EYES WIDE OPEN
Emmett was over the moon at the latest developments regarding Justin. He had finally woken up! There were many times over the past three weeks that he and Ted feared the worst. The duo had discussed it many times, often trying to figure out a gameplan to help Brian overcome his grief if their worst fear was realized. Thankfully that was no longer the greatest concern and Emmett being Em was on the brink of tears.
Ted noticed his mood right away and didn't hesitate to ask, "What is it?"
Emmett grabbed Ted's hand over the table at the Diner where they usually met at the start of everyday. But today was even more special. "That was Debbie, Teddy. Justin woke up; he finally opened his beautiful blue eyes! Oh my God, I can't imagine being happier. I was so worried about Baby."
Ted patted his best friend's hand in return. "We all were, Em. That little boy grew on us all."
"But no more than Brian. I'm honestly amazed at how he's been."
Ted chuckled. "I know what you mean but then again, I could see why he was." Ted grew silent remembering his own time in a coma not too long ago. He'd heard Brian's words of equal parts condemnation and pleas for him to wake up so he wouldn't have to pull the plug. He imagined that it was even worse in this scenario for the man who claimed to have no feelings. "I'm glad Brian didn't have to make any decisions that he would have regretted."
Before Em had a chance to answer, the bell over the door rang out signaling Lindsey's arrival. As always Gus was adorable and a mini-Brian even as he slept in his stroller. There really wasn't anything announcing Lindsey as the mother which in a lot of ways he guessed was Mel's problem. But he kept such observations to himself. He'd already grown used to Lindsey's pinched-lipped face which she tried to hide but couldn't quite manage it whenever Brian and Justin were mentioned in the same sentence; he wouldn't add to the problem now.
"Good morning, Sweetie," he greeted her with his usually bright mood.
"Good morning, Emmett and Ted. I'm surprised to see you two here this late." She took her seat next to Em, moving the stroller a little closer out of the walkway. After the waitress came over to take her order she casually asked, "Where's everyone? Deb? Brian? I'd even expected to see Melanie here since she left while I was in the shower."
"Oh. Well I guess she must be down at the hospital," Ted said. He had not seen Emmett drop his eyes to signal that this conversation was about to take a wrong turn but Ted noticed the sudden tensing of Lindsey's shoulders. He knew he'd somehow struck a nerve with his comment. Here we go...
"Why would they be down there? Has something happened that I'm not aware of? Has Justin succumbed to his injuries?" Lindsey's rapid-fire questions brought both men up short.
Emmett took a moment before answering trying to gauge the level of her concern. She'd been most vocal in the past weeks about the amount of time Brian had been spending at the hospital, even so far as implying he's been neglecting his fatherly duties to Gus. He'd known it was a crock of shit but again he kept silent. Ted had confided to him that although Brian's been at Justin's side day and night, Lindsey still received her support checks of three thousand dollars a month-- or in Lindsey's case fifteen-hundred per two weeks-- without fail since Ted authorized the checks as Brian's personal and business financial advisor. Both Emmett and Ted knew that talking with Lindsey was a verbal landmine and they were trying their collective best to keep the woman from blowing up.
"I'm surprised Mel didn't tell you, Sweetie. But then again, she was probably getting to work by the time the call came in. In fact, Debbie just called me to let us know that Justin had woken up. Isn't that great?!"
Ted had been watching Lindsey closely, taking note of every reaction of the woman to Emmett's declaration. He'd seen the surprise, the momentary confusion at why she was the last to know and was that...a flash of anger? Ted couldn't be sure since it disappeared as quickly as he thought it but if he were a betting man, he would have won some money.
"Yes," Lindsey's voice oozed like honey. "It's great that he's finally emerged from his deep sleep. Perhaps now things can get back to normal for us ALL."
Ted cleared his throat. "Granted when one of the family is in a coma, it does tend to disrupt life a bit. But I wouldn't say there was any abnormality to our everyday routines, just that the conversations are going to change for the better now."
"Well, Ted dear, you can say that because Brian would have only seen you guys at breakfast or at Woody's later at night. Did you know that he's missed five scheduled visits with Gus in the last three weeks? I wonder if Gus will even remember his touch. Kids this age are so vulnerable and need constant reassurance from the adults around them. It makes them prone to easily forget those that matter."
Ted could see the storm clouds rising in Emmett's eyes and decided to stem the tide before the tall queen got a roll going on. "Honestly, Lindz, I don't think Gus will have as big a problem as you think. Brian will be able to resume his ‘scheduled' visits as soon as things with Justin are taken care of. Since he's technically Justin's partner and power of attorney as well as his medical proxy, he has to make sure all these things are set up before Justin can be released from the hospital. There will be therapies involved and let's not forget, Brian still has a job he must attend to as well."
"Why? You didn't need all of those things when you came out of your coma, Ted. Why would Justin? I'm sure he'll be fine and if not, he has his mother to take care of things for him."
Emmett couldn't keep silent any longer. After he requested to be let out of the booth, which Lindsey didn't hesitate to do, he rounded on her. "First of all Lindsey, Ted wasn't hit in the head by a lunatic. Justin WAS. Secondly, it's apparent that you didn't hear what Ted said or you might have but just picked and chosen what you WANTED to hear. So let me be clear... Brian IS Justin's partner. I believe Vic confirmed this for you weeks ago but I guess you've accidently-on- purpose forgotten. Third, Gus is NOT without parents or support from the family as a whole whether Brian is available or NOT. Both you AND Melanie made sure of that, didn't you? You guilted and tricked Brian into signing over his parental rights even while laughing your way to the bank to cash the child support checks. Frankly, I find your attitude in all this disgusting and I would have expected better from YOU who has been considered one of Brian's oldest and dearest friends. The least you can do is be empathetic to his feelings and get over your own, whatever they may be. Now, Teddy and I are on our way to see Justin. Have a good breakfast. Come along, Teddy." Emmett reached over and grabbed the man's hand even while making his way over to the counter to pay for their meal.
