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(Pittsburgh, Saturday, May 25, 2013 - past)

Justin had always been a really heavy sleeper, Brian always joked that he would sleep through an earthquake and whenever Justin had something important he would set his own alarm to wake him up in case Justin decided to ignore his. Oh, you love me so much, Justin always laughed at him, but he appreciated that little gesture more than he could ever express. He appreciated every little thing Brian did for him. He loved how he took care of him… he loved that…

Justin suddenly felt something irritating his throat, it was such a strange feeling and it made him cough in his sleep but it didn't wake him up completely. Quite the opposite, actually, as he subconsciously felt his eyelids getting heavier... like he couldn't wake up even if he wanted to.

But what finally pulled him from his sleep was the insane feeling of heat spreading throughout his body. He really wasn't the type to wake up at night feeling cold or hot, he always somehow adapted to the current temperature and slept peacefully until morning. Brian hated him for that, he always suffered, especially in the summer, and as he paced the bedroom trying to cool down a bit, Justin was snoring calmly.

That's why he was really surprised when he felt sweat on his naked body. Also his breathing felt really heavy. It was strange. He reached over to the bedside table for the bottle of water he had there, which if he wasn't so terribly thirsty, he would rather pour over himself to cool down. He then looked at the suprisingly sleeping Brian, which helped him forget the unpleasant feeling for a moment. He smiled as he remembered their sex, that they both really needed. Well, maybe that's why he was so hot, that would explain it. And the thought made him smile even wider.

But suddenly, Justin began to cough again.

God, why did his throat and nose burn so badly? Why did the air feel so strange and thick? Why did he feel like his body was on a damn fire?

So many questions flashed through his mind, but he didn't know the answer to any of them. Besides, he was too tired. And knowing that he couldn't do much to cool down with his broken leg anyway, he figured it would be better to just go back to sleep. So he let his upper body fall back onto the bed but as he was about to close his eyes he saw it... through the crack under the door... the light was on. Although it looked strange. Like it was flickering. But he was probably just too sleepy. Guess they forgot to turn the lights off as they were too busy doing... other things. Justin chuckled to himself. Or maybe Gus was awake.

He knew he could just ignore it, but his thoughts wouldn't let him sleep, knowing that the light was on, and since he couldn't do anything about it because of his stupid leg, he needed to wake Brian up. And knowing Brian wouldn't be happy, he promised himself he'd make it up to him first thing in the morning.

"Brian, I need you to wake up," Justin gently ran his fingers through his soft hair to help him wake up and let's be honest so Brian wouldn't be so mad at him. "Come on, Brian, you have to-" Justin was surprised by another wave of coughing and this time it was much worse. "Fuck, this is getting tiring," he sighed in frustration. The last thing he needed was to get sick.

"Then sleep," Brian spoked suddenly in his not-so-pleasant tone. "And don't disturb my sleep," he pulled the covers up over his head.

"Sorry," Justin smiled, founding it cute when Brian got "angry". "But I really need you to get up… we must have left the light on… or Gus fell asleep on the toilet," he chuckled.

"Huh?" Brian gave him a sleepy look.

"We left the light on in the hallway. I can see it under the door."

"Jesus... just ignore it and go back to sleep..."

"I can't ignore it."

"If you're worried about the electricity bill, there's no need... we've got the money," Brian breathed a chuckle. "Fuck, why is it so hot in here?" he muttered.

"Briiiaaannn, pleeaassee," Justin used his most annoying voice, testing his patience and hoping he would get his way eventually.

"I really hate you, you know that?" Brian reluctantly rolled out of bed and rubbed his eyes as they felt strangely itchy.

"No. You love me," Justin grinned.

"Right now? Not really," he replied annoyed as he slowly walked to the door to fulfill Justin's wish.

"Come on, you love me. Just say it. There's no point in hiding it anymore," Justin giggled.

"Well, when you're not giving me reasons to strangle you… then yes… I do love you..." Justin smiled widely, satisfied with Brian's answer. "God, is it just me or is it really fucking hot in here?" Brian complained.

"Definitely not just you. It woke me up. And the air is weird too," Justin sighed.

"Yeah," Brian cleared his throat, coughing a little. "Really weird. Fuck!" he shouted suddenly and Justin's heart literally stopped for a second.

"What the hell just happened?" Justin asked immediately with a worry in his voice.

"The knob… it's… hot..."

"What do you mean it's hot?"

"I don't know. It's like..."

"Like what?" Justin swallowed and could feel his heart in his throat.

"I don't know," Brian breathed nervously, trying to find the light switch, and when he finally turned it on, they both immediately knew something was very very wrong. The entire bedroom was foggy and smoke was coming out from the crack under the door.

"What the hell..?" Brian's voice was horrified and confused at the same time.

"Brian, is that... smoke?" Justin breathed out.

They were both completely paralyzed with fear. They couldn't move. They couldn't breathe. They couldn't even speak. They just stared at nothing with panic in their eyes while their hearts pounded in their chests.

And neither wanted to believe it was real. Because... because it couldn't. But it was. It was very real.

