Title: Don't Dream It's Over
Summary: Sequel to When You Call My Name. When Andy comes home from college for winter break, Brian finds that a lot can change in three months. He has doubts about where they really stand, even as his own feelings grow beyond his control.
Overall Rating: R (future chapters may go up to NC-17 on livejournal)
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Chapter Warnings: strong language
A/N: The Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade aired for the first time in 1984, which is very convenient for me since this story just so happens to take place in 1984. Back then, they called it the Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade. Also, I stole the chapter title from the book by Joanne Greenberg.
Previous chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
Chapter Seven: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
On Christmas day, Brian woke to find that his feet and hands were stiff with cold. He tugged his blanket up over his shoulders and tucked his knees up against his stomach, but it didn’t help. The house was freezing. He glanced over at his window to see that it was completely covered in frost, evidence that the temperature had dropped outside.
After spending a few minutes gathering his courage, Brian finally pushed his blankets aside and got out of bed. His body heat must have been protecting him more than he’d originally thought, because his teeth started chattering almost immediately. He grabbed a sweatshirt and a pair of socks from his dresser, then tugged on a ski cap and walked out into the living room.
He found his father and his sister on the couch in front of the television, both of them bundled up in fleece blankets. His sister was wearing a pair of huge pink earmuffs, her puffy pink ski jacket and a pair of pink knit gloves, and his father was wearing a thick navy bathrobe. Both of them were staring at the television, completely zoned out.
But when Brian walked in, Morgan practically jumped out of her skin. “Daddy!” she exclaimed, nudging her father in the stomach. “Brian’s awake! Can we open presents now?”
“Sure, sweetheart,” her father said, reaching up to wipe the sleep from his eyes. “In just a few minutes.”
Morgan sighed impatiently and settled back in her seat.
“Why is it so cold in here?” Brian asked, sitting down next to Morgan on the couch. He tried pulling the edge of her blanket into his lap, but she snatched it back.
“The heater isn’t working,” said Mr. Johnson. “We’ve already called someone to come and fix it, but it might be a while.”
Brian paused. “Oh.” He glanced up at the television, narrowing his sleep-heavy eyes to focus better. “What is this?”
“The Very Merry Christmas Parade,” Morgan told him. “Look, it’s Minnie Mouse!”
Sure enough, there she was, in all of her glory. She was wearing a red dress and a matching red Santa hat, and she was waving merrily to the throngs of people lining the street. Mickey Mouse stood next to her, dancing to the “Jingle Bell Rock” as their float continued down the street.
“I want to go to Disney World,” Morgan said suddenly. “Daddy, can we go?”
“Sure, sweetheart,” he replied, yawning widely. “In just a few minutes.”
Brian leaned back against the couch and folded his arms across his chest, trying to keep warm. As he watched the parade, he thought about Nicolas, Andy’s nephew. He was probably watching the parade, too. Maybe all of them were. Maybe Andy and Nicolas were sitting on the floor in the Clarks’ living room, playing with the remote control car Andy bought him and watching Donald Duck do cartwheels down Main Street.
Brian’s mother appeared in the kitchen doorway holding a cup of coffee in each hand. She was dressed in a robe that was very similar to her husband’s, and her hair was sticking up a little on one side.
“Good morning,” she said to Brian.
Brian nodded. “Good morning.” He watched her set both mugs on the coffee table, then take a seat in the chair next to the couch. Beside him, Morgan sat up a bit straighter in her seat, tugging the blanket away from Brian again.
“Mommy,” she said loudly. “Daddy said we can go to Disney World!”
The repair man never came that day. The family spent most of the day huddled together on the couch, watching Christmas movies on television and drinking hot cocoa. Morgan sat on the floor in front of the couch, bundled up in her coat and earmuffs, and played with her new Barbies.
