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baby runnin after you is like chasing the clouds

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Neil and Charlie had talked about it a lot, but never seriously, never with actual intent, until right before the play.


“All I’m saying, is I have the money, and your dad can’t stop you if he doesn’t know where you are.”


“And all I’m saying is that he will find me.”

“Not if you’re out of the country.”


“You know I can’t afford that, Charlie.”


“No, but I can, and if you need to go, I will do it. You know I will.”


That got Neil thinking. On one hand, Charlie was right, but on the other, it wasn’t really a good idea to just up and run away because he can’t handle his father.

But that was exactly what he was going to do.


“We’ll see what happens.”

The plan was, that after the play, Neil would return to his house with his father. They didn’t assume there would actually be an argument (Neil hadn’t really tried to argue back before, but in the end he knew it wouldn’t matter if he was gone in the morning and did,) and wait until his parents were asleep. He’d sneak out through his window, and though the walk was long, he’d go to the cave, where he’d meet Charlie, where they’d find a way to the airport. The less people that knew the better.


That was the hardest part, not telling anyone else. It wasn’t that Neil had an unstoppable urge to tell every single person what was happening, it was Todd. Todd, with his sweet smile and his excitement to see Neil in the play, who gave him the softest kiss just before he left. He couldn’t help but say something, “You’ll wait for me right?” which had made Todd laugh, “It’s only a few hours, of course I will.” Cue Neil almost tearing up (only almost, he hadn’t wanted to have to explain to Todd why he was crying.)  


(He had made Todd wait two years. Two years.)


The play had gone well. He’d been good, really good. (He felt real pretentious saying that, conceited, but it wasn’t a lie. He knew it wasn’t, no matter what his father believed.) His friend’s screaming “Yawp” only made it so much better. It was the most alive he’d felt in so long, probably forever. He only hoped his father could see it. (He didn’t.)


His mood dropped the second he saw his father, heart both in his throat and dropping to his stomach, and it only got worse as he got out into the lobby, seeing his friends. Yet again, Todd was the worst, seeing the way he looked at him and realized he wasn’t going to be seeing him that night (and seeing in his eyes that he could tell that maybe he wasn’t going to be seeing him again. Neil had always been easy to read, after all.)


The argument had been quick, thankfully, and if Charlie hadn’t planned with him beforehand, he would have felt so alone. Who knows what he might have done. (He knew.)


Hours seemed to linger as he waited silently in his room, watching the snow as it fell. There was a feeling of emptiness left from the fall of adrenaline after the show, and the way his father reacted (honestly, it wasn’t until years later until he realized how abused he was. His father had never hit him, and when he was young he thought that meant it wasn’t abuse. It took him very long to realize otherwise.) But along with the feeling of emptiness there was a lingering hope, hope that wherever he went next would be good, that he could get away from this and have a chance at happiness. Hope wasn’t something to live for, but it was really all he had at the moment.


He listened carefully until the house settling was the only sound he heard, and slowly, carefully, he got up, grabbing only the things he needed, including a couple of bills he stole from his father’s study. His dad would find out later, but there wasn’t much he could do if he wasn’t there to punish, and slowly, carefully, sneaking out of the house into the cold night. The walk wasn’t as long as he had expected, but maybe that was just the adrenaline, he didn’t know, and he was sure he had never in his life been more excited to see Charlie.


“I see you’ve finally decided,” was the first thing Charlie said when he saw him.

“Well, travel is important for getting into Harvard isn’t it? Cultured students are important.”

Charlie laughed, and the empty feeling was slowly fading.

The trip had been good, Charlie had sent him away with a little more money and only cash so his parents wouldn’t notice a big loss and no one could track where he was, and by morning Neil was away in Paris, (which was bad in the fact he could speak barley any French, but immersion was the best way, right?) Charlie had also managed to get him a place to stay with an old friend name Jacques, who Charlie partied with during his summer’s in France. It wasn’t perfect, but he was away. (He was safe.) He was just alone.


