This is basically a one-shot that kind of doubles as an epilogue (or even prologue if you want to read it first) for An Abundance of Pep. It has all the same content warnings as everything written in this universe: violence, gore, body horror, rape (never graphically depicted), child abuse, homophobia, language (there is one slur in this). Please let me know if there's anything else I should warn for.
Blaine was spread out on top of one of the picnic tables at the park, feeling distinctively like a pile of perfectly cooked noodles. The heat had seeped into him, making his limbs feel heavy and his brain feel slow. Yep, it was summer.
The boy gave a contented sigh. He had months of this left.
The peaceful scene was suddenly shattered by a yell and something slamming into Blaine's side. The impact quickly turned into wetness. Blaine shrieked and bolted upright. One side of his shirt, along with a good portion of his shorts, were soaked. He picked up the ruined remains of a pink balloon and turned to look at the assholes who had ruined his summer-drunk.
It was his new friends, of course. Blaine swore under his breath. Could he have one day to just veg out?
Pete and Clarence rode up to the table on their bikes, laughing like hyenas.
"Come on, Blaine!" Pete, a small, twitchy boy ordered. He looked like the kind of kid that got picked on a lot, but there was a streak of meanness in Pete that kept people on his good side.
"We got water balloons. And some not-water balloons." Clarence added. He was one of those kids who people thought had gotten held back a grade or two. It wasn't because of his intelligence—Clarence wasn't the smartest candle on the cake, but he wasn't slow by any means—it was because he was so damn big. He was probably another reason why people didn't pick on Pete. Pete's giant shadow.
"What's a not-water balloon?" Blaine asked, his brain still not working at full tilt.
"We put all kinds of stuff in them, you gotta come see." Clarence gushed like a six-year-old admiring the presents under the Christmas tree.
"Yeah, come on, panty waist. Meet us on top of the school." With that, Pete—and therefor Clarence—started to turn and pedal off.
"Wait! Like on the roof!?" He yelled after them. Pete just flipped him off without turning around. He took that as a yes. How the hell did they get on the roof? And why the school? It wasn't likely that anyone would be around, it being summer and all. But like always, Blaine didn't bother questioning the method to Pete's madness. He just got super bitchy if you did. It was because of that reason that Blaine hauled himself off of the table, got onto his own bike and rode off towards the high school.
The front doors were locked by way of a heavy chain and padlock. And probably a regular door lock as well, Blaine supposed. He didn't get close enough to try them. He shrugged off the new security measures as he went around the back. He got lucky before he reached the large parking lot in back. One of the small side doors had been propped open by a box. As he entered, his hand brushed against some graffiti scratched into the metal of the door. He hoped Pete hadn't done it. Though if they were caught, he was sure they'd mostly care about the whole trespassing thing.
It was cooler inside than he remembered it being during the end of the year classes. The lack of restless students probably helped with that. It was empty inside, of course. Blaine knew it would be, but it still creeped him out a bit. The familiar dirty mint green hallways seemed so strange, so quiet.
A little faster now, he searched for a way onto the roof. He had been reasonably sure after three years at this school that there hadn't been one. Or at least if there was, it was located somewhere besides the places they regularly let hundreds of nosy teenagers enter. Somewhere Blaine didn't want to go. His mind flashed him an image of a dark, dirty room that made him physically recoil.
Fear and nerves raced through him. Suddenly, he wanted no part of Pete's plan. He just wanted to go home and take a nap. Before he could retrace his steps and start making up some excuses for Pete, Clarence appeared at the landing of the first set of stairs.
"This way, Blaine. Hurry up." He practically bounced up the rest of the stairs. Blaine had no choice but to follow. Well, he did have a choice. He just didn't want Pete pissed at him for a week.
So he went up to the second floor to find Clarence waiting at the door of an opened classroom. He thought it was Mrs. Chambers' English class. No, it was Mr. Swinton's. Blaine gave a mental shrug. The teachers seemed to exchange classrooms every year. Which was why the room was pretty much empty. It just had the rows of desks and the large teacher's desk in the front. There weren't any ugly motivational posters on the walls, no books on the built-in shelves, or any assignments written on the whiteboard.
Of course, there weren't any assignments. It was summer.
Clarence dragged Blaine into the large closet at the back of the room with his enthusiasm. "We found it a few days ago." He told him as he climbed up the pull-down ladder. Blaine held back his concern about their multiple break-ins, knowing neither of them would hear him out.
Up the ladder he went, the entire town of Wisteria—the important bits anyhow—slowly appearing as his head cleared the opening. Once he climbed onto the gravel of the roof, he went over to the edge where Pete and Clarence were waiting. Blaine barely spared a glance for their pretty impressive hoard of water-and-various-other-things balloons.
It was just so very quiet. The town almost looked abandoned.
Maybe it was the heat? No one walking or driving around in the oppressive air more than they had to? Blaine wondered what time it was. He wondered if his parents would be home from work now. He hoped they weren't working late again.
He shook off the eeriness of the quiet and pointed out a flaw in Pete's plan. "There's no one around. Who hangs around school during the summer?"
"Will you stop moaning over there, ya wet rag?" Pete complained. "There's one dweeb in particular who comes around here all the time for your information."
"Robbie Sinclair." Clarence answered while Pete lifted the pair of binoculars he had slung over his neck to his eyes.
Blaine really regretted getting out of bed this morning. Or at least leaving the house. He could have spent the day on his couch watching movies—the cable was being weird—or down in the basement working on his models. He had thought about doing that the day before, but the living room had seemed too hot and stuffy, the basement too dark—not that he would admit that. And quiet. His house was way too quiet.
He thought he could have put up with the quiet if it meant he wasn't here on the school roof, trying to find a way to back out of this plan that wouldn't have Pete putting something slimy and dead in his bed or shooting his BB gun at him. Again.
Robbie had even warned him.
A few weeks ago, he had woken up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and gasping for breath. Panic had gripped him tight even though Blaine couldn't trace the source. Maybe a bad dream? If it had been, the images his sleeping mind had conjured had faded fast, leaving behind the fear. Fear he couldn't face or reason with.
Almost without conscious thought, he had pulled on some clothes and his shoes, and was out the door. He had wandered the dark street. The place where he had grown up. It looked so different. It stoked the panic in his veins. He started to run, not knowing where he was going. He went down many other dark, unfamiliar streets with dark and quiet houses lining them. It was so quiet.
He ended up at the small park on Emerson. A single streetlight illuminated the woodchip-filled expanse playing host to a small swing set, a half-metal dome for climbing, and slide that he remembered trying to go down one bright summer day when he had been younger. The slide had burned the back of his legs as soon as he sat down. He remembered crying. He remembered his mom taking him home, telling him to be careful in summer.
That's when he realized he wasn't the only one taking a walk in the middle of the night like a crazy person. Someone was on the swings, not swinging, just sitting.
Again, without really making the decision, he went over to them. It was a guy who looked around Blaine's age. He wondered if the guy got stood up for a date—a meet-the-parents-kind of date—or something, because he wasn't wearing your average wandering around at night clothes. A dark blue sweater over a white button down shirt—with a tie even—and tan dress pants. Blaine couldn't help but notice that the pants were cuffed at the bottom enough to show argyle socks bunched around the guy's ankles. He was even wearing dark brown dress shoes.
Blaine's panic had faded while he stood there, wondering why a guy dressed like his grandpa was hanging around a park this late. He took one step towards the swings, into the circle of light offered by the streetlight, and the guy looked up, his dark curly hair messy, his eyes red and swollen behind his glasses.
"Uh, hi?" Blaine felt stupid. Obviously this guy had had a rough night and here he was bothering him.
