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Alex And The Lion Boy

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Alex crossed eyes with a lion, once.

It happened when his parents took him to the zoo, when he was six or something. He was so excited to go. He had spent the whole week prior to that flipping through a dozen animal books, some of which he had forced his parents to buy for him. Back then, his parents weren’t divorced yet, and the family was still living in the farm out deep in the country, so Alex was familiar with pets and farm animals. He knew pigs, cows, sheep and horses like the back of his hand, he had seen a few donkeys, they had three dogs and around twenty cats using the courtyard as a pied-à-terre and he even helped out with the hens and their chicks, every now and then.

Wild animals, though, were a different thing entirely. He had never seen one before and the idea fascinated him. The fact that there could be animals living independently from human beings, hidden in forests or running free through limitless plains in faraway countries excited him to no end. Besides, wild animals were beautiful. There was a regality to them, a defiant glint in their eyes that took them apart from the animals Alex knew. Calves and chicks and lambs and piglets were cute. Lions and tigers were magnificent. There was a difference.

So that day he was so excited he could barely hold himself together. He kept bouncing on the spot and once they actually walked into the zoo he asked, no, demanded to be brought where the wild things were.

The lions lived in no cage. Some of the animals there were kept in cages, huge cages settled deep among nice bushes and green spots, but still cages. The lions were different, apparently, there was a whole habitat recreated just for them, separated from the paths the visitors were walking by a thick reinforced Plexiglas wall. It was set in a medium-sized hollow in the area where the rest of the Savannah-based animals were kept. There were a few rocks in different dimensions, trees that cast long shadows on the yellow sandy ground and even a pond of fresh water.

The lions were all there, scattered around, mainly enjoying the warm temperatures, sleeping the day off with no pray to hunt and catch. They were mostly lionesses with cubs, and Alex remembers feeling very disappointed about that, because more than anything else he wanted to see a male lion. They always looked the best in pictures. Lionesses and cubs looked like oversized cats, but the lion was a different matter. Huge, with those magnificent manes framing their face, and the yellow eyes circled in white. Those details screamed wilderness more than anything else, and that’s what Alex was interested in finding.

He was about to turn away and leave, when he had seen him. He was exactly as magnificent as Alex had expected him to be. So big his paws must’ve been as big as Alex’s head, and with a mane so full of hair it would’ve been impossible to count them even if Alex had been able to count up to a thousand back then.

The lion stretched himself and yawned, showing his teeth. He seemed sleepy and lazy, and yet there was a feeling of power about him that gave Alex a thrill. He pictured himself wearing something ridiculous made out of leather and feathers, like a native American costume, riding into the sunset on that lion’s back. He didn’t care how stupid that sounded, it was not as if he was gonna tell anyone about that fantasy anyway, but the idea of freedom attached to it was just too pleasant to ignore it.

So he went closer to the Plexiglas wall. He put both hands on it and pressed his nose against the warm, vaguely dusty surface, to look better through it. And then something miraculous and completely unexpected had happened: the lion had turned to looked at him.

Wide eyed and out of himself with excitement, Alex stood there, all pressed against that virtually invisible barrier, shocked that such a powerful beast could ever look at him. Could even notice him. He held the animal’s gaze, praying silently he’d come closer.

The lion did it. He started striding towards him, slowly. He didn’t seem angry, not even annoyed. Perhaps mildly curious? About him, about this kid who dared come so close and even touch the wall? No other kid was doing it. Only Alex. And he felt so proud of himself for it.

Until the lion finally reached the wall. And quickly raised a paw, slamming it against it, claws bare, while a thundering roar came out his open jaws. He wasn’t interested, he wasn’t curious, he was a wild fucking animal, and all he wanted that ridiculous plump-cheeked kid out there to know was that he could’ve swallowed him down in one single big gulp if there hadn’t been that barrier protecting him.

Alex remembers himself falling back with his ass in the dust, letting out a surprised and scared yell. All the kids around him were laughing, but he barely heard them. How could he, if his heart was pumping his blood in a thunder through his veins, making his ears buzz?

His father Vince rushed by his side, picking him up from the ground and holding him tight. “Oh, baby,” he said, “Did you get scared? The lion can’t hurt you, don’t worry.”

But Alex had gotten the message pretty clearly. The lion couldn’t hurt him, but only because there was something physical between them, restraining them. Not because he was unable to do that or because he didn’t want to. And as he started crying to let out all that fear, begging his dads to take him back home, he had also realized something as scary as the knowledge that the lion could’ve hurt him: the fact that, had there not been the glass between them, he would’ve been so stupidly fascinated with him that he would’ve let him do it.

And as he looks outside through the window, spotting Blaine’s black car stopping in the driveway while the back door opens and a blonde guy with fair wavy hair comes out of it, Alex stops for a moment and feels the same kind of fear awakening inside his heart. The guy raises his head and somehow, despite everything, the glass, the sunbeams reflecting on the windowpane, the distance, the fact that he’s inside and the guy’s outside and another hundred millions reasons why it shouldn’t be possible for their eyes to meet, still their eyes meet. And the guy looks at him like that lion did back when he was six.

Feral. Beastly. Untamed.

And he grins, showing his white teeth as weapons, like the lion had done with his fangs.

And Alex finds himself shutting the curtains sharply, not to be tempted into realizing that just like he could’ve done with the lion, he probably would let this guy hurt him irreversibly just as well.

*

He tries not to think about the guy for the rest of the day, but it’s hard to do that when his father – Cody – can barely go five minutes without talking about Blaine, Leo or both of them, and obviously what happens in their household. His dad’s not a gossip, that’s not the problem here, he’s just majorly involved in their life. Sometimes Alex suspects this must be the real reason behind their parents’ divorce.

More or less twenty years ago, his father met Leo in college. Leo was already with Blaine, by then, an on-off relationship that didn’t stop them from having other relationships whenever they happened not to see each other for a long enough time, but that his father didn’t know, back in the day. He fell for Leo, Leo fell for him, things were great for a while. Fast-forward to nine months later, the metaphorical pregnancy that would give birth to his father’s perennial heartache was over: Blaine came back and got Leo back. Leo broke up with Cody, and left. Fast-forward again to a year later, Blaine and Leo are broken up, Cody’s still heartbroken. Blaine and Cody meet in New York, not exactly by chance, but that’s not even the point. They end up spending a few precious days together, then his dad decides he doesn’t want to fall down the fucking rabbit hole yet again, and literally runs away in the night, booking a freaking flight to Italy and moving there indefinitely to shake the dust of both those relationships off his shoulders.

Alex thinks he never really managed. Not that he doesn’t understand it: there’s something magnetic about Blaine and Leo, they’re like a black hole at the center of the universe. They suck. Everything. Everything seems to gravitate towards them, and things haven’t changed now that they’re married and they’ve got kids.

Well, at least things haven’t changed for his dad. He’s still gravitating around them, their own personal moon. They’re even neighbors, now. Alex can’t imagine anything less healthy than becoming the friendly neighbor of the guy that broke your heart in college and his husband the heart of which you kind of chipped when you ran off from him without so much as a goodbye not to fall head over heels for him too.

“It’s seriously amazing, what happened,” his dad says, playing with the peas in his plate, so excited he can’t even eat. It’s ridiculous how excited he can get about things that don’t touch him in the slightest. Just because Blaine and Leo are happy, he feels compelled to take in some of that happiness too. He’s exactly like the moon, shining of reflected light. “Blaine was starting to lose hope they could find him again. You should’ve heard him when he told me, he couldn’t stop crying,” he chuckles.

“It’s not like he was dead and came back to life,” Alex plays it down, because he hates to see his dad like this. He’s always building these castles in the sky, it seems, hoping Blaine and Leo decide to make one of them their own. He doesn’t realize their home’s elsewhere. “He was just in the system. Hardly a missing person case.”

“It’s not that simple when your circumstances are like theirs,” Cody explains patiently.

They’re talking about Timothy, of course, the blonde lion from before. And the circumstances his dad so skillfully vaguely referred to consist in the fact that Timmy, as Blaine calls him as opposed to the outstandingly ridiculous Timothy Trevor his mother wanted for him before she died, has already been in his care once before.

Helena, his mother, was a dear friend of him, not to mention the fact that she lived in the very house Alex and his father are occupying now. She died in childbirth – she was one of the last people diagnosed with eclampsia who chose to get through with the whole thing despite knowing she was going to die for it. Blaine always talks about her like some sort of tragic heroine, but Alex honestly thinks she was an imbecile. She could’ve fucking gotten an abortion. If you want a child so desperately, you don’t have to give birth to it at the cost of your life. Just fucking adopt, idiot.

Anyway, just before the fatal day she came up to Blaine – or Alex guesses he got up to her, since she couldn’t move from the bed – and told him she wanted him to take care of the child. Blaine was moved to tears, everyone called them both heroes because they were putting a little unborn creature before their interests, yadda yadda, then Timmy was born, Helena was out of the picture and Blaine took the child in, becoming Mutter fucking Courage for the whole neighborhood. Flowers blossomed where his feet landed and birds chirped whenever he smiled. Ridiculous romantic nonsense.

