Lou and Chris have their talk. But does it go as Lou planned?
There was an awkward silence for a few minutes, neither of us knowing what to say or how to break it. Finally, my brother sighed.
“Soooo…” he said uncomfortably.
“Soooo…” I echoed, fidgeting slightly.
“Have the boys been looking after you?” Chris asked, using the question to break the tension. I nodded, not looking his way.
“Yeah. They’ve been great,” I said softly, thinking of how nice they'd all been, especially Spencer. I felt a little smile creep onto my face and I turned my head away so Chris wouldn’t see.
“Good,” he said. More silence followed, punctuated by the low mumble of an engine, meaning the bus had started up again. “So, umm… when Ryan called this morning, he said you wanted to talk?”
My stomach twisted with nerves and my mouth went dry. I had no idea what I should say or do next. I swallowed hard, feeling a large lump in my throat.
“I understand if you hate me and never want to see me again,” I mumbled quietly.
“What?!” Chris exclaimed, astounded. “Why the hell would you think something like that?”
“Why did you believe me?” I asked, sounding desperate. “I could have been making it all up that day at the hotel, and you could have fallen for a whole bunch of lies.”
“Do you want me to not believe you?” Chris said angrily. “Because right now, I’m starting to think that maybe you don’t want me on your side. Lou, I know you weren’t lying; you can’t make shit up just like that – I saw what you were like, I saw what Mom and Dad did to you. And it might be hard to believe that I actually care about your welfare, but unlike you, I’m not blind. I know what I saw. Lou, what the fuck is going on with you?”
My face heated up at the blind comment, and I felt like I’d been slapped. “What do you want me to say, Chris? What the fucking hell do you freaking want from me? I’ve changed, you know. I’m not that innocent little girl that you always have to protect. Did you think about that? No, I reckon you were just trying to play the hero, like you always do. Well, guess what? I’m fucking sick of being left out and treated like shit, like I’m nothing, and don’t you fucking dare come in here and pretend you know how it feels, because you don’t freaking know!” My voice had risen to the point where I was almost yelling, but I didn’t care anymore.
“So fucking tell me!” Chris was straining to keep his voice down and his tone calm, but it wasn't working. “You know what your problem is? You don’t freaking tell anyone about anything that’s bothering you! Just because your eyes are blank, doesn’t mean you have to use them like a freakin’ mask and hide all the time. You’re allowed to actually feel emotions, you know. Would it hurt to let people in every once in a while? Is that too much to ask for?”
“For your information, I have talked to people!” I shot back, glaring angrily at where his body was.
“Oh, yeah, you’ll talk to them but you won’t talk to me,” Chris snorted. “Lou, you barely freakin’ know these guys, and already you’re spilling all your secrets around them but keeping your mouth closed when you talk to me?”
“Fuck you, you bastard,” I snarled, inwardly surprised at how angry and defensive I was getting. But then it was no surprise, really; they were my first friends, and to hear my brother trash-talk them got something inside me fired up. “Don’t you fucking tell me what I can and can’t do. ‘They’ have names, you know, and they’ve been way more supportive and understanding over the last few days than you have in eighteen years. Don’t you fucking dare talk to me about letting people in when you’ve made no effort to talk to me about it in the first place.” I shook my head, standing up. “I thought you would hate me, for turning you against our so-called parents and for keeping something like this from you, but Ryan convinced me that you wouldn’t be anything like them. But I guess he was wrong, wasn’t he?” Moving to the door, I groped around before opening it. I went to walk out but froze when I head Chris speak.
“I am nothing like our parents. And by the time you fucking realise that, it will be too late. You can’t keep pushing people away, you know. Sooner or later there’s gonna be no one left. And then you’ll be sorry.” I threw the door shut behind me, not caring that I crashed into nearly everything in my haste to get away from the spiteful tones of my brother. I was saved from having to open the door at the end, hearing Jon say, “Is everything okay? We heard raised voices.”
“Fine,” I said, brushing past him clumsily; I didn’t know exactly where he was or how many steps it would take me to get into the front lounge. A wave of heinous anger washed over me and I crossed my arms, glaring at nothing in particular. “Talk to him, you said,” I spat out furiously, addressing Ryan, wherever he was in the room, “be honest with him. Oh yeah, and look how well that turned out.”
“I… What?” He sounded stunned. I threw up my hands.
“You know what? Fuck that. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t fucking – ” With a dry sob, I pressed my good hand to my face, hunching my shoulders. Yankee whined unhappily, nosing my thigh.
“Lou,” Ryan started softly.
“No, Ryan, don’t,” I said firmly, raising my head. “You’ve done more than enough already.” There was a rustle and then a shoulder pushed past me roughly; not hard enough to hurt me, but enough to make me sway and stumble as I lost my balance slightly. I took a shuddering breath as there was the sound of curtains being closed aggressively.
“Oh, Louie,” Brendon sighed, standing up to wrap me in a hug. If I had had more control of myself, I would have protested at the stupid, childish nickname. Instead, I let him hug me, feeling Jon’s large hand rub my back softly.
The bad thing about being on tour was the tight schedule, meaning that no matter how much I wished for it, we couldn’t stop and kick my brother’s ass off the bus, which made things a hell of a lot more difficult. He stayed in the back lounge of the bus, while I was now sitting in between Spencer and Jon on the small lounge in the front. They had managed to calm me down, and because Brendon was Brendon and got on with pretty much everyone, he was sent back to socialise with my brother.
I sighed, feeling Jon readjust the ice pack around my wrist again. I was really starting to hate the damn thing.
“So, I’m feeling like kinda a jerk about what I said to Ryan,” I mumbled, feeling Spencer turn and look at me.
