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Lonely Oak Chapter 1 by LemmyNiscuit

The house was silent as a graveyard. It was cold. Winter was bitter. Night was the worst, and here it was between two and three in the morning. Closer to three probably, but he didn't really know. He blinked dryly, his lids scratching his eyeballs. It felt like he just brushed sandpaper over them. He stared at his reflection in the mirror on the bathroom wall, the one his parents set up for his sister since she was too much of a shrimp to use the one over the sink.

Then again he wasn't that tall either. It sucked. Things were better the taller you were. If math taught him anything, it was that more length equals better stuff. Hell, all of his tall friends were getting laid; there was proof right there. Quod erat demonstrandum.

He bit his cheek, suppressing the thoughts. He continued to stare at himself in the mirror. The eyes that stared back were so pathetic. So bloodshot. For once his pupils were wide, seeing reality in its true breadth. No convenient skew or distortion. Everything just perfect.

He looked weird. His lips were quivering, according to the mirror, unless it was the surface rippling. He couldn't tell. Everything in the room was shaking. Maybe that's because his entire body was shaking. His stomach hurt.

The eyebrows narrowed. He hadn't slept in days. Hadn't done a lot of things in days. His heart raced, slowed, then raced again. He tried to control his breathing. God dammit why did his stomach hurt so bad? It was annoying. Everything was annoying.

He pushed off the marbled counter-top, but kept level with the mirror, staring at himself, barely keeping balanced on weak knees. His ears were thin. His nose was small. His lips curled into a snarl. The pain in his stomach pulsed, making his heart numb and his nerves flare. He balled his right fist. He couldn't take it. Not doing anything was stupid! Why was he being so stupid?

Stop looking so dumb. Man up you pussy. Who cares how much it hurts? You got your own ass into this. Shut the hell up! Quit your bitching! "Raaaah!"

The untempered glass of the old mirror broke as he brought his fist upon it like a hammer with all of his might. He breathed heavily into a moment, where the quiet was deafening. His stomach stopped hurting for a while. Now his hand did.

A door opened with a quiet creak. A shadow panned the hallway floor as someone approached the open doorway, and then his sister's head peeked around the frame. Her eyes went wide, cheeks went pale. She moved all the way into the frame, as if to come in, but then stopped, looking at his hand.

He looked down. It was still pressed against the broken glass. He pulled it away; blood fell onto the wooden floor. He winced and muttered, "Fuck. That hurts…" He looked at his sister again. "…What?" He asked angrily.

She stepped back. "M—mom…" she said softly, then turned and ran into the hallway, screaming: "Mommy! Daddy!"

* * *

The hospital was quaint. The astringent smells of ammonia, latex and formaldehyde were almost welcoming. Plus, they were so atrocious they made his stomach stop bitching and moaning. Now he knew: if he ever had a stomach ache, he would down a shot of Pine-Sol, stretch a rubber glove over his head, and jump into a vat of pig-parts. If the first and second application didn't kill him, surely the humiliation of skinny-dipping with naked pigs would.

He wiggled his stiff fingers. All but his index and thumb on his right hand were in splints. It was like he was Freddy Kruger. Edward Scissor Hands. No…more like Terminator, with an accent that was bearable. If he had an on-switch, he could mix eggs and bake a cake!

He could see the stitches on his fingers between the metal of the splints. It was the only thing to look at. The cut was pretty clean. The pattern looked like he had roped red floss around his fingers. Hurt like a motherfucker. Now he knew how she had felt, at least a little bit. He looked at the empty seats of the room, and wondered if his family was even at the hospital. He wouldn't be surprised if they weren't; wouldn't hate them if they weren't.

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in?" He asked after it came again.

It opened to reveal a kinda-hot looking nurse. Early- to mid-twenties, maybe; tall, dark eyes, bleached hair. If she wasn't a guinea pig… No, no he could look past the guinea pig.

What the fuck was his fascination with pigs and pig-like things all of a sudden?

"Hello Mr. …Um…I'm gonna botch this cuz I don't know how to say it bu—”

"Just call me Kev. Everyone else does."

She looked at the clip-board, hiding relief that she didn't have to pronounce either of his ridiculous names. She smiled back at him. "Well, it seems like you had a bad cut there. Lots of stitches. What happened?"

