And just like that, it was over and all Hunk could feel was a relieved emptiness.

He put Lance's hand down, and backed away from the clinic's ratty bed, making room for the tired looking nurse who had come over with a sigh, summoned by the shrill scream of the heart monitor. She took a look at Lance's small, thin hand--so thin and fragile now--and plastered a practiced "I'm-so-sorry" expression her face before gently shutting Lance's empty eyes and detaching the monitors and IV's from his body.

Hunk looked down at his hands; he had large hands, still; large, meaty, dark hands that hid the little bruised spots between his fingers where he gave himself shots and the drug rash caused by one of the little pills he had to swallow every eight hours. He didn't know why he was looking at his hands, except maybe because his hands were still healthy looking and Lance's hands were wasted, almost skeletal. But then again, Hunk wasn't showing any of the outward signs Lance had showed. He was just a little...weaker than he used to be.

If it weren't for the fact that he kept coming down with colds that were taking longer and longer to shake off, he wouldn't have believed that he had a problem at all; most people didn't.

"It's over, isn't it." Keith's soft voice pulled Hunk out of his tired examination of his hands.


"Good. It." A sigh. "Good." Keith sat down slowly in the other chair they had appropriated, handing Hunk his cup of wretched institutional coffee. He looked pale today, and almost as thin as Lance. He coughed a couple of times, dry and hacking, and rubbed at his eyes. Hunk wondered how long it would be until he would be back here, holding Keith's hand and waiting for the end.

"We should. You know."

"Yeah," Keith sighed and then laughed until he doubled over, coughing. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand and Hunk saw the bright spots of blood that dotted the pale skin before Keith could hide them. Keith took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes. "I'm just. I'm going to rest here for a minute, okay?"


Hunk looked back down at his hands and waited for Keith to feel strong enough to walk, or maybe weak enough to die. Right now Hunk was ready for either, and he was actually, almost, hoping for the latter because after Keith went, Hunk wouldn't ever have to bury another friend. God but he wanted to end it--his life, the deaths of everyone he ever loved, the aching, haunting wanting that was chewing a hole in his soul.

And now Lance was gone and the relieved emptiness that had flooded him when he first heard the harsh wail of the heart monitor was being rapidly replaced by a great, keening pain. Hunk imagined that this was what Lance had felt in those last weeks, when he would wake up crying from the pain, too weak to walk, feverish and coughing and miserable. Hunk had hurt then, hurt so much for the man he loved so desperately, so helplessly.

He was crying a little, now, because he wasn't prepared for this, wasn't prepared to lose Lance so soon. It was so fucking unfair that he should meet Lance and watch him die in less than a year. And he wanted to scream, but he didn't know what he hated more, didn't know if he would have been happier if had never met Lance at all because he hurt.

"Oh, hey. Hey." Keith pulled Hunk toward him, hugged him as tightly as he could and Hunk remembered that it wasn't so long ago that Sven gave up and shot himself and Hunk had been the one holding Keith. "Hey, come on. It'll. It's."

There was a sort of knife-edge irony about the fact that he and Keith are the only ones left to comfort the survivors. They both sucked terribly when it came to dealing with crying people.

Keith's arms felt as light as a bird's wing and he was feverish. Hunk could feel him shivering and knew that it wasn't just withdrawal. He wondered if it would be inappropriate to get high right now, because he could feel the first of the cravings creeping up on him. He needed that sweet freedom of flight right now; he wondered, too, how much he could get for his leftover AZT. He'd stopped taking it a week ago, sick of the rashes and the insomnia. Anyway, he'd run out of the other stuff the Doc at the free clinic prescribed for him about a month ago, so it was really pointless to keep taking AZT, especially since he couldn't afford to buy another dosage of anything.

Hunk breathed in deeply, filling his mind and senses with Keith, wanting to burn everything about Keith into his soul. But all he could smell was the sterile hospital smell, and all he could feel was the sharp heat of the fever that burned through Keith's thin, weak body. That wasn't how he wanted to remember Keith, because he could still remember when Keith was strong and vibrant and didn't shake like neurotic Chihuahua. But that had been before the drugs, and then, well, the drugs had started to kill Keith long before the disease. In Hunk's opinion, the disease was kind of an overkill; Keith would have been dead in a few years anyway, if not from the drugs themselves, than from the need that drove him--drove Hunk.

The world was full of death, filled with so many different ways to die and everyone was dying. They were all dying, always dying, and there was nothing Hunk could do except watch them die and feel so guilty over the fact that he was still living.