This fantastic cover was made by the wonderful Osi. Thank you so much!

by Suz

Disclaimer - CowLip/Showtime own them, no infringement, etc etc.

Brian/Justin, rated NC-17. Serious AU, based around the episode 510. Knowledge of 510 would be a distinct advantage, and if you haven't seen it this fic could be considered a big ol' spoiler for what happens in said ep. Some dialogue is lifted directly from the show – said dialogue is the property of CowLip, and not me.

Feedback would be terrific. Many, many thanks to everyone who helped, especially nel :)


When the world ended, it happened in the same place the world had started for Brian: Babylon.

He'd had experience before - learning with his gym teacher what after-school practise *really* meant. But it was at Babylon that he discovered who and what he was. The kind of man he was. Brian hadn't rolled over for anyone since, metaphorically or physically.

That was why he'd agreed to hold the fundraiser in the first place. He may not have shared Mikey's quaint little picket-fenced dream - he mocked it, most of the time - but he sure as fuck wasn't about to let any old straight guys tell queers what they could and couldn't do. So he'd said yes, and Mikey had been thrilled (and maybe that'd been part of the reason he'd agreed, too. Maybe).

When the world ended, he'd only partly been paying attention to the performance on stage, more interested in the guy who'd just brushed by him.

And everything changed.

Sensory overload. Light and sound and heat as he was thrown to the floor, the breath forced out of him, his brain trying to figure out what the fuck was going on.

After the world ended, he coughed, choking on the stench of burnt metal, plastic - flesh. He stumbled over bodies and bloodied shoes, eyes tearing up from the smoke and shock, watching panicked queers fighting to get the fuck out. At any other time it might've been funny, but all Brian could do was hope like fuck that he wasn't walking over anyone he knew.

Joan had always said he was going to hell.

Turned out she was right.


There was a light source coming from somewhere that hadn't been destroyed. It did little more than illuminate the smoke and Brian coughed again, turning towards the bar.

Or what used to be the bar. Fuck.

Instinct took over: taking care of your own. Fuck everyone else. "Mikey! Ted! Emmett!" God fuck *shit*, it was hard to make out individual faces. Too much smoke, too many people yelling, no one keeping still. The practical thing to do would be to get out, wait for help, but screw being practical when they could be fucking hurt.

He found Ted by literally walking into him, stumbling along with an arm around his 'date'. "Ted!" He barely noticed Brian at first, blinking and shaking his head. Clearly in shock. He didn't look hurt and Brian grabbed his shoulder, trying to get him to focus. "Have you seen the others?"

His shook his head, making a noise. Realising Ted'd be no fucking help in the club, he shoved him towards the exit. "Get out. Make sure someone's called for help." It was probably redundant, but Brian wasn't taking any chances.

Christ, Babylon had never seemed so fucking huge before, not even on his first visit. Now it was just endless. A smoky, blurred void.

There was still more than one person yelling or screaming or crying, but Brian got lucky, close enough to distinguish an individual voice.

"Ben!" a hoarse, unfamiliar voice yelled. "Is there a Ben Bruckner here?"

It was the only clue he'd had until now, and Brian moved towards it. At first he just saw one guy supporting another guy, helping him walk, but then he realised the guy being helped - the guy with the black skin - was Michael. Fuck.

His stomach rolled. "Mikey!" But fuck, as he got closer he could see that his skin hadn't been burnt - it was just black. Like he'd been covered in a thick layer of soot.

The guy helping him lifted his head, his face bearing its own traces of black, and Brian realised he probably looked the same.

"You Ben?"

"No," Brian moved to Mikey's other side, taking half the weight. Christ, Mikey was out cold and weighed a fucking ton - no wonder they'd been moving so slow. "Brian. Best friend. Ben's his husband. Haven't seen him since..." Shit. Not now. He concentrated on getting to the exit, getting Mikey out, and they shuffled forward. It was hard going, and the reason why the guy'd had his head down was obvious - he didn't want to trip the fuck over anything. Where the fuck was help? "He was conscious?"

"Yeah," the guy coughed, wheezing slightly. "Asked for Ben. I thought we'd get to the exit together but he passed out. Don't know where he's hurt."

Brian didn't think about Mikey being hurt. Brian just focused on stepping over everything that littered the floor, and getting outside.

"Brian!" Emmett's voice. "Oh my God, Michael?!" Emmett had been triumphant earlier, obviously pleased to be the night's host. Now he just looked terrified. "Oh my God, is he-?"

"He's alive," Brian grunted, stepping over a piece of metal, really *not* in the mood for Emmett's histrionics right now. "Get outside and tell the first paramedics that get here that we're bringing him out."

"Wait, wait," Emmett said, turning around and looking for someone. "Ben! Ben, I found them!"

The professor arrived then, looking much less perfect than usual - hair in disarray, clothes ruined, face anguished as he looked at Michael. "Oh my God." And very obviously intent on carrying him out of Babylon all by his fucking self.

It was just as well. The rest of them would just slow him down, and the guy who'd been helping Mikey kept wheezing louder and louder.

It was a lot easier to move after Ben had relieved them of Mikey's weight, and as Brian watched him practically race ahead even with the added weight, he'd never been so fucking glad that Ben was built like a fucking monster truck.

The wheezes got worse, the guy hitching for breath. Fuck. This was just what he fucking needed. "What's wrong?" Brian took his arm, helping him around an unidentified mess on the floor. He didn't want to know what the fuck that was.

"Asthma," he gasped. "Been...fucking years. No inhaler."

Shit fuck. "Why the fuck did you stay in here if you used to-?"

"I didn't...fucking *think*." Amazing how he could sound so pissed while he was gasping for breath at the same time. "He...needed help. And I said...hasn't happened...for years."

They got out just as the fire-fighters were coming in.

Outside there were too many people, crushing together. Yelling at them to get the fuck out of the way, Brian grabbed the guy's hand and led him through the crowd until there was space, room to *breathe*. It didn't seem to help any.

He spotted a paramedic climbing out of an ambulance. "Hey! There's someone who can't breathe over here!" Jogging towards the paramedic, he thrust the guy towards him. "Asthma attack. No inhaler." The paramedic instantly got to work.


Shit, now what?

Turning, he barely registered that Linds was running towards him before she was hugging him.

"Are you okay?" she demanded. "God, Brian, we were right outside when it happened."

Arms going around her, his hand tightened on her jacket. It was fucking lucky that she'd been running late - she'd called him just a few minutes before the explosion. Shit, maybe they were even lucky that Mel was okay as he watched her over Linds' shoulder, arms wrapped around herself.

"Fine," he replied, letting her go. "Mikey was hurt." Her eyes widened. "Don't know how bad. I need to get to the hospital." Turning back to the ambulance he saw the guy sitting on the back of the ambulance, breathing into an oxygen mask, the paramedic encouraging him to take slow, deep breaths. "Linds, can you keep an eye on..." Shit. He didn't even know his name.

"Justin," the paramedic offered, evidently having got that little piece of information out of him.

"Justin," Brian repeated. Bending down, he met his gaze. "I have to go check on Mikey, okay?" Justin nodded, taking another deep breath. "Thanks," Brian said briefly, putting a hand on his shoulder, before standing up and moving away.

Still too many fucking people, and too many lights, but then Brian caught a flash of red that could only be Debbie and ran towards it.


Brian drove Deb to the hospital, following behind the ambulance that was carrying Mikey. She cried the entire way and rarely spoke which was just as well, because when she did speak it was fucking depressing.

"Do you think..." she sniffed. "Do you think it was a bomb?"

He so did not want to be having this fucking conversation. As it was he'd have to deal with all that shit later, and he really couldn't bring himself to give a fuck about the club right now, even if he did own it. "I don't know." But it had to be a bomb. Of course it was a bomb. It'd be too fucking coincidental - an accidental explosion on the very night they were holding a fundraiser to fight against a homophobic piece of legislation - to be anything else. Brian didn't need to hear police reports or investigative findings. It wouldn't be anything else.

"How could someone do that? Hate someone else so much?" Pointless fucking questions, and nothing any of them hadn't asked a thousand times before. "Try and kill my fucking kid?" She cried again, louder, and Brian couldn't fucking wait to get to the hospital.

He let her out when they arrived, grateful to have a few moments peace while he looked for parking.

In the waiting area Ben was sitting down, clasped hands resting against his mouth. Deb rushed towards Brian.

"Anything?" he asked.

"Not yet," she shook her head, swallowing anxiously. Brian hugged her.

More people started dribbling in. Mel and Linds arrived, reporting that that Justin guy had been fine. Other people he didn't know whose friends and loved ones had been injured; maybe worse. Brian felt like he was in the middle of a war zone. Still too many people and too much fucking blood.

Predictably, Deb started freaking out, pacing around hopelessly. "What if I lose him? What am I gonna do?"

Completely unexpectedly, Ben lost it, snapping at her. "You're not gonna lose him and this is not about you, so sit down."

Stunned, looking lost, for once Deb followed obediently and sat down, glancing around but obviously not really seeing anything. "I'm sorry. You're right."

Brian, for his part, had only been able to stand about restlessly. Running a hand through his hair. Taking a step forward, taking a step back. He fucking *hated* waiting; had never been any good at it. He'd much rather be doing something that just standing around uselessly.

Seeing movement, Brian glanced to the left and saw the doctor who'd been working on Mikey. Brian took two steps to get to him, and Ben was standing next to him in seconds. "Well?"

The doctor didn't pull any punches. "He's lost a lot of blood. Before we can do anything he needs a transfusion."

The answer seemed obvious. "Well, what the fuck are you waiting for?"

"Well, he's AB negative," he explained, "we're short on his type so we're checking other hospitals."

Brian looked towards Deb and when she shook her head to indicate she wasn't the same type, he started rolling up his left sleeve. "Okay, I'm O negative. That's the universal donor, right?"

Pausing awkwardly, the doctor scratched at his ear. "Are you gay?"

What the fuck? "What's that got to do with anything?"

Ben looked towards him sombrely. "We can't give blood because of HIV."

Jesus Christ. "I don't *have* HIV."

"It doesn't matter," the doctor said apologetically. "Gays are considered too high a risk." He moved to turn away.

No fucking way. That wasn't good enough. Reaching out, Brian grabbed his arm. "What about all the straight studs and bitches who fuck around without protection? I mean, you'd take their blood, right?" The fucking hypocrisy was mind-blowing.

He shook his head. "It's an FDA regulation. I'm sorry." Pulling his arm free, he walked away.

Mel of all people tried to calm him down. "Brian..."

"I don't give a shit!" Brian tried to run after him, to get the fucker to listen, but Ben stood in front of him and blocked his path. "Take my blood, mother fucker!"

"Brian, look!" Ben tried to reason, pushing him back. "You couldn't give even if you were straight. You had cancer."

Cancer. Fuck. Fucking cancer. It was bad enough that it'd taken one of his balls; now it was stopping him from helping his best friend. "Fuck!" Whirling away, he started heading somewhere - anywhere. Just fucking away.


"Leave him," someone said, and Brian was fucking glad for it.

When he reached the bathroom he suddenly turned towards it and banged the door open, striding inside. Three stalls, all empty, and when Brian turned towards the mirror he realised he looked almost as bad as Mikey had. Running the taps, he cupped the water in his hands and rubbed roughly at his face, watching the dirty water mix with the clean no matter how many times he did it, again and again, he just couldn't get fucking-

The door creaked open and he turned his head towards it, water running down his neck and soaking into his shirt. It was the guy - Christ, under better lighting he looked like little more than a kid - from the club.

"Hey," Justin said, still holding the door open. "I saw you come in here and..." He must have taken in the way Brian looked, and his expression dropped. "Oh, fuck. Is your friend...?"

"He's alive," Brian replied hoarsely, turning off the water and reaching to the side for a paper towel, yanking it out of the dispenser and giving his face a perfunctory dry before throwing the paper into the trash. "Lost a lot of blood. Waiting on a transfusion." Brian wasn't a big fan of talking to strangers because he generally wasn't interested in anything they had to say. But this Justin had been there. Maybe even saved Mikey's life.

"What blood type is he?" Justin asked, stepping in further and letting the door close behind him.

Brian knew where this was going. "Doesn't matter. You're queer, right?" For one, he'd been at Babylon, and Brian's gaydar was pinging so hard he'd probably never stop hearing it. "Queers can never have the joy of sharing our blood with others. They think we all have HIV and, therefore, we're too big a risk."

Justin's face transformed into outright indignation. "But that's *bullshit*! Fuck, do they even know the statistics? Christ, what about straight people who have sex? They'd take their fucking blood, no questions asked."

Brian suspected he had a gay, miniature version of Debbie on his hands. Perfect. "Believe me, I told them that already." Justin continued to fume. Brian continued to watch him. "So what the fuck are you doing here, anyway?"

He looked surprised for a moment. "The hospital?" Justin shrugged. "They suggested I come in, just to make sure I was really okay, nothing else was wrong. Seemed like a good idea and..." he smiled a little. "Frankly, I wanted to see how your friend was doing. This whole night's been so fucked up. I'm just hoping that something good comes out of it."

No reason he couldn't tag along. Besides, Debbie'd wanna meet him. "And you're all right?"

"Me? Yeah, I'm fine."

Brian nodded. It would've been really shitty if the guy who'd helped Mikey ended up dying. "Good. Let's go meet the gang."

When they got back to the waiting area, it didn't take long for Brian to discover he'd been right about Debbie's reaction. "This is Justin," he introduced, pointing a thumb towards him, "he was the one helping Mikey in the club."

"Oh!" Deb was on her feet instantly, rushing towards Justin and pulling him into a hug. Brian almost felt sorry for him. "Oh my God, thank you, thank you so much for helping my son."

Justin handled it with remarkable restraint, although he still looked kind of stunned. "It's okay, really. Anyone would've done the same."

"You're an angel," Deb told him, still holding on tight, "a fucking angel! Fuck knows how long it would've taken them to find him in there - he could've bled to death! Christ, I don't know what I'd do if..." She started welling up again, and Mel and Linds managed to coax her into sitting down.

Ben approached Justin, holding out a hand. "I, uh...didn't get a chance to thank you. Before. Thanks."

"Don't worry about it," Justin smiled, shaking his hand. "I know how I'd feel in your position."

After releasing each others hands they stood there for a few moments awkwardly, before Ben nodded and moved back to his seat. Linds invited Justin to sit down next to her, and they greeted each other as cheerily as they could, obviously recognising each other.

It probably helped, having an unknown there. Linds and Mel started asking him questions - what he did, what his background was - and they all listened. Fuck, there was nothing else to do, and it was better than just waiting. Apparently 24 (though he barely looked 20), Justin had just returned to Pittsburgh after going to college and working for a few years in NYC. He had a new job working at some art gallery that Linds got all a-flutter over, and this had been his first night out since moving in to his apartment.

"When I saw the flyers," he explained, "I had to come. Proposition 14's such a piece of bullshit."

"It's not fucking right is what it is," Deb agreed. "And even after what happened tonight..." she faltered. "I know my Mikey would attend another one right now if he could." Reaching out, Ben put a hand on her shoulder. They all sat in silence for a while, until Deb made a concerted effort to keep going and cleared her throat. "So, Justin, you have any family in Pittsburgh?"

He talked around the subject for a while, before admitting that his dad had thrown him out when he'd come out. Deb was appropriately horrified, and Justin continued his story. "I was able to stay with my best friend until I finished high school," he said. "Mom mostly sided with me, but things were fucked up with Dad and she had my little sister to worry about. I just wanted to get the fuck away from everything, so I went to art school in New York."

Brian frowned.

So did Deb. "Have you called your mom to let her know you're okay?"

"Uh, sure," he glanced away, "she was happy."

Brian frowned harder. Justin's story had the distinct smell of bullshit about it, but what the fuck did it matter if some kid didn't want to reveal his whole life story to a bunch of strangers?

The brief diversion over, time started dragging again. Eventually Mel and Linds had to leave so their babysitter could go home, and Brian couldn't really blame either one of them for wanting to get out of the hospital. They hugged everyone - well, just about everyone - and when it was Brian's turn he held Lindsay to him. "Give my kid a kiss for me."

Promising to return in the morning and asking them to call if anything changed, the munchers departed.

Feeling restless again, Brian headed towards the exit. "I need a smoke."

Not sure why, Brian nonetheless wasn't surprised when Justin stood outside the automatic doors with him.

"You got a spare?" Justin asked.

Shrugging, Brian took a drag on his own cigarette as he passed the pack and his lighter over. "Should you be smoking?" he asked, as he watched Justin light up.

"Probably not," he admitted, passing them back, blowing out a rush of smoke. "But fuck it. I'm already at a hospital. And after tonight, I fucking need it." He took another pull on the cigarette.

Brian almost found himself smirking, shoving the cigarettes and lighter into his pocket. "So," he began, "how exactly does an eighteen-year-old kid afford to move and go to college in New York?"

Justin bit back what was probably a grin. "You've never heard of a scholarship?"

"Really?" he asked, disbelieving. "I'm guessing your shit head of a dad worked a decent job. And they took that into consideration, and decided you didn't need financial assistance."

Justin studied him. "Are you a professional psychic or something? Because I have to tell you, you don't look the type."

Brian just shrugged, not exactly thrilled by the comparison to Mysterious Marilyn even if Justin's tone had been teasing. "You look like you come from money."

"Well lucky me," he rolled his eyes. "They weren't exactly rich, but they had enough. And yeah, I didn't get any help - at least from them. I had an accident the night of my prom, sued the fucker and got more than enough to pay for college."

A memory slammed to the front of Brian's brain. "You were the kid who got bashed."

"Shit," Justin replied, "you make me sound like Harry fucking Potter."

It'd been all over the news years ago. Gay high school kid taking his boyfriend to the prom, getting bashed afterward. Deb had been thrilled when the asshole had been found guilty. "Sorry - don't know what Harry Potter sounds like." Stubbing out his cigarette, he threw it into the small trash can obviously meant for cigarette disposal.

"Just as well," Justin said, finishing his own cigarette and doing the same. "The author's seriously overrated."

"So why the fuck did you come back?" Brian asked. "Why return to dismal old Pittsburgh?"

Jamming his hands into his back jean pockets, Justin thought it over. "It may not be as exciting, or...glamorous," Justin's lips twitched, and Brian understood why - for all its fame, New York could be a real cess pool. "But it's home. I missed it."

Clearly the guy was insane. Still running on instinct, Brian placed a hand against Justin's chest and started walking forward, pushing him back until Justin's back was against the side of the building. "You realise you're nuts."

"But I'm happy," Justin looked up at him, completely unfazed, his hands coming out of his pockets to rest on Brian's waist, "and that's all that matters."


Ben's voice. They both turned towards it.

"There's news."


Debbie and Ben hovered around the bed, Ben holding Mikey's hand, while Brian silently watched from a few feet away. Mikey's face had been cleaned so at least he didn't look quite as shitty as he had earlier - not that that was saying much. He was still out cold.

"We've stabilised the blood loss," the doctor told them, "but there's still internal bleeding from a punctured spleen. We're going to need to remove it immediately."

Standing tall, back straight, Debbie's face was pinched as she asked the question. "Will he be all right?"

He hesitated. Fucking hesitation was never a good sign, and Brian wanted to punch him. "This amount of blood loss...we can only hope for the best." If hope was all it took, they wouldn't need surgery. If hope was all it took, it never would've fucking happened in the first place. "I'm gonna give you a moment with him, and then we need to start prepping."

After the doctor left, Ben kissed Mikey's forehead, and Deb bent down over her son to start playing with his hair. "You'd better fucking come through this, you little shit."

Brian couldn't fucking agree more.

When Mikey was eventually wheeled away they followed him as far as they could, until he was through the door marked Medical Personnel Only. The frustration he'd been feeling before had started to ease, but now it was back with full force. Mikey was being operated on, and there was nothing he could do to make it better, or make sure he came through. It was all down to luck.

Annoyed, he turned around and saw Justin waiting at the side of the corridor, looking anxious.

"What's going on?"

His best friend could be dying. "They're taking out his spleen."

Justin took a step towards him, nodding. "Okay." He stopped. "Anything else?"

There was nothing else to say. "They don't know if he'll make it."

"Okay." Justin took another step forward.

Brian didn't know what the fuck he was playing at. "What're you doing?"

"You look like you could use a hug."

Oh, Christ. "I don't fucking think so."

"What?" Justin asked plainly. "You can man-handle me around outside but I'm not allowed to touch you?"

"That was different."

"Because you were going to kiss me?"

Couldn't deny it. Justin was pretty hot. "Well...yeah."

"So...let me see if I have this straight. You were perfectly willing to kiss a complete stranger, but not hug him?"

"You have a problem with that?"

"Ohhh," Justin said, coming to some kind of conclusion. "You're one of *those*."

What the fuck? "I'm not one of anything. I'm me, and I don't like people I don't know touching me."

"Apart from sex."


"So you *are* one of those."

Brian was two seconds away from hitting him when he realised that Justin's expression looked a little...smug. Jesus Christ, he was being played! He had to admit that the kid had balls. "Nice try, but you're not about to make me stop worrying about Mikey." Looking around, he realised Debbie and Ben had gone back to the waiting area and, sighing, he decided to join them.

Justin did too, sitting next to Brian. After about two hours - interrupted by the occasional trip outside for a smoke - Justin fell asleep on Brian's shoulder. Brian considered waking the presumptuous shit up, but decided if he left him Justin'd just get a crick in his neck and that'd make it worthwhile.

Eventually Brian fell into a kind of limbo state - not quite asleep, not quite awake. It was so fucking boring and he was so fucking tired, but he didn't want to miss any news about Mikey. He wasn't really aware of anything but he wasn't getting any rest, either, and when he roused himself enough to look at his watch, he realised it'd been nearly ninety minutes since the last time he looked.

Fuck. It'd felt like three hours.

Looking across to Ben, he was surprised to realise he was sitting alone. "Where's Deb?"

Ben still looked wide awake. "The chapel."

Right. Somehow Deb had still retained her faith in God. Brian figured most people who believed in God were just wasting their time - or enormous fucking hypocrites, like Joan - but he couldn't begrudge Deb her beliefs. Not tonight. Shit, if anything could help Mikey he didn't care what the fuck it was. God, science, the fucking devil. He'd make a deal with any of them.

Realising he needed to take a leak, Brian turned his head to study the shaggy blond head still resting against his shoulder. How the fuck could anyone fall asleep there and *stay* asleep there? It had to be really fucking uncomfortable.

"Hey," he said. "Wake up."

Nothing. Great.

"Hey," he tried again, shaking his shoulder slightly. "Justin."

Stirring, Justin slowly lifted his head and produced what looked like a face-cracking yawn. Jesus, he had a big mouth. "Any news?" he asked around a smaller yawn, sitting up more and rubbing at his eyes.

"Not yet," Brian got to his feet, not as annoyed as he should be that Justin's neck didn't seem to be hurting at all.

After taking a piss, Brian went outside for another cigarette and tried out his cell phone. It still seemed to be working, and he discovered he had a couple of messages waiting. One was from Claire, asking if he was all right. Brian was surprised she called at all, and deleted the message without replying to it.

One was from a news company, asking for his thoughts on the bombing. He deleted that one too, wondering where the fuck they got his number and making a mental note to never watch that fucking channel again.

The latest was from Ted, asking him to come back to the club whenever he could make it - as the owner, there were things they needed to talk about. Sighing, Brian called Ted back, gave him the latest he knew about Michael - not much - and promised to be there soon.

Why the fuck hadn't Ted come to the hospital yet?

Back inside, Justin was handing Ben what had to be his tenth cup of coffee.

"I have to go back to Babylon," he told them. "Business shit."

"Why you?" Justin asked, sitting next to Ben.

Shit, yeah, he probably didn't know. "I own the club."

"Oh, shit," he replied, proving Brian's theory. "So, even worse night for you."

"Right now I could give two shits about the club," he said, looking at Ben. "I've got my cell. Call me if anything changes. Don't forget your meds."

Walking away, Brian followed the signs for the chapel. Deb was the only one sitting there when he cracked the door open, and he moved to the front, sitting on a chair on the other side of the aisle. "They need me back at the club," he told her quietly. She didn't look away from the cross. "I'll be back as soon as-"

"I know, kiddo," she said, still staring forward.

By the time he left, Debbie had outright demanded to God that He take care of her kid.

No one ever said no to Deb, and Brian could only hope that God wasn't the first one to start.


Things were surprisingly quiet when he got to the club - but then given what it'd sounded like the last time he'd been there, anything would seem quiet. Except for the occasional lingerer the press had all but vanished, and Brian was let under the police tape after showing his ID and Horvath told them to let him through.

"Ted here?"

"Not yet," Horvath shook his head, then paused. "'s your club. I get why you're here. It's been declared structurally sound enough at the moment so I'm gonna let you in," he said, "but don't touch anything. We've still got investigators sifting through for evidence." Pausing again, he studied Brian seriously. "You okay to go in?"

Saying no wasn't an option. "Yeah."

Everything seemed to slow down as he followed Horvath into the club. It still stank of burnt plastic and flesh, and with the lights that'd been been set up he could see far more than he had right after the explosion. Christ.

It was like those post-war scenes in movies, that shit that Brian'd never really bought as being what the truth looked like. Except it *did* look like that; beams that'd fallen from the ceiling, charred metal and too many, too fucking many splashes of blood. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust, only Brian didn't think it was dust at all and wasn't about to fucking ask.

There were no bodies, and no body parts, and Brian realised that it'd been a while since the explosion. There'd been time to clear everything out - or at least the dead.

Horvath didn't say anything, just walked away and let Brian take it in on his own. He focused on the bar...the remnants of the bar. Was that where Mikey had been standing? He'd passed Brian on his way to get drinks just a few minutes before...but then he'd found Mikey and Justin further way. Shit. Had he been thrown that far? They were fucking lucky he didn't suffer even worse injuries.

Brian tried to dissect it, tried to piece it all together in his brain, figure out the course of events, but when he closed his eyes he was being thrown to the floor and the world was burning and the alarm was blaring in his ears. Fumbling for his cigarettes - fuck, he needed to buy another pack - he lit one up and sucked in a big breath of nicotine.

Fuck, he was tired. Where the fuck was Ted?

Sighing, Brian looked towards the ceiling and dedicated that particular smoke to the memory of Babylon.



His eyes snapped open. Realising he'd somehow managed to fall asleep he blinked, slowly becoming aware of his body and the fact that he'd found something to lean against that wasn't about to fall over.

Ted had arrived fuck knew how long ago now, obviously ready - and eager - to talk about insurance, the cost of re-building, paperwork. Brian hadn't wanted to listen to any of it, but knew that running a business meant having to think about that shit even when it wasn't convenient, or when he just didn't fucking want to. So he listened, and said yes or no to Ted's suggestions - shit, Ted even had ideas for a new design inside the club, changes they could make and he moved around, gesturing with his hands and telling Brian all about what would go where.

It was too fucking annoying and too much movement, and Brian'd zoned out like he had earlier, only this time he'd managed to fall asleep.

Until now, where Ted was standing next to him, a lot less enthusiastic than he had been earlier.

"It was a bomb," Ted told him, obviously shaken. "Someone...planted a bomb." He seemed surprised. What the fuck had he thought it was?

The sound of movement made Brian glance to the right, where he saw Horvath making his way towards them.

"Ted tell ya?"

Nothing he didn't already know. "How many?"

Coming to a stop, Horvath's mouth settled into a grim line. "Four dead. Sixty-seven wounded. Eleven of them critical." Jesus. "Hell of a thing," he continued, looking around at what was left of the club. "Not something I ever expected to happen in Pittsburgh." Brian was pretty sure it was something no one ever expected to happen in Pittsburgh. What was so important about fucking Pittsburgh?

Ted shifted. "Any idea who did it?"

Seemed fucking obvious to Brian. "Obviously someone who didn't care for Stop Prop 14."

Sighing, Horvath started walking away, no doubt to get back to work. Brian didn't envy him his job right now. "We're interviewing everyone who worked here. We're gonna need statements from you two, as well." Turning to look back, he pointed at them. "And a copy of the guest list."

"No problem," Ted replied, making a note in his PDA.

Pausing, Horvath looked back at them properly. "Why don't you two...go home?"

If Brian left, he certainly wasn't going to the fucking loft. "Come on," he said, standing away from the beam he'd been leaning on. "Let's stop by the hospital - see if there's an update."

Ted gave excuses, rambled off a list of things he had to do. Brian just left him, too tired to care about excuses right then.

By the time Brian walked back into the waiting room, it was just after 7am. Em had turned up, and somehow Brian wasn't surprised to see that Justin was still there.

They all looked like shit.

"Any word?" he asked Deb as they hugged briefly.

"No, we're still waiting," she said anxiously, tugging at his arm so he'd sit down next to her. "Did Carl say anything?"

Brian didn't see what a little creativity could hurt. "Just that he loves you, and he wishes he was here." A brief smile of pleasure flickered across her mouth. That was something. He almost hated to ruin it with the truth, but they needed to hear it. "And...that it was a bomb."

Em looked horrified. "Oh my God."

Brian just stared at him. "Well, what the hell did you think it was?"

"What kind of sick fuck would do something like that?" Deb ranted, shifting in her seat restlessly, looking like she'd love nothing more than to choke the fucker to death with her bare hands.

"The kind of people who went to Matthew Shepard's funeral, carrying signs that said 'your son's burning in hell'," Justin offered. "The kind of people who support Proposition 14."

Well, that was fucking depressing but, again, nothing he didn't already know.

Emmett left suddenly, obviously freaked out by news of the bomb, asking Deb to contact him as soon as anything changed. He might as well have stayed, because ten seconds later the doctor came out to the waiting area, looking as tired as Brian felt.

Ben immediately got to his feet, Deb right beside him. "Dr Ryan?"

And just like that, Mikey was going to be fine. Well, the actual term had been 'cautiously optimistic' but Brian knew ass-covering when he heard it - they were just saying that to be on the safe side.

Christ. He was gonna be fine.


Mikey was in recovery and they probably wouldn't be able to see him for the rest of the day, so the doctor suggested they all go home and get some rest. Brian knew there was no fucking way Debbie or Ben would be leaving, but also knew that personally he could use a fucking shower and a clean change of clothes.

"Deb," he bent down next to her after she'd taken her seat again, "I'm gonna go home, get cleaned up."

She realised what he was saying and touched the side of his face. "Get some rest, you asshole. You've got a company to run." Pressing a kiss to his forehead, she planted a hand on his shoulder and gently shoved him away. "Now get the fuck out of here."

Managing a smirk, he stood up and nodded at the professor. Ben nodded back.

Brian turned towards Justin. "Give you a lift somewhere?"

"Sure," Justin said, picking up his jacket and getting to his feet. "Thanks." Watching as Justin said goodbye - hugged - Debbie and Ben, Brian knew there was no escaping the fact that after the events of the previous night, Justin was now a part of their screwed-up family.

On the walk to the car they silently shared Brian's last cigarette, passing it between them. Stubbing it out in the ashtray inside the Jeep, Brian let out a big breath and grasped onto the steering wheel with both hands.

The club had been destroyed. Someone had tried to kill them.

Mikey was gonna be fine.

Brian pulled at his seat belt. "Where can I take you?" he asked, glancing across at Justin. It was a test as much as anything else.

Justin glanced back. "Your place."

Nodding, Brian put the key in the ignition. At least they were on the same page. "Good," he said, and started the car.


On the way to the loft they found a store that was open, so Justin ran inside to get cigarettes. Brian was just starting to wonder what the fuck was taking him so long when Justin emerged, climbing into the passenger side with an obviously full paper bag beneath his arm.

"What the fuck did you buy in there?"

"I nearly got blown up last night," Justin declared, setting the bag on his lap and pulling his seat belt on. "So I picked up one of every candy bar they had."

"Jesus," Brian muttered, peering into the bag. "Just don't get any of that shit on my bed."

"Right," Justin rolled his eyes. "Because chocolate is so much more offensive than come."

"At my place?" Brian asked, pulling out into the morning traffic. "Eating chocolate is practically a federal offence."

They didn't talk for the rest of the drive and by the time they got to the loft, Brian's mood was completely fucking foul once again. Stomping inside, he headed straight for the drinks cart.

"I like your place," Justin said, looking around and walking further into the loft, putting his bag on the kitchen counter. Moving back to the door and sliding it shut, he joined Brian by the cart. "Can I have one?"

Brian was already on his third glass of JB and he poured one for Justin in another glass, leaving it for him to pick up himself. Throwing back the whole shot in one go - the way Brian had been - Justin closed his eyes and swallowed. Watching the movement of Justin's neck, Brian was suddenly struck by the undeniable need to fuck the shit out of something. Anything. Any*one*.

He gave Justin a thorough once-over - messy hair, rumpled clothes, dirt-streaked face - and he'd never wanted to fuck anyone more than he did right then.

Evidently noticing the appraisal Justin stared right back at him, eyebrows raised.

Brian moved.

Their glasses crashed to the floor as they lunged for each other, mouths mashing together as they pulled at their jackets. Brian didn't care about foreplay, or being nice; he barely got undressed. Justin's pants came off and Brian barely had his undone and pulled down before he was rolling on a condom and shoving lube up Justin's ass. Justin didn't seem to mind, his left hand coming back to dig into Brian's thigh as he fucked him across the sofa, urging him on. And Christ, Justin was tight, and Brian mouthed the back of his neck as he frantically moved inside him. It wasn't about good sex - it was about getting off, and they managed that fucking quickly.

Justin came first, jerking himself off, and the contractions around his cock brought Brian off just seconds later. Groaning, panting, Brian collapsed on top of him.

He was still queer. He was still a big, fat fucking success. And he was still gonna fuck as much as humanly possible.

Shifting beneath him, Justin groaned quietly as Brian pulled out. "Fuck, we should've recorded that," he gasped, and Brian had a brief flash of concern about an asthma attack as he disposed of the condom. It proved unwarranted. "Give a copy to every homophobe we come across," he laughed breathlessly. "We're not gonna stop fucking just because..." his voice faded out, his mood obviously dropping. "Brian?"


"I need a shower."

They both did.

It seemed expedient to share so they did; Justin pulling off his come-splattered shirt and Brian finally actually getting undressed. Under the water Brian helped Justin rinse the dirt out of his hair. They inspected each other closer, pointing out dirt-marks that'd been missed and, quite frankly, Brian enjoyed the contact. Despite what he told Justin earlier, he didn't mind touching people - but Brian had to be the one starting things. Besides, they'd already fucked. That kind of extended a general invitation to your whole body - with certain limitations, of course.

While he wasn't about to admit it anyone, after last night it was...good to be able to touch a warm body - especially a body that had a great ass. When they stepped out of the shower - Justin blew Brian; Brian jerked Justin off - they dried off, and Brian found himself staring at his reflection in the mirror. He looked normal. No dirt, no blood. Just Brian Kinney, on any fucking night of the year.

But Christ, now he felt absolutely exhausted.

Apparently Justin felt much the same way. "Oh my God," he said dramatically, stumbling towards the bedroom. "Bed. *Bed*." He fell face-down onto the mattress, lying naked across the covers. "Do you hog the covers?"

Throwing his towel into the washing basket, Brian walked out to join him. "No."

"Sleep on a particular side?"


"Have any particularly weird sleeping habits I should know about?"

Not even the view of that ass was worth this much aggravation. "I give annoying twats who don't get under the covers a big kick up the ass."

Justin got the message, although he was clearly using as little effort as possible to move around. Finally Brian could climb into his own bed, and he'd never realised before just how fucking comfortable it was. He'd be asleep in no time at all, even if it was daylight out.


He better not be a talker. "What?"

"Thanks for..." He stopped. "After last night, it would've been...weird, falling asleep alone. So. You know. Thanks."

Brian felt the sentimentality starting to grate on his nerves. "You helped Mikey. We fucked. I'm not about to kick you out of my apartment. Now go to sleep."

The fucker of it was, he knew exactly what Justin meant.


Brian woke with a gasp.

He couldn't say that he'd had a nightmare, because he couldn't remember dreaming about anything in particular. Instead he felt a sense of overwhelming dread, that there was something seriously fucking wrong and if he didn't do something to stop it-


Blinking, Brian turned his head towards the source of the voice - who held a half-eaten chocolate bar in one hand, a pencil in the other, and was resting a piece of paper on a book in his lap. He'd obviously been drawing.

"Bad dream?" Justin asked quietly.

"No," he said, watching as Justin shrugged and took a bite from his Snickers bar. "What time is it?"

"Little after one," he replied, his breath carrying a distinct waft of peanut and clearly not giving a shit.

One. That was later than Brian'd been expecting.

"Deb called a couple of times," Justin continued. "You slept right through it. Michael hasn't woken up yet. Oh," he paused, frowning, "and some woman called Cynthia asked you to call her back."

Yeah. He really should've called the office before he went to sleep, but he'd just been too fucking tired to think about it. "Did you sleep?" He couldn't have much if he'd taken all those messages.

"I tend to sleep lightly," he explained. "The good news is I can fall asleep just about anywhere, although I don't get any real rest if I'm not in a bed." He took another bite. "You like Snickers?"

He shrugged. "They're all right."

Climbing off the bed, Justin took everything he'd been holding with him, and returned with a brand new un-opened Snickers bar. He threw it onto Brian's chest. "Here," he said, settling back onto the bed. "I bought one for you."

Lifting his head, Brian observed the chocolate bar for a few moments before lowering his head back down. "Thrilled as I am that you spent fifty cents on me, I'm not eating chocolate for breakfast."

"It's lunchtime."

Okay, so that might have been true. "It's full of all kinds of crap anyway." Normally he had to be stoned and decided against mentioning that little fact.

"Uh huh," Justin said speculatively. "And what were you planning on eating instead?"

Frankly, he wasn't hungry. "That's none of your fucking business."

"Right," he sighed, reaching out to the bedside table to pick up a condom and the bottle of lube.

Frowning, Brian watched as Justin pulled back the covers and straddled Brian's groin. Leaning down to lick at his neck, Justin slowly rotated his ass over Brian's rapidly hardening dick.

Fucking traitor.

Sitting up, Justin kept moving his hips as he smiled down at Brian. "You eat the chocolate bar, you get to fuck me."

Brian was almost amused. "I've already had you."

"So? Have me again. You have to admit, it wasn't exactly the fuck of the year before. I say we do something to rec..." he ground down hard, and Brian couldn't help it - he moaned. "...tify the situation."

Sitting further back, Justin opened the condom he'd left laying next to them and efficiently rolled it over Brian's dick, jacking him off a few times in the process. Squirting lube onto his fingers, he leant forward, one hand bracing the weight of his body against the bed; the other reaching back to work lube into his own ass.

Jesus. There was nothing so fucking hot as a guy who was comfortable with his body, and sex, and Brian's cock got harder as he watched Justin fuck himself with his own fingers. He groaned, and whimpered, clearly having the fucking time of his life and Brian wasn't going to settle for not being involved in that. When Justin finally pulled his fingers free Brian grabbed his hips, pulling him towards his groin again.

"Chocolate first!" Justin laughed, picking the bar up from Brian's chest and ripping it open, wrapping the edges down and holding it towards Brian's mouth. "Go on," he urged in a breathy voice. "Take a bite. I'll even share it with you."

Brian hated being manipulated into anything, but he was horny and Justin's ass was rubbing over his cock again, and he did actually kind of want the Snickers bar. He just knew that he shouldn't want it.

But shit. He could've died last night. What was the point in wasting time? Maybe Justin had the right idea. Besides, didn't Brian pride himself on doing whatever the fuck he wanted, whenever the fuck he wanted?

Holding Justin's gaze, Brian bit into the chocolate bar - and then flipped them over, until he was on top. Lining his cock up with Justin's ass, Brian finished chewing and swallowed. "I shouldn't eat when I'm lying on my back," he said through gritted teeth, closing his eyes as he pressed inside. "It's a..." Fuck. "Bad habit."

"Pretty sure," Justin hooked his legs around him, gasping, "it's not your only one."

Opening his eyes, Brian looked down to see Justin smiling up at him. Suddenly the chocolate bar was brought back into view.

"Want more?" Justin asked chirpily.

What the fuck? "You are so fucking weird." But...hmm. Chocolate and sex. There were worse things. Taking another bite, Brian pulled out before thrusting back in - hard.

"Fuck," Justin whispered, closing his eyes, so Brian did it again until the fucking Snickers bar was abandoned and Justin was pulling his head down with both hands to share a chocolate-soaked kiss. It should've been gross but Justin clearly loved it, sucking the chocolate out of Brian's mouth as they fucked, and it just urged Brian on more, reaching back to pull Justin's legs from around him, folding them back towards Justin's body and holding his thighs apart as he fucked him harder and harder.

Their mouths met infrequently after that, latching on to whatever they could find and when Brian finally came, he could feel the power of it vibrating through his entire body.

Helping Justin stretch out his legs, Brian carefully pulled out and rolled away.

"Holy shit," Justin breathed, looking down at his own come-covered chest. "That was definitely the fuck of the year."

Brian was pretty fucking sure he had as many streaks of chocolate on his face as Justin did. "I knew you'd get chocolate on my bed." He reached over to the bedside table, looking for a cigarette. He was surprised to see a pack waiting, and realised Justin must've placed it there. "I hope you realise you'll be cleaning the sheets later."

"Right," he mocked, "like you don't have a cleaning service."

Lighting up two cigarettes, he passed one to Justin.

"So what're your plans for the rest of the day?" Justin asked after they'd been smoking for a while. "Going to the hospital?"

"Later," Brian agreed. "I should stop in at work first."

"Babylon again?"

"No. I own an advertising agency."

"Shit," he said, puffing out a surprised breath of smoke. "How many companies do you own?"

"Just the two," he smirked, taking another drag. "What about you?"

"I don't own any companies," he joked. "But I don't have any definitive plans. Hospital, I guess. I don't start work at the gallery for another couple of weeks - which is just as well, considering that it's after one and I'm still in bed. I should probably go home and get some fresh clothes on, though. Speaking of which," Justin looked towards him, "do you have a shirt I can borrow? Or I'm gonna be gracing everyone I meet with a come-stained Justin Taylor original."

He snorted. "You should wear it proudly. But," stubbing out his cigarette, he got out of bed, "first you need a shower."

"Two showers in one day," Justin followed behind him. "We're really not doing our part for conservation."

"Sure we are," Brian insisted, starting the water and dragging Justin towards him. "We're sharing."


After showering, handing over a spare toothbrush and finding Justin a shirt, Brian offered to drop him off somewhere on the way to work. Declining, Justin said he actually wouldn't mind the walk - that he wanted to see if he could find his way back to his new apartment on his own. Brian thought that was fucking weird, but whatever.

Justin left the loft with as little fanfare as he arrived - telling Brian he'd probably see him at the hospital later, and walking out the door. The come and chocolate stains were the only evidence he'd ever been there.

Or so Brian thought until he finished getting dressed, and stepped down into the kitchen. The drawing Justin'd been working on was resting on the kitchen counter and Brian picked it up, studying the sketch of himself. The kid had talent, no doubt about it. It was Brian sleeping in bed - obviously the image Justin had seen when he'd woken up - naked, relaxed.

Or maybe not exactly relaxed. Somehow Justin had managed to capture the fact that Brian hadn't slept well; his body tense in ways it usually wasn't when he was sleeping. In the bottom left corner there was one word - Thanks - and what had to be Justin's cell phone number.

Leaving the sketch on the counter, Brian went to work.

Cynthia was surprised to see him, popping up as soon as he stepped through the glass doors into Kinnetik.

"I didn't expect to see you here today."

"Mikey's gonna make it," he shrugged. "But he's sleeping. Where else am I gonna be?"

"That's great," she said, eyeing him warily. "Well, all I can say is thank God my mother has congestive heart failure." Brian just stared at her, not comprehending and blaming it on the lack of caffeine in his system (something he counteracted by taking a sip of the coffee he'd picked up on the way in). "If I didn't have to be with her, I would've been there last night."

Ah, good point. Losing his right hand Cynthia would've been a distinct disadvantage. "Is everyone present and accounted for?" he asked, heading towards his office.

She tagged along next to him. "Except for Phil in the art department." Pausing by the door to Brian's office, she turned and leant closer, lowering her voice. "He got trampled on when everyone was trying to get out. Broken hip." Jesus. Brian hadn't even seen him. Had he stepped right over him? "He'll be laid out for a month."

Shit. "I'll give him a call. And send some food. And porn."

"Basic essentials," she smiled softly - something she didn't do often - before moving back to her desk.

"Jesus, Brian," a voice said behind him, and Brian turned to see Ted walking towards him. "What are you doing here? You should be at home, getting some shut-eye."

Ted was hardly one to talk. "I was - for a while." Of course, with Justin around there really wasn't all that much shut-eye. Although Brian had the feeling he wouldn't be getting a full nights' worth of sleep anytime soon anyway.

"Well, you'll be happy to know I've already submitted a claim to the insurance company, I've spoken with three contractors - they're submitting bids - and the building inspectors are double-checking the initial assessment that the structure's sound, so..." Shrugging, he turned back towards his desk.

There was one vital piece of information he hadn't mentioned. "Aren't you forgetting something?" Brian asked, continuing when Ted looked at him blankly. "Are you gonna ask how Michael is?"

"Oh," Ted said, "oh, I heard. Ben called from the hospital,'s great news," he finished, not looking particularly happy.

Ted clearly had issues for whatever fucking reason. A couple of years ago Brian might just've ignored it; now he crossed the few steps to his desk. "So, why don't you put the estimates and contractors and the inspectors on hold for a minute? Haul your ass down to the hospital."

Also clearly, Ted wasn't fucking ready. "I'm afraid you'll have to bring bouquets and bon-bons without me," he rambled nervously, "because at the moment I'm trying to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible. For which, by the way, I don't expect a thank you. If you'll excuse me, I put a call into Düsseldorf Plumbing about a broken water main." Sitting in his chair, he picked up the phone, effectively dismissing Brian from the conversation. "Klaus? Hi, sorry to keep you on hold so long..."

Brian was giving Ted exactly one day of lee way. If he kept that shit up, he'd be out of a job the next day.

Finally making it into his office Brian placed his coffee and briefcase on his desk, and stripped his coat off. It didn't take him long to get engrossed in work - it was almost a relief, in a way, and he understood Ted's perspective a little more (not that he was about to tell Ted that).

Just after five he made that call to Phil, pretending to be annoyed that they were a man down in the art department - although Phil's absence could have some real implications. While they were capable of running with a man short - they had to be, for vacations or illness - a month was definitely longer than most breaks.

When Brian got the phone call twenty minutes later that Mikey had woken up, Ted was still working.


Brian found Mikey's room by first finding a familiar blond head of hair. Justin was standing outside, looking through the window into the room. Following his gaze, Brian saw Ben and Debbie standing on either side of Mikey's bed, obviously talking to him.


"Hey," Justin said, smiling towards him. "How was work?"

"It was there," he shrugged, still looking into the room. "You spoken to him?"

"Briefly," Justin replied. "Just to tell him I'm glad he's okay. I mean...we don't even know each other. He was probably wondering who the fuck I was - well, at least until Debbie started telling him in extremely vivid detail what I'd done. You'd think she'd been there herself or something."

Brian smirked towards him. "You realise you're going to be her hero from now on, don't you?" Shit, if Justin ever went into the diner he'd probably get free meals for life.

"My life is *so* hard," he rolled his eyes. "Somehow I'll survive. Anyway, this whole hero thing is weird. Anyone else would've done the same."

He couldn't help but doubt it - after the bomb went off, Brian hadn't been able to think about anything but the people he already knew. "Not necessarily," he said, stepping around Justin and opening the door to the room. "Mikey," he announced, walking dramatically to the bed. "You look like shit." While it was the truth, he still looked a hell of a lot better than he had the night before.

"You don't look so hot yourself," Mikey retorted weakly, and Brian knew he'd better keep the visit short.

"I can give you the names of about twenty thousand guys who think otherwise," he replied, leaning down to brush a quick kiss against Mikey's lips. "You know," he drew back, "if you wanted to be more popular than me for once, you really didn't need to go this far."

"Fuck off," Mikey said with a small laugh that turned into a cough.

Deb brought her hand to her chest, stepping closer. "You okay, baby?"

"Fine," he smiled, but it was marred by a wince. Brian and Debbie exchanged glances.

"Look," Brian said quickly, "I better get out of here. There was a hot nurse I passed on the way in who obviously wanted me to fuck him. If I oblige, I'll make his day and we all know how much I love doing my part for humanity. Get some rest. I'll come back to visit tomorrow." He kissed Mikey again, hesitating when he pulled away, keeping his eyes closed. "Always have, Mikey."

"Always will," Mikey completed the familiar refrain, and then Brian was standing up and facing Ben. "A word, professor?" Shrugging, Ben nodded at Mikey and Deb before following Brian outside.

As soon as the door shut behind them, Brian turned towards Ben and started talking. "What's happening with his medical bills?"

"His insurance should cover it."

"Good," Brian nodded. "If it doesn't, come and see me."


"Neither one of you are raking it in, professor. Not the way I am. Plus you have a new home and a kid to help support. It's simple math."

Sighing, Ben ran a hand through his hair. "Fine. But *only* if the insurance doesn't come through."

"Deal," Brian said. They stared at each other for a few moments. "Don't try and hug me or anything."

Ben let out a bark of laughter. "Wouldn't dream of it, but...thanks." Nodding, he let himself back into Michael's room.

Brian stood there for a while, watching the three of them through the window, when he became aware of another presence standing next to him. "Want a lift home?"

"Sure," Justin said.


He took Justin to his own place this time, following his directions, and accepted the invitation to come upstairs. They managed to get all their clothes off before they fucked this time, and appreciated the fact that Justin's bed was nearly as big as Brian's. As they enjoyed a post-coital smoke, Brian got up and started nosing around the apartment. It was slightly smaller than the loft, but more than comfortable for one person. There wasn't all that much unpacked yet - there were still piles of boxes against the walls - but there was plenty of art on display.

Brian stared at one in particular; big gashes of red and black. "You did this."

"Yeah," Justin said, coming to stand next to him. "I painted all of them."

That wasn't a surprise. "Do you sell?"

"Yeah. I had a few shows in New York - they went well. If I didn't have the other money I couldn't live off my paintings right now, but...I do well enough."

Brian nodded. "Good." Then, bizarrely, his stomach rumbled.

Justin stared at him. "What was the last thing you ate?"

Shit, he hadn't thought about eating since... "Besides your ass?"

"That's it," Justin sighed. "I'm ordering Chinese."


At first Brian thought he was still stuck in a dream, but as he No, it was definitely the sound of crying that'd woken him up.

Justin wasn't lying next to him, so Brian pushed back the covers and got out of bed, making his way through the unfamiliar apartment. It was hard navigating with the lights off, but eventually he found his way to the bathroom and pushed the door open, flicking on the light.

Justin was on the floor, crammed in between the toilet and the shower, his knees brought up to his chest. He was crying his fucking eyes out, and winced visibly when the light came on. "Fuck, go away!" he demanded, although the crying kind of rendered him non-threatening. "I'm not some pathetic little pussy!"

Christ. This was why he never fucked anyone twice.

Brian didn't know what the fuck was going on, but he did know that Justin couldn't spend the night on the bathroom floor. Kneeling down, he carefully reached out to touch Justin's arm. When he didn't get kicked in the balls for his trouble, he reached out with his other hand. "Justin."

Despite his words Justin didn't fight him, letting Brian coax him out of the corner. He continued to sob and sniffle as he was led back to the bedroom, and when Justin climbed into bed Brian lobbed a toilet roll at his head.

"Fuck off," Justin muttered, then yanked a handful of toilet tissue off and blew his nose loudly.

There wasn't much to say after that. Justin lay with his back towards Brian, still sniffing and shaking. Feeling awkward as fuck, Brian almost prayed for some divine intervention telling him what the fuck he should do. When God didn't respond - as predicted - he did the only thing he could think of. Scooting closer to Justin, Brian wrapped a wary arm around him.

Stiffening immediately - not in a good way - Justin eventually began to relax, and eventually stopped crying, too. Reduced to the occasional sniffle, he cleared his throat. "Sorry."

Brian thought about saying that sorry was bullshit, but decided not to.

"The...shit." Justin hesitated, obviously nervous, before trying again. "Since the bashing...sometimes my emotions get...out of whack. I can't control them. Turns out brain damage can do that," he said mirthlessly. "But it's rare, now - usually when I'm over-tired or stressed out. I'd say I have a good excuse this time, wouldn't you?" He tried to make it a joke but it fell flat. "So," he cleared his throat, "if I get kinda weird, sometimes...that's why."

Brian tried to process all that. Fuck. "Is there shit you can take?"

"I'm allergic to just about every drug you can think of," Justin confessed. "The side effects sucked. Coping with it is just simpler all round. Like I said, it doesn't happen all that often now. It's partly my own fault it happened tonight - I knew I wasn't getting enough rest and wasn't really dealing with the bombing and..." he trailed off with a sigh. "Are you gonna stop fucking me?" he asked matter-of-factly.

Extremely important question. They'd managed to get through the episode reasonably well, considering, and...fuck. Justin had been hurt through no fault of his own - Brian could hardly punish him for that. Justin being hurt by the bashing was no different to Mikey being hurt by the bombing - the injury was just in a different place.

Still, Brian did have his own personal credo to deal with. "You know, technically I don't usually fuck guys more than once anyway."

"Oh." Justin wiggled in his arms. "Well, you know, you've already definitely fucked me more than once, so I'd say none of your usual rules apply to me."

Brian snorted out a breath. Christ, he'd just had a major fucking queen out and he was playing Brian already. "I don't know. Does your ass throw the occasional queen out too?"

"No," Justin replied, an obvious smile in his voice. "Just my head."

"Hmm," Brian inched closer still, his hand slipping down to Justin's cock. "Then I'd say you have nothing to worry about."


The next morning, Brian woke up his favourite way after a restless night's sleep - with a hot guy's mouth wrapped around his cock.

Actually, it was his favourite way of waking up after any kind of sleep.

Just enjoying it, Brian didn't try to hold back - he let Justin suck him off quickly, dispelling the vague unease he still felt from the dreams he couldn't remember.

Obviously pleased with himself afterward, Justin clambered up Brian's body to share a kiss. He'd swallowed, but Brian could still taste the traces of himself and Justin hummed happily as Brian sucked on his tongue. What was a little thing like morning breath compared to come shared between friends?

There was no sign of the frightened, sobbing mess he'd found in the bathroom last night, or the apologetic man who'd appeared afterward. Brian couldn't have been more fucking grateful.

"Mmm," Justin murmured as he broke the kiss, biting gently along the line of Brian's jaw, nipping at his neck. "Do you have any idea how hot you are?"

"Well," he smirked, rolling Justin onto his back and moving down his body, "it's funny you should ask..."

Brian was a big believer in reciprocating in bed - it almost always made the sex hotter.

The shower was only big enough for one, so while Justin cleaned up Brian started making coffee, searching through the kitchen cupboards to find what he needed. As the pot filled he found a sketch pad on a coffee table and started flicking through it - obviously Justin's work, and Brian found himself intrigued. After hearing that Justin was an artist and seeing that sketch of himself in the loft, Brian had presumed that'd been Justin's area of interest. But with the paintings on the wall and the news of the art shows in New York...

Justin emerged from the bathroom naked, rubbing a towel over his wet hair.

And promptly banged his shin against the edge of a box.

"Ow! Fuck!" Stumbling back, he dropped the towel and rubbed a hand over his injured leg. "I've got to stop fucking doing that."

Brian turned another page in the sketch pad. "You could also try unpacking the rest of your shit."

"Shit, I might as well throw it away - if I haven't unpacked it yet, I obviously don't need it. Hey," Justin was standing next to him - still very much naked - his head a big mess of damp blond hair. "You like looking at my stuff." It wasn't said with ego, just as a statement.

"You're good," Brian nodded, studying a sketch of a male arm that ended in a hand holding a pencil. Self-portrait? "Painting, drawing...that's a pretty broad spectrum."

Justin seemed amused. "Art isn't that cut and dried, Brian. I happen to be good at both, and they're not as dissimilar as you seem to think. True, a lot of artists choose to focus on one form, but..." he shrugged. "I just do whatever I feel inspired to do. Besides, they can compliment each other nicely." He let out a deep breath. "Anyway, I'd better get dressed." He headed for the bedroom and Brian glanced up, watching that ass as it walked away.

There was no denying Justin was talented. He also had brains, inspiration, and an obvious eye for what looked good.

"Oh, hey!" Justin called a few minutes later, emerging from the bedroom fully dressed with something in his hands that Brian recognised. "Your shirt," he smiled. "Do you want me to wash it? I didn't jerk off on it or anything."

Brian ignored the question.

"You ever worked on ad-copy?"


"Holy shit," Justin laughed as they approached the old baths. "Is this seriously your office space?" Brian smirked. Justin grinned. "Can I just say I love the way your brain works? Fuck, everyone you meet here for business - including, I'm sure, some assholes you can't stand - will be standing in exactly the same place as where some fag took it up the ass."

Some days it gave Brian no end of pleasure thinking about that. "Thank you. Although I don't know how I'll be able to cope with such adulation."

"Something tells me you'll deal," Justin smirked, following Brian into the building.

As it'd turned out, Justin had interned for a small advertising agency while he was at college so although it'd been a few years, he was at least familiar with how the business worked. Brian had made it clear that they wouldn't need his help for more than a few days; just until they found a temp that he was sure had the right vision for Kinnetik. Sometimes weeding out candidates took longer than he'd like.

It was the end of the week but he'd agreed to come in, get a feel of the place - although he wasn't without his doubts. "How do you know I have the right vision?"

Brian leered at him. "That sketchpad had at least twenty drawings of cocks inside. Tells me everything I need to know." It was only a partial truth, but Brian rarely played to anyone's ego too much. If someone did good work he'd tell them, and that was it.

Justin had been just as adamant that he only be paid for the exact number of hours he worked - although that hadn't stopped him from negotiating a very nice hourly rate. Brian almost felt proud.

Inside Kinnetik Brian made the introductions to Ted and Cynthia quickly, explaining Justin's temporary presence, then asked Cynthia to take him to the art department.

"That is," he teased, "if you think you can manage to cope without me."

"Don't worry about it, Brian," Justin smiled cockily. "I'm a big boy."

Remembering the feel of Justin's cock in his mouth that morning, Brian could only nod his agreement.

The morning flew by. They had a presentation due the next week and Brian spent most of his time refining the words of the pitch - they were often the most important thing of all. The boards were almost all done - leaving shit until the last minute was for amateurs - and he made a few critiques, otherwise thinking they were damn good work. If they didn't get the account then the company they were pitching to were idiots.

At one point Cynthia came in to report the progress on her search for a temp, and to tell him that there'd been a memorial arranged that evening for the people who'd died or been injured in the bombing. Shit, Brian hadn't even thought about doing anything like that, when he probably should've been involved in arranging it. Sighing, he leant back in his chair and told her to pass the word to everyone in the office.

Thank God the weekend started tomorrow. This was definitely a week Brian wanted to be over.

Not long after three, Brian realised two things - he hadn't gone to visit Mikey yet, and he'd barely heard a word about Justin (Cynthia had given him one of her 'you are so fucking him' looks, but that was all). Making his way to the art department, Brian immediately spotted Justin hunched over a design board, and kept one eye on him as he approached Murphy. He'd been the head of the art department ever since Kinnetik had opened.

"How's Taylor working out?" Brian asked, nodding towards Justin.

"Good," Murphy said. "He dived right in. He obviously knows what he's doing."

"He's had experience before."

"It shows," he nodded. "Not that it's the most complex of jobs, but he takes instruction well, and isn't afraid to voice his own ideas. Frankly, if he keeps it up I wouldn't mind having him here permanently."

Disturbingly, Brian didn't find the idea as horrifying as he should. "Can you cope if I steal him away for a while? He's a friend of Mikey's," not a complete lie, "thought we'd go pay him a visit at the hospital." Mostly, Brian was hoping that with it being earlier in the day Mikey might be more alert.

"Sure," Murphy shrugged. "He's good, but it's not like we can't survive without him."

Good to know. Striding up to Justin's desk, Brian spoke. "Pack up."

Surprised, Justin looked up at him. "Huh?"

"We're going to the hospital."

"Oh. Is Michael okay?"

"As far as I know."

"Oh." Frowning, Justin bent back over the desk and kept sketching something. "You know, there are these things called questions."

When did his life get so fucking complicated? "How fascinating." Oh yeah, when he decided to take Justin home.

"You should try one sometimes, instead of just telling me what I'm going to do."

"I really don't-"

"Something like, 'Justin, would you like to go to the hospital?' Of course I'm going - it's a given. But you could try being nice about it."

Brian refused to be told about manners by someone nine years younger than he was. "Come to the hospital or I'll kick your ass all the way back to New York."

Lifting his head, Justin regarded him carefully. "I think this qualifies as harassment in the workplace."



Thankfully, once they got in the Jeep Justin stopped being an irritating little shit.

"I like it," he announced. "There's a good vibe. The people are friendly, and they obviously respect you - even if they do think we're sleeping together."

Brian wasn't bothered. "We are sleeping toge..." What the fuck? "Fucking. We are fucking."

"I noticed," Justin grinned. "But normally I'd expect them to be judging me, you know? And they're not."

"That's because you can do the job," he replied, pulling into the turning lane. "If you were useless I'm sure they'd be talking all kinds of shit behind your back."


"Thankfully you're talented," Brian continued, "so I'm not hurting my reputation or my company."

Justin laughed. "You sure know how to show a guy a good time."

Debbie was the only one sitting with Mikey when they got there, and she greeted both of them with a hug. Apparently Ben had a class, and both she and Mikey insisted he give it.

Definitely more alert than he had been yesterday, Mikey talked with Justin for a while as they got to know each other better. It wasn't long before Debbie declared a need to eat, and Justin volunteered to go with her.

"I could eat something myself."

Brian rolled his eyes. "Christ, didn't you eat at the office?"

"Sure," he grinned. "Cynthia told me about that bagel place. But it's hardly my fault I have a healthy appetite - you know, like a *normal* human being."

Brian kind of saw it coming, but it still managed to surprise him when Mikey started speaking the moment they were alone.

"He's helping you at Kinnetik?" He sounded a hell of a lot better than he had the day before.

"He's an artist," Brian explained. "One of ours got hurt; Justin's just filling in until we find someone else."

He seemed to consider that. "You fucked him?"

"Mikey," he pretended to be offended, "I'm shocked - *shocked* - and mortally wounded that you'd think I could think about sex at a time like this."

Mikey grinned. "That'd be a yes, then. But seriously, Brian," his smile faltered, "fucking someone you work with? Usually not a good idea. That said, it's not like you ever fuck anyone twice..."

Brian would swear on anything - his cock, Justin's ass, the Bible, ten copies of the Koran - that his face didn't produce the slightest flinch whatsoever.

But Mikey still fucking saw something.

"Oh my God! You *did*!"

He had a vague thought that Mikey really shouldn't be getting so worked up about it. "Will you calm down? If your stitches burst Deb'll have my other ball."

"Oh my God," he continued. "Shit, Brian. When was the last time you fucked anyone more than once? And he seems really nice, too-"

Fuck, here it went. "Christ, we're not fucking *dating* or anything. Just because we fucked more than once doesn't mean we're about to move into a homo home together like you and the professor. It's just trauma sex."

"Trauma sex?"

"Mikey," he explained not-so-patiently, "we met in the aftermath of a bombing, carrying your unconscious body out of the building. Trauma sex."

"Huh." He seemed to think it over. "So it's...'we're alive so we're gonna fuck' sex."

That was more like it. "Exactly."

"Still not sure how that's different from normal sex for you."

He may have had a point.

When Debbie and Justin returned, Deb made a point of making sure they both knew about the memorial. She was planning on speaking, which came as a surprise to no one.

By the time they decided to leave Mikey was clearly flagging, but insisted he was glad they visited for so long. "Even when you're asleep half the time, it still gets really boring in here. Uh," he shot Deb a look, "no offence, Ma."

Before they could leave, however, Deb asked to have a word with him outside. Curious - possibly wary - Brian followed her out into the corridor.

"So," she folded her arms, lifting her eyebrows, "what the fuck's going on with you and Sunshine?"

It was obvious who she meant, but... "Sunshine?"

"True, we haven't had a chance to see it much," she grinned, "but have you seen that smile? It lights up the whole fucking room."

Brian had definitely not had any similar thoughts on the matter. "We're fucking."

"Just fucking?"

"You know I don't do anything else."

"Hmm." She regarded him carefully. "Don't think I haven't noticed."

He wasn't even going to attempt a guess. "Notice what?"

"Since..." she fixed him with an almost contrite expression. "Since you got sick. Or probably since you got better. You've been...different."

Fuck, he so didn't want to get into this. "Can't say I've noticed anything."

She ignored him. "You're still you, just..." she smiled. "The edges aren't so rough."

Brian gritted his teeth. "If you say so."

Deb evidently decided to take some pity on him. "Whatever's happening, just...don't be in your usual big rush to push him away, okay? If there's one good thing about fucking disasters, it's that they remind us how fragile life can be. How we should appreciate every moment we have."

"Believe me," he told her, grateful to get back onto familiar territory, "I'm appreciating Justin's ass as much as is physically possible."

Laughing and rolling her eyes, she gave him an affectionate slap around the head. "Well, at least you're appreciating *something.*"


Brian needed to finish up at the office and Justin decided to come along, wanting to at least finish the design he'd been working on.

"Although, you know," he pointed out, "this is usually the time of day when most people are looking forward to going home, not coming into work."

Brian just shrugged.

When they arrived at the office it'd already started emptying out. Ted and Cynthia were still there, as was Murphy, but the rest of the staff had started to leave for the day.

He hadn't missed a lot and Cynthia quickly got him up to speed, the main news being the fact that she had two candidates for the job coming in for interviews on Monday already.

"Good work," he said.

"I know," she smirked, and strode out of his office.

By the time Brian strode out of the office nearly two hours had passed. Cynthia and Murphy had gone home, probably to do shit before the memorial - Brian believed in working hard, but he also believed in everyone's right to have a social life - and unsurprisingly, Ted was still at his desk.

"That's it," Brian announced.

"What is?" Ted asked, barely looking up.

"You're done for the day. Go home. The memorial's in..." he looked at his watch. "A little over an hour."

"I heard," he replied tightly. "I can't go. I just have too much to do and-"

Fuck it. "Fine. Don't go. Do whatever the fuck you want, but what you *aren't* doing is hiding away is this office for the rest of your fucking life." Ted looked like he'd just had an enema - or a fisting. "I'll be back in five minutes. You'd better not be here." Leaving Ted to ponder that, Brian walked towards the art department.

Justin was the only one there. He was also slowly spinning around in his chair, head tipped back, fixating on the same spot on the ceiling. Leaning against a nearby desk, Brian watched for a while.

"If you end up puking I'll make you clean it up yourself."

Planting his feet on the floor, Justin came to a stop. He was smiling, and didn't say a word.