"You could have handled that better, Em," Ted said trying to reason with the irate man. He couldn't remember ever seeing Emmett Honeycutt so pissed off.
"It needed to be said, Teddy. She was really out of line and is... well she's acting like a high siditty bitch and I for one couldn't take nor tolerate her snobbishness for one more millisecond."
"I know, Em. Maybe someday she'll get it or maybe not. Either way Brian Kinney is going to do what HE wants no matter how much she tries to guilt him into doing otherwise."
Inquiring Minds Want to Know
The sight which greeted Carl Horvath as he stepped off the elevator in Allegheny General Hospital would have been funny if it wasn't supposed to be a quiet floor. The first thing he registered was a sandy brown haired man looking like he was being harassed by a loud, red-haired dervish who was jabbing her finger in his face and launching all manner of obscenities at the harried man. The man looked as if he was going to cry as he cradled his jaw. He looked to be over six-feet tall while the heavy-set woman only stood about five-foot-five. However,her voice and belligerent posture made her seem much taller.
"How dare you even fucking show your face here? You aren't fit to call yourself a man much less Sunshine's father. If it were up to me, I would have knocked YOU over the head and you'd be lying in that bed instead of Justin. Maybe it would have given you some goddamn sense!"
Carl's ears perked up over the name of the boy he was there to see. Making his way over to the melee, he stepped in between the angry woman and the man she was using for verbal target practice. Jesus, she's vicious. He thought that even as she stepped around him to try to complete her oral assault on the man happily cowering behind him, separating him from the near mob led by this short, stout and stalwart woman. He'd heard enough to gather who the man was by now so he decided to end the showdown.
"Excuse me, Ma'am but I think you've made your point," Carl said softly and calmly so as not to inflame the woman directly in front of him. He found himself mesmerized by the bluest eyes he'd ever seen up close and personal. He shook himself mentally, remembering his duty when she asked who he was. "Detective Carl Horvath, Pittsburgh P.D."
"It's about time you fucking guys got down here. Although we could thank your boss for that bit of negligence, can't we?" Debbie said without a hint of remorse, her stance just as confrontational as moments ago.
"Whether that's true or not Mrs..."
"Novotny. Debbie Novotny, Detective Horvath and it IS true. Chief Stockwell practically had to be threatened to send you here."
He had to curb the smile which almost graced his lips. This woman was all fire and Carl couldn't deny he was attracted, but now wasn't the time for that. He had a job to do and he would. "Mrs. Novotny, I can understand your anger but this really isn't the time to address that issue. I understand the victim is awake."
Melanie answered in place of Debbie. "Yes, Detective. He just awakened a little bit ago. His partner and mother are with him now." She was understandably pissed off, as they all were but it was time to get this case underway.
He nodded to the short-haired brunette who was standing with a tall black man and a shorter gray-haired lady whom he recognized immediately. So this is the reason Stockwell told me to get here fast. Nice connections this family has. "Senator Baxter, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ma'am."
"Likewise, Detective." Diane reached up to shake the officer's hand. "I suppose we should head down to Justin's room now."
"No one is going to talk to my son without MY permission, damn it," Craig said through gritted teeth. He was still pissed that according to Jennifer and that son-of-a-bitch Kinney, he had no power regarding anything about Justin-- not his care, where he lived, how he lived-- NOTHING.
Melanie spoke up then. "According to the law, Mr. Taylor, Justin doesn't need your permission or anything else. He has been an emancipated minor since before he turned eighteen. Now that he has fully graduated high school, he is considered a full-fledge adult."
"My money paid for St. James Academy so he was STILL my responsibility regardless of what a damn court said."
"That's true and since the tuition was paid BEFORE you kicked him out of YOUR house, you were still financially responsible for his education," Melanie argued, smirk firmly in place at the older man's tactics. "Feel free to argue all of this in court, Mr. Taylor but the fact remains that your soon-to-be ex-wife and your son's partner asked you to leave. I would suggest you do so before we have you escorted out. And if you're thinking of returning when Justin is alone, please for your own sake, rethink that again. Mr. Sands and I will be requesting a restraining order on our clients' --Brian, Jennifer and Justin's-- behalf."
"You can't do that, who-ever-the-fuck-you-are. I know my rights," Craig yelled.
Melanie laughed. "Then you should also know that you have NONE here. Good day, Mr. Taylor."
Melanie turned to walk down the hall when Craig spoke again. This time to Horvath. "You're a cop, right?" When Horvath nodded, the evil gleam in Craig's eye was unmistakeable. "I want to press charges against the asshole Kinney and I want him arrested for hitting me."
Horvath hadn't missed the malevolent look. "Is this true? Did Kinney hit him?"
Diane answered. "It's true that Brian hit him. However, he was sorely provoked when he did. You see, from what I understand, Mr. Taylor was asked NOT to come back here several times by both Jennifer and Brian. When Michael told him to leave, Mr. Taylor got physical. As you can plainly see, the height difference alone puts Michael here at a disadvantage. Brian saw his friend being harassed and man-handled and planted a facer on the man. Based on all I've heard and seen from Mr. Taylor, I would have done the EXACT same thing if I didn't have my office to think about. Now I believe Detective that you have a young man to interview. Shall we?" She crossed over to him and gently took his arm, leaving Craig standing there fuming as the rest of the party followed.
Craig stood there watching all of them walk away, leaving him shut out of his family's business. He never thought once that he was to blame but he vowed that he would make those responsible pay...beginning with Jennifer and Brian fucking Kinney.
By the time the party arrived at Justin's room, the young man was sitting up in bed flanked on either side by Jennifer and Brian, each holding a hand. It was how Detective Horvath found them as he entered the room. He stood for a few moments just watching the interaction between the three occupants. The love between them was palpable although a little reserved from the auburn-haired man on the far side of the bed. The two blond Taylor's smiled brightly at each other. Before he could clear his throat to interrupt, the young man in the bed did.
