Cold in the Rain

By FrancoisT All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Mystery

Chapter Thirty Seven: Saying Goodbye.

“Can we see him?” Micah asked the doctor.

“Of course,” the doctor replied.

Andy turned to Lauren.

“I’ll be right here when you get back,” she said.

“Thanks Lauren,” Andy smiled, appreciating her being there.

As the pair walked towards the room, they were both in a complete state of shock. No one had been expecting this. Why him? They were both wondering. Why now?

As they pushed open the door to his room and stepped inside the shock increased. Indeed it looked much less like he was dead then that he was simply sleeping. Or in his case, like he was still unconscious.

“Give us a minute will you?” Micah asked the nurses who at this stage seemed to be bustling around him.

“I…” Micah stuttered, still looking at the man. “I…don’t quite know what to say.”

“That makes two of us Papa,” Andy replied.

The pair walked over to the man’s bed each taking a different side and intuitively holding one of his hands.

“I love you Dad,” Andy whispered as a single tear fell down his cheek.

How…How could you… how could you leave me?!?” Micah almost demanded of his husband.

“Papa,” Andy started hoping to clam him down.

It didn’t work.

Papa!” he repeated this time a little louder and more forcefully.

“Wha-” Micah started and then looked down at the hand he was holding, realizing what he had done.

“Oh…Oh Andy, I’m sorry, I’m so…lost and…”

But the rest of his words were drowned out as.

“ANDY! ANDY THOMPSON!” were screamed out, clearly from the hall.

“Mel?” Andy questioned and raced out to find her standing behind two nurses, both adopting a stance that clearly showed she was not getting passed them.

“Mel!” Andy replied racing up to her.

“Andy, these…nurses wont let me through!” she yelled back.

Having finally raced up to her, the nurses stood aside. Funny thing that, Andy thought. It’s funny how people can block your way to see someone and yet when they come to you….

“Oh Mel,” Andy replied embracing her in a hug. “Dad’s gone.”

“G-Gone?!?” Mel choked, hardly believing his words.

“Yes, he…he only just left us,” Andy replied.

“Oh Andy! I’m so sorry,” Mel said hugging him back.

“Thanks,” Andy replied before stepping out of the hug. “Well I’ll just tell Papa we’re off,” he said glumly.

“Off?” Mel asked.

“I assume the only reason you came here and so effectively screamed like a banshee was because the jury have reached a verdict.”

“Yes. B-” Mel started, but Andy jumped right in over her.

“Good, so I’ll-”

“Andy!” Mel replied grabbing his shoulders. “Are you sure you want to deal with this…now?”

“Like I have a choice,” Andy replied. “It’s not like the judge is going to say ’On this matter, we are going to just ‘adjourn’ everything until Mr. Thompson, who is nothing more than a witness, can return to the court room’ yes Mel, now.”

With that Andy turned on his heel preparing himself for the toughest favor he would ever have to ask his Papa.

“*”

Not too much later and with Micah’s blessing, Mel and Andy left for the courthouse. Lauren had offered to stay behind to support Micah, to which Andy was eternally greatful now that he thought about it sitting in Mel’s car.

It wasn’t a long drive, but it had given Andy some time to think and reposition himself from grieving son to anticipating witness of a verdict. So it stunned him a little when Mel broke his concentration.

“So, what are you thinking about?” she asked.

“Urgh,” Andy replied, thinking of a way to sum it all up. “Many things. But mostly I just want to hear this verdict.”

“You know,” Mel continued. “I am a little surprised that you said you were coming. You know, considering…everything.”

“I need to hear the verdict,” Andy said simply. “I need to be there to hopefully see justice. Not only for us but for Jay and Dad as well.”

“Well, we’re here,” Mel instructed.

“What?” Andy replied.

How zoned out had he been?

“Already?”

“Yeah, it’s not that far away from the hospital Andy,” Mel said.

“I know, it’s just...”

He stopped. He was going to mention how it seemed longer the last time they made this trip, but really, what was the point.

“*”

The pair met up with Rein, Aunt Deb, Carmita and Jenny at the courthouse café first, but no one really seemed in the mood to say much except for Carmita who babbled on about her hopes of Rick getting what he had deserved. By now, the others had noted Carmita’s personal vendetta, however they all wanted to see justice brought to everyone.

