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Disclaimer: Cowlip property.
Summary: Talk was had of the lack of H/C wherein Justin is the one offering the C, a result of wanting Brian to “grow” in fanfiction. When Justin is in need of comfort, it is an opportunity for Brian to mature emotionally. So I asked the question … why does Brian have to grow? Can’t there be h/c without Brian growth?
And would you look at that. Here’s fic with absolutely no Brian growth whatsoever. It also indulges more than one of my kinks, which if you’ve talked to me for more than five seconds on IM, you know what they are. So basically, this fic is all about me.
Michael brings the car – and Hunter – back after eleven days and Justin half-listens
to him regale Brian with tales of the road.
Except when Justin finds out that “the road” really only consisted of them making the four-hour trip to Harrisburg, staying in a Comfort Inn, and eating Ding Dongs for breakfast, he stops listening altogether.
Brian puts his indulgent face on and eats the egg-white omelet Justin brings, while Michael and Hunter try to outdo each other with impressing him. Justin tries very, very hard not to let his eyes roll, but doesn’t quite succeed.
Brian notices, because Brian notices everything and sometimes Justin loves that and sometimes he hates it, and delivers a stinging smack to Justin’s ass that makes the coffee he’s pouring spill over the side of the cup.
Justin decides to be annoyed about that and ignore the fact that his real annoyance is the adventures of Michael Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He is glad to be in the kitchen when Michael leaves for the store, Hunter in tow. Brian wanders casually to the counter a minute later and Justin turns a cheek for his goodbye kiss, which earns him an amused chuckle. Justin’s irritation is compounded by the fact that Brian doesn’t seem concerned in the least.
Justin learns later that the accident happened seven minutes after Brian sauntered out the door, keys in hand.
* * *
Deb doesn’t say anything and that’s how he knows something’s wrong. Wronger than wrong, even, because she just puts a hand on his back while he’s trying to scoop three plates out of the window and juggling the iced tea pitcher. And when he turns around, she’s handing him the phone and deftly taking his dishes from him and she still isn’t saying anything.
Oh shit, Justin thinks, oh shit, my mom or maybe Molly or even my dad. He never thinks Brian because something happening to Brian is like something happening to God, it just doesn’t occur to him, but then Justin’s on the phone and is listening to Michael speak in a rapid, very un-Michael-like voice.
How the fuck would Michael know about my mom? Justin has time to think, and then the words “Brian” and “accident” and “hospital” somehow come together to make a sentence in his brain.
He drops the iced tea pitcher and then Debbie finally says something. “I’ll get it, honey, I’ve got it, you just go.” She takes the phone, says a quick word or two to Michael, hangs up the receiver. “Justin, sweetie? Give me the rag, no, don’t clean it up, let me. There you go, honey. Go on, now, wait out back for Vic. He’s coming with the car.”
“Brian’s at Mercy,” Justin says stupidly, staring at her. “Downtown.”
“I know, sweetheart. Here, let me have your apron, all right?” She unties it from around his waist and propels him through the kitchen toward the back door, a steady stream of chatter finally pouring out. Justin thinks that maybe it’s fine, everything’s okay because Deb is talking and that’s normal and as long as things are normal he doesn’t have to remember that Michael called and said the words “Brian” and “accident” and “hospital” in the same sentence.
Vic is waiting at the curb in the alley and Justin thinks it’s pretty cool that he got there so fast, but then realizes that Michael probably called Vic first to tell him to go get Justin. The fact that his brain isn’t really thinking in a linear fashion starts to scare Justin a little bit, and he looks at Deb concernedly.
She misinterprets his confusion for worry over Brian – but that’s ridiculous, really, because nothing happens to Brian – and her eyes fill with tears. “He’s fine,” she says fiercely, hugging his shoulders tightly. “He’s fine, Sunshine, you’ll see. You’ll get there and that shit will be sitting up in bed laughing at everyone. You’ll see.”
Justin nods in agreement because he thinks it’s expected of him, and gets in the car. “Hey, kiddo,” Vic says calmly, and then the rest of the ride is in silence.
* * *
Mercy Hospital is one of the closest hospitals to the Strip District. Justin guesses it’s pretty good. At least, people told him it was, after he got out. It was like they weren’t sure what else to say.
