"Hey, Jackson. Haven't heard from you in a while. Call me back?"
Jax's phone beeped and the voice went quiet. He gently laid it beside his pillow and sighed deeply, his hand running through his hair. He couldn't call Andrew back. There was no way to tell him, at least not over the phone.
He picked up the small device, put it back down, and then picked it up again. Why can't I just do this? he asked himself, silently cursing his cowardice. Andrew was his best friend; he had the right to know what was going on with Jax. And yet, that was the reason why Jax couldn't hit the call button. There was so much unsaid, so much that Jax wanted - no, needed - to say to Andrew. But he couldn't hurt his friend like that.
Letting out a growl of frustration, he picked up the phone and tapped out a small message: Meet up at Cal's Coffee at nine tmrw?
Before he backed out again, Jax hit send. There was no getting out of it, he knew. Eventually, Andrew would find out, and Jax would be even more screwed than he already was. Angry at his impossible situation, Jax threw his phone to the other side of the bed, where it landed amidst blankets with a soft thud. He contented himself with letting the phone lay there as he turned his light out and tried to get to sleep. Sleep wasn't likely to come, but Jax tried anyways.
His phone buzzed a moment later, and Jax knew it was Andrew. He debated whether or not to open it, and decided it was better if he did. Perhaps Andrew would decline, and Jax wouldn't have to worry anymore. He stretched out to reach for it, and before he even grasped it, he knew that Andrew would not decline. Jax would have to tell him like he told everyone else, and it would be a disaster. He regretfully looked at the small screen.
Nine at Cal's it is, read the message. Jax snapped off the screen and let out a sigh even deeper than the first. placing his phone next to his head, he sank into a fitful sleep, anxious for the day to come.
Andrew drummed his fingers on the table in front of him. Jax was supposed to have been here twenty minutes ago. As his hands tapped nervously, he caught a sympathetic look from a couple across the coffee shop. They probably assumed Andrew had been stood up for a date. It certainly felt that way to him, though he would never admit that out loud.
A few minutes later, someone slipped into the seat across from Andrew, startling him out of his thoughts. "Sorry I'm late," Jax said, his voice shaking a little. Was he… scared?
"Not a problem," Andrew said. To tell the truth, he was a little anxious too. Jax had up and disappeared from everything overnight. Andrew was concerned for his friend, and was nervous as to what might have caused it.
A moment of awkward silence passed before Jax spoke up. "Listen, Andrew, I have to tell you something." Jax fidgeted in his chair, his voice quivering and soft. "I've been away a lot and…" his voice broke.
"What is it?" Andrew said quietly, giving Jax a caring look.
Jax gulped, and Andrew could see a tear welling up in his eye. "Andrew… I have terminal cancer…"
Andrew put a hand to his mouth. "Oh my god," he whispered. "Jax, I didn't… How long?"
The tear was now sliding down Jax's face, and he wiped it off with his sleeve. "The doctor said three weeks, four if I'm lucky," Jax paused to suck in a breath. "Andrew, I didn't know how to tell you."
Andrew stared at Jax in shocked silence. They had been friends since sixth grade, and had always done everything together. They even went to the same university the year before. Without Jax, it would be like Andrew was half of himself. "I don't know what to say…" Andrew said finally, wiping his own tears from his eyes before Jax could notice.
Jax met his eyes from across the table. Jax's eyes were the color of the ocean, and they seemed to flow like the ocean when the light danced off of them. They were piercing, and Andrew's heart skipped a beat when he looked into them. They were eyes that Andrew didn't know what he would do without.
Jax looked away sheepishly, and then settled his eyes on his hands. "I know it's a lot to ask, but…" Jax's eyes wandered back to Andrew's. His eyes were honey-brown, with small flecks of gold in them. "Well, I know I don't have long, and I wanted to spend the rest of that time… with you."
Andrew gasped softly. "Jax…"
Jax looked away and started to get up, his face reddening. Andrew placed a tentative hand on Jax's sleeve, making him freeze. "No, I didn't mean…" his voice softened to just barely a breath. "I want that too."
