"I’m a shitty big brother and an even worse boyfriend." Read, review, rate and feel my love! :P
“C’mon, Babe, he’ll be fine. You’re just overreacting.”
I look up at Bert from my steaming cup of coffee to see that he’s giving me ‘that’ grin, the one that means nothing can go wrong just because he says so. And normally that grin, with all of it’s endearing charm, works on me; the world could be ending and I would be calm just because Bert’s smiling at me with that look in his midnight-pools of knowledge that tells me everything will be okay. But right now, sat at a table in Starbucks on our lunch break, it’s doing absolutely nothing for the swelling storm in my stomach that is working against the powers of Bert’s smile.
Five days ago, last Wednesday, Ray Toro died.
That in itself is a horrible thought; even if I’d been extremely wary of him at first, or as Bert puts it I went ‘James Bond on his ass’, we grew to be good friends. He was a good kid who could do the one thing that is still desperately needed to be done. He made Mikes feel safe, he could actually get my poor baby brother to smile when I thought he was on the brink of tears; he knew all of Mikey’s secrets, all of the horrific memories that drag my baby brother down and he also knew how to make Mikes forget them, if just for a collection of heavenly minutes; he was everything that I could ever want for my baby brother and now, now the lion-hearted kid with crazy hair and the only key to my brother’s heart is gone.
I know that this might sound like the obvious thing to say, but, Mikey hasn’t been… right since Ray was pushed out of his life and onto the afterlife right in front of his very eyes.
For four days Mikey didn’t leave my bed, just stayed laying there as though waiting for something to happen. I don’t know what he was waiting for, perhaps he was waiting to wake up and for this to all just be the sort of nightmare that I often have to shake him out of, but all I do know is that it never came. That he only got up and went to school today because he most likely heard Bert moaning about how he can’t have another day off to help me look after my baby brother, about how he thinks that Mikes needs to get up and get over it. I very nearly slapped Bert for that, of course I fucking did, but by the time the sound of Mikey sobbing had reached my boyfriend’s ears I think that he felt guilty enough.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it made Mikes feel unwelcome and, most horrendously likely, unsafe enough to force him out of the one place where I told him he’d always be wanted.
So here I am, sat in the corner table of the local Starbucks with a large black coffee (courtesy of a very sheepish looking boyfriend) and about ready to burst into tears. Because I know my baby brother well enough to know two things for absolute certain.
One; he was not ready to go back to school this morning. He’s still drowning in grief and still needs to be cradled close to my chest like I’m the only thing in the world that he’s got left because, thanks to the two bastards who have the nerve to call themselves our parents, I really am. He was nowhere near ready to even consider going out in the state that he’s managed to work himself into, despite my best efforts to make him happy, but I couldn’t have forced him to stay. Not when I saw the desperately confused and agonized tornado whirling in his lost little eyes; he had to get out, had to make the decision for himself and I wasn’t about to force him into staying, not after I know that he already thinks he’s a bad person because of what our parents did to him psychologically. And then there were Bert’s eyes too; the two beacons that screamed guilt yet at the same time retained a certain level of coldness, making it perfectly clear that although he regrets Mikey overhearing it, he stands by what he said when we both thought that Mikes was still out for the count.
Two; he can’t survive that school alone. He could barely survive it with Ray holding his hand, he still came home with bruises that I very nearly wailed about because I know that a punch from a mindless school kid isn’t just some random punch to him; to him every meagre brush of fingers means panic, means recalling what contact meant to him just a few months ago. I know that Ray did his best to look out for him, to make him as safe as he deserves to simply feel, so how the fuck is he meant to survive a day without that miracle worker?
He can’t and he won’t.
Although it makes me feel like I’m causing the end of the world and being forced to watch, I have to admit that I’ve fucked up here. I’m the responsible adult here, seeing as Bert seems to only think about himself at times like these, and I’ve let my one responsibility down by letting him troop off to school like the brave boy that I know he is. No. Bert’s not selfish, it’s just Bert being Bert; thinking of the things that he knows no-one else will. It just so happens that in this case his best interests are what were neglected to be considered.
Great. I’m a shitty big brother and an even worse boyfriend. I’ve let my baby brother walk into the gates of hell alone and I’ve ignored the one person who I’m supposed to be completely devoted to. I’ve let them both down and here I am, sat opposite my scraggly-haired angel, having him comfort me with soft hand squeezes and the smile that just isn’t working when I should be the one comforting him.
