Actions

Work Header

Dead Weight

Chapter Text

His stomach feels empty, the bottomless pit kind of empty. The kind of empty that he knows will never be fully satisfied, always starving. Starving for food, for clean water, for just five minutes with his family and friends, sure. Maybe deep down that’s what he wants. But the only thing on Kit’s mind is drugs.

Kit hasn’t had a good high in weeks, months even. The last decent one he remembers feels like forever ago, but he’d blacked out for most of it so he couldn’t exactly remember...

He just knows it felt alright. Not as good as that first hit back in high school. Back when he was innocent and naive, and had no idea what was coming for him when that kid stuck a needle into his arm. He just wanted to be cool and have friends and maybe stop worrying so much.

And that was the case for a few months. He was in it with the popular kids. He could control his growing addiction enough that his dad didn’t notice. And most importantly, he felt amazing. On top of the world.

But as soon as senior year was done and school let out for forever, there was never a point where he wasn’t high on something. Smoking weed at parties with his friends. Stealing pills from the pharmacy where worked. Shooting meth in his bathroom with his dad asleep in the room next door.

And then he overdosed. On what, he still isn’t sure. The doctors told him he must have mixed up everything he had left and just went for it, but Kit was just happy he was alive.

Of course, then came rehab.

It still surprises him that just a few months ago he was stable: a week out of rehab and going strong, eating good, running everyday, on speaking terms with his dad.

What happened?

It’s a question that Kit asks himself everyday as he walks down the dirt covered streets of the LA slums. Past the alleyways where he could slip in a maybe grab a gram to get him through the night, if he had any money at all. Past the people who had lost everything to drugs, laying against buildings and shaking and screaming from the effects of withdrawal. That could be him one day.

Kit looks down at his arms, all bruised and bloody from the hits he’s done since he escaped rehab. Soon his arms won’t be usable anymore, and he’ll have to find other veins to use. That is, if he can scrounge up enough money to be able to hit up again.

Pulling the sleeves of his sweatshirt over his hands, a rush of goosebumps comes over him for the millionth time that night. It’s not even cold out, and yet he can’t stop shivering and yawning. Never in his life has he felt more tired, with his eyes crossing as they beg to be closed and his brain pleading for just the tiniest hit of something.

Anything will feel like enough for a little while.

Speed is what he really needs. Crystal meth. Or if he can’t find anything pure enough, he’ll take cocaine too. Just something to stick up his arm and make him feel whole again.

He knows it’s not good to shoot up, he’s already come close once to experiencing it’s fatality, but he doesn’t care. He needs it.

Kit turns the corner and down past old cruddy tenement buildings, his worn converse high tops kicking gravel as he walks, all of his brain power concentrating on not falling onto the sidewalk below him in a fit of exhaustion. Just for long enough to find some money.

Find some cash, shoot up, and then he can crash in the park. That’s his plan tonight.

“Cash, cash, cash,” he says under his breath, shivering again. The more he says it the less it sounds like a word. He stretches the “sh” sound more and more as he walks further down the road, until it’s so long he runs out of breath and it dissolves into a harsh cough.

“I have something that can fix that cough for ya.”

The voice almost scares Kit half to death, and he turns to find a woman behind him, in a big grey jacket that’s five sizes too big on her. The end of it hits the dirty sidewalk, covering every inch of her from her chest to her shoes.

In that moment Kit wanted nothing more than to follow the woman down into an alleyway and buy whatever she was hiding in the pocket of her jacket off her. He could tell by her face that she meant business, and was probably looking for big bills. Which can only mean purer shit.

“Wish I could, but...” Kit pulls the pockets of his sweatpants out to show her how much he has to spare. Which at this point is nothing.

The woman raises a dark eyebrow but doesn’t pry further. Instead, she takes out a slip of paper and the smallest pencil ever from her pocket. “Come here tomorrow. After midnight no deal.”

Kit takes the paper and slips it into his pocket with a little less grace than he was hoping for. “Deal.” He sticks his hand out. “Kit.”

“Lily,” the woman shakes gently before turning around and promptly leaving.

And Kit is alone again.

It‘s nice to talk to someone. It’s even nicer to know that if he can find some cash then he’ll get what he needs.

It always comes back to the cash. Fuck.

And, almost as if the fates are listening to him, a small black Honda pulls up to the sidewalk.

Kit watches the window roll down, a middle aged man with brown hair combed over to hide his receding hairline sitting in the driver’s seat. He says nothing, but Kit can tell what he’s looking for. And from the big watch on his wrist and suit jacket around his shoulders, he’ll probably pay well too.

He just hopes no one saw.

***

“Tiberius Blackthorn to see Ms. Penhallow.”

He almost misses the announcement over the sound of the rest of the chaos happening around him. But the way the woman draws out his first name on the loud speaker is hard to miss. Tiberius is a very regal sounding name, something you’d be more inclined to find in the index of a history textbook than sitting in the corner of the health and psychology department of an up and coming news company.

