he answers with baited breath, on the 32nd call. a little excessive, maybe. possibly not, when its been just over a week, most of which is lost in some dark part of his mind. call it a relapse. a return to excess. does that make sense? he doesnt know. not a whole lot does. he maybe had a little liquid courage. couple too many ritalins. his thoughts are spiralling. ian is frantic. angry. the kind of mad born from madness, from fear and stress. the guilt churns in his empty gut, bile rising in his throat a little, a sharp burn. he hasnt spoken. theres not a lot to say. he fucked up. hes still fucked up, fucking everything up. his heart is hammering against his chest, breathing all shaky, and he doesnt know if its from the pills, the anxiety. ians quieter. when he talks, his voice is shaking too. "joji... where are u? i cant... uv gotta tell me, ive looked everywhere. please. just.." joji ends the call. he lays for a while, stares at the stained ceiling. he broke down the sunday before last. itd been building for a while. couple months. hell, maybe the whole year. that itch. the anger. those self-destructive thought patterns. and he just cracked. grabbed the couple thousand dollars he had saved, couple pairs of clothes, other necessities, and just got in his car and ran away. stopped at some fleabag hotel, rented a room, picked up a few bottles of hard liquor across the road, called his dealer, and holed himself up in his disgusting room. it felt fitting. now it just feels empty. the guilt is all consuming now, and he regrets answering. regrets everything. he needs sleep. cant. its all too much. he downs a quarter of his last bottle of bourbon, from his 2nd and only trip out of his pit. hed planned for it to be his last. but fucking ian, he just wouldnt let him. wouldnt let him go. he sighs. digs thru the sheets to find the phone hes sure he left RIGHT there, where is it, fuck, finds it tucked under the pillow, unlocks it on the 4th try, ignores another call, goes to msgs and starts typing out the address before he can stop himself. he sees ian already typing, stopping. waiting. joji hits send. then hes rushing to the bathroom.
he wakes up with his head on the toilet bowl to banging. loud banging from outside. at the door. he groans. gets up. downs the rest of his booze. stumbles to the door. it isnt until hes standing there, hand on the doornob, that he realizes who it is. he feels his gut churn again, with panic, and this kind of self-preserving numb flood his brain. hes watching as his hand slides the chain off the lock, as he unlocks the deadbolt, and turns the door handle. his eyes stay locked down at shoes. ians shoes. they dont belong. not here. jojis brain is still buzzing, like static, strange thoughts flying around in the black. he hears a sob, sees shoes stumbling closer, feels arms around him. oh fuck, that smell. his smell. joji lets his weight drop into ians arms. ian holds him tighter, holds him up, staggers into the room, shutting the door with his foot. he carries(drags) joji to the bed, lets them both fall onto the filthy sheets, just holds him for a while. joji cant help it. he cries. messy, ugly heaving sobs. "s..sorry," he gets out. ian pulls back to look at him, unstick his dirty hair from his sweaty forehead, shake his head. "later." he says. "its okay.. its alright. fuck, ur okay... what..whatd u take?" joji sobs, turns his face away. "ri.. ritalin.." ian frowns, like hes confused. "ritain? jesus, how much?" joji shrugs. "fuck, alright, cmon. water." joji doesnt wanna get up. doesnt know if he can without puking again. he watches ian disappear into the bathroom, hears him sigh, flushing the toilet. hears water running as he rinses out and fills up a glass. joji gets a good look at him on the way back. he looks.. fucking awful. eyes red. deep, dark bags under them. puffy. joji shuts his eyes. feels a hand on the back of his neck. he lets his head be propped up, glass pressed to his lips, drinks it, all of it. water feels heavy in his stomach right now. nauseating. he thinks he can keep it down. "when did u eat last?" he thinks. "uhh.. um, like.. the day before yesterday, maybe? i wasnt.. i havent been... hungry.." ians hand grips a little tighter where hes holding his wrist. "its the drugs." he states, flat. tired. angry. its quiet after that. joji keeps his eyes closed, his mouth shut. they stay there a while. maybe not long at all. until ian sighs. "can u move without throwing up?" joji shrugs. ian worms an arm underneath him, pulls him upright, slowly, carefully. theres a brief spike in nausea, that settles after a moment of heavy breathing, head on ians shoulder. ian gets him to wrap his arm around his shoulders, wraps his arm around jojis waist, supports most of his weight as he stands and guides him to the bathroom, coaxing him into the dirty bathtub. he pulls his shirt over his head, his boxers off, runs the water, checks the temperature, puts the plug in. joji feels fucking useless. like a child. or an invalid. something putrid and pulsing like a cyst, a tumor. he doesnt know. nothing makes a whole lot of sense right now. the water feels good. he wants to sink down underneath and stay there. breathe it in. ians hands are warm as he washes him. blunt nails scrub at his scalp, and the loofa is scratchy in a good way. but it doesnt change anything. focusing on good feelings does nothing to drain the rot inside him. hes uncomfortable, restless, lethargic. he wants to curl into his body like a slater, a grub. he wants to be left to decay in this room and he doesnt want ian here to witness it. he wishes hed never answered that call. he stays when ians done. curls up on his side, faced away from him. he cant look at him. he doesnt wanna make it harder but he cant fucking look at his face, his hands, any of him. ian is so quiet for a while, joji thinks maybe hes gone. he hopes. maybe he left. he doesnt look up. then he hears a zipper, rustling. hands pull him up so hes sitting, and he doesnt resist it, and ian settles in behind him, still in his shirt, his underwear. joji goes where ian wants him, hands moving him to lay back, head resting on ians collarbone. he keeps his eyes closed. "hey. joji.. please, okay? please dont fucking shut me out, just... im here, alright? im not going anywhere. if u wanna stay here a while longer, okay, yknow, thats fine. but im staying right here with u.." he trails off like he has more to say. joji would rather him give him shit now, than build suspense. he doesnt say anything. ian kisses his forehead. "... im so fucking glad ur okay," he says, quiet, like a confession. runs his fingers thru his hair. joji keeps his eyes shut tight and they lay like that. until the water's cold and his skin feels soggy and hes been drifting in and out of sleep, with every ripple of the water. he sits up, sore and tired, goes to stand and nearly falls right back. ian steadies him, and he staggers his way out, only stopping to piss before he walks back out to the bed, sits on the edge, rubs his eyes. hes fucking cold, still wet. ian walks out, towel in hand, another around his waist, and joji takes it. dries himself off, drops it to the floor. ian does the same. sits beside him. turns his face towards him. joji watches a drop of water make its way down from his hairline to the bridge of his nose. ian kisses him, quick. joji stops him when he goes to do it again, frowning, shakes his head. "dont... my breath stinks.." ian smiles. tired, delirious. he kisses him anyway. like he has to. he stops joji, tho, when he goes to take it further. lays him back and settles in beside him, pulls the covers up around them both.
