Playlist for Chapter Eight: http(colon) playlist/23042651403
My phone rang and I grabbed it off the nightstand, smiling when it was Tyler's number. "Hi," I said. It was late. Like, way late. He didn't normally call me this late.
"Hey," he said. He sounded… I wasn't sure how he sounded.
"You ok?" I thought I should ask.
He didn't answer; there was just silence on the phone.
"Yeah. Sorry. I'm here."
"Are you ok?"
"Can I come up?"
"You're here?" I moved to the window, looking down, and spotted him standing on the sidewalk and facing the street.
"Of course," I said.
He hung up then and I tossed my phone back on the nightstand. I opened the door before he reached it and waited just outside of it in the hallway. I watched as he rounded the corner on the stairs, one last flight before my floor. His hand slid along the railing and his feet seemed heavy, like he was walking in mud or something. He looked tired.
When he reached the landing, his hands went in his jacket pockets and he moved forward without noticing that I was in the hall. It was like he wasn't really seeing where he was, like his mind was somewhere else completely. His head was down, his face was pulled tight, his eyebrows pulled down, and I had no idea really what to do. I just waited outside the door with my arms folded in front of me, worried.
He was kinda surprised when he finally noticed I was standing there and he tried a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. I didn't like the look in his eyes at all. It was dark. Lost. Confused. All I could think about was how much I wanted to hug him.
I uncrossed my arms and kinda just held them out for a second and he stepped right into me, his hands leaving his pockets and his arms going around my body. One landed flat on my back and the other around my waist, his hand fisting in my shirt there. He never seemed this tall when we were hanging out. But he was pretty tall. I was standing on my tiptoes to reach his neck, my hand landing there because it seemed like the place to hang on as I put the other one on his back like his was on mine. He breathed deeply and I felt him let it out, his face pushed into the space between my neck and shoulder.
It felt like we stood there forever, not talking at all, so I figured I must have done the hugging thing right. Hugging was comforting, I think. It was supposed to be. I had no fucking experience with it, but he seemed to think it was good. He kept breathing out deeply and I could feel the air hot on my neck. I squeezed him. "Come on, come inside."
He didn't let go right away. That made me feel good. Made me feel like he thought I was helping. Even if I had no fucking clue what I was really doing, he thought it was helping.
He followed me to the couch and we both sat down as I curled my legs under me, waiting for him to talk. I just watched him and he just looked ahead, like I wasn't even there. I wasn't pissed off or anything, but it wasn't like him. He wasn't acting like himself, and I didn't like it. He wasn't ignoring me, he just wasn't… it was like he wasn't really there. And this was so much different than the couch experience we'd had last night. That's why this felt so strange, why everything was weird. Was it something about last night? Had I done something wrong? Was he just being nice with the hug and now this was it or something? Fuck, I wished he would talk. I mean, I hadn't thought about last night when I'd done it—I'd just wanted to be close to him and I thought it would be ok—I thought he'd like me putting my head on his shoulder. Ugh. Enough of this. If something was gonna happen, I just wanted it over.
I touched his shoulder. "Hey."
He looked down and then over at me, snapping out of it.
His eyes didn't look any different. Blank. Just blank.
"What's going on?"
He sighed heavily. "Just not a good day."
Day. Day, as in not last night. That was good. "Do you want to tell me about it?"
He shook his head and looked down again, staring off.
This was wrong. He was really weirding me out. He usually talked all the time. We talked all the time. I didn't know what to do, and it was kinda scaring me.
I touched his shoulder again. "You're kinda weirding me out, Tyler."
"I'm sorry," he said, his head jerking in my direction for a second. "I don't mean to…" He paused. "I should go."
He started to get up and I pulled him back. "No, you can stay. I just… I don't know what to do for you."
He shook his head again. "I don't need you to do anything. I just didn't want to go home. So I walked around and then ended up here."
"Where did you walk?" There. I could make conversation.
"I dunno. All over."
"How long were you walking?"
