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The students around Kellen are mostly silent as they leave the science classroom. Winter weariness has beaten them into automatons, thoughtlessly following routine. They'll all head upstairs, exchange their books and go to their next class with no discernable change of expression. Even Jesse is not immune; his normally chipper roommate is quiet, not depressed but thoughtful. Kellen isn't in any better state himself.

As the kids flood into the halls, Kellen hears a snatch of Leech's voice and turns automatically to look. He spots the diminutive man a few doors down, belatedly remembering that Leech had to cover the classes of some teacher who couldn't come to work. Caught the flu going around, or something. Leech is watching the students file out of his temporary classroom with disinterest. Touching Jesse on the shoulder, Kellen nods to the stairway as he says, "Go on. I'll catch up with ya in guitar." Jesse, bless his heart, only smiles and nods.

Kellen turns against the tide, working his way back to his brother. The crowd thins out as he nears the end of the hall, only a few last stragglers hiding Leech from sight as Kellen hears him speak again.

"Hold up a minute, Ness."

And he hears Mike Ness reply, loud and angry: "Goddammit. What the fuck do you want now?" Kellen's stomach clenches, knowing how Leech will react to such a tone. As he works past a taller boy, Leech comes into view, and the cold expression on his face is no surprise. His head is tilted, one eye narrowed, clearly waiting for Ness to backpeddle. Instead, he speaks again, "You're always watching me like a fucking hawk, finding ways to get me in trouble. Why don't you torment someone else for a change?"

"Yer complaint might have more weight, if ya weren't always doin' something wrong," Leech replies, his own voice quiet in contrast to the raised one of Ness.

He reaches out, fingers closing around the boy's arm to detain him. Ness spins rapidly, yanking his arm from Leech's grasp and planting both hands on the smaller man's chest to shove him into the wall. This is the last movement that Kellen can absolutely identify for some time: Leech definitely pushes forward, but where he places his hands is uncertain. Those few students left in the hall immediately U-turn, clustering towards the fight, undoubtedly the most interesting thing they've seen all week. There's two staff members, too few, suddenly yelling for the students to get to their dorms, herding away those who get too close - but Kellen doesn't move, even when one speaks to him and tries to lead him off. His eyes are on the writhing ball of struggling humanity, limbs flying; he distinctly sees Ness' powerful right arm driving a fist towards Leech, and Leech's spidery fingers reaching for Ness' thick neck: abruptly both are on the floor.

Leech appears unhurt, and appears to be getting the best of the conflict. He's on his knees astride Ness, holding down the boy's right arm while the toes of his boots search for purchase on the tile floor so he can return to his feet. Though Kellen can't see Ness' face from his vantage point, he can see Leech, that strange unnerving calm that overtakes him sometimes, and he breathes easier. Leech has everything under control.

But then, faster than Kellen can process, their positions are reversed. Now he can see the ferocious snarl on Ness' face, the way his left hand snakes away, reaching behind himself. Leech still has hold of the right arm, but that left moves deliberately between them. Leech gives a quiet gasp. Kellen's stomach drops. He starts forward, mind completely blank, not noticing whether anyone else is still near, not even noticing the teacher that steps in front to hold him back.

On the floor, Leech gives a deeper grunt and releases Ness' right arm to reach between their forms. He makes a couple of convulsive movements with a shoulder and a hip, then heaves his body forward. Suddenly he's above Ness again, and though his movements are uncharacteristically graceless, he seems to have the boy truly pinned this time. One knee is in Ness' chest, the opposite boot planted sturdily on the floor; his right hand is pressing the student's shoulder to the floor, sharp thumb digging into the joint, and the left, holding a switchblade cocked just beneath Ness' ear.

A switchblade marked with blood.

"Stay down, Ness." Leech's voice is still quiet, almost a hiss, but infinitely menacing. "Stay there; I won't be responsible for the consequences if you try to get up."

Ness hurls a vicious 'fuck you!' at Leech's face while he struggles, but a second later, the fight visibly goes out of him. His shoulders drop to the ground and he turns his hands palm-up. Time starts again, and Kellen realizes that there are several more staff members in a semi-circle around the pair on the floor. He searches their faces for some reassurance, but the uncertain looks give him none, and his eyes swiftly seek out his brother again.

Apparently convinced that Ness is cowed, Leech shifts his weight, sets his feet on the floor and pushes up. He staggers, and before he can lose his balance Kellen ducks beneath the arm keeping him back to dash to Leech's side. Gripping a shoulder seems to steady him and he straightens up, giving Kellen no more than a quick, blank glance before looking to the staff members.

