An owl hooted in the distance and a cat nonchalantly strolled by, only just missing brushing up against Blake’s legs. A gust of wind chilled the night air and the rustling sounds of autumn leaves resounded eerily loud in the idyllic, yet abandoned park in Pittsburgh. Blake sat down on the ground near a small lake. He could smell the softness of the morning dew and with each deep breath, it filled his lungs with cold air, only to be expelled from his body in restless sighs.
The high was wearing off and little by little, he started feeling more like himself, more like a human being. But little by little, everything came rushing back. Every worry, every concern, every anxiety and every urge. The moon shone lowly and reflected the surroundings onto the surface of the lake. He stared at his own features for a long time, blindly looking into his past, present and future. His cold and bloodshot eyes, the grey skin, the hollowed out cheeks, the lack of smile that usually graced his features so beautifully. Everything Blake remembered as being his had slowly disappeared. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt like Blake Wyzecki, that weird kid down the street who’s parents were always shouting. The kid that “was alright” but no one bothered with. He remembered being a teenage kid, hiding in his room and dreaming of the day he was all grown up and that he could escape to the big city. He dreamt of not having to answer to anyone, of escaping from his life and finally starting over. He dreamt of his future, of a time when he wasn’t put down by everyone, of a time when he wouldn’t feel like a loser. He prayed for a time he didn’t feel like the black sheep. Bitterly, he smirked at the irony. He had managed to escape his previous life only to fall deeper than before. Angrily, he tossed a stone into the water. He watched it bounce twice and then, finally, dropping down into the cold bottom of the lake. In that second, he wished he could be like the stone. To be cast from his life into the embrace of the icy water that slowly would fill him until his agony was replaced by a blissful silence. He ached for some peace, for warmth and for some tranquillity within.
His beloved Crystal was leaving him and the questions rushed back. The emptiness, the darkness and the sadness. The hallow returned into his soul. Why am I alone? Why doesn’t anyone care? Why do I do this to myself? Why can’t I stop? Why am I never good enough?
A slow, deliberate and strange voice constantly whispered: Just do it. Escape from yourself.
He wrapped his jeans jacket tighter around himself, in a feeble attempt to warm himself up. He pinched his eyes firmly shut and willed the thoughts and urges to go away. He hated feeling like this, and often as soon as he felt this low, he’d just take another hit and everything will be better. Wistfully, he took one last look at the lake and forced himself to walk away. One more hit and everything will be okay.
He got up, stumbled and started walking towards a small bridge he knew his “friends” would be at. He heard their voices and shivered. They reminded him of what he had become and what he’ll do. But it also reminded him that he couldn’t walk away. In a strange way, he didn’t want to walk away. They understood and accepted him. And at the end of the day, they were all he had. With no family, friends or partner to turn to, these people had become his new family. A corrupted, filthy, untrusting family that wouldn’t even think twice about leaving him behind when he needed some help. But it was all he had.
He walked by an older man, passed out on the bench, completely fucked out of his mind, his eyes on empty. It reminded him of what he’ll become in the future. A burned out man sleeping off his high on the park bench. He quickly looked away and pushed the image out of his mind. It’ll feel better, that’s what matters.
He put on the fake smile he had mastered so well : cute, charming, adorable and absolutely sexy. And most of all, nearly irresistible. He knew his smile was worth a lot. He just hoped it was worth enough for tonight. After what had happened, he needed to bring all he’s got.
A few guys nodded in recognition, others smiled ominously, and a few sniggered. Shit, they heard what has happened.
Blake shook hands with the biggest and scariest guy of them all, the leader, Dino. ‘Hey Blair,’ Dino said. ‘Surprised to see you here’
‘Where else would I be?’ Blake smiled, half flirted.
Dino gave him a sly smile, as if he was calculating what to say. “What do you want, Blair?” he asked. Blake couldn’t quite read Dino. He seemed overly friendly, which was always a warning to those who knew him well.
“Blake,” he said. “Blake is my name, not Blair.”
“Who cares?” Dino countered, a cruel undertone in his voice seeping through. “You’re nothing but another twink who needs something. A little ant people step on. So, I ask you again, What do you want, Blair?”
“I need a little something for tonight,’ Blake blurted out, throwing caution to the wind. “Something to get me by … it’s been a shitty night.”
“Hmmm,” Dino nodded. “So I’ve heard. Had a little trouble with the landlord.” Dino looked at Blake, as if he was eying him up. “Got any cash on you?”
“Cash?” Blake mumbled. Usually Dino didn’t mind Blake paying afterwards. They had a system, a deal. In return for what he wanted, Blake sometimes went beyond the call of duty to ensure Dino was on his good side. He gave him everything that he had … including himself.
Dino smiled eerily again. “Didn’t think so. Free rides over, mate. You’ve had enough. Want some crystal? Get me cash.”
“But you never had a problem with me paying you later before? You know I’ll get it to you.” Blake resisted. “I always have.”
“Bullshit, you little fuck.” Dino heatedly replied. “You still owe me 300. Besides, word on the street is you got yourself into some trouble. You got evicted. I ain’t taking no chances.”
“Yeah but … come on, Dino, can’t we work something out? We have in the past. You told me the 300 was taken care of.” Blake asked, a sweet smile playing on his lips as he hovered his hands above Dino’s cock. “You know we could have some fun…”
“Loser,” Dino laughed. “It’s cute when you’re the new kid on the block. But it’s getting old. And last time I checked, desperation is not hot on anyone. Get lost.”
“But …” Blake said, at a loss.
“I said get lost, before I kick the shit out of you.” Dino shouted loudly. He took Blake’s wrist, turned it around to Blake’s back and pushed him forward. Blake fell on the ground, cursed inwardly as he brushed sand out of his mouth with the back of his hand. Furiously he ignored the laughter and whispering radiating from around him.
He got up and walked away, fast. He ignored the searing pain radiating from the bruises on his arms and he started running. He just kept running until his legs couldn’t take the burn anymore. He rested, briefly, panting heavily. When he realised where he was, he fell to his knees.
He was at the spot. His spot. He always came here when he felt really low. Somehow his legs knew where to take him. As if they knew what he wanted. As if he knew what he needed. The same voice whispered again, louder than before: Just do it. Escape.
To anyone else but Blake, the spot was a calm and serene place. A place where people had picnics, kissed underneath the trees, held hands and talked freely for hours. It was a small patch of green, surrounded by trees on one side and a giant lake on the other. It seemed romantic, the perfect place to have a secret rendez-vous. But with every pretty picture, there’s always a snake hiding in plain sight. For Blake, it was the place where it all started. The first time he had met Crystal. The first time he had leapt into her arms and drowned in her vast entity. The first time he had turned his back on everything he believed in. The first time he had betrayed himself and sold everything that he had to give. Dino was only willing to accept anything Blake wanted to give in exchange for Crystal. It was also the first time he had heard the voice. And now that the voice was louder than ever, he found it hard to resist the temptation the water was presenting. Just do it. Let the water embrace you.
“Fine!” he shouted to the skies. “I give up. I surrender. I stop fighting it.” He looked around at the sky, as if he was expecting a reply. “Why even bother? I was cursed when I was born. I was never meant to be anything more than a stupid fucking child who can’t do anything right.”
“I just…” he cried. Tears rolled down his cheeks freely, and he let the anger, sadness and sheer desperation take over. For once, he couldn’t run, he couldn’t hide. Crystal wasn’t there to help him. Like a hopeless toddler, he searched around for a hand to hold onto but there was no one. No one took the hand he was so desperately reaching out. “I just can’t do this anymore.”
Suddenly his heart stopped as he heard a branch snap behind him. He turned around to see what it was but he couldn’t distinguish any figures in the blackness of the night. “Who’s there?”
“Just me, man.” A voice replied. A tall, lanky man awkwardly walked towards him and as soon as the moonlight hit his face, Blake recognised him as the man that had laid down on the bench on the bridge, passed out. “I saw what happened and thought I might see if you’re alright. Dino was a real bastard, man.”
“No,” Blake countered. “He was right. Why would he even want me?” He could tell the man was still high by the sound of his voice and the way he constantly rubbed under his nose. He knew the feeling too well, he knew he did the same thing when he was flying. So he didn’t mind being sad and depressed in front of him. He wouldn’t remember a thing the next mourning. “Why would anyone even want me? No one would even miss me if I didn’t wake up in the morning.”
“Don’t say that,” the older man said. “You’re still young, you have things to live for?”
“Oh yeah?” Blake laughed. “Like what? A mortgage to pay? Friends to hang out with? Parents to visit? A lover to fuck?” Blake stared at the older man defiantly, daring him to argue back. “I’ve got nothing. I’m not even sure I have myself anymore.”
“You’ll feel better after you’ve had some sleep.” The man resisted, shaking his sad slowly.
“Sleep where? Here?” Blake screamed. “I might as well. It’s the only place I can stay at. Didn’t you hear? I got evicted. I can’t even go back to the crack den because I …” he couldn’t say it. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t admit to himself that he had done something he never thought he’d do. He swallowed hard. “I can’t go back because I stole from the guy who rules the place. If I go back, he’ll beat me up. Fuck, he’ll kill me. No one steals from him.”
He caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection on the lake. In a second, he felt like being sick. There, he had said it. Once you say it, it becomes the truth. I am a thief.
“Come on, man” the older man tried to say. “We all do shit that’s fucked up. It doesn’t mean we’re bad.”
Blake scoffed. He knew very well that the older man didn’t even believe those words himself. “Who are you kidding. We’re all fucked up, we’re all doomed to die alone in a ditch. You know what it’s like, you’ve seen it. Either you quit it, or it quits you. And most of us, don’t get to quit it.”
“I just need to sleep …” Blake sighed, he dreamily stared at the lake and thought of the stone again, drifting slowly and pleasantly down to the bottom of the lake. Never to be heard of again, never to be seen again.
The older man put a hand on Blake’s shoulder and it shook him awake. “Look, just go back to Liberty Avenue. Find a guy to fuck. Maybe he’ll let you stay. If you’re lucky, he’ll pay you. If not, try again. We all done it and I know it wouldn’t exactly be your first.”
“I only do that when I’m …” Blake stopped.
