Now That You're Here


Chapter 38



Things seemed to settle into a routine once Thanksgiving was over. Chris and Zander took things slow, as Zan had wanted, talking on the phone and going out on dates a couple times a week. It was hard for them to keep such a distance between them, but Zander refused to allow things to go any farther until he felt he was ready. Chris found a therapist and began working through his problems, but it felt like everything was going in slow motion. All he wanted was to get Zander back home.

Meanwhile, Brian and Justin were once again lost in their busy lives. Justin had taken on another project for Mr. James and it was taking up a lot of time. Brian seemed to spend most of his time either at the bookstore, which was doing a phenomenal business with Christmas right around the corner, or at the school working on something for the yearbook. He never realized how much work went into creating a book of memories. On top of all that, he made sure that Justin was handling the holidays as well as possible, refusing to forget yet again that his boyfriend was dealing with an emotional time.

Even Jason had a lot going on. Aside from his normal school work, as soon as he got back home, he found a part time job working for the school. He spent his afternoons filing and preparing mailers or any other receptionist type job that needed to be done. The pay wasn’t that great and he could only work fifteen hours a week, but it was enough to give him some extra money for his travel expenses. He had sat his parents down the weekend after Thanksgiving and told them he was bisexual. They handled it exactly like he knew that they would; both very supportive and loving. His father seemed surprised by the revelation, but his mother claimed that she’d always known. She swore that she’d seen Jason checking out guys now and then when they were out together. She even teased him about it, suggesting that his attraction to men was what convinced him to take the lifeguard job year after year. He denied her accusation, but began to wonder if there was any merit to her thoughts. Once he shared his sexuality, Jason began telling his parents about Zac. It was clear to them how important his budding relationship with Zac was, and they were looking forward to getting to Arizona and meeting the boy who made their son so happy.

It was about a week and a half before Christmas when bad news once again found its way into the Kinney/Morgan/Taylor house. Brian and Justin were sitting in the living room watching a movie with Chris on a rare night when they were both home when Brian got a call from Steve.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Bri, it’s Dane,” Steve said, his voice emotionless.

“What about him? Is he alright?” Brian's blood ran cold as he stood up and walked to the French doors, staring off into the back yard. He barely noticed Justin’s hand on his shoulder.

“I’m not sure. His mother found him unconscious in bed. He uh…apparently he swallowed a bunch of pills. They’re not really sure what he took. The doctors pumped his stomach, but he still hasn’t regained consciousness yet. I’m at the hospital now.”

“I’ll be right there.” Brian disconnected the call but stayed where he was, lost in thought.

“What is it, Brian? What happened?” Justin asked nervously. It was obvious that whatever Brian was told wasn’t good.

Brian pulled himself from his thoughts and turned to face Justin and Chris. “It’s Dane. He tried to kill himself,” he replied softly.

“Oh my God,” Justin gasped in horror.

“Is he alright?” Chris asked as he stood up from the couch.

“Um…I don’t think they’re sure yet. He took a bunch of pills. They pumped his stomach, but he hasn’t woken up yet,” Brian explained. “I need to get down there.”

“Come on, I’ll drive you,” Chris volunteered.

They grabbed their coats and quickly made their way to the car. Chris had Justin call Zander and tell him what happened. When Brian and Dane had been dating, Chris and Zander had gotten to know Dane’s parents pretty well. He figured Zan would want to know what was happening. When they got to the hospital, Brian and Justin raced into the ER while Chris parked the car. He fought to keep his mind focused on the present while his thoughts kept drifting to the past and his last trip to the ER. He wasn’t sure how long he sat in the car, but suddenly Zander was there, opening his door and offering a hand.

“Come on. Now’s not the time to think about that. It’s in the past and Brian is fine. They both are,” Zander said softly as he helped Chris out of the car, took the keys and locked the door.

“How did you know what I was thinking?” Chris asked, a little startled by Zan’s ability to read him so well.

“Oh, a few things. Number one, I know you pretty well by now and I usually know how your mind works. Two, I had the same thoughts when I pulled into the lot, and three…you look as pale as a ghost. I knew whatever was on your mind had to be pretty bad,” Zander explained. “Now, let’s get inside and see what’s going on. I can’t believe Dane would do this. I know he’s a little screwed up, but suicide? I never would’ve guessed.”