"Take him downstairs," he tells them, motioning to Ness with a jerk of his chin. He steps carefully back until he finds the wall. Kellen moves with him, still clutching his shoulder, still searching his bleached-white face in vain. "An' take this to the headmaster."

There's a metallic clatter as Leech drops the knife back to the floor. Kellen has no attention for it. He focuses on Leech's hand, streaked with red like the blade, and watches as that hand draws back, pressing hard against Leech's abdomen. It's instantly coated in far more blood, and Kellen finally finds his voice.

"Leech! Jesus Christ!"

"Hush, Kellen," Leech says, almost casually, but his eyes are unfocused as he watches his coworkers move off.

Two lead Ness away, each holding an arm. One other crouches to pick the guilty switchblade up delicately by the handle. The last one - Kellen's science teacher, Dr. Hunter - moves towards them. The tall man's face seems green beneath its natural tan, but his expression is calm enough.

"You'll need to get that seen to, Harvey," he says. "You're losing quite a lot of blood."

Kellen doesn't realize that he's still grasping a shoulder until Leech winces and pulls it free. "Yeh, I know. I'll...see the nurse after I talk to the headmaster."

Leech pushes off the wall with decision, but immediately sways. Hunter steps closer, reaching for one of Leech's elbows to steady him and shaking his head patiently.

"No, Leech, you need it done now," the scientist goes on, oddly gentle. "Come to my classroom; it's been a while since I was a medic, but I think I can still manage a fair job of stitching."

This time, it's Leech who reaches for his brother, clutching his hand with a compulsive, painful grip. Kellen doesn't let go.





Jackie: Despite the teachers’ attempts to keep the fight between Michael and Leech on the down low, word travelled fast. By the end of dinner, nearly everyone was gossiping about it; some stories took it to the extent that Leech was in the hospital, while others had Ness getting sent to the local detention center, handcuffed. Jesse has been pretty wide eyed throughout it all, half bewildered, half keeping a look out for Kellen. But the boy disappears, probably tending to the parasite, so Jesse joins Tim up in their dorm room. The older boy seems quieter than usual, and it takes some prodding, but eventually Jesse gets out of him that he’s concerned for Michael, beyond the normal concern - hurting a teacher and brandishing a weapon are two huge no-nos at school, and he can’t imagine that the headmaster will overlook anything, especially since he and Mike were still on a bit of probation. Hunkered out on Jesse’s bed, Tim is laying down, staring up at the ceiling, and Jesse is sitting indian style, cradling Tim’s head in his lap and rubbing at his neck soothingly.


Jay: Kellen had missed his last two classes - naturally, Leech's guitar class had been canceled - and has been hovering over Leech since, which earned him both gratitude and scorn from the parasite, but he couldn't be coerced into leaving until now, a couple of hours past dinner, when Leech finally fell asleep. It's bewildering to Kellen to return to the upper areas of the school, where kids are going about their lives normally, but he keeps his head down to hide his haggard face beneath his hood, stuffs his hands in his pockets so they won't be seen to shake, and manages to avoid everyone up until he reaches his own dorm room. Pausing outside the door, he takes a deep breath - he has no idea how much of the fight Jesse saw, nor how much of it is common knowledge - but eventually a teacher walks by and Kellen, to avoid looking suspicious, has to grasp the knob and let himself in. He lifts his head just enough to visually search the room, shutting the door behind him.
Jackie signed on at 6:51 PM.


Jackie: Having spent most of dinner talking about it all with Tim, and then for a while afterwards, Jesse has been able to slightly change topics, maybe in hopes of getting his friend’s mind off of it all. Of course, Jesse is worried - that’s his room mate’s brother, after all. And his best friend’s boyfriend. So he’s an equally split in his concern, but for the moment, Timothy is receiving all of his comforts.

Hearing the door open, Jesse immediately looks up, eyebrows raised high on his forehead. He doesn’t relax at all upon seeing Kellen, especially not for how beat up the kid looks, but he doesn’t get up off of the bed to rush over and Mother Hen him. Instead, he just sits up straighter. “Kellen. Are you okay? Is Leech okay?"


Jay: Kellen relaxes some for that greeting, not having been sure what he'd be met with, and gives a brief nod - but it isn't an answer, only a greeting. Pacing across the room to his own bed, he takes a seat on it, still dazed with the afternoon's events. He totally dismisses the question of his own well-being, because it's impossible to gauge right now. "No. I don't know. He's sleeping." His voice comes out unusually lacking in inflection and quiet, and he just sits there for a moment, staring at the floor.


