Derek tries. He really does.
He knows something is wrong almost the moment the thought enters Julian's subconscious. It lies there, swimming just behind sepia eyes for months. He sees it strengthen in intensity every so often, growing brighter in Julian's mind. But it always fades.
Until the day it doesn't.
He can see the change in Julian's thought processes. The way he walks: slowly, taking the time to look, as if he knows he'll never be here again. The way he looks at Logan, drinking in every detail of his image, cherishing the last few moments he has.
So when Julian leaves without explanation one day, just grabs his wallet and keys and takes off, Derek follows.
He knew, of course, where Julian was headed. Or at least has a feeling. But he still sucks in a breath as he parks, just far enough from Julian's car so that he won't be immediately spotted. It's an average enough building—nondescript. Discreet. But the letters on the door are telling, at least for those who have heard of the procedure.
To most, the name would mean nothing. It's a relatively small organization, one that caters mainly to the outrageously wealthy. After all, the procedure is quite pricey. Derek's heard of it once or twice, through conversations with associates of his parents and half-true rumors. More recently, he's seen the pamphlet sitting innocently on Julian's desk, half-buried by term papers and textbooks. He doesn't know much. But he's heard enough, gathered enough consistency in the stories to know they specialize in one thing and one thing only.
Derek's fingernails dig crescent-shaped marks into the steering wheel. He watches Julian make his way through the front doors, hands stuffed in the pocket of an oversized hoodie. A poor disguise, but no one would expect to find him here.
Derek doesn't have to wait long—forty-five minutes, maybe—before Julian's stepping out again, a thick manila envelope clenched in his hands. He pauses at the edge of the sidewalk, absently fiddling with his car keys. He looks up and tilts his head to the right, eyes meeting Derek's through the windshield. He doesn't look hurt, or angry, or upset. Instead, he quirks his lips up into a tiny, knowing smile. He gives a nod, and steps into his car.
It takes Derek nearly an hour to work up the courage to follow.
Julian bustles about the room, collecting all traces of Logan. Borrowed books are shoved into a pile, to be delivered later. Logan's iPod, taken from its near-permanent resting place on Julian's desk, is wrapped up neat and tidy, shoved into Derek's hands with firm orders to return it to Logan.
"Are you sure about this?"
Julian bites his lip and nods, reaching for a shoebox resting on his bookshelf.
"I just—" Derek sighs, running a hand through his hair, "This is kind of huge, Jules. It's forever."
"I'm well aware, thank you." Julian pries the lid off the box and flips through the contents. A collection of photographs. A mix CD. Ticket stubs. Receipts. A box of memories, of Logan, that Julian will never be able to see again.
"Is it even safe?"
Julian shrugs, "Supposedly."
"You don't know?" Derek paces the carpet, hands twisting behind his back, "Fuck."
"It's a non-surgical procedure," Julian covers the box again, placing it gently inside the larger box resting on his bed. "The worst that could happen is that it doesn't work."
"But do you really want it to?" Derek steps forward, hands lifting to rest on Julian's shoulders. "I need you to really think about this, Jules. If you do this—if it works—Logan's gone from your mind forever. You can't really want that."
"I need it." Julian twists from Derek's grasp, shuffling through a stack of papers on his desk. "You don't understand, Derek."
"So explain it to me, then!" Derek snaps, grabbing Julian by the forearms again, "Because goddammit, Jules, I don't understand! I can't let you do this if I don't understand!"
"I just...I need him gone, D," Julian's voice cracks, tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. "You have no idea-"
He screws his eyes shut, slumping back against his desk as he struggles to control his emotions.
"I just can't anymore," he says softly, "I can't keep hurting like this. Every time I talk to him or look at him or think about him, it hurts. I've tried to stop, I've tried to forget him, and I just can't. It's like he's this...this virus, in my life, and no matter what I do he's just going to keep coming back. I'm miserable and depressed and it won't stop hurting. I just want to be happy again."
Julian shudders, blinking through his tears as he looks desperately up at Derek.
"This...this is the only way I can be happy again."
It takes a moment, but Derek nods, hesitantly—and when had he started to cry? —pulling Julian into a loose hug.
"I understand," he murmurs, rubbing comfortingly along Julian's back as the boy cries, "I don't like it, but I understand."
They pull apart slowly, and Julian turns back to his desk, gathering loose papers and scribbled notes. Derek scoops up the iPod—along with a few other items belonging to Logan—and exits the room, leaving Julian to clear his room of painful memories.
Julian has everything figured out.
He has a second appointment on Friday. That night, a small team will enter his dorm, hook up their machines, and wipe Logan Wright from his mind.
It's all prepared. His plane tickets—one-way to Los Angeles, bright and early Saturday morning—rest on the corner of his desk. His suitcases are packed, his withdrawal papers signed. The rest is easy. Carmen has already been informed of the basics, given strict orders to change all of Julian's methods of communication, including preparing a new apartment with a confidential address. Derek will wake him up for his flight in time to get him out of Stuart without being seen.
"—and don't," Julian warns, "Mention Logan."
He feigns illness to get out of class, driving himself back to the small building once the school day begins. Logan doesn't acknowledge his absence aside from a crooked eyebrow at Julian's empty seat in homeroom. But Derek knows, and spends the entire day noticing just how different things are without Julian. Things will never be the same after this.
Julian's back by the time classes are over, perched on a chair in the common room when the boys return from class. Logan makes a snide comment, something about Julian not appearing ill. Rather than the usual retort, Julian offers a small, sad smile. Logan stumbles in his movements, giving Julian an odd look as he makes his way to the kitchen for coffee. Derek hesitates a moment, risking a quick glance at Julian. The brunet just nods, slipping a hand into his pocket and pulling out a small, clear bag. A tiny pill rests at the bottom, one meant to ensure that Julian will be in a deep sleep for the later procedure. Derek bites his lip, giving a nod of his own as he trails after Logan.