What Andy had not discussed was that he was hoping Brian would not be sentenced. In a perfect world, he was hoping they’d let Brian go, but if he had to be sentenced, he was hoping he would get a lesser one such as community service or even a suspended sentence.

The 6 people walked into the court room and prepared themselves mentally for what was about to evolve. Being that this was a criminal case it had been tried to a jury and what had complicated things was that everyone was being tried at once and therefore the jury would have to reach a verdict for each member of team-evil before they could come back. It had surprised Andy then that they had come back so quickly, but the good news was that everything would at least be over soon.

Another thing that had surprised Andy was that Ted seemed to sit alone at the table with his attorney while the others sat guarded behind him in the gallery.

“All rise for the honorable Judge Williamson,” the bailiff announced as Judge Williamson made her entrance.

The Jury foreperson handed their ruling to the bailiff, who in turn passed it to the judge. Judge Williamson seemed rather perplexed at the result which had everyone quite worried.

“This…does not look good,” Andy whispered to Mel.

“Tell me about it,” she whispered back.

The judge handed the paper back to the bailiff who in turn handed it back to the foreperson.

“Has the jury reached unanimous verdicts?” the Judge enquired.

“We have your honor,” the foreperson replied.

“What say you?” the judge asked.

All six held the hand of the people next to them with fearful anticipation.

“On the count of attempted murder and torture we the jury find defendant one, Ted Schmidt…”

Everyone unconsciously took a deep breath in.

“…Not guilty.”

Everyone seemed to gasp at this, but there was so much more to come.

“On the civil count of outrageous intentional infliction of emotional distress, we the jury find defendant one, Ted Schmidt…Guilty. We ask that Mr. Schmidt pay damages to the plaintiff Jay Taylor in the amount of $500,000 and to Andy Thompson on his father’s behalf of $200,000.”

“Oh my god!” Andy screamed out shocked.

Not many people heard him though as the entire gallery sounded out their shock.

“So ordered,” the judge replied. “Mr. Schmidt you are lucky that this is all you need to do. The verdict between the Plaintiff’s and Mr. Schmidt’s payment aside, Mr. Schmidt you are free to go.”

The judge banged her gavel appropriately.

“Next defendant, Sam Hogan step forward.”

This time it was Sam’s turn to stand at the table.

Ted passed Sam on his way out of the court room but the pair didn’t even acknowledge one another. As soon as Sam took his position standing at the defendant’s table, the judge continued.

“Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict on Mr. Hogan?” she asked.

“We have your honor,” the foreperson replied.

“And what say you?”

“On the count of attempted murder and torture we the jury find defendant two, Sam Hogan…Guilty.”

“Wow,” Andy breathed. “Rein, you ok?”

Turning to his left he saw the young girl shed a tear.

“Finally, I feel like I can breathe,” she whispered back, smiling through shining tears.

“Mr. Hogan you have been found guilty of attempted murder and torture,” the judge continued clearly wanting to move this along, considering there were more defendants to come.

“This court recognizes that you weren’t involved in the entire process, however your assistance certainly did add to the situation. With that in mind this court sentences you to 1 year imprisonment without parole.”

The judge banged her gavel finalizing the sentence and Sam was lead away.

“Next defendant, Edward Grail step forward.”

Edward did, with Sam having been taken away the path was clear for him. As he stood there he adopted a grin on his face.

“Does he know something we don’t?” Andy whispered to Mel, noting the grin.

“I hope not,” Mel whispered back worried.

“Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict on Mr. Grail?” the judge asked.

“We have your honor,” the foreperson replied once again.

“And what say you?”

“On the count of attempted murder and torture we the jury find defendant three, Edward Grail…Not guilty by reason of coercion.”

“What?!” Jenny’s voice could be heard, shrieking over everyone else in the gallery that were just as shocked as she was.

The Judge banged her gavel.

“Silence in my courtroom! Continue foreperson.”

The foreperson did.

“On the civil count of outrageous intentional infliction of emotional distress, we the jury find defendant three, Edward Grail…Guilty. We ask that Mr. Grail pay damages to the plaintiff Jay Taylor in the amount of $1 Million.”

“Wow,” Mel said aloud beneath the sea of the rest of the gallery.

