Chapter Twenty-Nine: "Let's go for a walk."

I can't believe this happened
No, I don't hate you
Don't want to fight you
Know I'll always love you
But right now I just don't like you
You took this too far.

-Relient K, Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet

In the end, it didn't take very long at all. My father sorted it all out and the deal was struck by the end of the week. He—very calmly, I'm sure—brought the charges forward to Joshua's dad's lawyers, or at least told them we were planning it. They backed down right away. All the charges were dropped. The judge slapped a restraining order on me and sent me on my way.

I didn't find out about Josh until later. For a second, all I felt was relief. I'd spent all day worrying about what was going to happen now. Josh couldn't go home, couldn't go back to Courtland, but he just… couldn't stay with me. I didn't want him to go home. I didn't want him with me either.

Courtland made the decision for me. He took Josh back into his custody. Josh would have to stay there this time, or, on unofficial warning from the judge, he'd be put in foster care till he was eighteen. The good part was Josh didn't have to stay with him. Courtland was sending him off somewhere. I wasn't allowed to know where. My dad told me he'd be happy there, wherever there was.

The restraining order was finalized a week later. Josh's shit was removed from my apartment. I pretended it didn't look weird without it. Told Tara how glad I was to be rid of his damn tidy piles of jeans. Truth was, being able to throw wet towels on the floor was a poor consolation for the silence. I never realized how Josh had filled the silence.

Courtland called me yesterday, believe it or not. Seems he's decided to allow his son the great courtesy of ignoring the court order, just for an hour. Still, I don't trust him. I made him put it in writing.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still angry with Josh. Actually, 'angry' isn't the word. More like, fucking pissed. More like, for the first time I actually want to hit him. But I'm not going to let him walk out of my life without a goodbye.

And, more importantly, a why?

So that's how I found myself here, standing outside Pearson International Airport in the cold rain. At least the weather fits. There's a fucking icy wind blowing, and it's numbing me through the wet clothes, and the sun-bleached hair on my arms is standing up, but I don't want to go in yet. I just stand and stare up at the building, even though I've seen it before a thousand times. I don't want to see Josh.

It's just that I'm so pissed. And I don't want his last memory of me to be his jerk ex-boyfriend screaming at him.

But for fuck's sake, he had a fucking thousand opportunities to tell me. And like I fucking cared if he was seventeen or seven. I loved him. I fucking loved the little shit. When I told him "It's okay, they can't do anything to us, you're not a minor," he stood right there and looked me in the eyes and agreed. Fucking agreed.

My father is all detached sympathy. My mother sent a card last week. A fucking card. 'Congratulations.' I guess that's in order, isn't it? I more or less escaped the charges, didn't I? The only problem is I'll probably have to go through my life with everyone thinking I'm some kind of lecherous homo pervert.

Tara? Tara still doesn't understand.

There are so many things we could have done differently if I had known he was under-aged. For one fucking example, I never would have screamed the details of our sex life in his father's face. When the trial was over, I realized why he just sat there and smirked so fucking smugly at me. He should have been horrified, but why bother? I was helping his case and I didn't even fucking know it.

But it's getting late, and I can't stay out here all day, as tempting as it would be to just fucking stand here until I got pneumonia and just slowly died, all alone with umbrellas bobbing all around me. I open the airport doors and slowly make my way to the agreed-upon meeting place. My shoes squeak, slapping wetly against the floor. My clothes are dripping all over.

I see Josh first, looking pale and miserable and anxious for me, I know. His father is there, too, with two uniformed security guards, and I almost turn and run. I manage to stop myself just in time. Courtland fucking promised me this. I have the documentation to prove it. My father even looked it over for me, a last legal courtesy to me as his client.

Josh chokes when he sees me, the gratitude plain on his face. The hero-worship makes me uncomfortable, even if he maybe owes me this, but I'm well-aware that I was no angel to Josh long before the trial.

"Kay," like I'll save him from drowning. He goes to fling himself at me. Courtland's long white fingers tighten around his shoulder in an instant, making me remember the fingerprint bruises that were there in that exact place the first time I sucked his dick.

"Joshua. You remember what we discussed."

Josh nods, a picture of abject misery, and steps towards me in a noticeably more subdued fashion. My eyes find the giant clock over his head. I'm late. I've wasted nearly half of our hour.

"Hi, Josh." It's a pale response to his desperate greeting. And even though I try to sound civil, my voice comes out harsh. Josh cringes. In the midst of reaching for my hand he lets his arm drop back to his side.

