Diesel strolled casually through the corridor, his room key swinging from his finger absentmindedly before he tucked it into his pocket. Once he’d approached the correct room, he leant against the doorframe and knocked twice.
He heard a hushed rustle of fabric and a few groans of complaint before Kit Samuels appeared, looking even more dishevelled than usual. “What d’you want?” He asked bitterly.
Diesel’s eyes trailed past Kit, where he could see a thin sliver of the room. ”Starr?” Diesel asked in exasperation, noticing his best friend sat crosslegged on the bottom bunk. “What are you doing here?”
Quinn leapt up in panic and joined Kit at the door, blushing furiously, “O-Oh, hey...hey, Diesel. I was just...we were...”
“We’re working on a project, Diesel.” Kit rolled his eyes. “What do you want?”
“Is your roommate here?” He asked impatiently.
Kit’s brows furrowed into a frown, “What d’you want with Benji?”
Diesel was still leant against the doorframe as he smirked knowingly, “I’m calling in a favour.”
“Benji doesn’t owe you any favours.” Kit snapped.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were the fucking favours police. D’you know where he is or not?”
“You think I’d tell you, even if I knew?” He asked dryly. “Just stop being a dick and leave him alone.”
“Quinn, make him tell me where he is.” Diesel instructed firmly, turning his attention to his friend instead.
Quinn’s eyes widened in alarm, “I-I can’t just...I don’t...”
“Oh, fuck this.” Diesel grunted, spinning on his heels and heading back the way he came. But it seemed to be his lucky day, because the second he turned around, he saw the exact boy he was looking for, walking straight towards him. His eyes lit up, a cruel smirk tugging onto his features, “Pup! Just the person I was looking for.”
Benji froze, his eyes becoming marbles, his blood running icy cold. “W-What d’you want?” He questioned nervously.
“C’mon, we’re gonna be late.” Diesel marched forward, grabbing his wrist and yanking him past the hallway and down the stairs. Benji followed submissively, too terrified to fight back. His entire body felt weak with nerves, his hands trembling, his lip beginning to bleed from how hard he was biting it.
Diesel didn’t remove his hand until he’d led him into the gym and shoved him into a little sports cupboard. Benji felt sick when he shut the door behind them and flicked the light on. It was dimly lit and full of disused equipment. Tennis rackets, rugby balls, hockey sticks and rounders posts. But all Benji could focus on was the guard, lurking by the cricket stumps. He looked to be in his mid to late thirties with a light shade of stubble brushing his chin, his eyes dark and menacing.
“I got a new one for you.” Diesel said, planting a hand on the back of Benji’s neck, making him flinch and recoil. “Let’s see it first.”
The guard reached into his back pocket and withdrew a clear plastic, ziplock bag. It was far from full, but a thin layer of white powder sat at the bottom, making Benji’s eyes almost pop out of their sockets. “I-Is that...?”
“Don’t worry, Pup. You get a cut.” Diesel assured him. “You ready?” He asked, snatching the bag of coke off the guard and stuffing it into his pocket.
The guard let out a low chuckle as Diesel sighed heavily and leant in to murmur in Benji’s ear, “You’re gonna help me get the drugs.” He whispered.
And that’s when Benji finally lost it. His knees gave way, sending him stumbling back to cling onto the wall, tears brimming in his eyes. “N-No.” He whimpered. “No, p-please, Diesel...please.” He begged desperately.
“No. N-No...no, I can’t, I can’t—”
“Pull yourself together, Cooper!” Diesel ordered harshly, paying no mind to the guard who’d started cackling away in amusement.
Benji shook his head frantically, falling to the ground as tears streamed down his cheeks uncontrollably. He pulled his knees to his chest and bowed his head, sobbing into his sleeve. “Please.” He whispered, so quietly, he barely even heard it himself.
Diesel let out an exasperated sigh and yanked Benji off the floor, pulling him up to his full height. Just as Benji thought he was going to be forced into something horrific, he was forced into the taller boy’s arms instead. His confusion was diluted with relief as he buried his face into Diesel’s chest and shamelessly cried into his shirt.
“Are we doing this or not?” The guard snapped in aggravation.
“No.” Diesel barked, his voice sending vibrations through his body, making Benji cling on tighter. He felt like he was holding onto a lifeline, and the second he let go, he’d be swept away and the world would crumble beneath him. “I need more time.”
“Well, how much longer?” The guard demanded.
“A couple days. I need to find someone else.” He said, fishing the cocaine out of his back pocket and tossing it at the guard. “Goodbye.” He spat, practically ordering him to leave.
The guard got the message and left the cupboard with a roll of the eyes. Soon, the silent room was filled with nothing but the sound of Benji’s sniffles and strangled cries. Diesel hesitantly raised a hand and placed it tentatively on Benji’s back, using his forefinger to absentmindedly trace circles through the smaller boy’s grey jumper. “It’s okay.” He murmured. “You don’t have to do it.”
Benji carefully pulled away, blinking his tears away and glancing up at Diesel shyly. “Sorry.” He whispered.
Diesel shook his head as if to dismiss it, retracting his body until the pair were completely separate, standing a few feet away from each other. “You still owe me.” He reminded casually.
Benji gulped and nodded faintly in agreement, glancing down at his hands and beginning to play with his sleeves.
