nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

i can't save you from yourself

by chantal, written for kelly

“You can say it,” Joshua Chasez said resignedly after taking one look at his mother from his fetal position on the couch.

“What?” she asked.

“I told you so, you can say it.”

“I wasn’t going to.” His mother denied.

“Yes, you were, I can see it in your eyes, admit it!” Karen opened her mouth, but he beat her to it.

“You never believed in Justin and me, he was going to break my heart, well you were right, are you happy now?” Josh lashed out, pushing himself up hastily and walking away to the window so he could avoid having to see the pity in his mother’s expression. Tears welled up in his eyes as he wrapped his arms around himself and lowered his head. He jumped when hands settled on his shoulders.

“I didn’t want to be right,” Karen whispered. Josh lifted his head, staring out into the garden. He sniffled.

“Hey,” she said compassionately, turning her son to face her. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out. You know I want you to be happy.” Josh caved after searching her face, collapsing into her hug.

“I was happy with him, I still want to be happy with him. I loved him and still do,” he whispered.

“I know.” she acknowledged, refraining from reminding her son that though he loved Justin and he’d been happy with him, the man hadn’t been perfect and he hadn’t always made him happy. There had been some serious bumps in the road, but she knew he was conveniently forgetting those hardships right now. The only thought on her son’s mind at this moment that he’d lost Justin. She knew he was hurting and so she didn’t voice her thoughts. Instead she moved the two of them to the couch where Josh snuggled into her embrace.

“I will always love him.” Josh sighed as he closed his eyes and thought back to the day when the illusion of who he thought his lover was, was shattered. He allowed the memories to wash over him as he rested his head onto his mother’s shoulder, hiding his face in her neck. Letting his tears flow shamelessly as he mourned what he’d lost: the love of his life.


I’d been with him for more than two years, had lived and shared my life with him for nearly a year, but I didn’t really know who he was until then. That day, I realized that there was a huge part of him I never knew about. It was on the day that he came home early from work.


“You’re home early.” Josh stated as his boyfriend Justin Timberlake walked in. It was only four in the afternoon, Josh hadn’t expected him until at least six.

Justin nodded, “Yeah.”

Josh stood from the couch, “Not that I’m complaining, but why? I thought you were gonna be gone till at least six.”

“You want me to leave?” Justin countered, anger bristling to avoid the real question: why was he home early when he should have been at work.

Josh frowned, “No, of course not!”

“Doesn’t look like it to me.” Justin crossed his arms over his chest.

“I’m just wondering why you got home so early.” Josh asked, still calm. He knew Justin. He knew how saying the wrong thing could set him off. It was usually when he was avoiding something, angering Josh so he’d just be mad at him instead of pressing the issue. Josh had been living with Justin for too long not to know that and Josh was sure something was up. So he stayed calm and pressed whatever Justin was trying to avoid.

Justin met Josh’s eyes and saw the determination in those blue orbs. Sighing heavily as he realized Josh was not going to give up, he answered reluctantly, “I got fired.”

“What?” Josh exclaimed, surprised. Justin had liked working there, he was a good employee.

“On what grounds?”

Justin shook his head in dismissal, “It’s not important.” He said while turning away, leaving to go to the kitchen, avoiding Josh and his questions once again. But Josh followed him, unwilling to let this drop.

“It is! They have no right to just fire you.”

Justin remained quiet and busied himself with fixing a drink. He didn’t want to give Josh the real reason. He didn’t want to tell him the truth, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to outright lie to him either. If only Josh would just stop with the questions.

“We should fight this.”

“No, no!”

Josh frowned and studied Justin intently. Something wasn’t right. His shoulders were extremely tense, he had a miserable yet guilty expression on his face and he was avoiding Josh’s eyes entirely. Josh drew his conclusion: Justin was hiding something.

“Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Justin drank his juice as if he was dying of thirst. His gaze downward.

“What is it?” Josh urged, he could take the truth, whatever it was he could deal with it. What he couldn’t take was a liar.

Justin finished his drink, too soon really and sighed. Now he had to answer Josh. He ducked his head, unable to lie, he started to answer. “They fired me…”

He took a deep breath and whispered, “Because they saw me steal from them.”

“What?” Josh breathed in disbelief. He shook his head.

“It must be a mistake.” Josh said convinced. But Justin didn’t echo his statement.

“Right?” Justin cringed and shook his head.

“I didn’t want you to find out this way,” he whispered finally turning to face Josh.

“Find out what? That you’re a thief!” Josh cried in response, shocked beyond belief. Justin flinched at the loud tone and tears sprung to his eyes.

“Josh,” he begged, stepping closer, reaching out for his lover.

“What the hell Justin?!” Josh cried, feeling betrayed as he took a few steps back, away from Justin. Thinking he knew Justin, but the fact of the matter was that he apparently didn’t know him at all. Justin’s heart broke as Josh distanced himself and Justin stood, frozen on the spot. Longing for Josh’s touch and wanting Josh to say it would be okay but not daring to ask for either.

“I don’t want to but I can’t help it!” Justin tearfully defended.

Josh frowned, “You can’t help it? You can’t help but to steal?”

Justin nodded, sniffling. “I don’t need those things, I don’t even like half of it, but…”

“What did you steal?”

Justin caught his bottom lip between his teeth, tears swam in his eyes, feeling as if his world was crumpling down. His secret was out at last.

Sniffling he answered, “Two forks, three knives, a spoon and a key chain.”

“Did you ever steal from me?” Josh asked harsher than he intended.

“No!” Justin denied adamant.

“But how can I believe you Justin? I thought I knew you!”

“You do, Josh. You do! I swear I have not stolen anything from you. I love you, Josh, please forgive me.” Justin begged, taking a step closer to Josh, reaching for his hand. But he stilled his movement when Josh spoke suddenly soft again.

“How do you justify this?”

“I… I don’t, I paid them for what I stole… I just don’t have an explanation.”

“Have you done this before?”

Justin hesitated for a brief moment, his own eyes meeting Josh’s shortly before nodding, red coloring his cheeks as he confessed that yes he’d done this before. Many, many times.

“Oh my God!” Josh cried before he stormed off and Justin followed like a kicked puppy, begging for forgiveness.

“I’m being honest with you. I’ve told you the truth, please Josh, I’m so sorry, I love you.” Justin waited for Josh’s reaction, he stood with hunched shoulders, staring at Josh’s back.

Several minutes passed before Josh turned to face Justin suddenly.

“I need to think about this,” Josh began staring into Justin’s miserable eyes. “Alone.”

Justin sniffled as tears spilled over and he nodded. “I’ll… I’ll leave.”

And he did without another word, his frame hunched over with rejection. Josh watched him go out the front door, sighing heavily and slumping down onto the couch once the door closed behind him.


Hours later, the front door was pushed open carefully and Justin slipped inside with his head low. The emotional pain was visible in his posture as he just spent hours sitting on a bench, crying into his hands and beating himself up for the mistakes he’d made.

He remained quiet as he moved to the living room, wanting to know if Josh was would see him yet, ready to leave again if Josh wasn’t. Josh was laying on the couch, an arm over his eyes. Justin tiptoed around the couch and looked down at the beautiful man that he used to call his, now he wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Josh?” Justin quietly said, as to not to startle the older man, while insecurity cracked his voice.

Apparently Josh had heard him coming because Josh didn’t jump at all, he slowly removed the arm from his eyes and turned his head, eyeing Justin up and down, settling on his face. Justin still looked like he was about to cry. As Josh studied Justin further he saw the bloodshot and red rimmed eyes, the miserable and defeated expression on his face was hard to miss. Silently, Josh sat up and faced Justin.

“Why did you steal, Justin?”

Meeting Josh’s eyes for a moment, Justin swallowed hard, forcing back his tears. “I… I don’t know Josh.”

“Don’t lie to me, Justin,” Josh warned harshly and he saw Justin cringe. “Do you want us to be over?”


“Then don’t fucking lie to me.” Justin turned away from Josh, walking to the window, settling his gaze on the street below.

“If you ever expect me to trust you again, you’ll tell me the truth.”

Dropping his head in defeat, Justin bit his lip nervously, he knew Josh had a right to an explanation, but he didn’t know if he could give him one. Turning suddenly he dropped into a chair, opposite of the couch Josh was sitting on, and faced Josh.

“I saw my mother,” he explained, breaking eye contact before he even finished his sentence.

Josh blinked, frowned, opened his mouth to respond, but closed it again when he realized he didn’t know what he was going to say. Instead he simply repeated the little information Justin had provided him with and hoped for an elaboration. “You saw your mother?”

Justin nodded, he never met Josh’s eyes but he continued, “I know this is…” he sighed, “Hard. For you to understand, but it’s the truth. And…” he was plucking at the knee of his jeans restlessly, channeling all his nervous energy towards it. “I know you deserve an explanation and…” Another big breath. “I don’t want to lose you.” Josh sucked in a breath when Justin met his eyes briefly, the message he read in there more powerful than a thousand words could convey. “And I want you to trust me.”