Enters Leo, shattering this perfect picture as he so loves to do. When Blaine and him reconnected he was beyond himself with God only knows what. Anger? Sadness? Alex doesn’t really know the details – nor does he care about them, if he has to be honest. What he knows is that Leo was officially diagnosed with depression and was unconsciously trying to kill himself by downing whatever drug he managed to put his hands on and walking home with whatever stranger he encountered, probably hoping one of them could fuck him broken and top the night by offing him and dunking his body in a river or something.

Following his evident vocation for martyrdom, Blaine took him in, and life with a depressed schizo and a pre-school kid did not go as swiftly as planned - who would've thought, right?

Long story short, one day Leo did something pretty awful to the kid. Alex doesn't know what, Leo and Blaine never discussed the details with his father and he never pressed to know. All Alex knows is that what happened was serious enough that social services took over. They deemed whatever household accommodating Leo unfit to accommodate a child too – no surprises there –, and Blaine too much of an irresponsible parent for leaving a child alone with a person as troubled as Leo. There was a trial. Despite all his money and efforts Blaine lost it. And lost the kid – something that almost destroyed him, but just almost, because there's nothing as important as Leo, to him, so as long as Leo was still by his side, ready to heal now that he had completely fucked over a child's whole existence, he could endure everything, included being the main cause for that fuck-up with his lapse in judgement.

(Sometimes he thinks about the astonishing amount of information he managed to accumulate and store in his brain over the years about the Anderson-Karofsky-Hummel family, and he hates himself for knowing so much in so much details about them. He blames his father for it. Who knows, he could've been an aerospace engineer if he had put all that space and memory capacity to good use, and instead here he is, with enough material on them he could write a book about it.) (Perhaps he should. To put them all to shame.)

"Anyway," his father says, deciding he can do less of lunch and finally putting aside his peas once and for all, something Alex is definitely grateful for, because it was a pity to watch them being moved aimlessly from one side of the plate to the other with no hope of ever being eaten - trapped in the purgatory of unwanted vegetables. "We should go visit them tonight."

"Or not," Alex tries, finishing up his salad. For his father, any excuse is an excuse good enough to go visit Blaine and Leo.

"Come on, honey," he sighs patiently, opposing to his rudeness his own mellow attitude, "Don't be like that. We should make him feel welcomed."

"That's not our responsibility, that's his parents', if Leo manages not to involve social services again this time," Alex shrugs, standing up to put away his dirty plate. "If anything, we should leave them be. Give them time to settle."

"There's going to be time to settle, this is Timmy's first night with his parents!" Cody insists, "It should be celebrated."

His father's enthusiasm is making Alex nauseous, and he looks away, clicking his tongue. "You go, if you want to. I have homework."

Cody frowns, looking at him suspiciously. "You never have homework after dinner."

"Dad," Alex whines, putting everything away in the sink, "I don't wanna come, okay? Why can't you go by yourself?"

His father looks down for a moment, biting at his bottom lip, and Alex reads through his embarrassment easily. He doesn't want to go alone because he doesn't trust himself walking in that house by himself. And Alex doesn't know what exactly this could mean, what could be the consequence of it, what could frighten his dad so much to make him ask for company in the house of two of his best friends, but despite the amount of spite he can throw his father's way when he feels that his action somehow ruined a chance at perfect happiness for him, he doesn't want him to suffer through this. Not alone, anyway.

"Can you please come?" his dad asks with such a tiny voice it sounds like a child's.

Alex breathes in and out, combing his hair away from his face with his hand. "Yeah, fine," he says. And as he walks upstairs to his room he finds himself doing the only thing he was trying not to do today.

He thinks about the lion boy.

*

And when they get to Blaine and Leo's house, he's not there.

Blaine and Leo seem a little bit embarrassed. They say they're sorry, that Timmy had made other plans already, that he wanted to meet with a few friends "from before" – that's what they say, from before, meaning friends he had back in the system, as if they were absolutely sure such friends will stop being a thing if they give Timmy enough time to get used to his new life, because once he does he surely won't need anything from his previous one anymore.

They also say Cody and him are welcome to stay for dinner, though. That they made enough food for four, and they'd be glad to spend some time together.

Cody obviously decides to stay. And since it doesn't seem like Leo and Blaine want to talk about Timmy and what happened tonight that much, dinner ends up looking exactly like one of the dozens other dinners they've had in this place. They talk about their jobs, their projects, the places they're planning to visit in a next few months. They even ask Alex about school, at some point.

Alex tries to ignore the irritating pang of disappointment bothering him as he stuffs his face with Leo's legendary vegan eggplant casserole trying to make it seem like he's hating every second of it, though he's definitely not. (That's a thing that's been going on between them since the start, Leo trying to please him with food - because cooking like a fucking masterchef is his only redeeming quality - and Alex simply refusing to let him off the hook by trying his best to be the pickiest dinner guest Leo's nightmares could ever conceive, refusing to eat anything that was even remotely connected with meat, eggs and cheese included, narrowing down the window of Leo's options, even though he's not even properly vegan, most of the time.) (Leo makes it honestly hard to keep up the charade, that much must be said for him. But Alex's giving him a run for his money.)

The food is good. He's somehow relieved that nothing seems to be changed in their life, for now.

And yet, he keeps looking out the window, expecting him to appear behind him, emerging from the darkness like some dangerous fairytale creature.

He doesn't.

*

He wakes up suddenly in the middle of the night to the sound of knuckles knocking on his windowpane.

It's scary as hell and he sits up so fast he hurts his back muscles, and even before turning to the window he tries to rationalize thinking that sound could've been caused by raindrops – if they were able to form a fist and knock, of course –, but when he finally does it his breath gets stuck halfway through his throat, and he bites at his bottom lip trying not to scream.

Lion boy's waiting for him outside the window, glued to it like a fucking gecko. Maybe Alex should reconsider his spirit animal.

He waves at him as if it was perfectly normal for a person to be waiting out there at such a time of the night - or at any other time, really. His lips are curled in a mischievous grin, and when he sees Alex isn't moving from the bed he taps on the glass two times with his index finger, rapidly.

Alex decides to stay exactly where he is, but the guy doesn't seem fazed by it. On the contrary, he lets out an amused chuckle and leans better against the frame, balancing himself on the windowsill. "Open up?" he asks. Alex shakes his head decisively, and the guy laughs again. "You scared?"

He frowns, closing his hands in fists around the sheets. "No," he says, annoyed.

"Then open up," the guy smiles more softly, even though, for some reason, Alex feels that sudden softness like a threat too. "It's not like I'm gonna hurt you or anything."

"Aren't you?"

"I promise," he answers. And then adds, "Come on, I'm being a gentleman. I could break in, but instead I'm asking nicely."

And even if Alex was way more stupid than he already is for actually standing up from the bed, he wouldn't miss the hidden threat these words hold anyway. I could break in, but I'm asking nicely means I will break in, if you don't respond well to me asking nicely.

It's stupid and lame and he hates himself for it, but the idea gives him a thrill. So he walks towards the window, and ends up opening it. Just a little, at first. Then he realizes there's no point in keeping it ajar, either he slams it open or he locks himself in. There's no middle way to it.

He slams it open.

The guy smiles, satisfied with him, and Alex takes the chance to study him up close. There really is something wild about him, something completely unhinged. It's in the way his eyes shine, Alex thinks. They're blue, like his father's, like his own – not like Leo's, they're lighter than Leo's –, but different at the core. There's something dark at the bottom of them, something that's not simple malice, because sometimes he gets that kind of glint in his own eyes too. Something deeply rooted within his soul, that's what it is. A mean disposition.

"Do you always sleep like this?" Timmy asks, finally climbing down the windowsill.

He refers to Alex's pajamas, obviously. Alex doesn't waste time getting offended at the remark, he knows most people don't sleep wearing unicorn shaped onesies.

"Do you have a problem with that?" he asks back.

Timmy laughs out loud, briefly, and then gets his voice back under control when he realizes someone might hear them. "Not at all," he answers, "You look ridiculous. And awesome, at the same time."

"I see you're a charmer," Alex sighs and walks back towards his bed, sitting on the edge of it. Despite how stupid he must look, he crosses his legs, leaning back on his hands pointed against the mattress. "What are you doing here?"

Timmy grins and walks further into the bedroom. He doesn't even pretend to waste time studying the surroundings, the bookshelves, the clothes orderly folded on the chair in front of the desk. He seems to only have eyes for Alex. Which is fucking unsettling in the best and worst way.

"I like your attitude," he says, instead of answering the question, "A complete stranger climbs up your wall, knocks on your window, demands to be let in and you walk around like that, sit down like that and speak to him like that. Anyone else would be terrified."

"I'm not."

"You should," Timmy says with another grin.

Alex feels his heart start beating faster, and swallows. "You said you wouldn't hurt me," he says.

Timmy chuckles. It's a sweet sound, almost childlike. Coming out of him, it sounds honestly terrifying.

"Sometimes," he says, "It's not pain you should fear."

His words fill him up with fury, and Alex stands up suddenly, clutching his hands in fists down his sides. "You think you're impressing me?" he says, his voice vibrating with anger, "You think barging in here and speaking in riddles like some fucking young adult mystery hero will make you fascinating to my eyes?" He manages, he has no idea how, to gather enough courage from all far recesses of his own body to laugh at him. "You're pathetic. Listen to me: I'm not interested in you. You think you're oh-so-tormented and fucked up? Believe me, you're just your parents' son. Nothing new to me. I've been raised with this shit. It doesn't impress me anymore."

