He should have been dead.
That’s not usually how the story begins. A protagonist should be many things—brilliant, fumbling, courageous, weak yet stubborn. They embark on a wild adventure that leads to self-discovery, making new friends, finding the love of their life…
But it never ends up the way you want it to.
Instead, Brian Green lies in the middle of a desert and staring up at the night sky. A virus pulses through his veins along with a bullet lodged in his head. He smells of body odor, death, and gasoline; fitting as he patiently waits for the end.
Brian thinks of all of the supposed-to’s as time passes. How Danny wasn’t supposed to screw up the shot. How the bullet was supposed to kill him instantly. How his body was supposed to be set alight like the firecrackers he and his friends would set off behind the high school during homecoming. How he was supposed to die quickly and painlessly, even though Brian knows he doesn’t deserve it.
Deep down Brian thinks this is his karmic retribution for every bad thing he’s done; harassing his brother and making him cry when they were younger, cheating on his high school sweetheart, leading that father and his ill daughter to their deaths just so they could steal their car, leaving Bobby to suffer in a gas station, forcing his own goddamn brother to kill him to spare him the pain of the virus.
Brian deserves all of this misery and it’s not like he can do anything to counteract it. He’s frozen in place and unable to call for help, with only the Milky Way to keep him company in his final hours.
Well, he has his memories. The good ones have been tainted, stained with blood and destruction.
He thinks of his parents and their smiling faces, only for them to be replaced by the image of them in the basement with a single, neat bullet hole in each of their heads.
There is Bobby with her beautiful and bright smile forever tarnished by the pallor of death with chapped, bleeding lips.
Brian can’t wipe away the tears that pool in his eyes and escape out of the corner or even make a sound. He lies there, crying, with his chest convulsing.
As the minutes pass, he knows it would be too much to ask for death to come quickly. So he waits since it’s all he can do. He watches the sky shift and changes while the night wears on, his consciousness ebbing and flowing. Sometimes Brian lapses into darkness, uncertain if it’s sleep or just his body blocking out the pain of dying, and silently curses his luck when he becomes aware of his surroundings once more. Why can’t I just die already? he asks himself.
He remembers the words of the doctor, driven mad by failure, that haunt him more than Brian cares to admit. Sometimes choosing life is just choosing a more painful form of death.
Except he isn’t choosing life; he wants death to come for him. He wants his suffering to end and have that relief wrapped in silence and darkness.
Orion hovers near the horizon, his belt glinting against the night sky as Brian watches him in silence. He’s transfixed by the scene in front of him, wondering if the stars knew that the virus would come and destroy civilization.
Brian blinks; his lids rising and falling slowly, and sees a beam of light obscuring the stars. The silence is broken by the sound of a motor’s rumbling and the crunch of dirt under tires.
“I found something!” calls a voice as the motor cuts out.
Absently he wishes they would cut the lights so he can continue stargazing. Go away, he thinks over the sound of footsteps crushing dirt. Leave me alone.
“Well shit,” the voice says as their footsteps hurry towards Brian.
“Alive or dead?” calls another voice.
Someone drops down next to Brian, turning on a flashlight that blinds him. “Alive, but barely,” the person replies, their face washed out by the light. They touch him with gloved hands, tilting Brian’s face towards the ground. “He’s infected, too. Looks like a mercy killing gone wrong. God, look at that leg! I’m going to be shocked if it isn’t septic.”
“I’ll radio McCoy back at the base,” the other voice says.
The light disappears, clouding Brian’s vision with phosphene flashes. Another person joins them and sets down a bag next to Brian’s arm.
“He said to start the first dose,” they say as they unzip the bag. “And transport him to the surgical wing.”
A needle punctures the inside of Brian’s arm as someone gently lifts his head and fastens an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. They work silently and efficiently in the darkness like they’ve done this before. Perhaps this is something they have done before; either recently or in another lifetime.
His body is moved from the dirt to a smooth surface, where he is secured down by straps.
A gurney, he thinks as his punctured arm is flooded with a slow-moving coolness that spreads throughout his body. They’re taking me to a hospital.
Brian feels himself being lifted up and realizes he’s floating. The sky starts to move again, going faster than before over the rumbling of an engine. He’s succumbing to delirium; it’s the sound of angel wings, he swears to himself, and he’s finally dying.
He wonders what it will be like and if Heaven will be a better version of his life on Earth. He hopes if he does see his parents that they won’t be angry at him for not taking better care of Danny and for leaving their corpses to rot in the basement.
Brian promises himself that the moment he lays eyes on them that he’ll apologize and beg for their forgiveness.
You have to understand, he’ll tell them. I didn’t want Danny to know, so I made him pack a bag and get in the car before he could see you. I’m so sorry.
More lights blind them as they flicker above Brian all the while his body keeps moving. His eyes are transfixed by it, tuning out the activity engulfing him.
He hardly feels the impersonal touches as he's moved around and rushed down another hallway.
“How’s he holding up?” asks another voice that reminds him of bourbon and summers in the South. They lean over Brian, their features obscured by shadows.
“Vitals are stable and Sulu administered the first dose,” says one of the voices from the desert.
Brian is being touched again and his clothes are cut away, leaving him naked. That was my favorite shirt, he grumbles inside his own head.
“Prep the second dose,” the bourbon-soaked voice orders. They shine a flashlight directly into Brian’s pupils, burning his retinas. “And find Geoff. I’ll need a hand on this one. Has he got a name?”
He absently thinks the Pearly Gates is awfully similar to a hospital operating room and that Geoff is a strange name for an angel. Brian wishes he could tell Danny because he knows that his brother would laugh.
“Brian Green,” pipes up another voice. “Found his wallet in his back pocket. Scotty’s running his name through the database.”
The bright lights dissipate and a pair of hazel eyes look down at him. “Brian,” the voice repeats as they study his face. Brian can make out the flecks of brown and gold against green irises with straight eyebrows framing them. “My name is Leonard McCoy. I’m a doctor.”
Brian continues to stare up at him, wondering if he’s also an angel. He can’t see the rest of his face hidden under a green surgical mask. Are you here to take me home?
“I’m going to take care of you,” this man, Leonard, states as he removes the mask from Brian’s face and replaces it with another. “Don’t worry.”
He doesn’t as his eyelids start to close. Thank you, he says in silent thanks before blackness swallows him.
Brian remembers nothing when he wakes up.
Between the time he goes in for surgery and the first flutter of his eyelids, his mind is wiped clean. While most would feel panic, he doesn’t nor does it surge and bubble up in his dry throat so he can scream. Instead, Brian feels calm even as he looks upon a perpetually annoyed man leaning over him in a bright room. The scent of rain lingers in the air while a cool breeze blows across his body as the man’s fingers gently prod him; touching his neck, his forehead, and chin.
“How do you feel today?” this man asks, brusquely. He has a heart-shaped face and expressive eyes.
Brian wonders if they’ve had this conversation before and something tells it’s entirely possible. In all honesty, he would rather stop dwelling on it and go back to sleep. “Today?” he questions. It occurs to him that he has no idea what date it even is.
The man’s lips tug to one side in a smirk with a furrowed brow. One could misconstrue the expression as one of annoyance but worry shows in his eyes as he sighs. He nods and says, “Yeah kid. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind.”
“I’m tired,” Brian replies dutifully.
The man palms his face, resigned. “Does anything hurt?” he asks slowly as if he’s speaking to a child.
It irks Brian because he knows he’s not; he’s seen himself when he’s bathed. He’s noticed the golden-brown hairs under his armpits, dusting over his limbs, and trailing from his navel to his groin. He has a deep voice like the other men he’s encountered so far. There’s stubble on his face, for crying out loud! He may not be able to remember a single thing about himself, but he’s certain he’s an adult. “My head.”
The man’s brows rise towards his hairline, disappearing under a messy row of fringe. “What type of pain is it?” he replies, leaning in once more. “Does it feel like there’s pressure?”
“It’s dull,” Brian elaborates. “And it’s coming from back here.”
“Here?” The man is touching the left side of his head, towards the base of his skull. There is a divot, comprised of still healing tissue and hair that’s been shaved away. Brian caught a glimpse of it the day before while the nurses were changing his bandages as they bathed him. “That’s where you were shot,” he says. “I can get you something for it. Stay put.” He turns on his heel and disappears.
It’s not like I can leave, Brian thinks to himself as he patiently waits in the bed. He’s learned from previous conversations that he was found in the desert with a bullet in his head and another in his leg while a virus ravaging his body by members of the Enterprise recovery team. This man—a doctor, evidently—saved his life. A week later, Brian was brought to the Hawaiian island of Niihau as he lingered in a coma. He accompanied Brian and has been in charge of his care ever since, overseeing everything from what food Brian consumes to the medication pumped into his veins.
Today is the third day Brian has been completely lucid. He doesn't recall much from the days before; though he’s been told that he’s been able to carry on a proper conversation since the evening before last. He has no idea how long he was in the coma, but Christine, a cheery nurse with white-blonde hair, told him that it was a while.
“Don’t worry,” she told him with a bright smile, her blue eyes twinkling. “You’re getting better every day. It’s just going to take some time.”
Time. It seems that all Brian has is time. He hears the doctor cursing as he comes back into the room, holding a glass of water. The doctor is vastly different from the people Brian has met so far and he thinks that this man dislikes him.
There is Nyota, the communications coordinator, who has a smile that instantly puts Brian at ease the first time they meet. Her boyfriend, Spock, is the day to her night and seems to be very stoic. He brings Brian puzzles and often stays behind to help. They talk about things that have nothing to do with Brian’s health, such as the world before the virus spread.
Hikaru and Scotty are the men who found him in the desert and seem to be the bane of the doctor’s existence. Brian thinks they’re amusing and looks forward to their visits, even if he ends up drifting off in the middle of them.
“Put these on your tongue,” the gruff doctor explains as he pushes two white pills into Brian’s palm. “Then swallow them as you drink the water. It’s okay if you don’t get it the first time.”
Brian stares at the white pills, then the glass in wonder. He’s seen his medication being administered with a syringe into the tubes that connect to his arm and brings him relief and makes him feel like his head is disconnected from his body.
“What?” the doctor asks. “What is it?”
“I’m not supposed to take things from strangers,” Brian replies, sounding more perplexed than certain.
Laughter erupts from the man, startling Brian, who stares at him with wide eyes and his mouth agape. The doctor bites his lip and snorts through his nose in an effort to cease his chuckles. “Do you remember who told you that?” he asks Brian.
“Well, I’m Leonard McCoy,” he greets. “You can call me Leo or Len. And I actually know you pretty well since I was inside your head and all.”
“Really?” Brian asks in childlike awe, shifting his eyes between the pill and Leonard.
Leonard plants a hand on Brian’s shoulder and nods. “Yes really,” he says softly. He gives the joint a gentle squeeze. “Go on, kid. It will make you feel better.”
He listens and swallows the pill without further comment. Brian drinks the entire glass of water, relishing the way it hydrates his throat. A drop slips out the corner of his mouth and travels down towards his chin.
“Missed a spot,” Leonard tells him, wiping the droplet away with his thumb. He eases the glass out of Brian’s hand and sets it down on the table next to the bed. “Any nausea, spots in your vision?”
Brian shakes his head. “Just sleepy,” he yawns, blinking owlishly.
“Well, you’ve been through a lot,” Leonard replies. He holds up the glass. “More water?”
“Yes please,” Brian says, melting into the pillows and closing his eyes. He hears Leonard’s footsteps as they travel away from his bedside, fading into an echo as sleep takes him into her bosom.
He sleeps...a lot.
Everything wears him out—from sitting in the tub as Christine helps him bathe to eating. Each task is grueling, like dragging stone slabs with only rope and his own two feet. It’s cumulated in a lot of half-eaten meals and Christine having to ask for Hikaru’s help in getting Brian dressed and back into bed. He should feel embarrassed, but that would probably tire him out as well.
Leonard explains that healing takes a lot of energy, even if Brian is just lying in bed. “You’ve been through the wringer,” he says gently as he draws blood from Brian’s arm.
“Everyone keeps telling me that,” Brian grouses, his eyes fixated on the clear vial that fills with deep crimson blood. “Why are you doing that?”
Leonard eases the vial off the needle in Brian’s arm, replacing it with another. “Doing what?”
“That,” Brian tells him, gesturing to his mobilized arm.
Leonard looks up to at him, his lips twitching into a semblance of a grin. “I’m going to run some tests to make sure the virus is out of your system,” he answers.
“But Christine said it was gone,” Brian counters.
Leonard sighs and breaks their eye contact. “I just want to be sure,” the doctor says in a whisper. There is sadness in his voice, despair even.
“It wasn’t just a virus,” Brian states in a hushed voice, breaking the uncomfortable silence that has settled over them. He stares at the blankets while Leonard clears his throat.
The vial and needle disappear, replaced by gauze that is pressed into the inside of his elbow. “No,” Leonard replies gruffly. “It wasn’t.”
“What was it?” Brian asks, watching Leonard’s stiff movements as he clears away the needle and vials.
Leonard glances at him, their eyes barely making contact. “It was a viral pandemic,” he explains, fiddling with the vials. “It killed nearly everyone on the planet, except for five hundred thousand or so of us who managed to survive it.”
The news strikes Brian in the gut, leaving him feeling nauseated and dizzy. He swallows down the lump forming in his throat, closing his eyes against the sting as a million questions run through his head. “Why did I survive?”
“I cured you,” Leonard says. “You’re the first successful subject.”
Brian feels the sting of tears against his lids. He has no idea why he’s about to cry; perhaps out of sadness or relief or maybe both. “Why me?”
“I don’t know.”
When he opens his eyes, Leonard is gone and tears are burning his skin like acid. Brian turns onto his side and curls into himself, slowly realizing that his family—if he even had one—is probably dead and that he’s truly alone in the world.
As tears slide down his face and onto the pillow under his head, Brian thinks it’s probably best that he can’t remember them.
Nyota comes later, turning on the light in his room and gives him a sympathetic smile when she wipes Brian’s face with a damp washcloth. “I heard you had a bad day,” she says, brushing her fingers against his cheeks. She sticks out her lower lip in a dramatic fashion that earns a wet snort from Brian and Nyota’s laughter fills the room.
“Who told you that?” Brian finally asks.
Nyota leans forward, propping her chin upon her hand. “Leonard,” she replies, passing Brian a tissue.
“Did he send you to check on me?”
“No, I sent myself,” Nyota tells him. “He mentioned that he told you about what happened. Not all of it…but most of it.”
Brian rolls his eyes. “There’s more?” he whines, picking at the tissue with his fingers.
“Isn’t there always?” Nyota quips with a smile. “Did he tell you why you were probably shot?”
He shakes his head and looks down at his lap.
“It’s what we call euthanasia or mercy killing,” she explains gently, her fingers moving towards the portion of hair that isn’t wrapped up in gauze. He can feel her nails against his scalp, stroking and massaging. “Someone who loved you didn’t want you to suffer.”
“So they shot me,” Brian replies dubiously.
He sees Nyota nodding. “Except they had terrible aim,” she adds with a laugh, poking Brian in his belly and tickling him with her fingers.
