Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In Which I TEASE You

So, this one's from my newest WiP, HATE CRIME, from the scene immediately following Matt and Alex stumbling across a dead body in an abandoned warehouse.  Enjoy!

No amount of Law & Order, CSI, or Criminal Minds marathons could have prepared me for the reality of witnessing an actual crime scene. The image of that poor guy’s face burned through my brain, leaving a permanent imprint of bloody ravaged flesh that I saw every time I closed my eyes.

He’d been beaten so badly, his face looked like a particularly gruesome Picasso. Nose smashed in and pushed off to the side, almost to his ear. One side of his face swollen to the point his eye was a mere slit, like some morbidly obese Chinese man smiling so broadly his eyes closed and turned up at the corners.

And, now I’ll never look at fortune cookies the same way again. Thanks, seriously deformed dead guy, whoever you are.

“Here, kid. Drink this.”

A navy blue uniform appeared in front of me, and I looked up to see him pushing a steaming paper cup—coffee, I was sure—at Alex. Alex made no move to take it, just sat there, staring right through the officer. A shiver ran through him, rattling his body so much the vibration rocketed through me as well. Damn, he was only wearing that flimsy purple flannel shirt. How could I have forgotten? I shrugged out of my coat and placed it over his shoulders as gently as I could so as not to startle him, leaving one arm around him while reaching out to take the coffee from the cop with the other.

“Alex?” He jerked up at the sound of my voice, his eyes wide with a mixture of confusion and panic. “Here, baby, drink this. It’ll help.” I pressed the cup into his hand, holding it there until I felt his fingers wrap around it. Instead of sliding away from him, I scooted closer, my hand drifting to rest on his thigh as I swiveled my head back to the uniform. “Thanks, Officer—“ A quick glance at his polished nameplate. “—Mitchell.”

He snapped out a nod, cleared his throat. “CSU should be done soon. The detectives will want to talk to you boys, and then you’ll be free to go.” Another shiver ran through Alex. I hugged him tighter, and Officer Mitchell cocked his head to the side, regarding us for a long moment. “You sure you’re alright, son?”

“Yeah. No. I mean—” Alex let loose a shaky laugh. “—I’m just freaking out a little here, but I’m okay. Really.” His head dropped against mine, his chin resting on my shoulder, his forehead pressed against my cheek. “Sorry,” he mumbled into my neck.

“What for?”

“For falling apart like this.” Another half-hysterical sound bubbled out of him. “For being such a girl.”

Jesus, Alex. What could I say to that? I furiously wracked my brain, scrounging for something, anything to say that would bring him around without making him start flogging himself all over again. What normal person didn’t fall apart when dealing with something like this?

“Now, look here,” Officer Mitchell cut in. “You’ve just witnessed something most people go their whole lives without having to see, and you’re reacting to it. Being a little shook up about stumbling across a dead body is nothing to be ashamed of, kid, and it don’t make you any less of a man. So quit beating yourself up over it.”

Alex lifted his head off my shoulder, swallowed visibly, and then nodded.

“He’s right,” I added, giving him another squeeze and shooting Officer Mitchell a grateful look. I leaned in close, my lips tilting into a smirk. “And besides, I don’t think I’d like you as much if you were a girl.”

That got a deep, way-down-from-the-gut laugh out of him.

“We’ll take it from here, Gary. Thanks.” I cringed, closing my eyes against a voice that I’d hoped never to hear again. Just my freaking luck. “Matthew.”

So be it. Squaring my shoulders, I forced my lids apart and faced him. “Dad. You remember Alex,” I said, just to be a dick.

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