Never thought I would actually do this, but I have updated this story after almost a year. I don't like leaving things unfinished. Unfortunately, not my best writing. I originally had plans for a sequel, but I am sorry to say I don't think that is going to happen now. I had a lot of fun writing these boys, and making them all angsty, while it lasted.
It wasn't everyday your best friend became your brother.
And while he was more than happy to welcome James into the family, it didn't feel natural. It didn't feel right.
It wasn't jealousy that riled his thoughts, nor was it fear that fueled his disdain. It was hatred, like none he had ever felt before. If James' parents had just been there for him, had done what they were supposed to do, if his mother hadn't killed herself, or his father wasn't a cold hearted fool, none of this would have ever happened.
Kendall's father always told him that everything happened for a reason. "No matter what happens, or how bad things get, there is always a silver lining," his father used to say.
But just like the day his father died, Kendall can't find a silver lining. He can't find a reason.
There was no reason. Sure, James was finally free from both of his parents, away from their destructive clutches, but what price did he have to pay for his freedom? And what about him? Or Logan, or Carlos, or his mom, or Katie? They all paid a price, in some it was innocence, in others it was a piece of their heart they could never get back. A steep price was paid by all involved.
And now James wanted to go to the funeral of the one man who caused all of this. The man that nearly destroyed their lives and it didn't make a lick of sense to Kendall.
Once he thought he understood his best friends inside and out, he once believed that there were no secrets between them. He was naïve to think so. And now with eyes wide open, he could really see it. The small cracks in their solid friendship, the slight changes in all of their personalities, the shift in atmosphere to one of melancholy, as if all the fun and happiness had been sucked right out their lives. They were all…careful around each other, cautious with their words, hesitant with their once casual touches, tip toeing on eggshells so as not to cause a scene. Kendall only hoped that one day they would get through this, all of them, that one day they could fix what was broken. That one day it would be easy again, being friends.
One day, he thought, and bitterly shook his head.
"Stand still Kendall, I'm almost done with your tie," his mother chastised.
"I think this is a bad idea," he said, and brushed her hands off his stifling tie. "Why does James even want to go anyways? After everything that man did to us, he doesn't deserve to have anyone mourn his death!" he bitterly spat and walked away from his mother.
Gently she laid a delicate hand on his tense shoulders, calming the smoldering fire she saw brewing in his eyes. "James has a right to make his own decisions and he need us to be there to support him."
"What if he's making the wrong choice?"
"Honey," his mother said, and pushed him gently until he was seated on a chair. "Nothing bad is going to happen."
"I know," Kendall sighed in defeat and let his shoulders slump. "I just don't like thinking that James is doing this because he feels his owes his father or whatever. We don't owe that man anything."
"I know to you, that may seem obvious, but it's not so simple for James. All he ever did was seek the love and approval of his father and he never got it. And now he never will," she said and looked sadly at the door of James's hospital room, a faraway look in her eyes. Idly her hand sought Kendall's, as if reassuring herself that he was still there, that he was still her baby. "I don't know what James is looking for, or hoping to accomplish today. But I do know that we are his family now and we're going to prove to him that no matter what, we're there for him, that we love him."
He didn't like it. Something still felt so wrong, but Kendall nodded his assent. His mother was right, after all. It was so easy for him to judge, to realize just how much of a bastard Diamond was. He didn't know, couldn't know it like James did. He couldn't know what James had been feeling, or thinking, nor could he understand what he had been through. He could be there for James, though. He knew what it was like to lose a father and he could try to understand why the hell James wanted to lament the man that tormented him.
"I'm going to get a wheelchair, why don't you see if James is ready to go?" They stood to their feet, her heels tapping against the white tile floor as she walked down the hallway. "And Kendall," she said as he his hand gently turned the knob of James' door, "You've been very brave. I'm proud of you, sweetheart."
"I'm proud of you too, Mom." He smiled in return, and watched his mother walk away before daring to brave the cold reality of exactly why they were here in this miserable hospital.
A gentle nurse with bleached blonde hair and pale blue eyes was helping James struggle his good arm into a black suit jacket. He was sitting on the bed, hair neatly combed, left arm bound tightly to his chest by a sling. The nice suit, however, couldn't hide all the bruises, couldn't hide how pale and shaky James was, his body still fighting infection. It couldn't hide the vulnerability shining in his eyes.
James smiled softly at the young nurse as she buttoned his jacket over his bound arm. "How do I look?" he asked, his usual confidence hidden behind layers of fear and self-doubt.
"Positively handsome." She smiled, patted his arm, and left the room, throwing a brief 'hello' towards Kendall. It had been three days since James was admitted to the hospital, and Kendall had barely left in all that time. He had become quite familiar with the nursing staff.
"Are you ready to go?"
James' lips pursed into a tight frown, eyes crinkling as if he was lost in thoughts. "I don't know."
