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[personal profile] alley_skywalker
Title: Rejection, Manipulation, Hope
Author: [personal profile] alley_skywalker 
Word Count: 10,188
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Sergei/Angel, Sergei/Eric
Warnings: social and internalized homophobia, abusive (mainly emotionally) relationship, cutting
Summary: Sergei’s first love was a disaster. His first relationship isn’t turning out to be much better. But maybe, through all the confusion and helplessness, there’s a way to find hope.

PART I - ANGEL

Looking at Angel is like staring into a supernova. Sergei can’t quite bring himself to do it half the time and there’s a burning, prickling sensation behind his eyes every time he tries to, so he chooses to hide his eyes instead. Thankfully, Angel, with his bright, radiant smile, is far too oblivious to most things to actually notice.

Sergei tugs at his school tie to loosen it slightly and clutches his books closer to his chest, choosing to stare at his locker door rather than at Angel, who is coming down the hall toward him with his usual carefree bounce. Sergei knows he is being silly, that whatever he is feeling should not be there and he wishes desperately that Angel could be a girl or that, better yet, he himself could be a girl so that staring at Angel would not be considered quite as creepy.

“Serge, what’s so interesting about the lockers?” Angel’s voice, baffled, streams through Sergei’s thoughts, the French form of his name which Angel uses as an endearment, rolls the “r” in a purring manner that makes everything inside him curl up and squish so tightly that it almost hurts.

Sergei forces himself to look around at his friend and smile. “Just lost in thought.”

Angel shrugs and bounces his bag on one shoulder. Sergei thinks that it is a good thing that he and Angel are in the Second Parallel rather than the First. The First wear the bright red blazers, which would clash horribly with Angel’s soft, silky, strawberry-blonde hair. Instead, they wear the black blazers and the deep, dark fabric makes Angel’s crystal-grey eyes look darker than they are, reflecting the dancing sunlight. “Let’s go to class, I don’t want to be late again.”

“We were late because of you last time,” Sergei murmurs, falling into step alongside Angel as they make their way down the hall which is already mostly empty.

“I had an excuse,” Angel says sheepishly and the smile he gives is utterly kissable.

“What? Skyping from your phone?”

“With Theodore,” Angel mentions as though the mere fact is supposed to explain everything that is both right and wrong in the world. “Speaking of Teddy!” Angel nearly jumps at his own realization and Sergei jumps from the suddenness as he is only half aware of his own surroundings, all other thoughts are lost somewhere along the line where Angel’s soft hair touches the nape of his neck, brushing along the smooth, light skin there. “He’s coming for his Spring Break! We won’t be quite on break yet but I am so excited.” Angel turns sharply and grabs onto Sergei’s shoulders, squeezing them slightly. “Do you realize that I have not seen him since Christmas? I can’t wait until he’s here and all the stuff we’ll get up to.”

Sergei shrugs dismally and forces a smile. “You two are close.”

Angel shrugs and begins to walk again. “He’s my best friend. Like my older brother, you know? I don’t love anyone like I love him. Aside from my family, but you get the idea.”

Sergei stays silent not wanting to give some sort of forced answer. Angel was too absorbed in his daydreams of Theodore Fucking Davidson to notice anyway.

“Goddamn his college. He doesn’t need to go to uni. Well, he does but I still miss him and…”

Sergei can’t help but smile at the way Angel carries on, everything else in the world passing over his head like clouds pass over fields. Angel is constantly lost somewhere in another world, a world in his head. It’s strange sometimes to think how extroverted he is, how many friends and acquaintances he has given his tendencies to float off to Lala Land every chance he gets.

They reach their class and Sergei holds the door open for Angel just as the bell rings. They slip inside and find seats. Angel heads straight for the empty chair behind Tasha Growman. She turns to smile at him and Angel grins back lopsidedly at her. Sergei wishes Angel smiled at him like that more often, or ever, really. He suddenly becomes aware that he had frozen in the middle of the aisle and drops down into the nearest empty chair. He can still see Angel from his spot and that’s all he cares about.

*~*

Coming out to his parents hadn’t gone horribly. Really, Sergei knows it could have been much worse. He’d chosen to do it to avoid his parent’s constant questions about when he was going to get a girlfriend or why he never took girls to the dances or why in the name of hell was there gay porn on his computer. Sergei never forgave that particular virus which indirectly forced a confession from him.

His parents didn’t start hating him or calling him names. He wasn’t kicked out of the house, beaten, or threatened and he still received his weekly allowance as usual. But he could tell that his parents were upset. Just…upset, perhaps angry. Not at him but at something else, like God maybe. Sergei sometimes hears them talking at night and he knows his mother cries when she talks about it. They’re educated, well-to-do people but somehow they’ve managed to classify his sexual orientation as an illness. His father’s a doctor so he knows it’s not really an illness, not something cureable. Perhaps that’s why Sergei has managed to avoid being sent to support groups and those ridiculous religious cure-the-gays farces. But it’s still hard when his parents look at him and he can feel it, he can feel that they’re looking at him like he’s someone who has a horrible, incurable disease, a crippling disability or something of the sort.

Half the time, Sergei wants to shout at them, “Stop it! Stop pitying me. Stop kicking yourselves and Ma, for the love of God, stop crying.” But he keeps quiet every single time and tries to avoid talking about anything that would remind them of his “illness” because it’s horrifying to realize that he’d almost prefer that they hated him. The way things are, he just feels guilty all the time.

So, of course, Sergei never talks about Angel. His parents know who he is – he and Angel had been good friends long before he’d come out of the closet. But he never really talks about Angel, never mentions even the tiniest fraction of what Angel makes him feel. Of course he knows what exactly it is that he feels; Sergei has known since their Freshman year what his feelings meant. He never liked them, he always felt like they must be wrong if everyone he knows reacts to them with either hatred or pity, but he’d always known. This goes beyond anything that could be called friendship. Angel pulls him in like a star, like the sun, with a gravity so forceful that Sergei can only stare into the abyss of his own desires as he falls into them without a single hope of escaping.

