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Title: Aftermath
Fandom: The Traitor Game
Characters/Pairings: Francis, Michael
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, language, homophobia & homophobic bullying
Written for: [livejournal.com profile] book_las
Wordcount: 880
Author's notes: This is actually... not Francis/Michael. (If the level of homoeroticism is on par with the canon, I tag it as Francis/Michael.)

Things are different, after.

Not necessarily worse, maybe. It’s nice sometimes, in a quiet casual way, to talk about something other than Evgard, to know that even without fine-tuning city streets and tweaking palaces they’ll be able to spend hours wandering the streets and loudly coming to agreement: teachers are bastards, maths is a load of shit, chips are a work of bloody genius. They build up their own futures like palace walls, sometimes, careers as architects perhaps, or London businessmen. (Once Francis tells Michael that he ought to be a writer, be the next Tolkien or some such thing; Michael blushes blotchily and calls him a tosser, but a moment later Francis catches him smiling at the trees.)

Some of the less obvious differences, the parts they don’t think about, are – well, not nice. Not at all. But better. Michael tells him, sometimes, a little bit about his old school, the comp: nothing big, no all-encompassing story, but fragments and pieces, when the light is dim with rain or sunset and they can find an excuse not to look at each other. He still doesn’t have any idea what actually happened, but Michael makes a little more sense in all his hunched shoulders and scowling.

There’s a new element to the scowling now, a mix of death glares and worried glances, a peculiar cocktail brought out with every casual comment about pansy-assed Francis. Mostly it’s just plain ridiculous – everyone gets called that, maybe him a little bit more often but it’s not like he hasn’t heard it all before – but still, at least he doesn’t have to worry about all the ways it could be worse.

(And besides, it’s kind of nice to have someone know, to be able to say “Fuck Brother Thomas’s politics lectures” or “Mum’s been asking me about girls again,” and know Michael will get what he means, grimace and scuff his foot along the dirt and hand him a cigarette without saying a word. Their own little code for sympathy.)

Other things, though. Michael’s harsh, brittle laugh when Francis compliments him wrong (and fuck, but he misses being able to point out that no, actually Michael isn’t a worthless shit, whatever he may think about it. It isn’t like Francis didn’t always phrase it carefully, but it used to be easier.) Or there’s a map or a book spread out on a table, and Francis leans over his shoulder to look, and suddenly everything goes tense: Michael stiff and twitching, the conversation dead and rotting until Francis straightens up. Two careful inches of space between them whenever there isn’t a cigarette handed off or a point to be made, both of them maintaining the distance.

Different.

It isn’t the only change, of course (not even the most important one – what’s an uncomfortable moment here and there?) School could be a lot worse, really; Shitley’s expulsion sort of killed off the rumors, between so much else to talk about and nobody left who cared to spread them. Still, his cronies knew, and they haven’t exactly forgotten about the pansy in their midst.

There’s only so much anyone is willing to do now that expulsion is a real threat, but there’s always ways: jeering little rhymes, obscene notes stuffed in his locker, the mysterious disappearance of any of his things left unattended, and the way it’s suddenly so much easier to trip than it used to be. It could be a lot worse – no brawls, no fistfights – but it isn’t exactly pleasant.

Mostly he finds he gets tired more easily, these days. He doesn’t mention it to Michael, of course (this is what Michael’s been doing for years, he suspects, which is sort of terrifying and impressive) and he’d frankly rather be shot than say anything whatsoever to his mother, who is hardly going to notice much without prompting. He’s safe.

(Michael’s mum does say something, once, one Friday afternoon while Francis is stranded in the kitchen while Michael goes to dig out something or other upstairs. “Have you been all right, Francis?” she asks him as she potters about the kitchen, twisting over her shoulder to look at him.

“Er, what – I mean, yes, thank you, I’ve been fine,” he says, blinking at her. “Why do you ask?” Normally he’d let it alone – he doesn’t talk to her more than he can help – but it’s just such an odd bit of the day.

“You’ve seemed a bit different, the past few weeks,” she says, running a cloth over a dish that looks perfectly dry to him. “Since that thing that happened last fall.” He jerks sideways, startled, but she doesn’t seem to notice. “I wondered if perhaps something was wrong at school, or at home.”

“No, no, nothing’s wrong,” he says, making an effort to smile at her. “Thank you, though, it’s very kind of you to ask.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear it,” she says. “I just remembered –” And then she cuts herself off, returning to the dishes. He thinks she mutters something about school and Michael, but he isn’t sure, and it isn’t as if he’s going to ask.)

It isn’t even that long until graduation now, relatively speaking. Until then, well, there are good pieces, good things. He’ll be all right.

(And anyway, he doesn’t bruise easily.)

Date: 2011-04-18 01:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
Very well-written, maintaining excellent voice throughout. I like that it is told from Francis's perspective; I love Michael of course, but no like Francis. Thank you.

Date: 2011-04-18 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Wow, thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it.

Date: 2011-04-18 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
It reminded me a bit of Traitor Game Christmas story I wrote a while ago, which is told from both of their perspectives. It gets a bit more into Francis's home-life, and alludes to what goes on in Shitely's head as well.

Date: 2011-04-18 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Subtle. ;) I remember that, though; I was in the process of reading it and then something came up, I forget what, and I never got back to it. I'll finish it once I get the chance.

Date: 2011-04-20 12:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
Good to know :). Thanks.

Date: 2011-09-29 02:47 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I don't know if you've seen this: http://jugjugjug.blogspot.com/2011/08/one-of-nicer-things-this-week.html

It seems Bridget Collins is a fan of yours.

Date: 2011-09-30 05:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
I have seen that, but still, thank you so much for linking me! I don't even have the words to express how much that post delights me every time I look at it.

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