copyright 2008 by InSilverShadows
WARNINGS: This story is M-rated for a reason. It includes male on male material, possibly graphic sexuality, teenaged drug abuse, violence, nudity, drug rings, murder, etc. etc. etc. It's m/m slash, yaoi, etc, whatever. Don't like it, don't read it, and don't say I didn't warn you. -I.S.S.
A Place Too Big
Like any other boy his age, Marshall Murphy had a shoebox underneath his bed that he would die if his parent ever found. Or anyone else, for that matter. But unlike the scandalous pages of busty teenage fantasies most boys kept, Marshall kept only three things in that box: a rumpled old dirty sort of magazine, a suspiciously unlabeled DVD case, and a note folded up into a tight little square with his name on the front in innocent round handwriting.
This was also the order in which seventeen-year-old Marshall's end would come about if the box was ever found. The unscrupulous magazine was the most relatively harmless of the three dirty little secrets in Marshall's life. All it was, in truth, was pages of Vaselined beauties batting long eyelashes and cupping voluptuous curves, and in even deeper truth, an enormous cover-up. He had no interest in those girls in the least, and kept it only so that it might convince his single father that he did if it was ever discovered. The DVD, on the other hand, contained a good four hours worth of all the gay porn that his precarious self could stand to download.
Marshall Murphy was gay and had known so since he was fourteen. He was a skinny boy with mousy brown hair and nearly bulbous hazel eyes, and a face that was practically one big freckle. He was small-framed and thin, but not bony, with a soft, slender sort of figure and a slight gap between his front teeth that let everyone know as soon as he smiled he was one of those rather shy, studious boys who fretted over B's on tests and knew the metric conversions nearly by heart. Marshall was very easy to read and one glance could probably tell one everything he or she needed to know about him, save for the fact that his first kiss had been in the back of his neighbor's garage in the ninth grade, and it had been with Taylor Lark, and that Taylor Lark had been the midfielder of the junior varsity boys' soccer team.
As a matter of fact, the note in Marshall's box of secrets was the note from Taylor Lark from three years earlier in freshman health class, and had only a few lines of messy teenage boys' handwriting. Marshall dug it out with long fingers as he sat down slowly on his bed, unfolding it gingerly after making sure that the door was shut securely. The paper was brittle under his fingers, and he reread carefully the words he knew practically as well as the metric conversions.
So what's all this about having something to tell me??
Taylor, I think I'm—
There wasn't a word there, only a blot of furious scribbles. Nevermind.
marsh, you think you're………….gay?
There was absolutely no particular reason that on a Saturday afternoon Marshall had decided to look at the note. Taylor Lark had moved away at the end of freshman year and left Marshall once more veritably closed and alienated at his school. It wasn't that no one there liked him, it was that most no one there even knew he existed and therefore couldn't possibly like or dislike him. He sat at the table with the chemistry nerds and quietly discussed with them electronegativity trends and why noble gases didn't react. Marshall was very much like a noble gas—he caused no reactions, no drama, and no conflict. In fact, he was usually stuck awkwardly between conflicts, reactions, and drama that slithered through the air thickly around his head to the person that his mop of brown hair was inadvertently blocking.
Marshall stared at the note in silence, and flopped back on his bed, sighing. He had thousands of tests to study for, thousands of things he could be doing, but felt not in the least bit up to doing any of them and found his coming-out note a satisfying reason to flop over and bum around in his bedroom for however long he felt like it.
It's OK, ya know. To be gay. Is it 'cuz of family life and stuff?? I mean, if you liked looking at those diagrams of penises and stuff then I guess it really gets you to thinking about that stuff.
It's not because of that.
Stop blushing. You really don't want Ms. Martinez to confisticate this note.
yeah yeah :P
Taylor, you can't tell anyone. I don't even know for sure yet.
I won't. it's OK, marsh, stop freakin out.
Please, YOU CAN'T TELL ANYONE!!
I won't. I promise.
