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Author's Chapter Notes:



Hospital, More Introspection and Graduation...















The Longest Night




Late at night when all the world is sleeping


I stay up and think of you


And I wish on a star


That somewhere you are thinking of me too*


Justin's POV


I feel so fucking strange. Like I'm here but not here. I'm not sure what the fuck is going on. I remember everything but feel like something is missing. Maybe that missing something explains the pain in my head...I don't know.

What I do know is that I asked Brian to my prom and he said no. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm not sure how he feels in general. He acts like he loves me one minute; the next second like I'm the biggest nuisance on the planet. He gets pissed when someone's touching me but gets off when I'm fucking someone else.

I mean like what the fuck?!

As soon as I get out of my own head, I'm going to ask him. If I get out of my own head. And what the fuck am I doing wherever the fuck I am? What the hell is that beeping noise and why are people touching me? Where the hell is Brian?





Cause I'm dreaming of you tonight


Til tomorrow I'll be holding you tight


And there's no place in the world I'd rather be


Then here in my room dreaming about you and me*


Brian's POV

Michael, Emmett, Ted, Debbie and Vic...they're all here. Daphne came in just a little while ago. And Jennifer. She's the only one other than the doctor I've spoken directly to. Craig was here but he left.

Instead of worrying for his only son, he was hellbent on berating me. If I wasn't so tired or if I didn't feel that he was right to a degree, I would have punched his fucking lights out! I know that would've made Justin happy to an extent. As for Jennifer, she's quiet, same as me and sticking close. I guess I have a little comfort in that...at least for now.

The trouble is I don't know what she's thinking other than the panic we all feel right now. I've asked her if she needed anything and her response was just for me to sit with her. It would be funny if the situation wasn't so serious. During our ice cream kisses, when Mikey and I were on the outs, Justin had told me that she didn't totally hate me and that I was too skinny. I wonder if that's true now since I'm the reason Justin got bashed.

If I could have just stayed away... 

But I couldn't, could I?

They wheeled him in about two hours ago. According to the doctor they won't know the extent of Justin's Traumatic Brain Injury until he wakes up. Dr. Mueller said that it could be that all of his memory has been affected or none at all. The mind is a tricky thing, he said. Fuck! I just want him to wake the hell up!

As I'm watching him crash through the windows again for the third time since they brought him back, I can't help but to feel sorry and fucking helpless- like I should have told him instead of just showing him how much he means to me. The little fucker grew on me in a matter of nine months. No matter how much distance I pushed him away, he always came back; turning up like a Canadian penny not accepted in the U.S. He just kept trying and I kept fighting. Push, pull.

It was like a game...

Then it stopped being one. I began to crave him but I wouldn't tell him that. I would seek out reasons to see him instead of the other way around then treat him as my backup plan. He called me on that a few weeks ago at Babylon. I didn't think he would or could do it but he did by taking that twink away from me.

I find Justin calls me on my shit a lot. The stuff I would rather keep hidden, he digs it up with the precision of an archaeologist digging for lost treasure. Since coming back from New York, we've been talking and I find I laugh with him more than anyone else. Perhaps it's because he's young and has a goofy sense of humor that rubs off on me. But it feels good.

And I don't want to let that go; don't want it taken away from me because of the end of a homophobe's bat.

I remember him telling me that in comparison to everyone else I know, he was the most mature. He is. Justin is like an wise old man trapped in a twinkie physique full of PSAs and sage advice which I didn't ask for but he gives anyway. Because he knows I'll listen even if I pretend otherwise or come up with some sarcastic quip to deflate his ever-present ego. I've found myself asking him how he would handle different situations just as he does me.

He and I, we're give and take which is amusing while being scary as shit. I don't have that kind of connections with anyone else. Sure he could manipulate a situation as well as I could but he doesn't employ that method as often as I have. He doesn't ask anything of me that I'm not willing to give except maybe love?...which is as fucked up an emotion as anyone can get if it leaves me feeling like this. I don't know if I love him but I do care about him more than I ready, willing or able to admit.

He jokes about that and I just tell him to shut the fuck up about it. He doesn't let me be Bad Boy Kinney because to him, I'm just Brian. I may preach about acceptance of other people's choices but Justin... Well he's that theory personified. Even when I know I've hurt him or wounded him, he still accepts me.

It's kinda ironic that the one person I actually feel closest to is twelve years my junior. That used to bother me. That used to bother me, sometimes it still does but it doesn't change the facts. But so long as I don't have to say any of this, I'll think whatever the fuck I want to.


