Sean/Elijah. "From the moment you knew he was involved, there was a static hum in your veins ..."
Description: L*otrips, S/E. PG-13. Looking back.
From the moment you knew he was involved, there was a static hum in your veins, a tiny frisson of adrenalin, a mild cocktail kick of excitement and fear. This could be interesting, you thought. Educational. Terrifying. Instantly, you styled yourself the sidekick. A self-deprecating, pre-emptive mind-bluff designed to soften the blow. Like that ever worked for you. But something hovering just beyond reason told you to ready all your armour.
Research. You studied each luminous frame, alternately crediting and dismissing accidents of beauty and light, truth and perception, triumph and failure. The real deal? Hard to tell. We'll see, you said.
And then, the meeting. Over so fast. A radiant smile, an embrace. A confused blur of hair and energy, a heat-seeking gaze and professional aplomb. Fake familiarity seasoned by something sharper, you thought. Curiosity? Hope? The faint drumming in your heart grew more insistent.
Two weeks in and suddenly all your teenage fears and fancies had morphed into flesh. Like the world's richest, weirdest high school, a competitive, testosterone-soaked micro-world revelled in its own uniqueness and audacity. Amidst the free-wheeling excitement, high on chance and expectation, everyone was in love, with themselves, the moment and each other. Factions coalesced and he was a natural, born-to-be centre of the most outrageous. A dirty-mouthed angel with fingers bitten to the bone. A loving bully with a wicked tongue and a smile that could save the world. You've never made that team, you told yourself with a flicker of pain. You never wanted to before.
You spent your time patiently circling, looking for a way in. You can never imagine simply being wanted for yourself. You need props, motivation, a role. Then he handed it to you. Looking back, you realise that first screw-up was genuine, the rest suspiciously reckless. Rescue gave opportunity for extravagent gratitude, hugs, a declaration of dependence. Perhaps he liked your solicitude. Perhaps he was only reaching out, taking care of you, honouring your need to be needed. Appreciation strips your armour, reels you in. You needed a connection with him beyond the day-to-day, but work was all you had on which to mirror your approach. He got it, got you, with a perception that was startling in your eyes.
It built from there, the extraordinary push-pull dynamic that held you both together on a journey that never seemed real to you, then or now. He alone was real and constant, in that patchwork of insanity, of sweat, dirt and exhaustion; of fractured nerves and freezing, boiling extremes. In all the seeming chaos, all your faith, all your trust coalesced in him. At your lowest, you only had to look at him to feel amazed that you had somehow stumbled into history at his side. There were perfect days, too. Glorious days, the kind you'd always dreamed of. When you scored a perfect touchdown and saw it in his face. When you felt you'd earned the right, and when even that ceased to matter, in the headier joy of doing great work with someone so gifted, so in tune. He was a revelation, beyond anything you'd imagined, yielding yet unbreakable, with a serenity and confidence dazzling to one steeped in doubt. His patient support was your lifeline, his unfailing generosity removed your last defence.
Were you in love with him then? Who wasn't? Straddling worlds like a time-travelling gypsy, he effortlessly embodied an ancient spirit with such unsettling beauty that it was never mentioned. Yet co-habiting that form was a relentlessly modern youth, wired on energy and steeped in music. Infuriating and intoxicating by turns, his presence created such a noticeable charge in the room that the humour to defuse it grew wild and unhinged. Oblivious, he trumped the filthy jokes and turned the volume higher, then sailed out into the night, hungry for experience, trailing eager disciples and unknown victims. A child in some things, precocious in others, he inspired protectiveness and lust in almost equal measure. There was a spectrum between those two points and each day you drifted along it, further beyond certainty.
Endlessly juxtaposed, day after day, there was nowhere else to turn. Tactile as you are, he was more so, his arm constantly draped round your shoulder. Hugs became a ritual celebration, a balm for smiling abuse, a comforting reward or giggling punctuation. Innocent, all of it, liberating and childishly sweet, almost. His gleeful appropriation of your lack of boundaries conferred brotherhood. You embraced it honestly, cherishing trust.
