This comes from the 64 Damn Prompts on LiveJournal (by rashaka). I will, most likely, be working through all 64, because I can't bear to leave such a lovely thing unfinished. I will also include the song that helped me write it/find inspiration/that I thought fit the mood.
P.S~ By now, I believe the world would end if I actually managed to make one of these a normal drabble—you know, like the 100 words they're supposed to be.
Prompt 31: Correspondence
Music: Don't Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult
When it was Jason who came back from his latest fight bruised and battered, Neal passed it off as the win of someone who was faster or had better luck.
Aaron's defeat was also understandable, if the attacker was determined enough.
Travis was plainly crazy, and rarely out-maneuvered, but it was possible to do with a good bit of luck.
Zack was arrogant, and therefore prone to defeat. As the kendo coach was so fond of saying, "Arrogance destroys the footholds of victory." Neal could let that one pass.
Tyler, though, was something strange. When he came limping in the next day, muttering about insane would-be grim reapers and his intended revenge, Neal became just the slightest bit wary.
For the mysterious attacker to defeat Nick meant that they weren't dealing with simple luck, no matter how Neal tried to write it off.
When Marcus turned up to their first period class sporting a cast on his right arm, bandages around his ribs, and a faintly annoyed tick in his usual emotionless calm, Neal knew something had to be done.
Helen tried, and failed.
So did Ben.
That left only Neal to deal with the stranger who had taken out every member of his gang. So, with a weary sigh, he pushed himself up from his desk when he heard of Ben's defeat and went to pump Tyler—whose temper was the shortest, and was therefore easiest to manipulate—for information about this new enemy.
Surprisingly, Tyler was reluctant to say anything, going so far as to insist that not only had he instigated it himself, but it had also been a fair fight and he had lost, so it was his own fault, and Neal had no reason to step in.
Neal fixed him with one firm look from normally sleepy grey eyes, which now held only a burning, stormy intensity, and Tyler caved.
The boy was named Orion Summers, a delinquent with red hair and a bad attitude, in class 2-C. He'd been approached by several gangs but rejected them all, and there were rumors that he was already deeply involved with the mafia. Not only that, but no one had ever won a fight against him. He seemed to be friends with Samuel, the half-Mexican boy who most referred to as "the tank" for his sheer indestructibility; Andi, "the dyke," a kick-ass martial artist who struck fear into the hearts of all boys with wandering hands; Lily, "the ditz," who was nevertheless a fourth-level martial artist whose medical knowledge and abilities could put a trained doctor to shame; Kristen, "the bitch," a well-bred lady whose poise lasted up to and throughout the times she beat someone's face in; and Lucas, "the nerd," who was just as crazy-smart as Travis and far more controlled.
Some people said that they were all mafia, that they had been recruited at a young age because of their talents. Others said that they were the children of the most high-ranking members, in the process of being groomed to take their parents' places. But all agreed that they were dangerous, and that Summers was their leader.
With that many rumors agreeing on a single point, Neal was inclined to believe it.
However, no one could agree on where Summers went after school—no one had the guts to follow him, or tell if they did, so it was all speculation. Still, a very nervous first year was able to point Neal towards a pair of Summers's classmates who, while friends with him, didn't hang out solely with the five fighters. Neal committed their names—Mickey and Ken—to memory and went in search of them.
They were, surprisingly enough, easy to find, and even easier to intimidate. At least, the one called Ken was. Mickey just gave him an interested glance and went back to his phone. Neal ignored the less-than-impressed expression and followed Ken out the back of the school. They hid themselves in the shadows of the trees around the fence, and a few moments later, Summers emerged, book-bag over one shoulder, his expression set in a fierce scowl that had several underclassmen cowering.
He headed north.
They followed, a block and a half behind, carefully hidden.
As though expecting someone to follow him, Summers took the longest, most circuitous route possible as he made for the town's middle-class neighborhood. With every block they went deeper into the area, Neal felt his unease growing. Was Summers going to shake down businesses for his mafia allies? Was he going to make trouble? For all that Neal and his band were delinquents, he prided himself on the fact that they never hurt anyone who didn't deserve it, and always kept the few turf wars they had from spilling over to outsiders.
