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Love Doesn't Leave Bruises

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The house was a dark shadow in front of a dark night sky as Lukas walked up to his house. About a mile back he shut off his motorcycle and started to walk, his hands gripping the handle bars so tight that his knuckles were white. Beneath his skin, his stomach was tied in knots. On Wednesday he was grounded for missing curfew, which was fine. His dad didn't beat him or yell. He just took away his motorcycle and said he could only go to school and come home for a week. Which wasn't fine was that Sunday was Philips birthday and Lukas couldn't miss it. Like any teenager would, he planned on sneaking out. He climbed out his window and walked his bike down the road. It was a fool proof plan, really. His dad was always knocked out drunk on the weekends so there was no way Bo would be up by the time Lukas got home.

Lukas drove Philip down to the city and they saw a movie. It was perfect. Lukas had his arm around Philip the entire time, even though Philip wasn't afraid. (He picked a horror movie with the intention of cuddling and protecting Philip. Sadly, he was the fearful one.) After the movie they roamed the streets, holding hands and kissing, even dancing on the sidewalk. Spending time in the city was always a slice of heaven for Lukas. He even swore to Philip that they could live down there once they graduate. Philip teased him and said that there was no way Lukas could survive in the city. Lukas disagreed.

After the horror movie fail and wondering the very busy streets, Lukas and Philip went to a hole in the wall burger joint. Philip swore that they had the best burgers and he wasn't wrong, they were amazing, but Lukas still believed he made the best burgers without a doubt. They shared two large fries and played footsie under the table while people chattered around them. It was nice, a feeling of home and peace surrounded them. Back in Tivoli, people still stared at them, but here no one seemed to bat an eye. Lukas wasn't as afraid of himself as he used to be, but he was still fearful of others.

At the end of the night Lukas finally gave Philip his present. (It took about ten minutes of arguing because according to Philip, buying dinner is a present. Lukas couldn't believe Philip thought that way. He had to change it.) It was a sweatshirt with "Waldenbeck" written on the back in white, along with his motorcycle number. He wrote it off with a joke about self promotion, but Philip loved it. He slipped it on for the ride home and made sure to peck Lukas' lips every chance he got.

The ride back to Tivoli was all too short and during most of it Lukas contemplated running away. He had money. So did Philip now that he worked for Gabe. They could get away from all of this. All the fear, all the bad memories. With one turn down a road it could all be over. Running away from problems didn't cure them but it did give the space needed to get over it. Lukas hated to say it but he couldn't ride his bike around half the town anymore. All he remembered was Ryan when he did it. Sadly, Lukas took all the correct roads that night and got Philip home right at his curfew.

They kissed goodbye and Philip disappeared into the barely lit house, Gabe and Helen waving him goodbye. Lukas tried to push the envy down as they kissed and hugged Philip. He couldn't remember the last time Bo welcomed him home like that, the last time Bo did anything nice really. Lukas kept it hidden, but his father hadn't changed. He still screamed and threw things, he still whipped off his belt and hurt Lukas any chance he got. Then again, he had been hurting Lukas since he was a child. Breaking his heart little by little until nothing was left. Bo didn't love him, he tolerated him... barely.

The barn felt like it was closing in on him as Lukas parked his bike. The world around him was too dark and too quiet. Part of Lukas still debated on running away, but he knew that wouldn't end well. Nothing had ever ended well for Lukas, which was why being with Philip terrified him. He had too much baggage and he was drowning, he didn't want to pull Philip into the water. Lukas made sure to close the barn doors and lock them before ducking down and walking towards the house.

Lukas had the perfect plan. Wait for his father to pass out drunk in the living room and sneak out his window. Too bad Lukas didn't stick to the plan. He was tired and a little dazed as he walked up the front steps of his house. Bo could sleep through a tornado, he told himself, he was safe to slip inside and go to his room. He could always lie and say he was getting a snack. Both would get him in trouble but only one would get him beat.

The front door slowly opened, only to reveal more darkness. Nervously, Lukas walked into the house, closing the door behind him and locking it. In the living room the T.V. played an old sitcom that Lukas had seen a million times. The couch was empty and the kitchen was quiet, a few empty beer bottles laying atop it. Lukas made a mental note to clean those up in the morning. He liked to play a game. If the sunlight didn't see the beer and other alcohol Bo drank, it wasn't real. Pretending things weren't real was how Lukas got by. Pretending Ryan didn't exist. Pretending he never felt things for boys. Pretending his mother was still alive. He was good at playing pretend.

