He wasn’t an artist, by any means. Eros knew that all too well.
He still liked to draw, though. Simple things, mostly. His medium was photography or paint. The way a camera or paintbrush felt in his hand, the way colors blurred and smeared together or came together in a perfect shot, the way a studio smelled.
He was far from an expert, but he liked to think himself conversant when it came to the things that caught his interest. Eros tried his best to do what he loved, tried to not think about Mania and his house and his bathtub. The small, artsy boy tried to pretend he had not stumbled upon Mania near a river when he had been photographing the local wildlife and forests. He tried to push it away from his thoughts, to purge the memory.
It never happened.
It had happened, though. Eros knew it had.
He remembered waking up tucked against Mania’s side as if it had happened yesterday. If he was still, and quiet, sometimes he thought he could smell the other boy. Three months had passed and Eros had done well in avoiding the older teen. Though, sometimes, he thought someone was watching him – when he’d turn, no one was ever there.
He went on with life, trying to remain hidden.
He should have known being invisible wasn’t going to last, let alone when the teachers of his art class announced they were going on a three-day field trip. Eros, he had been overjoyed about that. Three days away from his father, away from the Church, away from the place he had called home for his entire life.
Thursday, when he got on the bus, he should have known Mania would be present.
His obsession always had a way of slipping, unseen and unheard, into his life.
He had the misfortune of having Mania sit next to him, too. Eros wanted to hide, wanted to crawl out the window, and run very, very far away. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the older boy sat a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up, eyes wide, into the other’s gaze. His mouth ran dry when Mania grinned.
“Been a while, Lockett,” Mania greeted him, squeezing gently at his shoulder.
Eros swallowed. “It h-h-has…”
What was he supposed to say? Were there certain protocols for interacting with someone as popular as Mania? A few of the older boy’s friends were watching them, the looks on their faces making him shrink. Mania seemed to catch on because, suddenly, he turned and said to one of those friends, “Enough with the Death-Eye, Sean. You’re scaring him.”
Sean looked ready to say something but snapped his mouth shut seconds afterward, a scowl in place as Eros peered between the two of them. Tension hung heavily in the air, a sharp contrast to the rest of the people on the bus. Sean, or any of the others, for that matter, didn’t have to say anything for Eros to find himself uneasy. It came naturally.
Especially when their gazes were hot and angry, filled with hate.
“- are you listening, Lockett?”
Eros blinked. His gaze shifted to Mania, not quite sure how long his senior had been speaking or what he was talking about. The others sitting around them snorted, ill-suppressed laughter echoing. Eros glanced towards the window, lamenting how the bus was moving and jumping out would be foolish.
When Mania let out a low sound, something close to a growl, the smaller boy’s back went ramrod straight and his gaze snapped towards Mania. An approving smile was leveled on him before Mania said, “Have you considered what you want to do this summer?”
“N-n-no,” Eros cleared his throat, ignoring the sniggers in favor of saying, “My fa-father wants me to s-s-study one school is o-o-out.”
“Ah,” Mania leaned back in his seat. “Is that want you want?”
Eros blinked. “Eh?”
Mania rolled his eyes. “Lockett, do you want to take over the Church?”
Eros’s lips turned down, his brow furrowing. He’d never thought about that. Apparently Mania realized as much when he continued, “You like art and photography. Damn good with a camera, too. How often to you get out and away, anyway?”
“N-not often,” Eros rubbed his palms over his jean-clad knees, relishing in the rough texture biting at his hands. The sensation grounded him, pulled him closer to the earth and away from the terror eating at him. This conversation was forbidden. Swallowing, Eros murmured, “F-F-Father tends to k-keep me at the c-c-church…”
God, why was he still stuttering. The others were gone from his thoughts, nothing more than props to give meaning to this inane event. Mania, he was the center of the stage now. Russet irises seemed to glow, a sharp contrast to Eros’s almost silver eyes, the sharp ring of blue flaring brightly around his pupil.
Could he hear his heartbeat?
“You’re not your father, Lockett,” Mania’s softly spoken words drew him from his thoughts and his attention eased. Eros offered a soft, sad smile. Mania frowned, his unholy pendant gleaming in a stray sunbeam. If Mania said anything after that, Eros didn’t hear. His mind focused solely on those words…
‘You’re not your father…’