WHAT LIES WITHIN, Part II:
"I've already heard the truth, Mulder. What I want are the answers!"
-- Dana Skully, The X-Files.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!" everyone shouted as I walked in the door.
I groaned inwardly to myself, as I plastered my best fake smile on my quickly reddening face, and nodded at everyone while they gave me their birthday greetings and congratulations and all that. But, my smile grew immensely when I felt Rusty's arms wrap around me from behind. Quickly, I turned and buried my face in his neck as I hugged him to me...thankful for a way to hide my embarrassment.
I must have clung to him a little tighter than usual, because he figured out right away how I was feeling...I hate birthdays. Well, actually I just hate that uncomfortable feeling of being the center of everyone's attention for a day, or even for a few minutes. It's just not my style.
"Hey, dude...c'mon! It's ok...today's your birthday. Don't be embarrassed! Just relax and have a good time. Plus, I'm saving my present until later...so you better be good, `cuz I couldn't stand to see that sad little pouty look on your face if I have to make you wait a few days..." he whispered in my ear.
"You better not!" I laughed as I leaned into him and rested my forehead against his while I lost myself for a few moments in the blue-green ocean of his eyes.
"C'mon...you got company...you'll get yours later dude," he said, giving me his trademark little smirk.
It made me so happy to see him like this again...back to his `normal' self, I guess you might say. Since the day he confronted (and, no--personally, I don't think he was really trying to kill him...) his brother, he's been eerily quiet and depressed. Tim and I have spent hours talking to him...trying to convince him that it was ok now, because he never actually hurt his brother. Really, I was kinda proud of him for finally standing up to him, and confronting his own fear and hurt. Not that I approved of his methods exactly, but I know how he must have felt. I can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing if I had been in his place...
Well, yes I can. I hate confrontation.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so I wasn't really expecting a party today (ya, I know...it kinda sucks having your birthday so close to another holiday, but I'm used to it by now). It's always just been traditional in our house to celebrate my birthday on the holiday, since it's easier to plan for, etc. My only complaint is that after 16 years, nobody ever figured out that I HATE carrot cake!
It's only been a few weeks since I got home from the hospital, and I still get tired pretty easily. Well, mostly I just get these nasty headaches when I've had too much for one day...and I was already starting to get one now. I thought about sneaking into the bathroom to take one of my migraine pills, but they kinda knock me out. After all, I wanted to last long enough to get my `present' from Rusty after everyone left!
From inside my little cocoon wrapped up in Rusty's arms, I surveyed the room...my eyes making contact one by one with all the people gathered here in the living room. I was kinda flattered that so many people would come...Jack, Mr. B, Tim, Rusty's mom, my parents, and even a couple of other kids from the yearbook (probably here just to kiss up to Mr. B, I bet...). I know I'm still getting a few extra sympathy points from my accident, but it still gave me a nice feeling inside to see them all in one place. I was even more grateful when I reminded myself that just a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure if everything was gonna work out this well at all. I remembered how I felt laying there in that stupid hospital when Tim finally explained to me what had happened that fateful evening.
My stomach was tying itself into huge knots, as Tim pulled a chair up to the side of the bed, and sat down heavily. He studied me for a second, and I could practically see his mind working as he ran his fingers ran through his stringy auburn hair...while he searched desperately for the right words to say. I noticed his tongue stud once again with a mental grimace, as he licked his lips lightly before he spoke.
"Hey dude..." he finally began, with a sigh. "Sorry I had to hit and run earlier...And, before I say anything else, I just wanna make sure to tell ya that I'm really glad things are lookin' a little bit better for ya today. A lot of people were worried about you," he said, with a sincere glance.
I just couldn't stand it any more. "So? Did you find him? Where is he? Is he ok? WHAT'S GOING ON?" I blurted out impatiently.
"Ok...I know...I know...just slow down, dude...take a deep breath here...we got a lot to talk about..." he said wearily.
