"Mom?" Mathias called in a hesitant tone, opening the door to the small townhouse he and his mother shared. The inside was neglect of any decorations- no wedding photos of his parents or baby pictures of Mathias like one would find in an ordinary household. The only thing that filled the room was the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke; the fraying, mismatched furniture; and the static coming from the old television that had been left on in the corner.
The only answer Mathias received to his call was the growling of his own stomach. He sighed and dropped his backpack onto the floor, making his way into the poor excuse of a kitchen. His mother was asleep at the rickety wooden table she had scavenged from someone's driveway on trash night, the one that Mathias swore had termites and refused to eat on. Her face was burried in a pile of bills, one hand wrapped around a half-consumed bottle of cheap wine that smelled disgustingly like watered-down vinegar.
Mathias sighed and gently removed the bottle from his mother's hand before it could spill all over the bills, locating the lid on the floor and sealing it shut. He brushed a few strands of his mother's too-blonde hair away from her face, careful not to wake her. His mother would probably be very pretty if she toned down her makeup and stopped frying her hair with bleach trying to get it back to the golden color it had been when she was in highschool.
Truth is Mathias's mother was still very young; she had only been fifteen when she got pregnant with him. Mathias was the result of a one-night stand with one of the teacher's at his mother's high school. Once everyone realized she was pregnant, his mother had been expelled and his father was fired. The man of course wanted nothing to do with Mathias or his mother and he moved to find work in Sweden where his reputation couldn't follow him. Mathias's grandparents- who had always been strict and old-fashioned, according to his mother -had kicked her out of the house, giving her enough money every month to afford rent. She worked several minimum-wage, dead-end jobs all throughout Mathias's childhood, never really giving much of a damn about him. Eventually she saved up enough that they moved to America in search of some "better job opportunities".
Now she worked as a cleaning lady for a few of the richer families living in the city. Her English was poor so it was the best she could get, and it paid enough to support her drinking and smoking habits. Her boyfriend Tom was an employee at the Home Depot and a part-time criminal. Mathias's mother often swiped the keys and alarm codes from the rich people she cleaned for and handed them over to Tom. She always knew when they would be away, of course, and sometimes Tom and a few of his friends would rob the places. Tom would then pawn his winnings and give Mathias's mother a cut of the profits, and so far they hadn't been caught.
Mathias knew it was only a matter of time before someone connected his mother to the robberies, though, which is why he didn't turn them in himself. He didn't care for his mother all that much and he especially didn't like Tom- he and Mathias didn't get along from the get-go, and most of their arguments resulted with Tom and his buddies ganging up on Mathias to kick the crap out of him. Of course the man was too much of a coward to fight Mathias on his own, because they both know who would win that one. Honestly nothing would make Mathias happier than to see Tom end up in prison as another man's bitch, but if that happened his mother would definitely be arrested too. And not that the woman had ever done anything to earn Mathias's love, but if she got arrested than Mathias would have to find some way to support himself, and he would probably end up working dead-end jobs for the rest of his life just like she did.
Mathias made his way over to the refrigerator, pulling it open with a dejected sigh. He stared at the pitiful contents inside (most of which was just beer for when Tom and his friends came over). Mathias grabbed one without giving it much thought; there wasn't much else to drink, and he didn't trust the tap water at their place. He grabbed some turkey from the back corner of the fridge and slapped it between two slices of bread (only after giving them a sniff and double-checking the expiration date).
Mathias carried his poor excuse for a dinner upstairs to his bedroom, and as he went his thoughts began to gravitate back to the boy he had met at the hospital. Lukas he had said his name was.. right? He didn't exactly seem like a fun guy to be around, but then again Mathias couldn't blame him; he probably wouldn't be the life of the party either if he was a permanent resident in a hospital for kids with terminal illnesses.
Mathias sat down on his bed (which was actually just a mattress and a few sheets thrown onto the floor) and took a bite of his sandwhich. He wondered what kind of illness Lukas had, and how long he had to live. It honestly wasn't what he wanted to be thinking about when he was trying to enjoy his dinner, but he couldn't stop his thoughts from going back to the expressionless boy he had found lying in a hospital bed. Lukas was unlike anyone Mathias had ever seen, with his platinum hair, snowy skin and hazy blue-violet eyes. Something about him intrigued Mathias, even though he knew persuing any kind of friendship with the guy was a bad idea. Willingly getting close to someone you knew could die any day now would just be stupid; it'd be better to avoid Lukas's room if at all possible from now on.
