To josselin, who kept poking at me to just *do* it already. And poking more. And also, making Brian/Emmett sex strangely hot. In a way I try not to think about too much.
Earlier parts can be found here, Stumble and Fall, WiP.
When he gets home, he takes out the acceptance letter and smoothes it on the desk with hands that won't be still.
Brian said stay.
"You're not expected to attend," Lindsay says, looking over something that resembles some kind of new post-modern art, except a lot more comprehensible, if vaguely Dali. He steers away from that. Lesbianistic interpretations just might scar him for life. He thinks it's a soufflé, but he wouldn't swear to it. "I just wanted to warn you not to make any plans with her that day. It's a surprise."
"You're hosting?" Picking up an apple, Justin takes one of the knives and methodically begins to peel it. "Here?"
"Mm hmm." Pineapple for the fruit salad in a glass bowl, covered in a cherry glaze. Lindsay's finishing up the pears.
"Who's coming?" He's curious, and he has nothing better to do.
"Deb, your mother, Mel, some friends from her school." Justin blinks a little at that but lets it pass. "I sent an invitation to Daphne's mother."
Justin catches himself before he slices off the tip of his thumb. "You're kidding, right?" His stomach turns over sharply. "You going to ask Brian's mom, too, and see if this can be the most miserable party ever?"
Lindsay winces and drops the diced pears in the bowl, stirring briefly to coat them. "Funny. And it's a baby shower, not a party."
If Lindsay sticks to this kind of guest list, a few hits of acid would go a long way toward making it successful.
"Whatever." Justin winces away from memories of Joanie Kinney like a sore tooth. It always makes him want to go out and buy his mom flowers and those Godiva chocolates she loves so much. She always looks at him afterward with puzzled eyes, and he wonders how he can explain how much he loves her, how great she is, and how very fucking lucky he is to have her for a mother. "Mom's coming?" Mom's never given an opinion on the Daphne Situation, though he thinks it's not from lack of trying. He doesn't even *want* to know what she has to say about it.
Maybe she's as puzzled as the rest of them. It wouldn't be a surprise.
"Justin?" The peeled apple's taken from his hand, and Justin watches Lindsay efficiently begin to chop. "How's everything going? You haven't been over in a while."
"You mean, besides my lack of a future and loss of educational opportunities?" Justin picks up another apple and starts cutting. "Great. I can't tell you how fabulous it is not to have to be restricted on my shifts anymore." Well, that *is* an upside. He's making enough money to survive. In a crappy apartment with goddamn *hustlers* living outside his window. Thank you Stockwell. Your memory's still green in my mind, and on my front porch for that matter, even if you're fucked.
Lindsay's tongue slips out between perfect white teeth. He always has this weird impulse to ask her who her dentist is. She eats a *lot* of sugar. "You should find someplace else. That neighborhood--" She shudders delicately beneath the orange and green sweater, the one that hurts Justin's eyes. He tries not to look directly too often.
"Like what, a cardboard box?" It blows his mind that rent's so high. Stupid fucking economy. Justin avoids his thumb and finishes the next apple, laying it on the counter. He needs something to do with his hands. "I could always peddle drugs as a second income in my spare time. Customers right next door."
"You're a lot less cute than you think you are, sweetie." Taking the apple, she begins to cut. "I mean with Daphne."
And isn't that a bizarre idea. "She has a roommate." A really disgustingly cute one, that fetches and carries at command.
"Oh. Jamie? He moved a few days ago." Lindsay studies the apple critically, removing a bit of peel that Justin had left on one side. "He's going abroad. It's all very dramatic." Lindsay rolls her eyes, and Justin tries not to grin, because Lindsay just said--
"And you think it would be a good idea if I moved in?" He doesn't think Lindsay lives in the same universe he does sometimes. Or anyone else does, really. She's all about the happy ending. Take Ethan, exhibit one. Of course, she couldn't psychically discover he was a lying bastard, but really, he feels vaguely betrayed she didn't at least show some kind of semi-conscious, unnamable dislike or something. But no. Just Daphne, who disliked with no reason, and right, he has to think about that *now*. And well, Brian, when he noticed Ethan existed, but Justin kind of thinks that Brian had more issues with Ethan's wardrobe choices and Justin's bad taste to fuck someone who dressed so badly than whether or not Justin was fucking Ethan at all. "That would be a *fabulous* idea. Afterward, we can throw a party and invite Ethan and all Brian's tricks and I can have the worst night of my life *again*." Chicago looks amazing from the kitchen window of Lindsay's house.
"Actually, I was thinking how economical it would be, since I don't think even you can live on canned beans and 7-11 burritos forever."
He needs to clean up more often. Or let Lindsay in less. "That's not the point."
"It's that or move in with Debbie, unless you really enjoy those double shifts you've been pulling." Lindsay adds the rest of the apples, picking up the spoon to mix. "Hand me the cherries, honey."
Justin picks up the jar, playing with it between nervous fingers. "I can take care of myself."
"Didn't say you couldn't." She takes the jar from his hands. "I was thinking you might like it better than staying in a hovel where you, as you told me, now know exactly how hard your next door neighbor wants it every night."
