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Life As We Remember by starlight

MICHAEL

 

I always wondered what it was like to meet the one who was made for you. Thinking back to the life we once lived, I now understand the difference. Each person you are with isn’t a mistake, but a lesson along the way. Being with David taught me that just wanting to be in a relationship wasn’t a reason to dive into one. Being with him wasn’t horrible, he just wanted things I didn’t. I did love Ben, but I didn’t love him the way I should have, and in the end it wasn’t Brian so much as it was me. Ben told me once that it was okay to love more than one person, he’s right, but in the same breath, wrong. 

 

It is okay to love more than one person. What isn’t okay is to let another love consume the thoughts that drown out the person you link your life to. I think it really came from the fact that Ben was so good and normal, and at the time I wanted someone to help me get rid of the darkness that surrounds me. I wanted someone who I could have when Brian was getting further and further out of reach. I also know why I wanted Brian, he had the darkness I craved in life. Without knowing who I was, my darker side was able to convince me I wanted Brian.

 

I knew the night Justin walked into our lives there was something different in the way Brian looked at him. Brian had seen something different in Justin. Something I saw as the relationship progressed. Brian acted indifferent to Justin at first, but he also watched every move Justin made. As if he was making sure Justin could deal with the life Brian would bring with him. Brian was testing Justin in the way he was being tested, without knowing it. To make sure Justin was up to the partnership they would develop over time. I never understood how Justin could deal with some of the shit Brian did to him, but seeing Conner in person made me understand. Sometimes love gets messy, but if it’s really there you deal with it until both halves figure it out.

 

Conner wasn’t jumping into my arms, but he watched me the minute Emmett and Drew introduced me to Brett Keller. Drew didn’t introduce me to Conner, which was what I wanted. Instead he left Emmett and I while he and Brett talked about the movie Brett wanted him for. Emmett and I went to tour the studio, which was hard because I wanted to do what Brian did and disappear with my soulmate. Conner didn’t approach us the whole day, instead he seemed to keep his distance from me. It wasn’t until we were leaving that Conner walked over to talk to Drew before we were within touching distance. The minute his hand touched mine I felt it to my soul, like it was two parts of a puzzle finally put together. I saw my whole life with him; getting married, having children, and growing old together. It was then that what Brian did made sense. He could see Justin giving him all these things and fought it. Everything in Brian’s life made what Justin would give him something he was afraid to reach for. And Conner’s reaction to us touching made sense; I was going to ruin his carefully constructed world. I had parts of my life he couldn’t share, and that made me back off to think about it. Brian and Justin would know about our other life. Conner would be left without the knowledge, but for me that was okay. In essence it was a way to have a life outside my job; something I needed when the darkness took over. A way to see something differently. Brian didn’t have to live in darkness the way I did, since he had Justin to help him. Conner could be the light at the end of the tunnel, if he would give in to what he felt.

 

I went back to my hotel room, just needing a minute to breathe. Being around Conner and having him pull away, while I understood, wasn’t easy. He was going to be my whole life in a way no one ever was, and it took everything in me not to want to push my way past whatever barriers he was putting up. For once I took a lesson from Brian and planned to give Conner the time he needed to be ready for me. I called the airport and got a flight back to Pittsburg. My plan was to leave and go on with my life. When Conner was ready to explore our connection he could find me. All that was left was to get through the dinner Emmett and Drew planned for tonight and then I’d catch a cab to the airport. I wasn’t running away, but allowing Conner to follow when he was ready. 

 

Only Brett showed up at dinner, offering an excuse when Conner didn’t show. Emmett had invited him, confused when Conner seemed reluctant. Like me, Emmett had seen how fast Brian and Justin connected, he and Drew, and then Blake and Ted. Every one of their relationships had problems, but the connection was instant for them. Something we weren’t seeing with Conner. Emmett tried to talk me out of leaving, thinking like me that maybe the connection was a late bloomer. I assured him I was fine, and I really was, because I knew who he was and who we’d be one day. Waiting wasn’t a problem when the ending was everything I dreamed of, my happy ending was there and that was enough for once. I was no longer just sitting at the starting line, but beginning my journey. 

