(Pittsburgh, June 2016 - present)
To see how miserably Daphne felt about what happened that night was really eye-opening for Justin. He had spent three years avoiding everyone he cared about, convinced he was doing them all a big fucking favor. They must hate me, was what he kept telling himself. They don't want to see me. They want nothing to do with me. And he could go on like this forever. For three years he acted as if the world revolved around him. As if he was the only one grieving. The only one who blamed himself. The only one who lost something. But now as he was slowly uncovering and realizing the truth, he was even more angry with himself. He was just too selfish to see any of it. Not once did he think to pick up the phone to see how they were doing. If they needed anything. If he did, Daphne wouldn't have had to live with that feeling of guilt for three years. Yes, he was there that night. And yes, he was the one who lost the man he loved with every fiber of his being. But he wasn't the only one whose life changed that day. And maybe if he hadn't left, everything would have been much easier for everyone, including himself. If he hadn't left, he could have been surrounded by his family and they could have healed together. But then again, he was so devastated that leaving was the only option for him at the time. Or so he thought. But none of that mattered now, all that mattered was what he's going to do next.
"I really hope we see each other again soon," Daphne said before getting into her car.
"Don't worry, I won't just disappear this time," Justin chuckled, though it was obvious he felt bad about it. "And thanks for this, I had a great time."
"Yeah, me too."
"And get home safe."
Daphne smiled and nodded. "Bye Justin."
As Justin watched his best friend drive away, he really hoped that he had at least managed to give her some peace of mind. But knowing that she had blamed herself for what happened that night was really killing him. Especially when he knew she had absolutely nothing to do with it. She was just trying to help him fix what he screwed up. And neither of them could have known what was going to happen. Not her, and not even him. It was an accident. Yes, just a terrible accident. Justin knows that now. But just because he wasn't the one to blame for what happened that night still didn't change the fact that he was the reason they got into that situation in the first place.
Completely lost in his thoughts, he stood in the same spot for several more minutes, unable to move in any direction, just trying to absorb what had just happened. But finally he took a deep breath and just went, aimlessly wandering through the streets, not sure where he was actually going.
But suddenly, without even realizing that he was walking in that direction, he was standing in front of the building that had been his home for so many years and his heart just stopped for a moment. He loved that loft so much and knew he would never forget it. There was simply too many memories. Good ones, great ones and even the bad ones, but ultimately the most wonderful moments of his life.
He couldn't even imagine anyone living there. This was Brian's kingdom. A place big enough just for one person, as Brian liked to say... of course, that was until he came along and made Brian change that little rule. And Brian opened not only his door to him, but eventually his heart as well. Well, he didn't just open it, he gave it to him without even realizing it. He gave his heart to him because he loved him and because he wanted to be loved by Justin for the rest of his life.
Justin still had the key to the front door and the urge to go inside was really strong, but… what exactly would he be looking for? It's all gone now. Memories are all he has left.
He would have given anything to just go home… really anything… but without Brian, there was no such place anymore. Not here in this loft, not in their palace... and not anywhere else in the whole world...
Therefore, after just staring at the loft windows for a while, he simply took another deep breath and left, feeling completely empty inside.
But he knew right in that moment that if he ever wanted to feel even remotely normal again, he had to start taking things seriously and face everything he tried so hard to bury inside... no matter how impossible it seemed right now... and he definitely knew he couldn't do it alone. So he went to the only person who could possibly help him with it.
"Justin, what are you doing here?" Dr. Brown asked when she opened the door.
"I'm so sorry for just barging in, but I really didn't know where else to go and I seriously need to talk to someone… and I know our next appointment is scheduled for next Friday… and since I practically laughed in your face yesterday, I wouldn't be surprised if you slammed the door in my face, but I'm begging you... I'm really begging you, help me please..." The look on Justin's face was so broken that even she could see how desperately he needed her help.
"Come on in then..." she opened her door more. "And take a seat."
Grateful as he hadn't been in a long time, Justin followed Dr. Brown into her office and then sat down in the chair he really hated up until this point, but right now he wanted nothing more than to simply sit in it and finally find some relief.