Sergei can’t help but daydream sometimes, can’t help but wonder if it is just him or if Angel may be the same. Perhaps he, Angel, does not even realize it or perhaps he does not have a reason to acknowledge the feelings. After all, Sergei would not have thought to go through all of this if it wasn’t for Angel, if it wasn’t for that slight hope that if one of them took a step forward they could end up meeting half way.

Sergei has seen the way Angel looks at Theodore. Theodore who is certainly straight as they come, who has probably slept with Angel’s own sister, but Angel still gets that wide-eyed, puppy-dog look every time Theodore Fucking Davidson comes up in the conversation. He’s seen the touches and the smiles, the strange giggles and the incredible way with which a complete, inner sort of warmth and happiness seems to radiate off of Angel whenever he foresees the prospect of Theodore coming home from University for a break.

Sergei thinks of Angel’s scarves and the way the light, bright fabrics brush over Angel’s neck and shoulders, the way Angel likes to play with their ends and twirl and twist them around like a ribbon. He thinks of Angel’s love for white and pink, even though pink often clashes with his hair, and the expensive but tasteful cologne that Angel wears even to school. Angel and his girlishly long lashes, his amateur but endearing artwork, his love for ballroom dancing and fencing. Surely, surely Angel cannot be one hundred percent straight. Sergei cannot imagine someone who could possibly be more perfect, more perfect for him.

It’s a long and sad dream, breathtaking in all of its exquisite doubts and hopes. Sergei wonders if things could have been different if they went to a different school. West Hollywood is only a short drive away but Rochester Grammar is ideologically universes away from that sort of scene. A scene in which Sergei can imagine himself and Angel walking hand-in-hand. He’s certain people at school know. He hasn’t said anything to anyone and no one has asked – it wouldn’t be proper and for this social circle proper is a word held above all others. He stays out of people’s way and they stay out of his. Sergei just wonders if Angel knows and if he cares.

Perhaps it would be better if Angel doesn’t know Sergei’s wild, inappropriate desires. They can continue being friends and he can keep Angel’s smiles and quasi-flirtatious glances and the careless touches all to himself for at least another year or so before they both move on to college.

That is, of course, if he can stay sane for another year because Angel has been burning something so deep within him that Sergei doesn’t think he’ll have much of a heart or a soul left a year later if he doesn’t come clean, doesn’t either revive his hope or murder it. But the poison of doubt has to go. He cannot possibly keep living with it.

*~*

Sergei feels a strange pressure somewhere deep under his ribcage. At first he thought that those were butterflies but those are supposed to make you lightheaded or perhaps nauseas. This feeling just makes him want to take in long, ragged breaths and slide down the white, plaster-covered wall and sit on the cold hallway floor, disregarding the flood of students passing by. He hasn’t gotten the courage to look around the corner yet although when he hears the sudden squawks, giggles and cat-calls floating to him through the babble of regular conversation his curiosity begins to get the best of him.

Three days after Theodore Davidson’s plane had landed in LAX and Angel had canceled all of his plans to go for a late night dinner with him, Sergei decided that he simply could no longer wait, could no longer pretend that he did not feel bafflingly high every time Angel was near. It wasn’t even jealousy, just a simple realization that Angel has to have at least the capability to give him half a chance. That is all he truly needs. Even if Angel is in love with his best friend, Sergei can change that if he tries, he’s sure of it. Theodore is straight; Angel will let it go.

And even if he doesn’t, at least the air will be cleared and some things will be figured out once and for all.

He looks around the corner, half hidden by a newspaper stand and watches Angel who is standing in front of his open locker, the bouquet of roses Sergei had painstakingly picked out with help from the florist in one hand and the note he had attached to them in the other. Some people are gathered around, some of them are Angel’s friends. They’re laughing and a couple of them slap Angel’s shoulders playfully.

“Way to go, Angel.”

“How does it feel being fag-stalked?”

Angel brushes them off and slams the door of his locker shut. He stares intently at the note for another few moments, then crumbles it up and tosses it into a trashcan along with the roses. He looks up and for a moment, Sergei thinks that Angel will see him standing there, arms hanging limply at his sides as the air is slowly sucked out from his lungs. But Angel looks straight ahead, thoughtful, his gaze unseeing, then makes a face and looks away.

Sergei skitters back to his safe spot behind the corner and this time he does slide down the wall, his hands automatically coming up to rub at his temples. Fuck. Something about Angel’s eyes and the vicious way he’d disposed of the flowers and the note make Sergei feel small and his own body feels tight like a pair of brand new jeans before they’d been through the washer a time or two. There was something desperately dangerous about Angel’s sharp movement, something so highly contrasting to the delicate smooth way he usually moves that Sergei thinks he has either killed or awoken something in his friend which should have stayed dormant forever and the idea that he had crossed a line he should never have crossed eats at him slowly from within.

The bell rings and in its long, drawn-out siren, he hears the laughter of Angel’s friends and their teasing, jostling comments. In Sergei’s mind, their teasing turns to taunting and the sunlight that reflects off the hallway floor from the skylights in the ceiling begins to slowly thicken and clot, growing into dark ominous shapes.

After a moment, the delusion fades and Sergei breathes in slowly. The laughter is gone from his ears and there is nothing but deafening silence. The hallway is bright and perfectly empty. Sergei stands and slings his backpack over one shoulder. He makes his way down the hall, in the opposite direction from the classroom he should be in at the moment. He passes the trashcan Angel had thrown Sergei’s heart into and stares down at the wadded up paper and drying roses, the edges of their petals already seemingly darker and rougher.

He will talk to Angel tomorrow and make this right. He won’t let this ruin their friendship, he’d decided that earlier this morning as he taped his note to the roses. Even if it kills him.

*~*

Angel and Theodore make an imposing pair as they walk down the hall of Rochester Grammar, shoulders bumping casually without either noticing or caring. Tasha Growman, who is with them, seems a strange third-wheel addition, completely out of context even if her and Angel’s hands keeps brushing against each other. Sergei doesn’t understand why they won’t just hold hands, for God’s sake. No one would laugh at the two of them for doing it.

