Achievement (or "Dude, Where's my Paycheck?")

Juteux

Feedback is adored. But please be nice to me. *wibbles* <3

Summary: Even when a fic is about Justin, it’s about Brian. Alternate season four.



*

One Friday Brian came home from yet another unsuccessful job interview and found Justin sitting on the floor of the empty living room with a enormous canvas, sketching with charcoal. Brian didn’t pay that much attention to Justin’s art, really; sketches and paintings had been filling his home for over two years and he had learned that not all of them were desperately important to Justin, and that Justin did not even want feedback on every piece. But this particular canvas Justin was working on was unusual in its size, and there was something on Justin’s face – an intensity that hadn’t been there in a long time – that caught Brian’s attention.

But when Brian opened a beer and wandered over and asked, “What are you working on?” Justin just shrugged and tossed his piece of charcoal away, and his focused expression was gone.

“Nothing,” he said, smiling easily. “Do you want to go to Babylon?”

*

Justin had started work himself at a small local gallery, just as a gofer for the director. The day he had been hired he came home with a wide smile on his face, throwing his coat on the ground triumphantly.

Brian was smoking the last of his pot on his bed and feeling generally irritable with the world. His last joint and it sucked. He wanted to be at least ten times more high than this. “What the fuck got into you?” he asked Justin, glancing at him warily as he bounded up the steps into the bedroom.

“I got a job today. A real job, at a gallery. Philip Tate, this place downtown, Lindsay is friends with him and gave me a recommendation.” Justin stripped off his clothes and curled next to Brian, meeting his lips for a smoky kiss.

“So how much does it pay?”

Justin paused and shrugged. “Oh, nothing. It’s just a shit assistant job. Not that much different from the diner – getting coffee all day, that kind of thing.”

But his own art started to flourish, something Brian watched with amusement as they spent a quiet Sunday in, a couple weeks after Justin started at the gallery.

As Brian dished out Chinese food for both of them, Justin was just finishing his latest painting. It was an abstract; vague blue shapes that Brian didn’t really understand. The colours were soft but intense and seemed angry to him. Justin explained that they were broken bird wings.

“My boss gave me the idea,” Justin said, mulling the canvas over and ignoring his dinner. “Fragility...crushed dreams.”

“It’s not bad,” Brian said, bemused. “Come eat, Deb gives me shit when you get too thin.”

Justin reluctantly sat with Brian on the pillows on the floor and they shared lo mein. Justin kept one eye on his painting the entire time, and after dessert Justin rolled out from underneath Brian’s sweaty, warm weight and started a fresh sketch on a napkin.

“Is it my cock?” Brian mumbled, still lost in the afterglow. “I know it can be very inspiring.”

Justin shot him a look. “It’s for my job,” he said. “In case you’ve forgotten, I work at a gallery now.”

“I thought you were just an assistant,” Brian said.

Justin paused for a half-second. “Right,” he said. “I am.”

*

Brian hated being poor. Really, really hated it, and it wasn’t what he imagined it would be. Some people picture themselves with money, what they would do with their riches and all the things they would buy. Brian used to imagine himself as poor, a game to amuse himself when he was smoking his eighty-dollar weed. How he would scrimp and save and still look beautiful and fuck a hundred guys, and at the end of the day he would win the lottery or the President would call him up, and he would be rich again.

Reality was biting him in the ass.

In the advertising scene Brian was talented and had credentials, but he was also old and came with a tainted reputation, thanks to one Gardner Vance, fuck you very much. After the first couple of job interviews he figured people were still a little shook up and just needed to get over themselves. By the sixth, seventh interview he was starting to get fucking pissed off and although he really, really didn’t want to take out his anger on the blond boy at home, most of the time that was what happened.

But not today. “Sunshine,” he barked, banging through the loft door, and...Justin was not there.

Four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. The fuck?

Irritated and feeling foolish, Brian went to Woody’s for happy hour and bought drinks he really couldn’t fucking afford. When he got home Justin was also there, hanging up his pants in the closet.

“Where the fuck were you today?” Brian said, smacking his ass and heading into the bathroom.

Justin jumped and laughed. “Work.”

Brian gave him an eye roll as he pissed.

“How did your interview go today? With the Kelly agency?”

“Don’t ask.”

Justin followed Brian into the kitchen and touched his shoulder as he stood before the fridge. “They’re idiots,” he said softly. “Don’t worry about them.”

