Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week. I used this prompt: “You must be confusing me with someone else.”
At Full Speed, #19
Jake did his best to stifle the sobs that accompanied his tears, but to no avail. He made one attempt at sliding off Bruce’s chest, which Bruce prevented by tightening his hold. “You’re safe here, Jake. Let go.”
Jake’s body reacted of its own accord. His muscles went limp as he gave in to his misery. He didn’t know how long it took him to calm down to occasional hiccups, but when he did his throat was raw and his face felt swollen. Bruce’s shirt underneath his face was drenched. “Oh, my God. I’m sorry, so sorry. You must think I’m pathetic—”
“Stop right there, sunshine.” Bruce spoke in his usual gentle manner, but there was a firmness in it Jake responded to. “You’re not pathetic. You’re the bravest man I’ve ever known.”
Jake blinked against the veil of tears. “You must be confusing me with someone else.”
“I assure you that I’m not confusing you with anyone. I know exactly who it is resting on me.”
Bitterness swept through Jake, and he replied, “Right. The most pathetic loser and—”
Jake yelped when Bruce’s hand landed a solid swat on his butt. He pushed his upper body off to get a better look at Bruce. To his surprise, his anxiety level didn’t spike. He didn’t even breathe faster. Shouldn’t he be afraid of Bruce?
Wide-eyed, he stared at Bruce, but no words came to mind.
Bruce patted his butt “You’re done with putting yourself down. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes.” At least for the moment, Jake could do as Bruce wished.
“You can stop that, too.”
“Stop what?” What the ever-loving fuck was Bruce talking about?
“Do you really think I can’t see that you’re willing to humor me? But that you still believe yourself to be pathetic? That’s not going to cut it, Jake. You will change your perception of yourself. I’ll make sure of that.”
Jake wiggled off Bruce and knelt next to him. Part of him wanted to do a victory dance because he’d managed to free himself, while another part wailed that Bruce was already giving up on him. “It’s not a perception thing, it’s a reality-check. Maybe you should think about your screwed-up perception.”
Jake scrambled away from Bruce, away from the kindness and safety Bruce provided. On the edge of the bed, he stalled. A glance back over his shoulder showed him that Bruce had sat up and scrutinized him.
“Are you done with your little tantrum?”
Jake blanched. “Tantrum? I’m throwing a tantrum? Oh, thank you very much. First you’re telling me I’m not pathetic, which we all know I am since I allowed people to beat me half to death, and now I’m acting like a brat? Can’t decide how to view me?”
“Come back into my arms, Jake.” Bruce held out his right arm, a soft smile playing around his lips.
“Jake, now.” Bruce’s voice remained calm and soft, but Jake stood no chance against the commanding tone.
Shivering, he slowly crept back, keeping his eyes downcast. Bruce pulled him against his warm body as soon as he was within reach, and although Jake had expected himself to tense up, he yielded against Bruce.
“That’s better,” Bruce whispered before dropping several light kisses on Jake’s forehead and hair. “I’ve got you, okay? You are a very brave and strong young man. I hope one day you’ll trust me enough to believe me. However, I understand that this is something we’ll have to work on.”
Jake snorted but didn’t argue. Instead he said, “I wasn’t throwing a tantrum. I hate that word.”
Bruce reclined into a lying position and took Jake with him. Jake rested his head on Bruce’s shoulder, and slung his right arm and leg over Bruce, clutching him tightly. “I’m sorry, I’m a bit… confused, I think.”
“It’s okay. You won’t be able to chase me away.”
“Wanna bet?” Jake slapped a hand over his mouth as soon as the words left his mouth. Where had his sudden bout of defiance come from? He didn’t want to lose Bruce, so why was he baiting him?
“I’m not into betting, but thank you for the offer.”
“Thank you for the offer?” Jake sputtered.
“It’s all part of your little non-tantrum, and that’s because you’re scared. It’s fine, Jake, we’ll deal with everything. Together.” Bruce smacked another kiss on the top of his head.
“That doesn’t change the fact I’m pathetic. After all, there were people who offered to help me. One of the times I was hospitalized, there was an officer who practically begged me to press charges,” Jake spat.
“But you didn’t.”
“No, I didn’t. See how screwed-up your perception is? If I’d been brave, I’d opened my mouth then.” Jake swallowed against the lump in his throat. Why the hell hadn’t he?
“You had your reasons, Jake.”
Sure. He’d had his reasons. Not the best or most logical reasons but they’d been there. “You’re not going to change sides on the matter, huh?”
Bruce turned onto his side so they faced each other. “I can be as stubborn as you are.”
“I’m not stubborn. You’re delusional.”
Bruce raised an eyebrow and rubbed his large hand over Jake’s butt, causing Jake to squirm closer to Bruce and away from the hand. Chuckling, he amended, “Fine. I’ll think about what you said. How about that?”
“That would be a great start, thank you.”