At some point he gives up. He couldn’t even say when; his will to persevere isn’t worth any notice until it’s gone, and even then, it’s not worth much. He crosses the train tracks every day, sometimes upwards of six or seven times. He just needs to walk. He knows it’d be quick, maybe not painless, but irrevocable. He won’t do it, though. He doesn’t want that moment where the conductor can see him and know there’s nothing they can do. When he’s not down by the tracks he’s sitting on the edge of the overpass wondering what jumping would feel like. He thinks about the people commuting to work, rushing home for dinner, meeting up for coffee, getting to school on time. He won’t die by making someone else pull the trigger.
He’s leaning on the barrier when he hears the footsteps of another person crossing the bridge. He stares down at the speeding cars as the stranger passes, only he doesn’t. He stops beside Brendon and leans, forearms resting next to Brendon’s. Brendon sighs and glances quickly at his face - pale, light eyes, shiny hair.
“Spencer Smith,” the man says, offering his hand. Like people do that, like people stop on the street to make conversation with strangers. Brendon takes his hand, vaguely curious despite himself. It feels strange, like he’s out of practise, unfit for human interaction. Maybe Spencer can feel him ready to back away because he holds his hand more firmly. His hand is like ice and his grip is strong. Brendon shivers, blinking, and looks up from their hands.
“Brendon,” he says, surrendering.
“Looked like you were thinking about jumping,” Spencer comments, kind smile and neutral enough, but Brendon looks away hastily, huffs a laugh like there’s anything to laugh about. He’s ready to turn around and walk away - this topic is not up for discussion - when he notices they’re still holding hands. He tugs his hand free but their hands don’t move. Spencer tilts his head like he’s studying him, like he’s looking into him and Brendon pulls back harder.
“Let go, man,” Brendon says. Tries to keep it light while his heart is beating out of his chest. Spencer is slightly taller - maybe - but Brendon is broader - maybe. He could take him? Maybe? It’s not like he has anything to lose.
“I’m right, though,” Spencer says. His hand doesn’t feel icy anymore, as if he’s absorbed Brendon’s heat while Brendon’s still shivering. Spencer puts his other hand on Brendon’s and holds Brendon’s hand between his. Brendon’s using his other hand to pry Spencer’s fingers away but it’s like they’re made of iron. Spencer makes a small sound chiding sounds in his throat and catches Brendon’s other hand and holds them both between his own, like Brendon’s a child. Brendon can’t look away. The world is no longer making sense, and not in the ways he’s become used to. New and frightening, impossible ways.
“Let go,” Brendon says, he can feel his voice getting higher. He can’t even remember the last time someone held his hand. “Let go, let go, let go.”
“I will,” Spencer assures him, calmly. “I will; don’t worry. I’ll let your hands go. But first we’ll make a trade?”
“What?” Brendon is finding it hard to catch his breath.
“Shh,” Spencer says, squeezing his hands lightly. With the grip that Brendon can’t break, it seems like anything more should be crushing bones, but it feels like nothing. Like comfort. Insane comfort, but comfort. “Just some words; that’s all I want. Just words - that’s not so bad, right? And then I’ll let your hands go.”
“Just words?” Brendon asks.
“That’s right,” Spencer says. “Tell me: were you thinking of jumping?”
“I—. I wasn’t going to jump,” Brendon protests. He’s only been thinking about the ways he wasn’t going to do it, the ways he doesn’t want innocent people to find him, the way he wouldn’t want his family to see him. “I wouldn’t do that!”
“But you were thinking about it. You wanted it.” The squeeze this time is maybe bordering on impatience. “I only want true words. Yes?”
“Yes,” Brendon admits, pulling at his hands. “Yes, yes.”
Spencer pulls him closer and dips his head to claim eye contact. “I know you were.”
“Let go?” Brendon asks. He looks straight into Spencer’s face.
“We’re not done yet, Brendon,” Spencer says, and his eyes crinkle with a gentle smile. Maybe it’s supposed to sound regretful but Brendon’s not really processing at full power. His hands get the deceptively soft comfort-squeeze again. It is not comforting. “Soon. How were you going to do it? When?”
“I’m not!” Brendon denies. It might even be true. It used to feel more true than it has lately.
“True words, Brendon,” Spencer says.
“I’m not!” Brendon repeats. “I don’t know!”
“You do know,” Spencer says, “and you were.”
“Not yet,” Brendon says. Admits. Spencer isn’t even blinking, just holds Brendon’s gaze. He can’t look away. “Is that enough? Let me go?”
“Why do you even want to go?” Spencer says, and he sounds honestly curious. He moves his hands to lightly circle Brendon’s wrists. “Aren’t you curious? What do you have to lose if you’re just going to throw it all away?”
“I won’t! I won’t, okay? I’m not going to,” Brendon protests.
“Except,” Spencer says, “you’re lying. Don’t you want to tell me the truth?”
Brendon has nothing to say to that. He is lying, or he isn’t - he honestly can’t tell; he just wants away. He can feel a whine trying to build in the back of his throat.
“You’re breaking our trade,” Spencer says, visibly annoyed now. “The truth, Brendon.”
“I don’t know,” Brendon says and yelps when Spencer’s grip does come close to bone-crushing. Brendon pushes back as hard as he can. Nothing happens and it only makes him more frustrated. “I will. I’ll find a way that works for me and no talk from a stranger on a bridge is going to change that.”
“That’s not why I’m here, Brendon,” Spencer says, and he steps back slowly letting Brendon push him against the barrier.
“Then what do you want?” Brendon snaps, more angry and mortified than cautious at this point. At some point their hands had switched positions, with Brendon’s wrapped around Spencer’s thin wrists. Spencer looks much calmer than Brendon had been in that position.
“I want you to admit, formally, that you are determined to forfeit your life,” Spencer says.
“I am determined to forfeit my life,” Brendon says, dropping Spencer’s wrists, his hands clenched tightly with rage.
“I am happy to see this clarity in you, Brendon,” Spencer says. He actually does look pleased - pleased for Brendon, even. “But the words are binding. You have forfeited your life and I am now claiming it as my own.” He stands up from the barrier, places his hands on Brendon’s upper arms like the prelude to a hug that Brendon absolutely does not want and says firmly and sincerely, “Thank you, Brendon.”
“What,” Brendon starts, but Spencer is smiling, pleased with him. A wide a beautiful smile full of very white and very sharp teeth. Vampire teeth. He takes a shocked step backwards, or tries to, but Spencer stills him.
“No, no,” Spencer says, that small chiding noise again. “None of that, shh. Is there anything you need from this place? We have a long day of travel ahead.” Brendon can’t do anything but slowly shake his head. He is suddenly exhausted. He doesn’t need this city, or things, or anyone. He has nothing to lose. If he’s honest - true words - he is curious.