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When I heard that Lindsay was pregnant, I felt like my life was falling apart. I could see all my hopes and dreams disappear down the river, although I was still standing somehow. But when Michael tells me that Justin has cancer, the bottom drops out of my world. I’m in complete freefall and it just won’t stop. There’s no solid ground anywhere.

I’ve made a few dashes to the men’s room in Woody’s in my time, but never one to be violently sick in the toilet. If I wasn’t so preoccupied, I'd maybe have time to feel embarrassed about that, but as it is, I couldn’t care less. Michael's there when I come out of the stall and hands me some wet paper towels, looking like he used to, all concerned and ready to help.

He wants me to come home with him, but I can’t bear the thought of Ben being all understanding and patronizing. There’s a reason why I’ve avoided all contact with the family since Justin and I went our separate ways. Nor could I bear the fact that Ben will have more information about Justin than I have. I drag Michael outside into the street. There’s no way I'll discuss Justin’s business anywhere where it can be overheard.

Michael doesn’t know much, just that it’s testicular cancer and that the surgery went well. Justin is already back home and will be starting radiotherapy tomorrow. So that means that it wasn’t just a lump. They don’t give you radiotherapy just for the hell of it. He might die. Oh fuck, this can’t be happening. He might die. Jack did.

I ask Michael to drive me back to my dorm and when we get there, he comes to my room with me without asking. And I wish he wouldn’t. I want to be alone and after a couple of hours of barely talking, he gets the message and finally leaves. I only spare about five seconds on wondering how my behavior will affect our newly restored friendship, but the thought doesn’t stick around.

During the past week – a week and two days actually, but who’s counting – I’ve been running, drinking and fucking a lot and tried hard not to think about Justin. But in all that time, I never once thought that I may never see him again. Why would I? I knew that he would still be around, that I'd see him at the diner or on Liberty Avenue eventually. Or even at Debbie's, once I’d have shored up my feelings well enough to see him there with Jon without looking affected by it.

Now I have to admit that I was looking forward to that – not seeing him with the new boyfriend, but seeing him at all. It would have been the highlight of my day, week, whatever. I thought that we'd be friends maybe or at least that we could be in the same room together and be comfortable with it. I just hadn’t been sure that I could pretend I didn’t hate it just yet. But once I got to that point, I would have been happy to have him in my life in whatever capacity he was going to allow. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t be there in one form or another.

But now that’s not going to happen. Now he may die. He'll no longer be in my life, or my world even. It’s unbearable to think he'll no longer be around. Even if I never saw him again, it would still be comforting to know that he’s out there somewhere, living his life, being happy. He deserves to be happy. He cannot die – and there’s that freefall feeling again.

I sleep very little that night and in the morning I have to force myself to go to my lectures. They’re a colossal waste of time because I don’t hear a word anybody’s saying. I don’t see Lindsay around, which suits me just fine. I don’t particularly want to talk to anyone either.

By lunchtime I’m at a point where I know that I need more information. But who to ask? Everybody is aware by now that Justin and I broke up and I couldn’t bear their pitying looks. I've always maintained that I'll just walk away when it’s over, on the few occasions when I actually admitted that there was something to walk away from. And what is more, I've always mocked people when they were upset about someone. How can I go and ask them for information and, no doubt, look like a pathetic fool while doing it? The only person who wouldn’t exploit that in some way, now or in the future, is Vic, but how much information is he likely to have?

I think of Daphne, but she’s fiercely loyal to Justin. Knowing that we’re no longer together, she’ll guard his privacy, something that no one in the family will value much. And Daphne is a doctor of sorts. She’ll be thinking about confidentiality and such things, even if Justin’s not her patient. No way will she tell me anything.

But I need to know. After a run and a shower and endless cigarettes in my bedroom, I finally give in. I’m so fucking scared and this is driving me insane. So all I can do is go to the one person I know will treat me right.

When I stand outside the loft door, I hesitate. Now that I don’t live here anymore, shouldn’t I be knocking? But he might be asleep and if he’s sick, I don’t want to disturb him. I just need to know the score. Actually, I need to more than just know. I need to see it for myself. Or preferably feel him, to know that he’s okay. Nothing short of touching him will be enough. That’s the real reason I didn’t go to anyone else, because words aren’t enough. I know it doesn’t mean that he'll stay that way, I’m not delusional, it’s cancer for fuck’s sake, but I just need to… fuck it, I just need him. Just like last time, when he was injured. It’s all about me and what I need. I’m so disgusted with myself that I simply pull the door open to get it over with.

The room is full of people, which hollows my stomach. Something drastic must have happened, otherwise it wouldn’t take Debbie, Daphne und Mother Taylor to be here to fix it. And Jon, let’s not forget Jon, who’s leaning against the couch with his hands in his pockets. They’re all glaring at me, but after a moment I realize that this isn’t about me for a change. The atmosphere is thick with resentment. They were having an argument. So I wasn’t imagining it when I thought I could hear voices from outside.

“Brian,” Jennifer says. She can always be relied upon to deal with any given situation. “This is not a good time.”

“I can see that,” I manage to press out, trying to locate Justin, but he’s nowhere to be seen. “Where is he?”

“Didn’t you two split up?” Debbie asks, more confused than annoyed.

“He’s sleeping,” Daphne says at the same time.

“I doubt it.” I move further into the loft, leaving the door open. “It’s like Central Station in here.”

“My sentiments exactly.” Daphne gives the others a pointed look.

“How is he?”

“He had radiotherapy this morning. So he’s not good.”

“Daphne.” Jennifer doesn’t even need to raise her voice to make it sound like a reprimand. “I don’t think Justin would appreciate you telling all and sundry about his condition.”