Unfortunately for those seeking theatrics and the like, Taylor had kept the promise. At least Marshall hoped so. He had never seemed to hear about it from anyone else after that, so he assumed so safely. He could suppose, tentatively, that his family's upcoming move from small-town South Carolina to New York City would let him leave town with his secret safe and sound, all of its keepers having left the place.
There was a sudden knock on his door, which startled poor Marshall so much that he knew instinctively that he had never folded a note so quickly and for lack of an alternative he stuffed it down his shirt just before the door opened.
"You finished packing?" his ten-year old brother asked. Marshall lunged at him, leaping off the bed.
"Get out of my room!" he hissed, his face flushed red. Overreacting, perhaps, but Peter had no right to scare him like that. Marshall all but threw him from the room, the note fluttering from under his shirt and landing squatly on the floor.
Peter's buggy eyes shone, and he dove for it. "What's that!? A goodbye note from your girlfriend?!"
"No!" snapped Marshall, snarling at him and catching him by the shirt collar, "get out! Now! DAD!" He tugged his little brother to the end of the hallway and the top of the stairs, tossing him out, heart pounding. If Peter had picked up the note—
"Marshall, quit goofin' around and finish packing," said his father from downstairs. Mr. Murphy and his elder son were nothing alike, in the least. Though his father was also on the tall side, he was broad-shouldered and had a scruff of a beard and a thick, greasy ponytail at the back of his head, and smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. He valued things like books of music, collector's edition guitars, and original vinyl like most people valued things like relationships and vital organs. Organized, cautious Marshall had never been able to grasp such an outlook on life and to his father's disappointment, was tone-deaf and couldn't read music.
Marshall tossed Peter down the stairs, the note slick in the sweat on his palm. He hoped it wouldn't smear. He prayed.
"Peter, come on," said his father, with a wide grin, tugging Peter downstairs. "Let's get you something to eat and get you into a good mood. You've got your last drum lesson before the big move. Marshall, finish packing for Christ's sakes, we're leavin' first thing tomorrow morning."
"Last night in the house," said Peter with a whoop and a gap-toothed grin.
"Yep. Last night in the house."
Peter was excited to move. Marshall was dreading it. A sixteen-hour drive in his dad's old band van with Peter in the passenger seat didn't at all sound appealing, and it wasn't as if they were going on vacation, either. His dad had to drive the moving truck, and half of their furniture had gone to Goodwill the night before since the apartment in New York was hardly big enough for two, let alone three.
Peter ducked under his father's arm, into the kitchen, and Mr. Murphy looked up at his older son, who sighed at him, slipping the note into a pocket, silently vowing he would keep it safe on his person for the entire duration of the move, until the very last box was unpacked. Then again, if his father and Peter proved their typical selves and were content to live in their typical jumble of clutter and disorganization, that might prove to take a very long time.
"Get to packing, Marsh."
Marshall sighed, and sat down on the stair landing. "Dad, can we please sell the guitar?"
His father looked scandalized for a moment, and then frowned, "your mom's guitar?"
"The one you dumped on me, yeah. Please, Dad, I don't have any room for it."
"That's a vintage Les Paul—
"I don't care what it is!" said Marshall in exasperation, running a hand through his flop of hazelnut hair. "You've got like, eighty guitars! It's not like I can play it anyways!"
"I'll teach you, Marshall, just hang on to it."
Marshall sighed. "You've been saying that since Mom left it here. You shouldn't even want it! I thought you hated Mom's guts after the divorce!"
"We are not selling that guitar. Put it in the case, we'll put it in the van and find somewhere for it once we get into the city. We'll get you playing it."
"I don't have time or talent to play it!" said Marshall. "I'm going to be worried about my grades and making friends and unpacking and on top of all that, I can't even read music!"
His father sighed, rubbing his temple. "Marshall…" He shook his head, "I don't know where you get this—this neat streak. You certainly didn't get it from me. Or your mother. Or if you did, I never saw it."
"Fine," said Marshall quietly, not wanting to fight. "Fine, fine. I'll pack it." He turned and climbed the stairs with lead feet.
"Don't pack your driver's license," his father reminded him. "You'll need it for tomorrow."
