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Stars

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Baby looks after Johnny, he does his best, but he can't seem to stop the bad things that keep happening. Big bad things, little bad things, the stuff he isn't sure about, that confuses him, that makes him so angry he wants to hurt himself.

When Baby's angry it feels like his skin's gone all numb, people aren't really people, they're monsters with bad disguises that make him giggle or get stuck repeating advertising slogans or random phrases that have wriggled inside his head. Bundles of words he has to say over and over again because something even worse will happen if he doesn't.

Sometimes it feels like if he doesn't count all the floorboards in the little squat he's sharing with Johnny, three times over, the world might end.

And he wants Johnny there, curled up beside him, so he can sleep. He needs to know Johnny is safe, it's his responsibility. He can stay up all night just watching Johnny's chest rise and fall, measuring the rhythm of his breath. He can touch Johnny, Johnny can touch him and it's all right, they've never . . . they've never done anything. He kissed Johnny on the cheek once. It's okay though, that's allowed, they love each other.

Baby can't understand why, even when he tries his hardest, he still forgets. He loses time and finds himself in some strange part of town, forgets where he promised to meet Johnny, forgets he was meant to buy food and Johnny never says anything about that, just stares at him and follows him and nods at every single one of Baby's suggestions.

He got distracted in the club tonight, all bright and flashy. His head went still after Johnny's third song and he doesn't know why, what he saw or heard or what happened while he was lost in his own mind, except that someone must have slipped Johnny something because he's gone all funny. He's smiling at Baby as they walk home but his eyes are glazed over and the smile's not right. He keeps reaching up toward the sky and making little grabbing motions and then pressing his fist against Baby's chest.

He says he's giving him him stars, but the street lights are so bright here, there's nothing to see in the sky but the bewildering dark.