Brazil some time in the 80’s.
It was dark, and Heath’s head was pounding. Where the fuck could Javier be? This was their usual meeting place, but it was hours past when Javier should have been back. Worry turned in Heath’s stomach. He was shivering despite the intense heat of the late summer. Even after sunset, the humidity persisted. Heath had every scrap of fabric they owned covering him, and he was still shaking.
He should go find Javier, but he needed to close his eyes for a few minutes. It wouldn’t be long before Javier came, he told himself over and over as he leaned back against the warm wall of the bakery. The smell didn’t make his gut ache in hunger like it usually did, and if he’d cared about anything other than his aching body, or finding Javier he’d take it as a sign of how bad the flu had gotten.
Nothing mattered but getting a few hours of rest. It had been such a long day alone. He wanted to curl up next to Javier and sleep forever. He licked his dry lips. His mouth felt like sandpaper. When he’d sat down he’d had a bottle of water with him, but he was struggling to remember where he’d put it. He felt around blindly, until his fingers felt the cool plastic. It was an effort to get his arms out from under their warm coverings long enough to uncap the bottle and bring it to his lips. He nearly spilled it, but at last he got a drink, and resettled himself.
He couldn’t fight it any more. His lids were too heavy. It hurt to keep them open. He had to sleep. The blackness won, for how long he wasn’t sure, but at some point he was being shaken awake.
“Sorry,” he murmured in Portuguese, his native language. “I’ll move.” Without opening his eyes, Heath tried to drag himself to his feet. His limbs wouldn’t cooperate.
“Fuck, Heath. I’ve been looking for you for hours.” Javier put a hand on his chest and forced him back to a seat.
“What?” He blinked a few times, forcing his vision to work. In the dim light of the moon he made out Javier’s features. He looked like an angel. An unkempt angel with wild hair, but an angel none the less.
“I’ve been looking for you for hours. Where have you been?” The worry came through in Javier’s words.
“I’ve been waiting for you!”
“No, we agreed to meet by the fucking bakery, and I find you all the way over here. The cops have been all over.” There was an edge of anger in his voice.
“Pega leve,” Heath tired to push Javier aside. He was in no mood to deal with Javier’s temper.
Javier dropped to his knees in front of Heath and pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. “You’re on fire.” He looked around. “Shit.” He lowered his forehead to Heath’s and took a calming breath for both of them.
Heath could have died right there from the gesture alone.
“We’ve got to get you out of here.” He pulled back much to quick and looked around.
“Let’s just sleep for awhile.” He pulled at Javier’s shirt with all his strength, but he couldn’t get him to move.
“We can’t. They’ll pick us up.” There was desperation in Javier’s voice.
Heath wanted to get up for Javier. He wanted to do anything Javier asked of him. He held out his hand. “Okay.”
Javier dragged Heath to his feet and the world tipped. Javier didn’t let him fall as he stumbled. He was a few inches shorter than Heath, but painted with muscle from all the climbing and running he did. Although, his body wasn’t why Heath wanted him. Javier had taken care of Heath since the first day they’d met and it hadn’t taken him long to fall.
Light glinted off the broken glass crunching under their feet, sending Heath back to the night they first met. He swam in the memories of Javier as they pressed together, stumbling through the dark streets. Javier’s arms were cold and damp against him, but still Heath craved the touch. Landmarks were sketched with cherished moments for Heath. They’d been through hell and back together, but Heath wouldn’t change a thing.
Each step he took was painful, dragging his body against its will. He stumbled and dropped to his knees, landing on his hands on the dirty street. It was all the same, and yet everything had changed. He was eight again, and the pain in his stomach told him he hadn’t eaten in days. Heath’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and his ears rang. He’d had bread, a whole burnt loaf he’d found in a dumpster. He’d only been able to take three bites before his stomach ached. His mistake had been falling asleep with it clutched in his hands.
“He took it.”
“What are you saying?” Javier asked.
“He took my fucking bread.” Heath accused, though there was no one around to lay blame to.
“Who?” Javier asked, pulling at his arm.
“Get off me,” Heath fought him as he tried to drag him to his feet. “I don’t even know you.”
“Fuck.” He let go of Heath and dragged a hand over his face. Javier had never seen Heath so sick. He wasn’t sure what to do. He always had all the answers and here he was lost.
He dropped to his knees next to Heath. “You’ve got to snap out of this.”
Heath looked up, eyes blood shot, and smiled. “Wow, you’re beautiful.”
Javier’s breath caught in his throat. Did Heath really think of him that way? “We have to get off the street.” He wouldn’t let himself even acknowledge what Heath had said. He pushed it from his mind.
“Don’t let yourself go there.” Javier said to himself before pressing his eyes closed. He had to fight his heart if they had any chance of surviving. They could never be.
“I just wanted to sleep and now it’s gone!” Heath was getting hysterical and was going to draw attention to them at any minute.
