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wrapped in shades of red

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Andrew Minyard hated the world.

When he was seven, Andrew first realized that summers were too hot for him. When he was being held down, his sweat burned against his skin like acid, showers scalded him, his heart raced when he curled under the covers because the heat would drift in through the window. Andrew knew that summers were just too hot for him.

And the winters were cold, too. The long sleeves help with that, but the bite in frozen fingers as someone holds him down from behind is burned into his memories. Cass liked to knit him scarves in the winter, scarves made of thick yellow and orange yarn and frizzy wool. At night Andrew liked to cling to the scarves and wrap it around his arms until his fingers turned white and numb and around his neck until his vision blurred and went fuzzy. Andrew imagined hanging himself from the bar in his closet with a thick yellow scarf. Yes, Andrew did not like the cold.

The world has too many broken promises for Andrew to believe in any of them. The world has too many smiling mothers for Andrew to find any of those smiles real. There were too many men in Andrew’s past for Andrew to believe that anyone would understand his boundaries and treat him like- like someone worth a second of their time. There were too many injustices and bottled, boiled anger writhing inside of him to make the world good for Andrew Minyard .

There were one too many undiscovered identical twins.

Too many hands holding him down in dark rooms. Too many times that he begged the hands to leave. Too many scars from when they refused.

The world hated Andrew Minyard, and so Andrew Minyard hated it right back.

And yeah, the world threw the shittiest things at him and made Andrew Minyard brittle and bored at age seven, and yeah, Andrew had learned how to cope with those things on his own even if it wasn’t particularly healthy. Yeah, sure, he had some lasting trauma that would probably stick with him for the rest of his life. He couldn’t care less.

But the first time he kissed a boy on his own terms was when he was cooped up in juvie, fourteen years old, straddling his roommate to see if anything had changed.

Unfortunately, it hadn’t.

He kissed his roommate for a good minute before standing up, wiping his mouth and leaving the room only to vomit up what remain of his dinner in the sink. He retched a few more times until his throat burned and his voice sounded scraped raw. His mouth tasted sour and bitter and Andrew drank lukewarm water from the sink until he couldn’t drink any more. Fingers trembling, he looked at himself in the mirror.

Gay, he mouthed. He was right. The acid in his stomach that settled just under his ribs confirmed it.

He felt disgusted. Acid rose to his mouth again, threatening to make another appearance. Andrew swallowed hard and touched his lips. Gay.

He wondered which person it had been, which person had changed him over. Had it been at the beginning? Had he just- had Andrew just liked it so much that now he had this urge to kiss boys, to draw out moans from them, to take control? In the future would Andrew would be in Drake’s position, holding another boy down? Had it been after the second, or third? Had it been because of Drake? Had he survived for so long inside of Cass’s arms that his body decided he liked what Drake had done to him? Did he like it because he wanted to take control? To hold his roommate down and- and-

Andrew choked and looked away. Heat ran down his face and he gripped the edge of the sink so hard he expected the edges to crack away. It took him a moment to realize that Andrew was crying.

He wouldn’t let it happen. He wouldn’t let himself do that. He had seen firsthand what families thought of people who were gay, who kissed boys- he had seen what families thought of him with other boys, other men. Andrew had torn families apart trying to hold himself together long enough for the men to just get it over with, to lose interest in him.

So Andrew wouldn’t be like them. He wasn’t going to- to kiss and tell. He wasn’t going to take and take and take and stomp over boundaries like they didn’t exist. Andrew raised a hand to touch swollen, red lips and promised himself he was never going to touch his roommate again.

A knock on the door made him jump. The voice of his roommate carried through. Andrew swallowed, splashed some water to stop the tears and swore to himself that he would never cry again.

The next day, Andrew avoided his roommate and sat in the corner with a pack of cigarettes and methodically smoked through every single one. He snapped when anyone came close to him. Feral and untamed, Andrew Minyard made it very clear that no one would breach his boundaries again.

