Chapter Four: The School
He awoke to his alarm to find himself curled in to Anakin's chest, his arms splayed over that lean expanse. One leg was crossed
Anakin shifted only when he did, but with a grace that said he'd already woken. Caius blushed and turned away from Anakin
to turn off the alarm and reset it.
“Good morn,” Anakin murmured quietly.
“Uh, yeah.” He looked over to Anakin sheepishly. “I take it I instigated... that?” He looked over
Anakin; he couldn't get out until Anakin did.
Anakin seemed to notice this, because he nimbly scooted off the bed and stood away, giving Caius room to move. Caius slid
out and turned to his dresser. “Yes.”
Caius blushed harder. “Um, sorry about that.”
“I had no problems.”
Anakin sounded a bit too amused for Caius' liking. “Yeah, well, I shouldn't... lead you on like that. I'm not interested.”
“Sometimes a person has difficulty adjusting to their sexual interests.”
Caius gripped his jeans and glared at Anakin. “I'm not gay,” he hissed. Then he grabbed up the shirt that had
been his cover the day before. “Here. Use this... please use this as a sheet. Try to read it or something.”
Anakin's mouth twitched. “All right.” He scanned the shirt. “Organized...” he hesitated, “people?”
“Yup.” Caius drew on underwear and jeans as quickly as possible.
“Organized people are just too lazy to look for things.” He chuckled. “That is one way to look at it.”
“That's incredible,” Caius remarked as he put on his shirt. This one was blue and button-down. He quickly did
the buttons. “You soaked it up.”
“It is easier when I already know how to speak the language,” Anakin pointed out.
“I guess.” Caius thought about it. “Usually it's hard, though. You're just good at learning languages, I
Anakin didn't say anything to that.
Caius shrugged. “I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be back as quickly as possible. If that collar thing starts to hurt,
come on in... if you want.” Caius grimaced before leaving his room.
The kids at the bus stop looked at him strangely when he arrived, but he ignored them. None of them were people he spoke to,
so he didn't care what they thought.
The bus arrived in due time. Caius took his usual seat behind the bus driver, making certain that, though Anakin took the
seat by the window, they didn't touch one another. Anakin watched the scenery pass in wonder. “It moves so quickly,”
Caius smiled. It was incredible what those with technology took for granted sometimes. “I guess,” he whispered.
He looked at his bookbag. Inside was an iPod and headphones. Should he listen to it? But no, he shouldn't isolate Anakin any
more than he already was. The poor man would be trudging through school, even more invisible than Caius.
No, that wasn't quite fair. He wasn't invisible; it was worse. He was seen as a piece of meat, or sometimes as a computer
– just there to help out and give information. Because he studied, he often knew answers to questions. Because he was
prepared, he always had enough pencils and paper to go around. He existed, but for no good reason. He wasn't needed by anyone.
Was Anakin missed in his world? Was someone anxiously awaiting Anakin's return? He couldn't see Anakin without comrades. The
man seemed to radiate an aura around him that drew others in. How else would Caius care so quickly for someone he'd just met?
Caius had always been alone. He spoke to others in school, and he participated in class. But he was very, very used to being
Anakin had changed all that. And so quickly...
Caius leaned his head back. “Are you all right?” he whispered.
Anakin turned to him. “Yes. I will avoid any physical contact.”
Caius bit his lip. “It's fine if you can't, Anakin. Really.”
“It would cause trouble?” Anakin asked.
Caius shrugged. “Probably. Usually strangers aren't allowed in the school buildings. They've become really paranoid
since... well, since all the shootings.”
“Shootings?” Anakin sat forward. His eyes were suddenly much more intent.
“Yeah. They're rare,” Caius said, trying to placate even as he wondered how Anakin knew what a shooting was, “but
they've occurred. Some students entered their schools with guns.” Did the man know what guns were?
Anakin's eyes narrowed. “Could this happen here?”
Caius shrugged. “As I said, it's rare. Statistically–”
“Could. It. Happen. Here?” Anakin hissed.
“Well, yeah.” Caius shrugged again. “But you can be killed anywhere. It all depends on luck, really.”
Anakin was silent at this. “You... do not fear death.” It wasn't a question.
Caius wasn't going to touch that subject. He wasn't the type to rush towards death, but he wasn't going to run away, either.
“I guess not,” he answered.
Anakin fell silent.
