. subrutum

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part one.

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prologue.

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It was never meant to be like this, he reflects dimly as he tries to make out what the stain on his hands is. The girl – he can't even remember her name; Jesus Christ, he knew her and he can't remember her name – lies surrounded by leaves and framed by murky moonlight, her hair forming an uneven, shaky halo around her head, as if the artist lost their faith halfway through making it. Stains similar to the one on his hands darken her clothing, and her eyes are lifeless, vacant and empty with no shimmer or spark in them.

Something falls to the floor with a muffled thud, but he doesn't hear it or see it. He is plagued by how she fought against him, how she jeered at him and told him to fuck off, how he was only doing this for her—

He is only faintly aware of the tears that come as he stumbles away from the still-warm corpse, and of the hand that locks itself around his shoulder in a firm and tight embrace of friendship.

"Lucas, mate, she's dead," a voice says from far away, one that he can't ignore, and he chokes and stifles a sob that threatens to rise up and drown him. "C'mon, Luke, let's get you home."

Someone is turning him away from the macabre sight; he closes his eyes and she is there, smug features becoming stricken and dulled with pain in her last moments as he panics and stabs her rapidly, twice, slicing skin in a frenzy of fear. "Dead?" he repeats, and his voice is strained and tired as he is guided through the woodland by the arm around his shoulder and another figure at his side, "That's not – no, she can't be dead."

He sees an eye, a face, and suddenly he is facing someone who seems to be the same age as him. Matt, his mind registers, yet his face shows no recognition. "Yeah," the boy confirms, his fingers digging into Luke's shoulders, "She's dead. Not coming back, six feet under – well, not yet, anyway – all that stuff. You stabbed her."

"I didn't… I… it was an accident—"

"Relax," Matt soothes, and they're walking again, Matt's arm around his shoulder once more, "Lucy and Cain are sorting it. I know Lucy is, at least; Cain was walking with us about a moment ago…" he trails off, glances around and Lucas's gut says that Cain has gone back to deal with the body.

"Oh," he says slowly, as though the word is thick and difficult to say, "Oh." He swallows, silencing what he wants to say, and then jerks his head towards Matt. "What are they going to do?"

"Dunno," is the instantaneous reply, and car lights are becoming clearer; they're nearing the edge of the woods. "Bury her, I guess. I'm not sure. Lucy said she knows what she's doing, though, so I decided to leave her to it and take care of you."

There's a pause between them – nothing longer than a few seconds, but it feels like years to Lucas. "Thanks," he responds, unsure as to whether he means it or not. "I think – I think I'm covered in her blood."

They stop walking and Lucas offers his hands to Matt, averting his gaze. Matt breathes in, swears, exhales heavily and curses again. "Shit," happens to be the only word that comes out from his mouth as he shrugs his jacket off and hands it to Lucas, "Put that on and keep your hands in your pockets."

Lucas does as he is told. The jacket isn't too heavy; it feels light, free, even when he stuffs his hands into its pockets and hunches over slightly. "Don't hunch," Matt says evenly as they approach the road, and he straightens his posture without a noise. "We're almost at your place."


Number ten, Gleeson Drive still has all its lights on when Matt walks Lucas to the front door at a little after nine pm. "Keys?" he queries, and Lucas is numb as he hands his keys over and Matt unlocks the front door and pulls his friend inside, closing it behind them to the muffled voice of Mrs Priestley asking Lucas if he had a nice time.

"Hey, Angie," Matt calls out, nudging Lucas upstairs with his elbow, "I'm just stopping by for a bit – Luke wanted to show me his new game!" He follows his friend up the stairs, urging Luke to go faster.

"Matthew!" Mrs Priestley answers, evidently pleased that he's in her house. "How are you? I haven't seen you in a while."

They're on the landing now—Matt jabs Lucas into his bedroom and hovers for a moment. "I'm good, thanks, Angie, how about yourself?"

"Brilliant, thank you," she returns, and he glares at Lucas, who hasn't moved from where he's standing next to him. "You go and have fun, Matthew. Don't be afraid to ask if you need anything."

"Thanks, Angie," and then he turns and shoves Lucas into his bedroom, closing the door behind him. "Fuck me, thank God that's over," Matt groans, watching Lucas sink onto his bed with a detached expression on his face, "What happened out there, anyway?"

Lucas stares at the floor for a few minutes before shifting onto his back and gazing up at the ceiling in silence. "It was an accident." His tones are morose, and he fidgets vehemently for a moment before throwing the coat onto the floor and falling silent. "I didn't mean to do it."

"I get that, but seriously—" Matt pauses as he positions himself on the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of the door to stop any unwanted visitors coming in, "—she actually wanted you to do that? I mean, we all thought she just wanted to scare Adrianne…" He watches Lucas stiffen slightly from where he is sitting, and doesn't finish his sentence.

"It was a fucking accident," Lucas snaps, clenching his fists and releasing an aggravated sigh, "That's all it was. She wanted me to—" he cuts himself off, shakes his head and tenses his jaw. "I said I would scare Adrianne and be done with it – that I'd threaten her a bit, you know? Just make her back off and shit, like she wanted. I never agreed to—it wasn't meant to be like that. It just… it wasn't." He shakes his head, and Matt rubs the back of his neck in the silence that descends between them.

Eventually, Matt speaks. "It'll be okay, alright? Lucy and Cain are probably done clearing up what happened and stuff. I'll check with Cain once I've left, yeah? Luce will probably be really tight-lipped and secretive about it." He snorts to himself and picks up his coat from where it is on the floor. "I'm going to take this back and clean it. You're going to want to wash your hands and get rid of anything that might have blood on it."

Lucas turns his head, gaze settling on the brown-haired boy who is now standing by his door, watching him. "You're leaving?"

"Yeah, man, I've gotta go. You just wash your hands, put your clothing in a rucksack and I'll pick it up tomorrow – or maybe Cain will, I dunno yet. One of us will, anyway." He pauses and studies Lucas closely. "And look, Luke, it wasn't your fault. It was an accident."

"Sure," Lucas echoes, sitting up slightly as Matt opens the door, "It was an accident." He pulls a face and hugs his knees to his chest, his expression a subtle mixture of disbelief and self-loathing. "Matt?"

Matt's head appears around the door, face alight with curiosity. "You called?"

"Happy Halloween," is all Lucas says, and Matt rolls his eyes and snorts derisively.

"You morbid fuck," he teases lightly, "I'll pop over tomorrow, see how you are." And then he closes the door and he's gone, and Lucas is alone with blood on his hands and sin hanging over his head like the blade of a guillotine.