"What time is it?"
"Like one AM?"
"Since this morning."
"You walked since this morning?" Jesus Christ. "Why?"
"What were you thinking about?"
I took a deep breath. Back to bad. That could be bad. "Ok, you're scaring me."
He chuckled, but not in a funny way. "Yeah. I'll just go, ok?"
I pulled him back again when he tried to get up. "Have you eaten today?"
He shook his head.
"Do you want something to eat?"
"No, I'm not hungry."
I sighed, getting frustrated. I didn't do this kind of shit—I didn't know how. At all. "Tyler… I don't know what to do."
"You don't need to do anything. I told you, I just didn't want to go home."
"Do you wanna lie down? Crash here?"
It took him a while to answer, but he finally did. "Yeah, ok."
I got up and grabbed the pillow and blanket he'd used the first time he'd slept here and made up the couch. He sat heavily and took off his shoes, and I just waited to make sure he wasn't going to need anything.
He lay down and I thought I should ask, "Do you need anything?"
His eyes moved to me and it looked like he wanted to say something, but he didn't. "No," he said quietly instead.
I nodded, letting out a breath. "Ok. I'll… I'll be in my room if you do. Ok?"
He didn't answer, and I didn't think waiting was going to get me anywhere, so I turned and made it to the hall before he called my name.
"Yeah?" I called back. He didn't start talking, so I turned and went back to the living room. "Tyler?"
This was new. He looked scared this time.
"Can you…" He sighed. "Fuck."
He dug his knuckle into his eye. "I just don't want to be alone right now." He moved on to picking at the worn couch cushion, and he didn't look at me once.
I sighed and tried to figure out how the fuck to do this. I finally decided to sit back down. He was on his side, curled in, but there was a space left in between his head and his legs, and I sat there and turned toward his head. I didn't know what he really wanted me to do. I didn't think he meant that I should literally just sit here with him, but he didn't move at all, and he didn't ask me for anything else. He was completely silent and kept looking at the cushion.
This was kinda stupid—me just sitting there. I moved a hand to his head and ran my fingers through his hair. His eyes closed and he let out a shaky breath, so I did it again.
I could do this comfort shit. It took me a while to figure it out—probably longer than it should have.
He kept letting out those shaky breaths. "Tyler?" Oh, Jesus. He was crying. Like, really crying. The kind of crying that he was trying to keep in, but the minute I said his name it just all came out. He curled in on himself more, and because I was sitting in the middle of him, he just crowded into my body.
"It's ok, Tyler."
I think that's what you said when someone was crying. I remembered Jordan telling me that a few times when she hugged me while I cried. It was useless, but it was something to say.
I rested my hand on his neck, and then moved it down to rub his back, just letting him cry because it seemed like something he needed to get out. I didn't know what the fuck happened today to do this, but it must have been really shitty. I'd never seen him this upset. And it couldn't have been because of me.
He cried for a long time—the sobbing kind of crying. And he looked so fucking tired when he was done.
"Why don't you try to sleep?" I suggested.
He nodded without saying anything else, his eyes closed already.
I didn't know if I was supposed to stay or not. I waited until I knew he was sleeping and then I went to my room. I couldn't sleep there sitting up like that, but I didn't sleep when I got to my room, either. It bothered me, whatever he was going through, and I didn't know how to help. I didn't know what was wrong and he didn't want to tell me, so I didn't know what to do. I hated that feeling. I hated feeling helpless. And I hated feeling helpless for him.
He hadn't been asleep very long when I heard him shout out. I nearly broke my ankle running to the fucking living room. He was sitting up on the couch, and I knew exactly what had happened because it happened to me all the time. Nightmares followed fucked up days like flies on shit. I didn't have them as much anymore, but I had them all the fucking time in Vegas.
"You ok?" I asked, sitting down next to him.
He was shaky, like whatever the nightmare had been had scared the shit out of him. He nodded, but he didn't answer me.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" I asked this knowing what the answer would be. I never wanted to talk about mine either.
