Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven

“I think more than anything life is not a lot harsher than people make it out to be.”

Bradley woke up feeling rather poetic, his mind buzzing with a symphony of music he hadn’t heard in so long.

His mood shifted almost instantly, a spilled glass of water that made him drastically frustrated, which nearly brought on the kind of tears that were hot and sticky and kind of awful.

Then he wanted nothing more than a stage to perform on in this moment, which made him feel sad in almost the same way. He dug the palms of his hands into the sockets of his eyes, pushing away the feeling and instead lost himself to dancing through the apartment in a chaotic way, all arms and one real leg and flapping hands that meant he was comfortable in this situation.

At just after eleven he made himself a cup of coffee and propped himself onto the countertop, rocking back and forth with the warm mug in his hands. It was in the midst of his stimming that Lydia had called him in an ‘I’m bored and I’m not sure what to do’ kind of way. She was in the waiting room at an audition, and their call went from the fact that penguins mate for life to Lydia’s audition to the piano song that Bo couldn’t remember the name of that kept bouncing around in his head (“La Vie En Rose” Lydia told him) to the impracticality of the word ‘overmorrow’.

Each conversation frustratingly brought on a new emotion that was almost the opposite of whichever emotion he had just felt. It was rare for there to be such a range of emotions open for Bradley to feel, as rarely did he venture outside of fear, and happiness, and overwhelmed, and sometimes sadness (though it could be argued that anger was felt often enough for it to be added). He wasn’t sure what to do with anything, and tried his best to keep his emotions pressed to the edge of his mind. It was so much easier to avoid rather than to feel.

Lydia had caught on almost instantly, and Bradley found comfort in this acknowledgement of how he was feeling. She did her best to voice what she was feeling, as to help Bradley settle on an emotion for him to feel himself. Lydia had fallen silent at his previous statement, and without even considering her opinion on his statement, he continued, speaking in the frustration that he felt often enough.

“I mean, yes, it has got its ups and its downs and its bits that go sideways, but it can’t be that bad, because otherwise we all would have stopped living ages ago.” It was a blunt statement that, and while Lydia had always expected bluntness from the man, she had not expected this, the phrasing and timing was a bit off, and it’s appearance was sad.

Bo sighed, his hands landing on an odd chord on the piano that reflected his emotions better than anything, music always seemed to do this for him.

You’re not wrong.” Lydia could tell there was something ever so odd about Bo’s remark, but she didn’t have the chance to comment as Bo was suddenly speaking again;

“I want to dance on stage again, to pirouette on toes that aren’t fake, and with knees that bend without added pressure.” Bo had lifted his hands almost instantly after hitting the chord, and the happiness he felt moments prior had fallen as the dissonance rang. “I am an optimist at heart, but to dance without worry of limbs that do not conform is too far out of my reach that maybe I should give up.”

It was said all in one breath, and at the end of it Bo inhaled much too sharply to make the action seem natural. Lydia sighed in a heavy way, and Bo could tell that this conversation was too much. He started, taking a second to reboot, his voice cracking slightly in his throat as he tried to find words to speak. “Sorry, I don’t mean that.” He did not feel that the apology was necessary, though he spoke it in benefit of her.

You don’t have to apologize.” Lydia knew that the apology was for her sake, rather than his, and the silence on the other end of the line confirmed it. “I have to go, the audition-

Bo interrupted her with a smile that was meant for his reflection in the glass in the picture frame, though his face was warped and strange to recognize. “It’s alright, you go, I’ll be here for later, call me and let me know how it goes.”

It was Lydia who hung up, only after promising to call and telling Bo to take some time to himself. It was an easy thing to say that he would, though he wasn’t sure how well his emotions would comply.

And then it was just Bo and his thoughts, and his fake leg that seemed to sit comfortably on the stump for the first time in a long time. Almost in direct opposition to his mental state.