France was nice, the people were kind (in some sort of way,) and it was beautiful, but he missed his friends. Charlie wrote often, he was the only one since no one else knew where he was, still important that as few people know as possible, and he included photos of the others (mostly Todd. Charlie knew him,) all grainy and a little blurry, clearly taken by someone far too excited and erratic to hold a camera still, but they meant the world to Neil. He kept them in a small box in his room (really more of a closet,) looking through them more often than he wanted to admit. He did keep a picture of Todd in his wallet, though no one needed to know that, it was just a small one that Charlie had sent of Todd laughing, the same shy laugh he always did, with his eyes closed and his nose scrunched up. When they’d been together, curled around each other in the small beds that hardly fit them together, Neil’s main goal had been to see that little smile.


(Sometimes he wondered if Todd was really waiting for him. He hoped he was, but he also hoped he was happy with someone else. He deserved to be happy.)

Chapter Text

Like most things, living it felt very slow, but in actuality, the two years he had in France practically flew by. He, by some miracle, became fluent in French, and the country was beautiful, the city was beautiful, the food was good, and the parties (though not as wild as those back home) were pretty fun. But soon enough he was packing back up to go back. Charlie had promised he could stay with him and his roommate, though he refused to disclose his roommate’s name, though Charlie did love the element of surprise even in the stupidest of things.


The most important thing for him to pack was the box of photos. He hadn’t looked as often as he once had, but they hadn’t left their place of importance in his life. He’d missed the other poet’s dearly, and he felt horrible having left them with so little (no) information.


But he knew what he had done had been right for him.


The trip home felt slower than the one there had been, though the adrenaline was still there, but there was more fear of the previously known than the possible unknown he’d had on his way to France. Two years had felt as though they’d been filled with more growth than was likely was possible, but maybe it was just getting away from the stifling force of his father.


The fear only got worse as he got off the plane and into a taxi, the nearer he got to Charlie’s apartment, the more anxious he got, both to see Charlie and to meet his roommate, but also the possibility of seeing his father, which was not a guarantee but it was a worry nonetheless.


He got out of the taxi maybe a little too slowly, grabbed his bag and headed up to the door Charlie had told him, stepping in just as Charlie had instructed.


He was met with the smell of smoke (of course, this was Charlie, he’d smoked since he was like 15,) and the blare of a record that Mr. Nolan would have absolutely have called a sin. He stepped inside and set his bag down, making a loud enough thump he got Charlie’s attention off of whatever he was doing. “Hello!” Charlie called (his voice was deeper, only a little, but maybe Neil had just sort of forgotten what he sounded like,) and immediately Charlie’s arms were wrapped around him. “It’s so good to see you, Slick, hasn’t been the same without you!”


“Hasn’t been the same for me either, not normal when I don’t have to ask you to shut up all the time,” he teased, squeezing Charlie before letting go, pulling away to look around the apartment, take in the organized mess in front of him. The apartment was covered in books, as well as cigarette butts, and more than a few rolling papers, which was yet again, far from surprising given Charlie as a person, but his attention was quickly drawn away when he heard another voice.


“Charlie you think you can turn that down? My ears are ringing.” Todd circled the corner, and Neil felt frozen. The music seemed to bleed away and all he could seem to see was Todd, and it looked like Todd was just as frozen as him.


His hair was a little longer in the front, and he almost looked taller, but he probably wasn’t, and he was more beautiful than Neil had remembered.


“If I run and jump at you right now, will you catch me?” was the first thing Todd said to him, managing to get his head back quicker than Neil.


“I can’t promise, but I think I can.”


“You better.”


With that, Todd ran and leaped, arms and legs wrapping quickly around Neil, latching onto him and burying his head against his shoulder. “Fuck, I hate you,” he mumbled and Neil couldn’t help but laugh, holding onto him, like he’d wanted to so bad since the moment he’d left. “You’re the worst. ‘Will you wait for me?’ You ass, you absolute moron,” Todd mumbled, holding tighter, before leaning up and pressing their lips together, the anger and longing and everything he’d felt from the moment Neil had left to then shoved into one kiss. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered.


“I missed you too. Thought about you every day. I wanted to tell you, but Charlie said I shouldn’t mention it to anyone and…” he trailed off, reaching up with one hand to tuck a piece of hair behind Todd’s ear, the other still supporting him. The fact that Charlie didn’t argue with him let him know that he’d wandered off to let them have their moment.


Todd carefully moved to stand on his own, eyes and hands moving to take in all of Neil, reminding himself of the boy in front of him, while Neil did the same. “If you ever leave me like that, I absolutely will not wait for you again.”


Neil laughed, and for the first time in a long time, it felt like nothing could hurt him.