Jum

[IN PROGRESS!!] Josh is an American teenager living in London after moving all over the States when he was younger, and determined to make it his home. Meet Michael, the British boy who will help him do so. (BL, some chapters feature explicit content.)

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6. Chapter 05

Chapter 05

In which Josh hopefully learns his lesson

 

 


Will anyone be surprised if I say that I had a hell of a shitty night? No? Good.

Often, when I have to wake up for something precise and I've set my alarm clock—like an appointment somewhere, or if I'm travelling—I'll keep waking up at regular intervals during the entire night, always convinced I've missed the alarm and I'm late. Well that's pretty much what happened that night, except that I also had the feeling I hadn't really rested in between. So I wasn't exactly fresh as a daisy or in a particularly good mood when I finally got up.

On my way to uni, I tried to come up with what to say to him, even though I knew I was bound to mess it all up and forget everything once I was in front of him, because that's always the way it goes, isn't it? By the time I walked through the door and into the hall I still didn't really know what I was going to say, or how I'd say it, but the first thing was to find him so I went up to the lecture room.

When I walked in, I noticed with a heavy heart that he'd picked a seat on the front row—where you'd never catch me—and that there weren't any available ones immediately around him. With a sigh, I walked to the back row and slouched on one of the seats furthest away from him. I was surprised to realise that one look at him had suddenly made me a lot less angry—damn him! I guess a very small part of me had remained convinced throughout Sunday that, somehow, he was OK with what had happened, but nothing screamed I-want-to-ignore-you-and-pretend-nothing-happened more than what he was doing now.

Shame I wasn't going to play along.

As soon as the hour was up and the first students started standing up, I packed my stuff and made my way towards him. He should have thought twice about getting a seat at the end of the row and finding himself trapped until everyone else had moved.

"Hey," I said as casually as possible, standing on the other side of the table.

He tensed up when he looked up and saw me. "Hey."

"Can I talk to you for a minute?"

He looked away, swung his bag over his shoulder and smiled at the girl next to him so she would hurry up. "I'm sorry, I really have to run."

Clever bugger; I couldn't tell for sure if he was talking to her or to me.

"It won't take long, I promise."

He let out a deep sigh and, seeing that the girl wasn't moving fast enough, all but jumped over the table. Which brought him right next to me.

"Look, I'm sorry," he said, still not meeting my eyes, "but I have a book on hold at the library and if I don't pick it up in the next five minutes I'll be screwed for the essay I have to finish for Wednesday."

That didn't really sound like the calm Michael I knew, but I decided I wouldn't insist right now. I did, however, briefly catch his arm just before he left. His expression was still unreadable when he finally looked at me, but I did feel him flinch.

"What time does your last class finish?"

"Five," he said with a small frown.

"At quarter past, I'll be waiting for you in that coffee shop by the underground station. I won't bother you for the rest of the day, I swear, but… we need to talk."

"I'm sorry, I can't."

I felt as though a brick—or ten—had just been dropped on my stomach. "Michael, we need to—"

"What I need right now is to catch up with my workload and finish that assignment; I need to focus. What I don't need is… well, you know what I mean. I have to go," he added, looking away again and setting himself free.

I stood there for a while, feeling just as helpless and stupid as I'd done the day before in the corridor. He'd just… brushed me off so easily, I couldn't believe it. If I can be honest, my first instinct was to run after him and refuse to budge until we were done talking, but I'd known for some time about that assignment he was struggling with—not a class I'd taken—and I just couldn't do that to him.

I did keep my promise and stayed away from him. It was much more difficult than I would have ever thought, because spending most of my time at uni with him had become so natural. But I did it. Because he hadn't said we wouldn't talk; he'd just said we couldn't do it now. So I waited and tried not to drive myself crazy with worry, anticipation and all that sort of shit.

I made sure to find Sean, tell him we had a great time and apologise for leaving without saying bye. He said he'd been so pissed by the end of it that he didn't remember much at all, so that was all right, I guess. I just hoped the same thing applied to the others. Emily gave me a few insistent looks I made a point to ignore, and thankfully she didn't come to talk to me. I seriously don't know what I would have said.