The guy took off his glasses and wiped his eyes before returning with a shaky, "Hello." He stared at Blaine for a moment, then asked, "Are you all right?"
Blaine was brought up short by that. Surely he should be asking that question. But then he realized he probably didn't seem okay from where they guy was standing. It was clear he had just rolled out of bed and he had probably heard him running down the quiet street.
"Um..." Blaine started, and nearly rolled his eyes at himself. Very eloquent. He thought. But he had to think about it. The fear that had engulfed him and made everything seem unfamiliar was gone. His mind had recovered from the panic attack or whatever it had been. Even outside of the light, the street beyond looked as familiar and... right as it always had. "Yeah, I'm good. Are you okay?" He asked as he approached and took the last swing.
The guy took a deep breath and nodded. "Same old, same old." Blaine didn't know what he meant by that, but thought it'd be too rude to pry.
"Did you just move here?" He asked instead. He hadn't seen the kid around before. He could go to the private school in town, but Wisteria was so small he knew those kids—at least by sight—too. And he thought he would have noticed this guy.
He was... cute. He was very cute. Though Blaine felt a bit like a creep for noticing while the guy was obviously dealing with some stuff.
"No, I've been here for awhile."
Blaine frowned in confusion over that. "Are you home-schooled?" That was the only answer for it.
"Something like that. What's your name?" He asked and Blaine got the distinct impression he was changing the subject. Blaine understood, he didn't have any touchy family issues himself, but he recognized them enough to back off.
"Blaine Pike. What's yours?"
"Robert Sinclair. You can call me Robbie, though."
They were quiet for a bit. But it was a... nice quiet. Not a wrong one. It had been broken when Robbie spoke. He told him about some kids who lived near him. Pete and Clarence. Robbie had said it was best to not get involved with them. Blaine hadn't listened. They had seemed alright at first. Besides who else was he going to hang out with all summer? Everyone else seemed too busy to come be lazy with him.
And now he was here wishing he had either taken Robbie's advice or hadn't spent time hanging out with him. Robbie was pretty quiet, but that didn't bother Blaine. He also didn't make fun of him for his nightmares or grumble about what a pain Blaine was when he knocked on his backdoor at three in the morning after them. No, he just let Blaine in and they talked. Robbie was really into old sci-fi and mystery books. Though he lived under a rock where movies were concerned. They had spent a few long summer days marathoning through Blaine's extensive collection.
"Ah, here he comes." Pete pointed out.
Sure enough, Robbie was walking down the street, hands thrust into his pockets, hunched over, gaze on the pavement. It was like he was hoping the world wouldn't notice him.
Blaine stared at him as Pete and Clarence debated in a whisper which balloons they were going to use to drench him. Humiliate him.
Blaine couldn't let them do it. No matter how Pete was going to get revenge.
"Robbie! Watch out!" Blaine yelled down at him, ignoring Pete furiously cussing him out. Robbie looked up, confused, but he stopped moving.
"Fuckin' asshole!" Pete growled and shoved Blaine.
"Hey!" Blaine yelled back. The push had forced him closer to the edge of the roof.
"Get 'em, Clarence."
All Blaine could do was watch as Clarence closed in on him, not really believing he was going to get punched over ruining their prank. He held up his hands, knowing they wouldn't do much to defend him with how big Clarence's fists were.
Clarence didn't punch him, though. He just grabbed onto his shirt and started walking him backwards.
"What the fuck!?" He yelled at both of them, panic breaking through his disbelief. They were going to push him off the roof. They were going to fucking murder him! Blaine grabbed on to Clarence's forearms trying to break his hold, but it was like trying to budge two-by-fours. He tried to push against him, but his shoes skidded on gravel.
"See, this is what you get, you waste of skin." Pete said, scarily calm.
"You can't do this! Let me go!"
Instead of letting him go, Clarence manhandled him around, so he was staring at the ground from the dizzying height that hadn't bothered him much when there had been several feet between him and the edge.
Robbie was still there. His hands were over his mouth and his eyes were wide in fear.
"Robbie, get help!" Blaine yelled down at him, frantic. Robbie didn't move. Blaine thought he was too scared to, but then he moved his hands away from his mouth to speak, sadly shaking his head.
"There isn't anyone."
Robbie didn't yell it, but Blaine could hear it like he was standing right next to him. What? What did he mean there wasn't anyone?
"No one's talking to you, faggot. But you can wait there for us to get done with your boyfriend, you're next." Pete said, tossing a filled balloon back and forth between his hands. He threw it. It missed Robbie, but broke open on the sidewalk.
The smell of gasoline rose from the ground.
"Clarence, let's see if this shitcan can fly."
"No!" Blaine screamed, and tried to hold onto Clarence. Clarence fought the grip Blaine managed to get on his shirt, but before he could get him free, something happened that was strange enough to stop all of them in their tracks.
Down in front of the school, a bright burst of light exploded into existence along with a strong gust of wind. Two people were silhouetted in the light, standing very close to each other for a moment before the light and wind died, leaving the sidewalk just as it had been a moment before.
Blaine had no idea what had just happened, but he knew this was his only chance. Since Clarence was distracted by the weird occurrence, Blaine was able to rip away and throw his body back towards the safely of the roof.
"Motherfucker!" Pete yelled, but Blaine was running towards the opening in the roof like his life depended on it, because it did.
Clarence's heavy footfalls thundered after him, followed by Pete's lighter ones, but Blaine didn't look back. He threw himself down the ladder that lead back into the classroom, through the door and down the main stairs.
Light sliced through the dim hallway from the propped open side door. Blaine ran to it despite the stitch in his side and the panic drowning his mind. Robbie was there, one hand on the push-in handle and the other frantically waving Blaine towards him.
As soon as Blaine was out of the door, Robbie slammed it shut. He grabbed Blaine's arm and started running too, pulling Blaine to the parking lot where both of their bikes were waiting for them. Blaine knew he had left his bike at the front of the school and Robbie had been walking earlier, but he didn't question it. They needed to get out of here.
They biked off towards the far side of the parking lot, Blaine following Robbie since he seemed to know where was going. He looked back just before they left sight of the school and didn't see Pete or Clarence giving chase. He didn't trust it, so he peddled like the psychos were right behind him.
Robbie lead them to his house. Blaine started to head inside. "Good, I'm going to call my parents and then the cops. They can't get away with doing shit like that."
Robbie didn't say anything, just followed him inside, so close behind him that he nearly stepped on the back of his shoes. Blaine didn't tell him to give him space. He was still shaken from what had just happened, he figured Robbie was too.
Blaine stopped at the kitchen and stared at the blank walls in confusion for a moment, then shook his head. He had been expecting a phone to be there because that was where it was in his house.
"Where's your phone?"
Robbie was still so close, he could feel the breath of air his the back of his neck as Robbie sighed.
"In the study." He answered quietly and slowly lead him to a room lined with bookshelves. There was a fireplace in one wall and a small bar at one end. The phone was on the heavy wooden desk near the window. It was black rotary phone.
Blaine stared at it for a moment before picking up the receiver. He didn't think even his grandmother had still used one of these by the time he had come around, but he had seen movies, he knew how to work one.
He dialed his mom's work phone first. It rang and rang. Okay, it must have been busy at the restaurant. Next he tried his dad, knowing he wasn't allowed to take calls during work, but Blaine figured they make an exception because it was an emergency. Again, the phone just rang. Blaine hung up and tried the restaurant again. His heart skipped a beat when someone picked up.
"Jackie's Wings. How can I help you?" It was his mother. He could tell despite the way the line was cutting in and out and filling with static around the words. He could also hear how tired she sounded. Lunch rush, Blaine figured.
