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Brian looked down at his sleeping lover and brushed a lock of hair away from his forehead. Justin's head had been shaved completely when the doctors had determined that they needed to do surgery to prevent Justin's crushed skull bone from putting more pressure on his already injured brain. Then there had been the multiple times they had opened up his head to drain the excess blood from his brain. Now, three months later, Justin's hair was finally growing back to what it had been before.
Brian sighed. Justin's hair might have begun growing again, but everything had changed in the months since the attack. Nothing was the same. Justin, the boy he had danced with at the prom that night, the boy he had met under a streetlight on Liberty Avenue, was gone. The doctors and therapists had been working with Brian and Justin's family to help them understand and accept the changes in Justin even as they helped Justin adjust to his new life. Of course, Justin couldn't remember the man he was before. He couldn't remember anything before waking up after the surgery.
That wasn't completely true. He remembered Brian. He couldn't remember specific events and had no memories of them together, but Justin recognized Brian as soon as he woke. It had been a moment of hope for everyone present that had been quickly dashed when it became clear that he didn't recognize his mother or any of the friends who came to see him in the days to follow.
He also remembered his art. Again, there were no specific memories, but one of the first questions Justin had asked the doctors upon waking was if he would be able to draw still. Since then, his sketchpad and pencils had rarely left his hands. He sketched everything and everyone he came across. He had even taken to writing little notes to himself about the person in each sketch and little details about their relationship to him.
Justin's past memory wasn't the only thing affected. His basic knowledge was in tact, but he had difficulty accessing that knowledge quickly and it took longer for him to learn new concepts or process new information. His speech was slower and more deliberate, but deteriorated to a stammer when he was nervous or upset. He often grew agitated and frustrated by these limitations, but that was another part of the long term effects he would have to accept.
Brian, for his part, had spent every second at the hospital until Justin had woken up after the surgery and had ordered him to finally go home and get some rest. Since then, he had spent almost all of his free time with Justin. They would talk about the people Justin couldn't remember, they would do Justin's exercises together, they would take slow walks through the hospital corridors as Justin regained his strength, and sometimes they just sat and watched television together. When visitors came, Brian would make room for them but rarely left Justin's side. Only Jennifer was there as much as Brian, though she usually took days when Molly was in school and let Brian have his evenings with Justin.
In fact, Jennifer had just left, informing Brian that Justin had been given medication for another migraine but would probably wake soon. She was off to pick up Molly from a friend's house before taking the young girl to visit her father for the weekend.
Jennifer's divorce had become inevitable after the assault. Craig Taylor, a man who had once doted upon his only son, had only come to the hospital once to see Justin. When he realized that his son could not remember him but could remember Brian, he was infuriated and had not returned since. He made no move to contact Justin, nor had he asked for updates on his condition from Jennifer or the hospital staff. The bastard had removed himself completely from Justin's life.
The only good thing to come from Craig Taylor's withdrawal from Justin's life had come in the way of financial support. Because of his neglect, Jennifer had been able to petition for control of Justin's trust fund, which had been set up by Craig's father and contributed to by Craig and both Craig and Jennifer's families over the years. The divorce decree had also given Jennifer child support for Justin's care until he was either twenty-five or able to support himself. With the way things were going, it would be quite some time before Justin would be able to support himself. His medical bills alone were astronomical, but Craig's insurance for Justin was still in effect at the time of the incident, so that was a minor concern.
Brian sat back in his chair and studied Justin. The attack had been brutal and without cause or warning. He was grateful, though, that the parking garage had security cameras. The trial had been quick and decisive. Chris Hobbs' lawyer had tried to muddy the waters with lies about Justin and Brian, inciting anti-gay rhetoric, but that video had been damning. The jury, even if they had been completely homophobic, could not ignore the fact that Hobbs had attacked them, unprovoked and premeditated—after all, who brings a baseball bat to their prom? Even the homophobic judge had not been able to ignore the law, and had been forced to sentence Hobbs, who was eighteen at the time of the crime and found guilty of attempted murder, to the mandatory minimum of twenty-five years in prison. For once, the law had worked in a gay man's favor.
Jennifer, on behalf of Justin, was also suing the school in civil court. Her lawyer was a shark and Brian had no doubt that she would make the school pay. It was their fault that all of this had come about because of their anti-gay stance, and it was their responsibility to protect the students who attended school functions. Their attitudes and teachings had contributed to Hobbs' belief that he could get away with shit like this.
Even if she didn't win, Brian had no doubt that Jennifer would make that school pay.
"Hey," Justin smiled groggily up at Brian, bringing the older man out of his reverie. "You're here."
