Only the Young by Lbilover

Originally written for the 2014 'Box Full of Seans' celebration at Tol Eressea. A weird sort of crossover between Sean's movie 'The Low Life' and Elijah's movie 'Chain of Fools'. Helpful to have seen 'The Low Life' and have some familiarity with Elijah's character Mikey in 'Chain of Fools', but not absolutely essential. The timelines don't mesh, and you have to assume Mikey is a couple years older here. (Interestingly, David Cross, who was in 'Demoted' with Sean, was in 'Chain of Fools' as well, playing a character named Andy Brauer.)


andy and mikey
andy and mikey
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Andy knelt and gathered up the shattered shards of lens from the blacktop. This time there would be no cobbling his broken glasses together, a skill that years of living with his father had taught him, and he had no money for another pair. What was left of his savings had gone to the expensive Glencracken whisky that Chad liked.


"John," Andy called, but already his roommate's form was a dwindling blur of unrelenting black.


Why didn't John like him? Okay, he'd screwed up big time when he cleaned John's room and read his story without permission. But why couldn't John see that his heart was in the right place? That he was trying to be his friend?


The thought came into his mind that John was impenetrable as the bedroom door he'd shut in Andy's face. He could talk at John from the other side, but he had no idea if the words got through. Did John even listen? Or maybe he was incapable of doing so. After his uncle died, John hadn't cried. Nothing Andy or anyone else did seemed to touch him.


But it felt disloyal to think like that about John, who was so much smarter and better educated. The fault had to be his, Andy thought. It always was. His father had taught Andy that, too, with fists and belt. If Andy ever needed reminding, he had only to remove his shirt and study the pale white lines and curving cicatrices that decorated his torso.


Releasing a shuddering breath, Andy pocketed the remains of his eyeglasses and climbed to his feet. Holding his paint-stained hands in front of him as if he were blind, he stumbled after John, moving through a world where everything looked blurry and distorted. Vague unidentifiable objects loomed up in front of him, the moving ones morphing into people who sidestepped him, saying, "Watch where you're going, buddy," or "What's your problem, asshole?"


"Sorry, sorry," Andy repeated, but sometimes, though he didn't know it, he was talking to streetlights and mailboxes and trash cans. He heard laughter, but had no idea what it meant.


A watercolor blur of reds, blues, yellows and other colors told him that he'd reached an intersection. When the blur of cars slowed and stopped, Andy stepped off the curb and into the street.


"Hey!" a voice shouted. "Watch out!"


Instinctively Andy hesitated, and then several things happened at once. A horn blared loudly; tires squealed; a pair of arms seized Andy around the chest and snatched him backward. With a startled cry, he lost his balance and fell to the sidewalk, where he lay breathless and stunned.


"Jesus. Jesus," a trembling voice said close to his ear. "You almost got hit."


Andy realized that he was still clasped in the stranger's arms. Weirdly, instead of the usual jittery discomfort that physical intimacy roused inside him, a discomfort that sometimes spilled over into violence, Andy felt safe, protected. But his savior, and it was clear that he had been saved from a nasty accident or worse, released him, and Andy moved, rolling onto his hands and knees, where he remained, shaking now - as much from the strangeness of his reaction - or rather non-reaction - to being held as from the nearness of his escape.


"Hey, it's all right. You're safe now," the stranger said, placing a hand on Andy's shoulder.


Andy didn't flinch at the touch. With a sense of wonder he raised his head and looked up. The face that swam above him was young, with pale skin, dark hair and eyes of bright, bright blue. He wished he could see that face better, for he thought it must be very beautiful.


"Didn't you see that car coming?" the young man went on.


"No," Andy replied, shamefaced. "My glasses broke and I can't see too good."


The hand on his shoulder briefly tightened. "You shouldn't be walking around by yourself then. Someone should be with you, watching out for you so you don't get hurt."


Tears stung Andy's eyes. "I know, but John wouldn't wait for me."


"Who's John?"


"My roommate." Andy huffed a sad laugh. "I thought he was my friend. But I don't think..." He hesitated and then sadly confessed, "I don't think he likes me."


"Yeah, well, he sounds like a real jerk, abandoning you like that. Tell you what, how about I walk you home instead?"


"You'd do that?" The tears spilled over. Andy quickly wiped his cheeks on his shirtsleeve before the young man could be disgusted by his childishness. His dad always hated it when he cried, and let him know it in no uncertain terms.


"Sure thing. Here, let me help you up." Hands that Andy already trusted took his and raised him to his feet. "Okay?"


"Yeah." And amazingly he was. "I'm Andrew," he said.


"Mikey," the young man said, squeezing his hands. "Now hold onto my sleeve, Andrew, and don't let go."


"I won't," Andy promised, taking a firm grip on the butter-soft black leather of Mikey's jacket.


They carefully navigated the intersection that had nearly cost Andy his life, and when they were safely on the other side Andy asked, "Mikey, do you have a lot of friends?"


"No," replied Mikey sadly. "In my line of business it's hard to make friends. Do you?"


"No." Andy hesitated and then, unconsciously clutching Mikey's sleeve harder as if against an expected rejection, he said, "Do you think you might wanna be friends with me?"


"I'd love to be friends with you, Andrew," Mikey said, and Andy went all warm inside. "Maybe we could go see a show together," he went on. "Cats is a good show. You wanna go see Cats with me?"


Andy had a feeling he wasn't awake but dreaming. "You're kidding, right? I've always wanted to see Cats."


"No shit. Really? I could never get anyone to go with me. Boy, I am so glad we met."


