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Blaine covers up Leo’s plate with another plate, to make sure the food doesn’t get cold, and as soon as he does that the truth of his situation – the fact that he just spent almost two hours of his life to roast chicken breast and get some French fries ready for a kid that’s not going to come home in time for dinner, if he comes home at all tonight – hits him right in the face, and he falls back into his chair, and he has to bite his inner cheek until it bleeds to give himself the chance to focus on a more superficial, less overwhelming pain than the deeper one he’s feeling, to stop himself from crying.

He has no idea when he started trying to manage pain like that. He’s not sure that’s completely healthy, but then again he’s not even sure what he’s doing with Leo right now is completely healthy at all, and besides he already knows quite clearly that nothing he’s ever done with Leo since he was fifteen years old has ever been healthy, in any way, so what’s some twisted pain-management system going to add to all that now? Is there even a point in worrying about the unhealthiness of the self-preserving processes his mind has decided to use right now, when there’s unhealthiness everywhere he looks at when he turns around? In the path that led him – them, actually, both Leo and him – here, and possibly in every chance at a future together they have, if they have any at all?

He sighs deeply, leaning forward to rest his elbows on the table. He presses his forehead against his palms, hard. His hands are cold and he’s not even sure why, at this point. He feels sick, but he doesn’t know if it’s physical or mental. Besides, it’s probably a mix of the two. And at this point he doesn’t even care much for the source of his sickness – he’s been living side by side with sickness itself for four months, now. It’s a part of his being, no more, no less than his son is, or his job, or his house.

Perhaps a little more than his job and his house, at this point. Since he’s had to basically put the first on hold, and sell the other to buy the new one in Lima.

Doctor Williams’ voice comes to his mind, and he closes his eyes, listening to her. “Leo needs you. You’ve been running from your responsibilities towards him long enough, mister Anderson. It’s time to stop.”

He doesn’t like doctor Williams, in the same way people don’t like books or movies that are too intense and speak in much too details of a deep part of themselves, something they thought they were professionals at hiding, something they find out was no secret at all, because there it was, written with black ink on white paper or turned into moving pictures on film by some inspired hand living thousands of miles from them. A person they never knew, someone they’ll never know, knows something about them. Something so intimate they never spoke about it, not even with their closest friends.

He feels the same about doctor Williams. He’s fascinated with her, because she’s absolutely remarkable, a strong, competent, extremely smart woman, but at the same time he finds her unbearable, and he tries not to ever be alone with her for more than half an hour every time. She makes him feel naked in the most obvious, most frustrating way. She sees right through him, past his attitude, his formality, past his coldness, when he tries to use it against her. She has arrows that hit right where he’s the softest, in the hidden core of his own self. The guilty one.

Strange thing, guilt. He always thought it had to work not much differently than pain. You pile it up, and at some point it’s too much, and you get desensitized, you don’t even feel it anymore. But guilt’s different. You pile it up, and you just keep doing it. You keep thinking at some point you’re going to cross some invisible line, that some ideal level will be passed, and in that moment, finally, you’ll be free. But it never comes, and you never are. There are oceans of guilt inside him, when it comes to Leo. And there’s a crack at the bottom of those oceans, a wound open on the deepest part of his soul, that keeps pouring water out. But that’s never going to be enough to drown.

Somehow, he connects the thought of guilt to Timmy, and his heart shrinks to the size of a marble when that happens. Timmy doesn’t really understand what’s going on – of course he doesn’t, he’s too young for that – but he’s old enough to know when something important changes, and he’s sensed the difference when they moved here. He was torn away from Westerville, from his grandparents – the last, thin thread connecting him to the memory of his mother –, from school and the few friends he had already made. What will he remember of this, once he grows up? Will he remember his father like a sorry, sad thing, unable to keep an unstable kid under control? Will he remember Leo as he knew him before, a strong, happy young man, ready to conquer the world, or as the messed up, crazy boy he’s become thanks to him? That is, if he ends up remembering anything at all. Blaine’s not sure he will. He’s not even sure if he’d rather him to forget or not, honestly. What he’s doing with his life – and with Leo’s life, more importantly – seems somehow crucial enough for him to want his son to remember it. But it’s a painful thing, at the same time. He’s not sure he could ever be able to wish something painful to happen to Timmy. Even if it’s only a memory.

He stands up, annoyed at himself for his own thoughts. He’s found out more times than he cares to admit that every time he’s waiting for Leo to come back home his mind tends to start running around in circles over the same trail of thoughts, over and over again. It’s an endless road to run, and he’s already bored of it. He prefers doing something practical. Using his hands helps him not to notice how slow the passing of time is.

