Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
Brian and Justin had been sitting in the waiting room for what seemed like hours before the doctor appeared with his face looking grim. He spotted Justin immediately and made his way towards the young man, noticing that he wasn't alone. It didn't take a rocket scientist to see the resemblance in the man at his side. He was obviously a relative of John's. The minute Justin saw him, he stood up and met the doctor halfway, the stranger right beside him.
"Dr. Robinski, how is he?" Justin asked immediately.
"I'm sorry, Justin. I wish I had better news for you," Roger Robinski replied as he eyed the other man. "Why don't we go to my office for some privacy?"
"Sure," Justin said as he fought off his panic. "This is Brian, John's nephew."
"It's nice to meet you, Brian. I just wish it was under better circumstances. Come this way."
Justin wasn't even aware of the fact that he grabbed onto Brian's hand for support as they both followed the doctor to his office. Once they were inside, he sat down, thankful that he managed to make it to the chair before his shaky legs gave out. He waited as Brian sat down beside him and the doctor behind his desk, before the older man began speaking.
"As I said, I wish I had better news. The lung infection that I began treating John for last week has become quite severe. He's in congestive heart failure and he's so filled with fluid that he can barely breathe. With his Immune system what it is, he's not responding to the medication I've prescribed him. I'm sorry, but there's nothing more I can do except make him as comfortable as possible," Roger explained solemnly. "Justin, you know John and I go way back. I wish I could give you something more but without a magic wand, my hands are tied. There's only so much his weakened body can take."
Justin jumped up from the chair and ran from the room. He knew that the day would come when he'd have to say goodbye to his best friend, but he never allowed himself to think about it. Instead he hoped that he'd have a long time before he was faced with the heartbreaking situation before him. He ran blindly to the elevator, needing to be alone.
Brian watched Justin leave the room and wanted to go after him, but he didn't know what to say to try to ease the blond's pain, especially since he was having trouble with his own mixed emotions. Instead he sat in the chair across from the doctor, wondering why he even bothered to meet his uncle only to lose him so quickly. He was lost in thought when he heard the doctor speak.
"Brian, I really am sorry about your uncle. We've been friends for over twenty years. It hasn't been easy treating him through his illness but he asked me to do it for him and I didn't have the heart to refuse," Roger explained. "He told me he was going to contact you. I'm glad you were able to meet him. He's an exceptional man."
"Yeah, he is," Brian replied, hating the way his voice sounded choked. He cleared his throat before continuing. "How much longer does he have?"
"Truthfully? I don't think he'll make it through the night." Roger had to take a moment to pull himself together. It was hard enough telling family members that their loved ones were passing, but he was emotionally involved this time and it made it hard to keep things professional. "Why don't you come with me and I'll take you to his room. I don't know how coherent he'll be, but I know it would mean a lot to him if you were there."
Brian just nodded as he rose from the chair and followed the doctor out of the office. The trip to John's room seemed to drag on as Brian tried to understand what he was feeling. As sad as it was, learning of his own father's death hadn't affected him as much as his uncle's impending death was, and he wasn't really sure how to react to the dull ache in his chest. Once they were outside John's door, the doctor turned to Brian and offered him a weak smile.
"I've got to make my rounds. If you need me, have one of the nurses page me."
"Thanks Doctor," Brian replied. "If you would see Justin…"
"Please, call me Roger. And if you want to find Justin, he'll be up on the roof." Roger chuckled softly at the surprised look on Brian's face. "Don't worry; he's not looking to jump. It's where he always goes to be alone when things get too hard for him. This isn't the first time John's been gravely ill. It took a while, but I eventually learned where Justin went to be alone."
"Thanks," Brian replied before turning to enter the room.
He was startled by John's appearance when he saw the older man lying in the hospital bed. His normally pale complexion was more ashen than before and Brian could see the way his body was struggling to breathe even though he had an oxygen mask covering his mouth. There were wires and tubes everywhere and quite a few machines around the bed, beeping and blinking, filling the otherwise silent room with noise. Brian approached the bed slowly and took John's hand in his, noticing how frail and thin it seemed to be. He was surprised when John's eyes fluttered open, trying to focus on him.
"Hey," he whispered, clearing his throat. "It's Brian."