"I know, Dad." Marshall's voice drifted around the corner from upstairs. "And my wallet. And a jacket. A first-aid kit. A box of toys for Peter to play with, and everything else important that I could possibly need in a little box that I already put in the back seat of the van with your ficus."
His father gave a somewhat pleased grin. "Your organization is good for something then. You can stick your guitar in the backseat with the plant then. It sounds as if you have room."
"Mom's guitar," Marshall corrected him, and then snorted. "And you obviously haven't seen the box Peter packed of stuff to do. It's a refrigerator box."
"That's where the big box went, then."
"Dad! Dad!" Marshall froze. Peter's voice came from his room. How had the little devil even gotten upstairs, let alone into his room?! Marshall bolted down the hall, and nearly tackled him.
"Get out of my room!" he nearly screamed, in a panic. The box! Peter was going to find the box and the magazine and the DVD—
"Dad, Marshall color-sorted his underwear!" Peter shrieked with laughter. Marshall's cheeks flushed a hot red and he yanked Peter off of the half-packed box.
"Get out!! God, you little—" Marshall dragged him out of the room by his belt loops, and Peter still had a pair of blue and gray boxer-briefs pulled over his head, screeching with mirth. Marshall flung him into the hallway and slammed the door behind him, quickly locking it. He could feel Peter jiggling the door.
"Dad!" the younger brother hollered, "Dad, he locked his door!"
"Marshall, you know we don't lock doors in this house!" their father called, "Peter, get out of your brother's underwear, there's none of that in this house either! Let's go, kiddo, you've got a class to get to!"
The pair of underwear from Peter's head was stuffed through the crack under the door a few seconds later, and Marshall heard the little hellion's tromping down the hallway and then down the stairs. He relaxed finally, sagged, and flopped over face first onto his covers, with a slight little groan. He was going insane in this house of underachievers, slobs, and anxious-to-get-to-New-York-City musician types. He would have liked very much to go to sleep right then and there, but knew he wasn't going to sleep at all that night and was instead going to be on a Red Bull-fueled frenzy, making sure he had packed every bit of wire, dust bunny and stray penny.
He picked up the blue and gray boxer-briefs, quietly folded them, and placed them on top the others inside the box before crossing the room and picking up the surprisingly heavy acoustic guitar on its stand, and placing it carefully into its case, securing the snaps and tossing the whole thing on top of his bed with the last few boxes.
He sat on the end of the bed, stopping a box from sliding off, and pulled his phone off the charger, snapping it open, absently dialing Taylor Lark's phone number and slipping the phone up against his cheekbone.
Bleep. Bleep. Bleep. "The number you have called is out of service. Please contact your service provider for further assistance, or hang up, and try dialing again." Bleep. Bleep. Bleep. "The number you have called is out of service. Please contact--"
Marshall sighed, and closed the phone. Tomorrow was going to be the day from hell.
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"No! Sit still and play with… with whatever," Marshall hissed, shoving a Transformer into his brother's lap. "Or get something to eat. There's stuff in that cooler that you've got your feet all over." Marshall leaned over and shoved it out from under the boy's toes, nearly swerving as he did so.
Peter humphed. "It's all water. I want Gatorade."
"I want you to shut up," snapped the older brother. "But that ain't gonna happen, is it?"
"This music sucks," whined Peter.
"This is Tchaikovsky," Marshall said with a scowl, as Peter picked up a CD and slid it into the player. Marshall grabbed his wrist, "what are you doing?"
"This," said Peter cheekily, "is Bullet for my Valentine."
Marshall growled at him and turned off the radio, ejected the CD, and tossed it into the backseat.
"Marshall!" wailed Peter, "that was my favorite!"
"You can have it back when we get to New York!" hissed Marshall, wanting very badly to bang his head against the steering wheel. He reached back and grabbed the first thing he felt—a GameBoy.
"Here," he said, "Play some Pokémon or something."
Peter glared at him, turning on the little device. A few moments of precious silence passed, and Marshall relaxed, glancing over his shoulder to change lanes. He hated driving the big black van, especially with Peter inside of it, but at least it was quiet now. The silence was pure bliss.
