The Ground Wasn't First
It wasn't the first time he'd seen him.
The face with its defined lines and somewhat angular jaw was something John had bared witness to before. Freckles decorating the bone of his nose, laying there like rain droplets which faded out towards his cheeks. Eyes the darkest of brown, seeming almost black and infinite. Worth drowning in. He wanted to lose himself in them the same way that the Ark had lost itself between the stars.
He had seen Bellamy before the dropship, before earth and before the whole 'fear-for-your-life' shit. Back then he had worn the Arks guard uniform. Black cloth stretched over muscles, thicker padding covering the more sensitive areas of his body. It was the simplest of protection but also the only required. No one but the guard had access to the sacred vault with its guns and rifles, so the only thing they really needed protection from was blows in the form of fists and feet from the poor bastards whom they arrested. The same poor bastards which - if over the age of eighteen - were thrown into the airlock chamber.
The airlock chamber was a barbaric invention with two openings. One of which allowed the sight of crying family members, shaking in their sorrow and the hard, unyielding face of the chancellor as the button of one’s doom was pushed. The other of the two was a glass window to the darkness which much like the predators of literature, laid in waiting outside. By the press of a button the window would slide apart, throwing whomever was inside into the awaiting abyss. Allowing invisible pressure to squash them into a bloody mass, allowing every vein to rapture, burst with a force that pushed red liquid out of every opening. Turning humans into replicas of old, American fireworks.
Scaring witnessing eyes forever.
Exactly what John were doing in this part of the giant space vessel that he was born in, he didn't know. One thing had led to another and the pathetic situation he found himself in - one that funnily enough was his life - wasn't exactly ideal.
His mother had passed away two years ago, he had outlived her with his - then - pitiful fourteen years. The smell of vile moonshine forever burned into the sense of his smell, a prickling sensation somewhere under the bridge of his nose, scratching and clawing, always making itself known along with the biting taste of bile which never left the back of his mouth and made him want to bite of his tongue and spit it out.
She had left him amongst the many stars with words that had scarred his young mind far more than he was willing to admit even in the solitude of his own mind.
His mother’s final words had spoken of things which he already knew to be true. He knew exactly what he had caused, that what he had done rested on his narrow shoulders and his alone. He knew of the agony he had caused and that his existence was the source of it. But having these words spoken by his mother. Hearing her slurred voice piece the sentence together, trying so unbelievably hard to bend her tongue in the right directions. The energy she had put down for that one sentence. It made everything in his surrounding sharp and edged. And while life felt like walking through a world of scrap metal and razor blades, his skin had felt overly sensitive. Hurting and bleeding to the touch.
The loneliness had driven him into the arms of less agreeable people. He had wrongfully thought that the people aboard the Ark were of the nicer kind, much like his own parents had been before. Before him. He'd thought they would view him as a poor orphan and that their kindness would have no price. Oh, how beautifully wrong he had been.
His massive error had not been fatal, though it had taught him a valuable lesson. Nothing in this world came for free, not even the air and trust was a luxury no one could afford. Certainly not him. His own parents had after all - in the end - forsaken him, so why would strangers - whom really had no reason to care for him - be different?
The many favours he made himself liable for were the kind that required energy. They consisted of an endless running, hiding in ever crock and corner from the ever presently guards in order to keep what little life he had intact.
Sometimes the never ending list of owed favours had a bit of a setback. Plans would sometimes fall apart or change, leaving him - from time to time - more in debt or in other cases, foodless.
As per usual when shit hit the fan and John were left without pretty much anything, the goal for the day was simple.
Whatever he came over would be sufficient as long as it could silence his stomach, put a lid on the awful sound which left his midsection every now and then, bouncing between the metal walls of the Ark and attracting attention that made his skin crawl and the desire to shy away, hugging shadows, almost irresistible.
The door to someone's quarters had been left open, tempting whomever passed to look inside. Through the open crack a table was visible and on it a plastic card, looking much like his own missing rations card. It was something that he could get food with. It would leave the rightful owner without his or hers rations, at least for today but it would also give him a real meal, give him food for the day. John hadn't hesitated. With his slender frame he had snuck between the hard surface of the door and the cold wall. He'd crept into the room which had been empty and dull. The hard metal walls a light blue, almost white in its colour.
The table stood in the middle of the room. John glanced over his shoulder quickly, making sure no one had seen nor followed him. Having eyes witnessing what he was about to do, would not work in his favour. Emptiness stretched behind him, seeming endless and loud.
The floorboards beneath his feet creaked, one more than the others. It made a sound of worn down metal, wavering the tiniest bit, just enough to let on how old the ship really was. The sound wasn't therefore unusual nor unexpected. The Ark was, after all a hundred years give or take. It was bound to be in less than pristine condition.
