Michael brings the car – and Hunter – back after eleven days and Justin half-listens to him regale Brian with tales of the road.

Except when Justin finds out that “the road” really only consisted of them making the four-hour trip to Harrisburg, staying in a Comfort Inn, and eating Ding Dongs for breakfast, he stops listening altogether.

Brian puts his indulgent face on and eats the egg-white omelet Justin brings, while Michael and Hunter try to outdo each other with impressing him. Justin tries very, very hard not to let his eyes roll, but doesn’t quite succeed.

Brian notices, because Brian notices everything and sometimes Justin loves that and sometimes he hates it, and delivers a stinging smack to Justin’s ass that makes the coffee he’s pouring spill over the side of the cup.

Justin decides to be annoyed about that and ignore the fact that his real annoyance is the adventures of Michael Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He is glad to be in the kitchen when Michael leaves for the store, Hunter in tow. Brian wanders casually to the counter a minute later and Justin turns a cheek for his goodbye kiss, which earns him an amused chuckle. Justin’s irritation is compounded by the fact that Brian doesn’t seem concerned in the least.

Justin learns later that the accident happened seven minutes after Brian sauntered out the door, keys in hand.

* * *

Deb doesn’t say anything and that’s how he knows something’s wrong. Wronger than wrong, even, because she just puts a hand on his back while he’s trying to scoop three plates out of the window and juggling the iced tea pitcher. And when he turns around, she’s handing him the phone and deftly taking his dishes from him and she still isn’t saying anything.

Oh shit, Justin thinks, oh shit, my mom or maybe Molly or even my dad. He never thinks Brian because something happening to Brian is like something happening to God, it just doesn’t occur to him, but then Justin’s on the phone and is listening to Michael speak in a rapid, very un-Michael-like voice.

How the fuck would Michael know about my mom? Justin has time to think, and then the words “Brian” and “accident” and “hospital” somehow come together to make a sentence in his brain.

He drops the iced tea pitcher and then Debbie finally says something. “I’ll get it, honey, I’ve got it, you just go.” She takes the phone, says a quick word or two to Michael, hangs up the receiver. “Justin, sweetie? Give me the rag, no, don’t clean it up, let me. There you go, honey. Go on, now, wait out back for Vic. He’s coming with the car.”

“Brian’s at Mercy,” Justin says stupidly, staring at her. “Downtown.”

“I know, sweetheart. Here, let me have your apron, all right?” She unties it from around his waist and propels him through the kitchen toward the back door, a steady stream of chatter finally pouring out. Justin thinks that maybe it’s fine, everything’s okay because Deb is talking and that’s normal and as long as things are normal he doesn’t have to remember that Michael called and said the words “Brian” and “accident” and “hospital” in the same sentence.

Vic is waiting at the curb in the alley and Justin thinks it’s pretty cool that he got there so fast, but then realizes that Michael probably called Vic first to tell him to go get Justin. The fact that his brain isn’t really thinking in a linear fashion starts to scare Justin a little bit, and he looks at Deb concernedly.

She misinterprets his confusion for worry over Brian – but that’s ridiculous, really, because nothing happens to Brian – and her eyes fill with tears. “He’s fine,” she says fiercely, hugging his shoulders tightly. “He’s fine, Sunshine, you’ll see. You’ll get there and that shit will be sitting up in bed laughing at everyone. You’ll see.”

Justin nods in agreement because he thinks it’s expected of him, and gets in the car. “Hey, kiddo,” Vic says calmly, and then the rest of the ride is in silence.

* * *

Mercy Hospital is one of the closest hospitals to the Strip District. Justin guesses it’s pretty good. At least, people told him it was, after he got out. It was like they weren’t sure what else to say.

“Hey! You’re home! What hospital were you in?”

“Um, Mercy.”

“Oh, great! That’s a really good one. My friend’s cousin was there for gallbladder surgery.”

The emergency room doors whisper open and Justin watches Vic approach the desk. “Kinney,” he says, and Justin furrows his brow because it’s more real now than it was a minute ago. A minute ago he was in the car and listening to Vic’s oldies station, but now he’s here and the girl is buzzing them through the double doors behind her.

Justin doesn’t remember what the emergency room looked like the first time, but it’s much quieter than he anticipated. He watches ER sometimes on Thursday nights, if he’s home, and because the tall Croatian doctor is all kinds of hot. That emergency room always seems so loud on tv, but Justin figures that maybe Chicago is just a louder city than Pittsburgh anyway. This emergency room is nothing like he thought it would be, and he wonders vaguely when they’ll let him see Brian.