Ty has never been more happy in his life to be able to get up in that very moment, and he does so as fast as he can. Two people at the desk next to his had just started up an argument (a daily occurrence) about the ethics of abortion, and Ty knows they could ask for his opinion at any moment, one he most definitely did not want to share, and considering how heated the argument was getting, he is lucky to be able to escape in time.

As he squeezes past crowds of people and desks, Ty can’t help but begin to worry. It’s only his second week of working for The Shadow and he’s already being called down by the editor in chief herself.

Another part of his mind laughs at him for worrying; he’s barely done anything crucial for the paper so far. He was assigned a short piece about sleep tips last week, but it make it into the final issue. Of course, he knew it wouldn’t, it wasn’t even that mind blowing of an article. Just the same shit you always hear about blue light and counting sheep and white noise. The same shit no one listens to in the first place.

It wasn’t the best article in the world, he’d written much nicer things in college. But he also has a lot of things on his mind at the moment, a lot of things that almost didn’t get him the job.

Ty knows he was lucky to land this job, and on such short notice too. He knows Julian pulled more than a few strings to get him a seat in that office, what with knowing the husband of the senior editor for health and psychology (which is the only reason he got the interview) and with Helen’s wife working in another leg of the company (which is the only reason he passed the interview). He knows he’s in the prime spot any budding journalist, like him, would kill to be in. So he can’t waste it.

So far he’s felt like he’s met expectations. He arrives on time every morning and stays late to the misfortune of his sleep schedule. He’s gotten coffee for his section, despite the strong smell making him nauseous. He even befriended a very nice young women who sits at a desk in front of him, by the name of Tessa.

But what if that isn’t enough?

Ms. Penhallow’s door is shut right when he reaches it, so he raps his knuckles against the wood politely. Maybe too quietly. The noise out in the office is quite loud, with everyone busy on this week’s issue.

After a minute of no answer, he knocks again, more prominently this time.

“Come in,” says a voice from the other side of the wall, light and welcoming.

Ty doesn’t realise how sweaty his hands are until he turns the doorknob.

The first thing he notices about the executive editor’s office is how disorganised her desk is. There are papers strewn everywhere, over her computer keyboard, in piles covering every square inch of her desk. Even her garbage can is overflowing with paper, creating a waterfall-like effect to the floor.

“Hello, Tiberius. Don’t bother sitting I only have a moment before I’m getting a phone call,” Jia Penhallow says as though it’s the first time that year she’s had a chance to breathe.

“You can call me Ty,” he mutters. What is with everyone and the name Tiberius?

Jia nods absentmindedly, thumbing through a pile of papers on her desk. “I had something for you, I wonder where I put it...”

Ty feels his face heat up. She could give him anything. A late pay check, a complaint someone sent her about him, one of his old articles from high school that was probably too opinionated, a restraining order. A picture of a puppy. As of right now that’s probably the best option.

“Nope can’t find it,” Jia sighs, she knew she wouldn’t. “It was about an article I want you to write for an issue within the next month or so.

“I’ve heard from your older brother about your history with family and drugs, so I thought it’d be the best fit for you out of everyone in your department,” she pauses, folding her hands together as if thinking about how to word the next sentence. “We’ve been planning on doing something about the culture of the other side of Los Angeles. On the wrong side of the tracks, so to say. I assume you understand what I’m talking about.”

Ty just gulps and nods, trying his best to hold back tears.

“I have a handful people on hand you can interview, but not enough for the whole thing which is why this might take a while. But take your time on it, if it’s not ready it’s not ready. When it is I’d like to make it the front page of the issue.”

That’s all she has to say to make Ty’s heart stop. His eyes widen. “The front page?”

“The drug side of LA has always been something most people try to push down,” Jia continues, the light coming in through the window behind her reflecting off her pitch black hair. “But I’d like to see what happens if we shed a little light on it, don’t you?”

“But I’ve only just graduated from university,” Ty sputters, snapping his fingers absentmindedly. “I’m sure there are plenty of other people more qualified than me to...”

“You’re a fresh mind, and I need a fresh mind on this one. I have no doubt that you can do it. And if you need anything, Alec is always there to help.”

Ty thinks about Alec, strong yet soft-spoken, head of the health and psych beat. Who has a loving husband and two of the cutest kids Ty has ever seen (it shouldn’t be legal to have that many picture frames on one desk). Who has probably never seen a joint in his life, let alone touched one.

The next thing he knows, the phone is ringing, and Jia is thanking him and shooing him away as politely as possible. “Don’t forget to explore by all means,” she says, racing against the ringing phone. “And I don’t mean just on the internet.”

And then he’s on his own. With literally nothing but a spotty prompt he can only half remember.

But a bigger question looms over him: where should he start?

Chapter Text

It feels good to have cash in his pocket.

Kit found a new sense of power, taking the wad of bills from the man before they parted; like he could do anything. See the Eiffel Tower. Skydive. Take a shower. Anything. His mind is racing with excitement as he strolls down the sidewalk with a new purpose. He's not just a homeless crazy person anymore.
He has money. He should throw a party just for that. Maybe Lily will let him splurge a little at her place.

