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23 March 2010 @ 08:26 pm
Valediction - Part 4a  
Title: Valediction  (Part 4a 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(ish), right down to some of the scenes/dialogue directly from the show. Some just happen in a slightly different time line. Because what if it 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 about the WIP:
  I really only intended to write a short epilogue to this story and post it right after the the end of Part 3 (ostensibly, the end of the story) but somehow it morphed into a part 4, and soon, part 5. There will be at least one more after that. I know - Oy! I blame Justin. I promise that the story will be finished - but meantime, parts 1-3 can be read as a stand alone. ~ q_dicted

Feedback is appreciated!



Part 3 is here



Valediction ~ Part 4a

Justin

Justin stood in front of his closet trying to decide what to wear from the array of outfits that hung on the back of the door. He turned to the boy sitting cross legged on the bed with his book spread across his lap. “What do you think?”

Gus set ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ aside and tilted his head thoughtfully. His big brown eyes narrowed briefly at the choices, then he looked up at Justin with his lips pulled firmly into his teeth. Even at six years old, Gus looked enough like his father to break Justin's heart on a regular basis. He felt an unexpected sting of tears but they were quickly chased away by the young man’s confident pronouncement.

“I like the ’mani, Jus.”

Justin smiled in spite of himself – the ‘mani’ was his charcoal Armani suit and clearly the most sophisticated of the three outfits. Gus truly was his father’s son. He ruffled the mop of unruly brown hair. “You’ve got pretty good taste for a kid.” Gus rolled his eyes and this time Justin laughed out loud – his name might be Gus Petersen-Marcus, but the kid was all Kinney.

“I’m not a kid, Jus. I’m almost seven.”

Jesus, he was right. In a few months Gus would be seven years old. Seven years since... The tears sprang back into Justin’s eyes and he had to turn away. Damn. It had been a long time since he’d cried over Brian – not that he ever left his thoughts for very long, but he mostly remembered him with a smile. He supposed it was inevitable that today of all days he might be a little emotional. But he didn’t have time for that now. He gave himself a mental shake and swallowed the lump in his throat, then turned back to Gus and smiled again. “Come on, kiddo. You need to get ready too. Your moms are going to be here soon.”

Gus got up off the bed and put his book back in the side pocket of his little suitcase, then opened it up and took out his own dress-up clothes. Justin watched him pad off to the bathroom to change with a sigh. It still amazed him just how much like Brian he was, and in ways that couldn’t possibly be ‘nurture’. It wasn’t just his looks – he was fastidious about his things, always hanging up his clothes and putting his toys and books away when he was finished with them. And he wasn’t shy about showing his displeasure when people, especially his sister, who was his polar opposite, did something he didn’t like. But there were other ways in which he was completely different than his father. He was quick to laugh, affectionate and loving, always ready with a hug or a kiss. It made Justin wonder if Brian was that way at his age, too. Or might have been, if not for Jack and Joan. The thought made him sigh again, and he gave himself another shake. Today was about celebrating Brian and he was not going to let thoughts of his so-called family spoil it.

Justin slipped out of his jeans and tee shirt and into the charcoal gray suit Gus had chosen. He’d picked out a shirt in a slightly darker shade and was buttoning it when the small, framed photograph on the dresser caught his eye. He picked it up and ran his fingers over the glass. Brian’s arm was wrapped around his neck and his mouth was on his ear, no doubt breathing some obscene proposition into it from the giddy smile on Justin’s face. He couldn’t even remember it being taken now, but he could feel that strong arm around him like it was yesterday, feel his warm breath on his skin. Justin looked up at his reflection in the mirror and was almost surprised that Brian wasn’t in there with him. He was startled out of his reverie by the small voice at his side.

“Jus, can you help me?” Gus stood fumbling with his tie and Justin had to blink away yet another memory. His voice was rough with it when he set the photo back in its place and turned to the boy.

“Sure, Gus.” He fitted the tie under Gus’s collar and when he had it tied and snug, he turned him towards the mirror, then smoothed his own jacket. Justin allowed himself one more glance at the photograph and then smiled at the image in the mirror. Brian would be proud.

Brian and Justin

~*~*~

“Mama!” Gus flung himself at Lindsay the moment she was through the door. “Look what I made today!” He clutched a drawing in his hand – a surprisingly good likeness of Batman, his latest obsession. “Jus showed me how to make his ears look right.”

