Chapter 12 - ‘What are friends for?’
Jason had made his way back to his house without incident, and had slipped in through the back door, up to his room. He almost thought he'd made it without anyone noticing him, until he opened his door. His mother was sitting on his bed waiting for him.
"It's four in the morning. Where the hell have you been?" she asked him.
"It doesn't matter." Jason said.
"You were with him weren't you? You were with Matt."
He glared at her, "Yes, I was. What do you care?"
"I care, because he's dangerous." She stood and touched his shoulder. "I know it's been hard for you over the last few years. I realize you may be lonely, but I want you to be careful. Matt isn't..." She pursed her lips.
"Don't worry mom. I won't be seeing him again." He said bitterly. "Matt decided it would be best for me if we didn't have contact."
"I'm sorry, you seemed to like him. But you have to understand, he isn't like us."
"I'm not stupid mom, I know what he is. I didn't care."
"Did he tell you what happened between him and your sister?" she asked.
"Sara? No, why?"
She sighed. "I didn't think so. But it's not my place to do so." She moved to the door, "I'm sending you back to school tomorrow. There are only a couple of weeks of term left. But I think Sara will agree to meet you from school. Maybe she can talk to you about it." She looked back at him. "Are you going to be alright until then?"
"I'll be fine mom. I just want to be alone right now." He smiled at her.
"Alright honey, I'll see you in the morning then. Good night." She closed the door behind her.
Jason sat down heavily on his bed and took the metal rose form his pocket. He brought it to his nose and breathed in deeply. He started to tear up again as he placed the rose on his bedside table and lay down on his bed. Jason eventually fell asleep, stifling his sobs with a pillow.
* * *
Despite feeling exhausted and depressed, Jason managed not to let on to his mom, and after a light breakfast, he'd taken his car and begun the long drive back to college. The sun was shining, and although it was cold, it was a fine day. By the time he'd reached the highway, he was actually starting to feel cheery. He grabbed a CD he'd brought with him from home and popped it on. It was by No Doubt, and one of his favorite albums.
'You and me
We used to be together
Every day together always
I really feel
That I'm losing my best friend
I can't believe
This could be the end
It looks as though you're letting go
And if it's real,
Well I don't want to know'
Jason quickly ejected the CD and switched over to the radio. A song was just starting up.
Here comes that sun again
That means another day
Without you my friend'
Jason flicked the dial onto another station. The song continued.
'And it hurts me
To look into the mirror at myself'
He turned the knob, searching for a different station, but they were all the same.
'And it hurts even more
To have to be with somebody else'
Tears began streaming down his face. He looked up at the cloudless sky as if expecting to see Matt. "You're doing this Matt! I know you are, you bastard." He wept.
'And it's so hard to do
And so easy to say
Sometimes you just have to walk away
He pulled over to the side of the rode.
"Fine! Well two can play that game." He rummaged around for another of his CD's and finally found the right one. He stuck it in the radio and then turned the volume up full blast.
'Waiting on an angel
One to carry me home
Hope you come to see me soon
Cause I don't want to go alone
I don't want to go alone
Now angel won't you come by me
Angel hear my plea
Take my hand lift me up
So that I can fly with thee
So that I can fly with thee
And I'm waiting on an angel
And I know it won't be long
To find myself a resting place
In my angel's arms
In my angel's arms'
"You get the fucking message? You stupid shit!" he screamed up at the sky. "All I wanted was you!"
The song eventually finished and Jason ejected the CD. He spun the dial. The radio had returned to it's normal tuning, but somehow he didn't quite feel like listening to it anymore. His hands were shaking and he took a moment to compose himself before indicating and moving back onto the highway. The rest of his trip passed in silence, but without incident.
* * *
It was weird, coming back to school. He drove up to his house and found, rather than a blackened ruin, the house was in perfect condition. What's more, when he entered his room, everything was exactly the way he had left it almost a week ago. His laptop was back on his desk and when he checked, even all his files were the same.
He briefly considered going to his last few classes that afternoon, but not for very long and not very seriously. He found something edible in the kitchen and then returned to his room to start Professor Wolf's paper. Or some other piece of work he needed to catch up on. Any excuse to keep his mind off... No. He wouldn't even think his name.
