[community profile] mini_nanowrimo: week 2

Nov. 8th, 2008 04:11 pm
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One of the things Michael had always loved about Liam – from a distance, mind – was how much space the other boy took up.

For as long as Michael had known him, Liam was completely unapologetic about anything. He just didn't seem to care. He didn't care that he was gay in a predominately Catholic neighborhood; he didn't care that he dressed glam and wore lip gloss and eyeliner and glitter while the few other gay boys around were doing everything they could to avoid those stereotypes; he didn't care that his drug use was the worst-kept secret in Massachusetts; he didn't even care that everyone hated his ugly coat.

He just didn't seem to notice when people took offense to him. He took up all the space in any given room, was enthusiastic and outgoing and cheerful about the most meaningless things, never minded being the center of attention.

As quiet and shy as Michael was when he had first arrived, Liam's brash fearlessness had been intensely attractive.

Now, though, Michael wondered how much of that had been the real Liam Donnelly and how much had been the cocaine he'd been relying on a lot more than anyone suspected.

Stripped of his drugs, dressed in plain jeans and an oversized Red Sox t-shirt Michael suspected probably belonged to one of his brothers, no makeup or glitter to be seen – Liam didn't look like himself. He looked small, and fragile, and almost broken.

It scared the hell out of Michael.

At least he still had the ugly coat.

Neither of them spoke for a moment. Liam looked unfocused, not quite in the room; his hands were shaking as he scratched at his leg absently.

Finally Liam said, "Why are you here?" His voice, even – his voice now was smaller, softer, unhappier.

"I wanted to see you." Michael thought it over, because even he could tell that wasn't the whole answer. You didn't ditch classes and subject yourself to an interrogation by four protective older brothers and a borderline-insane older sister, just to see a guy you'd barely spoken to before, a guy you'd kissed once at a party and never genuinely connected to. He added, "I was worried about you."

Liam shrugged and didn't meet his eyes.

"How was...?" Michael winced at the word, but since Liam showed no signs of answering the unspoken question, he forced it out: "...rehab?"

"They took away my drugs," Liam said, his voice odd.

"I'm sorry."

That sparked something that was almost a smile. Not quite. "You're sorry I'm not still on coke?"

"That's not what I meant!"

The almost-smile faded away. "I know."

Another, even more awkward silence, before Michael took a deep breath and said, "I missed you."

"You don't even know me."

"I know." Liam looked completely fucked up, and it was screwing up Michael's ability to think coherently. He took another breath before trying again: "I want to, though."

Liam shook his head and said, "No you don't. I promise." That was when Michael realized that the reason his voice sounded so odd was because he was trying not to cry. "I don't even want to know me."

Michael swallowed. "I should go," he said.

Liam said, "Yeah," and didn't stand up. Then he said, "Michael?"

"Yeah?"

"Don't come back, okay?"


*~*~*


The banshee sang every night the week before Julia died, and Susan tried her hardest not to notice.

She was too busy doing everything she could to forget that Julia was dying. She didn't need the banshee telling her what she wanted so desperately not to know. But it was hard to forget – even without the mournful wails, Susan would have seen it every moment in the dark circles under her lover's eyes, the ever-more-pronounced cheekbones, the bruises that came from nowhere and wouldn't go away. It wasn't fucking fair.

Not Julia, she prayed. Take anyone else. Take me. But not Julia.

Julia obviously knew what Susan wanted to ignore, and played along. She wore colorful scarves to hide the sores on her neck and face. She got up every day at least long enough to get properly dressed, regardless of how much it clearly hurt. She talked, incessantly, happily, about all the things we'll do when I'm recovered enough, love.

She fell asleep every night listening to the fairy woman keening her deathsong, and that made her smile even as it made Susan cry silently, secretly.

The night Julia died, Susan was sitting on the bed holding her hand and talking too fast, telling her I love you over and over, and the banshee was silent.

Susan didn't know why. With Julia dead, was her job done? Or was she simply paying respect, giving Susan the space and silence she needed to grieve? She decided she didn't care. The empty space in the house that had once been filled by a vibrant, living person – by Julia – was enough to break her heart, she didn't need to waste time pondering the motives of the aos sí.

It wasn't until nearly a month later that Susan thought about the banshee again.

She was sitting at Julia's grave, as she'd spent much of the month, when she felt someone approach – which was odd. No one usually bothered her here. She looked up.

An unnaturally beautiful woman stood there. Later, Susan would be unable to remember anything specific about how she had looked, except that she was beautiful, and her cloak was gray.

"Julia's dead," Susan told the banshee numbly.

"Aye," the banshee agreed.

"I don't know what to do."

