Author: SleepyNovember PM
WARNING: Boy's Love Story, self harm. Elliott McMillan wouldn't have guessed he'd end up in California. Born and raised in rainy Spokane, he'd never really felt the sunshine- you can't miss something you don't have. Then he met a boy who changed his mind.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Chapters: 18 - Words: 53,824 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 01-11-13 - Published: 04-06-12 - id: 3011244
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Well, here's Chapter 18! 21 was a breeze-I am glad I was able to post this before the weekend hit, though :) I still have a bit of editing/tidying up to do in Chapter 21, but for the most part, it's complete! So now you get this.
There are no words for the love I feel for Adrien :D That boy is just...he's such a basket case, but I adore him so. He's gonna be around a bit more frequently, too...and I know he might be semi annoying at the moment, but keep in mind, EVERYONE has a story. He's no exception to that. Try and see the good in him, yeah? It's in there. You just have to look.
Also, just so everyone knows...I won't be able to post anything next week. I'm going to a leadership retreat/camp, and it's essentially no technology-I'll have my cellphone, but no internet access/etc. So the next update is at least a week off. 22 is well underway, but I won't get much time to work on it this weekend, so I'm not going to try and figure out an update date. Not to worry, though-this isn't a huge cliffhanger like a few of the chapters have been :) As soon as I'm back, I'll start working again! Hopefully you enjoy this chapter in the meantime.
Read/review/fave/alert? I'll send you internet awards!
SONGS USED IN THIS CHAPTER:
The word fell from Adrien's lips, and despite the obvious shock coloring his tone, it sounded too flat to his ears. Like it meant nothing at all, like ELLIOTT meant nothing at all. God, that couldn't be further from the truth…all it took was one glance; chocolate brown irises wrought wide with surprise, and Adrien felt himself start to slip. The all too familiar warmth started to burn in his chest, and with it came the relentless rush of feelings; heart pounding, pulse racing heat that scorched him where he lay. Things only Elliott could conjure up, that stupid bastard. Like they'd never left at all. What the hell was he doing here, anyway? And just who the hell bumped into him? There wasn't so much as a squeak of an apology from the boy who'd taken him down—he just sat there, with the same, stupid, stunned look on his face that Adrien was sure matched Elliott's…wait a second. Another glance at the boy made something in his chest twinge sharply, mind racing as he puzzled over features that were strangely familiar—the same styled hair, similar clothing (he'd like to argue that his was better), a button nose matching his own…hmm. Big doe eyes blinked back at him, and Adrien could nearly see himself reflected in the glassiness that was unmistakably tears. Ugh. This kid looked like him, minus about 10 years and an unmistakable confidence that was Adrien embodied.
The sharp edge of the dogtags in his tightly clenched palm brought him out of his haze, making him realize that he was gaping, still sprawled on the floor of Sven's with his mouth hanging wide open like some sort of fish. And Adrien Faust simply didn't DO embarrassment—enough was enough with this freaky train wreck of a situation. Time to get back to himself and turn this mess around, before it was irredeemable. He quickly snapped his jaw shut, letting the necklace fall to his chest with a soft clatter as he rose to his feet, gracefully dusting himself off. At this point, the boy on the floor was long forgotten, all attention on the flabbergasted boy to his right; target number one for the Adrien Interrogation. And despite his insides threatening to tear him apart, he turned around, eyes opening to face the expression that had haunted his dreams for countless months. He cleared his throat, unable to contain the genuine smile that slid onto his face; effortless and soft. This time, when he spoke, his voice reflected the magnitude he wished to convey—every word was concise, despite the slight tremor backing each uttered syllable.
"Eli…hi. Crazy seeing you here…how have you been? I've missed seeing your face around Mitchell's—he and Ian threw a killer last week. You shoulda been there."
Maybe he was looking for it—hell, maybe it was the lighting, but he swore he saw Elliott smile in response.
To say Elliott was startled would be an understatement of the worst possible sort.
There didn't seem to be words for the water he'd landed himself in with this one—and frankly? He didn't know if he'd want them, if they were to make themselves known. Sometimes, there's nothing left to do but stare and wonder how the fuck the universe can be so conniving, and when things took a turn onto Crazy Street. He knew he should be helping Connor up right now; asking if he was okay, dusting him off and wrapping him up in his arms. He should be explaining and extrapolating; soothing away the insecurities that were bound to become realities once this situation was shone in its true light. He should be ignoring Adrien's existence like he had been for the past nine months, walking past him—past the calamity and right back into the fluorescent lighting and cheap advertisement of Westview Mall. He should be apologizing to the bored looking teen behind the register who had to clean this mess up, checking to see if anyone or anything was broken, mumbling instructions to Ashleigh to evacuate, leave, correr—RUN. Now there's a word in Spanish he fully understood.
