Disclaimer : I do not own any of the characters mentioned herein. This is pure fiction, written for entertainment only.
This is the last chapter. I have a new fic coming up this weekend, don't forget to catch it! I want to thank everyone for their support. You have been nothing but wonderful! I love you!
I will be starting a new job next week. It pays better but the working hours are longer and I have to work on alternate Saturdays as well. *sigh* I may not be able to post two chapters a week in that case. I'll see how it works out.
Now, on with the story!
He didn't want to wake up. He embraced the cold darkness, welcoming the peace and silence that came with it. Within, he could feel no pain, his mind a total blank, devoid of any memory. Time had lost its significance. He was contented to just drift in the darkness, allowing it to overwhelm him and take him further into the dark realm. And then he heard them calling out to him. They were mere whispers, urging him to turn back, to return to the realm of light. He had begged them silently to leave him alone. He just couldn't deal with the pain, with the haunting memories that plagued him. He just wanted to forget and become non-existent. And they had finally let him be. But, memories of his past fleeted through his mind. They brought him back to his early childhood. He could see himself as a toddler, laughing in the arms of his mother as she lifted him in the air. She put him down and said, "Go back, Jeffrey, you have so much to live for," and smiled lovingly at him. The next vision was that of his dad. He smiled and waved him off as he rode away on his bike, shouting, "Goodbye son, we'll see you when the time is right." Matty entered his dreams next in tears, urging him not to go. He said he had failed him and would never forgive himself if he lost him. Jeff wanted desperately to go to him and comfort him, but he couldn't speak or move. A white light shrouded his Matty, yet he could still hear him calling to him from within. He struggled to go towards it but made little leeway, he simply had no strength left. Out of nowhere, lights of many colors appeared and surrounded him. They carried him purposefully towards the white light. Many familiar voices called from within and they became a roar in his head. He found himself fading in and out of consciousness. He started to feel pain but they soon became tolerable. The bad memories came back to haunt him and he wanted to crawl back into the dark and hide from them. The voices grew stronger. He recognized them. They lent him comfort and soothed him with their presence. He could feel their warmth and love enveloping him. And amidst the pain, the memories and the love, he felt another familiar presence. He couldn't help being drawn to him. He felt the warmth of his touch and was comforted by it. But then, hot tears fell on his face and he heard his cry of despair. He wanted to wake up, to be with him but he wasn't strong enough. He felt those safe arms leave him and warm lips touched his. And then, he was all alone. He urged himself to wake. He had dwelled long enough in the unconscious state. He had to go back because he was loved. It was reason enough to live.
Shannon's eyes drooped for the umpteenth time. He was at Jeff's bedside. It was almost two in the morning and he was exhausted from lack of sleep. Mark and the rest had left about three hours ago, they had yet to return. Matt told him that they had some business to take care of and wanted him to stay with Jeff until they got back.
Shannon rubbed his eyes and yawned, stretching his arms above his head. He wished he had a comfy bed to lie on. He turned towards Jeff and noted that the color was slowly returning to his cheeks. He looked better than when he was brought in. Shannon tucked the covers around him before going to the bathroom to take a leak.
He came out two minutes later and went back to sit down beside the bed. It struck him then that Jeff's right arm was now on top the covers, he had moved! Shannon jumped up from his seat and peered at Jeff closely. When he detected no movement, he was disappointed. Maybe, it was just a spontaneous reaction. Shannon sighed and sat back down, preparing for a long night ahead. Just as he was about to lay his head on his arms to take a nap, he saw Jeff's fingers twitched. He gasped and ran out to the hallway and started shouting for the doctor.
The nurse on duty hurried towards him and shushed him up, "Please, sir, you'll wake up everyone! You have to keep it down!"
"My friend, Jeff, I think he's waking up! Go and get a doctor!" he told her excitedly. As the nurse hurried off, Shannon went back to the room to Jeff's side. He bent over Jeff and in a loud whisper, called out to his friend, "Jeff! Can you hear me?" and he saw a reaction. Jeff's lids fluttered and then, a whimper escaped him.
"Someone, get a doctor!" Shannon yelled at the top of his lungs before grasping Jeff's hand in his. Seconds later, a doctor and nurse hurried into the room.