Jackie: Also hearing the door open, Tim tilts his head towards it, glancing over at Jesse’s room mate but not saying anything. They may have cleared the air slightly, back in the locker room, but that doesn’t at all mean that they’ve been buddy-buddy. Judging by the look on Kellen’s face, Tim doubts the boy even wants to be around him. So he stays decisively quiet, but attentive, because for as much as he’s worried about Mike, he’s more concerned about Leech.

Watching Kellen trail back to his bed, Jesse slowly takes up petting at Tim’s neck again, just to keep his hands busy. He tries to be reassuring: “Sleeping is good. That way he can rest up and feel better. Is he…here?”


Jay: Kellen nods, absently at first, but more decided when Jesse queries Leech's whereabouts. "Yeh, he's downstairs. Dr. Hunter...fixed him up." His mouth compresses briefly at the memory of the 'fixing up' and he finally pulls his hands from his pockets, rubbing harshly at his face. He doesn't seem to notice that his cuticles are still stained with blood, ringing black fingernails with muted red, stark against his pale skin. The face-rubbing seems to do some good; when Kellen drops his hands, he blinks a few times, more aware. "D'you know he used to be an army medic? Hard to imagine he's capable'a that, when he can't even keep his lesson plan straight..."


Jackie: Hearing that, Jesse is able to mentally scratch off the theory that Leech was sent to the hospital on a gurney, nearly lifeless from blood loss - which is precisely what he heard from someone in his Shakespeare class. Still, he doesn’t relax much when he watches Kellen, the boy still so obviously wound up. So Jesse carefully moves Tim’s head out of his lap so he can get off the bed, and then slinks over to Kellen’s, crawling atop the mattress and looking at the boy with big, wide eyes - almost like an owl, but a little more innocent than that. He doesn’t pay much attention to what’s said, and instead reaches a hand out to rub at the boy’s shoulder gently. “He’s gonna be all right, Kell. Can I get you something? I have tea. Gummy worms. We can make a fort out of our blankets..."


Jay: Kellen lifts his head as Jesse approaches, managing a bit of a smile for the kid's obvious desire to help. He shakes his head, leaning towards the other boy when that hand takes his shoulder. "Thanks. I really don'..." Trailing off momentarily, he looks over at his bedside table. "Maybe a joint would help." So he flops in the opposite direction, pushing himself along the bed until he can reach that drawer and hunt down the little tin he keeps his pot in. Sitting up again, he gets the lid open after a couple tries, but it's plain that his hands are still shaking too much to prepare the drugs, so he offers the tin to Jesse with a beseeching look.


Jackie: Left alone on Jesse’s bed, Tim allows for his head to fall to the side, looking at the two boys silently. Part of him feels like he should leave, go hang out in his own room and give Jesse time to console Kellen by himself. But the other part of him doesn’t want to go anywhere, doesn’t trust himself not to curl up and shake and cry and unleash the whole truth of the past three months to Jesse. He remains where he’s at.

Still rubbing at Kellen’s shoulder, Jesse starts to allow his hand more freedom - stretching it up to the boy’s neck, and then down along his shoulder blades. He draws back when Kellen goes to retrieve his pot, and takes the tin without question. He’s starting to feel a little awkward, since he doesn’t know what all to do, so he looks down at the tin as he opens it and starts to prepare a joint. “Do you wanna talk about it?"


Jay: Everyone in the whole room apparently feels awkward, Kellen not least of all; he knows Tim must be wondering about Ness, but couldn't bring himself to even say the guy's name right now, aside from which he knows nothing at all about what's happening to him. He hopes Tim is concerned about Leech, too, but can't count on it. Very grateful for the buffer of Jesse, he still can only shrug for that question, hands lifting and dropping helplessly. "I wouldn' even know where to start." Years of forcibly repressing his emotions, as all good east coast boys are taught to, are combining here with other years of having no one close enough to talk to. He falls silent for a moment, watching Jesse's hands in their preparations, before abruptly stating: "That was the most terrible thing I've ever gone through." His voice is flat, like he just realized it.


Jackie: In the midsts of preparing the joint, Jesse flicks his eyes up to Kellen’s face, not really expecting to meet the boy’s eyes but maybe trying to see if she boy is trying to mask anything. Thankfully, that answer seems to be true; Kellen looks a little lost, overwhelmed with everything, so Jesse just mumbles a quiet “We don’t have to talk about it,” hoping that will be enough to help relax the kid.

He finishes that joint just as the boy starts talking again, so Jesse then straightens up a bit and hands the weed off to him, tilting his head curiously. Jesse doesn’t doubt that it was bad, but thought maybe Kellen would take a more confused route. “What…helping Leech out afterwards, you mean?"