Intently, I studied his face for any clues that it might reveal; but his steel-gray eyes were remarkably quiet...not conveying much at all. His face was a study in contrasts: despite the three-day stubble on his cheeks, and despite the pierced eyebrows and nose-stud combo, you could tell there was a lot more than a punk skater behind it all. He was obviously a very sharp guy...not necessarily "book-smart", but definitely "people-smart." I think the skate-punk veneer on him was kinda like a test...he was challenging the world to see if anyone could look past it long enough to see who he really was inside. Only then was he ready to deal with people--on his own terms. Honestly, I think I'm glad I musta passed the test...because; well, I really wouldn't want to have this guy pissed off at me. Even though I figured his lanky frame put him well over 6'-4", it still kinda surprised me when I noticed that even sitting down, I had to look up at him from my reclined position. But, the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that I didn't feel as uncomfortable around him as I did most people that I didn't really know very well (especially a tough-looking senior like him!)...but, I had a feeling that was gonna change real soon. I mean, the not knowing him very well part, that is. He noticed me studying him, cocked his head slightly, and gave me a curious look. When I noticed he had been studying me just as I had been studying him, I was startled back to attention. Then, it dawned on me as my stomach sank a little bit...well duh! He obviously knows about us! Certainly he must know why I was so concerned about Rusty. Suddenly, I wasn't feeling quite so comfortable sitting there.
I gave him a worried glance.
"Don't worry. He's ok...now," he said cryptically, as his eyes met mine again.
"You, uh...well, I guess you know about us, don't you?" I asked quietly, studying my hands intently.
He let out a small snort in surprise, and he smiled slightly.
"Well, uh...ya. I mean, dude... I've known Rusty for a pretty long time," he replied with a knowing glance. He thought to himself for a moment, and then took another deep breath. "Did Rusty ever tell you about Billy Jenkins?" he asked cautiously.
"Ya..." I replied, looking down at my hands again as the memory of Billy's image filled my mind. "He told me the whole story."
"Did he tell you that Billy was my cousin?" he asked, "...and my best friend?"
"No way!" I answered, mildly surprised.
"Ya. But Rusty didn't have to tell me anything about you guys, really. From that first day at the skate park, I could totally see it. I don't think anyone else would have had a clue...but, like the way Rusty would peek little glances at you when you weren't looking and smile to himself...I think it was the first time I had seen him smile since...well, you know..." he added awkwardly. "And, the way that you totally remind both of us of Billy in so many ways...it's kinda scary sometimes."
I gave him a doubtful look.
"Believe it, dude. It's not that you look like Billy, or act like him exactly...but it's just this...I dunno...something about you that instantly reminds both of us of him. And well, as far as the (he leaned in closer to say it almost imperceptibly softly) `gay thing', I've known about Rusty for a long time. Billy always told me everything, dude. In fact, the last thing that Billy ever said to me before he died was to keep my eyes out for Rusty. He was afraid of what Rusty's brothers might do to him," he said, shaking his head sadly.
"But, the really fucked up thing about all this," he continued, "was that everyone kinda suspected that Rusty's brother Mark had something to do with Billy's death. I know Rusty believed that for sure. So did I."
"Oh my god...he never told me anything about that," I said sadly. "I've never even met his brothers or his dad--he won't let me anywhere near them."
"I'm not surprised," he sighed. "He's been hiding that pain so deep inside himself for so long...trying to escape it somehow...he's just never really dealt with it emotionally."
"Until today," he added reluctantly.
"What do ya mean?" I asked, narrowing my eyes with obvious concern.
Tim gave me another long look, and shrugged to himself. "Ok, dude. Here's the deal: I got a bunch of stuff you need to hear, so just listen to me for a minute, and don't jump to any conclusions, ok? Just listen, and remember that everything is ok now...but, it's been a really fucked up day in a lot of ways."
My heart sank a little bit, but I was all ears. I nodded slightly.
"Last night, I had a really strange dream...a nightmare, I guess...and it kinda got to me. I just had this feeling in my gut that something bad was gonna happen today...like, I had this weird idea that somebody was gonna die today. To be totally honest, I was worried that it might be Rusty," he said with an apologetic glance, putting up his hand to keep me quiet.
"Sounds pretty whacked, I know. But, it was just eatin' at me all day, so at the end of fifth period I went by the graphics lab to find him...I figured I would just kinda hang out with him for a while to convince myself that everything was cool. But, when I got there, things were totally chaos, dude! They told me that Rusty had completely freaked out, smashed his computer monitor to bits, and then disappeared before they even knew what had happened."
