Everything's Different Now
by Ally McKnight

Okay, in between big writing projects, I write a bunch of shorter stories to get the creative juices flowing on my longer ones. So, don't worry. I have not forgotten "Things Forgotten" and the 6th part of that will be posted today or tomorrow, this is just a side project. It's just a temporary mind numbing, to get everything on my big story flowing correctly.

This is one of those things that you can't stop. An idea pops into your head, and won't stop nagging you until you put it on paper. Let's get one thing straight, I hate Erica like I hate heights and doctors- a whole lot. But, even she would have something to say about Gary and such after "Fate." I hope it's not overkill on my part, doing another "Fate" fic, but there's just such good material, I cannot resist writing this. "Fate," from ew, Erica's P.O.V. Whoops, little editorial there.

Spoilers: "Fate," and "Just One of Those Things."

Rating: Y7, I'd say because of drinking references.

Disclaimers: Same old tune. If you had read the fine print, you would know that all characters, situations, and bladda, bladda, bladda, belong to Sony TriStar, and ugh, CBS. Oops, another editorial.

It's kind of a stupid fic, so don't blame me, or flame me, just read and review.

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Everything's Different Now
by Ally McKnight

It all started out, simple as can be, on a date. Just gazing up at the stars, hearing Gary's heart beating close to mine, and loving it. I could smell Gary's cologne, a fresh woodsy scent that was perfect for him. I had buried my head in his shoulder, and sighed, thinking about IT.

I had just started to accept and understand IT- the paper, and Gary too, for that matter. Gary's just so differents, from Mike, and Paul, and Steve, and all my ex-boyfriends, and not just because of IT. He had that boyish charm, the puppy dog eyes, the cute shyness, the adorable stutter, and not just a pretty face. He reminds me of that guy from that show "Homefront," the
character what was his name? Oh, yeah. Jeff Metcalf. He genuinely cares, and is not afraid to show his sensitive side. He helps, not for glory, but because he believes everyone deserves a second chance, apparently everyone but his own self.

When he had told me he had to go stop a fire, I didn't think much of it. From what Marissa tells me, just a fire in one day is like winning the lottery, it's very rare.

I guess, really, I was trying to make everything up to Gary. Not believing him when he told me about IT, his mudpuddle green eyes flashing, those eyes had always held and eery, haunted type look to them. So, I kissed him, told him to be careful, and watched as he walked away,  IT stuffed in his back pocket. He said he'd meet me later at McGinty's, I didn't expect how much later it was.

Back at McGinty's, the dinner rush had come and gone, no sign of him. By 8:00, I feared for the worst. It was just a simple, routine fire, right? When the news report came, it was mixed emotions, sympathy, but at the same time, relief that he was okay.

He had come back, late, real late. He had been drinking, it was obvious. The hard stuff, you could tell. If he had wanted a beer, he would have come to his own bar. No, it was the real stuff, the liqour used to numb minds, and in his case, broken hearts.
This was no, have a beer and watch a football game kind of drunk. This was drunk off liquor.

What really struck a chord in me, was his eyes. They were full of sadness and despair, and it was enough to make me want to cry. His voice was bitter, and jagged. His words cut through me like a knife. He didn't think he deserved a second chance, and there was nothing we could ever do about it.

I suppose trying to talk to him was the worst possible thing we, me and Marissa could have done. It just made him slip further and further into a deep depressed state.

The letter, oh, God how that scared me. Of course in confrontation, he showed no signs of emotion. He just sat at the desk coldly, a grim smile on his face, that could hardly be classified as a smile. He had promised me, promised me and Marissa he wouldn't leave. I should've known he'd go. He was never a good liar and we both knew it.

Standing in front of the police tape, sirens blaring, I felt my heart slowly crumbling.When he finally came out, I saw it. Saw that he hadn't forgiven himself, that he would never forgive himself.  It was a calm rational sadness though. He hugged Marissa, a tender loving hug. It was then I knew, it was then it was apparent. Gary would never love me like he loves Marissa. Never hug me like that. It was a friendship kind of love that, I finaly figured out was reserved for Marissa, and nobody else. I wished for him to hug me like that, but I knew he never would, never could. I just knew.

I had watched the tears slowly roll down his unshaven cheekes, and knew. Knew the sadness would never completely go. That he could never forgive himself, even if God already had.

He had walked up the stairs to his loft. I followed him, after he shut the door. I could just barely see him throught the window. He unplugged his phone, and sat on his armchair, and he didn't move. Didn't move, and it scared me. I had the urge to run in there and make sure he wasn't dead. But, I was reassured when I saw him reach for a picture frame. I couldn't see it but I knew. It was the picture of him and his parents. I left soon after, Marissa had wondered where I had gone.

His parents had called. Frantic at the message Gary had left. His mother, Lois, never actually beliveved us when we said he was fine. She insisted that she talk to him, but I had said he was busy. Then she had asked why his phone was unplugged. I had stopped. I managed to make something up about him being tired and he didn't want to be bothered. I managed to get out of her skeptisism. Marissa and I had discussed the matter. Gary would tell his parents when he was ready, if he ever was.

I can guess those days were hell for him. He hadn't eaten, or slept for that matter. He couldn't accept his own self. I saw him, when I came in, in the morning. He broke a mirror. Punched it. Then he cursed, cleaned up the glass, and got a band aid for his bloody fist. He avoided mirrors after that. I never confronted him, I didn't want to embarass him. I saw a whole new side of Gary Hobson, and I hope I never see it again.

Gary's a great man. I could never repay him for all he did for me and Henry. No way. Henry adores him, almost like a father. If he were ever to slip away again, leave again, lose himself again, I don't know what I'd do.

No.. I think he'll be okay now. Everyone fails now and then, it's a known fact. But, I guess when the failure is with a thing as precious and delicate as a human life, it hits hard. All I can see now, all I can see, are the tears flowing gently down his cheeks, bitter tears, and his voice, so cold and hard. The sorrow will never leave his eyes. I guess Gary just couldn't handle it anymore, I guess he just couldn't take it. He never told Marissa and me about what happened inside there, and I doubt he ever will. All I
know is a miracle saved him, and that's all that matters to me.

Everything's different now, and I don't think I like it.

It's been days since the factory, since the fire, since the failure. I look at Gary, and I see that he will never, ever forget. He shoots pool with the patrons, he even smiles a bit, but no. Patrick, Marissa and I we know something's not right with him, and Patrick knows nothing of Jeremiah Mason.

I peeked into the office once, and he was talking on the phone, in whisper. Curious George was leaping up and down on my shoulder screaming "I wanna know, I wanna know," and I did something I'll regret. I picked up the extension. He was talking to Lois and Bernie, his folks, and they were all crying. He was telling them everything. I hung up, praying nobody could hear me.

Gary's still giving us his hollow smile. When he comes back to the bar after a long day, when he sits down with a beer and a Bears game. You can tell he's not all there.

He says he's fine, and slowly, he is getting better, but for now, I'm scared, scared that he'll try it again. He's lost himself, lost his faith in everything and himself. I can see it when he lets his cover down.  I can see the anguish, the the hurt, the pain, the remorse, the.. the unforgiveness. I know soon he'll get better, but for now, I'm scared.

Everything's different now, and I doubt it will ever be the same.

Email the author:  coventrys@yahoo.com
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