Jo Esther

This one was begging to be written back in the middle of S4, and I didn't have the nerve back then, but since you guys were so nice to me with Small Servings, I figured I'd give it a shot as well.

Thanks go out to quinn222 and bigboobedcanuck for the betas. *mwah* to you two.


Justin isn't sure when he became this person, this man. He tugs harder on his shoulder bag, the weight of its contents pulling him down, and trudges along the road, his pace determined. It’s late and he wants to be home before Brian begins to worry. Begins to ask him where he’s been.

Brian's been worrying a lot about Justin lately. He hasn't said anything, but Justin knows: he can see it in his eyes. Brian won't ever say a thing, believing instead that it's best to let Justin make his own decisions, his own mistakes. He is a man after all, and in order to become the best homosexual he can be, he has to do it on his own.

Not that Brian wouldn't offer advice. Justin knows that if he asked, Brian would tell him what he would do if he were in his position, but that's exactly why he doesn't ask. He doesn't want to know. He wants the freedom, the ability to do what he wants to do, on his own, right now.

Brian would tell him to ignore it, to leave it alone. To pretend it never happened and to sweep it under the rug. But Justin can’t do that. He’s tried. For years he’s tried. And at times, he thinks he’s succeeded. But then something happens and it all comes up again, like an infection that he only thinks he’s completely lanced.

Right after Darren got bashed, Justin found he couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned for hours, and no amount of drugs or sex seemed to help. Nightmares that he had thought were a thing of the past were back with a vengeance, and whenever he closed his eyes, all he could see was Darren's face. "You didn't do a thing," the face with the busted lip and swollen eye accused him. "You didn't say anything. Why should I?" The guilt was back, only this time it was worse. This time, it was guilt for another, not for himself, his mother or his lover.

Justin had never felt so helpless in his life, and he hated that feeling. The only thing he had ever wanted, or ever needed in his life was control over himself, and that was taken from him, stolen by someone who had no right. And now it was happening again. And when Cody showed up at the GLC, he knew instinctively that he had to join him. He sat by Lindsay and pretended to be nonchalant as he listened to Cody and his friends, but inside, he knew that what they were saying made sense, even though it was extreme. He couldn't stand by and let these things happen: he knew how it felt. He knows how it felt.


Standing at the downstairs entrance to 6 Tremont, Justin carefully opens his bag and peers inside. From the dark caverns within, a shiny metal gleam assures him that its presence is still there. He reaches in to touch it, to run his hand over its smooth coolness. Cody didn’t give him any bullets although he did offer. Justin refused to take them; said that Brian would never let them into the loft. Justin knows that Brian would never let a gun into the loft either, but he figures it’ll only be for a day or two. After all, he’s still technically living with Daphne, isn’t he? So what if he’s spending more time with Brian than he is in the little apartment over by the university these days? Justin shrugs it off. He’s doing what he has to do to feel safe, to help their entire community feel safe, and isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway?


There’s a little voice inside Justin’s head that he’s been hearing more often lately. It started when his mother commented on the haircut and returned when Brian mocked the pepper spray and when the rest of the Pink Posse bailed when Cody tried to teach them how to wrestle. Now it’s only Justin and Cody, and the guns, and the voice is getting louder. But Justin’s getting good at ignoring it.

When he and Brian wrestled on the floor of the loft, the voice was much louder. It yelled at him to stop, but by then it was too late: the power and the control were overwhelming, and if he could overtake Brian, he could overtake anyone, anything. Justin knew back then, and knows today, that he didn’t really overtake Brian that night. Brian is much bigger and heavier than he is: he could hurt him without really trying if he wanted to, but Brian would never want to.

Because even though Justin frustrates him and annoys him, Justin knows that on some level, he loves him. It might be a bizarre, twisted kind of love, but it’s there. No one else has ever gotten in, and no one else has stayed. It has to be love. What else could it be?


