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(Pittsburgh, May 2016 - present)

Even though Justin was beyond exhausted, he couldn't sleep more than a few hours as his mind kept him awake. In fact, he couldn't even remember the last time he got a good night's sleep without tears, nightmares, and thoughts that drove him crazy. But there were also the better nights when he forgot that Brian was gone... when he thought he was right next to him, holding him in his arms. And sometimes Justin simply let his imagination run wild, imagining that Brian was with him. Yes, he knew it wasn't normal or healthy and honestly he didn't even care because he needed it... he needed Brian. And he was willing to do anything to feel like Brian was with him.

But of course that had a price he had to pay. Because each time, a painful realization had to come, reminding him that Brian wasn't really there and that he was never coming back. And at that moment, his heart seemed to shatter all over again. Well, if he still had any at all... sometimes he felt like he only had a hole in his chest. A big, black, painful hole. And it was so unfair. They were supposed to spend the rest of their lives together and grow old together. To have kids and grandkids. Instead, Brian was gone and Justin was forever changed.

God, he missed him so much and wished he could just take that night back more than anything. But he couldn't, no one could.

"May I?" Michael asked as he knocked.

"Sure," Justin replied and sat up in bed.

"How are you feeling?" Michael sat down on the bed next to him.

"Like I got run over by a truck... twice."

"And you look like that too," he laughed.

"Thanks," Justin chuckled.

"Anyway, I made breakfast... I mean, if you're hungry."

"Yeah, actually I am. But I'm gonna take a shower first."

"Okay," Michael nodded. "Then I'll leave you to it."

Justin just smiled and the moment Michael closed the door behind him he fell right back into the covers. He just wasn't ready for today. And he wanted to delay it as much as possible, although he knew he would never be ready. Not for this. There was a reason he couldn't bring himself to be here the two years before, and that reason didn't just magically disappear. But if he didn't want to disappoint Brian again, he needed to find the strength to face it. So he finally forced himself to get up and go to the shower.

The moment he stood under the hot water, he knew there was only one person who could help him get through today, no matter how ironic it might sound, so he closed his eyes and escaped reality once again.

"Hey Sunshine, can I join?" Brian peeked through the door, completely naked.

"You always can," Justin smiled.

And Brian got into the shower, pulling Justin closer by his hips. "I missed ya."

"We saw each other… about ten minutes ago… in bed."

"Mmmm," Brian licked his lips. "Ten minutes is a really long time."

"Sure is," Justin chuckled.

"And I think we should make up for lost time. What do you say?" Brian arched his brows while running his hands up and down Justin's back.

"That it's a great idea."

"Thought so."

Brian smirked and grabbed Justin by his ass cheeks, then pulled him even closer, their cocks were already hard and throbbing and Justin's heart immediately sped up. Brian then ran his fingers through his wet blond hair and started kissing him hungirly. It was hard, deep and bruising and it almost took their breath away.

With how real it felt to him, Justin ran a finger over his lips. He could almost feel Brian kissing and touching him.

"Turn around," Brian whispered in his ear.

Justin smiled and did as he was told. Brian pressed himself against his back and Justin immediately felt his erection rubbing against his ass. Then Brian's hands began to gently massage his shoulders and he leaned down to kiss the spot on Justin's neck he knew drives him wild.

Justin moaned.

Of course, it didn't take long for Brian's hand to find its way to Justin's cock and close his fingers around it, slowly playing with it. First he rubbed the sensitive and swollen head and then he started stroking it. Justin arched his back and rested his head on Brian's chest, his hips slightly moving.

Justin slowly slid his hand to his cock and started stroking himself while his breathing began to increase.

"You're so beautiful," Brian breathed out against his skin, sending chills down Justin's spine while his hand sped up.

Justin was shaking and could feel that he was close. And as the water slowly ran down his body, it almost seemed as if the pain and emptiness began to fade away.

"Come for me, Justin," he licked his earlobe.

"Oh god," Justin moaned again, he was really close. Few more strokes and...

"Justin? Are you okay in there?" Michael asked at the bathroom door. "I heard some weird noises."

"Uh, yeah, so-sorry! I'll be there in a minute!"

