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Sweet as cherry wine

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“So what is it again?” Dakin asked, wrinkling his nose up in confusion as he frowned.

“Being asexual. I don’t feel sexual attraction,” Scripps shrugged.

“But how?” Dakin stared. “How do you live?”

“It doesn’t affect me. I don’t do it because I don’t want to, need to and to be honest, I don’t particularly like to,” Scripps explained calmly.

Dakin shook his head in bewilderment.

“You’re headed for the bins, mate. How’s Posner reacted to this?”

“He’s been surprisingly great about it,” Scripps blushed. “He said if that was how I felt, then I couldn’t help it. He reckons if I still love him then it doesn’t really matter,”

“But it doesn’t bother you at all?”

“Like I said, I don’t feel attraction to it. Just doesn’t excite me. And,” he smirked. “Unlike you, Dakin, I don’t live off caffeine and sex,”

Dakin scowled at him.

“And you don’t do it at all?” he questioned. “Never? Like the vow of celibacy thing?”

Scripps shrugged.

“Sometimes. It doesn’t mean I’m completely celibate. Plus, the whole ‘celibate till marriage’ wasn’t going to work if I was bi” he replied. “No marriage, not that you would likely care,”

“I might settle down one day,” Dakin grinned nonchalantly. “But then again, not everyone is as domestic as you, Scrippsy,”

Scripps half-heartedly threw one of Posner’s books at Dakin, grinning as he dodged it.

“Fuck off, Dakin. Just because I haven’t slept with three-quarters of Oxford doesn’t mean I’m domestic. And anyway, I thought things were going well between you and Tom?”

“They are,” Dakin laughed. “But old habits will die hard and all that. Still, appears I rather enjoy the inexpert male fumblings virtually on a daily basis,”

“I’m guessing neither of us were scarred for life,” Scripps replied with a wry smile, his mind flashing back to Dakin sauntering along the corridor, still lusting after the well-hidden reciprocations of love from Irwin. Got them now, he supposed. Or perhaps he’d stopped noticing quite so much about Dakin’s love life now that he was no longer jealous and alone. No more religion, either. That went down the pan the moment the bisexuality exploded like a bomb into his life.

“No. Although you do seemed to have turned against the old massage techniques. No more honour to keep intact either, I bet Posner made sure of that,” Dakin interrupted his memories, with all the arrogance of his eighteen year old self. No, a few years of culture and a reputation as a stud had elevated that immensely, making him insufferable as ever, yet still Scripps’ best friend. He could never wrap his head round why he’d stayed by his side for so long, but there was something about the irresistible charm of Dakin, something that enticed, excited and yet exasperated him to the point of not giving a shit. He supposed it was just laziness that had stopped him ending it in the first place, that and the ragtag band of boys he’d gathered together. Much more valuable friendships, a much more valuable relationship for Scripps anyway.

Scripps blushed and dragged himself out of the chair where he had lazily draped himself.

“Look, I promised David we’d meet him at the party. Are you coming or what?” he mumbled.

“Ah yes, the separation of the young lovers draws to its end. How long’s it been, six hours since you last saw him?” Dakin grinned, throwing his hand across his forehead in an overly-pedantic manner.

“Prick. I haven’t seen him for two days, he’s been staying with the boys in Cambridge for a bit. Wanted to see the architecture, see how it compared to the poetry,”

“Ugh. How sickeningly romantic of him,”

Dakin wandered over and grabbed his jacket from the coat hook, sliding it over his shoulders.

“Come on then. Bore me until you have a boyfriend to irritate,”

Dakin threw open the door and walked out, beckoning Scripps with a bored hand. Scripps rolled his eyes and followed him, pausing to lock the door on the way out. They walked along the streets, Dakin almost dancing in his movements, given the amount he twirled and turned to face Scripps. Not like Posner did. It was sweet when Posner did it, swinging around the lampposts until he span into Scripps’ arms, and god, Scripps missed the feeling of Posner in his arms. Two days was too much, far too much, to be separated from the everlasting colour, beauty and joy that flooded into his life with the presence of David Posner. Scripps mooched along in silence, hands buried deep in his pockets as Dakin rabbited on about him and Irwin, how well his life was going, how hard his work was, despite the fact they were doing the same degree and Scripps had never seen Dakin working. Just flirting and drinking, things Scripps never seemed to be doing.

