Just want to be a real boy. . . .

He never knew what it was like to be touched in love. Or, then again, maybe he had known it at one point in time, when he was small enough to fit inside an eggshell, all the hands of people who weren't his mother caressing the bump that encased him, their sweet expensive voices cooing over how beautiful he would be. He will be beautiful as Ganymede, they said, smiling at each other while patent-leather and lipstick fumes brushed about their voices. He'll begin as a Ganymede and grow into an Adonis.

And his mother, with her Roman nose and sharp eyes nodded silently and painted herself with a smile that had only a faint possibility of being believed. She would look across the crowded room to where her husband stood, tall and elegant in his black tux.

He never looked at her, though; he merely chatted with his business friends, his million-dollar, couch-potato money-junkies and drink his martini and try not to let the weeds crawl out of his terse mouth.

He didn't want a son. All he wanted was to shut himself up in his office, dark and high as an attic, and sit in the darkness. All he wanted was to hum while twisting and tuning the strings that ordered his life, his wife standing outside and staring at her reflection in the dark polish of the door.

And inside that little mound of her belly, he waited and squirmed, waiting for the day he would no longer be a chrysalis, for a day when he would be a real boy.


.o.O.().O.o.

He wasn't beautiful at birth.

He was bawling and alopecic and covered in the serous deeds of the underworld from which he'd come; the sudden loss of that cocoon-like warmth he'd been incubated in throughout his stay in Hades unnerved him. The metallic cold and the stark light of this new realm crushed his eyes like marbles in the sockets and sent caustic chills all through his fragile body. Whereas before he had been comfortably cramped, his body was now a confinement, a knot that was reluctant to unfold. He screamed for having lost more than he knew and for the years of systematic punishment it would cause him.

He came forth from her belly, from the precise chasm created by the surgeon's scalpel and hand, knife and onion, lifted from a massive bed of blood and bloated cancerous organs. It was a miracle, his screaming— that's what all the kindly little Japanese nurses said. It was the scream of a baby Hercules, strong and fit as a horse but so small, so irresistibly small. . . .

His mother never saw him. She died the moment he was taken from her.

For days afterward his father came into the hospital and peered through the glass, disgust lining his yellow-green eyes. Mental retardation, they had said, like it was a rare and sad type of flower instead of a sad excuse of a baby boy. They were sympathetic with him in his iciness; they thought he was in emotional turmoil. They didn't see the hatred in his eyes, the growling monster in his pupils.

The baby was only a failure, a permanent failure made from his own flesh and blood and sweat. He gazed and regretted, but never in misery; his regret lay in the thing's vitality, its irrevocable will to live. Its parasitic need to survive, even if it had to kill and destroy the lives of everything around it.

He didn't want a son. He wanted a leech even less.

.o.O.().O.o.

He had beautiful eyes. Bright, brilliant green that shone like the sweet emerald grasses of summer when he was happy. They were luminescent; they alone had the power to lead the most depraved creature out of its tunnel of darkness and into the day, frightened and quivering like a newborn but glad, glad to finally be in the light. His smile held full promises, ripening like peaches; his skin was strawberries and fresh milk. He shouldn't have been so lovely.

This is what he thinks as his father watches him.

They both sit in the library. He is eight. He looks out the window and watches the rain dribble down the glass, presses his cheeks up against it only to feel the cool shiver of its quicksilvery touch. He looks outside at the troubled sky and wonders if the sun will ever shine again.

A shadow moves in his peripheral vision; he pretends not to notice, pretends he can't feel those dark murky eyes watching him. They are green as well, but not that of a fruitful forest; this is the green of a forest under siege, one attacked by toxins and poisons that turn the air yellow and bring small parasites out of the soil. Green with envy, with greed, with desire, something coiling in the back of them, rancid as a bog. He pretends he can't feel these eyes, can't see they way his father's body shifts casually in the doorframe; pretends he doesn't notice the way his strong arms are folded, the way his lips are soft but unmalleable in their emotionlessness.

He stares out the window and waits for his father to leave.

When his father steps fully into the room, his breathing stops.

.o.O.().O.o.

The whip comes down, hard across the backs of his skinny legs. The noise he emits is something on the midground between a shriek and a whimper, but it hardly makes any kind of difference; as soon as it leaves his pretty pink mouth, it's lost to the sonorous first section of Carmina Burana, O' Fortuna blaring out of the speakers arranged like gargoyles around the room.

To him, this is justified. He doesn't know what he did to deserve this, but it must have been bad and it must have been something he should know better than not to do. But he never knows, he never knows what he isn't supposed to do, what will set daddy off next, what will make his yellow-green eyes flash steely and set his smooth hands tensing for the feel of leather. He doesn't know what he did. He can't comprehend that the louder he screams, the harder he'll be hit. The only thing he does know is that the punishment is one he deserves.

His father scowls, sweat beading his forehead, and the whip comes down again, this time hitting the small of his back. The skin blanches upon impact, then immediately flushes raw red. The next slap causes tears of blood to spring forth from the pores, soaking the soft down on his only son's back. The boy is so pretty, so very pretty, just as pretty as his mother. . . .

And, with every shriek, with every blow of the whip, he becomes just as empty.

.o.O.().O.o.

. . . be a real boy.

That's all he wanted. He wanted to be a real boy and have a real mommy and a real brain; if he had a real brain, then maybe daddy would be happy and wouldn't hurt him. Maybe daddy would put the belt away and not hit him or slap him.

He wasn't aware of the bruises that bloomed like mauve roses on his face, roses the color of rainclouds, wasn't aware of his blackened eyes or the way the scar dragging down from the left side of his mouth had ceased to fade. The house had no mirrors. His father had taken them all down and broken them. He had not seen his own reflection in six years, not since he was eight. He didn't know that the slow desiccation of his soul was taking effect on his once-beautiful porcelain face.

His eyes were no longer emerald green. They were wet and runny, green paint gone bad after having been out in stormy weather, mixed with the impurities of rainwater and the harsh words of the sky. His skin was held no tinge of a flush, all yellow and purple contusions and red welts and oily blemishes.

Maybe he wasn't beautiful. But that was fine; beautiful people weren't real.

That's what his father had told him. Beautiful people weren't real people. Beautiful boys weren't real boys. . . .

He wanted more than anything to be a real boy.


A/N: I know; it leaves something to be desired, but I cannot, for the life of me, consider finishing it properly.