Hey y'all check it out I'm not dead
I've been suffering wit writers block w/ my other fics (yup all 4 of them) so thought i'd try and boost myself with some Sonny/Pete cause there's not NEARLY enough content for those nerds and I love them. Hope you enjoy, and I'm hoping to get on with NTCGS at least pretty soon. Thanks for your patience. :)
After the blackout, after the news from Abuela and the promise of a one-way ticket back home, Usnavi hardly had space in his head for anything else. He talked with Abuela for hours before the fate of the little bodega even entered his head- he was going to sell it, yes, of that he was certain, but those thoughts quickly followed through to visions of the shining sea around the island that had been his dream for as long as he could remember- the woman's familiar stories suddenly lit anew at the prospect that he, Usnavi, would finally get to become a part of them. He had heard the shouting, yes, been almost caught up in the panic, but he and Abuela had been safe- the riots were distant to him, not a threat. There had been blackouts before, he remembered, and they hadn't lasted long, and any looters had stuck to houses- that's why he'd gone to Abuela. But they'd been safe, and it was without any trepidation that he made his way to work. But when he turned the corner next to the salon, his stomach fell through the road.
The street was a wreck. Windows and doors were smashed, the air was hung with smoke- evidence of fighting was everywhere.
The grate was up, showing the whole scene clearly, and the place had clearly been looted. Three windows were cracked, one smashed open and littering the concrete outside with shattered glass, and the door was swung wide on its hinges. Among the newspapers and plastic bags being nudged along the street, he could see a few bank notes- apparently dropped- and the ground was scorched in places and stained with something he didn't want to think about in others. Even from this distance, he could see that the inside was a wreck- shelves torn down and bags ripped open; before anything, they'd taken food. That realisation made his stomach twist.
Gritting his teeth, he made his way gingerly inside and glanced around, noting the bust-open cash register and the water leaking from the fridge, careful to avoid touching the jagged edges of the doorframe.
He should've been here.
Maybe it wouldn't have made any difference, maybe it didn't even matter now since he was leaving anyway, but he felt guilt settle horribly in the pit of his stomach- this was his parents' store. It was all they'd left him with when they died, and he hadn't even thought to defend it in the flurry to get to Abuela. But then, he could've been killed, it would have been hopeless, oh, thank god no-one had been here-
A scraping from the back room made him look up sharply. Someone was still here? Who would be camping out in a ruined bodega, Who would be camping out in a ruined bodega in the middle of the day? Maybe some punk seeking shelter from the heat; it was still scorching. Cautiously, he made his way to the back of the shop, listening hard. Quiet shuffling could be heard through the door, just the shift of clothes on clothes as someone moved around, and another scrape- a chair, shoved sideways, maybe. It didn't sound like more than one person; maybe he could take them- or at least kick them out. He was almost at the door when he heard a voice.
"Lift your head a bit?"
Usnavi stopped short. He knew that voice. He felt anger flare up in him- Graffiti Pete? He'd been one of the hooligans looting the store? He'd known that kid couldn't be trusted- what had he been thinking, letting a common vandal hang around the store- look what it had gotten him! Had Pete led the looters here? Had he-
Then another voice drifted through, and his mind went blank with shock.
"Ow! Man, that stings like-"
"Do you want that to get infected or not?"
There was no answer. Usnavi stood frozen by the door. Sonny? Sonny was here? His mind whirled into a panic- had he been here last night? Oh god- infected- was he hurt? The conversation in the other side of the wall was continuing.
"Stop scratching it, man you're gonna make it worse."
"I'm not- hey, ow!"
"Hold still." He heard an exaggerated groan from Sonny, followed by another reproachful yelp of pain.
"I am not."
Usnavi moved closer, peering through the gap in the door to catch a glimpse of the scene inside. Sonny was sitting in a chair, facing the wall- shirtless, and covered in bruises. He looked awful, and Usnavi felt his guilt triple as his eyes scanned the bloody marks on his cousin's chest and face-as well as his anger: whoever had hurt Sonny, they were going to pay.
