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folie a deaux (or, reformatory pt. i and ii)

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I.

They meet in middle school and it really doesn't feel like anything special. They're introduced by a mutual friend, and the initial 'Eric, this is Dylan. Dylan, this is Eric' feels meaningless, but when they go to shake hands in the awkward, clammy way 14 year olds do, Dylan feels a weird shock in his palm. He chalks it up to the cheap plastic chair he was just sitting in and decides to leave it at that.

The introduction turned out to not necessarily be meaningless. Come high school, Eric and Dylan are what all the adults in their life call 'joined at the hip'. They spend all their free time together, ranting and raving about German electronica and video games and the assholes at school. Most of the time, it's the assholes at school. They see them in the halls a lot, and it's kind of difficult to not be late to class when a group of jocks are marching after you, calling you a 'fag'. It's also difficult to not hold a lot of resentment towards them for that, as Eric's rantings about the athletically inclined with less than sympathy for others can attest to, but for some it's difficult not to wonder. Dylan's lied awake for more than one night, staring at the ceiling and trying to decide whether or not the jocks really are right.

He hears Eric talking sometimes, though, with a sneer and something else, about how disgusting and wrong homosexuals are. He decides that he has better things to do than wonder.

He and Eric aren't troublemakers; they're not good kids, either, but they're not at all comparable to the rabblerousers they hate so much. They can't afford that kind of misbehavior, not with the strict expectations placed upon students who don't play some kind of sport in the school's name. But they get away with what they can, when they can.

They're at Eric's house, and they've been playing Doom for what was planned to be 'a couple hours' and panned out to be 'into the wee hours of the morning'. Dylan can't drive home; the contents of a bottle of Irish cream have been divided fairly evenly between the two boys. Not that that's a problem at all; impromptu sleepovers are kind of a thing with them. Eric's never held his liquor well, but Dylan's always been an easygoing drunk. They're not talking much, what with the both of them being drunkenly absorbed into the gameplay. And maybe Eric was sitting too close to Dylan for too long. Maybe one thing led to another, and they found themselves in a compromising situation they agreed to never mention, ever.

Not 'never repeat'. Just 'never mention'.

And really, so what if they kissed? It doesn't make them gay, or fags, or queer, or anything. After all, Eric's lusting after Brandi, and Dylan always has a new flavor of the week he's penning poems in dedication to- not that Eric knows, or needs to, that's just between Dylan's journal and himself- but it's nice to know they can always rely on each other.

They keep this up, because they know they can't be caught. They're not boyfriends, and they're certainly not in love or anything. Still, Eric thinks to himself, his lips pressed against Dylan's, he doesn't hate this situation, either.

It keeps up like that for a while, and they fall into a routine that looks a little bit like this: hang out, get drunk, play video games, get drunker, make out. Rinse & repeat, like laundry or washing dishes, but less of a chore and more something fan-fucking-tastic. They don't get much further than that, because as soon as things start looking like they might take a turn for the more extreme, one or both of them gets antsy at the implication of sex and cuts it short. They both get it, although they've never vocalized this anxiety; it's just an unspoken agreement to stop as soon as one of them looks paralyzed with fear. Eric knows Dylan's seen his chest and what it looks like, but that still doesn't ease his apprehension. Neither does not knowing why the hell Dylan pushes his hands away whenever Eric goes to take his shirt off of him. Still, it's a pretty sweet deal.

Another sweet deal they've struck up? Going what they've decided to call 'NBK'. Dylan offhandedly mentioned it some time ago, during a late night when neither of them could sleep, too drunk to do anything but lie awake and think, occasionally thinking out loud. It's all fantasy, really, youthful conjecture, a "what-if", but it does make sense. Planning's just begun, and while they both know in the back of their mind that nothing will ever come of it, probably, for once they have something to live for other than each other.

One weekend, Dylan gets a call from Brooks- he wants to go see a movie, and does Dylan wanna tag along? He's really not sure at all where the invitation's come from, seeing as he hasn't held a conversation with Brooks in what feels like a while and what has probably- no, definitely- been longer. Everything's been a blur since he started hanging out with Eric, seeing as he spends half his waking hours (and half his sleeping ones, too) with him. He feels bad for neglecting someone he's known so long, so of course he accepts. He knows Eric doesn't like Brooks, but he's known Brooks since elementary school. He isn't going to abandon his friend like that. He goes and he has a good time, and as they head out to the parking lot, the sky above them dark, lights on poles and the stars above them lighting the way. On the drive back to Littleton, they're mostly quiet, clearly exhausted.

