tagGay MaleHematoma Ch. 26

Hematoma Ch. 26

byAsbel©

As I waited for Leah at the far corner of our street, something seemed to overcome me. The cold wind bit my cheeks and mussed my hair, and soon it was all that kept me standing. I was exhausted. My arms and legs, my brain, they all seemed to want to give out from under me at any moment. Maybe the Society would let me sleep there for a while... before I had to break the news to them. To break things off with them.

I wasn't dressed like myself. I had foraged, dug in my still-packed clothing for things I never wore, anything to cover my injuries. A scarf around my throat, my winter coat shielding my skin, and a pair of sunglasses I'd only worn in the worst of summers, which darkened the snowy street along with the still-rising sun.

My head was swimming. I seemed to be processing a hundred things at once, and not a single thought sounded coherent in the jumble. I was no longer near Ricky, and yet I could not think clearly in the slightest. I wasn't even sure I wanted to. I wanted to shut my brain off, to disappear.

I was spared the trouble of my oncoming headache by the quiet approach of Leah's little car, trundling meekly through the dirtying tracks of snow in the gutters. Through the grayish glare of the window I saw her pale hand flicking at me in welcome, and my weak fingers fumbled on the door handle to let myself in.

"Hi, Shay," Leah's voice said in my direction. I couldn't see her looking at me, with my eyes fixed on the dashboard. I mumbled some reply to her and hung my head down. After a moment's silence, she must have decided that was all she was going to get out of me, and with a second's purring, the car rolled away.

It was a few blocks before Leah reattempted conversation.

"Have you eaten breakfast yet?" she asked. "I can hit a Wawa on the way. I could always go for a breakfast sandwich."

"I'm not hungry," I said with uncertainty.

"Okay," said Leah blithely. She paused again. "I was surprised you called. It's only been a day. You thought about your decision pretty quickly, huh? It took me ages to decide... I really had to mull things over."

I went quiet. It's only been a day, I repeated in my head. In the tangles of my brain, the time since my last meeting with Leah had taken weeks, months. Too much had happened.

"Shay?"

I shook myself slightly and lifted my head, acknowledging Leah with a grunt. We'd been stopped at a red light, and I could see her from the corner of my swollen eye, gazing at me intently.

"Shay, can you take those sunglasses off, please?" she asked gently.

I stayed still. "It's bright outside," I muttered.

"No, it's not. Shay... I already know you're hiding something. Take them off."

My mouth twitched. Was I that obvious? I sighed and lowered my face, sliding the sunglasses off with both hands and turning only just enough to Leah for her to see my face.

I expected her to gasp, to look at me in horror, to clasp her hands over her mouth and beg me to tell her what happened. Instead, her eyes slid over my half-healed bruises and scratches in an unnaturally placid manner, and she looked back at the road with her mouth set in a line. "He did a number on you, didn't he?" she said quietly. "Was it because of me? Did he find out?"

I found my mouth was already open when I tried to speak. I closed it momentarily, swallowed, and turned to watch the street starting to scroll by as we accelerated again. "He knows about the Society," I told her lowly. "You by proxy."

"How? Did you tell him?"

"No. He smelled it."

"Smelled?"

"The... He could smell the lavender on me."

Leah reached back into a tote purse she had wedged behind the car's console and began to dig, her eyes still on the road ahead. "I'll call Gil and let them know," she said hurriedly. "They can take the flowers down."

"It doesn't matter," I muttered. "He knows where I'm going this time."

She hesitated, then put her cell phone back into her purse, her brow furrowing. "He's letting you go? To the Society?"

Was I supposed to tell her this? Were they supposed to know? I went quiet again, finding my fingers picking at each other in my lap without my noticing. "I'll... I don't want to talk anymore."

Leah's shoulders slackened, her arms bowing against the steering wheel, and she sighed calmly. "We can discuss more when we get to the Society. We'll get you healed up."

"Can't. He gave me bloodshare, the bruises aren't mending more than this."

"There's more to heal than just your body, Shay. Just sit back. We'll be there soon.

I obeyed her, and for the first time in what felt like ages, I closed my burning eyes.

