Learning to Live

Pre-Story Author’s Note -

In an effort to avoid all of the typical clichés, I’ll do my best to make this as brief as possible. This is my first story here (hell, first time writing anything of this length/depth!), and of course, feedback is welcome and encouraged. Now, a few notes on the story itself. I’ve never been a fan of stories that force their AB/DL elements in too early and disrupt any chance for character development, and this will reflect that. Don’t be surprised when those elements don’t make an appearance for multiple chapters. Additionally, there will be very few/minimal inherently sexual elements, if any. That includes: no sex scenes, no masturbation, no BDSM, and very few themes of AB nature. If that doesn’t appeal to you, this story probably won’t, either.

And one final warning beforehand. This story gets into some heavy topics. Suicide, depression and similar themes are central to the plot, though not immediately. Vulgar language is common as well (when the main characters are initially teenage boys, are you surprised?). Now that the unpleasantries are finished, enjoy the story.

Chapter One

The sun was rising, the birds were chirping, and Daniel Farren’s alarm clock was blaring. Groaning, the boy rolled over, struggling to find the button that would put an end to the unwelcome intrusion into his slumber. After a few seconds of the blind groping typical for a still-groggy teen early in the morning, blissful silence replaced the screeching, and the day was begun.

Squinting, Daniel lifted his phone from its nightstand perch, scrolling through the night’s worth of notifications. Aside from a mildly interesting sports article about Man City and a pair of Snapchats, he found nothing worthwhile, and set back down his beloved cell. With a sigh, he threw off his covers and set off for the beginning of his morning routine.

On his way out of the bathroom, Daniel stopped in front of the mirror. Despite an unfortunately rough hair day; sticking up on the left and matted down on the right, he was still one of few his age who could say he was truly content with his appearance. With his days of acne and braces in the rearview mirror, smooth skin and a beaming white smile stared back at him. Brushing a loose clump of his blond hair off his forehead, he started heading back towards his room to get dressed. Donning a simple pair of jeans and a plain tee, Daniel grabbed his laptop and backpack, and was halfway to the kitchen before he remembered the Chem homework he’d left sitting on his desk. Once that mistake was rectified, he grabbed a bagel and had just started the toaster oven when his mother entered.

A pediatrician at the local doctor’s office, Kathy Farren was usually gone by the time Daniel woke up for school, but didn’t have to go in on Thursdays until the afternoon. As much as he liked to pretend otherwise, in fear of being labeled a “mama’s boy” by his friends, Daniel strongly took after his mom, and had even decided on majoring in biology to follow in her footsteps. Stepping out of her way lest he be trampled in her pursuit of coffee, Daniel began to bid her a good morning, only to be shushed.

“Your brother still isn’t feeling well. Don’t yell, let him sleep”, she whispered. Daniel nodded, feeling mildly embarrassed at having forgotten his brother’s health, despite the sounds of retching down the hall having kept him up half the night. Keeping his voice down, he whispered a quick apology. The subdued conversation quickly pivoted to a discussion about his mother’s work, a change Daniel was happy to follow. He hated talking about his brother’s health, even with family, and this morning was no different. Eventually, the toaster oven beeped, and the boy quickly and expertly buttered his breakfast. As he took his first bite, he glanced over at the clock and cringed.

“Gotta go, Mom. Have fun at work,” Daniel tossed over his shoulder as he started heading towards the door. “Right back at you. I won’t be home until late, so I expect homework to be done. There’s still pasta in the fridge, so do that for supper,” Nodding and with bagel in teeth, he grabbed his keys off the ring, slung his bag over his shoulder, and set off to face the world.

The sun had just climbed over the roof of the house across the street as Daniel pulled out of the garage. His car, a score-old Toyota handed down from his father, had taken a minute to start- it never liked when the weather started to get cold, as it had ever since November began last week. At least it gave me time to eat, Daniel thought, turning out of his driveway and beginning the short drive to school. Normally one to walk the mile and a half to Parker High, the combination of weather and time forced his hand on this particular morning- not that he was complaining.

Minutes later, he was pulling into his assigned parking spot, between Mike Fabiano’s Jeep and the empty spot normally filled by the vacationing Kate Fawkes. As soon as he stepped out into the lot, he heard his name being called, and turned with a grin.