Brian frowned as he stared at the contents of the fridge. “Where did all this food come from?”

“Uh...I guess my mom stopped by.”

Brian huffed in irritation but pulled out the makings for spaghetti.

Fortunately Brian still had something of a reputation around Babylon, because he and Justin were waved in without cover and Justin, the talented dear, was bought drinks by enough desperate men to keep them in booze all night.

But alcohol quickly grew boring, and so did the ugly fags hitting on them.

“Backroom,” Brian told Justin over the thumpa-thumpa.

Justin grinned and tossed back a shot of tequila. “So romantic,” he replied. Brian thwapped his head and led the way through the throng of sweaty, writhing bodies.

“Justin!” Brian heard someone call. Justin turned and smiled in surprise when he saw the handsome man, a few years older than Brian, in a leather jacket Brian instantly coveted.

“Philip, hey!” Justin said, exchanging hugs. “Oh, Philip, this is Brian. Brian, this is my boss.”

Brian shook hands, a little taken aback by this charming man with a friendly arm around Justin’s shoulders.

“Justin’s becoming quite prolific at my little gallery,” Philip was saying. “You’re lucky to have such a talented artist in your own home.”

“Don’t talk to Brian about art, he’s clueless,” Justin grinned. Brian swatted his ass discreetly and Philip smiled.

“Nice to meet you, Brian. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Justin,” Philip said, and left. Brian mock-saluted after him and continued pulling Justin towards the backroom.

“Brian, you could try to be nice to my boss,” Justin said.

“You didn’t tell me he was gay.”

“Does it matter?”

Brian backed Justin against a wall in a dark corner. “Does he want to fuck you?”

“Jesus, Brian. He’s my boss.”

“So?”

“We’re friends.”

“Old guy like that,” Brian said, thinking of Philip’s words, “I’m sure he’s thrilled to have such a talented artist in his gallery.”

“We’re professionals. Not every guy wants to fuck me.”

“You’re the coffee boy. And why wouldn’t he?”

Justin stared. “Are you mad because someone doesn’t want to fuck me?”

“Hey, a guy works day-in, day-out with such nice blond boy ass and doesn’t even think about it, something has to be wrong with him.”

Justin laughed, startled, and the same curious expression stayed on his face even as Brian sank to his knees and sucked him off.

*

The next Saturday, Brian left Justin happily drawing in bed – again – for brunch with the Munchers. Gus played trucks around Brian’s feet and Melanie poured coffee.

“Did Justin tell you about his new job?” Lindsay asked, biting into a croissant.

Brian tossed his head back and laughed. “His boss, the queer? Yeah, I met him. They’re all comfy and cozy.”

“Oh,” Lindsay smiled and blinked. “Yes, Phillip is very nice.”

“How’s the job hunt going?” Melanie asked, and if she was smirking Brian didn’t notice, because really, Melanie smirked all the time.

*

After his ninth overly polite and slightly terse rejection phone call, Brian stood for a minute in the middle of the empty loft, feeling sorry for himself and hating his life. Then he fucked that shit and decided to sink himself into some nice hot ass.

Justin, of course, was at work.

He called Justin’s cell phone and barked, before he could even say hello, “Why the fuck does the coffee boy have to work eight-hour days? Get your ass home, now.”

He heard Justin breathing, and then he said, carefully, “Brian, my boss is calling me. I’ll talk to you later.”

And he hung up.

Brian threw the phone away and looked around. He couldn’t think of another time when he had so badly wanted a fucking couch. Then he gathered every single cent he could find (for a total of twenty-three dollars and seventy-two cents). It wasn’t enough for drugs – not any good shit, anyway – so he decided vodka was in order.

“Isn’t it a little early for that,” Michael laughed, when Brian showed up on his doorstep clutching a half-empty lukewarm bottle.

Brian blustered into the apartment and collapsed onto the couch. “Mikey, what they tell you is bullshit. Don’t drink in the mornings...don’t drink alone. Who the fuck are you supposed to drink with if no one else is there?”

Michael smiled and gently pried the vodka bottle from his hands, examining the label. “This stuff is cheap, you don’t usually drink it.”

“No fucking money for anything else.”

“I thought Justin was the little breadwinner now.”

Brian lolled on the pillows and laughed the laugh of the very drunk person. “Right, his precious career. Christ. The least he could do is come home and fuck me on his lunch breaks.”

Brian did what he always did when he was drunk, which was get crabby and slur, and Michael did what he always did when Brian was drunk, which was pat his head and drive him home.