“Justin,” Lindsay corrected him more out of habit than reproach - they had been ‘Gus and Jus’ to him forever now. She smiled down at her son and took the drawing from him. “That’s wonderful, baby.” And it was. Gus had shown a natural talent for drawing since the first time he’d picked up a crayon and the time he spent with Justin only fostered it. She handed the picture back to him and he beamed up at her and Justin, who had followed him to the door.

“Can I do another one, Jus?” Justin nodded and Lindsay cautioned him to be careful of his suit and they both watched him hurry back to Justin’s drawing board and climb up on the stool, the adults already forgotten as he picked up a pencil.

“Thanks for watching him, Justin. He loves spending the night here.” Lindsay chuckled softly at the empty popcorn bowls and juice boxes strewn around the entertainment center, along with several DVD cases - evidence of a six-year-old’s invasion of the otherwise pristine loft. She went around picking them up as Justin answered her.

“You know I love having him around. I wish it could be more often. Maybe now...” Justin cut the thought off there – he knew he was lucky to have the time he did with Gus. The last year especially had been incredibly busy, and time was a luxury he never took for granted any more. Between classes and his art and their project, he’d barely had a moment to call his own. But tonight would be the culmination of all his work, all their work, and the thought filled him with satisfaction. He waited for Lindsay to come back from the kitchen and poured them each a glass of wine from the cart that was set out and ready for his guests. “Is everything ready?” She took the Chardonnay from him, nodding.

“Everything’s ready, and it’s wonderful, Justin. You should be very proud.”

He shook his head, “No, we should be proud. I couldn’t have done it alone, Lindsay.” She smiled a quiet ‘thank you’ and clinked her glass to his.

“To us.”

Justin returned the smile, but it was sadder, more poignant. “To Brian.”

Lindsay’s eyes fell to her glass and she twirled it self-consciously, a little embarrassed Justin had to be the one to say it. But Justin reached out and squeezed her hand and the moment passed. He glanced at his watch and then back at Lindsay.

“Where’s Mel?”

“She’s dropping J.R. at the sitter’s and then she had a meeting. She’ll probably have to meet us there. Emmett said he’d be here soon though. He was just going over some last minute details with Darren when I left.”

Justin nodded, pleased to hear it. ‘Auntie Em’s’ party planning and catering business had really taken off over the last couple years and he was always booked months in advance. He had a full time staff of four planners and Darren was the head chef, but of course Emmett had insisted on taking care of this event personally and Justin was glad – he wanted everything to be perfect. Right on cue, there was a quick knock on the door, followed by a cheerful ‘yoohoooo’ as Emmett breezed into the loft. Justin grinned at his friend’s appearance - he was clearly ready for the evening, looking fabulous in dark pants and a jacket over what appeared to be a chartreuse spandex tee shirt. He was fully made up, right down to the glittering eyeliner that Justin had to admit complemented his deep-blue eyes. He greeted Lindsay and kissed Justin on each cheek and then was off, oohing and ahhing over Gus’s latest masterpiece, much to the young man’s delight. The door was still open when Jennifer and Tuck arrived and more hugs were exchanged. Justin showed them in and served more drinks, and he was chatting with his mother when they heard the groan of the elevator.

A minute later the sliding door opened again and the rest of his ‘family’ blew in like a small but powerful tornado: Ben and Hunter, Teddy and Blake, and Carl. All led, of course, by Debbie, dressed for the occasion in a tasteful-for-her red ensemble that to Justin’s ever-lasting gratitude did not involve any spandex or glitter. Clearly, marriage had been a good influence on her. Despite her assertion that she wouldn’t get married until her son could, she was now Mrs. Carl Horvath. After the tragedy at Babylon and her close call, it just seemed foolish, even selfish, not to make her commitment to the man she loved while they could. And so, with the blessing of her son and all of Liberty Avenue, they got married in a small ceremony the following summer. They weren’t the only ones to reevaluate their lives after the bombing, either. If anything good at all had come from that hateful day, it was that. Melanie and Lindsay reconciled; Teddy found Blake again and the timing finally seemed to be right for them; even Hunter had come home when he heard the news, and this time he stayed.

