"Hey." Victor whispers.
The cold August air brushes past the too little layers he has on. But Victor feels warm. Warmer than he's ever felt before. His heart is beating so fast, and his mouth feels dry and sticky and full of so many words he wants to say, but he knows he doesn't have eternity. He doesn't have eternity to tell the person staring out at the door that he loves him. That throughout all the flaws and the fights and the space. ..
He wants Benji.
Victor was simply using his eyes too much. Too focused on what he was simply seeing that he forgot that his eyes can tell him one thing, like the disappointments in people's faces, like the glossy eyes of the ones he loves the most that he'd crushed with a squeeze of his hands, like the bright bisexual lights of the gay bars, but his heart was screaming and crying another.
It's not Benji that opens the door. It's his dad. Mr Campbell's wearing a red bathrobe, his blue and black pyjamas underneath, holding a mug of what smelled like the hot chocolate Benji was the best at making in Brasstown, which made Victor's heart ache a little harder.
"Oh. It's you." He says.
"C-can I talk to Benji?" Victor stutters, placing his hands in his pocket, afraid that if he didn't, they'd start shaking.
"You can wait here. I'll see if I can get him." He curtly replies, closing the door fully on Victor's face.
He deserved that. He really, really deserved that.
He can hear footsteps on the stairs as Mr Campbell ascends up. Then there's a loud creek at the second to last step to the upper landing. A loose floorboard that Benji was supposed to fix a long ago. One that Victor had stepped on just a few weeks before when Benji had held his hand and smiled at him with those hazel eyes of his, when it was easier, when Victor was so sure of everything. Everything he thought he'd always have.
If someone had told him 6 months ago this was how things were going to end, he would have doubted it, but Victor sees it now. He sees it so clearly.
Victor feels like he's going mad, the name of the love of his life echoing in his head, again and again and again. But he doesn't want that feeling to stop. He wants that name to be louder than the cars parking on their driveways behind him. Louder than the planes from the local airport, louder than anything he'd ever heard, as loud as possible because he was so, so hopelessly in love with Benji.
Victor hears the door open. He doesn't dare to look up, but he knows it's Benji who's in front of him. He can hear Benji's breath shorten, and then suddenly come to a bloodchilling stop. Victor looks up, and the panic in his own eyes is matched by the panic on Benji's face.
"Victor." Benji gasps.
The pale blue light from Benji's house, the dark navy of his tux, and the white LED lights from outside highlights how red Benji is. His cheeks are a dark crimson from the blood that has rushed to his face, his eyes bloodshot and half closed, Benji's gaunt features even more prominent from the angle that Victor was looking at him at.
There's streaking deposits of salt on Benji's face from his eyes to his chin, from where the water in his tears had evaporated instead of being wiped away.
Even though Benji's in an elevated position, he seems small, his shoulders hunched and his normally laid back posture deflated and screaming of exhaustion. Victor knows that it's his fault.
God. It only took him six months to ruin everything .
Victor knows this wouldn't be easy. Benji's hands are tightly gripped on the door, his knuckles white, ready to slam the door in his face at any moment. He wants to scream, "I LOVE YOU!" To Benji's face, but that's not what Benji needed to hear right now.
But goddammit, if it took him a decade to fix all of this, he would. If it took his entire life, he would.
Victor tentatively pulls out his shaking left hand and reaches out. But the gap between them was too far, he could only feel the soft hairs on Benji's face, his arms weren't long enough.
Benji's eyes leak fresh tears, as he leans towards Victor's outreached hand, and lets them rest on his cheek. The teardrop slides from Benji's eyes into his thumb. Victor can feel his vision blur, as water builds up in his eyes, temporarily distorting Benji's face, until a large tear drop also falls down his face. Then there's a guttural, desperate sound erupting from the back of Benji's throat, as the smaller boy crashes onto Victor, stepping off the elevated entrance and wrapping his arms around Victor, burying his face onto Victor's shoulders.
Victor can feel the same sound involuntarily erupt out of his mouth, as he grabs the fabric of Benji's tux tight and breathes in. Benji smells of sandalwood. It's from the aftershave Victor gave him as a gift to commemorate their first month together. This makes his heart ache even more, his throat burns even harder with the acid from his stomach threatening to burst out word vomit. They stay like that for what feels like an eternity and a second.
"It's you." Victor declares, over their shared sobs. "It's always been you ."
Then the second floodgates have opened and he's rambling.
"I'm so stupid, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, B, I need you, please, please, please…"
Then a dry voice join's Victor's.
"I know...I know. I know. I'm so stupid too. I-I can't do this without you, Vic, I can't!"
