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It was almost 10:00 when michael got the text from Jeremy.

Jeremy: i need t gt high

Jeremy: pls

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.

Chapter Text

When Michael woke up he felt oddly at peace.

As he slowly became more awake he realized just why he was so comfortable. Sometimes during the night his and Jeremy’s positions had switched so that Jeremy’s arms were wrapped around him and Michaels butt against…

Anyways.

He blushed furiously as he realized their exact positions. They hadn’t slept in the same bed since they were in elementary school and he and Jeremy were fucking cuddling and his gay ass could not handle this right now. He just wanted to pine for his best friend in peace.

He went ramrod stiff as he heard mumbling, and, with Jeremy’s head tucked into his neck, he felt jeremy’s lips brush against his skin.

That was it, he decided. He was going to get up so that it wasn’t awkward when Jeremy woke up. Now. He was going to get up right now.

Now.

“Michael? You ‘wake?” Jeremy mumbled tiredly, waking up.

Michael turned around so that he was facing Jeremy, which he wouldn’t have done if he’d actually thought about it because now their faces were so close and Jeremy looked so beautiful, with his hair tousled and the lazy smile on his face and-.

“Michael?” Jeremy said “Michael, you awake there buddy? I know you are but you’re just… staring?”

What Michael said out loud was “Yeah, sorry, just really tired.”

What Michael said internally was “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”
But that was irrelevant, so…

Jeremy pulled his arms away as if nothing was strange and sat up, bringing his knees to his chest.

“Sorry. It’s my fault that you’re so tired, I shouldn’t have come over so late.” he said into the quiet basement, more than to Michael himself.

“Hey,” Michael said firmly, pushing himself up and sitting cross-legged across from Jeremy. “Jer, please don’t blame yourself. I don’t mind, I promise. I’d rather never sleep again than you not come to me when you need help, okay”

He was met with silence.

“Please Jeremy, you’re important to me.”

Jeremy looked up with a small smile.
“Okay.” he said cautiously, as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then Michael smirked. “Okay.”

Jeremy looked at him warily. “...what.”

Michael tried to conceal his snicker. “We… I think we just quoted the Fault in our Stars.”

Jeremy threw his head back and laughed wholeheartedly, something Michael hadn’t seen in a while, it was nice. His laugh was contagious and soon they were both leaning on each other sprouting nonsense that was only funny to the two of them.

“A-and,” Jeremy said laughing through his words, “And there’s no way that you’d be…” more laughing, “you can’t be Augustus because you do smoke!”

Michael put his hand against his heart dramatically and drew away in mock offense.
“How dare you say such a thing! I do not smoke, I blaze.”

They were able to hold it together for approximately three seconds before they made eye contact and busted out laughing again. By the time they’d calmed, both of them were fully awake and starving.

“We should make something to eat.” Jeremy suggested.

Michael scrunched up his nose in distaste.

“Ooooorrrr we could go to Dunkin’s?” He replied slyly, stealing a sideways glance at Michael.

He perked up. “Yes.”

“Hmmmm...I’m not so sure.” Jeremy teased.

“Jeremy I need a donut. Please.” Michael whined, getting off of the bed and stretching, his hoodie riding up a bit to show a sliver of skin. He turned and thought he saw Jeremy blushing but he couldn’t see well enough to tell for sure.

“Fuck, where the fuck are my glasses? Jer, can you help me?”

Jeremy propped his chin on his hand. “Oh? And why should I do that Mikey?”

Michael started at the nickname but brushed it off in favor of responding. “Because you’re my player one of course!” He said smiling. His smile faltered a bit when he saw that Jeremy’s face had crumpled.

“Hey, hey Jer,” He said, sitting down gently next to him, “I’m right here. You’re safe, okay? It might not feel like it, but you are, I’m right here JerBear, I’m right here.” Jeremy cried silent tears against Michael's chest, getting him wet, but Michael couldn’t care less. He softly rubbed Jeremy’s back and sighed quietly.

“Do you want to talk about it? I don’t want to push but you were real bad last night and I… I just want to check in with you. You reacted pretty strongly to what I said and I want to make sure that I understand why so that doesn’t happen again okay?”

Jeremy sat up a little and nodded before angrily brushing away his tears.

