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Can't Let Go

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Philip knew it was going to be a long night.

He didn’t sleep, he didn’t even try. If he did, he knew the sun would be up and his room would be bathed in hazy dawn light when he opened them again. He couldn’t bear that, he just couldn’t.

Instead he lay perfectly still, eyes open, arms wrapped tightly around his sleeping boyfriend. Georges’ breathing was slow, even, just part of the night surrounding them, like the glow of the streetlight outside Philip’s window or the occasional restless rush of cars going past or the occasional hollow snoring of the pipes under the floorboards. So many nights before this one it had lulled Philip back to sleep when bad dreams or the endless, maddening rush of his own brain kept him awake. Not tonight though, he wouldn’t let it, he fought against it even as the seconds went by just over his shoulder, pulled away from them as much as he tried to think of other things.

He knew that sound, so achingly beautiful in a way he couldn’t explain, part of the fabric of his night, would be gone tomorrow night. The warmth beside him would be gone, the softness of his hair under his hand, the hand at the small of his back, all the tiny things about sleeping next to his boyfriend that Philip had grown to depend on in just two weeks and now had to say goodbye to until who knew when.

Philip looked at his hand, tightly fastened in the front of the shirt Georges was sleeping in. In the gloom of two am, he could only really see shapes and shadows but it was enough. He desperately tried to picture his fingers unfolding. He willed them to move, to even twitch a little, relax and let Georges go. He tried so hard.

But he couldn’t.

Philip turned his face to the pillow as tears burned his eyes.

 

***

 

Philip drove them to the airport, just him and Georges. Pops had offered but he didn’t want this to be a whole family thing. Those goodbyes happened on the porch while Philip sat in the car, knuckles tight on the wheel and face turned resolutely the other way.

“That’s me, mon chou,” Georges sighed, voice heavy, usually lyrical, golden accent dull with sadness. He stood, hefting his bag over one shoulder. He was strong; the bag clearly wasn’t why his shoulders were so slumped.

“Okay, baby,” Pip tried to keep the tears out of his voice. He could hide the ones in his eyes by keeping his head bowed, his cap pulled down but his voice he had to carefully lift with his own effort, “Call me soon as you land, yeah?”

Georges’ expression softened, “My love, it’ll be so late for you…”

“I don’t care,” Pip shook his head, “I…I want to hear your voice. That’s more important.”

A heartbeat later, the two boys were clutching each other, a hug so fierce and desperate that Philip’s sides began to throb with a dull ache. He wouldn’t have said anything but Georges remembered and drew back, mumbling apologies in French.

But still Philip’s hand stayed, white knuckled and locked tight in the folds of Georges’ shirt. Another announcement piped up, shrill and tinny, calling all passengers for the upcoming flight to Paris, France. Which included his boyfriend.

Spring break was over and school was dragging them both apart again, back to nights spent with the phone pressed so hard to their ears, their only substitute for holding each other, that there’d be matching red lines on their faces in the morning. To hours spent curled up on the clothes they accidentally-on purpose left on each other’s floors or in suitcases so they had some ghost of each other’s scent in their noses. To making playlists for each other and playing chess over the computer, constant aimless messages and pictures sent back and forth across the ocean. To listening to each other’s rapid, ragged panting and hitching words, eyes screwed shut as they imagined what the other was doing, hands working furiously between their legs in rhythm despite the distance.

Back to long distance.

“Mon chou,” Georges’ voice broke, “I have to go. I’m sorry.”

“I know…” Pip wasn’t even aware of the tears running down his face until he noticed the halogen lights overhead catching on them as they slipped off his arm. The sight of them made his breath catch painfully in his throat, “Sorry, I…I tried not to, I didn’t mean to…”

“Oh Philip,” Georges tugged his tearful boyfriend’s hand from his shirt as gently as he could. He pressed a kiss to each of his knuckles, “Keep my heart safe for me.”

“You keep mine too,” Pip wept, wishing he could have thought of something so romantic to say. He was supposed to be the poet.

But all he could say was ‘I love you’, over and over in between their last desperate kisses, echoed by Georges. Neither of them could bear to look as he disappeared into the crowd, around the corner and out of sight.

Instead, Philip just stared downwards. Down at his empty hand.