"So... tell me what happened, Justin."
"Okay," he said, his voice shaking. Then he took a really deep breath and started. "So, I just saw my best friend Daphne, who I haven't talked to since the day I left Pittsburgh. And she told me that she blames herself for what happened that day. That it was her fault because it was her idea. But that's completely absurd because she just wanted to help me. She couldn't have known what was going to happen. And... I couldn't have known either. It was an accident. A tragic accident. I know that now. But..."
"You still feel guilty?"
"I do!" he exclaimed.
"Because... because I acted like a fucking child!"
"Justin?" The therapist encouraged him to continue when he suddenly stopped.
"I broke my leg that month, pretty badly and almost needed surgery... so I had to be in bed all the time and because I couldn't put any weight on that leg I had to use a wheelchair to prevent further damage. I was so frustrated and annoyed because I couldn't do anything by myself. I couldn't even go to the bathroom without assistance. And not to mention our house had stairs... so you can only imagine. Every morning Brian had to carry me downstairs. And he had to help me with basically everything. I felt so bad and angry at the same time. But when Brian had to go back to work, it got even worse. So my mom, Debbie and Daphne were the ones who took care of me when he wasn't home. And I hated it so much... just sitting at home all day waiting for help and for Brian to come home late again. And of course one morning I took my anger out on him. And it was bad. Really bad."
(Pittsburgh, May 2013 - past)
"Come on… it's time to carry you down…" Brian said with a smile as he carefully began to lift Justin into his arms.
"Oh, fuck! Stop! Jesus Christ!" Justin yelled suddenly.
"What's wrong?" Brian quickly put him back on the bed. "Did I hurt you?"
"No… you didn't!" he barked angrily. "It just fucking hurts like hell… that's all," he groaned in pain. "I hate this. I just feel so fucking helpless."
"Yeah, I know," Brian sighed and stroked his hair gently.
"And how the hell would you know? You're barely here. And all I can do is sit here all day in this huge palace and wait for someone to come feed me and help me to the bathroom."
"I'm pretty sure your hands are working fine so I'm confident you can feed yourself," Brian tried to ignore Justin's tone of voice.
"You know what I mean," Justin rolled his eyes. "I'm a fucking burden."
"Hey. Don't say that. You're not a burden, okay?"
"Yeah, and that's why you happily run to Kinnetik every morning?"
"What? You know that's not true."
"You could just take more time off and be here with me. We hardly see each other because you're working all the time. Not to mention I feel so much better when you're the one helping me to the bathroom. It's just really humiliating when my mother is standing next to me when I'm peeing," he laughed.
"I'd love to, really, but there's a lot going on in Kinnetik right now... and I have a lot of things to do before I..."
"Nothing. It doesn't matter. I just have to be there, you know."
"Yeah, sure. As always... work comes first."
"Justin, I understand you're frustrated, so am I, but don't take it out on me. This sucks for both of us."
"Well, if you're that frustrated, I'm sure someone will be more than willing to help you with that."
"Go to hell, Justin!" he finally snapped. "Is that what you think of me? That the only thing I care about is fucking?"
"Well, we can't fuck because of my stupid leg, so if you want, you can just go and fuck someone else... I mean, it wouldn't be the first time..."
Brian snorted and shook his head in disbelief, "Well, you might be surprised, but fucking is the last thing on my mind right now," he paused before continuing. "I love you Justin, but you're acting like a fucking child because things aren't easy... which for sure isn't the first time either," Brian turned to leave but stopped right at the door, "Daphne should be here soon, if anything, call me. And don't forget to take your pain meds," and with that he left, clearly hurt by Justin's words.
(Pittsburgh, June 2016 - present)
"I still remember how hard he slammed the door. He was so mad at me and he had every right to be. He spent years proving to me that I was his everything, that he loved me and wanted only me... and I basically stomped on his heart in return. It didn't matter that I didn't mean what I said, that I was just angry and frustrated... because I hurt Brian's feelings and I hated myself for it."