"No," he said, his voice just as shaky as the rest of him.
"Why don't you try to go back to sleep again?"
"I don't want to sleep anymore," he said.
"Ok." I sighed. I just sat there with him, watching his head bob and fight sleep. "Tyler, you look so fucking tired. Why don't you at least try to—"
"I said I didn't want to fucking sleep anymore!" he yelled.
I stared at him.
I nodded. "Yeah. Ok."
I didn't want him to lose his temper. He'd never lost it again since that night he came down to the strip club. I didn't want it to happen now.
"Jesus," he said, only it was like a half cry again. He scrubbed his hands over his face angrily, like he was frustrated. "I just don't want to sleep," he said quietly.
He wasn't angry—I knew this part—he was scared. Terrified of dreaming again.
"Do you want me to make some coffee?" I asked.
He let out another one of those half cries. "Yeah. That'd be great."
I got up and waited for the first cup to be done and took it to him.
"You don't have to stay up with me. I'll be fine with the coffee."
"I thought you didn't want to be alone."
"I don't. But I know you don't want to be around me right now, so I'll just drink the coffee and then I'll go."
"I didn't say I didn't want to be around you."
"You don't have to. I wouldn't want to be around me, either. I'm sorry I ruined your night."
I ignored that. "Are you going to tell me what happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"You don't think you owe me that much at least?"
The cup was at his mouth and he brought it down immediately. "Is that what this is about? I should owe you something because I wanted to come here?"
"No." That wasn't what I meant.
"I don't ask anything back when I do something for you. I don't expect you to give me an explanation. Why should it be any different if I'm the one asking? If we're friends, can't I ask?"
"I let you in, didn't I?" I threw back. "I let you crash here and shit."
He took a sip of the coffee and I could tell by his face it was still too hot, but he took another sip anyway.
"Why did you come? Why didn't you go somewhere else?"
He looked at me for a minute and then shook his head and put the cup on the floor. "I don't know. Obviously, I made a mistake."
He started putting his shoes on. Shit. That wasn't what I meant at all. I just wanted him to talk to me, to tell me why he came to me.
"Tyler. Jesus Christ. It's like two in the morning."
He didn't stop or say anything back. He stood up and started walking for the door. "Thanks for the coffee. And for letting me… whatever."
"Tyler." I went after him, pushing the door closed when he opened it. "Just fucking tell me what's going on."
He looked at me, and for the first time the entire night, I thought he was actually seeing me. "My brother died. Ok? And I just wanted… I don't know what I wanted. I don't know why I came here. I just wanted someone to…" he trailed off and grabbed the door handle again. "I'm sorry I came here. I just thought you…" He shook his head and pulled the door open. "I thought that you of all people would understand. I was wrong. I'm sorry."
I pushed the door closed again and moved to hug him. He fought me for a second while I pulled him into the hug and then leaned on me, sobbing.
He totally fell apart.
I put my hand on the back of his neck again and held him to me, pressing gentle kisses into his head. "Tyler, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
There wasn't really anything else to say. Telling him it would be ok would have been insulting at this point. Nothing could make this ok. That would have been like someone telling me everything would be ok after some asshole had just beaten me because I refused to do anal or some shit. All I could do was apologize, so I just kept that up, running my other hand over his back.
And what the fucking fuck? His brother just died and he came here after walking the entire day?
"C'mon." I said quietly, not letting go of him but pulling him with me. "C'mon, Tyler. Come with me."
I skipped the living room and pulled him down the hall with me instead, into my bedroom. He was never been in there before, and I really didn't think he was putting it together right now either. Jesus, he was a mess. I stripped him down to his boxers and T-shirt and he was such a fucking mess, I don't think he really noticed that either.
"Lie down," I said quietly, guiding him down to the bed. He just let me do it, and I realized that all night, this was what he wanted. He just wanted someone to tell him what to do, to let him fall apart and just be there.