"…Wet floor. I slipped. Banged my hand on a mirror." He could lie pretty well if he just sounded like he was half-pissed. He didn't have to try very hard to sound that way.

"I see. Well, the doctor is going to give you an antibiotic and some pain-killing liquids. But we need to know if you're taking any other drugs."

He couldn't help the reaction on his face. It was subtle; he just closed his eyes and mouth like a fish, or like a camera taking a picture. "Like…what exactly?" He asked.

"Other medications. Like, do you take Adderall or anything with a funny name like that?"

"No. I don't take any other drugs," he replied. Then he realized how stupid it was to say it like that—but the nurse seemed dumb to what he meant. Thank god she was a guinea pig. How the hell did she get through med-school anyway?

He could think of a few ways.

"Well then, looks like we're all set. I'll take you to your family and we'll have you out of here before the sun rises, yeah?"

* * *

The house was silent as a graveyard. It was cold. Winter was bitter. Night was the worst, so thankfully it was between two and three in the afternoon. Closer to three probably, but he didn't really know. He blinked dryly, his lids scratching his eyeballs. It felt like he just grated concrete over them. He stared at his reflection in the broken mirror on the bathroom wall, the one his parents set up for his sister since she was too much of a shrimp to use the one over the sink.

The blood and glass that was on the floor was cleaned up. The mirror was waiting to be moved once his parents got home from work.

The broken-him looked more put-together than the person he was reflecting.

He heard her door creak open. She must have woken up. Because of him she had to get all worked up in the middle of the night. She had to go with them to the hospital because her parents very well couldn't leave her alone—but somehow they left both of them alone while they went to work. The stupidity of it. Why the hell had they done that this entire time? No wonder all fuckery had gone on for so long.

She froze and gasped as she saw him looking at her so expectantly. Time hiccuped for a second, and then she dropped her surprise like she often dropped many things she held, because she was fairly clumsy, and just looked at him.

"What?" He asked irritably. Then he asked again, less irritably. But she didn't say anything. Why should she? He sighed, and wrapped his good hand around the amber bottle on the counter-top. He looked at it for the third time.

"You dident sleep, did you?"

Had that really come from her? He looked over; she didn't seem to have moved or changed at all. Like she had spoken it without moving her lips. A disembodied voice. Telepathy. But she spoke again, and rest assured her thin lips moved, her little voice sputtering through them like a fat guy getting out of a crowded elevator.

"Da lay-dee say-ed you needed sleep. But you dident… wright?"

"Not really," he replied curtly. Truth was, he hadn't gotten but four hours in the past three days. Good thing it was winter break.

"Whassat?" She asked, pointing at the bottle in his hands.

"S'pain killer," he answered with a fatigued slur.

"Why you wanna kill Spain?"

He shook his head, a little surprised that a smile wanted to form at her cute stupidity. "No no, it-is-pain-killer," he clarified, annunciating every word.

"Yowr…inna pain?" The question came out of her like she didn't want to know the answer.

"All over, sis," he said, "Hurts all over." He looked at the bottle again. "It's called…'A-P-A-P-slash-C-O-D, one-twenty-dash-twelve-over-five M-L'. No idea what that shit means." He looked at his sister quizzically, as if she would have the answer. "I mean…'stuff', not 'shit'. Sorry."

At his apology, she returned the quizzical look.

He spoke again, "Oh here we go, 'sub for'…dam—arn." He held up the bottle as he censored his cuss, "Y'know what this stuff is, sis?"

Her mouth stared at him like a bass's. "Spain killer?" She finally asked.

He had to suppress another smile. "Well yeah but…but this stuff is…it's like…it's a drug." He looked at it, rubbing his thumb over the label methodically. He shook the bottle a little, letting the liquid slosh inside with a plu-ploop. He looked over at her again, saw a glower droop on her face.

"Oh." She said. "Well," she started to turn, "Have fun with it then. I woent tell."

"Stop." He commanded, more sternly than he wanted, his voice sending shivers down his own back. "I mean…hang on. Who said I was gonna do…'that'?"

"Who sayed you werenent?"

"Touché." He let it slosh again, "But really, this isn't my kind of drug." He continued gently shaking the bottle to hide the fact that his hand was trembling. "I could sell this maybe."

