Teamwork

Suz


Timeline: 413/414
Rating: R
Warnings: Language, implied sex
What if: ...they had gone on the Liberty Ride together? And stayed in a tent every single night they were away?
Author's Notes: Yup, Toronto does actually have a camp site - I love the internet *g*. Big, big thanks to my beta, the lovely Miss N.

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

Despite the assurances, promises, and tongue-filled kiss Justin had received just before stepping on the bus, he wasn't in the least bit surprised to see Brian walk into the bar in Toronto. Pushing past an extremely drunk and probably underage twink - Christ, a few years ago that could've been him - he greeted Brian with a hug and the words, "You lied, you fucker."

Justin almost hadn't made the trip himself. He and Brett had been due to meet with producers in Hollywood to try and convince them that Rage deserved to be made into a movie. Barely thirty minutes before he'd been about to leave for the airport, he'd received a call that the meeting had been pushed back for at least a week as some guy Justin had never heard of needed emergency gallbladder surgery.

Thankfully there'd still been plenty of time to re-pack what he'd need for a bike ride instead of LA, and get to the buses. Brian had been in the loft at the time, and when Justin explained the change of plans, Brian's whole face looked pinched. Justin had already had strong suspicions and that confirmed it - even though he claimed otherwise, even though his doctor had told him not to, even though he was still recovering from cancer, Brian was going to ride a bike all the way from Toronto to Pittsburgh.

And Justin knew there was no fucking way he'd be able to talk him out of it.

So he let Brian accompany him to the pick-up point. Let Brian help him get his bicycle secured. Let Brian talk to the rest of their friends, wishing them luck (or, more specifically, telling them not to fall on their asses), and when everyone started boarding the buses and Brian kissed him 'goodbye', Justin arched his eyebrows in a way that said 'I know I'm going to be seeing you a lot sooner than in a few days, you asshole'.

At least, he hoped it said that.

The drive up to Toronto was fine - with that many queers there was never a lack of conversation - and when they reached the camp site everyone stretched their legs, checked their bikes, and started setting up their tents. They were free to do whatever they wanted until the bike ride started the next day, and no one relished the idea of trying to put their tents up any later that night.

Most of them headed straight for the gay bars after that, and Justin had been in Moosie's with the rest of the gang for a little over an hour when Brian made his appearance. Everyone else seemed genuinely surprised to see him which only confirmed Justin's long-held suspicion that, clearly, none of them knew Brian as well as they thought they did.

Still, even Justin found some things hard to believe. After Brian had not-apologised apologised by attempting to clean Justin's tonsils with his tongue, Justin lost his train of thought for a while before tearing his well-used mouth away from Brian's. "You realise this means sleeping in a pretty small tent, right? Outdoors? For more than one night?" Apparently all the sites they were going to be staying at were nice as far as camp sites went - but still. Brian and camping wasn't an equation Justin seriously ever expected to see.

"No problem," he drawled, smirking. "I'm used to squeezing myself into tight places."

Justin really should've seen that one coming, but instead of rolling his eyes or making a comment, he stared at Brian instead. He considered saying something about Brian's need to do things, finish what he started, that not finishing wouldn't make him a failure...but he knew Brian wouldn't believe a word of it, so he didn't bother.

A loud cheer arose from behind him, and Justin turned to discover some not-entirely unexpected news - Michael and Ben were getting married.

*

Brian was surprisingly quiet on the whole marriage thing. He'd mocked Michael and Ben in the bar, sure, but it'd seemed distracted; perfunctory. Like an obligation. Justin didn't think for one second that Brian was suddenly a believer in marriage, but something was definitely up.

Of course, then something else was up, and Justin could add 'inside a tent' to the extensive list of places he'd fucked.

"So much for fucking under the stars," he grinned later, breathing heavily and staring up at their view of the inside of the tent.

"Don't worry about it," Brian told him, awkwardly moving around in the tent to unzip and push open the door flaps. "Soon enough you'll be fucking stars in LA." They'd been asked not to smoke inside the tents, and as Justin watched, Brian stuck his head outside and lit up a cigarette. It was well past midnight and the tip of Brian's cigarette glowed brightly in the darkness, his profile catching what light there was.