At least when Posner was walking with him, his incessant chatter engaged and excited Scripps. Every sentence and question peppered with a smile from Scripps, a tiny nod of encouragement to tell him to keep talking, conversation filled with quotes and excerpts for Scripps to detect and find the sources for.

“Can you hear shouting?” Dakin questioned suddenly, frowning.

Scripps furrowed his brow, ears twitching for noise. He nodded slowly.

“It sounds more like screaming,”

“It sounds a lot like Posner’s voice, mate,”

Scripps nodded again, panic flooding his veins as he located the shouts. Fuck, it did sound like David. Worse, it sounded like David in pain, and it was coming from down the street. He broke into a run, Dakin dashing behind him as they careered down the pavement to the source of the commotion. The pavement blurred beneath him as they thundered along, turning the corner and stopping abruptly in front of a darkened alley. Scripps heart dropped as he spotted the cluster of lads squared up by the wall, surly looks on all their faces. And worse, in the middle, pressed up against the wall, a sobbing Posner, face twisted in agony.

There were four boys gathered around him, one pinning him against the cold brick wall as the other three jeered and laughed, grinding their fists into their palms. Posner’s nose was dripping scarlet blood, running onto his swollen, split lip. Tears ran down his face.

“Don,” he choked, eyes flickering with fear as he spotted the horrified pair. “Don,”

One of the boys turned and sneered at the two of them.

“Move along, mates,” he grunted. “Fag’s not worth saving,”

Dakin took a step forward, squaring up in a threatening stance.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Yeah, I think he is. Get your hands off my mate,”

“You wouldn’t want him as a mate. He’s sick in the head, look at him,”

Posner whimpered as a spray of spittle washed over his face, projected by a scowling lad with a hand fisted in his shirt. Scripps took an instinctive step forward, reaching his hand out before stopping himself.

Dakin took another step forward, face just inches away from the thug’s.

“I think there’s only one of us here who’s sick in the head, and trust me, it isn’t him,” he growled.

The thug pushed him backwards and he stumbled slightly before swinging his fist into the man’s jaw, sending him sprawling onto the floor. One of his friend’s shouted in outrage and grabbed Dakin from behind. The lads broke formation, surrounding Dakin and dropping Posner. He screamed in pain as he crumpled to the ground, landing heavily on a clearly broken ankle. Scripps rushed over and propped him up against the wall, cupping his face in his hands.

“Hey,” he whispered. “Hey, it’s ok, we’re going to help you,”

Posner nodded, clutching his ankle with a mangled hand, tears still streaming down his face. Scripps kissed him gently and started to pull him up. The kick sent him sprawling, a sharp smack in the ribs that made him spin across the ground. He attempted to scramble upwards, glaring at the glowering figure towering above him.

“So you’re one of those disgusting queers?” the man scowled.

“Yeah,” Scripps spat through gritted teeth. “Yeah, I am actually, and that’s my boyfriend so get the fuck away from us both,”

“Nah thanks, mate,” he sneered. “See, me and my friends don’t think you and your filthy type should be allowed here. So we’re just doing the job that no one else has the balls to do,”

“My friends and I,”

“What?” the man frowned, grabbing Scripps’ collar and pulling him upwards, almost choking him.

“My friends and I. You said me and my friends, it’s grammatically incorrect,”

He knew it was petty, but god he loved the look on the man’s face as it contorted in rage. He clenched his jaw as the fist slammed into his cheek, a surge of pain rushing through his face. Posner cried out and one of the lads turned and sneered at him.

