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All The Effects Of Love (ch.13)

Title: All The Effects Of Love (13/15)
Author: honestys_easy
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with any of them, and in no way responsible for creating the awesome that is Brace. I don’t even live in New York anymore so I can’t even claim that!
Summary: Through the years of first glances, first kisses, first loves, Brandon Rogers and Ace Young had the perfect relationship. But when tragedy strikes, the couple discovers how much they truly mean to one another.
Author’s Notes: This is the sequel to my Chris/Blake New York AU Smile A Smile For Me, telling the story of Brace’s relationship that was a side story just dying to be expanded. The first story doesn’t have to be read to understand this one, but there are recurring characters and relationships among them in both. I hope you like reading this as much as I’ve loved writing it: I haven’t put this much into two characters and a storyline perhaps ever.
Huge thanks and much love to my beta, dreamerren, for the ideas and the planning and the squee and for “Duh!” one year ago that brought all of this to life. ♥



          Chapter 13

          August 2007


Brandon hated being out of New York.

The glaring red numbers on the hotel's alarm clock set the time at just before midnight, burning into the dark and playing tricks on Brandon's mind. He should have been sleeping, or at the very least tired - his brain and the heaviness in his limbs told him his eyes were being deceived and it was indeed far later than the clock dared to tell him - but he just couldn't put head to pillow, not when he kept thinking about the city and the people he just left behind.

Moonlight streamed in through the floor-to-ceiling window of the room, a bright, cooling light battling against the red hues of the alarm clock dancing off the tacky hotel wallpaper, and Brandon marveled at the power of the moon's rays. In his apartment in New York, even high above the streets on the fifth floor, the moon always paled and withered away in comparison to the constant orange glow of the sodium streetlights on every corner. Brandon grew up with those lights, knew to associate that eerie, darkroom glow with the night, and it wasn't until a college road trip did he realize there were places in this country without the constant monitor of streetlights, roads that saw a kind of darkness that simply didn't exist in Manhattan. In those places, and in this place, it felt like an entirely different world, even if this was considered to be the heart of St. Louis.

St. Louis was not New York City.

And sure, Brandon had been out of New York on many occasions - griping about the trials and tribulations of Manhattan was an activity every local engaged in, but truer joy had never been found than visiting a town and complaining of its inadequacies compared to New York. He had visited the latticed streets of Boston, stitched together near the ports like intricate lace; walked the broad avenues and the mall in Washington, everything organized like a Roman triumphal town. But those had all been a long time ago; a long time ago, Brandon thought - it felt like a whole lifetime separated them instead of a few years. This was the first time he had left New York, and in turn, left Ace Young behind.

It was only supposed to be one weekend - a straight-up convention on the future of satellite broadcasting, no team-building exercises or trust fall scheduled - but it was just the first night and already Brandon's heart ached for more than the dull orange streetlights and the sounds of TriBeCa traffic on the street below. He could scarcely remember a night since they had moved in together that he didn't feel the warmth of Ace's body next to his, finding pleasure not in the sensuality of the younger man's tanned skin or toned muscles but purely in his presence, knowing that however dark a Manhattan night might become, Ace would always be there. He didn't know if it was even possible for him to fall asleep without the reliable, living metronome of Ace's beating heart next to his.

Brandon both longed for and dreaded the next day: at the very least the drone of conference speeches and the smell of stale, cooled St. Louis air would take his mind away from his separation from Ace, but it also meant another night without him, just as sleepless as this night, peering out the window and wondering how bright the moon shone over the Hudson River hundreds of miles away. He only wished Ace could have taken him up on the offer to come with him, but he wasn't the only one with career obligations that were suddenly keeping them apart. Ace's firm landed a particularly difficult case where the details were left in the sticky fine print of a third-rate contract, and it was up to the thankless junior partners to separate the wheat from the chaff. On more than one occasion that night Brandon weighed the pros and cons of skipping the conference altogether and taking a flight out of his own pocket back to New York.

An insistent knock at the door broke Brandon out of his thoughts. He had ordered room service in an attempt to take his mind off of his loneliness for New York and Ace, but he hadn't expected it to arrive so quickly. He doubted a plate of predictably mediocre chicken scampi was going to get him to forget his troubles, but it was better than moping around an empty, moonlit hotel room. Besides, it was on the radio station's expense account; he wouldn't forgive himself if he didn't take advantage.

Quickly counting out an ample tip from his wallet, Brandon walked over to the door and opened it, too preoccupied with the bills in his hand to notice the familiar frame standing before him and the definite absence of chicken scampi. "Put the meal on the room bill," he said, eyes to his wallet. "This is for you -"

"Really? Usually, you don't tip."