"Mom?" He said, wanting to make sure she could hear him through the crappy reception. He thought he heard a sharp intake of breath before the line went dead.
Blaine looked back at Robbie. "You know, you should probably let your parents know that antique phones might look nice, but they're not great in an emergency."
Robbie didn't say anything. And Blaine called himself stupid silently. He hadn't met Robbie parents yet, but it was obvious that there was something wrong in their relationship. Robbie probably didn't tell his parents important things let alone make comments about their adherence to the old fashioned design aesthetics that they chose for their house.
Blaine dialed 911 next. It rang and rang.
"What the hell?" Blaine asked. Was that even allowed? Someone had to pick up. Blaine pressed the receiver harder against his ear.
He was about to ask Robbie what was wrong with his phone line, but then he caught sight of something moving at the end of Robbie's street. It was Pete and Clarence heading right for Robbie's house.
"Shit!" Blaine yelled, hanging up the phone and ducking down behind the desk.
"This way, Blaine, come on." Robbie encouraged. Blaine followed him out of the room and then out of the backdoor. Trees lined the end of Robbie's backyard and that's where they went. There was a wooded area on the south side of town, but Blaine hadn't realized Robbie lived right up against it. His mother told him he wasn't allowed to "go fool around" in the woods because they were dangerous, but Blaine thought she'd understand after he told her what he was running from.
Robbie broke off from the little path worn through the trees, so it became more hard-going. Without a word, Robbie reached back and grabbed Blaine's hand, helping steady him through the root-laden, leaf-covered ground.
The trees started to grow taller and closer together. Less light seeped in from the canopy above.
"Ah," Blaine started to say. At this point, he almost would rather face Pete and Clarence. The woods were getting a little too spooky for his taste.
"We're almost there." Robbie whispered. And it wasn't too much longer before Blaine could make out a structure in the woods. A tree house.
"Neat. Did you build this?" Blaine asked. He has seen the patches from Robbie's Wisteria Scout days. A tree house was a lot bigger than a birdhouse, but Blaine could see how something like this could be a team-building exercise or something. Probably worth at least three patches.
"No, I found it." Robbie explained. Or not.
They were right under it now. It wasn't much more than a wooden box cutting through the branches of one of the biggest trees in the area, but it look sturdy enough. Robbie unwound a cord tangled around a lower branch and tugged on it. A rickety ladder lowered itself enough so they could climb up to the trapdoor opening in the bottom of the tree house.
After they were both inside, Robbie tugged the ladder back in place, making sure the rope was up there with them. He also shut the trap door and shoved one of the dirty, water-damaged boxes over it. Once that was done, Blaine watched as he took up a spot against one of the corners, knees pulled up to his chest and arms wrapped around them.
There wasn't much in the tree house. Just a couple of other boxes and an upside down old milk crate that held the waxy remains of a few candles. Blaine took a seat next to Robbie.
"Are you okay?" He asked.
"Are you?" Robbie replied. It reminded Blaine of their first meeting. He thought the answer was obvious by now. Neither of them were okay, but he had to ask.
"I just want to know what the hell is wrong with them. You don't try to kill someone over something like that!"
Robbie let out a small, unhappy laugh. "The world is crueler than you know."
"Seriously. I say we wait here for a couple of hours—there's no way they'll find us out here—and then when the coast is clear, we can head to my house. My parents should be home by then." He hoped.
"Okay." Robbie agreed.
There was silence then. Blaine didn't want to let it settle. He didn't want the quiet here. "Robbie, you can tell me to mind my own business if you want, but if you want to talk about... you know, stuff, I'm here." Blaine rolled his eyes at himself.
"We talk all the time, Blaine."
"No, I mean like about important stuff. Not like how it's ridiculous that you've never heard of the cinematic masterpieces known as the Riot Circus trilogy, but like..." Blaine sighed. "You just seem kind of sad." It was true. Even during their late night discussions, there would always be pauses, dips where Robbie seemed a million miles away. And those little moments didn't disappear once he was back, they built up, bruises on bruises.
Blaine tried to distract him when it happened, but he didn't think he was getting anywhere. He thought this was the only option, this head-on approach, but here was the silence again.
Slowly, like he was moving through static, Blaine reached out and put his hand on top of Robbie's. "You know we're friends, right?" He asked. Robbie was staring at their hands, his expression confused. It faded away as he slipped his other hand on top of Blaine's.
"I... It's been awhile since I had a friend." He admitted in a whisper. It was quiet, but a thousand times better than the pulling silence. "There are people I... hang out with, but I find it difficult to call them friends."
Blaine tried to think back and couldn't remember seeing Robbie ever around anyone else. There had never been a time that Robbie had blown him off to go off with anyone else either. Blaine didn't pry, instead he tightened his grip on Robbie's hand.
"Well, you got me now."
Robbie's smile was sad. The exact opposite of what Blaine was trying to achieve right now. "I can't keep you though."
"Says who?" Blaine demanded while his gut warmed at the words Robbie used. Keep him? He wouldn't be against that at all.
Robbie just looked at him. Moonlight cut through the window and reflected off of his glasses. Moonlight? Was it really that late already? Blaine wondered, then shrugged it off. It was just darker under the trees, the light playing tricks.
Right now, the only important thing was the heavy cloud that settled over Robbie. He wanted to shift it, if only a little. Faster than their first touch, Blaine used his grip to tug Robbie closer. Robbie went without a fight.
He didn't react at all until their lips touched. Then, a sound left him that shattered the silence. It was broken and hungry, but it was there and it was real. Robbie practically climbed into Blaine's lap. Blaine just pulled him closer, wrapping his arms around the thin boy as if he could shield him from everything. Robbie opened his mouth in invitation and Blaine took it. Robbie tasted bitter, but Blaine didn't care.
He could breathe. He could breathe.
The moment was ruined and torn when a thud went through the tree house. It shook the two of them apart. Blaine went to one of the small windows cut into the wood to see Pete and Clarence down below.
"Fuck, how did they find us?" Blaine asked, but Robbie didn't have a chance to answer before they both threw rocks up at the tree house.
"Stay up there if you want!" Pete called up. With that, there were more thumps as they threw things, but it was softer. Blaine realized they were throwing their water balloons now.
The smell of gasoline soon grew thick. "What the hell?" Blaine gasped and risked peeking out again to see Pete with a bow. He wasn't aiming yet, no, he was wrapping the tip of an arrow in some kind of cloth. Then his lighter came out. Blaine couldn't see Clarence, but he could hear him, stomping around underneath them. And the sound of liquid sloshing around in a half-empty container.
The cloth Pete had wrapped the arrow with went up in flames and Blaine could easily see his hungry smile.
"Robbie, they're going to burn the tree house down."
"Then let's leave." Robbie said, not sounding like he had fully understood what Blaine had just told him. He was way too calm.
"The only place to go is down there. With them." Blaine reminded him.
Robbie checked his watch for a second, while Blaine tried to not hyperventilate. "I don't feel like getting burned to death tonight." He said and moved the box out of the way of the trap door.
Blaine grabbed his arm. "They have weapons."
Robbie looked at him from inches away. There was his usual sadness there, but also something harder. An unexpected flash of spine. "They won't have time to use them, Blaine."
Confused, Blaine followed Robbie down to the ground nonetheless. If Robbie had a way out of this nightmarish mess, he'd trust him.
Pete tsked. "Here you go ruining my fun again. But we can make do." With that, he aimed the still flaming arrow at Robbie.
