Essence

Darksylvia


Timeline: Sometime after season 4
Rating: NC-17/mature
Warnings: Nothing major
Genre Drama



Sometimes Justin got tired of waiting. It wasn't until after the cancer had been and gone, after nights of interrupted sleep and seeing Brian eerily out of it with pain, that he figured out what it was he was waiting for. He felt the low-level expectation in his stomach, mostly ignored it, and was careful not to let Brian get a hint because it would probably either spook him or drive him to unleash one of those small, desperate acts of cruelty. Brian was a master at blind-siding him, at pressing the perfect button to make Justin go off, either in anger or lust. Sometimes both.

And this was it, what was worth waiting for: He was waiting to get to the middle of Brian Kinney. No matter how much Justin learned, there always seemed to be more depth to reach for. Brian surprised him every time, like twists on a dark road. There was a core to him that Justin was striving for. He knew it was there, he was so close sometimes he could almost taste it - times when Brian was raw or high or had broken down just enough to reveal a pathway inside. Justin would slip into the cracks, glimpse the whole, the essence, and then the understanding would melt away.

He didn't want it that way, anyway. It was too much like invasion instead of a gift. And Brian took back control soon enough, smooth and confident once more, shut the door again, like some inner mechanical fail-safe system had turned back on. Justin imagined Brian like a huge, expensive clock (usually when he was high, and the entire world came to him in brilliant metaphors). Justin knew he was only inside the outer case and still had miles of cogs and machinery to go through until he found the motor, the source. Justin tried to explain this to Brian once, but Brian was even higher than he was, and couldn't sit still long enough to listen to Justin's drug-fueled psychoanalysis. So they fucked instead, right up against the loft door. Justin imagined that Brian's tongue was speaking to him in each thrust, in the whirring language of clock parts.

The next time it became too much - Brian was cranky from working through the night on the Ford account, and was making snide remarks that each slid right under Justin's skin - Justin took his toothbrush and said, "I'm going to Daphne's. Have a good day at work." He kissed a half-dressed, uncaffeinated Brian on the ear and slid the loft door shut on his way out.

But he'd forgotten Daphne left on Friday for her exchange program in France, and even if the apartment was technically half his, he didn't like it much when Daphne wasn't there. So, it took at least a half an hour to convince Debbie - over the sandwich she'd insisted on fixing him - that there was nothing wrong. Brian and he hadn't had a fight, Brian wasn't being an asshole (or at least, not more than usual), Justin was perfectly fine.

He'd been there two days before Brian tracked him down, in the middle of the night. He had been dreaming of limbo, of floating in warmth with no reference points, no sight, no real touch. He opened his eyes at the sound of his name but his consciousness lagged behind and it took him a dreamy eternity to see Brian, standing by the side of the bed, his expression in shadows. Justin knew it was Brian because his profile was catalogued, imprinted in microscopic detail in some deep recess of Justin's brain and he would be able to recognize it anywhere at a single glance, brainwashed, fifty years in the future.

Justin twitched a little, met the gleam of Brian's eyes by the light seeping in through the closed blinds.

"You weren't at Daphne's," Brian said. His voice had that very subtle hoarse quality that usually meant he’d been chain smoking.

"She's away," Justin's voice crackled with sleep, surprising him. "And Debbie feeds me."

An exhalation - a dry laugh. Justin hadn't known that Brian had a key to Deb's house, but Brian tended to have things like that, so Justin didn't know why he was surprised. Brian's omniscience rarely failed, and sometimes it seemed like the universe went out of its way to give Brian the tools to do exactly what he wanted to do. Maybe it was trying to make up for its shitty choice of parents. Or maybe it did it just for entertainment - to see what Brian would do next.

"You turned your cell phone off." It was an accusation, even if Brian's voice was perfectly neutral.

"Some fucking survey person keeps calling me. I nearly threw it out the window."

Brian made a noncommittal noise and carefully found the edge of Justin's blankets, drawing them down until Justin was exposed to the air. He braced a hand on either side of him, leaned in close. His breath on Justin's jaw was surprisingly clean, no alcohol or drugs or cigarettes. Brian nosed along Justin's jaw, inhaling, smelling for the foreign scent of a trick.

Justin tolerated it, but felt a tiny bubble of annoyance burst through his grogginess. He drew a breath to tell Brian to back off, but Brian chose that moment to connect their mouths, lips sealed over breath exchanged, and a tablet was pressed to Justin's tongue. He could have broken the kiss, spit it out, asked what the fuck Brian was doing. He didn't. He wanted to see what the fuck Brian was doing. He always wanted to see, just like the universe. There were surprises and delights and sometimes a little bit of fear. Curiosity as an aphrodisiac.