“What if they didn’t do it because they loved me?” Brian asks, his eyes focused on Nyota’s deep brown irises. “What if I was a bad person?”
She frowns. “You aren’t a bad person,” Nyota tells him, shaking her head. Her eyes are narrowed, giving her face a stubborn cast. “Brian, you aren’t.”
“How do you know?” he wonders morosely. Brian presses his face against the pillow, sighing heavily into the soft fabric.
Nyota presses her lips into a thin line, the tension showing in the set of her jaw. “I just do,” she says, cupping Brian’s stubble-covered cheek.
“I feel like I wasn’t a good person,” he whispers as a tear slips from his eyes, disappearing under Nyota’s hand. It’s a feeling that’s nagged him since he woke up; wondering what circumstances lead him to this room.
Now that Brian’s uttered the words, the strain of this unspoken fear is uncoiling itself from his stomach. It should make him feel better, but it doesn’t.
“Brian, even good people do bad things,” Nyota reasons. “It doesn’t make you a bad person. Whatever you think you did, you did it because you needed to survive.”
Brian sniffs as the tears come faster. “You wouldn’t do anything bad.”
“I killed my best friend,” she says, earning a look of surprise from Brian. Nyota nods to assure him that she’s telling the truth. “Her name was Gaila and she was my roommate in college. We were like night and day and absolutely hated each other. She couldn’t go back to Ireland for the holidays and I have no idea what possessed me, but I took her back to New York with me so she wouldn’t be alone. We became best friends after that and you would have loved her. She was this crazy girl with flaming red hair and always up for a good time. And if you went out with her, it was Gaila’s mission to make sure you also had fun.”
Brian listens to Nyota as she describes her friend, part of him wishing that he could have met her.
He tries to picture her as a studious college student, much younger than they are now and trying to tame her friend who danced on tabletops and sang karaoke. “She got sick didn’t she?” he finally asks when Nyota pauses.
She nods, swallowing hard at unsaid memories. Her dark eyes are bright with unshed tears and look more luminous than normal. “Yeah,” she tells him quietly. “She did.” Nyota wipes her eyes and sniffs. “It was a morphine overdose and she was gone before I emptied syringe.”
“I’m sorry.” Brian clasps her hand, giving it a squeeze.
Nyota squeezes his hand back. “When the world is ending, we have to do the right thing even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.”
“Has the world ended?” he asks.
“As we know it?” Nyota leans back in her chair, contemplating her answer. “Yes.”
The blood tests come back and declare virus gone, completely wiped from Brian’s system like a figment of memory.
He’s allowed out of his room when Leonard deems him strong enough and it’s under strict supervision since Brian can barely put two feet on the ground without wobbling. It beats staying in bed all day with nothing to do, but marinate over forgotten memories.
The members of Enterprise flock to take him around the facility in a wheelchair, going from barrack to barrack. The other people—all military—who resides on the island look at Brian with a mixture of awe and sadness. He can see on their faces that they have lost someone and his sickly presence reminds them that their loved ones could not be saved.
He circles back to the self-deprecating question why him that continues to haunt his thoughts along with Leonard’s retreat as his health improves. It bothers him that the doctor hasn’t opened up to him as the others have.
He’s friendly in a clinical sense and keeps their visits brief. He wonders if he’s done something to upset Leonard, but is afraid to ask. It’s not because of the possible confirmation, but if Leonard will answer him at all.
“You look troubled,” Spock observes as he and Brian sit on the patio. He is reading from a thick hardcover novel while Brian stares out at the Pacific Ocean.
Brian shrugs and picks at the blanket draped over the lower portion of his body. It’s chilly today and the sun hasn’t managed to burn off the clouds that loom overhead.
He’s wearing a borrowed sweatshirt that reads the University of Mississippi on the front in worn letters. “Just thinking is all,” he replies, turning towards Spock.
“Would you prefer to talk about it?” the other man asks, turning a page with a sun-kissed finger. Spock looks at him over the rim of his sunglass with near-black eyes.
Brian starts to toy with a drawstring, flicking at the ends with his fingers. “You might think it’s stupid,” he warns over the sound of Spock’s long limbs readjusting themselves on the lounger.
“I assure you that I will not,” Spock promises.
He looks at the other man, trying to read his stoic features for signs that he’s lying. “I don’t think Leonard likes me very much,” Brian admits in a sheepish voice. He notices a surprise expression register on Spock’s face and shrugs, chewing his lower lip. “You asked.”
“How did you come to this conclusion?” Spock inquires.
“He’s not like the rest of you,” he explains. “He doesn’t come to visit me like you, Nyota, Christine, Hikaru, or Scotty. Leonard only comes when he has to.”
Spock nods. “Whereas we come because we want to,” he adds.
“That pretty much sums it up,” Brian sighs, closing his eyes. The wind brushes over his face, bringing the salty sea air that dusts his skin. “I think I pissed him off when I asked why I was the first successful patient. Like I sounded ungrateful.”
Spock touches his shoulder. “Dr. McCoy knows that you are not ungrateful,” he assures. “Recovering from a near-fatal illness can make us question our mortality.”
“Does he know that?”
“I believe so.”
Brian opens his eyes. “I just don’t want to feel uncomfortable around him.”
“Perhaps he feels uncomfortable around you because you remind him of the patients he couldn’t save,” Spock offers. His lips quirk into a sad smile. “We all have people we’ve lost, Brian.”
He nods in agreement, though he’s not sure if he actually had people to lose. “Did you lose anyone?”
“My mother,” Spock states. “She died during the first wave of the virus.”
“What about your father?”
Spock removes his sunglasses and plops them on top of his head. “He is currently in New Zealand, where the survivor’s colony has been established. He is assisting in the establishment of the new governing body.”
“Oh?” Curious, Brian waits for Spock to continue on.
“He was an ambassador from Lebanon and met my mother at a dinner party,” Spock explains. “Much of the world is gone now, Brian, and we must band together to ensure our survival. My father is just doing his part.”
Brian frowns. “While I sit here in a wheelchair,” he grouses, feeling useless.
“While you recover after saving mankind from a virus,” Spock corrects. “If it hadn’t been for you, a cure may never have been found.”
He hasn’t thought about it that way, only that he’s been ill and inadequate compared to everyone else on the island. “Who did he lose?” Brian asks, changing the subject.
For a moment it seems that Spock won’t tell him, then he sighs. “His partner,” he says. “His name was Jim.”
“Jim,” Brian repeats. “Did you know him?”
Spock shakes his head, his black hair blowing in the breeze. “No,” he admits. “I did not join the Enterprise until after his passing, but Nyota knew him quite well. So did Christine, Sulu, and Scotty.”
“What happened to him? Was it the virus?”
Spock nods. “Dr. McCoy and Jim met a few years before the virus…spread. Nyota says that they were very mismatched, but very much in love.”
“Oh,” Brian gasps. “Oh. Okay…”
Spock raises a brow as he tilts his head in confusion. “You did not know Dr. McCoy is gay?”
“He barely talks to me!” Brian huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. “Other than ‘how are you feeling today’ or ‘did you eat your vegetables’, he completely ignores me!”
“You remind him of Jim,” Spock states. He raises both brows when Brian gawks at him. “I’ve only seen pictures, but I see the resemblance.”
“So I remind him of his dead boyfriend?”
Brian snorts, bitterly. “What happened to him? He got sick and died like everyone else?”
“He committed suicide so Dr. McCoy wouldn’t have to watch him suffer,” Spock tells him.
He feels sick to his stomach, his anger giving way to a gnawing ache of guilt that courses through his body. Brian slumps down in the wheelchair, defeated and tired. “I’m starting to feel cold,” he says hoarsely, avoiding Spock’s gaze.
“I will escort you inside,” Spock offers.
Brian remains quiet as Spock wheels him back to his room where he is helped back into his bed. Rain starts coming down, rhythmically hitting the window-panes.
“It seems that we came inside just in time,” Spock observes as he eases Brian onto the mattress. He ducks his head and removes the younger man’s arm from around his shoulders before tucking him. “Do you require anything else?”
His eyes begin to droop as Brian grows groggy and shakes his head. “Thanks,” he mumbles against the pillow.
“You are welcome,” Spock replies, clearly amused. “Sleep well, Brian.”
Brian doesn’t hear him, having already nodded off. He dreams of the night sky and stars twinkling down at him as he lies on the ground, waiting for something to happen. It’s fine, he thinks to himself. I have all the time in the world.
He continues to stare up at the sky until he blinks himself awake several hours later to a dark room and rain tapping against the window. Brian hears the others as they roam around the house, their voices and movements echoing down the hallway. He lies there and listens, hearing laughter and the house creaking. He wonders if this is what it’s like to have a family. He doesn’t remember his own; he’s been told that he had a younger brother who is dead.
Danny, he recalls, though the name doesn’t resonate. Danny was found somewhere in Florida by another recovery team, long dead and alone. Brian wonders how they got separated and what he was like. It’s like being told a story where the characters are there and they existed at one point or another, but they are just strangers.
Their presence means nothing and they fade over time until it’s dust-covered and brittle.
He listens for a while longer, cocooned in the warmth and comfort of bed linens, until Brian finds himself drifting back to sleep. As his eyelids slip shut he sees Leonard’s silhouette in the doorway, watching from afar.
Brian begins walking unassisted by the following week.
He takes slow, tentative steps, trying to find balance as he moves at a snail’s pace across his bedroom. Heeding Christine’s warnings about taking it easy, Brian holds out his hands in case if he stumbles. It gets easier to put one sock-covered foot in front of the other, even if the effort leaves him gasping for breath and his skin damp with sweat.
“Leonard!” Christine exclaims as she follows behind Brian in the hallway. “Look who’s up and about!”
He cranes his head, looking at the doctor over his shoulder. Leonard is standing there wearing a t-shirt and jeans, feet bare, and carrying a mug of steaming liquid. The sunlight darkens the doctor’s expression and Brian can’t tell if he’s smiling or scowling.
“Hmm,” Leonard comments inaudibly, raising the mug to his lips.
Brian grits his teeth and keeps moving over the protest of underused muscles. He nearly falls down after a misstep and grabs blindly for Christine, whose arm keeps him upright.
“Easy does it,” she chirps. “You’re doing great, Brian.”
He steadies himself, wobbling a bit before Brian feels comfortable letting go of her arm. He swallows and continues on down the hallway.
“Soon he won’t need the wheelchair,” Christine tells Leonard.
“Or a babysitter,” Brian grunts as he wipes the back of his hand over his forehead, mopping up the sheen of sweat with his sleeve.
Christine giggles and Leonard doesn’t say a word. Brian is positive that he’s still there and watching the spectacle while sipping on his drink.
“I don’t think you like me, doctor,” Brian says before he can stop himself.
Christine inhales sharply and is about to whisper in his ear when Leonard’s voice fills the hallway. “What makes you say that?” he drawls casually.
Brian stops, pressing his backside against the wall and looks at Leonard. He has his mug near his lips as he watches Brian over the rim. He can see his features better now and is a bit surprised that Leonard doesn’t look angry. “You ignore me, for one,” he replies.
“I’m not ignoring you right now,” Leonard counters calmly.
He rolls his eyes. “Obviously,” Brian fires back dismissively. “Kind of hard to do when I’m talking to you.”
“Believe me, I could if I wanted to,” Leonard challenges.
Brian continues wheezing as he regains his breath. “I don’t doubt that,” he replies before taking a few more steps.
“Don’t push yourself too hard, kid,” Leonard comments, irking Brian whose back is towards him.
Brian curses under his breath. “Or what?” he snaps, his patience wearing thin.
“You’ll end up regretting it tomorrow,” the doctor teases as Christine turns back to him and chastises him with a hiss of “Leonard!”
He’s about to respond when one of his knees buckles and he stumbles to the wooden floor. Pain shoots up his knees and into his thighs, burning and aching enough to make Brian’s eyes water.
Christine is front in of him in a flash, holding up him by his arms. “You okay?” she asks, her pretty face wroth with worry.
“Let’s get him off his legs,” Leonard suggests as he appears behind Brian. Carefully, the doctor and Christine ease Brian onto his rear end, propping him up against the wall. He presses two fingers against Brian’s neck to check his pulse.
Christine looks at the doctor. “Should I get the wheelchair?” she asks.
Leonard and Brian stare at each other, the former giving him a thorough once-over and the latter trying to regain his breath and a measure of dignity.
Brian watches as the doctor shakes his head.
“Let’s give him a few minutes,” he answers, turning towards the nurse. “Could you grab him some water?”
“Of course,” she says, flashing Brian a smile as she rushes off.
Brian reaches to rub his aching knees while avoiding Leonard’s hazel stare. The pain has dwindled down to a dull ache and there will surely be bruises to remind he should listen to the doctor's orders, even if every bone in his body itches to disobey. “You can say it,” he rasps.
Brian glances up at Leonard with a scowl. “I told you so,” he grumbles. “For pushing myself too hard.”
“Not my style,” Leonard responds as he goes to roll up the legs of Brian’s pajama bottoms. He stops when the fabric reaches the younger man’s knees, which has turned red from the fall. Leonard hisses in sympathy as he inspects the damage. “Those are going to be mighty fine bruises in the morning.”
“Great,” Brian sighs in defeat and tilts the back of his head against the wall with a dull thud. “Amnesic and I can’t walk on my own!” He closes his eyes as the sting of frustrated tears fill them. “Fuck.”
“It takes time,” Leonard says soothingly.
Brian opens his eyes, releasing a tear from each. “How much time?” he counters in a whisper, sniffling.
“I’m a doctor, not a magician,” Leonard tells him with a lopsided smile. He leans forward and swipes his thumb over one of Brian’s damp cheeks, brushing away tears. “I don’t mean to ignore you.”
He nods, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “I know,” Brian says.
“And I do like you,” Leonard admits. “It’s just that you remind me of someone…”
Brian swallows, tasting mucus and the saltiness of tears in his throat. “Jim.” The name uttered from his lips earns a startled, wide-eyed expression from Leonard and he immediately feels guilty. “Spock told me…about him.”
Leonard looks wounded and his normally golden skin takes on an ashen hue.
“I asked,” Brian says quickly. He has a feeling that if he keeps talking it will make things worse, so he says the only thing that comes to mind. “I’m sorry.”
Christine appears, holding a bottle of water and an ice pack. “Sorry,” she apologizes as she hurries over to them and squats down next to Brian. She presses the pack against his knee as gently as possible. “I was having a hell of a time finding a cold one of these. I bet Scotty’s been using them again.”
“I can take it from here, Chris,” Leonard tells her. “Thank you for this.”
She grins at both of them and uses Leonard’s shoulder to rise to her feet. “I’ll come to check on you later,” she says to Brian. “You know…just to make sure Leo doesn't leave you to fend for yourself.”
“Ha, ha,” Leonard gripes, shaking his head at her. “I’m not going to leave him.” Christine shrugs, smiling cheekily, before disappearing around the corner. Her footsteps fade into an echo and once again, Brian is alone with Leonard.
The close proximity feels suffocating and Brian wishes he could crawl away, but his exhausted body is betraying him. He watches as Leonard uncaps the water bottle and hands it to him.
