Still want him in your pack? (_alicesprings) wrote in qaf_challenges,
Still want him in your pack?


Title: Without You
Written By: happier_bunny and xie_xie_xie
Timeline: Canon through the beginning of 510.
Rating: NC-17
What if: It happened like this
Author’s Notes: From a bunny by _alicesprings.

Without You

"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." – Pablo Picasso

Justin’s POV

After I showed my mom my studio, and listened to the exact expressions of horror I’d predicted she’d utter, she wanted to take me out to eat. I told her no, I needed to work. And I did. I needed to paint. It was the only time I could stop the lecture running endlessly in my mind, the one that said I’d made the only decision I could make, and was doing what was right for me.

Because all that sounds great when you tell it to your friends. It makes perfect sense when you write it down on a list of pros and cons. It’s the right box to check on the multiple choice test of life. And in the light of day, it’s even the truth.

But at night, it isn’t enough.

When I was in LA, I’d sometimes lie in bed at night, the bland Southern California air blowing in the window, my arms wrapped around a pillow as if it were Brian. When waves of missing him crashed over me, I could always outlast them, get my breath back, by imagining his touch. I could almost feel the warmth between our skin, his mouth on my neck, his cock pressing into my thigh, and his fingers clenching in my hair. Even when I was with Ethan, the thought of Brian would sometimes whisper across my mind just before I fell asleep, the memory of his smell, a brush of skin, or a murmur of sound.

But now I just painted until I could barely keep my eyes open, and my body was screaming for sleep. Then I’d crawl between the scratchy sheets of my borrowed bed and lie awake, watching the lights from the high windows make elongated shapes on my ceiling, waiting for the wave of hurt to hit me. Knowing the only thing that could stop it enough to send me to sleep was the one thing that would guarantee I’d never stop hurting: Imagining him here.

Brian’s POV

I swung my bare legs over the edge of the exam table, and sat up. The nurse smiled at me brightly. "The radiologist will be in to talk to you in a few minutes, but you can go ahead and get dressed."

I wondered if she stopped smiling as soon as her back was to me, or if she waited until she’d closed the door behind her. I jumped down off the table and walked over to where my suit lay across the chair. I pulled on my briefs and pants, and was just buttoning my shirt when I heard a knock on the door.

The radiologist gave me the same bright, impersonal smile everyone else I’d seen that morning had. I felt myself relax even before she started talking. The smile they give you when the news is bad is different.

"Everything looks great, Mr. Kinney." I relaxed the rest of the way. "Of course, you need to continue with your regular checkups, but I think for now we can state there is no sign of cancer anywhere on your CAT scan."

She smiled and set my chart on the counter. "And as I’m sure you know, over 95 percent of all men with a stage 1 testicular seminoma treated with surgery and radiation never have a recurrence of their cancer."

I finished buttoning my shirt, picked up my jacket, and looked at her. I tried a bright, professional smile of my own. "Of course, doctor, but then again, the average American man has a 6-inch dick."

She looked a little taken aback, and I almost laughed when her eyes flickered for just an instant to my crotch. Then she recovered, and looked me in the eye. "Perhaps this is one time, Mr. Kinney, when you can rejoice at being one of the herd."

That time, I did laugh. And so did she. Then she gave me a lecture about fiber and not smoking and, I don’t know, flossing my teeth, and I nodded and agreed with everything she said. For those five minutes, she was my favorite person in the world.

I hadn’t eaten anything that morning, and I suddenly felt hungry. I parked in front of the diner and went in. I saw Debbie, her back to the door, talking to a customer. I slid into a seat at the counter.

Debbie always seemed to sense when one of her boys came in, because her head jerked around the minute my ass hit the seat. Ten seconds later she was turning my cup over and filling it with coffee. "Skipping out on work today? Must be nice, being the boss."

I reached for the sugar. "I had a doctor’s appointment, so I took the morning off."

She set down the coffee pot. "Are you okay, sweetie? The…" she looked around and lowered her voice … "cancer’s not back, is it?"

I shook my head. "Don’t worry, Deb, I’m fine. I just got a clean bill of health. My body was declared a cancer-free zone." I took a sip of coffee, and glanced at Debbie. She was staring at me, and I thought she was going to cry. "Hey, Deb. That’s good news. You’re supposed to smile."

She leaned across the counter and smacked my cheek, then grabbed me by both sides of my face, tugged me into her, and planted a kiss on the top of my head. "I know, you asshole. I’m just happy. I’m so glad you’re all right."

I let her hang onto me for a second, than squirmed away. "Yeah, me too. Now, how about some lunch?"

She glanced at the clock. "Little early for lunch, sweetie. What did you want?"

I fought back the impulse to order chicken soup. "Turkey sandwich, salad instead of fries, no mayo. Or scrambled egg whites, fruit instead of hash browns, hold the toast, if I can’t get lunch yet."

"Jesus, Brian, you just got good news, celebrate a little. Get some bacon or something." She was scrawling something on her pad that probably had no relationship to what I’d actually ordered.

I laughed. "You’d have me celebrate not having cancer by having a heart attack instead?"

