Daniel's always hated funerals.
He hated the thought of an actual human being that you loved and cared about was dead, lying down in a coffin and waiting to be buried. Never to be seen again. Daniel tried to avoid funerals at all costs but Gibson would want him to attend his funeral, Gibson would want Daniel to tell everyone how much of an impact he had on the kid's life.
Gibson deserved kind words. He didn't deserve to die. He never hurt anyone or did anything bad, he only ever did his job and protected people. Gibson wasn't crooked or violent like some cops were and Daniel would rather see those ones dead instead of his friend. It just wasn't fair.
It was supposed to rain today and the funeral was supposed to be held in a church, but it seemed nature was nice enough to grant Gibson an outside wake. Daniel liked it outside better anyway. Inside he felt clustered and smothered and judged, but with the clear air and the sun beaming upon him he felt more at ease with the whole situation.
All the relatives and friends gathered around Gibson's wake and listened in silent mourning as the priest recited a passage from the bible. Most people were trying not to cry and others looked erased, like they didn't know what to think. Daniel was one of them. He still couldn't believe that this was real, he didn't want to believe.
There were many people who shot a skeptical look towards Daniel and whispers were passed between them, wondering why some random kid was attending Matt Gibson's funeral. Daniel paid them no attention. He'd been invited by a cousin of Gibson's he had met at one point, so he had every right to be here. Whether others felt the same or not. He was Gibson's friend.
Some would be a little skeptical about their closeness but it really wasn't like that. Daniel was like the son Gibson never had, their relationship was strictly platonic in a father-son sort of way. Gibson wasn't even gay as far as Daniel knew. In fact, Gibson seemed too caught up in work to be interested in a relationship.
That didn't stop Daniel's father...
Daniel wondered what his father would think of him now. He wondered if he'd still be the same as before. If Eric had followed the rules, would he and Daniel be reborn? Or would have learned nothing? Daniel was sure he would've changed and he did. Not only because of what he was put through in that house, but because his father was murdered. That really opened Daniel's eyes.
Daniel had a feeling that if Eric was still alive, he would've been a better father and Daniel would've been a good son. But he was as dead as Gibson was and no matter how good Daniel was, it wouldn't bring them back. He always had bad timing. What was the point of being good if you had no one to prove your worth to? Because it's what Eric would've wanted.
It seemed as though his mother, Kate, was the one he should've acted out against. Eric may have been a bad person, from framing people to having an affair, but in all reality he was the only one trying to look out for Daniel's best interest. Eric was the only one trying to fix him. Daniel had been mad at the wrong person. People made mistakes and all his mother did was sit there and let it happen. She didn't even try, did she?
Daniel blocked out those thoughts because today was about his friend Gibson and soon he'd get his chance to go up and say nice things about the detective. He was looking forward to that. Daniel felt that everyone needed to know what a great person he was and how big an impact Gibson had on his life.
After a few people got up to say a few words, Rebecca, Gibson's cousin had motioned him towards the front. Daniel walked the short distance, that felt like a mile, to stand beside Gibson's wake and pay his condolences. He felt put on the spot with everyone staring at him in expectation but he couldn't back down, he needed to have his say in the matter.
He looked out beyond all the attendants and cast a gaze to the left of him, catching a glimpse of Gibson's pale lifeless form. Daniel closed his eyes and turned back towards everyone.
"I don't know what to say," Daniel spoke truthfully. "I'm utterly speechless. To see something so horrible happen to someone so selfless is beyond words. I can't begin to express how angry I am at the bastard who do this to such a great human being."
Everyone stared in silence, a few nodding theirs heads in agreement and some even crying as if they couldn't bear holding in the tears anymore. Daniel was fighting not to break down and cry as he spoke, but his voice did crack here and there whenever he let go just a little bit.
"Matt didn't deserve that and his family sure as hell didn't deserve it. Matt was a the kind of person who'd stop you on the street just to see how you were doing. He was a true friend and he was always more than glad to help me if I had a problem. He..." Daniel broke off into a choked up sob, rubbing at his watery eyes and trying to hide the fact that he was crying. He gained some composure and continued. "He was like a father to me. I always knew that if he had a child, he'd be the perfect dad."
Daniel put a hand on Gibson's casket and looked down at him with tears in his eyes, smiling ruefully at all the memories of him. He ran a hand through Gibson's hair, choking on all the ways he could say goodbye.
"If Matt was still alive he'd probably deny all these claims shyly," Daniel chuckled softly, smiling hopefully at at the audience. "But we know better, don't we? We know what type of person Matt was. Brave, loving, reckless, silly. But no matter what he was he was always there. Matt was real. Let's remember him that way."
And they put him in the ground.