The voice, as familiar to Brandon as breathing, was what made the older man's head shoot up, eyes wide with sudden excitement and life. There, leaning against the doorframe casually as if it were the doorway to their own apartment and not to a foreign hotel room was Ace, smile wide and toothy and as inviting to Brandon as the Manhattan skyline. The brown suit he had been wearing all day at work was wrinkled and disheveled and there were the beginnings of deep circles underneath his eyes; it was indeed late and there was no telling how much work Ace had been through to get himself from Manhattan to St. Louis. But all Brandon could think about was that he was here.

Brandon's face broke out into a grin as the realization dawned on him, and he laughed with joy in spite of himself. "I can't believe -" he began, but two strong arms cut him off, wrapping around his shoulders and enfolding him into a much-missed embrace. It had only been a few hours since they had separated but the prospect of staying apart for the entire weekend, sleeping in a cold, foreign bed and waking up without the love of his life by his side...it shook Brandon more than he liked to admit. "Oh, Ace," he resolved himself to a relieved sigh, melting into Ace's touch, not caring a bit if the embrace further wrinkled the suit of his lover.

"I missed you," Ace said into the crook of Brandon's neck, voice filled with emotion. His breath tickled at Brandon's ear and breezed past the hairs on the back of his neck; God, he loved that feeling. "So," the younger man's tone turned decidedly sly, "Are you going to invite me in, or do I have to properly say hello in the hallway?"

Figuring Ace's plan to properly greet him was something the inhabitants of the St. Louis Ramada's fifth floor should not see, Brandon led them both back into the hotel room, the click of the door's automatic lock kindly letting the couple know they were blissfully alone. The moment they were inside Brandon felt a hand run through his coarse hair; an anchor, he knew well enough, as the hand tipped his head back to receive Ace's kiss.

"How did you get here?" he asked, their figures lit only by the moonlight as Ace held him close, refusing the request from his tired limbs to sit down and rest.

Ace snickered, kissing along the older man's jawline. "There are these things called airplanes," he joked. "Amazing inventions..."

Brandon chuckled, more from this sudden and completely surprising assault of affection from his boyfriend than his question evasion. "Dick," he said, poking Ace in between rib bones with an index finger; Ace simply replied with an excited hum and a "Yes, please" mumbled into Brandon's collarbone. "I thought you had a big case and couldn't get away from work."

"I got Luke to cover for me." Considering the urgency with which the firm seemed to acknowledge this particular case, Brandon mused that Ace might have to lend Luke Menard a kidney in the future if he asked for it. "I couldn't imagine being away from you all weekend. The apartment would have felt so empty."

He had the same sentiment, that all of St. Louis would have felt dull and lifeless, like an old fading photograph, and that he needed the vibrancy of his New York neighborhoods again, and Ace. He shivered with pleasure as Ace pressed his lips against the sensitive spot behind his ear and wasted no time in whispering seductively, "Lay on the bed. I want to watch you undress, baby."

Brandon would have laughed and told Ace he sounded like he studied some bad porno scripts on the flight, but suddenly all the blood had drained from his brain and gone elsewhere, leaving him with the capacity only to moan and reach out instinctively when Ace pulled away, giving the older man a playful push towards the bed. He walked backwards, not wanting to take his eyes off of Ace for one second lest this all be some sort of convention hall daydream, until his calves hit the unfamiliar bedspread, his face widening to a grin as he lowered himself to the mattress. "It's not anything you haven't seen before," Brandon reminded him, his mind recalling both the hidden and deliberate times, countless now, that he had undressed in front of Ace, watching the lust and fascination wash over his face every time like it was the first.

Shaking his head, Ace countered him as he slid his suit jacket from his shoulders, taking care even in its wrinkled state to hang it up along the room's closet rod. "I've never seen you in St. Louis before." Brandon, understandably, couldn't argue with this logic, so off went his shirt, unceremoniously dropped to the floor in harmonious contrast with Ace's jacket. The younger man stopped; entranced by the exposed flesh of his lover, bathed in a kind of moonlight they never witnessed in New York. It danced against Brandon's features, his toned chest, the stomach he complained wasn't close to the condition it had been in his prime but Ace neither noticed nor cared. As far as he was concerned, his lover, like a fine wine, only got better with age, more refined, matured. And Ace could drink in either all night long.

And in Brandon's mind the night felt different, the cool tones of moonlight contrasting the orange glare of New York's sleepless streets and the firm, unfamiliar give of the mattress underneath his frame as he reclined, propping himself up on elbows and watching Ace meticulously unbutton his shirt. But it was the small gestures that made it feel calmingly similar to their daily routine, one deeply rooted in love and understanding and branched out into familiarity: Ace's warm, toothy smile with a hint of mischief lingering in his dimples, the shirt politely joining the suit jacket within the closet, nestled together for neatness’ sake. The way Ace's hand caressed his cheek as the younger man's body slid alongside his, sparks of desire exploding between them, then that hand and his kisses moving lower still.