Shifting around too, Justin lay on his front next to him, sticking his own head out of the tent and making a grab for Brian's cigarette. Brian let him, which Justin figured said more about their relationship than anything else. "I don't know," he said between puffs. "Might not have time. I'll only be there for a couple of days."

Shrugging, Brian stole his cigarette back and took a drag. "You'll go back."

"You think so?" Justin asked genuinely, considering. Maybe if the movie got made, he might be asked to go back from time to time to consult or something. He really didn't know how the movie industry worked. Maybe Michael would go, too.

Brian didn't say anything and Justin took in his silence, frowning. Plucking the cigarette out of Brian's hand again, he held it away instead of taking a puff and leant in to press a kiss against Brian's lips. "I may go," he said quietly, "but I'll always come back." It was a lesson Brian really should've learnt by now.

Brian stared back at him, and Justin wondered how he'd ever tricked anyone into believing he only gave a shit about himself.

A loud moan broke the moment, both of their heads turning quickly to stare at a nearby tent.

"Ah," Brian said mockingly, "the happy couple."

Grinning, Justin passed the cigarette back. "I can't believe they're getting married. Well, I mean I can believe it, but I can't believe we're finally in a place where we're all here to see it and it's actually legal."

Blowing out a breath of smoke, Brian stubbed the cigarette out in the grass (Justin made a mental note to pick it up in the morning). "Won't mean shit when we cross the border."

"I know," Justin sighed, his good mood dipping. "But at least here it's legal. And...it'll mean something to them, you know?" Pausing, Justin wasn't surprised when Brian didn't say anything. "I know how you feel about marriage and I respect that, but...you're not going to try and stop it from happening or anything, are you?"

Turning his head towards him suddenly, Brian held his body stiffly until he eventually relaxed. "Wouldn't do that to Mikey. Besides, it's their choice." Reaching out, Brian pulled the door flaps back in. Together they zipped up the tent and climbed awkwardly into their sleeping bag. Frankly, Justin was glad - this was hardly the warmest time of year.

When they'd arrived at the camp site for the night Justin had unzipped both sleeping bags completely (Brian, of course, had brought his own), then zipped them together to form a double. Brian had rolled his eyes, but hadn't made him change them back.

Glad though he was to be sleeping with Brian tonight, Justin was still kind of shocked by the whole thing. Not so much the fact that Brian was determined to do the Liberty Ride; more the fact that he was camping and hadn't bitched about it once.

Deciding for once not to question his good fortune, Justin snuggled in next to him, kissed Brian's neck and closed his eyes.

A moan reverberated around the camp site again.

Justin couldn't help but chuckle. "How many queers in this camp site do you think are fucking right now?"

"No fucking idea," Brian muttered, his hands tugging Justin's pajama bottoms down. "But let's give them two more."

*

The next morning, Brian woke looking like the living dead - he clearly hadn't slept well, an unusual occurrence lately. Though their sex life was pretty much back to normal, Brian's overall energy levels still weren't what they used to be. He slept longer, harder. Spent more nights at home instead of out partying at Babylon.

Justin knew better than to ever say anything about it and, figuring Brian just wasn't used to sleeping in any kind of tent - especially one he didn't fit inside of comfortably - declared that they should get their hands on some coffee, ASAP.

As it was, they'd barely popped their heads out of the tent when an even more exuberant than usual Debbie appeared, ordering them to get their asses in gear in order to get to the wedding with the rest of them.

They got dressed, took their tent down in record time (but was probably really fucking slow compared to someone who was actually used to camping) and had about five minutes to wash and brush their teeth - when Deb barged into the men's and dragged them out, apparently worried they'd get distracted and fuck. Justin had to admit it was a legitimate concern.

They were the last ones ready, the rest of the riders already on the buses and waiting. Michael and Ben had saved them a seat just in front of them and, being the happy couple, everyone was willing to indulge them. Because of the special occasion, the drivers were going to drop the wedding party off at the court house, take everyone else to the starting area to get set up, and then come back later for the others.

Justin wasn't sure how they'd been able to arrange everything at the court house at such short notice, but Brian had been on his cell a lot before they left Moosie's the night before - and Brian always got what he wanted.