"You really love pushing me, don't you?" A shiver ran down Lukas' spine, his blood running cold. "You should consider yourself lucky. I still let you see that Philip boy when this whole "gay" thing is turning sponsors away left aand right." How was he awake? He always slept through the night when he was drunk. "I was trying to be forgiving, Lukas, but you just had to push me." Lukas was sure the only person being pushed towards the edge was himself.

"I'm sorry, dad." Lukas wasn't. He used to be, but Bo monitored him so close he slowly realized the person in the wrong wasn't him. It was his father. Lukas wasn't sorry that he continued to live his life whether or not Bo approved. "It was his birthday, I couldn't miss it, I already miss so much." Bo had him working extra hard so that sponsors would keep trying. Lukas truly had lost so many, but he didn't ride for money. He did it for fun.

"He's been getting in the way since he first came." Lukas was afraid to turn around. Bo's gruff voice terrified him. "Fucking queer is always putting ideas into your head. You're slacking and you're never around." Bo was never around either. "This faggot isn't worth losing your ride outta here, Lukas. He has too much baggage and if you weren't sneaking around with him maybe you would've never gotten shot."

"Ryan shot me, dad." Lukas did love pushing it, but he was tired of doing nothing. "Philip didn't."

"Philip has a way of ruining things." Bo rambled on. "I don't want you seeing him anymore. I can hardly handle you being gay, let alone dating that kid. Hes bad, Lukas. Hes in your head and hes ruining you." Bo was the one ruining Lukas. "Making you sneak out and hide from me. I am all you got, Lukas. Everyone else leaves. I deserve your fucking loyalty!"

"Okay." Lukas whispered, closing his eyes. When he didn't look at Bo he could pretend it wasn't his father. "I'll work harder-"

"Leave him!" Bo shouted. Lukas wondered if he screamed if anyone would hear. If anyone would save him. "Nothing good has come out of Philip being here. You need to focus on your riding career. That will always be there for you."

"Okay, dad." Lukas waited for a few seconds. Bo didn't like when Lukas tried to leave mid conversation, but Bo was never clear on when it was over, so Lukas had to wait. Sometimes he was right. But most times he was wrong. Lukas took a deep breath and made his way towards the stairs.

"I'm far from done." Bo chuckled. "I won't be done for a few hours. You-" He pointed at Lukas, his finger jabbing into his back. Bo crept up behind Lukas like a monster, a dark shadow growing over Lukas and covering him up. Suffocating him. "You disobeyed me, got grounded, then disobeyed me again. I don't know whats gotten into you, but I sure as hell won't send you to bed until its gone."

The clicking of Bo's belt and the sound of leather rubbing against cloth signaled to Lukas that he wouldn't be sleeping tonight. Or going to school for the next few days. He kept his eyes trained on the floor, Bo's hot breath beating down against his neck. Bo shoved him forward.

"Turn around." Lukas was frozen. He had never done anything like this before. Bo had beat him, but Lukas' gut told him it would be worse than anything ever before. "You really suck at listening." Silence. "I said turn around! Where did all that bravery go? You snuck out and partied with that fag, but as soon as you come home you're shy?" He lowered his voice. "Turn the hell around before I do it for you and snap your neck." Bo whispered into the darkness that engulfed them.

Slowly, Lukas turned around and faced Bo. He looked up at him, staring the monster in his eyes. Lukas used to think that the real monster was Ryan, but Bo had him beat. "He's not a fag, dad." Lukas was bold to say such a thing, but he couldn't let Bo talk about Philip like that. Bo already talked about his mother horribly and got away with it. Lukas needed to change it.

"What did you say, boy?" Silence. "Thats what I thought." Bo looked Lukas up and down, like a predator taking in its prey. He backed up and wrapped the leather of his belt around his hand so that the buckle dangled freely. "Now, remember that doing this to you hurts me just as much as it hurts yo-"

In Lukas' pocket, his phone buzzed. It was a text from Philip, Lukas didn't have to look to know. Philip always texted him and asked if he got home safe. He was the one thing that made Lukas drive not so recklessly.

"Give me your phone." Bo's calm voice made Lukas' stomach tie itself in knots. "Now!"

With shaking hands, Lukas pulled his phone out of his pocket and handed it to Bo. Bo looked at the notification and scoffed, mumbling a slur under his breath before throwing the phone against the wall, the screen shattering.

