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02 February 2010 @ 07:45 pm
Valediction - Part 2  
Title: Valediction  (Part 2 of 6) 
Author:
q_dicted
Rating:
R Language, violence
Warnings:
Angst. Oh, and then? More angst.  Major Character Death
Disclaimer: I own nothing except my thoughts, and even then sometimes, I rent.
Complete: Yes
General Summary: Canon thru 509, right down to some of the scenes/dialogue directly from the show. Some just happen in a slightly different time line. Because what if Brian realized what he was missing before the bombing? What if he changed just one thing, and that changed everything - the butterfly effect gone mad.

Author's note:
  So... I thought about what sort of disclaimer to write here - something to the effect of how much I love these boys and how I think the B/J love is the greatest story ever told (which I do). I thought about apologizing for what's going to happen, but let's face it. I love them and I looooooove angsty, sad stories and I figure if I'm going to write it, and if I'm going to post it, then I'm going to own it. So be warned - very bad things happen.  I can't stress this enough. In fact, let me repeat that: Very. Bad. Things. Happen. (see: Warnings) I am posting in several parts simply because LJ won't let me post the whole thing at once.  I am not a writer - I've written exactly two other things in my entire life (in another fandom). I've tried to get it right - and all mistakes are mine. The medical stuff? Google is my friend - and I did my best to be accurate. Beyond that, I claim dramatic license, k? Now that that's out of the way... I promise not to be so long winded in the future.

Feedback is appreciated!


Part 1 is here




Valediction ~ Part 2

Michael

“Guys, this is Lewis. We met on husbandmaterial dot com.” Both men shook his hand, and Ted went on enthusiastically. “Lewis – this is Michael and Ben. They got married last year in Canada!”

“You could be next,” Michael gushed, though it looked more like Lewis would be next to throw up on his shoes, not walk down the aisle. Ted caught the look and quickly came to his new beau’s rescue.

“Lewis isn’t very good with crowds. He came early to get used to the place before the hordes descend.” Lewis visibly blanched and Ted rubbed his shoulders affectionately. “Figuratively speaking, of course.”

“Great, glad to have the help.” Michael unwound his scarf and slipped off his jacket and took Ben’s as well, and turned back to Ted. “I’m going to put these in Brian’s office.” There were some perks to being best friends with the owner, after all.

“Sure, let me get the key.”

Michael’s eyebrows went up. “Brian’s not here?”

Ted gave him an odd look, but then laughed and shook his head and headed for the office. It still amazed Michael how close Brian and Ted had become, how much Brian trusted him, despite the finely tuned insults he hurled at him at every opportunity. Affection, Brian Kinney style. He followed Ted through the tables and displays of items for the silent auction that had already been set up. The benefit didn’t officially start until six, but there were already quite a few people there. Fortunately for them, another perk of friendship with Brian meant that they had prime spots reserved for the concert later on. Right up front for Cyndi Fucking Lauper!

Ted unlocked the door and waited while Michael threw their coats on the cream leather Calcutta chaise that took up most of one wall. “Find me later when you’re ready to go and I’ll unlock this for you again.”

“That’s okay, I’m sure Brian will let me back in.” Michael smiled somewhat smugly to himself – clearly Brian didn’t share everything with his new best friend.

“Brian?” Ted chuckled. “Don’t you think that’ll be a little difficult from 35,000 ft.” Michael had that look he got sometimes – like somebody had asked him what  235 x 17 was and he was trying to figure it out in his head. “In the air?” Still nothing. “Michael, Brian is on his way to Sidney. Gay Mardi Gras?” Ted did a little hip swing for emphasis, hands raised in the air.

“What? No, he left me a message...”

Yesterday. Brian left him a message yesterday and he hadn’t called him back until this afternoon. Fuck. He thought about calling his cell phone but there was no point now. Brian would only laugh and tell him he was pathetic – he could do that in person when he got back. Michael laughed a little self-consciously, and called Brian an asshole just for good measure, then the two of them headed back out for the party.

*~*~*

Justin

Justin cleared a spot on his tiny, second-hand kitchen table, pushing aside jars of paint and soaking brushes and spread the papers out. He just couldn’t seem to stop touching them – if he could touch them, then they must be real. He tried to reconcile the Brian Kinney he knew with was he was looking at. Every conversation they’d ever had about it attested to the fact that this wasn’t Brian. That is if you could call listening to his ‘I believe in fucking, not love; marriage is an imitation heterosexual union doomed to fail’ mantra a conversation. But that wasn’t what he was offering, was it? Justin picked up the legal document, the one he hadn’t shown his mother. Jesus Christ. It wasn’t marriage – it was just what Brian said it was. Everything.

Everything Justin wanted, everything he’d been willing to walk away from the only man he ever truly loved for. A home, a commitment, but most importantly a future. Together, partners, in the truest sense of the word. He’d been trying to tell Brian for months that he didn’t need a ceremony or rings, or even monogamy. What he needed was to know that they were at least headed for the same destination, if not always on the same road. Some acknowledgement that he mattered to Brian, as much as Brian mattered to him. That when Brian looked at his life ten, twenty, fifty years down the road, he saw Justin being part of it. He wasn’t naïve – some people, shit, most people never achieved that. All he really wanted was to take that leap of faith, and for Brian to be willing to jump with him. He glanced at his note again. ‘I finally thought of one good reason.’ Maybe he’d been listening after all.

Justin realized he was probably crazy for even considering it – he had a thousand reasons to be skeptical, but they pretty much all paled in the light of the one good reason he had to take a chance on him. In the time he’d known him, Brian had protected him, defended him, supported, and in his own way, loved him. He had also screamed at him, ignored him, rejected him, fucked him, and thrown him off a cliff. Twice. But the one thing Brian had never done was lie to him, and this didn’t feel like one now. Justin traced his finger over their names on the document and couldn’t help smiling. It was so over the top, so completely audacious – and so totally Brian Kinney. The man was the king of grand gestures, of letting actions and deeds say the things he couldn’t say himself. This message was loud and clear and Justin owed it to Brian to at least hear him out. “You are so full of shit, Taylor.” Justin shook his head, laughing at himself – like saying ‘no’ was ever really an option. He had loved Brian Kinney since the first moment he saw him, and he was offering him everything.