“I’m just so angry at myself. I hurt you so bad and you still care and I don’t know why and I don’t understand why anyone cares because everythingaboutmeissoterrible.” he said the whole thing in a rush, the last few words slurring together so that Michael almost couldn’t make it out.

Almost.

It was times like this where he knew that the memory of the Squips words had too much influence for Michael to be able to change Jeremy’s perspective, but he could still try and he could still be there for him. He thought for a moment before standing up and reaching a hand out to Jeremy.

“Come on Jer, let’s go get breakfast. I don’t want to invalidate how you’re feeling, but I want you to know that there are a lot of things about you that are absolutely amazing,” Jeremy opened his mouth to speak but Michael knew what was coming, “And those things were there before the Squip Jeremy. I’ve been your friend for ages and I swear Jeremy, I love everything about you, even when you beat me at Mario Kart.”

Jeremy looked own, but Michael could see the small smile that graced his face.
“Thanks Michael. For everything. Thanks for caring and thanks for not just telling me that what I’m feeling’s not true, because it’s how I feel. When I tried to talk to my dad about it he just said that it wasn’t true and that everything was going to be okay.” He looked down at Michael.

“But it doesn’t matter if everything is going to be okay-”

“Because right now it’s not and that’s what people need to listen to you about.” Michael finished.

Jeremy beamed, and even though there was still sadness behind his eyes Michael could tell that it was genuine. “Yeah. You always get it Michael.”

They made their way outside without bothering to get dressed and piled into Michael’s car. They drove in comfortable silence until they got to Dunkin Donuts, where they both ordered coffee and donuts. They pulled into the parking lot to eat. They talked about the newest video games released and about whether they thought that the speculations for a sequel to Apocalypse of the Damned were true or not.

It wasn’t until Jeremy’s phone rang that Michael realized that it was almost noon. He had a brief moment of panic where he thought that ‘fuck they were so late to school’ But then remembered that it was the summer and there was no school. He chuckled quietly to himself while Jeremy talked to his dad about where he was and when he was going to get home.

Suddenly Michael was hit with the memory of Jeremy calling him a loser. He’d forgiven Jeremy, but the memory still stung and he couldn’t help but think it was true sometimes.

Maybe he and Jeremy had even more in common than they’d thought, even if their issues were caused by different events.

Chapter Text

It’s not that Michael hadn’t noticed, it was just that he wasn’t sure how to approach the… situation? He wasn’t even really sure what to call it but he was trying taking it in stride. He was concerned of course, but he just wanted to help as much as he could. So he stayed silent until one Sunday evening they were hanging out in his basement, and the situation escalated. Not the actions, but Jeremy’s reaction.

As soon as they had walked down the stairs into the room, Jeremy had turned on the light so that they could see.

And then he turned it off.

And back on.

 

He did this seventeen times, counting so softly under his breath that Michael could barely hear. Michael stayed quiet until Jeremy was done, knowing that it would not be good if he interrupted. This was routine by now, though neither of them had talked about it, and Jeremy didn’t seem like he was ever going to bring it up.

Once Jeremy was done he curled into himself and made his way over to a beanbag, where he tried to act normal. Even across the room Michael could see Jeremy’s hands trembling.

This wasn’t normal.

Usually Jeremy would do the light switch seventeen times and they’d go straight to gaming, but Jeremy just looked so… vulnerable, as if a single noise would break him. Michael sat down next to him and they sat in silence until Jeremy finally spoke up.

“I have to.”

Michael nodded, “I know Jer, it’s okay.”
“No!” Jeremy shouted before putting his head into his hands and continuing, mumbling, “no, it’s not okay. I have to. I have to or else the Squip will come back or my dad will die or I’ll stab you or… Or the Squip never will have gone away and this will all have been a hallucination which isn’t so paranoid to say because if the Squip can use optic nerve blocking, what’s to say it isn’t showing me all of this, right? He managed to get everything out in one breath , still slumped over.

“Jeremy.”

No response.

He tried again. “Jerebear,”

 

Jeremy looked up at him, defeated. “You’re going to hate me now, right? I mean what kind of freak has thoughts about stabbing their own best friend?”

 

Michael thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to phrase what he wanted to say. “Do you want to?”

Jeremy was stunned before answering hesitantly. “...No, no of course not. I’d never hurt you, I just these images sometimes pop into my head and they won't go away, what did the Squip do to me?” He asked Michael desperately.

