“I know I've gone to far… you can't pretend you can follow me here-” Charlie sighed, turning away from his lover with an unperceivable depth to him. His eyes were red raw and his soul felt empty. The two were sitting alone as they had been for the past few hours when Charlie had said nothing; the room was warm but felt so foreign in the light of it all. It only took a few minutes for the confusion and the adrenaline to fade back into self loathing and pain that had always been underlying in his character.
Matteusz breathed a deep breath as Charlie spoke the first words he had dared to say for so long. His response was his only attempt to keep him from falling over the edge, no matter what he had done he was not deserving of so much. “I promised to love you today, I won't break that promise” he shook his head and clasped Charlie's hands firmly in his, suggesting a mutual understanding or respect for promises made. “You are not unlovable, Charlie.” He whispered. The words fell upon Charlie in two ways, at first light and uplifting but then heavy and harsh as he realised it was not only for his sake Matteusz may have to say these things.
“I am many things…” he sighed as he removed his hands and his face from the sight of his lover, “I am young, I am foolish, I am capable of genocide it seems, but I am not worthy of your love Matteusz. I never was,” Neither had a response that was fitting. Matteusz knew he shouldn't leave it otherwise it may seem like he agreed but he could not think of anything that didn't second that feeling. It was a wasted space of opportunity; they never usually had this problem, they could simply lay in each others company for hours on end and everything would feel like a blissful dream. This was no dream however, this was not even capable of being a nightmare because it was real, harshly so, so real that it felt as though there was nothing except this- and death.
“I am sorry, I really am. I'm sorry I wanted to let it take me and I'm sorry for all the stupid things I did. There really is no way out now… is there?”
There was an uncomfortable silence, there was no foreseeable way out- no. There was only this forever and ever until there was nothing left to ponder. Charlie seemed to sit as though he had not truly taken it all in, of course he must have due to the crying and the screaming and the begging for death that had all occurred. The long term effects were delayed, he figured, waiting for someone to remind him that once the adrenaline was gone there was still death and anguish and loss everywhere and all around.
Charlie felt this too; Charlie knew that there was more to come, that very soon something would be said to remind him that it was all hail fault and it would never leave him again. This something was right around the corner and both were distinctly aware.
“We do not know when we will hear from April” he cut in clumsily.
Matteusz was only trying to make conversation and Charlie knew that but he couldn't help it bubbling over. Not the stinging realisation but just the thought, the mere practice of thinking thinking of all of the horrible things that had been and that may be yet to come, down to him. “It's my fault” he choked facing away from Matteusz so he didn't have to look him in the eye. He felt a strong and familiar arm pull him into his chest but the warmth was lacking; he said nothing because he didn't need to. They both knew that Matteusz agreed with him.
He lunged forwards and kissed him clumsily, only vaguely putting his hand on Charlie's cheek. It was meant to make it all okay but it couldn't, Charlie mumbled under his lovers lips as he desperately tried to paint over the cracks. “Stop.” He gasped pushing him off, “stop… you… you don't mean it, please don't kiss me when I know you can't stand the sight of me.” He had never imagined himself able to reject a kiss from a boy so warm and so familiar but here they were with silence and cold, unforgiving kisses. Charlie let a year loose. “Charlie I… I want to be with you I… I want to love you and kiss you because you are in pain-” he looked into his eyes, puppy dog eyes shining sky blue with truth and glistening with the ghosts of mere hours ago. “But?” Charlie asked. “But I can't. I want to feel okay when I kiss you but I don't. What have you done to me, I should not want to kiss you Charlie, but I…” Charlie had never truly seen Matteusz lose control, even when he was sad or angry he understood what he was saying and he had thought behind every word. Up until this moment Matteusz was his wise old soul who had been worn by all he had been through, now he was like a child again and oh so unsure; here was another thing to add to Charlie's list of crimes today.
Matteusz was sobbing as though he had never before, into the welcoming arms of Charlie (somehow they did not seem close, Charlie was wrapped in cling film). He sobbed until he was tired from all of the things he had let out, limp like an inflatable version of himself and all dried out of tears forever. “What have you done to me? I said that I would never harm a person like I have been harmed before. I know the cost of it and so do you. I have held guns at people and hit them with chairs and all of it for you yet I can't forgive any of it.”
“Me or you?” Charlie asked, he was stable in knowing either answer would hurt just as much. “Sometimes I think both.”
They lay in silence. Not a comfortable silence but an awkward one shared between strangers in a waiting room or a dark alley, both wondering if the other is thinking something hurtful but not trusting them enough to ask.
“Charlie, can I stay, tonight I mean?” He asked as though it had been a hidden thought this whole time. Staying the night seemed such a normal way to put cuddling a mass murderer but Charlie nodded silently nevertheless. He couldn't quite being himself to ask why because he feared he would not like the answer, he didn't want hear it if he had been offered the chance to spend one more evening escaping from it all. He knew that Matteusz didn't feel comfortable, he knew he didn't trust him and most of all he knew that he said it because it might be the last time he could look Charlie in the eye let alone be close to him. Nevertheless, Charlie nodded through teared up eyes and said nothing as their bodies fitted into each other as they always had and he doubted if anyone elses would. Even with the weight of tomorrow hanging over them it was a safe position to be in and one where they could have blissful hours of not having to worry and simply feeling together as the drempt happy dreams.
