This was supposed to be the happy time-line.
As cold crawled into our bones from our drenched clothes, nobody moved. We all stood there, staring openly at the broken forms of our friends. Their joined hands only made the entire experience worse as the pool of red started to fade, washed out by the rain.
One of Leo’s underlings was sitting a few steps away from them, head bowed and looking like a puppet whose strings had been cut. I could commiserate, wishing I could do that myself but keeping Tim up as he cried against my chest made that very difficult.
Tim’s soft sobbing wasn’t the worst, as unimaginable as it was.
No, the worst was the horror filled silence from the rest of my friends. Only accentuated by the sour stench coming from everyone at the same time; it hurt my nose and prompted some pitiful whines that I had to beat down so they would never leave my lips.
“What happened?” Drake was the first one to break the nightmare-like disillusion.
The moment he speaks, time starts moving again and Leo’s pink-haired underling looks up. His eyes are empty and his expression is painfully blank; he looks like his world just ended. The familiarity of the look makes the hurt in my heart grow deeper.
“Leo jumped.” The underling says. “He jumped from the building. Leo jumped. He just… Why would he do that? Why when we were at the top of the world? What about him is that good that killing him would drive him to do this?”
The unhinged mumbles paint a painful picture: Peter had continued to look at the leads I had given him even after he told me that we should stop. And being alone, he was brought to Leo and Leo being Leo shot him for not leaving him to rot in the hell he had built for himself.
Nausea rushes up and I had to push Tim away, doubling over and puking all over the floor. Tears pilling up in the corner of my eyes but refusing to be let run free as my head reels from the cruel understanding that hit me like a truck.
“This is my fault.” I mumble dumbstruck as I wipe my mouth clean, horror clawing at me.
“What.” Tim says, low and angry.
My eyes snap back to him, the look on his face is familiar.
Tim’s looking at me with the same furious hurt as the time he held a dying Jason between his arms. This is the second time I’ve broken his heart this way; the second time I took away from him one of his most important people.
“This is my fault.” I repeat, looking right into his eyes, feeling numb. “Peter asked me to help him find Leo. I gave him some leads to work on—”
I’m interrupted by a cry of rage.
The pain across my cheekbone didn't register until a pair of hands were picking me up from the ground and stamping me against a wall. I blink and Drake’s furious face is a few centimeters from mine. His white teeth are bared and his dark eyes promise murder.
“How could you do that, Touma?” He spits my name like it’s a curse, the fists grabbing my hoodie are shaking. “Peter was going to get married in a few days! He was finally gonna have his happy ending. You knew this and yet— Why would you seek Leonardo anyways? He made it very clear that he wanted to be left alone. You knew this! Why would you take Peter along with this stupid quest of yours?”
My head bangs once again against the wall.
“Drake.” Tim yells, stepping forward. “Let him go. Now.”
“That’s enough.” Raph says, putting a hand on Drake’s arm. “Enough blood has been shed today. Don’t you think so?”
Drake’s lips form a thin line. “Fine.”
Raphael’s hand doesn’t leave his arm as he drags him back, behind them Paul was pulling Nick from the unconscious form of the underling. Neither of them was looking at me but I knew that if they did, the same fury that was in Raph’s eyes would be echoed in theirs.
Tim’s looking at my face with the familiar anxiousness as he brushed off the blood as if that would fix anything. I trap his wrist with my hand, shaking my head. His scent is bittersweet, as always.
“I’m sorry.” The words roll naturally from my lips, having said it so many times already.
Tim bit the instinctual ‘It’s fine. Don’t apologize.’ because the thing is: It’s not. It’s not fine. It had never been fine. Not before this, but certainly not after this. He turns away, yanking his wrist away. Shoulder’s dropping as he forces himself to look back at the corpses.
“We should go.” Paul says, being the voice of reason. “The cops can't catch us here and we should… get them home, you know? They shouldn’t be on the ground like that.”
“I’ll take Peter.” Tim says, his voice breaks as he says his best friend's name.
“I’ll take Leo.” Drake says, grief painted on his expression.
“What do we do with him?” Paul says, pointing to the underling.
“Leave him.” Raphael says, shaking his head. “We’re using my car. Nick, take Touma and follow us on the bikes.”
“Sure.” Nick says, lacking his usual strength. “Come on, Touma.”
I closed my eyes, hugging myself for a second. Trying to put together the fragments so I could act semi-functional until this mess was over. Taking a deep breath I composed myself and got away from the wall with shaking legs.
My head was bleeding, the blood sticky against the back of my skull. The headache is somewhat comforting. Same with my swelling cheek.
If it hurts, it means I’m alive.
“Are you alright?” Nick prods gently.
“I’m not gonna stamp the bike.” I threw him a sharp look.
“That wasn't what I asked.”
“That’s the answer you’re getting, though.”
Nick frowns but doesn’t push as he gets on the motorbike. We’re never been close. He’s not a founder member, having been added almost a year after Jason’s death, more Drake’s partner than anything. Just in the same way I’m Tim’s first, or maybe even only being Tim’s.
