Hello! Time for September’s Photo Prompt. This was a HARD one. Took me a while to work something out, but I did it! I decided to follow up on a Promptly Penned post I did last month. I tried to write this so it would make sense even without reading the previous part, but if you want to read that short piece first, go here.
The piece is from Justin’s POV after the events of the Promptly Penned post, based on this photo:
Justin Campbell bolted upright, heart racing. The dregs of the nightmare and the memories of the hell his life had been the last several weeks collided in his mind, and he bit his lips together, a desperate attempt to hold back the sob that lodged in his throat.
Ignoring the warm body beside him—God, how could he have been so stupid?—he closed his eyes and immediately regretted it as the images of the bad dream that had woken him flickered back to life behind his eyelids.
His brother… Because what the hell else would he dream about when he finally slept? Justin had a feeling Jonah would be haunting his life—waking and sleeping—for some time to come. Maybe forever.
The dream hadn’t even started that badly. Just the two of them standing in the field outside the farmhouse they’d grown up in. On opposite sides of the fence that had separated the parcel of land in two. The sun had shown brightly above them from a blue sky—one of those hot summer days Justin remembered from childhood. But he hadn’t felt any warmth. He’d been chilled to the bone as he’d stared at his brother. Because the things flooding his mind as the breeze shifted around them, causing the long grass to sway around their legs, weren’t childhood memories. Not that many of them were particularly good, but Justin almost longed for those. Because anything was better than drowning in the knowledge of what Jonah had done. What his brother, his blood, was capable of.
Even now, fully awake and aware, Justin couldn’t stop himself from recalling the crime scenes, the mutated bodies, the thick metallic suffocating scent choking him, the horrific and paralyzing realization that Jonah had done this.
He realized just how appropriate the dream had been. How it represented them perfectly. Brothers standing on different sides—one an FBI agent, the other… Justin swallowed the bile that surged up his throat. The other a psychopath who had tortured and killed at least a dozen men.
Drawing even farther away from the man who slept soundly next to him, Justin slipped out of bed and into the adjacent bathroom. He dressed in the wrinkled clothing that had been discarded on the tiled floor hours before then just stared at his reflection in the mirror. He looked half-dead. Pale, large dark circles underscoring his eyes, clothes hanging off his lanky body that couldn’t really afford the weight lost the past weeks.
He braced his hands on the edge of the sink, cursing the tears that welled up in his eyes again, even as he replayed what he’s stupid as fuck brain had conjured up as he slept.
“Not happy to see me.” Jonah had smiled brightly, stepping so close to the fence the barbed wire stretched between posts caught on his shirt.
“You’re dead.” Justin’d tried to shout the words, but instead a broken whisper had pushed past his lips.
Head tilted to the side, his brother had smiled. His bright, infectious, charming smile. “Am I?”
“Yes.” Justin had taken a step back, then another and another, but no matter how many times he’d moved his feet, he hadn’t seemed able to put any distance between them. Even though he’d known it was a dream, even in the midst of it, he’d been desperate to get away from Jonah. “You. Are. Dead.”
Jonah’s smile hadn’t faded—in fact, it’d only grown wider—as he reached down and somehow wrapped his hand around all three lengths of barbed wire. As he’d lifted his arm, the wires had stretched impossibly, in the way of dreams, until he held them high over his head. Justin’s heart had beat painfully as he, despite every effort, had remained where he was, his gaze locked on his brother’s fist, on the blood that’d seeped through his fingers and was running in thick rivulets down his arms.
Then, in a blink, Jonah had been right in front of Justin, close enough he could feel his breath gusting over his face.
“I’m not dead, little brother. I’ll never truly be gone as long as I’m here.” Jonah had tapped Justin’s temple, then dropped his hand slightly to cup his cheek.
The warm, wet slide of his brother’s blood against his skin had been what’d shoved Justin into wakefulness.
Pushing himself upright, he swiped the tears from his eyes, shuddering at the slickness between his fingertips and cheeks.
Jonah—or rather Justin, as it was his mind that had created what he’d dreamt was right. Jonah would always live, Justin would never truly be free of him, as long as he let him consume his life. He tried to cut himself a bit of slack. It’d only been a little over a month since he’d learned the truth about Jonah, but he’d made some huge mistakes in that time that would make moving on and putting his brother to rest, in every way, that much harder. The worst? Being involved in the investigation.
Officially, once Jonah was a suspect, he’d been off the case. In reality, he’d been neck deep in it. Hell, he’d been submerged it. Working with his team, passing on information to them as he uncovered every disgusting, disturbing truth. Yes, he truly believed they wouldn’t have been able to stop Jonah as quickly as they had without him, but fuck, at what cost?
He shook his head and shoved his fingers through his hair. There was nothing to be done for it now. He could only move on. And to do that… His chest ached. He needed to leave. Needed to be away from the aftermath of what his brother had done, away from the job, away from everything.
Justin didn’t know for how long, if he’d ever be able to come back after this. He stepped into the bedroom as quietly as possible, and faced another mistake. A beautiful, sexy, tempting-to-the-point-of-danger mistake.
Justin allowed himself a moment—he deserved that, didn’t he? Just one freaking moment—to look, to memorize the sight before him. Harris lay on his back, blankets caught low around his hips, the light from the street lamp outside the window illuminating him enough Justin could make out the face that had captured his attention from day one. He only wished he could see those warm brown eyes. Just one more time. Though, if he did, he didn’t think he’d be able to walk away.
Sleeping with Harris, taking advantage of the younger agent… Fuck if Justin could bring himself to regret it. The feel of the other man’s body against him, the taste of him, the way he sounded when he came—Justin had a feeling he’d be drawing on those memories often to get through the coming days. He huffed and shook his head. Who was he kidding, coming days? The night before wasn’t something he’d ever forget. The one good shining thing in the dark mess of his life at the moment. And even if he couldn’t hold on to it, hold on to Harris, he would hold this night inside for as long as he lived.
He did regret any hurt Harris would feel, though, when Justin went away. Though, maybe this was just a hook-up for him. It wasn’t as if they’d had a relationship or anything. A part of Justin hoped that was the case, even as another hoped what had happened between them meant as much to the other man as it did him.
A glance at the illuminated clock on the bedside table spurred Justin into action. He had enough time to do what he needed to do and be cleared out before most of the team showed up for work. He had to talk to his team lead, of course, but he knew Liam would understand. Probably better than anyone else.
He gave in, let his legs carry him to the bed, where he slowly and carefully bent at the waist to press his lips to Harris’ forehead, not daring to risk going for the mouth. He held for a moment, letting Harris’ sleep-warm sweet scent wash over him, then straightened again. He forced himself to leave without looking back. As he let himself out and walked down to where his car was parked outside the building, several thoughts teased him—of waking Harris, of telling him his plans and making promises, of coming back at some point, after he’d worked through everything, when he was free of the stain his brother had left on him and his life, of finding Harris waiting for him.
“No,” he breathed as he slid into the driver’s seat.
How could he expect Harris to wait? After one night? One night of heightened emotions ruling their minds, and apparently their cocks? No. This was definitely how it had to be, a clean break.
Justin sure as hell couldn’t make promises when, other than leaving, he didn’t have the first clue how he was going to get through this. He started the car and pulled out to head home and pack before he went to his boss. He tried to ignore the way his ragged breathing filled the small confines of the vehicle, telling himself he was taking the first step towards being free of his brother. The rest would follow. He’d figure it out.
His fingers gripped the wheel, knuckles whitening, as his Jonah’s voice echoed in his mind.
I’m not dead, little brother. I’ll never truly be gone…