“Honestly, Gee, he’ll be absolutely fine. Trust me.” Bert’s silky voice waltzes smoothly through my ears like blood down a vampire’s throat and I do honestly want to believe that warm statement of what he truly believes to be fact, but I just can’t.
Because I left Mikes alone to abuse for three fucking years and all of that time Bert was telling me that nothing was wrong, that my baby brother was fine whenever I woke up in tears of both worry and longing for the kid that became a broken man during my enforced absence. But Bert was wrong. My baby brother couldn’t have been further from fine if he was dressed up as a giant stake and locked in a cage with a pack of starved lions. Of course I’m not saying that I blame any of this on my beloved boyfriend, if it’s anyone’s fault it’s mine, all I’m saying is how can he expect me to believe him when I know for a fact that he doesn’t have any more knowledge about this than my clattered mind does?
I just can’t. Which is why I’ve had a million-and-one scenarios playing out through my head about what Mikes might be being forced into right now without Ray to defend him and with his horrendous grief making him all the more dangerously vulnerable; none of those scenarios are at all pleasant.
My eyes drop heavily back to the black nectar sat lifelessly in front of me, the steam floating up in wispy tendrils to infect my nostrils with the sensuous scent of the liquid that I am oh-so-familiar with. Maybe that’s why I love coffee so much; in a world and life where everything’s been shaken up more times than is humanly bearable, it is nice to have one constant thing, one taste that accompanies so many good memories of chilling with people who I now remember less than I remember the liquid-gold that makes me feel warm on the inside. Warm and safe.
Just like I could make Mikes be if he were still at home in my bed, just like he should be. Away from all thoughts of grief and pain and abuse; he should just be focused on being a kid. Apart from everything childish about him was torn away the second that my mother’s fingernails tore away his skin, the second that my father decided that it was a big, manly thing to do to kick his own son whilst he was still gurgling out blood and splayed across the floor. At least, that’s how I can imagine it happening based on what I hear Mikes whimper in his sleep and from the wounds that I had to take him to the hospital to have sorted out. I let that happen to him and that’s a weight that I shall have to drag along behind me for the rest of my life; the kid who always love and trusted and looked up to me, is now a burning wreck of a being because of me. Because I failed him.
And now I’m failing him again by letting him do something that any responsible adult would never have let him face. Not alone and not yet.
“Hey, look at me, Gerard.” Bert whispers in that blanket-soft voice of his that he only ever uses when he can tell that I’m upset, usually by something that he’s caused. Which is exactly why I always forgive him. “Babe, trust me.”
He tilts the iceberg point of my chin up with his coffee-warmed hands so that we’re gazing at each other across the table, his contact sending choruses of pleasure through my nervous system just like his contact always does. Just like it hasn’t been for the past few months purely because I’ve been too busy seeing to it that my baby brother is settling in well and starting on the road to psychological recovery rather than having close, adoring sessions of exaltation with my boyfriend of four years. But what can I say? Bert and I have a lifetime to be close, my baby brother on the other hand needs care and comfort imminently. Because I was too stupid to see what our parents are like to him, how they crushed every part of him; soul and all.
Bert’s eyes lock cautiously with my own, our pupils pulling one another in until it feels like out stares have tied us together, Bert leaning halfway across the table to be closer to me; his thumb running over my cheek to capture a tear that I hadn’t even realised I had released.
“Mikey’s sixteen. He can look after himself and he will be fine. You can’t coddle him away forever, Gee.” I see something other than love flash in his night-time-ocean coloured orbs, something that reminds me of all of the times he’s said exactly the thing that he shouldn’t have; the majority of those times revolving around my precious baby brother. “It’s not good for him, having you pandering to him like this. It’s not good for him, it’s not good for you and it sure as fuck isn’t any good for Us.” He all but hisses the last part, his hands sliding from my disbelieving face like blood down a paled wrist; emphasising the point.
Ouch. Really, just, ouch.
He’s gone and done it again; kicked me right in the heart just after managing to make it beat again. Just like with the whole drinking-in-the-house thing, just like with the whole giving up my baby brother thing, just like with what he did this morning Bert has shown me the side to my boyfriend that I’d much rather forget ever existed. The side that makes me want to punch him in the face for practically asking me to choose between my baby brother and my lover; between the person who needs me the most out of anyone else on this planet and the one person who should, in theory, know me well enough to understand that I need him now more than ever.
Apart from if Bert’s going to be like this about it all, acting as though it’s all Mikey’s fault that the poor kid has it so tough, then I’d really rather not be anywhere near the bastard. Because he’ll end up saying something that we’ll both regret, something that will obliterate my heart once again.
