Breathing In Toxic Redemption

By Dr. Pepper 14

Summary: Slash. Christian works at the food court in the mall where salvation is found in big hands and messy peppermint kisses.

Chapter One

Drowning When There's (No) Water

It was about a month ago, I think, when I first started to notice him. Yeah, because that's when I accidentally cut my arm and had to wear that huge bandage that Annie drew unicorns all over, which is something not easily forgotten. Even by me, and I forget a lot of things.

His name really is Jesus, or so Ray over at the Chick-fil-A across the food court tells me, and if I get close enough, I can read the word written on the nametag pinned right above his heart on his red shirt. It's a strange thing to name a child I think, but he can't help it, I suppose. It's the name his parents gave him at birth.

There's really nothing distinct about him, excluding the name, but something about the way his large hands make pizza, carpenter's hands, fascinates me in a way that I can barely spare a moment to glance away. He works at the Sbarro next to Ray. I watch him more days then not, peering at him over the glass windows of the Subway I work at.

I vaguely register the lady asking for a turkey and cheese sandwich in front of me, mind focused on what it shouldn't be, wandering where it shouldn't go. It never listens to me, you see.

"I said turkey and cheese," screeches a voice, the sound unwelcome to my ears.

My head snaps towards the lady. "What?"

She takes a deep breath and I get the impression that she is the big bad wolf and I am about to be blown away. "I said cheese. Not lettuce."

"Oh. Sorry," I say even though I'm really not, scraping the lettuce off her sandwich.

"No. Make me a new one," she insists and if I worked in a real kitchen behind a wall other than this glass one, a wall where she couldn't see me, I would spit in her food and rub the cheese on nasty things like Benny's ass.

"Yes maim." I do as she asks, thoughts of desecration running through my head like a sweet promise.

She takes her newly made, freshly cheesed sandwich with a huff, giving me a demeaning glance with her overly painted eyes as if I'm the epitome of fucking lousy teenagers, and walks away like she'll never think of me again.

I don't doubt it.

"I'm taking my break," I tell my manager, Benny, as soon as the smell of lunchmeat and customer's outraged cries when you fuck up one thing on their sandwich becomes too much to handle.

"Yeah, sure." He doesn't look up from the figures being calculated on the paper in his hands. "See you in thirty."

"Yeah," I answer, not looking behind me.

I weave through tables and people carrying trays of food, barely missing collision more than a few times, heading towards the exit between the Steak Escape and Sbarro pizza as quick as my Nike tennis shoes will take me. I sigh in pure relief as the chatter is muffled (practically nonexistent) when I close the door behind me.

I walk a few feet, hands in my pocket as I search for the cereal bar I vaguely remember sticking in there this morning last minute (right before I raced to go to school), ready to spend some time relaxing in the alleyway I usually go to during my breaks.

Only this time, I'm not alone.

He must have heard the crunching of my feet against gravel, or maybe I was humming the song stuck in my head out loud and didn't realize it (I usually don't), because when I turn the corner, his head is already facing my direction, his eyes curious as they search my face.

"Hi," I greet lamely with a quick wave, then, feeling stupid, quickly shove my hand back inside my pocket. I still can't find the cereal bar.

He doesn't answer, one eyebrow quirked in my direction, before he tilts his head back and exhales smoke through his pale lips.

I quickly scourge my mind for something to say, anything to counter the awkward silence, but my mind is as empty as my pockets.

I say the first thing I think of, which, usually, isn't a very good idea: "Got a cigarette?"

He laughs, waving the hand with the cigarette in front of him. "Is the answer not obvious?"

"It is," I agree, slightly shrugging my shoulders. "But I thought I'd be polite and ask."

"Polite doesn't get you anywhere in this world." The cigarette has burned down, so he releases it from his fingers and smashes it into the asphalt with his boot. My eyes follow the movement of his hand as it gets another one from his pack and sets it between his lips.

"It got me the cd player I wanted in fifth grade," I tell him, unable to squash the urge to give a cheeky response.

"Yeah. Who the fuck are you?" he asks, sounding like he can care less, which I don't think he can since he doesn't seem to care at all.

I laugh uneasily, digging the toe of my shoe into the ground, digging a hole for myself to crawl into so I can hide from my embarrassment. "I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal," I lie without a thought, becoming more convinced of my answer as my nose grows in response. "People know me. I'm very important."

"I'm sure you are." His eyes are calculating, but I don't look at them, I look at his hand holding the cigarette. "What's your name?"

It doesn't take me long to think of the answer. "Christian."

He nods. "And I'm-"

"Jesus," I cut in, the word tasting strange in context with the boy in front of me instead of that guy who I go to church because of. "I know."