As the wedding party departed, Michael and Ben got a big cheer from both buses, and then they started making their way inside.

The ceremony was brief but beautiful. Smiling, Justin held Deb's hand, watched Michael and Ben exchange vows, and when Brian - as the best man - stood forward as if to object, Justin knew he didn't really mean it.

Someone had brought rice from somewhere, and when the ceremony was over the rest of them followed the newlyweds out of the room, laughing and throwing rice everywhere. By the time they walked out of the building Brian's arm was around his shoulder, and Justin was really fucking glad he'd never made it to LA.

Everyone seemed to be in a ridiculously good mood, smiling and constantly congratulating the newlyweds as they waited for the bus to come pick them up. Deb hugged both Michael and Ben about ten times each, and Justin was talking with Ted when Brian slipped away to make a call.

Ted waited until Brian was clearly occupied before saying anything.

"Is he really up for this?" he asked seriously, carefully.

Pulling his gaze away from Brian, Justin stared back at Ted. In all honesty, it was something he'd thought many times himself. "You know what he's like, Ted. He'll get through it." Truthfully, it was pretty shitty that it was Brian's cancer that had made him and Ted actual friends, but nonetheless Justin was really fucking glad Brian had someone at work who knew what he'd been through. Ted was a good guy.

"And if he doesn't," Ted said confidently, "I'm sure you'll be able to convince him that resting somewhere really turns you on."

Laughing, Justin lifted his eyebrows and stuck his tongue out, fake-leering.

When they saw the bus starting to pull into view, Justin headed towards Brian. Justin had never lost his general inquisitiveness - Brian called it being fucking nosey - and as he approached he heard the words 'band', 'cake', and the name of the camp site they were staying at that night, back in America. Smiling and shaking his head, Justin wrapped his arms around Brian from behind, pressing the side of his face against his back.

Not moving until he finished his call, Brian eventually pocketed his cell phone and turned around until he was facing him.

"Hey," he said, slipping his arms over Justin's shoulders.

"Hey," Justin smiled back, tightening his hold again. "Bus is just about here." Justin held his gaze. "Despite your best efforts, you're a good man, Brian Kinney."

Brian arched his eyebrows. "What asshole told you that?"

"No asshole," he retorted. "It's just something I know." He was actually a little surprised for once when Brian didn't try to argue with him or look embarrassed. Pleased, too, Justin slipped a hand up to the back of Brian's neck, guiding him down for a kiss.

Brian rarely needed such encouragement and met the kiss with an open mouth. Justin would've been happy to stay there all day, but a sudden loud beep made them break apart and turn to see Debbie standing on the steps of the bus. Everyone else was already on board.

"Come on you two!" she yelled, with a certain twinkle in her eye. "Christ, you'd think someone else had got married today."

Shifting until they were walking side-by-side, Brian wrapped an arm around Justin's shoulders again. "You hold her down," he pretended to grump, "and I'll exsanguinate the body."

Justin couldn't help but smirk. Who the hell used words like exsanguinate? "Oh, Mr Kinney," he cooed, "your vocabulary gets me so hot."

Brian stared at Justin. Justin stared at Brian.

And then laughed as he was chased up the steps to the bus.

*

Justin hadn't really grasped just how many people were taking part in the Liberty Ride until he saw them all at the starting line. It was pretty fucking impressive.

Deb, of course, was fussing over her family - now she had two sons, as well as a kind of grandson - and Justin grinned when he saw her attaching the JUST MARRIED signs to the back of Michael and Ben's bikes.

The sound of a ringing bell made him turn his head, and he saw Brian pulling up beside him on his bike. "There you are."

"Here I am," Brian agreed. Justin rolled his eyes.

It was Brian's turn to be fussed over by Debbie, then, and he pretended to enjoy it a lot less than he actually did. When she finally moved away, Brian sighed and turned to study Justin.

"You look really fucking dorky in that helmet."

Justin smiled, taking no offense. "And I was just about to say the same thing to you."

Shifting on his bike, Brian looked around airily. "At least you're in good company."