His anger comes through in his art, and Justin’s always said that the best art is that which is filled with emotion. As he fills in the precise squares and rectangles on his computer screen with elaborately planned-out sequences of homophobes getting their dicks cut off and shoved in their mouths, he feels a perverse feeling of euphoria, as though by drawing the gruesome scenes, he is accomplishing what no other artist could: equality for gay artists. After all, how many gay bashings have been depicted in comics? Now the tables can be turned, if only a bit. And wouldn’t it take a gay artist to draw a scene as horrific, as true as this?

When he gives the scenes to Michael, he can’t help but grin at the grimace that comes over his face. Michael is such a goody-goody and as his gaze moves over Justin’s newly shorn hair, pink shirt, and the graphic art that he presents to him with such a flourish, Justin can tell that he’s wondering what’s going on with him. What has happened to the Boy Wonder of yesteryear? Of yesterday?


When Daphne tells Cody about Chris Hobbs, Justin’s not sure how he feels. Part of him is embarrassed for bringing it all up again, but part of him is relieved to be able to talk about that part of his past, to bring it out into the open. It’s a part of who he is and he’s angry with the bastard. He wants to make him suffer. He wants all the straight assholes of the world to suffer like he has.

He can see that Daphne’s wondering what happened to him, too, but he doesn’t care. She can’t understand. She’s straight and she’s never had to suffer for her sexual orientation. He doesn’t see how she can understand what he’s feeling right now, except he knows she loves him and she’s only trying to help. He’s so torn and confused, but he knows he has to do what’s best for himself and his community, and as much as he loves her, she’s not part of that right now. No matter how hard she might try, she just can't understand.


The barrel of the gun is cold against his ass as he walks away from Brian. He tries desperately to hold his tears of anger and frustration in as he struggles to put the words together that will make Brian understand what he wants him to know.

“I have to do this, Brian,” Justin finally manages from across the room. His voice is quiet and hollow, and he’s not sure Brian can hear him.

“Do what?” Brian’s standing right behind him

“Help protect our community.”

“With a gun? And put your own life at risk in the process?” Brian says as he pulls the gun from Justin’s sweatpants and palms it in his hand.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Justin sighs as he takes it from him. Cody told him that no one would understand, and he sees that he was right. "You weren't bashed."

Brian sighs and Justin can feel his warm breath on the back of his neck. “No, Sunshine. I don’t understand how you putting your life at risk is helping to protect our community,” Brian finally says and Justin thinks he hears a twinge of sadness. There is no trace of sarcasm in his voice, for once.

“I have to do this. It’s the right thing to do.” Justin says as he walks away. He can feel Brian’s gaze on him, but he ignores it. He’s been doing a lot of ignoring lately.


When Cody takes him to the building site, Justin wonders at first why they’re there. He’s never been in that part of town before and the last thing he thinks they're going to do is intentionally seek out the man that tried to kill him that night two and a half years ago.

When Cody first points Chris out, Justin feels as though his legs are turning into water, and it’s all he can do to stay standing. He tries to look away, but he can’t, and when Cody tells him he found his information in the phone book, Justin can’t believe it. Part of him wants to run and hide like a little scared boy and he’s so ashamed. And part of him wants to wrestle him to the ground and beat the shit out of Chris: make him pay for the pain and suffering and trauma he’s caused. Instead he just stands there and watches.

When Cody calls Chris’ name, Justin reacts on instinct but it’s too late, and when Chris turns and looks into his eyes, Justin can feel his blood run cold, as though he’s looking into the eyes of a murderer. He remembers the words he told Brian that night he went looking for him, the day he got released from the hospital.

“The doctors said if Chris Hobbs had hit me even a fraction of an inch this way, or that way, or at a different angle, or even a little bit harder, I'd be a complete vegetable. Or dead.”