From his place beside Angel’s locker where Sergei had been waiting for the past fifteen minutes, glancing nervously at the clock on the opposite side of the hall which ticked down the minutes until Homeroom would start, he can take several seconds, unobserved and unobstructed, to allow his eyes to roam over Theodore. He is not in school uniform of course, but his shirt has a collar, it is untucked and the sleeves rolled up, and his dark-wash jeans hug his hips in a way that makes Sergei’s body react unbidden. Theodore can pull off the sloppy-professional look with an incredible amount of flare. He has the most entrancing blue eyes and touchable light-brown curls. If Angel is in love with him, Sergei couldn’t blame him. It makes a whole of a lot more sense than Angel’s seeming infatuation with Tasha who is small, blonde, grey-eyed, doll-faced and perfectly vapid.

Angel is smiling. At least he is up until the point that he sees Sergei. His smile then fades and small spots of color begin to tinge his cheeks. He’s adorable and Sergei wants nothing more than to reach out and hold him. “Hey.”

Angel stops right in front of him but can’t help but look down. “Hey.”

“So the boyfriend is here!” Theodore laughs and leans against the wall of lockers casually. His dancing eyes roam over Sergei curiously, making the younger boy painfully self-conscious.

“I wanted to talk to you about yesterday,” Sergei presses on bravely, ignoring Theodore’s smirk and the eyes he can feel starting to focus on them from all sides.

“Right now’s not a good time, Serge,” Angel says quietly but with a cold note in his voice. “I’m sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding.”

“You’re not really going to date him are you, Angel?” Tasha simpers, blinking her large eyes like a cartoon bird. “I mean…he’s a boy.

“Don’t be stupid, of course not. I’m not gay.” Angel opens his locker door with a yank and jumps back as a disorderly mass of flowers pours out on top of him. Laughter echoes on all sides and there are, what feels like, millions of eyes watching them from all cracks and corners and sides, peering curiously through the morning light to watch the unraveling strings of Sergei’s life.

“What the hell?” Tasha gasps, one hand going up to her mouth.

Angel hurriedly slams the locker shut. “Serge! Jesus Christ what the hell?” he snaps, rounding on Sergei with fiery indignation.

“I—I didn’t…” Sergei stares at Angel, who has flower petals in his hair, in utter bewilderment. He hadn’t done that. He would never have done something so silly, something that was obviously meant to make fun of Angel, tease him at the very least. “That wasn’t me…”

“Oh really?” Angel crosses his arms, the color in his cheeks flares and his pupils begin to dilate. Sergei takes an alarmed step back. “Were you not the one who put roses in my locker yesterday with a note declaring your undying love?” Angel is shouting now and the laughter around them has stopped. So has all other conversation.

“I did. Yes, roses. But this, this wasn’t me.”

“Relax, Angie, it wasn’t him,” Theodore drawls, still smirking.

Angel turns on him. “You?” He sounds baffled and hurt.

“Not personally. But I might have…known about it.” Theodore is still smirking.

Angel flails for some time then explodes. “You think this is funny? This isn’t funny, Teddy!”

“Oh of course it is. No one doubts you being ok, Angel.”

“Just wanted to make sure, though!” someone calls from the back of the crowd and there is a new explosion of laughter. “Wanted to make sure you don’t like getting flowers.”

“No, I don’t. And stop staring.” Angel turns to Sergei and looks at him like the other boy had betrayed him in some sort of fundamental way. “You’re lucky it wasn’t you.”

“You threw my flowers away, Angel. I figured you wouldn’t like any more,” Sergei says blankly, feeling unreality settle around him. There are far too many people watching them.

Angel sneers derisively, an uncharacteristic expression for him. He doesn’t look much like Angel when he has that look and Sergei flinches involuntarily. “Of course I didn’t like it, Serge. I’m not gay. I don’t know what the hell made you think that I would possibly be! Just because I’m friends with you doesn’t automatically make me the same as you. I. Like. Girls.” He turns to Tasha and pulls her into him, kissing her. She’s surprised but wraps her arms around Angel’s neck anyway. Sergei looks away, feeling ashamed and heartbroken. All around them people are cheering. Finally, Angel lets go of Tasha and looks back up at him. “Just fuck off with your stupid crush, ok?” he mutters and shoulders past Sergei.

When Sergei finally manages to look up, he meets Theodore’s sharp eyes. The older boy regards him for a moment, then shrugs.

“You knew they were going to do this. You knew it would embarrass Angel. Why would you let them?” he asks. No one is paying attention to them anymore.

“It’s for your own good, Sergei, trust me. Angel would have never been able to tell you to fuck off in any certain terms otherwise, he’s too sweet for that. Then people would talk. And I would rather you be the object of everyone’s derision rather than him.” Theodore pushes off the lockers and strides past Sergei, adding as he passes by, “after all, you’re the queer.”

Sergei stands there as the hall slowly empties, watching the colorful flower petals swarm on the floor in a light breeze coming through a window opened somewhere. He thinks, glumly, that he’ll be lucky if Angel forgives him. As hard as he tries not to, and as much as it hurts, he’s already forgiven Angel.


PART II – ERIC

One of the most amazing things that Sergei discovers in college is GSA. Such a thing was unimaginable at Rochester Grammar, the rather small size of the school being a secondary reason. Sergei goes to the first meeting, egged on by a girl he had made friends with from his dorm, and manages to feel horribly uncomfortable around all these people who are supposed to have at least something in common with him. It isn’t that he dislikes them but the fact that someone could be so open, and even aggressive sometimes, about something like their sexual orientation is baffling and Sergei can not find the nerve to talk to most of the other people there even though everyone seems very normal and welcoming.

Sergei goes a to few more meetings despite the initial discomfort, however, and even gets to know a few of the people well enough to go out to a party with them or schedule a few study sessions, but he never gets truly involved with all the things the organization does. Some of the people there say it’s ok, others say that he should just come out. Sergei doesn’t think of himself as closeted though. He’s fairly willing to tell everyone at the school if they ask up front – the campus is indescribably more tolerant that his hometown – but he doesn’t see a reason for shouting out randomly to anyone who will listen that he likes to do it with guys. If people want to know, they’ll ask, otherwise why bother?

