Drowning Lessons

[This is a re-written, edited version of Drowning Lessons. Yup. Literally just that.] There's a trick to building yourself back together. Sam mastered it long ago, and now he's got to try and teach his best friend the same thing. Brandon is sinking fast, and all Sam can do is try to teach him to swim.

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2. Chapter One

cult 

noun

a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object.

 

 

Brandon figured that if he paid enough attention on putting one foot in front of the other long enough, then he might be able to ignore the pounding headache boring his way through his skull and the dulled murmur of his blood oozing through his fingers. The shred of toilet paper he'd haphazardly wrapped around the deep gash on his palm wasn't as awesome a bandage as he'd first thought.

The lethal concoction of stress, the sour bite of responsibility and the looming black cloud of emotions had struck him hard, sending him spiraling into the nearest seedy-looking club he could find. Even if going out and getting hammered wasn't the best coping mechanism in the world, it was still better than flushing the month's food deposit down the toilet again. He didn't usually go to places like this; he usually wasn't so desperate, though, to submerge all of his worries, his anxieties and his fears in the dulling, smothering fog of booze and anonymity. 

He staggered out the back exit of the club, sniggering to himself, the world flickering and spun around him in a stumbling dance of streetlights and car horns. It was probably way too late to sneak back to his room without waking up half the dorm, and if he was honest with himself, he was having difficulty actually remembering where the rooms actually​ were. He kept walking until he looked around and realised that he wasn't anymore- he was slumped against the back of the very bar he'd been trying very hard to escape in his inebriated state. Nestled uncomfortably against a dustbin that was emitting a painfully strong scent of damp tarmac, vomit and other mind-rattling things that the fog in his brain kindly allowed him to ignore. 

It had started raining since he'd gone into the bar: thin iron sheets of water droplets hurtling towards him at approximately three meters per second and striking feeling like needles against his bare skin. He shivered. The rain and the breeze were far fresher than the stale air inside of the bar, but it was colder, too. So cold that it was starting to sting, and of course he hadn't brought a jacket with him.

Brandon threw out a laugh in the direction of another drunken troop staggering out of the club. They were leaning drunkenly on each other, waving down taxis and throwing jokes to each other like they were extra shots of alcohol. A girl gave him a curious look from the entrance of the alley way and he waved before trying to stand up again and failing miserably.   

The hollow thrum of music and repetitive beats radiated around him, squirming through any gaps in the bricks working its way through the open doors at the front of the building. The frustrating unhtz, unhtz crashed around unapologetically inside his skull, throwing all relatively sane thoughts into the air like burning confetti. Each blink sent spears of blinding, white-hot pain through his eyes, and even after careful deliberation, he still couldn't decide whether it was from the award-worthy amounts of alcohol he'd managed to throw down his throat or a result of the epileptic-inducing lightshow at the bar. 

"Don't wanna be allllll by myseeeeeeelfff..." he warbled, the words bubbling out of his mouth like liquid tar. Brandon couldn't exactly remember what his mission for tonight had been other than to become completely and utterly fucked up and to throw enough alcohol into his stomach that he was no longer standing. 

Looking around, he realised that at least he'd succeeded there- ten points for Gryffindor, right? Brandon tried for a smile again before finding himself drowning in a bubbling, broiling urge to break down and cry.

Because he was alone, wasn't he? Cat, his now ex-girlfriend, had barely been around when they were together- spending way more time with her friends than she did with him- even though he could hardly blame her for that, not when a whole suitcase packed full of self-loathing followed him wherever he went. He didn't really have anyone else- all his other 'friends' were more just friends of friends or fellow students that he occasionally bumped into on his way to class. No one he could really call up on a bad night or share a pizza with.  

There was Sam of course, but then there was always Sam. Sam, who was in his final years of uni after pouring four of them into a doctor's degree, and then a few more as an afterthought into becoming a surgeon. Sam, who only really talked to him on the phone or over Skype because he didn't have enough time or money to meet him in order to talk to him in person, but was still up for staying up into who-knows-what-hours of the morning as long as he was able to work at the same time.

He was being pathetic, he knew that;  He could just... what's the word... bow out- gracelessly, of course, back against a dustbin with  paint peeling like old scabs, butt on the damp pavement and the rainwater soaking through his favourite skinny jeans, with alcohol clinging to him like sweat- but still. This could be his final curtain call, his best chance at exiting the ugly stage and awful script of his own life and just... stop. Could be quite peaceful really. At least he wouldn't have a hangover in the morning. 

The street was mostly empty by then; no more club-goers or university students left out to the mercy of the burning sheets of drizzle. One middle-aged woman with makeup so heavily applied that it tugged down the bags beneath her eyes like filled shopping bags eyed the drunken idiot warbling out Celine Dion warily from the other side of the street.

"Don't wanna be... all by myyselllllf..."

Brandon laughed, spitting the sound out like it tasted bitter, before realising that he'd slid over in his drunken state and was now curled up in a ball next to the bin. He winked at it like it was some hot chick he was about to flirt shamelessly with for the rest of the evening before throwing up all over it.

He knew he should probably get up, maybe call Cat and beg for forgiveness, not to mention a lift home. But she'd insisted that she didn't want to see him anymore, didn't want to see his face, didn't need him dragging her mood down with his every. Single. Time. He felt a bit low. 

He'd already come to terms with that though because- hey! Fair play to her! Who would even want someone like him around when you've got an army of bright and bubbly friends that attach themselves to you like a tsunami of birthday balloons? Always eager, desperate even, to cheer you up, to paint that famous smile on your face with a laundry list of jokes and funny stories. 

Who'd even want him around?

It was either the dangerous amounts of alcohol that he'd got brewing inside him like arsenic or the cold that'd probably do him in. It was mid-winter after all, and all he had was a skinny pair of black jeans and his favourite Green Day shirt. There was too much of a buzz in his veins to notice the freezing temperature, but even with a rapidly blurring vision he could make out the goosebumps that peppered his bare arms beneath the dying streetlights. He appeared to have lost his socks somewhere, too. 

It wasn't cold enough to kill him, but the temperature combined with all the poison inside of him combined with his sodden state... He'd probably have caught pneumonia by six am. 

Christ, instead of promising to drink himself into the ground, he should have factored in the need to knock himself out too. These thoughts weren't doing him any good- they struck him like fists, throwing him around like a rowing boat lost in the middle of a storm. 

Brandon stretched, ran a shaky finger through his damp hair and forced himself to his feet. Great, and now he was seeing double as he picked up his phone, his fingers stuttering through the screen password. Sam’s name on his phone screen was nothing more than a blur, a smudge of text on black, and he scowled. The dial tone was tinny, nothing more than a murmur of noise above a hum of static.

​The phone rang, once, twice, and went straight to voicemail. That meant, what, that Sam had his phone turned off? Couldn't pick up?

​Whatever. He shook his head, almost like he could force the alcoholic mess from his brain, and leant back against the wall. His head was spinning too fast for him to keep track, his fingers shaking, muscles spasming. He was so cold.

He was so cold.       

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