Brian woke up on the day after Christmas--still covered in about ten pounds of blankets, and still wearing his knit ski cap--to hear his father talking with the repairman in the hallway outside of his room. Something about a faulty wire…shouldn’t take too long to replace. Brian closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
When he woke up again, he was sweating. He pushed the blankets aside and sat up in bed, glancing over at his alarm clock, which said that it was almost ten A.M. God, he never slept that late, probably because his mother never let him. On the weekends, she was usually knocking on his door by eight or eight thirty, wondering why he was still in bed. Normally, he didn’t mind since he was a morning person like she was, but after all of those long nights on the baseball field, the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with him. For whatever reason, he was glad that she’d let him sleep.
No sooner had the thought popped into his head when he heard someone knock firmly on his door. “Brian!” his mother said loudly. “It’s almost ten o’clock!”
Brian sighed. So much for letting him sleep. “I’m awake!”
“Well then get up,” she told him. “We need to talk.”
Immediately, Brian’s stomach felt like it was full of lead. “Okay,” he said tentatively. “I’ll be right there.”
His mother didn’t say anything else. He heard her footsteps fading as she walked back down the hall.
As he dressed, Brian worried about what she was going to talk with him about. Had someone died? No, it wasn’t that. From the tone of her voice, it sounded school related. Maybe she’d gotten his report card in the mail and he’d failed something! Shit, he knew he should have studied harder for that government final.
But when he walked into the dining room, he found that his mother wasn’t looking at his report card, but his pile of college folders. He let out a sigh of relief, but just a little one. He really wasn’t ready to talk to her about college just yet.
“I saved you some pancakes,” his mother told him, motioning towards a plate on the table in front of his chair. “They’re still warm.”
“Thanks,” he said, taking his seat across the table from her. She had his folders spread out in front of her for easy access. There were six of them in all, one for each of the colleges he’d applied to. In the folders, they’d carefully stored and organized every scrap of paper that had anything at all to do with his application process. Essays, scholarship applications, references. It was all there. Everything he’d worked for, in six labeled folders. His future.
“I was just looking at your references,” said Mrs. Johnson as Brian reached for his fork. “Mr. Hashimoto filled out the reference form for The University of Michigan, didn’t he?”
Brian nodded and started cutting up his pancakes. “I talked to him just before finals. He said he sent it.”
Mrs. Johnson nodded. “Well, we should call their office and make sure. He has so many references to fill out, and I want to make sure it got there.”
Brian nodded. “Okay. I’ll call in a few days.”
For the next few minutes, neither of them said anything. Brian ate his pancakes and drank his orange juice, and Mrs. Johnson pored over his applications, making sure that everything was in order. Brian hoped that she wouldn’t find something he’d missed. He’d been so careful, making sure that he’d filled everything out properly and that all of his teachers and administrators had submitted their references properly. He’d spent the week before finals putting the finishing touches on his essays, and he thought they were pretty good. He’d shipped out six thick manila envelopes on December 12th, and if all went well, he’d receive six different envelopes, just as thick, by the time Spring Break rolled around.
Brian took his last bite of pancake just as Mrs. Johnson closed the last folder in her stack. She looked up at him expectantly, and he swallowed his food quickly.
“So, what are you thinking?” she asked.
Brian paused. “About, um…about college?”
Mrs. Johnson nodded. “You’ve been looking into these colleges for over a year now. Have you come to any conclusions?”
Brian wiped his mouth with his napkin and set it down on the table in front of him. “Well, I don’t know,” he admitted. “I guess I thought I would wait until I saw where I got accepted before I made any decisions.”
“You’ll get accepted to all of them,” she said bluntly. “We both know that.”
Brian hesitated, then nodded. That wasn’t arrogance or misguided maternal pride; it was probably the truth. Brian had talked to his parents sometime during his junior year about his expectations for college, and they’d all agreed that schools like Harvard and Yale were too expensive, even if he did get in. They decided that it would be better if Brian went to one of the state schools, where he was more likely to get a scholarship to help him pay for his tuition and room and board. His grades were top-notch; with the exception of one B he’d earned in shop, he had all A’s. He’d scored very well on his SAT’s and was still waiting to hear back if he’d been selected as a National Merit Finalist, though he was pretty much a shoo-in at that point. He was also an active member in three academic clubs, and he’d done some community service for his church the summer before, which looked good on applications. In short, he was exactly the kind of student that colleges were looking for, and there was no reason for him to get rejected from any of the public universities.
