So I guess this is it ya'll. The last chapter of 1st Degree Love. Right? Is it really? Wow...time flies really fast when you think it's moving slowly...Does that make sense? But I love Chase, Shane, Justin, and Nicky so much. Chase is so Tsundere, Shane's sexy, Justin's so caring, and Nicky's just plain funny and adorable!

Okay, originally, this thing was supposed to start with Chase waking up in the hospital, but then I realized the plans I had were exactly the same as the last chapter of Still Suffering, so I modified it.

And also, I'm suddenly realizing just how much I love Justin. Damnit, wish I'd used his character more.

Read the story notes at the end!


Chapter 23

"YES!"

Justin couldn't stop his joyous eruption, and he tore out of the police officer's grip. The officer let him go, obviously stunned. Justin ran over, and was just in time to catch Shane as he slumped forward in exhaustion, coughing violently.

"Good job, Shane." Justin whispered, but then he got a better look at Chase, and he gasped. Chase was covered in burns, and they were bad, especially the one on his leg, which made Justin want to throw up. He helped Shane lower him on to the grass, and turned to the officer that had just spent the last ten minutes holding him. "Paramedic!" he shouted, and the officer paused a moment, then nodded and reached into his pocket. Justin turned back to Shane and Chase, and saw that the pain in Shane's eyes matched his.

Shane leaned his head against Chase's heart and shut his eyes, waiting for a beat. Justin sat quietly beside him, waiting. A second later, Shane's eyes opened again, and he looked at Justin, and his eyes were wet with tears.

"No!" Justin gasped, and he wanted to throw back his head and scream. Why hadn't God answered his prayers? What had he, or Shane, or Chase done to deserve this? Nothing, especially not Chase. He'd gone through his father's death, put up with an abusive mother, and then raised his little sister by himself. He did not deserve to die.

Out of the corner of his eye, Justin saw cops moving forward, guns drawn. They were pointed at Shane. But Shane didn't notice them. He was too busy concentrating on Chase, and leaning down, whispering to Chase. So Justin stood up and rounded on the cops.

"Fuck off!" he screamed, and they stopped, surprised. Justin's eyes swept over the crowd, cops, firemen, bystanders, television crews. A second later, he saw who he was looking for. Bill was racing across the street, and Justin yelled "Stop!" Bill ignored him, and so Justin ran after him. He was younger than Bill, and in better shape, and he caught up quickly, and he tackled the killer to the ground, ignoring the few cameras that had turned on him.

He looked down at the man who had just killed his best friend, and he saw red. He was going to keep the promise he made to himself only minutes before.

"I'm going to kill you." he growled at the man under him.

*(*)

Shane hadn't known the cops were creeping up on him until Justin had jumped up and chased after Bill. He hadn't seen anything, not the bystanders, the police, the news crews, only Chase. To his surprise, the cops turned away from him, and ran after Justin, obviously having heard the declaration he'd just made to Bill. Shane wanted to stop him, because Justin didn't deserve to go to jail.

Also, he wanted to be the one who killed Bill.

But for now, he was focused only on Chase.

"Chase." he said, patting the boy's cheek, gently at first, and then, when he got no response, harder, and harder, until he was slapping the boy with as much force as he could bare to use on him. "Hold on baby." he said, clutching Chase to him. "The paramedics are coming, okay? Hold on. You'll be okay."

He waited, hoping he'd hear Chase's voice against his ear, like in all those movies he saw as a kid. But Chase was still. Shane let out a sob, whispering into his ear, "Please don't die. Please don't die." Suddenly, Shane felt something sharp and hard pressing against his stomach. He pulled Chase away from, cringing at his colorless face, and pulled his shirt up. There was a machine taped to his chest, a tape recorder, and to Shane's surprise, it was still going.

It hit him that this is why Chase had gone in. Hoping to tape a confession from Bill, and instead, becoming the victim of a deranged killer. He clicked it off, and then started un-taping it, afraid it was making it harder for Chase to breath. It didn't even matter to him that his freedom could be on this tape, because even if it had saved him, if it had in any way played a role in Chase's death, he would destroy it himself, and go back to prison, living the life a killer deserved.

He heard Justin screaming, and he looked up in time to see the cops tackling him, trying to pry him off Bill.