“Just tell me what happened,” Josh urged softly, he couldn’t make any promises.

Justin nodded, lowering his chin to his chest, staring at the knee of his jeans and the threads he’d pulled off already. But continuing just the same as he began to speak.

“I was organizing the clothing racks at the women’s section when I saw her.”

Closing his eyes he could still see her, walking down the aisle, scanning the racks hastily. A purse clutched under her arm, her curly hair pushed back by hairband, dressed in designer clothes and fancy shoes clicking against the stoned floor as she walked at a fast pace.

“I dropped the jeans I’d been holding and froze.”

He could still feel the panic that had surged through his veins, the pain and hurt that she triggered just by her appearance.

“I fled to the dressing rooms.”

His heart had pounded in his ears as he was finally able to force his legs to move, to get away as she came closer. He hid in one of the stalls and held his breath, listening intently for the clicking of those heels.

“She was gone when I came back out.”

He didn’t say that was after nearly half an hour. He’d waited to make sure she was gone, he’d even peeked around the corner to make sure the coast was clear.

“And seeing her made you steal?” Josh asked quietly, trying his best not to sound incredulously or accusatorily, but it was very hard for him. How did this make sense?

“I don’t have the same bond with my mother as you do with yours, Josh,” Justin said softly, knowing it was hard for Josh to understand how a son could not have a close relationship with his mom.

“I haven’t talked to her in almost three years and seeing her reminded me of things I rather not remember.” Unable to tell Josh everything yet, he continued quickly before Josh could ask for clarification. He’d never really opened up about his parents and he didn’t want to start now.

“I couldn’t think straight, I wasn’t aware of what I was doing when I took those things.”

He’d been in shock for the rest of the day and as if in trance his hand had reached for the utensils and other random items he had no use for as he’d gone on his break. He couldn’t even recall it exactly. He knew that he was doing it, but he couldn’t stop it. Thoughts, memories spiraled through him like a summer storm and he felt out of control. The items were inside his jacket before he realized it.

“When they came and confronted me with what they’d seen, I didn’t protest.”

He’d stood and spread his arms when his supervisor asked if they could search him. He’d been in the staff room barely five minutes when they confronted him. He wasn’t surprised when the second man withdrew the items from his jacket, but looked at them as if they were foreign to him once they were displayed on the table.

“They fired me on the spot.”

He’d only heard half of what the two men had said to him and went along when they lead him to the private office of his supervisor. He’d listened unresponsively when they told him they weren’t pressing charges because the combined value of the items didn’t even total fifteen dollars.

“I paid them a retribution of fifty dollars and they escorted me out the door.”

His head had still been buzzing when he was standing outside on the pavement. He didn’t notice the man who’d lead him outside, was still standing by the doors, making sure he would not come back in. He’d shaken his head finally and put one foot in front of the other, walking home, praying Josh wouldn’t ask him why he was home so early. He knew he couldn’t lie.

“They didn’t ask for an explanation?” Josh asked after clearing his throat. Justin looked up and shook his head.

“Can you forgive me, Josh?” Justin asked quietly, his head low, biting his lip nervously. The hole in his jeans only getting bigger after he’d been plucking at lose threads throughout the reliance of the story.

Josh sighed, then stood, making Justin look up. Josh saw the fear in Justin’s eyes clearly as they followed his every step until Josh was seated on the coffee table in front of him.

Justin watched wide-eyed as Josh pulled Justin’s hand from his fraying jeans and held both hands in his own. A glimmer of hope shone in Justin’s eyes, but Josh still saw the trepidation of being rejected.

“I still don’t really understand why you did it,” Josh began and Justin felt himself panic, getting ready to explain further, to make it clearer. “But I’m glad you told me what happened and confided in me.”

Justin was still wired because although Josh was saying positive things it didn’t mean he couldn’t still shoot him down. Josh stared into Justin’s eyes and said with a small reassuring smile, “I forgive you, Justin.” It felt like hours to Justin before Josh finally said those words and his shoulders sagged immediately, relief washing over him.

“Oh Josh, thank you, thank you!” he chanted, as he lunged at him, wrapping his arms tightly around his neck.

“I love you, I love you,” he whispered as he leaned into Josh, his head on Josh’s shoulder, face hidden in the crook of Josh’s neck while tears slipped from his eyes.

Josh smiled and pulled his boy closer, reaching his hand up to stroke Justin’s curls soothingly, pressing his lips softly against Justin’s forehead, letting Justin know that it was okay.

They were okay.


The first crack in our relationship. I didn’t acknowledge it then, I pretended it wasn’t there. I told myself we were okay. Justin had come clean, he’d been honest with me, we loved each other and we could work it out. Everything was fine.


Justin sighed and plucked at the bedspread mindlessly, letting his mind wonder as he lay against Josh’s chest who was propped up and reading.

“Josh?” Justin asked softly.

“Uhuh?” Responding on impulse.

“Do your parents like me?” Justin asked quietly, never meeting Josh’s eyes, they were trained instead on his index finger that was tracing the colorful pattern of the bedspread.

The couple had visited Josh’s parents earlier that day like they did once in a while. Josh went home almost once a week to check in with everybody, he had a younger brother and sister he was close to although they no longer lived at home and he had a strong bond with his parents. He’d drop by and have a drink with them or just hang out in the yard. Justin would tag along now and then.

The first time he went along he’d been curious about Josh’s parents, because Josh had told him so many great stories about them, Justin wanted to know what these people looked like and if they were really as kind as Josh had portrayed them to be. He went along despite his insecurities.

Today they’d spend a few hours talking and had lunch. It’d been a nice afternoon, Justin had enjoyed himself. However despite the good feelings, something was always lurking. He’d never asked Josh and Josh had never said anything about what his parents thought of him after all the times they’d gone. Not once had Josh said his parents liked him and it put Justin on edge. He’d caught Josh’s mother staring at him today, her piercing blue eyes seemed to look right through him. He’d felt exposed, as if she could see deep into his soul to gather the secrets and use them against him. He wondered if Josh had told her that he’d gotten fired for stealing. She seemed to know.

“What?” Josh asked, too engrossed in the story to really pay attention.

“Do your parents like me?” Justin repeated, it’d been hard to ask it the first time, to gather the courage to let the words roll off his tongue, he didn’t like that Josh was having him repeat it.

“Hmm?” Josh hummed.

“Josh!” Justin whined, frustrated with his boyfriend. He wasn’t listening and it was taking so much from Justin to voice his insecurities.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Josh asked finally taking his eyes off the book he held in his hands and turning his head to look down at his boyfriend.

Justin met Josh’s eyes for a brief moment before he sighed and turned away, “Nothing, forget it.” All of his courage left him now that Josh was looking at him and he found himself unable to repeat the question.

“Justin, come on, I’m listening.” Josh urged. “Please? Repeat it one more time, I’ll put my book away okay?”

Justin heard the soft thud as Josh placed his book on the nightstand like he promised and after a few more moments Justin finally gave in and turned towards Josh again, eyeing him. His eyes were sincere and curious. Justin lowered his gaze, took a deep breath and asked his question for the third time, “Do your parents like me?”

He’d worried about it all day, but he’d been too afraid of the answer to ask. Actually he’d worried about it since the first time he’d met Josh’s parents, but after today and the stare he’d caught his nerves had multiplied. The worry was eating at him.

Josh’s eyes softened and he slouched down a little so they were eye to eye. “They think you are very sweet and a fine young man,” Josh answered, with a soft reassuring smile, repeating what his mother had said to him privately some time ago.

Justin’s smile was careful and Josh was glad he’d left out the things she’d said in a few conversations that had followed months later. The concerns she’d voiced about having the feeling that there was something about Justin she couldn’t quite place. A certain vibe she got from him, something unexplainable. Josh didn’t tell Justin, but he’d kept something from his mother as well. He hadn’t said anything about the difficulties they’d had weeks ago when they’d almost broken up.

More reassured and relaxed now, Justin settled further against Josh. “How come your bond with your parents is so strong?” Justin wondered, his voice slightly muffled by Josh’s shirt as he slung his arm across Josh’s waist. Josh covered Justin’s arm with his own and lightly stroked it, settling back into his pillows.

“I don’t know, I’d think mostly because they’ve always accepted me for who I was. When I came out to them, they really didn’t make a big deal of it. I was still their son and I was still the same as far as they were concerned.”

“You’re very lucky, Josh,” Justin stated softly.

Josh frowned and looked down once again at his boyfriend. “What do you mean?”

Justin sighed and closed his eyes, snuggling further against Josh. “I mean you are… lucky to have parents who accept you for who you are.” Soft words, but they were loaded. Josh sat up, slightly startling Justin.