"You don't have to go," Kendall offered.
"Yes I do," James looked down as his neatly polished shoes. "I need to go."
Kendall sat next to James on the hospital bed and let a hand rest on top of James'. "You don't owe your father anything."
James looked out the window, and Kendall followed his gaze. Together they looked at the overcast skies. It was going to rain today. Storm clouds were brewing in the dark sky, threatening to darken this already miserable day.
"I know that," James replied. "I do," he reassured after catching Kendall's skeptical look. "It's just…"
"You're hoping to find some answers," Kendall supplied.
Kendall watched helpless as a few tears slipped from James' eyes and the younger boy nodded. Maybe he did still know James inside and out. "I want to know why. Why doesn't he love me? What did I do wrong?"
"You didn't do anything wrong," Kendall reassured. "It is your father who is at fault."
"I want to believe you. And I want to believe that everything my father ever told me was a lie. I want to believe that I am somebody. But I can't," he paused and watched as a few stray raindrops dashed against the window. "I've been told for so long what I'm supposed to do, what I'm supposed to believe, that I don't know who I really am. I don't know what to do anymore." James tore his gaze away from the brewing storm and turned searching eyes towards Kendall. "What am I supposed to do?"
"You're supposed to be yourself. Just be James," Kendall answered as if it was the most obvious solution in the whole world.
A small huff of laughter escaped from James, but Kendall couldn't tell if it was sarcasm or something else, something hopeful.
"I don't know who James is."
James is terrified of being alone.
When the lights go out at night, the darkness suffocates him. The slightest noise startles him, the barest hint of movement sends his heart racing. The anxiety never quite goes away, his hands always shake, and the silence of the hospital unnerves him. He can hear his own thoughts in the silence, his own desperation.
His eyes drift carelessly towards the open closet door. He catches a quick peak of beady red eyes glaring at him from the darkened corners of the little adjacent room. His breath catches in his throat and the walls move in closer. It's hot and cold at the same time and sweat runs down his face. Body paralyzed with fear, his lips quiver catching on a scream he cannot let go. You're going to die in here, a voice in the closet tells. This is it.
"No," he whispers and tears his eyes away. He's not in the closet anymore, he has to tell himself, but the suffocating feeling never quite goes away. The nurses tried to close the closet door one night, he spent hours in a panic, wondering what was lurking behind the thin barrier. He made himself so anxious he'd puked. Too afraid to call for help, he sat shivering on his bed. In the morning, the nurse found him curled up, hiding under his blanket, sobbing hysterically. The staff never closed the door again.
James isn't sure what's worse, not knowing what's in the closest, or seeing those eyes and knowing he's bat shit crazy.
His new therapist says it's normal, that what he is experiencing is post-traumatic stress disorder. It's high on her 'things wrong with James list.' James figured that list was pretty long.
He was barely out of surgery for 24 hours before they forced a shrink on him. She was nice, with long blonde hair and soft green eyes, short and non-threatening.
He doesn't want to talk to her.
Years' worth of abuse he suffered, a lifetime full of dark memories he's never told a soul. He's buried those memories deep inside of him, in a dark, cold pit deep in his mind. He placed a ten foot wall between himself and those memories, and he covered that wall with spikes and barb-wired. Going anywhere near that wall is what James imagines being next to a Dementor feels like, a feeling of dread and hopelessness, an icy chill that freezes your heart into a solid block of ice, and fear so strong you forget to breath. If forced to confront those dark thoughts and horrifying memories lurking behind that wall, James doesn't know what could happen. What if the wall cracks? What if he pushes too hard and the wall comes tumbling down, his defense mechanisms shattering in the process?
Once faced with the truth, with thoughts and feelings and memories he's been hiding from for years, will he ever be able to put that wall back up? Maybe, maybe he would be better off. But…but what if he lost control? What if he went crazy, just like he did in the closet, but…permanently? What if the truth is too much to handle?
He would rather hide behind his wall of repressed memories than ever find out.
If he just believes it will, it has to get better, right? He has people that believe in him, friends, and new a family that love and support him. That had to be enough, right? It had to be.
But he couldn't wish for it to be true, couldn't believe it, because he didn't know how. James doesn't really know how to wish, or dream, or imagine a bright future. He's never really had a chance to, nor had a reason to. He never thought he'd live to see this day. He doesn't know what will happen next and that scares him. His father has always been there, he's always know what to expect, always been told what to do. Now that he has a chance to make his own decisions, to be his own person, he doesn't even know where to begin, doesn't know what to feel.
He stares emotionlessly as his father's casket is lowered into the ground. It was a small affair, no one wanted to show their face at the businessman's funeral after hearing of the charges levied against him. The tombstone had only his name engraved on it plus his birthdate and the date of his death. No one could find anything nice to say about David Diamond, so they didn't bother with anything else. His father was just another body in the ground, just another memory to bury behind the dark wall in his mind.
