by Annie

Emmett finds the CD as he dusts the apartment, cheerfully humming the latest Kylie song under his breath while whirling the feather duster over surfaces that hadn't been cleaned in over a year. He sweeps it over the top of the bookshelf and the CD clatters to the floor amidst a scattering of empty sunflower seeds and a picture of one of Michael's old boyfriends. He picks the CD up, wondering what it was doing way up there instead of in the music rack, then he sees the cover and memory strikes him.

It's Ted's La Traviata CD, the one he gave to Blake the day he checked Blake into the clinic. Later that night, when Ted and Emmett returned to visit and discovered Blake had taken off for parts unknown, Ted dropped the returned CD to the floor and walked out, numb despair in his every step.

Going to the kitchen to get a glass of cold chocolate milk and some cookies as a reward for his hard work, Emmett turns the CD over in his hands and wonders what he should do with it. He had scooped it up as he followed Ted out of the clinic, calling his name repeatedly but not penetrating the fog of Ted's hurt. After the long night of futile comfort and restraining Ted from going out on a search for Blake and struggling to drive that look of utter loss out of Ted's eyes, Emmett had tried to return the CD to him. Ted refused, begged Emmett to remove it from his sight because any trigger of Blake's presence was too much for him to tolerate.

Emmett thinks he must have put the CD on top of the bookcase when he got home after that tragic night, tossed it there carelessly after he checked his messages and heard the news about the attack on Justin. He had forgotten about it until now, and he wonders if Ted is ready to have it back. It has always been one of his favorite operas, and Blake has been gone for many months. Emmett knows Ted still hurts when he thinks of Blake, but it's become a nostalgic, gentle ache. Maybe getting the CD back is what Ted needs to truly say goodbye.

His mind made up and feeling pleased about being able to help his best friend in this way, he returns to the living room and opens the jewel case to make sure the CD wasn't damaged when it fell from the tall shelf. Inside, he sees a piece of torn spiral notebook paper, folded carefully to fit in between the CD and the liner notes. He pulls it out and unfolds it, mystified, then sinks into the couch as he reads what is written on the paper.


Dear Ted,

When you get this, I'll be gone. Please don't hate me. I had to leave. I wasn't here for an hour before a guy down the hall offered me some, as he put it, "pharmaceutical enhancement." He said it was easy to get shit in here. The staff looks away because they get paid by the state no matter what. It doesn't matter if anyone gets better.

I couldn't ask you to get me out of here. I've already asked you for too much. I called my parents and my dad is coming to pick me up. I haven't talked to them in three years but all I had to do was ask for help and they said yes. I'm checking into a place near home tomorrow, a place my mom knows can really help me.

I've left the number for their house for you and they know you are the only person I want to hear from. I told them all about you, what you've done for me. I can't accept calls and visitors at the clinic but I'll be out in three months.

At first I wanted to do this for you. I wanted to get clean for us. Now I want it for me, and you helped me see that. I don't know how to thank you right now, but I will find a way while I'm gone. And when I get out, I will wait for your call. I will wait for you.

All my love,


Emmett reads the note several times, hoping the words would have changed. He runs a finger over the number written below Blake's name, slightly smudging the pencil mark. He was so sure when Blake left that it was because the twink couldn't resist the pull of crystal. He told Ted many times over the months since that terrible night that there was nothing Ted could do, that Blake made his choice. Everytime Ted brought up searching for Blake, Emmett was there to remind him how Blake had repaid Ted for the last time he rescued him. He pleaded, he cajoled, he argued with Ted over and over until it finally sunk in and Ted gave up on his ridiculous fantasy of saving Blake.

He leans against the supple cushions of the couch and wrestles with his conscience. He knows how much Teddy loved Blake, probably still loves him and always will. As much as he hates to admit it, he also knows how much Blake loved Ted. It was the only honest thing about Blake. He knows how happy Ted will be to read this letter, to know that Blake didn't give up, didn't disappear into the oblivion of drugs. He can see the light in his friend's eyes, can see the smile breaking across Ted's face and knows there will be no hesitation, no second thoughts. Ted will call Blake, apologize profusely for not calling sooner, and they will be together.

Emmett also knows how miserable Blake's stumbles and relapses made Ted. He was there that night, watching Ted's tears, holding him until dawn. He remembers the devastation Blake wrought in his best friend and how close Ted came to giving up. He reads the note again and wonders if Blake kept his promise. What if he left that clinic? What if the pull of crystal was too strong for Blake to resist? Emmett knows there's no guarantee that Blake is sober now. Even if he is, it has been months since he would have gotten out of the clinic. He may have moved on, got tired of waiting for a call from Ted that never came. Emmett isn't sure he can handle seeing his best friend get his hopes up, only to have them destroyed once again.

He weighs seeing the joy on Teddy's face when Emmett hands him the note against the bereft darkness in Ted's eyes if something goes wrong, if this dream reunion doesn't have that fairytale happy ending Teddy desires and deserves. He imagines Ted and Blake rushing into each other's arms, exchanging frantic torrents of laughter and kisses and apologies. He imagines Blake failing Ted yet again, he imagines being too late this time to pick up the pieces of Ted's fractured heart.

He knows Ted will never fully recover from the hell Blake put him through, will never stop thinking of regrets and "what if?"s. Emmett wants nothing more than to see his friend at peace, perhaps not deliriously happy but at least content and knowing he is loved. After a vicious internal struggle, Ted has finally come to believe that Blake did love him, if even for a brief time, and it has sustained him for all these months. It has allowed him to believe he could be loved again. But is it enough?

Emmett wants to weep with frustration as he wrestles with his conscience. He knows what Brian would do, or even Michael, if they had been the ones to find the note. They would hand it over to Ted without a second thought, letting Ted make the choice on his own. Emmett despises himself for his lack of faith and trust in his best friend, but one thought keeps returning to him. No matter how he chooses, whether he helps bring Teddy and Blake back together or he withholds this vital information, this key to restoring Ted's muted hope, he loses. He loses a part of his friendship with Ted and he loses a piece of his heart he never knew existed until confronted with this innocuous-looking piece of greying paper.

Because it's easy, because it takes the edge off his bitterness and turmoil, he blames Blake for putting him in this precarious position. He hates Blake for forcing him to make this choice, because he doesn't have guts to hate himself. Yet.

He stands and moves to the kitchen in slow motion, as if pushing through quicksand. He pulls a ceramic bowl from the drainer and a box of matches from a drawer. Before he can think anymore about it, before he second-guesses his decision and second-guesses it again, he lights a match and touches it to the edge of the paper.

It catches quickly and is half gone before Emmett can drop it into the bowl. He watches the fire consume the rest of the note in the blink of an eye, leaving only a tiny, charred corner behind. As he rinses out the bowl and puts away the matches, a faint wisp of smoke curls in the air and dissipates.


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