"He's coming to!" Shannon informed them in a rush before stepping aside to let the doctor examine Jeff. He waited impatiently and was rewarded when Jeff slowly opened his eyes, moaning feebly.
"Easy boy," the doctor advised as he checked Jeff's vital signs. He smiled as he removed the stethoscope from his chest and spoke kindly, "You have lost a lot of blood. You need plenty of rest to get your strength back. I want you to lie down and don't try to get up. If you need help, just press the call button and the nurse will assist you."
He turned to Shannon and said, "He's going to be alright. Just make sure he stays in bed."
Shannon nodded obediently and said, "I'll do that, doc. Is there a phone I can use to call his brother?"
"You can use the one down the hall at the nurses' station. Go ahead, I'll stay here until you get back," the doctor told him.
As Shannon hastened to call Matt, the doctor spoke gently to Jeff, "I'm Doctor Wilbert. How do you feel? Any dizzy spells or disorientation?"
"I feel weak," Jeff whispered.
"That comes with losing too much blood. We have given you a blood transfusion but it takes time for your body to regain its strength. Do you remember what happened?" the doctor asked kindly.
Jeff closed his eyes. He remembered but he just didn't want to talk about it. The doctor reached out and touched him on the shoulder, "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, I understand."
Shannon walked in and the doctor said to Jeff, "I'll come by again to check on you. Rest well."
He bade them good night and left. Shannon sat down on the bed and told Jeff that Matt was on his way. Jeff gave him a slight nod and closed his eyes wearily. He didn't notice the awkward glances Shannon threw at him. For the first time in his life, Shannon was tongue-tied. He wished he knew what to say to him. He didn't want to end up saying something to remind Jeff of his ordeal, so he chose to remain silent. He was so engrossed in his own thoughts that he didn't realize that Jeff was looking at him.
"Shanny, how did I get here?" Jeff asked softly, startling him out of his thoughts.
He sighed with relief, something he could talk about. He obliged and told Jeff what he knew, from when they found him missing at Mark's ranch, to Randy calling to inform them that Cody had kidnapped him and finally, how Mark and Matt had rushed him to the hospital after Randy found out his location.
"You almost died, Jeffy. We were so worried about you. I finally met Randy Orton and I have to admit, I was wrong about him. He looks like a decent guy," Shannon said, looking slightly abashed.
"Randy was here?" Jeff asked in surprise.
Shannon nodded, "He and two other guys. They flew in from New York. And, guess who else came to see you – John Cena. I don't think he has given up yet. You haven't seen the last of him. He was downright furious when he found out what happened to you. And Mark is really scary when he got angry. I thought he was going to tear someone's head off! Those are pretty decent guys you have, Jeff, they really care for you!"
Jeff let out a small smile. He was glad to hear that his favorite people were there for him. But where were they now? Before he could ask, voices were heard coming from the outside and Matt and the others rushed in.
"Jeff!" Matt held back his tears as he hugged his brother to him fiercely. Jeff simply laid his head on his shoulder and closed his eyes, but tears escaped from them and rolled down his cheeks silently. Matt rubbed his back in soothing circles and spoke in an emotionally charged voice, "I almost lost you!" and let his tears fall freely. The brothers held onto each other, crying silently in each other's arms. Finally, Matt released him and said, "I'm never going to let you out of my sight from now on!" He wiped the tears gently from Jeff's face and said, "These guys have been our mountain of support right from the start, they've been praying for you.
He got up and let each man take turns to give Jeff a hug. It finally came down to Mark and Cena. Mark went first. He stroked his cheek softly and said, "You gave us all a fright! I don't know what I'll do if I lost you!" and wrapped his arms protectively around him.
Jeff hugged him tight and whispered against his chest, "Thank you for everything you've done for me and Matt. I can actually sense your presence over the other side. You gave me the strength to return."
Mark smiled and kissed the top of his head before letting him go. He stood aside and Cena approached the bed. He looked down, looking ashamed and said in a small voice, "I've been behaving like an asshole towards you. I'm so sorry for the things I'd said, I didn't mean them." He looked up into Jeff's eyes and said, "Please forgive me? I'll do anything to make it up to you, just don't hate me. I can't live with myself if you do."