“Desperate for a fix?” he replied. “Or just desperate?” The man laughed. “You and I, we’re not that different. I’m just older and a lot less attractive. You, you’re young and hot. Someone will pay to fuck you.” He took out something from his pocket and shoved it into Blake’s hand. “Here, take it and use it. It’ll get you by ‘til morning.”
Without saying something else, he turned around and walked away.
“Wait … don’t you want anything in return?” Blake asked.
“You talked to me,” the man said. “And you didn’t even once tell me to fuck off. That’s something.”
The light shone brightly on the streets, the sound of conversation and laughter filled the air on Liberty Avenue. People walked at a quick pace, wanting nothing more to get away from the cold and swiftly enter the warmth of the pubs and clubs – not to mention to encounter another kind of heat. Still, the mood on the street felt excited, light and happy. Frivolous, even.
But if you looked closely, you could see some sombre eyes and fake smiles on lonely faces, sadness hiding in plain sight. Blake was one of them. He stood on the corner of the major avenue and a little alleyway, nicknamed ‘no eyes alley’. It was a long but dingy alley where a lot of newly formed couples would seek refuge to in case they needed some privacy off streets. Because it was partly hidden by a gate, that was never locked, it was hard to see in to. Another façade hidden in plain sight.
Blake peered through the crowd, looking out for a perfect man to chat up. His stomach turned in protest, the simmering burn being a constant warning and reminder that his consciousness wasn’t happy. Despite his reputation, Blake hated doing this. He’d picked up guys plenty of times, but only because he liked them and wanted to get to know them. Most of the time, it ended up in sex. He didn’t mind sex, at all, but he wondered why everyone was so obsessed with it. It’s fun and satisfying but he’d easily give up a quick fuck for something more substantial. He’d been running from place to place, from guy to guy for such a long time that he yearned for something safe. For something warm and meaningful. He yearned for … a home. Or someone to love him. To hold him. To comfort him. And if he was brutally honest with himself, he just wanted someone to like him. For him not to feel alone and cold.
Tears danced on his lashes once more as the emptiness resurfaced. He shook his head fiercely and reached for his pocket. The tiny bag of Crystal was still in there, a temptation underneath his fingertips. He took it out, opened it and emptied the content on the back of his right hand. In a swift movement, he snorted the content. It wasn’t much but as soon as the powder hit his nose, he saw bright lights and stars in front of his eyes. He started smiling broadly as the familiar high started to set in. Dull and in the back of his mind, he felt her come back. Crystal was with him and she was beautiful.
He felt himself come alive again and the worries, questions and thoughts faded slowly. The urge to be a stone slowly weakened until it was nothing more than a little peddle in the corner of his mind. Out of sight and out of mind, for now. Crystal was taking care of him, he wasn’t alone anymore.
A man bumped into him and in the distance he heard him apologise. He looked at him and smiled. “The ants are going away. They’re not biting anymore.” Blake grinned.
“The fuck are you on.” He replied as he walked away from Blake.
Blake laughed. To anyone but him, he didn’t make sense. But he understood. And so did Crystal. He scoped out the streets again, looking for someone to love. Or at least, to fuck and sleep in their house.
Again, his stomach protested. But Blake resisted. Just for tonight. Tomorrow I’ll find a new place and I’ll stop. I’ll get better. I’ll never have to lie again. But I’m tired and I … I just want someone to hold me tonight. Anyone. I don’t want to feel like shit.
A flamboyant man wearing pink leather pants and no silky see through shirt walked passed him. He’s too gay.
A petite woman smiled at him as she held hands with her girlfriend. He smiled courteously. Not gay enough.
A big husky man in jeans, leather jacket and a cap waved to his crew from afar. I suspect he’d be … rough. He winced at the memories and quickly looked for someone else.
Then in the distance he saw a group of people he vaguely new. Cute, skinny, average looking guy … Michael I think his name is. From the gym … not bad, a bit of a dork but he’s always been nice. Boyfriend material … but he’ll never let me stay until morning. Not if I fuck him right away. He’s not the type.
Beside him, a slightly taller man walked along. Brown hair, older, his back a bit hunched, neat clothes. Not what I usually go for but maybe that’s not a bad thing. He seems … nice. Adorable.
As the pair came closer, Blake felt drawn to the man. Something inside of him screamed. Something inside of the man connected to something inside of him. But he had no idea what that was. He’s the one. I’ll stay with him tonight.
He walked towards the pair, his head held low, and as he passed the couple, he “accidently” bumped in the guy next to Michael. “Sorry” he mumbled. He turned around and made eye contact with the guy. “It’s alright.” The guy said. A quick smile, a raise of his hand and suddenly he was gone.
Blake stayed on the spot, as if he was nailed to the ground. Something had hit him inside. The way the guy had turned around, the way he had awkwardly avoided looking at him directly, the way he had meaninglessly replied, the way he smelled, the way he … was. Blake smiled, involuntarily, as his stomach seized to burn. There was something about the guy, a sense of kindness that immediately drew Blake in. It’s not what I usually go for but maybe that really is not a bad thing.
He saw Michael and his friend walk away into the distance and feverishly wished he could run after him and introduce himself. But he knew that a nice man like him wouldn’t go for a stupid kid like him. Why would he? He probably already has an amazing man that … his thoughts were cut short as he saw them both turn into the alley where Babylon was. “Either Michael’s doing him,” Blake thought. “Or they’re both on the pull.”
He smiled again, a genuine smile because Blake just realised he might have a shot.
Blake sat behind the bar and he’d been watching Michael’s friend for a while now. He knew he wasn’t taken since he’d been unsuccessfully hitting on men the entire night.
Blake laughed at his attempts. Even though the other men completely ignored him, he had found his attempts plain adorable and sweet. He noticed the guy was drinking the new cocktail Babylon was offering and he adored the way the guy first removed the umbrella, then ate the little pineapple slice on the glass and then proceeded to sip the cocktail for a good half an hour before ordering a new one. Cocktail after cocktail, the same thing. A bubble was forming inside of Blake’s chest. He couldn’t explain it but it felt like a bubble of cuteness and happiness. Something the guy was forming inside of him. He smiled but felt foolish. Blake realised that he had a crush. A crush on a guy he had never met, never spoken to and never even heard of. He’d merely bumped into him and observed him for 3 hours. That’s all it took. He waved sheepishly but got the cold shoulder from the guy. His smile dimmed but he pledged not to give up. He saw Michael walk up to the guy and contemplated going over there to talk to Michael. Perhaps he’d introduce him but before he even had the chance to execute his crafty plan, the guy was leaving Babylon. Quickly, Blake emptied his glass of water and hurried after him.
He didn’t catch up with him until they were outside. The guy was walking through the crowd and looking for a way out of the alley. He was right behind him and he could smell his sweet, musky cologne. “Didn’t want to dance?” Blake blurted out.
“Oh, uh … yeah,” the guy replied. “I’m not much of a dancer. Although I … I enjoy dancing. I …I didn’t realize you were asking, uh…”
Blake smiled broadly. He couldn’t believe how lovely his voice was. The softness and kindness in the vowels, the cute lilt as he pronounced the worlds. He saw the guy turn his back on him. “Taking off?” he said, once more blurting it out in panic. He didn’t want him to leave. At least not without him. He wanted to keep that bubble that was inside of him. He wanted to be near the guy, to keep feeling that bubble grow.
“ Yeah. Yeah, you know, sometimes it just,” the guy said. In a cute way, he kept stumbling over his words. “Uh … it, uh, it gets a little … too, uh…”
Blake understood what he was trying to say. “Intense?” he asked. The guy didn’t seem like the Babylon type. More the type to stay at home and watch a movie with a glass of wine. He knew the only reason why he came here was to escape the loneliness that seemed to live in his apartment. He knew exactly how he felt because it’s the same reason why he went out to places like Babylon, too.
“ Intense.” The guy said, contently nodding at the word. “That’s, uh … that’s a good word.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Blake replied, weirdly nervous. He usually didn’t get nervous because he knew he was good-looking enough to have his pickings. But with this guy, someone that wasn’t even his type, he felt his hands shake. “Sometimes it gets a little too intense in there for me, too.”
Talking to the guy felt pleasant to Blake. It wasn’t like talking to his friends. They were often crude in the way they handled him. But this guy was nice. He could tell. And Blake liked the way he looked at him. The guy looked at him as if he was … a person. His eyes, they betrayed a sense of kindness and softness, embedded in loneliness. “You going home?” he asked, full of hope. “Do you want some company?”
The guy started fiddling with his hands in his pocket. Blake could tell he was tense. ‘So cute.’ He thought.
“Well, you know,” the guy responded. “It’s … it’s … it’s a little late.” Blake saw the guy think, a cute ripple forming between his eyes. Again, the bubble grew. “And, uh… Sure.”
Blake smiled broadly, once more. The bubble inside just doubled in size as he saw the guy smile back at him. The more he looked at him, the more he realised how stunning he was. “Are you sure?” he asked, not quite believing he got lucky.
“Sure.” The guy replied. “I … I … if you’re sure.”
“ I’m sure.” Blake said. He didn’t know what was happening but he knew he wanted to hang on to this feeling. He wanted to hang on to the bubble inside. Because with that bubble inside, the voice inside telling him to escape had been pushed back to the very furthest corner of his being. And every time the guy spoke, the voice dimmed until, by the end of the walk, it was nothing but a thought he once had.
a head full of memories
a heart of broken promises
I'm crippled by my inner voice
I can still feel the ghost of a touch, a smile, a longing kiss
the feeling burnt on my skin
I'm mutilated, maimed and scarred
Alone I sit in a dirty room
destined for solitude
comforted by a wall of silence
as noise will die a sudden death at the door
Blake lay on the bed, with his belly against the matress and flipped nonchalantly through a magazine. His hair was tussled, his shirt discarded and the sheet just about covered his naked bottom. He smiled as he saw Ted in the en-suite bathroom out of the corner of his eyes.
‘What ARE you doing in there, Teddy?’ Blake laughed. ‘You’ve been ages!’
‘Painting the goddamn Mona Lisa’ Ted replied, his voice as dry as bone.
Blake laughed once more, the sound filling the room with a pleasant mood. ‘Come on,’ he whined. ‘I need you’
‘Didn’t you get enough off me just half an hour ago?’ Ted asked.
‘Yeah but now I need your help filling in this crossword puzzle.’ Blake responded. ‘Get your mind out of the gutter!’