“Yours didn’t?” Josh asked, not knowing if he should since Justin was opening up a little about his parents. He’d never told Josh much about them and it shocked Josh to hear him start this conversation.

Justin moved over slightly, slumping into his own pillows while Josh sat nearly straight up in bed. Justin shook his head, “We never got along. I didn’t feel accepted by either of them.” Josh stayed quiet, not knowing what to say.

“I left home three years ago and I haven’t seen or even talked to them since.”

“That’s why it freaked me out when I saw my mother. I don’t want to see her, I don’t want to talk to her. She was never there for me when I still lived at home, she’d pretend not to see me no matter if our eyes would have locked. She’d turn her back on me and let me fend for myself. She’s done it since I was a kid. I fled because I didn’t want her to have the upper hand, but I know she does.” Justin’s eyes swam with tears as he was telling the story while flashes of his childhood and the day when he’d seen his mother went through his mind. He closed his eyes as more tears threatened, slapping his hands in front of his face when they started to fall. He cried quietly into his hands, jumping slightly when an arm wrapped around his shoulders and pulled gently. Justin let out a cry and gave in, slumping against Josh, allowing his lover to wrap him in a tight embrace.

Josh was quiet as he just held Justin, he was curious about a lot more things, but he didn’t voice the questions. He just pulled Justin closer against him and waited for the sobs to die down, realizing they’d just taken a huge step.

It took almost fifteen minutes until Justin’s sobs turned into sniffles and finally subsided completely. Silently they lay together, Justin’s breathing slowed, “They really like me?” he whispered one more time. Just to make sure.

“They really like you,” Josh confirmed, knowing what Justin was talking about. More tension left Justin’s body and he sagged further against Josh in relief. He was asleep within minutes while Josh was left to worry all the while softly stroking Justin’s hair to soothe him from worries and insecurities hoping his own would disappear with it.


He revealed something new to me that night and I was very proud he was willing to share it with me. I didn’t tell my parents about Justin’s screw up then knowing my parents would disapprove and would voice my own fear: this was going to end badly. Though I still had hope then. We were going to stay together forever.


“How’s Justin?” Karen asked before sipping her tea. She looked at her son over the rim of her cup with cocked eyebrows.

Josh frowned, “Fine, why?”

She bent forward, setting her cup on the coffee table, “Just wondering.” She replied as if she had no ulterior motives.

Josh didn’t buy it, “Mom?”

Karen sighed and shot a quick look at her husband. He nodded. Josh’s eyebrows knitted in confusion as he stared at his mother, then at his father. What were they up to?

“What’s going on?” he wondered, getting a little nervous by their conspiratorial looks. Karen folded her hands in her lap before meeting her son’s eyes.

“I went to that department store Justin works at, but I didn’t see him.”

Josh’s frown deepened, though he felt his cheeks go red. He still hadn’t told his parents about Justin getting fired and the reason for it. “And?”

“I’ve been there quite often this past week, since I needed new clothes for the spring, but I haven’t seen him once.”

Josh waited her out.

She sighed, “Your father and I just worry about you, we don’t want you to get your heart broken.”

Josh frowned. “What do you mean?” How did she make that leap?

“Is Justin having an affair?” she asked straightforward. The conclusion she’d come to after going over the things that she knew: Justin wasn’t where he said he was, there was something secretive about him and Josh tended to be a little blind when it came to him.

“What?!” Josh exclaimed. “Why would you think that?!”

“Because, you told us he works there, but I haven’t seen him all week.”

“Mom, he’s not having an affair.” Josh said matter of factly.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because, he doesn’t work there anymore.”

“Oh,” Karen breathed, sitting back. “But you said…”

“I know what I said. I lied. Justin hasn’t been working there since February.”

His parents frowned, his mother wondering, “But why would you lie about that?”

Josh ducked his head, “Because of the reason he got fired.”

“Joshua,” his father cut in, “What is it?”

“He was caught… stealing.” Josh revealed quietly, not able to meet his parents’ eyes, knowing he’d lied to them or at the very least withheld information. It wasn’t like he had to tell them, but it still felt deceitful not to.

Karen’s mouth dropped wide open in shock. From the first moment that she’d met Justin she felt like there was something about him. Something wrong. She hadn’t been able to really put her finger on it. He seemed like a sweet, loving and kind young man, but she’d gotten a vibe from him that something was lurking under the surface. His eyes weren’t clear for some reason as if he was constantly keeping secrets. It had irked her from day one and now it fell into place. It made sense. Roy was flabbergasted as well.

“He stole from work?” he repeated.

Josh nodded. “He told me when he got home early, he also said he’d done it before.”

“Did he say why?” Karen wondered.

Josh shook his head, “Not really. He explained he hadn’t had a great childhood and that day he’d seen his mother, it brought back bad memories, but he didn’t say what those were or how exactly that made him steal.” Roy and Karen were shaken their heads in disbelief.

“I know,” Josh nodded, interpreting their looks correctly, “I was shocked as well and I felt betrayed, but I love him and I forgave him. We’ll be okay.” He tried to convince his parents and knew that if he said it enough it would convince him as well.


For a long time I didn’t understand why he did the things that he did. I didn’t even know if he knew why he did it. Despite the fact I wanted to know, I didn’t pressure him, afraid it’d make things worse. I thought about it for months, without any indication from him that he was considering telling me. Although we lived our lives together, there were secrets between us that neither of us broached. I knew it couldn’t be good to live this way, but I wasn’t ready to bring it up because I thought he wasn’t ready.


Justin walked into the kitchen where Josh was standing in front of the stove, busy making dinner. He was holding a shoebox in his hands and made a beeline for the kitchen table. Josh looked over his shoulder as he heard footsteps, frowning as he followed Justin with his eyes. He continued to look as Justin halted in front of the table, tipped the contents of the box he was holding onto the table and took a seat. Josh’s frown deepened as he saw the items sprawled over the surface and the unreadable look on Justin’s face.

“Justin?” he called, a little worried. When Justin didn’t respond, Josh turned the heat down and walked towards him.

“Justin?” he asked again, gently placing his hand on Justin’s shoulder to catch his attention.

Justin did look up at Josh, but the look in his eyes was still foreign to Josh. He thought he saw determination, fear, hope, shame and pain. Josh’s eyes softened, worried now, he gently asked, “What’s wrong, baby?”

Justin broke eye contact, “Can you sit down, Josh? I need to tell you something.” Josh’s stomach dropped though Justin’s voice was controlled. Josh sank slowly into the nearest seat and waited anxiously. “What is it?”

Justin folded his hands and brought them to his mouth, he closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before reaching for one of the items on the table. Josh followed Justin’s hands with his eyes as they held a lighter and fidgeted with it, turning it round and round. He wasn’t aware that he was holding his breath until Justin finally spoke, “I stole this back in October after I just had the customer from hell. It was so busy, remember I was working at that jewelry store?”

At Josh’s slight nod, he continued, “There was this woman, a total snob, incredibly rude and just plain mean. She made me feel stupid, like I was trash. On my way home I went through Macy’s and took this lighter.” He held it up as he finished his story, then put it back, picking up something else. A pair of sunglasses this time, “I took this after our fight in April. We’d argued about petty things that we blew out of proportion because we were both so tired, I stormed out and stole this.”

“And these,” Justin began another story as he took a watch, a bracelet and a hat into his hands. “I remember this so well, this was the worst. I was working at the bakery. Mr. Zainman, my boss, yelled at me in front of two other employees after opening hours. He said I’d ruined all the sandwiches that had been shipped in that morning because I’d put them in the basement. I was only working there for three weeks and Harry, one of the two who was looking on as I was scolded for my ignorance and incompetence, had told me to put them in the basement. He said nothing. On my way home, I snatched these from a street vendor.”

One item after another, each had its own story, but they’d all had one thing in common: it were stolen items. And Justin had been the one who’d taken them. Josh was overwhelmed by the stories, the number of items that were out on the table and the realization that Justin was opening up about a subject they’d never spoken about before.

“I steal…” Justin began, after offering the stories behind about a dozen items, “Because, it makes me feel… powerful and in control.” Justin had folded his hands in front of him and his fingers were fidgeting nervously. Josh said nothing and allowed Justin his time as he took a deep breath and then continued.

“When I steal I feel smart, clever. I feel like I accomplished something and I feel happy.” He kept his head low as he spoke, he didn’t want to see the condemnation in Josh’s eyes. “I crave to feel that way after something bad happens that makes me feel bad. I steal to feel good again. It’s a rush, an addiction and always, no matter how good it makes me feel during and right after, always brings on the guilt after a while. And I beat myself up for giving in again.”

Josh was staring at Justin, letting the words play over and over again in his head, trying to take them in, trying to understand. They were both silent for a moment or two, processing the words: Justin what he had revealed and Josh what he’d been told.

