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It Was Always You

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~Justin~

 

It had been five years.  Five long years, and I could still hear Brian’s voice as he said “It’s only time.”  Had I known then what I know now, I would have never left the loft that day.  I would have wound my arms around his neck and held on for dear life, because this, this relentless pain had been ripping me apart since that day. I had left Pittsburgh that day with half of my soul in that loft on Tremont and Fuller, and each day that had passed over the last five years continued to chip away at what was left of it.

So here I stood, as I had many times in the past, just a half hour drive out of Pittsburgh into West Virginia hoping that I could somehow repair the hole that had replaced what was once me.  The ground was snow covered, and the stately house looked as it always did.  Its towering rooftops offering me a little solace as some of the pain receded into the background. 

HE didn’t know I was here.  Just like he didn’t know that I had come here more times than I could count in the past five years.  I had thought that he would have sold the place, or at least come by, but over time I came to realize that he never even sent someone to even clean the place.  Maybe it was just as painful for him as well.

I shook the snow out of my hair and stomped my feet on the mat that I had placed there my second visit.  When I stepped inside, it was as if I had stepped back into my body after a long break away from reality.  THIS was my reality, THIS was my home.

As I wandered through the house, I put my coat on the old couch that I had drug in the third time I had come home. It was old and second hand, something Brian would have scoffed at, but it was adequate enough for just me.  I walked into the kitchen glancing at the closed and locked doors to my left.  It was the only room in the house that I couldn’t bring myself to go into.  The den held the key to what was left of me, the Justin I had been.  It was in that room that he had proposed and that I had accepted.  It was the room where he had laid me down in front of the fire and made love to me all night long.  It was the room where 5 years of ups and downs culminated in the shifting of my entire universe and for once I had allowed myself to believe in the possibility of happiness with Brian.

And then it all went to hell.  I left my strange wonderland and in doing so, the only form of safety I had ever felt.  I missed it, I missed him.  New York was known for its cold winters, but the bitter cold that had swept through me as I stepped off that plane at JFK international had nothing to do with the air temperature around me.  It was in that instant that I knew I had broken something vital.  What was even more unclear was if I could ever mend it together again.

So, five years later, I am standing in the house that should have been ours but holds no evidence of a co-occupant and praying to higher powers that I had long ago forsaken to take it all back and make me whole again.

I sat down at the bar in the kitchen and laid my head in my crossed arms.  I could remember the last call so clearly, that it sounded like he was standing in the room with me presently. 

“Justin, I just…I just don’t think this is working for us right now.” He continued on more quietly, “I am not sure if it ever will.”

He was quiet for so long that I thought that he had hung up.  I couldn’t say anything, my throat had closed off and my breathing had become erratic. 

Then…”Breathe Justin, in and out, in and now out...” I soon began to breathe again, although the pain in my chest kept me from being able to say anything. 

He sighed deeply and continued, “I love you…you know that, hell I shouldn’t even have to say it, but this…this distance is killing us…it’s killing me and I think that maybe we should just let things go for a while.”

I finally was able to speak “Please don’t do this, not now.”  I couldn’t believe that only six months into this arrangement and he was already giving up.  “I can’t let you go, Brian.”

“Sunshine, you need to, for just a little while.  Become something big and be happy. It’s still only time.”

And that was the last time I had heard from him.  It had been 4 years, 5 months 28 days, 6 hours, 32 minutes and 19 seconds. Not that I had been keeping up with it or anything.  If it was only time, time was my enemy and she had won.

I had tried calling him several times only to get no answer or a disconnected message.  Debbie told me that Brian had changed his phones and was looking to open another Kinnetic location in Chicago.  When she told me that, my heart disintegrated.  He had finally left and there was nothing I could do, nothing at all.

I kept coming back to Britin expecting to see a For Sale or Sold sign on the gates, but that was never the case.  I wasn’t sure why, but at least it put a slight balm on the gaping wound left inside of me.  I cut myself off from everyone, Debbie, Michael, Ben, Emmett, Ted, even Mom.  The only person that I ever called believe it or not was my sister Molly.  I, to this day don’t understand why I made her the exception.  I think that maybe I didn’t want her to think that I had abandoned her, or maybe it was because I knew that she would keep my secrets.  I don’t know, but I do know that to this day she has never breathed a word of my comings and goings to Britin.

I lifted my head and stood up.  I glanced at the small wall clock I had affixed to the wall facing the windows.  It was nearly 1am and I knew I needed sleep.  I knew that it would not be restful sleep, it hadn’t been in a long time, but it was needed anyhow.

I climbed the stairs to one of the smallest bedrooms.  I had never slept in the master.  The mattress was where I had left it in the corner with particles of dust gathered around the edges.  I went to the closet for the sealed bag of linens.  I quickly pulled down a sheet to lay over the mattress and a quilt to put over me.  I laid down and closed my eyes, hoping that sleep would come easier tonight, that the pain would recede just a little and I could finally let the nothingness take over.

 

~Brian~  Two days later

I looked around my office here in Chicago dispassionately.  There was nothing of personal interest here.  I allowed no photographs from my life to grace my desk.  Even the small one of Gus was pushed far back in my top left drawer.

About two years ago I had moved myself away from the Pitts.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  They were suffocating me in pity.  I was probably the least pitiful of them all.  I made my choices, and he made his.  Ok so that statement is not exactly fair.  I kind of made some of them for him, but still, he went along with it.  It was just so goddamn hard.  The loft still had traces of him in every corner and I couldn’t even think about the house.  So, I left.

Ted said that the investments that I had been making over the years would support the move to Chicago.  I knew by the look on his face that he was wondering why not New York.  I just couldn’t do it to him.  For him to know that I was going to be in NYC and never come by, even I could not be that harsh.  If I am being honest with myself, though, I just wanted the hurt to stop and Chicago was far enough away, but near enough to my Pittsburgh family for me to be ok with it all.

Mikey, not one to keep his nose in his own business had told me that Justin had called not long after I made the move.  It was all I could do not to call him back, to just hear his voice.  But I was not going to be that pathetic.  He needed to go on with his life and be something and I was holding him back.

When I made the move, I took only Cynthia with me.  Ted I left behind, mainly because Blake was whining about not wanting to leave, but also because I knew I could trust him to keep me aware of any problems that came up.  So, with Cynthia in tow, we plowed into Chicago and took the market by storm.  Remsen Pharmaceuticals was headquartered out of the city, so they became our primary focus.

After that we took off.  TeleBrand an up and coming telecommunications company signed on with us and even offered us stock with their company as an incentive to become their sole advertising agency. The CEO of TeleBrand was a tenacious woman by the name of Gwen Branderton.  She was a petite woman, with dark chestnut hair that she wore mostly pulled back in a severe ponytail.  Her slight frame was deceiving though, because she was just as much of a shark as any other of the fortune 500 CEO's I had come across.  Which was a good thing for me because with my stock in the company I had accumulated more wealth than I had ever thought was possible.

It was with Gwen that I had my next appointment.  Gwen had two kids, one of which was 15 and the other, a little girl closer to Gus’s age. With both of our Alpha personalities it has taken us some time, but eventually Gwen and I had established a friendly relationship over the years.  The fact that she never brought up Justin helped as well.  It’s not that she knew the situation or even his name, but she knew that there was someone and that I preferred not to speak about it.

As that thought went pinging through my head my intercom buzzer went off “Hey Bri, Gwen just came in.”  Cynthia had started shortening my name right after Ted had, and it had stuck.

“Send her on in.”  I called back.  Gwen walked in with her confident stride.  “Brian, nice to see you again.” Her voice was low pitched and if I hadn’t told her early on I was gay, and knew from experience that it was her natural speaking voice, I would swear she was trying to seduce me.

“Gwen,” I came towards her and shook her hand, “always a pleasure.”  I motioned for her to sit down.  “What can I do for you?”

Gwen, being Gwen, came straight to the point, “Well, I have some key players from my next acquisition merger that are needing more than just a wine and dine.  I was thinking more of a week away, somewhere away from the noise of the city.”  She cocked her head to one side in the odd owlish way some people do, “When I was researching this place and you, I noticed that you had some property in West Virginia…”

I stopped listening at that point, my breathing sped up and then almost stopped all together.  She wasn’t talking about just any property, she was talking about the house, Britin.

“Brian…hey Brian,” I was startled to see her waving her hands in front of my face.  “Where did you go?”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to or even could answer her.  “Gwen, I don’t think…”

“Please Brian, I really really need this favor.”  She was almost pouting at this point.  I thought about the times that she had walked in with me passed out drunk on my desk, or the times that I had spaced out on her, like I had just done and I couldn’t say anything but “Ok…but on one condition”  She cocked her head to the side again, “You are NOT allowed in the den.”  She looked at me real hard, but otherwise was silent.  Finally, she said “Ok, I am not going to pretend to understand why, but Ok.”

She stood up and before she walked out the door she asked “Are you going to be coming too?”

Now isn’t that the million dollar question.  Then an almost masochistic thought ran through my mind…”Why not?”

And with that, I had sealed my fate, and doomed myself to a week of nothing but gut wrenching pain that I had tried to escape for the last 5 years of my life.  I was going back to Britin, and to the ghosts that had driven me almost to the brink of insanity.

Chapter Text

~Gwen~

I had known Brian for some time now, but the look on his face just a few moments ago, was something that I hadn’t seen before.  It was only out of idle curiosity about Brian Kinney the man, that I had him investigated.  Besides finding out that he was more than a little promiscuous a few years back, I found out that he had a huge piece of real estate out in the rural West Virginia area.  The real estate was not what intrigued me as much as the promiscuity did.  I have to say that I wasn’t a saint in my younger years either, but it really didn’t fit who he was today.  If he was still carrying on as he did a few years ago, my PI couldn’t find it.  What did turn up though was an obsession with art, or should I specify, an artist, Justin Taylor.

I never brought it up, because he had a piece from said artist hanging in his home office and there were times when he would look at it and just space out, his expression one of deep loss. I just couldn’t bring myself to ask.  As it was, I had also found out that the property in West Virginia was registered in not just the name of Brian Kinney, but also in the name of one Justin Taylor.  I drew enough conclusions to know that this was obviously something very private and very painful for the usually sarcastic and condescending man. I almost was reluctant to even mention using the house, but I became so desperate to find a place to hold my retreat that I gave in and just did it.

Now though, seeing that look on his face when I mentioned the place, I was unsure if it was the thing I should have done.

~Jennifer Taylor~

Things are quiet around here now.  Tucker was off to some convention and Molly was in her second year as an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon, although she recently had been talking about NYU.  I think she was missing her brother, or maybe he was missing her. I’m not sure.  I know that they still talk sometimes, but only because I still pay her phone bill and his number was on the bill several times.  And although it kind of hurts to think that he doesn’t stay too in touch with me, I am glad that he did keep in touch with Molly.  I think she finally caught on to the bullshit that Craig tended to spout out about her brother.  It was not long after her 18th birthday that she finally came out and said that she had heard enough, and as far as I know they haven’t spoken to each other since.

Sometimes, late at night I wonder how Justin really is.  I mean, when I do talk to him, which his calls seem to come farther and farther apart, he seems so distant.  It’s like trying to talk to someone that is merely going through the motions.  It makes me sad to think that he will live his life lonely because what he had with Brian, was something that he couldn’t find with someone else.

And isn’t that the thought of the hour, Brian.  I haven’t heard from him in years.  Not since he moved to Chicago anyway.  Out of an unspoken rule, when Justin does call, we never mention him.  I know that he is still hurting, and truthfully, as a parent I can’t help but to be a little mad about the break-up or whatever the hell they called it.  It has made my son into a hopeless shell and that is why I think he doesn’t call or come to see me anymore.  He knows that I will only be more infuriated at Brian over the way everything was handled. 

I had come to terms, in my own time of course, with the fact that my son was in love with someone that had the emotional maturity of a two year old.  And then it was all over.  I still remember the day that started what I term “radio silence.”  It was like Justin went off the grid for a while.  He didn’t answer his phone, he didn’t visit, he didn’t even write.  The only way I even knew he was alive was a call from Molly.  Justin had called her to tell me that he just needed time.  She had said the way that he had uttered the word sounded bitter and almost wistful.  It was in that moment that I knew my son had changed, and there was nothing I could do to fix what was broken.

The ringing of my phone interrupted my thoughts, and as I looked at the caller ID, I was shocked to see it was Justin.  It was as if my thinking of him had actually conjured up his phone call.  I had to laugh a little at the stupidity of that thought.