"Don't fucking call me that," he spits, surprising me so my hands quickly clench and unclench in immediate reaction. "I prefer Charley."

"Sorry," I apologize and only half mean it.

He sighs and says, "Don't be."

I feel the need to be honest, so I am. "I'm not really."

I lean against the wall next to him and jump a little when he hands me his pack of cigarettes and a lighter, but then remember asking for them and calm myself down a bit. My thumb fumbles with the lighter, the cigarette clutched awkwardly in my other hand, as I attempt to light it.

Je- I mean Charley, obviously noticing my incapability to do a simple thing such as light a fucking cigarette, stills my hand on the lighter. "Here." He plucks the cigarette from my hand and settles it between my lips.

Not vacillating, his hand covers mine that is holding the lighter and I notice how much bigger his is compared to mine, at least twice the size. His thumb is perfect as it flicks on the lighter, his hands lighting the cigarette perched between my lips like an expert. I hold my breath for a moment, wondering what to do, but then I remember that you're supposed to breathe in.

One hand rips the cigarette from my lips and the other goes to cover my mouth as I practically hack up a lung, bending over with the force of my coughs.

His hand is kind as it rubs up and down my back in a soothing gesture, but his laugh is cruel as it grates against my ears. "First time?"

"Shut up," I say and cough again.

He takes the cigarette out of my hand and smokes it himself, no longer pretending to be concerned that I'm choking on air. I'm slightly uncomfortable at the thought that his lips are curled around the cigarette right where mine were only a moment before, but at the same time, it's more of a strange feeling than a bad one.

I settle for breathing in the smoke procured from his lips, openly watching him as if expecting something to happen.

And odd smile twists his lips. He's staring at me with that look again, like he knows something I never will and wants to hold it over my head, a secret he'll never tell. I want to pull it from his lips.

"Something amusing?" I ask, tilting my head and frowning a little.

"Yes," he simply answers.

I don't ask what it is.

My finger traces the pirate etched onto his lighter, running over the engraved metal like it's reading brail. The pirate smirks up at me and I can hear it in my head saying 'Argh matey' as if it where whispering into my ear.

"And a shiver me timbers to you," I say to it, because it's polite to answer back.

"What?" Charley is looking at me like I'm off my rocker, which isn't surprising because I always manage to fall off those things. I hate being a klutz.

"Oh, nothing." I say and then decide to change my answer because it wasn't nothing. "I'm talking to your pirate."

"Right. That explains everything." And then he goes back to ignoring me, staring at the brick wall in front of us and taking a deep drag as if trying to drown himself with his cigarette.

He really does have the most beautiful hands I think I've ever seen. Strong hands, the kind that would carry you through miles of desert or paint a beautiful masterpiece. Hand that are-

Hands that are lightly resting on my wrist, fingertips pressing into my skin.

I look up at his face, knowing I must have been staring at his hands again, and state, "Yes?" in a pitifully hopeful voice.

"Give me my fucking lighter back." The hand leaves my wrist and the skin mourns the loss of warmth.

I give it back and his pack of cigarettes. I have no use for them after all.

"You have really tan hands," I tell him and this time I just can't stop myself from touching them, even if it's just a brief five seconds of skin touching skin.

He doesn't seem to find it weird that I just randomly touched his hand. "I don't know if I should say thank you or not."

"You can if you want to." I shrug and scratch my arm because my brain is sending signals to my fingers that it itches. "It wasn't meant to be a compliment. Or an insult, for that matter. Just something I noticed."

"I'm Spanish. We generally are." He compares his beautifully tanned arms to my pale and wimpy ones.

"I thought so, but I wasn't sure," I confess, hiding my arms behind my back because I don't want him to see my paleness even though it's already too late for that. "You don't even have an accent."

He grins at my curiosity. "My parents do though. I was born here," he explains, humoring me. "But I can roll my R's like you wouldn't believe."

"Do it," I ask, and maybe it is more of a command, my eyes lighting up.

He raises an eyebrow. "Um… no."

"Whatever," I reply in my 'I'm a teenager, I don't care about anything' voice and cross my arms over my chest.

He rolls his eyes at my behavior, so not amused, and a look like he really is, is sent my direction. His gaze lingers near the top of my head and I briefly wonder if there's a leaf stuck in it or something. "You hair looks really fluffy." He's not leaning against the wall anymore. He's standing in front of me. "Can I touch it?"

He's too close. I know this because my body keeps trying to press back into the wall. "Okay."

His hand is running through my hair, softly petting me. I sigh and lean into the hand, loving the feeling, not wanting him to stop for all the world. I feel like a puppy.