Everyone took turns dropping roses on top of his casket and most of the ladies blew silent kisses down to him. Daniel whispered into the pedals of his red rose and bent down, letting it slip free from his fingers to land on top of the growing bouquet of white and red roses. He sat there for a moment longer and when Rebecca came over to rest a hand on his shoulder, he nodded and stood up right.
He said goodbye to her, knowing that if he came to Gibson's memorial he'd definately be unwelcomed. Attending a funeral was one thing but treading into a family only zone was something sacred all together. So he hugged her and went on his way.
Daniel didn't want to leave but he felt if he stayed he wouldn't be able to stop crying and he honestly didn't want to cry anymore. His friend had just died and his whole recovery of the Jigsaw incident was based around a book of lies, so why should he acknowledge his pain even more? That'd be like pouring salt into a paper cut. It was hopeless to dwell around the fact his life was just one fucked up event after another.
It wasn't fair.
His phone vibrated in his pocket and he went to see who was calling even though he already knew. It was Brent calling for the millionth time and even as Daniel clicked ignore he couldn't help but feel a little selfish for just ignoring Brent without a clue as to why. Brent didn't deserve that treatment. Daniel just didn't feel like talking to anyone one and he didn't want to break down in front of Brent.
Home sounded good right now anyway. Daniel would fall against his mattress and sleep until he was better, but he knew he'd never get better. But even as he tried to regain serenity in his life he was pushing away the only person that loved him.
Brent was nervous and he was unglued. It's been nearly a week and Daniel hadn't said one word to him, not even a text. The last time he tried calling was yesterday. He hoped it wasn't something he did wrong to upset Daniel but at the same time he sort of had an idea why he was being ignored.
It had been all over the news. Bobby Dagen's scandal and his real test. It could be that Daniel was in denial and didn't want to give Brent the satisfaction of being right all along, but Brent knew Daniel wasn't a poor sport like that. But then again he couldn't know for sure and it was eating away at him.
He tried thinking of all the reasons why Daniel would ignore his calls but couldn't rest on one solid answer. And while the possibly of it being Brent's fault was small, it began to grow slowly that made it was. Brent was hurt and paranoid and confused, over analyzing every little detail of their relationship. From the moment they met up until now.
Brent ruled out the fact that it was because of what choice he made with William Easton's life and couldn't have been something he said. He got it in his head that it was something he didn't say. Something that should've been said the night they had sex. Daniel had said it but Brent had not and now he felt like an idiot for being so careless.
Brent never told Daniel he loved him.
That had to be the reason why because their was nothing else he could think of or put his finger on. Unless Brent totally missed somethig. It explained everything. He thought for a minute that maybe if he left a voicemail declaring his love or a text, that it would get Daniel talking again. But "I love you" was a promise and promises were genuine only when spoken out loud, face to face.
Daniel had accepted him for who he was and Bent couldn't so much as say "I love you". It wasn't that Brent didn't want to say it or that he wasn't ready to, it honestly had slipped his mind in the heat of the moment. Could he really be blamed for that? Brent guessed so since he was on the receiving end of a frigid cold shoulder. Brent was sure he had frostbite at this point.
He could always swing by Daniel's house because that's obviously his comfort zone and he'd definately be there. He only ever hung out with Brent or Mallick so the odds were in his favor. Catching him at his home would be better anyway because he wouldn't have anywhere else to run. He'd have to answer the door. Or Brent could just be as easily ignored as before. Daniel didn't have to answer to anyone if he didn't feel like it.
Brent was getting worked up for no reason. He couldn't be sure if Daniel's silence was because of him and it was silly to think someone as understanding as Daniel would get bent out of shape over those lack of three words. Daniel had been patient for Brent to tell him his story, so why would this be any different? Brent was too critical. Always thinking the worst.
But what was so terrible that Daniel couldn't talk about with Brent? What did Daniel have to be so ashamed about?
Brent laid down against his pillow and rubbed the empty spot on his bed forlornly, wishing Daniel was here laying with him. If he was, Brent would want to kiss him and never stop holding him even if a bomb was about to be dropped on his house. He'd never stop showing Daniel the love he deserved. Brent would eat broken glass if it'd make Daniel happy (even though he knew Daniel would never want that).
Might as well swing by his house and find out for myself, Brent thought.
He sat up from his bed and slipped into his shoes and jacket. Brent grabbed his keys and left his room, making sure he locked the front door before he closed it. It wasn't very cold outside but Brent felt bare without his hoody and he didn't care if people looked at him funny. They could take pictures if they wanted and he wouldn't care.
Daniel's house wasn't too far away, just about a half hour walk and Brent actually enjoyed taking walks once in awhile to clear his head. It had to do with all the freedom and possibilities, all the ways he go and how one turn could change his whole perspective on the current situation.