He was lying on his back, tears still rolling back toward the bed. "Scoot over," I told him, moving him to the middle of the bed. I lay down next to him and rolled on my side. "C'mere."
He rolled into me and I held onto him while he cried, his face buried in my chest, his body shaking, and his arms around me so fucking tight, like I'd disappear if he let go. I knew that feeling, too. Like if you lost that last thing to hold onto, everything would just spin out of control completely.
He was pressed so tightly to me that our legs tangled together, my hands on his head and back. He cried himself right into an exhausted sleep. His face was all flushed and my shirt was soaked, but I didn't let him go after that either. I don't know why. I liked the feeling of him pressed against me. I liked the idea that I was actually giving him something that he needed. I'd never been able to do that for anyone. I never needed anyone. That's what I'd always told myself. And I thought Tyler was the same way—he was always ok on his own, he didn't need anybody. But maybe if he needed people sometimes, then I could, too. Maybe I could need him, too.
I slept on and off until he woke up, confused about where he was. He relaxed when he realized I was with him. I knew that he hadn't had a nightmare; there was just a different way of waking when it was from one of those.
"Where are we?" he asked quietly, half sitting up and looking down at the bed. His voice sounded completely fucked.
"My bedroom," I answered.
His head whipped back at me. "Oh."
If it had been a less serious night, I would have laughed at that.
He cleared his throat. "You… uh… brought me in here, right?"
I couldn't help smiling at that. "Yes."
He nodded. "Ok. Good."
He seemed like he didn't know what to do now. He wasn't bawling, and he glanced around the room before looking at me again. He let out a deep breath as he lay on his back again. "Uhm… I'm…"
Yeah, he didn't need to do that. "I'm sorry about your brother, Tyler."
His eyes closed for a second. "Thanks."
"I won't ask you about him… but if you want to talk about it… I'm, ya know, I'm here. Only if you want to."
His head turned to the side to look at me. I stared back until he rolled his head back again, looking up at the ceiling. "It's been six years today."
Thank fuck that it hadn't been today. It wasn't like that made it any better, but at least it wasn't the shock of today. I wouldn't have had any idea how to do that. It was still raw enough for him now. There was probably a reason for that, but I doubted I'd get it out of him. This seemed like he wasn't dealing very well with it.
He turned to look at me again and I didn't know what the fuck that meant. Was it ok to ask questions? Did he want me to leave it alone?
"What was his name?" That sounded safe. Easy.
"How old was he?" Another safe one, I thought.
Tyler was gonna be twenty-two. That made a little bit more sense.
"I'll be older than him now. In a month, I'll be older than him."
"Does that feel weird?"
"You were young when he died."
It hadn't really been a question, but he answered it with a nod anyway.
"Were you close?"
Tyler didn't answer right away, and I didn't know if that meant I'd pushed too far or not.
"I thought so," he finally said quietly.
This whole communication shit was hard and overrated. It took work. Why couldn't we all just meet and be like, 'Hi, I'm Allison. Orphaned at four. Foster at eight. Clichéd foster life. Runaway at fifteen. Stripper-slash-hooker at sixteen. Ex-hooker-slash-stripper at eighteen. Almost twenty and living in New York… as a stripper. Sworn off men after a string of horrifying situations in Vegas. Authority issues and abandonment complex according to my court-appointed mindfucker. Not certain I'm worthy of love. Not sure I know what love even is. I've only felt normal around you. And you are?'
And then he could just list his shit and we'd have it all buttoned up.
'Hi, I'm Tyler. I'm almost twenty-two, and I'm a Gemini with family issues and a dead brother who haunts me six years later. I'm occasionally an asshole, but I still think I'm a nice guy. I live with a douche named Aidan and I don't really care about anything… except I do. About everything. I'm complicated and hard to read, but if you figure me out, I think it can be really great. Nice to meet you, Allison.'
I didn't push and he started up again anyway. "He was a musician. Had a band, the whole deal. He'd just started working for my father, because musicians don't make any money and my father can be rather persuasive."