“Hello Justin,” my heart was beating a little fast in my chest as a hundred and one things flew threw my brain.  Was he hurt? Did he run out of money?  Was Molly ok?

“Hey Mom,” deep sigh, “I was just calling to see if I could come and see you for a couple of days?” 

Justin wanting to see me?  This was bad, it had to be bad, he never comes to “visit.”  “Is everything alright sweetie?”  I calmly ask?

“Yeah, I just decided that I haven’t seen you in a while and well…Molly thought she would come in for the weekend and so, I thought we could all get together?”  His words were rushed, like he had to gather courage just to get that out.

“Sure sweetheart, when will you be coming in?”  I wasn’t going to turn him out, why would he even question it?

“Well, I’m kind of sitting in the driveway now.”  I ran over to the window, not even pretending a sense of calm or as some might say, minding my WASP-y manners.  Sure enough he was sitting in a rental car right outside my door.  I wished that he would get his own, but he refused saying that in the City it was just easier to use public transit, or rent vans if he needed to move bigger pieces around.

I walked out the door, phone still in hand and motioned for him to come in.  As he stepped out of the car, I almost did a double take.  His golden blonde hair had lost its luster and seemed to drag his head down.  His weight had plummeted to an alarming level, he had sunken in cheekbones, but it was his eyes that had me worried. The dark circles beneath them couldn’t even compete with the complete lack of life that was in his eyes.  The blue was even muted to a deathly grey and it took all I had in me not to break down and cry in that moment.

~Justin~

Great, just great.  I knew I looked bad, but seeing my Mother’s expression (that she quickly masked, mind you), just confirmed it.  I was death warmed over.  She must have known on some basic level not to question me, because she did nothing but take my bag and usher me inside.  As I entered what had never been my home, I realized I was tired.  Not just physically tired, but emotionally and mentally tired.  I could only hope that I could get through this weekend long enough to get back to Britin, the only place I felt any kind of peace.  Mom, walked into the kitchen.  I think she said something about making me a sandwich.  I don’t really know.  I’m not really hungry, but I’ll let her go about doing what she thinks she should do anyway.

Molly was the great engineer of this whole thing.  I don’t know how, but when I had called her to let her know that I was at Britin, she suggested that I go see mom.  I told her she was crazy, but see¸ there is this thing about Molly that I just can’t tell her no.  So, here I am sitting here feeling like a stranger in my own skin and hoping that Mom doesn’t start in on the questions.

I can hear a phone ringing in the distance and my mother’s voice floats through the air to me from the kitchen.  I feel as if I am losing time, if that makes any sense.  Maybe that is what I need to do, lose time.  Lose time…such an odd statement…how does one lose time. 

I know I am going to faint before it happens, but it’s almost like what happens on a TV show, everything is going in slow motion, but so fast that I can’t even call out.

~Jennifer~

“Hey Justin, that was Molly, she said that…” As I walked back into the living room I noticed him slumped over the arm of the couch.  His breathing a little labored and his ashen skin a little moist.  “Justin!”

I rushed over to him and felt of his forehead.  It was warm to the touch. I still had my phone in my hand so I dialed 911.

After speaking with the 911 operator and making sure the ambulance was on the way, I sat down next to the couch in the floor.  I ran my hands through his brittle hair, “Justin, oh God, Justin, how did it get to this point.”

As I thought about it, even if he had been awake, I don’t think he would have answered me.  But I knew and again I felt despair in knowing there was nothing I could do to fix what I had not broken.

~Brian~ Two days later

What was I thinking?  Fuck. Fuck!  I had agreed to let Gwen use the house.  It hit me all of the sudden that I hadn’t even been there since Jus-  well since he had left.  Which meant, no furniture, no food, well no anything!  So, I called the one person whom I could trust…

“Theodore, I need to you to fix up the house…” there was a good few seconds of silence and then,

“Bri, what house?”  I rolled my eyes.

“Are you supposed to be this useless?  The House…you know, the one with all the rooms and shit…ugh, do I have to draw you a map with pretty arrows and shit or…

“Yeah Bri, I got it.  What do you mean by ‘fix it up’?”  I could hear the frustration as well as curiosity in his voice.  Ted had become quite confident in talking with me and I let him get away with shit, that several years ago, I would have flayed him alive for.

“Gwen wanted to host some party thing there, and I agreed to it out of sheer stupidity, so now I have to fix it up and make it worthy of the pretentious bastard that I am.” 

“Ok, well…it will take a couple of weeks, but I ca…

“NO!  It has to be done by tomorrow! They are arriving tomorrow night”  I could honestly see Ted having a total crisis on the other line

“B-B-But Bri…that’s crazy.” 

“I don’t give a shit.  Can it be done?  I swear if it can’t, I’ll get rid of you quicker than you can sa-“ He cut me off before I could even finish my sentence

“I’ll get it done, but it’s not going to be cheap.”  His deep sigh at the end told me that while reluctant to do this, his curiosity as to why I was opening the house, after not even acknowledging its existence in five years won out.

“Good, just one more thing though, no one touches the den.”  I closed my eyes as I thought of the den.  I was not looking forward to this.

A few hours later I was on a plane to Pittsburgh and in a car driving out to a house that held nothing but painful memories.

The furniture company was just locking up when I arrived and Ted was standing at the door with the keys.  He silently handed them to me, got in his car and left.  With trepidation I unlocked the door and stepped over the threshold.  I have to say, Ted had outdone himself.  The furniture was what I would have picked for the house and as I wandered through it, I realized with painful clarity that I should have been here.  I should have been here with Justin

It was in that moment that I allowed myself to do something that I rarely ever did.  I sat down on the chaise in the foyer and cried.

Chapter Text

Justin’s POV

I feel like I am floating in a timeless bubble.  Every now and again I could hear voices, although I am not sure if they are talking to me or just around me.  I heard words such as severe malnutrition, dehydration and even catatonic shock.  In a vague way, a part of me knew that I was very sick, but I found that I just didn’t care anymore.  Right now I wasn’t feeling any pain and my brain felt too fuzzy to form a coherent thought as to why I should be in pain anyway.  There were a couple of times I think I even tried to open my eyes, although without any success.  Again, I felt as if I was losing time and just as I was on the verge of a coherent thought again I heard a voice that I hadn’t heard in a while.

“Hey kid.  Didn’t think I would have to come around and talk to you.”  Vic was sitting to the right of me on some couch looked like it belonged in a 70’s sit-com.  The fact that my mind didn’t question  that I had obviously been in a hospital and now I was in a hippy lounge didn’t bother me as much as the fact that I was talking to a man that I had known to be dead for quite some time now.

“What in the fresh hell is this place?” I questioned.  I looked around at the room, which seemed to be almost a nightmarish replica of Debbie’s living room.

“Heh…well kid, basically you are standing on the mortal ledge, go tumbling off it and you’re like me, step back and you can go back to reality.”

“And what kind of fucking reality is that,” I mutter sarcastically.  I continue a little louder, “I mean, no offense Vic, but compared to the hell I have been living in, I could probably manage to put up with the god awful wallpaper, and floral velvet couches.”

Vic stood there with a look I have often associated with him as being fond, but exasperated.  “Look Justin, I am not telling you what to do, but I am asking you to think about what you would be doing.”

As he said that, my thoughts went to the one person that was never far from my mind, Brian.  If I did let go and just become timeless, what would happen to Brian?  Would he notice?  If he did, would he even care?

It was almost as if Vic could read my mind, because his next words were, “You know he still thinks about you, right?”  I just shook my head.  “Yeah, he does and at some point the both of you have got to get your pretty heads out of your asses and get your shit together.”

“But Vic, what if he doesn’t wa-“ Vic waved his hand to cut me off. 

“You are smarter than that, Justin.  You’re smarter than letting yourself get to this point even.”  I looked down at my emaciated body.  He was right of course.  And in that instant I knew exactly the only choice I had, the only choice I had ever had really.  I couldn’t leave him.  I wouldn’t leave him, not while there was breath left in his body.

“Uh-huh, now you see what I am getting at.”  Vic rearranged his reading glasses back onto his face and picked up a book that I hadn’t noticed until now. “Now it’s time for you to be going.”

The next moment it felt as if I was falling and right before I landed, I was looking over myself lying in the hospital bed.  My mother was sitting by my bedside and the doctor talking softly to her.

“Ms. Taylor, we are doing the best we can, but he has got to want to fight and until he does, there is not much that can be done at this point.”  He turned and left after that and I watched as my Mom took my hand and stared at the window on the other side of the room.

I crouched sat down on the side of the bed next to my still form and started talking to her.  It wasn’t that I thought she could hear me, but maybe on some cosmic level she would understand.  “Mom, I promise I am going to fight.  I just had to remember why I needed to.”  And then I felt myself falling again.

 

~Gwen’s POV at Britin

Since I had arrived at the house, and what an amazing house it was too, I had noticed a shift in Brian’s demeanor.  The hardened man that I had become accustomed to seemed fragile, well, that was until he slipped that mask of cynical superiority back on and once again became the Brian Kinney the asshole.  I figured that his vulnerability had something to do with this house, and with that thought came the wave of guilt that I had felt since I first asked him about it.  It was probably that guilt that had me searching for him when all the others had bedded down for the night.

As I stared to walk down the grand staircase, I noticed a light coming from a room on the first floor.  My foot was on the last step when I heard the low murmuring “I shouldn  haf’ let you leave Sunshine.”  It sounded like Brian.  Well a very inebriated Brian at any rate.  My heart almost dropped into my stomach at the scene in front of me.  Brian was sitting in front of a large lit fireplace in a black pair of jeans and a white t-shirt.  His head was bowed low, his elbows rested on his knees and a bottle of Jim Bean was between his bare feet.  

I silently made my way across the room and when I was about 4 feet from him he turned to me.  “What the fuck you doin’ here?”  Ok, I hadn’t expected that, or maybe I should have.  He had warned me about “the den” when I had first asked him about using the house.

“I heard noises and wanted to make sure everything was ok.”  My reply was short but I let the concern show in my eyes. 

“Well, I’m jus’ fucking peachy!” He stated sarcastically. He looked back to the roaring fire in the fireplace.  I took a seat beside him.  He looked over at me with an odd expression, and then he passed me the Beam.  I took the bottle and drank straight from it.  The smooth whiskey burned going down, but left behind a warmth that I had long forgotten. He gave me a crooked smile and laid his head in my lap.

“Look Brian, I am not going to pretend that I understand all that’s going on with you right now, but what I do understand is that something in your life is missing, and if it were me, I would do whatever I had to, to make sure that I got that something back.”  He looked up at me and nodded.

It was at that point that I felt things were going to get better.

 

~Brian’s POV

I got what she was saying even in my drunken state, I got it.  And something in the way she was saying it made me think that she was speaking from some sort of experience.  Being here, being in this room, made me realize a few things.  First of all, my ‘no regrets’ policy is bullshit.  I regret a lot.  I regret not standing up to my dad sooner.  I regret not explaining to Mikey in the beginning that there was never going to be anything between us.  I regret not thanking Debbie for taking me in when I had nowhere else to turn, and I regret not being there for Gus like I should.  But my largest regret was the things I had done to Justin.  I can remember him asking for a sign, just a little something to let him know that he was important to me.  Hell, I knew from the first night I fucked him that he was different, but I wouldn’t tell him that.  I regret not taking him home after prom so maybe that asshole Hobbs wouldn’t have gotten to him.  I regret the ‘birthday hustler’ and the fact that it took almost 5 years for me to tell him that I loved him.  I regret that it took a bomb to make me realize that those words were important, and I am drowning in the regret of our last conversation.  So Brian fucking Kinney does do regrets and he does a lot of them.

Secondly, I realized that I didn’t just want him here, I needed him here.  I need him to be with me and to wake up beside me and to keep me from killing Ted when he inevitably fucks things up.  So, with this realization comes the understanding that I have to find him and bring him home.

And Finally, I get the fact that I need to grow up, I want to grow up.  I want to be a good father to Gus, a good friend to the gang and, yes I’ll admit it a husband to Justin.  I want to be all of those, and as I lay with my head in Gwen’s lap with her hand carding through my hair, I knew that my life would be meaningless until I had become those things.

I must have drifted off to sleep at some point, because the next thing I knew, Gwen was speaking to me in a low tone “Brian, you need to go to your room.  Come on I’ll help you.”  She helped me to my feet and as I walked out of the den, I turned once more and made a promise ‘I am coming for you Sunshine, our time is now.’  I turned back around to meet Gwen’s questioning gaze.  I shrugged my shoulders  and let her lead me to my room.

