There are days when he feels ancient, like some sort of massive, decaying monument, one of the greatest hits of mother nature's evolutionary fuckups. He worries that the hole in his chest is expanding, eating slowly away at the rest of his face, creeping down his torso. It makes him feel brittle and cold; he moves slowly for fear of shattering, while he wraps himself in extra layers of bandages- extra layers to keep himself apart from the rest of the world, and extra layers to hold himself together.
He bolts the door when it gets too bad, locking himself in and ignoring the way some of his teammates hover just outside. He turns up his music to drown out their voices, but even with the din he can still hear the faint, worried tendrils of their thoughts reaching out for him from the top of the stairs. He has no words for them; he is too busy keeping himself from unraveling to spare the energy for reassurances.
He only ever opens the door for Penance, because if he doesn't, Emma will lecture him on trust and teamwork to hide her own guilt at not being able to reach the girl and, when that doesn't work, on how Jono will be paying for any ruined doors and locks out of his own allowance. It's easier to let her in than try to keep her out; there are few physical barriers that are impervious to the razor edges of her claws.
She sits in the middle of the wreckage that is his room, glittering and deadly and smelling faintly of apples. Jono obligingly turns his music down low until the not-thoughts she projects lose their panicked, jagged edges. She doesn't look at him with worry or concern, but her thoughts are too tangled for him figure out if it is empathy or simple curiosity that brings her to his room on days like this.
He likes to think its the former; she must know how this feels, too- this fragility. Her skin may be diamond hard, but even diamonds can fracture and fragment. He wonders what made her so brittle, and if she's as terrified of breaking as he is.
And then there are the days when Angelo picks the lock on his door because he can't be bothered to knock and he knows Jono can't be bothered to care, much. (He did, at first, because how dare Angelo try to slip into the cracks in his self loathing like that? He was never sure what bothered him more- that Angelo would try, or that he would succeed so easily.)
Sometimes Angelo will sit in the middle of the floor and go through Jono's CDs, tossing the jewel cases carelessly onto piles of discarded clothing and declaring, "Crap. Crap. Angsty crap. Whiny crap. Jesu Christi, Jono, don't you listen to anything good?"
Like you're the expert on musical quality, Ange.
And that would set Angelo off on a rant- he called them discussions, but Jono knew the other boy just liked hearing himself talk, and Jono himself never needed to participate- about music, and he would rattle off the names of artists and bands Jono had never heard of and wasn't likely to listen to, ever.
Once- just once- Angelo brought some of his own music collection down and appropriated Jono's stereo.
An' just whadya think yer doin'?
"What's it look like? You got the best stereo system in the academy, amigo. An' all I got is my shitty discman and a broken set of headphones. That seem fair to you?"
And then Angelo hit "play," and Jono swore terrible, terrible vengeance upon his gray skinned teammate, because there were a lot of things in this world he could tolerate, but no one- not even Angelo- got to mess with his music.
It was war. Angelo's CD collection and discman disappeared; a few days later, Jono's CDs went missing as well.
Angelo's music reappeared over the course of several days, in many half melted pieces. (Miss Frost had been enouraging him to refine his control of the psionic fire.) Jono's own CDs turned up later, in the microwave, melted beyond repair.
They had to get a new microwave; none of them were allowed to use it without adult supervision.
Beds were short sheeted. Chair legs were filed down and desk drawers were glued shut. Angelo spent an inordinate amount of time in the laundry room, and Jono found several of his favorite records had been ironed flat. Angelo's extensive collection of pornographic magazines became an elaborate abstract sculpture of paper mache, found by a half-asleep Jubilee one morning in the middle of the hallway.
"You didn't shred those on your own. You got Penance to help," Angelo accused, stabbing a gray finger between Jono's eyes. "That's sick. I'm gonna tell Monet-"
No you sodding won't! It didn't matter that he hadn't, actually- Penance had watched him without helping, and had found the whole thing perplexing and hilarious in her own quiet way- but Monet was more likely to punch first and ask questions later, and he liked keeping the remains of his face unbroken. Angelo didn't have enough of a head start to keep Jono from tackling him in the hall, and the two of them went careening towards the head of the stairs.
They tripped with a yell, Jono's elbow in Angelo's face, and Angelo wrapped around him, covering his eyes and tangling with his legs (no one ever won a wrestling match with Angelo, not even Monet). They went headfirst over the stairs, and it was fortunate that Angelo could bounce as well as stretch, or the two of them would have ended up with worse than bruises when they hit the bottom.
They rolled to a stop before a pair of deadly looking stiletto heels and froze, as though not breathing might render them invisible. Jono knew for a fact that it wouldn't work- he never bothered with breathing these days- but that didn't stop him from trying.
It was a tribute to Emma's iron-fisted authority over the household that neither of them even considered looking up her skirt. Well, they considered it- who wouldn't?- but neither of them dared.
"I trust the two of you will find a way to overcome your differences while weeding the biosphere?"
"Good." And her heels clicked away, leaving them to contemplate all the implications of what she'd do to them if they didn't behave.
Angelo carefully untangled himself from Jono and gave the other boy a hand up. He glanced nervously towards the door Emma had taken. "You wanna get out of here before Senora Frost finds the modern art?"
Jono sniffed; something was burning in another part of the Academy. And before she finds whatever you did in the kitchen?
"Too right, amigo. I still got the keys to the jeep."
Jono refrained from pointing out what happened the last time they went on a roadtrip, and nodded. Dibs on the radio.
Angelo rolled his eyes. "Ch'. Whatever, 'mano. Let's go."