Smiling, Jeff opened his arms wide to receive him and with a sigh of relief, Cena moved into them. Holding Jeff's head to rest against his shoulder, he caressed his hair lovingly and whispered, "If anything had happened to you, I don't think I would be able to carry on."
Jeff murmured against his chest, "Oh John, please don't say such things. I want you to know that I could never hate you, and I've forgiven you already."
Cena pressed a kiss to his temple and whispered gratefully, "Thank you! You don't know how much that means to me!"
As they moved apart, Shannon asked, "Where's Randy and his sidekicks? I thought they were with you." The silence that followed was deafening. Everyone looked at each other awkwardly and Jeff knew they were hiding something from him.
"What is it?" he asked and when no one ventured to answer him, he looked over to Mark. He knew that Mark would tell him the truth.
"Mark?" he threw the question at him and the large Texan met his eyes squarely. He hesitated shortly before finally saying, "Randy is settling scores with Cody Rhodes at the moment."
"Can you take me to him? I want to see Randy." He tried to climb off the bed but Cena held him gently by the shoulders, "No, Jeff. You can't see him now."
"Later then?" he asked hopefully and Cena gave him a sympathetic look and shook his head slowly, "I don't think so."
Jeff looked at him, confused. Just then, Mark's phone rang and he answered. He looked over at Jeff and told the caller that he was awake. As he listened attentively, his expression turned solemn and he said gravely, "Wait, he needs to hear it from you." He took a few steps forward and as he offered his phone to Jeff, he said, "It's Randy."
As soon as Jeff took it from him, he motioned to the others and they left quietly, giving Jeff his privacy.
"Randy?" Jeff spoke in a hushed whisper.
"Jeff." Randy's voice came across on a strangled note.
"Where are you, Randy? Is everything alright?"
There was silence and then, "How can it be alright when you almost died! I feel responsible for what happened! When I saw you lying there, white as a sheet, I thought …" and his voice broke off.
"Randy?" Jeff whispered as he clung to the phone, waiting for him to continue.
"I thought you weren't going to make it," he said quietly.
"Oh Randy, I'm here, aren't I?"
Randy shook his head, "I can't lose you this way, Jeff. I almost lost you because I failed to see what was coming. That bastard called me to hear you scream!" Jeff heard him let out an angry growl and then, "You don't have to worry about him anymore!"
Jeff swallowed before asking, "Did you …" but Randy didn't let him finish.
"You don't need to know the details. He and his hired men won't be able to hurt you again! I will make sure of that!"
In a boat far out at sea, Randy gave the signal for the boom to be lowered. The three men who hung from it by were kept miraculously alive with drugs even though their limbs had been chopped off by Randy himself. They were still very much aware of their surroundings. They cried out in terror as they watched the sharks circling beneath them as they were lowered to the waters below. The sharks were attracted by the blood dripping from their bodies.
Jeff found himself crying with relief. Randy had eliminated his demons, they couldn't hurt him anymore!
"Please don't cry, baby. I need you to calm down, there's something important I need to tell you." Randy flung the blood soaked axe into the waters and turned away wearily from the frenzied feeding and screams. He wanted to make sure they were awake when the sharks fed on them. He headed down to the boat's cabin and sat down to wait for Jeff's sobs to subside.
After several moments, he spoke quietly, "You know I love you more than life itself, don't you?" and Jeff whispered, "Yes, I do. I love you too, Randy!"
Randy felt his tears fall but he kept his voice strong, "I know you do, but I want you to forget me, Jeff."
"Randy?" Jeff whispered fearfully.
"I need you to listen to me very carefully, baby. I've said all I needed to say at the hospital but you were unconscious. Mark told me that I have to tell you myself."
Jeff held his breath and waited.
Randy swallowed and took a couple of deep breaths. His heart was breaking at what he was about to say. "I make a lot of enemies in what I do, it comes with the territory. I can look after myself well enough but I can't protect you from them. I don't know who and when these people will strike again, Jeff. It can be anyone. They'll use you and hurt you to get back at me and I can't have that!"
