Summary: "Fuck what the rest of them say," Brian says abruptly, and loudly, in the waiting room at the radiologist’s. "We're partners." Cancer arc gapfiller.
Warnings: Spoilers for 409-410.
Notes: I was assigned url_girl at the spring qaf_giftxchnge, and she wanted cancer!fic. She liked it, which was a big "yay!" in my department, and now I'm posting it over here for posterity. And 'cause I kind of like it.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
--XVII (I do not love you…), Pablo Neruda
The first thing that Brian says to Justin after he finishes the soup is, “I don’t want your pity. If you fucking pity me at all, you can get your ass out that door and don’t bother coming back.”
Justin cleans up the bedroom and loftily replies, “Of course not. You don’t want anything from me except a good fuck – I’ve figured it out by now. So don’t worry.” He walks out into the kitchen with his head up and his right hand clenched in a fist.
Brian knew it would be impossible for Justin to get over being thrown out so easily.
In order not to pity Brian, Justin treats him with an almost clinical air. He can be doodling something and nonchalantly offer the stainless steel bowl Brian likes to puke in without glancing over; he makes food Brian doesn’t eat and wraps it in foil like he didn’t know he would wind up doing that in the first place.
It keeps him from falling headfirst into a torrent of emotions that would utterly exhaust him, like he’s taking a step back from the very personal situation and viewing it with an objective eye.
Justin knows that only one of them can afford to drop everything, and it can’t be him.
Without Justin falling all over himself to help Brian the way he usually does, the world seems oddly distorted. If Brian can’t rely on Justin, then what?
That’s not exactly true, though. Justin is reliable – just as reliable as usual – but not as…pronounced. Instead of filling up every space and minute Brian has, Justin hovers on the edge of his vision, barely out of sight. It’s disturbing and a constant reminder that Justin’s all grown up now, which is hard for Brian to get used to.
But when he wakes up at night, Justin’s sleeping next to him, as relaxed and open as he had been at seventeen and eighteen and just after nineteen.
He doesn’t blame Brian for the unexpected, but Justin never loved school as much as he does now. It gets him out of the loft for a few hours to indulge in selfish, unapologetic ‘him time’ that looking after Brian doesn’t allow.
It provides a much-needed break from being shut in with Brian’s bad moods and frustration, because no matter how much you love someone, everyone deserves a couple of hours of blissful, uninterrupted lectures on Dadaism and arch your wrist more, Mr. Taylor, you’ll get a thinner stroke.
Besides, he’s still stubbornly holding out for an apology he knows isn’t coming.
Justin’s shutting himself off because Brian kicked him out, a fact that Brian is well aware of. Going on the second week of their “Justin’s in the loft but he might as well be a hired nurse” routine, Brian decides it’s time to fix it and hangs up some not-half-bad painting Justin did for a project grade. It takes a while because Brian can use a hammer, thank you very much, but his hands are shaking and getting up on the stepladder feels like climbing the Statue of Liberty.
He does it, though, because it’s just one of those things that need to be done.
Justin skips school the next day and spends it sleeping in bed with Brian.
Not having sex isn’t as hard as Brian thought it would be. He’s completely unmotivated, his thoughts primarily focused on his days of treatment and the hell that follows them. Fucking is the last thing his sore, battered body wants to go through, even when he wakes up pressed against Justin’s ass crack in the morning and can tell that Justin is hard.
He comforts himself with the idea that when this whole thing is over, he’s going to have a massive orgy in the loft and come no less than twelve times in the span of one night.
(Well, maybe ten.)
Sometimes, when Justin gets a bad grade on a project he half-assed because he was sitting next to the toilet with his cancer-stricken boyfriend the night before it was due, he comes back to the loft and puts his iPod on the ‘electronic’ filter and dances around in his socks by the TV.
It makes him feel like he’s at Babylon without the sweat and the men and the reek of sex emanating from the backroom and in their place a completely unaware Brian, obliviously sleeping the afternoon away on the bed.
He’s hard-pressed to determine if he likes his version better than the real thing.
Brian’s taken to smoking a joint in the bathroom after coming back from treatment. He likes being in control of the situation better than getting caught unawares with a wave of nausea while he’s trying to get some semblance of work done. It makes him feel more like his old self than this new, not-at-all improved clone that sleeps during the day and who watches the clock waiting for his live-in houseboy to come back from school.
He likes being mellow while he’s throwing up, since it’s a much better alternative to the humiliation and rage he dealt with at the beginning.
Justin’s taken to bringing an ashtray and joining him.
They sit with their backs against the wall and their legs spread and they talk about shit that doesn’t matter so they don’t have to deal with the shit that does. They never did this before Brian got cancer because they never had a reason to.
“I got an A on that multi-media piece that I did,” Justin’ll say.
“The one that you screamed at? With the scratchboard?” Brian’ll ask, frowning and toking as he tries to remember.
Brian will exhale smoke through his nose, pass over the joint, and nod. “I liked that one.”
He can kiss but he can’t fuck, he can touch but he can’t look. He can kiss Justin over and over after making sure he rinses with mouthwash (because he won’t ever subject Justin to his raw breath again, ever), and he can hold him and press his forehead to the back of Justin’s neck, but he can’t do anything more than that.
Justin doesn’t ask him to because Justin doesn’t push in from behind with only a kiss dropped on the shoulder like Brian has been known to.
Brian loves how kissing Justin can make even the shittiest days better.
Brian loves Justin.
When Brian gets his appointment for his last day of radiation, he and Justin lay on their backs on the cold bathroom tile with their customary joint and the little business card with the date on it between them.
Justin holds it up to the fluorescent lights set into the ceiling and squints at it for a while. Then, suddenly, he brings it to his lips and kisses it. Brian laughs at him -- stoned, uninhibited, slightly feral.
“The end,” Justin whispers. He’s a little stoned himself.
Brian rolls over and kisses him until the lights and the pot make him dizzy.
“Fuck what the rest of them say,” Brian says abruptly, and loudly, in the waiting room at the radiologist’s. There are four other people in the room that all stare at them with outrage in their eyes. “We’re partners.”
Justin finds his sudden epiphany touching, but doesn’t even glance up from his sketch of the doctor’s fish tank. Instead, he snorts a little. “I’ve been saying that for years.”
Brian takes a deep breath, and one of his hands comes up, like he wants to hit something. He ends up settling it unobtrusively on Justin’s thigh.
Justin thinks this must be what holding hands in public feels like.
Brian doesn’t wind up having the orgy. Instead, after Justin blows him in the backroom, he and Brian decide that they’ll fuck on every conceivable surface in the loft, take some E, snort some poppers, and get drunk off their asses for a few days straight.
It goes beautifully.
When they’re through, Brian sprawls on the hardwood floor and Justin lies where Brian left him on the coffee table. Messages pile up on the machine (“Where the hell are you two?” being the greeting of choice) and a few times there’s banging on the door, but everything is ignored as they catch up on living.