Victor feels the arms around him squeeze tighter, until they loosen and Benji's looking at him in the eyes. Those caramel hazel eyes dart to his lips, but he immediately shakes his head and focuses back to Victor's dark brown eyes.
Victor immediately responds. "Yes. Please. Please ." Becoming more and more desperate as he begs for Benji to let him back in. Not even as boyfriends, Victor's missed just having a best friend he can talk to.
Benji doesn't let go of Victor, as they traverse up the stairs to Benji's room. Victor steps on the creaky board, and for the first time in a while, he gives an exasperated laugh. Benji, who's holding his hand, looks down at him and gives a small, tired smile.
They enter his bedroom, Benji flicks on the mood lights that paint his entire room a deep blue. They lose touch for a moment as Benji strips down to his boxers and Victor does the same. And then they're lying face to face on his bed, Benji pulling the covers over them, the moody lights highlighting the dips and bumps of his tired body. It's reminiscent of the night at Benji's family cabin, where the two of them said "I love you." for the first time.
And then Victor feels another wave of pure hurt wash through him again. He can see from the look on Benji's face this is the exact same though he has too. How did he crash and burn this relationship? Why was he so, so stupid and impulsive, going for the next shiny thing his eyes settle on, instead of what his yearning heart that wants, no needs Benji?
"We need to talk. About everything." Benji croaks, his eyes shut, Victor scoots closer to him, grabbing Benji's hand. "Tomorrow."
Victor's breath hitches. He feels like they're kicking the can down the road. What if they argue like the last time they talked, what if Raheem would message him and say something else that would-
Victor needed to stop. He couldn't do this right now. Victor notices Benji wiggling his hands in his hand, even though he still has his eyes closed, and is looking at him with a little discomfort. Victor lets go of Benji's hand, only for Benji to clasp it again.
"I should have told you about my AA meetings from the start." Benji confesses.
Victor reflects. "Maybe I should have gotten some perspective and not been so...upset."
"You shouldn't have outed me to my brother. It was my decision to make. But I should have asked you to stay."
Victor recalls how lost and afraid Benji had looked after he had told him to leave that night. It kills him now even remembering it. They'd bared their souls to each other and in the heat of the moment, Victor let him go.
"I should have come to the wedding with you." Benji says regretfully.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have spent so much time with Raheem."
Benji's jaw clenches, as he opens his eyes, a pleading, probing voice asking, "Do you...like him?"
It takes Victor a moment to figure out what he wants to convey. Then he closes his eyes. "I don't know. I don't know how I really feel about him. But when I close my eyes and imagine my future, when I see..."
"Prom." Victor imagines seeing Benji standing on the stage, a plastic crown in his hair and in his hands, waiting for Victor to join him.
"And college." Victor imagines a crowded hallway of older students, flowing past him like current in the sea, Benji in his leather jacket being the only one that was also standing still, just a few footsteps away from him.
"And everything after…" Victor sees his apartment, but with the colors he's always wanted on the wall, the piano and Benji's guitar handing on the walls where they normally hang the mosaic of family photos, the same sofa, and an older Benji, with glasses and a mug of hot chocolate, tapping on the cup with a golden band around his ring finger.
"I can't see anyone, but you." Victor opens his eyes, and there are fresh tears dripping down the side of Benji's face, across the bridge of his nose to the soft white sheets of his bed.
"I...don't know what to say." Benji whispers.
"Then don't say anything."
"Going to be okay?" Victor competes for Benji. He answers honestly, "I-I don't know…", the pain in his voice at his own frustration at not being able to solve this, not being the fixer he's always been for his family. "But I want to try. I have to try."
"That's good enough for me." Benji gulps, trying to hold back a sob. Victor takes their conjoined hands and kisses Benji's delicate fingers, for the first time this afternoon, Benji's lips upturn as he closes his eyes. There's a few sniffs from his boyfriend(?), but when they settle down, Victor does the same.
But instead of a black backdrop and an ease into nothingness, he sees his future again. And this time, it's in a third person perspective. The apartment he dreams of morphs into a full fledged house, he can see himself with longer hair and a ring around his finger too. Older him sits next to Benji and wraps a strong arm around his husband, pressing a kiss on older Benji's lips. Victor wants that life. He wants it so badly.
It's so much clearer now, now that he's closed his eyes and is seeing all of this with his heart. He feels Benji's breathing slow down, and can feel his heartbeat in his hands. They both drift asleep, the guillotine of tomorrow hanging over their heads, but the hope that maybe this time things will be different. Their talk wont devolve into an argument, and maybe, just maybe it'll make them more...