“Hey! You’re home! What hospital were you in?”
“Oh, great! That’s a really good one. My friend’s cousin was there for gallbladder surgery.”
The emergency room doors whisper open and Justin watches Vic approach the desk. “Kinney,” he says, and Justin furrows his brow because it’s more real now than it was a minute ago. A minute ago he was in the car and listening to Vic’s oldies station, but now he’s here and the girl is buzzing them through the double doors behind her.
Justin doesn’t remember what the emergency room looked like the first time, but it’s much quieter than he anticipated. He watches ER sometimes on Thursday nights, if he’s home, and because the tall Croatian doctor is all kinds of hot. That emergency room always seems so loud on tv, but Justin figures that maybe Chicago is just a louder city than Pittsburgh anyway. This emergency room is nothing like he thought it would be, and he wonders vaguely when they’ll let him see Brian.
A cool hallway stretches out in front of him and his tennis shoes squeak on the floor, and there are curtains and gurneys and harried voices, and then Lindsay.
Vic takes her by the elbow before she reaches Justin and mutters a quick word in her ear. They both glance in his direction and then Lindsay is smiling at Justin in the way she smiles at Gus. It makes Justin feel warm and he realizes it’s been a long time since his own mother has smiled that way at him.
“Honey,” she says, still smiling, “Brian’s in x-ray.”
“As a precaution,” Justin replies. “Yeah.”
Again, Vic and Lindsay look at each other, and then away. “Not really a precaution,” Lindsay says gently. “A necessity.”
“Oh, great,” Justin sighs. “He break his arm or something? Because he calls me a drama queen when I’m not feeling good, but nobody really queens out like Brian when he’s sick. Or, uh. Injured. Whatever.” Justin thinks he can handle a broken arm, because that’s only like six weeks in a cast or something, and then Brian will be fixed.
But “fixed” makes it sounds like he’s broken. Brian’s not really broken, Justin knows, because Brian Kinney doesn’t break, but he sort of likes the metaphor.
“No,” Lindsay says slowly, “not really.”
“Tell him what you know,” Vic says sharply, startling Justin, who wonders why Vic sounds like that when he’s usually so calm.
Lindsay nods briskly and then Justin finds himself following her into a small room – hospitality room, Justin thinks, that’s what they call these rooms where they put you while you wait to find out which one of your loved ones died. He wonders if it’s ok to wait in a hospitality room if no one’s dead, because Brian’s probably almost out of x-ray and Justin’s pretty sure Brian will want to go the fuck home, and maybe they should save this room for people who are getting the news that someone in their family doesn’t get to go home.
It occurs to Justin that Brian and Michael and his mom and a lot of other people waited in one of these rooms to find out if Justin was dead, that night almost two years ago, and he hopes there were enough chairs.
He sits in one now, with Lindsay next to him and Vic leaning against the wall by the door, and Lindsay leans forward. “Justin,” she says very quietly, and the tone of her voice sets off the first real alarm bells in Justin’s head, “Brian was hurt.”
“I know,” Justin says cautiously, wondering why there’s all this seriousness over a broken arm. Maybe Brian cut his head and they had to shave off part of his hair? Now that would constitute seriousness.
But Lindsay’s giving him a look that says no, you don’t know, you really have no idea. “He was rear-ended while at a stoplight,” she says, “and pushed into the intersection. Cars coming the other way couldn’t stop, honey.”
“Oh, man,” Justin groans. “His car. He just got it back.”
“Yes, his car, “Lindsay says patiently, “but Justin, Brian was badly injured.” She tries to continue but Justin finds himself interrupting again.
“Was he wearing his seatbelt?” Somehow, if he keeps Lindsay from saying what she thinks she has to say, it won’t manifest itself into truth. Somehow.
“Justin, snap out of it,” Vic says abruptly, pushing off from the wall and approaching them. He puts a hand on Justin’s shoulder and shakes him once, hard. “Listen to Lindsay.”
Lindsay gives him a grateful look and says quickly, “Brian was hit from the back and the driver’s side. He sustained a head injury, which fortunately the doctors seem to think is only a concussion, but he was unconscious when they brought him in. They’re pretty sure of some internal injuries and probably several broken ribs from where he was pushed into the steering wheel.”
