Prompt #30: Death
Howie barely takes notice when they walk into his hotel room. He's sitting on the bed, still in the same clothes he's been wearing for three days now, staring into space. He doesn't want to break this moment. He'll do something irrational if he breaks it. Maybe he'll cry again.
The bedsprings protest loudly when they sit down next to him. He doesn't even flinch. A hand rests on his thigh, unmoving, and he can recognize Brian's touch even though he still hasn't looked at him once.
"She-" He clears his throat before he can continue. "I didn't make it in time. The funeral's on Friday, so … I have to go back tomorrow. I don't even know why I came back. I … I mean, it's stupid, it's-"
Brian pulls him closer; kisses his temple gently. Howie takes a deep breath and finally moves his gaze, looks at AJ instead, AJ whose eyes are big and beautiful and merciless.
"Why her?" Howie asks. "Why now?"
"I don't know," AJ says quietly.
Brian runs a hand through Howie's hair, just once, combing it with his fingers. He presses his face into Howie's neck and runs his hands down Howie's arms, resting them on his stomach.
"Brian," Howie pleads, still looking at AJ. "Don't. Please. Not now, I'm not-"
"I love you," Brian whispers, pressing a light kiss to Howie's neck, rocking them both gently. "I love you."
AJ moves closer, runs a hand down Howie's arm with a light touch that says we know what you need, we know you, we love you and kisses Howie's cheek. "Lie down," he murmurs, and Howie is too tired to argue. They both lie down next to him, Brian at his front, AJ at his back.
Brian can't seem to stop touching him. His fingers skim first down his cheek, then over his side before finally resting on his hip. Howie looks at him and says, "I should've been there, I should've gotten there faster – she's my sister." He pauses. "Was," he corrects almost impassively, and something in Brian's eyes breaks.
"You did what you could," he says softly. "No one blames you."
"I blame me," Howie replies.
AJ pulls him closer until Howie's spooned against him, AJ's arm wrapped tight around his stomach. Neither he nor Brian speak. They know him too well. Brian moves closer until there's hardly any breathing room left for any of them, but it doesn't matter; none of it matters. He whispers those three words again and rubs their noses together lovingly, and it's such a ridiculous gesture, and Howie almost loses it completely right there.
He doesn't fall asleep once that night. They don't even ask him to try.