“Yeah, me either,” Chris sighed as he shook off all thoughts of the accident and put on a brave face for Dane’s parents, Brian and Justin. “Although look what happened between him and Justin over the summer. We still don’t know the whole story, but it had to be pretty bad if everyone stopped talking to him for awhile. Not to mention he’s admitted to have a problem with alcohol. I guess we all underestimated how deep his troubles are. He seemed fine when he was at the house for Thanksgiving.”

“Yeah, he did. I think that’s the scariest part. That no one knew how troubled he was. It makes me worry more about Justin. He’s been through so much and seems so stable and secure. What if it’s all an act?”

“Relax; I don’t think it’s an act with him. I think he was raised to be such a well adjusted kid that even in tragedy, he shines. But it wouldn’t hurt to talk to him; and Brian, too. Maybe when we leave here, you can come back to the house for a family meeting? We can talk to them about what Dane did and make sure they’re both okay?” Chris suggested.

“I think that sounds like a good idea,” Zan agreed. “Oh, there they are.”

Chris and Zan walked over to the crowd of people standing off to the side of the ER waiting room. Trent, Matt and Zac were there as well as Steve, and Dane’s sister Kelly. Before Chris had time to ask if there was any news, Dane’s father came out and joined them.

“He’s awake,” Kevin Sommers said. He looked around at all the faces there and smiled slightly. His son was going to need all the support he could get. “The doctors are going to admit him and keep him a few days while they do a psychiatric evaluation. He should be able to have visitors tomorrow, but until then you should probably all go home. I’ll keep Steve up to date and he’ll let you all know what’s going on. Steve, could you give Kelly a ride home for me? Nancy and I are going to hang out here until they get him settled.”

“Dad, did he…happen to say…um…why?” Kelly asked tentatively.

Kevin shook his head sadly. “No, he hasn’t said much of anything so far. I told him you were all here and he seemed to be happy about that. I know that you had your differences over the summer and I don’t even want to know what happened. I’m just glad that you all made up. He’s going to need his friends right now.”

“We’ll be here for him,” Steve assured the older man, his voice slightly trembling. “That’s what friends are for.”

“Thanks, guys. I’m sure I’ll see you all soon.” Kevin stood there while everyone started dispersing and then put a hand on Brian’s shoulder. “Hey Bri, could you hang back a minute?”


Chris, Zander and Justin saw Brian hesitate and waited with him while the others headed towards the door. Zander took the opportunity to offer his support. “Kevin, if you or Nancy need anything at all, you make sure to let Chris and I know, alright?”

“I appreciate that, thanks. Listen Brian, I didn’t want to say anything in front of the others because I don’t want any hurt feelings, but Dane was asking about you. He can’t really have visitors tonight, but would you mind going back and talking to him for a few minutes? Maybe seeing you will cheer him up a bit.”

Brian was too surprised to do more than nod. He glanced over at Justin, showing his confusion, and then followed Kevin into the back. He was a nervous wreck as he tried to think of something to say when he saw his friend and ex-lover. It was a waste of time, though. Nothing prepared him for the sight of Dane lying in a hospital looking like death. His eyes were closed and Brian wasn’t sure if he was awake. Dane’s mother stood up from the chair by the bed and offered him a small smile.

“Thank you for coming, Brian. Kevin and I will give you two a few minutes alone.”

Once again Brian nodded and then watched as Dane’s parents walked out, closing the door behind them. When he looked back at Dane, he was surprised to see his eyes open and focused on him.

“Hey, how’re you feeling?” Brian asked as he took the seat Nancy had vacated.

“Like an idiot,” Dane replied weakly.

“Yeah, this wasn’t one of your brighter ideas.”

“No, I meant like an idiot because I couldn’t even get this right,” Dane replied harshly.


“What? Does it make you uncomfortable to know that I wanted to die? Did you think that this was a cry for attention? That I never really wanted to succeed? Cause you’d be wrong. No one was supposed to be home. Mom, Dad and Nancy were supposed to go out to dinner and then do a little Christmas shopping. If dad hadn’t forgotten his wallet; if Mom hadn’t wanted to ask me one more time if I wanted to go…”

“Dane, please don’t say that,” Brian pleaded with him. “I don’t know what has you so upset, but whatever it is, we can fix it. You have friends and family that love you. Can’t you see how lucky you are?”

“Yeah right,” Dane huffed.

