7k, M/M, rated M. A painter is utterly obsessed with the butcher across the road, and the butcher is a little obsessed back.
Lots of mental illness in this one, lots of reference — implicit and explicit — to suicidality, drug use, alcoholism, sexual assault and rape, ableism, consent issues, including past child sexual abuse, all in the context of a victim in recovery whilst also being in active addiction.
Bertie knows a few things about Michael pretty much as soon as he moves in across the way. He’s the sort of man, it becomes clear, to wear his heart on his sleeve, and on his face, and sometimes, stained down his front.
Bertie initially met him in the corner shop — it was only ten in the morning on a Saturday, but Michael had already been drunk. Bertie had been arrested at the sight of him, hadn’t known exactly what to say or what to do, but had felt he should perhaps do something — Michael had been bent to the side with his torso at a sixty degree angle from his waist, a half-drunk bottle of vodka hanging from his right hand’s loose grip, peering at the magazines.
“’Scuse me,” Bertie had said quietly, reaching past him for a copy of the i, and Michael had turned to look at him and his jaw had dropped. He was a painfully thin man, so skinny as to seem almost skeletal under his grey hoodie that was a few sizes too big for him, and his tracksuit bottoms where there was nearly half a foot of string hanging down his crotch, because he’d pulled the cord so tight about his waist. The whole tracksuit is spattered with multicoloured dribbles of paint, and a lot of those paint stains are on his skin, too — around his wrists, his neck, all over the backs of his hands and underneath his fingernails.
“Who are you?” he’d asked, his eyes as wide as dinnerplates, so much so that Bertie almost couldn’t see the grey bags underneath them.
“Me?” Bertie had asked, glancing from Michael to Javed behind the shop counter, who shrugged at him. “Uh, I’m Bertie, mate. The butcher shop is mine.”
Michael’s eyes had blinked a few times, and he’d smiled sort of dreamily, high as fuck and out of it but at least happy in the moment. His…