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Title: Vital and Important
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Don Scripps/David Posner
Word Count: 3115
Warnings: mention of suicide attempt
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me...sadly
Feedback: yes, please.
Summary: It occurs to Posner that he’s the only one who never gets called by his first name…. It’s one of many things that separated him from the other boys, kept him apart and alone.
A/N: This story (or something like it) has been kicking around in my head for quite some time. I’m pretty happy I finally got it out of there. It was making quite a racket.




And so with all things: names were vital and important.
Algernon H. Blackwood

***
“Don!” someone calls out across the courtyard, and Scripps turns to look at them, smiling brightly at the slim brunette as she jogs over to greet him.

(It occurs to Posner that he's the only one who never gets called by his first name. Dakin is Stu sometimes, and even Stuart. Rudge is Peter or Pete. And Scripps gets called Don from time to time. Only Posner is just Posner, or sometimes Pos, but never David. It's one of many things that separated him from the other boys, kept him apart and alone.)

The brunette winds her arm easily through Scripps', and Posner doesn't realize he's frowning until Scripps says, “Cheer up, Pos. Dakin's around this weekend. Maybe he'll come out with us.”

“Yes, maybe,” Posner answers, forcing a smile he knows is weak. “I've got to go,” he adds when it looks like Scripps is about to introduce the girl. He finds he doesn't want to know her name or anything about her, especially doesn't want to know what her relationship with Scripps is that makes him smile like that at her and let her take his arm.

“You haven't eaten yet,” Scripps calls after him as Posner heads away from them, moving towards the dormitories. “Come have dinner with us.”

“I'm fine,” he calls back, getting a better grip on his smile this time. “I've got to finish that paper on Churchill.”

Even from here, he can see Scripps sighing.

He can see the sigh turning into a smile as the brunette stands on tiptoe to kiss his cheek just as well.

***

He tells himself it's natural. He's growing up, learning about himself, learning about life.

It's natural that he'll start to grow apart from some of his schoolmates.

Lockwood is the first. Posner realizes one day that he hasn't heard from James in weeks, and he doesn't miss the other boy. Nothing is missing from his life for not having Lockwood in it.

It takes time, but eventually Scripps slips out of his life as well. They're both busy. They've both made new friends. Lectures are complicated, and essays are challenging, and Posner gets caught up in it all, and he assumes Scripps does as well.

He tells himself he doesn't miss Don either. He's not sure that's true.

***

He holds onto Dakin the longest, and strangely enough, he feels less like a hanger-on here, less like someone Dakin only tolerates. Sometimes Dakin even comes to see him rather than the other way around.

He comes round on a Saturday night, smiling and flopping down on Posner's bed.
It doesn't make his stomach flip anymore, that smile. Doesn't make him want to serenade Dakin, do anything to get the boy to look at him, turn that beautiful smile on him, a benediction, approval.

It's still a thing of beauty, though, and powerfully hard to resist.

“C'mon, Pos,” Dakin is saying. “It'll be a lark. You spend too much time in here alone, and you'll get a reputation.” He moves his hand over his groin like he's having a wank, and Posner rolls his eyes.

He hesitates, though. “People don't really think...”

It's Dakin's turn for a dramatic eyeroll, then. “What, that the Jewish monk's having it off every hour on the hour? No, Pos. Don't be daft.” He smirks. “They will do, though, if you don't come out once in a while.”

“And watching you get drunk and pull some girl's a better way to spend my evening?”

“Course it is.” Dakin grins, and Posner can admit there's still a little flutter there. “And who says I'll be the only one pulling, hm?”

Some things have not changed since Cutlers, and before he knows it, Posner is perched on a barstool, nursing a pint and watching Dakin work his magic on a redhead across the pub.

“Friend of yours?” Comes a voice from behind him, and Posner glances over his shoulder to see a tall, slim man with dark hair and dark eyes, smirking in Dakin’s general direction.

“He tells me so,” Posner quips, sounding nowhere near as cynical as he would have a year ago. Progress, he supposes.

“I didn’t think he had friends. Just groupies,” the man says, turning his smirk to Posner then.

