This story is 100% fictional. The towns are real, but the people, locations, and business are made up. Any action or resemblance to any person living or dead is pure coincidence. Also please note that all work is the proprietary property of the author.

Please enjoy

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Challenges

Part XVI

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*** Modern Day***

"This is Jason. I am on a flight right now, so leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I land." The voice mail chimed for the fourth time in 20 minuets. Justin couldn't stop calling. He had to know.

The news report was not helpful, as there had been no identification of the fatalities. The good news there was no new fatalities added to the original two.

"Damn it!" Justin said throwing the phone on the couch next to him. He put his head in his hands as he resisted the urge to cry.

"No word?" Matt asked as he stepped through the door. Justin just nodded his head. "I am sure he is okay." Matt shrugged his shoulder and made his way to the kitchen.

Justin sat on the couch watching the television, keeping his ears open for any sign of new information. He didn't want to dwell on that, but since the casualties were higher in number, getting that list would be impossible.

Justin jumped as the phone rang. He sighed hard as he saw it was Kimberly.

"Oh thank God." She said as he picked up the phone. "We just heard about the plane crash in Seattle, and was afraid you had been on it."

"No." Justin said with a cold tone to his voice.

"What's wrong?" Kimberly asked knowing his tones and what they meant.

"Jason was on the plane." He sucked in air between his teeth avoiding the possibility of crying. He couldn't break down now.

"Oh no." She said something off the phone and then returned. "I didn't get a chance to hear how your date went, and there is time for that later. Have you heard from him?"

"No." Justin cringed. He should have called her right after Jason had left to tell her all about it. Now it would be that awkward conversation if something had happened to Jason.

"Well," Kimberly sighed softly, "Let me know if you hear anything, and if there is anything I can do, let me know."

"Thanks." Justin responded with a sigh and let the phone drop to the couch and hang up on its own.

He stood up and paced around the living room a bit more. He wanted to do something. He wanted to get to Seattle and find out for himself. He half thought about driving to Seattle, but he knew that would take to long. They would have the airport open before he even got halfway there.

"We can leave first thing in the morning." Matt said coming out of the kitchen. "Take off is at 3:30 AM."

Justin wasn't fully paying attention and stopped to look at Matt. "What?"

"They will have the airport open by then, and we will fly out in the morning." Matt put his hands on the back of the couch and watched Justin. "That is what you want to do right?"

"Yes." Justin scratched his head. "I just wish I knew he was okay now!"

Matt nodded his head. He understood the stress of not knowing, and being so far away that you couldn't do anything about it.

"What about your friend in Seattle?" Matt suggested. "Shannon?"

"Sharron?"

"Yea. Couldn't you ask her to look and see if she can find anything out?"

Justin grabbed his phone and dialed Sharron's number.

"I hope you had fun last night." Sharron answered with her usual happy attitude.

"Hey Sharron," Matt said again with his cold tone. "I am sorry to make this cold and dirty, but I have a favor for you."

"What's wrong sweetie?" Sharron's tone changed from happy to concerned.

"The plane that crashed today," he again sucked air between his teeth, "the guy I met was on it. I can't get ahold of him."

"Oh no." She clicked her tongue. "You want me to see if I can find out more?"

"If you don't mind. He is not answering his phone, and the news is not saying who the two fatalities are." Justin was close to breaking down.

"Sure sweetie. What's his name?"

"Jason Hill."

***

The Gulfstream lifted off at exactly 3:30 AM and arched across the sleeping city heading towards Seattle. The flight would take 3 hour, and place them in Seattle at about 2:30 AM Seattle time. Justin sighed as he watched the lights of the city drop away and then thin out as they crossed into outskirts.

Sharron had found Jason, who had been taken to Harborview Medical Center and was unconscious, but alive. She couldn't get any more details then that. Justin's anxiety level subsided a bit after hearing the news, and felt like he might be able to sleep for the ride.

He looked over at Matt as he had fallen asleep in the chair across the isle. It was early, and Justin was grateful that Matt was using his own personal time, money, and jet, to make sure he would arrive safely in Seattle. Chris had wanted to come, but Matt said this was important, and that they would make a special trip to Seattle when he had a three-day weekend.

Putting the chair into a down position, Justin toyed with the idea of sleeping himself. He had not slept at all, and felt fatigue get the better of him. No use running out of energy this early in the game. He closed his eyes, and fell asleep almost instantly.

*** 9 years ago ***

Justin looked out of the window at the small pond that sat in the back yard of Cody's parents house. It looked so peaceful and calm that he sighed heavy: Peaceful and calm on the outside, but a torment of emotions on the inside.

"What's wrong?" Cody asked.

Justin turned around and looked at Cody lying in the bed. The once massive built man was now half his original size. He had fought off Cancer the first round, but it had remerged with a vengeance the second time. The outlook was bleak, but Cody was always smiling.