"Don't hurt him!" he shouted to the cops, drawing their attention back to him. Instantly a swarm of them came back at him, and he clutched his little lover's body back to him, holding him tightly. The only good that was coming out of this situation was that he could see Bill being restrained too. The cops might believe Shane was a killer, but they were smart enough to see that something fishy was going on, and Bill was a part of it.

"Drop the boy." A cop said, pointing a gun at Shane. Shane looked at him for a second, trying to decide. Should he let the cop shoot him? That way, he could be with Chase. Before he could decide, he saw the paramedic rounding the corner, and so he gently lowered Chase on to the ground. He stared down at him lovingly, and brushed a strand of hair out of his face.

"I love you." he said, and he hoped Chase could hear him, wherever he was. He stood up and put his arms up in surrender. The cop wasted no time in restraining him with handcuffs, and began to pull him toward a cop car. Shane went quietly, sighing in relief as the paramedics ran up to Chase, and started to do CPR.

"Shane!" Justin screamed, seeing the older man being pulled away. "Stop!" he screamed at the cops. "Shane didn't do it! Bill's the killer! He killed those kids, not Shane!"

But the cops started pulling him away too, into a separate car from Shane, and Bill into another. Justin tried to calm down. Could Bill lie himself out of this? Probably not, right? With Justin's testimony, and all the bystanders, and the cops himself, he had to get caught, right? For now, the cops were just covering all the bases, and bringing them all in, since they couldn't risk letting a killer go.

Bill was going quietly, trying not to look suspicious, but his eyes were burning with rage. He'd get back at that little friend, make him suffer for stopping him from escaping. Just like he'd killed Chase for interfering. If it was the last thing he did.

All three were led into separate cars, pushing against the gaggle of chattering and frightened bystanders, and cameras being thrusted into their faces.

Shane looked back one time as they started to push him into the car. Chase was still on the ground. Still not moving.

Still dead.

But then.

"Wait." a voice croaked, and took a beat for everybody to realize that it had come from Chase.

"Chase!" Shane shouted, and not far from him, Justin echoed him. Both pulled away from the cops holding them, and the cops let them. Shane wasn't sure why, but he didn't care, because all he needed was Chase to be alive. He and Justin both crouched down beside him, looking down at him with relieved eyes, hushing him, telling him not to speak. But Chase was stubborn, and he ignored them.

"The..the tape..." he whispered, and his hand started moving around on his stomach, looking for something. His eyes were glassy, still unfocused, and clouded with pain. Chase tried to move, then stiffened at the pain in his leg, and he didn't try to move again, nothing except his arm, which was searching through the grass around him. His fingers curled weakly around it a moment later, and he used all his strength to lift it, and hand it to the closest person, who happened to be a news reporter, who had moved his crew closer to hear what Chase was saying.

Once it was out of his grasp, Chase let his hand drop back into the grass with a heavy thud. His eyes wandered among all the faces around him, and landed on Shane, clearing a little. He smiled.

"I got it." he gasped, and then he coughed violently, even those few words a strain on his voice box. Shane smiled down at him, and then burst into tears. Ignoring the paramedics, who were giving emergency first aid to Chase's leg, and the cops, and the bystanders, and the cops, he leaned down, and kissed Chase, putting all the love he'd ever felt into that kiss.

Chase used all his strength to wrap his arms around Shane's shoulders and kiss him back.

*(*)

The paramedics had to rush Chase to the hospital seconds later. Just because he had awoken briefly, it didn't mean that he was out of the woods yet. His condition was critical. Shane watched from among crowded mass as the ambulance take off, sirens wailing, wishing he could have gone with. But he knew the police would want to take him for questioning. He turned around after a few more seconds, and locked eyes with Bill, who was being restrained by a cop.

"Officer, I can't believe you're even considering this!" Bill said to the one holding him. "That man is a murder!" he shouted, pointing directly at Shane. A few of the cops had started to move the crowd back, as if anticipating some sort of fight. But Shane wasn't going to do that. Bill wasn't worth the time. Justin apparently, felt differently.

"You're the murderer!" the young boy shouted at him angrily, having just turned away from the sight of his friend being drove away. There were tears in his eyes, and he looked like he was close to trying to attack Bill again. A female police officer stepped in front of him, and smoothed his hair, trying to calm him down. She'd clearly picked a side. Justin breathed out in an effort to calm himself, then walked over to Shane and stood behind, showing symbolically on which side he stood.