Justin frowns, but she has a point. He honestly hadn't thought that anyone tricked more than Brian, but he'd been wrong, if the sounds from next door are any indication. "You're just being weird."
Lindsay raises her eyebrows at him over the bowl of fruit salad. "I could say the same thing about you."
Justin looks for his jeans on the floor. He can feel Brian watching him, but every time he looks, Brian's watching smoke curl toward the ceiling. It's not something provable, really, just instinct. Lots of things are instinct, and Justin's okay with that. Thinking too much always gets him into trouble.
It feels vaguely dirty, like when he'd run out of Ethan's after sex, but also kind of cool, a much less guilt-inducing kind of secret. Justin's kind of tired of not having any secrets. Everyone knows everything about him and everyone knows all about everyone else, and Michael acts like Justin's this really unwelcome third cousin twice removed from the wrong side of town, like at the comic shop today, desultory conversation and pointed barbs at Justin when not ten minutes before, Brian was sucking his cock in the storeroom beside a new box of The Authority.
Justin bought one with nonexistent funds. He hasn't read it. He just likes to look at his fingerprints on page six.
"They're in the kitchen."
Justin picks up a sock and tries to remember. Right. "Is there anything to eat?"
Brian snorts softly. "Have time to eat or do you have another appointment to get to?"
Oh, you fucking ass. Like I have fucking *time* to have sex with anyone. Justin's still not entirely sure how he makes time for this. It just happens. "Fuck off. Is there any Chinese left?"
"Mmm hmm." Brian's absolutely fascinated with the smoke curling toward the ceiling. "Lindz came by."
That sounds ominous, and little hairs raise on the back of Justin's neck. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Justin breathes through the rush of worry, because there's no reason for him *to* worry.
"That's nice." He wants to get back. It's like being seventeen again, oddly enough, except no underage and no one else interfering and being odd about the entire thing. He also wants to just collapse and go to sleep, because one, he's exhausted, and two, he has very little money until payday and cabs are expensive.
Brian looks at him, all completely unreadable face and not giving a shit, but Justin's not an idiot, Brian got his sense of humor back in the last couple of weeks. Stockwell had sucked a lot of it out of him, but post-Stockwell, and also, post-Brian-and-Justin-start-fucking-agai
Justin really tries not to read too much into that, but it's not like he has much else to *do*.
"She was talking about how worried she is that Daphne's all alone." Brian waves his cigarette in the air meaningfully, some expansive gesture that may mean something, or may just mean that Brian likes making pretty smoke trails in the air. Justin doesn't like where this is going.
"I told her no."
Brian really does a great fake surprise. "What about? Her marvelous plan to start a commune and move us all into it?"
See, Justin thinks if Lindsay had her way, that just might happen. Also, fuck. "She talked to you about that?"
Brian does a great impression of the village idiot, too. "About what?"
Fucker. "You *know*." It's odd, just on this side of weird, to be talking to Brian like he's a person, not the sort-of ex or the Enemy, or come to think, the Source of All Disappointment and Angst. It's been a while. "God, what did she do, ask your permission?"
Brian doesn't smile--that would be beneath him or something--but he does look amusement really well. "Does she need to?"
Justin frowns, standing up to grab his socks, like there's some vague chance he'll actually leave. He never sleeps so well as he does here. "I'm good where I am." In more ways than one.
"Mmm." Brian blows out a ring of smoke, and Justin has to stop and watch, because he still can't pull off that trick. Then just sits down again. It's pretty pointless, really. They're not strangers. And he remembers buying these sheets. "Why'd she talk to you about it?"
"I have no fucking clue."
Right. Laying back, Justin takes the offered cigarette, staring at it. "I'm not that hungry." Because that's really the entire point of this conversation, isn't it?
Brian makes a general sound that could be amusement, or hell, maybe he's just clearing his throat. Justin takes a drag and hands it back, wishing suddenly and desperately that he was seventeen and was thinking up creative ways of stalking Brian into submission, because things might have been complex then, but damned if they weren't a fucking *cake walk* compared to what's going on now.
He's been badly unnerved tonight, not least because surfing on Brian's computer had shown a disturbing number of online shopping sites that focus on babies bookmarked. Thank God the porn is still there. Justin's pretty sure he'd have a nervous breakdown otherwise.
When Brian's fingers brush his, he wonders if he'll ever be able to ask him the questions he'd asked Daphne. The temptation's almost overpowering, and it's incredibly stupid. Rolling into the sheet, he stares at the wall, hearing Brian put out the cigarette, then the complete unmovement of the most boneless sleeper Justin's ever met. Like everything else Brian does, he does it damned thoroughly. One second awake, then non-moving pseudo-death until morning. Something Justin remembers from that first night together, and who the hell could have seen this coming anyway?
Rolling back over, Justin stares at the broad back, and he's just feeling weird, but that's just fine, he deserves feeling weird. Scooting across the tiny space, he presses his forehead against warm, silky skin, the lightest sheen of sweat. Remembers more nights than he can count just watching Brian sleep, sketching on a pad because he could never get enough of it. The way he'd flip through his sketchbooks after he left, catching the memory of cramped hands and half-closed eyes and the obsession of a lifetime.
That hasn't changed, even when everything else has. Justin curls up closer and goes to sleep.