Elliott knew what he SHOULD have been doing, but instead, he was frozen—rooted to the linoleum beneath his feet.
He opened his mouth to speak—god, say ANYTHING in response to whatever the fuck Adrien had just said—but nothing came out.
"Adrien." Ashleigh's voice supplied helpfully—filling in right where his couldn't, and damn it, she was always saving his ass. Her tone was cold and calculated, a clipped, "Wish I could say I missed you too, but it would be a lie—a bad one, at that. Tell Mitchell we're sorry for missing his blowout, but we're working on solving the mystery of life itself—your troublesome, and admittedly problematic, existence—very busy work, you know." Damn it, Elliott forgot how SCARY Ash could be when she was pissed.
Next, she turned her attention to Connor, who—god damn it—was STILL in a heap on the floor. "Connor, pajaro, are you alright? Come on, up up." She hoisted him up easily, hands running down his arms to dust him off, fingers silently probing for injuries. He winced slightly as she grazed his inner arm, her tongue clicking in response. Ashleigh's lips tilted into a concerned pout as she mentally catalogued that piece of information, her eyes zeroing in on his potential injury. When she addressed Connor, her tone was much kinder—she sounded more like a human being than she had with Adrien, and even Elliott. "There we are—never mind that arm, I'll check it in a sec. Pajaro, I hope you're okay. That looked like a bad spill." Her venom gaze refocused on Adrien, but before she could say anything witty or potentially biting, her attention was drawn to a dull flash of silver on his chest. Her mouth opened and closed a few times, and for a fleeting moment, Ashleigh Moralez stood at a loss for words. That alone brought the quaking to Elliott's knees; more so than a telltale glance downward ever could. He steeled himself for a second and inhaled sharply, looking down at the object of Ashleigh's disdain. The sight that greeted him punched the air out of his lungs, a flood of memories sweeping in to fill the void.
The offensive piece of metal resting right below Adrien's collarbone was exactly where he'd left it all those months ago…as though it had never left at all—and perhaps it hadn't. But no, that couldn't be, for that notion made his stomach sicker than before—of course, he hadn't worn it this entire time. The necklace hung loosely around his neck, and in that moment, Elliott wanted to reach out and cinch it tightly; lock away the reminder of what they once were and deny Adrien the air he'd stolen from him all that time ago. No, it was all a mistake, Elliott reasoned. He'd put it on by accident this morning…maybe he'd gotten dressed in the dark? Yeah. Because Adrien Faust totally picked his outfits in the dark.
Adrien smiled, a smug satisfaction filling his chest as he glanced down at the necklace both Elliott and Ashleigh were so interested in. He'd nearly forgotten he was wearing it, but right now, he couldn't be happier. So he still had that much of an effect on the other boy? He could get to him THIS much, without uttering a single word? Hell, maybe it wasn't so crazy at all—maybe Elliott hadn't stopped thinking about him, either—maybe with a coffee date, lunch, some talking and a trip to the backseat of the Camaro—
"U-uh…hi. My name's Connor..sorry for bumping into you. Y-you're not hurt, are you?"
Adrien's smile receded as he remembered the catalyst behind all of this—the carbon copy of himself, who, apparently, had a voice of his own. Huh, good to know. His grin turned light; inquisitive as he studied the smaller boy with an intensity that made him flinch. Well, good. He was standing way too close to Elliott...
"Not hurt at all..I'm doing wonderfully, as a matter of fact. It's an unconventional reunion at best, but hey, it meant seeing Eli again, so I can't complain." He shrugged nonchalantly and paused to cast a sidelong smile at Elliott, who scowled in return. "My name is Adrien, in case you haven't heard. I'm..ah, a good friend of Eli's. We were close, and I like to think we still are—I mean, you can't escape history, ESPECIALLY not in a town like this one." A wicked grin lit up his features and he shifted his shoulders before continuing, now officially on comfortable ground. "Are you new around here, or…? I mean, I haven't seen you around—and considering the resemblance between the two of us, I doubt I would forget having met you. You said your name was Connor?"
Connor nodded quickly, fingers knotted together in front of his chest. Well, he sure wasn't chatty, now was he? He leaned down shyly, seemingly shrinking into himself, the movement shielding his eyes from Adrien's fierce gaze, and all at once, he saw it—in a single, heart clenching epiphany, he realized this kid was after Elliott. There was no other reason he'd be looking at Elliott with those googly heart eyes; no other reason Moralez would be hanging with such an obvious wallflower. She was more showy than that, and for that matter, so was Elliott.