About mid-afternoon, there was an excited pounding on the stairs and Drew burst through his door.
"Jase, you're back!" he shouted and before running over and hugging Jason. He stepped back quickly. "Nice car dude. Where the hell have you been?"
Yep, same old Drew. Jason almost laughed.
"Um..." Jason thought quickly. "Some shit came up that I had to deal with." 'Crap! Nice going Jase.' He told himself.
Drew looked at him carefully, "Ok, when you feel like telling me why, I'll be here." He said, clearly sensing the larger story. He jerked his had at the window. "Again, nice car!"
Jason grinned back at him. "Yeah, it was my college present from my parents. Funny thing is, this is the first time they've let me bring it here."
Drew glanced out his side window down at the driveway and Jason's Audi TT Coupe. "So just how loaded are your parents anyway?" he asked jokingly.
Jason laughed uneasily. "I don't honestly know. I mean, I never really cared ya know?"
Drew shook his head. "No, I don't know. I mean, you parents are obviously loaded, but you live this totally normal life."
'Hardly.' Jason thought. "I was never proud we have so much. I guess I don't show off what we have cause I'm sorta' ashamed of it. Hell, my dad won't even let me touch any of my money. I have to work like anyone else to get spending cash. Dad's always been like that." He smiled. "So, what's been happening while I was gone?"
"Not much man," Drew grinned. "The normal school drudgery. I have got the work you missed by the way, it's in my bag downstairs."
"Thanks Drew." Man, Drew was always looking out for him, he was such a nice guy. 'I'm really gonna have to do something good for him soon.' Jason thought. "I really appreciate it."
"Hey, what are friends for?"
"Good question," Jason said with a quizzical look on his face. "What are friends for?"
Drew laughed and walked past him out his door. At the last moment he called out, "Oh, by the way, you're cooking tonight."
Jason waited till Drew was out of earshot before his sighed wearily, "Back to normal life again then." He stretched and headed downstairs to see if there was anything that could pass for a meal.
* * *
Matt sat on a soft white fur carpet, deep in one of his meditative trances. He'd tried to convince Jason that it would be for the best if they split up. He had caused the song to play on Jason's radio, hoping it would help him understand. And Matt had heard Jason's retaliation and it almost made his heart break. Now, his shoulders and arms were covered in sweat and his fists clenched and relaxed unceasingly. Images swam before his eyes, images of the past few days. Watching Jason at the safe house. Cradling Jason's head in his lap at the council meeting. Taking care of him at his sanctuary. And then more recently, their first kiss and their night at the gorge. A tear snaked down his face.
Then the nature of the images changed. They were no longer memories. He saw Jason, standing alone, surrounded by darkness, his eyes blazing with red fire. His mind was suddenly filled with flames. When they cleared, Jason was lying prone on a polished stone floor, a gaping hole in his chest and an expanding pool of blood around him. Jason's eyes flicked over at Matt. They were dull and empty of life. Jason's hands reached up to his chest and groped his wound, displaying his missing heart. Matt tried to look away, but Jason's lips parted and Matt's mind was filled with his voice screaming, "Look at me Matt! You see what you've done?"
"Oh god. Jason!" Matt shouted and then keeled forwards onto the floor. Ashley was by his side in a flash.
"It's ok Matt. It's ok, he's safe." She said reassuringly as she tried to comfort him.
Matt looked up at her. "What's happening to me Ash? Angels aren't supposed to dream. What's happening?"
She held him tighter. "I don't know Matt." She drew a breath, and then said jokingly "If you were human, I'd say you have a guilty conscience."
Rather than make him laugh, it just made him more agitated. He sat up and looked her in the eye. "That's even worse, Ash! That means it wasn't right." His eyes begged her. "We don't do that. We don't get things wrong. It doesn't happen to angels, it can't."
She looked at him pityingly and then he slumped against her. She hugged him gently to herself. "What have I done Ash?" he sobbed. "What have I done?"
