So this is an idea I just couldn't get out of my head. Because sure, Jimmy can be annoying as hell at times but losing Kyle is a pretty big punishment and I wanted to put a little bit of (albeit bittersweet) light in that. Plus I personally couldn't handle the idea of Kyle being totally completely gone. And I wanted an excuse to fit Tom in there too! Slightly AUish as it was written before the finale, but, you know, just use your imagination! hehe Read, review if you feel like it and I hope you enjoy :) x
He hadn't actually wanted to go up on stage but they'd begged him. Karen's eyes insisted it's what Kyle would have wanted and a small part of him knew he had to do it, because now Kyle couldn't and it would be selfish not to appreciate this chance. And it was beautiful; a standing ovation for a boy who somehow touched everyone, but couldn't stick around to see it. Jimmy shivered slightly as he stepped out in front of it and he felt the tears skimming the surface of his eyes. The whole cast were glassy-eyed, but unlike him they could at least manage a smile as they waved frantically for him to join them out there for one final bow. Even Derek was uncharacteristically enthusiastic and Jimmy reluctantly slotted himself between him and Karen and it was in that moment he realised he really didn't want to be up there at all. Being in front of all this without Kyle standing next to him...he swallowed something that wasn't quite a sob and wasn't quite a laugh. Karen and Derek's hands felt wrong in his; didn't fit, didn't belong near his skin, like he needed to get them off, like their palms were too rough, too big.
Slowly the cast rose from one last bow and they joined in with the claps and whoops of the audience. That was when Jimmy saw it; a figure in the shadows to the side of the stalls that didn't blend in with a Broadway evening crowd. Out of place, what with his coat and scarf still on and his slightly faded jeans. Jimmy felt like someone was squeezing his lungs and the pools of salt-water in his eyes finally let go of one, slow tear. Kyle. Their eyes met and Jimmy's breath hitched in his throat. Those blue eyes, still so pixie-bright, were smiling up at him in that familiar way; sadness and encouragement and understanding all at once. The corner of his lips quirked up and Jimmy mirrored the gesture, still clapping along with the packed house, willing Kyle to know how relieved he was to see that he got to be here for this moment after all.
He wanted to jump down from the stage right then, desperate to talk to him for so many reasons, selfish and selfless ones, stupid ones too. Because he had so much that he should have said and so much to tell him that had happened since. He wanted to tell him ridiculous stuff that shouldn't matter in the scheme of things. Wanted Kyle to know things that he wished he could've seen; the Tony award he'd received posthumously, for one. The standing ovation at the ceremony when it was announced. The dimming of the Bombshell house lights, even, was something that came to mind. There were things Kyle should've been alive to enjoy that Jimmy wanted to give him some part of, stuff he deserved that had all been screwed up because his friend was an awful human being who couldn't just have kept sober for one measly week. And that, of course, was the other reason Jimmy wanted so desperately to talk to his friend. The bigger reason, the more important one; their friendship, the way it had all gone to pieces. He had never told Kyle anything about the way he felt, none of the good stuff. He'd always been so quick with the anger, with the cutting remarks. When he was high, he had this uncanny ability to hit Kyle right where it hurt. But he'd never told him he thought of him as his real brother, never told him thank you for anything, and just assumed the sorry was understood. And then there was the other regret, the one at the root of everything; he'd never told Kyle he loved him, and he'd certainly not told him how much. But still Jimmy didn't jump down from the stage, didn't even whisper the words under his breath. Because in that one smile they shared he knew that Kyle knew. And that was the beauty of it all; they'd never really needed the words to know the truth between them. Without words, Jimmy knew that's why Kyle was here at all. Not for the Broadway triumph of a show just back with a good few Tony awards. No. He was here to accept the unsaid apology and to let Jimmy know that, even at the very end as he was walking away, he'd still known the truth and he'd still understood.
Jimmy glanced briefly down the line and realised no-one else had noticed Kyle standing there. By the time he turned his eyes back, Kyle was gone and that was when the tears really came. Karen was holding him and the cast were rallying but it didn't mean a thing. Because Kyle was gone. Again. And he still hadn't managed to say a proper goodbye.