And it was in that moment when he realized that the real problem didn't lie with Connor, OR his apparent interest in Elliott McMillan. As much as this little puppy crush he had annoyed Adrien, it wasn't where his attentions should be focused, and he knew that for sure. However integral he was to this whole situation…the kid wasn't part of the equation he was working on. He wouldn't bring Adrien any closer to a solution.
But as far as Elliott is concerned…well, there's his issue, right there. His biggest adversary had once again made itself known—Elliott seemed to return Connor's interest—how strongly, Adrien didn't know. He highly doubted the two were dating, or anything close to serious. Elliott was probably into the aesthetics…Connor could easily pass for his younger brother, after all. "Come on…" he groaned internally, eyes flitting restlessly between Connor and Elliott, "how low can Eli be willing to go? This kid is a joke! He looks just like me!" But it was there, and he could see it in Elliott's twitching brow; read it in the protective stance of his shoulders that was once reserved for him alone. ELLIOTT was the war he was sending himself off to, and if he wanted anything at all, of course, it would have to be granted by him.
And that was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most annoying fucking thing about Elliott McMillan—no matter how hard Adrien tried to forget him, he simply couldn't find himself anywhere except by his side. It ALL came back to Elliott. Adrien figured it was a bit like fighting a pendulum—he'd been swinging back and forth ever since the day they met, and as much as he wanted to…his heart just wouldn't let him quit. Even now, he knew what was going to happen; saw the pieces falling into place long before they came into play.
Damn it, this was happening again…and he had no choice but to join in and lead the charge. But perhaps this wouldn't end poorly. Maybe falling for Elliott all over again (that stupid, lovable bastard) wouldn't be the end of him. Maybe he had a shot here. At one point, they'd been each other's everything…the things he would do to get that back were endless. God, he just wanted him back…
After all…when one soldier falls, there are shoes to be filled in his absence. And he'd be damned if he let some mousy replica take what was rightfully his.
"Well," Ashleigh chirped, leading them out of Sven's Tracks and over to the food court, "that was completely and utterly painful to watch. I am more than ready to put that in the drawer labeled, 'What the Fuck: Never to Discuss Again'. Who's hungry? There's a pretzel place just ahead with the best chipotle salt ever."
Connor frowned, feet working overtime to meet Ashleigh's near-frenzied pace, her grip iron-clad on Elliott's bicep. Something had happened in that store, and while he was a bit confused over the details, the exchange had left him more than a bit unnerved—and that guy, Adrien— left a bad taste in his mouth he couldn't explain. He sure had a…commanding personality, to say the least…and didn't he mention being close to Elliott? Something about history? What the heck was 'close' supposed to mean, anyway? And what was with the kneejerk reactions from Ashleigh and Elliott? It was stupid, really, and he was probably BEING stupid (not to mention: petty and paranoid), but damn it, he felt like he was burning alive. Ashleigh and Elliott didn't want to talk about it; that was for sure. That was a whole LOT of something in and of itself. There was an entire conversation going on across the table the three were seated at, and he held no place in it…hell, he might as well have been invisible from the way these two were silently going on.
And normally, this wouldn't affect him—he was hardly worth including in these things, in anything—but from the cursory glances Elliott kept shooting at him, he knew he was definitely involved. And Elliott looked stressed…that worried him more than anything. Had he done something wrong, back in that store? Oh god, did he even apologize to that boy he plowed into? Was he polite? He couldn't remember—all he could recall was feeling overwhelmed, like he didn't even deserve to be in the boy's presence…it was all way too much for Connor, who was dangerously close to panic attack territory. And god, he was aching for some clarity—
Eventually, curiosity overwhelmed apprehension, and a question spilled past tightly pressed lips, meeting an even more unwilling crowd.
"Elliott…what just h-happened? What was he talking about, anyway?"
The pretzel in Elliott's hand froze on its way to his mouth, and Ashleigh groaned quietly—if Connor had been looking at her, he would have seen her head hit her folded arms in a clear picture of exasperation—over Elliott's inarticulate state or the situation at hand, he didn't know. But his eyes were locked on Elliott's, forest green on chocolate brown, and Ashleigh wasn't in view. Ashleigh was absent, and Elliott was struggling. But in that moment, Connor knew exactly what he needed—an explanation from Elliott himself—no interjections from the girl by his side. It all had to be him. Finally, Elliott seemed to grasp at something, and he started to explain—Connor let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding.
