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Learning Not to Be Silent

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"We should have a slumber party," Josh declares one day, straight out of the blue in a peaceful moment under a tree on the school lawn.

"Oh yeah?" Julian says, shifting in place and schooling his face not to break into a smirk immediately. He turns the page of the comic book he has open against Josh's back. "Why do you think so?"

"You guys had one after Limbo, right?" Josh says, twisting around and pushing the comic book down so Julian will look at him--Hellion makes a faint noise of complaint. Josh gives his best pout. "I don't want to be left out this time."

"You were having your thing, remember?" Julian tries to find the panel he was on. "All existential and shit. And I didn't get too involved with the sleepover either because I was snapping you out of it."

"Yeah, well," Josh mutters. With a mighty effort he smothers his glowing blush as he remembers how most of the snapping-out process went. He lets the comic be for the moment to get up and pace. "That just means you should be invested too." He turns on his heel and snaps his fingers at Julian. "Slumber party," he insists.

"I don't think it was a real slumber party so much as camping out in the rec room for a night," Julian says, but as Josh opens his mouth to argue, he surprises him by saying, "But okay."

"Really?" Josh says, lighting up.

"Sure." Julian puts the comic aside. "Don't plan a big affair though," he warns, cracking his knuckles absently.

"Why not?"

"I have a feeling--well. I just don't think the turnout will be so great. Focus on the slumber rather than the party." Hellion shrugs. He watches Josh return again to close his comic on the ground, which is ridiculous because it's a single issue and has no hard spine to protect. Someone's spent too much time with David. "We can just hang out with some sleeping bags, some iPod speakers, and a deck of cards."

"Sounds perfect," Josh enthuses. He gets back down on all fours and kisses Julian on the nose. "Watch out, 'cause I'm gonna invite everyone."
"I can't believe no one came around but us." Josh fiddles listlessly with the radio settings on the speakers from on top of his sleeping bag. On the next sleeping bag, which was zipped together with Josh's in one of the many moments of boredom so far, Julian sighs. He watches his deck of playing cards shuffle and reshuffle itself in a glow of green.

"Told you, bro. Didn't want you to get too worked up."

"But why?" Josh nearly whines. "We picked a great night and everything."

Julian sits up and runs his hand through his hair. "It's Cessily. I knew she was going to do this, I just didn't want to bum you out or anything. My bad, I guess."

"Cessily? She ruined my party?" Josh says, wounded. He hadn't expected her to do something like that--she's never seemed sour at him for having to share Julian with him before, so why--?

Julian snorts, surprising Josh, and looks away. "Uh, look, it's kind of an embarrassing explanation."

"Embarrassing?" Josh repeats blankly.

Julian shifts awkwardly. "Look, she just--she doesn't mean anything by it. She just, you know, saw we were fighting, and this is her way of--when she heard it was you and me planning this, she probably went to everyone like 'I'll kick your ass if you don’t’--y'know--'leave those two alone for the evening.'"

"What? Oh. Oh.." Josh stares into space for a moment. "She ruined my party so we would have a date night alone?"

Julian nods gravely, opening a bag of chips. "She's been bugging me about not taking you on any dates. So." He gestures to their setup of sleeping bags, scattered cards, and a radio on the roof. "Here we are."

Josh thinks about it. "Well, that's sweet," he muses finally, settling down onto the sleeping bag. "Sort of."

“Yeah.” Julian throws some chips into his mouth. He rolls over to look at Josh. “So what do you want to do, other than play War for the gazillionth time?"

Josh mulls it over. “We should get to know each other."

“We do know each other."

"Boyfriends should know each other better than we do. I only knew you for a few weeks when we first met and after that we weren't looking for details.” Josh shrugs. “Maybe we could just. Talk."

"Talk?" Julian says skeptically. "Like, in a serious way? About ourselves?"


"I don’t know how good at that we would be," Hellion snorts, as Josh gives up on the radio and turns on an iPod playlist instead. "We’re asshole teenage boys, talking about feelings is like pulling teeth."

"Well, I figure we've gone through enough bullshit because of stuff we never talked over, that we should." Josh directs his piercing blank gaze into Julian's eyes. "Talk. Or learn to."

