The only reason I get up in the morning is to see if my luck's changed. And it never bloody has.
Andy - Brassed Off
He was like some creature out of a fairy tale; beautiful, ghostly, limned in starlight.
Only the fairies in the stories that Jim had been told as a child had all been untouched, untouchable, above mortal concerns, and Andy, unfortunately, was none of those things.
"What are you doing up on the roof, Andy? The others are wondering where you are."
He didn't get a reply, just a tightening of already tense shoulders.
"I know you're missing your mam," Jim carried on over Andy's snort, "but you should at least come back down and give your tas and all."
He turned then, dry-eyed, not that Jim had expected any different. Jim knew he wouldn't be missing Liz any, and Andy had far more reasons not to mourn. "I don't want to go back down. I just... I want them to leave me alone."
Jim told himself not to, but he was never that good at resisting temptation, so he hugged Andy, trying to offer what comfort he could. Ignoring how good he felt. "You know better than that. Even when the others go, Vera's not going to let you alone tonight."
Andy was stiff in Jim's embrace, and he could have cursed himself for forgetting, but then the body in his arms relaxed, arms twining around Jim's much larger bulk, burrowing in deep.
And Jim was content to stay like that, pretending to be the loyal friend, the soul of honor, until the breaths on his neck sped up, hot and moist, until the hands on his back slid lower, pulling him in. "Andy?"
He leaned back, looking in eyes gone green in moonlight and shadow, eyes gone soft and half-lidded in want and need.
He pulled back further, knowing this was just grief and pain, looking for comfort, for familiarity. "No, lad, not this."
But Andy held on. "Why not this? Don't tell me you don't want it. You've been looking at me since I was sixteen."
--"Could almost make me jealous, the way you look at my Andy like that. Never gave me such an eye."
Jim started. He hadn't been aware that Robert was behind him. Or that he'd been staring. "It's not like that, Robert. Not that he's not a handsome lad and all, but he's only sixteen."
"And we were only sixteen when we started."
"Yeah, both of us sixteen. Not one sixteen and the other closer to forty than he'd like."
"So you do fancy him."
Jim wondered how he'd come to having a conversation with his sometime fuck buddy over whether he fancied that self-same fuck buddy's son. There were times his life went stranger than he could deal with. But he bulled through it like usual. "If by fancying him you mean that I wish I were twenty years younger so I'd be in with a chance, sure."
Robert's eyes went wistful. "Me, too."
The feeling that Robert meant more by that than Jim wanted to know kept him from staring at Andy.
For a while, anyway.--
An automatic denial was on Jim's lips, but it died when he saw the look in Andy's eyes. Far too knowing for Jim's comfort. He was a pathetic bastard, and he could only hope that Vera didn't know, since everyone else seemed to have guessed.
Of course, Vera was just one more reason that he couldn't have what was being offered, no matter how much he wanted it. "I'm married."
Andy smiled. "And if you remembered that more, I wouldn't be asking now."
And, God help him, that was true, though he tried to be faithful. Mostly, anyway. But he had some needs that Vera just couldn't meet. It was something that he'd shared with Robert.
-- They looked around, making sure there was no one watching, trying to be casual, but most likely doing a piss poor job of it. Neither one of them was meant for intrigue, but neither one of them could afford to be caught out, either.
And neither one of them could deny they needed this. Needed the feel of a hard cock in their hand, and one that wasn't their own. Needed the push and shove that only another man could really give.
Jim looked at Robert, his oldest friend, his best. His first in many ways. But he couldn't be his only, nor could he be his obvious bit on the side, because the world didn't work that way, and neither of them could afford to risk it.
Neither of them really wanted to.--
But he wouldn't share it with the son. Not when Andy could have, should have, been like his own. "You're confusing looking for a father figure with lo-... with something else."
Irritation mixed with grief in Andy's face. "I would never confuse you with me Dad."
-- When Jim got to the hospital, Robert was on one side of the waiting room, Liz the other, which told Jim all he really needed to know about what happened.
"How is he?"