‘Impossible Blake. It’s been firmly lodged in there ever since I met you!’ Blake scoffed. ‘Right’ he whispered underneath his breath.
Ted finally emerged from the bathroom after a good hour. Blake in the meanwhile had fallen asleep and was slightly snoring underneath the duvets.
‘Oh crap,’ Ted cursed. ‘Missed my shot’
But as soon as he saw Blake’s peaceful face, he smiled. There was something about watching Blake sleep that filled him with a sense of love and tenderness. Blake was smiling, in his sleep and in that moment Ted vowed to keep that smile on there as much as he could.
As he crawled into bed, the mattress dipped and woke up Blake. His eyes fluttered open and the smile turned into a full blown grin as he saw Ted nestling beside him. ‘Took you long enough’ he whispered.
‘Well I did want to be all pretty for you,’ Ted replied. ‘But this was the best I could do! Little did I know it was all in vain because YOU couldn’t stay up past your bedtime’
Blake rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Yawning, he said ‘It’s after 3 am, Ted, and you look pretty good to me’
Teddy grinned. ‘You poor thing, so delirious with sleep that you can’t see the wrinkles’
‘Not wrinkles, laughter lines.’ Blake said. ‘They make you look distinguished.’
‘And old,’ Ted countered. ‘And let’s not forget the flabby arms and rings underneath my eyes’
‘Shush,’ he whispered through another yawn. ‘I think –‘
‘And not to mention my gut. I mean, I work out and then there…’
Suddenly a kiss interrupted his sentence. A gasp and a moan. Their mouthed closed and their tongues danced to a rhythm only they could hear. It felt familiar, trusted and so right. Blake caressed the side of Ted’s face and as they parted, he pressed a small kiss on the top of his head. ‘Please don’t talk badly about the man that I love. He may have his imperfections but those make him beautiful. With wrinkles or without, I think he’s the most beautiful creature I’ve set my eyes upon. In fact, I love his imperfections. They make him interesting and different. And if there’s one thing that makes those imperfections even more beautiful, it’s his soul that shines through. His generous, tender and loving soul. There’s nothing I would change about him. Perhaps one thing or two … the fact that he can’t see himself for who he truly is and the fact that he’s as stubborn as a mule and won’t believe that his boyfriend thinks he’s awesome.’
‘Blake …’ Ted started.
‘Shush now.’ Blake responded with a yawn. ‘Bed now.’ Blake cuddled up against Ted, his head nestling between Ted’s neck and his shoulder. Blake sighed contently as he drifted off to sleep, feeling warm, content and cared for.
Ted on the other hand didn’t know what to think of his life. Through some weird twisted act of destiny, he met this amazing guy who happened to like him too. Something so ordinary, so mundane, yet so strange for Ted. He pressed a kiss on Blake’s hair and smiled too, resigning to the fact that this time Blake won the argument. He closed his eyes and prayed that when he wakes up in the morning, Blake will still be there in his arms and all of this bliss isn’t just a dream.
Blake lay awake in bed, his eyes firmly fixated on the shadows on the ceiling. Ted was sleeping peacefully beside him, occasionally letting out a loud snore and sniffle. Usually they would be out clubbing at this time of night - it was after all Saturday night - but Ted had come down with a bad cold and Blake had offered to take care of him. He did all the things he was suppose to do: make him chicken soup, bring him tissues and hot teas, clean up his place and at around 11 PM, he had ushered him to bed. After a long day of work, Blake was absolutely wiped out. So he lay down beside him, cherishing the mumbled pillow talk coming from his drowsy lover. He watched Ted drift off and stroke his hair until he was fast asleep.
He sighed contently, secretly enjoying the fact that he got to take care of Ted for once, laid down on his back and closed his eyes. He waited for the sandman to come … and waited … and waited. And then, he waited some more.
Throughout the night, he drifted in and out of sleep, but he never got a good full hour of sleep. Frustrated, he gave up at around 6 AM. The first rays of sunshine illuminated the apartment. For some weird reason it filled him with hope and a new zest for life. A big contrast with the heavy blackness that he had just gone through. No one said recovering from an addiction was easy. Ted helped, his steady hand on his shoulder often was enough to remind him of what, where, how and why. But often, he just felt lost, confused and out of his depth.
He tiptoed barefoot on the cold wooden floor out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. He decided to make himself a cup of tea – as silently as possible which isn’t too easy considering how noisy everything was at 6 AM in the morning. He cursed at every clang! Or thud! he made but finally he was well on his way to that perfect cuppa. He leant up against the kitchen counter and waited for the high-pitched whistle of the kettle. He looked around the room and proudly thought he did an okay job on cleaning the kitchen. It was tidy, organised and smelled lovely. Next to him was a bowl of fruit and he quietly chuckled as he placed two oranges at the base of a big banana. ‘I wonder if Ted will notice’ he thought to himself.
He made his cup of tea and decided to go sit on the window sill to watch the sun rise. He gently sipped his tea and enjoyed the hot liquid warming him from the inside. The sun was shining brightly against his naked torso, as if the sunrays were dancing against his skin. He looked outside and watched the city awake.
The milkman was the first one to pass as he placed milk bottles at the door of every customer, a lone dog wandered the streets as a lot of things on his way, the postman dropped off letters and packages to hopeful neighbours and then suddenly, two people caught his eye.
An elderly woman walked past the baker and in one hand she had a cane that supported her, on the other she affectionately held the hand of an elderly man. Side by side, the walked – slowly – across the street. He watched go into the shop, sit down at the little table by the window and enjoy their coffee.
He must’ve just sat by the window for a good hour as he watched the elderly couple just have their breakfast. He couldn’t make out what they were saying but he was genuinely moved by the apparent affection and love that still existed between them. He felt a tear run down his cheek but didn’t bother to wipe it off. The sight filled him with a bittersweet sadness and melancholy that he had rarely felt before.
He wondered if he could ever be so lucky to have that. To even survive to their age and still be with the same person. He wondered of he could kick the habit and actually start a regular life. He wondered if … he was worth loving for so long. He wondered if Ted would be able to put up with him for so many years.
He wanted what he saw. He wanted that more than anything. A place to call his own, a hand to hold his, a soulmate to live with. Safety. Warmth. Love. Despite feeling secure and loved in his relationship with Ted, there was always this nagging question in the back of his mind. Is today the day that Ted will get sick of me and leave?
Suddenly he felt two strong arms wrap around his waist and as if by instinct, he relaxed into the touch. His back perfectly fit against Ted’s chest. A kiss near the ear and a husky ‘morning angel’ was enough to make him smile. ‘Morning,’ Blake replied. ‘Did you sleep well?’
‘Mmm’ Ted mumbled as he nuzzled against Blake’s neck. ‘Missed you’
‘Ted?’ Blake asked.
Another muzzled ‘mmmm’ from Ted.
‘You know that I love you, right?’ Blake said with a shaking voice. ‘And I’d do anything for you.’
Ted reached for Blake’s hands and let their fingers entwine. ‘I do, I can feel it.’ A little kiss on Blake’s shoulder. ‘And I love you too.’
Blake let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding and relaxed a little bit more.
‘By the way,’ Ted smirked. ‘I thought the oranges were a bit big so I exchanged them with plums. You know … proportion and all that.’
They all showed up promptly on time with the exception of Brian and Justin. She was used to their tardiness and looked forward to ripping them a new arsehole for being late. ‘It’s their loss anyway’, she thought. ‘The marinara sauce is getting cold. So it’s cold pasta for those two idiots.’
Two hours later, she was still in the kitchen with the boys, who were giving Debbie a hand with the dishes after their long and hearty meal. The room was filled with laughter and as she looked at her boys, she felt proud and happy. ‘My house is a home’ she thought. ‘A home for family and friends’
Blake had quietly slipped upstairs for a ‘toilet break’. But honestly, he just needed to get away. He was sitting at the table surrounded by happy and smiling faces and he had never felt so out of place. He faked his smiles and laughed at jokes he didn’t find funny. He exchanged pleasantries and shook hands politely but in his heart of hearts, he felt as if his soul was dying.
He sat at the top of stairs and looked directly at the door downstairs. He heard the chatter and mirth and remembered the amount of love and support during dinner. He never knew anything like it. He was amazed at how nice everyone is. There was no screaming, no slamming doors, no gulping down your supper because you just wanted to get out of there. He was surprised at how even when they’re bickering, they still remained civil and playful. He grew up as the eldest of a big family so dinnertime was often chaotic, loud and unpleasant. His parents worked hard to keep the family fed, often missing dinners and important events to ensure that they had a little money to get them by. The responsibilities of caring for them came down to him and his sister so most nights, they prepared dinner, put it on the table and made sure they all ate something and didn’t kill each other in the process. His sister was always better at handling everything. She was organized, self assured and a real mother to them. Blake, on the other hand, was older yet less mature. He was still struggling with his identity, with his parents and everything he did, just didn’t seem good enough. He felt like a burden and a failure as a big brother. In the end, he left, seeing how money was tight and how his presence did the family more harm than good. He always vowed that he would leave, get a good job, save some money and when he got his act together, he would go back home and make them proud. Instead, he fell from one mistake into another and finally, he had found himself at the bottom of the bottle with no home, no place to stay, no job and no friends. He managed to get addicted to meth and his future looked glum at best. That was until Ted came along and showed him that perhaps, he wasn’t as rotten as he thought he was.
He stared blankly at the door in front of him, uneasy and not knowing how to deal with everything he was feeling. ‘I could leave,’ he thought. ‘Just slip downstairs and open the front door. With all the noise they’re making, no one would notice, no one would miss me.’
And then, as if on cue, he heard Ted’s voice in the distance. ‘Yeah, I’m sure Brian stopped at the 7-Eleven to buy some wine … or to do Justin in the alley right next to it.’
And just like that, he knew running away was not the answer. How could I do that to Ted?’ he thought. ‘Ted, of all people! The one person who still had some faith in me. I couldn’t hurt him like that. And … what would I do without him?’
