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Charles Dickens Makes My OCD Worse (Talon)

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Post by Talon Rogers on Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:01 pm

Talon couldn't help but laugh a little as he overestimated his own strength and pulled too hard, causing Michael to fall into his shoulder. That was okay, though; the way the other boy fell, he managed to fit perfectly against Talon. It was as though they were two pieces of the same puzzle--as though nature had designed them both so that Michael's head would rest comfortably against Talon's shoulder. Smiling fondly, he slipped his arm around Michael's shoulders again and rested it there comfortably. This was definitely something he could get used to--just relaxing and being a family with his brother.

"I know, but still, even fun can be dangerous if you forget to breathe," he said in response to Michael brushing off his apology. "So my previous statement still stands--I won't do that again, not without warning." Surprise tickles were half the fun, but he also didn't want to be responsible for Michael getting hurt. Weighing up the two, he decided he would give his little brother fair warning before he did anything.

As Michael began to talk about his sisters, Talon sat up a little straighter and stared at him with a mixture of shock that held a definite undercurrent of anger. How dare they? And how could their parents just let them? His parents may have had their failings but they surely did not let any of their children get away with bullying one another. Added to that was Talon's very real confusion over who could possibly be deliberately cruel to this sweet kid. He didn't want to scare the kid, though, and so he checked his initial reaction, swallowed the heated words, and forced himself to speak calmly.

"That doesn't seem fair. After all, if--Brielle, was it?--if Brielle poked you intending to make you drop the vase, the fault ought to lie with her. It doesn't matter who's older. The fact that she's your little sister doesn't give her good reason to torture you and get away with it. I ought to know," he added, trying to insert a lighter note into the conversation. "I was the little brother myself. If my parents found out I was doing something to try and get Agnes in trouble, I got into twice as much."

He shook his head at the weed-smoking comment. "You know I didn't lead a particularly blameless life, but I sure wasn't doing drugs by the time I was ten. They must have had a particularly moronic dealer...most drug dealers, no matter how new or desperate, won't sell anywhere near kids. That can double your jail time if you get caught, and they almost always are." He should know that, too. He'd lost two dealers, and he had turned in his third before he got sent to Hadley...

At Michael's yawn, Talon shifted to allow Michael to snuggle closer. He began stroking his hair gently again and was searching his mind for the perfect song when Michael began to sing instead. Talon's mouth dropped open slightly as the younger boy sang. The words painted a picture in his mind of God creating the heavens and the earth. Whether or not that was what the song was actually about, that was what it made Talon think of. He'd never heard the song before and had no basis to compare, but Michael sang it well. His high, clear treble brought a tear to Talon's eye. The sudden cessation of the song jerked him rather less than pleasantly back to reality, and he looked down in surprise as Michael straightened up and blushed.

"No, no!" he protested, amazed. "That was a beautiful song...I thought there was a God message in there. And you sang it really well. You say you don't sing in public often? You should, honest. You've got one heck of a good voice. Any decent director would kill to have you in his choir, I'm serious."
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Post by Michael Courtenay on Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:42 am

As Talon's arm slipped around his shoulders, Michael admitted to himself that being hugged by his big brother was the best feeling in the world. When he was held in Talon's arms, he forgot everything that brought him to St. Christina's for a moment and melted away. Michael knew, from that point on, that they completed each other... and wondered to himself how he managed to get through 14 years of his life without Talon.

Talon said that he promised to not tickle Michael again without consent, but all the same, Michael wouldn't have minded surprise tickle wars- the one that just ended was loads of fun. But he savored the fact that he was cared about by Talon enough for him to be concerned. Talon didn't want him to get hurt, and would probably do everything he could to prevent that, and that was something that Michael would always treasure.

Michael smiled warmly as he clutched a fistful of Talon's sleeve, as he replied in the voice of a tired, little kid: "'Kay."

Michael shook his head as Talon spoke about what was fair and unfair. "Morgan kind of hated me from the moment she met me, so she always took Tori and Brielle's sides and tried her hardest to separate me from them- I thought it was something to do with the fact that I wasn't her child by blood, until I overheard my dad and her talking about me one night..."

Michael gulped before he continued: "Morgan was screaming pretty loud... and she told my dad that I shouldn't have stayed over for the summer. She told my dad to have me stay away from them because she thought I would..."

Talon's younger brother was silent for several seconds, trying to decide how to word his answer. "... she thought I would do something terrible to them because I was a boy who she'd never met before staying in the same house with two girls who were four years younger than me. And... I don't even want to say the word because it's so horrible and something that I'd never think of doing. I was confused-" Michael avoided saying the word 'angry'. "-for awhile, but then I realized that she was only trying to protect her children."

He shrugged. "My dad first met me two years ago by sending me a letter saying that since I was old enough to fly on my own, and that I should visit him, his new wife and children for the summer. At first I was ecstatic because I've never met him face to face by that time, and I was willing to sacrifice a few hours of panic on the plane so that I could finally meet my father. But I stayed for two summers and he was never really there- he was always working... so that was a perfect opportunity for Tori and Brielle to be catty and Morgan to be paranoid."

Michael was silent again for a few moments before a pinch of the anger he stuffed away all his life peaked through its closet door. He couldn't control his next few sentences as he trembled: "James Miller finally met me two years ago, and ignored me. He pretended like I didn't exist even when I was there in front of his face. You know, if I ever become a father sometime in the distant future, I'll be a father. Not some guy who has two families and doesn't take care of the first one."

The pounding of his heart and the adrenaline rush he was feeling was exhilarating... but he promptly forced his anger inside of the closet. His fists were unclenched and his teeth were now apart again.

"S-Sorry," Michael stuttered, amazed that he let all of that show. "I don't usually allow myself to feel angry... because I'm afraid I could hurt someone."

It was true. Whenever Michael felt anger, it was either stuffed away or turned to guilt... and that's how it had been for 14 years.

Michael shrugged at Talon's comment about Tori and Brielle's habit. "They look a lot older than they are. I'm sure the dealers thought they were 16 or 17 like everyone else does."

When Talon's fingers glided through Michael's hair again, he took a deep breath in and out. He was completely calm, until he sang by accident and blushed out of embarrassment.

"No, no! That was a beautiful song...I thought there was a God message in there. And you sang it really well. You say you don't sing in public often? You should, honest. You've got one heck of a good voice. Any decent director would kill to have you in his choir, I'm serious."

Talon was... amazed? That made Michael's smile and he appreciated the compliment- no one had ever told him he was a good singer because he never allowed anyone to hear him.

"Thank you... b-but..." Michael looked away, his face turning an extraordinary shade of scarlet. "I sing like a girl..." He whined childishly.

"Besides," Michael looked at his brother again. "I use my voice for other things."

He giggled and looked away. Now he'd have to explain himself...

