*James has sharp fingernails and Justin thinks that he's never hurt this much before, not even the first time, not with any lousy lover, not with anyone. The big hands grip his hips, bones creaking under the strain. He holds the pillow tighter and closes his eyes and tries to think of something else.*
*"Relax," James murmurs into his ear, and Justin wishes he'd shut up and just fucking finish, stop trying to make this about people and leave it at bodies. It's like Babylon's back room, he tells himself, it's a trick, run together in memory, just like any other night when he's out and horny and someone hot walks by.*
*It's not different, it's just the same, it's like Sap, over and done, like Kip, long forgotten, like every other fuck he used to get something he wanted--a job, a favor, release. He thinks it's kind of funny, that this was one thing that Brian had never had to teach him. Sex is just another kind of weapon.*
*It's not different, he tells himself when he bites into the pillow and listens to James grunt behind him, and it's not sexy, it's not hot, it's not even interesting, no different from a hundred other times with God knows how many other people, except the pain of unhealed bruises.*
*This kind of thing changes you, Justin can hear Daphne say, about some entirely different, but vaguely related subject. Casual sex? Maybe. Tricking? It does change you, learning how sex is nothing but bodies and feeling and need that almost anyone can satisfy. It's not always love--sometimes it isn't even lust. Sometimes, it's not anything but erasing.*
*He's been there, done that, used it for everything and anything. Sex reduced to something as meaningless as going to the refrigerator for a midnight snack, so elevated it's a declaration of forever.*
*But. It changes you. Kip changed him, though he didn't know it then, made Sap possible. Stripped of the illusions, left with the cool reality. It changes you, when you can go to someone's bed like this, show your ass, and close your eyes and not even care. It changes how you see the world, what you see in it. Maybe it even changes what you see in yourself.*
*He'll leave in a couple of hours and shower at Daphne's. A bar of soap and a few thousand gallons of hot water later, he'll never know the difference.*
It's still full dark when Justin wakes himself, sweat drying cold and sour on his skin, chilling the back of his neck. Slowly, aware of the stiffness of sleep-heavy muscles and bruised skin, he runs his fingers through his hair.
Brian sleeps in a deathly quiet sprawl inches from his hip, and it always, always throws him a little, that Brian sleeps like something dead, but still wakes up at the most random moments. Forever ago, when he'd first moved in, Brian woke when Justin breathed wrong, something about all those lectures on seizures and trauma, soothing hand on his arm and his back, low voice in his ear, murmuring meaningless reassurance and Justin might not remember the words--he's not sure there *were* words--but he remembers the tone. The way that Brian drove out everything and everyone that wasn't them, in this bed, if only for a little while. Like Brian's will alone could possibly be enough.
It just about was, Justin thinks, and shivers when he runs his fingers over the bruises on his hip.
It's the first time in his life he's felt dirty about sex. And God, it's dream sex at that.
Carefully, he slips out of bed, padding to the bathroom door, biting his lip against every painful twinge of muscle, good hand clenched into a fist, the other twitching with restless energy. He needs sleep, but that afternoon nap and James have stolen his night, and he doesn't think he can go back into his own head and not feel those phantom hands.
Turning on the shower, he turns it on hot, dunking under it with a breath and a sigh, tempering it with cold when he twitches. He always forgets the water gets hot *fast*--Daphne's shower takes forever, and he always forgets *there* that it does that. Turning his head up, he shuts his eyes.
*"I know where he is."*
Grabbing the soap, Justin starts to scrub. Useless, stupid fucking hand be damned.
He can't know, and if he does, well, hell, what's the worst that could really happen? So Michael gets found and dragged home, and maybe it won't be so bad, Hunter can testify and explain, and God, it's sad when he's pinning his hopes on *Hunter* of all people. Annoying little shit.
Turning around, Justin reaches for the shampoo, finding it by touch in the dark. Showers are sexy, something vaguely wrapped in the dark, the silky fall of water, the memory of sex with Brian, but they're also sensual, and Justin smiles as he remembers Brian's fingers skimming his skin, the purely physical pleasure of Brian touching him, the soothing scent of soap and the sharpness of Brian overlaying it all. This feeling after that wherever he went, whoever saw him after, could feel Brian skimming his skin like a brand.
