Brandon’s life is as close to perfect as it can get. Sure, there are times that he has to suffer through Andrew’s temper tantrums and maybe he picks up after him a lot ‘cause he’s a bit messy and maybe instead of just lube and condoms his nightstand is also stashed with iodine (for the scratches Andrew leaves on his back) and rash cream (for the beard burns he leaves in Andrew’s thighs and butt) but more often than not he gets to wake up next to Andrew and get a still sleepy smile and a kiss before breakfast and they get to cuddle in the sofa and Brandon can leave soft kisses on Andrew’s forehead without having to be careful, so yes his life is awesome.
That’s why it hits him hard and out of nowhere when he hears Andrew’s quite sobs coming from the living room. Brandon panics. In the few steps he has to walk to get there a thousand thoughts cross his mind. What if Andrew is not as content as he is? What if he neglected to notice? Where there any signs he missed? Do Andrew’s outbursts have nothing to do with school as he claims and everything to do with him?
Andrew’s voice stops him dead cold in the doorstep.
“We’re getting out of here. We’re going home” Andrew’s voice cracks and he shakes as he holds his phone in his hand. “I’m not leaving without you, understand?” he says sternly between sobs.
Brandon freezes. Andrew is leaving? Leaving Chicago? Leaving him? With whom? What’s happening? Two seconds ago his life was perfect; they were in love, just last week they were making summer plans. When did it all go to hell?
Brandon does what he always does when he panics… he bolts. He shuts himself in his room and tries to catch his breath. His brain tells him to go in there and confront him, yell and fight, demand answers and plead with him not to leave. His heart tells him to keep his mouth shut. Maybe if he says nothing, if he tries harder, if he can be better then Andrew might reconsider.
He gets ready for bed, buries his nose in a book and pretends not to notice that when Andrew comes into the room he has red rimmed eyes. He just holds him tighter and whispers ‘I love you’ and spends half the night watching him sleep. He wants to commit every little detail in his memory, savour the moments he has before they’re gone.
He spends the next days on edge; he walks on egg-shells around Andrew afraid that even a small miss-step might cost him. He withdraws in his house, stares at the door afraid that it might not open, that maybe that is the day that Andrew won’t be coming back. He gets concerned looks from Jonny and a talk from Patrick but waves them both off with the excuse that he’s just tired, which gets him a sleazy smirk and a back hand comment from Patrick about his lack of stamina and ability to keep up with the youngling (yeah, Pat knows how to pour salt in his wounds) but at least it gets them off his back.
Andrew on the other hand is blissfully oblivious. Mostly because around him Brandon doesn’t have to fake a smile, he just has to let his sadness show only when he buries his face in Andrew’s hair and holds him tight. Andrew seems to be getting back to normal and Brandon doesn’t know if whatever it was is over or if Andrew is just so good at acting. He doesn’t know if he should feel relieved or fooled.
As the days pass Brandon starts to think that maybe he misunderstood, he must have because Andrew is smiling and sticking to his side and they spend their evenings with Pat and Jonny. Jonny calls them play-dates. They get to have adult conversations while Pat and Andrew act like five-year-olds, bouncing around, chattering and creating havoc, exhausting themselves (and their boyfriends) in the process. Jonny gives him the judgemental raised eyebrow for his life choices and Brandon answers it with a similar ‘pot-kettle-black’ look ‘cause if Brandon is in love, Jonny is so gone for Patrick it’s not even funny.
Brandon had heard the expression ‘the calm before the storm’ but he had never fully understood it before. Sure, he got the concept but he hadn’t lived it in his skin. He gets it now as he walks into his apartment, a smile on his face and a pizza box on his hand, getting greeted by a familiar sight that rips his heart in two. Andrew is curled in a blanket, sobbing uncontrollably on the phone, whispering in a hitched voice
“I don’t want to feel like crap for failing you; for failing you like I fail every other godforsaken thing I care about. I don’t need it”.
The door that closes by the draft startles Andrew who mumbles something like “I have to go” and gets up, back facing Brandon to get a second to compose himself. Brandon can’t pretend now. He can’t play dumb.
“Hey” Andrew says turning to face him, putting a half smile on his face that doesn’t seem forced. Yeah, Brandon thinks, he can definitely get an Oscar.