Justin gathered up the papers again and put all of them save the airline ticket and his passport back in the envelope. He looked around his charmless little apartment for a place he could keep them safe, and found it sorely lacking. For want of a better idea, he stuffed them in the cardboard box full of papers in the bottom of his closet – the universal filing cabinet. He stood up and began searching through the clothes hanging in the meager space. What did one wear to Mardi Gras, anyway?

*~*~*

Brian

“Yes, Jim, as I said...” Feldman cut him off with more inane concerns about his campaign as Brian drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and silently ticked off the myriad ways he could have him murdered. Maybe he could get a two-for-one deal since clearly somebody at his office was going to die for giving this fuckwit his cell phone number. “Jim... Jim! I’m telling you, this campaign is genius. I’d bet my bal... my reputation on it.” Finally, it seemed the man was listening to reason if the silence on the other end was anything to go by and Brian seized the moment. “I’ll have Cynthia call and set up lunch for us when I get back in town. Trust me, you’re going to love it.” He flipped the phone shut and took a deep breath. Fuckwit. Feldman had called as Brian was getting ready to leave for Babylon, and proceeded to harangue him the whole time he was loading his suitcases into the car, while he set the alarm and locked the loft, and for a good twenty minutes after he got in the car. By the time he pulled up in front of Babylon, the air was pulsing with the beat of the evening’s entertainment and it seemed like every fabulous fag in Pittsburgh had shown up for the event if the jam-packed street was anything to go by. Fortunately, he had a private parking space and it had better by-the-Christ be empty.

He pulled around back and parked the Corvette in front of the ‘Reserved. B.Kinney’ sign, under which somebody had so thoughtfully written, ‘so fuck off’ in black marker. Brian pinched the top of his nose in frustration; the idea of wading through the who’s who of Pittsburgh’s queer-loving society to find Mikey made his head hurt. It had nothing to do with being afraid he might see one particular beautiful blond in that crowd.

Fuck it. Michael could fucking well come to him. He took out his phone as he searched for his key to the back entrance. If he’d been just a little faster he might have even heard it ringing quite uselessly in Michael’s coat pocket on the chaise in his office. As it was, he very nearly launched the phone at the wall as the voice of ‘Rage’ told him to leave a message, but he managed to resist the urge and let himself in the building while he waited for it to finish. Normally there would be at least a few guys taking advantage of the dimly lit hallway, but tonight was a special event, so there was only the bouncer stationed just inside for extra security. Brian nodded to him as he passed.

“Fuck you, Michael. The point of having a cell phone is to answer the fucking thing. I am on my way to my office – you have five minutes before I’m out of here.” He headed first for the bar – at least he could have a drink for his troubles. The music was loud and he had to admit it sounded pretty good. Maybe he didn’t need to spend the money on that new sound system after all.

You can shine, I won’t deny you.
And don’t be afraid, it’ll all be okay.
It’ll all be okay.
You can shine.
Shine.
Shine.


*~*~*

Justin

As promised, the Town Car pulled up in front of his building at precisely 8:00 p.m. Justin felt the strangest urge to look in front of it for six tiny mice. Instead he opened the door and threw his bag in ahead of him before climbing in. The driver pulled away from the curb before glancing in the mirror.

“Good evening, sir. Your flight is on time.”

Justin smiled at the ‘sir’ and nodded. “Thanks.”

“Traffic’s fairly light tonight – should take about twenty five minutes. Mind if I put the radio on?”

Justin nodded his consent, and bit his lip. This first leg of the flight was to San Francisco, but they still had to check in through International. Then he remembered Brian’s executive club membership and relaxed. He debated calling to let him know he was coming, even went as far as pulling up the number on his cell, but the idea of seeing Brian’s face when he walked into the airport lounge was just too appealing. He felt himself getting hard just thinking about it.

Instead, he grabbed the complimentary newspaper that was folded up on the seat beside him and flipped through it, humming softly to the song on the radio. He was trying to recall the name of the band when the music stopped, interrupted by the station’s jarring ‘News Alert’ sound-effect. Justin’s heart did an involuntary little flutter – nothing good ever followed a sound like that.

‘This just in from WDBX News. There’s been an explosion at Babylon, the local gay club where a political fundraiser was underway tonight. Authorities fear there may be many injuries, possibly fatalities. Police say there’s no word yet as to the cause.’


“Turn around.”

*~*~*

“Can’t you go any faster?”

“Sorry, Mr. Taylor, they must have the streets blocked off. Traffic is just crawling.”

Oblivious to the cold, Justin craned his head out the window and tried to see past the lineup of cars ahead of them. They weren’t more than six blocks from the club now and he could hear sirens wailing in the distance in the still night air. Jesus Christ, an explosion? How could that be? ‘...many injuries, possibly fatalities...’ Justin’s mind recoiled from the words. God, everyone he knew was at the club. Debbie, Emmett, Michael and Ben, Teddy. His mother. Oh God, his mother. Justin swallowed the sob that was threatening to escape from his throat and took out his phone again. He’d been trying everybody since the announcement on the radio and nobody was answering, including Brian. He dialed his mother’s number again. As soon as her voicemail kicked in, Justin hung up and dialed Brian’s number. “This is Kinney. Leave me a message.”

“Damnit, Brian. Where are you? Have you heard about Babylon?” He had to have heard. The airport lounge was full of TV’s, the radio was broadcasting it every couple of minutes. They were close enough now that Justin could see the pulsing red and blue glow of the emergency vehicle lights. He fought the panic rising in his chest and tried to breathe. “Shit, Brian. It’s... god... you have to get back here. Call me!” Justin hung up and shoved the phone into his pocket. Fuck it. He hoisted his duffel bag onto his shoulder and grabbed his satchel off the seat. He caught the driver’s eye in the mirror. “Pull over here.” Justin was out on the street before the car fully stopped moving and he all but sprinted the last block to the club.