Despite the fact that he had had a sudden depressed change of emotion, he seemed to bounce back just as quickly. His mind turned back around to form a smile, and his phone started to ring as a result. (Though his mind quickly reminded him that correlation does not equal causation, and that his phone was not ringing because he was happy again, but rather someone had decided to call him in the moment his mood shifted drastically.)

“What is it Lydia?” Bo asked it in a voice that was dramatically annoyed, enough so that even he would have caught it under normal circumstances. He hoped more than anything that it was not Lydia calling to make sure that he was alright for a comment that he had said and only partially (23%, if he had to guess) meant.

Well, I wouldn’t want to be Lydia.” The voice was a tease, laughing in a bright way that continued to press the fact that the entire thing was funny and not embarrassing. The slight breath that was inhaled on the other end of the line was with a smile. “Are you alright Bowie?

It was Oscar, and his voice completed the sonata in Bo’s head. All dissonant emotions and varying temperaments shifted back into their proper place, though the smallest part worried that he had too much of a reliance on Oscar, Bo felt a reassurance at the man's call. “Oscar! Darling, hello!” Bo replied excitedly, leaping from the piano as if he were trying to find the source of Oscar’s voice, his mind forgetting that he was not a  complete man. His left knee almost instantly buckled, and his right tried to compensate unsuccessfully, he hit the ground hard. “Fuck!”

Bo shouted it loudly, his elbow knocking against the ground on that little bone that always seems to catch on door frames and the edges of tables. It took him a moment to wrap himself around what exactly had happened, and at that point he seemed to register Oscar’s reaction.

His laughter was loud and full chested, a deep sound that seemed to make the entire room light up. Bo could imagine the smile on the other end of the line, a smile shared only with Jessamine and Bo.

Oscar had, of course, waited just a moment before laughing. He made sure that Bowie was alright, and when his laugher dissolved into chuckles of faint amusement, he attempted to take a deep breath.

Bo’s reply came in the form of a dramatically sarcastic response, the kind that would be followed through with a playful smack on the shoulder or a ruffle of someone’s hair (though Bo would not do either as touch is his least favorite form of affection in most situations). “Oh don’t laugh at me, I thought we were friends!” The tall man rolled onto his back on the floor, a hand draped in a surprisingly elegant way across his eyes, his lips displayed a wide toothy grin.

He felt that his cheeks were bright red, and was glad more than anything that Oscar was not in the room. Bo had already fallen plenty of times in front of Oscar, and this time would have been the topper of the cake.

There was a scoff on Oscar’s end of the call, “I thought we were more than friends?” It was said in disbelief, and Bo couldn’t help but teeter on the edge of over excitement, he let himself squeak in surprise, his hand flapping back and forth by his ear as he held the phone in the other hand with a steady grip.


It was all that he could find to say.

Oh.” It was said in a copying tone, and it took everything in Bo not to echo the sound once again. It was silent for a long pause between the two of them. “You still there sweetheart? What made you fall?

The name very quickly threw a wrench in Bo’s thinking, he found it unsurprising that the affectionate term almost instantly started swirling around in his mind. The echo of “sweetheart” in Oscar’s voice creating a blanket of comfort.

“Yes.” Bo replied in a soft airy tone, like he had forgotten that breathing was something he had to do, it was very easy to assume, on Oscar’s end at least, that he had. It took him a moment to gather his thoughts. “I tried to stand on my left leg, and forgot that I didn’t have one.

Oscar couldn’t help but smile, glancing at Jessamine who was insistent on getting ready on her own. The assurance that Bo was not injured from the fall encouraged him to continue to speak, “I have a surprise for you.” Bo’s breathing did not change on the other end of the line, and Oscar took that as an offer to continue. “I’ll be outside your apartment in twenty minutes, meet me on the street?

Ever the curious man, Bo spoke without remembering that it was a ‘surprise’ and what exactly that word meant. “What is it?”

