AN: Luther would be the name I gave to The Man. Or, more accurately, the name my Aubrey gave to him. Just so y'all know.
"Luther James Daniels, get your ass back here!" April's Louisiana accent was full blown as she chased the blonde man around the fountain in Washington Square Park. Luther laughed and easily outran the petite brunette, a pair of sneakers in hand.
"Not a chance, sweetheart!" he called over his shoulder as he dodged a drag queen and a group of NYU students. "Not until you say it!"
"Never!" April nearly bowled down a woman handing out tracts for some church or other and then tripped over her bare feet and went sprawling on the cobblestones that paved the area around the fountain. Luther's grin immediately sobered as he ran back to where she was slowly picking herself up.
"You okay?" he asked, worried, crouching down next to her.
"Yeah, I think so." She winced dramatically, and then with one quick motion snatched her sneakers out of Luther's grasp. "Ha!" she grinned triumphantly, apparently oblivious to a nasty scrape on her elbow, like a little kid so used to getting scraped up that new cuts and bruises are hardly noticed. "I win. And you are not cuter than John Cusack. It's impossible for anyone to be cuter than Johnny." Luther shook his head and repressed a grin as she straightened out her socks and picked leaf bits off of them before sticking her feet into the sneakers.
"You're gonna get blood on your shirt if you're not careful," Luther pointed out finally.
"Huh?" April looked up, confused, and Luther pointed to her elbow. "Oh. Ow. Owowow, shit, that hurts!" She grimaced, and Luther chuckled softly – it amused him that the scrape hadn't hurt until he pointed it out to her. "Hey, it's not funny, jackass!"
"C'mon," he said, trying not to laugh, "let's get it cleaned up."
Gordon didn't take much notice of the brunette with the cardboard sign ("Please donate to the 'Feed the Pretty Girl Foundation'," it read) as he passed her by. He just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. He wasn't, therefore, expecting to be... pounced, for lack of a better term, by the girl, as if she knew him.
"Hey, Cowboy!" she exclaimed cheerfully, a huge smile on her face. Gordon took a couple of steps back, out of her enthusiastic hug, eyeing her warily. She could be insane. Well-meaning, perhaps, but insane. She blinked at him, frowned at him like he'd hurt her feelings terribly for a moment, then frowned in utter confusion. "You're... not Luther."
Gordon stiffened at the sound of that name – it was bad enough that he thought it sometimes, but hearing it... "No," he said tightly, "I'm not." He glanced around quickly. If this girl expected to see... him around, there was a danger of actually running into him.
"You look just like him, though," the girl continued in her vaguely southern accent, her head tilted like a curious puppy's and a thoughtful frown on her face. "Right down to the eyes." She paused a moment. "Except you have a freckle on the tip of your nose," she finished, as if that freckle were of monumental importance.
"Yes, I know," Gordon said quietly, looking down. The girl wasn't wearing shoes, oddly enough, and it was odd that he bothered to notice. He paused, then continued without looking up. "Who are you?"
"Oh!" she laughed sheepishly. "I'm April." Gordon blinked at the hand that she offered him, then shook it slowly, glancing up into her cheerful face.
"So," she was still smiling, and for some reason it bothered him. He didn't understand it. "You've gotta be Cowboy's brother – how come I've never met you?"
"We don't talk," Gordon said firmly, in a tone meant to indicate a cessation of conversation.
Apparently April didn't get the memo. "Why not?"
"It's a long story." Gordon shoved his hands deeper into his jacked pockets. "Suffice to say that he screwed me over a long time ago." Maybe not so long, perhaps, but pretending it was longer than a couple of years made it easier.
"What'd he do?" the girl's voice was curious and sympathetic, and Gordon didn't know whether to be amused or grateful or annoyed.
"He ruined my life," he snapped at her with more venom than strictly necessary, "and that's as much information as you're going to get on the subject from me." April frowned again, thinking.
Then she looked up at him with a grin. "You want coffee?"
Gordon frowned, bewildered as to where that had come from. "...What?"
"Coffee," she said, a little laugh bubbling up, and Gordon thought absently that it was a nice laugh. "Y'know, made from the insides of coffee beans, roasted and ground up and brewed with hot water? Has lots of caffeine in it?"