The scene on the street outside Babylon was... wrong. There just wasn’t any other way to describe it. Police cars, emergency response vehicles and fire engines were everywhere, while what seemed like hundreds of people milled around them like ants. Some covered in soot and ash, some bleeding, some trying to help in any way they could, some just watching like ghouls as rescue workers carried burned and broken victims out of the devastated building. For a moment, Justin, too, could only stare in disbelief. Through the din of sirens and radio dispatches and screams he could hear whispers of ‘hate’ and ‘vengeance’ and ‘bomb’. It couldn’t be. This was Babylon. This was his street – where he learned who he was and how to be proud. It was not supposed to be a battle ground. So fucking wrong. He was shaken out of his daze by a strong hand on his shoulder.

“Justin?” Before he could respond he felt himself being pulled into a fierce embrace. “Oh my God, baby. Thank God you’re all right.” Emmett’s arms were around him so tightly, Justin could barely answer him.

“Em...” Justin dropped his bag and pushed Emmett off him enough to speak. “Emmett! I wasn’t even here.” Emmett looked shaken, bewildered – completely overwhelmed. He was dirty and smelled of smoke but didn’t appear to be otherwise injured, and Justin took him by the arms. “Have you seen my mother?” He didn’t respond, just continued to stare down at Justin with a curiously blank look. “Emmett! My mother?” Emmett turned his head in the direction of the triage station that had been set up just outside the entrance of the club. Justin followed his gaze and saw a familiar face. Tucker. Shit. Then Justin realized he was leaning over someone on a stretcher. Someone blonde. Jesus Christ! Justin pushed away from Emmett and ran.

‘Mom!’ He nearly buckled with relief when she sat up at the sound of his voice.

“Justin!” He hugged her hard then abruptly let go as he realized anew she was on a stretcher. “Justin, what are you doing here?”

“Mom, are you okay? Are you hurt?” He looked her up and down and saw that her left leg was splinted below the knee and her hands were swathed in gauze. “God, Mom, what happened?” Jennifer looked back at him, her expression a terrible blend of pain and confusion, but there was a small measure of gratitude there as well that Justin had been with Brian, far away from this madness. It was entirely too possible that once again, she owed her son’s life to Brian Kinney.

“I’m all right Justin.” She saw his eyes travel over her again, narrowing with uncertainty as they met hers. “Really, they say it’s just a bad sprain.” Justin brushed his fingers lightly over her bandaged hands.

“What about this?” He asked, calmer now.

“Glass. When I fell... there was so much glass...” her voice trailed off as she looked down at her hands. Then she looked up and smiled softly, reaching up to touch the face of the man standing beside her. “But Tuck saved me.”

Justin’s barely concealed skepticism was obvious, but Tucker just shook his head and bent down and kissed her on the cheek. Jennifer turned back to Justin and her smile faded.

“Justin, you have no idea. It was like the whole world exploded in there. One minute we were all watching the show and dancing and then...” She paused and shook her head, tears springing to her eyes. Her voice grew quiet again, barely a whisper, yet Justin heard her clearly amidst all the chaos. “It was so loud. I never heard anything so loud. And then.. nothing. For a few seconds it was like somebody turned off the sound, turned off the lights. You know? ” She peered at Justin, nodding her head as though imploring him to understand. “And then it was loud again, and dark and people were screaming, trying to get out. Someone... pushed me and I fell.” She looked down at her hands. “So many people, all trying to get out. Somebody stepped on my ankle... I thought,” she swallowed hard, tears streaming down her cheeks now. “I was afraid they were going to trample me.”

“Jen, don’t.’ Tucker stroked her hair gently. She sniffled and swiped the back of her bandaged hand over her eyes.

“I’m okay.” She looked back at her son again. “Tucker found me. He got me out of there.” She waited for him to meet her gaze. “He saved my life, Justin.” Justin’s own cheeks were wet now, and he bent and put his arms around her again.

“God, Mom. I’m so sorry. I love you.” She hugged him back and told him she loved him, too, and they stayed that way for some time, rocking and holding each other tightly. Finally Justin let her go and walked around to the other side of the stretcher. He held his hand out to Tucker, who only hesitated a moment before taking it. “I... uh, just...” What did you say to the man who saved your mother’s life after you’ve spent the better part of a month being a twat to him? “I just...”

Tucker quirked an eyebrow at him and then shrugged lightly. “Forget it.”

The two men shook hands and then Justin impulsively pulled him into an embrace. “Thank you.” He released him and turned back to his mother who was laying back on the stretcher again. “Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?” She shook her head.

“There are only so many ambulances available, Justin. They’re taking the most seriously injured first.”

But it had been nearly an hour already, surely... As if reading his thoughts, Jennifer spoke again.

“There were a lot of people hurt, Justin.”

Shit. In his concern for his mother he’d forgotten for a moment that so many of his friends were here tonight as well. It hit him again, hard and all at once and his stomach lurched at the realization. So far, he’d only seen Emmett. He looked around helplessly, then back at his mother.

“Have you seen anybody else?” She took a little too long to answer, exchanging a look with Tucker that Justin didn’t care for. Didn’t care for at all. “Mom?” It was Tucker who answered him.

“Your friend Debbie.” Justin felt his legs go weak and he grabbed the edge of the stretcher to steady himself. Tucker reached out and put a hand on his arm. “She’ll be all right though. It seems she was just arriving when... it happened. She was hit by some flying debris and knocked unconscious, but she’ll be fine. They only took her in as a precaution.” Justin looked to his mother for confirmation. She smiled reassuringly and nodded.

“You know Deb, Justin. Has there ever been a more hard-headed person?” Her smile was somewhat watery though. “It will take more than a chunk of flying metal to keep her down.” Justin was startled once again by strong arms wrapping around him from behind.

“You know it, honey. She’s one tough old broad.” Em’s voice was low and comforting in his ear. Justin squeezed Emmett’s arms and for the first time since he’d heard the news flash on the radio, he smiled weakly.