He remembers feeling a sick fascination with that knowledge back then, but looking at Chris now, all he can feel is the mocking tone of the words he throws at him. He’s not listening to what he’s saying: the words themselves are blocked out by the loud hum in his ears, but the expression on Chris’ face is enough to tell Justin that he’s being ridiculed. And when Chris turns and walks away, Cody’s sympathetic expression only confirms to Justin that yes, Chris wins again.


Justin knows he has to do something. Cody gave him Chris’ address and told him to meet him at his house tonight, but Justin isn’t sure if he wants to go. Yet this thing has been hanging over him for the past two and a half years, and if he doesn’t do something about it now, it’ll continue to control his life forever. And isn’t that what all of this is about, he asks himself. Not just getting control of Liberty Avenue, but getting control of his own life? His own thoughts, and feelings, and actions? And what if Chris does it to someone else? What if someday there’s another Darren: someone that didn’t need to be hurt, but was because Justin didn’t do anything? Justin doesn’t know if he would be able to deal with that: the guilt and anger and frustration are already stifling him.

Cody just wants to threaten him with the gun. “We’ll have the power this time,” he said when he told Justin where to meet him, and Justin thinks how much he needs to have that situation turned finally. Last time, Chris put a bat to Justin’s head. This time, Justin will have a gun to Chris’. And all he wants is an apology. And to scare him, just a little. To wipe that smirk off his face.

Justin thinks that's what he wants more than anything.


The house is a tract house in a middle-class neighborhood and Justin is convinced that Chris pissed in his pants before Justin removed the gun from his mouth and walked away to the sound of Cody’s insane ramblings. His head is clear and the night air is cool and as he walks, the gun in his hand starts getting heavier and heavier. Finally he stops at a sewer and, wiping it clean with the edge of his t-shirt, he pries up the grate and throws it in, hearing it splash in the water beneath the city. He heaves a sigh of relief as it’s carried away, and starts walking again.

An hour has passed before Justin stops walking, and as he looks up, he realizes that he doesn’t know where he is. A quick glance at his watch under a lamppost tells him that it’s nearly midnight. The busses have probably stopped running, and he doesn’t know where to catch his bus anyway. He goes to the closest intersection and pulls his cell phone out of his pocket, holding the 1 down for a prolonged second: Brian’s speed dial. He can hear the tinny ring on the other side of the line and then a muffled, “Hello?”


“Justin? Where the hell are you?”

Justin looks up at the street signs and reads them off. “I’m at the corner of Jane and 19th.”

Brian sighs and Justin can hear it across the terrible connection. “Fuck, Justin. That’s on the other side of the river.”

“Can you come get me?” Justin feels terrible but he really doesn’t know what else to do.

“Stay there. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Don’t talk to anyone and don’t go anywhere. And keep your cell on,” Brian sighs again. “What the fuck are you... nevermind. We’ll talk about it when I get there.” And he hangs up.

Justin wraps his jacket around himself and waits. And thinks to himself about all he’s been through in the past few weeks, and what he’s going to tell Brian.


When Brian drives up ten minutes later, Justin can tell he’s worried. Brian never shows it, but he knows he’s not that close to Liberty Avenue, and from the noises on the other end of the line, Justin could tell that Brian was either at Woody’s or the diner when he phoned, so he must have driven like a maniac. Justin throws the door of the car open and sits down, grateful for the warmth of the car. He turns to face Brian, who is looking at him curiously.

“You want to tell me what you’re doing all the way over here in the middle of the night?”

Justin shifts in his seat as Brian starts the car and pulls away from the curb. Brian’s never been one to mince words when it really counts, and he should have expected this. In a way, he kind of did. He takes a breath and carefully says,

“I saw Chris Hobbs tonight.”

Brian slams on the brakes with such a force that, had Justin not remembered to put his seatbelt on, would have sent him into the windshield. He cautiously turns to look at Brian, but Brian is looking straight ahead, his expression stony, his cigarette dangling from his lower lip.