But the lessons learned that day about life and love and priorities had come at a terrible price – had cost one of them everything.

Justin watched the loft fill up with his extended family, accepted their hugs and kisses and returned them sincerely. But he knew that as much as he loved them all, as genuinely glad as he was that things had worked out for them, and as proud as he was of what he had accomplished, he would trade all of it in an instant if he could only go back and change that one thing.

It didn’t crush him now like it had in the beginning; he could function again – work, eat, sleep (most of the time anyway). His art was fulfilling and he considered himself, if not exactly happy, then at least a reasonable facsimile of it. But not a single day went by that he didn’t wish that he had that power. Some days he wanted it so badly he couldn’t see anything else. He wasn’t completely alone in that wish though. While the bombing had brought Mel and Lindz closer, reinforced their commitment to each other, Michael and Ben, well...

Justin saw him standing alone, watching Hunter and Gus, who were already loudly engaged in some intense game on the XBox. Justin went to the drink cart and picked up a bottle of juice, then took another look at the older man and noticed the unhappy set of his jaw. He put the juice back and poured a measure of the Maker’s Mark he knew Ben liked on occasion and took it over to him, asking the question he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to.

“Where’s Michael?” Ben took the drink Justin offered and shrugged. Justin recognized the defeated gesture for what it was and softened his tone. “Do you think he’s going to show up?”

Ben shrugged again, blowing out a long, frustrated sigh before he spoke. “I really don’t know, Justin.” He downed the shot of bourbon in one swallow and looked at Justin with tired, empty eyes. “And to be honest? I’m not so sure I care anymore.” He set the glass down firmly on the counter and walked away, headed for the door. Justin followed, but Ben was quicker and he was already at the elevator by the time he caught up.

“Wait, Ben.” Justin put his hand on the bigger man’s arm. “Come on.” Ben resisted for a second, but then let Justin pull him towards the doorway that led to the roof and followed him up the narrow stairway. It was quiet up there except for the unsteady hum of the ancient air conditioning unit and the faint sound of traffic from the street below. Justin pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket; he didn’t smoke very often any more – usually only when he was stressed out or really drunk. Since the potential for either of those conditions had been pretty high lately, he was prepared. He lit two and offered one to Ben. He hesitated and Justin cocked his head, practically daring him, and he took it with a shrug. They smoked in silence for a while, leaning against the railing and looking out over the city. Ben took a last drag from the cigarette then crushed it under his heel and blew out a long stream of smoke. He didn’t look at Justin, just spoke quietly into the late afternoon air.

“I don’t know what to do any more.”

“Is he still drinking?”

Ben nodded. “Yeah, but that’s not the problem. He’s not a fall-down drunk – it’s not like I have to worry about him burning the house down or anything. He’s just so damn...” he hesitated, searching.

“Pathetic?” Justin interjected the word automatically and drew a sideways look from Ben, but they both smiled a little. Ben’s faded quickly though and he shook his head.

“He’s broken, Justin, and nothing I do, nothing anybody does seems to make a difference. He can’t, or he won’t let it go.”

Ben could still see Michael’s face when he’d walked out earlier – not quite drunk, but on his way, staring at him with those puppy-dog eyes, refusing to come with them because he felt somehow unworthy. So wounded, yet so oblivious to the pain he was causing those who loved him the most. ‘Two years, Michael. It’s been two fucking years, and I’m done.’ He’d slammed the door hard enough to rattle it on its hinges and left him standing there. He had tried to be understanding, to give him time – but he’d long since lost the ability to be Zen about the utter fucking irony of the fact that Brian was a far bigger threat to him in death than he ever was in life. In life, Brian could fuck up, piss Michael off, even make him hate him at times. But now he could never do anything wrong again. Not more wrong than leaving Michael behind, and Michael couldn’t seem to forgive Brian, or himself for that.

“I love him Justin, but I can’t compete with a ghost. I’m tired of trying.” Ben hunched his shoulders and held them there for a long moment, the gesture somehow seemed even more defeated on such a big man.

