This, like Self Certainty, was going to be my novel big bang on LJ. This was first, then came SC, then came... something else, then came some terrifying thing about horror and, uhm, insane asylums and security guards that didn't believe, and... well, I only started planning that one before I scrapped it and went back to high-school level kids and fun storylines like that.
Evan Cross has a tree branch crammed in the uncomfortable spot between his lower back and his ass. The tree is convenient placement, but it's hardly a soft enough spot to stay for extended periods of time, so it poses a problem that sitting in the tree with a lunchbox and a pair of binoculars is his chosen pastime.
Across the street, staring blankly out the window, is his subject. Evan thinks people-watching is a bit like bird-watching, despite what others might have to say about it. It's only a matter of getting caught, anyway, and Evan has never gotten caught. Well, never gotten caught and arrested. His wit and charm generally take care of that.
His subject, Neal Brennan, stares blankly, thumping his wrist against the glass. He's in a trance of some sort, one he gets himself into every day at about four o'clock, and Evan's almost to the point where he wants to join him. He can't feel anything from his ass to his knees, and the owner's of the house are soon going to return.
Once again, he has to leave Neal.
He doesn't like to; Evan's very afraid that one day, he'll come back and Neal will be gone. It's fun to watch Neal. He had to deliver a bouquet of flowers to one of the girls in his office complex once. The guy always has a tick, like his wrist bumping, as though he uses it to make sure that he's not comatose or something.
The street's empty, which makes the likelihood of Evan being seen crawling out of a tree low, but as he's hooking his lunchbox on a low hanging branch and starting to climb down, he catches Neal's gaze.
It's never happened before, otherwise Evan would have either been apprehended for stalking or he would have slept with Neal long ago, and there's a certain… feeling to Neal's gaze that sends a shiver down his spine. Neal's hand drops from the window, he sort of cocks his head, then turns away and retreats into his home.
He doesn't even close the blind.
Evan, not willing to wait around to find out what's going to happen, drops his lunchbox to the ground below and jumps to follow. Once on the ground, he glances across the street just in time to see a large flash of light coming from the window of Neal's house. Terrified of being found out, Evan doesn't wait to find out what it was. He takes off down the street, opposite the direction he'd go if he were going home, because if Neal or his neighbors are watching, he doesn't want them to be able to track him easily.
His shoes thump against the pavement until he's far from Neal's house, and it isn't until he's a few blocks away that he realizes he'd forgotten his binoculars. It'd be risky to go back, except that it's risky anyway. Scratched into the side of the binoculars is his name. Luckily not his address, because even Evan wasn't that stupid, but his name gives enough to find him by. It isn't as though there are hundreds of Evan Cross' in the city. He won't be that difficult to find.
Anna Fae's Flower Bouquets sits just on the edge of town. Anna Fae is an older lady that dyes her hair blonde and uses nail polish to highlight it. She wears long, flowy dresses and skirts and has the strangest sense of fashion, and humanly auras, that Evan has ever known. She employed Evan after claiming that she saw him working in her shop in a dream. Anna Fae also happens to be Evan's aunt.
The door jingles when he presses it open, and Anna looks up from her spot on the counter. She's flipping through a magazine that Evan can't make out the name of. He clears her throat at her scrutinizing gaze. "You smell like the trees," she says, dropping her eyes back to the magazine.
Evan wonders what to say, but he can't come up with anything. "Need any help?" he asks instead.
After a hum, Anna says, "I don't think so. There's only one customer coming this afternoon." She pauses, looks back up at Evan, who's admiring a dying leaf on one of her bouquets, and clicks her tongue. "You were spying on that young man again, weren't you?"
He reaches a hand out to touch the leaf. It feels like it's decaying under his fingers. "I always smell like trees," he says, pulling his fingers away and rubbing them together. "Maybe it's the first time you've noticed." As he rubs his fingers, a light, black dusting falls. Evan wipes his hand on his jeans.
Anna closes her book – hadn't she been reading a magazine? – and it lands with a heavy, solid thunk as it hits the countertop. "Then you've been spying on him for a while."
"I wouldn't call it spying," Evan tells her, glancing back up. She's standing behind the counter now. Evan hadn't even heard her move. "Extensive people-watching, maybe."
"People-watching," she repeats thoughtfully, tapping her chin. She looks at Evan over the top of her glasses. He feels like glass walls around him are about to crack. Finally, she turns away to the computer screen. "Hmm…"
The flowers hanging from the ceiling rattle and shake. Evan grazes his eyes over each one, but still comes back to look at Anna. She's still staring down at the computer screen, moving her lips as she reads. "New delivery," she says after a moment, jolting Evan from his inspection of the flowers. "Out on Ians' Street." She looks up at him. "You're available?"
Ians' Street is where Neal lives. Ordinarily, there would be no issue. Neal hadn't seen him, so he had no idea what Evan looked like. Now, it's all too clear. There's no doubt that Neal will know exactly who delivers the flowers.
