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What Time Is It?

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Chris was high. Again. He was sitting in the kitchen, alone in the dark, elbows on the table. He pushed his fingers through his hair, eyes half-mast. Exhausted, blood coursing with heroin…

He inhaled and exhaled deeply, leaning back, letting his head roll on his shoulders. It was 4 am.


When he woke up more or less sober, his head in his arms on the table, it took him a minute to remember where he was.  It was barely morning. The birds were making an incredible racket outside and he wondered how on earth it was possible that he’d never been woken up by them before.


“Mmf,” he moaned, pushing himself up. His arms were sore. Aching, but he was so used to it now it hardly gave him pause. He rubbed at the crook of his right arm absently, looking around.  His elbows hit the table again and slid until his forehead was against the wood, cold in the cold kitchen. Chris stayed like that for about ten minutes, in that stage between just awake and not wanting to be. Finally he gave in and sat up once again. He shoved his hair out of his face only to have it fall back over his right eye. It was getting too long. He didn’t like the feeling of it on his neck so he pushed it up, making it stick out at the back. He’d have to have it cut again… eventually.


Mornings were Chris's favourite time. Usually. Things made sense in the morning just after coffee and just before a hit.


Mornings were hopeful, unlike so much of the rest of it.


Chris staggered to his feet. This was the second night he’d spent somewhere else in the house. Anywhere but Paul’s room and that bedroom down the hall that was supposed to be his. Now it only reminded him of being sick. Of withdrawal, and of the horrible feelings associated with not being curled around Paul at night…


He felt that now too. Lonely and cold and… fuck, it was an awful feeling. Almost as bad as being sober, which he hadn’t been for ages now. Ages and ages… He was almost afraid to calculate how long.


He went to the sink to fill the kettle. Maybe make some coffee, wake himself up. Coffee and a fag, and then another hit and he could go out and sit in his car. Avoid everyone. That seemed like the best thing to do.


He leaned against the counter, letting it press into his sharp hipbones. He was too thin. He knew that. He knew he needed to start taking care of himself. Knew he looked like shit. He rubbed his eyes, still bleary from sleep and stared out across the garden. Some eyeliner came off on his fingers. He needed to wash his face.


He took the kettle off as soon as it started to whistle, not wanting to wake anyone, digging around in the fridge for the coffee grounds. He liked being alone and hated it at the same time. It was less often when he was alone that he would get the overwhelming urges to scream. Break things… but he hated it. The fact that he was just that… alone.


His eyes, grey in the dim-lighting stared into the filter he’d placed over his mug, watching the water sink into the darkness of the grounds, filtering into the cup. They narrowed a little as his brow furrowed. He missed Paul. Missed Paul’s arms around him… And Paul’s legs against his back while he played with Chris’s hair. He missed their games – ‘escape from Nick’ and ‘How long can we kiss here before someone walks in, how far can we push our luck?’ He missed that one night in the backseat of his new car in the middle of fuck-knew-where. He missed touching Paul’s hair. He missed kissing him, Paul’s taste. He missed the way Paul dragged on his cigarettes because even though he still saw that… it was like… like he couldn’t reach out and touch him anymore. There was a distance. He missed Paul’s smile and his laugh and he missed how serious Paul would get when he talked about music… how Chris would make fun of him until they were both laughing.


They never talked about music now. They never talked about anything anymore… but that was better, Chris reminded himself. Because no matter what he did, he kept hurting Paul. He never meant to… of course he didn’t, but in those moments, he did. In those moments where he lost himself a bit. Where he cracked somewhere in his head, in his mind, he wanted to hurt Paul. Wanted to see the pain flash in his beautiful blue eyes.


And Chris didn’t want to want that.


He sniffed and blinked, one tear slipping quickly down his face, just touching his cheekbone, and a second later the coffee overflowed in the mug. Swearing he took the filter off, trailing the dark liquid across the countertop and dropped it into the sink. He bent down to drink some of the coffee in the cup, making a face at how bitter it was, not to mention hot. He stood and his head hit the corner of the cabinets. He ducked back, hand flying into his hair and glared at them for a second. Without wiping the mug down or cleaning the counter he went back to the fridge, passing his wrist over his eyes and swallowing down that coldness that had risen in him as he pulled out the milk and found the sugar in one of the cupboards, rubbing the back of his head vigorously until the pain receded.


He fucking hated those fucking cupboards.


He fixed the coffee, using the spoon he’d stirred the milk in with for the sugar without drying it off, knowing that Tubs would complain about that later… or maybe he wouldn’t, for fear of setting Chris off. Chris set his mug down, eyes passing over the window again. A strange feeling crept over him… maybe he liked that a bit. The fact that people were scared of him. He shook his head suddenly, sucking in a sharp breath through his nose. No, he didn’t. He hated the way their eyes would shoot towards him whenever he moved or spoke. He didn’t like them being scared of him… he was scared of himself. He was fucking terrified.


“Paul…” he whispered, biting his lip at how childish he sounded. He just wanted Paul to be here. For a second he considered going upstairs and climbing into bed with him, but he wasn’t sure he would be welcome.


He needed to apologise for last night first.


He reached up and pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose. Hard. He screwed his face up, his entire upper body tensing. He pressed until it hurt, and then he dropped his hand with a sigh.