“Look who finally drove his posh arse! What happened, legs break or somethin? Never thought I’d see the fuckin’ day,” quipped Nate Davies with a smirk. Eying Daniel’s car, he feigned shock. “That the damn Stallion? Your mum was taking us to football practices in that thing a decade ago, mate,” he teased. “You gotta be shittin’ me.”

“Oh, slag off. We can’t all be ridin’ everywhere in daddy’s Mercedes,” Daniel fired back, as the two began walking towards the entrance. “Touché, touché,” Nate conceded. “By the way, you botthe Bio homework? I may or may not have been… busy,” he added with a wink. Rolling his eyes, Daniel feigned ignorance. “We had Bio homework? Fuck me, Atkins is gonna have my guts for bloody garters! Third time this damn term.”

Nate’s eyes widened before he caught on. “You cheeky bastard, you almost had me,” he laughed, punching Daniel on the shoulder. Grinning as the pair maneuvered their way into homeroom, Daniel pulled out the homework in question, passing it over. “So, busy? You still cockin’ around with Betty Reynolds, or did you finally develop some taste,” he questioned. With a snort, Nate specified that it was indeed the former, adding, “What can I say, mate. Ain’t a bloke here who’d turn down a slice of that pie.” Shaking his head, Daniel countered. “As if there’s even a crumb left with everyone whose taken a bite!”

Just then, a noise behind the two caused them to jump and turn simultaneously. Scooting his desk forward was Ethan Miller, who pretended to be as confused as the other boys, before breaking into a smile and exchanging greetings with his two friends. “Someone mentioned pie?”

“Yeah, mate, real delicious one. Mum just baked it yesterday. Shame you don’t get any, on account of you holdin’ back your cousin’s Snap, and all that,” Nate bantered. Sighing with mock discontempt, Ethan acted as if he was considering the proposal, eventuakly shaking his head. “Nah, sorry. She’s still miffed at Sam for giving her number to that lifeguard bloke. Maybe next time, though,” he added, winking.

At the mention of Ethan’s twin, Daniel perked up. “Oy, where is Sam, anyways? We still gotta finish up that Ireland project for Smythe by tomorrow, and he’s about to blow our streak again, too.” Nodding, as if he’d expected Daniel to ask, Ethan looked serious, an emotion not often found on his pudgy face. “He got pissed with those kids from Lakeview again. Had to cover for him with Dad, too,” he carried on. “Think he said he’d be here by lunch, though.”

Nate and Daniel groaned in unison at that, speaking over each other, with the former’s response detailing his displeasure at not being invited and the latter upset at his close friend’s recent drinking streak. “E, next time that bugger’s about to go throw his night away, let me know so I can come whoop his arse. Bloody idiot,” Daniel ranted. “Good luck there,” Ethan sighed. “Tosser won’t take my advice. Head’s too damn thick, I’m tellin’ ya.” Both boys nodded in concession, and the conversation pivoted to topics typical for Year 12 students, though Daniel’s mind stayed moored.

Fuckin’ Sam. Why’s he always gotta do this to us? The hell those Lakeview gits got to offer? I swear, next time I see him, I’ll knock some sense into his arse. He’s too cu-…

“Earth to Daniel, you still awake in there, mate?” Nate asked, before smacking his friend on the shoulder. “I can’t be arsed to wait all day.” Daniel blinked, shook his head, and apologized, abashed smile on his face. “Sorry. No time for coffee this mornin’.” Rolling his eyes, Nate offered his companion his hand. “Come on. Bell rang while you were off with the faeries.” Pulling him to his feet, Nate headed for his first class of the day, catching up to Ethan at the door with Daniel shortly behind.

The three parted ways shortly after, heading to their lockers to grab textbooks for their first few periods. Still lost in thought, Daniel meandered towards Calculus, not seeing the fellow student in his path until too late. Startled by the sudden impact, both dropped their armful of books and papers. Dropping to his knees, Daniel immediately began apologizing profusely and sorting the mixed items.

“Hey, no need to apologize. It happens,” assured a familiar voice. Glancing up, Daniel saw none other than Anya Pritchard. He froze, recognizing her, and quickly looked around for any of her friends, who he and Sam had long ago nicknamed The Queen Bitches, or Bs for short. Made up of the most popular girls in school, they also tended to be the nastiest. Though he would never admit it, Daniel had a sort of begrudging respect for Anya after she had tutored him in Year 9, one that had budded into very confusing feelings he was not eager to explore. At the very least, he saw her as cut from a very different cloth from the other Bs, and blushed once again replaying the scene in his head.