“You are, and we’re all going to keep telling you that until you start believing it,” Brian promised. “I love you and I’m not going to let you fall.”

Dane looked at Brian, his inner pain evident in his eyes. “How can you still love me after everything I’ve done? After I attacked Justin?”

“You didn’t attack Justin,” Brian stated, suddenly feeling horrible for the way he reacted to the incident between Dane and Justin. He should’ve known that Dane’s behavior was out of character and a cry for help instead of turning all their friends against him. “You just got a little over anxious. Who could blame you? He’s gorgeous. It’s in the past and that’s where it belongs.”

“I don’t deserve your friendship,” Dane mumbled, overcome with emotions. “I’ve done some really fucked up things that you don’t know about. Things that no one knows about and when word gets around…”

“It’s okay. Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it. I promise.” Brian leaned over and kissed Dane on the forehead. “Now why don’t you get some rest? Justin and I will come see you tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Dane whispered.

“That’s what friends are for.”

Brian smiled at his friend and then left the room, finding Kevin and Nancy standing right outside. “Did you hear any of that?”

“No, your voices were mumbled. We wouldn’t have eavesdropped. How does he seem to you?” Nancy asked.

“Not good,” Brian replied honestly. “He seems pretty upset that he…well, that you found him.”

“Oh God,” Nancy cried, burying her face into Kevin’s chest.

“I’m sorry,” Brian offered sadly.

“It’s not your fault,” Kevin said as he tried comforting his wife. “We’ve already called his therapist. Apparently he told her he didn’t need help anymore and stopped going two months ago. She’s going to come speak to him in the morning and help us find someone Dane might connect with better. We’ll make sure he gets the help he needs.”

Brian nodded his head. “I’ll be back to see him tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Brian. Good night.”

Brian went back to the waiting room and found Chris waiting for him. “Hey, where are Justin and Zan?”

“They headed back to the house. Come on.” Chris led Brian out to the parking lot and then put an arm around him. “How is he?”

“Confused, lost…he’s not happy that he was found.”

“Wow. Any chance he told you what brought this on?”

“Not really. He just kept saying that he did some fucked up things that no one knows about. He even mentioned what happened with him and Justin. He’s punishing himself for whatever he thinks he’s done wrong,” Brian explained.

“It sounds like he’s going to need a lot of help to get through this. How are you doing?”

“I’m not sure. You know, we may not have made it as a couple, but I really care about him. It’s killing me to know that he felt so sad and lonely that he thought taking a bottle of pills was the only way out. If I was any kind of friend, I would’ve known how messed up he was.”

“Brian, don’t beat yourself up over this. No one saw this coming. He’s apparently very good at hiding his feelings. His own family didn’t see it and they live with him,” Chris pointed out, hoping to ease some of his brother’s guilt.

“Yeah, but I still should’ve known something was wrong. When we were together, we used to talk about everything. There were no secrets between us. It’s like I don’t even know him anymore.” Brian sighed, wiping away the dampness from his eyes.

“Oh, baby brother,” Chris said as he took Brian into his arms. “I promise you, this is not your fault. In fact, I’m pretty sure that even if you were still together, you wouldn’t have known what was going on in his head. Look at me? I was dealing with so many disturbing thoughts and I refused to let Zan know that there was anything wrong. It wasn’t because I didn’t love him. I just didn’t want him to know how screwed up I was. Sometimes, when a person is dealing with thoughts and feelings that don’t seem rational or right, they keep them all inside in hopes that they’ll all just go away. The problem is that sometimes they don’t go away. Sometimes they grow bigger and bigger until they explode, usually in a very destructive way. I hurt Zander in a way I never would’ve considered if I had dealt with my feelings from the beginning. Dane hurt himself. It’s not right, but unfortunately it happens a lot more than it should.”

Brian remained quiet as he thought about what Chris was saying. Would Dane have shared his feelings if they had still been together? Maybe not, but Brian still would’ve felt better if he’d spent more time with Dane, been there for him more. “I guess you’re right. This whole thing still sucks.”

“Yes it does, but it’s out in the open now. Kevin and Nancy will do what they have to do to see that he gets the help he needs, and he’s got all you guys. It’s going to be tough for awhile, but he’ll be alright,” Chris assured him. “He really will.”

By the time Chris and Brian got home, Zander had ordered a few pizzas and was setting the table. He greeted Chris with a kiss and Brian with a hug. “How did it go?”