Wonder if you ever see me


And I wonder if you know I'm there


If you looked in my eyes would you see what's inside


Would you even care


I just want to hold you close


But so far all I have are dreams of you


So wait for the day and the courage to say how much I love you*


General POV


Dr. Mueller, the Supervising Physician, had to be recalled to take care of Justin. The one thing that was in the young man's favor was that he was a fighter. He knew the family's worry. He had once been in their place, waiting for his daughter who had brain surgery to wake up. He wondered not for the first time why someone would want to hit such an angelic looking man with a baseball bat.

He knew from Justin's partner that he was subjected to bullying throughout the school year, but for someone to take it this far? Well Dr. Mueller couldn't understand the rationale in that. After making sure his patient was resting comfortably, he headed to the door to speak with those waiting.


"It appears that we have to add one more medication to the list for Justin's allergies. I'll give you the name of it so we won't have this problem again. In the meantime, I've ordered an IV to flush the drug out of his system."


"Why didn't we know about this the first time he needed the crash cart?" Brian couldn't keep his voice level. "He could have been killed."


"I'm aware of that, Mr. Kinney, and you have my apologies."


"Apologies? Apologies! What the fuck good would that have done any of us if he died?"


Dr. Mueller took a deep breath, understanding where the irate man was coming from. Unfortunately there was no way to prevent what happened and he told him so. "When he crashed the first time, we naturally believed it was from the affects of just coming out of surgery. Releasing the blood from a brain is a very slow process and usually it takes its toll on the heart as well. I had them take Justin's blood following the second crash. This time we knew what to expect because the blood work came back not ten minutes before it happened. Nothing, especially medicine, is infallible, Mr. Kinney."


Before Brian could issue a retort, Jennifer spoke up. She shared Brian's reaction but both of them couldn't afford to flip out. Justin needed them to keep a level head. Since under the circumstances, it was impossible for Brian to do so, it was up to Jennifer. "When can we see him?"


He looked at the expectant faces of the group assembled. Technically none of them should be there this time of night, but he had to admire the amount of love displayed among them. Justin Taylor was a very lucky young man, even in the most dire of circumstances. "I'll allow two people in at a time, Mrs. Taylor but only for a few minutes."


"Thank you, Doctor. I promise we won't touch anything or stay long," Debbie said.


The doctor nodded in return before heading over to leave his final instructions with the nurses' station, and writing up his report.


With Jennifer and Brian's permission, each member of the family present when in to sit with Justin for a few. Debbie and Emmett came out of the room with wet eyes as did Daphne. Ted opted not to go in. Brian figured it was still hard for him since he was in Justin's place not too long ago. Vic and Michael went in.

Although Mikey had been there, seeing Justin lying so still in the bed brought it all home for him in a way that was both shocking and disturbing. It wasn't a secret among them that Michael and Justin didn't exactly get along, until Brian was thinking of moving to New York. But Michael would have never wished the injuries on the younger man. For some reason still puzzling to Vic and the rest, Michael had his own guilt regarding Justin to deal with. When he emerged from the room and sat down, Michael rocked back and forth whispering and chanting to himself, "I didn't mean it. I didn't mean it. I didn't mean it."

Debbie and Vic promised Brian that they were going to take Michael home and sit with him.


"Jennifer, you go on in. Stay as long as you need to. I'll be here," Brian said so softly, she had to bend slightly to hear him.


"Why don't you come with me, Brian?"


He nodded a little with his eyes downcast. For a man notorious for keeping his emotions locked away, she felt a little relief that he wasn't able to just then. When she gripped his hand, he flinched but she didn't let go. Instead she held him tighter and could feel the slight tremble beneath the surface of the larger palm. It was then she realized that as much as this situation had scared her, it was close to destroying the big man walking beside her.

She had to admire his strength. She didn't know if she would still have her sanity if she had witnessed what Brian had. They entered the room silently. Brian went to stand on the far side of the room, nearest the windows while Jennifer remained near the door. Looking down on her son, Jenn's mind began to relive so many precious moments leading up to his coming out.

His first steps. His first words. His first day of Kindergarten when he came home talking about his best friend Daphne. His very first drawing of a flower and his family. And then there was Justin's first love.

His first real love.