* * *
The last few weeks of term had flashed by in a flurry of activity for Jason. He'd spent his time rushing from class to class, finishing off papers and catching up on the work he had missed. He was actually thankful for the distraction school created for him. Night was the worst time for him though. He'd lie in his bed, staring up at the ceiling in the darkness and there would be nothing left to distract him. He'd toss and turn through the night, trying to get to sleep, to escape his memories. And when sleep finally took him, his dreams were always the same. Always of Matt.
And so it was that Jason both looked forward to and dreaded the coming vacation. He'd be free of school for a full four weeks. But that also meant he had four weeks with nothing to do but think, and he already knew what topic would be on his mind most.
It was their last night together for the term and Jason, Drew and Jeff had decided to spend the night hanging out together. They'd drunk a few beers and were half-watching a bad film on TV when Jeff went to his room and came back after a few minutes carrying something. Jason couldn't tell what it was until Jeff sat down and tossed the small plastic bag on the table.
"What do you think you're doing?" he asked sharply.
"What does it look like?" Jeff said.
Jason glared at him, "I can't believe you Jeff."
Jeff looked at him, "What? It's just weed. It's not like I have to worry about getting stoned. We don't have classes for four weeks man, chill out."
Jason shook his head and got up, moving to the couch on the other side of the room. God he hated it when Jeff did that. God, he hated drugs in general, but it pissed him off that Jeff could do that. Just brush it aside as if it was nothing.
He sat down again and tried to keep watching the movie, but glanced back over at Jeff after a few moments. Jeff was already lighting up. Jason glared at the bag on the coffee table as if it was to blame. A half empty beer bottle next to the bag began to wobble slightly as Jason stared. Jeff hadn't noticed at grabbed the bottle and took a swig before setting it down again. Jason continued to stare at the bag and the bottle began to wobble again. The noise of the rocking bottle finally caught Jeff and Drew's attention and they stared at it, somewhat disbelievingly. Drew glanced at Jason and saw he was staring at the bottle.
Jeff reached out to steady the bottle, when it suddenly lurched and overbalanced itself. The beer spilt directly into the plastic bag, drenching its contents. Jeff looked up surprised and caught Jason still staring at the bottle.
"What the fuck?" he demanded.
Jason seemed to break out of a trance. He looked about him seeming almost lost. When Jason realized Jeff was addressing him he looked up quickly. "Sorry? What?"
Jeff sighed. "Look man, I know you don't like this stuff, and I know you promised to get us back for taking the piss that morning, but that was not cool."
Jason looked at him in confusion. "What? I didn't do anything."
Jeff looked like he was going to say something, so Drew leapt in, hoping to prevent any further conflict. "Jeff, you saw. Jason never touched the bottle or the bag, how could it have been him?" When Jeff glared at him he redoubled his efforts. "Look, Jeff go get some paper towels. Maybe you can salvage some of it, or at the very least clean up this mess. But you saw, Jason never moved."
Jeff stomped off to the kitchen, leaving his lighter on the coffee table. Jason sat, still confused about what had happened, he was just staring at the bag now. Drew looked at him uncertainly but he didn't notice.
Drew tried to lighten the mood, "Hey, maybe this house is haunted after all! I mean-" His voice failed as the lighter skidded across the table towards the bag.
Jeff heard Drew break off and guessed something was up and came running in time to see the lighter hit the bag and then a flame shot out. It stuck the beer soaked bag and it burst into flames. They all jumped backwards a little in surprise.
"Since when does beer burn?" Drew asked.
The flames died out as quickly as they had begun. The plastic bag had melted away, and they could just make out a pattern in the ash. They collectively moved closer and peered at it. Within the ash, a pattern on the un-burnt weed emerged. A single word. No, a single name.
Drew read it aloud. "Matthew." He looked up at them, "Matthew?" he asked.
Jason suddenly got wide eyed and bolted from the room. His heavy footsteps were the only sound before his slamming door. Drew and Jeff looked at each other.
"Well that was surreal!" Jeff said before heading back to the kitchen for a dustpan and brush.
Jason lay on his bed, crying softly. There was a knock on his door and he tried to wipe his face. "What is it?" he called out. Shit his voice was husky; it would be obvious he had been crying. The door opened and someone slipped inside and closed the door again. Whoever it was sat down on the edge of Jason's bed gingerly.
"Are you alright?" Drew asked.