“Drink some of that and we’ll get you into the shower,” he tells Brian.
He drinks the water under Leonard’s scrutinizing gaze, waiting for a scolding that never comes. When half the bottle has been emptied, Leonard shoves it into his back pocket and helps Brian to his feet by sliding his arm over the doctor’s shoulders. Getting off the wooden floors is slow and the trek back to Brian’s bedroom is even slower.
His limbs protest loudly at having to move more than they are accustomed to and Brian silently curses himself.
“You’re doing fine,” Leonard assures as if he can hear the thoughts swirling in Brian’s head. His side is pressed into Brian’s, warm and solid, as they continue down the hallway.
The closeness makes his head spin and Brian absently wonders if Leonard is just as uncomfortable as he. He also realizes that the doctor could get a wheelchair and make their journey a lot quicker, but he doesn’t. Perhaps Leonard feels he has something to prove to Brian or maybe he plans on drowning him out of spite. They finally wander into Brian’s bathroom, where he sees Leonard frowning at the tub.
“Okay,” he says as he deposits Brian onto the toilet seat cover. “Hold tight.”
Brian watches Leonard draw his bath and run his hand under the water pouring out of the faucet to test the temperature which Brian has seen Christine do numerous times. Shivering from the dampness that clings to the fabric of his shirt, Brian pulls it up and over his torso with clumsy hands before tossing it onto the ground.
The water stops. Leonard comes over to help Brian pull off his socks and sweatpants followed by his underwear. They make the short trip to the tub that is filled with water and Brian sighs as he eases himself inside. The bath feels like just the right temperature; the kind of hotness that leaves his skin flushed after.
As his knees are submerged under the water, Brian grimaces from the sting. He pulls them towards his chest and wraps his arms around his shins. Leonard reaches for the soap and goes to work, scrubbing down Brian’s back and arms. He’s surprised by the doctor’s patience with him and how apt he is at bathing another person.
Brian wonders if he did this for Jim or for someone else or someone did this for him before the world went to hell and he lost his memory. He closes his eyes as Leonard’s fingers brush against the back of his neck.
He hears the sound of bathwater moving and Leonard’s ministrations as he bathes Brian in silence. It’s just as well since Brian is no longer in the mood to engage the doctor in a battle of wills.
He rests his cheek against the tops of his knees and sighs. “Do you think my parents did this for me?” he asks.
Leonard seems to pause and there is the sound of water dripping. He eventually clears his throat and goes back to rinsing off Brian’s back. “I would assume so,” he replies.
“Did your parents?”
“Yeah,” Leonard says. “Mostly my mom; she was a housewife. My dad was a doctor and worked long hours, but sometimes he would be home in time. They would sit with me while I played in the tub.”
Brian’s lips quirk into a grin. “Sounds nice.”
“It was,” the doctor tells him.
Mighty fine bruising is a vast understatement if Brian ever heard one; his knees are a motif of black, blue, and purple.
They rest on top of a pillow and are covered in a steady rotation of ice packs and a heating pad. His entire body aches and his head feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton, which thanks to a cold it probably is. His face throbs, his ears are clogged, and there is a growing pile of tissue tucked into the front pocket of Brian’s sweatshirt to catch his constant sneezing and wipe his runny nose.
At first, he’s terrified that it’s the virus coming to claim him, but Leonard assures him that it’s nothing serious. Regardless, Brian’s miserable and unable to sleep without breathing out his mouth leaving his lips chapped and his throat sore. His body can’t make up its mind on whether he’s hot or cold and he coughs when he isn’t sneezing.
Nyota brings him mint tea with honey and strokes his hair as he sips on the drink. It helps some, easing the burn of his throat and allows him to doze off once she leaves.
When he wakes up a few hours later, Leonard hovers over his knees to inspect the bruises with a critical eye. The ice packs are off, probably removed by Christine at some point or another, and Leonard’s hands are gently touching his left knee. Brian twitches as the doctor moves to the right knee, repeating the process.
“We should get you some knee pads,” Leonard says to him. He meets Brian’s eyes and smirks before rolling down the pajama bottoms. “Time to give them a rest. How’s the cold treating you?”
“I can’t breathe,” Brian grumbles. He rubs his eyes with his fists and blinks owlishly at Leonard. “And everything hurts.”
Leonard chuckles. “Everything, huh?” he asks as he crosses his arms over his broad chest. “I can give you something for the congestion, but you’ll need to suffer through the other stuff for a little while longer.”
“How much longer?” Brian huffs, his irritation treading the thinnest of lines.
“A few more days,” the doctor replies, doing little to conceal his amusement.
Brian drops his head back onto the pillow with a groan and pouts his lower lip. “A few more days!” he exclaims, palming his face. He hears Leonard snorting back laughter and glares at him. “I’m glad you find my suffering funny.”
“I find a lot of things funny,” Leonard tells him as he presses the back of his hand against Brian’s clammy forehead.
Brian frowns, dodging the doctor’s significantly cooler hand. “I hope I sneeze on you,” he grouses before sneezing into his sleeve. He groans in ache as his entire body jerks, then flops back onto the mattress.
“You missed,” Leonard teases.
“I hate you.”
Leonard feigns mock hurt before rolling his eyes. “I’ll go get you a decongestant and some more tea.”
“Thanks,” Brian says through tissue as he wipes his nose. He waits patiently for Leonard’s return and curses his rotten luck for getting sick. He knows it’s probably from pushing himself too hard and that the doctor’s prediction of regretting it was spot on. Brian looks at his bruised and swollen knees and snorts at the offending body parts as if they betrayed him.
The house is quiet; it’s midafternoon after all. He hears Leonard’s footsteps long before he enters Brian’s bedroom. He absently wonders where everyone else went and remembers Nyota mentioning that she was going down to the beach with Spock if the weather held up. Brian begins toying with the tassel on his sweatshirt, flicking it with his fingers.
“You’ll fray the edges if you keep doing that,” Leonard chides as he steps into the room. He has a mug of tea and a plate of toast in his hands.
Brian rolls his eyes. “I doubt the owner of this sweatshirt will be around to see it,” he retorts.
“It’s my sweatshirt, so yes, I am around to see it,” Leonard fires back neutrally as he sets the items down on the table next to the bed. He reaches into his back pocket and digs out a packet that contains two pills. “Where did you get that anyways?”
Brian shrugs as he lets the tassel go. “Dunno,” he replies. “Christine gave it to me.”
“Figures,” Leonard gripes while opening the packet. He taps out the pills into his palm and hands them to Brian. “I was wondering where it had gone.”
He takes the pills dutifully and swallows them with the tea, minding the temperature as the warmth fills his mouth. “Do you want it back?” Brian asks.
“Nah, you already sneezed on it,” Leonard tells him as he gives him the plate of toast. “Besides, it looks better on you.”
Brian raises one of his eyebrows but says nothing at the comment as he goes to consume the toast and tea. Leonard helps him to the bathroom afterward, allowing Brian to use him a human crutch. His knees protest at the movements and it’s a relief when Brian sits down on the toilet seat.
“I’m going to get the heating pad ready,” Leonard announces. “Just shout if you need me.”
“What? You’re not going to leave me in here?”
Leonard smirks. “I’m feeling generous today,” he drawls as he closes the door enough to give Brian some privacy.
Going to the bathroom is mundane, but at least Brian can walk to the sink without the doctor’s help. His legs may be shaking under his weight and his knees ache, but at least he can do it on his own. Brian finishes washing his hands and goes to reach for his toothbrush when Leonard comes back in. “I got it,” the younger man snaps before the doctor can say a word.
Leonard holds up his hands in surrender and stays in the doorway, watching in silence. Brian sees his reflection in the mirror as he brushes his teeth, his mouth becoming cleaner and full of foam. He goes through the motions and when he’s done cleaning the residue from his mouth, Brian nods.
“I commend you for being incredibly stubborn,” Leonard tells him as they go back to Brian’s bed. The heating pad is waiting for them on the pillow that is propping up Brian’s knees and the bed has been straightened up while he was in the bathroom. The trash can has been emptied and the used tissues removed along with the plate of toast and a fresh mug of tea rests on the table.
Brian scans the area. “Thanks,” he says quietly, his fingers instinctively going for the tassel.
“Nervous habit,” Leonard comments. He turns on the heating pad and lifting it off the pillow.
Brian is perplexed by his words as he swings his legs over the pillow.
“You playing with the tassel,” Leonard explains, gesturing towards the navy blue string. “It’s a nervous habit.”
Brian looks down at the tassel that is coiled loosely around his finger, noticing the contrast between the fabric and his skin. “Oh.”
“Does it seem familiar?” Leonard asks as he rolls Brian’s pajama bottoms up and places the heating pad on his knees.
He shakes his head as he continues to stare at his finger. “I don’t know,” he whispers, confused.
A flash of another finger superimposed on his own, but smaller like a child’s. The tassel wrapped around it is grey like the clouds that sometimes linger over Niihau and the fingernail is jagged from being bitten.
Brian blinks and the image vanishes.
“You okay?” Leonard is touching his shoulder, anchoring Brian to reality. He squeezes the span of Brian’s shoulder that connects to his neck.
Brian looks up at him. “I think you’re right,” he replies.
He doesn’t remember much else—just flashes of strange things that Brian cannot understand: seagulls flying over sand dunes, a stretch of highway between fields of green grass, two little boys laughing—one of whom wears a grey sweatshirt, and the night sky.
The latter lulls him to sleep and haunts his dreams with its vastness and the way the stars sparkle. It doesn’t frighten Brian as much as it just confuses him. He finds himself leaving the curtains open so he can look out into the night as he waits for sleep to come, watching the sky changes throughout the night. Anything else is just a vague inclination that Brian’s seen, done, or heard it before.
“What did I do?” he asks Hikaru one day as they watch a movie in the common room of the house. Someone had found a stockpile of DVDs from one of their expeditions back to the main continent and they are watching a cartoon about monsters and a little girl who runs after them shouting ‘kitty’. “Before the virus, do you know what I did as a job?”
Hikaru shrugs as he eats a bag of chips. “Hell if I know,” he replies.
“But there’s a database,” Brian presses. This earns an irritated look from Sulu who has turned his attention away from the movie.
“It’s not that type of database, Brian,” Hikaru tells him gently, shaking his head. “It tells us the basics: name, birthdate, address, and familial relations, but it’s far from complete.”
Brian’s hopeful expression falters and he nods solemnly. He is quiet for the rest of the movie, forcing a smile and false cheer as Scotty and Christine join them. Anxiety gnaws at his gut, festering and becoming raw like an infection. Brian excuses himself and wanders outside, now that he can do it on his own, and inhales the salty air. The sun is setting over the ocean, lighting the sky on fire.
While it’s beautiful, it doesn’t seem familiar and the thought fills Brian with dread. He sits down on one of the loungers and pulls the hood up over his head, hiding his face from the others.
He watches the sun go down and waits for the stars to come out as tears of frustration stream down his face. Brian wipes his eyes on the back of his sleeve—Leonard’s sleeve, really—and starts to play with the tassel, worrying it with his finger.
The clouds are rolling in like a specter, enveloping the island in a fog and keeping the night sky from revealing its secrets to him. Brian buries his face in his hands and whimpers quietly into his palms, cursing himself for not remembering. He wants it so badly that he can taste the metallic bitterness on his tongue.
“Hey kid,” he hears Leonard drawl from behind him. “Dinner’s ready.”
Brian nods, dropping his hands to his thighs. “I’ll be in a minute,” he replies. For a second he thinks Leonard went back inside, but he should know the doctor better by now as he sits down next to him. Brian curses under his breath and wipes his cheeks again. “What is it?”
“You’re upset,” Leonard states as he squints in the dim light.
“No shit,” he rasps, sniffling. “I had a bad day. People are allowed to have a bad day, you know.”
Leonard exhales deeply. “No need to be combative, kid.”
“I’m not being combative,” Brian counters. “I’m upset. There’s a difference.”
“To-may-to, to-mah-to,” Leonard deadpans as he makes himself comfortable. They sit in silence for a few minutes before the doctor nudges Brian with his shoulder. “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
Brian wants to scowl at Leonard, more than anything in the world, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Hidden under the near-crippling anxiety and frustration is a part of Brian that tells him that he can trust the doctor despite his teasing and snarky remarks. He sighs, defeated. “I can’t remember anything useful,” he admits.
“It’s going to take some time,” Leonard reasons. “You’ve only been up and about for a month. Believe it or not, you’ve come a long way.”
Brian shakes his head. “I have these flashes of weird things. Seagulls, highways, two little kids, and the stars. I don’t understand any of it…and none of it is familiar except for the stars. I dream about them all of the time.”
“What happens when you dream about them?” Leonard asks, inching closer to Brian and bumping shoulders. The breeze has picked up, bringing a chill along with it.
Brian shrugs. “I’m just lying on the ground and staring up at the sky,” he says. “And I feel like…I don’t know what I feel like.”
They lapse into silence until Leonard snorts.
Brian turns to him, brow raised. “What?” he asks. “What is it?”
“When Scotty and Hikaru found you, they said it looked like you were stargazing,” Leonard sighs, patting Brian’s thigh. There is a ghost of a smirk on his lips and Brian can see the glint in the doctor’s eyes. “I wasn’t there until they brought you to the base, but maybe the night sky provided you with some comfort before you were found.”
The smirk on Leonard’s face softens. “Brian, you’re going to be fine,” he soothes, his drawl thicker than usual. “Even if you don’t end up remembering, you’re going to be fine.”
“Ha,” Brian replies bitterly. “Why? Are you going to take care of me?” He turns to Leonard who has a serious expression written all over his face.
The doctor nods. “I promised you before the surgery that I would,” he states in a quiet voice. “I intend on keeping it.” He slaps Brian’s shoulder, perhaps a little too hard, and stands up. “Right now you need to eat. So get up off your ass and follow me inside!”
Brian rolls his shoulder, trying to wiggle away from the sting of Leonard’s hand. He watches as Leonard puts distance between them until he’s at the sliding glass door where he turns around. “I said move it, kid!” There is a trill of laughter in Leonard’s voice that makes Brian chuckle as he stands up.
“Alright,” Brian retorts. As he passes by Leonard, he stands close to him. They are nearly head to head, though the doctor is an inch taller, and he can feel the other man’s body heat radiating off him.
Knowing that is heady and makes Brian’s chest constrict and flutter. “Don’t have a heart attack, old man,” he teases before heading into the dining room.
The reaction he was going for follows not even a moment later. “Who are you calling old man?” Leonard shouts as Brian goes to the dining room with a devious grin on his face.
A piano that sits in the living room covered with a thin layer of dust and relatively untouched catches Brian’s eye.
He bypasses Nyota and Spock who are reading quietly on the couch in a tangle of long limbs and walks towards the instrument as if he’s in a trance. Brian sits down in front of the parlor piano and touches the ivory keys that have darkened with age and disuse.
“I don’t think it’s tuned,” Nyota calls from over her shoulder.
Brian glances at her momentarily before returning his attention back to the piano. He places his hands in position against the keyboard and his feet on the pedals as if he’s done it all his life. There’s no music sheet for him to play off, though Brian starts to anyways. The first few notes come out tentatively and he misplaces a finger against the black keys instead of the white, but he slowly continues to play. The melody is dark and haunting and fills the living room with music. His vision whites out to just him sitting on the piano bench with a little boy in overalls.
