Elijah stood there for…well, he didn’t really know how long…after Luke stormed his way back inside. This whole thing was so very confusing. Bet?? What bet?? There had never been a bet! Everything between them had been real!! He had been so sure that Luke had known that! What had changed?? The pain that had been on that poor guy’s face…pain, he was sure, that Luke had felt before, pain Luke had wanted to avoid feeling ever again (and deserved to never feel ever again). Only it was worse now, because he had let himself fall in love.
“Oh, honey, where did it go wrong?” Elijah moaned to a boyfriend who was no longer there to hear it.
Then Elijah remembered something else Luke had said.
Austin told me.
All of a sudden it made perfect sense. The anger took over in milliseconds.
“God fucking damn it, you assholes!!” Elijah screamed as he made his way back into the building. So, they’d manipulated Luke into thinking the one thing Luke had always feared in the back of his mind. Elijah had hoped Luke’s faith would’ve been strong enough (especially now after last night) to withstand an attempt like this, but apparently his fear had still been stronger.
Elijah was…there really were no words to describe the absolute feral emotion he felt at the moment. It was bad enough that his stupid friends—Hah! Friends, his ass!—hadn’t shut the hell up about him dating Luke, but this? This was way over the god damned line!! Perfect record or not, he was going to have several words with Zach, and not just words, either, he was going to fucking beat the ever living shit out of him; there was no doubt that this little scheme had come from Zach’s mind because nobody else could’ve pulled it off so seamlessly. Nobody else would’ve even thought of it. So the first thing to do was to find out what the hell had actually happened. Then, he was going to punish, severely. Mainly, though, Elijah just wanted to get Luke back (he had a plan for that, too).
Getting back into the cafeteria, he found Zach already waiting for him.
“Eli, buddy, hey.” His expression changed to one of apprehension as he saw the fury. “Hey, what—hey, wait!”
Elijah did not stop until he was close enough to grab the front of Zach’s shirt and slam him up against the column that stood just behind their table.
“WHAT IN THE HELL DID YOU DO TO HIM?!” His voice echoed across the cafeteria, catching every single kid’s attention in the room. They all fell silent to watch; he did not give two shits about it.
“I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!” Zach yelled back.
“DON’T LIE TO ME!” He slammed Zach again. “You’re the only one in this fucking group of morons,” several of them took offense at which he ignored, “to pull off something like this!! WHAT DID YOU DO?!”
Zach decided in the spirit of self-preservation that the most likely path to escape Elijah’s wrath unscathed was to just tell him the truth.
“Alright, alright, I’ll tell you! Just let me go.”
That earned him another slam into the column, this time his head knocking on the concrete hard enough to smart but not hard enough to cause a concussion.
“Ow!! Alright! Jesus Christ!! Nathan and Austin saw you lovey-dovey with him this morning, more lovey-dovey than usual, and guessed that you’d gotten lucky last night with…” Jason couldn’t help the sneer, “him.” That earned him another slam. “Would you STOP THAT?! God! They came straight to me with the news, and a not-completely-stupid plan to break you two up. It needed some tweaking, which is what I did. You really needed a wake-up call! You were so blinded by this fucker’s filth that you couldn’t see the damage you were doing to your reputation here! People were already starting to say shit about you and we just couldn’t have that, right, boys?”
The group sitting at the table behind Elijah agreed.
Elijah felt his fury get worse (in all honesty, he was kind of surprised that his heart hadn’t collapsed yet under all the stress). He was almost considering choking the ever living life out of this motherfucker, and then doing it to every other insolent piece of shit in the group. Of course, then he’d then be arrested for manslaughter and that meant never getting Luke back…
“Get to the point!” he snarled instead.
“I am!! I swear!! We figured Luke, wary of us, would have been observing how this group worked, know your enemy and all that, and therefore, he probably noticed who was more involved in the group as a whole than others. Nathan and Austin have been on the outside this whole time because they’re freshman newbies, and had yet to prove themselves. Luke clearly saw this, as he let Austin talk to him. If it’d been any one of us that had been closer to you within the group, this plan would not have worked; Luke would’ve shut them down.
“Now, this is a typical high school in America, there’s a popularity hierarchy, and given the status difference between you two, it made sense that Luke would be on the lookout for any sign that your feelings weren’t real. Even after six months. Even after whatever happened between you two last night.”
“That,” slam, “is”, slam, “none of,” slam, “YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS!” Elijah roared.
“STOP THAT! I GET IT, YOU’RE ANGRY! Jesus! Listen to me! Because that is the stereotype that a lot of teens still live up to! You’re popular and he isn’t! We simply played on that; Austin pretending like he was witnessing some cruelty he couldn’t stomach, and wishing to make it stop because he thought Luke deserved better.”