That night he dreamt about their spot. About sitting up there with the wind on his face, the sun shining on his closed eyes as the city carried on without him.
He knew he was dreaming, he was almost too aware of it. He knew that their spot didn't feel like this anymore because all he ever did when he went there now was cry. But he wasn't crying then. Just sitting. Just pretending for a little while. And then he felt someone climb up beside him. Sit with him. Pause. Draw in the smallest breath.
'I thought you said this place wasn't cool anymore.' Jimmy opened his eyes with a start and that sensation crept back up on him, of someone clenching tighter and tighter around his lungs. The pain was strangely sublime. That voice...he almost smiled, and he looked to his side and he saw him and suddenly he understood why he'd been so happy to escape into a dream, even when he knew that's what it was. Anything could happen in a dream. Kyle could be with him in a dream. Kyle buried his hands in his pockets, staring out at the city, his features creased into a half-frown as a gust of wind blew his hair into his eyes.
'It isn't,' Jimmy mustered after a beat, all-too-aware of how choked his voice sounded. Of his red-rimmed eyes and the way he was staring. Of Kyle slowly turning to look at him, lips twisting into a small, sad smile.
'Why are you dreaming about it then?' Playful reprimand. Something else he'd lost and craved and needed. Jimmy swallowed, forced himself to meet Kyle's gaze.
'Because it's the last place...it's the only place I was ever...ever even a little bit honest with you.' Kyle's eyes danced with a light that wasn't quite the same as happiness, but also wasn't tears, and Jimmy wanted to reach out and touch him, but he was afraid if he did that he'd disappear. Or worse, he'd wake up and have to face the empty space of a reality he wasn't sure he wanted to be part of anymore. 'Kyle, I'm so sor-'
'Don't say that.' Kyle cut him off, glancing down, and Jimmy felt every muscle in his body ache the moment that gaze drifted away from him.
'Kyle, if it wasn't for me-'
'Look, just stop it, ok? If you blame yourself then I can't...it's not your fault, you know? It's just not. Not anymore than it is Derek's for firing you or Karen's for telling me to cut you off or...or mine for insisting I be the one who told you.'
'Your parents blame me.'
'Kyle, do you remember the last thing I said to you?' Kyle winced then and Jimmy wished he hadn't reminded him. Both of them looked back out towards the city and for a moment they were quiet, neither one wanting to risk going to that place, neither one really willing to remember it. Of course Kyle remembered, just like Jimmy remembered. But they both truly wished they could forget.
'I don't blame you,' Kyle sighed at last, so softly that it forced Jimmy to look at him again. His eyes were glassy now, but still that same ridiculous blue. Jimmy bit his lip and Kyle shook his head shyly, his lips curving up as he sniffed and stopped himself from shedding any actual tears. 'I know there's a lot of stuff I should blame you for but I...it doesn't even matter now, you know? I chose to love you despite it, I might as well stand by that decision now.' He flicked a quick look back up at Jimmy then, eyes bright. 'I accept your apology, but...I never really needed it anyway.' Jimmy smiled, the first real smile he'd mustered since...since that awful night when the news was still raw and he'd smiled because he saw all the people who were there just because of Kyle and it had made him proud. He'd never known how Kyle did that, how he drew people in like that. Maybe that's why he'd lashed out at him; he was jealous, deep down he wished he was as easy to love. But this smile, this smile was a better one. This smile wasn't pride or relief. He was smiling because it was Kyle and he'd missed him and now he was here.
'I still screwed up, Kyle...there's so much stuff I should've said to you, there's so much I never told you that I should have.'
'Then tell me now.'
'What's the use? It won't change anything...you're not really here, I know that. It's not really you I'd be telling it to, it's just...it's just in my head, it's just me trying to absolve my own guilt with some fiction. And you deserve a lot better than that, you know?'
'Who says I'm not really here?' Kyle asked gently and Jimmy laughed a hollow laugh that was both joyless and dry, not even a tear at the edges of it and definitely no smile.