The banshee thought about it. Then she said, "You'll live. You'll grieve. You'll move on. Some days you'll forget her. Some days you'll remember her and it will hurt all over again, just like the day she died. Some days you'll remember her and it will be like she's standing next to you and everything is fine. Sometimes you will be happy. Sometimes you will be sad. And then you will die."

Susan didn't say anything.

The banshee looked at Julia's grave. "She was of a noble family," she said, her voice regretful.

"She was wonderful," Susan said sharply.

"She loved you," the banshee said, and Susan's throat felt too tight to allow her to speak. "She was happy."

"She was too young to die." Susan blinked away tears and looked at the inscription on Julia's tombstone. Julia Kathleen O'Brien. 1980 – 2008. Beloved. Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot fix.

"They all are," the banshee said mournfully.

When Susan looked up again, she was alone in the graveyard.


*~*~*


The bruises are an ugly shade of yellowish green (greenish yellow?), now, and she touches them gingerly. The biggest one, the one on her right kneecap, is speckled with red and purple marks. She can't remember her high school biology classes well enough to know what that means. She can't remember if they covered that in high school biology.

"Are you coming anytime soon?"

"Yeah, I'm on my way."

There's a Sharpie in the drawer under the sink. She takes it out and writes this isn't real right above her knee. On her ribcage, she carefully prints don't forget this. She scribbles don't let anyone see on her left arm.

She puts on her clothes, puts the Sharpie back in the drawer, makes sure everything is left the way it was, and goes out.

"Took you long enough."

"Sorry."

When she wakes up the next morning and undresses for her shower, she sees the smeared marker and wonders who wrote on her, and what the cryptic messages mean.

Her bruises are almost gone.


*~*~*


He doesn't know what it's like to be alone anymore.

Sometimes he wonders about it. Tries to imagine it. Tries to remember what it was like. Back when he could take a moment and be just by himself, alone in the room, alone in his head. It never works. It's beyond his comprehension now.

But he wishes...

There's blood in the sink. He cleans it up mechanically and ignores the voice of –

He ignores the voice.

This isn't my fault, he says at last, and the voice of the other stills for just a moment. This isn't what I wanted, he says.

I'm sorry, the other says. It's too late now.

He doesn't say anything.

This isn't my fault, the other says petulantly. I didn't ask to be here.

He puts the bloody cloths in the washing machine, fills it with water and soap, starts the cycle. Sorry, he says.

And for once the other is silent.

But he's still not alone.


*~*~*


"I think this was a bad idea," Liam said, tugging at a loose string on the hem of his t-shirt.

"Why do you think that?"

"Because my brothers can be the most judgmental beings on the face of the planet?"

Paul snorted. He turned off the car and turned to look at Liam. "I've been judged before. No big."

Liam eyed him skeptically. "We're Catholic. That's a whole new level of judgment."

That got a grin – "I've dated Catholic boys before."

"...seriously?"

"Liam." Paul grabbed his hand, pulled it away from the loose string. "I wanna meet your family."

Liam bit his lip and tried not to smile too much. But... "I'm pretty sure they don't want to meet you." He looked down at his old sneakers. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. I know I'm not exactly bring-home-to-Mom-and-Dad material." Which was, all things considered, the closest Paul ever got to self-doubt.

"My siblings are worse than parents. And Tommy's gonna take one look at me, and he's gonna know I'm using again, and then he's gonna look at you, and he's gonna know you use, and he's gonna make out like it's your fault even though it's totally not, and – "

"Liam, breathe."

Liam took a deep breath. "Okay," he said at last. "I'm okay."

"Are you?" Paul asked, amused, twining his fingers through Liam's.

"Well, I really need a fucking line, but aside from that." He paused. "I really need a fucking line."

"I don't think it's gonna help me make a better impression on your siblings if we're both high when we walk in there."

"That's why I need the line," Liam said, picturing the expressions on his brothers' and sister's faces when he brought Paul in.

Paul considered that for a moment, then said, "Well, they're not expecting us for another half hour, right?"

They stumbled into Sara Donnelly-O'Kelly's Cambridge apartment fifteen minutes late, and the reception was about what they'd expected.

"You must be Paul," Ryan said with a sort of forced cheerfulness. Ryan always was the one to try to make things go easier for Liam, which was why he was consistently Liam's favorite brother, but that didn't mean he approved of Liam's life any more than the rest of their family did.

"If I must be." Paul grinned, a little too widely; he'd been briefed on Ryan along with the rest of Liam's family. They shook hands, and Liam chewed on the inside of his lip anxiously.

Tommy, he couldn't help but notice, had somehow managed to vanish from the room in the time between Liam and Paul's entrance and Ryan's attempt at civility.

"Liam," Sara said with a fixed smile, "Could you give me a hand in the kitchen for a moment?"