A cool hallway stretches out in front of him and his tennis shoes squeak on the floor, and there are curtains and gurneys and harried voices, and then Lindsay.

Vic takes her by the elbow before she reaches Justin and mutters a quick word in her ear. They both glance in his direction and then Lindsay is smiling at Justin in the way she smiles at Gus. It makes Justin feel warm and he realizes it’s been a long time since his own mother has smiled that way at him.

“Honey,” she says, still smiling, “Brian’s in x-ray.”

“As a precaution,” Justin replies. “Yeah.”

Again, Vic and Lindsay look at each other, and then away. “Not really a precaution,” Lindsay says gently. “A necessity.”

“Oh, great,” Justin sighs. “He break his arm or something? Because he calls me a drama queen when I’m not feeling good, but nobody really queens out like Brian when he’s sick. Or, uh. Injured. Whatever.” Justin thinks he can handle a broken arm, because that’s only like six weeks in a cast or something, and then Brian will be fixed.

But “fixed” makes it sounds like he’s broken. Brian’s not really broken, Justin knows, because Brian Kinney doesn’t break, but he sort of likes the metaphor.

“No,” Lindsay says slowly, “not really.”

“Tell him what you know,” Vic says sharply, startling Justin, who wonders why Vic sounds like that when he’s usually so calm.

Lindsay nods briskly and then Justin finds himself following her into a small room – hospitality room, Justin thinks, that’s what they call these rooms where they put you while you wait to find out which one of your loved ones died. He wonders if it’s ok to wait in a hospitality room if no one’s dead, because Brian’s probably almost out of x-ray and Justin’s pretty sure Brian will want to go the fuck home, and maybe they should save this room for people who are getting the news that someone in their family doesn’t get to go home.

It occurs to Justin that Brian and Michael and his mom and a lot of other people waited in one of these rooms to find out if Justin was dead, that night almost two years ago, and he hopes there were enough chairs.

He sits in one now, with Lindsay next to him and Vic leaning against the wall by the door, and Lindsay leans forward. “Justin,” she says very quietly, and the tone of her voice sets off the first real alarm bells in Justin’s head, “Brian was hurt.”

“I know,” Justin says cautiously, wondering why there’s all this seriousness over a broken arm. Maybe Brian cut his head and they had to shave off part of his hair? Now that would constitute seriousness.

But Lindsay’s giving him a look that says no, you don’t know, you really have no idea. “He was rear-ended while at a stoplight,” she says, “and pushed into the intersection. Cars coming the other way couldn’t stop, honey.”

“Oh, man,” Justin groans. “His car. He just got it back.”

“Yes, his car, “Lindsay says patiently, “but Justin, Brian was badly injured.” She tries to continue but Justin finds himself interrupting again.

“Was he wearing his seatbelt?” Somehow, if he keeps Lindsay from saying what she thinks she has to say, it won’t manifest itself into truth. Somehow.

“Justin, snap out of it,” Vic says abruptly, pushing off from the wall and approaching them. He puts a hand on Justin’s shoulder and shakes him once, hard. “Listen to Lindsay.”

Lindsay gives him a grateful look and says quickly, “Brian was hit from the back and the driver’s side. He sustained a head injury, which fortunately the doctors seem to think is only a concussion, but he was unconscious when they brought him in. They’re pretty sure of some internal injuries and probably several broken ribs from where he was pushed into the steering wheel.”

Internal injuries. Justin mulls that over. “So … he’s not going home today?”

“No, honey.”

Little trickles of reality start knocking on Justin’s door and he looks up at Vic. “Does his mom know? Does my mom know? Where’s Michael?” Justin gets to his feet and looks wildly at Lindsay. “Is Brian alone? Should he be by himself? Who’s with him?” From one extreme to the other, and Justin feels a little dizzy.

Lindsay gets up too, and soothes him. “It’s fine, it’s all right. Michael was supposed to make the phone calls. They were taking Brian to surgery after x-ray, I think the doctor said ... I'm not sure. We have to wait. Any friends or family members will be brought back here.”

Vic says, “I’ll call Sis,” and vanishes.

Justin stands in the doorway of the hospitality room and doesn’t sit down until Michael shows up two hours later.

