AN: Originally titled "Silmarwen's first and last dive into the world of slash" – this is an edited version of the one shot previously up.
"Chris, it's time to go."
Christopher Brooks didn't move from his place on his bed. The blankets and sheets were neatly folded, the pillows stacked with a crisp, clean face. Mrs. Brooks' strong façade failed for a moment, watching her son sitting in his rarely used suit with his arms wrapped around his thin waist. He had never made his bed before. His room was spotless with every book on his desk stacked neatly, and every loose article of clothing tucked away in a black nylon laundry basket. She swallowed a few tears and pushed the door to his room open a little further.
"You cleaned your room," she said softly. Chris turned his head ever so slightly to reveal a blood shot eye. His entire face was pink and wet. The grip on his sides tightened and the toes inside his dress shoes curled. "Can I ask why?"
"You always said," Chris very quietly replied through cracked tears, "that if I cleaned my room, Gabe could come over." Mrs. Brooks's lips folded together as she pressed her fingertips against them. No, she couldn't cry, not when Christopher needed someone to be strong. Dad didn't understand; he didn't have a friend like Gabe. Mrs. Brooks could tell that the boys were close. She would see a light in their eyes that happened between the truly best of friends, the kind of friends that share something unique together, growing old and sharing their lives together. All of that was lost now, gone.
"Honey, we're going to be late," Mrs. Brooks blurted, hoping if she spoke quick enough, the pain wouldn't be audible. Christopher blinked and slowly turned away again. After a moment of what seemed to be a decision, he stood and walked to the door. His hands reached up to his warm face, wiping away the evidence of another sleepless night.
Mrs. Brooks put her hand on the shoulder of her son and felt him shudder. He was taller than her now at seventeen, but he still had her soft brown curls and soft brown eyes. Walking down that hall in measured strides, they passed photos hanging on the wall of family members, vacation moments, and Christophers of all ages smiling with a black-haired, green-eyed boy his age. In the front hall, Mr. Brooks was adjusting his tie. He turned to his son and wife, both in singular black hues. He forced a smile and gave his son a hug.
"You look nice, Chris."
"Thanks," he barely mumbled.
"I know this is hard," Mrs. Brooks said after a moment of awkward silence. "We're here for you, honey." Chris nodded lifelessly and walked through the kitchen to the garage. His parents looked lugubriously at each other before following behind. The car ride was silent aside from Christopher's muffled sniffs and shifting in his uncomfortable suit. Mrs. Brooks had tried to console him by talking about the "good times", and Mr. Brooks had tried to talk about how he handled the passing of his father. Nothing seemed to help. Christopher couldn't look anyone in the eye and his own were always pouring with tears. They knew he hadn't slept since the accident, and he would spend hours staring into recent photographs of those laughing green eyes. The tension mounted higher as they reached the parking lot of the church, swarms of friends and family of all ages piling into the church, all dressed in solid, unforgiving black.
The Brooks joined the procession indoors, classmates and neighbors offering faded smiles as they passed by. The ghastly parents stood just inside the doorway, pressing hands and taking words of comfort as if asleep. When Christopher passed by, he didn't look at them. Mrs. Brooks touched his shoulder to try and tell him, but Mrs. Marlow—Gabe's mother—flashed a somewhat icy glare to them. The grief was so heavy in the air, it was easily forgotten.
The words seemed to float over Christopher's head. He sat near the front, staring at the pearly white coffin that was elevated before them. His mind was constantly ticking thoughts—was Gabe comfortable? Was he afraid? Did he know Chris was there? Did he need someone with him? Christopher's eyes widened as his anxiety double over and over; he wanted to rescue his friend. His white hands clenched the edges of the pew as the preacher continued to drone on and on, family members each saying a few words of goodbye. Finally, the ceremony was broken, and people began to lay flowers in the open half of the coffin. Christopher quickly and uneasily ascended the steps with his mother and father close behind.
"That was his best friend."
"Ever since grade school, they were inseparable."
"They were very close."
Christopher felt his nose burn as he looked down at Gabe's beautifully quiet face. Tears were rushing over his eyes as if for the first time, dropping off his chin and into the crease of his lips. His fingers were wrapped around the edge of the coffin, tight and tense, while Gabe's lay gently folded on his wide chest. A few white roses were resting over his pale wrists. Gabe's long, soft features had a grace about them that went beyond the dreamy sleep Chris had seen in him before. His messy black locks still looked natural, as if he might reach up and run his clumsy fingers through them one last time. Those bright green eyes were closed, shut, sealed. Christopher lowered a shaking hand to touch Gabe's smooth, milky-white cheek, and he began to stutter. Sobs sputtered out of him uncontrollably. Mrs. Brooks immediately wanted to reach out and hold him, but Chris wouldn't leave Gabe's side. He leaned closer, touching Gabe's cold neck and feeling no warmth beneath the skin.
"Chris," his mother said softly, pulling gently on his shoulder.
"I loved him," Christopher said suddenly as his hand slowly retreated, fiery chestnut eyes red and coated in salty water.
"We know you did, son," Mr. Brooks said rather sternly as he overcompensated for the pain of seeing his child weep searing his nerves. Christopher shook his head and gulped several times, throat aching and head pounding as Gabe's perfect face became blurry in his vision.
"I loved him."