[I Don’t Even Know]
What’s your schedule like?
John stares at the message. He doesn’t know what to make of it. He traces his fingers over the picture of the open cadaver in his textbook. Lets his nail slide across the lines labeling each body part. His notebook is folded on his right knee. His text on his left. And sitting between them both is his phone. Mockingly innocent. Blinking patiently for him.
There are two numbers in his phone. Two numbers who have sent him text messages in the history of him owning this phone. The simple truth is; he doesn’t get text messages. Hasn’t since Alex ran off to do whatever with Burr. The screen goes dark. Tired of waiting for him. Huffing, he reaches for the phone. Carefully picking it up. Scooting so his back presses against the wall, John brings the phone to his face.
Lafayette’s contact is saved under “I Don’t Even Know”, and it smiles up at him. A happy little emoticon showing just how patient the upperclassman was being. John taps out a one-word question. Tosses the phone to the right. Goes back to his Anatomy and Physiology homework.
The phone buzzes before he can even get his eyes focused on the dissection. Huffing, he snatches it back.
[I Don’t Even Know]
Send it to me.
“Send me yours,” John mutters. Tapping the response into the phone. He gets a picture less than four seconds later. It’s a photo of Lafayette’s class schedule. From Monday to Friday. “Cuddle time????” is written in red ink under Friday at 3pm. John’s got a lab then.
He pauses. Thinks about how he wants to answer. Reaching for his binder, he thumbs his schedule out from where it’d been hiding under a plastic sheet. He thinks for a moment, before picking up a pen and writing FIGHT ME >:( under his Friday lab.
He takes the picture and sends it. Waits for the response.
[I Don’t Even Know]
He doesn’t say anything else. John finishes his homework. Rolls on his side, and stares at a wall. He thinks briefly of going down to the cafeteria to get dinner, but he doesn’t want to go by himself.
John rolls onto his other side. Feels his books starting to flop off his lap. It really doesn’t matter, he knows. He’d pick them up in the morning. Holding the phone loosely, he thinks about texting Alex.
“Fuck it.” He punches in six letters and a question mark.
Ten minutes go by.
His eyes start to slip closed. Exhaustion starting to pull against his skin. Draining his body downwards. A bing comes in.
John stares at the letters. Waits for the correction to come.
It does almost three seconds later.
John tosses his phone onto his desk. And goes to sleep.
On Fridays he has Introduction to Critical Thinking at 8am, Anatomy and Physiology II at 2pm, and his A&P lab at 3pm. John drags himself to class in the morning. Pulling a scarf around his throat and keeping his head tucked low. He wraps his arms around his chest. Shuffles his feet through the snow build up on the ground.
It’s been a mild winter, but he’s still cold. Still ready for it to be over. Kids are shouting at each other across the square. Joking and laughing with their friends. Alex has an English class this morning. His room’s not too far from John’s. They used to walk together...before.
John’s fingers tighten around jacket. Squeezing the sides. His backpack’s straps dig into his shoulders. He hears Alex’s voice. Looks up. Aaron’s walked him to class. They’re standing together by the door. Alex looking waifish. Small. John’s tempted to call out. To walk towards them.
He hasn’t told Alex about Lafayette yet. Hasn’t told him that he fucked another guy. That he fought Lafayette, and Lafayette fought back. That now Lafayette’s texting him. That...he thinks he made a friend? John wants to tell. Wants to show off his shiny new toy, same as Alex.
But then Alex leans forward and Aaron gives him a hug, and John flinches. Turns away. Rushes to his own class. It doesn’t matter. He’s not jealous. He’s not hurt.
He’s perfectly fine.
Throwing himself in his seat, he jerks his notebook out. Slams it on his desk. “Wow, attitude much?” Kitty Livingston asks him. John bares his teeth.
“Wow, bitchy much?” he snaps back. Her face flushes red. Her friends have all heard, and now they’ve clustered together. Scooting their desks to the side. High-school bullshit that John has no time for.
He glares down at the notebook on his desk. Carefully withdraws his homework. Fuck Alex. Fuck Aaron. And Fuck Lafayette.
It doesn’t matter. None of them do.
John scribbles his notes. Writes words and words of arguments down between the thin college-ruled lines of his papers. He’s angry. He doesn’t even really know why, but he is. He’s furious. And as he marches back to his dorm room after class, he wishes he could figure it out.
Alex could date whoever he wanted. He could sleep with whoever he wanted. John never had a claim on him. And it’s clear Alex didn’t want him to care. Don’t pretend. He flinches away from the echoed words.
Redoubles his efforts to get back to his room and close the door before anyone notices or says a thing. Before he runs into Alex again and risks hearing something he doesn’t want to hear. He scrambles up the stairs two at a time. Slams his dorm room door shut behind him. Sliding down to sit against it. Knees pulled up to his chest.
Anger keeps circling through him.
Last time they’d fought; John hadn’t even tried being nice.
Not going to fuck or choke him...better things to do…
Alex complained afterwards. Even though he’d been the one calling John for the booty-call. He’d been the one prostituting John for his own ends. And John had gone. Of course he had. He was treated to lunch with Alex and the boyfriend afterwards as a consolation prize. Treated to someone who was allowed to care for someone. Who could actually do it right.