But before Robert could answer, a harried looking doctor came up to them, tired yet sharp eyes taking in all of them, and where they stood. "I'm looking for the parents of Andy Barrow."
Robert was right there, and Liz deigned to join them, looking for all the world like she was doing them a favor. Robert ignored her as he asked, "How's Andy?"
"Well, he'll have to stay here overnight, as he has a concussion. We'd like to monitor him for a while, just to make sure it's not too serious."
Liz spoke up then, interested now. "And how much is that going to cost us?"
The doctor sighed. "It's covered by the NHS, of course." He paused a moment, looking them over. "Your son has two bones broken in his right arm, and several cracked ribs, as well as some deep bruising on his back that looks like it was made by fists."
Robert gave a quick look to Liz before giving a nervous laugh. "Odd that, since he fell down the stairs."
Sighing again, the doctor nodded. "Yes, and from what I can see of his records from his PCT, those stairs are a very dangerous place for him. You might want to see about having some kind of safety measures put in." He gave one last look at them, the disgust barely disguised by the professional demeanor, before he walked away. A nurse stepped up to tell them it would be a little while before they could visit, and to call her if they had any questions.
But they didn't have questions, Liz going off to who knew where, and Robert just standing mutely in the waiting room.
But Jim wasn't going to be mute anymore. "She's going to kill him one day if you don't do something about it."
"I can't." He looked around, his voice dropping into an almost inaudible whisper. "She knows... she knows about the men, about us, and she's already threatened to tell. I can't go against her now. I can't."
Jim felt his own disgust looking at his friend. He and Vera had tried for years to have kids, with no bloody success. They'd have done anything to have a child like Andy. And here this bastard had gotten lucky, and he wouldn't even protect his child against his bitch of a wife.
But then the rest of what Robert had said began to sink in, and Jim realized what it meant. Liz knew about them. Liz who was friends with Vera. Liz who liked to drink too much and shoot off her mouth, when she wasn't doing worse things.
And the disgust that he'd felt for Robert was nothing to the disgust he felt for himself, because he wouldn't go against Liz, either. He wouldn't.--
Andy should confuse him with his father, because Jim was just as bad; had left him to the mercy of someone without any. The kid was better off without either of his parents. He was better off without Jim. "You don't need an old faker like me."
But those eyes wouldn't let him go. "You know better than that."
-- At first all Jim could think was that he'd told Andy that Hood was no good news, he'd told him. But then the rest of the scene began to hit him, bit by bit. Blood. Bruises. Naked flesh. Tears on a face he'd never seen cry before.
And then he was there, tearing Hood off of Andy, ignoring Andy's cry as the cock pulled out of him, leaking blood and semen. And then he was there, beating the bastard into the ground, except he couldn't really ignore Andy's cries, and he couldn't really ignore Andy's tears, but he wanted the fucking bastard dead.
And then he was there, and Hood wasn't moving any more, and neither was Andy, and it wasn't even a choice between them. He wrapped the boy in stained sheets, taking great care to walk on the new throw rug on his way out.--
The memory was as clear in those eyes as in his head, much as he wished he could erase it from both, and Jim didn't know what to say to make it better for either of them.
Andy dropped his head, hair hanging in his face, a shield. "I don't want that to be all that's between us."
Jim was stunned, shaking his head. "You know better." He wasn't good about talking about his feelings, but surely Andy knew that. Surely.
A slight nod, but Andy didn't look up. "I don't want that to be the only...."
And then Jim understood, but he didn't want to. "No way. It can't be."
Andy still wouldn't look up, but his silence said it all.
"How? If I could make do with this ugly mug, there's no way you couldn't have been reeling them in with your face. What about that lass, the one you used to spend all that time with? You and her were awful cozy."
"Top half only."
Of all the stupid things. Andy could have had half the people in this town for the asking, and he chooses one of the few girls who wouldn't and one of the few men who would. His taste left a lot to be desired.
Realizing what that said about him, Jim almost smiled, but he couldn't now. "You really are a virgin?"
But the only reply he got was a grin that had no humor in it.