"Are we there yet?"
Marshall screamed. "No!! God, damnit, play with something!" He shoved the Transformer into Peter's lap, wanting to strangle something. Anything. His cell phone rang suddenly, and he grabbed it, whipping it open.
"How's it going in the van, kiddo?" his father asked jovially. Marshall sighed.
"Peter wants to stop for Gatorade," the teenager said into the phone. "I keep telling him we're in The Middle of Nowhere, Virginia, but he still wants to stop."
"I have to pee," Peter announced.
Marshall groaned. "And he has to take a piss." He wanted to smack his father when the man laughed, as if that was actually funny. "Dad, please. Don't humor him."
"Tell him we'll stop sometime soon," his father chuckled tinnily in his ear. "And give him the Transformer. He likes the Transformer."
"He's not playing with the damn Transformer!" groaned Marshall, rubbing his face. "Dad, I'm going crazy in here!"
The call-waiting beeped imposingly. Marshall sighed, dramatically. "Hang on, Dad." He flipped to the other call, and spat out an almost venomous 'hello?"
"Marshall?" said a voice. "Marshall Murphy?"
"Taylor?!" Marshall choked and dropped the phone, scrambling to pick it up, forgetting for a moment that he was driving. The car swerved dangerously. Peter shrieked, pointing.
"Marshall, the road!" he screamed, "You're going to hit—"
The older brother sprang up, and grabbed the steering wheel, panicking and slamming on the brakes as the van nearly swerved off the road.
"Don't slow down!" screamed Peter, and Marshall remembered with a jolt that he was driving in the middle of interstate traffic. He checked behind him and slammed on the accelerator, sending the van lurching forward. He picked up the phone, shaking all over.
"Holy fuck, Marshall, what happened?"
"I'm driving," Marshall said, flushing even though Taylor couldn't see him. "I'm sorry. I just… you… I thought your phone number changed!"
"Yeah," laughed Taylor, "yeah, it did. But I thought I'd call you."
"Oh my God, Taylor, it's so good to talk to you!" Marshall babbled. "God, it's been forever. You moved like, two years ago and—oh, God, how have things been for you?"
"Great," said Taylor, and Marshall could hear his charming smile. "Just great. I'm on varsity."
"Oh," said Marshall, "soccer?"
"Yeah," replied Taylor. "The school's great. I'm already raking in scholarships. I've got this great girlfriend, too. I play midfield, now, though. I used to play defense. It's still just as fun, though. I busted my knee last season and ended up benched for a while, but luckily, I'm making a comeback or whatever. How've you been?"
"Girlfriend?" said Marshall, somewhat weakly. Girlfriend?
"Yeah," laughed Taylor. "You'd really like her, I think. She's on the girls' team. She's captain, too. And she's in all these clubs and organizations, like you used to be. Honors societies and stuff."
"Oh," stuttered Marshall, mouth dry. "Oh. She sounds really great."
"God, Marsh, it's been forever," Taylor said, and then his voice lowered to almost a giggle. "Jesus, remember that crazy time we made out in Sara Graham's garage?"
"Ha. Yeah." Marshall was entirely numb. Of course it had been to much to hope that Taylor was still… anything reachable by someone like Marshall.
"What about you? I'll bet you graduated early or something."
"No… I'm… just… good, you know. Not great, but good. I'm…" He wet his lips. "I'm moving to New York. I wish I could tell you why, but, to be honest, I don't really know for myself."
Peter pointed. "Dad's waving at you."
Marshall swallowed. "Hey, Taylor. Hang on for a second."
"Marsh, I'm actually kinda busy—"
Oh please, no. Don't hang up. "J-Just one second. My dad's got to—"
"I gotta go, Marsh. I'll talk to you later." But it was the sort of 'talk to you later' that one says to people they don't plan on seeing again for quite a while.
The click of the phone hanging up was even worse than the tone-dial of the recording that had previously told him that Taylor had cut off his old phone number.