"Yeah," I filled appropriately.
"He killed himself on his birthday."
Oh, fuck. "Oh, Tyler. I'm sorry."
"That's not the best part," he said sarcastically.
"We were supposed to have lunch, and he was late. And that was really fucking strange, ya know? Because Michael was always on time for me, he always showed for me. He was like the idealistic big brother. He came to my school whenever I had stupid shit going on, or came for the soccer game even though he could have been out with friends. I adored him. And he never made me feel like I was tagging along. It was just always, 'This is my brother, Tyler. He's coming with us.' There was never a question or asking for acceptance. It was just Michael and Tyler. Like a set. Even if he was eighteen and I was twelve.
"He gave me my first beer and taught me how to ride a bike and which pizza places to stay away from because they had health code violations or the beer was warm, which was, like, the same level of wrong. He snuck me into my first R-rated movie and paid attention when I was interested in something. He'd meet me for breakfast because he knew it was important to me, and I liked to think that it was important to him, too.
"So it was weird he was late, but he came. I gave him his present, and it was just a weird lunch. And, of course, I didn't realize why at the time, I just thought it was the birthday shit or whatever, or the fact that we were having a family dinner that night and those were always so much fun. Lunch lasted a lot longer than it normally did, but I didn't care because I ate up time with him. I just thought it was cool that he was hanging out with me longer, that he didn't have anywhere else he needed to be.
"It was a Friday, and I thought it was weird he wasn't at work, but he said Dad had given him the day off for his birthday. I thought that was bullshit, but I didn't press it. I didn't know what to look for. He kept smiling at me and…"
He stopped for a minute and swallowed hard. I resisted saying anything because I knew he wasn't done.
"He was really happy with my present. It was some compilation CD I'd found with, like, the world's greatest rock guitar riffs. When we left, he said he was going home to play it right away and that he'd see me for dinner. I wished him a happy birthday again, and he hugged me and told me he loved me, and I just… didn't register any of it."
"Did he say that a lot? That he loved you?"
"Enough. Enough that I didn't think it was too weird. It was his birthday, after all." He paused. "I'd ditched school already before lunch and when it lasted longer, I mean, I had no intentions of going back anyway, so I walked around and then swung by the park for a while and decided that I could just hang out with Michael instead before we went to dinner. I knocked, but the CD was playing and I figured he hadn't heard me. And I was happy he was playing it, so I was just… completely oblivious. I knew where the spare key was so I let myself in, and I was shouting over the music, but he didn't answer me.
"I remember that I went to the fridge and got a Coke and sat down by the table… but he wasn't coming out, and so I went to look for him. Maybe he was in the shower."
He said that so innocently. I was already anticipating what was coming, and my heart was breaking for Tyler.
"I could have flushed the toilet and made the water run cold," he chuckled and shook his head. "God, I was so stupid."
"You weren't stupid, Tyler."
He ignored that.
"He wasn't in the shower, and his bedroom door was closed. That usually meant there was a chick in there with him, so I was gonna turn around, but something made me open the door." He closed his eyes.
"Tyler…" I had no idea what I was going to say. That he didn't need to tell me? He obviously needed to tell someone. I just didn't want him to feel like he had to say this if he didn't want to.
"I didn't get it at first. Like my brain wouldn't kick in, it wouldn't process what I was seeing. His apartment was unfinished, like with the exposed beams and pipes and shit. Industrial, but the ceilings were normal height…"
"He was just… it didn't look real. It couldn't have been. It was horrible."
I put my hand on his chest and rubbed gently. It wouldn't help anything, but he'd know I was there.
"You see shit like that in movies, you know? You think you know what happens." He closed his eyes again and his head shook back and forth slowly. "It's nothing like that."
I really didn't want to ask. Like, really didn't want to. "He… hung himself?"
"Yeah. I mean he'd obviously researched it—I don't think it was spontaneous that day—he knew what to do." He stopped there and I could see him recalling it; it was right there as he stared up at the ceiling.
