Anyway. Um. Part something of the story that just keeps going. For the curious, we're at one hundred pages. Please don't remind me of this or I will start panicking.
Snail power! Or something. Hmm.
He's sore, unhappy, and in serious, serious need of a day in bed.
This, of course, is why he's sitting in Ted's car with Emmett.
"You *really* don't have to do this, Justin." And fuck if the man doesn't sound amused. Shifting in the seat, Justin draws a careful breath, trying to remember his dosage on the Percocet. No drinking. No drugs. And God, if there were ever a time he needed both, this would be it.
"I'm bored." Justin thinks nostalgically of life a few days ago. The lack-of thing. Nothing to do, no people to rescue, no responsibilities for dumped and depressed queens, and certainly no comic stores to helm and Michaels to protect. There'd be a lot more sex, too, and that's really a problem here that can't be overestimated. He's really not having any sex at all.
And thanks to whatever the hell Brian was on the other night, even the concept of having options is out the window.
Liberty's itself--people-thick, loud, brilliant, and crappy as he feels, Justin appreciates it. He'd appreciate it more if his head didn't keep trying to float away and his vision didn't double every few seconds, and this is so *fucking* not good, and--
"I'll tell Brian you were in his bed last night if you ever even *think* about mentioning I went out tonight."
Emmett gives him an indulgent look before starting a nerve-wrecking exercise in parallel parking, and isn't there a good reason he's never known Emmett to drive to Babylon before today?
Justin narrows his eyes as they come to a jolty stop that jerks him against his seatbelt and God, that hurt places he hadn't been aware were bruised. "I'm serious."
"I know, honey." A slim hand pats his knee encouragingly. "Let's go."
One day, he'll be taken seriously. One day. Undoing his seatbelt, Justin slides out, letting his balance catch up. It's not as bad as he'd thought. Brian might be right about there not being a condition in life that a good pharmaceutical can't fix. There's a second of bending time--like he can hear Michael complaining behind him, and Brian making some comment on someone's ass as they pass, and Ted...standing there, looking that vaguely depressed way that was his version of pleased with the world in general--but it disappears on a blink.
"Is he meeting us here?" Justin asks, unwilling to invoke James' name, because damned if the man doesn't show up unexpectedly at the weirdest moments. Across the hood of the car, Emmett nods, glancing around, a little too eager for Justin's peace of mind.
"Think so, Sunshine." The alarm set, Emmett looks ready to hunt down the object of this little trip, and Justin moves fast, his back hating him for it. But that's okay, because he didn't eat much today and wow, this stuff is hitting fast. He can even muster a grin when Emmett stops short and his eyes fix on the sidewalk just outside Babylon.
He can even manage to keep that smile when James' eyes fix on him for a second that lasts too long before flickering up to Emmett. "Glad you could make it."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Emmett answers, and if this were scripted, it couldn't possibly go more smoothly. Ted would be trying not to chuckle. Michael would be trying really hard not to roll his eyes, and if Ben were around, they'd be looking at each other and hiding their laughter. There's a second where Justin expects to feel Brian's hand brush his shoulder in passing, but the moment's lost with a kind of bittersweet regret and a glance from the corner of James' eyes.
Fucking Stockwell. Fucking Ethan. Fucking *life*.
But Emmett doesn't seem to notice, falling into chat as light and insubstantial as cotton candy while Justin trails behind them.
It's like always, bright and far too many in a too-small space, and completely, blindingly empty without Brian. He's come here before, alone and with others, but the possibility was always there, tantalizing and denied, but Brian's a state away, probably watching AMC and eating fat free, salt free, air popped popcorn made from designer corn grown specially in some remote country--okay, stop now. Shaking his head, Justin follows them in, finding a smile for the bouncer that's been trying to fuck him since the first time he showed up here, another for someone he doesn't really recognize but feels like he should, and everything else is a blur of faces. People look at James because he's new and probably hot if you like the type.
Crowded and God, it'd be too easy to lose them in here--Justin stumbles a little to catch up and thinks about dancing and how this is probably his punishment for ever mocking Brian on the subject. Because just looking at the floor of energetic, non-critically injured guys jumping about is exhausting, not exciting.
"Justin?" He's leaning against a stool and didn't even realize it. Straightening, Justin looks up at Emmett's concerned face. "You okay? Want something to drink?"
"Water." James' smirk makes him wish he'd asked for vodka, straight, but he's not that stupid. Yet, anyway.
"Beam," James says at Emmett's look, and then Emmett goes to flirt with the bartender and Justin pretends like climbing on the stool isn't the hardest thing he's ever done in his life. "So Justin--how's your hand?"
Justin stretches it easily and ignores the trembling just beneath the skin. "Pretty good." There's just not much small talk to go with here that doesn't sound either accusatory or like a paranoid schizophrenic on the lam. Neither are going to help this situation. "Are you enjoying Pittsburgh?"
"I've missed it," James answers, casually resting an arm on the bar. "It's been a long time."
A long time. Justin nods like he understands everything and wishes that Emmett would hurry over with the drinks. He needs something to *do*. "You lived here?"