Julian's unsettled by his intensity for a moment, but shrugs it off. "Well, let's talk about how shitty your music is," he says, climbing over Josh to wrest iPod control from him. "Soft emo Wonderwall type crap—"

"Hey! Driver picks the music," Josh shouts, trying to push Julian away. "Shotgun shuts his pie hole!"

"It’s cake hole! Cake hole," Julian growls. "At least put on some fucking classic rock if you’re going to misquote my shows."

“See, this is what I meant, bonding through learning about each other’s interests.” Josh puts Julian into a headlock. “Aren’t you feeling the love already?”

"You’re a dick and I’m putting on Bon Jovi," Julian mutters, freeing himself telekinetically and scrolling through Josh’s music.

“Okay, I guess that’s fair.” Josh pushes Julian back to the other half of the sleeping bag bed. “Provided you don’t want me to sing you ‘Fix You' by Coldplay."

“Your voice won't be able to take it."

“'How to Save a Life' by The Fray?"

Julian blinks at him. "Wow. Harsh."

Josh thinks about it for a moment. "Wow, yeah, guess so. Never mind then."

They lie back and stare at the purplish dusk sky.

"I never knew you were that broken up over Laurie," Julian says after a while. "Not to be like, I didn't think you really cared about her, but you were so... mad. Killing the guy is one thing, but killing all of them..."

Josh sighs and folds his hands over his chest. "You don't get it." He looks away. "I just miss her so much."

"I do get it," Julian retorts. "You're not the only one had someone you loved die under your hands, asshole."

Josh glares at him. "Who, Brian? At least you got to say goodbye."

Julian glares back, and then pauses, shifts his weight, and turns back to the emerging stars. "Yeah. Guess I did."

There is a pause as they consider the universe.

"So you really loved her, huh?" Julian says, contemplative.

"Well," says Josh. "I don't know about that. We were just like--we hadn't gone through as much. It was different then."

Julian elbows him. "God, you don't have to act like you're fucking sixty-two about it. We get enough of that 'you're too young to have real feelings that matter' bullshit from adults without us telling ourselves the same thing. I loved Sofia," he declares.

"Really?" Elixir says skeptically, propping himself on an elbow to look down at Julian. "You loved her?"

“Yes, I loved her,” Julian retorts. “What do you want me to fucking say, it didn’t matter? It wasn’t real because I hadn’t been to literal Hell yet, and we never got together, and nobody had fucking died before my god damn eyes? Me and Sofia, that was about as much as I'd ever fucking felt before. That was what love was for me. So yeah, I fucking loved her, you cock."

“Wow,” Josh says softly after a pause. “That was kind of beautiful, Julian. If it didn’t come out of your shit mouth I mean."

“Shut the fuck up, I’m a god damn fount of poetry and you know it," says Julian, rolling into Josh so he collapses onto his back. Half on top of Josh, Julian goes to kiss him.

Josh laughs. “Don’t kiss me while we’re talking about our ex-girlfriends," he says, shoving Julian off. Julian laughs too, and they laugh together until they fade into warm silence.

"I haven't laughed about Laurie since she died," Josh says softly.

"I didn't know her too well," Julian says. "Sofia loved her to pieces though. Would choose her over me ten times out of ten. Never knew what you two saw in that girl."

"'Course you didn't," says Josh, elbowing Julian. "She was shy, if you ever bothered trying to talk to her she wouldn't have been able to get a word in past you wanting to hear yourself talk."

“Yeah, yeah, I'm a piece of shit, I know.” Julian waves a hand dismissively. “I'm sure you were so good at listening to her and being sensitive and shit too."

“Fuck off, I tried,” Josh says, crossing his arms. “Look, this is me doing that, with you."

“Yeah, well, see? That's what I'm saying, it's not easy, but we're better at it now.” Julian bumps his head sideways against Josh's, then stops to ponder. “You think Sofia might have said goodbye if I'd been better?" he says, quieter. “Less of an asshole?"

Josh takes Julian's hand, not sure what to say.

