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Reads: 26

Downstairs in the kitchen. Ludwig has eaten and is now helping Ai straighten up from the party.

"I meant what I'd before," Ai says quietly, almost like he didn't want to be heard.

But he does. He's wanted to tell Ludwig since they were in Canada that he's sorry. He just didn't know if the male would believe him.

"He told me that he'd left my house because he was out of yours." Ludwig says over his shoulder.

He's at the sink loading the dishwasher with the dishes Quinn had washed a little earlier, before going upstairs to her son. He got his answer to the questions that plagued him for so long.

"What?"

"He was grounded, and he just wanted to be outside... Driving.. Just doing anything." Closing the machine, he turns around and leans against the sink's edging. "It wasn't because I had kissed him on the neck."

"...Yeah. Deep down, I kind of didn't think that was the reason. My brother's too nice to be mean to anyone, if he can help it." Taking a seat at the kitchen table, he sighs. "And, I wish that I never threatened you back then, and that it didn't get out that you're gay."

"I'm not gay, by the way." He replied matter-of-factly. "I'm... I don't know. Confused. Bi. I've liked guys but, never like how I like your brother." He held up his hand to silence the boy's parted lips. "He already knows, and he said he's not interested. Being friends with him is good enough for me."

"But for how long?"

"Don't compare me with his captor." Ludwig snips. "I care about him, but I'm not obsessed."

Ai shakes his head. "I'm sorry. I'm so relieved that he's back that I can't even see straight- none of us can- but, I only wanna say that I'm sorry. And... thank you, for not giving up. It's because of you my bother's no longer in pain... not physically anyway." Getting up, he moves over to him and wraps his arms around his torso. "I'm really glad that my brother knows you."

Hugging him back, he replies. "You don't have to thank me, I really didn't do it for the hero worship. I just wanted him home."

"It comes with the act, the 'thank yous'. You should be thanked when you do good things."

Chuckling, he nods. "Okay."

"We're good then?"

"We're good."

"Good. Being a jerk was weighing on me." Ai moves from the hug. "I'm waaaay worse in the nice department than my brother."

"Hnhn, then we're all afflicted. I'm pretty bad myself." Moving from the counter, he heads for the living room, and up the stairs.

The adults smile and greet him kindly, like he were a new member of the family. It's odd being 'thanked' for something major. Little stupid things like handing someone something, fine. But big stuff like this, he feels kind of weird about it. He's no hero, he's just damned lucky he was in the right place at the right time. Ludwig was also lucky to know the sick person who'd taken him. If there were no fire, and she wasn't dead, then he could have hopefully talked her down and got Yakusoku out. She would have been jailed. There is no forgiving what she did. She lied to him, and right to his face, while Yakusoku was little more than a bedroom or basement away. How could it get like this? How could she take him?

'Yakusoku said he can move things with his mind. He's a psychic... When did that happen? Has he always known?' His hand pauses at the knob. 'Aunt Marissa had told me about my gift, could she have told Yakusoku about his? But why? Why take him?! She can't still be thinking about getting even...'

He can hear the two talking on the other side of the door. They're talking about what happened that day during school. He wondered if he should enter or leave them alone? Was this another one of their private matters, like with Yakusoku's car on his birthday. But they'd invited him in then. Will they know?

"Ludo, come in." Yakusoku says through the door.

Opening the door, he smiled at the sight he sees. He likes it much better than the image before with a thick fog in the air, and the two completely stoned out of their fucking minds. Not to mention the smell of sex, which he still can't figure out why it was there that night. But instead they're playing cards, and instead of being practically on Yakusoku's lap the Russian is sitting on the air mattress that the two of them are sharing for the night.

"We're playing poker." Yakusoku says.

"Oh." Closing the door, he takes a seat on the bed beside the almost survivor.

"I already dealt your hand."

"Without me watching?" He questions. "I think you should deal again, you guys are probably cheating me."

"Out of what?" Yakusoku asks. "This game is free."

"Oh." Lifting his hand, his brow twitches. "Really... all Aces and a King."

"Cheat!" The two call out.

Then Gev pounced on him. The two playfully wrestle around on the air mattress, and laugh like idiots while Yakusoku watches with amusement from a safe distance for his broken body. Gev's got Ludwig pinned down beneath him and is fake punching him while Yakusoku provides sound effects for both the punching sound and the pain Ludwig is in.

"Pa! Pa! Pa! Oh! Uuuugh!"

Ai walks in just to say goodnight, and smiles when seeing that the three are laughing and not being all gloomy and serious. Climbing onto his brother's bed, he lays down on his stomach, smiling up at him when he looks down.

"What are they doing?" He asks good-naturedly.

"Ludo's a dirty cheat in cards."

Ai chuckled. "Slug him one for me."

But Gev's already mock throttling him, which Ludwig happily takes, because it's making Yakusoku smile.

"Alright, alright... stop killing him." Yakusoku says. "I wanna hear the rest of what happened to you guys."

Relieved for the rescue, Ludwig looks to Gev wondering how much in he'd gotten.

"Uuum, my dealer fed me some serious shit, and my heart stopped." Gev shrugged. His mishap had nothing on what Yakusoku went through. "I made it around long enough because of the cold, I walked to and from school so that warded it off. You know our school doesn't do heating systems if they can avoid it... so, I lived. Buuut, we were hanging out at Nono's and getting all hot from gaming- you know gamer's heat."

Yakusoku nods.

"And then your mom called. She was asking about you, and then I can't recall shit beyond waking up in the hospital with a fucking pacemaker." He lifts his shirt showing off his scarred chest. "And it fucking sucks, I can't use the microwave anymore."

"Poor Gevie." Yakusoku pats him on the head. "There go your cooking skills."

