Disclaimer Yup. I'm that strange girl writing Skins fic in the middle of Summer.
Summary "All in all, moving to University has been a painless affair."
Notes OK guys, this post is an edit of part one, which I highly suggest you read because I added a lot of new plot content! And to sweeten the deal because I know this is annoying, I added a little of part 2! (This is set after the presumable end of series 4 (after series three cast finishes school). I guess it's a little AU?)
Overall, it's a pretty quiet affair really. Emily is there to see him off, and helps to load the few boxes of things he's taking with him into his mother's tiny car. She kisses him on the cheek and waves as he and his mother drive away. JJ watches her in the rearview mirror all the way, until she's blocked out as they round the corner. He and his mother make polite small talk for an hour and then they're there. It only takes an hour to unpack him into the grey single occupancy government subsidized dormitory, despite his mother insisting on folding and then re-folding all of his underwear, and triple checking to make sure he brought all of his meds. She finally kisses him good-bye, and JJ is left sitting alone on the standard issue twin bed. Overall, moving to University has been a painless affair. He stares at the blank grey wall for ten minutes and then pulls a red marker from his pack and scrawls it across the wall. "Painless."
In the beginning, it’s not so bad. He manages to foster his deep-rooted love of learning into something resembling actual excitement for University. He walks to class in the mornings and sits through lecture alert, takes his books home or to the library and studies hard- just like college. Doesn’t think about Freddie. Or Cook. He meets a third-year named Lucy who for some bizarre reason doesn't mind his stuttering and general lack of social graces and lets her take him to parties and clubs and bars and then her off campus flat. They don't fuck- one night after an ill fated and entirely awkward kiss JJ feeds her a story about a girl named Emily (without believing a single goddamned word). Lucy shrugs and ruffles his hair in a manner not entirely un-reminiscent of Cook.
And then one night JJ doesn’t make it back to his dorm. It’s all his fault really, he knows. Lucy keeps saying it’s not but JJ knows. It’s because he’s so stupid because he cut through that alley because it was dark there were sounds shadows he didn’t know how could he? But he should have. It’s not like he’s never been in a city before.
1 AM and they are standing there and then one of them grabs his arm and he’s up against a wall face full of dirty bricks and the man says don’t scream, don’t scream; he knows he should but he can’t his throat is frozen as the man reaches down into his pockets where the bulge of his wallet is much too obvious. The man presses him into the wall and orders him to stay that way as he takes of with the other and JJ doesn’t even turn. His mouth tastes like dirt, his shoulder hanging loose face burning with open cuts and he doesn’t even want to leave the alley can’t believe it, if he has to move won’t that prove he isn’t dreaming?
Later, in her flat, Lucy says, not your fault, but JJ sits and stares anyway unable to process the lit room and the space heater. His mind keeps running back and back to Cook one night so crazy he was backed into a corner, facing two kids with a knife and he just laughed insane head back baring all his teeth, it echoed off the walls and for a minute that kid paused all Cook needed to grab the knife screaming, slash that kid’s face even as his own blood dripped down the blade. JJ bandaged Cook’s hand up afterwards, knew it would scar deep but so what? Marked him for the crazy motherfucking animal he is. JJ touches his face and despairs. For weeks everyone will know that he’s weak, a spazz, so stupid. An open invitation to fuck him over even more, fucking dipshit moving target lost cause.
Lucy tries to stay with him after that, knows enough to know that it’s not right the way JJ jumps at sudden noise and light. But the best thing/ only thing Lucy knows to fill up the missing places, empty spaces is smoke. She finds him the most chronic shit she can get and turns on every single light in the flat. JJ lets her breath it into his mouth lays back Lucy whispers in his ear don’t be scared don’t be scared kisses his cheek and waits for him to sleep.
JJ knows he should call his mother, call Emily, talk to anyone, but Lucy’s way is so much better after a few days he can’t even tell his after highs apart from reality. He stops his meds worried they will interfere at first and then they are forgotten pushed all the way under the bathroom sink hidden among the dripping pipes.