'Life says, Kyle. Reality says. You're gone and I don't want you to be but...but you are.' Jimmy's voice broke and Kyle winced again, shivering slightly and turning his face back into the wind. For a moment he sat there with his eyes closed, pulling himself in tight. Neither one of them looked at the other. Jimmy couldn't bear to. The simple acknowledgement that this wasn't real brought home the facts of what was real; Kyle was dead. His brother Kyle had died without ever knowing just how dearly he was loved. Jimmy closed his eyes tightly, listening to the wind get stronger, listening to the sound of Kyle shifting his weight beside him.
'But what if it was real?' Kyle's voice almost disappeared beneath the sound of New York and Jimmy opened his eyes slowly, looking up at the sky and wondering if he could really let himself latch on to the only chance he was ever going to have at a proper goodbye.
'If it was real?'
'Yeah. What would you say?'
'I...I'd tell you I was sorry, again. And I'd tell you thank you, for more things than I can actually list...I'd tell you I did love you. Still do, actually. I just didn't want to say it in case you got too attached and I screwed it up again. It was easier to yell at you than risk that.'
'You don't need to say that stuff, Jimmy. Come on, I always knew. Why'd you think I put up with it all?'
'Well then I'd tell you about your Tony and our big Broadway opening...'
'Then I'd tell you that I really am going to change this time.' Jimmy faltered then, knowing there was something else he wanted to say but not sure how to say it without breaking down entirely. There was that hand again, the one reaching into his chest and taking a vice-grip on his lungs, not letting go. 'And then I guess...I'd have said everything you needed from me and then I...I'd have to say goodbye.' His face contorted into a painful shape and he felt the tears on his cheeks. For a moment he almost wondered if he actually was awake, because he could truly feel those tears. He squeezed his eyes tightly, pleading to a God he wasn't completely convinced he'd ever believed in in the first place (never mind since Kyle's death) to just let him have a little while longer before waking up. He felt Kyle shift closer to him then. Felt his hand squeeze his own.
'So say it.'
'I can't, Kyle. I can't.' Jimmy shook his head and drew in a shuddery breath 'I can't admit that you're...' he had to stop. He couldn't say it aloud, he doubted he'd ever be able to. Kyle squeezed his hand again, resting his head on his shoulder. And it felt so real. So ridiculously, beautifully, dreadfully real. For a moment they sat like that and Kyle let Jimmy cry without passing comment, a gesture which Jimmy drew an enormous comfort from and that only served to make him wish he could stay in this place even more.
'You know, Tom's going to call you.' The change of topic caught Jimmy off guard and he opened his eyes, looking down at Kyle with a frown. He was still curled into his side, staring outwards, not meeting his eyes.
'Tom? I...I don't...'
'Look, can you just do one thing for me?' Kyle sat up a little, looking up pleadingly into Jimmy's face.
'Kyle, anything, I-'
'Tell him I said thank you for Vienna.' Jimmy's frown deepened a little more but Kyle's blue eyes were determined, if a little teary. 'And tell him that I really hope he'll meet me there someday.' Kyle glanced back down then. 'Coz, I think this is real, even if you don't. And that's something...it's something I wanted to say.' Jimmy saw how sad he looked then, saw a grief in Kyle's eyes for something that never quite came true. 'Promise me you'll tell him, even if he thinks you're crazy?' Jimmy nodded slowly.
'I promise, Kyle. I promise that's what I'll say if he calls.' Kyle smiled but it didn't reach his eyes, still lightly shining with tears - because Tom was someone that Kyle could've loved and now he'd probably just end up belonging to someone else. Jimmy let him rest his head back down on his shoulder and link their arms together, his own gesture of silent understanding. The silence was calming and he basked in it before letting out a long sigh. 'I miss you,' he admitted quietly at last.
'Yeah. I'm going to miss you too,' Kyle replied after a pause. Jimmy's brow furrowed at that and, that easily, the panic came back. Don't wake me up, please don't wake me up, I want to stay here in this dream – with him – but he sounds like he's thinking of going somewhere. Please, please, don't let him leave. Kyle's eyes closed and Jimmy watched his face, could see him building up the courage to speak again. 'Jimmy, you'll be good, right? Without me?' Jimmy felt the salt of tears on his skin and it surprised him – he hadn't realised he was still crying. When had he started? Had he actually even stopped since this dream began?
