"Here, man." A can of blue Venom appears in your line of vision as he takes a seat next to you. "Sorry. Hippest thing I could find."
"It'll do." You pop the tab as he leans back against the bench, stretching his legs out in front of him.
"So, where to?"
That same question. He's been asking you that same question every day for the entire semester. Every time he picks you up from class to drive you home, or rather, to drive you to the place where you sleep every night, he asks you. Where to?
Your answer is always the same.
And he gives off this dark little growl because he isn't pleased. Not at all. But he'll take you wherever you want to go even though he doesn't want to. He wants better for you.
What he wants most is you, of course. But you know that, even if you didn't pick him in the aftermath, he'd want you away from your current boyfriend just the same. Because he's concerned about your well-being, and he wants you to be happy, and he wishes he could take care of you and you have to stop thinking like this.
Knocking back a swig from your can, you rise slowly.
He follows you to his bike, his steps dragging more than yours, and you almost feel bad for what you're putting him through. But he was the one who offered to drive you every day in the first place. You even have your own helmet, and it's purple. He knows you like purple.
The helmet straps shift your glasses off-center, and you straighten them out before climbing on behind him, drink going in the holder, arms going around his waist. The bike roars, and then you're on the road, your face pressed into the sun-warm surface of his leather jacket.
You know he wants you to stay away, and you can't really blame him. It's always a gamble, and you never know what Sollux will be like when you get there. Half of the time, he's perfect and sweet and wonderful. The other half, it's like he'd break you as soon as fuck you, and you never know where you stand. He's different from people like Gamzee. People who are always perfect and sweet and wonderful. But you love him, and you can't stop that.
As Gamzee makes a hard turn, your scarf flies out behind you like you're the girl in some artsy french film. But it doesn't feel romantic. It feels like it's strangling you.
You swallow past the knot in your throat and close your eyes, breathing in the smell of leather, the smell of fresh air, the smell of gasoline and cigarettes and it's all Gamzee. All of it. You're fighting back tears, and you're so glad he can't see it. It would only make him feel worse about not being able to save you from yourself. Not being able to be the one holding you at night when you fall asleep. The one locking the door behind you as you both leave for class. The one kissing you in the morning, eyes always full of the same thing day in and day out.
Desire. Happiness. Love.
A gasp of cold air makes your lungs hurt, and you squeeze your eyes shut, telling yourself it's because of the wind and not because of the salt water filling them.
Your throat is dry and your ears are ringing and then the engine dulls and the wind slows. And you realize that it's because you yelled for him to stop. It wasn't just in your head.
He twists around on the seat, trying to look at you over his shoulder, and as soon as he can pull his leg over, he's off the bike and propping it up and he's got his arms around you before you can say two words to him.
"Shhh. Don't be up and cryin' now. What's wrong, Eridan? Talk to me."
And that's only making things worse. Because he cares so much, he wants to help so much, he wants to make you better so much, and you can't get anything out past the quiet sobs in your throat. So the two of you sit there on the side of the road, him holding you like he'd rather be nowhere else, which is probably true, you think, and you manage to get your arms scrunched up between both of you, curling in on yourself as you cry.
Long minutes pass, and by the time you can breathe without shuddering, Gamzee has quieted to making little shushing noises as he strokes your back. You realize that you love this feeling. You feel safe. Warm. Cared for. You don't want to leave.
And for the first time, it really hits you that you don't have to.
It had always been an option, but never before had you wanted to take it. There had always been a reason not to. You love him. You're good for him. How will he manage without you? You've been together for so long. You--
You swallow and take a deep breath.
"What?" His question is slower than usual, like he can't believe what you're saying.
You can't really believe it, either.
His eyes widen, and you start to see hope there, starting to overshadow the disbelief.
"And take you where?"
"Anywwhere. Anywwhere else."
His breath stops for a moment.
"I'm not motherfucking complaining, but…why?"
"I'we been thinkin'."
"Yeah. I'we been thinkin' that I wwant you to turn around."
He must have finally accepted what you're saying, because he grins wide enough to start cracking the makeup on his lips.
"How does a brother feel about pasta tonight?"
"Sounds fuckin' fantastic."
Maybe you can't turn off your emotions, but you can act like you have. You can make a choice to do the right thing by yourself.
He turns the bike around, and when you press your face to his back again, you're smiling.
This time, when your scarf flies out behind you, it doesn't feel like choking.
It feels like flying.
Chapter 2: 一人じゃない
Gamzee doesn’t bother asking if anything is wrong because he already knows the answer. Instead, he reaches out with one hand and strokes underneath your eye with his thumb. It makes you look up at him, which is probably all he’d wanted.
The sound of the door closing behind you is one of the most beautiful things you’ve heard in a long while, and the very first thing you do is cross to his mattress — there’s no seating in his tiny apartment aside from the ridiculous amount of pillows decorating the floor — and collapse onto it, knowing that he won’t mind. But instead of following you over and sitting next to you, he just kind of stands there, shifting back and forth.
“You can stay as long as you want.”
This is probably the most nervous you’ve seen him.
“Wwell, that’s good, ‘cause I’m not mowin’.”
His breath rushes out quickly enough for you to hear it, and his footsteps move to his little kitchen, where you hear him filling up a pot with water. For pasta, you assume.
“Wanna talk about it?”
You roll over onto your back and open your eyes, and you can see him watching you in mild concern. With a sigh, you throw an arm over your eyes, your glasses held loosely in your other hand, and shake your head.
He doesn’t push the subject, turning off the water and setting the pot on the stove with a thud and a slosh. There’s the click of the gas lighting, and then he’s coming back over while he waits for it to boil. The mattress depresses next to your head, and gentle fingers card through your hair.
“Messin’ up my hair…”
He snorts but doesn’t stop, and you don’t ask him to.
