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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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qaffic: learning curve
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
I've learned it's *so* much easier just to give in and *go* with it. Mountains don't ever move, tides will always come in, and Jessica always, always gets her way, somehow. I'm pondering how exactly this happens.

dammitcarl for wanting and ranalore for co-audiencing.



Learning Curve
by jenn

*****

He falls over it when he gets home from work, a haphazard pile of shoes and shed jacket, socks inside-out like a shed skin a pace inside the door. A trial of destruction from doorway to kitchen, where Michael left the juice out and forgot to close the cabinets, left jeans sprawled across the stairs.

Little things that grate on the frayed edges of Brian's nerves, making him slam his briefcase down on the island in the kitchen, close the cabinet with a rattle of bone china, loosen his tie with quick jerks of his fingers on his way up the stairs. Jeans kicked aside in nothing like an afterthought.

Tiny mountain of wet towels on the bathroom floor where Michael threw them, seeping moisture into the paint of the wall. The toothpaste is in the sink, washcloth teetering over the side like an unsure suicide in progress.

The entire room smells like Michael. Aloe and whatever soap he uses from the convenience store down the block.

He does stuff like this, tiny pricks of irritation like a brief brush of sandpaper against his skin. Comics spread over the bed and limply across the floor that one day when Michael had come back from some comic convention with three new boxes. They're in the second closet now. Wrappers from Hostess Cupcakes and leftover manicotti congealing in bowls by the couch. Endless to-do lists for the comic store on scraps of paper littering the floor like a late autumn snow.

Coming back down the stairs, Brian thinks of Captain Astro, who used to hover over his computer until his nerve broke and relegated it to another part of the loft. Robots in various stages of appreciating value clutter the shelves and coffee table. The hideous old quilt that Debbie had bought Michael in fifth grade is draped haphazardly over the couch. One bare foot peeks out now, toes relaxed against the armrest. An abandoned plate is hanging off the edge of the coffee table, smeared with take-out, fork stuck in a puddle of soy sauce and rice on the floor.

Left to his own devices, Michael eats frighteningly large amounts of carbohydrates every night.

Adaptation is the natural response of humans to unusual situations, so he thinks he copes well. He usually remembers to look before stepping. Towels can be handled by the maid. There's nothing to do about the pasta but get Michael to bed before dinner or encourage take-out.

Brian's learned to adapt. He does that a lot these days.

Michael watches anime on Sunday nights with popcorn and domestic beer. He always does his laundry on Wednesdays, before Angel. He buys horrible ties when Brian lets him go shopping unattended. Leaves fingerprints on his computer screen and always, always forgets to make the bed.

Adaptation, the nature of the animal, the nature of mankind. Finding equilibrium in other things.

Michael plays racquetball with him on Tuesdays.

He shops with him on Thursdays.

He leaves Brian to trick on Saturdays.

Long, hot, meaningless sex against walls and in alleys, in anonymous apartments and bathroom stalls, smelling of sweat and come and accumulated garbage, excitement sharp and vivid like licking copper. But it's Michael's face he sees after, mouth curved up in a quirked grin, delicate as the shell of an egg, hiding the hurt beneath. Sundays are late breakfasts and hours in bed. Just silence and warmth, wrapped around Michael, eyes closed, mouthing reassurance in kisses against salty skin, because the one promise Michael wants is the one Brian can't ever give. Michael doesn't even ask.

Equilibrium. It's a small price to pay.

Small for the best friend that slouches on his couch and knows his silences like he knows his body. The man who defends him from everything, protects him from anything, even himself.

The one that curls around him in sleep, familiar hands on his skin that he sometimes wonders how he slept without.

The one who takes him home when he's high and holds his hair when he throws up. Dances with him for hours, surrounded by bodies that don't seem to exist. Wrapped close and warm and more real than anything that Brian's ever had.

