Here's the second part - which omg, posting these here is good because it makes me see where I failed and what I need to fix before posting for real.
Warning - there is some cursing. Censored, but still.
He lay on his bed in the dark, staring up at the glowing stars dotted across his ceiling.
His chest rose and fell, rose and fell. One two one two he counted, and it seemed to him that the movement did not belong to him, that he was somewhere else. Something else.
He was a moon, marked with waterless seas. He was a planet, the dark chasing the light as he rotated round and round. He was a star, glowing on someone else's ceiling.
He lay on his bed in the dark. His skin ached.
The tiny stars above him grew brighter and wavered and fell one by one until finally, finally, he curled up and slept.
Seth's nose wrinkled as he stood in the lunch line.
He hadn't wanted to come to school today. He'd wanted to stay in his bed, where no one bothered him. But his mother had creased her forehead at him and spoken in low worried tones and he was pretty sure he'd heard her on the phone with her therapist, so when the bus came he was there waiting.
He paid for his slice of reheated pizza and was on the way to his table when Paul appeared in his path.
"Why'd you leave yesterday, man?"
"Had places to be."
"You can't let those guys do that to you. You gotta stand up to them."
"I'm fine. I can handle myself."
He stared past Paul, counting the tables in front of him. One two three four. His table was the fourth one. He had exciting plans for lunch today. They included the alchemy book, some note cards, and a hatred that burned with the fire of a million fusion reactions in the hearts of a million stars.
"You want to sit with us?"
Paul's voice cut into him, dragging him back into his skin. He was dry and cracked and he could not speak.
"Hey, whatever man. It's cool. I was just asking 'cause Caitlyn."
Seth looked up. Three tables to the right from where he sat, so one two three four one two three and there she was.
She was looking at him. She was waving. She was smiling.
He put his reheated pizza down on the table and slid into the seat next to her.
She smelled like raspberries and cotton and freshly mowed grass and he wanted to run away. She had seen him yesterday. She had known.
She had touched his knee.
Voices swirled around his ears, swelling and breaking and receding. He should probably try to listen, join in, seem normal, like he belonged here at her side. What did normal people talk about? He didn't think her friends would be interested in herbs and tinctures..
Paul was talking.
"So hey, are we going to the lake this weekend?"
"I don't know, it's supposed to rain."
"Scared of a little rain? Come on, it'll be fun."
"Maybe. Depends on how Mom is doing."
Caitlyn turned away from Paul and looked at him.
"I bet this is pretty boring for you, huh? We're not exactly the intelligentsia here." She smiled. "Learned that word in world history today."
"Oh no, it's cool. Definitely better than biology homework." She was talking to him and somehow he'd found words that made sense and he had said them in an audible tone of voice. He was very proud.
"That's good to hear. Yesterday, after those guys beat you up..."
She had known. He hadn't really thought about that until now. Yesterday she'd been there with her hair and her voice and his boat had disappeared and he had been distracted and she'd touched his knee and it had all washed over him but now, here, he needed to know.
"How did you know...about that?"
"Paul told me. I saw him outside the bathroom and he told me what happened and I came looking for you."
The voices were silent. Everyone had heard. Everyone knew.
He slid his chair back and stood up.
"I don't need your pity. I don't need to be saved. I'm not a ****ing charity case."
Caitlyn gaped at him, her eyes wide.
"I didn't mean that!"
"I'll be in the library. If you feel like playing savior to lost little boys, don't."
He picked up his tray, turned, and walked to the trash can. His lungs heaved. She had taken all his oxygen.
Whatever. He only needed hydrogen to glow.
Voices trickled down the row of tables.
"Man, Callie, you sure ****ed that up."
"Don't worry about it, he's a creep anyway. Did you see the way he was looking at you?"
Laughter lapped at his heels. He threw his tray in the trash and shoved through the cafeteria doors.
He wasn't running away. He wasn't. He'd told her he'd be in the library. He’d go and ask Mrs. Cain if The Golden Crucible had come in yet. Caitlyn could come find him if she wanted.
But did he want to be found?
He changed course and turned left, going outside to the picnic tables.
Someone else was already there.
The hands closed on him again, pulling him back from the drain and its dream of deliverance.
"Hey, Dustin, check it out. It's little Sethiekins.”
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