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From a Safe Distance

Keira


So, since I was spoiled for Justin getting offered the job in L.A., a post-S4 series has been swirling around in my brain the last few weeks. It's going to be angsty, because I love to torture fictional characters. Just keep in mind that I'm the sappiest sap who ever sapped.

This is canon up to 414, and isn't a continuation of any other fic I've written. This is all going to be Brian's POV, I think. The title comes from one of my favourite songs ever, Cathedrals by Jump Little Children. Everwood fans will recognize it as the utterly perfect song that was played during the pre-surgery montage in "Home," the S1 finale. (Poor, pretty, tragic Colin. Sniff.) So beautiful, I can listen to it over and over, and I think it fits Brian and Justin very well at this point. The whole notion of going home, but trying to figure out exactly where that is.

Anyway, onto the story. I'd really appreciate feedback, as always. :)



*****************

Part 1

Cynthia drums her fingers on my desk until I finally look up and acknowledge her. “Can I help you?”

“When are you going home? It’s almost midnight. I’m leaving, and you are, too.” Her tone is firm, and she’s looking at me like she’s just daring me to argue.

“I’m off my deathbed, Cynthia, I’m allowed to stay up as late as I want, just like all the other big boys.” A broken collarbone sure as hell isn’t going to keep me from doing my work. I look back down at the Brown Athletics ad that I’m rewriting, and wonder why I even bother hiring copywriters and art directors when no one can do it as well as I can.

She turns out my desk lamp and grabs the paper out of my hand. “The office is closing.”

Now, I have two options: I can get mad and be a bigger prick than I usually am to her, or I can roll my eyes and piss and moan, but capitulate. Truth is, I’m tired. So I do my eye-rolling routine and gather up my shit.

On the street, she hails a cab for me before heading to her own car. She asks me again if I want a ride, but it’s out of her way, so I refuse. She tells me to get some sleep and squeezes my elbow as the cab pulls up. I never told her I have cancer, but nothing gets by Cynthia for long, and I know she knows.

Wait. Had cancer, I mean. Past tense.

In the taxi, I consider heading over to Babylon. Justin said he was going, and I haven’t really seen him much since the ride. Fuck, has it been a week already? We’ve both been busy with work, school, all that shit. Not to mention the movie. He’s not sure when they’re going to start production, but he said the meeting went well. Maybe he can go visit the set when they’re filming. I could come, too. Never really been to L.A., just once on business, so it doesn’t count.

Screw it, I’m tired. I give the driver the address and sit back, eyes closed. I may not be sick anymore, but I still need to get a good night’s sleep once in a while, especially with this broken bone. I’m tired of having my arm in this goddamned sling. It makes everything harder; all those little things you take for granted most of the time, like driving and eating and pissing and fucking. Not that I’ve been doing much fucking lately.

Yeah, things have been crazy since the race.

At home, I try to shrug out of my clothes without causing myself too much pain. I really want a shower, but I can’t be bothered with my arm like this. Once a day will have to do for now. As I go to hang my suit up, I stop and pull open the bottom drawer in the dresser with my foot.

Still empty.

As I walk to the kitchen to find something to eat, it seems like the floor echoes more than usual.


****

I wake slowly, small and soft noises gathering together to eventually penetrate the darkness of my dreams. The numbers on the digital clock glow too brightly, and I blink wearily. Almost four o’clock.

He’s late.

I can hear him quietly tip-toeing into the bedroom, shedding his clothes. I consider rolling over and asking him how Babylon was, but the bathroom door closes. A minute later, the shower is running, and I don’t need to ask.

At least one of us got lucky.

When he slides into bed, trying not to wake me, I wait for him to curl up behind me. Wait for his lips to touch the back of my neck gently. For his breath to float by my ear. For his body to meld to mine.

I lie still for long minutes. Finally, I look over my shoulder to see him curled up on the other side of the bed, away from me.

The minutes seem to go by even more slowly after that.


****

"Just try not to screw it up too badly, okay?" Sebastian nods rapidly and turns back to his computer. The ad looks good so far, but I'll tell him that when he's done.

I leave work on time for once and head over to pick up Gus. It’s been two weeks and I can finally drive again, so I figure we can go out for burgers and fries. I’m sure he's up to his eyeballs in granola.

At the munchers', my knuckles barely graze the door before Gus flings it open and grabs me around my legs.