And just like that, Timmy's eyes go dark. Alex didn't even know eyes so clear could cloud up quickly like that. He didn't know light blue could actually turn black.

He instinctively knows he overstepped. That there's something in what he said that angered him. Not all of it - perhaps Timmy even found it funny, what he said, to some extent. But a specific part of it, he did not like at all. Alex tries to understand which one it was, he tries to get there quickly, to apologize about that and only about that, hoping he will choose to forgive him, but Timmy doesn't let him.

He stands his ground with a new and different firmness, an adult firmness.

"Come here," he says.

Alex frowns instantly. "No."

"I said come here."

"Why should I?"

"Because I'm ordering," Timmy simply says, naturally as if he was used to speak like this, "And because you want it."

"You don't know what I want."

"I know more than you think I do," he insists. He's not smiling anymore. Somehow Alex finds himself missing that cruel grin. "I know you saw me this morning when I arrived, and I know you couldn't look away. And I know you were searching for me out the window during dinner."

Alex opens his eyes wide, his jaw dropping. "You saw me—" he says, "You were there?"

"Come. The fuck. Here," Timmy growls.

Alex steps towards him unwillingly, and yet with abandon, as if following the tug of a rope. One step, two steps, three steps and he's an inch away from him. His heart's beating faster, he can't breathe easy. Getting close to him is like walking into a bubble with a different gravity, with a different quality of the air. There's somehow less oxygen, and he feels heavier, the mere thought of moving just another step crushing him like a marble stone set upon his shoulders.

"I like you," Timmy says in a low voice. He raises a hand and places it in the middle of Alex's chest, right on top of the first blue button keeping his onesie closed. "I wasn't expecting you to be so feisty, but I like it." He pops the button open. Alex shivers and holds his breath. "I feel like you're gonna make me sweat," his hand moves down, stops on the next button. His voice gets lower too. "I like to sweat," merely a whisper, less than an inch from his lips, "But there are lines that mustn't be crossed," another button pops open, now there's enough space for his fingers to dive in, to touch Alex's skin underneath the fuzzy fabric of his onesie. Timmy's fingers close in a hard pinch around his nipple, and Alex lets out half a surprised and aching yell, raising both hands and closing them around Timmy's wrist, trying to stop him, to make him loosen down his grip. He doesn't manage. "They're not my parents," Timmy growls in his face as Alex whimpers, squirming and trying to wriggle away from him, "Those two men are just the assholes who briefly took me in before I was old enough to have an actual say in it. Don't ever say a thing like that again. Are we clear?"

"Yes," Alex moans, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Do you promise you will never say something like that again?"

"Yes!" Alex whines again, almost jumping on the spot, digging his nails in Timmy's wrist to make him let go. (The fact that he doesn't even seem to be feeling any pain is scary and exhilarating at the same time. If Alex started scratching him, if he started punching him in the face and kicking him in his balls, chances are Timmy still wouldn't budge. He'd keep those two fingers clamped around his nipple forever, hard and long enough to make him come out of exhaustion.)

"Fine," he says in the end. He lets go of his nipple, but he doesn't remove his hand. Alex keeps his fingers around his wrist loosely, breathing out in relief. He even closes his eyes – he knows he shouldn't, he knows he shouldn't give him that much power, but pain is exhausting. He doesn't wanna fight it. "So, were you?" he asks, rubbing his fingertips against the oversensitive tip of Alex's nipple.

"Was I what?" he whimpers, shivering lightly at the feeling.

He feels Timmy's lips curl up into a smile. He feels it, because with his eyes closed he cannot see it, but the air of the room is all curls and creases when it happens.

"Searching for me," he says, "Outside the window."

"You said you knew."

"What's that got to do with wanting to hear it from you?"

Alex has to admit that objection kind of makes sense.

"I was," he admits.

"Can you tell me why?"

"Because you look like a fucking lion," he spits out, frustrated and confused by the circular movements of Timmy's index finger around his nipple.

Timmy laughs, and leans in to kiss him on his cheek. "That answer makes no sense whatsoever," he says, "But I like it nonetheless, so I'll take it."

"Fuck you," Alex whimpers, clutching his hands around Timmy's wrist to bring his hand closer, forcing him to open it up and press it against his chest. He had hoped this could somehow be a little more satisfactory than that continuous pointless rubbing, but it's not. The itch he needs to scratch is way deeper than that. Skin is too superficial. He wants his hand against his flesh, against his raw muscles and bones.

The intensity of that desire scares him, and he instantly opens his eyes, letting go of Timmy's hand. He doesn't seem fazed by his sudden movement. If anything, he seems to have been expecting it for a while.

He backs off nonchalantly, and he's still smiling.

"I'll be back," he says, walking backwards toward the window.

Alex would like to be stronger, so that he wouldn't have to ask him "When?" But he isn't, and so he does.

Timmy grins, tilting his head to the side a little. "Who knows," he answers, "When you're not expecting it."

Alex snorts a haughty laughter, quickly buttoning up his onesie once again. "Shit, you really think you are a fucking young adult mystery hero," he says spitefully.

Timmy smiles again, already climbing out the window. "Got you hard," he says, as if that was enough to justify his behavior.

"I'm not hard," Alex protests.

"You are."

"You can't know, this thing's too baggy for you to see."

"Seeing and knowing are two very different things," Timmy shrugs.

"Oh, please," Alex rolls his eyes, so fucking annoyed at his stupid lines he wishes he could just cut his tongue off, "Stop it with this bullshit, you're unbearable."

"You'll learn to appreciate that," Timmy chuckles, standing with his feet firmly set on the windowsill and his hands curled around the window frame.

For a second there, Alex looks at him and all he can see, before he disappears down the drainpipe, is the outline of his body, pitch black against the dark blue background of the night sky, with only a quarter of moon lighting up the air just enough to tell the two apart.

He looks like some twisted real life non-flying version of Peter Pan.

With claws and fangs.

The stuff of nightmares. (The stuff of wet dreams.)

*

He was around six when his parents split up. He remembers Cody coming up to him and telling him they'd be moving back to the city - well, to Westerville, which is hardly a city despite being called like that, but felt like New York to a kid who had lived the entirety of his life up to that point ankle deep in mud and grass in the countryside.

He remembers feeling uncontrollably happy about it, despite the confusion Cody's sad eyes generated in him with their contrast with the seemingly very good news he was delivering, and then he remembers understanding something had to be very wrong about the whole thing, when Cody had told him daddy wouldn't be coming with them.

He couldn't even understand how such a thing could be possible. His daddies were supposed to be together - that's how they had always been. And he was supposed to live with them both. What could've happened to change that so radically?

Alex didn't have the words, back then, to ask such a question to Cody. He didn't even have the means to understand he needed an answer to that question. He only remembers being sad, and feeling deprived-- no, robbed of something. Happiness, security, a precious boring routine. Whatever it was he was missing from his life before the divorce, he missed it desperately. They say phantom pain is just an illusion, that it's your brain playing tricks on you, that you can't possibly feel physically ill because of something that's not attached to your body anymore, but Alex felt the loss of his family as something tragically concrete, and it was breaking his heart being unable to understand what was the source of all this pain, the reason behind it.

Then he had seen Cody and Leo together for the first time.

At first he couldn't know what exactly was wrong about the picture in front of his eyes. Apparently, they were just two friends reconnecting after a long time. Nothing in their gestures and in the way they looked at one another was explicitly inappropriate, but Alex could feel something was off. There was a longing, in his father's eyes, and an effort to hold back in Leo's that simply shouldn't have been there.

That was already awkward enough, but things had gotten even worse when he had seen his father with Blaine. Blaine had eyes saying "we have unfinished business". They silently chanted an "if only" song that was even more threatening than what passed between his father and Leo, because it was more difficult to mend: Leo had left a clean cut on the surface of his father's heart, a cut that had turned into a sharp scar, something that would've been there forever, but something that had healed nonetheless; Blaine's cut had uneven edges, instead, the skin struggled to come together, it struggled to mend. It's a cut that's still open, it's never gonna turn into a scar, it's one of those wounds that just won't stop bleeding.

It took him some time to understand what was actually going on. Or what wasn't, to be more accurate. But once he grasped there was history between his father and those men, he asked Cody about it, and he was honest enough to answer with the truth. He was so eager to share that weight with someone, actually, that he might've told Alex more than he wanted to know, which is how he started compiling his private virtual encyclopedia about Blaine Anderson and Leonard Karofsky-Hummel and their struggle with the world, and their relationship with his father.

He would like to pretend he wasn't affected by the things he found out, but that'd be a lie. Even though, by then, it had been five years since his parents' divorce, knowing the fault of it lied in a thing that had never happened and would never even happen filled him with so much rage and hate for a whole month he moved out the house, to go back living at the farm with Vince.