That really makes me angry. She has some nerve to dismiss me like this after all this time. “I don’t think I can be classed as all and sundry after fucking him for four years.”

“Brian!” Debbie says. “Can’t you watch your fucking mouth for once?” She doesn’t even see the irony in that.

“Yes, this hardly the time or the place.” Jennifer purses her lips in that prissy way that she has when she’s dealing with me.

“This is the perfect place because this is where Justin and I live and it’s the perfect time because you guys don’t seem to be able to decide on what’s best for him. Well, all your problems are over. Go home and give the poor guy some peace. I’ll look after him.”

You? I wouldn’t trust you to look after my plants,” Debbie says, but she’s already smiling a little.

“Go home and make some chicken soup, Deb. I’ll come by tomorrow and pick it up.”

She nods and looks around for her things. She’s the easy one because with Jennifer here, she would never insist on staying. She values her special place in Michael's life too much not to grant Jennifer the same right. But she’s still waiting by the door, too curious to see how this will pan out.

“You see, Brian, that’s the thing. You don’t live here anymore. And I think one boyfriend is really enough, don’t you?” Jennifer smiles at Jon, who doesn’t react because he’s not looking at anyone.

“Quite.” I don’t elaborate, but I think they all realize what I’m saying.

“Justin will want Brian here,” Daphne says firmly.

“How do you know that? He kicked him out just last week.”

“Because I know Justin. He needs Brian right now.”

“I don’t think you know him as well as I do. I’m his mother.”

“And that’s the exact reason why you don’t know him at all,” I interject. “Who do you think he tells all his darkest, deepest secrets to? You? I don’t think so. He’s not in kindergarten anymore.” I take a deliberate look at all of them. “Although it certainly feels like it at the moment.”

“We all know that Justin didn’t split up with Brian because he doesn’t love him anymore. Sorry, Jon.” Daphne shoots him an apologetic look, then turns to me. “If Brian’s willing to mop up his sick, then I think he’s the one Justin would want around.” Her smile is soft, but there’s a challenge there as well.

“Yeah, I’ll hold his hair while he pukes,” I drawl as sarcastically as I can. No way am I going to profess my undying love in front of these people.

Jon pushes himself off the couch and walks towards the door. He stops briefly when he’s next to me. “I leave you to referee the chick fight, dude. I’ll stop by tomorrow.”

“Call first.”

He hesitates a little, then nods and just walks past everyone to disappear down the stairs.

“And the same goes for all of you.”

Predictably Jennifer bristles at that, but I just walk over to the door, pull it open a little more to make a point and make an inviting gesture towards the landing. “Ladies…”

“I’ll just say goodbye to him,” Jennifer says resignedly.

“No, you won’t. I’ll tell him you said goodbye. If he’s asleep, then just let him rest.”

She glowers at me. I know she can’t stand me and the feeling is definitely mutual. She thinks I’m an uncouth brat and I think she’s a stuck-up bitch. Normally, I revel in touching Justin in front of her and making suggestive remarks because she’s so obviously uncomfortable with it. What does she think we’re doing when we’re alone? Play scrabble? I don’t think I ever had a serious conversation with her – or a conversation, period. But this time it’s not about winding her up. This times it’s about Justin feeling sick, according to Daphne, and these guys thinking that it’s a spectator sport. So my voice is steely and cold for the first time and I can glower with the best of them.

“I told you, he needs rest,” Daphne says in her best ‘I’m-a-doctor-I-know-what’s-best’ voice and either that or the fact that Daphne and Justin have been friends since childhood convinces Jennifer. With a last despairing look towards the bedroom, she joins Debbie on the landing.

“A word,” I say to Daphne and, because the other two are still within earshot, I pull her into the kitchen.

“Anything I should know?”

“The surgery went well. They think they’ve got it all. He’s going to have radiation for a month. Try and get some fluids into him.”


“Brian. Make sure that he knows that just this once, he doesn’t have to be strong in front of you. He really can’t spare the energy for that at the moment.”

“He doesn’t need to do that anyway.” I never asked him to be strong. He just always is.

“He needs care. Not just feeding and watering. He needs TLC. I know it’s too much to ask that you tell him you love him but be nice to him, okay? I know your idea of being nice is a good fuck, but just be there for him. The way he needs you to be, not the way you feel comfortable with.”

Does she think I’m an idiot? “Yeah, yeah, I already told you I’ll hold his hair for him. And at least I can hold him up in the shower, which is more than any of you guys can do.”

She chuckles. “Yeah, there is that.” She pats my arm a little. “I trust you. Don’t make me look bad in front of Jennifer.”

“Yeah, that will be my single-most concern.”

She chuckles again and walks towards the door, giving a little wave just before she rounds the corner. I wait for about half a minute after I hear the door roll shut and then go and lock it securely, switching the buzzer off at the same time. After that, I switch off the ringer on the phone.

When I walk up to the bed on my bare feet, I find Justin under the covers, right up to the top of his head. I can’t say that I blame him. I can well imagine what it must have been like for him, having to listen to them argue over who gets to look after him. And these people profess to love him. Well, maybe they do, but they have no fucking clue who he is and what he needs. Okay, so maybe Daphne has an inkling.

I look down at him and register the fact that he’s still sleeping on ‘his’ side of the bed. It makes me smile until I realize that the other side may well be occupied by someone else now. Although if it was Jon, he surely would have put up more of a fight to stay here. Then I become aware that the covers are shaking. Of course, my first thought is that he’s jerking off, quickly followed by the dreadful idea that he may be crying. But if he was crying this hard, I'd be able to hear him.