They arrived at the school without speaking again. Caius hurriedly moved out into the aisle first and paused long enough for
Anakin to exit in front of him. He left the bus then, hefting his backpack. The school was the same as all high schools –
brick and boring. It looked like an institution for the mentally disturbed.
The building was two stories. The cafeteria, directly to the right of the main entrance, was probably filled to the brim with
students. In front of the school waited the rest of the student body, waiting to shove off to first period as soon as the
bell rang. Caius glared at the building before him. The grass beside the sidewalk was littered with red and brown and orange
leaves, not raked so far. An old janitor was slowly coming out to fix this problem.
“I hate this place,” Caius muttered. Anakin turned from his own study to penetrate Caius' heated gaze.
“Two boys are heading toward you,” Anakin murmured. Caius turned with trepidation.
“Mark and Anthony,” Caius named, seeing them come. Oddly enough, they were his gay friends. “Hey, guys,”
“Hey!” Mark called, waving cheerily. “Where were you yesterday?”
“I was out,” Caius said with a shrug.
“Nancy was worried about you,” Anthony noted.
Nancy was a pain in the ass. “Why? It was only one day.”
“Yeah, but you never miss, man.” Mark threw an arm around Caius' shoulders. Caius tensed and quickly got
out from under Mark's touch. Mark knew damn well he didn't like to be touched. His friend was unfazed by his habitual retreat.
“You're our Golden Boy, remember?”
Caius wanted to hiss. Yes, he knew he was their 'Golden Boy.' Sometimes he wondered if they were his friends only because
of his reputation at the school. “Even I get sick,” Caius commented.
Anthony nodded. “Yes, I suppose.” He turned away. “Have you seen Nancy? She said she would meet us here.”
The last person Caius wanted to see was Nancy. Mark was irritating enough, with his dark brown hair and dark brown eyes and
big, stupid grin. Mark was the group's uber-happy irritant. Caius constantly wondered what solemn-eyed Anthony saw in him.
Caius inadvertently moved closer to Anakin, prepared for the worst. School was always a chore for him, and for more than one
reason. He wasn't social by nature, and he wasn't the type to hang around with these sorts of people. Mark was too... exuberant,
and Nancy was just freaking psychotic. Anthony was okay, but whenever he was with Mark, the man became more... what... exuberant?
The man became exuberant, as well. Anthony was happy with that. Fine. Caius wasn't.
Not that he didn't like that Anthony was happy... it was just... he'd been friends with Anthony for years. The two of them
could sit in silence together and be completely comfortable. But then Anthony met Mark, and Mark dragged in Nancy out of pity
or something. Now Caius found himself with a group of people he was nothing like, and no longer able to fit in. It made him
“Oh, here she is,” Mark said suddenly. He pointed to a flying bob of long black hair. Caius groaned softly.
“Oh! Caius, you're here!” She waved even more enthusiastically than Mark had, running through the crowds
to stand beside them. “Caius, I was so worried!”
“There was no need to be,” Caius said brusquely. “I'm fine.”
“But you never miss,” she continued.
Caius hated the whiny aspect to her voice, almost as much as he hated how she had to stress a word in every sentence she spoke.
What he hated the most, however, was the pure infatuation that shone in her big blue eyes.
“Well, I did yesterday.”
“The bell's about to ring,” Anthony noted. He seemed to find amusement with the relief that flashed across Caius'
face. In the short silence, Caius found a moment of their lost camaraderie. It soon disappeared.
“Well, Caius, did you go to a party yesterday?” Mark teased.
Caius turned to him, not even changing his expression. “You know I don't like parties,” Caius said evenly.
“That's right,” Nancy defended. “He'd rather paint.”
Caius turned to her. How could she make a simple statement sound so stupid? She made him sound special in the head.
Thankfully, the bell rang then. Nancy moaned and waved a quick good-bye to everyone. Her first class was on the opposite end
of the building from everyone else's.
Caius sighed in relief and moved to leave.
“Caius,” Anthony called. He quickly waved Mark away when the man paused beside him. With a shrug, Mark waved and
left with the teeming mass of students. Caius carefully moved closer. For the first time since the three arrived, he cast
a glance to Anakin alone. The man was watching him carefully.
“What is it, Anthony?” he asked, coming up before the man.
“What happened yesterday?”
Caius was surprised. He hadn't been acting any different than usual. He was always surly and stand-off-ish. It was nothing
new. “What do you mean?”
“Something's changed,” Anthony remarked softly. “I'm still your old friend – I can still see it. Something
has happened, and I'm not just talking about your latest beating.”