"And what happened after?"
"Daphne arrived…" Justin bit his lip nervously. "Luckily she had a key to the door so she was able to let herself in since Brian left me upstairs. And if there was anyone who could help me fix things with Brian it was her."
(Pittsburgh, May 2013 - past)
"Hello?! Is anyone home? The nurse is here!"
"I'm upstairs Daphne! In the bedroom!" Justin shouted desperately.
And less than two minutes later Daphne had appeared in the bedroom doorway, "What are you doing here? You're always downstairs. Are you getting so fat that Brian can't carry you anymore?" she asked with a chuckle.
"Ha-ha. Really funny," Justin let out an annoyed laugh. "Brian couldn't carry me down because my leg hurt too much. But even if it didn't he'd probably drop me on purpose somewhere along the way, so... it's probably better that he left me here."
"Should I even ask?"
"I don't think you have to. I'm just going to tell you straight - I'm an asshole."
"Fuck. What did you do?" she wrinkled her nose.
"Well, for starters, I acted like a complete idiot and took my anger and frustration out on him. And then I ended up practically giving him my blessing to go fuck someone else because and I quote "it wouldn't be the first time"."
"Yeah - shit."
"How angry is he?"
"Let's just say I'll be surprised if he comes home today."
"That bad, huh?"
"Like I said - I'm a fucking idiot," he ran his hand over his face. "It's just that we barely see each other because he's at Kinnetik all the time and I miss him so much. Sometimes I even feel like we saw each other a lot more when I was in New York. And I know what Kinnetik means to him, I really do, but sometimes I just wish it didn't exist..."
"I get it, Justin. And I'm sure Brian feels the same way... but you just have to get through it together. It will get better, you'll see. You just have to be patient."
"Yeah, I've been really short on patience lately."
Daphne just laughed in agreement, "I won't argue about that."
Justin let out a sigh. "But now I have to fix it… do something nice for him to show him that I really appreciate how he takes care of me and everything he does for me… and that I love him more than anything. So... will you help me? Please?" Justin looked at her hopefully.
"What would you two do without me?"
"I honestly have no idea."
"Well, I'm sure we figure something out, but first... what do you want for breakfast?"
"I'll eat anything you make."
"Okay then," Daphne headed to the kitchen.
As Justin waited for Daphne he couldn't stop thinking about the things he had said to Brian and wished he could just take it all back. But he couldn't. All he could do was try and make it right. And hope that everything will be fine between them. He just couldn't wait for his leg to heal and everything to go back to normal.
"I hope you're really hungry," Daphne smiled as she placed a plate in front of him. "Because these are the best pancakes in the world."
"The best?" Justin arched his brows in amusement.
"Yes! Because I'm the one who made them."
"Oh. Right. In that case, they really must be the best."
"Duh!" she stuck her tongue out at him. "Anyway, I've had time to think and I know exactly what you two need."
"Yeah?" his eyes lit up.
"A romantic date night. You know - a special night just for the two of you with great food, music, candles… and most of all, lots of sex," she giggled.
"Uh-huh," Justin cleared his throat. "I don't know if you have noticed, but my leg is broken and I can't walk."
"No shit! Really?" she faked a shocked expression.
"I'd help you, obviously."
"Even with the sex part?" he asked amused.
"Well…" she pretended to think about it.
"What? It's not my fault your husband is smoking hot... I've always had a soft spot for him."
"Really? I never noticed," Justin laughed. "But I admit it's not a bad idea. I mean, we deserve a nice night together. I want to show Brian how much I love him and how sorry I am for everything. So… we should do it."
"Great because you guys really need it. So how about this Saturday?"
"Yeah, that could work. I mean, assuming he doesn't divorce me by then…"
"I'm sure he'd rather sell a kidney."
Justin had to laugh as he remembered the time Brian had said the same thing… only it wasn't about him, it was about his bed that he didn't want to give up.
"But I feel like I should do more than that… something special."
"What do you have in mind?"
