Hi all! After finishing my story Just Don't Fall In Love, some side characters just wouldn't leave my head. Yes, they were Michael and Paul. So I decided to write a short story about them, just because they deserve a happy ending, and in the original plot...well, they don't get one. For those who haven't read the story, this works just as well as a simple, fluff-filled one-shot. Just ignore all the references to other characters.
I feel I need to say that I've never written slash before, so I'm a bit nervous about this. I really hope you like it. Also, I had to write a song (cringe) for this story -- another first. It pretty much sucks, but maybe Michael's just a bad song-writer. Lol.
Anyway, enjoy! :D
"A benefit concert?" Dan asked, incredulous. "Are you kidding?"
I watched, slightly amused, as Alan's face began to redden. I knew that he'd been expecting this reaction – as a manager, he knew his band pretty well – but that didn't mean he was happy about it. "Yes, Daniel," he said, glaring at the drummer, "a benefit concert. For a children's hospital."
"When?" asked Angel, the newest band-member of From Ashes. His face was bright with almost a child-like enthusiasm.
"Well, it's a Christmas concert," Alan explained. "It's on the 26th."
"The 26th?" said Dan, getting irritated now. "Three weeks after the tour?"
Alan nodded. "Yeah. Is that a problem?"
Alan wouldn't force the band to play any gig they didn't feel comfortable with. He might need to do some real persuading with this one, it seemed. We'd already been on tour for almost six weeks. We were all missing our homes, even if some of us didn't have people there waiting for us, like Dan did. And I knew the band wasn't eager to leave again so soon, if only to do one concert.
Also, a benefit would mean that there was no money to be earned. And say what you want about rock musicians, they liked their money.
"Alan, come on," Dan tried again, leaning forward in his seat. "We haven't been home in, like, forever."
"Dan's right," Luke, the bassist and the only other band-member who had a real girlfriend at home, said. "We kinda wanna be home for Christmas."
"It's the twenty-sixth!" Alan snapped. "You'd be home on Christmas eve and Christmas day."
"Yeah," Angel quipped. There was a mischievous glint in his chocolate-brown eyes. "What's wrong with playing a benefit? For children?"
I bit back a scoff, not wanting to interrupt the conversation. Angel's enthusiasm to play had nothing to do with charity. Of course the new guy would want to play any concert possible – it was all still new and exciting for him. The others, however, had been playing for years, albeit in a slightly different assemblage, under a different name.
"What do you think, Paul?" Alan asked suddenly, turning his gaze to me.
I cleared my throat. "Um, yeah. You should definitely play," I said, keeping my eyes on the manager. "Good publicity is, uh, what it is."
"Exactly," Alan said, throwing me a weird look. He looked at Dan then, and I exhaled in relief. "It's good publicity and it's helping children. It's a win-win."
I never used to be this twitchy and nervous, by the way – I wanna make that very clear. The only reason I kept stammering and blushing every time I opened my mouth on this particular tour was the man sitting across the room from me, quietly strumming an acoustic guitar, not participating in the argument now going on full blaze in front of him. I was trying to close my ears from the fight myself, and watching Michael and his guitar was usually the way to do that.
I sighed silently to myself. What a professional tour manager I was, huh? First I fell in love with a member of a band I was supposed to be working for. Then I practically forced him out of the closet, which might have been good for him, but certainly wasn't good for the band. When the band broke up, as a result of Michael's new-found sexuality, I fell apart. It was my fault, I'd thought.
I guess I should have blamed the lead singer for being a homophobic asshole and breaking up the band, but I couldn't. I could only blame myself.
So I panicked, and broke up with Michael. Putting aside the stupidity of that decision, I'll just say that when Michael called, a few months later, to say that he had a new band and was going on tour again, I was so incredibly happy for him. That happiness soon morphed into horror, however, because my ex-boyfriend then decided to ask me to come work on said tour.
Despite my horror, I said yes. Maybe I truly was a masochist, but I just couldn't help it – I wanted to see him. Perhaps there was still a little part of me that hoped he'd one day be ready for a relationship with me.
Okay, okay. A big part.
I could never think straight when Michael was around. And I just realized the pun, by the way. Ha ha. Even now, in the middle of a band-meeting, I kept stealing glances, my stomach fluttering in an almost painful way. I knew I needed to find a way to stop feeling this way; I needed to find a way to get over him, the way he'd gotten over me. But, as I once again stared at him from across the room, I couldn't help but feel that it might take some time for me to get there.