Biting his bottom lip, Justin waited when he heard murmurs that the ride was due to start any moment now. "I know you don't need it," he told Brian, "but good luck."

Pausing, Brian eventually nodded, just as the flag-waver walked out in front of the starting line. Everyone sat up on their bikes. "You too."

And the Liberty Ride began.

*

Before even approaching the starting line, Justin had already decided that when they started riding he was staying with Brian - no matter what the fucker said. By the time they reached the U.S. border, he'd had nothing to worry about - Brian was holding up well so far, keeping up a good speed. He wasn't particularly looking forward to the possibility that that'd change, but he was also determined to stick with his plan.

They crossed the border with little problem, with the exception of Michael and Ben. As soon as they did make it through, Deb had said loud and clear - repeatedly, to anyone who would listen - that they hadn't been allowed to enter the country as a married couple because the marriage wasn't recognised in the United States.

Everyone consoled her and the newlyweds, but when Justin was sure that none of them were listening, he sidled up to Brian.

"I think it sucks. Of course I think it sucks - gay marriage should be legal in America. But we all know that it's not." He thought about their conversation the previous night. "Honestly, I'm surprised Ben and Michael even tried."

Staring off at something for a few moments, Brian eventually looked back at him. "They just got married. Today. Allegedly it's supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. Wouldn't you try?"

Blinking, Justin wondered how that particular exchange of views had just happened. "You big old romantic."

"I don't know about old or romantic," grabbing Justin's hand, he placed it over his cock. "But I'd be happy to show you big."

Unfortunately, they turned out not to have time for a quick fuck as the ride was getting underway again. Later, Justin was secretly kind of glad that they hadn't, because even without using the energy the fuck would've taken Brian was starting to slow down. It wasn't hugely noticeable, because almost everyone had slowed down since they'd first started, but Brian was slower than most. Neither one of them said anything about it, and Justin simply kept Brian's pace and occasionally talked about nothing significant - Emmett's outfit, the ass of the guy in front of them, how many blowjobs Brian still owed him from that pretending to be a hustler night (that one actually got a response from Brian, who argued that a 69 would actually clear 69 of them and thus clear his standing debt. Justin told him he was fucking kidding himself).

By the time they reached the camp site, dusk was starting to fall. After setting up camp for the night, everyone was encouraged to take a shower - partly to get clean, partly to help their muscles. When they walked into the shower room it was packed, but Justin saw someone leaving and quickly discarded his towel and moved to the free shower head. It was pretty much the only time Justin had ever been in a room full of naked queers and no one was fucking.

Brian shared the shower head with him, the two of them scrubbing each others backs, massaging muscles, washing their hair. Justin was actually kind of surprised that he wasn't getting hard; it was simply...nice...touching Brian, and they made out a little before turning off the water and leaving to dry off.

They'd brought clothes with them, because there was no fucking way they were going outside practically naked in that weather, and after they dried, dressed, and Brian fussed with his hair, they went searching for food. Which was just as well, because Justin was starving.

Dinner was being served in the main hall. Or barn. Or whatever it actually was. Justin was pretty impressed with the camp site that'd been chosen. It needed to be able to cope with a large group of people arriving on the same day, with most of them taking showers at the same time. So far it was doing so admirably.

The food was fine, but Justin really didn't care about taste by that point. Even Brian ate with more gusto than usual, and eating seemed to revive him - he didn't seem quite as tired as he had earlier. They were sitting with Michael and Ben - who were still upset about not coming into the country as a married couple - when Brian's cell phone went off. Taking it out, he looked at the Caller ID and stood up.

"Have to take this," he said, opening it, lifting it to his ear, and striding towards the exit.

Justin squinted.

It wasn't a surprise at all when, about ten minutes later, Brian returned with a cake in tow. Justin smiled as it was placed on the table by someone he didn't recognise. It had two grooms on top; one big and muscular, the other one...not so much.

Debbie spotted it instantly, rushing over. "Oh my god!"

Michael stared at it in shock. "What the fuck is that?"

"You've been to enough heterosexual suicide pacts to know," Brian argued simply. "This is a wedding cake. It's for your reception."