“Well so he should,” Andy replied, shaking Jenny’s hand. “If not for him Jay wouldn’t be unconscious!”

The judge banged her gavel again ordering silence.

“So noted,” she said. “Mr. Grail, I stand by the jury’s sentencing however…”

“However?” Andy rounded on Mel.

“Judge’s discretion to overrule a verdict made by the jury, not common, but she has the authority.” Mel rushed back.

“Got ya,” Andy replied, before listening to the judge once more.

“As much as I may buy the coercion, I must take into consideration your actions by not allowing Mr. Taylor to be taken to hospital. As I understand it, Mr. Taylor is still unconscious and personally I believe he would be in a much better state if not for your negligence.”

Andy couldn’t help but smile at this; after all he also felt that Jay would be better off if not for Edward.

The judge continued.

“The courts are here to teach people like you the consequences that can occur when such negligence leads to such damage. Therefore, I am sentencing you to 3 months imprisonment without parole!”

The judge banged her gavel and like Sam before him, Edward was taken away, his grin now a frown.

“Next defendant, Brian Kingston step forward.”

B did and it was now that Andy felt most worried. It seemed, even if the jury were willing to let someone off, this judge most certainly wasn’t.

“Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict on Mr. Kingston?” the judge asked.

“We have your honor,” the foreperson replied once more.

“And what say you?”

“On the count of attempted murder and torture we the jury, find defendant four, Brian Kingston…”

Once again Andy took a very deep breath.

“…Not guilty.”

The reaction from the gallery was mixed, some people seemed pleased, others looked rather upset and some looked quite angry.

“On the civil count of outrageous intentional infliction of emotional distress, we the jury find defendant four, Brian Kingston…Guilty. We ask that Mr. Kingston pay damages to the plaintiff Jay Taylor in the amount of $10,000.”

“What? Ten-thousand dollars?!” Mel reacted harshly. “It’s a joke.”

“Actually, I think it’s…” Andy started, but was interrupted by the judge’s gavel.

“Mr. Kingston, I stand by the jury’s verdict however, I am not satisfied with the amount they are charging you. Ten thousand dollars is insufficient and therefore this court will order you to pay the plaintiff Jay Taylor $100,000 plus all medical costs. Payment aside, Mr. Kingston, you are free to go.”

The judge banged her gavel and Brian, looking quite relieved walked very slowly out of the courtroom as the judge ordered Rick forward.

Andy turned and smiled at B, but there was no acknowledgement from the man that had saved everyone.

But now, as much as the gallery were being shocked and driven through an entire range of emotions, hearing Rick’s name, everyone turned their attention towards him and his independently hired attorney.

“Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict on Mr. Stappord?” the judge asked referring to Rick’s last name.

“We have your honor.”

“And what say you?” The judge asked almost now in a bored tone, almost.

“On the count of attempted murder and torture we the jury find defendant seven, Rick Stappord…Guilty.”

“Mr. Stappord, you have been found guilty of attempted murder and torture. This court finds you partially responsible for all actions taken on that tragic day at the old warehouse and therefore I sentence you to 5 years imprisonment where you will be up for parole in 2 years.”

The judge banged her gavel finalizing her harshest sentence yet and Rick was taken away.

But everyone was now focused on the eighth defendant who was already being lead to the defendant’s box.

There was no need to silence the gallery this time; it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

“Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict on Ms. Peters?” the judge asked as Linds’ stood at the defendant’s table.

This time, unlike many others that Andy had seen, Linds’ looked defeated. There was no malice, snobbery or even a scent of regal nature about her.

“We have your honor.”

“And… what say you?” The judge asked now very serious.

Andy took Mel’s hands in his; he knew this would be the toughest ruling for her to get through.

“We the jury find defendant eight, Lindsay Peters…Guilty of all charges.”

Andy was surprised at Mel’s reaction. Rather than cry or get mad, she simply breathed outward.

“Oh thank god,” she said.

Andy looked back to the judge.

“Ms Peters, you have been found guilty of all charges. To the charge of outrageous intentional infliction of emotional distress, I order you to pay the sum of $2 Million to the entire pool of Plaintiffs and furthermore,” the judge growled sensing the gallery getting restless. “To the count of murder and torture, this court recognizes the defendant’s plea of insanity and…”

Insanity?” Andy whispered harshly.

