Bleed to know you're alive
In the moments before his death, before the heat of the bullet that penetrated his chest hit and spread, taking with it the life force that was Brian Kinney, he saw only one face. It was ridiculously predictable, he thought, to have his entire life flash before his eyes. The part that amused Brian, even in that moment, was that the flashes began with a streetlamp and a blond twink.
There didn't seem to exist anything before that. At least, nothing that he cared to remember. It was blankness, dark, and then the sudden brightness of light that had shone from the boy he wanted with such a fierce ache, such a deep want that it scared him.
It was the same ache, want, and fear he felt in that instant, knowing he'd never see it again. Never feel the warmth of sunshine on his face or the soft brush of skin that brought him to life. He had believed he was meant to be broken, to live in the darkness, until he felt the force of inevitability that shone into his world.
He clutched to the rapid succession of scenes that ran through his mind. It was like those stupid slideshows that Ben and Michael would show after every trip to some far off, boring as dirt country they visited. Splashes of colors and emotions all tumbled together, creating a life he'd never thought he wanted.
Those first quick times of skin, heat and need. Those later moments that made him feel, something he never did before. The swirl of silk around his neck and something he wouldn't describe in his arms. The smell of blood on concrete…the sound of screams that never ended…
Like liquid through his fingers, they slipped past him, no matter how hard he grasped for them…surrender to what he never gave, betrayal, red light of Rage and emptiness…orange burst of relief and happiness…blue swirls of peace…kisses in the rain…picnics on the floor…grayness of death…
Anger twisted in helplessness…rainbow that spilled from his voice…left alone again…bombs and ashes…love and hope…dissolute resolution…letting go…holding on…loving and wanting and needing…and, in the end…life. It was life that he received…more than he ever thought he would get.
Brian resisted the cover of numbness that fell over him. He could feel cold, trembling hands on his chest, a cacophony of voices yelling, calling for help. It hurt to take a breath, and he gulped, gasped for air, metallic taste in his mouth. He opened his eyes, and the face that stared down at him crumbled into anguish. Blue eyes streaked with tears, and he wondered why this stranger, this unknown was to be the last thing he saw. She whispered an apology. He managed to wheeze a response.
Her face lifted in a sad half-smile and he felt the pressure of her hand over his chest strengthen. He watched her lips move, her voice following shortly after, like something disembodied and twisted.
"Then how about thank you for saving my life."
He wanted to tell her to keep it, but the heat inside had turned to ice, and he trembled slightly in her hands. The crimson warmth beneath him spread, and the blue of the eyes above reminded him of the ones he wanted to see, needed to see. Her tears fell in a hot splash on his skin, warming up what was slipping away, and he closed his eyes.
The flashes seemed to speed past faster and he concentrated, reaching for one that he could stay with. Look at and see for eternity. He grasped for it and found one, gripping with fingers that didn't exist. It surprised him when he realized how simple it was. How normal and uneventful the moment that stayed seemed to be.
Two bodies entwined, legs and arms crossing so infinitely joined he couldn't tell where one ended and the other began. It had been some random lazy Sunday morning, and he'd woken up to find blond hair tickling the skin of his chest, one arm thrown across his stomach, the other over his head, hand threaded in his hair. He had waited for that irritation to rise up and make him move, but it never came. After four years apart, a decade of fights and resistance, he knew, at that moment, the peace that came from belonging, somewhere. To someone. His hand had trailed slowly down the exposed skin, marveling at the pale luminosity. At the texture of soft warmth that touched his fingers. He felt when the head on him shifted and turned up, face half-hidden behind shaggy strands of hair. Clear blue eyes opened, focusing on his, and in seconds there was sunshine and warmth and love radiating at him.
It was that image he held on to when the heavy blanket of darkness wrapped around him. His hand slipped out of the grasp it was in. He held on tightly to the smile and face he loved. The man he would always love. He gasped his name, half prayer - half wish. "Justin."
The name evoked some magic that flashed him forward, past this moment, to what could have been. What should have. To a life he'd never have. He saw excerpts of days…years…a lifetime. Rings exchanged…a family he'd never known he'd want…graduations…weddings…dinners at Deb's, at Ben and Michael's…laughter with Emmett…with Ted…tears and loss…death…
And always Justin. Watching him paint, cook, laugh, scream, cry, grieve… love…hands in his…skin on skin…kisses…touches…breath…life….forever…
It seeped out of him…that life…that eternity, spread onto the cold linoleum. And in that final moment where it all left him, he knew he'd glimpsed it, everything that was good…that he loved…that he would never really have. His heaven was the life he would never know.
And there it ended.
He floated in some abyss where he found a peace he'd rarely experienced. He would have had that life. He knew that. He would have given the one person he loved in his entire life everything he had ever wanted. He would have said fuck you to the naysayers…to the mocking that he would have received. He would have laughed in their faces and taken his life with both hands. Reveled and lived in it. Proven to his parents, his other family, himself that he was worthy of it. He would have lived the life he wanted, how he had wanted, and…to hell with everything else.
It was then he knew he wanted to experience it all. To breathe in Justin. To fill his being with him and allow it to be enough. It was then that the weight and finality of not being hit him. He would never reach that infinite happiness…would forever be a memory to live with in this nothingness. And Justin…
Justin would never know that he loved him that much. That he was everything Brian ever wanted and needed. He'd never feel it, that touch of forever in his hands. He would never know their life…their family…their losses…their happiness. It was all that Brian could do not to scream into the darkness around him. To demand silence from the voices that called out to him.