Once the water is boiling, he stands again, and you must have drifted off because the next thing you know, he’s shaking your shoulder and telling you that dinner’s ready, and you don’t even bother to rise further than hands and knees, crawling across the floor to his low table and trying not to trip on your scarf and strangle yourself as you go. With a huff, you tug it off and let it fall to the floor, and Gamzee laughs.
“Did that nasty motherfucker up and offend you?”
You pout at him in response, and okay, maybe you’re not as completely collected as you thought you were. The beginnings of a headache are pushing at your temples and at the spaces behind your eyes, and you nibble at your food idly. Gamzee doesn’t bother asking if anything is wrong because he already knows the answer. Instead, he reaches out with one hand and strokes underneath your eye with his thumb. It makes you look up at him, which is probably all he’d wanted.
“You know I’m here for a brother, if you need me.”
“Yeah, I knoww.”
That’s all you manage before you lean back enough to disengage his hand, using the opportunity to press your own hands over your eyes. Without another word, he’s up and moving to crawl behind you, and his heat is warm against your back, his knees bracketing your sides. You shudder, and his arms wrap around your waist.
The weight of what you’ve done envelops you, and you start to panic, wondering if you’ve made the right choice, if you’re doing it right thing, if you haven’t destroyed Sollux and yourself and Gamzee and—
“Shh. It’s gonna be okay.”
His voice is soft in your ear, and was that you who just whimpered?
“Gonna be okay.”
He presses a kiss to the back of your head, and even though you can’t really feel it properly through your hair, you know that’s what it is. But he stops you from curling in on yourself, scooting the two of you back so that he can lean against the wall, so that you can lean against him in return. You whine when he pulls your hands away from your eyes, but you don’t stop him, and then his own come up to rub at your temples. Sure fingertips push down the middle of your forehead, underneath your cheekbones, pinch the bridge of your nose, your eyebrows, and you can’t remember where you put your glasses, but you assume they’re still by Gamzee’s mattress.
It feels good, the way he touches you, and eventually the pounding in your head lessens enough that you can think clearly. You sigh and turn your head a little, and it fits easily under his chin. His fingers sweep down the arch of your neck, and you gasp, but he doesn’t push it, just keeps moving down your arms, rubbing at the muscles, working toward your hands, circling around joints and making you sink deeper into him.
“Don’t worry. We’ll figure this out.”
You’re not sure if he means you and him, you and Sollux, everything? But you give him a tired nod.
For such a thin guy, Gamzee must be pretty strong. Either that, or you’re a lot thinner than you thought you were. You aren’t sure which you’d prefer.
Either way, he lifts you in his arms and carries you back over to his bed, kneeling down so he can lay you on it properly, and your eyes don’t even open as you hear him moving around the apartment, likely cleaning up after the dinner that you barely ate and packing everything away for later, and you have to remember to thank him. You feel bad that he went through all that trouble just for you to have a minor breakdown during it.
You actually moan with relief when he hits the lights, and he laughs above you. When he hits the mattress himself, he doesn’t spoon up behind you, doesn’t gather you into his arms. He just rests a hand on your back so that you know he’s there, and your heart flutters from how sweet he’s being, how gentle, how unassuming.
When you roll over, his eyes are open, watching you, and when he smiles, you smile back.
He murmurs a soft, “Beautiful,” under his breath, and your breath catches, because from how he’s looking at you, you can actually believe it.
You don’t know what you’re supposed to do. You don’t even know what you want to do. Your eyes move back and forth between his eyes and his mouth and there’s this voice in your head that’s running in circles, asking if this is the start of something else, and if it is, what you should do about it. You open your mouth to say something, anything, but nothing comes out, and he raises a finger to your lips.
“It’s okay. No sense in rushing into things. Just take it slow, brother. No worries.”
And even in the darkness of the apartment, lit by the light from the window, the streetlamps outside, you can see desire.
But he doesn’t push you, doesn’t ask for anything, and it’s his determination to be whatever you need right now, to just let you heal, that does you in. Your breath catches again, then stutters in your chest, and you’re the one who moves forward, who cuddles into him, who tries to slip underneath him just so he’s all over you and around you and keeping all the bad things away. You’re not crying, but your heart feels like it is, and there’s that tight feeling in your throat all the same.
He holds you while you shudder, while you gasp, and when you’ve finally calmed enough to speak again, all you can manage is a quiet, “Thank you.”
Gamzee doesn’t respond to that aside from kissing you on the forehead and stroking down your back, tucking the blankets up around the two of you. He doesn’t say anything for a long time, and you start to wonder if he’s fallen asleep as the minutes tick by.
“You’re everything I ever wanted. I’ll wait forever if I have to.”
If the way that you shift in his arms surprises him, he doesn’t let on, and he only stares calmly back at you. Your own eyes are wide, and even though that’s something you already knew, somehow, to actually hear it is something else altogether.
Neither of you move while you watch each other, and it isn’t until he yawns and gives you a wide grin that you snap out of it. And then you wonder what you were so worried about in the first place. Determined now, you press two fingers to your mouth, then to his, sharing a kiss between you. And it’s a playground kind of kiss. The kind of thing that happens after a shy confession. The kind of thing shared between best friends under the jungle gym when the teachers aren’t watching because you don’t want anyone else to know, yet. Because you’re still figuring things out yourself.
And soon, you’ll let everyone else in on your secret, and it won’t be a secret, anymore. It will be this thing that always was, this thing that everyone else saw coming, and maybe you would have, too, if you’d let yourself think about it.
But you’re thinking about it now, and there’s a smile on your face and a lightness in your heart and a beautiful, wonderful warmth pressed against you that you never want to be without again. And you know that you made the right decision. And you’re never going back.