"May we help you?" The bright smile he'd just had on his face disappeared and strangely Horvath found he missed its warmth. The young man looking at him now was full of angst and suspicion.
"Yes, Son. I'm Detective Carl Horvath from the Pittsburgh P.D. I was wondering if I could speak with you alone for a few minutes."
"No, you may not," Brian answered.
"Mr. Kinney, I presume," Carl said already hardening himself. He was warned that the taller man had not left Taylor's bedside but for a few moments a day and that he was protective.
"You presume right, Detective. I'm not leaving."
"Brian, maybe we should..." Jennifer began but Brian silenced her with a simple look. It wasn't that she was afraid of him; she just knew how to pick and choose her battles. Over the past few weeks she learned this was one she couldn't win. Turning to Justin, she said, "Sweetheart, I'll be right outside the door. I'm sure that while Detective Horvath is here, he'll also take Brian's statement since he was there."
Carl nodded his assent. "Might as well kill two birds with one stone." All three of them looked at him as if he'd lost his mind. He winced at the realization of what he'd said. "Sorry...I didn't mean to... Let's just get down to business, shall we?"
Jennifer rose and placed a gentle kiss on Justin's cheek for reassurance as Brian settled himself beside Justin. He still held his hand, primarily as a steadying influence on his own frayed nerves and also as a way to calm Justin. Skin-to-skin contact was always their favorite form of nonverbal communication and it would certainly work while being questioned by the police.
"Before we begin answering your questions, Detective Horvath, would you answer one of mine?" Brian asked. Carl nodded already knowing what was coming but agreed anyway. Brian exploded. "What the fuck took you so long to get down here? Justin has been in a coma for the last three weeks. Surely in all that time some of our tax dollars provided the pay for someone to come down here and do their fucking jobs."
"No, Sunshine. I really would like an answer because no one has been down here since the night you were admitted. Daphne said Hobbs was allowed to attend his graduation ceremony while you laid here unconscious. The fucker should have been locked under a fucking jail or buried six feet under as far as I'm concerned."
Carl was stunned by the vitriolic outburst but not really surprised. From all he'd learned from Debbie's son Michael and Melanie Marcus, he really couldn't blame the man. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kinney, but with the department cuts, many of us are doing double duty. As far as why no one was here prior to me, I haven't the faintest idea but let's take advantage of the fact that I'm here now. Okay, Son?"
Brian looked over to the man occupying the other seat. He considered himself a pretty good judge of character. It was how he'd become so good at his job. All of his instincts were telling him that he should trust the man sitting in front of him but there was another part of him which argued that the man was a cop and not to be trusted. Brian decided that he would answer the man's questions but that was all. He would wait for all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place before he took any further actions.
"Okay. What do you want to know?" Brian asked once again calm, cool, and collected.
Horvath covered the smirk forming. He instinctively liked Brian Kinney. Melanie had said that the guy was an asshole but an unfailingly honest one. He couldn't understand how the young man in the bed had inspired such loyalty in the older man. It was a mystery that he also wouldn't mind uncovering...but later. First, he had to do what he'd come to do. "Do you mind if I tape your responses? It will help me with my report later on during the write up." When both men shook their heads that they didn't mind, Horvath cleared his throat. "Justin, what is the last thing you remember?"
Justin didn't hesitate. "I remember asking Brian to my prom and he turned me down." He smiled wistfully, clearly remembering that moment in his life.
"How long have you known Chris Hobbs?"
Justin sighed. "I've known Chris since the fifth grade. He was an alright person until this past school year."
"What changed this year?"
"Detective, you are aware that I'm gay, right?"
Horvath smiled. "Yeah, Justin, I am."
"Then you know what changed. Everyone else knew that I'd come out but with Chris it was...a little different."
"He said that you made a pass at him."
"That wasn't the way it went. He and I were cleaning up the equipment room one day when he got detention. We were talking about his past conquests and I gave him a handjob. He liked it and he hated the fact that he liked it, so I became his target for his self-loathing."
"Are you saying that straight football jock, Chris Hobbs, let you..." Carl blushed unable to finish.
"That's exactly what I'm saying and he came." Justin said shrugging lightly as if what he said was no big deal.
Brian winced even while gauging the obviously hetero cop's reaction. To his credit, Horvath didn't look like he was about to run screaming to the altar of the nearest church or like he was about to vomit. In fact, beyond looking a bit stunned at Justin's revelation, he was still very composed. Brian took a moment to address Detective Horvath himself.
"You have to forgive my partner for his bluntness -- not that he said anything wrong. Dr. Marrow did warn us that Justin would have a bit of a filter problem since his frontal lobe was affected from the hit to his head. If it enters his mind, he can't control saying it right now." Brian held onto Justin's hand a bit tighter.
"I understand, Mr. Kinney. What I don't understand is where you fit into all of this."
"First, I prefer to be called Brian. As far as where I fit into all this, what exactly would you like to know?"
"Will you answer if I ask?"
"I'll decide when you ask your question if I want to answer it. Unlike Justin, I do have a filter and am not afraid to clam up if I have to." Brian shrugged, his gesture identical to Justin's prior one.
"I appreciate your honesty, Brian. Now may I be just as blunt?" The auburn haired man nodded so Carl continued. "The more answers you provide me, the better off this case goes. I already spoke to Ms. Marcus and Mr. Sands and I understand what they are trying to do on your behalf should Hobbs not be held fully responsible. I have my own set of orders to follow in this regard which is why I'm taping this conversation. I want justice in this case just as you do."
"Are you sure? Because my idea of justice right now goes in direct opposition to your definition of it."
Carl smiled wide then. "We all have our own definitions of fair and equal when it comes to the law young man, but we still live under the same set of rules. Now will you tell me what I want to know? How did you meet Justin?"
"I met the troublesome twink outside of Babylon one evening last September. It was only supposed to be a one-night thing, but the little shit grew on me."