Blaine couldn't get any words out, but Robbie spoke. Calm and quiet. "You're out of time." The ringing of the church bell in town sounded, counting out the hour. It was faint, but it still rang over the small clearing there were all in.
Pete and Clarence shared a puzzled look between them before Pete shook it off. He took a breath to say something else, but the words never escaped him.
Pete's head violently wrenched back. It took a second for Blaine to see the arrow sticking out from his eye. Blaine yelled but he could barely hear it. He searched the woods for the culprit, but there wasn't anyone. It was just the four of them.
"Pete!" Clarence called out, he looked like he wanted to run closer and far away all at the same time. Before he could decide, two more arrows sprouted out of Pete's body—one in the throat and one in the gut. Pete finally fell over, his own bow falling out of his numb, dead grip. The flames on the arrow guttered. Also dead.
Blaine aimed frightened eyes at Robbie, who was taking in the horrible scene with an equally horrible calm. Blaine tried to call out to him, but he couldn't make a sound. The silence was back and it was so loud.
Blaine's attention was torn from Robbie when he heard Clarence yell. His eyes followed something in the trees, something Blaine searched for but failed to find. Clarence tried to run, but something...hit him. Clarence went flying and the way his body came down...the way it smacked into the ground like it was harder than a bed of leaves made no sense to Blaine, but it didn't matter with the way fear swallowed him whole. He couldn't move.
He watched as Clarence twitched on the ground, arm twisted around, but still breathing hard. He locked eyes with Blaine, reached out with his good hand. Blaine couldn't do anything as the invisible force that had struck him came back.
A car. A small voice in the back of Blaine's head supplied as he watched as Clarence was crushed flat. A leg curled and ripped like it had been caught up in a wheel well and then Clarence's skull split like a melon meeting a cinder block.
"It's going to be okay, Blaine." Robbie said, voice rough and breathy.
Blaine looked at Robbie, numb. It felt like he was breaking apart. Like he was coated in glass that had been shattered and now there were so many cracks, he was leaking out. Pouring out.
Robbie fell to his knees and clutched at his throat. Again, all Blaine could do was watch. He was frozen.
No, he was tied. His arms wouldn't move. His legs were tangled in rope. He couldn't get away.
Robbie didn't look away from him as his skin turned bright red and foam bubbled at his lips. As he gasped with no air. He fell to the ground and laid still.
And then that's when Blaine saw it. The knife. It was above him. Light ran off the blade. It was real, too real. He could feel the hands too hot and too cruel holding him down. And then blade came down. He felt it like a shock.
It cut through the skin of his neck jaggedly in a stop and start motion. No air. Only pain. Enough pain to wash away the heat of his blood drenching him.
Blaine fell, still unable to move much. He locked his eyes on Robbie's own. They were open and empty.
Blaine woke up in bed gasping for breath. His hands went to his throat. It was whole. There was no gash, no blood. Air moved in and out of his lungs, but he still felt like he couldn't breathe.
It was a nightmare. Just a nightmare. Blaine repeated the words out loud in his dark bedroom, but it didn't help.
Like he had all those nights ago, he threw on the closest clothes, stumbled into his shoes and was off like a shot. He didn't look too closely at his surroundings, if they didn't... He wouldn't be able to handle anything strange right now.
He needed to see Robbie. To make sure he was alright.
Blaine rapped on Robbie's backdoor desperately. He hoped he didn't wake up his parents, but he couldn't stop. There was something awful and overwhelming building behind him.
A soft yellow light came to life on the other side of the curtain and then Robbie was opening the door.
Blaine didn't hesitate, he crashed into him, pulling him close as if he could seal up the cracks. Robbie didn't hesitate either. His arms were steady as they rubbed at his back.
"It's okay. It's okay." He whispered over and over. Blaine belatedly realized he was shaking and sobbing into Robbie's neck.
It took more than a few moments, but eventually Robbie was able to convince the sobs to stop wracking him so badly and made Blaine come into the kitchen, out of the dark backyard. Robbie sat him down at the small kitchen table and went about making him hot chocolate.
Blaine watched him like he would disappear if he looked away. When he was done, he handed Blaine one warm mug and nodded towards his bedroom. Blaine followed.
They settle on his Robbie's bed. He was the one to break the silence. "Another nightmare you can't remember?"
"No." Blaine answered, voice an unfamiliar creak. He swallowed and tried again, hands going tighter around the mug of untouched hot chocolate. "I remember this one. You were dead. I watched you die. I died. Hell, Pete and Clarence died. I... It felt so real, Robbie."
Blaine almost flinched when Robbie put a hand on his shoulder. It wasn't enough. Not tonight. Blaine put his mug down on the nightstand by the bed then scooted closer to Robbie. Robbie went with it, wrapping his arm around his shoulder and pulling him in tight so his head was resting on his shoulder against the soft cloth of the robe that was pulled over his pajamas.
"Tell me more about it." Robbie said. So Blaine did. He told them about the prank Pete and Clarence were planing, how it all spun out of control.
"They're kind of douchebags, but they wouldn't actually kill anybody." Blaine said. The terror of the dream was slowly leeching out of him and clarity was coming back. All of the odd things that hadn't added up made sense now. It was just a dream.
Blaine told him about their escape and hiding in the tree house in the woods. He skipped the kiss. He didn't know how Robbie would take it, he didn't want to lose the closeness he was offering right now. Then he told him about how they all died as the bell rang through the clearing.
Robbie's arm around him went tighter for a moment. "Do you want to spend the night here?"
"Can I?" Usually once Blaine had calmed down, he had gone back home. He didn't want to cause trouble for Robbie with his parents.
Blaine nodded. They were so close he didn't have to say it.
They sat like that for a while, the silence building at the edges but pushed away by what was between them.
Then Robbie moved, gently disturbing Blaine. Robbie stood and untucked the covers on his bed, holding them open for Blaine to slip inside. Blaine did and Robbie followed him in. Blaine had thought he'd be offered a sleeping bag on the floor, but he wasn't going to complain.
With the wall on one side of him and Robbie on the other, Blaine knew he wouldn't have trouble falling back asleep. Blaine heard the bedside lamp click off and then he was fading.
Blaine woke up with morning light streaming in through the window and Robbie wrapped around him. An arm clenched around his waist, a leg threaded through his. There wasn't a breath of space between Blaine's back and Robbie's front.
Blaine couldn't help the smile that grew on his face. He rubbed it against the pillow under his head that smelled like Robbie.
"Are you awake?" Robbie whispered.
"Yeah." Blaine breathed.
Robbie started to move away, but Blaine caught his arm and clamped down on his leg. "Don't go."
"Okay." The word was wobbly.
Blaine let go at once. "I mean, go if you want, but just so you know, I don't have a problem with it."
Robbie didn't move away. Blaine felt him move even closer, so he was speaking directly into his ear and his breath ghosted on his neck. Blaine shivered.
"No, I want to be here. I just don't know how."
Blaine let out a huff of laughter. "Neither do I, but I think we can figure something out." He grabbed Robbie's hand where it was on his stomach and moved it slowly until he got his shirt out of the way and Robbie was touching bare skin.
A shaky breath left Robbie and he moved even closer. Blaine moaned as he felt the beginnings of Robbie's erection against his ass. He had always thought of how it would be when he finally did this, but in all his imaginings—both the tame and the utterly filthy—he never thought it would feel this perfect.
Blaine bucked against him and it was Robbie's turn to moan. Robbie's hand went lower without Blaine's guidance. It hesitated at the waistband of his boxers, but Blaine mumbled something he hoped sounded suitably encouraging and he continued.
The feeling of Robbie's hand on his cock burned through him, leaving pleasure to smoke and curl up through him in it's wake.