~

Soonhee reacted the way I thought Leah would to my wounds, and this time even Leah was afflicted by the sight of my arms and neck when I shed my coat. Soonhee's gloves covered her mouth as she gasped, but it was with a far angrier snarl than my proposed scenario that she demanded to know what happened. Leah relayed what I had said, sparing me the trouble and letting me direct my effort to settling down in a tufted armchair in the library where the girls had gathered. She finished just as I had gotten comfortable, and Soonhee's following roar of fury stirred me back upright.

"He thinks himself untouchable!" she barked, immediately beginning to pace back and forth. I thought she might grind holes into the floor where she turned on her heels. Her white dress danced innocently around her thighs as she went, cap-sleeved and ribboned in a way that did not befit the growling beast she was acting. "We'll go to his apartment tonight, Leah. I'll rip him stem from stern! I'll make his shriveled heart into jerky! He won't know what-"

"Soonhee, that won't work," Leah said patiently, starting to match Soonhee's pacing in a slower tempo and turning back and forth on the spot to follow her. "He's protected by the law of invitation. You can't go into his home any more than he can enter here."

"I'd kill him if I were human!" Soonhee bellowed. "I'll stone his damn apartment until he's forced to face me like a man! I'll smash every one of his windows from outside!"

"And you'll get the police called on you."

"And THEY can save Shay."

"And Yorick will kill them."

"Good. Make him expose himself."

"You wouldn't sacrifice innocent lives for his skin. And you'd be exposed too. All of the Society would."

Soonhee loosed an incoherent string of animal noises and swung her arms round as if trying to throw something that was not there. "So what are we going to do?"

Leah opened her mouth to reply, but the library doors opened again, and as if on cue, Gil hobbled in. Leah immediately trotted towards him, starting to speak, but he raised the hand that was not leaning on his cane.

"I heard everything, Leah," he said with a sigh. "Soonhee, I am happy about your... enthusiastic concern, but there is not much we can do at the moment. We can move Shay, give him protection, but that will not stop Yorick from seeking other victims... That is, if he gives up on Shay, which I doubt."

Leah gave Gilbert her arm and escorted him to the armchair across from mine, where he settled down and adjusted the blue sweater that rumpled at his waist. "Gil, are you saying we shouldn't do anything?" Leah asked.

It was only once he seemed to be fully settled into his seat that Gil responded. "Yorick's actions are alarming, to say the least. At this time, it would be unwise to test him. We need more time to prepare an escape for Shay."

"What escape is there?" Soonhee demanded.

Gil tapped his cane at the clawed foot of the armchair and addressed the ceiling. "We may be able to enlist the help of another district... A transfer. But that would only really buy Shay time. As I've already expressed, Yorick is not likely to give up."

"So our only option is to attack."

"That wouldn't work. Would it, Gil?" Leah piped.

"It's more danger than it's worth. We can't enter Yorick's home..."

"I told Soonhee that, but -"

"I don't see you offering any -"

"I've got an idea," I said loudly, glaring back at the three pairs of eyes that looked my direction. "How about you all stop deciding what happens to me, for me?"

Gilbert and Soonhee immediately went silent. It was a moment before Leah took the initiative to speak. "Of course you're right, Shay. I'm sorry," she said tentatively. "What do you want to do?"

I found it hard to keep glaring at Leah. After a moment's struggle, I tore away from her watery eyes and looked down into my lap, where my hands were entangling. "I didn't come out here for help," I said sullenly. "I came to say goodbye."

This, too, was followed by silence, but more stagnated, cold.

"Goodbye?" repeated Leah.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm... I'm done with the Society. I'm not coming back."

"Done?" Soonhee said hollowly, her brow furrowing. "Done? After everything we've done for you, you're just leaving?"

"Name one thing you've done for me!" I retorted, the blood rising in my face. "Any of you. Take your time! I'll wait."

Soonhee hesitated, then opened her mouth angrily, and just as quickly snapped it shut in a snarl. I looked from her, with her skirts all a-ruffle and her fists clenched; to Leah, looking helplessly between me and Soonhee; to Gilbert, his eyes low and cane tapping. That was just it... I hadn't thought much about it until I'd blurted it out, but...

What had any of them done for me?

How had any of them protected me?

Why hadn't I left long before this?

"You -" Soonhee seemed to have regained her wind and was puffing out her cheeks in anger. "You ungrateful...! As if you let us help! As if you'd let us come between you and your precious Ricky! If you had cooperated -"

"If I'd -" I winced mid-word, readjusting in my chair as my sudden lurch forward sent a jolt of pain across my side. I didn't feel like arguing with Soonhee. I didn't feel like seeing any of them. I shifted and tried to get up. "I'm going home."

