The following story contains homosexual themes involving celebrities. None of this is meant to imply anything about anyone mentioned herein. If you don't like this kind of thing then get thee to a nunnery. The lyrics that being this chapter are credited to Vertical Horizon. Bon appetit.

"I'm still learning things I ought to know by now." -Vertical Horizon

Don't Ever Die Again -6-

Somewhere there's speaking

It's already coming in

Oh and it's rising at the back of your mind.

You never could get it

Unless you were fed it.

Now you're here and you don't know why.

But under skinned knees and the skid marks,

Past the places where you used to learn,

You howl and listen,

Listen and wait for the echoes of angels who won't return.

He's everything you want.

He's everything you need.

He's everything inside of you that you wish you could be.

He says all the right things

At exactly the right time,

But he means nothing to you and you don't know why

You're waiting for someone to put you together.

You're waiting for someone to push you away.

There's always another wound to discover.

There's always something more you wish he'd say.

He's everything you want.

He's everything you need.

He's everything inside of you that you wish you could be.

He says all the right things at exactly the right time,

But he means nothing to you and you don't know why.

But you'll just sit tight and watch it unwind.

It's only what you're asking for.

And you'll be just fine with all of your time.

It's only what you're waiting for.

Out of the island,

Into the highway,

Past the places where you might have turned,

You never did notice,

But you still hide away the anger of angels who won't return.

He's everything you want.

He's everything you need.

He's everything inside of you that you wish you could be.

He says all the right things at exactly the right time,

But he means nothing to you and you don't know why.

I am everything you want.

I am everything you need.

I am everything inside of you that you wish you could be.

I say all the right things at exactly the right time,

But I mean nothing to you and I don't know why

And I don't know why.


And I don't know.

Josh and Justin stood in the hallway outside Justin's hotel room door, hands jammed deep into their pockets, looking at their shoes.

Josh frowned as he watched his toes move inside his sneakers. "Are you mad at me Justin?" and he glanced up momentarily at his best friend.

Justin caught Josh's eyes, and made sure to smile before they both looked away. And Justin laughed a little. "No, Josh," he said gently, "I'm not mad at you." A pause. "I'm mad at me." And there was an exhausted silence. Because there were light-years of words that Justin knew he should be saying, but he wasn't up to it. He was bone-tired, and Justin felt as if his mind had been dragged through the mud and poked at by everyone but himself, and he just needed a breather. Justin just needed five minutes to rest everything. Five minutes when he wasn't avoiding anything. Five minutes when he wasn't trying not to think about something. Five minutes to just look around and find out where he was. And then...after those five minutes...after he felt more human again...Justin would search for what was happening inside of him. Because he wanted to. Because he knew he needed to by how much he didn't want to. And Justin sighed internally. Stop the world; I wanna get off.

And as he stood there watching Justin and wondering where he was, Josh wanted nothing more than to reach out and place his hand on Justin's shoulder and say It's okay, Justin. It's okay because I know. I know you love me, and you don't have to be scared because I love you too. And then everything would be right again, and they'd live happily ever after. But the words Justin had said when he'd stormed out of the group meeting constantly reverberated inside Josh's head I don't need a damn hero, and Josh knew that. Justin's a big boy now, and he doesn't need someone to swoop in and fix everything for him. But I can't keep from wanting to, and that's not a bad thing, is it? I just want him to be happy again. But this is something he needs to do on his own. And we're making progress--he ate today. That's something. It's not like I force fed him, either. He picked up that fork of his own accord. And that's something, isn't it? Shouldn't that count for something? Of course it should; of course it counted for something. But as he stood there watching Justin and wondering where he was, Josh couldn't help but feel like even though he'd won the battle, the war was far from over.

And Josh took a deep breath before throwing any words into the silence. "Justin, get some sleep, okay?" And when Justin looked up at him, Josh smiled a little. "You don't have to tackle it all tonight. Just get some rest, okay? Promise?" He doesn't need a hero. He doesn't. Need. A hero.

