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The Shadows

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Beginnings are hard.

Particularly, beginning to figure out who you are as a person.

There was a lot pressure to find oneself, these days. Become someone.

Matt knew who he was. He knew he had blond hair and blue eyes. He knew that he liked his apples without his peels, his cookies without raisins. He knew that running the streets before the sun came out spoke to him in a way that people never had, and Matt also knew that he was defective. He wasn't normal, he somehow found himself in the reject pile off the cookie cutter press.

Matt poured himself a coffee, his fourth already and it wasn't even lunch time. He took a premature sip without caring that the roof of his mouth burned harshly and he slipped away to his office, if only to have a few spare minutes to himself. He was exhausted, more than usual thanks to the lack of sleep he'd managed to run into.

He didn't always have nightmares but when he did, he had them bad. He wasn't sure he'd actually slept since last shift, the days blurred enough so that he didn't really notice. The coffee kept him going for the most part, though the sheer amount was leaving him with shaking hands and a mind running twice as fast as normal.

Last night's nightmares were from the part of his mind, and the part of his life, that he was constantly trying to block out. He thought about it now as he leaned forward in his office chair, elbows on the desk and head in his hands, his mind drifting away to the past. The past he tried so hard to let go.

His childhood bedroom had been small, their family house had been small, the walls were thin and the drafts made Matt ill in the cold Chicago winters. He didn't invite many people home, but he had a few close friends, one in particular. A boy, one year his senior called Jamie, he had soft dark hair and a smile that always guaranteed to improve Matt's mood.

Jamie was gentle and kind, and the fact that he had the most perfect kissable lips was a definite plus. They'd been doing their homework together but being in such a small place proved to be far too distracting and very quickly Jamie was topless and Matt's pants were gone, along with his boxers. His youthful erection didn't last long, his boxers were soon a sticky mess.

Lying on his single bed they were kissing each other, grinding their bodies against one another as the door opened, slamming against the edge of the dresser, which had already seen better days.

 

"Matthew!? What on earth are you doing?" Nancy screeched at the sight that greeted her. "You, get out and don't come near my son again. Do you hear me?"

The boy scampered out of the room, not even bothering to put his shirt back on, just clutching it in his hands as he rushed away.

Matt had stood up and pulled his pants back on. "Mom…"

"You wait until your father gets home," she warned him, shaking her head.

"Please, mom…"

"Not one word," she cautioned.

Matt was standing at the edge of the bed, visibly trembling.

"You're not to leave this room until he gets back from work," she told him. Matt shook his head numbly.

"This is your own fault, Matthew," she said before turning away and slamming the door so loud that a framed school certificate fell off the wall.

It was dark by the time Matt's father arrived home from work, the thin walls that the house was made up of meant that Matt could hear his mother having words with him before he heard heavy footsteps trudging up the staircase.

The brown leather belt was already in his father's hand as he entered the bedroom. Matt stood up immediately, straight backed with a solemn expression on his face in anticipation for what was about to come.

"This has being going on for far too long," his father began as his fingers ran along the smooth edge of the leather belt, the buckle end rattled as he did.

"Dad…" he pleaded, shaking his head.

"This has to stop. Pants down."

Knowing there was nothing that would stop the inevitable Matt unfastened his worn jeans, letting them fall down to his skinny ankles.

"Boxers too," his father continued.

He shook his head. "No…"

"I'm not waiting. You did this to yourself."

"I…"

"Don't tell me it was all him. It was your fault, look at yourself," his father said, disgust on his face.

Matt pulled his boxers down and turned around without needing to be told. He bent over onto the dresser.

He bit his lip in anticipation of the first swipe. The belt landed with a loud thwack across his bare skin. Tears welled up in his eyes. The items on the top of the dresser rattled as Matt gripped onto the edge.

"Count it," his father ordered.

Blood had welled up on his bottom lip. "One…"

There was little reprieve before the leather came down again on his backside. This time he couldn't help but let out a whimper.

"Two…"

"Three…" he cried out.

"Four…"

His skin was burning and he was pretty sure he was about to pass out from the pain alone. He wished his dad would stop, he wished that he could be good enough not to need this.

"Five…"

"Six…"

Each hit brought him onto a new level of pain and suffering, each hit made him feel more guilty for what had happened.

"Seven…"

"Eight…"

Almost there, Matt told himself as the dresser continued to shake from the sheer force. A picture frame falling off the edge startled him, instantly putting more fear in his heart. It shattered instantly, sending glass everywhere. There was a slight pause, and for a split second Matt thought that maybe his father was done.

