1 - I Saw, He Saw

What goes around comes around.

Everybody's heard it before. Not everybody believes it, though.

Do you believe in karma?

I don't.

...

"Hey."

What now?

"Hey, kid."

Who is that?

"You okay, kid?"

Leave me alone.

"Here, I'll help you up. What happened to you?"

Just leave me to die in this gutter.

"Kid?"

"Go away."

"Oh, so you are alive. I was getting worried for a minute. Want me to call an ambulance? You might want to get looked over at the hospital."

Why won't he just shut up and go away? Can't he see that I'm happy here in my muddy little rut? Well, as happy as I'll ever be. "It doesn't matter."

"Well, I can't just leave you here. Should I take you home? Where do you live?"

"Nowhere. I don't have a home anymore."

"Oh… Sorry. Are you homeless?" He doesn't beat around the bush, at least.

"You could say."

"Are you a runaway then? Well, that's no good. Believe me, as great as the idea may seem, running away never works out. It's not as easy as the movies make it."

"Too late now." If he'd just go away, maybe my head would stop hurting so much. I open one bleary eye to look up at this intrusive stranger. Everything is blurry so I can't see his face, but I can tell he's leaning in very close to me. How nosy. He can't even mind his own business.

I see him shake his head and hear his low chuckle. Now he's laughing at my pain, is he? What a jerk. He should just go away already. Really, can't he see that I don't need help?

Okay, so maybe I do need help. I just don't want it from him. I don't want help from anybody. I just want to be left alone. After all, it was because some assholes wouldn't leave me alone that I'm in this state right now. Not this guy though. He's just plain nosy.

Before I can tell him off again, he reaches forward to lift me up by my arms. It hurts when his fingers dig into my bruises and I tell him so, not all too nicely. "Ow, let go, you jerk." At least the refreshed pain makes my eyes work properly again. I can see his face clearly now and see that he's actually not that bad-looking at all. Hardly the stereotypical creep, anyway. In fact, I would almost say he looked like some kind of celebrity. But that's obviously impossible.

"Sorry about that. I didn't think I was holding that hard. Don't worry; I won't hurt you on purpose. I'm just trying to help, okay?" He gives me a blinding smile and shows such straight, white teeth that make me wonder again if he's a celebrity.

Once I'm on my shaky legs, I push him away. "I can help myself, thanks," I tell him bitterly. In other words, leave me alone, asshole.

I hug my arms tightly around myself before beginning to walk away. My legs only go a few feet before giving out on me. Damn, this sucks. Now I'm definitely sure he won't leave me alone.

His footsteps make my headache get worse as he comes near again. "Come on, I'm just trying to help, alright? I won't hurt you. I'll take you to a hospital, or I'll take you home. Which do you prefer?"

"Neither. Just go away," I mutter as I lean against the wall. I let out a low sigh as I close my eyes and try to keep everything from swimming in my head. "Don't you get it already? I don't want your help. Just screw off."

I hear him sigh as well. "Sorry, I can't just leave you like this. It's against my nature, you see," he says. I make a choked gasp as he suddenly picks me up bridal-style. How embarrassing. This guy just won't give up, will he? If looks could kill...

"Well, if you don't want to go home and you don't want to go to the hospital, why don't I take you to my place?"

Yup, definitely a creep after all.

"What, so you can fuck me up even more in the comfort of your own home? No thanks. Just screw off," I tell him again. I get the feeling he won't be leaving me alone anytime soon though.

He laughs once more. "Like I said, I can't just leave you like this, so unless you tell me where you live, I'm taking you to the hospital." He shifts me in his arms and begins walking resolutely in what I can only presume is the direction of the hospital.

"No!" I choke out. "Not there. Anywhere but there." I can't stand hospitals. That's a different story, though. The important thing is, I hate hospitals and I'm definitely not going to be taken there now. "Not there..."