But the countryside wasn't a practical choice for a teenager attending middle school, and resentment and loneliness had turned the funny, positive man he remembered his father to be into a bitter, spiteful human being who preferred to spend time in the company of goats than with his son. Such a life was unthinkable to be carried on for more than a few weeks, and when Alex had understood that he had moved back in with Cody, passively accepting his father's new life and emotional situation like just another item in the ridiculously long list of unchangeable things every teenager's forced to compile at some point in their youth. A list that you only stop updating once you become an adult. (He's still updating it more or less daily.)

The point is no matter the fact that he decided to accept this, he's still struggling to accept the idea that his father is willing to do the same. His father's a beautiful man, though of unconventional beauty, and he's a smart man, he's a talented man and he's a funny man, and he's a good man, a good man at heart, he's generous, caring, accommodating and hella nice, and he doesn't deserve to feel like this. He doesn't deserve to live his life longingly wishing Blaine and Leo would turn towards him and smile. He doesn't deserve to steal crumbs of happiness out of the moments they spend together. He deserves a full life, not a life of loneliness and constant, inescapable dissatisfaction.

He doesn't understand – aren't parents supposed to be an example for their children? Shouldn't they always aim to the top to show their kids how it's done? If his father's the first to settle, why shouldn't he do the same? Why shouldn't he just find something – someone? – comfortable enough, take roots somewhere safe enough, try a job he likes just enough, and be satisfied with that?

He thinks about it as he tries to help this excruciatingly slow afternoon pass by doing his homework, and his eyes fall on the window. At first he thinks he just wants to take a look outside, to the slice of sky he's used to see behind his childish white curtains covered in colorful chubby whales and octopuses. Then he realizes he's trying to redraw the shape of Timmy's body as an imaginary silhouette against that very same slice of sky.

His insides curl up and tie themselves in knots right away.

He's never been one for comfortable. Or safe, for that matter.

*

He waits for Timmy. Even though it's ridiculous and he should know better than that – and he believes himself being better than that. Even though he's ashamed and even though he can still feel that sharp pain in his nipple so clearly whenever he thinks about it. Even though he's annoyed and he still remembers every one of his lame, cheap lines. Even though he knows that despite his poses and attempts at charming him, Timmy's a real threat, one he should be guarding himself from.

He waits.

*

Timmy doesn't come.

*

Until one night he does.

Alex is still changing when he arrives. He's wearing the bottom half of his unicorn onesie and he's about to slip the top half on too when Timmy knocks on the window. Alex sees him and makes a point out of going on with what he was doing in his own time before actually walking towards the window to open it.

"Shit, five minutes more and you'd have turned eighteen, sweets," he comments, climbing in.

Alex arches an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest. "You have no idea how old I am, do you?"

"Does it matter?" Timmy shrugs nonchalantly.

"No," Alex answers, "But believe me, it'll be a while before I turn eighteen. I can take my time dressing up."

"Be careful," Timmy smirks, "If you get me bored either I stop coming or I'll find different ways to make things interesting."

"How different on a scale from one to twisting my nipple in the same time a normal person takes to shake the hand of a stranger?"

Timmy actually laughs, amused. "More like the nipple thing," he answers.

Alex shrugs. "Then you'd be doing the same two things you've been doing up to now. Nothing new."

Timmy's smile open up, and Alex catches the movement of his fingers, opening and closing down his sides as if he wanted to grab something in the air. He hadn't noticed that movement the other night. "Fuck," Timmy says under his breath, "You're really something. It never gets boring around you."

"Shit, you're saying there's no hope for me to either see you go or finally get some action? That's a shame," he comments.

Timmy laughs out loud, and Alex hates himself for feeling his chest swell with pride at the sound. Fuck the lion boy. He's just too handsome for his own good, and Alex is a fucking teenager.

Alex watches him stride through the bedroom and finally lean against the edge of his desk. He's wearing black All Stars, an old pair of denim pants and an open checkered shirt on top of a very basic white t-shirt, and yet, with his hands in his pocket and that unbearable grin painted on his lips he's still one of the sexiest things Alex has ever laid eyes upon. It's not just his appearance and it's not just his attitude, it's a mixture of the two that makes him so. He's a man used to use his charm as a weapon. And that makes him fucking lethal.

"Why do you always come around at night?" he asks.

"Always?" Timmy raises an eyebrow, "I only came around twice. That's hardly always."

"Well, it was night both times," Alex shrugs, "That qualifies as always in my book. Care to answer?"

Timmy smiles slowly, and takes some time before actually answering. "I know you don't wear that shit in the morning," he says, tilting his chin towards him to point at his unicorn onesie.

"Yes," Alex nods, "And?"

"And why should I want to meet a teenage boy when I can meet a fucking unicorn instead?"

Once again, and the thing's starting to become unsettling, he's forced to admit Timmy's got a point.

It's still fucking rude, though.

"You don't have a boyfriend, right?" he asks.

"Jesus, no," Timmy laughs, "I'd rather be dead."

"I thought you liked boys."

"Still wouldn't be caught dead with a fucking boyfriend, come on," Timmy chuckles, "Romantic relationships are for losers."

"With girls too?"

"With everyone."

"So you're making a nice job to turn yourself into a despicable human being, so that no one will ever think, not even for a moment, about considering you as boyfriend material, I see."

"Aww," he says, moving away from the desk in a fluid movement, "You're hurt because I said I'd rather meet the unicorn instead of you. How cute."

"I am the fucking unicorn, asshole," Alex answers, pushing him away when Timmy comes too close. Unfazed and amused, Timmy bounces back easily and doesn't lose the attitude. He's still keeping his hands in his pocket, wearing that smile like nothing mattered. He's unreal. "And I'm not hurt," he lies, "You can't hurt me. You're just another self-entitled idiot who thinks himself the center of the world. Well, you're not. I didn't even think about you while you were gone."

"Liar," Timmy grins.

"You don't fucking live inside my head!" Alex yells, knowing perfectly well he shouldn't be losing it like this. He should keep his cool, act as if this didn't matter, as if Timmy's words really didn't touch him. It's hard, though, when they do. "Stop assuming shit about me. You don't know me."

Timmy moves so fast Alex doesn't even see him. He wraps an arm around his waist, pulling him in hard enough their bones clash, and if they were bare they would clatter like iron wheels on cobblestones. He kisses him and it's like an earthquake, like the explosion of a supernova. It's like walking down a hallway and suddenly finding himself walking on the ceiling upside down. It's a nightmare, it's a miracle, it's Alex's first kiss and it feels like the end of the world.

Timmy breaks the kiss but doesn't let go of him. They're both heaving and Timmy speaks directly against his lips, and it's the hottest thing that's ever happened to him. "You drive me fucking crazy, sweets," he says, and Alex realizes they haven't been introduced and he doesn't even fucking know if Timmy knows his name, which is so crazy and fucked up and out of the world he prefers to set the thought aside and ignore it. Besides, the things Timmy tells him are so much more interesting than a ridiculous pretense of politeness no one feels the need of. "You say you haven't thought about me? Fine. I'll believe you. But I'm man enough to admit I've thought about you all the fucking time."

Alex whimpers, placing his hands against Timmy's chest to try and maintain some sort of distance when Timmy pulls him closer again. "What did you think of?" he asks.

"Why should you care about it?" Timmy grins, his tongue tracing the outline of Alex's lips, the wet tip of it killing him with every second of that torture, "You didn't, so..."

"Tell me," Alex almost growls, grabbing Timmy's head with both hands and forcing him into a kiss that Timmy pretends not to want to give him, and then ends up giving him so hard he steals his breath, "I wanna know."

He knows Timmy could insist, but he doesn't. He breathes out, instead, holding him around his hips and turning him around, lifting him up from the ground to place him sitting on the desk. He lands with a soft thud and a few papers he had scattered around the place fly down on the floor, and he could not care fucking less.

"Fine, then," he says, hissing and growling against his lips as he settles between his thighs, which Alex promptly opens for him as if following an ancestral command, "I thought about fucking you, little unicorn."

"Lame," Alex wheezes, a hand firmly pressed against Timmy's ass, to bring him closer, pretending this isn't the first time somebody says something like that to him, pretending it doesn't start a devastating fire in his loins, "Be more creative."

"You have no idea how creative I get when I fantasize about sex, sweets."

"Then tell me," he growls. He wants to know. He wants everything. He wants it now or he's gonna fucking die. This is ridiculous. This is absurd. And it's fucking amazing.

"Shit," Timmy grabs him harder and pushes him down, half lying on the desk. It's hard and crowded and terribly uncomfortable, but even the pain in his back when he ends up pressing with his spine against the computer keyboard feels heavenly good. "I thought about coming in while you were sleeping. I was almost hoping to catch you asleep tonight. I wanted to come in and take the covers off you and watch you sleep."

"Creepy fucker," Alex says, but it's unconvincing when his words drown between his moans.

"Shut up, you like the idea," Timmy insists, and then he does something unexpected and completely amazing, he moves his hips forward, just one thrust, and just like that their crotches collide and Alex feels like no matter what Timmy's gonna give to him tonight, he is gonna die, his heart will fail him and he's gonna die. "I wanted to watch you sleep and then I wanted to wake you up with my mouth."

"God..." he almost whines.

"Open up that pretty little thing you're wearing one button after the other and then lick you all over, and then I wanted to take you into my mouth and suck you hard enough to wake you up."