What was that address again?

Digging through his pockets, Kit's stomach twists. What if it fell put during the time he had his sweatpants off? He looks like an idiot stuffing his hands deep into his pockets on an open street corner. Luckily, no one's up and about however early it is in the morning, so he'll be safe a little longer. Until the sun rises at least.

Finally, Kit feels a slip of paper hiding under the bills, and he breathes a heavy sigh of relief.

His stomach tightens into a knot again when he realises Lily's place is quite a hike from where he is. Not on the complete opposite end of the city, but he also would much rather take the metro than risk the long walk.

Which is exactly what he does. Because when you have a giant wad of cash, what can't you do?

Only when he is safe on the empty train with a twenty-four-hour ticket and a nice cup of hot coffee to tie him over does Kit fully relax. Feeling the train rumble under his feet, he sags his shoulders and lets the feeling of warmth from the coffee spread down his arms and legs. Letting his mind wander, just a little. Subway rides were always something he liked to do with his dad when he was little, even if they were taking a round trip for no reason. He loved moving fast, hearing the screech of the brakes, seeing all the different stops from the window. There was something about it that always calmed him down, let him enjoy being the moment.

Oh my God, do you remember that time you fucked that guy in the empty subway car and made you clean up the mess?

Kit's eyes burst open, as though waking up from a horrible dream. He'd tried so hard to forget that, to forget all the times, but they always end up coming back in his worst nightmares and greatest fantasies.

Hustling is exciting, there's no denying it. Slipping into a gay bar or hopping into a random guy's car with nothing but a little hope that he won't kill you, always makes hi adrenaline pump and the sex just that much better. It's exciting and it's reckless and every time he does it he feels on top of the world. He's come this far, what else is there at this point that can hurt him?

But the horrible worthlessness that sits in his chest when it's over is just as unbearable as the hustling is inviting. When the realisation sets in that they don't care. In fact, they couldn't care less about the scabs on his arms or the fact that his ribs stick out like chicken bones.

The pain he feels afterwards is something he'll never get used to, physically and emotionally. Even though he knows it's one and done, he knows to not get attached, he still somehow manages to make it personal. There hasn't been a time where he didn't cry after they left. Where he didn't break down sobbing, thinking about where he could be if he hadn't done what he did in high school, had he been honest, had he been open. He fucked everything up for himself, he fucked everything up really good. It's almost irreversible now.

Almost.

Kit could go back home, knock on his dad's front door and apologise and make it up to him. He could go back to rehab and Twelve Step meetings and forget about all of this. It's a choice that's always sitting in the back of his mind, just sitting there, like the mysterious man in the corner of the bar. Kit could get up and talk to him, flirt him up a little bit, if he had the courage.

Finally, the train has reached his stop, the middle of who knows where, Los Angeles, and Kit is more than ready for a life-changing morning.

The address isn't far from the station, which Kit comes to find is not an apartment complex but a chain motel with a flickering sign and an almost empty parking lot. Even from where he stands, Kit can see the grime and dirt stuck to the walls. Disgusting. But there's also something gravitating him towards it. As if that's where he belongs.

Just as he's about to cross the street though, someone appears behind him.

"Hey kid, you ain't gonna find nothing good in there." The voice is tenor and raspy yet smooth, and it makes the hairs on Kit's neck stand at attention. "If you want the hard shit, I got it right here."

Kit turns around slowly, towards the direction of where the voice is coming from. He expects to find a crazed man or some secretive druggie from the movies, but instead, he finds nothing. The sidewalk is completely barren except for him. Then he notices the alleyway, dark and foreboding, and definitely not someplace where Kit wants to be if he ever dies.

Kit thinks for a second, weighing the pros and cons in his head. But really, he's already made his decision. He made it years ago, when he made the decision that changed his life forever.

"What you got that they don't have?"

***

Downtown LA smells bad. Really bad.

He's not sure what exactly the smell is, it's a very different odour than what he's used to in the hustle and bustling centre of the city, but it's not a good one. It smells like what he feels like when he's sick. And to make matters worse, the air here doesn't move, it's just stagnant. Which makes it even more horrid.

Ty writes that down on his notepad before he forgets, and continues down the street.

Addicts and homeless people must not be out much on Thursday's, he thinks to himself as he scans the street and buildings for any signs of the insane or otherwise. But it seems completely deserted, like an empty cowboy town you'd see in films. If a tumbleweed would roll across the road in front of him he wouldn't be surprised.

He's not even sure he's in the right area.

Ty wanted this to be quick, a one and done kind of article. Where he could find the fewest amount of people, get a few decent quotes that he could paraphrase, and be out of there before anyone suspicious approached. That was his plan this morning, and that's still his plan now.

But then all of Jia's connections bailed on her, which Ty suspected so, as they are all crazy addicts who shouldn't be trusted. So he had to take matters into his own hands.

He can't believe he's being paid for this.

Ty continues walking, kicking dust above his black Adidas with every step. The sky above him is a cloudy depressing grey, and he writes that in his notepad too. Everything about this place seems to be a depressing cloudy grey. He feels like a sore thumb in his pale yellow sweatshirt and black jeans. But it's not like he brought a change of clothes.