“Well, Dane’s kicking himself for not finishing the job so it’s not too good right now,” Brian replied. “Where’s Justin?”

“He’s upstairs. I think he wanted a few minutes alone before the pizza got here. Why don’t you go on up and get him? Dinner should be here in about ten minutes.”

When Brian was gone, Zan turned to Chris. “How’s Brian holding up?”

“Not good. He’s blaming himself for not noticing that Dane was in trouble. What about Justin? I know that they only dated a couple of times, but he’s got to be feeling something.”

“I’m not sure. He’s been really quiet since we left the hospital. I asked him if he was okay, and he said he was fine, but he’s obviously not. It’s probably a good thing that we’re going to have that talk with them.”

Chris raised a hand and touched Zander’s cheek tenderly. “Don’t worry. We’ll help them both through this.”

Zander smiled and then went back to setting the table.




Brian knocked on Justin’s door and then walked in without waiting for a reply. Justin was standing by the window staring off into space, but went to Brian the minute he saw him.

“How is he?” Justin asked, his voice was thick with emotion.

“He’s not so good. Come here.” Brian wrapped his arms around Justin and buried his face in the blond’s neck. “I love you so much,” he whispered softly.

“I love you, too,” Justin returned. “Come sit down and tell me what happened.”

Brian followed Justin over to the bed and sat down alongside him. Taking his hand for comfort, Brian relayed the conversation between him and Dane, his grip tightening as he spoke. When he was finished, he looked Justin in the eyes, noticing the tears that were fighting for release. Justin was just as shaken as he was. “I just can’t believe this is happening. I mean, how could Dane do something like this? I get that he was having some problems. He was even seeing a therapist, but he stopped going two months ago. If things were that bad, why didn’t he come to me?”

“I don’t know,” Justin sighed. “Why didn’t he go to anyone? Let’s face it, Bri; he had plenty of people to turn to if he wanted help. Sometimes having people to turn to just isn’t enough.”

“That’s what Chris said. I just hate that he felt so alone, you know? I mean, how bad does a person have to be to try and take their own life? God Jus…if his father hadn’t forgotten his wallet, Dane wouldn’t be…” Brian couldn’t finish the thought.

“Shhh….don’t do that,” Justin said as he pulled Brian into his arms. “Don’t think about what might’ve happened. His dad did forget his wallet, and Dane is okay. He’s going through a horrible time right now, but he’s alive and he’s going to be okay.”

Brian didn’t reply. He just sat there in Justin’s arms and allowed himself to enjoy the knowledge that he had Justin in his life. He couldn’t think about Dane anymore at that moment. He knew he’d probably toss and turn all night with random thoughts, but he needed to give his brain a rest before that happened. A few moments later, the doorbell rang signaling dinner had arrived.

By the time Zander crawled into bed that night, he was exhausted but pretty confident that both of the boys were doing fine emotionally. He and Chris talked to them at great length about how they were feeling, not only about what happened with Dane, but about other things going on in their lives. They talked about the accident and Chris and Zan’s separation. They even talked to Justin about his parents’ death and how much he’d been missing them. Overall it was a good talk and Zan felt so much better for it. Unfortunately he couldn’t seem to put Dane and his family out of his mind. He couldn’t imagine how horrible Kevin and Nancy must be feeling, knowing that their son wanted to end his life. Zan thought back to the family that lived down the street from them when he was growing up. He didn’t know them well. There were two boys, but they had both been older than him so they went to different schools. The oldest boy Brad had killed himself right before his eighteenth birthday. From the rumors around the neighborhood, his father had found him hanging in the garage. Zan could still remember seeing the ambulance and police cars at the curb and the stretcher being wheeled from the house. The family was never the same after that and it was said that the parents had divorced within six months of the incident. The For Sale sign was up soon after that and nobody heard from them again.

Zander couldn’t help but wonder what went on in a person’s mind while they were contemplating suicide. Obviously the person was pretty messed up, but he couldn’t imagine being so screwed up that he couldn’t think about the pain something like that would cause to those around him. How had Dane been so distraught that he didn’t think about or care about the pain and sorrow he would be bringing to his parents and sister? It was unfathomable. Zander was just happy that Dane had been found in time. Now all any of them could do was hope that he’d be able to work though his issues so that he wouldn’t be tempted to try again. Reaching over to the nightstand, Zan grabbed his phone and called Chris. It was their nightly ritual now…saying goodnight right before going to sleep. It almost made Zan feel like things were back to normal. Well, not back to normal, but definitely headed that way.