"Well, there's one thing I know he'd definitely appreciate - seeing his son. I know how much he misses Gus. We both do. The last time he was here, he only stayed for a few hours. And I know how much it hurst Brian that he can't spend more time with him."
"Then call Lindsay to bring him over for the weekend. The three of you can spend Friday night together and on Saturday Brian can take Gus out for some quality father-son time while I get everything set up here for your romantic date."
"I'm not sure how romantic it will be with Gus here… but at least we'll get to spend some time together."
"He's a kid so I'm sure he has a bedtime. Just send him to bed," Daphne stated the obvious. "Don't worry, it will be great."
"You really have it all figured out, don't you?"
"Yes, because I'm awesome," she said with obvious smugness in her voice.
"Yeah, I definitely agree with that," he smiled at her gratefully. "Thank you, Daphne."
"You're welcome," she winked at him. "And now eat," Daphne ordered.
Justin chuckled. "Yes, ma'am."
(Pittsburgh, June 2016 - present)
"I called Lindsay and arranged for her to bring Gus on Friday. I was sure it was going to be a really special weekend and I couldn't wait for Brian to get home from work so I could tell him about Gus. But I decided that I'll keep our Saturday date as a surprise... not knowing that it would be our last date ever," a tear rolled down Justin's face.
(Pittsburgh, May 2013 - past)
"Ah, looks like my job here is done for today," Daphne said as the front door opened. And it wasn't long before Brian appeared in the living room where Justin and her were watching TV.
"Oh hey you two," Brian suddenly stopped and looked at Justin, "Wait, what are you doing down here?"
"Daphne helped me," Justin explained nervously.
"Are you out of your mind? You know you can't put any weight on that leg… and I'm sure Daphne is no Arnold Schwarzenegger to carry you down the stairs by herself."
"We were really careful... and as you can see, I'm still alive..."
"Christ, Justin," Brian shook his head.
"I was really keeping an eye on him, Brian," Daphne assured him. "And I should probably go," she decided when she saw that Brian's angry face hadn't softened one bit. She then hugged Justin and whispered in his ear, "Be nice or the date night won't be enough," she laughed and walked out of their house.
"I'm really sorry, Brian," Justin smiled apologetically.
"Well, the main thing is that you're okay. Just don't do it again," Brian took off his coat and went to sit next to him on the couch.
"I won't, I promise," he paused. "But I meant everything. I'm sorry. And most of all I'm sorry for this morning... I shouldn't have said what I said."
"No, it's not. If you want to yell at me, please do. I deserve it."
Brian sighed, "Justin, I don't want to yell at you. That's the last thing I want. I just… I don't want to argue anymore. All I want is to be with you and have a nice evening after 12 hours at work."
"Yeah, I want that too."
"Good," Brian smiled and didn't wait any longer, finally pulling him in for a kiss. "I really love you, you moron. And even though sometimes I just want to strangle you… there's no one I'd rather spend the rest of my life with."
"Then I should probably warn you that I will get on your nerves many more times."
"I'm sure of that," Brian rolled his eyes and laughed.
"Hey!" Justin punched him in the shoulder.
"But I will love you anyway," Brian added and kissed him tenderly.
"Guess I'm a lucky guy," the blond smiled and nuzzled Brian's neck. "Anyway, I'd like to make amends for my behavior."
"Don't say. And how exactly?"
"Um… Lindsay is bringing Gus over for the weekend."
And that was exactly the look in Brian's eyes that Justin was expecting... pure joy, excitement and gratitude... Brian just wanted to have his boys with him.
(Pittsburgh, June 2016 - present)
"And then what happened, Justin?" the therapist asked.
"Worst day of my life... I'll never forget the moment I woke up because I couldn't breathe... and the smell of our home burning down..."
Author's Chapter Notes:
I feel like my brain was working less than usual (if that's even possible. lol.) while writing this chapter, so I apologize if you find anything that doesn't make sense or if there are any mistakes.
Chapter End Notes:
Thank you for reading! Hope you're still with me!