“He was just trying to help,” he said gently.
“I know,” I answered. “That’s why I feel so bad about biting his head off.” I sighed. “My life is so messed up. Fuck, I’m so messed up,” I added with a groan.
“Hey, it’s not your fault,” Jon said comfortingly while he put an arm around me and Spencer squeezed my hand. “It’s not like you asked for things to be this way.”
Cautious footsteps announced Brendon’s presence. “Chris wants to talk to you.” I didn’t even ask who he was addressing. I put my free hand over my face, rubbing it before saying venomously, “Well, I don’t want to talk to him.”
“Lou,” Spencer sighed.
“In case you haven’t noticed,” Jon said lightly, “you’re kinda stuck on a bus with him for the next couple of hours.”
“I’ll just hang out with you guys,” I said, hoping that they’d get the hint and move on to another topic. They didn’t.
“It’s not that we don’t appreciate or want the company,” Brendon began, “but there’s someone who wants it more than we do waiting in the back.” I crossed my arms, pulling my hand from Spencer’s and wincing as I accidentally bumped my wrist.
“No,” I said stubbornly, a frown etched onto my face. Someone sighed.
“Can’t say I didn’t try,” Brendon said. “Move over, Yankee.” There was a whine, then a thump and clack of claws on the floor. Yankee padded off to another corner of the bus, where I heard him exhale and yawn loudly before sliding to the floor.
“Look, guys,” I hurriedly said before they could say anything else. “I really, really don’t want to talk about this right now, okay? I just… I don’t. Not now. So can we please talk about something else?”
Spencer bumped our shoulders together carefully. I let my arms fall from their position across my chest to my lap.
“I get that you don’t want to talk about it,” he told me, “but… you know. You can’t keep it bottled up inside you forever.”
“I know. I won’t,” I promised softly. I felt him give me a long look.
“Hey.” Spencer lowered his voice so only I could hear him. “If you ever want someone to keep you company or to talk to… It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve listened to someone’s problems. And it probably won’t be the last, either. So, you know. The offer’s there.” I breathed gently, feeling myself relax and loosen up a little, and slowly, I put my head on his shoulder as a sign that I was grateful. I raised it again after a few seconds in case the situation got awkward.
Jon and Brendon changed the topic like I requested, talking about a party they were invited to when they got to L.A. Apparently, it was being held by some guy called Pete. I listened to them talk, feeling oddly comfortable between Jon and Spencer.
I had just relaxed completely when I flinched suddenly, my head jerking up. Heavy footsteps pounded their way to the front of the bus with purpose. My eyes widened and I tensed again, ready to become defensive if I needed to. The feet stopped in what seemed like the middle of the floor.
“Fine. If you won’t come to me, I’ll come to you,” my brother said, anger heating his words. “I don’t fucking care if I have to say this in front of everyone else. I’m sorry, okay? Your defensive attitude just pissed me off so much, and I didn’t mean what I said. You’re my baby sister, Lou – I love you, and so of course I want to try and protect you. I know I’m a shitty big brother. I know, okay? I’m never there when you need me, and I didn’t notice anything between you and Mom and Dad like I should have. Do you know how fucking bad that makes me feel? I don’t, I don’t even know my own family! You have no idea what finding you in that hotel room did to me, and knowing that I couldn’t have done anything to prevent it… You mean so much to me, Lou. I don’t want to lose you. I guess I was just jealous because you didn’t talk to me about any of this, and you told the band instead. I’m supposed to be your big brother; listening to your problems and trying to fix them is supposed to be my job. I just… It made me feel like you didn’t trust me anymore. I’m so sorry, okay?” Chris’ voice dropped lower. “I’m so fucking sorry.”
I had been sitting still the entire time my brother had been speaking. When he finished, I pushed myself to my feet slowly. I shuffled forward, reaching out slightly until I felt Chris take my hand. He pulled me to him and I melted into his embrace, whispering how sorry I was too. He rested his chin on my head, tightening his hold until it was almost suffocating me. I squeezed back just as hard with my good arm, and we stayed like that for a few minutes, our physical touch saying much more than our words ever could.
“Aww, you guys are so cute,” Brendon teased.
“Oh, shut up,” I told him, pulling back from Chris a bit. I could feel him staring at me. “What?” I asked, turning back to him.
“Nothing,” he said. “Just looking at how beautiful my little sister has gotten these last few years. I’ll have to do my duties as a scary big brother and chase all the boys off,” he joked. There was a loud cough from Jon that I was sure meant something, but I had no idea what.
“You be quiet too,” I said as I rolled my eyes.
“I’m serious!” Chris said. “Oh, dammit. I forgot to pack my baseball bat in my bags,” he added, pretending to sound put out.
“Stop it,” I said, hitting his chest lightly. “You don’t need to go chasing off boys because there aren’t any.”
“You mean there’s girls?” Jon laughed.
“You’re a lesbian?” Chris chuckled, keeping the joke going.
“No! Argh, that’s it. We are so not talking about my sexuality right now,” I said, stepping back from Chris and putting my hands on my hips. The boys sniggered. “And for the record, I’m perfectly straight!”
And then, of course, being boys, they all managed to turn my last comment into a conversation about who they’d turn gay for and who they thought would make the best-looking celebrity lesbian couples.
Sinking down on the floor and pulling Yankee – who had rejoined us – close to me so I could thread my fingers through his soft fur, I could only roll my eyes and snort with disbelief at some of their suggestion, occasionally laughing at names.
This is what I have to spend the next few weeks with? I thought, smiling softly. I shook my head. Teenaged boys. They were the same wherever you went.
“Boys will be boys,” I whispered to Yankee, who yawned loudly in response. I took that for an agreement.
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