I’m not lying either. I won’t crash the bike against a tree or a truck. That wouldn’t solve anything and I’m well versed on pushing those kinds of thoughts away from my mind. Twelve years of practice had almost guaranteed me a perfect control on my emotions.
Putting the helmet hurt, I did it anyway. It muted the noise of the storm outside and I welcomed the chance.
The mechanic motions of riding a bike distracted me from the pain as I flanked Nick, both of us following at a safe distance Raph’s 67 Chevy Impala; a gift from Ian -who gained more than all of the pack together as a model for Gucci- for his birthday two years ago.
The house was full of pack, the twenty of us reunited in one place is weird enough. The only other location I can think of is Paul’s wedding, two weeks ago. And Leo’s absence had been a heavy one even as we smiled to hide the truth from Peter.
The wailing was cutting the night even before me and Nick took out the helmets.
The stench was so strong I had to start breathing through my mouth to keep myself from joining the distressed calls. I crossed the threshold without waiting for permission, my eyes zeroing in Tim’s delicate figure.
He was hugging Daisy, Peter’s fiancé.
I crossed the room, giving them a wide range, going directly to a corner of the living room and pressing my back to it. My eyes never leave Tim.
The lack of glares and lunges at my face tell me no one had informed the others of just how much this entire mess was my responsibility. I’m not sure if I’m glad or not. On one hand, it means I will not be kicked out before the mourning ends. On the other hand, this is not something they should keep quiet.
The pack deserved to know.
And yet. And yet, I will also keep quiet about it. I cannot afford to leave Tim alone. Not now. If I’m not here to stop him from doing something stupid… if he hurts himself… I don’t think Jason would ever forgive me.
Even though we all have left the streets, and have become ‘acceptable’ members of society, we continue to mourn our own just as the street rats we started as. We howl, we cry, we take the hearts of our loved ones and share it between all of us.
Blood drips from our mouths.
It slips down our chins and paints our teeth red.
Daisy’s one of the few that were raised outside our customs, yet she bares her teeth and accepts the bite all the same. She’s truly one of us. Has been since Peter’s secret came out to light and Leo vanished after Peter returned to his future; our present.
Twelve years is a lifetime.
I press my nose against her neck, close enough to her gland to share my scent. A small gesture to comfort her. She returns it with a wet smile, hugging me back tightly. I can't tell if the trembling comes from her or from me.
She signs with shaky hands: Thank you for being here, Touma.
The scar that goes side from side of her neck like a necklace is a grim reminder that she’s stronger than what she looks. I sincerely hope the heartbreak will not cling to her and she will be able to smile someday but… I doubt it. She looked at Peter in the same way Tim used to look at Jason.
How I look at Tim; like he is the sun. The center of my universe.
Drake’s at my side before I can answer, he pushes me with his shoulder. Demanding I move, and I go along with the silent order without a fuss because I do not wish to cause a scene on top of what is already going on. Daisy doesn’t deserve that.
Neither does Tim.
Or anyone else for that matter.
I go back to my corner and stay there for the rest of the evening. Biting the inside of my cheek to keep the worst wails down, my eyes are dry even though I haven’t cried beyond a few tears here and there.
Truth is that I didn’t know Peter that well. Having only interacted with the ‘adult’ him once, twelve years ago during the Red Fall, and after he returned, just for the few hours we could escape from the others to look over the leads together; he seemed kind, resolute in his convictions. I could totally see why everyone was so enamored with him.
Still. Considering that Tim spent a lot of time with him, I had not interacted that much time with the ‘normal’ version of the man. I fled, using the pet shop as a excuse every time he came to the apartment
Because as much as he was nice, I couldn't see him as anything but a pushover. Everyone coddled him and I never truly believed he belonged with us so I tried my best to avoid him.
His loss still hurts.
But Leo’s loss is what’s shattering my already broken heart.
I closed my eyes, his bright smile flashing in my mind. The memory of his lifeless body, looking so thin and gaunt, so different from the wild kid I remembered, overexposed and I couldn’t stop the sob that clawed its way out my throat.
My hand flew to my mouth, my eyes grew as I made myself smaller. Looking around I was glad to notice that the sound had been lost in the whispered conversations. My shoulders dropped in relief.
That would have been… embarrassing.
And sad. Because Leo and I hadn’t been pack for longer than I liked to admit, our brotherhood long broken by my betrayal.
Undeserved as well, because I had started the avalanche. This was all my fault.
“Touma.” Drake’s voice snapped out of my thoughts. “We need to talk.”
The little group that formed were starting to leave for the bedrooms, wanting to bury the grief under a puppy pile.
The only ones left in the living room were the other founder members.
I frowned slightly, studying his expression with cold detachment. From the get go it was evident it wouldn't be a pacific talk, this would not end with anything but with one or both of us bleeding, I knew this...
But Drake’s wasn't the only one who wanted to pick up a fight tonight.
“Yeah, we do.”
It was overdue now.
Hi, I'm DJ.
If you liked the story so far, don't forget to go and see my tiktok @lonelywritingjourney 'cause I have more of this verse in there. I publish according to each chapter a skit or something relevant to it. Plus, images of the how the characters look :D
And in the days between chapters funny videos about my cast.
Hope to see you there as well!