Jax smiled, his eyes wet. "Really?"
Andrew stood and threw his arms around Jax, something he wanted to do since the day they met. "Of course," he said into Jax's shoulder.
Jax melted into Andrew's arms, not caring about the tears that now flowed freely from his eyes. "I…" Jax stammered. "I love you…"
Andrew pulled away so he could look into Jax's eyes once more. They sparkled with the joy that came with opening oneself to love, but were marred with a tinge of despair. "I love you too," Andrew said, his breath catching in his throat.
Jax's heart skipped a beat. What was he doing? He would die in a month, and Andrew would only be hurt. Struck with this thought, Jax looked away. "I'm sorry, Andrew. I shouldn't have…"
Andrew just embraced him once more with the swiftness and sureness that only love could supply. "Jax, as long as you're happy, I will do anything," he promised with a confident smile. In truth, he wasn't sure what he would do when Jax was… no he couldn't think about that.
Andrew cast those thoughts out of his mind, and before he could think better of it, leaned down to Jax and kissed him. Jax, caught by surprise, stiffened, and then collapsed back into Andrew, returning his kiss. When the boys broke apart, neither said a word. Andrew was all too aware of the horrified looks the couple who had just sympathized with him were giving them. Jax seemed to be thinking the same thing, because he pulled himself away from Andrew, and picked up his jacket that was slung across the back of his chair.
"Come back to my place?" he offered timidly. Andrew smiled a warm, beautiful smile, and tenderly held Jax's hand.
"Whatever makes you happy."
Andrew grasped Jax's hand, never wanting to let go. Jax was laying on a hospital bed, beeping machines surrounding him. Andrew sat beside the bed, the only one in the room, save for a doctor. Jax's parents were supposed to be there with him in his final days, but when they learned that Jax loved Andrew, they shunned their son. My son is already dead, his father had spat over the phone.
"Andrew," the doctor started gently. "He's been like this for two days. I think it's time…"
Andrew looked up at the doctor, his face stained with tears. "No, we can't give up on him!" he said in a choked whisper.
"I know it's hard to let go, but he doesn't have long. A day on life support at most," the doctor put his hand on Andrew's shoulder. It was supposed to comfort him, but it only made Andrew cry harder.
He shook his head. "I can't just let him die."
"He's in pain, Andrew," the doctor said. "I can't force you to make a decision, but it's for the best."
Andrew leaned his head on Jax's chest. It rose and fell robotically, assisted by a machine strapped onto him. Andrew's eyes traced Jax's face that was covered by masks and tubes. His eyes, once so full of energy, were half open, the life gones from them. The doctor was right, Andrew knew, but he couldn't bring himself to tell the doctor to do it.
The doctor, seeming to read Andrew's thoughts, said in a quiet tone, "Would you like to take him off life support?"
A tear fell onto Jax's cold hand, and Andrew nodded numbly. "Can I have a moment?" he said to the doctor, struggling to get the words out.
The doctor nodded solemnly. "I'll be waiting outside."
Andrew nodded his thanks and turned to look at Jax. Even in this state, he was still the most beautiful person Andrew had ever seen. "I love you so much," Andrew whispered into Jax's ear. He wasn't sure if Jax could even hear him, but he wanted those to be the last words he said to him. "I love you…" he repeated over and over, not wanting to leave Jax's side.
Finally, Andrew pulled himself up from the bed and walked over to the door. He opened it, and a team of doctors streamed into the room. One doctor took Andrew by the shoulders and steered him into another room. Just before he left Jax, he heard the steady rhythm of beeping turn into one, long pulse.
Andrew collapsed into a chair and wept. For Jax. For the love they shared. He wept until he had no more tears left to shed.
Andrew was the only one at the funeral. Jax's family didn't bother to show up, and Andrew didn't know who else to contact. As two tired workers put Jax into the ground, Andrew stood alone. When the sun went down, he stayed and wept bitterly.
"I love you, Jax."