* * *

A lot of medical jargon has gone over Justin’s head, and he attributes this to the fact that he chose not to listen when the doctor was spouting it. Splenectomy and infection and bleeding into the abdomen all seemed to have meaning for Michael and Lindsay, who nodded in all the right places. And besides, Justin hasn’t eaten since before his shift at the diner … seven hours ago? Eight? He’s not sure.

Somehow, though, the turkey sandwich Debbie brings him has no appeal.

Justin half-hears the doctor say that there are no available beds in the intensive care unit, so Brian will be watched closely in recovery after surgery and then admitted to a private room. Justin figures he’d approve of that. They wait in what’s supposed to be Brian’s room, all seven of them. Michael, Emmett, Deb, Vic, Lindsay, and Justin on one side, and Joanie Kinney on the other. She eyes them warily and fingers the cross around her neck.

No one talks, and everyone keeps sending surreptitious glances at Justin, which he hates but pretends not to notice. He figures if Brian doesn’t show up soon, they’ll get bored.

He’s right. Emmett disappears an hour later with an apology and a promise to return in the morning, and it’s nearly eight o’clock when Vic and Deb start making noises about Vic needing his meds. Michael practically pushes them out the door and swears to call as soon as Brian is delivered.

Lindsay wanders off to find coffee and call Mel and Michael is in the restroom and Joanie stays, much to Justin’s discontent. She doesn’t bother hiding her disgusted expression when she looks his way. “You’re the one who lives with him,” she says.

Justin doesn’t bother to correct her, since he’s at the loft six nights out of seven anyway, and even if he weren’t, he would tell her he was. “Yeah,” he affirms, lifting his chin slightly.

“Sinner,” she whispers into the quiet, and that’s exactly the opening Justin was waiting for, because suddenly Michael is there and grabbing him by the upper arm and Joanie is cringing away from him in her chair. He doesn’t remember even getting up and crossing the room, but he must have because Michael’s dragging him back to his own chair and pushing him into it. Joanie doesn’t speak to them directly any more, but Justin can hear her muttering things about Gomorrah under her breath.

Brian chooses that exact moment to make his royal entrance, and it doesn’t matter that he’s lying silent and still on the stretcher, Justin knows that he somehow executed his appearance because that’s what Brian does.

Justin watches as Michael and Lindsay dart around the room like birds, making motions to help the nurse who doesn’t need help, while Joanie stands in the corner with pursed lips. “He didn’t get put in the intensive care unit,” Michael says unnecessarily to Justin, “because they downgraded his condition from ‘critical’ to ‘serious’.” Lindsay smiles happily at that.

Justin wonders if they’re all going insane.

He’s even more convinced when Joanie walks over to the side of the bed while the nurse checks the fluids in the intravenous drip. Michael and Lindsay flank her on the left and right, donning enormous fake smiles. “He looks great, Mrs. Kinney,” Michael assures her, and Justin blinks.


Brian looks like hell, and it hurts Justin’s eyes. Gigantic bruises mar the skin of his face. They meld into each other and Brian appears to be one huge mass of battered flesh, and Justin has to look away from it. He knows Brian wouldn’t want Justin staring at him anyway, and he especially wouldn’t want Lindsay and Michael fluttering around him. And most of all, he wouldn’t want his mother leaning over him the way she is, examining him, and then lowering her eyes in disgust.

Brian wouldn’t fucking want any of this.

Another half-hour passes of nothing happening in particular except Joanie thankfully leaving, after successfully terrorizing the nurses’ station and getting the information that Brian will not wake up until morning. Justin loiters in the hallway and sees her extract a small flask from her handbag as the elevator doors close. Michael and Lindsay take turns congratulating each other on being such strong little champions for Brian, but Justin can’t see that they did anything but flit around and bring each other coffee and make phone calls and bother the nurses who come in to check Brian’s vitals.

At eight thirty, visiting hours are over. Lindsay lingers by the bed, smoothing Brian’s covers and looking at the beeping machines as if she can decipher the numbers on them, while Michael puts on his jacket and clears his throat and tries to act as if he’s in control. They both converse quietly with the shift nurse, and Justin watches.

They get to the door before they turn and realize Justin isn’t making moves to leave.

“Justin?” Lindsay questions. “Come on, sweetie. I’ll drive you. Do you need to go back to work to pick anything up?”

“No,” Justin answers.

“Come back to Ma’s with me, then,” Michael offers, and Justin knows Michael probably thinks he’s being generous.