He debates sliding into an alleyway to investigate, but it only takes a second for his conscious to vote against it. He'd be raped or murdered or mugged in a second. Maybe all three at once.

Up ahead, he spots a small park, a little patch of grass with a path in the middle that once turned an intersection into a traffic circle. Maybe he can sit there for a little and compose his thoughts, think of a new plan where he can actually accomplish something.

Jia told him to take his time with the article, research and draft and the rest, but Ty wants nothing more than to be done with it. To never have to think about this horrible thing again. He's already spent years of his life in panic and distress over the issues with addiction, he can't bear to be back in that mindset again.

He doesn't even know why he agreed to do it anyways.

The intersection, like the rest of this place, is completely empty with no cars in sight, so Ty crosses without a second thought and onto the gravel path. The benches look fairly clean and sit-able, although when he does so it's not the greatest experience on his behind. But it's fine for just a minute.

Ty looks at his notebook. Almost completely blank. He sighs, watching his breath—still visible in the early March chill—diffuse into the air like a puff of smoke. On a bench across the path, Ty can see two people with smoky breathes as well, but theirs are thicker which he then notices comes from a joint their sharing.

He adds that to his notebook. Now he has three things.

Maybe he should go talk to them.

It's an out of the blue decision, not something he'd usually do on any given day, but Ty gets up nonetheless. The closer he gets that faster his heart beats. He can't remember the last time he had a conversation with someone under the influence, and to be honest he wouldn't really like to.

"Hi," Ty says with no confidence whatsoever, and he mentally cringes at himself for being so pathetic.

"If you want some you gotta pay," says the first person, a boy with the most ripped physique Ty has ever seen.

"Oh no I...I didn't, I don't-" Ty sputters, his brain a giant jumble of mush. All previously known English has flown out the window. "I-I'm...I work for The Shadow and..."

"Oh shit! Look at you, a rising journalist," says the girl sitting next to the boy, her golden brown hair flowing like a waterfall around her face. Sarcasm reeks from every word she says along with the pungent smell of weed. "Gold star for you."

"I just want to interview you. For an article I'm writing," Ty breathes, as though he's telling the world his biggest secret. At least he got regular speaking abilities back. "If that's okay."

The girl doesn't bat an eye, taking a hit from the joint before she says, "What do you wanna know?"

"Well...do you live in the area?" Ty asks, still a little uncomfortable about the whole thing, but at least he found some nice addicts rather than some psycho. Thank God he prepared the questions last night.

He talks with them for probably five or six minutes, but it feels more like five or six hours that he's standing there. And they seem fine with it, but they also look pretty high. How is he supposed to be sure they're answers are valid if they can barely sit up straight?

Finally, he's run out of questions and he thanks them before scurrying off and across the street, continuing his little journey. Investigation. What have you.

Ty walks a little more with no luck before he gives up decides to take the next subway stop back home. He's been on the scene enough that he can at least draft the article now.

He notes all the closed restaurants and stores on the way to the stop, and then a cruddy looking motel with a sign that doesn't want to stay lit. He can tell just from the outside that people must go there to do sex work and drugs. It'd be the perfect place to get a good quote. Also to die.

So he keeps walking. Another block or two and he can go home. The sound of his nice quiet apartment is very welcoming right now, where he can wash away this rank smell, and change into a comfy sweatshirt and maybe relax for a little...

Until he hears a sound. Like a cough or a gasp for air.

It's coming from an alleyway ahead, echoing off the walls. A call for help.

Ty walks cautiously towards it, the horrid smell that never left almost seeping from the opening. It's getting stronger and stronger, and Ty feels sicker and sicker, but the coughs get softer and softer...

He peeks his head into the opening and the scene he sees looks like one from a horror movie. He almost faints right there.

It's a boy, sitting against the wall, arms and legs twitching and vibrating aggressively, like octopus tentacles. And he's coughing, coughing up what looks like it might be vomit, but not what Ty's used to seeing when he's sick. A million things crash in Ty's brain at once: drugs, doctor, phone, Livvy, overdose...

Ty runs up in front of the boy, careful not to touch him. He notes the boy's arms, littered with scars and giant scabs and bruises. The left forearm has a line of blood flowing down to his wrist and onto the pavement. "Hello Can you hear me? Are you-"

And then the boy's arms and legs freeze, as though he's being controlled like a robot. Ty's heart stops, and a tear rolls down his cheek. Just from the sheer stress of it all.

It's dead silent before the a loud thud echoes around the walls and the small body falls limp to the ground.

Chapter Text

"Whatchu got that they don't?"

That's the last thing he remembers before he slips into a state of unconsciousness, a euphoric unconsciousness, where he's just floating into oblivion. Painless and yet comfortingly familiar.

And then it hits him like a slap in the face. Harder than a slap, more like a cement truck going 70 miles per hour on the highway, and he's just standing there, frozen. But not frozen in fear, frozen because he doesn't want to move. In fact, he welcomes the cement truck hurtling towards him at full force.