He shook his head, as if by force he was willing to suppress the urge to escape. He grasped the railing of the stairs when he suddenly felt lightheaded, as if he was hovering over the ground, detached from his earthly bond. ‘Oh no,’ he moaned. ‘Not again, not now’
He knew the symptoms too well. Every time he waited too long before the next hit, the same thing happened. He groaned as suddenly every inch of his body was itching. He started scratching feverishly, his nails digging into his skin. But the more he scratched, the worse it got. It felt as if ants were crawling just underneath his skin and no matter how hard he scratched, he could not get any relief … They were there, always there, underneath the surface, eating away at his flesh and muscles. They wouldn’t stop, the ants. He could feel them. He knew that they would keep eating until there was nothing left of him. He could just feel them, crawling and biting. ‘Stupid ants,’ he whispered, the anger in his voice slightly shocking him. ‘Stupid fucking ants’
He looked down and saw that he had scratched so hard that he had drawn blood. The skin on his arm was red, raw and sore. He covered up his cuts with the sleeves of his shirt. No one would be none the wiser. ‘The burden to carry is mine alone’ he thought.
He took a deep breath and tried to steady his shaking hands but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t. He noticed he was sweating a lot, despite having chills running up and down his spine. His joints ached even if he didn’t move and his heart was beating so fast within his chest. He heard a voice behind him, calling out his name, but when he turned around to see, no one was there. ‘Blake, you’re losing it’ he softly whispered. One symptom of withdrawal he hated the most were the hallucinations and the paranoia. He could handle the physical ones but most of the times it’s the mind tricks that fucked him over and lured him back to the drugs.
Another deep breath. He smelled a perfume that he remembered from the past but he couldn’t remember where, when or how. It was vague yet familiar and a memory popped up but as quickly as it came, it vanished. He felt as if he was being watched by someone and he kept looking over his shoulder or suddenly turning around but never once did he catch them in the act. But he could still feel them, the judging eyes burning holes in his back.
It was all in his head; the thoughts, the ideas and images. All in his head, bringing him to the brink of sanity. Blake could barely tell what’s real and what wasn’t. All those thoughts invaded his mind and panic rushed over him, like an avalanche burying the mountains. He suddenly felt everything. All the noises sounded too loud; the laughter in the kitchen, the hushed whispers of the ghosts that were never there, the TV, the cutlery banging against the table, the scratching of the carpet underneath his feet, his breathing. It all resounded too loudly inside his head and he forcefully covered his ears with his hands, desperately trying to push away the sound. He shut his eyes as the light suddenly seem to burn his retinas. The lamps were too bright, too harsh for his eyes. He could feel a burning ache scalding his eyeballs. He could feel everything, the shirt resting so heavily against his skin, his trousers too tight and they seemed to press against his organs, the bands of his socks seem to cut off the circulation.
He could feel it all happening at once and before he knew it, he was hyperventilating and dry heaving. It felt as if the whole world he lived in was trying to get to him, as if he was being hunted by an invisible hunter, ready to strike at any second. He felt invisible hands clutch around his throat, determined to squeeze until the last puff of air had been breathed. Blake gasped and tried to take gulps of air into his body. In vain, because he felt his throat contract and the hands grasping him further.
He ran to the bathroom, stumbling along the way, dropped to the floor and vomited violently into the toilet, just in the nick of time. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and collapsed onto the floor. He wept for what seemed an eternity, silently and alone, still visibly shaking and trembling.
It had been 2 days, 6 hours, 45 minutes and 10 seconds since the last time Blake had touched his crystal meth. But at that moment it felt like an eternity to him.
Downstairs no one was really aware of what Blake was going though. Everyone was having a good time and time just passed. No one really noticed he’d been gone for so long. Except for one person. Emmett Honeycutt.
Emmett had been wary of Blake since the moment he first met him. Well no, he disliked him the moment he first saw him because he was the typical twink that was charming but too much trouble to handle. But since the moment Emmett had entered Ted’s hospital room and saw him lying unconscious in a hospital bed with tubes and wired coming out of him, he had hated Blake with every fibre of his being. Emmett had sat next to Ted, hour after hour and night after night, holding Ted’s hand and talking to him – and on occasion even singing those Judy Garland songs – just so he would wake up. With a terrified heart, he had hoped, prayed and wished for Ted to regain consciousness. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing Teddy, the one friend he knew he could count on for anything. He hated Blake for making him go through that. He hated Blake for hurting Ted – his Teddy.
Emmett politely excused himself from the kitchen and tiptoed to the 1st floor. He passed Justin’s bedroom, Debbie’s room, the junk room and then he saw a sliver of light coming from underneath the door to the bathroom. He quirked up an eyebrow and slowly walked towards the door, attentively listening for sounds that seemed unusual. He knocked twice and stayed silent.
‘Bathroom’s occupied’ Blake said, his voice hoarse.
‘Are you going to be long?’ Emmett asked. ‘I’m dying for a piss.’
‘Uhm’ Blake replied. ‘Just a second.’
Emmett waited outside the door, curious yet cautious. He heard sudden clashing noises, a toilet flushing and a sound that reminded him of an elephant’s trumpeting.
The door slowly creaked open and Blake exited, his face half-hidden by a hoodie, his cap covering his hair and half his face, and he quickly passed Emmett. A bit too quickly for Emmett’s liking.
He swiftly grabbed Blake by the arm and pushed him against the wall, both of Emmett’s hand planted on Blake’s shoulders. Emmett may appear thin but he was still a lot taller than Blake and when angered, the southern side of him got out and he got fierce. There was nothing that angered Emmett more than someone hurting his friends. Not just his friends, but especially Ted. He felt as if someone had poured oil over the pit of fire in his stomach that had been simmering even since the day he first met Blake. Emmett let go of Blake’s shoulders but his hand was still strongly wrapped around Blake’s wrist. But it wasn’t the physical contact that kept Blake there; it was Emmett’s fiery gaze that kept him on the spot.
Blake shot him a look of pure anger and because of that brief glimpse of eye contact, Emmett saw the red rimmed eyes and the twitches around his nose. ‘You’ve been using,’ Emmett raged. ‘In Debbie’s bathroom.’
Blake grunted as he tried to shake off Emmett. ‘No’ he firmly said.
To Emmett, Blake appeared weakened, sickly even. Which only confirmed his suspicions. ‘Debbie invited you into her house, her home because Ted trusts you. She fed you. She took you in as one of her own.’ Emmett continued. ‘And YOU. DARE. To USE. In her HOME.’
‘You don’t get it, Emmett,’ Blake desperately tried. ‘Please … listen.’
Emmett relinquished his grip on Blake but his angry body language never left him. ‘You’ve got 3 minutes before I punch you. I meant what I said. I will break your face if you hurt Ted.’
‘I’m not trying to hurt him’ Blake whimpered. ‘I’m not’
‘You aren’t?’ Emmett responded heatedly. ‘Tell me, did you visit him in the hospital? Did you cry over him when he was fighting for his life? Were you the one who had to talk to his mother and tell him his son might die because he put his faith in a little tweaking shit that abused his trust? Did you even CARE he nearly died?’
‘Of course I care.’ Blake earnestly whispered. ‘I feel guilty about it. I care about him, Emmett. A lot’
‘I don’t think you do’ Emmett responded. ‘Because if you really cared… if you truly cared about Ted, you wouldn’t be here. You would be as far away from him as you can. I don’t doubt that you have feelings for him but this … you being here and dragging him into your pill popping and shit snorting world … that’s not caring about someone. That’s destroying them. That’s pure selfishness.’
Blake whimpered. ‘I … I …’ he stammered. ‘I love him.’
Emmett looked into Blake’s eyes, tears running down his cheeks, and felt a pang of sympathy. He knew all too well what it’s like to be lost and hoping for salvation in any way any how. His voice lowered and his shoulders sloped. He realised that Blake, besides being a threat to Ted’s well being, he was also a boy, barely a man, that was searching for himself and searching for answers. He was just a kid that got into trouble and didn’t know how to get himself out of it. He averted his eyes from Blake and turned his heart into stone, to do what was right for his friend, to do what was necessary. ‘Perhaps you do … but if you love him, then you’ll let him go. He doesn’t belong in your world. He’s better than that. If you love him, you’ll go away and get your act together.’
‘I can’t,’ Blake whispered. ‘I need him. I can’t do this without him.’
‘You’ll end up destroying him,’ Emmett resisted. ‘He’s already ended up in the hospital once, because of you.’
‘I didn’t know’ Blake cried. ‘I didn’t know he’d …’
‘I stand by what I said.’ Emmett murmured. ‘If you want to prove that you love Ted, you go away and never return. If you need money, I’ll give you some.’
Emmett slipped a 20 dollar note in his hand, turned on his heels and walked away from him. He could hear Blake softly snivelling and the soft lamentations cut through him like ice. He squeezed his eyes shut and turned his hands into fists. ‘It’s the right thing to do,’ Emmett thought, as if he needed to convince himself. ‘Think about Ted in the hospital.’
As he walked down the stairs, he knew he may have been too hard on Blake but his only concern was Ted. He heard footsteps behind him and immediately knew Blake was following him.
In the living room they both stood still. Emmett watched Blake switching his gaze from the front door to the kitchen and back, as if he was trying to decide what to do. He prayed that for once the young kid would make the right call.
With a sigh, he averted his eyes and looked at the ground. With the last shred of strength, he let go of everything he had put his hopes on. ‘Please … tell them I … left … and take care of him. He’s everything I …’ his voice faltered and he tried to swallow a lump that refused to budge in his throat. ‘Oh, he knows.’
Silently he crept out of Debbie’s house, making sure that the door didn’t make too much noise as it locked in the doorframe.
Emmett, on the other side of the door, breathed a sigh of relief. And as quickly as relief came, trepidation took its place. Somehow he needed to explain and convince Ted that not seeing Blake was the best thing for him. Courage failed him and when Ted walked up to him, he merely mumbled that Blake had to leave because he wasn’t feeling well.
‘Maybe I should go after him. I can make him some chicken soup or something.’ Ted protested.
‘Honey, Debbie’s pasta gave him the runs … do you want to explain that to Debbie?’ Emmett said light-heartedly. ‘Also … I’ve tasted your chicken soup’ he paused. ‘It might not be the best thing for him… besides he said he just needed a bed to lie on, he’ll be fine.’
Without further listening to Ted’s protests, Emmett walked back into the kitchen and started up a conversation with Debbie, ignoring Ted and his lamentations. His heart broke, but it never showed on his face. He smiled broadly and acted as if nothing had happened, as if he wasn’t torn inside, caught between empathy and loyalty.