"It took `em a minute to figure out what had set him off. I mean, they said he went totally psycho, which isn't like him. I mean, I know he has a little bit of a temper sometimes, but this was different. It's just not like him to go off for no reason...there has to be a reason, and it usually has something to do with...well, you know what I mean," he said with an apologetic glance. "But, they finally figured it out when they found your camera on his desk. Dude...you may not remember what happened to you in the gym, but your camera did. Rusty saw it, and he freaked."
"What! You know what happened to me?" I said in shock.
"Well, no...not exactly. But, they think the last picture in your camera was shot when you fell...and there was one person--or part of one person--in the image," he said, giving me a worried glance.
"WHO WAS IT?" I begged.
"It was Rusty's brother...Mark," he said quietly.
"Oh my god..." I said to myself in shock. I still didn't remember anything from that day, and I had never even seen Rusty's brother before, as far as I could recall. I did vaguely remember seeing a family picture in Rusty's house...and Mark must have been in it. But, I couldn't pull up a single image in my head to go with that name. Then, another thought hit me, and my heart stopped.
"Oh shit! What did he do?" I asked, closing my eyes to fight back the tears...almost afraid to hear the answer.
After Tim had left that evening, I was lost in a sea of difficult emotions. Everything seemed kinda ok now, but god! Things had come so close to disaster, that even now...after it was all said and done...and despite the fact that I wasn't even there...it scared the hell out of me. And, as far as I knew, Rusty was probably still in jail. My heart totally ached for him...just trying to imagine what he's been going through this afternoon.
It killed me to know that I wasn't there...couldn't be there...for him at the time when he surely needed someone so badly...
Tim had stayed for quite a while, and we just ended up talking about stuff...you know, mostly just meaningless nervous babbling on my part. But, Tim seemed to know that I just needed to have someone to listen to me for a while as I jabbered on...trying to take my mind off my concerns for Rusty.
Oh god...he's in jail?
Every time I looked at him, he was listening to me intently. I think I must have told him my entire life story at least twice in the space of an hour...and I don't think I left out too many details about my relationship with Rusty, either. He seemed totally unfazed by the idea that two teenage guys could fall in love. When I told him about our little scene in the graphics lab when we first...you know...got together, I think I even saw a little moisture forming in the corner of his eyes.
Eventually I guess I wore myself out, and had to close my eyes for a second. When I re-opened them, he was long gone...but, I noticed that someone had moved my dinner tray off to the side of the room, and my blanket was pulled up to my chin.
For the rest of the night I just lay there in my hospital bed; staring at the TV, but not really watching it at all...my mind was occupied elsewhere. Around , Nurse Verna came around to check on me before lights out at . She said that, although it was well past the accepted hours, I had a visitor. But, because I had a room to myself, and if we promised to keep quiet, she would let him stay a little while. As she moved her sizeable bulk aside, she revealed a timid and exhausted looking teenage guy standing in the hallway.
"Rusty!" I gasped.
He flew to the side of my bed, and buried his head on my shoulder as he hugged me tightly.
"Oh god...I'm so sorry, dude...I'm so sorry...please forgive me..." he kept sobbing.
"Rusty...I can't believe you're here! Tim told me what happened... I was really worried about you...it must have been so awful...God, I love you so much," I said breathlessly, as I ran my fingers through his long, soft hair. "You certainly don't need to apologize to me..."
"I almost ruined everything for us, dude!" he groaned in disgust with himself.
He pulled back and sat on the edge of the bed, tucking his hair behind his ears to keep it out of his tear-streaked face, as he looked down at me. He gave me a weak smile.
"Oh man...I never needed a hug from you more in my entire life than I did tonight. I needed you so bad...," he said, with tears beginning to form in the corners of his red, puffy eyes.
"Tim was here earlier tonight, and we talked for a long time. I'm just glad that you're ok, and that everything turned out...well, that nothing worse happened..." I said with a sigh.
He gave me another apologetic look.
"Ya...well; I guess I was pretty lucky. I just feel so stupid! I was totally out of control, dude. I had no idea what I was actually doing...I think I was really gonna do it, you know?...if Billy hadn't stopped me...well, I mean, not me really, but the part of me that was sooo hurt...so damaged...by everything that Mark had done, was ready to do it. I don't know how else to explain it. I know I'm responsible for what I did...but it wasn't really me that was doing it...it was someone else...something else...that I didn't really have control over," he said dejectedly. "It scared me," he said in a sobbing whisper, as he stared at his hand clasped inside mine.