Rinsing out his hair, he leans into the cool glass of the wall and shuts his eyes, letting the water slide over him. He could maybe fall asleep like this, with the sounds of water and warm, humid air, just sink into the tiles and not come out until Brian dragged him out, waterlogged and content, preferably after this entire mess was over.
*"I know where he is."*
Justin drops the bar of soap, watching it spin on the neatly tiled floor. Where were you, Brian? It's just now, in the quiet, that he thinks about the fact he didn't get a chance to ask a question, find out what happened, and God knows, Brian's nothing if not practical about their--his--slowly diminishing funds.
His skin aches from the hot water, though every bruised muscle is in a state of perfect bliss, and he--oh God, does he wish he'd thought more clearly last night and maybe thought of another way to exit Debbie's.
And Christ, was it only last night?
Lips on the back of his neck jerk him out of the warmth, an arm around his waist restraining the instinctive jerk away. James strung his nerves tighter than he'd thought, and he stops pulling the second he realizes it, leaning back against the naked body pressed into his, ignoring the unhappy twinge of bruises. Brian's careful, stroking his skin so lightly it's like the teasing touch of a scarf trailed across his body.
"Showering in the dark?" The careful indentation of teeth behind his ear. Christ. He would be a lousy lay tonight, but that doesn't change the fact that God, does he want to.
"It's peaceful." With the man that's anything but. Justin draws in a slow breath as Brian runs the tips of his fingers down his hip, skitting carefully around his cock. Almost cruel, making Justin arch, and he hisses at the movement in his back. "God--" And he doesn't care. Not when Brian's hand closes over him and fuck bruising and freaky long-lost exes wandering around and making trouble, he reaches back to curl fingers around the back of Brian's neck. "Please."
"The way Emmett carried on, I thought you'd risen from your deathbed to go play." Brian's tongue is hotter than the water and more precise, licking the curve of his ear.
"You would." Brian once went out with the beginnings of the flu, which had been an intoxicating experience in itself, since the alcohol had hit his system so fast he hadn't even known he was drunk before he was completely out of it. It'd been hysterical, one of the few times Justin can remember Brian capable of keeping rhythm during a dance. Not to mention his lazy agreement to anything that Justin wanted to do that night. Tilting his head back, Justin closes his eyes at the slow, teasing brush of lips, aware of the cock rubbing up against his ass. Oh God yes. Please. "Fuck me." There's a kind of desperation there that he doesn't want to acknowledge. Brian can erase anything. If there's one thing he's learned, sex is a fucking great way to forget.
"And have you pass out halfway through?" And just like that, his back's against the wet glass, so fast that he's off-balance, but Brian's kissing him, holding him up by sheer will and grinding addictively into him, and Justin absorbs the taste. God, he missed this so much. This insane impulse to just crawl up Brian's body and fuck himself senseless right now, physics and gravity and injuries be damned, but he barely gets any more than the image before hands pin his hips to the glass and Brian's on his knees, and Christ....
Oh God. Justin grabs for something stable when that perfect mouth closes over his cock, and at least one part of him is happy, and God, is it ever. Nothing, no one, ever quite substitutes for the reality of Brian doing this to him, and it's like he's seventeen all over again, he doesn't even have a chance to catch his breath, no way to stop it and then just stops caring if he can.
His knees won't hold him, hands sliding frantically on the glass for purchase, and he slides to the floor in a heap of thrumming nerves and warm satisfaction, barely aware of the hot water still beating down on them, lost inside afterglow and kisses that suck his breath away, almost desperate hands on his hips, rubbing away even the memory of James' touch. He thinks he could be perfectly happy just like this. Fingernails scratching along Brian's back and the press of a wet cock against his stomach, grinding against him, it's bliss, and it makes him hard too fast, hurts in a way that washes away thought, leaving nothing but the feeling.
"Please." He has no idea what he's begging for. The entire world condensed to hot water and Brian's skin against his, and nothing else matters. Nothing else ever will. "Please."
The comic store is freaksomely comforting, like being wrapped up in old pajamas, and Justin sits on a stool and smiles grimly at every grubby-fingered truant who wanders in, because he's learned that every one of them is a thief in the making.
That's what three days in a comic store does to you. No wonder Mikey's grouchy when he comes to the diner after work.