 

Daphne’s POV

I had gotten the call from Justin’s mom yesterday that he was sick and in the hospital.  It didn’t take me long to pack what I had and hurry back to Pittsburgh.  I hadn’t heard from Justin in a long time and to say that I was shocked that he was in the hospital would have been a lie.  I don’t think he has been the same since Brian left him.

I went to see him right after that and it was as if the life had gone from him.  He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t speak, and his hands never touched a paint brush.  I tried everything I knew to do, but half the time he didn’t even acknowledge I was in the room.  It seemed that he had just given up.

A few weeks later I noticed he was painting again, darker paintings, but at least he was letting it out on canvas instead of bottling it up.  After that the calls became more sporadic, and while my busy schedule probably contributed to that, he also wasn’t making much of an effort.  So, I did the one thing that looking back on it I should have known not to do, I left him alone.  About two weeks ago the calls stopped altogether.  I had been keeping in touch with his roommate and from what she told me, he would leave sometimes and stay gone for days.  She had no clue where he was going, but when he returned it was always with another painting.

I pulled up into the hospital parking lot.  Just looking at the building gave me chills down my spine.  I hate this place.  Just the fact that Justin was here again was enough to put me on edge, and although I have always liked Brian, the next time I see him, I’m going to kill him.

I walk my way through the long corridor to the room number that his mother told me that they had assigned to him.  I can’t help but think that all of this could have been avoided.  Exactly how, I’m not sure, but it should have been able to be avoided. 

When I reached his room, I stopped in front of the closed door and just took a moment to breathe.  You see, even though this is not the same as last time, you can never really prepare yourself for what you might find on the other side of that door.  I slowly pushed the handle down and in between the smell of antiseptic and the beeping of the heart monitor; I felt the familiar bitter tingle of nausea in the back of my throat.

The figure on the bed, while having some of the same features of Justin looked nothing like my best friend.  This imposter Justin was nearly a skeleton, his eyes were hollow with dark circles underneath, his face was paler than normal, and where his hair used to shine like gold, it now hung limp and lifeless.  I could not believe the radical change.

My survey of him stopped when I heard a whisper of “Daph…”  That sound had come from him.  With a sudden heaviness in my chest I went to sit in the chair by his bed.  It was obvious that his mother had been here recently.  I could still smell her Donna Karen perfume.

“Yeah, Jus, it’s me.”  I whispered back.  He turned his head to look at me.  His eyes fixed on my face and I could not contain the small wince at the fact that the life was gone from his gaze. 

“I’m trying Daph, I really am, but it’s hard.  I’m not sure how I let myself get this far gone, but well…here I am.” That sentence alone looked like it had almost drained him.

“Just rest, Jus, save your ener..”

“No!”  That kind of surprised me with the amount of force he had put behind that.  “I need you to do something for me.”  I nodded my head.  I would do just about anything for him right now.  He seemed to think about something for a moment and then he started back again.  “I have been going to Britin for a while now.”  Again another shock.  I wasn’t even aware that Brian had kept the place.  “I just needed to be close to him somehow.  I felt some sort of peace there, like it was home and I needed to be at home.”  I nodded again.

Even though I don’t really understand the deep connection that Brian and Justin have (or had as the case may be), I could see that Britin meant the world to Justin.  I could see it every time he said the name of the place.  So, I didn’t try and dispute what he was saying.

“Daph, I need you to go there.  I have a painting in the smallest bedroom closet that I need you to bring to me.”  I was about to say that I understood, but he cut me off again, “Last year I found the address and phone number to his office in Chicago. “  At this point his face gained a little color as a blush slowly formed over his face, “I would wait until I knew that no one would be there and call just to listen to his voice on his voicemail.”

Some of my shock spilled over into my voice, “My God Justin, why didn’t you just go to him, or leave him a message!?  I mean surely it couldn’t have hurt” He shook his head slowly.

“Daph…he didn’t, doesn’t want to see or hear from me.  It’s been over five years and I am too old now to play the stalker like I used to.” His eyes seemed to glaze over a moment before they cleared and were back on me again.  “I want him back Daph.  I need him back.”  I could tell he meant what he said.

“Ok, Jus, I get it, but why the painting?”  Again he gave me a sheepish look.

“When I painted it, I painted his information inside of the painting.  It is hidden, but it is there.”

 I looked at him with intent eyes and asked him the question that was more than what it was on the surface, “Why?”

For a minute I wasn’t sure he would even answer, but then he got a determined look that I hadn’t seen in forever, “Because, I love my art, and I love Brian and the only way that I could get them both at the same time was to paint it.”  My heart broke for him just then.

“I’ll get it for you Jus.  I promise.”  He pointed to the drawer beside the bed.  “The key is there and you know the security code.”  I nodded in agreement and tried to keep the tears that I felt building from falling.  I leaned over the bed and kissed his forehead.

“I will be back and I will have the painting with me.”  And with a kiss to his forehead and a wave at the door.  I started off towards the door, stopping right before I walked out and waved to him before I left.

As I stood on the other side of the closed door I vowed then and there to call Brian myself and chew him a new one for this and I would drag his ass from Chicago if I had to do it with him kicking and screaming.

 

~Brian’s POV

The light coming in from the windows were not helping my fucking head one bit.  As I rolled moaning onto my side and saw the brunette female in my bed, did it register what had happened the night before.

“FUCK!”  That was enough to startle Gwen into action.

“Hey!  Calm down there B-man” Her tousled brown hair was in contrast to the usually severe up do’s that she was known to wear.

“How can I be calm, I have a woman in my bed!”  My breathing was becoming erratic, although it had more to do with I couldn’t remember a goddamn thing, rather than the fact that Gwen was in my bed.

“Look, Brian, nothing happened.  I wanted to make sure you didn’t die in your sleep from alcohol poisoning or such, so I slept in here.”  And while her explanation sunk in, my breathing did calm. Ok, so at least one of us knows what happened after she took me up the stairs.  With that revelation came the one of the vow I had made to find Justin.

I got up and started changing my clothes.  Obviously, Gwen must have been a little like me in her former life because my nudity was not bothering her.  She wasn’t even really paying attention to me.  In fact..”Gwen, are you a lesbian?”  Her head shot around to me with a look of incredulity.   

“I thought you would have that figured out by now.”  She took a deep breath and continued.  “Yes, I was married once, to a complete bastard.  No, was not a word he honored, cheating was a norm, and his right fist was a problem solver.  I left him and moved into a halfway house for women and children.  I met someone there and well…let’s just say that love knows no gender.  By the time I figured out what I truly wanted and needed, she was gone. “

She did understand then.  Not even thinking about her or my state of dress I pulled her into a tight hug.  “Thank you.”  She smiled at me, she understood what I meant.  I stepped back out of the hug and continued to get dressed.  I could already hear movement downstairs and I didn’t want for anyone to give her grief for being up here with me.

As I was walking down the stairs, I could hear a commotion in the kitchen,

“What do you mean, I don’t belong here.  I have a fucking KEY for heaven’s sake.”  There was more movement when I heard the voice again, “I am GOING up there and I am retrieving what I came here for.  I don’t have a clue why YOU are even here.”

About that time I rounded the corner and collided with someone that I least expected to see.

“Daphne!?”  She just stared at me with this look on her face, and I swear if looks could annihilate someone, I would be nothing but ash beneath her feet.

“Brian.”  Her voice was cold.  It was something that I had only heard one other time from her, right after Justin had left me the first time.  She had a way of telling me that I should have been doing something that I wasn’t already and she could do it without saying a single word.  It was kind of scary.

“Well, this is going to save me some time.”  She sighed.  “You’re a fucking bastard Brian,” I opened my mouth to respond, because well, I know I can be a bastard, yes, but this was almost pure hate coming from her. “No, you let me finish.  You have absolutely destroyed him.  Right now I am here because he believes there may be something to save and he has your information stored in this house.  He believes that contacting you is the only thing that matters anymore”

This was news to him.  Justin had been here, here at Britin.  Oh God.  She continued her voice breaking, “And even though he fighting for his very life right now, all he can think about is you!”

Fighting for his life?  What the hell? “What do you mean fighting for his life?” Her silence was not helping my anxiety.  She must have seen something on my face because, for a minute her eyes softened before they went cold again.  “He’s in Allegheny, Brian.  It’s not good and right now I am so mad at you I can hardly see straight.”

The amount of agony at hearing that he was so bad off was unimaginable.  “Daphne, please, I need to see him.”  She looked at me a moment and said, “You know Brian, that is exactly what he said.”  She shook her head, “I came here because he asked me to grab a painting that he had done.  He said that he known your whereabouts since last year but couldn’t bring himself to contact you; that basically you had made it impossible for him to.  Hidden within that painting is your new address and office phone number.  And you want to know what he told me was the reason he put it in a fucking painting?  He said it was the only way he could have you and his art at the same time!  So, I will say to you, fix this or I swear by everything that is holy and unholy, I will hunt you down and make you pay for what you have done to him.”

I honestly can’t say I had ever heard her talk like that, and I have never been as scared in my life as I am at this moment.  Because, as much as I had convinced myself that Justin’s stay at the hospital after Hobbs had been my fault, it was nothing compared to this.   

My voice was barely above a whisper when I spoke, “Thanks Daphne.”  She looked straight at me and said, “This is not for you Brian, you have a long way to go with me, this is for Justin, because I really don’t know what anyone else can do for him.”

I turned to grab my keys off of the runner in the entryway when I heard Gwen’s voice from behind me, “I will take care of everything here,” I turned towards her, “Don’t be like me Brian, just don’t.”  I lifted my head in acknowledgement and walked out the door and started towards the hospital.

 

~Molly’s POV

Sitting by my brother’s bed, reading him Tolstoy, was probably boring him to death, but I was happy to be here.  We had grown closer over the years, even more so after Brian left.  To me Justin was more than just my brother; he was my friend, my confidant, my modern day hero.  To see him here like this was just downright painful.  I was the only one that knew that he was deteriorating to this point, but even I didn’t realize it had gotten this bad.  I am thankful every day that I suggested the weekend at Mom’s, because I don’t think he would have lasted another week.

I heard the door open behind me, and I could tell just by the quiet way he walked and his slightly agitated breathing who it was before he ever reached my chair.  Although it shouldn’t have surprised me that he was here, I was shocked by the depth of emotion he was showing when I turned to look back at him.

Brian Kinney, to me, has always been godlike.  It was more than Justin’s teenage statement of “seeing the face of god.” Brian had always held himself so aloof, almost to the point of arrogance.  I had mistaken it for that once in my life.  It didn’t help that Craig (no longer dad in my book), fed me bullshit about how he had turned my brother into a sex depraved demon living a life of debauchery and sin.  But, that was only part of it.  It seemed like everyone looked to him for guidance, and rather than giving a direct answer, his circumspect way of solving the problem left him with a mysterious godlike quality.  It was hard not to be drawn in by him even in his untouchable way so by the time that I had him somewhat figured out, I already was kind of enamored of him.  That is until New York.

It is hard to watch someone that you love become a shell right before your eyes, and because of that, I was wary to trust him now.  Brian was one of the few people who knew how close Justin and I had become.  It was sort of a bone of contention between him and me now.  He knew that I would be there for Justin, and it felt like a betrayal of the friendship that had developed between us.

He came up beside my chair and looked at what was left of my brother.  His indrawn breath was enough for me to know that he was expecting it to be bad, but not this bad.  And as for him knowing at all, it had to have been Daphne.   Mom wouldn't have done it and I couldn't have.

“How long Molly? How long has he been this way?”  Even though I didn’t want to really talk to him, I know that Justin would want me to give him answers. 

“A little over 5 years, although not this bad, not to this point.”  I looked over at him, his face giving over to a pain that I had seen mirrored in Justin.

“I should have been there.” He said sadly. 

“Yeah, you should have.”  I don’t think that he was expecting that.  Of course with that realization the disappointment and anger reappeared. “What Brian? Did you think that I would let it go that easy?  I know you think what you did was a noble sacrifice on your part, but it felt like a personal betrayal to me and it has nearly killed him.”

All of the sudden I heard, “Stop, please you two, just stop.”  Justin’s paper thin voice halted all conversation, I don’t think I heard Brian even breathe.  Brian stepped over to the bed and with one hand on the metal rail and the other braced on the mattress he leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on my brother’s lips.  Justin’s eyes were still closed but his left hand had moved closer to the rail.  Brain stood up and grabbed the other chair and the room and sat down beside me.  When Justin’s hand moved again, Brian scooted his chair forward and twined their fingers together.

Even though a part of me was telling me that I should let them have a moment in private, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave Justin right yet.  Not when he was in the condition he was.