Laura stepped around the corner and stopped when she saw him, a little scared… he wasn’t himself much anymore. She’d seen that. He’d yelled at Paul last night – something she wouldn’t have imagined when she’d first seen them together. She wasn’t quite in the doorway yet and she wondered what on earth he was doing up so early. As long as she’d known Chris, he’d never been a morning person.


He was standing with his back to her. Dark pants that might have clung to his thighs at one point, but didn’t now. Sock feet and a soft grey shirt, matching the sky outside almost perfectly. One of the sleeves was rolled up past his elbow and as she watched he unconsciously reached out to pull it back down to his wrist. He raised a cup of something, coffee or tea to his lips and drank. He looked calm enough so she shifted her weight, the floorboard creaking under her and he looked around.


“What are you doing?” he asked, glaring at her.


She chose to ignore his childish, insulting tone.


“I have just as much right to be here as you,” she said coolly. She stood on tiptoe to reach the cups in the cupboard, her arm brushing his. She knew she was standing a bit too close. He watched her, then stepped away saying “I wouldn’t say that,” swinging one leg around so that he turned, the small of his back against the counter now. He pulled out a pack of fags and lit one, fingers cupped around the match even though he was indoors. She busied herself, moving around him making tea, glancing at him when she saw the mess he’d made on the counter with raised eyebrows.


He wrinkled his nose at her and looked away, wishing she’d leave.


He noticed how close she kept coming to him. It was unnecessary, but he’d noticed it before too… and he’d thought about it. Not because he found her attractive. Not even because he liked her all that much, but because she wanted him… and because she wanted him, he’d gotten ideas.


If he was with Laura he wouldn’t be with Paul. He wouldn’t have to keep going to Paul because Laura was… somehow she was affectionate to him too. Next to Paul, she showed the least fear of him… and she was willing. She was willing to let him take comfort in her… and if he did that, maybe… maybe he wouldn’t hurt Paul anymore.


So when she poured the water in the kettle down the sink and went to pick up her tea cup he made sure he was standing right behind her when she turned. She stopped but didn’t step back and he almost admired her for the way she turned her head to the side a little, regarding him, eyebrows raised.


He dragged hard on his cigarette, just staring her down… and she didn’t look away so he leaned forward, much too far until her breasts touched his chest even when she stepped back a bit, to put his mug on the counter behind her. When he pulled back her head was lowered a little and she was watching him from under her eyelashes. She was pretty… but he didn’t want her.


He could kiss her now. He could do lots of things. He could pull her skirt up past her hips and touch her if he wanted to. And she’d probably let him.


And he thought about it… but then he pressed his tongue against one of his canines and stepped back, turning to put his cigarette out in the ash tray on the table. He went back to the counter, keeping as far away from her as possible and gave her a dirty look as he filled the kettle again.


Not caring who he woke now, he slammed it onto the burner and heated the water again, fishing the another mug from the cabinet and making a cup of tea, tossing the tea bag into the garbage, his eyes falling on the residue of broken plate… one of the ones he’d shoved off the table the other day.


 He left her there, in the kitchen, without another word and took the stairs. The door to Paul’s room was shut, almost all the way and he hesitated before pushing it open a bit more. It creaked a little on its hinges. He slipped inside easily. He was so thin now. Paul was on his stomach, all the covers pulled up over him and he still looked cold. Maybe it was just the way the sunlight hit the room.


His guitar was propped against the end of the bed and Chris pulled the chair over from the wall and set the tea down on it, reaching out and leaning the guitar against the chair instead with much more care than the instrument needed. He was always so careful with Paul’s guitars.


He lay, curled, on the bed, propped on his elbow and touched Paul’s shoulder. It was still very early.


“Paul… hey. Hey, Daisy-Paul, wake up.” Paul’s brow furrowed and he burrowed deeper under the blankets… but then he remembered.


“Chris,” he said, voice heavy with sleep, but he was awake, more or less, because he pushed himself up into a sitting position, back against the headboard. Chris let himself roll onto his back, his head on Paul’s outstretched legs under the covers and looked up at him.


He wanted to apologise… he hadn’t meant to yell at him. Hadn’t meant to hurt him again. He couldn’t stop breaking his promises, so all that he said instead was, “I made tea for you.”


Paul didn’t smile. In fact, he looked sadder, for a second. “What time is it?”


“Tea time,” Chris answered, sitting up and catching the cup by its handle and pushing it into Paul’s hands before he sat up against the headboard as well, shifting so that he could rest his head on Paul’s shoulder. Paul drank his tea and Chris picked fuzz from one of the blankets. They were quiet.


Chris wished that things weren’t so complicated. He wished that Paul had come after him last night when he’d stormed out of the room, because that was all he wanted, really. Like a kid that just wants someone to come and hug them after they got upset. It was as simple as that, for them, to make it all better.


Chris had never had that until he met Paul, and now he missed it desperately.


He leaned up and kissed Paul’s ear and Paul, after a second, turned his head and kissed him. He tasted like the tea he was drinking and like sleep and just… like Paul.


After a few moments Paul handed Chris his mug, still half full, and Chris leaned away to set it on the chair again. He slid under the covers with Paul and Paul laid his head on his shoulder.


He sighed, Chris’s name coming out at the end of it. It was a question. What are we gonna do? What’s happening to us?


Chris ran his hands through Paul’s hair, Paul’s arm draped over his stomach and he closed his eyes.


He didn’t know. He didn’t have answers to any questions anymore, except, perhaps, “What time is it?” but he knew that right now, in this second, they were very, very close to being all right.


He turned his face into Paul’s hair, and they slept.