“Jeremy, the Squip did a lot of things… but I think I know what this is Jer.” He pulled out his phone and searched ‘OCD’.

Jeremy looked over and squinted his eyes in confusion. “Huh? Isn’t OCD when people are like… really neat and organized or whatever?”

“Nope.” Michael said, popping the P.

He read off of the screen in front of him, “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”

Jeremy looked down at his hands and muttered quietly to himself as if he was trying to figure something out. Michael stayed silent, wanting to let him figure it out on his own.

Jeremy opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again to falteringly say “So..So like, having to turn the lights on and off so that you don’t disappear? A-And having bad thoughts that I’ll hurt someone and so I have to...to count how many steps are in each staircase I use?”

Michael looked at him and smiled softly. “Yeah Jer. Exactly.”

Jeremy’s eyes began to water and his voice trembled. “So. So I’m not a bad person and it-it’s normal? It’s a thing?.”

“Yeah Jerbear. It’s a thing.”

Jeremy practically launched himself into Michael's lap, tucking his head into his neck and started to shake as though he was crying.

When he looked up at Michael he was crying.

But he also had the biggest smile on that Michael had seen in a long time.

Chapter Text

Michael was tired. Just...so tired. He knew that he needed to help Jeremy, but he also had his own issues and he just...needed to talk to someone about them.

Which was why he was now in the waiting room at a therapist's office.

This was stupid. How was he going to talk about his issues if he couldn’t talk about the Squip? They’d all agreed to not mention it to any adults, for fear that they’d be called crazy. He could just… talk around it, he supposed.

His head shot up when the door to the office opened, a tall woman smiling at him.
“Hello, Michael, yes?”

He nodded, wanting nothing more than to bolt out of there and never come back.

He managed to make himself move, walking into the office and settling himself onto the couch while the woman sat on her swivel chair. The office was nothing like Michael was expecting. He was expecting something empty and beige colored, nothing distraction in sight. What he got was...different.

The room was painted a light blue, the couch was soft with several throw pillows. There was a small coffee table with a box of...things?

The woman saw where he was looking and chuckled softly.

“Those are stim toys. Some people prefer to call them fidgets. A lot of my clients find them useful.”

“For what?” He blurted out without thinking, he blushed, but was glad that no one but him would be able to notice.

She thought for a second, turning her chair side to side slightly. “Well, different people use them for different things. Sensory input, grounding, alternatives for unhealthy coping skills, for focusing, stuff like that.”

Michael continued to stare at the box, gears turning in his head.
“Can I…?” he asked.

“Go for it!” She said enthusiastically.

He rifled through the box for a couple of seconds before landing on a ring that had a band around it. Looking closer he could see that the band had tiny dinosaurs etched into it.

“What’s this one do?” He held it up to show her before slipping it onto his right ring finger. It was a little big, but he didn’t mind as much as he thought he would.

“You see the outer band?” Michael nodded, staring at the ring. “You can turn it for when you’re anxious or upset and need something to do with your hands. It’s especially good for if you don’t want people to notice it’s there, unlike some of the other fidgets I have here.”

He gave the ring a couple experimental twists, watching the dinosaurs move slowly. He rubbed his finger across the texture of the engravings and smiled.

“You can keep that if you want, no one else really uses it.” She offered.

Michael was immediately suspicious. “Why not? Why don’t people use it? Is it weird for me to like it? You don’t have to give it to me out of like, pity or whatever.” his breathing started to pick up as he mentally went through his actions to see if he’d done something wrong, because if he’d done something wrong then she would leave and he couldn’t take it if Jeremy left again. He didn’t know when this had turned into his issues with Jeremy, but he realized that he had started to cry. The doctor, whose name he still didn’t know, hands him a tissue box and looks at him concernedly. He opens his mouth to explain…

Explain what? He couldn’t just explain about the Squip, there was no way that she’d believe him and she’d think he was crazy and she’d lock him away and fuck he was hyperventilating.

“-chael. Michael” He could barely hear her voice of the rushing of his blood in his ears. He was vaguely aware that he was shaking and at some point he’d curled in on himself, as if to take up as little room as possible because he was so worthless and such a loser that he was just getting in the way of everybody so he needed to at least take up less physical space and-

“Michael.” she said more intently and he looked up at her, his vision swimming. “I need you to breath with me, okay? In for one, hold for one, out for one, hold for one, that’s right, now in for two, hold for two, out for two, hold for two, good job keep going, in for three…”

She guided him like that until they’d gone all the way to the fives and he was finally able to breath normally on his own. He thought he’d been shaking before but now with the adrenaline crash hitting him he was shaking so harm he had to clench his teeth to keep from sounding like a windup toy.