“How ’bout you give me your pudding at dinner tonight and we call it even?”
Benji’s eyes snapped up in surprise, the tension in his shoulders ceasing as he relaxed his muscles. “O-Okay.” He smiled lightly from relief.
Benji thought he saw the vaguest trace of a smile cross the boy’s features. The corners of his lips twitched momentarily, and then steeled over once more. It was the first time Benji had seen even a hint of a smile on Diesel’s face and he found himself liking it. Despite the torture he’d just been through, he couldn’t help feeling grateful, even though Diesel was the one to put him in this situation in the first place, he was the one to get him out of it too.
“H-How often does that guard—?”
“No questions, Pup.” Diesel interrupted. “And you know that if you report this, everyone - including the staff - will make your life a living nightmare?”
Benji nodded in understanding. He’d figured that out for himself. If he said a word to anyone, he’d be cutting off the drug supply and getting the guards in trouble. No one would be on his side - he was better off leaving it alone and trying his absolute hardest to forget today even happened.
“Good.” Diesel nudged the door opened, before turning back to Benji, “See you, Pup.”
Benji suddenly felt extremely vulnerable, stood by himself in the dim room, his lashes still wet with salty tears. He’d managed to escape a panic attack, but every muscle in his body was twitching, every bone shaking, his skin scattered with goosebumps. He slid down to the floor, wrapping his arms around himself and trying to steady his breathing.
Kit was still on edge from Diesel’s visit. He’d seen boys get scarred for life after Diesel called in one of his ‘favours’. Benji was new and fresh and innocent. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what Diesel would make him do. “Why isn’t he back yet?”
“He’ll be fine—”
“He’s not fine, Starr!” He snapped, “C’mon, surely you know something, you fucking live with him!”
Quinn was sat on the floor, his legs sprawled out in front of him as Kit paced the room back and forth. “I already told you, I don’t know anything.”
Kit spared a glance down at the boy, his eyes softening only faintly. Quinn’s usually neat hair was scruffy and untamed, his shirt was ripped and his trousers creased. But the real source of his guilt stemmed from the ring of bruises lining his wrists. Dark stains of pain blossomed against his skin like bracelets, peeking out where his sleeve had ridden up.
Kit’s concern for Benji almost evaporated as he collapsed onto the floor, being replaced by a worry for Quinn. “Sorry.” He mumbled quietly, sitting opposite the other boy. “I didn’t mean...” He couldn’t finish his sentence, so merely gestured to Quinn’s wrists guiltily.
Quinn glanced down in confusion, “It’s okay.” He dismissed.
“No, I shouldn’t have been so rough—”
“Kit. I told you too.” Quinn reminded him, before sighing heavily, “I should probably get going and leave you alone.”
“You don’t have to leave.” Kit told him quietly, averting his eyes to the floor, “I mean, like...you can stay if you want.”
If this had happened a week ago, Quinn probably would have combusted from joy. But after everything that had happened, he had to think about his mental well-being. He’d confessed his feelings to Kit and if he let himself be played around with any longer, he’d only destroy himself. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” He said with difficulty, using all his willpower to decline the offer.
“Why not?” Kit asked curiously.
“I don’t know, maybe because of the agonising crush I have on you?” Quinn snorted.
Kit rolled his eyes and nudged the other boy with his foot, “D’you love me?” He teased.
Quinn shot him the finger before they both burst out laughing, “Fuck off.”
“What? I’m very lovable.” He continued in mock exasperation.
“Not to me. Or anyone else for that matter.”
Kit laughed along, but the words had stung. It was all too real for him.
“I’m Christopher. What’s your name?” The bright eyed ten year old chirped happily.
He was staring into the face of another young kid. Their eyes were emotionless and blank. Little did he know that soon, he would be drained of all existing light too. It was his first day at a new orphanage. He was constantly moving around, and he was excited to be in a new location. It only meant new friends. But the kids weren’t nice here.
“Your parents left you because they didn’t love you.” The kids taunted that evening, giggling and isolating him until it felt like the world was collapsing around him.
“That’s not true!” Christoper shot back, tears welling in his eyes. “They just didn’t have the money.”
“Aww, poor little Christopher from the ghettos—”
Before he knew it, he’d punched one of them in the face. He’d never been violent before. Ever. He’d been raised as a strong pacifist and the thought of violence and pain made him shudder and recoil. But here he was, fighting for the very first time.
Things only got worse for poor little Christopher. The next morning, he was moved to a different orphanage. Fighting became part of his daily routine, before he knew it, he’d been expelled three times. Oakleaf was his new home.
And now here he was, sat in his dorm, looking at Quinn Starr in a completely new light. He’d never noticed how thick his lashes were, or how his eyes were the perfect mix between glittering blue and emerald green. He’d never noted the faint freckles littering his nose before, or the shallow dimples indenting his cheeks when he smiled. Quinn’s face wasn’t chiselled and defined like most of the boys’ in here. It was innocent, with chubby cheeks and a soft jawline.
He was attractive. And he was polluted.
All the boys at Oakleaf were corrupted and destroyed, their futures laying as a shattered mess at their feet. Quinn Starr was no exception and neither was Kit Samuels.
Maybe they weren’t so different after all.