No, he quickly realized that his father had just been switching the belt around. Without warning he was struck again. He cried out in pain as he felt the buckle end make contact with his skin.

It always hurt more like this, with the hard steel making contact with his soft skin. It hurt more than the leather side and it hurt more than his father's open hand.

"Nine…" Matt choked out.

With no time to recover, Matt was inflicted with the worst hit of the day. This one started by whizzing across his rib cage, playing each bone like a xylophone, and ending by his tailbone. It came across his with such great force that Matt's footing faltered and he fell to his knees. He could feel the glass embedding into his skin, but he felt too weak to do anything about it. He bowed his head as his father just silently left, not saying a word as his heavy footsteps carried him away.

It was only after he heard him clamber down each of the thirteen steps of the staircase, that Matt finally let out a choked sob. His back was a heated, sticky mess, his knees were bleeding, and his hands shook. He let himself have a minute, just one minute to himself, before he started to pull himself together.

He took some deep breaths, wiped the tears from his eyes and steeled himself. He carefully pulled his pants up, wincing at how badly the skin on his backside stung. Then he carefully got up, stepped away from the glass, and sat down by his desk to work on his homework.

A little while later, Matt had snuck out of his room and was standing at the top of the staircase. He could hear his parents talking, and the noise of the television set in the background.

"We have to do something about the boy," his father was saying.

"Do you remember Paul from church? The Weisberger's son?" Nancy asked him.

"Hardly…"

"Well, they sent him to this camp apparently. The church gave them the details, I could speak to his mom, get all the information? Paul has a girlfriend now and he got into a good college," she said, smiling.

Without hiding the disappointment in his tone he spoke. "Matthew will never get into a good college."

"Christie will though, she's doing well," she responded.

"Yeah, and where's all that money going to come from?"

"She's looking for a part time job," Nancy told him proudly.

"We're still going to have to fund it all… community college might be a better idea, I'll speak to her," he said.

"So, I'll talk to Paul's mom?"

"Yeah, soon as possible, we can't have our son… behaving like he is, the belt isn't going to get it out of him apparently," he replied, annoyed at his son's actions.

"You used the belt…"

"We have to be firm with him," he said simply.

"Of course," she responded with a nod. "What did we do wrong with him?" she asked, letting out an audible sigh.

At the top of the staircase, Matt's heart sank and he felt tears come to his eyes. His father was right, he was too weak, he cried too much, and he kissed boys even when he knew it was wrong. Maybe this camp they were talking about would fix him. He hoped it would, but he would miss Jamie.

"We've been too soft on him, too lenient," he answered firmly.

When Matt heard movement he went back to his bedroom, wincing as his raw skin rubbed against his clothes. He shut the door quietly and grimaced as soon as he sat down on the edge of his small bed, gritting his teeth as pain erupted around his body.

His bedroom door opened, his parents never bothered to knock. He'd been stupid earlier, he shouldn't have started kissing Jamie, not with his mother in the house. It was his mom who walked in again now, holding a small plate with a single ham sandwich thrown together. She placed it on his nightstand as she sat down beside him. It was obvious he had been crying.

"Your father's gone to pick up Christie from her dance class," she told him. "But we've had a chat and I think we've come up with a solution to your problem."

"My problem?"

"This phase you're going through," she reiterated.

"Jamie says it isn't a phase," he responded.

"Jamie's parents are too liberal and he will suffer for it when he gets into the real world," she told him. "And he won't be coming over again, you also can't talk to him at school…"

"No…"

"Yes. It's for the best," she explained.

"But mom, I…"

"Your father and I are doing what's best for you, this is a valuable life lesson, your father is helping to build character, making you strong. Liking boys is a sin, you know that, yet you keep doing it," he continued.

"It just happened… I'm sorry I wasn't good enough to stop it…"

"It's ok, we're going to get you some help, everything's going to be fine, I promise."

Matt never spoke to Jamie again. A week after he had been caught with him his father dropped Matt off at St. Judes Camp for Deviants. His father left him there in the rain holding one duffel bag. The place was in the middle of nowhere, by a large lake that seemed to be infested with mosquitos. He didn't even know how long he would be there. He'd asked the priest who had shown him to a dormitory but he'd said nothing. In fact, nothing was said to him until the next morning and that was because he was still wearing his own clothes, he'd protested, exclaiming no one had told him he was supposed to change, that there hadn't even been any clothes for him to change into. He was then locked in a room for the rest of the morning, and looking back at it, that was the best part of his stay at the camp. Church Camp. That's what his parents had called it, he knew now what it really was; a gay conversion camp.