So Justin swallowed the tablet and then Brian kissed him harder. Justin was never completely sure how he did that - how with others it was just more contact, as they shoved his lips uncomfortably back into his teeth, but with Brian it was like weightless, dizzy drowning. The world would suddenly constrict, air would get less important, Justin's body would rewire to respond before thought, and each subtle, hard shift of Brian's mouth felt like a direct line of fire from mouth to dick. Brian's tongue did not caress so much as invade, accompanied by a long-fingered hand that went behind Justin's head to hold him in place for the taking.

When Brian broke it off, just as hard as he'd started it, Justin realized his own hand was clenched in Brian's hair, that his lips were stinging and a little tender, and his heart was racing like he'd run the length of the neighborhood in ten seconds.

"What time is it?" Justin asked, panting a little.

"Too late for sleeping," said Brian.

"Okay," said Justin, skeptically. Brian stole the rest of the covers and draped Justin's coat across his chest.

"Get up," Brian said, going to stand by the door. Obviously something more was going on here than a very early morning fuck.

Justin obligingly sat up, shrugged on the coat over his bare chest, and found his flip flops. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and asked, "Where are we going?"

"Somewhere that isn't here," Brian said. Waves of restlessness came off of him and they infected Justin. He suddenly felt caged by the old familiar room. The little-boy wall paper felt shabby and depressed, instead of comforting.

They didn't touch as Justin preceded Brian down the stairs, both moving softly, automatically avoiding the steps that creaked, the pattern embedded underneath consciousness like a nursery rhyme, even if they'd learned the pattern in two different eras: Brian sneaking out with Michael, Justin sneaking out with Brian. Debbie probably knew the sound of the absence by now, anyway, and Justin wondered why they bothered.

The corvette was out front, a sleek getaway car, and Justin fell into the passenger seat, familiar cigarette and leather smell engulfing him. The sound of the car doors closing was much too loud for the still-dark morning, but the feel of the car purring to life under him felt just right, like a shot of clean energy all the way up his spine. Brian pulled away from the curb, driving too fast, intent on out-running the restlessness that had come gunning for both of them. Justin didn't know if he was feeling the effects of whatever Brian had given him, or if he just felt this way from being pulled out of sleep at three am, but his body was seemingly vibrating at a higher frequency.

The freeway was deserted and the moon was full, bleeding the color out of the world, leaving everything washed to dull silver. They drove for a long time in silence, smooth road, the horizon barely hinting at dawn. Justin only glanced at the speedometer once and the little lighted sliver hung over ninety-five. The hum soon melded with his bones and he could not tell if they were going fast or slow.

Justin didn't recognize the exit they took, only knew that he felt awake now, that his skin buzzed, that Brian's hands were beautiful as he gripped the steering wheel, and their movement seemed to be in accordance with some rhythm of higher symmetry just out of knowing. Justin let the thought go and drifted.

There were no streetlights, no gas stations. They turned down a one-lane road, the horizon flat. Justin thought it must be a farm field, or an undeveloped plot of land. There was nothing to mar the landscape except for a few far-off houses and Brian showed no signs of stopping, eyes straight ahead on the road.

"What did you give me?" he asked. It couldn't have been E, or he wouldn't be able to sit this still.

"Nothing you're allergic to," said Brian.

"Where are we going?"

"Nowhere." Brian laughed. "Underground. You'll like it. It's fucking creepy."

Nowhere appeared to be fifteen miles down the road, a couple of feet off it, in the form of two metal doors painted camouflage green with some numbers stenciled over them. Justin wondered why it wasn't locked, as Brian yanked the doors open. Whoever had built it probably figured it was so far out in the middle of nowhere, no one would find it. But Brian had. Another little favor from the universe. The universe probably thought Brian was hot, too. He stifled a laugh, ended up making a silly snorting noise and knew that the drugs were having their affect.

Brian took a pencil-thin flashlight from his jacket pocket.

"Well, are you coming?" He flashed the light in Justin's face, like an annoying ten-year-old. "Or are you going to stand out here giggling, while I have all the fun?"

"What fun is there in a deserted bunker?" Justin asked, going for haughty, but he knew he just sounded curious. He swatted the flashlight away.

"You'll just have to see, won't you, Sunshine?" It was the invitation-sneer that did it.

"It had better be worth it," he said. Brian grinned wolfishly and descended, Justin following right behind him.

The stairs were wide and smooth, and their footfalls made dull metallic sounds. The walls were lost in the dark unless Brian happened to swing his flashlight across them. It was creepy. Justin was pretty sure he heard rats.