She smiled and pinched my cheek. "It won’t kill you this once."

"I actually have a much bigger celebration in mind." She’d refilled my coffee, and I put sugar in it. "I’m going to gay Mardi Gras in Sydney." I’d been thinking if the news was bad that’s where I’d go, but now it seemed like a good idea anyway.

"Gay Mardi Gras? What the fuck are you going all the way to Australia for?" She had her hands on her hips.

I shrugged. "I told you. To celebrate."

She looked at me for a minute, and opened her mouth to say something. Just then she got called for an order that was up, and left me alone for a while.

I watched her take a few orders and keep people’s coffee cups filled, and wasn’t surprised when she brought me a plate of bacon, eggs, potatoes, toast dripping with butter, and a side of pancakes. I didn’t complain, either, just resolved to do an extra half hour on the treadmill at the gym every night for a month after I got back from Australia.

Debbie stood there and watched me eat. I raised an eyebrow, and swallowed a mouthful of pancakes and syrup.

"Have you told Justin? Or Michael?"

"I told you. I thought that would amount to telling every fag in Pittsburgh."

She got the "don’t bullshit me" look on her face. "You should tell them."

"Michael won’t talk to me. I told you that."

"I told you to talk to him." Her lips were pressed stubbornly together.

"I did, Debbie. But he made it crystal clear that the Brian and Mikey show had come to an end. What the fuck am I supposed to do about that?" I didn’t look at her, just picked up my coffee and took a sip. It was cold.

She didn’t say anything right away, but went and got her coffee pot and refilled my cup. She stood there watching me stir it, and then shook her head. "What about Justin? I saw him the other day, he said you went to his show at Lindsay’s gallery."

I shrugged.

"You should tell him."

"Maybe." I tried not to think about what he’d do to me if I didn’t tell him.

Debbie walked around and sat next to me. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for a lecture on the care and feeding of Justin Taylor. But she surprised me.

"You know, Brian, when I said his name, for about half a second you looked like a kid whose puppy just died."

I glanced at her. "I’m fine, Debbie. I’m not falling apart. I’m not drugging, drinking or engaging in meaningless sexual encounters with strangers any more than I normally do. Don’t worry about me."

She shook her head. "I know. You’re fine. And he’s fine too, even if he does look like he hasn’t slept in a week every time I see him. So tell me, if you’re both so fine, how come you both look so miserable?"

"Since when are you branching out from individual to couples therapy?" I dug in my pocket for my wallet.

Debbie sighed. "Put your money away. This was on me. And have a good time at gay Mardi Gras." She turned and walked away, but as I was pushing out the door, she got the last word in. "And tell Justin!"

Justin’s POV

I woke up after another almost-sleepless night, and dragged my ass and my portfolio to Lindsay’s office at the gallery. She was going to help me put together some slides of my newest work.

Lindsay was on the phone when I got there, her voice sounding perfectly polite in that insincere, businesslike way. I looked at some paintings that were leaning against the wall across from her desk, waiting for her to be done. She finally hung up, and came and stood behind me. "What do you think of that?"

I shrugged. "It’s trying to be something it’s not."

Lindsay looked at it for a minute. "Very true. I thought you’d see that. Not even Sydney does."

I turned to face her. "So, what did you think of the new pieces?"

She smiled. "They’re completely wonderful. But you knew that, didn’t you?"

I felt a smile break out on my face, too. "I wasn’t sure."

She gestured towards the light table at the far end of her office, and we went over the slides, picking a few to have reproduced to send to a friend of hers who had a gallery in Boston. She stared for a while at a piece I’d just finished in one of my insomniac frenzies. "That’s rather chaotically brilliant. What inspired it?"

I looked at it, remembering. "Loneliness, horniness, and lack of sleep."

Lindsay glanced at me, and half-smiled. "I know the feeling."

We stood there for a second, and then she gave a short laugh. She walked back to her desk, and I followed and sat across from her. She tilted her head to the side. "So, I was surprised to see Brian at the show. What did he say about your work?"

I tried not to smile, but I couldn’t help it. I think I even blushed. "He said it was exquisite."

She smiled at me then. "Good. It is. But I’m glad he said it." Her voice softened. "He misses you."

I tensed up. "I miss him, too, but this is for the best." I firmed up my tone. "For both of us."

Lindsay nodded. "I’m sure you’re right." But she didn’t sound convinced. Then she changed the subject. "Did you hear Le Montage backed out on hosting the benefit?"

I stared at her. "You’re kidding. It’s tomorrow night."

"I know. But Michael asked Brian to let them use Babylon, and he said yes. And he’s donating it."

"I didn’t think he and Michael were even speaking."

Lindsay shifted in her seat. "I think it’s more that Michael wasn’t speaking to Brian."

I shook my head. "That’s Brian. Always ready with the beau geste."

I left a few minutes later, and dropped my portfolio back at my studio on my way to the Center. I was supposed to be phone banking for Stop Prop 14, but when I got there, everyone was emailing and calling to let people know the benefit had been moved to Babylon.