"Well, that only leaves me one choice. I'll take you to my place." He keeps walking but I don't pay attention exactly where he was going. I'm entirely too tired and too much in pain to really care. So long as I don't go home and I don't go to a hospital, I guess anywhere else will do, as much as I'd prefer that he leaves me there.

He keeps babbling on and on about random stuff as he walks. He sounds so happy and so energetic for having found a random kid on the streets that he is now dragging home. The situation is indeed as wrong as it sounds, I think. When I look into his smiling face though, I can tell he doesn't care about what others might think of this. To him, I'm just a poor little injured animal that he needs to take care of. It makes me sick. I'm not a little pet he can adopt. I tell him so, but he only laughs and keeps going. He's humming now as he's turning toward an apartment building. Is this really that enjoyable to him? Or is he just really excited to have found a new plaything?

"Sorry, I'll have to put you down so I can get my key. Is that okay?" He lowers his arm that is holding up my legs before fishing around in his pocket, but the door opens just then so he doesn't need his keys. "Oh, thank you, Mr. McMaster," he says to somebody else as he picks me up again and walks in through the open door. I open my eyes to see a suit-wearing doorman (or so I'm guessing) watching me inquisitively. I can tell he wants to ask but I'll bet he's paid to keep silent and only be polite to the tenants.

"Not a problem at all, sir. Have a good evening," the doorman—Mr. McMaster—says as my 'rescuer' heads to the elevator. I can feel his curious eyes burning into my back as a low ding sounds and the elevator doors slide open.

Before the thick metal doors slide shut, I take the chance to quickly glance outside into the lobby. It's one of those fancy apartments with expensive and pointless decorations all over. It smells expensive too...some kind of floral scent? Whatever it is, it makes me feel sick. It's a relief when the elevator shuts and now all I can see is my fuzzy reflection. The guy takes out his ring of keys from his pocket to swipe a tag over a scanner just below the panel of buttons. The elevator begins to move without him pressing anything.

Moments later another ding rings out sharply and the doors swish open. I assume it's the penthouse since there's only one door outside of the elevator on this floor. Well, isn't that just lucky for me. I was saved by a rich man who could be my sugar daddy...not a chance.

"What are you, some kind of millionaire?" I mutter to him as he walks into the apartment, down a hallway, and then into a massive room and puts me down on a king-sized bed with some of the softest covers I've felt in my life. Does he have a girlfriend? Or maybe even a wife? Nobody would need a bed this big if they were single—unless they were rich like him. I blink and scowl up at him.

He shrugs. "I guess you could say that," he says before turning and walking out of the room abruptly. He's acting suspiciously uncomfortable. Maybe he got all his money doing something illegal like drug-dealing or smuggling...or maybe he was just the son of a gang lord. Judging from the way he seemed so nervous, maybe he's just another nouveau riche—lottery winner or something like that.

He comes back shortly, carrying a bunch of stuff in his hands. I can only tell what they are as he comes closer to the bed; a large bowl, washcloth, a bottle of some liquid which I presume is antiseptic or something, and bandages. I know where this will go so I scoot away from him, slipping slightly on the silky blanket.

"Hey, take it easy. I'm not going to touch you if you're uncomfortable with it. You just have some nasty cuts that might get infected if they're not cleaned," he murmurs gently. He puts down the stuff on the nightstand just beside the bed and sits down at the edge of the bed. At least he's keeping his distance somewhat this time.

I look him up and down. I still don't trust this guy at all, but it's true that my cuts are starting to really sting. The dried blood isn't feeling so great, either. In the end, I reluctantly take off my hoodie and T-shirt, then inch closer to let him take care of the cuts on my back, but I won't let him touch me elsewhere.

"I can do it myself now," I mutter as I nab the cloth from him. As I'm cleaning myself up, I shift awkwardly. There are some really bad cuts along my inner thighs that are harder to reach but I try my best anyway after pulling down my shorts and boxers just enough to expose the areas. I glance up at him and see his reddening face before he quickly turns his head away. So the pervert has been watching all along. I make a disgusted sneer and turn my back to him. "If you want to fuck me, just say so," I mutter, "It makes things easier if you don't beat around the bush."