And Justin gave his crooked little smile. "Promise." And he held his friend's gaze a few more seconds before he unlocked his door and stepped inside. Get some sleep. That's the best idea I've ever heard. Just five minutes. That's all I want. Just five minutes where everything isn't spinning. Five minutes, eight hours, whatever. And it was like an invitation. You don't have to tackle it all tonight. Just get some rest. And so Justin shucked off his shoes and socks. He let his jeans fall to his ankles and stepped out of them. And he peeled off his shirt as he slipped between the sheets. And Justin was asleep before he'd even closed his eyes.

It's very dark. The only light shines through the slits in the boards that are covering the windows. And there are shelves covering the walls with hundreds of jars on them, and in the sparse light, I see most of them are labeled. And I remember doing this--collecting these jars and labeling them. They look empty, the jars, but actually it's just that they contain airborne intangibles. The ones that are labeled are rather simple: anger, grief, sorrow, love, indecision, elation, confusion...there are hundreds of others. And as long as they stay closed, those aren't the ones that scare me.

It's the jars that aren't labeled that I'm afraid of...and that seems to be the only thing that I haven't been able to contain in a jar--fear. Or it used to be the only thing. Fear used to be the only airborne intangible that I had to breathe in, and I learned to live with it. It wasn't so bad. But then one day, one of the unmarked jars leapt off the shelf and shattered on the floor. The jars that are unmarked go unmarked because I captured them so quickly that I hadn't time to find out what it was before I locked it away. The unmarked jars are the complicated ones...the ones that hold more than one thing. Those are the ones that scare me. And then one day, one of them it had a life of its own--just jumped off the shelf and shattered.

And I would have recaptured it. I would have just taken another jar and put it away like I had before. But...I've run out of jars. And so since that jar broke, I've been trying to learn how to breathe it in. But it's hard. It's hard because the jar was unmarked, so I don't even know what it is. I didn't know what it was that I'd put into the jar in the first place.

The windows are boarded up from the inside. I remember doing that. And I remember placing a padlock on the door...on the inside...and I'd let the key fall between the floorboards because I had no intention of ever needing it or wanting it again. But the padlock isn't there anymore. It was during that time that I was learning to breath again that it had shattered and fallen into a million pieces all over the floor. I have no idea why it shattered. I try not to think about it. Because I've run out of jars, so I can't just lock it up. So I try not to think about it.

And I guess the door's unlocked now. I suppose I could just open it and walk out.

But I know what it's like living in here. I know how to live in here--unless a jar breaks. I've lived in here for so long. I know how it works in here. But I don't even remember what's out there--beyond that door. I don't even remember what it's like out there. I can't recall a time when I wasn't in here. There was a time when I lived out there. I know that I haven't always lived in this dark, boarded up place. But something happened when I was out there...something that made me want to lock away all of my airborne intangibles...something that made me want to lock myself away so nothing else could get to me. And who says that if I went back out there, it wouldn't happen again? It didn't go well the first time around, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let something else like that happen to me again.

But I didn't make this place airtight. I tried. I tried very hard to make sure that nothing could get in, but I guess I missed a few places, and things seep through the cracks sometimes. And since I've run out of jars, I have to learn how to breathe them in. But that's never been hard because this boarded up place is almost air tight. But then that damn jar went and broke. And I'm afraid to even touch the broken shards of glass because who knows what they contained.

My attention's drawn to the door. And it's not even making a sound. I feel like it should be creaking as it's swinging open on its hinges, after having been shut for so long, but it's silent. The door swings into my space as if it took no effort at all to open. And I know it must have taken a huge amount of effort. It's been closed forever.

And Josh is standing on the other side of the threshold. And he's not moving. His arms are by his sides. His breathing is even. He doesn't seem to be nervous at all. Maybe it's just me who's nervous.

"I'm not coming with you," I say immediately in a voice that's far too loud. "I don't need a hero." But I'm not backing away. Wouldn't I be backing away if I was scared. Isn't that how fear works? Where's my trusty fear? What did the stuff in that broken jar do to my fear?