“I mean, no, I’m not coming,” Justin says calmly.

“Visiting hours are over,” Michael explains, as if to a very small child. “We need to leave. I told Ma I’d be there.”

“Then leave,” Justin says, his eyes still on Brian and his voice louder than he intended.

“You can’t –“ Michael tries to argue, but Lindsay touches his arm and gives a quick shake of her head.

“Let him,” she murmurs, and Michael looks mutinous.

“If he can stay, I should stay,” Michael whispers furiously, and it occurs to Justin that the sort of fugue state he’s been in since this morning has dissipated.

Rising from his chair, he crosses the floor and yanks both Michael and Lindsay into the hallway. “I’m staying,” he says sharply, “and you’re going. I will call you if there’s anything you need to know.”

Michael opens his mouth and Justin raises an eyebrow. “You – you’re not supposed to stay overnight,” Michael says lamely, and Justin points to the Visitor’s Information sign on the wall.

“See where it says ‘special arrangements may be made with your nurse’?”

Michael’s chin juts out in response and Justin feels the frustration and anger building in him. He doesn’t really want to freak out right here in the hallway outside room 217, but he’s so fucking tired and worried and goddamned hungry that Justin fears he might rip some of the hair out of Michael’s head.

Lindsay, being a woman and therefore a thousand times more perceptive than Michael, says, “Michael, Mel’s waiting with Gus. The nurse said Brian will sleep until morning, and Justin said he'd call. Do you think Brian would ask you to stay?”

Justin knows that Brian wouldn’t want any of them to stay – himself included – but he lets Lindsay soothe Michael in that way she has of talking people down, until Michael is nodding in agreement and eyeing Justin suspiciously.

“You’ll call,” Michael tells him, and Justin nods like a marionette.

“Yeah, of course. I’ll call you in an hour, even, if you want.”

“Thirty minutes.”

Justin nods agreeably again and gives Lindsay a look.

Fifteen minutes and two more promises later, Michael and Lindsay finally depart. Michael brandishes his cell phone threateningly at Justin from the elevator. Justin smiles pleasantly and wonders if Brian has a good dentist that can fix the teeth he’s ground down in the last five hours.

Re-entering Brian’s room, Justin carefully does not look at the still figure in the bed. He drags a chair to Brian’s side, flips on the television, and watches a rerun of Buffy with the sound off.

A nurse brings him a blanket and a smile three hours later.

* * *

Brian wakes up at four a.m. and Justin knows immediately. He raises his head from where it rests near Brian’s bruised arm on the bed and meets his hazy eyes.

Brian scans the room once, eyes lighting with interest on his IV drip, and Justin knows he’s wondering what kind of drugs are in it. His gaze comes back to rest on Justin and Justin can see the brightness of pain.

“Here,” Justin whispers, and shows Brian how he’s pressing the small button that self-administers pain meds. The corner of Brian’s mouth moves up with approval, and he wiggles his thumb ever so slightly in an imitation of Justin pressing the button, so Justin grins at him and does it again. “Go back to sleep,” Justin tells him, threading his fingers through Brian’s.

But Brian remains awake, taking shallow breaths that hurt Justin just to hear, until Justin says, “I’m staying.”

Brian blinks twice, slowly, and then sleeps.

* * *

Brian is in the hospital for six days, and Justin sees to the fact that most of it is spent in a pain medication-induced stupor. He lurks in the corner of the room on the second night when the doctor tells Joan Kinney that he would have sent Brian home after three days if he’d been able to do a laparascopic removal, but the surgery was open and therefore requires more recovery.

Brian’s mother is drunk enough that she can smile winningly at the doctor and ask what name he would like to be listed under on her prayer list. She follows the doctor out the door and Justin doesn’t see her again.

The time that Brian doesn’t spend drugged up is miserable for anyone who ventures into room 217, and Justin receives the brunt of Brian’s sullen animosity. He grits his teeth against it, though, because he figures if he had three cracked ribs and a giant gaping hole where one of his internal organs used to be, he might be a little grouchy too.

Brian sends most visitors scuttling out like crabs about ten minutes after they arrive, with the exception of Debbie. She ignores Brian’s blustering, gives Justin a warm hug that smells like Tabu and marinara, and throws a white bag of wrapped lemon bars on the tray near Brian’s bed. “Here. Put one of those in your mouth and quit your pissing and moaning.”

Justin is very surprised when Brian does it, and listens to him mutter around the crumbs that he’d like something of Justin’s in his mouth instead.