Anna's looking at him oddly, a sort of half-frown playing across her lips, and Evan asks what the address is before he can change his mind. The numbers seem to echo around the shop as she says them, "Seven-two-five," and Evan shakes his head, trying to get rid of it.
"Are you sure that you can do this?" Anna Fae asks, starting to reach into one of the drawers under the desk.
Evan nods. The echoing stops, the flowers hang still, and the plant leaf he thought he'd killed with his touch looks green. Something's… odd about today, something that Evan had never noticed before. "I'm fine," he says. "What's the address again?"
"Seven-two-five Ians' Street," Anna says. "I'll have the receipt in just a moment."
Seven-two-five; that is definitely Neal's address. With that proximity, there's no way that Neal won't recognize him.
"I can handle it," he tells her, setting his lunchbox on the counter. Anna looks at it with distaste, stepping back the littlest bit. "What's the delivery?"
Anna Fae sends him on his way in her car, a thirty-year-old sedan with the name scrubbed off. Evan's never bothered to ask, because he's never cared. The world tilts a little again. Evan tries not to pay attention.
There's already a large delivery in the back. Evan doesn't remember putting it there, but Anna's never led him astray. He starts the car and makes his way back to Neal's.
The roads feel disconnected, like at every turn he's changing worlds. Evan's not sure what to think about it. He's never sure what to think about anything.
Neal's home is a much darker white than the rest of the houses on the block. It makes it easy to tell which house is his, which Evan imagines is a nice thing for others and not just himself; the brass numbers that used to hang on his house haven't been there since… Well, since shortly after Evan started watching him.
He's in front of Neal's house before he realizes it. Neal's right there when he opens the door, eyes staring into Evan's with this… emptiness? No, not emptiness. There's definitely something there. Evan just can't figure it out.
"You must be my delivery," he says. Evan watches as his lips move; they barely do.
"My delivery," Neal says. His voice is sugar-sweet and smooth, and Evan likens it to Irish Cream.
"I have it in the car. Anna Fae's Flower Bouquets?"
His laughter is even smoother than his voice. "No, I think you misunderstand. My order was for you. Specifically you, Evan."
Neal invites Evan into his house. Evan's not sure why he felt safe to enter. It's probably one of his dumber ideas, especially because Neal's walls are a dingy, light brown with what looks like red… something dripping down the ceilings.
It's not blood, Evan tells himself. The entire upstairs floor would have to be covered for it to start to slip down like that. He clears his throat. Neal's turn around is immediate. "Yes?"
"…Nothing," Evan says. Neal doesn't turn back around; a small smile starts to creep along his mouth and he leans against the dingy wall nearest him.
"Evan," he says, his voice just the slightest less intimidating. Evan doesn't dare look away from him. "You can leave."
He should. He really, really should. His heart is beating way out of time, crazy and weird and Evan's never felt so strange, but even in this weird home of the man he's been stalking for the better half of the last six months, Evan still doesn't want to leave. "It's fine," he says.
Neal's smile grows and grows and it's so bright Evan has a hard time differentiating between the bright glow of his teeth and the other colors swirling around his face. "You're still not completely getting it. If you stay, you stay. For good."
For a moment, Evan's positive that Neal's just screwing with him, but his smile slowly fades from his face, and Evan realizes he isn't.
There's a thrilling feeling, one that almost knocks Evan off his feet. This is what he's supposed to want, right? What he's been fantasizing about for the last half-year. Except… Well, hell. There is no except, because this is what he wants. Sure, he's terrified at the prospect of Neal having control, but he wants it. His skin tingles with the thought.
Neal pulls away from the wall, smiling again. "All right," he says as though Evan's made the decision. It isn't until Neal's leaning forward and taking Evan by the hand that he realizes just how much he wants it. "Follow me."
Neal doesn't leave him with much of a choice, though, since he's still pulling him by the hand farther into his house. It increasingly looks more and more like he's going downstairs, but when Evan looks at his feet, nothing looks like it would lead to downstairs. Looking behind him, though, the door looks like it's miles away, like they are descending into a basement.
This all seems rather normal to Neal, who has now let go of Evan's hand in favor of opening some door that Evan hadn't noticed was there before. The walls aren't dingy brown and red anymore, instead they're a dark, dark gray with black molding. It's weird, how things change around Neal. Evan's starting to wonder if it's just in his head, or the lighting screws things up.
"I'd like your attention to stay to the situation at hand, Evan," says Neal, turning around to look at him over his shoulder. He sends Evan a little wink. "After you," he says, opening the squeaky door and waving Evan in.
He's not a scared guy, Evan, it's just that this is the absolute most that Evan has ever seen of Neal's house. It's a bit of information, sensory overload. He feels weird going first, but when he looks back, Neal's smile is all reassurance and sugar-sweet, and it's doing things to his judgment.
He heads into the dark room. He has every intention of turning around and asking Neal just exactly what's going on, but just as he does, the door closes, and Evan's left alone, with only Neal's laughter echoing through his ears.
The world's falling apart, it seems; Evan can't tell if he's passing out or if the room is consuming him.
At this point, it doesn't matter.