 

When I heard him yell to me at the gate to my flight, my heart started beating out of my chest. He might have taken all day but in the end he couldn’t wait for me.

 

“Michael don’t get on that flight.” He demanded, when I started to hand my ticket to the lady at the counter.

 

“I won’t be needing this.” I tell her, turning to my life.

 

Conner swallowed me with his arms, breathing me in. His arms felt like home, and I held on for dear life.

 

“Why do I feel like I would have lost everything if I let go of you?” He whispered.

 

I didn’t answer him, just letting myself feel what it must of been like for Brian and Justin. I also didn’t let myself believe our life would be easy, but I was willing to do what it took to hold on to the man who completed me. I didn’t see the outside of his bedroom for a week, and the day I really did leave for Pittsburgh was even harder. Conner had to finish the movie and I needed to find a new job, because I wasn’t going to repeat my past. I wanted to start the comic; not Rage, but one that gave the world a clue about darkness and light. When I called Justin about it, he agreed to help. He also warned me to be nice to his little sister, who would illustrate it for me. In the other life Bree worked for Brian in his art department, so Justin already knew what his little sister was capable of. Which also meant Justin would fill in on anything he didn’t think his little sister should be drawing. I told Conner my plans, knowing he wouldn’t see what I wanted to do as anything but a success. Only wanted to do one thing first, that was to thank Ben for trying when I didn’t make it easy. 

 

I found Ben packing to make the trip he didn’t take before, in order to stay with me. He looked wary when he opened the door, but let me in.

 

“I wanted to thank you for being a part of my life, every time.” I tell him.

 

“I can’t do it again.” Ben tells me, not angry, but sorry.

 

“I’m not asking you to, you need to do what made you happy in the end. It’s just I didn’t want you to go without knowing I appreciate what you gave me in life. I loved you. Just not the way I was supposed to.” I tell him.

 

“I loved you too. But your right, not the way I should have. It took meeting Zane for me to see the relationship we had was us settling for less than what we could have had.” Ben tells me, almost as if he was worried about hurting my feelings.

 

“I want you to be happy. And I get it, I met the one I should have been with and it’s different. What we had wasn’t bad, it’s just that we weren’t meant to be what we were trying to be to each other.” I tell him, getting up to hug him goodbye.

 

“What are you going to do now?” He asks.

 

“Believe it or not, I’m starting a comic. Then hopefully I’ll marry the man who waited lifetimes to meet me.” I tell him.

 

 

JUSTIN

 

Marty and I sat in my office, reading through the revised version of Ben’s book. He left a note to let us know the story was changed in parts to reflect some truths. Then the rest was left because he felt it would be more interesting than the truth. I wasn’t frustrated like I was when I first read it, because I understood the characters, and the author was only writing what he assumed. I also knew readers loved reading about characters struggling before finding true love. 

 

“What do you think?” I asked Marty.

 

“Ben needs to start the next book.” Marty tells me.

 

“Hopefully he’ll have another story to tell.” I said, thinking his source material was another life.

 

“He does, but steer him away from to much self reflexion in the next one.” Marty tells me after a couple of minutes.

 

“I’m getting lunch, anybody want anything?” Hunter asks, poking his head in the door.

 

“The usual, and get Brian…”

 

“Whole wheat with turkey, hold anything good.” Hunter smarts off.

 

“Yes. And don’t run off after you get everything, Brian and I want to talk to you.” I tell him.