Like he could possibly say no to the girl who pretty much raised him. He nodded and followed her, throwing Paul an apologetic look.

In the kitchen, Sara handed him a can of Coke and said, "Are you fucking high, you moron?"

Well, no one ever accused any of the Donnelly siblings of subtlety. Or tact.

"No," Liam said unconvincingly.

She ignored that. "You are such an idiot. Tommy is going to kill you, did you realize that when you were snorting up?"

"I – "

"Not to mention what he'll do to your boyfriend, and Conor and Kieran will probably help."

"Saraaa."

She pulled out a box of Triscuits and raided the fridge for cheese. When in doubt, cook, that was Conor's motto; the lone Donnelly sister was not so domestic. "Look, kid, you're one of my favorite people in the whole world, you know that, right? And, I mean, I'm sorry Tommy and I weren't better at being parents to you – "

"You're not my parents."

"I know that!" She practically threw the cheese at him. "Will you listen to me for five minutes?"

He shrugged.

"The point is you're my baby brother and I feel like I was kind of a surrogate mom to you and I love you a lot, okay, Lee? But that doesn't change the fact that you screw everything up." Before he could come up with an answer, she thrust a plate at him. "Here. Take that out there before the boys kill Paul. Or scar him for life."

Liam took the plate back out.

Paul didn't look nervous, but that was probably because he was high. If he were sober he'd know that Conor, Kieran, and Ryan were watching him with expressions they usually reserved for people who were about to suffer horrible, bloody injuries. Liam thrust the plate of crackers and cheese at Conor, who spared a brief moment to look at it in silent judgment of his sister, and slipped in next to Paul.

"Paul was just telling us that he's an accountant," Ryan said.

"Yeah?"

"That work out well when you're off your head on drugs?"

Paul's smile didn't falter. "I do pretty good."

Liam busied himself opening the Coke Sara had given him, then promptly spilled it all over himself.

That was about when Tommy came back in, glaring at his youngest brother and the young man he'd brought home, looked at the spilled soda, and said, "Well, that's symbolic, isn't it?"

Ryan winced out loud, which probably meant that was a bit harsh even coming from Tommy. It took Liam a moment, but he got it; he sucked at his Coke-soaked sleeve, and said, "Hi to you too, Tommy."

"William."

That was worse. Nobody ever called him William.

Tommy continued, "Well, so much for the last round of rehab, huh?"

"Tommy," Sara snapped, storming in from the kitchen with her hands wrapped around a mug of coffee. Her knuckles were almost white. "You think you're helping anything?"

"I don't think anything can help Liam anymore," Tommy snapped back.

"Tommy, shut the hell up already," Conor hissed, standing up.

"Knock it off, Conor."

From there it just completely fell apart, devolved into a blatant fight; Conor and Sara and Ryan on one side, the back-off-on-Liam-before-you-drive-him-to-something-worse side, Tommy and Kieran on the right-because-Liam-could-find-something-worse side, and Liam just wanted to disappear.

But Paul took his hand and squeezed it gently, and that made even Tommy's viciously obvious disapproval almost bearable.


*~*~*


The bookstore opened almost six months ago, and since then he's had nothing but trouble.

Mostly minor things. Misplaced receipts. The cash register coming up short at the end of the day. Things gone missing from inventory.

He's taken every security measure possible. He knows his staff isn't stealing from him.

He can't keep a computer running in that place for more than a week. The front window is broken every morning when he comes in, no matter how many times he replaces it. Bookshelves fall apart despite being securely built and carrying far less than they're rated for. A fire breaks out in the back room, destroying a thousand dollars' worth of books; the fire department can't come up with an explanation for how it started.

Shire, the store cat, watches everything from her perch on one of the bookshelves. He doesn't know how she got up there (who ever knows, with cats?) but she refuses to come down; whenever he carefully returns her to a lower perch, she stays put until his back is turned, and the next thing he knows, she's back up there.

He thinks she knows what's going on.

He thinks he's going crazy.


*~*~*


"I wish," she says, and stops.

That's what got them all into this mess, isn't it? Wishing?

But they're all looking at her expectedly, wanting her to fix it, and how can she let them down?

I wish...

Jack started it all, wishing for fame; the next thing they knew his face was plastered all over the news, wanted fugitive dead or alive reward, and everyone knew him, and this wasn't what he wanted.

So Laura tried to fix it, wishing for Jack's innocence to be known; Jack was pardoned for the original crime, but three or four others were charged to him, and Laura charged as his accomplice.

Tristan tried next, wishing that the whole thing would blow over; a courthouse exploded, and the bombing was pinned to Tristan as a known accomplice of Jack and Laura.

Now it was up to her to fix it, but she didn't know what to say. She didn't know how to fix it without making it worse.

I wish...

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