He firmed his resolve and squashed the weary desire to mutter "troublesome," like his favorite manga character. If Summers was causing harm here, he'd stop him.
That resolve only firmed further when Summers came to a stop outside a middle school and leaned against the gate, watching the doors with sharp eyes and a scowl firmly in place. Middle school students? Really? Neal wondered, frowning as well. He hadn't thought that Summers—who Tyler had defended, and said fought honorably—to get a kick out of terrorizing the helpless.
Then the school bell rang, the students came flooding out, and all of Neal's preconceptions were blown to smithereens.
Two young girls came careening down the steps, not identical, but close enough that Neal could tell they were twins. They were laughing, and cute, and very, very young, and when they saw Summers, their faces lit up as though the sun had just come out after a thunderstorm and brought rainbows and unicorns with it.
And…Summers smiled at them.
Neal couldn't move. He stared, speechless in shock, as the two girls latched on to the most feared boy in the school, the rumored mafia member, the cold-blooded fighter who had knocked out every single one of Neal's people without care. And Summers not only let them do it, he acted though it were normal, expected, and ruffled their hair. He even took their book bags and slung them over his shoulder before taking the brown-haired girl's hand, gripping the black-haired girl's shoulder. Neal's lip-reading wasn't perfect, but he could have sworn that the redheaded, baby-mafia-ringleader asked them what they wanted for dinner as he led them deeper into the depths of middle-class Treadwell.
It made Neal feel just the faintest bit better that Ken was just as stunned as he was.
And there was the oddest little wiggle of warmth in Neal's chest, the faint blossoming of emotion that he had never felt before, but recognized immediately.
He was already halfway in love with Orion Summers.
And it didn't frighten him at all.
It was an absolutely normal day, remarkable only in its sameness. Orion had woken up, been attacked by his father, thrown his father out of his room, showered, been attacked by his father, kicked his father into a door, dressed, been attacked by his father, tossed his father out the room again, eaten breakfast, been attacked by his father, watched Rose abuse their father, did the dishes for Jasmine, been attacked by his father, kicked their father into a wall, and then walked his sisters to school.
Stupid old man, Orion thought, rubbing a hand over his hair. He was surprised that he wasn't grey already, dealing with the idiot and his "training regiment for a healthy life." Still, that was ordinary. The whole day was ordinary.
And then he found a letter on top of his books in the locker.
That was absolutely not normal. No one left him love letters. No one left him threats. No one left him challenges. Even if they wanted to, they did it in person. So this…
This was new.
Orion was understandably cautious when he picked it up, wary as he slit open the top. There were no identifying marks on the outside, nothing to show who had left it, and only a single piece of notebook paper folded up inside.
The paper was folded neatly into thirds, and when Orion unfolded it, it bore only twenty carefully scripted words, the hand that had written them neat and somehow languid, as though flourishes took too much effort, but the writing was still borderline ornate.
You are beautiful, Orion Summers, like a finely honed blade. You fill my mind day and night.
Would you be mine?
It was peculiarly sweet, borderline cheesy, and Orion couldn't help but be just a little bit flattered.
A love letter.
Someone had written a love letter to him.
Orion remained flattered for all of twenty seconds, before it dawned on him that whoever had written it seriously needed to get their head checked out sometime in the very near future. With a sigh, he dropped it into his book bag and returned his attention to his locker, putting it out of mind.
That wasn't the end of it, though. The next day, the obviously-delusional-slightly-deranged-and-in-need-of-psychiatric-help admirer struck again, leaving another letter on top of Orion's books.
This time, the envelope also held a pair of flowered barrettes, a silver bracelet with a maple leaf charm on it, and a short note with the words, Your sisters are lovely, too. When you're with them, I think I love you even more. Forgive me for following you before, but I wanted to know where you went after school.
Consider this my apology, and know that it won't happen again.
Orion touched the pretty, plastic roses on the clips and wondered at his conflicting emotions.
Anger, that someone had stalked him and seen his sisters.
Confusion, that said stalker would apologize for doing so.
Gratitude, that he—and that handwriting was definitely male, which (considering he had a long-standing crush on the other big delinquent in the school, who was also male) didn't bother him at all—wouldn't do it again.
Happiness, that someone thought his sisters were lovely.
Even more shocking was the enjoyment he got from reading those simple words of praise.