~

Over the course of his life as of entering high school, Andrew Minyard has had sex with four people, and blown four more, and kissed many more. So yeah, he’s gay. He feels nothing for girls but a hell of a lot for boys. But now, supposedly “reunited” with his family, Andrew has a gay cousin, an abusive mother, an addicted brother, a pious uncle and a quiet aunt. Andrew stores his feelings down where he can’t even find them and swallows his disgust.

So he has a homophobic, suddenly existent twin brother with a drug addiction and a homosexual, suddenly existent cousin with gay-hating parents.

Throughout Andrew’s time in juvie, he’s reached the conclusion that it probably wasn’t his abusers. The way he can still wake up in a cold sweat, retching over the side of the bed, thinking that Drake is standing over him- the thing that stays curled up inside his stomach, writhing and attempting to claw its way out, reassures him that it’s not Drake, not him, not him, not him, just Andrew.

But the thing is, Andrew’s not even sure if it’s just him anymore. He and Aaron are identical except for a few scrapes- Andrew’s forearms tell a different story, Aaron’s body is mottled with bruises he attempts to cover. They’re still identical but Andrew somehow has the burning anger that swims inside of him, the heavy secret of being gay tucked behind his head, the untamed and so called “bipolar disorder.” So he and Aaron aren’t identical, not really. They look alike, but on the inside Andrew is a fucked up mess, and nothing like Aaron.

The thought ponders in his head. Aaron isn’t gay, so something is wrong with himself. Aaron isn’t gay, so something is wrong with himself. Somewhere along the line, something screwed him up so badly that he became the opposite of his identical self.

Luther and Maria Hemmick seem to think so too. The long sleeves aren’t normal, when summer gets so hot. Luther has seen the scars. Andrew isn’t normal-

So when Tilda dies, and Andrew lives, he realizes that he’s fucked up and he’s fucked up good. He can’t change the past but he knows damn well that with the smoking, the violence, and the apathy, he can’t last longer than a couple decades. So might as well give being gay another shot. There’s nothing he can do about that.

~

Andrew watches the bartender with his chin propped up on his hand. His tongue darts out to catch the last few drops of his whiskey, and Roland meets his eyes, inhaling a little sharper than usual.

Five minutes later, Andrew is on his knees and Roland is gasping above him, hands behind his back.

Not new, not interesting.

~

The medication was new. The medication was very, very new.

The summers are no longer hot but cold, and the winters no longer cold but hot. Andrew laughs in the middle of the night uncontrollably and rolls over, unable to stop the way the smile curves his entire face.

Nicky is enjoyable, slightly. Nicky is fun to be at Eden’s with. Andrew meets up with Roland in the back closet and gets on his knees and leaves to take care of himself once Roland comes. Nicky grinds on at least twelve shirtless boys and laughs giddily. Aaron sits at the side and gives Andrew a disapproving look. Andrew doesn’t care. He can do what he likes, he has his own boundaries, why does it fucking matter to Aaron if Andrew is on his knees sucking another guy off? Aaron can shove his homophobia down his throat and choke on it for all he cares. Everybody is nothing to Andrew, and he can play with them as he pleases.

~

Neil Josten arrives. Andrew realizes that yeah, he’s definitely fucking gay.

~

Drake comes back.

The ceiling is black but every time Andrew blinks, it’s red. The pain digs into him deeper and deeper, lances through his head and sends shocks down his back. Drake grips him harder. His fingers are bloodless.

Definitely not gay because of Drake, no. Andrew feels nothing.

Andrew bleeds. Drake is dead in a pile of his own blood. Andrew is laughing, laughing, even as his body shakes and aches to stand up.

The medication leaves. Andrew stops laughing.

~

Andrew comes back and kisses Neil, hotly and deeply, winds his hands through his hair and gets him off against the wall, as Neil presses his hands back to avoid touching Andrew. Oh, Andrew really does like this, he likes the sounds Neil makes and the way his chest rises and falls erratically. He likes the sound of his name gasped into his neck and the rising heat in his stomach.

Andrew hates the world a little bit less.