"A few years ago, me and the guys from the baseball team were playing Truth or Dare... and when I finally picked dare, they ended up daring me to imitate Apu from the Simpsons... and once they heard me, the game kind of ended up becoming 'Make Michael Imitate Whoever's Voice'- here, I'll show you."

Michael put his index finger to his chin before he said: "Okay! So, this is a conversation between Daffy Duck and Porky Pig."

He cleared his throat and began the imitation, his voice switching cleanly and accurately from Daffy Duck's loud voice and inability to pronounce his s's and Porky Pig's mumbling stutter. "It'th a duck, fat thuff! A genuine live duck!" "A d-d-d-d-duck?" "Yeth, a d-d-d-duck..." "G-gee, just what I always wanted, I s-suppose..."

Michael found himself giggling at the end, because it was a reflex for how his friends had reacted when they found he could imitate any voice... as long as it wasn't too low pitched.
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Post by Talon Rogers on Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:16 pm

Talon smiled and leaned his cheek against the top of Michael's head as the boy curled up against him, gripping his sleeve like any child falling asleep in his big brother's arms. He knew Michael was only two years his junior, but it no longer mattered. It could have turned out that the boy was three years his senior and he would still have been Talon's little brother, now until the end of time.

He shook his head sadly and stroked Michael's hair as his litle brother spoke. "Even if she thought she was protecting them, she shouldn't have treated you like that. She didn't know you. She shouldn't have just assumed you would hurt her daughters. I've only known you for..." He glanced up at the clock. "An hour? Maybe? I've only known you for an hour and I know you'd never do anything like that. Ever," he added forcefully. He meant it, too. Then again, he had to admit to himself that you couldn't always go by appearances. He and Michael looked somewhat similar--there was a young, fresh-faced innocence about both of them, sort of--but Talon had been a prostitute and a druggie. He wouldn't have gone after Michael's half-sisters either, mostly because he was gay, but he wouldn't have gone after a brother of his either. Incest was definitely one of those things he drew the line at.

He felt Michael tremble with some suppressed emotion--sadness? Anger?--as he spoke about his father. Talon instinctively cuddled his younger brother closer, rocking him slightly and stroking his hair. "Shh. It's okay," he said softly, soothingly. "You'll be a wonderful father someday, I know it. You've got every reason in the world to be the best father in the world. Your father wasn't a father. He was just your...your sperm donor," he said, floundering slightly but hoping Michael would know what he meant. "I believe in you, Michael."

A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth at Michael's embarrassment about his voice, but he shook his head. "Stop it. You do not sing like a girl. Haven't you ever heard the Vienna Boys' Choir? Your vocal range is called a treble. Sometimes people call it a 'boy soprano', but the official name is 'treble'. All boys sing treble." Remembering a boy in his middle school choir who had sung almost in a bass before his voice changed, he amended, "Most boys sing treble before their voices change. I did. I'll have to see if I can get hold of one of the videos of my solos when I was in middle school...I think I had an even higher voice than you do. And I didn't hit puberty until about halfway through my freshman year. Last one in my class. I had a castratti solo in one of our pieces at the Christmas concert that year."

"Besides, I use my voice for other things."

Talon listened attentively to Michael's explanation. He couldn't help but laugh at the imitated conversation. "That's really impressive! I can do accents, but I never could imitate voices." The ability to do an Italian accent was crucial to singing a Scarlotti aria, but the ability to imitate voices led to singing the aria sounding more like Placido Domingo than Talon Rogers. He could sing "C'est Moi" in a French accent but he didn't sound a thing like Robert Goulet, and if his Jewish accent sounded at all like Zero Mostel's, it was an accident more than anything. "You could be the next Mel Blanc. 'The man with a thousand voices.'" he intoned. "Hey, maybe we could be a team. Go to work for some animation company and double up on the voices for the male leads. You could do the speaking part and I could do the singing. That's how Disney usually does their princes." Not that the princes sang often in Disney movies, but...
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Post by Michael Courtenay on Wed Jul 06, 2011 12:53 am

After Micheal was done talking about Morgan, Talon's words definitely made him feel better afterwards. His father's wife had been one of the very few people on planet Earth who had managed to make Michael show anger when talking about them. He was so happy and thankful that Talon took the time to see into who he was instead of most of the people he'd come to know over the years. Most had already disliked him for his anxiety or, in Morgan's case, she disliked him solely because he was a product of a woman who James had been with other than her.

"Thanks, Talon," Michael said, truly appreciating his brother's words. "I guess I'm like Cinderella for the summer- I have an evil stepmother, a father who isn't there and two stepsisters who go out of their way to make my life miserable." He laughed.

"The only thing I've ever actually done to Morgan was break the vase, and that was really Brielle's fault- oh wait! No, I lied- I also reorganized all of the dishes and cooking supplies in the cabinets because I saw a cup that was turned on its side. The next day, Morgan couldn't find anything in the entire kitchen and she was livid- from that point on, I'd have to have the dishes handed to me when it was my turn to set the table and if I wanted to drink something, I'd have to ask someone for a cup. But that's all I ever really did." He sighed.

As Michael talked about James Miller, the rage born from his father abandoning him erupted from its cage. Michael's heart was always worn on his sleeve, and that was evident from the way he trembled, ground his teeth and the flame in his eyes, (one that hadn't ignited in a while) as he was looking down. But after Talon embraced him, the fury and racing thoughts dissipated. He felt Talon's arms bring him closer while running fingers through his hair and rocking back and forth... the combined sensations reminding him of when his mom would try to put him to sleep after a nightmare. With one breath, Michael sank closer against Talon, putting a hand on his arm. Within the week that he finally met his father, Michael had sworn to himself that, if he were to be a father eventually, he would never leave his children. He vowed to himself and to God that he would be the father that James wasn't... and Talon knew that too.

Michael snorted when he heard the sperm donor comment. "I actually have a hard time saying the word 'dad' when I refer to my father. I'm going to use that from now on- "Oh, my middle name is James, after my sperm donor." He laughed afterwards, a welcoming change from a moment ago.

"I believe in you, Michael."

Michael's wide eyes stared into Talon's as that sentence took awhile to sink in. He looked down again, his look of disbelief turning to deep thought. "R... Really?"

He was silent for a long time before he uttered, "No one's ever said that to me before."

Michael knew that some people throughout his life believed in him, such as his mom, friends, therapist and former teammates. All of them had encouraged and managed to calm him when he was tight-rope walking between falling into an anxiety attack and not... but none have them had said that sentence directly. Internally, it was an even worse situation- Michael had honestly never believed in himself before. He had been thoroughly convinced all his life that he amounted to nothing, that he wasn't truly good at anything, that asking for things that he wanted was selfish... etc. He relied on other people to tell him who he was or reassure him, and this was a product of both low self-esteem and Dependent Personality Disorder.

