Twenty minutes later, Marshall was pulling into the parking lot, unknowingly following AJ’s path in the back way of the hospital. He rode the elevator up to the floor Brian had told him they were on and stepped out. Brian was there waiting for him, which only served to raise his anxiety level.
“Okay, I’m here. Talk.”
Brian hedged. He was starting to worry that he had overstepped his bounds again with AJ. He didn’t want him to be mad at him, especially right now, but he hadn’t known what else to do. AJ had relapsed once because of Kevin, he didn’t want it to happen again.
After their conversation and AJ’s proclamation that he wanted to see Kevin, they had went back to the waiting room. Kristin had been there, talking to the doctor. After she found out what she needed to know, she had turned to AJ and told him Kevin was back in his room, not awake yet, but would be soon and asked if he wanted to go see him first. AJ had nodded silently and followed the doctor out, heading towards Kevin’s room, but not before Brian had seen the flash of a craving on his face, knowing immediately what that meant.
Marshall impatiently cleared his throat, snapping Brian’s attention back to the present. “I should probably let AJ tell you what’s going on. He…he’s in Kevin’s room now.”
Marshall ignored the way his gut twisted at that bit of news. “Fine, whatever.” He paused, wondering when that had become his new favorite phrase. “What room?”
~ ~&~ ~ ~&~ ~ ~&~ ~
AJ sat in a chair next to the bed, silently studying Kevin’s pale face. He looked half dead. AJ flinched, realizing that not all that long ago, he had been. He studied his face closer then, noting how gaunt and drawn his features were. He knew deep inside though, that it wasn’t all from the blood loss and the surgery that night.
He thought back and realized that Kevin had looked more drawn and gaunt as the weeks passed since that night at the party. For the first time, AJ acknowledged just how much the attempted rape had affected Kevin also. A thought that unsettled him enough to cause him to stand and pace the room, unable to sit still a moment longer.
Slowly Kevin clawed his way back to consciousness, trying to figure out why he was in so much pain, and why his brain felt so cloudy. The closer he got to consciousness, the more he wanted to sink back down into oblivion. The pain in his arms was almost unbearable. Where had it come from? A minute ago he’d been lost in a dream where AJ was with him and had forgiven him.
Forgiven him. With those two words, everything that had been happening recently came back all at once. The rape. The self-loathing that had followed. The fear and betrayal in AJ’s eyes. The hate in the other guys eyes when they had found out finally. The anger in Kristin’s eyes when he had confessed everything to her.
He tried to lift his hand to his face but the pain stopped him again. He moaned brokenly as it jolted up his arm. Then he remembered what he’d done. Or more accurately tried to do, since it was obvious he hadn’t succeeded. He started to cry openly then, muttering to himself, “No, no, no, no…can’t be here…can’t take it…hurt him…hurt her…should be gone…should have worked…no, no….”
AJ had stilled the instant he heard the first painful moan come from the bed. Turning he watched as a flurry of emotions flew across Kevin’s face. When Kevin started babbling, he hesitated, then made a decision, walking back to the bed. Leaning over the sobbing man, he reached out tentatively and touched his shoulders, the first willing contact he’d made with him in a long time. Surprisingly, it didn’t make his skin crawl the way he had expected it to.
He shook him lightly and said, “Kevin, wake up. Come on. Stop it. Wake up and look at me.”
Kevin stilled when he heard the voice, sure he was imagining it and the hands on his shoulders. Cautiously he opened his eyes and stared up, disbelievingly into AJ’s face, trying to figure out if maybe he had been drugged and was hallucinating.
“Yeah, it’s me. You okay? Or do you need some pain medication or something?”
Kevin slowly shook his head, not wanting anyone to come and interrupt them, even if it did mean unbelievable pain for him for the next however long AJ decided to stick around. Licking his dry lips, he asked hoarsely, “Why…”
AJ pulled his hands back and sat down in the chair, facing Kevin. “I could ask you the same thing.” He said after Kevin trailed off.
Kevin closed his eyes and turned his head away a little. “The note…”
“Yeah. I got the note. What I want to know is why you thought this was what I wanted.” AJ asked, his voice heated as anger started to bubble up inside of him now that he knew Kevin was going to make it.