John reached up and grabbed the mask covering his mouth in an attempt to pull it away. Brian reached out and helped him.
"Brian," the older man rasped with difficulty. "I…wish…we…had…more…time."
"Shhh, it's okay. Don't try to talk. You need to save your strength," Brian replied softly.
"It doesn't…matter. I know…my…time…is…up." John replaced the mask and tried to take in a couple of breaths before pulling it away again. "I…just…wanted…to say…that I'm…sorry. I…should've…been…there…for…you."
Brian could feel himself getting choked up and cursed himself for not being stronger. "It's okay. I'm just glad I'm here now."
"Take…care…of…Justin…for…me. He's…not…going…to…take…this…well." Once again John had to put the mask back and take in a few struggling breaths. "He's…been like…a…son…to…me. I…owe…him…so...much. He…gave…me…a…reason to…fight…this…long. Such…a…sweet…beautiful…boy. Wish…I was…twenty…years younger. I'm…so…tired."
"Why don't you try to sleep a little?" Brian suggested as he tried to absorb what John was saying. How was he supposed to take care of Justin? He'd be going back to Pittsburgh soon and would probably never see the blond again, yet he didn't want to think about how that thought caused a strange sadness to wash over him. "I'm sure Justin will be here when you wake up."
John was barely able to acknowledge Brian's words before he drifted back off to sleep.
Brian waited for a minute to make sure that John was out, before he left the room and headed towards the elevator. He rode the car up to the top floor and got out, searching for the roof access. Once he found it, he walked outside and looked around, his eyes finally finding Justin. He walked over slowly, not wanting to startle the younger man. He stopped a few feet away, unsure of what he could say.
"I'm not ready to let him go yet," Justin said softly, his voice choked with emotion and fear. "I've known for quite awhile that he was getting worse, but I refused to admit it. I refused to face the fact that he was going to be leaving me. I don't know what I'm going to do without him."
Brian wasn't sure what came over him, but the need to try and take away some of Justin's obvious pain was overwhelming. He went up to Justin and wrapped him arms around him from behind. "I don't think anyone can prepare themselves for something like this. I know this is hard for you, but you need to be able to say goodbye. He's struggling so hard but he's losing the fight. He needs you to tell him that you're going to be okay."
"I know you think I'm some kind of gold digger, but his money has nothing to do with why I'm here. I love him, Brian. He was there for me when no one else was, and I owe him so much."
"That's funny," Brian laughed sadly. "He just said the same thing about you. And I don't think you're a gold digger. Not anymore. I may not understand the whole concept of love, but I know you two share something special. Maybe that will help you say goodbye."
Justin pulled out of Brian's embrace and turned to look up into Brian's eyes. "Wow, maybe you're not such an asshole after all," he whispered.
"Let's keep that between us, okay?" Brian teased before sobering again. "Are you ready to go see him?"
"Not really, but I guess I don't have much of a choice, do I?"
Brian shook his head sadly. "Come on," he said as he took Justin's hand. Together they walked back down to John's room, but Brian stopped him at the door. "I'm going to go get a cup of coffee and give you a few minutes alone. Do you want anything?"
"Unless you can turn back the clocks, there's nothing you can do for me," Justin replied.
Brian leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Justin's forehead before walking away to give Justin the privacy he needed.
Justin hesitated before entering the room where John lay dying. He walked over to the bed and brushed away the few stray hairs that were lying on John's forehead. The subtle movement caused John to open his eyes.
"Hey handsome, how're you doing?" Justin asked as he struggled to hold himself together. He helped John pull away his mask so that he could speak.
Justin just nodded his head in reply.
"Promise…me…that…you…won't…spend…too...much…time…grieving. I…need to…know…that…you're…going…to…be…okay."
"Oh John, I don't know how to say goodbye to you. You've been so good to me and I love you so much," Justin cried softly.
"I…love…you…too. My…life…wouldn't…have…been…the…same…without…you. Thank…you…for…the…painting. I'm…glad…I…got…to…see…it. You're…so talented. Brian's…really…something…isn't…he? His…heart…is…hidden…but…it's there. Give…him…time…to…find…it."
Justin was confused by John's words, but figured it was the medication talking. "I'm glad you found him. I just wish you had more time."
