Reven came carelessly out of the bathroom, towels around his waist and his hair, and ran straight into Adam. His heart rattled against his chest – his mouth opened, but no sound came out. He snatched the towel from his head. He was paralysed where he stood – the fibres of the soft carpet tickled at his toes; the soft fragrance of bath oil clung to his nostrils.
The older boy gave a yell of astonishment. “What the hell is he doing here?”
Mae was beside her brother in an instant, still in her school uniform, clutching a slice of cake in her hand, but gripped so tightly that it threatened to crumble all down her. Her face was white with horror. “Adam! You’re back? You were going to be late at school tonight, you said! We just dropped in on the way back – just for Reven to have some milk and cake, and –“
“And?” Adam’s voice was very shocked - very fierce.
“And a bath,” moaned Mae, softly. “Adam, there’s no hot water at his place again, his Father is – ill, you know that… they – he - the heating doesn’t work properly, it’s been cut off, he told Reven there’s some problem with the bank, I don’t know what to call it…”
Adam stared at Reven, who stared back. Guess they both knew what to call it.
“So you let him into our house, to use our bathroom –“
“Yes, yes,” said Mae, quickly. She really couldn’t see why that would be the problem, but she had to pacify Adam before her parents returned from the Church meeting, else they’d all be in trouble!
“Get dressed, quick,” said Adam. He glared at Reven.
“Can he just finish his toast?” came Mae’s pleading little voice. Her fingers plucked at Adam’s sleeve. “I’ve just buttered it. He hasn’t eaten since breakfast, Adam… his Father forgot the shopping, too…”
Adam’s eyes were very hot, and he wasn’t sure why. He felt like he was drowning when he stared into Reven’s – he was only a foot away from the boy, facing him, effectively blocking the bathroom doorway. Reven’s skin was very pale, and flushed in places where he’d been rubbing at himself with the towel. His developing muscles flexed under the bare flesh. His hair was damp, the dark locks curling across his bare, surprisingly broad shoulders, and his nipples stood out with the sudden shock and cold; two sharp, dark brown nubs on a smooth white torso.
“Quick,” Adam repeated. His tongue felt thick in his mouth.
Reven was very conscious of Adam beside him, the solid resistance of his body. It was unsettling, and he didn’t think it was entirely to do with his guilt at being caught here. He didn’t usually have any problem knowing how to be with other guys. They were either neutral or enemy – they were either to be avoided, or fought. They kept their distance, most of the time. He didn’t have the time or the option of friends – it just wasn’t part of his life.
He was conscious of his thoughts rambling – of his flesh shivering a little. Must be the cool air of the house after the heat of the bath.
He grabbed at his towel, defensively. He wished he’d never told Mae about his troubles at home – even the edited version that he allowed her! He’d tried to explain to her that this visit was a ridiculous, unnecessary risk – that he could sneak some time at the school showers, perhaps, instead. But then his stomach had rumbled for the fourth time, and his eyes had twisted with shame – and she’d insisted that he follow her home. Wasn’t it a Christian home, after all? Shouldn’t she be helping her friends whatever way she could?
“What’s wrong with your arm?” asked Adam, abruptly. Reven had tugged the end of the hand towel across his forearm; now he hugged it into him, as if to hide it.
“Nothing. I’ll get dressed. I’m sorry about this –“
He never does sports, thought Adam, suddenly. Won’t get changed with the rest of us.
He moved, startled, as Reven pushed past him. He smelled the damp skin and the washed hair. He felt a strange, but not unfamiliar shiver through his body. Reven looked back at him just as he went to pick up his clothes from the bathroom floor, and Adam sank back into those deep, dark eyes. He had no idea what the emotions were inside them, what they may have been trying to say to him. Instead, he fought a sudden, irresistible urge to curl his fingers into the towels around Reven’s body and wrench them away –
Then Reven slammed the door shut behind him.
“Adam. Adam?” Mae was a little tearful beside him. “Are you very angry? Will you tell Father what I did?”
“Shit…” sighed Adam, running a hand through his hair. His forehead was sweaty. “Of course not, baby. You just wanted to help him out, I know. It’s just – “
“What? What did I do wrong?”
Adam swore again. “I can’t explain it, Mae. But you mustn’t invite him here again. He mustn’t come here again.”
