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He hates Richie.

He thinks about that, when he pushes the needle in his arm, thinks about how much Richie would hate it, the scandalized look on his non-glasses wearing face, the way they both agreed to never touch that shit when they were kids, when it would have been easy to get their hands on shit stronger than pot. He thinks about Richie trying to pretty up his goodbye with a bullshit offer to go join him on a beach, like Seth can’t recognize a con when he hears it, like Seth doesn’t know when he’s being fed pretty words, like Seth didn’t invent that shit.

This is what he’s decided--gonna cleanse himself of Richie, no matter what he has to do to achieve that.

(careful, Jesus, Seth, be careful, the Richie in his head tells him--don’t wanna miss the vein; don’t want to push so hard it comes out all the way; careful, you can get that infected, did you cook it right, you stupid shit, don’t keep using the same vein--Richie’s voice nags in his head, better at chemistry than him, but that’s useless now to him; it’s just a voice. Who’d take that over the real thing, strong and solid?)

It’s your fault, Seth wants to tell him, wants to punch him, wants to push him into the dirt and punch and punch and leave some lasting damage (if that’s even possible anymore), feel Richie’s skin break and crack under his hands.

(when he’s had a hit and lying in bed and not asleep, not quite, but too mellowed out to move-- would rather stay there, in his own head, where everything is softer and slowed down--when he’s high, he doesn’t hate Richie at all--he doesn't feel much of anything, but the hatred dies away into something numb and comfortable, and even missing Richie doesn’t hurt the same--

it’s not the same, it’ll never be the same)

*

Kate tries to make herself scarce when he gets high--pretends to be asleep under the covers, rustling and shifting awkwardly, because she’s still not a very good liar, hasn’t learned how to lie with her body just yet--or just takes the car and goes, disappears for hours, no telling where she went--as close as the pool or as far as the other side of town to get away from him.

(Church, she told him once, by way of explanation, perfectly polite yet sharp--he rolled his eyes)

It’s fine by him, he doesn’t particularly feel like hiding himself in the bathroom to do his business--but she doesn’t stop him, doesn’t say anything, doesn’t do anything except for the crease of her brow, the widening of her eyes as he starts pulling out the needle and spoon, the way it gives way to a wrinkled nose and judgement she never voices)

When she takes the car, he sometimes wonders if she’ll just be gone one day, take off into the night, disappear in smoke, probably with his money, and can’t bring himself to care too deeply about that--Seth’s not sure if that’s the heroin or just him.

(she can’t, remember, no passport, he reminds himself; no way of going back home)

*

He keeps getting into bar fights, the way he used to in K.C., when he was twenty one, and reckless and angry and impulsive as shit--starting a fight just because he knew he could, and Richie either dragging him out or joining in depending on his mood (he liked it when Richie joined him, the way it should always be--the gecko brothers ride again, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be).

(we were supposed to be a lot of things--we were supposed to be a team and now all he is a washed up criminal, not a legend)

And sadly, he can’t blame the heroin for this--he would have done it anyway, the right combination of alcohol and misery turning explosive with him, like a firebomb going off. Set the match to it and watch it go, tick tick tick down until Seth says the wrong word, someone looks at him the wrong way and throws the punch in the wrong person (he’s always been this person; the suit and the charm is just a nice camouflage).

Watch, Richie, he thinks, as he breaks someone’s nose, you gonna stop me?

He doesn’t know why he did that, what got him so mad--he thinks he just wanted to feel someone bleed, watch something break and crack under his hands, wants to destroy something

I hate you I hate you I hate you fuck you come back

*

He’s never been one to remember his dreams--he can’t tell if he ever has them for the most part, sleeping blankly if he sleeps comfortably, and if he doesn’t sleep comfortably, he just wakes up with a heavy sinking feeling, or anxiety and nerves in the pit of his belly like dread, his spine and legs aching like he’s been in a fight. His body feels it, like he’s been awake, didn’t rest at all, but he can’t remember.

Kate stares at him while she eats her breakfast, some shitty single serving boxes they picked up at the nearby Oxxo. She chews and swallows and frowns at him, before he’s ever done anything this morning.

“What?” He asks, his voice raw and sore.

“You talk in your sleep,” she says quietly, his spine hunched over then, looking away and trying to avoid his gaze. Her spoon clanks in an empty bowl. The motel tv has some news reporter going on in the background, Spanish words Seth still can’t pick out.

“Oh yeah?” he asks. “Say anything revealing?”

She shrugs, stares into her cereal. Not looking at him. “Just Richie’s name.”

Seth doesn’t want to know about anything else he said.

*

Seth has this dream about getting into a fight and losing (like he always does--born loser, this one--you can win one battle, but you’ll lose every war, you’ll always lose at the end of the day--that’s what happens to guys like you). Gets the shit kicked out of him, until he’s coughing up blood, bit his cheek, or bit his tongue. Everything burns and aches and stings, body a collection of injuries and scars. It almost feels good, the pain--to feel something hard and alive, something even the heroin can’t numb for him. He’s losing but he grins, sharp and hungry.