“Hey,” Chris said when he answered the phone. “I was just thinking about you.”

“Oh yeah? What were you thinking?” Zander asked with a smile. Hearing Chris’s voice definitely chased away the rest of the unhappy thoughts he was having.

“Do you really want to know?” Chris asked seductively.

“Probably not, but what don’t you tell me anyway.”

“I was just thinking about how I wish you were here so I could taste your beautiful skin. Run my hands over your chest, arms, legs…take your cock in my hand and give you such joy. Sink inside you until nothing else mattered except for the two of us.” Chris groaned at the thought of being inside Zan again.

“I knew I shouldn’t have asked,” Zander chuckled as his mind began forming images of exactly what Chris had suggested. “Damn, Chris, even your words can bring me from zero to throbbing in under sixty seconds.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you,” Chris laughed. “Any idea how long this freeze out you have me on is going to last?”

“Babe, I’m not freezing you out. I just know us. I think it’s safe to say that we both share the same extremely high libido. I don’t want sex to interfere in our working on our relationship.”

“How can sex interfere in a relationship?”

“Well, it’s easy to forget the real problems when two people are fucking like rabbits. Trust me on this. We need to focus more on what was wrong in our relationship, not what was right,” Zander explained. “Speaking of that, have you spoken to your therapist about when she’d like me to join you?”

“Yeah, shit. With everything that happened tonight, I forgot all about it. How is next Wednesday for you? My appointment is at four. Even though it’s Brian’s day off, he said he could cover for you if you needed him to.”

“No, I shouldn’t have a problem meeting you. I’ve been scheduling extra help almost constantly because of the holiday so it’s not like I’d be leaving Stacy alone. Would you like to come back here to the apartment for dinner afterwards? I figured we might not be up to a public meal but I could have something cooking in the crock-pot for when we got done.”

“Yeah, that sounds good. Are you nervous?”

“A little,” Zander admitted. “I’ve never been to therapy before. It seems a little intimidating. How about you?”

“Are you kidding? I’m freaking out,” Chris laughed.

“Why? You’ve been seeing her for three weeks. I would’ve thought you’d be comfortable by now.”

“Do you have any idea how much I’ve poured my heart out to this woman in just three sessions? I’m even more screwed up than I thought and I knew I was crazy,” Chris replied, only half teasing. “I don’t even want to think about your reaction when the truth comes out.”

“You’re not really worried about that, are you? Me finding out something that I might not have known?” When Chris didn’t reply, Zander continued. “Chris, I love you and nothing that I could find out next week is going to change that. This is where a lot of our problems began before. You have to trust me when I tell you that I love you regardless of what’s going on in that head of yours. I love your beautiful body, your wonderful sense of humor, your loving and giving nature and every last one of your insecurities. Nobody is perfect, but you’re perfect for me. That’s all that matters.”

“God, I love you,” Chris replied tearfully. “I still can’t believe that I almost ruined what we have together. I don’t know what I did to deserve someone as wonderful as you, but I promise that from now on I will do whatever it takes to make you as happy to have me and I am to have you.”

“I already am, even with everything that’s been going on between us,” Zander assured him. “But I think I’m going to say goodnight now. I’m suddenly exhausted and fighting to keep my eyes open.”

“Alright, Babe, sleep well and dream of me,” Chris teased.

“I always do. Talk to you tomorrow. Love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Once the line was dead, Chris put down the phone and curled up in a ball. He was being honest when he told Zan how scared he was for Wednesday. His therapist had been telling him that he needed to be honest with Zander about his childhood, but Chris was hesitant. The younger man already knew the details surrounding his coming out. What he didn’t know about was the years of abuse Chris had suffered long before admitting his sexuality. Zander had no idea the horrors Chris endured from the time he started walking until the moment he moved out of the Kinney household. The beatings and verbal abuse; being told at the age of five that he was worthless and would never amount to anything…all those things helped to form the screwed up man that he was today. Chris’s biggest fear was that once Zander knew that his parents didn’t hate him because he was gay, but hated him because he was born, he would run away as fast as he could and leave Chris all alone with no one to love him. Just like his parents had promised.

End of part 38


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