The big part that GSA does play in Sergei’s life is that without it he may never have come to know Eric. The party they meet at is GSA co-sponsored, loud and properly drunken. He goes out for a breath of fresh air, feeling his head spin from a few too many drinks and almost runs into someone. “I’m so sorry,” Sergei mutters and looks up. Instantly, he feels even more embarrassed then before.

In front of him, partially hidden in shadow is a tall young man with brown hair, wearing a leather jacket. In the dim light of his cigarette, Sergei thinks that he can make out the color of his eyes – bright, emerald green. He smirks attractively at Sergei and offers him a spare cigarette. “You smoke?”

“No. I… I just came out for air. Thanks, though.” He leans against the side of the house and watches the tall boy as he smokes, noticing the breadth of his shoulders and the correct lines of his chin and nose, the attractive curve of his lips when he smokes. “I haven’t seen you at GSA,” Sergei says as a way of breaking the silence.

“I don’t go to that shit. I don’t need a stupid club to either tell me who I am, to make friends or to get laid.”

“Oh. Me neither.” It sounds sheepish to even Sergei’s ears. Eric smirks knowingly and Sergei blushes. “I’m mostly here because of a friend. A friend invited me.”

“Yea, same here. Sometimes there are cute freshmen around these parties.” He holds out a pause, then looks over at Sergei and shrugs noncommittally. “I’m Eric, in case you care.”

“Sergei.” He wants to say, You can call me Serge, but doesn’t because he hasn’t been able to stand that name since Angel’s public rejection. It brings back too many memories.

“You wanna go back to my place?”

Sergei swallows and looks away. “Sorry, I…I don’t think…” He’s drunk and rather horny. Nor can he believe that Eric is offering or that Eric is offering. To someone like him when he could probably have anyone he wanted.

Eric holds up a hand and there is a teasing glint in his eyes that Sergei can make out even through the shadows. “It’s alright. Whatever.”

Eric makes to leave but Sergei calls him back, panic at having rejected such an offer rising up in him. “Wait! Listen, it’s not you—I mean I waned to I’m just—I’m just…” He falters and blushes.

“A virgin?” There’s laughter in Eric’s voice but Sergei can no longer make out his face.

“Yes.” He ducks his head. Eric is silent so he continues, a little more hopefully. “I was hoping I could see you some time though? Just…you know…casual? Maybe show me the gay club seen? I don’t know many people who would.”

There is silence again and Sergei is getting rather worried until Eric says, finally, “What’s your number? I’ll text you a place.”

*~*

At first, everything is great. Eric is funny and good looking and he makes Sergei feel on top of the world, like he’s protected and like he can do anything with a guy like Eric beside him. Eric introduces him to the club scene and to all the “right” parties. He introduces Sergei to some people and tells him to not mind the GSA activists and their nagging, which is almost a relief. Eric likes to listen to Sergei, about his life, while talking very little about himself. Sergei finds that pleasantly surprising. He had expected someone like Eric to be far more egocentric.

Sure, Eric dictates where they go out and what they do but they’re usually fun things and Sergei doesn’t know much about the queer community – or anything at all really – so he lets Eric lead the way. So Eric pushes him into sex, but Sergei figures he has to start having it eventually and Eric is rather patient with him. Sergei tries hard for him, tries hard to not cry, to not protest against oral and to not ask for anything back. After all, he’s never had sex with anyone, a guy or a girl, how is he to know how it’s done. God knows none of the people he knew back at school discussed it in any great detail, at least not the people he hung out with. And even if Eric should have reciprocated more, Sergei doesn’t feel like he deserves to have so much fuss made over him. It is already amazing that Eric is with him in the first place.

Sergei has no doubts. But apparently other people do. When he tells Michelle, one of the people he is closest to at GSA, about him and Eric, she pouts and looks displeased.

“So…is he like your boyfriend?” she asks carefully.

Sergei shrugs. “I don’t know, I suppose so. He hasn’t actually said anything like it but I’m not seeing anyone else, he isn’t either, I don’t think, and we’re doing all the things…” Her look is still concerned and he blinks uncertainly at her, feeling a small sinking in his stomach. Of course, it was too good to be true. “Is Eric not the sort who does relationships? I mean, that’s ok, he made no promises it’s just—“

She’s shaking her head. “No, no, it’s not that. He’s just...be careful ok? Eric is…”

“What?”

“He’s not always a very nice person.”

“He seems nice enough to me.”

“Just…make sure you can always get out.” She doesn’t say any more on the topic and Sergei makes a mental note of her words but it gets inevitably misplaced somewhere in his mind.

*

“I’ve been told I should be careful around you,” he admits to Eric that night as they lie on Eric’s bed after sex. Sergei is tired and a little sore but he can still talk. Eric is smoking, lying besides Sergei but the younger boy doesn’t dare reach out to hold him. He’d learned very early that Eric isn’t much of a cuddler.

Eric snorts. “Do you care what they say? How did this conversation even come about?”

“Michelle asked if you were my boyfriend.”

“And you told her?” There’s a dangerous edge to Eric’s voice and Sergei suddenly feels a shiver of something that’s not quite fear but not quite arousal either.

“That I didn’t know? It’s not like we’ve talked about it.”

Eric sits up and looks down at Sergei with something akin to calculation. “Listen, Sergei, don’t worry about the lot of them. They’re all goody-two-shoes who know nothing about it. Not like I do.”

Sergei thinks this over. Eric is sort of right – Sergei had opened to him the most. He nods slowly.

“As for the other thing…” Eric puts out the cigarette and tosses it aside, then reaches out and runs a hand down Sergei’s cheek, his neck, then across his chest and all the way to his hip, stopping and staying there. “Would you like to be mine?”

Eric’s bright green eyes seem to sparkle in the gloom and Sergei nearly gasps his answer as he goes hard for the second time that night. “Yes.”

*~*

“Please don’t.” Sergei can feel the horror building within him, spreading through his body and freezing him from the inside. He can’t look up at Eric and he can barely breathe. This part of campus has always been quiet and this late in the evening the Heartport Hall bathroom is deserted with no chance of anyone coming in. There’s a leak in one of the faucets and fat water droplets drip lazily and steady against the white bottom of the sink, making a rhythmic plinking sound which echoes in the silence of the enclosed space. Sergei can feel his nerves tearing more and more at every drop. The fluorescent light bulb above them is dim on one side, throwing uneven shadows across the floor and into corners.