"Randy, please …" Jeff started to plead with him but Randy shushed him up, "Baby, I know what you want to say but, it's not that simple. I know we agree to keep in touch but I can't take the risk. I put you in danger each time I speak to you or see you, my enemies watch my every move! I'm sorry, but this will be the last time I will talk to you. I cannot put you in harm's way by being selfish. I want you to stay safe. You do understand, don't you, baby?"
"No, I don't!" Jeff gasped as he burst into tears. "Please, don't do this, don't turn me away! I love you, Randy!"
"And I love you too! That is why I have to do this! Please don't make this harder than it is, Jeff," Randy told him in a choked sob. It pained him to do this but he had no other choice.
"Please, just leave everything behind and come stay with me and Matty. We can make it work! Please, Randy, say you will!" Jeff pleaded with him between hard sobs.
"I can't! I need to stay here to keep an eye on Dusty. I have to make sure that he doesn't try anything to get to you. He's not going to let me off if he finds out what I did but I can deal with him. But I can't do that if I'm not here. Please, baby, try to understand, you have to let me go!"
"NO! Please don't go! I need you, Randy!" His heartbreaking sobs drew the others' attention and they opened the door and looked in with concern.
"Please Jeff, just forget me. You'll find someone else to love. Just remember this, I will always love you! Goodbye Jeff!" and Randy hanged up before breaking down completely.
"Noooo …!" Jeff shook his head furiously, crying hysterically as the others rushed in. He collapsed in Matt's arms and continued to sob helplessly. He remained inconsolable. Kennedy finally left to get the doctor and soon, Jeff was sedated. As he felt himself slipping away into an induced sleep, he whimpered Randy's name and was soon engulfed in darkness.
"He'll be out for several hours. Why don't you grab some sleep in the waiting area?" the doctor advised them before leaving.
"I'll stay here with Jeff," Shannon offered and took Jeff's hand in his, looking forlornly at his friend.
Matt nodded and the rest trooped out slowly. Instead of going to the waiting area, they headed to the cafeteria and ordered coffee. It had been a long night. Nobody spoke for a while. Finally, Kennedy said, "I don't know how he does it. He's like a chameleon. It's like he has two personalities."
"Don't doubt his love for Jeff, he truly loves him!" Matt said quietly.
"We all know that but he has a really mean streak hidden within," Kennedy said. "Don't tell me you're not afraid for Jeff if things didn't turn out the way it did. You saw what he did to those guys! He hacked off their limbs!"
"Now hold on! We are sworn to secrecy! Why are you bringing it up?" Hunter gave him an angry look and Kennedy looked down. He had seen many things in his life but what he witnessed at the dock was something he didn't want to remember.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking," Kennedy finally apologized.
"If you have something to say, just get if off your chest and don't bring it up again!" Mark spoke up.
Everyone turned to him as he said, "I know that some of you do not condone what Randy did. You're entitled to your opinion but I have this to say, I can understand why he did it. It was the only way he can guarantee that they wouldn't go after Jeff again. He did it to protect him. And I would have done the same thing myself!" he added on a final note.
There was silence and then Cena piped in, "And so would I. Each and every one of us will do anything to protect our loved ones. You don't know what you will do until you're confronted with the situation. Don't forget that they almost killed Jeff!" he spoke emphatically.
"I agree with Mark and John," Matt said. "If Randy didn't do what he did before we got there, I would have killed them myself!"
"But he cut off their limbs and injected them with morphine to numb the pain and keep them alive. He tortured them slowly, it was downright cruel! He could have just killed them with a shot in the head!" Morrison objected.
"They took turns to gang rape my brother and left him to die slowly! What do you call that?" Matt's eyes narrowed with anger.
"Calm down, Matt. We're just talking. Don't take it the wrong way," Glenn tried to placate him.
"Our dad was shot to death, our house got blown up and my brother was tormented and raped and left to die! And you're telling me that it was cruel to kill those bastards the way Randy did? I wish Randy had waited for me. I would like to cut out their black hearts and feed it to them!" Matt yelled angrily.
"Everyone here agrees that they deserve to die, Matt. Randy took it upon himself to mete out justice the way he sees fit. Some of us may not agree with his methods but I speak for myself when I say, I'm glad he put an end to it. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is closed. What I'm worried about now is Jeff," Mark said, his brows furrowing with worry.