Matteusz woke with a start, surrounded by familiar sweaty limbs; he thought of nothing in his tired mind except for the tranquil repetivity of this situation. He was warm and he had the man he loved snuggled into his chest with all of the peace in the world etched on his face. Except he didn't.
Charlie's face tonight spoke only of sorrow and anguish, his eyes twitched in sleep but still Matteusz could feel the pain that lay beneath and would haunt him. His body was not warm and inviting now but clammy, sticking to him like sticky weed on river paths and bad dreams you struggle to forget. His body was Charlie, his mind was Charlie but he slept nothing like Charlie at all.
He sat up, rubbing his eyes and ignoring the soft tingle of the cold air on his bare skin, he let out an audible sigh. He could not work out why but he felt dirty, he felt like a cheat in this bed with this not Charlie. It felt as though any minute this one would crumble to dust and the old Charlie, with the weight of the world firmly stored at the back of his mind to make way for jokes and discovering small dogs, would come bursting in. He checked the time, it was half past three. A new day, a new dawn, a new promise that he wasn't sure he could make.
A gentle tear slid down his tanned cheek without him noticing, Charlie lay asleep still curled in the hope of a partner for the night. “I am sorry Charlie” he whispered into the dark so Charlie would not hear him, “I can't promise to love you.” Even if I do he thought but did not say aloud. “I can only promise to come back, I will come back for you prince.” And with that he stretched out and away from the imposter that lay in Charlie's bed, he couldn't stand this feeling of not knowing what was right and wrong. It was so strange to him, these blurred lines that had usually been so distinct. He pulled his top over his head and carefully plodded away from the bed, avoiding the floorboards that he knew creaked more than the others.
How could something he knew was wrong feel so right yet something he knew was right feel so wrong all at once. He did not know, and he did not stay to find out the answer, he would not lie to himself that he or Charlie would be happy after this. He remembered having to tell the truth, he remembered how it saved him before and may do so now.
Charlie slept on, unaware of the departure from his life. He dreamt of home and a world before the darkness, no one had a shadow, no one had fear in their eyes, everyone was there. Everyone except him.
It had felt a long time for the figure at the door, maybe longer than anything else in his life. He had lived with one thing in the corner of his mind for months, even when he thought me may have truly moved on there would be a movement in the shadows and he would remember he was never safe, and never free of that nagging thought that he loved to keep.
“Why are you here, I thought you would have forgotten me by now,” Charlie said, at this moment he had been reduced to a child who was confused and alone. “I thought so too, but how could I. I would go to shops and think if you would like the clothes, I would hear songs and think of you dancing or if you would even like it. I wonder if the people I meet would annoy you or if you would love them, would you like the things they say? How could I forget you Charlie when you are here,” he gently placed his finger to his head before holding Charlie's hand in his and bringing it closer, Charlie stood with a sudden intake of breath as Matteusz moved it onto his chest, “and here.”
Everything about this broke Charlie's heart all over again, Matteusz had said nothing if death or war or monsters when speaking of him. He had spoken of happy things, music and dancing and things he never believed he could be associated with again.
Charlie lightly traced the swollen outline of Matteusz’ lips with his finger as he committed it to memory, slowly building and image of Matteusz he could keep forever. “I need you to do something for me.” He announced as he looked deep into his eyes and relaxed his hand, Matteusz stayed quiet but it was a waiting silence, a question left unspoken. “Tell me you love me.” It was blunt and to the point, “in case you decide you can't stay, I need to hear it one last time,” he followed, taking care not to frighten his lover with any sudden emotional backwash.
Matteusz stayed still, his eyebrows furrowed and Charlie knew he couldn't do it; “you don't have to believe it, I don't care. Well actually I do but it doesn't matter, I just want to remember how it sounds.” Matteusz smiled a soft smile but his eyes were sad, “don't you see Charlie, that is why I can't say it, because I do”
There was a blank silence that hung in front of them, it ate up all of their words and pushed them deeper and deeper until there was only one option left:
“If you believe it, don't say it… just stay.”
And Matteusz thought, he thought for a while as Charlie's expectations became lower and lower until he sighed. “I can't promise anything I….” Matteusz said, with the full knowledge that it was his promises which had frightened him last time and scared him away from this comforting presence. “You don't have to, you only need to try, try and find me.” He was still expecting nothing more than he believed he deserved but it wasn't sadness surrounding them, it was hope. There was a hope for a brighter day when things like aliens and wars and weapons of mass destruction no longer impacted their life together, a hope that bonded Matteusz right to that spot and refused to let him go even when he knew it was all wrong. Charlie was an enigma, he was a shade of grey that he had never seen before and, just maybe, he was hope too.