“You better not let her hear you calling her ‘old’ or you’ll be the one needing an ambulance.”

All four of them grinned at that – a brief but welcome moment of normal in the chaos. Justin turned to Emmett and took stock of him. He seemed less bewildered now, not ‘right’ by a long shot, but less gutted looking at least, thank God. Em might be the big, nelly bottom of the group, ready to throw a party at the drop of a silk hanky, or bust out his best Lana Turner impression when the occasion called for it, but he was also the one who felt things most deeply. He was the closest to Justin in age and yet somehow, Justin felt that inside, Emmett was the wisest of them all – an old soul born into the body of a flaming queen. Justin always felt that besides Brian, if he ever really, truly needed someone in his corner, he would choose Emmett. He found himself suddenly very, very grateful that his friend was here, whole and unhurt. Now he needed to know about the rest. Justin took a breath and asked after the others. Em closed his eyes almost as if saying a silent prayer.

“They’re all fine.” Em looked at Justin and nodded with an emotional catch in his voice. “Everybody’s fine. Teddy has a little smoke inhalation, but he’ll be okay. Michael went to the hospital with Deb, but Ben’s here somewhere, helping out...” Emmett looked around them, throwing his arms out and then letting them fall again, that slightly bruised look clouding his eyes again. “God, how could this happen?” He moved closer to them, lowering his voice as though sharing a terrible secret. “Carl said... they think....” He was visibly shaking as he whispered the rest. “Fucking Christ, they think it was a bomb.” This time it was Justin who pulled Em into a hug, rubbing the big man’s back soothingly. As if he’d conjured him up, Carl appeared out of the crowd and walked over to join them.

He nodded to Jennifer and Justin, and Jennifer introduced him to Tucker and then asked about Debbie. Carl shook Tuck’s hand and then gripped Emmett’s shoulder affectionately, but his voice was solemn when he spoke.

“She’s going to be fine, thanks for asking,” Carl spoke confidently, but inside he was still shaking. So close – she had been so close. He scrubbed his face wearily. What a fucking night. “It’s a hell of a thing,” he said, shaking his head. “Not something I ever expected to happen in Pittsburgh.”

“So, it was a bomb then?” Emmett asked, still struggling to regain his composure. Carl looked dolefully at his young friend. He could hardly believe it, and it was only a preliminary report, but yes, somebody, or somebodies had planted a bomb in Babylon. And a pretty fucking big one, too. This was no warning, no political commentary. Whoever did this meant business, and they meant to hurt as many people as possible. He looked past them – from the outside it didn’t seem like much – broken windows, splintered wood where the frames had blown out. But inside – inside looked like a fucking war zone. He didn’t need to answer Em – his silence said it all.

“How many dead?”

It was Justin who finally voiced the question they’d all been thinking. Jesus, the little shit always was a blunt one. No wonder Debbie loved him so much. Carl pushed his personal feelings aside and dealt the only way he knew how – as a cop. He assumed his Detective Horvath role and looked them all over before answering directly.

“Six confirmed so far, nearly a hundred injured. At least twelve of those critical from what I’ve been told.” He paused and considered leaving it at that but their faces told him they wanted the whole truth. “They’re still... recovering bodies from the area closest to the blast.” The scariest part was that it could have been much worse but with the concert going on there were less people around the bar than there might normally have been.

All four of them were silent, each one considering the information in their own way. Jennifer, grateful to be alive and to have her son standing beside her. Tucker, still having trouble getting the image of Jennifer laying on the ground out of his mind. Emmett, trying so hard to be brave but dying a little inside each time he thought of what he’d seen as he made his way out of the ruined club - wondering if he would ever really be able to close his eyes again. And Justin. Still so young in many ways, yet for the second time in his young life, forced to face the fact that someone would rather see him dead than gay. That someone hated him just for existing.

They were all still contemplating when Ben appeared, supporting a young man with a rather large gash in his leg as he hobbled into the triage area. He handed him off to an EMT and walked over to the group. Hugs were exchanged all around, and Emmett filled him in on what Carl had just told them. He didn’t really have to though – Ben had been in and out of the building a dozen or more times, helping with the walking wounded. He’d seen the worst of the devastation inside – he didn’t need numbers to know just what a nightmare this was. Jesus, he believed in peace, love and understanding, in leading by example – that violence was never the right answer. But if he could lay his hands on the motherfuckers that had done this... He ran a hand back through his hair and blew out a long breath. He was about to go back inside when two EMT’s approached them and spoke to Jennifer.

“We’re ready for you now, ma’am.” The younger of the two asked her to lie back on the stretcher.

“You know, I really don’t think I need an ambulance. I’m feeling much better.”

“Mother.”

“Jennifer.”

The two voices were in tandem and Justin and Tucker exchanged wry smiles.

“I didn’t say I shouldn’t get checked out, I’m just saying I don’t really need an ambulance.”

“You’re not exactly fit for the back of the bike, Jen.” Tucker was saved from responding to Justin’s dry snort by Ben.

“I’m going to check on Debbie and Michael anyway. I can drive you, if you like.” Ben turned to the EMT that had Jennifer’s triage tag in his hand. “That’s if you think it will be all right.” The young man looked at the tag and shook his head.

“You shouldn’t have any weight on that leg until it’s been x-rayed. I’d advise you to let us help you, Mrs. Taylor. It’s why we’re here.” Jennifer looked at the five men standing around her and acquiesced, laying back on the stretcher.

“Fine, you win,” she muttered, then remembering her manners said thank you to the EMT’s. When they had her ready to load into the unit, she waved Justin over and pulled him down to her. “I love you, Justin. I’m so sorry all this had to happen now, tonight of all nights. Tell Brian how sorry I am about his club, okay?” Justin kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her hand.

“I love you too, Mom. Don’t worry about us, we’re going to be fine. I’ll see you later.” He stepped back and let them lift the gurney into the back of the waiting ambulance, and watched as Tucker climbed in behind her. Maybe he wasn’t totally ridiculous.

