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Bruised Heart of the Storm

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CRACK!

Connor yelped at another roll of thunder, curling in on himself in the corner of the living room. Thank god his family wasn’t home to see him like this, though being alone made it so much scarier.

 

A flash of lightning illuminated the room for a second before everything went dark again.

 

There was another crack and Connor had to cover his mouth to keep himself from screaming. He pulled his knees closer to his chest. God, he was shaking so bad.

 

Sometimes, when the storm was far away enough, Connor was able to block out the noise with music or the T.V. but today, it was right outside and nothing could distract him.

 

The power had gone out about ten minutes ago so he was sitting in darkness as the storm continued.

 

Please be over. Please stop. Please.



Jared bounded up the steps of the Murphy house and muttered under his breath. He shouldn’t have agreed to tutor Zoe. Why did he think that was a good idea? Go to his crush’s house to tutor his sister? What the fuck? Jared rapped on the door and thanked the stars that he had a phone that was fully charged.

 

Connor jumped at the knock. Who on earth could that be? Who was even out during this storm?

 

He got up slowly, knees wobbling, and made his way to the door, opening it slowly.

 

He narrowed his eyes once he saw who it was.

 

“Kleinman?” he tried to growl, but he was so scared right now, it sounded too helpless, “What are you-”

 

He was cut off by another thunder boom. Connor flinched and gave another yelp.

 

Jared flinched at the noise, but that was usual for him. When Connor squeaked Jared’s heart panged, he was adorable.

 

“Where’s your sister, Murphy,” Jared sighed, pulling his jacket hood tighter over his head. “I’m supposed to tutor her.”

 

Connor held himself fearfully, “She’s not here,” he bit back, again failing to sound mean.

 

“Fucking knew she’d ditch,” Jared muttered. “How long until she’s back?”

 

“I don’t fucking know!” he snapped

 

He needed Jared to leave. This was so embarrassing. His face and neck were red from humiliation. Connor was never going to hear the end of this from him.

 

“Would ya be a dear and let me come in,” Jared said in fake cheery tone. “I’m not waiting in my car for her. She has to pay me anyway.”

 

“No, fuck o-”

 

CRACK

 

He whimpered, holding himself tighter.

 

“Ugh,” Jared groaned, pushing past Connor into the house. “Should have known you’re afraid of storms. I’ll stay here so you don’t have to be alone, Murphy, just know that I have information now.”

 

Shit . The whole school was going to hear about how Connor Murphy was afraid of storms. He hated Jared so badly. He didn’t fucking need another reason to be bullied.

 

“Get out of my house!”

 

Jared scoffed, “I was invited here, I didn’t want to come here during a storm. I didn’t need to waste my afternoon with your sister. You want me to leave? Fine. Tell Zoe she still owes me.”

 

Jared stormed out the door and back to his car. Jared went to start it, but nothing happened. The lights didn’t even turn on. Of fucking course. Jared walked back to the house and banged on the door again.

 

Connor hadn’t moved out of the foyer since as soon as Jared left, there was a particularly loud thunderclap, making him press himself against the wall.

 

Once he had recovered enough to move, Connor threw open the door again, “What do you want! Can’t you just leave me alone?” he begged, too scared to be angry.

 

Jared didn’t like seeing Connor freaked out, it wasn’t like he would actually tell anyone about him being afraid of storms. “My car won’t start,” Jared explained using a calm voice. “Can I please chill here until the storm lets up so I can call my parents?”

 

“What, so you can tell everyone what a psycho I am?” he wasn’t looking at Jared though, his eyes traveled all over the sky, looking for a sign that more thunder was about to come.

 

“No,” Jared sighed. “I know you aren’t crazy, you just look like you walked out of Hot Topic so people decided to start saying that. I’m sincerely asking if it’s alright. Nothing hanging over it.”

 

Connor looked down at him, clenching his jaw. He wanted to let him in and be nice, but this had to be some sort of trick.

 

The storm must be right over them now because the next clap of thunder is the loudest he’s ever heard. It sounded like the world was ending.

 

Connor fell to his knees in terror, unable to hold back his scream. He squeezed his eyes shut, pulling at his hair.

 

Okay, shit. Jared pulled Connor’s hands away from his hair and helped him up. Forget being a dick, real Jared was coming to town.

 

“Alright, come on,” Jared hummed, pulling Connor aimlessly around the house, trying to find the living room. When Jared did find it he sat Connor down on the couch and threw a blanket over his shoulders. Jared went back to close the front door and came back to kneel in front of Connor. “You okay?”

 

He was crying now. He was fucking crying in front of Jared Kleinman. But he wasn’t thinking about that now.

 

Connor covered his ears, “Make it stop, make it stop!” he sobbed hysterically, breathing becoming sporadic.

 

“Connor, look at me,” Jared commanded. “You’ve gotta match my breathing. In four counts hold three and out four. Come on, it’ll help. Please.”

 

He tried for a moment but counting his breaths never worked so he gave up.

 

Connor stared at him with wide eyes before jumping into Jared’s arms as more thunder sounded. He didn’t care what Jared would do to him for this because Connor was going to die in this storm.

 

Holy shit he’s hugging me! Hug back dipshit! Ugh, breathing usually works with Evan. Wait...I picked up his pills for him. Okay...picked up the pills from him. Ugh, it better work on Connor. Damn, he gives nice hugs.

 

Jared forced Connor an arms length apart from him before digging in his bag and finding the pills. He grabbed the prescribed amount and handed them to Connor.

 

“They’re for anxiety, just take them,” Jared whispered, worried being loud would just make it worse. “My buddy Evan takes them when he has really bad attacks and they work really well.”

 

Connor didn’t question it and just swallowed them dry. More thunder caused him to throw himself back at Jared, nails accidently digging into the other boy’s skin with how tightly he was holding onto him.

 

Jared didn’t notice that something was digging into his skin at first. Jared just focused on holding Connor, he probably wouldn’t get another chance. After a moment he felt the pain in his upper back. “Retract the claws please.” Jared still didn’t let go, Connor was a mess and Jared was happy to help.

 

Connor immediately loosened his grip and wrapped his arms around his neck instead. Another few minutes went by of Connor letting out yelps and whimpers before the pills finally starting kicking in. The edges became dulled and Connor’s shaking lessened slightly but he still wouldn’t let go.

 

“Feeling better,” Jared asked, noticing the change in Connor’s shaking. “I’ve got another idea if you want. I used to do it with my mom because she is- was scared of storms. But you’ve gotta let go for me to do it.”

 

Connor debated this for a moment before hesitantly pulling away, immediately going back to curling in on himself.

 

Jared placed a hand on Connor’s shoulder, “I’ll be back in a bit.” Jared found the kitchen and grabbed cream from the fridge. He was surprised the Murphy’s had it, but then again, they were rich. Jared poured some in a sauce pan and set the heat on low. Jared grabbed a jar and slid it over to his body. Inside was sugar, perfect. Jared added a spoonful to the cream and stirred it a bit before adding vanilla extract and stirring again. Jared dug in the pantry and grabbed the cinnamon. He added a little to the pan before putting everything away. Jared turned the stove off and poured the mixture into a mug he had found on the drying rack near the sink. Jared rinsed the pan before coming back to Connor with the drink. “Ta da!”

 

Connor looked at him in confusion. What the fuck? The pill was making him a bit hazy and exhausted. What the hell was his friend on? These things were sedating him!

 

“Have you ever watched The Aristocats ?” Jared questioned. “The Disney movie?”

 

He shook his head, too drowsy and scared to think of a remark.

 

CRACK

 

Just as he was finally starting to relax, he jolted up again, letting out a squeak. He covered his ears back up and gritted his teeth together.

 

“I know it’s really stupid and useless to say, but calm down,” Jared sighed, he thought the pills would have worked better. Evan usually just went into space. “Back to the movie, the cats in the movie get this special drink or whatever, I don’t really know what it is, but I found a recipe a few years ago and it’s actually really good. Please at least try it Connor.”

 

He took the mug in his hand reluctantly and downed a large gulp. Connor hissed in pain as he burned his tongue.

 

“Fuck!”

 

“It was on the stove,” Jared cried. “Could you not feel the heat with your hands? Okay, that was mean, I’m sorry.”

 

What? ” Connor sputtered.

 

He must have heard Jared wrong or something.

 

“Boi, the drink is hot,” Jared giggled, why did he find this funny? “You have these things in your hands called nerves, they usually tell you if something is hot or cold. Maybe I should be helping you with science. Actually, nah, you’re in chem, I hate that class. Okay, I’ve got to stop being snarky, I’m sorry.”

 

The storm was finally starting to pass and there hadn’t been any new thunderclaps.

 

“First of all, no shit, I’m not a fucking idiot, I was just confused that you apologized. Second, how the hell do you know what science class I’m in?”

 

Fuckfuckfuckfuck! Lie! Quickly!

 

“I pass you when you walk in,” Jared lied. “I’ve got class down the hall.”

 

“Um, no you don’t. You make it very clear whenever you see me in the hall because you’re always insulting me,” he yawned, damn, those pills were working.

 

“I don’t do it every time,” Jared mumbled. “Usually just when Evan is around. He’s scared of you, and people in general, so I try to take all the attention away from him and you’re usually the first person I can put a face to. I don’t really mean any of it, now I feel like a dick.”

 

“Doesn’t explain why you know what my science class is,” he said, ignoring the heavier stuff since he was feeling so numb right now. He’d address it another time.

 

Jared was so screwed. He didn’t have any good lies for this! Ugh!  Just tell the truth, but don’t tell the whole truth.

 

“I followed you around one day,” Jared explained. “Figured out what classes you had and such.”

 

“Are you stalking me, Kleinman?” he asked before letting out another yawn.

 

He layed back on the couch tiredly.

 

“No!” Jared cried. “I followed you around for one day!” That was true. “I did want to know what classes you had. I didn’t follow you around like that after that day, I swear.”

 

He shut his eyes, “Okay,”

 

Connor fell asleep in an instant. He needed to figure out what the fuck Evan took because they worked wonderfully- not that his parents would let him go on meds though.

 

Jared didn’t know what to do. Did he leave Connor and go home? The storm had let up and the power had come back on. He...he wouldn’t do that. Knowing Connor, not that he did that well but he wanted to, he probably wanted a why to his creeping around. He had until Connor woke to come up with anything, so Jared sat on the floor and started thinking.

 

Connor woke up on the couch about an hour later. His hair covered his face messily and he brushed it aside carelessly as he sat up. He rubbed his face, trying to wake up more.

 

What the fuck happened?

 

Jared perked up from the floor at the motion from the couch. Jared got to his knees and scooter over to rest his head on the arm of the couch.

 

Oh my god he has bedhead and it’s adorable. He could kill me and I’d be okay with it. Stop creeping!

 

“Morning princess,” Jared sighed, trying to make it sound like a joke and not an insult.