Ben’s declaration hung in the air between them like a specter. Justin knew from Mel that they’d been having problems, but he didn’t realize things had gotten this bad. Or maybe he just didn’t want to see it. Most of the time he spent around Michael was either at the diner, or Woody’s, or Sunday dinners at Deb’s. He was chatty, dorky, occasionally hilarious, always corny. Generally, he was, well... Michael. As long as nobody mentioned Brian. It was never anything overt – no crying or throwing himself on the ground – he would just... go away. Deflate. As if he’d forgotten that he wasn’t supposed to be happy and talking about Brian reminded him of that fact. And with Justin it was worse – nothing he could really put his finger on, just the sense that Michael was always waiting, expecting... needing something from him. Whether it was anger or absolution, Justin could never quite decide. And the simple truth was he had never been able to bring himself to grant him either one. As time went on he found it more and more difficult to be around Michael, and Ben knew it, too. He was lost for a moment, his whispered promise to Brian echoing in his head. "I'm sorry..."

“It's not your fault, Justin." The words were barely out of his mouth when he realized that it wasn't him Justin was apologizing to. Ben regarded his young friend solemnly. “Michael can’t let go of the guilt and it’s eating him up. He still feels responsible...”

Justin met the older man’s troubled gaze with one of his own and uttered the words he’d never been able to say aloud before. “He’s not wrong, Ben.” Ben’s face narrowed at Justin’s quiet admission and despite everything, his first instinct was to defend Michael.

“That’s bullshit, Justin. There’s no way he could have...”

But Justin cut him off. “He is responsible.” He chewed on his lips for a second, “But he’s not the only one. We all did our share of hurting Brian, didn’t we?”  The words were simple enough, but for Justin they represented a truth he’d been avoiding for a long time. He looked at his watch – he still had a couple of hours. “I have to go out for a while. Can you let them know I’ll meet them there? My mother has a key, she can lock up.” Ben nodded and before he could ask him why, Justin was on his way down the stairs. On his way to a conversation that was long overdue.

~*~*~

Justin knocked for the second time on the front door of Michael and Ben’s house. “Michael?” He listened, but still didn’t hear any signs of movement so he went around back and tried there. “Michael! Would you open the fucking door?!” Nothing. He pounded on it for a solid minute, then cursed and walked back around to his SUV. He tried Michael’s cell, and then the number at Debbie’s but got no answer at either. He really wanted to do the right thing, but was rapidly losing patience. Woody’s maybe? It was a little early for that, but maybe... He pulled up in front and ran in – no luck there, or the diner either. ‘Fuck you, Michael,’ he muttered under his breath. He got back in the SUV, fully intent on going back home when the thought occurred to him. Justin made a U-turn and headed for the very last place on earth he expected to be today – the last place he wanted to be, ever. And he really, really wanted to be wrong.

His stomach clenched as he turned into the wide driveway and passed through the wrought iron gates. He’d only been here once and that day he only recalled in fragments, when he let himself remember at all - and yet he knew exactly where to go. He followed the winding road past rows and rows of markers, almost all the way to the point where it began to circle back, and then turned up a small hill and pulled over to the side. Brian’s stone was not the largest or the flashiest, but like the man himself, it stood out because it was sleek and elegant and once you saw it, everything else around it just looked... ordinary. Brian A. Kinney, and beneath that, the words Justin himself had chosen. Words he’d never seen until this moment, carved into the gleaming black stone. And sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of it with his head in his hands was the man who’d once called him his best friend.

Justin's throat constricted with an unexpected sob as he read the inscription and he swallowed against it. Please, not today. He’d spent two years diligently protecting his memories, culling them, choosing to remember only the best. It wasn’t an act of denial. It was simple self-preservation. But as he sat there looking at Michael, as broken as that very first day, he felt the wall he’d so carefully constructed begin to crumble. The years dissolved and he was back there again.

*~*~*

He stood just inside the trauma room doors, watching, waiting. He wasn’t even sure for what, because he knew Brian was gone. Knew from the moment he’d taken his hand in the ambulance. There had never been a time when touching Brian didn’t cause some kind of reaction in Justin – passion, desire, comfort, sometimes even fear. In fact it was where the name Kinnetik had come from - Brian’s innate ability to move everything and everyone around him. To make them feel his energy, for better or worse. Justin had felt it from the very first moment – so vibrant, so enigmatic. The most completely alive person he’d ever known. Holding his hand in the ambulance he’d felt only... stillness.