"Yeah, I know what it means..."
"Well, do you want some?" Gordon stared incredulously at this slip of a girl who could hardly be older than 18, who was friends with the brother he hadn't spoken to in nearly two years. "I got ten bucks today, I'm a wild woman. Gotta find somewhere to throw all this cash." Gordon studied her for a moment – a sweet-faced, young southern girl who obviously had no job and almost no money. She knew his brother (whom he'd tried desperately to forget) and she was obviously determined to be cheerful to him.
"Okay," he said, nodding slightly. "But I'll pay."
"Do you think maybe one twin always gets the artistic streak and the other doesn't?"
Gordon looked over at April with an eyebrow raised. She was sitting with her chin in her hands, staring out over the park, and Gordon couldn't help but notice that she was really rather beautiful. "Maybe," he said thoughtfully. "What does the other one get?"
"I don't know," she sighed. "Uncertainty. A lack of purpose." She paused briefly and Gordon wondered what had happened between her and her twin to make her think like this. "Maybe it depends on birth order," she declared finally. "Which are you, older or younger?"
"Younger," Gordon mumbled. He didn't like talking about twins - especially about him being a twin. It just brought up memories of Luther, and that was the last thing he wanted.
"It must be a younger twin thing, then." April wrinkled her nose, and Gordon mentally tucked that bit of information away - she was the older twin. "You guys get all the artistic talent and we get..." she trailed off, an odd and slightly sad expression on her face. "I don't know. Maybe nothing."
"I've never given it much thought," Gordon said with a shrug. You got more than nothing, though, so that can't be right.
"Yeah." April sighed, then laughed a little. "Sorry. I really ought to watch to my mouth, it gets outta hand sometimes." Gordon smirked a little, both at her words and the fact that her accent had become slightly more pronounced.
"It's okay. I get told the same thing."
April tilted her head slightly and looked at him intently for a moment. "Do you ever laugh?" she asked after a moment.
"What?" Gordon tried to follow the pretty brunette's thought process for a moment before realizing it was fruitless.
"Laughter," she explained. "Y'know, something's funny, you laugh?"
"Yes, I understand the concept," Gordon said, raising an eyebrow. If this defining things was a habit of hers, it was certainly a unique one. "Of course I do. Everyone laughs."
"When was the last time you laughed?" she pressed. Gordon sighed and cast his mind back.
"I didn't make a note of it or anything..." He shook his head. "I don't know."
"Then you don't laugh enough," April declared, and Gordon found himself wondering if maybe she was right.
"How is he?" Luther asked quietly when April slipped into their squat after being out all afternoon. He didn't know for sure that she'd been with him, but there was a good chance.
"Who?" she asked, a little too innocently. Luther just raised an eyebrow at her. She caught his gaze and then sighed a little as she glanced away. "He's fine." A silence fell, not their usual comfortable silence, and even as Luther silently hoped that April would say his brother had asked about him, he knew that he hadn't. He looked at his roommate, his best friend, the girl he loved (even though she didn't know it) and felt a small stab of guilt. April wanted to talk about Gordon, he could tell, but she was holding herself back so she wouldn't hurt him.
It wasn't fair. She shouldn't be able to hurt him by being so kind.
"So... what'd you guys talk about?" he asked, feigning interest as believably as he could. April glanced at him uncertainly and he smiled to let her know that it was okay to talk about it. She lit up and grew more animated than usual as she talked about their totally inconsequential conversation over coffee this afternoon, and behind his smiles and nods, he cursed his brother for even taking this from him.
"So," April's breath condensed into little puffs of steam in the growing darkness as she and Gordon neared where they would split ways to get to their respective homes. "Did you have a good time?"
"You do realize that you sound like a mom taking her kid home from a play date, right?" he asked, not thinking about how much of an idiot he'd made of himself today trying to re-learn to ice skate. April wrinkled her nose, an adorable display of disgust.
"I was going more for... um... okay, rewind, take two, action!" she paused for a moment, then continued in a perfectly normal tone, as if that hadn't just happened. "So you'll come skating again with me, right?" He smiled a little wider than usual - her words sounded somehow like they should be accompanied by a seductive tone, a significant glance, a sexy smirk. For April, though, it was just an honest question - she wanted him to go ice skating with her again.