"Sorry about a few minutes ago," He said finally. "I don't usually express my anger, so I don't truly know how to deal with it. Thinking about my father and his family sets me off, but that's really all that does- wait! No- there is something else!"

Michael sat up and looked at Talon again, his voice slightly loudening and quickening with passion: "I can't stand intolerance. Like racism or sexism... or- or stuff like summer camps where they try to make kids not gay! I mean, it's not like a person hurts another solely because they're attracted to men or women. It's like if someone sent me to camp to turn me into an octopus! It's not gonna work! If I tried to act like an octopus to gain social acceptance among the sea creature community, I'd only be lying to myself because I'm Michael Courtenay, not an octopus. I'm not going to turn all squishy and grow eight tentacles just because society wants me to, so gay people won't just magically turn into straight people either! Stuff like that makes me- rrrrrr!"

Michael hid his face in his knees and growled, but straightened his back when he heard Talon's vast knowledge of singing. That brought him out of his angry thoughts- this had definitely marked the first day in, easily, a year or two since he showed his anger openly. But this was Talon- he could trust him.

"There are names for voice types?" Michael thought aloud, unwittingly making it clear that he knew nothing about the technique of vocalism. He felt a sense of connectedness and a twinge of relief when Talon said that his voice was higher at his age. "Well, I don't know, the only reason why I said that I sing like a girl is because I was made fun of a lot in middle school because of how high my voice is. Jorge poked fun at that too, but in a friendly way." Michael blushed when Talon mentioned puberty. "Yeahhh..." He began awkwardly. "That hasn't happened yet... if it wasn't obvious enough already."

"Wow! I bet you were great!" He promptly changed the subject, exclaiming in amazement when Talon mentioned his solo.

It appeared Talon was impressed by the imitation, which made Michael smile. "Really? What kind of accents?" He said this, and brightened in excitement about Talon's voice acting idea. "That sounds awesome! We should seriously do that when- well, if - we get out of here! I can do any voice as long as I've heard it before and it's not too low, and you sing beautifully! We'd make a great team- and we already do." Michael laughed, resting his head on Talon's shoulder again.

"Yeah! There's lots of guys who sing in Disney movies- Aladdin sung, and so did the prince from Sleeping Beauty... although I forget his name, but I know he sang! And who knows, maybe they'll come out with a new script. On the subject of Cinderella, maybe they'll make an alternate story where Cinderella is a boy who is destined to be a prince. His name could be Cinderell-o... or just Cinder... or something!"
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Post by Talon Rogers on Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:00 pm

Talon grinned when Michael compared himself to Cinderella. "Well, then, I'll be your fairy godfather," he quipped. "Somehow we'll get you to the ball. I admit I'm not much good when it comes to turning fruit into transportation, or making men out of rats, but between us we'll get you to your prince--er, princess." He laughed, but there was real sincerity in his eyes. Michael would have a happy ending if he had to move heaven and earth to give it to him.

He looked into Michael's eyes and smiled reassuringly. "Really, really," he answered. He rubbed his little brother's back. The poor kid--no one had ever told him they believed in him? Four simple words. They weren't that hard to say. Was it that no one believed in Michael, or that they just hadn't said so? It didn't matter. Talon had said them, and he had meant them. It wasn't exactly a giant leap of faith to believe in a heart so innocent and true, but still, he was glad that his words seemed to have made a difference. He guessed it was just one of those things.

Michael's impassioned speech about intolerance startled him, but at the same time, it was like lifting a huge weight off of his shoulders. "Michael, you have no idea how glad I am to hear you say that," he said softly. "I should have mentioned earlier that my parents thought I was...a broken heathen, I guess...long before they found out what I was doing recreationally. I'm gay. I've known I was gay since I was about six years old, and I told my parents when I was eight. They freaked. I was kind of worried about telling you because I wasn't sure how you'd take it, but..." He trailed off. "I'm glad you won't judge me or anything."

"There are names for voice types?"

"Sure," Talon answered, grinning. "Once your voice changes, you'll sing on one of four levels--countertenor, tenor, baritone, or bass. Most guys are baritones. True basses are rare, but they do exist. Tenors are usually the highest voices--that's what I sing--and most of the time countertenor is guys singing falsetto. Women sing either soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, or contralto." He studied Michael thoughtfully. "I'm guessing you'll be either a tenor or a bari, but you never know--you might end up a bass. Either way, you don't sound like a girl. Middle school guys can be really cruel."

He smiled at Michael's question about accents. "You name it, I can probably do it. My best is probably my Italian accent because I sing a lot of Italian operas--Nel cor' piu non mi sento..." he sang, infusing the words with the richness and warmth his teacher had insisted upon. "But I can do most accents. Just don't ask me to do one of those African clicking languages," he added with a laugh.

"Phillip," he supplied when Michael was fishing for the name of Sleeping Beauty's prince. "And Simba sang in The Lion King...although I think Matthew Broderick did both his singing and speaking voice. He's a Broadway actor, after all."

A smile made the corners of his eyes crinkle upwards at Michael's enthusiastic renaming of a male Cinderella. "Cinderfella," he suggested. "We should totally write the script for it ourselves and mail it to Disney. I bet they'd pay us tons of money to do it, and then we could record the voices for it. We'd be famous."
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Post by Michael Courtenay on Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:43 am

Michael giggled at the fairy god father idea. "You're doing a great job so far. You're making my life so much better just by being in it- you don't need to do any magic tricks." He then blushed at the princess comment. "Every girl I've liked I've been rejected by. I've never actually been in a relationship or even kissed, but that's okay. I kind of feel like I need to get my act together mentally before I even think of making that kind of commitment to anyone who could actually stand me. Besides, if I was dating a girl in Michigan only to come here, I'd never forgive myself and that would only add to all the stuff I have to deal with anyway."

As Talon rubbed his back, Michael was again filled with warmth and fuzziness. He was so happy that Talon believed in him- he knew that some people did, but they'd never been outward about it. Michael couldn't help himself from thinking, 'Is there really anything to believe in?', and told himself not to say it aloud. Talon obviously thought so, and that was all that counted.

Talon's revelation only surprised Michael momentarily. He wouldn't have been able to guess Talon's orientation if he had asked, but Michael was the same way- he wasn't terribly outward about who he liked. Although, Talon's silence was likely only specific to him. Michael had been called gay before, but that was only by his tormentors... who tried their hardest to find anything they could to make fun of him about, even if they had to make it up. Michael bit back the urge to say 'Why didn't you just tell me that before?'. Talon might have been unwilling to tell him because of the bad experience he must have had with telling his parents or other Christians.

"I-I'm glad you trust me so much," Michael offered, a twinge of the surprise still in his voice. "I would never judge you- telling me this doesn't make you a different person. You're still Talon Rogers and you're still my brother, no matter who you love."