Watching him now, I became thoroughly fascinated by his lips; there was a lit cigarette hanging between them, if possible making them look sexier than usual. His long hair fell, as always, freely on his shoulders, creating black and sleek frames around his perfect face. As I watched, he took the cigarette between two fingers and exhaled smoke into the air around him. He was supposed to be blowing the smoke into the open window next to him, but no one was paying him any attention now. Alan's hotel-room, where the band-meeting was taking place, was a non-smoking room, and I probably should have said something to him about that.
But I didn't. I just watched.
I sighed then, looking down at my feet as the others around me continued to argue. I didn't even know why I still liked him so much. Putting aside his appearances – which, I must admit, were a huge factor – I sometimes found myself wondering what it was that I saw in Michael. Mostly he just irritated me. He was an addict, for one thing. He'd also been in the closet for most of his life, having just recently come out – thanks to me. Now he slept around, enjoying his freedom to do what he liked. It was understandable -- and one of the reasons I'd ended things between us. But that really didn't make it hurt any less.
"Okay!" Alan said, loudly enough to jolt me back to the present moment. Dan, Angel and Luke, who had been talking all at once, fell silent, all eyes on their manager. "I don't really care what you think. We're playing the benefit, because it's good publicity. That's that."
"But we're a fucking metal band," Dan grumbled. "A Christmas concert is--"
"I don't care," Alan interrupted sternly. "You know it's a good move. And if you don't wanna do it for any other reason, do it for all the sick kids you'll be saving."
Dan's teeth snapped together loudly, but he didn't argue. Who could argue with helping sick children? I could see his resolution wavering already.
"Come on, Danny," Michael drawled, opening his mouth for the first time. I cringed at the way my heart jumped. "It might be fun."
I tore my eyes from Michael's face and watched as the last drops of defiance in Dan's expression melted away. "Okay, fine," he muttered, finally defeated. He looked at Alan. "Can I go now?"
Alan nodded, looking pleased with himself. "Go ahead."
Dan scowled and walked away, probably to call his girlfriend. The man was a wreck without her. Which, of course, was why he'd been so against playing the benefit concert in the first place – one more day without her.
"Okay, then," Michael said brightly, getting up from his seat. "Now that this is settled – who's up for some drinks tonight?"
I groaned silently. 'Drinks' could only lead to a drunk-ass Michael, and that usually lead to boy-groupies, who I would then have to watch sneaking out of his room the next morning. Since spending some time in rehab after their first band, Storm, broke up, Micheal hadn't to my knowledge done any hard drugs. He hadn't given up alcohol, though. In his words, everyone was allowed one vice. In my words, he had plenty already.
Luke and Alan were both shaking their heads at Michael's request, but I knew he hadn't really expected them to want to go. The new guitarist, Angel, was the only one who got up, looking eagerly at Michael. "Sounds great, man."
"But no strip clubs, okay?" Michael said, pointing his finger at Angel. "If I see one more naked woman, I swear I'm going to kill myself."
I hid my smile by looking down at my feet again. Michael had come a long way in just over a year, having become so much more confident in his own skin. He still sometimes seemed surprised at how well people were taking it, though. Like his newly found friendship with Angel, for example. From time to time, it felt like he was shocked the guitarist wanted to be his friend.
"Fine," Angel sighed. "But no gay-bars, either. If I get hit on by one more Village People look-alike, I'm going to kill myself."
Michael laughed. "Deal."
For reasons I didn't quite understand, my chest felt tight as I watched the two of them make their way out of the hotel-room. They were going to change in their own rooms quickly, then make their way downstairs and into the hotel bar. Michael turned in the doorway, to let Angel out first, and since I was sitting right by the door, our eyes just happened to meet.
The happy grin on his face fell away as something like understanding passed between us. I forced my lips into a smile, letting him know that I was fine. Looking almost relieved, he smiled back. "Wanna come with us, Paul?"
'Yes', I wanted to say, so badly. But he was only asking out of courtesy, and I was not that pathetic yet. "No thanks, Michael," I said. "You guys have fun."
His answering smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "Always. Goodnight, Paul."
Then he turned away and the door closed between us; I found myself exhaling in relief. I didn't expect to see him again until the next day, and that would be just what I needed. A break.
I couldn't fall asleep that night. I kept twisting and turning, my thoughts running the same tired old circle. For the umpteenth time in the last six weeks, I asked myself why – why had I come on this tour? Why had I taken this job? I was meant to be working with Madonna, or even someone like George Michael, not an effing rock band. I didn't even listen to rock music. At least not rock music recorded in the last three decades or so.
So why was I torturing myself like this? Because of a guy who'd never love me back, no matter how long I kept pining?