When it was clear that Justin had dozed back off under the heavy sedation of morphine, Brian turned to me with his questions.  “What are they saying?”

“Basically, he was starved, dehydrated, and in shock.  His body was shutting down and he was briefly in a coma.  The doctors are not sure about long term consequences. Their exact words were ‘cautiously optimistic’ I believe.  And while I realize that right now, you will probably do him the most good, I also realize that you could finish him off.  So, tread carefully Brian.”  With that, I stood and looked at my brother one last time and went to go find something in the god awful thing they called a cafeteria to eat.

 

~Justin’s POV

He was here.  And even though I knew it would take a lot of effort, I couldn’t let Brian and Molly continue to fight.  So, using the last bit of my strength I called out for them to stop.  After that their voices floated to me and I could feel Brian’s hand in mine.  It was with that feeling that I drifted off back into my drugged sleep.

 

~Brian’s POV

Oh God.  Oh My God.  He looked bad, really bad.  Hearing what Molly had said, and knowing that he still had a long road ahead made me realize just how much damage I had done. 

“I promise I am not going anywhere.  You couldn’t make me go anywhere.”

The twitch where his fingers were entwined with Justin’s gave him all the answers he needed right now.  He would do whatever he needed to do to make sure that Justin never doubted him or them ever again.

 

Chapter Text

~Michael~

Ben has been gone to some symposium-whatever that is-in LA for about three days now.  So of course I am bored out of my fucking mind and decided to head out to Woody’s. 

As I sat down at the bar and ordered myself a drink, I overhead someone talking about Brian. 

“Hey, did you hear that Kinney’s back in town.”  Tall, dark and skinny was saying to a chubbier brunette.  “Yeah.  Stephen-- you know the nurse over at Allegheny, was saying that Kinney’s little blonde twink was sick again. Hey, but don’t let Kinney hear you calling him that.” He said laughing. The two bent their heads closer together so I had to strain to hear “Did you know that Stephen once had a fuck with Kinney while a patient in a coma was in the next bed…”  Oh, yeah, that was a typical Brain move. 

As their voices trailed off, I couldn’t help but think what the littlest stalker was up to now.  I mean every time that I think Brian has freed himself from blondie’s little grubby claws, he goes and gets hurt or sick or something.  It makes no sense.

It was awful when he left for New York.  Just when Brian had given him everything that he had ever wanted, Justin turned his nose up at it all.  After that Brian moped around for about a year and then it was like he just lost it.  He started drinking again and going out again.  Brian has always been the type that could pull any trick he wanted, but it was like he wasn’t even trying anymore.

What shocked me, was a few weeks after that, he just left.  I mean, he didn’t call, he didn’t let anyone know, he just left.  Ben said that he thought Brian needed to move away to stop all of the memories from taking over his life, but I don’t get it.  We have memories too, good memories.  Why would he want to forget that.  I have never understood why he just left me behind.  I could have gone with him, at least for a little while.  Ben could have even come with me.  When I told Ben this, he just shook his head and told me that Brian was growing up and I should let him.  He also said that Brian should have never left Justin, which I totally did not understand, Justin left him.

Anyways, that is beside the point. The real important question is why did he not tell me that he was back in town?  I am his best friend, always have been always will be.  A fact and Justin still doesn’t get. 

I think I might go by and see Brian. He probably needs a break from Justin and all his drama anyway.

 

 

~Jennifer~

The coffee that I had been drinking all day had finally worn off and since Molly had arrived I decided to go home and grab us a change of clothes.  Justin had been in and out of consciousness all day and my nerves were stretched to the max wondering if he would just to fall away again.  The doctors had said that they had noticed improvement with his cognitive functions, but well, fear had a way of taking all rational thought and explanations and tossing them out the window.  Molly had finally convinced me that I could go home for a little while and she would watch over him until I got back. I agreed only with the condition that she would call me the minute he woke up again.  She said she would and to not worry so much.  Little did she know that when you have children, that is sometimes all you can do. When I left he had been asleep with Molly reading a required assignment from her philosophy class to him.

I know that Daphne had been to see him earlier and what she told me, I can truly say I was shocked.  I had no idea that Justin had been going to the house that Brian had bought for the past few years.  I had not even known that Brian had kept it.  Most people didn’t know that he had purchased the house to begin with, but being his realtor at the time afforded me that luxury.  After their “split up,” I had just assumed that he had used another realtor to sell it.   To know that he kept it gave me pause as to the validity of their break up.

Even as that thought crossed my mind, I dismissed it.  Justin would never have gotten to the shape he had if they had still been with each other.  The only conclusion that I could draw, is that Brian just couldn’t part with the house.

See, Brian is this person full of contradictions.  He is often more sentimental than he would have you to believe.  He can also do and say the cruelest things. It’s just often times himself that he hurts the most.  I fully believe that the break up was his idea of sacrifice to the greater good.  Even so, I am not sure as to how I feel about it all.  I mean, I understand Brian, as well as anyone who is not Justin at any rate, but I am Justin’s mother and his wellbeing is my top priority.  So whether or not, things were supposedly done in Justin’s best interest is a matter of interpretation, and from where I am standing, it was done only to his detriment.

I finally arrived at the house and walked inside only to hear the landline ringing.  I remembered that I had turned my cell phone off earlier when I was in with Justin. The caller ID already had me rolling my eyes.  Debbie. Which meant somehow the gay grapevine had finally reached its peak and Debbie knew that Justin was in the hospital.

“Hey Debbie.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that Sunshine was in the hospital?!”  The screeching in my ears had me pulling the telephone away.

“Debbie, I really haven’t had time yet.  He just regained consciousness a little earlier this morning and Molly came in, which is the only reason I am here instead of there.”  I love Debbie, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes, especially when I am bone tired, her personality wears on my nerves. My nerves which happen to be at this moment already stretched too thin.  So, if I came off a little snappish, she would just have to give me a little leeway.

“Well, I guess I can see how you would be really busy. I was also calling to give you a heads up.  Michael just called.” Great, just great.  I have never really understood Michael, or his dislike for my son.  Although, I had strong suspicions that jealousy had a lot to do with it. “Michael was out last night and overheard that Brian was back in town.  You don’t think—“ she trailed off.

I knew where she was going, and a few years ago I could honestly say that I did think Brian would show up.  Now though, after everything I had heard and seen, I just didn’t know.

“I don’t know Debbie.  I don’t know if he would go there or not.  He broke it off with Justin, moved to Chicago and I don’t know why.  And now Justin has basically given up and it shows.  In every way it shows.  He has lost so much weight that I am surprised he was up and walking when he arrived at my house.  His eyes are dark and sunken in and there is no life in them at all.  Brian did this.  I trusted him Debbie, it took a while but, I trusted him with my baby and this is what he has done.

I was shocked by my own outburst.  I never meant to say any of that.  I guess I didn’t realize how strong my own feelings were about all of it until just now.  Brian’s return to Pittsburgh seemed to have heralded my own meltdown.

“I’m sorry Debbie.”

“It’s ok hun.  I don’t have a freakin’ clue what he was thinking when he broke it off with Sunshine, and I told him so.  He just told me to mind my own business.  Huh, go figure.”  I could literally see her shrugging her shoulders.  “Look, you don’t worry about anything but Sunshine right now. I’ll handle Mr. Asshole if I have to.”

“Debbie…I think that I am going to get back to the hospital.  I just needed to get a few things from here.”

We hung up and I quickly grabbed my overnight bag as well as some snacks for Molly and Me.  Knowing that Brian was around town made me nervous.  What if he hurt Justin further?  What if Justin found out he was in town and Brian ignored him?  What if Brian showed up?  And the question that stood boldly out in my mind…what if I couldn’t forgive him?

 

~Molly~

Leaving Brian with Justin was not my ideal set of circumstances, but if the look that Brian had on his face was any indication, it was safe for right now.  That is not to say that my mother will not go ape shit when she finds out, but that is another problem for another time. 

Just then my text went off.  Mom.

“Hi Sweetie.  Heard Brian was in town.  Just a heads up.”

Yeah, that would have been nice about an hour ago. 

“I know Mom, he showed up here.”

There was no response to that, so I figured that she was busy blowing her top, or whatever she did when she was about to snap.

“If it helps mom, he looked torn up.”

And then…

”Ok.”

Ahhh…Mom’s go to answer when she can’t figure out just what to say or do.  I put my phone back in my back pocket and wondered back to Justin’s room.  Brian was still there talking to my brother in a quiet voice.  I decided to go wait in the lobby for mom.  She may not like it, but those two had unfinished business.  Hell, I didn’t like it, but I knew enough to know that Brian was the only person that would be able to pull Justin through.

~Brian~

As I sat looking at him, years of words left unsaid poured from my mouth.  I told him that I was sorry for everything and that sorry was not bullshit if you really meant it.  I talked to him about the new office and how it almost killed me to put it in Chicago instead of New York.  And then I told him it would have killed me if I had put it in New York.  I told him how much it would have killed me each day to know that we were in the same city, yet miles apart.

I talked until my mouth was dry and then some.  After sometime I noticed that tears were leaking from his eyes and I bent over him.

“Please don’t cry, Sunshine.” I whispered as I kissed his eyelids.  I didn’t even notice the mirrored tears on my own lashes.  Just as I unbent to sit down, I saw a hint of blue.  Not the bright happy blue that I had remembered, but blue nonetheless.

“Sunshine.” I breathed.  His hand tightened around me in recognition.  And then I heard something that I had heard only briefly in the past few years. 

“Bri..” His voice.  It was weak and scratchy, but it was his.  He turned his head to look at me and as his eyes caught mine and held, I felt that I had come home.

“Hey, we are going to work this out Sunshine,” My voice was low, but strong “we are going to work this out and we are going home…to Britin.”

As I was speaking, I could see the moment of understanding in his eyes, the moment he understood that my self-imposed exile was over.  That we were done with “it’s only time.”  Our time was now.

 

~Justin~

Lying here with my eyes closed listening to Brian talk was getting to me.  The things that he was saying made me believe that he had finally finished becoming the Brian that I always knew he was.  People said that I was insane to love this man, who on his good days was a benevolent deity deigning us with his presence, and on his worst, an arrogant egotistical asshole who spent his days fucking and sucking and the hell with what anyone else thought.  But I, Justin Taylor, knew different.

I saw the things that no one else saw.  Like when he would hold Gus or when he would trace the contours of my face at night when he thought I was asleep.  That is the private Brian Kinney that I was privileged to know. 

I guess that is why when he called me and broke things off, I fell apart.  I didn’t know where it was coming from.  But listening to him, I learned that I could forgive him.  At the time he had still been growing, and it scared the shit out of him.  So, as always when something gets a little too different or deep for him, he backs away.

I don’t know and I don’t think that I ever will know what would have happened had I not been brought to this point.  And while my brain is still foggy, it is not foggy enough to stop the pressing question as to how he found out.  But, right now my main concern is letting him know that, yes, we will work through this, and that Britin has always been my home.

”I know we will Brian. I want us to.  I still love you.”  He had this look on his face that I could only describe as complete and total admiration and love.

“And I you Sunshine.  Now you rest, and I will be here when you wake up.”  I nodded as my eyes started to feel heavy. 

 

~Jennifer~

As I approached Justin’s room I could hear voices.  They were low so I could not make out the words just yet, but I would know them anywhere.  As I approached the door, I could hear the conversation more clearly.  It was obvious by the end of it the two men had an understanding.

I decided to go to the lobby where I might find some more coffee and maybe my daughter.  If the two of them did get back together, I had a lot of thinking to do as to where I needed to stand on the decision.  As I turned and started down the hall, I was stopped by a voice really didn’t want to hear. Shit.

“Mrs. Taylor.”

“Michael.” I could already see he was headed in the direction of Justin’s room.  “What are you doing here?”  I was trying to remain cordial, but knowing what I know about Michael, it was becoming increasingly difficult.

“I heard that Brian was here and I wanted to see him.”

Of course.  I guess the fact that my son was fighting for his life didn’t enter his mind.  “Michael, right now may not be the best time for you to visit with Brian.”  I was still trying for calm and collected.

“Of course it is.  I am his best friend and I know that he would want to see me.” 

Again trying for a calm I didn’t feel, I tried to talk some sense into him, “Michael, Justin is very sick right now and I don’t think that Brian would be good company.”  His face didn’t change from the determined one that I had seen a moment before.

“Look Mrs. Taylor, I don’t think that you would really know what Brian would want.” 

