Rating: NC-17
Summary: Brian’s not so good at expressing himself.
Disclaimer: Cowlip. Sue not.

Many thanks to eleveninches and juteux. altricial is responsible for anything you might find funny. Namely, Justin's hallucination.

For Cait.


It happens that Brian scores some premium E, and Justin winds up doing a tab three nights in a row. Justin knows Brian won’t think anything of it. He probably just appreciates the extra blowjobs.

When it’s the fifth night in a row, Justin senses that Brian starts to notice. He gives Justin half a tab instead of a whole one, but when Justin isn’t high after an hour he makes Brian give him the other half. He pretends to look for Brian’s keys in his pocket and steals the last tab.

The seventh night in a row is when Justin has his bad trip, and somehow things spiral out of control without either of them ever being really aware of it.

* * *

Justin sidles up to Brian while dancing and lays his forehead on Brian’s bare arm. Brian turns to him immediately and tests the back of Justin’s cheek with his fingers. “Christ,” Justin hears him mutter above the music, and drags him out of Babylon. He shoves Justin up against the alley wall. “Drink,” he snarls, and uncaps a bottle of water.

Justin reaches for the bottle and misses it, so Brian presses it into his grasping fingers and brings his hand to his mouth. Justin manages two swallows before coughing and shoving the bottle away. “No,” he mumbles. “Don’t want it.”

“Sure you do,” Brian says, stroking his hair away from his forehead. “Just one more swallow.”

Justin leers and cups Brian’s dick through his jeans. “Okay,” he agrees, but Brian dislodges his hand.

“Of water,” he says patiently, although he shifts uncomfortably and tries to adjust his erection.

Justin notices and presses up against him. “You’re hard,” he whispers, and the words come out on a puff of white breath in the frigid air. “You want it. You want me to suck you off. You want me to swallow everything you can give me.” He rubs hard in just the right place and Brian looks to the sky – probably to ask for forgiveness – because he grips Justin’s ass tightly in both hands and lets Justin grind on him.

But Justin stops after a minute or two, feeling pale and dazed, although his skin still pulses with heat. Brian opens tightly closed eyes and looks at him questioningly. “I think there’s centipedes,” Justin tells him, and it is suddenly imperative that Brian believes him.

“There’s what?”

“Centipedes,” Justin says firmly, and pushes away from the wall, looking at the palm of his hand. “See?” And he shows Brian his hand, horrified at the little legs crawling all over it. “Centipedes.”

Brian nods once and steers Justin to the car.

* * *

Home turns out to be worse than Babylon, because Justin thinks the couch is an elephant. Brian actually finds it sort of funny.

“Why isn’t it moving?” Justin whispers, toeing one of the legs.

“Maybe you need to feed it,” Brian tells him seriously, and Justin nods.

“We got any peanuts?”

“No,” Brian sighs, and goes to take a shower.

Justin makes microwave popcorn while he’s gone and is throwing it at the elephant when Brian gets out.

“Elephants don’t eat that,” Brian says, watching him.

“But we’re out of apples,” Justin says, and bursts into tears.

Justin cries for the poor starving elephant until Brian fills a glass with water at the sink and sits Justin down at the table. “Drink it,” he says, and Justin makes a face but does it.

But he can’t let go of the elephant issue, and pesters Brian to tell him when they’re going to go shopping for peanuts. Brian is amazingly patient until Justin starts insisting they go out now to the Giant Eagle.

“Justin, Jesus fucking Christ! You only had a tab and a half!” Brian’s voice is rising, and Justin is a little queasy.

“Todd was in the back. Gave me another one,” Justin slurs, and misses the alarmed look Brian throws him. “I don’t feel good,” he finally mumbles, slumping down in his chair, and his jaw begins to ache.

“Shower,” Brian says, and half-drags him into the bathroom.

They spend the rest of the night alternating between Justin pacing restlessly around the loft and Brian rubbing soothing circles on his back when he starts vomiting.

* * *

They don’t talk about it the next day or the day after that, even though both of those days are spent with Justin coming down off his high and he doesn’t leave the bed except to piss and drink more water.

Brian goes to work and stays late and Justin wants to call him but doesn’t. But Brian comes home every night, changes into jeans and a tank top, and watches television with Justin until they both fall asleep on the couch.

Brian brings him a sandwich on the third night and Justin finally feels like eating it, so Brian stops giving him irritated glances.

* * *

Two days later, Justin comes home to find Brian sharing a joint with Michael.

“Oh my God. Give me a hit of that,” he says. “Work sucked ass.”

Michael starts to hand it over, but Brian stops him. “No. There’s a new pack of cigarettes on the counter, smoke those.”

Justin blinks at him. “What?”

Michael looks at Brian strangely and tries to take the joint from him. “Brian, what the fuck. Let him have some.”

“Yeah,” Justin says mutinously, “what the fuck?”

A muscle jumps in Brian’s cheek and he jerks his wrist out of Michael’s grasp. “Fine, give it to him,” he shrugs. “What do I care.”

Justin inhales the marijuana and holds it for a minute. He closes his eyes and lets the smoke out and feels the weed steal over him blissfully, and ignores Brian’s heavy stare from across the room.

