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The arm of the chair is digging into Rizzo's back. He sat slightly sideways, one knee up, booted foot on the crappy upholstery -- fuck them --arm bent across his knee. Fingernails digging into his palm, little half moon shapes. Any harder and they'd turn from white to red, maybe fill in with blood. There's no way you could sit comfortably in this chair.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Biting a fingernail on the other hand.

Fuck no. I'm not biting my nails. I don't bite my nails. Casey fucking bites his nails

Thinking about the ways he could kill Casey. Slowly.

American Psycho comes to mind.

They watched that together, mostly to stare at Christian Bale, although Velvet Goldmine was infinitely better. That one Casey wasn't in on. For some reason. Rizzo can't remember why. Casey was in on everything, in more than one way; but somehow Velvet Goldmine was just the two of them. Weird.

They had been in the basement on a couch almost as uncomfortable as this chair, almost silent, Foley leaned forward with elbows on knees, Rizzo sprawled sideways across an armchair with his usual disregard for direction. Sharing cigarettes. Breath catching at Ewan McGregor dropping a black-lined come hither stare directly at the camera or kissing an androgynous John Rhys-Meyers; jokes that didn't hide a damn thing awkwardly made during quiet moments. It had been early then, before anything important happened.

Chainsaw? Hanging? Microwave? Cutting important extremities off with a nail file?

Makes him think of Casey's nails again, which are usually bitten to the quick. Maybe Foley changed that. Got rid of all Casey's obnoxious, adorable little nervous habits. Because who needs nervous habits when you finally have everything you've ever wanted, right Case?

Everything you've ever wanted. Who needs anything at all, really, when you've got that?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Looks around the room. Filled with people, some he knows, some he doesn't. Anna's there. Somewhere around this fall, she and Rizzo started hanging out, which admittedly was odd. Considering they hated eachother. Of course, most of his friendships were with people he hated, and he was drinking buddies with her newest girlfriend, so it made a certain amount of sense. Anyway, she's here because of James, not Rizzo, so it's irrelevant. Some other friends from school, people who call themselves friends, sitting in chairs around the room. Foley's parents aren't there, of course. Or Casey's.

The room is so silent you can hear people breathing, the rustle of clothes against the stupid upholstery. It's scratchy and a weird blue-gray that you couldn't even call a color, as if it's been designed to be ugly and uncomfortable. The rest of the place is so white and sterile that he can't distinguish edges -- the desk is curved and white, the floor smudges into the wall, the ceiling blends into the wall, the room seems to be a big sphere. It's like being on drugs.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Floors reflect fluorescent lights. The gleam turns skin a pale off-yellow so everyone looks sick as if the hospital's looking for more business. Magazine pages flip or don't; in either case no one's reading. Strangers hang onto each other in other chairs; people waiting for loved ones in trouble. People who know what the fuck love means. Fingers tap on arm chairs. He looks around desperately.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Like a life, or a heart beat. Red roses on the nurse's station desk are so fiercely burgundy that they soak into the white of the room like ink on wet paper. Biting his lip so hard he can almost taste the iron.

They were supposed to be together for Christmas. Well, they all three were supposed to be together for Christmas, a collective fuck you to their families. Casey wasn't comfortable with it months in advance, maybe the only one who gave a shit what his family did, but the influence of the other two was enough to make him rebel. Besides, he wanted to see Rizzo, or wanted Rizzo, or something. Rizzo had been feeling particularly resentful of them lately; they were always playing perfect couple, and he knew they weren't. James didn't have it in him to be anyone's perfect anything, as much as he loved Casey, and even fucking Casey couldn't love him enough to fix what Rizzo knew hid somewhere just underneath the obvious inferiority complex. No one ever could. That kind of shit stayed.

