Draven took another shot of tequila then leaned his head back and stared up at the ceiling. It was starting to spin, which wasn’t a surprise. He had a low tolerance for alcohol, and as exhausted as he was, that tolerance had to be barely existing.
He had a feeling all the booze in the world wouldn’t help him do what he was trying to do—not forget Titus, he knew that wasn’t going to happen. But he’d hoped to take the edge of the sharp pain of loss that had remained with him since Titus had left.
“You must be shitfaced if you didn’t even hear me come in.”
Draven hadn’t heard Riveen, and he was too drunk and too tired to even be startled. He closed his eyes as the ceiling spun a little faster. “Whatever.” And either he slurred the word or his hearing was messed up.
“Tequila?” Riveen snorted. “Gods, you really want to make yourself miserable, huh?”
“M’already misherable.” Yeah, his ears were screwed up. Or his tongue. “Thongue.”
“Aaannnnd that’s enough for you.”
Draven raised his head up, opened his eyes, and somehow managed only to yelp a little when the entire world dipped. He’d have sworn his chair moved which was why his ass hit the floor. “Ow!”
“You’re such a wuss.” Riveen was squatting by him. “And you hate getting drunk. Did Titus really get to you?”
Draven cradled his head in his hands, trying to keep whatever it was from swirling.
“I know you swam up the coast line for miles. Were you following his car?”
Draven started to nod, thought better of it, and grunted, “Nyeah.”
“Oh damn it.” Riveen sighed and ran a hand over Draven’s hair. “You tender-hearted idiot. You knew he was leaving, and after—“
“No!” Draven would never be so drunk that he’d want to go there. He refused to even think That One’s name.
“Drav, it’s been years—never mind,” Riveen muttered. “No reasoning with a drunk. Let me get you some water.”
The ocean sounded like a good place to be. Draven tried to get up but quickly realized he needed to hold himself stationary since everything else was moving. “Schwim.”
“Jeez, dude, not when you can’t even talk right. Do not move.”
Draven closed his eyes but that was worse than having them open. “Fuuuuck.”
“Yeah, you’ll be saying that a lot in the morning. You know tequila turns you inside out. You must really like Titus.”
‘Like’ was too mild of a word, but Draven wisely kept his mouth shut.
Just like I kept it shut around Titus. Didn’t tell him. Guess it doesn’t matter. He left. He left me.
“If you’re gonna be a sappy drunk, I’m giving you a few more shots of tequila so you’ll just pass out for twelve hours.”
Draven flipped Riveen off…maybe. He might not have gotten the right finger up, or used too many of them.
“Shit!” he bellowed he was doused with ice water.
“There. That oughta help you sober up.”
“You ashhole!” Draven tried to kick at Riveen, who apparently had gotten a freakin’ five-gallon barrel of ice water. It just kept coming and coming.
Then it wasn’t, and Draven was in the bathroom and Riveen was shoving him in the shower, clothes and all.
Draven had no idea how he’d gotten from the living room floor to where he was. He was lucky he didn’t drown himself in the shower as the hot water pelted him.
“Dunno if that’s the right way to sober up someone who’s drunk,” Riveen was saying. “But I did enjoy dumping the pitcher of water on you.”
“Pitcher?” Draven blinked and swiped at the water running into his eyes. It dawned on him to move his head out from under the direct line of spray.
“Yeah, pitcher. You now, the one you keep in the fridge?” Riveen handed him something.
Draven took it. It was a toothbrush.
“Use it, bro. You have gut rot breath. Like something you ate crawled back up and festered in your mouth.”
“Urk.” Draven slapped a hand over his mouth. It’d have been nice if he’d remembered he had the toothbrush in that hand. He jabbed himself in the eye. “Fuck!” The burn caused by the toothpaste made him whimper.
“You are a fucking menace to yourself!” Riveen yanked the toothbrush out of his hand. “Gods, I better get a brother of the year award for this.”
Then Riveen was in the shower with him, also clothed, although Draven thought he only had on swim trunks.
“Come on. Get out of these.”
It was easier to let Riveen undress him than to fight about it. Draven stumbled a few times and smacked his head once against the tiled wall. Other than that, he was relatively unscathed when Riveen handed him a body scrubber.
Draven washed on automatic. His arms ached, all of his body ached from swimming so far and fast.
“Soons he lefth, I ran out—“ he began.
Riveen coughed. “Let me, er, let me get that toothbrush back in here. I can help you use it.”
“Can do it myself,” Draven snapped as his head began to pound. “Oh fuck. My head.”
Riveen didn’t comment, just handed him the toothbrush. “If this is about Titus leaving, aren’t you being a tad melodramatic?”
Draven shoved the toothbrush in his mouth and glared at Riveen.
Riveen rolled his eyes. “Please, like I’m scared of you? Nope. You have Titus’s phone number, right?”
Of course he did. They’d texted every day, making plans or just chatting.
“And he doesn’t live that far away. Less than two hours. That’s not even far enough apart to qualify as a long-distance relationship if you want to keep seeing him.”
Riveen needed to quit making sense.
Draven spoke around the toothbrush. “He left.”
Riveen gave him another eye roll. “Would that be after you asked him if y’all could keep seeing each other?”
“I didn’t ask him—“ Oops. Draven had drunkenly stumbled right into that one.
“Right, you didn’t ask him about it, because this way, you could be all wounded and not risk your heart,” Riveen said. “Like you did with Arin.”
Draven jerked the toothbrush from his mouth and pointed it at Riveen. “Don’t go there! You don’t know what it’s like to have your heart broken!”
Riveen nodded. “True. I’m not interested in that organ. I prefer to focus on the one lower down.” He grabbed his crotch. “Keeps me from ending up drunk as shit in a shower.”
“You’re still in a shower with a drunk,” Draven retorted.
“Oh good! You’re surly again. You must be sobering up.” Riveen adjusted the showerhead so that the water smacked Draven right in the face. “Finish up in here and put an end to your pity party. Don’t lie to me and more importantly, don’t lie to yourself. You didn’t want Titus enough to take a risk on him, so you don’t deserve to feel abandoned. You could have talked to him.”
“He could have talked to me,” Draven argued. He started brushing his teeth again.
“What if he was hurt? Did you ever think about that?” Riveen asked. “How much do you know about Titus’s past? Maybe he has reasons to be afraid to take a risk on you. Maybe it wasn’t a case of him not wanting you, but being too afraid. Like you. Geez, I’m thinking you’re both idiots. I bet he got attached to you. He didn’t strike me as the casual sort, which is why I didn’t really try to get in his pants.”
Draven stared at his brother, too stunned by Riveen’s insight to even inform him that Titus would have never hooked up with him. Was Riveen right? Draven recalled the awkwardness between him and Titus before they’d parted, the way Titus wouldn’t look directly at him. Titus’s hands were trembling when he’d tried to lock the condo door. He dropped the keys twice. His breathing was funny. Why didn’t I ask him what was wrong?
But Draven knew the answer. He hadn’t asked because he hadn’t wanted to see, hadn’t wanted to know. “Damn it.”
“What?” Riveen asked before laughing. “Oh, I know. You realized I’m right and you’ve been a jerk.”
Draven would get Riveen a brother of the year award, and smack him with it.