"Yeah," he said. She glanced over at him in surprise.
"You... really?" She sounded shocked, but he didn't blame her - he wouldn't have expected it of himself even as recent as this morning. April just had that effect on things, though, making them so much better when she was involved, just by being herself.
"I just said so, didn't I?" he didn't even try to keep the amusement out of his voice, though he did try rather half-heartedly to inject some exasperation into his tone.
"Well, yeah," April stammered a little. "I just... well, I didn't think you'd... I mean..." she stopped herself and smiled widely at him, genuinely thrilled, and her smile was really so beautiful. "I'm glad you had fun."
A wide smile tugged at the corners of Gordon's already-smiling mouth. He hadn't had much fun in the past couple of years, and having fun with a sweet pretty girl was probably the best fun hecould've asked for. "Me too." The came to the corner where April would turn off to get to the squat she shared with Luther and they both stopped, standing a little closer than strictly necessary. "Well, here we are."
"Yeah. I had fun, too. I'm really glad you came." April smiled a little hopefully at him, and Gordon was assaulted for what seemed the hundredth time today by one of the two-by-fours that was April's oh-so-obvious interest in him. He was positive she didn't know how obvious her interest was, and he was flattered - hell, he was interested, too. Something about the thought of carrying on a romantic relationship given his 'status' was just stressful, though, so he didn't do anything.
"Thanks for asking me," is all he said, his hands shoved securely into his pockets. A flash of disappointment crossed April's face, but just as quickly, it was replaced by a look that was unnervingly determined. Gordon didn't get a good look at it, though, because she stepped forward and, up on her tiptoes, kissed him lightly, her lips somehow as soft as what he'd imagine angels' wings to feel like, despite being dry and chapped. It was too quick for Gordon to have the presence of mind to kiss back, and he was rather frozen in shock by the sheer unexpectedness of it. April stepped back quickly, red-faced and grinning triumphantly.
"I'll see you around," she said quickly, before he had time to respond. "Thanks for coming." And then she turned and practically ran down the street, away from him, probably to panic about whether or not she was too forward.
Gordon stood on the corner for a long time, staring in the direction she'd disappeared in, before smiling to himself and heading home.
"April, you need to calm down and tell me what's wrong." Luther rubbed April's back soothingly, trying to get her to stop flailing and panicking about... something to do with Gordon, he just didn't know what.
"I think I maybe just ruined it. He's gonna hate me now."
"Why? What did you do?" April didn't say anything, though Luther could see her twisting her fingers together. "April?"
"I kissed him," she whispered, and if Luther had been the poetic sort, he would've thought that the sound of his heart breaking was loud enough for her to hear.
He wrapped his arms around her and smoothed her hair back from her face. "It's okay," he managed to say softly. "I'm sure he doesn't hate you. It's gonna be okay."
She had a new sign this time, and Gordon watched her from a distance for a good five minutes before walking over to her. As he got closer, the writing on the sign was more apparent: "Pretty, Homeless, Hungry. And no, I won't suck you off" was the witty caption of the day. Her eyes were closed against the sunlight, and she was softly humming something that sounded suspiciously like the Beatles. When he spoke, his voice was soft.
"Hey." April jumped, startled, and stared up at him in surprise, an uncertain smile flickering on her face.
"I haven't seen you since last week," Gordon said mildly. "Where've you been?"
"A-around," April flushed slightly and didn't quite meet his eyes. "Y'know, doing my thing." She motioned to the sign. Gordon nodded slowly.
"Your thing which is apparently not..." he glanced at the sign and smiled a little, "sucking people off." April laughed softly, and Gordon shifted his gaze back up to her face. "So you weren't avoiding me?"
April glanced away sheepishly. "Not... actively?" Except that she had to have been, since Gordon hadn't seen her since they'd gone ice skating, despite the fact that he'd purposely gone to places she generally frequented almost daily. Gordon raised an eyebrow dubiously, and April sighed. "I was... I was afraid you'd be mad." That surprised him, and he frowned slightly.
"Why would I be mad?"
"'Cause... I just kissed you, without asking or... or anything," April said hesitantly in a tiny voice he almost had to strain to hear. He shook his head a little. Had she really not noticed...