And sure. Afterwards Alex had been nice. Had met up with him here or there. Had lunch. Deigned to sully himself with John’s presence as he introduced John to all the people so much better than he was. Introduced him to—
John’s hand lifts. Presses against a bruise just above his sternum. Trails up to trace the edges of the hickey left under his collar. He’s struck by the completely irrational desire to text the Frenchman. Take him up on that offer. See him after class.
His hand drops down to his side.
Alex made it clear. John’s shit at relationships. Shit at friendships. And only good at fucking and fighting. Lafayette’s made it clear too. That’s all he’s interested in as well.
John doesn’t text Lafayette. If he needs an outlet, he’ll find one himself.
His classmates mutter about John under their breaths. They send him suspicious glances when they think John can’t see them. It’s fine. Nothing’s changed since high-school. It maybe just took everyone a few months longer to figure out that he’s just as much of an albatross as he’d been back then.
He wrote his notes. Kept his head down. Tried not to get involved with them. When they spoke to him, he tried to pretend he didn’t hear them.
Admittedly, he didn’t try very hard.
“John can you hand me that?” one particularly snide boy requests. Pointing to the scalpel by John’s elbow.
He picks it up. Looks at it for a long while. His incisions in their test subject earlier had been quick and methodical. Carefully done. The boy had suggested that he’d done it before. He didn’t mean legally.
“I don’t know. I might need it later,” John sneers right back. Reflecting the light off the shiny metal blade. The boy turned puke green.
The lab ends the same as it started. John’s friendless. And everyone rushes to leave him alone as fast as possible. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, John huffs and leaves his classroom. All but crashing into Lafayette as he exited the building.
He stumbles backwards. Blinking rapidly at the taller man who peers down his nose at John. Brows arched. “Bad day?” he drawls. Accent thick and enticing.
“What’s it to you?” John barks back. He’s spoiling for a fight. He knows it. Hell. Lafayette should know it too. John flat-out wrote that in his schedule.
And Lafayette does know. His lips curl upwards. He holds out his hand. “Spend the weekend with me,” he invites. John stares at his hand. Caught off guard. He brings his eyes back up to meet Lafayette’s.
He’s been here before. Been in this exact situation. Been made a fool of because he thought someone was reaching out a hand of friendship, but really wasn’t. Fucking and fighting…all I’m good at.
And John’s tired of being everyone’s willing body. “You don’t want me in your house,” John growls low. Lafayette’s dark eyes turn savage. He reaches out and plucks John’s hand loose. Tugs him forward.
“Let me to decide that, hmm?” he hums against John’s lips. Before crashing them together.
John has kissed very few people in his life.
But no one’s yet made his brain go quite as instantaneously silent as Lafayette.
He goes home with Lafayette.
It’s such a relief.
He was tired of being alone.
John wakes up to an arm around his waist. It’s heavy and warm. Pulls John close. His ass is spooning against Lafayette’s groin. Lafayette’s breath is hot against his neck. Last night, he and Lafayette had bare knuckle boxed in Lafayette’s living room. Had fought each other ruthless and bloody.
And when they were done, Lafayette helped him into the kitchen. Cleaned off the scrapes on John’s hands. Let John do the same for him. They pressed ice to each other’s wounds. Sat on the couch and watched animal planet, sipping tea. Letting the furious beasts within their souls settle into dormancy.
At around midnight, Lafayette had nudged John up. Escorted him to the bedroom. He’d ignored John’s hesitation about the bed. Just dragged him down. Cuddled him close. John fell asleep before he could question it.
And he woke up in the arms of a man who saw him as he was. And at least for one week, hadn’t pushed him away just yet.
“You réveillé?” Lafayette slurs into his ear. Nose nuzzling his lobe. John closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to get kicked out. Doesn’t want to hear the inevitable end. He’s too tired to fight. To sleepy to build his guard. He braces for it anyway. “C’mon. Wanna show you quelque chose.”
“What?” John asks. He can’t understand the words. Knows that they’re not all in English. But he can’t manage the translation.
“Nous allons à une date,” Lafayette sighs. He scoots out of bed. Warmth leaving John’s body immediately. He shivers. Even under the blankets. Longing for Lafayette’s heat to return.
He tries to make sense of the words. News al-ew-oin ah dah-tuh. He can’t think of a single thing it means. Tries to guess. Data? Information? What’s Lafayette looking for?
Lafayette doesn’t explain. Just nudges him out of bed. Encourages him to put his clothes back on. To join him in the kitchen for a quick breakfast before they hurry off into the car. John half expects to be driven back to school. But he’s not.
Lafayette makes a left too soon. Gets on a back-road that leads nowhere. Just keeps going.
John’s too tired to ask. Not really caring at this point. Lafayette makes a half mumbled sound of protest as John curls against the car door and falls asleep again. But really, it’s Lafayette’s fault. John wouldn’t be so sleepy if Lafayette hadn’t been so... thorough... the night before. He dozes in and out. And Lafayette eventually puts on some music. Something soft and soothing. John sleeps without a care in the world.
