two pill bottles and a microphone

Warning for dark themes, past pharmaceutical addiction, and struggles with mental illness.

Pete wakes up feeling cold.

He feels cold, and he’s shaking a little, but there’s sweat breaking out on his skin and he’s kicked the covers down. There’s just the vaguest memory left over from the dream that woke him up. He doesn’t quite know what he’s dreamt about, but it felt a lot of like fear, disorganized and unrelenting.

He lets the cool air from the air vent roll over his flushed skin until he starts shivering, and then pulls the sheet up over his chest. This is the second night he’d been alone in his house, and maybe Pete is ready to admit that it’s freaking him out. It had taken five miles of pushing himself, running the neighborhood round and round until he was tired enough to combat the insomnia and actually sleep. So of course he wakes up in the middle of the night from a fucking nightmare he can’t remember.

He lies back, punching his pillows until they’re slightly more comfortable, and stares at the cheap plastic glow in the dark stars that litter his ceiling. He put them up the last time he’d been at the house for awhile, while Nick drank beer and leaned against the doorframe, telling him which way he should position Orion.

They were supposed to be comforting, but right now he wanted to rip them down just to have something to do with his hands and the quick, fierce anger that rolled through him.

He’s twenty-six years old, and he can’t spend a night alone in the house he paid for by himself. It’s kind of fucking depressing. Hemmy isn’t even around, because Joe gets custody of him on Thursdays so Joe can stalk the hot chick that teaches obedience lessons.

Pete curls onto his side, hugging a pillow close to his body. If he pulls the covers up over his shoulders, so they’re nearly at his nose, sometimes it feels less like he’s alone in his bed.

He is pretty fucking self-aware–especially now with all the therapy he has going on–that this is the mindset which points him directly towards some of his more self-destructive habits. The meds help, make it easier for him to identify what he’s thinking, and they’d worked out what and how much he should take so that he isn’t off all the fucking time, not like before. But it doesn’t stop his head from thinking the things. It just makes it clearer, and a little more distant.

Right now his fingers are itching to grab his car keys and drive over to Patrick’s house. Hell, he could walk, if he wanted to. It isn’t very far. Patrick gave him a key, and this is probably an emergency. Pete needs to sleep, and he isn’t sleeping, so logically Pete should do the things that would enable him to sleep.

He always sleeps well with Patrick.

But that would be a sign of weakness, no matter what anyone says, and Pete, more than anything, does not want to feel weak right now. His fingers twitch for a cigarette he hasn’t touched since he was in high school, and he rubs them against the worn material of his t-shirt as a distraction. It’s like a litany of self-destructive things: co-dependency, smoking, drinking. He’s not at drinking yet. There’s no booze in his house. He knows himself too well for that. Straightedge is a lifestyle he hasn’t always adhered to completely, but he’s had too many rough, blackout nights to not keep trying.

He could watch television. He still has Planet Earth tivo’ed from when Travie was hanging out. But Pete thinks it’s likely not too soothing for three AM insomnia, and Travie was probably high when he watched it, so Pete doesn’t always trust what Travie suggests.

The faint light from the streetlamps seeps through his window, mixing with the moonlight, and a soldierly line of little orange-and-white bottles are shadowed on his bedside table. He has Ambien for nights when the insomnia gets so bad that even chemically induced sleep is preferable to wide-eyed, uncomfortable wakefulness. As the minutes grind past and Pete watches the blinking light of the seconds on his alarm clock tick on, he resigns himself to the fact that this is a night when he’s going to have to accept weakness in exchange for some comfort. Pete’s always been a little too good at compromise. At compromising himself.

He slips from under his comforter and the chill air hits him like a wall. He reaches blindly for a hoodie from the rack beside his bed and toes on a pair of Uggs some girl left at his house that he never bothered to throw out, because the fuckers are comfortable and no one ever has to know. Not that he really cares, but there’s eyeliner and then there’s Paris Hilton trends, and there are some lines he’d rather not cross publicly.

It’s three forty-two in the morning, and Pete considers his Sidekick, lifting it from its cradle and flicking through his address book. He could call Patrick, and Patrick would bitch but he would listen and probably insist that Pete come over immediately. But something inside Pete roils at that, and he thumbs past the P’s into the letters that are not P’s.

When he gets to Way, he hits the button on reflex and then starts cursing when he realizes what he’s done.

He’s pretty sure Mikey is in Europe right now, so at least it won’t be a middle of the night call; but Pete can’t hang up, either, because Mikey will see and call him back and either way he’s going to be talking to his ex-boyfriend tonight when he’s in the worst possible mood to do so.

“‘lo?” comes Mikey’s scratchy voice over the line. He probably hasn’t had his second cup of coffee yet, Pete thinks, caught between annoyed and pleased that he remembers.

“Hi Mikes,” Pete mumbles into the phone. “Um, sorry, I hit the wrong button, I’ll just–”

“Pete?” Mikey says, sounding surprised but not unpleasantly so. “It’s, what, it’s like the middle of the night, why are you calling–are you having insomnia again?”

Pete says, “Bad dreams,” through the cloth of his hoodie, quiet and unintelligible.

There’s a brief moment of silence and then, “Did you have a nightmare?” in a careful, gentle voice that scares Pete more than everything else put together.

Pete doesn’t say anything, sure he’s going to break the moment he didn’t mean to have in the first place. They’d broken up, and Pete had been fine with it, absolutely fine except for the part where he punched out his car window; but after that he’d been really fine, fine enough to smile without showing his teeth when he learned that Alicia and Mikey had gotten together.

But being broken up means that Mikey doesn’t t have to deal with Pete’s shit anymore, and Pete doesn’t know what’s worse: Mikey knowing it’s still there, or admitting to Mikey it’s still going on.

Mikey says, “Pete?” as quiet as the chaos inside Pete’s head, and Pete has never really been able to say no to Mikeyway.

“Bad dream,” he says roughly. “Pretty bad one.”

“You couldn’t get back to sleep?”


“You didn’t call Patrick?”

“No,” Pete says with a little more force.

“Then I think you’re lucky Bob already did a Starbucks run today,” Mikey replies, sidestepping Pete’s tone like he’d always, somehow, been able to do.

“Do you want to tell me about your day or should I tell you about mine?” Mikey asks like Pete hadn’t just called him out of the blue four months too late.

“Tell me about yours,” Pete says, because he figures the Mikey-shaped bruise is already starting to heal a little; it won’t hurt too bad to poke at it again.

He grabs the fuzzy pink fleece blanket Dirty gave him for a birthday present and curls into the chair in his room, pulling the blanket up over him until only his eyes are peeking out, mapping the constellations on his ceiling while Mikey’s familiar, nasally voice narrates a story of lost baggage in Heathrow. He can feel the last sharp edges of his bad dream receding, and if Pete knows they’ll be back way too soon, at least they’re gone for now. He rubs his toes against the lining of his shoes and clutches his phone and thinks that maybe if he closes his eyes now, what’s behind them won’t be so bad.