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Lucas cried out, pain lancing through his head as he hit the side of the bookcase.

"Worthless little fuck, not even good for that anymore are you," Lucas winced at the words. He'd tried, God knows he'd tried to find ways to please him but he couldn't seem too.

"I'm going out, find someone who really knows how to please a man. Don't wait up," the words were accentuated with a kick to his ribs. Lucas cried out again, almost choking as he started to cough, he saw blood on the carpet, right as he heard the front door slam.

Lucas crawled towards the phone, he needed help, as he sat staring at the phone, he didn't know who to call. Eventually, after another coughing fit abated, he dialled, wincing in pain, even from just holding the phone, he was pretty sure he'd broken his wrist too.

"Empire Records, open 'til midnight," Mark's voice answered.

"Mark, is Joe there?" Lucas asked, trying to sound normal, even as his chest throbbed painfully. Had he broken a rib?

"Lucas? Hold on, don't hang up!" Mark said. Lucas heard him shouting Joe loudly in the background, but his head was pounding and fuzzy.

"Lucas? Lucas?" Joe's worried voice snapped him out of it.

"Joe I... please..." Lucas said.

"Lucas are you at your apartment?" Joe asked. "Lucas!"

"Yeah..."

"Don't move, I'll be right there," Joe said.

"Lucas, hey buddy, it's Mark, Joe is on his way," Mark's voice returned to the phone, but Lucas was swimming in and out of consciousness, barely aware of the steady stream of chatter.

*~*~*~*~*

Joe kicked the door to Lucas' apartment in without a second thought. "Lucas? Fuck!" Joe was beside the unconscious young man in a second, picking up the phone, only long enough to tell Mark he'd call later; he hung up and redialled 911.

"Lucas, hey come on, open your eyes for me," Joe said, tapping his face lightly. Lucas remained unresponsive.

"Why did you let him do this Lucas," Joe murmured. "Why did I?"

*~*~*~*~*

The paramedics made him stay back while they loaded Lucas onto the ambulance, but the woman in the back with him, did let him hold Lucas' uninjured hand while they rode to the hospital.

He thanked God that Lucas still had him listed as next of kin, when the Doctors finally came out and told Joe that yes, Lucas was fine, or at least, would be. He had a concussion, three cracked ribs a broken wrist and a lot of bruises, but nothing life threatening, mostly just really painful.

"Can I see him?" Joe asked.

"He's awake, so please don't stress him unduly," the Doctor warned.

Joe nodded. "I won't," Joe promised, he really just wanted to see for himself that Lucas was okay.

*~*~*~*~*

Lucas shook himself mentally, the pain meds made him fuzzy, or maybe that was the concussion, well either way, he didn't like it.

"Lucas..." Joe's voice was quiet as he popped his head around the door.

Lucas stiffened up. Oh God, Joe knew, he knew that... fuck!

"I knew already Lucas, I just... I thought you knew what you were doing, or at least I... I told myself I did. I should have said something, done something," Joe said.

"It wasn't your fault Joe," Lucas said, emphatically.

"I'm supposed to be your friend, I let you quit Empire, cut on contact with all of us, I knew that bastard was hurting you and I didn't do anything," Joe said.

"I could have left," Lucas said.

"Why didn't you?" Joe asked quietly. He knew why he hadn't said anything, why he'd kept his nose out of Lucas' life, even when he'd figured out what was going on... and he'd be kicking himself for that forever more, but why Lucas hadn't walked away... he couldn't begin to guess.

"I couldn't... I... it was... what I deserved," Lucas said.

"What!" Joe couldn't help raising his voice. "Lucas, that's... you do not deserve this, you don't."

"I'm no good Joe I can't... my mother didn't want me, no one did, not until you and then I... I betrayed you," Lucas said.

"The money... Lucas that was..."

"No... well yes, but... I... I didn't... mean to..." Lucas stumbled over his words, his head was not up to this conversation, but he couldn't stop it now. He needed... if Joe could forgive him this, maybe he could go back, back to Empire, to his friends, forget the last year and a half and hope he never set eyes on *him* again. "I fell in love with you," Lucas said, so quietly, he barely heard himself, but Joe had heard him.

*~*~*~*~*

Joe was gob smacked. Lucas... loved him. Was in love with him all this time and he'd...

"It's okay Joe, you can go now, I know you probably..."

"No. I'm not going anywhere Lucas, Christ... I promise you, I'm not going anywhere," Joe took hold of Lucas' uninjured hand, raising it to his lips, kissing it softly.

"Really?" Lucas asked in wonder.

"If I'd known Lucas... he won't hurt you ever again, no one will, not as long as I have any say in it and I plan to have a say for a very long time," Joe said, insistently.

"But you..."

"Love you Lucas, I never thought... we were both wrong, a lot," Joe said.

"I'm not sure I can..."

"Hush. We've got a whole life time to talk about this, you need to rest... and I'll have to call the gang. Lucas the cops..."

"No. Please Joe don't..." Lucas begged.

"The hospital already did, but you don't have to press charges," Joe said.

"You're not going to make me?" Lucas asked.

"Lucas, I lost every right to tell you what to do, when I let you walk out of Empire that day... I've got a second chance with you here, more than I thought I ever could have. I plan to earn back your trust, earn back the right to have a say in how you live your life... but this one is up to you," Joe said.

"Would you... if I did would you..." Lucas bit his lip.

"I'll be beside you every step of the way, whatever you decide," Joe promised.

"I don't want him to do this to someone else," Lucas said.

"Then we'll make sure he doesn't," Joe said, kissing Lucas' hand gently. "I'll let the cops know you want to make a statement and press charges, you rest a little."

"Will you kiss me properly?" Lucas asked, when Joe got up to leave.

"You can count on it... the day you walk out of this hospital," Joe said.

"But..."

"Incentive to get better," Joe said, smiling softly as he leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Lucas' forehead.

"Joe..." Lucas said before Joe left the room. "I'm scared."

Joe nodded, somehow knowing, Lucas wasn't referring to pressing charges, or what the end result of that, but of this, of them, of the fact that until a few hours ago, they hadn't set eyes on each other in months and now this...

"Me too," Joe murmured quietly. Fucking terrified.


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