"Now," Bo chuckled, tightening his grip on the belt. "Where were we?"

The moonlight caught on the silver belt buckle. A tear slid down Lukas' cheek.

-

"Have you seen Lukas?" Philip asked, rushing down the hallway after Rose. "Rose! Come on, I know I've been asking every day but I know your families love each other."

"If he isn't texting you, he isn't texting me." Rose mumbled, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "Lukas is... Lukas. I'm sure he just broke his phone and Bo won't buy him a new one to teach him responsibility or something like that."

"Its been five days, Rose. He didn't even open my goodnight text on Sunday, but Helen swore there were no accidents or wrecks and Bo didn't report him missing."

Rose laughed. "I don't think Bo would report him missing. He doesn't care." She said it too lightly. "But hes fine. Hes probably just sick. Ask if Bo is calling him in sick or something. I mean, he has to be." She struggled with her locker combination. "If the parents don't call it in, after three days they send a cop to the house to check. I would know." She flashed a smile at Philip. "I used to skip." She cupped his cheek and her nail grazed across the skin. "You worry to much."

Philip didn't bother arguing. She just didn't understand what it was like. "I'm gonna go by his house. Bring his homework and stuff. He doesn't like getting behind." Bo didn't like him getting behind. "I'll text you and tell you how he is, okay?" He gripped his backpack and turned around, already heading towards Lukas' class.

Within twenty minutes Philips backpack was filled with papers. Thankfully, Lukas had all of his books with him because of all the testing coming up. By the time Philip walked out of the school, most of the people were gone and the cheerleaders and soccerteam were already outside and practicing. He waved to the few friends he had on teams and forced a fake smile.

Philip worried more than normal, he knew that. His therapist had him get on some anxiety medicine only two weeks after Ryan was killed. With losing his mom, getting hunted down and kidnapped, and having Lukas get shot, Philip was always filled with anxiety. Most of it was irrational and he knew that, but in this case it wasn't. Bo was still violent and angry. There wasn't a doubt in Philips mind that this was Bo's doing. Thats why Philip had to go over there, he had to save Lukas. That was what they do for each other.

Bo's car was outside of the house when Philip arrived and it put a sour taste in his mouth. Bo was never home early so there was obviously something wrong. Not that the things before weren't enough. Philip made sure to walk in blind spots and stay silent considering he knew how bad Bo could get. Lukas said Bo even slapped his mom a few times, so there was no boundary. Bo wanted to hurt Philip before. He wanted to hurt everyone. Philip wondered how a boy like Lukas came from a man like Bo. There were so many differences it was unbelievable.

The house was dark against the briggt evening sky. Pinks and purples danced across the sky, the sun ducking down beneath the trees. Inside there were a few lights on. One in the kitchen and one the living room. Sadly, the light in Lukas' room was out. It would be easier if he could sneak in. Beneath his feet, dry dirt crumbled. His hands were stuffed in his pockets to combat the cold chill of winter. The boards that held the front porch up groaned beneath his weight as he walked up. The front door was cold and smooth beneath Philips knuckles. He prayed a silent prayer that Lukas would answer and not Bo.

"Philip." Lukas breathed out. It was a sigh. One filled with relief. He shoved the door open and pulled Philip into a hug, hunching down and burying his face in his neck. Philips arms snaked around him and held him close. "I love you. I love you so much."

"I know." Philip whispered. "I know, I love you." Philip didn't dare pull away. Lukas needed this hug more than he did. "I came to check on you. You've been gone for days and you haven't replied to me, I just wanted to know you were okay."

"I am." Lukas pulled away, his body going from relaxed to tense. "I'm okay, I... I-" Lukas shut up, looking back in the house. "I'm just sick. I'll be back Monday, its a wicked cold, ya know?" Lukas went pale, his eyes filled with fear. "You need to go!" He all but shouted. "I could... I could get you sick. Just... just please go."

"Lukas-" Bo's voice cut Philip off. His loud footsteps causing Lukas to shake. "Who the hell is at the door?" He rounded the corner and froze, staring Philip down. In his hands was a wash cloth, but it didn't hide his bruised and cut knuckles. Philips stomach sank. "What are you doing here?" He stepped up behind Lukas, Lukas closing his eyes and facing down.