Shaking his head as if to clear it, Michael tried again. "I mean, where'd it come from?"

"In the middle of nowhere," Ben added, looking just as shocked.

"We're back in the US of A. For enough money, you can buy anything." As if to emphasise his point, he handed a bunch of cash to the guys who'd been carrying the cake, dismissing them. "And here's a little something to wash it down." Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out a bottle of champagne he'd clearly been hiding under his arm.

Debbie gawked at it. "That stuff costs a fortune! You're the last person I ever expected to be celebrating a marriage."

Grasping the bottle between his legs, Brian ignored the statement and instead popped the cork out, lifting the bottle up as champagne spilled over the top. "To the Novotny-Bruckners! Long may it reign!"

Laughing, Justin stood up and reached Brian just a band fucking appeared from nowhere and started playing. And it wasn't just any band; it was a fucking Klezmer band. By now the bottle had been put on the table, and Justin flung his arms around Brian's neck. "See?" he grinned. "I said you were a big old romantic."

He rolled his eyes. "And I told you-"

"You're pissed because they're upset they couldn't come into America as a married couple, so you did this to make them feel better."

Brian stared at him.

Justin smiled. "Come on," he said, grabbing Brian's hand and tugging him towards the middle of the room, where people were holding hands and dancing in circles to the music. Cutting into one of the circles, Justin grinned when Brian didn't hesitate to join in. He actually seemed to be enjoying himself. They all danced together for a long time, and eventually the bigger groups started breaking off into couples. Michael and Ben were the main attraction of course, dancing in the middle of the room as the others milled around them.

The music was still fast-paced but not at all what they were used to dancing to at Babylon, and Justin laughed as Brian spun him around. He couldn't remember the last time they'd danced like-

-and don't forget who's taking you home, and in whose arms you're gonna-

Stopping suddenly, jerking away from Brian, Justin's stomach rolled. Turning away he ran, pushing through the crowd, and he thought he heard Brian yelling at them to get out of the fucking way but then he was outside and bracing one hand against the building as he threw up everything he'd eaten for dinner.

Brian was there, right beside him, but knew better than to touch him - Justin fucking hated being touched when he was throwing up, something Brian'd learnt the hard way.

And fuck, this was gross. Throwing up was fucking disgusting, and by the time he finally finished heaving his throat hurt and his mouth tasted unbelievably gross.

"Fuck," he whispered, still bent over. "Fuck, fuck."

"Hey," Brian said quietly, helping him stand, pulling Justin into his arms.

Not resisting - he'd tried that, and these fucking things were always better with Brian than without - Justin leant against him and exhaled heavily.

Rubbing a hand across Justin's back, Brian kept his voice low. "Been a while since one of those."

Barely nodding, Justin sighed again. "Sorry."

"Don't," Brian tightened the arm around him. "Don't ever be sorry. Now, come on," he said decisively, pushing away slightly, "let's go rinse your mouth out and turn in. I'm fucking beat."

Sniffing, Justin nodded. It wasn't often Brian gave up his pride by actually admitting he was tired, but they both knew there was no way Justin could deal with a crowd right now.

They almost made it away when Debbie suddenly rushed out - no doubt she'd heard something had happened.

"Sunshine?" she began, clearly concerned. "Is everything-?"

"It's fine, Deb," Brian interrupted, shifting around until both he and Justin had an arm around each other. "I'm just worn out. Think I overdid it today, so Justin's gonna help me bed down for the night."

Sometimes, even Debbie got subtlety. Though it was still blindingly obvious to Justin exactly what they were doing, he did appreciate the sentiment.

"Oh. Well," she continued, "you take care of yourself, okay, you little asshole?" Leaning forward, she gave Brian a one-armed hug. "You're still recovering, you know."

Brian pretended to put up with it the way he always did. "Yes, Ma."

Moving on to Justin, she held him tightly. "Take care of him, okay, Sunshine?"

"Sure, Deb," he said smoothly, feeling distinctly relieved when she let go. He wasn't a big fan of anyone other than Brian touching him after an episode.

She gave them a few more words of encouragement, promised to give Michael and Ben their best, and Justin suspected she stood there watching them the whole time they were walking away.

