This is a part of the "Inspired by Joe" FlashFic Friday blog hop.
You know Joe, right?
The rules were simple. Find a picture of Joe, and let it inspire you. No fanfic or RPS (real-person slash), but other than that, let your imagination run to howl at the moon.
"Jesus Christ, Phillip. You look like shit," Barry said after Phillip opened the door. It was true, too. Phillip stood there in threadbare plaid flannel robe and grubby cotton boxers. He was wearing one slipper, and it was three sizes too big for his foot. The normally impeccable hair was now done up in a who-the-fuck-cares style Phillip would never be seen in public with. Barry doubted that Phillip had shaved at all since Josey showed up at his door, angry and looking for a place to crash three days ago. Phillip’s red-rimmed bloodshot eyes stared back at Barry.
"Thanks for your expert assessment. Now fuck off," Phillip said. He shuffled back into the apartment ahead of Barry, leading him to the kitchen. "What do you want?"
Phillip helped himself to a tumbler of scotch as Barry pulled out a barstool and sat down. Barry watched as he pushed the takeout containers on the counter out of the way to make room for his glass. One bag came close to falling over onto the floor, but with one last wobble, it fell inward, toppling onto the square boxes closer to the wall. Phillip turned on the water and inspected the glasses in the sink, finally selecting the least-dirty one, from what Barry could tell. He washed it and shook the excess water out before he picked his glass back up and turned around.
“Maid’s day off?” Barry asked as Phillip set the glasses down on the island in front of Barry. "You guys have got to stop doing this.”
"Josey's the one who got pissed and stormed out."
"Did you try to stop him?"
"What the fuck do you think, Bear?" Phillip downed the rest of the scotch in his glass. He picked up the bottle to pour some more, but Barry grabbed it out his hand.
"I think you've had enough for starters."
"Give that back," Phillip said. He didn't fight for the bottle though. He just leaned back against the counter and glared at Barry. “Did he send you?”
“No,” Barry said with a shake of his head. “Kyla did. His snoring is keeping her up all night.”
Phillip looked down at his feet, and Barry saw the ghost of a smile cross his lips. “Yeah, well, you get used to it.”
“If you love someone enough, you can get used to anything,” Barry said. Phillip looked up, and Barry knew what was going through his mind. He put a hand up to stop Phillip from saying anything. “Look, no one was more shocked than me when Kyle decided he needed to go through all that for himself, but I stood by him. And now that he’s become Kyla, she’s the person she was supposed to be. I think I love her more than I loved Kyle.”
Phillip blushed and studied that slipper again. “You must think we’re a couple of jackasses.”
“Yep.” Phillip’s head snapped back up to meet Barry’s face at the matter-of-fact answer. Barry stood and walked to the living room. He sat on the couch and propped his feet up on the table and waited for Phillip to decide to join him. After a minute, he did, dropping onto the other end of the couch. “Wanna tell me what it was about this time?”
“What is it always?” Phillip sighed.
“Let me see if I can guess what happened. You guys went out, and some hot young twinks hit on Josey, asking if he was the wolf from that vampire show, and they invited him back to their place to howl at the moon?” Phillip didn’t say anything. He just stared at the blank television hung on the wall opposite the couch. “And he politely turned them down, but not before you noticed his smile at the flattery. When he tried to assure you that you were the one he wanted, your insecurity took over and you refused to believe him. Is that close?”
Phillip just continued staring at the screen like he was watching his favorite show, but only he could see it.
“When you got home, you still doubted him? That sound right? And what, you told him to go be with the twinks since they were so much hotter than you?”
Phillip blushed and shook his head. “Worse.”
“Ah. You brought up the job, didn’t you?” Phillip nodded and dropped his gaze to his lap. “You accused him of only being with you so you could be his sugar daddy? Because that’s the only reason someone like him could ever want to be seen with someone like you?”
“I don’t know why I said anything. I just…. I don’t know,” Phillip said with a shake of his head.
“Because you’re an idiot?” Barry offered. Phillip blushed deep and let out a shuddering breath before he leaned his head back on the cushion.
“You’re probably right.”
“I am right. The question is: what are you going to do about it, moron?”
Phillip growled and stood up. He turned to face Barry, his face beet red, and his eyes full of anger. “Just how long are you going to keep insulting me for? I’d really like to know so I can schedule the rest of my day, asshole.”
Barry stood and faced him. “As long as it takes to get it into your thick skull.”