“Know him well, do you?” It’s odd to hear that sort of censure coming from someone he hasn’t known since he was eleven.

“We share a tutorial.” With a smile, he offers his hand. “I’m Geoff.”

Posner takes the hand, mirroring the smile. He hesitates just a moment before saying, “David.”

It’s another step away from school. A deliberate push into whatever comes next.

Dakin appears then, as thought conjured by their conversation. Speak of the devil and he doth appear, Posner thinks as Dakin’s arm is slung around his shoulder.

“I see you two’ve met already. Didn’t really expect you to show, Parker,” he adds to Geoff. Posner wonders if it’s a way to distance himself from the man who looks at Dakin the way Posner is certain he used to or if Dakin still isn’t ready to grow up like that.

He can’t imagine Dakin not being ready to face something.

“You promised me beer and good company,” Geoff says, giving Posner a smile that’s half flattery and nearly all for Dakin’s benefit.

“Then let me get you a drink and leave you to it.” Dakin flags down the bartender, orders a beer for Geoff and disappears with his redhead again.

“I think we’ve been set up,” Geoff murmurs into his beer.

Posner wouldn’t have expected it of Dakin. It’s too much like altruism. Unless Geoff really is that annoying to him, though Posner doesn’t see how he could be more bothersome than a classmate who would serenade him in front of all the other boys.

(Unless Dakin didn’t mind that so much. Unless that was the problem with Geoff. Unless he liked Dakin enough to be a bother but not enough to make a fuss.)

“I think you may be right,” Posner says. “I’d say he means well, but I doubt very much that’s the case.”

He’s about to make his excuses, duck out, head back to his college, prepare himself for Dakin’s lecture on ‘living a little,’ when he glances up, just over Geoff’s shoulder, and sees Scripps come in, the same brunette from before hanging on his arm. Something shifts inside him, and he chooses to call it envy rather than what it truly is.

Everyone is moving on but him, it seems.

So he turns back to Geoff with a smile and slides off his stool, offers Geoff his hand again.

Geoff eyes him curiously, and he speaks with more confidence than he feels. “Well, we wouldn’t want to disappoint him, would we?”

***

Geoff is careful and sweet. He takes his time. He undresses Posner like he’s unwrapping a gift, and Posner wants to tell him that this isn’t that sort of night, that he just wants it over with, that all he’s looking for is the experience, something to make those poems make sense.

But somehow that all gets lost in the press of Geoff’s skin to his, the searing kisses Geoff trails down his throat, the feel of someone else’s hand around his cock.

He stays the night because he doesn’t want to be rude and because Geoff’s arms wrap around him and Posner doesn’t want to pull away from the comfort they promise even if he isn’t certain they deliver on that promise.

It’s early in the morning when he sneaks out though, pulling himself from the warmth of Geoff’s bed carefully. He doesn’t go straight back to his dorm. He stops instead for a stroll through the botanic garden, wondering why he doesn’t feel any different. Wondering, too, who he should tell, who he could tell about this.

When he finally comes out of garden, he sees Scripps coming down the street, hands tucked into his pockets, looking for all the world like he’s just been to church and is meeting Posner to head to class or an exam.

Posner smiles automatically, stepping across the street to meet him.

“Wasn’t sure you’d be up so soon,” Scripps says when he catches up. Posner tells himself he’s imagining that his smile is not as amused as it’s trying to be.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

Scripps falls into step next to him, bumping his shoulder. “Saw you at the pub last night with tall, dark, and smarmy.”

“He’s not smarmy,” Posner mumbles, suddenly embarrassed about the whole situation.

“There’s no accounting for taste,” Scripps offers, shrugging. Then, a bit hesitantly, “I’m…happy for you, Pos. Stu says he’s a great bloke.”

He should say, “I wouldn’t know. We didn’t do much talking.” He should be honest. He should share this with Scripps, who’s been his best friend for as long as he’s had a best friend. He should say, “I missed you. That’s why.”

He says, “He is. He’s lovely,” instead.

Scripps nods, giving him that half-sincere smile again. “We should go out sometime. The two of you and me and Emily.”

Emily. The name Posner hadn’t wanted to know.