Just another long, miserable day to forget.
"James," Kendall softly says, placing a hesitant hand on his shoulder. Ever since his rescue from the closet, James had been anxious and jumpy. Every sudden movement startled him, and every touch made him flinch. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't control it. His therapist said it was his PSTD, but James didn't really care what it was. He just knew he hated it.
He didn't want to live the rest of his life like this. He did not want to live the rest of his life under his father's shadow, but he didn't know how to escape.
"James, are you okay?" Kendall persisted, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. The physical contact was the one thing James was the most thankful for these days. He wasn't stupid. He saw the looks. Everyone looked at him differently since 'the accident.' Everyone treated him differently too, like they knew was about to break and didn't want to be there when it happened. Logan could barely look at him. Momma Knight couldn't look at him without tears in her eyes. Even Katie looked at him differently. They were all so hesitant to touch him, and when he flinched, they pulled away.
He didn't want everyone to shy away from him, but he can't stop flinching when anyone gets near.
Kendall…Kendall was different. There was still this look on his face, a sadness in his eyes that hadn't been there before, but he never backed down from touching James. Even when James subconsciously pulled away, Kendall never let it bother him.
James was at rock bottom, couldn't get any lower, didn't think his life could get any worse, but those simple touches, those acts of normalcy, were the only things getting him through each day. It was the only thing keeping him going. It reminded him of happier days, and maybe of better days to come. Kendall was the ladder to escape from rock bottom.
James tore his eyes away from the casket, away from the man whose cruel actions forced them into this situation. He wanted to hate his father. He wanted to say, the man was a psychopath, incapable of loving...it's not my fault. But James isn't so sure he believes that. His mother always held him tightly in her arms when he was a child, tell him over and over again he wasn't to blame, he had nothing to be sorry. If only she were here now to tell him.
"Can you help me over there?" James asked quietly, pointing to a long, neglected grave a few rows over.
Kendall pushed his wheelchair through grass and mud. The neglected grave grew closer and closer until James could run his hand over the smooth rock. He placed the rose that was supposed to go on his father's grave on top of the weathered headstone.
"Hello mom," he whispered to the grave as he ran his fingers over the carefully carved letters of her name.
Kendall knelt in the grass next to him. "She was a special lady."
James smiled fondly at the gesture. He knew exactly what Kendall really thought of his mother. Kendall didn't understand. She tried her hardest, just made a few mistakes along the way. But James knew his mother never meant to leave him alone with his father, she never meant to overdose on those drugs.
"My father would never let me come visit her," James explained, his eyes fixated on the stone in front of him. "He said there was no point, she would never know we were there. But I think she can hear me?"
"She can hear you," Kendall assured. "She's listening to everything you have to say, and she's very proud of you."
"You really think that?"
"Yeah, I do."
James tore his eyes away from the grave and smiled softly at Kendall. He placed a hand on top of Kendall's.
"Thank you," James said, hoping that somewhere in his eyes Kendall see everything he meant with those two small words.
Kendall smiled back. "Let's go home."
Home. James wasn't really sure the Knight family house was his home, not yet. He wasn't really sure where he fit in anymore.
He caught the scent of lavender, the smell of his mother's favorite perfume. And it was like he could almost see her. He remembers bright summer morning and he couldn't have been older than five. The smell of lavender tickled his nose as his mother snuck up behind him. Delilah gathered her little boy in her arms and spun him around as he giggled in delight. She set him down on the floor and admired the picture he'd been working on all morning. "I made this for you mommy," the little boy said.
"It's beautiful. I'm going to put this on the fridge," Delilah proudly exclaimed.
"You think I could be a famous artist?" the little boy excitedly asked.
"You can be anything you want, baby," she turned from the fridge and smiled brightly at her little boy. "Follow your dreams and your heat wherever it may take you and don't let anyone stop you."
He smiled at the memory as the smell of lavender wafted away on the wind and the little lone grave faded in the distance behind him.
But the feeling of warmth and love remained, the reminder of who Delilah really was still lingering in his mind. For the first time he felt courage, like he could fight the demons in his closet, and the memories behind his wall, and win.
"She was there you know. In the closet. My mother was there. I know you guys think I'm crazy, or I that I was hallucinating. But I know she was there."
"It doesn't matter what we think, James. It only matters what you believe."
He didn't know who he was. He didn't know who he wanted to be. And he wasn't sure of anything anymore. He looked back at his father's grave where Logan, Carlos, Officer Garcia and Mama Knight were still standing and to Kendall at his side and he knew he had all of them to help him find out, to catch him if he fell, to be there when he needed. If he believed in anything, he believed in them. And he always had his mother's lucky comb to bring him the strength to go on.
His mother always told him to follow his dreams.
And now... and now he's going to do just that.