"Robbie, that's good. So good."
"Yeah?" There was a real question in Robbie's voice even as he moved his hips frantically against Blaine.
That wouldn't do, Blaine thought. With an amazing amount of willpower, Blaine stopped Robbie and turned over in the narrow bed before the other boy could say anything. Blaine looked him over in the morning light, intently enough that he got to watch a blush flush up his cheeks. Without his glasses, his eyes looked brighter, his eyelashes like dark lace, delicate. All of Robbie looked delicate, like he should have been made out of porcelain.
Blaine kissed him. Just like in his dream, Robbie tasted bitter, but it also felt like air after drowning.
Blaine pulled away only to tug at his matching pajama shirt and pants. Robbie didn't need any more encouragement, so Blaine left him to it and made headway on taking off his own thin t-shirt and shorts. It wasn't long before they were both naked in Robbie's bed.
It was Blaine's turn to blush as Robbie looked him over. Hunger was in his gaze. That, too, reminded him of his dream, but Blaine pushed it away, it didn't belong here in this moment. This moment was just for them. Something gentle and light.
Robbie pushed him back into the mattress. Blaine moaned as he felt all of that skin come into contact. Also the sure, solid weight of Robbie above him made him feel so safe. They kissed again and Blaine pulled him even closer. Robbie gasped and rested his forehead against Blaine's.
Blaine bit his lip, seeing Robbie lose it like this was driving him closer and closer to the edge. There was no sadness crushing him here in this moment. He just was. Panting, heart beating against his, and looking at Blaine like he was something he never expected to have.
Blaine smiled up at him and moved his hands down until he could wrap them around both of their cocks.
"I got you." Blaine breathed back.
It wasn't the smoothest thing in the world, but that didn't matter sense neither had the will or the experience to last very long.
Robbie went first and Blaine got to watch from inches away. He chased his gasping breaths with nipping kisses and was adding to the wet mess between them soon after.
Robbie collapsed on him. Blaine didn't care. He could squish the air out of him, he'd just need a kiss to get it back.
After a shower and borrowing some of Robbie's clothes—he had only laughed when Blaine told him he dressed like an old man—they left the house.
As soon as they were out of sight of Robbie's house, he grabbed Blaine hand. He didn't say anything, but a small, pleased smile played about his lips as they walked.
"Where are we going?" Blaine asked. Robbie seemed like he had a destination in mind.
The smile disappeared and Blaine wished he could take the words back. Robbie didn't let go of his hand, though, that was something.
"I, um, I just need to see something."
"Okay." Blaine agreed easily enough.
When he saw the high school, his feet almost stopped, but he let Robbie pull him closer. Maybe he was just trying to help? To remind him that his nightmare was just that, a nightmare, and that everything was okay.
Robbie didn't say anything until they were right in front of the front doors. "What do you see?"
Blaine hadn't been able to help himself from looking around for Pete and Clarence, but his attention snapped back to Robbie at the weird question.
"What do you mean?"
Robbie gestured at the doors with his free hand. "Are they locked?"
"Ah, yes." Blaine answered hesitantly, unsure of what Robbie was getting at. The double doors were chained shut.
Like in his dream. Maybe he had vaguely noticed when he biked past earlier in the summer.
"How? How are they locked?"
"Chain and a big ol' padlock." Blaine answered because he wanted to know where Robbie was going with this.
Instead of supplying any answers, Robbie just gave a contemplative little "Hmm."
Before Blaine could try to get him talking, they were pushed apart by a fierce gust of wind and a blinding flash of light. Even though Blaine felt like he had been standing right next to a lightning strike, he could still make out the two shadowy figures in the middle of the light.
"What the hell!" Blaine shouted. That wasn't supposed to happen! It had been a dream! Just a dream!
Blaine couldn't breathe. "What?" He gasped out and pointed. Robbie reached out a hand and touched the thin air where the light and figures had been. Nothing changed, but he turned and looked at Blaine. The look wasn't scared or freaked out. It was excited. Triumphant.
The emotions dimmed behind worry as he caught sight of Blaine and the panic attack overwhelming him.
Robbie rushed towards him. He was speaking, but Blaine couldn't hear him over the pounding of his heart in his ears. Then Robbie was lowering him down as his knees went weak. He didn't meet the pavement like he expected. No, there was a seat under him. And it moved.
Blaine had been focused on Robbie's face, but he looked away and realized they were now in that same little park he had met Robbie at.
That didn't help his panic at all. What was happening?
Robbie squeezed his hands. "It's going to be okay." Robbie said, voice sounding like it was coming from under water. "You're just waking up. I'll be here when it's over."
Dark crawled into the corners of Blaine's vision. No, it wasn't just his vision, darkness ate up the park. The sky. Robbie.
He was alone. He was breathing hard. All his limbs felt cramped. Where was he? He couldn't move. There were ropes, they were rough on his skin. Something was tied around his eyes, so tight he was sure it had pulled out some of his hair. There was something on his mouth too, keeping his lips shut.
Noise suddenly exploded into being, drowning out his quick breaths. People. People talking. Coming closer. Then there was light. It was dim through the blindfold, but he knew it was there.
There were hands. Many hands, they were pulling and dragging and carrying. They ignored him. The sounds he made.
"It's time. Do it." A voice said, cutting through everything else.
The blindfold was ripped off. The glow of the flickering candles was too much after all that time in the dark, they made his eyes water. It wasn't enough of a blur to his vision to distort the knife.
It was above him. Light ran off the blade. It was real, too real. He could feel the hands too hot and too cruel holding him down. And then then blade came down. He felt it like a shock.
It cut through the skin of his neck jaggedly in a stop and start motion. No air. Only pain. Enough pain to wash away the heat of his blood drenching him.
Blaine was screaming. He was screaming like he could take all the fear and pain and despair and force it out through the sound. Take it and shatter the silence.
There were hands on him again. But these were cool and gentle. Blaine forced open his eyes and saw Robbie kneeling in front of him as he sat on the swing.
Blaine looked down at himself, his shirt was drenched in blood. This was real. It wasn't a dream. He lifted his hands to his neck and felt ruined flesh. He jerked back so violently that he almost fell off the swing, but Robbie kept him steady.
"It's okay, it's okay. The worst is over now." He said.
"I'm dead, Robbie. Oh, god, I'm dead." Blaine wanted to cry, but there wasn't anything left inside of him.
"I know. So am I. So is everyone stuck here."
Blaine looked around at the park at Robbie's words. "Is this...hell? Purgatory? I wasn't that bad a person, was I?" He thought back to what he had only thought was a nightmare. If he we stuck here with the likes of Pete and Clarence, then it seemed likely to him, but he couldn't think of what he had done in his short life that warranted this.
"No." Robbie said firmly, bringing his hands up to cup his face. "This isn't how it's supposed to be, trust me."
"Then where are we?"
"We call it the web. Here," Robbie ran his hands over the woodchips in front of him, it smudged and changed to sand.
"How'd you do that?" Blaine asked. He'd be more surprised, but... well, he didn't have much of that left either.
"The web's constructed out of memories. Memories of everyone sucked into it. I just exchanged one memory for another. You can do it, too. You can fix yourself." He said the last gently, gesturing to the ruin and blood Blaine was covered with. "Just picture yourself before then. Safe. Unharmed."
He was afraid to close his eyes now, so he stared at Robbie and tried to conjure an image of himself. It was harder than he thought it would be. But Robbie grabbed one of his hands and gave it a squeeze. It made Blaine think back to that morning, of the body that Robbie had run his hands over.
When he finally looked down, the blood was gone and he was back to wearing the clothes he had borrowed earlier. Gingerly he reached up to touch his neck. His fingers only met smooth skin. He let out a deep breath.