“Josh?” Justin addressed him softly, he still seemed in trance. But snapped out of it when Justin called his name again, louder this time.


“What… what are you thinking?” Justin wondered, wanting to know, but at the same time afraid of the answer. Josh didn’t answer, too much information to process and to get it straight in his head. He couldn’t find the words to answer Justin. It was too much.

“Are you angry?”

Josh shook his head.

“Do you want me to leave?”

Another shake.

“Do you hate me? Think I’m a bad person?”

A feverish shake of denial, “N… no!” Josh finally managed.

“Then what?” Justin asked quietly, insecurity evident in his voice. Josh shook his head a few more times in attempt to clear it and to find the words he wanted Justin to hear.

“I… I’m proud of you.”

“What?!” Justin asked flabbergasted, nearly falling out of his chair.

Josh waved his hand, shook his head, “Not because you steal, but because you told me. Because you opened up and tried to make me understand. Because you explained.” The incident that triggered this explanation had been months ago, but he only now got an explanation that made sense.

“Thank you.” Justin managed a small smile.

“Is there a way I can help you?” Josh asked softly, as their eyes locked, smiles fading.

Justin nodded. “Just… be there for me?” he asked.

Josh sat forward, taking Justin’s hands in his own. “I will, always.” Josh promised.

“Will you tell me then when something happens?” he asked. Justin stared into Josh’s eyes, though he wasn’t sure if he could, but if there was one person he’d tell it was Josh.

He nodded, promising. “I will.”

“I will help you.” Josh promised, bringing Justin’s hands up to his lips and kissing the back of them.

Justin smiled and nodded believing that Josh could help.


At that moment I honestly believed I could help him. I was convinced my love would change him and that I could save him. The months after we took that big step were absolutely wonderful. I felt like I finally knew him. Not the façade he’d put up before but the real Justin. The one with the memories and a past.


Laying on the couch, Josh had slung an arm over his eyes while Justin was asleep against him. They’d watched a movie and had a romantic dinner together. It’d been a wonderful evening, just like the past few months had been.

After that night that Justin had revealed the reason why he stole, they hadn’t spoken about stealing again. Josh was sure that if Justin felt the need to steal he’d come to him. Justin hadn’t so he assumed it was alright. Besides he didn’t want to ruin the incredible stage of their relationship they were in at this moment and the wonderful time they were having lately by bringing that up. It’d be like smearing dirt all over a newly cleaned tablecloth.

No, Justin was fine, or other wise he would have said something.


Though I knew then why he stole, he was still tight lipped about his childhood. He’d told me he didn’t have any contact with his mother and father, but he never said why. When I persisted, he told me their bond was not strong and they never got along. I wondered how that was possible. How could you not get along with the people who had given you life?

Justin never answered that question and he never really wanted to talk about it in depth. He never relayed funny stories or good memories of his childhood either. He didn’t let anything slip. I never got why, until he explained to me how his childhood had really been like.


“I started stealing because of my father,” Justin dropped out of the blue as he lay in bed, watching how Josh shed his clothes to join him. However Josh stopped and spun towards him abruptly after catching his statement.


Justin didn’t meet Josh’s eyes as he elaborated. “The first time I stole was years ago, when I still lived at home.” He took a deep breath to mentally prepare himself because this was the hardest part and most painful truth about his past.

“My dad had badgered me for hours, from the moment he woke up and spotted me until I couldn’t take it anymore and fled in the afternoon. I don’t know why I took something, it was stupid, a roll of adhesive tape, but it helped for some reason. It made me feel better. So after that, every time something or someone made me feel really bad I stole something. I couldn’t stop.” Justin rushed through the explanation. He had no clue why he was telling Josh this, it felt right though.

But it didn’t exactly make sense to Josh, “Badgered?” he asked after he walked around to Justin’s side of the bed and sat down on the edge, taking one of Justin’s hands in his own.

Justin looked up finally and nodded.

With his lover sitting so close, his hand safely in Josh’s grip, he went on from there and confided in him. Justin told Josh everything about his childhood. How he’d been abused as a child. Verbally abused, by his own father, while his mother did or said nothing to help him. How his father had yelled at him constantly, how he’d hammered him about not being smart enough, not being social enough and not being useful to the family. How he could never do anything right, no matter how hard he tried.

Justin rehashed it while tears constantly streamed down his face. Josh moved over and held him tight, the only thing he could do. Justin revealed the things his father had said to him, the nasty words and the taunting in his voice. He remembered every angry word his father had said to him and he whispered to Josh how he’d rather would have had physical abuse. However his father had never laid a hand on him. If he had maybe Justin wouldn’t think so lowly of himself. He wouldn’t have to go over every word over and over again, wondering if his father was right about him. And when things didn’t quite work out the way he’d planned, the voice wouldn’t tell him see dad was right, you are a failure. The pain he’d have to deal with if his father would have hit him would have faded, this kind of pain was buried in his soul, edged onto his brain, carved into his heart. This pain would never go away and he hated his father even more. But he never hated his father more than he hated himself.

It had made Josh so incredibly angry and sad. He couldn’t stop his own tears and cried with him. He understood then why Justin ran after a fight, why he hated it when they yelled at all. Josh understood him and Josh told himself this would make them stronger as he held Justin’s shaking form. They were better than ever now because there were no more secrets between them. It could only get better from now on.


I was wrong. It could get worse and after the progress we’d made over the past few months it only hurt that much more to fall back to a place we’d hoped we’d left behind us for good.


“Josh, I screwed up,” Justin said quietly after he’d been staring at his hands that had been resting on the kitchen table for some time.

Despite Justin’s soft tone, to Josh it felt like Justin had just dropped a bombshell on him and so he dropped the kitchen knife he’d used to slice tomatoes for the salad he was making and turned abruptly. Justin slowly met Josh’s enquiring eyes and sighed heavily. Josh said nothing. It made Justin squirm uncomfortably.

“What did you do?” Josh finally whispered, his heart thudding in his chest, his stomach sinking, anticipating the worst. All the while thinking not again, they were doing so well lately. It couldn’t be what he thought because Justin would come to him first! He’d promised.

Justin’s head dropped and Josh held his breath, “I… um… took some things.” He admitted shamefully, his voice quiet.

Josh released his breath only to gasp, slapping a hand in front of his mouth as he whispered, “No.” Justin’s shoulders sagged at Josh’s disappointment.

“But… I… I thought you’d tell me when something happened. So I could help you.” Josh stumbled, in shock and disbelief. His head shaking on its own accord. Hurt that it had happened again and that Justin hadn’t come to him first.

“I know, I know Josh. I said I would, but…” Justin began.

“But what?” Josh asked, between worry and anger.

“It just happened so fast, I couldn’t stop it. I had to.”

When it happened, Justin had been numb, his mind blank except for the overwhelming urge to steal. To feel better. Josh and his promise to help when something happened forgotten. His own promise to Josh buried. All he knew was that he had to steal, right now. He needed to feel in control. Talking about it was not going to accomplish that, stealing was.

“You had to?” Josh repeated, feeling tears well up and swallowing hard to force them back down.

Justin nodded, shamefully.

“But… we promised each other…” Josh choked as he dropped into the chair next to Justin. Still not able to grasp the fact that Justin had went behind his back, had secluded him from a decision that affected them both. Shocked because the first thing Josh had expected to hear from Justin concerning this subject was that he needed help, that something had happened and that he’d had the urge to steal. Josh would speak to him about it and talk him out of it, preventing him from making the mistake, preventing him from giving in. This had not been calculated, this he had not anticipated.

Justin grasped Josh’s hands and pulled them towards him while he dropped his head. “I know, I know.”

Josh studied the top of Justin’s curly head sadly, tears brimming, “So now what?” he asked, wondering where they stood. If he couldn’t help Justin, then what? Justin lifted his head to meet Josh’s eyes.

“I… I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “Did you plan to keep your promise or… was it just to… butter me up?” Josh asked, though it hurt, he needed to know if Justin ever intended to keep his promise or if it was an empty one to keep him satisfied, thinking he could help, when he really couldn’t. Because Justin didn’t want his help.

“No! I wanted to keep it, I wanted to tell you if something happened, but when it did… it just went too fast.”

As Josh looked into Justin’s eyes he saw sincerity, but still he wondered one thing, “Can I help you? Do you even want my help?”

Justin nodded, “I think you can, I want you to. I love you.” Josh searched Justin’s face as he spoke, that beautiful face he fell in love with. The one he caressed every night, and thanked God for being his.

“Please Josh,” Justin whispered, “Can we try again?” Josh continued to stare at the miserable man before him, but the one he loved so much.

“I will tell you next time, I swear.”