Someone came in with a pile of stickers announcing the new venue, and asked for people to volunteer to go put them on the posters. I shoved a pile in my bag, and went out to update the posters around Liberty Avenue.

I was almost done with the first block when I realized that the car idling at the intersection had been there a long time. I glanced over, and it struck me then that I’d known it was Brian. I guess I recognized the sound of the Corvette’s engine.

I walked over to him, and he pissed me off and made me laugh at the same time, and then I watched him drive away. I could hear the music beating from his car stereo, and the rain starting to fall again. I stepped back up onto the sidewalk, covered a few more posters with stickers, and then decided my dedication to the cause wasn’t quite strong enough to keep working in this much rain.

I slung my bag across my shoulders and ran down to the diner to wait it out.

Brian’s POV

I drove off, the music as loud as I could stand it. I’d told Justin I was going to Sydney, and I meant to tell him about the cancer. I hadn’t had any trouble telling Ted, and hardly any telling Debbie, but just when I was about to get the words out, I saw that bright, brittle mask slip over his face. I put one just like it on my own face, and drove away.

When I got back to the loft, I poured myself a drink, and stood staring out the window at the rain. I’d been doing my best not to think about things, but there wasn’t any shortage of scotch in the loft, so I thought, what the fuck.

I almost laughed, remembering that I’d once told Justin to have some balls. I wished I could go back in time and have a little talk with myself about exactly what I was doing telling the most conniving, determined shit in the world to stand up for himself more.

When Justin came back from his classical music interlude, I was perfectly happy. I had a career I loved, I had half of gay PA to fuck, and I had Justin. Instead of looking at me with those eyes of doom when I was just being myself, he’d laugh and shake his head and go off and get into some trouble of his own.

He had his place at Daphne’s, but I had his blond head on my pillow pretty much every night, and that was pretty much what I wanted.

I should have remembered there isn’t any actual limit to the ballsiness of Justin Taylor. He told me exactly what he thought about me working for Stockwell, just like Debbie and Michael did, but unlike everyone else, he went on a midnight poster crusade against the guy on his own. When I tried to give him an easy out when I was sick, he pretty much kicked my door down and told me to fuck myself.

Which brings us to the night Justin looked at me with those clear blue eyes, told me we wanted different things, and left.

I sat on the sofa the rest of that night, watching the sky outside get darker and darker, and then light again. And I didn’t fall apart, or lose my mind. I just missed him, and thought about what it meant to want things.

I raised my glass to my mouth, and found it was empty. I decided that meant I’d done enough thinking, and sat down at my computer to book my trip to Sydney. I’d give Mikey my club, but fuck if I was going to stand around Babylon sipping wine and politely clapping at the floorshow. I was going to get away from all this slush and snow, find some sunshine on the other side of the world, and dance and fuck and see if the glitter down under falls up instead of down.

I was staring at the computer screen, watching the cursor blink, asking me if I wanted to confirm my reservation. I stood up abruptly, and went over and poured myself another scotch. I knocked it back in one swallow, and put the glass down. I sat down on the sofa, and looked through a magazine, but the ads were either good enough to piss me off, or so bad they made me want to puke. I tossed it on the table.

The shelves behind the computer were full of magazines and papers, and I ran my hand over a pile of Rage comics. I pulled the stack out, and sat down with them at my desk.

I flipped through one, and then another, in no particular order, not really looking at them, or reading the words. I decided that was bullshit, and touched the keyboard to bring my computer screen back to life.

I noticed there was a piece of paper stuck between the pages of one of the comics, and I pulled it out. It was folded in half, a sketch Justin must have done and left behind. It wasn’t anything much, and there was no dialogue. It was just a drawing of JT, sitting in a room, while Rage walked towards the door, half turned away, tying on his mask. I sat there staring at it, and after a while let it slip out of my hand and drift to the floor.

I got up and walked back to the bar, and picked up the scotch by the neck of the bottle. I carried it back to the desk and sat down. I looked at the piece of paper on the floor, and finally bent to down to pick it up.

I looked at it one last time, then folded it and put it back where I’d found it. I shoved the whole stack of comics back on the shelf, and finally answered the persistent blinking question on my computer with a "yes."

Then I stood up abruptly, pushed my chair back, grabbed my jacket, and went back out.

Justin’s POV

I’d sat at the diner drinking coffee until there was a break in the rain. I was only around half done when, while I was pasting a sticker on a poster near an alley not too far from Babylon, it started to rain again. I didn’t have that many more to do, so I thought I’d try sitting it out while drinking coffee one more time. I was just closing my bag after putting the rest of the stickers away when I felt a hand grab my wrist.

I whipped around and Brian pulled me into his arms. I buried my face in his coat, feeling the little mist of rain on the surface of the wool, and knowing if I saw his face he’d have that desperate look on it. That’s why I didn’t look.

We stood there for a while, not talking. He finally moved his hands up to the back of my head. I was surprised at how gentle his touch was. His fingers barely touched my hair. I lifted up my face, then, and he didn’t look desperate at all. He looked completely lost. He looked frightened.