“But you understand, don’t you, Adam? He’s my friend. And you like him too, don’t you?”
He turned to face her, and she blanched at the look on his face. “Can’t you see? He’s odd – different. He doesn’t fit in with us. And he’s making you act weird too, Mae! That’s what they’ll say at school, you know.”
“I don’t care what they say -”
“They think you’re weird too, Mae,” he interrupted, unable to give words to his worries. To his confusion. “Stay away from him!”
He’d been late at school tonight – another detention – and it was dark by the time he got home. His dad was unconscious again – the apartment stank of piss, and thick pot smoke, and Keone’s cheap cologne.
“Why don’t you move in?” sighed Reven. He was just so fucking tired of the whole thing! He flung his bag down on to the couch with a grunt of tiredness. “You’re here more often than I am.” He wants to see you more than he ever wants to see me…
The man in question sidled out from the shadows of the kitchenette, where he’d presumably been hiding. Or spying. Or both. “Don’t be like that, Ray, you sweet ass. You’re his son, and he loves you, of course he does. I’m only here to wait for you, because he had to sleep, you see, and yet he didn’t want me to leave without meeting you again.”
“Don’t call me by that name, you don’t deserve to. So how much does he owe you?”
“So cynical, so young,” pouted the dealer. His pupils were wide tonight – he’d presumably been entertaining himself with his own stuff, waiting for the boy to get home. The mere smell of him made Reven want to vomit right where he stood, but he knew it’d only be more clearing up for himself. “It’s just a little bit. Just last week’s money. He fell asleep just that little bit too early, you know? He was just about to pay it over.”
“Fuck knows how,” said Reven abruptly, “because he ain’t got a cent at the moment. I haven’t been able to get –“
His words dried suddenly as the hand gripped around his throat. Shocked, he froze where he stood. Keone held him tightly, but didn’t press any closer. Instead, his voice threaded its way round Reven’s ears, thick like the smoke, viscous like sewage. “I’m sorry, sweet ass, but I have no time for your childish humour. I waited for you to see what you might bring. Guess that’s my answer. But the debt’s still due.”
“I –“ Reven squeaked out the words. “I don’t have any money. I’ll get some for you. But you must wait –“
“Must nothing,” sighed Keone. “It’s a word I don’t use on myself, boy.” His hand slipped away from Reven’s throat, leaving him gasping and wheezing. But it slid swiftly to his shoulder, gripping him there, painfully tight. “I like you, y’know? So I’ll give you 24 hours. But I want something in return. I want to see what he does to you, sweet ass. I want to see the marks.”
“What?” Reven spat out his disgust and fear.
Keone moved far more swiftly than he would have imagined from such an emaciated man. He had Reven pinned against the lounge wall in a second, the boy gasping for breath and flailing helplessly at the man’s strong hands. “Show me, kid. Undo that shirt. Drop your pants. Show me. If I have to leave with nothing, I can’t guarantee I’ll be so friendly to him next time. You know what I mean?”
Reven’s eyes were wide, and full of hatred. He’d dealt with his Dad’s dealers before – but this guy was something different. It was as if he knew everything that was going on inside this apartment – as if he lived it himself. Why? groaned Reven to himself, close to tears. Why can’t I just go now, run as fast as I can, let this sick fucker do whatever he likes to Dad, who after all has never shown me any kind of care since Mom died, and maybe from before then, too…
But he stood still. He started to unbutton his shirt, and he loosened the button of his school pants. As Keone watched him closely, he folded his arms across his chest and peeled his shirt right off. He nudged at the pants, just exposing the strip of flesh between his navel and the top of his briefs. He thought that would probably be enough.
He stretched his arms out to the side – he stood there, exposed.
Keone exhaled, slowly.
There weren’t a lot of scars on Reven’s body – but enough to know that they were from no isolated incident. They were mainly on the inside of his upper arm – some on his forearm. One of them was still an angry red, a crust of slow-healing blood across his skin. There was a pale, almost healed mark to the left of his navel; there were small criss-cross stripes in the crease of skin above his groin.
The man sighed, and nodded once or twice. “I thought so,” he said, softly. “He doesn’t do it much, does he, sweet ass? But enough to hurt.” His hand flexed at his side, and there was a sudden glint in the dim evening light. Reven knew that glint. He whimpered.
