Those Who Wait

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Notes: Chasing Amy belongs to Kevin Smith and co. I am making no profit from this sorry venture. Takes place (if you couldn't guess) in the missing year at the end of the movie.
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For the first two months, Banky was angry.

"I mean, what the fuck was he thinking!" He ranted at Hooper. "He thinks he's so goddamn smart. Thinks he has the answer to fucking everything. Goddamn fucking idiot. Anyone else would have thought for two seconds about what this could do to our friendship or even, fuck, even his relationship with the dyke. But not Holden, oh no. Man's got his head so far up his own ass…"

Hooper watched impassively from the couch as Banky paced restlessly back and forth. "Aren't you being a little hard on him? Yeah, he made a really bad decision, but he had good intentions."

"Good intentions! What fucking good intentions! It was fucking selfish, that's what it was. He was only thinking about himself."

Hooper rolled his eyes, but Banky was not looking at him anyway. It wasn't so much that Hooper didn't agree with Banky; he did, more or less. It was simply a matter of the number of times he'd heard this particular rant. He was starting to worry that it wasn't healthy.

Although it was probably quite a bit healthier than the first week after It had happened, when Banky hadn't said a single word more than it took to ask Hooper if he could crash on his couch for a while. If Hooper was being honest, he had to admit that it had been a bit frightening to look at that smoldering rage, too great for words, seething inside his friend.

So he didn't mind as much as he might have when Banky paced back and forth in front of him, winding to the tail of the rant, which Hooper knew from experience would link right back up to the head of it and start over. With a sigh, Hooper leaned back on the couch and waited for Banky to finish.

For the next month, Banky was in denial.

"He wasn't right, you know, about me," Banky said, more or less out of the blue. Hooper turned to look at him, eyebrow raised. "Holden, I mean," Banky clarified, as though Hooper couldn't have guessed whom he meant.

"Honey, no one was talking about Holden," said Hooper.

"I know. I'm just saying," Banky replied quickly. "What kind of pasta do you want?"

They were in the supermarket, doing grocery shopping for the week. Hooper had finally managed to convince Banky that if he was going to keep staying, he'd have to start helping out. Hooper inspected the various jars of tomato sauce, looking for something without chunks of meat in it. "Get the little twisty kind," he said.

"I mean, okay, I might have had one or two fantasies about him occasionally," Banky said as he pulled down the appropriate box and tossed it in the basket. "But I mean, that's totally normal. When you live with anyone for that long, you just get really physically comfortable with them. It's a subconscious thing. And yeah, I mean, I cared about him, obviously, but that was because he was my best friend and we'd known each other since we were kids. I never meant it like that."

"Mmm," said Hooper absently, trying to decide between mushroom and extra garlic.

"You know what? He was probably the one in love with me. Makes a lot of fucking sense, don't you think? I mean, why else would he go after a dyke, right? He knew he couldn't get her, so she was safe. But then she says yes, and it all fucking blows up in his face, right? Hell, that suggestion of his was probably his way of getting me in bed, finally. It's a good thing I left when I did."

Hooper waited until Banky took a breath and then held up the two jars. "Mushrooms or garlic?" he asked.

"What the fuck kind of decision is that? Garlic, obviously."

For the next three months, Banky was depressed.

Hooper knocked lightly on Banky's door. "Hey, babe, you okay?" They'd moved all the art stuff into the living room, and turned Hooper's studio into an extra bedroom for Banky. But Hooper was beginning to wonder if giving him a space to himself, where he was alone, was such a good idea.

"'m fine," came the muffled voice behind the door.

Hooper turned the knob and went in anyway. Banky was sitting curled up on his bed, blankets wrapped around him. He was staring blankly at the far wall. Hooper shook his head with a sigh and went to him, sitting lightly on the edge of the bed, not touching him. He didn't say anything, just offered his presence. After a moment, Banky began to speak.

"It really fucking sucks, you know? I mean, if I had thought about it, been honest with myself even just… even just a month earlier. I mean, if he was willing to try it with me for the sake of Alyssa, maybe he would've been willing to try for my sake too, you know? If I'd just… we could've been…"

Daring a little bit, Hooper reached out and put an arm around Banky's shoulders. Banky wasn't crying. He never cried. Hooper sometimes wished he would. But he took solace in the fact that Banky leaned ever-so-slightly into the embrace.

"I know it might seem like it, but it's not the end of the world," Hooper murmured.

Banky shook his head. "You don't understand though. It was right there, right in front of me. And I was just too self-deluded to reach out and grab it while I could. Too fucking oblivious." For a moment, he was silent. When he spoke again, his voice was soft, whispered, as though the sentiment had somehow snuck out without his approval. "We would've been brilliant," he said. "As good friends as we were? We would've been fucking brilliant as a couple. Nothing on earth could've stopped us."

Hooper waited for more, but Banky seemed to be finished for the moment. Feeling somewhat helpless, Hooper lifted a hand to stroke Banky's hair.

For the next two months, Banky was bitter.