"You think that's why I brought you here?" he asks lowly. I glance back at him and frown. He's looking at me with a strange expression. Something like...pity? I don't know. I'm not good at judging people's emotions by their faces. After all, so many people lie really well nowadays. I think it's even a profession, so-called 'acting'.

"You're telling me it's not?" I snap back. Once I'm done cleaning my wounds, I wrap them up with bandages carefully and let out a breath. "Thanks, I guess..." I'm very reluctant to say it and that makes it hard to get my tongue around the words.

When I look over my shoulder again, he's smiling, but there's still that strange look about his eyes. "You're welcome. I'm glad you finally let me help you out. I won't ask you what happened exactly, since that's your business—" What's this? He's finally getting the idea? "—but I want to help you out in any way I can. What's your phone number? Let me at least call your parents. They must be worried about you." Nope, he isn't getting it yet. I guess it was wishful thinking on my part.

"I told you, I'm not going home. Or that place I used to call home. I don't live there anymore," I hiss at him. "And I'm not a girly little damsel in distress who needs her rich knight in shining armor to save her."

"I know you're not a girly damsel in distress, but you were hurt badly. Besides, you are a kid, so it's close enough to a damsel in distress," he chuckles. He ruffles my hair with his (probably) perfectly-manicured hand. I only scowl at him again. "My name's Esau, by the way. And what may I call you, Your Highness?"

"Esau? That's a weird name." Raising an eyebrow at him, I stare at him intently.

He shrugs. "It's what my parents gave me. I don't feel like changing it. Well, I could use an alias, I suppose, but I don't want one of those—"

"You're in a gang, aren't you?" I ask him. I give him a suspicious look and lean in to inspect his face. I swear I've seen it before...on the Most Wanted show? No, I never watch that. Probably on the news, then. Maybe he's actually a murderer who likes to play with his underaged prey before slashing them to pieces and stuffing them into suitcases. In either case, I'll probably be dead soon. "Or are you a serial killer?"

When he laughs, I frown even more. "No, I'm nothing like that. I told you, it's in my nature to help people, not hurt them. Your name?"

So he's rich, good-looking, not a gangster, not a killer, and likes to help people. He sounds like any girl's dream man. Thankfully I'm not a girl and have no interest in guys. Especially not in nosy jerks like this guy. "Ian." I lie because I can't stand my real name. Someday I should really get it changed legally. Having a crazy parent leaves little chance for a good name. Then again, maybe he isn't so lucky either. Esau...

I think he notices that I paused for a while before telling him my name. It wasn't because I was thinking of one; that's the name that I always use when I can avoid using my real name. Maybe he just sees through me. That idea doesn't make me feel any better. I feel really exposed all of a sudden.

"Ian, huh? Well, nice to meet you, Ian. It's a bit late for introductions, but better late than never," Esau says. He looks at me with that ridiculous smile on his face again. Not that it is ridiculous as in...ridiculous. It just makes me question his true motives all the more. He honestly does look so familiar...

I purse my lips and look away, taking the time to inspect the room. I haven't looked around the place yet, and now seems a good time what with the awkward silence hanging between us. Well, awkward for me. I don't know about him. He just seems naturally happy all the time. Maybe he's high? Probably.

"So, Ian, are you hungry at all? Thirsty? Why don't I fix you something to eat?" Esau says as he stands up and heads for the door. I try to tell him not to bother, but my stomach states otherwise with a loud growl at the mere mention of food. He chuckles at this, damn him, and asks me if I want anything particular to eat.

I shake my head in reply and look away, slightly flustered. I haven't eaten in a long time, but I didn't notice until now. Food wasn't exactly the first thing on my mind as I had been fleeing my home. My previous home, rather. It's not my home any longer.

