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
Chapter Warnings: themes of death
Previous chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
Chapter Eight: When You Call My Name
On Thursday, two days after Christmas, Brian woke just before eight, like he always did. He turned towards the window, where the sunlight was filtering in through his curtains, and his eyelids fluttered closed. He reached up to rub his eyes with the back of his hand, then lifted his head from the pillow and reached down to pull his comforter away from his body.
And then it all came back to him at once: the baseball fields, the party, his fight with Andy, the silent ride back to Brian’s house. Brian closed his eyes and let his head drop back onto the pillow with a soft thud. When he’d gone to bed the night before, part of him had hoped that he would wake up the next morning and everything would be better, or at least that he would have a clearer idea about how to handle the whole situation. So much for that.
He found his mother in the kitchen, standing in front of the pantry pulling out cereal boxes. When he walked in, she glanced up. “Morning.”
Brian nodded. “Morning.”
She glanced down at his pajama pants and bare feet. “You aren’t going running?”
Brian figured that his mother knew his schedule just as well as she knew her own, because she always remembered what days that Brian went jogging, and if he deviated, she always asked him about it. “No,” he answered, reaching up into the cupboard for a bowl. “Not today.”
Mrs. Johnson handed him the box of Cheerios, and he accepted it from her. “Are you feeling alright?” she asked, watching him closely.
Brian nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he lied.
His mother frowned, but thankfully didn’t say anything else.
A couple minutes later, Morgan bounded into the kitchen, followed closely by her father, who looked slightly less exuberant. Mr. Johnson was the only member of the family who wasn’t a morning person. He was never irritable or short-tempered in the morning, but he didn’t say much either, and Brian knew that it took him a little bit longer to wake up than it did his wife and children.
“Mommy, can we have waffles?” asked Morgan.
“Not today,” she answered.
Morgan sighed and reached for the box of Life cereal. She poured some into the bowl that Brian handed her, and Brian filled the rest of it up with milk for her, knowing that she would spill it all over the floor if she tried it herself.
“Catherine, are we out of coffee?” Mr. Johnson asked, rummaging through the counter above his head in search of the can of Maxwell’s.
Mrs. Johnson lifted an eyebrow. “Harold, I already made you a pot. It’s sitting right there.”
Mr. Johnson turned to look at the coffee pot, which was more than halfway full. There was a thin line of steam escaping through a gap in the lid. “Oh.” Pause. “Thank you, honey.”
Mrs. Johnson rolled her eyes and turned back to the pantry.
Morgan, Brian, and their father went into the dining room to eat their breakfasts, while Mrs. Johnson stayed in the kitchen, cleaning out the pantry. Brian and his father didn’t say much, for different reasons, but Morgan wouldn’t shut up.
“Ashley said that Janie got a puppy for Christmas. It was brown with spots on it.” She looked over at her father, who was staring at his coffee mug as though it held the secrets of the universe. “Daddy, I want a puppy. Can we have a puppy?”
Mr. Johnson looked up, brow furrowed. “What, sweetheart?”
The phone rang in the tiny walkway between the dining room and the kitchen, and Brian looked up in time to see his mother answer it. “Hello?”
“I want a puppy,” Morgan repeated. “A little one.”
Mr. Johnson narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Why?”
“Christine, I can’t understand what you’re saying,” said Mrs. Johnson, putting a hand up against her ear to block out background noises. “You’ll have to slow down.”
Brian turned around in his chair. “Mom, is everything okay?”
“Because,” Morgan told her father. “I like them. Puppies are cute.”
“Well, let’s think about it for a while, okay, sweetheart?” said Mr. Johnson.
“A what?” Mrs. Johnson asked, gripping the phone a little bit harder. Brian felt his heart start beating a little bit faster, and his mother’s face suddenly paled. Her fingers turned white as she pressed down harder on the green plastic. “When?” she asked, a little bit quieter this time. She nodded, then said, “Hold on for a minute.” She pulled the phone away from her ear and pressed her hand against the mouthpiece.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” asked Brian, who was starting to get really worried. “What did she say?”
Morgan stopped talking to her father about dogs and turned to look at her mother. Mr. Johnson sat up a little straighter in his chair. “Catherine?” he asked.
Mrs. Johnson looked up at them, and Brian could see that she could hardly focus. “It’s Daddy,” she whispered.
Brian felt his stomach fill with dread, but Morgan didn’t seem to understand what was going on. She looked over at her father, eyes wide with fear. “What’s wrong with Daddy?” she demanded.
“No, Morgan,” said Mrs. Johnson, fighting to keep the tears in check. “Not your daddy.” She paused, and her voice broke then. “My daddy.”
It had probably happened sometime in the early morning while he was still asleep. The paramedics said it was most likely a stroke, though they would have to wait for the autopsy report to know for sure. Michael found him when he went over to the house to set up the television they’d bought him for Christmas. Arthur Nelson, just like his eldest daughter and his eldest grandson, was an early riser, and when he didn’t answer the door at 8:00 that morning, Michael knew something was wrong. He found his father-in-law in the bedroom, still covered in a thick layer of blankets from the night before, and he called the paramedics immediately. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything they could do.