Internal injuries. Justin mulls that over. “So … he’s not going home today?”
Little trickles of reality start knocking on Justin’s door and he looks up at Vic. “Does his mom know? Does my mom know? Where’s Michael?” Justin gets to his feet and looks wildly at Lindsay. “Is Brian alone? Should he be by himself? Who’s with him?” From one extreme to the other, and Justin feels a little dizzy.
Lindsay gets up too, and soothes him. “It’s fine, it’s all right. Michael was supposed to make the phone calls. They were taking Brian to surgery after x-ray, I think the doctor said ... I'm not sure. We have to wait. Any friends or family members will be brought back here.”
Vic says, “I’ll call Sis,” and vanishes.
Justin stands in the doorway of the hospitality room and doesn’t sit down until Michael shows up two hours later.
* * *
A lot of medical jargon has gone over Justin’s head, and he attributes this to the fact that he chose not to listen when the doctor was spouting it. Splenectomy and infection and bleeding into the abdomen all seemed to have meaning for Michael and Lindsay, who nodded in all the right places. And besides, Justin hasn’t eaten since before his shift at the diner … seven hours ago? Eight? He’s not sure.
Somehow, though, the turkey sandwich Debbie brings him has no appeal.
Justin half-hears the doctor say that there are no available beds in the intensive care unit, so Brian will be watched closely in recovery after surgery and then admitted to a private room. Justin figures he’d approve of that. They wait in what’s supposed to be Brian’s room, all seven of them. Michael, Emmett, Deb, Vic, Lindsay, and Justin on one side, and Joanie Kinney on the other. She eyes them warily and fingers the cross around her neck.
No one talks, and everyone keeps sending surreptitious glances at Justin, which he hates but pretends not to notice. He figures if Brian doesn’t show up soon, they’ll get bored.
He’s right. Emmett disappears an hour later with an apology and a promise to return in the morning, and it’s nearly eight o’clock when Vic and Deb start making noises about Vic needing his meds. Michael practically pushes them out the door and swears to call as soon as Brian is delivered.
Lindsay wanders off to find coffee and call Mel and Michael is in the restroom and Joanie stays, much to Justin’s discontent. She doesn’t bother hiding her disgusted expression when she looks his way. “You’re the one who lives with him,” she says.
Justin doesn’t bother to correct her, since he’s at the loft six nights out of seven anyway, and even if he weren’t, he would tell her he was. “Yeah,” he affirms, lifting his chin slightly.
“Sinner,” she whispers into the quiet, and that’s exactly the opening Justin was waiting for, because suddenly Michael is there and grabbing him by the upper arm and Joanie is cringing away from him in her chair. He doesn’t remember even getting up and crossing the room, but he must have because Michael’s dragging him back to his own chair and pushing him into it. Joanie doesn’t speak to them directly any more, but Justin can hear her muttering things about Gomorrah under her breath.
Brian chooses that exact moment to make his royal entrance, and it doesn’t matter that he’s lying silent and still on the stretcher, Justin knows that he somehow executed his appearance because that’s what Brian does.
Justin watches as Michael and Lindsay dart around the room like birds, making motions to help the nurse who doesn’t need help, while Joanie stands in the corner with pursed lips. “He didn’t get put in the intensive care unit,” Michael says unnecessarily to Justin, “because they downgraded his condition from ‘critical’ to ‘serious’.” Lindsay smiles happily at that.
Justin wonders if they’re all going insane.
He’s even more convinced when Joanie walks over to the side of the bed while the nurse checks the fluids in the intravenous drip. Michael and Lindsay flank her on the left and right, donning enormous fake smiles. “He looks great, Mrs. Kinney,” Michael assures her, and Justin blinks.
Brian looks like hell, and it hurts Justin’s eyes. Gigantic bruises mar the skin of his face. They meld into each other and Brian appears to be one huge mass of battered flesh, and Justin has to look away from it. He knows Brian wouldn’t want Justin staring at him anyway, and he especially wouldn’t want Lindsay and Michael fluttering around him. And most of all, he wouldn’t want his mother leaning over him the way she is, examining him, and then lowering her eyes in disgust.
Brian wouldn’t fucking want any of this.