Michael smiled to reinforce what he said. Talon as he knew him wasn't altered at all by the truth. In fact, Michael hadn't given any thought at all to what gender Talon was attracted to up until this point. He was still the same person and he wasn't trying to cover it up, and Michael wouldn't have it any other way. Talon wasn't ashamed of who he was, and that was one of the main qualities Michael wanted to cultivate in himself one day.

Michael listened attentively to Talon speaking about the art of singing. He learned a lot from what he could gather- he didn't think singing was that specific and particular. He was interested, communicating that he was listening by nodding. He then clapped after Talon sang the song in Italian: "Wow! That's so cool that you can do that! You must have worked hard- I could never perform, not alone anyway. I've loop-holed my way through not going on a stage alone so many times."

He giggled as he explained himself: "In fourth grade, we had to put on a play where everyone dressed up as a food and had to sing a four-line solo each. I was assigned to be celery, and when it was my turn to go on the stage during the show, I put the costume on a chair and ran up to the scaffold. I'd already put strings on the arms of the celery costume and just moved them up and down as I sang the song. Everyone in the crowd laughed, but my mom was pretty angry that I didn't actually show my face. I just hate being the center of attention... with anything."

Michael continued to keep the subject of singing alive: "My mom sings and plays guitar. She was actually in an alternative rock band before she became an English professor. She used to like to turn pop and hip-hop songs into acoustic covers, when she had time. Most of the time though, she played classic rock. Sometimes when I had trouble sleeping, she would sing me something and I'd be out like a light."

Michael's smile faded slightly. He looked sad and pained for a moment simply because he felt that way. He missed his mother very much, and was then reminded of a story:

"A few months before my mom gave me up, her friend Drew was visiting from Georgia. She saw me cleaning and go into the other room and said to my mom, "Evie, you have such a wonderful son! I have to force my boys to clean the house." And my mom was silent for a little while before she said, "I know he's wonderful, and everyone who gets to know him knows that too. The trick isn't to have my ex-husband's wife or the brats who bully him see what everyone else sees, because they'll never change. The trick is to have him see the good in himself, and that's going to be harder. All of the good in the world he sees is outside of his skin."

Michael shrugged. "Hearing that got me thinking, but it didn't change anything. I honestly don't think I'm a good person- I never have. And I don't know what will happen if I think differently."

"Phillip! That's right!" Michael exclaimed, promptly changing the subject, then grinned mischievously and conjured up the best Talon-voice he could muster: "He's a Broadway actor, after all."

He couldn't help giggling afterwards, even before he saw Talon's reaction. "I can impersonate my mom's voice perfectly, and everyone on the team told me that I should use that to my advantage and call out sick to school or something, but I can't lie... so that wouldn't go over well. It's kind of funny because most kids who try that can lie but they can't do other voices, and I'm the other way around. I don't like to lie, and I'm bad at it. I don't know which is the result of the other."

"Awesome! Cinderfella it is!" He laughed. "I'm sure the public will love it- there aren't too many Disney movies with a guy as the central character, except maybe "The Lion King" or "Aladdin"... I'm sure they are others, but that's a great idea!"

He cleared his throat. "Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Cinderfella. He never knew his father, but always wondered about him and dreamed every night of meeting him. Cinderfella had always been sad that his father left the house, and he had no memory of him. To calm his nerves while he was pitching during a baseball game, he always pictured the man he saw in a photograph he kept under his pillow cheering next to his mother. He knew that the third chair at the kitchen table wasn't just for guests- it was for a man who had once been a part of their family. One day, when he was twelve years old, Cinderfella got a letter from his father to visit him in Kentucky- er, I mean, a faraway land. Cinderfella traveled for days-" Michael exaggerated being on a plane for a few hours. "- and swallowed that he was scared of being alone so that he could finally do what he'd been waiting for his entire life- meet his father. When he got to the house, he realized that his father wasn't going to be there very often because of his job, and so he'd be alone with his evil stepmother and resentful stepsisters. Needless to say, Cinderfella had a miserable time both summers he visited because the whole reason why he was at the house was barely ever home and he was blamed for things that his stepsisters actually caused. His evil stepmother kind of refused to actually get to know Cinderfella and hated him to begin with. The next summer after that, Cinderfella didn't go back to that house. Instead, he was whisked away to an island against his will, where his fairy god brother appeared while he was organizing books!"

Michael grinned widely. "Your turn!"
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Post by Talon Rogers on Sun Jul 10, 2011 7:29 pm

Talon blushed and smiled. "Thanks," he said softly. Clearing his throat, he added, "Any girl who's rejected you is a moron. You deserve to have girls swooning at your approach." He smiled, but there was a seriousness behind his words. "I'm proud of you for wanting to wait, though. I think so many guys--and girls, really--jump into relationships hoping to fix what's broken. It's smart to wait until you've got your head on straight before involving another person in your life, at least in that way."

He took another deep, relieved breath at Michael's comment. "I know that--I really do--it's just that little part of me that was worried. I usually don't mind telling guys if I'm flirting with them, or girls if they're trying to pick me up, but generally speaking I'm not too outspoken about it. Everyone back in Red Hook knew...I mean, it was a pretty small town, and most of it was my church members. I've only told a couple of people since I came to Hadley. You never can tell how people are going to take it." Ronin had seemed okay with it, but...well, he got the impression that Ronin at least batted for both teams. And he didn't think he had told Tara Anne. Even if he had, well, she really wasn't in a position to judge and wouldn't have anyway. He was glad Michael didn't seem upset.

His grin returned as Michael applauded his brief snippet of a Scarlatti aria. "Thanks. I confess it took me a while to get the hang of, but the main problem with singing operas is the range. There are some big jumps in that piece, and it has a lot of embellishments and flourishes and stuff." He was about to reassure Michael that he was sure the younger boy could perform in public, but he was already explaining about the fourth grade school play. Talon couldn't help but laugh. "I bet you were the best damn celery in the world, too. Even if you did do it marionette-style," he teased.

As Michael talked about his mom, Talon simply held him quietly. He recognized how hard it must be for the boy to talk about her, considering how much he obviously missed her. "Well, I'm not your mom, but I'm here for you," he finally said gently. "If you ever want me to sing you to sleep, or even just sit with you after it gets dark, let me know, and I'll be there like a shot." Rubbing Michael's back again, he sang the chorus to a song he'd once sung in choir: "I am here...you don't have to worry...I can see your tears...I'll be there in a hurry...when you call...friends are there to catch you when you fall...here's my shoulder, you can lean on me."

Talon's jaw dropped open as he seemed to hear an echo, then realized it was Michael imitating his last line. "That's really impressive. Keep that up and people will think you really are my little brother 'cause we sound so much alike." He grinned. They only looked the slightest bit alike, but it was enough. And they already had the closeness that indicated they really were brothers. Maybe they'd be able to fool anyone who visited the facility. Maybe Talon would be able to get some kind of rights to care for Michael when he left. Maybe...