“You deserved to be able to move on.” Kevin said simply, his throat raw and his voice cracking because of it.
Anger boiled over in AJ then and he stood abruptly, the chair skidding backwards a few inches behind him in response. “And you thought that fucking killing yourself would help me do that? Do you have any idea…I mean, my God, do you know…shit. I can’t do this.”
Kevin opened his eyes and watched AJ’s retreating back as he headed for the door. “AJ…” The words he had been about to say died on his lips as he succumbed to a round of dry coughing.
AJ stilled, then cursed under his breath, turning around, waiting for Kevin’s coughing fit to get done so he could say whatever it was he’d been about to say.
Kevin’s eyes started to water as the coughing got worse. He looked around, spotting some water, but when he tried to reach for it, the pain shooting up his bandaged arms stopped him.
AJ watched, torn on what to do. Finally he stepped forward and picked up the glass of water the nurse had left for when Kevin woke up and held it up to the older man’s lips. “Here. Drink.”
Kevin could do nothing but obey as he fought to stop the coughing long enough to swallow. Finally the dry, itchy feeling in his throat subsided and he pulled back from the glass, taking a deep breath.
“Yeah, well, couldn’t let you sit there coughing to death could I?” AJ said uncomfortably, setting down the cup.
Kevin waited until AJ looked at him, then repeated, “Thank you.”
AJ shrugged and shifted from foot to foot. “Sure.” After a moment of silence, he prompted, “What were you about to say? Before the coughing.”
Kevin hesitated, then said, “I was going to ask why you came.”
AJ looked at him long and hard. “Because someone who’s meant a lot of different things to me for nearly half my life almost killed himself tonight. Where the fuck else would I be?”
Kevin looked away, not willing to let himself contemplate what that might mean. “You should hate me.”
“I did.” AJ said bluntly. When Kevin’s gaze again locked with his, he added, “For a while, after, I did.”
“But not anymore?” Kevin asked, fearing he was reading too much into it.
AJ shook his head. “No. Not anymore. Not since this afternoon at Brian’s. As much as I wish he hadn’t locked us in there together, I think confronting it, confronting you…helped.”
“Oh.” Kevin said, at a loss for what else to say. He was floored, never having expected that.
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, AJ admitted, “I decided out in the waiting room that I’m going to see someone about what happened. I stopped seeing my shrink a while back, before all this. But now, I think I need to go back.”
Kevin simply nodded, sensing AJ was headed somewhere by telling him that.
AJ cleared his throat and fidgeted, then sat down in the chair again. “I think you should too. See someone I mean.”
“What?” Kevin said, tensing with alarm. He did not go to shrinks. That was fine for other people. After all, he’d seen how much it had helped AJ over the last year, but he didn’t need that.
“You tried to kill yourself. Are you actually going to sit there and tell me you’ve been thinking straight lately?” AJ argued, having expected that reaction. He knew how Kevin felt about spilling his guts to a virtual stranger who he was paying by the hour, not to mention how intensely private the older man was.
“I’ll be fine.” Kevin said stubbornly.
“Yeah, like the way you’ve been ‘fine’ this past year right? The way you were ‘fine’ when you slit that knife so deep in your arms that you severed the tendons and nerves right? Like the way you were ‘fine’ when you decided you had to have me back after I left you? When you broke that door down in Boston? Or how about how you were ‘fine’ when you beat me, ripped my clothes off and tried to fuck me even though I was begging you not to?” AJ’s voice was hard, and part of him felt bad for that, given why Kevin was in the hospital in the first place, but he couldn’t hold it back anymore. He needed Kevin to see that he was anything but fine.
Kevin flinched at each point AJ made, feeling the bile rise in his throat as AJ described how he nearly raped him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, forcing down the urge to retch. AJ had made his point.
Without opening his eyes, he said quietly, “Okay.”
AJ sat there for a minute, sure he’d heard wrong, then said, “You want to make this up to me right?”
Kevin opened his eyes and nodded. “Yes, more than anything.”