Brian tried again. "Glad to see you're working so hard."

"I finished an hour ago, but it didn't seem worth going home just to come out for the memorial again."

Watching him and trying to decide if that was the truth, Brian pushed away from the desk. "I'm locking up and grabbing something to eat before the memorial. You can tag along if you want." He hadn't exactly planned on asking him, but it seemed to make sense. They were both going to the memorial - there was no reason why they shouldn't stick together.

"Sure," he agreed. "I don't need to eat but I don't mind keeping you company."

Jesus. "Don't do me any favours."

That smile that'd earned him the nickname from Deb bloomed across his face. "I'd love to go with you, Brian." That was better. "And now that I've assuaged your ego," little fucker! "Could you give me a hand?"

"What with?"

The smile grew bigger. "I don't think I could walk in a straight line if my life depended on it."

Brian held back a smirk. Justin was fucking weird sometimes, but he couldn't decide if it was because of the head injury or if it was just the way Justin was.

He didn't really care either way.


Justin looked around the diner with something akin to awe, dizziness long behind him. "Man, this place hasn't changed."

It wasn't necessarily the truth. Sometimes what passed for 'art' on the walls was changed or rearranged, but there was something timeless about the diner and its clientele. "Deb works here. Hell, she practically runs the place," he said, taking a seat at the counter.

Justin sat down next to him, still looking around. "I came here once - just once. Debbie couldn't have been here. I would've remembered."

Not many people would forget Debbie Novotny. "When was that - in your impressionable youth?" Brian asked, interrupted when Kiki came up to take his order. "Ham on rye, no mayo. And two lemon bars. To go."

Shaking his head to indicate that he didn't want anything, Justin waited for Kiki to leave before turning to Brian. "Must've, seven years ago. Shit."

"And you only came the once?" Justin struck Brian as the type who'd want to experience everything, as much as humanly possible.

"It wasn't long after that that I hooked up with Scott."

Brian could only think of one person that could be. "Was that the kid-?"

"I danced at my prom with, yeah. He wasn't...he wasn't exactly in the closet - obviously, since we danced at prom together - but he wasn't exactly ready to embrace all the aspects of queer culture, either. At the time I didn't mind," he shrugged. "I was out with him. I loved him."

Great. "Well." Brian wasn't sure what to say to that, so ignored it completely. "And now?"

"Now I couldn't imagine not embracing it," he replied, and didn't say anything else until they left the diner.

Brian suggested they walk - the park wasn't that far, and parking was likely to be shitty if they tried to get any closer by car - and he ate on the way. That gave him the perfect opportunity to not actually have to converse with Justin, which while he'd actually been enjoying more than he would've anticipated, sometimes got...complicated.

Shit. He'd barely known the guy for three days. What the fuck was happening?

Frustrated, he threw the paper bag that'd been holding his sandwich into a trash can, and thumped the bag holding the lemon bars against Justin's chest. "Here. I don't want them."

Saying nothing - perhaps wisely - Justin quickly gobbled them down.

By the time they reached the park a pretty big crowd had gathered already. Deb and Ben were there, and Brian realised Hunter was standing next to them. Surprised, he took another step towards them.

"So, when did the littlest hustler get back in town?"

Turning towards him, Hunter smiled. He may have giving up on flirting with Brian since deciding he liked pussy, but he still looked happy to see him. "Hi."

"Not long," Deb explained. "He arrived at the hospital not long after the two of you left."

"Heard on the news what happened," Hunter said, "managed to contact Eli, and he told me about Michael."

And he came right back home. Of course. "Good."

"Who's that?" Hunter asked, nodding at Justin.

"I'm Justin," he introduced himself, holding out his hand. "Friend of Brian's."

Hunter looked incredulous, staring at Brian. "You have friends? Shit, wait," he said quickly, "you're the Justin that helped Michael?"

"Well, yeah, but-"

"Shit, thanks," Hunter interrupted, shaking Justin's hand.

The whole situation was bizarre. He'd never really seen Hunter be...nice. Or...grateful. And now he was being both.

"How old are you, anyway?" Hunter asked. "Brian always said he didn't fuck twinks so I'd leave him alone." He smirked towards Brian. "Not that it worked."

Ah, that was more like it.

"Hey, you two," Deb said. "You'd better grab a candle; they're passing them out at the front. It's starting soon."

Grateful to escape, they made their way to the front, took their candles, and then rather than push through the crowd again, walked around it until they were standing near the back. It didn't take long for new arrivals to fill up the space behind them.

It was a weird situation, the kind Brian couldn't remember taking part in before. Probably because generally he thought memorials didn't serve much of a purpose - when someone was dead, that was it. They were gone. But he'd been right there for this one, had been there when the bomb went off and...fuck. Deb was right. Since the cancer he'd had a deeper...appreciation for how fast everything could change.

Brian had lived dangerously because that was his choice - it was his life to do with as he saw fit. But when the cancer came he had to live by *its* rules; he had no power over whether he lived and died, the fucking disease did. So when the cancer left, when he had control back, he started realising some shit he really wanted that he'd been resisting for whatever fucking reason. That he wanted to spend more time with Gus. That he still loved fucking the shit out of hot guys. And that sometimes life wasn't always as fabulous as he liked to pretend, but he didn't know what to do about it.

Drew spoke first, coming out of hiding for the first time since his coming out. He made a good speech, looking like he couldn't care less that he'd recently lost a million dollar advertising deal, and Brian saw Emmett joining the crowd just as Drew asked for a minute's silence.

A man spoke after, a father whose son had died in the bombing. He held it together well - Brian thought of Gus, thought of having to make a speech about him, and his stomach turned - asking for tolerance, trying to understand why anyone would kill someone just for being different. The crowd murmured its agreement.

Justin might have been crying. Brian wasn't sure.

Deb went next, moving to the centre of the makeshift stage. "My son, Michael Novotny, was injured in the explosion last night. It was touch and go for a while," her voice wobbled, before she regained her composure. "I'm here to say...that he's gonna be all right." A few people started clapping, expressing their relief, and Deb quickly held up a hand. "But there are others who are not so lucky."

"Your son should've died!"

Brian knew, even before he turned to look towards the new voice, exactly what was going on. It didn't surprise him at all - a smaller group of people holding signs. GOD HATES GAYS. FAGS GO TO HELL. Fuckers.

"Fags are an abomination!" their 'leader' continued, stunning most of the crowd into silence. "They're all going to hell!"

"*No*," Justin said harshly, dropping the candle and pushing his way through the crowd.

Knowing that couldn't be good, Brian dropped his own candle and took off after him. "Justin!"

But he'd already broken through the edge of the crowd and reached the protestors, giving the guy in front a good punch in the face. "Fuck *you*!" he yelled as the guy crumpled to the ground.

Ben looked like he'd been on course to do the same thing, but hesitated when Justin got there first. Seeing two of the protestors moving forward to defend their leader, he stepped towards them. "You want to try it?" he demanded, using his bulk to impose.

Reaching Justin, Brian grabbed him from behind but he seemed intent on yelling rather than hitting anyone again. "You have no right!" he screamed, struggling against Brian's hold. "No fucking right to come here and tell these people that their children should be dead! You don't know what it means to be human!" Finally, with Drew's help - Justin was a surprisingly powerful little fucker - Brian managed to pull him further away. Smaller scuffles had broken out but Justin was causing the biggest disturbance, and Carl pushed them both away from the crowd.

"Get him out of here!"

Drew stayed behind to make sure no one followed, and Brian grabbed Justin's hand - and ran.


Blind instinct returned. Brian wasn't aware of anything except Justin's hand in his, his feet pounding against the ground, the sound of their breath, the urgent need to get the fuck away.

It was only when they reached the Jeep, scrambled inside and pulled out onto the road, that Brian realised that'd been the biggest buzz he'd felt in he didn't know how many fucking years.

Checking the side mirror, he was relieved to see that no one seemed to be following them. Big buzz or not, he didn't want to be run down and get the shit kicked out of him by a gang of homophobes.

"So," Justin said breathlessly, looking down at the hand he'd thrown the punch with, opening and closing it. "Guess I still have some issues with the bashing."

"No shit," Brian retorted. It may not have been the smartest move, but he couldn't say they fucking didn't have it coming, either. "But if you hadn't done it, I probably would." No one got to go around saying his friends should be dead. No one. "How's your hand?"

"Hurts," Justin replied, wincing as he flexed the fingers again. "More than I remembered. Shit."

"So," Brian glanced towards him, "this was all you? It wasn't..." Brian didn't know what the fuck to call it. He didn't even know the official term.

But apparently Justin realised what he meant. "It wasn't because of the brain damage, if that's what you're asking." He kept staring down at his hand. "I knew exactly what I was doing."

Shit, this was fucking ridiculous. He'd known Justin for three days, and already they were fucking - repeatedly. Justin had become part of their queer little family, he was working at Kinnetik, and now they were on the run together after Justin had taken a swing at a gang of homophobes.

After three fucking days. Somehow, in that miniscule amount of time, Justin's life had completely entangled itself with Brian's.

"This is so fucked up," he muttered as Justin lit up a cigarette.


He was still pissed off when they got back to the loft, stripping off his jacket and throwing it onto the sofa, then stomping into the kitchen to get ice out of the freezer. Wrapping a few chunks in a towel he passed it to Justin, then took a bottle of water out of the fridge.

"Are you angry at me?" Justin asked squarely, standing on the other side of the kitchen counter, cautiously resting the ice pack against his hand. "You said you would've done-"

"You're fucking everywhere," Brian muttered, unscrewing the cap from the bottle, then thumping both down on the counter. "You're here and at work and at the hospital and on the fucking run from someone you punched out. I don't do...this. And yet here you fucking are."

Justin seemed taken aback for a few moments, and took the opportunity to shift over to sit on a stool. "Have I asked you for anything?"

Brian didn't answer, because Justin hadn't asked for a fucking thing.

Apart from cigarettes.

Justin kept watching him. "The first time we left the hospital together, you asked me where I wanted to go. I said here. You could've said no but you didn't. In fact, you were happy about it. When I invited you up to my place, you could've said no. You didn't. *You* offered me a job out of nowhere, *you* asked me to go to the diner and memorial with you, *you* grabbed my hand and started running, *you* have been offering to drive me everywhere I fucking go." He met his gaze head-on. "True, I haven't exactly been fighting it, but you're the one making all the big moves, Brian. For someone who doesn't do 'this', you've being doing 'this' remarkably well. But apparently you don't have the balls to face it."

And there it was. The thing that'd been niggling at the back of his mind ever since he brought Justin home for the first time. He hadn't been paying much attention to it because there were bigger things to worry about - the bombing, Mikey getting hurt, Kinnetik. But now he knew what it was.

He'd been fucking dating Justin without even realising it.

Not in the traditional sense, of course, because when the fuck did he ever do anything traditional? But Brian'd been fucking him more than once, taking him places, shit - just spending time with him. That was more than he'd ever done with anyone he'd fucked.

Cursing, he turned away from the counter and strode over to where he kept the JB. Alcohol was good for situations like this.

"I'm gonna lie down," Justin announced, sighing.

Grunting, Brian grabbed the bottle of JB and collapsed onto the sofa.

He stayed there for hours; smoking, drinking, thinking about what the fuck he was doing. He worried about turning into Eli or Monty - or even worse, both - about commitment ceremonies, and kids, and quaint little houses in the suburbs. He thought about turning into his dad, hitting his family around, never being able to control his temper. Both ideas couldn't have been more different, but were equally disturbing.

But when Justin wasn't being an irritating shit, Brian actually kind of enjoyed his company - which was more than he could say about most people. He was smart. Hot. Plus, Justin wasn't making any demands - he hadn't asked for a lifetime commitment or monogamy or some shit like that. In fact, Brian didn't even know what Justin wanted out of the situation. He seemed fine with lots of fucking and just hanging out together and, well...maybe it wouldn't be too bad. Waking up lately with someone else there for once had been...okay. He couldn't say he hated it.

Fuck, was he actually considering this? Whatever 'this' was. Maybe they could just keep doing what they'd been doing. Maybe it wouldn't need to get any more complicated.

Yeah, like his luck was ever that fucking good.

But whatever happened, he wasn't doing anything without all the facts. He needed to be properly informed. Stumbling up from the sofa, Brian started the computer.

It didn't take him long to find references to the bashing, although it didn't give him the information he was looking for. Justin being hit with a baseball bat (his fingers tightened around the mouse), in a coma for three weeks, waking up. Nothing about his recovery or anything afterward.

Instead he started searching for information on head injuries and brain damage; what problems could develop. There were a couple of different conditions that could be the one Justin suffered from, but what he read mostly brought up more questions than answers and fuck, he couldn't make a diagnosis himself. The only way to know for sure was to go straight to the source.

In the bedroom Justin was sprawled out under the covers naked, sound asleep. The ice pack had been left on the wooden ledge around the bed and Brian sighed, picking it up and wiping off the water, hoping it wouldn't warp the wood. If Justin was sticking around, he definitely needed to know not to do shit like that.

Throwing the towel into the kitchen sink, Brian returned and sat on the edge of the bed. "Justin," he said loudly, placing a hand on Justin's shoulder and shaking him at the same time.

Stirring, Justin blinked open his eyes. It seemed to take him a few seconds to recognise his surroundings, and then he smiled sleepily at Brian. "Hey."

Brian ignored anything he may or may not have been feeling as a result of said smile. "I need to ask you something."

Shifting, Justin moved and sat up until he was leaning against the headboard. "Okay. What?"

There were things that were more important than him, or Justin. "You said that what happened tonight was you. Not...whatever the fuck developed after you were bashed."

"Right," Justin said, frowning. "That was me needing to punch a homophobic prick's face in."

Brian's lips twitched despite himself. "I don't know what the fuck you actually suffer from, but I've been doing some reading and I need to know."

"Need to know what?"

"I have a kid," Brian said, and Justin shifted in surprise. "He's almost five. And it may not be PC, but if you *are* gonna be around I need to know if ever get so out of control-"

"I don't get violent," Justin interrupted, and the question was answered.

They stared at each other.

"I get why you asked," he continued slowly. "And I actually kind of appreciate it. Most people wouldn't even bother." He let out a breath, looking off to one side. "When it happens...I can feel it. I know that it's happening, I know that I'm losing control, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. It's laughing or crying, usually," Justin explained, looking back at Brian. "There's nothing funny or sad happening at the time, but I just...start. It was...bad, after the bashing. But it got better, over time, and like I said before it rarely happens now. And it's absolutely never made me lose control of my anger. If I ever get seriously pissed about something, that's just me being a drama queen."

Brian tried to imagine what it was like, knowing you were losing control and not being able to do anything to stop it. It ranked right up there in nightmare situations, and had to be pretty fucking humiliating.

"So why do you want to know?" Justin asked, producing a small smile. "Does this mean we're still fucking?"

There was only one answer he could give to that. "Maybe."

Justin frowned at him, his smile flattening out. "What are you so scared of?" Jesus Christ. "I'm not asking for-"

"You don't know me," Brian told him firmly. "Don't think that I'm scared. You don't fucking know me at all."

Moving from beneath the covers, Justin crawled toward the edge of the bed and swung a leg over Brian's body, straddling his lap. Brian allowed it, for now, his hands holding on to Justin's thighs.

"I know that you're smart, and funny," Justin told him, his arms resting over Brian's shoulders. "I know that you offered to pay Michael's medical bills. I know that your employee's respect you. I know that you like working hard and being good at what you do. I know that you're a really good fuck. As for everything else, why don't you tell me?"

Right. "That's not about to happen."

"Yeah," Justin grinned. "I didn't think it would."

Deciding that he'd done enough thinking - and definitely enough fucking talking - Brian slapped Justin's ass lightly. "Let me get changed."

Of course, by 'changed' be meant 'naked', and when he was they slid under the covers next to each other. They didn't touch which, after the night he'd had, Brian appreciated. There was still a lot to fucking thinking about, and that was really something he didn't like doing.

Speaking of touch... "How's your hand?"

"Still sore," Justin said.

Not unexpected. "Yeah, it'll be that way for a while yet."

"You had a lot of experience hitting people?" Justin sounded amused.

"Not exactly," Brian retorted, and rolled onto his side.

He knew he probably should've been feeling horny, should probably want to fuck, but right then all he wanted to do was sleep.



"About what you needed to know..."

He opened his eyes, staring at the closet. "Yeah?"

Justin hesitated before speaking. "What would you have done if I'd said yes?"

That was something he didn't have - and frankly didn't want to come up with - an answer for.

"I don't know," he said, and closed his eyes.


The buzzer woke him the next morning, and Brian was surprised when he groggily stared at the clock and saw that it was nearly ten. They'd woken a few hours ago and enjoyed an early-morning fuck (answering the question of whether or not they were still fucking, but Brian had been too horny to care) and he hadn't really meant to sleep again. Or not for so long.

Stumbling out of bed, he pulled a pair of sweat pants out of a drawer and tugged them on. Justin started moving around on the bed.

"Go back to sleep," Brian said. Justin flopped over onto his other side and did just that.

The door buzzed again and Brian cursed, telling himself - not for the first time - to get another speaker installed somewhere near the bed.

Reaching the door, he pressed the talk button. "Yeah?"

"It's Horvath," came the familiar, if slightly distorted voice.

Brian paused, thinking it over. "You gonna arrest anyone?"

"Not today."

Brian buzzed him in.

Unlocking and sliding open the door, Brian moved to the kitchen to start the coffee, and when he walked back to the door Horvath was just stepping in.

"Ah, Kinney."

"Detective," he nodded. "What can I do for you?" Picking up two cups from the shelf, he turned and placed them on the main counter.

Horvath stood by the end of the counter. "How's your...friend?"

"Sleeping," Brian replied, nodding towards the bedroom.

Following his gaze for a few moments, Horvath then looked back towards him. "They wanted to press charges," he said, "but it seems no one who was at the memorial was able to identify just who threw the first punch."

Brian stared back at him. "I'm sure that's common in those situations. Lots of movement, confusion..."

"Exactly," Horvath agreed meaningfully. "It's unfortunate, but there's not much we can do about it." He paused. "I understand he was the one who helped Michael after the bombing."

"That'd be him."

"Haven't had a chance to thank him myself, yet."

"Well," Brian told him, "just wait until the next time Deb hosts one of her dinners. No doubt, Justin will be a guest of honour."

"There's no denying that," Horvath smirked. "And speaking of which, it might not be too long until she has one. They're saying Michael could be released within the next few days."

That was good, if surprising. "That soon?"

"Well he'll have to rest a lot, of course. No immediately going back to work. But he doesn't need to stay in hospital and use their resources to do that."

"True," Brian shrugged, turning to check the coffee machine. "You want coffee?"

"Thanks," he replied, "but I should get going. Just..." he glanced towards the bedroom again, lowering his voice. "See that it doesn't become a habit. God knows I may not like homophobes, but I can only stretch the law so far."

Smiling briefly, Brian remembered how Horvath had been when they first met. Time changed a lot of things. "I don't think it will. He has a history with homophobes." And that was a ridiculous statement, because he couldn't think of any queer he knew who didn't have a history with homophobes. "Worse than most. Last night hit all the right buttons in all the wrong ways, I guess. But..." He made a point of meeting his eyes. "Thanks, detective."

He nodded, before hesitating. "There's something else." Brian kept quiet, so Horvath continued. "It was a pipe bomb. A pretty powerful one. Home made, of course, so that doesn't really tell us anything, although we're analysing the pieces we did find to see if they turn up anything."

Pipe bomb. Shit. The fact that it was home made and not 'professional' probably should've been comforting. Instead, Brian closed the door behind Horvath and collapsed back into bed.

Justin opened his eyes. He'd probably been awake the entire time. "Do I smell coffee?"

"Well done," Brian said, "your nose is working perfectly." Shit, a pipe bomb. Last night had been a pretty good night's sleep for once, and now he just kept seeing the explosion and feeling the smoke in his mouth and-

"Hey." Justin, leaning over him. Justin, cupping his chin. "Don't let it control you."

Nothing was going to control Brian anymore, even if he didn't know what the fuck he was doing.

Most Saturdays were spent with Gus now. "You wanna meet my kid?"


Linds was surprised to see he'd brought company. "Justin! Hi!"

As the two of them started communing with each other - both blond, both artists, both irritatingly liked to talk about 'stuff' - Brian stepped further into the house.

"Daddy!" Gus yelled as he ran from the living room and Brian smiled, immediately bending down and holding out his arms.

"Hey, Sonny Boy," he greeted warmly, picking Gus up and holding him tightly. Gus'd always been a quiet kid - something Brian had thought was weird with someone like Mel in the house - but lately he'd been talking more, just making more noise in general. Frankly, Brian was relieved (and pleased that he didn't have to hear that noise at all hours). "Hey, I brought a friend of mine with me today. You wanna meet him?"


Of course, Gus' new-found noisiness meant he tended to shout everything. "Okay. Gus," he turned towards Justin, who was stepping away from Linds, "this is Justin. Justin, this is Gus."

"Hi, Gus," Justin smiled brightly, addressing the kid directly. "It's nice to meet you."

"Hello," Gus replied, staring at him. "Justin."

Noise from the stairs made them all turn to see Mel descending, holding JR. "Justin," she greeted, "that was one hell of a punch you threw last night."

He smiled, looking slightly chagrined. "Probably wasn't the best way to deal with it, I know, but-"

"Oh, please," Mel said, reaching the bottom of the stairs. "That asshole deserved it."

"Mel," Linds warned, and Melanie looked confused before glancing between the two kids.


"We're both trying to curse less in front of the children," Linds explained.

Brian snorted. "Unless you're gonna stuff a sock in Deb's mouth, these two'll be cursing like sailors by the time they're eight." He smiled at Gus. "Right, kid?"

"Right, Dad!" He clearly had no idea what Brian was talking about it, but wanted to agree with him anyway.

"Anyway," Mel cleared her throat, "you've obviously already met Gus - this is JR, Justin. Short for Jenny Rebecca."

"Hi, JR," Justin smiled at her, although she seemed kinda scared. "They're both beautiful. Is she Brian's too?"

"Fuck, no," Brian and Mel replied together.

Justin laughed.

"JR is Michael's daughter," Mel explained, all too happily.

"Anyway, Brian," Linds turned towards him, "why don't you stay for a while instead of your usual dash and grab?"

From the look she was sending it was clear she wanted to talk to him about something, so he shrugged. "Okay," he said and moved into the living room.

"Actually, Brian," she tried again, "could you give me a hand in the kitchen?"

Outright suspicious now, he carefully lowered Gus next to Justin. "Why don't you show Justin that new car you got, huh? I know he'll love it."

"Okay!" he agreed, running to the corner of the room where one of his boxes of toys was kept.

Standing up, Brian looked at Justin. "I'll be right back."

Justin had an enormous, self-satisfied grin on his face. "Okay. You are so cute with-"

Fuck. "Not a word," Brian warned, holding up a finger. "I am not 'cute' with anyone."

"Right, of course," Justin said seriously, schooling his face into mock-stern expression. "You're a very serious man."

Rolling his eyes, Brian walked away.

"Justin," Mel said behind him, "have I told you how much I like you?"

In the kitchen, Linds was leaning against the counter near the sink.

"You really need to work on being subtle," Brian told her, pulling out a chair by the kitchen table and sitting down. "Well?"

"I just thought you should know..." she began, then hesitated, and walked across the kitchen until she was sitting next to him. "Mel and I are back together."

He should've seen it coming, really, although he was only vaguely surprised. "You don't sound too happy about it."

"I am," she smiled. "I was just wondering about you. Mel is hardly your favourite person-"

"And since when has that mattered?" he asked, cutting her off. "You love who you love; don't make apologies for it. So Mel's a cunt."


He smirked. "What matters is that you and Gus are happy. I know I wasn't sure when you two moved back in together to share expenses, but Gus has been a hell of a lot happier since you did. This'll make him even more so. Kids know when something's wrong," he finished, knowing from his own too-memorable childhood.

"I know," she said softly.

Things were getting maudlin and Linds was fixing him with those big eyes she used sometimes, and Brian realised he needed to do something about that, STAT. "So, she forgave you for wanting cock?"

"Brian!" she laughed, exasperated. "After the bombing we *both* realised what was really important. And...yes. We're both having to come to terms with the fact that I'm not quite the dyke I thought I was." She looked away, clearly not really seeing anything. "I thought I knew who I was."

Sighing, he shifted his chair closer until he could put an arm around her shoulder. "You'll get over it. She'll get over it. Yeah, some queers are purists, but I say liking both just gives you more holes to fuck, and what could be wrong with that?"

Laughing quietly, she brought a hand up to her face and shook her head. "What would I do without you?"

"Hmm," he 'pondered'. "Be incredibly bored? Have no fun at all? Have no one to come to when you want tips about fucking guys again?"

She slapped at his chest half-heartedly, and then the conversation took a complete detour. "Dusty died. Her funeral's on Monday."

Shit. Linds' big dyke friend with a million babies. Or maybe three. He should've known that. He should know about fucking everyone. "Why didn't you say something?"

"You've had enough to worry about, Brian. It was your club. Michael getting hurt..." she sighed. "We talked to her, just before. But Mel forgot her cell phone in the car, and I decided to wait outside while she went back for it. Dusty went in without us."

Turning towards her, Brian tugged her into a hug. "Don't ever be sad that you lived. My kid needs you." He rubbed a hand over her back. "Christ, can you imagine me and Mel trying to raise Gus together? Now *that* would be the family from hell."

Linds didn't reply, just held him back tightly until she pulled away and wiped at her puffy eyes. "So, how are you coping?"

It was an obvious ploy to take attention away from her. "I'm fine." She gave him a look, and he sighed. Somehow she always managed to get him to admit stuff that no one else could. "Haven't been sleeping well."

"I doubt any of us are," she told him, taking his hand. "And...Justin?"

"Justin's a resilient little fucker."

She smiled. "You know that's not what I meant."

Brian sighed again. Fuck. This was exactly the kind of shit he meant. "I don't know what the fuck I'm doing."

"But you want to do *something*?" Linds asked seriously.

"Christ, I don't know," he pulled his hand away from hers, running it through his hair. "It's...good. When we're together. And I don't just mean the sex. I'm not used to that."

Linds stared at him for a while, obviously thinking. "You know what I think?"

He slouched back in his chair. "Enlighten me."

"I think you're thinking too much. I think that's always been your problem. And I think you should just sit back and enjoy it. Now," pushing her chair back, she stood up. "I'm going to see if anyone wants a drink." Kissing the top of his head, she stepped around his chair and walked out of the kitchen.

"Always the good hostess," he snarked, but his heart wasn't in it.

Sit back and enjoy it. What kind of advice was that?

But for now, there was something else that needed to be done. Pulling his cell phone out, he speed-dialled Ted. "Theodore," he said when he got through, "first thing Monday morning I want the names of the people killed or injured in the explosion. Their families. If they had kids. And we should look into setting up some kind of charitable donation or fund. Oh, and see how much we'd get if we sold the club."

"What?! Brian, you're not selling-"

"Relax, Theodore," he told him. "I just want to be aware of all of my options." Truthfully, he'd been coasting since the explosion, not taking the reins the way he should've been. Probably because of the shock, but that wasn't an excuse. Things needed to change.

Ending the call, he decided he should get the car seat fitted in the back of the Jeep while he thought about it. Standing up, he moved into the living room and saw Justin laughing at something Mel said.

And something inside him just...relaxed.



As usual lunch with Gus consisted of ordering something at the diner, although this time there was no Deb and they had company in the form of Justin.

Gus was confused. "Grandma?" he asked, looking around the diner.

"Grandma's not here today," Brian explained. "You know about Uncle Mikey, right?"

Frowning, Gus seemed to think about it. "Hurt."

"That's right. He's in hospital but he's going to get better. Grandma's probably with him right now, but when we're finished here we'll go and visit both of them. Think you'll like that?"

"Yes!" he answered, looking across at Justin. "Good. Grandma has red hair. Only not really."

"I noticed," Justin smiled, and when Gus focused on his drink again, he spoke quietly to Brian. "'Grandma' Debbie?"

Brian didn't look away from Gus. "She was more of a mother to me than the one I was born with."

"Something else we have in common," he replied, and took another bite out of his cheeseburger.

Gus was fascinated by the hospital when they got there, and Brian realised he couldn't remember Gus having to go there since he was a baby. As yet, they'd lucked out and there'd been no broken bones. "Hey, Sonny Boy, you know what?"

"What?" Gus demanded. Justin smirked.

"This is the hospital where you were born."

"Really?" he asked, amazed, pulling his hand out of Brian's and rushing forward, around a corner.

He was out of sight for barely a second and panic gripped Brian's chest, propelling him forward - but Gus was still right around the corner. "Gus!" Brian yelled, grabbing his shoulders and bending down, turning him around. "What've I told you about running off on your own, especially in a place you don't know?"

Gus stared at him with those wide Lindsay eyes. "Don't do it?"

"Exactly," Brian replied. "When we're outside or someplace new, what do you always do?"

"Hold Daddy's hand."

"Good." He held out his hand, waiting for Gus to take it. "Stick to the rules, kid, and you'll be okay."

Looking apologetic, Gus held his hand. "Daddy, does Justin have to hold your hand too?"

Fuck, he'd completely forgotten Justin was even there, and looked around and up to see Justin smirking down at him.

"Yeah, Daddy, do I have to hold your hand too?"

He was surrounded by people who were conspiring against him. He was sure of it. "Gus, Justin's a big boy - like you will be in a few years. He doesn't need me to hold his hand."

"Well no, I don't *need* you to," Justin interjected smugly, "but it might be fun."

"And secondly," Brian continued, torn between ignoring him and throttling him, "I haven't turned into a lesbian just yet." Standing up, he sighed. "Come on."

Gus trotted along beside him, and Justin walked next to Gus. "Daddy, what's a les-bee-ann?"

Surely Linds would've covered this already. "It's what your Mom is, Gus." He thought about the conversation with Linds in the kitchen. "Mostly."

"But Justin has yellow hair, too," he announced in some kind of weird kid logic. "Justin, are you a les-bee-ann?"

"Not exactly," Justin grinned, obviously trying to hold back laughter. "A lesbian is a woman who loves another woman, Gus."

"Oh!" he yelled in comprehension. "Like Mommy and Moma!"


"My Mommy's are les-bee-anns!"

That drew more than one confused look, and Brian smirked as they turned another corner.

When they walked into Mikey's room the thing that grabbed Brian's attention wasn't Mikey, Deb, or Ben - it was the huge fucking balloon monstrosity in the corner of the room. "Jesus."

"Grandma!" Gus pulled away and Brian let him this time, watching as his kid pelted across the room.

"Gussy!" she yelled in return, meeting him by the end of the bed and sweeping him up into her arms. "How's my boy?" she demanded, squeezing and tickling him, until he was laughing and screeching and demanding to be let down.

Michael watched from the bed in amusement, turning his head to look at Brian as he approached. "Never a dull moment around here. Hi, Justin."

"Hi, Michael." He paused next to Brian. "How are you feeling?"

"Better," he nodded with a smile.

"Hear they'll be springing you soon," Brian said.

"They're talking about Monday," Ben replied, standing on Michael's other side, smiling at his husband. "But we won't know for sure until then." Then, as if remembering something, he lifted his head and looked at Justin. "And Justin. What you did last night...I'm not sure thank you's an appropriate term, but-"

"The fuck it's not," Deb broke in, Gus standing next to her as she pulled Justin into a tight hug. "Hearing those assholes talking about my kid like that. Wishing him dead. I..." she stopped, holding him tighter still.

"I'm okay, Ma," Mikey insisted.

Releasing Justin, she sniffed and held him at an arm's length. "Now I don't condone violence," her gaze slid towards Brian before quickly moving away. "Not usually. And I'm all for free speech. But I still say no one has a right to do what those fuckers did last night."

Gus tugged at her clothes. "What did they do, Grandma?"

"Oh!" Bending to pick him up, she sighed. "Some bad people said some bad things, Gus."

He frowned. "You say bad things all the time."

Michael laughed.

Deb fixed her son with a glare before turning back to Gus. "Okay, mean things. They said mean things, Gus, just because they don't like people who are different."

"Oh." His face fell, before brightening up again. "Did you know my Mommies are les-bee-anns?"

Amused, she arched her eyebrows towards Brian. He just shrugged. "Yes, I did know that. And there's nothing wrong with that. Now, Gus," she shifted him closer to bed, "if you're careful not to touch him, you can sit next to your Uncle Mikey."

"Hurt," Gus said seriously.

"That's right," Deb agreed. "So don't lean on him, okay?"

Over the next few minutes, Gus sombrely took it upon himself to make sure that Michael was really okay. They all gave him as much time as he needed, and when he was eventually convinced Brian finally brought up the balloons.

"Who the hell brought you those, anyway?"

"Ted," Mikey said. "He dropped by for a while this morning."

Well, that was progress. "So he finally paid a visit."

"Yeah, it was weird," Mikey admitted. "He apologised for asking me to go get him a drink the night of the bombing. I think he felt responsible for me getting hurt or something."

So that was what it was. Theodore always did have a heightened sense of responsibility. "Christ, it's not like he planted the bomb or anything."

The visit continued. Justin learned about Mikey's shop, and raved about comic book art - that kept the two of them occupied for a while. Gus started getting bored, so Brian took him over to the balloons and let him start playing with them, but kept a careful eye on the situation.

It was about half an hour later than Brian realised that Justin had gone to the bathroom fifteen minutes ago - and hadn't come back. Asking Deb to keep an eye on Gus, Brian went in search of him and it was only when he found the bathroom empty that he realised the futility of his plan. A hospital was one of the worst places he could've been searching for someone. So many corridors, rooms, people.

He looked around for a while, then decided that maybe Justin had gone outside for a smoke. He started heading towards the general direction of the exit, and when he glanced to the left he saw Justin standing at the far end of a corridor. Immediately re-directing his feet, he walked up to him. "Justin?" He was definitely pre-occupied, staring into a room. It was different from Mikey's - just one small window fixed into the door - and there was no one inside. "Justin," he tried again, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Jumping, Justin wrenched away from him, stumbling back a few paces.

"Hey, hey," Brian said carefully, holding his hands up.

"Sorry," Justin replied quietly, eyes still wide as he wrapped his arms around himself.

Asking if he was okay would be pretty stupid, so instead Brian looked towards the room again. "What's this?"


Right. Like he believed that. "Is that...where you were?" He hadn't even considered that possibility before, but then this was hardly the only hospital in Pittsburgh.

"It's just a room."

Also something he didn't believe. "I'm surprised you didn't come here before in the last few days. You had enough opportunity."

Justin shrugged, not looking at him. "There were other things to worry about. Besides, why the fuck would I even want to come back here?"

"I don't know," Brian told him, trying to get him to meet his gaze. "Why *did* you come here?"

"I..." Closing his eyes, Justin didn't finish his sentence.

Swallowing, Brian took a careful step forward. Justin didn't back away but did remain stiff as a board, holding his body tightly, even when Brian wrapped his arms around him.

"Hey," he whispered quietly, smoothing a hand down Justin's back. "Hey."

Slowly, bit by bit, Justin's body started to relax, until finally his arms slipped around Brian's waist. He sighed into Brian's chest, leaning against him. "Do you have any idea how monumentally fucked up I am?"

Grinning, Brian closed his eyes. "I'm getting an inkling. Frankly, I think it makes us a good match."

Justin picked up on it right away. "'Us'? There's an 'us' now?"

"Sure," he shrugged, the decision suddenly made - and it felt *good*. Maybe he could try not thinking for a while. "I figure why the hell not? The sex is hot, you're hot, I'm hot - it all measures out."

"And we're both monumentally fucked up."

"Exactly. A perfect team."

Justin tipped his head up to place a kiss against Brian's neck. "Mmm...maybe that's where I always went wrong before. I kept trying to date normal people."

"Ah, well, there you have it," Brian retorted smoothly, "nothing kills the flame quite like 'normal'."

Laughing quietly, Justin tightened his hold. "So. I'm fucked up. Consider that fair warning."

"Duly noted. Now," Brian pulled back slightly, opening his eyes. "It's been far too long since we've fucked."

Justin smiled. "I'm not fucking in there," he nodded towards the room. "Even to create new memories."

"Very well," he replied, his hand moving up to cup the back of Justin's neck. "Bathroom stall it is."

"Gee, Mr Kinney," Justin laughed as they started walking, an arm still around each other, "you take me to *all* the best places."


After 'playing' with Gus (letting him do whatever the fuck he wanted in the loft with the exception of sex, drink and drugs) and feeding him dinner, Brian and Justin took him home. Justin carried in the car seat, Gus greeted his moms sleepily, and Mel gave Brian a look that'd probably reduced lesser men to stone. Fortunately, Brian had long since been immune to the Muncher Medusa.

"Bye, Sonny Boy," Brian murmured, hugging his kid. "I'll see you soon, okay?"

"Yes," he replied firmly, if sleepily. "Love you, Daddy."

His grip tightened as he closed his eyes. "Love you too, kid." Sometimes it still surprised the fuck out of him how much he cared about Gus. Clearing his throat, he released his hold on the kid and stood up. "Well, say goodbye to Justin."

"Bye, Justin!" he yelled, seeming surprisingly energetic.

"Bye, Gus," he smiled, leaning down to hug him goodbye. "It was great hanging out with you. Maybe we can do it again sometime."

"Yes," he replied again, seriously. "We can do it."

"That's good to know," Justin stood up, obviously amused.

Despite his vehemence Gus was clearly lagging, so Mel corralled him upstairs, overruling his sleepy protests. When he was out of sight, Linds smiled towards them.

"Do I want to know exactly what you did to tire him out so much?"

"Well, first we took him to a hustler bar-"


He smirked. Linds was so easy. "He ran all over the park, and then ran all over the loft. Maybe it was the MSGs from the diner food."

She eyed him knowingly. "Maybe he was just excited to be with you."

"Or that," he shrugged. "Ah, look," Brian continued - there was something he'd been thinking about and now was as good a time as any. "I was thinking I might as well buy my own car seat for him. It just seems like a pointless waste of time and energy to put yours in the Jeep and take it out after every visit. I'd rather be doing something else than have to worry about it every fucking time." It sounded very logical and reasonable to him.

Lindsay agreed, but that didn't stop her from smiling. "I think that's a great idea, Brian. And a pointless waste of time and energy is as good an excuse as any," she teased.

"Fuck off," he muttered, feeling oddly embarrassed - which was fucking ridiculous - and letting her kiss him on the cheek before dragging Justin out of the house.

Back in the Jeep he lit up a smoke, and swore that if Justin mentioned anything about fatherhood or Gus or being a parent, he was kicking him out of the car. Newly-established not-really-a-relationship or not.

When he realised Justin didn't seem to be saying anything at all, Brian started the engine, relieved. "So, what now?" he asked, checking for traffic before pulling out.

"Well, I should probably go back to my place," Justin admitted. "Otherwise - given how infrequently I've been there lately - my rent is a real waste of money."

"You're renting?" Brian asked, surprised. "I figured with the money you have-"

"This place is a stop-gap," he explained. "Good enough for now, until I find something better. I don't want to live there permanently."

Hmm. Another reason he hadn't un-packed? "Very well, Mr Taylor. Home it is." It felt...strange, not taking him back to the loft.

"Thanks. Shocking though it may seem," he grinned, obviously teasing, "I do have my own life. I don't have to spend every second with you."


Justin groaned as he slowly moved up and down on Brian's cock. Brian moaned watching him, feeling Justin's ass clench around his cock. "Fuck," he muttered, grabbing a handful of Justin's hair and pulling him in for a kiss.

Brian wasn't exactly sure how they'd both ended up in Justin's place, or fucking on one of Justin's chairs; he just knew that he was fucking enjoying it.

Rocking up and down, Justin was doing most of the work but he didn't seem to care - in fact he seemed to be loving it, grunting and moaning and his hands moving over any part of Brian they could find. The limitations placed by fucking on a chair - Brian sitting down, Justin riding him - only made it hotter, the restriction of movement for once not an annoyance and instead bringing an edge to everything.

Gasping, obviously close, Justin buried his face into Brian's neck and rode him faster, harder.

Jesus. Brian closed his eyes, fighting back the building pressure, the intense need to come. "So hot," he breathed thickly. "So fucking hot, Justin."

That did it and Justin shook, moaning as he started to come. The added pressure around his cock set Brian off, too, and they clung to each other, riding out their orgasms. One thing Brian hadn't considered about this not-really-a-relationship thing - or, really, fucking anyone more than once - was that it could actually make the sex hotter, simply because of familiarity. For Brian there was something intrinsically hot about picking up someone you didn't know for anonymous sex, but he and Justin had been fucking for a few days and already Justin was learning his body, learning what really got him off. Occasionally Brian would pick up a trick who was a phenomenal fuck, but more often than not it was simply about getting off; it didn't matter to either one of them if there was any kind of skill involved.

Although Brian, of course, was always a fantastic fuck.

"I don't think I can move," Justin said quietly, his head still resting against Brian's neck.

Brian's skin had started drying, and he felt like he'd been super glued to the chair. "I think I'm gonna lose a layer of skin if I stand up."

Chuckling quietly, Justin slowly shifted. "Can't stay here."

"No," Brian agreed, sliding a hand down to rest on Justin's ass. "Staying here would be bad." But he really didn't want to fucking move.

Sighing, relenting, Justin slowly began to pull off and Brian made sure the condom stayed on until he could dispose of it properly. When they were both standing up and condom-free - getting off the chair had been less painful than Brian had anticipated - they made a half-hearted attempt to clean up before agreeing with a shrug that they couldn't be fucking bothered.

It wasn't even late, but after running around with Gus all day Brian didn't complain and climbed into bed with Justin.

"Might as well stay here," Justin told him pointlessly, burrowing next to Brian and putting an arm across his chest. "You can go back to the loft in the morning."

"Sure," Brian said, and fell asleep.


Brian was becoming distinctly unimpressed with Justin's bathroom as they were forced - yet again - to take separate showers. "You need a bigger fucking shower," he complained, walking into the kitchen area naked, wiping at a few damp spots on his arms.

Justin rolled his eyes as he fiddled with the coffee machine. "I promise, the next place I get will have a large enough shower that you can fuck me in."

"Well," he replied, finally convinced he was dry enough, "I should hope so." Well aware that Justin was watching his every move now, Brian wrapped the towel around his waist and secured it. When he moved his hands away, however, Justin was still staring at his abdomen.

"So..." Justin stepped closer, tugging the edge of the towel down until - fuck. Until the whole scar was exposed. It looked better than it had, but any scar was too much scar in Brian's opinion. "What's this?"

Justin had obviously noticed it before - sometimes he ran his fingers over it when they were fucking - but he'd never asked. Until now. Brian didn't like talking about it, but if they were trying this non-relationship thing, Justin had a right to know what he was getting himself into - he'd already given Brian the same respect. "I had cancer."

His eyes widened dramatically, shocked. "Cancer."

"They got it all," Brian assured him, and Justin's expression settled a little. "I'm fine now."

"How long?"

"I had my last treatment about six months ago." That reminded him; he was due for a check-up in the next few weeks.

Nodding slowly, Justin looked distracted, like he was trying to take it in. "What kind?"

Brian sucked in a lower lip, before spitting the word out. "Testicular." It still wasn't easy to talk about.

Eyes widening again, now Justin looked really shocked. "Don't they-?"

He could guess where this was going. "Remove a ball, yeah. I got a prosthetic."

"Shit, they did a good job, Brian. Really good. I honestly couldn't tell."

That was always good to hear. "I paid for the best," he said, not a little smugly.

Curious, Justin reached for the towel again, obviously intending to pull it away. Before he could even think about it, Brian's hand moved to stop him.

Justin stared at the hand grabbing his wrist before lifting his gaze, speaking. "I'm not...I don't see you as a freak, Brian. I just want to see."

Brian still wasn't sure - he hadn't let anyone who'd known about the cancer who wasn't a doctor get anywhere near his balls.

Straightening his back, Justin settled his mouth into a determined line and brought his hand up to his head. Confused, Brian watched as Justin created a side parting with his damp hair and then, holding the hair in place, he reached out with his other hand and grabbed Brian's wrist. Tugging Brian closer, he lifted his arm up until his fingers came in contact with Justin's head. Guiding Brian's hand to a specific spot, he stopped when Brian felt a long, thin bump - had to be a scar. Lowering his hand Justin spoke, and his words didn't come as a surprise.

"That's where the bat hit me."

Brian couldn't really see anything unusual - maybe a slightly discolouration - but he could definitely feel it. Fuck, he might've even felt it in the shower in the loft and not even realised what it was.

Swallowing, Justin spoke again, tilting his head back so he could meet Brian's gaze. "Sometimes I still have nightmares about it."

He looked...cautious and unsure, and like he really didn't know what the fuck he was doing - but he'd done it anyway. Whoever the fuck Justin Taylor was, Brian didn't deserve him.

But he was too fucking selfish not to have him.

In a move that was entirely too lesbianic - but that Justin seemed to appreciate - he bent his head to kiss the scar, and then caught Justin's hand with his own. "Come on," he said quietly, tugging him towards the bedroom. "If you're investigating my balls, you're doing it some place much more comfortable than the fucking kitchen."

Beaming, Justin happily went with him.


"Now, Mr Kinney," Justin ordered dramatically, kneeling at the end of the bed and looking at Brian, "spread your legs and let's assess the situation."

Mouth twitching, Brian nonetheless complied, opening his legs, bending them at the knees and pressing his feet into the mattress. His towel and Justin's clothes had been removed the moment they got into the bedroom, which definitely put things on a more equal footing.

Sliding closer, Justin grabbed a free pillow and rubbed Brian's side, indicating for him to lift his body up. When he did Justin slid the pillow beneath the small of Brian's back, then rubbed him again to move back down. Taking the opportunity to kiss Brian's stomach, Justin then moved between his legs.

Laying on his front, Justin's legs hung off the end of the bed as he investigated. Brian found it kind of weird, seeing a blond head between his legs that for once was only there for the sole purpose of studying his balls.

He should've known better.

Justin wasted no time at all in stroking Brian's cock, slowly making it hard. "Hmm," he said seriously, "subject appears to have a very large cock, when both soft and erect."

Brian huffed out a laugh. Christ, he was repeatedly fucking a dork. So much for his reputation. "Nothing about me is soft."

Ignoring him, Justin started sniffing around the base of his cock - there was something surprisingly sexual about Justin's nose nudging against him. "Subject is well-cleansed, but still presents a distinct odour. Suspect some kind of pheromone that makes him irresistible to other males."

"That would explain a lot," he offered.

Investigating further, Justin lowered his head, his nose now pressing against Brian's balls. Brian could only feel anything on one of them, of course, but he could feel both of them moving around.

"Balls appear to be well-proportioned," Justin announced, voice somewhat obscured as he nuzzled against them. Felt good. "And nearly identical." Justin's head moved lower still, his tongue flicking out to press against the skin just behind Brian's balls.

Brian squirmed.

Laughing breathlessly, breath gusting out across Brian's perineum, Justin spoke. "Subject responds well to stimuli," he said, voice thick with humour and then put his tongue back, licking hard.

Grunting, Brian's hand went to his cock, the back of his head pressing into the pillow. "Thought you were," a finger joined the tongue, rubbing beneath it. "Just checking my balls."

The licking stopped, although the rubbing didn't. "I decided the rest of you warranted further investigation, too." Finally moving his finger away - Brian felt a mixture of disappointment and relief - Justin shifted further back, planting kisses along Brian's inner thigh.

Closing his eyes, Brian relaxed and kept jerking himself off slowly - until Justin gently grabbed his right thigh with both hands.

Abandoning his cock, Brian opened his eyes and lifted his head. "What the fuck are you doing down there? Hunting for treasure?"

"Investigating," Justin replied playfully, man-handling Brian's leg around. "Hey!" he yelled suddenly. "I found another one. What's this from?" he asked, kissing the back of Brian's thigh on a particular spot.

Brian recognised it.

And froze.

Justin must have noticed, lowering Brian's leg back to the mattress and studying him. "Brian?"

"It's nothing," he insisted, pulling his legs up, rolling away, annoyed that his hard-on had died; more annoyed that it could still affect him like this after all these years.

"Brian..." The mattress dipped and shifted as Justin tried to follow him.

"I said it's fine," he repeated, moving to sit on the edge of the bed.

Saying nothing else, Justin carefully put a hand on Brian's right shoulder, as if testing the waters. Brian thought about shaking it off but fuck, it felt good, and wasn't the whole point of this thing to go with what felt good? He wasn't about to have some mushy heart-to-heart, but he could let Justin touch him.

When he got no rejection Justin moved closer, resting both arms over Brian's shoulders, brushing the side of his head against Brian's. Wrapping his arms around him, Justin gently bit at Brian's earlobe

Brian thought about shaking his head, but Justin still had his ear between his teeth so decided against it. "You're a stubborn little shit, you know that?"

Releasing the ear, Justin spoke. "I just know what I want."

"And you want me?"


Brian still wasn't sure why Justin would want more from him than just sex. "You know you're nuts, right?"

"So you've said," Justin breathed into his ear. "And so have others. I didn't give a fuck then and I don't give a fuck now."

Surprised at the sudden serious tone, Brian maneuvered around quickly, surprisingly Justin and pushing him down onto his back, leaning over him. Barely waiting until they stopped moving, he asked the question. "Did someone seriously say that to you? Meaning it?"

Justin stared at him. "When you found me crying in the bathroom...imagine that every day, Brian. Imagine that several times a day, sometimes. Imagine me suddenly crying or laughing hysterically for no good reason. Imagine what you'd start thinking, before long."

"I'd think it was whatever the fuck you told me."

He shook his head, speaking frankly. "Not everyone's as patient as you. Fuck, no one is. I have issues up to my eyeballs and you're the only one-" He stopped suddenly, looking away. He swallowed a few times before speaking again. "For a long time there was a lot I couldn't control about my life - it's better now, but I still control what I can. If I want something, I fucking do something about it. Even if it makes me look strange, or weird, I do whatever I want. You learn to get over basic embarrassment pretty fucking fast when you can't control your emotions. I don't like wasting time. So," he looked back at Brian, letting out a breath, "I'm not ashamed to say that I like you, a lot." That'd certainly taken a turn Brian hadn't been expecting. "That you've been better to me in a few days than almost everyone I've ever known. And that I've never done this before. Not seriously. Scott was...Scott. We were kids, and after the bashing he couldn't handle the attention - it outed him in a way he wasn't comfortable with. Since him it's been one-night stands or guys who bolted after a few dates when they realised I was a lot more to deal with than a blond guy with a great ass. I don't-"

"I think," Brian said fondly, kind of amazed at how much Justin could talk, "I got the point when you told me you were fucked up." And truthfully, he was trying to decide if he should be freaked out or not. Justin 'liked' him. Of course he liked Justin too, he'd just decided not to mention anything about it (although the fact that they kept fucking and spending time together might've been a clue).

Smiling self-deprecatingly, Justin lowered his eyelids. "Sometimes I go off on a tangent. But that doesn't make what I said any less true."

Justin's life must've been really fucked up if Brian was the nicest person he'd met. But then sometimes bad shit happened to good people. Leaning closer, Brian bumped noses with him. "Just as well we already decided normal was overrated."

The resulting smile was big, and broad, and Brian knew that'd been completely the right fucking thing to say. And now...fuck. Justin had said so much, and Brian kept thinking about him finding the scar and shit, he could give him something. Just something small. "The scar," he forced out, not looking at him. "Let's just say I had a shitty childhood and leave it at that, okay?"

The silence was telling, and when Brian felt a hand on his face guiding his head down and Justin simply kissed him - didn't try to talk, didn't try to meet his eyes - he couldn't have been more fucking relieved.

And this time, he investigated Justin's balls.


It was weird, getting dressed and getting ready to leave Justin's apartment. It was weird sipping coffee and eating the toast Justin forced on him. It was weird just standing there, watching Justin hold open the door.


"This is weird," Justin suddenly blurted out. "It's not just me, right? This is totally weird."

At least he wasn't the only one. "Uh. Yeah."

"Good," Justin looked relieved. "Maybe it's normal, after..."

"Talking about personal shit and licking each other's balls?"

Justin grinned. "One way of putting it. But...okay," he said firmly. "You should go. I have things to do, you have things to do."

Brian still felt like he shouldn't be leaving, but he didn't know why. "Right."

"And it's Monday tomorrow. Work. We'll be in the office together, first thing. Not so long."

Something about that rubbed Brian's old habits the wrong way. "You suggesting I can't cope without you, Sunshine?"

Still grinning, Justin stepped towards him and placed a hand on his chest. "I'm suggesting that you like me." He took another step forward, pushing Brian further out of the apartment with each sentence. "I'm suggesting that you like fucking me. I'm suggesting that you still have that sketch I did of you. And, I'm suggesting that - when you don't fight it - you have a fucking good time when we're together." Lowering his hand and stepping back into his apartment, Justin smiled and slammed the door shut.

Brian couldn't decide if he was offended or impressed, but knew he couldn't let things end that way. He knocked on the door.

A few seconds later Justin opened up, surprised but obviously trying not to show it. "Did you forget something?"

He could do this. It'd be worth it just to see the expression on Justin's face - to shock him, trump him. Besides, if there was anyone going to be telling Brian Kinney what he was feeling, it was Brian Kinney. "Sometimes when you're around, I forget that bad shit happened."

It worked. A direct hit, Justin's expression widening out in sheer surprise.

Pleased with himself - and maybe, actually, kind of fucking terrified - Brian turned and walked away.


It was at times like this that a man needed his best friend - even if that best friend was entirely too fucking romantic. Managing to smoke five cigarettes between Justin's place and the hospital, Brian wasted no time on pretence when he walked into Mikey's room, immediately asking to talk to him privately.

He voiced the request somewhat differently, but the sentiment was much the same.

Ben said something about getting drinks and Deb just stared at him as she left until he was finally alone in the room with Mikey.

Of course, that presented another problem. He didn't know what the fuck to do about Justin, and he didn't know how to bring the subject up without turning into Brian Kinney, Muncher Extraordinaire.

As it was, Mikey had figured it out, which helped considerably.

"This is about Justin."

Sighing gratefully, Brian slumped into the plastic chair next to the bed.

"You like him," Mikey continued knowingly, "and it's freaking you out."

But that wasn't even the problem. Not really. Liking Justin was one thing, but verbalising it was quite another. "Linds says I should just enjoy it."

He grinned. "Well, after all the shit she and Mel have been through, I guess they'd know better than most that we should appreciate what we have."

They were almost the same words Deb'd used before. A bashing, a bombing, shit, fucking *cancer*. Everything could change in a heartbeat. He knew that better than anyone - he remembered the feeling, the sudden invasive grip of fear when the trick'd told him there was a lump on his ball - but he kept having to be fucking reminded. To be told to appreciate what he had. Maybe it was because of his own stubbornness. Maybe it was just because of the habits of a lifetime.

"I told him he makes things better."

He hesitated after saying it, surprised that he had - that seemed to be happening a lot - but when he looked across at his best friend, Mikey didn't look in the least bit surprised.

In fact he just looked happy, smiling sincerely, which was probably more telling than anything else. "That's great, Brian."

Brian didn't know what the fuck he was doing but then, he started to think...neither did Justin. It wasn't as if he was dealing with someone who'd done this before, who had certain expectations of the way things should be. Justin was fumbling around, just like he was.

And somehow that made it okay.

Brian pushed himself up to his feet. "Thanks for the talk, Mikey, it was great."

Now Mikey looked surprised. "I barely said anything."

"Sometimes less is more - especially with the Novotny family."


Smirking, Brian leant down and kissed him. "How you doing?"

"Good," he shrugged - which made him wince. "Okay, better," Mikey amended, shifting carefully. "Definitely ready to get out of here."

Brian would've been going insane by now. "Yeah, well don't rush and bust your stitches."

"Don't worry," he snorted, "with Ma and Ben around, there's no chance of me being allowed to do *anything*."

Extremely good point. Brian would've been going even more fucking insane with Debbie and Ben hanging around all the time. Sometimes he teased Mikey that he almost felt lucky his own mother didn't give a shit, but they both knew he was full of it. Deb could be too much, sometimes, but she'd taken care of him in a way his parents never had.

"Okay," he said. "I gotta get going - got some shit to do."

"Don't you mean some*one*?" Mikey grinned deliberately.

"Get your mind out of the gutter," Brian retorted. "Honestly, Mikey, is everything about sex with you?"

"Ha!" he replied, and Brian was still smirking when he walked out the door.

He was feeling better about everything in general when he got back to the loft - there was no situation he hadn't been able to handle so far, and though it was throwing up more surprises than most, he was confident he'd be able to handle the situation with Justin, too.


Taking off his jacket, he hooked it on the back of the computer chair and saw the light flashing on his answering machine. Pressing play, he headed towards the kitchen to get a drink, listening to the message.

"Hi, Brian." Justin's voice. Brian paused, surprised, holding the fridge door open. "I'm just calling to tell you you're the most romantic man I've ever met, and I really enjoy our time together," he sounded far, far too happy - full of fake cheer, obviously intending to piss Brian off. "Have a great day!"

That little shit. Brian grumbled as he took the guava juice out and poured himself a glass - obviously Justin had gotten over his shock and hadn't been content with not having the last word.

Well - fine. If that was the way he wanted to play it, Brian could give it back just as good.

Calling Justin's cell, he - of course - went straight through to voice mail. Brian couldn't really do the fake cheer thing, but figured he'd be effective without it. "Hi, Justin. I'm just calling to tell you that watching you come is the hottest thing I've ever seen. Later." Hanging up, he made a point of turning off the phone. He had his cell if Linds needed to contact him with any important Gus news, and Justin didn't know the number.

Justin would just be a distraction now, and there really was shit Brian needed to do. Running both Kinnetik and Babylon, it wasn't often he managed to have a whole weekend free - especially in the aftermath of a bombing.

He'd had certain applications installed on his home computer so he didn't have to go to the office at least, and Brian worked for most of the day without being disturbed.

It was actually kind of quiet.


When he turned on his computer at work the next day, one of the new e-mails waiting in his inbox was from Brian was surprised by two things - that Justin was there before him, and that his tech department (consisting of a balding guy called Jeff) had set up Justin's system access already. Although he really shouldn't have been surprised by either one.

Accepting a wad of phone messages from Cynthia, Brian lowered himself into his chair and opened the e-mail.


Just e-mailing you to let you know that I jerked off three times last night thinking about you.

Have a great day!


Brian's lips twitched, and he sent back a response.


Just e-mailing you to let you know that I have handcuffs and I'm not afraid to use them. In fact, I'm extremely well-versed in knowing exactly how to use them, and I'd be happy to demonstrate.

Also, this is flagrant violation of the office e-mail policy, but I won't tell Ted if you won't.



Ted walked in then, holding several sheets of paper. "Uh, Brian..."

The hesitation made Brian take real notice - it wasn't often Ted seemed insecure these days. "Yeah?"

"I have the list you wanted," he answered, holding out the papers. "Everyone who died or was injured in the explosion. What I could find out about them without violating any privacy or data protection laws."

That put a distinct downer on what was otherwise proving to be a promising morning. "Right." Taking the papers, Brian slumped back in his chair and started leafing through them.

"Also, I called Acker." Right, their realtor. "She's too busy today, but she wants to come in tomorrow and discuss the possibility of selling the club; what'd need to be done first. And...well, frankly, I think she wants express her condolences about what happened personally."

Great. Sympathy was the last thing he wanted. "It's not like I got hurt."

"No, but it was your club, and you were there. And she's hardly the first to offer her condolences."

True enough. Cynthia had been fielding phone calls ever since the explosion, although from the list of messages she'd given him earlier they seemed to be tapering off. "Theodore," Brian said, looking up at him. "How are you doing?"

He paused, seriously considering it, before shrugging with a faint smile. "Fine."

Yeah, he finally looked it. At least he wasn't about to become a crystal-addicted idiot again. "Let me get back to work," Brian ordered, pretending to ignore him and starting to work his way through his messages.

A couple of hours had passed by the time another e-mail from Justin arrived. He was taking a phone call at the time and hit enter on the keyboard to open the message.

I'd love to lock you up, Brian. Thanks for offering. Maybe after work?

I'm surprised by your policy on office e-mails. You seem like the type who'd let his staff send each other dirty messages.

Fortunately, Brian was excellent at multi-tasking.

Something's definitely going to be tied up after work, but it won't be me.

I'm of the opinion that dirty messages should be exchanged in person and, on that note, feel free to drop by my office on your lunch break.

Sometime later, Justin did. Brian told Cynthia he was unavailable for the next twenty minutes.

"Just twenty minutes?" she smirked.

Brian closed his office doors on her face, although it kind of lost impact given the fact that they were made out of glass.

"You have a huge office," Justin remarked, walking around the space. "Have I told you that?"

"No," Brian replied, grabbing Justin from behind and slipping a hand down to his cock.

Leaning back against him, Justin covered Brian's hand with one of his own, his dick stirring. "Of course, it's not the only thing around here that's huge."

"A compliment," Brian feigned surprise, rubbing harder, sniffing at Justin's neck.

"You do deserve them occasionally," he laughed, before pulling away to face him and began undoing his pants. Inspired, Brian started opening his own, too. Getting completely naked at work was a bad idea, but it was hardly the first time he'd be fucking with his clothes on.

Neither one of them was apparently in the mood for messing around - there was some kissing and stroking, but soon Brian was fucking Justin on the sofa at the side of the room. And it was still so fucking good, and tight, and they both tried to keep noise to a minimum but then Justin started whispering some of those 'dirty messages' and Brian fucking lost it.

He didn't really care anyway, closing his eyes and burying his face into Justin's back as he came. Moaning, he kept rocking against him, helping Justin jerk off until he came just a few strokes later. His cock being squeezed again, Brian cursed quietly.

Not moving for a few seconds, Brian eventually pulled out carefully, disposing of the condom, and then they both wiped their hands clean on the tissues he kept nearby. Turning towards an obviously pleased Justin, Brian tugged him close, kissing him as he did his pants up for him.

"Mmm," Justin murmured, looking extremely content when the kiss ended, "I could get used to you dressing me every day. My own personal sex slave."

"Sure," Brian said agreeably, straightening his own clothes. "If I wasn't actually *me*."

Justin's stomach rumbled. Brian arched an eyebrow.

"Something tells me you haven't eaten yet."

"You're good," Justin nodded, feigning awe.

Brian ignored it. "Come on," he said, throwing an arm around Justin's shoulder. "Let's go grab something." Realising he'd need his jacket, Brian paused by his chair to pick it up, and just as he did his e-mail pinged. As he was right there he opened the message - and smirked.


Would you please consider getting a new door put on your office that I can't see through? Also, you should contemplate sound-proofing.

Just a thought.



"Come on, Brian," Justin complained. "Take them off. I can't get the leverage I need."

Brian just looked at him. "No."

Obviously trying another tactic, Justin wore his most lust-filled expression. "You know you want to," he breathed huskily, "think of all the things my hands could do to you if they were free..."

He pretended to think about it - for all of five seconds. "No."

Giving up all pretence, Justin glared. "This isn't exactly the sex I dreamed of, you know." He was on the sofa straddling Brian's lap, filled by Brian's cock, with Brian's handcuffs securing his wrists together behind his back.

Brian didn't see anything wrong with the situation. "That's a defeatist attitude, Sunshine. Frankly, I expect more from you." Of course, Brian wasn't the one with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Nostrils flaring, Justin set his jaw and deliberately moved himself up and down. Brian wasn't normally one to sit back and let someone else do all the work - he preferred to be actively involved in all areas of sex - but he wanted to see just what Justin could do. Justin had never used handcuffs before, or had said he hadn't, but was giving it a pretty good try all the same. The fuck was slow, Justin having trouble moving without his hands to support himself, but soon he started getting into a groove, moving faster and faster, but when he tried to keep up the pace and kiss Brian at the same time suddenly he tilted too far to one side.

Brian's arms made sure he didn't go too far. "You okay?" he asked seriously, running a hand down Justin's back.

"I never realised just how much I used my fucking arms for balance," Justin muttered against Brian's shoulder.

Deciding he'd tortured the guy enough, Brian shifted Justin until he was sitting up. "Here," he said, indicating for Justin to climb off - which he did with Brian's help; Brian also making sure the condom stayed on. Moving the coffee table out of the way, Brian threw one of the floor pillows down by the sofa. "Kneel and lean over the front of the sofa."

Lifting his eyebrows lasciviously, Justin nonetheless complied and when Brian pushed into him from behind, Justin loved it right from the start.

"Fuck," he gasped between thrusts. "God, Brian. Why...didn't...we do...this...right a...way?"

Brian kissed the back of his neck, revelling in the feel, and the heat, and the fact that it never got old. " do."

"You...piece of..." He thrust in hard. "Fuck...shit!"

Brian kept fucking him and Justin kept calling him names which just made the whole thing hotter.

"Gonna up," Justin grunted. "Tie you up," he panted, "and...ride you so...hard'll scream."

Just as it had at work Justin's voice did Brian in, his orgasm rushing through him as he groaned, loud and low. Justin barely needed any help at all getting off. One stroke of Brian's fist and Justin started coming, his whole body shuddering and tensing.

Breathing heavily, Brian would've been happy not to move at all for a few hours, but Justin had already been handcuffed for too long. Carefully pulling out - both of them made a small noise of protest - he disposed of the condom, and then grabbed the key from the coffee table. Releasing Justin from the handcuffs, Brian left them on the floor and then helped him sit up on the sofa, leaning against the back. "How do your arms feel?" he asked, carefully inspecting Justin's wrists and pleased to see there was no serious damage.

"Sore," Justin admitted, rotating his shoulders, then rubbing at his arms. "But the good kind of sore," he finished, grinning.

Smiling, Brian leant in to kiss him briefly. "So how was your first taste of handcuffs?"

"Interesting," he admitted. "I didn't think not being able to touch you would be so hot - because touching you is so hot in the first place," he leered. "Although I have to say, earlier I didn't appreciate being tested when my hands were tied behind my back." He looked at Brian directly.

It wasn't a surprise. "You could've used your safe word at anytime," Brian argued. "Would've stopped immediately."

"But that was another test, right?" Justin asked. Brian didn't reply, which was apparently all the answer he needed. "Brian, if I haven't proven to you what kind of man I am already, then there's really no point in doing this. I know you like a challenge and you're obviously a control freak, but I'm not going to keep proving myself to you. Not in that way. I refuse to."

Jesus Christ. Brian really hadn't fucking expected the conversation to veer off in this direction. Overreaction much? "I didn't know you had a fucking problem with that. I'm not psychic."

"No, and neither am I," Justin agreed. "But now you know. Playing with you was fun. Leaving you messages was fun. Deliberately making it difficult for me the way you did earlier wasn't fun. There's a difference between making me work for it and being mean."