 

Connor looked up in surprise before he remembered the events leading up to this and relaxed, “Oh,” he said quietly

 

It was comforting, for some reason, to wake up with Jared there.

 

“I don’t think Zoe’s coming back tonight,” Jared hummed. “Cause she sent me a text telling me to ‘fuck off’ and I’m assuming that’s her way of telling me she didn’t want my help. I decided to stay until you got up so you wouldn’t think it was a creepy dream. God knows I would think that.”

 

“Why would you think that?” he mumbled

 

He wasn’t looking at Jared but instead at his nails as he picked off his black nail polish. His hair fell down in his eyes.

 

“Okay, I wake up at my house, somewhat drugged, thinking that Connor Murphy the guy I make fun of even though I don’t want to, thinking he helped me,” Jared laughed. “It sounds like a dream. So, I made sure you didn’t think that either.”

 

“Uh,” There were so many things he could point out about that statement but he chose not to give Jared a hard time, “Thanks,”

 

Jared nodded and looked out the window to his car. “My parents are gonna kill me,” he whispered. “My stepmom is gonna be like ‘Jared! You’re late! And the car is broken? Go to your room for a week!’ God I hate her. And my dad won’t do anything cause he’s depressed and only married my stepmom because he was lonely. Sorry, I ranted.”

 

“Do you...want to just stay here for the night?” Connor offered nervously.

 

No, freak. He’s not your fucking friend.

 

Jared prayed that Connor didn’t see the blush hit his cheeks. “Really? I...sorry, I’ve never been invited anywhere except Evan’s. He...doesn’t like me that much I don’t think. If you’re sure, I can just text my dad, he won’t care and it’ll get Hannah off my back. Sure. I’d like that. Jeez, I’m not the ranting one, sorry.”

 

He’s cute when he does that...No Connor, keep your gayness to yourself, nobody wants to hear it. Especially not Jared. You’re on thin-ice here. Don’t fuck it up.

 

He smiled. He’d never spent time with a peer before, well, except for-

 

Nope, no, don’t think about him.

 

“You don’t have to though, I don’t want to like, scare you into hanging out with me,” he said cautiously.

 

“Nonononono,” Jared jumped. “I wasn’t scared. I just…it’s weird that someone wants to...hang out. With me.”

 

Connor laughed softly and tied his hair up in a bun, “I’m surprised you want to hang out with me

 

Jared wanted to wrap Connor in a safety blanket. He was gonna die of a cuteness attack. Connor with a bun was his new favorite thing.

 

“Same here,” Jared mumbled.

 

“Are you hungry? Sorry, we have leftovers in the fridge if you want but it’s all gluten-free,”

 

How the fuck do you treat a guest?

 

“Maybe in a little bit,” Jared mumbled, he was too giddy to eat right now. “Uh...are your parents gonna be here? It’ll be weird if I just show up unannounced.”

 

He is so beautiful I’m gonna die.

 

“Oh, in a bit. I think they’ll just be glad I’m not getting high or trying to kill myself,” he joked bitterly, “ and they’ll be thrilled I have a friend.”

 

“How thrilled,” Jared whispered. He didn’t want to be attacked.

 

“No there was no sarcasm there, Kleinman, they’re gonna love you,”

 

“Fuck me gently with a chainsaw,” Jared groaned. “Are you serious Connor? I’d rather them hate me. Ugh!”

 

“What…” he deadpanned “Why?”

 

“It’s a personal issue,” Jared mumbled. “You don’t wanna hear it.”

 

Jared didn’t want to bother Connor with his issues. They were pathetic as it is.

 

“Yeah I do,” he insisted, “What else have we got to do?” he tried to play his curiosity off with boredom.

 

“Alright, sob story Jared is now here,” Jared muttered. “Do you remember how in fourth grade I kinda just...stopped. Like...I was dead inside for the majority of the year? I remember you were in my class because Evan said to watch out for printers...like every week. I didn’t really care, obviously cause I was dead inside for the majority of the year. Sorry, I usually don’t rant.”

 

“Uh, yeah?” he said, confused

 

Where was he going with this?

 

“Well...the school didn’t say anything, and I didn’t.” Jared continued, looking down. “But uh...my mom...she, uh, she kinda...was murdered. So I shut off. Like...completely. So now, whenever I see...like...a family with two parents and happy kids, I...kinda think about that and it gets to me cause if I...if I had been more patient my mom wouldn’t have been out of the house and it never would have happened. And you’ve gotta realize that my stepmom is a deadbeat, I can’t stand her. So...I’m sorry if I get awkward with your parents around, I’m just like that, but it’s gotten better, trust me. I used to cry every time I saw a family together. You didn’t need to know that.”

 

Connor grabbed Jared’s hand. It was a little harsher than he intended but he didn’t let go, “Hey, Kleinman. It wasn’t your fault, okay? Besides, they’re gonna replace me with you.” he tried to lighten the mood.

 

“Connor, people have been telling me that it wasn’t my fault since it happened, I know deep down that it’s not, but I’m not ready to admit it. But, your parents can’t replace you, they need one stoner in their lives. I don’t make the cut dude.”

 

“Funny. But seriously, I’m sorry about that. I never knew,”

 

The front door opened before Connor could say anything else. He jerked his hand away from Jared’s.

 

“Connor, is that you?” Cynthia called as she walked in.

 

“Uh, yeah,”

 

Connor’s mom walked into the living room, “Well, I’m glad you’re out of your room- oh! Are you a friend of Connor’s?” she asked when she saw Jared.

 

She beamed and her eyes gleamed with hope.

 

“Uh...yeah,” Jared mumbled, doing his best to meet Connor’s moms gaze. “I’m Jared.”

 

Why are you so awkward? Connor probably thinks you’re a pussy!

 

Cynthia rushed over to him, shaking his hand enthusiastically, “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Connor’s mom, Cynthia. Can I get you anything? Are you hungry? Larry and Zoe should be home soon for dinner. Are you spending the night?”

 

Connor hung his head in shame as he watched his mom get so excited over the fact that he made one friend. Was he really that much of a disappointment?

 

“Umm...I’m fine Mrs. Murphy,” Jared assured, it’s just a mom, you’ve got this. “I’m...yeah...I’m staying the night, if you don’t mind of course. That’s my car out front, sorry if it’s in the way.”

 

“No no no! It’s not a problem! And you can call me Cynthia. Are you sure I can’t get you anything? Did you bring a change of clothes? Well, I’m sure Connor can just let you borrow some, if he’s not too small. I keep trying to get him to eat more but we’re having some issues with that-” she trailed off as she realized she was rambling and might have just shared something really private.

 

Jared ignored the eating comment. If Connor was chill with his issues, he would be chill with Connor’s. That’s how friends worked, right? “Thank you Mrs- uh...Cynthia. I...we…” Jared just made a motion with his arm and walked towards the stairs. What the fuck was he doing?

 

“Can you fucking not scare off my only friend?” Connor growled, hopefully too low for Jared to hear

 

He walked over to Jared and dragged the shorter boy up the stairs.

 

“Thanks,” Jared sighed. “Ugh, I’m awkward! I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t apologize, she’s a neurotic bitch,” he walked into his room and immediately felt self-conscious

 

Shit Shit Shit

 

All of his sketchbooks were out and there were clothes thrown all over his room. He hurried to make his bed and hide his books before shutting all of the sketchbooks within reach.

 

“OH MY GOD YOU’RE AN EXPRESSIVE EMO,” Jared laughed. Wait, stop being a dick! “Oh my god I’m sorry! Force of habit. But seriously, you draw? Lemme see, but only if you want. Sharing is sharing, caring is something else...what was I talking about.”

 

Whywhywhywhy IM SO CRINGY!!!

 

Connor snatched up all of the sketchbooks and cradled them closely to his chest protectively. He looked back at Jared in desperation and gave a small, shy shake of his head.

 

“That’s okay,” Jared nodded. “I’m sorry, I pulled a dick move. I shouldn’t mock you. You’re being nice. Okay, umm, I...fuck, I...cool room, I guess. I don’t know I’ve only seen mine and Evan’s and Evan is lame. Well, I’m lame too but everything in his room is blue and it hurts to look at. I’ll shut up now.”

 

“It’s fine,” he said softly but made a mental note to not draw around him ever, “Do you want clothes or something?”

 

“Yeah, set them out for later,” Jared nodded. “I...I want to give you a proper apology, for what I said to you at school? But, I have to think of it still, just know it’s gonna happen. Because I’m an asshole, and I know it. I have to be less negative. Sorry. Ugh, I keep apologizing! It’s probably annoying. I should just stop.”

 

Connor turned away as he began rifling through his drawers.

 

What if Jared thought his clothes were weird?

 

“It’s fine, I guess. Um, don’t get mad but I kind of…” he mumbled the rest of the sentence as he pulled out a t-shirt and a pair of flannel pants and laid them out on top of the dresser for Jared.

 

“Thanks Connor,” Jared smiled, why did the idea of wearing Connor’s clothes make him happy? That was wrong. “Let me evaluate. You’re not fully emo but you aren’t a rainbow either, you do art...oh okay, there is no way in hell that you are straight.”

 

It was like flicking a switch. Connor looked up at him, fire in his eyes, “What the fuck is it to you?” he clenched his fist, trying to get himself to calm down, “It’s none of your fucking business!”

 

Jared fucked up. He done fucked it all up. “I’m sosososososo sorry,” Jared groaned, hiding his face behind his hands. “I’m sorry, my gaydar hasn’t been wrong the past three times so I got cocky. I’m so sorry. I’m an idiot. I...I can just call my dad and have him come help me fix the car so I can go…”

 

Gaydar? Jared wasn’t straight either then

 

“Oh…” he said quietly, anger flooding out of him, “I didn’t know you were...shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get mad. I just don’t like talking about it.”

 

Yeah cause look where that got you with the last guy who got you to open up about it, freak.

 

Jared put his phone away. He probably should have said something about himself first. God he was stupid.

 

“Uh, yeah,” Jared chuckled. “I’m gay, sorry. I shouldn’t have put it on you without…” oh my god don’t say it it’s so cheesy don’t fucking do it. “Waving my flag.”

 

“It’s fine . I shouldn’t have freaked out. I, uh, I don’t think you heard me when I first said it cause you probably would have gotten pissed but…” he mumbled the rest of the sentence again.

Dammit, Connor, talk like a normal person.

 

“Connor, you good?”

 

What did you do? You pushed him too far. He’s never gonna like you! Oh my god!

 

“I pushed your friend!” he yelled, “It was after you walked away on the first day and I was high and I pushed him to the ground!”

 

“Evan,” Jared blinked. “Oh...hey that’s alright. I once pushed him down a flight of stairs. Don’t ask. I’m sure he deserved it, Evan doesn’t make big deals of stuff unless he’s really passionate about it. I’m not mad, Whatever you’ve done to him I’ve probably done worse.”