AJ looked away for a minute, then looked back. “I’ve gotta be honest. I don’t know if that’s possible. But, if you do it, if you go to the shrink and get some help, maybe, someday, it might fix at least a little of it.”
Kevin’s eyes nearly brimmed over with tears. It was barely a morsel, nearly nothing at all, but it was the first sign of hope from the other man he’d gotten since that night. He wasn’t going to fuck that up. “I promise. I’ll go, and I’ll do whatever I have to to get better.”
AJ studied him for a minute, then slowly nodded. “Okay.”
They sat there for a few minutes more before AJ cleared his throat and stood. “I’m gonna get going. The rest of the guys and Kristin are here. I’m sure they want to see you too. Your mom’s on her way. Tim and Jerald are headed out here tomorrow.”
“The guys…and Kristin are here? Why?” Kevin asked, his voice cracking. He didn’t know how much more emotional revelations he could take before he broke.
“They love you. Even though they’re pissed as hell at you right now, they all still love you Kevin. We’ve all been through too much together to just up and stop caring because of what you did.”
Kevin wisely didn’t mention that AJ had switched from ‘they’ to ‘we’ at the end. Inside though, he doubted it was something he’d ever forget. AJ still gave a damn. Even after everything, even though he didn’t deserve it.
When AJ started to move away from the side of the bed, Kevin looked up at him and asked, “AJ?”
“I’m sorry. I know it’s not enough, but I am. More than you’ll ever know.”
“I know.” He hesitated, then added, “I’m going to try you know. To forgive you. I can’t right now…not yet, but maybe someday…” AJ left the rest unsaid, but they both understood what he was trying to say, and it was enough.
The tears broke free of the damn then, flooding past Kevin’s eyes and down his cheeks. He had already gotten more than he’d ever hoped for from AJ, and now that. It was all too much. Reaching out, he ignored the searing pain in his hand and touched his fingertips to the back of AJ’s hand, needing the contact.
“Thank you.” He said in a whisper of emotion.
AJ nodded, then turned to head out the door, stopping dead in his tracks at who he saw there.
~ ~&~ ~ ~&~ ~ ~&~ ~
Marshall stood in the doorway, watching the two men talk. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but their body language said it all. Or at least AJ’s did. It was obvious that Kevin’s attempt at killing himself had changed things for AJ. The concern in his eyes as he looked at Kevin spoke volumes.
Marshall felt anger burn inside him, and something worse, betrayal. It wasn’t right. AJ shouldn’t be forgiving him. He shouldn’t be letting him touch him, even if it was only his fingertips on the back of his hand. In Marshall’s opinion, there was no forgiveness for what Kevin had done to him.
When AJ turned for the doorway and saw him standing there, the apprehensive look on AJ’s face didn’t help matters. A small part of Marshall screamed at him that he was overreacting, that he should let AJ explain what was going on, why he was suddenly willing to make amends with Kevin, but the larger part, the overwhelming majority of his feelings, screamed something else. Run, and run far.
When AJ took a tentative step toward him, he listened.
AJ held his breath, studying Marshall’s face, looking for any sign of the caring he usually saw reflected there when the other man looked at him. There was nothing. Marshall’s expression was completely closed off, his gaze cold and detached.
AJ swallowed hard, scared of what that meant. Desperately needing to touch Marshall, to reassure himself that the other man still cared, he stepped forward. The instant he did, Marshall turned and left, disappearing down the hall. AJ didn’t hesitate as he ran after him.
“Marshall! Wait!” He called as he stepped out into the hall.
Marshall paused, taking a deep breath and again schooling his expression into something inscrutable before turning back to the younger man. “What?”
A million questions raced through AJ’s mind, but he settled on simply asking, “Where are you going?”
“Away from here.” ‘Away from you,’ he added in his mind, but there was no need to say it. The words hung in the air between them as if he had spoken them aloud.
“Why?” AJ asked in a small voice.
“Because there’s nothing left here for me.” Marshall said bluntly, hating himself for the pain that flashed through AJ’s eyes, but unable to stop himself from saying it anyway.
AJ felt as if he had been punched in the gut at Marshall’s admission. Forcing the words past the lump in his throat, he asked, “So that’s it? You’re not even going to let me explain what’s going on?”