But the eyes he turned to you were alien, feline, pools of sunlight in arctic blue water, with a soulful depth and a wakeful intelligence beyond his years. A perfect face, not quite male or female, but that of a gleaming and beautiful youth, disarmingly unconscious of his power. You grew to know his agile body well, whether you wanted to or not, pliant and graceful as an unstrung bow, entrusted to you with perfect faith despite your fear. You spent your days in this strange, new orbit, gradually becoming aware of blurring realities, half-amused, and only barely threatened. The newly-exotic ambivalence fired your creative energies but there had to be a line and, finally, you willed it to appear.
You were stunned that his age, more than his gender, became your mental crash barrier. Your brain refused to accept the word 'crush' for its patent absurdity and myriad dangers but you are not a hypocrite. Beauty, in all its forms, moves you deeply, sometimes to tears. It means nothing, for you truly believe there is no appetite you would not acknowledge if you had it. You'd travelled the world before you met him and there isn't much of anything you haven't seen before. That tremor in his presence you ascribed to youthful androgyny, sheer sensual misdirection, and time would take care of that. Just wait, you said.
You had to wait, for this was serious. You don't offer brotherhood lightly. You sensed a bond you knew could last, perhaps a lifetime. The love - yes, love - you felt for him was for everything below the surface: his strength, courage, kindness and humility. You loved his appetite for life, his abandonment in joy, his absurdist humour. Since knowing him, you'd laughed harder than in your entire previous life. This resonance with another soul happens for you rarely, and doesn't bear losing. You know how to go after what you want. You resolved to nourish the friendship with loyalty and caution, until both of you were safe from eternal proximity and free from doubt.
You've waited a long time and he has finally relinquished the last bloom of enchanted youth while stubbornly clinging to a rare elfin beauty that seems only to intensify, despite the passing years and his many disguises. There is a stillness in him now when he thinks he's unobserved that draws you in even further than before. At certain moments, those eyes, still glorious and captivating, perfectly reflect the boy blended with the man, beauty's ghost in beauty's eyes. If there's one thing it hurts most to lose, it's in his expression: the eager flame of excitement in those eyes has dimmed slightly. You can make it flare brightly whenever you want with just a few joking words, and you do it, often, for the pleasure of seeing that light shine out again. His face is always fully alive when he looks at you.
Time has indeed erased your self-doubts. It wasn't youth, you know now, it wasn't beauty, though those are lodged in your heart forever, like the inescapable wonder of lakes and mountains in a time too fleeting to savour fully as it passed. It wasn't the time either, or the place, or the endeavour, though these have bonded you together in ways nothing else could. The swirling uncertainty gradually burned away to the brotherly love you always knew lay beneath. Your pride in him and in the friendship grows steadily, year on year. You have both gained something of incalculable richness. It was worth the wait.
You are glad to know you're neither shallow nor reckless. A man of principle and resolution. A man who gets what he wants, or thinks that he wants. You know something else now, with the cruelty of mature hindsight; that it was love back then, in every way imaginable, as insane and as gloriously inappropriate as it seemed. Conceivable, you think now, only in the circumstances, and more potentially devastating in its depth than infatuation.
You've wondered if it was the same for him; and if what you took for confidently ironic closeness on his part was simply a pawing, youthful uncertainty. You suspect not. You suspect if he felt anything at all, he was as bewildered by it as you, and even less equipped to deal. Once or twice, you've let your mind glide over what might have happened had you understood yourself better; what might have been gained, all that might have been lost. You torment yourself briefly with choices never made and you're glad you never knew what he wanted. No regrets, you tell yourself.
You wonder if he guessed the truth better than you did, then or since. You like to think it wouldn't matter if he did. There's little else he doesn't know about you, hasn't guessed. He's seen parts of your soul no one else ever has or ever will, yet still he stands you. You think he probably never needed you like you wanted him to, and that he still doesn't need you now. He probably doesn't even admire you particularly, or want to emulate you, and he doesn't hang on your approval as any decent kid brother should.
But when he turns and looks at you with that slow-dawning, affectionate smile, he seems to see right through your feints and bluster, past the baggage of an overcrowded life, past the armour, the ambitions and the alibis.
And what he sees invariably draws him close, wraps his arms tightly round you, and binds you helplessly.
- the end -