Caius morphed from surprised to stunned. Anthony knew? “What?”
Anthony shifted his backpack. “Look, I realize that things between us have changed, but do you really think I stopped
Well, yeah, he had. “You changed,” Caius accused softly.
“Yes. And you haven't.”
Caius bristled. “Look, what're you-”
“Listen,” Anthony hissed. “You are my friend. My very first. I have been waiting all this time for that
light to hit your eyes.”
“Light?” Caius echoed. What light?
Anthony sighed. “Nevermind. Just know that I'll be watching out for you. Don't miss another day, okay? Nancy's not the
only one who worried.”
Caius frowned. Had he really worried Anthony? “Look, I'm sorry.”
Anthony shook his head. “Get to class,” he murmured. With a raised eyebrow, he turned away from Caius and disappeared
into the crowd.
“What the hell?” Caius managed. He could only stand for a moment.
“Caius-” Anakin started.
The two-minute warning bell sounded, and Caius yelped. “Shit, I'm gonna be late!”
He sat through his history class, handing in the homework and slouching back in his seat. History had never been a huge interest
of his. After all, everything that had happened was in the past and couldn't be undone. All the people who died couldn't be
brought back, and all the wars fought couldn't be un-fought. No point.
Instead he passed notes back and forth between himself and Anakin, helping Anakin with his English and staving off boredom.
Though Anakin did seem to need to mention three times that Caius should be paying attention to the lecture.
Still, Caius had more fun than ever before. He went to his second class with a small smile on his face. He hated Biology almost
as much as history, but it was better than English. And in Biology, he learned a bit more about shapes and designs, whether
it was intentional or not. And he very much loved learning about art.
He was sitting at a group table this time and couldn't trade notes with Anakin. Instead he found himself remembering why he
A student across from him asked for his help on a ditto, and another came up and asked for a pen or pencil. He helped both,
then finished his own work. When he sat back and closed his eyes, it hit him like a brick: how invisible he was.
The class was loud and excited, groups getting together and talking instead of doing their work, and others grouping together
to actually do the work. He alone sat in the mass of bodies and remained silent and alone. He spoke to no one. Was it because
he himself didn't instigate a conversation? Or was it simply because everyone else already seemed to have someone to speak
to? There was no point in shoving oneself into an already-formed group.
“You seem lonely,” Anakin commented.
Caius jumped slightly. He'd almost forgotten the other man's presence. He blushed in shame. However invisible he seemed, he
wasn't. Anakin had it much worse. “I'm fine. You?” he whispered.
“What?” one kid asked, turning to him.
Caius waved his hand airily. “No, nothing. Just complaining out loud.”
The kid gave him a consoling grin. “I know what you mean. This is a pain.”
Caius knew the guy, a fairly popular blond. “Yeah,” Caius agreed shortly, and turned his head away. He locked
eyes with Anakin.
The man was leaning against the wall, his deep purple eyes assessing Caius' every move. “I am well. It is interesting
to learn the customs here.” At Caius' raised brow, he continued. “Many of your male classmates push one another.
It is similar to what people in my world do. And your women are similar, as well, though I do not understand what 'like totally'
Caius stifled a laugh.
“And why do your women wear ink on their nails?” Anakin asked. “No, please do not bother to answer the question.
Surely it is something considered beautiful in your world.”
Caius just shrugged. He'd never seen the use for nail polish, either.
“Do men always speak so vulgarly?” Anakin asked suddenly, his eyebrows raised. Apparently he'd been listening
to a conversation that Caius had unknowingly tuned out.
Again Caius shrugged.
Anakin sighed. “I see. Are Anthony, Mark, and Nancy your only companions?”
Caius could already hear the censure in the man's tone, and he didn't like it. He picked up his ditto and took it to the teacher,
even though he knew the teacher would collect them all at the end of class. Just because Anakin was used to having a lot of
friends didn't mean everyone else in the world had a lot of friends, too.
He wasn't like the others. He had a... unique situation at home. And he was a painter, already making money on his paintings.
His name was slowly getting out there, something he strove to hide from everyone he knew. But it made him different in a way
he couldn't overcome. He was lucky people talked to him.
He returned to his seat with a bit of trepidation, only to be met with silence. Caius didn't know whether to be relieved or
upset. In the end he just sat back and waited for the end of the period.
After Math, English, PE, Lunch, Psychology, and Drawing, the bell signaled the end of the school day. Caius got them moving
to Goodwill. He didn't have enough money to go to Wal-Mart for clothes, let alone the fancier stores. Anakin would have to
“Where are we going?” Anakin asked. It was the first time the man had spoken to him since Biology.
