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.
Drowning Lessons - Episode 116:00 min.
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Drowning Lessons - Episode 1014:00 min.
Drowning Lessons - Episode 1128:00 min.


14. Chapter Thirteen




hating endings; 

of someone who tries to avoid or prolong the final moments of a story, relationship, or some other journey



Brandon wasn’t exactly sure what to think. What to feel.

His emotions were speeding past him on an unending carousel of noise and emotions, colours rushing, tumbling past him in a blinding torrent, each colour- rubies and sapphires and salmon-pinks and duck-egg green, magentas and apricots and golds. Spinning together until the burned white-hot. They were almost painful, this tumultuous spinning vortex of joy and fear and anger and love and pride... writhing within him like a hurricane. 

Sam had kissed him. That was good. No, forget that. Sam had kissed him, and that was freaking amazing! 

On the other side of the coin- the darker side, where the copper had turned green and soft with age- he had someone, someone whose name he could almost, almost remember, wanting him dead. And that wasn't particularly a good thing.

It was already eleven o'clock, so Brandon decided that it'd be best if found something to eat. Despite the call during the night he felt wide awake- as if someone had given him a shot of caffeine straight into his veins. He was buzzing, nerve endings buzzing with energy. 

His lips were tingling, and the taste on them was like nicotine- addictive, delicious and utterly consuming. He grinned, leaning back in his seat with a half-grunt and a sigh.

And that was when three men burst through the door and his blood turned to ice in his veins, his limbs freezing into place. He’d tumbled out of his chair and onto the floor, not registering the spears of pain that should have been there when his elbows cracked against the tiles.

It wasn't like in the movies, when dust billowed into a great ashen explosion, splinters flying through the air like shrapnel and peppering his skin. There was an ominous groan, the sound of wood bending, giving way beneath great pressure, but then the door flexed before collapsing inwards, and the only sound was a hollow thud as it hit the floor the same way a coffin lid would shatter against the floor after being pulled free. 

The man in the middle was obviously the leader, dressed smartly in a suit jacket, with his hair neatly brushed, despite being the smallest and wiriest of the three men. He was slender, bones fixed together with sinew and tendon, and his eyes were startling- grass green blending into mustard yellow plummeting into the ebony of his iris.

Michael... his name was Michael. 

Brandon remembered this man and he screamed; a wild, primal scream that should never have originated its way from a human soul. He remembered his face, he remembered his words, he remembered how soft and delicious his voice was, how had slipped beneath his skin like oil, writhing into his limbs and taking control. He remembered everything and he couldn’t stop screaming.

With a flick of a wrist, the two men moved, one throwing him to the floor, the other winding his arms beneath Brandon’s, forcing him to his knees. The sudden flash of pain as the other slapped him, hard, across the face jolted him back into awareness with a sudden, agonising clarity, such that he found he wasn’t screaming anymore.

The knife drawer was right behind him. He should have grabbed a knife… he should have grabbed something.

“Brandon Hope,” the man greeted calmly, inhuman eyes dragging in the sight before him, the wild look in Brandon’s eyes, the way he held his head in defiance, with a steady indifference. “How wonderful to see you again. I am simply so glad to see you looking so… well.”

“What the Hell do you want?” Brandon snarled, continually throwing glances around the room, at the other two men, the gaping wound of a doorframe, the knife drawer behind him… his muscles tensed beneath his clothing, his hackles bared. He would only have one chance. There was always only one chance to move, and he needed to grab at it perfectly.

“To be rid of a nuisance,” Michael uttered. His features may as well have been made of stone- cold and hard and completely, utterly inhuman. He may as well have gone out for his weekly shopping rounds. “I wouldn’t usually do so myself, but I had to ensure that you were properly… disposed of this time. We both know from past experiences that my disciples are simply far too incompetent to dispose or restrain you themselves.”

There it was- caught in flashes, like the way you’d notice glints of dust writhing in the air, dancing daintily like ballerinas, and then the second you’d look back, you wouldn’t see them again: there was wind and rain, his own animalistic screams. Hands holding him back, blood on his face. He’d been running, fleeing, from something, or someone.

“Oh really?” Brandon cocked an eyebrow, choking on his own breath as the man behind him cranked his arms back further, his body locking into place. If they were pushed any further then they’d surely snap off. “Well, give it your best shot, because you might seem to still think that you’re an angel, but we both know that you’re just like the rest of us lowly mortals- weak and human and nowhere near as strong as you want to think. The only difference is that your ego is even larger than your bank account.”

There was another slap again, sharp, across the side of his face, and there was a sudden flash of red as he felt his lips split, blood soaking into his mouth. “I would suggest that you stop talking, Brandon Hope, unless you’re spoken to.”

