He’s learned to always keep his chin up, but that’s hard to do when there’s a fist repeatedly connecting with his face.
Inspired by this recent drawing of AU teenage!Felix by fafafixit.
- - -
A/N: I suppose you can consider this a “bonus story” of the Hero’s Cuties AU storyline. That just means that I’ll have to do teen!Calhoun at some point, too! Hehe.
- - -
Everything hurts, but he keeps walking down the dirt road that leads to his house. Even though it stings, he brushes his tongue along the dried blood that’s caked on his lower lip. It’s not as bad as his eye, which is swollen and sore, but at least he can clear the smaller injury up before he gets home.
Felix should probably be mad, yet he’s not. Anger isn’t the emotion that’s coursing through him. And if he’s being honest, it’s hard to feel anything around the numbness that’s settled on his chest like an anchor, weighing heavily.
It would be a lie to say that this hasn’t happened before, because it happens almost every single day of his junior year.
He shakes off the less than pleasant thought and continues on until he reaches the rickety fence that surrounds his yard. He quietly unlatches the gate, steps inside, and then shuts it behind him as he heads for the front porch. Halfway there, though, he decides to slip on back and take advantage of the hose.
He sets down his backpack and crouches onto the dried grass as he reaches for the faucet and turns it on. Water starts leaking out of the green rubber tube before he holds it up to his lips and takes in a mouthful. He swishes it around, makes a face against the bitter taste of blood, and then spits it into the dirt.
The hose is transferred into one of his hands while he fills the other with water. Then, reaching up, he washes his face to ensure that whatever can be rinsed away is.
When he’s finished, Felix shuts off the water and winds the hose back up again, so that it’s sitting like a neat little snake where it belongs. Sighing, he grabs his backpack and takes to his feet. Beads of water drip from his face as he walks back to the front porch, only to find someone waiting for him.
"Hey, Rio," he greets softly, addressing the old hound dog that’s basking in the mid-afternoon sun. There’s a thumping of a tail, but Rio doesn’t make an effort to move outside of yawning.
Felix smiles at him before he reaches out and opens the screen door. He does this as stealthily as possible, just because he’d rather not disturb his father, who’s more than likely sitting at the kitchen table, looking over a slew of different papers.
Thing is, the floor’s real old-like and it creaks whenever there’s feet on it. Both he and his father have attempted to tame the wooden boards into submission, since they’re not exactly in a financial position to replace their floor, but they’re stubborn as all get-out and continue to creak anyway.
Nonetheless, the teen tiptoes across the foyer and starts to head for the stairs when he hears his name being called.
"That you, Felix?"
Darn it. So much for being quiet.
"Yeah, it’s me!" Felix calls back, hoping that his father won’t request his physical presence.
"C’mere for a second."
…that’s exactly what happens.
Felix can feel anxiety slamming into his gut like a knee did earlier. He nibbles on the nail of his index finger before he takes a deep breath, sets down his backpack, and heads into the kitchen. Just as he predicted, his dad is sitting at the table, shuffling through different piles of paper.
Without being asked, and also to give himself something to do, Felix walks over and takes the empty coffee cup that’s sitting by his dad’s hand. He brings it over to the counter and goes about refilling it as words start up behind him.
"How was school?"
"It was alright," Felix replies, shrugging. "Had a test in physics. There were a couple’ve questions I wasn’t too sure on, but I think I did okay."
He comes back to the table with the fresh cup of coffee and then scurries off to the sink before his dad can look up at him. Once there, he starts washing the piled stack of dishes to keep himself busy and to, perhaps, keep up an air of normality.
When the dishes are washed, dried, and put away, Felix heads back over to the table and stands off to the side, his hands clasped behind his back.
"I’d better get started on my homework. I’ve got a whole bunch," he says, fixing to scoot on out of there.
Much to Felix’s dismay, his father decides he’s done sifting through papers; he looks up, his blue eyes peering at his only child. The boy shies away from the paternal glance, but that doesn’t do much good. If anything, it makes his battered appearance all the more obvious.
"Land sakes, Felix,” the man suddenly exclaims, pushing himself to his feet. His aged hand reaches out, turning his son’s face so that they’re sharing eye contact. “What happened?”
The teen bites his swollen lower lip and tries to come up with a convincing excuse. He hates lying, but he’s gotten decent at it since the school year started.
"Got hit," he gets out, but then quickly adds: "Wh-when I was walkin’ home. I wasn’t payin’ much attention, and you know how them kids near the middle school like to practice soccer an’ all."
It’s a horrible, God-awful explanation, and Felix won’t be surprised if his father doesn’t buy it.
"You sure they weren’t kickin’ around a rock? Sure looks like they were."
"It doesn’t hurt," Felix insists. "Honest. It’s fine."
The older of the two goes quiet for a second, causing his son to internally panic. In the end, however, he walks over to the freezer and withdraws a clump of ice. Then, grabbing a dishrag, he creates a makeshift icepack before handing it over to Felix.
"Put this on it so it doesn’t close on’ya," he says.
Felix nods and accepts the offering before settling it against his shiner. “I ought’a start that homework now and get it out of the way.”
His dad nods. “Head on upstairs, then.”
The youth turns around to leave the kitchen. His defenses are beginning to crumble as the guilt of lying settles into his conscience; he can feel it stretching through his body like a misty toxin, smarting his eyes and making them want to flood.
Just before he leaves the room, his father calls out a final time.