"Let's go for a walk," I say flatly. I'm not going to stand here and have our grand finale witnessed by the Father of the Year, as some newspapers have been depicted him. (Contrarily, a good few of the Bleeding Heart rags have cast him as the new and improved Adolf Hitler. I would enjoy it if I didn't feel so unconscious ninety-five percent of the time.) Josh looks at his father, then nods. I walk away without looking to see if he follows, but of course he does. Some part of me is yelling at me to be nice to him, to just give him the smallest sign of response. It's not like I'll even see him again, and anyone could see Josh is dying. The least I could do is pretend to smile.

But he'd know I was faking, wouldn't he? Little fucker.

We walk a while in silence. Now that I'm here, I don't really want to know why. And fuck, I'm angry. Too angry to speak.

Josh gets up the nerve to speak to me. "I'm sorry…" He trails off, feeble, knowing as well as I do that no number of apologies could mend the gap between us.

"It's alright." I push open the doors I'd entered through, needing to get back into the rain again. He barely hesitates before he follows. I shouldn't get his clothes wet. His fucking daddy must have picked them out to impress whoever he's foisting his son off on. They'll get dirty, they'll wrinkle, but I don't give a fuck anymore.

"Kay," Josh says at last in a tiny voice. "Say something."

"I don't know what to say." I mutter at last, stopping and turning around to finally, finally meet his eyes. Predictably, he's already crying, but it mixes with the rain and I don't feel as terrible as I usually do when I see him cry. Some vindictive part of me is kind of enjoying it, really.

"Is that all you have to say?" He sniffs hard, wrapping his arms around himself tightly. His clothes are already drenched to his slender body and he's shaking, looking impossibly tiny and fragile. I never took much notice of it before, but the court has brought it to my attention. I should have known. Boys 'his' age aren't that little.

"What do you want me to say?" I snap, unable to help myself. Josh's face crumples a little more, and I'm oddly pleased at the sight, which makes me feel sick. Jesus Christ. What the fuck is wrong with me? I'm acting like a bigger bastard than I am. I'm acting like Courtland. And it's not like I'm an innocent party here, there is a girl somewhere in the city gearing up to pop out my baby.

Josh is shuddering. I have to give myself a little shake and remember I never wanted to do anything but protect him from pain—and yet here I am causing it. Yeah… But it's better this way. He won't miss me if I don't let him.

He looks up at me, and I watch a droplet of water roll down his smooth forehead and drip into his eye. It looks painful, and I can't help reaching out to wipe off his cheek with my thumb. I shouldn't have. The moment I touch him he lets out a strange, strangled sort of sound and flings himself at me. He grips me tightly around the waist, his arms slipping on my leather jacket.

"Oh God, please don't let them take me, Kay." He's sobbing into me.

"Why shouldn't I?" I keep my voice as flat as possible. The sickness is radiating from him. My stomach is starting to knot up in response.

"Please!" Josh is begging now, his grip on me loosening as the sobs get more intense, turning into the kind that hurt, the kind that rack your entire body. It's all I can do to stop myself from hugging him back and telling him it will be okay. I want to run away, far from here, and take Josh with me. But I know Courtland would always find us. Always have lawyers in his pocket, ready to take care of it.

"Don't let them," he forces out, with ragged panting for breath that reminds me of fucking him. Even that isn't enough to deter me. "I'll—I'll be so good. So quiet, Kay! I won't bother you when you're sleeping, or—or watching TV… You can ignore me all the time! You can have who you want, you don't have to love me—you can just take me when you want me!" Oh, Josh. Don't be the martyr. It doesn't suit you.

I take out a pack of cigarettes from my back pocket, thanking God for their relative dryness and lighting one as calmly as I can. I know Josh, know he'll be too upset to notice the way my hands are shaking.

"I love you!" He screams, pulling violently at my jacket and making my stomach abruptly drop somewhere into the proximity of my feet.

I'm frozen. "I love you too," I whisper, but he doesn't notice. I won't say it again, not out loud.

Not ever.

"Let's go, Joshua."

Josh spins around and I look over the top of his head, again noticing his shortness and hating myself for not having done so before. Courtland is standing there with one of the guards from before, both of them are glaring at us with disapproval. This is what my life comes down to, I think numbly as the guard comes forward and grabs Josh's arm. Too roughly. I want to hit him away. This is it, standing in the rain losing another person while everyone looks at me angrily.

"Kay!" Josh screams even louder, tears streaming down his face, and this time I can't pretend it's from the rain. "Please! I'll be quiet, I promise! I'll never talk again—but please don't let them take me!"