"Christ, all right already, I get the point," Brian spat, getting up from the sofa and stomping up through the bedroom into the bathroom. Running the taps in the sink he washed his hands, annoyed at himself, annoyed at Justin, freaked that he could've gone too far. Cupping water in his hands, he splashed it over his face before turning off the taps. When he glanced up to look at his reflection, he saw Justin standing next to him. "Maybe we should just avoid that whole fucking area."

"Bondage?" Justin's reflection asked. "We are just starting out," he agreed. "The sex is good without it. And I guess everyone's limits are different. If we do decide to do it again later, we should talk about it before. I'm not saying you did anything wrong in general; just that it was wrong for me." Pausing, he glanced away, looking almost embarrassed for once. "I'm not good at waiting. Not when it comes to sex. There's only so much teasing I can take."

Relieved, Brian's shoulders relaxed. "You sounded like a fucking school teacher telling me off for doing something wrong," he managed a small, teasing smile. "Same prissy voice."

Sliding closer with a smile, Justin wrapped an arm around him and squeezed Brian's side. "I guess neither one of us is perfect."

Brian stared at them - both of them. His damp, wry face; Justin's cautious but optimistic smile, and the words just came out. "I've never fucking done this before."

"Yeah," Justin said quietly, watching him in the mirror. "Me either."


After Justin had fallen asleep Brian hadn't been able to stay in bed for long. Justin's presence - and the sex - had been a very welcome distraction that evening, but he could only be distracted for so long. With nothing to keep him entertained he couldn't keep avoiding it forever, and he settled himself on the sofa with a glass, a bottle of JB, and the list of the dead and wounded.

One of the victims had been twenty-two. Younger than Justin. Shit, it could've *been* Justin who'd died instead - and Mikey nearly had.

Mikey. Mikey had been released today. Brian'd called him, giving him some space because he was sure Debbie and Ben would be flapping around and basically being irritating. He'd promised to come and see him tomorrow evening, instead.

Sighing, Brian poured himself another drink and moved back to the list.

He didn't remember falling asleep, but he must have because sometime later Justin was waking him up, telling him to come back to bed. Embarrassed, Brian tried to pretend it wasn't the alcohol, but ever since the cancer he'd been drinking less and his tolerance was for shit compared to what it used to be.

"What's this?" Justin asked curiously, picking up the papers that'd slid to the floor.

Brian sighed, closing his eyes. "People who got hurt." He could hear the sound of the papers being turned over.

"In the explosion?"

"Yeah. When Babylon went boom." He'd been there. He could remember it.

"Come on," Justin said, and then there was a hand touching his arm, and Brian was being guided back to the bedroom, too tired and too drunk to care.

"Need to help them," he said, crawling into bed. A bottle of water appeared in his hand from somewhere, and Brian shrugged and drank it.

"You'll think of something," Justin told him, taking the bottle away and pulling the covers up. "You're brilliant."

"Brilliant," he muttered, closing his eyes and laying on his side. "Brilliant, and people got hurt anyway." He sighed. "Justin?"


"Don't wanna hurt you."

"Don't worry, Brian. I won't let you."



Brian barely said two words to Justin the next morning, the alcohol unfortunately not erasing the entire debacle from his mind. Justin didn't call him on it right away - thank fuck - and they got into the office with a minimum of fuss.

He should've known it wouldn't last.

A couple of hours later, Justin walked into his office unannounced and paused in front of Brian's desk. He started talking right away. "Okay, I'm just gonna go ahead and guess - let me know if I'm wrong. You're freaked out because you were drunk last night and said something you wished you hadn't. Therefore, you're giving me the silent treatment."

Justin really didn't like wasting time and didn't wait for an answer, either.

"I'm not going to hold it over you, Brian, or rub it in your face. We've all said stuff we wish we hadn't when we were drunk. Shit, we've all *done* stuff we wish we hadn't when we were drunk," he smiled, which almost made Brian do the same. "So...just stop freaking out, okay? I don't think you've turned into some giant girly man just because you care about me."

Brian stared at him. "Giant girly man? Is that the kind of copy they're coming up with in the art department these days?"

Justin smirked. "Since I started working there, yeah."

"Great," he sighed dramatically, slumping back in his chair, "my company's ruined."

Still smiling, Justin moved around the desk and perched his ass on the edge, just in front of Brian. "Somehow I think you'll survive."

Giving Justin the once over, Brian slid closer in his chair, rubbing a hand along his thigh. "Maybe I will at that."

Cupping the back of Brian's head with his hand, Justin leaned in for a kiss. It turned hot quickly, mouths opening, tongues meeting, Justin suddenly shoving the chair a few feet back until it hit the wall close behind it, wrenching away from the kiss and falling to his knees as he started working at Brian's belt-

Brian's phone buzzed.

Fuck. That meant Cynthia.

Sighing, they looked at each other regretfully before pulling away. Sliding forward in his chair again, Brian slapped at the talk button on his phone. "What?"

"Mrs Acker is here to see you, Mr Kinney," she said brightly. Bitch. "Are you currently occupied?"

"Just for the record, Cynthia, Justin's always the one who's *occupied*."

"Of course," she replied, amused. "Never meant to imply anything else."

"Send her in," Brian ordered, releasing the button. Standing up, he made sure his belt was impeccable and held out his arms. "How do I look?"

"Gorgeous," Justin replied honestly, "and most presentable. Are you really gonna sell Babylon?"

Surprised, Brian walked around the desk. "How'd you hear about that?"

"It's a pretty small company, Brian. There's not much that goes unnoticed around here."

Sad but true. "I'm just considering all my options. Selling is one."

Justin stared at him. "You shouldn't."

There was no chance to discuss it further, as Brian saw Cynthia bringing his appointment into the office. He turned towards Justin. "Thank you for that, Mr Taylor."

"Of course, Mr Kinney. I hope it helped." Walking away, Justin nodded at both women - then froze.

As did Jennifer Acker.

"Oh my God - Justin?!"

Obviously she fucking knew him, but Brian didn't know how until Justin responded with one flatly-spoken word.



There wasn't a single person in the room who wasn't staring at Justin.

"Justin," Jennifer started moving towards him, arms out-stretched, obviously delighted to see him.

Flinching, he took a step back. "Don't."

Pausing, she dropped her arms and shifted awkwardly. "I've missed you. God, sweetheart, I worried I'd never-"

"You changed your name," he interrupted brusquely.

She let out a breath, obviously frustrated. "I met someone, nearly two years ago. We married."

His expression didn't change - it was just blank disinterest. "Good for you, Mom. Glad to hear life's treating you so well." If she believed that, she really was fucking dumb.

Appearing to have some brains, she stared back at him. "Justin, I don't expect you to forgive me. I fucked up." That must've surprised Justin somewhat - his eyebrows lifted momentarily, before she continued. "I was hurt too. I didn't know what I was doing; I just thought I was making the best choice-"

"For you," he said coldly. "For *you*. I don't need your apologies, Mom; I just need you to stay the fuck away from me." Heading towards the door, he deliberately gave her a wide berth, keeping several feet between them - but not wide enough, as Jennifer ran after him, grabbing his arm.


Swinging around, he glared down at where she was holding his arm, and then at her. "You might want to let go - you never know when I might do something that might *embarrass* you."

The words obviously hit their mark; Jennifer let go, stumbling back and Justin strode fiercely out of the room. Cynthia ran after him.

Fabulous. This was just what Brian fucking needed.

Jennifer still looked stunned, on the verge of crying, but Brian didn't have time to coddle her. "Jennifer," he said loudly, making her blink and look towards him. He'd liked her, dammit, and now she was apparently one of the people who'd fucked Justin up. "What the fuck happened?"

Silent for a few seconds, she cleared her throat before moving to the chair on the closest side of Brian's desk. Following her lead - for now - he sat in his own chair, clasping his hands together on the desk.

"How do you know my son?" she asked, clearly still somewhat dazed.

"He's working for me, temporarily. And..." Shit. He wanted to say it just to see how she'd react - and it was kind of true. Now. "...we're dating."

She blinked again. "Oh. Well. It's certainly a small world, isn't it?"

"You could say that." Fucking freakily small world was more like it.

Suddenly realising something her expression focused, studying him intently. That was more like the woman he'd become used to dealing with. "Does this mean he's moved back to Pittsburgh?"


Obviously pleased, her expression lightened. "That's...wonderful. Even if he hates me, at least he's closer to home."

"Jennifer," he tried again, annoyed at not getting any answers, "what happened? What did you do to him?"

She met his gaze sadly; obviously fully aware of whatever it was that she'd done. "I fucked up."


By the time Jennifer finally left - they never did get around to talking about selling the club - Justin was long gone. Cynthia told him that after walking out of Brian's office, Justin had packed up his shit and left the building without a word to anyone (apart from when Cynthia had tried to get him to calm down. Then he'd said, "Get the fuck out of my way." Justin had better hope he was never alone in a dark alley with Cynthia at any point in the future).

Cursing, Brian locked his computer screen. They had a pitch the next day but Brian was too angry and grabbed his jacket, made sure he had his car keys, and walked out to the Jeep.

When he buzzed Justin's building, he almost didn't expect a response - but got one.

"Is she with you?"

Brian leant closer to the speaker. "No, it's just me and my cock."

"If you're lying-"

"I've already lost one ball, Sunshine. I have no intention of pissing you off and losing another."

There was no verbal reply to that, but eventually the door buzzed open and Brian let himself in. Stepping off the elevator on Justin's floor, Brian followed the corridor until he reached the apartment, finding the door unlocked. Pushing it open he stepped inside and saw Justin standing near the bedroom, painting furiously at an easel.

Closing the door and taking off his jacket, Brian left it on top of a pile of boxes and walked towards him. He thought about taking a look at the painting, but stopped a few feet away instead. Justin looked absolutely focused - a lot like his mother, actually - dabbing and painting and sometimes making big, long brush strokes, and Brian couldn't see how it was meant to look like anything - but maybe that was the point. It was actually kind of fascinating to watch, or it should've been, but Brian couldn't stop staring at the clump of hair that'd been pushed behind Justin's ear.

"How'd you know her?" Justin asked eventually, still painting.

"She's my realtor. Advertised in the gay papers and magazines. Helped me find the space for Kinnetik; buy Babylon."

He frowned, but didn't look at him. "The gay papers? And she suggested an old bathhouse for your office?"

"That she did," he replied. "I never knew her as Taylor. When we met she was recently married, but I didn't-"

"I know," Justin said.

Brian tried another angle. "She said she hired someone a few months after you left. That she found out your address in New York, and sent you a letter every day for months." He paused. "She said that every single one of them came back unopened until she just stopped trying."

"That was a serious waste of paper, huh?" Justin asked rhetorically, picking up a smaller paintbrush. "She really should learn to recycle."

Fine. If Justin wasn't going to talk, big fucking guns it was. "She also told me that she tried to have you committed." Finally, Justin stopped moving. Brian kept trying. "That's the reason you left. She told me that she fucked up so royally that she has no idea how you'll ever be able to forgive her."

Justin's arm started shaking, still stretched out towards the canvas. "I wasn't a danger to anyone," he said quietly, "or myself. I wasn't sick. I was injured."

"I know," Brian said, inching closer, his anger at Jennifer flaring up again - although it really hadn't calmed much at all since he'd finished talking with her. "It wasn't your fault, Justin. You didn't do anything wrong."

There was movement, then, and Justin was dropping the paintbrush and falling into Brian's arms, and the paint might've been knocked to the floor but neither one of them gave a shit.

"I'm not crazy," Justin whispered, clinging tightly. "I am of sound body and mind. I'm not crazy." It sounded like a mantra; something he'd said more than once, which made it all the more disturbing.

Brian held on tighter, and wished again that some parents had never been parents at all. "I know, Justin. I know."


When Justin went for a leak later, Brian made two phone calls. The first was to Cynthia.

"Look, the pitch is tomorrow," he told her, "but we're ready. I can't make it back in. If there are any last minute problems call me on my cell."

"Sure, boss. Is he okay?"

He hadn't told anyone where he was going. "Getting attached to the boy, Cynthia?"

"No more than you are." Her smirk was so thick he could almost see it, and promptly hung up.

The second call was to Mikey. Deb picked up, and they talked for a few minutes - or rather, Brian listened for a few minutes - before Mikey came on the line. "Hey, Mikey. How's it hanging?" It was an old - depressingly old - joke from high school.

"Same way it always does," Mikey responded happily.

"To the left," they said together, and Mikey chuckled over the phone.

Brian smirked. "How are your wardens treating you today?"

"Well, Ben went into work so it's just Ma, so I guess it could be worse." There was muffled sound of movement before Mikey spoke again. Or rather, yelled. "Ma! No smacking me 'round the head when I'm injured!"

"Mikey, Mikey, Mikey," Brian taunted, "surely you don't think a little thing like an explosion is going to change Deb's habits of a lifetime?"

"Shut up," he retorted lamely. "Why'd you call, anyway? Just to mock me?"

"Fun though that always is," Brian assured him, "something came up. I can't make it tonight. How about tomorrow instead?"

"Sure," he agreed, "although you might as well wait until Thursday. You would've been getting a call later tonight anyway - Ma's decided we're all having dinner at my place on Thursday."

A mid-week dinner was a little unusual. "Why Thursday?"

"Ma wants to celebrate the fact that I'm alive," he explained. "She wanted to do it sooner, but I just haven't felt up to it yet. I figure I'll be okay by Thursday, and having it at my place will make it easier. And it's not like they'd actually let me do anything to help."

"Sure," Brian agreed, satisfied. "Thursday it is."

"Great," Mikey said, before asking, "is it work shit?"

He hesitated before answering. "Family shit."


Brian stared at the back of the easel. "His."

Mikey sighed. "That sucks, but at least we won't have to come find you in Woody's after another blow out with your mom."

"Ah, the good old days." They both chuckled quietly, knowing it really wasn't funny at all. "See ya, Mikey."

"'Bye, Brian."

Ending the call, Brian put his cell phone back in his jacket pocket. When he turned around again, Justin was standing a few feet away. "Hey."

Justin frowned at him. "You don't have to stay-"

"I know."

That was all Brian said on the subject.

Nodding slowly, Justin held out his hand. Taking it, Brian let himself be led into the bedroom where they did something on the bed that could only be classified as cuddling - which he did his hardest not to think about. Neither one of them said anything at all for a long time and then, unprovoked, Justin started talking.

"I think it was too much for her. The outbursts. After everything else..." He stopped. "After the bashing, going outside was so fucking scary. Stressful. Whenever we tried to go anywhere I'd inevitably lose control. Make a spectacle. Embarrass her. She'd react badly, which'd freak me out even more, make the outbursts even worse..."

"Vicious cycle."

"Yeah," Justin sighed, pulling Brian's arm further around him. "At first she stopped taking me anywhere - I was in the house all the time. But it didn't fix the problem. I knew she wasn't taking me anywhere because she was embarrassed, so I felt bad and-"

"More attacks."

"Exactly. She was looking after my little sister, too. I don't know if anything in particular set her off, but one day a man came to the house. Asked me a lot of questions. Freaked me the fuck out. I don't know how it works - maybe he was there to do an initial assessment or something. See if he thought I really needed to be..." he trailed off, not finishing the sentence. He didn't need to. "I confronted her afterwards and she admitted what she was thinking of doing, but I wasn't a minor anymore. I packed up my shit and called my best friend to come and pick me up. Haven't been back since."

Christ. For all that Brian's parents had done to him... "That was fucking brave."

"It was survival. She wasn't capable of looking after me, so I had to look after myself. It was scary just leaving the house, but it's amazing what you can do when you have no other choice."

Brian was actually kind of amazed that Justin hadn't started crying yet. "Still fucking brave."

Pushing back harder against him, Justin laid his arm over Brian's and linked their fingers together. "Why did I never get to meet you before? It's not fair."

Brian squeezed his fingers. "There's a time to everything, Sunshine."

"That's very deep."

"I thought so."

"I need to sleep."

"That rhymes with deep."

"I mean it," Justin replied, sounding amused - which had to be a good thing. "I need to get some rest, or I'll-"

"Don't worry," Brian said. "Do what you gotta do. I'll be here when you wake up."

Sighing, Justin relaxed his body. "I don't want to see her," he insisted. "I never want to see her again."

Not that Justin didn't have a fucking good reason, but for all that they'd talked about, Brian didn't really buy it.

"If that's really the case, Sunshine, then why the fuck did you move back to Pittsburgh?"

Brian didn't get a reply. But then he hadn't really been expecting one.


Eventually Justin did start crying, although it was nothing like his outburst in the bathroom the previous week. He clung on to Brian, shaking quietly, only letting the occasional sob escape.

Not knowing what the fuck to do - a recurring theme around Justin - Brian just held on to him, surprised to realise his own eyes were burning until Justin finally fell asleep. Christ almighty, hadn't the kid been through enough without his mom flipping out on him? But shit, Brian had liked Jennifer, and she'd certainly seemed sincere in the office. He didn't like straddling the fence on this one - it'd be easier if he could just label her a bad guy and be done with it.

It was late afternoon by then and Brian wasn't tired at all, but he'd promised Justin he'd be there and Brian always kept his word. After a while he managed to doze, helped by the warmth and comfort of the bed, but he never fell asleep properly. Time seemed to stretch out forever, but Brian didn't really mind - he was in bed with a particular hot blond and though they'd had a shitty day, things could've been much worse.

By the time Justin roused it was nearly 7pm. Pulling away from Brian, he smiled sleepily before wiping at his face and yawning.

Lying on his side with his head propped up on his hand, Brian watched him. "How are you feeling?"

Mimicking Brian's position, Justin looked at him. "Better." They just stared at each other for a while - Brian didn't know why, but it seemed worthwhile - until Justin spoke again. "By the way, I think I'm falling in love with you," he said matter-of-factly. "Just so you know."

Well, fuck. What the fuck was he supposed to say to that? And why the fuck wasn't he panicking? There was a brief moment of...something, but he was still there. Still talking. "You really don't like fucking around, do you?"

Justin shrugged. "Can you blame me?" No, he really couldn't. "Anyway," Justin continued, "I could be wrong. I've never been in love before so I'm not sure what it feels like. But I think..." he paused, licking his lips, still staring directly at Brian. "I think if I was in love with someone, it'd feel like...this."

"This?" Brian asked, because what else was he supposed to say?

"This," Justin replied confidently. "I just thought you should know. Full disclosure. You know all my big, bad secrets and we're...trying something here, so I just thought-"

"My dad used to beat me."

Justin stopped, clearly stunned - and fuck, so was Brian. His brain had obviously reached some kind of conclusion about talking without telling him anything about it, but now that he knew, now that he'd actually said the words, he was determined to be the one fucking controlling them.

"I'm only saying this once," he continued, because he couldn't take it back. "My dad used to beat me. He'd get drunk, pissed off about his shitty life, and take it out on me - and sometimes my mother. Most of the time he'd use his fists, but sometimes - when he was feeling particularly vindictive - he'd take out his belt and hit me on the back of my thighs with it. He died a few years ago, still a drunk." He felt strangely unattached from the words, like it wasn't really happening. "My mom's a religious nut job, who thinks her queer son's going to burn in hell and has no problem telling him that, and my sister's a total bitch with two spawns from hell. I'll be happy if I never have to see anyone in my family ever again."

Staring at him, Justin eventually let out a breath. "Jesus Christ, Brian. We could have our own very special episode of Oprah."

The reaction wasn't one Brian'd been expecting and he found himself smirking slowly, relieved. He didn't want any fucking pity. "If you think I'm going on national television to pour my heart out-"

"-I'll never have your cock up my ass again?"

"Fast learner."

"Always was," Justin grinned brightly, leaning closer to kiss him. Christ, he bounced back quickly.

Brian'd never trusted anyone in his life - not since he was a kid. Everyone had to earn it. Yet here the fuck he was telling Justin all the shit he'd never actually told anyone before. He'd never had to tell any of his friends - Mikey and Deb had been there first hand, and the others had picked up shit from the few times they'd been around his family, or through Novotny-Osmosis (one constant of the universe was the fact that if you needed to get news out there, the best way was to tell Mikey or Deb).

But then Justin was just as fucked up as he was, and had already risked making himself so fucking vulnerable. Brian didn't know where the fuck Justin got the balls. Sometimes it seemed like life had done nothing but shit on him but he still kept trying, risked it all, telling Brian everything with no guarantee that it wouldn't be used against him.

Moving closer still, Justin pushed Brian onto his back, straddling his body. Sitting up, he looked down at him sadly. "What your dad did was really fucked up."

He didn't think it was pity, or even sympathy - it looked like understanding. "What your mom did was really fucked up."

"I know what we should do!" Justin announced suddenly, surprising Brian. "We should make a solemn vow, here and now, to do everything we can to make sure we never have to see any of our parents ever again."

Sounded good to Brian - to a certain degree. "I have a head start. My dad's dead."

"Now you're just being picky," Justin argued. "Come on, pinky swear," he insisted, holding out his finger.

Brian snorted. Justin could be so fucking ridiculous. "I am not gonna pinky swear."

"Why's that? Too girly for you?"

He rolled his eyes. "One, it's ridiculous, and two..." Shit, this wasn't gonna make things easier - it was really fucking nice that Justin seemed happier, but Brian had never held back an opinion and wasn't about to start now. "I think you want to see your mom again."

It had the expected reaction. Justin's expression closed up, his smile disappearing as he tried to move off.

Brian grabbed his hips.

"Let me go," Justin ordered, annoyed.

"No, I have something to say."

"I don't want to hear it."

"Too fucking bad," Brian replied, holding tighter. "I've...done shit for you I've never fucking done for anyone. That earns me some respect. Besides, you walked out of work today, without permission - and though I completely understand given the circumstances, it was also completely unprofessional."

Justin glowered at him. "I wasn't staying where she was."

"I get that. But you could've asked. Or, you being you," he acknowledged, "you could've at least told me. You knew we have a pitch tomorrow."

At any other time Justin might've looked...amusing. Straddling Brian, fully dressed with his arms folded across his chest, looking extremely annoyed. "Fine," he spat out. "Talk."

It was something. "I'm the first to admit she fucked up. Enormously. And maybe you're right; maybe you should never see her again." Justin looked a little less irritated. "But before today...I liked her. I never fucking like anybody. But she was no-nonsense, hard working, smart. No one gets my respect easily, and she got it the first day I met her. And she was specifically advertising in gay papers, so-"

"She felt guilty for how she treated her gay son?" Justin interrupted, eyebrows arching imperiously.

Brian arched right back. "Or she was trying to make amends the only way she knew how. Look," he continued, "when she left my office today I was pissed at her - seriously pissed - but I also didn't think for one second that she's the same woman she was back then. She fucking has to take responsibility for what she did, that's true, but she made it clear that she knows she fucked up." Jennifer had said a lot of shit in his office, but even through his anger he'd been beginning to think that now she actually wanted to do what was best for Justin. "It's too late for my mom - we're never gonna be happy families. But if there's a chance in hell you can fix things with your mom, I say you should fucking take it."

Studying him intently for a while, Justin eventually slumped and sighed. "You don't know what I fucking went through, Brian."

He couldn't deny it. "No. I don't. But I also know you're not the type to back down from a challenge. That you're braver than this."

Justin quirked up one side of his mouth. "You've known me for six days."

"If you can think you know me, I can sure as fuck think I know you, Sunshine."

Sighing some more, Justin leant to one side and Brian let him go this time. Sliding off of him, Justin lay down next to him and stared up at the ceiling. "I'll fucking think about it. And I need a cigarette."

Brian smirked, glancing towards him. "I can see a pack on your bedside table. Knock yourself out."

"You could at least get them for me."

Little twat. "You're closer."

"That's not the point. This has been an immensely emotional time for me, and as the person I'm fucking more than once you have a responsibility to-"

Brian told him to fuck off.


Lots of fucking later, Justin declared that they were watching a movie. This presented something of a problem because although the DVD player had been connected to the TV, Justin hadn't actually unpacked any of his DVDs. Rummaging around inside a few boxes, he eventually came back up for air clutching a large, black dildo and a DVD of Yellow Submarine. "I wondered where the fuck this was," he said, inspecting the dildo carefully.

"Shit," Brian said, making a grab for it. "Fuck the movie."

Yanking it away from him, Justin thrust the DVD into Brian's hands instead. "No movie, no dildo."

Brian sighed. "You drive a hard bargain, Taylor."

"Story of your life," Justin flirted, and put the dildo in the bedroom.

After watching the movie - Justin, of course, had talked all the way through it, commenting on the different aspects of animation - and stuffing themselves on the Thai food they'd ordered, they lounged about on the sofa, feeling warm and lethargic.

"Ugh," Justin said, rubbing his stomach. "Food coma."

Brian had no sympathy whatsoever. "That's what you get for eating so much."

"But it tasted so *good*."

"Yes, but when you eat that much it kind of makes sex out of the question."

Frowning, Justin glanced towards him. "I'm trying to imagine you fucking me right now, and it makes me want to throw up."

"For fuck's sake," Brian pretended to complain, "don't spread that around."

Snickering, Justin leant towards him until their shoulders were touching - he obviously wasn't willing to get any closer right now, fearing for his stomach. "Hey, Brian?"

This sounded serious. "Yes, Justin?"

"Thanks for telling me what you did earlier." Brian tensed. Sharing personal information always depended on the fact that no one ever brought it up again. Apparently Justin wasn't aware of that vital rule. "I know you don't like it and it makes you uncomfortable, but I really, really appreciate that you thought you could share it with me, and I'll shut up now and stop talking. So," he continued quickly, "wanna hear about the dildo?"

Slowly, inch by inch, Brian began to relax. "Sure."


That night, Brian remembered the dream he'd been having ever since the explosion. The night happened exactly the same - the fundraiser started, the bomb went off, Brian was thrown to the floor - it was so real, so vivid, exactly like the night of the explosion - but when he pushed himself to his hands and knees to get up, his right hand rested on something. Someone.

Turning the person - no, the body, he thought with sickening realisation - over, he saw that there was no face left, no skin, but on top of the head was a matted patch of blond hair. Gagging, he pulled away-


Gasping, Brian snapped his eyes open. It had to be Justin who was leaning over him, but in the darkness of the apartment it was hard to see. "What?" he demanded breathlessly, feeling unsettled as fuck but trying not to show it.

"You were having a nightmare," Justin said carefully. "Do you remember?"

"It was nothing," he replied, and already the images of it were fading, the memories of the dream getting vaguer. He remembered the content, but not what it felt like. Justin was an inquisitive little shit, though, so Brian had to give him something. "Just - you know. The bomb." No need to tell him who got hurt.

"Yeah," Justin nodded in understanding, his outline growing firmer as Brian's eyes adjusted further. "I've had a few myself."

"Go back to sleep," Brian ordered, rolling away from him and laying on his side. Justin didn't leave him alone, of course, wrapping around him from behind.

It was ridiculous. Fucking ridiculous. There was no way in hell Brian could've been dreaming about Justin getting killed so soon as the hours after they first fucked. No fucking way. But shit, this whole thing with Justin at all was fucking ridiculous. Talking with him and sharing shit; fucking him more than once.

A lot more than once.

Everything about the situation was fucked, but then he thought about the dream and what would've happened to Justin if it was real, or if he hadn't survived the bashing, and Brian felt the same kind of panic he had when Gus had been rushed to the hospital all those years ago.

Turning back around, he slid an arm under Justin's neck, the other resting over the side of his body.

"Brian?" Justin asked quietly, shifting, eyes glinting as they reflected what little light there was.

"Go back to sleep," Brian repeated, softer this time.

"Believe me, I'd love to stay here," he told him, "but my neck's gonna be really fucking sore in the morning if I sleep on your arm all night. Not to mention I'll probably cut off the blood supply to your arm, too. Do you really want pins and needles?"

Christ, couldn't a guy just go to sleep? "Since when do you care about practicality?"

"Since when do you care about romance?" Justin teased, butting their noses together.

"I was not being-"

"Yes, you were," Justin interrupted, making Brian sigh. Fucker. "But don't worry. I won't tell anyone - and I won't make fun of you, either. At least not about that," he grinned. "Come on," Justin continued, shifting around - and moving Brian around, too - until they were lying in a more familiar position. The one they'd fallen into on the last couple of nights; Brian on his back with Justin lying on one side, his arm flung across Brian's chest.

"I fail to see how that's more comfortable," Brian pointed out.

"To each their own," Justin retorted, and kissed one side of his chest.

Letting out a breath, Brian closed his eyes and tried to push the dream out of his mind. Whatever this was it was fucked up - but it was good.

Even he could see that.


The next morning, as usual, they had their individual showers (Justin warned Brian not to utter one word of complaint), Brian was force-fed a bagel (and Justin's cock, which made the bagel thing worthwhile), and drove into work (Justin asked if he could drive. Brian told him only if he were severely incapacitated or was on the verge of death).

As expected the pitch went brilliantly, and they nailed the account. Walking out of the room afterwards, one of their new clients executives - thirties, hot, had been setting Brian's gaydar off ever since he arrived - paused directly in front of him, held his gaze, and asked where the bathroom was.

Asking Cynthia to show him the way, Brian turned away and walked to his desk.

Of course, he could hardly ignore what he'd just done - or, now that he thought about it, what he hadn't been doing all week. He hadn't fucked anyone except Justin since meeting him. He was under exceptional circumstances because of the bombing, of course, but still. One guy in one week? He was fucking him more than once, so it wasn't as if he'd only had one fuck, but...

Shit. Truthfully, since the cancer he'd been tricking less than he used to anyway. The physical release still felt good - and sometimes, absolutely fucking necessary - but during the surgery, radiation and subsequent recovery, he'd felt no desire for sex whatsoever. After that he'd thought things would go back to normal, but then came those fucking weeks where there was no fucking, otherwise known as Brian Kinney Couldn't Get It Up.

Christ, he hated thinking about that.

It'd passed eventually - thank fuck - but the 'damage' had already been done. Brian'd been forced to come to terms with the fact that life might be worth living, even without sex. Hadn't been fucking easy, but one day he'd looked at his son and realised he'd live without sex for the rest of his life if he could somehow make sure Gus was always safe. It would've been more than a fair trade-off.

His priorities had shifted, and even if he didn't always like it, he was aware of it. The...thing, with Justin. He liked it and hated it at the same time, but he was beginning to think the like was winning out. And though it was...uncomfortable sometimes, it didn't terrify him the way it would have even a year ago.

In any case, Justin was working for him and it didn't seem wise to fuck another guy in the same place where Justin worked. They'd never actually talked about it so as far as Brian was concerned there was no moratorium on fucking other guys, but doing it right under Justin's nose seemed...careless.

When Justin stopped by at his office later, Brian fucked him in the bathroom instead.


By the time Thursday rolled around, they still didn't have a replacement for the art department. All the candidates Cynthia brought in had all the right qualifications, but otherwise they just didn't meet Brian's high standards. After giving another prospective employee the 'we'll call you' spiel, Brian sat back in his chair and looked over the resume on his desk. It'd just be fucking easier if he could ask Justin to stay until Phil had recovered and was ready to come back, but he was due to start at the art gallery the week after next.

But then if he didn't even try, there was absolutely no chance Justin would stay.

He pressed the talk button on his phone. "Cynthia, ask Justin to come in here."

"You want him to bring condoms, too?"

Sometimes he really wondered why he'd never fired her. Well, actually, he had - she just always ignored him. "No, Cynthia, this one's actually a business meeting."

"Okay, boss, I'll let him know. And while I'm at all, I'll alert the Guinness Book of Records."

"Fuck you."

"Some day you'll actually mean that," she retorted. Brian took his finger off the button and waited for Justin to arrive.

Things'd still been fine last night. They'd ended up at the loft, and Brian thought he could live with that arrangement - alternating nights at their places - although something had to be done about the clothes situation. Easy access to his own clothes was a must. Fortunately Brian usually kept a spare suit at work, but Justin seemed to think nothing of wearing the same clothes two days in a row.

Justin still hadn't mentioned anything about his mother since the day she'd turned up - Jennifer hadn't called Kinnetik, either - but a couple of times over the past two evenings he'd caught Justin looking at nothing, lost in his thoughts, and it was easy enough to guess what he was thinking about.

A knock at the door made him look up to see Justin standing in the doorway. "You wanted to see me, Mr Kinney?"

Brian smirked, gesturing towards the chair on the opposite side of the desk. "Take a seat, Taylor."

Smiling himself, Justin walked across the office and sat primly on the edge of the seat. "What can I do for you, sir?"

As entertaining as this was, he really needed to get down to business. "What would it take to make you stay here permanently?"

Surprised, Justin froze for a few seconds. "I can't stay here permanently," he responded eventually.

"I can give you a better wage and benefits than the gallery."

"I'm sure you can," Justin grinned, "but it's not about that."

"Then what is it about?" he asked, sitting forward, clasping his hands together on the desk. If Justin wasn't staying, he wanted a fucking good reason.

"I like it here," Justin replied. "I like the people, I like the work. I like you." He paused, smiling imperceptibly. "But it's not what I want for a career. I'm lucky enough to be in a position to take a job that doesn't pay particularly well, but could help me with my career. I'm an artist, and that's what I want to do."

Yeah. Fucking good reason he was. "Had to try."

"Sure," Justin nodded. "Sorry it's not the answer you wanted."

"Sorry's bullshit. You stuck to your guns, did what you wanted. Don't apologise for that."

Studying him for a while, Justin shrugged. "Anyway, I'm not sure it's a good idea for me to work here permanently given that we're...fucking. I don't mind helping you out if you need it from time to time, but I think being here permanently would get weird after a while."

Brian had never been in this situation before, so he really didn't know - but it might be a good point. "Maybe." Shit, this meant more interviewing pretentious fuckwads.

Justin leant back in his chair. "I take it this means you haven't found anyone yet."

"No," Brian shook his head. "They all have the qualifications and usually the experience, but they're all pretentious fuckwads - which wouldn't mean shit if they had an ounce of real inspiration and creativity. Which they don't."

"Oh, *I* get it," he said, "you're having trouble finding someone, and I'm the easy option."

That term could never be used to describe Justin. "I don't think anyone could ever accuse you of being that."

"Maybe," Justin shrugged teasingly, "but all that effort makes it all the more worthwhile, don't you think?"

It did seem to hold true - at least in Brian's life - that nothing worth having was ever easy, and Justin seemed to think he was the next step on that scale. "Think a lot of yourself, don't you?"

"Someone has to."

And it was just as fucking well, because if Justin didn't believe in himself as much as he did, who knew where the fuck he'd be now? On that thought, Brian stood up and walked to the other side of the desk, arching an eyebrow down at him.

Standing up, grinning, Justin pushed him back against the table and kissed him. Laughing into the kiss, Brian knocked something to the floor. It didn't smash, so it couldn't have been expensive.

The sound of someone clearing their throat reluctantly made them break apart, and they both turned to see Cynthia standing in the doorway, holding a few sheets of paper.

"I have something you need to sign," she told Brian, smirking as she looked between the two of them. "Sorry to interrupt your business meeting."


Justin's presence at the dinner that evening was mandatory, of course, so Brian offered to drive him. Stopping at the loft so Brian could get changed out of his suit and into something more comfortable, they inevitably got distracted and wound up arriving at Mikey's nearly fifteen minutes left.

Deb answered the door, smirking broadly as she looked at them. "Like I don't know why the fuck the two of you are late," she cackled, and pulled Justin into a hug. "Good to see you, Sunshine," she cooed, rubbing his back before pushing him away and slapping his butt as he walked into the house.

With Brian she took a little more time, watching him for a few seconds before initiating the hug. "You good, baby?" she asked quietly for once.

Brian didn't know if she was talking about Justin and or just life in general, but he decided on a non-specific, "I'm good," for his answer. It was true, anyway. Not perfect, but good.

Clucking happily, she pulled away and guided him into the house. Taking both his and Justin's jackets, she told them to sit themselves down at the table - or rather, tables. They wouldn't have all been able to fit around Mikey and Ben's normal dinner table, so another one had been drafted in from somewhere. Everyone else was already there, and it really *was* everyone else - Mikey, Ben, Hunter, Ted, Emmett, Drew, Mel, Linds, Gus, JR, Carl, and of course Debbie.

"Daddy!" Gus yelled, slipping out of his seat and running around a table to get to his father.

Bending down to catch him, Brian picked him up - always feeling that rush, that infusion of joy at seeing his kid. "Hey, Sonny Boy. How you doing today?"

"Good!" he declared. "I drew a picture for you today!"

"You did? I can't wait to see it. You show it to me right after dinner, okay?"

Nodding enthusiastically, Gus peeked over Brian's shoulder. "Hi, Justin."

Amused, Brian turned so they could look at each other properly.

"Hi, Gus," Justin smiled. "Good to see you again."

Two spaces had been saved next to Mikey. After putting Gus back in his own seat, Brian sat next to his best friend, and Justin ended up sitting between Brian and Emmett. General greetings and chit chat started up as Deb made sure everyone had a drink - it may have been at her son's house, but it was definitely Deb's dinner - and Justin was introduced to the few people he didn't really know.

Although some people really didn't need an introduction.

"You're Emmett, right?" Justin asked, turning his head. "You were at the hospital for a while."

"I most certainly am," Emmett grinned. "I'm afraid you didn't see me at my best before," his smile faltered a little, "but I promise I'm much more interesting than I appeared."

"Completely understandable," Justin smiled, nodding.

"And *this*," Em continued proudly, touching Drew's arm, "is my Drewsie. Otherwise known as Drew Boyd, football star and hero to millions." Really, he should've said former football star, but Brian was just happy Emmett wasn't bringing that particular subject up.

"Emmett..." Drew warned with obvious fondness.

"Sure, I remember," Justin said. "You made the first speech at the memorial."

Drew nodded. "And you threw the first punch at that homopho-"

"As far as I recall," Carl interrupted, drawing everyone's attention, "no one can actually remember who started that fight. And I think it's best that no one does."

Sitting back in his chair, Brian leant towards Justin and spoke quietly. "That's Carl, by the way. Deb's 'male friend'. And a cop."

Justin's eyebrows went up, his gaze flicking to Carl repeatedly. "He's the guy who came to the loft on Saturday."

Well that confirmed something he'd suspected at the time. "You heard everything then, huh? Is there anything you *don't* know?"

"Not really. I'm a genius," he grinned broadly, smugly, and Brian had to kiss him. Everyone was staring at them when they pulled apart and Brian made a point of not looking at anyone. Which was weird and ridiculous again, because normally he didn't give a fuck who anyone saw him kissing.

"Anyway," Drew continued, "like I was saying, if it *had* been you I'd have to tell you that that was one hell of a punch."

Mel chimed in. "One hell of a well-deserved punch."

Shrugging, Justin didn't seem uncomfortable. "Well, if it *had* been me, I guess I'd say thank you."

After a few chuckles had died down, Deb stood up, holding her glass. "Before we eat, I'd like to make a toast to my son - Michael Novotny." Misty-eyed, she gestured towards him with her glass. "We're all here because we love you, baby. And we are so, so glad and relieved that...that you're gonna be okay." Her voice catching, she lifted her free hand to her neck and glanced up, obviously towards God. Looking back down, she sniffed. "And to Justin. Sunshine." Her glass moved towards him. "Thank you, so much, for helping my son, when you could've been like any one of a thousand people that night, only interested in saving their own asses. If you hadn't helped Mikey up, fuck knows if Brian or Ben would've found him in time and..." her voice trailed off, obviously not willing to go into that territory. "You're a hero. I don't care if that sounds over the top - 'cause let's face it, a lot of the time I am over the top - but you're a Goddamn hero. And that's all there is to it."

For once, Justin looked genuinely surprised and embarrassed. "I...uh...I don't think I'm a hero - but. Thank you. Can we eat now?"

Everyone laughed but Deb declared that yes, they could eat now, and they should all feel free to help themselves. Dishes and plates started lifting, being passed around, but Justin didn't move to do anything.

Watching him, Brian slipped a hand onto Justin's leg and gave it a squeeze. Smiling softly, Justin placed a hand on top of his, and picked up a roll with the other.


"Gus has been asking about you, you know."

Dinner was over, and they'd broken off into smaller groups. He and Linds were standing by the fireplace, the two of them watching Justin, Mel and the kids interacting on the sofa - Gus' drawing of Brian on the table just in front of them. As far as Brian was concerned, it was a work of art. "Asking what?" he asked, looking towards her. "You know I'll always answer any questions he has."

"Maybe not this one," she grinned. "He wants to know what Justin is to you."

Pausing, he blinked. "What the fuck for?"

"Think about it, Brian," she stepped closer, lowering her tone. "Since when have you ever introduced a guy to him who wasn't part of the 'family'? And more than that, when have you ever spent your entire day with Gus in the company of another man? That wasn't just a father and son day. That was a father, son and Justin day. Not that I mind," she quickly pointed out. "If he was just some guy you were sleeping with it'd probably bother me, but I know you like him. You'd never have let him around Gus if you didn't. And it's just as obvious that he likes you."

Sighing, Brian closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Is my entire love-life," Jesus Christ, he did *not* just say that, "sex life under scrutiny by everyone?" It felt like they all had some shred of wisdom they deemed fit to share.

"Not exactly. But you know, Brian...when it is, it's not entirely our fault."

And she was fucking right, too. He'd always shoved his sex life in everyone's face, the centre of attention, and now it was coming back to bite him in the ass.

Well, fine. Anyone who judged him could take it or fuck off.

Seeming to recognise his mood, Linds put her hand on his arm and met his gaze. " one's making fun of you. Well," she grinned, "no more than usual. We all want you to be happy, and I think we all see that Justin helps with that. True, sometimes it takes some...adjusting to because we're not used to it, but we will. And in the meantime, if anyone gives you a hard time I'm sure Justin will be willing to punch them out."

Surprised, he laughed. She'd always had the talent of making him feel better about shit - something she and Justin shared. "So what did you tell him?"

"Gus?" she asked, and he nodded. "Well, at first he wondered if you were married." It was just as well he hadn't been drinking anything when she said that. "That amused the hell out of Mel," she teased. "But eventually we decided that Justin was Daddy's special friend. It's hard for kids sometimes, not having an easy label, but I think he understood."

Fuck, Brian wasn't sure *he* understood, watching Justin play with Gus. "At least someone does."

"Brian," she said seriously, making him look towards her again. She smiled. "You're doing well. Really well. And though I'm sure you don't want or need my validation, I don't expect any other result from you because Brian Kinney always does what he sets out to accomplish."

"You think I set out to do any of this?" he asked in disbelief, gesturing towards Justin. As far as Brian was concerned, he was just hanging on for the ride.

"I know that if you didn't still want something out of it," she shrugged, "you wouldn't have arrived together tonight. Or touched his leg when he was uncomfortable. Or any one of a dozen little gestures that show-"

"Christ, enough already," he spat. This was just what he'd been talking about earlier - he didn't like having his every move analysed, even if he mostly tried not to show it. "I haven't turned into a dyke."

"No," she agreed. "You haven't. But dykes aren't the only people who care about someone else." Swivelling away, she marched over to the couch.

A few minutes later Justin practically bounced over towards him, obviously happy. "Hi!"

Brian lessened the glower he'd been wearing since Linds had walked away. "Hey."

"Did you see Gus? God, Brian, he's so *smart*, you know? And really interested in learning new stuff. Ben gave him some paper to play with, and Gus started making these little origami birds. Okay, so they didn't actually look anything like birds, but I'm so taking one with me when we lea-"

Brian kissed him.

Justin was surprised but that didn't stop him for long; soon recovering and kissing him back, sliding his arms up around Brian's neck.

Sighing when he pulled away, Brian kept his eyes closed, knowing that every gaze in the place had to be on them. "Sunshine," he began, "do you mind being the centre of attention?"

Rubbing a hand over the hair at the nape of Brian's neck, Justin kissed the edge of his chin. "I honestly couldn't give a fuck."

Fuck other people and their opinions. What the hell did they matter, anyway?

"Good," Brian replied, and kissed him again.


Soon enough, life started getting back to normal - or as normal as it could be considering the fact that Brian was fucking someone more than once. And though the bombing was still a prominent subject, Brian stopped expecting buildings to randomly explode - he'd had a barely conscious fear ever since the bombing that every building he went into was about to blow up. Mikey was well on the road to recovery, starting back at his shop, albeit on reduced hours.

The most shocking thing was that one of the latest candidates to come in for the art department job actually seemed as if they might fit in, and had some genuine brains. Brian was extremely pleased and celebrated by taking Justin back to the loft and fucking the shit out of him.

Of course, that was usually how he spent most evenings anyway.

Later, Justin stumbled out of the bedroom, heading towards the kitchen. Brian stayed on the bed, enjoying his post-orgasm lull.

He thought he heard the fridge door open, and was proven right when Justin started speaking loudly.

"You know, you have no food in your fridge."

Brian started reaching for a cigarette, sitting up to lean against the head rest. "That is patently not true."

Justin stepped back up into the bedroom naked. "An avocado and a bunch of grapes."

"Now, now, Sunshine," Brian retorted, lighting his cigarette and throwing the lighter back onto the bedside table, "that's no way to talk about your package."

Rolling his eyes and smiling, Justin climbed on - then up - the bed until he was straddling Brian's legs. "An avocado and a bunch of grapes is all you have in your fridge," he finished. "And water."

"If you're hungry, order something. You know where the phone is."

"Brian, we can't keep doing that every night just because we can afford it."

Made sense to him. "Why not?"

Stealing Brian's cigarette, Justin took a drag and watched him. "Well, for one, half the groceries I bought lately never got eaten because we ordered out. Food shouldn't go to waste - it's the principle of the thing. Not to mention the fact that most of the stuff we order really isn't healthy."

Brian took his cigarette back. "You're worried about health, now?"

"Sure," he shrugged. "I should try to eat more healthily. And..." His hand rubbed along Brian's arm until their hands met, fingers entwining. "You were sick. It'd be good for you to eat healthily sometimes, too." Leaning closer, he took the cigarette away from Brian again with his free hand, and held it to one side as he gently butted their foreheads together. "I want you around for a while," he murmured, smiling gently.

Somehow this'd turned into one of those 'relationship' discussions. Justin was a sneaky little shit in that department. Like the other night, when he'd suggested - if it was okay with Brian, of course - that they both leave some shit at each other's places - clothes, etc - just because it'd make it easier to get ready for work in the morning or have other important shit at hand.

Brian had never had to think about the logistics of a more-than-fucking-and-spending-most-nights-together-but-not-living-together thing before, but it did seem to make sense so he'd shrugged his agreement. There were currently three pairs of Justin pants hanging in Brian's closet, and two Justin shirts hanging next to them.

No Armani had yet made its way to Justin's apartment, but that was because he still hadn't unpacked and the closet was full of boxes. Brian had compromised and put one of his luxury shaving kits in Justin's bathroom instead.

Pushing Justin away a little, Brian arched his eyebrows. "I hope you appreciate the irony of talking about eating healthily while you keep smoking my cigarette."

"One thing at a time," Justin said happily, clearly not bothered.

Taking his cigarette back again, Brian tapped it over the ashtray before bringing it up to his mouth, facing it towards Justin. Carefully holding the cigarette between his teeth, Brian reached out with his free hand. Justin obviously needed no encouragement but Brian put the hand on his neck anyway, pulling him closer as Justin carefully put his mouth around the cigarette, lips brushing against Brian's.

Pulling away just as carefully, Justin let out a breath and Brian took the cigarette out of his mouth. He hadn't done that in...Christ. Fucking years. And he didn't know why he'd done it now. "So what are you saying, exactly? Because I don't cook, and I don't want you turning into Little Justin Homemaker."

"You know," Justin regarded him wryly, "having the ability to cook does not automatically make me boring, as you seem to think. I happen to like cooking, and sometimes I will. Deal with it."

Well...fine. "You should talk to the professor, if you're really interested - I'm sure he has all kinds of health food suggestions. But don't expect me to eat any of that tofu shit."

"Ben? I didn't know he was a health food nut."

Brian shrugged, taking a last drag and stubbing the cigarette out. "It's kind of a necessity, really - he's positive." Feeling Justin tense, Brian turned his head towards him, his hand drifting away from the ashtray. "You didn't know."

"No," Justin said, wide-eyed, shaking his head. "Is he okay? He looks great."

Brian hadn't even thought about telling him - mostly because Justin had been around so much, Brian had just expected that he'd picked it up somewhere and already knew. "He is," Brian nodded. "He got seriously ill once a few years ago, but so far that's been the only real scare." He elected not to mention Ben's little sojourn into steroid abuse.

"Good, good," Justin replied, obviously distracted and taking it in. "What about Michael?"

"He's fine," Brian said. "Gets tested regularly."

"Of course," he nodded.

Brian bit his lower lip. "Hunter's positive too." Justin's eyes went even wider. "He was a hustler - seems his bitch of a mother got him into the business with a condoms optional policy. Ben and Mikey took him in. They're his legal guardians."

"Oh my God," Justin said, clearly appalled. "Jesus, Brian, I swear to God I'm so happy there are people like Debbie out there, because otherwise I'd begin to think that all mothers were-"

"Yeah," Brian interrupted, knowing exactly how he felt.

Sighing, Justin leant closer, resting his forehead against Brian's again. "Wow. I have a serious new respect for Michael. I mean, not that I didn't like him anyway, but staying with someone who has HIV would be too much for some people."

Brian vividly remembered everyone's opinion when Ben and Mikey had first started seeing each other - and his own advice. "Well, as I understand it - or so I've been told by people who claim to know that kind of shit - you can't help who you..." Yeah, like he was finishing *that* phrase. " about."

Freezing again, Justin eventually pulled back to look at him - with interest. "I know we were messing around when I said it before, but sometimes you convince me that I'm absolutely right."

Brian had no fucking idea what he was talking about. "About what?"

"That you really are the most romantic man I've ever met."

Brian was saved from dealing with that particular nightmare when the phone rang. Grabbing it quickly, he practically whacked it against the side of his head. "What?"

"Hi, Brian!"

A familiar voice and distraction. Thank fuck. "Hey, Mikey."

"You up to anything tonight?" Mikey asked, as Justin climbed off of Brian - only so he could move further down the bed and start playing with Brian's dick.

Well...part of him was definitely starting to be up. "Nothing..." Brian spread his legs and Justin started licking the head of his cock. "...special."

"Good. Well, I've finally been given the go ahead to drink alcohol again, and since I'm feeling better I was thinking it'd be nice if we could all meet up at Woody's."

Woody's. Speaking of Woody's, Justin currently had his mouth wrapped around Brian's. "Sure. But," Justin deep-throated him. Brian closed his eyes. "We haven't...eaten yet." Justin made a noise that was probably meant to be a chuckle. It just made Brian harder. "We'll grab something and meet you there."

"We? Justin's there?"

"Almost," Brian confirmed, his free hand running through Justin's hair.

Mikey was silent for a few seconds.

"Oh my God, he's totally blowing you right now."

"That would be an," a finger started pressing behind his balls, "accurate assessment."

"Christ, I'll see you later," Mikey said, and ended the call.

Throwing the phone aside, Brian buried both hands into Justin's hair. "I'll make you a deal, Sunshine. You cook as much as you fucking want as long as you just keep doing this."

Justin didn't seem inclined to disagree.


After stopping at the diner - Brian pointed out they had salads, and therefore the diner could be construed as healthy - they finally made it to Woody's. Walking through the new metal detector at the entrance was vaguely disconcerting instead of reassuring, but then they found the boys at a table.

Saying a quick hi to everyone, Justin made a break for the bathroom, quietly acknowledging to Brian that he should've gone before they left the loft.

"Hello, boys," Brian greeted, slipping into a chair. Mikey, Ben, Ted and Emmett all greeted him in return.

"So," Mikey continued, looking between the bathroom and Brian. "Things are good?"

"Sure," he shrugged, faking disinterest. "What makes you ask?"

"Oh, just wondering," Mikey said innocently. "I just might have heard - and realised - that, outside of work, no one's seen you since dinner last Thursday."

There it went again. The gossiping gays. "What the fuck does that matter?"

Mikey's smile faded. Brian felt vaguely guilty.

"Brian, sweetie," Emmett said, which made Brian lift an eyebrow. "No need to get all macho. We like Justin. We even - sometimes - like you," he winked. "We just wanted to check if you had actually become the embodiment of everything you used to claim to hate - you know, one of those annoying couples who can't bear to spend ten minutes apart and get so wrapped up in each other they forget about everything else." There was no edge to it at all - he was openly teasing, and for all the times that Brian had mocked Emmett's many attempts at a relationship, it was probably no less than he deserved.

He looked around at them - all of them - and though they could be gossipy twats, they'd all made it clear in the past that they'd be happy if he was happy - for whatever reason.

"Hey," Justin suddenly announced, making everyone turn to stare at him as he took the seat next to Brian. Aware of the scrutiny, he looked around with a frown. "Did I miss something?"

Brian shrugged as he looked towards him. "They want to know if we're one of those annoying couples who are so wrapped up in each other that we forget about everything else."

"Oh," Justin said calmly, apparently thinking about it. "I'd have to say...yes. Huh." He seemed surprised at the answer. "Yeah, if I met us somewhere, we'd probably really piss me off."

Ted rubbed the side of his face. "You realise that makes no logical sense."

Brian smirked. "Logic doesn't apply to Justin."

"That explains a lot," Ted retorted.

Giving him the finger, Brian cupped the back of Justin's head with his free hand, tugging him closer. "You ready to piss yourself off?"

Justin grinned. "Here's to being really fucking annoying," he said, laughing into the kiss.


As well as everything else was going, life wasn't perfect. After she'd made her first appearance Justin had been paranoid after running into his Mom at Kinnetik, worried that she might turn up again. After a few days with no new appearances, he'd begun to relax.

That didn't mean that Jennifer hadn't been in contact with Kinnetik.

Brian had had several calls from her since her visit - all about business. Jennifer was very professional, and they discussed the pros and cons of selling or keeping Babylon at length (another reason he liked her - she wasn't eager to get him to sell so she'd make a commission; she wanted him to do what was best for him). At the end of every call, though, there was always a moment - a hesitation - where he could tell she wanted to ask about Justin but didn't.

Until the end of her fifth call.

They'd finished wrapping things up, followed by the familiar hesitation...and then she spoke.

"Brian, I...I'm sorry if this is out of place given our professional relationship, but...he's my son. Do you understand?"

Brian thought about Gus. "Yeah."

She sounded relieved when she spoke again. "How is he?"

Interesting question. "Remarkably well-adjusted considering everything he's been through."

"Yes," Jennifer said proudly. "He was always so strong. When anything bad happened it never took him long to get back on his feet again. At least until...shit," she finished, surprising him. He was reasonably sure she was sniffing.

Perfect. At least she wasn't actually there so he didn't have to hug her or anything. Still, this had produced an opening he was interested in. Justin never talked about the bashing, or at least not in any detail.

Not that Brian had asked him, either.

"What was it like?" he asked. "The night of the bashing?"

"Oh, God," she murmured. "I wasn't there, of course. I got called to the hospital after it happened. He was so pale. Needed brain surgery. For three days they didn't know if he was going to live or die, and then he fell into the coma. Worst weeks of my life," she whispered, before clearing her throat. "His boyfriend was there."


"Yes," she answered, sounding surprised that he knew the name.

"He saw it happen?"

"No - apparently after they danced Justin went to the bathroom, and that was when Chris Hobbs..." she cleared her throat again. "When Scott realised Justin had been gone a while, he and Daphne-"


"Justin's best friend," Jennifer explained, "Daphne Chanders." Now he had a name for the elusive best friend - Justin hadn't mentioned her name at all until now, and Brian grabbed a pen, scribbling the name down on a notepad. "They found Chris with Justin, still holding the baseball bat - I don't know why he stayed, and frankly I don't care. He hurt my little boy."

Brian thought about being in Scott's position and, horrible and selfish though it sounded, for a moment he was really fucking glad he hadn't known Justin back then.

"Brian?" she continued. "Can I ask you a question?"

He'd asked her one. It was only fair. "Sure."

"You and it serious?"

Of course, it had to be a question he didn't know if he could fucking answer. "That's not exactly my area of expertise," he finally settled on. "But it's more than just fucking."

"Okay," she said calmly, not at all fazed by his language. "I just want him to be happy."

He remembered Justin in the shower that morning, laughing as he tried to tickle Brian. "He seems to be doing okay."

She was quiet for a few seconds. "Do you think he'll ever manage to forgive me?"

Brian let out a breath, giving her the truth. "You seriously fucked up."

"I know."

"Maybe you should take a page out of your son's book - just keep trying. If he really wants you around, he'll let you in eventually."

"Why are you helping me?"

Brian considered the question. "I'm not," he said, and ended the call. Picking up the notepad, he stared at the name and called Cynthia into his office. When she appeared, he glanced up at her. "I want you to find out contact information for a Daphne Chanders. She'll be twenty-four, or thereabouts. And keep it quiet - don't let anyone else know."

Making notes on her own pad, Cynthia arched her eyebrows at his last comment. "You know we're not actually a detective agency, right?"

"Just get it done," he growled.

She did. Within a matter of minutes he had a phone number for Daphne Chanders, twenty-four, still a Pittsburgh resident. Telling Cynthia that he wasn't to be disturbed, Brian made the call.

A female voice answered after three rings. "Hello?"

"Daphne Chanders?"

"Yeah, that's me."

Cynthia was definitely getting a raise. "My name's Brian Kinney; I'm calling about a mutual friend of ours, Justin Tay-"

"Justin?" she interrupted, concerned. "Is he okay?"

"He's fine," Brian assured her, and heard her sigh in relief. "I'm calling because..." shit, what was the simplest way to explain it? "I was wondering if you'd be willing to talk about what happened to him during and after high school."

A long silence was his only reply for a while, until she started talking again. "Look, I don't know who you are Mr Kinney," she said cynically, "but I've had more than one reporter calling me trying to do a follow-up report on that gay kid who got bashed at his prom, and I'll tell you the same thing I told them: fuck-"

"I know you helped him when his mom tried to have him committed." He couldn't really blame her for her paranoia, but he could only listen to it for so long.

Another long silence. "How did you...?" she began, clearly confused. "We never told anyone. How the hell do you know about that?"

"He told me."

"What kind of friend are you, exactly?"

Very good question. "We're fucking."

She seemed to consider that. "If it was just fucking he never would've told you that."

He could at least acknowledge the truth in that. "True enough. Look, if you're willing to talk about this it's probably best to do it face-to-face. I'd be happy to meet you at any place of your choosing."

"You'd fly in from New York for this?"

Ah, yeah. He could understand how she'd made that assumption. "I live in Pittsburgh."

"Oh my God," she said. "If you and Justin he here too?"

That answered the question of whether she knew or not. He probably should've thought this out more, but it was too late to stuff the cat back into the bag. "Yeah."

"Oh my God!" Daphne repeated. "Oh my God, where is he? I have to-"

"Daphne," he interrupted, de-railing her enthusiasm. "If he hasn't contacted you yet it's probably because he's not ready. Coming back here after what happened is a huge fucking deal."

"Okay, okay," she sighed dramatically, sounding disturbingly like Justin. "I know a place we can meet. But don't think for one second that I'm not bringing mace with me."

Brian smirked. "I'd be disappointed if you didn't."


Brian really didn't know what to expect, but the woman in pigtails and a bright orange coat wasn't it.

"Brian?" she asked, pausing by his table.

"Daphne," he greeted, standing and holding out a hand.

Shaking it, she eyed him from head to toe in obvious appraisal. "Wow. You're so much hotter than I imagined."

"Thank you," he shrugged smoothly, long used to people finding him attractive. "You want anything?" he asked, releasing her hand and gesturing towards the coffee counter. The queue was pretty long. It was lunchtime and he'd been lucky to get a table after ordering his drink.

"Nah," she said, taking off her jacket and sitting down. "I just wanted some place public in case you were some kind of psycho killer or something."

"How reassuring."

"So," she leant forward, letting the inquisition begin, "how do you know Justin?"

He told her about Babylon and the bombing - which she knew about, of course, but didn't have the finer details that involved Justin. She nearly freaked out when he told her Justin had been inside the building when the bomb went off. He told her about Justin coming to work for him, Jennifer's appearance - she agreed that it was a freakily small world, sometimes - and Justin's admission of what'd happened when he was a teenager. Of course, Brian only shared the essentials.

"Shit," she breathed eventually, slumping back in her chair. "I'm so glad the two of you weren't hurt, but only Justin could meet the love of his life at a bomb site."

Brian very carefully did not choke on his coffee. "Excuse me?"

"Oh," she said, giving him a significant look. "You're one of *those*."

Christ, she really was like Justin. He wasn't getting into that fucking discussion again. "Look, whatever I am or am not, the point of this isn't to talk about me."

"You're right," she acknowledged, nodding. "You wanted to talk about what he went through."

Kind of. More than that... "I want your opinion on whether - as Justin's best friend - you think it'd be worthwhile for him to try talking to his mom again."

Letting out a deep sigh, Daphne frowned at him. "I was so pissed at her for such a long time, you know? Which felt weird in a way, because before she flipped out whatever the hell it was, she was always so nice to me. We moved into the area when I was six years old - it was pretty upper class, and not everyone was happy to have black neighbours. She was really good to Justin when he came out, too." She fiddled with a packet of sugar. "I mean, yeah, it took some adjusting, but when his dad hit him-"

What the fuck? "His dad hit him?" Brian hadn't heard a fucking word about that.

"As far as I know it was just the once," she assured him, and Brian relaxed - slightly. "But the point is she didn't stand for it. She filed for divorce. He moved out of the house."

That, too, sounded like the Jennifer he was familiar with. "What do you think happened?" he asked. "Why do you think she tried to cart Justin off to the loony bin?"

She kept fiddling with the sugar. "I've seen her a few times since. She always looked so...guilty. Which is right." She met Brian's gaze. "She should. But...after the bashing, I think we were all a little crazy. It felt like it turned the whole word upside-down. The press were everywhere for weeks. Can you imagine what that's like? And Justin was so different - or seemed like it on the outside. I don't know, maybe she had her own post-traumatic stress or something, even if she only saw him at the hospital. I guess you never really know what your emotions are going to do."

Brian watched her. "Jennifer said you were there. That you found him."

"Yeah," she said quietly, tearing open the packet of sugar. "I try not to think about it."

Reaching across the table, Brian touched her hand. "A woman as hot as you, Daphne, should never look sad."

She looked at him. "You're not acting much like a fag, Brian."

"No?" he asked, lifting an eyebrow. "And here I thought I was being caring and sensitive."

That made her grin. "My mistake." Pausing, she stared at him. "You know, when you called and said you wanted to talk about what he went through, I really wasn't sure. It felt like it was his story to tell.'s obvious how much you care about him, so if you really want to know everything he went through I'll tell you everything I can remember."

It was an attractive offer. Learning more about Justin easily, what made him tick. But half the fun - and yeah, sometimes it really was fun - was getting new bits and pieces from Justin himself. Justin had been right - working for it made it more worthwhile. "Thanks, but I'll have to decline. It is his story to tell. I can wait." And, when he thought about it, he realised Justin had told him a lot already.

Smiling, Daphne rested her elbow on the table and her chin on the palm of her hand. "What are the chances of you having a straight brother?"

"Zero," he smirked, lifting up his long-neglected coffee.

"Just as well," she grinned. "My boyfriend probably wouldn't appreciate it."


After they exchanged numbers and prepared to go their separate ways - Brian back to the office, Daphne back to...wherever she'd come from - she put a hand on his arm to get his attention.

"You have to tell him."

Brian frowned. "Tell him what?"

She held his gaze. "That you contacted me. That we met up."

He'd considered doing that - he didn't like the idea of having to outright lie to Justin if the subject ever came up - but he was interested in her reasons. "Why?"

"Because after everything he's been through, Justin justifiably has trust issues. Only," she grinned, "not *normal* trust issues like anyone else. He's still ridiculously trusting of people when he first meets them - always gives them a chance. But only one," she continued, her face turning serious. "Just one. Believe me, I get why you contacted me and I think you'll be good for him - that's why I'm telling you this. You fuck up that way, Brian - you go behind his back or deliberately keep something from him - and you won't get a second chance."

Yeah, like that was what he wanted to hear. "I guess I won't fuck up, then." There was no other choice. By now he had a vested interest in Justin sticking around.

"Good plan," she agreed. "And tell that idiot to call me, okay?"


That evening it was Justin's turn to 'host', and Brian couldn't help but be aware of the pattern they'd fallen into. Not just that they mostly alternated nights at their places, but if Brian had still had any misconceptions about it still being 'just sex' they would've been blown out of the water by what was becoming their normal nightly routine.

When they got home, they both changed into something more comfortable. Either one of them would check their mail and messages and then, inevitably, Justin would start making dinner.

During all this time, there was usually no fucking at all.

Brian had resisted when he'd first realised just how fucking domestic it all was, thinking of all the Stepford Fags he'd mocked and how he was in danger of turning into one of them. He let Justin do whatever the fuck he wanted but Brian avoided it, reading something on his computer or watching Justin's television while Justin pottered around in the kitchen.

And there was still no fucking at all.

Justin said nothing about the way Brian was behaving. In between chopping and boiling and cooking, sometimes he'd join Brian on the sofa, or pay bills, or read a book.

On this particular night Brian swallowed his pride - it took some doing; his pride was considerable - and asked Justin if he needed any help.

Justin shrugged, not looking in the least bit surprised. "Sure!" he smiled brightly. "You any good with a knife?"

"Well I've never accidentally stabbed anyone with one."

"Always a good start," Justin grinned, taking a dangerous-looking knife out of a drawer and putting it by the cutting board. "You can be my chopper."

There were worse nicknames.

Justin would pass him vegetables, Brian would start chopping, then Justin would grab a handful and throw it into a wok. Seemed like some kind of stir fry was being produced tonight.

There was no denying that Brian was trying to put Justin in a good mood by helping him out. It was Justin's last day at Kinnetik tomorrow - he'd agreed to stay until the Friday, and the newest member of the Kinnetik team, Rebecca, would start on Monday - and they talked about that for a while. Going for a 'farewell to Kinnetik' drink Friday night after work, Justin's expectations and hopes about the gallery job he was starting on Monday. It was actually kind of interesting, although Brian was trying not to think about it too much.

Brian waited until they'd eaten and everything had been cleared away - and Justin was absolutely, definitely, nowhere near the dangerous-looking knife - before telling him.

"I met Daphne today."

Wiping the counter with a damp cloth, Justin's arm slowed down until it wasn't moving at all. Finally turning around, he frowned at Brian. "You Daphne? My best friend, Daphne?"

Brian nodded once. "Yeah."

Wringing the cloth in both hands briefly, Justin then tossed it into the sink. "So you...just bumped into her or something?" He was clearly looking for a simple explanation.

There really wasn't one. "Not exactly."

By now Justin had his arms folded across his chest. "What exactly do you mean by not exactly?"

"I mean that I had Cynthia find her telephone number, I called her, and we met up."

Justin's entire expression flattened. As did his voice. "Why would you do something like that?"

"Because I wanted to meet her," Brian replied honestly. "And..." This one was gonna go down like a lead balloon, but he believed what Daphne had told him - better now than Justin finding out later. "I wanted to know if she thought it'd be worthwhile for you to start talking to your mother again."