There’s a spare blanket in the drawer under the bed, which doesn’t do much when I spread it over him. I need to buy something thick and warm tomorrow. I go and find one of my sweatpants to get changed into and then I slip into bed behind him. It’s like an oven under the covers, but he’s still shaking and his teeth are shattering a little.

I move as close as I dare, without touching him. Whenever I feel ill, the last thing I want is someone touching me. Justin just lies there, shaking, but maybe a little less so now. I know he’s not asleep because I know how he breathes when he’s asleep.

“Move closer, I’ll warm you. I won’t touch you. Just move as close as you want.”

Justin shuffles backwards until there's less than an inch between us. I feel like I’m boiling immediately, but I just lift the covers behind me to cool my back down. Everything else I’ll just have to endure. His shaking subsides very gradually.

“You're a hallucination, right?” he asks after a while.

“Stupid twat.” My voice is soft. Not much amusement in it, despite the familiar playful insult, but no tremble either, thank fuck. He really doesn’t need me queening out right now.

He huffs a barely-there laugh. “Now I know that you’re not. A hallucination would be nice to me.”

“I am nice.”

“Yeah,” he says quietly and then after a while, sounding sleepy, “Yeah, you are.”

The next morning I wake up when Justin tries to creep out of bed quietly. I watch him walk and he seems steady enough, so I let him go into the bathroom in peace. I don’t much like the fact that he closes the door behind him, but decide to give him ten minutes. If he’s not out by then, I’ll check on him. In the meantime I go and put the coffee on.

When Justin comes down to the kitchen fifteen minutes later, I've already made some toast and even changed the bed. I don’t know about him, but I was sweating buckets last night. He looks a bit pale this morning and when I look at his naked torso, while he’s pulling the sweater over his head, I realize that he can’t really afford to lose any more weight.

He pushes away the coffee I made him with a disgusted expression and I realize that I won’t be having coffee in the mornings for a while, because it’s obvious that even the smell of it is revolting to him. I tip his down the sink and empty the jug from the coffee machine. Luckily I’ve already drunk mine.

“Why are you here?” he asks, tearing his dry toast into tiny little pieces and piling them up after he had no more than a quarter slice.

“To tell you what a motherfucking piece of shit you are?”

He isn’t amused by that and, quite frankly, neither am I. Now that I’ve said it, I realize how angry I am. He seems to have told everyone and his dog, but not me.

Me? Why?”

“For not telling me that you have cancer. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Maybe because I didn’t want you to know?” He just sounds incredibly tired.

“Yeah, like I was never gonna find out in this family.”

He acknowledges the truth of that with a nod and tries another tiny piece of toast. “I thought I asked you to leave.”

“You did. But when have I ever done what I’m told?”

Finally, there’s a small smile, but it’s there and gone in the blink of an eye. “Can you pass the milk?”

It’s a simple request, but I feel almost giddy with relief. It’s going to be alright. He’s not throwing me out just yet. Turning to open the fridge, I can’t stop myself from smiling a little, but when I face him to pour his drink, my face is neutral again.

“I’m too tired to discuss this right now and that’s the only reason I’m letting you stay.”

“Fair enough.”

He nods again and takes the milk over to the couch, where he settles himself into the cushion with a blanket, doing not much of anything for now. Deciding to give him some space, I go and have a shower.

I know people think Justin and I are always fucking and I admit I have perpetuated that theory whenever I can. If they ever stopped to think, they would realize how stupid that is. Of course, we fuck a lot, several times a day, in fact, if we spend our day together, but that’s not all there is. It never was. We talk, we do other stuff like watch TV, read, shop, cook, play games, all the things other people do. He even tried to teach me to draw once, but we had to give that one up as a total loss. The point is that I missed it. I missed just being with him. And yeah, I sure as fuck missed fucking him as well.

So sitting down to do the crossword in yesterday’s paper feels pretty damned great after I thought I'd never get to do this again. He still seems a little sleepy, but at least he’s not puking. I don’t get much of the crossword done because I can’t stop looking at him. He seems fine today, so the situation might not be as bad as it sounded. He had the surgery. It went well. And after his treatment he'll be fine. I have to believe that, because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. He’s going to be fine. He has to be.

After an hour of dozing, he sits up a little more and looks around for something. Our eyes meet and it’s the first time since I got here that he’s looking at me for more than a few seconds. It’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I really want to know, so I’m keeping any resentment out of my voice.

Justin lowers his eyes. “Can you see the remote anywhere?”

I get up and fetch it from the top of the TV. When I return to the couch, I lift up his feet and sit down with them in my lap. “Why?”

“Are you gonna give me the remote?”

I pass it to him. “Care to answer my question?”

“I don’t want to have to explain it.” He switches on the TV and proceeds to flick through the channels without seeming to pay much attention.

I amuse myself by massaging his feet for a while. The way he said it, he seems to think that the answer is obvious. Only it isn’t obvious to me. Did he not tell me because we were already split up when he found out and he didn’t want me to come back just because he was sick? Or – and I’m leaning towards this possibility – did he split up with me because he was sick?

If that’s the case, he must really think I’m shallow. What, he thinks I’m going to leave because he has a little scar? Or because he'll be a little sick for a while? Or he thought he was going to die and didn’t want me to be around for that? Or was it because he wanted someone around who was better suited to take care of him?

I’m trying to put myself in his position. How would I feel? I wouldn’t want any pity for a start, so I probably wouldn’t tell anyone. Not even Justin. Could I handle being less than perfect in front of him, letting him see the scar? I can’t even imagine how that would make me feel. I’m not such a great catch when you take away the looks and the fucking. He'd leave me anyway in that case, so giving him the push would probably be what I would have done, too.

