A/N: My second attempt at VG fic. I think I got a better hold of the characters this time— at least I hope I did. Anyways, another CA story, because I can't think of anyone but.
They were phantoms. A past he couldn't remember, didn't want to remember, but he knew that he would have to. Phantoms that haunted not only his dreams, but the corners of his eyes when he turned, thinking he saw something he knew couldn't be there. Bright and glittery and bold and everything he used to be, still wanted to be, but could never be. Your past is meant to stay that way, but his was never normally very good at keeping so.
Because there, suddenly, off the cuff, came his past once more— the one he tried so hard to forget, but never, ever could, no matter what he told himself. And the phantoms grew opaque, fleshing out until it was like they had never gone and he was left broken and bare and gasping for the breath he knew wouldn't come. Because the phantoms had come back once again, taunting and grinning grins that belonged on monsters rather than humans.
But maybe they were monsters. Maybe they were all monsters. Thought that they were better than everyone else, thought that they could change the world with glitter and sex and lamé and wishes they could never, ever keep.
And there was a time, speaking to Mandy, her voice getting progressively hoarse from the cigarettes she had been inhaling like a lifeline, that everything got stripped away, and he saw life, their collective past for what it truly was. And that time turned over in his head until he shuddered and curled up in his shower, not wanting to think about it, but not able to think about anything else.
He saw everything, for the first time in his life— masks stripped away and varnishes tattered and decaying like they were ought to be. Maybe it was better this way, better that he could see everything for as it was, instead of how he wanted it to be.
However, then came the curveball— and as a journalist, he really should have expected that, but of course he didn't; too blind-sided by everything else that was going on, he didn't see what he needed to. The plot twist didn't come as one would expect it to, the big revelation of Tommy Stone being Brian Slade being Maxwell Demon being whomever the lonely little boy actually was. No, that would be too simple, was too simple. The plot twist, instead, was the bleached blond hair, the horrendous leather jacket, and the parting gift of almost choking on a brooch that he had refused to take. The thing he never wanted again, but always had longed for. Because reaching for a napkin to wipe off his hand, he saw something scrawled on it that after one look he had memorized unwittingly.
The brooch and the napkin had been sitting on his bedside table for a week before he finally had the presence of mind to actually do something about it.
They were all monsters, sure, but maybe together maybe they could get a little bit of their humanity back. And so, ten rings later, he felt the tiny trickle of hope that had been slowly fluttering in his chest, tighten and wither. Because of course— nothing that ever mattered to him had ever come true.
Crumpling the napkin and throwing it away had been the hardest thing he had done for awhile, short of taking on the assignment that had simultaneously ruined everything and brought him to freedom.
No more childish fantasies. No more crushes and hoping and wishing and dreaming— storing away eyeliner and black nail polish and taking them out just to smell them, breathe in what he had lost. Reality was not like that, and he couldn't be expected to believe otherwise anymore.
He had been living too long in a delusion that he was better, that he had forgotten the life he had still secretly desired. But no more; this time it was for sure and for real, and he would battle it out as long as he needed to, if it would just go away.
A ringing interrupted his waking vigil that he tried to disguise as sleep to his running brain. He glanced, blearily and half blind, to the alarm clock, wondering who in the hell was calling at two in the morning.
But, nevertheless, he answered, expecting his boss with another damn assignment that could have waited until the morning, but didn't.
"It probably wasn't you."
"I got back and my neighbor said I had missed a call. It probably wasn't you, but I had ho— sorry for bothering you so late."
"Who is this?" His voice was rough, still not awake and yawning as he asked the question.
"This is Arthur, right? Arthur Stuart?"
And suddenly, in that agreement that was more of an exhalation than anything else, he realized.
"I was gone, my neighbor couldn't get to the phone before, well, it stopped."
There was a wry chuckle, and Arthur could almost see the slightly bashful grin on his face that would look both completely out of place and oddly at home.
"I just got back from the studio. I just— sorry, I know it's late."