The boy watches him play while his blue-green eyes wide in curiosity as the melody comes out of the instrument. Brian stops abruptly and turns to the boy. “Now you try, Danny,” he gently coaches.
The boy, Danny, nods and scoots closer to him until he’s crawling onto Brian’s lap and places his tiny hands in between Brian’s larger ones. He allows Brian to adjust his fingers and asks, “Like that?”
“Yeah,” Brian says, patting him on the head and receiving a giggle in reply. “Just like that.”
He watches as Danny starts to play a different melody, something simpler. His fingers can’t stretch as far as Brian’s and there are a few wrong notes, but in the end, the little boy is pleased with himself. He looks up at Brian with wide eyes and an even wider grin. “How did I do?” he asks.
“Perfect,” he tells Danny as he goes to tickle him. The boy squirms in his arms, laughing loudly as he turns around and throws his arms around Brian’s neck to hug him.
Someone calling his name, then the press of a hand on his shoulder, jars Brian out of his head. His hands are still on the piano, though in a different position than he last remembers and Danny’s gone.
“Brian?” Nyota asks, sounding worried. She is sitting next to him on the bench while Spock lingers behind her. “Are you okay?”
He looks down at the piano, then to his friends before nodding. “I drifted off,” he explains quietly. “Sorry.”
“You play with much skill,” Spock observes. “I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Piano Sonata in C-Sharp Minor in person, especially from memory. It was very beautiful.”
Brian’s face crinkles, baffled. “What’s that?” he inquires.
“The piece you just played,” Nyota answers.
Brian stares at his hands. They don’t look any different; just the same limbs wrapped in fair skin, muscle, and freckles. “And I played it from memory?”
“Do you think you can play anything else?” Spock asks.
He can and he does; playing Bach, Chopin, Schubert that comes from a hidden part of his mind. Brian doesn’t remember where, when and how he learned to play the piano, though Hikaru does some digging through the database and finds that Brian attended the Eastman School of Music.
“Where’s that?” Brian asks over Scotty demanding him to play someone named Elton John.
Hikaru tosses a pillow at Scotty’s head. “Rochester,” he says.
“New York,” Scotty adds as he hurls the pillow back at Hikaru, who catches with deft hands. “It’s a good school, laddie! One of the top programs in the States, I reckon.”
Brian slumps into the armchair and plays with the hem of his t-shirt, wondering. “What did I do when I was there? Besides, playing the piano.”
“You majored in composition or some fancy shit like that,” Hikaru tells Brian as he tosses the pillow back at Scotty. He turns to the younger man and flashes him a rare smile. “I’m not a big fan of classical music, but even I admit you play really well.”
Scotty has the pillow and is about to throw it when he drops his arm. “Perhaps yeh can play some Cure?” he asks hopefully. “Maybe some Billy Squier?”
“Dude, Billy Squier never had a piano,” Hikaru grouses.
This doesn’t deter the Scotsman. “He went to Eastman!” he reasons. “Cannae just wing it!”
Brian and Hikaru trade a look before the former nods. “You can do the honors,” he says right before Hikaru simultaneously hurls the pillow back and Scotty and tackles him to the ground.
Brian’s gut ends up cramping from his laughter as the two men roll around, pulling at each other and shouting.
It draws Leonard’s attention, who comes into the living room with a scowl on his face. “What are you doing?” he asks, arms crossed over his chest.
Scotty and Hikaru point at each other, each of them trying to blame the other. Brian snorts in the background and tries desperately to keep himself from laughing.
The doctor is staring at him now. “Are these idiots bothering you?”
Brian shakes his head, choking on a bubble of laughter in his throat. He knows that Leonard isn’t convinced, especially when Scotty starts whispering, “she's got electric boots a mohair suit”, causing Brian to start cackling. It’s unexpectedly cut short by a flying sweatshirt that covers his face.
He grabs the offending article of clothing and rips it off. “Hey!” he grumbles. “I didn’t even do anything!”
“Instead of Elton John, try playing some Debussy,” Leonard tells Brian before he disappears again.
Brian grimaces in annoyance as he folds the sweatshirt in his lap. The fabric is warm and smells of dryer sheets. He lifts the sweatshirt to his nostrils and inhales the scent, closing his eyes.
It reminds him of Leonard and the days that are filled with sunlight. Everything is washed in gold light and makes the doctor’s eyes appear like moss.
“I think you two just went steady,” Hikaru comments, earning a chuckle from Scotty.
Brian wears Leonard’s sweatshirt like a safety blanket, wrapping himself in something familiar even if it’s an unconscious action.
As the weeks turn into months, he finds that the awkwardness that guided most of their interactions is finally gone. It goes with how his body heals and soon Brian is allowed to go with the rest of the Enterprise crew down to the beach or elsewhere on the island. The fresh air and activity do him some good and it allows Brian to see Leonard in a less than professional capacity.
It’s kind of interesting to see the doctor looking relaxed and not hovering over him like a parent. He smiles and jokes more easily and his entire body seems to loosen up. There are times that Brian catches a hint of sadness in Leonard’s eyes when he looks at him. He knows from comments that he shares a striking resemblance with Jim, but doesn’t truly understand until Brian sneaks a glance at a picture of Leonard and his deceased partner one afternoon.
He waits for the doctor in his room. It’s Brian’s understanding that Leonard is at the main facility, speaking with staff in New Zealand about vaccinations and should be back soon. He notices a picture propped up against a desk lamp. At first glance, it’s a younger, happier version of Leonard whose arms are wrapped around another man. They seem lost in each other as the picture is taken against the backdrop of an orange bridge. The other man leans into Leonard’s body, his golden hair tousled by the wind and a sliver of blue iris showing.
Their facial structure is nearly identical, though Jim’s chin is a little more pointed while Brian’s lips are fuller on top. Jim’s eyebrow lacks the scar that is present on Brian’s left one. Jim is bulkier all around and has straighter teeth, but Brian’s eyes are bluer as he catches his reflection in a mirror that hangs in Leonard’s room. Aside from tiny nuances, the two men could pass as the same person.
“His voice wasn’t as deep as yours,” Leonard says from the door, causing Brian to nearly jump out of his skin. He doesn’t seem angry at the invasion of privacy as he walks into the room and shuts the door behind him. “And he couldn’t sing for shit. Didn’t stop him from trying.”
Brian sets the photograph down, waiting for the admonishing that never comes. “What else did he do?” he asks.
“He used to drive me crazy just for the sheer fun of it,” Leonard recalls as he comes over to Brian and picks up the photograph. “We met on a flight from Chicago to San Francisco and I hated planes. It was just my luck that Jim was my seatmate and he would not stop talking. Couldn’t shut him up the entire time, in the baggage claim, and cab into San Francisco.” He chuckles ruefully at the memory as he stares at the photograph. “I leaned over the back seat and just kissed him with everything I had to get him to finally stop.”
Brian smirks, trying to picture Leonard being that bold. “Did he?”
“Yeah,” Leonard replies, setting the photograph down and brushing his finger against Jim’s face. “He did and I was a goner. We moved in together that weekend; he was staying with friends and I already had a place in Noe Valley. We were together for five years before the virus hit.” Brian knows that he is inferring Jim’s death, but says nothing. The doctor taps his fingers against the desk. “He was curious like you, though. Always needed to know how things worked and why.”
“I have amnesia,” Brian reminds him.
Leonard shakes his head. “I don’t think it’s just the amnesia,” he suggests. “I saw what you and Scotty did to the piano the other day; taking it apart and putting it back together. There were certain points where you instinctively knew more than he did, regardless if you realized it or not.”
Brian flushes at the memory of piano innards all over the floor in Scotty’s room and screwdrivers in their hands. “Maybe I’m just good at watching,” he mumbles with a shrug of his shoulders.
“You’re smart,” Leonard tells him. He raises a dark brow in warning as Brian opens his mouth to counter him. “And don’t say I’m just being nice because I’m not.”
Brian finds himself smirking. “Fine,” he quips. “Then I won’t.”
“Good,” Leonard says before pulling Brian towards him and pressing their mouths together. It comes so suddenly that he doesn’t close his eyes. The adrenaline of his heart thuds against his chest as Leonard’s warm tongue slides between them, flicking against Brian’s lips for entrance.
Blood flows rapidly to his cheeks as his lips part and his own tongue brushes against Leonard’s. It’s slow-moving and gentle and lulls Brian’s eyelids to close. He knows that he’s been kissed before. The motions feel familiar and make his gut coil with warmth. Like riding a bicycle, he recalls Scotty telling him, though Brian hasn’t done that yet.
The kiss feels nice and Brian wants more, though he’s unsure how to go about it. He stumbles forward and finds himself being caught by the doctor, who laughs into his mouth. Leonard pulls away to chuckle against Brian’s cheek, his breath skimming over his skin. “I didn’t realize that I would have that effect on you,” he whispers.
Brian is staring at him, wide-eyed and breathing heavily. “Neither did I,” he responds, too dumbstruck to say anything else.
He goes back to practicing Clair de lune on the piano while his lips still tingle from having Leonard’s pressed against them.
Like the other classical music, it comes to Brian easily and soon his hands are moving across the keys with a fluid grace that is taught through years of training and practice. As he plays the piece from memory, Brian wonders what he did with his training from Eastman and if he continued to play before the virus came.
He has a feeling that he did, though he’s sure that Danny went the opposite direction towards something less artistic. It gnaws at his heart, filling Brian with a sadness he can’t explain, and he stops playing. His fingers drop into his lap and wait for the emotion to calm while he listens to the fading sound of the piano and his breathing.
“Why did you stop?” Leonard asks from the doorway.
Brian shrugs. “I didn’t realize that I had an audience,” he admits, turning his head and flashing a weak smile as Leonard approaches him. Brian reaches out and touches the piano keys with his fingers. “I don’t think my family liked me playing.”
“What do you mean?” Leonard inquires as he takes a seat next to Brian.
“I don’t think they were…supportive of it,” Brian says carefully, as he’s trying to remember exactly what happened.
Leonard’s knee brushes against his. “You were a concert pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” he tells him, much to Brian’s surprise. “Hikaru isn’t the only one with the ability to do research.”
“H-how did you find out?” Brian stammers, awestruck.
The doctor grins. “A nifty tool called the internet,” he explains with a teasing grin. “I found two videos of you if you ever want to see them.”
Brian is uncertain if he wants that or not. “What was I playing?” he asks quietly, staring at his index finger that is resting on a black key.
“Debussy,” Leonard says. “I bet you know which one.” He reaches up and strokes Brian’s cheekbone with his thumb.
Brian closes his eyes and leans into the touch.
“Would you want to play it for me?” Leonard whispers into his ear.
Brian opens his eyes, realizing that he and Leonard are only inches apart. He could lean in and kiss those soft lips once more, having not gotten enough of them earlier.
Instead, Brian turns back to the piano and nods, swallowing roughly as desire stirs in his body. Leonard moves away, though only a little bit and for the sole purpose of giving Brian enough space to play.
He starts to play Clair de lune once more, this time more certain of the notes. It’s strange to just be playing for one person rather than a small group of people or just for himself, but Brian finds as the composition goes on that he enjoys it.
He is playing the final minute of the piano suite when Leonard kisses him hungrily. His hands immediately go from the keys to Leonard’s broad shoulders, clutching onto his shirt. They bite into each other’s mouths, probing deeper than before. Brian groans as Leonard pulls him to his feet.
They stumble towards Leonard’s bedroom, the closer of the two, bumping into the wall, door frames, and various objects in the hallway. Their hands grab at fabric, snaking under t-shirts and into pants, undoing buttons and zippers to find bare skin. Brian’s jeans are nearly sliding off his hips when they enter the room while the hem of Leonard’s t-shirt finds itself bunched under his armpits.
Leonard backs him against the door. Brian watches as the other man removes his shirt and then Brian’s before tossing them carelessly to the floor. He pounces Brian again; mouthing his neck, collarbone, and shoulders; Leonard’s lips traveling erratically across his skin. Brian gasps at each touch as it burns into his memory. He pulls Leonard back to him, hungry for each other as Brian unbuttons his jeans. With certainty, Brian knows he’s done this before as his body joins in the motions of getting undressed and clambering for Leonard’s unmade bed.
His backside hits the mattress, warm from the sun spilling into the room, and he hisses as Leonard’s mouth covers his nipple, teeth and tongue worrying it to a hardened nub while sparks of pleasure race up and down his body. He gasps and jerks, hands pressing against Leonard’s skin as Leonard pins his hips to the bed. He hooks his fingers around the waistband of Brian’s underwear. Brian has forgotten he’s hard and aching until Leonard yanks his boxer-briefs, guiding it over his thighs and then legs. It joins the other clothing on the floor.
He lifts his head, looking at their bodies so close together. Naked like himself, Leonard straddles Brian’s thighs. His erection leaks hot, sticky trails of precum against the younger man’s stomach. Leonard’s lips brush against his jaw, then the corner of his mouth.
Brian parts his lips and sighs into Leonard’s mouth, allowing the doctor to slowly take him apart. It’s a wonderful, maddening, and dizzying exploration of their mouths and bodies.
Leonard seems more sure about where he’s going and eventually Brian loses track of what’s happening. He’s melting into the mattress, legs splayed and tangled in sheets that smell like Leonard and there are slick fingers tracing a circle around his entrance. Everything moves slowly, slower than before until it doesn’t and Leonard’s inside of him.
The bed protests under the sound of their moans and hurried movements. Leonard rasps sweetly into his ear, a gravelly drawl that hot wires Brian’s body to yield to him. Brian holds onto Leonard’s hips, tightening his grip as a cut off version of the other man’s name falls from his lips.
They grow louder while their bodies burn more hotly, then Brian seizes against Leonard, spilling his release between their stomachs. His heart hammers in his chest. Brian’s mouth opens and closes in time until there’s nothing left inside him and he falls boneless into Leonard’s arms.
The other man follows a few moments later with his grunts heavy in Brian’s ears.
When everyone filters back into the house, Brian and Leonard are still tangled in the sheets, their sated bodies warm and sweaty from earlier activities.
They doze until Scotty’s voice booms down the hallway, followed by a door slamming. Both their eyelids flutter open in annoyance and Leonard buries his face into the back of Brian’s neck. “He has two volumes: loud and louder,” Leonard grumbles as the arm draped over Brian’s waist flexes and tightens its hold.
Brian nods in sleepy agreement and closes his eyes once more. “He’ll quiet down,” he assures with a yawn.
“That is a bit of wishful thinking, darlin’,” Leonard whispers teasingly into his ear. He presses his lips against Brian’s jaw as he slowly turns the younger man’s face with his fingers. A smirk appears on his face as he kisses Brian, who chuckles in agreement. The scratch of his stubble makes Brian’s cheek pleasantly itch and his lips send desire through his body.