“Yep,” Mel replied pissed off. “She nabbed a great lawyer.”

“Orders her to be confined to the New Haven Sanatorium’s Psychiatric Ward for no less than 5 years. Check out process to be completed as per normal. And with that…we are adjourned.”

The judge banged her gavel for the last time, but no one seemed to hear it as they were all discussing Linds’ sentence.

“Sanatorium?!” Rein asked.

“Mental hospital,” Carmita confirmed.

“Check out process as per normal?” Andy asked.

“If she gets better in 12 months she can leave,” Mel frowned.

Just then Lind’s passed them. On her way through, as Mel was placed closest to the isle, she looked at her.

“Mel…” Linds started. “I-I’m, I’m so sorry.”

But that was all she could get out as she was then taken away to loud manic cries of apologies.

“*”

Back in the cafeteria all 6 were having a celebratory coffee, if you could call it that. The mood was glum, well save for Carmita who seemed to be positively beaming with pride.

“First I sign a contract with Celebrate Music L.A. and now Rick is put in jail! What a great week guys!”

Some, like Lauren murmured in agreement while others like Andy and Mel didn’t say anything. As great as it was that the trail and for that matter their tribulations with these people were over, there was still the matter of an unconscious Jay and a now gone Ben.

And what about Mel? Her x-wife had been placed into a sanatorium for god only knew how long. Yes Mel had explained that she could be released in 12 months, but did Mel even want that? Everyone had seemed shaken up by something to do with this trial. For Debbie, naturally she would be at her son’s side. She had not only gotten to know, but had also fallen in love with Ben and Andy knew that like the rest of them, she would miss him terribly. Lauren and Rein meanwhile had been nothing but beacons of support for Andy. Lauren had come to stay with Andy every morning at the hospital, bringing coffee of course and Rein had come every second evening without fail, opting to do her studying and work for the paper in Jay’s room to support her friend.

But now that everything was over, plans would undoubtedly be made for everyone to return home. Of course Andy, Lauren and Rein were home and well, Jay wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. But Mel, Debbie, Jenny, B and even Micah lived in Pittsburg and so would have to return soon and Carmita would be moving to L.A. to be with her new label that she’d just signed.

Andy sighed as he continued to ponder about what would happen from here. Funeral arrangements would need to be made also, and there was no way Micah would be up to it.

Just then Mel stopped everyone.

“Oh my god! Andy!” she screamed, despite the fact that she was sitting right next to him.

This made everyone turn to attention.

“What Mel?” Andy couldn’t help but reflect the million-dollar smile that now appeared on his friends face.

“Look,” Mel instructed, handing Andy her phone.

On it was a message from Micah.

It said: Let Andy know, Jay’s awake.

“*”

Andy burst into the waiting area and raced towards Jay’s room, where he nearly bowled over his boyfriend’s doctor.

“Is…” Andy stopped panting, trying to catch his breath. “Is it true is he…awake?”

The doctor kindly nodded.

“Yes Andy and he’s been asking for you,” he smiled.

Andy swerved past the doctor and bolted to Jay’s room just as the doctor was telling the other 5 that only 1 could visit Jay at a time.

“Jay?!” Andy called out as he swung open the door to his boyfriend’s room.

“Andy!!” Jay called out to him from across the room in his bed.

“Oh my god!” Andy started crying. “Your awake!”

He hugged his boyfriend for what felt like the hundredth time since he was first placed in this bed, but for the first time felt the hug coming back. As the pair embraced Jay broke the silence whispering into Andy’s ear.

You’re my soul-mate too.”

Andy straightened up, shocked that this would be the first thing Jay said to him.

“How’d you…?” he asked puzzled.

“It’s true Andy,” Jay replied. “You can hear what people say when you’re out of it. I love you so much, thank you for being with me. I know I was a pain for so long but-”

But Andy cut him off.

Everything happens for a reason Jay,” Andy smiled as the pair kissed longingly for the first time since Jay’s abduction.

When the pulled apart Jay continued and Andy pulled up a chair.

“Hey!” Jay objected. “You better be getting that thing to hoist you up here to lay next to me!”