* * *

They don’t speak for three days, but they fuck every night.

Justin remembers when he used to like angry sex. At the beginning, when their relationship was undefined and unconventional and Justin had to beg, steal, and borrow every little emotional crumb he could find, he would try to make Brian angry.

When Brian was angry, he was raw and real and naked, and Justin could read everything. And sometimes, Brian let him. Sometimes, after Justin gave him phenomenal head or let Brian fuck him into the ground or bed or wall and left him gasping and breathless beneath him, he could actually see Brian. They wouldn’t talk, but they would grunt and grab and bruise each other, and afterward they would lie breathless together and feel the sweat dry on their bodies. Justin used to love those times.

He doesn’t like angry sex any more.

Brian fucks him from behind and Justin knows it’s so he doesn’t have to look at him. Justin lowers his head to the pillow and lets Brian pound into him, absorbs the impact with his back and legs and heart.

They come at the same time, Brian with a groan and Justin in silence.

* * *

They start talking again gradually, and Justin’s not quite sure why they weren’t speaking in the first place but thinks it has to do with the Ecstasy thing. He gets brave one night and asks.

“Why should I care if you overdosed on E,” Brian snorts, and goes back to flipping through his magazine.

“I didn’t overdose,” Justin brats at him. “God. It’s not like I died.”

“Not this time,” Brian shrugs, and Justin narrows his eyes.

“Not any time.”

“Oh, fucking Christ, Justin! You sound like you’re a shit-headed fourteen year old who thinks you’re invincible!” Brian flings the magazine in a wide arc. It sails through the loft and knocks a candlestick off the table.

“Brian. Calm down.” As soon as the words leave his mouth, he knows they’re the wrong ones.

Brian cocks his head and pins Justin in place with his eyes. “I am calm,” he says softly.

Justin bites his lower lip and nods quickly. “Yeah, okay.” There’s a storm coming, and Justin winces inwardly.

“I’m so calm, in fact, that I think maybe it’s time to share some of my calmness. Then we can both be calm.”

Justin tries for a casual laugh, but it just comes out as a breath.

Brian advances on him. “What is this fucking shit, all of a sudden? You feel like asserting your independence or something?”

“I’m not your kid, Brian. Jesus. I don’t have to assert my independence. I am independent.” Justin holds his ground and lets Brian come very close. He is surprised to see that Brian is nearly vibrating with anger.

“You’re not independent,” Brian hisses in his face. “You’re stupid. How the fuck did you get to be twenty years old and so damn stupid?”

Justin knows him well enough by now to understand that Brian does not mean “stupid” in the traditional sense. “Stupid” is Brian’s word for “naďve”, because innocence and naivete are two inexcusable shortcomings.

Justin still takes no less offense to it.

“You’re the stupid one,” he shoots back, and Brian narrows his eyes. “Three fucking years, Brian, and you’re still acting like I can’t figure you out. Like I’m going to cower before you like the rest of your subjects. If you have something to say, then say it. Otherwise, fuck off.”

Justin grabs his jacket from the back of a chair and makes sure he slams the door.

* * *

Ben gets sick and no one expects it.

Justin goes with Brian to the hospital because even though they’re back to not talking again, it really has nothing to do with them and everything to do with Michael.

Justin watches Michael be a mess in the hallway of the hospital, but pull it together whenever he walks back into Ben’s room. He marvels at it, sort of, because Michael’s never been one to hide any of his emotions. But he does it.

Justin knows Brian has a lot to do with the “pull it together” part.

They sit together in the cafeteria, Brian nearly force-feeding Michael his pudding, while Justin discreetly observes. Brian fields the doctor’s questions, cajoles the nurse into bringing an extra blanket, and manages to steer Michael into the hallway when Ben’s coughing spasms almost cause him to pass out.

And when Michael bites his lip to keep from crying and it starts to bleed, Brian holds Michael’s head to his chest and lets him bury his face in Brian’s shirt.

Justin wonders if he’ll ever get that same compassion.

They say goodbye after four hours and an assurance from the doctor that Ben can fight off the pneumonia and should be home in three days. Justin sees Brian plant a gentle kiss on Michael’s forehead and murmur something in his ear, and Michael gives him a wan grin. “Yeah,” Michael answers. “Always will.”

It doesn’t bother Justin as much as it used to.

* * *

They ride back home together in silence, and suddenly Justin is tired of the drama. “Is Michael okay there by himself?” he asks, not really caring what kind of answer he gets, as long as he gets some response.

“Deb’s picking up Vic and Hunter after her shift and going right over.”

“Because we could go back later or something.”

“I might. You can go do whatever you want.”

Justin knows Brian excludes him on purpose, and despite everything it sort of makes him laugh that Brian fucking Kinney is being passive-aggressive. Maybe there’s hope.

“Okay,” Justin says easily, and looks out the window so Brian won’t see him smile.

Brian parks in his usual spot and Justin trails up the stairs after him, watching as he leaves his keys on the counter and drops onto the sofa with a sigh. “I hate hospitals,” he says into the stillness.

Justin makes a noise of agreement. “Yeah. We should go out or something.”