The light ahead shone on him, filling his mind with pale copies of what he wanted. Perfect life in eternity, with no pain and loss. An existence of everything he wanted with nothing substantial. Only images conjured from his own mind, desires…
And, being Brian Kinney, he argued.
He wanted Justin. He wanted the warmth of his skin, of his life around him…in him. He could hear the light beckon…assure him he could have it all without the agony of living. That he had earned his place here. He answered without hesitation that all he needed was Justin - the closest he'd been to this place was Justin. All he wanted was to breathe him, be with him, love him. He wasn't ready to give him up. To let him go. To leave without that life he wanted.
He would give up forever…life in perfection and immortal youth…to touch him.
There was silence, and in that instant he felt a pinprick in his body. It slowly spread, ripping and burning. Like the trickling of electricity through him. He wanted to scream at the agony that ripped through his chest, his legs…his nerve endings on fire…
There was heaviness now along with the darkness, but the noises he heard were different. The rushing of words he couldn't quite understand, the incessant beeping clicks of some instrument…
Above him, he could sense light…they shone through his closed eyelids, irritating and pushing. He attempted to move but it hurt…literally hurt, and with that realization, he knew it wasn't over. There was an object on him and he forced his eyes to work. Yelled at them to wrench themselves open and let him see. He breathed deep and, with pain he never knew was possible, lifted one eyelid slowly, only seeing brightness. He managed to bully the other one to obey and found that the lines were fading into the light. Outlines of the ceiling, of shadow and a room he couldn't recognize.
There was movement and he forced his eyes down, his breath catching at the reflection of light in the head at his side. He couldn't command his fingers to touch him. To let him know he was here. The agony of pain faded with him near, and he wanted to look into blue eyes.
He wanted Justin to know him. To know the things that he'd seen. It would never matter if the rest of the world would never understand. All that mattered was Justin. That Brian could have him. That he could be here. All he needed was to taste this moment. All he wanted was to breathe in his life.
His throat convulsed against his breathing, but he pushed until one word croaked out.
The head at his side sprang up, red-rimmed eyes staring at him, falling back a step. Brian turned his head with difficulty and smiled, speaking through the dryness in his mouth. "Hey S-Sunshine."
"Oh god." Justin's hand covered his mouth, eyes watering, and Brian tried to reach for him but found only that one finger twitched. Justin shuddered in a long breath and was suddenly at his side, his hand on Brian's head, breath on Brian's cheek, and the softness of kisses falling on his skin. He knew that Justin was trying to rein in every emotion, and Brian gave a stiff half-smile.
He heard another voice and Debbie appeared behind Justin, her own face crumbling when she saw him. "Baby." Her hand reached for his and squeezed, the tears Justin refused to shed falling from her eyes. "You fucking asshole." She dropped a kiss on his head, letting it fall halfway on Justin's hand, which refused to let Brian go. "I'll go tell the doctor."
Brian heard her leave, but his eyes stayed on Justin, who was leaning into him, face only inches away. "You scared the shit of me, you son-of-a-bitch." He stroked Brian's hair, voice wavering. "I thought I'd lost you."
Brian tried to shake his head, finding it pained him to simply think of the act. He parted his lips, wetting them before he spoke. "I couldn't - couldn't leave you, Sunshine."
Justin grinned, gripping Brian's hand in his. "Good to know that."
Brian wanted to say so much. To let the relief and happiness out. But he knew that now he had time. Their lifetime. "I left- h-heaven for y-you."
Justin choked back a sob and held on tighter. "You got in?"
Brian tried not to laugh. It rattled loose things inside that needed to be still for a little longer. "Can you f-fucking be-believe it?" He thought he'd shrugged but doubted his body had paid heed to what he wanted it to do. It would again soon enough. "T-take a bullet and I g-guess it im-impress-" He gasped a little and felt Justin's hand on his bandaged chest.
"Don't talk too much, Brian. I want you to save your strength." Justin kissed his mouth softly and Brian breathed in the taste…the smell he'd almost lost.
"O-okay. But t-two q-questions."
Justin raised an eyebrow. "Pretty bossy for a guy in a hospital bed." He touched Brian's face with trembling fingers. "Go ahead."
"How l-long have I-I been…?"
"Two weeks." Justin's face tensed, voice breaking. He squeezed Brian's hand tighter.
"Beat you, d-did I?"
Justin rolled his eyes at him, laughing softly. "It's not a fucking competition, Brian." He trailed his hand over Brian's face. "I thought - for just a little bit - you weren't coming back." Justin smiled, shaking his head. "But I know how fucking stubborn you are, Kinney. I knew you wouldn't give in before you were ready."
Brian took a deep breath, ignoring the sharp pain it cost him. It would get better, he knew that. "Damn r-right. And t-the other q-question."
Justin smiled at him, brushing Brian's hair back from his face. "Ask away."
Brian kept his eyes on Justin's. He could feel the drowsiness creeping in, making his vision blur. He wanted to say this before he rested. He wanted Justin to know. Wanted to see his face before he let sleep take him away. He knew when he woke up again, there would be doctors and family to deal with. Now it was just the two of them.
"Don't s-say that t-this is the drugs or t-that I-I'm in shock, okay?" Brian saw the an inkling of understanding come over Justin's face before he nodded, staying silent.
"G-good. Now, w-will you m-marry me, Sunshine?"
Justin's eyes filled with unshed tears, but his face broke into a grin so bright it put the sun to shame. "Try to stop me." He kissed Brian again, deeper and longer this time. Breaking it, he stared into Brian's eyes. "I fucking love you."
He fell into sleep to the promise of the life he wanted in Justin's eyes, the taste of love on his lips, and the whisper of forever in his mind…