It was just up to James, whether he could deal or not. Whether he could let himself be loved. And Rizzo knew he couldn't -- not alone. But he wouldn't come back to Rizzo. Not if Casey knew about it, and Casey always knew about it. Fucker. Why the hell did he care? Half the time it probably turned him on. Maybe it wasn't Casey's fault; he probably would have told Foley to go if he'd known. But either way, one or both of them was undoubtedly being a fucking puppy dog. This was true love and there were things you didn't do when you were in true fucking love.

Thanksgiving had been hell; he had only seen them together once, near the end of the holiday, and he had known it was going bad. Didn't know why he cared, didn't care really. Served James right if he was going to be fucking self-destructive. But Christ, either take what you want or take what you need or take both. Don't pretend to have everything and take nothing.

He had had a bad feeling that night, went up to see Foley the next day just to talk, shit, about anything, maybe fuck around a little. Ask what was up with Casey, if that wasn't the most insane thing he'd ever done. After all they'd been friends, were still friends. Maybe he'd see Casey later.

Well, fuck if he wasn't prophetic. Bad feeling? James had been a wreck; completely drunk and about ready to jump out a window. Casey was gone, in the really gone sense, the fuck. Things had been getting weird with James for a while; distant, cold, whatever, apparently. Fuck that. When you're in love you try.

Maybe not me. Maybe I don't try. But you do, Casey. You're supposed to be the good one.

James'd cried, swore, thrown things, and they'd fucked. And it was fucking, in that sense. Red and black and passion. Every time Rizzo had ever been with him he'd felt like he had a purpose there, been there for some kind of reason, been some kind of proverbial other half -- the one who really knew James Foley as opposed to blindly loving him, to blindly being loved, to being on some pedestal. He was the grit and the reality to Casey's blue-eyed god. But that had felt like being a rentboy or at very least a rebound fuck and he had left silent afterwards without even a witty oneliner -- not for lack of words, just thinking. James hadn't needed a "You know I'll always be there for you,"; he didn't need the reminder that Casey wasn't there, and Rizzo would never say sentimental shit like that anyway, even sarcastically. It had been bad, though. He should have said something, should have seen him sooner afterwards, should have -- fuck. Something.

A food cart wheels by squeaking, wrong direction for Foley's room. Red roses still dripping into the air.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Where the hell is the sadistic scum who put a ticking clock in a hospital waiting room? Eyes search, find it on the desk of the nurse with the bleeding roses. Air's getting heavy, begging for words. Won't find any. Outside the air is still through the glass window, frost on the glass, snow falling.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Closing his eyes, remembering.

Someone in the dorm next door has the TV on and they're singing those fucking sappy Christmas carols. Got forced to sing those as a kid with the happy family. Just before the happy family picture for the happy family Christmas cards.

Then we could go back to being a fucked up family. Guess you probably never got the carols or the picture. Just the fucked up family.

Knock. Knock.

Waiting, waiting. I know you're home, your car was in the lot.

Couple more knocks.

"Merry Christmas, ho ho ho!" Open the fucking door.

Come on, stop fucking around, Foley, it's me." Ear against the door; think I can hear noise, water running in the bathroom maybe?

More suicides happen during the holidays than any other...shut up. Shut the fuck up.

"I'm coming in." If the door's unlocked.

Force it. Sticky, but not locked. "When are you gonna learn to lock your fucking door? I could be anyone!"

'Then why do you have to be you?' Say it--come on, fucking say it. Say something.

Running now, running, shit don't do this to me. "James?"

"I..." Your voice, weak...not sounding good. Not drunk, either, or high, just not good, and not...fuck...what...

I turn the corner and oh god, shit I knew this I...why did I know this and why did I stand there like an idiot smoking a cigarette and knocking and why do I have to be so smart? but now I'm an idiot again, just staring and staring and I'm going to kill Casey, he's going to die and there's red everywhere, like Christmas, red on silver. Why did I think that? And it's on pale skin and dripping onto white floor and I knew you were hurting and I knew I said I knew you but shit, James, you were only playing with pain before, you weren't serious --oh fuck oh fuck. What's the fucking -- 911 "Yeah, I need some help, my friend, he-- "

Waiting, forever waiting, this must be purgatory. Suddenly like a burst of, fuck, something, something that sure as hell isn't sunlight, a nurse -- doctor? -- comes walking out. "Are you all with James Foley?"