Until it gets too close. But by then it's too late...

Kit has no idea where Cameron is able to buy fresh rigs without getting arrested, but he decides not to think about it as he sets up a lump of clear tar in a jar. "Where's the lighter?"

"God I'm so excited," Wren rubs her hands together in anticipation from where she sits on the floor, watching Kit melt the cotton and crystal into another rig. She thinks for a second, then looks to Cameron warily. "You said this was pure, right?"

"As pure as it can be in LA," Cameron's dark eyes shine with both excitement and desperation, an expression Kit can't help but compare to that of a wild animal stalking their prey. "That's what Barnabas told me."

Kit doesn't waste any time after the rigs are ready, and he holds one upside down, flicking it to get the air bubbles out. Today has to be the best day ever, he thinks. His dad is out of town until tomorrow, school is cancelled because of a bomb threat, Cameron found a new dealer that they can't get enough of. There is nothing else that he can think of that would make this any better.

Wren rolls up the sleeve of her worn black sweater, revealing the inside of her an arm which is littered with bruises and scabs. She closes her hand into a fist, trying to make the veins pop as much as possible, but she's not so lucky. "You do me, it took forever last time."

Searching for the sunken vein, Kit remembers that night. Just last week. He'd told his dad he was going to the movies with his friends, which Johnny Rook had been quite happy to hear as Kit never talked to about anything expert sports and Johnny's job. And it's not like he was lying, they did go to the cinema. Just not with the goal of seeing a movie.

But that would be the last time they went to that dealer though. Thank God they found Barnabas or they would've been fucked.

"Pussy," Kit laughs when Wren has to look away as he shoots the speed up her arm, but he thankfully gets it on the first try.

Soon enough her eyes glass over. "Holy shit," she coughs, looking around like she just teleported to Antarctica or something. "Holy shit, holy shit, holy fucking shit."

Cameron plunges the crystal into his arm too, and he coughs for a second, letting the drugs make their way to his brain. "My girlfriend's gonna be pissed," he says, seriously at first, but he thinks about it for a second and starts to laugh softly. "Em's gonna be so fucking pissed."

And she was, he thinks to himself, slowly floating further and further away from something. Something that he wants to go back to, for some reason he can't remember. Emma was so angry that she actually broke up with him the next day. Found a new boyfriend a week later, what was his name?

Kit can't wait for the hit, for that feeling of euphoria to wash over him and make him forget all about life and the future. As soon as he finds the vein, he slams it in hard. He can feel the crystal meth shoot up his vein and to his throat as it tries to get to the gold trophy in his brain. Eyes watering, he coughs and gags on the smoke for what must be forever. But then he feels it. Like the missing piece to the puzzle of his soul.

He feels alive.

Kit sits on the couch for a minute, just relishing in that feeling of utter euphoria, finally being just about whole again. Not as complete as that first time he tried meth, but as close as he can get. He feels powerful, almost godlike. He's utterly invincible.

This is the real Kit Rook. Not whatever huge mess he is when he's sober.

"God I could go for a good fuck right now," Wren giggles, letting the drugs work their magic before slowly standing up. It's what she says every time they get high together, and from what Kit knows, she hasn't accomplished it. "Imagine how good that must feel."

"It's better than you think," Cameron nods in agreement, his eyes big and relaxed. Too relaxed, Kit notices, as the words seem to spill from his mouth without hesitation.

Kit scoffs as if on command. "As if Emma 'Goody-Two-Shoes' Carstairs would let you fuck her high."

"Who said it was Emma?" Cameron raises an innocent yet knowing eyebrow whilst Kit and Wren share a cheeky look. "Guys, it was like six months ago, don't be that surprised."

Wren shrugs. "True, you were a huge asshole six months ago."

"I'm surprised Emma made it through without a breakdown," Kit agrees, which earns him a hard punch to the shoulder, but everyone ends up dissolving into a fit of giggles anyways. Because when you're on top of the world, nothing matters but that feeling.

They're not going to remember any of this by tomorrow, Kit thinks to himself as they all calm down.

And they didn't, he thinks. Or at least until now. But there's something else about that day, something important that he's missing...

"Hello? Can you hear me?" It's a new voice, not Cameron's or Wren's. In fact, it doesn't even sound like it's coming from his brain.

It's a real voice. Talking to him in the present time.

"We have a heart rate." Another voice. Two now.

"You're in the emergency room, you're alive. Can you hear me?"

And then a bright light engulfs his vision.

The second voice comes back. "Heart rate high and increasing."

Something beeps rapidly.

"Go get Catrina, someone find the benzodiazepines, and we'll need another UV needle his veins are..."

Fuck.

Not again.

***

Waiting is the worst part. It's always been the worst part.

Sitting in the waiting room of Urgent Care, Ty's leg bounces absentmindedly as he looks around. He should have some time to get his observations together into a draft of an article, but there is too much happening around him to be able to even think straight let alone write.