"Supper’ll be ready in about an hour or so."
Felix doesn’t know why, but those simple words are the icing on the cake. He nods without saying anything and hurries out. He grabs his backpack along the way and then runs upstairs until he’s stumbling into his bedroom and shutting the door behind him.
He drops his bag on the floor and staggers to his bed. The immaculately-made sheets wrinkle beneath his weight as he sits on the edge and exhales a thick, shuddery breath. He removes the rag from his eye, sets it on his nightstand, and then masks his face with both of his hands.
It hits him like a tidal wave.
There’s strong hands pushing into his chest, slamming him back against the courtyard’s brick wall. The thundering pulse in his ears is joined by laughter as he tries to right himself, only to fall back again when he’s struck with another cruel shove.
"I don’t want any trouble," Felix hears himself say.
"You never do, do you, loser?"
He’s hit again, twice, and it actually sends him to the ground. He cradles his eye and tries to keep a whimper back, but it slides out of his mouth, just like the blood that begins dribbling down his chin.
"We’re doing you a favor. You’ll never last a day in the real world if you can’t handle us."
"Yeah. We’re toughening you up."
But they’re not, Felix knows, shaking his head. They’re making his life absolutely miserable, and he’s plum tired of it. He isn’t sure how much more he can physically take before he’s had enough. Still, this is his battle. Lord knows his dad has enough to worry about; he doesn’t need the burden of a bullied son on his plate.
That thought has what’s left of Felix’s composure giving way to something unspeakably emotional. Before he has a chance to let what’s gonna happen happen, he blindly scrambles for his pillow and cradles it in his arms.
He barely manages to double over into it before the tears come, long and broken and endless. Felix tries to keep the sounds quiet, because the walls are thin and he doesn’t want his dad to hear him, but it’s so hard to do that when he’s literally sobbing until he feels lightheaded.
By the time he’s done crying, the ice for his eye has melted.
He uses the cool, damp cloth to wipe up his face. There’s no way he can have supper like this, so he pushes himself onto his feet and crosses the room to visit his closet.
Felix feels a bit better after he changes his shirt and combs his hair; his eyes are still a bit bloodshot, but not in a way that’s concerning.
He’s tucking in his shirt when he hears his dad calling him downstairs. Reeling in the remnants of his breakdown, he heads to the first level of the house. He finds the table already set - something he usually does - so he sits down, awkwardly, and waits for his father to do the same. After they’ve said their proper thanks for the food, they start eating.
It’s a quiet meal. Quieter than usual, anyway.
Felix doesn’t have an appetite at all, but for the sake of keeping up appearances he forces himself to eat through a pile of mashed potatoes. The food sits heavily in his throat, and he has to really try in order to swallow them down.
They’re about halfway through when Felix notices that his father stops eating. The man sets down his fork, sighs heavily, and then looks at his boy.
"Now, I know I taught you better than to lie," he says quietly.
Right away, Felix knows that his bluff’s been called. His knee starts bouncing beneath the table in the way that it does whenever he gets nervous. He can’t bring himself to say anything, so his dad continues.
"I got a call today from your school. Told me you were in a fight."
"It wasn’t—!" Felix starts to say, but then stops when the words die on his tongue. He tries again after a few seconds. "It wasn’t anything major."
"Just like that eye of yours?"
Felix can feel himself starting to lose control again; his hands turn into fists on his knees. “It was just a misunderstandin’. They didn’t mean any harm.”
"Th’heck they didn’t," the protest follows, and it’s now clear how upset his father is over the matter. "Kickin’ you all over creation like you’re a can."
Desperation wells within Felix and it comes out as a rare burst of anger. “What do you expect me to do?!”
No sooner than the exclamation makes itself known does the teen recoil from his own uncharacteristic hollering. He shrinks back, mortified, and quickly tosses out an apology.
"M’sorry. That was uncalled for."
It gets quiet again. And then:
"You weren’t gonna tell me. You would’ve just left it like that and not said a word about it."
Felix swallows thickly. “I didn’t wanna trouble you.”
"Don’t you think I’m troubled enough that you’d wanna hide this from me?"
A shuddery sigh betrays Felix’s desire to remain in control of his emotions. His eyes start filling with tears again, because he’s never felt weaker in his life. Not even when those boys were kicking him when he was already down earlier that afternoon.
"I don’t know what else to do," he admits, reaching up to scrub at his eyes before they can start dripping. "I can’t fight back. I don’t want to.”
"Then don’t," his father replies. "But you don’t let ‘em lick you either. Tell someone next time, even if it means going to the principal."
That option has always been there, Felix knows, but he severely dislikes drawing attention to himself in that sort of light. He’d rather go about his business quietly than cause any trouble. He wishes his dad understood that, but he knows that the man is only looking out for him.
"Because if you don’t and them boys put their hands on you again, so help me, I’ll give ‘em a lickin’ myself.”
Felix can’t exactly picture his father - with his kind eyes and his shortish stature - taking on high school seniors, but he understands the message behind it and appreciates the concern.
"You understand me?"
"Good. That’s enough of that. Now, I wanna hear about this physics test."
Though he feels unspeakably drained from day full of numerous conflicts, Felix also feels somewhat rejuvenated by the prospect of a normal, honest conversation. It’s why he smiles a little and starts to retell the academic events of his day.
Tomorrow will be better, he thinks. And even if it’s not, he’s sure that it’ll be better someday.