Major (capital “M”) angst and have tissues at the ready for this story.
Find Part 1 here * Find Part 2 here * Find Part 3 here * Find Part 4 here * Find Part 5 here * Find Part 6 here * Find Part 7 here * Find Part 8 here * Find Part 9 here * Find Part 10 here * Find Part 11 here * Find Part 12 here * Find Part 13 here * Find Part 14 here * Find Part 15 here * Find Part 16 here * Find Part 17 here * Find Part 18 here * Find Part 19 here
* * *
Ian missed Hayden… missed him so much. He closed his eyes and let the ache surface for a moment. As he brought the feel of Hayden’s arms around him to his mind, he wrapped his own around himself trying to hold onto it for just one more moment.
He knew he would miss Hayden for a long time and the ache wouldn’t go away anytime soon. But he had to remember that there were living people in his life that needed him, needed him to be better than he had been. There were living people that wanted him to be part of them, part of the living, part of life.
The reminder of Kane, of the promise he’d made helped to steady him. He took a breath and realized that he could take that breath, so he took another, deeper one. Then he stood and headed into the house. He had friends to be with.
The phone was ringing. He didn’t want to answer it; it was a call he did not want to take. The caller would tell him something he didn’t want to hear. He looked around the kitchen, maybe to get someone else to answer it and his gaze landed on the dirty dishes in the sink, dishes Kane was supposed to be washing, but he wasn’t there.
No one was. That was strange. His mother should be there, too. He’d never forget this night as long as he lived. Where was everyone?
He turned back and stared at the phone, willing it to silence. If he waited long enough, they’d give up and he wouldn’t have to hear it. If he didn’t answer it, he wouldn’t have to face the news it would give.
But it wouldn’t stop ringing. It wouldn’t quit. He’d lost count of the rings at twenty and he gave up and reached out tentatively to lift the receiver off the hook. His hands were shaking badly, so badly that he dropped the receiver as soon as he picked it up. He snatched at the long cord, trying to keep it from hitting the floor.
Then he thought that if he let it hit the floor, it would break and they couldn’t talk to him. Too late, he realized, he’d already caught it.
He lifted the phone to his ear. “H-h-hello?” His voice sounded strange. Besides being shaky, it was breathless and… deeper than he thought it should be. He didn’t understand it, but it was a dream – he recognized that much. Then he didn’t think too much about it at all because the voice that came through the line startled him.
“Ian?” Hayden’s voice asked.
“Hayden?” He blinked at the phone, wondering why it was different than he remembered. Then he shook his head and focused back on the voice on the line. “Hayden! You’re… alive?” Ian asked.
“Of course, I am.” Hayden’s patient voice came across the line. “I’m not the one who died, Ian. Are… are you okay?” Hayden asked, sounding concerned.
“Okay? No, I’m not okay! Why would I be okay? I mean. I’m so happy you’re alive and okay! But… Hayden, if you… if you’re not dead… and… you’re not the one who…?” Ian shook his head in confusion.
“No, Ian. I’m not. Um, I was just there, but I had to go home, or I’d still be there to help you. It’s why I called. I was worried. Don’t tell me, you don’t remember…?” He let the question go and Ian’s eyebrows dropped into a scowl of confusion at the tone of Hayden’s voice.
“What do you mean, remember? What’s there to remember? Nothing’s happened! I mean, it did to you, you’re dead! But, you’re not. So, there’s nothing to remember.” He was starting to really freak out.
“Oh, Ian. I’m… God, this sucks.” Hayden sounded… scared? Sad? Resigned? “How many times are we going to have to say this?” he asked with exaggerated patience almost like he was talking to a child, though Ian knew somehow Hayden wasn’t expecting an answer. “Ian… it was Kane. He’s the one that’s gone. Don’t you remember? He took the jeep out? Went for milk for your mom?”
“No! No, that’s not what happened! Kane was home with me when your mom called! It was you, Hayden, not Kane! You were… oh God, you were shot. D—drive by.” His stuttering voice went up an octave in fear. Nothing was making sense! “You took a wrong turn! You were running late and tried to take a shortcut, but it was the wrong way and you ended up in a bad part of town!” He could hear the panic taking over, but couldn’t seem to do anything to stop it. “You did ‘cause you didn’t leave me when you were supposed to! You stayed too late, because I asked you to, because I didn’t want to let you go!” His voice rose even higher in pitch as he went so that he was nearly shrieking by the time he got to the end.
Then he stopped, trying to control his voice through the confusion. “And you died,” he whispered. “You died because of it… because of me…” He broke, then, the tears finally coming through the confusion, panic and fear.
“No, Ian, no, baby, I’m okay. I’m alive. I’m fine.” Hayden gulped, the sound loud over the line. “Ian, it was Kane… Kane went out. He… he got shot. At the convenience store. Oh baby, I’ll come over, I’ll come right back. Just stay there and hang on…” Hayden hung up, but Ian didn’t hear the click, didn’t register the fast disconnect beeping. He was staring in horror at the sink of suds, suds that weren’t there a minute ago. The water was running, water that no one had been there to turn on. Because there was still no Kane standing there, like he was supposed to be. Was… Kane… was he…
He started shaking his head. No. No, no, no, no. Oh God, no, not Kane! Not him. His whole body shook as the horror and fear took over.
Would… oh God, would I trade them? Would… do I wish… Do I wish it had been Kane?
But he knew the answer to that, didn’t need to say it even if his dream self didn’t agree.
NO! No, I don’t. Kane can’t be dead! No. Give me Kane back, please. I couldn’t… I can’t… not without him. Not without Kane…
His words started to merge together, scared, now, out of his wits.
No, Kane, don’t go. Please, Kane… don’t… ohGod, don’tdie, youcan’tdie…no…