"He's not going to get over Randy any time soon," Kennedy said in a woeful tone.
"He will, in time, with everyone's support," Kevin said with a sigh. "I have to say this about Randy Orton, though," and he looked at everyone, "He has a lot of heart in him. He's hurting just as much as Jeff but he did the right thing in letting Jeff go. I wished I've met the man earlier and convinced him to switch sides. He would have made one hell of an FBI agent!"
Three months later ……….........
Jeff watched their kites took to the sky. He was seated on the ground, Indian style and holding the ball of strings in one hand. Occasionally, he would let loose more string and watched his kite go higher. He painted it himself and some others. Each of them had a different picture. He was flying a fiery orange and red dragon with green scales. Shannon was standing a distance from him, teaching Hunter and Shawn's kids the tricks in kite flying. They were shouting excitedly as their kites went higher and higher. Heather and Greg were both six year olds. Hunter and Shawn decided that it would be easier to cope with both starting school at the same time, both hitting puberty at the same time and both starting to date at the same time. Yep, they thought they could save themselves a lot of trouble by just going through everything once! Smart huh!
After making sure that their kites were safely aloft, Shannon told them to just hold on to their strings and let the wind do the work. He left them to their own devices and went to sit down beside Jeff. "They're pretty well behaved, for now!" and shot Jeff an impish grin.
Jeff punched him friendly on his arm and warned, "Don't give them any funny ideas! Hunter will rip your head off if those kids start giving him hell!"
Shannon feigned a look of hurt and said, "Are you saying I'm a bad influence?" and Jeff nodded and grinned, "I know you, Shanny, you're always up to no good!"
Shannon giggled and put a finger to his lips and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, "Don't say anything but I told the kids to play a trick on their dads. Hunter needs to loosen up and Shawn, well, I guess he'll take it in stride."
"Shanny, don't say I didn't warn you," Jeff told him as he lay on his back and Shannon joined him, giving him the details and swearing him into secrecy.
Meanwhile, Matt and Kevin were busy turning the meat at the barbeque pit. They were catching up with each other. Kevin had met someone two months ago. Upon his retirement, he had taken a vacation to the Maldives and met his current flame, Karen on the trip. She was currently helping Shannon's mom in the kitchen, taking out the cookies and cake she baked for the special occasion, the Hardys' housewarming.
Hunter and Shawn were somewhere in the woods. They said they wanted to explore and they left about half an hour ago. They had yet to make their reappearance. Those horn dogs must be making up for lost time by making out somewhere! With two kids living with them, they had to curtail their amorous activities and be more discreet. They were, therefore, very grateful to Shannon for offering to take them off their hands for a while and had lost themselves deliberately in the woods.
Dave, Kennedy, Glenn and Morrison were seated at the long picnic table, playing a game of poker. Occasionally, cussing could be heard when they had a bad hand.
Cena peered from the woodshed and whispered, "All clear! We can move out now! Are you all set?"
"I will be just as soon as you give me a hand here!"
Cena turned to see Mark throwing the tarpaulin over the newly polished deep blue Ford Focus station wagon. A green Honda X11 motorbike was parked next to it. It had yellow and purple bow ribbons tied to its handles. The guys had chipped in to get them as housewarming gifts for Matt and Jeff. They were only delivered last night after some of them brought the brothers out for a night out.
Cena moved to help Mark cover up both vehicles. Both men had excused themselves earlier, saying they were going to the store to get more beer for the party but had in fact, went to the shed to wipe and polish the vehicles. They cleared up the shed and hastened out, going up to the house to clean up before joining the others outside.
"I thought you guys went to get more beer," Matt asked as he noticed they came back empty handed.
"Huh, they were all out of beer," Cena said the first thing that came to his mind and Mark's mouth twitched. He couldn't believe what Cena just said.
Matt looked at them in disbelief but chose not to pursue the matter. "We can start eating once Hunter and Shawn get here. Where are they, anyways?" he asked, looking around.
"They're screwing around somewhere," Kennedy informed them nonchalantly as he called in his cards and got up.
"Watch your language around the kids, Ken," Dave warned him in a low tone, glancing up to check the kids weren't close by.