"Asking to kiss someone kind of ruins the moment, though," he pointed out, and April shook her head.
"Not necessarily. If you take it in certain contexts, then..." she trailed off and blinked. "Why are we talking about this?"
"Because you kissed me and then ran off, and that seems to require some sort of conversation," Gordon said with a shrug. April looked back down at her lap.
"Oh, right." She sighed. "Sorry."
"You don't have to apologize," Gordon said, "except for the running off part." April's head practically snapped up, her eyes wide and confused and hopeful.
"You mean you... don't mind that I kissed you?" she asked, and Gordon shook his head. April ducked her head a little, smiling shyly. "Did... did you like it?"
It was a very innocent question, in nature, but somehow almost erotic at the same time, and Gordon found himself laughing softly. "Once I got past the initial surprise, I guess so, yeah." April brightened and stood up, brushing the dirt off of her pants.
"If I'd've known that's all it would take to make you laugh, I would've kissed you a lot sooner," she declared as she tucked some of her hair behind her ear. Gordon raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Well... yeah," she blushed, looking down at her feet, but still smiling shyly. "I've never heard you laugh before." Gordon was almost startled, but it was true - he probably hadn't laughed once the entire time they'd known each other, and for quite a while before that. He couldn't think of anything to say that would fit the moment, so he just shrugged. There was a moment of silence before April looked up at him uncertainly. "Do you think it would work if I tried it again?" she asked, her cheeks bright red, stepping closer to him. Gordon smiled.
"It might," he said.
Then he cupped her cheek and kissed her tenderly.
"We need to set rules," Gordon told her firmly. "So you don't get sick. We have to keep you safe."
"Condoms at all times," April murmured into his ear, sucking lightly on his earlobe. "No fingers if you've been cut. Always better safe than sorry." She punctuated her words with kisses to his neck and jaw, and Gordon wondered how it was she could think so clearly at a time like this, when he had to struggle to keep his mind on track. The only thing keeping him there was the thought of something happening, and April getting sick.
"And tests every six months until-" he gasped as she rocked her hips into his and struggled to finish his thought, "until a year after we've stopped... seeing each other." Not, of course, that he wanted to stop seeing her, but better to cover his bases than regret it later.
"Agreed," April purred, her smile seductive, and he captured her mouth with his after hardly a second.
More conversation could wait until they were done.
Being with April was different from anything Gordon had ever experienced. She was smart and funny, with a quirky sense of humor and a kind heart, and she was, by turns, amazingly innocent and far too world-wise. She almost always had a smile, and the days when she didn't, she was pensive and not-quite withdrawn. He never managed to learn why, exactly, but he could guess - despite being a twin, she talked remarkably little about her 'other half', and Gordon could only assume that they'd had a falling out, much like he and Luther. But whatever the case, it was just another facet of her intriguing personality. Gordon adored her for all her quirks and uniqueness, and April loved him in spite of (or perhaps because of) his sarcasm and somewhat pessimistic outlook.
They had their fights, of course, sometimes regarding Gordon's reserved nature, but more often than not centering around April's drug habits. Gordon wanted her to stop, and she didn't see why she should. He could see, though, in the way she argued her case, that she was weakening, slowly but surely. It was only a matter of time before she changed her mind, and he would help her get through it when she did. But for that, and other minor and inconsequential arguments, they were happy. They were in love. And for once, Gordon managed to stop being pessimistic, and had a hope for their future, however short it might end up being.
So, of course (he thought later), life had to come and bite him in the ass.
It wasn't odd for him to have erotic dreams, especially, it seemed, when April was spending the night. This particular one involved her sucking him off while wearing Princess Leia's metal bikini from "Return of the Jedi" - and it was adoozy of a dream. He didn't generally come during his dreams, for whatever reason, but this time he did, and it pulled him into wakefulness, if barely. He took a deep breath, starting to smile at the memory, when he realized that he could feel kisses trailing up his chest. A moment later, a warm body snuggled up next to him. Gordon frowned. "...April?" he asked sleepily.
She giggled softly. "That must've been a good one," she murmured, and Gordon was suddenly much more awake.