“Alright, poofter? How does it feel to be as low as you should be?”

Scripps squeezed his eyes shut as the boy delivered a debilitating kick to Posner’s ribs. Dakin was surrounded by two boys, one frantically trying to grab him as he punched the other. Scripps kicked upwards, kneeing the thug right where he needed to hit him. The man doubled over in pain, letting go of Scripps’ shirt. Scripps fruitlessly tried to run, tripping over the man’s foot and hitting the ground with a sickening thud. Pain rushed through his shoulder. He groaned and writhed miserably, trying to push himself up. A strong hand grasped the back of his neck and twisted him round, and he was staring up at the scowling youth again. Another glancing blow across his face, and he felt a trickle of blood run down his lips. Using all the force he had left, he twisted himself round until he was on top of the man, punching him with all his might. His entire body was taut with fury, each punch filled with hatred and anger. Strong hands grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. The man scrambled away as the lad who had been fighting Dakin pinned Scripps up against the wall. One of the other boys broke away from Dakin to grab the bleeding thug that Scripps had attacked, pulling him up and helping him run away, throwing a snarl back at Scripps as they ran. Dakin launched himself at the boy kicking Posner, tearing him away as Posner curled himself into a ball to protect himself, groaning in pain.

The cold brick wall slammed into Scripps’ back once more as a hand wrapped round his throat, pinning him backwards. He fought for breath, kicking out frantically.

“Get off me,” he choked.

“I don’t think so,” the thug sneered.

A spray of spit washed over Scripps’ face and he flinched away in disgust.

“You’ve no reason to do this,” Scripps gasped, pulling his hands away from his throat.

“Yeah we do,” the thug grimaced. “You’re sick. You and your freak of a boyfriend are sick. We’re making sure you don’t infect our country,”

“You’re the sick ones. Beating up innocent kids for their sexuality. If anyone’s a freak, it’s you, you and your psycho friends,” Scripps spat bitterly back at him.

A sickening crack rang out as the only other remaining boy slammed Dakin’s wrist against the floor and Dakin howled out in pain. Posner attempted to crawl away, collapsing slightly as his wrist gave way.

“David,” Scripps exclaimed, shaking his head frantically. “Don’t move, you’ll make it worse,”

“Oh how sweet!” the man growled, slapping Scripps across the face. Scripps gasped, his head turning to the side and hitting the wall. He grunted with pain.

“Get off my friends and I,” Scripps hissed back, savouring his little moment of grammatic victory.

A fist smacked into his gut and he doubled over, all the air knocked out of him. He panted, gasping for air as yet another fist slammed into him. The man turned back slightly, signalling to his colleague, still straddling Dakin as he slapped him across the face.

“Mate, back off. I’m going to sort this one out. Bit of a first warning, you might say,”

The other lad grinned devilishly as the thug holding Scripps punched his stomach with a mighty force. Posner screamed loudly as Scripps roared out. Pain shot through his body, fizzing electric bolts of pure burning agony.  The man pulled back and punched him again just above the last spot, and this time Scripps spotted the dark handle as it twisted slightly inside of him. Burning sensations ricocheted through his abdomen as the man dragged out the knife, blade glinting underneath the glistening red blood. He smiled evilly as the other boy let go of Dakin, running out of the alley. The thug let go of Scripps, letting him slide to the ground, clutching his stomach. He ran after his mate, grinning.

Dakin managed to pull himself up off the ground, wincing as he knocked his wrist ever so slightly. He ran over to Scripps, face blanched with horror. Scripps brushed his fingers against his side and groaned as he saw the blood decorating his hand.

“Fuck,” he whispered. “Fuck, Dakin, help,”

Posner crawled over, dragging his injured leg behind him. Three of his fingers hung loosely on his hand, severely twisted and mangled.

“Don,” he sobbed, tears coursing down his face. “Don, I’m so sorry,”

Scripps shook his head, squeezing his eyes tightly together to block out the blinding white pain.