He lost himself in his thoughts so much that soon Brent was at Daniel's front door, his feet had a mind of the own and he knocked on the door hoping for an answer. After ten excruciating seconds, a woman came to the door and for a moment Brent wondered if he went to the wrong house. But he was sure this was Daniel's house. Must be his mom.
He's never seen Daniel's mom before. He didn't even know her name. Even Brent knew Daniel's dad's name and he was dead. Well, this was an awkward way to meet the mom of your boyfriend. Brent didn't know if she knew about him and Daniel and he didn't feel like pushing his luck with this woman.
"May I help you?" The woman asked.
"Um, is Daniel here?" Brent asked hesitantly.
"Who are you?" She questioned snappily, a certain tone surfacing in her voice.
So that's why Daniel didn't mention his mom... She was a bitch.
"I'm Brent... Daniel's friend."
"Since when did Daniel get friends?" She scoffed to herself then turned her attention back to Brent. "I'm Kate, his mother. And I'm sorry but he's not here."
"Do you know where he went?" Brent inquired nicely.
"How should I know?" Kate said sourly and closed the door on Brent's face.
Brent furrowed his eyebrows and scoffed as well, thanking the heavens that his mom wasn't some jaded and bitter divorcee. He'd have to take Kate's word and just try later but if Daniel wasn't home, where could he be? He didn't know where Mallick lived, before or after he moved, and he didn't know if Daniel had secret places or if he was at the store or...
Slow down, Brent thought. Don't panic and over think. It only gets you paranoid. Just go home and wait until tomorrow.
Brent got home about an hour later, stopping at Georgie's Café for a coffee (and to see if Daniel was their, but having no luck). He unlocked the door and threw his keys in the bowl next to the door, waltzing into the kitchen when he smelt something heavenly. He followed it like some cartoon trapped in a looney tunes episode, almost walking face first into the swinging door.
His mom was making dinner and by the smell of it, it was her famous chunky chicken noodle soup. Oh... How Brent loved when she made chicken noodle soup. If this was a cartoon he'd be fainting with x's over his eyes and an angel version of him would rise from his body playing a harp. Halo and all.
"Where have you been?" She asked, snapping Brent out of his stupor.
"Oh, I was looking for Daniel."
"Why didn't you just call? Did I forget to pay your bill this month?" She gushed worriedly, stopping in mid stir to face Brent as if it was of the utmost importance.
"No. I tried calling, several times, but he won't answer," Brent shrugged despondently.
"Oh, sweetheart. What happened?" Tara's voice was fulled with worry and sympathy and she put her hands on Brent's shoulders.
"I don't know. He just stopped returning my calls and he wasn't home so I don't know where to look. Where would you go?"
"I'd go to the bridge that overlooks the marina," Tara said in reverie, recalling an obvious happy memory.
"Why?" Brent inquired.
"It's where Harold proposed to me," She smiled.
That was it. Brent knew exactly where Daniel was but it wasn't the marina, it was somewhere far more meaningful and special to both Daniel and Brent. He couldn't believe he overlooked that special place they both shared. Brent couldn't feel more stupid. What was with him today?
"Mom, you're a genius!" Brent exclaimed, hugging his mother tightly for a quick and running out the door just as fast.
Tara just smiled and shook her head, going back to her soup.
"Boys..." She smirked fondly.
"Thought I'd find you here," Brent said as he approached Daniel sitting alone on the slide.
Daniel cast a gaze over at Brent and looked back to where he was looking before, willing himself the disappear but failing. He was afraid Brent would come looking for him but he knew it was just a matter of time before Brent found him. Now it was just a matter of facing the music. He thought he'd beat Brent to it.
"You were right you know," Daniel smirked ruefully. "About Bobby. I guess it's that part where you say 'I told you so', huh?"
"What do you mean?" Brent asked as he walked closer to Daniel then sat down beside the shorter boy.
"It's been all over the news, Brent. You've been right about Bobby being a fraud. Now's your chance to rub it in my face."
"I wouldn't do that--"
"Oh please. You were so ready to do it when it wasn't a proven fact," Daniel mocked, hurt.
"Geez... I must be an idiot to you," Daniel sobbed as he hung his head down in shame.
"Hey. You're not an idiot, Daniel," Brent cooed.
Daniel pulled out his copy of S.U.R.V.I.V.E. and looked at it with such disgust as if it were the most vile thing he had ever laid eyes on, and perhaps it was garbage in Daniel's eyes. Before Brent knew it, Daniel was ripping pages out left and right in a frustrated rage that surprised Brent. Finding out Bobby Dagen was a liar must've really hit home for Daniel.
The torn pages were thrown all around like over-sized pieces of confetti, abandoned and forgotten to be blown away in the wind. Brent honestly couldn't believe his eyes. Daniel was tearing up one of his most prized possessions, signed by one of his idols and he didn't think twice before ripping the covers apart either.
