It was some late hour on Tuesday morning when Joss got home, stumbling into the chasm of the entranceway, one hand on the wall as he moved, step by step toward his bedroom. He’d stayed at the uni pub with April till they closed, then went back to the halls for more drinking, as he and April encouraged a group of first years to write off Monday night completely. On the surface is was a great night. There was a lot of laughter, especially when he and another guy (Jack? Frank?) walked in on April with her hand down Ollie’s pants, and when Dana threw up out the window and everyone who wasn’t a Nutford resident had to flee out the same window because one of the dorm neighbours called campus security because it was nearly three in the fucking morning and they just wouldn’t shut up.

He and April split up from the others, running toward McKinley till April had to bend over, hands gripping her knees, gasping for breath till the panting turned into tears.

Joss didn’t know what to do. He was drunk enough that everything was pretty abstract. He patted her back and hoped for the best.

She cried for a bit, but stopped herself by screaming instead and punching a tree. Joss stepped backwards, alarmed by her sudden aggression. April swore one long continuous stream of abuse at the tree, at herself, and at Ollie, till the rant turned into one aimed at May, and she punched the tree again till Joss pounced on her arm to stop her, and she’d headbutted him in the face, right on the bruise Teagan had given him.

He limped home by himself. Till the cold hallways out his house gaped open to meet him.

How the fuck had he ended up here? This church house… deep wooden archways and heavy shadows, and cold, cold air. So far removed from the places he’d lived before – apart from the cold. The memory of being cold was a familiar one. Nearly comfortable. His face where it hurt pulsed with heat, and he pressed his skin against one of the brick pillars to cool it down. He wanted to go wake up Leon, but he wanted it in the same way he used to wanted to wake up his mother after nightmares when he was a kid; he knew it was childish, unnecessary and shameful.

But the nightmares clung around him, and he wanted that comfort anyway.

Didn’t do it, obviously. He fell into his cold bed, and lay away for a while feeling like his corneas were made of cut glass, felling the deep, ingrained horror of his life cutting through him, till exhausted him dragged him, like a rip tide, and sleep came like drowning.

Joss slept till his alarm went off at eight, when he woke up (spinning everything spinning tilting like he’d woke up and the world was on new axis new nauseating axis) took the battery out, and went back to sleep for the rest of the day. It was the first time he’d missed class all semester.

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Darker London

October 2014

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