He finds he could go again, having regained his energy from their nap. He wants Leonard to take possession of him once more; he wants it more than anything. They part to catch their breath and Brian uses the opportunity to roll onto his back. He laces their fingers together, looking at the differences in the natural light: the golden shade that belongs to Leonard and his own fair skin. He unclasps their fingers and lines their hands up against each other; Leonard’s are slightly larger and thicker, skilled in a precision completely foreign to him.
Brian traces his fingers and the lines on Leonard’s palm. He’s happy like this; to have the doctor to himself without anyone else watching them. Leonard hovers over him and cards Brian’s hair. “What’s going through that head of yours?” he asks.
“I’m glad we had the house to ourselves for a while,” Brian admits, quietly. He glances up at Leonard and grins. “It was nice.”
Leonard returns it and leans down to peck the tip of his nose. “That it was,” he agrees, huskily, before kissing Brian again.
The intensity builds amongst them and soon Leonard’s lies between Brian’s legs once again. They are rutting lazily and the sheets are starting to slide off the doctor’s hips as he licks his way down the younger man’s neck. Leonard slips inside of him, thrusting less urgently than before. It’s easier this time around since they know each other’s bodies a bit better. Brian curls his fingers around Leonard’s shoulders, tightening his grip as Leonard takes him in hand and strokes. Brian arches against him, body trembling at his dexterous touch, and cries out.
“Shh, darlin’,” Leonard whispers as his hips go faster. “The others are home.”
“Kiss me,” Brian begs, hoarsely. “Kiss me, please. Kiss me.”
He’s silenced by Leonard’s mouth and accepts it greedily as his orgasm approaches. Brian bucks against him, hips stuttering and calling Leonard’s name in a muffled voice as he cums. Just as he’s coming down, Leonard is flying high and cumming deep inside of Brian with a final thrust. He drops his head into the curve of Brian’s neck as Brian says breathlessly, “We need to do that again and as many times as possible.”
Leonard snorts into his skin. “Is that so?” he inquires as he runs his thumb around the outline of Brian’s lower lip. “What about the others? I’m sure they would wonder where we disappeared to.”
“Should we say something to them?” Brian asks, knowing that Leonard has a point. Things have obviously changed in their relationship, which is no longer a doctor-patient one. It’s been brewing for a while though neither man will admit to it. “Maybe they’ll just figure it out on their own.”
Leonard shrugs. “They are a perceptive group,” he tells him over the sound of Hikaru and Scotty hollering in the hallway. He rolls his eyes at the noise. “However, some of them are more obnoxious than others.”
Brian chuckles and tilts his head. “C’mere,” he beckons, wagging his eyebrows.
Leonard does without hesitation and their tongues are rolling against each other in a heated kiss. The sound of blood roaring in Brian’s ears drowns out the noises of the house and he pulls his lover closer.
“Hey Leo, have you…” Hikaru says as he opens the door to the bedroom. He stops mid-sentence as Brian and Leonard cease kissing. Leonard pulls a sheet over them to cover their nakedness as the other man smirks. “Monty, I found them!”
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Leonard yells as Brian buries his face in the crook of the doctor’s arm. His skin flushes with embarrassment as he hears the Scotsman's lumbering footsteps.
Scotty must be looking inside with a grin on his face. “Oy, Chris, yeh owe Sulu five dollars!” he shouts as he walks away. He hears a muffled exchange between him and Christine that Brian cannot hear, nor does he want to.
“Hikaru,” Leonard drawls threateningly. “Mind shutting the door?”
Brian catches the smug look on Hikaru’s face as he reaches for the doorknob. “Nope,” he chirps as he closes the door. “And it’s ‘bout time.”
“Well, we aim to please,” Leonard grouses as the door shuts.
A frown appears on his face as he turns back to Brian that instantly melts away when their eyes meet. “Now,” Leonard murmurs, sweetly. “Where were we?”
He has no point of reference when it comes to being in a relationship and all that it entails, but Brian enjoys being with Leonard.
He likes learning about the doctor and finds himself spending hours on Leonard’s bed, just listening to him talk in that honey-thick drawl. In fact, Brian loves hearing him speak even if he doesn’t understand the jargon coming out that mouth or if the words aren’t fit for polite company. It’s a kink he’s developed and reserved only for Leonard.
They settle into being a couple with ease and for once since he’s woken up, Brian doesn’t feel the creeping panic of not remembering. He’s living in the present and figures that the rest if it ever does, will come in time. Brian has Leonard along with the rest of the Enterprise team to provide a safe haven against the unknown and he knows he’ll be okay.
They have been together for a few months when the team is informed that the personnel still on Niihau will be heading to the main colony. There aren’t many of them left, as the population is slowly trickling down back to the original hundred or so people that lived on the island prior to the virus.
“What will happen to them?” Brian asks as he and Spock sit on the beach while the others horse around in the water. They are having a going away party of sorts and the beach is teeming with people. Someone uses an old grill to barbecue hamburgers, hot dogs, and vegetables and there is a compilation of classic rock playing.
Spock is meditating or at least trying to; something Brian suspects is proving to be difficult with all of the commotion. “I suspect they will go back to the lives they led before our intrusion,” he replies as he rolls his shoulders and uncrosses his legs.
“Will they be okay? Being alone like that.”
Spock nods. “They were quite self-sustainable before,” he explains. “There is no reason why they are unable to return to that and for you to worry.” His lips twitch into a smile. “Have you considered what you will do once we reach Auckland?”
Brian shakes his head and rests his chin on his knees. “Not really,” he admits as he watches Leonard in the water where he plays a game of chicken with Nyota, Scotty, and Christine. His boyfriend looks quite tempting in his swimming trunks.
“My father mentioned that they are still looking for teachers,” Spock tells him. “Perhaps you could use your musical expertise to become a music teacher?” He raises a brow at Brian’s perplexed expression and states, “You seem surprised by this suggestion.”
Brian leans back on his elbows. “I just never thought of it,” he says. “Do you think I could do it?”
“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I thought otherwise,” Spock replies. He goes to get up from the blanket they are relaxing on. “I am going to get us beverages.”
Brian ends up pondering what Spock has suggested. He knows that he has the training to be a musician, but a teacher…
He’s a bit uncertain if he can do it. His doubts vanish as soon as Leonard grabs his hand and pulls Brian to his feet. Leonard’s skin chilled by the ocean while his own is warm from the sun. “The water’s nice, darlin’,” he whispers into his ear as his hands clutch Brian’s hips. “Why don’t you join me?”
He looks up into those hazel eyes, finding that he couldn’t deny this man a single thing and follows him into the water with their fingers laced together.
Later that night he and Leonard lie in bed, both of them tired and slightly sunburnt. Brian rests his cheek against his boyfriend’s bare chest, running a finger through the sparse hair on his sternum. “Spock mentioned that they need teachers,” he says, quietly. “He thinks I could be a music teacher at one of the schools.”
Leonard shifts under him and hooks one of his legs over Brian’s. “What makes you think that you can’t?” he asks, brushing his fingers up and down the length of the younger man’s spine.
“I’ve never taught anyone before,” Brian replies. “At least, I don’t think I have.”
“I bet you’d be great at it.”
Brian grins into Leonard’s skin. “You bet, huh?” he teases as he steals a glance at Leonard, who is propped up on pillows.
“You say that like you’re surprised,” Leonard grouses in a low rumble that makes Brian’s blood turn to molten lava. Leonard crooks his finger for Brian to come forward and kisses him as soon as he’s close enough. They continue to laze around in bed, trading kisses while being wrapped up in each other’s arms until Brian can’t stay awake any longer. He whines at being moved as Leonard reaches for the desk lamp to switch it off. The doctor chuckles and presses his lips into Brian’s hair.
“I’ll always bet on you,” he hears Leonard utter and he falls asleep with a smile on his face.
The day that they are set to leave for Auckland, Brian finds himself feeling melancholy as he sits at the piano.
A cargo plane waits for them as well as an apartment that will be his new home with Leonard. It’s strange to have certainty in his life, especially after all he’s been through; after all of them have been through.
“We can get you another one,” Leonard assures from the doorway.
Brian nods. “I know,” he says as he presses down on the keys, playing a little ditty. Once he’s done, he turns to Leonard with a sad smile. “It’s sentimental.”
“How so?” Leonard asks as he comes into the living room and sits beside Brian. He rests his hand on the back of his neck, squeezing gently.
Brian leans into him and sighs. “I figured out something about myself while I was sitting right here,” he explains. “Something that I was sure of and felt right. And I figured us out while playing Debussy.”
“I figured us out when I kissed you,” Leonard teases, earning an incoherent grumble from Brian. He wraps an arm around the younger man and pecks his cheek. He lingers there, his forehead touching Brian’s hair as they sit on the bench. “Do you want to play it one more time before we go?”
Brian nods and starts playing Clair de lune, which he thinks as theirs. He remembers the kiss that broke the proverbial straw on his and Leonard’s backs and how he practiced the piece over and over. Brian runs his hands over the keys and feels the sting of tears as he’s silently saying goodbye to an old friend. When it’s over, Leonard pulls him into his arms and whispers soothingly.
“We need to go soon,” Christine tells them.
Brian feels the movement of Leonard acknowledging her. “We’ll be there in a minute,” he says and Christine gives them some more privacy. “Let me see what I can do, okay?”
“Okay,” Brian replies, swallowing back more tears. He stays in Leonard’s arms for a while longer before Leonard announces that they need to leave. It breaks his heart a bit to leave the instrument in the house and he idly wonders if he’s felt this way before.
Once they are situated in the cargo plane, Brian looks out the window at Niihau one last time, Leonard nudges him in the arm. He turns to him and flashes a watery smile. “Hey,” he says.
“Hey yourself,” he replies as he clasps their hands together. Leonard kisses each of his fingers, dusting Brian’s knuckles with his warm breath. “There’s something I meant to tell you before we left the house.”
Brian raises a brow. “Did you forget something?” he jokes, earning a poke in his side that leaves him squirming.
“No, you infant,” Leonard says sharply. He leans in and kisses Brian so sweetly that it makes his chest ache; he can almost ignore Hikaru and Scotty’s snickering from across the aisle. “I love you,” he tells him once they part.
Brian beams, his sadness forgotten and leans in to kiss Leonard once more, trying to wrap him up in his arms as much as the seats allow. He realizes that’s he’s probably heard them before, but it’s the first time they’ve filled him with so much warmth.
They arrive in Auckland after an exhausting nine-hour plane ride and are escorted to the airbase for their debriefing and temporary accommodations. Brian is introduced to Sarek, Spock’s father, and a myriad of government officials who are pleased to meet him. He can’t remember all of their names, but it’s just as well because they will be on their way to the apartment in the morning.
During the debriefing, Brian becomes Patient X. “It is paramount that we do our duty in protecting your identity,” Sarek explains. “While the colony is a peaceful place, there could be unforeseen threats towards your safety and we must take precautions. Only researchers under Dr. McCoy’s leadership will be privy to who Patient X truly is.”
The whole thing frightens Brian, who is not used to such strict protocol. When all is said and done, he’s a civilian despite his role in finding the cure for the virus. He stiffens in his seat, his fingers tingling with a chill that isn’t there until Leonard’s hand sneaks towards his under the concealment of the table. As they touch, he squeezes it in comfort.
“It’s okay, darlin’,” he assures in a quiet drawl. “It’s better this way.”
The next morning, they are transported to their living spaces. Brian is delighted to hear that Spock and Nyota will only be a few doors down and Scotty, Sulu, and Christine are located on another floor of their complex.
Their flat is a spacious one-bedroom that overlooks the Auckland Waterfront and is already furnished when he and Leonard arrive. After pulling their things away, Leonard takes Brian grocery shopping at the market around the corner from their home.
It’s strange not to be in the same house with the Enterprise team as he and Leonard eat a quiet dinner on the patio. The absence of constant noise is a bit unnerving at first, though Brian admits that it’s also soothing in a way that he can’t describe. They don’t have to make love quietly or double-check that the door is locked as he and Leonard writhe on their bed, their cries of pleasure echoing off the walls.
There’s no snickering or comments from Scotty and Hikaru about a walk of shame the next morning. It’s just the two of them as they roam around the apartment naked and have sex on every surface without the fear of someone walking in, which they explore the benefits of during their first week. The rest falls into place and they find a routine that suits their life together. They have breakfast together before getting ready for work; Leonard at the research facility located inside of the main hospital and Brian at a primary school. Nyota and Brian walk to their teaching jobs together and spend the day surrounded by children.
He didn’t think he would enjoy teaching, but Brian loves it. His pupils are at an age where they are eager to learn and listen to him as he explains their lessons with rapt fascination.
Most of them are orphans, although there are a few with one parent still living and even fewer with their families intact. They are too young to fully grasp just how radically their world has changed which Brian thinks is for the best since it allows them to still have a childhood. Once classes have ended and Brian is free to leave, he wanders around Auckland to get himself better acquainted with his new home.
Sometimes Nyota joins him, sometimes it’s Hikaru or Christine, and other times he does it on his own. It’s not much different than Niihau other than the number of people. The city is peaceful and everyone seems to be living in a strange sort of harmony.
There is no reason for tension or crime since they have all survived the virus. The same thing is happening on the South Island where another colony has been set up since there is a thin trickle of refugees still coming in thanks to a broadcast transmitted in the North American continent, Europe, and parts of Asia that direct people towards safe areas.
Spock suspects that this will go on for another year or so.
“What about the other countries?” Brian asks during dinner at Hikaru, Scotty, and Christine’s apartment.
Spock sips on a mug of green tea and swallows it down before answering. “The populations in third world countries were completely eradicated at the onset of the virus,” he explains. “They did not have access to the healthcare provided in other parts of the world and entire civilizations disappeared. True we have their relics that are left behind, but the people are gone.”
“It’s a tragedy,” Scotty murmurs.
Spock nods in agreement. “It is. With our new government in place, that will never happen again. Medical care should be a right, not a privilege.”
“It sounds like utopia,” Leonard grouses over his bourbon.
Spock turns to him with the barest hint of a smile as Nyota comes out of the kitchen and sits on his lap. He pats her flank and says, “Perhaps.”
Brian vaguely wonders what sort of chaos the world was in prior to the virus and for once, he’s glad he has amnesia. Long after the sun has set and dinner’s been cleared away, he and Leonard take a walk along the waterfront.
“What’s on your mind, darlin’?” Leonard asks as he slips his arm over Brian’s shoulders.
He wraps his arm around his boyfriend’s waist and tucks his head against Leonard’s body. “Just thinking about what Spock said,” he admits.
Brian feels his lover’s arm tense around him as if he’s protecting him from all of the bad things that used to be in the world. Maybe he is or maybe he isn’t, but he loves the feeling of Leonard wrapped around him like armor.
“I think I have something that will take your mind off of it,” Leonard says into his hair. He takes Brian by the hand and leads him back to their apartment.
At first, he thinks the doctor is referring to sex, which would definitely take his mind off things and go blank with pleasure. The walk home to their flat is quiet and there’s a coy smile on Leonard’s face that brightens the way. He goes to unlock the door and presses his lips against Brian’s. “Close your eyes.”
Brian shoots him a dubious look and with a sigh, complies. His world goes black and his hearing is heightened by the sound of the door opening startles him. Brian’s hackles are up on instinct until Leonard’s hand cups his elbow.