"I believe this can be easily solved." said a unfimiliar voice, and everybody turned to look. It was the reporter that Chase had handed the tape to. He held it out to one of the police officers. The officer took the offered tape, and hit the rewind button. When a click was heard, he pressed play.

Justin waited, staring at the tape hopefully. He hoped it would work. This would prove everything. He didn't think they should be listening to it here, wasnt' that against rules or something? But, he also didn't give a flying fuck, because at least, out here in the open, he could rub it in Bill's face.

A voice came onto the tape.

Why don't you take a seat? It was Bill.

Thanks. This time, it was Chase.

They listened as Chase and Bill started talking about Niko and Marrissa, and as Bill started getting suspicious. Everybody listening was silent, breathless, at this life-alterting exchange.

And then, the moment of truth. Chase had stated that he had plans to leave, and there was the sounds of him getting up. And then, Bill's voice, cold and deadly.

I don't think so, Chase.

Chase gasped, and shouted, Let go of me!

There were more sounds, a splash, and painful cursing. Running feet, and the something hitting somebody else. More noises, and even though he'd never heard such a sound, Shane instantly knew it was the sound of Bill dragging Chase. His breath hitched. The thought of Chase being dragged through those halls like trash...it was too much to handle.

Then, there were no words. Just the sounds Bill made as he did whatever it was he was doing. Shane though, knew what he had been doing, since he was the one who had found Chase tied to that chair. The officer holding the tape fast forwarded for a few seconds, and then pressed play, waiting to see if the voices came back. Nobody even needed to be listening anymore. Wether he'd killed those children or not, Bill had obviously hurt Chase. But the cop was fascinated by this turn of events, and so was everybody else, and they all breathed in as Chase's voice suddenly came back on.

Dumbass.

They talked more, and with each word, Shane felt his anger rising. But he was able to keep as calm as he could, because Chase's voice was like an anchor to him, and kept him there, instead of lost in all the anger and hate that he'd felt for too many years. So he stood there, listening as Bill pulled out his gasoline and started dumping it around the room, unfazed by the fact that he was about to kill a young boy.

But then Chase's voice, sounding more scared than Shane had ever heard him. Wait...Please don't do this.

And the words that sealed Bill's fate. It's been a long time since the deaths of my little children, but everyday since then I've had a craving to do it again. Unfortunate for you though.

That was it. Those words set him free.

And then, he listened to Chase scream, No-n-no! Don't! at the sound of something being poured on him. And worse, seconds later. Somebody! Help me! he screamed at the top of his lungs. Around Chase, people were gasping, and some were even crying, including the reporter who had handed the tape, and whose camera man was still in the process of recording.

Bill's laugh. Goodbye, Chase.

Shane's heart was pounding in fury, and he glared at Bill with stone-cold hatred. He charged at his step father suddenly, his rage flying abruptly. He'd managed to keep up some degree of calm, but this tape had shown him just how scared Chase had been, and how close he had come to losing him.

He punched Bill in the face twice before anybody had the chance to pull him away, and he was certain that the only reason they did was because he had accidentally trapped the cop holding Bill under them. He waited until the cop had rolled away, and then he broke away, jumped on Bill, and started hitting him with everything he had. All his anger, and hate, and pain, all to the background of Chase's voice, screaming for help, and falling to the floor as he tried to escape the chair that held him captive.

Under him, Bill was struggling to get away, and was doing his best to hit him back. A few punches landed on Shane, but nothing bad enough to stop him. His mother leaving, his siblings dying, Chase being thrown into this mess, it was all Bill's fault. If it wasn't for him, everything could have been so different.

Then he stopped.

Because Chase had stopped screaming and was speaking again.

Can you hear me? You heard all that, right? You know Shane's innocent, right? Shane Royal...he didn't kill anyone. Bill Hernandez did it.

Shane jumped off Bill, and didn't even pay attention as the cops cuffed him, and started to drag him away, shoving him into one of the many police cars littering the street. He just stayed focused on the tape, and listened as Chase started to speak, trying to force words out through his pain. To Mr. Marks, he spoke. To his mother, who didn't deserve it, he spoke, but he was crying in pain as he did, and Shane's tears only increased as he listened.