"Oh, okay, but hurry up, the food is getting cold," he paused. "Are you really sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, don't worry!"

"Okay then."

Justin sighed and prayed Michael didn't think he was doing... well, exactly what he was doing. And he could almost see Brian laughing at him right now. And not that Justin thought it was normal to imagine having sex with Brian who was dead, but that was all he had… these were the moments that helped him survive and forget. At least for a little while.

And sometimes he found it quite ironic. When Hobbs attacked him at the prom with the baseball bat, he forgot everything that happened that night and then spent months trying to remember... now he remembered every little detail of the worst day of his life and he would do literally anything to forget.

"There you are," Ben said as Justin finally came into the kitchen. "Coffee?"

"Yeah. Thanks," Justin sat down while Ben poured him one.

"How many pancakes do you want?" Michael asked with a smile.

"Um, I don't know, two… I guess," Justin shrugged.

"Well, you'll get three because you need to eat. You've lost weight."

His figure was the last thing on his mind at the moment, although yes - he had really lost weight. But who the hell would think about food when the man he loved was gone.

"And how are you feeling today?" Ben asked.

"Uh, I… I don't even know. I'm kind of numb. I just can't imagine seeing his, um…"

"Grave?" Mike asked slowly.

"Yeah," Justin closed his eyes. It was still so hard for him to hear that word. Let alone say it.

And he felt really ashamed because the last time he had been to Brian's grave was when he was burying him in it… he just couldn't go there. He could not see the piece of stone with Brian's name carved on it. He wouldn't survive it. But the guilt of not going there ate him alive every day, there was no doubt about that.

"Mom and I go there quite reguralry and take care of it, you know... he has it really nice there, Justin."

Justin wanted to yell that it didn't fucking matter how many flowers or candles Brian had there, because he was dead and it would be the last thing he would care about. But he was just angry and sad. In reality, he was grateful to them for doing what he couldn't.

"You probably think I'm a selfish asshole."

"What do you mean?" they both asked at the same time.

"After what happened, you both helped me so much… and I just ran away and went back to New York without looking back."

"No one blames you for that," Ben began. "What happened was a terrible tragedy. And everyone grieves differently... this was just your way of moving on."

"But I didn't move on. I'm still stuck... in that day. I feel like a walking dead. And like a coward who just ran away from everything and everyone. Hell, I'm not even visiting his grave!"

Justin suddenly got up from the table and rushed out of the house like some crazy person. But he stopped himself on the porch because he felt like he couldn't breathe. His heart was racing and he could feel his chest tightened, he was so sure he's going to faint.

"Justin?" he heard suddenly and immediately knew very well who the voice belonged to, and therefore he was afraid to look up.

"Deb…" he whispered and finally looked into her eyes.

"Is everything okay, honey?" she immediately went to him and grabbed his arm. She hadn't seen him in so long, but despite that she acted as if they had seen each other yesterday.

"Uh, yeah… I just... I just needed some air."

"It looks like you just had a panic attack."

Justin sighed and sat down on the bench. "Yeah..."

"Does this happen often?" she sat down next to him.

"Sometimes... after the prom Brian was the one who help me overcome them, but now..."

"Oh honey," she stroked his hair.

"And especially today it's really hard to stay calm..."

"I know. Today is hard. But I'm glad you're here," Deb wrapped her arms around him and Justin immediately hugged her back as tight as he could while tears began to fall down his face. He missed her so much.

Then they just sat there together, quietly keeping each other company. They both understood each other's pain very well. They had both lost people they loved. But not only did Debbie lose her husband and Brian, who was like a son to her, but eventually Justin, who just disappeared from her life. And yet she was still so strong.

"How are you, Deb?"

"You better tell me how are you, Sunshine?"

"Um, I'm okay," Justin smiled, but Debbie could always tell when he was lying and only one look from her was all it took for Justin to change his answer. "I feel awful. Like my heart is about to explode."

"That's because you haven't said goodbye to him yet."


"You know I'm right. And I get it. You weren't ready and you probably aren't yet. But you can't move on in your life until you say goodbye to him… and he wouldn't want that. He'd want you to be happy."

"But how can I be happy? He made me happy!"

"I know, Sunshine, I know. But your sadness won't bring him back. And you can't live with this pain for the rest of your life."