Caius scowled. “Goodwill. You need clothes.”
Anakin seemed surprised. “We're still going?”
Caius hissed. “Of course.”
There was another silence after that for the next two blocks. Caius wasn't looking forward to the walk home. There were other
walkers around him, conversing with one another. He felt some of their stares as he crossed the street, leaving them behind.
“I understand I spoke on a sensitive subject,” Anakin began.
Caius sighed. Dammit, he was stuck with this man for a year. He had to try to resolve this. It was the mature thing
to do, if nothing else. Why did doing the mature thing always manage to irritate him? “It's a bit of a sore spot,”
Caius admitted grudgingly.
“Sore spot?” Anakin thought about it. “Ah. Like a bruise.”
“Uh-huh.” Something like that, at least. “I don't fit in with them.”
“Why not?” Anakin asked.
Caius wanted to kick something. “Because I'm not like them.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know me and I know them!” Caius snarled. “Just drop the-” He stopped himself just before
he gave out an order. He turned and glared at the sidewalk for a moment, trying to calm himself down.
Anakin was silent again, seeming to give Caius time to recover. “What was Anthony talking about this morning?”
Caius had wondered about that, as well. “I don't know.”
“It sounded as if the two of you knew each other well,” Anakin remarked.
“We're childhood friends. He and I were total outcasts – quiet and stand-offish. We became close, but then Mark
entered into our middle school in seventh grade and things changed.”
“Things changed? How?”
Caius shrugged defensively. “Anthony and Mark are a couple, okay? They're totally obsessed with one another.”
Anakin seemed to let that sink in. “They are gay?”
“But I thought homosexuality is not well accepted here.”
Another silence. “Ah.” Anakin's gaze, when Caius turned to meet it, was penetrating. “Yet you stand by them.”
“Anthony's my friend, and so is Mark by association,” Caius said snappishly.
“Hm. Then your reluctance stems from your father.”
Caius bristled. “What-”
“Just an observation,” Anakin said softly. “Can you deny it?”
Caius stopped walking and glared at Anakin. “Look. I. Am. Not. Gay. Let it go.” He blushed furiously when an old
woman looked at him strangely as she passed him on the sidewalk.
“Come, let's continue walking.” Anakin ushered him forward slightly, then said lazily, “and you ordered
“Fuck!” Caius shouted. “I didn't mean it. Um, speak freely?”
“That worked,” Anakin murmured quietly.
“I'm sorry,” Caius whispered, once again feeling ashamed. He didn't want the power to order, especially not when
orders just slipped out of his mouth without him even thinking about it. It was cultural to give orders and not expect them
to be followed. It was hard to change the way he spoke.
“It is fine.”
“It's not fine,” he hissed. They walked in silence for a time, going for about one more block. The small shopping
district was visible now. “I don't want this power,” he snapped abruptly. “I don't want to be able to tell
you to... to strangle yourself and then find your hands around your neck. What the hell kind of power is that?”
“It is my punishment.” Anakin's voice was soft.
“And just what the hell did you do to deserve this punishment?” Caius demanded.
Anakin was silent for a time. “I do not wish to say.”
Caius felt his temper about to boil. “The hell? Don't want to say? We're stuck together for a year! The least you could
do is tell me!”
Anakin shook his head. “If at all possible, my reasons must remain hidden. I suspect that he knows, but I cannot risk
“What are you talking about? Tell-” Caius snapped his mouth shut and turned away, breathing heavily. He had to
control himself. If he didn't, he would order Anakin around.
But isn't that what he wanted? He wanted to know what Anakin was doing here, why he'd been sent. If he ordered Anakin to tell
him, he would. He would have no choice. Anakin could tell him everything he wanted to know – his reasons for having
been punished, his number of friends waiting for him, how he thought of him...
Ah! What was that? He didn't care – besides, he already knew, didn't he? Anakin had called him... he blushed. Beautiful.
Anakin had called him beautiful. What was he supposed to say to that?
“Is this the place?” Anakin asked softly.
Caius forced himself from his thoughts and looked up. In bold blue letters was the name Goodwill. In sat in the corner of
the district, boxed in by a pizza place and a nail store. Outside its doors was a row of bathrobes and two bikes.
He sighed. “Yes.” Carefully he led Anakin inside, making sure that no one around would accidentally bump into
his invisible slave.
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