“Daddy!” He clings to me and bounces excitedly.

It’s hard to believe that I thought I wouldn’t love him.

“Hey, Sonny Boy,” I say, as I crouch down to hug him. My arm’s out of the sling, but the bone will take at least another month to heal, so there’s no way I can pick him up. “You all ready to go?”

He nods eagerly. “All ready, Daddy. I just get my coat.”

“Okay, let’s say bye to Mommy.” He runs back inside and I close the door behind me. “Lindz?”
“She went out.” I walk around the corner into the living room and find Melanie sitting on the couch, Jenny asleep in her arms. “Checking out a few…places.” She looks at Gus and then back down at the baby.

Christ. They’re really going through with it.

I clear my throat. “Gus, why don’t you go upstairs for a minute and get your bear.” He nods and toddles off, one arm in his coat, the rest dragging behind.

“Make sure you have him back on time, he needs to be in bed by nine.”

“I know, I heard you and Lindz the first five times you said it.” I sit on the arm of the couch and peer down at Jenny. She really is a cute baby, Mikey did good. And I guess Mel had something to do with it, too.

“Well you’ve been known in the past to have selective hearing.” Mel shifts, and Jenny gurgles and opens her eyes. We sit in silence for a minute, watching her.

Sighing, I tell her, “It doesn’t have to be this way.” Even an asshole like me can see that Lindsay and Melanie still love each other. Mel doesn’t say anything, just rocks the baby. Then she sniffs, and Jesus fucking Christ, she’s crying.

She sniffs again, loudly. “Goddamned hormones.” She wipes her cheeks and keeps her head low. “Not everything can be fixed, Brian.”

“Yes it can. You just have to want it badly enough.”

She laughs ruefully. “Yeah, and sometimes that’s the problem. Knowing what exactly it is you want. It’s harder than it looks.”

I reach down and Jenny grasps my finger with her little fist. “Well, I know one thing for sure.”

“Oh, please do enlighten me.”

“That’s one beautiful fucking baby.” Jenny coos and I smile at her.

Mel blinks up at me in surprise, then looks down at Jenny. “You’re damn right she is.”

Gus barrels back downstairs with his bear in hand, and I help him finish putting on his coat. He kisses Mel goodbye and then kisses the baby’s cheek, too.

“Don’t let him have any Coke, just juice,” Mel orders.

I roll my eyes and nod. “Aye-aye, captain.”

We go around the corner into the doorway, and she calls Gus back. “Be good for your Daddy, Gus.”

He says he will, and I shut the door quietly behind us.


****

The fridge closes with a thwap. I really don’t know what I’m looking for, since I already stuffed myself full of fat and carbohydrates with Gus. I also drank a Coke the size of an ice bucket, and can’t sleep. Justin’s out again.

The drawer is still empty.

Well, to be fair, it does have a t-shirt and some underwear and socks in it. But I know that these are just tokens, and he hasn’t actually answered me one way or the other. At first, I didn’t really notice. I was busy, I was in pain, and there’s no way he would say no.

Not after all this. Not now.

I’m in bed when he comes home, sheets tangled around my legs. I can’t get comfortable, and that fucking Coke is keeping me awake. I should be at Babylon, doing coke that will at least give me a high while it keeps me up.

“Hey,” he says, as he heads into the bathroom.

“Hey.”

When he comes back out, his cell phone rings and he fishes it out of his pocket. “Hello? Oh, hi.” He walks into the living room, and I can only hear bits and pieces of the conversation. “…Not now…yeah…okay…I don’t know…Bye.” He takes his shirt off as he returns.

“Who was that?”

“Oh, no one.” He steps out of his pants and slides into bed.

It hits me, and for a few seconds, I can’t breathe. I should have known. I should have fucking known. Little goddamned liar. That’s it, time to get it out in the open.

I keep my tone neutral. “You want me to drive you to Daphne’s tomorrow to pick up your stuff?”

“That’s okay, you don’t need to go out of your way.” He smiles and looks away.

“It’s really no problem, Justin.”

“Well, I’ve got a late class and…” He trails off, and I’ve had enough. I kick the sheets away and heave myself up as quickly as I can.

“Brian? Where are you going?” He sits up and watches me get dressed, confused.

“Out.” I pull a t-shirt over my head and grimace at the pain.