"Would you mind not bringing your fucking boyfriends around?" Banky growled from his work desk, where he was inking a page of his new comic. Hooper still remembered when he'd started the comic. 'I'll show him,' Banky had been muttering. 'I'll show him I don't fucking need him.'

Hooper pursed his lips. "Now you've been here for a while honey, so you might have forgotten, but this is still my apartment, and I'll bring who I damn well please to my apartment."

Banky's pen nib broke, and he swore. "Fuck! Fine. Whatever, okay. But could you not be fucking making out with him on the couch when I'm trying to work?"

Hooper raised an eyebrow at him. "What exactly is your problem? It's not like we were fucking in front of you."

"I just don't need to see that, okay?" Banky wiped the ink stains off his hands, carefully laying aside his equipment, and then strode towards the door to his bedroom. "I don't need to see you and some faceless guy going at it like rabbits on the couch while you make up some bullshit story about how-" his voice rose to a higher, mocking pitch, "-'this is my first time with a man,' or 'oh, be gentle, I'm not really used to this.' It's fucking disgusting, that's what it is."

Hooper stared at him. Normally he'd brush a comment like that off easily, but there was something in Banky's tone, a particular venom that had never been there before. It made him pause, a bit hurt.

"Banky," he started, but Banky had reached his room and slammed the door shut behind him.

"Banky!" he called out again. He waited, but there was no response.

For the next two months, Banky was very depressed.

"Banky?" Hooper called out again, fear beginning to creep into his voice. "Banky, are you there? Banky! Answer me!" He rattled the doorknob of the locked bathroom door harder this time. "Banky!" His voice was becoming hysterical. He rattled the doorknob again.

"Fuck." Hooper stood back, staring uselessly at the locked door. A fear was starting to creep into him, like shards of ice running through his blood. He had to get through that door. He had to, somehow. Hooper shook his head, feeling helpless. Well, the lock was kind of old, shouldn't be too strong. He took a deep breath and kicked at the door.

It gave only the tiniest bit, and Hooper nearly fell over. No. Not good enough. "Banky, open this door!" he screamed, pounding his fists against the wood. "Open it or I'll fucking break it down!" Still no response.

Hooper stepped back once more and took another deep breath. Time to see if all that time at the gym was paying off. He braced himself and ran forward, slamming his shoulder against the door.

With a screech and a bang, the door snapped open. Then suddenly everything was very, very quiet. Hooper's heart sounded ridiculously loud pounding in his ears as he stared at the bathtub, half-full of water, stained pink water that had sloshed onto the floor, soaking the bathmats.

Hooper had the completely inane, useless thought that it would be hard to get the bloodstains out of the mats even as he hurried to the edge of the tub. He yanked Banky's limp arms from under the water's surface. So much blood. God, so much blood. He pressed at the wounds, trying to pressure them shut, his heart fluttering with hope as Banky groaned and tossed his head.

"Fuck," Hooper muttered. "You fucking idiot. Fuck. Hold on. Stay awake. I've got some- some bandages here somewhere. Hold on. Fuck." He stood again, stumbled to the sink and ripped open the medicine cabinet. Bottles of pills cascaded unceremoniously into the sink as his trembling fingers fumbled for the roll of ace bandages. He was shaking so badly that he barely managed to get the plastic off them. But finally it gave and he moved back to the tub in a way that was less a series of steps and more a controlled fall.

He grabbed one of Banky's arms and ruthlessly began to wind the bandage around the long open cut that ran a frightening length from his wrist towards his elbow. He wasn't sure how tight the bandage was supposed to be, but he figured the more pressure the better.

When he finished the first arm, he ran into a problem. Nothing to cut the bandage with. Well. Fuck that. He wasn't about to leave the room to hunt for scissors. Fuck. He rolled out a length of the bandage and began to wrap the second arm from the continuous strip, effectively tying Banky's arms together. But at least it would help the bleeding.

"Banky, can you hear me?" he said as he wound the bandage. "Banky? God, hold on. Can you hear me?"

Banky's head turned towards him with a drunken loll, and he peered at Hooper through half-closed eyes. "Hoop?"

Hooper smiled, and suddenly realized as he did so that tears were dripping down his face. "Yeah, Bank, it's me. Can you stay with me here?"

"Don't know what's wrong with me," Banky mumbled. "Nothing seems right lately. Can't… can't feel anything, 'cept angry. Feel like I'm angry all the time. Fucking hurts. God. Why do m' arms hurt?"

"Fuck," said Hooper again as he finished off the bandages. "Stay here. Fuck. Obviously. Stay awake if you can. I'll be right back, okay?"

Hooper dashed back to the living room and grabbed up the phone, punching 9-1-1. As he held the phone to his ear, he caught sight of the cuff of his shirtsleeve. It was soaked, and stained with blood. He was hyper-conscious of his own breathing. He held the phone with his trembling, water-wrinkled, bloody hand, and every second that he waited for the emergency operator to pick up felt like an eternity.

For the next month, Banky was lost.