Robbie smiled at him. It was the brightest one he had gotten from him.
"This place is made up of hundreds of different... compartments. A hundred different imperfect copies of Wisteria. But there are places between them that can be passed through." Robbie sketched in the sand. Drawing a spiderweb. Blaine could see what he was talking about. The gaps between the webbing being the compartments and the webbing itself the paths between.
"How do you get to a different compartment?" Blaine asked. "And what's the point? You said we're stuck here."
"If you want to travel between them, you need to wake up first." Blaine thought back to his earlier assurances. That Blaine was just waking up. "There are so many here that just go through the motions, plastering memories over memories until they're empty and then they're gone." Blaine watched as a muscle clenched in Robbie's jaw. "And that's why I move through the paths. I try to find anyone else that has woken up. We think that with enough of us, we can figure out how to get out of here."
"And then what?" Blaine wanted to know.
"What do you mean?"
"If we get out of here? We're dead. This isn't...this place isn't perfect, but it's something. What if we get out of here and then that's it? We just fade away. What if there's just nothing? I'd rather stay here with you." Blaine's grip tightened on Robbie's hand.
Robbie gave him a sad smile. "If that was an option, I'd take it in a heartbeat." He got up on his knees so he could kiss Blaine. It still felt like the only real air there was.
"But it's dangerous here." Robbie went on. "And I'm not talking about cretins like Pete and Clarence. Did you feel it when we were in the clearing, before..." He trailed off, seemingly not wanting to bring up Blaine's violent murder again. "Did you feel something taken from you?"
Blaine tried to remember. Eventually, beneath all the panic, fear, and horror, there it was. He had felt like his insides were spilling out—not his blood or guts, but something much more important and vital to who he was.
Seeing that Blaine remembered it, Robbie went on, his hands running comfortingly up and down Blaine's thighs as he spoke. "We don't know for sure, but we think that's why this place exists. Whoever or whatever created it is getting something from us. And for those who never wake up, after awhile they're just...used up and then they're gone. That's not a way out. It's a second death." Robbie's eyes went fierce. "I'm not going to let that happen to you."
The sadness left the next smile Robbie gave him. That was something. "Um, it's been awhile since I found someone else awake. What else do you want to know?"
"How long have you been here?"
"I died in 1956, so however long that is. From everything you've told me and shown me, I take it that it's been awhile."
"Yeah." Blaine said weakly. He tried to fight off his melancholy. Okay, yes, this was a horrible, awful situation. But at least he wasn't alone. "So that explains why you dress like a grandpa."
Blaine tried to think. He was awake now. He had to try to help Robbie figure this out. "You said someone or something created this place. How do you know that?"
"Again, it's not a certainty, but it seems like I was one of the first to get caught in the web. I've never met anyone from a time before mine or any remnants of older memories either. So we thought it was very unlikely it was something that had always been around."
"When you say 'we' you're talking about the other awakened, right?"
Robbie nodded. "And we should get back to them. I have to tell them about what we saw." There was that excitement again.
"The light and the wind?"
"Yes! And there were people in it, didn't you see?"
"Yeah, but what is it?"
"No idea." Robbie smiled at him. "But it's something new."
It only took a few steps before they were in front of the school again.
"That's so weird." Blaine said.
"Sorry." Robbie apologized. He rubbed his thumb against the back of Blaine's hand where he held it.
Blaine about to tell him it was okay, but his attention was caught by the front doors of the school. Or really where the doors had been. Now there was just a square of inky blackness.
"That's your path, but don't worry, we'll use mine this time. I don't want you to go through that again so soon."
A couple of more steps and they were in front of Robbie's house. The front door had been replaced with the same inky blackness as at school.
Robbie stopped in front of it and stared at it. Blaine tugged on his hand to get his attention. It took a moment, but Robbie finally looked at him. "When you said 'go through that again' did you mean what I think you meant?"
"Yes. This is... it's going to be bad. I'm sorry."
Blaine tugged his hand again and pulled Robbie into a hug. "I already know you have nothing to apologize for. And I'm going to be with you the whole time, right?"
Robbie nodded against Blaine's shoulder. "It's not as intense as awakening or midnight, but it's still bad."
"Yes, that's when the web feeds off of us. It makes us relive our deaths, but like I said, it's not as intense. There's a little more detachment when you're moving through the web."
Robbie pulled away, but kept a tight grip on Blaine's hand. He went up the front steps of his house and then disappeared into the darkness, taking Blaine with him.
Blaine was surprised to find himself inside of Robbie's house. He didn't know why, but he expected something different. Something worse. There was something off, though. Blaine looked around, then realized it was the fact that there were cars driving past outside. Also, he could hear children playing a few yards down and the sound of sprinklers watering a nearby lawn.
This was a memory of living breathing place, not a pale, empty imitation.
Robbie took a deep breath and pulled him farther into the house, to the dining room Blaine had only glimpsed before. The memory of Robbie sat in one of the wooden chairs, looking miserable. Tears gathered in his eyes, but he looked like he was struggling not to let them fall. He held himself so stiff and ridged. His ragged breathing—like he was in pain—was the only sound in the house for a moment before there was noise in the kitchen. Robbie tensed further, then became utterly motionless when the door separating the dining room and kitchen opened.
A woman in a old fashioned dress came in holding a tray. She set the tray down in front of him. Blaine knew it had to be his mother, but he hoped it wasn't. She stared down at him with such coldness and disgust.
Robbie didn't move to touch the soup she had brought him. He just kept still like a small, soft animal hoping it could become so perfectly motionless it would disappear.
A crack appeared on the wall behind the memories, but they didn't notice. The crack was filled with that now familiar inky darkness. Blaine thought that was their exit, but it wasn't big enough for them to get through.
"Eat your soup, Robert." The woman commanded. She stood right next to him and watched as he reached for the spoon. The movement made his sweater pull up and Blaine could see red, angry welts striping his skin.
Robbie ate the first spoonful and coughed a little. He could probably feel the woman's gaze boring into him, so he went on. The second spoonful didn't go down any easier. Blaine could see him swallow with difficulty. He coughed again. The crack behind them grew.
"Mother—" He started, but before he could get anything else out, she pulled his head back by the hair.
In an instant she went from cold and sharp, to furious. "Your father thinks he can beat the devil out of you, but I know better." With that, she grabbed the bowl and forced the liquid down Robbie's throat.
Robbie pleaded between gasps with wet, gurgling words, but he didn't struggle. He didn't push her over and run. Blaine wondered if he had been taught to just accept whatever they did to him. To accept his punishment.
Blaine grabbed his Robbie, hugging him like he could save him from something that had happened decades before he had even been born. Robbie hugged back weakly, but his attention was on the growing crack.
Blaine could hear the memory gasping for breath in earnest now. He also heard the woman drop the bowl back to the table. It was only after Robbie went quiet did he hear her head further into the house, to the study, he thought. He heard her pick up the phone, but didn't hear her words.
His Robbie was pulling him to the crack, passing his lifeless body slumped over the table. Blaine couldn't help but look back like he could change it. Like he could make if feel as if he hadn't just been left there unloved and broken with his gaze alone. He knew it wouldn't fix anything, but he did it anyway.
It was dark, but Robbie pulled him forward like he could see where they were going. Blaine squinted at the darkness, trying to make out something. It was better than thinking about the ugly scene they had just left. The words Robbie had spoken in the tree house came back to him. The world is crueler than you know.
Slowly his eyes adjusted to the darkness, and Blaine could make out the walls of a vaguely familiar hallway. Before he could comment on it, Robbie stopped.