Marshall clicked the call-waiting back to his father. "What?!" he snapped.
"I'm taking the next exit," said his father, "54-A." Marshall grunted affirmatively and then pulled off after the moving van. They drove to the first gas station they found, and Marshall nearly fell when he got out of the van. Peter ran into the store, happily crying for Gatorade, and Marshall shakily approached one of the attendants, a scruffy man with a cigarette between his teeth, rubbing his chest over his work shirt.
"Where's the bathroom?" Marshall said, still trembling from talking to Taylor. The man looked him over, took the cigarette out of his mouth, exhaled, and pointed to a white sign that guided the teenager around the side of the building.
"Back there," he grunted.
"Thanks," mumbled Marshall, trotting off. He pushed open the door to the rank-smelling, disgusting bathroom, found a stall, sank down on the toilet, and started to cry.
New York City, Marshall decided upon crossing the bridge, was a place that was highly hazardous to people with asthma, people who were traumatized by a day's events, and people who were easily intimidated. Unfortunately for Marshall, as much as he loved sorting things into organized categories, he was within all three.
Buildings there were taller than any he'd ever seen in South Carolina. Grass was brown. Instead of cornfields, there were rows upon rows of graffitied boxcars waiting to be loaded onto ships and trucks. There was a low-hanging brownish-pink cloud and the streets were full of all kinds of people. There were traffic stops every few feet—in Marshall's hometown there were a total of ten stoplights in the entire town—and the pedestrians crossing the street didn't bother to stop for cars, and had a habit of walking right out into the street like they owned it. Poor Marshall was on the verge of a nervous breakdown after nearly running over several people.
This place was too big for him. It was too big for anyone, really. It felt endless and Marshall felt very small, like a rat in a maze, spending his whole short lifetime searching meaninglessly for cheese only to be plucked up and placed back in a different maze. The apartment building was fat and ugly, and looked so much like all the others around it that Marshall feared he'd walk home from school to the wrong one. He spent all morning hauling boxes up and down the stairs, memorizing apartment numbers and phone numbers, and preparing himself for a cold pizza dinner sitting on a box when his father pressed a twenty into his hand.
"What's this for?" he said, looking up at him. The box gave a little crunch when he shifted to take it, and nearly gave.
"Take a break an' take the van down the block; go get yourself something to eat," his father said, with a warm smile, "hell, you've earned it."
Marshall stood up slowly, scratching the back of his head, pocketing the bill, shrugging and looking around. "I wish I could unpack more."
His father chuckled. "You've unpacked practically your whole room."
"Not like there was room for me to take much," Marshall said, a little bitterly, moving the ficus tree a little to the left, safely into a corner and out of a rampant Peter's way as he soared by, making whirring noises and waving a toy plane that he hurled into Marshall's right thigh.
"Peter, stop it!" Marshall snapped, tossing the plane across the room. His father turned him by his shoulders away from his little brother.
"Go ahead and take the van down the street and get yourself something to eat somewhere nearby," he said, and added almost soothingly, "you like falafel, don't you?"
"Yeah," sighed Marshall.
"There's a little place at the end of the block with Middle Eastern food," said his father, clucking him on the cheek gently, and grinning. "Go write a review for us."
Marshall rolled his eyes slightly, but picked up the car keys, and flipped his hair out of his face as he trotted down the stairs and out to the van. He climbed in, shut the door, and gave his mother's old guitar a disdainful glance in the rearview mirror. He hadn't bothered to take it upstairs yet. He put the key in the ignition and the van in gear, and with a glance over his shoulder accelerated into the street. The skinny teen drove around the block once, twice, three times before spotting the little Middle Eastern hole in the wall, and he parked across the street, shoved his keys in his back pocket, and stepped off the curb.
There was a squeal of brakes and Marshall's heart leapt into his throat as he jerked back, pushing himself flat against the van. The driver of the black car gave him a dirty look, swore at him in some thick Eastern European language, and the car squealed back to life and off down the street, swerving sharply to the left and turning the corner up ahead.