Brian hadn't thought it possible for Justin's expression to flatten out anymore than it had - but somehow it did.

And then it transformed into pure anger. "Jesus Christ, Brian!" he yelled, stepping towards him forcefully. "This is *my* life! And in my fucking life I get to decide if I forgive my down Goddamn mother!" Brushing by him, Justin stomped out of the kitchen until he reached the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.

The noise didn't echo much, but it was no less effective.

Groaning quietly, Brian moved into what passed as the living room and flopped down on the sofa. This was yet another reason who he didn't do relationships. Or hadn't done.


Hearing the door open again, Brian sat up and turned to see Justin thumping towards him.

"And another thing," Justin began, pausing by the sofa to glare down at him, "I cannot believe you! Going behind my back, conspiring with Daph, trying to get me to forgive-"

"Fuck that," Brian said, standing up. He'd take the knocks for what he did do, but he wasn't fucking taking responsibility for anything else. "This wasn't some planned, premeditated thing. I got Daphne's name-"

"How?" Justin demanded.

Yeah, this was gonna be fun. "Your mom."

Turning away, Justin threw up his hands. "And it gets better!"

"Don't be an asshole." Brian stepped around the sofa, following him. "I already told you she called before."

"About business," he retorted, whirling around.

"Yes, and today's call was too. Until the end," he admitted. "She asked how you were doing. We got talking, she mentioned Daphne - and. I don't know. Contacting her just seemed like a good idea."

Justin didn't seem impressed. "Why? So you could fix little fucked-up Justin's proble-"

Brian's frustration was in overdrive - the little fucker was more stubborn than he was. "I just want you fucking happy!"

The outburst took the wind out of both of their sails, they two of them staring at each other. Justin seemed surprised that he'd said it, and Brian was really fucking surprised that he'd said it.

Licking his lips, Justin managed to recover first. "Brian, I...I know you're a control freak and, really, you've been doing really fucking well adjusting to...whatever this is," he said, gesturing between them. "And I appreciate that you care about me, and want me to be happy," he smiled gently as he said it, obviously pleased at the idea. "But it's not your responsibility. My happiness is up to *me*."

Brian knew that he did have a tendency to take charge, to fix things - but that was usually because no one else did. Still... "Can I give you my opinion without you getting all drama queen on my ass?"

Justin squinted at him. "Oh, like you're one to talk."

He took that as a yes. "It is up to you," Brian said, "it is your responsibility. But I don't think you're doing everything you can."

"It's my decision," Justin reiterated.

"Yes," Brian agreed. "But you have to admit that you're biased."

"Like you're not?" Justin asked rhetorically. "You have your own issues. Not to mention that you have your dick up my ass every night and most mornings, too. You're hardly an impartial observer."

Justin had a point - up to a point. "But your mom didn't try to have *me* committed."

It was harsh, he knew that, but it seemed to hit its mark. Looking stunned for a moment, Justin eventually sighed, walked around Brian and threw himself down onto the sofa. "I'm thinking about it, okay?" he said quietly, looking away from him. "Don't think that I haven't been."

"All right," Brian said, sitting down next to him, because that was something. That said, he really wasn't really sure where to go from here. The argument seemed to have burnt itself out and...hmm, Justin seemed happier, turning to smirk at him slightly. "What?"

"You may be a little too controlling sometimes," Justin said, moving and sliding over until he was straddling Brian's lap. Brian didn't resist, cupping Justin's ass as Justin's arms went over his shoulders. Leaning closer, Justin breathed into his ear. "But you so care about me."

He was *not* feeling embarrassed. At all. "Little shit," he muttered as Justin started nibbling at his ear, because the truth was out and there was no way it could go back in now. Even if it made Brian uncomfortable.

Sighing, Justin drew back and regarded him. "I'm horny," he announced.

Brian moved a hand to Justin's groin. "I can feel that. We should argue more often."

Thrusting against Brian's hand, Justin closed his eyes. "Less arguing, more sex."

Brian had no problem with that, either.


Justin didn't ask anything else until they were sprawled out on the bed, gasping for breath.

"So," he rolled towards Brian, evening out his breathing, "what exactly did you and Daph talk about?"

Brian rolled his eyes. "Way to kill the mood, Sunshine."

"Just tell me already," he ordered, prodding Brian's leg with his foot.

Sighing, Brian leant on one side to face him, the sweat on his body cooling. "Your mom, mostly. What she was like back then." He paused, considering. "And the prom, a little. That she and Scott found you. That's about all I know."

Justin didn't tense up, but he didn't exactly look comfortable. Quietly sliding closer, Justin pulled the covers up and snuggled in next to Brian, tucking his head down.

Watching him, Brian put an arm around his waist, eventually sliding the hand up to play with his hair.

"I was so happy," Justin murmured. "The night of my prom, I was so happy."

He wasn't really surprised that Justin had spoken, and Brian just lay there, listening.

"Or so I've been told," Justin continued. "I don't remember. I don't remember any of it at all."


Justin called Daphne later that night.

He talked about the prom to Brian for a while, but remembering nothing himself he could only share details others had told him. Still, Justin was clearly restless afterwards and when he announced he should call Daphne, Brian didn't argue.

Giving him some privacy Brian elected to take a shower, but when he came out they were still talking. When he dried off and pulled on sweat pants and a shirt - Justin's place could get chillier than this - they were still talking. When he started going through some paperwork he'd brought with him from the office, they were still talking.

He only heard Justin's side of the conversation of course, and he repeatedly told himself not to pay attention even as he ruthlessly pretended to be busy when he was actually listening in. If he hadn't already known, it was clear just from how Justin was reacting that Daphne was a very old, very good friend.

Eventually Brian had to give up - his eyes were getting tired. Putting his work back in the folder, he left it on the coffee table and walked to the bathroom. After pissing, washing, and brushing his teeth, he emerged and caught Justin's attention, pointing to the bedroom. Justin barely nodded in response, still enthralled with the conversation he was having - Brian thought he heard something about female orgasms and *really* didn't want to know - and Brian walked into the bedroom, closing the door behind him to block out Justin's voice.

This was his life now, he thought as he got undressed and slipped beneath the covers. Going to bed alone, fuck-free, while the man he was fucking *dating* talked on the phone for hours on end with his fag hag.

Sighing, Brian rolled over and tried to go to sleep.

He was roused sometime later - he had no idea how long - by the feel of the bed dipping beside him, and Justin sliding in next to him.

Justin must've felt him move. "Hey."

"Hey." Brian splayed out of his back, letting Justin slip in to his usual spot. "How was your talk?"

"Good," Justin confessed. "We hadn't talked for a while - mostly my fault. I was deliberately not calling her because I was avoiding the whole 'oh, by the way I moved back home and didn't tell you' thing."

Brian closed his eyes, amused. "She wasn't happy, huh?"

"You could say that. But..." he paused to yawn, "she got over it."

Brian thought about what he knew of Daphne. "She seems the type who would."

"Yeah," Justin said. "She's a good friend. She's gonna come out for a drink with the rest of us tomorrow." Leaning closer, he pressed his feet against Brian's legs.

"Jesus!" Brian yelled, suddenly wide awake as he yanked away from him. "Your feet are fucking freezing!" They'd been nice and warm earlier, that was for fucking sure.

"Well they wouldn't be if you stayed there so I could warm up," Justin complained grumpily, half-heartedly pushing himself up. "Come back here."

Brian perched on the edge of the bed. "You're not fucking touching me with those again. Did you stick them in the freezer or something?"

"Yes, Brian, that's exactly what I did," he responded flatly. "Now stop being such a baby and take it like a man."

"I'm nobody's baby," he argued, although he did start moving back to the middle of the bed. "Don't touch me with them again until they warm up."

"Yeah, yeah," Justin dismissed, although he did as told and settled in against Brian, keeping his feet well away from Brian's legs.

For about a minute.

Brian had just started to drift off again when Justin spoke.

"My feet are coooold."

He complained in a whiny, annoying, disturbingly Mikey-like voice. Brian knew he shouldn't give in, that it'd only encourage further bad behaviour, but in the interest of peace - and actually getting some fucking sleep tonight - Brian surrendered. "Fine. But do not make a fucking habit out of this."

Kissing him soundly, Justin whispered his gratitude and slid his feet towards Brian's legs.

Bracing himself, Brian still winced when those fucking blocks of ice touched his skin, but he waited not-so-patiently as Justin tangled their legs together.

"Now go to sleep," Brian ordered, relaxing, aware of the - mostly - warm body pressed against his, the hair tickling his skin.

This was his life now.


Justin's last day at Kinnetik was strange for Brian. Justin hadn't been there long - and never as a permanent member of staff at all - so for the rest of the staff it wasn't a momentous occasion. A few of them were going out for drinks with him, but other than that Justin's impending departure was only marked by the fact that everyone kept stopping by at his desk to wish him well and good luck.

Brian had been in a foul mood all day. He'd effectively been ignoring what Justin leaving actually meant until now. No more convenient fucks whenever either one of them felt like it. No more passing Justin in the office, being greeted with a smile. No more walking into the art department to discuss something with Murphy and spying that blond head of hair bent over a desk.

Shit, maybe he was turning into a dyke.

He'd been alone in his office for hours - after telling Cynthia in no uncertain terms not to disturb him - when Ted carefully walked inside.

Brian noticed immediately, his head snapping up. "I thought I told Cynthia no visitors."

"You did, Bri," Ted agreed quickly. "But we figured you wouldn't mind. Seeing as it's Justin's last day, we all got together and got you a little something."

That made no fucking sense at all. "Justin's leaving so you got *me* something?"

"Exactly," Ted agreed, before backing out of the room entirely.

Completely fucking confused, Brian kept staring at the doorway until Justin was suddenly shoved into the room, the door closing behind him.

They stared at each other.

Brian's lips *may* have twitched. "So you're my gift." He didn't know whether to give them all raises, or fire everyone.

"More like your sacrificial lamb," Justin snorted, walking towards his desk. "Will you stop being an asshole already? I can't get any work done because they all keep coming up to me expecting me to do something about it."

"It's your last day," Brian rebutted. "It's tradition on your last day that you do fuck-all. And I'm not being an asshole."

Settling in to the empty chair, Justin stared across at him. "You made Jane in accounting cry."

"I did not," Brian insisted. "She has allergies."

"Yeah - she's allergic to you being an asshole."

He fought back a smile. "She should have thicker skin."

"She shouldn't have to have thicker skin," Justin said. "Look," he continued seriously, "I get it, okay? Ever since the bombing we've been trapped in this weird little bubble where it was just us. We spent most of our time together, barely seeing anyone else. It was comfortable. And now that's changing." Brian started to think up defences - he wasn't a lesbian, he was allowed to have bad days for no reason for fuck's sake - but he didn't need them. Justin just kept talking. "But you know, the gallery's really not that far away. And I have every intention of still fucking you. This doesn't change anything in the big picture. I see no reason why you can't drop me off in the morning, and maybe pick me up at night. Lunch together is certainly do-able."

Confused yet pleased, Brian leant back in his chair. "Have it all worked out, do you?"

"Pretty much," Justin nodded confidently.

"Do you actually need me for anything?"

Grinning, Justin leant forward, standing up and placing both hands flat on the desk. "I need you to fuck me."

Yes. "That can be arranged." There was no doubt his staff had thought this wouldn't happen - anyone who didn't like the idea most definitely wouldn't look, and there were no meetings scheduled right now.

"Right here," Justin said, indicating the table.

"That can also be arranged." Pushing himself to his feet, Brian grabbed Justin's head and yanked him closer, mouths crashing together. Hands moving to Justin's shoulders, Brian tried to tug him even closer. Laughing, Justin broke away from the kiss and that was when something crashed to the floor.

And then was when Brian realised Justin had actually pushed his stuff off the desk.

"What the fuck are you doing?" he demanded, kneeling by the mess on the floor to survey the damage.

"Clearing the desk," Justin said, like it was obvious.

"Some of this shit's expensive," Brian argued, picking up the one of a kind paperweight and - luckily - seeing no sign of damage.

Justin stared at it. "It's just a paperweight."

Jesus Christ. He was fucking a neophyte. "It's *Italian*."

Sighing, Justin put his hands on his hips. "Do you have any idea how much you're ruining the moment?"

Much to Brian's annoyance, he realised Justin was right. Where the fuck was his fuck 'em all attitude? He shouldn't give a shit about anything else; he should just fuck Justin hard and fast across his desk.

Standing up, Brian looked at him. Considered. Decided.

"Let me move the laptop."

Justin waited with something that approximated patience, and when Brian grabbed him and pushed him against the desk, he smiled at him. "I wouldn't have thrown your laptop on the floor, you know. I'm not suicidal."

"Better safe than sorry," Brian smirked, leaning in to kiss him as tugged Justin's shirt up.

It was familiar, but good - exposing Justin's body bit by bit, nipping at his skin, making him laugh. It seemed forever and no time at all until Brian was pushing inside, looking down at Justin's face as he fucked him. Smiling, Justin pulled him down for a kiss just as Brian angled his thrusts differently, hitting Justin's prostate.

Justin arched; Brian captured the groan with his mouth and just kept fucking him.

Neither one of them lasted particularly long - it was too good, too fast - but it was still so fucking worth it, tugging at Justin's cock, watching him come and losing himself inside him.

They didn't move for a good ten, fifteen seconds.

And then Justin spoke.

"This is really fucking uncomfortable."

Huffing out a laugh, Brian pulled out carefully, got rid of the condom, and helped him off the desk. Justin complained about his skin sticking to the surface, and Brian reminded him it'd been his idea as he led the way to the bathroom. When he'd had the baths revamped for Kinnetik, it'd been easy enough getting a shower that met his high specifications installed into his private bathroom. It wasn't as big as the shower at the loft, but it was enough. Definitely better than the thing that passed for a shower at Justin's place.

They'd used it a couple of times before and did so now, helping each other clean, wiping away the come and sweat.

"I will say this," Justin said, leaning against him, "I'll miss having a private shower at the gallery."

Brian smirked. "Don't think you'll have one, Sunshine?"

He shook his head - mostly to shake the water out. "Sadly it's not one of the perks."

"Well," Brian slid a slippery hand down Justin's back, resting at the top of his ass, "you can always come and use mine."

Smiling, Justin put both arms around Brian's neck and closed his eyes.

"I'll miss you too."


Woody's was the destination of choice for everyone that evening who wanted to say goodbye to Justin. They took over a couple of tables, most of the gang or office turning up at one point or another, even if they couldn't stay for long. Most of them didn't make a huge fuss about it, which Brian understood - they didn't really know Justin. Ted probably knew him the best; although when he thought about it Brian realised he hadn't really seen the two of them talk at the office much at all.

Deb popped over during her break from her shift at the diner, still adamant that Justin had saved her son's life and thus she should be there. She bought him a three drinks and kissed the side of his face - leaving a bright red lipstick mark behind (which Brian didn't tell him about for an amusing ten minutes) - before going back to work.

Michael couldn't make it at all, something they only discovered that when Brian's cell phone rang. Answering the call, he picked up his beer and moved to a quieter area of the bar. "Kinney."

"Brian, it's Ben."

That made him frown. "Everything okay?"

"Nothing serious," he assured him. "But I don't think Michael's going to be able to make it tonight."

"Is he sick?"

"Just tired," Ben said. "Ever since he's been released, some days he just gets...tired."

"I didn't know that." It made sense, though - Mikey was recovering from a major trauma.

"Well, it's not exactly public news. There are certain parties he doesn't want knowing."

Of course. "You mean Deb." She'd hover over him even more if she knew.

"I mean Deb," Ben agreed.

Brian shook his head. "You tell that little fucker to stop staying up late reading comics, okay?"

"I'll try," Ben replied, chuckling. "Is Justin there?"

"Sure, hang on." Lowering the phone, Brian walked the few feet towards Justin before holding out the phone towards him. "Para ti."

Confused, Justin nonetheless took it and held the phone up to his ear. "Hello? Oh, hi Ben," he said, smiling as he got out of his chair and walked over to where Brian had been standing earlier.

Sitting back down Brian took a healthy gulp of his drink, swallowing as he watched Cynthia put her coat on. "You going?"

"Have to see my mother before she goes to bed," she explained. He nodded, knowing she alternated nights with her brother. "Besides," she continued, standing up and pushing her chair towards the table, "it's not like I'm never going to see Justin again. In fact, I'd bet that - despite the fact he doesn't work there anymore - he's still going to be a semi-permanent fixture around the office."

Brian was very much aware of the other faces watching him. "It's a good thing you're not a gambling woman, Cynthia."

Rolling her eyes, Cynthia bid farewell to the others - at the moment that was just Ted and Emmett - and then turned away to leave, completely ignoring Brian. Pausing by Justin, who was still on the phone, she exchanged a stilted almost hug that wasn't quite a handshake either, and then she was out the door.

Turning back to face the others again, Brian saw that they were still watching him - and decided to take matters into his own hands. "So, Theodore," he began, "how long are you going to deny that you were responsible for that 9.5 appearing on my office door?"

"9.5?" Emmett asked. "As in...a mark out of ten?"

"That's right," Brian nodded. "Justin and I were...enjoying ourselves in my office," he smirked, "and when we came out of the shower after-"

"You have a shower in your *office*?" He sounded impressed. And jealous.

"I do. But like I was saying, when we came out of the shower afterwards, someone had stuck a piece of paper on the door with 9.5 on it."

Emmett tipped his head, thinking about it. "Handwriting?"


"Clever," Em said, admiration strong in his voice.

"Not really," Brian shrugged, bullshitting. "I can get my IT department to look at the history of exactly who printed what when. It might take a little while but-"

"It was me," Ted admitted. "I was really a group effort, but I'm the one who stuck it there. Frankly, I think everyone else was too frightened to risk seeing what was going on inside your office."

Victory was sweet. "Thank you for telling the truth, Theodore. Now, there's only one thing I want to know," he leant forward, meeting his gaze, "why the fuck didn't we get a ten?"

"Hey." Justin had arrived back, sitting down next to Brian and handing back his phone.

"Everything okay?" Brian asked, taking it and clipping it on to his belt for security.

"Yeah," Justin smiled. "Michael just wanted to apologise personally. So, what did I miss?"

"Well, I was just asking Theodore here," he gestured towards Ted, "why we didn't get a ten."

Justin looked towards Ted. "So it *was* you?"

He shrugged. "Like I said to Brian, it was really more a group effort..."

"Hi!" a new voice yelled, and they all turned to look.

Finally, Daphne had arrived.

"You're late," Justin admonished even as he grinned and got up, stepping towards her.

"I know, I know, I'm sorry," she said, hugging him. "But it totally wasn't my fault. I was horny."

Justin seemed to consider that. "Daph?"


"Am I hugging you when you've just had sex?"

"Pretty much."

Yanking away from her, Justin dropped his arms.

"Oh stop pretending like you're grossed out," she said, taking off her jacket and throwing it over the back of an empty chair. "It's not like you don't know what it's like."

That little tidbit piqued Brian's curiousity. "Sunshine?" he asked with deceptive innocence after Daphne had been introduced and walked off to get a drink. "Did you take a dip in the het end of the pool?"

Snorting, Justin sat back down next to him. "It was certainly moist enough."

Ted and Emmett both made a face.

"Well," Emmett said, pushing his drink away, "and I'm done."

"Come on, Brian," Ted continued. "It's not like you've never..."

Surprised, Justin turned towards him. "You've slept with a woman?"

"Linds," he shrugged.

Frowning, Justin picked up his drink. "Was that how you got Gus?"

"Christ, no," he shook his head. "Mel would've ripped my dick off. It was years ago, in college. I knew I was gay, she knew she was a dyke, but we figured we'd try it out."

"And it went so well," Ted said, "that you sucked cock and she ate pussy for the rest of your lives."

It hadn't exactly been fabulous. "Let's just say I'm glad I'm aware of my true path."

"You and me both," Justin grinned, leaning towards him. Smirking, Brian met the kiss eagerly, thumping his beer down on the table as he deepened it, pulling Justin closer.

"No fair," Daphne complained as she slumped down on Justin's other side. "You could've at least waited until I got back."

Pulling away, Brian pursed his lips at her. "You like to watch?"

"Sure," she grinned. "Speaking of which," she looked between them, "what're you two doing later tonight?"


Daphne didn't watch them fuck but she did demand to see Justin's place, telling him in no uncertain terms that because he'd failed to mention the whole moving back to Pittsburgh thing, he had to do everything she wanted for at least a week.

The three of them arrived at Justin’s; Daph showed no shock whatsoever at the unpacked boxes, and then Justin broke out the pot. The three of them got happily stoned, talking about everything and nothing at all, and Brian thought Justin looked really fucking pretty when he laughed.

At some point he really needed to piss, so he got up from the sofa.

Two hours later he woke up in bed, still really needing to piss. Rubbing at his eyes he stumbled out of bed, pulling the door open further.

"You really like Brian, don't you?"

Freezing for a moment, Brian considered a course of action. His brain was still largely jelly, though, so he went with the first thing that came to mind. Closing the door until it was only partially open, Brian stood there and eavesdropped.

"Yeah. He's a good guy."

"And hot!" Daphne pointed out, making him smirk.

"That goes without saying," Justin said, sounding smug. "The sex is..."

"That good, huh?"

Justin laughed quietly. "You wouldn't fucking believe it. And even when sometimes it technically might not be very good," that made Brian frown, "like today - we fucked on his desk at work and it was really fucking uncomfortable. But it was still good because it was *him*, you know?"

Brian knew exactly what he fucking meant.

"Shit, Justin," Daphne said, with something that might've been awe. "Does he know you're in love with him?"

"I told him," he admitted, sounding so fucking happy. "I told him I was falling in love with him, and about Mom, and the prom, and my fucking freak outs - and he *saw* me freak out, and he just held me, Daph - and he's still here. He's still fucking here."

"Oh, Justin..."

Brian's chest was tight, his throat was sore, and he still had to piss like a racehorse. Closing his eyes for a few seconds, he opened them back up and opened the door, stepping out. He saw them jerk around from the corner of his eye as soon as they realised he was there, but Brian pretended to ignore them, heading straight for the bathroom.

Relieving - shit, it really was relieving - his very fully bladder, Brian washed his hands and rinsed his face, then went about cleaning his teeth. By the time he emerged from the bathroom most of the lights in the apartment were off and, surprised, he turned out the bathroom light and walked to the bedroom (he was getting good at avoiding boxes of crap in the dark).

When he reached the bedroom he found Justin inside, stripping out of his clothes. Brian closed the door and started doing the same. "Hey."

"Hey," Justin smiled, letting his pants fall to a pile on the floor. "Daph's spending the night on the sofa."

"Sure," Brian shrugged, folding his clothes up, even if they were wrinkled as shit by now. Putting them in their usual place - on top of a box against the wall - he watched as Justin, clad only in his underwear, left to use the bathroom. It was only a few minutes until he returned, and by then Brian was naked and in bed.

Smiling at him, Justin pulled off his underwear and climbed in next to him, reaching out to turn off the lamp next to the bed. Neither one of them had sleep on their mind as they rubbed and kissed and moved against each other. Rolling Justin onto his front, Brian slowly kissed his way down his back. When he reached his ass Justin thrust it up towards him, and Brian laughed huskily before giving him what he wanted.

He tasted him lightly at first, teasing, but then Justin groaned for more and Brian thought of what Justin told Daphne and thrust his tongue as far as it could go. He made Justin whimper and cry and plead, and when Brian finally fucked him, finally pushed inside from behind, he felt like doing exactly the same.

"Brian," Justin gasped, a hand coming back to clutch at his thigh, urging him on.

Brian closed his eyes and just felt him; felt Justin all around him. "Yeah," he whispered, his hand sliding down to meet Justin's on the bed. "Yeah."


When Brian woke the next morning, Justin was lying on his side watching him.

"Hey," Justin greeted, smiling.

Brian smiled back. "You realise that's completely fucking creepy, right?"

"Nah," Justin scrunched up his nose. "You're hot. Why *wouldn't* I be watching you?"

It was hard to argue with that kind of logic. "Hmm, I suppose I can see your point." Shifting closer he pushed Justin onto his back, rolling on top of him. Brian kissed him, right hand sliding down Justin's side, cupping under a thigh and lifting it up. Brian was a big fan of actual fucking, but this was hot too - rocking against Justin until their dicks hardened, kissing him open-mouthed. He didn't even fucking mind morning breath, especially when Justin moved his leg further himself, wrapping it around Brian's side, pulling him closer, heel digging into Brian's ass. Justin may have been a short little fucker, but he had surprisingly powerful legs.

It got hotter, faster, Justin's other leg joining the first, Brian's hands slipping into Justin's hair as they kissed and rocked their way to orgasm.

Justin came first but it only took Brian a few more thrusts, grunting and shaking before collapsing on top of him. Justin kept kissing him in random places - oh his chin, his ear - until their breathing evened out. Eventually rolling off, Brian lay on his back and listened to Justin sigh.

"God," Justin said happily, "I fucking love weekends."

As much as he enjoyed his work, Brian had a preference for them himself. But - first things first. Before he could pick up Gus, he should probably get the come cleaned off. "Shower," he said, throwing back the covers and getting out of bed. It was chilly, but he could face it for the short walk to the bathroom.

Pausing momentarily, he glanced back at the bed to see Justin pulling the covers tighter around him. "You're insane," Justin muttered, delving further under the covers until the only part of him Brian could see was a shock of blond hair sticking out near the pillows. Smirking, he opened the bedroom door and realised Daphne was still there.

Mostly because she was staring at him.

It was hard to tell what she was most fascinated with - his dick or the come smeared across his abdomen - but Brian just shrugged a greeting, closed the door behind him, and walked into the bathroom.

After an invigorating - and very warm - shower, Brian finished up in the bathroom. It seemed pointless trying to hide the goods now, so he strode out just as naked as before, still using the towel to dry his hair.

Besides, he liked Daphne. He might as well give her something nice to start the day.

Back in the bedroom, Justin's head stuck out from beneath the covers, watching as Brian checked for and wiped off any remaining water. "Did you walk in here naked?"

"I walked out of here naked, too," Brian replied, finding nothing and lobbing the towel towards Justin.

Justin ducked it. "You know Daph's-"

"Yes, I was made aware of that fact." Taking his underwear and a pair of jeans out of the chest of drawers, Brian started getting dressed. Generally he didn't like folding clothes - he preferred to hang them - but Justin was a disorganised little shit so Brian did what he could. By the time he found a shirt that didn't have obvious fold lines, Justin was out of bed and wiping his chest clean with the towel. A few moments later he left the bedroom, the towel wrapped around his waist, no doubt to have his own shower.

When Brian came out of the bedroom again, Daphne had found the coffee and started the machine.

"Hi," she greeted. "You want some when it's done?" She didn't look at all embarrassed by the fact that she'd seen him naked, covered in her best friends come.

Yeah, he definitely liked her. "Sure."

When it was ready and their drinks were poured, they found themselves sitting on the sofa; Daphne at one end, Brian on the other. There was a neatly folded pile of what looked like three blankets sitting on the coffee table - no doubt what'd been used to keep her warm last night.

Behind them, Brian heard Justin leave the bathroom and walk into the bedroom.

"So," he began, because if there was one thing guaranteed to get fags and straight women alike to talk, it was this, "tell me about the guy you're fucking."

Brian heard more about 'Kevin' than he ever wanted to as she babbled on, but it was weirdly endearing. It reminded him of the way Justin acted sometimes, and he wondered if it was something Justin did more around his best friend.

A few minutes later the man in question appeared fully dressed, kneeling down by Brian to steal a sip of his coffee. Or at least he attempted to.

"Hey," Brian warned, "none of that shit." He'd put up with frozen feet the other night - he wasn't putting up with sharing drinks, too.

"Fine, fine," Justin pretended to grumble, then got up and set about getting his own coffee. "So hey, Daph," he announced from the kitchen, turning to look at her, "you sleep okay?"

"Fine," she nodded.

"Warm enough?"

"Definitely," she smiled. "But that could be because I kept my clothes on."

Chuckling, he put his coffee on the counter. "What do you want for breakfast? We have toast or..." he opened the fridge door, taking the milk out and shaking it. "Toast. Not enough milk." Turning, he poured what was left of the milk into his coffee, before throwing the carton into the trash and closing the fridge door.

"Uh, yeah," Daph grinned impishly, "we noticed that already."

Justin stuck his tongue out at her.

"We have milk at my place," Brian pointed out.

"Only because I bought it," Justin retorted, before continuing good-naturedly, "besides, that doesn't really help us right now, does it?"

Several rounds of toast later, all three of them were on the sofa.

"So what are you guys doing today?" Daphne asked.

Justin looked at Brian. "Gus?" Brian nodded. Nodding too, Justin turned back to Daphne. "Saturday's are Brian's day with his son, so-"

"You have a son?" Daphne sat up straighter, completely ignoring Justin.

Brian lifted his eyebrows, surprised that Justin hadn't told her that yet. "Yeah."

"How old is he?"

"Five, just about."

"How did you get him? Is he the result of a previous relationship? Did you think you were straight? Or!" she continued, amusing the fuck out of Brian, "you and your former partner wanted a kid so you arranged a surrogate and-"

"One of my best friends wanted a kid," he interrupted, because he was getting the feeling she'd never stop. "I jerked off in a cup, voila. Gus lives with his mommies."

"Oh," she slumped back against the sofa, sounding disappointed, before sitting up again. "Is there some kind of custody battle? Is that why Saturday is your 'day with your son'? Do-"

Christ, she was worse than Emmett. "Jesus Christ, no. I'm not cut out to be a full-time dad, but I do wanna spend time with the kid. I don't only see him on Saturday's, but it's a good day to spend a lot of time with him. The last few weekends, Justin has been coming along."

Grinning hugely, Daphne nodded. "Of course he has."

"Daph..." Justin warned - he'd stayed strangely silent until now.

Brian didn't like the look she was giving him. "What does that mean?"

Justin spoke again. "Nothing - right, Daph?"

"Uh..." she looked between the two of them. "Right. Nothing. I was just teasing. So! Can I meet him?"

He was quickly discovering that Daphne took some getting used to. "Gus? Sure, I guess so. I should probably leave soon," he said, glancing at the time.

"I'll go use the bathroom," she announced happily, getting up and walking around the coffee table.

Brian waited until he heard the bathroom door shut before saying anything. "Nice save."

"Sorry?" Justin asked innocently.

"'Of course he has'," Brian mimicked in a falsetto. "I got what she was saying."

"Oh?" Justin continued airily. "And what was that?"

Brian glared at him. "Stop being deliberately obtuse."

"Okay," Justin sighed dramatically, "I guess she was saying that you're nuts about me. That you can't *bear* to be apart from me. Both facts that-Brian!"

He grabbed Justin's legs, swinging them up and dragging him along the sofa. "You little shit."

"Little shit you can't live without," Justin argued, even as the back of his head hit the sofa cushions and his legs were parted so Brian could get between them. "Hmm, kinky."

"Thought you didn't like handcuffs," Brian teased, leaning down to kiss him.

Justin kissed him back eagerly as they mock-fought for dominance, Brian holding Justin's wrists down, Justin's legs wrapping around his waist.

"Let me go," Justin breathed between kisses, "or I'll squeeze you so hard your balls'll pop off."

"Wow," Daphne said, making them pause, "you guys really don't get enough, do you?"

Brian grinned down at Justin. "No such thing as enough."


Brian had to stop off at the loft to pick up the car seat for Gus; the one he'd bought the other week after doing his research - it was supposed to be the safest model available.

Daphne, of course, asked if she could come up and take a look around, and Brian saw no reason not to let her. Besides, though he'd never admit it, he did always feel a buzz of pride when someone new saw his place.

"Oh my God," Daphne said, clearly impressed, standing in the middle of the loft and turning in a circle. "This place is amazing, Brian." Stepping up into the bedroom, she yelled out, "I like the bed!" Quickly moving on, she exclaimed over something in the bathroom.

Still standing near the loft door, Brian lifted his eyebrows towards Justin.

"What?" Justin asked. "You have to deal with Debbie all the time - don't tell me you can't handle Daph."

Good point.

At the moment he was keeping the car seat by the full-length mirror - he'd have to find a better storage space for it - and he picked it up easily. "Okay, Chanders, let's go." While he waited he took the opportunity to check his messages, but he didn't have any.

When they parked outside Mel and Linds', he unbuckled his seat belt and turned towards them. "Okay, the two of you stay here. If you come in the munchers'll wanna do drinks and talk and shit, and we'll never get the fuck out of there." When they nodded in response, he got out of the Jeep.

Gus was happy to see him, as always - he fucking hoped it stayed that way - and he was completely fascinated with Daphne when he met her, asking her all kinds of questions as Brian put him into his car seat. When it was safely secured Brian put Gus' soccer ball into the trunk - next to his own dirty clothes that he'd brought with him in a bag from Justin's - and then climbed into the drivers seat, buckled his seat belt, and adjusted the rear view mirror.

And when he saw Gus and Daphne reflected back at him, he had another one of those moments.

He was driving a car that had his son and his nearest thing to a boyfriend's best friend in the back seat, with his nearest thing to a boyfriend sitting next to him.

When the fuck did that happen?

"Hey," Justin said, snapping him out of it. Watching him. "You okay?"

Starting the engine, Brian checked for traffic. "Just needed some adjusting," he said, and pulled out onto the road.


Daphne lived in a pretty nice part of town, and it was that thought that made him realise he still didn't know what the fuck she did.

Thanking Brian effusively for the ride home, Daphne said goodbye to an exuberant Gus (Brian was beginning to suspect the kid was straight), and then asked to have a private word with Justin. Brian watched the two of them on the sidewalk, talking animatedly as he asked Gus how school had been yesterday. Gus rattled on about something he made as Brian tried to lip read.

"...and I drew a picture of me and Mommy and Mama and you and Justin."

Blinking, Brian forgot all about Justin and Daphne as he turned in his seat, pulling against his seat belt to look at Gus. "Why'd you draw that, Gus?"

"I *told* you," Gus complained, and Brian felt guilty that he hadn't been paying attention. "We drawed our families."

"Drew, Gus. Not drawed. You know that. And you consider Justin part of your family?"

He shrugged innocently. "You love him and he loves you. Is he my other daddy now?"

Jesus fucking Christ. Brian's palms were sweating. "I think that's something you need to discuss with Justin and your mommies."

"Oh," Gus said, sounding disappointed.

Brian swallowed, not sure if he wanted to ask the next question. "Gus, what makes you think we..." fuck, no, he couldn't say it, " about each other?"

Gus wrinkled his nose. "You kiss *all* the time, like Mommy and Momma. 'Cept when they were fighting." He stopped, getting quiet. "I'm glad they stopped."

There was some relief in learning that Gus automatically associated kissing with love, but mostly Brian felt concern and he unbuckled his seat belt so he could lean around even further, ruffling Gus' hair and smiling at him. "Me too, kiddo."

Gus beamed.

Just then the passenger-side door opened and Justin climbed in, shutting the door behind him. He still looked kind of tense but not as pissed off as he'd obviously been at Daphne earlier; Brian had even spied a hug between them as he'd been reaching around to Gus.

Brian put his seat belt back on, suspecting Daphne had been giving Justin some advice about his mother. "Everything okay?"

"Fine," Justin replied too-happily, pulling his own seat belt on.

"Justin," Gus said, "are you my other daddy?"

Okay, this was actually vaguely entertaining.

Stunned, eyes wide, Justin turned to look at Gus, then Brian, then Gus again. "What the fu-heck were you talking about while I was gone?"

Brian smirked at him. "Seems Gus drew a picture of his family - you included. Wanted to know if you were his other daddy." Justin's eyes widened even more.

"Daddy told me to ask you!" Gus announced happily.

"Hey," Brian warned, looking at him. "I said that you should *discuss* it with Justin and your mommies. There's a difference."

Gus pouted. Brian rolled his eyes.

Justin spoke, bullshitting magnificently. "Well, Gus, I'm really not sure. I certainly like you a lot, and," he grinned across at Brian, "I like your daddy a lot, too. But being your other daddy is a big deal - it's not just up to me. Anyway, I have it on good authority that I have to know you for at least a month before I can even be considered for the role of your other daddy."


"Absolutely," Justin said seriously. "And it hasn't been a month yet, so we'll have to wait and see."

Gus actually seemed content with that for now, but Justin hadn't actually solved the problem - just bought himself a little more time. In just over a week it'd be a month since Brian and Justin had met.

Since the night of the bombing.

Sometimes it felt like endless weeks or no time at all.

Gus was hungry, so they stopped off at the diner where Deb fussed over all three of them. Brian made sure Gus'd had time to digest his food before letting him loose at the park, the three of them kicking and throwing Gus' ball between them. Justin claimed he'd never been any good at sports but seemed to do fine playing the level of 'sport' required to entertain a five-year-old. Gus was obviously enjoying himself, laughing and yelling for the ball whenever he didn't have it, telling Justin to tickle his daddy whenever Brian had the ball - something Justin was only too happy to do. More often than not they'd end up tickling each other on the ground, battling for dominance. Gus would rush over and cheer them on, and Brian had grass stains on his designer jeans and had never laughed so much in his whole fucking life.

Eventually they pleaded for mercy - neither one of them had the energy level of a five-year-old - and they collapsed on a bench they could watch Gus from as he rushed off to play with a group of kids.

"Geez," Justin panted, "that was more strenuous than a session with you."

"Fuck off," Brian grinned; watching his son and trying to get his breathing back to normal. Since talking more Gus'd turned into some kind of kiddie social butterfly - he made friends easily and quickly. Brian didn't know where the fuck he got it from, but it certainly wasn't from him or Mel.

"So," Justin said eventually, "his other daddy?"

He'd known it was coming - he'd just hoped he could put it off for longer. "It was Gus' idea," he pointed out, highlighting his own innocence as he watched Gus running around.

"Jesus Christ, I'm not ready to be a dad!" Justin exclaimed, leaning against him. "I'm only twenty-four."

What a drama queen. "Hate to break it to you, Sunshine, but plenty of people have kids by the time they're your age."

"But they're not *me*," Justin pointed out, and Brian didn't know what the hell kind of argument that was. "Honestly, I don't think I even want kids. They tend to irritate me." Ah, something they had in common. "Don't get me wrong - I love Gus. And most kids - short term - are okay. But I'm very, very glad we can give him back to Mel and Linds at the end of the day. Besides, I'm kind of screwed up because of the bashing and...all that shit. I don't think it'd be fair to subject a kid to that full time."

Surprised, Brian looked at him. "But isn't that letting the asshole who bashed you win? Not having kids because you think you're too screwed up because of what he did? Shit, we're all screwed up."

"Maybe, but most people don't have crying or laughing fits when they don't have enough sleep or get stressed out. You've gotta admit that's different from the kind of screwed up most people are."

"So..." Brian arched his eyebrows. "Your screwed up is more screwed up than most people's screwed up."

"It's not a competition," Justin rolled his eyes. "It just is. And I don't fucking want kids anyway, so it's a moot point."

If that was really true then okay, but... "You shouldn't deny yourself something you might want just because of what that fucker did. It might sound fucking crazy, but if anything happened to Mel and Linds and - God forbid - me, I wouldn't mind you raising Gus. Well," he reconsidered, "I would mind, because I'd be *dead*, but - I'd be satisfied. Maybe."

Justin stared at him in absolute shock.

Swallowing, Brian looked away to check on Gus. Still playing.

"Holy shit, Brian. That *is* fucking crazy."

He knew it was. Not even a month. He must have been out of his fucking mind. "Yeah, well." Not much he could say after that. Now he kind of regretted saying it at all. Maybe he should ask Mikey if there was anything in his comics about how to turn back time.

They both just say there, watching Gus play. Brian trying to forget he'd ever said anything, and Justin thinking whatever the fuck it was he was thinking.

Sometime later, Justin shifted against him. "You know what else is fucking crazy?"

Did he really want to hear this? "What?" Apparently so.

"I'd do it."

Brian didn't look at him, eyes still focused on his son, but his lips twitched. "Thought you didn't like kids." This was easier to talk about when he wasn't actually looking at him.

"Yeah, but Gus is *your* kid. He's so much cooler than other kids. He gets special dispensation."

He chuckled quietly. Still, if Justin actually meant what he said about not wanting kids... "Yeah, well. Only if you wanted to. You shouldn't feel obliga-"

"Brian?" he interrupted quietly.


"Shut the fuck up."

He would've been offended, but shutting up meant no more talking and he was very happy with that idea.

Both of them were quiet for the rest of the day. It was awkward but Brian didn't know what the fuck to say; he only knew he should never have brought the subject up in the first place.

After dinner they took Gus back to the munchers - where he promptly asked Mel and Linds if Justin could be his other daddy after a month. Brian avoided every stuttered word and amazed glance shot his way, and was out of there as soon as he agreed to stop by tomorrow morning for some fucking reason. By himself. Linds looked worried about getting him to agree but he didn't know why - he was always fucking there when she needed him.

At the loft they were still quiet; Brian hiding out in the bedroom - because that was what it fucking was, fucking coward - while Justin watched something on TV.

Being reduced to hiding in his own fucking bedroom was the final straw and Brian stomped towards the sofa, standing in front and looking down at Justin. Facing it like a man. "I'm freaking out." And he was. He fucking was.

Surprised, Justin muted the TV. "Yeah," he said carefully. "I figured."

Playing the 'happy family' in the car, fucking telling Justin he wouldn't mind if he raised Gus. Jesus fucking Christ. Sometimes that shit seemed...okay. And sometimes he really couldn't handle it. "I'll get over it."

"I know," Justin nodded.


His piece said, Brian went back to the bedroom. A few minutes later Justin joined him, and they stayed there for the rest of the night.


Sunday morning, Brian dropped Justin off at his apartment.

"Sure you don't wanna come up?" Justin offered.

Brian shook his head, smirking. "If I do I'll never make it to Linds'."

Grinning, Justin leant through the open window to kiss him. "Talk to you soon." He started pulling away.

"Look," Brian said, making him pause, "if I don't talk to you later...good luck tomorrow."

Grinning hugely, Justin kissed him again. "Thanks. *See* you soon," he emphasised this time, still grinning as he walked towards his apartment building.

Brian watched his ass for as long as possible - even using the reflection in the side-view mirror - before pulling away.

When he got to the munchers, Mikey was there. Surprised, he greeted his friend with a kiss, and when Mel offered him a drink he was instantly suspicious.

Turned out he was fucking right to be.

Mel and Linds made a very nice speech about how America was going to shit, about how because of the bombing it wasn't safe anymore and they needed to do what they could to protect their children. Brian'd known it was coming, somewhere, but his brain was stopping him from seeing the truth of it - from actually realising - until they said the words.

They wanted to move to Canada. Taking the kids with them.

Taking *his* kid with them.


Mikey said yes. Mikey actually said yes.

Brian sat on his stupid fucking little chair, listening to his best friend say that he'd let Mel and Linds take JR away from him.

He hadn't counted on that at all. The girls had made it clear - if either father objected, they wouldn't move away. Brian hadn't thought for a single second that Mikey would agree; he'd been expecting him to object, loudly. But when he gave in it was up to Brian, now, to make it clear that there was no fucking way he was letting his kid move away.

And he had fucking problem admitting that.


Mel started ranting, calling him a selfish bastard - something she hadn't done for a while. Clearly she was falling back on old habits. It was almost funny - he could've been stuck in the middle of any conversation he'd had with her five years ago.

"This is fucking typical," she continued, pacing. "Always thinking of yourself, never putting your son first-"

"I *am* putting my son first," he argued, standing up. "By making sure his family stays together - *all* his family. You really think taking him away from here is gonna make him happy? Shit, do you think taking him and JR away from Deb is gonna make *her* happy? Taking away her Grandkids? This family doesn't consist of just the two of you."

"Brian," Linds said quietly, "please, don't be-"

"Unreasonable?" he suggested, swinging around to face her. "You know what *I* find unreasonable? All those touching little chats we've had since the bombing, Linds. Remember those? You telling me that you and Mel were back together, Gus asking about Justin - and you never even gave the slightest fucking hint that all the time you were thinking about moving my kid to another country!"

"Oh please," Mel spat, "Canada's hardly-"

"No," he interrupted, facing her. "No. You asked for an answer, I gave you one. No." He held her gaze, stared her down until he was absolutely fucking sure she understood that he meant it. "You have my answer. That's all I have to say on the subject."

Ignoring everyone, he ran out of the living room and up the stairs, searching for his son. Finding Gus in bedroom, playing with toy cars on his bed (mostly smashing them into each other in 'slow motion'), Brian let out a breath and sat on the edge of the mattress. "Hey, Sonny Boy."

Gus didn't look at him. "You were shouting."

He swallowed, feeling bad. There weren't many people who could actually make him feel guilty, but Gus was definitely one of them. "Yeah, I was. But it was nothing you did, okay? Grown ups can just be fu-really stupid sometimes."

"So you shout."

"Yeah," Brian said, lifting a hand and rubbing it slowly across Gus' head. "But I'll try not to do it if it upsets you, okay?"

Nodding, Gus just kept playing with the cars.

He couldn't imagine not being able to come over and see Gus whenever he wanted. The munchers had talked about Toronto and while, in truth, it wasn't that far away, there was a world of different between an eight-minute car ride and any kind of plane journey.

Leaning closer, Brian kissed the top of his head. "I have to get going but I'll see you soon, okay, Sonny Boy?"

"Okay, Daddy," Gus replied, never looking up from his toys. "Love you," he added, part of their routine, as another car flipped over.

"Love you, too," he replied, closing his eyes as he kissed the top of his head again. Somewhat calmer, now, he left Gus' room and walked back downstairs.

As he expected they were waiting for him. The girls started talking right away but Mikey, at least, kept silent. Brian simply ignored them, grabbing his jacket from a hook on the wall and walking out the door. Just as he left, he caught the sound of JR's wails echoing through the baby monitor in the living room.

He made it to Justin's in record time.

Letting himself in the building - he'd known the access code for a while now - Brian wasn't willing to wait for the elevator, instead jogging up the three flights of stairs to Justin's floor. Reaching it quickly he was still breathing heavily as he walked towards Justin's apartment, banging loudly on the door as soon as he got there.

"Okay, okay," a muffled voice replied when he knocked a second time. "Just a...Brian?" Justin asked, obviously looking through the security peep hole. There were the sounds of the door being unlocked and then Justin was swinging it open, frowning at him with concern. "Is everything okay?"

"They wanna take him," Brian said. "Mel and Linds. They wanna move to Canada, and they wanna take Gus with them."

Justin stared at him. "Holy shit." Snapping out of it he tugged Brian inside, closed the door behind them, and sat down next to him on the sofa. "Tell me everything. Every last word."

Brian did.

"It's no secret I never wanted kids," he said after his story was done. "After the childhood I had...fuck, it just wasn't a possibility. But then Lindsay sweet talked me into it. I was just supposed to be the sperm donor - that was all - and then he was born, and I held him and it..."

"Changed everything," Justin said with a small smile.

"He was *real*," Brian explained. "I never expected to care about him as much as I do. Fought against it of course," he snorted. "Spent time with him, but nowhere near as much as I do now." He let out a breath. "And then I was diagnosed with cancer."

Justin nodded with fresh comprehension. "Changed everything again."

"New priorities," Brian shrugged. "Gus." He paused, considering, not looking at Justin. "And...this thing with you. I doubt it ever would've fucking happened before."

A hand found one of his and stayed there. "Well," Justin said, "I can't say I'm glad you had cancer. But I am glad we're doing whatever the fuck it is we're doing."

Chuckling, Brian closed his eyes and tipped his head back, resting it against the sofa. This whole day was fucked already and it wasn't even noon. He just wanted to climb back into bed with Justin and pretend that he hadn't woken up.

"What about your rights?" Justin asked. "I mean, if you're his father..."

"I signed them away," he growled, his left temple starting to throb. "Gave them to Mel. Didn't at first, didn't just wanna give my kid away, but then she and Linds were having problems and I offered it as an 'added incentive' to help get them back together." At the time he thought he was doing the right thing - now he couldn't help but think he'd made the biggest fucking mistake of his life.

"Well," Justin sighed, "I know I don't know them very well - we've only met a few times - but neither Mel or Linds seem unreasonable. I get their fear, but running away like this won't solve anything. Is that the kind of example they want to set for Gus and JR? Turning tail and running is exactly what those fuckers want."

If Brian had been capable of telling anyone he was in love with them, he might have done it just then. "Shit, I want to fuck you."

Surprised, Justin laughed out loud. "That can certainly be arranged. Maybe I'll even get my dildo out this time."

Brian knew he was avoiding the subject, fucking instead of thinking, but right now he needed that. In the bedroom he kissed Justin's body, opening him up carefully. It was amazing, watching that huge, black dildo disappear into Justin's ass, hearing him plead for more. Watching him beg, knowing Justin was giving up control so that Brian could have some. He didn't know what the fuck he'd ever done to deserve Justin, but he did everything he could to make him feel good, everything he knew. When Justin came the first time he cried out, his ass contracting around the dildo. When Justin came the second time Brian was inside him, thrusting against his prostate as hard and as fast as possible, tugging at his dick.

When Justin came the second time, he screamed.

After Brian got rid of the condom, Justin sprawled out on top of him.

"You've killed both my cock and my ass," he murmured. "They may never work again. You will now be my body pillow for the rest of my life."

Still catching his breath, Brian closed his eyes and smiled, resting an arm around Justin's waist. "No other use for me?"

"Well," Justin shrugged, talking into Brian's shoulder, "if my ass recovers I may fuck myself on your dick from time to time."

"Ah, so now I'm a glorified dildo."

"Exactly." Somehow snuggling closer, Justin sighed. "Think I'll sleep now."

Brian rubbed his back. "Do what you gotta." He was content enough, having a hot, naked blond sprawled all over him. He could put up with this.


"Thought you were sleeping?" Justin never stopped talking.

"If anything happens, you know I'll support you, right?"

He'd been trying not to think about that, not consider worst case scenarios - but he was just kidding himself. He was always thinking about them. Brian didn't know if he a stood a chance in hell of winning should the worst happen, but he knew without a doubt that he'd do everything he fucking could to make sure they didn't move his kid away.



Brian's cell phone was ringing.

Justin was still lying on top of him, and there was no way Brian was fucking moving.

Shifting on top of him, Justin groaned. "I'm not fucking moving."

Closing his eyes, Brian went back to sleep.


When he finally got up because he had to piss - he knew better than to sleep during the day, dammit; now his sleep patterns were gonna be fucked - Brian aimed with one hand and checked his voice mail with the other.

"Brian, it's Linds. Can you give me a call back? I tried calling every number of yours I could think off. I stopped by at the loft; even the office. Are you at Justin's? I tried to find out where he lives, but I guess because he's so new to the area...anyway, I really need to talk to you. Please? I know we fucked up."

Flushing the toilet and washing his hands, he picked the phone back up and called Linds' cell (he had no intention of accidentally talking to Mel right now if he could help it).


Resting the phone between his face and his shoulder, Brian made sure his hands had been dried properly. "If you just want to talk to me to try to convince me to be 'reasonable', I'll hang up right now."

"No!" she insisted. "No, Brian. Listen...can I talk to you in person about this?"

He hesitated. "If you're planning on ambushing me with Mel-"

"No, Brian," Linds argued. "I wouldn't do that. I swear on Gus' life."

That he believed. Giving her Justin's address, Brian ended the call. "You should probably get dressed," he said as he strode back into the bedroom. "Unless you want Linds to see your cock."


When she arrived it was late afternoon, and there was an ambush of a different kind. When Brian swung open the door, Linds wasn't alone.


Brian looked at them, only partially impressed. "You realise that I know that this is a blatant manipulation on your part to try and make me forgive you?"

Linds spoke airily, half-teasing, half-cautious. "Is it working?"

Sighing, Brian bent down to pick up his son. "Sonny Boy! Two visits in one day." Turning away from Linds, he walked further into the apartment, leaving her to fend for herself. Gus was curious about being in a new place, looking around with wide eyes until he saw something familiar.


Emerging from the bedroom - he'd probably been hiding the dildo - Justin greeted Gus with a wide smile. "Hi, Gus! And Linds." It was an interesting moment - Justin smiled quite brightly at Linds, but there was a certain quality Brian couldn't quite define. A certain 'don't fuck with me or mine and I won't garrote you with a piano wire'.

Brian liked it.

"Hi, Justin. You have some beautiful artwork here," Linds said, closing the door behind her and looking around, not making any mention of all the boxes cluttering the walls. Always polite.


Gus squirmed in Brian's arms. "Down, Daddy." He got funny about being held sometimes - probably just because he was growing up. Brian wasn't looking forward to the day when Gus wouldn't want to be held at all anymore.

Now free, Gus started exploring, running around the apartment on heavy feet.

"Uh, careful Gus," Justin warned, chasing after him. "This place isn't really child-friendly." With all the boxes and shit lying about, that was a good point.

Knowing Justin would keep Gus occupied and safe; Brian sighed, looked at Linds, and gestured towards the sofa sarcastically. "Shall we?"

She sat on the very edge of the sofa, knees pressed primly together, mouth set in a guilty line. "We screwed up," she announced immediately. "*I* screwed up. I'm so sorry, Brian. I never should have acted as your confidant, your friend, at the same time that I was considering-"

"No," he agreed brusquely. "You shouldn't have." And it hadn't escaped his notice that, as yet, she hadn't given him one fucking indicator one way or another of whether they were still planning on going.

Apparently noticing his mood, she reached out to touch him but stopped before she actually did. "We're not moving to Canada. We're staying here."

Relief rushed through his body like nothing he'd experienced, as he heard Gus laugh and Justin tease the kid quietly.

"It was just...God, Brian," her voice wobbled, her eyes getting moist as she lowered her hand. "We were there. Right outside. And Dusty died. We had to go to her funeral and the kids might be taken away and-"

Reaching out, Brian pulled her towards his chest. He'd never been able to stay angry at her for very long. Losing her tight body posture Linds relaxed against him, crying quietly.

Brian got it. "You were scared."

"Out of my fucking mind," she whispered. "I couldn't stand the thought of losing Gus and JR, either because of a bomb or some homophobic piece of legislation. Moving to Canada just seemed like..."

"Panicking," he said. "I get it. I do. But as fucked up as this country can be, it's not beyond all hope. If we run away now, who's still gonna be here to make sure that things do get better some day?"

She sniffed. "That's awfully optimistic for Brian Kinney."

That was just the way things were, now. "Maybe Brian Kinney isn't the same guy he used to be."

Sniffing some more, she pulled away to look at his face. Her own face was wet, covered in blotches and less than perfect make-up. She looked almost as beautiful as she had the night Gus was born. "No. You were always there. Just under all those layers of bullshit. Sometimes you'd even peek out."

"Christ, don't tell anyone that."

Chucking quietly, she gestured around the apartment, obviously indicating that it wasn't his. "I think your secret's out."

Linds leant back against him after that. Brian let her.

"I really am sorry, Brian."

He ignored her. "So Mel's actually in agreement with the staying here plan?" he asked doubtfully. Mel was extremely one-minded about a lot of things.

"She is," Linds told him. "We talked for a long time. Despite what you might think she can be open to other points of view - as long as they're not from you," she joked, but there was too much truth to it. "We would've been staying anyway, because one thing we both absolutely agreed on was that if either you or Michael said no, we'd be staying here." She paused, considering. "But I don't think either one of us really wanted to go, tear our children away from the lives they've known, leave our friends and careers behind. It was just-"

"Fear," he said. "Potent stuff." It was fear of dying that'd made him realise how much he actually loved Gus, how he wanted to see as much of him as possible. Fear was a fucking excellent motivator. "You talked to Mikey?"

She nodded. "He was a lot easier to contact than you. And he was extremely relieved, to put it lightly."

Brian still couldn't believe he'd agreed in the first place. "Then why the fuck did he say yes?"

"Well...I'm no psychologist, but given what we were just talking about...he almost died, Brian. It's understandable that he'd be scared for his child."

Right. Sometimes it was strange how easy it was to forget that. Mikey was always so...Mikey.

They sat there for another twenty minutes, talking quietly, before Linds apologised some more and headed off to the bathroom to clean herself up.

Still sitting on the sofa, Brian let the relief course through him again for another few moments.

Fuck. That had been a lot less dramatic than he'd been expecting.

Standing up, Brian went in search of the two little shits in his life. He found them in the bedroom, sprawled out across fresh sheets - something else Justin must've done - drawing on one of Justin's sketch pads. For someone who claimed not to like kids, Justin did a damn good job of pretending he did.

Noticing or sensing him, Justin looked up. "Hey. Everything okay?"

He smiled. "Fine." Understatement of the fucking year.

Perking up considerably, Justin's grin was huge. "Good!" he said, before ignoring Brian completely and returning his attention to Gus.

Brian just kept watching them from the doorway, and when he felt a hand on his elbow he stepped back a little, giving Linds more room to peer inside.

She watched too, for a while. "You know," she eventually said quietly, "you're really not fooling anyone."

He could've blown it off. Pretended she was talking about Gus. Claimed complete ignorance.

He didn't.

"For once in my fucked-up life," he said, watching as Justin made his kid laugh at something, "I don't think I'm trying to."


He was quiet for the rest of the day, thoughtful. Justin caught on and let Brian do his own thing while he caught up on chores. Brian helped him with the laundry but mostly stayed by himself, stretched out on the sofa or lying across the bed - wherever was most convenient at a particular time.

The cancer had made him realise how much he loved his son, but the fear of losing him - of Gus being taken away - made him realise exactly how far he'd go to protect him.

Anything. Anything at all.

There was no question of him spending the night at Justin's, and when Justin climbed into bed with him later, Brian was as ready as he could be.

"I think I want this."

Pausing as he reached for the lamp, Justin frowned and faced him. "Want what?"

"This," Brian swallowed, gesturing between them. "It took fucking cancer and the possibility of him leaving for me to really face how much Gus meant to me. I don't want there to have to be some fucking tragic thing that you might not come back from for me to face up to it for you, so...I think I want this. Every night. Every day. All the time."

Frozen, Justin's expression of shock slowly began to shift. "Always?" he asked on little more than a breath.

It was talk like that that was entirely too fucking sappy for him. "Think so," he said uncomfortably, looking away, scratching his ear.

A few seconds later a hand touched the side of his face, guiding it back around until he saw Justin's beaming face.

"I think that can be arranged," Justin said happily. "Now, do you wanna fuck me?"

As much as Justin could be a romantic little twat, sometimes he knew Brian better than anyone else.


"Brian," Justin groaned. "It's late. Come back to bed."

"I forgot something," he retorted, leaving the bedroom to find his cell phone. Once he had it he moved back to the bedroom, gratefully climbing in next to Justin and letting the fucker sprawl all over him in whatever way he found comfortable. "You done?" he asked without much patience.

"Shut up."

Taking that as a yes, Brian made the call. It didn't take all *that* many rings before it was picked up. "Theodore!"

"Brian?" asked Ted's confused voice. "It's nearly midnight - why are you-?"

"We're re-opening Babylon."


Monday morning, Brian woke in an abnormally good mood.

They both woke early - Justin was excited about his first day at the gallery, and when Justin was excited there was no chance in hell Brian was going to be able to keep sleeping - and enjoyed a slow and extremely hot fuck.

That calmed Justin down.

After taking frustratingly separate showers, getting dressed and eating breakfast, Brian drove Justin to the gallery. According to Linds it had at least as good a reputation as the gallery she worked at - they could almost be considered rivals.

Pulling up outside, Brian peered out past Justin and through passenger window, eyeing the gallery. "Look," he said, as Justin unbuckled his seat belt, "I'm not gonna wish you luck, 'cause you don't need it. You're smart, you're good. Just go in there and kick ass."

Justin grinned at him. "Have I told you how much I love your pep talks?"

Brian pretended to think about it, shaking his head. "Not lately."

Leaning closer, Justin cupped the back of Brian's head and kissed him. "I would've kicked ass even without you saying it," he murmured between kisses, "but it's nice to know you think I can."

"Sunshine," Brian kissed him again, "I couldn't have reached any other conclusion."

Laughing quietly, Justin gave him one last kiss before opening the door and climbing out. Pausing outside the Jeep, he turned and leant back inside. "Later?"

Brian smiled. "Later," he nodded.

At Kinnetik Cynthia noticed something was up right away - although Brian wasn't actually sure what he'd said that seemed unusual. Maybe it was because he actually wished her a good morning.

"You're in a good mood," she told him as she followed him into his office, heels clipping loudly on the floor.

Putting his briefcase on his desk, Brian started taking his jacket off. "Cynthia, I get to sleep with an extremely hot blond every night. Why wouldn't I be in a good mood?" Not to mention the fact that his kid *wasn't* being taken away. Relief forced him to sit down, and he took the opportunity to start up his computer.

Smirking, she put a wad of papers on his desk. "Phone messages. Mail for your eyes only. And it's good to know you'll be able to survive without Justin here."

Brian didn't even dignify that by looking at her, keeping his eyes fixed on the monitor as he waited for the password screen to appear. "I managed to survive for thirty years before Justin came along."

"*Just* thirty?" she asked, obviously amused.

Sticking his tongue into his cheek, Brian finally looked at her - and it was only then that, despite how much she'd been mocking him, he noticed the pinched looked around her eyes. It'd been getting worse lately. "Get out of my office."

"Sure, Boss." She clipped away, and she'd nearly made it all the way out of the office when Brian found himself speaking again.

"How's she doing?" It would've been Cynthia's turn with her mother again last night.

Pausing, she slowly turned to face him, obviously getting his meaning. "Still alive."

He knew she'd long started thinking that wasn't a good thing. "If there's anything-"

"There isn't," she interrupted, and walked out of the room.

Sighing, his mood not as good as it had been, Brian got down to work.


Around lunchtime, Mikey walked in. Aside from when he was in a meeting - or fucking Justin in his office now, he supposed - any of his friends had carte blanche to turn up whenever they needed something.

They stared at each other awkwardly - Brian still sitting at his desk, Mikey standing by the door.

Mikey sighed. "I guess we should talk."

One of the downsides of being a 'professional' was that Brian couldn't get stoned at work. Still, they'd been friends for so long now that they didn't need pot to talk, and Brian ordered no interruptions as he and Mikey lounged around on the sofa together.

"I'm so glad they're not going," Mikey began. "The idea of my little girl not being close by..."

The fact that Mikey'd agreed at all still made Brian uncomfortable.

Okay, it pissed him off. "I can't believe you said yes, but Linds said it was probably because you got hurt."

"I was worried about her getting hurt," he nodded. "I mean on the one hand, I never want her more than five minutes away from me at all times. Less, if possible. But I also don't want her getting hurt, you know? And, truthfully..." he paused, glancing away. "I was expecting you to agree, too. Which...made my decision a little easier."

Brian stared at him. "I'm never letting them take my kid away."

"I know," Mikey nodded. "Sometimes I just...forget how things've changed. I just remember how you used to be; determined to be nothing more than a sperm donor. No interest in actually being a father." Brian winced, remembering saying some of that shit. He hoped it never got back to Gus at any point in his life. "But that's not how things are now."

"No," Brian agreed, watching him. "It's not."

And that was that. Their own kind of apology and understanding.

Mikey smiled. "I'm really fucking glad I don't have to tell Ma that the kids are moving away."

Brian smirked. "I would've made Mel do it."

"Of course you would," he grinned, rolling his eyes. "Probably would've shot video of it, too. Watched it whenever you needed a pick me up."

"Why, Mikey," Brian said too innocently, "you have quite the vindictive streak, you know that?"

He snorted. "All your influence."

Yeah, that was probably true.


Turning his head, Brian saw Cynthia holding open the door to his office. "What?"

"I know you said no interruptions, but Justin's on line one."

His first instinct was to take the call - it was Justin's first day at his new job and plus...well, it was Justin - and Mikey saved him any kind of dilemma by speaking.

"I should get back to the shop anyway - don't wanna leave the new guy I hired alone for too long."

"Sure, Mikey." They both got up and exchanged a hug. "See you later. Take it easy, okay?" Mikey let himself out as Brian picked up the phone, pressing the button for line one. "Kinney's House of Pleasure," he greeted, sitting down. "How may I service you today?"

Justin laughed. "So you're going to service *me* for once?"

"Hey, I service you all the fucking time. I specialise in lube application." Justin laughed again. Brian smiled. "So, come on. Tell me about it so far. You know you're dying to."

He didn't hold back. "Oh my God, Brian, it is *so* cool! Everyone's as nice as I thought they were, and everything I've been asked by a customer so far I've had an answer for - those Art History courses I took in college are really paying off. My boss is like *so* cool," there was that term again. "Her name's Zara - you'd probably hate her, but she's really funny. I told her I was friends with someone who works at the Sidney Bloom gallery and she joked about fraternising with the enemy. When I explained that the guy I'm dating actually has a kid with the friend who works at the Sidney Bloom Gallery, she accused me of being a double agent."

Yeah, Zara's humour seemed about the level of an eight-year-old. "As long as you're where you belong."

"I am, Brian," he sighed, obviously content. "I really am."

Brian was feeling all disgustingly *gooey* inside, just because Justin was. "Good. Work's not worth a thing if you don't love what you do. What time do you finish?"


"I can pick you up."

"I'd love that," Justin said, "but you really don't have to-"

"I know," Brian interrupted. "I want to."

Justin was quiet for a few seconds. "As much as I'm enjoying it here, it has been...weird, not having you nearby."

Brian looked down at his desk. "It's been...weird for me, too." He'd been ignoring it, mostly. It was easily done with his good mood and keeping himself busy with work.

"So," Justin cleared his throat, "how's your day been?"

"Oh, the usual. Being brilliant. Being ridiculed by my assistant. Mikey stopped by. We talked about the thing."

"And everything's okay?"

"Everything's more than okay," Brian promised. "Later this afternoon Ted and I are gonna stop by Babylon. He had some ideas weeks ago for what it should look like when we re-build, and I'm finally going to listen to them."

"You're ready to re-build already?" Justin sounded surprised.

"Not exactly," he explained. "The space has been completely cleared out, but that's it." That was one thing they'd kept doing even when they weren't sure if they were going to sell or not - clean the place up. If they were going to re-build they'd need to clear it up anywhere, and if they sold it it'd make the venue a lot more attractive if they cleared out all the bomb damage. Fresh slate, start over. Once the cops had said they had everything they needed from the scene, Brian had called a company in to clean it up. "We still have to decide what we want, then see if it's actually do-able. Find someone to build it - which means listening to different pitches, weighing quality against value for money - and then actually get it built. And then," he took a breath, "letting all the fabulous fags in Pittsburgh know that their home is coming home."

"Well," Justin sighed, "I'm glad I don't have your job."

"One of us has to."

"Brian?" he asked, sounding serious.


"Be careful when you go to the club, okay?"

Brian frowned. "It's structurally sound. There's no chance-"

"I know, I know," Justin interrupted. "It's just...a bomb went off there. Okay?"

How could he say no to that? "I'll be careful."

"Good," he said. "Okay, I better go, or I'll spend my whole lunch talking to you and I'll never get to eat anything."

