Cut the Wrapping Away- Kyle and Jace

Jace was well known as a bully. Only in the tenth grade, he stood taller than all but one of the seniors of his large high school, and there was only an inch difference in height. It was also figured that he could beat the crap out of anyone, and so most people stayed out of his way. Nerds, geeks, and brains avoided him because he was the typical 'stupid' rebel. Jocks snubbed him because he wasn't into sports. Outcasts stayed away from him because he gave them a bad name.

Despite it all, though, Jace had close friends and he was very rarely a lonely person. Being lucky in friendship, though, meant that he took those friendships for granted, and he very rarely thought about the well-being, emotionally or physically, of the people he bullied. If they had no friends, he didn't care. If they were lonely and on edge and stressed out, he didn't care.

Which is why he was surprised to feel himself react so strongly when he found the school's current 'number one' outcast sitting alone on a bench after hours. Jace had had to stay over for detention, and then had had to stay later so he didn't bother the other students as they left. By the time he left the doors behind, all but the cleaning crew and the principal were gone for the day. With the exception of Kyle Marquette.

It wasn't that Kyle -being- there was a surprise. That was common enough. The teen lived in the boondocks around the town, and he waited for a ride from one of his parents, instead of riding the bus where he was trapped with peers who felt more joy in ridiculing him than in befriending him. The thing that surprised Jace was that he -cared-. He'd come out of the school often enough that seeing Kyle wasn't a surprise, but each time he'd been struck by the thought that he was one of the bastards who did this.

The thought never lasted longer than a few hours at most and by the next day it was forgotten. He rarely saw Kyle in the halls or at lunch and there was nothing else to serve as a reminder, nothing else that hit him so hard as seeing the boy sitting alone on a bench, regardless of the weather. Usually, he'd stop and look, as if making sure that it was indeed Kyle and that the teen was indeed still alive, and then he'd go on his merry way, feeling slightly guilty.

It wasn't a usual day, though. He made his way across the lawn, stride strong and sure. Kyle looked up and saw him coming, but there was almost no reaction in his gaze whatsoever. No fear, no hesitation, no 'determination to face the bully'. Just an emptiness that seemed to ring inside of Jace, making him feel hollow.

He sat down on the bench next to Kyle and watched as dark eyes slid away to stare lifelessly across the street at the empty playground. Neither one said a word for a long time, as Jace stared at Kyle and Kyle stared at nothing. Then the bully turned around and stared at nothing as well. "Know what today is?" he asked, tone rather mellow, at least for him. Others might have considered it gruff.

"Monday," Kyle answered quickly, showing that some part of his mind was present and ready.

"Any special kind of Monday?" Jace asked, tone almost wheedling. He would have choked himself before using such a tone if he'd been around other people, but Kyle didn't seem to warrant the attempt at bullying that Jace was used to.

Kyle sucked in a deep breath, and then let it out in a long exhale. "Not really."

Jace allowed a small smirk to curve his lips as he took a small box out of his pocket. "Guess this isn't really anything special, either, so you might as well have it on this unspecial Monday."

Dark eyes flicked to the box, and Kyle was slower in responding to his phrase than he had been to either question. "Unspecial isn't a word." But a pale, slender hand reached up and took the box anyway, fingers flexing around it. Silence elapsed again, as Jace waited and Kyle stared, this time at the box. After a moment, he said quietly, "How did you know?"

The smirk turned into a grin, and Jace went back to staring at Kyle. "I have my ways. And before you ask 'why': I wanted to." Simple, end of story, that was that.

It took a long, quiet moment, but Kyle's lips flickered up in the tiniest of smiles, and his dark eyes met Jace's. "Is this it, then? Pandora's box?" There were questions in his gaze, and in answer, Jace tapped the top of the box.

"It's a present. Whatever that means to you." But the grin didn't fade, only hovered as Kyle slowly picked at the tape and unwrapped his gift. He blinked at the shine of metal that struck his eyes as he lifted the cover of the box, and Jace's grin melded back into a smirk. "Happy birthday."

Pale fingers lifted out the thin, rectangular piece of metal. "Thank you," Kyle said softly. He ran a thumb along the sharp edge of the razor, eyes glued to the movement. He pressed to hard at the corner and watched as a drop of blood formed, then slid down his thumb, followed by another one. While he was fascinated with his bleeding digit, he ignored Jace's hands as they pulled up the sleeve of his shirt, baring his scar-covered arm to view. Tanned fingers traced first one welt of scar tissue, and then another.

Jace glanced up. "I have another gift for you, but you can only have one. You have to choose." And his eyes held the answer to what the other present was. Kyle's eyes glanced up from his blood and lanced across Jace's. "But you can keep the one you choose as long as you like. Forever."

Kyle closed his eyes, hiding the confusion that raced to fill them. He shivered as Jace traced yet another scar, this one sending chills up his spine. "What if I want them both?"

"No," Jace said, and this time, his voice was almost sharp. Almost like his bully-voice. He softened the sound when he continued. "You can only have one or the other."

"But I can keep that one forever?" Uncertain, quiet, pained.

Jace agreed. "Forever." He watched as the blood was wiped off on the cotton that lined the box, and then the razor was sat back inside. The lid covered the sharp, bloodied edge, and the red-stained cotton. He took the box back and slipped it into his pocket, the grin returning. Then he leaned in and pressed a tender kiss at the corner of Kyle's mouth. "Happy birthday."

Author's note: This was, oddly, my birthday present to myself. And where it came from, I haven't a farthing of an idea. *shrugs* But it's there. I'm not allowed to write when I'm in a good mood, because my brains funny ideas.

The idea for this came from the thought of a quiet young man, sitting on a bench, silently bemoaning the fact that no one acknowledged his birthday. Then came a bully of a teen, the person least like to know of the birthday let alone care, and he –knows- and has a gift. Originally in my mind, though, the gift would have been something a bit nicer. . But Jace insisted, and then he showed me the scars, so I guess… it all works out.