Author's Note: Good God, I've been gone for a long time. I went back and read over some of my stories recently, and though I'm proud of some of them others I'm rather embarrassed of. All of the people who read my stories... seriously you mean so, so much to me.

If you'd like to check out any of my fanfiction, please look under the username strawberryfinn over there.

I wrote this as a One-Direction fanfiction but adapted it to be original. I hope it still makes sense.

Rating: T

Genre: Angst/Hurt/Comfort/Romance

Summary: "I'm sick," Milo says, eyes blank and vacant.

And Elliot's world comes crashing down. (Slash)


don't know how to be without you


"I'm sick," Milo says, eyes blank and vacant. He stands at the edge of the door and the boys look up at him. Nick and Tim stop their bickering and Shane freezes from where he's on Twitter, his fingers stopping their typing on his phone, and Elliot stops eating.

"What?" Shane asks, forehead furrowed in confusion, voice heavy with alarm.

"The doctor says I've got something called acute myeloid leukemia." Milo stumbles over the words—they're unfamiliar and strange in his mouth, and Nick stops poking Tim to really listen.

Elliot's heart is thudding, heavy in his chest, and his vision seems to be ebbing and flowing. The sandwich he holds in his hands goes in and out of focus, and he tries to put all his attention on remembering how to breathe.

"You're gonna be okay, though, right?" Nick manages, his voice a small, high-pitched squeak. "Right, Milo?" His green eyes flash as he tugs on a curl of brown hair and looks at the darker boy with concern.

"I don't know," Milo replies, looking scared. Because yeah, Milo's been sick, but it can't be this. Because acute myeloid leukemia is cancer, and none of them know the first thing about cancer except that it's bad and people die. Milo's eyes are empty and his voice is hollow and Elliot wants to hold him and kiss every bit of him better. But Elliot can't move.

"I'm sick," Milo says, eyes blank and vacant.

And Elliot's world comes crashing down.

Elliot's world crumples slowly.


oOo


It doesn't shatter overnight. It fragments slowly and drops into pieces slowly—and losing Milo is like losing baby teeth—it hurts, slowly, and a little at a time.

It's one thing after another, slowly building on top of one another until they collect into a giant mess that weighs him down so much he has trouble breathing.

The other boys coddle Milo, treat him differently, with Tim curbing his cheeky spark and Shane's eyes shining with concern as he offers to carry Milo's things, and Nick feeding Milo as though he's a starving child from a third-world country, but Elliot doesn't.

Elliot kisses Milo with the same ferocity, launches himself at Milo with the same aggressiveness he'd had before Milo ever said he was sick. He wants Milo to know that it doesn't matter and this changes nothing and I will always feel this about you—now, maybe even more. When they're laying in bed, arms wrapped loosely around one another, legs entwined in rumpled sheets, Elliot's head rested on Milo's tattooed chest, Milo murmurs a "thank you."

Elliot shuts his eyes and whispers, "I love you," so quietly he can barely hear it.

Milo replies, "I know," and that is that.


oOo


With Milo's news, Nick and Tim get even closer if even possible. They're inseperable, as though they have suddenly realized anyone can get cancer and anyone can die, so if Milo can get it, why can't Tim? Or Nick? They grow into one another, like vines, folding and twisting togther and blurring the lines separating who they are. Nick and Tim spend all their time together, cracking jokes, eating lunch, laughing until their stomachs hurt—and Shane looks on with quiet concern.

Elliot starts hating all of them.

Elliot knows that they all mean well and it's not fair to expect them to help him carry this load, but he can't help but also think that Milo doesn't need them. Milo only needs Elliot and Elliot intends to be there for him.


oOo


Milo starts chemotherapy and it's painful to watch.

He throws up allthetime and whines allthetime and everything in his body hurts allthetime and Elliot doesn't know what to do.

So he curls in next to Milo in his hospital bed and lets himself breathe in Milo's scent of cologne and boy and the undertone of fatigue. Milo's fingers drift over Elliot's face, and Elliot lets himself believe. He lets himself believe that everything will turn out right, and this is just a bump in the road, and Milo will be fine. Milo will be fine and they will be fine.


oOo


Milo's eyelashes, the ones dark as night that are the envy of girls everywhere, fall out the same night Milo loses his hair.

When the boys topple in for visiting hours in the hospital with Tim punching Nick in the ribs to get dibs on seeing Milo first, they all roll to a stop and stare in disbelief.

Nick takes a look at Milo's pale, smooth head, and bursts into tears.

Shane walks over to Milo and gives him a hug to try to make things better and jokes that maybe when his curls come back in, it'll be even softer. Tim tells Milo he's never been more handsome, and then takes off after Nick, who's run out of the room. Shane stammers something unintelligible and follows.

Elliot clambers onto Milo's bed—his side of the bed—and just breathes.

"You want to talk about it?" he murmurs, and when Milo says no, Elliot is almost relieved.


oOo


On one of Milo's good nights, he and Elliot scale the hospital and find their way to the roof of the building. Elliot unrolls a hospital blanket on the hard cement on the upper floor, and they lie there together, watching the stars. Elliot's head is nestled in the crook of Milo's arm where it has always belonged, and Milo sighs in comfort, alabaster head gleaming under the night sky.

"Are you afraid?" Elliot's voice breaks the silence, and there's a waver in his tone, and Milo looks at him.

"Come here," Milo says, and Elliot shifts, moving his head towards Milo. Milo presses a hard kiss against Elliot's lips, and Elliot kisses him back as a wordless of course.

Milo doesn't answer the question, just continues, "I'm happiest when I'm with you, Elliot."

