“I’m not saying like...I love you or anything, I’m just saying that like, you know...you’re not totally disgusting to look at and sometimes you do sweet things that make me smile and I really like the way you—”
“Oh, shut up, Alex, we both know you love me.”
Alex nudged him jokingly and rolled onto his back, staring up at the ceiling in contemplation. Little plastic stars were glued above him, glowing a faint green colour in the daylight. He’d had them since he was a kid, twinkling away brightly as he tried to sleep. He still remembered the day he balanced on the top of the step ladder while his Father held his tiny waist, sticking them onto the ceiling before hopping downstairs to watch Ben 10.
“But you love me too.” He whispered. “Right, Sebastian?”
Sebastian let out a dramatic sigh before twisting onto his back too, smiling faintly to himself, “Of course, you dork.”
Alex chuckled, nuzzling into his side affectionately, “Mr I’m-straighter-than-a-ruler.”
“Hey, I said a flexible ruler!”
“Right.” Alex giggled. “I gotta go, Papito.”
“Stop calling me that, you’re not even Spanish.”
“I’m like...a third Spanish—”
“How can you possibly be a third of anything—?”
“Sebby, I really need to go.” He laughed, leaning forward to give him a short, sloppy kiss on the cheek.
“What time’s the appointment?”
“In like...ten minutes.”
Sebastian scoffed, “Fuck, Al, the hospital’s like a half hours drive away.”
“Actually, I was gonna get the bus—”
“What?” Sebastian snapped, sitting bolt upright in bed as Alex started frantically getting ready.
“My parents are working—”
“Why didn’t you tell me? I’ll give you a lift—”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind getting the bus—”
“Well, I do.” Sebastian assured him firmly, dragging him from the room quickly. “The oncologist said it’s best to get driven home after a session of chemo.”
Alex was ready to argue a little further, but found himself already seated in his boyfriend’s cramped car, pulling out onto the road. He merely sighed and leant forward to squeeze Sebastian’s hand, offering a friendly smile, “Thank you.”
Sebastian was staring up from his bed blankly. There were lines of thin planks of wood above him, used for holding the mattress of the top bunk in place. However, this bed had no mattress. He was glad Lucky had been sleeping in the bathroom. Whenever people slept above him, the bed would creak at any hint of movement.
His mind was fogged over and fuzzy, images of forest green eyes and curly dark hair plaguing his entire being. He squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to wash Alex’s face out, but that only strengthened the image. When he opened his eyes again, they were wet.
“Shit.” He cursed, wiping at his cheeks. He’d resisted long enough and finally, lost complete control of himself and leant under his bed. He retrieved the photo wedged under the mattress and stared at it with tears clinging to his lashes.
It was before Alex got sick. Before his skin paled, his body weakened and his contract to death had been signed. It was a photo of him smiling brightly, his dimples on full display, his pretty eyes screwed tightly shut from his large grin. The boy was sat crosslegged on the floor, wearing his boxers and a tight Blondie shirt, riding up to reveal his glinting belly button piercing.
It was taken in an abandoned warehouse. It’d been derelict for years, sitting on the outskirts of their sketchy town. Where they lived, almost everyone was considered a chav with a rude mouth and a dead future. The neighbourhoods were dangerous and rough and despite how perfectly innocent Alex appeared, he was tougher than anyone could have anticipated.
The warehouse had been empty for years when they arrived to smash windows with rocks and throw bricks at the walls for the thrill of it. Sebastian found a rusty Polaroid camera in an old storage cupboard and took a photo of Alex straight after a round of rough, unplanned sex on the concrete floor. He didn’t even expect the thing to work, let alone actually print the photo.
But it was Sebastian’s favourite picture of him. He looked so innocent, yet so mischievous, like he was planning something truly evil. But he also looked happy, and that’s what Sebastian loved most about it.
They didn’t know that a week later Alex would be diagnosed with stage three cancer.
The second he heard the door handle twist, Sebastian stuffed the photo back under his bed and twisted into a sitting position.
“Okay, I didn’t knock, I know, but...” Lucky stopped in his tracks, watching his roommate stare at the floor dully. “What’s...what’s happening? Why aren’t you pissed?”
Lucky had been here almost two weeks now. He still hadn’t knocked once. Sebastian scolded him every time. The brunette didn’t answer Lucky’s question, he was so deep in his own memories, he’d barely processed the fact that Lucky had even entered.
“Uh...dude?” Lucky waved a hand in front of his face. “Have you been crying?”
Steel finally snapped his eyes up to meet his roommate’s silver orbs. He noticed his cheeks were wet and his eyes were tinged red. “Fuck off.” Sebastian murmured with little assertion.
Lucky snorted, leaning back against the wall, “I’m not exactly dying to go to my room. Sorry, I meant, bathroom. I live in a bathroom, Steel.”
“What’d you want?” He spat.
He glanced down at his nails nonchalantly, “Oh, I’m just trying to take advantage of you. You know, kick you while you’re down. Use your weakness against you.” He grinned smugly.
“Fuck off.” He repeated sternly.
“It’s my room too. I thought I made that pretty clear by my defiance towards knocking.”
Sebastian wanted to get up and punch him, then drag his sleeping body to his bed in the bathroom and slam the door. But he didn’t have it in him. He was too emotionally drained. All he could do was sit there and stare at nothingness.
“Seriously?” Lucky asked in exasperation. “You’re not even going to reply?”
“Please...” Sebastian whispered, “Please just leave me alone.”