Suddenly, Brian reached for the doorknob again, but was able to stop himself in time as he remembered how much it had burned just a minute ago. And instead he picked up his shirt from the floor to use to open the door. To be honest, he really didn't want to open it, but he knew he had to, so he did…

And what appeared right before their eyes was the most terrifying thing either of them had ever seen in their lives. Just flames and thick smoke through which almost nothing could be seen. So much smoke. It was a horror sight.

"Brian!" Justin shouted seeing that Brian was in complete shock and thankfully his voice managed to snap him back to reality and he quickly shut the door. "Oh my god... oh my god... Brian what... what the hell is happening... Brian..." Justin's voice was shaking and he was on the verge of tears.

And Brian just stood there trying to pull himself together and understand what was going on because despite the obvious, he just couldn't. But then he realized something he should have realized a long time ago...

"Oh my god, Justin - GUS!"

"Jesus Christ!" Justin exclaimed with panic in his voice.

And Brian didn't hesitate for a single second and went to open the door again to get to his son, at that point he didn't care about anything else, he just needed to get to him. He needed to get to Gus. The only thing that stopped him from walking out of the bedroom without thinking and potentially into the flames was the excruciating pain when he took the knob in his hand.

"Oh, fuck! Jesus Christ!" Brian cried out, jerking his arm back and clutching his hand against his chest

"Brian are you okay?!" Justin just wanted to run to him, but he couldn't. He felt so helpless.

"It's nothing..." Brian shook his hand a little, trying to ease the pain… but it didn't help. He had a deep red burn all over his palm. But that was the last thing he was worried about right now. "Justin, I need to get to him... I need to get to Gus."

"I know, I know, uhhh…" Justin didn't know what to say or do, but then he got an idea. "Wet some towels and put them around you and over your mouth..."

Brian didn't wait for anything and immediately went to do as Justin told him. After a minute he came back from the bathroom with several soaked towels. They both quickly put on at least sweatpants and a shirt. Brian's hands were shaking like crazy as he was wrapping one of the towels around Justin.

And then he looked into his eyes, his hazel ones into Justin's blue ones “ both filled with tears and despair “ they knew what this moment meant. They knew they might not see each other again. They knew that the moment Brian leaves this bedroom, he most likely won't be able to come back for Justin if the fire gets worse. Right now it was mostly spreading around the walls and across the ceiling, but they knew it was only a matter of time before the entire house would be engulfed in flames.

But they also knew that the most important thing right now was Gus.

"Go," Justin said in his shaky voice. "It's okay Brian, just go..."

Brian bit his lip, unable to move, but with every second he stayed there, his worst thoughts were more likely to come true. Brian had to act now, and he had to act fast.

"I'll come back for you, I promise."

"Save Gus, that's the most important thing right now, okay? Just save him… I'll be fine… really," Justin tried his best to smile even as tears streamed down his face.

He knew his chances of getting out of there were even slimmer than he was willing to admit. He couldn't walk and he certainly couldn't let Brian get him out before Gus... there was only one solution to this - he had to stay there while Brian had to get Gus out of the house.

"I'll be right back…" Brian quickly kissed Justin's lips.

He then walked over to the door and just before he opened it - carefully this time, Justin yelled, "I love you!" and he said it as if it should be the last time, because he knew in his heart that it was.

"I'll be back in a minute... even if I have to run through the flames," Brian replied, refusing to accept that this might be the last time he sees Justin, and then his figure disappeared in that thick smoke, and the door closed behind him.

And Justin suddenly felt what he had tried very hard to ignore until this moment - an indescribable fear. His heart was pounding. Tears were rolling down his cheeks and his lips were quivering. The silence that suddenly filled the bedroom was unbearable. He felt his throat tighten more and more and the irritation in his throat made him cough more and more urgently. But nothing compared to the fear he felt at the thought of Brian and Gus. He didn't know if Brian had gotten to him... he didn't know if they were out of the house yet... he didn't know if they were okay...

But he knew one thing.

He didn't want to die. Not like this. Not here. Not now.

Therefore, he gathered all his strength and got off the bed onto the floor and started crawling towards the door, dragging his broken leg behind him. He held a wet towel as close to his body as possible and another over his mouth. The smoke burned his eyes and he could barely see, but he refused to give up. But the moment he was at the door he realized he couldn't open it from the ground, he tried but just couldn't reach there. So he slowly picked himself up off the ground, trying very hard not to use his broken leg, but he was starting to feel really dizzy and he knew getting out of there was more important than saving his leg, so he simply did what was necessary... and when he heard the cracking sound, his scream immediately echoed throughout the house and he felt an excruciating pain that almost made him pass out.