"Yeah, eat me." He playfully swats his hand away.

"Why did my mom call?"

His two friends exchange a look between each other, causing Yakusoku to wonder if they were uncomfortable with telling him, or if they were preparing to use the lie they've cooked up should the story ever have to be told to him.

"She was calling around asking if you were with us," Ludwig says. "She figured since you hadn't gone home that night that you must have stayed over at my house. But the school called her and said that you didn't show, she must have thought that we all skipped together."

It was understandable, he has taken off from classes and skipped school altogether dozens of times with his friends.

"We didn't get that far along in the conversation because Gev started tripping out."

"We didn't know anything was wrong either, because when you didn't show at school... we figured that you'd gotten sick and stayed at home."

'So that's it. It was all just an honest mistake on everyone's part. I was misplaced by write-offs... That's why no one looked for me right away... It was because they just assumed so much. I can't blame them, really. I did act up a lot; and I was blowing my nose to the point that you'd think I was sick.' He frowns. 'I went missing, and everyone just thought of reasons why I wasn't around, and brushed it off. I really did get what I deserved.'

"Yaku'." Ai cuts through his brother's self lashing. "We didn't know. And we're fools for not double-checking when you didn't come home. For god's sake it was a school night, and we didn't even notice that you didn't bring a change of clothes." Sitting up, he hugs him protectively. "We're so sorry."

"Yeah. I'm sorry, man." Gev rubs Yakusoku's thigh. "We're assholes."

"No, you're not." Yakusoku replies. "It's not anyone's fault. It's all honest mistakes."

They didn't think so. Yakusoku wasn't even sure that he thought so. But there was no changing it, so there was no need to worry anymore. He just needs to be more careful about going out, and not checking in. That way those 'mistakes' won't be made a second time.

"But what are you guys fighting about?"

"...They found out about what happened between you and Lud', because that Chester guy knows and, he told anyone with a fucking ear. So they were trying to put the squeeze on Ludwig for that. Although, what they wanted who fucking knows. And as far as our immediate crowd, I'm to blame for that because I was getting shitty because it was my birthday, and I wanted to spend it with you. It was all just bad timing, because I called Lud' something stupid having to do with being gay, and Clark overheard, and the rest just sort of went from there."

"And Nono?"

"You know him. God will punish you!" He throws his hands up like a bellowing worshipper. "So he doesn't want anything to do with Ludwig, and because I'm sticking by him, he doesn't want anything to do with me. And they can both kiss my ass if that's gonna be their behavior."

"I agree. And they were stupid to assume that that's the reason I was abducted." He thinks to himself. "When did all this happen?"

The two thought it over.

"Last month." Ludwig replied.

"How the hell did they know what happened between us?" Yakusoku wonders.

Ai swallowed a hard dry lump in his throat. "I was mad at Ludwig because I believed what he believed about it being his fault that you'd left, and I was mad. So, when Chester moved back here and he was asking for you... I kind of told him that I knew why you were gone, and he just sort of went from there. I didn't know it would get that bad, and I was just a kid and thought I needed help with making Ludwig squirm." He looks at said squirmer. "I wanted you hurt for hurting my brother. I'm sorry."

Ludwig was appalled by the statement, but he somewhat understood. He didn't know how pissed he'd be in the situation if it were him instead of Ai, so he couldn't really be too mad about it. But having the entire school believe that he'd damn neared raped Yakusoku to run him off. Fuck. It's all pretty fucked. How the hell is he supposed to go to school?

"Don't worry, though. They don't think you're gay- just me." Ludwig assures.

"I could care less what those assholes think. Anyone who bothers my friends is no friend of mine."

He would have added "Especially Ludwig" but that would just further stoke a fire brewing in there. He loves the slightly-to-the-left in the brain Canadian, he's his hero. And he'll always be in debt to him for it. But he can't love him the way he wants.

"There have been some good things that've happened." Gev says faintly smiling. "I've got a sport bike. It's silver."

"A bike?"

"I can only fail a driving test so many times before I start to accept that's, it's the car."

Yakusoku smiled hearing that.

"I took to that thing like it was made to sit between my legs." Winking at him, he adds. "I'll give you a ride sometime."

"I'd like that."

Gev then added. "Did I mention I've got a job too? I work with my mom in the catering business."

"You cook?"

"No. I serve and set up."

"Oh."

"And you'll trip out hearing this," He cocks his head in the Canadian's direction. "Ludwig works with coffee- you've got it made now, boy."

Seeing the shocked and happy gleam in the Asian's eyes, Ludwig quickly pipes up.

"I put food together." Ludwig corrects.

"Then I've lost interest in you already." Yakusoku teased.

"But I still work in the coffee shop." Ludwig adds. "I can give you cups from our best barista, while you visit me."

"Good save."

They joke and laugh, and keep the mood up. Ai eventually said goodnight and wandered off to bed. And the two guest stretched out when the conversation died down, and they fell asleep. But Yakusoku couldn't. He's laying on his back, staring up at the ceiling. There are people beside him, but he feels alone. the darkness around him is like a large box, shrinking and shrinking and enclosing him in until he's sure that he's been stuffed into a casket.

"No pause?" Ludwig says quietly, as he slips into the bed with him.

"No. No, pause." He allows himself to be spooned by his Batman.

He can already feel the darkness letting him go. The box gone, and the room is getting bigger. But that's cosmetic comfort. Ludwig can't enter his thoughts to battle the monster waiting for him there. Maria. It's always gonna be Maria. Every time he closes his eyes. Every time he stops speaking. Every time there's a crack to get in. She'll get in. So, he does not sleep. He just takes comfort in being anchored in Ludwig's arms. No, pause.


Submitted: November 24, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Ruelynn. All rights reserved.

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