A few tears slipped out of Josh’s eyes as Justin begged him for another chance, how could he deny him? How could he give up on him? Josh pulled his hands from Justin’s, swiping at the tears before taking Justin’s hands in his. He nodded. “Okay.”

Justin fell out of his chair, onto his knees in front of Josh as he hugged him tightly around the waist, burying his face against Josh’s chest.

“Thank you, I won’t disappoint you again, I promise.”

Josh wrapped his arms around Justin and rested his head on Justin’s curly hair. Knowing he’d given Justin another chance though he was scared Justin would blow it. He prayed it would be better this time, begged the universe to let them have this second chance or third really and just be okay.


“How can I help him?” Josh asked his father somewhat desperately. He wanted so badly for this relationship to work. He was not letting this destroy them, destroy Justin.

Josh had pretended to be sure of them, made Justin believe he knew it would be okay. But the truth of the matter was that he stayed strong for Justin, while insecurity and worry tore at his heart. He knew he couldn’t share his worries with Justin as it wouldn’t make Justin feel better, it wouldn’t let him know that Josh was there for him and was willing to help, trusted him to do better. He couldn’t deal with this alone though and therefore he sought out his father hoping he’d soothe his nerves as Josh himself had done for Justin.

“Josh,” Roy began, putting his hands on his son’s shoulders, “I’m not sure if you can help him.” Josh’s eyes widened and tears welled up. Roy sighed as his son pulled away swiftly.

“I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s my honest opinion.”

“I came to you, because I thought you would help me. Mom already passed her judgment on Justin not being good enough, I thought you’d be behind me.”

“I am behind you, so is your mother. Just because you don’t like what we have to say, doesn’t mean we don’t support you.” Josh sighed, knowing they were behind him, but it didn’t feel like they were.

“I want to help him, I want to get through this,” Josh said. “With him.” He stressed.

“I know this is important to you, Josh,” Roy said sympathetically.

“But,” he took a breath, realizing his son was not going to like this, but knowing that he had to say it just like Josh needed to hear it. “Justin obviously has issues, Josh, you can’t pretend they’re not there.”

“I’m not!” Roy looked at him skeptically.

“I’m not!” Josh cried.

“Look, dad,” he began, taking a breath, “I love him.”

“We will work it out.”

Roy went to say something but then didn’t, knowing Josh was convinced that his love would erase Justin’s problems. He knew Josh, he was as headstrong as his mother. Nothing he said would get his son to change his mind.


I was so stubborn, I just wouldn’t let anyone convince me that we were not meant to be. If we wanted to be, we were. If we just fought with everything we had, it would be fine. I convinced myself it would be different this time. He’d screwed up once, but he wouldn’t again. He wouldn’t do that to us. I was wrong, he did… or so I thought.


“Justin, I can’t find my watch!” Josh called over his shoulder to Justin who was in the shower as he rummaged through his nightstand. He thought he’d put it here. Josh was late for work, he’d overslept and was now rushing to get his things together.

“What?” Justin called back, the water splashing against the tiles, making it hard for him to hear what Josh was saying.

“I can’t find my watch!” Josh repeated as he poked his head around the bathroom door.

“Use mine, it’s in the nightstand.”

“Thanks!” Josh said quickly before rushing off.

Bending over the nightstand on Justin’s side of the bed and pulling the first drawer open. He scanned it quickly, but in his haste did not see the watch. Pulling the second open while closing the first he searched with his hands as it was filled with papers. Going through it quickly, he frowned when his hand brushed past something soft. Moving his hand back he grasped the square object and pulled it out from the back of the drawer. He stood up straight as he held a black velvet box in his hands. He opened it and gasped as a simple yet beautiful silver ring was revealed. His mind reeling, he snapped it shut as his tears welled up.

Josh dropped down on the bed, forgetting about work. He held the box in his hands, turning it round and round, waiting for Justin to come out of the bathroom while four words echoed in his head: he did it again.

“Josh!” Justin exclaimed, getting out of the bathroom, a towel around his waist, surprised to see Josh was still home.

“What are you doing just sitting there, you should have been at work fifteen minutes ago!”

Josh didn’t respond. Justin worried about him getting late, but when he caught the look on Josh’s face as he went for the closet to get some clothes on, he stopped dead in his tracks.

“Josh?” he asked, getting increasingly more nervous.

“What’s wrong?”

Josh finally looked up, unshed tears shimmering in his eyes. He held up the box and opened it, “Is there anything you need to tell me, Justin?”

Justin took a few steps towards Josh, but Josh shook his head, his anger taking over. “You did it again!” he accused.

“You promised you wouldn’t, you swore you’d tell me first!”

“No, Josh, wait!” Justin tried to intervene, but Josh cut him off.

“Why should I? Dammit Justin! It’s only been a week!” he shrieked.

“Josh, hold on! I didn’t steal that!”

Josh had a stricken look on his face as the words sank in. “What?!”

“I didn’t steal that ring! You can’t steal a ring in a box! You only get one when you buy it.” Josh’s expression was still doubtful.

“I bought the ring,” Justin said, meeting Josh’s eyes as he finished, “For you.”

If the situation wasn’t so serious, Justin would have laughed at the shocked expression on his lover’s face. Josh looked down at the open box in his hands, stared at the ring. “For me?”

Justin stepped closer, finally daring to. Josh had been so angry, he’d thought it was better to keep some distance between them, but now that Josh was calm, he could approach and he sat down next to his love.

“Yeah,” Justin nodded, his voice soft.

“Why?” Josh asked, turning sideways to face Justin.

“I just wanted to,” Justin began, taking a deep breath, staring down at his hands as he softly said, “Thank you for… giving me another chance and… believing in me.” His voice cracked as he let the last few words pass his lips.

“Oh, Justin,” Josh sagged, feeling incredibly guilty and stupid for accusing Justin of this as he learned what it had really been for. Justin slowly looked up into Josh’s eyes, shamed himself. Knowing Josh wouldn’t have accused him, if he himself hadn’t given him a reason to.

“I’m so sorry, baby!” Justin shook his head, telling him he understood though it hurt.

“I really am. I guess… I’m just so afraid you’ll do it again,” Josh confessed.

“I know, Josh, but I told you… I’ll tell you.” Josh nodded.

“I know, but I’m still scared.”

“Me too.” Justin whispered honestly.

Though he’d promised Josh he’d tell him, he was still afraid he wouldn’t be able to tell him. Because once the urge to steal, to make himself feel good, came up, it was nearly impossible to think of anything else but that. He prayed he could make good on his promise, prayed he could make Josh proud, prayed they’d survive because it was obvious Josh didn’t trust him. Not really, not like before. And honestly he couldn’t really expect him to. Not after he’d broken his trust. He prayed he could earn it back, he wanted to, he really did, he just hoped nothing would come between that. That the urge to steal would stay away and if it didn’t that he’d be strong enough to suppress it.

Justin took the box from Josh gently and withdrew the ring. Silently he took Josh’s right hand in his own and with a soft smile upwards, he slid the ring onto Josh’s ring finger. Kissing his hand with love and holding it after.

Josh smiled happily though something still irked him, but he forced it to the back and leaned in, kissing Justin on the lips, thanking him silently. His other hand slipped around Justin’s waist and he lowered him onto the bed. Intend to thank Justin properly.

“Josh, work,” Justin gasped in between kisses.

Josh shook his head, pulled back for two seconds to quickly say, “Already late,” before pulling the towel from around Justin’s waist and flinging it across the room.


I felt ashamed to have thought the worst, luckily I’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. However I wasn’t wrong the next time. It couldn’t be a mistake. When he called.



Justin’s voice sounded absolutely miserable over the phone and Josh’s heart sank, his right hand clenched into a fist, his thumb reaching for the ring Justin had given him months ago. It had represented Josh’s or really their hope for a better trouble free future. Where in they would be happy, where in Justin wouldn’t steal again, where in he would keep his promise and tell Josh when he felt the urge to steal.

“Justin?” Josh choked on his lover’s name, knowing in his gut that whatever Justin was going to say was not what he wanted to hear.

“Can you… can you come and…” Josh heard him take a huge gulp of air before finishing his sentence, “Pick me up?”

“Pick… pick you up where?” Josh asked, his eyes closed.

“P’licestation,” the word was soft but hastily spoken.

“What?” He heard Justin sigh, but he honestly hadn’t heard it.

“The police station.” Justin repeated, clearer and this time Josh definitely heard it. He let out a heavy sigh and slumped against the wall.

“Josh?” Justin asked carefully as a few moments of silence passed. Afraid he’d hang up on him.

“I’m on my way,” Josh said curtly before hanging up.


Justin replaced the phone and slumped against the wall. He’d really screwed up this time. Josh would never talk to him again. After he was lead to a holding cell he dropped down into a seat, he hid his face in his hands and fought hard against the tears, reminding himself over and over again that breaking down in jail was a very bad idea. It was hard though, because he could still hear the hurt in Josh’s voice, the trepidation when Josh asked where he was and the shortness when Josh told him he’d come.