"Did you just..." he started, unable to really believe that she would be that stupid.
"You needed some help," she said, and giggled again, and Gordon shoved her off of him and shot out of bed, staring at her incredulously from halfway across the room.
"What were you thinking?"
April blinked at him, apparently startled by his question, or perhaps by the harshness of it. "I just wanted to help..." she said slowly, and Gordon noticed the vaguely 'not all here' look in her eyes that he'd grown to despise, even though he'd only seen it twice before.
"Oh, fuck, you're high," he groaned, and paced across the room before whirling on her angrily. "Are you... suicidal or something?"
"I... no," April said uncertainly. She didn't realize why he was mad, he could see that, and now obviously wasn't the best time to have this discussion, but Gordon couldn't stop himself. "I just wanted-"
"You can't do that!" he interrupted angrily. "You could get sick. What kind of an idiot..." he trailed off, unable to put his emotions into words.
"I'm sorry," April said cautiously, her tone confused. She crawled to the end of the bed, sitting back on her heels. "Don't be mad. Why are you mad?"
"You could have just gotten infected," Gordon growled, stalking back to the bed and looming over her. "There's a damn good chance that you did. I'm upset. I'm scared. And yes, I'm mad." His voice rose with every sentence. "And all of those are perfectly good reactions to you being so unbelievably stupid!"
"I'm sorry," she said in a small voice, and from the growing fear in her eyes, Gordon could tell that the information was actually sinking in - shemust've been on the very tail end of the high when she started on him.
"It's a few minutes too late," he pointed out, trying to keep his voice from shaking. "You have to..." he stopped and took a few shaking breaths, looking down at his feet. "Where is it?"
"The... the shit you used. The shit you shot up with. Where is it?" He was angry, and April apparently knew better than to argue.
"I-in my jacket. But why do you-" Gordon didn't wait for her to finish. He strode over to where her jacket was crumpled, fished a tiny baggie of white powder out of an inside pocket, walked to the window, and threw the baggie out with no fanfare. April yelped and scrambled to the window, clutching the blanket around her.
"Gordon, what the fuck do you... Why did you do that?" Her eyes flashed angrily as she whirled on him. "That was mine, I paid for it!"
"I'm sure you could go right back to Luther and get more anyway," he sneered, and the anger in April's eyes flickered and died, replaced by nervousness and uncertainty. One thing she knew to be constant was that Gordon never mentioned Luther, especially not by name.
"Don't bring him into this," she said quietly, her voice shaking a little. "He has nothing to do with this."
"Doesn't he?" Gordon's voice was icy. "You mean to say he's not selling you that shit? Or giving it to you if you fuck him? Suck him off? You're pretty good at that, I'm sure it's enough for a little smack..."
"No." April's eyes filled with tears and disbelief. "No, it's not... I wouldn't do that." A small part of him watched in shock, unable to quite understand how he could be so cruel to someone he loved so dearly - and it was cruel, he knew. He'd crossed a line that he never should've crossed, yet he couldn't stop himself from going further.
"Right," he said, his disbelief obvious. "Hey, you like defining things, right? Why don't you define 'whore' for me? Because that's what this sounds like, but I may need a little clarification..."
The pain and shock on April's face was almost enough to make him scramble to take it back, to try to unsay the words he'd just uttered... but they were true. They had to be, there was no way they weren't. "No..." April whispered hoarsely, tears streaming down her cheeks. Gordon looked away in disgust.
"You need to leave," he said coldly. "Now."
"Baby... baby, no, I'm sorry," April's voice cracked. "I'll quit. I will."
"No you won't," Gordon said, fighting to keep his voice steady. "I know you won't. Go."
"I will," April insisted, pleading, and Gordon could almost see her face as she begged. "I'll quit, I'll get clean, I'll..." she trailed off and added rather desperately, "I love you."
"April," He snapped. "Get. Out." He paused momentarily. "And get tested," he added in a somewhat gentler tone. He stood near the window with his back to the room, and could hear her slowly pulling on her pants and shirt. There was a long silence after she'd dressed.
"Are... are we..." she started and didn't finish the question, obviously unable to even voice it. Gordon clenched his fists, looking down and willing his voice to stay steady.
