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Title: The Kids Aren't All Right
Fandom: The Traitor Game
Characters/Pairings: Michael, Michael's Mum
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, swearing, bullying, spoilers, brief allusions to suicide
Written for: [ profile] book_las prompt "Access Denied." (I interpreted it as Michael closing himself off.)
Wordcount: 438
A/N: I did say I was going to write more about Michael and his poor unnamed mum sometime.

Michael was always a quiet child, always so determined to do everything By Himself, with the precise emphasis of offended six-year-old dignity. At that age, it was a blessing; right now, she thinks she probably should have known it would lead to trouble.

“I’m fine, Mum,” he mumbles to the sink, grey-purple marks swelling on his jaw. “Nothing’s wrong, Mum,” as she hugs him and he winces. “Stop worrying,” he insists, with blood seeping through the halfheartedly slapped-on Band-Aids. She wants to scream.

What, everything’s fine and the ground hit you? There wasn’t a fight, you just walked into the bedpost? The ones your bed doesn’t have? Nobody’s bothering you, ‘pussy’ got scribbled all over your notebooks by mistake? You’re not fighting, your hand is only scraped and swollen because you shut it in the door – every day this week?

He cracks once, just once, spilling honesty over the living room floor in furious muttering; she doesn’t notice how ashamed he is until later, too caught up in her own fury and the relief that he’s finally letting her in. She goes storming up to the school in a haze of guilt-tinged self-righteousness, sick to her stomach with how much she has to say, but at least she’s making it right now. Protecting her son, like mothers do. The good ones, anyway.

“It’s fine,” he hiccups hysterically the next afternoon, face buried in his arms, smudges of salt and snot staining the scratched wood of the kitchen table. “It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine…”

She never finds out what exactly happened.

There are fewer bruises at the new school, at St. Anselm’s. At first, she thinks that’s better, but she isn’t always sure.

“How was school, Michael? Anything interesting happen?”

Shrug. Shuffled feet, sideways glance. “Not really. It was fine, I guess.”

Fine. She’s starting to hate that. Fine, and you shuffle around and slump on the doors? Fine, and you slam your books on the table hard enough to shake the house? Fine, and you wait for your friend like you’re a soldier going off to war, an over-eager World War II boy proud and excited and afraid?

Fine, and you’re coming home from a Saturday hard-eyed and furious? Fine, and you punched a child? Fine, and you’re falling – jumping – whichever – out of windows?

“Why won’t you talk to me, Michael?”

The words clink onto the kitchen counter, and it takes her a moment to realize that this time she actually said it.

He swears to her that he wasn’t trying to jump – this time – and she pretends that she has any reason to believe him.


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August 2012

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