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All The Effects Of Love (epilogue)

Title: All The Effects Of Love (Epilogue)
Author: honestys_easy
Rating: PG-13
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: I'm just so happy that I could complete this story and that it's up here for everyone to see. It's been an amazing trip and I can't believe how much I've accomplished through these two and their story. It's meant so much to just get it written down and out here, and I hope to continue telling crazy tales from this New York alternate universe for a while. :)
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. This story, and most certainly this whole world, would not be here without you. ♥



          Epilogue

          August 2008

"Man, I hate Canada."

Ace tried to disguise his grin by busying himself with stripping off his shoes and socks for the day, but from the corner of his eye he could see Brandon patting down his hair with a frown on his face. Ace knew Brandon didn't hate Canada - no one could really hate such a harmless, innocuous place like Canada, he supposed, just like no one could hate angel food cake or human interest stories on the news. But fussing over any location that was not New York City was just Brandon Rogers's way, and Ace knew in his heart he wouldn't stand for it otherwise.

Noticing the amused expression on his lover's face as he sat on the edge of the hotel room's bed, Brandon turned to him from the mirror, hoping for confirmation of his woes. "Look at this," he pointed to his afro, which seemed particularly unruly that day and every day since they had arrived in Ontario; apparently Brandon had finally reached his tolerance level. "Do you see this? I look like I belong in the Temptations. It's all this humidity in the air, I hate it here."

But even as he said the words his lips gave away his pleasure with the hint of a smile; he felt Ace's eyes on him and knew that in those eyes, his hair could be on fire and it wouldn't change how he felt about the man. "It looks fine," Ace said, grinning though his argument was weak. Brandon quirked his mouth over to the side and pressed both his palms down against his head in defiance.

"Maybe I should just shave it all off." He had threatened this many times before, usually when the summer months grew hot and unbearable and Brandon was likely to also vow to shave off his skin if he could; it of course never happened, he was too receptive to Ace running his fingers through his coarse hair, that soft tug at his scalp too much of a pleasure to relinquish.

And, just in turn, Ace gave his counter offer to his lover, an extra bargaining chip to ensure Brandon's hair stayed on his head. "If you cut your hair, I'll cut mine," he bartered, knowing Brandon adored Ace's shoulder-length curls too much to let them go. He went to raise both his arms to run his fingers through his hair - a habit that until recently he did more unconsciously than not - but winced from his position at the foot of the bed instead. The couple's light conversation made him momentarily forget about the plaster cast cocooning his left arm and shoulder, rendering it immobile and impossible to indulge his habit. The skin and muscle underneath groaned from the sudden attempt at movement, sending jolts of pain up through his arm. He tried not to make the pain noticeable to the other man in the room, but Brandon already had extensive experience with this exact situation and was at his side in a second.

"Ace?" he whispered, a flash of fear in his eyes. Even though Ace was the one in a cast, Brandon was the one who could never forget the events that awarded it in the first place. Kneeling in front of the younger man, he touched Ace's shoulder, his cheek; gently ran his fingers down over the plaster as if it were flesh.

Both men knew exactly the routine and the sentiment: over the past three months it had happened many times, a wince of pain when Ace momentarily forgot his body was not what it had once been, an exhausted, resentful sigh when everyday tasks like reaching the top shelf or showering became insurmountable. And each time, within seconds Brandon was beside him, comforting him, making sure no further bones nor his spirit had broken. Ace appreciated the support more than anything else he had received from Brandon, save his love: the medications and physical therapy sessions from the hospital minimized any pain he had from his injuries, and it was the frustration that was his true battle. Brandon was there for him with that and more, and each time he asked if Ace was okay, each time Ace momentarily forgot the cast on his arm or the healing scars on his body, he recalled that Brandon held a lot more of that day in his memory than he.

"I'm fine," Ace assured him, reaching out with his good arm to cradle Brandon's cheek, sweep his thumb across his jaw. He smiled when he felt Brandon's hand against his other fingers, the ones peeking out from the cast, and he closed them around his lover's hand comfortingly. At the very least he had that: despite the discomfort, despite the frustration, he still had Brandon by his side, Brandon to touch and to hold and to feel, and that was all that mattered.

The older man's eyes still held concern; he knew Ace liked to push the boundaries of his injuries, but doing so in a foreign country - even Canada - was quite different than attempting it in your own living room. "We can stay in tomorrow," he suggested, their last day of a week in the great North. "I don't want you to overexert yourself."

But Ace shook his head, grinning an open-mouthed smile to prove he had more energy and will than Brandon assumed. "I still have to get my mom a snowglobe," he protested; his mother's collection would be dreadfully incomplete without it. "And I gotta get a Mountie hat for Daughtry or he's gonna kill me."