She looked at Brian who looked down on her beloved son stoically, but with shining eyes. Her own thoughts were jumbled watching as he slowly traced a single finger down Justin's face. The gesture was so intimate that in a small way she felt as if she were intruding on a private conversation. And yet, Brian didn't exclude her from anything. He shared what he was feeling with her whether he admitted it aloud or not.


She raised Justin's hand to her lips, kissing his knuckles gently. In that single gesture she hoped he understood all she was asking for- all she was praying for- and that he would continue to fight to come back to those who loved him.




Day 2


"Where's Brian?" Michael hurried back into the ICU section of the hospital.


Because of the severity of Justin's injuries, the staff didn't give the family members a hard time about sticking around. As long as they were quiet and respectful of the patients all trying to recover in their own way, the doctor was willing to let them flow in and out of the ward at will instead of having them adhere to the usually strict visiting policy.


"He's in with Justin sleeping. I thought to go in and wake him but I know he could use the rest," Jennifer said quietly.


She too was exhausted worrying for Justin who had yet to wake up. Dr. Barrow, the surgeon on call last night, had explained that upon arrival, they had to drill a hole into Justin's skull to release the blood pinned in the spot where he'd been hit. She was angry that this happened to her golden boy but was also relieved that Brian had been here instead of at his usual haunts. Outside of a few words to her and Daphne when they first arrived, he hadn't spoken. She wondered if he was praying as she was or if he was still in shock at the turn of events.

Her heart reluctantly went out to him when he broke down while apologizing to her for not seeing it coming; for not getting to Justin fast enough to prevent the attack. Craig had been there briefly spouting his nonsense of how Justin brought this on himself and that it was that ‘Child Molester's fault.' She could see when each of Craig's words penetrated Brian's consciousness, stabbing him angry words he'd obviously thought of himself. She finally told Craig to get the fuck out, stating that she would call him when there was a change but until then she would be asking the doctors to ban him from the hospital unless he was a patient himself and that if he didn't go right then she would make sure he was. After his usual curses and threats, Craig had finally left leaving her to deal with the aftermath and the well-meaning family she and Justin had acquired since he came out.

Brian had escaped into Justin's room, sitting stoically by his bedside at first with his fingers entwined in her son's, then later asleep with his hand still holding Justin's. If she wasn't sure before, she was now about how much he cared about her son.


Michael nodded. "I brought him a change of clothes; Ma has yours. The nurse said that you all could use the showers in the empty wing down the hall and to rest if you have to."


Jennifer smiled slightly at him. She knew of his difficulties with Justin, although she wasn't always clear of the reason. Thankfully he seemed willing to put that to the side, at least for now. "Thank you, Michael. I'll do that."


Daphne entered the wing at that moment bearing two cups. "I know you've given up coffee, Mrs. Taylor, but I thought just this one time wouldn't hurt." She handed Jennifer the cup, her eyes shifting briefly to the window where her best friend and his boyfriend lay. "Still no change?"


"Not yet but I'm hopeful," Jennifer answered, taking a sip of the brew. Had the situation not been so dire, she would have complimented and been surprised at the fact Daphne had made it just the way she liked it. But she couldn't think about that now.


"I checked on Molly. My mom dropped her off at school and my dad will pick her up. They said she could stay as long as you needed her to." Daphne smiled a little trying to lighten the oppressive mood. "I think they enjoy having a little girl around the house again."


"Will you be giving the speech at the graduation?" Debbie who had come up behind the group, asked.


Daphne dropped her eyes, her smile dimming down to a wistful one. "Yeah, I'll be giving both mine and Justin's speeches. He beat me for Valedictorian by eight points so I got the Salutatorian spot. I guess it seems fitting."


Debbie and Jenn each wrapped an arm around her hugging her close. They knew it was just as hard on her as it was apparently on them and Brian. Daphne and Justin were practically in the crib together, forming a solid and irreplaceable friendship since Kindergarten. If they were hurting, she was equally hurting if not more so watching her best friend fight for his life.


Vic who had come in with Debbie spoke up. "You'll do fine, Daphne. And he'll be fine- both of them will." He indicated both Brian and Justin, noting how Brian's hand tightened on the smaller hand.


"Thanks Vic. I just want to make him proud," she said, her eyes tearing as she followed the direction of his gaze.


"He's already proud, Honey," Jennifer added. "I heard you two screaming on the phone when you both found out. I hadn't heard Justin that happy in a long time."


"You should have heard him when he got his acceptance letter to PIFA." Vic smiled in remembrance.