Esau has been gone for a while now. He's probably cooking up a bunch of stuff, or getting something delivered. Then again, he's rich enough to have his own in-house chef. Whichever it is, he is gone long enough for me to have finished looking about the large and fancy room. Fatigue settles over me now as I flop back onto the soft, silky covers. The huge, soft, warm bed feels so amazingly good... I think I might just take a little nap...

...

I must have fallen asleep. When I wake up, I see that it's dark in the room. That guy must've turned the lights off when he saw me sleeping. The idea that he watched me while I was asleep leaves me feeling creeped out, so I scramble off the bed and go for the door. It's slightly open so I pull it back just enough to stick my head out. The hallway is so wide that you could probably fit an entire car in the middle and still have space to walk on the sides.

Seeing no sign of him, I cautiously step out and begin to tip-toe my way to the end of the corridor. A faint sound makes its way to my ears now; I think it's the TV. As I turn the corner and stare into the huge living room, I see that I was right. The couch is facing away from me so that all I can see is the back of the guy's head. At that moment, I suddenly don't know what to do. Should I say something to him, or should I just go back to the room and pretend to be asleep still? It's really awkward. As much as I hadn't wanted it, I am thankful for his help. I may be even feeling a little bad for making him do all this for me. Then again, it's not like all of this would put such a huge dent in his bottomless wallet. Not to mention, he had been offering—forcing—his help.

Something compels me to glance up, so my eyes drift to look at the enormous TV. I barely have time to admire the top-of-the-line piece of technology before my attention is drawn by what is actually being shown on the screen. It's just some trailer for a new movie that's coming out soon. Usually I can't stand trailers because they're always overplayed and give away all the good parts of the movie they're advertising in the first place, but right now I can't look away.

"You!" I suddenly shout in a strangled and shocked manner.

It turns out he was dozing because he jolts up with a quiet snort at the sound of my voice. "What—oh. You're awake?" he slurs, scratching his head as he looks at me. He sees my face and follows my gaze to the TV. Acting flustered, he fumbles for the remote and quickly turns the screen off. It doesn't matter; I've seen enough.

"You—I knew I'd seen you somewhere before. You're that Esau. Esau Reiner, the actor," I accuse him. He avoids my glare. That's right, he should be afraid. He must have thought I was some dumb idiot who didn't even know celebrities... Well, he can't pull the wool over my eyes. I may be dumb at times, but I'm not that clueless. "Why did you bother trying to hide it? It's not like it's a big secret, is it?"

"Yeah, but I figured you'd probably feel uncomfortable knowing who I really am. You know, people always seem to think that celebrities are not human or something. I didn't want you to be like that. You were being stubborn enough as it was about letting me help you," he explains slowly, running a hand through his coffee-colored hair. Now he's giving me this 'what can you do' smile. I won't fall for it. What a sneaky bastard.

I make a low noise in my nose. "So you just thought I was a dumb shit who would lie back and let you whisk me away to be saved. Is that it? You didn't think that maybe, even if you didn't tell me yourself, I would find out who you really are? I'm not a completely idiot, you pretentious asshole!" It feels really good to ream him out like this. In fact, I think I'll do it a little more. I take another breath so that I can continue, but he cuts me off.

"I never thought you were an idiot. I still don't. I try not to judge people. I just saw you, thought you needed help, and offered it. I didn't make an assumption about you at that point. I wasn't planning on stating right off the bat that I'm a…well. If you'd noticed, then fine, but since you didn't, I didn't think there was a need for me to point it out explicitly. It's not exactly something that comes up in normal conversation," he states calmly. He's almost too calm. Maybe it's all a part of being an actor. I hold my breath through his excuses.

"You could have answered then when I asked who you really are!" I blurt out at last, the air bursting from my lips. "You clearly avoided it and probably would have lied about it, too!"

I can see that he's really uncomfortable now. Good. Maybe he'll finally understand how annoying it is to have a random stranger trying to butt into your life.