Brian’s mother stayed on the phone with her sister for a long time, getting details and making arrangements. She also called the funeral home that had taken care of the arrangements for her mother’s funeral a couple of years previous, and they set up an appointment for her and Christine to meet with them the next morning. Through it all, Mrs. Johnson remained calm and almost businesslike. Brian saw her wiping at her eyes a couple of times, but other than that, she didn’t cry at all.
Morgan seemed to be taking it pretty well. She didn’t say much, just sat at the dining room table and played with her Winter Princess Barbie as she watched her mother make phone calls. Brian sat with her for a while, reading a science magazine and feeling incredibly useless.
About an hour after Christine’s initial phone call, Brian’s mother hung up the phone and let out a deep sigh. Brian looked up from his magazine, and Morgan stopped brushing Barbie’s hair.
“I need to go over to the house,” said Mrs. Johnson, closing the personal planner that she’d been using it to write down phone numbers and funeral information. “Michael’s been over there all morning with the paramedics, and the coroner still hasn’t arrived.”
The word ‘coroner’ sent a chill down Brian’s spine. “What about Dad?” he asked.
She shook her head. “He’s coming with me. I need you to stay with Morgan.”
Brian nodded. “Okay.”
Mrs. Johnson turned away and started walking down the hallway towards the bedroom she shared with her husband. Without even thinking, Brian stood up and followed her. “Mom?”
His mother turned, eyebrow lifted expectantly. “What?”
Brian swallowed deeply. “Um, nothing, I just…”
She frowned. “What is it?” she asked impatiently.
Brian felt his cheeks grow warm. All he wanted to do was say that he was sorry and that he loved her. What was so hard about that? “Nothing,” he muttered.
Suddenly, the phone rang, and Brian’s mother sighed. “That’s probably Christine again,” she said, brushing past him to go back to the kitchen to answer it. She picked up the phone and pressed it against her ear. “Hello?”
Brian let out a deep breath and followed her back into the dining room.
“Sure, he’s right here.” Mrs. Johnson held the phone out for Brian. “It’s for you.”
Brian paused uncertainly, then reached out to take it. “Thanks.”
His mother nodded and went back down the hallway towards her bedroom.
Brian lifted the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
Brian felt his stomach turn over at the sound of his voice. “Hey,” he said quietly.
“I, uh…” Andy paused, and Brian heard him shuffling around on the other end of the line. “I was just calling to…you know, to talk or whatever.”
Brian bit his lip, remembering how they’d left one another last night. When he’d gotten out of the Bronco, he could hardly even look at Andy, and Andy seemed to feel the same way. They hadn’t even said goodbye.
Andy cleared his throat. “About last night…”
The front door flew open, and Brian heard his father step into the foyer. “Catherine?” he called out, shutting the door behind him.
Brian sighed and pulled the mouthpiece away. “Dad?”
Mr. Johnson walked into the dining room, pulling the hood of his coat away from his head. “Where’s your mother?”
“She’s in the bedroom getting dressed. She said you’re going to Granddad’s house.”
Mr. Johnson nodded and started walking down the hall. “Thank you,” he said over his shoulder.
“Is everything okay?” Andy asked.
Brian moved the mouthpiece back in place. “Uh, yeah. Well, no. I mean…” He paused, let out a little sigh. “My grandfather died this morning.”
Andy was quiet for a few seconds, and then he said, “I’m sorry.”
There was something very genuine about the way he said it, and Brian didn’t really realize how much he needed to hear Andy’s voice until that moment. “Yeah,” he said quietly.
“Um, a stroke maybe. They don’t know for sure yet.”
“Oh.” There was some rustling around again on Andy’s end, and then it was quiet again. “Is everyone okay? Your parents?”
“My mom is okay, I guess. I think everyone’s just shocked.” He glanced over at Morgan, who was still sitting at the dining room table, brushing her Barbie’s hair and pretending that she wasn’t listening to his conversation. “My parents are about to leave to go over to his house and, um…” He couldn’t bear to say anything about ‘the coroner’ or ‘the body’, for Morgan’s sake and his own, so he just stopped talking.
“Oh…well, I guess I should let you go then.”
Brian pursed his lips together awkwardly, fighting off the disappointment. He wanted to keep Andy on the line, just to hear his voice. “Yeah, okay.”
“I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah, okay,” Brian said again, unable to come up with anything better. “Bye.”
Andy hung up the phone, but Brian waited until he heard the dial tone before he did the same. He turned to look at Morgan, who was watching him, expression blank. Little pieces of her light brown hair were sticking up in all directions, like a halo illuminated by the chandelier above her head.
“Are Mommy and Daddy going over to Granddad’s house?” she asked.
Brian nodded. “Yes.”
Morgan paused. “How long will they be gone?”
Brian shrugged. “I don’t know. A few hours maybe.”
Morgan considered this for a minute. “What are we going to do?” she asked finally.