“S’okay,” the doctor assures as he guides Brian into the apartment. He can smell Leonard’s cologne and the scent of his skin that is all his own. “Watch your step, darlin’.”
Brian listens to his voice in the darkness as they move through the apartment, avoiding furniture and a wayward messenger bag. Leonard grabs his hips, maneuvering him once more. “Sit down,” he says.
The younger man raises a brow as he sits down on a cushioned bench. That’s new, he thinks to himself as he settles his body on the bench. “Did you go furniture shopping while I was at work?” he quips. Instead of a sarcastic remark, he receives a gentle kiss on his lips that almost makes Brian open his eyes.
“Now you can open them,” Leonard whispers in that husky drawl that makes Brian’s heart flutter. He is behind him, his breath dusting over the back of his neck when Brian opens his eyes. He blinks them a few times to them to adjust to the light.
Brian glances at Leonard and smiles before looking at what’s in front of him. His jaw drops at the sight of his piano from their house on Niihau. He runs his hand over the battered and chipped lid that covers the piano keys in disbelief. “H-how?” he stutters once most of the shock has worn off as he turns to Leonard with tears in his eyes.
“You and I saved humanity,” Leonard says as he sits next to Brian on the piano bench. He kisses pecks the younger man’s temple with a smile on his lips. “I think bringing over your piano is the least they could do.”
Brian lets out a watery laugh as he wipes the tears from his eyes. “Thank you,” he tells Leonard, turning towards him without knowing what else to say.
“Also, I missed hearing you play every day,” Leonard admits as he closes the distance between them, their lips nearly touching.
Brian leans forward and wraps his arms around Leonard’s neck as he kisses him. His hands travel to his lover’s dark hair, cupping the back of his head, the passion growing between them.
Leonard’s clever fingers make quick work of Brian’s shirt buttons before sliding it off his shoulders. His undershirt follows and before Brian can comprehend that Leonard still has his clothes on, his lover’s hands are inside his pants and palming his cock through his underwear. He whines against Leonard’s mouth; wanting more, needing more.
Leonard’s hands reach into his underwear and cupping his ass, kneading the taut muscle. His mouth latches onto Brian’s neck and sucking his skin as he lifts him up onto his lap. They both make needy sounds as they paw at each other on the piano bench. Brian cries out at the tug of his earlobe caught between Leonard’s teeth and rolls his hips.
“You have no idea how many times I wanted to bend you over the piano,” Leonard murmurs into his ear, heatedly. “Even before I kissed you…I wanted you so badly.”
Brian laughs throatily as he pulls at Leonard’s shirt. “I want you to,” he groans as his underwear is yanked down, joining the rest of his clothing on the floor. He looks into Leonard’s eyes, seeing a thin ring of hazel around the pupil and a primal glint that nearly takes his breath away.
“Thought you’d never ask,” Leonard leers with a smirk. His mouth is back on Brian’s and thoroughly debauching it as he lifts The younger man onto the lid.
Brian laughs against his mouth and hooks a leg over his lover’s hip, pulling him closer. He feels the slick press of lubed up fingers against his hole, gasping as the doctor circles his index finger around Brian’s entrance before pushing in.
“Did we just sit through dinner with a packet of lube in your pocket?” he moans more than asks.
As Leonard’s finger grazes his prostate, he hears his lover saying something that sounds like maybe over the sound of his mewling. Brian bends against the piano and rocks his hips as Leonard continues to stretch him. Leonard utters sweet and filthy words between sloppy kisses as Brian removes him from his pants. Their movements become frantic and soon Leonard thrusts inside of him. They both know that this won’t last very long. Brian presses his forehead against Leonard’s, wrinkling the fabric of his shirt as his body slides on top of the polished wood of the piano.
“I love you,” he gasps, the words catching in his throat. “I love you, Leonard. I love you.” Brian repeats the sentiment until one of Leonard’s beautiful hands engulfs his cock and begins stroking; only then does he lose his power of speech.
Their climax comes jointly and they ride it out together, grasping onto each other to keep themselves anchored to that moment.
Hours later as the sun peaks just over the horizon, Brian plays Coldplay’s The Scientist after waking up restless. The music wafts through the apartment in a soft, sleepy melody that allows Brian to get lost in his own head. He finds it oddly humorous that he remembers pieces of music, but nothing of his past. Perhaps his memories are locked inside the melodies. Even if he doesn’t it’s fine; everything will end up okay because Leonard is here.
“I missed this,” Leonard says as he pads into the living room. He sounds sleepy, though when he comes up behind Brian and wraps his arms around him, his body feels warm. “Watching you play.”
Brian makes room for his boyfriend to sit down behind him. “Then I’ll play every day,” he tells Leonard as he continues.
“I like the sound of that,” his lover says with approval. Leonard presses a kiss into the curve of Brian’s neck and nuzzles his cheek against his skin. “I love you.”
Brian smiles. “I love you, too,” he replies just as his fingers hit a bad note. Both of them wince at the awful sound the piano makes. “She needs a tune up.”
“We can borrow tools from Scotty,” Leonard assures. “Maybe you can show me how to do it.”
Brian leans back to the doctor and nods. “I’d like that,” he says before glancing up and catching the smile on Leonard’s face. Brian has no idea how he didn’t realize his attraction to the beautiful man in front of him, but he’s glad he figured it out in time.
“Come back to bed,” his lover beckons with a gentle tug on his arm. There is no reason for them to be up; it’s Saturday after all.
It’s Friday afternoon before a week-long school holiday.
Brian packs up his messenger bag in an empty classroom. He’s meeting Leonard at the hospital, from where they will go to dinner.
“We’ve been together for six months,” his boyfriend tells him that morning, holding Brian close as they make breakfast.
“Already?” Brian marvels sleepily against Leonard’s chest. He presses his palm on his lover’s lower back and strokes the warm skin with his fingers. “Seems like it was yesterday.”
Leonard’s chuckle vibrates in his ear, prompting him to glance up at his boyfriend. A secretive smile appears on his face, affectionate and wholly reserved for just Brian. “What?”
Leonard kisses Brian’s forehead and holds him tighter. “Nothing darlin’,” he assures as if there is something so incredibly sweet about the younger man’s naivety.
Brian doesn’t have time to dwell on it or he’ll be late. He’s wearing nicer than usual clothing for a Friday, which suits the overcast day hovering over Auckland. He leaves the school and heads towards the hospital, where he’s been only a handful of times. The walk is only fifteen minutes and by the time Brian arrives on Leonard’s floor, he’s only a minute or three late.
The receptionist gives him a smile and tells him that Leonard is in his office, but it’s fine if Brian goes back there instead of waiting in the lobby. He makes his way down the hallway, the soles of his shoes squeaking against the floors, and finds Leonard’s office. It sits empty, but Brian figures that he’s just taking care of something and lets himself in. The office lacks personal touches since Leonard had to leave the bulk of his belongings in San Francisco.
There are a few keepsakes that Brian can easily identify: a jar of sea glass collected in Niihau, photographs of the Enterprise team at various locations and outings, and a black and white picture of Brian playing the piano that sits in plain view of Leonard’s computer screen. It’s only silhouettes of the instrument and his person, grainy and faded, with the afternoon sun washing the room in blinding light.
Brian smiles and dwells on buying Leonard a camera when the office door creeps open. He turns to see Leonard in his white coat and even whiter face. His hazel eyes are wide and riddled with anxiety, so much so that the doctor doesn’t even try to hide it.
“Hey,” Brian says, rushing to Leonard. “What’s wrong?”
He watches his boyfriend’s throat muscle work as he swallows roughly. “Can you come with me?” Leonard asks.
“What?” Brian asks, his gut filling with dread as Leonard laces their hands together and starts leading him down the hallway. “What is it?” He feels the tightening of Leonard’s hand around his and notes that his lover doesn’t say a word. “Is it the virus? Did it come back?”
Leonard halts in the middle of the hallway and reaches for Brian’s face, cupping it in his hands as he shakes his head. “No,” he says hoarsely. “God no! What on earth would make you think that?”
“You are acting like I have some incurable disease for one,” Brian grumbles, covering Leonard’s hands with his own. “What’s going on? Did I do something?”
Leonard pulls him into a tight embrace. “No darlin’,” he assures, kissing Brian’s neck. “You didn’t do anything. It’s just…”
“Are you breaking up with me?” Brian asks, his voice raising an octave.
Leonard looks horrified. “Oh no!” he says. “No darlin’, I would never leave you.” He holds Brian tighter and rubs his thumb over the back of the younger man’s neck.
“You’re starting to freak me out, Len,” Brian whispers into his shoulder.
Leonard pulls back with a guilty expression on his face. “I’m sorry,” he tells Brian, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips before reaching into his lab coat pocket. “One of our researchers…she gave me this.”
“It’s a photograph,” Brian says dourly as he catches a glimpse of the rectangular object with frayed edges.
Leonard scowls. “I know that,” he grumbles, shoving the photograph into Brian’s hand. “Just look at it.”
Brian rolls his eyes, wondering what the hell Leonard expects him to know about a photograph that belongs to someone on his team. He complies anyways because the faster he does this, the sooner they’ll be at dinner and laughing about this incident.
Brian glances down at the color image and sees a beach. There are seagulls flying behind them, waves crashing onto the sand, frozen in place on the photo paper, and two young men posing for the camera. One of them has dirty blond hair that flops over his brow. He’s the smaller of the two and gangly with an uncomfortable grin. The young man next to him is far more comfortable, almost lapping up the attention with his dazzling smile and piercing blue eyes that penetrate through the lens.
“That’s me,” Brian rasps, feeling like someone has kicked him in the stomach. “That’s me, Leonard. That’s me!”
He backs away, Leonard following him like he’s a frightened animal. “Darlin’,” he assures. “You need to calm down for a moment so I can explain.”
Brian shakes his head, letting the photograph slip through his fingers that feel like they are going numb. He swallows down the bile in his throat.
Why does Leonard have that photograph and who is the other young man with his own arm around his shoulders?
“No,” he whispers, shaking his head furiously. “No…no.”
“Brian,” Leonard interjects, trying to touch him. There are footsteps coming towards them and for a moment, Brian panics. “Baby, listen to me.”
He jerks away from Leonard’s grasp. “No,” Brian snaps.
He looks towards the source of the footsteps, expecting the worst, and instead sees a woman approaching them. She’s around his age with golden hair that falls below her shoulders and haunted brown eyes. She stares at Brian in disbelief before glancing at Leonard, who has managed to get his hands on him.
Leonard’s thumb strokes his biceps through the fabric of his sweater. “Darlin’, everything is fine,” he tells him.
Brian continues looking at the woman as fear bubbles inside of him when Leonard tilts his face to look at him. “Hey, it’s going to be okay,” he assures.
A whimper escapes his throat. “Who is she?” Brian asks, turning back towards her as his heart hammers inside of his chest.
“Kate Sumpter,” the woman tells him. Her voice sounds hoarse and pitched as if she is trembling from the inside out. “You’re really alive.”
Brian frowns. “So are you,” he snaps as he tries to wiggle out of Leonard’s grasp. “Let go of me!”
“Listen to what she has to say,” Leonard says, tightening his grip. There is something eerily calm about how he speaks; it makes him pause. “Brian, just listen to her. Please.”
His eyes shift between Leonard and this woman, Kate. He doesn’t like this, not one bit. He wants to run away and hide, either at Nyota and Spock’s or with Scotty, Hikaru, and Christine. Just somewhere that Brian can coward away until the fear coursing through him ceases to exist.
Kate takes a step forward and Brian jolts away from her. “I knew you,” she explains, choosing her words carefully. She looks to Leonard, hesitant and unsure. He must nod because Kate licks her lips and smiles nervously. “We traveled together…back in the States. You, me, Danny, and Bobby.”
His breath hitches in his throat. “Danny?” he balks, watching Kate nod. “My brother? You knew my brother?”
“He and I went to school together. At Yale,” Kate tells him. Her eyes are tearing up and he wants to ask why she looks like she’s about to cry. “We were going to Turtle Beach to wait out the virus…Danny said you went there as kids.”
None of it sounds familiar and Brian realizes that he’s trembling in Leonard’s arms. “I don’t know,” he says weakly. “I don’t know…”
“Brian,” Leonard says firmly. “It’s okay.”
He looks at his lover, his face blurred by hot, stinging tears and he blinks. They fall down his cheeks and don’t stop. Kate moves closer, her pretty face etched with concern.
“Why weren’t you with me?” he whimpers accusingly. “Why was I alone when they found me?”
Alarmed appears on Kate’s face that sends waves of nausea through Brian. There are tight lines that appear around her mouth and eyes possibly comprised of fear and there is something about it that brings a memory to the surface.
I feel like I wasn’t a good person, he recalls telling Nyota as she assured that he wasn’t, but if she could see how Kate is looking at him now…maybe she would agree with him. He half expects his panic to boil up into his throat with a scream, not the pathetic sound that escapes from his parted lips.
“Brian?” Leonard questions as he pushes himself away from his lover and stumbles towards a wall.
His head lolls on his shoulders, possibly indicating a firm no, and he gasps for air. Brian digs his fingers into the wall, chipping away the paint as his body fights to stay upright. “No,” he finally rasps, sinking down to his knees in a heap. “No.”
His breathing comes in jagged pants that don’t quite fill his lungs and his vision is tinged with darkness at the edges. Sweat pools at his temples as tremors circulate through his body, unable and unwilling to stop. “Can’t…can’t…” His eyesight becomes swallowed by darkness and noises start to ricochet, all of them seemingly coming from a distance.
In the chaos he is able to decipher one voice, Leonard’s, as he calls his name and pleads for Brian to stay with him and calls him darlin’.
Then there’s silence and Brian knows no more.
He catches glimpses of the observation room at the hospital, Leonard’s worried face, the back seat of Spock’s car, and their dimly lit bedroom.
Brian and Leonard’s eyes meet as the latter is tucking him into bed. His lover cups his cheek, stroking the skin with his thumb before leaning down to kiss his brow. Focusing on Leonard’s face is difficult. When he isn't fighting against the swimming vision that occurs, he is desperately trying not to give in to the need to sleep. “Get some rest, baby,” Leonard murmurs, using a rarely said endearment.
As Leonard brushes his hair back, the pull of sleep becomes overwhelming and Brian allows his eyes to drift shut. He feels weightless and oddly at peace in the darkness. Brian wonders if this was similar to the coma that kept him in its grasp for three or so weeks, though he cannot be certain. It doesn’t really matter because he’s comfortable and safe. When he does wake up Brian is groggy and his throat is dry. Even in this state, he realizes that things have changed.
Leonard has his arm encircled protectively around Brian’s waist like it always is, even in the heavy atmosphere of burden. Brian grunts tiredly, not wanting to leave the bed to get something to drink, and Leonard is immediately awake. A lamp turns on and fills their bedroom with low light to reveal Leonard. He props himself up on one arm, blinking away the sleepiness away from his eyes. The shadows play across his face, deepening the lines of concern. “Hey,” he whispers as he leans over Brian. “Everything okay?”
“Thirsty,” Brian mumbles before closing his eyes once more.