"I like your hands," I confess, nudging his hand with my head, urging it to continue its movements.

"You're a strange person, Christian," he says, but he laughs a little (only a little because Charley does not seem like the laughing type) and I don't feel offended.

"Is it such a bad thing?" And I really hope that it's not.

"No, not at all. Maybe even refreshing." He shrugs like he can't decide, a fleeting expression I don't recognize flashing over his features, quickly gone. "I dunno. Ask me tomorrow."

"Okay," I agree, because there's really nothing else one can do in such a situation.

A -well, not comfortable silence, because silence just isn't- but a not entirely uncomfortable silence lies in the few inches between us, more than tolerable and less that pleasant. I find myself content to listen to his breaths.

"Christian," he whispers, warm air hitting my ear because he's just that close, but I'm used to it now. "Do you ever wake up and feel like maybe today's the day you'll jump off a cliff and not die?"

What a strange thing to ask.

I shake my head to say no, then verbally express it. "No, but sometimes I wake up and feel like today's the day I'll cook waffles. And then I do and I'm happy, not to mention full, because when I eat waffles I eat a lot of them. Wait, sorry, that had nothing to do with anything."

"It didn't. That's not what I meant at all." He hasn't lost patience with me yet, though, and he tries again. He pauses as if a few extra seconds will help him put what he wants to say in order and I pretend that I can see him fitting them together like a puzzle. "Wax wings are better than no wings."

I shrug to say I don't get it, but he's already heading back towards the mall, my shrug falling against his back, useless.

"It was nice to meet you," he says over his shoulder, turning his head just a second to give me one last glance.

He leaves me here, standing in the alleyway

It's time for me to get back to work as well, having glanced at my watch and noticed I've been out here twenty minutes longer than I was supposed to have been.

I can't help but thinking that goodbye feels like cuts drenched in alcohol.

I still can't stop thinking about him, even though it's been a full twelve hours or more since our conversation. He interests me. I can't decide if I'm attracted to him, or just intrigued. His dark features are nothing more than normal, though his chocolaty brown eyes do make me kind of hungry.

"When am I going to meet your sexy Mexican?" Annie asks as we sit down to eat lunch.

"Hopefully never," I reply, knowing it would be a disaster.

She pouts and steals my banana. "And why not?"

I steal her apple and now we're even. "Because you would probably tell him I want to suck his toes or something."

She giggles and wrinkles her nose like a cute little bunny. "Do you?"

"No." I finally decide, because that's just gross and totally unsanitary. "Maybe his fingers."

"Freak," she accuses, poking my stomach. "I'm not surprised though, really."

"Should I be offended?" I wonder, and honestly, I'm not sure of the answer. I decide that I am. "You. Are. A. Meanyface. I'm definitely not introducing you two now."

She pleads with me, tugging on my arm. "Please, Christian!" She tries to coerce me with her adorable bunny face, but by know has learned that I'm gay and thereby unaffected, and gives up.

"I don't even know him." I hesitate, fingers pausing in my hair as I recall the feel of his hands. "Well, actually, I did talk to him yesterday."

Her eyes are wide and probing. "What did you say?"

"Not much." I shrug, not feeling like replaying the entire event. "He touched my hair."

She giggles again with an innocent smile. "That's so romantic."

"It was kind of weird really," I counter, though in my head thinking it was still enjoyable. "This is not one of your trashy teen romance novels."

She agrees and laughs her childish laugh that makes me think of babies and springtime. "True. I don't usually read about gay boys."

A grin splits my face. "Perhaps you should."

She leans her head against my shoulder. "Only if one is a cute Mexican and the other is an incredibly dense Irish boy."

"Why can't he be an incredibly smart Irish boy?" I pout, full bottom lip pleading my case.

She shakes her head while it's on my shoulder and her hair gets in my mouth, so I spit it out. "It just wouldn't work. There must be flaws- obstacles. You want them to live happily ever after, don't you?"

Inspired by a guy I saw at the mall once when I was eight or something. I like the name Christian and Charley is my friend's not gay dad who does, however, like to collect soap.

This story is going to be very different from my other stuff, an experiment of sorts. Chapters will stay this length for faster updating. This only took me a few hours to write, whereas SMC sometimes takes me days. Probably won't be as funny. I'm trying to make more diverse characters, since all of mine seem to follow along the fashion of Robbie and Clay. And if you don't know who they are, then you just suck. Help/suggestions/comments/flowers are a few of my favorite things. Better than raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens by a long shot.

I also am fond of all things peanut butter, but just reviews would be nice.