 

You’re a horrible person Jared. You didn’t need to share the whole stairs thing. Get a grip!

 

Connor looked at him in alarm, “Um...you did what?

 

“He deserved it,” Jared cried. “We were...god...ten? And he...okay, I went to the bathroom and he ate my ice cream while I was gone. And then he lied, cause he’s a huge liar, and said that his cat ate it. Evan doesn’t have a cat, his mom is allergic. So ten year old me thought I would get back at Evan and the first thing I thought of was stairs so I pushed him down. Don’t fuck with my ice cream, my dad hates it so I never get any.”

 

“Dude…” he frowned, “You’re mean ,”

 

“Connor…” Jared shuffled a little closer and whispered the rest. “I’m a fucking queen .”

 

Connor couldn’t help it. He burst into laughter and put a hand on Jared’s shoulder.

 

Jared smiled wide when Connor laughed. He did it. He made him laugh. His life was complete for the next day or two. Oh my god, Jared lost it too. His laugh was ugly and he hated it, but seeing Connor laugh set him off.

 

Connor tried to stifle his laughs, “Oh my god, your laugh is...I love it.”

 

Jared was thankful his face was red from laughing, otherwise the blush would have been obvious. “I sound like a pig, don’t lie.”

 

“No! It’s perfect!” he moved to sit on his bed.

 

Jared looked at the floor. He didn’t want to talk about his laugh anymore. It was a weird conversation anyway. “So...you do your nails? I tried to get into it, but I suck at it and my stepmom thinks it’s dumb. But, it looks cool on you.”

 

I’m lonely, please just offer to paint my nails. PLEASE! Notice me senpai.

 

Connor looked down at his nails before hiding them in his lap,” You used to make fun of me for them,” he mumbled.

 

“I...yeah,” Jared mumbled. “I didn’t mean any of the stuff I said. I’m sorry that I said it to begin with. They’re cool to me, I’m sorry I did that.”

 

“Do you…” he started slowly,”...want me to do you?” Connor asked, not realizing what he was saying.

 

“Uh...sure,” Jared mumbled. YES!!! “As long as I don’t have like...pink I’ll be fine.

 

“Okay, well, that’s not very helpful. I have lots of colors.” he grumbled.

 

“I’ve never done my nails Connor,” Jared sighed. “What do you think is best?”

 

Connor looked him up and down for a moment before saying, “Red. Definitely red, You’re such a Chandler,”

 

“FINALLY SOMEONE KNOWS WHAT THE FUCK HEATHERS IS,” Jared cried, throwing his arms up. “Connor, you are now my new favorite person, seriously, you have made my day, thank you!”

 

Connor blushed but tried to keep his cool, “Um, okay,”

 

Jared plopped down on the bed next to Connor and faced him. He held out his hands and smiled a little. “Okay, let’s do this.”

 

He took his hand and grabbed a bottle of brought red nail polish. Just before the brush touched Jared’s nail, he stopped, “People are gonna make fun of you in school,” he warned.

 

“Fuck society,” Jared laughed. “Do it.”

 

Connor shrugged, “Don’t come crying to me when some jock calls you a faggot,” he started painting his nails slowly.

 

“It already happens,” Jared assured. “Except now I’ll have red nails to flip them off with.”

 

Connor’s grip on Jared’s wrist tightened protectively for a moment before loosening it and forcing a laugh.

 

Jared smiled softly as the red was painted on. Jared would probably ask Connor to do it again some time. “Thank you Connor.”

 

“Yeah, whatever,” he gave another shrug before putting the polish away

 

“Dinner!” Cynthia called from downstairs

 

Connor stood up and sighed, “Prepare yourself, it’s gonna be a shitshow down there.”

 

“Lucky me,” Jared sighed. “Let’s do it.”

 

It’s just dinner Jared. Don’t screw it up. You’ve got this.

 

“You asked for it,” he led them downstairs, shying away from Larry.

 

“Who’s that,” Larry asked, pointing to Jared.

 

“My dealer,” Connor quipped as he sat down

 

Cynthia was in the kitchen getting the meal.

 

“Heh, no I’m not,” Jared said, forcing a laugh. “I’m Jared Kleinman, Connor’s friend from school. It’s nice to meet you.”

 

Jared held out his hand and Larry shook it. Jared then sat down next to Connor and prayed it wouldn’t be too awkward.

 

Dammit, Kleinman, let me piss him off, this is a daily routine.

 

“Oh, you know what, you’re right. He’s not my dealer. He doesn’t fuck me so I can pay for my weed,”

 

Jared had to force himself not to speak up. He was not about to fuck up what small trust he had with Connor.

 

“Can you not,” Larry muttered. “This is your guest. Stop acting like this in front of him.”

 

“He knows what I do, Larry . The whole school knows it. It’s not like I have a fucking job,”

 

Jared didn’t know why Connor wanted to rile up his father. His own dad just stayed quiet and didn’t talk that much. Maybe normal dads did this? He didn’t know. Maybe he should help? He wasn’t quite sure how. Umm...Jared didn’t know how drugs worked, he wouldn’t say anything and pipe in when he thought of something.

 

“You could get a job like a normal kid,” Larry offered. “Zoe works for the craft place downtown. Just apply and see what happens.”

 

“Okay, but see, I’m not a normal kid so I’m not gonna do normal kid things. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I have a mental illness that’s going untreated and I’m not interested in getting a motherfucking job. I’m getting my fix, that’s what matters,”

 

“What matters?” Cynthia asked as she came in carrying a plate of something Connor couldn’t name.

 

“Connor is just being dramatic,” Larry sighed. “Maybe you should start finding job applications for him to fill out. Connor should know what jobs are like before college.”

 

“That sounds like a wonderful-”

 

“I’m not getting a goddamn job! And I’m not even going to college!” he yelled.

 

Cynthia flinched at his tone.

 

“Thank you for dinner Mrs- uh, Cynthia,” Jared smiled, taking a bite of his food. He didn’t exactly get homemade meals at home. At least not often.

 

She turned towards him and forced a smile, “Oh, it’s no problem sweetie,”

 

She sat down and everyone began eating, except Connor who just stared at his plate.

 

“Zoe will be home soon,” Cynthia said to break the silence.

 

“Where was she earlier,” Jared asked. “I was supposed to tutor her and she ditched on me.”

 

“Oh, I think she went to what’s-her-name’s to do homework instead. I’m sorry, I’ll talk to her about that, Jared, that wasn’t very nice,”

 

“Yeah, well, Zoe’s not a very nice person,” Connor spoke up.

 

“Connor, can you please talk nice about your sister,” Larry muttered. He was losing his patience.

 

“It’s okay Mrs. Murphy,” Jared sighed. “I got to hang out with Connor. You don’t need to worry about it. Thank you for...uh, for offering though.”

 

“Why should I? Cause she’s Little-Ms.-Perfect?” he asked Larry.

 

“Well, that’s good,” Cynthia smiled at Jared, trying to keep the mood light.

 

“Uh, Mr. Murphy,  what is it that you..uh...what’s your occupation?”

 

“You don’t have to make small talk with them,” Connor groaned.

 

“Okay,” Jared mumbled.

 

“To answer your question, I’m a lawyer, Jared” Larry explained. “Thank you for asking.”

 

Connor stayed silent and just glared at his food. He was checking out of this conversation.

 

“Please eat something,” Cynthia begged quietly.

 

Jared has cleaned his plate by then and the two Murphy parents were almost done. Connor looked tense as hell and Jared wasn’t sure what to do.

 

“You haven’t eaten anything for days,” her voice dropped to a whisper

 

Connor stood up, picking up his and Jared’s plates and put them in the kitchen before heading upstairs, not checking to see if Jared was following or not.

 

Jared blinked for a second before standing. “Thank you for dinner Cynthia,” he called. Jared dashed after Connor and found him in his room.

 

Connor was drawing furiously in his sketchbook but put it away as soon as Jared entered. He didn’t say anything.

 

“Hey,” Jared waved, smiling when he saw the red on his nails. “Uh...what do we do now?”

 

“What do you wanna do? Movie, videogames, sleep, fuck? I don’t know, what do people do?”

 

“Movie,” Jared nodded, he knew that Connor had been joking about the sex but it still made his heart flutter a bit.

 

Connor pulled out his laptop and opened Netflix before handing it to Jared, “Your pick.”

 

“Boi, you know what Heathers is, obviously we’re watching it. It’s a classic!”

 

Connor rolled his eyes, “Okay,” he got the movie up and started watching, “I know you’re gay, but Winona Ryder is mine,” he whispered.

 

“You’ll have to learn to share,” Jared smirked.

 

“No, I called dibs,” he laughed.

 

“That’s not fair,” Jared pouted. “You must share. Didn’t we talk about sharing earlier? I can’t remember anything.”

 

Connor shrugged and focused back on the movie, undoing his hair.

 

“I stole a bunch of candy from Evan’s,” Jared gasped. “Want some?”

 

“You’re kind of an awful friend” he chuckled. “No, I’m fine.”

 

“Okay, I didn’t steal it,” Jared mumbled, making sure that the bag was still there. “His mom gave it to me. I’m not that mean.”

 

“Sure,” he said, not really paying attention to the conversation anymore.

 

Jared decided to let the talking drop. Connor didn’t seem interested in it. Jared started humming quietly when a specific scene in the movie played and prayed Connor wouldn’t judge.

 

“What are you humming?” he asked.

 

“Seventeen, you uncultured swine,” Jared joked. “It’s one of my favorite songs from the musical.”

 

Musical ?” Connor frowned.

 

Jared’s jaw dropped. This wasn’t happening. No fucking way. “Okay, screw the movie,” Jared muttered. “We’re watching the bootleg. Gimme the laptop please.”

 

Connor handed it over reluctantly, still pretty confused.

 

Jared opened google and found the bootleg easily. You’d think people would try harder, but YouTube knew that the fandom could never be stopped. Jared started the video and handed the laptop back over to Connor. This was gonna be great.

 

“Why on earth would they make this into a musical?”

 

“Because the musical gives more story and the love between Veronica and J.D. is more...loving. It’s still abusive, but they actually seem to care about each other. Also, Betty isn’t in this at all. She wasn’t that big of a character anyway.”

 

Connor clenched his jaw and just tuned him out. He watched until Fight For Me started and paused it.

 

“No, yeah, it’s good.” he gritted out

 

“Dude, what’s wrong,” Jared asked. “Did I say something? Fuck I’m sorry.”

 

“Nothing, I just forgot about some stuff in it, that’s all. I haven’t seen it in awhile.”

 

“Connor, I’m cool if you don’t like the musical,” Jared assured. “I didn’t expect you to like...instantly get attached or get attached at all. I just wanted to show it to you. We can go back to the movie….wait….oh shit I figured it out. Fuck. I’m dumb. We don’t have to watch it at all, I’m sorry.”

 

“Can you just drop it?” he snapped, “Let’s go to bed,”

 

“Okay,” Jared nodded. “Uh...where’s the bathroom?”