"I know. I'm sorry about that. It was just... Well, turns out I didn't have anything to worry about with you, but at first I was just afraid you'd start acting all distant and stuff if I told you. But...heh, it's funny. It's different from the usual crowds of screaming girls," Esau chuckles as he brushes his hair from his eyes. I can understand the 'screaming girls' part. He's good-looking enough to have mobs of fans hanging off him any day.

"I'm not a girl," I snap at him. He seems to have already forgotten our discussion that I'm not a damsel-in-distress. "Besides, you're still a person, celebrity or not. Why shouldn't I talk to you like I would with anybody else I'm pissed off at?" I cross my arms over my chest as I watch him. He only smiles and imitates my actions. This really pisses me off now. "You know what? Fuck you, asshole. I was going to thank you for doing all that shit for me, but you know what? I don't need it from an ass like you!"

I whirl around and pause only for a minute before remembering where the door was and storming in that direction. The fact that my clothes are in tatters will be a pain in the ass later, but right now, all I care about is getting out of this disgusting place and never seeing that asshole again. If I ever do see him on TV or something, I'll probably smash something. Before I reach the door, he grabs me roughly by the arm and pulls me back. "Let go, you asshole!" I shout at him, trying to wrench my arm out of his iron grip.

"I won't make you stay, but at least take some other clothes with you. You can't walk around with your ass shown to the world, can you?" Esau (Asshole) says. I think he's trying not to laugh. I say this not for the first time: jerk. "My clothes will probably be too big for you, but maybe there'll be something we can fix up somehow. Or if you'll just wait a while, I can go and get some clothes that'll fit you."

"I don't need the fake sympathy of an asshole, thanks," I sneer.

"You don't plan on going back home, do you? I don't know if I can let you sleep out on the streets—"

"What does it matter to you, ass-face?!"

"Why won't you let me help you?"

"Because—" I stop short. I take a deep breath. Having said this numerous times to him, it's hard not to just scream out at him. "I told you. I don't like to be treated like some fragile little girl or a puppy that has to be looked after all the time. I can take care of myself just fine, alright? I've got this." When I finally speak again, I'm slightly calmer, but my voice still holds great hatred towards this…this actor.

"That's why you got attacked in the first place, right? Because you can take care of yourself?"

That hurts. Now he's rubbing salt on my open wounds. This guy just won't stop, will he? Still, I can't reply right away because he makes a point. I was weak and fragile; that's why I couldn't take on those bastards. That's why I could do nothing but get attacked. That's why...because I'm nothing but a weak and fragile little glass figurine...

I pull my arm away from him and he lets go easily this time. Unable to look at him, I stare down at the hardwood floor instead. His gaze is strong enough for me to feel it, though. I shift awkwardly as he takes a step closer to me. "I don't need your help," I whisper again, but I can tell he knows I don't mean it. He knows that I know that he knows...

It feels like a good five minutes before he says anything. "I know you're not weak. But to be honest, I think it takes a strong person to swallow some of their pride and admit to needing help sometimes. After what you went through, I know it's probably hard to open up to anybody, but don't you think it's better to let somebody help you when they offer? If you let somebody help you, then it's less for you to worry about, right? So please, let me help you. I want to help you, Ian." As he speaks, his hand reaches out to grasp my shoulder gently. He gives it a little squeeze before making me turn to look up at him. I still keep my eyes locked on the floor. The wood panels are a warm walnut color. "Ian." I won't look. He'll just try to win me over with that stupidly perfect smile of his. "Ian, won't you at least look at me?"

Fine. I'll let him win this time, but I won't be won over by that...horrendously good-looking face of his with the warm, gentle smile plastered to his perfect lips that I'm now looking straight at. Great. Now he's turning me gay? No, that's not right. He's just a celebrity. Those people are made to be idolized, right? So it's not that I'm turning gay, but he's just turning on his celebrity-ness. Still, I kind of feel myself weakening under his gaze. I want to look away, but he keeps me locked there with those greyish eyes of his. Suddenly I feel flustered as I continue to stare up at him. I finally draw my eyes away from him, but he knows that his spell has worked. Damn him.

