What It Takes

Levi likes Johnathan. A lot. He thinks he’s cute and funny and endlessly interesting. Johnathan thinks that maybe he might like Levi too, but he has a hard time believing that Levi likes him back, despite all the hints. Slowly, Levi begins to realize that if he wants to show Johnathan how he really feels, it'll require a much bolder move than his easy, soft spoken nature usually allows.

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2. Chapter Two: Don't Fade on Me

 

    Levi knocked on Johnathan’s door for the third time. He knew Johnathan was in there; he’d seen the other boy head upstairs a few hours earlier and never come back down. Not that Levi was watching. Regardless, the door stayed resolutely closed, and there were no signs of life coming from behind it. 

    Levi sighed. He wouldn’t have kept bothering Johnathan if he thought he was sleeping, but it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t. Every morning would bring a huge pot of coffee and fresh red eyes accented by dark circles. He had to wonder when the last time Johnathan had gotten a full night of sleep actually was. 

    Giving up, Levi headed back downstairs. It was getting late but he, too, had lost the taste for sleeping. In the end, Levi settled for collapsing on the couch and flipping on the TV, turning the volume down really low. He didn’t really care what was on - some comedy - and it was only loud enough to hear the laugh tracks, not the actual jokes. After a little while, he pulled out a textbook and tried to read the chapter for his morning class. Levi got through about ten pages before finally giving up, tossing the book on the coffee table and rubbing his eyes. He considered going back to bed. 

    If the blanket draped over his shoulders hadn’t been quite so comfortable, Levi would’ve headed to his own room and missed Johnathan stumbling in, looking at Levi like he wasn’t supposed to be there. Levi could see the indecision in Johnathan’s face, wondering whether he should turn around and head back upstairs or stay. The surprise at finding Levi there wasn’t well hidden. If it’s a pleasant surprise, he’ll stay.

    “Hello,” Levi said passively, trying his best to temper his expression, betraying nothing. 

    “Uh, hi,” Johnathan replied, shifting his weight to his other foot. His hands were shoved in the low pockets on his ragged sweatpants, and he looked tired beyond belief. “What are you still doing up?”

    Levi shrugged. “What are you doing up?” he returned, not bothering to answer the question. 

    Johnathan frowned. “I couldn’t sleep.”

    “You have a nine o’clock class tomorrow,” Levi pointed out, his eyes on the TV. 

    “So do you.”

    Johnathan had a point. A minute went by where neither said anything. “So, are you going to sit down?” Levi asked when Johnathan shifted uncomfortably again. 

    After a brief hesitation, Johnathan sat down on the far end of the couch, away from Levi. Which was fine.

    “Do you want to talk about it?” Levi offered eventually. 

    “Talk about what?”

    Levi looked over at last. “Why you can’t sleep.”

    Johnathan scowled at the carpet. “What’s there to talk about? It’s pretty self explanatory.”

    “No, it’s not,” Levi replied. “There are a variety of reasons for insomnia and sleeplessness.”

    “And you would know,” Johnathan replied snidely. 

    Levi didn’t reply. He’s just tired, he told himself. As it turned out, Levi would know. He’d done a good amount of research when he first became concerned about Jonathan’s health. After all, not getting enough sleep come midterms or finals wasn’t unusual, but in the second week of school? Levi was legitimately worried. 

    Of course, Levi didn’t say this. It was easier to remain silent, letting Johnathan stew in his own corner of irritation. The movie went on low in the background, and they both stared at it without really paying it any attention. 

    After about fifteen minutes, Levi glanced over to find Johnathan’s eyes drooping closed. He hurriedly turned back to the TV before Johnathan caught him looking. The next time Levi looked over, Johnathan was asleep. 

 

—[]—

 

    Levi wondered how long he should go before waking Johnathan up. He glanced at the time again. If they didn’t leave the house in fifteen minutes, they’d both be late for their classes. Levi looked down at Johnathan sleeping peacefully, finally, under the blanket Levi had placed on him the night before and figured that he probably couldn’t wait any longer. Reaching down, he shook Johnathan’s shoulder gently, jarring him awake. 

    “Wha-“ Johnathan slurred as he opened his eyes, already pushing himself up. He blinked several times, then frowned up at Levi. 

    “We have to leave in fifteen minutes,” Levi said calmly. 

    “Oh, shit,” Johnathan replied, finally coming to full awareness. He tossed the blanket back without a second thought and hurried upstairs. Levi wondered if Johnathan had even considered how it had gotten there. 

    While Johnathan was getting ready, Levi popped a bagel in the toaster, then filled a travel mug with black coffee. When the bagel was done, he waited for it to cool a little, then spread it with cream cheese, stuck the two halves together, and wrapped it in a paper towel. Levi took it with him as he headed for the door, waiting for Johnathan to come back downstairs. 

    When Johnathan came down, he looked a little panicked, but significantly more well rested. Levi suppressed a smile, then he offered the bagel and coffee he held in his hands. “You’ll have to eat on the way.”

    Johnathan looked down at the items after he accepted them, and Levi hoped he had gotten them right. He’d been paying attention recently. “Thanks,” Johnathan muttered, still sounding surprised. Levi smiled a bit at that. 

    “We should go.”