"Christ," Brian mocked. "Go and eat something before you turn into the Incredible Justin."

"I am *not* that bad," Justin insisted.

"I'm afraid you are, Sunshine. When you're hungry, nothing gets between you and your stomach. And you really don't want to scare your new boss on your first day."

"Bite me."

Brian was about to say "Willingly," when Justin ended the call.


Getting out of the Jeep and looking up at the building that used to house Babylon was a bizarre experience. The signs outside that'd announced the clubs' presence had been removed when the insides had been cleaned out, leaving the walls by the steps that led into the club just too fucking bare.

It wasn't right. Babylon had been there his entire out life - from the very first moment he stepped out onto Liberty Avenue, and it should be there for his last moment. It wasn't for all gays but for many it was a rite of passage; fuck knew it'd helped Brian define who he was for a long time, and it deserved to go on existing.

Everything felt too quiet.

Ted stood next to him, staring at the building. "It's kind of freaky, isn't it?"

Ignoring the question - since when did Ted start using words like 'freaky'? - Brian started up the stairs. After the bomb a new door had to be put in and he unlocked and opened it now, the sound resonating loudly as he stepped into the large, empty space.

This used to be his playground, and he'd do everything he could to restore it to its former glory.

He turned away from the bare, smoke and water-damaged walls, and towards the man who, shockingly, had turned into one of the most reliable people he'd ever met.

"Okay, Theodore - show me what you've got. And I don't mean your cock."


Brian tried not to think too much about what'd happened in the club - he didn't have any flashbacks this time - and they got through Ted's 'presentation' in a reasonable amount of time. Brian made a few adjustments of his own (it wouldn't do to let Ted think he was *that* smart), and then gave Ted the go-ahead to start the search for a company to build it for them. The company who helped him re-design after he first bought the club seemed like an obvious choice, but Brian liked weighing all his options.

Back at the office he got some more work done - the new addition to their art department seemed to be working out well - and at 5:45 he turned off his computer, put on his jacket, and picked up his brief case.

Cynthia stopped him on his way out. "Boss...don't forget your check-up tomorrow."

Fuck. That.

Since news of his cancer had become 'public' (he'd done his best to hide the news from his competitors - appearing weak would only make the sharks start circling) Cynthia had insisted on knowing any and all of his doctor's appointments better than he did. She'd never explained why, of course; just insisted that she was doing it and it was best for his own health if he agreed.

"Right," he mumbled, heading towards the door.

So much for his good mood.

It improved again when he pulled up outside the gallery. Obviously having been waiting for him, Justin bolted out the door, full of enthusiasm. Instead of running to the passenger side, Justin instead stopped by the drivers’ side and made a circling motion with his hand.

Frustrated, Brian lowered the window. "What-?"

"I need a favour," Justin blurted out. "A really big one."

Terrific. All he wanted to do was go home and fuck Justin. "What?"

Pursing his lips for a moment, Justin then spat it out. "My boss wants to meet you."

What the fuck? "What the fuck?"

"I know it's unusual," Justin said, stating the fucking obvious, 'helping' Brian out by opening his door for him, "but like I said I mentioned you, and she really, really seemed intent on meeting you, so..." he paused, practically batting his damn eye-lashes. "Please?"

Sighing heavily, Brian turned off the engine and pulled his key out of the ignition. Unbuckling his seat belt, he reached out and wound the window back up. "You're gonna owe me a blow job for this." He didn't do meeting family or friends, but it was Justin's first day at work - a good impression was...fuck. There was no way he couldn't do this.

"Thank you!" Justin said excitedly, standing back as Brian got out and locked the Jeep. "Maybe I can pay up on the way home," he teased, before turning away, heading back to the gallery. "So I guess the first thing you should know-"

Catching his wrist, Brian jerked Justin back against him. Surprised, Justin blinked up at him with wide eyes and in response Brian just leant down and kissed him, his hands sliding up to the side of Justin's head.

Making a noise sounding like "Ummfh," Justin leant against him, arms around Brian's neck as he opened his mouth, tongue reaching out to meet Brian's.

When they - very, very regretfully - pulled apart, Justin was more than a little glassy-eyed.

Brian smirked at him. "Now we can move on to other less important things - like meeting your boss."

Calling him an asshole - although there was really no vehemence behind it - Justin grinned like an idiot (which wasn't in the least bit endearing. At all) and led Brian into the gallery. "Zara!" he called, making a woman turn around.

She looked exactly what Brian thought a woman named Zara would look like. Long, brown hair, falling down her back; a long gypsy skirt and matching top; a chunky necklace and more bracelets on one wrist than Deb had ever had on both of hers (although Zara's, admittedly, didn't look like cheap plastic).

"Zara Jenkins," Justin introduced, "this is Brian Kinney."

Holding out her hand, Zara smiled broadly and genuinely. Yeah, Brian could tell already why Justin'd got the job. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr Kinney. I've heard a lot about you."

"Imagine that," he grinned, shaking her hand as his gaze slid towards an innocent looking Justin. "And it's only his first day."

"I expect I'll have your full life history by the end of the week," she laughed, lowering her hand. "Would you like a tour of the gallery?"

Brian would've had to be blind to miss the pleading look Justin was sending him. Fuck it. "Why not?"

The gallery looked like all art galleries - not that Brian had been in too many - but the artwork was good. He liked almost everything he saw. Not enough to buy but none of it was horrible to look at, and he told her that.

When Justin disappeared to use the staff bathroom, Brian seized the opportunity. "Why did you want to meet me?"

She did him the courtesy of not bullshitting him. "I know Justin was the boy who was bashed at his prom six years ago." Surprise made Brian's eyebrows go up. That he had not been expecting.

And anger made his voice darken. "So that's why you gave him the job? You feel sorry for-"

"No," she interrupted. "No. I gave him the job because he's qualified, and I like him. I...suppose I just wanted to make sure that he was happy now, given-"

"Justin doesn't need your fucking sympathy, or you butting in to his business," he told her, before turning away and walking towards the door. "Tell him I went to have a smoke. I'll wait in the car."


Justin didn't seem to notice anything odd when he came outside, bombarding Brian with a barrage of questions about Zara. Wasn't she nice? Wasn't she funny? Brian grunted no real answers, but as that was his usual form of communication he got away with it.

In fact, over that whole evening he got away with a lot more with Justin than he usually did, probably because Justin was so preoccupied and excited thinking about his first day at the gallery. They got through dinner, and making out on the sofa through some bad sitcom, and fucking enthusiastically on Brian's bed just fine.

It was later, when Brian was primping in front of the mirror and trying not to think about his appointment tomorrow, when Justin finally cornered him.

"Are you okay?" he asked, appearing next to Brian in the mirror. "You've been really quiet tonight."

"I don't know," he retorted, "I seem to remember groaning pretty loudly earlier."

Justin rolled his eyes, grinning. "That aside. Is everything okay? I know you went to Babylon. Was that-?"

"Fine," he shook his head, turning around to face Justin instead of his reflection. "It went fine. No nightmare-inducing flashbacks. Just Ted's nightmare-inducing predictions for how much it'll cost."

Smiling softly, Justin touched his arm. "Good."

"But..." Shit, he knew he had to tell him. "It's my six month check-up tomorrow. For the cancer."

His whole expression dropped. "Shit, Brian, why didn't you say anything sooner?"

"I forgot," he answered honestly. "Been somewhat...distracted lately." He put a hand on Justin's waist, tugging him closer deliberately. "Besides, it's just a check-up. I flew through my three month just fine. I haven't noticed-"

"That's not the point," Justin argued. "Maybe if I talk to Zara-"

Oh, no fucking way. "It takes up the better part of the work day, Justin. It's only your second day tomorrow - you can't take it off. Anyway, I'm a grown-up despite the fact that some claim otherwise. I can handle it. Fuck, if I can handle having a ball removed and the radiation-"

"That's not the point," he argued again, softer this time. "You shouldn't have to be there alone."

Brian stopped himself on the verge of saying something ball-bustingly sickening like, "I won't be," and instead settled on, "I'll call and leave a message on your voice mail every chance I get, okay?"

Justin clearly still wasn't happy. "Are cell phones allowed in hospitals?"

"If they're not, I'll use a pay phone."

That mollified him - somewhat. "Okay," he said slowly, "but just know that if you die on me, I'll kill you."

Brian snorted. "Duly noted," he said seriously. "Now, what say we-?"

Justin hugged him, rendering him silent. Pausing for a moment, Brian eventually closed his eyes and just let him, and when Brian sagged against him - only for a second - Justin held him up.

He'd get through this. They'd both get through tomorrow, and the test results, and when everything was fine - because everything would be - only then would Brian worry about Zara fucking Jenkins.


Neither one of them slept much that night. Justin's concern kept him wide awake, which kept Brian wide awake. Fortunately they found plenty of other ways to keep each other occupied.

Brian had an early start at the hospital, so at 6am he got out of bed and started the shower.

Justin went with him.

They didn't talk much, rubbing the soap and their hands over each other. As Brian shampooed Justin's hair he was suddenly inspired, shaping the hair into a spike.

It definitely made him feel better. "It's times like these I wish I had a camera."

"Careful," Justin warned, playing along, "or I'll ram you with my spike."

Smirking, Brian washed the shampoo out, flattening Justin's hair. "You're not ramming me with anything, little boy."

"We'll see about that," he retorted, tipping his head further back beneath the water.

After both their hair had been cleaned and rinsed out they just stood under the water, Justin leaning against him.

"I'm not handling it very well right now," Justin confessed quietly. "I knew you had cancer, but makes it *real*. And it's kind of freaking me out. But I'll get over it."

Closing his eyes, Brian pulled Justin closer and kissed the side of his head.


Brian still hated hospitals.

No matter what kind of tests he underwent, hospitals were still boring, monotonous places. And it really didn't fucking help that there were other cancer sufferers around, people who looked a hell of a lot worse than Brian ever had. He should've felt thankful, relieved, but it was just fucking depressing.

Fortunately the wait for the ultrasound - his first test of the day - wasn't a long one. There was really nothing classy about one of those things being rubbed over any part of his body, but at least the picture was instantaneous - and the news was good. They couldn't see anything unusual. No testicular lesions, scar tissue, abnormal blood flow, or anything else they mentioned that could potentially be a problem. To be safe, though, the doctor wanted to run a PET scan anyway.

Brian had been expecting that - it was what they'd done last time.

While he was waiting Brian commandeered a phone, calling Justin's cell. It went straight through to voice mail.

"Hey, it's me. The ultrasound went fine. Nothing unusual except the general hugeness of my dick. PET scan next. So far, it's going just like last time. Later."

They ended up taking a scan of his groin and his lymph nodes, to make sure the cancer hadn't spread. After that - and between many different bouts of waiting around - they took blood samples, fondled his balls, asked him how his scar was healing, about his sex life, general energy levels, if there was any pain or nausea, or anything else unusual that'd happened to his body since he'd stopped treatment.

Again, just like last time. Justin got an update on everything, because if Brian had to go through all this shit, then so did he.

Finally, during the afternoon the PET scan results came in, and his doctor delivered the good news - there was no sign of cancer anywhere in any of the scans they'd taken. They'd have to wait a few days for the blood tests, of course, but they were optimistic.

When Brian was finally let out and dressed in his own fucking clothes, he walked through the parking lot to the Jeep. Unlocking the door and sitting inside, he placed both hands on the steering wheel, before closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the head-rest.

He was okay.

A few minutes later he took his cell phone out and turned it on, calling the office. Cynthia gave him an update on the days' events - nothing too traumatic - and made it absolutely clear without actually saying so that they'd survive if he didn't come in at all today.

Ending that call, Brian made another one to Justin. Being at work Justin hadn't been able to leave his phone on for the whole day, but he told Brian he'd check it whenever he had a break or went to the bathroom (Brian suspected Justin would've been going into the bathroom to check his phone whether he actually had to piss or not).

"Hey, it's me again. Last call. Won't get the blood work back for a few days, but everything else looks fine. No sign of cancer. They're cautiously optimistic. I'm going straight to the loft now. I don't know if there's a bus, or..." he sighed heavily, closing his eyes as he leant the side of his head against the window. He wanted to see Justin but he *needed* to be home right now. "I'd really fucking appreciate it if you'd come over tonight." Snapping the phone shut, he opened his eyes and started the engine.

When Brian reached the loft he barely did anything - just stripped off his clothes and collapsed into bed. It'd been the same last time. Technically he didn't do much during check-ups - just lay or sat there, while he was poked and prodded and questioned - but he always found it exhausting.

Closing his eyes, Brian buried further under the covers and immediately fell asleep.


When he stirred, it was to realise he was sprawled on top of Justin.

They were pretty much in the reverse of their usual sleeping positions - Justin on his back, this time, with Brian leaning against him, his arm resting across Justin's torso.

Sighing, he kept his eyes closed. "I'm so fucking glad you have a key."

"Why?" Justin asked, sounding amused, the feel of his voice vibrating through his body.

"I would've had to get up to let you in." He rubbed his nose against Justin's skin. "Get my messages?" Finding a nipple he latched onto it, biting.

Gasping, Justin arched up. "Yes. All of them. I'm so-" Brian started lathing the nipple with his tongue, making Justin fist a hand in his hair. "-so glad you're okay."

He could've pointed out that they hadn't had the results of the blood tests yet but, truthfully, things were looking good - and he knew exactly how Justin felt. Brian hadn't been really fucking glad for much in his life, but he was really fucking glad he was probably cancer-free, and he was really fucking glad Justin had come over.

It didn't take him long to reach for a condom and the lube, but he spent a long time opening Justin up, working his fingers inside and fuck, he loved listening to the sounds and gasps the kid made. It was so fucking hot.

He especially loved it when Justin got demanding.

"Come on," he ordered, gasping. "Enough fucking around, Brian." Justin writhed on the bed, fucking himself on Brian's fingers. "Fuck me already."

Brian wasn't about to disappoint.

But when he pressed inside, when he looked down and watched Justin close his eyes and breathe his name, something just...stopped.

And he knew.

He didn't know how to define it or what name to give it, but he absolutely knew. There was no more doubt, or second-guessing, or last-minute panicking. He really did want this. Want Justin. For as long as he could fucking have him.

"Brian?" Justin asked quietly, opening his eyes, frowning up at him.

Nosey little twat.

Still buried inside him, Brian slid his hands up Justin's body, cupping either side of his head. Leaning in closer Brian kissed him as he pulled out, then thrust back inside.

Justin liked that.

So did Brian.

They kissed and fucked, Justin's legs coming up to wrap completely around Brian's body, angling their hips against each other. Justin encouraged him, whispering dirty things between kisses - a skill he was quite adept at - and asking, demanding, pleading for more. Brian gave it to him.

Brian gave him everything.


"What's it like?" Justin asked, breaking the silence of their post-fuck stupor. "When you go in for the tests?"

Lying next to him, Brian took a drag of his cigarette. "Fucking depressing. You know that some of them have to be there for the same reason you are. That some of them have to be dying. When I'm there I can't even be fucking glad that I'm not."

Sliding closer, Justin lifted up Brian's free arm until he got the message and lifted it up himself. "Well," Justin said, cuddling up to him and squirming around until Brian lowered his arm and rested it behind him. "I can be glad enough for the both of us."

Smiling, Brian took another drag. "The optimistic one."

"You're not as pessimistic as you might think, you know," Justin informed him, his hand coming up to play with Brian's chest. "Though I understand you might think being optimistic could ruin your image."

Christ. "I don't even know what that is anymore." How the fuck did he get into these conversations?

"Brian," Justin stated, his arm moving to wrap around him, squeezing tightly. "You're Brian. That's who you are."


He was different when he was with Justin; he could hardly ignore that fact anymore. "You should get some rest," he suggested, stretching away to stub out his cigarette. Justin with no sleep was a bad combination.

"I will," Justin promised. "I'm know," his hand pulled back, rubbing across Brian's chest, "glad you're here."

"I'll still be here when you wake up."

Tipping his head back, Justin fixed him with those big eyes. "Promise?"

"Well," he shrugged, "I might be taking a piss, but-"


"Promise," he grinned, lifting his head so he could kiss him. "Now get some sleep."

"Mmmm," Justin replied, closing his eyes and resting his head against Brian's chest. "I like an assertive man."

"Must explain why we get on so well."

"Don't forget your cock," Justin pointed out.

True. "Or your ass."

"We make quite the pair."

"Go to sleep."

"All right already," Justin complained. "Bossy McBoss Man."

Smiling, Brian closed his eyes and just enjoyed it.


The next morning Cynthia somehow got it out of him that so far he'd been giving a clean bill of health as far as cancer was concerned. This, of course, resulted in Ted coming into his office and offering his cautious congratulations, delivered along with his suggestion of the best company to re-build Babylon.

Brian looked at the numbers, told Ted to get the ball rolling - and also to stop spreading the good news around.

At lunchtime Justin called. He was definitely settling nicely into his job (Justin'd been right - Kinnetik wasn't the right place for him, despite its distinct advantages) and though Brian enjoyed talking to him, he felt more and more restless as the day drew on. It was only as he started thinking about leaving for the day that he realised what he needed, and made a phone call.

"Sidney Bloom Gallery, Lindsay Peterson speaking. How may I help you?"

"Linds, it's Brian. And you can help me by letting me come over tonight." Generally he didn't ask for permission, but he wanted to stay on her good side right now.

"Well hello," she replied, her voice carrying a familiar tone of amused indulgence. "And of course you can come over, Brian. Although I won't be there - I'm working late. We're setting up for a new show."

So that meant... "Mel?" Fantastic.

"Mel," she agreed. "She was finishing early today to help me out. You're at work now, right?" He grunted a yes. "I'll call Mel and let her know - you know what she's like when you drop by without warning," Linds reminded him before pausing. "I know Gus will be so happy to see you."

She always felt like she needed to reassure him about that, when it was the one thing he'd stopped doubting a long time ago.

Finishing a few things up at the office, Brian kept a careful eye on his watch and left just in time to stop outside the gallery at 6pm. After Justin climbed into the Jeep and they shared a brief kiss, Brian drove off.

"I'm on my way to see Gus," he announced, glancing towards Justin. "Want me to drop you off somewhere first?"

"No," Justin smiled, shaking his head. "I like Gus. How was your day?" They talked about their respective work days throughout the rest of the drive, and it wasn't long until Brian was parking near the muncher’s house.

Truth be told, he and Mel got on a lot better now than they used to - but that still didn't mean they got on all that well, and at the moment Brian was predisposed not to like her for threatening to move Gus away.

Okay, so Linds had done the same thing and he'd forgiven her. Mel was just...Mel.

Smiling tightly as she opened the door, Mel gestured for them to come inside. Linds had obviously made the promised call. "Brian. Justin."

"Hi Mel," Justin greeted.

Brian looked around. "Where's Gus?"

"In his room," she explained, closing the door. "I didn't tell him you were coming - thought you might like to surprise him."

Surprised, Brian held back a comment and glanced towards Justin.

"You go ahead," Justin suggested. "Have some father-son time."

Not about to object, Brian made his way upstairs. Justin was more than capable of handling himself around Melanie.

When he walked into Gus' room, he was surprised to find Gus napping on his bed. Obviously he'd had an energetic day at school. Brian knew he should probably wake him up or Gus would keep his mom's up half the night, but as he looked at his son he couldn't find the compulsion him to disturb him so much that he woke up.

Instead, Brian perched on the edge of the bed - his legs were way too fucking long for the thing - and carefully picked up Gus, resting most of his weight against his chest, supporting him with an arm.

"Daddy?" Gus asked sleepily, stirring.

"Shhh," Brian whispered, stroking the back of his head until Gus snuffled a few times, and relaxed against him.

Despite fighting for him, and spending time with him, and realising exactly what he'd do for him, sometimes it still took Brian by surprise - how intense the feeling could be when he was around his son. Brian didn't think he'd ever get used to it.

Letting out a deep breath, he spoke quietly. "Daddy never wants to leave you, Gus," Brian whispered, closing his eyes. "And he never wants you to leave him, either."

It was Mel who came and found them eventually. Brian didn't know how long he'd been there - although he'd guess half an hour - when he looked to one side and saw Mel standing there, leaning against the doorway. He remembered a time when he would've dislodged Gus, putting him back on the bed by himself because God forbid anyone should ever think Brian cared about anything or anyone.

Now he just stared back at her.

She didn't make any snide remarks or sly comments, or accuse him of being a dyke. Instead she looked at him, then Gus, then back at him again. "There's coffee," she said, pushing away from the door and turning away.

Brian didn't know what Justin and Mel had been talking about when he eventually came downstairs, but there was a distinctly uncomfortable tension in the air. It surprised him - the two of them had seemed to get on well the few times they'd met in the past. Mel especially had liked Justin because he wasn't afraid to make fun of Brian.

He stuck around for one quickly slurped down cup of coffee, and then he and Justin were leaving the house. Justin never saw Gus at all.

Brian barely waited until they were inside the Jeep. "Okay, what the fuck happened?"

Justin shrugged, buckling his seatbelt. "I just enlightened her to a few facts of life."

"Such as...?"

"Such as the fact that you love your son. That you don't want him taken away."

Jesus Christ. The last thing he needed was for Justin to start interfering in his life. He'd had enough that in the past from the rest of the family. "That was fucking settled already. Jesus, Justin-"

"I know, okay," Justin said, not very fucking apologetically. "But I know you two don't like each other, and I was sitting there with her and you were upstairs with Gus and it just came out. Maybe it wasn't the smartest move but I wasn't threatening or anything. Mom raised me with impeccable manners before she flipped out. I simply...put my point of view across."

Fucking great. "How'd she take it?"

"Okay. I could tell she was surprised and she stood up for herself, but we didn't get into name-calling."

That was something. And the fact that Mel hadn't said anything when she'd found Brian in Gus' room boded well. "You probably remind her of Lindsay." Blond, good manners, artist, working at a gallery...shit, when he thought about it, that was actually kind of scary.

"Maybe," Justin snorted, "but Mel's really not all that different from you, either. And I certainly know how to handle you."

Hmm. "Someone's sounding sure of themselves."

"It's called confidence," Justin pointed out. "And I believe you actually love that I have it."

Brian showed him just how much he loved it when they got to Justin's place.


Thursday rolled around quickly enough, and with it his appointment to get his test results. It went as well as he could've hoped for - it went as un-dramatically as it could have, something he wasn't used to in his typically melodramatic life - and as soon as Brian stepped outside, he made the call. Justin had made him promise to call the second he was able.

Delivering the good news to Justin's voice mail, he then elected to call and tell Mikey - that way, he wouldn't have to bother calling anyone else himself. Mikey was ecstatic, suggesting that they all meet up for a drink at Woody's that night. Brian didn't see anything wrong with the idea, and told him to call the others.

By the time he got back to the office Ted and Cynthia already knew - Mikey was fast - and they both offered their congratulations in their own distinctive ways (Ted hugged him, much to Brian's chagrin. Cynthia just reminded him when his next check-up was).

And now that Brian had the all-clear, he had other business to attend to. Like his business.

When he picked Justin up after work, they didn't even get out of the Jeep before they started fucking. There was a lot of frustrated laughing and Justin kept hitting his head on the roof (Brian pointed out that Justin was the one who'd insisted on straddling him when they fucked), and when they finally got into the loft they really needed the shower they shared.

Brian told him about the plan to go to Woody's and, surprisingly, Justin didn't seem impressed - until he explained the reason.

"It's just..." his hand slid along Brian's arm, just like the water, "after knowing for sure that you're okay now, I kind of wanted you all to myself tonight."

Smirking, Brian pressed him back against the shower wall, lowering his mouth to Justin's neck. "Greedy boy."

Not arguing, Justin tipped his head to one side, humming happily when Brian mouthed his skin. "It's your fault for spoiling me."

Pulling back, Brian butted heads with him gently. "You're the only one who has me." It was as close as he'd come to admitting the fact that he wasn't fucking anyone else. No one was more amazed by the idea than Brian himself, but there it was.

Eyes closed against the water, Justin grinned widely. "That's what I said - you're spoiling me."

He was fighting a losing battle of words - there weren't many capable of that. "Shut the fuck up already. We'll go to Woody's for a few drinks, and then-"

"You're all mine," Justin whispered dramatically, smiling.

Brian didn't respond verbally, instead slapping Justin's left thigh lightly.

Unsurprisingly Justin loved that, and they ended up arriving late to Woody's.


Brian decided to wait until the new week began before worrying about anything else. Quite frankly he wanted to concentrate on enjoying the fact that he didn't have cancer for a few days, and for once he actually had someone to enjoy that fact with.

He quickly discovered he wasn't the only one who felt that way. Friday night, Justin took him out to dinner to celebrate.

It was an...unusual experience. Brian had never actually been taken out to dinner as an adult for something that wasn't business. There'd been one incident - a long time ago - when he'd been on something vaguely resembling a date, but they'd both paid their own way. Tonight, Justin was insisting on paying for everything.

The idea didn't sit particularly well with Brian. He didn't like people paying for him; he was a lot more comfortable with things being the other way round. Justin had just told him to shut up and accept it.

It was no Papagano's, but a friendly family-run Italian restaurant with good food and a good wine list. Brian actually could've got them reservations at Papagano's, but it was Justin's deal so he didn't say anything. Besides, the kid'd obviously made a good choice.

"How do you even know about this place?" Brian asked during their main meal. "Given that we've been spending nearly every night together since you got here, I know you haven't been going out a lot."

Smiling faintly, Justin played with the stem of his wine glass. "We came here a few times when I was a kid," he explained. "I remembered liking it, so when I was thinking of a place to take you I looked it up and it was still here."

Brian wondered silently if it'd been a good idea to come to a place that Justin's family used to bring him, but then Justin made an orgasmic noise over his latest bite of food and he forgot all about it.

For dessert, Justin made him eat half a tiramisu. Brian resisted at first but, well, Justin was a determined little shit and when he wanted something he didn't stop until he got it. And though Brian eventually capitulated, he rebelled in his own way, refusing to say how fucking good it tasted and instead complaining about how much more effort he was going to have to put in at the gym (reminding himself in the process that he'd spent hardly any time in the gym at all, lately. He'd have to rectify that).

Still, he couldn't deny - at least to himself - that the evening had been surprisingly okay. It hadn't felt much like what Brian thought a date would feel like. As far as he was concerned, dates were preludes to sex, where you spent your time dancing around the other person, trying to decide it you wanted to fuck them or not - usually all hidden behind a veil of so-called romance. But Brian already wanted to fuck Justin. A lot. So he simply got to hang out with Justin and enjoy a good meal in a new setting.

Brian had been keeping an eye on his wine intake - they'd taken a cab so they didn't need to worry about driving, but he didn't want to feel like shit when he picked up Gus tomorrow. He fucking loved him, but Gus could sometimes be too much even when Brian didn't have a hangover.

In the end he'd ended up judging it quite nicely. As they climbed into the cab that was taking them home, they were both a little happier than normal but that was all. Leaning back against the seat, Brian's stomach was full of good food and his arms were full of warm Justin.

"Good meal," Justin murmured, leaning against him as the cab started moving.

Shit, Justin sounded as tired as he felt. It had been a pretty stressful week, with the cancer thing and Justin starting a new job. "You did good," Brian agreed, and managed to stay awake during the journey home.

Letting themselves into Justin's place, they got undressed slowly, kissing each other sloppily next to the bed. When they were finally naked they were reminded how fucking cold it could get at Justin's, and dove under the covers. Justin was on his back so Brian settled on top and just enjoyed kissing him for a long, long time.

At some point Justin fell asleep. Brian was too tired to even be offended and settled in next to him, pulling the covers up further.


Saturday morning they shared an enthusiastic fuck, to make up for the fact that they hadn't fucked at all the night before. After they showered and went to pick up Gus, Mel didn't say a word to either one of them but she wasn't giving them The Evil Eye, either.

Brian usually helped him by picking him up, but today Gus wanted to walk down all the steps outside the house himself. Brian wasn't about to let him do it all by himself, though, so he took one of Gus' hands and Justin took the other, until they were safely at the bottom.

They played in the park for a little while, but before long it started raining and they made a mad dash for the Jeep, which ended up stinking like wet people. They ate lunch at the diner so Gus could get his usual Saturday Deb fix, and as it was still raining when they finished, Brian drove them to the loft afterward.

Gus asked very nicely indeed if he could please watch some cartoons. Brian promised him one movie, and it didn't take either Gus or Justin long to become engrossed in one of the various animated movies Brian now had on DVD in the loft. Moving to the computer, Brian decided to get a few work-related things done. Neither one of them noticed his absence, and he might have smiled when he looked over and saw the two of them sitting in front of the TV, but if he did there was no one around to see it.


Sunday was usually the day when he and Justin went their separate ways.

Brian wasn't a fan of Sundays, although he'd never fucking admit it.

He did think it served a purpose, though. As much as he enjoyed fucking Justin or just hanging around with him, sometimes Brian did want his own space and there was nowhere to get that at either of their places. Shit, he'd had so much of his own space over the years that sometimes it was a fucking necessity. So, early Sunday afternoon Brian dropped Justin off at his apartment with a cock-hardening kiss, then drove away.

The rest of the day went fine. Brian got some work done and lounged around the loft, although the shower he had later was kind of boring without Justin there.


At work on Monday, he called Cynthia into his office.

"Cynthia, I need to make use of your 'we're not a detective agency' skills yet again." A new week meant a new start. He gave her what he knew about Zara Jenkins - her name, the gallery she worked at (he didn't actually know if she owned it or not) - and told Cynthia he wanted everything she could find out about her.

Jotting it all down on a notepad, Cynthia glanced up at him. "Would this be the same gallery Justin's working at now?"

Sometimes he hated the fact that she actually had a brain. "That would be none of your business."

"And that would be a yes," she replied smugly, before turning and walking away.


They were busy with other shit, so Cynthia didn't get back to him about Zara until after lunch. When she did, he thanked her as much as he ever did, and sipped at his coffee as he looked through what she discovered. He didn't know where the fuck she got this stuff, and he didn't ask. Cynthia had always been a resourceful woman.

There was nothing particularly enlightening at first - Zara Jenkins, 42 years old, married for nine years to a Paul Jenkins, no kids, no previous marriages. Owned the gallery for six years, although not the original owner. Parents both dead. One sibling, an older brother, Mark Hobbs-

Stopping there, Brian looked back up and checked the parents’ surnames, then quickly scanned through the rest of it and found what he was looking for. Her maiden name: Hobbs.

Brian hadn't heard that name often, but given the context he had heard it in he fucking remembered it. Wouldn't ever forget it.

One sibling, an older brother, Mark Hobbs, married with one child - Christopher Mark Hobbs.


It was easy. Brian called Justin and told him he wouldn't be able to pick him up after work because he had to go out for drinks with a potential client. Justin enthusiastically pretended to be upset, and Brian knew he was doing the right thing.

Parking far enough away that Justin would never see the Jeep on his way to the bus stop, Brian hid across the street from the gallery and watched Justin leave work. He walked along with his hands in his jacket pockets and a distinct bounce in his step, and Brian hated that he was doing the right thing.

Waiting a while longer until he was convinced that Justin had boarded a bus, Brian watched for traffic, crossed the street and knocked on the door to the gallery. It was locked, but he knew Zara was still there.

Peering out through the window next to the door, she was obviously surprised to see him but didn't hesitate, unlocking the door and pulling it open. "Brian, hello! I'm afraid Justin has already-"

"You are going to tell me," he spat out, "in words of one syllable, exactly why you hired him. And if it's for any reason other than wanting to make amends for what your nephew did, I'll tear your fucking business apart."

Eyes wide, mouth open, Zara's skin turned a shade paler than normal. "" Licking her lips, she shook her head and stepped back. "You'd better come in."

Brian didn't care if he made a scene or not but stepped in anyway, then immediately turned around to face her.

Facing him too, with the door now shut behind her, she smoothed her hands over her skirt and regarded him warily. "How do you know?"

"Does it matter?" There was only one thing here that did.

"No," she let out a breath. "I suppose not." Holding her head up higher, she spoke again. "It was the truth, what I said when we spoke before. Justin is qualified, and I believe he is right for the job - this week alone has certainly proved that. But...when his initial job application came in, I recognised the name - when your own nephew does something like that, you don't forget the details." She paused, glancing away. "I'll admit; that got him the interview."

"You felt sorry for him," he growled.

"I wanted to make amends," she insisted, meeting his gaze. "This wasn't about feeling sorry for him - it was about making something right. Maybe he got the interview a little easier than he would have normally, but when he came in he proved himself. And he's been proving himself repeatedly since he started working here."

Brian studied her openly. He was good at knowing when someone was bullshitting - a vital skill in his line of work, sometimes - and he was starting to get the impression that she wasn't. "Assuming that what you're saying isn't bullshit - and I'm not saying that it isn't, yet - how the fuck does someone like you get such a homophobic little fuck for a nephew?"

Smirking wryly, she shrugged. "My parents were extremely open-minded. On top of that, I suppose they could've also been called..."

Brian gave her another once-over; made a calculated guess. "Hippies."

Zara nodded. "A little before their time, but yes. My brother hated it. Them. I don't know; maybe he was embarrassed. As soon as he was old enough he moved out and, as far as I know, never saw them again."

Sounded like being a fuckwit ran in the family. "So you think when he had a son..."

"I don't *know*," she confessed. "It's just speculation. But it makes sense to me that he'd teach his own child the exact opposite of what our parents taught him."

Christ. If that was true, then Mark Hobbs was just as responsible for the attack on Justin as his son was.

And there was only one course of action now. Fuck. "You have to tell Justin."

Her eyes widened again. "What?"

"You have to tell him. He has a right to know." And Brian almost didn't want her to. Wanted Justin to stay happily in denial and not think about the fucker who nearly killed him, and not worry that he might not have got the job he loved simply because of the fact that he was good enough. But Justin was a man, an adult, and deserved the respect of the truth.

"But if I tell him," she pleaded, "he'll probably think I gave him the job out of pity, that he didn't earn-"

"Then you *keep* telling him until he believes the truth," Brian told her. "He can be a stubborn little shit, but he's not unreasonable. I'll give you one week. One week to tell him," he announced, taking a breath, "or I will."


When he left the gallery, Brian did go to a bar and had those few drinks he'd told Justin he was having. Sipping at his whiskey, he wondered if he could really keep this from Justin for a week, if it came to that.

It shouldn't have been hard. He'd been lying to and manipulating people for practically his entire life. He'd strung his best friend along for years before Mikey had finally woken up and realised he'd never get what he wanted from Brian - that no one would ever get that from Brian.

Until now.

Justin. Fucking Justin.

Why the fuck had he given her a week? There was no way he could face Justin and not tell him anything, but Zara actually didn't seem like an asshole - she had a right to tell Justin herself. She had her own issues wrapped up in this, her own flesh and blood having done something so horrific.

Shit. He couldn't see Justin like this.

Taking out his cell phone, he called him. He'd be at home by now.


Damn chirpy, happy voice. "Hey, it's me."

"Brian! Hey, how was your meeting?"

"Pretty shitty, actually." That much was true.

"Oh. Well, that sucks," Justin told him. "So you don't think you'll get the new client?"

"Not sure yet," he shifted on his bar stool. "Have to wait and see."

Justin sounded offended. "Well they're idiots if they don't sign with you."

Smiling, Brian closed his eyes. "Such faith."

"Hey, I've seen your business first hand. I've seen how it works. I know what I'm talking about."

Brian nodded to himself. "Yeah, you do."

"So!" Justin continued brightly. "Are you coming over, or...?"

Here it went. "That's part of the reason I'm calling, actually. I'm feeling pretty shitty in general, so I think I'm just gonna go and crash at the loft."

"Are you sick?" he asked, concerned.

"No, just tired. Drained. And to be honest I'd really like an evening by myself tonight."

Now Justin didn't sound offended. "Sure, of course. If that's what you need to do."

"It's nothing you-"

"Brian, it's okay. Really. Some days are just shitty and you don't want anyone around. I get it."

"Good," he said, stupidly relieved.

"Besides," Justin teased, "if you did want anyone around, I know it'd be me."

Brian smiled. "There's that confidence again."

"You bet your ass."

"I'd rather bet your ass."

They teased and flirted for a few more minutes before they finally ended the call, Justin telling Brian that he hoped he felt better soon, because he was planning on fucking the shit out of him at the nearest opportunity.

Job done, Brian put his phone away and threw back the last of his drink, telling himself this was the right thing to do. There was a guy sitting next to him now who hadn't been there before. Dark hair, nice body, not ugly. Brian may not have been actively looking anymore, but he wasn't blind.

And he definitely wasn't missing the look the guy was giving him.

"Not interested," he told him, putting his shot glass back on the bar.

"Hmm," the guy somehow managed to say bitchily. "I heard you were in a relationship now, but I never actually thought you were monogamous."

Wonderful. "I see my reputation precedes me." He wasn't even in Woody's, although he had picked one of the other bars on Liberty Avenue.

"Oh honey, your reputation defines you."

"Hardly," Brian snorted, climbing off of the stool and fishing twenty dollars out of his wallet. "I got rid of that cliché."

"And I can see how very happy you are," he retorted sarcastically. It was like talking to an even more annoying version of Emmett.

Throwing the money onto the bar, Brian shook his head. "Give it up. I'm not gonna fuck you. You're not worth sticking my dick into." Leaning closer, Brian spoke right into the guys' ear. "*He* is. Repeatedly." Turning away, Brian strode out of the bar. Fucking *strangers* thinking they knew him. It was part of the package of who he was, who he used to be. They'd always been around, and occasionally he enjoyed it. Now it was just fucking irritating.

Brian didn't feel even remotely drunk, and made the drive home safely. At the loft he got changed out of his suit and into something comfortable, and tried not to think about Justin.

He needn't have worried. Zara didn't wait a week.

She didn't even wait twenty-four hours.


Brian knew when Justin walked into his office at Kinnetik at 9:47 the next morning.

There'd been no advance warning from Cynthia - Justin was just there, standing inside the doorway.

He knew.

Never looking away from him, Brian reached out and pressed the intercom button on his phone. "Cynthia, no interruptions."

He didn't hear any response if there was one, releasing the button and slowly standing up. He didn't need to voice the obvious question; Justin answered it anyway.

"She told me."

Brian had already known, but hearing that confirmed it. And in the wake of that confirmation, he wasn't sure how he felt. Relieved that he didn't have to avoid Justin anymore, concerned at how Justin would react, and that small, mostly-unacknowledged fear that Justin would hate him for interfering behind his back.

"She also told me that you know," Justin continued, staring at him. "That you told her to tell me. That you came to see her, last night, when you were allegedly out with a potential client."

No more lying. Brian straightened his back. "Yes," he agreed. "That's what happened. I lied to you."

There was no surprise on Justin's face. There wasn't much of anything at all. "You're a contradiction, Brian. You treat me like an equal by insisting that she tell me the truth, no matter how hard it is to hear. And then you treat me like an idiot by hiding out at the loft so you don't have to face me."

Brian bit his lower lip. "I knew that if I saw you, face to face, I wouldn't be able to bullshit you. And I felt she had a right to tell you herself. That it was right for her to tell you herself."

Frowning, Justin tipped his head to the right. "You like her."

"Somewhat," Brian shrugged.

"Funny how our perspectives have changed." Finally moving more than just his head, he started walking across the room. "So that was your plan? Hibernate until she told me?" Justin paused by the side of the desk, glaring at him. "What if she didn't tell me for a week? A month? Would you have fucking avoided me all that time?"

"Of course I fucking wouldn't have," Brian argued. "I gave her a week, and if she hadn't told you by then I was gonna fucking tell you myself."

"Oh, so you would've only avoided me for a week," Justin snapped back, folding his arms across his chest.

Fuck, he could be annoying. "Don't be a twat."

Just as quickly, Justin unfolded his arms. "You have to tell me this shit," he insisted. "I don't know if you thought you were being noble or something - which is ridiculous anyway, given the fact that she's been lying to me, albeit through omission, ever since we met - but this was important. This was important to me. I'm not expecting you to tell me everything, but when it's about the guy who bashed my head in you fucking tell me!"

Jesus. "Christ, fine," Brian hissed, throwing his hands up.

"And when someone says something that makes you start investigating them, you don't go off and do that by yourself, not saying anything. You tell me first! Even if you think it might hurt me!"

"I get the fucking point, Justin!"

"Good! Then stop fucking shouting!"

Oh, he was one to talk. "You stop fucking shouting!"

"I have plenty of reason to be pissed!"

"Like I don't!"

"Of course you don't! You should just stand there and take it!"

They both dropped off into silence after that, and Brian was amazed to see the smallest of small smiles tugging at Justin's lips.

That little shit.

Well, fine. This actually meant they were okay. He could deal with that.

"But then I wouldn't be me, Sunshine."

Smiling a little more and shaking his head, Justin stepped around the corner of the desk, stopping just by Brian. "I meant what I said," he said seriously, meeting Brian's gaze. "You have to tell me shit like that, Brian. I have to know that you-"

"I get it," Brian interrupted quietly. "And I will."

Nodding slowly, Justin took a step forward, his arms going around Brian's waist. Brian hugged him back, his own arms wrapped higher around Justin's body because of their rather considerable height difference.

There were really fucking okay. Jesus.

"Daphne told me," Brian began slowly, "that if I ever did anything like this you'd never forgive me."

Justin squeezed him tighter. "And yet you did it anyway."

"I thought it was the right thing to do." And how fucking glad was he that Daphne had been wrong?

Sighing, Justin leant harder against him. "She's my best friend, but we've lived in different cities for the last six years. She doesn't know me as well as she used to."

They lapsed into another silence for a while, until Brian finally asked the question that really mattered. "How you doing?"

Justin tensed in response, but it was brief. "I don't fucking know. She told me everything as soon as I got into work this morning. I just...couldn't believe..." he managed to shrug. "I think I went into shock or something. Locked myself in the bathroom at work for thirty minutes. Went through every emotion you can probably think of. And then I got a cab here."

Brian thought about that. "So you just walked out of work?"

"Huh," Justin sounded surprised to realise that. "I guess I did."

"You have a habit of doing that, Sunshine. How the fuck did you ever keep a job?"

"My great ass."

"Ah, of course."

More silence.



"I'm gonna lay down on your sofa here for a while, okay?"

Brian wasn't about to object. "Sure. Knock yourself out. I just have one question."

"What's that?" Justin asked, pulling away to look at his face.

"Are you going back?"

Sighing, he looked off to one side. "I don't know. She told me why she did it, but that I got the job because I was good enough...but even if I did believe that, she pretty much lied to me all this time. I just...don't know."

Brian nodded. "Can I give you some advice?"

"Would it really stop you if I said no?"

"Good point," Brian smirked. "Look, it's pretty much your dream job at the moment, right? It's something you want to do." Justin nodded. "And before we knew all this shit, you really liked her." Justin nodded again. "A job you love with people you love isn't something that happens every day. Just keep that in mind, okay?"

Grumbling an agreement, Justin eventually pulled away and shuffled over to the sofa. Watching him stretch out and turn to face the back, Brian then glanced at his desk. Deciding that he could work without his computer for a while, Brian grabbed a pen and some paperwork he needed to make notes on, and strolled across to the sofa.

He peered down at Justin. "Got room for one more on there?"

Rolling towards him, Justin smiled before swinging his legs off the sofa, giving Brian plenty of room.

Sitting at one end, Brian was only vaguely surprised when Justin laid down again - this time with his head on Brian's lap, facing his stomach. "If you feel like doing anything interesting while you're down there, feel free," Brian suggested, which made Justin chuckle.

Working was kind of awkward with Justin's head on his lap but it was do-able if he leant against the arm of the sofa. Brian had been making notes for about ten minutes when Justin shifted onto his back, looking up at him.

Pausing, Brian looked down at him. "Hey."

Biting his lip, Justin didn't look away from him. "She told me that although she doesn't really get along with her brother, she's been to see Chris in prison - he is her nephew. And she told me..." his voice caught, but he swallowed heavily until he could talk again. "She told me that he feels really bad about what he did. And he hopes that some day I can forgive him."

More than a little shocked, Brian dropped his pen and papers off the end of the sofa, and cupped the side of Justin's face with his right hand.

Sighing heavily, Justin closed his eyes and Brian watched as a few tears escaped.

He swallowed. "Want some company down there?"

Sniffing, Justin opened his eyes and nodded.

"Get up," Brian said quietly, and when Justin was completely off the sofa Brian tugged off his shoes before stretching out.

Apparently inspired, Justin took off his own shoes before carefully climbing back on, leaning his body on top of Brian's. "Can we...?" He shimmied to one side of the sofa until Brian got the idea, and they both turned partially one side, until Justin was nestled between Brian and the back of the sofa. Brian was in danger of falling off if he breathed the wrong way but didn't say anything, keeping his arms around Justin and their legs hooked together.

One of Justin's hands manoeuvred in the tight space, his fingers absently plucking at Brian's shirt. "Sometimes I still have nightmares about it. I think I always will. How can I forgive him for something that'll be with me for the rest of my life?"

Exhaling, Brian closed his eyes, Justin's hair brushing his face. "If I'd been there when he..." He imagined being there, pictured seeing the bat being swung towards Justin's head. He felt like throwing up. "I would've fucking killed him."

The hand playing with his shirt stopped, sliding around his body and pushing under his arm, splaying against his back.

"You would've saved me," Justin whispered. "Just like you have now."


It was a bright flash of light that made Brian open his eyes.

He hadn't fallen asleep - although Justin definitely had - and when a bright light permeated his eyelids he stirred, turning his head towards the source.

Cynthia was standing over them, with her hands behind her back. Looking smug.

Brian scowled. "Did you just do what I fucking think you did?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she replied dispassionately. "I was just coming to notify you that I put a few new phone messages on your desk, and you need to give Leo Brown a call soon."

Brian was still scowling when she walked out of the room, keeping anything she may have been holding in her hands carefully concealed.

Feeling Justin shift, Brian turned back to face him. Sighing, Justin stretched a little - a little was all that was possible in their current position - before opening his eyes. He smiled immediately. "What's up?"

"Besides me?" Brian asked rhetorically. Justin rolled his eyes and, satisfied, Brian continued. "I think Cynthia took a picture of us."

"Oh." Pausing, Justin's nose wrinkled. "When you get it from her, I want a copy."

Romantic little twat. Brian rolled his own eyes, then, but couldn't help leaning his head in closer, brushing his lips against Justin's. Kissing him back, Justin tugged the arm he'd wrapped around Brian free, instead reaching up with his hand to grasp the side of his head, deepening the kiss.

As much as Brian wanted to - really, really wanted to - do nothing but this all day, he actually had a lot of shit he needed to get done. This would have to fucking happen on a busy day. The break had been good and necessary for Justin, but unfortunately not particularly practical from a business perspective.

"I have to get back to work," he sighed, as Justin nuzzled his nose against Brian's neck.

"Okay," Justin said, still nuzzling. "But I'm staying here."

"Okay," Brian agreed, tugging Justin's head up with a hand and meeting his gaze. "You okay?"

Shrugging, Justin glanced away before looking back. "Will be."

Nodding, Brian started carefully disentangling himself from around Justin, rolling away-

And falling off the sofa in the process.


He lay on the floor in shock, the breath knocked out of him. Other than that he was absolutely fine - except for his pride.

Justin was peering over the edge of the sofa at him. "Brian?! Are you okay?"

Brian blinked up at him, waiting until he could talk again. "If you tell anyone about this, I-"

"Yeah, yeah," Justin interrupted, teasing but obviously relieved, "your standard threat not to fuck me ever again, I know the drill. Go and get some work done already."

Lips twitching momentarily, Brian got up - without the aid of the hand Justin was holding out, thank you very much - and walked over to his desk as manfully as he could.

Only to realise he needed the papers he'd left by the sofa, and had to walk back.

The day went faster than usual with Justin there. They didn't talk much but Brian was always aware of his presence as he pottered around the office. Generally, though, Justin either rested or sketched something on the wad of paper Brian'd given him (Brian had realised that keeping Justin entertained was much like keeping Gus entertained). Ted, Cynthia or another member of staff would come in from time to time, and they never acted as if Justin hiding out in Brian's office was anything out of the ordinary.

At one point Justin slammed down the pencil he'd been sketching with, pulled out his cell phone, and called Zara. Brian pretended to be working and eavesdropped shamelessly as Justin told Zara that he needed more time to think about what he wanted to do. Zara apparently told him to take as much time as he needed which, while generous, was the least she could do as far as Brian was concerned. He didn't think she was an asshole, but she had been lying to Justin ever since they'd met.

At lunch Justin went out and got them both some food, then sat down across from Brian to make sure that he ate every last crumb. Brian didn't mind too much, though, because Justin treated him to a blowjob afterward.

From time to time Brian asked Justin's opinion on something for a campaign, and even if he didn't always agree with Justin's perspective he knew it was a worthwhile one.

It also reminded him of how he used to have much more access to Justin during the work day.

"I'm surprised you haven't gone and stuck your head in the art department," he said eventually. "That's gotta be more interesting than sitting around drawing me all day."

"Don't be so sure," Justin replied from the sofa, smiling as he glanced up from sketch number five.

"Not that I don't make a fascinating subject," Brian agreed smugly.

Rolling his eyes, Justin grinned. "It's also the fact that I know what it's like being the new person and, frankly, I don't want to step on her toes or make her uncomfortable."

"The new girl?"

"Yeah," he nodded. "She's still settling in."

Brian had no idea how he'd ever started dating someone who cared so much about other people's feelings. Of course, the real miracle was that he'd started dating anyone at all.

By the time 4pm rolled around everything urgent had been dealt with, and Brian let Cynthia know he was leaving for the day - but not before demanding she hand over the camera. She offered only a token resistance before sighing heavily and giving it to him.

Brian wasn't stupid, holding out his free hand. "And the memory card."

Scowling in what had to be a similar expression to the one he wore earlier, she begrudgingly handed it over. "You're no fun anymore, you know that? In the old days you wouldn't have cared if I'd taken a picture of you fucking some guy, but now I take a snap of you and Justin just holding each other and..."

He stared at her blankly.

Her - what was by now obviously a fake - scowl transformed into a smirk. "Thank God you finally grew up, boss."

Brian would've given her the finger, but his hands were full.

He told her to fuck off instead.


As he drove away from work, Brian glanced over at Justin and contemplated the idea he'd had earlier. "You wanna go see a movie?"

Justin stared at him like he'd just grown a new testicle. "You don't have to entertain me, Brian."

"Shit, I know that. But maybe I want to go." It was the truth and a lie. Brian hadn't been to a movie theater with an adult in years. He and Mikey just didn't go anymore - something he'd have to rectify, he realised. The only person he'd been with lately was Gus, and that was only recently and only to kiddie movies.

But...he did also want Justin to be able to forget about all this shit for a while. And maybe this would help.

"Well..." Justin thought about it, then shrugged. "Yeah. That'd be good, actually. I haven't been to the movies in ages."

Excellent. "Good," Brian nodded. "Okay, we'll go home and get changed because I'd like to get the fuck out of this suit, and we'll look up what's on tonight."

Brian let Justin pick the movie, and they ended up going to the movie theater not far from Liberty Avenue. It was affectionately referred to in the area as The Fag Picture Show, and hardly anyone went there to actually watch a movie.

They ended up being just the same as everyone else. When they weren't making out in the back row Justin would stare off to one side, shoving popcorn into his mouth, and Brian would stare at Justin.

When the movie ended and they stepped out onto the sidewalk, they both pretended for about ten seconds that they actually knew what the movie had been about, before smirking slowly at each other in confession.

Grabbing Justin's hand, Brian tugged him towards the Jeep. "Your place or mine?"

Justin squeezed his hand. "Mine."


That night, Justin had a nightmare.

He didn't scream or call out, but when he started twitching and moving around, Brian woke up immediately.

Brian had only ever had to deal with Gus nightmares, and they were few and far between. He was well aware that an adult lashing out while having a nightmare could do a lot more damage.

And then Justin fucking whimpered.

That area in his chest where his heart was supposed to reside throbbed sharply.

"Justin," he said as firmly and calmly as possible, not wanting to touch him in case it made him feel trapped. "Justin, wake up. You're having a nightmare. It's not real. Don't let it control you. Wake the fuck up, Sunshine."

Eyes snapping open, Justin gasped for a breath. His eyes moved rapidly, looking all around him before settling on Brian. It was only then when he started to settle down, that his breathing began to even out.

Brian didn't ask about the nightmare - the subject seemed obvious. So he did the only thing he could think of.

"So," he said with a bravado he didn't quite feel, "you've seen my nightmares and now I've seen yours. Is there anything we haven't shared?"

Smiling, still a little breathless, Justin rolled towards him. He was covered in a fine sheen of sweat but neither one of them cared as Justin snuggled closer to him. Brian let Justin take control so he could have as much contact as he was comfortable with right then, and it seemed he wanted a lot - he literally picked Brian's arm up and flopped it over his waist, before putting his own arm over Brian's waist.

Pulling the covers closer around them, Brian kissed the top of Justin's head.

Not saying anything at all, Justin was asleep again within fifteen minutes. Brian stayed awake until sheer exhaustion forced him unconscious.

But at least Justin hadn't had another nightmare before then.


When the alarm woke Brian up the next morning, he opened his eyes and saw no one lying next to him. Sitting up, he rubbed a hand over his hair before getting out of bed. After tugging his jeans on, he opened the bedroom door to find Justin standing in the kitchen, sipping at a cup of coffee.

Dressed for work.

"I'm going in," he announced, pouring another cup as Brian blearily walked towards the kitchen. "I woke up about an hour ago," Justin explained, putting the new cup on the kitchen counter, and the pot back in the coffee maker, "thought about it some more. Zara really does need another pair of hands around the gallery - despite how I feel, I can't let this affect her business." Reaching the counter, Brian grabbed the coffee, dumping a healthy load of sugar into it. Justin kept talking. "I still don't know how I feel about staying there in the long term, but...well, I'll probably at least be able to talk about it calmly today, now that it's had time to sink in."

Slurping at his coffee, Brian closed his eyes, sure that he could feel the caffeine passing through his veins. Putting his drink back down on the counter he leant towards Justin, one hand coming up to cup the back of his neck. They shared a big, sloppy, coffee-flavoured kiss, and when it ended Brian rested his forehead against Justin's. "This could be because I don't have any higher brain functions at the moment," Brian began, "but even if you were a woman I'd totally fuck you right now for giving me coffee."

Laughing, Justin playfully shoved him away (and, therefore, barely shoved him anywhere). "Brian!"

Grinning, Brian kissed him again, starting to feel vaguely more human. "I think you're making a good call," he said seriously. He didn't want Justin to shut down all avenues after one - albeit pretty remarkable - incident. "And if you need to talk or some shit-"

"I know," Justin said quietly. "I can always call you."

"Anytime," Brian promised, looking down at him and threading both hands through Justin's hair. "Except between the hours of nine and six. And six and midnight. And midnight and-"

"Jerk," Justin grinned, gently whacking his arm. "I'll call you any damn time I please."

Brian tugged at his hair. "Demanding little thing, aren't you?"

"Not so much with the little."

Grinning, Brian slid his hands all the way down Justin's body until they got to his ass. "If I remember correctly, I promised to fuck you for giving me coffee."

Pausing, Justin looked down at his clothes. "I already got ready for work."

That hardly mattered, and Brian started tugging Justin's shirt off. "That's your own fault for getting dressed when you know very well that I prefer you undressed."

"Brian," Justin 'complained', his voice muffled as his top came off.

"We've got plenty of time," Brian assured him before pausing, wondering if he really *didn't* want to fuck. The idea seemed unusual, but he never fucking forced anyone. "Unless..."

Justin, now bare-chested, smiled at him. "You've barely had a sip. Finish your coffee first. I wanna feel like I'm earning it."

Brian smirked. If he had anything to say about it, Justin would feel like he'd 'earned it' for the rest of the day.


Justin called at lunchtime, and didn't even let Brian finish saying his name before speaking.

"Okay, so we talked. For ages. I told her I was still interested in working there, but that she better not still be lying to me about anything, and if she was then she needed to tell me right now."

Swivelling in his chair and facing the side of his office, Brian rested an elbow on his desk. "And was there anything else?" He hoped to fuck not.


Good. Justin really didn't need another shock right now. "Good."

"I also told her that, after today, she will never discuss Chris with me again - especially the fact that he supposedly feels bad for trying to kill me. I don't want to hear that."

Brian wouldn't want to hear that shit either, whether it was true or not. "Okay." They lapsed into silence; all Brian could hear was the sound of Justin breathing. "Anything else?"

He could almost feel the hesitation before Justin spoke again.

"I've been thinking about contacting Mom."

Brian's eyebrows went up. Justin definitely knew how to surprise him, sometimes. "Why?" Brian'd wanted him to give Jennifer another shot, but it was Justin's decision through and through. He had no idea why he'd decided this now.

"This whole situation with Zara made me think...I was freaking out when she first told me, but now that I've told her my terms, what I'll accept, I'm okay. I think I need to do the same with Mom. Acting instead of reacting. She waltzes in, catches me off-guard, and I freak out. If I go to *her*, I'm in control."

Brian didn't know what the fuck to think of that. It seemed at odds with Justin's credo of doing whatever the fuck he wanted, when he wanted, but at the same time he could also understand Justin wanting to protect himself. "You're turning into more of a control freak than I am, Sunshine," he told him, keeping his humour clear in his voice.

"Is that possible?" he teased, and it was teasing because even Brian had to admit that he wasn't quite as...wound up about shit as he used to be. "Anyway," Justin continued, "it's just an idea at the moment. I don't even have her number."

"I do," Brian provided helpfully.

"Gee, thanks," Justin retorted, before lapsing into another silence for a few seconds. "Sometimes, I just...part of me thinks I can never forgive her for what she tried to do. But then I remember what it was like when I was a kid, you know? I was so glad she was my mom - well, at least until I hit thirteen. Then I hated her guts." He paused, and Brian smirked. "And even after I first came out...yeah, it was tough for her. But she tried. Told me she always loved me, no matter what. Went head to head with my dad a few times. I just can't understand how she could go from that to..."

Brian had seen some pretty shitty human behaviour in his time; not all of it explainable.

Justin sighed down the phone. "It's so much easier saying this stuff when you're not looking at me."

Huffing out a breath, Brian stared at a wall. "Now you know how I feel." Though Justin hadn't seemed to have any problems talking about emotional shit before, he'd never really talked about the fact that his Mom had been a good mom - at some point.

Brian paused as something came to mind. "You've been through a lot of shit lately."

"Tell me about it."

"And now you're thinking about talking to your mom..." Brian didn't want to say it, but needed to. "Do you know that it won't be too much? That you won't...?"

"Spaz out?" Justin asked bluntly. "Embarrass everyone by suddenly laughing or crying uncontrollably? No, I don't know," he said, "but if it happens, it happens. She's going to have to get used to that. If she has any hope of..." he stopped, taking a breath. "She'll have to learn to cope with what she couldn't cope with before, or we'll never get anywhere."

He couldn't disagree with that - it was the truth. "Well, whatever the fuck happens, you don't have to deal with your mom right now."

"I know," Justin said. "I'm gonna see how things go at work for a few weeks. If it's not too weird and I decide to stay for sure, then I'll seriously think about maybe contacting Mom."

He couldn't help the smirk. "Seriously maybe."

The tone must've been impossible to miss. "Shut up," Justin said fondly. "Anyway, that's my update - what's yours?"

"Nothing so dramatic," Brian lied, "or interesting. Same as usual. Running after clients without looking like I'm running after them. Putting up with Ted and Cynthia. Being generally brilliant."

Justin snorted. "You wouldn't be doing anything else, and you know it."

Smiling faintly, Brian swivelled towards the desk and picked up his stapler. Clicked it together a few times. Spoke. "We decided on a memorial. For the people who died." Brian, Ted and Cynthia had been pondering over different ideas for a while - in discussion with the victims’ families - and they'd finally settled on one today.

Okay, so Ted and Cynthia had been doing the discussing.

"Oh?" Justin asked, sounding surprised. "Tell me about it."

"Trees," Brian announced. "We're gonna plant a tree for every person who died. Put their names on them." Truthfully, the idea was all a bit too hippyish for Brian, but Ted and Cynthia had convinced him the gesture was a good one. Brian had just wanted the whole thing to be fucking over. Not that he thought the dead didn't deserve to be remembered; he just wished the whole thing had been fucking unnecessary. "Their relatives are being invited along; we'll let them plant the trees themselves if they want. Have a whole ceremony."

"That's really nice, Brian," Justin told him, sounding honest. "When is it?"

"Be a few weeks yet," he said. "We want it someplace nearby, but we need to get permission for a place we can do it. Then select what kind of trees we want, what's allowed, and of course consult with the families..." Nothing was ever fucking simple.

"Sure," Justin agreed. "You're gonna be there, right?"

As the owner of the club where their kids had died, he couldn't not be there. "Yeah."

"I want to go with you."

He'd been counting on that. "Sunshine, you'd be going whether you wanted to or not."

"Nice to know I have a say in these things," he replied warmly. "'re a good man. You know that?"

Brian put the stapler down. Cleared his throat. "I don't think-"

"No," Justin interrupted. "You've listened to me rant and rave about so many different things. You've coped with my freak outs. You found Daphne and investigated Zara - even if they maybe weren't the smartest ideas - because you care about me. And last night," he said, "last night you held me after I had a nightmare. You didn't tell me to suck it up or get over it, or lie that everything was going to be okay. You just held me. You love your son, you love your friends, and you'd do anything for them. And now you're arranging a memorial for people, strangers, who lost their children. Don't ever think you're not a good man, Brian. You're the best man I know."

He wanted to hang up the phone. Make some comment about being stuck in a Lifetime movie. Call Justin a romantic twat.

Instead, he cleared his throat and carefully spoke six words:

"So, you finishing at six again?"


That Sunday, there was a family dinner at Deb's. Brian had finished some work at the loft before driving over to Justin's to take him to dinner. Predictably they were late arriving at Deb's and, just as predictably, they were teased about it mercilessly.

They just smirked and dug into their pasta.

Justin was asked about his new job, and reported that he loved it - which was mostly the case now. There'd obviously been some awkwardness to overcome with Zara, but their working relationship seemed to be finding its feet, along with their friendship.

Of course, Justin didn't mention that to anyone at dinner. No one else knew about the bashing, and as far as Brian was concerned it'd stay that way until Justin decided otherwise. It was Justin's news to share.

Catching up with his best friend, Brian discovered that Hunter had decided to move back to Pittsburgh permanently and live with Mikey and the professor again (something that explained the huge ass grins Mikey and Ben had been wearing all night). Brian told him he was glad, meaning it, and then asked Hunter if he still liked pussy.

Later, when they were away from the table and alone near one corner of the room, Brian told Mikey about the tree-planting ceremony thing.

"I'd like to be there," Mikey told him. "Mel and Linds'll probably want to be there for Dusty, too."

"I figured," Brian nodded, starting to get resigned to the fact that this memorial thing probably wouldn't be restricted to less than ten people.

"And you know Ma," Mikey continued. "She'll wanna be there too."

"Christ, don't tell her anything yet," he complained. "We don't know anything specific yet anyway. Just let me have some peace before she gets melodramatic about everything."

Mikey just grinned.

Finding Justin by the fire, staring at something, Brian wrapped an arm around his neck and rested the side of their heads against each other. "Whatcha doing?"

Justin slipped an arm around his waist. "Who's that?" he asked, gesturing towards a picture frame on the mantel.

Picking up the picture of Deb and Vic with his free hand, Brian looked down at it, running a thumb along the edge. "That's Vic, Deb's brother. He died of a heart attack last February. He had AIDS, but in the end it was his meds that killed him." And fuck. It was only after he said that that he realised how fucking depressing that sounded. "That was the same day I found the lump on my testicle."

"Shit," Justin murmured, arm tightening around him. "Shitty day."

"You could say that," Brian said wryly, putting the picture back. "He was a good guy. You would've liked him and, fuck, he definitely would've liked you." He could imagine Vic's reaction to Justin perfectly.

"Really?" Justin asked, turning his head to look up at him.

"Definitely. He was a dirty old man. He would've loved watching your ass walk around."

Justin laughed. "My ass is attached to the rest of my body, you know."

"Trust me, Sunshine - your ass has a life of its own."

Linds came up to them then, and when she and Justin started comparing notes on their respective jobs, Brian drifted off to get a drink. Somehow he ended up standing next to Mel and Emmett - he had no fucking idea how that happened - while they were doing a bad job of 'secretly' discussing the fact that Ted's birthday was coming up soon. Emmett, unsurprisingly, wanted to throw a party (he, of course, would do all the planning) but hadn't decided on a theme yet.

Before he could stop himself, Brian found himself speaking. "Isn't it obvious, for fuck's sake? An opera theme."

"Well of course I thought about that," Emmett insisted, "but it just seems *too* obvious, don't you think?"

Brian pursed his lips together. "*You're* worried about being too obvious?"

Emmett rolled his eyes. "We're talking about Teddy's style - not mine. But it's really quite tragic from a party planner's point of view, you know," he continued. "Teddy doesn't have a lot of interests. There's opera..." His words faded off - that was clearly all he could think of.

"You know what's really tragic?" Brian asked, mostly rhetorically, partly teasing. Emmett could be irritating, but he did like the guy. "You were fucking the guy for months, you've been best friends for years, and that's all you can come up with?"

"Really?" Mel asked seriously. "So what are Justin's interests?"

That was easy. "Art. Painting, drawing. Cartoons. Cooking. Eating. Fucking. Yellow Submarine." He held his hands about ten inches apart. "This huge black dildo that he just loves to take up the-"

"We get the point," Mel interrupted through clenched teeth.

"Really?" Emmett asked, glancing between them. "I thought things were just getting interesting."

Smirking, Brian lowered his hands.


"So is there anything else I should know?" Justin asked, standing next to the bed in the loft. "Like about Deb's brother. Or Ben and Hunter being positive - you never really did tell me anything else about the 'family'. If important stuff I don't know comes up in conversation, I don't want to look like total idiot."

"Trust me," Brian told him, undoing the top button on his jeans from the other side of the bed. "No one could ever think you're an idiot."

Smiling, Justin tugged his sneakers off, and stepped up onto the bed. Carefully walking across the mattress, he paused on the edge - slightly taller than Brian now - and leant down to kiss him. Pulling away, grinning, Justin began unbuttoning Brian's shirt for him. "Come on, tell me."

Sighing heavily, Brian would have much rather concentrated on the fact that Justin was undressing him, but he tried to remember shit anyway and thought back to the conversation about Ted at Deb's. That sparked a few things. "Ted's a recovering drug addict."

Pausing with one of Brian's arms out of the shirt, Justin looked shocked. "Holy shit. Really? I can't believe I haven't heard about that."

Brian nodded. "Total crystal junkie. He and Emmett were fucking at the time, and-"

"Wait, wait," Justin interrupted. "Ted and Emmett were *fucking*?"

"Well, they called it a relationship, but yeah."