"I just love your backyard." Justin forced a smile and sat in the chair next to the bed.

"You have an entire farm." Cody laughed softly. "It can't compare to that outside."

"Simple, elegant, and something to be proud about." Justin grabbed Cody's hand and squeezed hard.

"Do you think there is something on the other side?" Cody asked with a smile.

"Other side?" Justin tilted his head with a look of confusion.

"When we die? Do you think there is anything there?"

"Yes."

"The question has been on my mind recently." Cody raised his other hand and motioned to his situation. "I mean, I will find out soon enough." He laughed.

"There has to be." Justin didn't find amusement in Cody's words. "Otherwise what is the point of all this?" He nodded his head to the window and what lay on the other side.

"Do you think I will go to heaven?" Cody's smile turned into a serious line across his face.

Justin paused for a moment to think of what Cody was asking about. "You mean because of you and Grayson?"

"Grayson has been the best thing for me." He looked at a picture of him next to his bed. "He could have bolted when things got bad, but he has stayed by my side the entire time. He even went into medical school." He sighed heavy. "But did I do the right thing giving into my feelings? Did I do the right thing by being with him?"

Justin sighed at the question. He had thought the same things as well. He had been able to resist the urges to become sexual with Nate for a long time. When he finally moved it to that stage he felt at peace with himself. Nate on the other hand lost it. He couldn't take the shame, the embarrassment, and the conflict within.

Justin smiled and patted Cody's hand. "I think you are fine. I think you did what you were supposed to do. You followed your heart, and you love Grayson. That is all we are required to do: love each other."

Cody nodded. "I just wonder, deep down, if maybe we are wrong. Maybe if I had just ignored my feelings and just stayed single I would never have gotten cancer."

"You think this cancer is a punishment?" Justin felt his eyes watering. He had no idea this conflict was deep within him. Cody nodded. "I had no idea you felt that way." He climbed up on the bed and too Cody's hand in both of his. "Cancer isn't a punishment. Illness is not meant to punish us for our actions." Justin paused as he tried to think of a good way to word his next statement, but decided to just push through. "Cancer is something that happens in the randomness of the universe. It is a challenge that is faced, and you face it with courage." He could feel tears building up. "You beat it once, and you will beat it again. You will survive."

"I love you." Cody grinned and closed his eyes. "I think I will take a nap."

Justin burst into tears.

*** Modern Day ***

Justin woke with tears streaming down his face. Matt was sitting next to him holding his hand.

"Where are we?" Justin sat up and wiped his face looking out the window. He didn't want to look at Matt.

"About 30 minuets out." Matt sat back in the chair and watched Justin. "Are you okay?"

"Yea." Justin lied. "Just a memory from the past."

Matt just made a grunt and let it go. He wasn't going to push, and knew Justin would tell him when he was better prepared for it.

"We should be starting our approach here momentarily." The captain came over the intercom. "If you would put your seat in their upright position and put your belts on."

Justin and Matt clicked their belts and prepared for the slow descent.

***

Harborview Medical Center was one of the largest burn centers in the United States. A majority of the victims from the plane crash had been routed to this facility, and an army of reporters standing outside waiting to get any news from the inside.

Once inside Justin and Matt found the information station.

"Can I help you gentlemen?" The elderly woman asked with a smile

"We are looking for a Jason Hill." Justin said trying to hold himself together. "He was brought in with the plane victims."

"Just a moment dear." She clicked some information on the computer. "You will need to check with the nurses station before going in. She pointed down the hall. "You will need to take that elevator to the third floor, and then make a right. The nurses station will be visible."

"Thanks." Justin said and headed for the elevator with Matt close behind.

"Are you going to be okay?" Matt asked Justin as the elevator door opened and two doctors walked out talking medical jargon.

"I know I just met him, but I have felt a connection to him for so long." Justin sighed hard. "I know it sounds stupid."

"Maybe to someone else." Matt nodded at the elevator ding and opened the doors for them to exit. "But I know the whole story."

They walked in silence towards the nurse's station they had been instructed to check in with. The floor was quiet, and several people were sitting waiting to see their loved ones.

"Can I help you?" one of the nurses said looking up at Justin and Matt and then back at the chart she was working with.

"We are here to see Jason Hill." Justin said. This was getting annoying.

"Are you family?" the nurse seemed cold and distant. She didn't even bother looking up.

"No, but╔" Justin started to say.

"Only family is allowed to visit at this time. If you wish to come back at a later time when the patient has recovered some." The nurse turned her back to them and walked off.

Justin couldn't hold it anymore. "Bitch." He muttered under his breath and started to sob. He wished he had just lied and said yes.

Matt guided Justin to a cluster of chairs that was empty and they sat waiting for the sobs to end.

"Are you friends of Jason Hill?" A girl about the age of 17 asked.