"Brian." My voice broke when I said his name, and he dipped his head down and kissed me. The rain had started to fall more heavily, but inside the curve of his body I hardly felt it. His lips were wet with it, though.

I opened my mouth and let him breathe into me, let him touch me with his tongue, let myself touch him. I had a fistful of his coat in each hand, and his grip on the back of head, on my hair, had become fierce. I felt the spinning sense that we were putting a wall up around us, the old familiar heat starting to build. I broke the kiss and grabbed onto the sides of his head and stared at his eyes. His lashes were studded with rain.

He just blinked slowly at me, his eyes completely clear. "I miss you."

I breathed. I felt my throat tighten a little, but I still breathed. "I miss you, too."

He just kept looking in my eyes. I knew he was trying to say things to me, and I dropped my gaze from his eyes to his mouth, wondering what they were.

He closed his eyes then, and pressed his forehead to mine, covering my hands with his. "Come back, Justin."

I was glad I couldn’t see his eyes. "Come back to what, Brian? What’s changed?"

I let the silence stand for a little while. Brian’s eyes opened, and searched my face.

"I know you told me what you want. Tell me again, tell me now."

That asshole. I couldn’t help laughing, even if it was kind of bitter. "You mean, tell you how little you can get away with giving me, so I’ll come back?"

The corner of his mouth quirked. "Something like that."

I looked at his face for a long time. "I want us to want the same things. Can you give me that?"

He didn’t answer for a while. I’d expected him to look away, but he didn’t. "We want each other." He said it very slowly.

I didn’t smile, even though I wanted to. "Is that enough?"

"You tell me."

"Sex isn’t enough."

He just nodded. "What is?"

"You’re not stupid, Brian. You know what I’m saying. You want to turn this into a negotiation. I just want us to be going somewhere together and expecting to end up in the same place."

"Is where we already are so bad?"

I stood on my toes and kissed his face. "I love you, Brian. I want us to be together. But that’s not all I want, and since all you’ve offered me is take it or leave it, I leave it."

It was hard to walk away from him, but I did it. I went back to the diner, wishing Debbie was working so I could talk to her. Not about Brian, because there wasn’t anything to say, but just talk to her.

The rain finally stopped, and I quickly finished the last few posters and headed back to my studio. I dragged myself up the stairs and stopped. Someone was sitting on the floor in the hall, with his back leaning against my door.

Almost before my sense of alarm registered, I realized it was Brian. Even before he lifted his eyes up and looked at me.

I stood there for a minute, trying to wrap my brain around him just sitting there on my doorstep at midnight, in his Armani coat and expensive shoes, up all those flights of stairs.

"So, are you going to invite me in, or has the cleaning lady not been here today?"

I stared at him, and had to fight not to laugh. "This is one time when I have to say that not even your narcissism surpasses your persistence."

Brian’s lips quirked. "You want us to want the same things. Let’s start with something small. I want to come in."

Brian’s POV

I watched Justin’s face. I think for a minute he actually thought about telling me no. But he gave a nod, and turned to unlock the door.

I got to my feet and waited, then followed him inside. I’d never been there before, even though he’d given me the address. Jennifer had described it to me. I saw now she’d been too kind.

But I didn’t say a word about the patina of grime with just a hint of mold, and how it gave the place its own special charm. I stood there while Justin pulled his bag over his head, took off his jacket, and tossed it on a rickety table. Then he faced me, his arms crossed.

"Justin." I suddenly realized I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say. It was really too cold to take off my coat, but I did it anyway, to buy a minute. I threw it on the table with Justin’s, and stood close to him. He didn’t move, but he didn’t uncross his arms, and his lips tightened.

His resistance focused me. No one defends himself against you unless he’s tempted to give in. I took a chance and put my hands on his upper arms, and looked into his eyes.

He blinked.

I cleared my throat one more time. "Justin, you said…"

But he cut me off. "Brian, don’t. I…"

Oh fuck it, I thought. And I kissed him.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d stayed rigid in my arms, but he didn’t. He melted into me, and his mouth was hot and open under mine. He wound his arms around my neck and pressed his body into every inch of me. I gripped his arms and bent my knees, kissing him like it was the last time. Hoping it wasn’t.

Justin pulled one of his arms from around my neck, and rested his hand along the side of my face. I looked at him. His lips were dark and soft, and he was looking at me in a way that made me want to hide my face against his hair. But I didn’t.

He stood on his toes and put his mouth against my mouth, but he didn’t kiss me. His voice was rough. "This just makes it harder."

Good, I thought. But I just nodded.

He tipped his face back, and looked at me again. I tugged him a little closer. He didn’t resist, just let his forehead fall against my throat. I felt him sigh, and his breath moved like a feather over my skin.

"We could fuck." I didn’t say anything. "We could fuck, and it would fucking kill me, Brian. And it wouldn’t change anything. It’s not enough."

I felt my lips turn in. "I miss you."