"Come on. I'll get you some clothes, and then I'll take you home. How's that?" Esau tells me gently. I only shake my head. When will this guy get the idea?

"I told you, I won't go back," I mutter. He still doesn't get it, but then again, he doesn't know the whole story. Going home would be worse than living on the streets. Or as I should say, 'former home.'

"Are you having troubles with your family?" I barely hear the actor asking me as I rub my forehead. My headache is coming back quickly.

I don't bother to look up as I reply, "It doesn't matter. I'm not going back there, no matter what."

He emits a low sound from his throat as he straightens up. "I won't ask you what happened, but I still think it would be best for you to go back home, unless your family is abusing you. If that's the case, then maybe we should go to the police and—"

"No. Just...stop, alright? God... You're giving me such a headache," I growl at him. I close my eyes but the throbbing in my temple only gets worse. Swaying slightly, I reaching out to lean against the wall, but I forget that this place is so big that it'll take a few good steps to get to the nearest wall. Damn. As I begin to fall, he catches me. I'm so pathetic, it sickens me.

"I'm sorry. Come on, you should get back to bed. Actually, you still haven't eaten yet, have you? Why don't you have a bite and then go back to sleep? You'll probably feel better then," he suggests as he leads me to the kitchen. I don't argue this time because my headache has left me in no state to do anything but comply. He sits me down on a stool at the kitchen bar before moving about to gather up whatever food he had probably gotten together earlier for me before I'd fallen asleep. I watch him with wary eyes. I have to give it to him; he's one determined guy. In a battle of stubbornness between us, I don't know who'd win. Well, I probably would since I never give up, but just now, I'm in a weakened state so he's got the advantage of my handicap. And he's exploiting to the max.

When he sets down a huge medley of foods in front of me, my brain just turns off and I immediately begin to stuff my face. In all fairness, everything is pretty good, and there's a lot of it. I glance up between mouthfuls of pasta only to see him looking at me with this strange kind of smile. It's kind of creepy and as soon as I swallow the spaghetti I've been chewing, I tell him so. He only laughs and suddenly reaches forward, making me instinctively jump back. When he brushes his hand just over the corner of my mouth, I curve my lips down and push his hand away.

"I know, I know, you're not a girl," Esau laughs before I can say anything. "You're still pretty cute though."

"What, you're gay?" I ask him sharply with a raised eyebrow before returning my attention to the food. It's not too long before most of it is gone and I sit back contently.

"Can't a guy appreciate cute things without being gay?" he chuckles as he begins to clean up the dishes. I feel slightly guilty because he's already fed me and let me stay here so I help as well. I'm not all cold-hearted, you know. When I bring some dishes to the dishwasher where he is standing, he ruffles my hair and tells me to go back to bed.

"I just woke up a while ago, you know," I mutter to him, but I begin to slowly walk back to the bedroom anyway. As I go, I take the time to inspect the penthouse. As with many typical rich people, there are pointless and expensive-looking decorations all over the place; huge abstract paintings taller than I am hanging on the wall, vases full of pretty bouquets of what turn out to be real flowers (I could smell their aroma from three feet away), and all sorts of high-tech gadgets. It must be nice to live in such luxury. I almost feel envious, but then I remember that it's expected. After all, Esau is unfortunately a very famous actor. Come to think of it, I think he's been in quite a lot of big-name movies, if I remember correctly. Huh...

I can see several closed doors in the hallway. The only open one that I peek into is the bathroom, and I quickly use that. Once I'm in the hall again, I stare at the closed rooms curiously. It's rude to pry though, and as much as I hate this guy, I won't go sneaking around his place. Doubtlessly, it's very tempting.

"Looking for something?"