Just-Justin! Chase gasped. I just want...to tell you... He whispering now. You're a brother to me, and I'll never forget everything...you've done for me. For watching over me. I'm...sorry I never told you how much it...meant to me. Thank you.

Justin was shaking where he stood, and Shane was afraid he might collapse, so he pulled the boy over and hugged him tightly. Justin let loose his tears, wailing into Shane's shoulder as he listened to his best friend die. It was not something anybody should have to ever listen to.

Nicky. Don't...don't forget me...okay? Always remember...that I love you. It's bec-because of you...that I lived this long.

That hurt too. Because it brought to light the fact that Chase had died a long time ago, on the inside.

And then, finally, he heard his own voice, whispering in unbelievable pain.

Shane. Love you. Love you.

I love you too, Shane thought. I love you so much. Please, don't die.

Not y-y-you're fault. And a scream.

And, Please...miss you. His words were short, raspy gasps that seemed to hurt him with each breath.

Love you. I love you. I love you Shane.

And then, he stopped talking, and nothing was heard again until Shane's own voice, Chase, hold on!

The officer clicked off the tape. There was silence for a brief second before chaos erupted around them. People shouted in disbelief and horror, and calling everybody they knew, shouting so that they could be heard over the masses. The cops speeding away, all except the woman with Justin, who turned to them and said, eyes burning with guilt, "Would you like to get a ride to the hospital?"

*(*)

When Chase woke up, he knew right away that none of it had been a dream. His body was burning with pain, and when he looked at his body, he saw that his left arm was wrapped in bandages, and when he reached up with his right arm, he felt bandages wrapped around his head. He shut his eyes. Even that tiny movement hurt.

He wondered how long he'd been out. If felt like only brief moments, and the feeling left him drained. He didn't have the energy to get up and look for somebody. But he couldn't just sit here, alone, not when he needed to know what had happened out there. But as he moved to sit up, he realized that he couldn't get up and look for somebody, even if he wanted to.

He stared down at where his right leg had once been, and now, there was nothing. Not even a stump.

Nausea washed through him, and he knew he was about to throw up. He got up to run for the bathroom, but instantly collapsed onto the ground. The event itself only made it worse, and he threw up right there on the floor.

Somebody must have heard him, because a second later, a middle-aged nurse was running in, picking him up as best she could.

"It's okay, sir. Just lay down. It's okay. It's okay." she kept repeating, and he did what she said, crying quietly. The nurse cleaned the floor all on her own, and then came over and wiped his face of the throw up, and then gently dabbed his tears with a different cloth. Her touch was comforting, and when Chase looked at her, he couldn't help but be reminded of his mother. He wished it was her here with him.

The nurse didn't argue when he pulled her into a hug. She smoothed his hair, and cooed softly in his ear. "Everything will be okay." she said, and that's when the door opened and the doctor came in. Looking at him, Chase realized it was Dr. Gray, the husband, the same doctor he'd had before. Behind him, his wife, and when she saw he was awake, she rushed over quickly to check him over.

Chase let them do his job, smiling at them gently when they patted him softly on his stomach. After they were done, the wife smiled at him proudly.

"You're just full of surprises, aren't you?" she asked, and when he gave her a confused look. "That crimin-I mean, Shane Royal. What you did for him...it was wonderful."

Chase breathed in a tittering breath, realizing what she had meant.

"Shane's...free?" he asked, and her husband smiled.

"Yeah. He's free."

"Can I see him?" he asked hopefully, and the two doctors smiled.

"Of course." she said, and she left the room, little clacking sounds following as her high heels crossed the floor. It was quiet then, as the that was left over went and started arranging supplies around on the counter.

Then, the door flew open, and in rushed a wave of people, lead by Shane, followed by Justin, who was carrying Nicky.

"Chase!" they all said in unison, and the next thing he knew, he was being squeezed by all three of them. He couldn't hold back a squeak of pain, and instantly, they were all gone, staring down at him with apologetic glances.

To his surprise, he saw that his mother was standing in the doorway, and so was Mr. Marks. He waved them forward, and they came, his mother running, and his teacher much more slowly, obviously not as fast as he once was.

