing though... you should reconsider before you start saying cruel things concerning coach... you knew him in highschool, but not now. Whatever he’s done in his past doesn’t matter now.”
Cal tensed up, “How would you know anything? You weren’t there.”
“Actually, I was,” Andy shot Cal a glare, “I was a freshman that year. I’m not an idiot, I know what he’s done, but I also know how hard he’s trying to make up for it,” he looked down at Chrystal, “His daughter is proof of that.”
Cal watched him walk a few paces before calling out, “A word of caution, Mr. Watson... I’d refrain from falling for Brad any more than you already have.”
Andy’s steps faltered and he spun to gape at Cal, “Wh-who said anything about falling for him?!” he asked, his voice high pitched, and Cal folded his arms, his expression stoic.
“I’m just saying... the last one who was dumb enough to like him ended up in a three year coma. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions and assume he’s changed.”
Andy just laughed, “Am I really the one who’s jumping to conclusions, Mr. Creed?” he asked softly, and Cal’s frown deepened, “You’re the one assuming he hasn’t changed, I’m not assuming anything. I know he’s different. I’ve seen it,” he turned away, “And I’m not falling for him!”
Cal just stared at the back of his head as he walked away, Chrystal beside him, hanging from his hand, making him sigh, “Poor kid. Denial is one thing, you don’t have to act Egyptian,” he paused, grinning, “Oh that was a good one, I’m telling taht to Seth.”
“Hey,” Brad called out when Andy stepped into the apartment, making him jump and squeak, his face red.
“I’m not falling!”
Chrystal and Brad both stared at him, making the crimson hotter, “Uh... no, you look like you’re walking fine, I guess,” Brad agreed, standing from the couch as Chrystal ran over to him, “What’d you pick up?”
“Oh, um,” Andy walked closer and held the bag, “Carrots, apples, a sub sandwhich, and Nella waffers.”
“You actually got her to eat carrots?” Brad asked, taking the bag, and Andy laughed sheepishly.
“Well, we bought them, but I’m not the one who convinced her to eat them. We ran into Mr. Creed outside the store.”
Brad let out an “ah” sound and looked at his daughter, “What did he say?”
“I’m gonna be a cyclops!”
Andy’s lips quivered as he whispered, “Nobody will be impressed,” then burst out laughing.
Chrystal looked confused, but Brad laughed a little, “Funny,” he gave Chrystal the bags, “Take these to the kitchen, okay?” she nodded and took the bags, running through the door to the kitchen as Brad set his hands on his hips and watched Andy shaking from laughter, “Is it really that funny?”
“Fro-from the Greek myth!”
“It’s hella funny!” Brad’s lips twitched into a smile as Andy stood straighter and wiped his eyes with the heel of his hand, “Sorry, I’ll stop.”
“It’s fine,” Brad shrugged, “You look a lot better when you’re laughing honestly,” Andy stared at him, cheeks red from his laughter and getting hotter, but Brad didn’t seem to notice as he started collecting the papers he had spread out across his coffee table, “Are you going to join us for dinner tonight?”
“I can’t today,” Andy sighed, “I have science homework. I’m supposed to make a powerpoint on things I don’t understand or care about.”
“Well, if you need help, science was my best subject,” Brad offered, and Andy smiled.
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” he looked down when Chrystal ran in and barged against his legs, hugging him.
Andy smiled softly and patted her hair down, “I can’t. I might slack in PE but I try to keep up with my other classes.”
“Don’t I feel special,” Brad muttered, and Andy giggled.
“But...,” Chrystal’s brown eyes were big and shiny as she tugged on Andy’s jeans, “Why? Please? Stay?”
Andy knelt down and hugged her, “Hey, I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t you like spending time with your dadda?”
Chrystal nodded, holding onto Andy’s shirt, “I want mamma here here too though.”
There was a moment of silence before Andy pointed dumbly at himself, “Me?” Chrystal nodded, and Andy blushed, waving his hands, “No, no, I’m Andy, not mamma, and I’m a guy, so that’s an insult to my masculinity.”
Chrystal stared at him a moment, head tipping to the side, “Why?”
“Well I didn’t give birth to you for one thing!” Andy shrilled, and Chrystal’s brow furrowed.
“Dadda says mammas stay with their children.”
“Yea, that’s true, the good mammas and daddas stay with their kids.”