Justin stood there staring back at me. I felt the moment grow too long, dragging out its silence while I watched his face, waiting. I felt the rest of the words inside me, and heard Lindsay’s voice from two years ago, telling me to say them. I swallowed past the constriction in my throat, but I couldn’t say anything. Maybe it was "can’t" more than "won’t" after all.

Justin’s POV

I suddenly needed to not be touching Brian, and I pulled away. I walked over to the easel in the corner of the room. There was an incomplete painting on it, a grainy surface of grey and red. I didn’t look at him. "I know. You told me."


I shook my head. "Brian, can you honestly tell me your life isn’t exactly the way you want it, with the exception of the fact I’m not there?"

"That appears to be a bigger exception than either of us previously anticipated."

My chest gave a strange lurch when he said that, but I ignored it and faced him, my shoulders tight. "We both just need some time. You’ll be fine."

He shook his head. "Not without you."

I couldn’t keep looking at him, and turned back to the canvas again. "You’re just saying that because…"

He was suddenly right there, gripping my shoulders, and turning me to face him. "I’m saying it because of this." He kissed me hard and for a long time, and when I pulled back, I could hear my heart hammering in my ears.

My teeth bit into my lower lip, and Brian put his finger out and touched my lip once, softly. I saw his face start to change, to slip into that mask of indifference he shows to almost everyone. And I heard a noise in my throat I wasn’t expecting, just a murmur, really. But it sounded like protest.

His face changed back. I swallowed. "Brian." Then I stopped. I’d never heard my studio so silent.

He lowered his voice, "Don’t tell me sex isn’t enough. You know it’s more than that."

"I know." And I did.

This time Brian broke away from me. He walked to the other side of the room, and turned and faced me. "Then what?"

I shoved my hand through my hair. "Brian, this is just going in circles. You know what I want."

"Marriage, monogamy, and a house in the suburbs." If he was trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, he didn’t succeed.

"I told you before, cut that the fuck out."

Brian looked a little pissed. "Cut what the fuck out? Isn’t that what you said you wanted? To be a couple like Ben and Michael?"

I just shook my head. "Is that honestly what you think? Jesus, Brian. I’m 22 years old. I’m not fucking out my mind."

Brian just stared, and then he gave a short laugh. "You’re the one who said we have to want the same things. We want each other. We both want to be going somewhere as a couple. If you’re not looking for a house in the suburbs, an SUV, and a puppy, and you don’t want monogamy, it sounds to me suspiciously like we want the same things."

I took a deep breath. "I might want those things," I said. "Someday."

Brian’s bit his lower lip, but he didn’t look away. "I’m not getting an SUV. Or a puppy. I’m willing to keep a somewhat open mind on the rest. You have to decide if that’s enough."

I started to say something, I don’t even know what. But I stopped. Because the truth is, I didn’t know what I’d want in a year, or five years, or ten years. But there was one thing I did know: Mr. "I don’t believe in love, I believe in fucking," who never went after anyone, who didn’t do boyfriends, who always told me it was my call where I wanted to be, was standing in front of me telling me he wanted me to come back. For the second time in one night.

Sometimes the things he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do, were the things Brian Kinney did best.

"Okay," I heard myself saying cautiously.

Brian stared at me like he didn’t believe what he was hearing. "Okay… what?"

I nodded. "Okay, let’s try this again."

He didn’t move. "Can you be more specific?"

I thought about it. Then I smiled. "I’m keeping the studio."

Brian’s jaw twitched. "I can understand your reluctance to let an architectural gem of this caliber go."

I walked over to the other side of the table, and stood in front of him. "And we’ll figure out the rest tomorrow."

"Why tomorrow?" But he was smiling.

I smiled back, and kissed him.

Brian’s POV

Justin’s mouth was soft on mine, and it made me crazy. I pushed hard into his kiss, opening his mouth with just the pressure of mine against his. I felt his teeth scrape my lip, and slid my tongue inside his mouth, licking at him, feeling his tongue wet and hot on mine.

I didn’t want to stop kissing him long enough to pull his sweater over his head, so I pushed it up, running my hands over his bare back and around to his belly and chest. His skin was hot and smooth, and I could feel his nipples getting hard when I brushed my palms across them. He had backed a little bit away from me so his hands could fumble at my belt.

I saw the bed behind me, and started walking him backwards towards it, shoving my pants down and stepping out of them on the way. Then I started taking off his pants.

I wanted it to be good, but when I finally got him naked, I just started eating him alive. I couldn’t help it. I kissed his face and his neck. I bit and pinched at his nipples, and buried my face in his belly, kissing and nipping at his skin.

I was kneeling in front of him, the bed behind us, and I pressed against him until he fell back on it.

Justin got his hands into my hair, and tried to pull me up near his face. He said my name, and his voice was rough. I crawled up his body and buried my face in the side of his neck. He still had his hands in my hair, but he was just stroking it.

I lay on top of him for a minute, letting my weight rest on him. I could feel my heart beating, and the sound of my hair slipping through his fingers. I lifted my face and looked at him, and he let his hands slip down to the sides of my face. I stared into his eyes, and then started kissing down his body again, slowly this time. Breathing in his smell, tasting him. Wanting him. Feeling him open up under my mouth and hands, drawing me into him.