He's silent at dinner. Logan makes idle talk between bites, interrupted every so often by Derek's forced interjections. Julian just observes, hardly touching the food on his plate. He doesn't even seem to be paying attention to the conversation; his eyes never stray from Logan's face. It's as if he's trying to memorize every detail, ingrain each feature into his mind for these last few hours. At approximately seven o'clock, he shoves back from the table, yawning as he feigns an excuse about being tired. Logan offers more coffee, but Julian just shakes his head, giving a slight wave as he exits the dining hall.
He doesn't look back.
The pill works quickly.
Julian swallows it the moment he returns to his room, not even bothering with the bottle of water he'd set out for the purpose. He winces at the box still resting on his desk—full of memories and pain and Logan—and moves it, dropping it next to the door. He has been told they'd take care of it after the procedure. He's been careful, and collected anything that held memories of Logan, anything he might find odd after the procedure. His phone number had been changed the day prior (it happened often enough, due to obsessed fans and persistent paparazzi, so he shouldn't find that unusual tomorrow) along with his e-mail. All loose ends have been gathered.
The only job he has left is to fall asleep.
He perches on the edge of his bed, already feeling the drowsy effects of the sleeping pill.
After tonight, he won't hurt anymore.
After tonight, everything will be okay.
He falls asleep with a soft smile on his face, and a lone tear streaking its way down his cheek.
Derek holds off on telling Logan for a week.
When he finally does, speaks that fatal sentence that he knows will result in a breakdown—"Julian's not coming back...ever." —Logan's fists clench. Derek can see the anger swelling. He manages to duck just in time before a lamp crashes above his head.
It's a complete nightmare.
Logan screams obscenities, smashing anything he can get his hand on, nearly strangling Derek when he tries to get the blond to calm down. After an hour or two, he storms away, slamming and locking his door behind him. He doesn't come out for two days.
When he finally does, he's medicated. Hazy, unfocused, unfeeling. Numb.
He walks into Derek's room, eyes fixed on the phone in his hand. It's broken, cracks spiderwebbing across the screen. He must have thrown it against the wall in his tantrum. When he speaks, it's with a voice so cold and dead that it sends shivers running up Derek's spine.
"He changed his number."
"He didn't even say goodbye..."
That's when he breaks, face crumbling as the tears begin to fall. Derek allows him to cry against his shoulder, offering no explanation as to Julian's whereabouts, or why he left without a word. When he runs out of tears, he takes to staring blankly at the wall.
Logan isn't the same after that.
He passes a few days in silence, barely reacting to the world around him. After the initial shock wears off, he grows frustrated. He spends hours sitting in front of his computer, refreshing his e-mail. He calls Julian's number again, a new phone cradled to his ear, each time hearing the same message.
We're sorry. The number you are trying to reach has been disconnected.
Frustration quickly turns to anger, and anger to blinding rage. Logan lashes out at everyone around him, earning more than a few trips to the Dean's office. He's volatile, dangerous, terrifying.
Derek knows he has to do something to explain things to Logan. He supposes he could lie, fabricate a story where Julian was forced to do this. But he's never liked lying to his best friends. So he settles for the truth.
Barely a month after Julian's disappearance, Derek digs through his closet, unearthing the box he had stolen from Julian's room that fateful night. It's untouched, still containing Julian's every memory of Logan. Resting on top, written in Julian's careful cursive, is a letter. It had been an 'assignment', of sorts, from the facility responsible—a thorough explanation, a complete reasoning of Julian's memory wipe.
Logan reads the letter silently. When he finishes, he reads through it a second time. His expression is grim when he finally sets it down. Without a word, he grabs a small bag from his closet, grabbing the barest necessities and shoving them inside. He pockets his keys and wallet.
"I'm going after him."
It's not until he lands in Los Angeles that he realizes he has no idea what to say.
He doesn't even know where to go. He can only assume Julian's still living in the area. But with no way of contacting him, he can't be sure. He settles for renting a car, only made possible with a well-placed phone call from his father's secretary—Honestly, who sets age limits for car rentals? — and driving around the city for a few hours. He passes the set where they film Something Damaged, but the parking lot is deserted. He racks his brain for restaurants and shops that Julian may frequent, but comes up empty. He finally stops at a small café, taking advantage of the free Internet to scour gossip magazines. 'Julian Larson' pulls up an astounding record of results, but he's quick to find a website that seems to track the actor's movements. The last entry seems to be from early yesterday afternoon, listing Julian's choice in sushi. He refreshes once, twice, and a new line of text appears:
Santa Monica pier with cast of Something Damaged.
Logan forgets to pay for his latte in his hurry.
He breaks several traffic laws as he speeds down the highway, barely managing to park legally when he locates the pier. It's not hard to find the group of celebrities once he gets there. He's barely exited his car when the shrill sound of fangirl screaming hits his ears. Judging by the crowd, they seem to be gathered around a small restaurant. Logan shoves his way through the throng of teenagers, pushing forward until he reaches the front of the pack.
Julian is standing with his co-stars, scribbling autographs for the group of girls bouncing in front of him. His sunglasses are pushed up on top of his head, the sleeves of his dark blue shirt rolled up to his elbows. He looks just the same as Logan remembers, but there's something different in his air, something Logan can't quite put his finger on.
Julian smiles at the girl in front of him, posing for a quick picture. One of his co-stars mutters something in his ear, and he bursts out into raucous laughter.
That's when Logan sees it.
It's different, brighter than Logan remembers ever seeing it. He looks happy. Happier than he had been in years. The look on his face, the way he grins down at his fans—it's all real. His eyes sparkle warmly, crinkling at the corners as he's pulled away from the crowd.
Logan's heart twists in his chest, and suddenly it's as if he can't get away quickly enough.
He's on a plane back to Ohio three hours later.
He tries watching Something Damaged. He thinks that maybe, watching Julian on-screen might make up for not being able to see him again. But it doesn't. It just hurts. He sees a picture of him in a magazine once, and the pages get torn and trashed before he quite realizes what has happened.