'I'll be good, Kyle, I swear.'
'And...and you promise you'll never forget about me?' Jimmy laughed, soft and broken, and shook his head, sniffing back another wave of tears.
'God, Kyle, I could never.' Kyle looked up with a smile, wiping away a tear of his own before sitting up and looking Jimmy in the eye.
'It's not goodbye, ok? I...I don't want to leave you.'
'Jimmy...' Jimmy closed his eyes again, not wanting to see that pained expression on Kyle's face. 'It's not goodbye. It's not, ok? I'll still be on your side, you know. Always.' Jimmy felt Kyle's smaller hands close around his own once more. 'I...I don't want you to say goodbye to me if it hurts you this much. All I want is for you to be ok.'
'But I owe you a goodbye, Kyle.'
'You don't owe me anything, Jimmy. The slate's clean. Just...think about me sometimes, yeah? And I'll be right here, if you need me.' He felt those hands slip away from him then and, somewhere, he was sure, a phone was ringing. The sound cut through the peace and Jimmy fought it off, only admitting he could hear it when he heard Kyle's voice, whispering and barely-there, close to his ear; 'I told you Tom would call.'
When Jimmy finally opened his eyes, Kyle was gone.
He woke up in Kyle's bed. Curled around his pillow, his eyelashes damp and his eyes sore – the only remnants of his dream. It had taken weeks for him to bring himself to come back here, and the only way he could stand to be in this place was by keeping Kyle's things close. Like he'd just gone down to work or was out with Blake, like he was about to come home so the two of them could really talk. Jimmy shivered slightly at the memory of his dream and there was a pang of regret there for a conversation he wished had been real.
As he became more awake he realised the one thing he hadn't imagined was the ringing of his phone, which was tossed on the floor and hidden under a jacket. He scrambled to pick it up in time. The number was one he didn't recognise but he answered anyway, needing to hear someone's voice and make himself feel slightly less like he was totally alone.
'Jimmy...hey...it's er...it's Tom.' Tom's voice sounded as strangled as his own but Jimmy hardly noticed, suddenly very awake. I told you Tom would call.
'Tom?' he asked softly. Tom cleared his throat nervously.
'Look, I'm...I'm sorry to call you like this but I...I just needed to talk to somebody...' Jimmy took a shaky breath to steady himself. 'Somebody who...who actually knew about...I mean about me and...look, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called.'
'No, no...it's fine...what did you...what did you need to talk about?'
'I don't know, really. I...I guess I just feel like I don't have any right to be this much of a mess because...no-one...no-one really knew. I mean...me and him hardly knew what we...and anyway I...I guess I was just hoping maybe you understood. Maybe you might...make me feel like I didn't imagine that me and him had a shot.'
'What makes you think I'd know?' Jimmy managed. Tom sighed.
'You were like a brother to him, Jimmy. I know he told you everything.' Jimmy smiled slightly at that and was amazed to find that the tears had finally dried up. That feeling in his chest had gone too. There was a dull ache there, sure, but there was something good there too. Something a lot like peace-of-mind. Something a lot like a dream that might just have been something more than a dream. Was he crazy for thinking that...that Kyle really had been there with him all night, holding his hand? It was a nice thing to think, so could anyone blame him for thinking it?
'If I tell you something now then...then will you promise not to think I'm crazy?'
'Sure...God knows I've no room to be calling anyone that, certainly not right now.' Jimmy nodded and paused a moment, picking at the threads in his shirt and biting at his lip.
'I dreamt about him last night.'
'That doesn't sound crazy, Jimmy. That sounds like someone who lost their best friend.'
'Yeah but...in this dream, me and him were talking and...and he actually told me you'd call.' Jimmy shook his head and let out a small half-laugh with which he couldn't even convince himself. 'And he said something else which I don't really understand but...but he made me promise to tell you.'