On the other side of the door, Blake wrapped his hoodie closer to his chest, swearing loudly and fiercely wishing he had not forgotten his coat in Ted’s flat.
He stared at the sky above him. The night was dark and the moon hung low, the moonbeams giving Pittsburgh a hauntingly beautiful yet unearthly glow. It was nearing autumn and the air felt cool but still gleamed with a hint of summer. He breathed in the cold evening air and for a second he steadied his nerves. But soon again, the tremors started again and the ants were back, crawling underneath the surface and tearing at every inch of his being.
With no place left to run, he aimlessly wandered the streets of Pittsburgh and wondered what on earth he was going to do and where he was going to sleep tonight. He sighed and surrendered. ‘This is all I am. One giant mess, a heart bleeding and a torn soul, enveloped by loss and grief. This is all I am. A lost stray dog that needs to beg for scraps of food and whimpers to be petted. This is what I am, pathetic, a loser, a low life, an addict.’
He was briefly touched by love and that had given him hope. His lover’s strong embrace had sheltered him from harm and wrapped him in a blanket of safety, tenderness and care. For the first time in his life, someone had seen him and cared for him. Someone had actually liked him for who he was and loved him despite everything that was wrong with him. And now that someone had ripped him away from the protection of his blanket, he felt colder than he’d ever been. He wrapped his hands around himself, trying desperately to regain some the warmth, but despite efforts his insides slowly turned to ice. He thought of Ted and anxiously wished he could talk to him, hold him and let his soothing kindness wash over him but he knew he could never have that again. He knew it was for the best. As much as he yearned to run to Ted and kiss him until the pain faded, he knew that his kisses were poison, only born on his lips to pass on the venom.
He passed drunk twinks, horny bears, teens out on the town, loud bars and heavy thumpa thumpa music. He didn’t really hear the noise, enveloped in his own thoughts and pushed away by his deafening pain. At the moment he passed Woodies, he stopped. He decided to enter and just have one quick drink – or something else, with the last 20 dollars that he had.
The moment he entered he had regretted the decision. He was still hypersensitive to everything but he knew that with one drink and one hit, he’d be fine. Amidst the crowd he sought out Harry, his dealer, and made the buy. Quickly as he could, he made his way to the bathroom and selected a booth. Before he could enter, someone had grabbed his hand, gentle yet firm. He looked at the man he had touched him, peeved and craving for his drug, and stared into two blue pools of eyes, a boyish smile and a big head of blond hair.
‘You’re the guy who’s fucking Ted, right?’ the boy said. ‘Blake, was it?’
‘Euhm … yeah,’ Blake responded, with his other hand he quickly hid the bag of meth in his pocket. ‘And you … are?’
‘Justin,’ the boy replied. ‘Justin Taylor. Ted’s friend.’
He smiled broadly at Blake, a glow radiating from his smile. Justin politely shook his hand and he eyed up Blake from head to toe. He noticed the trembling hand, the red-rimmed eyes, the greyish tone of his skin and the unmistakable shake in his voice. ‘Are you okay?’ Justin kindly asked, trying his best not to sound intrusive.
‘Yeah,’ Blake replied, but as tears danced gracefully over his lashes, he knew he sounded everything but convincing.
In the corner of his eyes, Justin saw Brian enter the bathroom. Swiftly, he dragged Blake into the nearest stall and closed the door shut behind them. It was a cramped space and they both stood facing each other, their bellies slightly touching. Justin put his hand over his mouth and beckoned Blake to stay quiet. They breathed in unison, remaining as silent as they could.
‘Wasn’t that your boyfriend?’ Blake whispered when Justin released him, still not quite sure what was going on.
Justin scoffed, his eyes suddenly dull. ‘I wish. But he fucks me occasionally. He’s hot, though, isn’t he?’
‘Why are we hiding from him, Justin?’ Blake asked, going back and fourth from suspicion to worry.
And then that devious smile was back on Justin’s face. ‘Because I want to fuck him tonight, in his bed. Not at Babylon.’ Justin laughed and winked. ‘I’m pretty good at getting what I want. And I know he’s hunting for me tonight. I’ve been driving him crazy all night. I know these pants make my ass look fucking amazing. I’m making him want me. If I make it too easy for him, he’ll just fuck the next pretty thing he sees. I need to make him work for it.’
Blake laughed, even if it was just to humour Justin. He smiled at him though, a genuine smile despite his discomfort, and was glad he had some company. Someone to spend a few minutes with and to forget what had happened.
Justin looked at him again and noticed Blake looked simply exhausted. Justin was worried since Blake looked like he was about to crash. ‘Hey, do you perhaps want to get out of here. Go somewhere a bit more quiet?’ he asked with an air of innocence and casualness. Immediately he noticed Blake tensing up. ‘Oh,’ he added as soon as he realised it sounded like he was coming on to Blake. ‘No, I don’t want to fuck you. I mean, you’re hot but I know you love Ted.’
Blake scoffed. ‘That would make you the only one.’
‘What do you mean?’ Justin asked.
‘Every one of Ted’s friends want me gone. Out of his life.’ He sighed heavily and he didn’t even stop the tears from falling. ‘And I can’t even fucking blame them.’ He let his head fall back and rest against the booth’s walls. For a second he closed his eyes and let the noise drown out his thoughts. He felt gentle fingers brush away the tears from his cheeks. When he opened his eyes, he was staring directly into Justin’s ocean blue eyes that shone through with kindness.
‘Fuck them,’ Justin said. ‘Who gives a shit about them. You love Ted and Ted loves you. That’s all that matters.’
Blake smiled at him. ‘I wish I could think like that.’
‘What’s stopping you?’ Justin asked.
‘Reality,’ Blake sarcastically countered. ‘You’re still young, you should believe in that’
‘Reality is what you make of it’ Justin said. With a boyish smiled he added ‘And fuck that, you’re … what … 3 years older than me?’
Blake smiled, caught off guard and charmed by Justin’s wit. ‘What would you do?’ he asked. ‘If you were no good for Brian and you hurt him so badly that there’s no turning back, would you stay or go?’
‘Is this about Ted OD’ing?’ Justin asked.
‘Yeah, it’s my fault.’
‘How?’ he asked. ‘Ted could’ve said no. He’s the smartest guy I know. He could’ve just ignored you.’
‘I brought the stuff into his house. It was because of me that he used. I’m to blame.’ Blake said, his composure demure. ‘Emmett’s right. I’m no good for him.’
‘Look, fuck Emmett. Listen, if it was up to Brian’s friends then I would’ve been gone since day one. But I didn’t leave and now they’re my friends too. You can’t just give up like that.’
‘You’re not a tweaker’ Blake bit back, a little more aggressive than he should’ve. ‘You don’t know what it’s like. Everything I touch, burns and withers.’
‘No’ Justin complied. ‘I may not understand. But I love Brian. Just like you love Ted.’
‘I do but sometimes love just isn’t enough. What you do, can’t get Brian in hospital. Or worse killed.’ Blake shook his head feverishly. ‘No, no … that can’t happen. I can’t hurt him. If he gets hurt or God forbid, dies because of me. I … wouldn’t forgive myself. Ever. He’s better than anyone I’ve ever met. He deserves so much more than I have to offer’
Justin shrugged. ‘If you truly believe that, then why not offer him more. Stop taking that shit and get it together. Be the man you think he deserves. If not for yourself, then at least do it for the man you love.’
Blake groaned loudly as his body involuntarily began shaking again. His breathing was starting to get laboured and the tiny bathroom stall was starting to make him feel claustrophobic, which is something he knew wouldn’t aid the pending paranoia.
‘Blake, are you okay?’
‘Yeah,’ Blake replied, his voice thick with exhaustion. ‘I just need to … sleep for a bit.’
‘Come on,’ Justin said. ‘I’ll walk with you. Where is your home?’
‘Everywhere,’ Blake replied, solemnly. ‘And nowhere.’ Justin looked at him with a confused expression on his face. Blake smiled weakly in response. ‘There’s a shelter down the street. I can’t go home tonight but I know they have a place for me.’
‘A shelter?’ Justin asked, apprehensively. ‘Are you sure you can’t stay with friends?’
‘I just walked out on the friends that would help,’ Blake sighed heavily. ‘My other friends … let’s just say we don’t have picnics in the park or play cards together.’
‘I was alone, too’ Justin said after a brief moment of silence. ‘I came out and my dad kicked me out. There was my friend, Daphne, but she doesn’t understand. She tries to, though, but her hands were tied. I lost my home too. But I found Brian and because of him, I have a place to stay and new friends.’ He paused for a minute. ‘I’m sure it’ll happen for you too’
‘Thanks,’ Blake said, purely out of politeness. He knew Justin was trying to help but it all seemed a bit surreal to him. His words just sounded so naive and he couldn’t possibly believe he could ever be that lucky. ‘I’ll be okay, don’t worry.’
‘I’m still walking you out,’ Justin declared stubbornly. ‘No use in protesting. I told you, I get what I want.’
‘Really,’ Blake countered. ‘I’ll be fine.’
‘Don’t worry, we all can use a bit of company. Been there, done that.’ Justin smiled deviously. ‘Besides, I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. I just have to make sure Brian sees me walk out of the bar with a hot guy. I love making him jealous. He always fucks me harder when he’s jealous.’ In a flash, he took Blake’s hand and dragged him out the bathroom and out of Woodies, but not before winking and waving at Brian.
Blake saw Brian quirk up an eyebrow and make an attempt to follow them out. He could see Brian struggling to control his impulses and to just stay there. In the reflection of the mirror that hung right next to the exit of the bar, he could see a black haired guy trying to chat up a sulking Brian. He laughed inwardly. ‘Brian Kinney bit off a bit too much than he can chew with Justin’ he gingerly thought.
They stepped outside out the pub, still holding hands, and walked down Liberty Avenue. It was nearing midnight but the streets were filled with people having fun.
Justin smiled at a dark haired man, gorgeous and mysterious. ‘Hey Tod, how’s it going?’
The man waved and nodded. They passed two dancing drag queens and a bunch of friends walking from one pub to another. Even though the streets were noisy, there was an uncomfortable silence between Blake and Justin.
‘Did you use, Blake? Tonight.’