He listened a little sadly to Michael's tale of Cinderfella. When Michael said it was his turn, he had to think for a moment to figure out where to take the story. Finally, he continued. "'I can help you, Cinderfella,' the fairy god-brother said. 'I can grant you three wishes, as long as you're certain what you wish is what you want.' Cinderfella thought for a minute, and then said, 'Fairy God-Brother, what I wish most of all is to have my family around me, loving me.'

"'Done,' said the fairy god-brother with a smile. With a wave of his wand, he summoned a prince to the library. The prince bowed at Cinderfella and held out his hands to him.

"'But Fairy God-Brother,' Cinderfella protested, 'this isn't my family.'

"'Oh, yes it is, Cinderfella,' the fairy god-brother replied. 'This is Prince Ungula. He is your long-lost older brother.'

"Cinderfella looked upset. 'But I thought my family would be my mother and father.'

"'But that's not what you asked for,' the fairy god-brother reminded him. 'Prince Ungula loves you very much, and he will take good care of you. If your mother or father come to see you someday, you will still have Prince Ungula with you.'

"Prince Ungula smiled at Cinderfella. 'Come on, Cinderfella,' he said. 'Let's go get ready for the ball tonight. And then after the ball you can ask your fairy god-brother for your other two wishes.'"

Talon's creative juices ran out, and he smiled again at Michael. "'Popcorn' back to you."
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Post by Michael Courtenay on Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:51 am

Michael couldn't help himself from laughing at Talon's comment, which was the polar opposite of what he thought of himself. "Pfft... you're crazy."

Michael's words after that, even though they were negative, were spoken cheerfully... because it was the truth through his point of view: "There's nothing likable about me, silly! Besides, I would feel like a narcissist if I was liked by too many people. I'm not worth that."

The younger boy had a smile on his face because that was the ideology that he was a terrible person only taking up the Earth's oxygen was the truth to him... and all things that challenged that were completely ludicrous. Despite the fact that everyone who knew him well enough told him the opposite of what he thought, that still didn't change anything. His OCD was still cataloging all of his faults (and the dates of their occurrences), and all of those combined was proof enough to him that he was horrible. It was safe to say that Michael had close to absolutely no self-esteem at all. He was living proof that you could give everything to the world without having anything for yourself- he'd done it his whole life and he wasn't dead yet.

The look on his face changed immediately to shock, however, when Talon said that he was proud of him after he talked about his girl troubles. "Y-You're... proud of me?"

He looked away, then the corners of his mouth slowly formed a grin from ear to ear. "You don't know how much that means to me."

Of course his mother had told him she was proud of him, and sometimes Coach would too, but that was really to everyone. Secretly, Michael had been pining all his life for his father to say that to him, imagining it in a voice in he hadn't heard yet to get through a rough day or something. When he finally met his father in the past two summers, those words weren't uttered once... but Michael asked himself why would they? He didn't give his father any reason to say that- let alone, 'I love you.' All the same, when Talon said that he was proud of him, that need was satisfied.

He smiled when Talon seemed relieved that he wasn't upset that he was gay. It seemed completely nonsensical to Michael, who accepted and saw the good in everyone, but it was a precaution Talon had to take to protect himself. Now he knew that he had nothing to fear, and that was what made Michael smile.

"I'm not really loud-mouthed about my orientation either. Practically everyone in my middle school, especially the guys who beat me up, thought I was gay because I'm not particularly manly. They're wrong, but whatever." He shrugged.

"I don't really understand "not being okay"-" He made quotations with his fingers. "- with someone's sexual preference. It's just the way God made them. It's like saying, 'I'm not okay with you having two eyes.' It's not something people should try to change in other people."

Michael listened and nodded politely at Talon's explanation of the art of singing opera... even though he didn't understand it. He giggled at Talon's compliment. "I wasn't that good. I didn't even show my face. I already told you that I avoided on-stage solos at all costs... well, I have to tell a story before a story to illustrate my point."

He sat up straight as he explained. "In fifth grade, the point of music class is basically testing out the instruments they offer and see which one you're going to pursue in sixth through eighth grades. Well, I was terrible at everything I'd learned so far, which was violin, bass... and chorus I believe, but some people said I was good at singing. Anyway, when they were trying to teach us trumpet-" Michael's sentences started to become fast-paced with anxiety. "-they'd dump the spit out into the trash can and all they'd do for sanitation of the mouth pieces is spray them with disinfectant and they didn't have enough money for everyone to have their own mouth piece they were only going to use for a month- it was so gross!"

Michael took a heaving, deep breath after he didn't breathe for that conglomerate of sentences. "So I ran away and hid in the broom closet and refused to come out because I was so disgusted and my OCD was running rampant. They eventually had me come out by having a substitute teacher teach me how to read music instead of learning wind instruments, so now I know how to read music... and I was so bothered by the memory of the trumpet incident that I decided to pick chorus for sixth grade. Now I can tell you the story!"

"So, it was nearing the fall concert, and Mr. Salvatore told me that he wanted me to do a solo. I tried my hardest to finagle my way out of it, but he was really insistent for some reason... so I asked this kid Danny who looked exactly like the kid from "A Christmas Story", short, blond hair and glasses and everything, if I could stand behind him with a mic as he moved his mouth according to the words. And he did- I stood back to back as he awkwardly tried to keep up with the words. Danny wanted to kill me for embarrassing him, Mr. Salvatore wanted to kill me and didn't ask me to solo anymore (which I wanted), and my mom was furious. No one gets it- I don't avoid spotlight to be obstinate... I do it because I hate being the center of attention. If I was singing with another person, or a group of people, it would be fine."

Michael wilted into sadness by speaking those last few sentences, and by talking about his mom. He sank slightly against Talon, feeling his arms around him... the warmth from Talon's words and how grateful he was for them mixing together with the sharp pain of missing his mother. They weren't blending together- they were on separate sides, screaming over each other in Michael's mind. The latter of the two got the spotlight first.

Without meaning to, Michael's face twisted slightly as he collapsed into his knees. He sobbed as quietly as he could, his breathing choppy and irregular. He sniffled and hiccuped as he couldn't control everything he previously held back. Within the first few minutes of his arrival, Andry had calmed him down from spiraling into an anxiety attack. And then a few hours later, he met Talon... who he'd had so much fun with that he wasn't really paying attention to what he was feeling previously.

"I-I-I'm s-sorry," Michael cried in a mousy voice. "I-It's just... I-I know-w I'm g-going to be here a long time... And-And I know that-that m-my mom is going to be in rehab a long time..."

Michael continued to sob, feeling guilty about crying throughout it. "I-I came a-a f-f-few hours *hic* ago... I know I just have to give it time b-but... I-I got on a plane and left Michigan and everything behind... this morning."