Graffiti Pete was on one knee in front of him, soaking a strip of cloth in some sort of ointment. Usnavi looked him over as best he could. He was... treating Sonny's injuries? It certainly looked like it- there were other strips tied around the kid's left leg and forearm, and Pete's shirt was torn until it was closer to a crop-top than anything- he must be ripping it up for bandages. The young man had his back to the door, so Usnavi couldn't see his face, but the care with which he was dabbing at a particularly nasty gash on Sonny's shoulder surprised him. He'd always seen Pete as trouble- a disrespectful, vandalising slacker that didn't care for much beside himself- but the current situation shone something of a new light on him. Mentally reassessing him- at least, to a point- he watched as he deftly looped the fabric under Sonny's arm, earning a wince when he smoothed it over with his thumb.
"Sorry." Sonny snorted.
"For what, man? Ain't nothin' for you to be sorry about. Hey, where'd you get this shit, anyway?" He was holding up the bottle of ointment.
"Bought it down at Pero's drugstore." Pete said, shrugging.
"'Bought'? Shut up, man, we both know you ain't got no money- and ain't the drugstore been looted? I'd 've thought that'd be the first to go." A chuckle, and Pete was standing up, rubbing his leg.
"Well, when I say bought…" Catching sight of his face for the first time, Usnavi noted a black eye, bust lip, and what looked like a missing tooth. Whatever had happened, Pete had been in the thick of it too. Sonny scoffed, poking at him with his foot.
"A common criminal? This is what you've become, Pete?"
"Ah, shut up, man. Store was ransacked, no one's gonna miss it."
"S'pose." Sonny got to his feet, taking the shirt that Pete handed him and pulling it over his head. "Ah- " he hissed as he stretched his arms up, and Pete took a quick step towards him.
"Y'alright?" Even after Sonny nodded, he took the shirt gently and pulled it over his elbows, ignoring Sonny's mutterings of "M'fine, I don't need help, I'm not a baby- " and wiped a spot of blood off his upper arm when it was on.
"No, you're not a baby." he told him. "What you are is hurt, man- ain't no shame in askin' for help when you're injured. Battle scars gotta start off as open wounds, y'know?" That earned a weak grin from Sonny.
"You're weird, man." Pete shrugged.
"Got you to smile, Son-shine. I'll call that a success."
Unable to stop himself any longer, Usnavi pushed open the door. The two boys looked up at the noise, surprised, and he noticed Pete move in front of his cousin protectively- before recognising him and retreating again- and the expressions on their faces weren't welcoming. Sonny looked reproachful. Pete looked angry. Usnavi glanced from one to the other, taking in their matching cuts and bruises, and the rough-and-ready bandages striping Sonny's arms, and found he was at a loss for words. For the fist time, he knew that Sonny had the upper ground- that he was in the wrong. All he could do was try to start from the beginning.
"What… what happened?" he asked. Sonny half-laughed- but there was no mirth in the noise, it was dark and hurt. He'd never heard Sonny laugh like that before.
"The hell you think, cuz?" He gestured to himself, to his bloody shirt and cut-up face. "Store got looted, we tried to protect it, got beat up, got the fuck out, came back this morning. Nothin' to it." His cousin was looking at him dead on, a blooming bruise on his right cheekbone making the dead-eyed expression somehow lopsided. Usnavi felt almost sick looking at him- Sonny was always so… he was so- he was just a kid. He shouldn't be able to look like a war veteran. He redirected his gaze to Pete, who wasn't looking at either of them. He was leaning against the wall, ripped up tank showing a shallow gash across his stomach, staring blankly at the floor. Usnavi knew he had to say something. He had to make up for this- for what he hadn't done, and he opened his mouth to do it, but felt the words die on his lips. The air was tight.
"I'm gonna check out the grate." Sonny muttered, and shouldered through the door without acknowledging him further.
Usnavi stared after him, heard the uneven footsteps and the bell at the front chime harshly, and then nothing. There were a few seconds of silence.
"S'broken. Couldn't get it down last night."
Another pause. Usnavi fought to find words.
This was his fault. That much was clear, at least- what he'd done, or rather-hadn't done, was one of the biggest mistakes he'd ever made; in the rush to get to Abuela, had the thought of the kid even crossed his mind? But, of course, Sonny- young, optimistic, idealistic Sonny- had rushed to protect his store- how could he not have known- how had he abandoned him like that?
"I should have been there." he said, quietly.
"Yeah. Yeah, you should have." Usnavi looked up. Pete was glaring coldly at him, bloody bruises patchworking his face horribly. The simple truth of the matter stared them both in the face. Pete had been there. Pete had been there, and Usnavi hadn't. Why?