"He's doing well," Derek says one day, staring down at his phone.
Derek nods, slowly. Logan's teeth clench; he feels the anger well up, despite the medication swirling through his bloodstream.
"And he's doing well."
Logan raises an eyebrow, waiting. Derek runs a hand through his hair tiredly.
"I don't know how much I should actually tell you…"
"It's not good for you."
"I can take care of myself."
Derek sighs heavily, avoiding Logan's eyes. "He's…he sounded happy. Busy, but happy."
"…I think he might be seeing someone."
Logan doesn't notice his rage until his coffee mug shatters in his hand.
Derek is accepted to every school he applies for. He finally settles on Harvard, partly due to the superior reputation of the men's rowing team. His valedictorian speech is concise and a bit dull, ignoring the usual platitudes of high school friendship. He, at least, had maintained relatively regular communication with Julian over the past year. But he still isn't here. Julian isn't with them, dressed in a scratchy polyester robe and an ill-fitting cap, rolling his eyes as Derek speaks of dreams and futures and success.
And nobody misses his presence more so than Logan.
Logan slumps down in his own seat, only half-paying attention to Derek's speech. The past year has taken its toll on him—he had blamed himself entirely, regretted every day that he hadn't noticed before it was too late. He's kept up with Julian's life, of course. There had been a movie, a blockbuster hit, around Christmas. A few roles on television. Interviews. A performance at a charity concert in February where Julian had sung so beautifully that Logan still watches on a weekly basis. Derek refrains from telling him much more, whether it had been a request on Julian's part or merely concern for Logan's emotional well-being. He hears bits and pieces over the months, overhears the end of a telephone conversation here and there. It's nothing substantial. But one thing is clear: Julian is still happy.
He can't remember the last time he saw Julian happy. Freshman year, of course, before everything went to shit. Then a few days during vacation, brief private moments. Beyond that, Julian had always been coolly indifferent. Logan had always believed it to be his personality—that Julian was just apathetic. Perhaps he hadn't wanted to believe anything different.
It kills him.
He should have noticed. He should have seen, long before it came to this, that Julian was unhappy. That he was the reason for it. If he had just realized, if he had done something...
But it's too late now. Julian's gone. No matter how much Logan wishes, how much he regrets, he can't get him back. He'd debated again, a few months after his trip to California. Thought about tracking Julian down, making him listen as he told him everything. But he couldn't. How would he have gone about it, anyway? "Hi, my name is Logan Wright, and you don't remember me, but I'm your best friend"? He'd be laughed at, arrested if Julian's bodyguards had their way.
Derek tells him to move on.
It's laughable, really. He pretends. He applies to schools. In March, he stares at two letters in his hands. One congratulates him, announcing his acceptance into the NYU music department. The second is worded almost identically, from the salutation to Mr. John Logan Wright III to the 'We are pleased to inform you'. But this one, this letter held in trembling fingers, is stamped 'UCLA'.
The University of California.
He has no interest in the school. He had applied on a whim, simply for the location. But he's been accepted, and suddenly he has no idea what to choose. He wants NYU. He does. But Los Angeles means Julian, and Julian means...
He still flips a coin. Heads, he'll choose New York. Tails, UCLA. Los Angeles, where he may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse or two of Julian. Where the celebrity rumor mill runs rampant, where he can follow Julian's movements. Where, even if he can't communicate with Julian, can't even see him, he'll still know he's there.
The coin lands in his outstretched hands.
He stares down at the letters, set side-by-side on his desk. One for New York. Another for Julian.
It doesn't mean anything. Not really.
Worst-case scenario, he'll go through all four years, never once spotting Julian.
"Julian!" Logan pushes forward, shoving through the crowd as he approaches his friend. The brunet smiles warmly, his eyes twinkling as Logan nears. He reaches out a hand, resting it lightly against Logan's arm. His lips part…
"Did you want an autograph?"
Logan screws his eyes shut, crumples a letter in his fist.
His father will be so proud.
Halfway through sophomore year, he's offered a job as a pianist at a small restaurant in Manhattan.
He doesn't need it, of course. His father is more than willing to pay for his education, so long as he behaves. But it's something to do on the weekends, and his favorite professor mentions that it will look good on his resume. So he accepts. It's not much, and the pay is terrible, but he finds himself enjoying it. It's not much of a challenge, playing elevator music and jazz standards as the customers dine.
It's a Saturday in April, during the normal dinner hours.
The doors open, and all talk ceases. Logan cocks an eyebrow in confusion, but his fingers never falter on the keys. A moment later, hushed conversations start up again. A tinkle of laughter rings throughout the room.
Logan misses a note.
It can't be.
He takes a steadying breath, turning his concentration to the music once more. The song is nearly over—a small crescendo, a final major chord...finished. The elderly women at the next table over clap politely, smiling at him as he slides from the bench.
"I'm taking my break now," he murmurs to the manager. She barely glances at him, nodding slightly as she makes her way across the restaurant. Logan hurries to the restroom, steadfastly refusing to look back.
"It's not him." Logan rubs his temples, blinking furiously at his reflection in the mirror. "It's not. You're imagining things. It's not him."
He turns on the faucet, splashing a bit of cool water across his face.
"It's not." Logan screws his eyes shut, taking a couple deep breaths. There's a hurried knock on the door, and his manager pokes her head in, holding a hand over her eyes.
"I have ten minutes left on break, Sandra," Logan growls, palms still firmly pressed against his temple.
"Look, Wright, I'll give you all of next weekend off if you get your ass out here now. You'll never guess who's here…"
George Clooney. JK Rowling The fucking President. Just not…
"It's Julian Larson," Sandra says excitedly, finally lowering her hand, "Julian Larson and two of his co-stars from that new movie."
Great. Logan sighs, attempting to retain his composure. "Okay. What do you need me for?"
Sandra's eyes light up almost manically, "I need you to play, Wright. I talked to him and he—Julian Larson—agreed to sing for us!"