"Where else would I be on a Friday night?" Brian asked as he leaned forward and brushed a kiss to Justin' forehead.
"Oh I don't know," Justin smiled. "You could be off at Babylon picking up tricks."
Brian smirked. "I suppose I could, but I've already found my trick for the night."
Justin sighed and used the control to raise the bed into a sitting position. "If only."
"Hey, none of that self-pity shit," Brian scolded, "or I won't give you your surprises."
Justin's face lit up. "Surprise? What is it?"
"Not telling," Brian said as he shook his head. "You have to wait until after dinner."
Justin deflated slightly. "More creamed crap on toast?"
Brian didn't have time to answer before the door swung open and Gail, the night duty nurse came in with a tray. "Good, you're awake. Dinner is served. And I don't want to hear any complaints about it. You'll eat everything on this tray or you'll have me to answer to."
"Yes, Gail," Justin sighed. Gail set the tray on Justin's bed table and Justin grimaced before lifting the cover. Justin's eyes lit up when he saw what was there. "What? How?"
Gail smiled and nodded at Brian. "He talked to your doctor and arranged the whole thing."
Brian just shrugged. "Hey, I was just sick of hearing you whine about the food in this place. And Doctor Ramos said she was going to take you off the restricted diet today anyway."
Justin grinned and dug into the greasy hamburger and fries from Liberty Diner that Brian had picked up on his way over. "The only thing that would make this better would be a strawberry milkshake."
"Bitch, bitch, bitch," Brian sighed melodramatically.
Gail laughed at their antics and went to the door. "I'll just let you two enjoy your meal. And Brian, I know the other surprise you have in mind. Just be careful, okay?"
"Yeah, yeah," Brian huffed. "I got it all from Doc Ramos. I'll be careful." Gail glared at his casual dismissal, but left anyway.
"Be careful with what?" Justin asked as he dipped his fry into ketchup.
"All part of the surprise," Brian said as he stole a fry from Justin's tray.
"Hey!" Justin protested as he swatted at Brian's hand. "Get your own!"
"I don't eat that shit," Brian denied and then bit the greasy French fry in two.
"Sure you don't," Justin said. "You mean you don't order this shit for yourself. You're perfectly happy stealing it from my plate, however."
"Somebody has been blabbing again," Brian growled. "It was Emmett, wasn't it?"
Justin grinned. "Not telling. Besides, I like knowing these little quirks about you. About us."
"I'll tell you anything you need to know," Brian said. "As long as it doesn't make me look bad. Now, tell me what had you so worked up today? Your mom said you'd had a rough day."
Justin's smile faded a bit and he shrugged. "It wasn't anything specific. Just sick of being cooped up in here. Sick of therapy and tests and the food. Sick of being a burden to everybody. I just want to go home, but I don't even know where home is."
Brian nodded. They'd had this conversation before. "Well, I'll share part of your surprise if you promise to finish your dinner." Justin nodded and deliberately picked up his burger. "Obviously, I talked with Doctor Ramos today. Not only is she lifting your dietary restriction, but she's also set a date for your release."
Justin dropped the burger on the tray and swallowed hard. "Really?"
Brian nodded. "As long as there are no further complications, you can get out of this place on Sunday. You'll still have to go to outpatient therapy, both physical and occupational, as well as regular follow-up visits with Doctor Ramos, but you'll be home. One step closer to getting past all this."
"One step closer to getting on with my life," Justin smiled. "Thanks. I really needed that news. Where will I be living? With you or with Mom?"
Brian was still unused to this change in Justin, the way he simply spoke what came to mind with little ability to censor himself. In the past, Justin would have hedge around the issue and manipulated things to get his way. Now, he simply asked outright. "My place if you want. Jennifer and I have discussed this. If you want to stay with me, she'll come over during the day to check up on you and take you to your appointments while I work. At least until you are comfortable getting around on your own again."
Justin nodded and ate the last bite of his burger. "Alright. I'd rather stay with you, anyway. Molly still makes me nervous. Now, what is my other surprise?"
Brian tossed a small box to Justin and stood up. "Open it." While Justin pulled the ribbon off, Brian walked to the door and locked it.
Justin pulled out two condoms and a small tube of lube. He looked up at Brian and grinned. "Does this mean what I think it does?"
"You've been cleared for more than just greasy cheeseburgers," Brian smirked. "Now I suggest you lay back and get comfortable, because I plan to take my time and enjoy this opportunity."
"Is this where I lived before?" Justin said as he walked around the loft looking at all the small details. He came to the drawing he had done of Brian their first night together, not that Justin could remember. "I drew this, didn't I?"