"And the smile. Oh it was so bright- a real Sunshine smile as only Justin could give. He'll give it again, Jen. You listen to Vic. He's been where Justin is before; he knows what he's talking about."


Jennifer nodded, never more grateful in this moment for her extended family. If someone had told her months before that by losing her son, then Craig, only to gain her son back that she would become close with this group of what the WASP set would call misfits, she would have laughed. But they have proven to her just how much they love Justin. Debbie had become a second mom to him and Vic like a dad and favored uncle all rolled into one. They even welcomed Molly among them, sneaking her cookies when Jenn wasn't looking and helping her to rebuild Justin and the little girl's relationship.

Jennifer hadn't yet told Molly why Justin was in the hospital, only that she had to be there and that she would be hanging out over at Daphne's until she could return from the hospital. Although Molly wasn't happy about not being allowed to go to the hospital to see her brother, she was happy that she would get to go to Daphne's house which had a pool and a lot of neat things she could get into.


"Sorry we're just getting here. We left Gus with Dusty and Marie for awhile," Lindsey said as she and Melanie bustled through the double doors closing off Intensive Care.


"It's okay so long as you're here now," Debbie answered for all of them.


"Where's Brian?" Lindsey looked around.


"Probably getting his dick sucked," Melanie muttered.


"For your information, he's not, Melanie," Vic confirmed. "If you'd take your head out of your ass and look closely at the reason we're all here, you'll see where Brian is."


He was getting more than a little tired of her disparaging comments about Brian when he wasn't where the rest of them thought he should be. He understood more than anyone there, except perhaps Debbie and certainly more than Michael, what this was doing to Brian. Although Vic spent a good portion of Brian's teenage and young adult years bouncing between New York and Chicago, he and Brian had always kept in touch. He knew things about the younger man that no one, not even his closest friends, knew including how Brian really felt about Justin.


"How long has he been here?" Lindsey asked. "We'd gone by the loft before we came but he wasn't at home."


"Of course, he wasn't. He's been with his partner all night," Vic said more than a little annoyed with Lindsey as well. "Where would you be if Melanie was lying in that hospital bed?"


"That's different, Vic, and you know it."


"Is it? What's different about it? Brian and Justin are just as involved as any of you are."


"Oh come on, Vic. You expect us to believe that Brian could care about that kid anymore than his next trick? They are twelve years apart for God's sake," Melanie defended her partner.


"Not only do I expect you to believe it, I expect you to honor it," Vic responded firmly. "I find it funny that after all the two of you have been through within the last year alone, that you could stand there and cast judgment on the two young men in that room. If not for either of them, Lindsey would be married to that French guy- Gui, was that his name?- and you would still be bitter and crying to Brian about how you fucked a broad who wasn't your partner and you'd lost Lindsey. At least Brian and Justin's relationship or whatever it is, is more honest and open than those of you who supposedly have marriages."

Vic left them to ponder his words, moving toward the doorway of the room. He took a deep breath before entering, praying that he would have the right words to say to Brian. There wasn't a doubt in his mind nor heart that Justin would be okay, but convincing Brian of that would be the hardest conversation he would have today. He knew he had to wake him and that Brian had to take care of himself with a shower and food. Looking down on the two men he was loath to interrupt the moment.

Justin for all the pain he must be experiencing, looked to be peacefully sleeping. Brian actually looked innocent in sleep. He chuckled to himself thinking of what Brian would say to that thought. Reaching out a hand, Vic stroked the auburn waves, softly at first, while calling his name. He nearly laughed aloud watching as the relaxed lids squeezed tightly and struggled to remain closed as he repeated his actions.

Finally losing their struggle, Brian's eyelids snapped open. His eyes took in everything before he registered where he was and who was speaking. Vic helped him to sit up knowing instinctively that the younger man's back must have been hurting a bit from the bent position in the chair. He rubbed smaller circles on Brian's lower back while speaking softly to him.


"Get up, Son. Michael brought you a change of clothes. The nurses said you can go take a shower in the empty wing at the end of the hall."


Brian stretched but other than that didn't move. He looked over to the still unconscious younger man in the bed, willing him to wake up. Running a hand over his face, he said, "I'm not leaving him."


Vic knew this would be the argument he had to contend with. "I know, Brian. But while Justin is sleeping, you have to take care of yourself too."


"Sleeping? Vic, he isn't sleeping. He's in a fucking coma... and it's my fault. So no, I won't leave him."