"I don't mind staying in," Brandon persisted, but the noticeably lower tone in his voice told Ace immediately it wasn't fully over concern with the younger man's well-being. He kept his gaze locked onto Ace's as his hands moved of their own accord to Ace's chest, automatically unfastening the line of buttons on his shirt as he had done every day since the accident. Ace never minded his dependence on Brandon for this one aspect of everyday life - he was never going to complain about another reason for Brandon's hands to be upon him, and when he did once ask the older man if he was uncomfortable with the situation, Brandon stayed silent for a moment, disguising what Ace thought to be a tear, and said in a quiet voice that he would do anything for him.

Delicious, delirious thoughts ran through Ace's head over what the couple could find to do alone in a hotel room in Canada, activities definitely not noted in Ontario's tourism package. But a pang of guilt struck in his gut, causing those thoughts to short-circuit and his lighthearted face to frown. "I'm sorry we couldn't be very touristy this week," he said, forehead creasing in doubt. When Ace had jokingly admitted there wasn't a place cornier nor more fitting for their respite than Niagara Falls, the New Yorker's honeymoon destination of choice in the days of yesteryear, the couple didn't have on their minds the kind of damage a town built around a gigantic waterfall could have on a plaster cast, or the humid air's effect on healing joints and wounds. Not to mention Brandon's hair.

But Ace and Brandon had promised each other they would make the trip as soon as Ace's doctors approved it, and if there was one thing Brandon's mind was set on, it was not to hold off any longer than they had to. He had waited once before, thinking with blinders on that the world would never so drastically change, that his world would not change. He was never going to make that mistake again, especially not with Ace.

Brandon gave a dismissive shrug; when you've grown up around millions of tourists gawking at your city, you don't have much desire to become one of them yourself. "Not what I came here for, anyway," he responded, fingers making their way down Ace's shirt until it was completely unbuttoned. Ace looked down at his lover's handiwork and caught a glint of metal along one of Brandon's slender fingers, catching the light from above, before Brandon took the opportunity to snake his arms past the shirt and around Ace's waist.

They had kissed while Ace had still been bedridden in the hospital, beyond certainty, but it was always unbalanced and awkward, with Ace complaining he felt like some Disney princess placed under a spell to be awakened by a prince. When he had arose from his hospital bed for the first time, with his doctor and nurses monitoring his progress, the first thing Ace did was pull Brandon into an embrace - it had been so long since he had held him, really felt him in his arms - and kiss him properly. Now, they kissed as if each time their lips met it was a precious gift, a sacred one, that both men fully knew how to treasure.

Feeling a pleasured sigh rise in his throat, Ace deepened the kiss, flicking his tongue along Brandon's bottom lip, graciously asking for entrance. Brandon wasted no time in responding, opening his mouth to grant Ace access, engulfing himself in his heady taste. Rising from his kneeling position before the bed, Brandon eased Ace back against the mattress, taking extra precautions for Ace's weakened limbs as he lay above him, busy hands swiftly yet carefully sliding Ace's shirt from his shoulders. Ace had already been home for two weeks, and while the couple was resigned to celebrating their seventh anniversary in a hospital room, they had been resolved to figure out the practical mechanics of making love in this new situation; they considered it a priority over Ace tying his shoes and learning how to brush his teeth with his non-dominant hand.

Ace raised his good left hand to Brandon's cheek as he watched Brandon's ministrations, fingertips working their way along the older man's jaw. Brandon felt the cold, heavy metal on his cheek before the warmth of Ace's fingers and he started from the surprise; a pleasant one, but a surprise nonetheless.

"Sorry," he chuckled, breaking the kiss and bringing up his own hand to cover Ace's. His fingers toyed with the titanium ring he found there, its smooth, rounded curves fitting Ace like a second skin. "Not quite used to how that feels yet."

"It's okay," Ace smiled, thankful that the ring was even there at all. Brandon's arm snaked back around his waist, and the matching band of metal along the older man's finger was cool and comforting against Ace's skin. It would take some getting used to, but both men were certain it was something they could handle. Ace rested his hand against his chest, a wave of satisfaction rolling in when he noticed Brandon's gaze following that hand, that ring, with an expression of joy and reverence Ace never imagined he'd see in those eyes. "My mom's gonna pitch a damn fit," he said with a laugh, enjoying his lover's bemused expression over mentioning Kay Young when he obviously wanted sex. "When she finds out we eloped without even telling her."

Brandon tried to picture the older woman's frowning face, arms crossed curtly at her chest, admonishing her youngest for robbing her the opportunity of one last wedding, but an excited smile always shone through even in his thoughts. "She'll be happy for us," he said in a soft voice, a finger idly tracing patterns along Ace's chest, careful to circumvent the healing scars there. "She knew this was coming, anyway."

When the Youngs had finally arrived to the hospital, Kay's face red and blotchy from tears, Jay's eyes full of exhaustion caused by more than mere lack of sleep, they were greeted by the relieving, happy image of their son holding his boyfriend's hand and announcing that they were getting married. No one had discussed dates or plans, though Kay had attempted to inject flower arrangements and guest lists into empty pockets of conversation during their entire stay; she had to take it as a hint, Brandon thought, that the couple let every one of her plans die in conversation, that the looks in their eyes told the world they weren't willing to wait for an open weekend at the Denver Country Club.