I guess you could say I pretty much lost it. “Look here you stubborn misguided little man, I may not be Brian’s “best friend” but I am Justin’s mother, and as such you are not going in that room.  I will call security if I have to or maybe I should just call your mother!”

Michael looked at me for a moment.  Finally, he just raised his hands.  “Fine, but I am going to wait here until I get a chance to talk to him.”

Stupid, stupid little boy.  All I could hope was that this time Brian would see fit to finally put his “best friend” in his place.

 

~Brian~

Shit, Mother Taylor.  She can’t be too impressed with me right now.  After all, look at what all has happened.

Double Shit…Mikey.  I can hear them arguing in the hall.  And by the sound of it Mother Taylor is giving him hell.  I look over to the bed where I can see Justin’s eyes are open and he is listening to the semi battle that is taking place in the hall.

“Brian?”  I squeeze his hand to let him know that I’m listening.  “No, just no. I don’t want him here.  He doesn’t care about me and right now I can’t deal with him and his whining.”

“Alright, Sunshine.  No Mikey.”  He gives me this look.  “I mean it.  It’s me and you, no room for anybody else in this relationship.” 

His face became relaxed again and a small smile grew on his face.  “Thank you.”

It hurt to have him be so thankful to me for something that he should have expected from me in our relationship.  And let’s face it, that was what it was and always has been, a relationship, even if I was to blind and stupid to see it.

“Sunshine, you shouldn’t have to thank me for something that should have been to begin with.” And then he astounded me by saying, “But Brian, that is what makes our relationship mean something now.  I never take the things you say or do for granted.  If you had said you loved me all the time, or always catered to my every want, I would never know how deep your love really is for me.  And if I had never had to push and fight with you to get something I wanted, you would never have known how much I would fight for you. “

His faith in me, in us never failed to humble me.  I reached inside my shirt and pulled the chain that I always wore under it over my head.  Suspended from the chain that I now held in my right hand, was the two wedding bands from our aborted ceremony.

“You kept them.”  His voice was filled with awe.  “You really kept them.”

I looked over at him shyly, “I couldn’t get rid of them.  Just like the house.”  I unclasped the chain and pulled the smaller of the two off.  I took his left hand and place it on his index finger.  He gave me a sad smile.  It would no longer fit his ring finger, the ring was too big.

“When you get better, I will move that to the finger it is supposed to be on.  And for right now, I will wear mine on the chain around my neck and close to the heart.”  He looked like he was going to cry again, but instead gave me a watery smile.

“Brian please…” he patted the mattress on the other side of him.  So, I walked around to the other side and carefully climbed in behind him.  I scooted as close as I could get and he snuggled back into me.

As I lay there with my arm thrown across his middle and my hand on his heart, I felt a peace settle over me.  The steady thump, thump, thump rhythm of his heart lulled me into sleep.

 

Chapter Text

~Nurse Helen

My shift started about an hour ago and so far only two patients had decided to try my patience.  Dr. Shelton had already stopped by and left me a list of orders two miles long and Shirley the new CNA was dragging her feet and did not want to finish her rotation.  So, needless to say, I was irritated and ready to snap. 

I was swiftly walking to my next destination when I was nearly knocked down by a man child with dark hair and furrowed eyebrows. If you asked me he could have done with a trip to Marcy, my local beautician, to sculpt those wayward caterpillars that sat above his eyes, back into some semblance of order. Anyway, that is about the only thought I could assemble before he opened his mouth.

“Excuse me, why don’t ya watch where you’re going?” His tone was biting as much as it was sarcastic.  I could tell that he was one of those types that typically thought the world should revolve around them and that their problems were the only ones that mattered.

He kept looking at me like I owed him an apology, so I let him have it, “Look little man…” he cut me off with “My name is Michael.”  I just shrugged, “I have no clue what your problem is today, but let’s get something straight.  You need to have your attitude adjusted, and while it will not be by me, Lord knows I wish it were, someday someone is going to fix that problem for you.”  He just rolled his eyes and stomped off.  Oh well, it’s not like I don’t have more important things to do anyway.

About an hour later I was down to my last patient, one Justin Taylor.  That name sounds familiar, but I don’t know why.  I quietly knock on the door and slide it open.  Laying tangled together is the patient and another man.  They had this quiet beauty about them that was hard to deny.  I know that hospital policy forbids this type of behavior, but for the life of me, I could not separate them.

I walked quietly over to the bed to check Mr. Taylor’s vitals and was surprised to find hazel eyes staring up at me.  I could see the protectiveness in them, so I approached the entangled pair with caution.  Hazel Eyes leaned slightly away so that I could reach the arm band to scan for Mr. Taylor’s meds.

“He’s looking a lot better today.” I whispered so that I wouldn’t wake the sleeping patient.  “The doctor said that he might get to go home tomorrow.”  The brunette nodded his head although his eyes were on the blonde resting beside him.  I gave him his dose of vitamins as well as a light pain killer.

“I will check on him again in a couple of hours, but I will make sure to keep it quiet for him.” Again he nodded in acknowledgement of what I said. 

“Thanks, he really needs the rest.  I will be glad when we get home, he will probably sleep better without all of the family visitors popping in.”  I nodded completely understanding that sentiment.  I had pneumonia 2 years ago and while family thought they were being thoughtful, all I could think was that I wished they would just go away.

I gave them both another smile and walked away to finish my shift.

 

~Ted

I sat up startled from my sleep not knowing what had originally woke me. That’s when I notice the phone beside my bed buzzing from text messages and missed calls.  There was one from Brian stating that he was at the hospital, one from Cynthia letting me know that Michael was driving her up the wall (a heads up she said) and of course 13 texts and 7 missed calls from Michael himself.

Blake looked over at me from his side of the bed.  “What is it?” His blue eyes glowed in the small light from the hallway.  “It’s mostly Michael.”  Blake rolled his eyes.  See, Blake came into the “family” with no preconceptions as to how anyone should be.  While I still carried some feelings for Michael, especially since he was one of my closest friends, Blake was the one to help me see how childish and self-absorbed Michael could be.

“What does he want?” Blake asked.  He wasn’t being sarcastic but understandingly to my plight.  “Well, it seems that Justin is in the hospital and Michael has been kept from seeing Brian, who of course is with Justin.”

“Well good.  He has never really cared for Justin and is a little too obsessed with Brian.  Neither of which can be good for the couple right now.”  I could totally see where Blake was coming from.  I had seen the desolation in Brian’s face those few months before he left for Chicago.  It didn’t help that Michael seemed to think that the answer to all of it was for Brian to go back to the immature playboy that he had been.

“Yeah, I know.  I am going to text Brian and see if he needs anything.”  I started to type out my text.  I turned back to Blake, “Did you know that Brian asked me to fix up the house for some business retreat a few days ago?”  Blake propped his head on his arm and asked, “Why did he do that?  Do you think he knew that Justin was sick?”

I thought about it for a minute, and then, “No, I really don’t think he did.  In fact, it was Gwen’s idea to open the house up.”  Talk about fate and whatnot.  I had seen those two together and it never ceased to amaze me at how strong the connection was between them.  It was no wonder that Brian turned into a practical zombie when Justin left.

“I think I am going to try to do some damage control.  I need to go kick the business party out of the house so that they have a quiet place to stay.  If I know the “family” they are not going to leave them alone unless they can’t find them.  Thank God no one knows about the house.”  I stood up and went to go take a nice long shower, because there was no way I was going to get any peace until the dust settled from this fiasco.

 

~Gwen

With our business meetings concluded, most of the party had already started to leave.   The cleaning crew, sent by Ted, had arrived about an hour ago and I was packing my things to leave as well.  This week had been an eye opening experience about one Brian Kinney.  I honestly hoped that Brian realized that self-sacrifice rarely was as noble as it sounded.

I really don’t know why I had listened when the girl he called Daphne showed up, I just knew that Brian could not continue to operate the way he had been.  I had lived through the pain and loneliness of not being with the person I loved.  There was not a day that went by that I did not think about my time with Lilith.  She had given me so much and I just couldn’t let go of my past long enough to stay with her.  I forever regret the day that I turned away from her and moved to Chicago.  It had been 7 years, but the pain was the same as it had been all those years ago.

Watching Brian reach out to the person that he loved gave me the resolve to find Lilith, if only to let her know the impact that she had on my life.  With renewed determination, I finished packing, loaded my car and drove back to Chicago to start my search.

 

~Brian

The day had come for Justin to be released and I was ready to get him to the house and away from the constant traffic in the hospital.  So far I had not had to confront Michael about his dramatic behavior that through hospital staff gossip had made it to my ears.  But I knew it was coming.  I thought about it for a minute and decided it would be best for me to find him before he found me.  I looked up at Justin.  He was watching some show about serial killers and the people that went after them. 

He must have felt my eyes on him because he looked over at me and gave me a small smile.  “Hey.”  His voice was stronger than the other day, but he still sounded tired.

“Hey,” I felt the corners of my lips turn up in answer, “I’m going downstairs to get rid of some of your groupies.  Maybe we won’t get mauled on our way out.”  I could tell by the relieved expression and by his knowing look that was he grateful that he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone for a little while longer.

We had talked a little the night before and he had been very open about the fact that he didn’t think he could handle talking with anyone right now.   I had to agree with him, he would talk to me, but as soon as Jennifer stepped in the room, he became silent again.  He did tell her he loved her and was sorry, but most of the time he was quiet.

He reached for my hand and I grabbed his.  He gave me a small squeeze and said, “I’ll be ok, you go and do what you need to.”  I stood up and leaned over his bed.  I let my fingers trail over jawline.  It never ceased to amaze me at how soft his skin was.  I bent over him and softly kissed his forehead.   His lips never moved but I could see the smile in his eyes.  I turned and walked to the door.  As I placed my hand on the handle I heard him call my name.  “Brian?”  I turned back to him.  “Love you.”  I smiled back at him, “Love you too, Sunshine.”  With those four words the smile that had previously been absent was there in all its shining glory.  With one last long look I turned the handle and walked from the room.  I had a mission to complete.

 

~Michael

Sitting in this lobby for the last few hours was starting to get on my nerves.  I had gone home the night before still without talking to Brian.  It seemed like every time I got close to the room that old nurse, Helen or Helga or something like that, would come up with some reason for me to have to go back to the lobby.

Just then Brian walked in the room.  He looked tired but determined.  He gave a brief nod to Jennifer and Molly and the walked over to me.  I smiled at him and reached to give him a hug, but he put his hand out in halting motion.  He looked me in the eyes and said “With me.”  His voice was monotone and for the life of me, I didn’t know why he seemed so pissed.  We walked along the halls of the hospital with a grim countenance.  I was starting to get a little nervous.  Brian and I have not been that close in recent years and it hard to read him right now.

We stepped outside and he turned to me.  “Michael,” oh no, he used my full name, “I am going to only say what I have to say one time.  If I have to ever repeat it, our friendship will have to end.”  I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes.  So this is what is up.  Boy Wonder must have finally gotten to him.  His eyes were serious as he continued, “I don’t know what is in your head, but know this, I love Justin…I am going to be with Justin.  I need you to leave and let us be alone for a while.”

“Brian, are you fucking crazy?!  He is going to leave and hurt you again.  What are you going to do then?  Run back to Chicago?  Or maybe yet open an office in Alaska!”  I stepped closer to him, “Every time poor little Justin gets hurt, sick, or upset you go running like a faithful little lap dog.  Is that what you are now!?  Justin’s little lap bitch!”  Wow, I cannot believe I just yelled at him.

“MICHAEL!!!”  Brian’s shout had gotten not only my attention, but that of everyone around us.  The security guard looked at us warily, but remained seated at his podium when Brian backed up a step.  “Look, we are leaving and the best thing you can do is just shut your fucking mouth and leave us alone.  For now and until I say otherwise, stay the hell away from me or there might be a repeat of the munchers’ party.”  I watched as he pushed past me and went back into the hospital without a backward glance.

 

~Brian

That little whiney shit!  I can’t believe he said that.  Well, maybe I can.  Anyway, I need to calm down before I get back to Justin’s room.  He really doesn’t need this shit right now.  Walking along the corridors of the hospital, I had time to think.  I was hurt over Mikey’s words and actions.  It was just as Ted had said some time ago, Michael hated or was jealous of Justin that’s the only explanation as to why he would act that way, especially to me.  I didn’t want to believe it.  At the time it hadn’t really mattered, at least in the sense that Justin was in New York, I was in Chicago and Mikey was in the Pitts.  But now, Justin was home and if I had my say he would be from now on.  Mikey was either going to have to accept that or, as much as it would pain me, get out of my life.

