Title: Enduring Distress
The room is smaller than Cody thought it would be, no resemblance to those he saw in the movies. There are less chairs too – so less people – and no coffee and donuts, not even stale ones. But maybe that's because they're not addicts, just stupid, and they don't deserve comfort food.
He's sitting next to a young woman who's been crying since the moment she arrived. She whines in her hands and the she wipes her nose, sometimes she sobs uncontrollably for a minute or two before going back to crying silently. Cody feels uncomfortable next to her but he can't change seat. He would have to stand up and cross the circle of chairs in front of everybodye else.
So he remains where he is, enduring the discomfort and trying to stay as far away from the woman as he possibly can. Ironically, it's something very similar that brought him here.
Months of therapy have helped him pinpoint the exact moment being with William started to be a discomfort more than it was a pleasure, even if he didn't realize that back then. Sometimes he forgets it even now. From that moment on – two days he spent alone in William's house, tied to the headboard of his bed – he has endured his relationship with his boyfriend, trying to survive it by staying out of the man's way. That, at least, is what his therapist says.
Cody says he didn't do a very good job and he's got two bandaged wrists to prove it.
Oliver, the man presiding these mandatory sessions, smiles at him as he sits on the only empty chair. He's always the last one to take a seat, signaling that they are about to start.
Oliver is a black man in his mid-forties, with curly hair and a hint of beard, who survived an abusive wife and he is now trying to survive a degenerative illness. Life has not been very nice to him and yet he's fighting. He's supposed to be an example for all of them, and maybe he is for someone, but Cody tends to look at him and wonder what's the point in dragging yourself away from someone who beats you senseless if all you get in return is to die intubated in an hospital.
He has left Cody alone for the past four weeks, giving him time to get used to the place and this new form of therapy that involves more people than Cody would like, but he's probably going to ask him to speak today. Cody can read it on his body.
If anything, reading people's body is the only thing Cody's good at.
"Cody, why don't you start this time?" Oliver asks him, gently.
Cody could refuse but Oliver will ask again next week and the week after that, and Cody is not sure there will ever be a day where he wants to do this, so he braces himself to endure this discomfort too.
"Hi, my name is Cody," he starts, "and I survived an abusive relationship."
He says it like he's supposed to – with honesty and a touch of pride – he just hopes he will believe it one day because right now, he feels like half himself is missing, still bleeding to death in that bathtub.
Title: Mind Sneak Peek
"Tell me you're not doing what I think you're doing," Adam sighs, forcing himself away from the painting he's trying to give a sense to. It's a monumental canvas that takes up half the living room and on which he's supposed to paint a fighting scene. He's got a deadline for this in about two days, but what is a paid job compared to his stupid best friend being his usual perv self?
"I'm not doing anything," Leo answers, and he doesn't even bother to turn his eyes away from Cody who's on the phone. That poor kid made the mistake of standing up to look out the window as he tells his mother – who's in Italy right now – how things are going and now he's unconsciously giving his boyfriend an integral view of his body. Something that would be completely inconsequential for anybody but Leo, who could be sexually triggered by the brief glimpse of a naked ankle, let alone a perfect ass in full view.
"You're imagining him naked," Adam states, 100% sure of what he's saying. He has known Leo for twenty-two years and he could guess what is in his mind at any given moment if someone should ask him. Not that he would want to, but he could. Besides, Leo is an extremely simple guy and he always has one of two things in mind: sex or food, sometimes at the same time. It's not even a difficult act of mind-reading.
"That is incorrect," Leo says, tilting his head to the side as if to calculate proportions for a drawing he wouldn't be able to make as he sucks big time at drawing. "I'm not imagining him naked, I'm undressing him in my mind."
"What's the difference?"
Leo sighs resignedly and for a moment he stops the creepy staring just to turn to Adam and looks at him with disappointment. He often does that when Adam doesn't get one of his stupid points. He's got many, at various levels of stupidity. Adam reckons this is a level 9. "The difference is that he's not naked right now," Leo explains, "but I'm getting him there. For example, I've just taken off his hoodie. That is the first thing that goes because it's always too big. But it's like candy wrapper, you know? You get it out of the way and here it is, the mint you were waiting to suck on all this time."
"That's disgusting and you're crazy."
"Then it's the shirt's turns to go," Leo goes on. Adam should have known better: once Leo gets started, there's no way to stop him. "You have to pull it up slowly, revealing one inch of tummy at a time. The slower you go, the more he blushes. He gets all embarrassed if he realizes you're really staring at his body."