'Then tell me.'
'He said thank you for Vienna. And he said he hoped he'd meet you there someday.'
Jimmy never dreamt of Kyle again. Never saw him at another show. He still felt him sometimes; a slight brush against his shoulder or a breeze on an otherwise still day, always steering him away from poor decisions and keeping him out of harm's way, sometimes catching him the odd lucky break. He knew, in his heart of hearts, that Kyle was there, still looking out for him, still wanting him to be ok. He didn't tell anyone in case they challenged. And, real or not, he held on to the memory of his dream. He had to, especially when that feeling of Kyle around him grew less and less over the years. For the rest of the world, meanwhile, Kyle's presence was being conjured up all the time. The boy who died before his show made Broadway, the boy whose potential alone was enough to make him a legend in those theatres he'd loved so much. For Jimmy that just made things worse; a reminder that he should've been better, because, if he had been, then Kyle could've been so much more. He should have had the chance to be amongst the greats for what he'd done, not for what might have been.
For Jimmy, losing Kyle was like losing a limb. You can go on, sure, and you're grateful to be alive, but the feeling of being alive? It's never quite the same. You learn how to be around in the world again, you rebuild, you stop feeling that constant pain. But the ache's still there in the back of your mind and every now and again you find yourself alone, secretly wishing you could have back the life you lived before. The pain comes in a wave and you're crying on the kitchen floor with no real explanation other than the fact that it'll always hurt for as long as you can remember what used to be.
He and Karen didn't last, never became anything more. They both knew he wasn't capable of loving her, maybe anyone, quite enough – although not for the same reasons as before. It took a while for him to admit it, but he knew he was carrying Kyle around with him still, holding onto that knowledge that there had been someone in the world who loved him that much and he hadn't been able to love him back quite the right way. If he couldn't love Kyle back the way he deserved, he figured he didn't really deserve to know what it felt like to be in love at all. If it hadn't been for Tom, that same logic would have left his music by the wayside too.
Tom was the one who came to Jimmy first. He'd needed someone who might be able to help a friend of his find the perfect song for a showcase and Jimmy had come up with a song that got all of New York talking. The work had kept coming from there. Jimmy never asked Tom why he'd started looking out for him. In return, Jimmy never asked Tom about Vienna (although maybe he did that for Kyle. He was allowed that secret, it was the least Jimmy could do after everything.)
The anniversary of Kyle's death was always the hard part. It usually ended in those faces from Hit List's beginnings popping up. Somehow they'd always find themselves all in the same theatre or street or bar. Tom and Julia almost always showed and there was usually some sort of gathering around a piano where they cried and laughed and shared stories and did all those things people do to cope with loss and it would all just end in Jimmy walking home alone, half-laughing, half-crying, missing Kyle more than ever and wishing for another dream.
It was the ten year anniversary that they ended up back at Tom's. Most people had gone but Karen was still there. Ana. And Blake – who had found, over the years, even long after moving on, that in a strange way no-one else quite got his grief the same way as Tom, the grief over a fleeting might-have-been. Between them all they were messed-up and broken and wrong but they clustered round the piano as Tom played them different songs and for a little while the fragments made sense. And Jimmy felt Kyle, then. Felt him more strongly than he ever had before - more strongly than he had felt him in far too long. So strongly that he could've sworn he heard him beg 'Make him play Vienna' by his ear. And – though he was sure he was losing it – Jimmy wanted to keep that feeling close, so he asked. Tom had looked up at him in surprise, his eyes faraway and a little teary, as between them they remembered that morning all those years ago, when Jimmy woke up from a dream where Kyle shared their secrets and Tom found some comfort in knowing he really was Kyle's most significant almost, just like Kyle was to him.
'Go on, Tom. Play him Vienna.' And Tom smiled and began to play. He played the whole song through and Jimmy was convinced Kyle was there with them for it, sitting by Tom at the piano, even if they couldn't see him. The piano reverberated in the air around them and Jimmy didn't let himself cry until Tom reached the end of the song and Kyle's presence was gone once more.