Pairing: Chuck Shurley/Adam Milligan
Summary: Chuck Shurley doesn't do Halloween. Adam Milligan, however, most certainly does.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the boys. All characters belong to respective copyrights.
Notes: My attempt at fluffy, cheesy Halloween fic turned into angst. No, really. There you have it folks, proof that my mind and my fingers most often disagree tragically.
"My babysitter was always kind of... a Halloween person," Adam explained, sitting on the front steps of Chuck's house, as his fingers worked through a string of orange lights.
Chuck watched curiously, almost reverentially, as he leaned against the door, pulling his robe tight around his body. It was late, getting dark, with the evening sky tilting into a light and almost morning-like purple. But it wasn't morning, he knew, and far from it. Because, had it been morning, he wouldn't have been out on his steps, watching the Milligan kid untangle Halloween decorations. He would have been in bed, watching the exact same kid untangle his hair, as he made his way out of the shower.
"So... so why does that affect you, now?" Chuck asked softly, always feeling like he was treading on alarms when it came down to topics involving Adam's family and childhood.
"Mmm," Adam shrugged softly, a tiny movement, as he looked out to the street, eyes dancing over the spot where an old, black Impala was once parked. "Times with her were just... simpler, I guess," he mused finally, eyes growing dark as he let his focus drop back to the work in his hands. "It's why I like oatmeal cookies instead of chocolate chip," he added without prompt. "She made me oatmeal," he continued, voice dropping by full intervals. "My mom made chocolate chip."
Chuck swallowed hard as he nodded, understanding Adam's logic immediately. They were close enough by now to discuss this type of thing. Regardless of what they were or were not romantically or sexually (because, Chuck could face it; he had no clue when it came down to that), they'd been best friends for a year now.
A year which felt like a decade.
"Need help with that?" Chuck finally asked, watching as Adam struggled with a knot in the wire. "Those lights, uh... I don't really decorate. For anything. Ever," Chuck admitted slowly, feeling almost embarrassed by the fact, for reasons unknown. He'd never been into holidays, not since the year they snow was bad.
His dad had been out, somewhere magical, Chuck still believed, buying the ingredients for the turkey stuffing that no one else ever seemed to get quite right. There'd been gifts under the tree, wrapped in paper too shiny to be man-made, Chuck still believed. There'd been lights and music and a Santa suit just waiting for his father to fill it happily. The cousins were over, an annoyance more than anything, but he'd forget them once his dad got home, Chuck still believed. But, the moment never came, when the door would open and Scruffy would bark, because... the snow had been bad.
And Chuck stopped believing.
It was stupid, he knew, an accident that ended a thousand traditions as well as a life. He was a grown man by now, done with waiting up at night, listening for the truck, the door, the boots on the floor. He knew his father was gone, and perhaps he'd accepted that. But with him, he'd taken the magic that Chuck had once been willing to bet his life on.
And now the lights were tangled.
"Why didn't we do Christmas last year, Chuck," Adam prodded quietly, words barely more than a whisper, and leaning more toward accusation than actual question.
Chuck let his eyes find Adam's, full of the same curious innocence he'd worn on the night they met; an expression of guarded youth, as if he had to force it onto his face. And now, a year and a half after Chuck had first fallen victim to those eyes, now he understood. Adam's innocence had been lost the moment the doctor who delivered him had put him into his father's arms.
"I never do Christmas," Chuck answered simply, four innocuous words that was almost painful to say. Two decades ago, Chuck would have called you a liar if you'd told him he'd be saying those four simple words in only twenty years' time. Because he'd always do Christmas, after all. Wouldn't he?
"I want to know why, Chuck," Adam pressured, fingers working almost frantically through the string of lights. "I wanna know why you never lit the candle on the table. Why you never ate any of the gingerbread men I bought, why you didn't even want me to giftwrap the fucking watch I bought you, man," he continued, anger (or something equally dark) slipping into his tone. "I like Halloween because it reminds me of Nancy, this random, thirty year old bus driver, who I had to consciously remind myself not to call 'mom', on more than one occasion. It reminds me of the first time I ever gutted a pumpkin, the first time anyone ever cared enough to make me a costume. It reminds me that someone loved me once. So tell me, Chuck, who was it who never loved you?"
Chuck felt his chest tighten almost alarmingly tense, as Adam snapped his words off harshly. It wasn't an entirely uncommon occurrence. They'd fight, sure. They'd argue, they'd yell at each other for no apparent reason. They'd get through it, though, because they knew who they were; an alcoholic prophet and a bastard child who'd long ago been abandoned. They'd never be happy, not alone, and not together. But together took the edge off. So together they remained.