"Yowr a dealer now?" She asked.

He looked at her, and felt something he didn't like, coupled with anger. Third-graders aren't supposed to know what a dealer is.

"Good luck." She said, turning around. "May-bee if you really do have dat gun, you can shoot one of your frwiends in a twrade."

He slammed the bottle on the counter-top as he turned around, growling.

In the doorway, she yipped with fright.

He glared at her.

She was frozen in her fear, shaking, just about ready to piddle all over herself. She had only gotten control over that a couple of years ago.

That thought made his stomach hurt; he knew exactly why her bladder had been so incontinent.

He lifted the bottle again, cramming it into the armpit of his weirded-up hand for stability. His left palm pressed on the cap. He pushed and turned the child-safe top. Before he took it off, he set the bottle back down on the counter. The cap made a gentle clack against the marble as he placed it, which seemed to echo off the tension in the air; tension he had wrought. He brought the bottle to his nose, whiffing it. It didn't really have a smell. It probably didn't taste like grape. Didn't matter.

"H…hey wait!" His sister rushed in, gripping both hands on his weirded-up arm, watching as the dark liquid in the bottle spilled out the neck and into the sink. "Whataya doin'!"

"Getting rid of it."

"You like the pain? What, you emo?"

He chuckled. "You actually know what that is?" The last of the medication disappeared into the other dimension that was the drain. Some fish or alligator or whateverthehell was gonna have a fun time tonight. He looked at the fingers latched onto his arm, then into the hazel eyes of the person from whom they originated. They let go submissively, and she backed away.

He dropped the bottle into the little garbage bin, and brushed past her. "I don't ever want to hear you talk about dealers, guns, or shooting people again. Understand?" He could hear her sock-softened footfalls behind him as he walked down the hallway. Whatever, she wouldn't dare follow him into his room. He turned into the doorway, closing his eyes and sighing. He expected to hear her footsteps stop or go down the hall, but of course she followed him in.

Disobedient little twerp.

"You're not allowed in my room y'know."

"I…I know. B-but, you can come in mine, if you wanna…"

"Huh?" He opened his eyes. Light blue bed sheets with clouds and smiley-sun faces; big poster with a few galloping horses on the wall—one with a drawn-on mustache, beard, monocle and top-hat that looked familiar; big, goofy alarm clock. And Plush. As far as the eye could see, tharr be plush. Yup. He took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. He started to head back when he heard the door shut behind him.

She swallowed, letting go of the doorknob. Her ears were down—they always were when she wasn't scared. She wore her favorite light blue gown over her favorite winter purple pajama sweats. Her favorite color was light blue. It was everywhere.

She walked past him toward the bed, the air visibly thickening as she drew near, and then thinning a little as their distance increased. She clambered up onto the mattress, and sat with her legs dangling over the edge. They dingle-dangled for a moment, and then she patted the mattress with her right hand.

He sighed, walking forward without even feeling the movement. He perceived the distance as a hundred miles, each board of wood an endless desert between him and the bed, an oasis of blue that he, in the most desperate way, needed to get to. He felt dizzy. Maybe he'd lost more blood than he thought.

The bed bumped into him unexpectedly. He landed on his palms, surprised. Then he composed himself and sat, his legs dangling a little less. If he stretched his toes he could reach the floor. He tried to, holding himself on the covers and refraining a cheat by scootching his butt too far forward. He managed one toe, and then remembered someone was watching him. He looked over to her; almost couldn't recognize her at first.

"Yowr shayking." She said, worriment in her voice. "Even yowr eyes are shayking…"

"I'm all right," he lied, reassuringly, "I just…" he looked around, spotting her bookcase, "I…need something to read. Go get me a book wouldja?" He pointed at the shelves—but let his arm fall as he saw how badly it was jittering.

She slid off the bed, her eyes still locked onto him. It was extremely creepy how she watched him while she went to the bookcase. He almost thought he was imagining it. It was like one of those action figures where you could turn the body instead of the head, which had a very twisted and trippy aspect to it. Like something out of The Exorcist.

He felt high. That was unsettling.

She plucked a book from the shelf, eyes still on him, and then came back to the bed.

He retrieved it, flipped it over one-handed, as she had given it to him back-up, and then read the big letters aloud: "The Very Bad Bunny."