“You said you wanted to be mine.”

“I meant I wanted to be your boyfriend.” Sergei wants to scream or run but the former won’t do him any good and the latter… Even if he could manage to slip past Eric, he’s got no where to go, really. Eric would come back tomorrow and it would start all over again.

Sergei hears the slap land on his cheek before he actually feels the burning sting of skin connecting with skin. The force of the slap is so strong that he stumbles back and would have fallen if the wall hadn’t been there. The cold plaster chills Sergei through his shirt. He tastes blood and knows he must have bitten into his tongue. Eric stalks up to him and hovers over Sergei’s hunched form. “You are my boyfriend. You are mine, don’t you understand?”

“I thought you loved me. Cared for me at least,” Sergei tries again. He might not know much about relationships with men but they can’t be that much different than other relationships and this certainly does not resemble anything like what a healthy relationship should look like.

“I do care about you, you little idiot. That is why I stick around with you. That is why I hurt you – so you remember well the things you should.”

“I should leave you,” Sergei gasps and waits for a slap. It never comes however. Instead, Eric laughs. It’s a cold and deep sound and it sends shivers down Sergei’s back.

“Leave me? Where would you go?”

“Anywhere. I have friends.”

“Of course you do.” Eric’s voice drips with sarcasm and Sergei can’t help but think that he is sort of right. He has friends, sure, but none of them are very close friends. He’d been too focused on spending time with Eric, obliging Eric, loving Eric to bother with anyone else. “If you don’t have me, you’re nothing. Because you have no guts, Sergei. You are too weak willed, too timid, you don’t know anything of the world. Unless you want to go and hide back in your nice, safe dark closet.”

Sergei flinches. He doesn’t want to do that. “No.” He thinks of all the months and how he’s always been Eric’s “plus one” at all the best events. Perhaps Eric is right, perhaps he really isn’t worth much by himself. He’d never been the smartest or the loudest kid, he’s never been especially good looking or athletic or…anything really.

“Look at me.” Sergei hesitates and Eric forces his chin up. Sergei finds himself looking into twin liquid green pools. “Don’t you love me, Sergei?”

“I thought I did.” He is choking on his words, feeling a pain stabbing between his ribs.

“After all I have done for you!” Eric slaps him again, this time lazily, knowing that Sergei is too agitated and cornered to react properly.

“I do! …I do.” He doesn’t actually want Eric to leave, doesn’t want those beautiful green eyes to look at him with distaste. Sergei doesn’t know why, he doesn’t know what Eric has done to him, to his mind, to make him feel like this, like without his boyfriend he will drown in some black hole of uncertainty but he can’t shake that feeling no matter how much he tries and no matter how often he tells himself that there is nothing healthy about their relationship.

“So, will you run away? Will you leave?”

“No.” Sergei feels his voice slipping into a monotone.

“Good. Because, trust me baby boy, no one will love you but me. Not like this anyway. They don’t see you. You will never have another chance at someone like me, someone who can protect you from the world, someone who will want to make you come over and over again. Someone that other people can be jealous of you for.”

Sergei merely nods and feels his knees begin to give out. It is all true, of course. He has the misfortune of falling in love with people who don’t see him, who are too good for him. Angel had been too good for him and Sergei is certain that anyone as wonderful as Angel or as desirable as Eric – even if gay – would not give him another look. He’s confident in his ability to make friends if he tries at it, but lovers? That is something that is beyond him. He is lucky to have Eric, he must be.

“Good. Now I don’t want to hear anymore about this.” Eric turns on his heal and leaves the bathroom, the heavy door slamming shut behind him.

Sergei slides down onto the cold floor, his back still to the wall. He puts his head in his arms and cries. His cheek stings badly and he wonders if the skin there broke. He can still taste blood in his mouth and his entire body is sore. Eric had taken a few swings at his ribs and groin to start with.

He wants to tell someone but he doesn’t know who. There’s no one he’s close enough to to tell and this seems too personal to confess to someone he doesn’t trust completely. At one point, he may have told Angel but Angel is far away and they had been pulled apart by Sergei’s love confession and flowers and the ridicule they both suffered from their classmates for it. Although Sergei had to note that he got most of it.

Now he is here with Eric, feeling like he must be going mad but unable to leave, unable to throw away what must be the best thing that will ever, that could ever happen to him. Besides, perhaps he deserves this. Eric had once said that being with a man was not like being with a woman – it was harsh and you couldn’t be a crybaby. Maybe, then, he had brought this on himself by being with a guy in the first place.

Sergei is cold, confused and alone. The scariest thing is that in this very moment it is Eric that he wants to stride in and save his day because Eric had done that before just a few times often enough.

*~*

Eric enjoys flirting with other men. Sergei has never seen him do anything with anyone, he has no grounds for suspecting that his boyfriend is cheating on him but Sergei can’t help but feel jealous and alone. He can’t help feeling utterly used.

Sometimes, afterwards, Eric will drag Sergei back to his place and rip his clothes off, ravage his body, bite and tear at his skin, drag his fingers through Sergei’s delicate skin. He will ram into his body, riding him with savage need and Sergei will pretend that Eric cannot stand the passion that tears him apart when they are together but some inner voice tells him that Eric is either fantasizing about those others – the ones he flirts with – while they are having sex or he is punishing Sergei for being in his way to the one night stands he wishes he was having. Yet the sad truth is that Sergei does not believe that his boyfriend is faithful, at least if anyone was to tell him that he is not, Sergei would not be surprised. It would still hurt, but he would not be surprised. However, he has never had any evidence of Eric doing anything with anyone, not even the smallest shadow, thinnest straw that he could latch onto. Sometimes, Sergei things he would feel better if Eric did cheat on him. He could, then, leave with a solid reason and he would, somehow, feel vindicated.

It would still break his heart.