When Marshall was breathing again, his head whipped to the left and the right before he slowly stepped back out into the road, jogging hastily across it. He squeezed between two cars parked alongside the curb, and gave a shriek of alarm when his wrist was grabbed.
Another warm hand pressed over his mouth, jerking him down behind a parked Crown Victoria. Marshall bumped his head off of the car door, so hard he feared he'd dent it, and immediately started digging out his wallet in fear to hand it over.
"You are from around this place, yes?" said the young voice that belonged to whomever had dragged him down. His accent was thick, and guttural, but had a smooth, rolling quality to it—somewhere in the south of eastern Europe. Poland. Hungary. Or maybe Romania. Marshall gulped, looking at him slowly. He had a sharp face, a squared-off jaw, and a carefully tousled, fashionably styled head of thick, almost black hair that flattered his heavy brows and thin, European lips.
"I'm… no… not really," he said shakily, glancing from the dark-eyed teenager to the falafel diner.
"You can help me get to… Sixth Street?" The European blinked at him imposingly. "I pay you if you need." His English was understandable but awkwardly juxtaposed together. Marshall swallowed the burning urge to correct him, wishing the boy had subtitles.
"I'm just getting something to eat," Marshall said, giving him a strange look, not really sure how to deal with him. The other teenager blinked at him with a somewhat empty, shaky smile, as if hoping that the American would give him a little help. "I don't even know my way around anyway."
"But you live here," protested the dark-eyed youth, tugging him back down when he started to stand. Marshall banged his head off the side of the Crown Victoria yet again, wincing. "Don't stand." With one hand still on Marshall's arm, he in turn rose on his knees, peering over the back of the car.
Marshall swallowed heavily. He hadn't even been in New York for a day and he's already run into a nutcase. "If… if you're in some kind of trouble I can call the police for you," he offered slowly. . The European leaned toward him, eyes almost pleading.
"I need to get to Sixth Street," said the youth, firmly, motioning imperatively. "Is very important. I must get to Sixth Street without…ah… without going near to some people."
Marshall nodded, slowly, "Um… okay. Okay. I'll call the police, and maybe they can help you out, okay?" He opened his cell phone, and started dialing the operator, but the teenager smacked the phone shut, startling him.
"No police," he said imperatively, the word sliding off his tongue, sounding more like he said 'poliza.' "You take me." He lifted his eyebrows, authoritatively, waiting for his mandate to be carried out. "You have car, yes?"
"More like giant-smelly-band-van," Marshall said, uneasily, "Maybe I should put you… on the subway or something?"
"You take me to hotel on Sixth Street?" the European boy repeated urgently, "without coming near to people."
"What… what people…? I—"
"Is my bodyguards," said the teenager. That was the last thing Marshall had been expecting. "They are driving in black car looking for me. I need to get back to hotel before they call my manager and tell him that I escape."
"Your bodyguards?!" spat Marshall, snorting, "what?!"
"You take me?" said the European.
"I really have no idea where I'm going," Marshall said, uncomfortably, "I probably know my way around here even worse than you do."
"Is fine. I tell you which hotel. You take me."
"I have to—"
"I pay you," the boy reiterated, pulling a large roll of fresh bills from out of his jacket breast pocket. Marshall stared at it briefly, and then shoved it back in the youth's pocket.
"Put that away!" he hissed, looking around nervously, "this isn't exactly the Hamptons; you want to get us mugged?!"
"I pay you," the European youth said. "I need to go to Mariott on Sixth Street. Is not far."
Marshall whimpered, rubbing his forehead. "All right, fine… I can… I can take you. Your 'bodyguards' aren't going to try and shoot me, are they?"
"Oh, no no, is fine!" laughed the other boy, tugging him up by his wrist. "Not if we avoid black car. This your car?" He turned around and tried the handle of the Crown Victoria. It beeped disapprovingly and emitted a high-pitched wail, lights flashing.
"No!" said Marshall, grabbing the European's wrist and tugging him out into the street, "no, that's not my car!" They were nearly hit by a speeding car, and Marshall ran for the van in panic, the tall European youth in tow.