There was a light chuckle on the other end of the call, “It’s a surprise Bowie, which means you’ll want to be surprised when you see it.” Bo let out a slightly dramatic groan, pushing himself up and onto his real leg in one motion. He grabbed at the piano bench, using it’s height and solidity to pull himself all the way onto his feet.

“I’ll see you soon then.” Bo smiled to himself, wanting to continue to ask questions despite Oscar’s statement of it being a surprise. More than anything he wanted to hear Oscar speak for an uninterrupted amount of time. The man’s voice was comforting, and all the more grounding in common situations, on this day even more so.

It was Oscar who hung up, a soft goodbye on his lips that made Bo smile brightly and spin on his false heel. His mind was much more than it was previously, reeling with thoughts of whatever the surprise could be. Bo quickly promised himself that he would not let his mind run away from his body, but rather he would keep a vague veil of calm that would enable him to focus on the here and now rather than falling into a state of dissociation stemming from excitement.

Bo squeaked, his right hand clenched into a fist that beat at his collar bone for just a minute, his excitement getting the better of him as he leapt into the air. Bo’s right leg took over holding him up, the left barely tapping its toes against the ground. He let himself indulge for a few minutes, before taking a deep breath and relaxing his fists and calming his jumps.

“Come on then.” Bo muttered to himself, walking towards his bedroom and grabbing for his coat on the back of the door and his shoes by the light switch.

Despite how long he had had the false limb, he still had to sit to put on his shoes. Though on the rare occasion, usually when he was much too tired (or drunk), he could somehow finagle the shoe onto his foot while bent over at an angle. It was an event that was few and far between, and something he could never figure out how he had done it while fully awake. But in the here and now, he found it necessary to sit on the bench and bend over to tie the shoes.

Bo yawned when he stood, stretching his hands above his head and sighing as his back crackled with pops. His coat came on next, and he rubbed his face into the material just as before. A shiver passed over him, and without thinking it through he pulled his coat tight around him, his arms pressing into his stomach in a comforting way.

He glanced in the mirror by the door on his way out, and smiled at his reflection. Bo, despite the morning, was well put together, his socks matched, and his shoes, and he was wearing his nicer pair of jeans. The long sleeve turtle neck that he wore was soft to the touch and felt like a comfort layer on his body, Bo also wore one of Oscar’s favorite shirts of his, a long sleeve butterfly shirt that he got at some thrift store for five dollars. The coat was grey, and his favorite. Bo couldn’t remember where he had gotten it, but it was the one constant in almost everything he wore.

Gloves were tucked into his coat pocket, as well as a soft knit beanie that Lydia had made him during her knitting phase (the phase didn’t last long). Only after checking that both his wallet and phone were in his pockets did he open the door to his apartment and step into the hallway.

The click of the door locking behind him was rather loud, and seemed to hit him right in the face. Bo flinched away from the sound, forgoing the loud elevator in favor of the echoing stairwell. His left leg clumped ever so slightly as he went down, but not in a painful way, but rather a reminder that it was there.

An innumerable number of potentials ran through his mind at the thought of what this surprise could be, but they didn’t stick around. He smiled brightly when he saw the familiar car of Oscar-Michael Torres, the smaller man leaned against the hood in a way that seemed relaxed, surveying the area surrounding him in a practiced way that Bo could appreciate.

“Oscar.” Bo spoke his voice loud enough to catch his attention but not to draw the attention of those passing by.

The way that Oscar lit up when he looked at Bo was like a child on Christmas, all bright eyes and big smiles. He pushed away from the car, holding his hands out to Bo palm down, and waited for the taller man to accept his hand. Bo did without hesitation, pulling Oscar to him and pressing a kiss to his lips lightly.

“Hello there.” Oscar muttered, pressing another kiss to Bo’s lips as the taller man tried to resist the urge to repeat Oscar’s words with the addition of an accent.

Bo crossed the front of the car, feeling only slightly panicked as he slid into the passenger seat, muttering the words under his breath in an attempt to calm himself down. “So where are we going?”

Oscar smiled, “A place.”