“I don’t want a fucking explanation, Alex. There’s nothing to explain.” Marshall said, trying to keep his voice low, since they were in a hallway, even though it was down a private wing.
“But there is. You don’t know…” AJ started, only to be interrupted.
“Correction. I don’t care. I don’t want to know, because I don’t fucking care. There’s no excuse for what he did, and there’s no way he deserves your forgiveness.” Marshall spat.
AJ tensed. “I didn’t forgive him.”
“Yet. But you’re going to, and I’m not gonna stick around to watch it. That little scene in there just now was enough to make me sick.” There was a tense silence, then Marshall threw his arms up and said, “You know what? Fuck this. I’m outta here.”
AJ watched as he turned to leave, his rising anger of a moment ago dissolving on a wave of hurt and fear that it was over between them. “Don’t. Please Marshall, don’t do this.”
Marshall whirled back around, the cold indifferent expression wiped off his face, replaced by hurt and anger. “I have to. Don’t you see that? It was never supposed to be like this. I wasn’t supposed to care. When we started, it was just supposed to be…fuck. I don’t know what the fuck it was supposed to be, but it wasn’t supposed to be like this. I wasn’t supposed to…”
He stopped, clamping his mouth shut before he admitted that he was in love with him. He couldn’t do that. Couldn’t be that vulnerable. He had already made himself vulnerable enough to the other man, and now he was paying for it.
AJ however, wasn’t going to let it go. He needed to know. “You weren’t supposed to what?” When Marshall didn’t answer, he prodded, his voice rising a notch as the anger returned in sharp waves. “Tell me. I deserve that much before you walk out on me. What the fuck weren’t you supposed to do?”
Marshall looked away from the accusation in AJ’s eyes, knowing the other man was right, that he did deserve at least that much. He couldn’t completely give it to him though, so instead he said quietly, “I wasn’t supposed to let you in enough that you could actually hurt me.”
AJ turned around, running his hand through his hair and taking a deep breath. He had been sure Marshall was going to say something else, sure for the second time that night that he had been about to admit he loved him. He swallowed down the lump in his throat as the truth of the situation sank in. He had given the other man his heart and soul, and now he was just going to throw it away over something they didn’t agree on. He blinked back tears, then turned back to the blond rapper, letting his anger take over.
“I hurt you? I hurt you? I fucking hurt you? This isn’t about you! It’s about me, and what happened to me!” AJ nearly yelled, no longer caring who heard. He watched Marshall flinch, but otherwise remain silent, and it just fueled his anger. “So that’s it huh? I do one thing that you don’t agree with, and you turn your back on me?”
Marshall’s eyes flashed with anger. “No, you’re doing something I don’t understand, hell, can’t even fucking comprehend let alone agree with. I can’t stick around and watch it. I just can’t. I won’t.”
AJ studied him for a minute, realizing they were at an impasse and resigning himself to the fact that it was really over. A cold chill started deep inside him, spreading through him until he felt almost numb. “I guess you aren’t the man I thought you were then.”
Marshall stared back at AJ, seeing the change in him, almost feeling the temperature in the hall drop. He wondered briefly how they’d gotten there. Just hours earlier everything had seemed nearly perfect between them, the closeness he had felt toward him overwhelming. Now, there might as well have been a continent separating them…he couldn’t have felt farther away from the other man if there had been. He swallowed hard, fighting back his tumultuous emotions, barely resisting the urge to go to the other man and pull him in his arms and never let go.
Instead he said quietly, “You know what? I don’t think I ever was. This is me, Alex. I thought you knew that, thought you understood me. I guess we were both wrong.”
After a long, silent moment, Marshall pulled his eyes from AJ’s, turned, and walked away.
AJ didn’t try to stop him.
Okay, yeah, this is a depressing chapter, I know. But honestly, given who Marshall is (the way I wrote him here anyway), could you honestly not see things heading in this direction given the circumstances? I couldn't see it happening any other way, so I had to write it this way. I also couldn't see AJ (as I've written him) reacting any other way to what Kevin had done then the way I wrote it here. That said, let me know what you think of how things turned out, okay?