But Justin is different. There’s so much about him that isn’t physical. He must know that there’s more to him than that. Unless he thinks I’m only with him because he’s a great fuck. Or because he’s beautiful.

“I don’t mind you having a scar.”

“How magnanimous of you,” he says, without looking away from the screen.

Fuck, he’s irritable today. “I just meant… why would you think it would bother me?”

“I didn’t.”

I give up. He obviously doesn’t want to talk about it. Fine. I’ll just watch some mindless game show. Or some shoot-‘em-up western. Or the news. Or… jeez, I hope he stops channel hopping soon. He’s never done that before and it’s going to make me dizzy.

“They took one of my balls out.”

Oh. I suppose it’s lucky that I’m looking at the screen when he says it because I’m not entirely sure what my face is showing right now. I don’t want him to take surprise for dismay. I didn’t expect that. Why didn’t I expect that? Did I think they'd take his ball out, neatly scrape off all the cancer cells and put it back in? Why didn’t I read up on this before now? I should be better prepared. But all I could think of so far was how shit scared I was of losing him. And now I have no idea what to say.

Finally I turn towards him and, as expected, he’s watching me closely. “If that’s supposed to scare me away, it’s not working. What else you’ve got?”

“Five weeks of radiotherapy, with prolonged vomiting and diarrhea.”

“Lovely. I’ll buy air freshener.”

“Possibly a reduced sex drive and/or temporary impotence.”

I grin a little. “With me around? I doubt it.”

And there is the first genuine smile I’ve seen, but he becomes serious again very quickly. “A risk of recurrence in the first five years.”

That completely wipes the grin off my face. “Don’t…do that.”

“I can’t make any promises.”

I squeeze his foot a little. “I know that. But just… don’t, okay?”

“I’ll do my best.” He does that slow blink that always gets to me. I want to pounce on him and fuck him until you can’t tell where one of us ends and the other begins. It’s the best way I know to get close to him. I want to be closer, I want to crawl into him, so that I can never lose him and he can never get rid of me.

In the end, I get up and get a bottle of water from the fridge. Daphne said he should drink a lot and it’s an excuse to get up, so that when I come back, I can sit down at the other end of the couch. He leans against me and I remember this vaguely from after the accident. He’ll just need time to recover. He’s alright today. Everything will be fine. I play with his hair a little and he leaves the TV on one channel to settle against my chest. He’s here. He’s alive. Everything will be fine.

In the afternoon, I go to one of my tutorials for a couple of hours. On the way back I grab my books and more clothes from my dorm room and drive to Debbie's house to pick up the chicken soup. I also borrow a thick duvet of her. She gives me a funny look and hugs me close when I leave.

I’m struggling a little with getting the loft door open with my arms full and then I nearly drop all the stuff when I see Jon sitting on the couch with Justin, both of them laughing. Gritting my teeth, I drag everything inside and deposit the soup container on the kitchen island. Justin and his guest are just watching me without comment.

“I thought I told you to call first.”

“Yeah, you did.”

I must admit that there’s something about Jon that I like. Or I would if he wasn’t after Justin.

“It’s difficult to call if you switch off the phone,” Justin says, but there’s no heat behind it.

“It seemed like you needed some peace and quiet.”

“I did.” Justin puts his cheek against the backrest of the couch. He still seems tired and I just want Jon to leave so Justin can rest. “But I don’t need you to vet my visitors for me.”

“Okay, I won’t.” I drop my study books on the dining table, where they always are and try to ignore the wordless conversation between them. Well, this is going to be fun. But it seems that they have no intention of talking with me in the room because by the time I've dropped my bag of clothes in the bedroom and hung up my shirts, Jon is already calling out a short goodbye to me and leaves.

I really don’t get the deal with them. If they're seeing each other, wouldn’t Jon be around more and insist on looking after him? He doesn’t give the impression that he wants to be just friends. And I can’t really make any claims at the moment because officially Justin and I broke up. I’ve never been in this situation before, where I had to second guess my welcome. With Justin I was never in any doubt that he definitely wanted me around. Now I wonder if this is how he felt all the time, unsure of his standing and just hanging on by sheer determination. It’s a sickening feeling, but I’m not giving up. Walking away is not an option.

Justin eats some of Debbie's soup in the evening, more than some even and he drinks plenty and is generally more perky. His mother and Daphne turn up at different times to check that I haven’t killed the patient, but I suppose that can’t be helped for a while. Justin is happy enough about it, but he flakes suddenly at around ten and is asleep half an hour later. I climb into bed with him, but I don’t disturb him, just lie there, watching him sleep. It always calms me, knowing that he’s here, with me and safe. He was much better today, more like his old self just minus the upbeat mood – and the sex of course. He’ll be fine. I know he will.

O ye of too much faith! He is not fine. How could he be? He has cancer and he might die. At the moment it feels like he’s doing that right now. I took him to the hospital this morning and waited for him to finish his treatment. Afterwards we did some shopping and came home. Everything was okay until the early afternoon and then he started vomiting so severely, he couldn’t leave the bathroom for two hours. I finally half-carried him to the bed and gave him a bucket to be sick in. He wasn’t too happy about it, but he’s in no condition to put up a fight. I’m not looking forward to cleaning the bucket every half hour, but I just couldn’t watch him kneeling in front of the toilet any longer. In fact, I’m having a hard time watching him being so ill at all.