"Hey," Brooks says, breaking the silence.

"Yeah?" Dylan answers, eyes affixed to the road before him, hands planted firmly on the wheel.

"You've been hanging out with Eric a lot lately."

Dylan nods. "Yeah."

Brooks makes a huffing sound. "Be careful, alright?"

"What makes you say that?"

"You know how he is."

Dylan does know how Eric is. Dylan also knows that he is also how Eric 'is'. Rather than bring that up, though, Dylan just scoffs. "Lay off him, okay?"

Brooks chuckles. "What, are you guys gay or something?"

Shaking his head vigorously, Dylan manages to stutter a hasty "No." Brooks just laughs again, sleepily mumbling something about just messing with him, how he knows he's as straight as an arrow.

And Dylan smiles shakily, nodding. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah."

Brooks has fallen asleep in the passenger seat, though, and doesn't hear this.

Of course, the following Monday morning, Eric finds out they went to go see a movie, and the next time he and Dylan are together, their morning drive to school, he's cold. He's distant. He tries to act like he doesn't know, but it's evident in his furrowed brows, the feigned stoicity and aloofness in his crossed arms and pressed lips. But he can't control himself, and before he knows it, he's spitefully spouting angry words, and once again, before he knows it, Dylan's gone and he's just alone in his car with his thoughts and regrets, fear of driving him away biting him in the ass in the worst way possible.

Dylan wouldn't exactly call it 'revenge' when he goes to give Brooks the URL to Eric's website during lunch, but it doesn't make him feel any better after the fact, either. But he does it anyways, noticing the weird quirk in Brooks' brow when he hands him the slip of paper. "You have to read this," Dylan insists, eyes pleading. "It's important."

And a couple hours later, when Dylan's at home, neglecting some homework, Eric calls to apologize. Dylan just asks him to come over, please.

Eric apologizes once at his doorstep, a cool "I'm sorry". Anyone else would've considered it counterfeit, and, hell, maybe it was- but Dylan knows Eric, and he feels guilt eating away at him, so he just shakes his head and tells him to come inside.

So they end up making out on Dylan's bed. It's passionate, and Eric's pulling Dylan's hair, biting at his lips; in exchange, Dylan's gripping his shoulders with a ferocity that's sure to leave marks on them in the morning. Neither of them knows whether they're being rough because they enjoy it, or because they're both mad, but, hey, neither one of them is complaining.

They're both bleary-eyed, sweaty, and exhausted, but they keep going. Eric kicks off his pants, and Dylan follows suit, shrugging off the t-shirt he's wearing. Eric thinks to himself how funny it is that the one time they're sober while doing this is when they decide to, y'know, do it

Eric's pulling off his own shirt, crossing his arms over his chest afterwards. Dylan's unbuttoning his jeans, warily sliding his pants off before kicking them to the floor. Small white scars dot the skin between the bottom of Dylan's underwear and the space just above his knees, and Eric's positive that there's more underneath his boxers. He doesn't want to think about that right now, though; he's a man on a mission.

He lets Dylan kiss his neck, things escalate from there, and it's like the Earth is being born again.

Afterwards, they lie down together, naked and worn out. They don't think about the future, they don't think about what they just did; they just are.

_______________

II.

So here's how it happens-

They're making out in an abandoned lot, in Eric's car. Eric's the first to stop and stare out the window, and Dylan immediately stops what he's doing (I.E., giving Eric a hickey on his collarbone, and holding him close with his free hands; it's times like these where he wishes Eric had a haircut that wasn't a military crew-cut so he could actually pull his hair, if only to give his hands something to do when they did this). He tries his best to crane his neck and look out the window, squinting. He still can't look out the window- Eric's on top of him in the backseat of his Prelude, after all. Eric takes note of this, and says what he sees:

"It's some company's van. There's probably a lotta equipment worth a lotta money in there."

With that, they scramble out of the car to investigate.

They throw a rock in a window and take shit from the van. A couple miles down the road, still hyper and grinning from the adrenaline rush, they're stopped by a flash of red and blue lights, which cannot be good news.

They end up arrested and barred by their parents from interacting with each other, ever again.

So that's where the story's supposed to end.