John stood leaning over the table, starring down at the card before him. With a smooth movement, a flick of his wrist, he picked it up and brought it to his nose.
He was meet by a face. A woman whose last name was Blake, starred back at him with lifeless and stiff eyes. Her hair hanging limp bellow her shoulders having the same colour as thick, dried blood. Much like the walls surrounding him, she had once been colourful and bright but had with the years been worn down. Despite this, it was obvious that she had once been very beautiful with her brown eyes and high cheekbones. A face drenched in light dots which centred mainly around her nose.
Disappointment washed over him, hot and heavy. Weighing him down. With a speed eerily similar to the quick flicker of lights, disappointment changed into anger. It clawed its way up his throat, squeezed and pushed against his airways. Leaving him almost lightheaded and unable to swallow his own spit. It burned the tissue somewhere underneath his scalp, tearing at his nerves and going through every joint in his body as it worked its way through him from head to toe.
It was an ID card.
He gritted his teeth together when yet another sound left him. His stomach sounding pathetic, almost pleading and yet so very annoyed. The loud sound brought tears of frustration to his eyes, an angry wetness he would never allow to leave his sight and run down his cheeks. Cursing himself for his own stupidity, John placed the card back on the table.
He was better than this, knew better than to be so naive as to think someone would leave something of such importance behind. At sixteen years of age - at least that's how old he thought he was by now - he knew the past two years had passed in a blur, keeping track of what day it was had been harder than he remembered but he knew enough of this life - of life on the ark - to know that his behaviour had been irrational, impulsive and utterly stupid.
John turned around decisively, determination making his body stiff and rigid as his hands clenched into fists. He moved to sneak out the same way he'd snuck in, prepared himself to move back towards the mess hall instead. Maybe, if he were lucky he could steal some leftovers or better yet, steal someone's rations card. He'd barley moved through the opening before someone grabbed his upper arm, fingers squeezed his scrawny arm with such pressure he was sure all blood flow to his fingers would cease. He was then shoved violently against said, unknown person.
He felt as if though he couldn't breathe. Breathlessly and with a heavy weight laying on his chest, his head snapped upwards in shock.
Blue eyes which had previously been glued to the floor, starring through it in their task not to allow tears to fall, were now met by the strangers brown bottomless eyes who had a face with light brown flecks covering his nose. It made him look greatly aesthetically pleasing to the eye, almost fragile looking in his beauty. Moving his gaze towards the man’s lips, John could see them curl in disgust as the man hissed something his ears couldn't comprehend. A shaking movement from his arm caused his whole body to rock back and forth. The movement provoked his senses into coming back to life and with them, reality.
This person, this stranger, this man.
Was. A. Guard.
A guard that didn't exactly look pleased with him, he shook him a second time and a growling voice made its way to his ears. The guard had a voice which sounded like a broken engine or maybe like an animal - if the books his father had read to him by his bedside as a child were anything to go by - there simply were no other way to describe how something that sounded so terribly gentle and sensual could have such a hoarse undertone, a bite which vibrated the air and pushed against John's own body.
The guard couldn't have been much older than him, he was eighteen at least, that much was clear. Maybe even nearing his mid-twenties.
"I asked you a question" the guard growled again, sounding as if he had something stuck in his throat, speaking through clenched teeth even though his lips moved freely.
John swallowed hard, still feeling as if he had a giant ball of something covering his airways, choking him. Once again he lifted his gaze, starring into brown eyes which devoured the whole world. He could feel a prickle in his lower back. It grew slowly into a stabbing sensation that pushed against him, wanting to force the muscles in his body to bow before it, daring a chill to climb up his back and toss him around. He barely managed to suppress the urge to yield, give in. Succeeded only because he flexed the muscles in his back until it physically hurt.
He'd fought before, he was no stranger to the familiar sting of a punch. Punching this man would therefore not be a difficult task. His move would probably be unexpected, it would leave the guard in shock and John free to run and hide.
It was also really not a great idea nor a long term solution. There were simply only so many places one could hide in before the guard found you and once they'd find him, he would be dragged to the Skybox as all the other delinquents before him. He'd be forced to live in a metal box until his eighteenth birthday before they'd throw him into the airlock chamber as they had his father. There wasn't a chance in hell that they would review him and let him go. He was a nobody. No family, no friends, no nothing. He had no knowledge of anything and had never learned to master any profession besides that of his anger and later, theft. He had nothing to offer the Ark and was therefore unimportant. A burden more than anything. He simply wouldn't be worth keeping.
"You what?!" Seeming more irritated than before, the guard glared down at John who swallowed nervously yet again. "I-I just wanted t-to look, p-promise" he answered, voice trembling as he spoke and his tongue heavy and awkward in his own mouth. Though some of his action - as usual - was an act, his voice betrayed how much the situation really bothered him.