Another half-hour passes of nothing happening in particular except Joanie thankfully leaving, after successfully terrorizing the nurses’ station and getting the information that Brian will not wake up until morning. Justin loiters in the hallway and sees her extract a small flask from her handbag as the elevator doors close. Michael and Lindsay take turns congratulating each other on being such strong little champions for Brian, but Justin can’t see that they did anything but flit around and bring each other coffee and make phone calls and bother the nurses who come in to check Brian’s vitals.
At eight thirty, visiting hours are over. Lindsay lingers by the bed, smoothing Brian’s covers and looking at the beeping machines as if she can decipher the numbers on them, while Michael puts on his jacket and clears his throat and tries to act as if he’s in control. They both converse quietly with the shift nurse, and Justin watches.
They get to the door before they turn and realize Justin isn’t making moves to leave.
“Justin?” Lindsay questions. “Come on, sweetie. I’ll drive you. Do you need to go back to work to pick anything up?”
“No,” Justin answers.
“Come back to Ma’s with me, then,” Michael offers, and Justin knows Michael probably thinks he’s being generous.
“I mean, no, I’m not coming,” Justin says calmly.
“Visiting hours are over,” Michael explains, as if to a very small child. “We need to leave. I told Ma I’d be there.”
“Then leave,” Justin says, his eyes still on Brian and his voice louder than he intended.
“You can’t –“ Michael tries to argue, but Lindsay touches his arm and gives a quick shake of her head.
“Let him,” she murmurs, and Michael looks mutinous.
“If he can stay, I should stay,” Michael whispers furiously, and it occurs to Justin that the sort of fugue state he’s been in since this morning has dissipated.
Rising from his chair, he crosses the floor and yanks both Michael and Lindsay into the hallway. “I’m staying,” he says sharply, “and you’re going. I will call you if there’s anything you need to know.”
Michael opens his mouth and Justin raises an eyebrow. “You – you’re not supposed to stay overnight,” Michael says lamely, and Justin points to the Visitor’s Information sign on the wall.
“See where it says ‘special arrangements may be made with your nurse’?”
Michael’s chin juts out in response and Justin feels the frustration and anger building in him. He doesn’t really want to freak out right here in the hallway outside room 217, but he’s so fucking tired and worried and goddamned hungry that Justin fears he might rip some of the hair out of Michael’s head.
Lindsay, being a woman and therefore a thousand times more perceptive than Michael, says, “Michael, Mel’s waiting with Gus. The nurse said Brian will sleep until morning, and Justin said he'd call. Do you think Brian would ask you to stay?”
Justin knows that Brian wouldn’t want any of them to stay – himself included – but he lets Lindsay soothe Michael in that way she has of talking people down, until Michael is nodding in agreement and eyeing Justin suspiciously.
“You’ll call,” Michael tells him, and Justin nods like a marionette.
“Yeah, of course. I’ll call you in an hour, even, if you want.”
Justin nods agreeably again and gives Lindsay a look.
Fifteen minutes and two more promises later, Michael and Lindsay finally depart. Michael brandishes his cell phone threateningly at Justin from the elevator. Justin smiles pleasantly and wonders if Brian has a good dentist that can fix the teeth he’s ground down in the last five hours.
Re-entering Brian’s room, Justin carefully does not look at the still figure in the bed. He drags a chair to Brian’s side, flips on the television, and watches a rerun of Buffy with the sound off.
A nurse brings him a blanket and a smile three hours later.
* * *
Brian wakes up at four a.m. and Justin knows immediately. He raises his head from where it rests near Brian’s bruised arm on the bed and meets his hazy eyes.
Brian scans the room once, eyes lighting with interest on his IV drip, and Justin knows he’s wondering what kind of drugs are in it. His gaze comes back to rest on Justin and Justin can see the brightness of pain.
“Here,” Justin whispers, and shows Brian how he’s pressing the small button that self-administers pain meds. The corner of Brian’s mouth moves up with approval, and he wiggles his thumb ever so slightly in an imitation of Justin pressing the button, so Justin grins at him and does it again. “Go back to sleep,” Justin tells him, threading his fingers through Brian’s.
But Brian remains awake, taking shallow breaths that hurt Justin just to hear, until Justin says, “I’m staying.”
Brian blinks twice, slowly, and then sleeps.
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