This time, Alex moans. A proper moan, full and wet as he clutches his fingers around the fabric of Timmy's shirt, shivering like crazy. He's dying to be touched and even though he's never been before, and even though the situation – being with a totally crazy stranger who's older than him and is apparently a maniac – would require it, he doesn't feel an inch of fear anymore. Only urgency, only hunger.

"And then what?" he almost whines, wiggling his hips for more friction.

He's expecting anything to happen, he's ready for whatever Timmy wants to throw his way. He's ready to feel his hands clutch hard around his hips and throw him on the bed. He's ready to feel his body on top of his own. He's ready to part his legs for him, let him touch him all over.

He's not ready for what happens, though, which is Timmy actually backing the fuck off.

Alex feels his warmth move away first, that's the first sign that something's changed. He opens his eyes and he sees him grinning, and that's already wrong, because not only Timmy should be still close enough not to make it possible for Alex to actually look at his face, but he shouldn't be grinning at all to begin with.

He's walking backwards, too. With his arms up in the air.

"What are you doing?" he asks, quite confusedly.

And Timmy laughs. Amused and cruel and like he's having a hell of a lot of fun.

"I'm stopping," he says, as simple as that.

Alex lowers his legs and sits up straight. He still doesn't quite understand what's going on, so he tries not to freak out. "Why?"

"Because you don't want it hard enough," he chuckles, burying his hands in his pockets again. His clothes and hair are all messed up but he looks even more confident than before. Alex has no idea how he manages. He's a pretty confident person himself, but he's also very controlled. The majority of people who know him call him cold. He's the Ice Queen among those who don't particularly like him in school. He knows how to feel confident as a consequence of being slave to rationality, that's his bread and butter, but how do you carry on confidently like that while at the same time being completely deranged?

"I can assure you," he says, a pinch of electricity showing in his voice, "I want it as much as I'm ever gonna want it."

"No, I disagree," Timmy says, naturally, "I think you can want it more. I just have to keep you waiting long enough."

What he just said is so ridiculous for a moment Alex believes to have misheard. "I'm sorry, what?" he says, tensing all over.

Timmy grins. He's already heading for the window. "You're not ripe for the taking yet."

"I'm fucking fifteen, that's why."

"No, that's not why," Timmy laughs, "You're just not desperate for me enough."

"I will never be desperate for you, you asshole!"

"We'll see about that," Timmy chuckles, climbing out the window.

Alex growls, grabs a pillow from his bed and throws it at him. It's the first thing he can think of, but he instantly regrets not having grabbed something harder and heavier. Like the computer screen, for example. He'd have sacrificed it happily. "You're full of shit!" he yells at him, climbing off the desk, "You're— Don't you dare showing up here again! I swear I'll fucking push you down next time I see you out there!" He follows Timmy out the window with his eyes, and once he starts climbing down the drainpipe he sticks his head out to keep looking at him. "You've been warned!" he yells. He could be waking up the whole neighborhood, right now. He wouldn't care - he actually doesn't. "Don't come around ever again!"

"I'll see you soon, little unicorn," Timmy simply says.

Alex hates him, with all his heart.

*

Then he progressively stops as the days go by and he really doesn't show up again.

*

When he was a kid, for he doesn't even remember how long (but it was a pretty long time), he refused to try Coke. He doesn't know exactly why and he's pretty sure he didn't even try and question himself about it back then - he was four or five or something, he barely even remembers it, the only reason why he can speak about it is because his father told him. All he knows is he didn't want to try it. He was offered by relatives, every now and then, mainly during parties or family dinners, but he always declined. Perhaps he simply wasn't interested enough, he doesn't know.

Then, during a party at one of his classmates' house (and this he remembers perfectly well), the boy he now knows he had a crush upon, but who back then his brain simply referred to as "the one you always say yes to no matter the question", offered him a sip. He was seven, he had never tried it and this caramel-skinned Indian boy called Lalit with amazing pitch black eyes and a sky-shattering pearly white smile was offering him the glass he had just drunk from: there was no way he was gonna say no.

So he had tried Coke.

He had honestly hated it. Disgustingly sweet as it was. And the bubbles bothered his tongue and inner cheeks. He didn't see the appeal.

While Lalit talked about the fact that he loved Coke and could've drank up to six bottles of it every day (now Alex suspects he could've been lying, but with kids you may never know), all Alex seemed to be able to think of was that he wanted to put the glass down and never get a taste of that drink ever again.

Instead, he took another sip. And that sip turned into three more. Then ten.

By the next day, he had already told Cody that he wanted a Coke bottle ready in the refrigerator for him whenever he wanted. His father hadn't seen anything bad in it – and there was nothing bad in that request, as a matter of fact – so he had simply chuckled and granted his permission. And his Coke addiction days had started, simply as that.

He still hated the taste and the feeling in his mouth – he didn't just dislike it, he hated it with a fire – but he felt good while drinking, the drink gave him a boost he couldn't quite describe but that was there nonetheless, probably linked to Lalit’s smile and the pleasant tingling feeling he had felt crawling underneath his skin while they were talking at that party.

It turned into a habit, and even though when he started high school he decided to drop it and successfully managed, together with meat – mostly – and all the junk food he used to stuff his face with before pimples became an actual threat in his life, he still remembers that feeling, and it's connected forever with another feeling, a feeling of inevitability tied with unpleasant things that have pleasant side effects.

He hated Coke but he loved drinking it.

He thinks he hates Timmy, but he fucking loves to have him around.

He just wishes he could drop him like he dropped Coke.

*

That is, obviously, if Timmy hasn't decided to drop him first already.

Damn fucker.

*

He's not expecting him anymore, when he comes back. It's been more than a week and the thought that whatever was going on between them is over now bothers him endlessly, but he's not an idiot and he's not going to let that asshole turn him into a moody, pouty teenager, because he's better than that. So he's soldiering through it proudly, trying not to give in to the most vulnerable part of himself that only wants him to bury himself under four or five layers of blankets and lie down on the bed until whatever this is - this illness, this ridiculous disease - it's passed.

He's having dinner with his father and he's trying not to die of boredom as Cody keeps telling him about this project he's developing with Leo, this young adult novel Leo's supposed to write and Cody's supposed to illustrate, about this kid falling in love with a man much older than him (among his many flaws, Leo's got this too, he's one of those terrible writers who keep rewriting the same story over and over again, and in this case, since he firmly believes himself to be the only person who really matters in the whole world, said story is his own) and struggling until he finally fulfills his dream of perfect love. Set in 2098. In a forest. On Pluto.

(Seriously, even if it wasn't completely humiliating to work on yet another novel glorifying Blaine and Leo's perfect, amazing and mind-blowing love story, his father should've said no just because the subject is fucking preposterous and doesn't deserve to be published - and wouldn't have a chance at being published at all if Leo hadn't been lucky enough to make some money with that first annoying fantasy young adult trilogy of his.) (That too was about a kid falling in love with a man much older than him. Of course.)

He's finishing up his risotto when the doorbell rings. He's got no reason to connect that sound to Timmy, so he doesn't. He finishes eating and starts tidying up the table while his father opens the door.

And then an "oh! Timothy!" escapes his father's lips, and he feels his heart sink at the bottom of his stomach.

He turns around, still holding the small pile of plates he intended to carry to the sink. Timmy's already standing on the doorframe, leaning against it, so unnervingly confident Alex wants to smack him in the face. And then sit on him and beg him to fuck him.

But he's not gonna let that out.

"What are you doing here?" he asks coldly.

Cody seems embarrassed and shocked by his behavior, and hastens to scold him. "Alex!" he says, "Behave."

"Nah, don't worry," Timmy grins, loosely crossing his arms over his chest. He's got different clothes than the last time he saw him, light blue denim pants and a black hoodie with a dragon picture in dark gray on the front, barely visible in the kitchen's yellow light, but they still seem pretty old. He wonders if Blaine and Leo didn't buy him anything new – that's unlikely. Then, perhaps he's not wearing any of the things they're buying him. Which kind of makes sense, all considered.

(He's a little scared by the amount of things he keeps thinking make sense in Timmy's behavior and in what he says. Nothing should, yet everything kind of does.)

"Are you gonna answer?" he insists, putting down the plates just to stop feeling so damn awkward.

"Sure," Timmy says, "I've come to take you out. Somewhere cool."

"Like hell I'm going anywhere with you!" Alex almost yells.

"You..." his father interjects, pretty confused by their exchange, "You know each other?"

"We've met," Timmy simply answers. Then he turns towards Cody, looking at him in an outrageous and honestly unforgivable way. There must be a fucking line you shouldn't feel entitled to cross when talking with the parents of a guy you spent two whole nights basically molesting, and looking at them like that should be well beyond that freaking line. Timmy's eyes are intense, overly focused, there's a soft hunger behind them he doesn't bother concealing, and his lips are curling upwards at the corners in an almost feline expression Alex feels ridiculously jealous of. "You don't mind if I take him out for a couple hours, right?" he says, tilting his head to the side, seductively, "I promise I'll drive him back safe and sound before it's time for bed."

"I'm..." Cody backs off a little, probably sensing there's something off in the way Timmy's looking at him. "I don't know," his eyes dart from Alex to Timmy and back again, "I don't think I've got a problem with that, if Alex wants to..."