Immediately, Blake let go of Justin’s hand. ‘No, I haven’t used in days.’ He paused. ‘Ted … he told me that everything would be okay if I stopped. After I detoxed, I could move on. Start a job, and a new life … with him. He took me in and helped me during the first hours. Those are the toughest. I haven’t touched anything. Because he wanted better for me.’
‘And now?’ Justin asked. If you’re not going back to Ted, what happens next?’
‘Now nothing matters anymore.’ Blake stopped at a little run down house, reserved and demure next to the flamboyant buildings of Liberty Avenue. There was a little sign on the lawn that said ‘Got no place to go? Come in for a hot meal, a shower and a bed. We don’t judge and we don’t turn you away’
‘This is my stop,’ Blake said as he walked up to the door. He knocked twice and the door eerily opened. An older man stood behind the door and smiled, one tooth missing in the front. ‘Do you need a place to stay?’
Blake nodded. At that moment, he truly felt alone. He turned to say goodbye to Justin, his voice catching in his throat. ‘Thanks for everything.’
‘You’re welcome.’ Justin replied. He sneaked a peek inside and noticed the house was unclean, several dodgy looking people walked around the place and it reeked of decay and vomit.
‘It’s a busy night’ the man said. ‘We’re swamped and we’re holding our heads barely above water’
Blake averted his eyes. ‘Please, anywhere will do’
Justin could see the man’s heartache for Blake. His eyes dropped and the old man contorted his face into a pained grimace. Eventually he nodded and opened the door. ‘There’s a couch at the back, you’re welcome to use it. I can’t guarantee you’ll sleep well though’
‘That’s okay, I’ll manage. Thank you’ Blake said, as if he had been given a winning lottery ticket.
Justin grabbed his arm, causing Blake to swiftly turn around. ‘Are you sure you want to stay here? It doesn’t exactly look … safe or sanitary’
‘It’s better than staying on the streets, you’d be surprised how dangerous Liberty Avenue can get. Before you know it, someone’s stolen your tiara.’ Blake faked a smile.
Justin gave him his best ‘don’t-even-try-to-play-me’-look. ‘I could ask Brian if you can sleep on his couch for a few days …’
‘No,’ Blake stated, forcefully. ‘Thank you’ he added more kindly ‘But no. I meant it, I’m staying away from Ted and his friends’
Justin resigned. In the end, Blake needed to find his own way home. ‘Just promise me one thing … throw away that bag of meth you bought at woodies.’
Justin sighed, grabbed a pamphlet from the side of the door and walked away from Blake. On the streets, a man shouted ‘Justin, where have you been?’
A brown haired man that Blake suspected was Brian hugged Justin and kissed him passionately. He smiled at the sight but it never reached his eyes. He was happy Justin had him but at the same time, a pang of hurt went through him, wishing upon wish and hoping upon hope that he could hold Ted like that again.
He entered the house and actively tried to ignore the filth, the passed out people on the floor, the puddles of vomit and the all around putrid stench that clung to the walls. He saw the empty couch and hurried towards it. He sat down, took out the little bag and stared at it. Then he looked around the room, taking in the miserable state of everyone and everything around him. ‘This is what I am, this is what I deserve. What comes next?’ If he could cry, he would cry for an eternity. But he went through so much the last couple of years that pain, loneliness and heartache where his constant companion. It was as if he was used to feeling pain and despair. It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that he had felt something else: hope.
But that had been silenced forcefully. All what was left, was his own sorrow and a little bag containing the one thing that made his life go from bad to worse.
On the other side of town, the boys and Debbie were having a late night snack just as Brian and Justin entered the door.
‘Right on time for ice cream,’ Mikey said, with a boyish grin. ‘I’ve got chocolate sprinkles.’
‘Yay,’ Brian mockingly said as he clapped his hands. ‘If you’re a really good boy, Mikey, a unicorn will come and shit out a chocolate cake.’
‘Fuck off and have some dessert. You already missed dinner, you ungrateful ass’ Michael retorted.
As the two of them bickered, Justin took the liberty of handling Brian’s jacket and hung up their jackets in the little closet in the hallway. He quickly located Ted’s jacket and shoved the pamphlet in his pocket.
‘Where’s Sunshine?’ Debbie said in her typical loud and excited voice. When she spotted Justin, she hugged him fiercely, kissed him on the cheek and slapped him. ‘You’re late.’
‘Sorry, Deb’ he said, granting her an extra big smile so she would forgive him.
‘Look at that face,’ Deb laughed. ‘How can anyone be mad at you’
In the background Michael and Brian simultaneously rolled their eyes. ‘She’s always mad at me and I’m her SON’ Michael whined.
‘Yeah,’ Brian laughed. ‘You’re not blond though’
Ted got up to leave, rubbing his belly and complimenting Debbie’s cooking. When he hugged her, he whispered, so that no one else could hear. ‘Happy Mother’s day, Deb. Thanks for everything.’
Debbie glowed, kissed his cheek and fondly looked at Ted as she wiped away the smudges her red lipstick left behind. ‘Anytime’
He took their coat and left the tiny but warm house with a big smile on his face. Life was looking pretty good. He had found himself a nice group of friends, a good job and a hot boyfriend. For the first time in a long time, he felt pleased with his life.
Suddenly the door behind him opened and Emmett stood in the doorframe. He looked uncharacteristically serious and Ted frowned. ‘I love you,’ Emmett said. ‘You know that, right?’
‘Emm … of course’
‘Good. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for you. Even if they are tough and they seem unfair’ And with those words, he closed the door and left a bewildered Ted behind him.
‘Well that was weird,’ he said to himself. The air felt cool so he buttoned up his jacket and pushed his hands into the pockets. In his right pocket, he felt a small pamphlet. Curious, he took it out and read it. ‘Gorman’s homeless shelter’ he read. ‘Why do I have this? Where did I even pick it up?’
Justin stepped outside for a moment and lit up a cigarette. ‘I heard it’s the place to be tonight.’
‘A homeless shelter?’ Ted exclaimed. ‘Why would that be a happening place?’
‘Perhaps not for all,’ he said. ‘But something tells me that certain people would find certain things there that they need. Or perhaps something that’s there needs them.’
He took a long drag and exhaled slowly.
Ted blinked rapidly as he stared at Justin. ‘You should stop taking whatever Brian’s giving you.’ He uttered. ‘It’s affecting your judgement.’
‘Perhaps,’ Justin said, a bit pissed off. ‘Or perhaps I see things others don’t see. Or aren’t willing to see.’
‘Whatever,’ Ted retorted tiredly. ‘See you in the morning’
But something had shifted inside of Ted. Against all rational thought, he went to the shelter. He knocked carefully and waited for response.
‘All full tonight,’ a voice behind the door said.
‘No, I’m not here to stay,’ Ted spoke. ‘I think I’m looking for …’ Even though every inch of his body knew he was looking for Blake, he resisted and refused to believe it. ‘Someone. I’m looking for someone and I wondered if he was here. Can I take a look around?’
The man nodded and let him in, even if it was begrudgingly. ‘Hurry up,’ he said. ‘It’s late and I want to turn in.’
‘What is this place?’ Ted asked politely.
‘A place where people can come if they have no place to go. I run it on my own. It’s a tribute to my wife and my son. Both died in a car accident and I never knew … I never knew my son was gay because he was too scared to tell me. I found his diary and read that he thought I was going to throw him out because of his sexuality. I thought it was crazy but then I heard that more and more gay kids end up on the streets. So, I opened up my home to them.’ He paused. ‘It’s not much and I don’t have the necessary fund to offer them a lot … but I know that a roof over their heads and a hot shower is better than being out there where they can be robbed or worse.’
‘That’s very kind if you,’ Ted said, humbled by the old man’s sacrifice.
‘Take a look around. I hope that you find what you’re looking for. At least one of these poor kids will have a better place to stay.’
Ted nodded and started walking through the houses, occasionally apologising for waking up someone. And there in the last room he looked in, was Blake sitting on a dingy old couch with his head in his hands. His heart sank to his stomach and he didn’t know whether he wanted to hold Blake, or slap him silly for leaving.
He sighed heavily, causing Blake to look up. ‘What are you even doing here?’
In that moment, Blake burst into tears. Ted hurried by his side and gentle put his hand on his shoulder. ‘Hey, come on,’ he whispered. He put his fingertips on his chin and gently turned Blake’s face so that he could look at him. ‘My love, what’s wrong?’
‘You shouldn’t be here,’ Blake cried. ‘I was trying to do the right thing.’
‘What do you mean?’ Ted asked. He’d seen Blake cry before but never had he heard this raw desperation in his voice.
‘I’m bad news,’ Blake whimpered. ‘You’re better off without me.’
‘Nonsense,’ Ted calmly said. ‘How would it be better for me if I’m not with you?’
‘The drugs, Teddy. I can’t handle it. And I don’t want to drag you into this.’
Ted kissed Blake’s forehead gently and caressed the strands of hair on the back of his neck as he sobbed into Ted’s neck. He wrapped his other hand around him and held him tightly. ‘What happened to you?’ Ted whispered. ‘You were doing so well this morning.’
Blake snivelled and took large gulps of air. ‘I just … they’re all right.’ He blurted out. ‘Everyone that ever said that I’m not good enough for you, they’re right. I’m not. Not like this. You deserve more than a junkie.’
‘You’re not a junkie,’ Ted said, with a kind smile on his face. ‘You’re more than that. I see it. There’s so much good in you … the drugs, that’s just temporary. You’ll kick the habit and rebuild everything. You can do this.’
‘I can’t,’ Blake mouthed, his cries drowning out the words. ‘I can’t do this. I’m weak.’
‘Yes, you can,’ Ted said as he placed small kisses on Blake’s cheek. ‘I’ll help you.’
‘I can’t ask you to put your life on hold for me Ted,’ he whimpered. ‘It’s not fair.’
Ted traced long caresses along Blake’s back, trying desperately to calm him down. ‘I want to. I need you just as much as you need me.’
Blake sobbed and his whole body shook. ‘I love you’
The words were spoken with such heartache than Ted felt a spark of electricity run through him. ‘I love you too. Blake, do you trust me?’
‘Yeah, of course.’ Blake held onto Ted a little bit tighter, not quite believing that Ted had found him when he needed him the most.
‘Then my love,’ Ted whispered. ‘Let me take care of you.’