"Billy?" I asked with a shiver, remembering the daydream I had earlier today.
"Just...don't ask, dude. Maybe some day I can figure out a way to explain it to you...but right now, I don't even understand it," he said, shaking his head slightly.
I reached out and took his hand firmly in mine. "I understand more than you know, Rusty. And I believe you," I said softly, thinking back to a moment earlier this afternoon.
I pulled him down to me again. "It's all over now...you're ok," I said softly in his ear, as my arms wrapped tightly around him. He just lay there in my arms for several long minutes, while I idly stroked his back and ran my fingers through the incredibly long, silky hair on the back of his head. He let out a huge sigh, and sat up again...this time moving over to sit in the chair next to my bed.
He gave me a pensive look.
"I have to go back to court on Monday for my arraignment," he frowned. "I think my Mom is getting everything worked out with the District Attorney...I'm gonna plead no contest to Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm, and I have to get one year of counseling and like, a zillion hours of community service. But, I'm not going to jail any time soon, dude. Good thing my Mom works at a law office," he concluded with a little smile.
I nodded to him in relief. God, I couldn't even bear the thought of him being in jail!
"They let me come home tonight under my Mom's supervision. She's getting us a hotel room right now, and picking up some clothes for both of us at the house. I don't think we're going back there again, dude," he said, giving me a meaningful look. "Not ever."
"You mean...uh, that your parents are gonna...?" I began to ask.
"Ya...finally," he interjected, with another sigh of relief. "My dad kinda showed up at the police station after everything was over, and it got pretty ugly lemme tell ya. He said a lot of things about what he was gonna do to me...to us," he said with a flash of anger.
"God, he's such an asshole!" he groaned to himself.
I sat there silently for a moment. I knew it was a good thing if his parents were gonna split up, but it didn't seem like something I should congratulate him for. "Uh, Rusty..." I wondered aloud to myself, "What about...you know, him...your brother...Mark? What's gonna happen? Did he really do this to me? Did he really have something to do with Billy's death?"
He gave me a pained expression, as a wave of anger passed over his face.
"They say they can't charge Mark with anything. There's no proof he did anything wrong...because Billy's death was so long ago, and because he said what happened to you was just an accident...and that he didn't even know you were hurt pretty bad. It's all just complete bullshit! He even admitted everything to me! He told me he did it! But, they say that doesn't count...especially since I had a gun pointed at his head," he said ruefully.
"That fucker's just gonna walk...like nothin' even happened!" he added with amazement.
He took a deep breath.
"And it's all my fault. But," he sighed, "I'm ok with it. Really...I am. Billy told me not to worry," he said cryptically. "He'll get what he deserves in the end. I don't really care anymore. I just don't ever want to see him again. EVER. That's enough for me," he said with conviction. "Mom got a temporary restraining order filed against both of them. They can't come near us, and vice-versa."
"Us?" I asked with surprise.
"Uh, ya...well...I kinda had to tell them what this was all about...and Dad kinda threatened both of us in front of the cops. I hope you don't mind...she ok'd it with your parents first...but ya, you're on the order too."
Rusty gave me a long penetrating look...the kind when I just know he's searching inside my soul for some kind of an important answer.
"That's ok with you, isn't it? I mean, you're not mad at me for telling them...?" he said, as his voice trailed off with hesitation and concern.
"Ya...of course it's ok with me!" I said in exasperation.
"Um...dude...well, uh...the thing is...I guess I kinda feel bad...'cause I know we've never really talked about it in like, a formal way, but I did already kinda assume...that we were...well, I had to tell the admissions desk lady in the Hospital here that you were my boyfriend so she would let me in to see you before you woke up."
He gave me another searching look.
"That's like, ok with you, isn't it? I mean, um...well, Ian Sullivan, will you be my boyfriend? I mean, I love you more than anything in the world...but, after all this, I would totally understand if..."
"Rusty!" I said in surprise. "Just shut up and give your `official boyfriend' another hug, you big dummy! I'm not embarrassed to be in love with you, Rusty. But, I know what a big step that was for you...having to talk about our relationship like that. But, you did it...and you weren't afraid, Rusty! Actually, that makes me feel pretty good inside," I said with a gentle squeeze of his hand. "I know it must have been really hard for you, and I appreciate that. A lot...and, I hope I never have to come face to face with him or your dad again...even though I don't even remember seeing him when...uh, you know."
