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Silence Takes Away His Virtue

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Tony swallowed, his throat sore. He hunched up into a ball, his small frame curling into itself. The cool breeze of the room made his naked body shiver. 

Howard sighed, buckling up his pants. He glanced back at the boy, and his lips twitched hungerily. He checked his watch. Four-fifty-three. 

"I'll be back in two hours," Howard's eyes darkened. "Don't go anywhere." 

Tony listened, his eyes covered by his arms, to his fathers boots as they clomped down the hall. Tony blinked, hot tears streaming down his red cheeks. 

He laid still in bed, not daring to get up. His bones ached and his backside itched and burned. He breathed in, sucking in a few breathes of air, blowing them out slowly. 

He waited for his father. Hours and weeks seemed to pass as the dark room, with only fleeting rays of light, stayed cold and alone. 

He ignored everything, as he always did. He felt the stretch of Howard, the tight grip on his hips as he was pulled back in motion. He didn't focus on the sharp slaps around his body, the harsh words of his father, or the horrible feeling of Howard thrusting into his little body. 

He didn't wipe off the end result from his face. Howard smeared it around, shoving fingers into his mouth. Tony closed his eyes and laid limp, unmoving and unresponsive. 

Eventually, Howard left for the second time. Tony passed out from the deep pain, until he was woken up by the  sound of Howard's belt buckle. 

Days passed. Weeks, and months, and then it was eleven years. 

Maria drank. She swallowed bubbles until her brain was fuzzy, and her mouth slurred. Her eyes never saw straight, and she didn't see Tony, or Howard. She wasn't there when Tony became five, and he spent it in his bedroom. Or his sixth, or seventh, or eighth. 

Howard was there, with gifts. Tony got extravagant gifts every year, that normal kids could only dream of getting. Tony didn't play with them, didn't read them, didn't build them. 

He sat in his room, even if Howard wasn't there, and he stared at his ceiling. He counted. He counted the vents in the roof, 21 slits. He tried not to blink, and he always did. So, he started again. He spent hours, and hours counting the numbers in his head, his eyes burning.

The house was always silent. Maria slept, and Howard and Tony stayed quiet in his room. Small whisperes were heard, from Howard, and Tony was silent. 

It stayed that way. On Tony's fourteen birthday, the school board got suspicious. Tony never went to school, just enough to pass, and he didn't talk. 

That was the thing everyone noticed. Not the bruises, not the tears, or the beat of Tony's heart whenever Howard texted him to come home at lunch. It was the silence that stayed in Tony's mouth. 

They tried talking to him, but he didn't respond. He sat, and stared, and listened. He blinked and kept his mouth closed tight. They stopped trying altogether. 

Tony was sent to hospitals, but Howard was more careful from then on, and it didn't matter anyway. The doctors let him go back home with a handshake from Howard. 

Tony went to college in September. It was far away from home, many hours, and Tony was lost. He didn't know how to function, or what he was supposed to do at night without Howard. It felt weird being alone, even after so many years of being alone in his bedroom. 

There was a closet in his room at the college. He sat in it everynight, closing his eyes, sleeping in the tight space. 

He wanted to talk. He wanted to hum to music and sing along, and talk to his friends and scream at Howard. 

Tony stayed silent. 

And when he met Edwin, a man Howard had hired after Tony left, Tony felt even more alone. 

Jarvis nutured him, fed him, comforted him and protected him. Howard didn't stop, and Jarvis wasn't in position to make him. But everything was almost okay sometimes, with Jarvis around. 

He talked to Tony, and he didn't expect him to answer. Tony wrote to Jarvis in college. Told him about his day. How his classes were going. It was easy to print it on paper. 

Then Jarvis stopped replying, and Tony was alone again. Tony spent his eighteenth birthday at a club. He drank, and he smoked, and he had painful track marks up his arms and legs. 

Everything hurt, slowly at first but then harder, but Tony still didn't scream. He went on, finishing his work and passing by multiple jobs with no significance. 

He slept all day and drank all night, and used needles and spoons and his nose to try to feel better. When he landed in the hospital, he didn't tell the doctors what was wrong. 

On Tony's twenty-first, he partied. He drank and dragged people to the back room, and never saw them again. 

Except one. 

Steve was nice. Tony liked him. Tony didn't like many people, none at all. But Steve was different, and Steve knew Tony was different. 

Tony ignored him. He moved away, and never looked back. He regretted it, and every night when he added a new mark to his arm, he thought of where Steve was. Tony went to the back rooms, and he drank and sniffed until he passed out in the dark somewhere. 

He was alone. And he was a mess, and he didn't enjoy his life and maybe it was time to end it. 

Tony was a failure, and he failed at killing himself too. His bedside held nobody, not even nurses. He walked out of the front hospital doors, and he did it all again. 

On Tony's twenty-seventh, he had hope. He took a train back to home, and he kept his mouth closed from everything. He wanted to be sober when he saw him again. 

Steve had welcome arms, the same arms he had the first time he saw Tony. Tony stayed with Steve, and ate his food and used up all his water when he stood blankly in the shower for over an hour. 

Steve didn't mind. He watched Tony, and checked his arms. He offered his favourite cereal, and warm milk. Tony watched TV and sat in Steve's pajamas. Stupid shows were on, and Tony waited for Steve like he did everyday. 

When Howard died, Tony went to the funeral. He didn't cry, and he didn't speak, but he stayed until the crowd thinned out to a few people. 

He hugged Maria, and went home to Steve. He went to sleep, and Steve cuddled with him, and Tony didn't even mind. 

Steve and Tony fought. Steve screamed, and Tony stayed silent. He hated himself for it, and Steve was there to see it. 

Tony went to speech therapy on his thirtieth birthday. He hummed to a tune months later. Steve hugged him and kissed him a lot. 

Tony's first word was love. Steve cried, and he held Tony in his welcoming arms for more than twenty-four hours. 

Tony blinked at Steve, and his lips twitched happily. Steve encouraged Tony, so Tony saw Dr. Arno again for another four years. 

At their wedding, Tony didn't speak. He tried, but the people watching was too much. Steve understood, and kissed him softly after the priest announced their marriage. 

Tony woke up. He waited for Howard.