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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31. Chapter 22 [2/2]

[...]

 

Back in the corridor and once the door was closed, I leaned against the wall and let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding. Holy crap, had that been uncomfortable or what? I wasn't even sure I could remember everything properly, even though it had just happened. I guess Michael's mom seemed nice enough, even though I'd barely interacted with her, but his dad… Shit.

I ran a hand over my face, got my phone out — I knew Mom would be waiting for news — and slowly made my way to the stairs.

"Hey, sweetie. How's Michael? What happened?"

"He's fine," I said with a sigh. "He got caught up in an accident involving a car and a bus around Baker Street, but he's all right."

"Oh thank God! No, I mean… oh you know what I mean. Is he injured?"

"Some cuts and scrapes on his face, and his arm's in a sling, but no broken bones."

I heard her let out a sigh of relief. "Is he all right? I mean, he must be shaken."

"A bit, yeah."

"Are you with him? Can you hand him the phone?"

"Nah, I'm in the corridor, on my way to the coffee shop. His… err, his parents are with him right now."

"Oh, right. Of course, yes. Did you—"

"Yeah, I met them. Briefly. His mom seems nice, even though she didn't really say anything. But his dad… I don't think he likes me. At all."

"Well… you have to—"

"I know, I know," I said with another sigh, "he's got to get used to the whole thing. But honestly, I'm not sure he'll try to."

"Sweetie, you can't—"

I rolled my eyes and tutted, unable to stop myself. "You didn't see the way he looked at me, Mom. I bet he blames me for what happened to Michael today."

"Oh don't say that."

"No, seriously, Mom. You didn't see it. It made me feel like… like I was trash. Even less than trash. Like I was nothing. He probably blames me for turning his son gay too."

"Josh…"

"I think that's the look Michael was talking about, the one he was so afraid of," I carried on, not really listening to her. "Shit, if it'd been me I think I would have been too scared to talk to him as well."

"Then why aren't you with him right now?"

I let out another big sigh. "I didn't want to, but I… I had to give them some time alone. His mom looked really shaken. They have a conversation to finish and I don't have to be a genius to know his parents didn't want me there. And anyway, patients are only allowed two guests at the same time. So I'm getting drinks, because I didn't want to just stand around in the corridor."

"OK… Do you have any idea what time you'll be back?"

"I'll probably stay until I get kicked out," I said with a small chuckle. "I don't want to leave him alone for too long if I can help it."

"Of course, you don't. Will you want me to keep—"

"Nah, don't worry about dinner. I'll just… grab whatever's in the kitchen when I get back."

"OK, sweetie. Let me know when you're on your way back, all right?"

"Sure, bye."

Somehow I'd reached the ground floor without really being aware of it so I headed for the coffee shop after putting my phone away. I ordered one coffee and two teas, because I was a good boy like that who knew most people did change their minds after they'd calmed down a bit. I guess I could think of it as kind of giving Mr Darlington another chance. Or something. I put a bit of milk and one sugar in each tea, stirred them well and then made my way back up the stairs. Once I was in front of the door I couldn't decide whether I wanted to go back in there or not while they were still with him, but I'd said I would, so I did.

Thankfully, the curtains were opened enough that at least Michael saw me immediately — I didn't want them to think that I'd been hanging around eavesdropping. My heart tightened uncomfortably when I saw just how unhappy he looked and I wanted nothing more than to rush to him. His eyes were read and puffy — dammit he'd been crying and once again I'd failed to be there for him…

His dad was sitting on the chair but I was glad to see that his mom was perched on the edge of his bed, kind of as close as possible without being too close. Still, she wasn't touching him, and that kind of bothered me. Mom would have been all over me and then some if it'd been me in that hospital bed.

"Here's your tea with milk and one sugar, Mrs Darlington," I said after clearing my throat.

She turned around. She'd been crying too but she smiled at me. "Thank you."

I held the other cup up, briefly glancing at Mr Darlington. "I got another one, in case you change your mind, sir. If not, I'm sure Michael won't let it go to waste, right? Oh and more milk and sugar as well," I added, putting everything on the small bedside table.

Michael gave me a weak smile but no one said a word so I excused myself again. I knew they weren't going to get to the bottom of their issues in one sitting, especially when it wasn't in the privacy of their home, but I guess I wanted to give them a chance. And… well, I didn't fit in that particular equation so I went back to the corridor, found the nearest bench and sat down to drink my coffee. Once that was done, I took my phone out and tried to amuse myself, but that didn't work for long so I ended up texting Jez. He was waiting for a client who was running a bit late but he took the time to reply so we sent a few messages back and forth and in a way that made me feel a little bit better. A little less alone.

At one point, Mr and Mrs Darlington came out for a bit while a nurse fitted Michael with his brace, and then they went back in. I'd have liked some more time alone with him but right then I guess I was at the bottom of the food chain. So I waited, as patiently as I could, trying not to let my thoughts drive me insane.

After what seemed like forever, they finally came out again, looking like they were on their way.

Mr Darlington stayed where he was while Mrs Darlington went to the bathroom and so I got up and started walking towards the door to the ward. I should have just walked past Mr Darlington and gone straight to Michael, I really should have, but I stopped.

"I know you'll probably think that it's none of my business, sir," I said, "but… Michael really needs you right now. He needs support, from you and your wife. And not just because he was in an accident today…"

He glanced at me, quirking an eyebrow, before looking away again. "You're right," he said, and I was just about to let out a big sigh of relief when he carried on: "It is none of your business."