Lucky’s brows creased into a curious frown as Steel leant back against the wall, his legs sprawled out on the bed in front of him. His face was covered by the shadow of the top bunk, but he could tell his expression was one of misery. It’s not that Lucky loathed Steel, he just resented him. He’d done nothing wrong and was being treated like shit for merely entering his own room without knocking. But it was clear that Steel needed help, and he wouldn’t deny that to someone who desperately needed it - whether they saw it that way or not.
With a heavy sigh, he crossed the small room and plopped down onto the bed beside Steel, shuffling until his back was pressed up against the cold wall too. “There was a kid in my class who said that to his friend. The friend was stupid enough to listen.” Lucky said quietly, staring at his dirty shoes hanging off the side of the bed. “He ODed that night.”
“Yeah, you’d be fucking devastated if I died, wouldn’t you?” He shot back sharply, his voice dripping in bitter sarcasm.
“Well, I’d be pretty pissed. The police would probably ask me a ton of questions and that’s just a lot of effort and paperwork for everyone involved.”
“So, you wouldn’t care if I died? I bet you dream about it every night, huh? Murdering me?”
Lucky shrugged, “Eh. A little. You and everyone else in this shithole.”
“I’m not gonna turn out like your friend. You can leave.” Sebastian finally broke off the small talk, trying to find a way out of this conversation.
Lucky only laughed, “I never said he was my friend. I said he was a kid in my class."
“It doesn’t fucking matter.”
“It matters to me!” Lucky retaliated. “This dude was a total racist and one time he tried to stab a trans guy ’cause he ‘looked at him funny’. I don’t want to be associated with that prick.”
“I don’t even know the twat, why does it matter if I think he was your friend?” Sebastian asked incredulously, stunned by the pointless nature of this conversation.
“Because I know.” Lucky shrugged. “It was heroin by the way. The thing he overdosed on. Hey, have you ever—?”
“No, I haven’t done heroin.” Sebastian spat, “Have you?”
“Nope. But I used to be friends with a group of inbred chavies - that’s what I call them, it sounds less mean, don’t you think? Anyway, they did it all the time. I almost tried it once actually, but the police showed up before I could—”
“Is this going anywhere?” Sebastian grumbled, rubbing his face in annoyance.
“I was just going to say, I’m glad I never did it. Heroin seriously fucks people up.”
“Yeah, well, half the kids in here came from drug related crimes. Why don’t you find one of them to talk about heroin with?”
“It’s around, isn’t it? The drugs, they’re everywhere.” Lucky lowered his voice, glancing at Sebastian for the first time, “How do they get it in?”
“How’d you think?” He asked dryly.
“I don’t know.” Lucky replied.
Sebastian rolled his eyes at Lucky’s failure to read the sarcasm in his voice. “It’s through the guards. It’s always through the guards.”
“They smuggle it in?”
Sebastian shrugged, “Not a hard thing to do.”
“But how? Aren’t there like metal detectors and searches and—”
“And those things are conducted by the guards. Use some common sense, Blue. They’re all part of it, they help each other get away with breaking all the rules in the fucking book.”
“But no one’s got any money, the kids in here are from rough backgrounds. How’re they getting paid for this?”
Sebastian rubbed his eyes from exhaustion, “How long is this gonna go on?”
“It just doesn’t make sense—”
“They suck them off, Blue.” He groaned in complaint.
“But I thought—”
“The dudes in here hate anything that smells even slightly homosexual but they’ll do anything for a high. Apparently it’s not gay if it’s for drugs.”
Lucky stared at the other boy, completely dumbstruck. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. None of his other schools had been anywhere near this rough. Sure, there were always drugs circulating, but he’d never heard of students bribing guards with such desperate actions.
“But then...” He scrunched his face up in concentration, trying to untangle the web of confusing questions clouding his brain. “Wait, so...there’s like the main dealers, right? The guys who do the...the deals with the guards. And then they sell it off to the other boys, so...so, how do they pay for it?”
Sebastian rolled his eyes, “Why do you care so much?”
“I’m just curious. It’s like a massive drug ring that no one’s doing anything about.”
Sebastian let out a deep breath, “They do stuff for them. Their dirty work. They beat up anyone who poses as a ‘threat’ and try to find out information. Mostly they just go round with rolled up sleeves, protecting each other.”
Lucky nodded in thought, his mind spinning with the revelation. The guards who were meant to be protecting them were supplying them with deadly substances. The boys who were meant to be students were drug lords. He’d always known the school was a dangerous place, containing dangerous people with dangerous intentions. But he’d never have thought something so dark and complex was dwelling beneath the surface of it all.
“Why were you crying?” He blurted out without being able to stop himself.
“Oh, fuck off.”
“Right. Yeah...I should...” He scrambled awkwardly off the bed, not realising how close they were sitting. He could have sworn when he first sat down there was a sizeable distance between them. That had completely evaporated and they’d apparently drifted closer. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Sebastian merely nodded as Lucky retreated into the bathroom and plonked down onto his mattress. Sebastian wondered what had just happened between them. Why was Lucky being so nice when he had treated the poor kid terribly ever since he arrived? It didn’t make sense.
Unless he was trying to get Sebastian to stop crying. He realised his eyes were completely dry. Lucky had quenched his pain and left him thinking about something besides Alex.
As Lucky drifted off to sleep, he wondered whether his plan had worked. He’d been trying to distract Steel by getting him to talk. He’d intended for the conversation to wander off on its own and find a natural ending. He definitely wasn’t expecting to discover the secrets that lay embedded behind Oakleaf’s walls, hidden from the rest of the world.
Plus, he got Sebastian out of his momentary trance of sadness - something Lucky was still extremely curious about.
He’d gotten useful information and cheered Steel up. Despite still hating the boy, he somehow felt like he’d come out of a win-win situation.