“Get what into my skull?” Phillip shouted.
“That he loves you. That he wants to be with you, and that you’re too hung up on where you fall short to see where you stand taller than anyone else in his eyes,” Barry said calmly. “Until, then, I’ll keep insulting you, you stupid jackoff.” He turned and went back to the kitchen. “You know, I really should be charging you for this,” he called.
“No one asked you to come here, you know,” Phillip said. “I don’t need your services.”
Barry snorted. “Bullshit. You need me more than some of my patients do. And you’re going to sit there until you get it.”
“Fuck you,” Phillip said.
“Not with you smelling the way you do right now,” Barry said, making a face. “Besides, Kyla’s the only one for me. You know that. And Josey’s yours. As soon as you take your head out of your ass enough to see it.”
“Then why isn’t he here yelling at me?” Phillip asked, sounding somewhat defeated. He sat back down and put his head in his hands.
“Because you hurt him. Pretty bad this time,” Barry said as he took a seat next to Phillip. He ran a hand down Phillip’s back. “You know how he feels about losing his job. It’s not his fault the company shut down.”
“So, what was it? Because as far as sugar daddies go, I think you fall short. He was making more than you before he got laid off, right?”
Barry waited for Phillip to continue, but he didn’t say anything more. “So?” he finally asked.
“So, what?” Phillip asked, but this time Barry refused to answer. He was content to wait it out for Phillip to draw his own conclusions. “Tell me, oh great Dr. Bear. What do I do now?”
Barry shrugged. “I don’t know. What do you think you should do now?”
“Fuck off with that doctor shit. Just fucking tell me, all right? Tell me what I need to do to get him back.”
“I can’t,” Barry said.
“What the fuck kind of doctor are you then?”
“Shitty, I guess,” Barry shrugged again. “Look, I can’t tell you what you need to do to bring him home. You’ve got to work that out with him. All I can do is help you figure out why you lashed out the way you did.” Phillip stared at him for a few minutes. “So?”
“So, what?” Phillip asked.
“Why did you lash out that way?”
“I don’t know. I guess, well. Look at him.” Phillip pointed at a picture on the shelf. Barry walked over and picked it up to look closer. Then he looked up at Phillip and nodded.
“Yep. He’s fucking gorgeous. And?”
“And what? That’s it.”
“So, you’re mad at him for being so good looking?”
“He can have anyone he wants.”
“And look at me. What’s he doing with me?”
Barry laughed. “Has it ever occurred to you that even though he can have almost anyone he wants, he chose you? Out of everyone else throwing themselves at him, he chose you. He chooses to come home to you every night, to put up with your bullshit day after day. He chose you.”
“Fuck if I know. We’ve been trying to figure that out for a while now,” Barry said, easily dodging Phillip’s hand as he took a half-hearted swing at Barry. “Fine. You want to know?”
“Yes. Because fuck if I know.”
“Well, you are smart, and funny, and when you’re not a self-pitying asshole, can be quite charming.” Phillip looked up, and Barry gave inward sigh of relief. He knew he’d been a little unfair with Phillip, but he could see it was about to pay off now. “And Kyla says you’re cute, but I don’t really see it.” He shook his head.
“Fuck you,” Phillip laughed. “Look at yourself.”
“Anyway, all those things are just the surface stuff that gets attention. What keeps Josey around? You’ll have to ask him.”
“Will I get the chance, or did I fuck up too much this time?” Phillip asked. His voice was small and scared, and Barry’s heart went out to him.
“Yeah, I think you might. But you may have to break down and make the first move. Think you can do that?”
“I tried. He won’t take my calls.”
“Well, maybe he just needs a little more time to cool off.”
“How much time?”
“How the fuck should I know?” Barry asked. “Just keep trying, if you think it’s worth it.”
“He is. More than worth it.” Phillip said.
Barry smiled. And that is what you call a breakthrough, he thought. “Hey, Kyla dropped me off. Can you give me a ride home?”
“Sure, let me grab my keys.” Phillip stood and started toward the bedroom.
“You may think about pants, too. And a shower before those.” Phillip stopped, and Barry watched him check himself out in the mirror. He gave himself a full-body shake.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He scratched his chin and studied his reflection again. “What do you think about the beard?”
Barry cocked his head and gave Phillip a considering stare. “I like it. I vote keep it.”
Phillip smiled and disappeared to the bathroom. Barry heard the water turn on, and he pulled out his cell phone.