The smaller boy sat up to dry his eyes with his long sleeve, hiding his mouth and cheeks to reveal round, wet, light green eyes. He looked at Talon with them, barely seeing his brother through his tears.

"But at the same time..." He began, his breathing starting to calm down. "I'm so happy I came here and met you."

Michael shifted closer to wrap his arms around Talon's waist, hugging him closely. "You know how you said you'd sing me to sleep or sit with me at night? I'd like that because I have nightmares a lot... and I'm already on edge because I'm in a new place. Thank... you. No one's ever done that for me besides my mom..."

Michael listened to Talon singing and that did wonders to calm him down. He leaned in closer against his brother, listened... and was calmed. It was amazing the bond Talon and Michael had made in such a short time. God had seen them both, as they were both His children like everyone else, and gave them their voids so that one day in the most unexpected of places... they'd meet and their 'holes' would be filled.

He found himself laughing and smiling at Talon's approval of his voice acting, wiping away the remaining tears in his eyes. He listened with the same attentiveness when Talon told "Elijah and the Chariot of Fire". He sat quietly, wide-eyed with interest. He was surprised at how accurate Cinderfella's wish was- Michael had always kept a picture of his father, his mother and him as a newborn in the hospital, his parents smiling together. It was the only picture he had of them together as a family- all the others were burned by his mother while she was drunk. Even though his parents were only together for a month, before he met Talon, that memory was the closest he had to a complete family.

Michael smiled warmly when Cinderfella met Prince Ungula. It was exactly what happened in real life. He felt tears come back to his eyes again as he promptly wiped them away, turning down the popcorn.

"It doesn't feel right finishing the story, because we don't know the end ourselves." He smiled warmly at Talon while nudging his brother's shoulder playfully with his fist. "We have each other and we'll write our own story."
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Post by Talon Rogers on Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:06 am

Talon opened his mouth to argue with Michael's assessment of himself--and stopped. He really didn't have the necessary training to change his little brother's opinion of himself, and anything he said would likely be taken as mouthing platitudes. Clearly Michael wasn't going to listen to him if he told him things as a fact. Instead, he said mildly, "Well, that's your opinion, maybe. From my point of view there's plenty likeable about you. You've got a bright smile and an infectious laugh. You have a wonderful mind and a generous heart. And you have the gift of making even a person who considers himself thoroughly worthless feel important and meaningful and...loved. Maybe you don't think you're worth anything, but you're worth a lot to me."

He meant it, too, with every fiber of his being. For someone he hadn't known an hour ago, Michael had suddenly become the most important person in Talon's world. There was just about nothing he wouldn't do for the boy. And it wasn't just that he cared about Michael--it was that Michael cared about him. It was almost as though it validated his existence. He had wondered once or twice why God had led him down the path to Hadley, but now he knew. God had sent him here so that he could meet Michael. Together, they could help to fix what was broken with both of them. Through Michael, Talon could become whole again.

The big grin on the boy's face after his comment about being proud almost broke Talon's heart. I believe in you...I'm proud of you...did no one ever tell the poor kid those simple phrases? It seemed to mean so much to Michael that Talon was proud of him, that he believed in him, so Talon repeated himself. "Of course I am. I'm proud of you. I believe in you, that you can do anything you set your mind to. And I love you. I love you and I always will, in the way that only brothers can."

He had no idea if his words were really sinking in to the boy, but he had to say them. I love you. I believe in you. I'm proud of you. Three phrases Talon had, as a small child--and even, secretly, as a teenager--longed to hear his parents say to him. He'd never expected them from Aggie. Jackson, though, had been the one to tell him those things. Usually right after a lecture or a switching from his parents. And then Jackson had left and he'd lost a big part of the comfort that had existed in his life to that point. The words "I love you" written in code and invisible ink were not the same as hearing them said with your big brother's arms wrapped around you, smelling of leather and the cinnamon-scented soap Jackson had always used. A big part of his life had vanished when Jackson had gone, and getting Michael felt almost like some of it was back again.

A grin tugged at the corner of his mouth at Michael's comments on not being okay with someone's orientation. "There are people who insist it's a lifestyle choice, but it's really not. There were a few times when I was little that I tried to 'make myself straight' in all sorts of ways that I thought would work, but...they don't. I can't help who I love any more than anyone else can." His grin widened a bit. "I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but...you know what I mean."

Talon couldn't help but laugh at Michael's description of his sixth grade choral concert. "Happens a lot in professional operas, actually. They get someone who looks good to stand in front and mouth the words while someone who can really sing stands in the background and belts out the arias. Usually they practice it in advance so that they can coordinate movements and music, though." He stroked Michael's hair. "I understand, though--really I do. Some people are cut out to be soloists and others are cut to be choiristers. You are one of les choristes--the choiristers. That's nothing to be ashamed of. It's actually a lot harder to sing with a choir than it is to sing a solo."

Suddenly, Michael sank into his knees and began crying. Talon reacted instantly. He wrapped his arms around his little brother and held him close, rocking him gently as he cried. "Shh. Shh," he murmured. "It's okay. It's okay. Cry it all out. I'm here. I've got you."

Gradually, the younger boy stopped crying, wiped his face, and spoke again. Talon listened quietly, sympathy in his brown eyes. When Michael shifted and put his arms around his waist, Talon also shifted, draping his arm protectively around his little brother's shoulders and back. With his other hand, he stroked Michael's hair gently.

"You know how you said you'd sing me to sleep or sit with me at night? I'd like that because I have nightmares a lot... and I'm already on edge because I'm in a new place. Thank... you. No one's ever done that for me besides my mom..."

"Of course," Talon promised. "That's what big brothers are for. You can count on me. I promise." In the back of his mind, he began compiling a list of songs. Maybe if Jackson could send him the background music...yeah, that's what he would do. Mentally, he began writing the letter to his brother.

A warm smile crossed his face at Michael's declination to finish the story. "I like that. What would be the fun in a story we already knew the ending to?" Brushing Michael's hair off of his forehead, he leaned down and gave him a brotherly kiss on the top of his head. "Better to save those two wishes for when you really need them."
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Post by Michael Courtenay on Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:46 pm

Michael had always hated himself. He truly couldn't remember a time when he hadn't. As far as he was concerned, there was plenty to back that up. 1. He was small and insignificant, but he knew that was because of a growth hormone deficiency. He was so insecure about his own body and voice that he swam with a loose shirt on and never sang in front of people. (Talon had been the exception) 2. He hurt people, but everyone else always told him that all of the reasons he kept such OCD-like record of were ridiculous. If he told Talon, he predicted that Talon would have said the same thing. His former friend and catcher, Alan Thatcher, had said it this way: 'Just because you peed on a cat and you killed a goldfish before elementary school does not make you a bad person. Seriously. Lots of other people have plenty of understandable reasons to hate themselves.' Even after Alan or anyone else told him that but with different wording, Michael still clung to the idea that he was terrible. He wouldn't be so stubborn if it weren't true. 3. He was anxious. So anxious that he stuttered until he was ten after going to speech therapy, and sometimes had anxiety attacks that he couldn't control. He had lots of compulsions, namely having to do with cleaning and fixing, and it bothered people. Everything about his anxiety bothered people. There were other reasons, but Michael wasn't thinking about that at all right now.