Andy was waving his hands furiously, face red in embarassment, “Y-yea, but I’m not your mom!”
“Well there are a lot of reasons why!”
“Well- I- you just- coach take care of your child!” Andy shot to his feet and spun around, storming for the door, “I’ll see you tomorrow!”
He slammed the door before running. It was cold and dark, but he just kept running, face burning in shock and embarassment. Honestly, that little girl had no idea what she was saying. He was just the babysitter, he wasn’t her mom! Plus he was a guy, so that didn’t even work! An-and just saying he was made Andy think she assumed he and Brad were....!
His running slowed to a stop, and he looked behind him, panting.
A word of caution, Mr. Watson... I’d refrain from falling for Brad any more than you already have.
Why were people just assuming he had some weird student crush on the coach?! That was ridiculous! Wasn’t it? Sure Brad was good looking, an amazing father, which was pretty appealing in its own right, he had really nice eyes, and a nice body, and nice hair, and he willingly comforted Andy, and promised to keep his secret, but....
What was the question?
Andy shook his head furiously and turned, continuing to his house on a walk, not really surprised when he stepped inside to find his cousin had friends over. The house reeked of marijuana and liquor, and the loud laughter had a shiver running down his spine as he closed the door quietly. He was hoping he’d be able to sneak into his room without anyone noticing him, but he had shit luck when it came to getting away from his cousin’s abuse.
Two girls had walked from the living room, giggling and talking rapidly in Maxican Spanish, but they both stopped when they saw Andy. They looked pretty similar, and they were around quite often, so Andy knew they were sister’s. They both had black hair, the younger of the two had hers in tight corn rows decorated with a white-gold hair dye, twisted into a bun at the back of her head, while the oldests hair was in a frizzy curled mess on her head, though she probably thought she looked hot as hell.
The younger of the two was taller, had darker skin than her older sister, and bigger breasts, but they both had dark brown eyes accented with heavy black and gold make up, and they were both sleazy whores. Denise and Camilla Alvarez, Andy was pretty sure that’s what their names were, but he couldn’t be bothered to remember.
The youngest, Camilla, turned her head to look into the living room they’d just left, “Ricky babe, you’re fag cousin is home!”
The laughing died down, and suddenly Andy’s cousin stepped out into the hallway, three other guys standing back to watch as he walked closer, “Finally! You let us get drunk without anyone to play around with!”
Andy squeaked in shock as his cousin reached him and grabbed the front of his shirt, yanking him further into the house and throwing him forward so he tripped and fell on his face, the carpet scratching against his cheek before he scrambled to his hands and knees.
He hated when his cousin’s friends joined into the torment, they always made it so much worse. He coiled into a tight ball as six sets of feet started to kick him, his shoulders, back, stomach, sides, and he just stayed in that ball protecting his head as tears pinched from his closed eyes. Rick wasn’t always like this, he used to be nice, or nice enough. He’d still pick on Andy, bully him relentlessly, but that was because Andy was just a big baby and Rick was several years older.
But he changed. It started before the crash that killed their parents, but after the funeral, when Rick was forced to take in Andy, it got so much worse. Vocal abuse turned to physical, escalating every day, every week, every year, until things like this were normal for him.
He heard a breaking bottle, shrieking when he felt something sharp slice into his shoulder, making him attempt to roll away, but a heeled shoe was there to kick him hard in the side, making him lurch forward from the pain that beat into his ribs. Someone grabbed his hair in a fist and pulled his head up, but his vision was blurry, so he couldn’t see anything as someone slapped him, laughing and pinching his cheeks, saying such vulgar and disgusting things.
“Hey Rick, he’s cute like this!” the voice revealed, “You mind much if I-?”
“I don’t give a fuck, Vang!” the jingling of belts sounded, and he felt the familiar whip against his back that made him jump and cry out, trying hard to struggle away, but the hand tightened in his hair.
He could hear laughing, casual conversation as he was whipped by the metal clasp of the leather belt in Rick’s hand. This had never happened before. Sure they’d beat on him a bit, but never for this long, never this escalated, and the utter agony and fear he felt run through him when his eyes locked on what the man holding him was doing made him scream as he tried to pull away.
The hand in his hair yanked him back as his other hand undide the buckle of his jeans, the button popped and the zipper pulled down before he released the already hard shaft. Andy shook his head, screaming more, lifting his hands to push the attacker away, but he was silenced when the man shoved himself into Andy’s mouth, down to his throat, where he choked and gagged, eyes pinching shut as he clawed helplessly at his legs.