She gasped. "Nawdat one!"

He felt it being tugged; he gripped it tightly between thumb and other fingers. She pulled pretty damn hard—she was stronger than he thought. But, jitters or no jitters, one-handed or two, left or right, he held on like a cowboy to the bull. Except it didn't take her eight seconds to give one long exasperated shout and yank, only to fall back onto her butt. He heard a sniffle.

"I dident mean'a get dat one," she said, panic saturating her words.

If the look upon her was worth anything to him anymore, it would have been like finding the mother lode on top of a geyser of oil right next to a mountain of diamonds.

He stared down at her, trying to keep her from shaking like an earthquake in his vision. He patted the bed. "Get up'er," he spoke lazily.

She got up, straightening her nightgown, and pulled herself onto the bed. Before she was halfway up, his hand supported her by the rear, helping her the rest of the way. When she surmounted the climb, he was lying down with the open book resting upon the arm of his hurt and weirded-up hand. She watched him stare at the page for a moment, not quite sure what to do. Then he looked at her. She shrank back.

"C'mere," he beckoned, moving to give her space.

As she crawled to him, he fixed a spot for her on the pillows. She settled into it, and he gave the book to her, and asked her to lift her head. The arm of his weirded-up hand slid under her, supporting her a little as she let her head fall back. She couldn't help but look at the caged fingers, which were forced to keep still by the weird things that covered them, like the wrathful heads of Cerberus collared and subdued.

"They're called splints," he said.

Her eyes flicked to his face, afraid of him being angry at her gawking. But there was no anger.

"Kinda like the cast you had. They keep my fingers from bending. If I bent my fingers, those stitches would tear, and then I'd start bleeding again."

"D-doent move yowr hand anymowr," she pleaded.

He shook his head. "I 'woent'. I promise." He pointed at the book. "Could you…read that to me?"

"You canent re—?" She slammed a hand over her lips to shut herself up.

So commonly she did that: ask a question before she thought about its repercussion, only to clam up before it was done, but after it was said. Any time such a thing happened, the result was usually not to her benefit.

To her, why should this time be any different?

"Nah. My eyes hurt. I…can't see straight." He reached and tapped the page. "Just…could you please read it? I wanna know what that bastard with a bow-tie does that's so bad—sorry, said a swear word."

She looked at him aslant for quite some time. He said a word he had never said before. Not 'bastard', he said that one enough. She knew every cuss-word in the book. Even some that werenent in the book.

"What?" He asked after a moment.

"Dided you just say… 'please'?"

"Are you gonna read it or not?"

The threat had nothing threatening about it. A dragon wheezing smoke. She swallowed anyway, clearing away the ashes in her throat. She adjusted the book, and started reading it aloud; one eye on the page, one eye on her brother. She was wary that her brother's arm was rather close to her neck—the weirded-up hand looked menacing and sharp. But she kept reading anyway, until she got caught up on a word. "'First he…he…gluh-ed… he gloob-ded—'"

"Gloo'd," he corrected her pronunciation, "'First he glued';" It made her look up at him again. He smiled weakly. "Keep going. What happens next?"

She started reading again, slowly, but then when she got her momentum going she almost forgot about the surprise and the fear and the weirded-up hand. And then the book was over. She shut it with a cardboard crackle, and returned her eyes to him for the millionth time this afternoon. He was looking at the book, which he took from her.

He held it up, his hand supported by his knee, and looked at the two rabbits on the cover. The book visibly shook in his hand. He decided he'd just let the jitters jitter away. "Good book," he commented, a smile on his face, "I think I want it to be my favorite. Did you like it?"

"…No," she replied tersely, looking down.

"Why not?"

"I'm sawry!" She blurted, ears springing to attention as she covered her face with her hands, assuming a fetal-defensive posture. "I'm sawry I sayed about the shooting, I dident mean it I swears!"

The eyes that peeked out between her fingers were nothing but pupil. He may as well have been a wolf. To her, he probably was, and she was the most timid of sheep. "I'm not mad." He said calmly. "Why should I be mad about you warning me of the future?"

"Cuz…yowr fwriend…"

He placed his hand on her sock-covered feet, toes blue but warm and cottony-soft against his palm.