Michael is the only one that Brian doesn’t chase out with the sharp side of his tongue. Justin pretends to watch television when Michael brings some of their recent Rage mockups for Brian to look at and snark over.

“Make Rage’s dick bigger,” Brian offers helpfully, and Michael laughs.

“That’s Justin’s department. I just write.”

“Hear me, Sunshine? Rage needs a bigger cock. It will help in the pursuit of truth, justice, and fucking.” Brian goes back to perusing the sketches, but Justin knows he’s waiting for some sort of response. Justin doesn’t give him one.

He almost bites back at Brian on the fifth day when Brian tells him to suck his dick until Brian can get out of bed and get a real blowjob. Justin knows he gives the best head this side of the Ohio river, but he holds his tongue – literally and figuratively – and contents himself with circling the high-carb dinner for Brian on his hospital menu.

Justin goes out to Babylon that night at Michael and Ben’s insistence and fucks two tricks. It puts him in a remarkably better mood.

Especially when, the next morning, Brian grouses that he was so fucking bored the night before that he considered cruising the heavyset orderly who brings his antibiotics, and he hopes Justin got some mindblowing head for him.

* * *

Justin thinks that Brian coming home will end the foul mood he’s been in since the accident. The wrongness of that thought strikes him about twenty seconds after they get through the door.

“What in hell is that,” Brian points, as Michael scurries in circles.

Justin looks at the collapsible camp chair that Daphne’s roommate let him borrow. “Something to sit in,” he says pointedly, motioning at the emptiness of the loft.

Brian heaves a put-upon sigh and lets Michael baby him to the bedroom, where Justin can see Michael fussing around Brian and unpacking the small duffel bag Justin had put clean underwear in for the hospital. Brian lies on the bed and lets him. They talk quietly for a while in low voices, punctuated by Michael’s laughing and Brian’s low chuckle, and when Michael emerges twenty minutes later Justin hopes fervently that he’s on his way out the door.

“He’s sleeping,” Michael announces, like a good little nursemaid. “I made him take those pills they sent home.”

“Mmm,” Justin says, non-committally.

“So, I think I’ll go pick up some food from Ma’s, and I’ll be back in a half-hour or so –“

“No,” Justin says firmly, and Michael looks hurt. Justin feels bad. For a second. “I mean,” he continues more gently, “I already ordered Thai.” Which is a lie, because he has no cash, but he’s pretty sure Michael doesn’t like Thai food.

“Well…” Michael looks doubtful. “I can order a pizza, too.”

Justin finds himself growing desperate for five quiet minutes that don’t involve a hospital or doctors or a crabby Brian or well-meaning but annoying visitors, and most of all, that don’t involve Michael. “Mike…” he says, and trails off, throwing a pleading glance at the bedroom.

Miracle of miracles, Michael gets it. He looks toward the bedroom also, then back at Justin. “Yeah,” he says gruffly. “Okay.”

Michael leaves when Justin promises he can stop by in the morning, armed with food from Deb’s and possibly Gus and Lindsay. Justin shuts the door behind him and sags against it momentarily.

“Hey,” Brian calls from the bedroom. “He gone?”

“Yeah,” Justin answers wearily. “Whaddya want to eat?”

“Blond boy ass,” comes the standard response.

Brian’s asleep again by the time Justin gets to the bedroom.

* * *

The next few days pass at a crawl for both of them. With no job, no furniture, and confined to the loft, Brian becomes almost unbearable. They snipe at each other constantly until Justin wants to either hit him, or cry.

“Get the fuck off me. I can take my own shower.”

“I’m just helping with –“

“I don’t need your help, Justin, Jesus!” Brian belies his own words by sitting down on the toilet lid for a minute and drawing a deep breath. He puts a hand on his ribs and winces.

It turns out that his cracked ribs are more painful than the open surgery he had to remove his spleen, although the wicked looking scar glares angrily at Justin whenever Brian has his shirt off. Justin tries reminding Brian that the doctor said he could move around with assistance and for a limited time, but Brian blows him off with an eyeroll and takes his own shower.

Sex is out of the question. They had tried the second morning when Brian woke up with a fierce erection, and Justin got alarmed when Brian turned white from the effort. So Justin had tried to blow him instead, and after two minutes Brian was groaning, but not with pleasure. Brian lay there and stared miserably at his crotch until Justin force-fed him two Vicodin. He slept for the rest of the day.