The belt still hit his back, he suddenly felt something rain down from above him, liquor by the smell of it, and it got into all the open wounds and burned like a hundred scorching fires. He heard someone talking about fire, saw the flick of a zippo lighter as Denise held a key above the flame for at least a minute, till it was red hot, then stepped over and slapped it against his neck.
The pain of the burn was excrutiating, and he screamed, choking on the intrusion that kept ramming down his throat, fingers still yanking at his hair. Burning coins hit the skin of his neck, his shirt was torn so the burns could travel down his left shoulder and his side along his ribs. He heard Camilla say something would end up being pretty, and the one thrusting into his mouth, yanked at his bangs so his forehead was showing. That familiar sear of heat hit the left side of his temple, but he didn’t even scream, he was blinded from agony and unable to breathe correctly with his mouth blocked.
Two hands clutched at the sides of his head, pulling him closer and thrusting hard once more so their prick speared down his throat, heat exploding with a groan from his attacker, who immediately released him and stepped back. Andy fell to his knees and threw up, sobbing as the assaults and abuse stopped. He heard bored drawls, some yawns, and few giddy squeals of excitement, but Andy just looked up at Rick with teary eyes that made him sneer.
The expression turned into shock when Andy whispered, “I’m sorry... it’s okay... I forgive you,” before his eyes rolled back and he fell forward, unconscious.
“That was a silly thing you said,” Brad scolded softly as he picked Chrystal up and set her in her bed, running his fingers through her fine hair before reaching down to the floor and picking up the stuffed dragon toy, “You didn’t mean it, did you?”
“About Andy and mamma?”
“Yea,” Brad nodded his head, pulling the sheets up as Chrystal laid down, tucking them around her and slipping her toy into her arms, “Sweetie, I know this whole situation with your mother is-.”
“It’s cuz he makes dadda smile,” Chrystal explained, and Brad froze.
“He makes dadda smile, and I want him to stay so dadda keeps smiling.”
Brad blushed and stared down at his daughter, “You...”
“I want dadda happy, and a mamma would make dadda happy,” Chrystal yawned and curled onto her side, hugging the dragon, “Good night dadda. I love you.”
Brad bit his lip before nodding, bending down to kiss Chrystal’s cheek, whispering back an I love you too before standing and leaving the room, making sure the dragon nightlight was switched on before shutting the door partway.
He sat at the small dining room table with his arms folded in front of him, his papers spread out, coffee beside him, one hand in his hair. His daughter wanted him happy, so she somehow decided he needed love, and because Andy could make him smile, laugh, she got into her head that... what, that Brad loved him? A sigh left his lips as he shook his head. That little girl was way too smart and it was going to kill him one day.
Maybe he did feel romantic feelings for Andy... the more he thought about it, the more it actually made sense. Andy was so different from anyone he’d met before, so completely accepting despite all of Brad’s horrendous sins. How is it that Andy could forgive him just like that when he hardly knew him? It was refreshing, and because of it, Brad felt connected to him, a responsibility, like if he screwed up he’d be ruining something far more important than his own life.
As a child his parents would constantly force him to church, forced him into their beliefs. He grew up thinking homosexuality was a sin by the devil, so in order to fend off his growing affection for the same gender, in order to avoid that sin, he indulged in other sins that seemed far more heinous now that everything was said and done.
Rape, molestation, abuse, alcoholism... it would’ve been better for him to turn his back on religion and just accept being gay. It would have avoided so much pain and suffering, and he may have even had a chance to be happy, but now...
Well, he regretted most of the life he’d lived, sometimes he wanted to make his heart stop as atonement, but Chrystal... she was his lifeline, and now Andrew Watson was in his life... a new religion for him to live by... his family...
So maybe he did have feelings for Andy, would that be so bad? Loving another male was better than hiding it, thinking it was a sin and hiding it with other sins. Besides, Andy wasn’t a bad choice to aim his affection. He was smart, accepting, compassionate, and now that Brad thought about it, he was incredibly good looking, with blonde hair and soft green eyes... he looked nothing like Chris, or Casey, he was so incredibly different, and maybe that’s why Brad liked him.
He jumped a little when he heard his phone ring from the table, and he felt a little shocked when he saw the number and face, answering and putting it to his ear as he sat back, “Cal?”