He raised his hands palms up as much as he would with what limited blood flow he had in his right arm. Eye contact became too much and when his skin started to crawl blue eyes instead slid down the broad chest before him. They stopped at a simple little name tag right over the guard’s breast pocket. Bellamy Blake.
His stomach turned immediately, flipping so violently that it made him nauseous. Bile pushed against the lump in his throat, leaving a bitter taste in his mouth and threatening to choke him.
"Look" he said, all acting now almost gone and the panic edging his voice loud even to his own ears. "I wasn't going to take anything, I-I swear" he tried desperately to talk himself out of the situation even though he knew it to be futile. Just as he was about to open his mouth again, his stomach chose to interrupt with its loud grumbling. It cut through the silence like knives cut through flesh, leaving nothing but awkward silence behind.
Something in the brown eyes shifted, turned into something else entirely which he couldn't place. The guard sized him up and nervousness chewed along his nerve endings. "Yeah, okay. So that was a lie b-but I-"
"When was the last time you ate something?" The question shocked John not only to silence, but to the point where his chin threatened to fall of his face and hit the floor. Had the circumstances been different he'd found pride in his ability to keep still, as it was he was unable to do anything at all as reality held him a bit preoccupied.
"I-.." John licked his lips and lowered his hands slowly. "Uh... I don't-" he couldn't answer. Not because he didn't know, but more like he wouldn't. It was to personal. Got to close. Hitting to close to everything he wanted left untouched.
Hot-headed as he was, he tried to rip his arm away only to have the hand gripping it, gripping harder.
"You know what" John spitted out, face twisting with anger. "Fuck you" he tried pulling his arm free again with no success. "Just take me to the box" he wanted it to be over and done with. Whether he admitted to planning on stealing what he'd thought to be a rations card - the guard's mother's rations card to be exact - would not make a difference.
The hand loosened but never fully let go. A smug grin tugged at the corner of the man’s perfect lips though his gaze remained hard and unforgiving.
John wanted to bash his beautiful face in with his first. Wanted to wipe that smile clean of his face.
Yet again he was pushed to the bottom of the food chain by some asshole who thought himself better than him.
"Don't ever come back here, next time I see you, you'll be sleeping in the Skybox, got it?" the guard sounded strict and determined, leaving no room for John to question nor show his teeth again. With a quick nod which ended up as several, he moved to leave. The hand left his arm, probably leaving behind a red handprint etched onto his skin to boot. He was then shoved away forcefully causing him to stumble over his feet the three first steps of the way before he got himself upright and ran away not wanting to risk the guard changing his mind.
He had gotten away, he was still free
It wasn't the last time he'd seen the guard either. John had made it a habit to keep an eye out for him, made sure that their paths never crossed each other's again. He'd kept his face fresh in his memory along with the now forbidden part of the Ark, sector 17. He didn't want to risk bumping into him, didn't want to come face to face with the guard again only to have him change his mind and throw him in the skybox anyway.
The guards in the Ark weren't known for their compassion nor mercy, in short, they weren't exactly the forgiving type. They were brutal and cruel and once they had you in their grasp, there was no way out of it. You were simply doomed. So no, he wasn't about to run back and purposely bump into the guard only to ask why he'd let him go. No one had ever gained anything by testing their luck.
It took John another two weeks or so watching out for the guard before he found out why he'd been spared.
Bellamy Blake was the older brother of Octavian Blake, the girl who hid under the floor for sixteen years.
It was a foreign concept, the whole sibling business. With no one allowed to bear more than one child it was something that caused more questions than answers. No one here had siblings and had therefore no idea what it felt like but it must have been something, something strong much like the love and loyalty a parent felt towards their child. Feeling like one belonged so completely to another individual, always having their back and knowing they had yours too. It must feel condition less as hell and incredibly close the heart.
Judging by the guards - Bellamy's - reaction, it could not have been anything less. The fierce fight he and his sister hand put up, reaching for one another while fighting against the many guards. John had hears several stories by now since he'd not been there to witness it. With every story his stomach turned a little more, making him more and more nauseous
Bellamy must have let him go because he knew what hunger felt like. How it clawed inside ones stomach, how it made your insides hurt. He knew what hunger could do to someone, he must himself had felt it every day for the past sixteen years with him splitting his rations with his baby sister. And if anything made him nauseous, this thought had him dry heaving with one hand firmly placed against the wall to keep him steady.
The last John had heard of the Blake siblings had been that their mother had gotten floated for her crime of having a second child and that Octavia had been placed in the Skybox for the crime of living. After that he'd been taken to the same shithole as Floor girl.
Out of everything illegal he'd ever done on the Ark, it was a fucking screwdriver that sent him head first in the Skybox.
A. Fucking. Screwdriver.
He had laughed, several times and the sound had each time bounced between the four walls which acted as his home, for no at least.