Such hatred and violence was never so visible in Daniel and it shocked Brent. This was not Daniel, there had to be something far worse going on than Bobby's scandal, but Brent didn't know what. He stared at the remaining pages that hadn't blown away yet and looked back up at Daniel.
"That was your book," Brent commented dumbly.
"More like a waste of a tree," Daniel spat distastefully.
"It was signed by Bobby Dagen. It's worthless now."
"It was worthless to begin with."
"No. No it wasn't. It meant something to you," Brent said matter-of-factly, craning his head to look Daniel in the eyes. "It was your world, Daniel. It helped you find peace with yourself."
"Peace based on a lie," Daniel retorted with huff.
"But peace nonetheless," Brent argued calmly.
Daniel looked at Brent and furrowed his eyebrows to see where Brent was going with this and wondering why Brent was all of sudden sticking up for Bobby. What was his deal anyway? Brent put a hand on Daniel's thigh and gave him a sorrowful look, hoping he was getting through somehow.
"Bobby may have been a liar but these words..." Brent trailed off to bend down and pick up a few pages as an example, "...they meant something to you. They made you stronger and optimistic. Just because they started out as a lie, doesn't mean they're not true. They helped you and you're just throwing it all away."
Brent was truly distraught to see Daniel act so angry and hurt, going so far as to destroy the source of his whole universe like it was nothing. Brent wasn't defending Bobby Dagen's good name (if it was, in fact, still good) but defending and trying to repair Daniel's view on life before he went to the point of no return.
"This is how we met. This is what helped you regain control of your life. This is what made you into the Daniel Matthews I've come to love... Doesn't that mean something?" Brent asked not able to suppress the tears welling up in his eyes, doubting Daniel's commitment to the relationship. (So he exaggerated just a little bit of the tears and hurt in his eyes, but he had a loved one to save, okay?)
Daniel broke down in tears and clung to Brent's body in a needy hug, not wanting to let go and let Brent see him cry. Brent had said he loved him and now he knew Brent was serious when he said all those things. Daniel knew the words meant so much to him and who cares if Bobby was a fraud? His message may have been ingenuine, but it was true no matter how fake Bobby's story was.
Brent's warm arms were wrapped around his waist, loving and reassuring without any judgment or disgust and Daniel sobbed into his shoulder, uncaring of any who heard or saw. All Daniel needed was one last cry to clear his mind and he wouldn't share with anyone else. He knew Brent would be understanding and supportive no matter what and vice versa.
"I'm so sorry. About everything. I've just been so angry. Not at you or that asshole Bobby Dagen, but at myself," Daniel admitted, voice slightly muffled in the fabric of Brent's jacket. "Detective Gibson tried telling me something last week and I completely blew him off. He died later that night. I didn't even say goodbye."
"Shh..." Brent hushed in a low whisper as Daniel squeaked and hiccuped into the side of his next, feeling fingers clinging to his jacket. "You didn't know. It's not your fault, Daniel. He knew you cared. That's all that mattered to him. He wouldn't want you feeling guilty."
Daniel seemed to calm down a little, sobs silent and his body not quaking as much as before, he even pulled back to make eye contact with Brent. His blue eyes were bloodshot and his lashes were soaked along with his pale cheeks, silently egging Brent on to reach out and wipe them away with a thumb just like in the movies when the person said "everything was going to be okay" and all problems would be magically solved.
But they both knew better. Things were going to be okay but their problems would need a little work and hopefully when senior year started it would help them forget by being more preoccupied. They could even work on the whole boyfriend thing as well because as far as Brent knew, they both had eachother's hearts.
"How did you know I'd be at the park?" Daniel asked between sniffles, curiosity lilting his voice.
"Simple," Brent beamed. "This is where I asked you out. It just took me a moment to realize how sentimental you were."
Daniel smiled brightly and that comment seemed to pick him up, if only just a little. The shorter boy laughed, planting a soft kiss to Brent's lips and smiled through it until his cheeks ached with happiness. Daniel couldn't wait to spend the rest of his life with Brent and he knew the feeling was mutual with the other boy as well, even if he was a little shy to show it at times.
"So what's the plan?" Daniel asked, grinning. "What are we gonna do?"
"Hmm..." Brent thought deeply, looking up to the sky as if in concentration with a wicked grin on his lips. "What would Bobby Dagen do?"
Daniel huffed. "Lie, cheat, kick the canes out from under old people," he chortled sarcastically. "What would you do?"
Brent looked at one of the pages in his hands and looked it over for a second. It was the beginning page for the final chapter and he smiled at the irony, holding it up to Daniel's face. Brent meant every word that was printed in bold black text as he recited it to the boy who stole his heart the moment he laid eyes on him.
"Embrace everyday as if it were my last."