He hopes the boy's okay. That's all he needs to know before he can leave. He'd feel guilty if he left now, leaving the boy alone to fend for himself.

The hospital is pretty far away from the alley where he found him.

Ty has a magazine on his lap opened up to a picture of some celebrity who's getting sued which he's staring it, but he's not actually reading the article. Instead, he's listening to a woman on the other end of the row of chairs, screaming to no one like a chicken on meat day:

"I told my son, I told him, you know what I told him? I told him next time I found him with that awful drug I was gonna kick him out! And guess what he did? He got some more! Stank up the whole house with marijuana and God knows what, let me tell you. Stank up the whole house and then stole five bottles of vodka last night! And guess where he is now? Right down that hallway, right down there. I hope he's rethinking his decisions because the next time I find him with drugs you know what I'll do? I'll..."

Ty looks to where she's pointing, a hallway that's shut off by two closed doors. He doesn't like to think about it. Where he can hear anything from a baby crying to a bloodcurdling scream to a cry of joy. He's sat in the waiting area of an emergency room one too many times, he thinks to himself.

He turns his attention back to the magazine, trying his best not to cry for the third time that afternoon. Reality has just about set in: he found that boy alone in the alley and he called 911 and did CPR. He did that. He doesn't remember helping the paramedics get the boy into the ambulance or following them in a cab, or telling the
nurse how he found him, but he knows it happened. And now he's here.

He can't help but feel fifteen years old again. Sitting with Julian and Dru and Tavvy in this same room, all of them silent and unmoving. But Ty could tell they were all doing the same thing: quietly hoping and praying that everything would be okay. But deep down all four of them, even little Tavvy, knew it wasn't. And it wouldn't be.

He remembers that day so vividly it's almost like he steps back in time whenever he thinks about it. He had his noise-cancelling headphones on, playing a Mendelssohn piano concerto on repeat that he'd been really obsessed with, his then short legs swinging over the speckled grey tile (he'd grown a lot in that 8 year time frame, and his legs are like a giraffe's now). Julian sat next to him, flipping through a magazine absentmindedly, something about home decor that Ty knew Jules had no interest in. He hadn't started dating Emma, Ty thinks, she was still with Cameron. He wonders how Cameron is now.

Just then, the doors which block the emergency room from the patients' awaiting family and friends burst open. Behind them stands a boy with a short stature of maybe five and a half feet, his blonde hair a mess on his head and hanging over his face. If Ty didn't know better he would've thought the boy went through a tornado or got struck by lightning. He seems almost extraterrestrial, his body thin and paler than a sheet of paper, and the hospital gown he's wearing hangs on almost nothing. His arms, like twigs, look so fragile, Ty is afraid they'll break with even the slightest bit of movement.

As the boy begins to stalk towards the door to the parking lot, a nurse speed walks after him, her face red and distressed. "Excuse me sir, you're not allowed to leave. I need you to fill this out and a doctor needs..."

"Fuck you, let me die alone," the boy mutters as he walks past where Ty sits, poised and alert. Ty's silver eyes widen slightly. He recognises that voice.

A security guard who comes out of nowhere drags the boy back towards the double doors, where the nurse waits with a bitchy expression. He drops the boy in front of her, tense and fuming. "I swear to God if you take me to a rehab I will..."

"Just sign this form and tell a doctor what happened and you can leave, okay?" The nurse groans. "I've been working this shift since midnight, I've dealt with enough kids like you to know you all want the same thing."

The boy's expression saddens, and despite his fragile body and soft features, this is the first time Ty has seen him look vulnerable. "I'm not a kid. I'm 22."

"Could've fooled me," the nurse rolls her eyes as she watches the boy scribble across the clipboard. "Do you have anyone who can pick you up?"

"Um...no I'm fine I'll just walk there's probably a metro station around here that I can..."

"I found him, I'll help him out," Ty hears his voice say, and before he knows it he's standing up and walking towards where they're talking. "I can take him..."

The boy turns towards Ty, his blue eyes wide and helpless. "I don't need your help I can do things myself."

"Well, you still have to see the doctor, so you have time to decide," the nurse says, guiding the boy back to the double doors. "Why don't you wait a little longer just in case?" She says to Ty, and then they're gone.

Ty looks at his watch. It's just past three in the afternoon, he has time. "Sure, okay." He says to himself, feeling like a student getting lectured by the teacher as he walks back to his seat.

The wait is long, agonisingly long, and Ty does just about everything he can possibly do as he sits quietly. Check his email. Text Julian. Fix his watch (which is always a minute fast). Reread his notebook notes. Anything to not start the article. But when the boy comes back out, looking even more haggard and unkempt than before (if that's even possible), Ty feels like no time passed at all.

The boy tucks his hands in the pockets of his sweatpants and looks around for a minute, but his piercing blue eyes land on Ty in the end.

Ty stands up as he walks closer. "I want you to stay the night at my place," he says, even though he really doesn't. "You can really use a shower."

The boy rolls his eyes. "So polite, I mean everyone should use that greeting. You could use a shower too, have you looked at your armpits?"