“Are there any that stand out to you right now?” his mother asked. “Any that you’ve changed your mind about? It would be nice to start narrowing it down, if we can.”
Brian swallowed. Truthfully, he hadn’t thought much about any of them except Ohio State, and that was just because of Andy. Brian didn’t want to go to a school where he didn’t know anyone at all, and the past semester had been so hard without Andy there. He wanted to be close to Andy again, the way they were during those last few weeks of high school, and he knew how hard it would be for them to maintain any kind of relationship--and especially he kind he was hoping for--if they remained separated by the distance. A part of him even hoped that they could room together in the fall. He imagined them studying together, watching television on Brian’s bed, eating dinner on the floor. Just like high school.
“Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ohio State,” Brian said finally. “I kind of…I think I want to go there.”
His mother looked surprised. “Ohio State?” she echoed. “Isn’t that where Andy goes to school?”
Brian felt himself blushing. God, was he that transparent? “Um, yeah…yeah, it is.”
Mrs. Johnson frowned. “I don’t want you to make decisions about your future based on what your friends are doing. It’s not about hanging out with your friends. It’s about studying hard and graduating and getting a good job. This is your life, not his.”
“I know,” Brian said quickly. “I know. But I’ve been looking into it, and Ohio State has a really good computer engineering department, and they have one of the best research units in the country.” He took a deep breath. “I mean, I really think, you know…I think I would be happy there.”
Mrs. Johnson watched him quietly for a moment, thinking. Brian shifted uncomfortably in his seat, hoping that she wouldn’t be able to tell that he was lying. Well, not lying exactly. Everything that he’d said was true, but he hadn’t known about any of it until he’d pretty much already made up his mind about where he was going. The computer engineering thing just made that decision even easier.
“Okay,” Mrs. Johnson said finally. “If that’s your decision, then…”
Mrs. Johnson nodded. “Well, let’s wait until the scholarship decisions come back. We’ll talk about it again then.”
Brian nodded, relieved. “Yeah, definitely. We’ll talk then.”
Mrs. Johnson stacked the folders on top of one another and handed him the pile. “Put these back in the drawer in the office, please.”
Brian stood from his seat and accepted the stack from her. “Thanks, Mom.”
Mrs. Johnson nodded curtly and cleared his dirty dishes from the table.
Brian walked into the office, which was really just a small room where his father kept his typewriter, along with a couple of small filing cabinets and a bookshelf. Brian returned the college folders to their proper place in the cabinet, then glanced over at the phone on the desk. He hadn’t seen or talked to Andy in three days, even though he’d left a message for him on Christmas Eve. More than likely, Andy had just been so busy spending time with his family that he had forgotten to call, but Brian wanted to be sure. Before he could stop himself, he lifted the phone from the cradle and dialed Andy’s number.
Andy’s sister Susanna picked up on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Oh, hi. It’s, um, Brian. Brian Johnson. I’m a friend of Andy’s. I met you the other day when--”
“Hi, Brian. How are you? Did you have a good Christmas?”
Brian bit his lip, thinking back to Christmas Eve at his aunt and uncle’s house, where he’s found out that they were getting a divorce. “Oh, it was, um…it was fine. What about you?”
“Hectic,” she said, laughing. “There are too many of us over here. We’re practically tripping over one another.”
Brian smiled, imagining the chaos. “Sounds like fun.”
Susanna laughed. “It was,” she agreed. “Do you want to talk to Andy?”
Suddenly, Brian started feeling nervous. “Um, yeah. Yeah, if that’s okay.”
“I think he’s still asleep. He was out late last night. Let me go check, alright?”