"He has a lot of homework." Philip replied. "I wanted him to get it done so he could still practice after school. His grades are very important." He crossed his arms over his chest. "I can see I'm interrupting, but it'll only take a few minutes. I need to explain some things." Philip turned away from Bo. "Ms. More said to tell you that she misses you."

"Fine." Bo spoke over Lukas who mumbled a small "okay." "Five minutes. Lukas is sick and I can't have it spreading."

"I don't think it will be." Philip flashed him a smile. "He doesn't sound very sick or look very sick." He looked Bo up and down. "Must be feeling better." Without missing a beat he walked into the house, shoving past Bo. Lukas followed him, then Bo, who made sure to shut the front door and lock it up tight.

The door to Lukas' room was missing when Philip made it to the top of his stairs. Anger filled his body as he clenched his fists. Bo had been mistreating him his entire life but this was worse. Stripping Lukas of friends and school. Giving him no privacy. Philip was afraid to look at Lukas. He had seen Bo give him bruises, but there was something different about this time. Something far worse. Outside there was no light and when there was all Philip could see was his silhouette. Now they were inside. With shaking hands Philip stepped into Lukas' room, turned the light on, and spun around.

Lukas had a black eye and a split lip, along with a bruise on his jaw and one of his cheeks. A light bruise wrapped around his neck. Disappearing beneath the collar of Lukas' shirt, Philip could see a series of bruises and cuts, all in the same shape and size. A belt buckle. His arms were littered with bruises in the shape of fingertips. The way Lukas stood before him was heartbreaking. He was small and vulnerable. Afraid.

"I was grounded." Lukas began. "I snuck out. He wasn't asleep and..." He closed his eyes. "Its the only time hes done this. I swear. And it won't happen again. I deserved it. I was bad."

"You did not deserve this." Philip snapped. "This looks like hours of beating and abuse. This isn't you forgetting to do your chores so he takes your phone. This is abuse."

"Don't say that." Lukas was crying. Silent tears trickled down his cheeks. "Don't say that! Hes my dad!" In two steps Lukas was in front of him and slapping his chest. "Don't... don't..." He clung to Philip and fell to his knees, shaking his head. "Hes all I have."

"He isn't." Philip held him close. "And even if he was you didn't deserve this. This... Lukas, this isn't okay. You shouldn't live like this. Hes treating you like a prisoner, holding you hostage in here. You shouldn't be covered in bruises, baby. Please... please understand that this isn't your fault. You can do better. You deserve better." He kissed Lukas' forehead. "Love doesn't leave bruises."

Lukas sobbed into his chest, his body shaking. "I have nowhere to go. If they arrest him... its all over. I have no home and no bikes. Its all his. I won't have sponsors or anything. I need him."

"No, you don't. You don't need anyone. We can figure it out." Philip cupped his cheeks. "We will always figure it out." He pulled Lukas back into his chest and looked down at him. His heart broke a little more with each sob that left his boyfriends body. Had Lukas not suffered enough? It felt like a sick joke. "I'll be there the entire time."

"He wanted me to leave you." Lukas whispered. "He hates us. He hates you. He hates me." Only one of those statements hurt Philip. No father should hate his son. "Thats why it was bad. He hadn't had a reason to hit me in months and then I gave him one and he... god, Philip, it was like he was looking forward to it. Like he was just waiting to punish me for-"

"For being you." Philip finished. "Lukas-"

"He broke my phone. I couldn't call for help or anything." Lukas was breathing softly now, but his tears still stained Philips shirt. "I wanted to call. For the first time in years I wanted to. Hes been home non stop. Like hes waiting for me to do something. Like... like this is some game." He shook his head. "Hes so sick, Philip, he plays with me."

"I have a phone." Philip mumbled. "We can call Helen and tell her. Shes at home now, her shift ended an hour ago." Philip was far too eager for this, but Lukas deserved to feel free. He didn't need a man who was excited to hurt him and see Lukas submit. Sometimes, Philip thought Bo was more sick than Ryan. "I'll pack you a bag while you talk to her. You can grab a key and come back."

"Where will I go?"

"You can stay with us. Helen is a cop, it'll be okay." Philip kissed his head. "I swear, Lukas. It'll be okay." Lukas had always been afraid. Ryan wasn't the one who made him that way. Lukas' fear came from something much more early on. His father. "Come on, get up." Philip pulled away and dug out his phone.

