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the red, the black, and the boy

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The linoleum on the kitchen floor has started to peel, the latest attempt to glue it down failing miserably. Wade Wilson trips over it on his way in, socked feet stumbling, sliding before he slams into the counter, both knees banging into the drawers under. He lands flat on his ass. “Great fucking start,” he mutters, rubbing the injured area as he stands, shaved head catching the chilly morning breeze that creeps through the ceiling.

He grabs a bowl from the sink, rinses it out, and determines that good enough. It’s one of the only dishes they have left, probably because its plastic, and can’t be broken upon being hurled into a wall. Or a person. There are so many dings in the walls from broken pieces of dishware that half of the house is just buckets of spackling.

Though, saying house is a kind way to put it. It’s more like a shed. A dilapidated shed. A dilapidated shed whose heat only works when Wade kicks the only remaining radiator and threatens to curse its family for the rest of eternity unless it starts making that tea kettle noise and warming up.

He pours stale cereal into the bowl and eats it with a plastic fork from last night’s leftovers. It looks clean enough, even if it tastes kinda like Chinese. Maybe that’s a good thing, considering the cereal is well past its due date, and tastes mostly like dried corn instead of sugar-infused goodness.

The front door slams. It shakes the house with its force, and Wade stiffens. Over time, he’s come to learn the different door slams. A soft click and the grunt of the lock meant it was a good night. Maybe he even did a few deliveries, made some cash, and Wade wouldn’t be in charge of keeping the lights on.

The slight slam meant he was on edge. Wade had a few options when those happened. He could hole up in his room and pretend he didn’t hear anything when he heard every muttered curse word. He could also slip out the back door and leave him to his own devices, break into the easily-break-in-able library, and sleep there until he heard the librarian come in. Or, if he was feeling optimistic enough, Wade could distract him until he fell asleep, and then drag him up to bed. But those days were rare, and it was much easier to pretend like he lived in the library instead.

On shaking the house nights, it was already too late. Especially when those nights were actually in the early morning hours. Because those slams meant Papa Wilson was still high off whatever hit he had taken the night before, and he liked to throw . That included his only son. Wade’s scalp still hurt from when the bastard grabbed his hair and tried to pull it right out of his head. Fucking asshole. Cue the clippers after that particular incident.

So, even though it’s an hour before he has to leave for school, Wade Wilson slings his backpack over his shoulder and quietly leaves through the back door, leaving his cereal on the table. He lives in a more rural area, and the nearest Tim Horton’s is a mile in the opposite direction, so he treks on, coffee-less and fucking grumpy about it.

Somewhere between learning to avoid his father’s mood swings and entering senior year, Wade had grown. Not in a let’s mark the wall! kind of way. It was more of a growing pains fucking HURT kind of way. He’d shot up from 5’9 to inches over six feet, and as he grew, so did the rest of his body. Where he was slightly defined was now muscle, shoulders that once had a hunch now broad and strong. People got out of his way now instead of having to push through the crowd. He had presence .

That same presence is probably what got his ass thrown into detention. That, or the kid he shoved into a locker. He (mostly) succeeded, anyway. What can he say? The guy was being a dick towards Laura, just about the only person Wade tolerated at school. So what if he broke a fucking finger or two? Big fucking deal.

When he strolls up to the school, only the people with morning clubs are there. Wade turns the corner into the ally with the dumpsters, hops on one, and jumps to reach the fire escape. It’s the old one that the school hasn’t bothered to take down yet. Every year they swear they’ll get to it, but the funding goes to the football team instead.

The fire escape is rickety and creaks against his weight, rust coming off in his hands. It takes one good pull-up to haul himself onto the first platform, and then it’s an easy climb. The gravel on the roof meets his fingertips, and something akin to a sigh escapes Wade. Because this? This is his safe space.

Up here, he can feel the gentle fall breeze against the buzz of his hair. The wind caresses his skin, holds him in a way no parental arms ever did. He can see the horizon from up here, and for once, just one measly minute, he can relax. The muscles worked into knots unknit themselves, melting back into place. The crick in his neck is finally rolled out, the hunch in his shoulders smoothed. Up here, he can breathe .

What Wade loves the most, though, is that it’s quiet. There’s no screaming, no yelling, and the flick of a lighter doesn’t follow him here. The harsh sound of a fist to his face can’t find him. The fingers that tremble when his father throws and throws and throws anything he can motherfucking find, are finally still. The only thing on the rooftop is the lingering sunrise, the chirping birds, and the gravel digging into his ass. And the tennis ball that somehow got lost up here. He grabs it and spins it in his fingers, following its movements until it’s a blur.

It’s only a half-hour later when his phone dings. Honestly, until then, he thought he’d left it at home. It doesn’t go off very often. He only has four contacts and two of them are fast food places. It’s an older model. The screen is cracked, speakers halfway to busted, and the microphone is hanging on by a thread. Still, he swipes the screen so he can see the text. Of course, it’s from Laura.

Laur: Got you a present!!

Wade: please say its a nude

Laur: Jesus, Wade. Those are for Fridays. It’s this!

Wade isn’t exactly sure how he found Laura. Maybe it was in detention. Laura tended to have a habit of breaking campus rules. Or breaking campus. She’s an artist, and tags anything she can. She also has great aim, and an amazing knack for throwing rocks through the windows of all the shitty teachers. Pretty terrible at running, though. She’s lucky the school hasn’t pressed charges.

She’s almost six feet tall, but small in the way Wade isn’t. Where he is broad and thick, Laura is slim and wiry. She can still throw a mean punch though, and Wade’s experienced that directly. And for someone who always makes sure her afro is perfect, she was still the first one to support him in shaving his own hair. They have the same fucked sense of humor and she always introduces him into cool music. Actually, maybe Wade didn’t find Laura. Maybe Laura found Wade. Either way, she’s just about the only person he can fucking stand to be around.