I kissed across his stomach, dipping my tongue into his navel. Then I moved my face down, pressing my lips against his cock, feeling it pulse under my mouth. Justin moaned, and his hands went back to my hair, almost aimlessly. I breathed him in, kissed his dick, and licked up it. I tongued his slit and tasted his come.

Justin’s legs were spread around my shoulders, and I looped my arms under his thighs, cupping my hands around his hips. I used my tongue and lips on his cock, locking my mouth around it, sliding up and down. He was thrusting into me, but slowly. I swept my tongue over the head of his cock, flickering it over the sensitive spot under the rim, and tasted a little rush of pre-come in my mouth.

His hips were still thrusting, but faster now. I shifted my weight up, and took him deeper in my throat. His hands pulled hard on my hair then, pulling my face into his pubes. I made my throat relax, made it soft and open for him, and just as he started fucking into me on a steady rhythm, I swallowed around him, letting a little moan vibrate up from deep inside me, all around his cock.

Justin almost shouted, groaned out my name, and his grip on my hair was painful, but his come was pouring into my mouth and down my throat, and I didn’t care. I didn’t care that my own cock was throbbing, that I could hardly breathe with my mouth full of Justin’s cock and come, my nose buried into his pubes. I swallowed and tasted and smelled Justin, until he said my name one last time, and went limp under me.

He didn’t tug on me, but I felt his body softening in a way I recognized, and I crawled up him again. His eyes were closed, but he had a smile on his lips, and I kissed him softly. He opened his mouth and licked at the inside of mine. I knew he could taste himself in my mouth, could smell himself on my face.

I just kissed him like that for a long time, loving the feeling of his lips moving against mine. But I moved a little, and my cock jerked when it rubbed on Justin’s thigh, and he opened his eyes and laughed a little. I smiled back at him, and just like that, he’d opened his legs around me and wrapped them around my back.

I took a breath, and glanced to where I’d left my pants. Justin laughed again, and I let him sit up enough to reach over to the cube of drawers he had next to the bed. He found what he was looking for, and I rolled the condom on my dick. I squirted some lube in my hand, and warmed it for a second before gently circling his asshole with one finger.

His hole opened up to my touch, then closed, and I waited for it to pulse open again before I slipped my finger all the way in. I didn’t wait or play, just moved deep inside, angling my finger to stroke across his prostate. He was hypersensitive from having just come, and shuddered and jerked away from me.

I pressed my mouth against his damp neck, and he tightened his arms around me. I reached down and held my cock at his opening, and he murmured a little. I closed my eyes and pushed, feeling the tight ring of muscle squeeze around the head of my cock. I stayed there, holding him stretched out with the widest part of me. He was panting, and I just waited.

I felt him relax and open around me, and I pushed all the way in with one thrust. He arched under me and said, "Brian" in that frantic voice that always made me insane. I pulled back, but only a little, and shoved into him as deep and hard as I could. His legs locked around my waist, and his head was tipped back. I could feel his blood pulsing under my mouth when I kissed his throat.

The pressure around my cock was too much, and the heat, and I knew I wasn’t going to last long enough to make him come again. So I didn’t even try, just fucked him, thrusting into his tightness and pulling out through his heat, never moving my mouth away from his skin. I was breathing him in, licking his sweat, letting him almost choke me with his arms.

I felt a burning, tingling sweetness build up inside me, spread out to my belly and up into my chest. I opened my mouth and breathed it out onto his skin, and slammed my hips into him one last time. I froze and came inside him, wave after wave of that same sweet burn pouring out of me, while Justin wrapped himself around me and pulled me into him, both of us hot and sweaty and straining.

I finally collapsed onto him. He held me for a minute while I panted into his neck, and then, when I could get my breath, I eased out of him and got rid of the condom. I just threw it on the floor; I didn’t even have the energy to look around for a trashcan. I rolled to his side, and pulled him against me.

Justin was almost asleep, relaxed in my arms, his head on my chest. I was stroking his hair, and would have been happy to lie there for the next ten days without moving, if it weren’t for the fact that my bladder was about to explode.

"Do you seriously not have a bathroom?"

He laughed. "It’s seriously down the hall."

I pulled him up so he was lying on top of me, and I groaned. "That’s completely fucked. We are so going to sleep at the loft tonight."

He laughed and burrowed into me. "God, you’re pathetic. I’ll walk you to the bathroom and hold your hand."

I smiled into his hair. "I have something else you can hold."

He stood up, smiling, and held out his hand. I let him tug me up, and I stood there for just a minute, holding him. Then I groaned again. "I have to get dressed just to go to take a piss?"

He picked up a pair of sweats from the laundry basket next to the bed. "These are actually yours."

I unfolded them. "They’re covered with paint."

"I can’t imagine how that happened." He grinned at me. "Coming?"

I shuddered when we got to the rank little bathroom in the hallway. "Fuck, Justin. Do you actually shower here?"

He shrugged.

We both pissed, and then went back to his studio. I ran my hand through my hair, and looked around. "Move back to the loft."