"What did you do?" I asked, almost whispering.
My hand hadn't left his chest and his landed on top of it, his fingers curling around mine.
He shook his head. "I didn't do anything. I just stood there. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't call anyone, and I couldn't move. He was just dangling there. I wasn't stupid, I knew he was dead. It was obvious. His face was getting all purple and his tongue…" he broke off, his voice breaking.
My fingers tightened in his.
He took a deep breath and let it out shakily. "It just… I couldn't move. The phone was on the nightstand, but that would have meant going around him and I couldn't. I didn't want to."
He was crying again, but the tears were just rolling off of his face, and these were angrier tears. They didn't stop him from talking. "And I was so mad at myself because I didn't get him down or didn't try CPR, even though it would have been useless. I still wish I would have tried, but I don't think… I couldn't have looked at his face—that was not my brother.
"I don't really remember calling anyone. I must have used the phone in the kitchen, and I remember them telling me to stay calm and that they were sending someone and that I could stop screaming. I remember thinking how fucking stupid they sounded telling me to stay calm. What the fuck was I supposed to be calm for? My brother just hung himself. I didn't think that warranted calm.
"Some paramedic had me sit at the table in the kitchen as they went back to the bedroom. I think I was supposed to stay there, but I was at the fucking bedroom again and I watched them take him down and wound up puking all over the floor. I know I must have told them my name and all that, but I don't really… I was just numb.
"My father showed up a little while later. The paramedics or police or whoever kept asking me if he'd been depressed. What the fuck did it matter anymore? I'd been the last one to see him alive and they wanted a chain of events or something to determine if it was a suicide." He chuckled humorlessly. "He was dead, what did any of that matter? It wasn't like you could ask him anymore."
"My father kept asking me if he'd said anything at lunch because he hadn't left a note, and I wanted so badly to be able to tell him something, anything, tell all of them, but there wasn't anything. Sometimes I think my father blames me—that I hadn't noticed anything was off, or that he said something and I missed the sign, or that he'd cried out for help or some bullshit and I dismissed it or whatever."
"Tyler, I don't know your dad, but I'm sure he doesn't think that."
"Yeah, you don't know my dad."
Well, that was a topic we weren't raising today.
"Were you mad at him?"
"At my dad?"
"I didn't feel anything. I couldn't feel. I wasn't angry at the funeral. Or, I dunno, maybe I was angry all along. The wake was a fucking joke. They're never for the person who died; they're for the family. Most of the people there weren't even talking about Michael. The casket couldn't be open because he was all…" he faltered and then continued, "no one could say goodbye. The ones who were talking about Michael said the same fucking things: that he was such a happy person, that he was the last person they'd think would do this. This—like they couldn't even say it. There was no reason to mince words; he fucking killed himself, what was there to whisper about? And he obviously couldn't have been that happy if he hung himself, could he?
"My mother just completely fell apart, and my father was just present and unemotional. Like it was a fucking board meeting he was forced to attend. I don't think Caroline even remembers much of it, which is good. She doesn't need to remember Michael that way."
He took a breath, and I could tell he was trying to control the anger. "Everything was fake. I didn't know most of them, and I know they didn't really know Michael at all. But they were all sorry. So sorry. I thought it was so fucking ironic how fake it was, because I think Michael killed himself because he didn't want to be something he wasn't, he didn't want to be fake.
"And yeah, I was mad at him, too. He could have just told my father to stick it. He could have just talked to me. He could have done so many other things, and there's just no sense in any of it. Nothing made sense. It still doesn't. And I can't think of other shit that I could have done. There weren't any signs. I still can't find any, no matter how many times I go over it.
"I became obsessed with the idea that maybe he'd started and then didn't want to finish it, but it was too late because he couldn't get any leverage, and that he died there, slowly strangling for who knows how long, and if I would have just skipped the walk and the park, maybe I could have stopped him. They didn't do an autopsy—I wish they would have—at least then I would have known if he wanted to stop and couldn't have."