 

~Justin

Gahhh!  I am so ready to go home.  Brian said something about going to deal with everyone, but I know what he was really doing.  We talked and both came to the conclusion that Mikey needed to be told how things were going to be.  It was kind of the first test in seeing if this new Brian was the real deal.  I hate that it has to be that way.  I know that it is going to hurt Brian, because let’s face it, Michael is never going to be ok with me, or my relationship with him.

Brian walked back in the room and I could tell by the look on his face that the talk had not gone well.  “Things didn’t go so well.”  The fact that Brian was the first to initiate the conversation allowed me to say something about the situation that I wouldn’t have dared to otherwise.  “I’m sorry, Brian.”  He nodded his head and I held out my hand.  He swiftly walked across the room and took it in his.  He leaned down and brushed his lips across mine.  As they lingered, I let out a small moan.  He lifted his head and smirked down at me.

“Hey! No fair.”  I ran my hands up behind his neck and pulled him back down.  This time as we kissed I opened my mouth and his tongue pressed inside.  The kiss soon turned a little heated until a throat was cleared at the foot of the bed.  Dr. Shelton was standing there with a somewhat amused look on his face.  “Mr. Taylor, I was just stopping by to give you your discharge papers and some instructions for your release.”   He handed the papers to Brian and continued, “I have given you a prescription for some multivitamins as well as some antibiotics.  The vitamins will help you with the anemia and other deficiencies that showed up in your last lab results.  The antibiotics will help prevent infections that could happen due to your weakened immune system.”

“Dr. Shelton, should any of his physical activities be limited?”  Brian asked.  I could see the mirth building behind the doctor’s eyes.  “Mr. Kinney, I don’t see that he would have any problems with ummm…physical activities as long as he is very careful about not tiring himself too much.”  I quickly intervened,  “Thanks doctor, I think we’ve got it.”  Dr. Shelton gave me a nod and a smile as he left the room.

Brian looked over at me, “You know that I was joking with you right?  We don’t have to do anything until you are feeling better.”  I had to stop that thinking very quick, “Brian, I know that, but I have been without you for too long.”  I looked at him from under my eyelashes, “I want you inside me, I want to feel you moving above me, I want to taste you as you come down my throat.”  I reached over and grabbed his hand.  I moved it over my half erect cock.  “I maybe weak in some areas, but not that.”  His moan was answer enough.

He looked over at me, “Then home it is, and then to bed.”  He extracted his hand from mine and kissed me again.  There was no doubt about it, I was as still drawn to him and him to me, as we always had been.  I couldn’t wait to have him inside me again. 

The young orderly brought my wheelchair around.  I looked at it in disgust, but I had been around hospitals enough to know that getting out of here without it was an impossibility.  As I was being wheeled out of that godforsaken hospital, I said a silent thank you to Vic, wherever he might. 

Brian helped me out of the chair and into the passenger seat of a Mercedes Saloon.  Once I was seat belted in, I looked over at him with a raised eyebrow.  He looked back at me and said “It’s a rental.  Although, it has kind of grown on me.”  He smiled and put his sunglasses on. 

As Brian put the car into gear, I was filled with an anticipatory excitement.  We were headed back to Britin, only this time I would not be alone. 

 

Chapter Text

Meanwhile in Toronto

 

~Melanie

I don’t know what in the hell is wrong with Lindsey.  For the first year or so that we were up here everything was great between us.  She had found a job working in a daycare and I had joined a firm as a paralegal until I could pass the bar in Canada.  Our finances were tight, but the added bonus of free childcare from Lindsey’s job helped tremendously.

Years two and three things were still going great, although I could tell that every now and then Lindsey thought about Pittsburgh.  When she had found out that Brian had moved to Chicago, she had moped about the house for days.  It wasn’t until he came to visit Gus that she settled down again. 

Now here we are going on a little over five years and it’s like we are two strangers sharing the same house.  I know that she blames me for leaving Pittsburgh, just like she blames me for every other thing that has become a problem in our lives.  And if I am totally honest with myself, I think that she may have another Sam somewhere.  It’s nothing I can prove at this point, and believe you me, if I could this whole fucked up relationship would be over.

As it stands right now, we are trying to stay together for the kids, and again being honest with myself here, I don’t want to admit to failure.  I love Lindsey, but there is something within her that cannot be satisfied.  She is so hungry for affection, for attention, that sometimes I don’t think there are enough people in the world to satisfy her.  I am not so blind as to not see her bi-curious nature, and although there is nothing wrong with loving both genders, it does leave me feeling like I am inadequate as a partner and person.  It would even be ok if she admitted that she was attracted to both genders, as long as she could remain faithful to me, but I’m not sure that it is within her personality.  She has pined for Brian for as long as I can remember and I am 100% sure if he up and said, “Hey I’ll fuck you” she would be all over him.  And that ladies and gentlemen is why Brian and I are always at odds with each other.

Not that he would ever say that, but she already obsesses over Brian with us at each other’s throats half the time.  I would hate to see the level of worshipping should would do if Brian and I had some sort of normal relationship.

Anyway, I am reaching a point where I can no longer ignore the tension between us.  Yesterday, she even started screaming at JR and Gus for no reason.  I can’t have my kids scared and crying just because she can’t control whatever demons are pulling her strings. 

Sometimes I feel as if I am so alone in all of this.  And I hate that.  I am not supposed to be this weak thing. And yet, here I am cowering down under the pressure of being the sane one in our….well, whatever this is that we have.  At first leaving Pittsburgh was a good thing, we had each other.  Now, it was the worst possible thing for me to have done.  I no longer have a support system, and the weight of that decision makes me feel like Atlas holding up the world on my shoulders.

~Lindsey

I have been sitting in my car outside our house for about 20 minutes now and I can’t believe what I have heard.  Debbie had called me to ask about JR and Gus.  She just happened to let it slip that Justin was back home in the hospital and that Brian was there with him.  From what I understand, no one has been able to really pin down what’s going on with Brian either.  Debbie thinks that they are working their problems out.  She also said that he has been so protective that no one really knows what is going on or where they would be going once Justin was discharged.

The fact that Justin is willing to get back with Brian and throw away his entire career makes me furious.  I mean, I would absolutely kill to have his talent, but he is wasting it.  Plus when Justin is around, Brian seems to let his world revolve around him.  Ok, ok…so I am exaggerating.  It just honestly drives me crazy.  I love Brian, and it kills me to see him so untrue to himself.

To top it all off, Melanie and I are on the rocks again.  About eight months ago we had a big fight.  It was over something so stupid.  Mel said that we would have to cut back our spending again, that we were starting to dip back into the red.  I only mentioned that maybe we could ask Brian for a small loan, and that sent her through the roof.  She kept going on and on about how we should be able to take care of ourselves.  That we were a family, just like any other heterosexual couple that had two kids, and we should be able to make our bills without needing his help.

I know Brian doesn’t mind paying for Gus’ things, but Melanie really doesn’t like it when he pays for more than that.  I still don’t understand why.  I mean it’s not like he can’t afford it.  Anyway, after that fight we just stopped talking to each other.  Then we started sleeping in separate rooms, and before long we were living separate lives. 

Five months ago, I met Liam Murphy.  We started out as good friends. He had emigrated from Ireland 10 years ago and he just understood me.  It took about a month, but we started sleeping together.  I know that Melanie suspects something, but what the hell does she expect me to do?  Live celibate?  I mean, she doesn’t even talk to me anymore, and I just felt so lonely.  So, Liam and I get together every now and then.

It’s not all roses and rainbows with him though.  He knows about Mel, and he is constantly asking when I am going to leave her.  On top of that he is threatening to leave me.  I have just been so upset about all of it and then hearing that Brian and Justin were getting together, well I kind of just lost it for a second or two.

Gus had been whining all day about not wanting to go to summer camp this year.  He instead wanted to go and see his dad and his Grandma Deb.  JR is in that clingy stage, and while she clings to Mel more than me, that day she wouldn’t stop pulling at me and calling my name every three seconds.  I can’t even remember what I said, but whatever it was, Mel was furious.  All I could remember thinking is about how much I just wanted away from it all.

I finally got out of the car and went way inside.  I made my way to the kitchen to look for the bottle of red I had put back.  Mel has been on this kick about throwing out all of my wine lately and so I have taken to stashing some in different places.  I poured a glass and took a long sip.  I have been needing that all day.  I hate my job at the daycare, but I need the paycheck.

“Lindsey,” Oh God, it’s Mel.  Just her voice is enough to drive me crazy.  I turn around to see her standing with her hands on her hips and JR holding on to her leg, “where have you been?!”  Now I can’t just tell her that I have been getting my brains fucked out by the Irishman that I have been seeing, can I?  So, I just roll my eyes “Out Mel.  I have been out.”  Away from you, you crazy bitch.

“Lindsey, you were supposed to have driven Gus to soccer practice remember?  I had JR’s dance classes today.”  Jeezus, not a moment’s peace.

“It’s not like him missing one practice is the end of the world Mel.”  I can tell by the look on her face that my answer is not good enough.  Well, what’s new?  Nothing is ever good enough for her.  “Look, I am not going to spend the rest of my evening fighting with you, so just leave me the fuck alone.”  I turn to brush by her and she grabs my arm. “What are you drinking?”

“I’m just having a little wine after work. What are you now, the wine Nazi?” She flinched as if I had struck her.  Shit, ok so I said that without thinking.  Oh well, it’s not as if she hasn’t said worse to me.  “I’m going to bed Mel, I’m tired.”

“You should be after all that fucking around you are doing on the side.”  I looked at her for a second, “Whatever, I’m going to bed.”  Before I left however, I went back to the kitchen and grabbed the rest of the wine that was left.  As I got close enough to pass her, I looked her in the eye and drank straight from the bottle.  Petty I know, but who the fuck cares.

As, I sat down on my bed, I pulled out my cell and dialed the one person who thought that Brian and Justin should not be together as much as I did (even if it was for a different reason). 

“Hey Michael, so Brian and Justin….”

 

~Molly

Justin just left a few moments ago and I have mixed feelings about this whole thing.  As hard as it is to admit this, they both share equal fault in what has happened.  Brian for thinking that he knew what was best for my brother, and my brother for letting him get away with it to begin with. 

The only difference is, I have a loyalty to my brother that I don’t have with Brian.  Justin is my flesh and blood and I would forgive him anything.  Brian will probably have to work for his, but making sure Justin stays happy is a really good start.

Mom has finally calmed down now that Justin is going home, although there is still a rigidness to her posture that has more to do with Brian’s presence than worry over Justin’s actual physical wellbeing.  I really don’t know what to say to assure her that everything will be fine other than just to keep saying it over and over again.  Thankfully Tucker will be back tomorrow.  He seems to mellow her out and will keep her from obsessing over it all too much.  Of course that is if he can keep her from talking to Debbie for a little while.

I like Debbie, don’t get me wrong, but she has a big mouth that loves big drama.  And Auntie Em has told me before that he thinks that is what would probably make her a wonderful gay man.  Just thinking about that makes me giggle.  Of course that would draw Michael’s attention.  Lord how I dislike that man.

“What are you giggling about Blondie?”  His nasal whine and sarcastic voice make me want to vomit.  “Nothing that concerns you Weasel.”  He rolled his eyes.  We had been swapping snipes in the form of nicknames since he first came to the hospital.  “Well, anyway your brother has done it again.”  Uh oh, here comes the whiney tirade I have heard more than once in the last 12 hours.  “He has once again reduced Brian’s brain to that of marshmallow.  Why couldn’t he have just stayed in New York?”  Shit, I know that I am going to lose it even before the words even come out of my mouth, “Look, you little piss ant, my brother has done nothing to your ‘best friend’ that he didn’t want done.  If you weren’t always wanting to be 4 feet up his ass you would know that. You would also want Brian to be happy; and my brother makes him happy.”

I could tell that he wanted to do something stupid like stomp his foot, but finally he just looked at me and said, “I know Brian better than anybody and I know exactly what he wants.”  And with that he turned and walked off.  So much for hoping that Brian telling him off had any effect.  Oh yes, I knew about that.  I knew about it practically right after it happened, because loud mouth Novotney (the son, not the mother) had informed nearly the entire hospital in all his ranting afterwards.

Even if I was still a little mad a Brian, I really wanted to go and give him a huge hug and a high five right then.  In any event, Justin and Brian have left and are currently making their way to somewhere quiet to sort out all of the misunderstandings that plagued their relationship.  And at the end of the day, if Brian can make my brother happy, then I will stand behind them in whatever they decide to do.