But even if she couldn't be there for the ceremony, Ace knew nothing short of a bulldozer was going to stop his mother from celebrating in her own way. "There'll be a party," he rolled his eyes, remembering his mother's skewed definition of "small and intimate reception" when Duff had tied the knot. "You can count on that. And you can bet its size'll be proportionate to the guilt she wants to put on us for not inviting her to see the actual ceremony."

"We got married in City Hall," protested Brandon; the good province of Ontario recommended couples bring their own witness for the arrangement, but neither Brandon nor Ace wanted to choose among their friends for the coveted position, and the rest of the vacation was theirs and theirs alone. A stout, brassy Greek woman, who was in the waiting room as a witness for her daughter's marriage, stepped up as an adequate substitute, and even offered her daughter's bouquet, but the couple declined, not knowing which one would ultimately hold it. But none of the details mattered, not the witnesses or that they made their vows in a white plaster room in Niagara Falls instead of Ace's family church in Colorado; all that mattered were the rings on their fingers and the love that swelled in their hearts.

Ace shook his head, squirming as Brandon's fingers brushed over a particularly ticklish spot on his waist, a location Brandon commonly utilized when he wanted to get his way. "Won't matter," he said. "She's definitely going to go all out, invite family members I haven't even heard of. Probably already has the hall booked." Ace was the youngest of five stout, healthy sons, and Brandon knew they weren't the only branch of the Young family tree that flowered fruitfully. The extended family spread far throughout the snowy terrain of Colorado and beyond, and, knowing Kay Young, she would attempt to bring them all together to celebrate her son's marriage.

"Just so long as we don't have to give a speech," Brandon joked, leaning in to brush his lips against Ace's jaw, painting his cheek with feather-like kisses.

Suddenly feeling the exhaustion of a full day of sightseeing weigh upon his shoulders, Brandon rested his body alongside Ace's, their legs slung over the edge of the mattress uncomfortably but neither man caring. Though his thoughts of capping off the evening with Ace screaming out his name in ecstasy weren't completely scrapped, Brandon contented himself with lazy touches, the physical contact between the two men the more important thing in his mind. His fingers traced back up to his lover's face, carefully skipping over the scars like water skimmers; he knew the scratches no longer hurt Ace, but he didn't want to remind him of his injuries any more than he already was. But he didn't receive the warm smile he had become accustomed to, or the light laughter that his heart ached for every day: Ace was silent, his eyes searching Brandon's apologetically, his voice heavy as if his words were made of lead.

"I'm sorry," his eyes dropped, suddenly ashamed of his mother's doting, his brothers' wedding legacies; the memories and traditions of a family Brandon lost, never truly had. "I go on and on about my parents and my brothers and every relative under the sun, and you -" he cut himself off, never wanting to be the one to bring back Brandon's memory of the family that abandoned him, that threw him away. When he had promised Brandon he would never do the same to him, Ace made a vow to himself that he'd never let Brandon's family hurt him again, even as specters in the older man's mind. He started again, his voice a timid whisper. "Your family...probably won't want to be there," he reasoned, though it was just as reasonable that they wouldn't, nor would they ever be, invited.

Brandon took a moment to answer, watching the uncertainty crossing over his boyfriend's - no, husband, he was going to have to get used to that, too - face, the topic that they never mentioned finally broached. But Brandon had learned long ago that the term "family" did not always mean one's blood, that you could find more love and compassion from a stranger than you might from those who were supposed to care unconditionally. That it is the life you live together, the experiences - the gleeful highs as well as the heartbreaking lows - that truly bind one another. It is the first kiss that leaves you dizzy, the way they say "I love you" like the words are made of gold. It's how a fight ends in each other's arms, and the worst day in a city's history can shine brighter with just their presence. It's knowing your world has been different ever since you've seen the green of those eyes, that face smiling back like the world has just begun. It's being so close to losing it all, and knowing that now you never can again.

Taking Ace's good hand in his, Brandon lifted them to his lips, kissing the ring along Ace's finger, for the first time feeling its weight as a blessing. "You are my family."

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
lillijulianne
May. 20th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
love love love schmoopy endings!

"If you cut your hair, I'll cut mine," he bartered
having seen them both lately, HAHAHAHA! (i personally think ace looks much better, but that's just me, and i was never an ace girl to begin with.)

"And I gotta get a Mountie hat for Daughtry or he's gonna kill me."
speaking of hair or the lack thereof. love it. and niagara falls- too cute. the retro feel fits this couple as you've written them.

the whole business with the families and the wedding rings was charming, and really drew me in. i liked it as a background for the characters- it's one of those very real and concrete contrasts that calls up emotion.

this has been so much fun. please do bring us more characters in the city. you know i love seeing them in that setting.
sigulilt
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Just want to say what a great blog you got here!

pakiskim
Apr. 15th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
Great writing! I want you to follow up to this topic!?!

jacobsonxik
Nov. 4th, 2011 09:39 am (UTC)
Great post! I want to see a follow up to this topic

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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