"I don't think that makes it any better, Tyler."
"No, but I'd know. I'd know that he changed his mind." His voice broke again. "If he didn't change his mind, I don't know what to do with that. Then he left me alone on purpose. Then I didn't know my brother at all."
He rolled back into me and I held him again, and Jesus fucking Christ, we were a pair. I wasn't sure what was worse: my background or his. Both were completely fucked up. And we had the scars to prove it.
And this was so fresh for him, even after six years, like he just couldn't deal with it at all, couldn't have any kind of closure. What closure was there to have?
I guess I wasn't any different. Maybe I just buttoned shit up better than he did. He did, though—this wasn't something that most people knew. It was just always there, under the surface of him. To everyone else, I'm sure he seemed happy enough. Smart and well-read, and moody because he read worldly books and shit. Because he knew shit. I don't think most people knew he was completely and totally haunted by his brother's suicide.
I was kind of proud that I did, that I knew. That he shared it with me.
And obviously there were times he needed to let it out. Maybe he never really had.
He pulled back after a while, sniffing and wiping away the remaining tears. "I'm really sorry."
"Dumping all of this on you. I didn't mean to do that. I didn't come here to just unload everything."
"Don't be sorry. I'm glad you did," I said.
He looked confused. "Why?"
I shrugged. "I think… I dunno, I understand you better. Or it just gives me a bigger picture. And we have so much more in common than we think. Not that I know what losing a brother is like, but just…"
I was careful with how I answered. "We don't come from the same places, but we've both had really fucked up things happen in our lives."
"What happened in yours?" he asked.
I shook my head and ran my hand over his cheek. "Another night."
It's not that I didn't want him to know. In some ways, having him know my whole story would make things easier, too. I felt like I understood him so much better with just this one piece of information—things fell into place, they made sense. I'm sure, for him, it would be the same when I told him about my past.
My past was really something else entirely, though. I felt like we had more in common than I thought at the start, but my past could still be the thing that made him finally throw in the towel. Being haunted by a dead brother wasn't really the same as a past that included whoring for money.
Hopefully he wouldn't see it that way. Or, if he did, he'd see where I was now and not my past. I liked this with him. I liked the way it made me feel. I liked the way that it was easy and there were no expectations. I wouldn't like giving it up.
"Thank you. For everything tonight," he said quietly.
"Thank you for telling me."
He was just watching me then. Like he had something else to say but didn't know how to say it. His voice was quiet when he did. "Can I kiss you?"
I didn't answer, I just leaned closer and he met me the rest of the way. I wasn't following my own rules, but I couldn't seem to care at the moment. I wanted to kiss him just as much as he wanted to kiss me. I hadn't wanted to kiss someone in a long time. Kissing was too personal, too intimate—it wasn't something you allowed a random fuck to do. Or at least, it wasn't something I allowed. Kissing was off limits to johns. It made things messy, crossed too many lines, made assholes think they were getting more than what they really were.
It was never like this. Even when some asshole snuck one or forced one, it was never like this. I couldn't remember how much we kissed in his apartment that day, but it wasn't like this either. I hadn't cared then, and I hadn't really cared in the alley, either. There was nothing behind it for me, no matter how good a kisser I thought he was. This. This was nothing like any of those. And maybe it was just because I was actually in it, I actually gave a shit, felt something.
Tyler's lips were so soft, and he was so gentle—like he'd break my lips if he pressed too hard. His lips just barely touched mine, just once, and then he backed away. It was like he never kissed me at all. Our bodies were close but not touching, and without his lips against mine, it felt incredibly lonely all of a sudden. I moved my lips toward his again and he met me again, pressing just as gently but leaving them there longer, and I broke another rule: never close your eyes. That was a sure way to fuck up your shit.
