His fingers curl and spasm against your chest and he hisses "Fuck!" in defeat. You just grab his hand and bring it to your lips, caress the twisted arcs until he stops shaking.
"Hey...hey, it's okay..." you whisper, soothingly, locking his arms around your neck and kissing his mouth, his cheeks, his throat.
"It's not!" he gasps, the tears you know he hates swimming bright in his eyes. "It's not okay...it might never be okay. What if...what if I....?"
"Can't draw anymore?" you finish, arching an eyebrow.
"No." He speaks so softly that you have to strain under the hazy, blue, darkness of the bedroom to hear it. "What if I can't touch you anymore?"
You choke. But the damp words make it out, muffled against his hair. "You'll always touch me, Justin. Always."
When you were four, you remember Pop had this old ugly hound dog. Blue. Everybody with a hound dog has to name it Blue, you think. And Blue was this overweight motherfucker who just slept all day and didn't mind when you curled up and slept right next to him.
Pop used to kick Blue just for the hell of it. On his way to the fridge to get a beer. On his way back. And, even in his sleep, Blue would feel it. His paws would twitch. Caught in some nightmare where you can't sleep in peace because there's always someone hurting you.
When you look at Justin now, that's what you think of. He flinches, sometimes, in his sleep. Pulls away from you. And you know he's being hit all over again.
But you don't shake him out of it...you've all ready learned that it makes him jump and lash out and scream until his throat is raw. Instead, you just wrap yourself around him. Hold him until he remembers he can leave that nightmare and come back to you. Where it's only moderately safe...where bullies can hide in parking garages with baseball bats and lovers can break your heart.
You don't say a word when he cries and cusses against your neck.
You just make sure you're always there when he wakes up.
He clutches your hand when you walk up the sidewalk. His shoulders slump and it's like he's collapsing inwards...drawing into his shell. He doesn't want Them touching him... he doesn't want Them seeing him. And you remember the beautiful kid who pole-danced for all of Babylon, who went home with a total stranger and changed his life forever...who did so many crazy, ballsy things just because he knew he had to have you.
He left his home. He left his family. He left his whole safe, privileged world. He left behind the basic common sense that would make anyone else walk out on a fucked-up, drug-addicted, in denial-about-aging, whore who might never love him back the way he needs.
And now he can barely leave your loft.
So, you don't let go.
You slide your arm around his too-slender waist...grab his ass..and he giggles. This happy, silly sound that makes his spine unbend so he can walk tall beside you. You lean close, take the kiss he's offering you, and he tastes like something called 'bravery'...called 'tenacity'...called 'love.' You thought you knew what those things were...but you couldn't have. You had no idea...not until you met Justin Taylor.
So, you walk with him, every day, to make him remember those lessons.
And you walk with him, every day, so you won't forget them.
It is long past night when you slide into bed beside him. He was singing "Save the Last Dance" to himself when you were stripping down...with this lopsided little grin that told you he was reveling in every step, every romantic detail of the prom you and Daphne tried to recreate for him a few weeks ago.
He sings horribly off-key. But it sounded great to you. It will always sound great to you.
"How's Michael?" he asks, speech slurred by exhaustion. Coming all the way back to the loft on his own must've taken a lot out of him...but he won't admit it. He did it and that's all that matters.
"Fine," you murmur, slinging an arm, comfortably, around him. "We're fine." You just hope he doesn't find the Polaroid stuffed into your shirt pocket...because no fucking WAY could you live down being in a super-hero cardboard cut-out.
He thinks you're heroic enough as it is. And that, in itself, is pretty fucking terrifying.
He snuggles--he actually *snuggles*--into your side, using your chest as a pillow. "Mmm. That's good." And then he raises his head just a few inches... "Are *we* fine?"
This time, you don't choke. You just smooth his spiky blond hair back from his forehead and smile. "We're better than fine."
Palpable relief. And this coy look on his face that makes you rock hard in 0.02 seconds. "Am *I* fine?"
"You're extremely fine. The epitome of fine. Quite possibly the *pinnacle* of fine."
"You little ego hound!"
"Ha! Look who's talking!"
"Who's talking? I've got better things to do..."
So, you do them.
And he touches you.
And when he dreams, he takes you with him.
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