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Title: Bricks and Hedges
Fandom: The Traitor Game
Characters/Pairings: Michael/Francis, Shipley, OCs
Rating/Warnings: PG-13; hot-off-the-presses, obscene language, hateful language, internalized homophobia, institutionalized homophobia, outright homophobia, homophobic bullying, angst like hell
Written for:  [ profile] hs_bingo, prompt "sneaking on school grounds."
Wordcount: 1200
A/N: At last I return to my angst geekboys. It's 12:26 so I will crosspost to [ profile] evgard in the morning. Also I need to set up a directory post for this 'verse.

“Hamlet’s a total faggot. No, seriously, not just as an insult, he’s actually gay. Look at him and Horatio!”

“You’re not serious, he’s way too badass!”

“Boys, language!” Brother Thomas reproved, attempting to reclaim some control over the conversation.

“Oh, all right then. You’re not serious, he’s way too tough to be a homosexual.”

“No, I’m serious. My dad says there’s a ton of essays and shi – stuff about it. Some people even think Shakespeare was a poof.”

“That can’t be right. Do you know how much awesome stuff there is in Macbeth? And the swordfighting and everything in this one – it couldn’t be. You sure it wasn’t someone else?”

“Boys, we are supposed to be discussing Hamlet’s emotional arc, not his, er, his – sexuality, or potential, ah, homosexuality. Please, I don’t think this topic is at all appropriate for school, so if we could return to the matter at hand before the bell rings –”

Michael realized that he was practically crushing his pencil and forced himself to relax his grip. He grimaced at Francis, who simply shook his head. He looked tired again, limp, leaning his head on his hand with less casual nonchalance and more like his head was going to simply topple off his shoulders without careful support. Michael knew the feeling, and made sure that when the bell rang, the two of them converged on the door at the same time.

“Let’s take off, Michael,” Francis whispered, rubbing at his forehead. “I’m going to kill somebody if we stick around here for the rest of the day. It’s a Friday, it won’t matter.”

Don’t bunk lessons; someone will notice.

Francis slumped against the doorway, staring vaguely in the general direction of the ground. He never used to look like this, but it wasn’t just Shitley. He had to have heard conversations like that before, all the time, before Michael had a clue about either of them. Was it worse now, or was he just not hiding this bloody exhaustion anymore?

“All right. Let’s go.”

Francis glanced up and half-smiled, pushing back his hair. “Thanks, Thompson.”

They were almost off of school grounds when they heard footsteps behind them; two or three, it sounded like. Shitley coughed. Politely, the way he coughed to get the attention of one of the brothers in the hallway. Always so fucking polite.

“Well, if it isn’t our favorite little pansies. And what are you two up to? Sneaking off to shag in the school bathrooms? The rest of us have to use those, you know.”

“Piss off, Shitley,” Michael snapped, not turning around. Francis was hunched over beside him, chewing halfway through his lip; he’d dealt with all of this too often already. Michael had to dig his fingernails into his palms again, not because of Shitley behind him but because of Shitley months ago behind the music block. Francis hadn’t had to deal with any of this until then. He didn’t know how.

“Sticking up for your boyfriend, Thompson? That’s almost noble. I didn’t realize you were capable of it.” Someone else sniggered, off to the right; Michael glimpsed someone else on his left. Three, then. Damn.

“I didn’t think noble was in your particular vocabulary, Shitley,” Francis half-mumbled. Weak.

“We’re not the freaks here, you two. Show some respect for your betters.” Not in top form today, thank God; maybe soon he’d get on with the beating and they could just go home.

“We would if there were any present.” Francis straightened up a bit more, bracing himself as Shitley circled around to face them. Michael wanted more than anything to squeeze his hand, but right now that would only make things worse for them.

“Think you’re clever, faggot?” the sniggering lackey snarled before Shitley could say anything. His fist slammed into Francis’s shoulder at the same time that Shitley grabbed Michael from behind, and relief socked him in the gut. The worst part was over already, with no new and fancy flourishes or light, calm questions about were you always a pervert or did he turn you and do your mothers know, do your brothers know?

There was an unspoken code to this part, the fireworks of pain bursting under their skin and the echoed bloody taste of fear in their mouths. Voices stayed low enough to avoid attention, fists stayed on their chests and shoulders and ribs, they were allowed an occasional crushing grip on the arm or a sharp, petty kick to the shins, but never anything that anyone might have to explain later. Michael and Francis fought back, of course, but not with any great ferocity; it was obligatory to make a show, but they knew that they had no chance of fighting the others off. They’d leave when they chose.

