(Pittsburgh, May 2016 - present)
Justin tried his best to hold back the tears, but it was almost impossible, it just hurt too much. Before that horrible day he had no problem showing his feelings and when he needed to cry he simply did. He was probably the most sensitive person in the world and they didn't call him Sunshine for nothing. But that changed when the pain and guilt he felt was much bigger than he could handle. So he built a wall around himself, determined not to feel anything ever again. And he's been damn good at it ever since. After all, he had the best teacher. But there were moments like this when he simply couldn't pretend that he was fine and that he didn't feel anything. Because he felt everything. Pain, sadness, guilt, anger. All of it.
"You know what we should do?" Michael tried to change the subject because he could see how hard it was for Justin.
Justin wiped away his tears with his hand and looked at him. "What?"
"Go out... just like old times. What do you say?"
"Michael, I don't think that's a good idea."
"Yeah, that's probably true. We're too old for Babylon."
"Hey, speak for yourself. I'm young," Justin finally laughed.
Michael frowned, but then laughed as well. "So how about going to the diner?"
"Debbie still works there?"
"Nope," he sighed. "But at least you get out of the house. I know how hard it is for you to be here."
"Michael, I appreciate your trying to cheer me up, I really do, but I'd like to go lie down if you don't mind."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I had to get up early and I didn't sleep much, so..."
"Okay, well, get some sleep and maybe we'll figure something out later, I can call Emmett and Ted, they'll be happy to see you."
And I'd love to see them, I just don't know if I can look them in the eye, Justin thought.
"Sure," he replied.
Justin ran up the stairs two at a time and quickly closed the door of that terrible room behind him. His blood was boiling, he just wanted to break something, take it and smash it on the ground... smash this whole room... his rage was indescribable. He'd felt it all these years, but here it was even bigger, because this was where it all happened... this was where his life changed forever, because this was where he lost Brian. Until that day, he really loved Pittsburgh and he could imagine spending the rest of his life here by Brian's side, but it all turned to dust, literally...
He was only supposed to stay here for three days, but it was really hard for him to resist the urge to go back to New York right away. And since he knew that he needed to think about something else, he went to unpack his suitcase to distract himself and calm down. And it really helped, well, at least until he found something in the closet that he thought was long lost - Brian's bracelet.
"Oh my God," he whispered.
He took it in his hand and lay down on his bed, he hadn't seen it in three years. Not since the day he left Pittsburgh. He left it here because he just couldn't bear the thought of having that bracelet with him, it would kill him to have to look at it every day. And he thought Michael would take it, but apparently he left it here so Justin could take it back when he's ready.
As he looked at it while gently touching it, he immediately remembered how good it looked on Brian, he loved it so much when he wore it. And he also remembered how he gave it back to him after his nephew stole it from him - how he tied it back around his wrist and their hands touched, Brian's skin was so warm and soft. Justin could almost feel him. He knew in that moment that he had made the biggest mistake of his life when he left Brian for Ethan, but he didn't want to admit it. But if he did, they could have a little more time together.
Thinking about it, Justin had walked away from him so many times and regretted it every damn time. But they always found their way back to each other, Justin always came back to him... but the last time he did it, he made the worst mistake of his life.
God, you shouldn't have come back, you should have stayed in New York. If you did, Brian would still be alive.
Justin tossed the bracelet to the other side of the bed, unable to look at it any longer.
You can't hate yourself, Sunshine. It wasn't your fault.
"Shut up!" Justin shouted. Hearing Brian's voice that wasn't real was killing him. It happened all the time. Every time he hated himself the most, he suddenly heard Brian's voice trying to calm him down. And sometimes he could even see him. He knew that his brain was just playing tricks on him and it hurt so much because he wanted to see and hear Brian more than anything in the world but he couldn't. Not really.
"Justin, what is it?" Michael suddenly ran into his room.
"Are you okay?" Ben ran right behind him.
"Take this," Justin pointed to the bracelet lying on the bed.
"Take it!" he shouted.
Michael and Ben looked at each other and exchanged looks that said it all. Justin knew exactly what they must have been thinking - that he probably lost his mind. And maybe they were right. Maybe he really was crazy.
“Brian would want you to have it."
“But I don't want it… I don't want it to remind me of him."
“You can't just forget about him."
"Why not? Everything would be so much easier," his eyes filled with tears.
Even though Justin was saying that, he knew very well in his heart that it was nonsense, he didn't want to forget him - ever. Brian was the love of his life and he would never love anyone the way he loved him... he just couldn't take the pain anymore. He had not been able to find any peace in his life or in his heart and soul since Brian's death. And it was exhausting.
"Because Brian wouldn't want you to forget him… and he wouldn't want you to suffer like this."
"And I wish he was here, but he's not… if I hadn't come back then, he would still be alive."
"You know that you coming back had nothing to do with what happened."
"How so? If I had stayed in New York as planned, none of this would have happened..."
"Justin, listen to me, are you listening?" Justin was annoyed that Michael was trying Brian's method on him, but for some reason it worked.
"It's not your fault. Brian wanted you to come back, you wanted to come back, you were miserable without each other and after you came back you two had 4 beautiful years together, yes it ended sooner than any of us wanted and trust me I miss my best friend every day, but you coming back has nothing to do with what happened 4 years later..."
"Yeah, but if I never came back..."
"Then it would destroy Brian, at least this way he had a chance to experience something beautiful with you and believe me he loved every second of the time you had together from start to finish. Before you got married he told me that he'd never let you go again because every minute without you he felt like he couldn't breathe... he loved you so much, Justin. And he wouldn't want you to forget him."
Justin was completely affected by Michael's words, and after a long time, he finally let out everything that he had hidden inside him and burst into tears. Michael sat down next to him and hugged him, Justin didn't fight back and hugged his friend tightly as well. But then he looked up over Michael's shoulder and immediately saw Brian standing in the corner of the room smiling at him - almost as if he was glad that Justin had finally let it out. And Justin smiled back as he felt a huge sense of relief.
"Now get some sleep, will you?" Michael said.
"I'll try," his lips curled into a half smile.
"And if you need anything, just say the word," Ben added.
After they both left his room, Justin took a deep breath and went to splash his face with cold water. He really needed this, even though he was doing everything he could to avoid it. But it felt good to let out everything he was feeling... but it still didn't change anything. What Michael said was something he needed to hear, but he couldn't just magically change what he thought and what he knew in his heart... that Brian would be still alive if it weren't for him.
And he also knew the hardest part was yet to come. Tomorrow he will see his all friends and family after years of avoiding them because he blames himself for taking Brian away from them. But they all come together because tomorrow is the third anniversary of Brian's death.
This is the first time Justin has dared to come here, he just couldn't do it the first time and the second time and he probably wouldn't have been able to do it this time either if it weren't for Michael who didn't take no for an answer.
But most of all, this is going to be the first time in three years that he will see Gus and he's pretty sure that he's not going to want to see him. Because Gus was there that day too and he knows very well what happened. He's not a kid anymore, he's a 16-year-old boy now. And the thought that he's gonna blame him for losing his dad scared Justin to death. Although deep down he knew it was really his fault. And that he deserves whatever comes his way. Even if that meant Gus would hate him.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Since you've shown interest in this story, I obviously have to continue it... but I have to warn you that I'm going to reveal what happened slowly, so bear with me, I just have this idea in my head and I hope that it will be worth it. Thank you.