Brian nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
There was some rustling on Susanna’s end of the line, and then everything went still. Brian could hear someone talking in the background, probably one of the kids. A few minutes later, there was a loud shriek, and someone yelled, “Andy!” Brian’s stomach flopped over.
“Hello?” Andy asked groggily.
“Oh, hey,” said Brian. “I didn’t mean to wake you up or anything. I was just…” He took a deep breath. “I just wanted to see how your Christmas went.”
“It was fine,” Andy said shortly, obviously not quite awake yet. Unlike Brian, Andy wasn’t much of a morning person.
“That’s good,” Brian said quickly, trying to fill up the silence. “We did, too. We, uh, we watched movies all day. The heater went out, so we were all bundled up on the couch. It was so cold, all we did was eat soup and drink cocoa.”
“That sucks,” said Andy. There was a pause, then: “About the cold, I mean.”
Brian nodded. “Yeah, I knew what you meant.”
For a minute, neither of them said anything. Brian glanced over at the door leading out to the hallway, then back at the desk. “So, I was, um…I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come over and hang out or something. I got a bunch of new video games for Christmas, and I haven’t tried all of them out yet.”
Brian paused. “Oh, I don’t know. I guess. Whenever, you know?”
There was some rustling around on Andy’s end, and then he said, “I can’t today. My brother is leaving tonight, and my mom wanted me to stick around the house.”
“No, Brett. He has to go back to work tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Brian paused thoughtfully. “Well, we could always, um…we could always go to the baseball fields.”
Andy didn’t say anything for a moment, and Brian wondered if he’d said the wrong thing. Just when he was about to reach in and snatch the words back, Andy spoke. “Yeah, okay.”
Brian smiled. “Really? I mean, good. I’ll, um, I’ll see you later then.”
“Yeah, I’ll see you later.”
Brian waited until Andy had hung up before he replaced the phone in its cradle. He stared at it for a long moment, then looked back down at the filing cabinet, which he had accidentally left open. He could see the labels on his college folders: University of Michigan, University of Illinois, Ohio State University…
Brian sighed and pushed the drawer closed.
That night, Brian lied to his parents and said he was going over to Andy’s house to play basketball. Andy pulled up in front of the house at about nine o’clock, and Brian climbed into the Bronco.
“Hey,” Andy greeted him. He motioned to the floor beneath Brian’s feet. “I picked up some beer on the way over.”
It had been a while since they’d brought beer out to the baseball fields, and when they did, it went all but unopened. “Oh, good,” said Brian.
Andy pulled away from the curb, then reached forward and adjusted the dial on the radio. “When are they going to stop playing Christmas music on 99.1? It’s not Christmas anymore.”
Brian smiled. “Maybe you should write them a letter and complain.”
Andy turned to glare at him, but Brian could see that he wasn’t serious. “Maybe I will.”
Brian grinned. “So, how did your Christmas go? Your sister said it was pretty crazy at your house.”
Andy rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it was. I gave Todd and Stephanie my old room, so I’ve been sleeping in the living room with Brett. He’s such an asshole. He kicked me off the couch, so I’ve been sleeping on the recliner.” He shook his head. “Thank god he left tonight. He can sleep in his own damn bed, and I can sleep on the couch.”
Brian laughed. “When are Todd and Susanna leaving?”
Andy thought about it for a minute. “I think Todd and Stephanie are staying for a while, since his semester doesn’t start for another week and a half. Susanna’s husband has to be back at work after New Year’s, so they’ll probably only be here for few more days.”
“Oh.” Brian nodded. “That’s nice that they can stay, though.”
Andy nodded and pulled into the tiny parking lot right next to the baseball fields. “Yeah, I guess.”
Brian grabbed the beers followed Andy out to the field, which was almost completely dark except for the glow of streetlights coming from the street on the other side of the school. Brian nearly tripped over an empty carton of milk, which was inexplicably lying in the grass next to the bleachers.