 

“Down the hall on the left.”

 

“Thanks,” Jared mumbled, grabbing the clothes Connor had set out. “I’ll be back in a few.”

 

Jared found the bathroom and changed quickly. God he was an idiot.

 

Of course he’s pissed at you. You fuck everything up. He wouldn’t ever like you, you’re a mess. You can’t even get over Mom, how are you supposed to even try and have a real friend?

 

Jared shuffled back to Connor’s room and found a pillow and blanket on the floor. Jared thanked Connor quietly before taking off his glasses and trying to sleep.

 

Connor didn’t think to change while Jared was gone and since Jared’s eyes were shut, he thought, fuck it , and stripped of his clothes. His neck and shoulder were bright red for some reason. He quickly pulled on a t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants and crawled into bed.

 

“You don’t have to sleep on the floor,” he mumbled nervously.

 

“I’m going,” Jared yawned, stumbling over. Jared went to the other side of the bed and flopped down, throwing the blanket from the floor over his head. “My mom used to tell me that I cling to things when I sleep, I don’t know if I still do it, but you’ve been warned for if it happens. I apologize in advance just in case.”



Connor went redder at the thought and quickly turned out the light so Jared wouldn’t see, “‘Kay,” he shut his eyes and turned away.

 

Stop it, freak, this is your only friend. Don’t fuck it up.

 

Jared really hoped he was over the whole attachment thing. He wasn’t sure if he did it anymore. If he fucked this up now he’d give up completely. “Night.”



Connor woke up wrapped in warmth. He didn’t question it for a moment but then he realized someone was pressed up behind him with their arms around his waist tightly.

 

He looked over his shoulder to find Jared’s face smashed into the back of his neck. Connor’s own face became hot.

 

Oh my god oh my god. What do I do. Okay, don’t move, this is fine.

 

He stayed like that for a moment before pressing closer to Jared and closing his eyes again though there was no way he’d be able to go back to sleep. Not with the way Jared was holding him, or how the shorter boy’s leg slotted between Connor’s, or how his lips were pressed to the back of his neck.

 

Jared woke up slowly, but didn’t open his eyes yet. He was really warm and he liked it. Wait...oh my god!

 

WhatdoIdo! Ahhhhh!

 

Jared managed not to freak out. Okay, he was pressed against Connor and he really didn’t want to leave. And his face was pressed against Connor’s neck. This was kinda like kissing him, but he was bad at it. Oh well, he wasn’t gonna have any other chance for this. Jared stayed like that for a few more minutes before rolling away. Unfortunately Jared miscalculated and he fell off the bed.

 

“FUCK!”

 

Connor’s eyes shot open and he sprung up, “Jared?” he asked, looking down at the other boy on the ground, “Are you okay?”

 

He tried not to think about the disappointment he felt when Jared woke up and moved away, because he would not entertain a crush on his only friend just to get his heart broken again.

 

“I hit my head,” Jared muttered. “Oh fuck it’s blurry. Wait, I don’t have my glasses on. Hold on.” Jared stood up but he felt dizzy and went back down. “Yeah I’m not getting up yet. Can you hand me my glasses?”

 

Connor scrambled out of bed and shoved his glasses onto Jared’s face, a little nervous that now Jared would be able to see what a fucking mess Connor’s hair was,“Do you need ice?”

 

Jared blinked as his vision was corrected. His head still hurt and he felt dizzy, but he could see alright. “Uh...I don’t know. I just need a minute.”

 

“I’m getting ice,” he decided and sprung up, making a quick trip downstairs and returned with an ice-pack, pressing it delicately to Jared’s head.

 

Jared looked up at Connor and took the ice pack from his hand. Jared tried not to blush when their hands brushed together. “Thanks,” he whispered.

 

“We have school,” he said, looking away from Jared, because, fuck , he was gorgeous.

 

“Oh yeah,” Jared mumbled. “I think I’m good to stand.” Jared pushed himself off the floor and he didn’t spin. Jared didn’t try to stare at Connor, but holy shit his hair looked beautiful. “I’ll go and try to get my car started after I get dressed.”

 

Connor saw what he was looking at and immediately tried to flatten his hair, “Zoe can just take you with us. I’d offer to drive but I got into an accident and totaled the car…” Accident my ass “...also don’t wear your clothes from yesterday, that’s nasty.”

 

“I’m glad you’re alright,” Jared smiled, giving Connor’s forearm a quick squeeze. “I think I know what happened with my car, it’s broke like this before I just was too concerned about the rain yesterday to think properly. If I can fix it then I could take you if you don’t wanna hang with Zoe. But she’s your sister so I’m not gonna intrude. Wait...what am I gonna wear?”

 

“No, god, she hates me.” he sat up and threw a random outfit at him, “Anything that’s clean,”

 

Jared let the clothes hit him in the face before catching them in his arms. Jared went into the bathroom to get ready and frowned when he looked in the mirror. His hair was a mess. Ugh! Jared got a hand wet and flattened it back down to normal. He got dressed and rolled up the sleeves on the shirt to his forearms. Connor had really long arms. Thankfully the pants bunched at his ankles so they didn’t look weird. Jared walked back out and knocked on Connor’s door that was now closed.

 

“You can come in, I guess,” Connor said, pulling a shirt on as Jared walked in, he turned away to hide the blush that grew and started brushing his hair.

 

Jared definitely did not want to brush Connor’s hair, but that was a lie. Jared grabbed his bag from the floor and pulled on his shoes. “I’ll be back in a minute, I’m gonna see if I can fix my car.”

 

Jared walked down to the car and peeked under the hood. Everything looked alright there so Jared closed the hood and went under the car. He could only fit his head under, but his arms were able to reach where he needed to go. Jared found the two cables and connected them. He probably had to get the plug replaced but he didn’t have time right now. Jared started the car with ease and turned it off again before going back into the house. “Connor, I fixed it!”

 

Connor appeared from the top of the stairs, “Shh! Daddy Dearest is still asleep!” he whisper-yelled before rolling his eyes, “I’m starting to think you just wanted to stay the night, if it was that simple of a fix.” he teased.

 

Jared almost broke. Fuckfuckfuck! That wasn’t the reason but damn he has a point! “What? N-No way. I was kinda busy with taking care of you to be thinking about what was wrong. Wait...that’s mean. I’m sorry. Please don’t hate me.”

 

Connor scowled and disappeared in his room to finish getting ready. He was going to wear eyeliner today, fuck society , he thought.

 

YOU IDIOT YOU HURT HIS FEELINGS! GOD, YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT...maybe Hannah was right...you’re a loser. Nobody likes you.

 

Jared sat in the living room while he waited for Connor to come back. Zoe came down and scowled at Jared before vanishing into the kitchen. Of course. Of course this was happening.

 

Connor made his way down shortly after and grabbed his backpack. “I’m going with Zoe,” he announced, not sure why he was so pissed off.

 

Jared did his best not to look hurt. “Okay. Later Connor.” Jared walked out the door and drove to school. He fucked it up.

 

He sighed and looked at Zoe, “Hi…,” he offered awkwardly.

 

“What’s your deal with Jared,” Zoe asked. “I didn’t know you were friends.”

 

He shrugged, “We weren’t until last night,” he bit back, “When you bailed on him,”

 

“Alana is smarter than him and I was already at her house when I remembered Jared,” Zoe muttered. “Now at least you have a friend. Why not go to school with him?”

 

“Why not mind your fucking business?”

 

“Cause I care” Zoe spat. “Or at least I try to. Sometimes I just can’t!”

 

Connor laughed, “No you don’t! You don’t give a shit about me.”

 

“Fine,” Zoe growled. “I don’t give a shit about my only brother who I can’t replace. Fuck off!”

 

“You wish I was dead,” he chuckled bitterly, “Hurry up,”

 

“I’m driving dipshit,” Zoe muttered, grabbing her keys.

 

“Obviously, bitch,” he stormed out.

 

Jared pulled up to the school and walked inside. He grabbed his books quickly and started making his way to class. Of course he was noticed like Connor had predicted.

 

“Just ignore it,” Jared whispered to himself. He would be fiiiine .



Connor kept his head down at school so people wouldn’t see the eyeliner and so he wouldn’t see Jared. He went to class early and sat in the back.

 

One of the jocks passed by Jared and turned around as he saw the red paint, “Hey, Kleinman, what’s that?” he teased. His friends stopped too to watch the scene.

 

“My own self, what’s it to you,” Jared muttered. “If you’ve got a problem with me maybe you should tell a teacher.”

 

“You like fucking guys, Kleinman?” he turned to his friends, “I bet he’s got the hots for one of us.”

 

He shoved him against a locker and smiled maliciously.

 

“You know, it sounds nice,” Jared chuckled, acting normal. “But not you guys. I have a type. And let me tell you, you don’t fit that type.”

 

“Oh, and what’s that?” he shoved him again.



The teacher glared at Connor hatefully. At first, he had just glared right back until he gave in and stood up. Fine, she could have her space before school started.

 

He made his way out into the hall where a crowd was forming.

 

“You guys suck,” Jared explained. “I might be gay, but I have standards. Can you fuck off?”

 

Connor pushed forward as he heard Jared’s voice. He shoved his way to the front of the crowd.

 

“What the fuck is this?” he demanded.

 

The jock turned around, “Is this your friend, freak? You gay too?”

 

“No, I just….” Connor started backing down.

 

“Yeah that’s what I thought,” he faced Jared again, “Didn’t anyone tell you nail polish is for fags?”

 

“That’s disrespecting every single girl here,” Jared gasped.

 

He slammed Jared back against the lockers again. Connor surged forward and threw the jock to the ground, “Don’t fucking touch him.”

 

He dragged him to his feet and slammed him into the lockers really hard.

 

Jared watched Connor help him, and when the jock was pushed against the lockers he kicked the guy in the balls. “They call short people fun size for a reason, asshole.” Jared walked away and the crowd parted.

 

Connor watched him leave and pressed his lips together, debating if he should go after him or not.

 

He let go of the jock and followed him, “Kleinman!” Connor called.

 

“Hey, Connor,” Jared hummed, glancing back.

 

“You good?” Connor caught up to him.

 

“Never better,” Jared nodded. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

“Seriously,” he pressed on, nudging him with his elbow.

 

“Trust me, I’m fine,” Jared nodded. He wanted to apologize for earlier, but he’d rather not bring that back up. “I’ve been through worse, and it wasn’t at school.”

 

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Jared chuckled. “It’s fine.”

 

Jared ” he stopped walking.

 

“What?” Jared sighed.

 

“Are you safe?”

 

“Meaning?”

 

“Anything, I don’t fucking know. Are you safe?” he repeated.

 

“I...most of the time.”

 

Connor moved closer, lowering his voice, “Is someone hurting you?” he asked desperately.

 

“Not in a few weeks.”