Waking up only when the car stops.
They’re at one of the hiking trails the school always brags about. Wooden trail head marker painted bright yellow. “C’mon!” Lafayette encourages. John blinks up at him.
The first day they’d met, Lafayette had said there were other ways to expel energy then fighting. Apparently, he went hiking. Data? Show John something. Maybe? Show John this?
Lafayette’s grinning. Bouncing on his toes. “You like?” he asks. John glances at the sign. It’s a 3.91-mile hike to the first viewpoint.
Breakfast digested. Weariness fading away as curiosity melts into interest. “Race you?” John asks sweetly, before he shoulders past Lafayette and takes off.
He hears Lafayette’s whoop of delight behind him.
The trail’s long and hard, but not as bad as it could be. It’s cold, but there’s not much snow on the ground. The earth’s not slippery. Not icy. They can run over fallen limbs and pointed rocks. They can trade glances as their shoulders brush. Side by side.
Morning light shifts and changes. Afternoon sun rising. Glittering through the trees. Running gives way to impassioned hiking. To Lafayette pointing out interesting views and trees. They stop and relax from time to time. Sore muscles stretched out before them.
John can feel his heart beating quickly within his chest. Sending adrenaline and energy racing through his body. He can’t remember the last time he felt so alive when he wasn’t recovering from a fight. Almost doesn’t miss the stinging pain of bruises. Even though if he twists a touch, he can feel them forming from last night.
Lafayette lifts his hands in the air. Reaching up to the sky. A flower searching for the sun. Dialing about until he gets it right. Running through the woods is harder than on a set trail. But Lafayette’s right. It’s a great way to expel some energy. And hey.
Lafayette grins over to him. Offers him his hand.
The view’s nice.
After the hike, Lafayette stops at an ice-cream parlor he knows on the way back. Buys John a smoothie because John didn’t have his wallet on him. “I’d have brought it if I knew where we were going,” John mutters as he holds the cup between his palms. Lafayette looks distinctly unimpressed by the comment, and herds him back to the car.
John fidgets in his seat. Sips his smoothie as Lafayette drives them home. To his home. Lafayette’s. “Are you gonna drop me at the dorm?” John asks suddenly. Unsure. He’d initially been invited for the weekend, but he’s never actually spent this long in someone else’s space before. Isn’t sure if it was more of a metaphor or meant seriously.
“Do you want to go back to the dorm?” He doesn’t. Not as such. He doesn’t want to be alone. But there’s a voice in the back of his head reminding him that if he keeps at this, he’s going to get hurt. Maybe not now. Maybe not for years to come.
But that just makes it worse.
He takes too long to answer. Lafayette hums, and drives him back to the house. John tries to convince himself that it’s fine. He doesn’t care. It’s not a problem. Even though his euphoria from the hike is now fading to something sickly sweet. Something nauseatingly familiar.
Lafayette offers him the first shower, and John’s listless. He knows he’s a mess. Know he needs to clean. But the urge to argue and snap back is starting to become a running taunt in the back of his head. Fuck you. Fuck you and your weird ass ways. I don’t need to do this; I don’t need to be here. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.
Lafayette’s lips quirk. He lifts his hand. Places it along the side of John’s face. Leans over and kisses him. It doesn’t silence the emotions. But it is a focus point. John kisses back. Lets Lafayette caress his lips with his own. Lets Lafayette guide him backwards. Against a wall. Lets him take and take and take.
All anyone ever wants is to take from him. Alex. Alex wants to be fucked or choked. Nothing else. And Lafayette’s the same. It’s what he’s looking for. It’s what he’s striving for. Lafayette angles his groin against John’s. Presses in close. John can feel his erection. Feel the bulge that sent him over the edge last night.
That pressed so comfortingly against his ass this morning.
John’s going to be sick. He wants this. He doesn’t. He should go back to the dorm. He should punch Lafayette and be done with this. End it before it gets worse. You start fighting people, and that’s all they want from you.
They’ll pretend day in and day out that they want more. But they’re lying. They only ever want one thing. It’s the only reason anyone surrounds themselves with monsters. So they can pretend to be part of the filth themselves.
John pulls back. His eyes are stinging. “Shower?” Lafayette whispers huskily in his ear.
“Okay,” John breathes back.
I’m making a mistake, he thinks. Lafayette leading him to the bathroom. Hand in hand.
Lafayette’s pulling John’s shirt off. Kissing and biting at his skin. It hurts. It doesn’t. It’s nice. It’s wrong. Lafayette’s sliding John’s pants off. His briefs. Wrapping his arms around him. Worshiping John’s skin. Massaging aching muscles.
The shower starts. Lafayette shimmies against his body. Naked too. They join together. Huddling for warmth under the spray. It feels so good. John knows it’s going to end. “Please don’t leave,” he whispers.
Water washing away the sound. Making it fall silently into an abyss. He doesn’t think Lafayette’s heard him. Wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t. Isn’t sure he wanted Lafayette to hear him in the first place.
But then Lafayette presses his lips to the side of John’s head. “Never.”
This isn’t how their story ends.