"I have tomorrow off," he murmured, yawning and holding the receiver to his ear, smiling in a goofy fashion he knew was befitting to his seventeen-year-old self.
"What's up? Did you want to talk to me about Slade finally? After all my asking?"
He forced himself to laugh lightly at that, not daring to let himself hope about remembrance of an encounter that had taken place a decade before, especially with the drugs and alcohol that he knew were involved.
At that, he really did laugh, more choked than anything else, because Curt had the same tone when talking about Brian/Tommy/Maxwell, that Arthur felt when asked about his cherry being popped the morning after the Death of Glitter show.
"Then what would you like to talk about?"
"There was a night—" Arthur could hear the stuttered breath, as if reliving anything from his past was more painful than soothing (a feeling Arthur knew only too well, memories still rubbing raw where he didn't want them to.)
"A long time ago. Years. It was after a concert, and I was clean for the first time in years. Not sober, god no, but clean. And there was a boy, too pretty and too innocent looking for his own good…" Another exhalation.
"… Did I crush you, Arthur Stuart? Did I become Brian, or Maxwell, or whoever the fuck he is? Did you hate me?"
And how could Arthur lie?
The dial tone was all he heard after that.
The phone was answered on the fourth ring, morning sunshine entering his window as he let a breath escape him, smiling faintly at the rough 'hello?'
"I hated you because I didn't hate you. I hated myself and the world and the death of what everything was and the fact that I knew we were all just monsters. I hated everything, but hating you for leaving was easier."
"How old were you?"
"God, you're young."
"And you're only, what? 34?"
"You say that like you don't know my entire biography memorized, Arthur Stuart."
"Well, Curt Wild, I'm not a music journalist for nothing, you know."
"I suppose so…"
They lapsed into a silence, both of them just breathing— after a moment becoming simultaneous. If Arthur closed his eyes and tried really hard, he could almost feel the arms around him, slick with sweat as hips pumped into his body, breaths intermingling with whispers of his name. He would have wished, had he been seventeen once again and wanting nothing more than Curt Wild/Brian Slade/anyone that could understand him and help him.
If Arthur closed his eyes and tried really hard, he could he could almost feel the arms around him, fingertips gliding across his chest and stomach as they breathed together, almost asleep and not wanting to talk anymore, but also wanting to know everything about each other. He would have wished, had he still believed in wishes.
"Arthur?" came a voice that startled him out of his thoughts, the tone making it clear that this was not the first time his name had been called.
Nothing was said about his absence, and instead an address was written down, a lip bitten all the while, knowing that if he went through with this, he could never bury his past again— that he would have to confront it one way or another.
He didn't mind as much as he thought he should have.
The phantoms were back. Not that they had ever really left, but he could feel their presence more so than ever before. Even though he was expecting it, it still came as a blow to him when they were almost solid now— almost human.
Because they weren't supposed to be human, they were supposed to be the monsters that his mind had made up, the monsters of their collective past. But they didn't grin evilly anymore, maybe they never did, or maybe they were luring him in with the sweet smiles and heavy glances. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
And he needed to think of something else, anything else other than the phantoms of too many years passed, other than the monsters in his closet and the skeletons under his bed. He needed to think of something not, but he couldn't. Could never, especially with the slap in the face of the past he had been avidly avoiding. Especially with the knocking.
"I was impatient."
"How did you get my address?"
"Your boss gave it to me, once I told him who I was. I don't normally like saying it, but I figured that it was for a good cause… You still sound British."
"You still sound American; if we're going to be exchanging obvious pleasantries, may I state how blond your hair still is."
Curt grinned, more of a sneer than anything else, and pushed his way into Arthur's apartment, looking around in barely concealed disgust. "When did you become a yuppie?"
"When I realized glitter was dead."
Curt barked a laugh and sat on the tiny couch, facing the wall but twisting his head to look up at Arthur.
"Babe, glitter was dead before it started. We were all delusional to think it was going to change anything."
And what could Arthur say to that? A hurried denial that would sound false to his own ears? No, he needed to face the truth as well, even if the truth hurt.
