l i k e   t h a t

“Mikey,” he said dully. “Mikey.”

Mikey had brought him a bottle of juice, hospital brand Orange juice, but it sat unopened in his hands. On Sundays, after his shift at the diner, Justin smelled like oranges. Brian had never known that he’d noticed that, but it came back to him now with startling ferocity, and he felt his stomach turn.

He couldn’t look at Mikey. Not without feeling a dull wail rising inside himself. It filled his head, his veins. He flinched away from Michael’s touch, saw his friend’s hurt face, and wanted to explain, but how could he?

Sorry, Mikey. He was sorry he’d tried to love Michael like that for years, and couldn’t. Sorry that he’d thought that there was someone that he maybe could love like that. Sorry that stupid fucking love - or damn near it - had got Justin killed.

Brian was sure Justin was dead.

He’d never considered the possibility that he felt something other than surprising animal lust and mild affection for the kid. He’d sort of let himself drift around Justin, towards Justin, let him hang around, because the brat was fun to play with, and gave maybe the best blow job Brian had ever experienced. It hadn’t occurred to Brian that it was possible to fall in love without meaning to, until his lips had left Justin’s in that parking lot - that stupid fucking parking lot, stupid fucking prom - and he’d felt a great blooming inside of him, like some bastard romantic poet had been born within.

And then, Justin’s smile as he walked away. The great swell of pride Brian had felt at bringing that smile to his kid’s face. Then the curl of Justin’s fingers around that scarf, that fucking scarf, and then there was just the stabbing echo of Brian’s own frantic footsteps, the swoop of wood on air, and Justin’s blood soaking into the concrete.

No

He willed himself to picture Justin’s face, Justin’s smiling, happy face, and thought that if it meant he’d catch Justin singing the theme song to Buffy in the shower Monday morning, he’d be fucking ecstatic to tell the boy that he sort of maybe loved him. He’d call Justin ‘Darling’ and bring him flowers and sing him a fucking Bon Jovi serenade just to hear him cracking his knuckles in the silence of the night.

No

Justin wasn’t dead, wasn’t dead, wasn’t dead. Dead was cold hands and blue lips, skin paler than fine bone china. Justin couldn’t die, because Justin couldn’t shut up for five minutes straight, let alone an eternity. Brian had a sudden, unwanted image of Justin lying silent on the white leather couch in the loft, his grey cement skin rolling in waves down his stiff body, eyes open and unseeing, blonde hair matted and stained with blood.

Justin wasn’t dead because he was Brian’s only chance to really live, and the kid would never let Brian down.

waste away with me …

--

“Brian?” Michael whispered, daring to reach up, touch Brian’s lion brown hair. His friend was unresponsive, gazing unseeing into the flat white wall ahead. Michael wondered why they always painted hospital walls that awful cream colour, that colour that gave you nothing to escape into, nowhere to hide. He wished, momentarily, that Emmett had decorated this lonely hall, that there was something to take you away, something to shock you into another world of leopard print and pink feather boas. Anything but this unending, relentless white.

He’d been pissed, when Brian called, pissed because he thought it was just Brian holding him back again, having his cake and eating it too, but then he’d heard the tremor in his old friend’s voice, heard the silence resounding after Brian said his name, and then there was nothing but fear.

Mikey.

Brian, what the fuck? I’m getting on -

Mikey…

Brian? - - Brian, what’s going on?

I think I hurt Justin.

What? Brian -- Are you high?

They took him away, and they won’t tell me anything.

Brian, what happened?

But Brian couldn’t say anything, couldn’t tell him, and it was up to a harried teacher, Justin’s calculus teacher, to explain what had happened, and even then, Michael got a sort of scrambled egg version of events, and it took him a few minutes to decipher that Justin had been attacked - bashed - at the hands of a classmate, at his fucking high school prom, while Brian watched and screamed and went quietly, privately insane.

Michael had never seen Brian look quite so calm and yet out of control at the same time. Really, it looked like Brian had just shut down, turned himself off to the turning of the world and gone away to some quiet place, probably with Justin and a year’s supply of lube. It looked like that, and yet every now and again a tear would slip down Brian’s face and Mikey would feel his heart break, because he knew Brian was trapped inside himself with his pain, his worry, his fear. Not trapped inside a nightmare, like that time Bri accidentally overdosed on K, but trapped inside reality - and alone, completely and totally alone, because Justin was in a coma and Mikey was never really part of their world.

That’s why Justin scared him, that first night. When Brian was with Justin, he slipped into another world, a world with no place for little Mikey, a place where Michael couldn’t even attempt to follow. If he’d said this to Brian, he would have refuted it with no small amount of hostility, but Michael knew what it was he saw in Brian’s eyes, even if Brian himself didn’t.

Brian had loved that kid, in his own way, in his own time. If Michael hadn’t believed that before, then the knowledge that Brian had danced with Justin in a room full of eighteen year old breeders was proof enough. Brian’s feelings were always in his actions, and this… Christ.

And now Justin was lying in there while the doctors operated and no-one would tell them anything because they weren’t family and Brian was too afraid to talk to Jennifer. Daphne had come to talk to Brian, earlier, had hugged him, kissed his forehead. They’d had a whispered conversation, and Daphne laughed even as she couldn’t stop crying.

Michael had never really spoken to Daphne, had barely seen her across a crowded room, but as he stared at her in that long too-white hallway, he’d felt a deep, throbbing sympathy for her, because he knew if anything ever happened to Brian, it would just about kill him, and here she was, 18 and alone and turning to her best friend’s lover for comfort - a lover who could barely hold it together himself. Brian, who sat boneless in a scarlet drenched silk scarf, and Daphne, still in her prom dress, crumpled and torn, now, her pretty face streaked with tears. A big orange car crash.

She’d gone away to find Justin’s mom, but Brian stayed. Michael wondered if Brian would ever be able to move again, ever be able to think again, without thinking about Justin’s blood soaking the pavement, Justin’s blood streaking his face, Justin, Justin, Justin.

“No,” Brian said aloud, his eyes unfocused.

“What?”

“He’s not going to die, Mikey. That little shit is not going to die.”

“Brian…”

“He wouldn’t do that to me.” Abruptly, Brian stood, the legs of his chair squealing against the linoleum. “I’m going for a fucking cigarette.”

How could Mikey argue with that?

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