"What home?" Soonhee spat ruefully.

"My home," I said. "Back home with Ricky. He'll take care of me."

"He's done a bang-up job so far!" she snorted.

I was barely on my feet when I rounded on her at last. I found myself nose-to-nose with Soonhee - as close as I could, considering my height on her - with my hands balled into fists and shaking with anger. "And why do you think Ricky did this to me, huh!? Why did he hurt me in the first place? It's because of you -" I screamed, now pointing at Gil, and then Leah - "All of you! I was fine before you - YOU stepped in -" And I glared daggers down at Soonhee once more - "YOU followed me, stalked me, dragged me into this with you - And all you wanted was for me to help you kill Ricky! None of you gave a fuck about me, it was all about taking Ricky out! And I'm done! I'm done with helping you! I'm done with betraying him! I'm going to leave, and everything will go back to the way it was, and if you ever come near me and Ricky again -"

A hand on my arm dragged me back from Soonhee, and I spun around to unleash my anger in a new direction, spurned on by the bruises under their fingers and the pain sparking up from inside me...

But before I could start screaming again, Leah buried her face in my chest.

It was a strange feeling, her warmth against my wildly beating heart. I found my mouth strangely cold and tingling, as if the shouting had torn the insides of my cheeks and tongue. I still shook against her, but Leah clutched me to her, and I realized that some of the tremble was coming from her own body.

"I should have taken you away," she said thickly, and I realized, with a stony chill in my belly, that she was crying. "I should have just pulled you away when I realized what he'd done to you. I should have stepped in, I should have said something, Shay... Anything."

"Leah -"

"You're right," she interrupted, sniffling as she lifted her face from my shirt, her cheeks shining. "It's our fault. We all should have kept you from going back. We should have hidden ourselves better... And we shouldn't have accused you of protecting him. It wasn't you, Shay... The person you are right now... We've never known anyone but him, anyone but the person that Yorick made you into. And we should never have blamed you for that."

At this, I felt my cheeks flaming up again. "I - no - I'm not a different person!" I barked. "Ricky didn't make me any different! I didn't change -"

But Leah's eyes were brimming again. "I did," she said quietly. "I changed so much... I did what you're doing, Shay... And I know deep down you would have hated us for taking you away from him... But... If... If it would have saved you the pain you're in right now... I wish..."

I didn't get to hear what Leah wished. Before she could say anything else, Leah fell to pieces against my chest, and I held her shoulders as they shook with her sobbing. The front of my shirt grew damp with her tears. The anger faded slowly from me, and in its place, the pain seemed to come back wherever my muscles had stiffened. I realized my eye was stinging again.

I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to think. It was as if two animals were fighting in my head, and in their tangle of bodies, I could not tell who was supposed to be victorious, whose claws and teeth were even whose. I only knew that I wanted Leah to stop crying for me... And I wrapped my tired arms around her shoulders, to the swell of her sobs. After a moment, she pulled her face from me and looked up into my eyes, holding my sore face in her delicate little fingers.

"Please let me help," she whimpered. "Please... let us help you, Shay. Please don't go back to Yorick today."

"He... He's waiting for me..."

"He can't come in here. Let him wait. We need time... We'll protect you, Shay! Just... please..."

I couldn't find it in me to argue anymore. Leah's hands were sliding over my shoulders, her face drawing close up to mine, and I closed my eyes as her soft, dry lips pressed to the darkened flesh of my cheek.

A loud noise shocked me from this reverie. A gut-wrenching sound, like wet ice splitting under boots, but warmer, louder. Before I could turn around to find its source, Soonhee had announced it.

"Bruno!?"

At the open doorway, Bruno stood with his legs wide apart, his back bowed, his eyes wide and hollow and his hand buried in a hole that split the library door. I was drawn to the state of his jeans, streaked with mud the same as his boots and bearing what seemed to be clawmarks, and his shirt hanging ill-fit from his shoulders. But this was not what most stood out. It was the fact that his lip was curling, twitching, and his eyes were locked on mine.

Leah's hands fell away from me and I felt her brush my side, stepping forward to speak. "Bruno," she said carefully. "You shouldn't break things... Let's go to the back rooms. Do you need me to -"

But before she could finish, Bruno muttered something incoherent, his voice low and breathy.