When they came to a crossroads, Brian turned left. At the next he turned right, and then left again, completely sure in his movements. The halls all looked exactly the same. Horror movies start this way, thought Justin, and walked a little closer to Brian, the back of his neck prickling involuntarily.

Brian stopped. Justin ran face-first into his back, and they both stumbled a little. Justin looked around Brian to see what the holdup was. He was blocking the archway to a small room, shining a flashlight around it. Justin tried to squeeze impatiently around him, but Brian caught his upper arm and hauled him back. Then, wordlessly, he shone the light downward and invited Justin to look, with a nod of his head.

Rat traps. All along the front of the door. Rusted, but not sprung.

"Watch your step," he said, with a shifted jaw and lift of eyebrow.

The room was small enough that the tiny flashlight illuminated all of it, dimly. There was a wooden table - the kind you saw with "free" signs on the side of the road. There was a blue gym mat, a stack of slightly yellowed books and magazines, and a dusty soda can. The only other item was a metal box, about one foot by one. Something clicked in his head, like fitting the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, when he saw the tiny James Dean picture taped to the wall, obviously ripped from a book.

"How long has it been since you've been here?" Justin asked. He looked back to meet Brian's steady gaze.

Brian shifted away from the wall, prowled a couple of steps forward, glancing around. "Sixteen years."

Justin did the mental math. Seventeen. Right before college.

"I wasn't even sure I could find it again," said Brian. His voice was at his most disinterested, which usually meant that he was taking extra special care to hold himself in check.

Justin stared at him a moment longer, but when nothing else was forthcoming, he dropped to his knees and tipped the lid on the metal box open. It creaked so loud Justin nearly jumped.

"Come over here with the flashlight," he demanded.

Brian ambled over and pointed it down into the contents of the box. The tray on top held a lighter, a really old pack of cigarettes, a deck of cards, a condom, and - Justin grinned - a cracked tube of ancient and mostly-dry lube. He tossed it over his shoulder at Brian without looking, and the light swung erratically as Brian caught it. Then Justin pried the tray out and moved it aside. He felt Brian shift, crouch at his side, but he didn't look up.

He pulled out was a really old camera. The kind where you had to buy the flash separately. There were two pictures left, but the film was probably rotted. He handed it to Brian, who handled it carefully, his long fingers whipping the dust off. Justin kept digging. The only other thing inside was a small, cheap photo album. He glanced at Brian, maybe for some kind of permission, and then fell back, cross-legged, his shoulder bumping Brian's.

The first couple of pages were of Brian and Michael - incredibly young but recognizable. Michael making faces, Brian making lewd gestures, and a few where Michael obviously hadn't been aware he was about to be photographed. There were a handful of Debbie with real red hair, looking thinner and distinctly less worn, but the same smile. Justin felt a weird surge of jealousy that he wasn't there to know her then, wasn't there for any of this. And Vic was in some of the pictures, joltingly handsome, almost unrecognizable as the AIDS-wracked surrogate uncle that Justin had known.

There were none of Brian's family. Not one.

After those pictures were - art. Real art. The kind of pictures that were hung in photo exhibits, the kind that caused bright, warm splashes of color and feeling to wash over Justin, like his favorite paintings did. The angles were nothing less than brilliant, and each shot made some mundane object look vital and captivating: A bizarre pattern of sidewalk cracks, shot from a slant. A sunset-streaked skyscraper, taken from the ground and the top gone to the vanishing point. A random little girl, canine missing from her bright smile, in sharp contrast to the dank, rainy, litter-filled street behind her.

"Brian," Justin said, and stopped afraid his voice would crack, "Brian," he tried again. "These are...fucking good. These are... Wow." Justin finally looked up. Brian was watching him, his expression almost calculating, greedily taking in all the things Justin was sure were passing over his own face. He went back to flipping pages and said, "You could have gotten a scholarship anywhere with these. They're brilliant."

He didn't think Brian was going to answer, but after several seconds of silence, characterized only by the sound of pages turning, Brian said, "I already had a full ride. I'm a better ad man than I would have been a photographer." Justin was not convinced that was the case, but he didn't argue. It occurred to him that Brian and he had both taken their independence for the same reason, but through the exact opposite choice, each selecting a foil to their parent's lives. Brian went for money, left his father's blue-collar, wage-slave, drunkard path behind by getting rich. Justin chose his art, even if it meant poverty in place of upper-middle-class comfort.

At the second to the last page, some papers fluttered out. The largest was a birth certificate for one Brian Augustine Kinney.

"Augustine?" Justin asked.

Brian shrugged, their coats rubbing together. "Mom liked the name. She wanted a saint's name. And she got her way because Jack didn't give a fuck."