He has blood in his eyes, dripping from a cut over his eyebrow, so he can’t see who picks him up, who holds a broken bottle to his throat, pushing into the flesh of his neck.

He also can’t see what happens, exactly, when someone pulls the person off. In the dream, Seth falls flat on the floor, his face pressed into the dirty pavement, and he hears screams and shouts and the sickening tearing of flesh and crack of bone. He doesn’t feel anything but pain in his body, the heroin not quite dulling this properly.

It’s Richie who picks him up--like he weighs nothing, like it’s easy, picking him off the floor and leaning him against the alleyway wall--and he’s not even surprised, though he should be, to see him here. Richie’s covered in blood, staining his nice, tailored suit, blood dripping from his chin and mouth, but his face is deceptively human, eyebrows knitted in concern.

What are you doing to yourself, Richie asks, traces his lips with his fingers, Richie’s long fingers softer than they should be (always had nice fingers, his brother did--good for cracking safes, and anything else as well), smearing the blood around Seth’s lips.

What does it look like, Seth says, grinning with bloody teeth, blood dripping. He spits at him, blood and saliva mixed in together, want to ruin the suit Richie’s got on himself with his own blood (the suits were Seth’s idea--presentation is key--but he always goddamn hated them, the way they suffocated him, felt more at home in a pair of jeans and a jacket than something fancy that he could only ever steal). He want to take his hands and get inside Richie and mess him all up--rip up his hair and tear his clothes, until he’s just as ugly and messy as he is. You did this to me.

He’s too weak to do any of that, feeling like some misbehaving kitten in Richie’s hands. So he spits.

Richie’s forehead creases at the glob of spit an blood on his suit, turning his head down, looking at it curiously, like it’s new, shiny, needs to be dissected.

You like that? Seth asks

Richie looks him in the eye. He places his fingers back to Seth’s mouth and Seth can’t help the old instinct, to stick his tongue out, like a child, but beyond that, he drags his tongue around Richie’s fingers, the sharp coppery taste of someone’s blood hitting his palette. He doesn’t mind, really, gets in a few more licks around Richie’s knuckles and nails before Richie pulls away, tucking his hand back.

Seth lunges forward then, grabbing Richie by his tie and drags him close (doesn’t think about choking him; thinks it doesn’t matter, if Richie can’t breath, and maybe he wants him to choke, just a little), presses his mouth to Richie’s, tasting of sweat and someone else’s blood and heavy copper, biting down on his bottom lip, trying to draw his own blood, their blood. He expects Richie to pull away, because they don’t do this, not anymore, but Richie steps forward and pushes Seth hard against the brick wall, like he can’t help himself, not like this, slipping into old habits easily--dipping his tongue into Seth’s mouth, lapping up the blood. Seth’s lips curl into a smirk even as he kisses him, I knew you liked that.

Gonna kill me, brother? Seth asks when Richie stops, grinning with a red mouth that matches Richie’s. You might as well finish me off.

Richie shakes his head and wraps an arm around him, trying to help him walk, but Seth shoves him off, managing to muster up a surprising amount of strength, one final burst before it leaves his body.

C’mon, Seth hisses, giving him another shove, Richie’s eyes widening. Seth relishes the shock and surprise on his face, the way he takes a cautious step backwards--relishes being able to do this, take that rug out from under him (it’s all you got--Richie took everything when he left with Santanico). C’mon, he says and tilts his head back, bares his throat, just do it already.

In his dream, Richie is silent for a long time, staring at the pulse of his throat but before Seth gets so impatient as to shove him again, he looks up at him, meeting his eyes, which have slipped into gold and pupils turned slitted. It freezes Seth, even now.

Richie nods, and lunges for his throat, his hands holding Seth hard against the wall, and Seth can’t remember the rest of the dream--only that it’s satisfying, Richie’s mouth and teeth tearing into him.

*

Seth wakes up in the hard motel bed, sticky smell of sweat stuck to him, blood under his fingernails, sore all over his body, chest and ribs aching; he doesn’t know what happened. He feels like a truck hit him. The comedown is usually not this intense, not in this way.

He doesn’t remember how he got in bed. Doesn’t remember ever leaving the bar. He can’t remember much, everything blurring together, dreams and memories mixed until he can’t tell them apart.

Kate’s still asleep when he heads to the bathroom. He thinks of waking her up, asking her what time did I come in last night, but he doesn’t know if he cares enough.

He turns on the sink, idly washing the blood under his nails, glancing up at the mirror. There’s a mark like a hickey on his throat, except when he looks closer, it’s an angry wound, scabbed over and throbbing, right where his tattoo went.

He thinks he should be more alarmed by that but he is still just this side of numb, still wandering in a fever dream

He presses on it with his fingers and shudders at the pain that runs through his body, still fresh. His fingers come away stained with blood.