"I... What?" said Leah. "Bruno, what was that? What do you need?"

Bruno's eyes flicked from Leah back to me, his brow knitted in unmistakable fury. "Him," he repeated.

"He... That's Shay. You know Shay, Bruno... You met -"

"You..." he hissed, and with another sickening crunch, Bruno wrenched his hand out of the door. My stomach turned as I realized several large splinters were embedded in his flesh, but he didn't seem to care. "You... kissed him."

I couldn't see Leah's expression. Her silence seemed to freeze her, and when she finally spoke, it was with a high, weak voice. "B... Bruno... No, that's not... Shay and I are... It was only -"

"I saw," snarled Bruno. "I saw you. You think I'm a stupid animal... Not good enough for you... Not human enough..."

"Bruno!" Leah shuddered. "H-how could you say -"

"Leah..." In what seemed to be a moment of clarity, Bruno rose to his full height and stepped forward cautiously, stopping just short of the coffee table between him and our group. He took a deep, shaking breath and pushed his brown hair out of his face. His lips trembled as he spoke, voice cracking with the strain of his words. "Do... you... love me... or him?"

I had a sudden sensation of missing my stomach, and I could not decide whether I should move by Leah or back away from them both. Soonhee seemed to be struggling with the same, but she took a few tentative steps forward, drawing herself level with me.

But Leah was not moving. Her hands were locked in front of her, the slightest waver in her hair as she shook her head back and forth the smallest degree. "Bruno..." she whispered fearfully. "I... I can't... I don't..."

Whatever Bruno had wanted her to say, this wasn't it. Without a moment's hesitation, he opened wide his mouth and roared in the most inhuman way, throwing his fists down onto the coffee table and splintering it as well. Leah screamed and danced away from him, and Soonhee ran to grab her by the shoulders, to pull her away, it seemed - but Leah stiffened and regained her stance, and her voice swelled with the pride and strictness I'd heard before. "Bruno! Down! I mean it!"

This only served to enrage Bruno further, and he seized half of the shattered coffee table and swung it over his head. "I'M... NOT... YOUR... DOG!" he howled, and with a bellowing rasp, he hurled the hunk of wood past her...

And I threw my arms up as it soared in my direction. This is how it happens, I thought wildly. Death by coffee table.

A flash of white burst between me and the coffee table, and Soonhee sent it sailing back at Bruno in multiple pieces, her skirts flying with her kick. He whacked them out of his face with a snarl, barely batting an eye.

"Bruno!" Soonhee hollered, now pushing her frilly sleeves up as Bruno hunkered down into his usual gait. "I am NOT in the mood! Cut it out!"

Words had seemed to escape Bruno's grip at last. He yowled and loped on all fours over the wooden wreckage, ignoring Soonhee's warnings. Before I could watch anymore, a thin, bony hand clamped onto my arm and began to steer me away.

"Let's go," Gil muttered hurriedly, half-dragging me, half using me as support as he hobbled forward on his cane, pulling me in a circle around Soonhee and Bruno and towards the broken library door. "Leah! Come on."

"But... Bruno -!"

"Soonhee has him, let's go."

Leah seemed about to argue, but behind her, Soonhee and Bruno had collided at last. Something flew into the overhanging chandelier and rained down sparks like lava droplets, and with a little shriek, Leah scurried after the two of us. I looked back over my shoulder as we approached the door, just in time to see that Bruno had realized our escape and was preparing to pounce. Soonhee's hands, her impossibly small hands, shot out and clawed onto his neck and shoulders and dragged him back, and their tangled bodies toppled over the tufted loveseat with a crash.

Out in the hall, Gil staggered to get us away. His grip on my arm was unforgiving, hi face calm but somehow strained. "Leah, please get everyone moving to safety," he ordered. "Shay, that means you, too."

"What..." I watched Leah disappear from our side and hurry to the main room, where her wavering voice could be heard echoing up into the high ceilings. I stopped and tried to pull Gil from my arm, to no avail - I had never realized how strong he really was. "I can't leave... Leah -"

"She'll be fine," Gil said lowly. "Soonhee and I will handle Bruno. We have others who can help."

Now out into the main room's hollow, I watched helplessly as other humans were shunted to safety, many looking confused. I had never really taken note of others like me... These plain people who I may have even met in a store, passed in the street.

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