“No, wait, you said you just wanted…”
“Hush,” hissed Keone. “Else you might wake him, right? Just let me see… let me taste you…” His eyes were very wild now. He pressed back up against Reven, trapping him against the wall, and his lower body rubbed against Reven’s legs. The boy felt the unmistakable mound of a swollen cock. Keone was excited by this; he and Reven’s father appeared to have the same sick tastes, of course.
For a hideous, soulless moment, Reven wondered if every adult male in the world was the same at heart.
Keone pushed down Reven’s pants at his hip, exposing more of the pale, thin skin. The cut, when it came, was almost insignificant. Reven was used to his father’s heavy, clumsy hand. He was used to whatever knife Dad could find, from his almost permanent position in the armchair. But this was from a man who could use a knife well – and the blade was slim and wicked, and very, very sharp. Reven felt the edges of his skin curl back gently, releasing the small, thick ooze of blood. The cut was shallow – but long. He felt Keone tighten against him, and the man’s hand slide down to touch at it – to wipe his finger in the blood. To bring it back up to his lips and lick at it there.
Keone’s other hand gripped at Reven’s chin, wrenching his face round. He was staring at Reven’s face – searching for his reaction. Reven felt sick, and the onset of a familiar weakness. He could smell the metal of the blade in Keone’s fingers.
“It disgusts you, right? And hurts, so very gently, though. But that’s good, boy. Very good…”
He suddenly dropped his hand to Reven’s wrist, and wrenched his hand over to cup the man’s groin. He pressed hard on the back of Reven’s fingers – he forced him to move his hand up and down, up and down, as if he caressed his cock through the cloth. As if he jerked him off…
Nausea swept over Reven, and he wanted to snatch his hand away and wipe it clean, though he suspected it never would be. He hoped, with sudden viciousness, that the guy’s cock would one day get cut, just like he’d cut Reven – and that it’d be his life blood dripping out, not hot, sticky, foul-smelling cum…
But Keone was laughing now. He dropped his hold on Reven’s hand, and stepped away from him, clicking his blade shut. “Hey – you’ve earned your credit, right? They would love you, sweet ass, the places I go. Did I ever tell you that? They’d love your white skin and your soft woman’s eyes, and they’d jack off very happily to the sight and smell of those sweet, dark, crimson pearls of blood…”
That was the final straw for Reven. He turned and stumbled to the bathroom, fell to his knees and threw up in the toilet.
When he raised his head, Keone was still at the doorway, laughing softly. “No stomach for it yet, boy, eh? I could have asked you to suck me off, y’know.”
“I never would!” stuttered Reven, wiping a hand over his dry mouth.
Reven didn’t see the look in Keone’s eyes; they were flat and deep and horribly knowing. “Oh, but you would. And I think a part of you would like it, right?” He pushed himself away from the doorframe, and started back out to the hallway. “But maybe that’s for next time! Meantime, you get that money together, and you have a think about what I’ve said to you. You don’t belong here, sweet ass, do you? He’s a loser – and he’ll take you down with him. You need to be appreciated – you need your freedom.
“Come with me,” he called, as he swung the door closed behind him, still laughing. “Come and trade those dark pearls of yours!”
It had been a fairly dull day at school until Adam cornered him at the end of lunch break. He’d been trying to slip out round the corner of the sports hall, and cut across to his classroom by a circuitous route; he was avoiding the office staff, who were still bleating about needing an absence note or twenty. He’d been away for too many days this month.
“You – Reven, whatever she calls you. Stay away from her. From Mae.”
There was no-one else around, not that he would have expected any help. Reven felt a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He stared at the older boy, challenging him in the only way he knew. “She’s my friend,” he said. “She’s in no danger from me.” Hell, he was the one who protected her, right? He and Adam had that in common, at least. “You can’t tell her who to be friends with.”
“I fucking can,” said Adam, moving a step closer. Reven appraised him carefully. The guy was nearly a couple of years older than him, but not that much better developed. He had good muscles, but rarely used them except in sport. Reven knew he could fight Adam if he had to; he knew he’d get a beating, but he’d give one too. He didn’t think the older boy had fought for much in his life! Why would he need to? He had a home and parents and enough to eat. He also had the looks and the words to be able to attract people and get on without his fists.