Justin looked up, his eyes puffy at the girl. She has blonde hair and deep blue eyes. She looked like a female version of Jason.

"I am sorry." She blushed, the resemblance to Justin become more certain. "I heard you ask the nurse to see him. She can be a royal pain, but she is good. I am Cindy, Jason's sister."

Justin smiled through the tears. "I am sorry." He wiped his eyes. "I just came from New Mexico, and thought I would be able to see him. Been a long night."

"New Mexico huh?" She giggled a bit. "You're the boy he was all gushing over."

Now it was his turn to blush. "Well╔"

"Let me go get my mom." She stood up and went down the hall.

"Sister?" Matt looked at Justin with a blank grin and whispered. "She looks just like him. Down to the blush!"

"I know." Justin just nodded. He wasn't sure what she meant by `gushing over'. He just sat in the chair letting the shock set in. He didn't even notice a woman approach with Cindy in tow.

"Justin?" The woman said politely.

"Yes?" Justin stood and looked the woman square in the eye. She looked like an older version of Cindy. Her hair was long, almost to her waist, and was the same blond color as Jason and Cindy's. Her face showed kindness, but her eyes darted between Justin and Matt, with uncertainty.

"I am Lidia." She stuck out her hand. "Jason bragged all about you before his flight yesterday." Her strong eyes wavered as tears started to come to her.

"Yes ma'am." Justin swallowed not sure how to take this. Was she happy, sad, or just tired?

"Sister Hill?" Matt stood up and extended his hand to her. "I don't know if you remember me, but I was a missionary in LA. We came by and visited with you and Jason."

Lidia stared at Matt trying to place him. "Elder╔" She tried to think of his name.

"Leary." Matt finished her sentence. "But you can call me Matt since it has been a long time since I have gone by that title."

Lidia just stood there looking at Matt trying to figure it out.

"You know mom." Cindy whispered next to her. "The one?"

"The one?" She looked at Cindy, who just gave her a look that said `come on figure it out'. "Oh!" Her eyes lite up as the realization came to her. "You're the elder that helped Jason out. You gave him a letter from a mysterious person, and he said it made all the difference╔" she trailed off and looked at Justin. "Your him!" She smiled at Justin. "I am so glad to meet you. Jason said that he had some exciting news, but wanted to wait till he got home. He said he found the one."

"Yes ma'am." Justin blushed and looked down. "I wrote the letter, and I know it is strange, but I have had a strong connection with Jason before I even met him."

Lidia nodded, and turned towards the nurse station to visit with the nurse who moments earlier had rebuffed Justin. The nurse looked around Lidia and just smirked and nodded. She didn't seem too fond at having another person added to the list of people to visit her patient.

"You can go back and see him now if you want." She pointed to a door down the hall. "Room 3102. He is unconscious, and they don't know when he will wake. They think he will be mentally okay when he wakes, but as far a physically╔" she trailed off and sagged. The weight of the moment bared on her. She also looked like she hadn't slept since she arrived at the hospital that morning.

"Come sit down." Matt guided Lidia to a chair and had her sit down. He sat down next to her, holding her hand. Matt was considerate, and even if he didn't truly know the woman, he would care for her. Cindy took a seat on the other side of Matt. She was enamored with him.

Justin walked down the hall slowly toward his destination. He wanted to run, and dash into the room and hold Jason. But he ignored his urges. As he reached the door he reached for the handle to open it, but stopped. He stood still for a moment; bring all his strength for what he was preparing to see. He felt a slight breeze against his neck that caused the hairs to stand on end. He turned around but saw no window or air vent.

He slowly opened the door and stepped in. The room was dim, with the exception of a small overhead light. Jason was lying on the bed with an oxygen mask over his mouth and several monitors hooked up to him. He had a cast on his left arm, and left leg.

As he got closer he could tell his left side of the face was burned. He felt tears well up in his eyes, but he took several deep breaths. He had to be strong. He had to show strength for both of them. He looked down the length of the body. His entire left side looked beat up.

He grabbed Jason's right hand and leaned in a close as he dared and gave Jason a gentle kiss.

"I came as soon as I could." Jason whispered. "I love you."

Jason stirred as Justin kissed him. Justin moved back hoping that Jason was waking up. He didn't wake up, but Justin swore he was saying something, as his mouth was moving. He moved in closer and put his ear to Jason's mouth. He strained to hear, but he could only make out one word: Cody.

***

Editors note: I hope you enjoyed this installment of Challenges. I enjoy hearing for all my readers and hope you keep in touch with how you feel about the story.

If you have any comments or questions, good or bad, please send me an email at sockingsaw@hotmail.com. I try to respond to all emails. If I missed you, or you would like to comment again, please feel free to do so.

If you are interested in sci-fi, I have another story located here:

http://www.nifty.org/nifty/gay/sf-fantasy/demon-run/

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Matt (Socks)