"I'm fine," was all Jason could manage.
Drew put his hand on Jason's arm, "You don't sound fine to me." He said. Now that he was touching Jason, he could feel he was struggling to control his sobs. He rubbed Jason's arm, trying to comfort him. "You know you can tell me anything, I'm your friend. You can trust me."
Jason turned over and faced Drew. His eyes were red from crying. "I know, I'm sorry. I haven't exactly been the best friend for you have I?" he managed to ask.
Drew smiled at him, "You seem to have enough on your plate right now without having to deal with my problems as well."
Jason shook his head. "That's no excuse. I haven't treated you the way you deserve for being here for me constantly."
Drew shook his head, "I don't mind." To tell the truth, Drew didn't care how Jason treated him, as long as he got to be near him. He'd had a hard time confronting himself about being gay, but Drew had for a long time been attracted to Jason. He probably would have acted if for a moment he though Jason was gay as well.
Jason sat up and grabbed Drew in an embrace. "You've always been there for me, Thank you. I'm sorry I wasn't always there for you."
Drew couldn't help himself. He inhaled Jason's scent deeply. God! He couldn't believe that Jason, the total hunk of his fantasies, was hugging him.
Jason finally let go of him and Drew looked him in the eyes. God he loved those eyes! "So you wanna tell me what happened down there?"
Jason looked at him in panic, "Wha-What do you mean?"
Drew looked at Jason and leaned towards him and whispered conspiratorially, "I saw you. You were staring right at the bottle and then the lighter in some sort of trance. So how'd you do it?"
Jason moved away from him worriedly. "I don't know what you're talking about." He snapped.
Drew sighed. "Fine, whatever, don't tell me. We both know it was you, but fine. I don't care."
They sat in silence for a minute or two before Drew picked up the courage to ask another question. "Who's Matthew?"
Jason looked at him, right in his eyes and then broke down crying again. Drew quickly enveloped him in another hug. Shit. He hated seeing Jason like this, so distressed and vulnerable.
"Hey, hey. It's ok; you don't have to tell me anything. It's ok." He said. Jason shuddered and said something, but it was muffled and he couldn't hear, "What was that?" He gently released Jason from the embrace.
Jason hung his head and said very softly, "Matthew is... was... someone who hurt me. A lot."
Drew felt like he could kill this Matthew, for causing Jason so much hurt. It tore him up inside to see him like this. He had a sudden and horrible thought. He grabbed Jason by both shoulders and made him look up. If he was right, then he swore to God he would kill the man.
"Jason, what did he do to you? He-he didn't... rape you did he?"
Jason looked at him slightly shocked and then started to laugh. "No, nothing like that." Relief washed over Drew. Jason hung his head and said softly, "Might have been easier if he had. At least then I would have a reason to hate him." Then he sighed heavily and raised his head. "No, sorry. You don't want to hear about my problems, you probably wouldn't understand anyway. Sorry to bother you."
"Jason, it's no bother, believe me. I-" Jason's phone interrupted him as it began to ring. Jason didn't move from his bed so Drew stood up and grabbed it off his desk. "Hello?" he asked.
"Um... Hi, is Jason there?" Said the voice. It sounded like a young woman. 'Fuck!' He thought. 'It's probably his girlfriend.' "Yeah sure, just a minute." He said and handed the phone to Jason.
Jason took it from him hesitantly. "Hello?" he asked, and then exclaimed "Sara!" Drew breathed in relief. False alarm, just the sis.
"Oh shit! I'd completely forgotten." Jason suddenly exclaimed. "Yeah sure, of course. Yeah two O'clock is fine. I'll be ready. Ok, bye."
Drew arched an eyebrow, but didn't want to seem like he'd been listening in on their conversation.
Jason laughed, "I almost forgot, my sister is meeting me to tomorrow. I have to pack like crazy now."
Drew felt happy to leave now that Jason seemed to be in better spirits. "Right, I'll leave you to it then." He said. He headed towards the door and paused on his way out, "You know, Jase, I'm always here for you if you want to talk." Drew was sure there was more behind this Matthew person, and he was still sure Jason had been responsible for the eerie little accident that had happened earlier.
