I'm at another party. I go to so many parties, they're all the same. Full of people like me, fresh out of highschool. Well, seeing as it's the Christmas season now, we've been gone for a year or more. We aren't even teenagers any more. Though nobody other than me seems to have any intention of growing up. I don't really like the party scene. I guess I'm just a goody two-shoes, but I have no intention of getting constantly drunk or constantly high.
I get a few "Hi"s from people, but nobody wants an actual conversation with me, because I'm not drinking much or blagging drugs from low-lives. That and the fact that the guys don't want to be seen to be too involved with me. With 'Gay Perry'. Inventive nickname, isn't it? I suppose it gets straight to the point. There's one guy though, that's making me smile a little in this godforsaken crowd. I can tell he's high (everybody is, but he's especially far gone), but he's just smiling so much, laughing and hugging everybody. Most people smile for a while, and then just get miserable. Not him.
But nobody wants to talk to him either. They all get stoned, but they work as well. They did get through highschool all right, and they all have jobs. This guy though, he's the one who's addicted. Takes it too far every time. He's the guy they never want to be, no matter how nice he is to people. I recognise him, I've seen him around. Hell, we were the same class, but I can't say I know him.
I keep watch on him all night, feeling strangely protective of the classmate I've never talked to. He came in with a couple of friends, but they ditched him pretty quickly. Every time I lose sight of his backcombed hair or his grin, I know where he is. He's gone to another corner to smoke something else. Eventually, the room begins to clear as everyone gets bored of this party and goes in search of another one, exactly the same but in a different place. I start to like it when it gets quiet, because the people who don't fit in that well stick around. Which means that the interesting people who don't have one track minds are left. It's just me and the guy I've been observing all night eventually. We kind of drift into conversation, and get thrown out of the house together.
"Hey!" he says, brightly, like I'm his best friend. By this point we're walking the deserted streets of this fucked-up city together.
"Hello." I smile back. Nobody gets a smile off me unless I really like them. I know this. So why am I smiling at this guy who I've only just greeted? I can't deny he's good looking though; angular features, big brown eyes and thick brunette hair styled so effortlessly into endearing and teasing positions.
"I've seen you around, but I can't really say I know you," he says with a laugh, like he has been doing all night.
"I'm Perry Van Shrike," I shrug. "And you are?"
"Julian Wells. The notorious Julian Wells." His smile fades for a moment as he thinks about his reputation. He must be coming down and there's nobody left to give him anything to keep him up there.
"Wait, Perry Van Shrike? As in...um..." I actually laugh then. It never fails to amuse me when people recognise my name, they have the realisation dawning on their face and then they get awkward about it.
"Gay Perry? Yeah, that'd be me."
"Don't you hate it when people stereotype? I've been watching you all night. You've been stuck on your own because of fucking stereotypes!" He muses angrily. "Julian is fucking high again, and it's his own fault and he's a dropout and good for nothing and he'll never change," he's yelling now, and I know his high has worn off. He stops without warning and turns to face me, so I almost walk into him. He stares defiantly right into my eyes with his own that are brimming with so much emotion. I can read anger, regret, fear, sorrow, hopelessness...
His face is so pale his smile gone completely for how long I don't know. I see him there, lost and broken, unable to fit in anywhere, stuck in the cycle of his addiction because there's nobody to help him, then feeling awful because he wants so desperately to stop, but he's not strong enough on his own.
"Do you have anywhere to stay tonight?" I ask him gently, not accusing or encouraging, just asking. He sets his lips in a thin line and shakes his head. "You can come to my place if you like." Why the fuck am I offering this? But I feel so bad for Julian - I can see how similar he is to me. He doesn't make a big deal out of it, he nods with respect.
"Thank you," he says in the smallest and most dejected voice I've ever heard from anybody.
It's not far to my house, but he's shivering now. Really shaking. I have to half-drag him up the stairs; he can barely stand and I hate to see it. There's so much personality and promise in Julian I can't stand to see him so wasted, so broken, so...hopeless.
"Are you all right?" I ask him, hesitantly, when we get through the door to my apartment. Julian shakes his head and stumbles to the bathroom I point him to, voiding his stomach violently into the porcelain bowl. Fuck, I can't just leave him alone in there, but I don't know if he wants me anywhere near him. I decide I don't care, and I kneel beside him (I'm still quite a bit taller) and place a hand against his forehead, keeping his hair back. My other hand is on his back, and I feel how sweat soaked his shirt is. I slide my hand underneath it and I don't quite know why, but I'm touching his skin, rubbing soothing circles into his back.
When his sickness is eventually over, I offer him a toothbrush and run a cloth under the cold tap. "Shit Julian, you're burning up," I say as I press the cloth against his forehead. Julian says nothing; he's still shivering. I don't know what to do; he's sweating and his skin is so hot, but he's shivering because he feels so cold.
I finally come up with some sort of plan of action. I have an arm around Julian's shoulders, and I have to practically drag him again, to bed. To my bed, because it's the only one. But at least he can stay still there, and be vaguely comfortable. "Julian?" I see if he isn't too far gone to be coherent.
"Yeah?" his voice is shaking as much as he is, but at least he's talking.
"Is there anything you want?" I don't know what he would want, but as I ask this I'm already in the kitchen pouring him a glass of water. I know as much as to keep him hydrated, or something.
He smiles gratefully when I bring it to him, and it makes all this not seem so bad, somehow. It's an infectious smile, and I can't help but copy it in relief.
"I think I'd like to sleep now," he says, sat up against the headboard with a blanket wrapped around him. This is probably a good idea, so I nod and turn to leave the room.
"I'll sleep on my sofa, it's fine," I mumble, though I'll only worry if I can't watch him. I want to stay with him, to make sure he's okay...and because I just want to. But I can't, I can't take advantage of him when he's coming down badly, like this. But I stop at the door for entirely different reasons.
"Perry?" Julian's voice is quiet, meek, barely there.
"Stay with me...please. I don't want to be on my own, it hurts." My heartstrings are stretching to breaking point as I see his face.
"All right then." I want to say so much more, but I'm trying to keep myself a little distant. I sit on the side of my bed, and place my hand on his shoulder as he lies down. "You'll feel better in the morning," I murmur to him, reassuring myself really. Julian says nothing, but a hand, smaller than mine, snakes out of the bedsheets and rests on mine. I don't know how much more I can stand before I do something I'll regret.
I feel Julian pulling my hand, trying to pull me down. I give in, and he shuffles up, me lying beside him now, both of us under my duvet. I take a few moments to pull my jeans off, and kick them onto the floor, but honestly, it's only because they're too uncomfortable to sleep in.
"Thank you," Julian mumbles, and still the only contact is our hands. I close my eyes and I try to sleep, but with Julian still shaking a little right next to me, it's very difficult. I give up and sigh, the man in the bed next to me starting at the sound and movement, before relaxing again.
He shuffles back again, so he's even closer to me, and I can feel the vibrations his heartbeat makes through the mattress. Too fast.
"I don't know what's happening, Perry," Julian whimpers, "It's never been as bad as this before, and I'm scared." He sounds so lost, and all I can think to do is to give in to everything, and pull him close to me. He tenses at first, but then he curls up against me, shivering and sweating, but it's slowing, calming, especially when I press soft, unobtrusive kisses to his face.
"You'll be all right." I whisper it into his ear and I know I'm not lying. We'll be all right.