The blood trickling down his chin made a gory sight as Brandon grinned, his teeth stained scarlet. “Why? If you cry, will your mascara run?” he goaded.

He could feel the panic growing, swirling inside of him like debris in a tornado, rushing through his limbs like adrenaline increasing with each heartbeat, swelling like the tide, but he swallowed it beneath a mask of mocking calm. They couldn’t know how afraid he was. Michael couldn’t know, but he smiled down at Brandon anyway, lizard eyes peeling away his skin and muscle and bone, stripping him bare until only the basic animal instincts remained, the primal terror and anger and desperation.

“Indeed,” Michael continued. “Hold him still, will you?” he nodded to his two backup singers, and there was a rattle as he opened a drawer. Brandon began to squirm. This wasn’t a fight- this was a goddam execution.

His phone was on the coffee table, so the moment they left he could call an ambulance. He’d be fine. He had to be fine.

The man on his right snorted out a laugh as he followed his gaze. “Angel, we should probably take his phone.” Michael made a slight noise in agreement and Brandon cursed. Sam would be back soon anyway. He had to be. He had to.

Brandon began to whimper as Michael stepped smoothly back into his field of vision, a carving knife dangling loosely between his fingers. He knew where this was going… the events unfolding before him like an old map, one clear path set out… only one clear destination… His heart shuddering, his blood freezing. No… not like this… not when his life was fitting back together again, the final pieces collected and beginning to be carefully arranged back into their rightful places. Not now… His heart was suddenly beating again, hammering against his chest, the blood surging through his body in a tidal wave before rebounding with vengeance.

“There is one more thing I want you to know, Brandon Hope, before you die,” Michael said slowly, dragging the blade absently down Brandon’s sternum in an absent, threatening motion. Brandon had to bite back another murmur of fear as the steel caught the kitchen light, reflecting back into his eyes with a cruel, eager glare. Well, at least he was going to die wearing his favourite t-shirt, through all of this. “Consider it a gift from me. Samuel Farah did, essentially, abandon you to me when he went to meet your mutual acquaintance, and thus I will spare his life.” The pale lips quirked into something resembling a leer. “Does that not make you feel better, Brandon Hope?”

Brandon struggled again, wrenching his arms side to side in a desperate attempt to break free. “You leave him alone, you hear me? You leave him out of this!”

“That is, essentially, what I just said I would do, but I am known to change my mind.” Michael nodded, dragged one long, spider-like finger along the edge of the blade, almost marvelling in how sharp it was. “So I would stop attempting to order me about.”

“What are you going to do?” Brandon spat. “Kill me?”

Michael sighed. “This conversation is growing tedious.” He nodded to his two men and they pulled his arms back, granting Michael a clean target of his chest. Michael met his eyes for an instant before pulling his arm back, the knife gleaming and-

“No! Wait!”

Michael’s posture relaxed again, the blade drooping slightly in his grip, almost in weariness. “What is it now?”

“Please… just let me say goodbye.” Aaand now he was begging. Well, this was great. “Please, just let me say goodbye to Sam. That’s it, please.”

He was replied with a rolling of eyes, as if Michael was finally tired of all of Brandon’s dying-wish crap. “Of course. I am not the monster you seem to believe me to be after all.”

Brandon sneered up at him. Of course you’re not.

Michael looked at him with something bordering on exasperation. “It’s interesting, though, how much you’ve changed over the past year. You used to pray to me, do you remember that? You used to thank me for gifting you with a truer seeing, for taking you from the rotten world and molding you into something better.”

Brandon’ glared at him and his next prayer was just two words.

Michael shrugged. “We’ve wasted enough time here.” The blade seemed to leer down at him. “Goodbye Brandon Hope.”

Brandon strained for breath as a primal fear overtook him, a low, animal growl filling the apartment, a whine, and it took him a split second to realise that it was coming from him. Oh God… please no…

Air couldn’t come fast enough, his chest rising and falling erratically, the sound of his heartbeat roaring in his ears. The noise was almost spiteful, a dull mockery off such life rippling in his veins just as he was facing death. Please no

He felt the blade slice through his skin, deeper and deeper, piercing the flesh and muscle just below his breastbone. The pain was blinding-white and jagged, scarlet flashes of agony speared his heart, forcing all air from his lungs in an ironically delicate exhale. His vision blackened, switching to greyscale then fading back into colour again.

It was surprising- the pain and the sadness of it all. The way his blood felt trickling between his fingers, like the sands of time that he was losing too quickly, far too quickly…

When his vision finally returned to normal the door had already closed, but laying a metre in front of him was his mobile phone, Sam’s number already dialled, the keypad wrapped in cello-tape. No chance of dialling another number, then, even if he wanted to. As he reached out for it, his fingers coated in a second skin of blood, he felt the first gurgle of blooding forcing its way up into his throat. He spat it out onto the floor, the dark, rich shade of it almost surprising. Brandon tried to stand, but his legs folded beneath him and he collapsed back onto the floor, his head only inches from the phone.