"Alex doesn't want to," Alex makes clear, frowning.

"Alex wants to but he likes to keep Timmy on the line," Timmy chuckles lightheartedly. "Can we have the room for a couple minutes, Cody?"

His father seems puzzled more than he seems worried. It's clear he senses that there's something he doesn't know about them, that there's some sort of history he's not been made aware of, and he's probably thinking he will ask Alex about it later. But Timmy's smiling in a way that makes it simply impossible to say no to him. (A sky-shattering smile, like Lalit's.) (Just a hundred thousand times more effective.) And so Cody smiles uncertainly and nods his head, backing out of the kitchen. "I'll leave you to it," he says.

Alex wonders if he would say the same if he knew what it was.

The moment his father disappears, he crosses his arms over his chest tightly and makes a point out of looking at Timmy as if he was disgusted by his very existence in the same realm as himself. “How dare you coming back here after I explicitly told you not to?” he spits out nervously.

Timmy advances towards him. He doesn’t walk, no, he advances, like a fucking army. An army of one.

“One thing you should know if you wanna keep seeing me,” he says smiling, “I always do exactly the opposite of what I’m told.”

“’Cause you’re a fucking pain in the ass,” Alex answers curtly, “Besides, I thought you didn’t do boyfriends.”

“That’s right,” Timmy chuckles, “That’s why I said if you wanna keep seeing me. That’s not being boyfriends.”

“And what about picking me up to drive me God only knows where?”

“That can be a lot of things from a stroll to a rape scene, but I assure you it’s not a date,” he smirks, and Alex shivers, looking away.

“How can you say something like that so lightly?”

“What?” Timmy asks, actually blinking for a second. Then he realizes what Alex means and laughs, shaking his head, “Ah, the R word. Did I hurt your sensitive heart, little unicorn?”

“I’m not dressed as a unicorn tonight,” Alex replies, taking the chance to change subject because yes, hearing Timmy use that word as if it didn’t matter hurt him for reasons he’s not sure he understands beyond the fact that there’s a part of his brain telling him it’s a simple matter of human decency, that any person merely right in the head would feel exactly the same, but he’s gonna die before admitting it to this fucker.

Timmy smiles and raises a hand. He uses it to cup Alex’s face and strokes his cheek with his thumb in circular, slow movements. That’s fucking pleasant. Also fucking mesmerizing, and Alex hates it, and he wants more of it at the same time.

“You said you were the unicorn,” he speaks softly and he’s completely unbearable and Alex thinks he’s crushing so hard he’s gonna remember it for years to come, “Then show me. Come out with me tonight. Don’t disappoint me, sweetness. I don’t cope well with disappointment.”

“Yeah?” Alex looks up, locks eyes with him. He already knows he’s gonna say yes. “And what do you do when you’re disappointed?”

Timmy smiles, and leans in to brush his lips in an evanescent kiss. “I hate,” he answers, “Forever.”

Alex obviously goes with him.

*

He takes him to a lake, as surprising as that is. Of all the places Alex thought a person like Timmy could take him, this didn’t even make the list of the options.

It’s a warm spring they’re having, so the temperature isn’t exactly unbearable, but it’s pretty cold nonetheless now that the sun’s completely gone. Timmy doesn’t seem to notice, but Alex wraps himself better in his jacket. It’s not cold enough to shiver, so that’s not the reason why he’s shivering. However, just in case Timmy notices, he’s gonna pretend it is.

“So there’s a bit of a romantic in you,” Alex says as they cross over the low fence surrounding the area – a green metal net twisted and curled all over, clear sign of the fact that they’re not the first people deciding to spend a few hours at the lake despite being ideally not allowed to. “You really meant to take me for a stroll.”

“Not exactly,” Timmy says, chuckling. “You’ve never been here, have you?”

“Why should I?”

“Smart question,” Timmy nods, amused, “You’re right. There’s no reason. It’s just a stupid lake. It’s not even that big. See? You can see the shore on the other side, even though it’s dark.”

Alex squints, following Timmy’s finger in the darkness. He can’t see shit, for what he knows Timmy could’ve driven him to the ocean planning to drown him. He was an idiot accepting to come here with him. He should turn around and ask— no, demand to be brought back. He should do it. He has to do it. He’s gonna do it. Here, he’s doing it.

“Come,” Timmy says, and he follows him.

The most important lesson this whole experience is teaching him is that you can’t be trusted to act smartly when you’re facing something that systematically destroys all your landmarks, especially if you like it a lot. You’re just bound to make mistakes, and hurt yourself. You can fight it, but that’s only gonna be frustrating, and you’ll end up hurting yourself anyway.

Resistance is futile, as they say. So he stops resisting.

Timmy stops on the shore, inches away from the water. There’s no wind at all, tonight, and everything is perfectly still, the water licking the ground, the leaves of the trees all around them, all enshrouded in stillness and an eerie silence.

“Have you ever done skinny dipping?” Timmy kicks away his shoes and Alex thinks oh, no.

“No,” he answers, “And I’m not gonna start tonight.”

Timmy chuckles, taking off his hoodie. He’s wearing nothing underneath. Alex wasn’t prepared to see him shirtless so soon and so suddenly, and for a second he finds himself unable to breathe. Touching him through his clothes, he had already guessed Timmy had toned, robust muscles all over his torso and powerful arms. Despite him clearly not being right in the head, he’s the fucking picture of physical health. The contrast makes him even sexier.

“That’s a pity,” he says, unbuttoning his pants.

Alex frowns, surprised and suspicious. “You’re not gonna try and convince me to do it?”

“Nah, I don’t think that’s gonna be necessary,” Timmy shrugs, pushing his pants down his legs and then kicking them away too. He seems not to give a fuck about where they land. All his clothes could be covered in mud right now, he’s facing the concrete possibility of having to drive for miles back home wearing wet and dirty clothes, but he simply doesn’t care, and for some reason to Alex this says a lot about his mental condition – it screams louder than his absurd behavior, because that’s clearly a part Timmy’s playing, the lines he’s written for himself to take the stage, while this, this is losing grip around the practical side of life.

Madness doesn’t hide behind grand gestures, like climbing a drainpipe and kissing an unknown minor hours after having slipped into his life. Madness doesn’t hide at all, actually, that’s not what it’s supposed to do. What madness does is showing itself, and it does it in the details, most of all in the practical ones. A man climbs a wall with his bare hands and starts singing Schubert’s Ave Maria dressed in nothing but a chicken costume? There’s still hope to drag him back to sanity. That same man starts losing contact with the smallest things, the practical things? Starts forgetting the names of his loved ones? Stops caring about washing in the morning before going out? Starts ignoring mealtime? Forgets to take a look right and left before crossing the road? That’s when you really should get worried.

Timmy’s madness isn’t in his evil grin when he kisses him stupid and then leaves him hanging for days. It’s all in that little pile of clothes in the mud by the shore of that little lake. All there, simple as that, in plain sight.

“You brought me here to watch you take a late night bath in a stupid lake?” he spits out, disappointed that Timmy’s really not going to insist for him to join him. Crazy as he is, Alex stupidly wants him. He’s bound to suffer whenever Timmy doesn’t display signs of wanting him back.

Timmy shrugs again. He’s still wearing his underpants and Alex doesn’t know if that’s better or if he just wants him to take them off and get it over with. “If that’s what you want,” he says, moving a few steps towards the water.

“You’re completely crazy,” Alex says, matter-of-factly.

“Yep, that’s been on my medical records at some point,” Timmy answers with a lighthearted laughter.

“Yeah, wanna know what’s also gonna be on your medical records if you do this? Died of hypothermia.”

“That’s a nice line for a gravestone too,” Timmy considers. He doesn’t stop moving towards the water – inside the water, at this point. He’s in deep to his knees. “Simple, clean, straight to the point. If I die tonight, make sure that’s the line they bury me with.”

“If you die tonight, I’m gonna deny I ever met you,” Alex grunts, and Timmy laughs, turning to look at him. Only his upper body is visible, now, the other half of him deep underwater. He bends over, doing something Alex doesn’t exactly understand until he sees Timmy’s underpants flying ashore a few inches away from him. He finally took them off, and he can’t even see him. “Jesus, you can’t be serious,” he snorts, annoyed.

“In fact I’m not,” Timmy chuckles, “I’m playing. I’m the opposite of serious. But I’m telling you,” he seems to be kneeling at the bottom of the lake, now only his head remains visible, “The water’s nice and you should be coming here.”

“Yeah?” Alex groans, perfectly aware to be showing him an access point, “And why should I?”

Timmy smirks, recognizing his sentence for what it is – an invitation, more than an attempt to resist. A convince me more than a mockery.

“Because I want you here,” Timmy just says.

Alex doesn’t need anything else to be convinced.

The water temperature scares him, but there’s something that scares him more, the fear that if he says no now, if he insists to remain where he is until Timmy’s done and they can go home, he’s gonna miss this chance forever. And he doesn’t want to, because— because he wants him. He wants Timmy with a fire that can’t be put out, a fire distance and waiting work on like the wind, only making it bigger and hungrier.

He’s pretty sure this must mean he’s crazy too, at least a little part of him. Or maybe this is just being fifteen and crushing really hard over a beautiful, dangerous boy.