“Try not to give Justin TOO hard of a time,” Michael said, practically carrying him out of the car. “This job is a good opportunity for him.”

“Since when did you give a fuck what Justin does?”

“Since he’s producing the most artwork for Rage I’ve ever seen. Come on, let’s get you some water.”

Justin came home just as Michael helped Brian into the loft. He took one look at Brian and his smile faded.

“Starting early today,” he said dryly.

Brian threw him a disgusted look. “Hi honey, how was YOUR day?”

Justin slammed his portfolio on the kitchen counter. “Productive. Interesting. Creative.”

“Goody for you.”

Michael glanced back and forth between them. “Okay then, I guess I’ll go.”

“Buh bye,” Brian drawled, waggling a few fingers. Michael rolled his eyes. On his way out the door, he paused and said in a low voice to Justin, “Come by for dinner sometime this week, Mom wants to hear all about the job.”

“Yeah, I’ll try,” Justin said, shrugging and glancing once in Brian’s direction. Michael patted his shoulder and left. Justin rubbed a hand over his face and stared at the wall.

“So come over here and show me how productive you can be,” Brian mumbled, falling onto the bed.

Justin just shook his head and started changing out of his work clothes. Brian watched each movement. “I’m not doing this right now,” Justin said, ignoring him.

“Pissy princess.”

“You have vodka all over you.”

“Well, I would change, but no one did my laundry.”

“I did.” Justin headed into the kitchen.

Brian unbuttoned his jeans and pulled out his semi-erect cock, stroking himself lasciviously, using long, firm movements. “Aren’t you the model homemaker.”

“Fuck you, Brian.”

“Boy, you’ve been awfully pissy with me lately. Stress on the job, dear?”

Justin watched him from the kitchen. Brian’s eyes were narrowed in pleasure and gleamed with wickedness. His hand worked his thick cock slowly, indulgently; beautiful long fingers squeezing and pulling and running over the tip, down to his balls. His legs fell apart and he bit his lip, grunting and smirking as Justin continued to watch.

“Brian.” Justin’s voice was quiet but firm. “I told you, I’m not doing this. Don’t try to start a fight. Let’s just have dinner, okay?”

Brian didn’t know what to say to that. His hand stilled on his cock. Justin sighed softly and pulled open the refrigerator.

“No,” Brian said, after a minute. “No,” he repeated, louder, and started fisting his cock faster. “I am doing this, Sunshine. Fuck you. Fuck YOU.”

Brian stroked himself until he came all over his hand with a groan, his mind spinning with the pleasure and alcohol. When he blinked and his vision cleared, he noticed that Justin was gone.

Later, alone, loft still empty, Brian went to Babylon and was turned down by a trick who said he was too old. Fabulous. He then ran out of gas on the way home, barely making it to his front door. Even better. As he climbed up the stairs he remembered Justin, and their fight earlier that afternoon, and braced himself slightly as he opened the door.

Justin sat on the floor in briefs and a t-shirt, working on that familiar, enormous canvas. He didn’t look up when Brian came in. Brian watched him for a moment, the play of the dim orange light from the bedroom cast over his face. He toed off his shoes and approached him quietly, sitting down and sliding behind him, stretched his legs out on either side of Justin’s and cupped his body. His chin came down to rest on Justin’s shoulder. Justin tensed for a moment, and then he sighed as Brian pressed his cheek against Justin’s.

“Nice,” Brian said, looking at the canvas. It was a half-finished face, the features still undefined. Simple and stark and with a quality of wildness in the tilt of the head, the flow of the hair.

“It’s okay.”

I say it’s nice.” Brian pinched his ass and Justin smiled.

“So are you going to Debbie’s for family fun day?” Brian asked, stroking his hair once.

Justin shrugged and turned back to his canvas. “I guess so.”

“I wouldn’t mind hearing about your job myself. If you can find a minute to spare, that is.”

“You said it yourself, I’m just Philip’s coffee boy. It’s no big deal.”

Brian touched his hair again, studying Justin’s focused and averted gaze. “Hmm.”

Then slowly he reclined, lying back on the floor and stretching out luxuriously. Justin turned and raised his eyebrows. “What are you doing?”

“Come on, Sunshine, I’m not getting any younger.”