Ty looks down where his yellow sweatshirt is now stained with a patch of sweat under both his underarms and he shrugs. "You hungry?"

"Absolutely ravenous," the boy replies, as though he's got nothing left to lose.

Chapter Text

He's a lucky little fucker and he knows it. Anyone in the slums would kill for a chance like this. Free dinner and free place for the night just handed him on a silver platter. Opportunities like this don't happen every day for a person like Kit.

Which is why he's also taking full advantage of this guy's hot water, celebrating in the fact that he doesn't have to pay for it.

He's smiling. Despite the boiling water that burns as it hits his skin and the sears the cuts on his inner elbows, his lips curve up into an actual smile. He even chuckles to himself softly. Something that hasn't come naturally to him in a while, and it makes him feel good. Not in the way a gram of speed up his arm would make him feel, but it's good enough.

Kit knows he shouldn't feel this good about doing something so cruel. He tricked this kid-this small naive kid who probably just graduated from college and definitely doesn't know his rights from his lefts-into doing all the work for him. But he also doesn't regret it.

It feels good to take a shower after months broke on the streets. He turns the water as hot as it will go, letting himself feel the burning sensation as the drops hit his neck and fall down his back. Letting himself breathe, in and out, in and out, and let the memories of the last couple of hours wash down the drain with the water. Lily. The subway ride. Urgent care. Whatever the hell that flashback was.

He thinks about it now: that day with Cameron and Wren at his house. The ending is on the tip of his tongue, but he just can't quite put the pieces together...

Something's missing. And it'll make him go crazy until he finds out what happened that day. His gut is telling him it's something important, something that changed his life, or if not him then someone else's. It's all that he's been thinking about since he woke up in the hospital, through the checkup and the Uber to this kid's flat. That ride felt so long, Kit's not even sure they're in California anymore.

Kit shrugs his shoulders as if that will make him forget and squirts the whole bottle of dollar store shampoo onto his hands. Soap burns his eyes and nose as he rinses, but at this point, he has become numb to most pain. He scrubs his head until his fingertips come back red, and not just from how hot that water is. He can barely feel the water trailing down his back anymore.

Finally, he has to turn the water off, and Kit steps out of the shower and into a sea of water vapour on the other side of the curtain. The mirror on the opposite wall is covered in a layer of water, but Kit can't even see it through the fog that already hangs in the air. He bends down to blindly search for a towel on the ground and wraps it around his waist, but his actual clothes are nowhere to be found. He left them on the floor near the sink so they have to be...

Out of nowhere, a loud bang echoes off the walls that sounds like it came from another dimension, and immediately after Kit stumbles back in shock, a burst of pain blossoming on his forehead. Fucking hell, he rubs the spot, frustration and embarrassment overwhelming his thoughts. Can he be any louder?

As the fog slowly parts though, he comes to realise that the white tile floor is completely bare. There is no sign of his clothes, underwear or otherwise.

And then everything clicks, and Kit has to slap himself in the face for being so stupid.

Of course, this kid is some psycho perv, Kit shakes his head in disbelief. He felt a little apprehensive during that Uber ride, the kid kept staring at him weirdly. Obviously, he was sizing Kit up.

The adrenaline from when he hit his head against the sink counter dies down, and Kit sighs, the realisation of what's going to happen settling in. He hopes he'll at least get paid well.

Kit turns towards the door just get it over with, but instead, his eyes catch his reflection in the mirror and he stops to look. For the first time in months. And what he sees makes him do a double take.

He looks totally different, as though he's a Pokémon and has evolved into a higher level. He looks like he's aged significantly, but at the same time he still looks like he's eight. His blonde hair is longer than what he remembers it to look like, the light locks hanging around his face and falling over his eyes. His shoulders and chest are less fattier, in consequence to having not eaten a real meal since a trip to McDonald's maybe two weeks ago. In fact he's so thin he can see his bones protruding through his almost transluscent skin. His collar bones look like staircase banisters, his rip cage like a xylophone. His arms are dull pencils with eraser tops that scratch the paper more than they erase anything. His cheek bones poke out in almost a birdlike way. He looks completely different, scarily so. Like he just went through months of plastic surgery or something.

With one last sigh and a check to make sure his hair isn't too messy, Kit opens the bathroom door and walks down the hallway, sure to add a little sway in his hips with every step. He hates this already.

"I don't know if you have some weird kink where you steal the other guy's clothes or something, but I don't consent unless I get my pants back afterwards," Kit says with a slightly sultry tone, trying his best to get a tip included. But his act is stopped short when he sees the kid setting up what looks like Chinese takeout on a little folding table.

The boy looks up from where he's setting chopsticks at either end of the table, his eyes full of so much innocence it makes Kit nauseous. "Sorry, I...did you say kink?"

***

He shouldn't have washed the boy's clothes.

He knew even before he did it that is was going to be a bad idea. But the lock on his bathroom door doesn't work right, and Ty knew it was a sign from an all-powerful being that it was fate. He just had to. Besides, the boy stank. Like some ungodly smell that Ty doesn't want to ask or think about.