Justin leaned his ass on the table, which all things considered was fairly risky. He shook his head. "No, I told you. I’m keeping the studio. And I’m definitely not moving back to the loft just because my plumbing doesn’t meet your standards."

I walked over and pulled him against me. "That’s not why."

His wrapped his hands around the back of my neck, and smiled softly. "I know. But no. Not now." He went on his toes, and kissed me.

I touched my forehead to his. "Then come to Sydney with me."

He looked at me blankly. "What?"

"Come to Sydney with me Thursday night, for gay Mardi Gras." I almost laughed at the stunned look on his face.

"Brian. I can’t. The benefit is Thursday night."

"You already bought your ticket, did your volunteer work, and I donated the whole fucking club, open bar and all. I’d say we’d done enough. Come with me." I waited.

He shook his head. "But I want to go to the benefit."

"Don’t you want to go to gay Mardi Gras? And help me celebrate being found completely cancer-free?" I held my breath.

Justin stared at me, and a huge smile broke out on his face. He threw himself at me, which given the fact that he started out only a few inches away, almost knocked me down. He was kissing my face, and I grabbed him around the waist and held on.

"You fucking asshole, weren’t you even going to tell me?"

"I just found out yesterday."

Justin pulled out of my arms, and looked at me. "Sydney. What the fuck would we do in Sydney?"

I smiled. "It’s Pride, Justin. The biggest Pride in the world. We’d watch the parade." I pulled him back into my arms, and touched my lips to his hair. "Dance in the streets. Show our solidarity with our Antipodean sisters and brothers in homosexuality."

Justin laughed. "You’re insane."

"Then you’ll go?"

"Can you get me a ticket on such short notice?"

"I can. I will." I took a chance. It was my night for doing that. "I actually already may have gotten you a ticket."

"May have?"

I shrugged. Justin laughed, and then he was back in my arms.

We fell asleep on his rough white sheets, in his uncurtained room, with the headlights of every passing car streaking across the ceiling and walls. I woke up with his ass tucked against my crotch, and my mouth full of Justin’s hair.

Justin’s POV

I didn’t really even have time on Thursday to think about what had just happened. I had to pick up my slides from Lindsay and send them to the gallery in Boston. I had to find my passport, which I’d last used to go to Mexico when I was in LA. And I had to tell my mom I wouldn’t be at the benefit.

That conversation went well.

"I’m not going to be at the benefit tonight after all. I’m going to Australia."

"Very funny, Justin."

"No, I really am. With Brian."

Silence. Then, "With who?"

"Brian. I think you’ve heard me mention him before."

"Yes, wasn’t that the name of your ex-boyfriend?"

It went on like that for a while.

Brian picked me up at 8, just around the time the benefit was starting. The driver took my bag, and I got in the back with Brian.

I scooted all the way over and wound my arms around his neck. He laughed. "To what do I owe this public display of affection?"

I grinned. "It’s going to be a long, long trip." I slid my right hand down and cupped his crotch, and he laughed against my mouth. I kissed him.

The driver slammed the trunk. I moved my hand back up to Brian’s neck, and kept kissing him. His hands were sliding under my shirt, and I felt cold air on my skin when the driver opened the door and got in the car.

I pulled my face away and rested my head in the space between Brian’s neck and shoulder. His hands were still moving across the bare skin on my back, and I felt sleepy and warm. I turned my face back towards his, my eyes closed, and felt his lips brush across mine. I opened my mouth.

I hadn’t even noticed the music that was playing in the background until it abruptly stopped, replaced by the stark announcement that there’d been a bombing at Babylon.

My mind froze for a second, then I was grabbing at my jacket pocket for my cell phone. I heard Brian tell the driver to turn around while I was punching in my mother’s number. It rolled straight to voice mail.

Brian was calling someone, and I looked at him. He swore, and flipped the phone shut. "Michael’s phone just went to voice mail."

"My mom’s too." He started dialing again, I don’t even know who, and I stared at my phone for a minute, then tried my mom again. Still nothing.

The driver had us there in a few minutes, and Brian was out of the car before it had even stopped. He told the driver to wait, and I followed him into the noise and lights and chaos.

I felt Brian’s hand grip my arm, and he pulled me around. "Your mom." She was hugging me and crying. I stood there with her, Brian close behind me, her black-streaked face pressing into my neck. Brian was asking what happened.

"Some kind of explosion." It was Tucker behind my mother, his voice cracking.

Brian looked at the club. People were still pouring out of it, and he moved to go in. I grabbed his arm. "Brian… wait."

He looked at me, then at my mom. "Do you know where Michael is?"

"And Emmett? And Debbie…" My voice trailed off. Everyone we knew was here.

She shook her head. "I don’t know."

"Justin! Brian!" It was Lindsay, her face clean but frightened. "What happened, do you know anything?"

Brian hugged her, and shook his head. "Have you seen Michael?"

Lindsay bit her lip. "They’re putting him in an ambulance by the side door."

Brian stared at her, then turned and ran towards the club. I went with him, but he was too far ahead, and got there before I did.