I think I love you even more.
Someone loved him.
He'd been loving from a distance for so long, he almost forgot what it was like to be on the receiving end of that emotion.
"Orion?" Samuel asked in his deep, soft voice. Orion glanced up automatically, his mind still racing, and blinked.
"Yeah?" he asked distantly.
"Are you all right?" The half-Mexican boy touched his shoulder, bringing him back to himself with a jolt. He glanced up—way up—to meet his friend's eyes and saw the very real concern there, the words Samuel didn't need to say, and nodded.
"Yeah," he repeated, and found, to his own shock, that he was smiling, just slightly. He looked back down at the letter, at the thoughtful little gifts, and tucked the envelope alongside his textbooks again. "Yeah," he said, knowing that this time he wouldn't forget it. "I'm good."
The letter burned all day long, a heat he could feel even through the thick cloth of his bag.
He never forgot it.
The letters continued, short and sweet and almost corny, each one appearing tucked on top of his books in the morning. Sometimes, they would have small things with them, while sometimes it would simply be a letter with an observation, or an idea, or another feeling set into words.
Orion liked those the best.
I don't think you know me, the secret admirer had written. But I wish you did.
Orion wished he did, too. Whoever it was, he put so much of himself into the letters, so much gentleness that Orion wasn't quite sure what to do in response except reciprocate. And he really, really did, because as much as he was crushing on someone else, he knew it would never come to anything.
And this…this was real.
Nevertheless, he steeled himself, and placed the envelope he had prepared on top of his books as he prepared to leave. If someone tried to leave a letter for him, they'd find it. They'd find his request. Whether they answered it or not was up to them.
Meet me on the rooftop tomorrow, for lunch.
Eight words. Eight words that took all of Orion's courage to write.
It was easy to love from a distance. He wanted to see if he and the stranger could love from up close—and it was love, already, that he felt for this kind, caring stranger who noticed things about him that not even his best friends did.
It took several moments, but Orion finally convinced himself to shut his locker and walk away. He didn't look back.
Courage, he repeated to himself as he went to meet his sisters. Courage.
When the lunch bell rang, he was already waiting by the chain-link fence that separated the rooftop from a long fall, having skipped his last period to wait like a cat on a hot tin roof. When lunch finally began, he forced himself to stillness, looking out over the school grounds. Andi, Samuel, and the others had joined Ivan's group under the tree, having agreed to his request to eat alone without question. They'd written it off as an Orion Thing™ and wandered off. Now Orion was wishing he had at least one of them with him for moral support.
Of course, it was at that moment that the rooftop door swung open.
It took more nerves than Orion would ever admit not to jump, and to turn around slowly, as though his heart wasn't currently pounding away in his throat. And when he saw who was standing there, it just beat harder, and he lost all ability not to stare.
Neal Vasili, one year above Orion's class and quite possibly the most gorgeous male specimen to set foot in the school, ever, was watching him with cautious, heavy-lidded, blue-grey eyes. His arms hung loosely at his sides, yet somehow managed to be defensive, and his expression was guarded.
Orion was still trying to recover from the shock of finding out that the boy he'd been crushing on since his first year actually might love him.
After several endless moments of silence, he shook himself out of his daze and offered Neal a small smile. "Jasmine really liked the barrettes," he offered, like a peace treaty. "She wants to know when my boyfriend is coming over for dinner."
Slowly, an answering smile spread over Neal's sharp features, and his stormy eyes softened as he took a step forward. "Is that so?" he asked. "My little sister Mandy picked them out. She's just about the same age."
As he approached, Orion held out a hand, green eyes warm. Neal took it, and let Orion draw him down into a soft, gentle kiss.
"Bring her, too," he offered. "Jasmine and Rose would love to meet her."
Carefully, as though still uncertain whether Orion would draw away, Neal slowly slid his arms around the redhead's waist, and drew him gently back against his chest. As they stood overlooking the rest of the school and the milling students, he softly nuzzled Orion's ear, delighting in the soft hum of encouragement he got.
"All right," he agreed lazily, closing his eyes and basking in the warmth all around him. His murmur, when it came, was barely audible.
"I love you."
His heart all but stopped when Orion whispered back, almost as quietly, "I love you, too."