Honestly, Justin hadn’t wanted to call Josh because he knew it would break his heart. But he had no one else he could call and even though it would break his lover’s heart, it would destroy him if he found out Justin hadn’t called him at all.

So he’d taken a deep breath as he picked up the phone, closed his eyes as he dialed the familiar number and held his breath until Josh picked up. Justin wasn’t completely sure Josh would show up. He wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t, but Josh wouldn’t leave him here. Josh was reliable, he was trustworthy and he kept his word. Josh was everything that he wasn’t. He didn’t deserve him. And he finally lost the battle against his tears.

Josh hadn’t said a word to him yet. His lover hadn’t even acknowledged him as he was brought out and Josh had been quiet during the ride home as well. Justin followed Josh as they went inside, like a child that needed to be reprimanded, who was going to get the biggest lecture of his young life.

Josh dropped his keys on the table in the hallway and went straight for the liquor, stashed away in one of the kitchen cabinets. Justin looked on in horror as Josh filled a glass nearly all the way with JD and washed it down quickly. His eyes screwed shut as the liquid rapidly burned down his throat. The coughing fit he went into after slamming the empty glass on the table, underlined the fact that Josh hardly ever drank strong liquor. Beer, he loved, but he hardly ever washed down a full glass of JD in one go.

Justin felt his stomach turn at the realization that he was the cause of this. Josh stood with his hands flat on the table, bend over and his head hung low, breathing hard. He continued to ignore Justin and Justin didn’t dare say anything either. This Josh scared him.

Justin startled as Josh straightened himself and filled the glass again. He dropped into a seat and gulped down his drink. Justin remained by the entry way, still uncertain of what to do. When Josh began on the fourth glass of JD, Justin stepped forward and took it away from him.

“No, Josh, stop.”

Josh shot him the mother of all glares and the saying if looks could kill never seemed more appropriate. “Give it back,” he ordered, his voice dangerously low.

Despite the fact that he was trembling, Justin stood his ground and shook his head, “No.” Scared shitless he waited for Josh’s next move.

“Give me my drink, Justin.” Josh repeated, same tone, but Justin didn’t budge.

“No, you’re angry with me…” Justin said meeting Josh's eyes and seeing the intense anger behind them.

“Fine, furious with me, I get it,” he amended.

“But don’t hurt yourself. You cannot handle liquor.”

“Don’t tell me what I cannot handle.” Josh warned.

“Do you know what I cannot handle?” Josh began, far passed being tipsy. Justin said nothing, he had a fair idea where Josh was going with this.

“What I cannot handle is thinking I know you only to find out that you’re a thief!”

“What I cannot handle is you breaking the promise to tell me when you feel the urge to steal time after time.”

“What I cannot handle is living in fear everyday, wondering when you’ll screw up again.”

“What I cannot handle is thinking we are doing okay only for you to tell me you screwed up again.”

“What I cannot handle is having hope of this working out between us only to have the rug pulled out from underneath us over and over again.”

“What I cannot handle is when I want to surprise you with a romantic dinner, because that’s what you do for me when I’m having a bad week, you go on and call from the POLICE STATION!”

“That’s what I fucking can’t handle, Justin!” he yelled.

“I cannot handle any of this anymore!”

“I just can’t.” he added softer and then collapsed into sobs. His head in his hands as he dropped his elbows onto the table. His shoulders shook with heart wrenching sobs. Justin’s own tears tracking softly down his cheeks as he still stood next to Josh, the half finished drink in his right hand while looking down at the only man who’d ever loved him and believed in him.

It took him a few moments to force himself to move. Setting the drink on the table he sank onto his knees, so similar to a few months ago, when Josh had given him yet another chance. He gently pulled on Josh’s arms before wrapping his own arms tightly around Josh’s frame. Josh was reluctant, Justin felt the tension in Josh’s body, but he was persistent. He wasn’t going to let go of Josh, until he was pushed away. Josh didn’t though, resisting cost too much energy and he just needed someone to hold him. There was no better feeling than having Justin’s strong arms around him and the fight soon went out. He slumped into Justin’s embrace as his sobs continued just the same.

Justin had no idea how long they sat there but he knew he never wanted to move. He was holding the love of his life in his arms and he never wanted to let go.

Gradually though Josh’s sobs dwindled to sniffles and with a voice filled with tears, cracked from crying he whispered, “No more Justin, please,” Josh begged. “I can’t take it anymore.”

Justin sat frozen, unable to speak. He’d been too scared to hope for Josh’s forgiveness, but he craved it and when Josh had accepted his comfort it’d given him a gleam of hope. Now he wasn’t sure anymore, one way or the other. He was too scared to ask though. Josh's breath hitched several times before he was able to compose himself enough to speak while Justin still held onto him for dear life.

“But I love you so damn much, I can’t walk away.”


“Josh?” Karen addressed her son as they were having a drink together. Roy working late. Josh had been quiet during his entire visit, only making small talk and answering all of her questions with short answers. Josh met his mother’s concerned gaze.

“Is something wrong?”

Dammit, his mother knew him too well. He could feel the tears start and he swallowed hard to force them away. Shaking his head, he lied, “No.”

Karen lifted an eyebrow, “No?” Josh lowered his gaze, she knew when he was lying, he’d always been the worst liar.

“Yes.” he admitted, biting his lower lip hard. Karen set her drink on the table and moved to the couch where Josh was sitting. She sat close, but left some space between them.

“What is it?” she asked gently, a sympathetic note to her voice. Josh squeezed his eyes shut, a few tears slipping out.

“Justin,” he breathed.

Karen closed her eyes, not again. That boy had caused so much misery to her son’s life. Karen couldn’t bear to see him get hurt and for the past year she’d seen him miserable so often and all because of Justin. Karen wished Josh would see that too. Instead of telling him what she thought she asked, “What happened?”

“He was arrested a few days ago.”

Karen couldn’t stop the gasp from escaping.

“For stealing.”

A bitter laugh, “For a change.”

“Oh, Josh,” Karen sympathized, wrapping an arm around her son’s shoulders. Josh leaned into the touch, resting his head on her shoulder and sighing contently for the affection. She stroked his hair soothingly while her mind was reeling.

“Josh,” she said after a few minutes, “I think you have to let him go.”

Josh sat up abruptly. “I can’t.”

“But you have to!” she insisted. Josh shook his head, tears shimmering in his eyes.

“It’ll destroy him, I can’t let him go. I love him.”

“You are destroying yourself!” she exclaimed, couldn’t he see that? This wasn’t healthy for either of them.

“I don’t care.” Josh said stubbornly.

Karen sighed. “Love shouldn’t destroy you.”

“Love shouldn’t be so damn hard!” Josh yelled. Anger filling him completely, but as he looked at his mother, he saw the pity, the sadness and he felt the anger drain away. Hopelessness took over quickly and he slumped back against the couch, hiding his face in his hands while the first tears spilled over. The tears gathered in streams and the streams rapidly gathered in rivers, waterfalling down his cheeks. Arms wrapped around him tightly and drew him in, he sobbed loudly, wondering if he’d ever be able to stop.

“I love him so much, mom,” he whispered, after some time.

Karen rocked him slightly and shushed him, “I know, baby, I know.” Though she didn’t say what she was really thinking: that sometimes love alone just isn’t enough.


“I forgive you.” Soft words in the dark as they lay in bed together. Justin’s eyes opened at once. He’d been on the verge of sleep, however he was wide awake now.

Josh hadn’t said anything about it after his breakdown. He’d pulled back after his cries had subsided, stood and walked away, leaving Justin in the dark. Justin hadn’t dared to ask, afraid of rejection. In the days that followed Josh hadn’t said a word about that he forgave him, but he hadn’t broken it off either. They’d kind of been in between. And it had caused both of them to continuously walk on egg shells.

“Justin?” Josh whispered, wondering if he’d heard him as he got no response. Justin couldn’t speak, but forced himself to, because maybe Josh would change his mind and wouldn’t say it again.

“Y…yes,” he replied hastily.

“Did you hear me?” Josh asked quietly.

Justin nodded before he realized Josh couldn’t see him, “Yes,” he answered softly, “I heard you.”

Josh shifted, Justin thought he was going to sleep now, but instead the room was flooded in a soft light and Justin shut his eyes quickly. Blinking a few times until he was able to keep them open, he turned onto his side and faced Josh.

“And?” Josh asked, but Justin didn’t know what he wanted to hear.

“And what?” he asked as they both lay on their sides, facing each other.

“What do you think?” Josh elaborated.

Justin ducked his head, understanding now what Josh was asking of him, “I don’t know, I just… can’t believe it.”