The paramedics transferred Brian’s care over to the trauma team and Nancy backed away only after the intern’s hands replaced hers on his chest. She stripped off the gloves she wore, still slick with Brian’s blood and cursed a mild oath as she slammed them into the disposal in frustration. He must have made some kind of sound because she turned then, her face softening at the sight of the him.

“Justin,” her voice was gentle as she approached him, “you shouldn’t be in here. Let’s wait outside.” She put her arm around his shoulders as if to guide him out but he didn’t budge. He wanted nothing more than to leave, to not watch them cut away the rest of his clothes, not see the horrific injuries, not have the unbearable images burned into his soul forever. He wanted to run and never stop running until he found a place where this wasn’t real. He wanted to do what he had always done. “Justin...”

“I can’t...” He shook his head at the paramedic as though the suggestion was absurd. “I can’t leave him.” Not again. Never again.

Nancy pursed her lips, considered insisting, and then their last few minutes at the scene flashed in her mind. She let her arm drop but stayed there by his side. Some days she really hated her job.

Justin had no idea how much time passed – he saw it all through that surreal lens where things sped up and slowed down, seemingly at will. The piles of blood-soaked gauze on the floor around them grew alarmingly fast. The moments following each round of CPR, each injection, each new attempt to get his heart beating again were impossibly long as they waited to see if their efforts failed or succeeded. Another doctor worked at his wounds, barking out orders that Justin heard through that same distorted filter – sounds, but not really words. They watched as the team exhausted every possible measure in their efforts to save him. And then the doctor was standing in front him and had his hand on Justin’s shoulder and the room was quiet except for the words, which really were words again.

“I’m very sorry, son. We did everything we could.” He glanced back at Brian and then squeezed Justin’s shoulder. “Take as much time as you need.” The doctor left the room, and Nancy watched as Justin slowly moved to Brian’s side. A nurse was spreading a clean sheet over him and she stopped as Justin reached for it.

“Let me...” The nurse eyed him sadly, then let Justin take it and stepped away. He pulled it up and let it settle lightly over Brian's bare shoulders, smoothing it gently, then resting his hand on the broad chest. He stood that way for endless minutes, not moving, not crying – just staring at his face. It was smudged with soot and dust, and there were small cuts above his eyebrow and on his cheek, but apart from that he might have been sleeping. Justin loved to wake up early just to watch Brian sleeping – to see him without the mask of indifference he so often wore, just his beautiful face, smooth and serene and perfect. He touched the still lips, brushed his fingers over them, then bent and kissed them softly, oblivious to the tear that spilled over and fell onto the pale cheek. Justin pressed another kiss to Brian’s forehead, and then did the hardest thing he would ever do. He said goodbye.

*~*~*

Emmett and Ben were both waiting when Justin followed Nancy out through the swinging doors of the trauma room. She stopped just before they reached them and turned to Justin. She’d been a paramedic for a long time and had seen her share of unhappy outcomes, but it wasn’t very often she’d been so affected by a case. She wished she knew some magic words that would ease the pain etched into the young man’s face but all she could offer was heartfelt sympathy. “I’m truly sorry, Justin.” For a long moment he just stared at her, then to her surprise he embraced her and she found herself hugging him back. He released her and whispered a husky ‘thank you for everything’ that had her blinking hard before she could speak. She gave his arm a gentle squeeze and nodded, grateful to see his friends approaching. “You take care of yourself.” The taller one was already pulling him into his arms as she walked away.

The scene confirmed what they already suspected and Em hugged him fiercely. “Oh God, baby, I am so sorry.” Em’s big blue eyes were swimming with tears when he finally let Justin breathe again. He still had him by the arms, and was rubbing them up and down, trying not to sob. “Is there anything we can do?” Justin just shook his head and let them lead him to one of the few empty hard plastic chairs in the crowded emergency room waiting area. Ben took the seat beside him and Em kneeled on the floor in front of him, crying openly now. Ben’s voice was quiet and rough with emotion when he finally spoke.

“I don’t know what to say, Justin. It’s just...”

“Unfuckingbelievable,” Emmett interjected when Ben hesitated. “It’s unfuckingbelievable,” he repeated, his voice shaking with anger. “The fucking monsters who did this need to be...” Ben saw Justin flinch and he silenced Emmett’s rant with a nudge of his foot and shake of his head.