"It isn't your fault, Brian, but the work of a lunatic," Vic tried to reason with the man.


"If I hadn't gone to that fucking prom; if I hadn't given into his wishes, he wouldn't be laid out in this damn bed fighting for his life."


"If you hadn't gone, hadn't given into him, we would be planning his funeral instead of sitting here waiting for him to wake up. Now I'm telling you- not asking- to get the hell out of that chair so I can sit down. Go take a shower and have something to eat before I bodily remove you myself."


Brian looked at Vic, smirk in place. It was always that way with them- tit for tat. He knew deep down Vic was right but he really didn't want to leave Justin. If he opened his eyes and Brian wasn't there or if something happened while he was gone... He shook himself free of the thoughts of which began to crowd his mind.

"You'll stay with him?"


"I won't move an inch," Vic assured him.


"And you'll call me immediately if something happens?"


"I have your number on speed dial, although I'm pretty sure the others will beat me to it," he said while directing Brian to look outside of the window. Everyone was there except Ted and Emmett, who he knew would be back after work since they had already called several times that morning.


"Okay, Vic but don't move. And hold his hand for me."


"Yeah, Brian. I'll do that. You just take care of yourself for right now, okay? I have this. I have him."


Brian nodded and rose from the chair, stretching again. He was so fucking stiff but he wouldn't have traded it for anything with the exception of blue eyes blinking at him in laughter, plush lips kissing him and a deep tenor voice saying his name. He bent over at the waist, placing his forehead against Justin's trying to convey every thought in his mind and his willpower into the still form lying there. Then he placed a kiss on his lips and detached his hand.

"I'll be back in less than an hour, Vic."


The older man who had been watching, nodded. "Take your time, Brian. He'll be fine." Vic settled into the currently unoccupied chair and made good on his promises to Brian.




Three's Company


The moment he stepped out of the room, Brian was bombarded with questions which he promptly ignored. He walked over to Jennifer and Daphne, embracing each of them in a short but much-needed hug. They returned the gesture, holding the slightly trembling taller man.


"Brian, you have to eat," Daphne whispered to him.


"I know," he said, his voice equally quiet. "Jennifer, have you been taken care of. Do you have a change of clothes or do you need anything?"


"Other than Justin to wake up, I'm fine, Brian. Debbie grabbed me something to wear with Daphne's help and brought me some coffee. I didn't want them to wake you but Vic said it had to be done."


"He promised to sit there until we get back." He plucked the now-empty cup in here hand. "Justin would be happy."


"Why?" she asked puzzled.


"In a roundabout way, he's got you drinking coffee again. He hated tea."


Jennifer couldn't help the small chuckle which escaped her. Justin had thrown a fit when she threw out all the coffee to be replaced with much healthier Earl Grey and Lemon Zinger herbal teas. "Yeah that was always a sore spot with him."


The three of them stood in silence for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts before Brian broke it. "Come on. Let's get that shower- separately of course- and I'll buy you something to eat. Daphne you're coming too. I'll have the food delivered; I don't think I can take what passes for hospital fare these days."


He collected his clothes from Michael who was still trying to talk to him. He didn't really feel much like conversation outside of Vic, Jennifer, Daphne and maybe at some points, Debbie. It wasn't that he was trying to be mean or stubborn. He just couldn't take all the questions and innuendos since he already felt he was almost at the end of his mental rope. He hurried along the corridor, stopping only long enough to inform the nurses that he and Jennifer would be using the facilities.

He handed Daphne his keys and cell phone, advising that Vic said he would call if there was a change or problems with Justin and that the delivery people would call when they arrived. "If Cynthia calls, tell her what happened. I don't know if Ted was able to reach her. Ask her to tell my boss that I will work from home over the next few days."


"You can do that?" Daphne asked amazed.


Brian shook his head. "Not ordinarily without having to go through Human Resources, but Cynthia will explain everything to Ryder. Since I'm his top Ad Exec, it would be an asset to him to have me work this way since my clients won't accept another person at this stage in their campaigns."


"Shit Brian, can you lose your job?" Daphne asked.


"You know, Brian, if you have to go to work, I'll still be here," Jennifer offered concerned at what Brian was risking to be here for Justin.


"If there's something immediate, Jennifer, I'll go in but other than that, I'm not leaving. Not until he wakes up."


