expect the unexpected by phoenix.writing

30 May

Brian’s eyes flickered open slowly, and he looked around in confusion, trying to figure out where he was and why everything hurt.

He couldn’t think of the last time that he’d been in this much pain, every part of his body aching and a sharper pain in his ribs, left arm, and the side of his head.

Everything around him was very bright, the air smelled medicinal, and his slow thought processes finally informed him that he had to be in the hospital.  Why was he in the hospital?  He must have been in an accident of some sort.

He peered around himself again, trying to move as little as possible.  There was another bed next to his, but it was empty, and there was no one else in the room.  Brian found it a little weird that his family wasn’t here.  Mom always freaked out when there was an accident, and Brian couldn’t really imagine that all of them would have been too busy to come—

Brian groaned and closed his eyes for a moment.  His family wasn’t here because he wasn’t at home.  It was his second week of university, and he’d beat out Sam, Eddie, James, and George by winding up in the hospital.  He was never going to live this down.  Mom was going to insist that he go home, and she was going to try to home-school him or something.  Never mind that you couldn’t home-school a university degree, she’d try, and he’d be stuck there forever, even Jo going off, she could have an actual life, and he’d be the only one who hadn’t managed that much, a complete failure, and—

His eyes popped open again.  Hold on.  It didn’t matter if he was off at university; as soon as Mom heard that he was hurt, she’d get here as fast as humanly possible.  Logically, this meant she didn’t know he was here, and if she didn’t know he was here, his family didn’t know he was here.  And since the chance that his home phone had stopped working was fairly remote, it meant that the hospital staff didn’t know who to call.  Which meant that he couldn’t have had his wallet with him when he’d wound up here because his mom had insisted that he keep a card-sized piece of paper with emergency contact info in there.

If he had any hope of living a normal university life, then, he had only one option.  He had to get the hell out of here before they discovered he was conscious and wanted to know who he was.

He levered himself out of bed on willpower alone, and discovered that of course he had no clothes.  He couldn’t wander around in the draughty hospital gown, but perhaps there was a robe in the bathroom?  It would be a place to start, anyway.

He shuffled awkwardly and painfully to the room in question.

A face he barely recognized stared back at him from the mirror, and as he saw the horrible bruising across his cheek, he remembered how it had got there.

He sank onto the toilet seat, a derisive huff of laughter escaping his lips.  He hadn’t even managed to follow James’s advice.  He hadn’t run fast enough, and he’d had the crap kicked out of him.  He was never ever going to live this down.

But he had learned an important lesson, he supposed: don’t ever let anyone follow you onto the street and question your orientation because you never knew when a bunch of drunk, prejudiced assholes would jump you as a result.

He supposed this wasn’t advice he was likely to need to pass on to Jo, but he’d keep it in mind just in case.

It was hard to concentrate enough to have a proper identity crisis; he knew exactly what he’d felt when he’d been kissed, but at this precise moment, his body felt as though he’d lost an argument with a brick wall.

Fuck.  His brothers were going to tease him forever, Mom and Dad were probably going to wonder if they’d done something wrong, that other boy, Colin, had kissed and run, and Brian was furious.  What sort of a messed up world was it that the fact that a boy had kissed him meant that he’d wound up in the hospital?  A dare, practically, one kiss, one very surprising moment of revelation, and then disaster.

Brian had just been teetering on the edge of realising that maybe his orientation wasn’t as fixed as he’d always thought, and then he was being attacked by people who were screaming that he was a fucking fag and needed to be taught a lesson.

Brian was pretty sure that it should all be kind of terrifying, but the pain was making him angrier than anything else, and he really didn’t want to let jerks like those guys make any of his decisions for him.

It didn’t really matter, he supposed.  He wasn’t going to go try to pick any guys up in the near future, so it was more an academic realization than anything else.  He—

“You’re awake.”

Brian’s head snapped up.  With the rush of memories that had come with the sight of his face, Brian hadn’t bothered to close the bathroom door, and that meant the man standing in the doorway now could see him clearly.  The man with the Styrofoam coffee cup in his hand and the stunned expression on his face.

“What are you doing here?” Brian demanded.  He had been so sure that he wasn’t ever going to see him again.

Colin flinched visibly, taking a half step back out towards the hall.

“I’ll go.  I just, uh, I’m glad you’re awake.  And I’ll, uh, yeah, go now.”

Brian stood up with what turned out to be unwise speed given his current injuries, and Colin’s backpedalling reversed abruptly as he hurried into the bathroom to prevent Brian from taking a nose dive to the floor.  Brian clutched at him as the world spun around them.

“I just didn’t think I’d see you again,” Brian explained.  “What with that kissing and running.”

Colin looked rather self-conscious.  “I said you’d learn something important, not be taken to bed first thing.”

Brian’s eyebrows rose, the fact that it hurt something he could ignore in his incredulity.  “You were worried that you were going to lose control and drag me off to have sex?”

No one had ever flat-out told Brian that they wanted to have sex with him before, certainly not on what wasn’t even a first date but more like a first acquaintance.

Colin shrugged.  “You’re very appealing.”

“You’re a possibly insane flatterer,” Brian responded, still sort of stunned.  “But since you’re here, want to help me break out?”

The other man eyed him up and down.  “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.”

“But when my family finds out I’m here, they’ll descend like a ravening horde, and it’ll end in tears.  You did say I was very appealing, didn’t you?”

Colin’s lips tipped up.  “Very.  You’re sure?”

“Quite sure.  I figure you owe me a drink or something, too, and I hear that the hospital food is crappy.”

A wider smile had grown on Colin’s face, and he shrugged out of his jacket in an immediate attempt to help camouflage Brian.

“Let’s get going.”

As Brian sneaked into the hallway arm-in-arm with Colin, he decided that not only was Colin right and he had learned something important last night, perhaps he would get to put it to practical use sooner than he’d thought.

Before he’d left home, he’d been sure that university would be full of infinite possibilities, and despite the rather rocky start, he was left with the firm feeling that he’d been right after all.

<><><>

Brian gets ready to head off to university in Infinite Possibilities, and he remembers some of the events from that time in his life in T’Was the Night Before Christmas.

Other members of Brian’s family can be seen (or heard) in The Dangers of a Red Shirt, ConspicuousConsequences,  Falling-OutThe Uses of Math, and Subliminal Salvation.

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