So Monday and Tuesday went by in a weird kind of haze. Like everything had been sort of… I don't know, put on hold or something. Nothing felt real, nothing felt right. I did everything on autopilot and tried not to think of anything. Had I been a better student, I would have taken the opportunity to bury myself in books and all that, but yeah… Thinking about studying made me think of him. Everything made me think of him, so it was really best to try to keep my mind as blank as possible.

I was doing just that on Wednesday morning, absentmindedly smoking in front of the building while listening to something rather deafeningly loud on my iPod, when I was suddenly aware of someone stopping right next to me. I looked up and pulled my headphones out.

"Hey," he said softly.

I think I replied, but I'm not entirely sure.

He looked down and shifted his weight from one foot to the other a few times. "My assignment is due this afternoon. If you still want to—"

"Your last class is at five, yes?" I immediately asked.

"Yes."

"Then, just like I said on Monday, I'll wait for you at the coffee shop."

There was a rather pregnant pause. "OK," he said before thrusting his hands in his coat pockets and walking away.

And you know what? Suddenly I felt a hundred times worse…

 

*


My last class finished at four so I had a whole hour and fifteen minutes to kill, but since I couldn't concentrate on anything I just sat in the lobby and absentmindedly listen to music. At five past five, I was smoking one last cigarette by the door of the coffee shop, my eyes locked on the intersection before me, waiting for him to appear. At ten past, I forced myself to go inside and get a table because some people were giving me funny looks and I felt like a mad person anyway. I got a cup of coffee and chose a table right at the back, partially hidden in a corner behind a huge fake plant, but from which I could still sort of see the door. Not that I truly hoped he'd turn up, but I said I'd wait so I did. Fifteen past, twenty past, and still no sign. It didn't take that long to walk here from our building so I was about to get up when I heard the quiet jingle of the bell and looked up just in time to see him walking in.

He saw me—my heart gave such a tremendous jump, you have no idea—closed the door, gave the old ladies a quick smile and a wave and slowly walked towards me. He put his bag on the floor and sat down without taking his coat off. The smile had gone, I noticed immediately. Fuck, I really could have used another cigarette at that moment, but the place was non-smoking and I'd already exceeded my quota for a week—or maybe even two—in just a couple of days.

"Sorry for making you wait," he said quietly, still doing his best to avoid my gaze. "The teacher kept us for a bit and then someone asked for my notes from last week." There was a pause. "You probably thought I wasn't coming."

"No, I knew you wouldn't," I lied. "Not come, I mean."

Shit, if I was getting my words all jumbled up already, what would it be like once I tried to talk about serious stuff? I stared at my cup for a while, desperately trying to put my thoughts together while he played with the sugar bowl.

"Look, about Saturday, I—"

"I'm sorry," he said, cutting me off.

"Uh?"

"I'm sorry. For everything that happened. I should have known we'd drink too much and not be able to—"

"I'm not."

He looked up, frowning. "You what?"

"I'm not sorry. I told you, didn't I? I wasn't as drunk as you seem to think I was, and I knew exactly what I was doing."

He suddenly looked so pained that I felt my gut twisting. "You shouldn't do things like that," he whispered.

"Do what?"

He didn't answer immediately. "Play with people… Make them your toys, have fun for a while and then throw them away."

Play with people, what? Was that how he saw me? I didn't do any of that shit!

There were a lot of things I wanted to ask, but I managed to stay composed. "When did I throw you away?" I asked calmly, unable to stop my hand from reaching out for his, but he swiftly moved away.

His next words were barely louder than a whisper. "You will…"

"Will I?" I asked, leaning further towards him.

"It's bound to happen. Someone like you and… someone like me, it just can't— I'm too—"

I reached out again and let my fingers stroke the tip of his gently, noting with great relief that this time he didn't move away.

"What are you talking about?"

He let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes for a few seconds. His hand was shaking. "I'm too… bland, boring and… invisible for someone like you. So I… I'd rather say no right now than have a taste of it and get thrown away when I least expect it."

Oh he so totally didn't get it! I wonder how much it would take to make him understand, but something else bugged me.

"What do you mean by someone like me?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

He looked down, trying to use his hair to hide the blush creeping up his cheeks. Damn, he was using the cute card again, even if he wasn't aware of it—not fair!

"Everybody likes you," he mumbled after a while. "You could probably have just about anyone or anything you want."

Right there was the prefect cue. Before he had time to say anything else, I gave his fingers a squeeze and leaned further towards him—I was going to have to climb on the damn table if I tried to get closer!