"The first night we met," Brian said. "You gave it to the GLC for their art show and I bought it. And yes you did live here for a while, but things were different then and you went to live with Debbie and Vic for a while."
"Why were they different?" Justin asked as he went to sit beside Brian who was sitting on the sofa.
"I know everyone has told you how… wild I am," Brian started a bit uncomfortably. "I thought that love was bullshit, and I swore that I would never grow up into a boring adult. When you came along, you sort of took over my life. A part of me welcomed the changes you were causing. The other part of me fought you every step of the way. I didn't want to grow up. I didn't want to grow old. I didn't want to be in love, especially with a seventeen year old twink who could beat me at my own game and seemed to be able to read me better than I could read myself."
Justin reached for Brian's hand. "So we fought?"
Brian squeezed Justin's hand. "We didn't really fight. I just held you at arms length until I kicked you out and tried to eject you from my life. Fortunately, you are more stubborn than anyone I've ever met and refused to give up on me. It got worse before it got better, but eventually I realized that I needed you in my life. You asked me to go with you to your prom and I refused, but…"
"I did some crazy shit that almost cost me my life and it made me realize a few things," Brian shrugged. "So I went to your prom and interrupted your date with Daphne. I had decided to just give in to what I wanted even more than my youth or my freedom. I was going to ask you to move back in, but I wanted to wait until after the prom. And then…"
"And then," Justin agreed and they were both silent for long minutes as they remembered all that had happened since that night. "Tell me about the night we met."
Brian laughed, the tension leaving his body. "I've told you this five times already."
"Brian, you know how my memory is," Justin pouted.
"That's bullshit. I'll bet you can recite the story as well as anyone by now," Brian said, but he was still smiling. "Alright, I'll tell you again. I was at Babylon with Mikey, Ted and Emmett enjoying a typical night."
"Read: getting your cock sucked in the back room," Justin put in.
"Yes," Brian smirked. "Mikey and the others wanted to go, so when I was finished in the backroom I met them outside. I don't remember what we were talking about precisely, but I do remember heading for my jeep. That's when I saw you under the streetlight. You were wearing a jean jacket and looked so lost, but were trying not to look scared."
"I bet you made that part up," Justin said playfully as he laid his head on Brian's shoulder. "Why would I be scared?"
"Because you were out alone in an unfamiliar part of town," Brian shrugged. "Because you'd never seen the Pittsburgh gay scene up close. Because you were a virgin looking to get laid. Take your pick. But I'm not making that up, you were scared. You were also being so fucking brave. And when our eyes met, I knew that I had to take you home with me. I had to be the one to introduce you to the delights of sex."
"You were still horny," Justin interpreted.
"That too," Brian laughed and stroked Justin's arm. "We came here and you were so nervous. You lied about being experienced, but your body language and complete naiveté gave you away. You just about creamed your jeans when I pulled off my shirt and poured water over myself to cool down. We went to bed and were just getting into it when the phone rang. I answered it and found out that while I was out having a grand time, my son had been born. And then you came all over my duvet."
"If it was my first time, you should have realized I would have little to no control," Justin pointed out haughtily, not at all embarrassed since he couldn't actually remember doing such a thing.
"I should have," Brian agreed wryly. "And I probably shouldn't have kept jerking you off while on the phone. Oh well. Live and learn. Anyway, I got dressed and met up with Mikey and we all went go to the hospital. You came with me, met the munchers and named my son."
"And Lindsey and Mel allowed that?" Justin asked just as he had each time Brian had told the story.
"Well, it was more a matter of breaking a tie between the two over Abraham and Gus."
"Abraham would get the kid creamed on the playground," Justin said.
"That's what you said that night," Brian chuckled. "Anyway, after that, we came back here."
"You left out the part where Michael tried to make me go home," Justin said. "And I told him I was going with you."
"Well, since you know the story so well, why don't you finish it?" Brian huffed.
"Okay," Justin smirked. "We came back here and you were gentle and patient and made love to me. It was hot and perfect and you fell in love with me that night."
"I wouldn't have put it that way," Brian said. "But that's the gist. Afterward you got out of bed in the middle of the night to draw my naked body because I was just that inspiring. And then you came back over and over again, even though I tried to get rid of you. Like a damn stray cat after you feed it once."
"But you couldn't get rid of me, because I was already in your heart," Justin said.
"Yeah," Brian sighed. "And you've been a pain in my ass since."
"Good story," Justin smiled and then yawned. "I think I'll wait to unpack until tomorrow. Take me to bed, lover boy."
"To sleep?" Brian asked. It was still rather early, even for Justin.