When they had pulled away, Justin turned back to his friends. Ben and Emmett were talking and Carl was on his phone, and didn’t look too pleased about whatever he was hearing.

“Brian, it’s Carl again. Listen, you really need to get down here – I can send a unit to pick you up if we have to, but we need to talk. Call me.”

“Shit.” The word drew a look from all three men. Carl was the one who responded.

“You know where Brian is, Justin? Because I’ve been trying to reach him for over an hour and he doesn’t answer his phone.”

“He’s at the airport. He... I.. we were supposed to be meeting at the airport.” Carl’s face remained impassive, but both Ben and Emmett stared open-mouthed at him. Em was first to recover.

“You were what? Honey!!! You’re back together? That’s... wonderful.” Emmett smiled, but it was the kind of smile you might give a child as you slowly took the loaded pistol out of their hands.

“Easy, Emmett. We’re not exactly .... We’re...it doesn’t matter. It’s complicated.” Justin chewed on his bottom lip. He took out his cell phone – no messages, and it was long past the time he should’ve met Brian. Fuck. What if he hadn’t heard? What if Brian just thought he wasn’t coming, that he didn’t want him anymore? He dialed his number again. He must have heard... how could he not have? And why the fuck was he not answering his phone? “Goddamnit, Brian. Where are you? Call me. Please?”

“You want to tell me what’s going on, Justin?” Carl folded his arms and waited. He could see the conflict on the kid’s face and he felt for him, but they needed some answers and his patience was growing thin. “Look, kiddo. This is Brian’s club. Somebody just blew it up and he’s nowhere to be found. We need to talk to him.”

Justin sighed and glanced sideways at Emmett. He really didn’t want to share their plans with the whole world, and as much as he loved the man, the phrase telegram, telephone, tell a queen was coined for Emmett Honeycutt. But he was starting to get nervous. Christ, nervous had left the building a long time ago. Now he was shit-scared.

“He asked me to go with him to Sydney. It was... it was a surprise.” He saw both Ben and Em react to that; Carl just nodded. “He gave me the ticket earlier today and I was supposed to meet him in the Sky Club lounge. I was on my way there when I heard about... this.”

“What time is the flight?”

Justin’s heart sank. Surely Brian wouldn’t go without him. He just wouldn’t. Justin reached into his satchel and pulled out the ticket. Without a word, he handed it over to Carl who was already dialing the phone. He read the flight information out loud and waited for what seemed like hours before grunting a ‘thanks’ and hanging up the phone, his face expressionless as he regarded Justin.

“Just tell me.”

“Neither of your tickets have been used. Nobody named Brian Kinney has checked in, and he didn’t answer pages in the terminal or the lounge.” Justin looked somewhat relieved in the few seconds it took him to realize that this was not entirely good news. Carl almost didn’t have the heart to ask the kid, but they really needed to find him. “Is it possible that he decided to go somewhere else?” Justin only considered the answer for a heartbeat.

“No.”

“Sweetie,” Emmett started, intent on consoling him, but Justin waved him off. Brian didn’t do everything he’d done only to blow him off. Just, no.

“No. There is no way he was going somewhere else.” He looked at Ben, but knew he’d get no support from that corner. So he was more than surprised when the older man spoke up.

“He called Michael.” This time, three sets of eyes landed on Ben, all with the same question in them. Debbie had heard all about Brian’s ‘apology’ to Michael at the art gallery. Which of course meant Carl had heard all about ‘that asshole Brian’s so-called fuckin’ apology’. And Emmett – well Emmett just seemed to know everything, all the time. So yes, Brian calling Michael was quite the bombshell. So to speak.

“Last night... yesterday - I don’t know, shit, it was three o’clock in the morning. Anyway, Brian left a message on Michael’s cell phone. He... apologized. For real this time.” Ben smirked slightly, despite the situation. “In his own way, of course.”

“What did Michael do?” Justin asked quietly, trying not to let the icy panic clawing at his chest take over. It spread quickly though as they waited for Ben to answer. Even through the layer of soot that covered his face they could see him pale. His eyes flitted from Justin to Carl, back to Justin again.

“Ben, what did he do?” Justin bit the words off, barely holding it together now.

“He... he didn’t get the message until this afternoon. Michael called him, but he got the machine.” Ben tried to swallow, his mouth gone dry. He spoke to Carl now, because suddenly he couldn’t bear to look at Justin. “He told him that he wanted to talk. He... Jesus, Carl. He asked Brian to meet him here.” He turned back to Justin, shaking his head. “We never heard from him, Justin. Teddy told Michael about the trip after we got here. We just assumed...”

But Justin was already on the run, and the three of them followed quickly on his heels.

For the first time since he was a little kid, kneeling beside his bed with fingers laced together in front of him, Justin Taylor prayed. He prayed as he ran down the alley that led to the back entrance of Babylon. Prayed that for once, Brian Kinney was the selfish prick that everybody believed him to be. That he was busy getting blown in the bathroom of the Executive Sky Club, or on a first class flight to Ibiza, drowning all notions of a life with Justin Taylor in a glass of Jim Beam Black. Please, God, just let him be anywhere but here and I promise, I’ll never ask another thing of you.

Justin skidded to a stop as he rounded the corner. Had to, because his legs simply didn’t work anymore - refused to hold him up even one second longer and he fell to his knees beside the deep-green classic car that Brian loved so much.

No. No. Nononogodohgodbrianbrianbriannn...
The icy panic loosened its grip and gave way to a deep, burning pain that spread through him like fire and he let out a cry that made the three older men’s blood run cold. “Briaaannnnnnn!”

Emmett got to him first and pulled him to his feet, wrapping a long arm around his slender shoulders. “Baby, we don’t know anything for sure. Just because his car’s here...” Even to his own ears that sounded completely lame. The look exchanged by Carl and Ben did nothing to add weight to his assurances. Both of them had seen the bodies inside. At least two of them that had been near the bar – the source of the explosion – were damaged beyond recognition, as yet unidentified. Each man imagined the size and shape of the victims they’d seen – trying to decide if it was possible... They both shook their heads, but the dread on their faces was not lost on Justin and he slipped out of Emmett’s arms, his intention plain.