"Sorry," Kennedy muttered and went to join the rest at the barbeque pit. He deftly picked up a piece of chicken and chomped on it, "Lets not wait, I'm hungry!" he spoke with his mouth full.
Cena wrapped his arm around his shoulder and chuckled, "You're always hungry, Ken. Better watch that waistline of yours or Dave may look elsewhere for a more attractive partner!" he teased.
"Hey!" Kennedy pushed him off, "Dave loves me the way I am! Isn't that right, honey?" he addressed his boyfriend.
"Of course! I just love those love handles growing on you!" Dave took his eyes away from his cards and grinned at him.
At that, Kennedy frowned and checked his waist and realizing that he just got punk, said, "Just for that, I'm eating your share tonight!" and proceeded to chomp on another piece of chicken.
Matt shook his head and looked over to check on his brother. He and Shannon were huddled close together, whispering and giggling. "What are the two up to?" he muttered and gestured towards them.
Everyone turned their heads and Cena said, "Don't know but I can find out!" and he went to join them. As soon as he left, Kevin asked Mark, "So, how are things going with the two of you and Jeff?"
"We've called a truce since both of us didn't want to put any pressure on Jeff until he's ready," Mark informed him but his eyes were trained on Jeff. He smiled when Jeff rolled on the ground, bursts of giggles escaping him as he tried to get away from Cena and Shannon who were tickling him.
"I'm glad you guys came to keep him company. He has been brooding in his room since we moved in. He hasn't been the same," Matt told them in a worried tone.
"It has only been three months, Matt. He needs more time and with Mark and John around to lavish their attention on him, he'll bounce back in no time!" Kennedy said convincingly.
Matt looked dubious but Mark said, "Don't worry too much, we'll keep him busy."
"You can't be serious!" Dave said as he folded his game and joined them. "Look, if there's a time to make your move, it's right now!" He had overheard their conversation. "You need to court and flirt with him and take his mind off Orton. And with the two of you doing the chasing, Jeff will be kept on his toes that he won't have time for anything else!"
Mark looked half-convinced and Dave taunted, "John is making his move, if you haven't noticed," and Mark whipped his head towards them. And true enough, Cena had picked Jeff up on his back and was running around in mad hap fashion, making Jeff laugh so hard that tears were rolling down his cheeks.
"I'll talk to you guys later," and Mark immediately made a beeline towards them.
"What are you doing?" Kennedy asked Dave. He had one hand on his hip and was tapping his foot on the ground.
"What?" Dave asked him and Kennedy shook his head. "We're supposed to help John get Jeff!" he reminded him.
Dave grinned and said, "As far as I'm concerned, those two get my votes! I'm not taking any sides!"
"Hypocrite!" Kennedy muttered under his breath.
"No, he's not!" Glenn said as he and Morrison joined them. "I believe we call it healthy competition. Mark's my brother and I want him to get Jeff but I know he welcomes the challenge. And, I do believe he's pitting his skills against Cena right now!" he said with a chuckle.
The guys turned to see that Mark had stolen Jeff from Cena and was now running away with him in his arms. Shannon was jumping up and down excitedly with the kids, calling out his support for Mark and then Cena.
"I haven't seen him laugh ever since this started," Matt said quietly but a smile lit up his face as he watched the three men fall to the ground, exhausted with their exertions. Bubbles came out of nowhere and jumped on top of them, yipping happily and licking their faces.
"He's going to be alright, Matt," Kevin said and patted him reassuringly on the shoulder and Matt nodded and smiled, "I believe he is getting there."
Randy put down his binoculars and sat back to lean against the tree. He was alone and dressed to camouflage himself in the woods. He had been anxious to find out how Jeff was and what he had just witnessed brought a relieved smile to his face.
He frowned suddenly. 'Mark as well?' He knew all along about Cena's interest in Jeff but Mark? And then, he let out a soft chuckle and shook his head. He couldn't object, those two men had his endorsement. "My poor baby is going to have his hands full!" he grinned to himself as he lost himself in the woods. As he trudged away, he carried in his heart the knowledge that his loved one was happy and well. It was all he needed to know. It was enough.
** THE END **
Reviews to this last chapter would be greatly appreciated.