She's still talking, something about how amazing this will be for their reputation and how great this is for business, but Logan doesn't hear a word. His blood is pounding in his ears, his vision swimming white. He follows Sandra numbly, leaving the faucet spouting icy-cold water.
Julian's ready for them, chatting casually with a table of giggling middle-aged women as Logan approaches the piano. He glances up at Logan's cough, pulling away from his fans.
"I'm sorry about this," Julian smiles genuinely, resting his elbows atop the piano as he leans forward, "I know you probably hate doing stuff like this..."
"It's fine," Logan says quickly, "Um...song?"
Julian tilts his head to the side, considering. He names one of Logan's more recent favorites, and it almost pains him that they still have some form of a connection.
Logan stretches his fingers over the keys, eyes fixed firmly on the instrument as he plays the introduction.
Then Julian starts singing, and Logan can't take his eyes off of him. Logan had always known that his voice had been good, but hearing him in person, for the first time in years…Logan can barely keep his hands moving over the keys. He watches, open-mouthed, as Julian performs to his audience. He twirls around a table, winking flirtatiously at a group of young women. A small boy holds up a pen, and Julian signs a napkin for him, never faltering in his singing.
He ends over by the piano, just inches away from Logan.
A roar of applause—much louder than anything Logan had been given—echoes through the restaurant. The waiters huddle in a corner, jobs forgotten, grinning and clapping. The patrons of the restaurant catcall, some even standing as they cheer. Julian grins and gives a slight bow, obviously playing to his audience. He turns back to Logan, resting his microphone on the piano.
"Thanks," he says, still grinning. He nods at the piano, "You're quite good, you know."
"So are you."
Julian tosses his head playfully. "I know." Across the room, his friends call his name. He turns just slightly, giving them a wave. "What was your name, again?"
"Logan. Logan Wright."
"Logan…" Julian hesitates for a moment, his brow furrowing.
He remembers. He has to. He's going to remember and everything is going to be all right. Logan will finally get the chance to apologize, to beg for forgiveness and ask for a chance because Julian remembers…
"Hey, J! Stop flirting and get back here!"
Julian rolls his eyes, turning to shout over his shoulder, "Chill out, Sawyer, I'll be right there!"
When his gaze shifts to Logan again, the spark of interest is gone. No trace of curiosity or confusion or recognition. Only a polite, distant smile.
"It was nice meeting you, Logan."
Logan's thoughts shift.
He doesn't have to make Julian remember.
He can turn this into a good thing.
He can start over.
He just needs a chance.
He gets one, not even a month after he saw Julian in the restaurant. He doesn't expect it, isn't prepared for it.
It's at a gala—some dinner for his father's latest campaign, populated by the New York elite. Logan's forced into attending, naturally; forced to pretend he supports his father and act like he cares about politics. He finally manages to escape the crowd, ducking into a secluded corner near the bar.
"I knew I recognized you, piano-man."
Logan spins around, eyes widening as Julian smirks up at him. He's leaning against the wall, his dark eyes twinkling above his champagne flute.
"Logan Wright…" Julian muses, giving him a not at all subtle once-over, "The senator's son, right?"
"Oh, come on," Julian chuckles, "I'm sure all those campaigns and speeches must be thrilling."
"Not as exciting as awards shows, I'd imagine."
"Oh, prep school veteran? Or just used to boring political speeches?"
"The latter. Unsurprisingly, those speeches get even more sanctimonious at home. But are they any better than endless awards show speeches?"
Logan blinks, shaking his head slightly. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"They get old after twenty years or so," Julian shrugs, sipping from his glass, "It's not quite as glamorous as one would imagine."
"What are you doing here?"
Julian raises an eyebrow, "What? Is my presence offending you?"
"No," Logan says quickly, "I'm just…surprised, I suppose. Wouldn't think this kind of thing is your scene."
Julian waves a hand idly in the air, "I tagged along with a few model friends. Apparently your mother—"
"Stepmother," Logan corrects, perhaps a bit too quickly. Julian raises an eyebrow, but doesn't attempt to pry.
"—stepmother, then…she invited them. I just happened to be in town."
"So you came voluntarily, then?" Logan asks incredulously. Julian shrugs a shoulder.
"More or less."
Logan makes an inquisitive noise, and Julian heaves a sigh before continuing.
"Apparently I'm too superficial," Julian rolls his eyes, but his eyes spark angrily, "My manager says I need to prove that I care about the real world or something, so I've been on a charity-ball-political-campaign kick lately," he hesitates, blinking into his champagne, "I wasn't supposed to tell you that."
"I won't blow your charade," Logan says reassuringly, sipping from his own glass, "I'm pretty used to keeping secrets, you know."
Julian's lips curve into a half-smile, "And would you care to share any of those embarrassing family secrets?"
Logan can tell he's not serious—he's seen that glint in Julian's eyes more times than he can possibly count—but a strange thrill shoots up his spine. Isn't this how they'd bonded before, by sharing stories of their dysfunctional families and unconventional childhoods?
Before Julian can react, Logan grabs the champagne flute from his hand, setting it down on the edge of the bar. He grabs Julian by the sleeve of his jacket.
"Come on—" he tugs him forward, stepping around the bar to the side door, "Let's get out of here."
Julian gives him a wary look, glancing around the room nervously. But then Logan slides his hand down Julian's arm, tangling their fingers together. The brunet starts, eyes widening as he stares at the way their hands fit together.
"I—" he glances up, wary gaze meeting Logan's. His fingers tighten, eyes narrowing a bit as his Cheshire-Cat smile slides back onto his face, "Lead the way."
"Wow," Julian's eyes widen as he steps out onto the rooftop, "With a view like this, why have the party indoors?"
Logan shrugs, "Too cold, I suppose. Can't have all of New Yorks' finest exposed to a chill, can we?"
"It's not that bad," Julian says. Nevertheless, he crosses his arms over his chest, pulling his jacket close. He crosses to the ledge, standing just near the short brick wall as he gazes at the New York skyline.
