It was almost 10:00 when michael got the text from Jeremy.
Jeremy: i need t gt high
Jeremy: i cant it feels like its here its in my head michael
Jeremy: can i come ovr
Michael felt his heart drop to his stomach and replied immediately.
Michael: Of course you can come over, no one’s home anyways
It wasn’t the first time Jeremy had texted him late at night freaking out about the Squip. He wasn’t surprised really, the thing had controlled and manipulated Jeremy for long enough to cause lasting emotional and mental damage. He was just trying to help as much as could. He was afraid he wasn’t doing enough though.
A few minutes later the doorbell rang and Michael sighed at that. Jeremy had a key, he knew he could come in but he was so scared of messing up or doing something wrong that he was always extra cautious with Michael.
He opened the door to see Jeremy, bags under his eyes, wearing clothes that Michael distinctly remembered the Squip forcing him to buy. That meant it was really bad, that the Squip, or the memory of it rather had caused Jeremy so much fear and anxiety and self-hatred that he automatically had to do what the Squip would’ve wanted.
Jeremy finally looked up, still not making eye contact with him, and mumbled something under his breath. It sounded suspiciously like an apology. Michael filed that away for later and spoke quietly.
“Hey Jer, can I touch you?” It was always best to ask first, Jeremy had been rather averse to touch ever since the “incident” with Chloe. They hadn’t really talked about it, but Michael knew it had really fucked him up, alongside everything else that had happened.
Jeremy quickly nodded, finally meeting Michael’s eyes, which he saw were swimming with tears that Jeremy refused to let fall. Jeremy suddenly surged forward and clung to Michael in a tight hug. He wrapped his arms around Jeremy and pulled him in closer, whispering quiet reassurances to him. His heart broke a little when Jeremy started sobbing into his shoulder, breath hitching as he tried to stop the tears.
“Shh, Jer, It’s okay, It’s okay to cry. I’ve got you, I care about you. I care about you Jer.” He continued speaking until Jeremy’s sobs started to become less frequent. He brought his hand up to Jeremy’s hair, stroking it softly. They stood like that for a few more minutes until Jeremy had calmed enough to be able to support himself. Michael waited for Jeremy to pull away, not wanting him to feel rejected. When he finally did Michael spoke again.
“Do you want to move so that we’re not standing in the doorway? We can go down to the basement, or we could grab something from the kitchen, maybe tea?” He kept his voice even and soft, while being careful not to be condescending.
Jeremy simply nodded and followed Michael into the house, wrapping his arms across his chest. He sant onto the living room couch. Michael shot him a glance before going into the kitchen to boil the water. It hurt to see Jeremy so broken. He’d forgiven Jeremy weeks ago, but although they’d originally just tried to move on in their lives it became clear very early on that Jeremy couldn’t just move on. So Michael was helping as much as he could. More often than not Jeremy slept over, needing to be close to someone else whenever the memories became too much. Michael sighed, worrying about his friend.
The whistle of the tea kettle snapped him out of his thoughts and he went about making two cups of tea, both decaffeinated. He walked quietly back to the living room where Jeremy was in the exact position that he’d left him in. He walked clearly into his line of sight and put the cups down before softly speaking to Jeremy, whose gaze was miles away.
This happened now too. Jeremy would totally zone out, it was scary to witness at first but after more research he understood more of why it happened. Jeremy experienced depersonalization and derealization intermittently. He and Jeremy had talked about it a couple of times because Jeremy was terrified of it. Neither of them initially knew what to do but Michael researched different coping skills to help him out. The problem was finding the right skill for each moment.
“Hey Jeremy,” Michael said calmly, knowing that sounding scared wouldn’t help, and he’d become used to helping Jeremy out. “Can you hear me? You can nod if you can, you don’t have to talk.”
A short nod. Good, that meant that Jeremy was able to process what Michael was saying, which was a hopeful sign.
“Okay good, I’m going to lead you through some physical grounding now, is that okay? Could you nod for me if that’s what you need?”
Another short nod.
“Okay then. Jeremy do you think you can squeeze you hands into fists for me? Squeeze them really tight okay? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Okay now slowly release. Can you feel that Jeremy? That’s your body. Just feel how your muscles relax, I know you don’t feel real but it’s okay, you’re real, just keep doing that okay?”
Jeremy had at some point closed his eyes to help focus on the sensations. He was following along with Michael's instructions, Michael could see Jeremy’s chest rising and falling
to breath along with the motions of his hands. That was good.
“Okay Jeremy, do you want me to go get you water?”
No answer. He started to get up, but Jeremy grabbed at his hoodie to stop him.
“Don’t leave,” he said softly, looking Michael in the eyes.
“Of course not, Jer, of course.” He sat down next to Jeremy’s quivering form and they sat in silence for a few moments.
The Jeremy broke the silence.
“I’m okay now I think. Well, not okay I guess, but I feel real again, thanks.”
Michael looked over to his friend and smiled. “Hey, bud, It’s no problem, I just want to help. There’s no way I’m letting you get high tonight though.”