His smile is a pale echo of Scripps’. “That sounds lovely. I’ll ask Geoff about it.”

***

Funny, Posner thinks, how a chance meeting with a friend, mingled with a touch of dishonesty, turns what was meant to be a one off into ‘the two of you.’

But that’s how it started.

He hadn’t intended to see Geoff again. It wouldn’t have been all that difficult to avoid him completely, but Scripps had said that, had talked about them like a couple, like a cohesive group rather than two separate entities, and so they’d become just that.

He sees Scripps more often now, but always as a foursome. Emily thinks it’s lovely. She tries to take Posner under her wing. Scripps watches with a bemused smile, shaking his head when Posner looks to him for help, and somehow it’s always Geoff who extricates him from her well-meaning assistance.

He gets used to waking up with Geoff’s warm weight at his back. He gets used to seeing Emily’s hand on Scripps’ knee. He gets used to answering to David and offering affection to Geoff, whom he cannot bring himself to call his boyfriend or lover or partner or any other word that he should be able to use to describe their relationship.

He thinks he’s doing all right. It’s not bad, certainly. He likes Geoff, and they have fun together, and the sex is wonderful. He thinks he’s hiding how little invested in the two of them he is.

Until one day when Geoff says, “Have you seen Stuart lately?” and David realizes he’s not the only one pretending.

That night, after dinner with Scripps and Emily, David stops at the entrance to Geoff’s college, shaking his head when Geoff asks if he’s coming up.

“Early morning?” Geoff asks, and David sighs.

“Geoff…”

“It’s Don, isn’t it? You love him.”

“And you love Stuart,” David points out, shrugging. “I’m sorry. I never should have…”

“I never should have let you,” Geoff says, cutting him off. “No harm done?”

“None by you,” David says. He smiles faintly and stretches up on his toes to kiss Geoff’s cheek one last time before turning and heading on his way.

***

There are others, after Geoff, but he stops kidding himself. He doesn’t take them round to meet his friends. He doesn’t take them out at all.

He doesn’t see Scripps much either.

In the library one night, Akthar says, “Don’s bird’s broken things off,” and David nods, flipping through his book, wondering if he’s a bad person for needing to stifle a smile.

***

He doesn’t see Scripps again until the Christmas hols. Everyone’s home, and someone—Timms, David thinks—suggests they all have a drink. They haven’t all been together since Hector’s memorial, and for some of them it’s been almost two years since they’ve seen each other. Lockwood’s cut his hair, and his badges are long gone. No trainers even. David thinks it’s strange the changes people go through. Strange and somehow inevitable. None of them could have ended up anywhere but where they are.

“I saw Irwin on telly last week,” Timms says, toying with a coaster, flipping it between his fingers.

“Ah, yes. The schoolmaster turned entertainer,” Stuart remarks dryly. “How was it?”

“The history’s shite, but he looks impressive doing it.”

David has a fleeting moment of wondering if Dakin is still waiting for Irwin to notice him, and he instinctively turns to Don to share a smile only to discover Don is watching him intently, an odd look in his eyes that is too familiar to be comfortable.

Gradually they disperse, leaking out of the pub and going their separate ways, leaving David to wonder what will be the next thing to bring them all together like this again. Someone’s wedding?

Someone’s funeral?

Don walks him home, and he wobbles a bit. He’s never been good at holding his liquor. It makes him giggle and lean into Don, and he can only assume that’s what makes Don slide an arm around his waist, keeping him upright.

“Careful, there, Pos. Your mother’d have my hide if I brought you home bruised.”

“Nonsense,” David mumbles, well aware of how close Don is, how he smells like paper and smoke and lager. “My mum adores you.”

“All the more reason not to disappoint her.”

He leaves David on his doorstep, and in the morning David is almost certain he must have imagined the feel of Don’s lips against his cheek.

***

In his first year, there had been moments David wasn’t sure he could do this. After all his work, all the essays and revising and practice and Irwin’s remodeled history, he’d thought he’d have to give it all up.