“I have to find him.”

Fortunately Ben was faster and he grabbed him before he could run again. “No, Justin, wait.”

“I have to find him,” Justin repeated the words like a mantra, straining to move towards the building, towards Brian. He struggled, but was no match for Ben, and then Carl was in his face, his voice firm and infuriatingly calm.

“No, Justin. What you have to do is think. We all do.” He looked back and forth between Em and Ben. “You’re sure you never saw him inside?” They both shook their heads and Carl turned to Ben. “And neither you or Michael heard from him after you arrived here? Nothing?” Again, Ben shook his head, but his eyebrows knit together as a thought occurred to him.

“What? Ben, WHAT?” Justin wanted to grab the bigger man by the shirt and shake the words out of him, but he could only wait.

“Michael – we... he put our coats in Brian’s office after we got here. He... his phone was in the pocket. If Brian called...” There was no chance to retrieve their coats, or anything else from that part of the building – the main bar was completely destroyed and the stairs and catwalk that ran beside and over it had collapsed, leaving the whole area dangerously unstable. Brian’s office was off the hall behind that.

Carl was already pulling out his phone. “Do you know the number for Michael’s voicemail?”

Ben nodded – Michael forgot his phone so often it was a necessity that they be able to get messages remotely. He took the cell from Carl and dialed the number, then entered the code. Carl took the phone back and put it on speaker.

‘You have one new message.’

Justin let out a little moan as Brian’s clearly annoyed voice– nearly drowned out by the sounds of music and cheering in the background – filled the silence.

“Fuck you, Michael. The point of having a cell phone is to answer the fucking thing. I am on my way to my office – you have five minutes before I’m out of here.”

A mechanical voice followed the brief, terrible message. ‘Thursday. Seven thirty eight p.m. End of new messages.’

This time, Ben didn’t even try to stop him when Justin wrenched out of his grasp.

*~*~*

Brian

The first time Brian opened his eyes, his first thought was that he was in hell. His second thought was, ‘Fucking Anita.’ Because surely this was the most fucked-up hallucination he’d ever had, no matter what kind of shit she’d cooked up in her bathtub in Tijuana. Thanks to one Vic Grassi and some incredibly potent cancer drugs, he’d taken some fairly colorful trips through the looking glass to the land of paunchy old bears in tighty-whities and a demented queen with a ray gun. So it wasn’t so much that hell looked a lot like Babylon – he was pretty used to that particular sideshow by now. It was just that usually, he could hear himself screaming.

In this rendition he could see electrical wires arcing over his head, could taste the acrid dust that swirled like clouds around him, could feel the vibrations his voice made in his throat as he yelled for someone, anyone to come and release him. But all he could hear was a dull, rushing sound, like a discordant bell-tone being blown around by the wind. It made him feel disconnected, caught in some surreal dreamscape where nothing was what it seemed. Fucking Anita.

Only... he knew it wasn’t. Since experiencing the joys of radiation, he’d pretty much stuck to great weed and the occasional hit of poppers for his pharmacological needs. Whatever circle of hell this was, it wasn’t chemically induced. He watched as a strobe light hanging by its cord overhead exploded in a silent shower of sparks and flame. A small burning chunk of it landed right beside his head – so close he could feel its heat on his cheek and the smoke burned his throat. He had an idea he should move, try to protect himself, but Christ, he felt so heavy. He tried to brush it away and didn’t quite get why it wasn’t happening. Maybe if he just rested for a minute, he’d be able to figure this all the fuck out.

The second time he opened his eyes brought the pain. He woke up coughing and it felt as though someone were trying to rip his lungs out through his chest. Brian squeezed his eyes shut again and willed himself to stop. When the coughing subsided he opened his eyes again and took in a shallow breath or two, even managed a bitter laugh. You didn’t get to survive being Jack Kinney’s son without learning a thing or two about impulse control. He shook his head and tried to sit up, and then had to stuff his fist into his teeth to keep from screaming. Pain shot through him, so much so he couldn’t pinpoint where it started or even where it ended. It seemed to radiate through his whole body. Motherfucker. He thought about trying again, but pain was a great educator. Instead he raised his head, and tried to assess his situation. It was dark – there were emergency lights, but nothing close enough to do him much good. Still, he could see enough to finally understand the source of his pain. To recognize just how deeply fucked he was. A rare wave of panic flooded over him and Brian fought it back with everything he had. He knew if he freaked out now, he was finished. He took as deep a breath as was possible, braced himself, and tried with all his strength to pull himself out from under the twisted pile of metal that was once the catwalk. His last conscious thought before the pain pulled him under again was how fucked up it was to not be able to hear yourself scream.

The third time Brian opened his eyes, he could hear again, and immediately wished he couldn’t. The ringing was still there, but there were other sounds too. Terrible sounds. Painful screams; panicked voices calling for help; the persistent, rhythmic drone of the fire alarm; The hissing, snapping electrical sound of the wires that dangled overhead. Brian could hear all these things now, and he wanted it to stop. And closer, a pathetic, mournful sound that was too familiar – the sound of someone witnessing something no one should ever have to see. Jesus Fucking Christ, just make it stop. He strained to see where it was coming from, but found he couldn’t see anything at all beyond the ruined steel and rubble that surrounded him.

He wasn’t buried, Brian knew that at least. He could see the ceiling above him, the wall beside him. But there was something – one of the dance platforms, he thought, or maybe a piece of the bar – blocking the rest of his line of sight. He tried calling out but his throat was so dry from the dust and smoke it barely made a sound – and Christ, it hurt. His arms were free but he could barely move the left one without causing himself a world of pain. A desperate laugh that was really more like a sob escaped him – apparently having a building fall on you wasn’t all that different than taking a header off your bicycle on the side of the highway in that respect. His chest hurt like a motherfucker if he breathed too deeply, and then there was the fact that as near as he could tell, his legs, all of the right one and most of the left, were pinned underneath a fucking ton of catwalk. He didn’t want to think about what it meant that they didn’t hurt more than they did. He was pretty fucking cold though. “Fuck. Me.”