Shit. He turned into Bella fucking Swan from fucking Twilight, minus the sparkling vampires.

“Fuck me…” he mutters under his breath, passing a hand over his own face and then through his hair, combing them backwards. This is ridiculous. And unescapable, which makes it even more ridiculous. But he still puts his hands around the waistband of his pants, and starts undressing.

Timmy doesn’t move from where he’s kneeling in the lake. He watches him undress intently, and Alex has no idea how he manages not only to watch him, but to make sure Alex knows he’s watching him, with such a darkness surrounding them. Maybe he really is part lion, after all. That would at least explain night vision.

He puts his jacket down folded on a rock. The rock is dusty but at least it’s not wet, and that’s how he knows he’s not completely crazy too. Which is reassuring. At least one of them get to keep his sanity, apparently.

He folds all of his other clothes on top of the jacket. It’s damn cold, once he’s naked. The vague thought that they could both die out here terrifies him for a moment, and then gives him the weirdest hard on. What they’re gonna do is dangerous, irresponsible and forbidden. And as soon as he realizes it he starts anticipating it like fucking Christmas’ Eve.

He starts walking into the lake, and he can see Timmy smile and move backwards, like his fathers used to do when they were teaching him to swim. Every time he moved forward, they moved a little backward, to give him a new goal to reach.

That’s how they taught him to always want more. And now Alex wants more, probably more than he can handle, and whose fault is that?

“I saw you keep your underpants,” Timmy tells him once they’re floating together one in front of the other, “Why?”

“Because I’m not a whore, that’s why,” Alex answers, pouting, “You don’t deserve to see shit, after that little show you put up with my dad.”

“Ah,” Timmy chuckles, “Someone’s jealous.”

“I’m not fucking jealous,” Alex growls, hitting him with a kick in his shin that the water slows down to a flirty nudge, “I know you did it to spite me and I’m angry about that.”

“Sweets, your dad’s a legit nice sweet little piece of ass, that’s why I flirted with him, not because I wanted to make you angry,” Timmy laughs.

This time, Alex doesn’t leave the water any chance to twist his actions into something different than they were meant to be. He slaps him across his face, the sound echoing loudly in the silence surrounding them. He knows he hit him hard and he’s curious to see how Timmy will react, though there’s a little voice inside his head telling him not to worry, that his reaction’s not gonna be violent, that there’s nothing to be scared of.

In fact, when Timmy turns to look at him he’s smiling mischievously. There’s a little blood visible at the corner of his mouth – either Alex accidentally slapped him, or he bit his own tongue in surprise. Alex doesn’t know, and he will never know because, blinded by that smile, he even forgets to ask.

“You make me so fucking hard when you do something like that,” Timmy says.

Alex frowns, floating back and forth away and towards him, like a buoy just out at sea. (There’s a rope tying him to Timmy, something invisible but definitely physical. It’s at the same time flexible and unbreakable. Alex loves the thought of it.)

“You love it when I hit you?” Alex asks, “What are you, a masochist?”

“Sometimes I get off on pain, yes,” Timmy admits openly, as if there was nothing to be ashamed about that, “Mine or the others, it’s irrelevant. But no, I didn’t mean that. I mean when you react. Every time I think I’ve conquered you, you fight back.”

“And you’re not used to that?” Alex replies, raising an eyebrow. He intended it as a mockery, but Timmy just nods and Alex knows he’s telling the truth.

“I didn’t flirt with your dad for your dad,” he says, “I flirted with him because I wanted you to come with me and I needed to convince him you would be safe. And that’s the easiest way to convince people of anything. Make them think that you’re gonna fuck them and they’re gonna like it.”

“You’re fucking sick,” Alex says.

“Yeah, you already told me,” Timmy replies, wrapping an arm around his waist to pull him in. Alex’s body reacts so naturally it seems like poetry in motion: he opens his legs and lands sitting on Timmy’s lap. He can feel he’s hard against the fabric of his soaking wet underpants, and that makes him harder too.

He’s not touching the bottom of the lake with his feet anymore, but Timmy does, and Alex decided to trust him. He has no reason to do that, except maybe for one, the fact that he wants to. It’ll have to be enough.

“What are you trying to convince me of?” he asks, moving slowly on top of him, helped by the gentle currents of the water under the surface.

“Mhn?” Timmy asks, less than an inch away from his mouth. He sounds distracted and Alex smiles thinking it was his proximity distracting him like that.

“You said making people believe you wanna fuck them is the best way to convince them of anything,” Alex explains, getting closer, clinging to his neck with both his arms, “So what are you trying to convince me of?”

Timmy looks at him puzzled for a moment, and that’s the most genuine expression Alex has ever seen him doing. For a moment he even worries he might’ve said something dramatically wrong, something that could be able to push him away, but Timmy’s confusion melts into a smile as he leans in to kiss him on his lips. “Sweets,” he finally answers, “You’re a different thing. I’m not trying to convince you of anything, I just wanna fuck you senseless.”

And Alex closes his eyes and whimpers, the words ringing in his ears, forcing a violent physical reaction out of him – his cock is twitching angrily behind its fabric prison, demanding attention. He clings to Timmy’s shoulders, feeling with extreme clarity that there’s nothing more important than this, right now. His family’s situation, his dad’s feelings, Timmy’s circumstances, all the things that make his life hard and annoying in all its different ways, everything fades away compared to the fact that he needs Timmy now. And – the realization hits him leaving a vague trace of embarrassment behind – he doesn’t need him as a person. He doesn’t need his company, he doesn’t want his affection, he doesn’t wanna earn his respect nor anything.

He needs him as something hard that can break inside him. He needs him as the hot shaft that’s gonna open him up. He needs him as the scorching hardness that’s gonna bury itself at the bottom of his body, that’s gonna make him shiver with pleasure, that’s gonna make him scream obscenities as he comes.

That’s all that he needs, and he doesn’t care that it isn’t romantic, he doesn’t care that it’s probably not even healthy. He finally understands what Timmy meant when he said he could want him more. That’s what he was aiming for, him wanting him like this. Crudely, roughly, violently. Desperately.

“Give it to me,” he whispers. He doesn’t need to say it out loud, he knows a whisper’s more than enough to get the message across to Timmy. No grand actions but the smallest things. Like the way he’s moving on top of him now, invitingly, teasingly. “I want it.”

“You want what, sweetness?” Timmy asks with a mean grin, offering kisses and then withdrawing the offer every time one second before Alex can accept it.

“I want you to fuck me,” he answers roughly, grabbing him by his hair and pulling at them only to subdue him into stillness. Timmy surrenders, Alex can kiss him and he does it hungrily, overpoweringly. He’s dancing on his crotch and he knows Timmy can feel it. He feels it in the way he’s holding onto him, in the way his fingers press against his flesh, threatening to dive in.

It’s intense, heavenly and fucking scary. Just like any first time’s supposed to be.

As Timmy drags him back ashore, Alex smiles absent-mindedly and thinks there probably wouldn’t have been any difference if he had decided to do this with an upstanding, reliable and decent guy. His fucked up life simply pushed him between Timmy’s arms first, and he doesn’t regret it. He’ll have time to find himself someone good to spend his whole life with. He still thinks too much of himself to believe he’s destined to be stuck with some crazy fucker, no matter how handsome. This is just sex. And he just wants it because he can.

He keeps thinking like this as Timmy lays him down in the mud. It’s wet and dirty and sexy, it sticks to his hair, soils his skin a darkish brown, Timmy and him wrestle in it, cover themselves in it, and with every movement Alex rubs himself against his hardness and he thinks this is nothing, this is inconsequential, this is just me aching for fucking release, this is just wanting it as bad as Timmy wants me to want it.

And then Timmy grabs his underpants with a beastly growl and tears them off him. He pins him down on the ground and parts his legs decisively, and Alex feels the head of his cock pressed hard against his opening. And he thrusts in, and even before he breaches him Alex looks up at him and notices the way his blonde hair catches the moonlight and almost shine silver with it, and he knows he’s fucked.

He’s utterly fucked.

He’s in love.

Timmy’s cock stubbornly presses against his opening and then slides off between his buttocks. That’s pretty pleasant, on one hand. On the other, it’s fucking frustrating. He’s closed shut.

“Shit,” Timmy hisses, his hands closing hard, possessively, around his hips, “A virgin. Should’ve known.”

“Don’t stop,” Alex hastens to say, sinking his nails in Timmy’s shoulders. His heart is beating so fast and hard it almost hurts. He can’t even stand the thought Timmy might change his mind.

“I might have to,” Timmy answers with a low growl. Alex feels his fingers press against his opening, move slowly around it, tentatively pushing inside, and every time he thinks God, please, put them in, make me feel it, but Timmy hesitates and Alex simply knows if he doesn’t deliver he’s going to die.

“Don’t even think about it,” he protests. He reaches down, wrapping his fingers around Timmy’s cock. It’s big and hard and hot to the touch and he wants to feel it everywhere at the same time. He wants it in his mouth, pressing against his cheek, hitting the back of his throat, he wants it against his chest, he wants it stroking on his belly, he wants it rubbing against his cock and most of all, most of everything else in the entire world, he wants it in the ass.