    “Yeah,” Johnathan replied, looking down.

    Levi led the way out. They didn’t talk on the way to school, but Johnathan quietly ate his bagel. The silence was more than a little awkward, but neither seemed inclined to break it. After all, what was there to say? Levi could imagine Johnathan was already uncomfortable with their interaction the night before, so anything that he could say now would only make that worse. Hopefully things would ease up later. 

    Johnathan and Levi walked together part of the way to class, and then Johnathan stopped. “I’m headed that way,” he said, pointing to the left. 

    “Okay,” Levi said. “Your last class ends at three, right?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Want me to give you a ride home?” Levi offered, suddenly concerned that Johnathan might say no to avoid further awkward silences like the ones they’d just endured. 

    “That’d be cool,” Johnathan said. 

    Levi gave a very slight smile. “Alright. Have fun.”

    Johnathan nodded his goodbye, then walked off, leaving Levi on his own again. 

 

—[]—

 

    With only one class on Thursdays, Levi headed home before lunch time. He was happy to find that Cyrus and Hayden had also come home for lunch, eating sandwiches in the kitchen. 

    “Hey,” they said as Levi entered. “How was class?” Hayden asked conversationally. 

    “It was alright,” Levi replied. “Mind if I sit?”

    “Not at all,” Hayden replied. Cyrus nodded his assent, his mouth full of food. 

    Levi took a seat, looking at both of his housemates before blurting, “I think Johnathan is depressed.”

    They blinked at him. I guess I could’ve led up to that, Levi thought in hindsight. 

    “What?” Hayden asked in alarm, looking at Cyrus, who simply nodded seriously. 

    “I’ve been thinking the same thing,” Cyrus admitted.

    “Wait, really?” Hayden burst out. “Like, actually, legitimately depressed?”

    Levi nodded. “I think so. He fits an alarming number of the symptoms. Lack of interest, loss of appetite, insomnia, irritability… I was surprised by how much weight he’d lost over the summer, too.” Levi had done his research, and the results weren’t looking good.

    “I was going to say something soon, actually,” Cyrus said soberly, “but then you got here and he seemed a little better.”

    It was impossible to keep a warm glow of pride from lighting in Levi’s chest. Even so, it was a small comfort. “Not completely better, though. I think there’s something stopping him from letting me help him.”

    “So, what are you saying?” Cyrus asked. “That we confront him and get him professional help?”

    Levi almost laughed. “Johnathan would never go see a shrink.”

    “That’s true,” Cyrus conceded. “But don’t they say that the first step to recovery is acceptance?”

    “For drug and alcohol abuse, maybe,” Levi said. “Can you imagine sitting Johnathan down for an intervention?”

    “Not really,” Cyrus admitted. “So, what do you think we should do?”

    Levi didn’t have a good answer. “I was hoping you guys would have some suggestions.”

    He looked away from Cyrus, then, at Hayden, who was being oddly silent. Cyrus followed his gaze, nudging Hayden and asking, “You okay?”

    Hayden’s eyebrows were drawn together in a scowl. “I feel like this is my fault.”

    Levi couldn’t help but be glad that Hayden was taking some responsibility for Johnathan’s state. If Hayden knew of Johnathan’s crush, then there was surely some way he could’ve let him down easier, or helped him move on. Levi knew his slight feelings of contempt were mostly unjustified, but if Hayden was just letting Johnathan continue pining, it had to stop.

    “It’s not,” Cyrus said immediately. “He’s clear on where you stand.”
    How did that go down? Levi wondered. He could never imagine Johnathan stating his feelings outright. 

    Hayden just frowned. “What can we do to help?”

    It took Levi a minute to realize Hayden was asking him. “Oh, uh…” Stay as far away from him as you can until he forgets you? “Maybe just give him some space?”

    Nodding, Hayden agreed, “That’s probably a good idea. You really do seem to be helping him, Levi. Thanks.”

    Levi knew that thanks weren’t needed. “I’m doing my best.”
    “I think you should keep distracting him,” Cyrus said. “Get him out of the house as much as you can to do whatever. Just keep him occupied, if he’ll let you.”

    “I can do that,” Levi promised. “Anything else, you think?”

    “I’d suggest setting him up on a date, but the last couple of those haven’t worked out,” Hayden said. He gave Levi a significant look. “I think he needs someone who’ll take care of him and he can trust.”

    Levi stared passively back at Hayden. It was clear that Hayden knew how Levi felt, and still Levi couldn’t banish the subtle simmer of jealousy. I could be that person if he wasn’t still hung up on you. “Yes, I think he does,” Levi agreed quietly. Hayden held his gaze for another second before dropping it. 

    “I really don’t know how to help someone who’s depressed,” Cyrus admitted, missing their exchange. “I’ve never been there.”

    “I think you just have to show them that you care about them and are there for them,” Hayden said. “Don’t you think?”

    “Well, yeah, but doesn’t he already know that?” 

    Hayden shrugged. “At one point, probably. Who knows what he thinks now, if he’s depressed.”

    “Okay,” Cyrus said. “Let’s hope this stuff works.”

    Levi nodded, half to himself. Show Johnathan he cared, take him places to keep him occupied, and reassure him that he was loved? Levi could do that.

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