What he really, really wanted was a drink – his throat was on fire and his lips felt like sandpaper. A drink. He’d been on his way to get one when... what? When the whole world went to shit. Too bright, too loud, too much to think about, and he was just too fucking tired.

“We need you to leave the building. Everyone who is able, please exit as quickly as possible.”

The directive, heard through a haze of pain, triggered something inside Brian. Everyone who is able. Everyone. The benefit - the stupid, hateful, useless fucking benefit and his whole... fuck his whole family was in this building. He had to find them. Help them. Save them. Everyone. Justin. Michael. Debbie. LindsayTeddyEmmettJustinJustin. Justin? Wait, no. Justin was going with him. Justin is safe. He's at the airport. Thank Christ, Justin was at the airport. Waiting for him. Unless he wasn’t.

"Justin!" Brian gritted his teeth and pushed, twisting his body in a futile effort to free himself. He felt something give and an agonized moan tore through his already ravaged throat as the pain exploded behind his eyes. His vision shimmered then faded to black and he found the silence he’d been wishing for.

*~*~*

Justin

Justin slumped against the Corvette and pressed his forehead to the cold glass, trying desperately to fight the wave of nausea that rose in his throat. He saw Carl checking the back door to the club, but it could only be opened with a key or from the inside. He was speaking into his phone but Justin couldn’t hear him over the sound of Brian’s voice in his ears. ‘I’m on my way to my office...’   No, no, no, no, no. ‘I’m on my way to my office...’  But his bags were in the car. ‘I’m on my way to my office...’ I’m going with him. ‘I’m on my way to my office...’ Jesus, no. Justin ran.

He got to the entrance seconds before Ben and Emmett caught up to him but a burly firefighter grabbed him by the sleeve as he headed up the stairs.

“Let go of me!” Justin nearly tore his jacket off pulling away, but the big man grasped him by both arms. “Get your hands off me!”

“Easy now, son, you can’t go in there.” He lifted him bodily off the first step and set him down firmly.

“We’ll look after him,” Ben spoke up and tried to take Justin’s arm. “Come on, Justin...” But Justin would not be dissuaded and the fireman would not let him go.

“Fuck off! I have to find him.” He struggled, looking from Ben to Emmett to the fireman, eyes wild and pleading. “Let me go! I have to...”

“It’s all right, Matt.” Carl had reappeared and spoke to the big man holding Justin. “I’ll take him.” He nodded and released Justin, and Carl made sure Ben and Em had hold of him before he turned back and spoke quietly to the firefighter, quickly explaining the situation. His expression was grim as he headed back inside and Carl took Justin by the shoulders. “Justin, I know you’re worried about Brian. We all are, but we have to let them do their job...”

“Carl, please,” Justin cut him off, visibly trying to regain control of himself. “Please, we have to find him. I have to do something... please...”

“Justin, it’s... bad in there.” Carl shook his head. “And if I let anything happen to you, Debbie’d have my balls. You know that.”

“It’s Brian, Carl.” Justin forced himself to speak with a calm he didn't feel. His voice was quiet but held even more conviction. “It’s Brian.

Carl sighed. The kid had been through a lot in his life already and from what he knew of it, he was pretty damn tough. Christ, he had the guts to take on the fucking Chief of Police, yet he had to wonder if he was ready for this. The small fires had all been contained and the power and gas shut down, so the most immediate dangers had passed. But they weren’t sure about the structural damage and there was debris everywhere. And worse. Getting the victims out was the first priority, and everyone that could be saved was evacuated as quickly as they could. Still, this was a crime scene and protocol dictated that it be preserved as much as possible, so everything else - everything - remained as it was. He was breaking about a hundred regulations and probably risking his job, but it would take a harder person than him to deny Justin. He shook his head in resignation.

“All right, but on one condition. You do exactly as I say, and if I say we go, we’re out of there – no questions asked. Got it?” Justin agreed and Carl nodded to Ben and Emmett. He scrubbed his hand over his face and prayed he wouldn’t regret it, then stepped past Justin and up the stairs. “Let’s go then.”

*~*~*

‘It’s bad in there....’ Justin looked around in disbelief as he followed Carl through the carnage and decided that the detective was the undisputed king of understatement. It was a fucking nightmare. He had seen at least three bodies covered with sheets; there wasn’t anything left he could recognize of the bar, and the damage seemed to radiate outwards from there. Broken lights and wiring hung from the ceiling, shattered glass and twisted metal was everywhere, the air was still thick with dust and it swirled eerily in the emergency lights that gave the whole place an other-worldly feel. And the smell – the acrid, choking stench of scorched fabric, burnt plastic, burnt... Oh god, he could taste it and his stomach clenched from the effort it took not to vomit. He swallowed hard and fixed his eyes straight ahead, looking towards Brian’s office. Or rather, where Brian’s office should be. The hallway that led to it was at least partially blocked – one of the staircases that led to the catwalk had been destroyed and the catwalk had collapsed. Most of it was on the floor, one end still attached to what was left of the staircase. Jesus! Justin stepped around Carl, determined to find Brian.

Two burly men in turn-out gear were clearing away piles of sheetrock and debris. One of them dragged aside part of a dance platform that lay overturned against the wreckage of the catwalk. Matt, the firefighter who Carl had spoken to was keying the mic attached to the shoulder of his jacket, calling for equipment and more men. He waved them off and Carl grabbed Justin by the back of his jacket to pull him away, but too late.

People always assumed that the worst moment of Justin’s life was the second Chris Hobbs’ bat connected with his skull. He rarely corrected them because it was easier not to, but it wasn’t true. The worst moment came days later, after he woke up and realized his hand wasn’t moving. The moment he believed he would never be able to draw again, never be the artist he was meant to be. He had never felt such despair, such fear, such utter hopelessness and in that instant he wished that Hobbs had just killed him. That was the worst of moment of his life, but standing there in the ruin that was Babylon, Justin knew he would willingly live in that moment forever if it meant he could just take this one back. If he could un-see what he was seeing. If he could make it not be real.