“Go ahead. I have work to do.”

“Or …” Justin leans over the back of the couch and nuzzles Brian’s ear. “Or we could stay in.”

Brian jerks his head away from Justin’s and gets up. “Go out,” he says abruptly, leaving Justin puzzled and uneasy. “Just go the fuck out and get drunk or high or both together, Justin. See how much of your guard you can let down and how many fucking idiots you can trust and how fucking sick you can make yourself, and then when you wind up positive, Mikey and I can come visit you in the hospital!”

He finishes on a shout, and Justin blinks. “Positive? What the fuck?”

“Did you not see Ben in that hospital bed? Did you not see what can happen to you?”

“It can happen to any of us,” Justin says. “It can happen to you. What the hell, Brian? Why’re you being so … I dunno. So weird?”

Brian whirls around and stalks across the floor to where Justin still stands next to the couch. Justin has a moment to realize that Brian never shouts at him from across the room, preferring instead to try and intimidate with his nearness.

Two years ago, it might have worked.

Now, Justin stands his ground and lets Brian come close enough so that Justin has to look up at him. Brian glares back. “You were a completely irresponsible dumbass last week,” he says, and Justin is a little bit alarmed at the tone of his voice.

“You could be talking about me forgetting to buy cereal, Brian. You always think I’m an irresponsible dumbass.”

“The E, Justin! God! If I hadn’t been there to drag your sorry, hallucinating ass home, what would you have done?” Brian rakes a hand through his hair in frustration.

“Uh. Called your cell?” Justin is still unsure how taking too much E makes him positive, but decides against asking.

“Before or after some stupid fucker talks you into barebacking?”

Justin decides that Brian is either insane or high himself. “Are you fucking kidding me with this? Why would I do that? I’d never be that high.”

Brian tightens his lips and Justin watches something unnamable flit through his eyes. And then suddenly, something appalling occurs to him.

“Did – um. Did that happen to you?” Justin swallows hard and prays prays prays for Brian to laugh and roll his eyes and say something acerbic so Justin can forget this idea ever planted itself in his head.

But Brian’s never done anything that Justin’s prayed for him to do.

Justin puts a hand to his face, carefully, afraid that Brian might bolt or brush him away. He doesn’t. Brian closes his eyes and turns his face into Justin’s palm, nuzzling it with his nose and sighing deeply.

* * *

They drop to the floor because the bed is too far, and an unspoken battle for dominance ensues.

Justin wants to laugh at Brian’s puzzled expression when he finds himself on the bottom, pinned beneath Justin’s weight. A feeling of triumph starts to well up and Justin thinks maybe, this one time, Brian will let him stay where he is and play King of the Mountain.

But Brian doesn’t play – not ever – and Justin doesn’t know why he always forgets that. It’s not a game between them, even though it used to be. At least for Justin. But patterns shifted somehow over their three years together, patterns that Justin used to dream of and wish for and confess to Daphne, and then. Funny thing. He never even noticed when they became reality because he was still too busy trying to look inside Brian.

So Justin winds up under him again, hardwood floor biting into his shoulderblades, while Brian covers him.

Justin thinks that maybe it’s not really such a bad place to be.

And when Brian rests his forehead against Justin’s and entwines their fingers, Justin knows it’s not a bad place to be. Especially when Brian leans down to suckle at his neck, creating suction with his mouth and bringing blood to the surface that Justin knows will still be there tomorrow morning when he looks in the mirror.

Brian only marks him like that when he feels possessive, so Justin lets him.

And when Brian urges Justin’s legs apart, sucking and nipping at the head of his cock, Justin lets him do that too. His head falls back, his neck arches on the floor, and Justin groans Brian’s name when his dick is engulfed in hot, wet strokes. Justin is so painfully hard that if Brian keeps it up for another ten seconds, he knows he’ll embarrass himself by coming all over both of them but he doesn’t care, it’s so sweet and good and Justin can’t ever get off like this with anyone else.

At the edge, at the very last second before Justin is about to come, Brian rips the condom open and slicks them both with his own saliva. Justin catches his eye as he pushes in and they hold each other’s gaze, flushed and sweaty and ready and together. Brian watches him as he thrusts and Justin doesn’t look away, hearing more in Brian’s silence than he ever does when they’re speaking.

Brian’s nostrils flare and he takes on a look of urgency that Justin recognizes every time, and Justin tries so fucking hard to hold on and not give in. But Brian knows what to do, unfortunately for Justin, and just when Justin thinks he might be able to ride it out, Brian lowers his dark head and murmurs Justin’s name.

Justin comes like he’s been waiting forever.

Brian follows soon after with his face buried in Justin’s neck, muffling his quiet groans as he rocks against Justin’s chest and clutches a fistful of Justin’s hair.

They lay tangled in silence for a long time, and Justin watches the shadows lengthen across the floor.

* * *

They crawl into bed after Justin starts to shiver on the cold floor. Brian urges Justin to sprawl out on top of him.

“I’ll be more careful,” Justin says, his cheek pressed to Brian’s chest.

Brian is silent. Justin listens to his heart beat.

“Yeah,” Brian says, after a long time. “Do that.”