Summary: Something better than chicken soup.
Note: Spoilers through 410, but only vague ones.
Thanks to quinn222, eleveninches, and throughadoor for most excellent betas, to flo and SDV for reading every little part that i added, and to sylvia plath for a title.
Dedicated to ragingpixie, in celebration (yes, celebration!) of her recent loss \:D/
Justin's strong -- he knows this. He's handled being disowned by his asshole father, getting cracked in the skull by a baseball bat, working eighteen-hour shifts at the diner after Brian lost his job, putting a gun in Chris Hobbs' mouth and then walking away. So he's not quite sure why, now that being strong is so important, he can't figure out exactly how to do it.
He sneaks a glance at Brian's incision, late one night after Brian has fallen asleep in a painkiller-induced haze. He lifts the elastic of the gray boxer-briefs as carefully as possible, sliding them down over slim hips just enough that he can see. He imagines a straight, neat slice through otherwise flawless skin, but what he finds makes him cover his mouth and gag: a swollen, oozing mound of flesh that's just starting to turn dark and bruised, black stitches spanning several inches, dried blood making the tiny xxxx pattern into a macabre grin.
Justin bites his hand hard to keep from crying and wishes uselessly that he could will the cancer out of Brian's body, will his skin perfect and unbroken again, smooth over the soft spot between hip and pubic bone that Justin can't help but mouth, press his thumbs against, drag his hair across, on his way to Brian's cock.
He gently pulls Brian's underwear back into place and, the next morning, formulates an elaborate story in case Brian asks why his eyes are so red. Brian doesn't ask, though, and Justin forgets the lie by the time he leaves for class.
Justin knows that Brian is undergoing radiation therapy, but Brian hides the details -- time and place and most of the after-effects -- for over a week, until Justin comes home early from class one afternoon to find Brian, shirtless and sweating, vomiting into the toilet. He sits against the bedroom wall, waiting while Brian rinses his mouth and brushes his teeth, and when Brian walks out of the bathroom, he looks at Justin like he's not at all surprised to see him there.
"Hey," Brian mutters, his voice sounding scratchy and raw, as he passes by and eases gently onto the bed.
"Hey," Justin says back, then kicks off his shoes and slides in next to Brian, pulling the covers up over them both. He lies on his side, one hand threading through Brian's damp hair, the other wiping the remnants of sweat from his forehead.
Brian falls asleep a few minutes later, and Justin scoots closer until their faces are pressed together, mouths almost touching. When Brian breathes out, Justin breathes in, and when he falls asleep, too, he dreams that his body is covered in tumors, but that Brian is gorgeous and tanned and healthy again. In the dream, he feels okay about this, even content, but he wakes with a start and has to run to the bathroom to throw up.
"Stop acting like a fucking baby," he whispers to his reflection in the mirror over the sink. "It was just your stupid imagination." He doesn't add, It wasn't even real, because it might have been just a dream for him, but it's real for Brian.
The next day, Justin shows up at Kinnetik in the morning, walks into Brian's office, and says, "Come on."
Brian raises an eyebrow but doesn't say anything. "I'm taking you to breakfast," Justin continues, "so that you have something to puke up after I take you to the doctor." He's kind of amazed when Brian doesn't argue at all, just follows him out to the Corvette and drives them to the diner.
Justin orders a huge stack of pancakes, and Brian gets halfway through his order for an egg white omelette, then stops mid-sentence and says, "Actually, give me pancakes, too." Justin glares at Debbie when her mouth opens in something like shock. Everybody knows about Brian's aversion to carbs, but it's not like he's actually going to digest any of this food, so Justin figures he might as well enjoy it. Justin devours his meal with his normal vigor, keeping one eye on Brian to make sure that he's actually eating.
"You need to drink more water," he says. "It'll make things easier."
Brian winces, but raises the glass to his mouth anyway, and Justin hates Brian's easy compliance.
When Brian emerges after the radiation treatment, he looks perfectly normal in his suit and tie, like it's any other day. Justin feels like this is somehow wrong, that there should be some external sign of the poison currently trying to kill the other poison inside Brian's body. He gets his sign when he meets Brian's eyes and sees the same dull, vague look that was present for months after the bashing, the one that he recognizes as a result of the nightmares that Brian didn't admit to having then but has openly confessed to this time.