Of course, they’re all here again, one after the other, Jennifer, Daphne, Jon, even Ben turns up for five minutes. I’m surprised Debbie isn’t here, but maybe she learned something when Vic was sick. She certainly defended his privacy like a lioness then. I let Daphne speak to Justin because I know she'll recognize the signs if he doesn’t want to see her and, sure enough, she comes back down from the bedroom after just a couple of minutes, gives me a silent – if sniffly – hug and leaves. By the time Jennifer turns up, I’ve learned something, too, and don’t let her do more than peek at him from the bottom of the stairs, because he’s asleep by then. Jon and Ben don’t even get past the door.

When I go to empty the bucket for the fourth time, he puts his hand on my wrist, although there’s no force behind it, just a feather-light touch. He’s looking at me, all pale and with dark circles already forming around his eyes.

“I changed my mind.” His voice is barely audible and scratchy from vomiting.

“Uhm… what about?” I am not leaving! I can’t. I have to be here, especially after seeing him like this. I just have to.

“Go ahead and vet my visitors.” He smiles a little, but it’s obviously an effort.

I smile back and stroke his sweaty bangs out of his face for just a moment. “I look forward to it.”

“Just don’t leave, okay?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

That proves to be only half-true. Over the next few weeks, I often dream of being somewhere else, as Justin deteriorates steadily. At first he’s well on the days between treatments, but after the second week the only day he feels reasonably okay is the Sunday, when he has an extra day between sessions. And even that’s gone by week four. He languishes in bed most of the time. The loft reeks of puke, shit and lemon air fresheners. He doesn’t eat and doesn’t drink enough and needs IV drips to keep his fluid balance when he goes for his treatment.

There’s a steady stream of visitors. I coordinate with Daphne when I have to go to mandatory lectures and tutorials. She takes the pressure of me by devising a schedule, very much like the one we had for Vic. I'd prefer it if people would just leave when I’m here, but that’s probably too much to hope for. There are plenty of times when I’m studying and there’s someone in the loft with us, but as long as they leave Justin alone, I just grit my teeth and bear it. I have to live with the fact that other people have claims on him – more than I have, actually. Although as time goes by and he doesn’t throw me out, I gain more and more authority through his tacit approval.

Mother Taylor wants to have him admitted to hospital, but Justin looks at me so beseechingly that I’m glad she doesn’t have power of attorney. Daphne does. And there’s an almighty argument when Jennifer finds out, which gives me an excuse to throw them both out for the day. I’m as concerned about him as Jennifer is, but I choose to listen to Daphne, who tells me that Justin may take it worse than some people, but it’s still within acceptable limits. I’m just hoping that, as a doctor, she knows what she’s talking about.

Debbie makes endless rounds of chicken soup, which is the only thing he'll eat at all. But she’s just doing practical stuff, like coming in to scrub the bathroom thoroughly when he goes for his treatment and dropping off food. You gotta love her for that.

And I’m getting more and more tired. I study most of the time because it’s quiet and won’t disturb him. Some of my lecturers have given me homework so that I can keep up but don’t have to attend. I have set up the table so that I can watch him from where I’m sitting. It’s not a great idea for getting any work done because I keep finding myself just watching him for long periods of time, but I can’t shift the feeling that he might just fade away when I’m not looking.

There’s nothing I can do. That’s the worst of it. He’s so terribly ill and all I can do is sit here and watch him die. It’s like when we had the accident and I tried to stop the bleeding. He was dying then, right in front of my eyes, and he’s dying now, only this time it’s in slow motion, stretched out over weeks rather than minutes. And I’m as useless now as I was then.

I dream about him dying all the time and wake up in a cold sweat, wanting to draw him close to reassure myself that he’s still alive. But his sleep is restless enough as it is, so I just listen to him breathe. Sometimes I dream about the accident, which I haven’t done for years, and those dreams leave me disoriented, not quite sure if I’m still dreaming when I’m awake or if I dreamt the last four years. Until I realize that this is the reality now and that it may be less violent, but it's just as deadly. And then I lie awake for the rest of the night, wondering what I’ve been doing in all that time. I may have wasted the only time I had with him and on what? Nameless guys, who didn’t interest me in the slightest past the obvious? I had fun, yes, but ultimately it was unimportant.

What if there is no more time now? What if I'll never have a chance to actually get to what’s important just because I couldn’t believe that it was real? I was in the exact same position four years ago, knowing what he means to me and praying for more time with him. And then I did nothing. If I had worried less about how long it would last and enjoyed it while it did, then I wouldn’t lie here, scared shitless that I might never have that now. And what is more, that I never let him have that, because I can’t pretend that I didn’t know that he was never completely happy with the way things were. He was just holding on for me. And my old motto suddenly seems like so much garbage to me. No apologies, certainly. What’s done is done. Apologies won’t change that. No regrets? Yeah, right. Right now, I have a whole shitload of them.

So yes, I often daydream of being somewhere else – Babylon, Woody’s, a beach in the sun, the fucking North Pole – but it’s always with him. Because the only place I want to be is with him, here or anywhere.

PART  ELEVEN here:  http://kachelofen.livejournal.com/24381.html

Date: 2012-12-15 11:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bksbracelet.livejournal.com
Wow what an amazing chapter the feelings and emotions just dripped of the page. I can see the title being revealed now hugs Chris

Date: 2012-12-15 11:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Yes, hopefully things have become a bit clearer for Brian now.

Thank you, Chris.


Date: 2012-12-15 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 95baker.livejournal.com
Wow, what an amazing chapter! Can I say that I am proud of Brian? He truly loves Justin. And I know that he wants Justin happy and healthy. I know that him being there and caring for Justin is out of love, not obligation. He may be doing this for himself but that is because he needs Justin and we already know that Justin needs Brian. I was glad that Brian realizes what Justin means to him and has started to show it regardless of what any others are thinking of him.