 

“You have to tell me,”

 

“Why?” Jared whispered. “Blood clots, bruises heal. It doesn’t matter.”

 

Connor grabbed his arm, “Jesus Christ, who did that to you?”

 

“I’ll give you three guesses,” Jared sighed. “Let’s think of what happened yesterday. Why I was so happy I didn’t have to go home.”

 

“You need to tell your Dad. What has she done to you?”

 

“I...I, she...uh...nothing too bad?”

 

“Jared.”

 

Jared pulled Connor to the library. He wasn’t gonna talk about it where people could see. “Oh jeez, okay, umm...I’ve been punched, kicked, it’s mostly a lot of yelling, and her nails hurt like hell.”

 

Connor immediately pulled him into a tight hug.

 

Jared let out a squeak before hugging back. Connor gave good hugs. At least no one was crying this time. “I’m sorry dude.”

 

“Why on earth are you sorry? I’ve been a dick all day?” he held tighter.

 

“Because Evan ditched me so Hannah screamed at me and you shouldn’t have to deal with me and my mess.”

 

“Uh...aren’t friends supposed to help each other?” he asked, not actually knowing the answer.

 

“You think I know,” Jared chuckled. “You’re the first real friend I’ve ever had. I think so, but my mommy issues shouldn’t be involved.”

 

“Shut up, Kleinman, I’m trying to fucking help,” he said but with no anger behind it.

 

“This is gonna sound really stupid,” Jared mumbled, pulling out of the hug even though he didn’t want to. “But can you come with me when I first come back home? Then I can drive you back afterwards and hold off on the yelling.”

 

He nodded, “Yeah, I can do that, but don’t get upset if I start yelling at that bitch.”

 

“Don’t you fucking dare,” Jared gasped. “It’ll make it worse. I will not be allowed to leave the house if she knows I told someone. No school, nothing.”

 

“Oh...shit, okay, no yelling, got it.”

 

“Thank you,” Jared groaned, planting his head on Connor’s shoulder even though his whole brain kept saying Nononono! “I don’t need to be cut off from the world yet. I just got a friend.”

 

Connor blushed at Jared’s movement. Oh my god . His brain short-circuited, “R-Right.”

 

The bell rang and Jared jumped back. Fuck you bell! “Uh...I’ll see you at lunch?”

 

“Lunch, yeah,” he rushed off to class.

 

Jared grabbed his things from the floor near his locker before heading to class. He really hoped things wouldn’t go to shit if he brought Connor over.



Connor walked up behind Jared at the start of lunch, staying silent since he wasn’t sure what to say.

 

Jared felt something tap his shoulder and Jared whipped around. Oh, Connor. “Hey.”

 

“Hi,” he said in what he hoped was a casual tone.

 

Jared sat down at his usual spot in the corner and watched Connor sit next to him, picking at his nails. Jared saw how he didn’t have any food to eat, but didn’t press it. He didn’t want to upset Connor. “What did you do in chem?”

 

“Slept,” he answered shortly, not looking up from his hands.

 

“What, were you up all night because of my cuddle attack,” Jared joked. You wish Kleinman.

 

“No, I actually slept really well last night. I was just bored,” he admitted.

 

Oh my god! “In middle school I had math right after lunch, so I’d be really tired. I fell asleep while the teacher did notes and woke up as we started the assignments and usually finished in class. It was an awesome system.”

 

“Cool,” he mumbled.

 

“What happened,” Jared sighed, poking at whatever he was supposed to be eating. “Who did something? I’ll beat them up.”

 

“Nothing, it’s just...there’s a lot of people. I don’t normally sit in the cafeteria.” he shrugged.

 

“Well, I’m not eating this,” Jared gestured to his plate. “Let’s leave. Library is usually empty during lunch, we can go there.”

 

He nodded and followed him out gratefully.

 

Jared found a table in the corner of the library. Jared sat down and Connor sat across from him. He wasn’t sure what to do. “What’s your favorite color?”

 

“Green,” he said sheepishly, “And you?”

 

“White,” Jared answered. “It’s clean. Okay, umm...favorite animal?”

 

Connor raised an eyebrow in amusement but didn’t comment, “Guess,”

 

“Umm...I don’t know...cat? Turtle?”

 

“Don’t laugh,” he warned.

 

“I won’t.”

 

“...Penguins,” he mumbled.

 

“Aww,” Jared gushed. “That’s adorable. My mom loved penguins.”

 

Connor’s eyes widened. He ducked his head and his hair successfully hid his face, “Thanks,”

 

Jared grabbed his pencil from the pouch he had been carrying around. Jared reached across the table and used the pencil to move Connor’s hair. “It isn’t very effective Con.”

 

Connor swatted his pencil away, and tried to hide his blush.

 

“Hey,” Jared chuckled, getting up to grab the pencil from the floor. “Uh...back to the questions. Favorite food?”

 

Connor tensed, “Fuck off, asshole,”

 

Of course. He was just fucking leading up to this question. He’s trying to make fun of you. He thinks you’re a freak.

 

“Did I say something,” Jared asked. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I can go. Whatever happened, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

 

“You know I have issues with that shit.” he accused.

 

“Oh my god I’m an asshole,” Jared whispered. “I forgot. Fuck, that isn’t a worthy apology. We were getting along and it slipped my mind. God I’m a horrible person-”

 

“It’s fine ,” he growled, still upset but also believing him.

 

“No it’s not ,” Jared whispered, breathing getting uneven. “I knew better. I fucked up. I’m a mistake. I upset you…” “Everything is your fault you pathetic child!” “...I’m worthless. A pathetic mess. I’m sorry.”

 

Connor began to calm down and looked at Jared in concern, “It’s not that big of a deal. Why do you do that whenever I get upset?”

 

Jared just shook his head. Not now. Not with Connor around. Please not now.

 

“Shit, okay, um, breathe? You uh...in seven, out four?” he tried to remember the breathing exercise from last night as he rushed across the table to Jared. He put his hand on his arm, testing it.

 

Jared jerked his arm away and backed into the corner. It was like every hit was coming back at once to get him. “Remember Jared, you wouldn’t be in this situation if you had been patient. You can’t tell your father, how would he feel if you broke his family twice?” “I’m sorry! PLEASE STOP IT!” Jared rubbed his leg where the scar was. Jared played his moms song over in his head until the voices stopped. Jared looked up at Connor, “I’m sorry.”

 

“Jared! What do I do? How can I help? It’s just me! It’s Connor! You’re safe!” he reached out to touch him again but jerked his hands back.

 

“Hug” Jared whispered. “Please.”

 

Connor pulled Jared into his lap and wrapped his arms around him, “You’re okay. You’re safe, I promise. You’re safe,” he whispered.

 

Jared was a shaky mess, but he buried his head in Connor’s chest. Hannah wasn’t there. He was okay. Connor wouldn’t hurt him. Once Jared’s shaking subsided a bit more he tried speaking. “Hannah’s gonna kill me.”

 

“No she’s not. I won’t let her. I’m not gonna let anyone hurt you, okay? You’re safe.”

 

“Without me she’ll hurt dad,” Jared sobbed. “He can’t do it. He’ll let her do it! If she leaves it’s my fault and then dad’ll jump off a bridge and I’ll be alone again.”

 

“Woah, hey, no. I’m not gonna force you but I really think you should report this. And I’m sleeping over tonight,”

 

“Reporting won’t work,” Jared whispered. “She knows how I think. She knows what to say. She knows how to hurt me when others are around. We, we don’t have proof anyways.”

 

“I’m spending the night,” he repeated.

 

“I don’t know what to do,” Jared whispered. “I-I...can I trust you?”

 

“Yeah, Jared. You can trust me. I swear.” he assured, “You’re too pretty to betray,”

 

Did Connor call him pretty? Jared’s brain felt like it would give out. This was a lot at once. Confession first. “I had a gun to my head last week, but I didn’t pull the trigger,” Jared whispered. “And I’m in love with you.”

 

Connor was in shock for a minute before he processed what he heard and tightened his grip on Jared’s arms.

 

“You what ? Jared…” he pulled him back into a hug, “Jared, oh my god, shit.”

 

He held him for awhile before pulling back to look at his face. His mouth hung open.

 

“You and my dad are the only reason I’m still here,” Jared whispered. “I didn’t just have Evan’s meds. I stole them. I was gonna do it, I was gonna die and I didn’t ‘cause of Zoe when she invited me over and I wanted to see you once before I died and everything changed and now I ruined it again.”

 

Connor didn’t know what to say but the second part of Jared’s confession registered in his mind and so he smashed his lips against Jared’s, cupping his neck.

 

Jared’s brain quit. Connor was kissing him. Holy shit. None of it mattered. Jared kissed back eagerly and ran a hand through Connor’s hair. He tasted like coffee and vanilla. It was intoxicating. After a bit Jared forced himself back. He would pass out if he didn’t calm down a little. “Please help me,” Jared begged.

 

“What do you need right now?” he interlocked their hands gently.

 

“Not here,” Jared whispered. “I can’t be here anymore. Out, I need out right now.”

 

Connor obeyed and pulled them up, leading Jared out to the parking lot, “Where’s your car?”

 

Jared pointed to the other end of the lot and squeezed Connor’s hand. He had to chill out a little.

 

They walked in the direction Jared pointed before Connor stopped again to look around, “Which one?”

 

“Right there,” Jared whimpered, pointing to the red car. “Between the van and the truck.”

 

He led them over and put Jared in the passenger seat and walked around and jumped into the driver’s side. He put his hands on the wheel but didn’t dare insert the keys into the ignition.

 

Connor hadn’t driven since...since the night he tried to kill himself (two times ago now) by driving into a tree. He told his parents he swerved to avoid hitting a deer, but he wasn’t certain that they bought that.

 

Jared reached over and found Connor’s hand, he needed something to hold onto. Jared sat in basically silence, excusing his fucked up breathing, and waited until he could see clearly again. Deep breath in and out. “Connor?”

 

Connor bit down on his lip and shoved the keys in and started the car.

 

“Sorry,”

 

He pulled out very slowly and drove at a snail’s pace, his knuckles white from his grip on the wheel.

 

“Thank you,” Jared mumbled, looking over. “For everything.”

 

Connor didn’t respond, too busy trying to drive without having an attack of his own. He got on the main road and his hands began shaking but he wasn’t far from his house.

 

Connor turned onto his street and relaxed a bit. He was going to make it.

 

He pulled up in front of his house and got out. He opened Jared’s door for him and helped him out.

 

“Thank you,” Jared repeated. “I know you don’t want to hear it but I’m sorry for freaking out, I still am a little if I’m being honest, freaked out that is..”

 

Connor ignored the apology and brought them inside, sitting Jared on the couch.

 

“Hungry?”

 

Jared shook his head. He was exhausted. “Can I take a nap?”

 

“Go for it. I’ll, uh, go upstairs, I guess. Unless you want to sleep in my bed. It’s more comfortable.”