“I’m fine, I’ll be fine,”

“No, you aren’t. You’ve been stabbed Don, twice. I’m calling a fucking ambulance, try keep him awake, Posner,” Dakin replied, fear in his eyes. He stood and ran out of the alley, careering down the street towards the nearest phone box. Blood seeped through Scripps’ fingers, warm, hot and sticky, flowing uncontrollably. He tipped his head back and screamed in pain, making Posner cry out in worry. Gasping for breath, he pressed both of his hands against the wounds, trying to stop the red liquid. Posner clutched Scripps’ arms, holding him closer to his chest. He could feel Scripps’ blood soaking through his shirt.

“I’m so sorry,” Posner whispered. “I didn’t mean for you to get hurt,”

“I’m fine,” Scripps mumbled back, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Please, I’ll be fine. It doesn’t hurt,”

“I think you’ve gone into shock, Don,”

“I’m not in shock. I can feel it bleeding. It’s just numb,”

Scripps clenched his jaw and let the tears flow.

“I don’t want to die,” he whimpered.

Posner laughed, almost hysterical with pain and fear.

“You aren’t going to die, Don. You’re going to be ok, you’re going to get through this,” he whispered.

True fear showed in Scripps’ eyes, pain and panic combining into one emotion of horror. He shook his head, coughing and hacking. Bile and blood spilled over his lips and he stared at the mixture in terror. Posner gently wiped his lips, trying to hide his angst. Scripps started to shake uncontrollably, sobbing as he shuddered.

“I love you,” he murmured. “I really, really, really love you, David Posner,”

“Don’t say that. Don’t say it like that, you aren’t going to die. We’re going to get through this,” Posner whimpered through his tears, clasping Scripps’ pale face in his hands.

Another rush of blood swept through his fingers and he moaned, pressing his head against the wall. He cupped a hand round Posner’s cheek and leant in, kissing him softly. His tears mingled with Posner’s, mixing them together in one stream. He curled his fingers slightly, dragging him in closer. But the effort of leaning forwards proved too much, a surge of blood running out of his injuries. He broke away, bellowing. Posner whimpered miserably.

Scripps took his hand away and stared in shock. A scarlet handprint decorated Posner’s bruised and bloodied cheek, and his lips were stained red with blood like cherry wine.

“I love you,”

Dakin ran over, crouching by their side as Scripps pressed his forehead against Posner’s.

“The ambulance is coming. Should be here in minutes,”

He started to rip off his jacket, balling it up and pressing it against Scripps’ stomach.

“They said we needed to apply pressure,”

Scripps nodded slowly. His eyes felt heavy, too heavy to keep open, and he closed them. He gasped as a sharp smack rang across his cheek. He opened his eyes and glared at a furious Dakin.

“Don’t close your eyes!” Dakin shouted. “I’m not losing you, Scripps, stay awake for us please,”

Scripps sobbed and leant back against the wall. He tipped his head back, letting loose a strangled groan. Posner shrieked as Scripps slumped back into the wall, his breathing heavy and laboured. It began to get shallower, lighter and almost inaudible. His eyes flickered closed and his mouth opened slightly.

“Don?” Posner whimpered. “Don, please open your eyes!”

He started to scream as Scripps remained silent, his face pale and drained of colour. A pair of strong arms wrapped around his waist and pulled him away, ripping his hands off Scripps’ still shoulders.

“Calm down, calm down. Stop screaming. He’s still alive, he’s still breathing, you can hear him, can’t you?” Dakin whispered into Posner’s ear. “Listen, you can still hear him, he’s going to be fine. But you’ve got to stay calm, to try help him, alright?”

