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[personal profile] kirathaune posting in [community profile] poetry_fiction
Title: Broken Hearts (excerpt)
Author: [personal profile] kirathaune
Rating: PG
Summary: Gabe might have lost friends along with his memories, but he's gained new friends - and maybe one of them could be more than a friend
Content Notice: No warnings apply
Author's Note: Written for the prompt:
"I'll just pray, until I run out of words,
then I'll howl."

Word Count: 1,450 words

Gabe stood alone in the parking lot and watched as the car pulled away, and he clenched his fists in an effort to fight off the growing tightness in his chest. The crunch of the tires on the gravel drive almost drowned out the lively chatter of the young men inside, but Gabe could hear it just fine. The car disappeared behind a bend in the road.

The tightness in his chest became unbearable.

“Shit,” Gabe said. “Shit.”

He sprinted off toward the nearest walk trail, just letting one foot fall in front of the other, not caring where he was headed. The clap of his sneakers against the smooth, black asphalt softened to thuds as he veered off the trail, and soon Gabe heard the crackle of fallen leaves being crushed beneath his feet. He kept running, shoving branches out of his way and jumping over the occasional fallen log. He needed to get away from the too-fresh memory of the awkward silence, the pitying looks, and the realization that he’d lost people as well as memories.

The ground gave way once again to an asphalt path, and Gabe finally stopped when the path ended in a scenic viewing area next to the river. He grabbed the top rail of the log fence and shook it, letting out his anger, fear and frustration in a long, loud stream of obscenities.

“I didn’t know that primal screaming was part of your treatment program.”

Gabe whirled around to see Jen Sargent sitting in his wheelchair about ten feet away. “Jesus, Jen! You scared the crap out of me. What are you doing here?” Gabe struggled to catch his breath.

“Obviously not tearing through the woods like you just did,” Jen said. “What’s wrong?”

“Some guys from my college came to visit,” Gabe said in between gasping breaths. “They wanted to surprise me. I didn’t remember them. It freaked them out.”

“Ah.” Jen rolled his chair up to wooden fence, stopping a few feet away from where Gabe stood.

“It freaked me out, too,” Gabe admitted. “I don’t understand why I don’t recognize them—they said they were my dorm mates, that we’d shared a dorm all through school. So that means I lived with those guys for four years. I hung out with them, and went to bars and parties and shit with them. How can I not know them?”

“A brain injury can do funny things,” Jen said. “You’ve said that the doctors figured you lost the last five years. If you can’t remember college, it stands to reason that you wouldn’t remember people you met there.”

“I know.” Gabe gripped the fence rail. “It just that this whole thing really, really sucks.”

“Yeah, it does.” Jen’s gloved hand glided briefly over the brushed aluminum pushrim of his chair.

The action made Gabe more aware of the wheelchair, and he flushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” he said, “it’s stupid for me to complain about my messed-up head when you can’t walk.”

Jen made a rude noise. “What’s stupid is to try and compare our injuries. Apples and oranges, Gabe, and the bottom line is we both made it out alive.” He dug into one of his jacket pockets and retrieved a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

Gabe frowned. “Hey Jen… should you be smoking?”

Jen looked up at him with a scowl. “It’s none of your fucking business,” he said, and he pulled out a stick and lit it.

Gabe watched Jen’s lips close around the cigarette, and watched the way his cheeks hollowed when he inhaled. “But—”

Tendrils of smoke danced in the air as Jen waved his hand dismissively. “I know all about it. I’m not stupid. But quitting cold turkey is not something I want added to my pile of shit.” He took a deep drag from the cigarette and exhaled. “I’m down to pack a week, so that’s something.”

A pack a week still sounded like a lot to Gabe. “Uh, that’s… good?”

“Damn right it’s good. I used to smoke a pack a day.”

“A day?

“Yeah.” Jen studied the ashy tip of his cigarette. “I thought I was going to lose my mind the first month I was in the hospital. They had me in traction after my surgery and I was stuck in bed in a body cast. The first thing I did when I could sit in a wheelchair long enough to go outside was to get my aunt to take me outside for a smoke. I had to smoke her shitty Parliament Lights, but it was better than nothing.”

“Your aunt’s nice.” Gabe liked her; she was loud and bossy, but when she visited Jen she always brought goodies for the whole floor to share. And it was always entertaining to watch her tease Jen and make him blush, because Jen looked adorable when he was embarrassed.

“’Nice’ isn’t a word I’d use, but I’ll admit she’s been good to me.”

Gabe laughed, and he felt some of the tightness loosen in his chest. He also felt the warmth of his exertions, and he tugged at the neck of his sweatshirt. “Ugh, I’m all sweaty now,” he said, and he pulled the garment over his head. As he did so, his teeshirt rode up above his waist, and as he was removing the sweatshirt Gabe caught a glimpse of Jen watching him.

He wasn’t expecting that, nor the hunger in the gaze that traveled over his bare skin.

By the time he had the sweatshirt off, Jen was watching the river instead. A bell sounded from the residence hall, and Jen checked his watch. “Dinner’s in a half hour, you should get back.”

Gabe turned and looked around him. The river was behind him, and before him were dense woods that were dotted with multiple trails. Which path would take him back? Gabe had been so busy running that he hadn’t paid any attention to where he’d gone, or how he’d gotten there. Stupid, he thought, twisting the sweatshirt in his hands.

“You don’t know how to get back to the hall, do you?”

Gabe ducked his head in a guilty nod. “I was too busy running away,” he admitted.

A small corner of Jen’s mouth curved. “Moron,” he said.

Gabe scowled at him. “Hey! I have trouble with directions.”

“All the more reason to pay attention.” Jen spun his chair around and rolled it in front of Gabe. “You push, I’ll tell you which way to go.”

“Thanks,” Gabe said, and he took hold of the rubber handles and pushed the wheelchair down the main path. “It probably would have taken me ages to get back, and I don’t want to miss dinner. And tonight’s movie night, too! It’s Joe’s turn to pick the movies, he told me the other day that he was going to bring some horror movies.”

“I’m thrilled,” Jen replied, deadpan.

Gabe slowed down a little. “You’ll come sit with us, right?”

Jen tilted his head back to look at Gabe. “Yeah, I’ll be there. It’s not like I have anything better to do.” He returned his attention to the trail ahead of them. “Get a move on,” he said, “I have to take a piss and I’d rather do it in a bathroom than in a stupid bottle.”

“Okay,” Gabe said, and he pushed Jen’s chair with renewed vigor. The air was chilly on his sweat-dampened skin, and Gabe couldn’t wait to get back to the residence hall and take a shower. While he walked he considered the events of the afternoon. The visit from the college friends had been upsetting, but Gabe now understood that it was something he was just going to have to get used to, like all the other things he didn’t remember. Jen was right; what mattered was that they—and the others—were alive.

Gabe glanced down at Jen, and let his gaze linger on the nape of Jen’s neck, where sweat had turned the dampened tips to a deep, burnished gold. Gabe wondered how that sweaty skin would taste, and warmth flickered in his groin.

“Go this way. And pay attention, so you remember the way next time.”

Jen’s voice broke Gabe’s reverie, and he reluctantly looked away from the tempting expanse of pale skin. He wondered if he wore the same hungry expression that he’d seen on Jen’s face earlier. The thought made him smile, and he realized that he had learned two valuable things from his impetuous flight into the woods; that Jen Sargent could be a nice enough guy when he wanted to, and he liked Gabe more than he let on.


Date: 2015-02-09 11:45 pm (UTC)
rroselavy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rroselavy
This is really, really good! I hope you finish the entire story!

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