~Brian

Watching him sleep in the seat next to me is an experience I have often taken for granted.  Now though my eyes worship the angular lines of his face and sorrow over the shadows that still linger under his eyes.  He is still a little on the slender side, but so help me, I will make sure that he gets back to a better weight and as soon as possible.  Thankfully, the decorators did install a state of the art in-home gym.  I hope that he likes the way the house has been done. If he doesn’t he can change the whole damn thing, I don’t care.  As long as I have him with me, he can do whatever he wants to it.

I missed him.  I have missed him so bad that I can’t begin to even describe it.  And it’s not even all physical.  I missed his laugh and his intelligence, the way that he just got my wit and parried back with his own.  It has been hell without him and even though I am the one that broke it off to begin with, I am coming to understand that he will be the only one that I will ever long to be with in that way.

We are almost to the house when I feel his gaze on me. “Hey,” my voice is softer than it usually is and I have to wonder at what he has accomplished in giving me the ability to love and to be loved.  “Hey Bri.” His blue eyes shining from under his long lashes.  “We are almost home.”  He smiled at me again and whispered “home.” 

The lights from the big Tudor mansion stood out in darkness.  As I parked the car and helped him out, I felt this feeling.  I’m not sure I can even describe it.  It is like standing close to the edge of a cliff and wanting to fall off.  Knowing all the while that even though you will have a moment of sheer unadulterated panic, there will also be the safety and peace of a parachute to lower you to the ground. 

I unlocked the door with the spare key I had dug from my pocket, and once over the threshold turned to Justin.  “I’m not going to carry you over the threshold or anything, that just wouldn’t be us, but here,” I grabbed his hand palm up, placed the key in it, and closed his fingers around it, “this key is yours, and this house is ours.”  With that I kissed his fingers, still closed around the key, and pulled him into the house.

~Justin

Brian can say that he is not romantic, but that is a load of bullshit.  I know better and this just proves it.  I take a look around my-no our new home.  The entry way looks less cold and more inviting than the last time I was here.  There are flowers on a side table that I was surprised to see and a painting I had completed my first week in New York was hanging just above it.

I walked further into the house and realized that the staircase seemed to be larger and go on longer than ever before.  Brian must have realized the same thing about the same time I did because he looked at me and said “There is a completed bedroom on this floor that we can use for tonight.”  I smiled gratefully at him.  He held his hand out, “Come on Sunshine, let’s get you something to eat before we call it a night.”

As we walked to the kitchen, I couldn’t help but glance to the door on my left. “No one has been in it except to clean it.  We can decorate that one ourselves.”  I nodded at him with a small smile.  We reached the kitchen and I took a seat at one of the stools that had been placed at the island.  I watched as he dug around in the refrigerator and came back with what looked to be some kind of croissant and a container of soup.  “It’s this soup that Gwen makes.  It’s her recipe.” 

Brian had told me about her.  To say that I was intrigued by her would be putting it mildly.  Someone that could put with his shit (other than Cyn, and I think she has secret balls of steel) had to be strong willed.  That in itself made me want to at least meet her, but the way that Brian had said some things made me believe that she had a story, and that made me want to get to know her.

The soup had finished heating and we were both eating quietly when I decided to bring up the elephant in the room.  “Brian, I want you.  I want you so bad that it is all I can think about.”  He looked at me for a second “I feel there is a but in there somewhere.” His tone was slightly amused, but his eyes were patient. “but,” I continued “but, I am so tired that I don’t think we will accomplish much.”  And then because I myself needed the physical connection just as bad, “Although, I think a blow job might not be out of the question.”  His smile told me everything.

After we had finished eating he grabbed my hand and led me to the first floor bedroom he had mentioned earlier.  Once inside he kissed me softly before asking, “Justin, I need to know.  Are you sure?”  I gave him the only answer that mattered, “Always, with you, always.” 

With that he lifted my shirt over my head with swift hands.  Those same hands tossed my shirt aside and started tracing the indentions where my ribs were.  I looked down slightly self-conscious “we have already discussed this Brian, stop blaming yourself.  This is something I have done, not you.”  With a brief nod his hands continued downward until they reached the waist band of the scrubs they had given me to wear home.

His fingers played along the waistband while his tongue played with my mouth.  He lowered my bottoms until they reached the floor where I stepped out of them.  My hands came up and removed his shirt and once I had disposed of it they roamed over his chest, feathering lightly over his nipples. 

His groan of appreciation did not go unnoticed, so I continued my ministrations while his lips moved over my jaw and down to my neck.  There he found the one place that never failed to turn me into a writhing pile of mush.  When he heard me moan, I felt him smirk a little, but by that time I really didn’t give a shit.

My hands became more frantic and the litany of get him naked get him naked get him naked ran through my mind over and over again.  Once we were both devoid of our clothes we pulled back far enough to look at each other.  He reached out and brushed his hand down the side of my face and kissed me softly on my forehead.  It was a kiss of love, it spoke of I will keep you safe. It filled that void that had been there so long and settled a peace in me that had been missing.

He turned me around and slowly back walked until his knees hit the bed and then he turned us around again.  His mouth and tongue returned to mine and he pushed me backward cradling my head so that I would land softly on the bed.  Once I was laid out he crawled over me and kissed me again and then started making his way slowly to his ultimate destination.

My cock was throbbing before he even made it to my navel and as his thigh traveled over the head my precum left a trail that glistened in the low lamplight.  My breathing quickened as he reached down to play with my balls just before he slid a finger over my entrance.  We both moaned at the same time and gooseflesh broke out along my arms and legs.

“Fuck Brian, it’s been so long.”  His hand came up closer to my cock and his tongue laved at the inside of my thigh.  “Patience, Sunshine.”  He continued his assault until his mouth moved to the top of my cockhead “I want to taste you.” And with that he took me in his mouth all the way to the root.  I let out a loud scream. 

With his hands massaging my balls and his mouth sliding up and down my cock it was only a matter of minutes before I came in a huge gush down his throat with a loud shout. He continued to softly stroke my shaft until I came down from my orgasm. 

Once I was coherent again he kissed me and I could taste the musk of myself along with what I have always associated as the taste of Brian.  When he moved to lay down I reached over for him “Brian I want to touch you: I need to touch you.”  He looked at me seriously for a second and I let him see how much I needed that connection.  He nodded and I moved to take him in my mouth.

It didn’t take long for him to reach orgasm and I once again got to savor the taste that I had been craving for over five years.  I moved back so that I could lay my head on his chest while his breathing slowed.  His arms came around me and held me tightly against him.  I felt a feather like kiss on the top of my head and then his hold loosened.  When I look back up at him, he looked content in a way I hadn’t seen him before.

“I love you Justin.”  Even though I have always known that, those words never cease to floor me.  “I love you too Brian.”  I laid my head back down onto his chest while his fingers ran through my hair and across my scalp.  I fell asleep thinking that this was what I had been missing.

Chapter Text

~Blake

 

My admittance to this little family was granted with a lot of trepidation and even more reluctance.  I played my own part in that, but Ted’s previous relationship with Emmett made things even harder for us.  I think because of that; I have been able to provide an objective voice when it comes to issues that arise within said family.  It is that same objectivity that allowed me to see the inner workings of the group and how out of sync some of the members were. 

 

For one, you have Michael.  Here he is with a husband that loves him to distraction, a son that has grown above the life that he was once shoved into, and a daughter that should provide him with an endless amount of pride.  But, when it comes down to it, he is still unhappy.  He is still chasing dreams that should have long ago been laid to rest.

 

See, the thing about being the outsider brought into this group, is that I also hear and see things that others might not.  Sometimes I may be in a room, but I might as well be a piece of furniture, as much as I am not really being noticed.   There are some that see me merely as an extension of Ted…like TedandBlake.  Never just Blake.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain degree of freedom in that.  I have not had to define who I am.  In fact, other than the fact that I am a recovering drug addict and in love with Ted, nobody knows a damn thing about me.  That is why when all of the drama in the group gets going, I can sit back and help Ted keep calm.  Think I might need one of those shirts that say “Keep calm and watch Ted.”  Because, when it comes down to it, he is my priority.

 

I think Brian is starting to understand that, as far as Justin is concerned anyway.  Justin should have always been a priority and watching him start to take action on that has been very interesting to say the least.   The drama in the last 48 hours has grown to epic proportions.  It usually does when Brian does something that defies the role that the family has cast him in.  Unfortunately, I have a feeling it is going to get a whole lot worse before it ever gets better.  The reason I say this is because of the other “family” member that is so out of sync with everyone else…Lindsey.

 

Lindsey is another person who has a full life but refuses to acknowledge it.  She has a wife that would give her all the love in the world if only Lindsey would let her.  She also has two kids who love her and should be her whole world.  Instead, what I have observed, is that one is being used as a tool for manipulation, while the other she tolerates because she has to.  I am not sure that she has ever gotten over the fact that Brian said no to being the father the second time around.  And from what I can tell you, I am glad that he didn’t, and so is Melanie.

 

That whole family dynamic is truly fucked from what I can tell.  It all stems from Lindsey’s refusing to admit that she has fantasies that don’t include Melanie or any woman for that matter, and Melanie’s inability to acknowledge what she herself already knows nor to quit laying blame at Brian’s doorstep for everything that has become a problem for them.  And that ladies and gents is only scratching the surface of the FUBAR situation they have found themselves in.

 

I know it seems as if I am passing judgement on everyone.  Maybe I am.  Maybe because I was so thoroughly judged and tossed aside as unimportant, it makes it ok.  I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care.  Ted is all I really have an invested interest in and by extension of Ted’s friendship with Brian, I have included Brian and Justin into the small circle of people I care what happens to.  Now some people would say that Ted has more friends in the family than that, but I disagree. 

 

Brian would absolutely deny it to his dying day, but he is one of Ted’s truest friends.  When everyone thought Ted was nothing more than a fuck up, Brian saw more than that.  He saw Ted’s true potential and fuck what anyone said otherwise.  He allowed Ted to gain the one thing that he had lost…his self-worth.

 

Being a drug addict myself, I can tell you that once you reach sobriety and remember all the shitty things that you have done, you feel as if you are about 2 inches tall.  You want to reach out and make amends with those that you hurt, but you feel as if you are not even worthy enough to do that.  And the absolute worst is the pity that you know is in their eyes, knowing that they are walking on eggshells around you so that they don’t say the wrong thing.

 

Brian is not like that.  He detests pity and cannot stand those that walk around pitying themselves.  So when he needed Ted to step up, he didn’t treat him any different than he had before.  In turn, Ted showed Brian the same consideration when it came to the cancer.  The loyalty inspired in Ted from Brian’s actions has only grown in time and over that same time Brian has developed a respect for him.

 

It is going on 11:30pm and Ted should be arriving soon.  I know he has had a rough day fielding calls from all sides of the family.  It irritates me to no end, but I know that he will do what he has to.  And honestly, since it is for Brian and Justin, I can deal with it.  At some point there will come a time when I will have to step in and let them all know who I really am, what I will and will not put up with, but for right now, I will just sit back and do what I do best.  Keep Ted calm.

 

~Ted

 

Well, this day has been for shit.  I mean, do people (and by people I mean Michael and Lindsey) not understand the words “Brian will call you when and if he feels like he should.”  It should have sunk in after the 5th call from Michael and the 8th call from Lindsey, that they were not getting anything out of me.  Brian would have my balls, nevermind my job. Plus, I respect him more than that. 

 

I guess that is why I finally told them, that if they called me again, I was going to block their numbers.  Michael shut up after that, but Lindsey decided to pull the “Gus” card.  Her whole argument was “what if…”  I shut that down pretty quick too.  I told her that if there was an emergency concerning Gus, Mel could call me while Lindsey kept an eye on Gus.  The silence on the other end was very telling.  As Em would say, “that burned her biscuits!”

 

Driving my way back to the house that Blake and I recently purchased, I turned on one of the new opera CD’s Blake had purchased for me.  Letting the low tenor voice of the male accompaniment wash over me, I tuned out the bitter nagging I had been subjected to over the past 12 hours.   I was looking forward to getting home.

 

Over the past year or so, I have settled down into a more comfortable way of life.  Woody’s is there when I need to be around people, but my days at Babylon are over.  The only time that I even go there now, is to make sure everything is running smoothly.

 

As I pass the first house in the entrance to our subdivision I pick up my phone to call Blake to let him know I am almost home.  It is two rings before I hear his voice pick up, “Hey love,” It is always a slight thrill to hear him answer me that way.  God I love caller ID.