He starts by washing the dishes. He could simply put them in the dishwasher, but that would defeat the purpose: it’d only take him a couple of minutes, and that’s not what he wants. He wants to lose himself into irrelevant chores, he wants to drown his sadness in the idea of still being able to do something, and it doesn’t matter if it’s something inconsequential, stupid, even, what matters is that he gets it done. That way, he can delude himself into thinking there’s no task he can’t complete, even if he hasn’t completed it yet. Some would say being able to complete the task of washing the dishes shouldn’t be taken as an assurance in the sense of being able to complete any other task at all, but Blaine will take it. He’d take pretty much anything, right now, if he has to be honest about it.

At some point between the pan and the grill, he blacks out. He wouldn’t be able to describe it any better. He’s still with his hands under the water, soapy and red with how hot the water is, when he hears the lock turn, and the door in the hall open up.

Leo’s back.

The door is being slammed open so hard it hits the wall and bounces back. “Fuck you, stupid thing,” Leo hisses, hitting it open again. He’s drunk, Blaine can hear it in his voice. He’s also angry, but that’s got nothing to do with the drunkenness. That’s just what Leo is. Angry, before anything else.

He turns off the water and puts the grill down at the bottom of the sink. He watches the bubbly water run down the drain until it’s all gone, trying to give himself and Leo time. He can still hear him – he kicks the door closed, throws his keys on the console taking particular care into making as much noise as humanly possible and then starts wandering in the hall and sitting room hitting every single wall and piece of furniture, threatening to topple something over with each and every movement.

Blaine sighs, closing his eyes for a moment. Then he dries his hands and joins him in the other room.

He doesn’t think he will ever be able to adjust to Leo’s conditions when he finally comes back home every night. He’s not just high, or drunk, he’s miserable. He doesn’t even look like a human being anymore, more like a wreck of one. He’s thinner than he’s ever been – and he used to be such a healthy young man, with broad shoulders, slender but strong arms, full facial features which had just then, and he was twenty-two, started to sharpen out in very masculine corners. And he’s dirty, of course. Every night he’s dirty. He puts clean clothes on when he goes out in the early evening – of course he does, dirty clothes would be a problem cruising, wouldn’t they? – but there’s no tell about the conditions those clean clothes will be once he steps back home later. Usually, it’s just spilled drinks. Sometimes it’s come. When it’s been a bad night and he got into a fight with someone, there’s blood.

There’s no blood on him tonight, but something’s there. Whether it’s come or alcohol, in the darkness Blaine can’t see. He’s pretty sure once he gets closer to him he’ll know, and so he fights against the need to run away that Leo’s conditions always push out of the back of his mind every time he sees him like that, and he moves towards him. Slowly, like he’d do with a feral beast. Trying not to make things worse.

Leo sees him before he can attempt to say something.

“Ah, look who’s there,” his voice is mean, a sharp object, a weapon to cut him, “Hi, daddy. I see you waited up for me again,” he says, and he finishes the sentence with a cruel, harsh laughter, underlining how ridiculous it was of him to do so. Blaine thinks about Timmy, asleep in his bedroom upstairs. He hopes his son doesn’t wake up. He’s not ready to explain something like this to him.

“Leo,” he says, trying to sound calm, controlled, reasonable, “Lower your voice, please.”

“Why you hiding in the darkness, huh?” Leo pretends not to have heard him, and keeps talking louder than he knows he should. Blaine tried to set down rules, when Leo first moved in, but he’s not even sure Leo ever listened to them, let alone memorizing them. “You ashamed of something? You brought someone home while I wasn’t here, right? Come on, confess. You’ll feel better, afterwards.”

“You know very well I don’t take people home when Timmy’s here, Leo,” he answers, “Or when you are, for that matter.”

The wicked smile Leo was sporting up to a second before fades away in a moment upon hearing those words. He frowns, clutching his fists down his sides. “So what? You want a fucking award for that? Father of the year! You happy now?”

Blaine inhales and exhales slowly, trying to keep himself calm, keep himself focused. He knows there’s no talking with Leo, when he’s like that. Or better yet, there’s no reasoning with him. The only thing he can achieve by talking, right now, is convince him to go to bed, perhaps after having washed himself a little.

“You know very well I’m not, Leo,” he says.

“You keep saying that,” Leo shrugs, taking off his jacket and letting it fall carelessly to the ground, “You know very well, Leo. I don’t know shit, old man. But,” the smile comes back, suddenly as it had disappeared. It’s like a separate entity, something with a life of its own. It takes possession of Leo’s body and turns him into a whole different person, somebody Blaine doesn’t know, somebody he fears, even. “I found out something interesting, tonight. You wanna know what?”

“I’m pretty sure I don’t,” he answers, looking away from him, “And I think you know that very well too.”

Leo snickers, a childish sound with a tainted quality to it. Absolutely terrifying. “Yeah, I do know that. I’m still gonna tell, if you don’t mind. Actually, I’m gonna tell if you mind too, because honestly, I don’t give a fuck about it,” he shrugs. “So, you ready? Here it comes. There was this man at the bar. Around fifty years old.”

