Brian smiled when he heard the persistent buzzing coming from the intercom, indicating someone wanted entrance to the building. Smirking, he walked over and pressed the button on the intercom. "Yeah, who is it?" he asked, rolling his lips under in amusement, because he knew exactly who it was.
Michael scowled, trying to balance the boxes in his hands. "Open the door, asshole, and make sure the elevator is down and that damned door of yours is open! These boxes are heavy!"
Shaking his head and laughing, Brian replied, "Sure, Mikey," pressing the buzzer to let his friend up and making sure that the elevator was down there with the gate up and the door to his loft open for his friend to enter.
Mickey dumped the boxes on the ground inside the loft, glaring at his best friend with his hands on his hips as he struggled to catch his breath. "You could have come down and carried some up, you know," he pointed out.
Biting into his apple, Brian chuckled after swallowing the piece. "Where is the fun in that? Besides, you managed just fine."
Michael muttered, "You really are an asshole, aren't you? Okay, so where do we start? What are you taking to the house, and what stays here in the loft?"
Throwing the apple core into the bin Brian wiped his hands on a towel. "Well, the rest of Justin's art stuff is coming with us, along with the photo albums and some summer clothes and personal papers."
Scratching his head, Michael looked around at everything before he replied, "Okay. How about I do the art stuff and clothes, and you do the personal papers and photos albums?"
Nodding, Brian replied, "Yeah that sounds good. All the clothes are on the couch that need boxing up, next to his art stuff."
"Got it." Michael went to work, very carefully wrapping the breakables and the more expensive art supplies before placing them in the boxes and labeling each one with a big, black marker as he went.
Just as he was moving onto the clothes, he noticed that Brian had become very quiet and very still. He appeared to be reading something. Worried, he asked, "Brian, are you okay?"
A few moments earlier…
Brian was pulling out the albums, placing them in the boxes and remembering to label them as he went. Luckily, all the personal papers were already boxed in a fireproof box, so he just had to move it from the closet. A familiar, leather journal tumbled from the top shelf as he was moving the last of the photo albums.
Sitting on the bed, Brian immediately recognized what it was - and who it belonged to. He hesitated for a moment before he slowly opened it up and flicked through it, noticing the familiar scrawl of Justin's handwriting. Taking a breath as he decided whether to read any of it or not, he recalled that his partner had told him that he could read any of his writing at any time, but did he really want to? As he pondered that question, the words No One Knows caught his eye, and he knew he had to read what followed.
Date: 12/Dec. Who cares what year, right?
No one knows how deep my thoughts go, or where they go. I feel like I'm in a black hole with no light in sight.
I think about it daily, the many ways in which I could end it all to make this deep-set pain go away. Not just physical, but the mental and emotional pain.
I've thought about many things. Jumping off a tall building and feeling myself fly, or diving into the depths of the ocean and just letting myself sink.
So many ways. Pills, a razor blade, a gun. So many ways in which I could end this deep pain. Trust me, there are many tools in an artist's bag that would do the trick. An artist using their own tools to end it all. There would be some kind of poetic justice in that, wouldn't it? I bet Brian would have some sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek thing to say about that, but it would be borne out of pain and anger over what I had done, not only to my family, but to him as well.
What's stopping me? What's keeping me going is the knowledge that I'd leave behind an even bigger pain.
My family, my friends, but most of all Brian. I couldn't and wouldn't do that to them, to him.
I was given a choice when I faced death's door. I stood in a set of corridors, with two doors. One held heaven, and one held heaven on Earth with Brian and my family. I chose earth. Brian was standing there, looking down into my arms as he held me close and smiled, whispering to me, "Come look, Sunshine". So I took a step forward and kept going until I was right there by his side...
I know we have a lot more to come, to look forward to. Brian was holding a baby girl in his arms as he stood at that door. Maybe that's in our future. Maybe Who's to know? So I had to go back to find out and to live, to see, and to love.
No one knows, and I'm sure someday Brian will read this. When he does, I hope that this won't be too much for him, and he understands why I didn't say anything at the time.
He is my rock and my life, and I'm lucky to have him. I can't wait to build a life with him.
Brian closed the book, touching it to his forehead as he inhaled a shuddery breath.
Worried now, Michael sat next to him, putting his arm around him in a hug. "Brian, what's wrong?" He watched as his friend tightly clutched the simple, worn, spiral notebook in his hands.
Michael was taken aback by the look in his friend's eyes when Brian peered over at him. "I had no idea. I knew he was depressed, Mikey, but I…" He sat there, stunned.
Without having to ask, Michael knew Brian had to be talking about Justin. He could see some doodling on the book, and instantly recognized the blond's handiwork. "What is it? What's it say?" he asked, reaching over to try and extract the book from Brian's hands, only to have Brian pull back from him slightly, holding onto the notebook almost in a death grip.
Brian shook his head. He and Michael had shared a lot of secrets over the years, and Michael had always kept his confidence, but this. This was something he did not want to share. Something that was just between him and the man he loved. The man who had taught him what it meant to love...and that it was okay to BE loved. "Sorry, Mikey," he replied softly with a shake of his head, the book now lying against his chest, right over his heart. "This is something that I just can't share this time. Something between only Justin and me. I... hope you understand."
Michael felt a momentary pang of hurt that Brian wouldn't divulge what was in the notebook. But at the same time, he could tell, however, that whatever was written in the notebook had to be deeply personal, simply by the haunted look on his friend's face. And to be honest, he hadn't always told Brian about things that he and Ben had shared over the years, so he knew he had to respect his friend's wishes. He nodded. "Yeah," he responded after a pause. "I think I understand. But if there's anything you ever need, or that I can do…"
Through watery eyes, Brian smiled in gratitude, glad that his friend wasn't going to pressure him to share what he had read. "Thanks, Mikey. For understanding...and for always being there for me."
No words were said as Michael hugged his friend tightly. But it was enough to give Brian the strength he needed to make sure his life with Justin would be everything that it could be; everything that Justin deserved. That they BOTH deserved.
Later that night, Brian welcomed Justin home with a deep and loving kiss and a warm embrace as he whispered the words, "I love you. You're my heaven on Earth, too."
Blinking back tears, Justin knew then that he had read his words and that he understood and loved him even more. That no matter what was thrown at them in life, they were stronger together.