Oh I could have punched him there and then, but I kept it all in, clenching both fists.

"Well I beg to differ," I replied, facing him and trying to make myself look a little taller — damn Darlington men, were they all tall in that family?! "I care about your son. A lot," I added because I knew that sort of talk would rub him the wrong way. "So I think it is my business after all."

"I have nothing to say to you."

"He needs your support. He needs to know you're there for him no matter what decisions he makes," I pressed on. "You need to—"

"Do not tell me what I should do, boy. How could you know?"

"You're not the first father being told his son is gay," I said, feeling ever so satisfied when I saw him recoil at that word. "And you won't be the last."

"I suppose your father jumped for joy when and if you told him?"

I gritted my teeth. "My parents have known for several years. And I know it was harder to accept for my dad but they both support me and they always have." I took a couple of deep breaths, trying so very hard to keep my temper in check. "I don't know if you realise it or not but Michael's so scared right now. You need to—"

"Tell me," he said, interrupting me again, "how long have you known Michael for? Since the beginning of your course, yes? And how long have you been…"

"Since January," I all but spat at him, knowing very well what he didn't want to say.

"Right," he said with a smirk I really didn't like. "A handful of months, then. So tell me… what do you know about my son?"

Oh now he'd done it.

"What do you know about your son?!" I almost shouted, managing to keep my voice at a decent level at the last second — the last thing I wanted was for a nurse or doctor to come barging in because I was shouting. "What do you really know about him, huh? You're so blind that you didn't see anything. Did you notice anything wrong at Easter when you were at your brother's house? Did you??"

He was taken aback for a second. "What—"

"Of course you didn't, because you're blind and he did the best he could to keep it all from you! But I know because I was the only one who saw him torture himself day after day for weeks because he didn't know how he could ever talk to you."

He tried to interrupt me but I didn't let him. Now that I'd started I was going to get all that venom out of me once and for all.

"You know nothing about him. Nothing! But I do. I was there for him and I did my best to keep him from falling apart, but it wasn't enough and so we all ended up in this mess because your own son didn't know how to talk to you!"

"Don't talk to me that way," he said through gritted teeth, keeping his voice even and making me hate his stiff-upper-fucking-lip-ness even more and wanting to punch it off his face. "My own children have never talked to me that way."

"You need to hear it and I know no one else will dare to tell you. You'd decided even before you'd met me that you didn't like me, so I have no remorse."

"I don't have to listen to this."

"Yes, you do," I said, running after him when he tried to walk away from me. "You need to know how much your behaviour's been hurting him! I've never seen anyone so terrified of disappointing another person. He said he couldn't bear to see 'that look' on your face, and since I'm pretty sure that's precisely the look you've been giving me all long, I—"

I stopped short when we both realised that his wife was making her way back to us. She looked at both of us in turn, frowning a little, and all I could do was pray she hadn't heard any of it and mumble a barely audible "I've got to go," before slipping into the ward and back to Michael.

Oh God what had happened? All I'd wanted to do was talk politely, but it was like the man had a gift for making people hate him with only a couple of sentences. It wasn't all my fault, right? I hadn't said anything offensive to start with, right? Let me tell you, I have never had to force my temper down so quickly. But I damn well did it because I wasn't going to let Michael see me like that and add to everything he already had to deal with.

He seemed glad to see me again but he was a lot more subdued than he'd been when it had just been the two of us earlier in the afternoon so for a while I climbed into his bed and held him again. He didn't say a word and I didn't know what to say either so I was OK with just hugging in silence.

I thought he might have fallen asleep but he started stirring again when it was almost six o'clock. "You should go home," he said.

"Visiting hours are until eight. I told Mom not to—"

"You don't need to stay."

"I don't mind," I insisted, giving him a little squeeze. And then I understood what he was trying to say. "Unless you… don't want me to stay…"

"I don't—"

"Do you want to be alone?"

"I'm not sure," he replied, tightening his embrace as well. "Maybe I do. I don't know. I… need to think. I'm not good company material right now."

"Don't say that."

"I'd feel better if you were at home. It's miserable here."

"And you think I'll feel OK about leaving you in this 'miserable' place?"

"Go home," he said, twisting a little and stroking my cheek with his good hand. "You've been here all afternoon and you had to sit out in the corridor for most of the time."

"Smile for me," I said before kissing him. "I won't leave if you can't give me a smile."

He pulled away a little and looked up at me, a small smile lighting up his face. It was small but honest; the kind he gave only to me, the kind he couldn't fake even if he tried. That was enough for me to believe that he was OK and I could go if he wanted me to.

"Anything you want me to do before I go?" I asked after kissing him again and climbing out of his bed.

"Will you come back tomorrow? The nurse said I should be discharged in the morning so Mum and Dad will probably pick me up before midday."

"I'll come, but… it'll probably be better if I leave before they arrive."

"What do you mean?"

I rubbed the back of my neck. "I was more than a little out of line when I spoke to your dad earlier."

He frowned. "But the two of you barely—"

"No, I mean… in the corridor, when they were leaving," I said, staring at my feet.

"Oh. O—OK, if you'd rather not—"

"No that's not what I meant!" I said, looking up and at him again. "I mean… I don't care! And I'm certainly not taking back any of the stuff I said to him. I just thought I'd let you know, because the two of us in the same space might be… super awkward or something. But if you want me there, I'll be there."

"I'd like that."

"I'll come as early as I can."

"Just come when you're ready, even if it isn't for long. I just… would like to see you."

"I'll be there."

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