But it doesn't, actually.

_____________

Dylan feels some guilt about lying to his mother, insisting that yes, he's hanging out with Nate; he also feels like he's betraying Eric by claiming that yes, Zack Heckler is his best friend now, to his mother, but justifies it in his own mind that he and Eric aren't just best friends the way they were before, it's something deeper than that. More than that. He'd never say they're boyfriendsbut with each passing day, it feels less like it would be a misnomer if used towards them.

And with each passing day, their plans for the upcoming school year are feeling more and more cemented. Now that they're criminals, they can confirm that the world is out to get them, the system doesn't understand them, and they have to revolt in the only way they know how. They spend a lot of time building pipe bombs and setting them off, meddling with some other small explosives, too. They also spend a while talking about guns, and how to get them. The planning's just part of the daily routine, and they discuss it casually, offhandedly. They decide they're gonna do it in April, sometime around the time of the Oklahoma bombings.

They go to diversion, their punishment for the van break-in, and they also talk about diversion; while Dylan's a little saddened by all the boxes Eric mentions checking off in the intake form, he's also a little jealous at the ease with which Eric's able to admit to needing help. He even attends one of Eric's diversion meetings with him; the officers in charge do not take kindly to this stunt and force him to sit in the hallway outside. Afterwards, they go to McDonalds and, sharing a box of nuggets, try to act like their lives are different.

Meanwhile, in the blur of all of this, Eric's rejected from the Marines. He's got the scores, the skills, and the passion- but what he's also got is a prescription, which is frowned upon by the military. He nearly cries when he tells Dylan this, and Dylan rubs his back and consoles him, reminding him that it doesn't matter- they've got April, he says, and each other, which he doesn't say.

Summer is a whirlwind, marked by a lot of planning. Dylan manages to rope Robyn into accompanying him and Eric to a gun show so that they can acquire weaponry; Eric jokes about Robyn having a crush on Dylan and that maybe she's doing this to woo him. Dylan feels a twinge of guilt, and almost tells her that plans have changed, but for Eric's sake decides not to.

After school starts again, Eric shows up unannounced to Dylan's house one Thursday night. Dylan, who had the house to himself, is absolutely hammered. His room, not typically the paradigm of organization or cleanliness, is a wreck. Dylan is also a wreck; his face is blotchy, and he's stammering.

He's rambling about some English project he failed to hand in; Eric decides to put on a movie and take things from there, seeing as Dylan was clearly too drunk and wound up to get into things right away. He heads for Dylan's desk, in pursuit of his copy of Reservoir Dogs, instead finding a notebook with something scrawled inside.

"Life is unforgiving & torturous," the note starts off, nearly illegible in the way Dylan's handwriting always is, exacerbated even more by his intoxication. "Goodbye, I can't do this anymore, sorry." The uncapped pen presumably used to write it is beside the notebook.

Eric doesn't know what to say or do. He's in shock and disbelief. He knew Dylan had cut in the past, but that's what that was- the past. Now, they were planning for their future- a future Dylan clearly didn't intend to be a part of, if Eric was understanding this note correctly. Dylan was totally prepared to leave Eric stranded, leaving nothing behind besides some half-baked plans to bomb the school with him. Eric's hurt that he'd do this to him, of all people.

"Dylan," Eric asks, caution in his voice. "What's this?" He holds the notebook up.

"What's what," Dylan replies, slurring.

At a loss for words, Eric simply waves the notebook around quickly.

Dylan's eyes widen a bit, his expression pulling into a grimace. "Eh," he says, shaking a little. "I'm just, writing,-"

"Bullshit,", Eric replies nearly immediately, not thinking. "You were gonna off yourself. You were going to abandon me,

Dylan shakes his head furiously, mouth opening in shock. "Eric, Eric, no, that isn't," he says, starting to panic. "That's not,"

"That's not what?" Eric asks, sneering. He grips the notebook tightly

"I can't deal with this anymore," Dylan whimpers, eyes glimmering with tears. "It-it's too much. Everything is shit-"

"I get that," Eric replies, trying to remain calm. "But you can't just abandon me like this. You can't pull this shit on me. What, you think I haven't wanted to kill myself too? But I have enough respect for you to not just- randomly pull that on you!"

Dylan's quiet, sobered by the tension. "Get out of my house," he says after what feels like hours.