"I know. I- " What could he say? He tried again. "You two shouldn't… you were so brave to- "
"We were fucking lucky is what we were." Pete cut him off harshly. His eyes were hard. Lucky? Usnavi could only stare back at him in shock. Roughly, the young man wiped a stream of blood from his re-opened bottom lip and shook his head. His next words were broken.
"We were lucky none of 'em had guns."
That made Usnavi's chest seize up.
Guns. Oh god. They could've died. They could've died, Sonny could've-
"I knew he'd come back here." Pete continued. "Lookin' for you- or to try and save this place. I tried to talk him out of it, told him it was too dangerous, but he wouldn't leave- he was sure you were gonna come find him. You even thinkabout that, man? He thought you were coming. An' when you didn't, he still wouldn't go- he was out there, hangin' off the grate with his hands all bust up and they were shooting down block and you know what he said?" Pete had taken a few steps towards him now, voice rising to a shout. "He said It's all Usnavi's got left! He stayed for you, man- and where were you? Still out with your girl, were you, taking advantage of the dark?"
"I- I was- "
"'Cause we were so fuckin' lucky that only two of those guys had knives. You hear me? Think about that for just one damn second- we were lucky those guys had knives- and it was still a close call- we almost- he could've- fuck." Pete's voice cracked and he broke off, biting down hard onto his knuckle, redirecting his gaze to the ground.
Usnavi stared at him. His mind felt inside-out, trying to reconcile the furious, broken man in front of him with the layabout delinquent he'd thought that he knew- and he only seemed angry over Sonny. No mention at all of his own purpling eye or the messy red slash down the side of his chest- Sonny was what he was angry about, and that just didn't make sense. Sure, he knew they'd talk when Pete hung around the barrio- they were closer in age than any of the other neighbours- and sometimes Sonny would help him sort through his paint cans, despite Usnavi's protests, but this? Why had he stayed- why had he come looking for Sonny in the first place? He'd always assumed that Pete saw Sonny as a bit of a nuisance, hanging around and getting in the way of his 'work', and yet here he was, positively incensed over Usnavi's absence when Sonny had needed him. Perhaps their relationship went further than the misguided admiration and grudging tolerance he'd interpreted it as- but 'friends' didn't seem to work in conjunction with 'Graffiti Pete'. Blame that on too many years of chasing the guy away from the side of his store and watching him retreat to the dump. He'd never once seen him with a friend.
"Pete, I- " he began, but the man held up a hand, and he snapped his mouth shut. He didn't deserve a say in this, the gesture said- he hadn't earned that right. He found himself reluctant to disagree.
Pete gritted his teeth, dug his nails into his palms, and took a deep, slow breath that made his whole body shake.
"He was so fuckin' scared, man." he whispered.
There were tears pricking his eyes.
"He was… he was terrified, and I couldn't- I couldn't do anything. I couldn't tell him it was all gonna be ok- cause we both knew for fuckin' sure that wasn't true- all we had was a goddamn baseball bat. We knew we had no chance. But he still had to try- that's Sonny, right? He had to do the right thing, for you,even when he was putting his life on the line, even when you didn't show up- when you don't fucking deserve his loyalty- you know how much he looks up to you? He's more a man than you'll ever be. He stood out there, in the front of the store, with the door wide open and the grate up and three armed thugs running at him and he told me to run. I thought- " -he choked down a sob- "- I thought he was gonna- " -he laughed- "- I was so scared, man."
He spoke the words as if he was frightened of them.
"I thought he was gonna die."
The hollow note in his voice made something snap in Usnavi's chest.
"You… you really care about him." A watery, incredulous laugh slipped from Pete's mouth and he gripped the sides of his own temple, shaking his head.
"Care about him? Man- you don't- God, I'm fuckin- " He cut himself off again, and cursed, before grabbing his bag and shoving his way out of the back door without a backward glance.
Usnavi watched him go, and didn't follow.
Sooooo this was way longer and sadder than I thought it was going to be...
I'd like to continue it, with chapters from different characters points of view (probably Vanessa, then Nina, then Benny, then Pete/Sonny, and then Usnavi again) and kinda know what's gonna happen. Whaddaya think? Tell me in the reviews?