He had always been a recreational drug user—there was never any danger of those things becoming necessary, like air he couldn't live without. At least until she wasn't there anymore. Because until she left, he didn't know the only thing he didn’t want to live without was her.
He had a hard time with it for a variety of reasons. Sometimes he felt angry when he felt he missed her more than he did his mother. Then he’d tell himself that was different, and not just for the obvious differences between a mother and a girlfriend. His mother could never come back, and she hadn’t wanted to leave in the first place. Veronica had fairly run as far as she could, not without offering explanations that fell flat to his ears, but all the same, she’d left him. She’d chosen to go. She’d left him behind.
Nothing in the world hurt more than that.
When Michael started going off about when and where Lincoln’s life had gotten off-track, and how drugs and alcohol were the problem, Lincoln never said it out loud, but he blamed Veronica. Michael would never do that though, he’d never see the distinction in the power people had over your life. He would never understand that Lincoln would have gotten it all straight for Veronica, if Veronica had ever asked him too. By the time she came back and did want that, Lincoln had moved on in his addiction, and she wasn’t the most critical portion of it anymore.
He remembers getting high and thinking the irony was just too much to take.
The day Veronica died, he knew he would never blame her again for anything except the goodness he made from the second chance he now had.
There had never been a person she needed. She’d learned at a young age not to with her parents—a mother who loved her Vodka bottle more than anything else, and a father who adored power and prestige above and beyond any person in his life—but with morphine, it had been love at first taste. The first time she shot up, it was really on a dare, a guy in her intern program said she was too serious, too much of a Daddy's girl to ever step outside the box. So she stepped outside and it had been delicious. It was the first time she’d ever had communion with anything. It felt as though morphine understood her perfectly, and it made everything hazy and wonderful and much easier to bear, including the fact that one couldn't be a daddy's girl when Daddy was always too busy to even pay any attention to you.
There were more lucid moments when she knew it was becoming a problem, but for all the girls she’d ever been friends with who’d stayed with a lousy boyfriend, she didn’t really see the correlation. Morphine was her one true love, morphine was the one thing that never let her down, never disappointed her, never promised her something that it didn’t deliver.
It was an enchanting rapture that made work easier, made sex better even when it was with someone mediocre, made loneliness never fully settle upon her. It was a burn along her veins that aroused her more fully than any man ever could. She often shot up alone and pleasured herself because her lover was so good to her, it made her her longing that much more acute. Sometimes the ache in the back of her throat that indicated she needed more water in her diet just felt like the emotion her true love evoked in her.
The dreamy embrace of it never got ugly until the day she watched a boy die on the street. She should have been able to help him, but her mind simply wouldn’t function quickly enough to do anything for him, and her companion—some guy she’d only ever fucked when she was high and now could not even recall his name—dragged her away from the scene, and tried to help her block the image from her mind.
But nothing could change the fact that that which she loved most, that which had loved her so well had somehow turned on her, and ruined itself completely.
She cried the day she entered rehab, cried for her lost love, cried for that thing she could never have back in all its glorious innocence.
It was a long time before she could acknowledge the pathetic sorrow it had been, mourning something that was slowly killing her.
He can remember being a small boy and feeling Lincoln's breath in his ear as he whispered that it would be okay, that their mother would get better and come home soon. Lincoln didn't mean to lie, but it became the first of many deceptions that Michael tried desperately to believe.
As he’d grown older, he’d come to understand it didn’t really matter what Lincoln said, it was more how he said it that brought comfort, or caused hurt. In the end, Michael learned he could live without a lot of things, but he didn’t want to live without Lincoln, and he absolutely couldn’t live without trying to save him. If the only thing that came from it was Lincoln knowing he’d tried, and Michael got to spend those last few moments with his brother, then it would be worth it. All of it, the missing toes, the injections that could ruin his liver, the loss of self-respect that came from seeing men act as little more than wild animals.
Once, in the infirmary, as Sara tended to the burn on his shoulder, her breath wafted unintentionally over his skin, causing the hair on the inside of his ears to prickle pleasantly, in remembrance of the only other person Michael had ever known that he couldn't live without. She had transitioned then, from the person he needed to help save his brother simply to a person—a woman—he needed. As he kissed her, slipping his tongue past her lips, he tried to imagine a scenario where he could ask her to go with him that she would somehow respond positively. Then, without any planning at all, his request that she wait for him fell out of his mouth.
Months later, after going through hell and back again each respectively, they all talked about it. One night, in the semi-light of a distant hanging fixture in a warehouse with no real windows, the three of them traced the addictions of their lives to that place.
That Michael’s addiction was somehow the way they’d all ended up there rattled endlessly in their whispered words. Their pact to survive it all was the proof of lessons learned.
Lincoln wondered if it could really end well for any of them, but he knew he would move heaven and earth to try--one last thing for a decent legacy for his son and his brother.
Sara faced head on that nothing in her life had prepared her for this, but she dedicated herself to it because to be loved so wholly filled the empty places in her soul.
Michael's certainty that he would die before it could ever end solidified before his eyes as blood seeped from his nose.