This compact body that's sprawled over his couch, eyes closed. Dark lashes against light skin. Hands loose fists on his chest, like he's holding something close that he can't give up.

"Mikey." It's soft and careful, because Michael wakes harder than Brian does. A little sigh from the couch and Michael rolls over, one hand reaching out to grope at air, and Brian watches as Michael edges forward, knowing what's coming, letting himself smile as Michael rolls onto the floor, eyes opened wide and startled as a deer.

"Brian--" Hand running through his hair absently, eyes darting until they settle on him.

"Rise and shine." Piles of comics on the floor, beside the remote control. Brian's late tonight, and Michael knows how to entertain himself.

There's amusement when Michael crawls back onto the couch with a huff, shifting his feet enough for Brian to sit. He does, grabbing an unopened box of sesame chicken along the way.

Michael, who clambers to his knees to collapse beside him, looking up with dark, mild eyes and a grin Brian's never learned how to resist. "Share?"

They trade bits of chicken and channel surf while Michael tells him about the comic shop and seeing Ben on the street. How the lemon curried pork had been overcooked at the little place he goes to lunch. The latest issue of Rage. Eyes lit up from within.

Quiet and familiar and patient warmth curling around them like the blanket Michael throws over them

Brian sinks deeper into warm leather and leans his head against Michael's.

"Brian?" Michael's concern rouses him, and he lifts his head, looking down into honest worry. Leans closer to kiss, slow and sweet, enjoying the instant response, the way Michael shapes himself against him, the way familiarity and peace taste on Michael's skin.

This is why Brian chose him. He thinks, eyes closing as Michael's palm slides over his cock beneath the wool pants, that he was right.


"The latest issue of Rage."

Who's the new artist? As I think it would be a cold day in Hell that Justin would work with Michael, and have to watch the Brian/Michael show play out.

But. As I said last night. Your fic, I read. Even if it's the pairing that squicks me like no other. *grin*

It was very, very late at night and Jess was very, very traumatized about the lack of porn. I was being comforting! I was!

*hugs* Thanks, chica.

*shudders* Well, that was a trip in hell. Thanks all that's holy it's something Brian will never ever lower himself to do. eeewwwwwww *runs away screaming*

P.S. Woowee, did you ever make Mikey into a slob.

*dies laughing*

*chases down and drags back*

Think of it this way, it could have been pooooooorn. It was very late last night and I was really sleep-deprived. *grins* Everything feels normal at that time of night.

*hugs struggling teisfortiger and cackles evilly*

That Michael is sure has become a slob, huh?*lol* I loved the story. The imagery was beautiful and made me smile. I know it's not your normal couple, but you still captured them wonderfully.

He's just being homey!

*giggles*

Thank you very much. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Even though I'm a big fan of your work, I've never commented. Even though the warning said "not B/J", I still clicked on it. Even though I knew where it was headed, I still read it. Even though I know what being a sadistic bitch will do to my innards, I finished it. Even though I have to now gouge my eyes out and hurl all the candy I've eaten in the past two days, I still adore your writing. Even as I instantaneously leap up to go watch copious amounts of B/J to cleanse my palette, I still smile. Good stuff.

Don't gouge your eyes! Think of sisabet's videos! You'll never be able to see them again!

66! Think of 66, for the love of God!

*grins*

I'm glad to see you survived the experience, however. You are now a much stronger person. *G*

It might be a squick, but it's a good kind of squick. I think. Regardless, the description is lovely and I can feel Brian throughout the whole thing. I liked it. :)

Thanks! *bouncing* The good kind of squick!

*wipes away a tear of joy*

And seriously, thanks. Oddly, I figured this one would be met with resounding hostile silence....

*hugs hard* Be on AIM tonight to play. Please please please?

(Deleted comment)
*gently smoothes the twitching eye* Just breathe through it. *grins*

Thanks very much.

This was a lovely piece. :) As a fan of Brian/Michael, finding good fic is *really* hard, so I'm delighted to see you writing it (even if it's just this once.) You captured them both beautifully here.