And he just stands on the other side of the threshold. "Let me in," he whispers.

"I don't need a hero." I'm shaking. My palms are sweating. I had expected him to want me to come with him. I thought he'd come and try to convince me to leave. But he wants to come in. He wants to come in, and what the hell do I do with that?

"Let me in." And he's so calm. How can he be so calm?

I do not need a hero.

I'm not here to rescue you. Let me in.

Justin awoke with a start, and without thinking, he leapt out of the hotel bed and ran to the door, unlocking it and throwing it open. And there stood Josh on the other side of the threshold. And Justin teetered on the edge of his dream. Not sure which one was real. Not sure if either of them were. Not sure that either of them weren't. And Justin tried to plow through the haze he felt.

And Josh stood there, looking into Justin's eyes. "Let me in," he uttered.

And Justin nearly fell over. He couldn't find a reality to take hold of. And through it all wouldn't I just shut the door if I was scared? Why aren't I scared?

And Josh stood there, unwavering and unblinking. What's going on? "I'm not leaving, Justin. Something happened. Something...happened, and I'm not leaving. Let me in." I don't even remember walking over here. How did I get here?

Justin stood there for a full minute, sifting through the clashing realities. Wouldn't I just shut the door if I was scared? If I wanted him to leave, wouldn't I just shut the door? I'm not shutting the door, so I don't want him to leave. Then I must want him to stay. Where the hell am I? And this was bigger than it seemed. Justin knew that. But I must want him to stay. So Justin stepped aside and allowed Josh entrance. Where the hell am I?

"Something happened," Josh said again as he turned to face Justin, as if those words in and of themselves explained what it was that had occurred.

Justin nodded. "Something happened," he agreed. Because something had happened. But his head felt like it was full of everything.

"What was it?" And Josh's eyebrows knitted together as he struggled not to cross his arms. It was four in the morning. What had drawn him here?

"I don't..." know "I don't..." know. And Justin was struggling with things that were all going too fast. "I had a dream," he said, shaking his head. Because that he was sure of. "You were..." and Justin shook his head again... "I must have felt you at the door." You were at the door.

"What was the dream about?" And Josh sought anything that would ground this situation. Because this was important. He knew it was. This was vital. But what the hell was it?

Justin shook his head. "I don't..." know. What's happening? What is happening?

And Josh frowned at the look on his friend's face. And he crossed the space between them and placed his hand on Justin's bare arm.

And the universe screeched to a halt. And everything slammed into place as an extraordinarily potent current of vibrating electricity flowed through both men at the place their flesh touched.

And Josh pulled his hand away out of reflex and looked at it like a point of origin, just the way Justin had the first time he ever touched flesh with Josh. And he looked up at Justin.

And Justin looked up at him. "You felt it that time too, didn't you?" Justin whispered.

And Josh nodded, still holding his hand in the air as if it had caused the reaction. "That's what it feels like?" he asked softly. "I had no idea."

But Justin shook his head and swallowed thickly. "No, it's never felt like that before. I mean, there's never been that much of it before." And Justin's breathing quickened because that had felt wonderful. That had felt sexual, and all he wanted was for Josh to reach out and touch him again. "I don't understand," he breathed, his chest heaving.

And Josh's breath had run away from him as well. And everything felt so right as he reached out with both of his hands and lay his palms flat against Justin's chest. And both men exhaled deeply and closed their eyes with the ecstasy of the moment. "Yes you do," Josh breathed. And he ran his hands down Justin's torso, burning a trail of electrical vibration all the way, and pulled himself closer to the younger man, until they were inches...centimeters...apart. And god they were so close. God, this was so right.

"I'm scared," Justin breathed against Josh's lips, feeling his hot breath reflected back at him after having mixed with Josh's.

"I know," Josh whispered, wanting to live in this moment forever, relishing the sensation of feeling Justin's lips brush against his own as they spoke.

And their breath mingled, and their chests heaved, and all the confusion was gone. This is what they had both been searching for.