I think that Brian has such a low opinion of himself which makes me sad. Justin always got this and I believe this is why he never gave up on him.

Regret...I think this is such a powerful emotion. A terrible feeling. I hope that Brian can move past this.

One other thought...I love Daphne in this. She clearly loves Justin unselfishly. She not only wants but sees what is best for Justin. She does not push but encourages and lets those around her find their own way. I truly admire this about her.

As the person above mentioned, your title is coming into focus. I am hopeful and excited to see what Brian and Justin do with this newly found vision.

I go to reread this chapter. I loved it that much.

Edited Date: 2012-12-15 02:40 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-12-15 11:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Well, we all knew all along that Brian loves Justin, didn't we? It's good that he realised it as well. But you're right, the question is what they are going to do with that.

Daphne has a bit of an unfair advantage in this story, being a psychologist and all. :-)

Thank you, Kate.


Date: 2012-12-15 02:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazy-8s.livejournal.com
Fabulous! I loved this look into Brian's thoughts, as he walks back into the loft and Justin's life, by his own volition. The chapter progress, as Brian takes over Justin's care through the treatment, dealing with the side affects and the others in Justin's life. By the end, it seems as though Brian may be in the process of making a decision as to his place in Justin's life. That should prove very interesting, when Justin is well enough to address all of it.

Loved it! :)

Date: 2012-12-15 11:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
At the moment, Brian is more concerned with the obvious, which is getting Justin better. But he is also aware that it might be too late in other ways, too. We'll see. :-)

Thank you.

Date: 2012-12-15 02:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pet0511.livejournal.com
I think we've already established that I love the story, the writing and the way what and how you've twisted plots from canon and integrated them into this AU. I won't bother - or even bore :-)))) you - with repeating it (my Godness, do I have fun with this "boredom"!!!!....).

For me there is a personal reason why I say that BJ, Brian in particular, has changed my life, my sight of life in some ways. Yes, there is QAF!Brian with all his good and bad sides, but there are also some stories from you ff-writers which have completed these changes, sometimes even caused some. One of these things is my personal sight of how to go through health issues, illness and life threatening situations.
Even though I never had to face such a situation so far in my life it is something that can happen to me every day as well. My personality always was off the "let's pretend that these things don't exist" kind. Then I read Myrna's If You Needed Me" and found myself really thinking about this self-made tabu for the first time. The whole story is brilliant but watching how Brian handles the situation is "it" for me. Just recently I spent a lot of time with re-reading it and still think that many of his actions would be in my personal handbook if ever coming into such a situation. I can't think of many higher praises if a story has such an impact on a reader.
When I started reading this chap earlier I didn't know what would happen. Well, you caused a lot of emotions in me with your stories before, from getting all worked up to breaking down once so much that I was almost afraid of suffocating, but today you gave me a new thing: a new part for my aforementioned handbook. You might think that now I've totally lost the rest of my mind - go ahead, lol. But I have a new addition to Myrna's "You've got 10 minutes (of self-pity a day)" and that is the "don't touch when I'm feeling for shit but let me feel you though".
Seriously, the whole chap is amazing and in some ways it's even more amazing than others, even though I'm sure that I explained the reason for why I'm feeling it being so special so utterly bad. And it's so not the right place here for my brabbel. But we both know I'm a weird one, right? Thankfully you have a lot of normal readers, too. :-)
Thank you, Betty!!!!!

Date: 2012-12-15 11:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
The 'boredom' has become a bit of a running joke, hasn't it? But maybe we should also write a book along the lines of "Everything I know I learned from QAF". I think it would be interesting. ;-)

I'm glad you're still enjoying it and I like weird. Thank you, Pet.


Date: 2012-12-15 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pet0511.livejournal.com
Of course. "Boredom" is one thing that will never happen when I read a story of yours but I like our banters. Makes me smile every fucking time.
That's a very good idea with the book. Can you please put in words what I have to add to the list?
Sleep well!

Date: 2012-12-15 02:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jule2009.livejournal.com
*heavy sigh* great chapter!

it´s about time Brian is honest with himself and making a stand. Hope it´s not too late for all the dreams he has with Justin to come true.

I am always trying to wait till your stories are completed cause even the two or three days are too long, but as always I couldn´t wait. Another wonderful angsty story- I was so right to bounce happily around when I saw an update :-)



Date: 2012-12-15 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Let's see what Justin makes of it once he's up and running. If Brian doesn't forget all about it again, like he did after the accident, that is. :-)

Thanks, Jule.


Date: 2012-12-15 03:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] armandyouidiot.livejournal.com
So beautiful, “but it’s always with him.” Chokes me up. :) I’m wildly happy now with Brian for thoroughly coming through for Justin and all the growing up he’s done – empathizing with Justin’s feelings with his tricking even! You write this so well.

Date: 2012-12-15 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Well, Brian had to make some progress at some stage. He is smart enough for that.

Thank you.

Date: 2012-12-15 03:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lrknow.livejournal.com
Whew!!!I feel physically drained after reading this one, which is a complement to you BTW, you just managed to pull me so deeply into the story....

My favourite chapter so far, it's good to see Brian step up, take charge and possibly come into terms with his feelings for Justin. For the first time I'm convinced that he's good for Justin, I never had any doubt about him loving J, but loving him and being good for him are totally different things IMO, so yeah it's really shitty that it's taken the big C for him to grow into the person he needs to be for J but then who says life is fair?....
Ok this long ass rambling is my other way of saying that I totally heart this fic and you for writing it
and can't wait to be gutted some more :)....


Date: 2012-12-15 11:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
I agree. Brian always loved Justin but he wasn't all that good for him. Justin was getting more and more tired of the whole situation and gave himself and Brian a push in the end. About time, too, that Brian got his act together.