‘But Emmett …’ Blake immediately stopped talking when he realized the mistake he was about to make.
Realization dawned on Ted and he cursed inwardly, finally understanding the moment he had with Emmett earlier. Ted let go of Blake, much to the young man’s discontent, and stood up. He held out his hand to Blake and waited for the man to accept it.
When Blake shook his head, he sat down next to him and held his hand. ‘I need you to listen to me. Emmett … he wants to protect me, I know that much. But I love you and you love me. I know you and you know me. And when it comes to us,’ he paused. ‘When it comes to us, the only people that have a say about it is you and me. All the rest, they can say whatever they want. But the two of us, we know the truth. Everything else doesn’t matter.’
‘I’m scared.’ Blake whispered. ‘I’m scared that my weakness will hurt you. And I don’t want that.’
With his typical kind eyes, Ted looked at Blake and smiled. ‘Then let our love make you stronger.’
He got up, dragging Blake along. ‘Come on,’ he whispered. ‘Let me take you home.’
Ted hugged Blake tightly as Blake held on even tighter, if that was possible. He rested his head on Ted’s shoulders and through his tears, he smiled. ‘Home’ he said. ‘Sounds good.’
Noticing Blake was still shivering and felt cold to the touch, Ted took off his jacket and wrapped it around Blake’s shoulders. ‘There, that should get you to warm up. When we get home, I’m going to wrap you up in blankets and make you a nice hot cup of chocolate milk with a little bit of honey in it. How does that sound.’
Blake smiled. ‘I like the sound of that. Blankets and warm milk. Mmmm’ He closed his eyes and relished the touch of Ted’s fingers running through his hair. He could feel the warmth of Ted’s presence thawing the icy cold inside of him. He could feel the small flame of hope rekindling. ‘I’m going to be better’ Blake promised him. ‘For you.’ He paused. ‘And me.’
Gah! I don't usually do the whole "fangirl' thing but I'm welling up now! Happy news!
Therefor according to Moffatt, I must be stupid.
Give me a fucking break.
Just because you've made it to the top, it doesn't mean everyone should kiss your ass.
Humility is such a virtue ...
The soft mumbling sounds of the newscaster filled the flat with a sense of lulled purpose. Ted groaned as the hushed background noises soon became a monotone buzzing that penetrated through to his sleep. His eyelids slowly opened, much to the discontent of his unconscious self. He shut his eyes firmly, willing himself to sleep for just another five minutes. But then his consciousness took over and slowly he became aware of every annoying thing about falling asleep on the couch: that spring that keeps poking you in the ribs, that sliver of light that creeps through the curtains and just catches you right in the eyes, the uncomfortable angle your head is placed in, the neighbours having an argument downstairs … so many little thing that suddenly become the biggest nuisances known to mankind.
‘FINE!’ Ted shouted to whatever deity that ruled the cosmos. ‘I CAVE! I’ll get up!’
Swiftly, he got off the couch, turned off the TV – with a little more force than necessary – and stumbled his sorry and grouchy ass to the bedroom to change for tonight’s escapade. Emmett and Michael were going to Babylon to cruise and he might as well joined them. He didn’t think he’d get laid that night but a night out with friends and getting rejected is still better than a night of drunken solitude in his empty flat.
He entered his neatly organized bedroom. Paintings were accurately straight, the fringes of the carpet were neatly combed out and the pleads in the curtains were perfectly ironed. He opened up the wardrobe and a sense of satisfaction overcame him, as it often did when he noticed how neat something he took care of was … the wardrobe was colour coordinated, prearranged by type of clothing and all the items were evenly spaced out. Pants on the right shelf, shirts on the left and in the middle the shirts were arranged by sleeve length. On the base of the wardrobe sat two boxes, neatly stacked behind each other; one was his infamous ‘play’ box which hid all the embarrassing sex toys – all 50 of them, cleaned and organized by length and width – and the other box, smaller and hidden from view by the big sex box, was something that he would rather not look at too much. That was his memory box. Since childhood every time something had happened that had made him extremely happy or sad, he had taken a little memento and had stored it away in the little box. By now it was filled with tiny little physical memories. Most of them have been stuff that belonged to people he loved: his parents, friends and unfortunately there were also quite a few bits and pieces that belonged to ex-lovers. From time to time, when his old friend melancholy came to visit, he got the box out and reviewed what he had collected.
He picked out a plain blue shirt, black trousers and smart shoes. Classic, elegant and very Ted-like. He closed the wardrobe and put on the attire for the night, put on some cologne and combed his hair just the way he liked it. Satisfied he looked into the mirror. ‘Well, it’s as good as it ever will be’ he mumbled.
In the corner of his eye he noticed a hoodie neatly folded on the chair next to the window. In his elegant and grown up looking bedroom, a hoodie quite stood out. He sighed deeply. A pang of hurt shot through him, as if he had touched an electric wire with wet hands. The pain was guttural, primal and instinctive. ‘Blake’ he whispered.
When he helped Blake check into rehab, they had forgotten to pack one of his favourite hoodies. After the check in, he had come back hopeful to his apartment and had folded it nicely to take it to him the next time he needed a change of clothing. After he realized that Blake had left the rehab, without a word or a goodbye, he hadn’t had the heart to remove the hoodie from his place. It was as if the hoodie was waiting for his owner to pick it up. Waiting for his warmth to embrace him once more. ‘One of these days’ he said aloud but to no one in particular, ‘One of these days I’ll have to put you in the box.’
He took a step towards the chair, hesitated and then turned on his heels. ‘Maybe later …’
Just as he was leaving the room, he gave the hoodie a sorrowful look, shook his head and decided to have a large glass of Mojito at the party.
At the party, he leaned back against the bar, observing as he usually did. Michael and Emmett were dancing, Brian and Justin were probably fucking in the backroom and about a hundred half naked gorgeous men danced around and above him. The atmosphere at Babylon was flaming hot and it smelt of youth, sex and cheap cologne. And yet, Ted just hung back and watched. He growled in frustration, noticing that everyone in the club was having more fun than he was having. He finished his drink in one long gulp and headed home. On his way out, he waved at Michael and Emmett, who both gave him a worried look (after all it wasn’t even 5 am and he was leaving already) but they carried on dancing anyway.
The cool evening - or rather morning – air hit him like a ton of bricks as he walked out of Babylon. He inhaled deeply and repeated his personal mantra as if it were a little prayer. ‘this, too, shall pass. This, too, shall pass’
He walked through the alleyway, trying his best to avoid puddles of vomit, people passed out in the gutter and lingering horny bears trying to make last call with some drunk and probably underage twink. ‘Oh the fabulous life of a gay man’ he thought. ‘Give me a fucking break.’
But just around the corner stood a man he had been thinking about – or trying his very best not to think about – for most of the night. A blond man with highlights, tight bleached jeans, trainers and a fishnet shirt that revealed his toned torso. Ted however didn’t notice any of it, he was just captivated by those familiar blue eyes and boyish smile. He stood still and stared, until some boozed up twink accidently walked into him. The guy, barely steady on his feet, fell to the ground and yelped. Ted helped the guy up and he could feel eyes burning into his back. People were staring. Another pair of hands helped the guy up. Ted figured his friends finally came to his aid but instead he locked eyes with the same blue eyes he stared at a few seconds ago.
‘Helping the needy again, Ted?’ Blake said.
Ted stuttered, caught off guard and uncomfortable. ‘Drunk guy … fell … idiot … splashed beer on trousers… wanker’
The guy soon left for home, or more probable another club or that dingy bathhouse that was open around the clock. A muffled apology and a dry heave later, then there was just Blake, with that boyish charming smile of his plastered on his face, and Ted, stunned and nailed to the ground. The noises of the party goers were drowned out by the silence that existed between them.
‘You look well’ Ted managed to utter in a somewhat composed manner. What he meant to say is ‘better than I thought you’d be’. When he found out Blake had checked himself out of rehab, he was afraid that the next day he would hear about a dead body left on the streets somewhere on the 5 o’clock news.
‘You look …’ Ted started and Blake eyes up Ted from head to toe. ‘Amazing! Did you just come from Babylon? Are you heading home?’ The questions cascaded out of Blake’s mouth like a waterfall. He couldn’t help himself. Seeing Ted again had made that bubble of happiness burst.
Ted nodded but dared not speak. His heart was beating in his throat and he was afraid that the scampi risotto he had for lunch would make a comeback because of his nerves.
‘Can I walk with you?’ Blake asked, a bit shy.
‘Sure,’ Ted replied, his voice cracking. ‘Are you trying to score brownie points by walking the elderly home?’
Blake laughed but Ted could tell he was nervous. They started walking, their feet on autopilot and dragging them both to a place they both know too well. The moon hung low and the fog was setting in, making it appear as if they were walking on clouds.
‘How have you been, Blake?’
‘Okay.’ He replied. ‘Better … I’ve been … using less.’
Ted resisted the urge to snort. But as he glanced sideways, he noticed the lack of clues. No twitching hands, no snivelling nose, no bloodshot eyes … Blake was clean. ‘You know you would’ve gotten a lot more help at the rehab’
‘Yeah, about that’ Blake started. But he didn’t know exactly what to say. ‘Thanks for giving me a chance’
‘I’m sorry you wouldn’t give yourself a chance’ Ted replied, his nerves soon being replaced by a simmering anger.
‘I’m doing better, Ted. Rehab is just not for me’
Ted stopped walking. Blake walked ahead for a few steps before noticing Ted’s abrupt change of heart. He sighed deeply. As glad as he was to see Ted again, he knew this would come. He knew Ted would resent him for turning down his help.
‘Why’ Ted merely said. ‘If you want to throw your life away, then that’s your call. But why. Why did you leave without a word. I thought I meant more to you than that.’
‘You do’ Blake whispered, his back still turned to Ted. ‘You really do’
‘Yeah right’ Ted grumbled and walked away from Blake with fast and angry steps. Blake just stood there, bathing in moonlight and watching the man who had sacrificed a lot for him walk away from him. What surprised him most of all was that he just let him walk away. He didn’t fight it. He surrendered.
