He shivered, as a particularly strong breeze seemed to cut straight through him. It was cold out tonight. He supposed he could go inside, fix a cup of coffee and sit down in front of the fire. But he wasn't ready for that yet. Wasn't ready to be warm again. Right now he needed to be cold. To have it numb him to everything. Because if he was numb then he couldn't feel, and if he couldn't feel then he couldn't hurt.
Everyone had been so understanding when it happened. They had come to give their condolences, to offer their support. And then, as if sensing his need for solitude, had said their good-byes and left. Left him alone with his thoughts. Alone with his feelings of grief and guilt. Feelings that had become too much for him to bear. So, he had gone outside. Into the night. The dark hiding him for everyone, including himself.
He looked up at the sky. It was clear out tonight. The stars shining brighter that they had in weeks. So many of them. Uncountable. Immeasurable. So easy to lose himself in them. To focus in on their beauty. He had always noticed the stars, especially as a child. He would lie in the backyard at night trying to count them all. Knowing it was impossible but trying anyway. When had he stopped doing that? Stopped counting the stars. He couldn't remember. It was something that he had given up. A sacrifice to growing up, getting older.
God, he could still hear his father now. Telling him to quit wasting his time. To quit acting foolish and irresponsible. Telling him that there were more important things he should be doing. Studying, reading, preparing for his future. Back then he hadn't been worried about the future. He always thought there would be plenty of time. Time to say everything he needed to say. Time to do everything he needed to do. Plenty of time to do nothing but lie back and count the stars.
But there hadn't been enough time. And now he would never have another chance. Never have another chance to set things right between them. Never have another chance to say 'I love you' or 'I need you'.
And then the feelings became too much for him to bear. His control faltered and the mask slipped away to show the pain that lay beneath. The first sobs almost brought him to his knees. His body shaking as he gasped for breath, still struggling to keep it all inside. To not surrender to the powerful emotions coursing through his body. As he slowly backed up and slid down the wall, a blanket was placed over his knees. He looked up into the caring face of his friend.
"I can't believe he's gone. That I'll never see him again. My father's dead, Blair."
Strong arms pulled him close as a voice whispered in his ear, "Just let it all out. I'm here for you."
And then Jim Ellison finally let the tears fall as he was held in the protective embrace of his friend.
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