Andy chuckled and pushed the chair back to where it was while Jay scooted over to make room for his boyfriend. Andy got up onto the bed and lay next to his soul-mate feeling rather content to do so and knowing that nothing would drag him away from this world.

20 minutes and many conversations later and the two boys were both filled with so much love and happiness they were bursting at the seams. Naturally most conversations were broken off or cut in half by more kissing, but neither cared they were both just so happy to have each other back. Andy had informed Jay of the $1,600,000 he had been awarded during the verdicts but Jay was quickly to correct Andy saying that they had been awarded it as his money was Andy’s money and vise-versa.

Normally when it came to relationships Andy was very quick to separate his money from his partner’s but with Jay it just seemed…right.

“Well in that case,” Andy smiled. “Bump it up another 200,000!”

“What?!” Jay smiled. “How?”

“The jury forced Ted to pay you and me on behalf of dad…” Andy stopped. “Oh…yeah.”

“Andy?” Jay sat up, concerned. “What’s going on?”

“Oh Jay!” Andy cried. “Dad’s…Dad’s…dead.

Despite the fact that he whispered the last word, it had no less impact on his boyfriend.

“Oh my god!” Jay replied. “Andy! I’m…I’m so sorry!”

He threw a comforting arm around his boyfriend as he heard the sobs spill out.

Just then Micah burst through the door.

“Ja…” he started and then stopped as he heard his son. “…ay! Is….is he ok?

Micah had whispered the last to Jay as Andy who was facing away from the door had still not turned around.

Jay shook his head, but talked to his partner’s father.

“Hey Micah, I’m sorry…” he pointed a free finger at Andy as he continued. “For your loss. I only just heard.”

Micah understood at once.

“Oh,” he couldn’t help but reply quickly.

But then remembering why he came in the first place, pushed on. As much as he really didn’t want to, he knew he had no choice.

“Ah Jay,” he said tentatively. “I’m so sorry to do this, but Andy?”

He called to his son softly, who in turn turned around to face his Papa.

“They’re going to take dad away soon if you want to say goodbye.”

It had been hard to relay this information to his son, but Micah appreciated that he had managed to say it without his voice breaking.

“Thanks Papa, I’ll be out in a minute,” Andy replied smiling through his tears.

Micah nodded and left the room as Andy turned to Jay.

“Come with me?” he asked, almost pleading.

Jay smiled down at his soul-mate, even while crying he was the most beautiful man he ever knew.

“Of course,” Jay replied. “Andy, where you lead, I will follow.”

Andy looked down to the bracelet on his left hand and ran a finger over it recalling the words he himself had spoken on Christmas morning. As Jay got up out of bed he extended his right hand to Andy’s to help him out. Andy offered up his left and the bracelets clicked as they bumped into each other.

“*”

*6 Days Later*

“This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong and this is just-” Andy started.

“Wrong?” Jay smiled, lightly chuckling.

“I don’t see what’s so funny about it!” Andy demanded.

The pair were in Andy’s room with Andy, as per usual, deciding at the last minute what to wear. Sadly in this case it was for his father’s funeral.

“For a guy that owns so much black, how can nothing be right?!” he demanded.

“Andy!” Jay cried out, grabbing his partner’s arms and holding them in his own. “They’re all good-”

“No they’re not!” Andy cried out.

“You’re just pairing them wrong love,” Jay smiled.

He quickly grabbed Andy’s black Calvin Klein suit and paired it with his Daniel Ellisa Black satin shirt that he knew Micah loved and went rummaging in his closet for a tie finally settling on a Giorgio Armani black one that he knew Ben always loved.

“Here,” he said placing the tie with everything else on the bed. “Appropriate, loved by both parents and a little fashionable.”

Andy stared at the pairing in amazement. He was absolutely right, it went together perfectly and his dad did always like that tie after all. He hugged his boyfriend.

“Where would I be without you?” he asked.

“Lost,” Jay smiled lightly.

“Too true,” Andy smiled back and began to get dressed.

As Jay was already ready, he took this moment to check in on Micah who seemed to be in a similar flurry to his son.

“Urghhhhhhh!” Micah screamed frustrated as Jay shook his head smiling.

“Like son like father,” he said stepping into the room.