 

Jared grabbed Connor’s hand. “This is pathetic...uh, can you hold me? Please?”

 

“Can we go upstairs? I will, I swear, but sometimes my dad gets home from work early and I don’t know how he’d react…”

 

“It’s okay,” Jared nodded. “I think we’d be more comfortable up there anyway. Thank you.”

 

They went upstairs and Connor pulled Jared down into the bed with him, “Big spoon or little spoon?” he grinned.

 

“Little,” Jared mumbled, a blush hitting his cheeks. “You, I told you. Are you okay with it? I dropped a bomb and I shouldn’t have so you don’t have to just be nice to me cause I had a breakdown. That’ll just make it worse.”

 

Connor wrapped his arms around Jared’s waist and held him close. He leaned forward and kissed his cheek, “It was probably the best news I’ve heard in years.”

 

Jared let out a sigh of relief. Jared relaxed in Connor’s arms and felt Connor slip a leg in between his. “When we get up we’ve gotta talk more,” Jared mumbled.

 

“Mmhm,” he groaned. Connor didn’t realize how tired he was but he fell asleep immediately.

 

“I love you,” Jared whispered, closing his eyes. He fell asleep quickly with Connor pressed against him.



Connor woke up a couple hours later. Jared was still sleeping, and Jesus Christ, he looked adorable. He was fucking gorgeous.

 

He leaned down and started pressing kisses all over the shorter boy’s face.

 

Jared scrunched his nose as he woke up. He had slept with his glasses on like an idiot. Wait...oh. Jared opened his eyes and smiled at Connor. “Hi,” Jared breathed, pulling Connor’s head down to kiss him properly.

 

Connor kissed back happily before pulling away an inch or so, “How are you feeling?”

 

“Better,” Jared assured, running a hand through Connor’s hair. “You’re so pretty.”

 

Connor scrunched his face up, “Ew, no.” he kissed him again.

 

“Yes you are,” Jared protested. “I know it sounds bad but I wouldn’t have fallen for you if you were ugly.”

 

“Should we head back to your place?” he asked, changing the subject.

 

Jared took a deep breath and nodded. He’d be okay. “Yeah, you’re still staying the night?”

 

“Of course,” he grinned.

 

Jared sat up and looked over at Connor. The two intertwined their fingers and Jared pulled them up. Connor grabbed a set of clothes and pajamas before Jared  walked them to the car. He was able to drive this time.

 

Connor bounced his leg during the ride. He was going to meet Jared’s parents- parent and evil stepmother. He’d never gone to anyone’s house before, much less meet their parents.

 

Jared parked the car in its place and stepped out. His dad wasn’t home yet, but would be soon. Jared stepped out of the car and walked to the door. He would be okay. Jared opened the front door and walked inside. “Hannah?”

 

Jared jumped back as his stepmom came into view. She looked innocent. Her blonde hair with the purple nails and her fucking nails! Calm down .

 

“I was worried about you Jared,” Hannah blurted, seeing Connor. “I was afraid something had happened to you.” Hannah wrapped an arm around his shoulder and he felt the nails dig into his skin, sharp as ever. “Who’s your friend?”

 

“This is Connor,” Jared explained. “He’s here to spend the night.

 

Hannah’s nails broke the skin. FUCK! “Alright then,” Hannah hummed. “Jared, don’t forget to clean up before dinner.”

 

Once Hannah was gone Jared pulled Connor up to his room and checked his arm. Four crescent shaped punctures were bleeding. Fuck.

 

Connor noticed and wrapped him in a hug, “Bandages?” he asked, “I swear, I’m gonna kill that bitch.”

 

“Don’t,” Jared protested. “If I report her with no harm done to me then what’s the point? I’m not gonna let her...do the thing...she wouldn’t with you here anyway. But if I just put up with it for one night then we can report her and she’ll go away. Bandaids are on the desk.”

 

“Guess I’m moving in then,” he said, half-kidding.

 

He grabbed the bandages, choosing not to think about how Jared had them out already as if he was expecting something.

 

Connor peeled off the wrappings and covered all of Jared’s cuts as gently and possible. When he was done, he kissed over all of them.

 

“Thanks,” Jared beamed, kissing Connor quickly.

 

“JARED,” Hannah yelled. “I NEED YOU A MINUTE! ALONE PLEASE!”

 

Connor froze for a moment before taking Jared’s hands, “What do you want me to do?”

 

“I’ve got it,” Jared assured. “She won’t do anything serious with you here. Just sit, I’ve got this.”

 

Jared walked down to Hannah in the kitchen. Oh fuck, the knife again?

 

“You know better than to bring people over uninvited,” Hannah spat. “What did I do last time Jared?”

 

“A tally mark,” Jared whispered. “On my leg.”

 

“Now you’ll have two,” Hannah hummed. “Leg.”

 

Jared lifted his leg up and covered his mouth with a hand. Hannah found the scar from the first time easily and pressed the knife down into his leg next to it. Not enough to bleed out, but it would scar just as badly as the one before. Hannah rinsed the knife off and grabbed Jared’s wrist.

 

“Does he know you killed your mother,” Hannah asked.

 

“I didn’t kill her-”

 

“But it’s your fault,” Hannah spat. “Does he know?”

 

“No,” Jared lied. “He doesn’t know anything.”

 

Hannah’s grip on his wrist tightened so much that Jared lost feeling in his fingertips. It would definitely bruise.

 

“Good,” Hannah smirked. “Go back and clean up before you make a mess.”

 

Jared ran off and back to his room. Okay, he was fine. He was fine. He shouldn’t show Connor the cut on his leg, it want that bad anyways.

 

Connor rushed over to him and cupped his cheeks worriedly, “What happened. Tell me,”

 

Jared held up his wrist and sighed. “Not as bad as I thought it would be.” Lies.

 

“Promise me?” Connor looked him in the eyes desperately, “Promise me she didn’t do anything else to you?”

 

Jared couldn’t lie. Connor’s trust was more important than his pride. Jared walked over to the bathroom and showed Connor the cut. He wasn’t gonna lie to Connor.

 

Connor covered his mouth for a moment and just stared. His eyes starting stinging. He ran back into the room and grabbed the bandages. He accidently let out a sniffle as he worked with his hands shaking.

 

“Connor,” Jared whispered. “I’m sorry. It’s one night. There isn’t much else she can do.”

 

“S-Shut up. Don’t you dare try to comfort me.” he wiped a few tears away, not looking at Jared.

 

When Connor had finished putting on the bandaids Jared reached into his medicine cabinet and pulled out a medical wrap. Jared let Connor put it on him and he stood up. He didn’t dare say anything to possibly offend him, or make it worse. Jared just kissed Connor’s cheek and hugged him tight.

 

Connor hugged him back, “I’m so sorry about this, you don’t deserve this.”

 

“One more night,” Jared whispered. “Just one.”

 

Jared heard the front door close and he looked over at Connor. His dad was home. Sarcastic yay.

 

Connor pressed their lips together again, kissing him slowly.

 

Jared hummed against Connor’s mouth before pulling away. “We should go greet him,” Jared whispered.

 

“I’m...not...yeah, okay,” he nodded nervously

 

“He’s depressed,” Jared sighed. “He isn’t gonna hate you. I promise. I’ll...show us down.

 

Jared walked down the steps with Connor behind him. Jared’s dad Lennie was being embraced by Hannah. BITCH!

 

“Hi dad,” Jared greeted. “Uh, this is Connor, he’s a friend from school.”

 

“I was talking to your father Jared,” Hannah tsked. “I hope you’ll be helping me clean up?”

 

Jared took a deep breath. “Of course.”

 

“Good,” Hannah grinned. “Alright, I’m off to finish dinner. Play nice.”

 

Hannah walked off and Lennie faced his son. He looked tired.

 

“Hi Connor,” Lennie greeted. “I’m Lennie. Don’t worry about me much, I’m too old to criticize anyone. You seem like a fine person. I’m gonna get to working on some paperwork J. I’ll be back for dinner.”

 

Lennie walked away and Jared ran a hand over his face. It was worse than normal.

 

“He seems, um, nice?” Connor offered.

 

“It’s pathetic, I know,” Jared sighed. “But...he’s all I have. I’m not letting her hurt him. I’ll cover you for dinner. You’ll be okay.”

 

“No, I’m serious. He’s nice. I wasn’t expecting that. Most people look at me like I’m some freak, And he’s not all you have, You have me.”

 

Jared smiled and leaned into Connor’s chest. “I love you,” Jared whispered. “So I guess you’re right.”

 

“I’m always right,” he laughed, wrapping his arms around Jared.

 

“Thank god someone is,” Jared hummed, kissing Connor’s cheek.

 

“Lennie,” Hannah sang. “Boys! Dinner!”

 

Jared grabbed Connor’s hand quickly and squeezed it before letting go and walking to the kitchen.

“Uh...Hannah,” Jared squeaked.

 

“What now Jared.” Hannah muttered.

 

“Connor ate a late lunch so he won’t be eating.” Jared lied.

 

Hannah gave Jared a look before Lennie walked in and she smiled. The three sat down and Hannah grabbed the stew.

 

“What do you do for fun Connor,” Hannah asked, her fake cheery voice on display.

 

Connor mumbled something shyly. What the fuck. He wasn’t shy.

 

Jared was given a look from Hannah. Oh fuck. “You’ll have to speak up dear,” Hannah giggled.

 

“IdrawIguess,” his eyes were trained on his lap.

 

“Sounds fun,” Hannah hummed, glaring at Jared again. “Me and Jared play games together, isn’t it fun?”

 

“Yep,” Jared nodded.  Jared felt Hannah kick him and Jared forced back a cry. “I love playing games with you Hannah.”

 

“I’m usually just sitting around,” Lennie chuckled. Holy fuck when was the last time Jared had heard that? “I’m glad you have a hobby you enjoy Connor.”

 

“Jared,” Hannah hummed. “Your nails look so….vibrant.”

 

Fuckfuckfuck!

 

“Thank you,” Jared whispered, eating his food.

 

“What electives are you taking Connor,” Lennie asked.

 

He mumbled something else, twisting his legs together.

 

“Connor’s taking ceramics, mythology, and contemporary fiction,” Jared said. The creeping around paid off after all.

 

“I took that class in high school,” Lennie gasped. “I couldn’t get Jere into it. It’s a fun class. I’m sorry, that was probably my favorite class in school.”

 

Connor gave a small nod to acknowledge him but didn’t speak.

 

Are you going to have more Jared,” Hannah asked.

 

“No thank you,” Jared whispered.

 

“Lennie?”

 

“Thank you Hannah, but I’m full,” Lennie chuckled, pecking her cheek. “Back to work. Have a good night boys.”

 

“Am I helping clean up?” Jared asked.

 

“You’re fine tonight,” Hannah assured. “Go have fun for now.”

 

Jared booked it out of the kitchen with Connor and took a deep breath. He was okay. He was safe.

