A/N: I wasn't going to do this (end the story and start a sequel), but, last night, I decided that this chapter represented a huge break. The conflicts from the first chapters have been resolved, and what comes next is definitely something different. I think I'm going to skip the rape trial, unless you all want me to start with parts of that (in the sequel, which I'll begin in a couple of weeks). Otherwise, I'll skip ahead a few months to just before the collaring ceremony. I made a promise, which I intend to keep, to have Brian and Justin's relationship become more like most D/s relationships (which was hard with the rape investigation and Chris and Ethan being out on bail). Now that it's no longer a secret, this choice will definitely have consequences (e.g., with friends and family). I know that many of you also want to see Gus make an appearance, so I'll incorporate him (In general, I'm a little afraid to write kids, which is why I sometimes leave Gus out of my stories. I've been around children a lot, but I don't have any of my own, so I'm always afraid I'll goof something up. Little Ray has been hard for me to write for that very reason. I always do so much research for every installment because I really want to get the 'pregnancy experience' right).

Michael's POV

Last night, Brian had been a zombie again. And covered in blood, though not his own. And someone was in the hospital, in a coma after being hit in the head with a blunt object. Just like the night of the bashing. There were, however, some major differences. This time, Brian had been able to stop Chris from hurting Justin. This time, Chris was the one in the coma. This time, Brian hadn't leaned on me (a fact causing me much less bitterness than I expected; I found myself in the curious position of being glad that, if it wasn't me, at least it wasn't Ben. I knew all too well the effect a vulnerable Brian could have on a man). This time, Brian didn't spend the next night getting so fucked up he couldn't see and organizing an orgy of mammoth proportions. This time, he wasn't pushing Justin away. And this time, Chris was paying for what he had done.

After we'd all given our statements (that was the longest night of my life; going to the police station tripping was the worst idea in the world; thank God trauma tended to make people a little freaky), the cops let us go home. The next afternoon, this afternoon, the prosecutor used the attempted shooting to get the judge to revoke bail not only for Chris but also for Ethan (The judge was a real piece of work. I doubt he would have agreed, but he was feeling pressure from every angle: Debbie and PFLAG, whatever 'troops' Mel was able to rally, Jennifer and her remaining country club friends, a few of Ben's fellow professors, and even some of Lindsay's artist friends. They all spent the morning reaching out and touching someone, or, rather, some people, be it through protests or phone calls). So Ethan was sent back to jail, and Chris, after the doctors stabilized him, was sent to a prison hospital. According to Justin, after a long, long shower, he and Brian spent the day in bed. As far as I knew, they were still there.

Many things had changed. They hadn't really been the same since Brian saw Justin on that street corner almost three years ago. But I didn't really begin to see the differences until the night of the bashing. Brian was a ghost of himself that night. More so even than when he used to come to my house in the middle of the night after beatings. He had been wounded by the bashing in a way that I'd never seen him wounded. Even then, I tried to pretend everything was the same. Brian and I were both deep in denial. Neither of us wanted to admit that Justin owned his heart. I was on my way from main to recurring character, and I didn't like it one bit. I kept thinking, like Brian I guess, that if I acted 'normal' and put on the blinders, somehow it wouldn't really be happening. But it was. It is.

Every time I saw Brian these days, some new revelation shocked me further out of my comfort zone. The worst began with that lookalike hustler. Then the slew of confessions at the intervention. Then Brian calling Justin his boyfriend. Then the public I love you. Then the engagement. Then the dominance and submission thing. Then the way Brian lost control when he thought Justin had been shot. He seriously came a hair's breadth from killing Chris. And if Justin hadn't stopped him, he probably would have. That kind of love was a little scary, no doubt about it, but, if I were honest, I'd have to say that it's the kind of love I wanted. The kind of love I hoped I had, or would one day have, with Ben. But of course…first I needed to forsake all others. Brian and Justin weren't married yet, but they had already taken that step. And they were well on their way early on. So early.

So far, everything had been proceeding as Brad had predicted. Brad was planning to 'find' the two guns (after getting the prints off). Brian hadn't been arrested, and it looked like the cops had no plans of arresting him. Even if Chris remembered what had happened later and claimed that Brian had assaulted him much more than was necessary to disarm him, eleven other people who didn't have their heads beat in that night (it sounds bad, but head injuries do mess with the memory; just ask Justin) and weren't charged with rape had gone on record to the contrary. Brian would never face charges for this, Chris's dumbass move had cost him and Ethan their bail, and, according to Carl, a witness had just come forward, wrecking Chris's and Ethan's chances of getting the rape charge dismissed. In fact, the cops had brought the Sap in for questioning. It seems he had supplied Ethan and Chris with the drugs needed to subdue Justin. Best yet, Justin would never need to sue PIFA. After the revocation of bail and the witness coming forward, one threatening phone call from Mel's friend was all it took to get PIFA's administrators to invite Justin back to school. Those assholes. They'd thought it was perfectly fine to try sweeping the rape under the carpet until it became clear that Ethan and Chris would probably do jail time for this. Justin was no less the victim of a crime today. But today, he could prove it. Apparently that was all that mattered. What you could prove.

I guess that was true for everyone. Justin knew Brian loved him (or suspected anyway), but he'd needed assurances. And I had been willing to pretend Brian didn't love Justin until there was absolutely no way to deny it. We all were (except Ben). In fact, Justin might try to tell you different, but he needed more than just assurances. The intervention bought Brian some time, a second chance for sure, but, at the end of the day, Justin needed the words. Course, Justin had gotten that and then some. After last night…the last few months…the last three years, nothing would ever be the same. What the heck did you wear to a collaring ceremony anyway? Would Gus be the collar bearer? (giggling now) Oh God. No one'd told Ma yet. She was gonna FLIP!