Not too much later all three arrived at the funeral. There were so many people there that Andy was momentarily shocked. Jay squeezed his hand comfortingly.

“You ready?” he asked as Micah got out of the limo and went to address some people.

“Will I ever be?” Andy asked opening the door.

He turned back to Jay before stepping out.

“Please stick by me,” he asked.

“Consider me the sticker with the most adheasive,” Jay smiled.

Andy scrunched his eyebrows and just looked at Jay.

“It sounded better in my head,” Jay confessed.

“And admittedly distracted me for a moment,” Andy replied. “Thanks sweetie.”

The pair kissed quickly and then Andy stepped out of the car.

“Andy,” Lauren’s voice could be heard as she marched over to him.

As per usual Lauren looked stunning. She adorned a black dress with jeweled sticking at the neck that looked like understated golden leaves.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” she said consolingly.

“Thank you Lauren,” Andy replied.

He looked over to see Rein hugging Jay. She had a more simple seven deadly black hearse funeral dress on, which had a nice thin black belt around the waist.

“Andy, I’m so sorry,” Rein said now, hugging the boy.

“Thanks Rein,” Andy replied.

There were many more condolences to come some from people Andy knew like Mel and his Aunt Deb and others from people that were complete strangers to him but that Ben knew from work.

Finally Andy had made his way into the church and to the front row of pews. Micah was to sit first in the pew followed by Aunt Deb, Andy, Jay and Mel. Behind them sat Lauren, Rein, Jenny, Carmita and as per Andy and Jay’s wishes, B. Ted was not invited.

Ben was not a religious man by any stretch and so Micah and Andy, with Jay and Mel’s assistance had fought very hard to strike off anything preachy including worship songs and any mention of god, jesus or heaven. That being done the program to which Andy was looking at now looked very nice. On the front was a bold picture of Ben taken by Andy the day Ben had officially become his dad. Andy remembered it well, but couldn’t help the tears that started to fall as he realized those days would never happen again. Sure he still had his Papa, but he no longer had his dad. Jay put a comforting arm around him and offered him a black hanky as the 80s song Don’t you forget about me one of Ben’s favorites was played. This of course made Andy sob even harder and by now Micah, Debbie and Mel had joined in.

Father Mcintosh the minister of the church then took to the podium.

“We are here today to pay tribute to Ben. A husband, a father, a son-in-law and of course a dear friend. We would be less than honest if we said that our hearts have not ached over this situation, but we trust that Ben is in a place of warmth and prosperity. When we think of Ben, we think of his contributions to society. We think of the support he gave to the LGBTIQ community, to those suffering from the vicious HIV virus and we also think of his kind hearted soul for anyone craving for fun, laughter, warmth and joy. We will all deeply miss Ben, but rejoice knowing he has moved on to… a better place,” he finished.

“He so wanted to say heaven and god there didn’t he?” Andy asked Jay.

Andy!” Jay whispered back, trying hard not to laugh.

The chorus of the song Breathe (2am) then sounded out as Micah slowly stood up and took to the podium.

“Ben was…Ben w-…” Micah started before becoming overcome with renewed tears of sorrow.

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking a deep breath. “This is hard.”

Andy smiled up at his Papa. He was next and he knew it wasn’t going to be easy at all to talk in front of all these people about the man he loved. But what about Micah, it was his partner, his husband. What if it had been Jay? At that moment Andy gave Jay’s hand a squeeze and Jay squeezed back.

“Ben was a man like no one else,” Micah continued bravely. “We were married for a few years but it was a rocky road that’s for sure…” Micah trailed off.

Andy was moments away from springing out of his chair to console his father, clearly he was not doing well and his heart went out to his Papa.

But just then Micah folded the sheet of paper he had prepared in front of him and looked up at the crowd smiling.

“But that was the thing about Ben. He never gave up. He never gave up on any one, thing or person. Ben was a passionate person. Passionate for himself and passionate for others. It was this passion that I fell in love with and will always love until my final day.”

Andy smiled in agreement along with everyone else.

“I remember one day when Ben had finally plucked up the courage to ask me out he had us talking about other random topics. We eventually settled on the topic of our coming out. I confessed to him that my mother, bless her soul, gave me a big safe sex lecture and that I knew how to, forgive me father, put a condom on a cucumber before I knew how to drive. Naturally it shocked Ben and he told me that he was going to ask me out that night, but he was now wary. I asked him why and I remember him saying; ‘well Micah, a cucumber is a lot to live up to.’”