Eventually they did choose, leaving Michael with his back bruised against the school’s bricks and Francis doubled over and wheezing as he clutched his stomach. The two of them stumbled towards each other, grabbing at their books. Michael was fairly sure he’d ended up carrying Francis’s maths book as they stumbled off the school grounds, but he didn’t really give a fuck at that moment.

The two of them found their spot in a hedge a couple of streets away, a clear patch behind a shed where nobody could ever see them. Francis slumped to the ground and rested his head on his knees; Michael glanced around one more time for any stray observers and allowed himself to wrap his arm around the other boy’s shoulders.

“Is this what it was like at the comp, Michael?” Francis asked, not looking up. Michael could feel the tension in his back, feel the shudder that rippled across him. He gripped a little bit tighter, fighting off the memories.

“Not as bad,” he managed after a moment, trying not to choke on the past. “It’s not as bad now.”

“Jesus.” Francis unwound just a little bit as he spoke, leaning his head back against Michael’s arm. His eyes were still closed. “Jesus fuck.”

Michael took over the job of studying the ground: gritty and damp under the scum of leaves, no new grass showing yet. “Well, you know. Just me.” He still had to force these empty, vague outlines out past the frantic chant shut up shut up nothing ever happened. “Made it harder.”

“Christ Almighty.” Michael glanced back; Francis’s wearied eyes were open now, focused directly on him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Thompson.” Michael scuffed his foot along the dirt, biting his lip. He didn’t know a single good response to that.

“Let’s go get chips,” was all he managed, struggling upwards. He held out a hand to haul Francis to his feet; it was easier now than it had been two months ago. Francis rubbed at the back of his head again, tugging with unnecessary viciousness; abruptly, Michael screwed up his courage and leaned in to kiss him. It was rough and quick, clumsy and with no time to enjoy it, not out here where someone could chance to poke into this ignored fragment of the world, but it was enough.

“Thanks, Michael,” Francis breathed as they separated, a little of the grimness lifting from his face. “Thanks.”

“Yeah.” Michael squeezed his hand one last time, then dropped it as they stepped out from behind the hedge.

Date: 2010-12-21 02:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, gosh, is it christmas already? Because this is just what I'd have asked for. Oh, those two. I've been curious to know how they lifes would go on after the book took place, but damn. This is an excellent follow up. Shipley hasn't been punished or he sure as hell is very pissed that the was. Michael is reaping what he sewed, but looks like he's more worried about Francis than himself now - at least he's sticking up to him this time. Francis lost some of his confidence and I feel for him… But I'm glad that his tongue is still sharp! Really stunning, realistic vision of a future for both of them. They're growing, slowly, into different people, and I'm kept on the edge to see how their relationship will progress.

Date: 2010-12-21 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:D Well, I have been giving out gifts today. I'm so glad that you would count this among that number.

Yeah, Shipley got a slap on the wrist. He isn't especially upset about that, but he is going after the gay boys like he would have anyway.

Francis is losing confidence because, in canon, people'd been jerks to him but he'd never actually been a sought-out, regularly-mistreated target the way Michael had. Now that he's outed...

Michael is very much aware of all of this and feels incredibly guilty, which is the main reason he's trying so hard to defend Francis. (Taking my inspiration from the lengths Argent went to in order to fix things with Columen.)

Also, you've actually seen a little bit of how it'll progress, at least in this 'verse; this is set around six months before "From Either Side of a Closet Door."

I'm so, so glad that you liked it so much. I'm honored.

Date: 2011-05-01 04:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This has that same ouch quality as the book but that little bit of hopefulness just turns it into something so beautiful. Thank you.

Date: 2011-05-01 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you so much. I love the tone of the original book, so the idea that I could emulate that and add some hope - yikes. Just, thank you.

Date: 2011-05-17 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, this is fantastic! It felt like I was reading an epilogue. I love how much their relationship has progressed, but you also made it clear that they've both changed significantly since the end of the book. Poor Francis doesn't have the same confidence he used to, but Micheal is finally learning to stand up for himself. Still, he's a got a long way to go in order to get over what happened at the comp and now, Shitley's antagonizing. The ending is so beautiful though, you can't help but have hope for these two. Great job!

Date: 2011-05-17 08:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I'm glad that they made sense as changed without (I hope!) seeming horribly OOC. I just want to see them grow and heal and learn to trust each other and get out of that damn school, so [APPLY FIC]. Again, thanks.


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