Justin finds himself breathing a sigh of relief when it’s time to go to work.

Justin considers going to Babylon or Woody’s after his first couple of shifts at the diner, and then thinks of Brian, and doesn’t. He knows Brian would be even more pissed off – if that’s possible at this point – if he knew Justin was passing up dick in favor of coming home to him, but Justin’s sense of responsibility can’t let him. Especially when Debbie loads him down with food every night, insisting he go home and feed Brian.

What Justin really needs is someone to figure out the hospital bill that came in the mail yesterday, but he’ll wait for a while before he reveals that little present to Brian. In the meantime, Justin applies for another American Express in Brian’s name and lies on the application.

A little over a week goes by with no change.

* * *

Justin’s self-imposed abstinence starts to get very old. He feels like he’s fucking sixteen again, horny as all fuck, with no way to relieve it except the occasional jerk in the bathroom with the door closed and the water running. A large part of him knows it’s because Brian can’t do anything about his own hornyness.

They tried again yesterday, with the same results as before. Brian lasted about thirty seconds longer than the first time, and Justin knew that was from sheer willpower. When he had collapsed on top of Justin with a muffled but frustrated “Fuck!”, Justin felt like screaming himself. He went to work with a hardon that lasted two hours.

He looks at Brian asleep on the pillow next to him and feels himself start to get hard. Again. And this time he can’t go back to sleep, because it’s not even midnight and his cock is fucking throbbing, and he just wants to get off so badly that his heart beats faster.

Another glance at Brian, and Justin’s out of bed and in the bathroom, not turning on the light, not doing anything but closing the door carefully. He doesn’t bother taking off his sweats, he just lowers them slightly and pulls his aching dick out. Justin grabs the lotion from above the sink and starts stroking himself, and wants to cry from the pleasure.
Hurry, Justin tells himself, and he squeezes his eyes shut and strokes harder, faster, pretends it’s Brian. Hurry, Brian’s gonna wake up. He holds himself tighter, steadies himself with one hand on the sink. He’s leaking pre-come everywhere and it’s easier to slide his cock through his palm, and Christ but it feels good, it’s been nearly eight days since he’s had a good fuck or blow or anything except his own hand. Huffing through his nose, bottom lip between his teeth, Justin speeds up his rhythm even further, and then he’s almost there and he’s about to spurt all over the floor and –

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Justin whirls to face the door, dick still in hand, and is met with a pale but curious Brian.

“Uh. I’m.” Justin thinks it’s pretty fucking obvious what he’s doing.

“I thought you said you’d been laid at least four times this week.”

“I have,” Justin lies, turning away from Brian and trying to shove himself back into his gray cotton sweats. The result is a pup-tent effect that Justin would just as soon Brian not see.

Brian leans against the doorframe in an attempt to look casual, but a glance in the mirror tells Justin he’s doing it to take weight off his injured ribs. “You only jerk off when it’s been a couple of days,” he says.

“I got laid Friday night,” Justin says, and wills his dick to go soft. He’s afraid his balls will be blue for an hour after this.

“You were with me Friday night,” Brian says thoughtfully. “You didn’t go out.”

“Or maybe it was Saturday,” Justin replies desperately, wondering why Brian suddenly gives a shit about his sex life.

“Or maybe you’re the biggest fucking martyr in Pittsburgh,” Brian snaps, and disappears back into the bedroom.

Justin wonders for a minute how he should fix it, and is startled out of his thoughts by the loft door slamming shut.

* * *

He’s not hard to find.

Brian never is, really. Just follow the grateful path of tricks. Justin considers it lucky that he tried Babylon first instead of the baths or any of the other numerous clubs lining Liberty, and then realizes there was really no other option anyway.

Babylon is the only place Brian can count on for spreading the word about his triumphant return.

Justin pauses near a pillar in the back room and scans the hazy area, wanting more than anything to get his dick sucked and knowing it wouldn’t take longer than sixty seconds. Then he thinks about how embarrassing that would be and discards the idea.

“Hey, Justin,” a slim blond greets him on his way out.

“Greg,” Justin raises his chin in response.

“In the corner,” Greg smirks, thumbing over his shoulder.

Justin doesn’t pretend to be ignorant, and heads that way.

He discovers Brian with his back to the room, slowly fucking a sandy-haired gym rat that he and Brian had both coveted for a while.

“Come on,” the trick hisses at him. “Faster. I’ll never get off at this rate.”