So he guides it against his own opening, sets it straight on it. He holds it firmly with one hand while he opens himself up as much as he fucking can with the other, and then he shoves it in, and Timmy can’t stop his hips from jerking forward, and his cock drives right through the tight muscle ring, breaching it open, and for a second he feels as if he had actively stabbed himself with a knife Timmy was holding in his own hand and had no real intention to use.

The pain is sharp, breath-taking, and Alex arches is back in a desperate comma as he feels it burn his insides.

“Fuck,” Timmy wheezes, “Shit…” and then he laughs breathlessly, “Shit, sweetness, you are some crazy motherfucker.”

“Shut up,” Alex growls, pain spreading all over his body, coursing with his blood through his veins, “God, shut up and fuck me. Make it worth it.”

Timmy laughs again, but it’s a brief laughter, devoid of any trace of mockery – finally. Alex keeps his legs wide open for him and closes his eyes, concentrating on the raw feelings and ignoring the consequences of them. He can feel every fucking inch of Timmy’s cock push inside him, then he can feel it retreat, charging for another attack. Every time Timmy backs off, he wants him back inside, and every second he’s inside it’s an excruciating torture he can’t have enough of.

Timmy fucks like he does everything else in his life, overly teasingly, annoyingly. He’s unbearable, constantly giving less than he could and then suddenly giving much more than Alex can take. He hates it, and yet he’s desperate for it in way he’s not sure he couldn’t even try to explain. He’s lost in love for everything Timmy does. Everything makes him shiver, everything feels painful, until at some point nothing does anymore. The blade-like sharp pain of Timmy’s thrusts mixes with the asperities of the ground slashing micro-cuts in his back, and with the cold, and with how slippery and disgusting the mud feels against his skin, and with the cramp he feels ready to twist his legs’ muscles, everything fuses into one giant wave that rises up and up and up and then crashes down on him, drowning him, and when it does it’s not pain anymore, but the purest form of pleasure he’s ever felt in his life, a pleasure so sharp it blinds him, it hurts him, it cuts his breath in half and makes him come with a strangled sound, before leaving him spent like a used rag on the ground.

Timmy comes a few seconds later, and Alex can feel every drop of his orgasm inside himself. It fills him up and makes him shiver one last time, and when Timmy withdraws to collapse on the mud next to him it squirts out of his opening and Alex bites his bottom lip, disappointed, because he would’ve liked to be able to hold it in. Not because he’s embarrassed by squirting, but because he didn’t want to let it go.

“So?” Timmy asks breathlessly, half a laughter already on his lips, “Was it worth it, in the end?”

Alex groans, rolling his eyes. “Shit, it’s just like you to ask for a comment on your performance right after the end of it,” he clicks his tongue, “Stay classy, Timothy.”

“Don’t call me that,” Timmy instantly says. There’s a tension in his smile and voice that Alex doesn’t miss. He appreciates Timmy’s attempt to keep himself in check, though, instead of turning into a fucking beast as he would’ve done up until last time.

So he swallows and nods, though he doesn’t dare searching for his hand to hold, despite wanting to. “Timmy,” he says then, “Timmy’s okay, right?”

“Timmy’s okay,” Timmy nods, turning back to look at the stars up above.

The sky is clear and open and there are thousands of them. So many it’s impossible to recognize the constellations, they get lost in the overabundance of flickering little lights.

“Leo abandoned me here on this very day fourteen years ago.”

Timmy’s voice is firm, it doesn’t shake. It sounds serene as he speaks. Alex doesn’t look at him just because he doesn’t trust himself doing it right now. He got where Timmy’s going and he simply knows if he was looking at him as Timmy told the tale he’d end up hugging him. He’s not sure Timmy wants that, though, so he keeps staring at the sky, praying that’ll be enough to hold back.

“They say kids don’t remember much of their childhood,” Timmy goes on with the same serenity as before, “I think it’s true, but I also think there are things you can’t forget, no matter how young you are when you experience them. I forgot a lot of things about the time when I was five, but this I remember in details. By the minute.”

Alex swallows. He wonders if Timmy ever told what he’s telling him to someone else. He probably did. No, he surely did. Social services, therapists, all the families he’s been with while he was in the system… someone’s bound to know, and he’s jealous of that. He wonders if that’s part of being in love too, being jealous about things like these.

“What happened?” he asks.

Timmy shrugs as if he was telling a story of no importance. “He hadn’t been with us for long, but I liked him. I remembered him coming and going from Blaine’s life— back then Blaine was my daddy, but I lost the habit to that word. I don’t miss it.” He shrugs again, then sighs. “Anyway. I liked the Leo I remembered, but I didn’t know the one living with us at the time. He was damaged. Now I recognize what that was, but it’s too late for me to care. Back then, I was too young to understand it. Blaine trusted Leo, I trusted Blaine, so I trusted Leo, it was as simple as that.” He pauses for a moment. He’s trying not to let it out, but it’s costing him to say these words. Alex wants to touch him. He’s terrified at the idea of doing it, but he wants it so much he can’t restrain himself. So he stretches out for him. Meets his hand with his own. Timmy doesn’t withdraw – as a matter of fact, he squeezes his hand back. Hard. “I wasn’t jealous of Leo, even though he stole a lot of Blaine’s attention from me. He was jealous of me, instead, no matter how small and inconsequential I tried to will myself into being not to bother them. So one day he comes to me and tells me to put my coat on. It’s autumn and it’s cold and I don’t really wanna go, but Leo’s asking, and I trust Leo. I put my coat on. I follow him. We take the car and drive for miles. We arrive here, and it’s desolate—“

“Timmy—“

“No, let me finish,” Timmy stops him abruptly. There’s a coldness in his voice saying I’m opening up, but I’m still feral. Don’t force me to bite. “It’s a desolate place,” he goes on, “And I know what we’ve come here to do. People think kids don’t know shit like that, but kids do. I knew Leo had brought me there to abandon me.”

“…didn’t you try to—“

“No,” Timmy shakes his head, “He told me to sit on a stump, and I sat. He wanted me there. He wanted to leave me there. I was a fucking functional little human being, back then, and he wanted to abandon me miles from home like a fucking dog, and that broke me. I sat. I watched him leave. He climbed on the car and drove away.”

Alex turns on his side and crawls closer to him. Timmy doesn’t let go of his hand, which makes his movements kind of hard, but he doesn’t care. He glues himself to Timmy’s side, trying to share some warmth, being it physical or emotional. “What happened then?”

“What happened is I sat there for hours. The sun went down and it got freaking cold. I was hungry and thirsty and I couldn’t even cry. At some point I fell asleep and when I woke up I was in a hospital and they were denying Blaine permission to see me. I don’t know if Leo felt guilty and ended up spilling the beans or if Blaine got something was wrong and forced him to tell the truth. I got found, somehow, but they lost me.”

As he suspected he would do, Alex ends up hugging him. Timmy goes stiff between his arms for a moment, and though he tries to relax he doesn’t manage.

“You don’t like hugs, do you?” Alex asks.

“I’m not used to them,” Timmy answers, “And no, I’m not that fond of them either. They’re pointless to me.”

“They’re not any more pointless than sex.”

Timmy turns to look at him. His eyes are an unreal blue in this darkness, and they’re so intense they could start a fire. “Sex is never pointless,” he says.

Alex has to admit – yet again – that he’s got a point.

*

Timmy keeps his promise to Cody, and brings him back home well before bedtime. It’s not even ten in the evening when he stops the car on the driveway and turns the engine off. They’re both exhausted, and they decide to sit there in silence for a few minutes, the only source of light being the ball-shaped lamp right above the front door, before going back to their lives.

Then Timmy leans in and unfastens his seat belt. Alex feels dreadful, and decides he doesn’t wanna move yet, but he knows it’s time to speak.

“What happened at the lake?”

“I told you what happened at the lake.”

“Not fourteen years ago. Between us, before. You—“

“I told you something about me because I felt like sharing. I’ve been to that lake on my own every year for fourteen years on this date. This time I wasn’t alone for the first time, and I felt like you should know why we were there. That’s all. Don’t see too much into it.”

“I’m not seeing shit, Timmy.”

“Don’t build castles in the sky about us, sweetness.”

“I don’t—“ he growls, angrily, “I don’t give a fuck about us.” It’s getting easier to lie. Though it doesn’t get any less painful. “I just wanna know where we stand now. Are you gonna disappear? Nothing’s gonna change? Just tell me, I’m okay with both things, I just—“

“Alex.” He shuts up right away. It’s the first time Timmy calls him by his name. He turns to look at him with his eyes wide open, holding his breath. He finds him grinning like devil incarnate, and that’s how he knows for sure whatever they had before the lake hasn’t changed it, just made it more complex. Hopefully stronger too. “Go back home. Change into your little unicorn costume and wait for me. I might come around.”

Alex clicks his tongue, grabbing his jacket from the back seat and climbing off the car. “Don’t even try to pull some shit like that on me, lion boy,” he huffs, walking the driveway as if it was a catwalk, “You ripped me open enough for one night. If you have to come back, and I’m not saying I want you to, but if you have to, at least come tomorrow.”

He only hangs around outside the door long enough to hear Timmy laugh and say “Lion boy?”

Then he walks in, concealing a smile.