 

Brian and I talked about what to do with Hunter. My mother wasn’t in the position to take on another teen right now. She was dealing with a pissed off Tucker at the moment. Carl found Tucker, and when he told him about Bree, he showed up breathing fire about Craig being allowed to raise his child. Brian managed to get Molly and Bree out of the way, then explained to Tucker what would happen if he hurt our mother. While Brian sympathized with Tucker’s plight, he wouldn’t let him shit on my mother for wanting to believe in the man she married. It didn’t help Mom’s case when he found out what she’d done with me. I planned to go see Tucker after Brian and I talked to Hunter about our plans for him.

 

It was simple to Brian; Hunter was family, and as family he needed to know it. Michael weighed in and while he wanted to try to do it right by Hunter this time around, he knew his life was going to have to many new things in it, which would leave Hunter to adjust for each new one. We all agreed Hunter needed the family he remembered loving him unconditionally, which was mine.

 

Brian came in with all the kids. I didn’t laugh at him holding Jenny in one arm and pushing Kira in a stroller while Gus skipped beside him. We talked to Gus about Hunter, but like everything else he seemed to know before we thought about it that Hunter belong to us. Brian’s mother was willing to take Hunter and would have been good for him. It was just, for me, I wanted to watch him grow into the man he’d eventually become. I wanted him to know the life Brian and I gave our children. And no matter how Jenny came to be, she needed the brother she loved in Hunter to be her brother, and for once to be able to live with him.

 

Mel was upset when she found out Brian and I were adopting Jenny. From what Emmett said it was like seeing the Mel of the past. Which they hadn’t seen with her and Brian being best friends. Brian made sure she dealt with her decision not to adopt Jenny, not get upset at Brian for loving Jenny enough to say to hell with anything but giving her a home. It’s so strange to see how this life changed everyone, especially Mel. Instead of getting upset, she cried on Brian’s shoulder about how she sometimes felt like she couldn’t find the right person. One who wanted the things she wanted without demanding Mel give up her life for theirs. Neither of us knew what to do to help her. There was no Leda hanging in the wings, he had Gabriel check for us. 

 

“Hey, you brought my babies, why didn’t you tell me? I could have brought them stuff too.” Hunter complained, taking Jenny from Brian.

 

“You can join me when we go to the diner.” Brian tells him.

 

“I brought you lunch.” Hunter tells him.

 

“Yeah well, they want Gramma and Papa time, so we have to go see Deb and Carl.” He tells Hunter.

 

“What did you want to ask me?” Hunter asks.

 

“About your future.” Brian tells him.

 

Hunter started biting his lip. I knew it meant he was worried that we didn’t see a place for him, with the addition of three kids. 

 

“Never really thought much about it.” Hunter shrugged.

 

“We have, but see, you aren’t one of us.” Brian says, torturing Hunter.

 

“Brian, knock it off. What Brian is trying to say is how would you feel about being a Taylor-Kinney, legally?” I ask him.

 

“It sounds like a lot of trouble just to change my name.” Hunter tells me.

 

“I think you should have our name, so no one mistakes who you are to us.” Brian tells him.

 

“What am I?” Hunter asks.

 

“Family. One that wants it so you never doubt that we love you.” I tell him.

 

“Okay.” Hunter shrugs.

 

Hunter got up, trying to hide his tears, using Jenny to cover for him. I didn’t let him get away with it. Instead I yanked him into my arms and told my brother to remember the life we shared in the past, and know the only difference was he was officially going to have a last name I was proud to carry through our lives. Brian dragged Hunter and the kids out together, joking to Hunter that his job was to change the extra stinky diapers.

 

I waited until they’d gone to go see the man who made my mother the happiest, but was now acting like an ass. I got it. His child was raised by a total bastard who seemed to go out of his way to make Bree miserable. It hurt to see Bree that way, when in the other life she was raised being loved. I remember arguing with my mother over Tucker, being a total hypocrite over the age difference. Only, Tucker loved my mother and dealt with my asshole behavior, winning me over because he loved my mother. 

 

“Can I help you?” Tucker asked, when I walked into his classroom.

