Notes: Inspired by Sarah McLachlan's Hold On. Spoilers for s4 and before. Spoiler-free for s5. Betaed by the excellent jigofspite.
Justin understood politics, and drama, and to some extent fate; he was clued into karma, trusted instincts, did unto others as he wanted done unto him. He learned to have faith, even if it wasn't in what most people believed, and he rolled with love's punches as he best he knew. Like some predictable gay drama, he had the homophobic father, the protective mother, the fag hag best friend, the queer-bashing archenemy. He was interesting and pretty, and - up until this point - had accepted his wayward, Lifetime-esque plot. Beggars can't be choosers, after all, and he'd survived near-fatal situations, repeatedly. Life lived is life appreciated.
But whoever was writing the script, whatever masterful, benevolent hand was pulling strings, had really cocked up on this last one.
Brian Kinneys don't get cancer. It was surreal, unpredictable, out of character. Most of all, it was unfair.
That's what Justin thought, nestled underneath a thick duvet, curled up into Brian's side. The seconds dragged by between every breath Brian made, and Justin's chest seized up tight each time, waiting for the moment when the next one didn't come. He knew Brian wouldn't die right then and there, but Brian was sick, so he didn't know, and suddenly realised he never had, never will-- he just assumed, like everyone else.
This was how it felt for Brian, watching Justin sleep after the bashing, and that made Justin feel sick with guilt and worry, made his fingers feel clumsy, heavy, when he tried to pet the bare skin just above Brian's hip. Instead, he pressed his fingers and plam flat, higher, near his heart, and he counted the beats in his head until he fell asleep at eighty-six.
Brian felt like shit all the time, snapped at Justin for stupid things and slept more hours than he spent awake. Some days were okay, some days were bad, some days weren't even worth mentioning. There weren't great days, just great moments that were over almost before they began. Justin drew a lot: angry, thick-stroked paintings of red and orange, computer renderings of beautiful things dying, smudged pencil sketches at night while Brian slept.
"Stop drawing me every fucking night," Brian said with barely reigned annoyance, and Justin asked him why. "Because I'm sick," is all he said, and it was the only time he ever referred to himself as anything that wasn't "tired" or "sick of your nagging" or feeling "like a semi" ran him over.
"I don't care that you are," and Justin handed him his fucking chicken soup, rich and steaming hot. He ate it without complaint, and threw it up an hour later-- also without complaint.
Hours were spent at the computer researching while Brian rested. Everything you never wanted to know about testicular cancer, how it ravages your body and spreads, how painful full-blown cancer can be, how it can come back even with surgery and treatment. Not everything, though-- Brian was suffering through all this shit, and there's nothing on the medical sites about the light going out in your lover's eyes, no doctors quoted on what to say after the cancer victim's spent the last forty minutes puking so hard he can't breathe or speak. It's all clinical and technical and big words and surgery procedures and "you'll suffer through x, y, and z, but don't worry, that's expected, that's natural, that's part of the cure." Only there was nothing natural about the way Brian couldn't hold his head up or how pale he got. It wasn't natural to have to help someone look slow, agonizing death in the eye, even if the doctors were eighty-five percent certain he'd recover.
At least Justin has someone to blame, a person to place in his nightmares.
And Justin still did, resolution and revenge and forgiveness or no. He was in some dark, old, clawed-out space underground. He heard coughing, hard and far away, echoing, and water rushed from somewhere, over the toes of his sneakers, seeping into the canvas. He wanted Brian or his mother - hell, even Molly would've been a relief - but the only contact he got was a memory of searing, blinding, acute pain, and the crack of a bat. Justin woke up panting and crying, tangled up in a tight, clumsy embrace with Brian's lips on his temple.
"It's okay, you're safe, you're okay. I've got you," Brian said in his ear. The warmth came back, reality reminding Justin that it was just a piece of past, and Justin almost said, utterly irrational, "don't comfort me, Brian, you've got cancer." But he didn't; it was a stupid, selfish thing to think and even moreso to say out loud. Brian would've hated him for it.
They eventually had sex again. Not as often as they used to, but the fire was still there. Justin thought Brian was fearless to trust his body again after how it betrayed him, even though he still flinched away from any touch to his balls. Over the lightened table with black ink drying on paper, Justin thought about that flinch. It made them unsure and it hurt to think that Brian didn't want that touch, or assumed Justin didn't want to give it.
"Can I top?" he asked one night, already knowing the answer even before he asked. Which was good, because Brian didn't bother to answer-- just pressed his mouth to Justin's, tongue working light and wet to part Justin's lips while his body settled over him. Justin grunted softly, a good sound, needy, and bent his knees up to frame Brian's hips with his thighs, to roll his own hips up into the grind of Brian's. Brian grimaced, cock trailing a sticky line of pre-come along Justin's belly; he let Justin's legs catch his body and push him over, only because he knew it wasn't dominance. Fingers raked through short blond strands, tugging where length allowed, as Justin's body slid down to drag his lips over the firm curves and dips of Brian's stomach.
He arched at the mouthing over his muscles, stifling a laugh when a ticklish spot was toyed with by the tip of a tongue, and lower and-- Justin groaned, tentatively and eager, nose nuzzling coarse, musky hair.
His chin tilted down, his tongue lapped again, and Brian's entire body jolted away from the motion.
"Justin, don't--" voice strained and thick as his hips pressed up anyway.
"Let me," Justin replied in a tone he prayed was soothing and sincere, fingers brushing his own lips and Brian's flushed skin. Tips rubbed over the curve, pressing behind the ball and making Brian mewl, sharpening when lips brushed over the curve too, and again, firmer, insistent, then open, all heatwetsucking; "Justin," Brian said again like his throat was so tight he could barely speak.
Like he couldn't fathom why Justin would want to put his mouth on Brian's imperfection, on his illness, on something so human.
"Okay," Brian mumbled, fingers using the hold on Justin's hair to tug him up forcefully before letting them slip to his nape, pulling him into a kiss. Justin's hand moved up to cradle his face for the kiss, but then Brian's mouth was gone and he was rolling over, saying it again and again under his breath. Okay, okay, Justin, okay.
They weren't okay, of course, not in the sense most people used. Justin reluctantly left Brian's side for L.A., and came back with ideas and inspiration and sex-with-a-celebrity stories and a six to eight month job offer. Brian asked him to move in before he knew, and then told him to go once he did.
"What about us?" Justin asked over a plate of Debbie's baked ziti, reheated in the microwave and eaten with a plastic fork whilst sitting on Brian's floor.
"What about us," Brian said, probably because it was expected that he say it.
"Right," Justin agreed. "No one to borrow your socks."
Brian seemed to contemplate that, and then went back to picking at his plate of pasta in silence.
It wasn't Brian's perfect image or Justin's high expectations that made it all wrong. It wasn't cruel-world angst or repayment for sins. It wasn't fear or rejection or anything they went on about on Oprah, in self-help books and Dawson's Creek.
Brian was his. That's what made it wrong.
They headed to bed a while later. Justin felt raw, angry and worried, like he'd just had an argument and come out of it the loser. The quiet went on forever, and Justin nearly dropped off to sleep. Until he felt Brian's mouth on his shoulder, nudging the skin. Justin tried to speak, but the words broke up before he could form them. An arm slid around him.
"When you come back from L.A., move in with me."
"What'll you do while I'm gone?"
It took Brian so long to answer that Justin was sure he wasn't going to.