“What do you, um…” Brian held up the beers. “What do you want me to do with these?”
Andy held his hand out, and Brian passed him the six-pack. Andy pulled one of the cans from its plastic loop and set the rest of them on the lowest seat on the bleachers. Then he sat down next to them and popped open his beer. “You gonna have one?” he asked Brian, looking up at him expectantly.
Brian paused uncertainly, wondering if they’d really come out there to drink or if Andy just wasn’t in the mood to do anything else yet. After a moment, he sat down on the other side of the beers and pulled out a can, but didn’t open it. “Yeah, sure.”
Andy took another sip of his beer and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He didn’t say anything.
Brian cleared his throat. “So, um, Susanna said you got in late last night. Did your mom take you to look at Christmas lights again?”
Andy shook his head. “No, I went to a party.”
Immediately, Brian felt his stomach fill with dread. “Oh.”
Andy took another sip of beer. By the looks of it, he’d already finished off half of the can, which was quick for him. “My friend Joel invited me. We were friends back in high school.”
Brian nodded. He knew who Joel Keller was. Joel was in a couple of Brian’s classes, and Andy used to mention him sometimes when he talked about wrestling stuff. “Yeah, I remember him.”
“I hadn’t talked to him in a while, but he called me yesterday to see if I wanted to go. It was just a bunch of people I used to hang out with, but haven’t seen in a while.”
Brian tried not to feel jealous, but found it close to impossible. “Well, that’s cool,” he said lamely.
Andy nodded. “I ran into one of Claire’s friends. She said Claire was in Paris for the holidays. She went with some of her sorority sisters.”
Brian paused. “Must be nice.”
Andy glanced up, and Brian could see him out of the corner of his eye, watching Brian closely. “What?” he said finally.
Brian looked up. “I said it must be nice. You know, to be able to go to Paris for Christmas.”
Andy rolled his eyes. “No, I mean, what’s wrong with you?”
Brian paused, then shook his head. “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong with me.”
Andy pursed his lips together irritably. “Just spit it out. I can tell there’s something.”
Brian let out a sharp breath through his nostrils. “It’s nothing, okay? I just wish you’d told me. I tried calling you the other day, and…” He trailed off, knowing how desperate he sounded. “I just wish you’d told me about the party, that’s all.”
“Why?” asked Andy, sounding genuinely confused. “Did you want to go?”
Brian shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe…”
Andy frowned. “Are you serious?”
Brian could feel his cheeks burning despite the cold. “I don’t know. I just…” He let out a frustrated breath, and it turned into a cloud in front of his face. “I just wish you’d told me where you were going.”
“Why?” Andy asked, brow furrowed in confusion. “You don’t tell me where you go all the time.”
Brian felt his cheeks grow even warmer. That was probably because he never went anywhere worth mentioning. “I know, but I…I called your house, and you never called me back.”
Andy paused, and Brian thought that he could see him soften a bit. “I just got busy, okay?”
Brian nodded quickly, wishing he’d never even brought it up. “Okay.”
Andy sighed and looked down at his beer can, then took another sip. Brian watched him quietly for a moment, trying to figure out what to say next. He remembered what Andy had said about Claire and how one of her friends had been at that party, and he felt the realization clogging the back of his throat.
“So, there were, um, there were girls at the party?” he asked quietly.
Andy nodded, but didn’t look up at him. “Yeah, of course,” he said. “It would be a pretty bad party if there weren’t.”
Brian swallowed deeply and looked down at his beer, which he was still clutching in his hands, unopened. “Right.”
Andy waited for a moment, then said, “What? What now?”
Brian sighed, suddenly tired. “Nothing. I don’t want to know.”
Brian looked up, into Andy’s eyes, so demanding. So blue, even in the darkness. “If you…”
Andy paused, and the anger in his eyes gave way to discomfort. “If I what?” he asked cautiously.
Brian could feel it rising in his stomach, that feeling of nausea. “Did you…” He paused, swallowing deeply. “Did you have sex with any of them?”