Logan hangs back for a moment, tilting his head as he examines Julian. He looks…good. Happy. Healthy. It's eerily similar to how he looked on the first day they met, all those years ago, just older. He's perhaps an inch or two taller, his body a bit more defined. His facial features are sharper, cheekbones high and pronounced. He'd cut his hair perhaps a year ago—not too short, but it's no longer falling over his eyes like Logan remembered. His eyes are the same, though. As is his smile, when he turns back and centers it on Logan full-force.
"C'mon," Julian chuckles, gesturing to the ledge, "I want you where I can see you; I can't trust you to not push me off or lock me up here or something. Besides, you were supposed to tell me all those family secrets, remember?"
Logan steps forward, shoving his hands deep in his pockets to prevent himself from doing something too familiar—No, you can't touch him. You've known him for all of fifteen minutes, remember?—and approaches Julian. The actor grins as Logan comes to rest next to him.
"So? What's the big Wright family secret?"
Logan exhales, watching as his breath comes out in a white fog. "…me."
Julian cocks a curious eyebrow, and Logan shrugs nonchalantly.
"Conservative politician with an openly gay son? Not exactly great campaign material."
Julian blinks. "…and…he—your dad, I mean—he knows?"
"I came out before high school. I don't think he really payed any attention until I got my first boyfriend, though."
"Wow," Julian shakes his head, turning to stare at the skyline again, "So he knows, and he still votes against—" he breaks off, looking a bit uncomfortable.
"You see why I don't like him," Logan purses his lips, shifting a bit as cool breeze passes over them.
"God, if my parents hadn't reacted so well…"
Logan turns curiously, and Julian grins.
"You don't read many magazines, do you?" Logan shakes his head in response, "I'm bi. Caused a huge scandal a few months ago when some asshole paparazzi caught me hooking up with one of my stuntmen."
"Oh." How had he missed that? "I hadn't heard…"
Julian waves a hand dismissively, "It wasn't that big of a deal. My parents panicked, of course, but it blew over pretty quickly. Anyway—" he makes a sudden movement, and Logan nearly panics, thinking he's about to fall over the ledge. But Julian simply falls to the ground, resting his back against the low ledge, "—it makes my life a hell of a lot easier, you know? No more sneaking around crappy gay bars, you know?"
"Must be nice," Logan says, dropping down to join Julian, "Doing whatever the hell you want."
"Well I wouldn't say that…" Julian angles his chin, regarding Logan with a serious expression, "You know you don't have to do everything your father says, right?"
Logan looks up, curious green eyes meeting solemn brown.
"You know what? Forget it," Julian jumps to his feet just as quickly as he had sat, "It's none of my business. I should be going, I have an early call time tomorrow…"
Panic seizes Logan's body. "Wait—!"
"Could I…could I get your number, maybe?"
Julian smirks again, shifting from foot to foot. "I don't know…" he says slowly, "I don't typically give my number to fans."
"Never said I was a fan."
"Harsh," Julian pulls his phone from his pocket, fingers tapping over the keyboard, "How about I get your number?"
Logan spits it out almost too quickly, but Julian saves it all the same and tucks his phone away.
"I might text you," Julian steps back, reaching for the door as he grins at Logan, "You know, if I feel like it."
The white of his smile remains burned in Logan's vision even after the door swings shut.
So what was the son of a Senator doing playing in some back-alley restaurant anyway?
Logan stares at the words splayed across the screen of his phone. It's two weeks after the party, and he had begun to lose hope of Julian ever contacting him. But his phone buzzes with a text from an unknown number halfway through one of his lectures, and he nearly falls out of his chair in his haste to respond.
It's a five-star restaurant, you know. And I'm allowed to have a job.
Still, I'm sure you have the connections to play in Carnegie Hall.
I'd rather not rely on my fathers name to get ahead.
Several minutes pass before Julian texts back.
Prefer your independence, hm? I respect that.
You're the first.
Nothing, just…everyone expects me to go into politics too, you know?
Believe me, I know. I got lucky, I guess. I mean, I was kind of forced into acting, but I love it.
Logan hesitates a moment, wondering how to respond. God, it's weird—analyzing his every word to Julian, carefully typing every letter—but he has to be careful if he wants to keep him this time. Just as he places his fingers over the keyboard again, another text pops up.
Look, I have to get back to set. Are you doing anything this Saturday?
I'm scheduled to work, but my boss does owe me a weekend off. Why?
Would you be offended if I said I'm just bored?
Well then I'm mildly bored and figured you don't totally suck.
As you should be. See you Saturday.
Logan doesn't hear another word his professor says for the next hour of class.
They wind up at—of all places—an art gallery. A small one, away from any large crowds. They make idle small talk, discussing things of no major importance. Julian's a bit more distant than Logan would have liked, but it doesn't matter when he's here and smiling and happy. Logan does his best to crack jokes, reveling in Julian's infectious laugh, the way he glances at Logan over his shoulder with twinkling eyes.
"Not a modern art guy, hm?" Julian raises an eyebrow, smirking at Logan's look of distaste.
"I'm pretty sure a five year old could have painted this," Logan admits, "And that sculpture? I don't even know what it is."
"It's a block of aluminum."
Julian laughs again, leaning against Logan's shoulder. His fingers burn white-hot against Logan's skin.
"Okay," he concedes, "It's pretty awful. But this one—" he spins around, gesturing at a sculpture of twisted metal, "—this one is my favorite."
Logan tilts his head, eyes scanning over the statue. It's decent, for modern art—painted metal twined together, stretching ceiling-high. Greens and yellows and browns spiraling together with no particular pattern, illuminated by a circle of bright lights.
Julian makes a noise of questioning, still staring contemplatively at the sculpture.
"Why is it your favorite?" Logan asks again.
Julian threads his bottom lip between his teeth, brow furrowing.
"…I'm not sure," he says finally, "It's just…nice, you know?"