"We were monsters."
Curt's blond hair was stuck into a ponytail as he shrugged, not agreeing, but not outright dismissing the notion. "Aren't we always? Or is that people in general? Or sell outs? Everyone is a monster in their own way, the trick is finding out how you are and living with it."
Even though Curt's words should have hurt more than anything else, all they did was ease Arthur into a state where he closed and locked the door, taking a seat next to the man he had wanted to forget for so many years.
"What have you been up to for the past decade, Mr. Wild?"
"Well, call it an exclusive, but…"
If there was one thing that Arthur wasn't expecting when he woke up, it was Curt Wild wrapped possessively around him, arms tight against his chest and breath soft against the back of his head. Of course, just to shift his paradigm, that's exactly what he felt when he woke up.
The arms tightened as Arthur shifted, and he glanced down to see black varnished nails wrapped around him, clenching tightly, as if not wanting to let him go. And it was stupid, dumb, idiotic, and every other adjective for 'you dumbass' that he could think of, because he had only really gotten to know this man the night before, and vice versa.
Arthur was not a teenager anymore, wide eyed and captured by the aura of a glitter rock show. So why did he feel his chest tighten in warmth as he felt fingertips glide across his chest, the man breathing steadily behind him as he felt lips move against the back of his neck, as if they wanted to speak, but didn't want to mess up the words. Why did he feel as though his wishes— the ones he thought he had given up years before, were finally coming true?
"What time is it?" finally came from his companion, voice haggard with a night of sleeping on a too-small couch for one person, let alone two.
"Mmm, five a.m.."
"Why in the hell are we up? And might I suggest that if we sleep again, we do it in a bed this time?"
And Arthur should have said no, should have told Curt to get out of his apartment, because everything was going too fast, too fast, but it would be like saying no to Christmas— it was going to come regardless of what you thought you wanted.
"Sure, come on."
He knew he was doomed the moment he led Curt into his tiny bedroom, watching the man strip to his skivvies as he fell, almost face first, onto the mattress, before holding a hand out in silent entreaty. If he were honest with himself, he knew he was doomed the moment he saw Curt in the bar, eyes sparkling in the dim light, capturing Arthur in a way he hadn't let himself feel for over a decade. Maybe he had even been doomed the moment he saw a picture of Curt in his local newspaper, his parents having thrown the issue down in disgust at the sight of the rocker. Most likely, however, it had started even before then— a yearning in his stomach for something more, something different, that he had had since he was a child.
Curt was that different, that thing that he needed to help him repose the monster he knew was inside of him. And maybe, just maybe, he was Curt's reclaim to humanity. Unlikely, but maybe, if he let himself, he could let himself wish.
Arthur hadn't wished for a long time— not since that night on the rooftop, a decade and a few months ago, where everything had been stripped away from him and he had been left, raw and bleeding and having to deal with life on his own.
He didn't want to let himself wish, but he knew that he most likely would, regardless. And so he stripped down as well, taking the black studded hand within his own, and laid on the bed, letting the older man wrap himself around his body once more.
They weren't phantoms anymore. Weren't something that needed to be feared or considered monsters. It had taken Arthur over 10 years to realize that, but laying there, Curt's head on his chest, his fingers gently caressing over crevices in his lover's face, he could breathe.
"I was a monster for giving up," he murmured to himself, gaze blinking onto the other man when he felt a slight kiss to the flesh closest to him.
"I was a monster for holding on," he got in reply, a wry grin and a deep kiss serving as punctuation.
"And we're human for what? Letting go of our hang-ups?"
Curt bit his lip, eyes closing as he contemplated, Arthur unconsciously holding his breath as the other man started to speak.
"I think we're human because we found the person that we could hold on for, and give up for."
And Arthur? Well, Arthur had never heard anything more beautiful in his life.
"You are such a lyricist," he muttered instead of replying with what he wished to, shaking away the lump in his throat. And because Curt was Curt, he understood and replied with exactly what Arthur needed and wanted to hear.
"Babe, you wouldn't have me any other way."