An hour later, a knock on the door made Ted jump up. Even though he had come home a long time ago, he was still in his party outfit and he still had a few specs of glitter in his hair. With a hesitant yet curious look he glanced at the door. ‘Who could that be?’ he thought. ‘Probably Misses Johnson downstairs to complain how loudly I closed the door. Crazy old bat’
He looked through the peephole and didn’t see grey hair and a dirty apron. Instead, there was blond hair with highlights, a fishnet top and bleached jeans. Blake.
He opened the door and stared at the man in front of him. He barely could make out streaks of tears that have been wiped off on his cheeks.
‘Blake, are you okay?’ Ted asked, slightly worried.
‘Yeah’ he replied. ‘I just didn’t like the way we left things. I owe you … an apology and an explanation.’
He came in the apartment, not even waiting for an invitation. He sat down on the couch, his head bowed forward and he was rubbing his hands nervously. Ted slowly sat down in front of him.
‘You’ve done so much for me’ he started. ‘Too much’
‘Anyone would’ve done the sa-‘
‘No,’ Blake firmly said. ‘Anyone wouldn’t do the same thing you have.’ His eyes shot up and he looked into Ted’s eyes, determination burning within them. He knew Blake and this is what he did when he was so sure of something. He knew that look.
‘Nobody’ he added. ‘Nobody ever did anything like that for me.’
An uncomfortable silence crept between them. ‘Then why did you leave, Blake?’
‘Because … you.’ He said angrily. ‘All the things you did for me … and I just wrecked your life’
‘Blake,’ Ted started to dismiss him, his head shaking sideways and his hands up. ‘You didn’t wreck …’
‘But I did, Ted. I really did. Because of me, you ended up in hospital. Because of me, you started using. Because of me …’ Blake punched himself on the leg. ‘I’m no good.’
‘Don’t’ Blake whispered. He locked eyes with Ted and there were clear tears dancing on his eyelids. ‘I’m a mess. I’m nothing. I’m worthless. I know it, you know it and your friends know it’
‘Is this about what Emmett told you?’ Ted asked, uncertain and remembering how Emmett had described his as a ‘tweaked out crystal queen’.
‘No,’ Blake declared. ‘It’s about what everyone is saying. And it’s fine. I just wanted you to know that I am grateful for your help and because of you, I’m doing better. You give me hope and I left because … I had no right to stay in your life. Not like this. I would only drag you down with me. I didn’t want you to hurt because of me. Not you, not now, not ever. Not the one person who saw past my bullshit. Not you. But when I saw you tonight … I could tell you needed answers. And that’s the only reason why I’m here. I don’t want anything off you. I just needed you to know.’
Blake averted his gaze, not being able to look into Ted’s brown mournful and pitiful eyes. ‘I suppose I need to go now,’ he got up and walked towards the door. ‘Thank you for listening.’
Blake could feel his heart racing inside his chest. He had never been this honest about anything to anyone. It hurt him to say all those things he thought about himself out loud. As if finally saying them made them real. He felt an invisible hand clutch his throat and breathing became hard. He needed to get out, to get away from Ted. He needed relief. He needed peace, he needed his crystal.
‘Wait,’ Ted said. And with one word, one sound, everything vanished for Blake. His body stopped walking, stopped panicking, stopped craving. He still needed his drug but the drug was Ted.
He waited at the door, patiently but willingly. The only reason why he wanted to leave was for Ted’s sake. He was no good for him and despite his strong desire to just curl up next to Ted on the couch and hang onto him for dear life, he needed to leave. For Ted.
The older man walked towards him with a little bundle in his hands. ‘This is one of your hoodies. You left it when we packed for … you left it here’
Blake blinked at him and then at his hoodie. He involuntarily smiled. ‘I loved that hoodie’ he said, his voice thick with emotion.
‘I know you do.’ Ted smiled in return.
‘You kept it,’ Blake replied. ‘After all this time, after all that’s happened … you still kept it.’
‘I couldn’t get rid of it.’ Ted explained. ‘At first … I wanted to keep it because I loved it. But then I knew that … getting rid of it meant that it was over. Officially over. And I didn’t want it to be. I folded it and left it on your chair by the window, where you used to read my books. In case you’d ever show up again …’
Blake’s smiles faltered. Gently he placed the hoodie back into Ted’s hands. ‘Keep it. But don’t get rid of it. Not unless you … want to.’
Blake turned to leave the apartment and just as he was about to shut the door, Ted spoke. ‘You can do it, you know.’
Blake looked at him with an unknowing expression on his face. ‘Do what?’
‘Anything you want,’ Ted replied. ‘Quitting crystal meth, get a good job, start over. You can do it. You’re strong and brave enough.’
Blake rushed to Ted and gave him a small and gentle kiss on his cheek. He lingered by his ear and whispered ‘ Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one who believes in me’
Swiftly he exited the apartment and ran out of the building as he wiped tears of sadness, confusion and hopelessness from his eyes.
Ted, back in his apartment, didn’t run after him even though it was the one thing he wanted to do. He knew that Blake needed to find his own way back and that he wouldn’t accept his help. His heart was breaking. He was scared that Blake truly believed all the things he had said but more so, he was scared that he would never see him again. He was scared that Blake wouldn’t be able to find his way back home.
He went back to his room, folded the hoodie again and placed it on the chair again. Blake’s chair. Determined, he pushed the thought of the little memory box inside his wardrobe back into the furthest corners of his mind. He knew he didn’t want any possessions that belonged to Blake ever to end up there.— The end —
The Doctor stood still on the grounds of the majestic Versailles. Behind him, the massive fields that belonged to the castle were eerily silent. All the guards slumped against the walls, no children played outside, no women chattered as they walked by.
Versailles was in mourning.
‘Reinnette’ he whispered. ‘I just missed you’
He knelt down and caressed the damp soil underneath him. He looked up at the tombstone and closed his eyes. He tried really hard to remember her smile, her scent, her very essence.
A grin graced his face. He remembered coming out of that damned fire place, hair tussled and coat undone. ‘What?’ he had shouted. ‘When am I?’
‘Just in time’ a voice behind him said. ‘Care to join me?’
‘Reinette!’ the Doctor yelled. ‘Here you are’
The mistress wrapped his arms around him and hugged him tightly. ‘I thought you would never come back, my angel. I waited’
‘I’m sorry’ the Doctor replied, vaguely being aware of the amount of times he had said those words. ‘I’m so sorry. I came as fast as I could. Put it’s tricky you see. All these windows looking into your life. Have you seen a sign of …’ he stopped. ‘The monsters … Reinnette are you listening?’
Madame de Pompadour stood there as if she was frozen. Silent as death and her eyes wide and fixated to a point behind him. Her lips parted as if she wanted to speak but could not.
The Doctor felt his hearts pick up speed. ‘The monsters are back.’
He slowly turned around, his hand gripping the sonic screw driver. He readied himself for a battle and as he turned around … he rolled his eyes dramatically.
Reinette was not looking at a clockwork monster but instead he was looking at a horse stood in the middle of her grandiose bedroom.
‘Arthur!’ the Doctor moaned. ‘Not now! Go back’.
The horse huffed and shook his head.
‘Arthur’ the Doctor repeated, more sternly this time.
‘A friend of yours?’ Reinette asked.
‘Yes … no …weeeeellll, no. Kind of. Perhaps… We’ll see’ he replied.
Reinnette blinked twice in surprise. ‘My angel, she thought. ‘Handsome, heroic … and slightly mad’
Ianto walked around the Hub, with a spring in his step. He carefully scattered some pumpkins around the Hub … on the ground, near the bins or on table tops. He hummed as he strolled through the working areas. ‘I love Halloween’ he thought.
Looking at himself in the mirror, he smugly smiled. His face was painted white, lips ruby red, dark rings around his eyes, fangs as teeth, hair slicked back, high collar and of course … black cape underneath his usual immaculate suit. ‘Ah yes,’ he thought. ‘I make a fine Dracula’
He had already startled Gwen and Tosh but to his regret, Owen just shook his head and muttered ‘Count Fagula’ underneath his breath.
He had not seen Jack however. He had promised to make an effort for Halloween this year and he could not wait to see what he would dress up as. The girls made some effort; with Gwen opting for fairy wings and a tiara whilst Tosh had went for a sexy librarian look. However, it could’ve also been her regular attire that she had brushed off as a Halloween costume. Ianto didn’t quite figure it out, but he had just accepted it.
He wanted to scream bloody murder when Jack strutted – because the Captain never walked into a room subtly, he always needed to be seen … and heard – into the Hub, dressed as his usual self.
Jack walked into the “kitchen area”, opened the fridge and started eating that subway sandwich Ianto had bought for him. Just as he wanted to take a bite out of it, he locked eyes with Ianto – looking angry and truly well pissed off. Nearly as bad as that time he decided to make coffee himself … and nearly broke the damned machine in the Hub. Not a pleasant talk that was.
‘Jack’ Ianto firmly said.
‘Ianto’ the Captain answered. He blinked as he took in the sight before him… Ianto dressed as Dracula. Jack was stunned – and slightly aroused. Guyliner really looked good on Ianto. ‘Why are you dressec like Dra-‘ he stopped mid-sentence as he remembered the promise he made. ‘Oh’ he added.
‘JACK!’ Ianto bellowed. ‘I look like a right idiot! I’m the only one that dressed up!’
‘Well there’s Gwen …’
A sharp glance directed at him made Jack stop immediately. That’s what he liked about Ianto. He’s genuinely a nice and kind soul but he’s angry, he’s quite scary. It’s scared him … and thrilled him.
‘Look .. I am dressed up!’ he offered. ‘I’m dressed up like myself!’
Ianto shook his head.
‘I …’ Jack started once more. ‘I’m dressed like a 1940’s soldier?’ he said, more a question than a statement.
Ianto threw him his very best are-you-freaking-kidding-me-with-that-lo
Suddenly Jack smiled and his eyes twinkled dangerously. He took off his coat and came closer to Ianto. He fumbled around Ianto’s neck and no matter how hard Ianto slapped his hands, he wouldn’t let go. He undid Ianto’s tie and wrapped it around his head.
‘Jack, you look like an idiot’
‘Shhhhtt … wait for it, you’ll love it’ the older man said. He lunged into the fridge again, took out a bottle filled with white fluid, uncorked it with his teeth and he started swaying heavily on his feet. He held out his hand and pointed at Ianto. With a drunken lisp he said one sentence that made Ianto crack up.
‘But why is the rum gone?’