Still, I couldn't fall asleep until I knew Michael was back in his room. Safely. And so I listened. His room was right next to mine, so I should be able to hear him when he stumbled back and fell on his bed, probably with a new boy-toy, but at least alive and breathing. I glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table. Three am. I groaned, burying my face in my pillow. I needed to get up in four hours, and I hadn't had a any sleep yet.
Then I heard something. At my own door.
Someone was trying to get in.
I jumped up from the bed, heart hammering, and stumbled to the door. I looked through the peephole, not knowing what to expect. An exasperated sigh escaped my lips -- it was Michael. My heart, however, did not stop it's pounding.
I ran a shaky hand through my hair, attempting to flatten it. Hastily, I looked down at what I was wearing – boxers and a t-shirt – and sighed again. How pathetic would it be for me to change quickly? And maybe run a comb through my hair?
Too pathetic, I decided. Reluctant and excited at the same time, I opened the door.
"Michael?" I raised my tired eyebrows at him. He had a key-card in his hands; he'd been trying to open my door with it.
"Oh," he mumbled, eyes unfocused as he took in my presence. He was drunk, but didn't seem to be on anything else. And by now, I considered myself an expert. "Paul. This is your room?"
"Yes, Michael, it is," I said warily. I pointed at the next door to my left. "That one's yours."
Michael swayed slightly, and I felt the inexplicable urge to hold him so that he wouldn't fall. "Oh," he said. "Sorry, man."
How could anyone look so good, while drunk out of his mind? I watched as he walked unsteadily to his own door, and began the futile attempt to open it. I sighed again. Wondering if I shouldn't just leave him to it and go to bed, I walked up to him and gently but firmly removed the key from his hand. My fingers brushed his, ever-so-briefly, and I flinched away, swallowing painfully. The scent of his cologne was blurring my mind. I needed to get away. I opened the door for him and stepped back.
"Thank you," Michael said softly. His eyes met mine, surprisingly focused. His eyelids drooped, though, in a way that made my stomach flood with lust. I shook myself mentally, attempting to rid myself of that feeling, with very little success.
"No problem." My voice was shaking. I averted my gaze from his and when I looked up again, he'd entered his room, and left the door open wide. "God," I muttered, stepping in after him, "give me strength."
Michael was already lying on his bed, passed out with his face down on a pillow, legs and arms sprawled out. Heart pounding again, I slowly walked up to him. I reached out and pushed his hair out of his face, softly touching his cheek. He sighed sleepily, and I could have sworn he leaned into my touch. I removed my hand, incredibly sad all of a sudden, and turned around to leave.
Michael caught my hand. I spun around, surprised. He hadn't even opened his eyes, but his fingers around my wrist held on tightly.
"Stay," he mumbled. His eyes fluttered open then and his hazel eyes pierced mine. "Please."
I looked down at his hand on my wrist, burning my skin. He was so drunk; he didn't know what he was saying. He was lonely, probably, not having 'scored' tonight. I knew him. He just didn't want to sleep alone tonight. "Michael, I--"
"Just to sleep," Michael interjected, his voice low enough to contradict his words.
Yes, I knew him well. But I knew myself, too, and even as I counted down all the reasons not to, I found myself nodding my head at Michael's request. His lips twitched and he let go of my hand, leaving behind a warm, tingling sensation on my skin.
Breathing uneven, I climbed into bed with him. With an almost maternal gesture, I covered Michael with his blanket, tucking him in like a little child. I reveled in the sound of the sigh that escaped his lips as he rolled around to face me. Wordlessly, I pulled the other blanket on the bed over myself, and shifted to the very edge of the bed, creating as much distance between us as I possibly could. My heart refused to stop it's pounding, however, the desire I felt for him as always making my common sense fly right out of the proverbial window.
Attempting to hold onto the last shreds of my better judgment, I turned my back to him. "Goodnight, Micheal," I muttered.
I closed my eyes tightly. I knew I wouldn't sleep, but at least I could pretend to. And I had every intention to do so -- I swear -- but then I felt the bed move as Michael shifted towards me. My chest tightened; a shiver racked through me as I felt the warmth of his body against my back. He nuzzled my neck, groaning sleepily, and his arm wrapped itself around my waist, pulling me flush against him. His breath on my skin made the hair on the back of my neck stand, and I heard myself moan low in my throat. His hips against my lower back made me very conscious of the bulge in his jeans; the familiar feeling made blood rush to my own nether regions as I attempted to clear my head, breathing in deeply.
What was I doing?