Justin chuckled at Brian's matter-of-fact answer. "You mean I harassed you and made myself adorable and irresistable."
Brian smiled a little. "Yeah, that too, twat. Now let the good detective here ask his questions. It's almost time for your next dose."
Justin nodded. His eyes were beginning to feel heavy so he laid back and closed them. Brian and Carl looked at the young man each lost in their own thoughts for a moment before Carl continued.
"Why did you show up at the prom, Brian? From all accounts, you are not known for altruism."
"I'm not...except maybe where Justin is concerned. The kid's had a hard year. Being bullied in school and then at home by his homophobic asshole of a father resulting in him being kicked out because of his ‘disgusting lifestyle.' That was how Craig put it you know? Justin had to deny who he was and what he thought in order to stay there. Justin made the decision to leave the place where he should have had unconditional love. Jennifer came around but Craig... even now he's still making trouble for Justin. Then there were my own problems with him but also..." A deep sigh escaped him but rallied to continue with his explanation. "Justin and I, we're different but we've had the same issues, you know. Originally I just wanted to help the kid become a man, to learn to navigate life as an unapologetic gay man who wouldn't feel bad for the problems other people had with him because he likes cock. But then... well I found out just how much courage the kid has and I admire that in him. He's a reckless and tenacious twink but he oozes intelligence and has some unnamable quality about him. Justin hadn't asked me for anything except to go to the prom with him. For what he's endured over the last nine months, I figured that I could at least give him the thing he most wanted in that moment. Now I wish I hadn't." Brian looked over to the bed, noting the rise and fall of Sunshine's chest. He bent over to place a kiss on his brow, then holding his fingers to his lips motioned the detective to follow him out of Justin's hospital room. "He'll be up again in about fifteen minutes if you have more questions for him."
Carl shook his head. "No, we'll let him sleep but I need you to tell me everything you remember from that night."
Brian closed his eyes. It was the moment he'd been dreading, having to relive the horror and nightmare of watching his lover take a bat to his head. He turned to Jennifer who was watching them closely. Daphne had arrived and while standing with Emmett, she handed Brian one of the coffees in her hand. He smiled down at her in gratitude. It had become a running habit between the three of them over the past weeks. Although Brian didn't leave, whenever Jennifer spent some nights with Molly and Daphne would arrive back to the hospital, he would have their breakfast waiting on them. In return, they brought him a triple non-fat latte every time they came back.
"Stay with him. If he wakes...
Daph leaned up and whispered in his ear. "Don't worry. I'll come get you if he wakes up and you're not back."
"Don't go far. I'm sure you're up next on the Detective's list."
"I won't," she answered with a smile that reminded him of Justin's youth.
He bumped her shoulder and headed down to the staff patio area just behind the ICU ward with Carl in tow. After several cigarettes and an hour later, Brian was finally done telling Horvath all he needed to know about Justin Taylor and as much as he'd known about Chris Hobbs. He made sure to tell the cop about Chris threatening Justin in the middle of Liberty Avenue outside Woody's. The jock decided to pick a fight with Justin and the twink responded in the only way he knew how...exposure of the handjob. Although Justin shouldn't have done that, Chris provoked the situation by bullying Justin where he basically lived his life openly in front of ALL of Liberty Avenue. When Daphne came out, Brian went back inside the building. Justin was still asleep although his IV had been changed. Then the older man resumed his post as protector and keeper of the blond twink, watching the rise and fall of Justin's chest to reassure himself that Sunshine was still alive and kicking life in the ass.
Daphne's interview with Horvath went much in the same vein as Brian's. Horvath asked her very specific questions pertaining to the history between Justin and Chris Hobbs. He learned from Daphne that Chris' obsession with Justin didn't just start in their senior year the way Justin had believed.
"I've caught him watching Justin many times over the years but he would turn when he noticed me watching. Anyone could tell that he was interested in Justin more than Justin was interested in him."
"What kind of look was it?" Horvath was genuinely fascinated by Daphne's description of the events leading up to the bashing. He didn't feel her opinion was in the least bit biased even though Justin was her best friend. After Kinney's standoffish interview in which Carl had to basically pull the information out of him, interviewing Daphne Chanders was like a much needed coffee break.
"It was the kind you would give if you noticed a big glass of water after being in the dry desert for more than an hour. But then it would change to a look of disgust."
She shook her head. "No. I think it was for himself. You have to understand the environment we grew up in, Detective Horvath. Chris' family is what they call ‘Old Money' which means high-society, well-bred, dowry-exchanging ideals. Chris couldn't be ‘gay' if he wanted to...and he definitely WANTED to, but only with Justin. His father has been in talks with Allison McAvoy's family about a possible marriage between the two. It's our society's not-so-well kept secret. Now with the bashing conviction looming and Chris' football career tanked thanks to Brian's well-placed hit to the knee, the McAvoys are rethinking the alliance with the Hobbs Construction empire."
Carl was amazed at this information. He could well understand what it would do to a man like Samuel Hobbs if it was discovered that his boy liked boys. He also began to understand the Chief's reluctance to get involved with this case but that was a thought he would keep to himself. There was a lot riding on this conviction from all sides. In Carl's eyes, it was a fucking mess.
Seeing the Light... AGAIN
Emmett and Ted walked into the hospital, still speaking-- or more like half-arguing-- about what transpired at the Diner with Lindsey. Emmett was yet defending himself from Ted's condemnation yet again. "I know, Teddy. I KNOW. I shouldn't have mentioned about her coercing Brian into having Gus. I get it; I really do but she was so irritating and needed to be taken down off that soapbox she puts herself on. Lindz isn't as clean as she wants the world to believe."
"Either way, Em, I wouldn't be a friend if I didn't warn you of the potential fall out. You know she's going to complain to Brian."
"And it will go one of two ways. He'll either tell me to mind my fucking business or he'll thank me first and then tell me to mind my fucking business."