"Not here." He said and the gradually appearing hallway faded back into the dark. "It's not a good idea to put memories here."
Robbie started walking again and Blaine followed, not sure how to stop. He focused on the feeling of Robbie's hand on his instead of their surroundings. He wasn't sure if he pulled it off, if he stopped bleeding memories, but Robbie didn't stop again, so he figured he accomplished something.
Blaine couldn't tell how long they walked for. When he thought about it, it seemed like a couple of minutes, then it seemed like hours. Then a good half an hour. Then days. Then it was one breath between Robbie speaking and him getting pulled into the light.
Blaine blinked uselessly, his eyes weren't reacting like they had been submerged in darkness for any length of time, but there was shock settling around him as he looked around.
If they had been in a vague daydream of Wisteria before, this was a nightmare of the town. They had appeared in the middle of a small square of buildings that overlapped like a demented collage, both familiar and unfamiliar. Everything was beaten down and wrong. The sky above was roiling, sections of different light and darkness rushing against each other like a storming sea.
Blaine jumped when he felt fingertips on his face, but he looked at Robbie.
"It's best if you don't look up." He instructed.
"What's wrong with this place?"
"We think it's broken. It doesn't work exactly like the others and no one new shows up here. So we decided this is where we would set up base." Robbie explained and nodded to one of the nearby buildings. It looked more...together than the others. There were also signs that someone had tried to make it a more defensible position. The windows were boarded up, there was a chain link fence topped with razor wire surrounding the door. Also there were chunks of concrete that looked like they had been pulled from parking garage pillars—painted numbers denoting floors still oddly bright—laid out on their sides in the bare space in front of the building. They looked like they could provide cover.
Robbie started walking to the building.
Blaine followed, but had to ask. "Ah, do you guys get attacked here?"
"Sometimes, but we have more control over this place. It keeps Rodney busy, though."
They stopped at the fence, Blaine wondered if Robbie had a key, but he made no move to unlock the gate. Blaine was standing so close, he could feel him sigh.
"What's the code?" A bullhorn blared to life above them, scaring Blaine out of his skin. He looked up and saw someone leaning out of one of the windows on the top floor, this one had a metal shutter on it instead of boards.
Robbie sighed again. Louder this time. "Fuck Milwaukee." Robbie said, but didn't yell it. The guy apparently didn't have trouble hearing him, though.
"Hell yeah!" The guy yelled back through the bullhorn. There was a low buzzing sound and the electronic lock on the fence let them in.
"Rodney, I take it."
Robbie lead him inside. The building was a gutted out factory. Furniture that seemed scavenged from a hundred different places littered the place. There was even a battered pool table and a dart board set up near one wall.
Blaine took all that in in a glance, but what took all of his attention were the people. There were people. Fifteen, maybe twenty people, milling around in clumps. There was a constant low rumble of talking that served as a foundation for the occasional louder spikes of laughter or good-natured arguing. There was no quiet here.
"Robbie!" Came a shout.
Blaine watched as a small girl in a nightgown ran right over to Robbie and he knelt to catch her up in a hug. "Hey, Mary. How's my best girl doing?" She giggled then pulled away to look up at Blaine.
Brown hair done up in a braid that was barely holding together, a stuffed bear clutched in one arm. She was missing a front tooth. She was so small. And she was dead. That's what Robbie had said. They all were.
Blaine tried to shake off the thought as she spoke, the bear raised mostly in front of her face, curious eyes peaking over it's fuzzy head. "Who are you?"
"I'm Blaine, hi." His voice sounded rough. She nodded then ran off to play with a couple of other children who only looked a year or two older than her.
"Hey, hey, look who's back!" Rodney—plus his bullhorn—came down the metal stairs connecting the ground floor and second floor loft area. Everyone on the first floor broke off their conversations and looked over at the front door, most of them eyeing Blaine up. "And he brought in another live one!"
Robbie pushed away Rodney's bullhorn when the other boy got close.
"Come to join the party, newbie?" He asked Blaine at a reasonable volume.
"Yeah, I"m Blaine."
"Nice to meet you and sorry for your loss." Blaine was confused for a second before he realized what loss Rodney was talking about.
"Ah, thanks. I'm adjusting."
Rodney laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. "It's not like we got any other choice, but good for you, chief. You want me to show you around? You can get to meet all the other sad sack ghost asses."
"Not yet." Robbie interrupted. "Get Jasmine and met us upstairs, I have something to tell you."
"Man, why do I always have to wrangle her?"
"Because you're the only one she vaguely listens to." Robbie answered.
Rodney looked like he wanted to argue, but he left anyway.
"There's an old office upstairs we use for meetings." Robbie explained as Blaine followed him across the first floor. There was still some curious eyes on him, but Blaine was staring right back. By the time they reached the second floor, Blaine realized what was bothering him.
"Where are all the old people? Or hell, even the middle aged people?" The oldest in the group looked around Blaine's age, but that couldn't be right. Lots of people died in Wisteria. Where were the blue-haired old ladies who had died in an unfortunate slip'n'fall? The forty-something bank manager who accidentally stepped out into traffic?
Robbie opened up a door that still had the ghost of a name on it and ushered Blaine in before he answered.
"Not here. I've never run into anyone who was older than twenty when they were murdered. For whatever reason they don't get stuck in the web. It only targets the youngest in Wisteria."
"Wait, murdered? I know..." Blaine trailed off and made a weak gesture between them. "We're not the only ones?"
Robbie sat down on the edge of the old metal desk pushed against one wall. "No, the web's victims are the young and the wronged."
Suddenly, there was heat at Blaine's back. He turned as the door opened behind him. The person entering the room was on fire. Blaine backed up towards Robbie who put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Blaine, this is Jasmine."
"Ah, hi." Blaine managed to force out the words.
Jasmine didn't respond, just brought the cigarette she held in one charred hand up to the cracked split on her face that was her mouth. She drew in a breath and cherry on the cigarette flared to life. The same red light flickered to life in the ruined holes that used to be her eyes.
She jerked forward.
"You done being dramatic?" Rodney demanded. He had pushed her out of the doorway so he could get inside.
"Fuck you." Jasmine said, but she didn't sound too angry.
"Yeah, yeah." Rodney said breezily to her before he turned attention to Blaine. "Take note, newbie, unlike Her Majesty here, you have to follow the rules. Rule numero uno, no dead faces. Keep that shit out of here. The little ones don't need to see it."
Blaine nodded. He had no problem with that. He didn't need to see it either.
"What was so important?" Jasmine asked Robbie.
"Yeah, don't you know she has this time scheduled out for being bitter?" Rodney chimed in.
Jasmine smacked him on the chest with the the back of her hand, but the jean vest he was wearing didn't go up in flames. Now that he was looking, Blaine saw that fire that surrounded her didn't affect anything else. Not even the scattered, forgotten pieces of paper on the floor.
"In the compartment I found Blaine in, I saw something new. It was a flash of light, followed by wind. I could make out two people inside the epicenter of the light. I couldn't see them clearly enough to make out any features. It was gone in a second, but even after it disappeared, I could still feel the dissonance it created in the web."
"'Dissonance.'" Rodney repeated, rolling his eyes. "Christ, can you speak in plain English, egghead?"
"I think the light and the wind...I think it came from outside."
"Bullshit." Rodney said, but his voice was quiet. There was no strength to his disbelief.
"Ask Blaine, he saw it too." Robbie said, desperation creeping into his voice.
"When you're ready, you'll bring us to where you saw it." Jasmine said, apparently her word was the final one. Robbie nodded, the relief visible on him.