“Hey, I actually wasn’t expecting you to be up.”
“It’s only eleven,” Brad revealed, and Cal hummed.
“She’s been asleep for a while. Is there a reason you called? Did something happen?”
“Wow, suspicious much?” Cal asked in a lighthearted voice, “Can’t I just call up my cousin for old times sake? Huh? Buddy? Pal?”
“Do you want something? Are you drunk?”
“Wow, rude,” Cal sighed, “Alright, yea, there’s a reason I called. Andrew Watson.”
Brad froze up, and was quiet for longer than necessary before he was able to find his voice, “What about him?”
“Well I ran into him earlier, and he mentioned he was looking after Chrystal because your other babysitter were shit,” Cal said, and Brad pulled the phone away to stare at it in confusion before putting it back.
“I was just curious, you know. You’re not a really social person, not like you used to be, so I was wondering what had you hanging around Watson. Or, you know... why he’s hanging around you?”
Brad tensed a bit more, teeth clenched, “Are you implying that I’m taking advantage of him?”
“It’s a logical assumption, considering your history with... blackmail.”
Brad ground his teeth before replying, “There’s nothing going on,” he said, “He didn’t want to do PE, I didn’t want to hire any more babysitters I didn’t know, we came up with a mutual agreement. He looks after Chrystal while I’m teaching my classes or doing paperwork, and I give him full credit for PE.”
“Can you do that?”
“I honestly don’t see why not,” Brad muttered, “He gets enough exercise chasing Chrysta to get her to calm down from a sugar high, I think it’s worth some credit. Raising a kid is just as exhausting as any physical education class.”
“I wouldn’t know, I’m only twenty-three, I’m too young to have kids.”
Brad was growing more and more impatient as he staye don the phone, “I didn’t ask for any of this, Cal. I didn’t even know I had a kid till the damn hospital called me.”
“I have to go, I have work.
“Hang on one minute,” Cal said quickly, “You can’t blame me for being uneasy, thinking something’s going on between you and Watson. I mean, have you seen his face when he talks about you? If there’s no relationship, he at least has a helpless crush on you.”
Brad scoffed, “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Which in itself is a little suspicious!” Cal ignored him, “Student teacher relationships are kind of rocky and frowned upon, and with your history at the school, it would probably be a huge issue if rumors got out. Rumors can fuck over your life.”
“I’m well aware, but I assure you there is nothing going one between Andy and I. He takes care of Chrystal and gives me some time to myself so I can concentrate on my work. You don’t have to worry that I might do something. You really think I want to? I have a kid, I don’t do that shit anymore.”
“What? Sex? Or... surprise sex? Fun stuff, Brad.”
“Shut up,” Brad snarled into the phone, “I hate this, I hate that you keep reminding me, keep bringing it up. Do you assume I don’t feel horrible for what I did? Do you think I enjoyed it?”
“Seemed like it at the time...”
“I was young and I was an idiot! There’s no excuse for the pain I caused, I know that, and there’s no forgiveness that I deserve, but I already torture myself enough, I don’t need people constantly reminding me of my sins when I’m already trying to remind myself,” he covered his face with a hand, “Why do you think I named my daughter Chrys? So I never forget what I did, so I can give myself a chance to atone, so maybe when she’s older I can say I actually did a good job and die in peace,” tears fell from his eyes as he continued to talk, his voice shaking, “I know I did horrible things, I know that the reason I did those things is just an excuse, I know that the path I took was wrong and that there’s no going back, I can’t change anything, but I can try to make it better. I’m trying, damn it! I’m staying away, aren’t I? I’m avoiding everyone the best I can. You, Jaimie, Casey, Chris, I’m staying away as much as I can, I’m letting you all live your lives without interference. I want forgiveness, but I know I don’t deserve it, so I’m staying away, and it’s bullshit that you called, because you’re just making it harder!” he took several deep breaths, pulling his hand from his eyes, “Now if you’ll excuse me... I have to finish my paperwork. I’ll see you around.”
He pulled the phone away and threw it onto the table before setting his elbows against the table and dropping his face into his hands, taking several deep breaths to calm himself and growling when he heard a knock, slamming his hands down and standing up before storming to the front door and yanking it open.
“I swear to god, Creed-!” he froze, his voice choking when his eyes landed on the boy standing outside, “Andy?”