“Not now, Emmett,” he admonished gently, with a pointed glance at the blond. Em looked horrified at the idea that he’d upset him any more than he was and he murmured a teary apology, but Justin didn’t appear to notice.

“Can I get you something, baby?” Justin still didn’t respond, just sat there, staring vacantly at him. “Sweetie? Do you want me to find your mom?” Emmett looked up at Ben, the two men sharing the same concern over their young friend’s state of mind. Ben squeezed Justin’s shoulder and tried himself.

“Justin, do you want us to call someone for you?” Ben felt the sting of tears himself as it struck him that the one person who could help Justin through something like this was gone. Fuck. Justin still didn’t speak, but at least he acknowledged him with a slight shrug and a shake of his head. Ben sat back in his chair with a sigh and scrubbed his face with his hands. Fuck.

“Ben?” The older man looked up at the sound of his name, and into the relieved face of his husband. Michael stood in front of him with a paper cup full of coffee in his hand. “Oh my god, I’m so glad you’re finally here! Ma is driving me fucking crazy. She keeps insisting....” He stopped short as it registered that it was Emmett kneeling on the floor beside him. “Emmett?” And then, “Justin?” He smiled at the discovery of his friends. “What are you guys doing here? You didn’t have to come, Ma’s going to be fine – she’s already complaining about the doctors and threatening to sign herself out if she doesn’t get some decent fucking coffee soon...” Michael’s voice trailed off as he finally took a good look at the faces of the three men. Ben was looking at him with something inexplicably close to fear in his eyes, Emmett’s face was streaked with tears, and Justin... Christ, Justin didn’t even seem to realize he was there. Michael’s stomach did a little flip-flop as it dawned on him – Jennifer. He swallowed hard and lowered his voice. “Oh god, Justin. Did something happen to your mom?” His eyes slid sideways towards the trauma room doors. “I saw her before... I thought she was okay...” Justin didn’t respond, just closed his eyes and pulled his lips inward, biting down hard on them. Michael turned to Ben, his forehead wrinkled in confusion and concern and he barely mouthed the words, “What happened?”

Ben stood slowly and took the coffee from Michael and passed it to Emmett, then pulled Michael into his arms. “I love you, Michael,” he murmured the words into his hair and held him close.

“I love you too, Ben,” Michael mumbled against Ben’s chest, “but what the fuck is going on?”

Ben held him for a long moment then leaned back, looking into the bewildered face he loved so much. “We need to talk.” He took Michael by the arm and led him out through the sliding glass doors of the emergency room exit and into the breezeway. Both boys watched as Ben took Michael’s hands in his and held them tight. They didn’t need to hear them to know the moment he finally got the words out. Michael pulled out of Ben’s grasp and lurched towards the door but Ben grabbed him and held on, forced him to hear words he would rather have cut his tongue out than have to say to his heartbroken partner. Michael turned and looked through the doors then, searching, unwilling to accept what Ben was telling him, until frantic brown eyes met devastated blue ones and he saw the awful truth in them: Brian Kinney was gone, and the only two men he’d ever loved stood on opposite sides of the glass, each missing a piece of themselves that would never be replaced. And Michael saw another truth there, too, or maybe he saw it in his own reflection in the glass and this one hit him like a body blow. He dropped to his knees and Ben went down with him, wrapping his arms around the smaller man and holding him as he doubled over in pain.

Justin watched Michael fall apart, could hear his anguish even through the double doors. He wanted to feel pity for him – knew he should feel pity. Michael and Brian had been friends for more than half their lives, almost longer than Justin had been alive. And Brian loved him, he knew that. Truth be told, Justin had come to love him in his own way as well – they were family in that non-defined, non-conventional Kinney way. Losing Brian would be harder on Michael than anyone else, maybe even Justin himself, and he knew that, too. So he knew he should be feeling pity watching him break into little pieces all over the sidewalk, and yet he just... couldn’t. Maybe later. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe when he stopped hearing Brian’s exasperated voice in his head every time he looked at him. ‘I am on my way to my office... you have five minutes before I’m out of here.' Michael might be heartbroken, but he was there, and his partner was there with him. And Brian... Justin felt a cold hand clench his heart and then Emmett’s arm was around him again, his voice full of compassion in his ear.

“Baby, are you all right?”