Jason looked up from hauling a suitcase out from under his bed and smiled at Drew. "Thanks, I'll remember that." They smiled at each other and then Drew closed the door behind him. Out in the hall, Drew leant against the wall. "Goddamnit. Pull yourself together dude." He said quietly to himself. "It's never going to happen, so get over it!" He rubbed his face with his hands and then trudged downstairs. He needed a strong drink, and he needed it fast.
* * *
As soon as his door closed, Jason sat back on his heels. "I'm really going to have to talk to him after this break. It's not fair to treat him like this." He told himself.
He grabbed the clothes he thought he'd need over the vacation and stuffed them in his suitcase. He fingered the metal rose on his bedside, and brought it to his nose and inhaled the heady aroma. Almost as an afterthought he tossed it in his suitcase as well. Then after a moment's hesitation, he repacked it so it was carefully padded.
* * *
The next day, Drew had left the house before he got up. Two O'clock rolled round and he heard the doorbell ring. He sprinted downstairs to welcome his sister in.
"Hey Jase, mom told me you drove your car down, so I thought we'd just take it, rather than deal with it later. You got your stuff?" she asked.
He nodded and ran upstairs to grab his suitcase. While he was in his room he grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled something down on it before folding it in half. As he passed Drew's door, he slid the paper underneath and bounded downstairs.
"All set." He told his sister cheerily.
He tossed his bag in the trunk and was about to go around to the driver's side, when Sara cleared her throat loudly.
He grinned sheepishly before tossing her the keys and clambering in the passenger side.
"So," She said as she started up the engine and backed out of the driveway. "I need to make a detour before we head back home, I think you'll enjoy this place though."
"Sure, whatever." He said distractedly.
"How 'bout some Beck?" She asked as she slipped one of his many CD's in. Jason shrugged, not really listening to her or the music.
They got onto the Mass Turnpike with out incident, and they breezed along, with Sara focusing on the road and glancing at Jason every now and then. He sat, leaning his head against the glass as he stared blankly out. It was the fourth or fifth track, Jason wasn't sure which, he hadn't really been paying attention, but as the song started, he felt something inside him give off a warning. He knew this song, and it was not what he needed to hear right now.
'There's a blue bird at my window
I can't hear the songs he sings
All the jewels in heaven
They don't look the same to me
I just wade the tides that turned
Till I learn to leave the past behind'
Jason broke from his revere and reached for the off button. He knew what was coming.
'It's only lies that I'm living
It's only tears that I'm crying
It's only you that I'm losing
Guess I'm doing fine'
His hand dropped as the chorus began, and a tear rolled down his cheek. Sara saw and turned the radio off herself.
"I guess you're not doing so fine." She said as she rubbed his leg gently. "Were you thinking about him?"
"Who?" Jason said too quickly.
She shrugged. "Mom said you got yourself a boyfriend. Was it him?"
'Phew!' Jason thought. 'Mom didn't tell her who.' Then out loud, "He wasn't really my boyfriend. We only kissed a few times, and it didn't even last a whole day." He said bitterly.
"You want to talk about it?" she asked.
"Not really, not right now."
"OK, later then." She accepted.
After another hour of driving in silence Sara broached the subject again.
"So tell me about him." She encouraged.
"Sara, I don't really want to talk about him." He sighed.
"Jase, I'm your sis," she insisted. It's my job to look out for you. I want to know if you have as good taste in guys as you do in clothes." She arched an eyebrow. "Cause if you do, then you're screwed!"
"That is so not fair!" Jason laughed. "I dress at the height of fashion. The same can't be said for you however." He picked at the sleeve of her top and put on a fake posh accent, "Tch! Just look at these rags!"
"Yep, you've still got it!" She smiled. "Anyway, enough play. Give me the dirty on your boy."
Jason frowned, but was in too good spirits to deny his sister this. "Firstly, he's not my boy, I already told you." He took a deep breath before he began. "Well, he's tall, has blond hair and blue eyes and he's built like a brick-shithouse." Jason grinned.
"Good, good, good, and definitely good." She ticked them off on her fingers.
"He's really kind, and he's saved my life enough times for me to be forever indebted to him. He's got this air of mystery about him that drives me wild, he smells like lilies and tastes like vanilla, and he makes porridge better than mom's!"
