Before It's Too Late

Rated for what could be considered triggering topics. Written on request from suerum. FIC IS NOW OFFICIALLY FINISHED. This is the last chapter, wrapping up loose ends and whatnot. Thanks for sticking around and reading. OC's are mine, whether or not I want them, GH characters are not. Reviews are awesome. Enjoy!

Chapter 8

A PCU student is to be recognized by both the Mayor of Port Charles and the PCPD with the distinguished 'Citizen Award for Bravery' for the heroic actions and extreme courage shown during the hostage crisis on campus early last month where four people were killed. The student, one Damian Spinelli, who suffered critical wounds in the fallout of attempting to reason with the gunman, was nominated by his fellow classmates. We'll be on location to cover the event this afternoon.


The brief news report that played between last night's sports scores and the weather update aired on Channel 2 and its corresponding radio station at exactly 10:58, went unheard by Damian Spinelli, who was soundly asleep against his lover's chest.

It was not, however, unheard by Jason Morgan. The radio sitting on the bedside table played softly in the background, but the news report had caught his attention for obvious reasons. He smiled down at the younger man curled up in his arms and silently weighed the pros and cons of letting him continue to sleep. If it weren't for the award, they could probably have gotten away with just staying here all day – it wouldn't hurt Spinelli, he'd been having trouble sleeping, up late with nightmares that he'd only just told Jason about. But, as it stood, they had about an hour and a half to get up, get ready, and get to the MetroCourt for the ceremony.

"Spinelli," Jason said quietly, one hand dragging lazily through Spinelli's bed-head hair. "Come on." He continued, pressing a kiss to the top of the younger's head, which was easy enough given that Spinelli's face was buried against Jason's shoulder. "Time to get up."

"Nnngh…" Was the unintelligible reply received in response. Spinelli's very recently un-casted right arm curled and tightened over Jason's chest as a more coherent answer began to form. "Don't want to. The Jackal is far too comfortable to even begin to contemplate the mere idea of moving."

"A little while longer, then." Jason agreed, tightening his own hold on Spinelli. They stayed like that for several long moments, before he broke the peaceful silence. "You still want to do this, right?" It had been a highly debated issue at the start. Someone representing the Mayor had come to General Hospital just days after the incident. Already, the other students had nominated him. Spinelli wasn't sure about it – wasn't sure he wanted to go through what was sure to be a very emotionally wrought event – and Jason had promised to back whatever decision he made. Eventually, the other students convinced Spinelli to go through with the ceremony. Only once he was better, of course.

It had taken three weeks to get released from the hospital. And another four of resting and re-learning the limits of his lungs at the Penthouse and doing physical therapy for his arm before the Doctors – and Jason – had dubbed him fit to do something so stressful. That had been a week ago. Now the day was here.

Spinelli shrugged. "A little too late to stop it now, isn't it?" He answered, and before Jason could suggest catching a plane and going away, or even simply just staying here all day – that it wasn't too late, he amended his statement. "But, yes, I suppose I do."

Jason wasn't entirely convinced, but he let it go. He had supreme veto powers – he could pull Spinelli out of the ceremony at any time if things got too bad. "Then we really need to start moving."

Spinelli frowned as Jason extricated himself from the tangle of limbs and blankets. "I take it back!" He jokingly called as his lover headed for the bathroom to grab a shower. Reluctantly, he climbed out of bed himself and headed after Jason.

A full crowd filled the large conference room at the MetroCourt. Many professors and students from PCU were present, as were several law enforcement officers of various statuses, and a handful of news crews. Friends of Spinelli, and the family and friends of the fallen, were there as well. Spinelli's eight classmates were seated up front - their families and friends just behind them - with Mayor Floyd and Mac Scorpio, as Police Commissioner. Jason was hovering just off to the side of the event, leaning against a nearby wall in case Spinelli needed him.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," the Mayor began, once the event had officially begun. He and Mac stood on the elevated stage at the front of the room, Spinelli beside them. "The events last month at Port Charles University were truly devastating. Four lives were lost to the actions of Richard Aldridge, but were it not for the brave and selfless measures taken by Mr. Damian Spinelli here, the outcome could have been drastically worse. On recommendation from Mr. Spinelli's fellow classmates – James Alvarez, Aiden Connor, Megan Ely, Steven Jansen, Rebecca Lowery, Katie Simms, Emily Tanner, Leah Taylor, and Heather Zucco – and with the full support of the Port Charles Police Department, I am honored to present the Citizen Award for Bravery to Damian Spinelli."

