He was sober for thirty-three days. Not a slip, not a single inhalation of anything poisonous. Recovery had not existed to him, it had never even been a subconscious thought in his hazy cloud of a mind, as if he would have been able to wade through anything without someone there to hold his hand. His therapist, the same one he had put through hell and back, had him that way, her fingernails digging into his palm until he was screaming, kicking, threatening to kill for mercy. And that relief seemed like a joke to him, at first, when she said that he should try boxing. He laughed, at first, in her face, and in a usual fit of rage, she had watched him disappear in a fit of rage out the front door of her office. He knew, fuming, smouldering, that she was on the phone with his parents as he was thundering down the pavement and his bank account was trickling dry, the longer she spoke to them. So a week later, he showed up at the gym, arms crossed.
They didn’t let him touch another human for thirty-one days. It would have been less, but when they caught him bumming a smoke off of another boxer, it set him back another week. When they caught him masturbating in the changing rooms, it was another week. His own worst enemy, he was too dim and too stupid to be angry at anyone but the gym owner. He hadn’t worked out for  a year, at least. Not since he was in San Francisco. Not since Meg Thorne had keyed his car after one of his usual workouts and his attention had been focused elsewhere. With every wheezing breath he took he got angrier. And the angrier he got, the harder he hit, the tighter he clenched his jaw, the further he reeled back with every swing, the faster he slapped his knuckles against the punching bag.  Panting, huffing, sweating, drooling and crying and screaming and aching, he spent hours completely blank, numb, and hitting hard enough for the fire inside of him to be ignored.
For a moment, a fleeting moment, he thought he might be good at something. Wrapping tape around his knuckles, he had dreams, wild pipe fantasies of people cheering for him. The crowd would swell with excitement every time he connected with his opponent’s ribs, they would grow like waves against the shore and even sitting on the wooden benches in the changing area, he could almost feel them, crashing against his ribs in time with his hammering heart. Broader shoulders, stronger jaw, longer hair, cleanly shaved, skin that was void of scars and scabs, for a fleeting moments, he could see himself as he was three years ago, a king on his throne, rich and beautiful and valued. A second chance, a second wind, it was breathing life into a hollow shell of a man.
The night of his first real fight, he was shaking so badly, he thought it was withdrawal again. Shaking, teeth chattering, he was jumping from wall to wall like he was fucking insane. There was no crowd, a smattering of people, his therapist, his half-coach. The mother of his opponent who was hollering in Spanish. No beautiful woman walking the ring, falling apart and worn down, with a huge sign and huge tits. Just a rich boy, unmade and unrecovered and unruly, and an addict with eyes as big as saucers and arms the size of spaghetti noodles. One punch, two punches, before long he was back in that haze, lost, seeing red, and with each swing and each hit he was losing consciousness. Ears ringing, he couldn’t hear anyone screaming for him to stop. He couldn’t hear the young man’s voice as he pleaded, wept, for him to get off, to get lost, to please get away. Broken nose, dislocated jaw, when the coach grabbed him by the shoulder to pull him away, he reeled, connecting tightly and efficiently with his cheek.
He was asked not to return. Relapse came in a wave, like he thought fame would, and he wasn’t surfing it, he was drowning in it. And smoked enough to empty him, and he threw two fingers up at the world that had given him everything he had ever asked for, but not any tenderness or understanding. And never a second chance.

When Henry can’t sleep, it feels like his entire body is on fire. He feels pins and needles in the soles of his feet, his legs itch, his flesh crawls, his heart is beating against his chest like a jackhammer and he can’t fucking breathe. But then again, when can he breathe? He’s been awake for hours, too many to count, and he’s on the living room sofa of their apartment. His right hand is empty, his fingers are twisting and turning over each other and he doesn’t think he’ll ever get over that absent feeling, that soothing warmth where a cigarette should be. He is cold and distant now, and when he can’t sleep, he often thinks that maybe cigarettes were the only things that made him likeable at all. They talk about him, now, like he doesn’t exist. Like he’s already gone. They told everyone that he’d be like this, distant, reclusive, that he’d turn in on himself like the edges of a piece of paper set on fire. That he needed time. That he needed support. That he needed love and patience and god, he needed people to deal with all the shit he would put them through because this kind of thing makes people go crazy.

He used to watch “Cops” for fun, as a joke, but now he watches it because that’s the only thing on at four in the morning. He wants sleep, he begs for it, he prays for. Usually silently but there are moments when he chokes on his own tongue and finds himself whining out, hands over his eyes, for something, anything, to turn him off for a split fucking second. He’d tired of being awake, he’d tired of thinking thinking thinking. Because thinking is all too easy when you haven’t got time to do anything else.

He knows Tim is in the bedroom, probably curled up on top of the blankets, fetal and on edge. Henry hasn’t seen him take a deep breath in months. He hates himself for making him this way, constantly wary, ready to leap up and literally any moment, to swing into action. There is no such thing as relaxation in their house anymore. Except, maybe, for the deep sleep that their little, snoring dog, Franny, seems to find in the most inopportune times. There is a deep-seated fear that Henry could break at any moment, and no one is sure whether they’re more concerned about the physical or psychotic kind. Henry doesn’t dare peek into the bedroom to catch a glimpse of the sleeping man, afraid that the door’s sliver of light could catch him and wake him from the sleep he needs.

It is Tim who peeks in on Henry. Too often, it seems as if Tim is constantly worried that he’ll look into the other room and Henry will be gone, disappeared into thin air like smoke. Tonight is no different, and the bedroom door pulls open to reveal a sleepy, muzzy headed Tim in the doorway, squinting into the darkened living room. He whispers, under his breath, “Baby…” and pads towards Henry, kneeling down beside his face. He kisses him wordlessly on the forehead and Henry flinches. It is affectionate, careful, but Henry knows he’s checking for a fever. Tim finds his hand and intertwines their fingers carefully, and Henry looks up enough to see that Tim’s eyes are wet. Always wet. Fuck.

“I love you.” Henry whispers through chapped lips and Tim smiles, a small, tight lipped smile, and squeezes Henry’s hand. He says he knows. And then he asks if Henry wants him to read to him, and Henry nods a yes. And Tim does, and his voice is small, cool, collected. And he has always had a way about him. Henry will forever have a fire inside, raging, burning, ready to swallow him whole, and Tim will always have a way about him. A way that quells the flames, pushes them far enough back for Henry to catch a breath. 


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…never fall in love
Cruel Intentions
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