I jump practically a foot in the air and my heart drops into my diaphragm as I whirl around to stare up at Esau's smiling face. I gulp before shaking my head. "No, just...got a little lost. You've got such a huge place. Do you even use all of these rooms or is it just empty space?" I say, putting a little more edge into my voice than probably is necessary.

Esau runs his hand through his hair as he looks away for a moment. "Empty space, I guess. It's not like I have a family to take care of or something like that. I would have preferred a smaller place, but my manager insisted that I get this place instead of a one-bed further downtown," he says slowly. His tone is soft and…lonely.

I feel bad all of a sudden. Staring at the ground like that, he looks almost like he might cry...but then I quickly remind myself that he's an actor and that he's trained to lie in order to draw emotion from an audience. I refuse to fall for anything he pulls.

"I know I said I wouldn't ask, but...why don't you want to go home, Ian?"

With a low sigh, I turn and walk into the bedroom that I'd slept in earlier. He follows me only a few steps behind. I head for the huge window seat and sit down, looking down at the street below. The low hums of the city drift in through the small gap in the window.

"Ian, if somebody's hurting you at home, you should really say something. Running away from your problems won't solve them, right? Can you tell me?" he presses on as he comes near and sits down across from me on the seat.

Pulling my legs up and hugging my knees tightly, I sigh again. "It's just…really hard to explain," I begin at last. I lick my lips and glance up at Esau. He's staring at me intently, appearing to hang onto my every word. Is he pretending to care? I continue anyway, even though I have no idea why I'm even telling him any of this in the first place. "My mom died when I was little. Or rather, she died because of me, as that bastard constantly reminds me."

"Your father?" Esau puts in. I only nod.

"He says he loved her more than anything, but I see right past his bullshit. He's not exactly the most honest man on Earth. If he really loved her, he wouldn't hate me so much. I'm her son, right? You know, part of her is in me and all that crap. He has a lot of issues other than the lying though. It all got worse after she died; his gambling, drinking, drug use...and his violence." As I speak, I rest my forehead on the cool glass. My breath fogs up the window slightly as I breathe in, breathe out, breathe in...

"Go on," he says softly, "I'm still listening."

After a short pause, I speak again. "Whenever he came home drunk, he'd take a look at me and get angry right away. He'd start shouting about how I'm a little demon who killed his wife and how I didn't deserve to live and stuff. When I was younger, I believed him. Kids believe what they're told, right? So I always used to think that I was this terrible person who killed his own mother. I felt like shit all the time and that only seemed to make him more furious. He used to tell me that 'little demon shit' like me don't have emotions, and that I shouldn't pretend like I care. He didn't beat me often, but when he did, it was...really painful. Usually he just yelled at me or threw random things at me. Still traumatizing for a kid.

"I stayed at school or at friends' places more as I got older because I eventually got fed up with all of that shit. He'd come and find me and drag me back, but obviously he never showed that evil side of him to my friends' parents or the teachers. He was always the perfect gentleman to them. " I take a breath and close my eyes for a moment.

I feel Esau's hand gently resting on my bandaged bicep. "Are these bruises from him?" he asks.

"No, these ones aren't. I've gotten better at avoiding him these days so the bruises from him are mostly faded by now. But...a couple nights ago, he came home really drunk because he'd gone and blown a crap-load of money on a poker game or something. As soon as he came in the door, he looked at me and grabbed a knife from the kitchen. I ran before he could do anything though. He was probably still wondering where I'd gone to after that, the drunk bastard.

"Anyway, I just wandered the streets for a while after that. I promised myself I'd never go back. I didn't want to bother the few people I know well enough, so I just walked around. I wasn't really looking where I was going; I just wanted to get away from 'home'. By the time I reached the ghetto areas, I didn't even realize how far I'd gone. Then before I knew it, some punks began chasing me. They kept calling me a bitch so they must have made the same mistake you did and thought I was a girl—" I give Esau a pointed look and he smiles apologetically, "—but obviously a scrawny kid like me can hardly take on a bunch of thugs. That's when you found me, I guess."