Before I could answer my own question, his hand began to move, and all thought rushed out of my head. He brushed the waistband of my boxers teasingly, before moving his fingers across my lower stomach, under my shirt and up to my chest. A shudder went through my entire body, and I involuntarily ground myself against him, loving the groan that my movement elicited from the other man.
"Paul," he breathed in my ear, warm breath fanning my skin. My breath hitched in my chest. "You're so...hot."
And I woke up, eyes open wide. What was I doing?
Gathering up what little strength I had left, I pulled myself away from him and I stumbled out of bed, standing up on shaky legs. Ignoring the almost painful tightness in my boxers, I got as far away from the bed as possible. I felt like a caged animal, my back against the wall as a hunter advanced on me, about to shoot. Only, I was trying to escape my own lust, more terrifying than any hunter I'd ever seen.
"No," I whispered roughly. "No, no, no."
"Paul?" Michael looked up at me with the cutest pout I'd ever seen; it very nearly made me jump right back in bed. "Don't go."
"You have no right to do this," I said, my voice shaking on every word. "Not anymore."
Slowly, Michael sat up to face me across the room. I tried not to notice the way his eyelids drooped sleepily, the way his hair looked all wild and messed up, or the way his shirt had risen up to reveal a sliver of surprisingly toned skin. I wondered briefly when it was that he even found the time to work out. His next words, however, made me forget all about stupid questions like that.
"I miss you."
I inhaled deeply, painfully. "Don't," I said, fighting to find the right words. I couldn't look at him anymore. "Don't do this to me."
"You're the one who broke up with me, remember?" His voice was barely a whisper, but it felt like he'd shouted the words at me.
"Not because I didn't love you!" I, on the other hand, did shout. "Remember?" My lust had vanished, and suddenly all I wanted to do was strangle him.
Michael's head fell down on his pillow heavily. He closed his eyes with a groan, covering his face with his hands. "I'm way too drunk for this."
"Right," I sneered. "Too drunk to talk, but just drunk enough to fuck me? Just like old times."
I heard him gasp softly, but he didn't open his eyes. "Can we talk tomorrow?" he asked simply, in a voice that almost sounded bored.
"No, I don't think so," I said, loud, tired and angry. "I have nothing to say to you."
"Fine!" He had finally succumbed to yelling. He half-rose from the bed, face flushed with anger. "Leave then! Get the hell out!"
"Fine. Sleep badly!"
And with that, I stomped out of the room.
"...and I haven't talked to him since," I finished breathlessly, my eyes down on my fat-free Latte. I couldn't bring myself to look at Holly as I spoke of my own incredible stupidity and weakness.
"How is that even possible?"
I raised my eyes to meet her curious gaze. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Holly frowned, sipping her coffee. "You were on tour. How did you manage not talking to each other?"
I shrugged. "He pretty much avoided me and only talked to the others. He didn't even look at me after... that night."
I looked at the woman in front of me – my best friend's girlfriend. Yes, I considered Dan my best friend these days. It was partly because he was the last person I'd ever expected to accept my homosexuality when I'd finally come out of the closet, and partly because of... well, Holly. She was close second to the the best friend throne, actually. And she was the one I went to for advice at moments like these.
"Holly?" I said, and heard the desperation in my own voice. "What should I do?"
She looked taken aback. "You're asking me?" When I only shrugged at that, she sighed, and went on, "Oh, honey. I don't know... How do you feel about him?"
I felt like I was talking to a therapist. But maybe that was exactly what I needed. I glanced around the coffee shop suspiciously. No one seemed to be looking at us, let alone listening to our conversation. Everything around us was way too Christmas-y for me, all red and gold and glittery. "I fucking hate Christmas," I told Holly, as Wham's Last Christmas blared through the coffee shop for like the fifteenth time. "If I hear this song one more time, I swear to God..."
Holly chuckled. "You're changing the topic," she pointed out. "How do you feel about Paul, Michael?"
I looked down again. "I thought I didn't feel...anything..." I said, shaking my head in an attempt to clear it. How did I feel about Paul? "But now..."
"You still love him?"
Startled, I looked up at her. She was simply looking at me over her coffee cup, nothing but curiosity in her green eyes. Did I still love Paul? There was one problem with that – the word still. Because I had never actually said that I loved Paul – to Holly, to him, or to myself. And now that she said those words... "I don't know," I said. "I really don't."
"Okay," Holly said thoughtfully. She bit her lip. "He still loves you." The way she said it surprised me; there was no question in he voice. She was so sure.
I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure. "You should have seen how angry he was. He hates me."