Everyone laughed; it was such a beautifully timed joke.

“You know Ben always said that it consistently amazed him how, when confronted with the worst of circumstances, we as gay men somehow manage to rise to the challenge. I think this is one challenge that we all agree is going to be tough to rise too. But he will live on in our hearts and the hearts of those that came to know him. Because when you think about it there was never anyone as strong, confident, sweet and charming as Ben. I l-l-love you B-Ben.”

But that’s all Micah could say as once again he was overhwlemed with a flood of tears.

Next came the song With or without you another one of Ben’s favourites.

At its conclusion Andy rose and walked to the podium to say a few words.

“It’s a shame that Dad’s favourite songs weren’t joyous ones,” Andy joked and everyone lightly laughed.

“But that was dad, as loving and warm as he was, he was also a very serious man who knew what he wanted and went out to get it. You know the chorus of that song is a repetitive line about how this person gives herself away. Dad was very much like that. Anytime anyone needed anything, he gave up what he was doing for them. He always put everyone before himself. It’s…It’s even a big part of the r-reason we’re h-here today…”

Andy stared off ahead into space realizing just how true the words he had spoken were. Ben had gone, not because of the HIV virus that many suspected would be what got him. Not because he fell off a roof or even committed suicide. Ben was gone, because again, he had given up everything to rush to Andy’s aid in the quest to find Jay…

Andy shook his head, he needed to focus especially with all these people watching him.

“I can only hope to live up to the legacy that my dad taught me. When people need you, stop everything and give them everything you have. Thanks for the lesson dad,” he rounded off nicely.

“I will never forget the day that Ben called me his son. I am grateful to have had that moment with him. We all live our lives with regrets and I’m just so glad he knew how I felt…before he left us. I will never forget watching the movie Divergent with my dad either. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a film about a community that gets split into 5 different factions. Despite my boldly telling Dad and Papa that I would be in Candor…”

The crowd that knew of the film laughed lightly, knowing just how right that faction would be for him.

“My Dad told us he would be Amity. Amity, simply defined, are the faction that dislike war, discord and strife of any kind. They are all about kindness and harmony, words that clearly personify dad.

My Dad… loved my Papa with all his heart and it was their love that lead to my finding love and knowing what love is and how deep, meaningful and special it can be. Thanks for that dad. Though his mother was no longer with us, he found motherly love from his mother in-law, my Aunt Deb and he loved her too and was the only one that could speak her language at the liberty swish gala, ask Deb for more on that one.”

Again polite chuckles filled the room.

“He was the rock of our family, my Papa and I and even everyone and anyone who met him are who we are who we are, because of who he was and we will always miss him,”

Now the tears were predominantly evident as Andy sniffled through the rest.

“Goodbye dad, thank you for everything. I can only hope you are happy…wherever you are. Because I know, wherever you are…you are the one that will bring us b-bright days f-forevermore. Thanks dad… I love you.”

No sooner had Andy finished and the song Every Breath You Take started up, while images of Ben were displayed on a projected screen. Andy sat with Jay and balled his eyes out.

He was grateful to have gotten through his speech but saddened realizing that this was it. His father was gone.

“*”

Not too much later Micah, Andy and Debbie were called in to the priest’s office for the reading of the will. Despite the fact that Andy had found it insensitive to be hearing the will during the wake, he figured he would be best to go along with Ben’s wishes.

Turned out Ben had been extra generous leaving Andy a sum of $1 Million plus money that would be immediately transferred to pay off the rest of the money owed on his home. He had also left Andy a silver locket that his mother had passed down to him. Inside was a picture of the three of them and Jay taken from the last time the four of them were in Pittsburg. Micah had of course retained the house, however as it was his anyway it was more of a gesture than anything else. Ben had paid that off too and left Micah everything he owned with two exceptions. A scarf and a beanie that he owned that he knew Deb loved, he left both of them to her, which had her in tears over what she felt was unworthy gratification.

After the reading of the will, the three of them went back to the wake and said goodbye to everyone. They had all been so nice to come and so good during the wake, but as everyone understood, they all just wanted to get home.