Logan nods, turning his gaze back to Julian. His eyes drift down, where Julian's hand is just hanging by his side, empty. Logan's own fingers twitch, aching to reach out and twist with Julian's—
"I'm hungry," Julian spins away, tearing his eyes from the sculpture, "Come on, there's this great Italian place across the street."
"Dalton Academy?" Logan keeps his voice light, detached.
Julian hums in response, "Three years. Never graduated, though. Work got to be too much."
Logan bites his lip, eyes scanning across the water. It's the third time they've gone out together, and it's going remarkably well—from Logan's point of view, at least. Julian seems to be having fun, at least. Logan's just happy to have him back, happy to be with Julian again.
"I did have pretty decent friends there, though," Logan raises an eyebrow, "Well. One. Derek."
Julian's lips curve into a grin, and Logan waits for him to continue.
"We uh…kind of lost touch, though," Julian leans against the wall, eyes dimming just slightly, "When I left school."
"I'm sorry," Logan says, honestly. He knows they still talk occasionally, exchanging short phone calls on holidays and birthdays. But he knows Derek found it too difficult, hiding such a large part of their friendship, and that his few near slip-ups scared him enough to stop calling so often.
"It's my fault," Julian shrugs, "I was too busy for too long. I don't know what I was thinking when I accepted so many roles that year…"
You were trying to get away from me.
"…and then it was just weird. It was like we didn't know each other anymore."
Julian sighs, zipping his jacket up to his collar.
"I…I'm sorry," Logan murmurs, resting a trembling hand on Julian's shoulder.
"'s fine. I don't exactly have time for real friendships, you know?"
"Everyone needs friends, Julian."
Their eyes meet, gazes locking together. Neither of them moves. They just stare, energy shooting like lightning between brown and green. Julian tilts his head, eyes flitting over Logan's face.
"Is something wrong?"
"No," Julian shakes his head, eyes still creased with a frown, "It's just…you remind me of someone."
Logan swallows, breath catching in his throat. "Really?" His voice comes out too high, as if someone else is speaking through his body. "Who?"
Julian frowns, tilting his head to the side as he considers Logan, "I…I can't remember."
He lifts a hand, fingers ghosting white-hot over Logan's skin. For a moment he just stares, eyes boring into Logan's own. He shakes his head, hand falling back to his side.
"Sorry," he mutters, sliding his sunglasses over his eyes once more, "Must've had more to drink than I thought."
Derek finds out.
A picture of them shows up on some trashy Internet site. It's a shot of them leaving a restaurant together, laughing. Julian's head is tilted to the side, looking behind him at Logan. Their hands are just inches apart, very much in danger of brushing.
"What are you doing?" Derek snaps into the phone the moment Logan picks up.
"Derek, I didn't—"
"Have you completely lost your mind?"
"It's not like—"
"You weren't supposed to contact him, Logan! Ever!"
"It wasn't on purpose!" Logan bellows, tearing at his hair, "I ran into him, Derek! He talked to me."
He hears Derek suck in a shaky breath, "This is dangerous, Lo."
"You need to stop."
"How long are you here, anyway? In New York?"
Julian's stretched out on a low brick wall, eyes closed against the sun.
"For as long as filming takes," he says lazily, "We're already behind schedule. Though," he smirks, "that might be because I keep sneaking off."
Logan grins despite himself. "My fault?"
Julian hums. "You are a terrible influence, you know."
"You're the one dragging me out of class, you know."
"Once," Julian says, "It's not like it was interesting, anyway."
"It was a review for our final exam."
"Like I said. Boring."
"It's worth fifty percent of my grade."
Julian snorts, "Tough."
He kisses him.
It's not a conscious, voluntary action. One moment Julian is laughing, head thrown back and teeth glinting white and eyes shining, and the next Logan's pressing their lips together, hands sliding up to rest gently against Julian's neck. Julian makes a soft noise of surprise, but makes no effort to pull away. Instead, he moves his lips against Logan's own, one hand resting gently on Logan's chest, just beneath his jacket. It's soft and oddly chaste Just the gentle brush of lips.
Logan comes to his senses all at once, pulling away from Julian as if he's been burned.
Julian shakes his head slowly, eyes fixed on Logan. "Don't be."
They kiss again.
Julian's hands glide beneath Logan's shirt, sliding over hard planes of muscle. Logan tangles his fingers in Julian's hair, tugging insistently as he slides his tongue across Julian's lips. Julian moans low in his throat, pulling himself closer until he winds up in Logan's lap, impossibly close and still too far. His mouth slides across Logan's jaw, nipping hard against his collarbone.
"I, uh…" Logan's voice comes out thick and dark, "My apartment is just around the corner."
Julian pulls away, just enough to look up through half-lidded eyes.
"Lead the way."
It's heated touches.
Logan's sheets slip around their bodies. Moonlight streams in through the window, casting a soft golden glow over Julian's skin. Breathy moans escape his lips, tearing from his throat as Logan moves over him.
I missed you.
I love you.
Julian wakes to a soft touch of lips against his skin. His nose wrinkles, and he squirms beneath the sheets. There's a soft tinkle of laughter. Hands reach for his hips, pulling him close again. He finally opens his eyes, a soft smile gracing his lips as a beautiful green gazes back at him.
"Good morning." Logan's voice is soft, husky with sleep.
"Morning," Julian murmurs, curling into Logan's arms, "Mm, you're warm."
Logan's smile grows. He leans in, pressing a soft kiss to Julian's mouth. "You're beautiful," he whispers, peppering feather-light kisses across Julian's skin, "So beautiful."
Julian hums contentedly, letting his eyes close as Logan continues his ministrations. It's odd, how good this feels—Logan's barely touching him at all, and yet it just feels...right.
"Hungry?" Logan rests his head against Julian's chest, blinking up at him with those gorgeous eyes.
"Only always," Julian smirks, "But I'm far too comfortable here. You'll have to bring me breakfast in bed."