It probably says something terrible about me that a lot of the attraction was the fact it isn't my pairing of choice.

And thank you. I was hoping to do them justice. *hugs*

Jenn, please don't take this the wrong way, but I still can't go for it. I don't know why. I mean, the writing is beautiful and touching, but it's all still very distant to me, and I am sitting here just convinced that this *could never happen.*

I don't even know why. Because it is not that I am anti-Brian/Michael. When I first watched Season One I was *oh so very* Brian/Michael. And if anyone should be able to get me to go for it, it should be you. But I'm still stuck, somehow.

*pets* No problem, dearest. No story works across the board, and especially this snippet couldn't possibly. But thanks muchly for the comments. *hugs* At least my technique is still viable.

*more hugs*

you are too good to me, my dear. but, damn, you'd think i was asking for clana.

i love slobby michael, like he doesn't have to try anymore, now that he's got what he wants. you never get to see him really let loose with david or ben the way he does with brian. laid out on the floor, surrounded by empty take-out containers.

now. what can i do for you?

*snickers* If you had, I would have written it. Scarred myself for *life* but I would have. Maybe for your birthday. *g*

*nods* Michael's all *himself*ish, no one to impress, just home-like. *pets Michael* He's a *good* boy.

*hugs hard* To please you is reward enough, of course.

I only forgive you for writing this, and making it so damn mesmerizing I couldn't look away, because of the sekrit B/J message contained in these lines:

Dances with him for hours, surrounded by bodies that don't seem to exist. Wrapped close and warm and more real than anything that Brian's ever had.

There's no Michael in there. *G*

I still think you should write penance B/J porn, though. Because it will encourage me to try my hand at it, and you want to encourage me, don't you? *bats eyelashes*

*thinks* I don't think Iv'e actually *written* B/J porn yet. Wow. How is that possible?

I love you. Decoding sekrit messages. And you totally didn't notice I cut the line about the blond!

*evil heee and haaa*

The entire room smells like Michael. Aloe and whatever soap he uses from the convenience store down the block

Brian making compromises with himself and finding equilibrium is a beautiful thing and you've captured that quite well. But - even as he thinks he made the right decision and finds that familiarity comforting and natural, I think he is deluding himself - and it is not because I am all Brianandjustinforeverandeveramen. Well, I am - kind of - but Brian just did not sell me that he is going to be able to keep this up for any long-term commitment.

Why?

The entire room smells like Michael. Aloe and whatever soap he uses from the convenience store down the block.

See - it makes me wonder. Maybe it is just me, but in a relationship irritations can add up. And one day you just don't care for the smell of your lover anymore. It's not a dislike, just an annoyance. And then one day you discover that you really loathe it and him and then he fucks up the VCR and causes you to miss an NEW episode of The X-Files and it was during a season that did not suck and doesn't he know you at all? And then it ends very badly. Okay - it is just me, but this is what I am reading into the story itself - which is something you created and I just wanted to tell you my impression. Because it is not because of the pairing. I swear. I think. I have issues.

I enjoyed reading this. Now please bring Brian home from New York before I die.

I think he is deluding himself - and it is not because I am all Brianandjustinforeverandeveramen. Well, I am - kind of - but Brian just did not sell me that he is going to be able to keep this up for any long-term commitment.

I agree with sisabet in that it feels as if this thing between Brian and Michael won't last. That, something's got to give, eventually. I don't know, are you planning a sequel? Or is it one of these... sort of ambiguous endings to get people thinking?

Okay - it is just me

Heh. Maybe I'm also weird (not that I'm saying you're weird or anything :p) but little annoyances at the beginning of the relationship can become relationship breakers in the future. Sure, it's possible that they slowly grow on you and become endearing, but to me, that happening is rather rare.

I enjoyed reading this. Now please bring Brian home from New York before I die.