“What was that all about?” he asks and it comes out a lot harsher than he intended ‘cause Andrew visibly flinches.
“Oh, it’s nothing! Don’t worry about it!” Andrew replies waving a dismissive hand, trying to keep his tone light while approaching Brandon “You brought pizza? Extra cheese, right?” he looks in the box and beams at him.
“Andrew…” Brandon warns
“I… it’s… it’s not what… I…” Andrew stammers and Brandon clenches his fists. (Yeah, he’s still not over the thought that Andrew’s shyness is an act).
He backs off and shies away from him as Andrew tries to hold him back. He can feel his anger struggling to surface. He doesn’t deal well with being lied to in his face. He wants to turn around and shake the truth out of Andrew. The thought makes him shiver. He can’t bare the thought. He hates it that Andrew can bring the worse out of him. He opts for giving him the silent treatment and a disappointed look and retracts in his bedroom.
It takes Andrew less than ten minutes to follow and crawl in the bed to his side. He doesn’t touch Brandon, he doesn’t press himself in his side,” I’m sorry” he says but gets him no reaction. He scoots closer “Brandon, please” he pleads. Still silence. “Brandon…” he tries again but apparently Brandon is a master at this game.
“Fine!” he says with annoyance “you want to know? I screwed up okay? I … I’m missing two credits and I got an F on my last paper. Does it make you feel better that I’m an utter failure? That I’m a disappointment to you and my parents? Are you happy now?” he huffs and runs out.
Brandon is gobsmacked. His anger is replaced by guilt. He knew Andrew was struggling. That wasn’t a lie. It was the cause of half of Andrew’s temper tantrums. He also knows how many sacrifices Andrew’s parents had to make to send him to Chicago; of course he would be devastated if he thought he failed them. He gets out of bed and strolls in the living room to find Andrew sitting on the couch aggressively changing the TV channels. He sits beside him and opens his arms. Andrew doesn’t hesitate. He straddles his lap, buries his face in the crook of Brandon’s neck and relaxes.
When they go to sleep and Andrew’s stuck to his side like a leech whispering sleepily ‘I’m sorry’s’ the sick feeling in Brandon’s gut returns.
The tables turn in the next few days. Andrew is the one who tries harder this time. He must have developed some mad ninja skills along with a mind reading thing ‘cause he tends to Brandon’s needs long before he himself knows he has them. To Brandon, it seems like a play out of the cheating, lying men book, when married men with affairs shower their spouses with gifts and affection. Brandon doesn’t buy it.
Especially, not tonight when Andrew is a lot more jitterish than usual and pushes a bit harder for Brandon to go work on his article. Brandon doesn’t object. He goes to his study but instead of writing he larks behind his half-closed door waiting; for what he doesn’t know.
It takes about 35 (long) minutes for him to hear Andrew’s cell ring. He takes off his shoes and walks to the living room door on tip-toes. Hearing Andrew cry doesn’t startle him anymore, not being the reason of those overwhelming emotions guts him. It also makes him question his mental state and self-worth the fact that instead of walking away from this charade his relationship has become, he just tries to find ways to fight for Andrew to stay. He supposes he must have lost his pride the same time he lost his heart to him.
“Please” Andrew begs not trying to wipe his tears away “this isn’t you… I need you” he pauses listening carefully to the voice on the other end of the line “Bullshit! ‘I don’t know’ my ass. The answer was YOU” he replies sternly.
Brandon feels sick. The helplessness in Andrew’s voice, the definity of his last words, the slight pink colour his face gets when he’s distraught or in the verge of anger, leave no room for mistakes or doubts. Whoever is on the other end is shuttering Andrew’s heart with his words. Brandon wants to curl in a ball and die but mainly he wants to reach to Andrew and try to glue his broken pieces back together. He is pathetic. It’s his new synonym for foolishly in love beyond the line of self care.
He goes to his study and hides until he hears the shower running. He goes to the living room, shoves his shame a step closer to the gutter and searches Andrew’s phone. He goes through his received calls…The name that greets him is a one way ticket to the highway to hell.
The double betrayal crashes him, it empties him, it takes away every shred of emotion Brandon had left.