Brian held his breath slightly as he waited for Justin’s response. It would be so, so easy for Justin to ignore him right now, or pick another fight and stomp away. He half-expected it. But Justin smiled and rolled his eyes and kissed him, and Brian knew they would be okay for a little while.

*

A little while didn’t last very long.

Things started to get very fucking weird. In fact, Brian thought that things had probably been weird for a long time.

It started off with small things, like Justin bringing home a new bottle of lube. Brian just shrugged it off. It wasn’t the first time Justin had done it.

But.

He started to notice that his fridge contained more than bread and poppers.

He still had gas and electricity and phone service.

His suits were dry cleaned.

Things like that had been such staples in his life for such a long time, it hadn’t even occurred to him that they might not be there. Until now.

Okay. So maybe the owner of his building had decided to give him a break. Maybe the phone people were feeling charitable.

Or maybe, Brian thought, as he looked through Justin’s checkbook, Justin had decided to become his secret sugar daddy.

*

Justin could be pretty weird, sometimes. Their first couple months of living together, Brian did an awful lot of throwing his hands up in exasperation and resorting to alcohol. Justin wanted monogamy, but he didn’t want Brian to change. Justin didn’t want anything for his birthday, and then was upset when he got a hustler. He was an artist, he was emotional, he could queen out better than Emmett, he drew odd things like cars surrounded by floating text that made no sense and apparently it was art. And really, that was okay with Brian. He had been reminded time and time again that he was pretty weird himself. He could deal.

Then Justin would do something like fucking an ugly fiddler behind his back and Brian would just start drinking again.

The Philip Tate gallery was a fifteen minute drive from the loft. Brian strolled in, admiring the open, airy space and tasteful decorating. A sign told Brian to “Excuse our mess while we get ready for Shining Stars: Pittsburgh’s Best Young Artists, featuring the art of Justin Taylor. This Saturday!”

The shining star himself saw Brian and stood dumbfounded.

“What?” said Brian, “did my invitation get lost in the mail?”

“Uh, excuse me,” said Philip, edging out of the room hastily.

Justin crossed his arms and stared at Brian. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I couldn’t help but notice that someone had been paying my bills this month, and I thought I should come and give my thanks.”

Justin just kept staring. “You’re welcome.”

“That’s a rather unusual salary for an assistant, isn’t it?”

Silence.

Fine. Brian came up close to him, dipping his head and meeting Justin’s gaze directly. People were starting to stare, so Brian kept his voice low. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”

Justin raised his chin. “Would you have cared?”

“I’d rather you tell me than go behind my back.”

“I wasn’t going behind your back; if you had opened your eyes for two seconds you would have realized what was going on.”

Brian half-smiled. “You think you’re so fucking sneaky. Last year you were running around putting up your little posters, before that you were running around with a fiddler. What the fuck did you think you would accomplish by hiding it? That is so fucking pathetic.”

Justin was absolutely silent. He swallowed, squared his jaw. Brian could see him physically armoring himself in the lift of his shoulders, his straight back. And as Brian prepared himself for a lengthy emotional tirade, Justin surprised him once again.

“I have to get back to work,” Justin said, and left the room.

*

Lindsay opened the door to Brian on her doorstep, holding out a business card.

“It’s nice, isn’t it. Look, it has his name on it and everything. Back in my day, they didn’t give the assistants personalized business cards.”

Lindsay sighed and let him into the house. “I see you found out.”

“The little secret everyone’s been keeping from me? Oh, that. Yeah. Boy, it’s great being patronized and treated as inferior. I bet you guys had a lot of fun with that one.”

“It wasn’t a secret, Brian, Justin just didn’t think it was – a big deal. You know how you can get...”

“How I can GET?”

Lindsay raised an eyebrow. Brian paused and lowered his voice. “Justin has been working at this place for almost three months. Do you really think I’m that stupid, that I wouldn’t realize someone else has been paying my own goddamn fucking bills?”

“It took you this long, didn’t it?”

Brian shook his head. “Fuck you. Fuck everyone. Fuck Justin and his little job and his money--”

“Brian, please. Come on, this is exactly the reason Justin didn’t want to tell you. Do you have to make such a big issue out of everything?”

Brian was silent for a few moments, and then sighed and shook his shoulders. “Fine. So what the fuck is he actually doing at this gallery all day?”

“Philip says he’s been wonderful, helping him organize events, introducing him to his contacts at PIFA – he says that if the show this Saturday goes well, he might open a gallery exclusively devoted to young artists and Justin will be featured prominently.”