joji wakes up in the dark, stomach aching, growling at him. he thinks hes sober. mostly. with all the ritalin he took, hes not surprised that its still in his system. he wonders if theres any left. gets up, slowly, carefully, quietly, to check. its gone. little snap-lock bag of pills, not where he left it. he looks around, checks the bathroom, finds the bag in the bin, empty. ian flushed them... fair play. he wants to be mad, feels it bubbling up inside him, but..yeah. after the hell hes put him thru, he cant. no booze left. maybe he could sneak across the road. he just needs something, yknow. to dull this ache inside him. just a little. anything. he jumps when he feels a hand on his shoulder, freezes. hears ian yawn, sigh, go quiet. "... hey. are u.. okay? are u pis..angry?" joji ducks his head, closes his eyes, breathes. "..no. i..i get it. i know..." ians arms wrap around him, lips press against his shoulder. joji turns around. its a little easier to face him like this, in the dark. ian brushes his hair back, eyes flitting back and forth between his, open and caring and beautiful. joji cant hold his gaze. "..im. ian... im so fucking-"
"i know." ians hands are resting on his hips, and theyre warm. always so warm, where jojis are cold. thats gotta be symbolic, or something. it feels really good to be in his arms. fuck, it feels so good, and.. he nearly destroyed everything. he was so close to fucking it all up, forever. if hes being honest, it wasnt ians call that stopped him. it was this panic, sudden and sharp, setting in right when he knew hed decided. this terror, adrenaline, telling him dont. the most hes felt in a long, long time. a spark. potential. hed forgotten he could feel like that. and then he saw ians name, pictured his face, and that was it. all he needed. those few seconds of doubt and fear and caring, to pull him back. to guide his hand to the phone. he thought it made him weak. because he feels weak. frail. hollow. but... theres this spark. mixed in amongst the pain and guilt and regret. this tiny little want. to try. to be. start again. and he cant ignore it, its right fucking there, standing in front of him, staring him in the face. and maybe its naive to anchor urself to another person, to trust, to hope, to love. but this doesnt feel like avoidance, and it doesnt feel stupid. it feels like the best change of heart hes ever had. with the way his mind is, its so fucking hard to hold on to something like that but he WANTS. and its more than everything else. he wants this, hes in it. right now, hes willing to commit to something. something living, breathing, feeling. real. maybe he'll never be enough, but if ians gonna stick it out, fuck it, so is he. "i mean it. okay? i love u. and im sorry." ians eyes water a little. he lets it happen. holds on tighter. nods. "i love u too, i fucking love u. fuck. ive never been so scared in my life. dont..dont fucking do that to me again, okay? ever. just.. fucking talk to me, tell me. fuck, if u wanna get fucked up, bring me with u. u just.. u just ran off and i thought ud... thought u were gonna... were u gonna...?" his face crumples, and he cries. joji holds his face in his hands, kisses him, his forehead, his mouth, anywhere, pulls him in and holds him. he doesnt answer. ian knows. he doesnt need to say it. not yet. "im sorry," he mumbles against his skin. "i...look, i promise, okay? i promise. never again. and i mean that. and..yknow, i'll talk about it, we'll talk about it. but right now i just want..can we... get me out of here?" ian looks at him, dead on, and joji looks right back, letting him know he means it. ian knows, he knows what a promise means to joji. how he never says it unless he wholeheartedly believes its real. right now it fucking is. and its gonna be hard, and hes gonna have to work at it, but fuck if he doesnt have the best support he could ask for. ian nods, smiles, a sad smile, but theres relief in there, theres happy. "yeah.. yeah, okay. i'll go..um, i'll go pack..." he looks at him like he never wants to let him go again, and joji feels loved. he kisses him. ian smiles against his mouth, huffs out a breath. "brush ur fucking teeth, okay? ur breath reeks." he says it with a smile and joji laughs, says, "yeah, whatever. put some fucking pants on, cunt." ian grins, slaps his ass, and heads out to the bedroom, chucking a smile over his shoulder as he goes, and starts to pack. joji looks at his reflection in the mirror. he looks happy. he doesnt hate it.