Brandon is a walking dead shell of a man.
He goes to bed and feigns sleep when Andrew crawls to bed next to him. He lets his tears fall only when Andrew’s breath evens out next to him.
In the morning he feels relieved for the first time ever when he wakes up alone. He takes a sick day from work; he avoids Pat’s calls and contemplates calling Jonny. Then he remembers that Jonny is in Canada and has access to axes. The knowledge gives him a momentarily satisfaction. But that’s not the way to go. He is a civilised human being not a lout. Plus, it would be kind of a hassle if one of them had to visit the other in prison every week with finals coming up and all. So he drinks himself to oblivion instead.
He wakes up late in the afternoon only to find Andrew asleep at his side. He takes a quick shower and decides to go to that stupid book presentation he had no intention of attending but he can’t stand being in the same room as Andrew without breaking down.
It’s half through the book reading when he receives a text from Jonny saying he doesn’t know if it’s stupid or brave of him leaving the ‘kids’ in his house unsupervised. Jonny’s bet is on stupid.
Brandon sees red. It’s one thing to stab him in the back and another to do it in the sanctity of his house. It doesn’t register to him how many traffic code violations he made or exactly how he reached his house.
He opens the door as quietly as he can. He’s greeting by the sound of the TV and Pat’s voice pleading with Andrew
“Come on!” he whines. “One more time! You know you want to”
“Dude, Brandon’s gonna be back soon. We don’t have time” Andrew retorts.
“Just the highlights man! Not all the way” Pat insists
Brandon’s stomach drops. He’s going to be sick. ‘Highlights’. Is that some kind of not-full-sex code?
“Fine!” Andrew says defeated. It doesn’t sound to Brandon like he puts up a fight at all “But make it quick. You know what will happen if Brandon finds out. And I’m not lying again”
“Relax, my sweet pup. You didn’t even lie. You just bended the truth a little. Besides, your wolf is tamed” says Pat with a giggle.
Brandon drags his feet in the hallway on his way to the living room. It feels like they’re cemented.
None of them seem to have heard him though. They’re huddled up on the couch sharing a blanket, intensely focused on the TV screen.
Before he even gets a chance to open his mouth familiar words echo from the speakers. “Cas, we’re getting out of here, we’re going home.” “I can’t” “You can” “Dean” “let me bottom-lined it for you. I’m not leaving here without you, understand?” “I understand”.
Well, the bearded, rugged man on the screen may understand but the bearded man standing behind them as sure as hell has no clue on what the fuck is going on.
The image on the screen changes again, another scene featuring the same two men, sighs and whimpers coming from the couch, Andrew shakes his head and Pat cuddles closer. Brandon watches them in a trance. More random scenes come up, (Brandon guesses it’s some kind of compilation), more words that he has heard before reach Brandon’s ears (the very same once shuttered his dreams) while his mind processes the information.
Andrew’s voice shouting ‘Castiel’ along with the man on the screen pulls Brandon off his haze. Pat and Andrew clutch their hands together. They look at each other with misty eyes and back to the screen with a mixture of awe and sorrow (much like the man on the screen looks at the flaming sky).
“The Angels… They’re falling” they mutter in sync and burst into sobs holding tighter to each other.
Brandon dissolves into laughter; whole heartedly, body-shaking, tear-educing laughter. He doesn’t stop when both men jump off the couch with a look of sheer horror on their faces, TV remote and tissues landing on the floor. He doesn’t stop when their terrified expressions turn to wounded, not even when they turn from annoyance to pure anger from being made fun of.
He doesn’t even stop when Pat calls Jonny in distress and puts him on the speaker phone. He laughs all the way through Jonny’s explanation of THE RULES, no1 being “if you value your relationship (and your sanity – pretty sure that was Jonny’s addition) you DO NOT make fun of their Destiel obsession. You sympathise and you buy them ice-cream Brandon!” Not even when Patrick leaves and calls him an ‘asshole’ as he bangs the door behind him.
It takes him about thirty minutes and the image of Andrew getting his jacket and walking towards the front door to snap himself out of the manic state.
It takes both of them two seconds flat to crawl their way into bed, relieved but exhausted.
Explanations and apologies can wait until morning.
Brandon’s life doesn’t suck after all.