They both laughed at Emmett's accurate depiction of Kinneyisms. Brian always had difficulty expressing gratitude or accepting help, especially when it came to Michael or Lindsey's criticisms. He often acted like their opinion didn't matter or that their low-balling insults didn't hurt, but there were times that Ted and Emmett stood by appalled at the verbal daggers hurled at Brian. Those hurt worse than anything Melanie, who hated Brian, could have said or done. Today was the day, Emmett was going to stand up for Brian because he firmly believed Brian was exactly where he should have been. And he was rather proud of himself for doing it even though Ted was still scolding him in that mundane-voiced, passive-aggressive way he often did.
They continued on their way to the ICU where Justin was. Noticing the crowd, they made their way directly to it and were greeted by Debbie and Vic. Michael was watching the proceedings inside the room intently as if he could discern what was being discussed through lip reading.
Emmett asked what they missed and told Deb and Vic of the run-in with Lindsey at the Diner. Her question as to whether Justin had ‘succumbed to his injuries' still disturbed him in ways he'd rather not examine just now. Emmett walked over to his favorite young sprite to ask her all of everything that went down. Debbie had said some things but Emmett could tell she was just as invested with finding out what was being said with the Detective in that room as Michael was. But he suspected Michael's focus had less to do with the conversation and more with who was doing the talking; more with the actions accompanying the speaker...Brian.
"Hey Sweetie, so how has everything been this morning since Justin woke up?"
Daphne answered as best she could. "From what I know, he's fairly lucid which is good but..."
"But?" Emmett asked immediately concerned at her hesitation. He'd gotten to know the young girl as he'd gotten to know Justin. It wasn't like her to be so cautious in her speech.
"Well-- the doctor says that it could all change any minute. Justin is having a good moment NOW but... Well I've noticed that he is afraid to be near anyone but Brian. I tried to chalk it up to the fact that he loves Brian but honestly, Em, it's more than that. Mrs. Taylor said that when he woke up, there were parts of his memory missing; parts he may not get back."
"Oh my God, what parts?" Emmett's heart was breaking for Justin in that moment. To want to forget is one thing but to not be able to remember because someone took that away from you is something else entirely.
"The last thing he remembers is asking Brian to the prom and him saying no."
"Damn. How awful for him...for them both."
Daphne nodded. "Yeah. I wish you could have seen them, Emmett. They danced as if no one else existed but them; like there was nothing in the world that could keep them apart. Justin had worked so hard to get Brian to admit that he felt something-- anything-- for him and the one time Brian's actions spoke the loudest, Justin can't remember it. It's so fucking unfair."
Emmett embraced her and let her cry it out. He felt the same sense of anger on Justin's behalf and an enormous amount of sympathy for Brian who was steadfast in his care of Justin. The road to healing would not be easy for either one, which made his actions regarding Lindsey all the more necessary. Emmett pulled back from her just as Brian and someone he could only think was the long-awaited detective emerged from Justin's room. He'd fallen asleep during the interview. Brian gave a quick nod to Emmett as he asked Daphne to come get him if Justin wakes up when she handed him a cup of coffee. She assured him that she would. Ted had come up beside Emmett just as he turned toward Daphne again.
"Ted and I are going down to the cafeteria to grab another coffee. Do you want us to bring you anything back?"
"No, Emmett but thanks for offering. I know that once Brian finishes with Detective Horvath, it will be my turn to tell him what I know. I'm not looking forward to it but I'm the only one who can paint the complete picture as to why Chris would hurt Justin like this." Daphne sighed. "It's not like it will do a world of good anyway and yet Horvath seems like he really wants to know."
"Honey, all we have are hope and faith to go on. Things will work out someway," Emmett tried to reassure the young girl but he felt much the same way she did.
"I know, Em. I just wish we didn't have to rely on such elusive emotions for this situation. I'll fill you in on everything else when you and Ted come back." She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed the tall man's cheek.
Ted waved as he and Em moved down the hall. When they were a bit closer to the ICU entrance, Ted told Emmett of the family's run-in with Craig this morning and the fact that he was trying to have Brian arrested.
"What the hell is wrong with people, Teddy? Was it a full moon last night or something and now everyone has lost their fucking minds?" Emmett began to get angry all over again. "The man really has NO conscience. His son is lying in a hospital bed with only God knows how much damage on the inside of his head, and all Craig Taylor can think about is what HE wants and how this is all Brian's fault? Well if you ask me, it's HIS. Had Craig not abandoned his own son the way he did, then Chris Hobbs wouldn't have dared to cosh Justin upside the head. Publicly disowning Justin did nothing but leave the boy to the wolves in the lily white football uniform. What a way to blame the victim."
Ted patted Em's shoulder as they entered the cafeteria. He'd felt the exact same way Emmett did and for the first time in a very long time, Ted actually felt like seeking the man out and finishing what Brian started. Craig Taylor was a first rate asshole- the biggest one Ted had ever seen in his thirty...ah...thirty-two years.
As they waited in line to get their coffees, Emmett noticed a very familiar face leaving the coffee machine. There was no way to describe seeing Heather nearly seven months after their defection-- or make that enforced exit-- from the See the Light group. He still couldn't believe HE was trying to go straight, nor she. If there were two gayer people in the Christendom, Emmett really wanted to meet them. Heather was as butch a female as he'd ever encountered, even more than Melanie. She'd nearly crushed his fingers the first time she'd shaken his hand. And contrary to popular belief or opinion of the nelly queen, Emmett had a very strong grip himself but it was nothing compared to Heather's. He remembered their ‘pillow talk' after their hetero experimentation. She'd come clean and described the broad she was thinking about the whole time they were making out and having sex. Emmett damn near threw-up in his own mouth but when he described the man he was thinking of, so did she. It made them even in the abject disgust department and they shared a good laugh behind their antics. Based on that alone, he could never pretend like he didn't know her.
He stepped in front of her to block her path. At first she was about to apologize before she realized who it was. Then Heather's face registered her surprise and then elation with an undertone of sadness. Emmett couldn't figure it out. She looked the same but...different somehow. She regarded him with the same level of intensity. Finally Emmett had had enough of the silence.