And Elliot envelops himself in the dark of the night around them and the comforting beating of Milo's heart. He laces his fingers through Milo's in an answer. Elliot knows that here is where he belongs, and here's where he promises he'll stay.


oOo


The morning Tim answers his phone and his eyes fog up and look glassy and his mouth draws into a tight, impossible line, Elliot knows what has happened.

"Thank you for letting us know, Mrs. Dawson," Tim says, voice cracking as it arches onto a higher note, and Elliot knows.

Nick is the second to notice Tim's expression and he starts screaming and Shane is holding him and trying to calm him down and looking at Elliot with a sympathy that Elliot despises.

Because Shane, straight-laced Shane with his good intentions and responsible nature and his ability and desire to say everything right and fix everything in his path hasn't been able to fix this. And he can't pretend to understand how Elliot feels.

As the other boys are crying together and starting on their mourning processes, Elliot walks up and leaves the room. He thinks about feverish fingers on the stretch of his stomach, full lips, and a secretive smile that Milo only shared with him.


oOo


Elliot throws all of the CDs on the ground, not caring where they fall and careen against the ground, until he finally finds the one he's searching for. It's from a day at the beach the past summer, when Tim had decided he'd take up filming their adventures because why the hell not and he pushes the disc into his computer and blows up the movie full screen.

In it, the boys are laughing as they run on the beach and they're so young—Shane and Nick throw sand at each other with glee, and Tim turns the camera to film his own face, his blue eyes shining under the sun.

"Oi! There's our pair of lovebugs!" comes Tim's cheerful voice from behind the camera, and the video is unsteady and poorly filmed, but it focuses on Elliot and Milo, sitting together at the campfire, a large towel over both of their shoulders. Milo's fingering Elliot's blonde hair absently, and Elliot is looking at Milo like he's seeing him for the first time.

"Oh shove off, Tim." Milo's voice is smooth like a brick of dark chocolate, and he folds his fingers gently underneath Elliot's chin like he always has.

"Come on now," demands Tim impatiently, "put on a show for the camera. Cheeky bastards."

"We have a little more class than that, Tim." Elliot's voice is worn and tired, but not at all angry.

"Leave them alone, Timothy," comes Shane's voice from offscreen, and Nick defensively butts in as well, "Tim, let them be. They're cute when they try to be secretive."

"Where's the fun in that? Are you chicken?" Tim's mischievous tone dominates the picture, and on the screen of his computer, Elliot sees Milo's eyes soften in defeat.

"I'm gonna kill you," Milo threatens Tim, and flips off the towel onto Elliot as he stands up. Elliot watches his movie self squawk under the towel, and then the image slips and becomes grainy before coming into focus again. Tim has thrown the camera to Elliot, and Elliot's managed to catch it.

There's a flicker of doppleganger-Elliot's white blonde hair in the camera before Milo's face fills the entire screen. Elliot remembers how his fingers felt wrapped around the videocamera as he stared straight up at Milo.

"Be right back, babes," Milo promises, and he starts off after Tim, but turns to stare back at Elliot mid-run. Milo's face fills the entirety of Elliot's computer screen—his head turned over his shoulder, his eyelashes full and dark, his brown eyes bright and full of life.

With a hoarse sob, Elliot pauses the video there. He touches the pixelated image of Milo, brushing his fingers over Milo's face on his computer and making himself remember the scratch of Milo's scruff, the way Milo's cheekbones felt under his fingers.

At least for that moment, Elliot's living in that summer day he wishes would never end.

"Be right back, babes."

And Milo will always come back for him.


oOo


When Milo shows up that night at his bedroom door, Elliot is expecting him. Milo looks the same as always, full lips, dark, expansive eyebrows, bright, expressive eyes, and his lithe, sinewy body. Milo looks the way he did before he was sick, when Elliot first fell in love: full curls of hair, impossibly long eyelashes.

"I'm sorry," Elliot says, pulling his covers up around him. "I'm sorry. I couldn't go to the funeral. I couldn't watch them bury you."

Milo's mouth pulls itself into a thin, straight line. His head is downcast and his skin is stained with soil. He doesn't say anything, but with one step, he's there next to Elliot, so familiar and so unexpectedly fragile.

When Milo kisses him, Elliot swallows dirt. Milo tastes unfamiliar and cold, and he smells like damp earth. Milo's eyes are hollowed and his face is gaunt, and Elliot can feel the ridges of his defined cheekbones underneath his fingers.

"I've missed you," Elliot manages in a whisper, between cold, coarse kisses.

Milo's body is cold and bloodless and even in the dark, Elliot can see how pale he is.

Milo breaks a kiss to look at him. "I shouldn't be here. Elliot, you need to let me go," is his low reply, and Elliot feels his heart drop out from his chest.

"I don't know how to be without you," Elliot tells him, his voice strained. "I can't."

He doesn't know what to say after that, so instead he thrusts his tongue into Milo's mouth, pushing so hard that he stands up and jumps into Milo's grasp. Milo's arms are on his legs, supporting Elliot's body, and Elliot kisses him and kisses him until he can't breathe—until he almost convinces himself that this is real. Elliot can survive off of Milo's exhale; he inhales in dirt and soil and twigs, and runs his hands through Milo's limp, dying hair.

When he finally breaks off so that his lungs don't burst and his eyes stop watering and he can catch a bit of much-needed oxygen, Milo looks vaguely disappointed but he doesn't say anything.

Elliot gets back into his bed and pulls the covers around himself.

Elliot feels a weight shift his mattress down, and then Milo's familiar body is there behind him, spooning him like he always has, like he's always belonged—almost like he never even left.

And with Milo's frigid body next to his, Milo's heavy, muscled arms wrapped around Elliot's bare chest, Elliot wonders if he ever even knew how to exist alone.


Fin.