Justin sidles up to the corner, just out of Brian’s range of sight, and takes note of the pinched look around his mouth. His complexion appears pale, and although it could just be the dim lighting, Justin would bet it’s because his ribs are killing him with each thrust.
Brian moves carefully, trying not to shift the top half of his body while he works his usual mojo with his bottom half, and Justin would laugh if he didn’t know how much pain Brian is in.

The trick starts looking sort of disinterested and Justin closes his eyes for a brief second, willing the guy not to say anything to Brian. Thankfully, before he can open his mouth, Brian gives a grunt and comes with a wince and a groan that is part agony, part relief.

He pulls out and the trick straightens up, disgusted. “Looks like you need another month of recovery, Kinney,” he says. “Look me up then.”

“Don’t think I will,” Brian says, managing to look bored despite the pain, and then spies Justin leaning against the wall. “Ah, young Justin! Those twenty year old hormones finally start leading you in the right direction?”

“Come on,” Justin says firmly.

“With you?” Brian looks surprised. “I just got here.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Justin hisses at him, and two twinks in the corner look up, because most people don’t talk to Brian Kinney that way.

Justin’s not most people.

Brian sighs and scans the room for more eligible ass, but Justin notices he doesn’t push off from the wall that is supporting him.

“Do I need to leave a trail of Vicodin?” Justin asks gently, and stands very close to Brian’s shirtfront, close enough to smell Brian’s skin. He puts his nose in the hollow of Brian’s throat and nuzzles there. He can feel his Adam’s apple move when Brian swallows, and picks up on the imperceptible sigh.

It is a true testament to the amount of pain Brian is in when he leans slightly against Justin and mumbles into his hair, “Better call a cab, Sunshine, ‘cause there’s no fuckin’ way I can walk further than the front door.”

Justin tries not to feel triumphant, but the situation really calls for it.

* * *

He gets him home and into the elevator and Brian doesn’t speak much, except for grunting at him when Justin asks if he wants a bottled water. Justin takes it for a “yes” and brings it into the bedroom, where Brian is gingerly lying back on the bed.

Justin takes his shoes off for him and watches in silence as Brian makes the effort to unbutton his jeans. Justin brushes his hands away after a minute and straddles him carefully, not putting any weight down.

Brian settles his hands on Justin’s hips and pulls him snugly against his crotch, letting Justin feel the hardness under his fly. Justin’s cock reacts accordingly, and Brian gives a wan grin. “At least you’re reliable,” Brian says, thrusting up the littlest bit.

“What about you?” Justin murmurs, afraid that if he grinds down on Brian he’ll come like an adolescent in his khakis. Fuuuuuck, he doesn’t ever want to go this long without coming again.

“Oh, I’m reliable,” Brian chuckles, holding Justin in place and moving his hips in a slow circle. “Old Faithful, they call me.”

“No one calls you that.”

“They don’t? Put it on my tombstone, then. Ouch, Christ, I hurt.” Brian sucks in a breath and holds it, and Justin freezes in place.

“You want a pain pill?” He makes a move to climb off the bed but Brian stops him.

“What I need,” he says pointedly, “does not come in pill form. Would you fucking undress already?”

Justin does, and helps Brian out of his jeans, but sits back on his heels when Brian points toward the drawer where the condoms are. “Um,” Justin says uncertainly, and motions in the direction of the large purple bruise that covers half of Brian’s chest and abdomen.


“I saw you. At Babylon. You were … not doing that great.” Justin winces inwardly, sure to have invoked the Kinney Stare, but Brian smiles ruefully.

“So, all I have to do is lie here, right?”

Justin considers that for a minute before taking the condom from him and gently prodding Brian to roll to his side. “Yeah,” he confirms. “Just lie there. Not really much different from what you usually do.”

Brian snorts and then groans. “Don’t make me laugh. Or talk. Or breathe, really.”

But then neither of them breathe for a second as Justin lies behind Brian and fits himself neatly into the curve of Brian’s back, feeling carefully for the tight ring of muscle and entering him with a small sigh of satisfaction.

Justin feels Brian tense and then relax, reminding himself how to be a bottom, and Justin thinks it’s funny that Brian has to consciously remember it. He’d never tell him that, though, because Justin’s topping days would be over if Brian ever got a hint of his amusement.