 

‘Hey,” Connor said after a minute.

 

“Hi,” Jared whispered. “I’m sorry about my dad. I’ve never seen him perk up like that before. At least not since I was younger.”

 

Connor’s heart stopped, “Shit,” he started pulling at his hair, “I ruined that, didn’t I? Oh god, Jared, I’m so sorry,”

 

“What,” Jared laughed. “I haven’t heard my dad laugh in years. You’re making it better. Thank you so much.” Jared kissed Connor’s nose in assurance.

 

Connor pulled him in and kissed him, “I love you”

 

Fuck.

 

It had just slipped out.

 

His eyes widened and he pushed Jared away rather hard.

 

Because the last person you said that to left. Because they found out what a fucking mess you were. Because everyone’s just gonna leave you eventually.

 

Jared wasn’t hurt when Connor pushed him away, physically or emotionally. He knew feelings were difficult.

 

“JARED,” Hannah yelled. “COME HERE!”

 

Jared left the room silently. Hannah was standing in the living room. She opened the door to the basement and shoved Jared down. They hadn’t done this yet, what was going on?

 

“What’s going on,” Jared whispered.

 

“I have a new game to play,” Hannah explained. “A punishment for everything that happened at dinner.”

 

Oh fuck.

 

“Head down in the counter,” Hannah giggled, patting the space with her hand.

 

Jared went to his knees and let Hannah do what she wanted. He heard a weird noise behind him, but didn’t know what it was until something hot was on his skin. It was the knife. She had blowtorched it. Burning Jared’s skin. He surprised himself when he screamed. Loudly.

 

“SHUT THE FUCK UP,” Hannah spat, pulling Jared’s hair.

 

Connor tensed when he heard something from downstairs that sounded suspiciously like a scream. He booked it down to the basement door and tried the handle. It was locked. He knocked, not sure what else to do.

 

“Jared?”

 

Jared heard Connor call through the door, but Hannah had a hand over his mouth now as she heated the knife again. This time it was placed on his stomach. Jared bit Hannah’s fingers before screaming again.

 

“CONNOR! HELP!”

 

Connor rushed to Lennie’s office, “Mr. Kleinman, Hannah had Jared in the basement and she’s hurting him and the door’s locked and I need help!”

 

“What,” Lennie muttered, grabbing a key from his desk. “Show me.”

 

Jared kept screaming until his voice gave out. Hannah just kept covering him in burns.

 

Connor dragged him to the door, “Please, just...please,”

 

Jared could hear something at the door so he screamed again. His voice was done for but it should get the point across.

 

Jared felt the knife dig into his skin and he cried out, even though it was mostly voice cracks. Jared gave into the pain and he passed out.

 

Lennie got the key into the doorknob and let Connor push past. Lennie came down and found his son passed out on the floor with a kitchen knife in his shoulder.

 

“What the fuck did you do,” Lennie cried, grabbing Hannah by her wrist. “Connor, call the police.”

 

Connor grabbed his phone, calling 911.

 

“911, what’s your emergency?”

 

“My boy- my friend’s stepmom is abusing him, he’s passed out with a fucking knife in his back!” he pulled Jared into his lap, careful not to touch his shoulder and rocked him back and forth slowly

 

He had tears streaming down his face as he looked down at Jared.

 

“Sir, what’s the address of where you are? We’re sending an ambulance and police right away,”

 

“I don’t know,” he cried, “Lennie! What’s the address?”

 

Lennie spouted off the address while holding Hannah down. Connor repeated it to the dispatcher.

 

“Jared, baby, please hold on,” he sobbed, hanging up the phone.

 

Hannah stayed quiet as everything went down. She knew it wouldn’t last forever, but she enjoyed it while it lasted. She decided to speak up.

 

“You should have seen him the first time,” Hannah sighed. “He wouldn’t shut up so I had to tape his mouth shut.”

 

Connor looked up at her, “Shut the fuck up you fucking bitch!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.

 

“Why would you even do that to begin with,” Lennie demanded.

 

“I don’t have to tell you Lennie,” Hannah huffed. “But, it was a game.”

 

“EVERY TIME YOU SAID GAME YOU MEANT THIS!” Lennie screamed. “FUCK YOU!”

 

There was banging on the front door.

 

Connor set Jared down as gently as possible before storming towards her and punching her in the face.

 

“You better count your lucky stars the police are here or else I would’ve fucking beat the shit out of you” he growled before racing upstairs to the door and let them in

 

He directed them downstairs and followed behind them.

 

“Take her,” Lennie spat, handing Hannah over to the police. “Please, help him.”

 

Connor watched as the police handled everything. It all seemed so distant, like he was watching from miles away. He was numb.

 

Jared let out a cry as he was moved. The knife didn’t help. Why did he hurt so bad? Where was Connor? Why was it dark? “Connor,” Jared whispered, as his voice hurt. “Connor?”

 

Connor snapped out of his daze at the sound of Jared’s voice. He rushed forward and grabbed his hand, “I’m right here, baby,”

 

“Why does everything hurt?” Jared groaned, squeezing Connor’s hand.

 

“Because your stepmom is an evil bitch who’s going to jail, don’t worry, it's okay,”

 

“Don’t leave,” Jared whispered. “Please.”

 

Connor opened his mouth to speak but looked at the paramedics as if to ask ‘ Please don’t make me leave him. Please let me stay with him?’

 

“You have to ask his father if you can ride with him to the hospital,” one woman said.

 

Connor looked at Lennie for approval.

 

“I’ll meet you there,” Lennie nodded. “Thank you Connor.”

 

“I’m not leaving, Jare,” he assured.

 

“Thank you,” Jared mumbled.

 

“Alright, let’s get him to the hospital,” a medic called.

 

They lifted Jared’s stretcher into the ambulance and Connor followed, keeping pace with them.

 

Jared kept his eyes closed. He didn’t want to know how bad it was. Connor was there, it would be okay. He heard the medics spout off his injuries and kept his finger interlocked with Connor’s. He was gonna be okay.

 

“Hey, Jared, uh, remember when I painted you nails and we watched Heathers?” he asked trying to keep him distracted.

 

“Yeah,” Jared smiled, wiggling his fingers a little. “That was fun.”

 

“Fuck yeah,” he forced a laugh

 

Jared was going to be fine.

 

“It’s kinda hard to forget,” Jared chuckled. “It was yesterday.”

 

“You know what, go fuck yourself,” he gave Jared’s hand another squeeze.

 

The ambulance stopped as they go to the hospital and the rolled Jared away.

 

“Wait-” he tried to catch up but a medic grabbed him.

 

“Let go! He needs me!” he shrieked.

 

“Sir, they need to operate on him. You can wait in the waiting room.”

 

“No!” he tried to squirm out of his grip, “I told him I wouldn’t leave!” he sobbed.

 

“He’ll understand.”

 

Connor didn’t listen and eventually wormed his way out of his arms but another medic grabbed him painfully tight. He yelped in pain.

 

“Stop!” he begged.

 

“You need to calm down, your friend is going to be fine but you need to stay out here,” the medic dragged him to a seat and held him down.

 

Lennie found Connor and dashed over. He put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “What’s going on?”

 

“They won’t let me fucking go with him!” he screamed, vision blurring

 

No, now was not the time to have an outburst.

 

Lennie wrapped his arms around Connor. “I know you want to go with,” he whispered. “I do too. But the doctors know what’s best for Jared. We have to trust them. I’m sure they’ll let us see him as soon as we can. We’ve just gotta wait.”

 

“But I promised him!” he cried hysterically, “He’s gonna think I left him! I promised I wouldn’t leave him,”

 

“Can you please tell Jared that Connor didn’t want to leave,” Lennie asked a medic. “It’s important.”

 

“When he’s done with the surgery, I’ll do my best,” they nodded.

 

“He’s gonna think...he’s gonna think I betrayed him, he’s not gonna trust me anymore,” Connor rasped out.

 

“Did Jared tell you about what was happening to him,” Lennie asked. “Did you know before just now?”

 

He nodded in shame, “I’m so sorry. He just kept saying ‘one more night’ and...and oh god, this is all my fault,” he breathing became uneven as he reached the realization.

 

“Okay, this is not your fault Connor,” Lennie assured. “And if Jared trusted you with knowing what was going on, then he still has that trust in you now. Jared will understand the hospital protocol and everything will be fine. I’m sure.”

 

He shook his head, “No,” he gasped out, shaking hard, “He’s gonna hate me!”

 

“Bullshit,” Lennie scoffed. “The only other person he’s ever had over was the Hansen boy, and I kinda forced him to be friends with him since his mother was friends with Jared’s.”

 

Connor got his breathing in check and sat there silently.

 

“Excuse me,” a nurse called. “Connor Murphy? Umm, I was a nurse when you were in rehab, are you still going untreated? As you are eighteen you can legally get yourself treatment. We could get the evaluation underway while you wait for your friend to be done with surgery?”

 

“Uh…” Connor looked at Lennie in embarrassment. This was not something he wanted Lennie or god forbid, Jared, to know about, “I actually just turned seventeen,” he mumbled.

 

“Ugh, I read the file wrong,” the nurse sighed. “I’m sorry.”

 

Connor looked down at his lap and nodded in disappointment.

 

“I’ll show you two inside,” the nurse stated.

 

Connor stood up robotically and followed her, his mind on autopilot.

 

Lennie didn’t question anything. That wasn’t his business to talk about. He just hoped Connor was alright.

 

Connor sat down next to Jared’s bed, taking his hand.

 

“Thank god he’s okay,” Lennie whispered, running a hand through his son's hair. “Has he ever talked about me? I just...who knows what he really thinks of me. I’ve gotta change for him, if I didn’t know about Hannah then I’ve gotta get some things in order.”

 

“He loves you, so much,” Connor responded, not taking his eyes away from Jared.

 

“I still feel awful for not knowing. He never gave a clue. It had to have been going on for years. How did you two meet?”

 

“We just became friends after talking in science,” he lied.

 

“I’m glad he has someone besides me,” Lennie smiled.

 

“Connor,” Jared mumbled, opening his eyes. “It’s blurry again. Where are my glasses?”

 

Connor let go of him to grab the glasses off the side table and placed them on Jared, “Hey,” he grinned.

 

“It hurts really bad,” Jared said, pointing to his shoulder. “Dad? When did you get here?”

 

“I followed all the way here J,” Lennie assured. “I’ve been with Connor.”

 

Connor nodded in confirmation, “He has, we’ve been here for you this whole time. Except for when they made me wait in the waiting room” he said the last part bitterly.

 

“You didn’t leave,” Jared whispered. “That’s what matters. What happened to...her?”

 

“I’m never gonna leave. And she...the police took her. I don’t really know the rest.”

 

“Well...they should have a trial soon, and then she’s gonna go away,” Lennie whispered. “We won’t have to see her anymore J. I promise.”