"Shit," he muttered, finally pulling the other arm free, and flapping the shirt around. "You should hang this up."

Brian kind of liked where this undressing thing was going. "Don't move," he ordered, taking the shirt from Justin and turning away. Opening his closet, Brian found an empty hanger and put the shirt on that, making sure it was hanging just right. Turning back around, he saw that Justin had stepped off the mattress to stand on the wooden shelf around the bed. "You moved," he said, stepping closer.

Ignoring him, Justin reached out, running his right hand over Brian's left shoulder. He seemed fascinated with it. "I love your shoulders," he murmured, leaning down to press a kiss against it.

Brian was certainly enjoying the attention it was getting.

"Tell me more," Justin said, kissing his shoulder again, running his hands down Brian's sides, pausing at his waist.

Brian tried to remember why he gave a shit about anything Ted did. "So, uh, some bad shit happened and Ted got hooked. Totally fucked up his relationship with Emmett - and everyone else, really."

"How'd he end up working for you?"

The kisses were getting closer and closer to Brian's neck, so he closed his eyes and tipped his head to one side. "Needed an accountant for Kinnetik; knew he was good. He was sober by then. I offered him a job." Realising the kisses had stopped, he opened his eyes and straightened his neck. Justin was staring at him. "What?"

"Not a good man my ass."

Shit. "I'd much rather talk about your ass."

Justin shook his head. "Just keep talking, period."

Brian could do that, if it meant not talking about the apparently wonderful things he did. "Uh...Mikey and Ben are actually married. They had a ceremony in Toronto. It's not legal here though, of course, and Deb refuses to marry Carl until it is."

Kissing the top of his chest, Justin started working on Brian's jeans. "Anything else?"

What the fuck else had happened? Shit, yeah. "A while ago Linds fucked around on Mel - with a guy."

Regrettably, Justin's hand and mouth stopped. "Let's not think about the details of that too much right now, okay?"

"Fine by me," Brian agreed as his jeans were tugged down a little, Justin's right hand not taking long at all to wrap about his cock. "Christ."

"I guess they must've made up," Justin said with forced casualness, spreading Brian's pre-come over his dick and slowly jerking him off. "And I guess she's not much of a dyke, huh?" With his free hand resting on Brian's shoulder, he started licking and nipping at his neck.

Brian was starting to get really fucking horny. "Claims she is," he breathed, hands sliding around Justin's body, down to his ass. "But every now and then," he pulled him even closer, "she needs to feel a big," Justin hooked a leg around one of Brian's, somehow still jerking him off, "hard," Justin's hand on his shoulder moved, the whole arm sliding around Brian's neck, pulling their heads closer together, "cock."

Their mouths crashed together, Justin's hand abandoning Brian's cock as he wrapped both arms around him. Pushing Justin backwards, they fell onto the bed, barely pausing as they adjusted to the new position. Between kisses and gropes Brian yanked Justin's shirt off, and when he started working on the pants, Justin tugged his jeans down further too. They were a mix of arms and legs, laughing but frustrated when they got in each other's way.

Finally, finally fucking naked, Brian reached for a condom, knocking the bowl to the floor in the process. Justin had somehow already got his hands on the lube, and he planted his feet on the mattress, opening himself up with his own fingers.

"Fuck," Brian spat, ripping open the condom with shaking fingers. Throwing the wrapper away, he rolled the condom on and told Justin to take his fingers out of his ass so he could replace them with his cock. Justin complied, for once, and then Brian was holding Justin's wrists down onto the mattress and Justin's legs were wrapped around his body and Brian was pushing in with one sudden thrust.

They both groaned. Paused. Even though everything in him was telling him to move.

Justin's mouth found his ear. "Fuck me."

He fucking did.

Brian'd had a lot of sex, but he didn't know if he'd ever fucked anyone this hard. Justin just kept urging him on, moaning and panting, grasping at his skin, kissing him as often as he could. Eventually tugging Justin's legs apart from around him, Brian held his thighs wide open, fucking as deep and as hard as he could, trying to hit his prostate at every opportunity.

Justin writhed beneath him, covering his face with his hands. "Oh God, fuck. Gonna...gonna come so *fucking* hard, Brian. Can feel it."

It only drove him on more, and when Justin started jerking himself off and came loudly, all around him, Brian fucking lost it, pouring everything into him.

He didn't want to fucking move, ever. But he had to. They were both still gasping and sweaty as Brian carefully pulled out and tied off the condom, half-heartedly throwing it off the side of the bed. He'd put it in the fucking trash later. "Definitely a fuck to remember," he gasped, flopping to one side so Justin could breathe easily.

"No fucking kidding," Justin retorted, breathing heavily, looking down at his come-covered chest. "We seriously need a shower."

Brian looked at his own chest, also graced with Justin's come. Then looked at Justin, who was now looking at him. "Or we could lay here and do nothing."

"That works too," Justin agreed happily, rolling towards him and throwing an arm across Brian's chest, apparently uncaring of the mess. It was his mess, after all.

Clearly, neither one of them could be bothered to move, and Brian did what he could to pull the covers over them considering the fact they were lying on top of them.

"We'll move in a minute," Justin told him sleepily, sighing against him heavily. "Oh, and did I tell you? I think I am gonna call my mom."

Not the kind of post-fuck conversation Brian had been anticipating, and Justin had made the decision faster than expected, too. Brian made a mental note to talk about it later when they weren't fucked-out and covered in come and on the verge of falling asleep. "'kay. Later."

"Later," Justin mumbled, and that was the last thing Brian heard before falling asleep.


Justin, apparently, had it planned out. Before he contacted his mom, he wanted to talk to Daphne about it first. Whenever she'd brought the subject up he'd deliberately avoided it, but not anymore. She'd had more contact with Jennifer over the last few years than he had - a lot more contact, comparatively speaking - and he wanted to get Daphne's opinion of what his mom was like now.

He already knew Brian's.

So, one night Justin went off to meet Daphne alone - he insisted it had to be that way. Brian enjoyed the privacy it gave him, getting a good workout on the running machine, taking a long shower, picking at some salady thing Justin had left in the fridge as he worked on some ad copy.

A little before 11pm, the door to the loft slid open and Justin stepped inside. Brian swivelled towards him in the computer chair. "Hey."

"Hey," Justin smiled - a good sign - taking off his jacket and walking towards him. Leaning down, he rested one hand on Brian's shoulder and brushed a kiss against his lips. Standing up straight, he smiled and walked across the loft, stepping up into the bedroom.

Getting up out of his chair, Brian started following him, pausing outside the bedroom. "I sense that it went well."

Justin came to the top of the steps, jacket and sneaker-less, matching Brian's eye-level. "You're good, Mr Kinney. I don't know how you do it."

"It's a gift," he retorted, before they lapsed into a few seconds of comfortable silence. "So, you're going through with it?"

Justin nodded. "I think so. After talking to Daph, and what you think about Mom...I really respect your opinions, so-"

"That's a first."

Justin stuck his tongue out at him, before becoming more serious. "And I guess...well, the fact that I even considered it meant that I wanted to see her again, I can't deny that. The thing is that it was such a huge fucking betrayal, you know?" He lifted one hand up before letting it fall back down, hitting his thigh. "My dad...I know there's no chance of reconciliation there. I'm dead to him. But Mom, she supported me. Tried to be the good 'gay mother', so when she turned around and did what she did, it hurt more than any homophobic shit Dad ever said to me. She was supposed to be the good parent."

It was easy to see what this was about. "You don't wanna get hurt again."

"No shit," Justin shrugged.

"But what about me?" Brian asked. "You've been hurt fuck knows how many times by guys, but you still came after me. Still came after what you wanted without knowing how I'd react, that I wouldn't fuck you over. How is that-?"

"I was fucking scared," Justin confessed. "I didn't know how it was going to end up - I just knew that I liked you, and it felt right, and if I didn't fucking try then I'd never know."

"Always so relentless," Brian smiled, feeling fucking *proud* or something. "But if that's the case, then how is the risk any different than the risk of reconciling with your mom?"

Sighing, Justin walked the few steps to the bed and sat down on the edge. "She's the only mom I have. This thing with you..." He looked up at him. "Don't get me wrong, Brian; I love it, I love you, I don't want anyone else. But if it hadn't worked, there was still the chance that I could've hooked up with someone else. My Mom Mom, you know? I don't get a chance to hook up with a new one. She's it."

Brian really didn't appreciate the thought of Justin hooking up with someone else, but he got the point. Nothing was certain. Easily climbing the steps to the bedroom Brian sat down next to him, nudging him gently. "Deb wouldn't be pleased to hear that."

Justin managed a single, quiet laugh.

Wrapping an arm around him, Brian kissed the side of his head. "Despite what you've said in the past, I'm really not the optimist in this relationship. But...I think it'll work out. I'm not saying it'll be plain sailing - you're a fucking drama queen, so I'm sure your mother is, too - but you're worth it, and she's an idiot if she doesn't realise that. And I don't think she's an idiot."

Sighing, Justin slumped against him. "Brian?"


"I'm hungry."

Brian shook his head in amazement. "Did you eat while you were out?"


Of course he did. Bottomless pit. "You want some of that salad?"

"Actually, I really want some pizza," he admitted. "Something with some substance."

"Oh, I see," Brian said, using a hand to tip Justin's head back. "Mr 'Healthy Eating' thinks it's okay for him to pig out, but not me. Double standards."

"I'm younger than you are," Justin argued, smirking up at him.

Brian arched his eyebrows. "That kind of talk is not going to make me call the pizza place."

"That's okay," he said smugly. "I'm perfectly capable of using a phone myself."

Brian wasn't about to let him get away with that, so when Justin stood up Brian grabbed the back of his pants and yanked him backwards.

Squawking, Justin fell back on the bed. "Hey!" he yelled, but Brian was already straddling his body, hands poised at Justin's sides. "You wanna be a smart ass again?" he asked, his fingers tracing lines along Justin's shirt.

Justin didn't back down (and fuck, Brian loved that about him). "I though you loved that my ass is smart. That I know how to use it to make you come so hard that you're shaking afterward. That-"

Enough was enough. Brian moved his hands.

"Brian!" Justin squawked louder this time, trying to squirm away from him even as he laughed. "Stop it!"

"I don't think so," he retorted, still tickling him, much preferring this Justin; the one who was alive and fighting him.

And fighting was the right word, too, as Justin started retaliating with his own hands.

Brian had one deep, dark secret he'd never willingly shared with anyone.

He was ticklish. *Really* fucking ticklish. You had to get just the right spots and actually dig your fingers in - a random brushing of skin wouldn't do anything - but the truth was out. Brian was ticklish.

Yelping - Jesus, fucking *yelping* - he used all of his strength to wrench himself away from Justin, stumbling away from the bed, breathing hard as he leant against the panels surrounding the bedroom.

Propping himself up on his arms, Justin stared at him. "Brian?"

He cleared his throat. "So, pizza?" he asked rhetorically, turning and walking out of the bedroom, heading for the phone by the computer. Somehow Justin was next to him by the time he got there, his hand on the phone, preventing Brian from picking it up.

Brian glared at him.

Justin narrowed his eyes. "So, you're-?"

"Yes," Brian interrupted. "I am. But only Mikey knows. And now you, I guess. And don't fucking tell anyone."

"Why not?" he asked calmly.

"Because I don't want them to know. I fucking hate being tickled. It doesn't make me laugh. I don't find it funny, or entertaining. Just fucking irritating."

Justin was doing a bad job of concealing a smile. "Then maybe you should think twice about tickling someone else, huh? You never know when they might retaliate."

Little shit had a point and he knew it. But Justin'd seemed the type who'd laugh while being tickled, and Brian had wanted... "So, what do you want on your pizza?" was the verbal response he gave, accompanied by a very slight quirk of his lips.

Justin saw it, smiling himself. "Anything except seafood."

"Christ, who the fuck puts seafood on their pizza anyway?"

"Not me," Justin agreed, pulling his hand away so Brian could get to the phone. "I'm gonna get changed."

Passing by Brian, he brushed a hand across his back. Pausing, for a moment, he moved closer, and Brian though he felt a very soft kiss pressed to the back of his neck.

"Thanks," Justin whispered, and then the hand and mouth and Justin were gone, and Brian was standing with the phone in his hand and a faint smile on his face.


The next day after work Justin climbed into the Jeep, leaning across to kiss Brian.

Not complaining - Justin didn't usually greet him in the car with a kiss, but he wasn't about to object - Brian let the kiss continue, but when it ended he drew back and fixed Justin with an arched eyebrow.

He didn't take long to explain. "I called Mom. At lunch. After talking to you."

"Already?" That was fast. He hadn't mentioned anything about doing it so soon when they'd spoken earlier, but then Justin generally wasn't the type to waste time.



Justin looked back at him seriously. "She said she'd love to meet up. Anywhere, anytime of my choosing. It's all up to me."

That was exactly what Justin had been wanting. "So that's good, right?"

Nodding, Justin licked his lips. "Can I use the loft?"

Brian didn't care about giving up the space, but he was surprised. "Why?"

"I just thought..." shrugging, he looked away. "It'd be nice for this...first attempt, if it wasn't some place where I still hadn't unpacked, where I have boxes and shit stacked against the walls. But I still want it to be territory I know well, and she doesn't."

Staring at him, Brian took in Justin's profile. He was still looking away. "Since when do you give a fuck what other people think, Sunshine?" Justin turned his head back towards him, eyes wide. Brian kept talking. "I thought the point of this is that she has to accept you the way you are. Let her see the boxes and junk you haven't unpacked. Let her see the paintings you have on the walls; let her see *you*. If you bring her over to the loft for this you're masquerading as me, and this town - hell, this whole fucking *planet* - is only big enough for one Brian Kinney." Brian did get it - Jennifer made Justin vulnerable, more than anything else could. Made him doubt himself, who he was, the way he lived his life, when normally he was so fucking strong.

Brian had never really hated her until he realised that.

Justin regarded him strangely. "Since when did you turn into a psychologist?"

"You kidding me?" he mocked, even as he realised that he did know Justin disturbingly well. "I had to take my own doctorate in Justin Taylor Studies to understand exactly what goes on inside that head of yours. And, of course, I had to perform my own Justin Taylor study to investigate your other head, but that particular subject was an easy one," he leered.

"Ha, you're one to talk," Justin retorted, ignoring the look. "I'm way easier to understand than you are."

"If you say so, Sunshine." Truthfully, he knew he was considerably more closed-off than Justin. Or at least he had been. But Brian liked arguing with him.

"Anyway," Justin grinned, "regardless, we don't seem to be doing too badly."

That was the truth, too. "I guess not."

He kept smiling. "Could you take me to my place? You're right - I shouldn't be trying to hide who I am. Fuck her."

That was more like it, but Brian frowned at the implication of his words. "You're meeting her tonight?"


*Definitely* didn't like wasting time.

As Brian pulled out into the traffic, Justin pulled out his cell phone and made a call. It was easy to guess who it was to, and Brian's thoughts were verified when Justin started speaking.

"Hey, Mom," he began, then paused. "Yeah. So, uh, I decided I definitely want to do this at my own place. You need the address?" After another pause, Justin rattled off his address. "But if you get lost, just give me a call and I'll give you directions. Yeah...7:30, okay? I'll make something to eat. Right. Okay. Right. Bye." Ending the call, he put the phone away.

Neither one of them said anything for a while. Justin stared out the window silently, while Brian navigated traffic.

Finally, when they paused at an intersection, Justin looked towards him. "She sounds really excited about the idea of meeting up. That's good, right?"

Turning to look at him, Brian met his gaze and cupped a hand around the back of his neck. "Yeah, it is."


After that, Justin was cool as ice. When they got to his apartment, he didn't run around trying to unpack any his shit; instead he calmly started preparing dinner. After getting changed into his jeans and a shirt, Brian offered his chopping skills (that particular offer brought a smile to Justin's face), and they worked together in the kitchen, talking about their respective days and saying nothing at all about Justin's mom.

Of course, every now and then Brian would feel absolutely compelled to push Justin back against a counter, and kiss him until Justin shoved him away, worried about something burning or drying out, at which point Brian would mock him about turning into a house husband.

At which point Justin would mock Brian for calling him a husband.

The whole thing took much longer that it should have and, finally, at about 7:28, the buzzer sounded.

Justin turned around from where the food was simmering nicely. "She's early."

"Barely," Brian argued.

Wiping his hands on a dishtowel, Justin kept it in his hands as he walked to the intercom by the door. Hesitating for a moment, he pressed the talk button. "Hello?"

Jennifer's intercom-distorted voice echoed through. "Justin. It's me. Your mother."

He cleared his throat before pushing the button again. "Come on up." Releasing the talk button, he pressed the entry button.

Leaving the kitchen, Brian picked up his jacket from where he'd thrown it over the back of Justin's sofa, and began putting it on.

Justin watched him. "You don't have to-"

"Yeah, I do," Brian told him, putting his other arm in the sleeve. "And we both know it. This is about you two. I can keep myself entertained for another evening," he teased. When Justin stepped closer, Brian pulled him into a kiss.

And when the knock sounded on the door, they pulled away from each other.

"Okay," Justin breathed out. "Here goes nothing." Turning away, he threw the dishtowel onto the kitchen counter, straightened his back, and walked towards the door.

Jennifer was on the other side, holding a white box. "I brought dessert!" she announced too-cheerily.

Justin sounded about as surprised as Brian felt. That'd been quite some entrance. "Uh. Hi, Mom and - thanks. You didn't have to do that." Taking the box from her, he turned away and placed it on the kitchen counter. "Come in," he said, facing towards her.

Brian knew he was hard to miss, and Jennifer had already spotted him. "Oh, hello, Brian," she said, stepping cautiously inside. "I didn't know you were going to be here. Are you joining us...?" she asked, glancing between the two of them.

"No," Brian shook his head. "I'm just on my way out."

"Ah," nodding her understanding, Jennifer continued her inspection by looking around the apartment.

Stepping closer to Justin, Brian pressed a hand against his side, meeting his gaze. "I'll probably be out for a while, but I have my cell phone."

"Okay," Justin said, understanding. "I'll talk to you later."

Leaning in, Brian kissed him goodbye. Pulling away afterward, he was pleased to see that Justin didn't look embarrassed even though - if he knew mothers - Jennifer had to be staring at them right now. "Later," he smirked, deciding not to make a grab for Justin's ass before walking out of the apartment. "Jennifer," he said as he passed by, before stepping outside and closing the door behind him.

Standing outside the door, he waited a good twenty, thirty seconds. When he didn't hear any shouting, he started walking away and pulled out his cell.


As it turned out the rest of the boys were busy, but Mikey was free and that was all Brian cared about.

Mikey had explained exactly why Ben couldn't join them tonight, but Brian had forgotten already, sitting next to his friend at the bar at Woody's. Brian was still nursing his first drink.

"So, where's Justin tonight?" Mikey asked, after stopping some diatribe about the newest guy he'd hired for the store. "No trouble in paradise, I hope," he grinned.

"Hardly," Brian rolled his eyes. "You know very well that I excel at everything I do."

"Oh yeah, of course," Mikey smirked, letting him get away with the bullshit. "My mistake."

Brian sipped at his drink. "Anyway, he's visiting with his mommy. They haven't seen each other for a while."

"How long?"

"Six years, give or take." Brian really didn't consider running into each other at his office a visit.

"Six *years*?" Mikey asked, putting down his beer. "Shit, I'm trying to imagine Ma's reaction if I went without seeing her for six *days*."

"Not everyone's mom is like Deb." Brian was caught somewhere between thinking thank fuck and unlucky fuckers.

Nodding, Mikey took a gulp of his beer. "So how come they didn't see each other for so long?"

"Long story," Brian grunted, taking a cigarette out, holding it between his lips as he lit up. Puffing out a breath of smoke, he held the cigarette between two fingers. "His to tell. But they're giving it another try." Realising Mikey was staring at him, he stared right back. "What?"

"I dunno," Mikey shrugged. "It's just nice, seeing you care about someone like this."

Brian groaned. "For fuck's sake, don't call me *nice*. Do you want my dick to fall off?"

Mikey pretended to be apologetic, and they talked and snarked and laughed about nothing for fucking hours.

"I better get home," Mikey said eventually, stumbling to his feet. He'd been drinking more than Brian, but he wasn't completely wasted. "And Brian," he slurred some, sounding pathetic, which was the only reason Brian didn't hit him later, "I meant what I said before. I'm really glad you found someone to love. It's about fucking time."

Not responding, Brian guided Mikey outside and into a cab, giving the driver twenty dollars.

Walking back to the Jeep with his hands jammed into his pockets, there was no way Brian could avoid thinking about what Mikey had said. Fuck. He and Justin were practically living in each others pockets, and Brian wanted him around all the time, and wanted to fuck him all the time, and generally wanted to maim anyone who hurt him. Shit, even when Justin said that he loved him now, like he had yesterday, Brian didn't even think it was weird anymore. It just...was.

He had to be going insane, but he fucking liked it.


Loved it.


Brian had been sitting in his car - just sitting there - for five minutes when his phone rang. Surprised at the sudden noise, he blinked, and then pulled out the phone. Caller ID told him it was Justin.

He answered the call immediately. "Hey."

"Hey," Justin's voice replied, sounding strained. "Can you come over?"

Brian started pulling his seat belt on with one hand. "I'm on my way. Is she still there?" After the seat belt clicked into place, he put the key in the ignition.

"No, she just left."

Brian didn't need to glance at his watch. "She was there for a while."

"Yeah. We talked a lot. She..." his voice caught, and half-choked sob came out. Brian closed his eyes. "Fuck, Brian. She told me that she's been seeing a shrink for years, and they think that when it happened, when she tried to have me committed, she'd had some kind of mental break or something. That of all things *she* should've been the one to be committed, so it was never really *her*, it was never really her fault and I was away for all those fucking years...oh my God..."

Opening his eyes, Brian jammed the phone between his shoulders and his ear, using both hands to start the Jeep and pull out onto the road. "I'm on my way right now, okay? I'll be there in a few minutes."

"Yeah," he breathed. "Just get here, okay?"

"Justin?" Brian said. "Whether or not it was her fault, it was *never* yours. You never did anything wrong. You fucking survived the only way you could."

He sniffed loudly. "I just hate the idea of wasting time, you know? Sometimes it was so fucking lonely in New York, and I could've been here-"

"No," Brian interrupted. "No regrets. Not for you, Sunshine. You had to get out when you did - fuck, we both did. The day I turned 18 I moved out of my parents place, and in with Deb and Mikey until college. I had to do what I had to do, and so did you. Besides," he said, taking a breath, "if you hadn't gone to New York you wouldn't be the man you are now, and it turns out I'm pretty fond of that little fucker." Pausing, he thought he heard a soft laugh. "And I know you're happy," he said quietly, seriously, "despite how you're feeling right now. I know that underneath it you're happy with the man you are and the life you live. And so am I." Stopping, he huffed out a breath. Fucking Mikey getting him thinking about feelings and shit - now they were on his mind all the time.

Justin sniffed again. "You're such a romantic twat, Brian. Just get over here already."

Realising Justin had hung up on him - had actually hung up on him, the fucker - Brian slammed his phone shut and threw it onto the passenger seat. He made the rest of the drive in silence.

Because of the comparatively late hour, his usual parking spot was taken. Finally finding one a block away, Brian grabbed his phone and locked the Jeep, and started jogging towards Justin's apartment block.

Only to see Justin standing outside the building, his arms crossed over his body, hands rubbing to try and keep himself warm. When he saw Brian, he started running towards him.

Brian didn't say anything for the first fifteen seconds they were holding on to each other, just let Justin hold on and be silently grateful that his mom hadn't fucked him over again.

And then he spoke. "Why the fuck are you standing around outside? Are you insane?"

Smacking Brian's back, he pulled away, looking up at him. It may have been night, but even with the street lighting it was easy to see Justin's damp, blotchy face.

"You look like shit."

Justin wrinkled his nose. "Mom looked worse. I'm totally out of tissues - which reminds me, I need to buy toilet paper tomorrow."

Brian didn't want to know. Instead, he let Justin take his hand and lead him into the building. There was no way either one of them were climbing the three flights of stairs to Justin's floor, so Brian called for the elevator. The doors opened immediately and Brian stepped inside, pushing the button for the third floor and tugging Justin towards him. Brian ended up leaning against the back wall and Justin leaned against him, both arms wrapped around Brian's body, his head resting against Brian's chest.

The door started closing, but just before they would've shut completely an arm shot through the gap, making the doors open back up. A girl walked in, maybe twenty; obviously drunk. Her skirt was so short it could more accurately be described as a belt, but she had the legs for it so as far as Brian was concerned, more power to her.

Slapping at the buttons for her floor, she eventually came to a rest at the other side of the elevator. Definitely staring at them.

When the door finally closed and the elevator started moving, Brian stared back at her over Justin's head, just *daring* her to say a fucking word.

She didn't say anything, just kept staring - Brian actually couldn't tell if it was in horror or appreciation, and he was usually pretty good at that - until they reached the third floor and Brian walked Justin out of the elevator. They were in the apartment soon enough, and Brian nudged Justin towards the bedroom.

"Go lie down. I'll be right there."

Making sure the door was locked, Brian then headed straight to the bathroom. Washing his face and brushing his teeth, he emerged to make sure nothing had been left turned on before joining Justin in the bedroom. The lamp was on, and he and Justin silently watched each other as Brian got undressed. When he walked to the bed afterward, Justin flipped the covers back and Brian slid in next to him. It didn't take long for Justin to latch onto him, and - well. Brian was doing much the same to him.

Justin didn't tell him many details; mainly just that he and Jennifer had talked a lot, and it'd gone as well as it could have. Brian couldn't imagine where their conversation would've started - it all would've been fucking awkward.

"She did freak out when I told her I'd been at Babylon the night of the bombing, though," Justin told him. "That that was how we met."

Brian tried to act disinterested. "You talked about me? Wait - of course you did. I *am* fucking interesting..."

Justin snuggled closer. "We talked about you because you're the guy I'm dating, Brian. And she wants to get to know you better," he added. "Not just as a client."

Oh Christ, now he was meeting the parents? Although, technically, he'd met Jennifer several times, it was always in a professional capacity. "So, that means what? Going to dinner together at your mommy's?"

"Maybe," Justin said seriously.


And fuck, that really didn't matter right now. There was no way he couldn't notice that Justin hadn't mentioned what he'd been talking about when he'd called. "So," Brian began, "when you called, you said..."

Justin sighed against him. "Yeah. I don't know if there's anything else to say about that. It's fucked up."

"You're here now," Brian told him. "And she's here now. And, from all accounts, tonight went well."

"You've heard exactly one account."

"Okay, from the account that matters, tonight went well. Don't waste your time grieving for what could've or should've been, Sunshine; that'll get you fucking nowhere."

Stirring, Justin tipped his head back and looked at him with those big, reddened eyes. It really wasn't his best look. "Is that how you coped with your parents?"

Brian's gut clenched. Jesus Christ. Sometimes it was like Justin lived inside his fucking head. "This is about you."

"And you," Justin argued, "since you're the one giving me all this advice. I know you've had to deal with your own crappy parent situations - shit, considering what you went through, of course you have."

"And I didn't even get my happy parent ending," Brian smirked, trying to make it a joke.

But Justin was still staring at him seriously, and when the fuck had this stopped being about Justin freaking out over his mom and about poor Brian's unhappy childhood? This whole conversation had been flipped on its fucking head.

Fuck. "Don't be..." He wrinkled up his forehead. "Don't be fucking sad for me, okay? It is what it is."

"I don't pity you," Justin insisted quietly. "I've never pitied you. But I can be sad and angry for what happened to you, and I am. Because I love you."

Mikey's words came back to him again. Sighing, Brian looked away and let his head fall back against the pillow. He couldn't...wasn't ready to say them, didn't know if he ever would be. But he *did* want Justin around all the time and there was one thing he could think of to help make sure that happened.

"So, you wanna move into the loft?"


Tensing for a few seconds, Justin eventually pushed away from him and then sat up to face Brian properly. "Where the fuck did that come from?"

Okay, so Brian could see how it might have been a surprise. Groaning silently, he sat up himself, dragging a hand through his hair. "If it's not what you want-"

"I didn't say that," Justin insisted. "I came out of nowhere, Brian. Is this something you've been thinking about for a while?"

It was something he'd been thinking about for about two seconds before he said it. "Not exactly." It was just...there.

Justin squinted at him. "Are you just asking to try and make me feel better?"

"Christ, no," he spat. "I don't say anything I don't mean - you should know that."

But Justin just kept regarding him strangely. "Is it something *you* want?"

Fuck, Brian hated being put on the spot like that. "Would I have asked if I didn't?"

"That's not exactly a yes."

"And it's not a no," he argued, getting frustrated as hell. "Look, let's just forget the whole fucking-"

"Don't be a shit, Brian," Justin interrupted, glaring at him. "Not now. Not tonight."

Brian stopped talking. Fuck. Okay. Yeah, okay, so he'd been trying to do something nice - fuck, his dick really *was* about to fall off - but then he turned into an asshole about it. "Okay," he sighed, looking away from Justin, resigning himself to the fact that he had to be...not an asshole. "I haven't thought about it before. And though I do think it might be something you want, I..." Fucking shitting *feelings*. "I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't want it too, okay? And can we stop fucking talking now?"

Justin didn't say anything. In fact the only sound he made was when he shifted on the bed, and as Brian still wasn't looking at him he only realised exactly what Justin was doing when the lamp turned off, plunging the room into darkness.

"Okay," Justin said afterwards, shifting around again. "You don't have to say anything, but you are going to listen to me." Not exactly what Brian had been hoping for, but it was better than nothing. "First," Justin began, "don't think for one second that I didn't notice how you've effectively changed the subject to make me stop thinking about Mom." Brian winced even as Justin kept talking. "And second...I like where we are. I like how our relationship is going. That said..." his smile could be heard in his voice. "I'd love to move in together, Brian. And from a financial standpoint it kind of makes sense. I mean, I know neither one of us is short on money, but when we're spending so much time together it kind of seems pointless to keep paying out for two different places. But..." he hesitated. "This is my first serious relationship. And yours. You've certainly said enough times that you've never even attempted one before, and I don't want either one of us to rush or force ourselves into something we're not ready for."

Jesus, Justin was in one of his talkative moods again. Brian was really fucking glad he didn't have to say anything.

"Also..." Christ, more? "I wouldn't want to move into the loft."

And then he was speaking. "Why the fuck not?"

"Because there's no privacy," he pointed out. "The loft's beautiful, and it looks great - but it's not very practical. I'll need more room for when I get all my painting shit unpacked and, you've gotta admit, Brian - sometimes you like your privacy. And sometimes we piss each other off. It'd be nice to have separate rooms with doors where we can get away from each other if we want to. Plus...although it *does* look great, it's also very *you*. I'd like some of my own character around."

Holy shit. The idea of Justin moving into the loft had seemed relatively simple - permanently give up half of the bed, his closet space, drawers, whatever room Justin needed to paint...

Okay, maybe not so simple.

But this meant...looking for a new place. Together. Signing a lease or buying it. Together.

Moving in. Together.

And Justin certainly had a lot to say on the matter. In fact, it was almost too much... "Have *you* been thinking about this?"

Somehow, even though he couldn't see it, he knew Justin was blushing.

"Uh. I might have. From time to time."

Shit, that explained so fucking much - Justin hadn't been thinking all this off the top of his head. He'd already had it in his head. "How long?"

"Not very. I meant what I said - I'm happy with the way things are at the moment."

"But you think it might be even better if we move in together?"

"I don't know. Maybe." He paused. "It might make it worse. I have no experience in this area either."

That was vaguely reassuring, in a way. Justin may have had general expectations, but not having done this himself either, he wouldn't know exactly what to expect. "The blind leading the blind."

Justin snorted. "I guess. But...yeah. There's no rush, right? It's not like we have to decide right now. We can both take time to consider the idea, what it means, and decide if we're ready later. And in the meantime, our...arrangement seems to be working quite well."

Sighing, Brian shifted until he was lying down, his head resting against the pillow. He hated fucking thinking.

Shifting down himself, Justin rested against him, his head on Brian's chest. "I do really appreciate that you asked, you know. And that you came here tonight."

Brian rubbed his hand along Justin's arm. "This...whole thing. Never should've been about me. After the night you had-"

"We're in this together, right?" Justin interrupted. "So sometimes it's gonna be about you, sometimes it's gonna be about me, and sometimes it's gonna be about both of us. That's the way it works, Brian. Conversations aren't as...defined as I think you'd like them to be."

Fuck, sometimes life wasn't as defined as he'd like it to be, as much as he'd enjoyed breaking the rules in the past. But a defined life meant other people thinking for him, and Brian had his own brain. The freedom to choose could be fucking scary sometimes, but wasn't that what made it worthwhile?

Fuck this. Enough fucking thinking. Justin needed to sleep, and they both had work tomorrow. He couldn't wait for the weekend.

"Let's go to sleep," he suggested, hoping it would make Justin shut up.

As it turned out, Justin didn't say anything. But he did keep leaning against Brian, and he let out a big, deep breath, and clung a little tighter.

"She loves you," Brian said quietly. "And that's what matters."

Justin sniffed against him, and didn't stir again until morning.


Justin saw more and more of his mother, which meant that Brian saw more and more of Jennifer too. She didn't seem to disapprove of their relationship at all (in fact, she'd confided in Justin - who subsequently confided in Brian, with a great deal of humour - that she thought he'd made 'quite the catch' by 'landing Brian'. Brian had made fishing jokes the next time he saw her, which earned him an elbow in the ribs from his catcher). Sometimes she'd come over to Justin's while Brian was around; sometimes she even come over to the loft. Justin's relationship with her seemed to getting stronger all the time and Justin, who'd never exactly been a dour person, looked even happier.

It wasn't perfect - there were still awkward moments, old hurts that couldn't be forgotten overnight - but they were making it work.

Justin's visits with his sister hadn't gone quite so well. She was still living at home, and though Brian had yet to meet her, from all accounts she hadn't taken not seeing her brother for six years well. Apparently for a number of years she'd focused her anger on her mother, and though it had calmed some over the years, now that Justin was back she had a new person to bitch at.

Eventually, tragically, the invitation Brian had been dreading and expecting had finally been issued. Dinner at Jennifer's. With her husband. And Molly.

He tried to invent any number of reasons to get out of it, but then Justin would look at him and he knew there was no fucking way he was getting out of this.

Brian didn't want to go too fancy or too casual - although Jennifer had told them there was no need to dress up - so he wore jeans, an expensive shirt, a comfortable pair of boots, and topped it all off with a leather jacket. Justin told him he looked fucking hot, and that they'd better hope his mom's husband wasn't bi or they'd all be in trouble.

"I think I can hold off some old quasi-fag," Brian smirked.

"He's not old," Justin told him, studying himself in the mirror. "He's like 28 or something."

Huh. Somehow he hadn't heard that. "Your mom goes for younger men, huh?" he asked, grabbing Justin from behind and grinning at him in the mirror.

Justin grinned back at him, covering Brian's hands with his own. "Whereas I go for older," he teased.

"Watch it," Brian warned, and Justin just grinned harder.

"I'm just glad she has someone, you know? The age thing kind of threw me at first but then I thought, who the fuck am I to talk? And anyone who isn't Dad is a step up as far as I'm concerned."

Pulling a hand away, Brian glanced at his watch. "Twenty minutes to death. We should think about heading out."

"Sure," Justin agreed, but made no attempt to move; instead catching Brian's eye in the mirror again and smirking. "And, hey, just think about it - the closest thing you've ever had to a father-in-law? Is six years younger than you."

That was it. He was making Justin wear a butt plug all fucking night.


The truth of it was, the hubby was fucking hot. Yeah, so he looked like he was trying too hard with the perfectly styled hair and 'hip' clothes, but he was still hot. Brian felt oddly proud of Jennifer.

He just had one problem (besides the fact that he even had a closest thing to a father-in-law, not to mention that closest thing to a father-in-law being *younger than him*):

What the fuck kind of name was Tucker Acker?

They'd arrived on time - Justin had insisted - and were greeted by a brightly-smiling Jennifer, with Tucker standing just behind her. He'd greeted them both with a warm, firm handshake, that didn't linger too long.

Definitely straight.

Justin had met Tucker before and though Brian had been told as much, they clearly got along. Their similarity in age probably helped - Tucker was only four years older - but he decided not to mention that. Presenting Jennifer with the bottle of wine he'd brought (he knew how to butter up just about anyone); he was then forced to sit down on the sofa as Jennifer absolutely insisted that everyone have a glass right now. Justin sat next to him, quite comfortably. He wasn't insane and thus had refused to wear the butt plug. In his own words, he didn't want to be horny in his mother's presence.

Brian couldn't really blame him.

Molly was something of an enigma. She didn't say much; just spent a lot of time staring at Brian, and not in an 'I want to rip your clothes off' way. More an 'I want to rip your single remaining ball off' way.

Great. He was already hated by his boyfriend's little sister and the night had only just started.

The dining table was already set out, and after a few more minutes and a few trips back and forth from the kitchen by both Jennifer and Tucker, it was announced that dinner was ready and everyone should move to the table. It was clear that Jennifer and Tucker had been working on dinner together, and seemed familiar and at ease with bringing the dishes in and making sure everything was ready. They insisted that no one else try to help them.

Brian and Justin had opted to sit next to each other, and Justin leant towards him to whisper, "My dad never would've done anything like that."

The food was good, and Brian said so. "This isn't bad."

Justin grinned. "That means he loves it."

"Yes," Jennifer agreed, producing a smile that matched her son's. "I've began deciphering some of his...distinctive language over the last couple of weeks. And thank you very much, Brian. If you want the recipe we'd be happy to give it to you."

That was truly an offer he'd never received before. Truly an offer he could say he'd never even wanted.

Justin did a bad job of smothering a laugh.

Brian turned his head to glare at him. "Grow up."

"Oh please," Justin smirked, and Brian reminded himself why it was a bad idea to give Justin ammunition. "You should've seen your face! And *I'll* take the recipe, thanks, Mom," he shifted his gaze to look over at Jennifer. "It really does taste nice, but Brian doesn't cook."

"I could if I wanted to," Brian shrugged, "but I don't."

Justin smirked at him again. "Thankfully we both bring our own unique skills to this relationship."

Brian smirked right back, thinking back to a few of those 'skills'. "You could say that."

They dropped off into complete silence after that, and Brian realised that everyone else was watching them - they *had* kind of dominated the meal. The others seemed entertained, at least. Brian thought Molly might've even been trying to hide a smile - either that, or she had gas.

Conversation picked up again between the others but Molly, as she had for most of the meal, picked at her food and didn't say much. The others tried to draw her out, bring her into the conversation, but she always replied with something that stopped things before they even had a chance to get started. Molly was sitting directly across from him, so while Justin was talking to Tucker about his job at the gallery, Brian started talking to her.

"I'm not much of an eater, either," he said, indicating her barely-touched plate.

Obviously surprised, her gaze flicked all around the table. Apparently confident that no one was paying them any attention, she shrugged. "Gays like to watch what they eat, right?"

Ah, stereotypes. Those were always fun. "It varies. I know some who really don't give a shit what they look like, but yeah, most of the fags I know work out a lot."

"Not Justin, though."

Brian doubted Justin had ever stepped foot inside a gym outside school. "No, not Justin. In fact, if I don't finish everything on my plate, I can guarantee he'll do it for me."

She shook her head in disbelief. "He always did eat like a horse."

"He's hung like one, too."

"Oh my God, gross," she made a face, although Brian got the impression that she wasn't really offended. "I don't need to know that!"

"Know what?" Jennifer asked, obviously having overheard.

"That Justin's hung like a horse!"

Freezing for a moment, Jennifer quickly recovered. "You're quite right, honey - that's something neither one of us needed to know. Although I suppose Brian's very grateful for the fact that he is."

Brian officially loved Jennifer Acker.

Justin gawked at Brian, then his mother. "Why the hell did we start talking about my dick?"

"Molly asked," Brian lied, shrugging nonchalantly.

"I did not! Why would I wanna know about my brother's dick?"

This was probably the best meal Brian had ever been to.

Tucker put down his fork. " it weird that I feel proud that my stepson's hung like a horse?"

Justin groaned quietly, hiding his face in his hands.

Brian wanted to know when the fuck they could do this again.


That officially broke the ice. Up until then everyone - except maybe Molly and Brian - had been irritatingly 'pleasant'. Now they talked about whatever the fuck came to mind and Brian was feeling very, very pleased with himself. It hadn't taken Justin long to figure out what Brian had done, and he promised him a thank you blowjob when they got out to the Jeep.

Dinner had finished, and Brian was looking at a picture of Justin when he just a kid that was sitting on a table in the living room.

Tucker walked up to him. "Hey."

Brian turned towards him, arching his eyebrows. "Is this the part where you warn me to 'treat Justin right'?"

"Hardly," Tucker smiled. "I don't know him very well yet - I have no right. Besides, he seems like the kind of guy who can take care of himself."

Good. Jennifer had a smart one. "That he can. Very effectively."

Tipping his head to one side, Tucker studied him intently. "That was a test. At dinner. You orchestrated the whole thing."

Definitely a smart one. "I had no idea how anyone was going to react," he said glibly.

"No, but that was the test," Tucker said. "You wanted to see if we - or more specifically, Jennifer - really were ready to accept Justin for who he is and the person he's with. I'd say she handled herself very nicely, wouldn't you?"

Brian smirked. "Runs in the family."

Nodding, apparently pleased, Tucker smiled. "Get you another drink?"

More time passed. Jennifer had again insisted that they not help with the dishes. Brian wasn't about to object, pulling Justin down onto the sofa with him. Brian really didn't *mean* to start making out with Justin's on his mother's sofa, it just kind of happened, and pretty soon they both stopped caring about it anyway.

"You were really good tonight," Justin said between kisses, nipping at the side of his chin.

"I'm always good," he pointed out.

"I don't just mean testing them or breaking the ice," Justin said seriously, putting an annoying stop to the kisses by pulling on the back of Brian's head and meeting his gaze. "I know this was a weird situation for you. Shit, it'd be weird for anyone, but even more so for you. But you didn't mock anyone badly, and you were charming in your own special way. I think they're all half in love with you already."

Brian saw the out and took it, uncomfortable. "Even Tucker?"

"Too bad if he is," Justin shook his head. "You've already been claimed."

"Claimed?" Brian lifted his eyebrows, sticking his tongue into the side of his mouth.

"Claimed," Justin repeated, amused. "Conquered, pillaged..."

"Hmm, and I suppose you're the Viking who raided me."

"That's right. I was big and strong, and there was no way you could fight me off."

Brian gave him a speculative look. "I guess you do have a big horn."

Laughing, Justin pulled him into another kiss, and that was when Molly bounced down next to them on the sofa. She was sixteen and, as far as Brian was concerned, entirely too old for bouncing of any kind.

She stared at them. They stared back. They'd ended the kiss, but hadn't pulled away from each other.

And finally she spoke, looking away as she drew patterns on the sofa cushion with her fingertips.

"So you're sticking around this time, right?"

Justin nodded. "Yeah. I am."

She nodded too, taking it in. After a moment she looked up with clear resolve. "Okay. In that case, Justin, there's something we really need to talk about."

"What's that?" he asked seriously, inching away from Brian and towards her.

"Your food intake!"

Brian chuckled. Justin rolled his eyes. "I'm fine."

"Yeah, for now," she snorted. "Wait 'til you hit thirty. Your butt'll double in size and suddenly you'll be an old man."

Brian couldn't let that one stand. "I'm over thirty," he told her, regretfully. "Do you think I'm old?"

Molly seemed to think it over, watching him. "There's only one thing I can say to that."

Fuck, did he want to know? "What's that?"

"Face it, Brian - you're older than your almost father-in-law."

Christ. He was never fucking coming here again. And Justin had better stop fucking laughing if he wanted to get fucked tonight.


Life was good. Life was really fucking good.

Justin was happier than Brian had ever seen him. They worked at the jobs they loved during the day, and fucked each others brains out at night (or whenever they felt like it).

Or sometimes they didn't fuck. Sometimes they went out and did something together, like a concert or a movie, or Justin spent time with his sister (who was still a bitch, but was now more a bitch in general instead of a bitch just towards them) or with his mom and it was all good. It was all seriously, ridiculously good.

Brian wasn't waiting for the other shoe to drop; he was expecting it to fucking plummet and land right on his fucking head. Nothing like this - like family - had ever ended well for him.

But he took the bull by the horns - Justin was a great inspiration - and told life to go fuck itself by asking Jennifer if she wanted to meet his son.

She'd been thrilled by the idea, and that Saturday Brian and Justin picked Gus up from the munchers and drove over to Jennifer's. On the way there, Brian told Gus all about where they were going.

"We're going to meet Justin's mom, Gus."

"Justin's mommy?" he asked from the back seat, sounding confused.

"That's right," Justin told him, turning in his seat to look back at him. "You'll like her Gus; she's really nice."

"Like Grandma Debbie?"

"Uh..." Justin glanced across at Brian. "Not exactly like Grandma Debbie. My Mom's not as..." he paused, obviously trying to find the right word. "...colourful as Debbie, but I know she's gonna love you."

Gus was quiet for a few seconds. "New Grandma?"

In all honesty, Brian had kind of been expecting it - he just wasn't sure how to answer it. Waiting until they were paused at a stoplight, Brian looked across at Justin. "Is that okay with you?"

Justin was smiling brightly, seeming more than a little pleased with himself. "I don't think anything would make her happier."

Brian wanted to kiss the little fucker, but then the traffic started moving and he pressed his foot on the accelerator. "Well," Brian shifted in his seat, glancing in the rear view mirror, "I guess you're right, Gus. Looks like you have a brand new Grandma - Grandma Jennifer." And yeah, it was a big thing, huge, but Brian knew Justin was it for him. Even if it didn't work out in the long run - something he tried not to think about - there would be no one else who could be Gus' Grandma, because there was no one else for Brian. Justin had weaselled into Brian's life in a way no one else ever would.

So when they pulled into Jennifer's driveway and both got out of the car, Brian followed his instincts. Quickly walking around the front of the Jeep, Brian pushed Justin back up against it and kissed the fuck out of him. Obviously surprised, Justin nonetheless didn't fight him off, instead deepening the kiss and pulling him closer. It wasn't about being horny, or getting off.

It was Justin.

When it ended, when they pulled apart, Brian pressed his forehead against Justin's.

"What was that for?" Justin asked breathlessly, eyes closed as his hands held on to Brian's upper arms.

Brian wasn't sure he had an answer for that. "Just...fucking everything." He was dating and practically living together and almost someone's son-in-law and introducing Gus to his new Grandma and he was turning into a huge fucking dyke and he didn't even care. "All hit at once."

"Brian," he said quietly, meeting his gaze, "if it's too much, too fast-"

"No," he interrupted. This whole fucking thing had been moving at warp speed (he hated Mikey for making him even know that term). "Just new."

The hand on Brian's left arm slipped up to the side of his face. "After we drop Gus home," Justin told him, "and go back to the loft, I'm gonna let you fuck the shit out of me, okay?"

There were many reasons Brian loved Justin. That was just one of them.

So he kissed the little fucker again.

Someone cleared their throat. Knowing it had to be Jennifer, Brian broke the kiss and looked over Justin's shoulder to see her standing in the doorway to her house, smiling. "You know," she said, "the whole time you two have been standing there kissing, your poor son has been trapped inside the car."

"Keeps him off the streets," Brian retorted, smirking, before giving Justin one last peck and walking back to the other side of the Jeep. Gus was a little annoyed that he hadn't got out of the car when his dad did, but he forgot all about it when he was walked towards the house.

"Gus," Brian introduced, holding one of his hands, "I'd like you to meet Justin's mom, Jennifer Acker. Jennifer, Gus Peterson-Marcus."

"Hello, Gus," Jennifer greeted warmly. "It's so nice to meet you. I've been looking forward to this."

"Grandma!" he yelled, surprising all of them as he ripped his hand out of Brian's and threw his arms around her legs.

Brian grinned, amused. Just like his father, Gus knew exactly how to get attention.


Tucker and Molly weren't around. Jennifer confided that she'd asked them to make themselves scarce for a while, not wanting to overwhelm Gus. Brian appreciated the gesture, although it really wasn't necessary - it was Gus who usually did the overwhelming.

Gus had immediately appropriated the sofa, dragging Jennifer onto it with him, so Brian and Justin had each parked themselves on an arm chair. Demanding to know all kinds of things about her, Gus asked Jennifer seemingly every question he could think of (Brian was remarkably grateful that he hadn't had one of those Gus question sessions for a while - he always asked impossible questions). They'd been there for about thirty minutes when Jennifer put a hand up to her mouth.

"Oh my God, where are my manners? Would anyone like a drink?" It was clear, even as she asked, that she didn't want to leave Gus - and just as clear that Gus wasn't about to let her.

"I'll get them," Justin volunteered, standing up. "I think I know where everything is now. Coffee?"

"Thanks, honey," Jennifer smiled, and Justin nodded and turned towards Brian.

Who mimicked her words exactly. "Thanks, honey."

Rolling his eyes, Justin pretended to take a swat at him even as he grinned.

"Coffee!" Gus announced, clearly wanting the same even though there was no way he'd ever tasted it.

"Nuh uh," Justin said, pointing at him. "You get juice, little man."

Gus pouted.

By the time Justin disappeared into the kitchen Gus had already gotten over himself and, apparently tiring of questions, asked if Jennifer had something he could draw on.

"Oh, of course, Gus," she said, getting up and leaving the room for a few moments. When she came back, she put a wad of paper and a pen on the coffee table, and then pulled the whole thing closer to Gus. He was quickly engrossed in drawing whatever he was drawing, and Brian watched as Jennifer repeatedly brushed her hand over Gus's hair.

When he saw her doing a bad job of surreptitiously wiping away a tear, he shifted in his chair. "You okay?"

She wiped at her face again. "I will be. I just...the last time I saw Justin - before recently - I'd screwed up so badly and he was so angry at me. I prayed, but I honestly thought he'd never..." She paused, closing her eyes for a moment. "I think it was the best day of my life when he told me he wanted to try again. And he's so happy. He has you, and a job he loves, and this beautiful little boy," she reached out to rub Gus' head again, smiling. He didn't seem to notice, still scribbling. "Even if Gus doesn't actually live with you. He lives with his mothers', right?" Brian nodded, and then so did she. "It doesn't matter. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all that matters is that we're happy. It doesn't matter if I'm not bound to him by legalities or blood - Gus will always be family to me." Pausing, she met his gaze. "And so will you. You have no idea how much you've done for Justin."

Fuck. Brian held himself absolutely still, ignoring her last statement. "You're right about that family shi..." he glanced towards Gus, "...stuff. His other Grandma isn't technically related, either."


"My best friend's mom," Brian explained. "I met her when I was fourteen - she practically raised me. She would've been offended if Gus didn't see her as a Grandma."

Jennifer nodded. "What about...your mother?"

Brian grimaced, not wanting to get into the details. "Let's just say my 'real' family aren't good people."

"You got that right," he heard Justin say bitterly, and he turned his head to see Justin walking towards him, carrying two mugs of coffee. There was a small table next to Brian's chair obviously meant for drinks, and Justin put both mugs on the coasters there before leaning over the edge of the chair. "But you made your own family," he said, his face close to Brian's.

"That I did," he grinned, leaning up to brush his lips against Justin's. "Your mom should meet them," he said, looking back towards Jennifer. She was watching them openly, and Brian didn't feel in the least bit embarrassed. "If you think she can handle it," he smirked.

"They are quite a crowd," Justin agreed, looking over at her too. "But I think she can take them. Oh!" he announced suddenly, obviously getting an idea. "Ted's birthday is coming up soon," he told Jennifer. "You and Tucker and Molly should all come along. I'm sure he wouldn't mind." Standing up properly, he headed back to the kitchen. "I need to get the rest of the drinks."

Jennifer shrugged towards Brian. "If you really don't think Ted will mind us coming along-"

"He won't mind," Brian shook his head. "Hell, he'll love it. He'll look more popular than he ever has."

"Ted has lots of friends," Justin chastised as he came back into the room. "You just like making fun of him."

"Something wrong with that?" he asked, watching as Justin walked by, depositing drinks on the coasters resting on the coffee table.

"Here's your juice, Gus."

"Thank you," Gus said politely, but still didn't look up.

Justin was obviously curious, peering down at the paper he was using. "What are you drawing?"

"New family," he said, scribbling away. "Have one of me, you, Daddy, Mommy, Momma, JR and Grandma Debbie. Now I need me, you, Daddy, Mommy, Momma, JR, Grandma Debbie and Grandma Jenn-fer."

Justin got that mushy look on his face, like something adorable had just happened, and when Brian looked over to Jennifer he saw that Justin had inherited that expression from his mother, AKA Grandma 'Jenn-fer'.

Mushy didn't bug him quite as much as it used to, but the whole Jennifer being a Grandma deal made him realise something. Something most satisfying. "Hey, you know what?"

"What?" Justin asked, barely able to tear his eyes away from Gus.

Brian smirked. "This makes Tucker a grandfather."


Ted, being Ted, had to go and fuck up everyone's plans.

They were both in Brian's office the next week, going over the latest developments with Babylon. Basic construction was almost complete, and now the new sound and lighting systems were being installed. It was just as they were wrapping up, and Brian was suggesting that Ted should get him a coffee as it was surely part of his duties as Chief Financial Officer, that Ted cleared his throat and completely changed the subject.

"Tad asked me to go skiing with him. For my birthday. *On* my birthday."

Brian wasn't sure why Ted had seen fit to share that little titbit with him in particular, but he could tell by the way Ted was acting that he hadn't shared the news with anyone else yet. He hadn't been seeing this 'Tad' for a particularly long time, but Brian really wasn't in a position to comment on relationships moving too fast. He could, however, think that any relationship that united two people called Ted and Tad was doomed to failure, but he'd kept his mouth shut about it.


So Brian asked the important question:

"Is he paying?"

Ted rolled his eyes. "We'd each be paying our own way."

"Hmm." Brian leant back in his chair, watching Ted at the other side of his desk. "Doesn't seem like much of a present."

"Well I think it's more that we'd be somewhere romantic together on my birthday. It doesn't matter who's paying, just that we're together."

Brian shrugged. "So why did you bring this matter to my attention?" Fuck knew he was hardly an expert on romantic shit.

"I can't decide what to do," Ted admitted. "I know there'll be a party or a meal with you guys - there's always a party or a meal with you guys - but how often am I asked to go on a romantic getaway with the guy I'm dating? But at the same time, I don't want to abandon my friends-"

"Bullshit," Brian interrupted. "Your friends are your friends - they'll understand, and they'll always be there as long as you don't treat them like shit too often. You need to find out if this Tad guy's worth it. Don't fuck it up."

Looking back at him, Ted wore a small smile that slowly transformed into a smirk.

Brian didn't like it. "Get the fuck out of my office."

Not seeming scared, Ted nonetheless stood up and started collecting paperwork from his side of Brian's desk. Holding it all under one arm, he straightened up and met Brian's gaze. "Thanks for the advice, Bri. And I'm glad Justin was worth it."

Deliberately ignoring him, Brian checked his e-mail. "Leave. And for fuck's sake, contact Emmett before he books the London Symphony Orchestra." Although knowing Emmett, they were probably already too late.

When lunchtime rolled around, Brian decided he wanted to see Justin. They hadn't shared many lunches together, mostly because by the time he drove to the gallery, picked Justin up and drove to some place they'd both eat at, they didn't actually get to spend a lot of time together, and the meal was always rushed. But fuck. He was the boss. He could take a long lunch today if he fucking wanted to.

"Cynthia," he announced, walking out of his office, "I'm taking a long lunch. Call me only if there's an emergency."

She didn't even look up from her desk. "Tell Justin hi, Boss."

Ignoring her just as he'd ignored Ted earlier, Brian pulled out his cell phone with one hand as the other pushed through Kinnetik's main door. Knowing that Justin usually kept his cell off during the day, he called the gallery directly.

"Jenkins Gallery, Justin Taylor speaking. How may I help you?"

Brian smirked, opening the building entrance and stepping outside. "I have this cock that just doesn't seem to go down."

"Brian!" Justin laughed.

Grinning, Brian started unlocking the Jeep - they had great parking for the 'office', just outside the building. The baths had been a prime location for more than one reason. "You haven't had lunch yet, right?"

"Not yet."

"Good. Don't," he ordered, settling into the Jeep and closing the door. "I'll be there about 1:30. Be ready."

"Yes, sir," Justin replied, teasing.

"Twat," he replied, ending the call and pulling his seat belt on.

They needed something to eat, of course, and things would be a lot simpler if he already had it when they met, so Brian found himself pulling into a supermarket. Of course, because it was around lunch it was fucking busy, but he managed to swipe two pre-made sandwiches, one of which even seemed like it wouldn't send his cholesterol level sky-rocketing. Grabbing a few pieces of fresh fruit, a can of soda, bottle of water, and one of those bags of chips that Justin liked, Brian lined up to pay.

The line was long, and Brian was frustrated, but he was really fucking glad he'd left himself plenty of time to do this. By the time he reached the gallery it was just after 1:30. Justin was already waiting on the sidewalk, and when he saw the Jeep he ran towards it. Brian didn't even pull over; just stopped momentarily so Justin could get in, and then drove away.

"Buckle up," he reminded, but Justin was already tugging his seat belt on.

"So where are we going?"

It wasn't hot outside, but it'd certainly been warming up over the past few weeks, and when the sun was out it was actually nice for once in dreary old Pittsburgh. "The park," he said, nodding towards the back seat.

Twisting in his seat, Justin looked behind him and began rustling through the bag. "Oh cool, Brian! I haven't been on a picnic in years."

A picnic? What the fuck? Brian had just thought that because it was a nice day they'd get some food, eat it in the park and...fuck. That *was* a picnic. "Me either." Truthfully, Brian couldn't remember if he'd ever been on a picnic himself. Definitely not with his parents, but there was probably something he'd done at school that he'd long since forgotten about.

Parking took longer than Brian would've liked - seemed he wasn't the only one to have this idea with the recent upturn in weather - but they did manage to find a space and, after locking up the Jeep, strolled into the park.

Brian saw the occasional bench that had some free room on it, but of course Justin marched by all of them, walking straight onto the grass. They weren't the only ones there by a long shot, and Justin plopped himself down on the grass and began taking the food out of the paper bag. Eyeing the ground dubiously, Brian wished he'd had the foresight to bring a blanket with him. If he was going to do this picnic thing, he should at least be doing it properly.

Glancing up, Justin smiled and held the bag out towards him. "Here; sit on this. I know those pants have got to be expensive."

Contemplating the bag for a few seconds, Brian waved it off and carefully sat down next to Justin. "There's a reason we have this thing called 'dry cleaning'."

"I am not aware of this foreign concept," Justin grinned, pulling the tab on his soda and taking a hearty gulp. He certainly wasn't shy about eating and drinking, but then he tended not to be shy about much at all.

It turned out to be...not nice, because Brian fucking hated that word; but it was good. It wasn't like they could fuck or enjoy a heavy make-out session, but the sun was out, and Brian's sandwich actually tasted okay instead of soggy cardboard, and Justin's hair looked even brighter than usual.

When Justin finished eating, he stretched out until he was lying on his back, looking up at the sky. Brian sat next to him, occasionally playing with Justin's hair and told him all about Ted and Tad.

"So..." Wrinkling up his nose, Justin turned his head on the grass to look towards Brian. "There's no party now?"

"Well, definitely not on his birthday at least," Brian shrugged. "But you know Deb. She'd have no problem with your mom and the others coming along to the next family dinner - fuck, if you mention it to her she'll make it a requirement. The fag-friendly are always-"

His phone rang. Annoyed, he snapped it off of his belt and checked the Caller ID. It wasn't Cynthia, but it was someone infinitely more annoying. Sometimes.

Brian answered the call. "Emmett."

"Brian!" he began immediately. "Did you hear about Teddy's little trip to-?"

"Yeah, he told me all about it. I told him to call you ASAP. Seems he did."

Closing his eyes, Justin basked in the sun. Brian made a mental note to bring suntan lotion the next time they did this.

"We can still do this," Emmett assured him, like Brian was involved with the process or even cared about it. "Just the weekend before. That way we're still celebrating his birthday and he can still go away with Tad. Of course, it'll mean some major reorganising, but-"

"I'm sure you can handle it," Brian told him. "You've had to deal with pickier queens than Ted." He figured flattering Emmett would get him off the phone faster and, well, it was also kind of true. "In any case, you know Ted would just be happy with a meal with the gang - you don't have to go all out."

Emmett made a noise of disgust, and Brian remembered who he was talking to.

"Anyway," Emmett cleared his throat before continuing hopefully, "I was calling you because...well, because of these last minute changes, there are some resources of yours that I was wondering if I could avail myself of..." 'Last minute changes' was pure hyperbole; the weekend Emmett was thinking of was two weeks away. But then on second thought, that probably was last minute in the party planning industry.

"Call Cynthia at the office," Brian told him. "She'll give you any contact information you need. Although frankly, you've been at this for a while now. I'm not sure what I have that you don't. Besides the obvious," he smirked. Justin smiled, his eyes still closed.

"That's exactly why you have it," Emmett replied confusingly. "Thanks, Brian. I really appreciate this. Speak to you later!"

Brian opened his mouth to reply, only to realise that Emmett had already ended the call. That was the second time in recent memory that someone had hung up on him. Huffing out a breath, he snapped his phone shut.

"How's Emmett?" Justin asked, rubbing his head against the side of Brian's thigh.

"He's Emmett," Brian answered, leaning on one hand as the fingers of the other found their way to Justin's hair again. "And we have to get going soon."

Somehow sighing grumpily, Justin opened his eyes, blinking against the sun as he focused on Brian's face. "At least we got to spend my whole lunch hour relaxing together instead of rushing around. Thanks."

"No need to thank me."

"Sure there is," Justin insisted, smiling faintly, the sun beaming down on him. "Sometimes, when you're not even looking, you can be ridiculously romantic."

Brian's first instinct was to insist that he wasn't and he looked away, uncomfortable. After a few seconds he thought up a better response and looked back, watching Justin's face. "Yeah, well if I am it's all your influence, you little shit."

Smiling broadly, Justin nudged Brian's leg with his head again. "I rock."

Rolling his eyes, Brian nonetheless couldn't help himself - and laughed.


It felt like no time at all until Ted's birthday party rolled around. More and more these days, it felt like time was flying by at a disturbingly fast rate, that those days were approaching where Brian wouldn't be able to get it up because of old age instead of radiation.

But until then, he was gonna enjoy fucking the shit out of Justin's ass at every opportunity.

"Brian," Justin gasped on top of him, Brian's softening cock still inside the ass in question. "We have to start getting ready. I want to be there before my mom arrives."

Grimacing, Brian held the base of the condom in place as Justin carefully pulled off. "You really know how to kill the mood, Sunshine."

Poking his tongue out at him briefly, Justin grinned before slipping off the bed, heading to the bathroom on obviously shaky legs. Pleased with himself, Brian pulled the condom off and then stumbled to his feet himself. Dumping the condom in the trash can in the bathroom; he opened the shower door and joined Justin beneath the water.

He'd insisted that they get ready at his place, and this was the reason why. His body feeling relaxed and languid the way it always did after good sex, Brian wrapped his arms around Justin and enjoyed all the fucking room they had. That was one incentive to move into a new place - Justin needed a big shower.

Brian had been thinking about it since their talk a few weeks ago - how could he not? - and he'd been thinking about it in terms of pros and cons. Justin's ass available anytime, day or night, was definitely a pro. A big pro. But that wasn't all that different from their situation now.

But then there was the whole living together thing. Brian'd never shared a home with someone other than a parent, a parental figure, or some jerk at college. If he could call that tiny room he had in college a home.

Fuck. Had he ever really had a home before? Fuck knew his parents' home had never been one. Deb had always tried her hardest, welcomed him with open arms when she'd realised the truth, and he'd certainly felt more at home there than he ever had with his parents. Sometimes it felt like home - or what he thought home should feel like - but too often he was all too aware that it *wasn't* his home, that it contrasted so wildly with the place he was supposed to love.

"Hey," Justin said, bringing him out of his thoughts, turning around in his arms. "Wash my hair for me?"

Brian didn't know why Justin asked - he always washed his fucking hair. "Sure," he replied, reaching out for the bottle. "I know how hard it is for someone as short as you are to reach your own head."

Justin simply shrugged. "And to think I was gonna give you a blowjob afterward."

Squirting a healthy dollop of shampoo onto one palm, Brian snapped the bottle shut and put it back on the shelf. "There's no way you were gonna blow me," he argued, massaging the shampoo into Justin's hair, "not with you so worried about getting there before mommy."

"I hadn't planned on fucking again, either," Justin argued, closing his eyes and tipping his head back. "But you can be oddly persuasive."

"And yet I'm not getting a blowjob?" Brian asked, smirking.

Justin smiled.


The party had nearly gone to shit again when Ted had broken up with Tad - something about him being a psychopath or something. But Emmett had saved the day by saying there was no need to change anything. They'd have the party on Saturday as planned and then - because Ted already had the reservations and there was no point in wasting them - he'd go skiing with him in Tad's place. It seemed Emmett had broken up with Drew, too.

Emmett really had gone all out. He'd hired out a small hall, and at the back a string quartet was playing music that was no doubt from one of the opera's Ted loved. Brian was familiar with some, but he didn't recognise the piece being performed at the moment.
The decoration was minimal but effective, with face masks and high quality streamers on the walls.

"How much did this fucking cost you?" Brian asked, not long after he and Justin had walked into the room.

"Not as much as you might think," Emmett told him haughtily, before using his normal tone. Whatever normal was for Emmett. "I called in a few favours, with your help - or rather, Cynthia's. It's just as well I was somewhat...extravagant. Poor Teddy seems so heart-broken; I'm sure it'll do him a world of good to see how much we all care about him." Emmett himself seemed surprisingly okay following his own break-up, but then Emmett was probably one of the most resilient people Brian had ever met.

Not that he'd mention that.

Following Emmett's gaze, Brian saw Ted standing by one of the buffet tables forlornly, looking like he had all week - like his heart had been ripped out as Deb put her hand on his arm in obvious comfort. "Jesus."

Nodding sadly, Emmett glanced off towards someone who was waving frantically. "Oh! Excuse me, boys - I need to go check on the rest of the food."

As Emmett rushed away, Justin stepped closer to Brian, resting an arm around his waist. "Poor Ted."

It'd never happened to him, of course, but Brian guessed that getting your heart stomped on by someone you possibly loved wouldn't be a good experience. "Yeah."

Justin squeezed his arm tighter, looking up at him. "I'm so lucky you're not a psychopath."

"The foundation of every good relationship," Brian smirked, before slipping an arm around Justin's back and guiding him towards Ted. "Come on. Let's go make the birthday boy feel worse about himself."