There was no getting out of this situation. Not this time.

The phone was still ringing, and Brandon forced himself up onto his elbows, tried to press one hand to the gaping, ragged whole in his chest, a vain attempt to quell the bleeding.

It was coming out of him fast, far too fast: staining the tiles beneath a vivid scarlet colour. It was almost fascinating, watching it grow around him… all of that blood had once been inside his body, once dragged oxygen to his heart and his lungs and his brain, forcing his to move, to breathe, to think, and yet now here it was, drowning him in a shroud of scarlet, bubbling up from his lungs like vomit.

The phone was still ringing. And then it went to voicemail.


Brandon could still feel the blood oozing beneath his fingers, the roar of his heartbeat making it impossible to hear the beep as he began to talk.

He couldn’t leave like this… not without apologising… not without ensuring that Sam knew everything…

“Sam…” he croaked. “Sam, I’m-I’m sorry. I messed up, man. I m-messed up badly.” He dragged in another ragged breath, the thick liquid coating his windpipe like freshly-applied paint making it difficult to find enough oxygen. “Michael… he found me. I worked out who he was, finally, at least, so… yay for me, right?”

“Listen, I’m not… I’m not getting out of this one… oh damn this hurts.” Another spike of pain shot through his chest, as if claws were carving into his ribcage, fangs digging into his throat. The pain was burning, as if someone was cauterising his wound, boiling the blood into a defeated retreat back into his body, the skin bubbling around his wound before sealing back together again. “I did it all wrong, e-everything all wrong… I failed s-so many times, and this is j-just the worst one yet, I guess.”

His jaw shook as the tears began to fall- slowly at first hesitantly, before tumbling down over his cheeks, mixing with the congealing blood over his lips and trickling back into his mouth. “I’m so… s-sorry… You deserve so much m-more. Not this. Never this.”

Brandon’s fingers had turned white, shaking, and he examined the blood that coated them almost curiously. The knife had hit something important, he knew that, because the darkness was swooping in far too quickly, looming over him with leathery wings and burning coals for eyes. He wound his fingers and continued: “I n-never got to tell you… how much you m-mean… to me… but y-you mean a lot, you know… so… so m-much to me…”

“I’m just sorry… that I can never… never tell you in… person…”

He was so cold. So incredibly cold. The numbing burn wound its way around his lungs, tightening, until he couldn’t take a full breath. He swallowed a gurgle of blood.

“I just wish you were here, Sam, with me. I don’t wanna be a-alone. Not now… I want you to b-be here… I need you to be here…”

He gasped again, curling up into a ball, legs pressed protectively against his chest, the blood soaking through his jeans. He just… couldn’t… stay warm… The cold was inside of him, stripping away at bits of himself, tearing pieces in whole, bloody chunks.

“I’ve always needed you. Always… I-” He broke down as his body began to shake, convulsions dragging bloody marks over the floor as his limbs began to flinch sporadically. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t. But that didn’t mean much anymore. Whether he wanted to or not, he was still going to die.

The feeling of complete, exhausting agony had fled now, chased away by the numbing blanket of icy-cold that swallowed him whole, washing over him like a tidal wave. His hands were crusty with his own blood, stained a deep rust colour as underneath, the blueish-white skin began to give was to grey. He gurgled out another breath, the oxygen rasping as it hauled its way between his blue lips. “I’m so… sorry… I-I wish t-that I’d… been a better…better friend. I shoulda b-been a b-better… friend to you… I was so… so… so cold, dammit… I’m so cold… Sam, I’m s-so cold…”

It was closer. He could feel it. The finality of death. The final curtain call.

But not yet. Not yet.

He stumbled onwards, tripping over his words, the letters and sounds spilling out of mouth, mixing with the blood and tears that surrounded him.

“T-tell… b-brother… I love… m… love y-you… S-sam… d-don’t… don’t c-ry… look ‘fter… broth… so… sorry… I-I lov… you…”

And the darkness fell, swamped the broken and bloody figure of the person as the phone beeped, the sound filling the black cloud of the apartment, the timelimit fulfilled as the voicemail shut off, effectively ending the final moments of the Brandon Hope’s life, the words left unspoken frozen in his open lips, cooling with the scarlet that stained them.

After so long, after so much, such a short, brilliant life was cut short by a kitchen knife and a madman who believe that he was more than human so simply, so easily.

And as the final glimmers of life flickered out in those kaleidoscope eyes, another simple candle snuffed out by an omnipotent being, the words were replaced with memories, of laughs and tears and smiles, of times that would always, always roar louder than whatever primal scream the man’s death could muster.



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