Reven looked up at Adam over those few inches of height, catching his hard grey eyes with his own, and he looked into another world. It shivered through him like a slim, cool blade.
Adam was staring back at him. Reven recognised the look; it was the look that all the guys at school gave him. A look of curiosity and disgust; a look that said they’d seek him out, to sneer at him, to despise him. The look that made him feel like a bug under their boots. Adam’s eyes had that same antagonistic, alpha male gleam – but there was something else there, bubbling in his eyes. Something more confused; something more feral.
“You’re weird, Reven. That’s what they say.” His voice was low. The way he said Reven’s name was mocking; provoking him. Reven had known Adam for a long time, and he could see how much more of a young man Mae’s brother was now; how he’d matured over the last couple of years at school. His shoulders were broader; his hands larger and more sure in their work. His torso stretched from slim hips and strong, athletic legs; he filled his clothes with developing muscle and sinew. He had a smooth, handsome face – Reven knew the girls all watched him. He had a clean, jock-type look that would carry a boy far in life.
Unlike Reven’s own looks! Reven knew he was odd; his nose was too straight, his neck too long. His eyes were a weird colour, not matching his hair. He wasn’t growing any facial hair to speak of; he moved swiftly, but rather too gracefully for a boy his age. He was masculine enough, the whole of his developing body told him that – but he just didn’t seem to be passing through that gruff, gangly stage that the others did. Adults watched him with curiosity; eyes were always drawn to him when he passed. But he didn’t like it; to him, it was the sign of being too damned different.
Reven cried inside at how he felt. Why was he aware of Adam like this? Why did his belly ache when he thought about him? He wasn’t afraid of him, not really. Just afraid that if they fought, he’d ruin his clothes again, and Mae would be angry with them both. He didn’t answer Adam’s comment. Shit, it wasn’t a question anyway, was it? He just wished the older boy would get the fuck out and leave him to go to his class. But it wasn’t happening.
“What’s this then?” asked Adam, pushing at the book under Reven’s arm, rudely. “Science?” His eyebrows raised. “Isn’t that the same book for my class? You steal that, or something?”
“No!” snapped Reven, angrily. “I’m allowed to work on this one – I’ve been through the books for Mae’s class.”
Adam made a scornful noise, but didn’t have anything else to say about it. Instead, he stretched an arm out across Reven’s path, blocking him even further. He swung his shoe against the wall of the sports hall; he folded his arms; unfolded them. He seemed restless in Reven’s presence. “You help Mae with her homework, don’t you?”
Reven nodded, keeping his head down, out of the way. “She’s bright.”
“She says you are too,” replied Adam, surprising him. “So why the fuck don’t you come to school more often?”
“Why the fuck don’t you mind your own business?” Reven felt flushed all over; with anger – with humiliation. Did the guy want to see his scars? Damn near did, catching him in the bathroom like that, the other day! So did he really want to see the latest one on his arm, still oozing soft crimson on his shirt if he moved too suddenly? Did he want to know what it felt like, to get them – the pain, the sudden coldness, the heavy, escalating panting of his own father, not knowing whether to cry or lick his lips?
Reven had launched himself up off his bent knees before he knew it, and he’d thrown a punch at Adam before he’d had time to think twice. The older boy dodged well, though Reven’s fist landed on the edge of his chin, making him yelp. He struck back out at Reven, and next minute they were both on the ground, kicking at each other, grappling with each other’s young limbs. Adam grunted as his fist made connection with Reven’s belly; but the black-haired boy rolled quickly to the side, almost doubled up, but able to lash out at Adam’s groin as he went. Adam groaned with the pain of a fearless kick to his balls; his vision blurred; his eyes watered.
“Bastard! Bastard!” he ground out. He crawled across the ground, grabbing at Reven who was panting and distracted by the pain in his belly. Adam wrenched the younger boy’s hands away from his protective huddling and straddled him awkwardly, pressing his legs down and too far apart to move easily. He quickly had him pinned down underneath him.
They glared at each other. Reven wanted to spit at the older boy, but he held himself back. He could see Mae’s trusting little eyes in Adam’s features; he also knew he was currently at the disadvantage. He’d badly underestimated Adam’s strength and skill. The ground was cold and rough under his back; he knew they were sheltered around this side of the hall, out of sight of any of the classrooms.