“Have you ever had a panic attack before?” She asked softly once Michael had stopped shaking as much.

He flinched slightly as he thought back to Jake’s party. He nodded.

“Okay. Do you want to tell me about this one?”

And so he did.

 

**********

He decided on his way home that he wouldn’t tell Jeremy about going to therapy. He didn’t like keeping secrets, he just wanted this to be something just for himself. It was… hard to talk. He had to keep reminding himself to leave out the Squip, replacing it with a pretend partner of Jeremy’s (making it a girl so as not to out Jeremy, plus, did the Squip even have a gender? Whatever, it doesn’t matter) and so he was able to explain how it had affected him.

The biggest realization was what the doctor (Dr. Schwartz, he’d finally learned) a major breakthrough.

He felt guilty.

Ven before the Squip Michael felt overly guilty about things that he had no control over. And then the Squip came along and made everything worse. He was guilty about not trying harder, for not realizing what was going on, for abandoning his friend.

Mostly he felt guilty about the fact that the whole incident had affected him so much. After all, he wasn’t the one stuck in an emotional and mentally abusive “relationship” with a computer that couldn’t be removed. He wasn’t the one who was manipulated, he didn’t deserve to have issues stemming from the “incident” as he’d become accustomed to calling it.

Dr. Schwartz said that his feelings were valid. Which was… not what he was expecting, honestly, he thought that she would, like, blame him. Or, or do something to recognize that he was a bad person.

But she… she didn’t say anything. She talked with him. Listening to how he perceived life and his interactions with people, his panic attacks, how he was constantly worried that Jeremy would leave him again and it was hard to let him out of his sight because then he would leave him.

Apparently he has anxiety.

Which, like, he knew, because duh, everybody has anxiety to a certain degree. His was obviously a normal amount?

Apparently not.

And he couldn’t wrap his head around that fact. That there were people who just didn’t experience panic attacks, or insomnia, or constantly worrying. The idea was completely foreign to him, it just wouldn’t register properly in his head.

She explained what they could do in therapy to help, and she recommended that he make an appointment with a psychiatrist to talk about possible medication, which blew his fucking mind. It didn’t have to stay this way. Dr. Schwartz was very adamant that it was a lot of work and that medication wasn’t a ‘cure’, but… it could get better to a certain degree.

He could get better.

Chapter Text

Hey guys. Remember when I said that my OCD had gotten worse? I'm going to the hospital for it, so I'll be gone for at least two weeks, sorry. I will make sure to write you guys a whole bunch once I get out. My plan is to write on paper while I'm there and transfer it here after, is that okay? Again, I'm so sorry about this but I really need to get some help. I hope you don't give up on this story!

Thank you all so much for reading this far and for your continuation later on.

Update: hey guys, I only have my phone for a few minutes but I just wanted to give you all an update. My treatment may take another few weeks because of some issues that have popped up. I'm so sorry about the lack of updates, I know how much some of you got out of this story. Just remember, this is in no way being abandoned, I just need to get some intensive help for my OCD. Thank you guys for being so understanding in the comments, it means a lot to me that you're all so supportive, both of this story and of my getting help.

Chapter Text

Jeremy refused to go to certain places. He never explicitly said anything about it, but Michael had known him for long enough that he could tell which places brought up bad memories. Michael respected this. He never argued with Jeremy if he wanted to sleepover at his, knowing that it was hard to stay in his house, or in any place that the Squip had touched.

 

So they avoided places. They didn’t go to plays, not even musicals. They didn’t go to the mall, instead going to individual small stores or huddling over a laptop, squished together so that they could both see the screen as they pre ordered the newest video game. And even when they were invited they never, ever went to Jake’s house.

It had been rebuilt after the fire. Jake had turned 18 and because his parents were gone he was able to fix it up to his wishes. It looked completely different now, but Michael’s stomach still flipped whenever they went near it.