Blaine closes his eyes, holding his breath for a moment. He was hoping he could skip this, at least for tonight. Leo seemed out of his mind enough to forget about it. But no, that would’ve been too good. He has to go through it, now. The account of Leo’s nightly sex adventures.

“He was a real work of art, if you ask me. Yeah, I see you’re not asking, still, I’m gonna tell. So fucking handsome, you know? And so out of place in a place like that. Kids having fun all around him and then him, wearing a fucking gray suit, tailored stuff, I’m telling you, must’ve costed a fortune, the real deal, I’m talking big money, here, even more than you, if I had to guess. And he just sat at the bar, you know, drinking. Looking.” He grins, tilting his head like some sort of evil creature of the night, something out of a nightmare, with that ridiculously full mass of curly black hair as if hanging on a neck seemingly too thin to bear the weight of it. “Looking at the kids, of course. That should’ve given me a hint, right? But I was distracted, you see. I had swallowed something, dunno what, really, and I had been drinking for at least two hours straight by then. Well, he was fucking gorgeous, so I thought, you know what, whatever, let’s hit on the creepy old fucker, let’s see what he’s got for me.”

“Leo, lower your voice,” he tries again. He moves a step closer, and Leo moves a step back, leaving behind a faint scent of vodka and mint – it was a spilled drink, then. Thank God. Blaine thinks he’ll stay back, but Leo rethinks it, and steps forward again, smirking. If this is a war, Blaine is already losing it, because his opponent isn’t scared of him, and in war the ability to strike fear into the heart of your enemy is the only advantage that counts for something.

God, it kills him to think of Leo in these terms.

“What if young Timmy hears everything I have to say, huh?” Leo says, defiantly, “It’s a good cautionary tale. Just listen to it till the end, there’s a good moral to this story, you’ll love it. So, I walk to him and I swear, I’m so fucking high I can’t see his face. If the fucker had raped me and I had to describe him for the police, I’d just go with ‘I guess he had eyes’, nothing more, I swear,” and he laughs about it, as if he had just made the funniest joke ever heard. “But anyway. He looked at me as if he wasn’t even interested in me, but I knew better. Christ, I looked at least three or four years younger than anyone else in the fucking room, he had to be interested in me, am I right? In fact,” he smiles again, “He was.”

“Leo, enough,” Blaine raises his voice, feeling his self-control hopelessly slipping through his fingers. Something that’s never changed about Leo – his upsetting ability to always hit right when it hurts him the most. “I don’t want to listen to that.”

“Too bad you’re going to,” Leo answers right away, “Unless you wanna kick me out the house, of course. That what you’re gonna do? No? Then shut the fuck up and let me finish, this is where it gets interesting. So, here we are, me and Mr. Too Cool For This Shit, and I’m like hey, you wanna hook up?, and he’s like get lost, kid, I just wanna finish my drink, but I knew what to say to change the tide, you know? So I get closer and I tell him hey, hey, dude, wanna know something cool? I’m seventeen.”

Blaine shivers, averting his eyes. His fists are already shaking and he can’t stand the smile on Leo’s face one minute longer.

“Why are you telling me this?” he asks, sounding weaker than he should, “Why do you keep telling me these things?”

“Because it pleases me,” Leo answers, “Doctor Williams says the search for pleasure is natural and healthy. You want me to do natural and healthy shit, right? Of course you do. It’s not my fault if what’s natural and healthy for me isn’t what’s natural and healthy for most people. Guess who I have to thank for that?”


“Back to my man, anyway. I tell him I’m seventeen, his whole face lightens up. I swear, if I had come at him juggling crystal meth he couldn’t have been happier. It was almost cute, in a way. But it was more funny than cute. Like, seriously, he believed me. He was so desperate for underage ass he believed me.” He laughs again, shaking his head. “Amazing. He tells me I shouldn’t be there so late at night, you know, this is not a place for young kids like you, he says, God, he was so convincing I almost fell for it. But then when he told me he had his car outside and he’d be happy to drive me home, then I knew I had chosen him right. So of course I followed him, pretending to believe him. And in the car, I pretended to fall asleep. I didn’t want any conversation with him, you know, I think it would’ve spoiled the magic. I wanted him as raw and close to his true self as possible. I could sense there was something wonderful under that Armani suit. I’m great at sensing wonderful things underneath Armani suits, wouldn’t you say?” he asks with a grin.

“No, I wouldn’t,” his voice is tense and he already can’t take it anymore. He wishes there was a way to stop Leo, something different than walking away. He knows that wouldn’t work. Leo would follow. In one way or another, as himself or taking the form of his sense of guilt towards him, he’d follow him everywhere in the world. Blaine knows that for sure. He already tried it.

