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When Marcus got up, Raa let him without protest, and rose to his own feet, hands fisted loosely at his sides as he watched Marcus get into the truck, offering a feeble little smile in return for his departing wave.
"I hope to see you early tomorrow. You uncle and I agreed to sit down and talk with the both of you before this meeting," Mr. Davenport said, leaving Raa with a feeling of horrible trepidation as he watched the truck drive off. He stood for a long while silent and staring unblinking at the corner where Marcus had disappeared around, then turned and walked toward the sports complex, hands stuffed into his pockets.
Raa had driven around until past midnight after he’d retrieved his jacket and backpack, homework going undone, supper going uneaten, before he finally pulled into the driveway of his home. When he’d walked inside, the house had been dark, a single LED nightlight burning beside the prepared coffee pot in the kitchen. No one was awake, Kendall’s dissonant snoring filtering down the hallway from the master bedroom, Aban‘s quieter snore underlying it. He made his way toward his room on the opposite end of the house, tossing his backpack and jacket onto the desk just inside the door without turning on the light, shucked his clothes into the hamper in the corner, and climbed into his unmade bed, pulling the covers up to his waist as he stared blankly at the dark ceiling above him, hands behind his head.
For a long while, he thought of nothing in particular, thoughts a sluggish mire in his mind that never really formed into anything coherent as the green glow of the alarm clock readout beside his bed slowly ticking its way toward 1am, eyes tracking the dancing white shadows of headlights through the closed blinds on his window whenever the rare late-night driver passed.
His lips felt astoundingly real on his face, like they were actually *there* instead of just an innocuous part of his body. The pads of his fingers where they had touched Marcus’ neck tingled, burning against his own neck where they rested against it.
Flashes of the fight, slow and amazing clear wandered through his mind‘s eye; of Marcus fighting like a wild animal that had been cornered, of Jason’s face slamming into the wall, of the way his own head must have snapped back when Chris hit him first, as though that justified the following beating…
A shadow in his doorway moved, drawing Raa’s attention to it, and he saw his uncle’s outline against the glow of the nightlight. For a long moment, they watched each other, no words passing between them. Raa’s chest throbbed, a pain that moved away from his chest to his limbs and gut, weighing him down with each beat of his heart. His eyes burned, and his next breath was a high pitched wheeze in his lungs, ending in an embarrassing hitch that sounded remarkably like a sob, and when he felt a warm hand on his forehead, blinking open eyes that he hadn’t realized had closed to see his uncle above him, the bed shifting as the man sat beside him, he felt hot tears flowing down his temples to pool in the shells of his ears.
It wasn‘t regret for the fight. He would jump in front of a freight train if that meant keeping Marcus from getting plowed under. It was all that had happened today, leaving him feeling weak and childish as he curled into his uncle, placing his head on his lap and crying into his stomach. It was remembering NYC and all that had transpired there. It was the crying jag in the parking lot and the relief of seeing Aban, though he shouldn’t have been back from his business trip for another two days. The anger and fear, the berserker throb of rage at seeing Marcus surrounded by three dip-shit pricks all intent on hurting someone who had never done anything to them. The words Marcus said in the parking lot, the feeling of their first kiss that threaded sweet and consuming through him, the fire that begun to burn extinguished by a rude shout.
“I-I-I’m g-going to g-get exp-pelled tomorr-row!” he cried, arms strangling his uncle’s waist.
Aban sighed, one hand pulling the covers up higher to hide Raa’s nude backside, the other gently petting his head.
“Then you must stop fighting,” Aban said.
“I’ve tried!” Raa shouted.
“…Do you want me to call Dr. Garcia?”
Raa shook his head vehemently.
“Raa,” Aban said, taking his nephew by the shoulders and sitting him up, forcing him to look him in the eye through the black shadows between them. “You here as this tells me you need help. There is no shame in-”
“No,” Raa said, voice firm, and pulled out of Aban’s grip, pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes as he scrubbed his face furiously. “I’m just… fucked up right now,” he muttered, words muffled by his hands. “I need some sleep.”
Aban sat watching him for a long moment, unconvinced, but stood anyway, leaning down to kiss his nephew on the head. “Then sleep. We leave for school tomorrow early.” He walked out the door, thoughts lost on the boy in his care, trying so hard to be a man, yet still so much a child.
"If he asks me what day of the week it is, I'll be sorely tempted to answer 'orange'." ~Chang WuFei, The Arrangement.