 

“Why does it matter to you?” Jared asked. “You’ve barely spoke to me since mom died. I only let her keep going because I didn’t want her to hurt you. I’m too tired to have this conversation, I’m sorry.”

 

Jared! ” Connor frowned in shock.

 

“It’s true ,” Jared protested. “I’m not gonna lie and say my dad is the greatest, he hasn’t known about this until you showed up. I….I’m sorry. I’m sorry, both of you, I went too far I’m sorry.”

 

Connor bit his lip and braced himself, “Maybe I should give you two some time to talk,” he stood up.

 

“Not yet,” Jared begged, grabbing Connor’s hand. “You...we should talk first. Please.”

 

He shook his head, “I think you two have some stuff to work through,” he pulled away reluctantly.

 

Jared forced himself to not yell after Connor. He wouldn’t leave, he was just outside. Jared faced his father.

 

“You’re completely right J,” Lennie nodded. “I just want to know what I need to do. I should have noticed, but I didn’t and there isn’t anything we can do to change it. What do you want.”

 

“Just stop being so...so blind,” Jared muttered. “Don’t let people control you. You’re my dad and it never felt like it. I felt like I was just there, I didn’t matter. I just want my dad back. The guy I haven’t seen in seven years.”

 

Lennie nodded his head. It was all true. “Okay, it might not be an instant change, but I can work on it J,” he assured. “I’m gonna put you in therapy to help with...what happened. Okay?”

 

“Okay,” Jared nodded. “Hug? Gentle, I’m still sore.”  Jared held out his arms and Lennie hugged back softly. He felt like there was hope. “Can me and Connor talk now?”

 

Lennie nodded and walked to the door. “Connor, your turn.”

 

Connor walked in nervously, standing close to the door. Why did Jared want to talk to him? Did he do something wrong?

 

Obviously, you let him get hurt. You let this happen.

 

“You look like you’re scared of me,” Jared chuckled. “I just wanted to talk without my dad. Thanks for getting me out of there.”

 

He nodded silently, not meeting his eye.

 

“What’s wrong?” Jared asked. “I think I’m a little high on painkillers.” Jared felt the worry hit him like a ton of bricks. What if Connor hated him now? Putting him through Hannah...he probably pushed it. What if Connor didn’t want to be seen with him? They hadn’t even been friends for two whole days...oh no. “Connor, I’m so sorry!”

 

“Why? This is my fault. I let this happen! You’re hurt because of me!” he exclaimed.

 

“No,” Jared gasped. “Nonononono! Don’t you dare! It’s been happening for years Connor, it is not your fault. I’m sorry you had to see it. I’ve dropped so much on you in the past few hours…it’s not cool. I’m sorry I put you through it.”

 

“Jared, oh my god, no, shut up, seriously, I’m so glad you told me. What if you didn’t tell me…”

 

“She would still be hurting me,” Jared mumbled. “I just...It was probably messy. I don’t remember much after passing out. I know we talked on the way but….I still feel crummy about putting you through it.”

 

“No! Jesus…” he rushes forward, taking Jared’s hand.

 

“I love you,” Jared whispered. “Please don’t leave.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here.” he reaches down and kisses him softly, sniffling when he pulls away.

 

Jared scooted over in his bed, “I need cuddles. Don’t argue.”

 

Connor obeys and crawls into bed next to him, wrapping his arms around Jared’s chest.

 

Jared rested his head on Connor’s chest, tangling their legs together. “What is this?” Jared whispered. “Feelings are so messy and complicated. I just….I just need one thing straight in my life, not that this is at all...but…”

 

“What do you want us to be?” he whispered back, heart rate increasing.

 

“Together,” Jared mumbled. “But I know you aren’t comfortable at school and I don’t want to make it worse. I’m asking a lot, I’m sorry.”

 

“No, if you want it...it’s okay, I want to do what you want. Fuck society, right?” he said hesitantly.

 

“If you ever feel like it’s too much just tell me,” Jared demanded. “All I really care about is knowing that you’re happy with me…and that I’m the only one you cuddle. Cause you’re good at it.”

 

“I’m gonna need to get a job now,” he grumbled.

 

“Why?” Jared looked up a bit. “What does that have to do with anything?”

 

“Oh…” he thought Jared already realized, “Uh...so I can pay for my weed…”

 

Jared blinked. He had thought that had been a joke. Something to make his dad mad. “I….who the hell wanted sex for drugs? Like….what if they get you sick? Ugh! Now I’m worried. Is that a common thing? I have so many questions that you will not answer for my sanity.”

 

He shrugged, “No, I don’t think it is. And my dealer, clearly. What questions?”

 

“Like….do you just whip it out right there? Is it safe? I’m assuming no. Are you top or bottom? I just….ugh.”

 

“Do you actually want me to answer?”

 

“You might as well.”

 

Connor tensed uncomfortably, “Uh...we kind of just go into his bedroom. Probably not? And...uh...bottom,” he mumbled the last part, red in shame, “I’m sorry,”

 

“It’s not your fault Connor,” Jared shushed. “Don’t be sorry. Does he hurt you? I just...It must...fuck I don’t know. You don’t need to be sorry. I’m just worried about you getting hurt or sick.”

 

“It’s fine most of  the time” he clenched his teeth as he lied.

 

“You suck at lying,” Jared pouted. “Once I’m out of here I’ll go murder him and you can steal all the weed you want.”

 

“Good luck with that,”

 

“I’ve had an abusive stepmom for five and a half years Con,” Jared warned. “I know how to fight and win. This queen knows what he’s doing.”

 

“Look where that fucking got you,” he shot back in irritation.

 

“Okay, fine. No fighting,” Jared sighed, kissing Connor’s cheek. “Just….if you really don’t want to get a job….stay safe. Please. Wait! Is this dude like...old?”

 

“He’s not a kid,” he mumbled.

 

“Do you like it? I’ve never done anything like that but if you wanted….maybe it would be nicer?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I dunno,” Jared groaned, hiding his face. “Ugh! I’m almost eighteen I should be able to talk to you! Okay….do you….want to fuck me?”

 

Connor let him go and scrambled off of the bed, keeping a large space between him and the bed “ No! Do you hear yourself right now?”

 

“I’m sorry!” Jared cried, burying his face in a pillow. “I didn’t mean now. I just….want you to feel better. I’m so sorry please don’t hate me!”

 

“I don’t fucking do it cause I want it, Jared,” he growled, “I’m going to get you some food, I’ll be back,” he stormed out.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jared whispered, knowing Connor couldn’t hear him. “I’m an idiot! What the fuck is wrong with me?” Jared brought his knees to his chest and started counting his breaths. He was not about to make it worse by having another attack.

 

Connor came back in the room a few minutes later, tossing a bag of chips next to Jared before noticing his state, “Shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you.” he rubbed his face, “I got really uncomfortable, I’m sorry, Jare,”

 

Jared peeked his head up and scrambled out of bed and into Connor’s arms. “I’m sorry too,” Jared sniffed. “I shouldn’t have pushed you to talk about it. I’m just a pessimist.”

 

Connor kissed the top of his head, “It’s okay. I’m not gonna do it anymore though. Not if we’re together.”

 

“Okay,” Jared whispered. “Will the dealer just let you switch back to paying or do you have to find a new one? Don’t answer if you don’t want to.”

 

“I don’t know,” he admitted, “I’ve tried once and he got mad, but, it’s okay. You should lay down.”

 

“You have to sit next to me,” Jared mumbled, crawling back to his spot. “Thanks for the chips.”

 

Lennie poked his head in. “You guys okay? Connor, you didn’t look too hot when you walked out. J, don’t get out of bed again. Not until the doctor says it’s okay.”

 

Connor sat down with him, “I’m fine,” he sighed.

 

“Sorry,” Jared mumbled, opening his chips. “Dad...maybe you should check to see what’s going on with Hannah? See what they found out?”

 

“Connor, watch him for me,” Lennie commanded.

 

“Of course,” he nodded, crawling back into bed but this time, keeping a noticeable space between them.

 

Lennie walked away and made his way out. He wouldn’t be gone long.

 

“Sorry we couldn’t spend the night at my house,” Jared chuckled. “You were prepared and everything. Brought a bag...I’m rambling, sorry.”

 

“It’s okay. I just wish there was a different reason we’re not there right now,”

 

“You and me both,” Jared nodded. “I could text my dad and have him bring your bag back?”

 

He shook his head, “No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about me,”

 

“Are your parents gonna be mad that you’re with me? Like...at the hospital. Not...the dating thing.

 

“I don’t know, probably. I don’t really care, they hate me either way,”

 

Jared wanted to protest, his mom seemed to care. “Okay. Can you get my homework tomorrow for me? My dad will drive you to school.”

 

“Does that mean I actually have to show up then?”

 

“Did you think I’d let you just get out of school,” Jared chuckled. “Sorry Con, someone’s gotta show.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right. So, I’ll stay here and you can go.”

 

“I’m the one who got burned with a knife,” Jared laughed. “You get to go.”

 

“So what? “ he smiled.

 

“Be a good boyfriend and go to school,” Jared hummed.

 

Connor froze at the word, a pleasant fluttering filling his stomach.

 

“Yeah, yeah,”

 

“Good,” Jared beamed, pecking his cheek. “You’re so adorable, you know that?”

 

Connor blushed darkly and turned his face away so Jared couldn’t see.

 

“Aww!”

 

Connor quickly covered his face in his hands.

 

“Connor,” Jared grinned. “Your gayness is showing.”

 

“Fuck you,” he said through his hands.

 

“You’re so cute,” Jared hummed, pulling a hand away to kiss Connor’s cheek. “And I love it.”

 

“You suck,” he grumbled.

 

“I’m the best and you know it,” Jared smiled, resting his head on Connor’s shoulder.

 

“Whatever,”

 

“I’m kinda jealous of you.”

 

“I’m not walking into that joke and inflating your ego.”

 

“I was gonna say that you get to walk around,” Jared pouted. “I’m not that lame.”

 

“Oh…sorry, shit.” his blush faded as his face paled.

 

“It’s okay,” Jared assured. “Besides, you’re cuter than me.”

 

“Nah, I’m ugly,” he said as he gave Jared a quick kiss.

 

“If we both think we’re ugly then who’s flying the plane?”

 

“Geek,” he laughed, cuddling closer into Jared.


“Thank you,” Jared grinned. “I try.”

 

He nuzzled into Jared’s neck, “Do you mind if I sleep?”

 

“Go ahead,” Jared mumbled, butterflies filling his stomach.

 

Connor shut his eyes, wrapping his arms around Jared’s neck, and fell asleep.

 

“You’re such a dork,” Jared whispered, closing his eyes as well. “I love you.”



Lennie came back into the room and found his son asleep. He and Connor were holding each other protectively as they both snoozed.

 

“Figures,” Lennie laughed. “It’ll be good for them.”

 

Jared held Connor closer in his sleep. They both weren’t going anywhere.