He knew that both he and Jeremy had bad memories from the disastrous Halloween party. They’d talked about it briefly, which mainly consisted of Jeremy apologizing profusely for what he’d said. All Michael knew about what had happened was that something had happened with a girl where the Squip wouldn’t let him get leave. He had never said who it was or what exactly had happened, and it wasn’t something that Michael was going to push unless Jeremy wanted to talk about it.

He never did.

And then Jake invited the two of them to a party. Which wasn’t unusual, because they’d been invited several times, but Michael had hidden that from Jeremy.

This time though… Jeremy had picked up Michael’s phone when it buzzed with a text. When he looked at the text on the screen, he froze. There was a long moment where neither of them moved.

And then Jeremy looked at Michael with a smile that would’ve looked wide and confident to anyone else, but Michael could see the hidden shakiness, the sadness in his eyes.

Then Jeremy asked the question that Michael had been dreading since the Last Party, as he had started to mentally call it.

“Hey. Jake’s having a party at his house. Just a few people. Wanna go?”

Chapter Text

Michael had been watching Jeremy’s face for the past hour, but he couldn’t find any anxiety on his face no matter how hard he searched. It was, frankly, weirding him out. How was Jeremy so…okay here? At Jake’s house? Images flashed in his mind of crying and a sink and a broken mirror and fire. So much fire. And Jeremy… he didn’t even want to think about what happened to Jeremy here. Not that he knew much but he had the sinking feeling that if he let his mind focus on it for too long the blurry puzzle pieces may start to come together for him.

It wasn’t that he didn’t care. It was that he wasn’t about to go looking for answers when Jeremy hadn’t felt comfortable telling him himself.

They talked a lot now. About the Squip.

Well. Not about the Squip per say, but about how it affected them. It had been hard. But then again, the shit they had gone through was hard. At first it had mostly been Michael gently encouraging Jer to talk about it for fucks sake. And he had. Jeremy seemed less scared of his own shadow now, which, while not huge, was still some pretty damn good progress.

Jeremy hadn’t left him alone though. He had pointed out one night, when the two of them were feeling floaty but not quite high yet, that Michael was the one doing all of the supporting. He wouldn’t let it go and so Michael broke and told him all of how he’d been feeling and the anxiety and honestly? It felt great to finally confide in his best friend. Not his parents, or his therapist, but to his friend.

And right now he was worried about that friend. Jeremy was laughing and joking around though, so he finally let himself relax, grabbing a cup of who knows what and landing with a small bounce on the couch next to Jeremy.

His face lit up when he saw Michael.

“Hey Michael! Glad you finally joined us!” he leaned into Michael’s shoulder, giving him a gentle shove and a sideways smile. Michael’s heart thumped a little louder, a little stronger and he didn’t have to force anything about the grin that came over his face.

“Okay, so we’re playing truth or dare, right?” Jeremy begins, “And so, the issue is that we’re all idiots and none of us can come up with anything so I kinda sorta really need your help.” He chuckled at himself and nudged Michael again.

“Come ooooonnn!” Michael laughed.
“Of course Jer-bear.”

They whispered about the coolest dares and the most embarrassing truths and Michael was glad that his blush didn’t show as they bent their heads together to scheme. He glanced up and Rick raised his eyebrows, mouthing “Jer-bear?”

Michael smiled shyly and focused back on Jeremy, who was rambling about how truth or dare was really kind of a stupid game until he stopped talking with a small strangled sounding hitch of breath.

Chloe had arrived, ‘fashionably late’ as she called it. She got settled and as Jake and Christine started talking to her about her new boy toy or something, Michael noticed how stiff Jeremy had become beside him.

“Hey. Jer-bear? Are you okay?” He said low enough for no one else but Jeremy to hear. He responded even quieter with a timid “no.”

Then he plastered a grin on his face as he reengaged with the group, almost able to conceal the terror in his eyes. Not from Michael though. Never from Michael.

He looked from Jeremy to Chloe and suddenly the pieces fit together. He didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want to believe that his best friend had been assaulted by someone who was in their “crew”. Chloe didn’t seem to notice Jeremy’s fear or Michael’s slow-building anger.

He knew better. As much as he didn’t want to believe it he knew that the truth isn’t always kind. And he knew for certain that Chloe was the girl from the party. The one who scared Jeremy so much that it took months before Michael could touch his best fucking friend without flinching. She was just sitting there, laughing. She either didn’t notice or didn’t care about how much damage she’d caused.