Michael looked away before Talon started talking- he could tell that his older brother was about to challenge as many of Michael's reasons to hate himself as he could, and Michael was sure he wanted to. That's what Alan had done anyway, before he'd given up. Alan got so furious during one of their 'Is Michael Courtenay a good person?' debates that he threw a baseball bat against the wall of the locker room. 'Logic just doesn't fucking work on you does it?!' He had screamed. Michael knew that Alan wasn't a bad person- sure, he got mad easily. But he only got so angry because he cared about Michael... at the time anyway. Jorge had been entirely dismissive once he knew of Michael's insecurities, simply because he didn't feel the same way about himself. Empathy just wasn't Jorge's forte.

Then, Michael listened to Talon, stared in shock, then looked away again. His cheeks were starting to heat up in shame. He felt so guilty that he'd said anything, but he knew it was bound to come up sooner or later.

Talon thought he was worthless? Michael opened his mouth to protest that, then shut up. He almost laughed because of how ironic it was- Michael said he didn't have any good qualities at all, Talon opens his mouth against it then decides not to say anything, Talon indirectly said he was worthless, Michael opens his mouth too. Both brothers had low self-esteem, and yet thought so highly of the other. If Michael fought with Talon, he'd only be a hypocrite. He wondered why in the world Talon thought that, and realized that Talon was thinking the exact same thing.

Even if Michael didn't think the same way about himself, Talon was telling the truth of how he saw him. Michael could have honestly said those words to Talon too and they would have been true. Since meeting Talon, Michael felt loved and wanted. There was nothing like the bond that Michael had with Talon- he was his brother. And he always would be. Talon had said words that weren't true to Michael, but they were from Talon and he meant them, and that was something Michael would always cherish.

Michael realized he hadn't spoken for longer than he should have, but he just didn't know what to say. Happiness and love was surging through his veins like blood, but how could he put that into words?

Instead, he wrapped his arms around Talon's neck and smiled as brightly as Talon had described. At some points in the hour that the two had spent together, Michael wondered to himself if he was dreaming. Right when he said to himself that he hoped it wasn't a dream, Talon would wrap his arm around his shoulders, and then he'd know that everything was real. Just when Michael thought that everyone abandoned him, (His mom gave him up, his dad left from day one, Alan and the team hated him, Jorge was back in Michigan, Teagan had a job to do... etc.) Talon found him. They found each other. They were brothers, and they were meant to be in each other's lives- the empty feeling that both of them had that was filled upon first meeting proved that.

Then, Talon said that he loved him. Michael moved his arms from being around Talon's neck to his waist. Then he spoke the words that, until now, he'd only spoken to his mom. His voice tone was full of love and sincerity, the way his voice always was. "I love you too."

Then, he giggled. "You know, this is kind of funny- all my life, I was an only child. Then, I learned that I had two younger half-sisters and after that I was the oldest. But I don't consider them family because they don't consider me family. THEN, I met you and now I'm the youngest between me, you and Jackson. But you guys are my real family."

Michael listened to Talon speak about sexual preferences, and his face changed to confusion. He just didn't understand prejudiced people. "Wow. That's like if I tried to make myself gay."

Michael paused for a moment, thought about it, then flailed his arms as his face changed to scarlet. "Ah! No! Images! Ew!"

He took a deep breath, and deviated from the subject. "Um, yeah. So. That must've been horrible for you. And I sure don't want you to change."

Michael smiled after that, the thoughts he didn't want there dissipating once he paid attention to Talon. Then, he was excited once he found out that was what real opera singers did: "Really? I didn't know! I thought it was a terrible idea at the time!"

He felt Talon's fingers through his hair, and was happy that there were technical terms for everything that he did in chorus, whether he stuck to the rules or not.

Once he talked about his mother, it was hard to prevent himself from crying. This was because he missed her, and that the wound she left was fairly new. It had only been a month for everything to change. He buried his face in his knees and sobbed.

Michael felt Talon's arms wrap around him and they felt nice and snug. Talon's arms were positioned in a way that it was easy to cry into them. He felt Talon rocking him back and forth and his shoulders sank as he started to calm down. His mother used to do that too. Michael's crying was eventually reduced to sniffling and slight hiccuping. He knew then that if he ever had another one of those things that Generalized Anxiety Disorder had blessed him with, and if Talon was around to hug him like that again, he'd be fine. A hug from his big brother worked much better than a benzo.

Once Michael hugged Talon, he felt Talon's fingers stroking his hair again. Even though he had a few spare tears in his eyes he was calm now. It was like Talon had super powers or something. But he knew it was simply because Talon was his big brother, and Michael believed he could do anything.

Michael smiled when Talon agreed to calm him down when he was on the edge of freaking out. "About that. I have anxiety attacks too. They used to be a lot more frequent before I was on medication. I have less of them now because the routines that I had while I was at home can't really be performed here. But they're still there, and I can't control them."

Michael looked at Talon again. "So if I start to stutter and breathe fast and look around the room and hold onto my shirt and curl up on the floor and cry, just so you know, it's not your fault. In fact, you calm me down."
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Post by Talon Rogers on Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:21 pm

Talon felt a warm glow spread throughout him when Michael hugged him and said he loved him. This was what he'd needed before Hadley--someone who looked up to him, someone who loved him and saw him as a role model. He would never have let Henry lead him down the path of destruction he had been on for the last five years. Then again, if he hadn't gone to Hadley he wouldn't have met Michael...or Tara Anne, or Ronin, or that girl, what's-her-name, Madeleine--the one who had set up the memorial for Kizzy and Liam and the little kid. Maybe things worked out for the best.

No one talked about the three students who had disappeared in the last days of their lives in Phoenicia, nobody ever discussed how they may have met their fate, but it seemed to be pretty well accepted among the adolescent patients that they were dead. He'd barely known any of them before they vanished--he'd only met Kizzy and Liam once, and that in a therapy session--and he had tried to avoid hurting anyone who may have been close to them by asking too many questions. He had no way of knowing that Liam Clarke and Tristan Anwyl had had a relationship very similar to his and Michael's, and it wouldn't have made a difference to him if it had, except that it would have made him even more protective of his brother. Tristan's demons had overwhelmed him so that there was only one escape. Talon would never allow that to happen to Michael.