Who would've thought the kid would've gone straight to pervert when he found out?

It scared him, when the boy walked out with that flirtatious look in his eye. And despite a little curiosity, Ty knew from the first second it wasn't genuine. Of course he was putting on a show. But it seemed like something this boy has done before, many times before...

And so dinner was awkward. It had to be, there was no other choice. They sat in complete silence the entire meal, the only sound coming from the soft clinking of chopsticks occasionally. It was so awkward in fact, that it still makes Ty cringe thinking about it now. Five hours later, laying on his bed, face toward the ceiling, completely still.

He falls asleep like this everyday. His whole body, from his legs to his back and up to his head, in one straight line. Arms at his sides, palms up. Eyes gently closed. Slow breathing. In and out. Feeling his chest rise and fall, like waves falling onto the sand.

It's the one thing he learned from the one yoga class he made himself go to during college. When the stress level was so high, Ty was almost sure he'd never know what sanity was like. He almost dropped out from the stress alone.

Livvy saved him. It's the truth, plain and simple. He thought about Livvy, and what Livvy would say and how she would feel if Ty just dropped everything and moved in with Julian again. She would've been so disappointed. He could almost hear her voice in his head, still lithe and airy and exactly the same as it was when she was young. They had a plan to go to college and live together in LA, to figure everything out together. That's what you do when you have a twin, someone who's going through the same issues you are at the same time, someone you know you can always lean on and who will always be there for you. So Ty put all his energy into that plan, every waking hour was spent with Livvy. And it only made their bond even tighter.

And then one day, completely out of the blue, she was gone.

Ty doesn't remember much about that day, but one thing he will never forget is the car. The culprit: a silver pick up truck with a broken window and a dent on the back left corner. Driven by a boy who Ty can't remember the name of with sandy brown hair and coffee eyes. And then, a second later, a blood stain on its hood, and  for the first time in his life, Ty was alone.

Ty shakes his head, the memory drifting away, and he's back on his bed, a breeze coming in through his open window. Thinking about that day makes him sick to his stomach. Think about something else, think about something else...

That kid is so skinny.

Under the sweatshirt and baggy pants, you can't really tell what his body shape is, which made Ty all the more shocked when he walked out of the bathroom with only a towel around his waist. He looks almost alien-like, with his skinny arms and long fingers. Or like a frail doll kept in a glass box to keep him safe.

Ty still doesn't know his name. Not that he needs to, tomorrow morning he'll be gone. And everything can go back to normal...

There's a thump outside of his room. It sounds heavy, low, ominous, something out of a horror movie trailer. Ty sits bolt upright, his wide eyes shining silver against the moonlight coming through the window. It's silent for a long moment, and then again.

Thump.

It sounds like it's coming from his floor. Right outside his room.

And in that moment, Ty regrets everything. Of course this kid is gonna steal all his money and take off, he shakes his head, balling his hands into fists out of anger. He shouldn't have been so naive.

Swinging his legs over the side of his bed, Ty's bare feet touch the cool wood of the floor before he pads down the hallway to find...

"Oh shit!" The boy looks up from where he's slipping his sweatpants on like a deer in headlights,

"What the...?" Ty gasps, eyes squeezing shut to try and have a little respect for this kid.

The boy slips on his pants. "Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you. I didn't want the dryer to beep or anything so I just took them out..."

"No, no it's fine don't worry," Ty sighs in relief, laughing softly at his rash decision making, when all this kid wanted was his clothes back. "I thought you were stealing my wallet or something."

"Oh no, I'm not one of those guys, don't worry," the boy laughs politely, giving Ty the t-shirt and checkered pyjama pants he borrowed. "I never...got your name."

Ty smiles crookedly. "Oh, yeah. I'm Ty."

"Kit," the boy replies, combing his hair out of his eyes with his fingers. "Well, I should get going, I don't want to bother you anymore. Thank you for..."

"No, I...can you stay just another day?" Ty blurts before he can think twice, his mouth working faster than his brain. "Sorry, that sounded weird but...I work for the Shadow, and I'm..."

"The what?" Kit asks with a hint of skepticism.

"It's an up-and-coming news company, and I'm doing an article about the drug life of LA..."

Kit crosses his arms and groans. "Oh God, I know where this is going."

"Can you shut up and let me finish?" Ty snaps. It's too late for this, he thinks. "Do you mind if I interview you? Tomorrow?"

It's silent for a minute, and Kit scratches his chin as if he's pondering deeply. "I'll do it for forty bucks."

"Fine, whatever," Ty rolls his eyes, his mind raking to try and remember where he last had his wallet. His brain is full of activity and thoughts running a mile a minute, already making a list of questions for Kit to answer. "I'll call my boss tomorrow and tell her I'm going in the field or something," he turns around, muttering to himself...

"Or why not just do it now?" Kit asks cooly, sitting on the couch and crossing his legs. “I mean, if you have to work tomorrow, I’ll get out of your hair a soon as possible, right?”

Ty turns around, looking into Kit’s deep blue eyes with a little excitement. “Let me get my notes.”