The further they walked, arms around each other, the quieter the music became, until all Justin could hear was the fast, basic beat.

*

They both knew he'd have nightmares that night, and he did. It'd been a while since those, too, and though Justin had mostly got over his useless frustration at not being able to stop them, he did get pissed off because Brian really needed to rest and he was the one keeping him awake.

"Maybe I can find a spare tent," he offered. "Or sleep-"

"Will you calm the fuck down?" Brian asked, extremely rhetorically, sitting up and cursing when his head went into the side of the tent. "Fuck! Look, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the kind of shit partners are supposed to do for each other."

Freezing for a few seconds, Justin pressed his lips together as something bubbled inside him. "You're right," he agreed. "You're absolutely right." If he had to take the bad shit with the good stuff, so did Brian.

"Good," he nodded, sliding back down. "So let's go back to sleep, and if you have another one we'll deal with it, just like the others."

Justin knew Brian was a fucking lot of work, but sometimes he just couldn't help but think how lucky he was.

Burrowing against Brian's left side, he closed his eyes and let out a sigh. "Christ, we make quite the pair, don't we?"

Snorting amusement, Brian turned towards Justin, putting an arm around him. "At least we're not boring."

Smiling to himself, he pressed closer. "Thank you."

Brian didn't freeze up and get all weird. Instead, he just rubbed a hand over Justin's back and said, "Yeah."

*

The next morning, they both woke looking like the living dead.

"When we get home," Justin announced, "I'm calling in sick to everything and sleeping for an entire week."

"As long as you can blow me in your sleep," Brian said around a cup of for-shit coffee, "I have no problem with that."

Smirking, Justin sipped at his own for-shit coffee. "I believe that's a talent I've acquired."

That day of biking was much less exciting, which was probably a good thing. There was no wedding, no exciting start to the Liberty Ride, no reception - but there was no PTSD episode and no vomiting, either. They maintained an easy speed for most of the day, deliberately starting off slower than they'd started off the day before. Eventually Brian started looking pretty haggard, but didn't voice one word of complaint and didn't slow down, either. Justin was just contemplating ways to get him to stop and rest when word passed from the few bikers in front of them that their next camp site was only half an hour away. It gave them both a renewed sense of energy.

Justin was glad to get there. Brian needed to rest, and frankly, biking for so many hours a day was getting fucking boring.

When their bikes were taken care of, they followed the same routine from the previous night - set up camp, shower, dry, dress. When they returned their toiletries to their tent, Justin leered at Brian.

"Why don't you lie down? I need to speak to Deb about something, but I won't be long - and when I come back I'll blow you."

Brian didn't seem inclined to argue, and when Justin returned fifteen minutes later, Brian was predictably out cold. Smiling faintly, Justin tugged off his sneakers and cuddled up next to him. He was pretty fucking tired himself. Yawning, he closed his eyes and promptly fell asleep.

It was Deb who made sure they ate, waking them up a few hours later with her head sticking into their tent. "Hey, come on you two. Get something to eat before the food disappears completely. You know what hungry fags are like."

Justin was suddenly starving. Still rubbing at his eyes, he jammed his feet into his sneakers and went in search of sustenance.

In the new hall/barn/whatever the fuck it was, Michael waved them over when he saw them standing there, each holding a tray of food. "Hey, guys! Over here!"

"We wondered where you guys had gotten to," Ben said genially as they seated themselves at the table.

"We were alone," Justin grinned, picking up his fork. "What do you think we were doing?"

Hunter wrinkled his nose. "I really didn't need that mental image, thanks."

Smiling smugly, he dug into his meal and listened to the others talk. It seemed Ted and Emmett had gone off-course, looking for a specific town that had a twelve-step meeting. They hadn't arrived back at the camp yet, and the gang were starting to get worried.

"Schmucks," Brian announced. "Who the fuck goes exploring an area they don't know, at night, when it's this cold out? He could've fucking had the meeting here. He can't be the only recovering user out of this bunch."

"But part of the point of the meeting is the anonymity," Ben argued. "Here, everybody knows him."

"Whatever," Brian huffed. "If he gets himself killed, I'm firing his ass."

He wasn't fooling anyone.