A long pause, and then Brian huffed a short laugh and shook his head. “Fuck me. So he’s a success.”

“If you’re really that angry, why don’t you talk to him?”

“He’s always too fucking busy.”

“Maybe if you actually listened to him for once...”

Brian just looked at her. She sighed as Gus started crying upstairs. “And maybe if you actually opened your eyes,” she finished softly.

That pricked a nerve. “Oh, yeah? And what would I see?”

“A man,” Lindsay said, and kissed him on the forehead as she went to fetch Gus.

*

Justin didn’t sleep at home for the rest of the week, and on Saturday Brian stood outside the doors of the Philip Tate gallery for ten minutes before going inside.

He saw Justin immediately. He was wearing a blue cashmere sweater Brian had once bought for him and stood under a large sign that read “Shining Stars.” Justin’s artwork was the most significantly displayed and, of course, the best. Justin shook hands and smiled and talked with everyone, smoothly circulating the room, but when he was left alone for a minute Brian took his chance.

“Shining Stars,” Brian noted, coming up beside him. “A bit cliché, don’t you think?”

Justin startled slightly, but his gaze didn’t leave one of his paintings on the wall. “I’m not the boss.”

“One day you might be.”

Justin didn’t say anything, so Brian turned his attention to the painting as well. It was one he recognized, done in blues. Bird wings.

“I like it,” he mused. “I think it represents youth’s lost hope and the fragility of our dreams, don’t you?’

That finally got him a brief, irritated glance. “If you came here to suck up, Brian, I’m telling you right now that it’s not going to work.”

“Who’s sucking up? I’m always honest.”

“Right.”

“Justin, shut the fuck up. It’s inspired,” Brian said, and predictably Justin rolled his eyes.

They moved gradually to stand in front of an abstract sketch on an enormous canvas done in charcoal. That simple, wild face turned out to be a self-portrait of Justin. Brian hadn’t seen the final product before.

“Nice,” was all he said, after a time.

“Easier to understand than the bird wings, right?” Justin said lightly.

“Yeah, in this one I can actually see what it is,” Brian replied. He looked away from the self-portrait and at the real Justin, at a face that said more than any artist could ever hope to capture.

They stood together in their first non-awkward silence in what felt like years. “I should have told you what was going on,” Justin said finally.

“Why didn’t you?”

Justin shrugged and flushed slightly. “I guess I didn’t want to make you feel like any less of a man.”

“Such a fucking martyr,” Brian said, but he was smiling, and then Justin smiled too.

*

Brian also learned how to be a man, and he came home two weeks later with a job and a six-figure salary. First he bought a bottle of very expensive vodka and the best weed he could find. The second thing he did was drag Justin to a furniture store for a couch. Justin was fussy about style and colour and Brian just wanted something big enough to fuck on. Eventually they decided on a beautiful white model not unlike his last one and as Brian stood to pay, Justin wandered away looking at lamps.

“Oh, no you don’t, Sunshine,” Brian called, tapping his wallet impatiently. “I’ve seen your checkbook, come over here and cough up some cash.”

It was the first thing they had ever bought for the loft together. To his credit, Justin didn’t say anything about love or partnership. He fucked Brian on it instead.

Afterwards Brian didn’t really feel like moving, and he couldn’t anyway, not with Justin still sprawled across his back, so they remained on the couch, Justin resting his chin in the crook of Brian’s shoulder.

It was always dangerous, this point after sex, especially after sex like that, if Brian didn’t escape to the bathroom or the kitchen; odd things could be said. And even if they weren’t said out loud, Brian thought them anyway, and that was almost as dangerous. But what the fuck was he supposed to think, when Justin was tangled with him so satiated and trusting with his nose breathing right in Brian’s ear, hair tickling his cheek, hands moving over his ribcage so gently? What the fuck would anyone expect him to do, if Brian Kinney wasn’t supposed to believe in love?

He entwined their hands, almost experimentally; Justin loved that. And he said the least dangerous thing he could think of. “We should get a new TV.”

“Okay,” Justin mumbled.

“You can buy the DVD player.”

He felt Justin’s smile against his skin. “Fuck you.” And Justin gripped his hand warmly, and so fucking tight.

-fin-



Reading this fic over, it appears I have a new hand fetish. Also Justin-control issues, but by now that is not a surpise to anyone.

Thanks to the usual suspects ragingpixie, erin21boch, altricial and eleveninches for the read-throughs and love. <3