Ben made a mess of the stock again, though not the massive, scary thing that Justin had first confronted, so it's pretty easy to do the restacking and cleaning up, though the boxes are beyond him. He'd had half-formed thoughts of asking Brian, but Brian, being a hell of a lot smarter than he lets on, disappeared after dropping him off with the kind of speed that Rage would envy.
He's *so* not getting a lunchtime blowjob, that's for sure.
Frowning, Justin slides another Superman into it's plastic cover and sets it aside, worried that he's started recognizing the storyline. Half an eye on the ten year old in the corner who keeps giving him shifty glances and staring at Hellblazer with big, proprietary eyes. Oh yes. Justin's watching.
Emmett breezing in so does not help his mood. Even carrying donuts. Though Justin takes one anyway. "Apologizing?"
Emmett settles behind the counter with a bright smile and looks anywhere but into his eyes. "I'm not. You're acting like--" Emmett pauses, obviously trying to find some highly tactful way to say that Justin's lost his mind. This from someone who feels up James with every look? Oh please. "Odd. I was worried."
"So you call in reinforcements?" It's not illogical. Slamming Batman into a cover, Justin winces and frantically checks for creases. Phew. None. "That was fucking low."
Emmett frowns, picking up a powdered sugar-coated bear's claw that Justin had been eyeing. "How are you feeling?"
The sheer number of possible answers to that question leave Justin a little dizzy, but he settles for physically. "Sore, but okay." Brian believes with all his heart that there is no condition in life that can't be cured by the right drug combination. Justin's almost willing to agree, considering whatever the hell Brian gave him this morning before sending him off to work. If he sits very still, he can almost forget that sitting hurts a lot. "How's James?"
Justin knows Emmett. No tell-tale flush, no secret smile, no--good, so no one fucked anyone, which probably should have worried him last night, but sometime between being dragged out of the shower and blowing Brian gratifyingly close to unconsciousness, Justin completely forgot all about the soap opera his life has become.
"We made an early night," Emmett's saying, taking a small bite of the bearclaw. Justin's almost bitter, and reaches for the cream filled chocolate as consolation. "He's not that bad a guy, Justin."
Justin swallows fast. He's had a lot of practice. "Bullshit." It would help if he had evidence, and Brian's explanation wanders through his head, making it to the tip of his tongue before he swallows it back. There are a few basic, key rules of confidences, and with Brian, they're binding as hell. He won't tell--hell, he's not sure Emmett would believe him if he *did* tell--but God, does he wish he had something. Anything. "Are you seeing him again?"
Emmett stares at the bearclaw in rapt absorption. "Just lunch. He's working for most of the day."
Justin bites back something snarky and unkind, swallowing another bite of donut and wondering if he could possibly be any more annoyed than he is right now. "You know, when I'm proved right, you're going to feel so dumb for ignoring me."
Emmett frowns. "Who helped you in your first degree burglary, hmm? I'm on your side. I just think this time--maybe you're not thinking clearly."
"He good as told me he knows where Michael is."
Emmett's eyebrows rise slowly. "That's why he's here, Justin." The pause stretches as Emmett swallows another bite of the bearclaw, powder sprinking the counter in front of him. Quickly, Justin moves a few unprotected comics from his general vicinity. "Look, he may not like Brian, and maybe he and Michael had a bad break-up--but he's not here to hurt anyone. Even Ben's okay with him helping out."
"Did Ben actually say that or are you just assuming?"
"He would have said something to Debbie." Turning completely, Emmett gives Justin a long, serious look. It would have worked so much better if he didn't look like he'd just sneezed through someone's coke stash. "Just--let it go."
A really frightening thought occurs to Justin. "Did you tell him I have the account book?"
"No. But you should tell them. Just--put it back in the house or something." The pleading look is almost painful. "Let it go. Just--just stop, Justin. Think about it, okay?"
That's not what he wanted to hear. Turning away, Justin checks his fingers for powder and sugar, then picks up the next comic, sliding it into its sheathe. "Whatever."
And God, he just isn't up to any more arguing. "Okay. I'll see you later." And even to himself, it sounds cold, a dismissal, and Justin winces but doesn't look up. A few long seconds, then Emmett slowly gets up, and Justin listens to him cross the room, the sound of the door less merry than usual.
Picking up the phone, Justin dials a number. Maybe Daphne knows something by now.