What do I say to that? It was never about the noise. Never about whether we fucked or talked, whether he left his shit on the counter in my bathroom like he just belonged there. It wasn't about how old he was. There's nothing to say. I just watch as the guard pulls him along and drags him into the airport.

As an afterthought I inhale from the cigarette when a large clump of ash falls off the end and burns my hand. When I look up my eyes meet those of James fucking Courtland. He smiles coldly at me, and I can't look away, feeling a strange understanding between us. My God, he really never is going to share his son with anyone, is he? Josh gets a boyfriend and it looks like this might be the one, a year later, he's shipped away from him. I narrow my eyes, hating him, wishing a stray plane would just fucking fall on top of him.

"Kay!" It's the last one Josh manages, but it breaks my heart the best. That's when I have to turn away, and when I drop my cigarette into a puddle and think that the doused flame is a perfect representative for our relationship, I realize Josh isn't the only one indulging in a little soap opera drama.

I love you. I love you. I fucking love you, I tell him mentally. I should have told him more. He needed so much more from me. Fucking Courtland. Why did he have kids? Why should I have to be a fucking surrogate father? Why didn't I do a better fucking job?

All of a sudden all my memories of Josh are overflowing and hurting my head. I remember his stupid introductions, the way he insisted on telling me who he was over and over again, the way he refused to believe he was anything but forgettable. I remember how magical he thought the sunsets were, how he apologized for thinking so. Remember how he insisted his fucking father loved him. I hear him in my head, all, "If you ever want me to leave, ever, just say. I won't fight you."

"I could never want that, Josh," I mumble the words back, and it only brings more memories flooding. The way he looked when he stared up at me and said he wanted me to show him, how he cried about it hurting but wanted me to keep going. His voice plays in my head again, a nonstop mantra I can't shut off.

"…Kay? Is this gonna hurt a lot?"

So. Now he's gone—no big deal. He's gone and he isn't coming back, but… No problem. I don't need him to live or anything. I got along just fine for eighteen years without him, and the fact that I would have committed suicide like, five fucking times if it weren't for him, means nothing.

"…Kay? Is this gonna hurt a lot?"

I think back over the last year, every last fucking memory, every wrenching dramatic moment, and I swear the fucking rain pours a little harder.

"…Kay? Is this gonna hurt a lot?"

"More than you'd think, Josh."


I must walk for hours. When my cell phone rings, I ignore it. What's the use? It won't be Josh. It'll just be my father, my sister, so concerned. I don't have friends left anymore, they're all off living new lives without me. Just like Josh, I realize. Another one come and gone. Yeah, I know I'm feeling sorry for myself. I think a person in my position can.

By this time my anger is gone, and yeah, I just bawl like a stupid kid. But the rain, ever-fucking-useful, is covering that up nicely for me. Nobody asks if I'm alright, which is just damn fine with me. Once or twice someone recognizes me from the well-publicized trial and I have to fucking bolt to avoid their questions.

By the time I finally get home, it's dark out, and that's fine, too. After all, it isn't like anyone's waiting on me. On autopilot I move around, flicking on lights and checking my messages.

"Where the fucking hell have you been, Kay? Well, anyway… Congratulations. You have a son."


I stare down into the tiny face of my kid, christened Nicholas Joshua Layman-Marks—Nicky. The middle name is really going to choke Claudia when she comes around, but for the moment she's still too fucked up on the pain drugs they had to ply a skinny little girl with to get her through the birth. Can't believe I missed it. Can't believe Josh isn't here.


"Oh God, Josh is missing you," I whisper down at Nicky, and when one of my tears fall onto his face I wipe it away. He's a gorgeous kid, so beautiful, too beautiful to be marred with tears. "God. I'm sorry. It's my fault. He should've… Oh God, I love you." Nicky stirs a bit, lets out a thin, squalling cry, but he doesn't wake up.

"We're gonna do this, right?" I ask him, holding him a little closer to my chest, and it seems like he sighs. "Yeah, Nick. I'm not ever giving up on you." I kiss him lighter than can be called a kiss, still afraid of hurting him. The nurse practically needed a crowbar to get him into my unwilling arms. "I'll never do anything like this to you, Nick, I promise."

"…Kay? Is this gonna hurt a lot?"

I'll have to be okay.

FINISHED!! .:D Thanks to everyone who wrote such nice reviews and got my ass into gear on the last few chapters! By the way, the Christian one is a total new develop, so if you're an old-time reader and WTFing over your lack of recollection, blame it on Sitaface. -hearts- LOVE YOU ALLLLL.