 

“Sure, you can give my mother a break for believing in my sperm donor.” I tell him, looking inside his soul and finding it hurting for everything he lost when my mother ended things with him.

 

It wasn’t just that he was angry about Bree, but that my mother had ripped his heart in two when she broke it off. He didn’t want to feel that way again, and wasn’t sure if he could trust my mother with his heart again. He was fighting the love he still felt for her, and using the loss of his child to keep himself angry at her.

 

“If you could go back and not have met my mother, would you want that?” I ask, knowing how to do that, but not planning to.

 

“I can’t, so it doesn’t matter. I don’t get how you could defend her after what she did to you. She left you to God knows what kind of life, then married the man who fathered you, and had another kid. How does that make you want to defend her?” Tucker asked.

 

“Because being raised by Craig sounds like a nightmare. She might not have known I’d be gay one day, but she understood what defying her family and Craig would have done to her life and mine.” I tell him.

 

“She still defied them to marry that bastard.” He tells me.

 

“She thought she was in love with him. She gave up everything to be with him. It might not make sense, but she was also young and stupid at one time, like all of us.” I tell him.

 

“Explain to me how you can be okay with what she did to you, and with what Bree’s life was like?” He asks.

 

“My life wasn’t awful, it just was. But she left him and has tried to make it better for Bree. Do I agree with you not knowing about her? No. I do agree with you that you should have known about a baby you helped make. She’s wrong, but what does your anger do to change that you have a daughter who could use a father like you? One that doesn’t make her feel like she has to choose sides because you’re angry that you still love our mother, the way Craig does with Molly.” I challenge him.

 

“I didn’t say I still loved Jen.” He tells me.

 

“If you didn’t you wouldn’t be pissed, but working with her to help your daughter. Who, like I said, needs you.” I tell him.

 

“How do I trust her not to break me again?” Tucker asks.

 

“By getting to know her now and seeing that she isn’t the scared girl her family kicked out for loving an asshole. She stayed with him because she wanted to believe losing her family over Craig wasn’t a mistake. She’s flawed, but one thing you need to understand is that she’s one of the strongest women I know.” I tell him.

 

“She wasn’t strong when I knew her.” Tucker tells me.

 

“No, she wasn’t. But she’s definitely managed to make up for the weakness by making sure my sisters have anything she can give them. She also told Bree only good things about you, which didn’t make it easier on her after letting Bree deal with Craig. Don’t be like him and make my sister suffer for the mistakes of her parents. Because your anger over something you can’t change will affect Bree. Plus, who says you have to have a relationship again? You can still co-parent the child you both created.” I tell him.

 

“Loving Jen seems to be something I can’t stop.” He tells me.

 

“I’m in the same boat, because loving Brian transcends time for me.” I tell him.

 

“Thanks for your input. You’re right, Bree doesn’t need us at war with each other.” Tucker tells me, dismissing me.

 

I got up, looking again to see less hurt, although he wasn’t ready to jump back in yet. In time he would forgive her, and would become the father I respected. I put my hand on his shoulder as I left, wanting him to heal faster, trying not to react when he looked at me strangely.

 

“Just know that whatever you decide, I would still like to know the man who created Bree.” I tell him.

 

“What about the man who created you? Bree said you never ask about him.” He questions.

 

“I don’t waste time on someone I can’t save.” I tell him, leaving.

 

I went home to my family, hoping Tucker got his shit together. My mom needed him. I found Uriel outside my house, staring at the door.

 

“He won’t bite you.” I tell him.

 

“Brian or Gabriel?” He jokes.

 

“Brian will let it go, as long as you love our children the way Gabriel does. As for Gabriel, you know him better than we do.” I tell him.

 

Uriel nodded, following me in only to stop at Gabriel sitting with Jenny feeding her, while wearing a tiara that made Jenny and Gus giggle.

 

“Father has to see this.” Uriel teased.

 

 

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