He'd fought before, despite his narrow frame and light form he had knocked several people down. Broken their noses under the pressure of his knuckles. The fact that violence was illegal had never stopped him. Rage was also the best tool he'd ever known, like a drug it gave it's user a rush. It allowed adrenaline to flow into veins, it had the power to turn sick little boys into fighters. In short, its power was addictive.
Technique was something he'd learned to master with time. It had come slowly, started with him noticing that when he angled his arm this way he made blood flow coupled with ugly bruises but if he angled his arm that way, he broke bones and knocked people flat out. It had been a lovely realisation.
He had also stolen a bunch of stuff since he turned orphan. He'd stolen everything from ration cards to ship parts and even clothes. All from this and that and everything in between. Out of that whole list of illegal acts, it was the smallest and most insignificant of them all which had earned him his cell.
Apparently Kane and his loyal followers had been nosier than usual. They had been looking to close and hand - in doing so - stumbled across the illegal trade which allowed people to cross the line of what their rations allowed them to have. Their version of a black market. The damned screwdriver which had gotten him caught had apparently been planned to be used during a break-in of sorts. In all honesty John had stopped listening after they had punched him in the face for his resistance.
If the days had blurred together before his incarceration, it was nothing compared with the time flow in the Skybox. It didn't take long before his already obscure mind lost track completely and scratching the walls with his already short and bitten nails to at least try and count the days didn't seem all that appealing.
Instead he spent his days tapping his fingers against his knee or against the wall, even the bed he slept on, just about any surface available actually. This he sometimes switched for pressing himself against the door of his cell, screaming for somebody - anybody - to let him out and then punch the wall until his knuckles bled when no one answered him.
With his cell empty except for himself and his bed, he sometimes found himself tempted to choke himself whit his sheets or face down in the pillow. On days like this he traded his rhythmically tapping fingers for angry push ups. It was something he hadn't been good at but had learned the technique of fairly quickly. Sit-ups was also something he kept himself occupied with. He worked out all his anger until his stomach felt sensitive and the simple task of breathing hurt. It was a wonderful way to work out his aggression and the closest he came to inflicting pain onto someone, even if that someone was himself. Moreover, he would not let anyone have the satisfaction of seeing him hanging from the ceiling, limp and dead. The pain was also almost soothing, it kept him alert and most importantly, it kept him from going completely insane.
As the days passed he noticed how his sweater grew smaller, no longer hanging on him like a dress. The arms no longer hung over his hands but instead rested comfortably over his knuckles and his jacket fitted better, lying now perfectly over his shoulder. His shoes though, had grown a bit too small, forcing him to bend his toes slightly in order to avoid severe discomfort.
Judging by how the bones in his body had moved under his skin and how his clothes no longer hung on him like they had used to, John assumed he had been here for a while, maybe a couple of months by now.
When the door to his cell opened for the second time - the first being when he was thrown into the damn shithole - and voices from the outside seemed to come from several different people sounding stressed and so very loud, he hated to admit that he quickly grew worried. What the fuck was going on? Had he turned eighteen already? Was he going to die now?
With John having never been the kind to blindly follow orders, to never question them and act as a shadow, his resistance had been expected and so before he knew it they'd had him pressed against the wall, face hurting but not bleeding. They had then proceeded to stab him in his sides, sending electric shocks through his whole body, making muscles spasm until they hurt and he felt heavy on his feet. He'd had no other choice but to let them drag him away, black creeping into the edges of his vision.
It wasn't until the space vessel started to spin and turn in the air that he came to. The people around him had eyes as big as the trays in the mess hall back at the Ark, filled with fear when the landing suddenly seemed so terribly uncertain. John himself didn't even know where they were headed or what they all did in here but he heard the faint whispers of earth, radiation and death. So this were where he was going to die, in a lousy metal can, falling from space and surrounded by idiots who had no ideas who he was. He might as well have died alone.
The metal around them sounded as if it was about to bend and break in a million pieces. John swallowed hard and clenched his jaw until the creak of teeth against teeth was the only sound left bouncing between the walls of his head. His body turned stiff in its seat as his fingers climbed their way to the seatbelt which stretched from the centre of his ribcage and over each shoulder. He gripped it until his hands shook with the force of it and his head fell back limply as he clenched his eyes shut. God, he didn't want to die like this.
Bellamy Blake knew how to make an entrance. The drop ship had all but landed when he'd made himself seen and heard. He had embraced his sister for the first time in a long time, an act which had resulted in less than subtle whispering of who they were.
The doors had opened and no one had dared to breathe when the air had hit their faces and the sun had made everything bright and sharp, so hard to look at with their unaccustomed eyes. Octavia had walked out. She'd screamed to the heavens and she hadn't died. They hadn't died. Everyone had screamed. They'd run past each other in hurry, everyone wanting to be the next person to touch and look and breathe.
They were on the ground.