"Me, too," Andy said then added a little shyly, "Since we're going to be friends, maybe I should sing my anthem for you." He remembered how John had cut him off when he tried to share it with him, but it seemed important that Mikey know about his anthem.


"That'd be awesome," Mikey replied. "What's it called?"


"Only the Young by Journey."


"Oh man, I love that song. What a great anthem to have."


From the depths of despair, Andy was now raised to the very pinnacle of happiness. He launched into the song and Mikey joined in: "Another night in any town, you can hear the thunder of their cry, ahead of their time, they wonder why. In the shadows of a golden age, a generation waits for dawn. Brave carry on, bold and the strong. Only the young can say, they're free to fly away. Sharing the same desires, burnin' like wildfire. They're seein' through the promises, and all the lies they dare to tell. Is it heaven or hell? They know very well. Only the young, only the young."


They arrived at Andy's apartment still singing, and went straight to his room. They closed the door and didn't come out for three straight days, except to take delivery of pizza and Chinese food, which they didn't share with John, and to use the shower, which they did share - but only with each other.


Andy complained that he couldn't see Mikey good without his glasses, so they eventually ventured out of the apartment to buy him a new pair. Andy's first real look at his boyfriend completed his fall, and told him that he'd been both right and wrong: Mikey was indeed very beautiful, but far, far more beautiful than he'd realized.


~*~


John didn't see Andy much after Mikey came into his roommate's life, but he heard plenty. If it wasn't eighties rock anthems blasting from Andy's room, it was the soundtrack for the musical Cats, which, if he was counting correctly, the two young men had been to at least five times. John heard other kinds of sounds, too, ones that made it plain exactly what else Andy and Mikey had going on behind the closed door.


Andy was, in fact, becoming a different guy. He switched from glasses to contact lenses, got his ear pierced, and bought new clothes: designer jeans, Doc Martens, and a black leather jacket that matched his boyfriend's. But it wasn't only his physical appearance that changed. Andy was noticeably less jittery, and he told John that at Mikey's urging he'd started going for counseling.


"I understand a lot of things I never did before," Andy said earnestly, and John wondered if it was his imagination that Andy's expression held something remarkably like pity as he said this.


But as for Mikey, the author of these positive changes in Andy, John was never comfortable in the young man's presence. Mikey had a way of looking at him that came as close as anything could to penetrating his carefully cultivated shell of indifference. If the very idea wasn't too absurd for words, considering how small and slight Mikey was, John might have been afraid, because what he saw in Mikey's blue eyes wasn't pity, but something dark and hostile and threatening. He had the uneasy, if irrational, feeling that Mikey could make good on the threat, too, and he kept as much as possible out of his way.


One day John came home from work to find the apartment bare again. Andy's stuff was all gone, save for one forlorn, forgotten SS soldier that John discovered next morning in the medicine cabinet.


A letter lay on the kitchen counter, along with a thick stack of twenty dollar bills. John picked the letter up and read:


Dear John,


I'm sorry to leave like this, but Mikey has a new job in New York and I'm going with him. He's the first real friend I've ever had, and besides I love him and he loves me. I told him about my dad whupping me and he made sure it'll never happen again. He really takes care of me, you know? I'm not smart like you, but I'm smart enough to know how lucky I am to have him.


I left money for three months' rent, to help you get by until you can find a new roommate.


John, I hope some day you find a Mikey of your own. And I hope you get your book published. You're a great writer.


I'll miss you.


Your friend,


Andrew


Next day, John went to the bar as usual after work and picked up the daily paper from a table. As he unfolded it a headline near the bottom jumped out at him: Modesto Man, 52, Found Dead in Car, it read. But that wasn't what kept his attention. It was the name of the victim.


Andrew Mauer, Sr., of Modesto died yesterday as a result of a gunshot wound. Mr. Mauer, unemployed, was discovered by his wife in the driver's seat of his 1987 Chevrolet Caprice parked in the driveway of their residence at 123 Chestnut Drive. He had been shot once in the head, execution style. Police believe the death was gang related and a case of mistaken identity. No suspects are yet in custody, and the police ask anyone with information to call the tip line at 555-1212. Mr. Mauer is survived by his wife Gloria Steiglitz Mauer, 51, and a son, Andrew Jr., 23, of Los Angeles. Funeral arrangements are pending.


"John, you okay?" Chad asked, eyeing him curiously. "You look like you've just seen a ghost."


"I'm fine," John said, folding the newspaper back up, but inside he was shaken. I told him about my dad whupping me and he made sure it'll never happen again, Andy had written. What was a more certain protection than permanently eliminating the threat? Who the hell was this Mikey, anyway? Recalling the young man's hostile stare, John wondered if he'd been right to be uneasy and if he'd had a lucky escape. Reading the sentence again, He had been shot once in the head, execution style, he concluded that he had. But he also recalled the time Andy offered to show him the scars from his father's beatings, and he concluded, too, that Andy had also had a lucky escape. The police were on their own, John decided, tossing the newspaper in a trashcan. He wouldn't help them out.


After he got home, John put the sloppily painted plastic SS soldier on the desk next to his typewriter where he could see it while he was writing. Weirdly, he realized that now that Andy was gone, he missed him.


~*~


Away east, in the Arizona desert, a car sped along the highway. In it were two young men and they were singing loudly, "Only the young can say, they're free to fly away. Sharing the same desires, burnin' like wildfire. They're seein' through the promises, and all the lies they dare to tell. Is it heaven or hell? They know very well. Only the young, only the young."


~end~