It was obvious to Bo that he would not get anything out of the man, and so rather he took to reaching across to Oscar and holding his hand in the seat between the two.

Oscar’s car was an older one, but still a rather nice one. It was a model that Bo didn’t recognize, and from a year much older than him. It was blue, a shiny blue that Jessamine repeatedly insisted was like a silverfish, and while Bo wasn’t entirely sure what a ‘silverfish’ was, the childlike insistence that it led to him agreeing.

“I missed you.” Oscar spoke plainly, his voice clear over the sound of Sinatra on the radio.

It was strange for Bo to be on the receiving end of such affectionate bluntness, and he felt his cheeks heat red. “It’s only been a few days, and we called the day before yesterday.” In all honesty, Bo missed Oscar as well, but the need to point out the obvious spoke over his feelings. 

They were at a red light, and Oscar took that moment to lean over and press another kiss to Bo’s lips. “Doesn’t mean I can’t miss you.” And Bo most definitely agreed.

Bo glanced over his shoulder, looking to the back row of the car despite the fact that he was already aware of the lack of Jessamine in the car. “Where’s Jessamine?” Bo’s voice was soft, careful in the small cab of the car to not be too loud.

Externally, Bo was calm and laid back, his hand flapped ever so lightly by his side and the other held Oscar’s hand in a relaxed grip. Internally, his eyes followed every car that passed by, checking and double checking that they all continued on their way without coming into contact with them. It was common, in the same way that he hurried when crossing the street, but the realization that he was muttering did not come until-

“You’re muttering.” Oscar stated it simple, and all the more obstinate, Bo denied.

“I don’t mutter.” Bo said it with a smile that he tried to hide by looking towards the passenger window of the car.

“Yes you do.” Oscar replied, squeezing Bo’s hand in his own. “You mutter, and when you do, you scrunch up your nose and try to cover it up by rubbing at the base of it.”

It didn’t exactly bother Bo that Oscar knew him so well, as he could list the things that Oscar did that was so specifically him, but there was something off about this specific acknowledgement.

Unconsciously, Bo’s hand swiped just under his nose. He paused, “Maybe I do.”

Oscar laughed lightly, pressing a kiss to the back of Bo’s hand before dropping it. He moved both hands to the steering wheel, using quite a bit of force to turn the car into a u-turn, landing the car in a curbside parking space. Bo could vaguely recognize where they were, and could certainly notice the way that Oscar put him away from the oncoming traffic.

Bo waited for Oscar on the curb, and smiled as he held his hand out to the man. “Where to now?” The look that Oscar gave him had Bo speaking again quickly, “I’m not asking for you to spoil the surprise, just give some direction to my life.”

It was dramatic, even for him, and Oscar rolled his eyes as he smiled and leaned his head onto the taller man’s shoulder. “This way Bowie.”

And Bo let Oscar lead the way, careful not to jostle the smaller man’s head and hold his waist in a tight and touching way. Bo felt comfortable holding him like this, and longed for days when they could spend all their time like this.

When Oscar lifted his head, Bo felt rather off at the loss of the weight on his shoulder, and watched as the smaller man kept his hand in his and pulled him towards a door facing the street that Bo hadn’t even realized was there. He took a moment to pull out his wallet, swiping a scan card and propping the door open with his foot to admit the taller man inside.

It was bright inside, and Bradley found the echo of his footsteps a sound that was so eerily familiar that it nearly put him on edge. “Where are we darling?” Bo had a feeling in his chest that he couldn’t name, and it lessened only slightly when Oscar took his hand.

“I want to hear you sing, and I thought, where better than a stage.”

And suddenly the surprise made sense, a flurry of goosebumps passed over Bo as he picked up the pace. Oscar noted his excitement, moving onto toes that were real and nearly pulling Bo down the hallway as he took off into a run. Under any other circumstance, Oscar would have almost surely avoided running, but Bo’s excitement led to him running, and pulling the taller man behind him.