"And that is nice because...?"
"You want him a little coy," Leo explains again. "It's sexier that way."
Adam makes a face. "Every time you talk about him it sounds wrong, I feel dirty just listening to you and I want to wash my ears with bleach," he declares. Everybody must know how hard it is to be Leo's friend and how hard he tries to not to be tainted by his twisted mind.
"Please, don't apply to Cody your prude vision of the world," Leo snorts. "I can assure you, Cody can be very dirty when he's in the mood. Actually, the other night—"
"Now you can either stop right there or I can punch you in the face," Adam stops him. "Your choice."
"I will choose the first option," Leo says both wisely and nonchalantly. "Where was I? Oh, right, I always leave the leggings for last. By the time I pull them down, he's already lying on the bed. They're so tight that they always get stuck on his feet and, depending on how horny I am, I leave them there."
"You're lazy even in your wet dreams."
Leo turns to look at him in confusion. "These are not wet dreams by any stretch of the imagination. Have you even had a wet dream, Adam?"
"Not everybody is a sex addict like you," Adam protests.
"I would never come by just thinking about undressing someone."
Adam snorts. "I rest my case."
"Anyway, once I get to the panties—" Leo starts again, but he's interrupted by Cody coming closer.
"My mom really didn't want to hang up this time," he huffs. "Something happened with one aunt or other, I can never remember all the names, and she started telling me all about it in Italian, which is nice but she always gets her accent back when she goes to Italy and it's hard to understand her." He sits on Leo's lap, Leo's arm instantly wraps around his waist. "What were you guys talking about?"
Leo bends over him and gives a little bite to his neck. "Come with me, I'll show you," he whispers in his ear.
Adam watches Leo as he leads Cody to his bedroom. He decides that he will intervene and save the poor thing at the first sign of distress, but the first sound coming out is Cody's trilling laughter and then a lustful moan.
Adam can only blush and go back to his painting again.
Title: Destined together (or to jail)
There was something parents used to say when Adam's mom was a teenager, that the internet was going to ruin the kids. They were convinced this new way of connecting people – all those social medias and those hundreds of video tutorials – was going to turn kids into lazy and dumb individuals, unable to exercise critical thinking. Easy access to any kind of information given by reliable and unreliable sources alike was going to confuse young minds. Kids were going to believe anything without checking facts first.
Adam laughed when his mom told him.
He's born in a time when internet and digitalization are an integral part of society. He wouldn't even know how to live without a phone constantly connected to the net or without being able to retrieve any piece of information the moment he realizes he needs it. So, of course he's a big fan of the internet.
Except when Leo uses it, then Adam would gladly take it down and go back to a time when people had to actually leave their houses and go to the town square to meet another human being if they wanted to talk to somebody and get the latest news on other villages.
Free information is a curse when Leo can access it.
He always loses himself on the most obscure pages about the most ridiculous subjects and then he tells you everything about it, whether you want it or not. Being his friend means being constantly fed an unhealthy amount of information you never asked for about things you could never be interested in even in a million years.
"You have to hear this."
That's how it always starts. Leo gets distracted with anything and approximately every ten minutes. After more than ten years spent in various schools with him, Adam still wonders how Leo can have such good grades when he can't read more than five pages in a row without feeling the need to do something else. The fact that he's got a very good memory and all it takes him is to listen in class can't be the whole explanation.
"I'm pretty sure we don't have to," Adam says, trying to finish at least one math exercise before Leo can start with one of his ravings. "But will you shut up if I ask you to?"
"No," Leo stands up and walks around the table to get to him, distracting Annie too, in the process. She's always ready to take a break. She basically studies as much as Leo does. Sometimes Adam wonders if he's the only student who still actually studies. "I just discovered this super cool thing. There's a word in Yiddish, B'shert, that literally means destiny but it also means searching for a person that will complete you and that you will complete too."
"That's very romantic," Annie says with the dreamy eyes that always precede the description of her future husband, who's different every time. "I'd like to have something like that. A beautiful man that understands me completely, that can anticipate my needs the same way I can anticipate his. We should be like one soul in two different bodies."
"Well, I kinda think I've found that already," Leo declares, beaming.
"Really?" Adam grabs his math book and reads the next exercise, that seems even harder than the first one. “You found someone willing to suffer you for the rest of your life and you didn't tell me? I want to shake the poor guy's hand. Or is it a girl?”