"He did love me," Chuck countered quietly, eyes fixated on a spot on Adam's shirt. "He loved me too much," he added eventually, hearing his father's phantom confession of exactly those words in his mind.
"That's bullshit," Adam called, shaking his head defiantly as he shook out the string, sending one end to whip down against the cement walkway, shattering three bulbs in the process. "No one could ever love you too much," he explained, sounding bitter and cold and inexplicably hurt.
Chuck rolled the words over in his mind, wanting to argue the fact, but not finding the courage inside himself to do so. His father had loved him, as any good father would. He'd been good to him, cared for him, helped him, taught him. And it was this, all of this, that made some moments impossible to get through without him. Thanksgiving dinners were always cooked wrong, and the Christmas tree would always lean a little crooked. His birthday went by without as much as a circle on the calendar, and Halloween, well... Chuck couldn't even tell you if the lights still even worked. It'd never be the same, Chuck knew, no matter how much time went by, or how many people came and went. The seasons would roll by painfully, with each month bearing that one dreaded day, the holiday on which things used to be simple, used to be good, until the day it snowed. And now there was nothing, no one, all because Chuck could never fill that void.
"He loved me too goddamn much, Adam," Chuck insisted, feeling anger bite at the back of his throat. "He made things good for me. Me and my mom. He did... he did everything for me, everything with me, and now... that I don't have him, I just don't even know... where to start," Chuck admitted hurriedly, fumbling through his words as Adam listened silently.
"Look at us, Chuck," Adam requested calmly, eyes flicking back to the house. "We... we've been spending our days together for, what... eighteen months? Our nights together for almost as long, and when we're not together, Chuck... do you have any idea how many texts I have from you on my phone?" Adam asked the question incredulously, as if the fact that Chuck wasn't following was some sort of blasphemy. "We've been living together for... ten months? I wake up early, make you breakfast, you stay up late to do the dishes? Chuck, why can't you... you're..." Adam trailed off as he ran a hand down over his face, pinching at the bridge of his nose in a gesture that never failed to remind Chuck of himself. "Your childhood is behind you, Chuck, you can't still--"
"So is yours, Adam," Chuck interjected, gesturing down at the pile of lights. "You're the one sitting out here, insisting on throwing this shit all over my house, just because it reminds of when you were young. Young and happy, Adam," Chuck bit back, tossing his words out quickly. "Young and happy."
"No," Adam denied, shaking his head once, slowly, steadily. "I like Halloween because it reminds me of being young and happy," he admitted, before taking a breath. "I'm doing this, here, now, with you, because... because you need to be happy, Chuck. I've seen your photo albums, and your cowboy costume. All your... your piles of candy and... you used to be happy, Chuck," he lamented, something soft breaking down the anger in his tone. "And I want that. I want that from you now, I want you to be happy, Chuck, because I... I know how it feels. To feel like... you can't do something anymore, because it was never the something that was special to begin with, it was always the someone. And my someone was Nancy, she made things, she made this, special for me. And now I want... I wanna make it special again for you, too," he finished, eyes burning a hole through Chuck's chest.
"Maybe your father really did love you too much," he added softly, face falling tired as if he'd aged a year over the last five minutes. "But if that's really true, then I guess I love you too much, too."
Chuck bit at the inside of his lip as the words worked their way through his mind, bouncing off corners and echoing each time. It was an admittance he'd never heard from Adam, had never even thought to be true. Whatever they had, it was serious and heavy, but never in a way that put itself at the surface. They'd replace those three words with other things, other phrases; "Stay with me tonight," "Fuck me, Adam," "Here's my keys, you can drive my car."
"You don't love me," Chuck countered unexpectedly, unsure why exactly he'd chosen to do it.
Adam's face stayed blank and stiff, dark and almost unfamiliar, as he looked over Chuck's body in a way that was almost scrutinizing, before shrugging carelessly, turning back to his work on the lights. He stayed silent as he untangled the last knot, running his hands down the straight cord draped over his knees.
Chuck felt his heart beat sickeningly fast, reminding him of all the times he'd been shoved into lockers as a child, thrown into the dark, locked away in the walls. And it'd been the janitor, always the janitor, every time, who'd save him. It'd be the janitor's key that would pop the lock, his calloused hands that would pull at Chuck gently, freeing finally, into a hallway much too bright. And it was then that Chuck realized that not once had it ever been his father's eyes looking in at him as the locker door would open. Because as much as his father loved him, he was never the only one. There were others, Chuck knew, and always would be, who'd have goodness in their hearts, and kind thoughts in their minds. There were others who cared for Chuck, contrary to what Chuck had let himself believe all these years.
The realization caused his breath to hitch and his fingers to tremble, but it didn't matter, not really at all. Because eventually, he steadied himself, as he tacked up a string of old, orange lights.