well shit, I only got 2100 on my sat.

and the scores got delivered on valentine's, too lol.

There was no such thing as bolting up awake.

To Drew, opening his eyes was a puzzle. He heard the morning rumble of the city's solar panels extending, the voices of the other boys as they playfully talked and jeered at each other.

He slid into a dream where he heard no sound. Or had he slipped out of some other dream and landed in the real world? Then he opened his eyes again to a soundless painting, pungent with color. He brought the layers painstakingly together, lined them up until he was fairly certain he was in reality, sitting in bed and rubbing his eyes.

Morning was routine. Pull shirt on. Wash and brush. Fetch his pants from the bathroom where they'd been stuffed down the drainpipe. The hiding spots were always different, but easy to find. Go outside, get his backpack from the bushes. He'd long since learned not to leave his bag inside the dorm.

The other boys went ahead of him, as was routine. To them, Drew was invisible, only acknowledged when they needed something from the slums or somebody to send messages and papers. But he obeyed them. Less friction, less acid. He might have opposed them a ways ago, but now?

He stopped the line of thought. No point grieving for things already lost.

Today a few stayed behind. Aaron stepped forward. The boy who played with fire. Drew's scars shuddered.

He stood mid-step, hesitant, waiting for the command. Aaron walked up to him with tantalizing steps. "You're not going to school today," he said. He pushed a scrap of paper into Drew's palm.

"Give that to that hacker chick at the shop." Aaron grinned widely, almost good-naturedly. "You know her real well, right?"

He chose not to answer. Aaron's grin grew wider. "Come on, spill it." Aaron swung an arm around Drew's shoulders, affecting a look of fake cheer. "You probably fuck her every night, neh?"

And you spend your nights fucking your own mother, Drew said silently.

One of the other boys snickered and beckoned an ear to Aaron. He listened, never losing the cheerful mask. He turned back, still smiling, and slugged him in the stomach. Drew noiselessly dropped to his knees, clutching his side. He felt another fist ram into the back of his head, sending him face-down into the pavement.

"Yeah, I fuck my mother," Aaron whispered in his ear. His voice was friendly and cold. "And you're just a john that jumps every broad he sees."

Oh right.

Fucking telepath.

He heard Aaron get up and circle him, tattered sneakers scraping on the asphalt. A long pause. but Drew knew better than to expect mercy. He got a kick in the shin. Then Aaron swung a vicious foot at his head. The blows burned like fire, because they were fire.

He remained limp on the ground, gritting his teeth against the throbbing pain. He was afraid to close his eyes, because then he might scream. It hurts, it hurts like hell, but I won't give them the satisfaction. Kick me all you want, but I won't scream.

He heard the shuffling of feet. The sound grew fainter with each step until he was alone with the distant clanks of the solar panels.

Drew got up without hobbling. His body burned with pain, but he pictured himself limping and crying for help, while the other boys looked on with jeering expressions. He forced himself to walk straight.

I won't give you the satisfaction.