But Brian’s a good bottom when he makes up his mind to be, or when he really has no other choice, like now. Sex is sex is sex, and Brian will take it any way he can get it, injuries be damned. Justin thrusts easily, carefully, hoping against hope that he can at least make sure Brian gets off before he does. But when Brian arches his neck and reaches around to take Justin’s hand to place on his own cock, Justin doesn’t know if he can take it.

The sheets grow warm and damp beneath them, and Justin buries his face in Brian’s hair and breathes in deeply, surprised by the sting of tears pricking at his eyelids. He feels Brian’s dick sliding through his fingers, and Brian making tiny thrusting motions while he fucks Justin’s hand, and Justin swallows tightly and tells himself not to cry like a sissy little faggot.

But the effort of holding in the tears works against him, and when he lays his forehead against Brian’s taut shoulder, a small sound escapes that Brian hears immediately. He looks back curiously over his shoulder at Justin, never letting up on his rhythm of thrusting into Justin’s palm, and blinks at Justin’s tears.

“Hey,” he says quietly, and though his eyes are bright with a mix of pain and pleasure, Justin can see concern there too. “Hey,” he says again, and this time it sounds like “Don’t, please don’t,” so Justin struggles to stem the flow, but the stress and worry of the week have other ideas.

Once started, Justin finds it almost impossible to stop, so he lowers his gaze from Brian’s and buries his face in his hair again, smelling smoke and sex and maleness and a light hint of expensive shampoo. There is safety and warmth here, no different than it’s always been; no different than Justin knows it will always be. The permanence of what is essentially Brian wars with Justin’s new knowledge of his frailty, it is visible and raw and glares at Justin in the form of a vicious scar on Brian’s belly and a violent bruise on his chest.

Justin lets his tears soak into Brian’s hair and concentrates on the tightness around his cock, feels Brian take a breath and then jerk once, twice, back against him. Justin pauses in his slow thrusting to feel Brian’s orgasm, to absorb it and remember it, and closes his eyes when he hears Brian whisper his name and groan softly, deep in his throat. And then Justin is trembling shaking and coming hard, thank fucking God, finally.

The trembling stops but the tears don’t. Justin pulls out and hurriedly wipes his eyes with the corner of the sheet, although it’s sort of futile since Brian’s already seen him. Brian gingerly turns to his other side to face Justin and hands him his tank top to clean up with. He doesn’t ask Justin anything, he never does, and there are times when Justin’s really, really grateful for that.

Brian tangles one hand in Justin’s hair and entwines their fingers with the other, and lets Justin leak out a few more silent tears before saying quietly, “I’m fine.”

Sometimes Brian can be perceptive on a disturbing level, which confounds Justin to no end, considering that most of the time Brian acts offended by other people breathing the same air he does. “I know,” Justin says, and takes a steadying breath.

“Okay,” Brian says, and pulls him closer to press a kiss to his forehead. “Okay.”

* * *

Four weeks later, Brian is hired by a small but successful advertising agency, and two weeks after that, he chooses a sleek silver Lexus from the company car collection.

Justin circles it slowly, trailing a hand over the hood. “Nice,” he says vaguely.

“Nice?” Brian smirks at him. “I’ll say it’s nice. Did you smell the leather in there?”

Justin gets in the driver’s side and settles into the seat. He examines the inside of the door carefully, as well as the center of the steering wheel. Brian stands by the open door and stares at him.

“What the fuck are you doing? Checking its teeth?”


“For what?”


Brian laughs unexpectedly, and Justin gets annoyed because being laughed at isn’t one of his favorite things, but he forgets about it when Brian reaches in and yanks him out of the car. He is still laughing when he wraps his arms around Justin’s shoulders and pulls him close. Justin wants Brian to stop laughing but not stop hugging him, so he stays where he is and puts his arms around Brian’s waist.

“You’re funny,” Brian informs him, before bending his head to catch Justin’s lips in a kiss.

“Ha,” Justin says dryly, and kisses him back. Then he pokes Brian in the ribs.

“Ouch, you fuck,” Brian yelps, and jumps away. “Still sore.”

“I know. You’re not really back to full form.”

“What?” Brian starts sputtering madly and saying insulting things about Justin’s manhood, which Justin doesn’t take seriously, since his manhood was in Brian’s mouth last night and seemed to be doing a pretty good job. “I’ll show you full form,” Brian growls at him.

“Just be careful,” Justin says cheerfully, as Brian yanks him up the apartment stairs and into the elevator. “You don’t want to break anything.”