Justin was watching John struggling to talk and gently placed the oxygen mask back over his mouth. "Rest now. Brian and I will still be here when you wake up."
As soon as John was sleeping again, Justin pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed, trying not to let his anger get the better of him. It was so unfair that someone as loving and kind as John was dying so young while the world was filled with so many mean-spirited people filled with hate. He wasn't sure how long he sat there as silent tears ran down his face, but he jumped when he felt a hand close over his shoulder. He looked up and saw Brian standing over him.
"Hey, did you get a chance to talk to him?" Brian asked quietly as he pulled up another chair.
"Yeah, although he was a little out of it," Justin told him. "Brian, I'm glad you're here. I'm glad that you got a chance to know him. He really is an incredible person."
"I'm glad, too," Brian replied honestly. While he'd been down in the cafeteria getting his coffee, he thought about how he'd considered not responding to the invitation. He was happy that his curiosity forced him to rearrange his schedule and fly to Denver. Knowing that there was someone in his fucked up family that loved him seemed to ease some of the resentment he felt towards life. He was just sorry that John felt the need to wait until Jack was gone before initiating contact. He would've liked to learn more about the man who shared his father's blood, but not his anger and hate.
Brian and Justin both eventually drifted off to sleep around midnight, but were woken up at three am to the sound of alarms going off. They both jumped up immediately as nurses came rushing into the room. They stood back to let the women do their job, but they knew deep down inside that their efforts were for nothing. John Kinney was already gone, without ever regaining consciousness.
When Brian and Justin walked into the big house shortly after six that morning, they could feel the somber mood in the air. Justin had called Arthur from the hospital and told him of John's passing and the whole house staff was in mourning. They'd all been with John for years and were very attached to their boss. It was easy to see that they were all affected by his death. Arthur met them in the living room, his eyes puffy and red from crying.
"Justin, how're you holding up?" he asked cautiously.
"I'm not really sure," Justin admitted. "I think I'm still in denial. It hasn't really sunk in yet that he's gone."
"I know what you mean. I keep finding myself glancing at the clock as if I'm waiting for him to wake up and start issuing his orders," Arthur laughed sadly. "At nine o'clock I'll contact the lawyers and let them know what happened. John left specific instructions on how he wanted things handled so that should make this all a little easier. Why don't you both go on up and try to get some sleep. I'll be here all day taking care of all the last minute details."
"Thank you, Arthur," Justin replied as he crossed the room and hugged the assistant. "I'm sure this isn't easy for you, either. I know how much you cared for John."
"We all did. He was so much more than just an employer," Arthur said as he wiped his eyes. He nodded at Brian before leaving the room.
"I know I won't get much sleep, but I guess we should try to rest for a little while. Once word gets out that John is gone, I imagine it's going to get a little crazy around here."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Brian agreed.
They walked upstairs together and went their separate ways, but as soon as Justin came to John's closed door, he was overcome with such sadness that he wasn't able to hold back the sob that escaped his lips. Brian was at his side immediately.
"This is even harder than I thought it would be," Justin cried. "I miss him so much already. I don't know how I'm going to get through this."
Brian didn't have the words to help ease Justin's pain, or his own for that matter. Instead he put his arm around Justin's shoulders and led the blond down the hall to his own room. Once they were inside, Brian helped Justin strip down to his briefs and steered him into bed, before stripping himself down and climbing in beside him. No words were spoken between them as he took Justin in his arms. He was surprised by the desperation with which Justin clung to him. There was nothing sexual going on at that moment. It was just two lost souls leaning on each other, seeking to find some kind of comfort during such a dark time. Brian forced himself to stay awake until he finally heard Justin's breathing even out, signaling he had drifted off to sleep. Only then did he give in to his own exhaustion and follow the blond in slumber.
When Justin woke up a short time later he was disoriented. He felt strong arms around him and it took a few moments before the events of the morning washed over him. John was gone and he was once again alone in the world. That thought caused a small sob to escape his lips and he barely registered Brian's arms tightening around him.
"Shhh, it's okay," Brian murmured. "Let it all out."