"Not until you tell me you aren't going to do it-"

"GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE," Dylan screams, shaking.

Eric stands there for a while, blank-faced. He puts the notebook back on his desk, and walks out of his room, and of his house, without a word.

He doesn't see Dylan at school the next day, and he lets himself believe that it doesn't matter to him.

This time, it's Dylan's turn to apologize. The next evening, he goes to Eric's house, and enters with every intent to solemnly apologize, but ends up weeping and saying "I'm sorry" over and over and over again. Eric just nods and says "It's okay."

"Are you sure?" Dylan asks, looking at him intently.

"Please don't make me change my mind."

He's still hurt, but not hurt enough to not ask Dylan if he wants to stay the night.

That night, lying wide awake next to a sleeping Eric, Dylan can't help but think about how maybe he was wrong about love. He always thought it would be like the pipe bombs they set off, bright and hot and blinding, and maybe a little dangerous, too. Maybe love isn't that- explosions have no momentum, they can't be sustained forever. Maybe love is just this, a mutual respect meeting both parties' needs. It's fulfilling, and yes, they might be dragging each other down, they're too caught up in the heat of it to really notice. Ignorance really is bliss, he supposes.

Shortly before all the prep for graduation, yearbooks are distributed. Unconcerned with finishing classes or any of the other typical housekeeping necessities worried about by graduating seniors, Eric and Dylan mostly worry about writing in each others' yearbooks. Dylan writes Eric a 7 page diatribe in his; Eric writes various nonsenses, one of which being the phrase "Do you believe in fate?". Dylan knows he's parroting a line from Mickey Knox, but he also knows that, thanks to Eric, his unwritten answer to the question is a resounding 'yes'.

Eric would like to think it's fate, too- while it may appear on the surface that peers and circumstance brought them together, really, it was destiny, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

Prom is okay. There's really no other way to put it. Dylan has fun, and promises to see a movie with Devon on the following Wednesday. He knows he's not going to be alive, but that she might not be, either, so really, he's not disappointing anyone. He knows he'll miss her, though. Slowdancing with her just before the night ends, Dylan can't stop himself from thinking about Eric.

The night before they're supposed to bomb Columbine, they go to Outback Steakhouse, as a sort of 'last hurrah'. The bombing is supposed to be the last hurrah, but their last supper can be nice, they think.

Eric sleeps over at his house that night. They fuck, but it's about as anticlimactic as they both expect. They lie awake, tangled up in each other after the fact. "I love you," Dylan says, voice quiet and small.

Eric sighs, turning to face Dylan. He stares at him for a while, and Dylan stares back. "I love you too," Eric replies, clearly intending to say more, but leaving his words unsaid.

When morning comes and Eric's not by his side, Dylan doesn't feel a thing.

It's a good thing they went to Outback, because their intended last hurrah goes awry- half the bombs don't go off, the school is wholly intact, and Eric's nose is broken from shotgun recoil. They're mainly pacing around after the initial spree, shooting things occasionally. After the initial attack in the library, they go to the Commons for a bit.

Eric takes a drink from a cup on a table. "This isn't going well," he says to Dylan, motioning towards him with the cup. It sounds like a joke, a deadpan comment, but he's serious. Dylan just nods, the ringing in his ears and the adrenaline clouding his conscious too heavy for him to respond any way else.

They're in the final stretch. Miserable and worn out, they drag their feet back to the library. Surrounded by the lives they've taken and the bloodshed they've created, they arm up for the last time.

They nod at each other curtly. This is it. This is what it has culminated to. It was a perfect storm, and this is the eye of it- the rampage lying before them, and the aftermath behind, not that they'll know what happened.

Dylan turns away for a moment, to ready himself, before hearing a bang-

And where Eric was sitting before, he is no longer. Instead, he's lying on the floor; he's also on the bookshelf his body's leaning on, and, Dylan cannot bring himself to look, but given the looks of things, he's on the ceiling, too.

Pieces of Eric's brains are everywhere, and Dylan wants to be disgusted, but he knows he's meeting the same fate too. He thinks about the fact that all of Eric's memories, emotions, feelings- all of that is splattered around him, and he doesn't know how to feel about it.

Dylan swallows, holds the Tec-9 to his temple, and pulls the trigger. And with that it's over.

And a Molotov cocktail on the bookshelf beside their bodies shatters and burns, eventually coming to a smoulder. And it's over.