"Thanks," he said as he nuzzled his face into my neck and my shoulder. "I really do, ya know. I don't know what I would do without you right now."
"Me too, Rusty. Me too..." I said with a long sigh.
"Earth to Ian...come in dude!" Rusty repeated again, but louder this time.
"Huh?" I asked, looking up to see him standing in front of me.
"It's time to do the cake thing, dude. I begged your mom not to do the candles, but it didn't work. You know...the whole thing about `sixteen candles' and all. So, prepare yourself...this may get ugly!" he grinned.
He took my hand and dragged me into the dining room, where everyone was huddled around behind the table, with the glow of all those candles reflected in their faces. I studied the scene for a second.
"If anyone sings, they're d-dead!" I frowned.
I glanced around the room, meeting the surprised look in everyone's eyes one at a time in defense of my threat. Lastly, I came to Tim, who was lingering uncomfortably on the far edge of the group. He raised his eyebrows as he regarded my challenge. Then, he stuck his tongue out at me, took a deep breath, and began to sing "Happy Birthday" very loudly...in a ridiculously bad, over-the-top impression of an opera singer, or something. His surprisingly good baritone voice drowned out all the others completely, as they all joined in by the end.
Rusty was laughing so hard, he could barely stand up. I took one look at him, and then I got the giggles so bad I had absolutely no chance of blowing out all those candles...and Rusty certainly wasn't in any shape to help me.
My mom eventually snuffed out the remaining candles with her fingers, and scraped the residue of melted wax off the top of the cake. Mmmm. Chocolate. My favorite!
"So, did you at least make a wish?" someone asked.
"Nah..." I replied, "No need. I already got my wish," I smiled, pulling Rusty into a half-hug with one arm.
After everyone left, Rusty and I retired to my bedroom. Tonight was a special night...not only was it my birthday, but tonight was the first time that Rusty actually had permission to sleep over at our house...in my bedroom (and my bed, of course)...with me! Both he and his mom were having Thanksgiving at our house tomorrow, but his Mom preferred to make the 20-minute drive back home to their new condo in the next town over.
Ya, it kinda sucked that they lived that far away now
(and we both shed a few tears when that decision was made...), but it also had
its advantages. The Art Institute where Rusty planned on going to college next
year was close by, as was his Mom's work. And, the (nice, but used, of course...)
It wasn't easy to convince my parents to let him sleep over, believe me. But, by now they certainly realized that we were gonna be together for a long time...like forever, I hope. At first my dad tried to make up all kinds of ridiculous rules for what we could and couldn't theoretically do...alone in my room with the doors closed and the lights off, of course. But, after he realized just how ridiculous that was, he finally just ended up with one rule: we could do anything `safe' that we both wanted to do, as long as nobody else in the house could hear or see us doing it.
We made sure to move the bed a few extra inches away from the wall.
I sat quietly on the edge of my bed, as I watched Rusty undressing. I still have trouble believing my good fortune, sometimes. I try hard to convince myself not to ask why someone as breathtakingly sexy and handsome as Rusty would have any attraction to someone like me...it's a battle I face every day.
I had to sigh to myself, as the dim light in my room subtly defined his awesome form while he stripped...the shadows emphasizing every little (and not so little!) muscle on his tight body, and the soft glow of the light adding to the warmth of his deeply tanned skin. His ocean-blue eyes caught me staring at him, and he turned to face me as he finished pulling off his socks...now completely naked. He quickly brushed his long hair behind his ears with his hand, and then casually scratched himself.
"What?" he asked with his trademark smirk.
"You must have no idea how sexy you are..." I said in amazement.
"Well, its not the outside that counts...it's the creamy filling on the inside that matters the most..." he said dryly, with his usual grin.
I gave him a totally love-sick smile as I traced the little line of hairs below his navel with my finger. I could literally see his love for me growing right before my very eyes.
I got up and turned out the light, then quickly stripped myself and joined him under the covers. We melted together in comfy bliss. This was the first time we had actually slept together...as in sleeping, not making out...in the same bed. I knew that this was definitely my best birthday present ever: the indescribably good feeling of full body contact...soft, warm, smooth skin on skin contact...the kind that melts your heart and your brain at the same time, and you never want to move an inch for fear that it might somehow decrease the pleasurable feeling by some microscopic amount...so you just want to stay in exactly that position for the rest of your natural life.