His gaze landed on a ladder leading up to the roof tops. If he could just get Heath up there they could hide out for a few hours. Heath had pulled himself into a corner and curled his arms around his long limbs. He really looked like a kid sitting there. Javier swallowed past the lump in his throat. He grabbed Heath and hauled him to his feet.
“Let go of me.”
“Heath, come back to me.” He pressed his face into Heath’s chest and pleaded. “We have to get out of here. We have to go.” He didn’t know what he’d do if he lost Heath. He couldn’t bear the thought.
“Javier?” Heath said like he was coming awake anew.
“I know you’re weak, but we have to get you up to the roof.” He looked up into Heath’s eyes.
Heath ran his fingers through Javier’s hair and nodded. “I’ll try.”
Javier wasn’t sure how they got to the roof, or across the tiles to find a spot to camp out, but when they settled down and Heath wrapped up around him there wasn’t a place he’d rather be. They sat like that, with Heath drifting in and out of consciousness, for a few hours.
He stirred having just fallen into a light sleep. “Yeah?”
He brought his hand up to feel Heath’s forehead. “Don’t worry about it. You seem a little better.”
Heath wrapped his fingers around Javier’s wrist gently taking it from his forehead. “You always make things better,” he whispered.
Heath grabbed him by the shirt, he was stronger than he appeared, even sick. They looked into each other’s eyes. “I wanted to die until you came into my life. You saved me. I love you.”
Javier couldn’t breathe. Everything he’d ever wanted was in those words. His cold heart melted. Who was he kidding, he’d been in love with Heath since the first time he laid eyes on him. Back then it had been puppy love, admiration even, for how genuine Heath always was, even when life was handing them shit, but now it was so much more. Heath was all he thought about. He’d die if anything happened to Heath, which was why he’d been in such a panic tonight.
The words were on the tip of Javier’s tongue to reply. He could say it. Right? Even if he hated himself for what he was when the sun came up, he lived for the dark, for the time he could spend with Heath. He could get past everything he felt and return the words.
“Did you get my bread back?” Heath had settled back into his arms, laying his head on Javier’s chest.
Javier’s heart shattered. None of it was real. Heath wasn’t here. He was somewhere in the past. Probably not even speaking to Javier. He swallowed everything he wanted to say. It was such a simple thing for street kids to curl up with each other at night, and Javier lived for the hours after sunset where they could be alone, but he knew he could never speak out loud about what he wanted. He wasn’t allowed to be this person. It was shameful to be this way. His desires were sick, his father had told him over and over before he died.
His mouth was dry, but he didn’t dare move to get the water from his bag. He had other things in his bag. He lightly ran his fingers up Heath’s spine, remembering what he’d left him alone in the first place for. He was torn. He wanted to wake up Heath up to show him, but Javier knew he needed sleep. Javier forced his eyes closed. He should drift for a few hours, they both needed it.
The next thing he knew Heath stirred against him, sticky and damp, their skin rubbed together and Javier was hard.
Fuck. He pulled away to adjust himself before Heath realized. The first light of the morning crested the over the water, making the buildings glow. It was Javier’s favorite part of the day.
“Hey, look.” Heath pointed a finger towards the water, which was just visible from this point. “It’s your favorite.” He laid his head back on Javier’s shoulder, and they watched in silence as colors broke over the sky and water.
Javier resisted every impulse he had to kiss Heath when he finally woke up. “Feeling better?”
“A little—” his words were swallowed by a coughing fit. “What happened last night?”
He didn’t remember. Forgotten was the shameful feeling from the night before and Javier wasn’t going to be the one to tell him what he’d almost said. They could return to how they’d always been, and it would be enough for Javier.
“How did we even get up here?”
“You were delirious, and I had to push your ass up a ladder.”
Heath’s brow wrinkled. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. Take some water.” He unzipped his bag and offered one of the old water bottles to him.
Heath took it, watching Javier, leaving something unsaid. Javier dug back in the old backpack and pulled out a bracelet. He’d found the stone on the beach, and it probably wasn’t anything more than polished glass, but he’d spent a little of the money he’d been saving to have it woven into a bracelet.
“I got you this.” Javier wasn’t good at giving gifts, and he was even worse at getting them. He kept his hand close and extended it to Heath.
“What it is?” Heath looked excited, as much like a little kid as he had, curled in a ball the night before.
“It’s nothing much. I found the stone.” He uncurled his fingers.
Heath’s eyes lit up and he snatched it out of Javier’s hand, he held it up, and the light shone through it casting little rainbows over Heath. “I don’t have words. Thank you.” He looked right into Javier’s eyes.
He melted all over again and all the things he’d wanted to say the night before filled his mouth and fear ate at him, but he had to say it.
To be continued…
This is a prequel story to Masked which can be found in the Follow Me Into Darkness Anthology.