"When I was a kid." The look suggests 'kid' means 'Justin's age', and really, the man isn't even trying anymore, is he? "Then I got out."
Everyone wants to get out of Pittsburgh, and here's Justin, the only one ever who's ever wanted to stay. He thinks of his father's accusations about IFA and Brian, stops the thought before it goes too far. He's never had an answer to the question of what he would have done if Brian had gone to New York for good. He doesn't have an answer now.
And where the fuck is Emmett?
A tall brunet with killer abs walks by, and Justin takes a second to appreciate the long, slim lines of his body, the way he moves like he's the center of the known universe and knows it. Justin can't help it if he was imprinted young on type. A short, steamy glance from equally dark eyes is even better. Justin almost says something, almost gets up, because, okay, so he doesn't trick, he *can't* trick, but he can dance, but the second he shifts, oh yeah, he can't do that *either*.
The guy's gone when Justin looks back up, and James is grinning at him like he's the funniest thing ever. "Boyfriend keep you on a short leash?"
Justin remembers a certain evening only a few weeks back and cracks a grin. He can't help it. Brian doesn't play power games often. He doesn't need to. But when he does.... "Yes."
Not the answer James was expecting, and that makes him smile even more. Emmett shows up with drinks before James can say anything else, and Justin takes the glass gratefully, downing half before putting it aside. "You boys okay?"
"Fabulous." Justin licks his lips, watches James' eyes follow. He'd almost forgotten that part of this. "See anyone you like, Em?"
That Emmett's eyes flicker to James isn't good, but Justin thinks he can handle this. The worst of the muscle pain's receded, leaving aches and soreness, but not that much worse than after he and Brian have both been in the mood for taking sex very, very seriously.
"Slim pickings," Emmett says dismissively, eyes on James again. "Feel like dancing?"
Even Justin can't think of a reason to stop them, though God knows, he tries. James tosses him another look before following Emmett, losing themselves so fast in the crowd that Justin blinks, wondering if he lost time. The hard beat has been working its way up his body by inches since they came in, taking over his fingers to tap on the bar, and right now, he would do anything, anything at all, to be able to get the fuck up and follow.
Watch from a discreet distance. Like two feet or so.
A brush of someone sitting down beside him. "Hey."
Justin doesn't look up, taking another drink of water. "Fuck off."
When he lifts his head, the guy's gone. Good. He's not in the mood anyway. Staring at the glass, Justin makes a decision and looks at the bartender, chatting up some too-thin blond with hygiene issues. God, they'll let anyone in here these days. "Beam,"
They don't ID him--at least, not anymore. He gets a once over that makes him want to snap something witty, but he doesn't feel too witty right now. Dropping cash on the bar, he takes a drink in a dirty gulp, shutting his eyes against the sharp burn. He *is* that stupid, but he's got to get out there, now.
It's not the easiest thing to navigate a dance floor when every bump makes you wince, but Justin gets by with a hard smile and wishing any and all non-fatal STDs on the person attached to every hand that grabs his ass. Any other time, the attention would be great, but the people keep *moving*, trying to pull him in, and he's on a mission, and how the *hell* did he think he'd find Emmett in this? Sweat's slicking his forehead, and he wipes at it absently, wishing he'd thought to bring the water with him.
The firm jerk of hands on his hips drag him to a painful stop, and Justin hisses a breath, trying to turn around, but he's held immobile against a bigger body, and short, uncomfortable flashbacks stop his breath.
Oh hell no. Not now.
Hot breath in his ear, making him twitch. "Looking for someone?"
Son of a bitch. "Where's Emmett?"
He's manhandled around, Jesus, this guy can't dance either. Then again, he may not be trying, and Justin bites his lip, jerking back against the confining hands holding him way too close.
James smiles down at him, setting a slow, undulating rhythm that with anyone else would have been hot. "Don't know. Ran off for some reason."
A few seriously nasty possibilities flash, but there's no point in upsetting Emmett, so why would James bother? The constant pulling is killing him, so Justin gives up, letting his body fall into automatic while staring up into mocking eyes. "You that bad a dancer?"
"You tell me."
A sharp jerk sends hot pain down Justin's back, and Christ, the man's grinding against him, leaving fingerprints burned into the skin of his hips. Height, strength, age, and sheer, overwhelming presence. On any other night, a trick pulling this shit would be on the floor and unencumbered with *any* possibility of sex for awhile.
Any other night, Justin wouldn't come here drugged half out of his mind and shooting--at least, not for non-recreational purposes and certainly not without someone with him. He's such an idiot.
Dragging his gaze up, Justin sees James' slow smile, the way he tilts his head. One hand leaves his hip, the other tightening to compensate, and Justin winces when a big palm pushes into a fresh bruise, like the man knows its there. Christ. Then James fingers sift through his hair and this is going really wrong places fucking *fast*.
"Let go." Ground between his teeth, his voice sounds like broken glass.