“Out where? Why?”

I don’t answer, just walk to the door and jam my feet into my shoes.

“Brian?” He’s yanking his track pants on and hurrying towards me.

I pull my jacket around my shoulders. “I may be a lot of things, Justin. But I’m not stupid.” With that, I slam out of the loft and into the elevator, shutting the grate with a satisfying bang. I can faintly hear him calling me as I descend.

I’ve just lifted up the elevator door when he careens around the corner, still shirtless and with bare feet. Breathing hard, he blocks my way. “Brian, wait!”

“Wait for what?”

“Wait for me to explain. Look, I know I’ve been weird the past couple of weeks, but…something happened in L.A.”

I snort derisively. “What is he this time, a poet? No, let me guess, a beautiful actor, starving for his craft.”

“What?” To his credit, he looks genuinely perplexed. Then he shakes his head and says, “No. NO. Brian, there’s no one. I swear to god. Only you.”

“Justin, I know how this song goes. We’ve played it before, remember?” Shit, I really need to get in control. I bite the inside of my cheek.

“Only. You.” He punctuates his words by grasping my arms and squeezing. I say nothing, but he’s pretty convincing. Maybe I was wrong.

“Brian, just listen, okay? Are you listening?” I finally nod, and he continues. “Brett asked me to work on the movie. Art direction. I’d have to go out there for six months, maybe more.”

It takes me a few moments to process what the stupid little twat is saying. The movie? This is about the movie? “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”

He raises his hands and then they drop to his sides. “I wanted to, but then you asked me to move in and…I don’t know. I didn’t know what to do. After everything that’s happened, I…I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Christ, Justin, you’re such a drama queen.”

He raises his eyebrows. “Uh, look who’s talking.”

“Shut up.” Asshole. “So, when do you start?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go.”

I look at him evenly, and quietly say, “Yes you have.”

He takes a deep breath and blows it out. “But I want to be with you. I want to live together, I want…I want it all.” He stands there on the cold tiles, the chilly air in the foyer giving him goosebumps all over his arms and chest.

Shrugging, I tell him, “I don’t seem to be going anywhere. Neither does the loft.”

“But it’s a long time, Brian.”

“Time flies, you’ll be back before you know it.” Christ, I wasn't expecting this. “But you’ll have to drop out again.”

“No,” he says, shaking his head. “The Dean said I could take a leave of absence.”

A leave of absence. It’s a nice way to put it. “Well, it’s all set, then.”

He steps closer and wraps his arms around my waist. “But I’m going to miss you so much.”

I’m going to fucking miss him, too, but that’s life. I knew it would happen eventually. “You’ll regret it if you don’t go. You’ll always wonder ‘what if’ and then you’ll be an even bigger queen about it. Besides, you know how I feel about regrets.”

He sighs and steps up onto my shoes, his arms firm around my back for balance. “Next time I chase after you, remind me to at least put socks on.” We both smile and I hold him tightly, even though my collarbone aches. He watches me closely. “You promise you’ll be here when I get back?”

My throat is dry, and I swallow hard. “Just go and have fun.” I kiss him softly. “No rules.” Best to be realistic about this.

He pulls back, stepping onto the floor again. “No rules?”

“L.A.’s awfully far away, Sunshine.” I kiss him again and lean our foreheads together. “Go and have fun. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day.” He finally nods and holds me close once more.

Upstairs, he lays me out on the bed, his lips moving over my body, tasting me all over. His tongue dips into every crevice and his hands roam over me in an endless pattern. I close my eyes as he swallows me deep into his throat, my fingers twisting in his hair. I roll the strands around and wonder how long they'll be the next time I see him. I pull him up and we kiss, his tongue winding around mine. He reaches for a condom and rolls it onto me as he sucks my neck, his mouth warm and wet.

Justin rides me slow and long, both of us wanting it to last. His eyes are closed and he holds my hand tightly where it rests on his hip. My muscles flex and I arch up into him in a measured rhythm. His skin glistens and I memorize every detail. When he finally comes, he opens his mouth and gasps my name, and I reach up to touch his lips.

It’ll be better this way. No rules, no promises, no bullshit. Justin can’t just stay here with me and miss out on the whole fucking world out there. Let him go to L.A. and have his big adventure, he deserves it.

And maybe he’ll come back.

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