“Dude, look at me.” He knew he should. He knew that it was always better to do what they said, that they wouldn’t beat him up so bad if he just did what they said. But he was right there, Dave Strider was right there, and it was taking everything he had to not just bolt and damn the consequences.
“I am,” he said, and wished he didn’t squeak, but then maybe squeaking was a good thing? Maybe he’d laugh, like that Stanton kid sometimes did, and just leave him with a hair-ruffle and a little less dignity. John could deal with that. He was the resident class clown. Losing dignity was pretty much all he did.
But Strider was having none of it. “No, you’re not,” he said, inching a little closer, if that was even possible. “I totally am,” John said, like insisting hard enough would make it true.
“I can see your eyes John. You’re looking at the ceiling.”
He thought about looking at him, he thought about telling his eyes, just make your way down, rotate just a little and look him in theeyes sunglasses and maybe he’ll leave you alone, but he couldn’t. He was almost shaking already, and Strider hadn’t even done anything yet. “Nope,” he said, barely more than a whisper. His face was red and he was already sweating through his shirt and shit, shit he could feel the tears starting, they never left him alone if he started crying. Maybe if he just pretended it wasn’t happening and ignored Strider for another minute, he’d stop crying, and Strider would just go away.
Too late for that. His eyes were already spilling over with tears; there was no stopping him now.
The silence stretched between them, John looking up and away at the ceiling still, hands curled into fists at his sides as he waited for the inevitable blow. He should have run while he had the chance—but no, he’d never really had it, Dave had cornered him too swiftly, blocked him in in a deserted hallway after school, reducing the chances of John getting help from an outside source from unlikely to zero. There was nothing for it now but to wait for the hit and pretend he was unconscious; these guys didn’t like to beat up on him after that, afraid, probably, that they might kill him.
“Oh shit. Are you crying.” He tensed further, a sob erupting from his mouth before he choked it back. He sniffed, trying to get ahold of himself, to stop it. He still couldn’t look Strider in the eye.
And then, the hands on either side of his head, caging him in place, disappeared. He felt a drop of relief, then a surge of terror, unsure if he was being let go or if Strider was just backing up to give himself room for a good beating. He dared to flick his gaze over, finally, eyes burning a little from being open wide so long, vision blurry. “Shit, no. Omg. Stop the waterworks. Stop it. Fuck.”
It sounded like concern, but all he could see was Strider’s blurry red-and-white form, hands up before him. So, getting ready for a good beatdown, then.
There was no stopping his tears now. They streamed down John’s face, mixing messily with the snot dripping from his nose as his breath hitched and bubbled. This wasn’t fair. Why did he have to get beat up? What was it about jocks that they felt like they had to fulfill their media role and kick the shit out of kids that wore glasses?
Why did he have to fulfill his kid-with-glasses role by being a helpless, sniveling loser?
“I swear I’m not going to kick your ass or anything. Really.”
A blurry hand reached out to touch his face, and he flinched. “John, stop it.” He sounded…not angry. Worried? And a little exasperated?
Was he actually maybe…not about to get his ass handed to him?
“Shhh. Shhh, it’s okay.” He shivered as a second hand moved up to the top of his head, patting down and smoothing out his hair. “Don’t cry.” The first hand cupped his face, still, feeling so very, very foreign, his skin burning under the other boy’s tough. He couldn’t help it. He started to shake.
“Shit.” John wasn’t sure what was happening, Strider was touching his face and then moving and then he was pressed into him, pressed. Into Strider? The other boy was holding him, arms wrapped tight around his torso, no longer pressed closed to the wall, but buried in the soft leather of Strider’s letterman’s jacket, soaking it with his tears.
A hand was still running over the top of his head, smoothing down his hair with gentle, soothing motions, while Strider murmured “Shh, it’s okay. I’ve got you. I’m not going to hurt you.”
John pushed back a little, sniffling and brushing away tears with the back of his hand. “You’re not?”
Now it was Strider who couldn’t look at him, face turning to the side as he dropped a curt, “No. I’m not.”
He’s not sure where it came from. Maybe it was all that adrenaline in his system, building up when he thought he was about to get beat-up. Maybe it was just that he’d finally found someone he could yell at, who at least said they weren’t going to hurt him in return. Or maybe John Egbert was just being a dumb shit, like all those guys liked to call him. Whatever the reason, anger bubbled up inside him, and he shoved Strider away. “Well then what the fuck are you doing? Huh? What do you think you’re doing?”
Strider stumbled back a few steps, more out of surprise than anything else. “I’m trying to be nice to you, you ass.” If John had been more familiar with him, he’d have known Strider was practically shouting, but as it was, he was just even more pissed off that this guy could calmly tell him off after terrifying him like that.
“Be nice to me? Nice to me? By cornering me in a deserted hallway and scaring the hell out of me?
oh my gosh this is so good i could cry i just want to say thank you…… like a lot i could literally kiss you this is so adorable
i will patiently wait for the next parts and you can obviously take all yo time on it hell i am set for life with just this perfection
thank you…. imc ry