"Bet you're really thanking Luke for that favor, huh," Brandon's breath came in heavy pants as he felt his lover's fingertips graze down his flanks, a trail of kisses following them to his hips.

He felt a low chuckle, hot breath against his flesh, the cock in his jeans throbbing from the anticipation, knowing Ace's inviting mouth was only inches away. "Baby," Ace's voice reverberated down his spine in time with the movement of his descending zipper, with his pants dropping to the carpet. "Luke...is the last thing on my mind right now." Brandon wholeheartedly believed him when he felt the wet heat of Ace's mouth overtop him, kissing tantalizingly at first, teasing with a tongue that knew exactly how to make Brandon squirm.

Brandon arched his back with a moan from deep in his throat, trying to get closer to that familiar heat, but Ace held his hips firmly against the mattress, the body in between Brandon's legs completely in control. The younger man gave Brandon a devilish look - not before I say so, love - and flicked his tongue out against the shaft, fishing for the sounds out of Brandon's mouth he loved to hear.

"I want you." Just the sound of Ace's voice like that, so needy, so insistent, caused Brandon to shudder with pleasure, his hand tangled in the bedspread, gripping. Even though his instincts told him to roll his head back, arch into the heat dancing around his cock, he had his chin tucked against his chest, watching every movement Ace made while his neck screamed in discomfort. The younger man bathed in moonlight, down on his knees, licking and sucking and toying with Brandon until neither man could take it any longer...how could Brandon give up a sight like that?

Glancing down he saw Ace's own pants down to his hips, his hard cock such a familiar sight to Brandon, the younger man stroking himself with deep, torturously slow thrusts. His breath came low and damp against Brandon's skin, panting as he grazed his other hand along the bedsheets, finding its mark in Brandon's gripping fingers, entwining them with his own. "I want all of you."

"I'm yours for the taking," Brandon had to smile at just how well Ace could play him, knew the steps that never felt routine; his words devolved into a shameless moan as Ace took him whole expertly, knowing deliciously he had Brandon ensnared. This time his head did tip back, no longer able to hold the passion within his body at bay. "Yours..." he repeated breathlessly, rolling his hips against Ace's frame and feeling his head bob above him, their entwined fingers grounding them both. "...Always."

He had thought his loneliness and boredom in St. Louis was over missing his home, the island of concrete and history, of hopes and loves and dreams. But lying there in that hotel room in a city whose stories still remained silent to him, Brandon knew, as he made love to the man he wanted with him for the rest of their lives, that anywhere Ace Young was, it was home.

***


          May 2008

Lakisha Jones wished she could switch to the day shift. She had too many years on this job working with the sick, injured, and ungrateful; too many years of not tucking her daughter into bed every evening and singing her the calming lullaby she created while still on maternity leave. She had known when she chose her concentration in nursing school that the realm of an emergency care nurse was not merely taking patients' blood pressure and handing out lollipops, but she had been up for the challenge, always striving to do her best and never letting the nay-sayers tell her otherwise. But she hadn't expected a night position at one of the busiest critical care centers in Manhattan and she hadn't expected to tackle more paperwork than patients. If she never saw the word "triplicate" again, she could die happy.

Besides, nighttime was when all the crazies came out, and six years on the job already kept her privy to the fact that New York had an abundance of them. She couldn't count the number of drunks brought in from the street raving about the government or the poor souls that fell through the gaping cracks of the country's programs for the mentally ill, like the strange man who stumbled in a few months prior in pink lamé who couldn't decide on his admission chart if his name was Norman or Nicholas. The night had its fill of gang attacks, of rape victims barely clinging onto life, of domestic disputes who refused social services and left unsettled to cycle over again. Nurse Jones came to this profession to help save lives, to make the world a healthier and better place, but she’d since discovered the world needed more than she could give it to be a better place.

It was definitely a feat when one of her tougher cases of the night was an MTA bus versus a pedestrian, and the pedestrian lost. The logistics of the case were nothing spectacular, nothing she hadn't seen before from the mix of tiny streets, frustrated drivers and reckless walkers that made up Manhattan; despite the man's injuries, it was always a good sign that he hadn't arrived with his internal organs mimicking a meat pie, and he'd probably survive the night. No, the issue with this case wasn't the patient but all those loved ones hovering around the nurses' station, waiting for answers about this man that may never come. Lakisha didn't like keeping information from those who obviously cared about a patient - especially that one man, whose determination mixed with tragic fragility told her more than his words did that he cared about this patient more than his own life. But rules were rules, and hospital policy and patient confidentiality were liabilities she wasn't about to break. She could complain about her job and the grueling hours as much as she'd like, but it didn't mean she was willing to lose it over one patient and his boyfriend.