OMG. Yes, bring Brian back dammit! Actually, I wouldn't mind if you leave him in NY for a while longer, as long as there's more Justin and Emmett and Daphne... and God help me, James.

Also, I -did- enjoy this. And maybe/possibly it's because of the whole self delusion (or possibility of)that Brian's got going, and Mikey's acceptance of it, that's so damn touching and heartbreaking.

the way Michael shapes himself against him, the way familiarity and peace taste on Michael's skin.

This is why Brian chose him. He thinks, eyes closing as Michael's palm slides over his cock beneath the wool pants, that he was right.


That makes me feel as if Brian's with Mikey out of... insecurity? I don't know. But whatever it is, it just doesn't seem as if it's for the right reason. But maybe, possibly, most likely, I'm just bias and am all for brianandjustinforeverandever hence am looking for excuses that B/M wouldn't be that happy together.

It just feels like they're 'settling' you know? And neither deserves that, and I feel sad for them, because they're settling. *sigh* I'm really reading too much into this. But yeah, just in case it's not clear, I liked this. :))

It just feels like they're 'settling' you know? And neither deserves that, and I feel sad for them, because they're settling. *sigh* I'm really reading too much into this. But yeah, just in case it's not clear, I liked this. :))

Actually, that's a pretty valid reading. If you really just want me to gush into this whole Justin is the anti-fate thing I was discussing with--God, jaymalea, I think, I totally could. *thinks* Cause I think the story came out of that discussion.

*bounces* Are you ever on AIM?

Learning Curve

(Anonymous)
Other than the fact that it makes no sense? Brian would put up with this? Do this? Huh? I'd like the rationale for this AU, because nothing computes.

Thank you for taking the time to read and leave comments, but a quick note.

If you don't have an LJ and want to leave comments, I usually like to have a name or email addy so I know who I'm talking to. It's just good manners. If you'd like an LJ code, I'd be pleased to give you one, just email me at jenn @ thegateway.net and I'll send it over. God knows, I have enough to spare. *g*


I'm not sure if it's possible to both squee and sigh happily at the same time, but that's the reaction this piece gave me.

Yay! Mikey/Brian! (It's not quite as cool as Stuart/Vince, but it the most appealing possible pairing on QafUS. Yes, I like Mikey. I really like him. *g*)

*loves Jenn*

Woot! Two likes! *almost faints with relief*

Thanks sooo much, chica.

This could be that I'm a complete dork, and instead of writing my Asian Lit. paper (party on paper!), I keep thinking of this story. Forgive me for not introducing on my earlier post, I hope you don't mind me commenting (waves sheepishly). The line that is imbedded in my brain like the ladybug that has now gone MIA in my room and will probably fly up my nose when I'm asleep is "Adaptation is the natural response of humans to unusual situations, so he thinks he copes well." I don't quite think that Brian is necessarily 'settling' for Mikey in this regard, but more adapting to the circumstances, i.e. Justin absence.

Kindof like he "adapted" after Justin was bashed, or how he "adapted" during the Ethan phase. Is Justin permanently removed from this world or is this a temporary lapse? Either or, it seems that this Mikey is sortakindaalmostifyousquintyoureyesandlookoutsideways much like Season 1 Justin, what with his general messiness and pissing Brian off vibe, but in a good way? To me, Brian is, in his royally screwed up way, once again "adapting" to not being with Justin, by somehow "being" with him through another person?

Does this in any way make sense?

*waves* no problem, and nice to meet you!

I don't quite think that Brian is necessarily 'settling' for Mikey in this regard, but more adapting to the circumstances, i.e. Justin absence.

Hmm. I like that.


To me, Brian is, in his royally screwed up way, once again "adapting" to not being with Justin, by somehow "being" with him through another person?


*beams*

Yes. I like that one *best*. And it'd make sense, in a weird, kind of depressing way.

*thinks on this*

And hi! Been in LJ long? *grins*