“That’s disappointing,” Leo puts his hands on his hips and tilts his head the other way, pouting, “You’re the worst at flattery, anybody ever told you that? My Armani suit, instead, God, he was the best at it. You should’ve heard the things he whispered to me while he thought me asleep. You’re such a pretty boy, aren’t you? You’re so small and fragile. Oh, but daddy’s gonna take care of you, won’t he? Yes he will.” Leo laughs again at the memory. “Just awesome. I wish I recorded him, that way I could show you. I was too taken with playing my part, you see, I didn’t want him to smell something wrong. I was amazing, best actor ever, you would’ve been proud of me.”

“I doubt it,” he says, and he uses all the harshness he’s capable of, on purpose. He wishes he could crush him, sometimes, reduce him to a perpetually non-belligerent state. Maybe that would make things easier.

“Christ, Anderson, if I gave a fuck, that would’ve killed me,” Leo brings both hands over his own heart. He’s pretending to be hurt, and underneath Blaine can see he actually is really hurt. He doesn’t even know what’s the saddest part of all this. Maybe they’re all the saddest part, every single part of it. “So, the car finally stops and I take that as a hint. I pretend to wake up that very moment, and he believes it. So I play confused, you know, where are we?, this isn’t my house, and I’m all whiny and whimpering like a five years old child, and I swear, that fucking makes him hard, right there, right then. I can see his fucking dick swell in his pants, it’s amazing. God, I think, this is gonna be good. He picks me up and tells me not to worry, that I must’ve taken some bad pills from someone at the club, I shit you not, he really said bad pills, can you even listen to this shit?, and he says he’s gonna take care of me, do I want him to take care of me?, and that’s— that’s when I really do my best, you know, ‘cause I’m pretending I really am so stoned I can’t get a fuck straight, and he believes that, and he’s fucking into that, and that’s what comes out of my mouth when he asks if I want him to take care of me: yes, daddy, I said. And he just went nuts.”

Blaine swallows, covering his face with his hand. He tries to turn around. He knows he can’t run, but he wants anyway.

Leo stops him, though. “Don’t fucking move,” he says. Blaine can’t see him anymore, and his voice is cruel, cold. There’s nothing of the lighter tone of before. He’s moved past from the sad comedy he was playing for himself. Now it’s the real deal. Now come the hard blows. “He carried me upstairs. He had a nice house. You could tell he didn’t know what to do with all the fucking money he makes. I’m guessing lawyer, but I really don’t know, and I really don’t care. He drags me to the bed. I say I’m tired, I wanna sleep, just to test him. He fails. Sleep, he says, don’t worry, I’m not gonna do anything. Then he strips me naked, parts my legs and starts fucking me. No condom, no lube, nothing. He didn’t even spit on that sorry excuse for a cock he had between his legs. He just put it in. I kept my eyes closed and he really believed I was asleep. Baby, you feel so good, he told me, so tight. Of course he wasn’t talking about my ass, given I’m loose as shit. And he keeps going, you know, there’s no stopping him, I mean, not that I tried, but the words, man,” he chuckles, and there’s such a desperate undertone to that chuckle Blaine wants to die on the spot, “The words. Shit. Daddy loves you. Daddy loves you so much. Daddy loves that tight little asshole, yeah, daddy loves it around his cock. It simply didn’t end.” He takes a break, breathing in and out. “He got asleep, at some point,” he adds then, “I looked into his pocket. He had a picture of a woman and a young boy in his wallet. Guess the kid’s lucky daddy doesn’t take this shit out on him, huh?”

Blaine knows exactly what happened there. It’s what’s been happening since he came back and took him home. Leo did something he thought he could handle, and that something hit him right back in the face. Not just fucking the guy, but telling him about him too. Something he thought would be fun. And ended up not being fun at all.

“You said there was a moral to this story,” he says when Leo finally falls silent, “But I see none.”

“You’re wrong,” Leo says. His voice is as dark and distant as if it came from a cave at the bottom of the ocean. “Here’s your fucking moral, Anderson: grown up men who don’t stop when they know they’re about to fuck a kid are assholes.” He stops for a moment. Then he turns around, headed towards the stairs. “Something I should’ve learned long ago.”

Blaine doesn’t answer him. He’s got nothing to say to that. Perhaps he could tell him he’s right. That he should’ve steered clear from him right from the start. But he doesn’t have the heart to say that. He’s trying to help him, but he can’t cope with the idea of Leo hating him. It’s selfish of him, he knows. He hopes he can work through it, at some point. That he reaches a state of mind that makes him able to think it’s alright if at the end of this tunnel Leo comes out hating me, what matters is that he makes it out.

He wishes to get there, someday. In the meanwhile, he walks upstairs, swallows everything Leo told him, waits for it to sit at the bottom of his stomach and puts himself to bed for another sleepless night.
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