-- He hadn't wanted to go to the hospital, which Jim could understand, but Andy'd agreed to go see the doctor that Jim had recommended. Off the record, money under the table, he had a lot of patients, and there was nothing here he hadn't seen before.
Andy looked lost on the exam table; a ghost of pale flesh, pale bandages, in a white room, only the blood and bruises providing any color.
The doctor finished, handed instructions and meds to Jim silently, left them alone. Where they stayed, locked in the moment, in the silence.
Until Andy broke it. "I thought he was so cool. He didn't treat me like a child, like most of the guys from Pit do. Like you do." He laughed, scratchy, hoarse, unamused. "Should have known there was a catch, huh?"
And Jim wanted to say that he'd warned him, but he'd never thought to warn him of this. And Jim wanted to hold him, but he didn't think he could, even if Andy could bear it. And Jim wanted to tell him it would be all right, but he stood there and let the silence have its way.--
"What happened with Hood doesn't count, Andy."
"It's all that counts, since it's all I have."
Jim was torn between the strong impulse to slap him and an even stronger one to pull him in tight, but that would be giving mixed signals, so he just said, "Give yourself some time. You'll find some nice young thing." He smiled, knowing he was describing the inverse of himself. "And they won't treat you like a child, no catch included."
He did well, fighting the impulse to hug Andy; right up until Andy hugged him. And he fought the temptation to kiss those lips, until they were on his. And the boy might've been a virgin, but he knew how to kiss at least.
And Jim's wanted this so much, wanted this so long, even when he knew it was wrong in so many ways. And he loves his wife, in a lot of ways, he does, but he needs this, wants this. Has this.
Then a hand's down his trousers, touching his cock, trying to find a way to grip it, and Jim's a firm believer in teaching by example, so he's got Andy's fly open, stroking the purpling cock that's jutting out, trying to make the grip nice and tight, but not rough.
And then his own cock is being stroked, a counterpoint to his own rhythm, his grip mirrored back. Such a bright lad, so quick to catch on. And it's awkward, nothing to lean against as Jim doesn't want them too close to the edge of the roof lest they fall off. Or be seen. But he puts one arm around Andy's waist, keeping his other right where it's needed most.
It's too quick; Andy's only nineteen, not an age known for stamina, but Jim isn't far behind him. And it wasn't anything to write home about, more a release of emotion than an excitement of body.
But Jim still has an arm around Andy's waist, and the warm flesh in his hand is sweet if sticky, and the smile on Andy's face is better than the sex. Is better than sex.
And it can't be. He can't let it be. He's sinking, and he'll drown if he doesn't find a way to shore. "We can't do this again."
Slapping Andy couldn't have made the smile fade any faster. His usual wariness was back, his weariness, but he asked, "Why not?"
Why not? Jim wonders how he can he even ask. There were so many reasons, but in the end it all came down to one. The fear closest to his heart. "We'd get caught, and I...."
And he didn't need to say the rest, because everyone understood. He couldn't give up his wife, not even for this child who touched things inside him he didn't want to think about. He couldn't be that man. He was Jim, who was married, who worked in a mine.
He was normal. He was normal.
Andy didn't ask any more questions, resignation in every angle of his body. "Yeah. All right."
Jim could breathe again, could smile. Andy kenned how things were. They'd nod at each other in and out of the Pit, and they'd go out for a pint after practice, and Jim'd treat Andy like a kid that he has to look after, because that's what his role calls for. And Andy'd go along, and he wouldn't even be too mouthy, because he's young, but nowhere near stupid, and he'd known the way of things for far too long.
And Andy's returning the smile, and Jim's struck by how very young, how very beautiful he is, even with the sardonic edge. He should have so much to look forward to, and Jim wished he could give it to him, but that's not for them, caught in Grimley's black hole.
Andy's smile isn't even truly sardonic, more resigned than bitter; amused at the vagaries of life, smiling because it's better than his other options.
And Jim lets him walk away without calling him back, because it's better than his other options. Even if it doesn't feel like it.