If you closed your eyes, you were reckless and completely unprotected. You left yourself wide open for getting rolled or fucking stabbed or fucked in the ass, whatever. It was just not good business. I knew Tyler wasn't like that, there was nothing here for him to steal or fuck me over for, but that didn't make this any less terrifying. He was working his way in, and I liked it way too much.
The kiss was the same gentle pressing, longer, but he backed away again, and when I opened my eyes his opened, too, and he smiled at me. Fuck. He had to smile. All open and fucking vulnerable himself, just poured his whole goddamn story to me, what haunted him, and it was like he was as scared of this as I was.
He didn't make any move toward me again and he seemed very careful, like he was hesitating a little. His brow furrowed. "Is this ok?"
Fuck yeah. I mean, terrified, but yeah.
"Yeah," I said, nodding, pressing my lips against his again.
I wanted the feel of them again, the fullness, the heat. He pulled back for a second and I opened my eyes to find him watching me, his lips moving back to mine again, and this time, fucking this time, he parted his lips and took my top lip between his, and fucking hell, I think my heart was trying to beat out of my chest. I wondered if he could feel it, if his was beating like that, too. Was that normal? Was that supposed to happen? All I could think was that I wanted more of it.
He stayed close to me again, pulling back, and took my bottom lip between his. This was so addicting, the warmth of his lips, the way my stomach kept fluttering when he pulled my lip in between his, the feeling of his stubble above his upper lip scraping over the top of my lip. It made it tingle, the roughness of his stubble, the wetness of his mouth. His forehead pressed against mine and I sighed as he backed off to just the gentle pressing again, his breathing slow and even and hot against my face. His eyes were closed.
He looked tired when he opened his eyes, his forehead stayed pressed to mine. His voice was quiet, breathy. "Was that ok?"
"Yeah." I nodded slowly against his head.
"I like kissing you."
I smiled. "I like kissing you, too."
He smiled back and his eyes fluttered closed.
"You can sleep here," I said quietly a second later, and I just about wanted to crawl under the bed—where the fuck else was he gonna sleep? He was already in my fucking bed and halfway there. That was so fucking stupid.
He smiled gently, though, like it wasn't the stupidest thing I'd said all night. "Thanks."
I watched his eyes close again and he fell asleep really fast. I wasn't surprised, he'd been tired all night, all the stored up shit with his brother being poured out all at once. I knew how tiring all that could be. I wasn't tired exactly, my whole body sort of humming from the kisses. It was so different from anything I'd experienced, so much better.
And he was totally fucking sleeping in my bed. Like, there were a lot of firsts tonight that he'd knocked out. People never told me shit. I never had friends or anyone who actually trusted me with shit like he'd told me tonight. And physically, no one had ever been this close to me since Jeremy. Not in this way. And Jeremy hadn't gotten the chance to get to this stage. Even though Jeremy and I had been heavier in the sex shit, this seemed… deeper. There was more going on here than there had been with Jeremy.
In a lot of ways, I trusted Tyler more, but I knew more about Tyler in the time we'd known each other than I had with Jeremy. I was so young then. It felt like such a long time ago. So much had happened since then. And Jeremy and I had never shared a bed. I'd never willingly shared a bed with a guy for just me… or him… or us. This was us. We were an 'us,' I think. I think this qualified as an 'us.'
Fuck. I wasn't sure what to do with that. But I liked having him here. I liked him in my bed. I liked the heat of him next to me. The… I dunno… security? And I was the one who invited him here—he hadn't asked to sleep in my bed, this was just where it'd seemed like the best place to comfort him. And I had done that, hadn't I?
I felt like so much happened in just the last few hours, like everything shifted yet stayed the same, too. Like he and I were no different, yet everything had changed between us. He trusted me with this huge thing and completely broke down, and I was able to help him pick up all the pieces and… there was touching, lots of nonsexual touching, and we kissed, and he was sleeping in my bed, and holy fucking hell. It was a lot. But I think… I think I was dealing with it ok. It felt ok. Good even.
I hadn't fallen asleep to good in a long fucking time.
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