“Hey, babe. How’s he doing?” Barry asked as he went into the kitchen and started stuffing the garbage on the counters into a bag. The dishes would wait until later, but at least the worst of the mess was picked up. He figured Phillip stripped in the bedroom and hadn’t changed at all since there were no clothes on the floor. Just some newspapers and another pizza box. He stuffed those in the bag and set it next to the front door.
“Worried,” Kyla said. “He was pissed when he found out you left, but he’s been pacing since you’ve been gone. How’s it going on your end?”
“I think he’s good. I only had to beat him up a little bit.”
“So you used your regular beside manner then?” Kyla teased.
“You know it. That’s why I have a wait list.”
“I love you too, babe.”
“Just hurry back. I think Josey’s about to wear a hole in the floor here.”
“We will. See you soon.” Barry hung up just as the water shut off. Phillip took a few more minutes to finish up before he stepped out of the bedroom.
“Well?” he asked timidly from behind Barry.
“Very nice,” Barry said with a smile. Phillip cleaned up well. A forest green button-front shirt brought out the green of his eyes and set off his red hair and beard. His blue jeans were clean and fit him well. “And both shoes this time. Nice step up.”
“Fucker,” Phillip said laughing before getting serious. “Thank you, Bear.”
“No problem, man. Someone had to wake you up.” He pulled Phillip into a hug. “Now, I really need to get home. Let’s go,” he said as he handed the bag to Phillip.
“I did a little picking up while you were in there.”
Phillip blushed. “I guess I let it get out of hand.”
“You let too much get out of hand. Don't do that again, huh?"
"I'm going to try."
"Great. Let's go. You know, Josey’s gonna kill you for leaving a mess like that,” Barry said, cocking a thumb toward the kitchen.
“If he ever sees it. I guess I’ll have time to clean it before he agrees to come back,” Phillip said with a sigh. He locked the door behind them and trotted off to dump the trash before meeting Barry at the car. “Will you tell him...” Phillip started after he pulled out of the parking garage.
“Tell him what?”
“That I miss his snoring.”
Barry chuckled. “I wish we could send it back to you.”
“I recorded him once, you know. To show him how loud it is.”
“You did not,” Barry said.
“Yeah,” Phillip’s smile turned sad. “I’ve been listening to it, but it’s not the same.”
Barry put a hand on Phillip’s shoulder. “I’ll make sure he knows.”
The rest of the ride was quiet. Barry hoped he could convince Phillip to come up to the apartment and just talk to Josey, and he hoped Josey would listen. He knew they loved each other, and they were both hurting. Their own stupid pride was keeping them from reaching out. If he could just get Phillip to make a step toward Josey, he was sure it would all work out.
“What the?” Phillip asked, pulling him from his thoughts as the car slowed to a stop for the light. Barry looked up to see what Phillip was asking about. “What’s he doing?”
At the next light, there was a tall, handsome man standing on the corner holding a sign. Handsome didn’t quite cut it–he was fucking gorgeous. His tight red, white, and blue T-shirt wrapped around his muscles like a second skin, and his faded jeans hugged long, lean legs. The wind blew his dark, wavy hair up and dropped it back down, leaving it perfectly messy, and his trimmed beard only highlighted the alpha-male quality that seemed to surround him. As Phillip’s car pulled closer, he stuck his thumb out. He held up a sign to show a destination that made Barry smile when he read it. “HOME," it said, in big green lettering, spray-painted in Kyla’s handwriting. Of course this little reunion would be her invention.
“Think you can take him there?” Barry asked.
“I sure hope so,“ Phillip looked dumbfounded as he pulled over and parked. Josey stared at him, determination, mixed with a little bit of hope, on his face.
Phillip got out of the car and slowly approached him. Barry stayed in the car and watched, giving them a little bit of privacy. Well, as much privacy as a street corner could provide anyway. He couldn’t hear what was being said, but he saw a lot of head shaking, and then nodding, until finally, Josey dropped the sign, and Phillip jumped into his arms. They kissed, not caring that some of the passing cars honked, or someone stepped out of one of the businesses to applaud them.
Barry got out of the car and picked up the sign. He looked up at his apartment building and lifted the sign above his head, facing their windows. He could see Kyla on the balcony giving him the thumbs up. He looked back at Josey and Phillip, and when Josey smiled, Barry knew it was going to be all right.
They were going to make it home.