 

“Hey yourself.”  Our greeting has become a declaration of love in itself.  Nothing bears the stamp of love better than a ritual that you started and continue simply because the other person enjoys it.  Hearing his little sigh (the one that makes me smile every time) I continue, “I will be home in about 5 minutes.”  Now I know that this just seems silly, but for us it just works.

 

“Good, I think that you may need some TLC, and then some of my famous southwestern chili.”  My mouth was already watering thinking about it.  Blake had fixed it when we had first moved into the new house and I have been hooked ever since.  “That sounds wonderful, thanks Blake.” 

 

“You’re very much welcome, love.”  I could tell that he knew I was talking about more than just the chili.  Blake has been my rock in so many ways, and I never want to take that for granted.  As I pulled into the drive, Blake opened the door and hugged me as I made my way inside.  I pulled off my jacket and hung it up in the hallway closet as I passed by it.  Blake had already made his way inside and stood waiting for me at the arched entrance to the kitchen.  I could smell the chili still simmering on the stove and the light jazz music that Blake loved could be heard in the background.

 

“You look tired, love.”  Blake said concerned, “Come eat, and then you can go rest.”  He walked towards me and took my hand.  I let him pull me to the table that was already set with bowls of chili.  He sat at the chair across from me and gave me a small smile.  “So, tell me about it, I know that today couldn’t have been easy.”  He was right.  Today had been god awful.

 

“Well, it was bad enough that I almost blocked their numbers.  I just don’t understand, Blake.  Why can’t they just go about their own lives and leave everyone else alone.”  Blake shrugged his shoulders, “Ted, some people are just like that, they can never be satisfied with what they have.”  I guess he is right.  It just never had occurred to me that there was anything wrong with my friends.  Well, that is until Blake told me to step back and to look at things.

 

It made me very much aware of how lucky I am to have him.  He knows just what I need and never fails to remind me of what is important.  “If I haven’t told you recently just how much I love you…just know that I do.”  He smiled at me and we went back to eating in silence.  Sometimes, like right now, he knows just how much these blessed silences are needed.  It’s in the silence that I feel that we are the closest to each other.

 

~Emmett

 

Growing up in Hazelhurst, Mississippi I learned to have tough skin.  I had to, or every Billy Bob, Joe, or Earl would have eaten me alive.  And not in the life affirming, positive way either, honey.  Let me tell you, it was hard being my bright and flaming self.  In fact some could say that I was more of a Debbie Downer.  It wasn’t until I went to live with my Aunt Lula that I started to become more of myself.  She kind of took me under her wing, even though those old biddies in her sewing club thought she was shaking hands with the devil.  Aunt Lula, unlike many of the women of the town, got away with a lot that society would normally shake their heads at.  Most of the time she got away with her eccentrics with a simple “bless her heart” and that was the end of it. 

 

When she took me in, there were a few tight lips and head shakes, but only for a little while.  Aunt Lula was also very much liked for her oddness.  So, if she didn’t come to your house to sit outside on the porch and drink iced tea with you, you could pretty much give up being a part of “society.”  And trust me folks, everyone wanted to be “society” people.  It is a well known fact that iced tea on the front porch translates into gossip.  You know, the kind where they are saying something like “Did you hear about Helen Smith? Poor Helen, her daughter got herself into some trouble.  I think she may go stay with her ‘out of town cousin’ for a little while, bless her heart.”

 

Aunt Lula never really added to the conversation though, she would just sit there sipping her tea while the others nattered like pretentious hens.  Later she would come back and tell me that they were nothing but bitter old hags, whose husbands were not giving them enough to keep them happy at home.  It wasn’t until I was a little older that I got what she was talking about.  Especially after I saw Jimmy Simms fucking a very much younger Jane Pauley over the tailgate of his old pickup truck.  All of this happening while his wife Susan, was blissfully unaware of it and at home hosting her weekly bible study.  In those few moments I thought about their son, Jim Jr, who never let a moment go by that he wasn’t shoving me into a locker, or flicking lit matches onto my arm.  And my parents thought that we were dysfunctional having a ‘faggot’ for a son.  The sheer hypocrisy is what finally led me to leave Hazelhurst and come to the glorious Pitts. 

 

When I told Aunt Lula that I was leaving, she simply smiled and told me that she knew, and that no matter what she would always love me.  It was a year after I left that I was told she had passed.  I mourned her, but smiled through my tears.  After all, it was her own words that flowed through my head that said “Child, there ain’t no better way to say “fuck you” than to have all those old gossiping queens at my funeral singing my praises.  So, when I go, just imagine Susan Simms and Helen Smith praying over my soul and talking about my famous strawberry pie, all the while I am looking at them thinking what stupid cows they really are.”

 

Yes, thanks to Aunt Lula, I learned that you laugh at those who make fun of you and you stay loyal to those that have got your back.  I guess that is why right now, I know not to be all over Sunshine.  I may be a silly queen from Mississippi, but I am not as stupid as to intrude on their time.  The same cannot be said about the others in the family.  I knew right off that Michael was going to be a problem.  He has been a problem ever since Justin left for New York.

 

I don’t know why he all of the sudden resorted back to his behavior, wait yes I do!  He saw it as his chance to regain some of his “old Brian” back.  To be honest, I never liked “old Brian.”  Tolerated him, yes…envied him, God, yes…but liked him, not really.  He just seemed too aloof, arrogant, and cynical for me to deal with.  Sort of like the Susan Simms and Helen Smiths of this world, only gay.  His philosophy of two kinds of straight people “the ones that hate you to your face and the ones that hate you behind your back,” only reinforced my view of him.  Then one day it started to change, the day that Sunshine came into his life.

 

Oh, I’m not saying it was immediate, and he fought it tooth and nail for a long time, but change did happen.  I watched him open himself to the possibility of being with someone, of letting someone close to him.  I also watched the resentment build in Michael as well.  Resentment that here was a person that was not him, and that person was getting to know Brian in a way that Michael had always wanted to.  That my dearies was truly the beginning of the ending of the Brian and Mikey show. 

 

Of course dear ole Mikey wasn’t the only one having conniptions, Lindsey was fit to be tied as well.  Now that one, she is sneaky, let me tell you.  Her WASP breeding and passive aggressive personality gave her a slight edge to Mikey’s whining.  I really used to like Lindsey too.  She was always sweet and sincere sounding, and she even helped me out a time or two.  But that is how she starts her manipulations.  Before long she has her hooks into you, and without help from some direction, you will get caught up in her net for good.  Thank God, Ted talked some sense into me a year or so ago. 

 

It was that same year that I unexpectedly found Drew again.  I was at a designer cookware convention in Boston for the weekend and I caught a glimpse of him in a crowd of football fans.  It seemed that after he came out and the publicity died down, his football stats spoke for themselves. I knew that the Ironmen were playing the Patriots that weekend and were actually expected to pull off an upset, but I did not know that the Patriots were a Boston team.  Now, I know that in the South football is a second religion, but honey, I could give a shit about that stuff.  So, seeing him on the street in Boston was a little bit of a shocker.  And if I thought that was shocking, I was even more so when he broke away from doing autographs and started walking towards little ole me!

 

We agreed to meet up at the Bristol Bar in the Four Seasons that he was staying in for the weekend.  After a long talk and a nice *ahem* tour of his suite, we decided to give our relationship another try.  Of course this was with the understanding that he had sowed his wild oats and I was ready to settle into something not so hidden and a little more steady than our previous one.

 

So, here we are a year later and I couldn’t be happier.  I turn and look over my shoulder at him and thank whatever deity out there that listens to me that he came back into my life.  Seeing me looking back at him, he walks away from where he is reading over the newest Sports Illustrated and comes to sit down beside me.  He grabs me from my spot and in one move I am sitting in his lap.

 

“So, what are you thinking?”  His voice tickles my ear as he talks very low into it.

 

“I’m just thinking about this whole mess that is starting up again.”  He just hugs me real tight and replies, “You know Em, I don’t think that there is going to be a “breaking up” with Justin again.  From the way Brian has been the last few days, I think that they are going to be ok.” 

 

Drew is right, I know that Brian and Justin are going to be ok, if Justin ever gets well that is, but I am more worried about what Michael and Lindsey might do and I tell him just that. “Emmett, I don’t know them like you do, I don’t pretend to, but I do know that Michael is way too childish for his age and Lindsey, well from what you have told me, she sounds like a bitch.”  He looks at me, making sure, I guess, that he hasn’t crossed some kind of line. 

 

I smile back at him, “When you’re right, you’re right and that is my point, I don’t want either of them hurt anymore.”  I grab him and hug him tight, smelling his spicy cologne that lingers on his skin.  “I just know that Lindsey is about to find that Brian is not going to continue playing her game, and Michael will try and get to Justin, just like he always has.” 

 

Drew just rubs my back, “Then what we need to do is be there for Brian and Justin when the shit hits the fan Em.  I think that they need this time alone to sort through whatever demons they are fighting.”  And this is what I love about him.  He sees the clear path, when I get lost in the briar patch.

 

I know that Brian is happiest when he is with Justin. I guess that is why when Michael started his crap at the hospital, I just walked away.  It also helped that Molly was standing like 5 feet away from me at the time having to listen to his pettiness, while her brother was fighting to live not but a few more feet down the hall.  So, while Michael kept on raging to basically whoever would listen, I went to talk to her for a little bit.

Now that girl is one in a million.  She has the same kind of fire in her soul that Justin has, and the same ability to cut through the bullshit as well.  The first time she had called Michael a weasel, well I about died.  The minute she cut loose though, that was when I finally saw what she was really made of.  It made me love her even more.  Before that moment, I had always seen her as this younger female version of Justin.  She didn’t even blink when we were first introduced.  But it was in that moment that I recognized her spirit.  She had grown into this little protective fireball and I couldn’t have been more proud of her.

 

When I get to thinking about it, there are so many people that would stand up for Brian and Sunshine, that I really don’t have to worry.  And the fact that Brian has finally “got it,” really makes things more solid.  It may be a bumpy road, and I have a feeling little ole Mikey and definitely Lindsey, are in for rude awakening.  If I have learned anything about Brian over the years that I have known him, it’s that he protects his own, and this time he is putting Justin first.

 

I kiss Drew on the neck, “I think it may get ugly, but I know that everything is going to be ok in the end.”

 

 

~Back at Britin Next day

 

~Brian

 

He has been asleep for a while now, and while normally I would be worried, the doctor warned me ahead of time that it might be like this.  He explained to me that Justin’s body still needs to heal.  He also told me that while Justin might say that he is not hungry, he is.  So, with that in mind I searched the house for something that he might could eat.

 

That was when it hit me, we are going to need someone to help manage with cooking and cleaning in this monstrosity of a house.  I got on my computer trying to find someone in the area that could help with it all, but again there were so many risks.

 

I didn’t want all of gay Pittsburgh to find our refuge, and I couldn’t just hire anybody.  I needed someone that was ok with our lifestyle, but above all else, discreet.  Once again, I decided to rely on someone that has never let me down when it came to keeping secrets.  I picked up the phone and called Ted.

 

“Hey Boss, what’s up?”  He must be at the office, because there was a lot of background noise. “Don’t let anyone know that you are talking to me.  I need your help with something.”  That was also something that I had to come to grips with.  Just as I had told Justin a long time ago, sometimes you have to know when to ask for help.  “Whatcha need?”  Thank God, he didn’t even question.  “We are going to need someone that can cook and clean out here.  Justin is going to still be too weak and I really don’t want to have to go into to town to get groceries, if you know what I mean.”  I pinch the bridge of my nose as the headache starts to build behind my eyes.  Dealing with Mikey has become something that I don’t even want to try and handle right now.

 

“Yep, I know exactly what you mean.”  I can tell he must have been fencing calls from him by his tone of voice.  “We are also going to need someone that is discreet.  We have a guest house that they can use as lodging.  I will email you a list of supplies we are going to also need to have bought.  Just give whoever you hire the money for everything.  I am going to trust you to set salary and all that.” 

 

“Gotcha Boss.  I’ll get started on everything and send you the details later.”  Good ole Theodore, can always count on him in a pinch, “Hey Bri?” and that’s the only reason I let him get away with calling me that, “Yeah, Ted?” I could hear him gathering up the courage to ask whatever it was he was going to ask me. “How is he?”  How do I even answer that, because truthfully, I’m still not even sure.  “He seems better, but I think it is going to take a while.  And Ted…Thank You…for everything.” 

 

“You’re welcome, boss, I think that I can honestly say that Blake, Em, Drew and I are all really worried about him and hope he gets better soon.”   

 

As I hung up the phone, I realized that I had more support from the family than I had originally thought.  Now if only he would get better, maybe we could really start our lives.