Deepening his voice to what she and he would refer to as a ‘Hollywood leading man' tone when they watched movies together, he said, "You don't call, you don't write." He quirked an eyebrow and suddenly they both dissolved into giggles. He had to admit, even though joining "See the Light" was wrong for them, he still had a great time with her.
"Neither do you," Heather answered. "How have you been, Emmett?"
"I've been okay. We're here visiting a friend. You remember Ted?" Emmett pulled his companion closer.
They exchanged greetings, Ted rewarded her with one of his rare smiles before she spoke again. "I'm glad you're doing okay. Do you want to sit with me?"
"Sure although we can't stay too long. Our friend is in the ICU. He just woke up this morning. Just let us grab our coffees and we'll be right over."
She nodded as Ted and Em moved up in the line. As soon as they were done they found Heather sitting at one of the tables by the window. Em noticed the contents of her cup and scrunched his forehead.
"I don't remember you being much of a tea drinker. You were a bear until you got your official six cups a day and it's only noon now."
Heather nodded while looking delighted that he would remember something so trivial as her coffee habit. "I gave it up about a month ago. The caffeine no longer agreed with me. So you said that your friend woke up this morning?"
"Yeah. Justin's a really sweet guy and we were all so worried about him."
"I'm familiar with his case. I usually had the night shifts in the ICU until I had to switch to the evenings."
"Why? Are you okay?" Emmett asked genuinely concerned.
"I'm fine. It's just... Well you see...It's..."
"What? You aren't sick are you?"
"I wouldn't call it sick, although it was pretty hard to keep anything down for the first four months."
"Was it the flu?" Ted asked. "I remember I was like that too, but it didn't last as long."
Heather smiled. "No, Ted. It isn't the flu. Look, I might as well come out and say what it is."
"Okay, we're listening." Emmett reached for her hand to reassure her. "No judgment, just friends."
"I'm pregnant and you're the father. Surprise!" Heather said, emitting a small nervous chuckle at the tail end of her big revelation.
"Pardon me, what did you just... did you just... Ted, she didn't just.... wait what did you say again, Heather?" Emmett's thoughts as well as his rambling questions were racing through his brain and out of his mouth faster than a runaway train.
Heather reached over, massaging his hand gently before repeating, "I'm pregnant, Emmett. It's a girl. I just found out the sex of the baby today during my break. You're going to be a father."
"That's impossible. We used.... oh my GOD!!! The condom..."
"Broke as you were pulling out. Apparently, she's quite the little swimmer. I wasn't even supposed to have an egg that day. Anyway the way I even found out was as big a shock as you're having."
"What happened?" asked Ted who had finally recovered his voice. Of all the things he could have thought wrong with Heather, pregnancy was the last and scariest thing he would have thought.
"I collapsed while turning one of the patients."
"As in hit the floor collapsed or..."
"As in passed out and hit my head on the bed frame. One of the other nurses found me and had the resident on call take a look at me. They rushed my blood work, found it mixed with the pregnancy hormone called Hcg and they did an ultrasound to confirm. So yep, Em I'm having your baby, Papa. But there is one problem."
"What is that?" Emmett and Ted asked at the same time, still reeling from the news that Emmett Honeycutt of the Hazelhurst Honeycutts was about to be a fucking Dad. What in blazing blue was he supposed to do with a baby? What the hell was he supposed to do with himself let alone a baby? The panic was setting in rapidly and her next words did not help.
"I finally got the job opportunity I've been waiting for Emmett."
"What? The job in Abu Dhabi came through? I know you applied for that almost a year ago before we even met."
"Yep. That's the one Emmett, and before I found out about the baby, I had already committed myself to go. I know what you must think of me right now but I have to go."
"And leave the kid? NO. Take her with you."
"I can't Emmett. It's the teaching position I've been waiting for forever. I don't want to give her up for adoption which is probably what would have happened if I hadn't run into you or found the courage to tell you before the baby was born. I couldn't have left her in the nursery like she didn't matter. At least with you, I'll know she's safe."
"You're talking like you're never coming back, Heather," Emmett said. He wasn't exactly sure what to feel at all she was telling him. Part of him was angry as hell at her for so many reasons, not the least of which was her choosing her career over her child. But is that really what she's doing?
"Emmett, I know that no matter what, I would NOT be the type of mother this little girl needs. There are certain women who are nurturers by nature. I am, but not where a baby is concerned. My job IS my life and I can't give it up. The research they're doing over there is something I've been assisting and working with my entire career. I don't want to give it up."
"You sound selfish as hell," Ted said indignantly." What kind of woman are you that you would put your career before your child?"
Emmett stopped Ted before his tirade could reach epic proportions. "She's an honest one, Teddy. Look at the difference between Melanie and Lindsey. Melanie is completely career-driven, whereas Lindz is content for the moment to stay home with Gus. Heather is a career dyke like Mel and I can't fault her for that. It's who she is. Some women, as are some men, are just hard-wired that way. It isn't their fault, anymore than it's the three of ours that we're gay." Turning back to Heather, Emmett spoke. "I know how important this is to you but I want you to be very, VERY sure that this is what you want, Heather. I refuse to end up in a situation like one of my friends is in, where the baby is used a pawn and a club to beat over his head. I don't want to deny you visits and such, but if we do this, I need your rights. I don't ever want there to be a question if you regret your decision later down the line and having to fight you in court. I don't want any of that; just a peaceful transition and an agreement that I will tell her about you when she asks and you may visit when you feel the need but it will NEVER come down to you petitioning to take her from me. If that's something we can agree on right now, I'll have the papers drawn up and delivered to you by the end of the week."
"Have the papers drawn up, Em. This is what I want. She would be much better off with you and the people you consider family, like Ted here, than being with a shell of a mother. I already love her too much to allow my distance to affect her that way. My mother was like that-- distant and cold because she felt that she lived an unfulfilled life because of me." Heather dropped her eyes, lost in her memories before she spoke again. "No child deserves that."