"You sure?" Another grind that sends Justin's lip between his teeth, and James' hand tightens in his hair. The stare at his mouth is blatant and filthy, and Justin's never felt like that about sex before tonight. "I'd think you'd be more interested in finding out what I know."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
James smiles, wide and too-pleased, leaning closer, and for a horrified second, Justin thinks the man might try to kiss him. He pushes a hand into James' chest, and the fucker only laughs, pulling him painfully onto the balls of his feet. Hot, humid breath against his ear, and Justin tries not to breathe, feeling sparks dance behind his eyes. The smells of sweat and whiskey are suffocating. "I know where he is."
Justin freezes. No. He can't. He doesn't. He--shit. Fuck. "You don't know shit." But he might. The fucker might. And he-- "Let the fuck go."
For a second, he actually doesn't. Like they aren't in the middle of a public place, like Justin isn't perfectly capable of making a big enough scene for *someone* to notice. Of course, this is Babylon, and James might be counting on bystander apathy. And he just might be counting right.
Justin's never been really alone before, not like this.
Dark eyes flicker away from Justin's, glance over his shoulder, and Justin sees them freeze, narrow, a look that Justin's familiar with, because he's seen it on a lot of faces. And suddenly, James doesn't seem quite so terrifying, comparatively speaking.
The grip on his hip loosens even as he's pulled back by one wrist, stumbling, Jesus *Christ* that hurts, a little pull at his hair when James doesn't let go fast enough. Almost-collision with a warm body, and he supposes that's better than falling on the floor. A hand clamps down on his shoulder in warning. Right. Justin doesn't even bother looking up, because he'd know this man in his sleep, even if the man in question didn't have a death grip that promised really bad, bad things.
Great. Just fucking *great*.
But it *is* sort of entertaining to see James a little off-balance, like he totally didn't expect this at all. "Brian."
Brian doesn't even bother with an attempt at politeness. He's gotten a lot less interested in even the pretext since being fired from Vanguard. Which is saying something. "Fuck off." The loose arm around his shoulders is deceiving as hell. One wrong move and Justin won't be able to breathe. Brian's like that sometimes. "Let's go, Justin."
Like he has a choice. So he nods, because he doesn't want to be dragged out, and bystander apathy would be in *total* effect if Brian's the one doing the dragging. When they turn, Justin sees Emmett, obviously on a collision course in hopes of stopping--something. Well, kinda late there. Emmett skids to a stop, glancing briefly to see if James is still around, then at them, trying a wobbly smile when he doesn't meet Justin's eyes. "Hey, boys."
Justin looks back at Emmett. Bastard. "You told him."
Emmett doesn't say a word.
The car's parked disturbingly close, and Brian's still half in his suit, jacket discarded somewhere. Like Justin's a kid that needs a babysitter. Jesus *Christ*. And God, the silence. He doesn't even bother looking up when Brian pushes him toward the passenger side door. Frankly, right now? Just not worth the aggravation.
"Next time, you could just drag me out by my hair. If you're going for the entire caveman-ass thing." Letting the seat fall back, Justin closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. It hurts, but not as much as earlier.
"Don't fucking start. What are you on?"
Justin rolls his eyes. Brian giving the drug speech would be like that priest of his counseling abstinence. "What the fuck ever. Percocet."
"And the JB was a complete accident?" Brian hurts the gearshift, possibly to compensate for the fact he's not able to get to Justin. Pulling into the street makes Justin suddenly wish Emmett was driving.
"How the fuck--"
"I can smell it on you." Brian has a freakish sense of smell. Justin can't figure that out. He snorts, smokes, does just about everything possible that could fuck up nasal sensitivity, but he can still pinpoint any liquor, drug, or sexual act by smell alone. Something that Justin learned the really, *really* hard way. There's a reason, after all, that Brian is so up close and personal with showers.
The silence isn't nearly as good as it should be. It means that Brian's just building up something, and the truth is, Justin always, always prefers the explosions. They're predictable. Easy to deal with. That thing where Brian stews and stews and *thinks*? Not so much.
"You know," Justin murmurs into the silence, and he's pushing, but hell, it's not like he has a lot to lose here, "if someone were just watching tonight and didn't know the details--like, say, everyone--"
"--you just played the classical jealous boyfriend in plain sight of an entire club."
The car jerks. Justin pities the gears. "Justin--"
"Like, all, jealous and mine-y and crap. And dragging me out after." Justin grins, very glad his eyes are closed. He's pretty sure he'd never get the words out if he could see Brian's face. "I mean--it's almost romantic. In a kind of Othello way."
There's an odd quality to the silence that stretches out between them, the kind that's like fifty thousand loud conversations, and all of them saying the same thing. You are so very fucked. "Why are you back? I don't buy you came home to play heroic boyfriend, though that's what I'm going to tell anyone that asks, just so you know."
"Finished up." The words are light, casual, and laced with menace. Like that actually works anymore. Much.
"You didn't tell me that earlier."
"You didn't ask."
Justin opens his eyes. What's with Brian and his asking thing anyway? "I didn't think I needed to."
"What a fucking surprise." A jerk of the steering wheel sends them into another lane, and Justin closes his eyes. It's just safer that way. "We have a lot to talk about, Sunshine."
Justin thinks of the feel of James' hands on his skin, in his hair, the way the man stared at him. Brian wants him to ask? Great. He knows just where to start. "Yeah, we do."