Justin placed the certificate aside and picked up the other paper, a blurry photo that had landed in his lap. He stared at it.

Joan Kinney smiled back, her hair dark, her face with fewer lines. She was actually kind of pretty. She was holding a chocolate cake decorated with candles. Justin flipped it over but there was no date. He looked up at Brian expectantly.

Brian took the picture and studied it. "I turned fourteen. It was the last year dear old mom was sober enough to do anything to celebrate it. Well," he uttered a low, humorless laugh, "At least until she and God became best buddies again and before she found out her son was going to hell."

"Oh." There was nothing to say to that. At least, nothing that wouldn't make Brian scornful.

They were silent as Justin replaced the contents of the box and closed the lid.

Brian stood, took out his lighter, and started to light a cigarette. He changed his mind. Instead, he held up the picture and lit the edge.

"She's dead," Brian said, without inflection, as the picture caught. "Heart attack. This morning." He let it drop to the ground.

"Shit, Brian." Justin stood up quickly, put a hand to the side of Brian's face.

"Don't you dare say 'I'm sorry'," he told Justin. "I'm not. She's certainly not - it's what she wanted."

"She was your mother, Brian." Justin stepped up and laid a hand on his chest. "You're allowed to be sorry, even with all her faults." Then he wrapped both arms around Brian's waist, face into his leather jacket. Brian leaned his head against Justin's, nose near ear. They stayed like that, and Justin held still to the best of his ability, though he still felt like he was vibrating from emotion and drugs warring inside. When Brian pulled away Justin thought maybe, just maybe, he felt the cool aftermath of moisture on his cheekbone.

"She was bigoted, like my dad, but she still loved you," said Justin. "I love you." Justin kissed his cheekbone, his hairline, his mouth, and it said more than anything else that Brian let him, stood there and accepted the comfort for once.

Minutes ticked by, marked by Brian's very non-mechanical heartbeat. Brian turned his head, their foreheads still touching. His eyes focused and he kissed Justin. The first was gentle, the second not very.

Justin gave back roughness for roughness, both of them unshaven and teeth scraping together. Brian clutched his arms hard enough to bruise and Justin retaliated by biting his lip nearly hard enough to draw blood. While Justin had his eyes closed, the world went suddenly sideways and Brian unceremoniously tripped him onto the gym mat, both of them landing kind of hard and neither caring. Justin's skin felt prickly and sensitive, and he felt another barely-there slide of moisture from Brian's cheek against his.

Brian bit his neck, his collarbone, worked off Justin's jeans and nearly gave him rug burn. And Justin arched up into him, encouraging him with sharp breaths, nails, teeth, pulled hair. Then next second, Brian sank into him, his hands gripping Justin's hips hard, and nothing but a lubed condom between them. He bit Brian's ear so hard Brian jerked and they clung and writhed, Brian trying to pin him down and Justin bucking up, thwarting Brian’s control.

His orgasm was quick and brutal, various other parts of his body stinging even as Brian followed him down into the blank mind-wipe of pleasure.

Their ragged breathing filled the room, and eventually Brian sat up, zipped up, and smoothed a hand over Justin's sweaty hair.

"The rest of this place is empty," he said. "I've explored it all. Let's get the fuck out of here."

"Okay," Justin said. He knew any attempt to talk about Joan would be met with a frosty subject-changing. What had happened in this bunker was Brian-style therapy. He let it go.

When they neared the front, a patch of moonlight lit the way and Brian switched off his flashlight.

"What did Michael say when you found this place?" Justin asked.

"Michael's never been here," he said. Justin processed that. At the top of the steps, he laughed.

It made so much sense that Brian Kinney kept his soul in a bunker in the middle of nowhere.

Brian glanced over his shoulder and dropped back to cup a hand around Justin's neck. "Why don't you share with the rest of the class, Mr. Taylor?"

"I want to see the rest of your photographs tomorrow," said Justin. He gave Brian a hard look, tempered by a determined twist of his mouth that could be interpreted as a smile. He knew there were more photos. You didn't just stop when you could do that with a camera, just like you didn't stop drawing if that's what you were meant to do.

"If I can find them," Brian said dismissively. And he would, Justin knew, if there were a distinct lack of blow jobs proportional to the lack of photos.

Justin wondered if he was through to another layer of the clock, imagined he could hear what made Brian tick a little more strongly than before.

As they drove in pre-dawn stillness, Justin realized that Brian was waiting, too. He was climbing, slowly, as layers of old habit fell away. Brian loved freedom above all things - perhaps even above Justin - and he was carefully and methodically tearing down the unnecessary walls. Only, Justin was invited now, where before he'd just been tagging along as Brian tried to leave him behind.

They'd get there eventually.

-end-