“And Luke ate it right up,” Austin said, smug. “He’s one of the easiest marks I’ve ever had.”
Elijah closed his eyes briefly to get a smidgen of control over himself. It’d do no good if he attacked them now. He’d likely kill them, and that was no good. He’d already risked giving Zach a concussion.
Just a teeny bit calmer now, he looked at Zach.
“Well, it worked, didn’t it?”
Elijah forced his tone to sound light: “Sure did, man. Say, I have a question.”
Zach ate it right up, brightening at the change.
Good, Elijah thought, that’ll make this even better.
“Anything you want, man,” Zach offered him.
“Does this hurt?”
He rammed his knee straight into Zach’s crotch, turned as Zach fell to the ground and punched Austin square on the jaw. For an added measure, he kicked Austin in the nuts, too.
Then he looked around the cafeteria to address everyone who’s just witnessed this.
“If anyone dares tell on me for what I’ve just done, I swear to God you’re going to wish you were never born! You need to stop being such superficial pieces of shit and let me love whoever the fuck I want! Luke is mine! I am going to get him back and when I do, I better not hear jack fucking SHIT about him not being popular!! You need to just get the fuck over it; this is MY life, NOT YOURS!!”
Silence greeted his request as he left the cafeteria and somehow, he knew nobody would breathe a word.
Now, he had to find Luke, and he had a fairly good idea where he’d gone.
Once the tears had ebbed, I no longer wanted to be in the school’s lowest level, so I made my way out to the bleachers by the field. It was deserted at the moment, which was what I had hoped. I sat down on the highest row, better to see if a certain someone I never wanted to talk to again was coming to try to talk me into believing him. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, after all. Though in my case, fool me at all, it was my fault for being so fucking gullible in the first place. I knew better. I’d known better…and still…I’d fallen like a god damned fool.
He came when I had my face buried in my hands, unable to stop the fresh sobs.
My head snapped up as my heart let out the worst…scream is as best I can describe it. I glared at him.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!! Jesus Christ, what more could you possibly want from me?!”
“I have proof that I wasn’t lying to you! That there really was no bet.”
I barked out a laugh.
“Oh, sure. I bet you just told them what to say and recorded it so I’d believe you! Nice try, jackass, but I’m not fucking falling for any more of your damn shit! Leave me alone!”
“Luke, please! I don’t want to live withou—Luke! Wait! Luke!”
That’s when I punched him. (In hindsight: I got lucky that he merely fell onto the row instead of tumbling down the rest of them).
“You’ve ripped me apart, Elijah! You’ve done the worst thing you could’ve ever done to me! You fucking win, get it?! I never fucking want to see you again! I hope you die NOW LEAVE ME ALONE.” I stalked off down the bleachers.
Elijah watched, lower lip swelling up already, as Luke walked away. Tears snuck up on him as the anger gave way to despair. Well, they’d done it. They’d successfully ruined the best thing he’d had ever fucking had.
No, damn it! A voice inside his mind spoke up. You love him, right?
Well, duh, yeah.
Then don’t give up! So, he won’t believe the recording. You need to find an ally of his that is still willing to vouch for you. Someone that he’d—
“I saw everything,” Autumn’s voice sounded out of the blue, startling the ever living shit out of him.
Elijah looked up, or rather down, at Autumn standing at the bottom of the bleachers. Wiping his tears, he made his way down to her.
“You saw…?” He asked, needing clarification before he got his hopes up.
“What you did in the cafeteria, yeah. That’s what you recorded, right? I saw you fiddle with your phone before you went over. I knew your plan. It was a good idea, but the wrong person delivering it. So I ran a recording, too.”
Elijah wanted to grab her in a hug, but he knew she’d not want a hug from him, of all people…not right now. He also waited, sensing that there was more to be said by her. Sure enough:
“I just need to know…do you really love my brother?”
Elijah never even hesitated.
“More than anything and everything.”
“I’m pretty sure he feels the same. I’ve never seen him so broken.”
Tears blinded him for a moment before spilling over down his cheeks.
“Autumn, I swear to God, I never—”
She held up a hand to stop him.
“I know. He was happy with you. I can see that clear as day right now. I’ll talk to him; try to get him to listen.”
Gratitude flooded him.
“Thank you. Really. So much.”
“If you ever hurt him like this again and it IS your fault, I will fucking torture you until the end of time.”
A weak chuckle well beyond his control escaped him.
“That is completely fair, Autumn.”
She nodded at him, barely controlling a smile of her own, and walked away. After a few minutes taken to collect himself, he followed, praying like hell that Luke would see the real truth. Elijah didn’t want to live in a world where he didn’t belong to Lucas Sullivan; that was a world too painful to bear.