Later, when everyone had settled into their tents, Justin confronted him. "They'll be okay, you know. If Emmett survived his home town and Ted survived crystal, they'll survive this too."

Brian sighed. "I thought you promised to blow me."

That he had, and he was missing being with Brian in that way - they hadn't had any kind of sex in a couple of days. Justin knew Brian was planning on reciprocating, so he made the blowjob long, exhausting, and fucking magnificent - even if he did say so himself. By the time he finally let him come, Brian barely had enough energy to kiss him afterward.

Justin went to sleep sporting a hard dick that night, but it was worth it.

*

The last day of the ride was the worst. Though everyone was relieved because Emmett and Ted had found their way back, Brian was much slower right from the start. Justin stuck with him the whole time; half expecting Brian to yell at him not to wait for him, that he shouldn't be held back - but it never happened. When Brian started to look in serious danger of falling off his bike from sheer exhaustion, Justin didn't even try to devise sneaky ways to get him to rest; he just grabbed the handle on Brian's bike and guided him to the side of the road.

"Here," he said firmly. "We're resting."

He knew there was no way Brian was about to give up, but he did get off his bike and sit down for a while. He drank a little water; ate an energy bar. They sat at the side of the road for about half an hour, watching the rest of the lagging bikers slowly pedal by until finally they couldn't see anyone at all.

Justin was contemplating getting back on his bike when Brian suddenly said something.

"I want you to move back in."

Eyes wide, Justin stared at him. "Huh?" He couldn't have been more fucking surprised.

"I said I want you to move back in."

Pausing, Justin swallowed and licked his lips. "Why?"

Pausing himself, Brian tipped his head back and stared up at the sky. "Between bouts of vomiting and feeling like you want to crawl into a hole and die, cancer is quite the motivator." He smirked ironically. "I want to change the light over the bed. I want to spend more time with my son." Tilting his head back down, he turned to look at Justin. "And I want you to move back in."

Justin nodded, but Brian still hadn't answered his question. "Why?"

Sighing, Brian glanced off to one side before focusing back on him. Meeting his gaze.

Holding it.

"You know why."

Staring back at him, Justin slowly began to smile. Brian might not be able to say it, but he was acknowledging it.

But there was something else that needed saying. "I'm not expecting monogamy," Justin said honestly. "In fact, I don't think I even want it." He didn't trick as much as Brian, but sometimes he still enjoyed it. Enjoyed just having the possibility. "But Brian, if we live together, we live together. I'm not your border, or some piece of fluff you're supporting. I want to help out with the bills - when I can," he admitted. There was a significant difference between their incomes for the time being, and he couldn't deny that. "If you want to buy a new piece of furniture or re-decorate, we discuss it together. We have equal say. And..." he paused, not sure how Brian was going to react. "No tricking in the loft. For either of us. It has nothing to do with us being together, and doesn't belong there."

Biting his bottom lip, Brian at least didn't look pissed off. "I'll probably fuck up."

Relieved, Justin laughed. "Good, because I will too."

"So..." Brian eyed him. "Is that a yes?"

Grinning widely, Justin crawled on to Brian's lap and kissed him.

Laughing, Brian kissed him back, pulling him closer as their hands slid together and they pretended to wrestle for dominance.

"Geez," a familiar voice said. "If you two stopped to fuck, we'll be waiting all day."

They pulled apart, but didn't look away.

"Hey, Mikey," Brian greeted, still smiling at Justin. "Is there a problem?"

"Just wanted to make sure you were okay," he replied warmly.

"We're good," Justin grinned.

"Although we should get moving," Brian pointed out. "If we do stop to fuck, I probably won't have the energy to cross the finish line."

Still smiling, Justin climbed off of his lap and they carefully climbed back on their respective bikes. Justin knew it wasn't going to be easy - sometimes it would be tiring, exhausting work - but he'd come this far and wasn't about to stop now. The metaphor amused him, and his smile grew wider as they pushed off and continued riding side-by-side, Michael just behind them. There was absolutely no doubt in Justin's mind that they'd cross the finishing line the same way they'd started:

Together, with a great deal of sarcasm.

~FINIS