Jake Riles is a bully, he’s aware of it to a certain extent but he can’t stop it, these stupid fuckers don’t understand a damn thing of what his mother has got to go through to ensure that they remain above the ever crashing tsunami of debt and mortgages.
He supposes that it might also have to do with peer pressure, when it comes down to it, he’s as stubborn as the earth in some cases, but when he’s around his footy mates? He allows himself to fall into line with them, it’s complex to think about, that he thinks himself better than everyone else in the school which is also why he makes them know?
But he’s definitely had a lot of time to think in this alternate dimension, he’s noticed some things about Felix that he’s not sure what to make of, the adamant refusal to be in anything than his jeans and shirts at all times despite how bloody hot it is in the day. The way he saves food way more efficiently than any of them.
It all adds up to paint a picture he doesn’t quite want to accept, Sam has been eager to get back to his world – don’t get him wrong, so is Jake – but Felix clearly doesn’t want to leave.
It’s why one night, they’re sitting around a fire that they’ve dared to light, Andy and Sam have dozed off into a light snooze, Sam snoring like an elephant. Felix is staring at the fire with an intensity that he can’t quite place, Jake’s lips form the words many times, but he can’t quite push them out.
“What.” Felix flatly says, eyes finally shifting from the fire to Jake’s face. “You’ve been staring at me for a while.”
“Why don’t you want to go back as bad as you do?” Jake finally asks, the pressure caving his resolve in.
Felix stares back into the fire, a nebulous displacement of emotions coalescing within his eyes. “They,” he licks his lips, “hate me back there, I was the reason Oscar doesn’t have any movement in his legs and uh, they’re just so much better off without me, aren’t they?” he finishes ruefully.
Jake bites back his immediate reply of “They love you.” He knows it won’t be well received. “Y’know, when we get back there, you won’t be alone, right?”
Felix hmms non-committedly into his stolen sleeping bag, not tearing his eyes from the lingering flames.
“I mean it, if you need…” Fuck, he’s not good at the emotions bullshit, “anything, you can just ask one of us, even if we go our separate ways.”
“No offense, Jake, but you weren’t particularly nice to me before we came here, what’s to say it’ll just become the same thing hmm?” Felix challenges him.
“It won’t. I promise you.” He sits up, he licks his chapped lips, wondering whether he could ever ask.
“You’ve got to stop staring, people are going to think you want this.” Felix says, the ghost of a grin brushing over his lips.
Jake huffs a laugh, quiet enough not to wake the sleepers, “Dude, no.”
“What do you want to ask?”
“Did, they ever uh-"
“Hit me?” Felix glances askance at him. “Not quite, I don’t think telling me things and just forgetting about me, especially at dinner time really counts.”
Jake feels his mouth go dry, “You know that still counts as abuse, right?”
Felix is silent, teeth worrying the snake bites he’d put back in after their Chinese takeaway.
“Seriously, if you need us to help you all you’ve got to do is ask, okay?”
He thinks of his deadbeat dad, the arguments he and his mother had gotten into, it could have been so much worse.
“If I say okay will you stop prying?”
“Sorry.” He murmurs.
Felix let’s out a sigh, “It’s okay, you’re just being nice.” For once, is unspoken but Jake hears it all the same. “Get some rest, we’ve got to do some more exploring tomorrow.”
“After you, sleeping beauty.”
“Some-one’s gotta keep watch.” Felix argues.
“There’s no way someone could make it out here and if it is the demon, well, we’ll be awake pretty quickly I’d imagine.” Jake says, rolling over to face Felix.
The boy lets out a sigh of frustration, and curls into his sleeping bag.
“Good night Felix.”
“Night dudes.” Sam murmurs softly, enough for Felix to tense up.
“Good night guys.” Andy pipes up.
A small wave of regret courses through him, he did just put Felix’s most hidden secrets on display for the other two boys to judge.
But at least they’ll know that their goth dude will need protecting at some stage.