"But I don't know what else to do. I don't know how to live without him... I don't know how to live with that hole in my heart..."

"I know that right now it feels like you can't even breath, but you will get there, step by step..."

That's when it hit him, Debb was talking from her experience.

"Is it even possible to start breathing again?" he asked.

"Yes, you just have to believe that there is more to life than this... that you can live again... even without him..."

Justin wanted to believe it, but he wasn't ready for it just yet. Saying goodbye to Brian… was downright unimaginable, no matter how absurd it sounded considering Brian was long gone.

"I heard you met someone."

“Oh, Michael and his big mouth," she rolled her eyes.

“Come on, Deb… I want to know everything," he smiled from ear to ear.

She sighed. "Okay then. His name is Jack… he's a taxi driver. One night he drove me home and we talked the whole way… and the next day he came to my house to ask me out. He said he couldn't stop thinking about me. Of course I said no."

"No, you didn't!"

"Yes, I did," she laughed. "I just didn't feel like it yet. But apparently fate wanted us to meet again and it happened a month later at the grocery store. We started talking again and before I knew it we were going out for coffee... and then another and another... and you know the rest."

"That sounds like the perfect lovestory. And you deserve it, Deb."

Justin was really happy for her and wished her the best, but suddenly he couldn't stop thinking about how lonely he felt.

"He's a good guy. After Carl, I didn't think I'd find anything like that again, but... I did. And you will too, honey," Debb knew very well what was going through Justin's mind.

"I can't even imagine being with anyone else and I don't even want to."

"That's what you think right now and trust me I understand... but I believe that you too will eventually find someone who will make you smile again. I know Brian was and still is very special to you and I also know that there will never be anyone like him, but when someone comes along, don't be afraid to give them a chance."

Justin knew Debbie meant well, but there was no way in hell that he would ever fall in love again. His heart belonged to Brian. And he had already given all his love to him... there was simply no more left.

"I hate to interrupt," Michael joined them on the porch.

"Oh, don't pretend like you weren't listening the whole time," Debbie crossed her arms.

"I wasn't!" Deb gave him on of her knowing looks. "Okay, maybe I was... but just for a minute..."

Justin chuckled, knowing very well that Michael's curiosity had probably kept him pinned to the door for the duration of his entire conversation with Debbie.

"Anyway, I came to tell you that Linds just called to say that they'll be here around three o'clock."

Justin was sure he was going to choke on his own saliva. Yes, he knew that he would see them today, but still... it just felt more real now. And it scared the crap out of him. Gus and the girls had every right to hate him. Gus lost his dad and they lost the father of their son and a friend. And Justin hasn't been able to face them ever since. He didn't even answer Lindsay's phone calls. He just really thought they would be better off without him. And he also knew that every time he would look at them, he would be reminded of Brian. And he felt that way about everyone. Only Michael became his personal pain in the ass and made sure they stayed in touch and there were days when Justin really hated him for it, even though deep down he was grateful to him that he didn't give up on him.

"Gus must hate me," Justin sighed.

"What?" they both looked at him in surprise.

"I ruined his life… he lost his dad because of me."

"Justin, look at me," Debb cupped his cheeks and started, "I never want to hear anything like that again. Brian died saving those he loved. He saved you and no one can hate you for that… not even Gus."

"But if he hadn't saved me, Gus would still have a dad."

"Justin…" Michael began. "No one blames you. You just have to stop blaming yourself."

"I wish I could," Justin got up and walked back into the house, leaving them both speechless.

He went to his room, got on his bed, put a pillow over his face and started screaming. He screamed until he was out of breath and then some. He then threw the pillow across the room and just stared at the ceiling as if he was trying to find the meaning of life there.

But he knew that right now he needed Brian more than anything, so he simply closed his eyes again and waited for him...

"Hey," Brian smiled at him.

"Hey," he smiled back.

"Don't be sad, Justin," Brian stroked his cheek.

"I just miss you so much."

"I miss you too, Sunshine. But you have to start living again and stop blaming yourself..."

“Shhh, please, just... just hold me."

And so it happened, Justin's imagination was so strong that he could feel Brian's arms wrap tightly around him and he completely lost himself in them.

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