Good. No, better than just good...actually, it doesn't even have a word, it's just...well, REALLY GOOD.
"Rusty?" I whispered in his ear, as I lay spooned up behind him, with my arms wrapped firmly around his waist.
"Ya dude?" he whispered back.
"This just feels so right, ya know? I can't even imagine spending another night for the rest of my life without you in the bed with me like this...it's just so awesome...I feel like I could stay like this forever."
"Ya...I know what you mean. It feels so peaceful and restful...but at the same time, it's so energizing. I'm not sure if I wanna just snuggle up and go to sleep, or make passionate love to you..." he snickered.
"Mmmm," I replied lazily, as I ran my fingers over his chest and shoulders. I nuzzled my face deeper into the crook of his neck and kissed him softly. No, I decided...this just felt too good to move right now. We could always make love together another time.
Besides, it almost felt too...I dunno...formulaic?...to just hop into bed together for the first time and start screwin' like rabbits, ya know? I loved more than anything the little spontaneous outbursts of physical lust that struck us sometimes at the oddest moments...and, although they may sometimes be brief, they were always the most sexually rewarding. And the most intense. Anything that felt too "planned" just didn't seem to compare. I just lay there and enjoyed the blissful feelings for a moment, until another thought struck me.
"Rusty?" I whispered in his ear again.
"Ya dude?" he whispered back.
"Is this really gonna last forever? You know...us?"
"What? What do ya mean? You don't think...?" he said, clearly getting a little annoyed.
"No!...it's just...well, I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but...like, this just feels TOO GOOD. Like, it's almost too good to be true sometimes. I mean, what about next year? You'll be in college, and I'll still be...there. Oh god Rusty...," I said, breaking into tears, "Right now I feel like I would just die if I ever lost you. You have to promise me that you'll always be here. I never want to live without you. It would break my heart. Literally, I know I would just die without you."
"Jeez dude!" he said, turning to face me. "What's with all this? I thought you were happy a minute ago."
"Well, I was...but just the idea that we might not..."
"C'mon, Ian! Don't go there right now, man. Be realistic...nobody can predict the future. All I can say is that I have no intention to ever let you go. You're just...well, you're just too special to me," he said softly.
"Besides...I really believe that we're supposed to be together. Billy said so."
The room was silent for a moment.
"Rusty...uh...well...you know that Billy's dead, right? How could he...um...say that, exactly?" I asked carefully.
"I'm not sure if I can explain it, dude. But trust me, he did." He said with complete conviction. "Maybe, it's like some part of me could never let go of Billy when he died...it's like I had this fear that if Billy was gone, nobody would ever love me again...and like, I just kept this part of Billy living inside of me all this time until you came along...but then again, dude; there's just so much of Billy inside of you, it's like scary sometimes. Even Tim can see it."
He took a deep breath and continued. "So, it's like I miss Billy a lot...and that pain will never go away. But, it's also like the love I have for you is the same love I have for Billy in a lot of ways, so it's not really gone."
"Okay...I guess I understand...I think," I said softly.
"I know...I'm crazy. I see dead people. They talk to me. It's ok...just go ahead and lock me up," he sighed.
"Maybe it's something kinda like this..." I said, thinking out loud to myself, as I snuggled my body into his again. "Before I met you, I just had this huge hole inside my heart...inside my soul...that I didn't even know was there. Once I met you...once you filled that hole...I realized how much of me had been missing all that time...it was like I had only been living half of a life. I could never let go of that now...even if you were ever gone...the part of you that fills the hole inside my heart could never leave. I just simply wouldn't let it go, period. I will always have that part of you inside me, Rusty. I know I could never stop loving you...it just wouldn't be possible."
"You are so sweet, dude" he said tenderly. "The same goes for me. I couldn't not love you, even if I wanted to. Isn't that enough? We can't predict the future. Let's just be happy believing in our hearts that we'll always be there for each other. We both feel that pretty strongly. Just don't be afraid to love me because you think someday I might be gone."
"I'll try, Rusty. It might take a while...but, I'll try not to be afraid."
"Dude...sometimes I can't believe you," he sighed. "You're like, the bravest person I know."
"No...I'm not brave, not by a mile, dude. I just do what has to be done. I don't know any other way to do things, I guess."
"You saved my life, dude."
"No," I replied, "you gave me one."