Everyone applauded as Spinelli stepped forward. Mayor Floyd offered him a certificate denoting the award and Mac slid a medal over his head. "Good job, kid." The Commissioner quietly told him, and clapped him lightly on the back before he and the Mayor stepped away.

Nervous and quite self-conscious in front of such a large crowd of people, Spinelli was suddenly thinking this wasn't such a good idea. Should have definitely gone with staying in bed with Jason all day.

But it was definitely too late for that now.

"Thank you." Spinelli said, hands gripping the edges of the podium on the raised stage so tightly that his knuckles turned white. Finally, the applause died down and he could speak. "First, ugh, I think we should have a moment of silence to show respect to those whose lives were claimed in the aforementioned incident. Professor Aaron Killian, Sara Hart, and Nathan and Jack Wiley."

Jason watched on as Spinelli dropped his head to initiate the requested moment of silence and everyone else did the same. It ended a brief moment later and Spinelli was forced to return to his awkward speech. He'd planned out what he wanted to say, had practiced bits of it with Jason, but that was different. He hadn't brought notes with him, either.

"Right. So, I'm not – really sure what I'm doing." Spinelli started, faltering in his words. Jason took a step away from the wall, so he'd be in Spinelli's line of sight, and nodded, urging him on. "I, ugh. I don't believe I really deserve this, in all honesty." A few whispered comments passed between members of the audience who didn't find such a comment terribly fitting, but it didn't matter because it was the truth. "I am not convinced that we," he gestured to the other students from his class and then placed his hand on his own chest, well aware of his proximity to the mostly healed reminders of that evening. "Or especially I should be commended for doing that which is fundamental to our existence - surviving under adverse conditions. After all, what occurred in that room wasn't something any of us expected or went looking for and all we did, any of us, was try and live through it. I was fortunate in that I have had courage and bravery role-modeled for me on a daily basis," here he glanced over at Jason and sent him a small smile, his eyes shining with love. "And perhaps on that night, I was channeling some small speck of that fortitude which enabled me to speak up and try and deflect that which couldn't be truly altered. Can I positively say that if I hadn't engaged Richard Aldridge in dialogue that the outcome would have been worse? I cannot, and conversely I most certainly cannot be sure that if I remained silent some of those in the room might still be with us today."

Spinelli was somber now, as he stared resolutely down at the podium and gathered his thoughts. When he looked up at the audience, the heartbreak clearly evident on his face communicated itself to everyone, and Jason felt his heart twist in empathy as he longed to hold and comfort his lover.

"There are nightmares, and moments in the middle of the day where the memories just take over and we're all back in that room again. I struggle with those unending questions of 'what if' and 'if only' on a daily basis and I expect I shall do so for the rejoinder of my life, for there will not be, cannot be, any resolution to being inadvertently forced to play a role in such a life altering and traumatic event as we all were." He swallowed, and you could have heard a pin drop in the conference room. Many people were crying silently, especially those who had been witness to the events of that awful night.

But, now Spinelli looked around the room and instead of avoiding everyone's eyes, he met them squarely, staring straight into their souls and commanding them to hear him. "Yet, the truth is that I... we," again he gestured toward his fellow students, "did survive. We will live, and we will one day have our own futures ensured in the existence of our progeny. So, it is our duty to live our lives as best we can, fully in and of the moment so that we honor on a daily basis those whose lives were foreshortened by the swift injustice of disloyal projectiles who answer to no one but the immutable laws of physics and the tainted hand of paranoia. So, I suggest that you go out and feel the sunshine on your face and declare your affection to those that matter to you because there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, and there are no guarantees. There is only this singular moment and it shall never come again, so I implore you to take advantage of it before it's too late."

Abruptly, he stepped back from the podium and there was silence for a long moment as the mystified audience absorbed the fact that his speech had reached its conclusion. Then the applause began, loud and sustained, but Spinelli was no longer on the raised platform to receive it.

He had stepped off and was currently taking his own advice. Spinelli was wrapped up tightly in Jason's arms, kissing and being kissed with a breathless passion. And as Jason led him away from the crowd, amidst the raucous catcalls and whistles of approval that had morphed out of the applause as a result of their display, Spinelli realized that the knowledge that he was truly loved, was all he needed, all he had ever wanted, and in the end analysis it had been in front of him all along.

So live like you mean it
Love 'til you feel it
It's all that we need in our lives
So stand on the edge with me
Hold back your fear and see
Nothing is real 'til it's gone

And hold on before it's too late
We'll run till we leave this behind
Don't fall just be who you are
It's all that we need in our lives…

It's all that we need in our lives