Logan smiles at the haughty reply, pressing one last kiss to Julian's skin as he pushes himself up. Julian props himself up on his elbows, shamelessly admiring Logan's body. The ripple of his muscles as he stretches, the curve of his spine when he reaches for his discarded boxers, the golden shine of his hair in the sunlight.
"I'm no cook," Logan warns, "So I hope toast and half-cooked eggs will do."
Julian gasps in mock-horror, "And here I was thinking you were perfect."
"A tragic disappointment, I'm sure."
"Could be a deal breaker."
"Let's hope not."
Julian bites thoughtfully at his bottom lip, watching with curious eyes as Logan pads down the hallway. He's never felt so comfortable with someone before. The conversation is easy. Familiar, almost. It's not often that Julian finds someone who teases back, who doesn't take offense to his sarcasm or teasing. It's nice. Refreshing.
A faint buzzing interrupts his thoughts, and Julian groans as his phone lights up from the floor. He rolls out of bed—struggling momentarily when he winds up tangled in Logan's sheets—and reaches for it, wincing at the seventeen missed calls from Carmen.
"Julian!" Carmen sounds frazzled, "Where have you been? I've been calling for hours-"
"I'm sorry," Julian rolls his eyes, "I was under the impression that I had this weekend off, actually..."
"For gods sake, Larson...that role you wanted? The one that could take your career to new levels? It's yours."
"The—" Julian stutters, nearly tripping over his own jeans as he paces the room, "But...I thought they went with someone else?"
"Evidently they changed their minds," a faint shuffling of papers in the background, "Now you'll need to call them today, so write this number down—"
"Hang on!" Julian glances around frantically, searching for a scrap of paper and a pen. He fishes a crumpled receipt from the nightstand, flattening it quickly. "Pen...pen...Logan!" Julian calls loudly, tearing open a drawer and rifling quickly through it, "Do you have a—"
His eye catches on the corner of a photograph. Nothing's visible but a patch of grass, a corner of a building. But he's drawn to it, in an odd, inexplicable way. He tugs at it, and his breath catches as it falls from the book it had been placed in.
"Carmen?" His voice is distant, hazy, "…I'm going to have to call you back."
He's vaguely aware of her protests. But his attention is now solely fixed on this single photograph. His phone falls from his hand, hitting the carpet heavily. The sound doesn't register in Julian's mind. All he can hear is the blood pounding in his ears, the rush of thoughts and confusion swelling in his mind.
"Okay," Logan's voice breaks through the haze, "So I may have burned the toast a bit, but it doesn't look that bad...Julian?"
Julian turns slowly, face expressionless as he holds the photograph in trembling fingers.
"Logan," Julian says slowly, "What is this?"
Logan frowns. "What are you talking about?"
"What is this, Logan?" Julian demands.
Logan sets the tray of food down, crossing the room. Julian flips the photograph around, holding it up wordlessly.
"…oh." It's a great picture. One of his favorites. Julian's smiling up at the camera, eyes for once free of dark glasses. Logan has an arm thrown around Julian's shoulders, a wide smile spread across his own face. They're together. Happy. Young.
"Logan!" Julian's voice cracks, knuckles turning white as he grips the picture in his hands.
"I can explain—"
"Is this some kind of sick joke?"
"This is from high school, Logan!"
"I know, I—"
"How do you have a picture of me—of us—from six years ago?"
Logan's mouth falls open, but he can't find the words. Julian shakes his head slowly, eyes growing cold as he crumples the picture in his fingers.
"I really thought you…I can't believe I…I trusted you. And you…what is this?"
Logan steps forward, reaching out. But Julian backs away, eyes wide and confused and terrified. He twists away from Logan's arms, dropping the ruined photograph to the carpet.
Julian's hands tremble as he grabs his shirt, slipping it over his shoulders. "Stay away from me."
"Don't touch me!"
Julian gathers the rest of his things, still breathing raggedly.
Julian's eyes squeeze shut. He stands motionless for a moment, breathing harshly as he clutches his jacket and shoes to his chest. Then he spins around, nearly sprinting from the apartment without sparing Logan so much as a glance.
He knows Julian won't answer when he calls. After that, he really can't blame him. But he still tries, dialing Julian's number incessantly.
Hello, you've reached Julian Larson, please leave a message.
Hello, you've reached Julian Larson, please—
Hello, you've reached Julian—
Hello, you've reached—
He finally tries calling Derek. His fingers hover clumsily across the keys, misdialing over and over until he finally manages to get it right. It rings once, twice, three times…
"Derek—" Logan's voice breaks, the tears finally spilling over. His breath comes in choked gasps, voice stammering out broken words. Derek sighs.
"I'm leaving for the airport now. Don't move until I get there."
Derek brings the box with him. All of Julian's things, gathered from a previous life, all tucked neatly inside.
"I'm going to talk to him," he says calmly, "I'll try to get him back here. And then you need to talk. You need to tell him everything."
"Everything, Logan," Derek says pointedly. His hand flutters over the cream-colored envelope on the top of the pile.
Logan hesitates, but nods. Derek sweeps from the room.
He gets a text a few hours later, from Julian's number.
You have half an hour, Wright.
Just seconds later, a text from Derek.
Don't screw this up.
He swings the door open the moment Julian's knuckles hit white-painted wood. Julian holds himself back, arms crossed tightly over his chest.
"Derek came by."
"He…he said things," Julian's lips press together, turning white as he sucks in a breath. "The front door stays open, okay? And if you get too close to me, I'm out of here."
Logan nods, stepping aside to let Julian through. He avoids Logan's eyes, moving immediately to the box still sitting on Logan's coffee table.
He doesn't wait for an answer, reaching immediately for a large framed photograph. It's one that had hung on Julian's wall for most of high school. Julian's younger self is standing in the middle, just a bit too lean for his lengthening frame—awkward, his mother had called him—but nevertheless smiling into the camera. Derek's on his right, arm slung around Julian's shoulder. Logan's on the left, laughing at who-knows-what as he leans against Julian's side.
"Shit," Julian breathes, sinking onto Logan's couch as he stares at the photograph, "Shit."