Justin had no choice but to follow Brian's orders. He lay in those comforting arms and cried for what seemed like hours, wondering if it was possible for someone to die from a broken heart. What was he going to do next? How was he going to get through the services, the next few days, not to mention the rest of his life? It wasn't fair. John was too young to die. How could one little indiscretion take away a man's life? He fought hard and finally managed to pull himself together, but he wasn't ready to lose the comfort that Brian's body so close to his gave him.
"You must think that I'm a big baby," he finally said softly.
"No, I was actually thinking about how happy I was that my uncle had someone in his life that cared so much for him," Brian replied honestly. He had a brief thought that if he were to die, there'd be no one there to mourn for him. Lindsay and Michael would cry a little, a few others would shed a tear or two, but then they'd all go back to their busy lives and remember him fondly a couple of times a year. Or maybe not too fondly. Hell, even his own son wouldn't lose a moment of sleep over him. How could he when he rarely ever saw the boy? He briefly wondered if that was something he should try to change, but then pushed those thoughts away for another time. Right now his focus had to be on Justin. His uncle had asked him to look after the blond, and although they didn't have much time together, he could honor the request for the rest of his stay. "We should probably get up and shower. I'm sure there are going to be people that want to see you."
"I guess you're right," Justin sighed, wishing there was a way they could hide out in bed all day. "I'm sure Arthur is handling things, but I know how upset he must be. I hate to leave everything up to him."
Brian held onto Justin for a little bit longer before releasing him and climbing out of bed. Once Justin was up, Brian got a chance to get a better look at him and quickly regretted it. He could see the toll that John's death was taking on him and his heart went out to him. It was strange to think that someone could mourn for another person so deeply when his own father's death did nothing but leave him feeling indifferent. Justin eventually went down to his own room and once alone, Brian took a shower and got dressed. Then he reached for the phone, once again questioning the wisdom of his actions.
"Hey Linds, it's me," Brian said, suddenly realizing why he made the call. He needed to hear his friend's voice.
"Brian, I was just thinking about you. How's everything going in Denver?" Lindsay asked.
"Not so good. My uncle died early this morning," Brian admitted with a catch in his voice.
"Oh Brian, I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
"You could let me talk to my son," Brian replied softly.
"Of course. Hang on while I get him. He's out back playing in the sandbox with the babysitter. I was just getting ready to go to work," she explained.
Brian waited for a few minutes before he heard the sound of his son's voice, causing a lump to form in his throat. He vowed to spend more time with him once he got back to the Pitts.
"Daddy? Where are you? Can you come over and play in the sandbox with me? Stacy's here but she's a girl. She doesn't like playing with trucks," Gus claimed excitedly.
"Sorry, Sonny boy, but I'm on a trip right now. I'll come by and play as soon as I get back, okay?" Brian replied.
"Do you promise?" Gus asked, not hiding the disappointment in his voice.
"I promise," Brian assured him.
They talked for a few more minutes. More like Gus babbled and Brian just listened, but it was just what he needed at the moment. As soon as Gus said goodbye, Lindsay was back on the phone, her concern evident.
"Brian, are you okay? It couldn't have been easy for you to fly all the way out there to meet an uncle you didn't know, only to lose him a few days later."
"I've had better weeks," he told her.
"What about the guy you told me about? He was close to your uncle, right? Maybe the two of you can…" Lindsay began before being abruptly cut off by Brian, as usual.
"Maybe the two of us can what? Fuck again? I somehow don't think that's going to happen."
"I wasn't even going to suggest it. I was thinking more along the lines of talking to each other. Helping each other get through a rough time. You know, sex can't always be used as pain management. Sometimes a person needs more," Lindsay replied.
"Fucking always worked for me," Brian insisted.
"That's because you've never allowed yourself to care about anyone. I think it's about time you started admitting to yourself that you're as human as the rest of us. There's nothing wrong with having emotions."
"Whatever," Brian barked, refusing to continue with the conversation any longer. "I've gotta go. I just wanted to let you know that I'll probably have to extend my say for a couple of days. I'll call you when I get back so that I can see Gus."
"Okay," Lindsay sighed in frustration. "Call me if you need anything."
Brian hung up immediately, trying to decide if talking to Lindsay made him feel better or worse. Not that it mattered. The only thing that mattered at that moment was getting through the rough days ahead, and making sure Justin survived them as well.
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