“You want to repeat that?” His voice is cold.

Justin takes another breath. Brian is mad and nothing is scarier than Brian when he's mad.

"I saw..."

"I heard."

Justin stops talking and turns to look at Brian, who is gritting his teeth. Justin can tell because when Brian grits his teeth, his jawbone clenches and Justin has learned to see it on Brian's face. Brian puts the car in gear and Justin thinks that he's calmed down, but he only pulls it over to the curb before he puts it in park again.

After a minute, Brian shifts in his seat so that he's facing Justin, and Justin can't tell if he's angry or sad. He thinks it's a combination of both.

"You want to tell me why?"

"I’m not really sure, actually," Justin replies, and he's ashamed because it's the most honest answer he's got.


Justin nods.

"You know I'd never tell you..."

Justin interrupts. "I'm never going to see him again. He's wacko."

"Good. I was hoping you'd figure that out."

"Yeah. He wanted me to kill him." Justin shivers at the memory of what he came so close to doing.


Justin nods.


"Nothing happened. I left. He went home. I don't know where Cody is. I don't care."

"The gun?" Brian's careful. He doesn't want that gun around and he wants to drive that point home.

"I wiped it. Threw it into the sewer."


Brian turns to look at him carefully and suddenly Justin feels as though all his walls are tumbling down, as though all his control is gone. The heat of the car isn't enough anymore and he starts to tremble, shaking in his jacket, and when Brian leans over to wrap his arms around him, Justin can't fall into his embrace fast enough. He takes a deep breath and releases it, and somehow, he feels as though he's releasing years of anger. Brian's voice is whispering in his ear, murmuring soft words of comfort.


Justin can't remember how he got home the previous night but it’s morning now and he's in bed, awake, with Brian's warm body next to his. Brian's arms are around his waist and he's holding him, spooning him from behind as though the last thing on earth he'd ever consider doing would be letting Justin go. But Justin has to pee and he doesn't want to wake him up, so he shifts and tries to release himself from Brian's firm hold.

But Brian isn't sleeping.

"Where do you think you're going, Sunshine?" Brian asks, shifting along with Justin.

"Gotta pee," Justin says, trying to twist his way out of the tight grasp. "Let me up or I'll wet the bed."

Brian releases him in a hurry. "Do that and you get to clean it up. I never knew you were a piss queen," he says, sticking his tongue in his cheek.

Justin smirks and heads into the bathroom, and doesn't hear it when Brian gets up to follow him.

"Can't I even pee in private?" he laughs as Brian stands by him at the toilet and starts pissing alongside him.

"No," Brian says, as he looks at him, deadly serious. "Now come shower with me."

They shower and suck each other off and Justin can't remember being so turned on by Brian. Maybe it's because lately, his energy and focus have been elsewhere, but Brian seems to sense that Justin needs to feel him right now, so after he sucks him, he takes him out of the shower and lays him on the bed. He straddles him and starts kissing him everywhere. He starts at his feet and before he reaches his knees, Justin's begging him to fuck him. As he reaches his inner thighs, Justin is whimpering, and when Brian bypasses his cock and goes straight for Justin's hard little nipples, Justin is nearly incoherent with lust.

Brian apparently decides to take pity on him because he throws Justin's legs over his shoulders and leans over to kiss him. Justin feels him entering him, and although he's no longer in control, it's not a bad thing anymore. Because it's Brian and he loves Brian and he trusts Brian, and Brian loves him, and that's the kind of control he doesn't mind giving up.


After they come, Justin gets up and makes them coffee and eggs. Brian eats most of his for once, and together they spend the day in bed, fucking and reading and drawing and talking. Justin draws Brian's cock twelve times and Brian tries to draw Justin's once, but it comes out looking more like a banana, so they laugh about it for a while. Brian tells Justin about a new account he just got, and Justin tells Brian he wants to burn his pink t-shirt.

"Pink was never my color anyway."