He drops the picture, burying his face in his hands as he swears under his breath.
"This isn't possible," Logan hears him mutter, "It's not fucking possible."
He steps forward, wanting nothing more than to offer a comforting touch. Instead, he perches on the opposite end of the couch, waiting for Julian to say something more. When he finally looks up, it's with wide, unreadable eyes.
"Could you…?" His voice falters off, but Logan understands. He nods curtly, pulling the Old Julian's belongings between them.
They go through the box together. Julian carefully examines each photograph, wracking his brain for moments he can't remember. He reads old notes, tracing a finger over letters written in his own hand. Movie ticket stubs, concert tickets, club wristbands—each artifact carefully handled, looked over with curious eyes.
Logan provides explanation, filling in the memories Julian can't infer from slips of paper. He finds himself smiling when Julian finds a stack of photos from their first Spring Break together. Perhaps they had been happier than he remembered—each picture features blinding smiles and laughing faces. Julian stops at one in particular, tilting his head curiously. Logan peers over his shoulder, but nothing about this one seems unusual. They're strewn across a grassy hill, all three of them, tangled together and smiling into the camera. Julian's head is resting on Logan's chest, chin tilted upward as he smiles at the blond.
Julian's fingers trace over his own face, and a small frown creases his lips.
"You said we were…friends?"
"Best friends," Logan corrects, "You, me, and Derek."
"Oh," Julian says softly, still staring at the photo. He sounds confused, almost. For several moments, he doesn't move. Just stares.
The brunet starts, dropping the photograph as if he's been burned. "I should go," he says quietly, avoiding Logan's eyes, "I…I need to think."
He pushes clumsily off the couch, hand drifting to rub at his temples as he stumbles across the apartment. He's halfway down the hall when Logan finally moves to follow.
Julian falters, half-turning to face Logan.
"You should read this," Logan shoves the envelope into Julian's hands, "When you get home, at least. But…you should read it."
Their hands brush.
Logan's lips part.
Julian spins away, shoving the envelope into his jacket pocket as he hurries away.
"It's been a week, Derek!"
"It's a lot to take in," Derek says. He's the epitome of calm, even with Logan pacing like a madman in front of him.
"He hasn't even called…"
"Could we be rational, here?" Derek finally moves, yanking at Logan's arm until he stills, "He doesn't remember, Logan. He never will. To just throw this at him…"
"I just…" Logan sighs, running a hand through his hair, "I just want him back, Derek. For good."
He leaves a voicemail.
Several of them.
"It's Logan. I…I'm sorry. For everything. Call me? Please?"
"It's me again. I just…I thought maybe you'd want your things back. Call me."
"Julian. It's me. Again. I'm sorry."
"Julian…Jules…it's me. Logan. Again. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I know I screwed up, and I know I hurt you. But when I saw you again…I thought that maybe…maybe I'd have the chance to fix it. I should've…I should've said something. I know that. But god, Jules, I was so scared of losing you. Again. I'm sorry. …I miss you. I…I won't call you again. I'm sorry."
Two weeks pass.
Logan's a mess. He hasn't slept properly in days, hasn't bathed in even longer. His hair hangs too long over his eyes, which are red-rimmed and underlined with dark circles. His clothes are rumpled and too large, hanging awkwardly on his body. The apartment is in even worse shape—Chinese takeout containers cover his coffee table, clothes lie scattered across the floor, and nothing's been clean since the last time he'd seen Julian. So when a faint knocking on his door interrupts his new self-loathing routine—lying motionless on the couch, drinking glass after glass of vodka until his world turns hazy—he nearly ignores it. The knock echoes through his apartment again. He swallows a mouthful of vodka, relishing in the fire that burns its way down his throat. The knock sounds again, more insistent this time, and Logan slams his glass against the table, swinging his legs to floor and striding across the room.
He throws the door open unceremoniously, prepared to demand that the visitor vacate the premises immediately. But his voice catches somewhere between his throat and his lips, stunned into silence by a pair of dark brown eyes blinking up at him.
He's never once—in all the years he's known Julian both before and after his departure—seen the actor look as vulnerable as he does now. His eyes are wide and watery; his arms cross over his body like a shield. His lips part, silently mouthing unheard words. He shakes his head, blinking back tears as he turns his gaze to the floor.
Logan reaches out, fingers twitching as they brush over the smaller man's cheek. Julian shivers, screwing his eyes shut before steadfastly turning his gaze back to Logan. Logan watches him set his jaw, lips pressing together as he looks up at him.
"I read it. The letter."
Logan nods, slowly.
"I was in love with you."
"I was miserable."
"I'm sorry—" Julian shushes him, holding up a single finger.
"I should hate you. I read it…and it's like it wasn't even me. I don't want to feel like that again," he blinks, hard, "But I don't want to leave, either."
Logan holds his breath. Julian purses his lips, eyes scanning Logan's face before he speaks again:
"Don't break my heart."
His voice is sure. Strong. But the pleading look in his eyes, the slight tremble of his fingers against his crossed arms—it makes Logan want to pull Julian close, hold him tight against his chest and never let go.
So he does.
Julian moves willingly, stumbling forward and sliding his arms around Logan's waist. He buries his face in Logan's chest, shuddering breath dancing across his skin. Logan holds him almost too tightly, clinging desperately as he presses his lips against Julian's hair.
"Never." A single tear trails down his cheek, "I promise, Julian. Never."
Julian nods against Logan's chest, his fingers clutching at the blond's cotton shirt.
"I love you."
The words burst forth from Logan's lips before he can stop them. Julian looks up, sepia eyes blinking at Logan.
"…I love you," Logan repeats, brushing a strand of hair from Julian's eyes, "I love you."
Julian's lips curve into a small smile. "That's good," he says slowly, hands sliding to rest on either side of Logan's neck, "Because I think…I might be falling in love with you, too."
This time, when their lips meet, it's a promise. Of honesty. Of the future.
Of making new memories.