Thank you, Kimi.


Date: 2012-12-15 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] love4movies.livejournal.com
*sigh* Wonderful, wonderful chapter. Brian in love. *sigh*
Yep, my favorite chapter so far. Your story is getting better and better! Thank you!

(One small typo: This is the perfect place because this is where Justin and I live...)

Date: 2012-12-15 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Thank you for pointing that out. I fixed it. These things always manage to slip through somehow.

Thank you. :-)

Date: 2012-12-15 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] poiuhbvs34567.livejournal.com
Really nice chapter. I loved it.

"Because the only place I want to be is with him, here or anywhere." perfection :3

Brian's evolution in this story is so interesting.

I like when AU fictions are in characters. Thank you so much.

Date: 2012-12-15 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Thank you. I'm always happy when my stories are considered in character. I'm glad you think so.

Date: 2012-12-15 08:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petulant2u.livejournal.com
I simply could not be prouder of Brian. The way he just came in and took over. He could have easily given in to his fears (insecurities) and left once he saw Jon at the loft, but he stood his ground, and made his claim.

I'm happy for Justin, because Brian is exactly what he needs right now.

So, our little Brian is growing up! :-) Sorry it took Cancer to make him see through his bullshit and be able to for the first time, look at his feelings and not recoil from them.

Loved this chapter. I will be reading it few times I suspect.

Great job.

Date: 2012-12-15 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Brian was pretty single-minded in this chapter. He is anyway, but it's the first time he applied it to Justin. Good for him. And good for Justin. Like you said, he needs that right now.

Thank you, Gina.

Date: 2012-12-15 08:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rulisteningbj.livejournal.com
Can we say that Brian has seen the light? I hope so. I hoped he would step up to the plate and he has in spades. I am actually proud of him. Now Justin needs to get better soon.

Dee Dee

Date: 2012-12-15 11:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Seen the light? Lol. Let's hope it's not in the way Emmett saw the light. We wouldn't want that. :-D

Thank you, Dee Dee.

Date: 2012-12-15 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] likeamilkyway.livejournal.com
it was the perfect chapter for this grey, cold saturday afternoon.
and it was so touching and i was so relieved that brian finally, FINALLY realised how much justin meant to him. and he didn´t just realised it..he also acted on it.
thanks again (and again and again) for this wonderful story!!

Date: 2012-12-15 11:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
You too? It's grey and cold here as well. Glad I could brighten it a little for you. Let's hope things brighten for our boys soon as well.

Thank you.

Date: 2012-12-15 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] itzy68.livejournal.com
Oh Brian I just want to hug him. He is so lost without his Justin. So glad he decided to be a man about it and take care of his man instead of running away.
Great chapter :)

Date: 2012-12-16 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Seems like Brian could do with a hug, doesn't it? Poor thing. You go ahead and do that while I think of what else I can put him through. :-)

Thank you.

Date: 2012-12-16 03:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hopperl.livejournal.com
Again, I love everything about this chapter so much I don't feel my words will do my feelings justice.

I loved how Brian just wanted to know that Justin was in the world and happy even if it was with John. That is just so selfless and speaks volumes about how much he loves Justin.

I don't know if it is possible for me to love Daphne more than I did in this chapter. I mean, seriously, what an amazing best friend.

I love that Brian didn't queen out or lash out even when he showed up and John was there. I hate that Brian sees what he is doing as selfish and doesn't realize just how much that Justin needs him. When he wondered if Daphne thought he was an idiot, the answer is YES b/c you have been an idiot when it comes to Justin. LOL

I hate that it took cancer to make Brian realize how much he loves Justin, how much he wants to be the one who makes Justin happy, how meaningless the tricks and drunken hookups were. However, let's be honest, it wasn't going to take anything short of cancer to make a 21/22 year old Brian see that.

I can't wait to see where they go from here. Really only 2 chapters left? *sigh* Your stories just aren't long enough. I love them too much.

Date: 2012-12-16 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Daphne is an amazing friend. She probably does think that Brian's an idiot and with good reason, too. But it seems that Brian is kind of coming round to her way of thinking. :-)

Brian needed a wake-up call. But with Justin in his life for the past four years, it really shouldn't have taken something quite so drastic.

As for where they'll go from here, we know where Brian wants to go. The question is where does Justin want to go?

Thank you for your lovely comment. :-)

Date: 2012-12-16 02:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] koalared.livejournal.com
So proud of Brian. Finally he is being honest with himself about wanting and needing Justin. #1 I want Justin to recover and #2 that Jusitn and Brian will be on the same page as to how they want their future.
Wonderful chapter.

Date: 2012-12-16 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Brian was honest with himself, but being honest with Justin might not logically follow. After all, this is Brian we're talking about. And then, like you said, Justin would have to be on the same page as well. We'll see.

Thank you. Love your icon. :-)

Date: 2012-12-16 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sandy1520.livejournal.com
Love your Fics (I've read all your QAF stories). As I ask my question -I admit to being greedy. But, in the spirit of the Holiday season - would you post the final chapters all at once?
reading the final chapters would keep me out of a fruitcake & egg nog over load:) Thx!
Edited Date: 2012-12-16 04:27 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-12-16 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Lol. You have no idea how long posting takes me. I'm always struggling with the html. So I don't think I could do it if I tried. :-D

But thank you for your kind words. :-)

Date: 2012-12-16 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erdmut1.livejournal.com
amazing chapter, as always. i also really liked and agreed with what Pet wrote. its pretty wonderful when fic goes beyond a means of getting a break from life - to becoming something that actually teaches you about life. I'd put your fic in there (with Myrna's of course).