After Brian and Jennifer took care of their ablutions, the three of them had lunch on the veranda just outside of the ICU wing. Normally the walled area was reserved for staff only but because of the media circus inhabiting the visitors' outdoor area, the nurses offered it to anyone in the vast Taylor family. They were silent except for the occasional comments or memories about Justin and what this could all mean. The police had yet to come by to check on the patient or gather an account from Michael, Daphne and Brian. So although they were waiting patiently for something- anything- to happen, that thought was the most troubling to each of them.




Day 3


Daphne pulled up to St. James Academy on the morning of what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her and Justin's lives. The original plan was that she would pick him up from Debbie's and they would ride in together. That's how they started; that's how they were supposed to end it. Instead she'd just come back from paying an early morning visit to the hospital. There still hadn't been any change but in a way, that was to the good.

It meant that Justin wasn't any better, but he wasn't worst either.

Daphne took several deep breaths to calm herself, before alighting from her little Blue car. If she had her way, she would never see any of these fucking hypocrites again. Even feeling that way, she vowed to do Justin proud and to not let them get the best of her. He'd always told her how strong and magnificent she was. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of saying Justin's faith in her was displaced.

Upon entering the large gymnasium where the students were gathered, she nearly lost it seeing the object of her hate kowtowing, and laughing it up with his cronies. As far as she was concerned Chris Hobbs should be locked under the fucking jail, never to see daylight again instead of being given the pleasure of walking down the aisle to receive his diploma.


"Hey Daph, how's Justin doing?" September asked her. "We haven't seen you all weekend. You missed the barbecue over at Cindy Davidson's house yesterday. Where were you?"


Daphne nearly blew a brain cell. September had been one of the few people she and Justin had considered a true friend throughout the years. My how times change. "Where do you think I was, September? I was at the hospital where you should have been."


September sighed, rolling her eyes upward. "They're just so depressing though. Justin wouldn't have wanted you to hang around the hospital you know. He just wasn't that type of guy."


"ISN'T! You're standing there speaking of Justin like he isn't still alive. He is! And he will remain so despite what your friend tried to do to him. You know what, you should probably go join them," Daphne said, her anger evident in every syllable she uttered. It was bad enough that life was moving on without Justin, but for someone she thought was a friend to spout such bullshit was just too much to deal with right then.


"I'm... I'm... Oh Daph, you know I didn't mean it like that," September stuttered, not sure why Daphne was angry with her.


"Oh? Just how did you mean it, September? You know what, I don't even want to know. I'm going to get my cap and gown and then I'm going for a cigarette."


"Great! I'll come with you."


"No need. I only smoke with my friends. You're no longer one of them." And with that last comment, Daphne rushed off to the other end of the room where she was waylaid by more sycophantic assholes wanting the latest gossip on Justin's condition.


"Hey Daphne," a voice sneered directly behind her. Daphne couldn't resist the urge to stiffen her body as the unwanted voice of Chris Hobbs assaulted her ears. "Has Taylor woken up yet?" His comment garnered snickers from various onlookers standing off to the side.


"No but then you would know that wouldn't you, Chris," Daphne answered in the same tone as Chris had addressed her. "In fact, I'm sure when he does wake up, you will have some serious charges to answer to. You should hire yourself a good lawyer."


She made to turn back around putting him behind her but his words stopped her. "IF he wakes up, I'm sure I'll get off anyway. After all, I was protecting my Christian right not to have to see queers making out on the dancefloor."


Daphne smirked as she recalled one particular conversation with Justin. "Is that right, Chris? Or was it that you were JEALOUS because someone else was bold enough to declare his love for Justin?" She took great satisfaction watching as his face fell and his eyes clouded with fear. She lowered her voice although it was still considered a stage whisper. "Yeah... I know all about that hand job he gave you in the sports equipment room; how you came all over his hand. He said that it wasn't love for him and didn't mean anything but that wasn't the same for you, was it Chris? He also told me that Brian's son who is just a toddler has a bigger dick than you."


Everyone within earshot of Daphne's last sentence laughed loudly much to Hobbs' chagrin.


"You take that back or I'll..."


"What, Chris? You'll hit me with a fucking baseball bat in the head too? I fucking dare you to because unlike Justin who only had two witnesses who just happen to be gay, there are a whole LOT of straight people here. What would be your defense this time?" She watched as her words registered in the other boy's eyes and she smirked in response. "Yeah... that's what I thought."