"No, he doesn't," Holly said, shaking her head at me. There was a small, wistful smile playing at the corner of her lips. "He may wish that he could hate you. But he doesn't."
I let out an exasperated sigh. "How can you say that?" I asked. "How can you be so sure?"
The smile on her lips vanished. "I've been there," she said quietly. "Remember?"
"Right," I murmured. Dan and Holly. It had been obvious for a long time to everyone around them that they loved each other. But Dan had kept pushing Holly away at first, not having been ready for a relationship. "Wait," I said, straightening up in my seat. "Am I Dan in this scenario?"
She laughed. "Yeah," she said. "I guess you are."
"Well, that's just... an unpleasant thought."
"Really, Mike." She stared at me from across the table, serious again. "Haven't you slept with enough groupies yet? Aren't you ready for a real relationship?"
I stared, without seeing anything. Her words had triggered a memory, one that seemed to always be on my mind these days.
It was right after the band broke up. I'd come out of the closet in front of the whole world -- practically -- and I was feeling messed up, to say the least. I'd been surprised, however, to find that Paul was just as messed up as me. He blamed himself for what had happened.
"Paul?" I called, stepping into his hotel-room.
He was busy packing, throwing things into the huge suitcase on the bed. He barely looked up at me when I entered the room.
"Paul?" I repeated. "Are you ready soon? We finished the so-called band-meeting with Alan." I sat down on the bed, attempting to catch my boyriend's gaze. "Man, is he pissed."
At this, he looked up. His eyes were red, with dark circled underneath. "He's got every right to be," he said, throwing a pair of sneakers into the suitcase with more force than necessary. "We messed up."
I caught his hand as he went to pick up some socks from the bed. "I messed up," I said, forcing him to look at me again. "You can't blame yourself."
"Yeah?" he asked, yanking his hand away from my grasp. "Well, I do. I never should have pressured you to come out. We shouldn't even be..." he trailed off, shaking his head. He refused to meet my eyes again.
"We shouldn't even what, Paul?" I asked, getting up to stand in front of him. Fear made my voice shake. Something bad was coming, I could tell.
His chest rose and fell as he took a deep breath. I wished I could tell what he was thinking. With new determination and a whole new batch of sadness, Paul met my gaze. "We shouldn't be dating, Michael. It's wrong. You already lost your band, your friends!" His voice was raising steadily. "Now I'm going to lose my job. And you... Really, Michael. Do you even want to be with me?"
I swallowed back bile. I knew the answer should have been simple: yes, yes I wanna be with you. But it wan't simple. I liked him a lot. But this was happening too fast. It was all so new. I mean, who ever heard of someone living happily ever after with their frist ever boyfriend? As much as I hated myself for even thinking this, I just needed to know what else was out there. Was that so horrible?
"See?" Paul let out a dry, humorless chuckle. He shook his head, as if trying to clear his thoughts. It killed me to see him hurt like this. My fingers twitched; I wanted to hold him, make some of that pain go away. But I couldn't make myself move. I couldn't even make myself talk. "I love you, Michael," Paul said, looking into my eyes steadily. "You know I do. But you don't love me."
I wanted to say that I did. But did I? I'd never been able to say those words, whereas Paul said them all the time, never seeming to mind that I had no reply. This time was different, however.
"Tell me, Michael." Paul took a step towards me, gazing into my eyes. Even with his red, tired eyes, he was so beautiful, it made my heart ache. But I couldn't say it. I wasn't ready. "Say the words, Michael, and I won't have to do this. Just tell me how you feel!"
I had to look away from those eyes. Tears ran down my cheeks, but all I could say was, "Please, Paul. Don't."
"I have to." His voice was thick, like maybe he was crying, too. I couldn't bring myself to look at his face. "It's over."
All I had to do was say the words. Three little words. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Finally, I got mad. At him. At myself. "Fine," I said, loud now. "See you around."
"Mike, Mike," Holly's voice brought me out of my reverie. Her hand was on my shoulder. "Where did you go?"
I shook myself. "Sorry, Hols," I sighed. Why did I keep playing that conversation over and over in my head? It always ended up with the same result -- I wasn't ready for a relationship. Was I? "What did you say?"
She chuckled with exasperation. "I said, aren't you ready for a real relationship yet?"
"Maybe I am," I frowned. I looked down at my now cold Latte for the longest time, thinking this through. "Yes," I finally said, raising my head to look at Holly with new determination. "I think I am. And you know what I need now?"
I grinned. "A big, romantic gesture."
Don't worry, this isn't the end. It's too long, so I cut it in half. Just continue to chapter two. OR you can pause to review, that works too. :)