Whatever image Laura was trying to send finally comes through, and Wade looks at his phone again. It’s getting close to the time he needs to climb down, and he debates skipping the first few periods. He’s not good at math or history anyway.

Laur: Do you like it!!!

He takes in the image, and it’s one of a piece of tupperware. The lid is off, and inside, there’s a piece of food waiting for him. He knows instantly what it is, and his tongue starts to salivate, because Laur’s ‘Buela makes the fucking best chimichangas.

Wade: fuck me dude! thanks!

Laur: Don’t thank me! Abuela was in a cooking mood, she made cookies too! I sorta begged her since she hates making that Tex-Mex shit or whatever, so you better like it.

Wade snorts, his fingers halfway through typing a response, when another text from Laura comes through.

Laur: I know you’re up high, but don’t miss first! I hear there’s a new student.

She sends the eyes emoji with it, and then the purple devil face. She’s a big fan of emojis. There’s a crack in the screen right where the button to press the emoji keyboard is on his phone, or else he would send her inappropriate ones. And then she would hit him. Hard. But that’s just how they worked.

Wade lets his phone fall dark, and enjoys the last of his peace before climbing down. That was another thing about Laura he liked. She never came looking for him up here. Just like he never went down to the rocks by the river for her, she never clambered up to the roof and shattered his private space. Sometimes, they needed to be alone, and they both respected that.

The school bell rang above him, a dull monotone that was supposed to be a different pitch from the one-minute warning bell but was really just exactly the same. He jumped down from the escape and landed smoothly on the dumpster lid, easily coming down from there and entering through the front doors.

The security guard raises a brow at him. “On time today, Mr. Wilson?”

He resists the urge to flip the guy off. Barely. Mostly because two more detentions earns him in school suspension, and he cannot fucking stand the other students in that dumbass punishment. One of them likes to set fires. To everything. “Yep. You know me, a timely boy. Just right on time every day, like a routine. Never see Wade Wilson be late to anything ever bec–”

“Thin ice, Wilson.” The guard drops the Mr. and Wade can at least smile at that.

Laura crashes into him halfway to first hour. She’s wearing her glasses on top of her head, though Wade wonders how they stay on with all her floof. “Heard from Tammy who heard from Resha who heard from the other Laura, y’know, the faker, that there’s a new kid today.” She repeats what she’s already told him via text.

“So you went on Facebook for the first time in a year, huh?”

She gives him a swift punch in the arm. It’s meant to be playful, but Laura knows he can take it so she doles it out hard. Wade doesn’t mind. To pay her back, sometimes he sabotages her buying beer, because while they’re both under eighteen, almost no one asks for his ID.

Laura takes her glasses of her head and plops them into her bag haph-hazardly. “Maybe. What’s it to ya?” But there’s a smile in her words and all of a sudden her white teeth are pointed at Wade.

It took him awhile to get used to Laura’s smiles. They’re bright and sunny and take up her whole face. They sparkle in her eyes and put a crinkle in the corner of them. There’s not much smiling in the Wilson household. He doesn’t like to think of his father’s smile, because it isn’t like Laura’s. It doesn’t come at the right time and it doesn’t make others turn their own lips up. His smile is that of a snake’s: cold, detached, and expertly deceiving.

“I’m hoping it’s someone hot,” Laura sighs, grabbing Wade’s arm. He lets her.

“It’s high school. No one’s hot. What is this, a shitty remake of Teen Wolf?

“Hey! I, a hot person, take offense to that.”

They turn into history. Wade’s seat is in the very back, by the window, so he can look out of it instead of paying attention. The seat in front of him is empty because his legs are too fucking long and he needs to stretch. It’s the only empty seat in the class, but he’d be happy to kick whoever’s ass wants to sit in it.

Laur sits more towards the front, because she’s actually a good student and can’t have Wade distracting her. She sits with Samira. Samira, who seemingly has a never ending scarf collection because Wade has never seen her wear the same hijab twice, and who actually reads the textbook assignments. Wade and Samira are not friends. Maybe if he actually knew which textbook he was supposed to be reading on a daily basis they could be, but he doesn’t, so they’re not. Laur’s enough for him anyway. He doesn’t really have the emotional capacity for much else.

There’s another kid next to him today. It changes often. It’s like the other kids draw sticks to see who has to sit next to him that week. He kinda hates it but also kinda loves it too, because if he looks at one of ‘em funny he gets a free set of pens or possibly even a notebook. That week, he fishes out a broken pencil from the bottom of his bag, slaps a piece of printer paper on the desk, and then looks out the window.

Papa Wilson didn’t graduate high school. Wade himself is barely scraping by, but he’s determined to beat that son of a bitch at something, so he’ll make it past high school. He’ll get his diploma and then...well he hasn’t thought that far ahead but he’ll definitely do something exciting.

The kid next to him shifts away a little bit. Wade resists the urge to roll his eyes. Instead, he brings them to the front of the class. The teacher has long since given up on trying to get him to participate. But today, she’s not giving Wade the royal evil eye. Instead, she’s over by the entrance, leaning slightly against the frame, blocking whoever she’s talking too.

Laura looks back at him and wiggles her eyebrows before turning back to Samira, who’s writing quickly on very small notecards. The teacher, Mrs. Farside, seems pleased with whatever has been said because she turns towards the door, and waves whoever it is in.

The class goes still when Mrs. Farside clears her throat. Whoever she was talking to finally steps into the classroom. Wade catches a glimpse of bright eyes and obviously dyed hair, a smooth silver with dark brown roots just starting to show.

The new student has arrived.

It’s a boy.