Daphne grabbed her cap and gown and headed back out the door while listening to Chris yelling at his friends of how much she was a liar. One of them even said that he remembered Justin saying the same thing the night they all visited Liberty Avenue. Chris continued to deny the truth but that was fine by Daphne. She had sown the seed of discord and mistrust among those Chris considered friends. It was enough for her for now.


She sat and looked over her speech while all the preliminaries were going forth. As she flipped slowly through the index cards, she noted how much her life had changed from the time she wrote the words three days before the prom and now three days after it. All of the optimism and idealism she and Justin had shared seemed a lifetime ago in comparison to what they still had yet to face once he woke up. She looked out into the audience seeing her parents and Molly Taylor wearing the same For Justin t-shirts she wore up under her graduation gown. Her dad had ordered them from a mall vendor specifically for the graduation he couldn't attend.

Next to them were Debbie, Vic, Emmett and Ted. Michael had to get catch a plane to Portland that morning, but said he would be in touch and be back as soon as he was able to. However, other than Justin, the two people she was missing the most in that moment were still holding a vigil at the bedside of her best friend. Daphne closed her eyes wishing she was there with them, surreptitiously wiping a tear when it treaded silently down her cheek. The sound of the announcer calling her name brought her back to the task at hand.

Rising from her seat on the stage, she looked one more time at the index cards in her hand. The words on them no longer colored her reality so placing them down, she moved toward the podium. In this instant, Daphne vowed that she would be the person who Justin always thought her to be. It was time to deliver a healthy dosage of the truth that these puffed-up and pompous people continued to deny existed in their lily-white, heteronormative self-made prisons disguised as the Country Club set. Clearing her throat she began:


"To my Fellow Students, Illustrious Faculty and the Families who are out Honored Guests,


"Today I stand before you as both Salutatorian which I earned and the Valedictorian of our class, who is not present. For those interested, the person who that honor belongs to is currently in the hospital fighting for his life because of ONE word. Gay... A word that by way of Merriam Websters Dictionary means happy. And two nights ago, Justin Taylor was. He attended prom the gayest of us all- celebrating our rite of passage from grade school to our post-secondary education or employment opportunities awaiting us; celebrating our transition from childhood to adulthood.

"I won't go into all of the details except to say that we, the graduates of Saint James Academy Class of 2001, have a real chance to change our legacy from being a group of intolerant entitled brats to one of enlightenment, acceptance and tolerance of people who are different than we ourselves; to respect their life choices and recognize both our differences and similarities. Justin and I tried to do that with the Gay-Straight Student Alliance and found that although he was the only one called a Fag and a Fudge Packer, all of us within that room were told at one point or another that we were going to Hell by some adult in our lives and simply because our choices- our freedom- was not their idea or ideal. And don't fool yourselves into believing that it was easy for me just because I'm a straight female. Being the spot of pepper amongst the salt and Justin as the rainbow against the gray is what drew he and I together, what made us best friends- what made us family regardless of a blood tie. It was a common bond shared and steeped in discrimination and for what?

"Because we're different? News flash people: No one bleeds blue blood- it's ALL red. Justin was trying to make a difference, to not let bullies or injustice change his opinion of people in general. Hell, if truth be told my people are still waiting for their 40 acres and a mule while the Gay Revolution is still in its infancy to some degree. Slavery and Stonewall has too many similarities to just be a coincidence.

"Something has to change people, something has to CHANGE! The U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to the pursuit of Happiness regardless of our nationality, race, or creed. I'd like to believe that even extends to our sexual orientation since it's our right as human beings and citizens of this great country. Justin was trying to be the change he wanted to see in this world. I beseech you, my fellow graduates, to do the same.

"As my closing thought, I'd like to leave with this: It would do well for each one of us to remember that the very person you think you're better than might be the one to save your life in the next second and it won't matter who they are or who they love just as long as their there to help; to do their civic duty as a fellow human being. If you could just get that revelation into your thick skulls, perhaps then you too can make a difference. Thank you and happy Graduation Day."


Although most of the assembly sat stunned at her outburst, Daphne was happy to have said what needed to be said. She could hear the hoots and hollers from her own personal cheering section and in her reality, that was all that mattered to her. After she collected both her and Justin's diplomas, Daphne left the stage without looking back. Her time- their time- at St. James Academy had officially ended... And what an ending it WAS.










*Dreaming of You- (Sung by Selena ) Shuman, Earl/ Snow, Tom/ Garson, Mort/ Golde, Frannie/ Golde, Francine Vicki

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