Benji was shaking furiously. He couldn’t control the trembling of his fist as he banged obnoxiously loudly against the door. He didn’t stop knocking until it opened. Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock—
“Jesus Christ, shut the fuck up!”
He froze when the door finally swung open, stumbling forward involuntarily from his raised fist, flying towards the nonexistent door. He quickly raised his head and straightened his spine in an attempt to look more confident, “You’re a dickhead.” He spat.
Diesel rose his brows and leant against the doorframe, his arms crossed, looking as if he was settling in for an entertaining show. “What’s that, Pup?”
“You heard me.” Benji hissed. “I’m not scared of you. Not anymore.”
“Wow, the puppy can speak. Who would’ve thought it?”
“People think you’re this big, scary guy, but they’re wrong.” Benji continued, his nerves throbbing with fear. But he couldn’t let his terror show. He needed to remain strong. “You’re a human, just like the rest of us.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yes.” Benji gulped. “You had a first word, a first step. You were a baby, then a toddler, then a kid. You went to school, you did homework, you got told off for stupid things. Just like everyone else. You’re not special, Diesel.”
Diesel laughed lightly, “Wow. What a speech.”
“Don’t do that.” Benji whispered. “Don’t patronise me! Don’t pretend you’re above me just because you’re stronger!”
“What d’you want, kid?” Diesel asked in exasperation.
“I want...I-I want you to apologise.” Benji murmured in embarrassment.
“Apologise?” Diesel cackled, “You should be grateful. You know how many people I’ve let off so easily? One. You.”
Benji wanted more than anything to turn around and head back, but he’d made a promise to himself. A promise to stand up to Diesel no matter the consequences. “What you did. It’s not right.”
“Oh, grow up. Drugs are everywhere, you’re just a sheltered little—”
“I’m not talking about the drugs!” Benji mustered all his willpower to take a step forward, trying to appear as tough as possible, though he knew it wasn’t working. “I’m talking about what you did to me."
“I gotta say, Pup, you’ve surprised me.” Diesel smirked, examining his nails patronisingly. “I thought you were a terrified little pushover. I guess I was wrong. You know, you’re the only person to ever stand up to me.”
Benji’s fists clenched, his jaw locking in anger. Diesel was treating him like a child, trying to distract him by changing the subject every other sentence. He refused to give in. “Stop doing that.”
Diesel rolled his eyes and yanked Benji into his empty dorm room, slamming the door shut behind them. Diesel’s dorm was messier than he’d expected; clothes everywhere, torn up pages littering the floor, half eaten packets of crisps spilling onto the carpet. Benji started to panic. He was trapped, alone with the beast. He’d never been in this situation before. They were always in crowds or surrounded by people (well, aside from when they were in the storage cupboard with the guard). Diesel could do as he pleased, and no one would hear him scream. “You ready?”
“R-Ready?” Benji squeaked out, his confidence draining quickly, running away like water slipping through his fingers.
“You ready for me to beat you to a pulp?” He explained, cracking his knuckles and stretching his arms in preparation. “You didn’t seriously think you could get away with that?”
His eyes widened in terror, “N-No, I just...”
“I spare you once and you think you’re suddenly invincible?” He laughed sarcastically. “Well, you’re not.”
“Alright, I’m sorry.” Benji blurted out. “I-I was just pissed. You made me feel like shit, okay?”
Diesel grinned, “You felt pathetic, didn’t you?”
“N-No, I felt triggered and I-I didn’t know what to do because I was freaking out and you weren’t—”
“What?” Diesel paused, his muscles relaxing, his shoulders releasing tension. “What exactly did you do to end up here?”
Benji blinked away tears and dragged his blue eyes up to meet Diesel’s. “Nothing.”
“Why do you care?”
“Tell me what happened.”
“Seriously?” Diesel laughed throatily, “You really think you’re in a position to argue right now?”
“On one condition.” Benji whispered.
“What, now you’re negotiating—?”
“Just beat me up then!” He snapped. “I don’t care. Just do it.”
Diesel clenched his fists, but knew he’d never be able to muster the strength or willpower. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t force himself to hurt the Pup. It was impossible, like an invisible force was holding him back. “What’s the condition?” He asked curiously.
“Y-You don’t hurt me.”
Diesel grunted in frustration before nodding reluctantly. He wouldn’t hurt Benji anyway. It wasn’t much of a deal. “Fine.”
“Fine. Now tell me.”
“W-Why do you even want to know?”
“We made a deal, Pup. You have to tell me.”
“But it doesn’t make any—”
“Seriously, Cooper? If you break your end of the deal, I’ll break my end of it. Then I’ll break your nose.”
The next time he glanced up, tears were glossing over his eyes. “You want to know so you can use it against me. I think I’d rather just be beaten up than—”
“I won’t use it against you.” Diesel snapped. “I swear.”
“Th-Then the only other reason why you could possibly want to know is because you care. And you don’t. You don’t care, so stop pretending you’re not gonna beat me up either way—”
“For fucks sake, Pup. I won’t hurt you, alright? You want me to take things a step further, to prove that I’m being genuine here? Fine. Not only will I not hurt you, but I’ll make sure no one else does either. Alright?”
“You’re prepared to protect me? And all I have to do is tell you what I did?”
“Yes.” Diesel replied stonily.
“I-I...” Benji paused, taking a deep breath, “I...w-well—”
“Diesel, I swear to god if you don’t have a fag on you, I’m gonna—” Quinn froze, his fingers curled around the doorknob, his eyes wide and surprised, “Am I interrupting something...?”
“N-No, I was just leaving.” Benji choked out, his voice husky and dangling over the edge of despair. As if he was seconds away from breaking out in tears.
“I just needed a cigarette.” Quinn explained quickly. “You don’t have to leave.”
Diesel grunted and rustled through his pocket for a pack of fags. He fished one out for Quinn before grabbing his lighter, “You need this too?”
“Huh? Oh. Nah, I got my own. But could I have a two cigs?”
Diesel rolled his eyes and grabbed another one, “Who’s this for exactly?”
“No one.” Quinn replied quickly, his eyes falling to the floor. “Just...myself.”
“Right. Whatever.” Diesel replied dryly.
Once Quinn left, he turned back around. But Benji was gone. He’d slipped out while Diesel was distracted and bolted down the corridor.
He banged fiercely on Lucky’s door, his actions ruthless and soaked in desperation. When an answer finally came, it wasn’t in the form of blue hair and freckles. Rather, tanned skin and beautiful coffee eyes. Sebastian Steel. Lucky’s roommate.
If Benji’s legs could carry him, he’d drag himself away and never look back. But he was seconds away from a panic attack, he needed Lucky to bring him back to reality, but that wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t know what to do, where to go, how to escape.
He wanted out.
He wanted to desert everything. This school, these people, this life. He wanted to crawl out of his own skin and leave it behind as a shell of who he used to be.
The stranger he’d merely heard stories about was staring him down, looking as thought he was about to slam the door in Benji’s face. But then Benji’s knees gave way, and he fell straight into Sebastian’s arms, his whole body seizing up, his lungs begging for air.
And he finally gave in. He had his first panic attack since the night he nearly killed his father.