With that, the impromptu meeting was over. Rodney and Jasmine filed out.
"Are the three of you like the leaders here?" Blaine asked when Robbie didn't move to follow the other two.
"Not officially or anything. It's just that everyone listens to Jasmine and Rodney. De facto leaders, I guess."
"Not you?" Robbie made a questioning hum. "They don't listen to you?"
"I'm not around enough to earn that kind of respect or trust."
"Doesn't that get lonely?"
"Yes." Robbie admitted. He reached out and pulled Blaine close. "It's less lonely now."
A little while later, Rodney made good on his offer to show Blaine around and introduce him to the other awakened. Names flitted through Blaine's mind, very few sticking. True to the first rule, none of them bore any signs of their demise. They all just looked like groups of normal kids and teenagers hanging out. There was a thicker air of boredom than despair here.
Blaine had been hesitant to leave Robbie's side, but Robbie had urged him to go, promising Blaine that he wasn't going anywhere.
After Rodney was done throwing names at him in rapid fire succession, he slung an arm around Blaine's shoulders and dragged him over to the pool table.
"You play?" He asked as he let Blaine have his personal space back.
"Good thing we're not playing for money, then. I kick ass at pool. In fact, I was quite the hustler back in the day. That's how I bit the big one." He glanced around, then decided the coast was clear. When he turned back to Blaine, he pulled at his vest and shirt underneath to expose the gunshot wound high up on his chest. He let his clothes fall back into place and went about racking the balls.
"Sorry." Blaine said, unsure of what else to say.
Rodney waved away his concern. "Ancient history, my dude. I got a question for you, though."
Blaine swallowed, focusing hard on taking the pool cue Rodney offered him. He didn't want to talk about how he died. He really didn't.
"You and Robbie? Are my eyes playing tricks on me is there a thing between you two?"
Blaine was relived Rodney wasn't asking about his death, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to answer this question either. He could feel a blush rise up his cheeks. Apparently his expression had done all the talking for him. Rodney let out a bark of a laugh and playfully punched him in the shoulder.
"Good. The guy's way too uptight, if you ask me. Now, I'll be nice and let you break. It ain't going to help any, but I'm feeling generous."
Later that night—Blaine guessed he could call it night despite the the fact that the sky was still a mess—he found Robbie in a small room on the third floor that was obviously his room.
A bare mattress sat on a metal frame pushed into a corner. The ugly green paint on the walls was chipped, revealing the stained walls underneath. There weren't any windows. Blaine wondered if it had been a supply closet in another life. The only light came from candles arranged around the room on any flat surface.
It was cramped and dismal, but there were touches of Robbie all over. There was a stack of books by the bed. It looked like he had ripped the covers off of them—The Amazing Adventures of Rex Turner, Tales of Deep Space, The Maple Street Detective Files #1 through #8—and tacked them to the wall. He had covered another large chunk of the ugly walls with constellations in white, blue, and black paint done with a steady hand.
Robbie was sitting cross-legged on the bed with a pile of notebooks arranged in front of him. The room was a far cry from the one constructed from his memories, but the weight of sadness seemed to have finally left him.
Blaine thought that made sense. This was his own space. New, not chained to his old life.
Robbie looked up from his notebook and shot him a smile. "Settling in alright?"
"Yeah, I mean it's going to take me awhile to get everyone's name down. I'm terrible at them."
"Did Rodney find you a space?"
"Um, yeah, he said something about that, but can I stay with you?"
"Of course." Robbie answered softly. He gathered up his notebooks then placed them on the floor next to his tower of books. He held out a hand.
Blaine took it, letting Robbie pull him down into his embrace. They kissed, then Blaine settled down with his head on Robbie's shoulder, his arms wrapped around him.
"Is Midnight coming?" Blaine asked. He had to. He didn't think he was ready to face the knife again.
"Not here. Which lends credence to our theory of this compartment being broken."
Blaine took a deep breath and let it out. He relaxed against Robbie, who rubbed a calming hand up and down his back.
"You really think the light is a chance to get out of here?"
"I think it's a start."
The silence didn't press, didn't grow. It was there, but Blaine could ignore it. He didn't even notice it retreating as a small fist knocked on the door frantically.
Blaine moved out of the way so Robbie could get up and answer it. Mary was on the other side. Tears streaked down her face and her hold on the bear was tight.
"Oh, sweetheart, it's okay." Robbie soothed, picking her up and depositing her on the bed next to Blaine. "You sit tight. I'll be right back with some hot chocolate. Blaine will be here with you."
Mary's eyes flickered over to Blaine and he tried to give her a reassuring smile. He didn't have a lot of practice with little kids, but he thought he hadn't completely blown it when she gave Robbie a quick nod and wiped at her slowed tears with one hand. Robbie left then.
"Do you... want to talk about what's wrong?" Blaine asked. She shook her head and pressed her face into her bear.
"Nightmares." The word came out muffled, but Blaine understood, god, he understood. Even if Midnight couldn't reach her here, she been awakened.
"I saw you playing with Rodney." She said unexpectedly.
"Yeah. We had fun." Blaine said lamely.
"That's okay. Everybody loses to Rodney."
"Robbie saw you too. He was smiling."
"Can I tell you a secret?" Mary nodded solemnly. "I like Robbie a lot." For some reason, it was a lot easier to admit to a little girl than Rodney.
"Me too." She said. Maybe that was why.
"We're going to be really good friends then." Mary gave him a small smile. Blaine thought he wasn't half bad at this child-comforting stuff. "What's your bear's name?"
The little girl's forehead wrinkled up as she looked down at the bear, studying it like it had just appeared in her hands. "He doesn't have one anymore. But that's okay, I'll think of a new one."
"Do you need help naming him?"
She shook her head. "You can hug him, though." She pushed the bear at Blaine and he took it, hugging it to his chest for a moment, being sure to be careful of the rip on the front.
"Can I tell you a secret?" Mary asked.
"Yeah, go ahead." Blaine looked over at her to see bloody, gaping wounds where her eyes used to be. Around the sockets X's had been carved into her flesh like a demented mockery of a cloth doll. Designs made furrows across her sickly pale skin. They traced down her arms and even onto the small fingers she was now wrapping around Blaine's arm.
"My uncle Jake did this to me." She whispered and Blaine felt his heart crack.
He reached out and pulled Mary into the huddle with the nameless bear.
"Is that what your nightmares are about?" He asked, stupidly, he thought, but talking about these things was supposed to help, wasn't it?
"I see him sometimes, Uncle Jake. Moving around in the dark." Blaine looked down at her. She was looking right back up at him. The blood had faded, but her expression was hard. "I hope he stays there."
No other words were exchanged between them until Robbie returned with three mugs on a tray.
"You're bracelet's scratchy" Mary commented as she scooted away from Blaine and made a grab for one of the cups.
Blaine looked at his wrist and sure enough, there was a bracelet. It was brown and knotted. He didn't remember ever wearing anything like it before. He shook his wrist and the bracelet disappeared into the shadows.
"Hey, Robbie, guess what." Mary said, a chocolate mustache growing on her upper lip. She didn't wait for him to respond, just bulled ahead. "Blaine likes you."
"Mary, that was supposed to be a secret." He said in faux exasperation.
She giggled. "He already knows."
Blaine looked up at Robbie where he stood by the bed. The fluttering hopeful feeling in his chest grew, seeing echos of it in Robbie's smile.
By no stretch of the imagination were things okay, but Blaine thought he would be given time. There was no turning back, but he wouldn't be pushing forward alone.
Something new, Robbie had said.
Blaine reached out and tugged Robbie down to the bed on the other side of Mary.
Yeah, they'd be okay.