Jeremy broke off from the conversation at hand-some disagreement about which genre was the best for movies versus books-to glance at Michael. Then-to both of their surprise, judging from Jeremy’s face as he did it, Jeremy grabbed his hand.

They were positioned in a way where it wasn’t outwardly noticeable, but Michael was so aware of it that he totally zoned out until he heard Chloe’s voice say “-and remember that time you and I almost hooked up Jeremy? Oh my gosh, we like, totally should!” Jeremy’s hand squeezed his to keep him from shaking too much. It hurt, but Michael was beyond caring and he felt his anger beginning to bubble over. He kept it together for Jeremy’s sake, but Chloe just kept going.

“And like, I know that you were totally pining after Christine, but like, you guys are just friends now and I figure, you were so into it-”

“No. I wasn’t.” Jeremy mumbled, just loud enough to interrupt her. He was shaking harder now, to the point where the others could probably see, but he kept going.
“I wasn’t into it Chloe. I tried to leave. I said no.”

A look of shock and rage passed onto Chloe’s face. “How could you say that! Don’t make me out to be the bad guy! Jeez, the fucking nerve. I was the drunk one, so if anyone did anything wrong it was you!” She was standing now, practically yelling.

Jeremy’s eyes looked down, but Michael could see the tears welling up and how his breath was coming faster, but he kept talking.

“You lied to me! You said you were bringing me to Brooke to talk and then you closed the door and, and-” He breathed in a deep shuddering breath, “and you tried to get me to drink and you started feeling me up and I said no and tried to leave but-”

“But you didn’t! Did you Jeremy?” Chloe had started crying, the petite, cute sort of crying that she used for the stage. “You could have left. But you didn’t and it’s not-”

“I COULDN’T.” Jeremy cried out and broke into sobs, clinging to Michael. “The Squip...I couldn’t move… it said I needed to.. I couldn’t move Mikey, I couldn’t move…” Michael clung to him too, his own eyes tearing up as he held Jeremy close. He looked up at Chloe with utter loathing.

“You should leave now.”

“You can’t tell me what to do! I didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s not like I sexually assaulted him or anything,” she rolled her eyes, her arms crossed, “everyone knows that guys can’t be sexually assaulted. They want it.”

Michael opened his mouth to yell his absolute, game-loving ass off at her, but Jake beat her to it.

“Get out.” He said it calmly, but Chloe could obviously hear the unconcealed anger in his voice because she turned and left, slamming the door behind her.

Michael stayed where he was, holding Jeremy as he cried about what the Squip had done, what Chloe had done. He held him close and talked soothingly as Jeremy shook.

The house rang with the sounds of re-lived trauma.

Chapter Text

Michael wasn’t sure what to do other than to hold his friend. Because how was he supposed to help? How was he supposed to make this better, to fix it? He just held on while Jeremy buried his face in his sweater, his sobbing slowly dying out until Jeremy fell asleep.

He looked up to see the eyes of his friends on the two of them, concerned and simultaneously livid at Chloe. He caught the eye of Jake, who nodded before speaking.

“Let’s move him to my guest room, he needs to sleep for now. And you too Michael, the both of you look dead on your feet. I’ll help.”

“Thanks.” He said softly.

They carried him upstairs as gently as they could, trying not to jostle him, the silence between them heavy. They had to talk. Not just about what had happened, but Michael just...needed to talk to someone. Someone who he wasn’t worried about stressing out more.

They laid Jeremy down on the guest bed and Michael took care to tuck the covers around his friend. Seeing him like this was hard, and it hurt, and it left him feeling guilty and he just wanted to help but he knew he couldn’t do anything but just be there for when Jeremy needed him. That would have to be enough.

It would be enough.

So he made sure that Jeremy had two blankets because he knew he got cold at night and he just offered a small smile when he saw the understanding look that Jake was giving him.

“It’s cool dude. I get it. Just… make sure to take care of yourself too, yeah? It won’t do either of you good if one of you burns out because you’re so concentrated on helping the other.”

And really, when had Jake become such a close friend? He couldn’t place it, it just seemed as though he’d been assimilated into their group naturally. It was a bit foreign, having friends other than Jeremy, but it wasn’t bad, not at all.

“Thanks Jake. It’s really nice to know that someone… that someone gets it, ya’know?”

“Yeah. I know.”

 

And it may have been a bit awkward, but it was a beginning And everything has to start with a beginning.