Brian wasn't a big believer in presents for birthdays, but Justin had made a card and they'd both signed their names on it. Ted seemed to appreciate it, praising Justin's design and drawing ability. "We miss you at Kinnetik," he insisted, before shooting a glance at Brian. "And even if the rest of us didn't, someone else still would."

Justin beamed. Brian scowled. Ted smirked, and Brian let him get away with it because it was the first time he hadn't looked pathetic in days.

Jennifer arrived about ten minutes later with Tucker and Molly in tow. She seemed appropriately pleased at her surroundings, and smiled broadly when Justin jogged over for a hug. Deb, surprising no one, was first in line to be introduced, and Brian strolled over in time to hear her tell Jennifer how lucky Sunshine was to have such an accepting family.

Not giving her any bullshit, Jennifer smiled. "Thanks, Debbie, but I have to admit things haven't been the way they always should. But..." she shifted her gaze towards Justin, still smiling. "We're working on that." Looking past him, her eyes settled on Brian. "Oh, hello, Brian!" Then, surprising the hell out of everyone, she hugged him.

Brian stood frozen for a moment, wondering just when the fuck their relationship had developed into one where they hugged each other - Brian only did that with about three people, and neither of them were Jennifer - before carefully patting her on the back with the hand that wasn't holding a glass of wine. "Jennifer," he muttered, then glanced over at the others. "Tucker. Molly."

Naturally, Deb latched onto it. "So you know Sunshine's mom well, Brian?"

"She's my realtor," he explained, grateful when Jennifer pulled away and Justin slipped in beside him again. Even if Justin was amused. "I actually knew her before I knew Justin." They'd kept the details of Justin's family deliberately vague; Justin didn't particularly want his entire family history made public.

"Ha!" Deb laughed. "It's a small fucking world sometimes, isn't it? Obviously the two of you were meant to be," she said, with a pointed looking towards him and Justin.

Brian took a sip of his wine.

"Anyway," Deb turned back towards the others. "Jenn, Tucker, come and meet my hubby. Well, I say hubby but I refuse to marry him until queers can get married here, so..."

As they disappeared towards Carl, Brian and Justin turned to face Molly who clearly hadn't been paying attention.

She squinted at them. " everyone gay here or what?"

"Depends," Brian replied smoothly. "You like pussy?"

Making a face, she flipped her hair from her shoulder. "You are so gross." Turning away, she went off in search of something that was probably alcoholic. If she was anything like her brother, she'd get her hands on it before Jennifer could stop her.

Grinning and shaking his head, Justin looked up at him. "I love you *so* much."

"Of course you do," Brian shrugged. "After all, I'm so very loveable."

Pulling his head down, Justin kissed him before declaring loudly that he was hungry.

Three plates of food later, Emmett was making a speech about the man of the hour. He actually managed to make Ted sound pretty cool, and when Ted got up to thank everyone, he looked better than he had all evening.

After that Brian found himself sitting at a table with Lindsay and Gus. Lindsay chatted away about work, while Brian pretended not to help Gus finish his food. For some reason Hunter was sitting with them too, and he spent most of the time complaining about his new job at the diner. If Brian was to believe his side of the story, it seemed that Deb was making Hunter work as slave labour.

The string quartet had been playing off and on all night, and right now they were playing again. It wasn't Brian's favourite kind of music - and it definitely wasn't the kind of music most of this crowd was used to listening to - but it wasn't bad, and people were starting to get up and dance.

That, of course, was the moment Justin reappeared.

"Come dance with me."

Brian looked up at him. "What?"

"Come on, come dance with me," he repeated, grabbing Brian's hand and tugging him out of his chair. Brian thought he saw Linds smirking at him, and he would've flipped her off except Gus was watching. "We've never danced before."

"You call this dancing?" Brian mocked, even as they joined the others who were waltzing - mostly badly - around the room.

"Dancing doesn't have to be a groin-to-groin contact sport," Justin grinned, before pausing, as if noticing something. "You're leading."

"You have a problem with that? And where the fuck did you learn to dance?" Justin actually seemed to know what he was doing.

"When we were younger," Justin paused, laughing as Brian spun him around. "We used to have to go to these dances. Functions. Because of Dad's work. And what about you, Mr Kinney?" He sounded a little breathless, spinning around again. "Where did you learn to dance?"

"I'm a man of many talents," Brian replied, having a fucking ridiculous amount of fun. He'd danced at those kinds of functions, too, but never with anyone he actually wanted to dance with. Not like this.

The music was getting louder, faster, obviously nearing the end. Spinning around with Justin, Brian picked him up as they moved, kissing him square on the mouth before lowering him back to the ground, still turning.

Laughing, Justin moved his hands to Brian's face, kissing him deeper as they slowly continued to turn, stumbling against each other.

Brian's whole body was warm, Justin's mouth tasted as good as it always did, and when the music stopped playing they kept dancing.


Life hit Brian with a distinct slap of reality over the next week - Ted and Cynthia had done whatever needed to be done, made an official request, filled out paperwork, petitioned whatever needed to be petitioned, and they were finally being given permission to plant the trees and hold the memorial for the people who died in the bombing.

There were conditions, of course. While they were being allowed to plant the trees in the park nearest Liberty Avenue - and therefore, nearest the site of the bombing - they weren't allowed to dig the holes themselves. Brian thought it actually made sense; they didn't want anyone who didn't know what they doing to fuck it up, even if he wasn't actually sure how it was possible to fuck up planting a tree.

It was provisionally scheduled to happen the weekend after next, so Brian had Cynthia contact the families, while he contacted Linds and Deb himself. Linds he contacted because of Dusty; Deb because if he told her, he wouldn't have to tell anyone else.

Neither one of those conversations were fun - when they weren't being maudlin, they were telling Brian how fucking nice he was for arranging this. Both calls ended the same way: with Brian barking that Ted and Cynthia did everything before hanging up abruptly.

After that, of course, he wanted to call Justin, but it was after lunch and Brian couldn't call and have a lengthy chat with him while he was working. Justin wasn't in Brian's enviable position of being the boss and doing whatever the fuck he wanted, even if Zara was pretty easy going and technically owed Justin one. Brian wasn't about to risk the kid's career in any way, shape or form.

So he trudged through the rest of the day, very carefully not thinking about the speech he knew he'd have to give. Managing to leave work at his normal time, Brian pulled up outside the gallery and watched as Justin climbed into the Jeep.

"It's so nice having my own cab service," Justin grinned, before he took in Brian's expression and his own faltered. "What's wrong?"

"Seat belt," Brian reminded, and drove to the loft. He needed his own place tonight.

Justin didn't push it. Brian didn't keep much to himself these days - and shit, was it ever weird thinking that - and Justin must've known that if he just waited long enough, Brian would tell him what he wanted to know when he was good and ready.

Once they reached the loft, Brian changed into a pair of jeans and a wife beater, grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, put it on his bedside table, and then flopped back onto the bed. Flopping down next to him, Justin rolled towards him until he was lying on his side. Propping his head up with one hand; with the other he traced his fingers up and down Brian's arm.

After a while Justin started telling him about his own day. Some weird looking customer who'd come in, a sale he'd made, a painting he'd nearly dropped (Justin hadn't shared that particular story with Zara). He told Brian how he'd gone to the bathroom at lunchtime, and jerked off thinking about the way Brian'd fucked him in the shower that morning.

Brian started feeling a *little* less gloomy.

And then he found himself saying, "We got confirmation for the memorial thing today."

Justin's hand lay flat against his upper arm. "The tree thing?"

"Yeah. Looks like it'll be a week Saturday."

Nodding slowly, Justin squeezed Brian's arm lightly. "I'm glad they're gonna let you do it."

Brian probably should've been grateful for that. "I have to say something on the day." Speech-making was nothing new to Brian - he made them all the time as part of his career. Pitching to a client was nothing more than a speech with some pretty pictures. All speeches were about selling yourself.

Except this kind.

He hadn't spoken at Vic's funeral, and he didn't know what the fuck to say at a memorial for someone he didn't even know.

"You'll come up with something," Justin told him, sounding absolutely convinced. "You always do."

Sighing, Brian tipped his head to one side and finally looked at him. "This isn't like work, Sunshine."

"No, this is something important," Justin agreed, lifting his head from his hand and shifting closer, draping one arm across Brian's chest. "And that's why you'll be brilliant."

Justin's faith in him could be pretty fucking terrifying, sometimes.

"Look," Justin continued, "you don't have to do this right now anyway. You've got more than a week to think about it. Let's get something to eat, and then just veg out on the sofa with a movie or something."

Yeah. Yeah, that sounded good.


Brian didn't sleep well that night. He knew he wouldn't.

It was sometime after 3am when he looked behind him and saw Justin stumbling down from the bedroom. Wrapped up in a sheet from the bed, Justin blearily walked towards him, his hair sticking up all over the fucking place.

Brian almost smiled.

Sitting down next to him on the sofa, Justin wrapped an arm around him and then peered down at the coffee table, where Brian was still holding a pen over the paper he'd been trying to write on for most of the fucking night.

"That's a lot of crossed-out words," Justin commented.

"No shit," Brian muttered, rubbing his free hand across his face in frustration. What the fuck could he say to someone who'd lost their children? How the fuck could he understand what that felt like? If something happened to Gus - which was never, *never* fucking happening - he could make a good fucking guess, but he'd never actually *know*. "They lost their kids. It's so fucked up."

Next to him, Justin shrugged like it was obvious. "Then that's what you say."

Shaking his head, Brian almost produced a laugh. "That simple?"

"You always make life complicated," Justin said. "Or rather, you did." Reaching out with his free hand, the plucked the pen from between Brian's fingers, and carefully placed it down on the table. "You'd think you'd know by now that sometimes life's easier when you just let it happen."

Clenching his hand together a few times, Brian sighed and sat back a little. "You telling me I have a tendency to over think things?"

"Oh, fuck yes."

Now he did laugh, shifting his arm around Justin's back, mimicking his position. It was quiet, and - yeah - *nice*; or as nice as it could be past three in the morning while Brian was trying to write a eulogy for people he didn't know.

Whispering, Justin leant his head against Brian's shoulder. "I'm so glad you weren't hurt that night."

That one didn't need any thinking at all. "You too."


Ted and Emmett jetted off to the slopes. They were gone for a long weekend and, regrettably, Brian could tell Ted's presence was missing by the end of Friday's work day. Not that they couldn't cope without Theodore, but no one at the office had quite the head for numbers that he did.

Also, no one was quite as fun to mock.

When he picked Justin up after work that night, Justin said something unusual.

"Hey, we're going out to dinner tonight."

Obviously, Justin had been thinking when Brian wasn't around. "We are?"

"Yup," Justin said. "Michael phoned the gallery and invited us over. We have to be there by 7:30."

Brian frowned, completely confused. Why the fuck had Mikey invited them through Justin, instead of him? Not that he really minded; it was just fucking weird. "Since when did you become best buddies with Mikey?"

"I haven't," he shrugged. "I was as surprised as you that he called me, but he said he wanted to talk about something. Didn't sound urgent, though. Whatever it is, it's not a matter of life and death."

Now Brian was really fucking intrigued. Intrigued enough that they actually arrived at 7:30.

"You're on time," was the first thing Mikey said when he opened the front door.

"Imagine that," Brian smirked, leaning in to give him a kiss. "Now - why the fuck are we here?"

Ben walked out of the kitchen, heading towards them. "Brian, Justin. Good to see you guys."

"You too, Ben," Justin replied, taking off his jacket.

"Oh, here," Mikey offered, taking his jacket from him and hanging it up near the door. Brian hung his own.

"Dinner'll be ready soon," Ben said, gesturing towards the sofa. "You guys want a drink? We have soda, or health drinks, or-"

"Scotch, neat," Brian interrupted, sitting on the sofa.

" have Pepsi?" Justin asked, sitting down next to him.

"Sure," Ben said, turning away. "Be right back."

Mikey perched himself on a chair across from the sofa. "So, I guess you wanna know why I invited you guys over."

"That would be a good place to start." Brian was happy to come over and eat at Mikey's - if that's what it was. This cloak and dagger shit didn't sit right.

"Well, I actually wanted to talk to Justin," Mikey explained, nodding toward him. "But I figured it'd be nice to have you both over. We haven't had a meal with just the four of us before."

Brian lounged back against the sofa. "Yes, I don't know how we lived without it."

"Brian," Justin chastised.

He rolled his eyes. "Fine."

Mikey was grinning at them.

Brian didn't like it.

"So you asked us over because...?"

"I love comics," Mikey said, out of nowhere. "I grew up with them. Jerked off with them," he grinned. "I own a comic store. I love that there are no limitations to what can happen."

Justin looked as confused as Brian felt. "So...?"

Ben came back with the drinks and passed them around, but quickly moved out of the way.

"You're an artist," Mikey continued. "And I have a million ideas for stories, but I don't know shit about drawing. But you do. So...I was wondering if maybe you wanted to make a comic together."

In retrospect, Brian probably should've seen it coming.

"You mean like a superhero thing?" Justin asked dubiously.

"Right!" Mikey nodded enthusiastically. "And I don't mean work on it full-time or anything - obviously your job and your art come first, but maybe when we both get some spare time..."

Turning to look at Brian, Justin shrugged. "Well, I..." he looked back at Mikey. "I guess we could give it a try. It'd actually be a cool challenge. I haven't really tried that type of stylised drawing much before."

If Brian knew Mikey as well as he thought he did... "You have the superhero designed in your head already, don't you?"

Flushing only slightly, Mikey shifted in his chair. "Well, I was thinking..." he looked at Justin. "You *did* save my life."

Justin's eyes went wide. "No way, you wanna base him on me? I'm not a hero!"

"I disagree," Ben said. "However you want to look at it, you saved Michael's life, Justin."

"Yeah, well Brian saved *my* life," Justin argued. "When I started having an asthma attack, he got me out of there and seen by a paramedic."

"That could be even better!" Mikey said gleefully, obviously inspired. "We can use both of you! You'll make a good contrast in comic book form - one a brunet and tall; one blond and...not so tall." He glanced away from Justin. "Partners who protect fags everywhere."

Brian didn't fucking know about this. He could understand his physical form wanting to be reproduced for a comic, but he was no hero either.

Justin solved that particular dilemma, however, when he asked the most important question and all Brian's concerns were tossed aside:

"Will they fuck in the comic?"


Brian soon got used to seeing sketches for the comic everywhere. They were all over Justin's place, covered most of the table space at the loft, and there was even one at work (but only because Justin had e-mailed Brian a sketch of Justin sucking him off).

Their superheroes still didn't have names. They were toying with JT for Justin, but so far hadn't come up with anything for Brian. Brian wasn't offended - he knew he was pretty much indescribable.

Brian appreciated the fact that his best friend and whatever the fuck Justin was were getting along so well, but after a few days - okay, one and a half - it started getting annoying. Mikey and Justin were *always* fucking together. Brian had to insist they have some of their 'planning sessions' at the loft or he'd never fucking see either one of them.

Sex became a rarity, for almost the first time in Brian's life - and this time it had nothing to do with getting a ball chopped off. After working all day, Justin would then meet with Mikey and talk and draw and design until he collapsed into bed next to Brian, exhausted. Most mornings while eating breakfast, Brian would even catch Justin scribbling something with one hand and eating with the other.

Annoyed that Justin was fucking running himself ragged - and that he hadn't had a decent fuck in what felt like forever - Brian finally snapped on Friday night.

He was still picking Justin up from work every night, and he realised that he really had turned into a glorified cab service. He hadn't minded driving Justin around before, but when it meant taking him someplace where a) they wouldn't fuck and b) Justin would be working himself into the ground, he wouldn't fucking stand for it anymore. The memorial was tomorrow, and this was the last thing he fucking needed.

So when Justin climbed into the car on Friday night and asked if Brian wouldn't mind dropping him off at Mikey's store, Brian screeched away from the curb without saying a word.

"Are you okay?" Justin asked.

No, he was not fucking okay. "Listen," he began carefully, because he was capable of having a rational conversation. Sometimes. "I think you're pushing yourself too hard."

"I'm fine," Justin began. "I know I haven't been around much lately, but-"

"It's not that," Brian interrupted. Or at least, it wasn't entirely that. Shit, he really didn't want to have this conversation while he was driving. Realising they were nearing a supermarket, Brian turned into the parking lot, pulling into the first empty space he came across. He didn't care that he was parked crookedly; he switched off the engine, unbuckled his seat belt and turned to face Justin - who was looking fucking confused by what was going on.

"I was there when Mikey pitched the idea," Brian said. "I heard him say very clearly - and you agreed - that this comic shit wouldn't take over your lives. That you had to think about your careers and other shit, too. But you're working all fucking day at the gallery, and when you finish there you work all fucking night on the comic."

Justin shook his head. "I can handle it."

"Have you seen the circles under your eyes the past few days?" he asked, which at least made Justin wince. "I don't go for the Goth look."

"It's important."

"And so are you," Brian insisted. "And so is my cock. It hasn't had a decent fuck all week."

Justin rolled his eyes. "I should've known this was about sex."

"Hey," Brian warned, leaning towards him seriously. "Don't give me that shit. You fucking know better." Justin knew better than anyone.

Chagrined, he glanced away before sighing. "Look, I promise it'll get better, okay? It's just this first one is..."



"So you said before," Brian told him, "but you still haven't explained why."

Sighing again, Justin eventually looked back towards him and held his gaze. "It's about the bashing."

Suddenly, this was making a lot more fucking sense.

"I told Michael about it," Justin continued, looking down at his hands. That piece of news was a shock, because how the hell had Mikey known something like that and not said anything about it? "And that I thought it'd make a good story for our first issue. Only this time, JT gets saved." Lifting his head back up, he looked at Brian. "And he joins forces with the man who saved him who, until then, enjoyed fucking everything that moved and rescuing anyone who needed help. Only he was pretty fucking lonely."

Brian pursed his lips together. "Is that so?"

"It is so," Justin nodded. "And together, they protect all of Gayopolis."

Brian didn't know what the fuck to do with that.

So he ignored it. "So you've named the city already, but you still haven't found a name for me?"

"We wanted something a little classier than Big Dick Man."

"I see nothing wrong with that."

"Of course you don't," Justin smirked, just as his cell rang. He'd long since developed the habit of turning it on as soon as he finished work, just in case Brian called. Looking at the Caller ID, he shrugged and answered the call. "Michael, hey, I was just-oh." He stopped, blinking a few times. "Yeah. Yeah. Uh huh. You too, huh?" Smiling, he glanced at Brian. "Yeah, they are worse than your mom."

Definitely having an idea of exactly what was being said, Brian gave him the finger.

Ignoring it, Justin kept talking. "Okay. Right. Well, I'll keep working on it and give you a call in a few days, okay? Yeah, you too. Bye." Ending the call, he lowered his hand. "Well, it seems Ben had the same concerns that you do. He told Michael to slow down."

That was frankly bizarre. "For once the Professor and I agree on something."

Justin nodded slowly, staring down at his phone. "It's just...sometimes I need to talk about it. I wanted to get it done."

Watching him carefully, Brian placed a hand on his shoulder. "You will. And whenever it is finished, I'll run the best fucking ad campaign you've ever seen. Throughout the city, on the internet - hell, I'll even hold the launch party at Babylon. Every fag across Pennsylvania will wanna buy it."

Smiling faintly, Justin rested a hand on top of Brian's. "Just Pennsylvania?"

Brian smirked. "For now."


The next day was Saturday. Despite the fuckfest they'd enjoyed last night - they had some lost time to make up for - Brian didn't sleep well. Justin did, thankfully. It was going to be a miserable enough day without both of them looking like shit.

Rising well in advance of the memorial, they showered - individually because they were at Justin's - ate, and slowly started getting ready.

Brian had brought his suit with him the night before, hanging it in the bedroom doorway. He'd elected to wear grey instead of black, while Justin wore black pants and a grey sweater.

They arrived early, wanting to make sure everything was ready, and Brian wasn't in the least bit surprised to find Ted and Cynthia already there. They were out on the grass, next to the two workmen or gardeners, or whatever the fuck they were who'd started digging the holes.

They also had some other company in the form of Blake, formerly Ted's counselor, formerly a Crystal queen, and formerly the guy who'd put Ted in a coma. Somewhat amazingly, they'd bumped into each other on Ted's ski trip, and were fucking again - Ted had been rhapsodising about his 'new' relationship all fucking week. Justin insisted the whole thing was sweet, but Justin had never been asked to terminate Ted's life support.

Emmett hadn't returned empty-handed either. He'd found another refugee from Hazlehurst, Mississippi - apparently some guy he used to know as a kid - and they'd been having a lot of fun 'knocking their boots together', as Emmett called it. Brian still thought 'fucking' was a perfectly good term.

"Cynthia," Brian greeted, pausing next to her.

"Boss," she nodded.

No one said much for a long time. Occasionally someone asked one of the workmen a question, but mostly they just let them get on with it.

More people started arriving. Some of them Brian recognised, but mostly he didn't. Mikey, Ben, Deb and Hunter all arrived together. Mel and Linds brought Gus and JR. Jennifer came with Tucker and Molly - when Justin had told his mother about the planned memorial, she'd insisted on coming. There were some people crying already, but mostly everyone conversed in low tones, sharing the occasional hug.

A wooden box had been produced from somewhere to be used as an impromptu stage. There wasn't much organisation for the actual 'ceremony' itself - as the owner of the club Brian would speak first, but after that anyone else who wanted to say anything could.

Waiting until he got the nod from the workmen that they were ready, and hearing from Ted that all the families had arrived, Brian took one last kiss from Justin and then stepped up onto the box.

It didn't take long for the crowd to go quiet, turning towards him. It was considerably smaller than the group who'd been there the night of the candlelight vigil, and Brian just hoped that meant they wouldn't get any fucking homophobes protesting.

Seeing the small smile and nod from Justin, Brian cleared his throat and began talking.

"For those of you who don't know, my name is Brian Kinney. I own Babylon. I was there the night of the bombing." Pausing, he took a breath. "Ever since we started arranging this, I've been trying to plan what to say. Think up a speech. But the words wouldn't come." His eyes found Gus. "What the fuck do I say to someone who lost their children? Or to someone who lost a parent? A partner? A friend?" Brian looked around, taking in the crowd. "Nothing. There's nothing I can say that will ever make that better, make that okay. But it happened, and we have to live with it. The trees," he gestured towards the holes in the ground, "they won't fix things. They won't bring anyone back. But they'll make sure we won't forget the people who died, or what happened. Or the fact that we have to keep going, even when it feels fucking pointless."

That said - and that was more than fucking enough, as far as Brian was concerned - he stepped down to a small smattering of applause. Justin hugged him, and pathetic though it was, he'd never felt more fucking grateful.

Cynthia raised her voice. "Would anyone like to speak next?"

Pulling away, Justin surprised the hell out of Brian by saying, "I would." Giving him an enigmatic smile, Justin released Brian's hand and stepped up onto the box.

What the fuck?

"Hi," Justin began. "My name's Justin Taylor. When I was eighteen, I was bashed for dancing at my prom with my boyfriend." He paused as there were gasps and murmurs from the crowd - most notably from Debbie. "I took a baseball bat to the head, and was in a coma for weeks. As you can see, I came out of it," he produced a small smile. "But not unscathed. I have no memory of the day I was attacked, but sometimes I still have nightmares. I have permanent brain damage. My emotions are...out of whack. I have a condition which basically makes me laugh or cry uncontrollably, for no reason. I can handle it better now than I used to but sometimes, even now, I have an attack. It's embarrassing for me and everyone around me, but there's nothing I can do about it." Justin looked into the crowd, and Brian had a hunch that he was looking at Jennifer. "I was at Babylon the night of the bombing. It was the first time I'd ever been there. Yeah, I know what you're thinking - how much bad luck does this guy have?" The crowd produced a few chuckles. "But as terrible and awful as that night was, it was also one of the best nights of my life - because it was the same night I met Brian."

Holy shit.

"Because that's what this is all about, right?" Justin asked, still looking around. "Life. Love. Being who we are without fear of censure or reprisal. Brian was right when he said the trees won't fix anything, but they will serve as a reminder - for us, and the people who'd prefer us dead. That we're not going to run, that we're not going to hide and, most importantly, that we refuse to be ashamed."

Justin got a much bigger round of applause when he stepped off the box, and walked straight into Brian's arms.

"Jesus Christ," Brian told him, "you should add speech writer to your list of many talents."

"You weren't so bad yourself," Justin grinned, just before the mother's descended. Deb hugged Justin for a full thirty seconds, bitching at him the whole time for not telling her about the bashing before. Jennifer wasn't quite as bad, but hugged him even longer as people they didn't even know gave him a literal pat on the back.

Things began to settle down, and Brian wrapped an arm around Justin's neck, studying his face. Someone else was getting up to speak, and later the families would help plant the trees, and there'd be more crying and talking and people wearing black, but he was still watching Justin and something inside him finally just *knew*.


Turning his head to look at him, Justin smiled faintly. "You okay?"

Yeah, he really was. "I'm ready."

"For what?" Justin asked, his nose scrunching up.

Nothing had ever been easier to say.



There was a lot of talking when they got back to the loft that afternoon. Too much talking. Though they were both worn out from the ordeal of the memorial, Justin insisted on knowing exactly what Brian had meant when he'd said he was ready - the memorial itself really hadn't been the place to talk about it, and no doubt Justin had been stewing over Brian's words ever since he'd said them.

Relenting, Brian explained with as few words and as little emotion as possible, exactly what he meant. Justin - being the smart little fucker that he was - nailed the whole thing by asking,

"You really want to get a place together?"

After that, there was a lot of fucking.


When they told Jennifer they wanted her to be their realtor for the place they were buying together, she put her hand over her mouth. After taking a few seconds, she then sat them down and asked, quite forthrightly, if they were sure this was the right step. Money wasn't a problem for either one of them, but apparently she wanted to make sure that they were sure they knew what they were doing - they *had* only known each other for a few months.

Brian felt like he was being interrogated by a combination of a realtor and a mother-in-law, which...well, he was.

When she was convinced that they weren't sure they were doing the right thing but they were sure as fuck doing it anyway, she hugged both of them. Brian allowed it, and then spoke again when Jennifer asked them what kind of place they wanted.

"Fairly decent size," Brian explained. "I guess if there's going to be two people living there permanently - and Gus staying over sometimes - it should have more room than the loft."

"But not a house?"

"No," Justin said, smiling as he glanced at Brian. "That's not us."

Amid the too much talking and very hot sex on the night of the memorial, they'd discussed a lot of shit - if they were really ready, what their new place should look like, where they'd prefer it to be located. They'd reached the conclusion that neither one of them really wanted a house - they'd both been living in houses when shitty things had happened to them, even if Justin had reconciled with his mom. And though he wasn't quite the man he used to be, Brian still had issues. Living in a house would just remind him too much of his parents fucked-up relationship - not to mention his own childhood - and he didn't want that baggage hanging around more than it already did.

"But we don't want it quite as open-plan as the loft," Justin continued. "As Gus gets older we'll need to be able to close our bedroom door properly. And of course we'll need a room for Gus, a space where I can paint, room for Brian to work when he needs to bring stuff home..."

Jennifer almost smirked. "And I suppose a bathroom and a kitchen would be nice, too?"

"Goes without saying," Brian replied, matching her expression. "But I don't need a whole office to work at home," he offered. "Just a space where I can sit at the computer desk without feeling completely boxed-in. Besides that, the only requirement I really have is for a large shower." Pausing, he leered at Justin. "A very large shower."

"Honestly, Brian," Jennifer sighed dramatically, obviously making a show of it, "can you at least wait until I leave the room before you start fucking my son with your eyes?"

"Mom!" Justin exclaimed, stunned, even as he laughed.

Brian figured he'd got off pretty lucky in the mother-in-law department. "Jennifer, if I wait until you actually leave the room, I'll be fucking him with a lot more than my eyes."


News like that would spread fast, of course. Not only was Brian Kinney, former stud of Liberty Avenue actually in a relationship (former stud, because really, he hadn't been playing there for a while), but he was actually buying a place with a guy he was 'involved' with. Brian headed it off at the pass by making sure his friends knew before the rumour mill could get to them - although he really only did it because he didn't want to have to face surprise visits to his loft that began with the words, "I can't believe you didn't tell me!"

Dinner at Deb's was fast approaching and Brian opted to break the news there. Everyone would be in attendance; it'd be like ripping off a band-aid. Or duct tape. Or even Justin's underwear - best done in one sudden move.

So on that particular evening Brian sat next to Justin at Deb's, and waited until everyone was in the middle of eating or drinking something - it took a while to get the timing just right. Once he had them just where he wanted them, he smirked at Justin and announced casually:

"By the way, Justin and I are buying a place together."

He got an absurd amount of fun out of seeing Mel choke on her spaghetti.

The onslaught after that was ten times worse than the inquisition Jennifer had given them, but at least they'd only have to go through this once. Deb literally squawked, and when she hugged him and told him that this would've made Vic so fucking happy, he found that he didn't mind it so much.

Justin was clearly loving it, grinning a lot as he answered questions, although Emmett seemed to be more excited than anyone else, completely ignoring his new beau - Calvin Cocksucker or whatever the fuck his name was - as he demanded all the salient details from Justin. There actually wasn't much to tell just yet, and definitely no description of their new place - they were scheduled to look at the first one the day after tomorrow.

Before dessert, Brian stepped out into the back yard for a smoke, leaving behind conversation about the comic (Mel had a few choice names for what Brian's character could be called). After a few seconds he heard a noise and turned, half-expecting it to be Justin, but wasn't really surprised when he saw his best friend pulling the back door shut. "Hey, Mikey," he greeted, smiling.

Pausing next to him, Mikey took the occasional puff from Brian's cigarette, but mostly they just stood there doing nothing. A lot of their relationship had been spent that way.

Finally, when Brian's cigarette was almost nothing but ash, Mikey spoke.

"I know I've been supportive of you and Justin, and I still am - he seems to be really good for you - but you've been so fucking different for a while now. And I think it's really you, not some other facade who thinks this'll make him happy, but-"

"Facade?" Brian interrupted, mostly because he was annoyed by the line of questioning. "Hanging out with the Professor's certainly improved your vocabulary."

"Fuck off," Mikey said bluntly, then continued just as bluntly, "is this what you want? Is this what *you* really want?" he demanded, staring up at Brian's face.

There was only one answer to that. "I wouldn't be doing it otherwise."

But apparently that wasn't good enough. "Christ, Brian, can't you just say 'yes' for once?"

"I just did." Mikey had been dealing with him longer than anyone else - he knew a yes when he heard one.

Still staring at him, Mikey eventually began to produce a smile. "You like him. You really, really like him," he said, his smile growing. Brian shifted and looked away. "I mean I already knew that," Mikey continued, "he had to at least not irritate you for him to stick around for so long, really love him, don't you?"

Brian pulled out another cigarette. "Do you know how boring it is when you repeat yourself?"

"Repeat myself?" Mikey asked, smile fading. "When have I said that before?"

"Few weeks back," Brian replied, pausing while he lit the new cigarette. Taking a puff, he let out a breath. "You were drunk. Said the same thing only with fewer words and a lot more slurring."

Looking bemused, Mikey shrugged. "I don't remember saying that, but I guess if I've said it twice now I must really mean it." He eyed Brian deliberately.

Brian got the message. If Mikey really believed something, then it had to be true. He was a lot like Debbie that way. "Yeah, I guess you must."

Smiling, Mikey stole a puff from the latest cigarette. "Don't tell Ben," he murmured.

"Like he's not gonna smell it on your breath."

Still smiling, Mikey took a pack of chewing gum out of his pocket and waved it at him.

Brian nodded, pleased. "I've taught you well."

The end of that cigarette eventually drew near, and as Mikey started chewing a piece of gum, Brian found himself being compelled to speak.

"It's not what I thought it'd be," he admitted quietly, staring up at the sky. He couldn't really see any stars - the light pollution was pretty bad. "You have these...ideas, I guess. Preconceptions. Of what it's like. And it's really not." It was the only way he could think to voice it, because he wasn't entirely sure what he was trying to say.

Next to him, Mikey responded just as quietly.

"I think it's the same for everyone, Brian. It's never quite what you expect."

Flicking away the last of the cigarette, Brian smirked up at the sky. "At least that keeps things interesting."

That, and Justin's ass.


Brian didn't like the first place they looked at. He didn't exactly know why, either, which was unusual. Brian always had strong opinions and good explanations for those opinions, but not this time. There was nothing particularly wrong with the place - it had plenty of space, all the rooms they needed, a big shower - he just didn't feel like he wanted to live there.

If he'd been anyone else, he would've said that he didn't like the vibe he got from it.

So they moved on to the next place. Jennifer warned them before they went in that it needed a lot of work, and it did - too much. Brian didn't mind paying to get something the way he wanted it, but he didn't want to be surrounded by endless construction, either. It would drive him fucking insane.

It was surprisingly easy to decide whether they wanted a particular place or not. Brian'd expected it to be harder, having to consider someone else's opinion, but his and Justin's views for what they wanted were turning out to be pretty similar. Justin might've sometimes dressed like a pauper, but he wanted to live like a prince.

The fifth place was the one. Brian felt it as soon as he walked inside. He hadn't even seen the rest of the place yet, but he *knew*.

It was a mix of open-plan and normal rooms, and it was huge. When he first walked in, it didn't look entirely dissimilar to the loft. There was a wide, open space - just with no bed on a platform. Off to the right was the kitchen, separated from what was obviously intended as the living room by a free-standing counter. The kitchen seemed pretty well stocked with a first-rate dishwasher and cooker, the drawers and cupboards painted white, and the counter tops made with some kind of stone that was coloured sheer black.

Off to the left was where it changed dramatically from the loft, the space there cut off into several different rooms. They were all a pretty good size, and one room in particular was almost as big as the main room.

"This is the master bedroom, right?" Justin asked, standing in the middle of the room in question, slowly turning as he stared up at the ceiling.

Brian didn't give Jennifer a chance to answer. "This should be where you paint," he gestured towards the windows. "Have you seen the lighting in here? Plus you'll need a lot of space - need to make sure those paint fumes don't go to your head."

"Brian," he replied, in that low, "you really don't need to do that" tone of voice. Pausing in front of him, he smiled softly. "You feel it too, don't you? This is the place."

Brian wouldn't have phrased it in quite so lesbianic a manner, but the kid was right. There was just one last room to check.

Walking briskly out of the bedroom, he found the room he was looking for just next door.

It was a thing of beauty. Justin was standing next to him by now so Brian grabbed his arm, crossed the bathroom, and opened the shower door.

Christ, there was so much room that if he stood in the middle of the shower and held out his arms, he almost didn't touch the wall at all.

Justin stood next to him, grinning. "You have the weirdest obsessions."

"You'll be thanking me when I fuck you in here later. So," he continued, eyeing Justin critically. "What do you think?"

No hesitation. "I want it."

Smirking, Brian turned and could barely make Jennifer out through the opaque glass of the shower (first things first - that opaque glass was going. If Justin was already having a shower when Brian walked into the bathroom, he wanted to be able to see it. Justin should be visibly naked from all possible angles at all times).

"Jennifer," he addressed the amorphous pink blob on the other side of the shower, "we're taking it."


They couldn't move in for a few days - it was still legally the previous owners', even though they didn't actually live there anymore. Still, that gave them time to box up their old places and give notification, which led to a tiring few days. When they weren't at work, they were jamming stuff in boxes or getting furniture ready to be moved. Justin's place didn't take all that long - most of his stuff was still in boxes, and a majority of the furniture came with the apartment. To help make the final move easier, they made a few trips back and forth to the loft in the Jeep, moving all the stuff Justin was taking with him there.

The only problem was moving Justin's paintings - some of them were too large to fit into the Jeep safely, and fuck knew Brian didn't want to risk them getting damaged. After a quick call to the munchers he found his salvation, and borrowed their station wagon.

The loft transformed into some kind of hellish alternate universe, where space was filled with boxes instead of air. Although Brian preferred the minimalist look and didn't have too much crap in the loft, he still had a lot of shit in his storage space. This seemed like the perfect time to get rid of some of it - some things he'd never touched at all since moving in, so he clearly didn't need them - but fuck it. He didn't want to.

Everything was moved around in the loft - one side was designated for boxes, the other for furniture, leaving a clear pathway down the middle to give the movers - and themselves - easy access. They'd paid a lot of money to book the movers at such relative short notice.

Their last night in the loft, neither one of them said much. They kept checking and re-checking that everything that needed to be was packed away (the coffee maker was being saved until last). Everything was unplugged and ready to move, so they couldn't watch anything on television. They sat on opposite sides of the bed, then lay down next to each other on the bed, then sprawled against each other on the bed.

"This is big," Justin murmured eventually, sounding awed. "This a really big thing. I don't think I realised just how big a deal it was until right now."

At least Brian wasn't the only one thinking that way. Although truthfully, he was trying to not-think about it. But if Justin was freaking out too much, he needed to know. "If you're thinking about backing out-"

"No!" Justin insisted, propping himself up to look down at Brian's face. "I absolutely still want to do this. It's just...big."

Relieved, Brian nodded. "Well, it does involve me. Of course it's big."

He didn't even snort. "It's just...we're paying for it. Together. It's in both our names. I've never done anything like this with anyone before."

That was a feeling Brian was well acquainted with. "Yet another first together."

Pausing for a moment, Justin finally grinned down at him broadly. "It is, isn't it?" he said, which seemed to make him feel better.

"It is indeed, Sunshine."

Still smiling, Justin shifted his whole body over until he was straddling Brian's hips. "I think you should fuck me now. Seeing as we won't be able to fuck here again soon."

Far be it from Brian to deny Justin's request.


On the day that they officially became the new owners, Jennifer arrived early to give them the keys.

Luckily, Brian wasn't naked when he opened the loft door.

Brian was pretty sure it wasn't normal procedure, but Jennifer declared that she was sticking around until the movers had taken everything into their new place, just to make sure the move went okay. Telling Jennifer to help herself to coffee, Brian walked up into the bedroom and whacked Justin around the head with a pillow.

"Wake up, sleeping beauty."

Grunting, Justin fell out of bed.

Before long they were both dressed, and considerably more awake, chatting with Jennifer between taking the last toiletries out of the bathroom, and rinsing off and packing away their coffee cups.

When the movers arrived, Brian supervised the whole thing - some of his shit was expensive, but he was mostly concerned about Justin's paintings. In the end he put some of the smaller pieces in the back of the Jeep and Jennifer's car, but they still had the larger ones to deal with and no muncher wagon was available that day. They had no choice but to put them into the truck with the rest of the shit, but Brian made absolutely clear that the movers knew how very important it was that the paintings didn't get damaged (he may have mentioned something about clamps and testicles).

Everything was cleared out of the loft in a remarkably short amount of time, considering. Though the mattress had been taken, the rest of the bed had been left where it was. That'd been a tough call. Brian'd always loved the bed - it was a fucking work of art - and though he knew Justin didn't care about the guys he'd fucked, it also felt like part of his past.

So the bed stayed. The mattress was taken so they'd have something to sleep on until they got an entirely new bed, mattress and all. They hadn't had the time to go to a store yet, and he wasn't about to order one off the internet, sight unseen. He needed to try it out first - after all, his bed was where he spent most of his downtime.

Pouring the last dribbles of coffee down the sink, Brian rinsed out the coffee pot before realising all the towels had been packed away. Finding a roll of paper towels, he wiped haphazardly at the pot, before shoving it back into the machine. Chuckling at himself, he realised there was no trash can, either - they'd already been taken out.

Christ, it felt fucking weird as he looked around at what now looked like the vast expanse of the loft. Taking one last look round, he made sure there was nothing in any of the drawers and cupboards.

He'd bought the loft after he received his first bonus from Ryder. He'd been its first - only - owner and he'd been so fucking proud of himself. He, Brian Kinney, had bought this beautiful fucking place with no help from anyone at all. Certainly not his asshole parents.

But now someone else would be living here. He wasn't sure who yet, but he had several interested buyers and was trying to squeeze the best price out of them.

And now he had a new place that he was buying with someone else. Whose name was on the paperwork with his.

And he was proud of that, too.

"Hey," Justin said, and Brian turned to see him jogging into the loft. "I think we've got everything."

Nodding, Brian walked back to the kitchen, pulled the pot out of the coffee maker, jammed the used paper towels inside, and then pushed the pot back in again. "Then let's go."

Smiling, obviously excited, Justin grabbed the roll of paper towels.

Brian eyed him. "You're bothering to take that?"

"Sure," he said brightly. "No point in wasting it."

Justin had just spent a shitload of money on what was officially the world's best fucking looking piece of real estate, and now he was worried about wasting paper towels. "You're a weird little fucker," Brian said, and kissed him.

"Excuse me, boys," a new voice said, and they pulled apart to see Jennifer standing in the doorway. "They're ready whenever you are."

Nodding, Brian dug his keys out of his jeans pocket. Holding them out in his hand - the loft key, and the key to his storage space in the building - he waited as Justin took his own key out and put it with the others. Smiling at him, Brian picked the coffee maker up, carrying it under one arm, and walked towards Jennifer.

"Here," he said, letting the keys fall into her out-stretched hand. "I won't be coming back."


The drive to their new place wasn't a particularly long one. In fact, the location wasn't bad at all. Though they were slightly further away from Liberty Avenue and Kinnetik, they were closer to the gallery and Jennifer's house - something she was bound to be thrilled about.

Their convoy - the Jeep, the moving truck, Jennifer's car - pulled up outside the building, and immediately got to work. As the workers began pulling open the back of the truck, Brian, Justin and Jennifer walked into the building and took the elevator to their floor. The space outside the elevator was much as the same as the one at the loft, but other than that they had the entire floor to themselves - it was no wonder the place was so fucking big.

Unlike the loft, this place had a typical door - albeit, slightly bigger than usual. Staring first at the door, Brian then stared down at the key he now held in his hand.

Justin shifted next to him. "Think we should open it together?"

Brian may have done a lot of shit now that he never would have before, but even he had his limits. "You do it," he said, giving Justin the key.

Snatching it from him eagerly - patience never had been one of Justin's strong points - he unlocked the door and pushed it open. Thankfully, it looked exactly the same as it'd done the last time they'd been there to take a few measurements. Brian moved to step inside but Justin stopped him, grabbing his arm.

"Wait!" he said. "Kiss me over the threshold."

Brian frowned at him. "What the fuck?"

"Kiss me over the threshold," Justin repeated. "We're living here together now, as a couple, and though the carrying thing isn't exactly us we need to do *something*. So - kiss me over the threshold." He said it like it made sense or something.

Brian gave his body the once over. "If your mom wasn't right here, I'd do something else to you over the threshold."

"Promises, promises," he teased, and Brian thought he heard Jennifer laugh. "C'mon," Justin continued, planting himself right in front of Brian and wrapping his arms around Brian's neck. "Kiss me."

Making a big show out of rolling his eyes and sighing heavily, like he was only doing it because he was being coerced into doing it, Brian placed his hands at Justin's waist and leaned in to kiss him. He didn't start walking immediately. If he was gonna do this, he was gonna do it really fucking well, and he waited until there was tongue involved, and he was kinda forgetting that Justin's mom was even there before taking a step forward.

And just as he did so, Justin lifted his legs up, wrapping them around Brian's waist as his arms tightened around Brian's neck for support. Moving instinctively, Brian's hand slipped to grab Justin's ass, making sure he didn't fall.

And he'd carried Justin over the fucking threshold.

Wrenching away from the kiss, Brian fixed Justin with a glare that he was pretty sure was tempered by the slight admiration he was annoyed at feeling. "You fucker."

Grinning broadly, way too pleased with himself, Justin carefully lowered his legs back down and extracted himself from Brian's arms. "Come on," he said calmly, still grinning like a fucking idiot, "we need to get our stuff up here."

Justin walked by him, out through the door, and Brian turned to see Jennifer watching him.

Her lips were twitching.

He felt like telling her this was all her fault for giving birth to Justin in the first place. "Not one word," he growled, but she didn't seem in the least bit afraid.


Moving everything in took longer than moving everything out. They were on a higher floor, and it felt like they spent so much fucking time going up and down in the elevator - and, of course, there were some pieces of furniture that wouldn't fit in the elevator.

Brian was really fucking glad he wasn't a mover, but he was equally glad that one of their movers had a great ass and seemed to spend most of his time bending over.

Justin caught him once checking out the guys' ass, and instead of making a big deal about it he simply turned around and slapped his own ass. "You know you've got a better one right here, right?"

Disbelieving, Brian laughed and wondered if he could get away with fucking Justin without Jennifer noticing.

That was the last time he felt good at all until everything was in the apartment. He was too stressed about shit getting damaged, and trying to get as much stuff as possible into the right rooms as quickly as possible. He had, of course, labelled which rooms the boxes were going into beforehand.

Moving was really fucking tiring, even when someone else was doing a majority of the hard work.

Justin's paintings, thank fuck, came through without a scratch and finally, fucking finally, everything was in the apartment. The movers left, Jennifer left, and Brian and Justin sprawled across the sofa (which still had to be moved approximately six feet to the left until Brian was happy with it).

"So," he turned his head to look at Justin. "Chinese?"

"Oh my *God*, yes."

They were retaining the phone number at the loft, but it wasn't being switched over until tomorrow so Brian pulled out his cell. Since Justin's health kick they didn't order food in much anymore, but with the state the apartment was in, there was no way anyone was cooking anything tonight. Plus, though the fridge had been moved and plugged in, they'd yet to buy any new food to put in it.

Shit, it was a good thing they'd decided not to share their new address with the gang just yet, or Deb would've been banging on the door carrying ten dishes of pasta and chastising them for not thinking of it themselves.

Pressing the on button, he waited for the phone to power up. Knowing what his friends were like he'd kept it turned off all day, and it now cheerily informed him that he had nine messages. None of them were from Linds or Cynthia, though, so he ignored all of them and called his favourite Chinese place.

While they waited for the food to arrive, they decided to at least get as much done as they could. They'd both taken a day off work, but Justin had to go back tomorrow and Brian didn't like taking a lot of time off during the week.

They argued a bit over exactly where the furniture should go, then said fuck it and decided to figure it out later. Unpacking actually seemed easier, though they discovered things they hadn't even realised - like the fact that between the two of them, they now had more dishes and cutlery than they'd ever need (which actually turned out to be a good thing, because later they discovered that most of Justin's plates had broken).

By the time the Chinese arrived, they'd built up a respectable enough pile of empty boxes and gobbled the food down hungrily - even Brian.

After eating, they kept working. Brian craved the empty spaces he was used to, and Justin admitted that he couldn't fucking wait to live in a place that didn't have boxes all over the fucking place.

Unpacking took fucking ages, and they didn't get everything done that day. Even though they'd packed everything away themselves, it was more than Brian realised. Clothes and towels and sheets and books, photographs, the alarm clock, his hair brush, his favourite shampoo, condoms and lube - and Justin's shit, too. A lot of stuff he'd never seen before; that'd been hidden away in the boxes at Justin's old apartment.

Justin had a *lot* of books, and Brian realised they'd need to buy some kind of shelving unit.

He let Justin deal with the room he'd be painting in himself - he didn't want to intrude on that, but it didn't seem to take Justin very long anyway. He put the drop cloth on the ground, the easel standing on top of it - so he could paint as soon as an idea struck, he said - and then pretty much just turned a box upside-down and emptied the contents onto a table that'd seen better days.

Brian winced.

Justin grinned, running a hand over the pile of brushes, tubes of paint, and other shit that was apparently used to create art.

Maybe Brian didn't get it - but Justin did, and that was all that fucking mattered.

They needed to go shopping for a kid-friendly bed and furniture, so right now Gus' bedroom wasn't being used for much of anything. When they decided to call it a day they moved all the boxes - full and empty - into Gus' room to get them out of the way, and then headed towards the main bedroom at some time that was depressingly before 9pm.

Changing into not much, they decided to shower in the morning and brushed their teeth in the bathroom. Half-heartedly putting sheets on the mattress, Brian double-checked that the alarm clock was set - and was on his bedside table, which was now a full foot higher than his bed - before turning off the light and collapsing down next to Justin.

They didn't talk. They didn't even fuck. Brian simply pulled Justin closer, kissed the side of his head, and fell asleep.


Brian woke up just after 4am. Getting out of bed, he moved the sofa six feet to the left. When he climbed back down into bed, Justin stirred next to him.

"You are such a freak," Justin mumbled sleepily.

Spooning up behind him and resting an arm over his waist, Brian closed his eyes. "You keep talking like that, and I won't fuck you in the morning."

He laughed quietly. "You know, technically it's the morning already..."

And suddenly, Brian wasn't so tired.


It was weird, waking up someplace completely new the next morning. When he'd woken in the middle of the night he'd been too groggy to notice but now, when the light was creeping in, he still expected to see the metal beams across the ceiling of the loft.

Slowly sitting up, he carefully dislodged Justin from his chest and shut off the alarm clock. "Hey," he said, looking at the blond mess lying next to him. "Shower."

Justin sat up.

It was weird fucking in a new shower too, but he'd happily get used to it. Justin groaned and writhed against him, murmuring how much he loved it - especially Brian's big, hard cock - and Brian seriously considered calling in for another day off.

This living together thing wasn't so bad.

There was cereal but no milk, so Justin ate his cereal dry at the counter as Brian sipped at his coffee. He always took it black anyway, so there was no particular loss to him. Munching loudly, Justin was scribbling something on a piece of paper with his free hand. Brian hoped it wasn't for the fucking comic again. He wanted Justin to follow his inspiration of course, but they'd just moved in to a new place - they had other shit to worry about.

"What're you working on?"

"Shopping list," Justin replied, still scribbling. "We had to get rid of all our fresh food when we moved the fridge, so we need to stock up again."

Relieved but not showing it, Brian leant over further from his side of the counter, reading the list upside-down.


At least the essentials were there. "I doubt I had any fresh food anyway."

"You had water and ice," Justin retorted around a mouthful of cereal, pausing to swallow (despite the manners he'd allegedly been brought up with, sometimes Justin still acted like a typical guy). "*I* had some food in your fridge to cook with but, again, we had to get rid of it."

Brian eyed the list again. "Don't forget to pick up juice."

"You're going with me," he insisted.

Sipping at his coffee, Brian lowered his cup casually. "I am?"

"You've got the car," Justin explained. "I figure if you can pick me up we can go to the supermarket together straight from work."

This was new. Not buying groceries together, but buying them for a single place that they owned together. The inside of Brian's fridge had been looking decidedly less empty over the past couple of months, and now they only had one fridge between them there was no chance it would ever again meet Brian's minimalist criteria.

But at least he could shut the fridge door so he wouldn't have to look at it.

"We could just get it delivered." He hated carrying a basket around; having to line up and waiting to pay.

"No," Justin argued, lowering his spoon and looking at him. "You already have a cleaning lady, Brian - speaking of which, did you contact the company?" Brian nodded. The cleaning company was aware of their new address, and they were willing to keep cleaning for Brian after some negotiation. "Good," Justin continued. "But, yeah. You already have a cleaning lady - we need some contact with the outside world once in a while."

"I thought that was what work was for," he mocked, then relented. Sighing. "All right. But we're not shopping at The Big fucking Q." Once Mikey had stopped working there Brian had vowed to never set foot in that place ever again. His family had practically lived in that chain of stores when he was growing up.

Nudging his bowl aside, Justin placed both hands on the counter and pushed himself up and forward, leaning across. Realising his intent, Brian put his coffee down and leaned closer too.

"Have I ever made you shop at The Big Q?" Justin whispered, his lips mere millimetres from Brian's.

"No," Brian admitted, and then Justin didn't kiss him - he moved his head, leaning down, sniffing at Brian's neck. Christ - it made the hair on the back of Brian's neck fucking stand on end.

"You smell good," Justin continued in the same tone.

Brian smirked, closing his eyes. "I smell like you."

"That must explain it," he laughed and Brian snapped, tugging Justin's head up and leaning on one hand so they could finally fucking kiss already. The free-standing counter was huge, the surface extremely flat, and when they pulled away they stared at each other - then immediately started clearing everything off the counter.

It didn't take long - they didn't have much on there yet - and Justin was unzipping his pants, slipping them off. "Here, don't let these get wrinkled."

Brian shook his head - shit, Justin was turning into him - but he folded the pants over the back of the sofa and then turned back to the counter. He'd been expecting to fuck Justin over it, but when he faced it again Justin had slid up onto it, sitting, and was pulling his shirt off, throwing it towards Brian.

Grinning, he patted the counter top.

Naked in possibly record-breaking time, Brian hesitated only when he approached the counter. "You sure that thing can hold our combined weight?"

"Yes," Justin insisted. "Now get up here and fuck me already. Or we'll be late for work."

Well, when he put it like *that*...

He felt kind of stupid - but horny - as he climbed carefully onto the counter, and he didn't worry about his knees at all because Justin told him to lie on his back, and though Brian couldn't lay completely flat without his feet hanging off the end it was good enough. Justin straddled his hips, and the counter top was cold against his skin but Justin was fucking *riding* him, groaning and grinning and throwing his head back, and Brian laughed even as he came.

When Justin cuddled up to him after - that's what he was now, a fucking *cuddler*, and fuck anyone who told him not to enjoy it - Brian kissed him, long and slow. It'd hardly been their most comfortable fuck, and he was probably stuck to the counter from the sweat and come, but Justin was smiling and flushed pink, and it was ridiculously fucking good.

"This was a good idea," Brian said, before he could try to stop himself. "With you."

It wasn't about the sex; it wasn't even about moving into a new place together.

Smiling, Justin opened his eyes, and knew.


Cynthia was standing in his path the moment he pushed through the doors that led into Kinnetik.

His brain quickly sped through possible reasons - had something come up that they weren't expecting? Not that he wasn't always on top of things - so to speak. "What happened?"

"Hmm," she said speculatively, studying him, and Brian began to realise that it was just Cynthia being Cynthia. "Yesterday must have gone surprisingly well."

Refusing to even ask what'd made her think that, Brian ignored Cynthia's statement and brushed by her, heading further into Kinnetik. "Do you have anything to say that I might actually be interested in?" he asked, stepping into his office with Cynthia hot on his heels. "Maybe something to do with your present location and occupation?" Reaching his desk he put his brief case down, and started taking his jacket off.

When he glanced at Cynthia again, she had her lips pursed together.

"So," she began, ignoring his question as effectively as he'd ignored hers, "when's the housewarming?"

Fuck, that was such an annoying term. "You're presuming you're even invited."

"Yes," she agreed bluntly. "I am."

Brian wasn't particularly fond of the idea of housewarming parties, but with the friends they had there was no way they could miss having one.

Plus, Justin would probably enjoy it, and though Brian was opposed to the idea of 'housewarming' in general (what the fuck did that term originate, anyway?), he certainly wouldn't mind showing off his new digs.

"Buy me something fabulous as a housewarming gift and you'll be invited."

Smirking, she put the list of messages she was holding next to his brief case. "Just as well you gave me that last raise, Boss."

When she was - finally - gone, Brian settled into his chair, put the brief case by his feet, and booted up his computer.

And then Ted walked into his office.

"Hi, Bri."

"Morning, Theodore," Brian replied, not looking up as he typed in his password.

"Just have a few things for you to sign," Ted explained, and Brian finally looked at him to see that he was holding a few sheets of A4 out across the desk.

Grabbing the end of the papers nearest to him, Brian tugged - but Ted didn't let go.

Brian tugged again. Ted still didn't let go. In fact, he seemed to be staring at him.

Brian glared. "Theodore, unless they're sticking to your hand because you were jerking off in the bathroom again, let go of the fucking paper."

Ted let go.

Brian had been pulling so hard that when the papers were freed, he thumped back into his chair and even wheeled back a few inches. Clearing his throat, he - extremely casually - grabbed the edge of the desk with one hand and pulled his chair forward again.

Ted, very wisely, said nothing - until he became not so wise and decided to say something after all.

"So, are you settled in at your new place?"

"It's fucking gorgeous," Brian replied, figuring that was all the response necessary as he flicked through the paperwork. They were the usual; no big surprises.

"So when do us peons get to come and see it?"

He really wasn't surprised by this anymore. "When it's even more fucking gorgeous." He may have wanted to show it off, but no one else was stepping foot in their new place until their bedroom and Gus' room were fully furnished. "Don't worry, Ted, you'll be getting the first official invite."

"Wow," Ted replied, sounding genuinely surprised. "Uh, thanks, Bri. That means a lot."

Sighing, Brian despaired for all humanity. "You'll be getting the first official invite because you'll be the one sending invitations out to everyone else."

Pausing for a few moments, Ted eventually nodded. "That actually makes a lot more sense."

"Anything else?"

"Yesterday went fine," Ted assured him, "nothing we couldn't handle. I sent you an e-mail at close of business to share any pertinent facts. Except..."

Brian looked up at him again. "Except what?"

"There was one thing I wanted to share in person," Ted smiled genuinely, before pausing - it seemed almost like he was holding back purely for dramatic effect. "Babylon's ready."

Shit, Brian hadn't thought about the club at all over the past few days. "Ready?"

"I got the final call yesterday," Ted nodded. "Construction, sound, lighting, liquor license - it's all ready to go. Pending your approval, Babylon can re-open for business anytime you want."

Leaning back in his chair, Brian let out a breath. He wasn't sure why this felt like such a big fucking thing - especially considering the fact that he'd actually moved in with someone just the day before - but Babylon re-opening suddenly felt like a huge deal. Of course, he wasn't about to share that with Ted. "Okay, Theodore. Now get the fuck out of my office."

Brian didn't get much work done over the next few hours. It was appalling. He prided himself on being a professional or at least being committed to his job - shit, before Justin came along, it was the only thing he committed to - but now he couldn't seem to concentrate on anything.

Snatching up the phone, he dialled a familiar number.

"Jenkins Gallery, Just-"

"I'm meeting you for lunch. Be ready at 1pm."

Justin paused. "My morning's been great, Brian, thanks for asking. How about yours?"

Brian closed his eyes. "Shitty," he explained, by way of an apology. "I need to take you somewhere."

"Ha, I knew it," Justin retorted playfully, obviously trying to cheer him up by pissing him off. "You need me. You can't live without me."

"Yeah, that's right," Brian snorted, although he did find the right side of his mouth quirking up. "How did I ever survive before you came along, Sunshine?"

"You didn't," he answered smartly. "Now, where are you taking me?"


Not long after 1pm, the Jeep pulled up outside Babylon. Climbing out, Brian waited for Justin to do the same before locking it up.

"You ready for this?" Brian asked seriously. He knew Justin was a strong little fucker, but this was the first time he'd been back to the club since the bombing.

"Absolutely," he replied and, together, they walked up the steps that led to the main entrance.

As soon as the door was open and they stepped inside, Brian walked to a control box not far from the entrance. Unlocking and opening it, he switched on the lights. They did their job beautifully, blinking and circling, flashing, changing colours.

By the time Brian had moved back to the door and locked it shut to make sure they wouldn't have any unexpected company, Justin was standing in the middle of the dance floor, staring around at everything as he turned on the spot. "I can't believe this is the same place. The last time I saw'd never be able to tell that a bomb went off in here." Shaking his head abruptly, he looked off to one side, frowning, before walking over to the space he'd been staring at.

There was nothing there.

"Here," Justin said, looking down at his feet, before glancing around the area as if to make sure it was the right place. "I think it was right here."

He was making *no* sense. "What was?"

"Where we met," Justin said quietly, smiling softly as he looked at him.

Christ. Brian rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah, it was the most romantic night of my life, no doubt about it."

"Don't be an ass," he argued. "I know it wasn't romantic, and I wasn't claiming it was. I just..." sighing, he shrugged. "Sometimes I think it's pretty amazing, that's all. That I picked that particular night to come to Babylon for the first time. That the bomb went off that night. That we met in the aftermath. If I hadn't decided to go to the Stop Prop 14 event, maybe we wouldn't have even met. And I'm not about to say it was a good thing, but if the bomb hadn't gone off maybe we wouldn't have met either."

Justin held a sense of the romantic that Brian certainly didn't. Sure, so he'd been discovering lately that he wasn't as resistant to some things as he thought he was, but he wasn't a complete lesbian. "You did pick an interesting night for your first visit," he agreed nonetheless. "My first visit..." he smiled, remembering. "It was the night of the senior prom. Mikey and I blew it off and came here instead. I was wearing this fucking awful shirt; he had these tight leather pants that he got fuck knows where."

Justin smiled at him. "You waited until you were eighteen for your first visit?"

Brian sent him a look. "Says the guy who didn't visit until he was twenty-four."

"Good point," Justin admitted before stepping closer, walking until he was next to Brian, pressing a hand against his back. "What's wrong?"

Of course he fucking knew something was up. "You should give JT telepathy," Brian muttered.

"I'll mention that to Michael," he retorted.

Sighing, Brian shifted, tipping his head from one side to the other. "I don't know what the fuck it is. Ever since Ted told me that Babylon was ready to re-open, to go back to business as usual, I've just felt..." Fuck, he wasn't sure what it was that he even felt. Just...nothing good.

Quiet for a while, Justin eventually slid round until he standing in front of Brian, looking up at him. Smiling, he kept one hand pressing against Brian's side. "Brian, even though we're together and care about each other, and have a place together, *and* that you've admitted that you've changed a lot..." pausing, he bit his lower lip. "You don't have to change everything. I've never asked that of you."

Frowning, Brian took in his words and tried to figure out what the fuck he was talking about. Only one thing really seemed to fit. "You're talking about tricking."

"Yes," Justin confessed easily.

"You think this is about tricking?"

"Isn't it?"

Well...fuck. Maybe. He didn't know. "We've already bought a fucking *home* together - why would I be freaking out about this now?"

"Maybe you're not," Justin shrugged. "But you've told me before about your reputation, that this was your playground, and after the bombing you weren't able to come here like you used to. But that was just temporary, until it was fixed up - and now it is."

"Babylon was hardly the only place I fucked guys," Brian pointed out. "But now you think - what? That Babylon getting blown up was a good excuse for me not to fuck around, but now that it's here again my reputation will force me to fuck around even if I don't want to?"

"No," Justin argued, "I think you're justifiably confused after living one way for your entire life, and trying to get used to living another way. Of course you're going to get nostalgic for the way things were from time to time. And if you fuck someone else, it really doesn't matter - as long as you're safe."

Brian couldn't honestly say that he hadn't missed tricking at all. It helped that Justin was a fucking fantastic lover - no one had ever gotten him off the way the kid did - and his appetite for sex was as voracious as Brian's. But there was that old cliché - the thrill of the hunt. There was nothing quite like finding a new trick; making a hot stranger do whatever the fuck Brian wanted.

But there was also nothing quite like hearing Justin whisper dirty things mid-fuck, watching his face when he came, curling up next to him on the sofa for a James Dean or fucking cartoon marathon.

"You wouldn't mind?" Brian asked seriously. "If I tricked?"

"Of course I'd mind," Justin told him honestly. "Who wants to think that their boyfriend gets something out of fucking other guys that he doesn't get from fucking you? But I'm an adult. I can deal with it. As long as you don't do it right in front of me or bring someone back to our home, it's fine."

Shaking his head, disbelieving, Brian cupped Justin's face with both hands. "What do *you* want?"

Justin stared back at him with wide eyes, and didn't lie. "You. Me. And no one else."

Nodding, Brian wasn't surprised. "You should always go after what you want."

"Believe me, Brian," Justin said wryly, "I really am. You're high maintenance and require delicate handling. One day I'll have you exactly where I want you."

He knew Justin was teasing, but as far as Brian was concerned, somehow that day had long since passed. "I'm not gonna say I'll never trick, because I don't think that's realistic. I'm human. I'm a guy. But I meant what I said before," he said quietly, as the lights circled overhead. "And though I'm sure I'll fuck stuff up and spend more than a few nights sleeping in Gus' room," he paused, lips quirking, before lowering his voice, "I'm ready."

Blinking up at him, Justin smiled as the hand that had been resting against Brian's side slid up to cup the back of Brian's neck instead, pulling him down for a kiss.

Brian was more than ready to give the new VIP lounge a test drive by the time they pulled apart, and judging by Justin's response, so was he.

Pulling his head back, Justin's eyes looked suspiciously bright as he rubbed his nose against Brian's. "Okay," he said firmly. "But don't think for one second that this gets you out of grocery shopping tonight."


Shopping that evening was definitely different to any time they'd gone before, because both of them were perfectly aware that instead of shopping for two different places, they were now shopping for a joint apartment. Brian didn't say anything about it at first, and neither did Justin, surprisingly - although he did have a stupid ass grin on his face, and seemed really fucking excited to be there.

How anyone could be excited about grocery shopping, Brian would never know.

He thought about telling Justin to stop grinning like an idiot, but then the kid started fondling a couple of tomatoes and Brian got distracted.

And...really, it wasn't so bad. There was more greenery in the shopping cart than Brian was used to seeing (he was making Justin push the fucking thing, of course) and Justin usually conferred with him about a particular item before they agreed to put it in the cart, but grocery shopping was a pretty simple process any way you looked at it. After a while he stopped finding Justin's grin stupid, and realised that it was actually...kind of sweet.

Although he'd lay face down on hot coals before admitting that.


"You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" Brian asked, as Justin perused the shelves of food in front of him.

"Yup," he replied, picking a box up for all of two seconds before putting it back again. "I know it makes you uncomfortable, but I just think it's really, really cool that we're here buying stuff for our new place." Justin was right. It did make Brian uncomfortable, but he was getting used to that feeling lately. "I guess it's how you feel when you buy a new suit or something," Justin explained.

Brian stared at him. "Are you *seriously* comparing buying," he glanced towards their cart, "a six pack of soda to buying a new Armani suit?"

"Hmm," Justin said deliberately, clearly faking thinking about it. "No," he eventually replied, grinning at him. "Buying a six pack of soda is better."

"You little shit," Brian retorted, not really pissed but using the excuse to grab Justin and plant a kiss on his lips. "I'll show you the difference later. An Armani suit is sexy. Soda is not."

"It would be if you were running their ad campaign," Justin grinned innocently. "Think of all the hot, naked guys they'd have all over the packaging."

Brian fucking grinned back at him. "You sure you don't wanna come back and work for Kinnetik?"

Laughing, Justin tugged free and turned away just as Brian's cell went off. Sighing, Brian pulled the phone out, watching as Justin bent down to study something on the bottom shelf ("Oh, crackers!"), and he was so distracted by the sight that he didn't even check the caller ID.



Ah. Of course. "Hey, Mikey."

"Hey, how did everything go? I left you like four messages-"

"I know," he interrupted. "I got them all." Best to get this done all in one go. "Everything went as well as could be expected, nothing of any value got broken, thank fuck-"

"Except my dishes!" Justin yelled, not turning around with his ass still sticking out.

Brian ignored the words, but not the ass. "Like I said, nothing of any value got broken," Justin snorted, "we'll buy the rest of the furniture we need this weekend and, assuming it all gets delivered by next weekend, we'll have the fucking *housewarming* then. So spread the word." That way he wouldn't have to have this same conversation multiple times.

"You think you'll get all the furniture you need by then?"