Esau lets out a low breath as he leans back. His eyes are on me the whole time, but I'm still staring out the foggy window. The street lights are all hazy and blurring into large fuzz-balls.

"It must have been really hard to live like that for so many years. Being told constantly that you're something you're not. I can only imagine how terrible that must feel. But you know, as awful as this might sound..." Esau smiles at this point, "I'm honestly a little glad you ran away because if you hadn't, I wouldn't have met you. You're pretty cool, Ian. I've never had anybody talk to me like you do since I was still in school."

I look up at him with slight surprise. He keeps talking like he's so glad to have found me, and that only makes me remember my suspicions of him only dragging me here so that he can screw around with me before doing me in or something.

"If you want, why don't you stay here? I think I have more than enough to take care of both of us, and there's plenty of room here. I know you're not weak and you don't want to be pampered like a little puppy, but... Just think of it like a friend offering to let you crash with him for a while." He's got that smile on his face again, that horribly perfect smile that gives away his celebrity status. "Won't you let me be your friend, Ian?"

He really makes me sick. But then...why the hell am I crying? These are tears on my face... I'm not this weak, am I? As I put my head in my knees, I hear him shift closer to me and shortly after I feel his strong arm resting about my shoulders. It feels comforting, the way he pulls me closer so that I'm resting just so against the curve of his seemingly perfect body. It feels...right. So this is what it feels like to have a friend comfort you. I never really had that. All my friends from school were usually on their way to juvenile prison, barely avoiding being arrested, or tripping out of their minds from whatever low-quality drugs they were using. This kindness is something I've felt so rarely in my life. I like it. I think I like it too much...

"If you ever feel like you just need to cry, you can cry on my shoulder. That's what friends are for, right? If you ever feel bad, talk to me. I'll listen, like I did now. You don't always have to deal with everything alone, Ian. A friend…is one of the best things you can have in the world. More than money, more than fame... I'd give all that up if it meant keeping my friends close." Esau keeps babbling on. I guess it's an actor's thing, so I can't blame him too much. Still, it's getting a little much.

"Do you ever stop talking?" I mutter into my knees. I hear and feel his chuckle, deep in his chest.

"Sorry. Bad habit," he apologizes.

We stay like that for a long while. I've stopped crying, but I don't look up from my knees just yet. My eyes are probably all puffed up and red. When at last I'm able to look, I turn to Esau. He's smiling at me. It's like he's just so used to it that he doesn't even realize he's doing it. Unfortunately, this particular smile happens to be quite contagious. I find myself smiling as well.

"Hey…" I say slowly.

"Yes, Ian?"

"I… I always thought you were just another overpaid, greedy, egotistical, pretentious, spoiled actor..."

"Really? Well, I'm not surprised. Apparently lots of people think that," he chuckles.

"I know you're not really anymore. Well, I still think you're overpaid and pretentious, but...at least you're not greedy."

He laughs at this and ruffles my hair. "I try not to be about money. But I am greedy when it comes to my friends. Can I be greedy and say that I really want you to let me be your friend?"

I smile back at him. "I'll think on that. For now, just shut up. You talk too much."


A/N:

I started this story more than a decade ago, but for some reason I just couldn't let it go. I guess it had a really special place in my fucked-up, shrivelled-up heart, even after all this time.

At any rate, I've tried my best to edit it to be less cheesy, more believable, and more cohesive with the later chapters, but there is definitely still a lot of suspension of disbelief required here (and I am not a professional editor, so likely there are some flaws in the story itself). The first few chapters especially were just impossible to fix to become actually plausible while still flowing with the rest of the story... A hell of a conundrum, that's for sure.

For those of who have followed since the beginning, thank you sincerely and hope you like the updates.

For the new people just finding this, hope you like this enough to follow along.

❤️