"Well now that that's settled....I'm gonna be a DAD!" In that moment, Emmett felt nervous and scared but most of all, he felt like he was QUEEN of the world.
The Mother of All Arguments
After the interview with Detective Horvath and seeing to Justin once more, Brian needed to take a break from the oppressive atmosphere of the hospital. He just needed to breathe the fresh air and have a small taste of normalcy for as long as it would take him to shower and change, maybe grab a beer while checking his email...something just to take his mind off of how worried he'd been and how concerned he still is.
He instinctively knew that he couldn't tell Justin he was leaving the hospital for a little while. So he sat there holding his hand, watching the vacantness flow in and out of his blue eyes, There were times when Justin was lucid-- his speech clear and his mind working sharply. But it was the other times, the times when he grew distant, when Brian had to ask him the same questions five times and only after he reworded the question, did Justin manage to respond. Those were the times when Brian's insides shook hard in panic. Then there was his reaction to the family. Justin recoiled several times when Debbie,Jennifer, Vic and Michael reached for him. A naturally affectionate person like Justin should never have had that reaction. When Brian, Daphne and Em touched him however brief, he flinched but he was still able to bear it.
Then there was the panic attack he'd walked in on. Justin had dozed off to sleep again when he'd suddenly began emitting ear-piercing shrieks and crying in his sleep. When he opened his tear-filled eyes, they were once again different-- like he was seeing objects and or people who were not there. Even when Brian had touched him and talked to him, it took quite awhile for Justin to recognize Brian in the midst of his terror. During those moments Justin also discovered that his right hand was not functioning which caused not only panic but anger. He'd flung the bedside table with his left hand so hard, it crashed with a loud BANG into the radiators which lined the walls by the windows where Brian was sitting. After a sufficient amount of time, Dr. Marrow administered a sedative to help Justin sleep so his mind would have a rest and time to process all the changes within his body. Still in spite of all of that, Brian felt enormous anxiety leaving the hospital. Daphne assured Brian that she would stay there until he got back which was the only way to get him to actually leave the hospital instead of it just being an unfulfilled desire. He made her promise to call the minute he woke up if it happened before he got back.
So with all of that happening, one would think that Brian deserved a few worry-free moments to himself. And everyone did...except Lindsey. Brian had been ignoring her calls and voicemails for the better part of two weeks. Every time he would listen to her messages, there were the endless complaints about how he's never home when she comes by to visit or the coaxing messages about how Gus is missing his ‘father.' Then there were the outright rude messages reminding him that he was powerless to help Justin and that he was wasting his precious time; that Justin would wake up when he was good and goddamn ready and that he was blowing her-- oops Gus-- off in favor of a boy who was not biologically related to him. All this was going through Brian's head as he pulled open the door to the loft.
"Hey, you okay?" Michael asked interrupting Brian's thoughts.
"Yeah, Mikey. I'm fine. I think I'll be even better after I have a shower and grab a beer. Maybe even get the final draft off my hard drive and sent to Cynthia." He closed the door, moving further into the loft even as he realized how empty it was without all of Justin's stuff lying around.
Even though Justin had been living with Deb, there were many days and nights that Brian would arrive home to find him lounging on the couch naked with a lusty look, cooking dinner for the two of them or sprawling haphazardly on the floor with his homework and art stuff scattered everywhere. Some nights it really pissed him off that he felt compelled to give Justin a key but then there were the times when he was glad to just sit and watch Sunshine teeter on the cusp between being an eighteen year old boy and a brave man wise beyond his years. Brian would have given anything right then to be watching Justin be who he was inside the loft, just the two of them, hidden away from the prying eyes of the ‘family'; would have given anything for Justin to be there in their bed, instead of a bed in the ICU, hurt and broken.
"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it."
Brian let the silence stretch for a few moments before answering him. "I'm...okay. It's just that... well... I... yeah, I'm fine."
Michael nodded even though he'd known differently. But that was classic Brian. A lot of time one had to read between the lines with Brian; always guessing what he was thinking or making assumptions. He was probably the hardest man on the planet to read...well at least the hardest man to read that Michael knew.
"How about you go on and shower while I call David and then we'll have that beer." Michael said pasting on a small smile as he began to usher Brian toward his bedroom.
They were just about there when the loft door opened with what sounded like a crash as it stopped. Lindsey stormed in, looking around until she noticed the other occupants. Her eyes took in Brian's disheveled appearance even as she narrowed her eyes at Michael.
"So, you've finally decided to leave the hospital. I take it Justin is doing well," Lindsey began.
Brian swallowed hard. "He's resting now. I thought I'd come home take a shower and take care of the emails I need to send to Cynthia."
"Not come by the house and see YOUR son?" Her tone was accusatory, the frost in each syllable evident.
Michael winced at it already knowing where this conversation was headed but this was not the time and he told her so. "Lindsey, Brian needs some time. I don't know what bug crawled up your ass but this-- what you're trying to start-- it needs to wait. I'm not going to --"
He didn't get a chance to finish before she cut him off. "Not going to let me? Really, Michael? You have no control over me and even less over Brian so since this doesn't concern YOU, it concerns Gus' PARENTS, I would appreciate it if you mind your own business."
He bristled both at her tone and her words. "Brian IS my business and has been since he was fourteen. Instead of acting like a bitch, since you claim to be his friend, you should be acting supportive. Instead you come in here and start trouble."
She disregarded every sentence uttered as she looked contemptuously at the man she'd come to see. The open collar on Brian's shirt made her eyes open a little wider as she noticed the Hermes scarf she'd gone with him to buy; the same one which was stained with Justin's blood. Brian noticed where her eyes drifted to and hurried to button the top of his shirt while glaring at her.
"You need to call off your attack puppy, Brian. This is about you not following through on your promises regarding Gus."