There was a moment of near-silence, the only sound April's ragged breathing as she fought and failed not to cry. "I love you," she whispered brokenly, as if hoping that would change his mind. Gordon said nothing. Before a minute had passed, he heard her choke back a sob, and she ran out of the room. Once he heard the door slam, Gordon stumbled to the bed and collapsed on it. It was the second time he'd told someone he loved dearly to leave.
He was too broken to even cry.
Luther found April huddled in an alleyway after she'd been gone twelve hours longer than she'd said she would be. At first she looked shell-shocked, and Luther thought maybe she'd bought from someone other than him and gotten a bad hit, but the moment he knelt down in front of her and put a hand on her knee, she'd looked up at him with the most pain in her eyes that he'd ever seen and burst into hysterical sobs.
It didn't take a genius to figure out what had happened.
Luther gathered April up and carried her the two blocks back to their squat, where she wrapped herself up in a blanket, curled up in the corner, and hardly moved for a week. She alternated between staring at nothing and sobbing uncontrollably, and though she confirmed that she and Gordon were over, he couldn't get the whole story out of her.
"I don't want to talk about it, Cowboy," she'd mumble brokenly, and Luther couldn't bring himself to push any harder.
Even though he made an effort to avoid her, Gordon couldn't help but overhear news about April - Alphabet City was remarkably like a small town sometimes, especially when it came to gossip about its inhabitants. About three months after the breakup, Gordon heard that April had moved into the old factory on 11th and B. To be with a musician, the guy from the Well Hungarians.
Six months after the breakup, he heard a couple of waiters in the Life talking about her, and how she'd been so nervous about getting her test results, but they'd come back negative. He left his waiter an extra large tip that day, though he rationalized it by telling himself that the waiter was exceptionally helpful and cheerful that day.
Exactly one year to the day of the breakup, while Gordon was sitting in the park, an ambulance sped by, sirens wailing, and stopped in front of the old factory on 11th and B, and Gordon just knew, with a sinking heart, what had happened. He didn't go to her funeral, even though there was a notice in the Village Voice, inviting anyone who knew her even a little to come. He skipped the funeral, but he took a sunflower to her grave long after her friends had left. She'd always liked sunflowers.
Someone had gotten there moments ahead of him, though, and when the other blond man turned, it was like Gordon was looking into a mirror - not just the physical features, but the pain and emptiness that he saw in his own eyes every morning was reflected back at him. They stood for a long time, not saying anything, just staring at each other over the patch of earth that had just welcomed April's body.
"You did this to her," Luther said finally, his voice venomous and shaky. "You took her from me, you bastard. She was too good for you," Gordon couldn't bring himself to disagree, so he silently set the sunflower on the grave and left. Two days later, he got a note in the mail, written in a painfully familiar curling script.
The test came back positive this time, obviously. I guess you were right - I was stupid, and I got sick. I don't really care that you're right, though. I just wishyou'd've let me stay. I think I could've handled it if I'd had someone to lean on. We could've gotten through this together.
I love you. I always have. I never cheated on you, even for drugs, and I hope to god you can believe me, even now. I love you, I love you, I love you.
He read the note over a good ten times before he realized he'd started crying.
Life really had it out for him, Gordon decided as he watched the young filmmaker stammeringly introduce himself. After months of trying to forget her, forget the letter she'd sent him, and finally managing to not think about her every hour of every day, two of her old roommates had to show up in his Life Support meeting and remind him of her all again. It was his curse, maybe - he'd gotten her sick, he'd driven her away, and now he had to pay for that by never being able to forget her. He missed the introductions, and Paul was starting the meeting.
It wasn't fair. He couldn't get her out of his mind, even after it had been nearly two years since the breakup, he was miserable, and to top it all off, his T-cells were low. Today was not a day he could stand to listen to the hopeful, optimistic message of Life Support that reminded him so much of April, and her ever-present cheerfulness despite being starving and homeless. He couldn't. Not today, on Christmas Eve, when she'd loved Christmas so much. Not today, after he'd had to pass the 5th Avenue window displays and a skating rink. Not today, with those two men sitting across from him who didn't even know how much their friend had meant to him. He couldn't take it, and he wasn't going to take it. That's all there was to it.
"Excuse me, Paul..."