“I can’t believe you’d forgive me… again. I hoped you would, but I didn’t want to hope for it, because I hurt you, I broke my promise again and I can’t even forgive myself, why would you?”

“I love you.”

Justin smiled. “I love you too.”

They kissed, a quick peck on the lips, both wishing it could only be that simple.


I’d wrestled with the choice whether or not I should give him another chance in those few days. I wanted to so badly. I didn’t want to lose him because I couldn’t be without him and therefore I gradually convinced myself it would be different this time. It would be better, it just had to. But that was exactly the reason why it didn’t get better, because this time it was me who screwed up.


“Josh, please,” Justin begged his boyfriend exasperated as he slammed his fork down during the middle of dinner. A question that was engraved in Justin’s brain popped up again and he really wanted to scream.

Ever since Josh had forgiven him barely two months ago, Justin had felt like Josh had been hovering over him. Asking him nearly every day if he was okay, if he didn’t need to tell him something.

The months that had passed had been hard on both of them. They’d struggled to make it work and had fought to stay together. It’d put so much stress on both of them, there was hardly any time left for them to just love each other and be together. It was not like it was before and it hadn’t been for a long time.

Josh had began to get extremely attached, at first Justin had thought it was just concern, but during the last few days and weeks really, Justin felt as if he’d been suffocating. Josh was enveloping him, trying to protect him to the extent that he was crushing him. He’d tried to tell Josh he was fine, he could back off a little and let him breathe, but it only worked for a little while.

Josh knew somewhere that he might be exaggerating a little, but he felt as if Justin was slipping away from him. He’d felt it after every problem they’d had, but he’d mostly managed to ignore it. However after the last strain on their relationship, Josh was aware of the fact that he was slowly losing Justin. And he did everything in his power to stop that from happening even though he might know somewhere that by behaving the way he was, he was actually achieving the complete opposite.

Josh looked up confused, hurt passing his features. “What?”

“Can you please, please, just one day, not ask me if I need to tell you something?”

Josh frowned, “Why?” Not aware of having done anything wrong.

“Because it is driving me insane! If you think I stole something without telling you, if you don’t trust me, just come out and say it, but this subtle interrogation… just STOP.” Justin ranted, the end harsher than he’d intended. Josh had slowly lowered his own fork to his plate as he listened to Justin in shock.

“But… I…” he began, then stopped, realizing he didn’t know what he was going to say.

“Interrogation?” Josh echoed, the word finally sinking in completely.

“Yes!” Justin shot back as he pushed back from the table and stood, feeling himself lose control.

“You are constantly hovering over me, suffocating me with your questions!”

Josh jumped to his feet to protest, but Justin continued, “I might as well be in jail, you sure get a hell of a lot more space!” he cried in anger, months of pent up frustration unleashing in the worst possible way.

Josh stumbled back, feeling as if he’d been punched in the gut, the sting of those words worse than any punch could ever be. He looked at his angry lover, his mind reeling. Thinking of all the months he’d spent worrying about this man, fearing he’d screw up, and going out of his way to prevent it from happening. But it blew up in his face. Every. Single. Time. Josh found that he could no longer hold back all those feelings he had tried to control for so long.

“Can you really blame me Justin?” He snapped.

“For asking, for wanting to make sure you’re okay, that you haven’t stolen anything?” Josh yelled, turning the anger around. Because if Justin was playing that game, Josh might as well join him.

“I wanted us to have a future! I fought for us, all you ever did was destroy us!” Josh accused, as he pointed a finger at Justin. The words out before he realized it, but regretting them immediately as he watched how Justin’s eyes welled up with tears.

“Justin,” he called, but Justin had already turned and ran. Josh went after him, but it was too late. As he opened the front door he could just see Justin’s car speed around the corner.


Josh woke up on the couch hours later, it was dark outside and he rubbed his eyes as he wondered how he’d ended up here. Slowly the events of the evening came back to him, remembering their fight, how Justin had stormed off and how he’d dropped himself on the couch with a bottle of scotch in his hands. It hadn’t taken long before he’d passed out. Justin was right, he couldn’t handle liquor and his head hurt so bad. He groaned and closed his eyes as he righted himself, the pounding in his head multiplying.

As he slowly opened his eyes, he thought he was delirious as he was almost certain he could see Justin sitting in the chair opposite from him. He closed his eyes again, sure that if he reopened them Justin would be gone. But he wasn’t. He was waiting for Josh to wake up.

Josh struggled to his feet and took small steps towards Justin. Still afraid he’d vanish into thin air any second now. When he got closer and he could still see him, Josh shook his head in disbelief, though he regretted the action immediately.

“Justin?” he asked softly.

Justin nodded and looked up at Josh who was only two feet away from him, “Yes, Josh, I’m here.”

Josh’s knees buckled and Justin shot up, catching his love before he went down. Justin shifted the man in his arm, sliding one arm around his back, the other under his knees before lifting him up. Justin held him close, kissing Josh’s forehead before carrying him up the stairs. He undressed both of them and hugged Josh to him.

“I'm so sowwy,” Josh slurred as he snuggled against Justin who smiled sadly, kissed him on the lips again before settling down to go to sleep together.

“I know.”

Only he knew it would be the last time.


When Josh blinked and opened his eyes again it was late into the afternoon. He felt groggy, but sleep had done him well. His hands reached out blindly for Justin, but he wasn’t there. Josh raised his head, wondering why his headache was so mild, before flashes of waking up earlier, rushing to the bathroom to throw up, Justin helping him back to bed and handing him some aspirin went through his mind.

Wondering where Justin was, he sat up slowly and left the bed. Pulling a pair of sweatpants and a simple t-shirt out of his closet, he put them on before he patted down the stairs and went in search of Justin. He wasn’t in the kitchen like he’d expected, instead he found Justin in the living room, sitting on the couch, waiting. Josh carefully walked in, stumbling when he saw the suitcase next to him. Justin saw him staring and lowered his head.

“Justin?” Josh breathed, as he sank down onto the couch next to him. Fidgeting with his hands, nervously wondering if he should put one on Justin’s knee to gain his attention, but Justin turned his head slowly, facing Josh. However before Justin had the opportunity so say anything, Josh beat him to it.

“Oh Justin, I’m so sorry for what I said last night. I know you tried the best you could. We both did, I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

Justin smiled softly in reassurance, nodding, “I know, Josh and I do. I do forgive you. I’m sorry too for what I said, I know you’re just trying to help.” Justin said, staring into Josh’s eyes.

He sighed, “God, I love you.”

Josh broke down in tears, “I love you too! Please don’t go, we can try again, it can be a clean start, please Justin.” Josh begged, slumping against Justin. Forgetting everything except that he didn’t want to let Justin walk out of his life.

But Justin shook his head, pushed Josh back gently. “I have to, Josh.”

Josh looked up at Justin through teary eyes, “But why?”

Justin met Josh’s eyes before looking at his hands as he confessed, “I messed up, again, Josh. After our fight.” Josh’s mouth opened in shock, though maybe he’d already known.

“I know I’ll just keep doing it. I could promise you I won’t, and we could pretend everything is fine and that we’re happy and doing well but we both know that’s not the case and we’ll both wait for me to screw up again. Because I will. I just can’t stop it. No matter how desperately I want to.”

Josh wanted to argue, wanted to say he was wrong. But he wasn’t. Justin was right. And they both knew it. As Justin saw how realization and acceptance slowly washed over Josh’s face, Justin couldn’t hold back his tears. He brought his hands up to cup Josh’s face and struggled to remember the speech he’d prepared as he’d watched Josh during the night, free of worry, asleep in his arms. Nothing came to him and so instead he opened his mouth and spoke from his heart as tears fell silently from his eyes.

“I know I failed you, Josh. Over and over again. I hurt you. I hurt myself. I hurt us. I promised I wouldn’t steal again. But I did. We just… can’t live like this anymore. I can’t do that to you.”

Josh burst into tears, his head dropping into his hands while Justin’s hands still cupped his cheeks. Justin leaned forward, resting his head on Josh’s and letting his own tears slip out. And they sat like that for a few minutes, realization sinking in for both of them. Justin sniffed as his tears subsided slowly and he pulled back, raising Josh’s head at the same time to get his attention.

“I need help, Josh.” Justin said softly, for the first time in his life willing to admit that he could not do this by himself. It was a huge step for him and Josh had made him realize it. For that, Justin would be forever grateful.

Josh let his hands drop and looked into Justin’s eyes, “But I can…” Josh began on impulse, promising to help, promising to make it better, but his heart broke as Justin shook his head.

“I wish you could, but you can’t, Josh. You shouldn’t.”

“But I want to.” Josh protested weakly.

“I know, baby, but you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself for me. Besides I need to do this by myself.” Josh swallowed hard, tears continuously streaming down his cheeks.