"I stopped feeling things a long time ago, Josh," Justin whispered, his lips touching Josh's in tiny kisses as he spoke. "I don't know if I can just start again." But I want to. Oh, god, I want to.

"I'll help you. I'm here now, Justin. I'm not leaving." Just kiss me. I'm not going to start this. I can't. I need to know that you want to.

"I don't need a hero, Josh." I don't need a hero. But I need you. God, I need you.

"I'm not here to rescue you." Just kiss me. Kiss me, Justin.

And their lips crushed together. You mean everything to me.

* * *

Josh awoke in the morning to the sound of pounding coming from the hotel room door. As he opened his eyes, Josh couldn't help but smile at how tightly Justin was holding onto him, and he still reveled in the vibration that coursed through his body. But the pounding became more insistent, so Josh careful untangled himself from Justin's arms and stood from the bed. As soon as he'd left Justin's side, though, Josh heard the man sigh in his sleep, and Justin turned to lie on his back. Josh smiled again and tip-toed to the door, being careful not to wake Justin. He cracked the door and stepped out into the hallway, keeping his foot in the doorway so it wouldn't lock behind him.

There in the hallway stood Lance, Joey, and Chris, all staring at Josh in amazement. "Whatchu need, guys?" Josh asked them quietly, not wanting his voice to wake Justin. "What time is it, anyway?"

"It's almost nine-thirty," Lance supplied.

Chris cleared his throat and tried to keep from smiling. "We were just gonna tell Justin that we couldn't find you. But here you are." And Chris lost his battle with the smile. "We didn't think Justin would be sleeping."

"Well, you found me," Josh smiled, "and he is sleeping. For the first time in awhile. I don't wanna wake him."

They all nodded. "We were gonna ask if you wanted to go to breakfast with us," Lance said, lowering his voice for the sleeping Justin, "but if you're hanging out with Justin, food probably isn't on the agenda."

And that brought a huge smile to Josh's face. "He's eating again," Josh said, barely able to contain himself. "He ate at the restaurant downstairs last night--I was with him." And an ecstatic little giggle escaped Josh's throat. "He won't be up in time for breakfast, but we'll catch lunch with you later on."

And they nodded again, and Joey couldn't help himself. "So you slept in Justin's room last night?" And Joey's grin nearly cracked his face.

They were in Justin's room. That's right. So apparently everyone knows. And Josh blushed. "Nothing happened. We didn't do anything," he said as the blood heated his face.

"Oh something happened," Joey laughed through his smile, "and it's about damn time."

They were all a little surprised when the door was pulled open so quickly, and when Justin saw Josh standing just inside the threshold, he smiled a sigh of relief and wrapped his arms around his other half. "I thought you'd left," he whispered into Josh's ear. And he was still getting used to the new intensity of the vibration. "When I woke up and you weren't there, I got scared. I thought that maybe none of it had ever happened." And he growled softly into Josh's ear. "You are never allowed to do that again." And he kissed the back of Josh's neck softly.

Josh smiled and struggled to catch a breath over the extreme electrical vibration. "You mean I can't get out of bed ever again without your permission?" and he couldn't help but grin as he turned his head and softly kissed Justin's jawbone.

And Justin nodded happily. "Yes, that's exactly what I mean," he smiled as he gazed into his partner's eyes.

"Well," Josh breathed, "I think maybe that can be arranged."

"Good." And Justin began to pull Josh back into the room. "Now get in here. I'm not letting you out of my sight ever again."

And Josh giggled as he was pulled backwards.

And Lance caught the door before it closed. "What about lunch, guys?" he called after them.

"We'll order in," Justin called back.

And the door clicked shut, and Joey shook his head on the way to the elevator. "It's about damn time."

To Be Continued...

Yes, it's a bit short, but the last one was a bit long, so it's a trade off. I don't know how this one got done so quickly, but the next one will not be as fast, so don't get your hopes up. There is only one chapter left. So don't spend it all in one place. Feedback at I'd really like to know your opinions on this one. It was a crux if ever there was one.

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