Posner breathed deeply, listening intently to catch the soft whistling echoing from Scripps’ mouth. Blood continued to pump through his wounds, coating Dakin’s jacket in slippery crimson liquid. Blue sirens wailed in the distance and Dakin started, twisting his head to watch for the flickering lights of the ambulance. His hands dropped away from Posner and he ran to the end of the street, signalling frantically for their saviours. The alley filled with flashing blue lights, hurting Posner’s eyes and ears as they screamed out. He felt like screaming with them. Paramedics rushed past him and he tried to grab Scripps’ limp hand as they lifted his body onto a stretcher, lifeless and pale. A young lady crouched down next to him and smiled kindly as she placed a caring hand on his shoulder.

“Is this your blood, love?” she asked calmly, squeezing his hand tightly. He shuddered in pain and she let go as she saw his broken digits, twisted and damaged. He shook his head slowly, closing his eyes to block out the flashing lights and thunder of running feet.

“It’s Don’s,” he whispered hoarsely, his eyes welling with fresh tears. “Is he going to be ok?”

“Of course he is,” she replied, smiling bravely, trying and failing to hide the uncertainty behind her eyes. “He’s lost a lot of blood, and we need to see if he might’ve punctured an organ, but he’ll be fine, I’m sure,”

All of a sudden, the pain from every bruised, battered and broken part of Posner’s body crashed into him like a wave. Pain he had been ignoring to help Scripps, pain that now flooded back, fresh and gut-wrenching. He let out a stuttered gasp and a concerned frown marred the paramedic’s pretty features.

“How badly are you injured? I think you’ve broken your nose and fingers, but is there anywhere else?” she questioned worriedly.

“I can’t feel my leg,” he mumbled. “And I can’t move it either,”

Stiff joints and undulating waves of pain all of the way down his left leg, he thought. A clearly shattered and immovable ankle. He became acutely aware of the fresh, metallic blood dripping from his nose past his lips. His lips, coated in Scripps’ dried and crusted blood, sore and cracked from raw cries of anger.

“Alright, love,” she replied. “We’ll get you a stretcher, and we’ll make sure both your friends are ok. You’ll have some nice stitches to show off by the end,”

He was in too much agony, mental and physical, to protest about the patronising tone of it all, but really all he wanted right now was Scripps and some comfort. At least he could find one in the sugary, caring tones of the paramedic. Hands lifted him onto a soft stretcher and he cried out as his leg twisted underneath him. The cobbles were slick with blood, and each bump sent a bone-jarring crash through Posner’s body. He saw Scripps being lifted into an ambulance, oxygen mask obscuring his face, swarms of paramedics surrounding him as he bled continuously. A kindly middle aged man hoisted him up inside, where Dakin was already sitting, blood running from a gash across his eyebrow, clutching his injured wrist close to his chest.

“Is this your blood?” he asked and Posner squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out all the childish, anxious thoughts that always flooded his head. The thoughts that Scripps was so good at flushing away with a gentle kiss and a word of support.

“No,” he croaked back. “It’s my friends,”

You’ve already asked me this, he thought to himself. He opened his eyes just a sliver and stared at his shirt. Under the bright, fluorescent lights, his shirt was stained dark red, almost burgundy. No, not his blood. The blood of the boy in the next ambulance, bleeding to death with an oxygen mask and an IV drip to save him. The boy who should be here, kissing him, whispering to him, simply holding him in his arms. The boy who was going to die to save Posner’s life. A hand reached out and slipped into his. He smiled gratefully at Dakin, closing his eyes and leaning back to ignore the world as they jolted away.

“He’ll be fine, David,” Dakin murmured, and Posner realised it was the first (and last) time Dakin had ever called him by his first name. “We’ll go to the hospital, you’ll both get sorted out. I’ll call Tom, and I know both your home phone numbers for Sheffield,”

“Thanks, Dakin,” Posner whispered.

The rest of the journey passed in silence, unspoken words passing between Dakin and Posner in the form of held hands and bitten lips, anxious lips and tense shoulders. They drew up outside the hospital and the doctors rushed him straight through. He barely had time to spot Dakin’s concerned, furrowed brow before they were putting him into the x-ray machines, panicked, hushed whispers surrounding him.