"We only need a couple of beds and a few more things for Gus' room - maybe something else if it catches our eye." Brian may have preferred a lot of space, but there was a difference between spacious and barren. "Besides, it's not like we'll be going to the kind of places you and the Professor buy furniture at - this'll be a high-end store. Money talks. I'm sure we'll get any delivery date we want."

"Careful," Mikey laughed, "I think your smugness is dripping on me even over the phone. So what are you guys up to now? Still unpacking?"

Brian was very aware of the happy hetero couple who'd just wheeled by them in the aisle. "Well, at the moment I'm staring at Justin's ass."

"So, soon there'll be unpacking of a different kind?"

"You could say that," he smirked, still staring. "I'm pretty sure he's just sticking it out for effect now, but I can't say I don't appreciate the view."

"Oh, thank God," Justin groaned, standing up and rubbing the base of his spine with one hand. "That was starting to hurt."

"Silly twat," Brian shook his head, reaching out with his free hand to swipe Justin across the side of his head. Ducking out of the way, Justin swivelled around and grabbed their cart again.

"Come on," he said, pushing it forward, "we haven't picked up condoms yet."

"Gotta go, Mikey," Brian said, and quickly ended the call.


They'd unpacked nearly everything at the apartment by the weekend, and they just needed that last touch - new furniture.

Gus had a previously unforeseen love of furniture shopping. It made sense - he was Brian's kid; of course he'd appreciate shopping for expensive things. But Brian certainly hadn't taken his son furniture shopping before - hell, he didn't even know if the munchers had - and Gus was old enough now to have input into what kind of bed he should have. It seemed only fair.

It was just that the little fucker wouldn't stop trying out every. Piece. Of furniture. They came across. And there was a *lot* of fucking furniture.

Whenever there was a chair, bed, table - whatever the fuck it was, Gus would sit on it or crawl under it, usually making a ridiculous amount of noise. Brian was seriously starting to regret the fact that he'd picked Gus up at all today for their usual Saturday 'date'.

He and Justin had both tried telling Gus to behave himself, threatened to tell his mommies how he was acting, but he was still behaving like a brat. Finally, Brian pulled out the big guns.

"Gus, if you don't calm down and start behaving right now, I will buy you absolutely nothing. You'll get no new fancy bed, no new furniture, absolutely nothing to put in your room at our apartment - actually," he continued, inspiration striking, "if you keep acting like this you won't even have your own room at our apartment. I'll turn it into an office for me. And whenever you sleep over you'll have to sleep on the floor." He had absolutely no intention of doing any of that, of course, but he'd seriously had enough of this shit for one day.

Face immediately drooping, Gus looked chagrined. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I'll be good. I promise."

"Good," Brian nodded, satisfied. "Now let's go back and look at the beds again, and see if you can find something you like." Without jumping all over it and making the sales assistants glare at Brian like he was the one fucking doing it.

"That was some serious emotional blackmail," Justin said, moving to stand next to him as they both watched Gus inspect a bed seriously.

"He has to learn." Brian wasn't about to explain himself to anyone - not even Justin.

"I didn't say I disagreed with it," Justin told him, smiling, which broke the tension. "Gus is a good kid, but he is a kid. Sometimes he's gonna act like a little brat."

"Thank you, Dr Spock."

Justin elbowed him. "Anyway, I think emotional blackmail is at the core of most parents child-rearing habits - God knows Mom pulled that on me enough times," he grinned. "Why change a method that's worked for a millennia?"

"This one, Daddy!"

Gus' voice made Brian move. His kid had apparently made his choice, but when Brian saw the bed Gus had chosen, he frowned.

Justin frowned too. "Uh, Brian..."



"I know."

It was the bed from the loft. Not exactly the same, but extremely similar, and Gus was sitting on the wooden ledge at the end, smiling up at them happily.

"Gus," Brian began, knowing there was no way the girls would let him get a bed for Gus that looked exactly like the one Brian had fucked thousands of tricks on, "are you sure you don't like something else?"

"No," he insisted, bouncing up and down on the ledge. "This one!"

"It's just that if I get this one," Brian explained patiently, "Mommy Mel will rip my-"


"-hair out. And that's very painful and a near disaster for someone who takes care of his hair as well as I do." Shit, he didn't know what to do. Gus clearly wanted the bed because it resembled Brian's - or at least the one he used to have - which was kind of nice from Brian's perspective. But buying him that bed would severely piss Mel off and...wait? Why the fuck was he worried about pissing off Mel?

Brian took a step away. "Let's see how soon they can get it delivered."

Apparently, Justin wasn't happy with that. "Brian!"

He turned back. "What?"

Rolling his eyes, Justin knelt down next to Gus and spoke to him quietly but very intently. After a couple of minutes Gus nodded slowly, and took Justin's hand, climbing down off the bed.

Standing up, Justin turned and faced Brian. "Gus and I are gonna go and look for another bed. Why don't you see if you can find one for our room, and when we meet up again I'll tell you if I like it or not."

Nodding silently, eager to take a breather, Brian watched as Justin and Gus walked further and further away. He didn't know how the fuck Justin had done that, and he seriously wanted to know.

So he pulled out his cell phone and called Justin's.

Seeming surprised when his phone started ringing, Justin pulled it out and clearly read the Caller ID. Frowning, he turned to look back at Brian and answered the call as Gus became fascinated with another bed. "What?"

"What the fuck did you tell him?"

Smiling visibly, Justin glanced over to Gus and spoke quietly so he wouldn't overhear. "Just that his room had a normal-sized door on it, and there was no way we'd get that huge bed inside. It's not like he needs to know that it gets delivered in parts."

Brian shook his head, amused. "That was a risk. He could've known."

"I know. But he didn't," he replied smugly. "And now that I've saved your ass, excuse me while I help your kid pick out a bed."

Asshole. "It was clever," he admitted begrudgingly.

"It was genius," Justin replied happily. "Go and search for our bed. I'm thinking...something with ruffles and frills. And pink. Definitely pink."

"Sure," Brian replied amiably, "if you're planning on me never fucking you on it."


Brian stared at the bed in horror.


"Yes?" Justin prompted.


"A bed?"




"What Gus wants?"

"It's..." there was no other word for it, "green."

And not just green. It was vomit green, a colour that Brian had never intended having anywhere near anything he owned. Especially not his new, fabulously expensive apartment.

It was his own fault. He'd been so unbelievably glad when Justin had hopped over to him in the furniture store and told him that they'd found a bed that Gus liked - and also wouldn't remind the munchers of Brian's fuck-pad - that for once he didn't try and take control of the situation, and just told Justin to order the damn thing. Without even looking at it.

Now he understood the little smirk Justin had been wearing at the time.

Delivery had been arranged for Wednesday, today, and Brian had left work early to oversee the delivery and construction of their new beds (there was no chance in hell of Brian putting them together; not when he could pay someone else to do it for him). And as he'd watched the pieces of his son's bed slowly being unpacked and put together, a slow roll of horror had passed through his body.

It was...*green*.

He'd been prepared for some kind of kiddie bed; that if he wanted to be more of a father to Gus, he'd have to sacrifice the contents of Gus' room to whatever the kid wanted or needed instead of it consisting of Brian's usual style. But *this*...

He hadn't even waited for them to finish working before grabbing the phone and calling the gallery. Luckily, Justin picked up.


"They're here. Our bed. Gus' bed. It's..."

And it fucking was. Green.

"It may be green," Justin told him eventually, "but it was the only other bed he liked. You didn't want him having the first one, so-"

"Don't you think this is something you maybe should've fucking mentioned?" All of it was green. Every single part. The frame, legs, headboard; even the fucking mattress (which was ridiculous, as far as Brian was concerned). It even came with its own specially designed sheets, pillow cases, quilt cover - all bearing the same vomit-green colour. Sometimes a change in fashion really wasn't an improvement.

"Brian," he replied, "you know as well as I do that even if you had seen the bed with Gus, he would've talked you into buying it for him anyway. You would've bitched and complained, but eventually you would've capitulated - because you love him."

Brian glowered, even though there was no one there to glower at right then. Besides the guys from the store. Hmm. "That's not the point."

"Okay, so I probably should've told you," Justin admitted. "But this way I saved myself a few days of bitching."

He glowered again. "I do not bitch."

"Oh my God, you so do!" he laughed.

"Oh, like you don't," Brian retorted, sighing and rubbing his hand over his face. Even though Justin had been a sneaky shit, this was his own damn fault. If he hadn't been so eager to get it all taken care of so quickly, he would've known about this right from the beginning. Sometimes, even he could admit that getting everything you wanted as soon as you wanted it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

"Yes, but when I'm bitchy it's cute," Justin replied. "Is our bed there?"

That was, at least, a good change of subject. "They put it together first. Looks good." That was an understatement. Brian had chosen a good one, even if he did say so himself, and Justin had agreed when he'd seen it at the store. It fitted in to their new apartment perfectly; modern and stylish, but not cold. Something that made him want to fuck Justin just by looking at it, and he turned away so he could speak privately. "Can't wait to fuck you in it tonight."

There was silence on the other end of the phone for a while, and Brian could imagine Justin squirming in his chair.

"So," Justin said quickly, "you picking me up tonight?"

The guys from the store would be gone long before then. "I think that can be arranged."


Justin barely had a chance to say, "Wow, it does look goo-" before Brian was knocking him onto his back and unbuttoning his pants. He'd been wanting to fuck Justin even more since that phone call, and he'd already had to sit through the interminable drive to and from the gallery, and nothing was going to slow him down anymore.

Thankfully Justin didn't seem to be resisting, as eager to get under Brian's clothes as Brian was to get under his. It felt like no time at all until Brian's jeans were off and the condom was on and he was fucking Justin. Justin's shirt was pushed halfway up his chest, trapped beneath his armpits, and his pants were still hanging off one leg - caught around a shoe that hadn't been taken off yet - but that just made the whole thing hotter.

"*Fuck*," Justin grunted beneath him, thrusting back against Brian and wrapping his legs around him. Brian thought he felt Justin's pants flick against his back as he did so, but he was far more interested in what was going on around his dick right at that moment.

Getting closer and closer to orgasm, Brian thrust harder, covering Justin's mouth with his own as they rocked against each other. When he came, his whole body shook, and he groaned into the side of Justin's face.

Fuck. There was nothing like fucking the guy you caredaboutmorethananyoneelse on a piece of new, expensive furniture. Panting, Brian turned his head to look at Justin's face. "So...did it pass the fuck test?"

"That would be a yes," Justin laughed breathlessly. Squirming underneath him for a moment, he touched the shirt he was still wearing with one hand. "Help me get undressed?"

Pulling out carefully, Brian tied off the condom and threw it in the general direction of the trash can. First tugging his shirt off, Justin then held up the foot with the shoe on, grinning as he waggled it around; pants flapping against his leg. Grinning back, Brian tugged the shoe off, throwing it somewhere behind him. Next came the sock, then the pants, and then he was kissing his way up Justin's body.

Sighing with contentment, Justin looked deliriously fucking happy by the time Brian reached his face. "I love our new bed," he declared, grinning broadly.

Snickering, Brian placed one last kiss on Justin's neck before leaning up to meet his mouth. It started slow, almost gentle, but then their tongues got involved and Justin tightened his arms around him and was rolling Brian onto his back.

"Haven't...seen...Gus'" Justin got out between kisses.

Splaying a hand against Justin's perfect ass, Brian rolled him back over. "Later," he breathed, unable to get enough of that fucking mouth.



Justin was standing naked in the doorway of Gus' room. It was quite the dichotomy from Brian's point of view.

"Yeah," Justin said, "it's still green."

Rolling his eyes, Brian poked him in the side - with his finger - before heading towards the kitchen. Justin followed him, but stopped near the new furniture. In the end they'd also picked out another table and chair, and although Justin hadn't objected, he'd made it clear that he couldn't decide if he actually liked the chair or not.

Brian watched from the corner of his eye as he took a bottle of water out of the fridge. Justin studied the chair from different angles, poked it, sat down on it (something he should always do naked, as far as Brian was concerned), and stood back up again before eventually announcing, "It looks good here."

Brian would've kept the thing anyway - if he was keeping Gus' bed, there was no way he wasn't keeping a chair he loved - but he did get some satisfaction from the fact that Justin didn't hate it.

Smiling and walking towards him, Justin rested his elbows on the counter. "Everyone's coming over this Saturday?"

Nodding, Brian took another sip of water. "I think they would even if we didn't want them to." Deb had made it clear that she wasn't willing to wait much longer. "Emmett's insisting on arranging the food, but I told him no decorations. Just food." Truthfully, Brian thought Emmett was fucking good at what he did - that's why he was even entrusting him with the food. But the apartment didn't need to be dressed up. It'd impress everyone just the way it was. "Gus'll be spending the night, now that he has his own room. I already checked with the girls." Gus had slept over at the loft a few times, but that'd always meant sleeping next to Brian or on the sofa. Even though Gus hadn't minded, Brian'd always felt kind of guilty about it.

"That's great," Justin smiled enthusiastically. "And I'm guessing that's one room we shouldn't fuck in again," he teased.

Smirking, Brian raised his drink in silent salute. Even he had his limits. They'd fucked in Gus' room before it officially became Gus' room, one night while they were unpacking - or rather, supposed to be. Justin had found something about the whole thing a turn-on that particular night, and jumped Brian amid the boxes.

But now that Gus' room was Gus' room - even with the vomit-green bed - Brian wouldn't be able to bring himself to fuck there again. He couldn't say it was any great loss - there were still plenty of other places to fuck.

He was pulled out of his thoughts of fucking Justin in the new chair, when Justin's stomach rumbled loudly. Looking down at his stomach, Justin then looked back up at Brian. "This is what happens when you're so fucking hot that I can't resist you."

"Oh yes," Brian retorted, arching an eyebrow and taking another sip of his drink. "I don't know how I live with myself."


Emmett Honeycutt, self-proclaimed party planner extraordinaire, arrived first. Darren, AKA Shanda Lear, part time drag artiste (he always insisted he was more than a simple drag queen) came with him to set up the food - the two of them had been working together ever since Emmett's previous work partner, Vic, had died of a heart attack. Emmett practically fucking orgasmed over the amount of counter space they had in the new apartment, and for once actually agreed that they didn't need any decorations.

Darren left shortly after - Brian didn't want them to 'work' the party, just initially provide the food - and the next arrivals were the munchers and the kids. Brian had asked them to arrive early (well, he'd asked Ted to ask them to arrive early) so he could show Gus his room before everyone else got there, and hopefully stop the kid from getting over-excited.

The girls were appropriately impressed as they stepped into the apartment - even Mel.

"Jesus Christ, Kinney - just how much money do you have?"

"That's between me and my accountant," he answered, smiling down at Gus as he held him in his arms. Justin cleared his throat. "And Justin." Gus was squirming about in his arms, looking around. The kid had no subtlety at all. "So, Sonny Boy, you wanna see your room?"

"Yes!" He didn't seem to care at all about the rest of the apartment - which was exactly what Brian'd been expecting.

Smirking, Brian lowered Gus to the floor, took one hand, and led him towards the bedroom. Pausing by the closed door, he smiled and nodded down at Gus. "Open it."

With no hesitation at all, Gus pushed the door open. "You got it!" he yelled, yanking away from Brian and running into the room.

Smiling - shit, the bed was so worth it - Brian stepped in after him, then stood to one side so the others could see.

"Jesus," Mel muttered, obviously having just seen the bed. "What the hell is that thing?"

"That green monstrosity is Gus' bed," he explained, still smiling as he watched Gus climb onto it.

"You're letting him have that thing in your apartment?"

Brian shrugged as Gus rolled around on the bed. "He wanted it."

"Oh, *Brian*," Linds said then, in that tone of voice that meant she thought he was doing something completely fucking adorable. Justin used it sometimes, too, but he usually knew better.

"Christ," Brian glanced behind. "Don't you start."

"It's a lovely room," she continued, stepping in further. "I love the colours."

That'd been mostly Justin's doing. They'd decided against painting any of the rooms yet - Brian generally liked them the way they were, anyway - but as well as a child-friendly desk for Gus to draw on, a chest of drawers for clothes, and a box for his toys, they'd put large circles of bright colours on the wall across from Gus' bed. "Justin's idea," he explained, just as Justin came to stand next to him.

Linds smiled. "Bright colours can be very inspiring."

Justin looked up at him. "I *told* you."

"I let you put the damn things up, didn't I?"

Justin just grinned.

Brian ignored him, turning back to look at the girls. "So, does it pass the mom inspection?"

"It's great, Brian," Linds assured him. "Really."

"It's not bad," Mel admitted begrudgingly, not looking as mean as she usually did with JR gurgling in her arms.

"Most importantly," Brian walked to the bed and perched on the edge, just as Gus looked like he was getting ready to start jumping up and down on the damn thing. "Do *you* like it, Sonny Boy?"

"I love it!" he replied, throwing his arms around Brian. "It's the best bedroom ever!"

"Oh," a voice said from the doorway, and they all turned to see Emmett standing there. He sniffed, holding a hand up against his chest. "It's times like these that a man wishes he had a camera."

Doing his best to ignore him, Brian kissed the top of Gus' head and held him away slightly. "Okay, kid. No jumping on the bed." Pausing, he lowered his voice. "At least not without supervision. And take your shoes off first."


He smirked at Mel innocently. "Yes?"

"Don't encourage bad behaviour."

Fuck that. Brian hadn't had a lot of fun as a kid, and he wouldn't let the same thing happen to his son. "Bad behaviour is selling crack at school - this hardly compares. And it'd never be done without supervision." He turned back to Gus. "Right, Gus?"

"Right, Dad," he nodded enthusiastically.

Well trained already. He probably had no idea what he was even agreeing with.

Brian felt so proud.

"Anyone want a drink?" Justin asked.


The apartment was a hit. Everyone drooled over it, admired it, asked how much it cost. Brian remained stoically quiet on the subject, letting them stew. There was talk about everything - everyone's job, the kids, Justin's art. Brian got asked a few times about Babylon, and revealed that it'd be re-opening soon - the advertising campaign for it would be starting on Monday. Frankly, he'd wanted to get his home figured out before worrying about the club. It'd already been standing there doing nothing for a few months - another couple of weeks wouldn't hurt. Brian may have liked working hard, but even he could only keep his fingers in so many pies.

The party wasn't quite as irritating as he'd thought it would be. That said, it was still fucking annoying have all these people tromping about his apartment for hours on end, making all this *mess*, asking for guided tours, pausing in front of one of Justin's paintings and asking about it.

But at least there were housewarming gifts. Of course, most of them turned out to be shitty - there were three picture frames that Justin pretended to love, and a set of cutlery from Ted that was actually a good brand.

When it was Cynthia's turn, Brian felt the gift, recognised the feel of yet another picture frame, and thrust it towards Justin to unwrap. He was actually kind of disappointed - Cynthia, of all people, should know what he appreciated - but when Justin finished tearing the paper off and his mouth opened wide enough for Brian's cock to fit inside, Brian realised that maybe he'd underestimated her.

It was a picture frame. But this time it actually held a picture - him and Justin, from that day they'd fallen asleep together on the sofa at Kinnetik. And that bitch had snuck up on them with a camera.

Deb summed it up nicely: "That's the most fucking adorable thing I've ever seen."

And yeah, he was uncomfortable - all these people surrounding them, staring at this private moment - but that was his life now. And he'd get used to it.

"Doesn't look very expensive," he informed Cynthia casually, even though it was a fucking stylish picture frame.

"Not expensive," she replied, smirking. "Priceless."

Fuck. "If you're trying to make me throw up, you're getting dangerously close."

"If you do, I'll have reached another aim in life."

They took some ribbing and teasing over the picture - although Jennifer and Daphne both seemed to like it ("That's lovely." "That is *so cute*!") - and after Brian turned towards Justin, shrugging. "What do you think? On the new table?"

"On the new table," Justin agreed, and leant in to kiss him.

A distinct "Aww" came from somewhere and Brian insisted that everyone go and have something to fucking eat right fucking now.

"You okay?" Justin asked, when they were finally given some semblance of privacy on the sofa.

"Will be," he nodded. "Sometimes I can only take it in small doses. You?"

"Okay," he replied. "I love the picture. But..." pausing, he glanced away, his expression serious.

What the fuck? "What happened?"

Sighing, Justin glanced around before lowering his voice. "Mel thought I was living off you."

Brian blinked. "What the fuck?"

"She thought you were paying for everything," he shrugged. "She really didn't mean to be a bitch about it-"

"Not that it takes much," Brian muttered.

"-but I guess that in most couples there's usually someone who makes more money. Like her with Linds. And she figured that because you were the successful businessman, and I was the young, aspiring artist who doesn't have a huge salary..."

Fuck that. Fuck that all to hell. "Did you set her straight?"

"Of course I did," he almost sounded offended. "I said that the apartment is in both our names, that we're splitting all the costs - the apartment, utilities, bills - and that I have my own money. I mean I guess I didn't earn it quite the same way you did-"

"But you did earn it," Brian interrupted, nodding. "Suing that fucker was the smartest thing you ever did. Starting your own business is nothing compared to taking a bat to the head, and all the shit that came with it. You fucking *earned* that money, Justin."

Looking suspiciously teary eyed, Justin smiled and blinked a few times before wrapping his arms around Brian. Hugging him back, Brian brought his free hand up to the back of Justin's head.

"You're a strong little fuck. You know that, right?"

"Yeah," Justin replied quietly. "I do." He chuckled, pulling back. "She really wasn't being a bitch, you know - she wasn't saying there was anything wrong with it. She even said that if the couple love each other, then what the hell does it matter? It just...bugged me, you know?"

"I get it," he nodded. "You're an independent little shit. Gotta do things yourself. I know what that's like." Pausing, he tugged Justin towards him again. There might come a day when Brian would get tired of touching him, but he seriously couldn't imagine it. "I wouldn't care if you only had two cents to rub together. In fact, all you'd need are two condoms to rub together, and I'd be perfectly happy."

Chuckling again, Justin squeezed tighter. "Same to you." He paused. "That said, I'm really fucking glad we're rich."

Laughing, Brian pulled away. "Well, that goes without saying," he smirked, just before he kissed him.


Brian had been thinking ever since that conversation. He'd been distracted for the rest of the day, barely aware when Emmett had cleaned up after the party, not really there when he'd tucked Gus in for the night, hardly feeling it when he brushed his teeth and got ready for bed.

Finally, Justin had apparently had enough.

"So what's going on with you?" he asked, after Brian climbed into bed next to him.

Brian didn't try to deny anything. "I've been thinking. About what we were talking about earlier."

"The money thing? What about it?"

"Well, you're right," Brian continued, "we're both rich. You have money, I have money. We own real estate together. I own an advertising agency and a night club."


Hesitating, Brian forced himself to press on. "I think we should arrange something to protect ourselves...legally."

Shifting in bed, Justin sat up. "You mean with a lawyer."

Nodding, Brian sat up next to him. "We're both worth a lot of money. And if anything ever happened to me, fuck knows my asshole family will do everything they can to get their hands on the money. I know you've got your own money and you don't need mine - but I'd prefer that it go to you and Gus. I don't want my family getting more than I've already arranged to give them. Logically, financially, legally - it makes sense."

Justin frowned, but nodded. "You're right. It's a good idea to make sure we're protected, just in case something does happen. I already had paperwork drawn up to keep the money out of my father's hands and so that Molly and Daph would get some, but I'd like to make sure that you, Gus and my mom get something too."

"You don't have to give Gus-"

"Yeah," he interrupted. "I do, Brian."

Okay. Okay. "We'll contact a lawyer tomorrow. Not Mel." No way was he giving her the satisfaction of holding this over him. Not that he had anything to be ashamed of - he just didn't want to see the smug look on her face.

"Sure," Justin smiled, finally, pulling Brian towards him. It wasn't long until Brian had Justin's dick in his mouth, listening as Justin tried to stifle his moans so not to wake Gus. At least they had actual doors on their bedrooms.

"You know what this means?" Justin gasped, as Brian crawled up his body, biting at a nipple.


"We just got married."

Forgetting the nipple, Brian yanked his head up. "We did no such thing," he argued. "Gay marriage isn't even legal here and-"

"Brian," Justin grinned, "calm the fuck down." Fucker. "Now," he flung out his arms and legs, lying spread-eagled across the bed. "It's my wedding night. Fuck the shit out of me."

This was the kind of marriage Brian could get behind.


Things were going amazingly fucking well with his personal life. For one, he actually *had* a personal life. He had a fantastic, pride-inducing apartment with an equally pride-inducing boyfriend/partner/whatever the fuck Justin was. He was spending a lot more time with his son, something he acknowledged he'd been wanting for a long time. He and Justin had contacted a lawyer and signed a million fucking forms - not the kind of workout he preferred giving his hand - and were as tightly protected, financially and medically, as they could be.

And he was okay with it. He was actually okay with it. Occasionally he'd have a minor freak out (how the *fuck* had he become the person he was now?), but then Justin would bend over, or ride his cock, or be an annoying brat, or just - fuck it - *smile*, and Brian would be okay. He knew it was pathetic, lesbianic, all the things he'd ever accused Mikey and Ben of being - but he'd never been happy before, either. Not *really*.

And he deserved to be happy. A few years ago he wouldn't have believed it, but after his parents, Vic, the cancer, the bombing - he fucking *deserved* it. Something about Justin made him think that, every day.

Brian Kinney was happy.

No sooner had he come to that realisation, than work turned to shit.

Leo Brown had married himself a new wife. A young, innocent looking blonde who was anything but. Brian knew the type - fuck, he just had to look at Justin - but she had a vindictive streak that outdid even Justin's. It was clear she had every intention of running her husbands company - probably into the ground - and Leo was so enamoured with her that he didn't seem to care when she joined him at meetings; even started calling the fucking shots. Every idea she had was 'delightful' or 'inspired'. Under other circumstances Brian might've been impressed by her ruthlessness, her utter manipulation of her husband, but not when he was the one at her fucking beck and call.

She was running Kinnetik ragged just because she could. She loved the power of it. She'd specify what she wanted, they'd give her *exactly* what she described, and then suddenly it wasn't good enough. Over and over again, fucking endlessly; his art department was stuck in some limbo world of constantly changing ad-copy. Brian had almost told her to go fuck herself so many times, but Brown Athletics was a $20 million account - losing it would make a huge dent in Kinnetik's back pocket. They might be able to recover, but Brian didn't want to fucking find out. He had staff and pay checks and his own fantastic, pride-inducing apartment to worry about.

He couldn't even escape the bitch when he finally left the office every day. She'd inevitably call his cell phone, wanting to discuss something they'd already talked about ten fucking times. Brian had tried talking to Leo, leaning over that business/personal life line more than he was comfortable with, but Leo was well and truly fucked. As far as he was concerned, Miranda could never do anything wrong. Sometimes, when they were wrapping up a meeting, Brian would see one of the other Brown Athletics executives sending him a desperate look - a SOS. They knew this was just the start, that eventually the ship would be going under, brought down by some twenty-something blonde who was always more perfectly coiffed than even Brian's own standards.

One day Brian even received an anonymous e-mail; there was talk of someone else in the company trying to take Leo out of power so they could get his wife out of the way, but Leo owned too much of the company himself to be taken out by legal methods. But if Brian could think of anything that might help, they really wanted to fucking hear about it.

Christ, his life had turned into a fucking spy movie.

Everything started getting on his nerves. Whenever he made it home, Justin was *always* fucking underfoot. Their new place may have been bigger, but Brian felt like he didn't have any fucking room to himself. They fucked angrily for a couple of days, and then stopped having sex at all. Justin kept trying to get him to talk until one day Brian fucking did - only it was more like shouting. He was being made impotent as a businessman by a fucking blonde bitch who got off on controlling others.

He was being fucked over by a female version of himself.

A couple of days later, Brian got home and Justin wasn't there. With Brian working longer hours now Justin usually had to make his way home himself, but he always made it home before Brian. After a moment of panic - he'd been a real fucker to deal with lately; Brian knew that - he was relieved to find Justin's clothes still in their bedroom. Convinced nothing drastic had happened, Brian collapsed on the sofa with a bottle of Jim Beam and his cell phone. Justin's cell was called just a few seconds later.

"Hey, Brian." The little fucker sounded *happy*.

"Where are you?" Brian demanded, holding the bottle in place between his legs and unscrewing the lid.

"Nearly home," Justin said. "I'll be there soon. Can you do me a favour and not drink anything yet?"

Pausing, Brian looked down at the opened bottle. "Why?" He probably should've been disturbed that Justin knew he'd already be going for a drink.


There was nothing else. No other explanation. But Brian had been a royal asshole lately, and Justin was seriously asking for something.

He screwed the lid back on.

'Nearly home' turned out to be about twenty minutes away, and when Justin finally unlocked and stepped through the front door, Brian was waiting.

Watching Justin close the door and take off his jacket, Brian knew something was going on. "Well?"

Smiling, Justin started walking towards the other half of the apartment. "Come with me."

Following, Brian ended up in the bedroom, watching as Justin took an envelope out of his own bedside table, and perched on the edge of the bed. "Here," he said, holding the envelope out towards him.

Frowning, Brian climbed onto the other side of the bed and took the envelope from him, opening it and taking out the contents.

And frowned even harder. Camera film. Negatives. Glancing at Justin briefly - what had the little shit been up to? - Brian held them up to the light so he could examine them properly.

"I know that with digital cameras and stuff you don't need negatives and photos produced these days, but I wanted to," he paused, sounding amused. "It sounds so much cooler saying 'I have the original negatives' instead of 'I have the JPEG file on my computer', don't you think?"

Realising exactly what he was looking at, Brian closed his eyes and turned his head away, as if that would get rid of the image now burned into his brain. "What the fuck have you done?" Jesus, that was something he really didn't need to see, even in miniscule, negative form.

"I had her followed," Justin explained simply as Brian just stared at him. "Given what you've told me about the way she acts, I figured she had to be fucking around on her husband. Lucky for us, she was. And I got proof," he nodded towards the negatives.

Brian couldn't fucking believe it. "And...what? You confronted her? Told her that unless she left Kinnetik the fuck alone, you'd show the photos to her husband?"

"Yes," he replied simply.

"Jesus Christ!" Pushing himself up, Brian threw the negatives onto the bed. "Do you know what you've fucking done?"

"I'm aware of exactly what I've done," Justin replied calmly. "And I did nothing illegal."

What the fuck? "You blackmailed her."

"But not for money," he pointed out. "I will be making no financial gain - therefore, not illegal."

"Oh that's a fine fucking line," Brian muttered. Christ, he couldn't believe this! He was living with a fucking lunatic! "Why the fuck did you do this?"

"Why do you *think*?" Justin asked earnestly, standing up and walking around the bed towards him. "She was making your life miserable, just because it amused her. And you're the only one, Brian - the only one who has *always* been there for me, who's *never* let me down. I wasn't about to let her get away with it, but I knew I couldn't involve you - if something went wrong, I couldn't risk your business."

He shook his head. "Justin..."

"It's no more than what you would've done for me," Justin argued, stepping closer. "If our positions had been reversed, you would've done the same. You'd do anything for me, just like I would for you. That's what love is, Brian."

There was so much he should've been bitching at. Justin putting himself at risk. The possible legal ramifications, whether money was involved or not. Justin putting himself at risk.

But the fucker was right.

Brian had been getting used to the idea of 'love'. Sometimes it still spooked him, but mostly it made him think of Justin laughing, watching something together, lying next to him. Calm, comforting things.

But love was also this. Terrifying and demanding, and doing whatever the fuck it took to take care of the person you...

Shit. Fuck.

Fuck! Maybe he actually understood how Leo Brown fucking felt.

Sighing, Brian closed his eyes. Justin was in his arms a moment later, and he wasn't sure if one or both of them had moved. Either way, it didn't fucking matter as long as Justin was there.

This couldn't be right. Normal people couldn't love like this, couldn't carry this *thing* around inside them all the fucking time - they wouldn't be able to survive it.

Or maybe they did. Maybe they did, and it was Brian who couldn't survive it, couldn't deal with it the way everyone else did.

Well, fuck that. He wasn't checking out now just because he'd found Justin. He'd grab on and hold on and take everything he fucking could.

"I'd pull the fucking world apart for you," Brian breathed hoarsely, knowing it was true - and knowing he wouldn't have it any other fucking way.


Brian didn't get a lot of sleep that night. He had this *feeling* inside him now - he knew it, Justin knew it - and there was no escaping it. When Justin finally fell asleep - they'd fucked for a while, of course - Brian just lay next to him, taking in that hair with a fucking life of its own, the naked skin, the small noises Justin made while he slept.

The talk they'd had when Justin had come home had revealed things, made him realise shit he hadn't acknowledged yet - but fuck, he couldn't feel bad about that because he had no previous experience. Being with Justin wasn't just about fucking him or holding him or listening to him queen out when he'd had a bad day (although, truthfully, Brian tended to queen out more than Justin).

It was the things he'd do for him. Fight. Kill. Die. Fucking everything. And that was scarier shit than anything he'd done so far.

Brian had done shit for his friends before, things he thought he'd never do, but he'd never felt this utter compulsion to *protect* before.

Besides one person.

Besides Gus.

But Gus was special. Gus was his son - he'd always broken all of Brian's rules. And now Justin was too.

"Brian." Movement next to him, Justin turning over and smiling sleepily.

Anything. Fucking anything.

"Go to sleep," Justin continued in that same low, quiet tone. "You'll feel like shit in the morning."

"Can't," Brian shrugged, deciding to shift closer. Justin got the idea, shifting closer too, and Brian pressed against him, pressing his face to Justin's neck and just...breathing.

Justin's arm wrapped around him. "You okay?"

For once in his life, he actually was. "Aside from the sneaking suspicion that I'm slowly growing a twat, everything's fine."

Laughing, shaking against him, Justin's hand grabbed at his side. "Well, at least one of us still has a cock," he joked. "And you still have an ass, so everything's fine."

As Brian thought over Justin's words, the idea became bigger and bigger. It wasn't something he wanted often - and he didn't think he'd want it more now, even with the way things'd changed - but like he'd told Linds once, sometimes all you wanted was a big cock. Brian was no exception.

Pulling far enough away so he could see Justin's face, Brian smiled. "Don't let me stop you."

It took Justin's sleepy mind a few seconds to decipher the message, and when it did his relaxed, languid body began to stiffen up. In several ways. "Brian..."

Brian just arched his eyebrows.

"I want to see your face," Justin told him.

He nodded.

Justin didn't ask him how long it'd been - Brian figured he probably didn't need to. He just slowly began working Brian over, inside and out. He nipped and kissed and licked and tasted; played with Brian's balls, nipples, his fucking *armpits*.

"What the fuck are you doing?" he demanded as Justin played with the hair there.

Justin just laughed, and fuck if it didn't make Brian smile.

Finally, eventually, he began playing with Brian's ass, and Brian knew he was being louder than usual. But fuck, it'd been so fucking long since he'd had anything *real* inside him, and Justin's fingers alone were a lot to take. His cock was going to feel huge.

Getting fucked was one of those things that Brian forgot how much he loved it until he actually did it. Justin certainly knew how the fuck to find his prostate - not that this came as a surprise - and Brian grunted as Justin's fingers came out, wiping them mostly clean on the sheets, ripping open the condom and rolling it on; then adding the lube.

And Brian was right. His ass fucking burned as Justin's cock pressed inside, but Justin was there too - his hands rubbing soothingly on Brian's body, murmuring soft encouragements and "Oh God, Brian, it's so tight, so good, so fucking good."

Which was amazingly fucking hot.

And finally his cock was all the way in, his balls pressing against Brian's ass, and Justin leant forward, bracing one arm against the bed and the other holding one of Brian's legs up as it wrapped around his body.

"Christ," Brian muttered, feeling so fucking sore but Justin was still bent over him, eyes closed, frowning intently.

Not moving.

Not until Brian wanted him to.

"Do it," Brian whispered. "Fuck me."

Groaning, Justin slowly pulled out, snapping his eyes open as he thrust back in. Brian cursed, rocking with him, finding the rhythm - it'd been a while since he'd been on this end of things - and Justin was so fucking hot; watching him, watching his every fucking move like he wanted to memorise what was happening.

He didn't hit Brian's prostate every time, but his efforts were nothing to sniff at and he became quite adept at making Brian curse and groan and fucking *whimper* (later, Brian would have to get Justin to swear never to tell any of their friends about that). Justin's thrusts were getting faster, his movements jerkier, as he mashed his lips against Brian's in a messy kiss. He was obviously fucking close.

"Fuck," he whispered, still thrusting, meeting Brian's gaze. "Brian...I'm gonna...I've gotta..."

They hadn't been fucking for long, but Brian couldn't blame the kid. "Go on," he encouraged, having to pause when Justin hit his prostate again. Jesus. "Come. Come fucking hard, right inside me. Inside me, Justin. You're so fucking hot-"

"Fuck!" Justin yelled, moving roughly for a few last, desperate thrusts, and Brian started jerking himself off just as Justin fucking lost it. He bucked against Brian's body, hard, and Brian felt the warmth inside him as Justin filled the condom, shuddering, groaning. Brian came not long after but, for once, his own orgasm felt kind of superfluous.

Not that he expected that to happen a lot.

Gasping, covered in sweat, Justin collapsed on top of him. Wrapping his arms around him, Brian caught his own breath and felt oddly proud at discovering that Justin was just as good at fucking as he was at getting fucked.

After about a minute Justin lifted his head, smiling, face flushed.

Brian smiled back.

Pulling out slowly and carefully - shit, Brian was going to be feeling that for a while - Justin did exactly what Brian did post-fuck - he didn't move any further than he absolutely fucking had to. Tying off the condom, Justin held it up, looking at it before grinning smugly at Brian and lobbing it towards the trash can.

Rolling his eyes, Brian tugged Justin down into a kiss, mouths opening and tongues meeting as Justin settled on top of him.

"Thank you," Justin said between kisses. Brian just rolled him onto his back, kissing him deeper.

And he just wanted to keep kissing him, but they did need rest, Justin especially. Slowing the kisses down, Brian ended up kissing Justin slowly and languidly. When that stopped, Justin pressed a few pecks to the side of Brian's mouth, his face.

"Justin," Brian said seriously, making him pause to look at him. "No more blackmailing people like Miranda Brown. I mean it. That shit's dangerous."

Staring at him wide-eyed for a few seconds, Justin's expression eventually settled and he lifted a hand up to start playing with Brian's hair. He met his gaze squarely. "No."

Little fucker! Brian huffed out a breath. "Justin-"

"No," he interrupted. "You'd protect me, and I'll protect you but fuck, Brian, I'm not an idiot." That remained to be seen. "Blackmail was a last resort."

"So you admit it was blackmail."

Justin tugged at his hair. "Shut up. What I *mean* is - we'd protect each other, but most of the time it's not necessary. We're strong, capable people; most of the time we don't need someone else to protect us. This was an unusual circumstance, and I can't see it happening again."

He *did* have a point. Shit. "But if something like this happened again-"

"I'd deal with it," Justin told him honestly. "In a nanosecond."

And Brian was just going to have to fucking live with it. "Only as a last resort," Brian specified, because what else could he do? There was no way he could deny that he'd do whatever the fuck it took to protect Justin if their positions had been reversed.

"Only as a last resort," Justin parroted. "Someone fucks with you, they fuck with me."

It was really quite...well, not adorable, because Brian might have been queer, but he wasn't Emmett.

But it was something. "You're a feisty little thing, aren't ya?"

Justin lifted his head, offended. "*Little*?"

Brian thought about Justin's cock in his ass. And the fact that he could still kind of feel it now. "Short?" he offered instead.

"I am *not* short," Justin retorted, practically sniffing in disgust. "Merely compact."

Laughing, Brian turned them onto their sides. "Get some sleep. Oh Compact One."

Sighing heavily, Justin nonetheless cuddled up to him. "I forgive you. But only because I just had my cock up your ass."

Somehow that statement didn't come as a surprise. "You're going to use that a lot, aren't you?"

"Yup," he replied happily, pressing his body against Brian's. "Mmm, you're all wet and sticky."

"Your fault," Brian retorted.

"Yeah," Justin grinned - Brian fucking felt it. "It is."


Brian spent most of the next day at Kinnetik standing up.

If Ted noticed, he wisely didn't say anything - Brian often got up and paced when he was on the phone with someone anyway - and simply brought him information and updates as they developed. Miranda Brown had, indeed, decided to leave them alone - but not before leaving a snotty message with Cynthia declaring that Kinnetik was no longer worthy of her time and that they 'might as well go with their uninspired first design'

In the art department, someone put a dartboard up with her face on it.

Brian didn't tell them to take it down. Instead, he left a message on Justin's voice mail telling him how very hard he was going to fuck him when they got home that night.

Of course, just as he was finishing off his vivid description of his cock in Justin's ass, he glanced up and saw Ted waiting in the doorway again, looking uncomfortable.

Well, it could hardly be something that Ted of all people hadn't heard before - or experienced. Ending the call, Brian threw the headset carefully onto his desk. "Theodore?" Hmm. When he thought about it, he realised this was about the sixth time Ted had been in his office already, and each time he'd seemed distracted and edgy. Brian hadn't really noticed before, thinking about work, being fucking glad that bitch was out of the way, Justin's cock up his ass... "Something wrong?"

"No," Ted said eventually, finally looking decisive as he walked across the room and handed a piece of paper over.

Frowning, Brian took the paper and studied the contents. He recognised what it was immediately, and glanced back up at Ted. Smirking. "You having a ceremony?"

Ted didn't take the bait, which meant he was taking it seriously. Not that that was a surprise. "I just want him protected. Given what both of us have been through, it's amazing we're as healthy as we are." Brian couldn't deny that. He didn't know exactly what Blake's story was - apart from being a Crystal queen - but it was fucking amazing Ted didn't have HIV. "And we both agree that we shouldn't take anything for granted. Working as a counsellor is the right job for him, but it doesn't exactly cover all the bases."

When Brian'd first set up Kinnetik, it'd been Ted himself who'd helped him find and initiate the medical insurance he wanted - Brian may not have been a big fan of the idea of marriage, but as far as he was concerned every one of his employees should have exactly same rights, straight or gay. So anyone with a spouse or partner would be able to cover them with their work medical insurance. It hadn't been easy finding an insurance carrier that'd give them that deal, and the people who couldn't technically get married had to jump through more hoops, but at least they fucking got coverage.

"That was fast work, Theodore," Brian told him, walking towards his side of the desk. "It's only been...what? A few weeks since you two reunited-fucked in the Alps?"

Ted rolled his eyes. "You know very well it wasn't the Alps. And this's right. The timing never worked out before; one of us was always too..."

"Addicted to Crystal?"

He ignored that. "But now we're okay. This time it's working, and we don't want to take any chances."

Brian couldn't fucking blame them - two ex-junkies in one relationship was more than fucking enough. "Well, you know what to do. Get the ball rolling."

Smiling broadly - sincerely, even - Ted almost reached across to shake his hand. Brian saw the movement, but then Ted presumably thought better of it. "Uh, you know, Brian, now that you and Justin own property together-"

There was only one place this conversation was going. "Justin already had his own medical insurance." Not to mention a shitload of money. "As do I."

"Oh, well, good," Ted nodded. "But given how much you're worth, Brian, you should also think about-"

Christ, why did everyone feel they had to...okay, in all honesty his friends had been better than he'd expected when it came to his relationship with Justin - they were notoriously nosey, and they'd pretty much left the two of them alone - but they were doing fine without advice and he didn't need any now. "It's covered. Legally, financially, medically, we're covered. Okay?" Translated - it's fine, leave us the fuck alone.

Ted blinked a few times, opening and closing his mouth. "Wow...I...okay. Well, no problem then."

No problem indeed. "Anything else?"

He seemed to think it over for a few seconds. "Oh! Yeah, we're still getting a favourable response to the Babylon launch party campaign. Tom has been hearing a lot of good things; I think that bodes well." Tom, their previous manager of the club, had willingly come back when they'd told him they were opening up again. He'd even left his new job for it.

The club was due to re-open that coming Friday, but with all the shit that'd been happening with Miranda Brown, Brian hadn't had much time to think about it. Ted had given him periodic updates, but thankfully Tom was fucking good at what he did and there'd barely been anything that Brian needed to oversee personally.

"Good," Brian said with satisfaction. If this kept up, they'd make a fucking good profit right from the start. "And our guest of honour?"

"Will definitely be attending," Ted smiled. "He'll have to come in through one of the emergency exits before things get started, but that shouldn't be a problem."

Also good. "Glad to hear it, Theodore. Now, unless there's something else - get out of my office." Trying not to wince as he sat down, Brian picked up a pen and started looking over something - he didn't know what the fuck it was, but he didn't want Ted to think he was interested in watching him leave.

"Brian," Ted said, making him look up to see Ted standing by the door.


"You and Justin..." he began awkwardly. "Is it a secret?"

Looking back down at his desk, Brian couldn't think of anything he could say that would seem more appropriate. "Do you actually believe that I think any one of my friends can keep a secret?"

It was bullshit of course - Ted had kept his cancer quiet for weeks - but it was an acknowledgement. Permission. Better to spread the word and deal with it now than have to worry about it later. This way he controlled it.

"Aye aye, Boss."

Twenty minutes later, he got a phone call from Mikey.

Thirty minutes later, he got a phone call from Deb.

He told them both to fuck off, but when they wouldn't stop insisting that they had "to do *something* to celebrate, you asshole," he told them they could both buy him a drink at Babylon on Friday night.


For the first time in what felt like forever - but couldn't have been much more than a week - Brian was able to be there to pick Justin up when he finished work.

Justin saw him as soon as he stepped out of the gallery, smiling broadly and walking quickly over to the Jeep. Throwing open the passenger door, Justin climbed in, shut the door behind him, and pulled Brian into a tongue-filled kiss.

Brian didn't object at all, and his hand *somehow* found its way down the back of Justin's pants.

Eventually pulling away, Justin licked his well-used lips and grinned at him. "I missed being able to do that every day."

"You know, you didn't actually do it every day," Brian pointed out.

"Yeah, but the possibility was *there*," he argued, still smiling.

Brian kissed him again.

"Got...your message. Checked 'em at lunch," Justin murmured between kisses. "You wanna fuck me?"

"Yeah," Brian breathed, more than fucking ready to do it right now.

"Mmm," Justin replied when Brian started nuzzling at his neck. "I *might* let you. Seeing as I had my dick up your ass last night."

Snorting out a breath - okay, maybe a laugh - Brian bit gently at Justin's neck. "Don't bet on it happening again at this rate."

Laughing, Justin dragged Brian's head up for one last kiss, before pushing him away. "Come on. Take me home where you can fuck me properly."

Brian was pretty sure he could fuck Justin 'properly' just about anywhere, but a bed would be more fucking comfortable. "Seatbelt," he reminded, even as he mentally devised the fastest route home.

Justin nattered on about work for a while - Zara was planning a showing of a particular artist's work - but they were both kind of horny and distracted.

Or so he thought.

"So," Justin began sprightly, as they turned onto their street, "was your ass sore today?"

Little fucker. "Just wait a few minutes, Sunshine," Brian told him faux-patiently, "then we can contrast and compare."


Brian's full-length mirror had miraculously survived the move to the apartment and Justin stood in front of it now, naked.

"What should I wear tonight?" he asked, turning and looking back at himself, giving his ass the once over.

"That look works for me," Brian retorted, making Justin chuckle. Stepping behind him, Brian turned Justin around until he was facing the mirror again, a hand holding each side of his waist. "You've never asked me what you should wear before," Brian pointed out, meeting Justin's gaze in the mirror and leaving the question unasked.

"It's the night your business is opening, and I'll be there as your partner," Justin explained. "It's a big deal, Brian. I want to make a good impression."

Brian snorted. "You could come dressed as a fucking hobo and you'd make a good impression."

Justin grinned broadly. "That's so sweet."

Oh, Christ. "You did not just call me sweet."

"I believe I did," Justin retorted, arching his eyebrows. "Because you were."

"I was not," Brian insisted, squeezing Justin's sides and meeting his gaze imperiously. "I wasn't referring to your undoubtedly stunning personality, Sunshine - I was referring to the fact that you're fucking hot. That's all that's going to matter to the boys at Babylon and, therefore, you'll make a good impression."

"Uh huh," Justin replied knowingly, tugging Brian's hands away and turning in his arms. "Say what you want," he continued, hooking his arms around Brian's neck and looking up at him, "but I know better. I'm on to you."

And, well, somehow they were in a relationship, owned a place together, and were legally fucking tied - so he might've had a point. "If you're on to me," Brian murmured, hands sliding down to grab Justin's ass and push their bodies closer together, "can you guess what I want to be on to right now?"

"I think that's more like *in* to," Justin snickered, but he was already tightening his hold on Brian and hoisting his legs up.

Supporting Justin's legs with his arms, Brian kissed him open-mouthed, enjoying - as fucking always - how *good* Justin was at kissing him back. Making happy noises, Justin thrust his dick against him impatiently. Almost chuckling - it was kinda hard when Justin's tongue was down his throat - Brian turned them both around and carefully lowered Justin onto the bed. He would've just thrown him, but Justin was still holding onto him fucking tightly which rendered the throwing thing impossible.

"Clothes," Justin demanded in a husky voice, hands fumbling with Brian's shirt, obviously displeased that he was naked and Brian wasn't.

Brian had no problem rectifying that situation, and batted Justin's hands out of the way so he could yank his own shirt off in one sudden movement. When it was gone, Justin braced a hand against the bed and pushed himself up, kissing and licking at Brian's neck; his other hand clutching at Brian's hair.

Nuzzling against Justin's throat, Brian soon shoved him back onto the bed, and slid off the end of the bed himself, standing up so he could take off his jeans.

Propping himself up on one arm again, Justin watched Brian through heavily-lidded eyes. When Brian undid the last button on his jeans, Justin spread his legs, bending them at the knees and resting his feet against the bed. Still eyeing Brian, he brought his free hand up to his face, slowly licking the palm before bringing it down to his dick, pumping back and forth a few times. Finally, he rubbed his thumb across the top of his dick, swiping at the precum there, and brought the thumb up to his mouth to taste it.

He made noises like it was the best thing he'd ever tasted, closing his eyes and sucking his whole thumb into his mouth. When he eventually pulled his thumb free, he was looking at Brian with glazed eyes. "Look at my cock, Brian," he said, rubbing his thumb over the tip again, shuddering. "You make me so fucking wet."

Brian didn't remember much about the next few seconds. His jeans were just - gone. He was naked and there was skin, warmth, touch, taste, and the *need*, that thing he'd only ever really felt with Justin. And Justin was laughing, fucking laughing when they weren't kissing or groaning, knowing exactly what he did to Brian.

And Brian didn't even care. He just needed his cock up Justin's ass ASAP.

He got his wish, flipping Justin on to his front, rimming the little fucker for at least a minute - frankly, he was amazed he held out for that long before fucking him - until Justin was shaking, pleading, and then there was lube and a condom and *yes*. Fuck, *yes*.

Justin was groaning and whispering and murmuring, clutching at the pillow between his hands. Rubbing his side for just a few seconds, Brian couldn't wait any longer, thrusting his cock in and out.

Rocking back against him, Justin made those fucking amazing noises he always made, and even when they weren't coherent words he was always asking, demanding more.

Brian gave it to him. Brian gave him everything he fucking asked for.

The pillow in Justin's hands bunched up even more when Brian started jerking him off, and he let out a muted curse. Resting his forehead against Justin's back, Brian just indulged in the *feel* and, oh fuck, when Justin tightened his muscles like that-

The doorbell sounded.

Brian froze, his hand still on Justin's cock.

It wasn't the buzzer, but the doorbell. Which meant that whoever it was, was right outside their door instead of outside the building.

Panting, Justin turned his head to stare back at him, disbelieving. "If you pull out and stop fucking me to go answer that, I will cut your fucking dick off."

Figuring that if it was something important about Gus that Linds would've called, Brian resumed thrusting.

Moving his head back and lowering it - probably in relief - Justin slapped Brian's hand away from his dick.

And, really, there was added hotness of knowing that someone was outside the door, waiting for them to answer it. Probably hearing them fuck; because fuck knew Justin wasn't quiet. Probably getting turned on, listening to Justin's every moan or curse.

Brian almost lost it then, and angled his thrusts to try and hit Justin's prostate as often as possible. Justin definitely appreciated his efforts, moaning even louder, clenching harder - and that was when Brian did lose it, shaking and coming and filling the condom in three generous spurts.

Justin either came untouched or jerked himself off - Brian was a little fuzzy on that detail, post-orgasm - and Brian collapsed on top of him.

Christ. Jesus Christ. They just kept getting better at that.

And the doorbell was still going off, which meant it had to be one of their fucking friends.

Regretfully pulling out, Brian disposed of the condom and started to slide off their bed, pausing when he felt Justin's hand on his arm. Turning back, he saw Justin smiling at him.

"They waited this long," Justin said breathlessly, pulling him closer for a kiss.

Brian wanted nothing more than to fall back onto bed, touch Justin's skin and just lay there - or maybe fuck some more - until they had to leave in a couple of hours to get to the club early.

Instead, he pulled away from the kiss, rubbed his nose against Justin's and then slid off the bed to hunt for his jeans.

When he finally reached the front door the doorbell was sounding again and, annoyed that he couldn't indulge in his post-coital plans, he yanked open the door.

It was everyone. Fucking everyone. Mikey, Deb, Gus, Linds, Mel, Ted, Emmett, Ben, Hunter, Gus, JR, Carl, Daphne, Jennifer, Tucker, Molly...all carrying some kind of dish. Deb carrying something that looked suspiciously like a small wedding cake, with two grooms standing on top.

Brian scowled at Mikey. "I am never giving you any access code to any building I live in ever again. In fact, I'm changing my access code to this building today."

"Ha!" Deb retorted, pushing by him and heading straight for the kitchen counter. "We're the ones who had to listen to the two of you fucking."

"Imagine that," he replied, as they all started coming in. Jesus. "Fucking in my own home. Whatever next?"

Stumbling in from the bedroom, wearing nothing but a pair of sweat pants and a healthy sheen of sweat, Justin frowned when he saw everyone. "Um...hi?"

"Sweetheart," Jennifer said pleasantly, rushing over to hug him and evidently not bothered by his obvious post-fuckedness. "When Debbie called and told me the good news...oh..." Sniffing, she pulled back to look at his face. "I'm so happy for you, Justin."

"Uh..." Obviously surprised, maybe even a little embarrassed that he hadn't told her himself yet, Justin tugged at one of his ears. "Thanks, Mom, but it's not like we actually got married or anything."

"Everything but!" Deb insisted, walking to Brian. "And you, Mister," she held his gaze, "I know I can be too much sometimes. That you don't like it when I stick my nose in - and I think I've been doing quite well on that front, thank you very much." She *had* been bugging him less than usual lately. "But I've also known you since you were fourteen. I know where you come from. Who you were." She watched him seriously. "And the fact that you're in love, and living together with Sunshine, and practically fucking married..." Deb cupped his chin gently, smiling faintly. "That's something worth fucking celebrating, you hear?"

And he nodded, because everything his parents had shown him, everything they'd taught him - it was fucking bullshit. All of it. He might not be able to see that all the time, but right now his eyes were open.

And then they were really open, because Deb was hugging the shit out of him.

She was merely the first of many. Someone put music on - which meant they were touching his fucking stereo - and then he and Justin were hugged by what felt like an endless parade of people.

Well, almost. When Mel reached him, she hesitated and gave him a manly pat on the shoulder.

"You surprised the fuck out of me," she admitted.

Brian smirked. "Then I can die a happy man."

When it was Molly's turn to hug her brother, she told him how totally gross it was that she'd heard him having sex - but Brian looked really good topless, so she totally got why they were having sex at all.

It was at that point that Justin insisted that both he and Brian go and put a shirt on, right fucking now.

There was enough food to feed a small army, and someone took the plates out so they could all help themselves whenever they wanted.

Brian talked/bitched to whoever was next to him at a particular moment, ignored jokes about becoming a dyke, and hugged his son. And when he and Justin had a rare moment alone, Brian turned away from the view of his crazy fucking friends.

"Well, Sunshine," he teased, "you sure about this? You know you're gonna have to contend with all of them for the rest of your life, too."

"I knew what I was getting into," Justin assured him, grinning, sliding an arm around Brian's waist. "What about you?"

Smiling, shaking his head, Brian wrapped an arm around Justin's neck. "I've got no fucking idea what's going to happen next," he admitted, and for once, it was easy. "But I think I'm kind of looking forward to it."

Grinning broadly - almost blindingly, living up to his nickname - Justin turned towards him and met his gaze happily. "I love you too, you idiot."

Later there'd be more talking, and questions about their sex life, and Deb would probably make them eat some of that fucking cake (he'd refuse to feed any to Justin, although he might relent later and let Justin eat it off his body after they got home from the club), but right now there was Justin and his smile, surrounded by all their friends - as loud and overbearing as they could be.

And Brian knew he was fucking lucky.

Brian had never liked the idea of destiny, that some things were preordained - but he'd believed for so long that he'd end up like his father. That there was no escape from it, no matter what he did - he'd be doomed to follow in his father's footsteps.

But he also didn't like the idea of plain luck, either. That good things happened just through chance. Brian'd worked his fucking ass off to get where he was today and life, he was discovering, was a mixture of fate and luck. Some things couldn't be avoided, and his life could've gone in any one of a million different ways, but somehow he'd ended up in this place, with these friends, and this man.

Life wasn't perfect. People got hurt. Bombs exploded.

But Brian had more choice than he'd ever realised before, and he could do practically anything and anyone he wanted.

Justin leant up; kissing the side of his chin, and Brian closed his eyes, wrapping his other arm around Justin's neck.

He could choose anything he wanted, and he fucking chose Justin.


Everyone started leaving around 9pm. JR was out cold, Gus was looking drowsy - he got to stay up later than usual because of the 'special occasion' - and there were babysitters they needed to be taken to. Molly was plainly annoyed that she wasn't allowed to go to the club with the rest of them, and while normally Brian would've had few qualms about sneaking her in - he could imagine perfectly well what Justin would've been like around her age - the fact that her mother had decided to attend the re-opening of Babylon put a dampener on any plans he may have had.

Brian and Justin had started getting ready before the others left, so by the time the others *had* left to get rid of kids/get changed/take dishes back/have a quick fuck, that gave them plenty of time to finish getting ready and reach the club before opening time.

The doors were officially opening at 10pm tonight, and Brian and Justin walked into the club not long after 9:30.

Tom, the manager, was moving around a lot, not able to speak to them for long - which assured Brian everything was going the way it should. Tom should be fucking busy, but not so rushed off his feet that he couldn't think straight. Every time Brian saw him, Tom had a huge grin on his face.

Justin seemed even more fascinated with the club now than he had on his previous visit - watching people scurry around, bottles and glasses clanking together behind the bars, smiling up at the higher level.

Justin was also looking extremely hot despite the fact that he had chosen his own outfit (Brian suspected his complaint earlier about not knowing what to wear had simply been a ploy to get Brian to say something nice). It was a simple outfit - tight black jeans, and an equally tight blue t-shirt - but Justin wore it incredibly well.

Brian conferred with a few of the bouncers and bartenders, keeping his hand in, and he was starting to wonder if Phil was ever going to fucking arrive when Tom paused next to him, interrupting, a finger pressed against the microphone headset he was wearing.

"Brian, he's here."

Smirking, Brian dragged Justin away from learning how to make some kind of pink, disgustingly cheery looking cocktail (Seth, that particular bartender, probably thought pleasing Justin would please the boss) and waited by one of the emergency exits - the only one with a slope. The door was already propped open.

When Phil wheeled into view, Brian smiled. "And here's our guest of honour."

Phil was smiling broadly, which was more than what Brian would've been doing if he'd been forced into a wheelchair.

At least it wasn't permanent.

His wheelchair was being pushed by a particularly hot guy, and maybe that was why Phil had that big fucking grin on his face.

"Phil," Brian greeted, stepping back as Phil finally made it into the club. "I hope you appreciated all the quality porn we sent."

"I know I did," Phil's 'helper' answered, smirking, before holding out his hand. "I'm Rick. The boyfriend."

Brian hadn't even known there was a boyfriend. "Brian Kinney," he said, shaking his hand, before gesturing to Justin and nodding at Phil. "Justin Taylor. Justin was the one covering for you the first few days your lazy ass was in hospital."

"Hi," Justin greeted, making a point of shaking both of their hands. "Nice to meet you. I've heard quite a bit about you," he told Phil, smiling. "I really like your work."

"Thanks," Phil replied genuinely. "Ted's told me quite a lot about you, too," he smiled towards Brian. Ted was a dead man. Brian could only imagine exactly what information Ted had shared. "I can't wait to get back to work."

"Do you know how long that'll be?" Justin asked.

"Not sure," he confessed. "I can walk some with assistance now - I brought the wheelchair tonight because it just seems safer all around, considering the amount of people who'll be here - but Kinnetik has wheelchair access, so..."

"Well, your job's still there," Brian told him. "You can come back to work anytime." Truthfully, Brian hadn't really kept in contact with Phil himself, but Ted had given him occasional updates on Phil's recovery and progress. He already knew everything there was to know about how far Phil had come.

"So," Justin said, thankfully before things could get all mushy, "I think it's great that you came tonight."

"I'll admit, it felt...weird, coming back in here again. But we can't let them think they've won, right?" he asked rhetorically.

And that was what this whole thing was about. Re-opening Babylon wasn't about dancing or fucking - it was about being queer, and standing up for what you believed in. Brian knew for a fact that most of the people who'd been there the night of the explosion were coming tonight, too.

Of course, Brian had also arranged a new security team whose sole purpose it was to blend in with the crowd and sniff out bombs. The bomber still hadn't been found - there was no reason he couldn't stand up for what he believed in *and* be cautious.

Tom gave him the signal when they had two minutes to go, and Brian excused himself from Phil and Rick and made sure the emergency exit was shut tight. Giving everything one last check over, Brian called for the lights, then the music. That was normally all Tom's job - and fuck knew Brian wouldn't be here every night for this - but Babylon's manager waited patiently, in deference to his boss on this special occasion.

Brian gave one last look around the club, felt the thumpa thumpa throughout his body, and smiled at Justin. "Let them in!"

Justin didn't waste anytime at all, wrapping his arms around Brian's neck and moving his hips to the beat of the music.

They were still the only two people on the dance floor.

"You know, we haven't done this before," Justin said loudly, pressing his forehead against Brian's.

Closing his eyes, Brian rested his hands on either side of Justin's waist. "I seem to recall dancing at Ted's birthday bash."

"Not like this," he retorted, making Brian smile.

"Hey!" a loud voice said next to them, and they both blinked their eyes open to see Mikey and Ben standing there. His friends - as well of the families of the bomb victims - had been given VIP access, so any of them who wanted to come were granted first entry.

The others started appearing around them. Ted and Blake. Emmett and whatshisname. Mel and Linds. Cynthia. Jennifer and her hubby. More people from work. Debbie and Carl even put in an appearance, although Brian wouldn't call what they were doing dancing.

And then there were the other faces. People who'd lost their children, their partners. As the floor filled up more and more, some of them tried to take Brian to one side, tried to thank him for some fucking reason.

Brian didn't like it. He didn't like it for one fucking second.

"Come on," Justin encouraged, smiling. "Take it like a man. I *know* you can."

It didn't get easier. But when Brian didn't know what the fuck to say, Justin did.

After a while, Brian moved to the bar to get drinks, and when he turned back he saw Justin being hassled by a guy he clearly wanted nothing to do with. He wasn't bad looking, but the guy was huge, and when he slid a hand under Justin's shirt and held him in place with the other one, Brian saw red. With a quick nod to someone, Brian had two bouncers moving towards them. Slamming the drinks back on the bar, he pushed his own way through the crowd, not caring when he yelled at Deb to get out of the fucking way.

But when the got there, the guy who'd been groping Justin was curled up on the floor, hands cupped over his groin.

Justin glared down at him. "I said *no*, you piece of shit!"

The bouncers arrived two seconds later along with Ben, who'd evidently seen what'd been happening.

"Get this fuckhead out of here," Brian ordered, more relieved than ever that Justin could take care of himself. "And make sure he knows he's banned for life."

When the guy was hoisted away - he may have been big, but so were Brian's bouncers - Brian turned towards Justin. "Are you-?"

"I'm fine," Justin insisted. "He didn't hurt me or anything. I'm just angry. Just because he's this big guy he thinks he can do whatever the fuck he wants. Well, fuck that."

Biting back a smile, Brian tugged Justin towards him. "Well, you showed him."

"Yeah," Justin agreed, holding himself a little more stiffly than usual, but slowly beginning to relax. "I guess I did."

That, of course, was the moment everyone else popped up - the mom's demanding to know if everyone was okay (and subsequently giving Justin a hug), Ben checking that Justin was fine. Mikey practically bounced up to them.

"I missed it but Ben told me what happened - you totally took that guy down!"

"He was a shithead," Justin explained.

"I'm glad you're okay," Mikey said. "Maybe we can use this in the comic? Oh!" He faced Brian. "And Ben told me how totally pissed you looked when you saw what was happening. Maybe we can put that in the comic, too. You always did have a temper."

"I beg your fucking pardon?" Brian asked. "I do not."

"Yeah, you do," Mikey snorted, and by then Ted and Emmett were there and nodding knowingly. Christ. "Especially when it's someone you care about being threatened - shit, how many times did you protect me from the bullies at school?"

"That was a long time ago, Mikey."

"So? You'd kick their asses. It was like nothing could stop you. You'd go into this...this..."

"Christ," Brian interrupted, "fine, use whatever the fuck you want for the comic, just stop fucking *talking* about it." With that, he grabbed Justin's hand and tugged him away so they could have some relative privacy.

They were nearly at the other side of the dance floor when Justin pulled against his hand, dragging him somewhere.

"Brian!" he yelled, grinning, as he climbed up onto an empty dance platform.

Brian would have to look into that. There was supposed to be hired dancers dancing on this thing all night.

And then he realised exactly what it was Justin wanted him to do.

Shaking his head, he groaned and mumbled as he climbed up next to him, but Justin didn't seem to buy it, grinning widely as they resumed their earlier bump and grind. It was the only kind of club 'dancing' that Brian could really do, but Justin didn't seem to mind, kissing him and laughing and generally making Brian think it was okay to act like an idiot.

And it was fucking weird, looking out at the crowd over Justin's shoulder, seeing his best friends and complete strangers, knowing that this was where it all began.

And when Justin tickled his side to get his attention back, Brian pinched his ass, earning a slap on the arm. Laughing, Brian kissed him, and knew that this - not Babylon, or the thumpa thumpa, but Justin's warm, firm lips - was where it'd end.


When he walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom later that night, Justin was waiting for him, naked.

Holding the two grooms from the 'wedding' cake.

Blinking, Brian frowned, not sure if he should be worried or not by exactly what Justin was planning.

He needn't have worried.

"Come on," Justin grinned, kneeling up and holding a groom in each hand. "Let's have a foursome."


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