Sighing as she lingered inside the patient's quiet recovery room, Lakisha allowed the silence and peacefulness to sink in through her skin, down to her tired muscles and the bones that felt like they had been working at this job since she had been born. She needed some time away from the front desk, the endless queue of the sick, the injured and the entitled, and the desperate, pleading eyes of this patient's boyfriend, silently begging for answers. No one but an emergency room nurse could fully appreciate the peacefulness of a still hospital room, a refuge away from the chaos that filled every other crevice of the world. Here was the physical manifestation of a pregnant pause; a warm intake of breath, almost as if the room itself was waiting for something to happen.

"You know, sugar," she said to the motionless man lying on the hospital bed as she recorded his vitals. "You don't know how good you got it here among the living. There's a man out there who'd take on this whole hospital just to see your face." She thought back on the men who had come and gone in her life, the sweet-talker who now never called or the strong, solid charmer who wasn't nearly enough of a man to raise a little girl. Didn't everyone just want someone they could trust, that would love them? That would wait for an eternity, if they had to, just to see their love again?

She glanced down at the chart; his vitals were certainly improving from before, the poor thing. She wished she could tell that man out in the waiting room, wished she could tell any of them to reduce their fears. "If I were you," she said, her eyes on the chart, soaking in the extra few moments in white noise silence before she had to return to the hectic waiting room, "I'd stop spending so much damn time in that hospital bed, making that man a nervous wreck."

Nurse Jones was one step away from the door, two steps away from leaving the peace of that hospital room and back to her nightly grind when she heard it: a groan, barely audible in most spaces but in the silence of the room it resonated like a scream inside a crowded theater. Her mind could have been playing tricks on her and she might have needed to head up to Audiology to have her hearing checked, but she knew what she heard and, turning around slowly, she hoped her instincts were right.

Nothing in the room seemed disturbed to the casual viewer but Lakisha's observant eyes, sharp as a bird of prey and as knowledgeable as a prophet, caught the tiniest of movements from the young man laid out on the hospital bed. An involuntary twitch if his fingers, less than a millimeter in fluctuation, but that movement meant consciousness; that groan meant he was awakening.

Immediately the nurse was at his side, monitoring his vitals as they flashed across a computer screen as well as the slow indications of waking from a deep, unintended sleep. His eyes batted open to tiny slits, a magnificent deep green behind his lids; they closed again quickly, the harsh fluorescent light from above too much all at once. His brow creased in a flinch against the stimuli his brain had previously shut out to heal itself; an excellent sign, Lakisha thought, knowing that neurological cognition wouldn't be too far behind.

Another groan came out, this time louder, more pronounced; he was regaining awareness quickly now, wanting to move, wanting to shoo away the gauzy cobwebs of anesthetic sleep. "What..." he croaked out, his voice faint and hoarse from disuse. "Where..."

This was when Lakisha knew to step in. "Don't try to talk, honey," she said in a firm yet soothing voice; for all her stern behavior and glaring eyes, when it came to patients her bedside manner was impeccable. "You're in the Critical Care center at Saint Vincent's. You've been in an accident."

She hunched her squat frame over the bed's railing as much as her toes would allow, attempting to cover the young man with as much shadow as possible so when his eyes did reopen - a slow, deliberate blinking now, he was showing instant progress - the lights above him wouldn't feel so oppressive. He shook his head as much as he could; a tiny movement that felt like sudden whiplash to him, all the sudden movement and awareness flooding his senses in torrents.

"Brandon," he breathed out, disregarding everything the nurse had just advised. It was the first thing he thought of; the only thing that mattered. "Where's Brandon..."

A flash of recognition washed over Lakisha Jones's face, though Ace Young was still too groggy to notice. She examined his face, waiting for him to say it again. "What was that?" she asked, ignoring the procedural nurse in her head telling her to inform a doctor first of his condition and allowing the decent human being to take precedence.

He groaned again, his heartbeat steadily climbing; it was exhausting him to say just these few words but he had to get them out, it meant everything. "My...husband," he said, his logical sense not yet up to speed with his emotions. "Please...I need...to see him..." His pulse was racing now, his quickly growing consciousness mixing with panic and frustration, and his need to see his love.

But Nurse Jones's sternly professional expression broke out into a knowing smile; it was exactly what she, and the hospital's patient confidentiality policies, needed to hear. "Honey," she said confidently as she paged the doctors. They would be able to tend to the young man's physical condition; she needed to see to his emotional one. "You just said the magic words."

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