*~*

The pocket knife is a present from Eric. It has a leather sheath and a sleek, black handle. The blade is sharp and smooth. It leaves bright red lines across Sergei’s pale skin. The blade bites as it slides carelessly over his wrist and arm. His skin is painted red only to be washed away with hot water a moment later. Bright pink lines are all that remain afterwards. They will bleed ones again when he gets out of the shower and the water stops washing the red away. Sergei can’t say if he likes this feeling. It’s helpless and empowering at the same time. Rather, he does it from helplessness. He’s always been helpless – in the face of his parents and their pity, in the face of all those people who hate him, in the face of his love for Angel, in the face of his love for Eric. But this he can control, he can control how deeply he pushes the blade and how far he drags it. He can control every part of this and for once this is pain he is causing himself not pain that someone is causing him. It is an intoxicating and addicting feeling.

Sergei despises himself for it.

He feels his head spin slowly, the tiles on the walls of the shower and their edges begin to blur together. The water roars in his ears and Sergei can feel himself falling slowly without actually falling. The pocket knife falls from his hand with a clank louder than Sergei would have expected it to make. Light begins to fade out from around the edges of his vision and he can’t help but wonder what lies beyond the light in that darkness.

Sergei can hear someone’s voice calling his name. The sound cuts through the roaring in his ears but he can’t quite make out who exactly is shouting for him and if they are saying something other than his name. A moment later he feels hands grabbing at him and he is suddenly pulled out from underneath the soothing warm water and into cold air. The sudden contrast seems to startle some of his senses back as he is half marched, half dragged along the floor. Sergei feels like he is flying only to realize that he’s actually falling a second later but by then he has already hit the soft edge of the bed and fallen back.

The light streaming across his face is far too bright and he squints against it. A pair of bright green eyes come into view and Sergei slowly begins to recognize Eric’s face. The voice had also been Eric’s. He tries to understand the expression on his boyfriend’s face even as the darkness comes to swallow him once again. For a moment he thinks it may be concern but that is only a moment. It looks more like disgust and maybe a little bit of anger as well.

*

When Sergei wakes up he finds himself in a dark room, staring up at the ceiling. It feels like night, not just drawn curtains. The last thing he can remember is being in the shower but that must have been hours ago. Slowly he becomes aware of a tightness around one of his wrists and then a deep, stinging feeling from the same area. He forces himself to not close his eyes, which feel incredibly heavy, and look down toward his hands. One of his wrists is bandaged up and he feels a strong pang of panic before more of the events come back to him.

Eric. Eric had gotten him out of the water. He must have bandaged his wrist and put him to bed. Before Sergei can think to look around for his boyfriend or get up, he hears footsteps and then an opening and closing door. The table lamp goes on and then Eric is hovering over him with an unreadable expression.

“So you’re finally awake, you idiot. I thought that maybe it was worth while calling the hospital after all.” His words are harsh but there’s no razor edge in his voice so Sergei only slumps back against the pillow and looks up at him.

“What happened, Eric? I just remember the shower and then you…”

Eric sneers and rolls his eyes. He grabs something from the desk and holds it up for Sergei to see. It’s the pocket knife. It’s still got a blood stain or two on it. “Do you remember this? Don’t you remember cutting yourself? That’s why your wrist hurts, that’s why you nearly fainted and would have fainted right there in that goddamn shower if I hadn’t shown up. What the fuck where you thinking, Sergei?”

“I…I don’t know.” He feels too weak to argue with Eric. He wonders what his boyfriend will do. Maybe he’ll decide that Sergei is insane and leave. Maybe he’ll hit him for being an idiot. “What are you gonna do?”

“What am I gonna do?” Eric looks utterly dumbfounded. “Nothing. Hide the fucking knife maybe, though. Although you’ve got plenty of pointy objects lying around if you’ve really got your mind set.”

A strange hope blossoms in Sergei and he can’t help but say words that he knows will probably only earn him derision. “I’m sorry if I worried you.”

Eric just looks baffled and then his expression goes blank. “Worried me? Idiot. You didn’t worry me. What? You really thought your stunt for attention was going to work?”

It hadn’t been a stunt for attention but Sergei only manages a shaky “no” in response.

“Yea, well, it didn’t. Get some sleep or something.” Eric makes his way toward the door, passing close to the bed. Sergei reaches out and grabs Eric’s arm. His boyfriend turns around and regards him coolly.

“Please. Sit with me a bit?”

“Fuck off, Sergei. You’re pathetic.” Eric pulls his arm away and walks out of the room, closing the door with a distinct, final snap.


PART III – PRESENT AND PAST

Sergei doesn’t particularly want to go home for spring break but he knows that his parents would miss him and he does not wan to disappoint them anymore than he already has. Also, most of the people he knows, including Eric, were going home to their families so there would be very little to do on campus for an entire week.

On the day before he leaves, Sergei gets a text from an excited Angel who says he is going home and perhaps Sergei would come down too. If he had any doubts before about wanting to go home, he doesn’t have them now. He answers Angel’s text and asks if he will be at the country club dinner, to which Angel answers affirmatively. So, he has his first plans for the break, it seems.

Even after everything, after the awkwardness with Angel, after meeting Eric, Sergei still can’t help but be drawn to Angel. He doesn’t know if he still has feelings for the other boy or if it’s some strange nostalgic, masochistic thing.

Thankfully, the cut on his wrist is nearly healed and all that is left is a thin scar. Hopefully, not one will notice a thing.

*~*

Sergei never felt terribly comfortable in suits. For all that he wore a suit jacket and dress pants for four years of high school, it had never given him great pleasure to dress up. His suit is a shiny, sleek grey with a dark maroon tie and his reflection in the bathroom mirror had told him that he looks good and all set for the country club.

Seeing Angel makes him not so sure anymore. Angel, as beautiful as always, is wearing a plane black suit with a black tie but the cut, the tailoring – everything screams extravagance and elegance. Simplicity always suited Angel well, Sergei thinks as he takes a nervous drink from his glass. He watches Angel make his way across the room with Theodore, a girl they went to school with – Lily – and some guy whom Sergei doesn’t recognize and wonders if he’s Theodore’s friend or Angel’s. Or perhaps one of Lily’s never ending stream of boyfriends. She certain is putting a lot of effort into flirting with him and making eyes.