“Do you ever miss her? Sofia?” Julian asks, covering his chest with his other arm, as if to hide his heart. “You were her friend too. Hell, she probably liked you better than me because you never gave her as much shit."

Josh snorts. “I give everyone plenty of shit," he says. “But yeah, I miss her. She was wonderful. Y’know, but just enough of an asshole to be worth liking."

Julian contemplates the stars. "I'm glad she's alive out there somewhere."

“Me too.” Josh squeezes Julian's hand, and Julian tilts their heads together and closes his eyes for a moment.

Then he's rolling up onto his side. “So as long as we're being hella deep and fucking depressing, I've been thinking that sooner or later I should do the boyfriendly thing and give you a shot at explaining the Reavers thing to me. Why you did it." He twists his mouth. “Which, I don’t want to really, but I never gave you a chance to be heard out."

Josh looks at him warily. “Really?"

“Yeah.” Julian runs a hand through his own hair with a sigh. "Impress me with your good intentions, O healer of puppies."

The problem with that is there were no good intentions, but Josh tells his story anyway. Julian seems deeply unimpressed, but doesn't interrupt.

“Well that was a shit story," he says when Josh finishes.

"Yeah. Sorry." Josh runs his hands over his face and into his hair. “I just fucked up. Real bad."

Julian frowns and drums his fingers, looking terribly unsatisfied.

"I never hated mutants, if that helps," Josh says despondently. "I just--fuck, I was just stupid, and I needed everyone to like me, you know how I am."

Julian stares determinedly into space before his composure breaks and his lips twitch up. “Like last week when you were everyone's water boy."

“Exactly like that,” Josh half laughs. “Because I’m an idiot."

"Yeah, you are." Julian rolls back over to lie next to Josh. "Go ahead. keep convincing me."

"I never hurt anyone," Josh offers. "And when I ratted Sofia out, not only did I save the only one who got hurt, but a bunch of Reavers got taken out. Even Pierce."

"Healing powers are convenient like that." Julian walks his fingers up Josh's arm.

"I've helped more than my fair share of mutants too," Josh continues, struggling not to smile now. "If you think about it, I'm actually a credit to mutantkind."

"My hero," croons Julian. "I'd say I can never stay mad at you, only obviously I can." He rolls on top of Josh. “Just not right now."
"I'll make sure to do something really heroic just to seal the deal," Josh says after kissing Julian briefly. His fingertips brush Julian's sides. "Cure mutant cancer."

"You'd better," Julian says, and closes his eyes to rest his head on Josh's shoulder. "And stop killing people, you ass."

"Maybe I should. Do you think I could have worked things out with Duncan if I hadn't?" Josh wonders morosely, nuzzling Julian's hair.

"Ugh, why would you want to?" Julian grumbles. "He was a bigot. He outed you and beat you and was a for real bigot."

“I guess." Josh sighs and tilts his head away. "I just--well, Laura told me all the Reavers are dead now. So I guess I know. But it still doesn't feel like anything really got resolved."

"Wait, X talked to you?" Julian sits up and stares.

"Yeah? Guess she realized that the Reaver shit had to do with me. Hard not to, with my reaction, I guess." Josh catches the look Julian's giving him and says, "What? Laura's nice."

"For a weirdo clone you mean," Julian snorts.

"For anyone," Josh argues, getting to his hands and knees to forage for food. "Saved your dumb ass a few times."

"Not my fault she's obsessed with me," Julian says, crossing his arms.

"That's her trying to make friends. She felt most comfortable approaching you for some reason, you don't have to be a complete ass about it." Josh examines the chips' nutrition label gravely. "Maybe I'll make friends with her, just to show you."

"Ugh. Josh Foley: taker of charity cases, savior of lost kittens, some poor sap’s annoying boyfriend," Julian exclaims, gesturing widely.

Josh swats at him. "Not a charity case. A friend."

"Whatever you say." Julian frowns. "Hey, why is it we still just talk about girls when we get together alone?"

"We must not be very good at being gay together," Josh says, smirking at the thought, abandoning the chip back to the elements.

"Let's practice," Julian says, wiggling his eyebrows. When Josh laughs, he drags him in for a kiss, and that's the end of the chatter for quite a while.