Collective nods, glances, attentiveness, whatever, from the friends, strangers, allies. The nighthawks. "Well..." She looks around. "Are his parents here?"

Taking leadership. "No. Just talk."

"Well, he's stable, for now, but he's in critical condition."

"What does that mean?"

"It's touch and go. He's lost a lot of blood; we had to do a transfusion, and he's going to need time. We'll see how he does over the course of the night. As for his mental state -- that's another matter entirely. He's going to need -- "

Cut her off. Don't need it. Don't want it. Whatever. "Thank you." Cold. Quick.

She looks at him for a minute. He can see her judging him as if he's just another stupid teenager. Fuck you, lady. Then she nods and goes.

Dead silence. No. Complete. Complete silence.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Rizzo could kill someone for a cigarette. Maybe the desk nurse. And her fucking clock. And whoever invented visiting hours. And Casey for doing this to James. And James for fucking doing this to him.

Complete, utter, final silence. As if somebody has died. As if something has just happened that cannot be ever talked about again.

"Will somebody fucking talk?"

Silence shattered like crystal. Everyone, everywhere is staring. Then they all talk at once, everyone who knows him anyway, and they're all saying the wrong shit too, as if they've been programmed to say the wrong shit. As if they got it off a TV program.

"I'm really sorry, Riz."

As if he was James' fucking lover. As if he was Casey. Or ex-Casey. The Casey that once was. He's not sure he even knows the person who said it. Well enough to warrant "Riz" anyway.

"He'll be fine."


"Jesus Christ."

Finally someone says something close to right. "What a fucked up Christmas."

Everyone looks shocked except Anna, after all it's Adia who said it. Rizzo manages a bitter grin; it's one of the reasons he likes her.

"No shit."

But it still isn't quite right. He stares at the glare of the fluorescent light, searching for his own reflection and not finding it. Cigarette. He could kill for one.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Danny." A voice. One that's been upset, crying maybe. Only one voice like that. Only one person he knows of that calls him Danny, ever. Even he stopped for a while, too, this semester. But only one person ever has. Rizzo doesn't turn around. Tries not to think of the million ways he's going to kill Casey when he finally will.

"Hey..." Casey's voice breaks, he falters, sounds like he's gonna break, himself, in a minute. "You, want some coffee?"

Turns then. Casey standing, blue eyes about as big as plates, red rimmed shiny, and looking like he slit James' wrist himself, personally, and maybe took color pictures and put them on the Internet. Takes a step towards Rizzo. Still biting his fucking nails.

"We could-"

Quick nod. "Sounds good."

They get out into the hallway, and they're alone in a sea of white reflected florescence. Only the lights are reflected -- you could lose your way in the lack of reflected self. It's tiled like the bathroom, and for a minute Rizzo sees it again.

Red everywhere, how I thought it looked like Christmas against the silver. Red on pale skin, dripping onto white tile...God! I'm so fucked up. We're all so fucked up and alone, and Christmas and love -- what the fuck is that supposed to mean? Or hate even...I'm supposed to hate Casey, and here I am, choosing him over Anna or Adia or anyone else who knows me--It's all...just...

Stumbles against the coffee machine. And then Casey's holding onto him like Rizzo's supposed to know what to do, or maybe like they're not supposed to know what to do together. Hands digging into flesh so hard it hurts, can't tell whether he's hurting Casey or Casey's hurting him or he just feels some pain somewhere -- almost feels good just to feel it. Casey's face against his neck, warm; he's supposed to be angry now, but he's forgotten. That melts away: maybe they can stop pretending to have it all under control, such confident adults. Maybe just be scared kids in a hospital.

They stand in a knot. Tangled up in the red and the heat and the now, too lanky and ungraceful to be hugging, too confused about where they stand, and suddenly not caring.