“Angel!” Sergei finally finds his voice and his nerve. Angel notices him and says a few quick words to Lily and Theodore before heading over to him. The guy Sergei does not know follows Angel closely. So he is one of Angel’s friends then.

“Hey, Serge. How are you?” Angel asks, stopping in front of him and looking up at Sergei with uncertainty as though he did not think that Sergei would want to talk to him. It’s a ridiculous idea, but Angel was good at coming up with those.

“I’m doing alright. Thought I’d come down, say hi to everyone. Oblige my mom. You know.”

Angel laughs and nods, then introduces his friend. The name and major of the guy mean little to Sergei. However his broad shoulders, his certain gaze, his brown hair, for goodness sake, make Sergei think of a somewhat less irritating – and somewhat less attractive – version of Theodore. If Angel were gay, Sergei would think that this was a sign that he had a type. He can’t help but feel jealous, especially when he notices the glances Angel and this guy – Jeremy or something – exchange. They seem intimate, the way couples look at each other sometimes when they’re trying to communicate without words. It looks like Angel has found another person to be closer to than he is close to Sergei.

At one point, Angel asks to have a private word and takes Sergei aside to where they would not be easily observed. They stand in front of each other, both looking a little nervous. “Listen, “ Angel starts a little awkwardly. “I just wanted…I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry about…about stuff that happened between us at school. I know this may not be the place for it but I wasn’t sure if I’d get the nerve up again. I know things have been awkward between us and I hate that…” He drops his eyes and fidgets nervously with the cuffs of his sleeves.

Sergei shrugs a little and looks away. His heart is soaring that Angel would think to actually apologize, that he would make the first step. But the memory is still hard to stomach. “Yea, school was messy. But you know, it’s ok. It wasn’t your fault that I decided to declare my feelings for the entire world to see. And then Davidson was around for his spring break and of course he had a field day with it… And seeing how the two of you are attached…”

“Don’t be like that,” Angel shakes his head. “It’s not Teddy’s fault and I shouldn’t have laughed at you. College has…I’ve realized some thing lately and...” he trails off looking down. “I realize how hard it must have been for you and I didn’t do a thing to make it easier. I’m sorry about that, Serge. I really do want us to remain friends.”

Sergei smiles shyly up at Angel and nods. “I do too. I hope how I’d felt about you won’t make things too weird.” Truthfully, he still feels a certain way about Angel, a way that is far from platonic. Angel makes him shiver and creates a tight, floating feeling in his stomach.

Angel shakes his head. “It won’t, I promise.” They hug briefly then part ways for the rest of the night. Sergei feels giddy, happy, and suddenly coming home for break doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

At the end of the night he catches Angel before he and his friend leave. “I hope I’ll see you soon?”

“Yea. How about tomorrow?”

*~*

Sergei doesn’t mean to tell Angel about Eric. It just sort of happens.

They sit in Sergei’s backyard on a rocking bench, swinging their feet and drinking bear as the sun goes down. Angel had left his friend to do some homework that he had over break, or something like that, and had made it to Sergei’s house for a couple or so hours as he had promised. Their conversation had first been slow and they often fell quiet but gradually the old dynamic picked up a little. For all Sergei is concerned, he could happily just sit and stare at Angel for hours. He feels like a bad boyfriend to Eric, but he can’t deny the truth either.

He’d started out telling Angel how wonderful Eric is but something about his body language or expression must have given him away because Angel was suddenly not meeting his eyes and then asking, “What is it, Serge? There’s a but in here somewhere, I know it. What’s he do to you?”

“He doesn’t do anything to me!” Sergei protests but it comes out choked and strained.

“Don’t lie to me,” Angel mutters and looks away.

Sergei is silent for a moment, looking up at the darkening sky, thinking of what he should tell Angel if anything at all but the strain of his relationship had been a burden and he terribly wants to shake it off, to tell someone the things that he sometimes wants to scream for the whole world to hear and know. “He...he can be rough sometimes, Angel. We have our issues, but all couples do.”

Angel looks around sharply, seeming to have completely missed the last part of what Sergei had said. “What do you mean rough? In bed? Always? Does he…” Angel’s eyes go wide at the thought. “Does he hit you?”

Sergei looks away. He can’t lie, he wouldn’t be able to do it properly even if he wanted to but saying the words somehow makes it too clear, too real and he shrinks away form the confession. Angel is, however, looking at him expectantly and the silence becomes heavy very quickly.

“Serge?” Angel’s eyes go a little wider and he grabs Sergei’s wrist, making the sleeve of his shirt slide up. Sergei wrenches his arm away, afraid that Angel will see, will know.

“Sometimes. He has a…a bit of a temper, it’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal?”

Sergei shakes his head, still not meeting Angel’s eyes. “Look, Angel, does it matter? He loves me—“

“No he doesn’t! Not if he hurts you.”

“Shut up!” He doesn’t mean to yell but it comes out loud and panicked anyway. “Finally someone cares about me! Someone wants to be with me! Please, don’t take that away from me.”

Angel looks at him dumbfounded, then slowly shakes his head. “Maybe I’m just misunderstanding something.”

“No you aren’t.” Sergei admits helplessly. “It’s true. Eric has a temper and he’s not above a slap once in a while. But it’s not that big of a deal. He…he likes the sex rough but it’s ok. I’d rather it not be but I’m willing to give.”

Angel looks uncomfortable but not in a way Sergei had expected him to. He’d half expected Angel to bolt at the mention of Sergei having sex with another guy, but he just sits there and looks down at his hands. “He sounds like the controlling kind. Well…I guess if you’re happy with him…”

“He’s not controlling just… dominant.”

Angel’s head snaps up. “What?”

“Dominant.”

“Did…did you come up with that word or did he?” Angel is meeting his eyes again and he looks more concerned than before.

“I don’t know.” Sergei shrugs for he really doesn’t know if that is a thought he’d had on his own or if Eric had somehow influenced him into thinking it. “Why does it matter?”

“From what you’ve told me…maybe I’m jumping to conclusions but I feel like this guy is using you.”