Brian folded his lips before answering, gathering his thoughts before he said something hurtful and angry. Although he was beginning to think she deserved it, he was mentally exhausted and really didn't need to deal with Lindsey's accusations. But he couldn't stop himself from asking,
"Exactly what are you talking about, Lindz? It can't be about money, because my accountant, meaning Ted, tells me that you've had no problem cashing my child support checks for a child who I'm not technically the father of."
"Oh Brian please. I thought we've been through all that; thought we'd gotten past it. But you're still a part of Gus' life. He misses you."
Again Brian looked at her. It was as if he was seeing something he had never noticed about her before and he called her on her bullshit. "If Gus misses ME so badly, then where is he Lindz? Shouldn't he be attached to your hip instead of your coming in here alone to play avenging mother or concerned friend? Why are you here at the loft when everyone KNEW I was at the hospital with my PARTNER?"
Lindsey deliberately ignored Brian's last question, merely disregarding it as an unimportant one. "Gus is at home with Melanie. I thought we should have this talk without him present."
"And yet you are concerned that I'm not spending enough time with him." Brian shook his head. "I call bullshit, Lindsey. And I really don't have time for your brand of it right now." He turned his back on her, making his way up the stairs to his bathroom when her next words stopped his progress.
"I can't believe you can make time to see your boy toy everyday but not your son." Lindsey's voice oozed disappointment and hurt, but Brian could tell what was really underneath.
Any other day, Brian might have let it slide, may have felt that she was justified in her thinking a little; maybe even rationalized her hurling guilt at him. But this was NOT the day. He schooled his features, making them read as impassive, as she continued her diatribe of how long he stays at the hospital and how much no one sees him any other place but by Justin's bedside and how she can't bring Gus there. She continued to say that he wasn't being fair to anyone else who was affected by Justin's attack by ignoring the countless phone calls and invites to dinner that everyone had been issuing to him. When Brian couldn't remain silent anymore, he said very firmly yet quietly, "Get the fuck out, Lindsey."
"What?" she said not sure she heard him correctly after all she'd just said. Her tone changed from whining and complaining to the ice maiden she was born to be. "I can't believe you have nothing to say for yourself."
Brian scoffed. "Oh I have plenty to say for myself. Would you like to hear it?"
"Well first I'd like to hear an apology for the way you've been neglecting all of us- all of your more meaningful relationships- in favor of Justin."
Brian's huff of laughter was without any trace of humor. He'd couldn't deny that he was a little surprised by this from Lindsey. He'd actually expected it more from Michael but not Lindz. She was one of Justin's biggest supporters-- or at least that's what he'd always thought. And maybe she still was, but right then he couldn't see that. All he could hear were her accusations and complaints.
"Fuck you, Lindsey."
Lindsey sneered, "And isn't that just like you, Brian? You don't want to deal with the real situation so you close yourself off to the truth."
"The truth? What is the fucking truth? Is it the one according to Saint Lindsey that I'm supposed to take as gospel? Well again I say, FUCK YOU! You of all people, have the nerve to come into MY house and start this shit, on today of ALL days and... you know what...." Brian pulled back from what he'd almost said. He didn't owe her a fucking thing. Not an explanation. Not an apology and he'd be damned if she could take charge of even ONE regret he may have been indulging. In that moment, he felt his temper slipping even further away from him. If she stayed any longer, he would couldn't be held responsible for what he said or did. "LEAVE! Vic told me that you were acting like a jealous housewife and I didn't want to believe him. The things he told me sounded more like Melanie but not you. And now you're here in MY house sounding like your bitchy butch of a wife? Strange but you haven't been to the hospital ONCE since the first day and yet Melanie has been there EVERY single day."
"Well SOMEONE needed to take care of Gus, Brian. Remember him? Your son? You promised him you'd be there for him. Don't fucking promise that if you didn't mean it!"
"When have I EVER promised that or anything else? When you choose Melanie, do I complain to you? NO. For the record, Lindsey, he's only MY son when you want MY money. Otherwise it's all about you and your pussy-wielding husband."
"That's bullshit and you know it, Brian."
"Is it? When you were about to marry Gui, Gary, whatever-the-fuck-his-name-was, was it bullshit that I wrote you a ten-thousand dollar check to take care of MY son? I was about to face a bogus sexual harassment charge and yet you came here needing ME; needing MY MONEY. You know what, in all his youth, Justin was right about one thing... but you know what, that's between me and him and not any of your fucking business. Now GET THE FUCK OUT!" And Brian left an open-mouthed Lindsey at the bottom of the steps leading into his bedroom. All he knew then was rage, and the fact that she'd better NOT still be there when he came out of the shower. As he stripped down, he thought over the whole day and realized that where Justin was concerned, he was exactly where he needed to be. And all who didn't like it could go fuck themselves.
For Michael's part, he'd watched Lindsey flounce out of the loft in a WASPy huff. As he set the alarm and grabbed a beer from the fridge and planted himself on the sofa to wait for Brian, he thought back over the argument he'd been witness to. He couldn't deny that Brian was right. THIS was about Justin and NOT he nor Lindsey; Michael had gotten that revelation early on. He guessed having been a witness to the attack put things into a different perspective. But he couldn't believe that Brian and Lindsey were on the outs. They had been tighter than ten toes in a sock prior to the advent of Justin in all of their lives. Maybe they still were, but right now, Lindsey was proving that this was more about something else other than friendship. He knew that Brian and Lindsey's friendship wasn't over. Not by a long shot--it was just on hold-- but... Did he really wish for it to be over? Granted Michael and Lindsey were like two sides of the same coin. He would have jumped at the chance to be with Brian the way Justin was, but Lindsey was a lesbian, wasn't she? Well if there were ever a man to make her go straight, Brian would be it. It was a fucked up situation for both of them. One thing was for certain and two things for sure, Brian was going to do what he felt was the right thing to do regardless of what anyone had to say and Boy Wonder wasn't going ANYWHERE.