Leonard pats his cheek before retreating to the kitchen. Brian listens to the sound of cabinets being opened and shut followed by running water. He nearly dozes off again until Leonard walks into their bedroom and sits down next to him. In his hand is a glass of water which Brian takes gratefully. He drinks it down and sets it on his bedside table before burrowing into his pillow. “What time is it?”
Leonard rubs his back through the material of his undershirt. He realizes that he doesn’t remember undressing or walking into his apartment. “Five in the morning,” his lover replies. “You had a panic attack at the hospital.”
He vaguely remembers and cracks open an eye and looks up at Leonard. “I feel…loopy,” Brian tells Leonard, not caring if he fumbles over the words.
“We had to sedate you,” Leonard explains as he worries his thumb over the mole on Brian’s back, hidden by his shirt. “It hasn’t worn off yet.” He brushes Brian’s hair off his forehead. “Do you want more water?”
Brian shakes his head. “Want to cuddle,” he mutters, closing his eyes.
Leonard chuckles and presses his lips against Brian's brow. His lover mumbles something of he’ll be right back and leaves the room, taking the glass with him. Water runs for several moments before Leonard comes into the bedroom. The bed dips; Brian snuggles against his lover’s body, resting his head on Leonard’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry for earlier,” Leonard says in the darkness. He is running his knuckles over Brian’s arm and holding him close. “I should have warned you before you came to the hospital.”
“I wore my good sweater, too.”
Leonard snorts and holds Brian tighter. “You looked very handsome,” he tells him affectionately.
A part of Brian knows that his lover is humoring him because his facilities are still out of sorts. A hand finds its way under his shirt and rubs his lower back in soothing motions that lull him back to sleep. He dreams of the stars like he’s always done. Instead of lying in the desert, Brian is in an unfamiliar bedroom whose walls are covered with posters. Trophies sit on top of a desk and a bookshelf, all of them gleaming and proudly displayed underneath the night sky. Logically he knows this is impossible, but it doesn’t matter.
“I’ve never seen you like this,” says a voice. Brian turns his head, the rug rubbing against his skin, and sees the boy from the photograph.
Brian stares at Danny, who gives him a smile before looking up at the stars. “What do you mean?” he asks.
“It’s just strange,” Danny tells him with a shrug. “You were always so sure of things, but now…you doubt everything.”
Brian can’t argue with him there. “Wouldn’t you if you were in my situation?”
He doesn’t like that his brother is dismissive of his questions and wonders if their relationship was always like this. “I’ve never dreamt of anything else but the stars,” Brian explains. “Before now, I mean.”
“I’m sorry you’re stuck with me then,” Danny replies with a chuckle. Brian can see the laugh lines that form around his brother’s mouth and the sheen of his teeth in the darkness. “There’s something you want to ask me.”
Brian swallows down the fearful lump in his throat and nods. He rolls onto his side and whispers, “Was I a bad person?” He sees Danny turn towards him, his face stoic and his eyes glinting knowingly. “I just want to know.”
“Don’t we all?” his brother replies with a smirk.
The dream fades and it’s late morning when Brian wakes up with a start. His demeanor has changed drastically from the moment he opens his eyes and deep down, Brian hates himself. He’s sobbing angry tears onto his pillow and refuses to let Leonard anywhere near him. The memory of the hospital is raw, aching, and the look on Kate Sumpter’s face makes Brian only cry harder. He fears the worst--what he’s always known-- and he pushes Leonard away when he tries to comfort him. Brian curls into the fetal position in the center of their bed, weeping himself into exhaustion.
Upon opening his eyes sometime around dinnertime, Brian feels nausea assaulting his body and stumbles into the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet. He vomits up the meager contents of his stomach, gasping for breath when it’s over. Leonard rushes in, dropping down next to him with a damp washcloth and pats Brian’s skin, whispering soothingly into his ear. “Let me take care of you,” he says.
“Why?” Brian asks tearfully. He refuses to look up from the toilet bowl because he’s terrified of what Leonard will see.
Leonard sighs between his shoulder blades and hugs him from behind. “Because I love you,” he replies, the sweetness of his words bringing tears back to Brian’s eyes.
He finds himself in their tub as Leonard cleans him up in a similar fashion to when they were still on Niihau. Leonard knows his body more intimately now and his touch lingers on Brian’s skin. Leonard kisses his tears away and nuzzles his neck, silently comforting him until it’s time to get out.
“Did you see the look on her face?” Brian asks as he and Leonard lay in bed. He faces away from the doctor and staring out the window to the harbor. “When I asked her why I was found alone…did you see how she looked at me?”
Leonard kisses a cluster of freckles on his neck. “I don’t think she was prepared for you to ask her,” he replies.
“No,” Brian counters, his voice shaking. He closes his eyes as tears sting them; he’s surprised he still has any left. They must be bloodshot by this point, causing the irises stand out more than they normally do. “She looked at me like I was a monster.”
“No, darlin’,” Leonard says. “No.”
Brian nods and swallows back a whimper. “She did,” he cries as his shoulders start to shake. “She did and the thing was I knew it. I always knew…even when people tried to tell me differently. I knew I was a horrible person.”
“Brian,” Leonard sighs as he pulls him closer. He presses his lips against the back of his neck and he clasps his hands over Brian’s. “You’re wrong; there’s no way you could be like that.”
Brian shudders into his arms. “How do you know?” he asks. “You don’t know a single thing about me.”
“I know plenty,” the doctor replies as he turns Brian over so they are looking at each other. He wipes the tears on the younger man’s cheeks, minding the sensitive skin. “I know that you play the piano and hate shrimp. You have to sleep on the right side of the bed or you’ll never fall asleep. When you get nervous, your hands fidget and if I’m nearby, you won’t leave my side.”
Leonard brushes a few strands of hair off Brian’s forehead and presses a kiss to his brow. “Everything I know about you, I know that you are not capable of being a monster.”
Tears pool in Brian’s eyes and seep out the sides as Leonard embraces him. He sobs into Leonard’s chest. He’s never felt so out of control and helpless or hopeless, even. Leonard whispers more of his good qualities once his whimpering calms down; some of it brings more tears to his eyes while others make him smile weakly.
“I love you so much,” Leonard utters into Brian’s hair. “Nothing could ever change that.”
He’s still an emotional wreck as the Monday morning sun slips into the bedroom, having spent the majority of the weekend in bed.
Brian hears Leonard on the phone with his supervisor, explaining to her that he is needed at home and will be back at work by Wednesday. He wonders if she was there when Brian had his panic attack and what she saw. Was she the one who sedated him or held him down as the medication was injected into his veins? “Yeah,” Leonard replies to an unheard question. His voice sounds closer than it was before and sure enough, he appears in the doorway. A look of surprise that crosses his face when he sees that Brian’s awake, followed by a soft smile. “He’s been taking it easy.” Leonard comes into the bedroom and sits down on the bed.
Brian automatically goes to him and curls up next to his body, closing his eyes as Leonard’s hand slides inside of his sleeve and rubs his shoulder. “I’ll let him know,” Leonard assures before saying goodbye and setting the phone down.
Brian opens his eyes to see Leonard smiling down at him. “You’re taking time off?” he asks.
“You had a rough weekend,” Leonard tells him. He motions for Brian to scoot over and lies down in the vacated space next to him, draping an arm around the younger man’s waist. “I wanted to make sure you were going to be alright.”
Brian sighs. “I don’t need a babysitter,” he mumbles despite the fact that he buries his head in Leonard’s chest.
“I’m not saying you do,” Leonard says as he wraps his arms around his lover. Brian sinks into the sensation with closed eyes and lets out a content hum that makes the doctor tighten his hold. “Part of it is my own peace of mind, darlin’.”
He swallows roughly. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.
“You don’t need to be apologizing,” Leonard assures. He kisses the top of his head and exhales deeply. “If I had known that you were going to react like that…I would have gone about it differently.”
Brian nods in understanding. “It’s okay,” he says quietly, hooking a leg over Leonard’s hip and pulling him closer.
The memory of the doctor whispering one of his good qualities—the way that Brian has to glom to Leonard when they are in bed—and he grins to himself. “Why do you think you’re a bad person, darlin’?” Leonard asks softly.
“I just do,” he replies. “I’ve always had this feeling that doesn’t go away…like I did something wrong.” He feels his boyfriend sigh. “You’re going to tell me that it doesn’t mean anything and it’s because of how I was found, but I know I’m right.” Brian adjusts his head against Leonard’s chest as they slip into a loaded silence that gnaws at his stomach. “I wish I didn’t feel this way,” he confesses.
Leonard’s lips brush against his temple. “I could talk to her first and tell you how bad it is,” he offers.
“What if it’s really bad?” Brian asks.
Leonard moves back and tilts his head up with his fingers. There is a smile on his face as he glances down at Brian. “Then you should be glad that you have amnesia,” Leonard deadpans in a whisper before leaning in to kiss him.
Nyota comes over the following day as Leonard goes to meet Kate at her apartment.
She and Brian take up the couch, splitting a blanket between them and sit at opposite ends as they watch a movie. A bowl of popcorn sits between them, along with candy and bottles of water. As the film plays on, Nyota reaches for the popcorn and takes a handful. “I didn’t put too much butter on it,” she tells him while her eyes focus on the screen.
“Scotty thinks it’s weird,” Brian says as he slumps down on his side of the couch. “But when it gets soggy, it tastes funny.”
She laughs. “That’s because Scotty puts too much on,” Nyota comments, turning to him and winking. “I got your back.”
Brian chuckles and reaches for the bowl, filling his hands with food. “You always do,” he chirps before he starts eating the popcorn.
He hasn’t eaten much since Friday; just a few cups of broth here and there with toast or scrambled eggs. Brian glances at the clock on the wall and feels his stomach knot itself as the minute hand ticks slowly.
“Don’t look,” Nyota says with a mouthful of popcorn. She nudges him in the calf with her foot. “It’ll make it worse.”
He rolls his eyes. “I wasn’t looking,” he lies.
“Uh huh,” she deadpans gently. Her brown eyes on him and are full of doubt, making Brian feel guilty. “Sure you weren’t.”
He doesn’t say anything and curls into himself against the corner of the couch. Brian and Nyota laugh out loud a few times in an otherwise quiet visit. At some point during the main characters’ adventure in a swamp that spews fire, Brian dozes off and Nyota pauses the movie. He rouses briefly when Nyota eases his legs out from under him and gives Brian a pillow to rest his head. He must mumble an apology because she says, “It’s okay. Go back to sleep and we’ll watch it later.”
Brian ends up dreaming of Leonard coming into their apartment and screaming at him about all the horrible deeds he doesn’t remember. He accuses him of being all of the things Brian dreads and leaves him, disappearing out the front door and never to return. Brian tries to go after him, but the door won’t unlock as his hands slip from the metal knob.
“I’m sorry,” he cries as he bangs on the door. “Leonard, I didn’t know! I’m sorry!”
He must be talking in his sleep because Leonard shakes him awake. “Darlin’,” Leonard says as the younger man jerks under him and stares up at him with frightened eyes. “It’s me. It’s just me.”
Brian’s body goes slack against the couch and inhales deeply. “When did you get home?” he croaks as Leonard sits down on the couch, his hand still on Brian’s shoulder.
He notices that Leonard looks as worn out as he feels, making his stomach clench uncomfortably. “An hour ago,” Leonard tells him. “I walked around the harbor after I left Kate’s…needed to clear my head a bit.”
Brian’s throat seizes and burns. “Shit,” he whispers hoarsely. He shrinks back on the couch and starts to tremble uncontrollably. Panic fills his body, grasping each and every nerve. It drags him down into the void. Brian starts to cry, his tears and whimpering coming furiously.
“Hey,” Leonard says, shaking his head as he reaches for Brian and cups his face. “Take a deep breath, darlin’. It’s okay; it’s just us.” Leonard scoops Brian into his arms and holds him close, dapping his tears away with his sleeve and hushing him in a soothing rumble. “Baby,” he hears Leonard sighs as he starts rocking them.
Brian feels his boyfriend’s lips against his forehead and the warmth of his breath against his skin. He buries his head into the curve of Leonard’s shoulder and shudders helplessly. “It’s okay, darlin’. Your idiot boyfriend is just putting his foot in his mouth again.”
Brian chokes on a laugh and peers up at Leonard, who is smiling crookedly. His lips tremble as his boyfriend brushes away the newly fallen tears that seep down his cheeks. “How bad was it?” he asks before he loses the nerve.
“Well, it’s not great,” he answers truthfully. Leonard eases Brian’s head into the hollow of his throat and rests his chin on top. His fingers stroke the younger man’s hair, pausing to scratch Brian’s scalp. “But it’s not as bad as you’re imagining.”
He practically collapses against his lover as his panic deflates, the rush making his head spin. Brian closes his eyes as he relaxes into Leonard’s ministrations. “So I’m not a mass murderer?” he tries to joke despite the warble in his voice.
“No darlin’,” Leonard assures lovingly. “You’re not.”
Brian exhales deeply and nuzzles his cheek against Leonard’s shirt. “I’m not sure if I want to know,” he admits quietly. “Or if I even want to remember.”
“I think you should talk to her,” Leonard tells him. “Even if you don’t ask Kate for specifics, aren’t you curious to learn about yourself from someone who knows you?” When Brian shakes his head, he hears the doctor sigh. “What about your family?”
He swallows at the mention of them; the figments of imagination that he doesn’t remember. The picture of Danny’s face is ingrained into his mind, but not the ones of his parents. “I’m not ready,” Brian whispers, feeling guilty as hell as soon as the words leave his mouth. It burns into his throat and eyes in the form of a sob that Brian knows Leonard can detect.
“Okay darlin’,” Leonard murmurs into his hair. One of Leonard’s hands gently squeezes the back of his neck as he kisses Brian’s forehead. “Even if you’re never ready, I’ll still love you. You know that, don’t you?”
Brian nods as tears roll down his face because he knows it’s true. “I’ve never doubted that,” he replies with a grin. “Not even once.”
Eventually, he and Leonard will get off the couch and make themselves dinner, but for now, Brian is content to stay in the safety of the doctor’s arms.
The rest of the week passes without incident and with Leonard returning to work.
Brian keeps himself occupied with various activities that keep him out of the apartment. He hangs out with Scotty and Hikaru, who take him hiking followed by beers at a local pub with Christine. He and Nyota finish the movie they were watching and go running along the harbor every morning. He works on his lesson plans for the coming weeks and plays the piano when he knows Leonard will be walking through the door.
Brian smiles to himself when he hears the keys in the door and the doctor’s footsteps on the hardwood floors. His laughter is ringing over the sound of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer.
“You’re ridiculous,” Leonard chuckles as he wraps his arms around Brian’s midsection. It’s clear that he’s happy to see the younger man in better spirits. “You’re ridiculous, and I love you.”
“I’m not sure if I should be offended or touched,” Brian quips as he continues playing.
Leonard kisses the juncture of his neck and shoulder, nibbling on the sensitive skin and wetting it with his tongue. “A bit of both,” he murmurs into Brian’s ear.