This bothers him more than anything else, because he remembers how Brian was back then, a rock on the outside and falling apart on the inside, and so Justin kisses him in the middle of the waiting room and takes his hand as they walk outside. Brian doesn't protest, and Justin swears later, from the vague ache in his hand, that Brian held on tighter than usual.
Brian drives too fast on the way home, and Justin feels slightly afraid; he's not really up for tempting fate at this point. He worries that Brian isn't feeling well already, that maybe he should have driven them himself, and he starts to inwardly panic a little. What if Brian runs off the side of the road or into another car by accident? Brian must notice that Justin has tensed up, his left hand gripping the seat, because he grabs the hand and presses it to his cock.
"I'm going to fuck you so hard that you pass out when we get back," he says, catching Justin's eye in the rearview mirror.
"No, you're not," Justin admonishes, even though his thumb is rubbing hard against the seam of Brian's pants. "You're going to go home and get in bed, and you're probably going to throw up a few times, and then you're going to sleep."
Brian laughs and raises his hips slightly against Justin's hand. "Shows what you know, Sunshine," he says in a faux-mocking tone. "I have at least an hour before I have to get reacquainted with those pancakes, and I'm going to spend it fucking you into the mattress. Then I'll puke, and then I'll sleep."
Normally, it would take twenty minutes to get from the doctor's office to the loft, but Brian makes it there in twelve, pulling Justin by the hem of his shirt through the parking garage and into the elevator, backing himself against the wall and pulling Justin against him. Justin tries to be careful of Brian's healing incision, but Brian is frenetic and passionate, thrusting his tongue inside Justin's mouth in time with the press of his cock against Justin's stomach.
When the elevator arrives at Brian's floor, he opens the door quickly and leads Justin straight to the bedroom. They strip down to their underwear, fast and efficient, and Justin only hesitates when Brian reaches for the elastic on his own briefs to pull them down. He'd be lying if he said he weren't at least a little fearful of seeing the incision again, but then Brian is naked and lying on the bed in invitation, and Justin silently thanks all possible deities that the once-nauseating wound has closed up, is now fat and pink with no sign of blood and only mottled bruises surrounding it.
He lowers his mouth to it, runs his lips and tongue over the soft, raised skin until Brian's hands guide his head to his swollen dick. As Justin flattens his tongue against the underside and sucks the tip into his mouth, he reaches a tentative hand for Brian's balls and squeezes gently. Brian jerks semi-upright and his fingers clamp down on Justin's wrist, freezing it in place.
"Don't," he says when he pulls off and meets Brian's eyes. "Don't tell me to stop."
He feels Brian's grip loosen slightly, and Justin takes this as the only permission he'll get, so he takes Brian's cock all the way back into his mouth, hand still massaging the sac. He stops only when Brian's hips start to rise off the bed and his hands grip the sheets, and then it's just to reach for a condom, slide it down over Brian's length, and sink down until Brian is buried completely inside him.
They fuck slowly -- they have time -- and when they finally come, they're sweating and groaning and kissing furiously, holding tightly to each other.
When Brian's nausea ultimately hits, he lets Justin sit with him on the bathroom floor and sleeps easily when his stomach is empty. Justin watches him -- the rise and fall of his chest, the slight movement behind closed eyelids -- and thinks that maybe he was wrong before, imagining himself so fast and firm.
Maybe Brian was always really the strong one, taking Justin in when his father kicked him out, helping him draw and fuck and walk down the street again after the bashing. Brian, the one who stood up for him, fought for him, waited for him while he beat up straight people then came home looking for another brawl.
And maybe now it's Justin's turn, and the bedroom is the place where he can do it,
where a blowjob can mean "You're still beautiful," and Brian's fingers in Justin's ass can mean "I'm going to be fine," and a frantic face-to-face fuck can mean "I love you" and "Thank you" and "I'm not going anywhere."
Here, more than with words or prayers or chicken soup, Justin can feel strong, can figure out exactly what Brian wants and needs, and can do just that.