The next few minutes were a blur. Lots of tears were shed, and Chase couldn't keep track of all the things that were said. Apologies from his mother. Prideful remarks from Mr. Marks. Little girl scoldings from Nicky, who never once, to Chase's surprise, mentioned his missing leg. Maybe she hadn't noticed.

"Can I be alone with Shane?" he finally asked, and luckily, they all filed out of the room without protest. Justin squeezed his shoulder and winked at him teasingly, making Chase blush. Then his friend turned to his little sister and held out his arms, and she instantly jumped into them from her spot on Chase's hospital bed.

Once they were gone, Chase let out a loud sigh, and Shane smiled at him understandingly, and rubbed his arm with a gentle touch.

"Are you in pain?" he asked worriedly.

"A little." Chase answered honestly.

"Should I call for the doctor?"

"Naw."

They were quiet again for a second, and then Chase remembered his leg and smiled sadly, motioning to it with a little gesture. "Probably not very attractive, right?" he said, and to his relief, Shane shook his head.

"What are you talking about. You'll always be the sexiest thing alive." he said, leaning over his young boyfriend and kissing him softly. When he pulled away, their eyes met. "The rest of you will heal, they said." he informed him, brushing a strand of hair that had escaped the bandages wrapped around his head.

"That's good." Chase agreed, and he was glad that Shane didn't go on to tell him how lucky he was. He didn't feel lucky. He pulled back in surprise when he felt a drop of water hit his cheek, and then he saw that Shane was crying.

"Shane?" he said worriedly. "What's wrong."

Silence for a second.

"I'm sorry." Shane answered. "If it...wasn't for me..." he sobbed quietly, and Chase hushed him.

"If it wasn't for you, I probably would still be in an abusive mother/son relationship, and Parker probably would have raped me. Even if Mr. Mark's was the one who saved me, you're the one who gave me the strength to fight."

"Don't be ridiculous." Shane said back with a smile. "You've been tough since the day I met you." He kissed Chase again, then said, "They said they'll be able to fit you with a fake leg."

"Will you help me learn to use it?"

"Of course. Will you move in with me?"

"Huh?"

The words were unexpected, and completely off topic, so for a second, he couldn't answer. Then he looked at Shane's loving smile, and he smiled back.

"Of course I will. But where are you going to get the money? And who will watch over Nicky?" he teased.

"She can move in with us."

"Money?"

"We'll think of something."

"You going to drive me to school?"

"Assuming you haven't failed from all the classes you've missed."

"Whose fault is that?"

Shane smiled and Chase kissed him. He thought about how different his life would have been if he never meet Shane. If he hadn't had walked into his room after rough day of school, and been chased through his house by a man with a gun. Then he stopped thinking about it. It wasn't something he really wanted to know.

Their kiss was still going. Finally, Chase pushed Shane away. "We can't do anything inappropriate in a hospital." he said.

"Why not?" Shane asked with a grin and a wink, and Chase pushed him away and rolled over.

"Go away. I need rest."

Shane laughed and sat down in the chair at the bedside. He'd wait here until Chase woke up. He'd stay by this boy's side for the rest of his life.


I am not too pleased with the ending. I feel like I just drifted into sentences that I felt had some loving hues, just because I couldn't think of anything else. If this ever gets published, don't be shocked if the ending is tweaked. In a better way.

You know, I never did imagine Chase correctly. XD I describe him as having brown hair in one chapter, and brown/reddish hair in another chapter. And all along, I imagine him with blond hair. Isn't that odd? How did you all imagine him?

Well, I can't even remember why I wanted you guys to read the ending notes. I can't remember what I wanted to put here. I guess all I can add is how thankful I am to all of you for reading this, and cheering me on. You all know like I do how difficult it is to actually type out a whole story.

I love you guys very much.

I guess now I can focus solely on Sing. The Pained Trio will soon be complete, I suppose. That's my name for the main characters of this story, Still Suffering, and Sing. Ryan, Cain, and Chase. If you've read either or all of those stories, you know what I mean. Those three boys suffered through so much.

Maybe one day I'll write a short story where the three of them meet. I'd have to finish Sing first, of course.

Oh, also, I'll probably be focused on Tommy in Wonderland. Because Tommy is just so darn adorable.