Bo did not care about the clumping of his foot which made light washes of pain pass through the connection in his thigh, he tried not to think about it as he ran. He hadn’t felt this free in such a long time, and the sudden want to be in possession of a running leg came and went quickly.

Oscar noticed the sound of Bo’s leg almost the moment they started running, but the man did not look to be in pain, so he continued in their running, laughter passing through his lips as he turned a corner sharply, the pair of them bumping shoulders as they did.

Bo stopped in his tracks the moment he saw the empty stage.

It was a true stage, not just one set up for rehearsals. The lights were on, and the house lights weren’t. It was set up as if he were about to perform the opening number of a show, and he felt his heart drop into his stomach. It was just him and Oscar, and an empty stage ready for the voice of someone who had not performed in almost two years.

Oscar hung back, watching as the man he had grown to care for stepped into the center of the stage with hands that flapped at his sides in a way that brought comfort to Bo. Bo looked to be at ease, which was all that Oscar could ever ask for. The stage appeared to be home to him, and Oscar found it hard to hold back tears of happiness.

“Sing Bowie?” It was phrased as a question, and when Bo turned to look at Oscar, he held out sheet music.

Bo accepted it with the faintest of smile, rolling his shoulders back and watching as Oscar continued forward, walking to the front of the stage and disappearing into the dark unknown of the rest of the theatre.

Despite the sure fact that he could not see Oscar any more, Bo continued to look, and after a moment, he looked at the sheet music.

It didn’t have a title, though there was a working title listed in parenthesis, “For it.” Bo voiced, looking up from the sheet music and letting his eyes cross the front of the stage. A starting note played on a piano hidden in the dark cloud of the rest of the room. Bradley hummed to it without really thinking about it.

When the music began, it was bright, a jumping tune that was wonderfully repetitive. Bo’s voice was just barely a whisper when he began to sing, only for worry of not knowing the song. He let himself fall into the music, his voice crescendoing rather quickly and his confidence taking over.

He’s trying to keep the colonies in line, but he can keep all of Georgia, Theodosia, she’s mine,” It felt wonderful to sing on the stage, his voice echoed through the theatre despite his lack of microphone, some part of Bo had wondered if he would be able to sing loud enough for the sound to carry to the back rows of the theater.

He shouldn’t have worried, because his instincts took over, and he projected in a wonderful way.

Bo missed the next part to come in, but the piano playing did not falter, and Bo followed the sheet music for a moment before continuing at the correct place. “Then I’m willing to wait for it, I’m willing to wait for it.” A voice that he did not recognize called out from the dark cloud of the rest of the theatre-

“Skip to page four!”

Bo complied without questioning; “I’m willing to wait for it-” The repetition was greatly appreciated as he continued to sing, “I am the one thing in life I can control! I am inimitable, I am an original.”

His voice did things he had not expected, placing a glissando at the end of each of the phrases, Bo continued without faltering. “I’m not falling behind nor running late, I’m not standing still, I’m lying in wait! Hamilton faces an endless uphill climb-”

And very suddenly, Bo recognized where this song had come from. The excitable Oscar-Michael Torres, who info dumped on him what felt like months ago, though it was really just barely two months. He continued to sing despite his slightly wandering mind.

Oscar was putting him on show, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.

He exhibits no restraint, he takes and he takes and he takes and he keeps winning anyway, he changes the game-” The piano began to pick up it’s tempo, playing in skipping tones that excited Bo rather quickly. He bounced on the balls of his feet, his free hand flapping by his side as he let himself brighten to the tempo of the piano. “He plays and he raises the stakes, and if there's a reason he seems to thrive when so few survive then goddammit I’m willing to wait for it!

His heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest, his cheeks hurt from smiling as he continued to sing.

Bo sang a wrong note, a g-sharp, rather than a g-natural, but the mistake did not bother him. The song ended in a soft way, and after singing the last note Bo did not let his eyes wander.