"Now that's an achievement." She laughed. "But you gotta tell me, what's his name? Mom indicated that I already knew him."
Jason grew quiet and uneasy and she looked at him worriedly. "Oh god, his name's not 'Cuthbert' or something I it?"
"Um... no, no it's not." Jason licked his lips. "His name's Matthew."
The car skidded as Sara swerved onto the lay by. She braked hard and wrenched on the hand break. Cars honked loudly as they passed by, but Jason was to busy watching Sara to care. Her hands shook and she squeezed the wheel until her knuckles were white.
"Jason," she said steadily. "If you're fucking around here, I swear I'm going to hurt you!" she glared at him.
Jason swallowed hard and shook his head. She slammed her hands against the wheel and the horns blared. She turned and faced him full on.
"Look Jason, I don't want you seeing-"
"Yeah, I know. Mom said the same thing. And I told her the same thing I'm going to tell you." He paused. "It's over. Matt thought it was better for me this way. I won't be seeing him again."
She breathed a sigh of relief. "Jason, did you know what he was?"
"Yeah. And I didn't really care. But why does everyone always react so badly to him?"
Sara started the car up again. "We're spending the night in a hotel. We have a lot of talking to do." She said. "Don't talk to me right now. I feel like I'm going to explode, just let me cool off for a moment."
"Sure, whatever you want, Sara." He replied quietly before edging towards the car door and leaning his head against it again.
* * *
Drew came back to the house after Jason had already left. He had wanted to say goodbye, but evidently, he'd missed him already. Feeling down, he trudged up to his room and forced open his door. Something scrapped on the floor as the door opened. He looked down and noticed that a piece of folded paper had been slipped under the gap. He picked it up and raised an eyebrow at the three big letters on the front. "I O U." He opened it. It was from Jason. It was short, but it made Drew smile widely.
The note read:
"This coupon is redeemable for one good, long talk
when we get back. Buddy to buddy."
* * *
Dusk was just falling as Sara and Jason pulled up to the lobby of the Ritz hotel. Her mood had lightened seemingly as the evening darkened. Jason grabbed his suitcase out of the back and Sara handed the car over to a waiting valet along with a twenty-dollar note. They headed inside and Sara secured them a room on her credit card at the front desk. Sara noticed Jason staring at her card as she did so.
"What?" She asked.
"Nothing, I just can’t wait till I can use mine, that's all." He said, grinning.
Sara just shrugged. "Dad's just like that. He'll unfreeze it once you turn 21."
"I guess I don't really mind, I mean I have my card with my summer earning on it, but if you weren't here, I wouldn't be able to get a room. It's just irritating sometimes."
"What's this? I thought you hated money." She quipped.
"I do." He said. "Money is the root of most evils. Apart from religion."
"I have to disagree with you on that one Jase." She said. "Corporate wealth certainly is the route of a lot evils, but I don't think all religion is. The abuse of the ideal is the root of all evil. Otherwise, I think religion is a good thing."
"All hail! The wise and mighty Sara has spoken. There's no point in arguing now." He joked as they stepped into the elevator.
"Shut it or I'll have to set my inquisitors on you. They're very zealous." She winked.
Some of the older occupants of the elevator gave them a few looks, and they received more and more glances the higher they went.
"Um. Sara, which room did you book anyway?" Jason asked quizzically as they passed the 15th floor and kept going. "The presidential suite or something?" he joked.
Sara smiled and looked at herself in the mirrored wall, rearranging her hair casually.
"Oh." He said after brief pause. "Damnit Sara, I wish you hadn't."
"Oh shut up Jase. It's not your money." She flipped him the bird in the mirror and then smiled sadly. "Besides, we may need the space by the end of the night."
The last few passengers departed the elevator and they kept on rising, eventually arriving in the presidential suite foyer.
* * *
"Ok Jase, we can't avoid this any longer." Sara said flatly from the opposite side of the couch. Jason flicked off the TV and turned to face her. "OK. We're going to do it like this. You get to ask a question and I answer, then I get to ask you a question." She prompted.
"Fine. Then, what happened between you and Matt, why does everyone flip out at the mention of his name?"