Jay: For that question, Kellen shakes his head and laughs: a peculiar sound from him, entirely mirthless but unforced. "Helping him. Holding him still until he passed out 'cause he wasn't able to breathe. I couldn' -" He cuts himself off, shuddering, then shrugs his shoulders like he's trying to get rid of the situation, still staring at the other boy's hands. "I've never seen anyone that terrified of anything, ever. I mean, he said he hated needles, but..." This time it's more of a trailing off, and Kellen looks back up at Jesse, plainly upset by the fresh memory.


Jackie: Rummaging around for a lighter, Jesse digs one out from the box of supplies and couples it along with the joint in his hand, handing both items over to Kellen and pressing them towards him until they are taken. His own eyes show a little more nervousness, not having understood what helping Leech really entailed. Closing the tin box, he stretches to put it back on the night stand. “Sorry, Kell.” He can tell that the boy just wants to forget about it, but can also tell that he won’t let himself do that. “We can make him a care package, maybe. Bring him a bunch of stuff that’ll make him feel better…”


Jay: Kellen takes those items thoughtlessly, only actually noticing them a moment later and then immediately lighting the joint and hitting it harshly. He offers it to Jesse mechanically, leaning towards him and looking intently curious. "Yeh? Like what?" It seems he desperately wants to know the answer to that, what will make Leech feel better. After another long moment, he exhales the smoke. "I think...I'm gunna spend the night down there. Never know if Maddox'll take advantage of the situation to stab him a few more times, y'know?"


Jackie: “We could…bring him some wine! Lots of cigarettes. Maybe some coffee, and a warm hoodie…uhh…” Really, this is only really proving to Jesse that the boy doesn’t know too much about the parasite, aside from the obivous. He glances over at Tim, to get his input, but the boy is back to laying flat on the bed, eyes intently staring up at the ceiling, as if he’s putting together a mental puzzle. So he looks back over at Kellen and takes the joint, hitting it - not as deeply - and hands it back. ‘That sounds like a good idea. But him and Maddox seem to get along, so maybe he’d just…like, protect him, or something."


Jay: "An' really fucked up porn videos, yeah." Kellen seems entirely serious about this, nodding at all of Jesse's ideas. He takes the offered joint, hits it and looks at Tim as well, noticing the way he's so zoned out. So, as a gesture of attempted friendship, Kellen stands up and takes the couple steps to offer the older boy the weed uncertainly. "Tim...?" He has serious doubts about Maddox's protective instincts, but doesn't comment on it right now.


Jackie: Jesse allows for a little giggle snort to escape for that, not trying to hold it back because maybe it will help lighten the mood. He exhales the smoke in his lungs directly afterwards, but doesn’t make himself comfortable on the bed - ready to take care of anything Kellen needs within the blink of an eye. “We could get Lars to take care of that.”

Only really stirring when he hears his name, Tim blinks over at Kellen and looks worried - his eyes being the dead give away, since the rest of his face remains blank. He looks at Kellen for a long moment before he takes the offered joint, hitting it once and holding it back out for Kellen to take back as a smoke-filled ‘thanks’ leaves his mouth.


Jay: Kellen nods at Tim, a little less uncertain than previous, returning to his own bed as he drags off the joint again. He snorts for Jesse's suggestion, though Lars would definitely have knowledge of fucked up porn videos. Offering the drugs to the kid, he rubs at his face again, finally pushing his hood off so he can run his hands through his hair, too. "Might have trouble collecting any'a those things, though. I tried to get him to go home - like, the apartment - thought it might be more comfortable there, but he wouldn't."


Jackie: “We could get Lars to be like, a delivery service. He’d do it, you know.” Because definitely, Lars would do almost anything for Jesse or Timothy, and if there was something that Kellen needed - well, he’d probably get it for him, too. Jesse takes the joint and pinches at the end of it, making sure it doesn’t become too loose (he’s never been the best at rolling joints, but since moving in with Kellen he’s gotten remarkably better) and taking another, smaller hit to ensure it stays lit. Once Kellen’s back on the bed, he scoots in closer to the boy, maybe in hopes of instilling some calmness into the boy through osmosis, and hums in thought. “How come? Probably be a better place for him to…uh, recuperate."


Jay: Kellen grunts, as if he's considering that, but he dismisses it right away, recalling how unfriendly Leech and Lars were the last time they were in the same building. But when Jesse moves closer, he leans against his shoulder comfortably. "Don' know. Mebbe it was because I offered to drive." Surely, Leech isn't in much state to do that himself. Taking another hit, he offers the joint back to Jesse, then gets up to start collecting the few things he'll need to take downstairs - already having clothes stored down there, of course. "I just hope he sleeps fer, like, the next three days, at least. 's horrible seeing him like this."

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