Lukas stumbled to his feet and took Philips phone, typing in the password and unlocking it. He went to the contacts and clicked on Helens and walked towards the corner, listening to the ring.

Philip packed Lukas' bag with shirts and jeans, along with socks, boxers and sweat pants. He grabbed a pair of shoes and slipped them inside, too, nudging the other pair towards Lukas. He zipped the bag up and leaned it against the bed, freezing when he heard the stairs creak.

"I..." Lukas took a deep breath, closing his eyes. He shook his head and fell back against the wall, sniffing. He wiped his face with the back of his hand and straightened up. "Helen... hi, its me... Lukas. I need you to come to my house I..." He stared fearfully out of the room. "No ones hur-" He looked down at his arms. "I'm hurt." As the footsteps got closer he began to speak faster. "My dad beats me and I can't keep living like this. I need you. I need you to come get me. Its so bad, please-" He froze, nodding. "Okay, yeah...you're on your way? Okay. Please... please hurry."

"Times up, boys." Bo stood in the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest. "Lukas... who are you talking to?"

"The police." Philip stepped closer to Bo. "Because he isn't letting you control him anymore." He stared up at Bo, taking a deep breath. He wasn't afraid.

"What?" Bo chuckled as if he didn't have his son living in constant fear. "I don't control him. I parent him. Hes my son and hes being punished. My parents did it to me."

"And we see where that got you." Philip scoffed. "You abuse him. You hurt him just like Ryan did. You are nothing."

"Lukas, you really gonna let this faggot talk to me like this?" Bo stepped towards Philip but Philip didn't move. "I think you've been here long enough. Lukas, hang up the phone and show your guest out we need to talk."

"No." Philip replied. "You don't. Because all of this-" He pointed back at Lukas. "Is over. I am not letting you near him again." They were inches apart. "Now do yourself a favor and go downstairs and wait for the police." He glanced back at Lukas. "Or else something may happen to you. Like maybe... a fall down the stairs?"

"Are you..." Bo laughed. "Are you threatening me?"

"No, Bo. I'm telling you how the hell its going to be." Philip stepped closer. Bo backed up. "I have seen enough of what you've done to him to know that what you have for him isn't love. Its hate and its disgusting. He doesn't deserve this. He deserves a family that loves him and cares for him."

"He's my son."

"No, hes not. You don't own him, he isn't an object. You two share DNA and thats it. He is nothing like you and he never will be. He isn't a monster." Philip tilted his head to the side. "But you- I can't say the same thing. You are sick and disgusting-"

"They're almost here." Lukas called in a broken voice. "Helen said her men are pulling in. Philip..." He took a deep breath before sighing. "Its over."

"Yeah." Philip smiled as someone knocked on the door. "It is."

In the back of Helen's cop car its warm. Heat flowed out of the vents but Lukas was still wrapped in a blanket. They were talking to Bo, but he was going to be arrested. The bruises on Lukas matched his belt and the finger print outlines matched his hand. According to Helen, it was easier to lie and say they were just investigatint before arresting him. Plus, she had mentioned it makes arresting them a lot more fun. To see the light die from their eyes.

"Are you doing okay?" Philip asked. He didn't need to whisper but he did. He moved closer to Lukas, pressing his leg against Lukas'.

"I don't know." Lukas mumbled. "I should be happy but... I don't know. I feel good. I know its good. But part of me is just sad. I won't live in this house anymore and I won't be able to buy whatever I want. Its... its just a change."

"I get that." Philip looked at his lap. "I didn't hate being fostered, but I didn't love it. I knew I would go back to my mom but the change... the being passed around of it all hurt. But its okay, now. I got a family that loves me and... and its good. It becomes good."

"Yeah, I got a family that loves me, too."

"I thought you didn't love your family. That your aunts and uncles are snobby rich people." Philip smiled and nudged Lukas. "Like you."

Lukas chuckled and leaned against Philip, shaking his head. "They are but... I mean my new family." He looked up at Philip and smiled. "You're my family now." He looked back down at his lap. "Thats weird, isn't it? I mean, that probably crossed a line. What was I saying? You and Helen and Gab-"

Philip cupped Lukas' cheeks and kissed him softly, pressing their bodies together. Lukas kissed back, his arms twisting around him. They stayed like that as they kissed. Tanlged and close. It was like finally putting two puzzle pieces together. The satisfcation of two things becoming one.

"No." Philip smiled, pressing his forehead to Lukas'. "You're my family, too."