"Oh my god. Jesus Christ," Justin grunted in tears as he bit down on a piece of towel, hoping that would make the pain more bearable. It didn't. But he knew he had to get over it and finally opened the door. The flames were almost everywhere now and he felt like he was already on fire, it was so hot and he hadn't even entered the hallway yet. He didn't want to enter it. But he had to. He had no other choice. So he took a step and then another and another... holding a towel over his mouth and trying not to inhale the smoke. He couldn't see anything at all and basically just went by memory trying to get to the stairs without knowing if it would even be possible to go down them. He watched the flames around him and did his best to avoid them, but it was nearly impossible and he started to regret leaving the bedroom and not jumping out of the window instead, although that seemed like a death sentence in itself considering that the ground below was as hard as rock. With each step he felt his broken bone even more and his tears became more urgent as did the coughing that was getting really violent and rough and he felt as if he might actually throw up.

And then the worst happened - he tripped and flew straight to the ground. And while the pain he felt from his leg a second ago was downright unbearable, it was nothing compared to the pain he felt right now as he felt himself on fire. He could feel the flames on his body and the way his nerves were exposed beneath them and every one of them was in excruciating pain… he screamed at the top of his lungs, it was so loud they must have heard him miles away.

He immediately began to roll from side to side to smother the flames, and thankfully, it didn't take long for them to go out. But suddenly he knew he couldn't do this. He was in so much pain and there was no way he was going to be able to stand on that leg again. And so he just lay there on the ground with flames dancing around him. They were getting closer and closer. And at that moment he knew... this was it... this was the end and he couldn't run away from it...

He could only close his eyes and wait for the moment when it would all finally be over. His thoughts were completely focused on the people he loved, but Brian most of all. He wanted him to be the last thing he saw... even if it was only in his head...

He wasn't even afraid anymore. He was actually calm. And ready for what was about to happen.

And suddenly he saw Brian's face in front of him. He immediately smiled. He was so beautiful and seemed so real. Justin reached out to touch him… and to his surprise he could actually feel him…

"Justin, can you hear me? Justin, please answer me…" Brian's voice was completely desperate. "Justin, please say something..."

"Brian?" Justin breathed a small sigh of relief as he realized Brian was really there.

"Hey there," a smile immediately spread across Brian's face even as his eyes welled up with tears. "Oh my god, Justin…" Brian saw the burns on Justin's body and was completely horrified.

"You came back," Justin said weakly.

"I said I'd be back. Come on babe, we have to get out," Brian used all his remaining strength to lift Justin into his arms.

"Where's Gus?"

"He's out... I got him out... he's fine don't worry..."

"Thank God," Justin smiled, but he was slowly losing consciousness.

"Come on, don't fall asleep, stay with me."

He heard Brian's voice talking to him, but it seemed so far away. He was so tired and just wanted to sleep.

"Justin? Justin… wake up… come on… I need you to wake up… I need your help please Justin…"

"Mhhmmm," the blond hummed sleepily.

"Justin!" This time Brian's voice was loud and harsh even to his own ears, but he needed to get Justin's attention. And thankfully he succeeded because Justin immediately opened his eyes and focused them completely on Brian. But suddenly he realized that there was no fire around them because they were no longer in the hallway. They were in Gus's room.

"Brian?" Justin was confused.

"Listen to me. Are you listening?" Justin nodded so Brian continued. "The stairs are on fire and so is everything below us. We have to go out the window, okay?"

"What?" Justin's eyes widened even more. "But I can't... my leg... I can barely move..."

"I'll help you. That's how I got Gus out. I used the sheets and lowered him down..."

"But…" Justin suddenly noticed Brian's hands. They were covered in burns. "Oh my God, Brian."

"It's okay. They're just hands, Sunshine."

"But how are you going to lower me? I'm too heavy and with those hands..."

"Let me worry about that, okay?"

Justin knew there was no time to argue and that he wouldn't win anyway. So he nodded and Brian tied one end of the sheets around his body.

"I'm scared," Justin admitted.

"I'm fucking terrified," Brian laughed nervously. "But it's going to be okay, I promise."

And in that moment, Justin believed it.

And then Brian started to lower him down. He could hear him groaning in pain above him the whole time while he could feel the sheet cutting into his own burns. It was unbearable. But by some miracle he could soon feel the ground under his feet. He immediately collapsed and untied the sheet around him so Brian could get down.

But he immediately began to lose consciousness again. He was so tired. And his body was starting to give up.

And suddenly, before he knew it, Brian's hands were holding him tightly. "We're out. Can you hear me, Sunshine? We made it out..."

Justin was barely able to open his eyes, but seeing Brian's face and knowing they were really outside almost made him forget the excruciating pain.

"Brian," he whispered.

"Hey," Brian smiled, happy that Justin was talking. "Oh my god," he immediately pressed his lips to Justin's forehead. "I love you so much, Justin. So damn much..."

"I love you too," Justin smiled despite the pain. And suddenly he noticed Gus standing next to them. He looked so scared. And his face was full of tears, but luckily he looked unharmed. "Are you okay, Gus?"

"He is," Brian assured him. "And you will be too," as soon as Brian finished that sentence he began to cough violently.

But at that moment they heard the sirens of the fire trucks and ambulances and felt an incredible relief.

"See, we're going to be fine," Brian said pulling Justin closer to him and Gus as well. He then looked at their burning home, feeling sad but he was sure that the worst was over. "We're all going to be fine..."
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