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Sometimes You Fall

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Pete had been falling for a while, a slow motion stumble that promised a rough landing, skinned knees and banged-up elbows.

Pete fell, and Patrick called to let Mikey know. Mikey didn't mind coming in second to Patrick. He never had. It was Pete that couldn't stand being second.

The news broke and Mikey felt it ripple outward like a wave, imagined Pete sinking like a stone. He wasn't surprised, then, when he opened the door and Pete stood there, rain-drenched and shivering. Mikey pulled him in close, but Pete resisted, stiff as a board, shaking his head and not meeting Mikey's eyes.

Pete was always filled with motion, vibrating at a fever pitch of words and thoughts and ideas, sometimes flowing so quickly he couldn't get them out of his head. Mikey couldn't count the nights he'd spent pressing Pete into the mattress, holding him down to make the words stop hurting.

And tonight, Pete was like an over-tightened guitar string, reverberating with painful realizations, teetering on the edge of snapping in half.

Mikey pulled Pete up the stairs, texting Alicia one-handed, nownownow.

He stripped off Pete's sodden clothes and shoved him into the shower, climbing in behind. Mikey washed them both with Alicia's fancy soap, quick and cursory. Alicia was waiting when Mikey stepped out again, wet and slick-skinned. Together, they bundled Pete in a big, fluffy towel and took him to bed.

They put Pete between them, Mikey behind with his arms wrapped tight around Pete, Alicia in front, pressed up against Pete from shoulder to thigh. They held him as he shivered for hours, Mikey nuzzling the nape of his neck, Alicia crooning softly and pushing the hair off of his face.

And in the dark of the night, when he shattered, they picked up the pieces.