"How are you feeling?" Hooper asked softly as he pulled up his own chair next to the one that Banky had pulled over to the window.

Banky was silent for a few seconds, his eyes staring out the window at nothing. Then, almost abruptly, he said, "I'm not sure. Strange. Numb?"

Hooper reached forward and placed his hand on Banky's arm. He could feel the roughness of the bandage under Banky's shirtsleeve. Soon they'd be able to come off. "Why'd you do it?" he asked, as he'd been asking for days. He'd yet to get an answer.

But today, it seemed, would be different. "I'm not sure," Banky said. "I don't really know. I just… I didn't want to feel angry anymore. Upset all the time. I was just… in so much pain all the time, and I couldn't make it stop."

"You could've come to me," Hooper said softly.

"Maybe," Banky admitted. "But… God. It feels so strange. It's been how long now, since I left? And it still hurts like yesterday. God, I miss him so much."

And then, to the breaking of Hooper's heart, he saw a tear tracking its way down Banky's cheek. Small, and alone, but there. Not for the first time, Hooper wished for Holden's head on a silver platter. He settled for rubbing Banky's arm comfortingly. "It'll be okay," he whispered, even though he wasn't sure it would. "I promise."

Banky turned to look at him then. Hooper waited, unsure what to do, and then suddenly, to his surprise, Banky fell forward into his arms, leaning against his chest. "Don't tell Holden," he mumbled into Hooper's shirt. "Please."

Recovering himself, Hooper put his arms around Banky and just held him. "I promise," he repeated. "It'll be okay."

In the next month, Banky began to move on.

"Fuck no!" he said, pissed. "If we're doing this, then I'm being the fucking man!"

Hooper pinched the bridge of his nose. "Honey, we're both men. That's the point. And if all goes well, then we'll both be fucking men as well. Now are you going to let me take the lead in this or not?"

"I'm not some fucking bitch who's just going to lay down and take it!" Banky protested again.

"Look," said Hooper patiently. "I'm just saying, being a bottom is usually the less active role in this sort of thing, and being the less experienced, I think you should take it."

Banky glared at him stubbornly. Hooper fought the urge to laugh; that look was far less threatening with Banky completely naked.

"How about this," he said by way of compromise. "The first time around, I'll bottom from the top, okay?"

Banky frowned. "You'll what?"

Hooper looked down and shook his head to hide his laughter. He was pretty sure Banky would be offended if he saw, and if he stalked off and locked himself in his room, then they'd probably never have sex. "Just trust me okay?" he said once he had gotten hold of himself and looked up again. "I know what I'm doing."

Banky still looked suspicious, but after a moment he let himself fall back against the bed, his eyes locked with Hooper's. "Fine," he said. "But I reserve the right to stop things in the middle if you fuck up."

Hooper felt like there must be a really good pun in there somewhere, but he was too distracted to think of it. With a smile, he leaned down to take what he had been waiting for.

Then came the comic convention.

Banky sat on the curb outside the convention center and with a sort of morbid fascination, analyzed the ache in his chest. He'd accepted for a while now that he'd been in love with Holden. He'd known that he wasn't over his best friend, might never be over him. But…

But, all things considered, it hurt less than he'd expected it to.

He almost wasn't surprised when the very object of his musings came up behind him and sat next to him on the cement. For a while they were both silent.

"How's Alyssa?" Banky finally asked.

Holden shrugged. "I didn't really talk to her much. She's here with some girl. I didn't want to intrude."

"I saw," said Banky, because he had. He'd felt good, a little vindictively, when Alyssa had walked in with the new girl on her arm. He'd hoped he would have more sympathy for Holden, but he was starting to come to grips with the fact that even if they somehow became friends again, he'd never really forgive Holden for what he'd done, for what he'd been willing to do.

Banky was amazed at how comfortably they slipped into their old familiar silence. He could almost hear the scratching of Holden's pencil, smell the faint aroma of the ink as they worked together in silence, like a well-built machine, needing little more than a few mostly disjointed words, or even sounds, to communicate everything that was never said between them.

"How've you been?" Holden said finally.

Banky thought of the small, permanent scars that ran up his forearms. "Fine," he said. "I'm sleeping with Hooper now."

Holden turned to face him, eyes wide in surprise. "Really?"

"I thought he would have told you," said Banky.

Holden looked sheepish. "Hooper and I don't really talk much anymore."

Banky nodded, and Holden stood up. "I have to get going," he said, and actually sounded regretful. "You staying with Hooper then?" he asked. Banky nodded. "He still have the same phone number?" Again, a nod.

"How about you?" Banky asked. "Same number? Still in the loft?"

"I got a new cell phone, but the loft number is still the same."

Banky nodded. "Cool."

"See ya," said Holden, and walked away.

With a certainty that surprised him, Banky knew that Holden would call. And with an equally surprising certainty, he knew he'd take the call. They'd never be like they were. Banky understood that. But there seemed to be no reason he could think of why they couldn't be friends, at least.

Banky nodded to himself and continued to stare out into the parking lot.

- END -