“You should make it up to me,” Brian moans as he struggles with finishing the piece. Leonard has always had a distracting effect on him, even before they became a couple. He hadn’t realized it before, chalking up his mixed emotions to annoyance when it was the furthest thing from the truth.
As Leonard’s tongue moves down back his neck, Brian rests his head against his shoulder. Leonard’s fingers brush against his bottom lip. “Maybe I will,” he teases in a rumbling voice.
They haven’t made love in days and Brian knows that both of them have missed the feeling of naked skin on skin. He flicks the tip of his tongue out to brush against the doctor’s index finger, tasting the salty tang of skin in his mouth.
Leonard groans as he eases his finger deeper into Brian’s mouth. “Are you done?” the doctor asks, desperately.
A moan escapes his lips and Brian finds himself nodding eagerly. They go to their bedroom with their hands clasped together. Inside, Brian undresses and begins prepping himself for his boyfriend’s heated, making him feel so incredibly exposed that he doubts he’ll last long. He has two fingers inside of himself when Leonard kisses him from behind. “Len,” Brian chokes out. “I need you.”
“Fuck,” Leonard groans as he grabs the lube and slicks himself up. He situates himself on his side next to Brian and eases the younger man’s fingers out of himself, amidst a string of curses. They both cry out at the first press of the doctor’s cockhead against Brian’s entrance, sinking in slowly. He feels one of his legs being pushed up towards his chest, held in place by Leonard’s hand. Brian reaches for his lover’s face, bringing it closer so that their lips barely touch at first.
Filled to the brink, Brian presses his mouth against Leonard’s and groans as they devour each other. Leonard thrusts in and out of him, breaking the kiss for better leverage, while Brian strokes himself and babbles about how he wants it harder, faster, deeper. He cries out over the slapping of skin as Leonard obliges him, dropping his head onto the pillows and groaning, “Len, Len, Len…”
Brian climaxes first, shouting into a pillow as his semen coats his fingers, knuckles, and the sheets. His body thrums as Leonard pumps into him during the aftershocks before breathlessly moaning “Oh Brian.”
He feels his lover fill him up with his seed. Leonard’s blunt fingernails dig into his thigh, only loosening when they both relax. They lie chest to back, bodies slick with sweat and still buzzing from a long-needed release. Leonard snakes an arm around Brian’s waist and presses his forehead into the back of his neck.
“We’re going to have to change the sheets,” Brian mutters with a grin. His heart still flutters, still madly in love with the man holding him. He doesn’t want to move, at least for now when things between them are going back to normal.
Leonard’s lips brush against his skin and he holds him tighter. “We’ll do it later, darlin’,” he tells him as if he’s read Brian’s mind.
While Brian walks home from work when he decides to stop by a cafe that’s on the waterfront.
He discovered with it Nyota during the first month of living in Auckland and likes that it’s never too busy to distract him from reading. He orders his usual hot chocolate with whipped cream and a scone before finding an empty nook to squirrel away in. Brian’s sure that Leonard will lecture him on how much fat is in whipped cream and what it will do to his arteries, but it doesn’t matter as he takes his first sip. He does a cursory lick of his upper lip before taking his book out of his bag and starts to read.
Life has settled down since the incident at the hospital, though the cloud of what-ifs still lingers over his head. In the end, Brian refuses to allow Leonard to tell him what he learned from Kate. There are moments of doubt in his decision and perhaps some curiosity, but the very thought of it makes a panic surge and nausea claw its way into his body.
Not knowing is better than the crippling emotions that Brian experienced over a month ago.
He rips off a piece of his scone and pops it into his mouth, enjoying the solitude. The bell that hangs over the front door to the cafe rings, though Brian is too engrossed in his book to bother looking up.
The sounds of a drink being made, followed by shoes walking across the floor. It’s all white noise and he’s able to tune most of it out. Brian brings his drink to his lips and sips on it as his eyes move across the printed text in front of him.
He looks up, mid-sip, and sees Kate standing in front of his table. She holds a to-go cup and has the same wide-eyed expression he remembers from the hospital. The natural light of the cafe gives her skin a peaches and cream hue which makes her look less fearsome than Brian remembers.
“Hi,” he responds as he sets his drink down on the table.
“Hi,” Kate echoes. She sounds just as uncomfortable as himself, looking everywhere, but his face. “What book are you reading?”
Brian tilts the book to show her the cover. “It’s called The Bourne Identity,” he explains. “A friend of mine recommended it to me. Have you heard of it before?”
“Yeah,” Kate says with shy laughter. “It’s the one with the secret agent who has amnesia, right?”
Brian glances up at Kate who has a smile on her face and nods. He notices her dimples on her cheeks, almost like Leonard’s, and the way her brown eyes light up, wondering if he noticed it before his accident. “Hikaru thought I would like it,” he tells her quietly.
He shrugs and wrinkles his nose. “Jury’s still out,” he answers honestly.
“Personally, I enjoyed the movies more,” Kate tells him. “Danny and I went to see the third one after finals. We were exhausted from studying but needed something fun to do and it was the only movie playing at eleven in the morning.” She chuckles at the memory before catching the look of confusion on Brian’s face and becoming uncomfortable. “Danny…your brother.”
Brian blushes at the mention of him and closes the book, tapping the cover with his fingers as they lapse into an awkward silence. “Would you like to sit down?” he asks, remembering his manners.
“Are you sure?” Kate replies. “I don’t want to bother you…”
Brian shakes his head. “It’s fine,” he assures as he sets his bag down on the floor beside his chair and drapes his jacket over behind him.
“If you’re just trying to be…” Kate starts to say.
He looks up and shakes his head. “Please,” he insists, offering her a lopsided grin. “I’d like the company.”
She contemplates his offer for a moment, her thoughts perfectly masked by a stoic expression, before she decides to sit down in the chair next to him. Kate sets her drink down on the table and removes her cardigan that covers up her hospital scrubs. “How have you been settling in?” she asks as she rolls up the article of clothing and shoves it into her bag.
“Fine, I guess,” Brian replies, watching her movements in awe. “What about you?”
Kate brushes away a lock of hair that’s come loose from her ponytail and makes a pondering facial expression. “I like it,” she says. “It’s different from Chicago.”
“Chicago?” Brian inquires.
“That’s where I’m from,” she supplies patiently. Kate reaches for her drink and swallows some of it down, keeping her eyes on Brian the entire time. “You’re from Connecticut. I didn’t know if you remembered that or not.”
Brian is a bit stunned to hear information about him said with such certainty. It’s always been possibilities, perhaps, and fragments of information found in the database or through other means.
“I don’t remember that much,” he admits quietly. He lowers his eyes to his hands that are cupped around his mug of hot chocolate. “I mean, I know basic things: how to read, how to write, math, a bit of history… and playing the piano. Nothing else though.”
“Leonard tells me that you’re a music teacher at one of the schools,” Kate says.
Brian smiles at the mention of his lover’s name and the way it feels him feel; like he’s falling in love with him all over again. “Yeah. I like it a lot.”
“That’s good,” she tells him with a grin. “I bet your students love you.”
Brian raises a brow. “Was I good with kids?”
“Very,” Kate answers with an affirmative nod. “I always wondered when you and Bobby would settle down and start a family of your own…before…well before.”
Brian nods in understanding. “Who’s Bobby?”
“She was your girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend?” Brian inquiries in mild surprise. “I had a girlfriend?” He sees Kate nod as he leans back in his chair in awe. “I didn’t expect that.”
Kate laughs, covering her mouth with her hand. “Sorry,” she apologies. “It’s just funny. Telling you about yourself.”
“How did I meet her?” Brian asks, his curiosity getting the best of him.
Kate furrows her brow, trying to remember. “I think she was a cellist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I only met her a handful of times before the virus broke out and after that, we didn’t talk much about our lives from before.”
“She died,” he whispers. “Didn’t she?”
Kate nods sadly. “She contracted the virus,” she tells him in a trembling voice. “I think it was a little girl who infected her…I’m not really sure though. We had to leave her at a gas station and by then, she already had the rashes and bruising.” Kate wipes her cheeks and forces a smile while Brian watches her. “It must be strange to be told about a memory you don’t recall.”
“It is,” he admits, gripping the mug more tightly. “Part of me wants to know what happened to me before I was found.”
“But you’re scared,” Kate says, finishing his thought with a sad smile. “Leonard told me the day he came over to my apartment.”
“Terrified is a more appropriate word,” Brian quips with a harsh laugh. He bites his lower lip, gnawing on the skin nervously.
Kate scoots closer to the table and touches his hand. “Before I tell you anything I want you to know that everything you did—everything you had to do—it kept us alive,” she tells him as she squeezes his hand and looks him in the eye. “Okay?”
He swallows down the panic in his throat and nods. “Okay,” he whispers.
“The four of us were traveling to Turtle Beach because there was this hotel that you and Danny used to go to as kids,” Kate explains. “You were in charge because you still had your head on your shoulders. The rest of us were scared shitless and followed your rules to keep ourselves from getting infected. Things started going wrong after we were stopped by this man and his daughter, who was infected.”
She pauses for a moment to look at Brian, who listens in a mixture of horror and fascination. “The car broke down and our only chance of getting away from them was to steal theirs, so we drove them to this nearby high school. Apparently, a doctor had developed a cure; it turns out it wasn’t the case. We left them at the high school and took their car but by then Bobby was already infected. We were almost captured by these survivalists who wanted just me and Bobby…but then they saw her rashes. That’s why they let us go, and we left her.”
Brian nods slowly. “How did I get infected?” he stammers. “Was it from her?”
“I think so,” Kate responds gently. “You had no idea that she was sick until it was too late, Brian. If she kept traveling with us, we all would have died.”
“What happened?” he asks. “After we left her?”
Kate’s hand moves to his wrist, her thumb stroking the exposed skin gently. “We were running low on fuel, and these two women wouldn’t help us. You were starting to unravel from the stress and losing Bobby and you fired at their car. You ended up getting shot in the leg and that’s how Danny found out you were infected,” she continues on, her voice fading as tears fill her eyes.
Kate’s lips tremble and she stops speaking to collect herself. “I told Danny that we needed to leave you and we were going to, but you woke up and you had the car keys. You kept refusing to hand them over until Danny agreed to let you travel with us, but he wouldn’t. He couldn’t because he knew we’d die and then you finally said ‘I don’t want to end up alone like the rest of them’.”
“What did I make him do?” Brian rasps, his throat and eyes burning.
Kate swallows down a sob and squeezes his wrist. “You begged him to shoot you so you wouldn’t suffer and you kept telling him it was okay and you loved him,” she whimpers quietly. “And he did…he shot you and we were going to burn your body like you had asked, but we heard someone coming. We were afraid it was those women, so we left you.”
He feels tears wetting his cheeks at the revelation and rolling into the collar of his sweater. “I told…I told him to,” he whispers before he brings a hand to his mouth.
He sobs muffled into his palm, allowing himself to cry quietly. Brian never expected that to be the truth; that he wanted his own brother to shoot him, that he had begged him to.
He registers the scrape of a chair against the floor, then the scent of Kate’s perfume as she wraps her arms around him. “Shh,” she soothes into his ear. “It’s okay.” She holds him tighter and presses her hand against the base of his skull.
“I asked my brother to kill me,” he counters, his voice muffled. As soon as the words are spoken, Brian’s momentary resolve crumbles and he weeps into Kate’s shoulder. “Who asks someone to do that?”
“You thought you were doing the right thing,” Kate whispers to him as she pulls back and reaches for a napkin. She hands it to Brian so he can wipe his cheeks. “No one knew that he was a lousy shot.”
Brian is about to blow his nose when she says the latter and ends up laughing into the flimsy paper cloth. Kate joins him and reaches for another napkin. “Thanks,” he says as she gives it to him. Brian cleans himself up and tosses the used ones into the trash nearby. When he turns back to her, he decides he’s calm enough to hear the rest of the story. “What happened after you two left?”
“We went to that hotel and stayed for a few months before the Farragut recovery team found us. Well, found me,” Kate tells him. “He wasn’t the same afterward, and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to take care of him, going out on supply runs and making sure we were safe. But Danny wasn’t going to make it.”
He is sympathetic and reaches for Kate’s hand. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“I know it wasn’t my fault,” she rationalizes. “We had all lost so much and he couldn’t handle it. I went out to the beach to get some air and when I came back, he had shot himself.” Kate squeezes his hand back and falls silent, indicating that’s the end of the story.
Brian lets it all resonate, though none of it sounds familiar. He feels like someone is reading him a story, replacing the fictional characters with people from his past. “It’s strange to hear someone tell me about myself,” he admits.
“I can’t even imagine what this must be like for you,” Kate sympathizes.
He shrugs because he knows it could be worse. “Can I ask you something about my parents?” Brian sees Kate nodding. “I keep having this feeling that they didn’t like that I became a pianist…I can’t really explain it. Is it true?”
“Yeah,” she replies, sadly. “I don’t really know the whole story, but your parents wanted you to do something more practical and you wanted to be a musician. Danny mentioned that they wouldn’t help you pay for Eastman, but you had a scholarship.”
Brian feels numb and wonders what his parents thought of him striking out on his own. Had they been proud in the end or did they ignore his success? “What about Danny?” he whispers.
“He was always proud of you,” Kate assures.
Even if he doesn’t remember his brother, knowing that Danny stood by his side makes Brian feel better.
Kate walks him home because her apartment is in the same direction and only a few more blocks away than his.
They are both silent and lost in their own thoughts as they fall into step with each other. Brian feels drained and all he wants to do when he gets home is wrap himself up in Leonard’s arms and stay there. His lips quirk at the thought, knowing that the doctor will be more than obliging.
“Are you okay?” Kate asks him as they wait for a light to turn.
He nods, finding that he is actually okay. “It was a lot to take in,” he says, blushing. “But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
“If you ever need to talk,” she offers, pausing when Brian looks at her. Kate smiles. “I’m here, just so you know.”
Brian smiles back at her. “Thanks,” he tells her in all sincerity. “I appreciate it.”
“Oh,” she says as she reaches into her bag. Kate pulls out a photograph—the same one from the hospital—and hands it to him. “I meant to give that to Leonard when he came over, but it slipped my mind. I wanted you to have it.”
Brian stares at his brother and his own faces, the forgotten memory captured by a camera. “Do you think he would be mad at me for not remembering him?”
“He would know that it’s beyond your control,” Kate answers as they come up to the lobby’s entrance of his apartment building. “I kept some of his things; mostly pictures. If you’d like, I can give them to you. When you’re ready.”
He glances at Kate and smiles. “Thank you,” he says, truly grateful.
“You’re welcome,” she tells him with a grin. “I would like us to be friends, Brian.”
“I would like that, too,” he admits.
Kate gives him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek. “Leonard has my number,” she says. “Just give me a call over the weekend and we can set up a time to meet.”
They exchange pleasantries and a final hug before Kate leaves him to go home. Brian watches her disappear around the corner before heading inside.
He holds the photograph in his hand as he lets himself into the apartment with a grin on his face.
“I was just about to call you,” Leonard says as he comes out of the kitchen, still dressed in his scrubs and barefooted. “Everything okay?”
Brian glances down at the photograph once more. “Everything is just as it should be,” he replies as he walks into Leonard’s embrace.