As her foot was rubbed, the look upon her brother's face darkened.

"I'm scayard," she muttered.

"Why?" He questioned, deeply concerned.

"Cuz…yowr acting really funny…"

Funny. What did you have to do to fuck up people's perception of kindness as a strange way of behaving?

He didn't have to think long for an answer.

"Are… you… okay?" She asked, with an obvious muster of courage.

"I dunno little sis."

"How long hased it beened?"

"Since when?"

"Since…you smowked…"

He didn't question how she figured that out. She was smart enough to, and that's all that mattered. "When did Jimmy make news?"

"Fawer days ago…"

"Four days ago."

He'd received many different colors of looks today. If each one were a color in the rainbow he was probably just missing 'G'. Or maybe he could miss the 'I' since Indigo got Pluto'd. But this look. This was the weirdest look of the gaggle. He couldn't figure out what it meant, and didn't really have much time to.

Without a word she hopped off the bed and appeared to disappear underneath it, save for her toes squished under her hiney. When she emerged, her hands were clasped around something.

"Whatchya hidin'?" He asked, tilting his head.

"I…I thawted about it and…and I wanned to…to try some…bud-I…I doent know how to do it…"

She opened her palms.

Such an aura of purity had she, that he half-expected a beautiful flower to grow and bloom from a meager clump of soil she held. But no flower would ever grow from the dirt within the little plastic bag.

"Maybee…we could do it togedowr?" She held it up, presenting it to him like a peasant offering charity to the king.

To the king of fools.

A wail rose from within the room. It did not come from her, as it normally might. What started as a groan of confusion and dismay and crescendoed to an ululation of disgust and terror. He snatched the bag, and leapt over his sister, crashing and rolling onto the wooden floor. Sober, he thundered through the hallway.

She followed, heart racing; what had she done!? She went to his room—but he wasn't in there. She heard a frantic growl coming from the bathroom. She went to the door, too fearful to pass through the threshold. She stood, one hand the frame, prepared to dash away at the twitch of a feather.

He was in front of the toilet, bag balanced in his weirded-up hand. His fingers tugged at the knot at the top of the bag, but it just fumbled and teased out of his grasp. He growled again, took the bag in his left hand, turned it over, and bit into it like a lemon. His teeth pulled and the plastic tore, clumps of brown falling out like shedding scabs. He held the bag so the hole was over the toilet, dumping the contents into the bowl. It didn't take long for it to empty, and once it was he threw the bag into the garbage.

He leaned over the bowl, extending his tongue. His good hand scratched at it, as if trying to rip it out. He let out the most grotesque gagging noises, like his tonsils just had to go. His jaw quivered once, twice.

And then he vomited.

She watched as the fluid of his stomach went into the bowl. Long ago she had stopped the instinct of looking away. She watched him patiently, as a ghost would hover in and watch out of curiosity.

He rose up, gasping deeply through his mouth. It didn't prevent the smell of bile from sickening him. But he kept his stomach still, pulling the handle to keep from seeing the slurry. When the toilet stopped gurgling, he turned to regard his sister. Her ears were up. Her ears were only up when she was scared.

Her ears were stiff as fence posts.

"Was that all of it?" He asked through a wet heave, but she remained a statue. He stood up, walked toward her. "I said, was that all of it?" There was anger in his voice.

She took a step, turning toward her room.

"Wait!" He pleaded hoarsly, and she paused; but would not do so for long.

The wooden floor protested as his knees collided onto it. She gasped and flinched, but didn't budge.

His hand rose.

She didn't close her eyes. She knew what was coming. It wasn't the first time. She would be brave. She extended her cheek; best to brace for it rather than try to avoid it. The sting didn't last so long that way, lots of times had taught her that.

His arm wrapped around her, and his cheek brushed against hers.

The world shook—he shook. He looked like a shipwrecked marine, hanging onto a piece of debris to keep afloat. He was heavy, but she supported him.

She was wrong. She expected his fist to collide against her, not a cheek so matted and damp.

He was burning hot, like he had a fever. He shook so terribly.

"Don't be scared," he said, curdled milk on his breath, "I know I sound angry… but I'm not angry." This was spoken with a growl. He took a breath, "I won't be mad when you tell me. Yes-or-no: did you get that from my room?"