He grinned when Michael talked about their new "family". "I have got to figure out some way of getting Jackson to move to Green Ridge. You'll love him. He's got the weirdest sense of humor out of anyone I know, and he's a genius with his hands. He went to the Homecoming Dance his sophomore year of high school in an outfit made out of duct tape. Including his shoes. It was hysterical...especially when he wore it to church that Sunday. Mother was one step ahead of a running fit."

Something suddenly occurred to him as he spoke about Jackson. "I haven't shown you what he looks like yet, have I? Hold on."

Reaching into his pocket, Talon pulled out an oversized cloth wallet, opened it, and riffled through the pictures until he found the picture he was looking for, holding out for his little brother to see. The picture showed what was possibly the most mismatched pair imaginable. On the left was a tall, gangly young man, grinning at the camera. His hair was blue at the top and red at the bottom, blending to purple in the middle, worn in a buzz cut on the left side and in a chin-length reverse wedge on the right, and he had on black eyeliner and lime-green eye shadow. He wore a black leather vest over a tattered white t-shirt, which in turn was worn over a long-sleeved shirt that seemed to be made of red mesh, and what looked like a studded black leather mini-skirt over bright yellow leggings. His boots quite simply defied description. Conversely, the young man on the right stood about a head and a half shorter and grinned sheepishly at the camera. His light brown hair was cut in a neatly styled Buster Brown haircut, a square golden pair of spectacles perched on the end of his nose, and he wore a white Oxford shirt under an argyle sweater vest, neatly pressed khaki pants, and a pair of polished black loafers. They had their arms around each other. The one on the left was flashing what looked at first like a devil symbol, unless you knew that it was actually the hand gesture used by University of Texas fans called "Hook 'em, 'Horns", while the one on the right clutched a leather-bound book to his chest like a protective talisman.

"Bet you can't guess which one is Jackson," Talon chuckled. "He sent me this right after he met Skylar...that's this other one here," he added, tapping the geeky-looking boy with a forefinger. "It's the last picture I have of him...he keeps promising to send me a new one and hasn't...but according to Sky, he's stopped wearing makeup and buzzed his hair. He doesn't dress like that anymore either, but..." He shrugged. The reason Jackson didn't dress like that was because he rarely got out of bed these days. All the more reason why Talon wanted his brother on the island, in hopes that the sea air would revive him, would somehow cure him.

He hugged Michael a little more tightly when the younger boy explained about his anxiety attacks. "Thanks for telling me what to look out for," he said sincerely. "You won't ever have to go through that alone again. I promise."

As he spoke, Talon's eyes happened to fall on the clock above the bookshelves. "Hey, Michael, it's almost dinnertime! C'mon, let's go get something to eat." Glancing at the few books they hadn't put away yet, he added sheepishly, "Or we could finish this up real quick before we head to the Dining Hall..."
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Post by Michael Courtenay on Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:12 am

Michael absolutely meant what he said when he told Talon he loved him. Talon wasn't only the person he trusted most, the one he could confide in and who he wanted to be like when he got grew up. Talon was also what he'd been asking for his entire life- an older brother. It was in his prayers and on his Christmas list... along with a dog. It drove his mom crazy, that was for sure. The repetitiveness was starting to wear at her patience once she saw the same thing written down every year. When he was nine, and had yet again asked for the same thing since he was able to write, Evie put a hand over her tired eyes in frustration.

"Michael, why do you never ask for anything at all, but always ask for things that you can't have? You know that we can't afford to house any more children, and you know I'm allergic to dogs. Try to settle for something else."

And he wouldn't. Every time he was told no, he wouldn't throw a fit... because he truthfully never had before. He would just go back up to his room and pray some more, because he never gave up hope that he would find his brother. He knew he didn't have to be his blood relative... as long as the connection felt true for both of them.

And then, Talon and Michael found each other. He knew his prayer had been answered.

"I have got to figure out some way of getting Jackson to move to Green Ridge."

Michael's mouth formed a sideways 'D' as he smiled cheerfully. "That would be amazing! I'd love to meet him!"

He listened to Talon speak about Jackson and his full-body duct tape outfit, and couldn't control himself from laughing. "That's awesome- that takes more skill than just buying an expensive tuxedo from a store. And it's more interesting."

Michael thought about other things that people could make with duct tape, and the possibilities were almost unlimited. Then, an idea formed in his head. Maybe he could make an animal made out of duct tape and give it to Talon as a gift! It could be done, and Michael guessed he would have loads of time on his hands at his stay in the hospital.

Talon then reached into his wallet and pulled out a picture, holding it in front of Michael. He started laughing, then tried to silence himself as he took in the picture of the two men... because of how amazingly odd both of them looked, especially in contrast to each other. He deducted that both of them were gay, because no straight man would wear fishnets and a skirt. Then, he took Talon's challenge:

"This one, right?" He pointed to the taller man with the crazy colored hair and the biker vest. "He kind of looks like you- the face, anyway."

Michael learned the other man's name- Skylar. 'Isn't that a girl's name?' Then again, one of his bullies was named Chelsea and he was this insanely intimidating, muscular guy... at least in comparison to Michael... which actually wasn't saying much. If you called him Chelsea, he ruined your day- he went strictly by his last name, Nguyen.

"Hm. I wonder what Jackson looks like now- it's hard to separate his face from the make-up and the blue, red and purple hair." He laughed.

When Michael started talking about his anxiety attacks, he blushed slightly because he was embarrassed. He wasn't used to talking about them, so everyone around him was usually in the dark about it. They just didn't know what to do except stare when Michael curled up against the wall and started hyperventilating and crying when there was something he wasn't allowed to fix or whenever everything he was anxious about that day piled up. He couldn't control them and they usually happened in public, because if he was starting to have one, he would beat himself up and exasperate the situation until he was pushed over the edge.

But when Talon hugged him a little tighter, he smiled and that feeling quickly washed away. This was Talon- he understood. Michael hugged Talon back with his arms around his waist once Talon said that he'd be on the lookout. He was so lucky to have his brother in his life. When Talon made his promise, Michael rested his head on his shoulder... filled with joy that he was cared about this much.

The mentioning of dinnertime caught him off-guard.

"O-Oh, really?" Michael looked at the clock and realized he was right, then nodded happily as Talon offered to go to the dining hall with him. "Okay!"

He stood up, then looked at the books once Talon motioned to them. "Oh yeah- I forgot about the books."

Michael then put a hand over his mouth in shock. "I-I just forgot that I was in the middle of organizing something! T-That's never happened before!"

He smiled as he was awe-struck because he was one step closer to getting over his OCD... and it was all thanks to his big brother. He felt from then on that if he and Talon had each other, they were well on their way to being 'cured'- what the hospital was designed to do in the first place.

He looked again at the piles of books. "Um... which letter were we on again?"

Michael Courtenay
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