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The world wasn’t supposed to end on a day like today, a day when the sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was shining, the temperature so perfect and mild that the air felt…soft, caressing. It wasn’t supposed to end while children were playing in their front yards, free for the day from the confinement of school, laughing with joy, enjoying the innocent pleasures of childhood.
The world wasn’t supposed to end at all, not like this. Not while Jeremy was standing on his own front porch, the smell of the pot roast Brent had put in the crockpot that morning wafting from the open doorway Jeremy stood in front of, listening as a grim-faced police officer said words like accident and hospital and serious.
“But he just went to pick up our dry cleaning,” Jeremy said stupidly for the third time, and he wondered at the pity that crossed the officer’s face.
“Sir, you need to get to the hospital right now. Mr. Speer has you listed on his emergency info as next-of-kin and the doctors will have some questions.” The officer’s tone was gentle, almost too gentle, like he was trying to keep Jeremy calm.
Jeremy just stood there, not wanting to face it. Brent was finally doing better, so much better, and now this? A painful injury could send him spiraling back down into the black hole he’d just climbed out of, and at the thought of it, Jeremy was suddenly exhausted, so emotionally tired.
“Sir, we need to go. Let me drive you to the hospital.” The officer’s insistent voice snapped him out of those disloyal thoughts, and Jeremy was bitterly ashamed of himself. For better or for worse, he told himself fiercely, remembering whispering those words time and again in Brent’s ear while wiping the tears from the other man’s cheeks with his thumbs, doing his best to comfort and soothe.
He nodded, stepping back inside and flipping the crockpot off before grabbing his wallet, keys and phone from the little basket just inside the door. The officer waited while he locked the front door then led him to his patrol car. As Jeremy settled in the cramped passenger seat, he wondered how badly Brent was hurt. After all, the dry cleaner was only about two miles from home, and most of the journey there was on side streets, neighborhood streets. Whiplash, some cuts and bruises, maybe a broken bone? Later Jeremy would wonder at his cluelessness, should have known that a few bumps and scrapes wouldn’t warrant an officer being sent to his house to get him. It was like his mind and heart were doing their desperate best to protect him, to insulate him, for just a few more precious minutes.
After all, the world wasn’t supposed to end today, not ever, not like this.