… And yet, that didn't feel like the right solution. Even though he had been trying to ignore Mathias most of the time, the sadness in Lukas's eyes hadn't gone unnoticed by the Dane. There had been no lines near the corners of Lukas's lips or creases by his brow, nor anything to show that the sickly Norwegian had ever smiled a day in his life. If Lukas was dying, then shouldn't he be out there having fun? Not wasting away in a depression hospital room with only smelly old library books to keep him company.
Mathias twisted the cap off his beer and drank reflexively, completely lost in thought now. He decided he would go back to Lukas's room tomorrow and try to cheer the poor guy up a little. Mathias just had to be careful not to get too close...
A knock woke Lukas up the next day. He supressed a groan, lifting his face off the extreme comfort of his pillow and pressing a button on the remote next to his bed. The top half of the mattress began to lift, raising Lukas's body into a sitting position. He ran a hand through his hair, using his fingers to get rid of any knots, careful to avoid the one particular curl that seemed to float independently from the rest of his head (it was very sensitive and did not like to be touched).
"Come in," he said calmly, grabbing the book Emil had brought him the day before and unfolding it in his lap. He was already nearly halfway through, but reading three-hundred pages in one night wasn't very impressive for someone who had as much time on their hands as Lukas did.
The door opened and two figures appeared in the doorway, the only two people who visited Lukas on a regular basis other than Emil. "Hey Lukas," Tino Väinämöinen said pleasantly, strolling into the room. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine." Lukas said simply, turning a page of his book in disinterest. "Hows Berwald?"
Berwald, the second figure whom had appeared in Lukas's doorway, was seated in a wheelchair currently being pushed by Tino. He was a glowering Swede with short blonde hair, dark blue eyes, and skin ashy from sickness. He was the only person who had been in the hospital longer than Lukas, and Lukas enjoyed his company because he didn't talk much and didn't look at him in pity like everyone else did. Berwald had a disease where he suffered from minor strokes, which had left his speech slurred and difficult to understand. Despite his appearance, Berwald was actually surprisingly shy, and he allowed Tino to do most of the talking for him.
Tino, a Finnish boy their age with round brown eyes and shockingly yellow-blonde hair, was a volunteer at the hospital. He went to the same high school as Emil, and he was planning on going to nursing school after he graduated. He had started working at the hospital two years ago when he met Berwald and they fell in love; now the two were practically joined at the hip.
Lukas felt sorry for them. They were his only two friends in the world, but they were idiots. It was selfish of Berwald to let himself have a relationship with Tino when he was doomed to die young and leave the poor Finn behind. Tino was just plain stupid for going along with it.
"He's doing great!" Tino said proudly, petting the Swede's head adoringly. "Its been a whole month since he's had an episode!"
"That's good," Lukas said, folding his book shut again and turning his eyes on the couple, assuming they would be staying for a while. Not that he minded, not with them, at least. As he had mentioned before, he had more to pity them for than they did for him.
"Mhm!" The Finn hummed cheerfully, wheeling Berwald's chair within a few feet on Lukas's bed and sinking into a spot next to him. "Did Emil bring you another book, Lukas? What's it about?"
"Norse mythology." Lukas said shortly, shrugging his shoulders. "Its mostly things I've already read. I wish he would get the last volume of Fruits Basket from Kiku; shojo manga is surprisingly addicting..." He trailed off, frowning to himself. Hm. It wasn't often he caught himself rambling.
Tino giggled, shaking his head. "Somehow the fact that you read shojo manga doesn't surprise me."
Lukas supposed that he should be offended by that comment but he wasn't; it was true that, just like Tino, he was fairly feminine for a guy. Not that it mattered or made any difference in the scheme of things, it was simply the truth. Whether that made Lukas 'gay' or whatever he didn't care, because Lukas would never allow himself to entire into a romantic relationship with anyone, no matter what their gender.
He simply shrugged off his friend's retort, stealing a glance at the clock. He had slept most of the day away after being up late the night before, and now it was almost dinner time. His stomach growled quietly in need of substance and he silenced it with a warning glare. He could call for a dinner tray as soon as Berwald and Tino l-
"Hey there, Lukie!" A loud voice suddenly shouted from the doorway, causing all three heads to turn in the direction from which it came. There stood Mathias Køhler, the annoying Danish boy Lukas had met the day before. In his hands he clutched one of the burgandy plastic hospital trays, and he wore a rediculously large grin plastered to his face. "I brought ya your dinner!"