"That…unfortunate creature you just met was Adrien Faust. Old friend of mine…" he paused, clearing his throat and breaking eye contact for a second before looking back up, eyes alight with a new fierceness that sort of reminded Connor of that night in the cave. "…and we dated for close to two years. So I guess 'old friend' doesn't quite cover it, huh? It's all in the past now. For the better. You can ask about it, if you want—I'll tell you anything."
Connor swallowed and diverted his eyes, suddenly finding the bright blue of the linoleum table to be absolutely fascinating. "Should have known…" he mumbled under his breath, fingers peeking under his shirt sleeve to graze the sensitive skin of his wrist; his go-to nervous habit. Looking back, it all made sense…Adrien was practically devouring Elliott with his eyes, and damn it if he didn't call him 'Eli'…was that something those two shared? A piece of Elliott he might never get to see; Adrien's 'Eli'? Adrien was easy on the eyes, too, a good 4 inches taller than Connor with a solid build, much less scrawny…god, there he went again. Why the hell was he getting so possessive? It's not like he OWNED Elliott…hell, he wasn't even sure if they were officially dating. And who could blame Elliott if he went back to Adrien? He seemed to have every ounce of confidence that Connor lacked, with plenty to spare…along with every other redeeming quality under the sun...and there he was, with nothing. Worth nothing. If Elliott left…
Panic nearly took over him and a wounded, concerned noise from Elliott grounded him once more, enabling him to take a few shaky breaths. No, he couldn't think that way right now. Not when there was talking to be done. Right now, he needed to focus on Elliott, on Ashleigh and the questions he wanted to ask…Elliott said he would answer anything. Connor took a few moments to compose himself before meeting Elliott's unwavering gaze again, trying not to look as shaken as he felt. The next question was forced out of him in an unsteady rush of words, and he wasn't sure if he actually wanted an answer—but before he could stop himself, he plundered on.
"W-whoa…two years? That's a long time…why did it end?"
Elliott's answering exhale was nearly all the answer he needed, and it did nothing to soothe the rolling in his stomach. The taller boy seemed at a loss for words, brows slanted as he struggled to put into words what must have been terribly painful, and the ticking of the clock kept getting louder and louder as Connor waited in anguish for an answer he didn't want to hear…
"Pajaro, if I may?" Ashleigh's soft voice interjected, her hand covering his own under the table, preventing him from clawing his skin any farther. Had she known he was doing that? He'd nearly forgotten she was there…but it seems she was listening all along, perhaps watching as well. Elliott flinched at the sound of her voice...looks like he wasn't the only one lost in the conversation they were having. "This is a story best told from a bystander's perspective…but it has a very simple ending, you see. Very cut and dry."
"Ashleigh—" Elliott hissed, obviously uncomfortable with wherever Ashleigh was taking this.
"—Elliver, toma un poco confianza. It's okay. I have the words, really. So quick to jump these days…you should know by now, I'm in your corner. No need for apprehension."
And despite his earlier notion, that the words should be Elliott's alone, he felt inclined to hear the girl out. Above all else, he knew she'd tell the whole truth—no misconstrued facts would cloud her account. She would tell things as they were—the question was, could he handle the unaltered truth?
Elliott's voice cut in, colored heavily with frustration as his hand slammed down on the table, his distress escalating to a very physical level. "But this is…Connor, this was forever ago. All of it. HE was forever ago. Ash, god DAMN it, he doesn't even need to hear this shit! I was completely different back then, and—"
Connor's free hand shot across the table, snatching Elliott's in a lightning fast gesture, as though he expected resistance from Elliott. Despite all the confusion, all the jealousy and panic and hurt he felt, it couldn't hold a candle to watching Elliott feel anything bad at all. Elliott was ALWAYS his first priority, and right now, he looked five steps beyond stressed.
"Elliott, hey, it's okay. I don't need to know anyway, that was a long time ago. You're right. You don't need to tell me…I'm sorry for asking, kay? Let's just forget." He pasted a smile on his face, rising from his seat in one of the biggest cases of false bravado ever, still gripping Elliott's hand like a lifeline. "Besides, you have to show me around today. You promised, remember? There's got to be more than this mall and rain in Washington…show me the places you love."
At last, Elliott smiled a bit, some of the tension melting from his shoulders. "Love? Yeesh, Con, that's a strong word…especially for this shithole. It's more like…'varying degrees of tolerance'. Come on, goof. Let's get out of here. I guess we could show you the movie theater…"
It was then that Connor decided maybe Ashleigh's drawer held some merit after all—some things are better left untouched.