Andy looked down at the ground.
Brian felt the tears pricking the back of his eyes, and he wiped them away quickly, not wanting Andy to see them. “Great,” he said. “That’s…that’s great.”
“What did you expect?” Andy asked, still looking at the ground. “That I was going to tell them I couldn’t because my friend Brian would get mad?” He scoffed. “Yeah, right.”
The feeling in Brian’s stomach shifted from one of nausea to something more painful, like maybe Andy was sliding a knife in, one inch at a time. He felt his legs vibrating, and not from the cold. “No,” he said, trying to keep his voice from shaking. “I guess that would sound dumb, wouldn’t it?”
Andy looked up, eyes narrowed in anger. “I don’t need this from you!”
“Yeah, well, I don’t need this from you either!” Brian retorted, as a surge of anger ripped through his body. “Why would you do something like that?”
“I never promised you anything,” said Andy, jabbing a finger in his direction. “You have no right to be mad about this!”
“I didn’t realize we had to promise each other anything,” said Brian. “I thought it was obvious that we wouldn’t…do that with anyone else.”
Andy’s nostrils flared. “I’m not your fucking girlfriend!”
Brian stared at him, stunned. “I didn’t say you were!”
“So, stop acting like I am!” Andy exclaimed. “I just wanted to hang out with my old friends, okay? I don’t need your permission to go out and drink and have sex.” He shook his head firmly, and Brian heard the beer sloshing around in the almost empty can. “I don’t need anyone’s permission anymore. It’s my life. Not yours, not my dad’s. Mine.”
“I didn’t say you needed my permission,” Brian countered. “I’m not like your dad, so don’t compare me to him. And what does that…” He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts, which were so jumbled that he could hardly find the words. “What does that have to do with anything? You just…” He shook his head again. “You’re being such an asshole. Why?”
Andy’s eyes flickered with guilt, and he looked away.
Brian glanced down at the beer can in his hand, still cold from whatever convenience store freezer that Andy had pulled it from. His fingertips felt like ice. Carefully, he set the can down on the seat next to him and shoved his hands into his pockets to warm them.
Brian didn’t look up. In his head, all he could see was Andy in bed with one of those girls, kissing her just like he’d kissed Brian. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “What?”
“I didn’t actually…I didn’t sleep with them.”
Brian frowned and looked up. “What?”
Andy sighed angrily. “I didn’t sleep with any of those girls last night. I didn’t do anything.”
Brian scoffed quietly and looked away. “Yeah, right.”
“I didn’t!” Andy exclaimed.
Brian looked back over at him. “You could have,” he told him accusingly.
“Probably,” Andy confirmed, but Brian could hear the hesitation in his voice.
“You said there were so many girls there,” Brian continued, feeling the anger growing in his chest. Or maybe it wasn’t anger, but something else. He couldn’t tell, and it didn’t matter anyway.
“There were,” Andy said hesitantly.
“Well, I’m sure they were all over you. I’m sure every one of them wanted a piece of Andrew Clark.” He spat out the last part, bitterness coloring his voice.
Andy didn’t say anything, but he had his jaw clenched and his hands were balled up in tight fists. He was watching Brian closely, taking ragged breaths.
“So, why didn’t you, Andy?” Brian demanded. “I mean, you obviously didn’t do it for me, so why didn’t you do it? Why didn’t you have sex with all of them? Why didn’t you just--”
“I don’t know!” Andy shouted suddenly, face red with anger. “Okay? I don’t fucking know!”
Everything stopped then, and the words that were on the tip of Brian’s tongue half an instant before suddenly died on his lips. Andy took a ragged breath and turned away, throwing his empty beer can under the bleachers.
Brian opened his mouth. “Andy…”
“Don’t,” Andy said shortly, standing up. “Whatever you were going to say…don’t.”
Brian nodded stiffly, felt his knee start to shake from the cold. “Okay.”