Justin fought an insane urge to laugh at the idea he could ever be all right again. He tried to force a smile, something to reassure his friend but he just couldn’t make himself do it. He managed to nod, and Emmett reached out and brushed a tear off his cheek with his thumb – tears he didn’t even realize were falling.

“Of course you’re not all right,” Emmett smiled tremulously, inwardly cursing himself for the foolish question. He squeezed Justin’s thin frame, alarmed to feel him trembling even through his bulky jacket. He hadn’t said a word since he and Ben had arrived and he was beginning to worry about him. “Just tell me what I can do, sweetie.”

Justin shook his head, swallowed the bitter words that hovered on his tongue. Can you turn back the clock? Not too far – just a few hours. Just a few fucking hours. Can you do that? Can you turn back time and make Brian not be dead? Oh god. Brian is dead. Brian is dead. He must have groaned then, because Emmett pulled him closer still. In his head he shrieked the words so loudly he thought he might be losing his mind, but when they finally escaped him, they were barely a whisper. “Brian is dead. He’s dead.

Emmett’s shoulders sagged as he looked down into the troubled blue eyes, so full of despair. “Oh sweetie, I know, I’m so sorry...” His heart ached for him, but he had no idea how to help his young friend. Justin turned out of his embrace, backed away, repeating the terrible admission. “Justin, let me get someone...”

But Justin was already on his way out the door. Emmett called after him, and Ben reached for his arm as he ran past them and into the cold night, but there was only room in his head for that one thing. He ran without any thought to where he was going, his only goal to escape that one unthinkable, unalterable, unbearable fact.

He ran until his lungs burned and his legs refused to take him even one step further, until his stomach cramped and he finally succumbed to the nausea that had been threatening since he first heard the news bulletin – could it really have only been hours ago? His eyes darted around, anxiously seeking somewhere, anywhere he could... but it hit him hard and mercilessly. He retched up what little there was in his stomach right there on the street, but it didn’t ease the awful ache. He heaved until there was nothing left and then sat down heavily on the curb and hugged his knees up close, trying desperately to keep it together but he just didn’t have anything left to fight with. He managed to find his cell phone and dialed her number with shaking fingers, praying to a God he no longer believed in that she would answer. His last bit of control slipped away when she finally did.

"Justin? Oh, thank god! Where are you?" Her relief at seeing her best friend's name on the call display was short-lived as she heard his small, shattered voice on the other end.

"Daph... help me."

*~*~*

to Part 4b

 
 
 
sjmpetssjmpets on March 24th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
such a sad chapter but wonderful none the less.

the beginning, a celebration of life.
q_dictedq_dicted on March 24th, 2010 08:54 am (UTC)
Sometimes remembering is the hardest thing. (((Justin)))

Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate it.
marny1marny1 on March 24th, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)
ooooh poor poor Justin.

pff I can hardly type because of my tears, but * runs to the next chapter *

it's beautiful writen but so sad
pet0511pet0511 on December 14th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
Hi! Just read this part. I decided to take the story in only in homöopathic portions, one by one. And that's enough. This part was great. Positive in some way, perfect to see the interaction between Gus and Justin and the memories about Brian within. The family, the gang, Justin's way of seeing them, close by but far away at the same time, you can feel Justin standing, talking, listening in front of them - but all the way not really being there.You wrote it so...perfect. Then the Michael story...I began to break in some way, and then the memories about the changing day, coming back to Justin...oh my God, you really got me once more. Call me silly but I'll stop here for today, you know why I think.
What a story! Thank you so much for writing!!! Pet
q_dictedq_dicted on December 14th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
I think small doses is a fine way to read! Gus, Justin and Michael are the three most important people in Brian's life so it was important to me their relationship be part of the story. Michael might have been a selfish brat at times, but no doubt he truly loved Brian. They all need each other in different ways to cope with their loss. I'm looking forward to hear what you think of the rest.

Thanks for persevering!
nemesia_poonemesia_poo on January 14th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)

(((((Justin)))))

(((((((Michael)))))))

(((((((((ME)))))))))
q_dictedq_dicted on January 14th, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
((((YOU))))
urugwaj: EQurugwaj on June 12th, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
I survived but just barely ;(
q_dictedq_dicted on June 12th, 2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
It gets better from here on, I promise! Well, as 'better' as it can be, considering....