The job had gone bad, as so many do.
James and Trevor had made it out at the very least, or Aleks assumes they had. He'd heard them shouting for him after the building came down, muffled through tons of concrete and rebar. Heard them shouting for Brett.
Aleks hadn't bothered answering. Brett couldn't answer at all.
There's a little bit of light shining in from a gap in the concrete. The space he's trapped in is small, just tall enough for him to stand up in and wide enough to cross in four long strides. Big enough that Brett's body is spread out comfortably.
Aleks doesn't seem to be injured at all, which is a blessing and a curse. Now he's the one who has to sit here until he can work up the balls to shoot himself, since he's sure the others have left by now and won't be attempting a rescue.
He could have called out.
Instead he'd laid Brett out on the floor and sat cross-legged next to him, and he's stayed like that for an amount of time he can't track. Just him and the corpse of one of his closest friends.
Brett's eyes are open. His mouth is parted and it looks soft, under a sharp smear of blood.
Aleks has thought about kissing Brett more times than he can count.
He's been like a father to him, yes. The patriarch of their fucked up little family, soft inside for them and only them. He's intimidating until he's not. He's scary until he's not.
And when Aleks had figured that out, he thinks, is when he'd fallen in love.
Here, in the quiet, in the rubble and ruin, he can admit that. He loves Brett more than a friend, more than a father.
Aleks sniffs. The dust has settled but it's gotten in his nose, in his eyes. Or that's what he tells himself as he wipes at his face.
He lets himself look at Brett a little closer. At the tangled scruff of his beard — he'd been growing it out — and at the blank stare of dark eyes. In death his skin has paled and the streaks of red across his cheeks, his lips, is frightening and striking and beautiful.
Bits of grit dig into Aleks' knees as he finally crawls closer.
He wipes the dust from his sleeve with one hand, then uses his sleeve to wipe at the blood on Brett's lips. Carefully closes Brett's eyes with two fingers.
It's so quiet. Aleks can hear his own heartbeat and impulsively presses a palm to Brett's chest as if he could feel his, too.
The next breath he takes hurts. Pulls tight in his lungs as he folds with his hand still splayed across Brett's chest. Careful of the bullet wounds, like touching them could hurt him now.
Aleks kisses Brett's lips and his whole body trembles, tingles from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, like this is everything he's wanted and needed for years.
And it is. It's exactly that.
It's soft. Chaste, even, because Aleks can't bring himself to press further or deeper even though all he wants is more, wants to press his tongue between Brett's lips and taste him, blood and pain and cooling saliva. He wants so deeply. He feels so deeply in ways he could never explain, would never explain to anyone.
He pulls away. Brett's eyes stay closed. Aleks brushes dirty fingers across his cheek all gentle and tentative like he could wake up at any second.
He wants with an ache he could never describe.
He folds again, deeper this time, nestles his face into the crook of Brett's neck. A one-sided hug, but like this he can pretend he's being held. He wants that, always — wants to be held. So touch-starved that he's sick with it but the thought of reaching out is terrifying if not impossible.
He's always kidding when he links hands with James. Always kidding when he tries to kiss Trevor. Always kidding when he curls up under Brett's arm on the couch.
I'm kidding, dude. It's a joke.
This isn't a joke, he thinks, huddling in next to Brett's body.
His body isn't warm but it's soft. There's no rise and fall of breathing, no steady thrum of a heartbeat, but it's still a comfort to be wrapped around him in this moment.
Fucking hilarious, yeah, that this is the only time he can allow himself this.
Maybe it is a joke. Maybe he's the joke.
It's easier this time to submit to the inevitability of death. There's no escape from this concrete tomb. No escape but Brett's handgun, still clasped tight in one hand.
It's harder, still, to pull away from Brett's body. It's warmed somewhat under Aleks' own body, until he could almost pretend Brett is still alive. It just makes it more difficult when the light shifts and sinks and fades and even though he knows Brett will quite simply disappear soon, he wants to stay.
But he sits up eventually. When the light is moon-blue and he's starting to shiver, when his body's nearly as cold as Brett's.
And yeah, he lets himself kiss Brett again, just once more. Just as soft. Just as careful, like he's kissing Sleeping goddamn Beauty instead of a fucking corpse.
And still, Brett doesn’t open his eyes. Not Sleeping Beauty at all, Aleks thinks, as he drags gentle knuckles across Brett’s cheek and then leans across his body for the gun.
When he pushes it into his mouth it's anything but soft. Anything but careful. Cold metal clicking against his teeth, the taste of steel and gunpowder sharp on his tongue.
And maybe he savours that, just a little.