Jeremy sighed. “I know. I don’t even want to get high, I just… I just didn’t want to… I- I still hear him sometimes Michael.” He looked at Jeremy sharply in horror and Jeremy must have realized what that had sounded like.
“No no no, not like… not like it’s actually there, but just like, remembering I guess? But it feels more real than that, like, like if I don’t do what it would’ve wanted me to do that I’ll get shocked again or that it’ll come back or…” His voice trailed off, but Michael understood enough.
Michael slowly reached for Jeremy’s hand, giving him time to pull away. When he didn’t he held it softly and slowly lead the way to the basement, knowing that it calmed him to be down there. He had never explicitly said it, but that was the only place where his shoulders seemed to relax out of their forced posture. Michael had a feeling that it felt safer because it was pretty much the only place with no memories of the Squip attached. It was the only place that hadn’t been tainted with the abusive manipulative computer.
“Do you want to change?” Michael asked, he thought about it and then rephrased. “Can you change, or is it too much, do you need to stay in those clothes for now?” Michael knew that forcing Jeremy out of the Sqips outfit wouldn’t end well.
Jeremy didn’t say anything for a moment, presumably assessing his emotional state.
“I didn’t bring a change of clothes.” He finally said, looking guilty.
“No problem, I can lend you a pair of pajamas, is that cool?” He froze at the word that had slipped out.
Jeremy only smiled though. “Yeah, that’s cool.” He flopped down into the blue beanbag, leaning his head back and closing his eyes lightly. Michael stared at him for a moment, appreciating how at peace he looked for once before blushing wildly and turning to his dresser and fishing out a pair of pj’s for Jeremy.
‘Now is not the time for my gay ass to show up. He needs me as a friend right now, not gawking at him like the lovestruck bastard you are.’ He thought to himself.
He grabbed the softest pair of pj’s he could find and turned to hand them to Jeremy.
“Here, they’ll obviously be too big but I figured that was fine.”
Jeremy smiled at him sweetly and thanked him.
“I’ll just… turn around while you get changed? Or you could go upstairs to change or whatever. I won't look, promise.” He said with a cheeky wink.
Jeremy laughed, “Sure you won’t Mikey, as if you don’t want to get all up on this.” he said gesturing to himself.
They chuckled and Michael was glad that they were back to their old bantering, though feeling slightly guilty because hell yeah he wanted to get up on that.
He turned around and mentally chastised himself while Jeremy got changed.
When Jeremy was finished he turned around and holy mother fucking shit.
Michael thanked any and every god possible for being able to see Jeremy in these pajamas because damn if he didn’t look adorable. Even though the pants were too short, they were still baggy and the shirt was too big and Jeremy was swimming in it and he looked cute and small, which he never looked like because he was so goddamn tall and just...yeah.
Michael felt a flash of warmth at seeing jeremy in his clothes as well. He snapped himself out of it realizing that he had been staring and Jeremy was smirking.
“Yes, yes, I know you want this,” he said jokingly, but Michael still flushed red, glad that his darker skin obscured some of it, so that only he could tell how warm his cheeks were.
He coughed awkwardly. “So I’ll sleep on the couch down here and you can take my bed, yeah?”
Jeremy suddenly looked guilty and almost… scared?
“No! I mean, no, it’s your bed, we’re supposed to switch on and off when I come over and I slept on the bed last time which I already feel bad enough about but…”
Michael cut him off “hey, Jer, it’s fine with me, I don’t mind the couch, we’ll still be in the same room anyways so it’s not like one of us is really getting the better deal or whatever.” Michael was eternally grateful that his basement was also his bedroom because it made sure that Jeremy didn’t wake up alone when he slept over, meaning that there was less of a chance for him to spiral. He was trying to assure Jeremy that they’d still both be there but Jeremy still looked wary.
“I just…” Jeremy’s voice trailed off into nothing, even with Michael straining to hear. He stepped closer and carefully put his hands on Jeremy’s shoulders.
“Jeremy, It’s okay. Whatever you’re thinking it’s fine I won’t mind I promise.”
“Promise?” Jeremy looked down at Michael warily, but with hope.
“Promise.” Michael reassured, wishing that Jeremy was able to be his almost confident self that he’d been before the Squip, but knowing that it wasn’t going to go back to normal so soon.
“I just… I just need you to be here a-and the couch is too far away and I just need...need to be held?” His voice went up as if asking a question.
Michael thought for a moment. “We can sleep together in my bad if you want. It’s a bit small but if it’s what you need then I’m totally fine with it Jeremy. I’ll do whatever you need, okay.”
Jeremy’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment, but he nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s, I think that’s what I need.”
“Sweet.” Michael said cheerfully, smiling up at his friend.
Then Jeremy yawned loudly, before breaking off into tired giggles.
“I guess we should head to bed then, yeah?” He said, smiling as well.
They managed to squish onto Michael's twin sized bed, pretty much… well. They were pretty much spooning, Michael holding onto Jeremy to comfort him. If Jeremy needed to cuddle then Jeremy was gonna get the best damn cuddles Michael could give. He didn’t let himself close his eyes until he could feel Jeremy’s breaths become shallow and even, but once they did he slipped into sleep as well.