Now he’s almost through, and he’d thought he was over that. He’d figured it out, this succeeding in life, pushing through on his own. But after their holiday gathering, after seeing the other boys and how they’ve changed, how they’ve become something more than they’d been at school, he begins to wonder why he…hasn’t.

Perhaps he’s been fooling himself. Perhaps he never was David. Perhaps he’s still just Posner, as he’s been all along.

And perhaps he can’t do this after all.

It begins by missing a tutorial. He hasn’t finished the essay, so he can’t bring himself to go. He tells his tutor he’s ill, a migraine. He’s terribly sorry, and he’ll be in next week.

But next week comes, and he misses it again. It’s too much. They expect too much, and there’s no way he can manage it.

He hasn’t seen Scripps in weeks, and Akthar only checks in on him occasionally. He assumes they’re both caught up in their last few terms, preparing themselves for exams, for whatever comes next.

So he supposes he shouldn’t be surprised that it’s Geoff who finds him, two half-empty bottles next to him, one of wine, one of pills.

To be, or not to be. It isn’t the question at all. Not the important one. Because once you’ve decided, one way or the other, there’s still the question of how.

***

Hospital isn’t bad, per se. It gives him time to catch up on his reading, his essays, even his tutorial. His tutor even stops by so they can continue their work.

It isn’t bad at all. It’s only embarrassing.

Akthar comes to see him, dragging Dakin along with him. Even Rudge stops by, the least awkward of the bunch for once, talking to David as though they simply lost touch and are catching up over tea.

And Don.

Don is nowhere to be found.

***

He spends more time in the botanic gardens now than he has the rest of his time here, and he wonders why. They’re just out his front door, after all. And it’s a good place to walk and not to think.

Don is there when he comes out one day, and he finds it appropriate. The gardens are his temple now. This is just a reversal of their usual roles.

He isn’t sure what to say, though. Part of him wants to just fall into step with Don like nothing’s changed. Part of him wants to scream, wants to tell Don exactly how abandoned he’s felt. Part of him wants to throw his arms around his friend and never let go.

With all that warring within him, all he can do is tuck his hands into his pockets and scuff the cobblestone as he waits for Don to speak.

“Hello,” he says after a long moment’s silence.

“Hello,” David echoes.

“You look well.”

It’s such a horrible lie that David can’t help but laugh. “I’m…better than I was.”

Don nods. “Akthar told me. I…”

“You didn’t come.”

“I know. I couldn’t.”

David frowns, feeling the expression tug at his lips against his will. “For a week, Don? You couldn’t find five minutes?”

Not that he’d wanted Don there. Not that he’d wanted to be seen like that.

“No, I…I couldn’t. I just…I kept thinking I should’ve been there. If I’d been there, then maybe…”

David cuts him off. “It wouldn’t have helped. You can’t be there all the time. You can’t…keep me under surveillance just in case.”

Don nods and starts walking toward the city center. David falls into step, though not quite like nothing’s changed.

“I was scared,” Don says after a moment. “I’ve been a shit friend, and I know it, but… I was scared to see you like that.”

“I wasn’t in any danger by then.”

“It’s not that.” He shakes his head. “I was scared of how I’d…feel.”

David thinks of Christmas and the smell of paper and Don’s warm lips on his cold cheek.

“Pos…” Don says quietly, his fingers curling around David’s hand. “David…”

David shakes his head and gives Don a smile that’s as hopeful as it is melancholy. His fingers weave between his friend’s, and their path alters slightly, heading toward Don’s college.

***

The next time they’re all together, it’s just after graduation. Everyone heads back to Sheffield for a few days at least, a short breather. A time to catch their breath before moving on with life. Careers or gap years or further schooling.

David doesn’t drink as much this time, but Don still walks him home. He still wobbles a bit, and Don still smells of paper and smoke and lager. He still giggles, and Don still kisses him, and he knows this time he’s not imagining anything at all.

fin

Date: 2011-11-12 01:24 am (UTC)
misslucyjane: poetry by hafiz (dean thinks your fic is awesome)
From: [personal profile] misslucyjane
Oh, that was lovely. Sad and beautiful and just hopeful enough at the end.

Date: 2011-11-12 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] skidmo-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks, bb. :)

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