Soul Food


Thanks to burnitbackwards, who recently finished a brilliant fic and yet was willing and able to help me with this.

Rating: PG-13
Summary: Everybody thinks that Californians only eat sticks and twigs and healthy granola-type shit. Everybody is wrong.
Notes: Post Season 4 fic.


California's nice and warm and so very, very dry, and Justin wants to call Brian and beg for some of that expensive French moisturizer, but he doesn't.

Instead, Justin tells him about Roscoe's.

"It's chicken and waffles," he says, laughing. "I swear. Not chicken with a side of waffles. Fried chicken ON TOP of waffles, all covered in syrup. Oh my god, it's so good. And we went all the way to Pasadena to get them. It's better there than the place in Hollywood."

The other side is quiet, and in his mind he sees Brian rolling his eyes. "You better not pork out on me, twat," comes the reply. "And who the fuck would ever eat chicken with waffles?"


Justin's allergies explode with the dusty heat. Sniffling and sneezing, some days he wants nothing more than to cut off his nose and gouge out his reddened, irritated eyes. He also wants Brian to send him his humidifier, the one Brian bought for him during the winter, but what he does is talk about hot dogs.

"So Ben eats those tofu dogs, right?" he asks. "And they're okay, but get this -- I had a salmon dog yesterday!"

"No shit?" Brian asks, sounding vaguely interested and yet, not.

"No shit. Me and Dave -- he's one of the animatics guys -- we're sitting at Hot Diggity Dog, eating, and this limo pulls up and this woman comes rushing out." Justin chuckles at the memory. "She wanted a veggie dog for Chaka Khan! And I'm thinking, 'Chaka Khan eats veggie dogs!' and then I'm wondering why I give a shit." He laughs again.

"Justin," Brian says, exasperated. "That's the lamest story I've ever heard. And salmon dogs sound really gross."


Justin's there only five weeks when the earthquake hits. He's sitting at his desk, sketching the alley behind Babylon for Brett to look at later, when all of a sudden the pencil lines get squiggly and not because his hand is cramping up. "Shit!" he thinks, and he bolts out of his little cubicle to share his experience with someone, anyone.

But no one else in the office even felt the fucking thing, and the girl Justin first encounters looks at him in confusion, then smiles. "Oh yeah, that's why Xena fell down I guess," she says, holding up a little action figure of Xena: Warrior Princess. "I need to get some putty. Thanks for reminding me."

Justin doesn't share her carefree manner, although he certainly feels her smiling condescension, as he does from everyone else on the production, even from Dave and especially from Brett. Justin is the boy from blue-collar Pittsburgh, with his middle-class mentality and naiveté. But from talking to people, Justin quickly learns that everybody's from someplace else. They just got here before he did. And they can suck his naked ass with their Hollywood, I-work-in-the-movies attitude. As if they could be so lucky to even get a simple glimpse of his naked ass.

He talks to Brian, the next time Brian calls, about doughnuts.

"Dad's Doughnuts is like the most amazing doughnut shop EVER," he raves. "They're not open on Sundays, which is kinda strange considering that more people would probably eat doughnuts on the weekends than during the week, but it's so worth the extra trip into the valley. Oh, and remember that doughnut shop from Boogie Nights? Where that guy gets killed? I was there last week! It's on, um, Reseda Boulevard, and I got the best Boston crème I've ever had. It's so better than Krispy Kreme. Oh! I was there a couple of days ago, too. They have this huge window where you can watch-"

"Jesus," Brian snaps. "What the fuck are you doing, eating your way through LA?"

"No," Justin replies, surprised. "I just want to tell you what's going on. I thought you'd be interested."

"In your terrifying junk food orgy? No thanks."

"Well fuck you too," Justin grumbles. "I'm sharing my excellent adventure with you, but you wouldn't know sharing if it bit you in the ass."

Brian hangs up on him.


A day after their spat (and Justin considers their last conversation a spat), his cell phone sort of gets destroyed. He'd meant to take it out of his pants before walking along the beach, and he certainly didn't mean to get caught in a freaky undertow. Who knew that the current would be so strong so close to the shore?

Sputtering, he coughs seawater and sand out of his mouth, while Dave the animatics guy and Sarah, the sometimes bitchy, sometimes nice girl with the Xena doll, rush to his rescue.

"You're not used to California beaches, huh?" Sarah says, brushing the sand off Justin's face.

"Thank you, Captain Obvious," Dave laughs.

Justin sighs and wonders if he can talk Brett into getting him a new phone. He's making a hell of a lot more money here than working in the diner, but it's not like he would've ruined his phone had he stayed in the Pitts. Brett owes him.

Justin also ruins his Diesels. California may look sparkly and clean in the movies, but there's tar on the beaches here. And now it's on his jeans. He doesn't think Brett will compensate him for the loss of those, though.

Justin wants to talk to Brian. He ate the best chili burger at Tommy's the other day. He even ate it standing up, which would've horrified his mother.


Two days after the spat Justin wonders why Brian hasn't called him yet. It's not like the spat was a Spat, just a mere bitchfest, really. And he's tired of always calling having to call Brian after these things anyway, always capitulating, always crawling back first, always having to pick up his cell and-

Shit. Shit shit shit.

Justin dashes through his rooms, looking for the landline phone he KNOWS is around here, somewhere. The furnished apartment, with its breathtaking, panoramic view of the oh so lovely 405 freeway, is only 1000 square feet. Where the fuck is THE GODDAMN PHONE?

He finally finds it on a tiny, partially hidden nightstand on the other side (Brian's side) of the bed. Before he can dial out, though, his doorbell rings. Not used to hearing that particular sound, Justin at first thinks it's for someone else. But then the knocking starts, and Justin realizes that it's his door that's making all that noise.

Actually, it's a courier making all that noise. "Justin Taylor? Sign here, please."

Confused and curious, and not the least because it's a fucking Styrofoam cooler, Justin breaks the seal. Inside the box he finds a Tupperware container full of the diner's lemon bars, a bottle of Jim Beam (opened and half full), and -- he can't believe it -- a huge, jawbreaking Primanti's sandwich, tightly wrapped and protected by a heat pack and thus, still warm. There's also a letter.

It's amazing what money can do in America, it reads. I bought the sandwich at 6 am EST, and I've seen you eat this straight out of the fridge the morning after a night of partying, so a few hours of travel time won't kill you. We have artery-clogging junk food in the Pitts, too, and it'll be better than anything you can get out in LaLaland. It's signed with a simple "Brian," but Justin sees the "I Love You" clearly.

He carefully unwraps his treasure and picks it up, marvelously heavy and with the cole slaw and french fries dripping out of its sides, just like it should. He doesn't have to actually open it to know that there's an extra fried egg, too. Justin sighs. Heaven.

Before he digs in, though, he still has one thing left to do. He goes back to his bedroom, picks up his phone, and dials the number he'll always know by heart.

"Brian?" he says. "Hey, you busy? I got your care package. Yeah, yeah, I'll chew fifty times EACH BITE. I promise. You wouldn't believe the shitty thing that happened to me the other day. I was walking on the beach. Hermosa. No, no muscles there. Nuh uh. Yeah, so the undertow's really bad... "