“I need to figure out why I keep doing it, need to find out why I need to steal to make me feel good. What caused it and more importantly how to stop it.”

“So… this is it?” Josh asked, flabbergasted, because after all the times he’d thought of ending the relationship, all the times he’d feared they’d break up, he’d never thought it would actually happen. And especially not like this. He’d had hope, every time that they could make it work, his love for Justin so strong that he couldn’t see them not being together. But it wasn’t enough. The realization shattered his heart into a million pieces. Justin no longer in his bed, the two of them no longer sharing their meals together, watching a movie or sharing stories about their day. Justin no longer in his home.

“Can I still call you?” Josh asked, hating the desperate tone of his voice. Knowing he shouldn’t if they weren’t together anymore, but unable to imagine his life without Justin in it.

“I… I… I think it’s better if you don’t.” Justin answered, though it hurt him to say it. At the stricken and hurt look he saw on Josh’s face, he quickly explained, “I want you to, Josh, but… I need to do this by myself and if I hear your voice… I might give in and forget about all of it to be with you.”

“What’s so bad about that?” Josh asked pitiful.

“Josh, whatever urges me to steal is keeping us apart. I need to work through my own problems before there can be an us or I’ll just continue to hurt you.”

“But how long?”

Justin sighed, a small smile, “I don’t know,”

“But I can wait for you.” Josh offered. He would for as long as it took.

Justin shook his head, “Don’t promise me that Josh, though I wish I could be selfish and agree... you shouldn’t. I can’t ask you to wait around for me, after all that’s happened I can’t ask and don’t want you to put your life on hold for me.”

“But...” Josh began again, protesting against their separation.

Justin cut him off, “Josh, no.”

He took Josh’s hands in his own and lowered his voice, his eyes shimmering with tears as he said, “We have to let go of each other, we both need a break to find ourselves again and we need to do it separately.” Josh sniffled, nodding though his heart was yelling to stop. Because this wasn’t right.

“I know,” he finally admitted, his head speaking, “But I don’t want it to end this way.”

“Me neither, but it will be better... for the both of us.”

Josh nodded again, though he couldn’t really imagine how a life without Justin would be better. He knew though in his head that if they continued the way they had this past year, it would eventually destroy them both.

Josh bent forward, seeking Justin’s embrace, needing to feel those strong arms around him again, one last time. Justin opened his arms to embrace Josh as the man leaned forward. Josh buried his face in the crook of Justin’s neck and inhaled his scent, tightening his arms around Justin’s back as he felt Justin’s arms go around his shoulders. They clung to each other desperately. Unmoving for minutes long until Justin shuddered as he let out a deep breath.

He sat up and moved to pull back. Josh felt himself panic as Justin was pulling away from him, but he didn’t try to hold on to him knowing instead that this was the smartest thing they could do. Justin’s hand cupped Josh’s cheek and moved further to the nape of his neck, drawing Josh closer for a last kiss. A deep, compassionate goodbye kiss. Josh’s arms dropped to Justin’s hips as he pulled himself closer again, their tongues made love as their lips locked.

They only let go to draw in a breath and when they did they were both dazed, opening their eyes slowly to stare at each other. Their love for one another was obvious, but it wasn’t enough. Justin swallowed hard as his tears started anew, he leaned forward for a few quick short kisses, another long one and then he pulled back completely. He stood quickly to prevent them from giving in to temptation and instead picked up Josh’s hand. He brought the hand up to his lips, smiled sadly as he looked at the ring on Josh’s index finger and swiped at his eyes. Kissing the back of Josh’s hand he inhaled a deep breath, Josh’s scent filling his nose and another tear slipped. He forced himself to let go, reaching to the side instead to lift his suitcase off the floor.

He turned back to Josh who was still sitting on the couch, looking at him. Justin met his eyes, whispering sadly and meaningful, “Goodbye, Josh,”

“Bye, Justin,” Josh said softly, his eyes lingering on Justin for as long as possible.

Lowering his head and therefore breaking eye contact, Justin walked slowly to the door that connected the living room to the hallway. His hand on the doorknob, he cast one last glance at the man that he’d been lucky enough to be able to call his and the house they’d shared for almost a year.

“I love you, take care of yourself.”

Josh was barely able to choke the words out, “You too.”

Tears blurred his vision but he heard the door open, the sound of Justin walking away fading. Still, Josh couldn’t help the gleam of hope that Justin might have changed his mind as he didn’t hear the front door open, but his hope was shattered only moments later. The sound of the lock being unlatched, a thud from a suitcase that contacted shortly with the doorframe, followed by the soft click as the front door closed on Justin’s departure. All that remained was silence. Justin was gone.


It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. To let him go. I knew in my head I was helping him by letting him go so he could work out his problems and come to terms with his past. But that knowledge did nothing to soothe my broken heart. And it still doesn’t.

Our relationship went downhill that day he came home early from work. The man I thought he was, the person I thought I knew didn’t exist. Not really. And we weren’t the same after that. Our relationship changed, we changed. I just didn’t want to see it.

It snuck up on us slowly, like a silent killer in the middle of the night. We struggled and dragged on for months. I know I let it go on for far too long. But I couldn’t bring myself to give up. I couldn’t let him go, because he was the one for me. My everything. Living my life without him was not an option. Though as time went on it was a scenario I feared was inevitable.

We became masters at avoiding issues, and choosing what we wanted to see, what we wanted to believe about each other. But we couldn’t ward off the real world interminable. It slammed its way in every time I’d almost succeeded in convincing myself everything was fine. It made me face the facts: we were not okay. And with every new bump it became harder to pretend.

When he got arrested we got into a rapid decline. The wall I’d build up to keep us in our fantasy world crumbled down and for the first time I seriously considered the fact that I might not be able to help him. My love for him might not be able to save him from himself.

From then on things went bad rapidly. I constantly felt as if I couldn’t catch my breath, as one thing after another was thrown at us and set us back. We never had time to recover. I couldn’t pretend anymore and it quickly brought us further into destruction until crawling back up was impossible. Because the problems had gotten to be too much, they’d finally buried us alive.

I honestly believe he never meant to hurt me. He loved me. And it was not like he didn’t want to change, he just couldn’t. People tried to convince me otherwise. They said: “He’d have stopped stealing if he’d loved you enough”, but I know that’s not true. I know he loved me as much as I loved him. He left because of the love we shared and I let him go for the same reason.

I pray that someday we’ll be able to find our way back to each other. Because although I might be able to live my life without him, my world will never feel complete without him in it.


Josh slowly opened his eyes, barely managing it because his eyes were so puffy as he’d cried through his memories and the thoughts that had followed. He kept going over everything in his mind, wondering what they could have done differently. It was hard to let go and it exhausted him physically to think about it.

Sinking further into his mother’s embrace while closing his eyes, he couldn’t help but wish it were Justin’s strong arms that held him close.

Tears fell unnoticed down his cheeks as the sound of the radio penetrated his haze of pain and misery. He’d turned it on earlier unable to bear the silence of an empty house. He forced himself to listen to it, the sound and the songs, to keep the thoughts and pain at bay. It wasn’t long before his exhaustion got the best of him and he slowly slipped into oblivion.

Josh cried himself to sleep as the song with the oddly appropriate lyrics and the melody that reflected his sadness and heartache played in the background.

Your toothbrush is still next to mine
Your clothes are hanging in the closet
And I’m still living here
You paid the deposit
Now the future is unknown
But I’m not sleeping alone

I’m sleeping with the memory
I’m sleeping with regret
I’m sleeping with the fantasy
That I can’t let go of yet
Half of me is you
Everything I own
I feel you beside me
Oh, I’m not sleeping alone
I’m not sleeping alone
I’m not sleeping alone

Hey, I wonder where you are tonight
What’s going through your head
Hey, I’m doing alright
On my side of the bed
You think I’m here on my own
But I’m not sleeping alone

I’m sleeping with the memory
I’m sleeping with regret
I’m sleeping with the fantasy
That I can’t let go of yet
Half of me is you
Everything I own
I feel you beside me
Oh I’m not sleeping alone

I’m not sleeping alone
I’m not sleeping alone
You think I’m here on my own
But I’m not sleeping alone

When I put my head on my pillow
And I enter the world of my dreams
Everything is as it was before
You’re still loving me
You’re still loving me

You think I’m here on my own
But I’m not sleeping alone

I’m sleeping with the memory
I’m sleeping with regret
I’m sleeping with the fantasy
That I can’t let go of yet
Half of me is you
Everything I own
I feel you beside me
Oh I’m not sleeping alone

I’m not sleeping alone
I’m not sleeping alone
You think I’m here on my own
But I’m not sleeping alone

Oh when I still feel you beside me
Since you know I’m not sleeping alone

The end

Lyrics: I’m not sleeping alone by JC Chasez.

Thanks to my beta Diggy & Maplebeanie


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