Michael looked like something out of a horror movie, burned and filthy, covered in dirt and smoke and soot. I swallowed hard, and looked at Brian. I saw something pass across his face, some kind of shadow I’d never seen before. I felt my throat tighten, and shifted a little closer to Brian. He didn’t look at me, but his arm went around my shoulders. I was shivering.

Debbie was crying and yelling at the paramedics, and then begging Carl to take her to the hospital. I looked at Brian when Carl told her he couldn’t leave the scene. "The car."

Some of the blankness on Brian’s face lifted. "Debbie, we’ll take you." He wrapped his other arm around her shoulder and steered us out to where we left the car.

I hesitated for just a second. My mother was there, although she seemed fine. Brian glanced at me, and stopped, holding Debbie still. "Do you want to stay with your mom?"

I shook my head. "I’m going with you."

When we got in the car, we made Debbie sit between us, while she alternately cursed and cried. Brian was curved around Debbie, holding her hand. His other arm was along the back of the seat behind her, and his hand was gripping the back of my neck all the way to the hospital.

The car dropped us off at the hospital door. Brian was helping Debbie out, and I came around the back of the car and stood there, frozen. I thought, just for a minute, that I couldn’t go in. Brian didn’t say anything, but I felt his hand brush across my back as I walked past him through the door, and he kept his arm resting lightly on my shoulder while we waited for the elevator.

We were at the hospital for hours. As time dragged on, Ben responded less and less to low-voiced offers of reassurance and coffee. Brian raged at first, and disappeared for a while with Debbie. I fell asleep while they were gone, and woke up with Brian sitting next to me, staring at nothing. He didn’t even look at me when I put my hand on his leg.

"Brian." It was Lindsay, tears streaking her face. "We have to go, the sitter can’t stay any longer."

He looked at her like he didn’t even know her, then looked back down at the floor. She knelt down in front of him, and put her right hand on his shoulder. "He’ll be okay, Brian."

I saw his eyes flicker, but he didn’t respond.

Lindsay stood up and left with Melanie. I got up, too. "Do you want some coffee?" I was looking at Brian, but he didn’t answer. I suddenly felt like I had to get out of there.

I was standing in front of the vending machine waiting for the cup to fill. Emmett was walking down hall, his face scrubbed clean of makeup, glitter, and smoke, his eyes puffy. I hugged him, and he wrapped his long arms around me and held me so tight it hurt. "Hey, baby. Any news on Michael?"

I shook my head. "He’s been in there for four hours. We don’t know anything."

I followed Em back into the waiting room, and sat down with Brian again. He ignored Emmett, and barely looked at me when I held out the coffee. I frowned and sat down, and put it in his hand. I kept mine over his until he finally took a sip, before he handed the cup back to me.

His eyes were blank, but I saw them change a little when he glanced at me. "You should try to sleep."

I shook my head, my throat too tight to say anything.

Brian started to get up, but I stopped him with a hand on his arm. He sighed and sank back down. "I can’t believe we fucking don’t know anything."

We kept not knowing anything until it was light out. The surgeon came into the waiting room, exhaustion on his face, and told us it looked like Michael would make it.

Brian had jumped up when the doctor came in, but after I finished hugging first Debbie and then Ben, he’d disappeared. I found him in the hall out by the vending machines, sitting on a hard bench, his back against the wall. I dropped into the space next to him, and slipped my arm around his shoulders.

"Brian?" I said it softly, but he flinched. I leaned closer, and deliberately pressed my lips into the side of his forehead. "He’s going to be okay, Brian. He really is."

I saw Brian swallow. I let my forehead rest against the side of his head. "Brian."

He moved just a little. I was almost whispering. "You’re okay, too, Brian." I hesitated. "I love you."

For just a second I thought he didn’t hear me, but he turned towards me. I let him pull me up tight against him, the edge of the bench digging into the back of my legs. He didn’t kiss me, just held onto me, his face buried in my neck.

He was saying something I couldn’t hear, and I pulled back just a little. He said it again, this time right into my ear.

"I love you."

I guess after all this time, and the fact that his voice was rough and so low I could barely hear him, I probably should have wondered if he really said it at all. But I didn’t. I just kissed him.


    Thank you so much to everyone for contributing to the "Seasons" challenge! You are now free to respond to comments, cross-post your work,…

  • Seasons Challenge # 11: Winter Had Me in its Grip

    Note: Posted late due to Xie error... so sorry! Title: Winter Had Me in its Grip Written by: IJ's frantic_quest Timeline: Four years post-513…

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    Thank you so much to everyone for contributing to the "Seasons" challenge! You are now free to respond to comments, cross-post your work,…

  • Seasons Challenge # 11: Winter Had Me in its Grip

    Note: Posted late due to Xie error... so sorry! Title: Winter Had Me in its Grip Written by: IJ's frantic_quest Timeline: Four years post-513…

  • "Seasons" challenge master list

    I've finished posting the "Seasons" challenge works, and I hope you enjoy them! If you sent me something and it's not here, or there are…