Leo frowns. “You know who I'm talking about.”
“No, man, I have no fucking clue.”
“Blaine,” Leo frowns. “I'm talking about Blaine. He knows everything about me even before I tell him and he always says he can read me like an open book, which is true. And, that's the most interesting part, he's actually the only grown-up that makes sense to me, sort of. Well, not always, but most of the time. I think there's some room for maneuver there. And if you think about it, there's this super romantic thing that he had to wait, like, twenty years for me. Even you can't deny that, Adam!”
“I plead the fifth,” Adam keeps writing (mostly) random numbers on the page. At this point it's about looking busy, not solving math problems. The only thing he can't deny is how creepy it is that Leo had to use the word grown-up to describe someone he had sex with.
“Annie?” Leo searches some kind of support from her too.
“Well, Adam, it is super romantic if you think about it. They are soulmates born twenty years apart!” She brings her hands to her heart and sighs.
“It's not romantic, it's illegal and sick, that's what it is,” Adam comments. “But I don't wanna talk about it again, it'd be the fourth time in less than two days and I had enough. I talk more about him than my father, which is ridiculous. Why don't you do your math homework instead?”
“I've already finished it.”
“Then help me!”
Leo smirks. “Only if you say that Blaine is my destiny.”
“Fine, I will fail math then.”
And since he is a man of his word, for the sake of truth, he does.
That's another thing he will blame Blaine for.
Prompt: Babí Léto
Title: The Old Witch of Summer
The garden is preparing itself for winter and Cody's mood is starting to change with the leaves. He's getting sadder and more annoyed – he doesn't like cold at all – his eyes scanning the world outside every morning and then looking away more disappointed with every new spot of red and yellow on the foliage.
Leo's father used to say that the world is divided into winter and summer people.
Winter people are rigid and strong, designed to withstand the cold and any hardness life can throw at them. They mostly keep their distance because they love their solitude, but they're capable of great warmth towards those they love.
Summer people are more mellow and always tend towards the others. They're welcoming, warm, inherently positive and full of joy. They can be fragile, sometimes, and for that they need protection. They are, in his father's words, people that you want to protect.
He was definitely describing his husband when he told Leo that story – and Kurt was not, in any way, a warm and welcoming person – but Leo loved the story anyway, also because it was always followed by another story, which he simply adored, the story of the Old Witch of Summer.
His people have plenty of stories about the seasons and the weather, possibly because, being nomads, they constantly experience the world changing around them. Knowing how to spot the first signs of Fall or smell snow in the air when it's still too sunny for everybody else helps you set camp in the right place at the right time.
“Ah, she's coming early this year,” Leo exclaims out loud as he leans on the windowsill to enjoy the chilly air. Their bedroom is big enough that he doesn't feel trapped inside its four walls, but he hates to stay cooped up for too long. He'd live in the garden if it didn't mean stay away from Blaine and Cody.
“Who is coming?” Cody looks up from the book that he brought with him on the bed and that he's not reading because he's too busy pouting at the changing weather.
“The Old Witch of Summer, of course.”
Leo doesn't need to turn around to know Cody is now torn between the need to keep pouting and being annoyed – his only weapon against the changing season, which is not very effective – and his curiosity. Leo also knows that curiosity will win.
“Who is she?” Cody asks a few moments later, joining him at the window.
“She comes at the end of summer, her job is to color everything red and yellow, so you know Autumn is coming,” Leo explains, instantly pulling him into an embrace. “Legend has it that she wanted to be the witch of summer – obviously, who wouldn't want that? – but she was too old for that and the title was given to her younger, more beautiful sister.
She was powerful, though, and the other witches were scared of her so they gave her something to keep her happy. They declared that the last leg of summer was going to be her dominion. It was just a small amount of time, but she could do whatever she pleased with it. She accepted, of course.
The witches thought they had been smart leaving her just the crumbs, but they hadn't said when summer was supposed to end or how long the last leg really was. That is why sometimes summer lasts longer and sometimes it doesn't, it depends on when the Old Witch of Summer decides to come. This year she's probably angry at her sister because she's already here. She wants to stop the summer, but she's not here to stay. She wants autumn to come as soon as possible.”
"How do you know that?" Cody looks at him, puzzled.
Leo smirks, nodding towards the garden. "I can show you the signs if you want."
Cody is already running to the garden, pulling him along.