It had always been something there, on the back of his mind, something he knew to be true no matter how he tried to avoid it. Letting go of a conditioned state was so difficult, very nearly impossible, and DJ found his weight dragging him down to sit at the very edge of the porch, too much for him to put effort into supporting any longer.
When had he become so desperate, so dependent?
He wasn’t sure how he felt about it, other than completely disgusted with himself. The darkling’s throat worked in a thick swallow, his gaze avoiding Jax’s. Part of him wanted to leave, to crawl away with his tail between his legs, ashamed and wrong and still aching. Another, anchored him to the spot. Refusal to move closer or to take off.
He couldn’t even apologize, simply hanging his head in shame.
Honestly? The hardest part of this was letting DJ see what a pasticcio he was in. Such an ugly, ugly state, more worrying to his ego than the actual physical pain of it. The latter, he could deal with- there was a leather bag full of analgesics and opiates at his feet to nip that little problem in the bud.
But the face he was wearing right now? That would stick in the darkling’s mind-eye, a grotesque photo seared into the backs of his eyelids and Jax’s biggest worry was that he’d never see anything else. Not the beauty that would eventually restore itself, but just the underlying injuries.
"I did try to tell you," he explained, "But I guess the message didn’t make it. You can blame the wind for that one. I was in Africa."
A pause; he was either searching for the best words to use (as he often did), or he placed a loaded silence there intentionally. “I brought something for you, but you’ll only get it if you come over here and help me with some of your ice.”
"I never asked for them to,” the accusation made him burn inside, made him hurt all over again with something new. With the idea that he had been selfish, just because he was so utterly miserable with loneliness, and the instant he tried to remedy that or seek out the source, DJ automatically found himself blamed for his approach.
He hated it.
"All I wanted—was to be—"
'Not so alone. Happy. Yours.’
"You should know you are welcome here," he responded in a bit of a drawl, flipping the light off and using that foot to push the hammock into a gentle swing.
"I know your past is one that haunts you, and I know I can’t understand it. But come on, DJ, you’re stronger than you think you are. I’m not perfect, so you have to give me a little slack."
That sluggish heartbeat very nearly halted in his chest at the sight. A step back, one that tripped him over the top stair of the front porch, and golden hues flew wide with some potent mix of horror and concern. There he was, all ready to come back with a quip about his trust issues, and of course he would jump to awful conclusions, and how could he be expected not to?
DJ had known from reading that old journal that Jax was a victim. He could never have imagined how awful the extent of the damage really was. For a moment, the shadow stood there, staring blankly at the other male. Hoping, waiting for an actual explanation. Like he needed one.
His final argument was weak, the ache still settled determinedly on the organ in his chest. “…you could have told me.”
It would have been impossible to detect if one was not well-schooled in the world of Jaxy Body Language, but he was still miffed. It was present there as a tension in his fingers, a taughtness to a mouth that was typically soft and praising toward DJ.
"Sure, had I been conscious. I don’t even know where I was. Or who I was. Sometimes…things aren’t revolving around you, DJ."
He didn’t want excuses. He did not want to feel apologetic for his outburst, did not want to be made to feel as though he wasn’t justified in his frustration. The darkling’s jaw clenched, knuckles whitening as he curled his fingers tightly at his sides.
The lack of any attitude whatsoever from Jax, from someone he had been so utterly enamored with, someone whose details he adored from beginning to end, it drove him mad. What a thing it must have been, to be able to simply not feel. DJ’s chin jerked in half of a head shake, disbelieving. Defiant. Holding tightly to his anger and letting it fester within him.
"You said nothing," he shot back. "You didn’t make any effort to reach out, to tell me what was going on. What the fuck am I supposed to think? You said you cared about me, you absolute fucking liar!”
The spectrum of Insults That Jax Could Safely Ignore was wide and full, but one thing that did not lie within that realm of indifference was being called a liar. Call it a pet peeve, call it a sore nerve. He felt his canines elongate and poke at his lip as if in physical insinuation.
“You are throwing stones at what you don’t know. Your trust in me is astounding.”
He flicked on the porch light with a lazy movement of his toe.
The sight wasn’t such a pretty one.
His eyes balked at the sudden flood of light, pupils constricting from their usual blown openness to little pinpricks; what skin was left underneath and around them now a sickly red. He looked skeletal. He looked like he needed about a hundred skin grafts.
"But please, continue. I’d hate to interrupt you."
The snarl that curled his lip at such a nonchalant answer was positively vicious. How dare he? How dare he sit there and ask a question like that? It made DJ’s skin prickle uncomfortably, anger boiling inside of him. Anger and rage and hurt.
"For fucking starters," he spat the words, accusing, refusing to step closer. "You! I thought maybe, oh, he’s busy. Maybe he’s doing something important. But no, you’re here. You’re here, and it was your choice to stay away from me!”
Perhaps he was overstepping boundaries. But the fearling prince only lashed out when there was pain weighing so heavily on his heart, that he could no longer stand it.
Jax’s little scoff in the middle of his response probably colored it even more nonchalant, more unaffected. It wasn’t, not at all was it anywhere close to careless, but perception has and always will be everything.
He swung a bare foot back and forth as it dangled over the side of the hammock, his whole figure nothing but a lazy-looking silhouette made by the moonlight coming from behind him. The house was as dark as the inside of a coffin, causing his eyes to softly bioluminesce.
"Believe what you want to believe."
Damn if it wasn’t a monumental task to keep anger from spiking at the accusation.
"Since you are so lucky to have a self-sustaining life force, I won’t bore you with the excuses of those of us who need to crawl into the ground every once in a while to keep our skin attached to our bones. It’s nice to see you too, DJ."
"That’s cool. You know. People forget about me. It happens, it’s how the world works. Just wish no one would claim that they never will.”
Bleeding l i a r s.
Jax had been called out before on his habit of showing up unexpectedly in unexpected places, but considering the fact that this was his ocean house, he didn’t deem his presence an issue. He’d been reclining in the porch hammock in the dark, eyes closed, tuned to the activity of cells and biological chemicals when a certain dark little spirit had appeared.
The waves were loud behind him, just a short distance away, and their rolling noise almost drowned out the soft quality of his voice.
"…and that’s why you have so much anger at the front door, DJ? I’m curious about who has forgotten you."