“*”

The next day everyone with the exception of Micah, Jay and Mel were flying out. So everyone went to the airport together.

First to leave was Carmita who was headed to L.A. On one hand it was tough for both boys to say goodbye to her but on the other hand they knew it was for the best.

Sé que va a ser mucho éxito una estrella Carmita!” Andy predicted as he wrapped his arms around his friend.

Te exrtrañaré Carmita!” Jay said surprising everyone with one of two lines he had learned from Andy the night before. “Mucho Gracias por todo.”

Habla español ahora?” she asked shocked.

Está aprendiendo!” Andy beamed, proud of his boyfriend.

Carmita smiled and took a breath before turning to all the faces looking back at her.

“Thank you all for a wonderful time,” she addressed, quite sincerely. “I know we had some tough times here, but I feel like I have made some true friends, thankyou, thankyou.”

“Anytime Carmita!” Lauren replied for the group. “And next time you’re in town…”

“Of course I will come to your fabulous hotel!” Lauren grinned hugging the woman she had grown to love.

With one last dramatic wave, Carmita had left them for L.A. and everyone headed to gat 19 to say goodbye to the Pittsburg departees.

“I will see you when you get home, you hear?” Debbie said to Micah.

“I’ll see you in a week mom,” Micah replied embracing her.

“And you two,” she continued, looking at Jay and Andy. “Stay out of trouble you hear?”

“We w-” Jay started but Debbie stopped him.

“Oh who am I kidding?” she asked. “The more trouble you get into the quicker I come back!”

Andy and Jay simply smiled at each other, knowing that if anything this would keep them out of trouble for a while at least.

B was next to leave and he actually called Jay and Andy over for a quick chat first.

“I…I don’t know how to say this,” he began ackwardly. “Firstly Andy, thanks for diverting my community service to Pittsburg.”

Andy smiled, it was the least he could do. That and he knew that there was no way he could have a completely fresh start with Jay while B was still lurking around.

“Secondly, Jay I’m really happy for you,” he said simply.

“I…I,” Jay started. “I… believe you.”

Jay, shocked at the genuineness of B wrapped his arms around him.

“And as for you raggedy Andy,” B started, seeing Andy smile at the former nickname. “I’m happy for you too.”

“Thanks B,” Andy replied hugging the man.

As Debbie and B made their way to the gate they stopped to wave to everyone left one last time and they in turn waved back.

Andy was grateful for the meeting between all of his friends and family. Finally, he didn’t feel divided anymore and was really loving the life he was leading.

“*”

*3 days later*

Mel stepped out into the bright morning air, coffee in hand and still in her sleepware. She took a seat on the steps leading up to the door and smiled, realizing just how much of an influence Andy had had on her in just three days alone.

Andy and Jay had decided to ask Mel to stay with them while she figured out where she was going with her life. She had denied them not wanting to put them out, but when they assured her she wouldn’t be she had accepted.

“As long as you don’t mind the occasional…loud,” Jay had humored.

“What?” Mel had asked, missing the joke.

Jay!” Andy had responded, elbowing him in the ribs as Mel worked it out.

“Hey, I’m a heavy sleeper, so be as…loud…as you need.”

Thinking back to that moment she had been surprised not to hear them at all and even more surprised how easy it had been to live with them. Even with Micah, who was only staying for the next 4 days to finalist things for Ben with Andy.

She had phoned her boss requesting a transfer to the New Haven office, which her firm fortunately had and was taking a moment to enjoy her coffee before getting ready for her first day.

Just then the postman could be heard riding towards Andy’s letterbox. Mel, only too happily, got up and walked over to him.

“Morning Tyson,” she acknowledged as he took the letters and handed them to her.

“Morning Mel,” he replied. “Nice day isn’t it?”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” she agreed.

As Tyson waved goodbye Mel looked down at the letters in her hands. There was one clearly from Carmita as it had an L.A. stamp on it, another was a notice to pick up a parcel from the post office clearly something from Debbie and then…

She looked down at the third envelope and it all hit her.

Before she even knew what was happening her coffee mug had dropped with a crash as her eyes widened. It was a letter, addressed to her.

From the New Haven Sanatorium.

THE END.

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