Fault (Johnny 99)
Now I ain't saying that makes me an innocent man
It's not his fault.
It's not. He can't help it.
No, that's not it. Well, it is, it's not his fault, but he shouldn't even say that, shouldn't think that, because the not implies that there's a decision he makes. That it's something he does, something he is, something he could stop, or should. And it's not.
It's something that happened to him. Something that happens to him. It's not something he can control, he couldn't ever control it. No one would think that, that he decides on this, that he wants this, if they could see what it does to him. If they could see him. Doubled over on his bed, sweating, hands clutching the sheets, pain worming through him as blunt and relentless as stomach cramps. He moans sometimes, into his pillow so no one will hear, lips carving out a long, drawn-out groan, one name always, one name until cotton starts to clog his mouth and he stumbles to the bathroom. He kneels in the dark and chokes until he thinks there can't be anything left inside him, until he's hunched hollow on the cool floor. He's wrong, though, always. There's always something left inside him, one name always, one name.
He resists as long as he can, and that's wrong again. He doesn't resist, doesn't surrender, those words say choice and he has none. He just - breathes, is, watches the numbers on the clock without marking them. He's not waiting for a particular time, it's a different time every night it happens, he's just waiting until the phone is in his hand and a name is on his lips, one name always, one name.
It's only five or ten minutes before Justin gets there, but that's all it takes for him to change. It's hard, sometimes, harder than it used to be, but he reminds himself that Justin is on his way and he can do it. He can tell from the moment he opens the door what Justin wants him to be that night. He's always right. Red-rimmed eyes and loose walk and he sits Justin on the couch and lets him flip through late-night TV and feeds him potato chips and licks his throat and slips his fingers into Justin's pants while Justin giggles and squirms. Shoulder braced against the wall and chin raised defiantly and he opens a bottle of whiskey and tosses back shots and makes neutral noises until Justin swears and shrugs and reaches for him. White teeth against full lips and lowered lashes and he pulls Justin into his lap in the big armchair and runs a hand over Justin's back and kisses and kisses him until Justin clings to him and whispers breathlessly, "Lance. Lance."
Justin always wants something in the beginning. Lance can't remember anymore if that's normal, if that's how people do it or if this is some strange Justin demand. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters except getting Justin to the bed.
He waits for Justin to ask. Always. At first he thought he did it to maintain his dignity, his independence, to prove he didn't need it. But he knows better now. He probably knew better then, but he admits it now. It's part of it. Justin hesitates sometimes, teases him, makes him work for it. But Justin can never wait him out. Lance needs it. It all starts with a desperate "please."
Then it's the bed and finally, finally and it's not about what Justin wants anymore, clothes torn and flying and once or twice he didn't make it all the way there, bent Justin over the edge of the mattress and put a hand up to Justin's mouth, fingers moving inside him in the same rhythm and Justin came before he even fucked him. Usually they make it all the way onto the bed, though. Usually he doesn't need it so badly. No. Usually he doesn't need it so fast, but he always needs it that badly.
He thinks it used to be different, in the beginning, has vague memories of his mouth on Justin's skin until his lips felt burnt and bruised, of memorizing Justin's cries and moans, collecting them to pore over, until every intonation echoed in his ears days later. Now he thinks more about his own body, about making this last, hearing his own breath grow ragged and forcing himself to slow down, feeling his thighs start to shake and pushing Justin's head away. There's something there, just beyond him, always, waiting for him, and if he can just hold out, make this last long enough, he'll get there, get to it and he won't need this anymore. He never can, though. He comes every time in a great shudder of failure.
Right after, Justin smiles at him, curls up against him, runs a finger over his chest. Justin's body is ugly to him then, the only time it ever is, pale and ghosted with sweat and blotted with marks from Lance's fingers and his mouth. It's all Lance can do not to shove him away. But there's a slow smolder already in the pit of his stomach, a nagging burn that makes him smile and snake an arm around Justin's shoulders and drag Justin's hand up to his lips. Eventually Justin sighs and swings out of the bed and pulls his jeans on. Sometimes Justin says something, "thanks" or "wow" or "I gotta. She said she'd call later." Sometimes Justin kisses him, leaning down and cupping his face in one big hand. Justin always leaves.
When the door shuts Lance gets up and walks into the bathroom and rests his forehead against the mirror. He recognizes what he sees in his reflection. He hates it.
During the day no one would guess what he does at night. During the day he laughs and chatters and sings and dances. During the day Justin winks at him and smiles like they have a secret. He smiles back. They do have a secret - just not the same one.
He thinks sometimes that Justin must be stupid, not to guess what's going on, not to know how close Lance is sometimes to doing something that would change everything. But he knows Justin's not stupid. It's just that Justin and he live in different worlds. Those worlds look the same, but it's like they're separated by a thick pane of glass. They can see each other, but the sound is swallowed and when they reach out, all they feel is the heat of their own skin on the cool surface. Through the glass Lance looks like he's laughing when his mouth is stretched in a scream. Every night Lance smashes himself against the glass and Justin gasps and arches like Lance is crashing into him.
Lance dreams sometimes of breaking that glass, watching it shatter into splinters, not caring that his skin will catch the shards. He tries every night, but he doesn't know how to do it. He wishes he did.
That's a lie.
Lance has a friend, a nurse who works at a clinic, who told him once that all addicts are charismatic. "I'd think they'd be boring," he said to her.
"Sure, when they're high, and when they're coming down. But once they've stopped kicking, they're fascinating. They spin the most amazing stories. They're charmers, all of them. They have to be. They're hiding so much, and they need so much.
"Terrible liars, though," she'd added. "They lie to everybody. Themselves most of all."
Lance tries not to lie to himself. It's hard.
Lance dreams sometimes of breaking the glass between him and Justin, but when he's awake he doesn't try. He knows how. There are words he can say, he knows them, he mouths them sometimes in his mirror, words that Justin would hear. He can see the shock that would show on Justin's face, and the pity, sharp and real enough to shatter the glass. Lance would catch the shards in his skin, then. Lance would bleed.
He never says those words.
It's his decision. It's his choice.
It's his fault.