“Hey, are you alright?” Damn it. Why does she pick now to acknowledge I bloody exist? “Um, yeah, yeah, I’m ok. Thanks for asking,” Daniel stammered out. Cringing internally, he handed her the pile of books she dropped, and walked away. In what was now a very common theme, he spent much of his morning berating himself for his awkwardness. Before he knew it, it was time for lunch. Perking up at the earlier promise from Ethan that Sam would “be here by lunch”, Daniel’s walk to the refectory was accompanied by a little more pep to his step.

Plopping down at the table he normally sat at with his tray, the anticipation he felt was quickly squashed. Ethan and Nate were already deep in a heated discussion, but Sam was nowhere to be seen. Noticing the arrival of his friend, Nate interrupted Ethan’s argument to ask for his friend’s opinion. “Oy, Daniel! We need you to break the tie. Would it be morally wrong to use a trebuchet to send, erm, biological weapons into a city under seige?” Clearing his throat, Ethan corrected Nate. “Keep in mind that by ‘biological weapons’, he means live children.”

“The shite are you two on about? I swear, it’s always something like this after you have Harper. Fuck do you do in there?” Nate and Ethan shared a glance, as the latter spoke up. “First, you know we can’t spoil the secret before you get there,” he said, referring to the pact between the trio to never mention interesting lessons before they had all taken them. “Fair enough,” Daniel conceded. “And the second?”

“You didn’t answer the question,” Ethan divulged with a wink and a grin. Groaning, Daniel pretended to be deep in thought, before answering. “Well, I suppose it boils down to one thing, whether or not it’s acceptable. Are they orphans?” Both boys burst out laughing at that, and Daniel couldn’t help but grin, his foul mood lightened. Similar conversations ensued, mostly mocking the quality of lunch, which today consisted of something claiming to be fish fingers but with the consistency and taste of rubber.

On the way back to classes, Daniel asked Ethan if there was any update on Sam. “Yeah, lil’ cunt is hung over to high hell. Says he’ll be here eventually, though,” he replied. “Not sure what the point is, only got a study period, but who knows what’s going on in that thick skull, yeah?” Daniel murmured in agreement, yet found himself wondering why exactly he cared so much about seeing Sam. Yeah, he was the only one who knew about his brother, and it was always good to get the weight off his chest talking to him about it, but something felt different to him about today.

In any case, quite the opposite of how the first few classes of the day passed, final period dragged on forever for Daniel. Waiting for the bell was torturous. Sam had texted him shortly into class, telling him to meet him by his (Daniel’s) locker, and he could hardly wait. Even Ethan, who usually had checked out long before that point in the day, couldn’t help but notice Daniel’s anxiousness. Eventually, though, class was dismissed, and it was all he could do to keep from sprinting to his locker.

As he turned the final corner, Daniel couldn’t keep a grin off his face as he saw his best friend at long last. Sam certainly looked every bit as miserable as Ethan had suggested, but he was no stranger to weariness, and hid it decently well. However, as he lifted his head and offered up a tired smile, his bloodshot eyes gave a lot away, and Daniel noticed it immediately. “You wanted to meet me here?”

Sam nodded, starting to walk. “Follow me. I have something to tell you.” Raising an eyebrow, Daniel shrugged off his initial curiosity and set off in the other boy’s footsteps. However, they didn’t get far before an untimely interruption, courtesy of none other than Anya. Making a beeline for Daniel, she gave a polite greeting to the now-annoyed Sam, and began to speak. “Hey, Daniel, you left one of your books with me this morning. It’s in my locker. Come on, let’s go get it quick.”

Glancing between Anya and Sam, and feeling twice as awkward as he had earlier, he eventually flashed an apologetic smile to Sam. “Sorry, Sam. I’ll be right back.” However, Sam wasn’t having any of it. “You know what? Never mind. Go. Take your sweet damn time”, he hissed, turning away and stalking off. At a loss for words, Daniel watched his friend walk off, but was quickly distracted by Anya hovering in his peripheral vision. She apologized for the inconvenience, and reluctantly, Daniel followed as she led the way to her locker for the textbook that had just set in motion a lifechanging series of events.

1 Like

very nice, I’m curious to read more. Does this story take place in the UK? From some of the terms that the teenagers are using in their conversation, I would make that guess.

Good start, even though I noticed some spelling errors. Also the title reminds me of a Dream Theater song.

Glad I wasn’t the only one who went there immediately.