I swear that half of the time I don’t know why I’m still with Bert, why I put myself and Mikey through his mood swings on a daily basis in the hope that he’ll just understand how much Mikes means to me and just accept that he might not be the most important thing in my life anymore. No. I do know why; it’s because I love him. Apart from love isn’t anywhere near strong enough to describe what I feel for Bert McCracken, it’s like just being in his presence more than makes up for all of those times that he’s driven me to tears because his eyes are like a cure for all misery when they are full of the part of Bert that I adore; the part that’s gentle and kind and loving and apologetic and perfect.
But he’s just human. And humans can’t be perfect; myself and Bert are prime examples of that.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t get mad at him for speaking about my baby brother as though he’s some unwanted piece of baggage that we’ve been lumbered with because nobody else wants him. Nobody does want him, our parents are in jail for child abuse and the rest of our relatives turned their collective back on us when they found out that I made Mikes work with me to make our parents pay for the trauma that they put him through, but I do. I’m his big brother and my love for him is more than that of any complete family. Or at least, I like to think that it could be. If only Bert could learn to love him too, to be the awesome big brother that I know he can be if he wants to be.
So I guess I’ll have to make him want to be. For Mikes.
I sigh, letting out all of my frustration out in one restless huff of air, and slump back in my chair to match Bert’s posture; the kind that screams both apathy and agony, anger and sorrow, lost and longing. Bert really isn’t all that bad, he just doesn’t see things the same way as I do. He just misses the times when it was just Us, but I know that we can have even better times now that we’re a three-piece family as opposed to a young couple trying to make it on their own. He’s tired, too; neither of us have been getting much sleep for the past five nights, we keep getting woken up by Mikey’s violent fishlike-thrashing and that’s been getting on his nerves too. Nerves that can’t last forever.
“Bert, it isn’t just Us anymore, not just the two of us anyway. It’s Mikes too and he’s goin-“
“I fucking know that, Gerard!” He snaps across me like a machinegun’s ammo into the skull of an innocent child, making me choke on my words and gawp at him in heartfelt hurt shock. “You never let me forget it and, to be honest, it’s really fucking annoying. Kids have been through worse, what makes Mikes so special?”
He’s my baby brother. He’s innocent. He’s a kid that we can actually help. He’s sweet. He’s naïve. He’s frightened. He’s had everything he ever had ripped away from him. He’s a part of our little family.
Apart from it’s not our little family, is it?
I don’t want Mikes to have another family that is all too sickeningly happy to hate him, to make him feel like shit when all he really needs is picking back up again. I don’t want my baby brother to have to live in fear anymore and that’s what Bert’s being right now, frightening. He really is frightening me, the one person that he’s meant to love more than anything, with the way that he’s talking. It’s like he just doesn’t care about Mikes, like he honestly would rather have the kid still living with the monsters that drove him to be who he is than have him living under the same roof as us.
I could slap him. I could punch him. I could yell at him. I could leave him.
Instead I curl over myself and do the one thing that I haven’t been able to openly do for the past few days through a primal need to be strong for my crumbling baby brother; I cry. I bury my face in my hands and just let it all out, taking refuge in the fact that I know this will get to Bert more than anything else. He may be cruel sometimes, but he really does love me, really does feel guilty whenever he makes me sad because that’s just how he is; just one tiny flaw to my beloved lover.
“Shit. Gerard, please don’t cry. Please. I just…” His voice trails of helplessly, leaving a trail of excruciating warmth behind it as he rests a hand on my shuddering shoulder, trying to make amends for something that he knows I will forgive him for; I have to, I love him. “I just got stressed out and I’m sorry, Babe. I really am.”
I feel his feather fingers cup my tear-doused cheeks once more, forcing me to look into his own teary eyes; eyes that make me instantly forgive him because I can see nothing but raw regret and love pooling within in them.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve let Mikes down, that he is probably nothing but a nervous wreck right now.
“It’s okay, Honey. I love you, y’know?” I try to smile at him to reinforce my tear-weakened words, yet I end up sobbing even louder and leaning even further across the table to get close to the one person who really does understand me. “I worry about him so much, Bert.”
He strokes a hand through my hair, breathing softly into my ear as though he knows how secure his hold makes me feel.
“Me too, Babe, me too. But he’ll be fine, you’ll see. He’ll come home from school even better than when he went out. I promise.”
And I believe him.
Because he loves me too much to lie.
A/N: Thank you very much for reading; I hope that this is alright! This chapter felt kinda boring, so sorry about that. Thanks for reading and please review! :)