She nodded, then spoke the answer.

"Are you sure?" Another nod. "You're not lying?" Her head shook. "I know I lie, and it hurts you a lot, but if you're lying to me…it'll hurt a hundred-million times worse than that. Are you sure you're not lying to me?" A vigorous nod. "Okay. Now listen. If there's more, I want you to get it—all of it—and bring it here. Understand?"

"Yes." She said, and received an ushering pat on her back. As he got up, she immediately darted off. She tore through her room toward her bed, scrambling underneath. She reached for the Twinkies box, pulled it out, and dumped the only other plastic bulb into her hand. She squeezed it.

When she arrived back into the bathroom, her brother was leaning against the sink gargling mouthwash. It dribbled out of the corner of his mouth and down his neck. He leaned over, spat it out, and turned on the sink, washing it all away. When he was done, he turned toward her.

She presented the baggy.

"That's it?" He asked again.

She nodded.

He took the baggy from her by the aglet, watched it spin for just a little bit until it settled. He let go and caught it with the same hand before it fell, and lowered onto one knee. "I need your help. Could you please loosen the knot for me?"

Cautiously, his little sister's small hands reached for the plastic.

"Don't touch anything but the knot," he warned, "Or you'll be trapped like Aladdin in the Tiger's Mouth."

Her little fingers grasped the knot, pulling it loose. He watched the middle and index of her left hand with particular interest.

With the knot loosened, he ordered her to let go.

She did so, pulling her hands behind her to make sure they were well out of sight.

He stood up, and made his way to the toilet. Using the thumb and index finger of his weirded-up hand, which weren't weirded-up, he pulled the knot the rest of the way and, after a long pause, turned the bag over. The contents flowed like a waterfall, disappearing into the bowl. It took no more than a second to empty, and he threw it into the toilet, shut the lid, and flushed.

As the plumbing did its job, he fell against the wall, and slid down, bringing his knees up to his chest. He gazed as the toilet settled down, and then without looking over asked her: "That's it—that's all of it?"

She dared enter the room. "Yes," she replied, and hopped up on the toilet to face him. "D'ass all I had."

Tears welled up in his eyes. He laughed once, and then again. The edges of his eyes leaked water, and his cheeks dimpled as he smiled, looking upward at his sister. "It's all gone?"

"As fa'w as I knows," she replied, fidgeting with the edge of her nightgown.

"You know what else, Lyza?" He asked, and when she responded he pointed to the toilet bowl underneath her, "Big Bad Brother's gone too. Down there. I threw him up and flushed him. He's drowning right now. And I'm glad."

"Are you okay?" She asked with deep worry. "Yowr acting wreally funny and it's scayaring me."

"I'm better than ever, little sis. I just hurt. All over."

"I doent like that. Why does it haffa hurt you so much?"

"I dunno. Why did I have to hurt you so much?"

She didn't have an answer. But then, she didn't need an answer; he already knew it. And as he stared into those caramel eyes too sweet even for Willy Wanka to fathom, he wondered just what lay beyond the shell of terseness, timidity, and trepidation which were the only three emotions he was worthy of her warranting him. He hoped so terribly that it was a sister he had not seen in a long time; feared so tremendously that it was a sister he had damaged irreparably.

"Sis…all the things I did I—" he choked on a lump, "S'okay if you…still hate me. And if that never changes…that's okay too."

She hopped off the toilet, and held out her hand with a timid smile; her ears were up, but she wasn't afraid.

But her ears were up.

"I never hated you," she said softly, clearly, sisterly; "Now c'mon. You nee'ta sleep. I'lla walk you to yowr room."

"I don't wanna sleep—not in there. It smells like—"

"Then sleep inna my room," she offered, clasping his hand. Her eyes were met with an amazed expression.

"You'd…let me sleep in your room?"

"Showr," she pulled, and he rose like an obedient puppy, "I'll even read to you if yous want."

"…I'd like that," he said with a warble as he followed her gentle tug, "You'll read my favorite?"

"Of corze, Kval. Iffa tha'ss what you wants."

Lonely Oak Chapter 1

LemmyNiscuit

The Very Bad Bunny

Note: This is an excerpt from a larger series. If you enjoyed it, you may find the rest on SoFurry or InkBunny.

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