Even in the surreal glow of the emergency lighting, Justin recognized the black leather Boss jacket, caught a glimpse of chestnut hair, caked in dust but still so familiar. No, no, no, no, no. One of the firemen shone his flashlight through the twisted metal onto the still form of the man trapped beneath it and Justin felt Carl’s arms wrap around him as the bottom dropped out of his world.

“Nooooooooo!” The sound poured out of him, not so much a word as a mournful plea. Carl eased him down as Justin’s legs gave out and he sank slowly to the floor, hands fisted in his hair. Tears streamed down his cheeks, leaving pale, white trails in the smudges of soot and dust. “No...no...no...not Brian. It’s not Brian, it’s not...” He shook his head back and forth, chanting the words, his mind rejecting what he was seeing. There was a space of a few feet between the wall and the collapsed section of catwalk and the man (not Brian, not Brian, not Brian) was wedged in it, his lower half pinned under the massive pile of metal. More firemen appeared, clearing the debris away hand over hand to make a path to him (not Brian not Brian). Another set up a large, portable flood light that illuminated the scene with sickening clarity. It was Matt who reached him (Brian) first and who bent over him (ohgodBrian) and carefully pressed two fingers to his throat, just below his jaw. Oh god, Brian. He keyed the mic on his shoulder and spoke into it without looking up.

Justin’s hands folded into themselves of their own volition, an instinctive response perhaps to the prayer he was whispering now. “Please, Brian. Please, Brian. Please, please, please...”

Matt turned around and looked at them, his expression grim. Justin felt the air rush out of his lungs, but then the fireman nodded his head ever so slightly. “He’s still alive.” Although he spoke the words as if they just might not be true by the time he finished saying them, Justin thought they were the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. But then he was backing out of the space, leaving Brian there. What the fuck? Justin was on his feet again in an instant.

“What are you doing? Don’t leave him there!” Justin lurched forward, but Carl grabbed him again.

“Let them work.”

“He can’t just leave him there! Jesus Christ!” He tried to pull away from him but Carl was firm this time, and gave him a slight shake.

“Justin! Let them do their job, or I will take you out of here right now, do you understand me?” It took every bit of self-control Justin possessed, but he stopped resisting and Carl eased his grip on him. “They know what they’re doing, kiddo. They’ll get him out.” He pulled Justin back out of the way as two EMT’s came in with their kits and a portable oxygen tank. Matt spoke briefly with them and then he walked over to Carl and Justin while they went to work.

“Justin, right?” Justin nodded and the big man went on. “Your friend is alive and we’re going to do our best to keep him that way.” He looked back and forth between Justin and Carl as if deciding how much information to give them, and Carl nodded his approval, so he continued. “We have to get him out, but we can’t just lift the catwalk, it’s too unstable and if it shifts...” Justin flinched at the unspoken implication. A firefighter passed them carrying what to Justin looked ridiculously like a giant robot hand, followed by another two with still more equipment. Matt went on, “We’re going to try getting some support underneath the part where the vic.. your friend is trapped, and then we’ll cut the section loose. Then we should be able to lift it off him safely.”

Justin was nodding but his eyes were on Brian as the paramedics worked on him. There wasn’t much room but they worked quickly and efficiently. One of them, a petite blonde woman, placed a cervical collar on him then called over to Carl and Justin. “His name?” Carl answered her and she turned back to her patient. “Brian? My name is Nancy. Can you hear me?” She waited a second or two and then rubbed her knuckles on his chest and repeated her question. When she got no response, she proceeded to cut away the expensive leather jacket. Justin couldn’t help a faint smile at the thought of Brian’s reaction when he found out about that. The shirt was next and Justin’s watery smile faded as she stripped it away. Even from this distance he could see the dark bruises already forming on his chest and shoulder. Fuck. The young male tech, who didn’t appear to be much older than Justin himself, placed an oxygen mask over Brian’s nose and mouth and attached monitoring leads and a blood pressure cuff while the woman listened with a stethoscope, then proceeded to examine the rest of him as much as was possible. She turned him slightly and slid a backboard under him as far as she could, and Justin had to cover his mouth to keep from crying out as the paramedic’s gloved hands reappeared, stained crimson and slick with blood.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

She seemed to be the senior of the two medics and she directed her partner to get supplies from their kits as she spoke into the mic on her shoulder, relaying Brian’s condition to the trauma center. Justin didn’t understand everything she was saying, but he knew enough to be terrified at some of the words. Words like hypovolemic and tachycardic. She listened for a moment then rhymed off instructions to her colleague. They placed a large bore IV in each of Brian’s arms, attached bags of saline to each one and proceeded to push the fluids into him. She watched the monitor for a few moments, then handed the bag in her hands to the young paramedic who continued to squeeze both of them. She pulled a warming blanket from their kit and covered Brian as best she could, then leaned over him again. “Sir? Brian? My name is Nancy, can you hear me?” She thought she saw the long, dark lashes flutter and she moved closer. “Are you with me? I need you to answer me, Brian.” She squeezed his hand and tried again. “Come on, Brian. Talk to me.”

Justin nearly slumped to the floor again with relief when he saw the young woman smile.

*~*~*

Part 3
 
 
 
sjmpetssjmpets on February 3rd, 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
omg!
q_dictedq_dicted on February 3rd, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
I know! *g* thanks for commenting!
Kelly RoseKelly Rose on July 3rd, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
Oh no.
q_dictedq_dicted on July 3rd, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid so.

(((hugs))) and welcome.
urugwajurugwaj on June 12th, 2013 08:09 am (UTC)
Do you know how hard it is to read when you have wet eyes? ;(((
q_dictedq_dicted on June 12th, 2013 08:18 am (UTC)
It was hard to write that way, too. (((hugs))) :)