“Just stay here,” Brian answered. “You can play Barbies or watch movies if you want.” He paused. “Do you want to watch a movie?”
Morgan shook her head and stood from her seat. “I’m going to play in my room.”
Brian nodded, but Morgan was already halfway down the hall and didn’t notice. He sighed and ran his hand through his hair, which had grown pretty long over the past semester and was in serious need of a haircut. More than likely, his mother would make him go to the barber before the funeral.
After a moment, Brian gave up on trying to figure out what he was supposed to do next and went back to his bedroom. He collapsed onto his bed and lay there for a few minutes, gazing up at the solar system mobile above his bed. Jupiter stared back at him with his Great Red Spot, like an eye that never closed.
Brian glanced over at his bedside table, where he kept his Rubik’s cube. He never played with it anymore, mostly because he’d gotten tired of trying to solve it. He’d read about some girl in Budapest who’d solved it in less than 23 seconds or something, but he had no idea how she’d done it. He’d owned the cube for nearly four years, and he hadn’t even gotten close. His friend Elliot had a book about how to solve the cube, and he’d told Brian that he was doing it wrong by solving it one side at a time instead of one row at a time. Brian couldn’t really argue with that. He would get one side finished and start on the next, only to ruin everything by twisting it the wrong way. Like, just when it looked like he had it all figured out, he had to go and screw it up again.
Brian reached over and grabbed the Rubik’s cube from his nightstand. He leaned back against his headboard and started playing with it idly, not even really focusing on what he was doing. He remembered when Christine and Michael had given it to him for Christmas four years previous, back when it was first starting to get popular. He’d sat on their couch playing with it after everyone had opened presents, even though Rob was looking at him like he was the biggest loser he’d ever seen in his life. But what he really remembered--even if it hadn’t seemed very special or important at the time--was that his grandfather was sitting next to him the entire time, not saying anything, just watching him turn the colored blocks around and around.
Suddenly, someone knocked on the door to Brian’s room. He sat up in bed and put the Rubik’s cube on the bed next to him. “Come in.”
The door opened slowly, but instead of seeing his mother like he expected, Brian saw Andy. He hesitated in the doorway for a moment, hands stuffed into the pockets of his ski jacket. “Hey.”
Brian stood from the bed, and the Rubik’s cube fell onto the floor. “Hey.”
“I, um…” Andy motioned behind him, out into the hallway. “Your dad let me in. I hope it’s okay. I just…”
Brian nodded quickly. “Yeah, it’s fine.”
Andy didn’t say anything else. He took his hands out of his pockets, and Brian realized that he wasn’t wearing gloves, even though the temperature outside was below freezing. No hat either. Brian looked up and let out a sharp breath through his nostrils. The expression on Andy’s face was so sad and fierce, and Brian immediately recognized that it was for his benefit. His chin started to wobble, and he opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
Then Andy took a couple of steps forward, and they came together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, Brian with his arms around Andy’s neck and Andy with his arms tight around Brian’s middle. Brian buried his face in the curve of Andy’s neck and pushed his hand through Andy’s hair, pulling him closer. Andy didn’t say anything or move away, just stood there and held him, even when the tears came like a flash flood--hard and fast, without any warning at all. Brian tried to stop them, but everything was coming at him all at once--his grandfather, the fight from the night before--and there really wasn’t much that he could do to keep them in. Through it all, he could feel Andy’s breath against his ear, warm and steady.
Brian didn’t know how long they stood there like that--with his face pressed against Andy’s neck and his fingers threaded through Andy’s hair--but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes. All he knew was that at some point after the tears had run dry, he heard someone clear their throat. He looked up to see that his mother was standing in the doorway, watching them closely. Immediately, Brian pulled away from Andy and started wiping at his eyes.
Mrs. Johnson glanced over at Andy, then back at her son. “We’re, um…” She paused uncomfortably, looking for the first time in her life like she didn’t know what to say. “We’re leaving now. I just wanted to tell you that there’s lunchmeat in the fridge for later. Make sure Morgan doesn’t just eat junk today.”
Brian nodded quickly. There were so many things that he should have said, but he felt so drained, and he couldn’t think of a single damn one of them. “I won’t,” he promised.
Once again, Mrs. Johnson looked over at Andy, who was watching her, waiting. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she must have decided against it, because she glanced back at her son and nodded curtly. “We’ll be back later,” she told him, then turned and disappeared into the hallway.
When she was gone, Brian looked over at Andy. Neither of them said anything for a moment. Finally, Brian cleared his throat and reached up to wipe his cheek. “I’m sorry I got your shirt wet,” he said lamely.
Andy shrugged and smiled, though Brian could tell that it was kind of forced. “It’s okay.”
Brian started to say something about his mom, but he didn’t know what he could say that Andy hadn’t already figured out for himself, and he didn’t want to make it worse. “You, um…you probably have to go, huh?”
Andy shook his head. “No, I can stay for a while.” He paused. “If you want me to.”
Brian swallowed. “Yeah, I want you to,” he said quietly.
Andy nodded. “Then I will.”