He was truly on his own.
“Is it true then?” hissed Adam. His groin still throbbed with the pain of Reven’s blow. He looked into the boy’s face and saw pure aggression there. His own heart was hammering the hardest he’d ever known – his breath was short and painful in his chest. His arms were shaking with the tension of holding Reven down. Adam didn’t think he’d ever had such a tussle before in his life.
“Get the fuck off me!” snarled Reven.
“Is it true?” Adam persisted. He felt a devil rising up inside him that had been restrained for far too fucking long! It was both a relief and a stimulation to let it free now. “That you like boys best? That’s what they say. That you do drugs – that you fight and steal on the streets. That you take guys up the ass for money –“
“No!” yelled Reven, horrified. “I’m not – I don’t –!“
Just as suddenly, Adam released his hold on Reven’s hands, and sat back against the boy’s outstretched thighs. He felt a wash of shame and disgust, rising like bile in his throat. Reven looked truly distressed – his eyes had widened with shock at Adam’s words. He suddenly looked very young. Adam panted slightly, trying to regain his control, though Reven was still trapped underneath him, staring at Adam with frightened, angry eyes. They’re amazing eyes, thought Adam. He looks amazing – something really unusual. Something beautiful! He was suddenly very conscious of the boy’s long, lean thighs underneath his own; of the slender fingers fisting helplessly against the grit of the ground. The mouth wet with saliva and oozing the smallest droplet of blood from a stray cut.
“The drugs –“ he said, a little scared by his own, inexplicable thoughts.
“Never!” gasped Reven. “I never touch ‘em! Fucking stupid game, that! The fighting, the stealing – yeah, OK, maybe. You know that! The place where I live – hell, if I didn’t fight I’d be dog food within the week. And if I didn’t steal, I’d starve. I don’t look for trouble, though.” It just comes to find me, regardless, he thought miserably. He was glad that Adam had released his hands; he wanted to reach out to the older boy, push him off. Or maybe just touch him. Reven was suddenly wracked with conflicting feelings. Adam’s face was sweating, flushed with his efforts. His chest heaved with his breathing; there were damp patches of sweat on his shirt. Reven could see the muscles of his torso tightening with the strain.
He wanted to touch him, that was it. That was what was so terrible – that was why he felt so bad! Reven’s head swam. Adam smelled of school uniform and ink, mixed in with the dreadfully exciting smell of hot showers and fresh sweat. Reven thought he could feel an erection between his legs – he was ashamed of himself for it, whilst not being able to prevent it.
“And the guys thing?” Adam seemed to have a real need to ask this. “You ever suck cock?”
Reven wept inside. He gathered up his courage and he flung his words back at Adam. “Maybe it’s not so bad! Why are you asking, anyway? Wanna fucking try it?”
That was the final straw – Adam fell away from him like he’d been burned. He scrabbled back on his knees, falling to a sitting position over by the wall. His hands supported him; his eyes closed for a second, his breath wheezed out through gritted teeth.
Reven rolled himself back up to a sitting position too, cowering back against the other wall. He stared over at the older boy, tears stinging at the corners of his eyes. Stupid, stupid mouth of his! He’d done it, now! Adam was truly disgusted now – maybe he’d try to beat him up again, and who would blame him? At the very least, he’d report Reven to the teachers – he’d be thrown out for good. Worse, he’d not be allowed to see Mae again. And he’d never –
He’d never see Adam again, without that look of sickness in his face.
It was a surprise when Adam spoke – when his words were almost gentle. He still hung his head; Reven couldn’t see his eyes, to see if they were open now. He still breathed heavily – but his face and neck seemed very flushed. Reven was scared that he’d truly hurt him when he kicked out. “Shit. Sorry. I’m sorry.”
Adam looked up then. He stared once, very strangely, at Reven, then he scrabbled to his feet. He scooped up his jacket and bag and was very obviously in retreat. “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean it. Sorry, Reven.” He turned and ran, stumbling against the wall, and moving quickly out of sight beyond the building.
Reven sat there, stunned, not understanding anything. Adam had apologised to him. And this time, there’d been no mockery in the speaking of his name.