He doesn't leave Lucy's flat that night. Or the night after. Or the night after that. He doesn't leave after he travels home for Holiday and pretends to be okay for his mum, and then treks all the way back. He doesn't leave after Lucy fails to come home one night and calls him from her mate's a week later to say she won't be returning to University after all and she hopes he will get better. He doesn't leave in the following weeks as the weather gets frostier and the flat colder until he doesn't remember what being warm feels like even though he's bundled up in his thickest rattiest striped jumper and rarely gets out of bed.
Slowly, JJ begins to take over the flat, and it’s pretty okay by himself; until he runs through the stash that Lucy left behind. Then everything quickly goes to shit as reality without meds seeps in. The dark corners begin to panic him and he believes that they are crawling sometimes (calls made to Emily @ 3 AM just to stutter and fail to explain that he feels like the flat is digesting him). They actually are crawling, just, with real cockroaches and not his nightmares. Every single available wall surface is covered with his mad scribbles and diagrams and unfinished econ. assignments. He sets all the clock hands back to 12:00 the beginning the end obsessed with the proof that everything is cyclical. There are exactly five books to a shelf on every shelf and anything that can be aligned is lined up in multiples of three, his shoes his clothes his food his toiletries dirty take-out containers empty cigarette buts Lucy left behind. The never ending take-out makes him sick eventually first in a corner which he only manages to clean up part way and then later consistently in the toilet to the point where the only thing he wants to eat are multivitamins and 500 ml of calcium his mother made him take. His ribs begin to poke through spine knobly down his back and he doesn't really bother with class anymore because then he would have to go outside- the flat might be killing him, but what's outside is infinitely worse too open to big too messy.
He forgets to remember to forget about Cook and so his presence is large as life in the dirty flat. JJ mutters to him sometimes- it’s not that he thinks Cook is really there or even that he’s hallucinating, more that things don’t stay internalized anymore. Why should they when JJ has the entire flat as a canvas for his insides?
Cook! he yells one night when it’s late and he feels light headed dehydration starvation Cook you fucking bastard, why aren’t you here? The empty walls don’t answer and the impersonal glow of the digital clock faces burns even brighter as JJ’s body/brain slows down he sees streams of seconds every single one, doesn’t care that he was the one who told Cook to leave him the fuck alone once and for all. You didn’t have to do it though! JJ screams. So this is the way real Cook finds him when he bursts in uninvited uncalled for, and without any sort of knock or preamble announces to JJ that they are going out for a pint and some real food.
Jesus fucking Christ, it’s fucking Antarctica in here!
For an entire minute JJ just stares, blood shot eyes sunken in thick black circles, before he manages to stutter,
Food and booze, yeah? I could eat a fucking horse.
Um…JJ mutters still trying to process Cook actually standing in the small flat.
Come on! I didn’t hitchhike all the way the fuck out here just to sit and stare. He stops then and finally looks JJ up and down, dropping his threadbare pack on the ground. Looks like you need it too mate. What sort of shit’ve you been on?
Nothing, JJ mumbles and looks away, but can’t quite manage it as Cook abruptly crouches down so he can stare up into JJ’s face anyway. JJ flinches, and Cook narrows his eyes.
J, what’s up?
None of your business. Cook just shrugs at that and then gets back to his feet.
Well, I’m going, see you in a bit, J.
I never said you could- JJ starts but doesn’t get to finish as the slam of the front door cuts him off. JJ looks dubiously over to where Cook dumped his stuff unceremoniously on the floor of the entry and realizes that Cook means to stay. Sighing, he drags himself off the sagging couch and grabs the spare (unwashed) sheet from the corner so that Cook will have at least one layer to sleep under. He knows from experience that it doesn’t do any good to argue with Cook. If Cook has decided that he’s going to stay, then he’ll stay.