When did all of his words become angry? Dan was supposed to be a word smith, a genius at combining consonants and vowels into something coherent and cerebral. And yet, lately there had been a darkness covering his soul that could only churn out words like “idiot” and “wanker” and “rubbish”, words vomited onto the page in lengthy rants. Words that delighted Jonatton Yeah? because anger sells and the Idiots loved because they took them as praise instead of the condemnation they were meant to be. He’s always found it easier to find the negative side of things; it’s more of an effort to find the positive. He finally gave up even trying.
Dan had felt himself spiraling down and down over the last year, and during his more soberly lucid moments had been horrified at what he had become. He wraps his arms around the sleeping DJ in an attempt to stop the tears he feels forming at the back of his eyes. He can’t see him in the midnight dark of the room, but he’s solid and real and warm and he isn’t surprised to feel a small hand snake its way up under the sheets to journey across his face to find his mouth and then replace his fingers with his lips. Jones has been the only light in his dark world for a long time, a stray beam that had begun to fade, blocked out by the fog and smoke that had become Dan’s world. Until that day, the day that had changed everything.
The doctors had kept him in a near comatose state the first two weeks, partly to block the pain, and partly to control the shakes as his body adjusted to the sudden absence of alcohol. He had vague glimpses of Claire by his bed, sprinkled with Sasha and Jonatton; and Nathan, of course. Always Nathan, everywhere he went. Even the humiliation of being trussed up like a Christmas turkey had to be witnessed by the wanker. And when he finally came fully awake he found Jones by his side, newly returned from a stint in Edinburgh to discover that his flatmate was damaged and broken.
He didn’t ask until later why Dan had jumped. They were sitting at the kitchen table, the bulky casts gone, but smaller, lighter ones still holding his skeleton together as it healed. There was no condemnation in the younger man’s voice, no angst or judgment, just a matter-of-fact question. And Dan shrugged his shoulders and grimaced as pain shot through his frame with the movement and told him it was just a way out. He had panicked. He had painted himself into a corner and Pingu had gone out the window and landed on the van. It seemed safe enough, except an hour’s worth of thoughts had flashed through his head in those few seconds as he hit the edge instead of the middle and slipped on down to land on the hard ground; thoughts that screamed at him that he had made a huge mistake. More than one, really. Jones had given a small shake of his head, a flash of relief passing across his face and Dan realized at that moment that he, maybe everyone, thought he had tried to die.
After two weeks of staring at white walls, he had been allowed to go home to continue mending. Claire had given up the bed, spending her nights on the couch, although more and more she spent her nights elsewhere. Dan didn’t ask where; he was too afraid of the answer. She never said anything when Jones started sleeping on the bed, curled up like a cat, eventually unfolding himself to press into Dan’s side as each cast was removed, the heat from his body sinking into the newly mended bones, easing the ache. Jones would slip in next to him on the nights he had worked some club, cigarette smoke clinging to his hair but no taste of alcohol as his lips found Dan’s in the dark, a silent hello and good night to let him know that all was well.
This was nothing like the times before Claire, when they would tumble into bed after a night of alcohol and pills, fumbled fondling that usually went nowhere, ending as one or both passed out. Neither mentioned those groping sessions, bleary eyed in the morning and silently moving around the kitchen, searching for a clean cup and hoping there was nonmoldy bread to toast to help settle flipping stomachs.
Somehow, Jones’ soft late-night kisses graduated into something more, rubbing against each other, soft noises as their breath mingled, hands sliding over skin until one morning after all of the casts were gone, Jones’ fingers, so clever on his decks, didn’t stop until Dan was gasping and pleading. Satisfies with his work, he rolled over on his back and Dan couldn’t help but notice how the boxers he slept in were tented and worked his own hand under the waistband to press it against Jones’ hardness. It became a morning ritual; Dan justifying it as good therapy for his wrists.
It all came together one cold damp night when the painkillers refused to relieve his pain and Jones slid off the couch to fit himself between the older man’s knees. Dan had worn trousers with elastic since his release from the hospital, unattractive but much easier while he was still carrying the added weight of fiberglass and plaster and had little use of his hands. Convenient, as it turned out, for other things as well, as Jones pulled them down off his hips and proceeded to take him in his mouth, all suction and spit that had him moaning in pleasure instead of pain, relief that lasted for hours after. Two days later he tried to reciprocate, sloppy and unpracticed, but with Jones’ fingers twisted in his again longer hair and the amazing noises escaping his open mouth, he felt a pressure in his chest and stomach, a feeling of wellbeing and satisfaction that had nothing to do with the physical act he was attempting but instead came from somewhere deeper.
His relationship with Claire had returned to something more like when they were teenagers, the sniping and insults replaced by actual conversation. She told him about the work she was doing with Nathan, something that wasn’t obscene and callous. She told him how the arse had helped her finish her documentary and that she had been asked to show it at a local film festival. She mentioned in passing how Pingu had packed up his stuff the day after “that whole bloody debacle” and found a job with a small company in Cardiff, effectively shutting down Trashbat.co.ck, but not before deleting the tapes from that fateful day. Dan wished he could give the kid a hug in his gratitude. One evening as they sat talking, Jones had plopped himself down next to Dan and not thinking, he wrapped his arm around the slender shoulders and planted a small kiss in the highlighted hair. He froze but when Claire didn’t so much as blink, he relaxed and tightened his embrace, knowing everything was okay between the three of them. (How had he not noticed that Jones and Claire had bonded over shared nursing duties?)
Only yesterday, Claire had come in through the front door with Nathan in tow, not even throwing a glance at the two as they sat on the couch, Jones’ legs thrown across Dan’s lap as they had talked and laughed and snogged the afternoon away. Nathan, on the other hand, had stopped in his tracks, staring and speechless, until Claire’s voice had shrilled back at him to “come on, Barley, move it!” A smirk had spread across his face as he headed into the kitchen, ‘that’s well Mexico’ his only comment. ‘Twat’, Dan had mumbled into Jones hair. The younger man had leaned back and with a serious look on his face had announced ‘we’re well Mexico’, and broken into giggles that were harmonized by Dan’s low chuckle.
This morning Dan had found himself with a notebook and a pen writing nonsense that turned into meandering romance. There was no edge or anger; Jonatton would hate it. Somehow, the light that is Jones had fanned the last spark inside Dan and found some corner that is glad to be alive until words like happiness and love and peace are now bubbling in his brain; simple words, true, but they give him hope.