There were times he was chained to his bed at night, to stop him from touching himself, to stop him from sinning with the other boys in the dormitory. It also left him exposed to everyone who wasn't locked up, the people who were supposed to be caring for him. In the first week alone he had electroshock therapy, even inducing a seizure, all in the hopes of altering his sexual preferences and memories, he'd been left restrained to the bed, a drooling mess after the seizure, he was one of the lucky ones; they didn't do that to him again. But they did continue with the shock therapy, it didn't work though. After three weeks in their care he was given drugs, nothing worked though, nothing worked because there wasn't anything wrong with him, he didn't need fixing, but everything that happened to him meant that he would need to be fixed in the future. He'd been touched, raped, starved, whipped, burnt, even drowned. He survived and he was taken home, his parents had been told that he was cured. And the proof of his being cured? A video showing him watching gay porn, his cock uninterested, uninterested because of the drugs they'd put him on. The drugs he'd then remained on for the next two years.

Because two years later his mom killed his dad. She shot him with his own gun right in front of Matt, suspecting him of having an affair. Matt then spent the next eighteen months in and out of foster homes, and most hadn't been kind to him, in fact, none had. He came into adulthood having experienced more tragedy and heartbreak than the average American kid.

 

"Hey, you all right?"

It took Matt a moment to realise that Kelly was standing in his office doorway, smiling.

"Huh?" he responded, not knowing what he had been saying, or if he'd been saying anything at all.

"You seemed far away," Kelly explained curiously. "Are you good?"

"I'm fine."

Kelly knew he had to accept Matt's answer despite how not fine he looked right now. "You look tired, if you're not up to going out tomorrow night then I'm happy staying in, we can catch up on the latest…"

"Yeah, I uh… I don't uh... I can't."

"You can't?" Kelly questioned, he'd already been worried that Matt would back out, he'd come up with more than one excuse to get out of their first date, because Kelly wanted more than just sex and an empty bed in the morning. Eight months ago Andy's death had brought them so much closer together, they'd needed each other so much after that day, and things started to progress from friendship, but Matt was already pushing Kelly away.

"I just… I don't want to… I don't want to go out with you, not to that club, not ever…"

"What? Did I do something?" Kelly was taken aback, but he tried not to show it.

"I'm not gay," Matt looked down resolutely, picking up his mug and taking another sip of his hot coffee.

"So you sucking me off the other night was just a friends thing, right?"

"I'm not gay," Matt insisted worriedly. "We didn't even get undressed," he stood up swiftly, his voice a hushed, desperate whisper.

"I get it, you're uncomfortable, that's fine… we can go slow," Kelly responded. The only reason they'd not gotten undressed in the heat of the moment was because when Kelly had tried, Matt had grabbed his arm so hard it left a faint bruise, shooting him a deadly look. His voice was low as he warned him not to unfasten his pants, so Kelly had undone his own zipper, letting Matt take over. Matt did take over, he took over like he owned the place, expertly licking Kelly from base to tip as if he'd done it a thousand times. He took Kelly's cock right to the back of his throat, almost burying his face against Kelly's pelvis. Kelly had groaned at the warm wetness around him, throwing his head back in pleasure. Matt took it as a sign that he was doing something right, and continued at the same pace. It was only when Kelly's hand threaded through soft blond hair, pulling lightly, that Matt yanked himself away. Kelly's eyes shot to Matt, the soft sexed up look in his eyes clearing up slightly as he raised his hands in surrender. Matt apprehensively moved back and continued what he had been doing before, this time cautiously keeping an eye on the whereabouts of Kelly's hands. When Kelly had finally came to the edge, Matt had swallowed him dry and wordlessly pulled away, eyes darkened from their usual brightness. Despite not having his own relief, Matt seemed to enjoy the rest of their evening and Kelly had thought things had gone well, even if Matt hadn't been there when he'd woken up the next day.

"I don't want it to go fast or slow. It's wrong." Matt shook his head, chest tight with anticipation.

"If it's wrong then why does it feel so right?" Kelly questioned, leaning in, his lips brushed Matt's before a hard slap him hit across the face.

"Get the fuck away from me!" Matt's voice was outwardly angry, but not loud, he knew how to keep the attention off himself.

Matt shrunk back and ran a hand over his face, trying to bury all the emotions that swirled around in his head. "I'm sorry, I just—"

"It's fine." Kelly sighed, rubbing his stinging cheek, "I can take a hint."

He was left alone in his office, regretting his actions but he didn't chase after Kelly, he just sat back down and closed his eyes with a heavy sigh, at least the bunk room had been empty so no one had seen or heard them.