"And what in the world makes it so difficult for you to understand that what I want might be you?"

He looked up and gasped—I first thought I'd imagined it but he actually did, I swear he did. He looked so incredulous! Like… I don't know, a kid who's just been told that, hey, what do you know, Father Christmas does exist after all! Or something like that. Shit, thinking that he may have been pining after me too made my head spin.

His lips were slightly parted, as if he were trying to say something, but nothing came out, so I properly entwined my fingers with his and looked him deep in the eye.

"You're not… what was it, bland and boring. And trust me, you're so not invisible. You've… shit, you're always on my mind, you don't know how bad it's become!"

He shook his head ever so slightly, the ability to speak having apparently returned. "But I…"

Or maybe not.

"You what? Stop it with your buts. What is it exactly that makes this thing so impossible for you to imagine anyway?"

"I don't know," he breathed.

"Then you're just making it up; you are putting up stupid barriers that don't have any reason to be. Let me take them down," I added, holding his hand tighter.

All this time, his fingers had remained rigid and still. My heart did a few somersaults when he placed his other hand on top of mine, but my happiness was only short-lived because he used it to free the hand I'd been holding.

"I'm sorry," he said again.

It was my turn to gasp. Everything I'd just said had been for nothing? What the…? I sat there and watched him stand up and leave, unable to speak or move to start with. Thankfully, my brain got back into gear and allowed me to jump off my chair and run out before he'd gone too far. I caught up with him outside and grabbed him by the arm in the middle of the crowd, and I didn't let go.

"Not here," he said, looking horrified—what exactly did he think I was going to do?

"Then come with me."

Like I'd done in the club on Saturday, I let my hand move down to his wrist and dragged him after me. Yes, it was just after half past five and everywhere was getting crazy busy—the only bad thing about our uni being in such a cool part of Central London—but there were plenty of small alleys and side streets most people never used. The look of horror on his face as I finally let go and turned to him made me laugh, I couldn't help it.

"What the hell do you think I'm going to do?"

In retrospect, it really wasn't funny, but we'll blame it on all the bad sleeping, cigarettes and coffee I'd had for the last few days. I mean he was basically scared of being anywhere near me after what I'd done. Yes, I know his reaction was justified, all right, but that didn't make it any better. I couldn't let it go on like this, I had to do something.

He'd stepped away and was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest. I could tell he was shaking.

"You can't just leave like this when we haven't finished—"

"There's nothing more to say."

"There fucking is!" I retorted, raising my voice a bit.

He looked either side, as if to make sure that no one was around, and then straight at me, but he didn't say a word. This was it. I knew that if I wasted even a few seconds he was going to walk away again, and I had the feeling I wouldn't be able to stop him.

This was it.

"What you say and what you do doesn't make sense. You keep contradicting yourself. So I want you to say one thing." I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a few seconds. "Say that you don't care about me, that you don't feel anything for me but friendship. Say it to me right now, with a straight face, and I swear I'll leave you alone and work my ass off so you can be comfortable being my friend again."

His eyes locked on mine and opened wide, his lips parted, and for a few seconds I was really scared. But again, nothing came out. He tried, several times, and each time I felt like I was going to be sick from the anticipation. But nothing happened.

"I can't," he whispered, looking away.

Oh God…

I inhaled deeply again and took a step towards him, placing a hand on his arm. He returned the gesture and held my upper arm as his eyes locked on mine once more. I couldn't tell what it was precisely but I knew something was completely different from before. That hand wasn't there to stop me; he was letting me do it, he was… sort of inviting me. I took another step, which brought me right in front of him, and craned my neck to reach for his lips.

I made a supreme effort to stop when I was mere centimetres away, to see if he'd close the gap. And he bloody well did! Oh God my heart swelled so much that it felt as though it was going to burst out of my chest. It was hesitant, it only lasted for a few seconds, and when he moved back he was shaking again, but did I care?

"S'OK," I said softly, letting my hand snake up to his neck.

He did the same so I kissed him again, and he replied, a bit more insistently this time.

I don't know how to describe how it felt. Heavenly…? Cliché as hell, I know, but that's all I can think of. I'd never really been the kissing type—one more thing I blame a certain someone for—but God it felt good to be kissing him.

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