“You’re jumping to conclusions,” Sergei snaps. He doesn’t want to think about it. What would Eric even use him for? Angel looks uncertain and Sergei snaps, unable to take the pressure on the emotional walls of denial that he had built up so carefully. “Besides, what would you know, Angel? Being with a guy isn’t like being with a girl! Ok, it’s different! Everything’s different!” He jumps up and Angel jumps up with him.

“It’s not that different, Serge. Not when it comes to decency and feelings and how people treat each other in a healthy relationship!”

“How would you know?” Sergei turns and starts briskly toward the glass door of the house. Angel catches his arm and swings him back around.

“I know,” Angel says flatly.

Sergei stares at him and something in Angel’s eyes makes him flinch. “…what are you talking about? How could you?”

“Because I’m bi. Jeremy is my boyfriend.”

Sergei stares at him, uncomprehending. The words are hard to take in, hard to understand. Angel is bisexual. He has a boyfriend. It feels like a dream and Sergei isn’t even sure if it’s a dream he likes.

“I’ve come out at school but not to anyone here,” Angel continues rapidly. He’s still holding on to Sergei’s arm. “So I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone about us. About me and J, I mean. I know what it’s like to be in a relationship with a guy who really loves you. It doesn’t include hurting or controlling one another. It’s not that different, in the basics anyway, than the relationships I’ve had with girls.”

“Wait, stop.” Sergei finally pulls his arm away from Angel and stares at him. He feels betrayed and upset, his head still reeling. “So you’re not…you’ve never been…you’re not straight.”

Angel looks a tad sheepish. “No.”

“So you understood how I felt? You were never one of them! You…why did you laugh at me then, Angel? Why didn’t you…back at school…I don’t’ understand. I thought you were straight and you just didn’t get it, you despised me for my feelings… But you couldn’t have…”

“Sergei, wait, let me explain. First off, I didn’t even realize I had feeling for guys until I met Jeremy. And I didn’t despise you! I was just…I was scared that people would think I’m gay. Please, Serge…try to understand.”

“How can you not know something like that?” Sergei takes a step away from Angel, then another.

“I…I don’t know. But I…maybe I just didn’t want to…I don’t know.” Angel looks ashamed as he doesn’t quite meet Sergei’s eyes. “Please.”


Sergei puts up both his hands and takes another step back. “You have to go, Angel. I can’t…I need to think, alright.”

“Alright.” Angel grabs his jacket and Sergei turns around and starts toward the house, the flashback of those horrible days after his love confession to Angel in writing and flowers floods his mind and his senses.

Before he can get inside however, Angel’s hand lands on his shoulder and he is once again forcibly turned around. Sergei comes face-to-face with Angel’s large, beautiful eyes and his heart misses a beat just like before. “You can hate me all you want, Serge. You have a right to that, I guess. But I want you to leave Eric. Please, please, for your own safety, leave him. I’m scared for you and I know you’re not happy.”

“I’m fine, what are you on abo—“

“This isn’t fine.” Angel grabs Sergei’s hand and rolls up his sleeve. The slightly raised, pale-pink scar across his wrist is painfully visible even in the fading light of the evening.

Sergei looks down at his wrist, then back at Angel helplessly. “It’s not what you think.”

“Then what is it? I thought, at first, that maybe I was wrong about what I thought I saw, but no, I think I’m right.”

“It’s not because of Eric!”

“Then why?” Angel drops his hand and the look in his eyes is so different from what Sergei remembers from high school, there’s so much more comprehension of everything in it that it’s almost disturbing. Something in Angel had changed over the past year.

“It’s complicated; it’s a lot of things…”

“Can you look me in the eyes and swear that Eric has nothing to do with this?”

Sergei looks up at Angel, forcing himself to meet the other boy’s eyes but he can’t get out a single word. Finally, feeling that he can no longer breathe, not to mention speak, Sergei drops his gaze. “No.”

“Serge, please…”

“I need him, Angel,” Sergei says quietly, almost pleadingly.

“No you don’t. You need someone who’ll treat you in a way that won’t make you want to slit your wrist.”

“It’s not just him, Angel. It’s everything. My parents treat me like I have a disease, half of the world just plain out hates me for who I am… That’s hard enough without my overly shy personality and average looks.”

“And you think being with Eric is going to fix that?” Angel reaches out and puts both hands on Sergei’s forearms. “Serge, you’re great, you’ve always been great, I don’t understand why you put yourself down. I don’t know everything about your relationship but I’ll be damned if your boyfriend doesn’t tell you all the time how lucky you are to have him.”

“He does. I am.”

“Maybe you should look at it from a different perspective. He’s lucky to have you. Because how many people would deal with his shit?”

Sergei shrugs, feeling like he’s falling. He’d never thought of it that way, that someone like Eric could be lucky to have someone like him. Angel’s hands are warm on Sergei’s arms and he can smell his mother’s lilies in the spring night air. He looks up at Angel and meets his eyes. “It’s easier for you, Angel. You’re perfect.”

Angel laughs softly. “You’re oblivious. I’m no where near perfect.” They’re silent for a while.

“I wouldn’t know what to do,” Sergei says finally. “I wouldn’t be able to walk away.”

Angel sighs and seems to deflate. “Come out with Jeremy and I tonight. We’ll talk, hang out. Maybe something will come to you.”

Sergei agrees. He’s a little worried about how jealous he may get of Angel’s boyfriend but he’s not about to turn down the invitation.

*~*

“Ready?” Angel asks, parking at the curb of the airport terminal.

Sergei nods and takes a deep breath. “Yea. …I just hope I won’t chicken out during the flight.”

“I’ll text you to make sure you don’t,” Angel promises with a smirk that resembles Theodore’s a bit.

“Alright.” Sergei gets out of the car and grabs his suitcase from the back. Before leaving, he leans against the side of Angel’s car, speaking through the rolled down window. “Thanks, Angel. For everything.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll stay in touch?”

“Of course.”

“Good luck.”

“Bye.” Sergei takes one more look at Angel, waves and walks away. He wants to believe that the short, less-than-an-hour-long flight, will not be long enough for him to lose his nerve. A large part of him still wants to be with Eric but Angel is right. It has to stop.

Maybe, for once, he’ll be able to take control in a non self-destructive way.

 
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