He stood firm, eyes lifted as if he were performing the last note of an ‘I Want’ song. Applause rang out almost immediately, and it was not just one pair of clapping hands, but multiple.

Anxiety filled Bo’s mind, he had thought that he was performing to just Oscar, who played the piano beautifully for him. The sound of the hands was deafening, and the music nearly slipped from Bo’s grasp as his hands fell to his sides.

“Oscar?” Bo called to the theatre, pretending to be sure in what he was doing.

Footsteps sounded, and the smaller man appeared on the edge of the stage, a bright smile and arms opened wide as if displaying himself to Bo. “That was amazing!” He hurried to Bo, wrapping arms that were confident around the taller man’s waist.

Bo focused on the way that Oscar felt in his arms, his smaller stature was welcoming, his hands warm on his back. “You’re brilliant.” Oscar’s voice is soft, slightly muffled by the fact that his face is pressed into Bo’s chest. The taller man threads his fingers into Oscar’s hair, pressing a kiss to the top of his head.

“Thank you.”

Footsteps catch his attention, and Bo looks up, stepping out of Oscar’s arms but not letting the smaller man’s arms fall completely from his back. Bo holds Oscar’s hand in a confident way, looking to the footsteps with eyes that do not shake.

“Hello.” Bo’s voice was a far cry from the confident singing he had just been doing, all small and slightly unsure.

Oscar’s hand tightens around his, “Bowie, this is Joseph Alberts and Ariella Fuentes,” Oscar speaks the nickname softly, motioning to the smaller of the two people in front of him first, than the woman, before speaking louder and directing his words to the two newcomers. “This is Bradley Oliver Jones-”

“Bo,” Bradley corrects, “My friends call me Bo.”

Oscar smiled at him, Bo could make it out from the corner of his eye. The correction of the introduction meant that Bo welcomed these two newcomers to join his circle of friends, though Bo could not voice why he did want to welcome them.

Alberts stepped closer, reaching a hand out to Bo that he accepted and shook despite his usual avoidance of the action.

“Right, Bo.” Oscar continued, casting a cautious glance in Bo’s direction to make sure that he was still present. “Joseph was the man playing the piano, and Ariella is in charge of casting.”

The word made Bo falter, and for just a moment, all the voices and their words fell on slightly muffled ears. He lifted himself onto his toes, all thoughts of what was neurotypical and what wasn’t left his mind as his hand started to flap by his side. Oscar smiled at him just as he tuned back into what was being said.

“-found our Burr.” The voice was Ariella, and Bo found himself nodding before processing exactly what was being said.

When he spoke, it stuttered ever so slightly. “Wait-wait, your Burr?” He looked over to Oscar, before looking back to Ariella, “You want to cast me, as Aaron Burr?”

Ariella smiled, “You are available, Mr. Jones?” She paused, “Bo? That is correct, otherwise, I feel like our mutual friend Oscar might have gotten my hopes up.” Ariella laughed, a light laugh that made Bo feel welcomed.

Bo did not hesitate before answering, “I am.” Though the moment he spoke, he wasn’t sure if that was the right answer. “But there is something you should know-”

He trailed off, glancing to Oscar for support, the smaller man just smiled, “I told them already Bowie, and they’re perfectly fine with challenges that will maybe come up.”

Bo didn’t even care about the slight intrusion to his privacy, but rather looked back to the pair and smiled once again. “I’d be honored, if you’re making a proper offer.” Bo liked it when things were tied tight with a bow, and as he looked between each of the new friend’s noses. It was much easier than making eye contact.

Areilla looked to Joseph before looking back to Bo and Oscar, “Of course we are. It is Oscar’s show after all, and we are both just here to provide a second and third opinion.”

Joseph smiled, “So what do you say Mr. Jones?”

Bo faltered, “It’s Doctor.” The correction was said softly, and Ariella made the adjustment, rephrasing her question with a continued smile. 

“I’d love to.”

The lyrics to the song do not belong to me.

Related chapters

Latest chapter Protection Status