Date: 2012-12-16 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Lol. With Brian being so dysfunctional, it's surprising how much sense he makes sometimes. :-)

Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm flattered.
(deleted comment)

Date: 2012-12-17 09:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Brian really stepped up to the plate here, but you're right, it's what they make of it that counts.

Thank you. :-)

Date: 2012-12-17 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zazuburgh.livejournal.com
“And that’s the exact reason why you don’t know him at all,” I interject. “Who do you think he tells all his darkest, deepest secrets to? You? I don’t think so.
It is true that Brian here admits the depth of their relationship to Jennifer et al; that it is one in which such conversations could take place. But your Justin’s darkest secret is that he deeply loves Brian and he has never really dared to tell Brian this. And Brian, well, could he handle that truth? Justin doesn’t think so. Justin has held back his darkest, deepest secret from Brian, believing him too young, too immature, too careless, too uncaring to understand and love him back. Justin is just as blind as Brian, just as willing to think him smaller, more superficial than he is.

“Brian. Make sure that he knows that just this once, he doesn’t have to be strong in front of you. He really can’t spare the energy for that at the moment.”
“He doesn’t need to do that anyway.” I never asked him to be strong. He just always is.

No, no, not true either. Justin has gotten through all this with grit and determined strength, often just barely and at great cost. And the effort has just about killed him. (I know it about killed your readers!) But it is true that Brian never verbally asked him to do this; he always just made it very clear that any show of feeling or weakness would be mocked or repulsed. You’ve written a Brian who understands that their talk and actions, always uncommitted and unattached, hide a deeper reality of love and need on his side. He is almost ashamed of this, since it makes him so vulnerable, and doesn’t seem to understand what it can mean. He doesn’t seem to believe that Justin, who is following his lead, could share his deeper feelings; classic insecurity, inferiority 101. (They really are a clueless pair!)

With Justin I was never in any doubt that he definitely wanted me around. Now I wonder if this is how he felt all the time, unsure of his standing and just hanging on by sheer determination. It’s a sickening feeling, but I’m not giving up. Walking away is not an option.
Wow! Amazing level of dumb has been revealed. This is the first moment he has understood this? And after the business of the loft key in the earlier story, it is just absolute blindness. Welcome to the morning hours of human emotions, Mr. Kinney! Oh, Betty, when you introduce Brian to a moment of elemental empathy (here and in the hand business in the first story, for instance) it’s always an aha moment for us readers!

And what is more, that I never let him have that, because I can’t pretend that I didn’t know that he was never completely happy with the way things were. He was just holding on for me.
Lovely, just revelatory. He does seem to be awakening from a long sleep. Not so blind now; seeing clearly perhaps. He is consciously refusing to pretend.

Beautifully written. Now we get to see if Justin will also refuse to pretend any more.

Date: 2012-12-17 10:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Lol. I suppose when Brian is talking about Justin's darkest, deepest secrets, he is thinking more along the lines of sexual fantasies. Because, like you said, would Justin really trust Brian with his emotions?

You make a good point here. Brian seems to set a lot of store by the things that actually get said rather than the things that are under the surface. Maybe that's one of the reasons he doesn't say much. Because that helps him ignore a lot of things. And by his reaction to Justin, he effectively stops him from saying much either. Mission accomplished.

Brian is becoming aware a lot more right now, or rather he's allowing himself to see. But the question is whether it's enough and what Justin will have to say about it.

Thank you so much for your thoughts. It is always such a pleasure to read them. You see right through to the heart of things. :-)

Date: 2012-12-17 12:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zazuburgh.livejournal.com
Your stories are fascinating for the choices you make about the established story lines. In this story, for example, you seemed to give us a huge head's up when Justin's painting is discussed. TV and fanfic has it awash with images of Brian, and these drawings and paintings give Brian a great, public, idea of how Justin sees him. How beautiful he sees him; how important. Given the communication skills these two lack, his art happily provides a whole arena of emotional conversation for them.

But in this story, though his paintings are a marvel to Brian, they don't seem to be about him. In the earlier story, on the other hand, Brian was drawn time and again. But now, four years in, we don't know (yet, if ever) what it is he now paints or draws. In a BrianJustin fanfic world where Justin always shows Brian through his art what he feels, this seems to emphasize the emotional distance these two have kept from one another. Using this one little detail, you've encapsulated how fearful Justin is of showing Brian how he feels.

You know, these two stories are truly marvelous. I don't know how you did it, but they are fresh and new while drawing from so many familiar elements. I am not looking forward to the conclusion!

Date: 2012-12-17 01:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
It takes a very careful reader to spot the tiny hints in my fics. You have no idea how satisfying it is to a writer to realise that somebody actually reads that closely and thinks about it enough to make the connection. And takes the time to comment. If you see it, then I know it was there to see and I can sit back and be happy. It's a wonderful compliment.

I do so enjoy your comments. Thank you again. ♥

Date: 2012-12-19 11:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pam81.livejournal.com
You can imagine how happy I was to see that Brian is back and that he's taking care of Justin.
The way he deals with him, with his mother, with everyone is perfect.
And what Justin needed to survive to all this shit.

I loved to see he's there and that he's scared… scared of losing him.
I loved, loved, loved his thoughts and to finally see him more open, at least with himself, about his feelings.

So good… even if my heart is still broken watching Justin suffering.

Wonderful chapter, Betty ♥ Thank you

Date: 2012-12-19 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Brian really just needs to get over himself. Other than himself, he's really not fooling anyone. Well, maybe Justin, who seems to have lost his confidence over time.

Thank you, Pam.
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