I like the look of him from behind. The black bomber jacket hugs wide shoulders and the blue jeans roll over a nice butt, hard thighs and long legs. The boots peeking from the jeans are old and battered. Working my way back up, a large tanned hand runs through messy black hair. It's not an intentional style...it's messy. Like he gets up every morning and doesn't think to brush it. Like his fingers can't help traveling through it, again and again.
Maybe it helps him think. It's a sign of stress, regardless. And that's what we're here to handle. I clear my throat as I make my way into the room. It makes me think of an interrogation room, but in reality, I've created a therapist's office. Sorta. All the bookshelves are there, the massive desk...but there's no chaise. I think if he had to lay down and talk to me he'd bolt.
Adam turns from the bookshelf he'd been studying and his face throws me off. It always does lately. The exhaustion has created landmarks in his face. Frown lines around the firm mouth, heavy bags beneath the shadowed brown eyes. He's handsome despite it all and carries his thirty years well. But he also looks like a man hanging on by a thread.
I gesture to the cushioned chair that's replaced the chaise and he sighs before walking over and taking a seat. I hop onto the desk and let my feet swing.
"You're not going to give me any problems right? We're doing this for your own good." I lift a brow at his grimace. "You're stretched to the breaking point, Adam. We gotta get some of it out."
He shrugs irritably. "There's nothing I wanna talk about. Nothing that hasn't been said before. That hasn't been whined about and cried about."
"Let's be macho on a different day. You may not agree but people might want to know about your struggle." When he frowns harder and starts to turn away, I tilt my head. "They're going to want to know about Graham."
He freezes. "Everything is about Graham." His voice has gone flat, maybe in an attempt to hide emotion. But I swear, just for a minute, that guilt flickered across his face.
"No, Adam. This whole thing is about you."
Adam tenses, so tightly strung that a tap to the arm would probably destroy him. Shatter him into pieces as sharp and jagged as broken glass. The smile he gives me has defeat running along the edges. "You'd think so, eh?"
"I know so."
He grunts. Surrenders. "What do you want to know?"
I scoot back until I can cross my legs on the desk, Indian-style. "Let's start with what's happening. "
Adam snorts, leaning back in his chair. There's a casual swipe through his hair - it definitely helps him think. "Graham has leukemia," he whispers. "I can't remember which type but it's rare in adults. Dangerous. It seems like it just happened. No warning, nothing. He came home from a doctor's appointment - he'd been having really bad headaches and nearly passed out on the way to store from the pain - and they'd found it. In a blood sample."
His hands are shaking. I hadn't noticed until now. Mentioning Graham must have started it. "That must have been hard to take."
Adam looks away. "I didn't handle it well." He won't go into detail when I prod him but I remember that moment. I'm not proud of him either and his shoulders slump, like he knows.
"So Graham's in the hospital for chemo, right?" He nods, still not facing me. "Didn't the doctor let you stay in there too? What's that like?"
Adam faces me again and he shakes his head. "It's terrible," he murmurs. "The machine that monitors his heart keeps me awake. It's like...I can't help but wait for the moment it flat-lines. It's hard to sleep with thoughts like that."
I straighten and blink at him. "But...Graham is barely starting chemotherapy. How can you be worried about that?"
"You know what leukemia is don't you?" I scowl at him and Adam tosses it right back. "It's not a joke. It's not like the flu or even fucking pneumonia. Graham could d-die."
He clamps his lips shut after he stutters and I frown. "You can die from pneumonia too. That doesn't mean its going to happen."
"I know." Adam drops his head and he stares at his hands. "I know. And it doesn't matter how many times I tell myself that or how many times I remind myself that we've just started...I can't shake the fear." He lifts his eyes to me and there's outright fear in them. "I don't know what I'll do if he...if it happens."
I know his past. I know his present. I know his future. And I know there's more. "Or are you just afraid of being alone?"
He jerks upright, hands curling into tight, tight fists. But maybe it's on my face, the determination to get to the root of the problem because he can't keep his eyes on me. His gaze drops again.
"Yeah." His voice is holds the same rigid tension that's evident in his hands. "I'm scared shitless of being alone. But it's more of being without Graham. For Christ's sake, I draw a webcomic. Who else is gonna let me plunk my ass in front of a computer to draw of all things and not want to strangle me by the end of the day?"
"Is he the more dependable half then?"
Adam snorts and his hands slowly uncurl. "Without a doubt. I'm not a complete flake...but Graham's the one who knows what the hell is going on."
I glance at the time and sigh. We've got to some good points but not everything. But then, maybe its better that we haven't. "We don't have much more time but before I let you go, tell me something about Graham's family. I know yours is kinda out of the way but I know Graham's mother flew in didn't she?"
Adam grimaces. "Yeah, from Georgia. Evelyn, Graham's mom, is the original meaning of steel magnolia. And she hates me."
I nod. "I've heard. Do you know why?"
"Oh yeah," Adam's frown morphs into a mean smile. "It's because Graham's gay and she thinks if I wasn't in the picture, she'd be able to bring him back to the correct side of the playing field." The smile softens as a little more amusement slides into his tone. "She calls me the devil's henchman, I kid you not."
I blink. "Filled with her own self-righteousness eh?"
"Yeah. How she made someone like Graham, who is so the comfortably gay dude, I'll never know."
"Graham has...two siblings, yeah? Brother and sister?"
Adam's smile turns fully genuine. "Juliana, the baby and Joe, who is smack dab in the middle. And I have no idea how Evelyn did it but she's somehow made them the most anti-homophobic people ever."
He glances at his watch and stands up. "Speaking of Joe, I gotta go. He's offered to watch the house and he's going to call and let me know if he's managed to escape his mother." He rolls his eyes. "Evelyn is staying in town and believe it or not, is actually on a campaign to get Graham to move back to Georgia now so he can go to a hospital out there away from Gay - with a capital G - California. Joe leaving to help out the enemy isn't going to go down well."
I hop off the table and walk with him to the door. "Watch the house?"
Adam nods. "Yeah, grab the mail, bring in the newspaper. I haven't had the chance to do it." His voice slows and lowers. "I hate being in the house without him."
We both know who him is. "Thanks for stopping by, Adam." I pull the door open and look up at him. "I know it was hard to be away from Graham to do this. Stay positive, okay? He needs you, you know. Now more than ever."
Adam shoves his hands in his pockets. "Joe told me the same thing." He blows out a breath. "He's kinda on a campaign himself, to help me get a handle on it. It's the Graham in him." There's a flicker of a smile. "Graham thinks of everyone before himself. I'm trying to learn to think of him now."
"G'luck." I salute him, get a nod and then he disappears through the door.
Staring out after him, long after he's gone, I have to wonder if he realizes just how alone he already is....and how fast he's slipping.