Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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qaffic: stumble and fall, continuing some more, 12

Daphne's been in the bathroom way too long.

The cord from the phone snakes across the living room, going under the bathroom door, and while the shower's running, it's not exactly rocket science to figure out she's nowhere inside it.

Take-out Italian's on the table--Justin wonders how much Brian would shudder if he could see the sheer amount of carbs loading down the coffee table, but cravings are cravings and hell if Justin was going to argue against her sudden, violent attraction for all things involving pasta.

Walking to the bathroom door, Justin pauses to lean against the wood, listening carefully. Beneath the thrum of the shower's water hitting the floor, he can hear the low, broken sound of her voice.

He wonders if he should knock and tell her he's back, but it's been twenty minutes and there's no way he can play that off. How long had she been in there, anyway? Since he left? Did they call, or did she? Head back against the wood, Justin waits for inspiration to come to him, tell him what to do.

His eyes catch on the closed bedroom door where the highly unlamented and dearly departed Jamie used to live. He still calls Daphne on Tuesday nights, and they screech and talk for hours, and Daphne usually waves him off those nights, which is just damned annoying.

Pushing himself off the wall, Justin finds himself walking to the door. It slides open easily, surprising him--there used to be a lock on the door. Pushing it open, Justin fumbles for the light, blinking a little at the sudden illumination in the room.

Baby furniture. Justin takes another slow step inside, reminded vaguely of Lindsay's nursery for Gus in style, but Daphne's more of a classicist than Lindsay could ever be. All dark wood and shiny knobs. Boxes here and there, half-opened, with small stuffed animals and woolen blankets leaking onto the floor. Shopping bags from stores that Justin's never heard of, and then fed-ex boxes here and there. Justin crosses to pick one up, pulling out a soft woolen sleeper, flipping to look at the shipping label.

Brian Kinney, who probably never thought he'd be reduced to trolling through the most exclusive baby stores in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Justin nails each address in his memory. Lindsay must have told him about some. The rest he had to have hunted up himself.

It's so not Brian that it makes Justin's head ache with it.


He feels like a burglar, spinning awkwardly on one heel and hitting the floor on his ass, but Daphne only looks curious, and a little embarrassed, like it's some kind of not-too-great secret she wasn't sure she was ready to share.

"Sorry. I--"

"I had it stored before," she says, glancing around the room for a minute, biting her lip and flushing. "You know. When Jamie moved out--nesting instinct, I guess." She shrugs, fingers fiddling with the edges of her sweater. "You know."

He doesn't, actually, but he nods encouragingly. Concealer doesn't do shit but highlight how red her eyes were only minutes before, and her lips are bitten red and sore. He remembers that. Fuck, does he remember.

"It looks great." It really doesn't--the walls are severe white and disturbingly bare, but some paint would help. Woodland animals, no clowns, Justin wouldn't traumatize any child with that. Best not let Brian get free reign or it'll come out something vaguely abstract-arty and way too classy for a baby and scar the kid for life. Blues, maybe, off-pastels, flat, not gloss. Wallpaper?

Justin's half-way into a visual before he realizes Daphne's awkwardly lowering herself down beside him, reaching for a box and pulling it in front of her knees. She's losing lap space fast. Justin thinks of when she won't have any at all.

"Look at this." Carefully, she pulls glossy gold-shot tissue paper free, reaching inside to lift out a delicate carousel. Setting it on the floor, she does something mysterious and it starts twirling, tiny, fascinatingly perfect horses whipping by, just slowly enough for Justin to appreciate the beautiful work. Handcrafted, maybe, by a master. Justin knows art when he sees it. "Lindz picked it up a few months ago at that--fair thing? Festival?" Right, the one where he was stalking and mocking the booths. Justin hopes she didn't see his frown.

"I like it." He doesn't recognize the song, but he thinks he likes it. Slow enough to induce sleep, pretty enough not to be boring. Musical things rarely get that combination right. With a glance for permission he picks it up, settling it on his palm to watch it move. "It's great."

"Yeah." She stares at it hard, blinking, and Justin wonders if he should ask her. Something stops his tongue--maybe the tightness around her mouth or the determined hardness in her eyes. Mostly, though, it's remembering. He knows how it feels to lose. It never really stops hurting, and it never will. Sometimes, you learn how to forget. And sometimes, you just don't. "I--I'm going to get something to drink." Pressing her palms to the floor, she stands up slowly. Her center of balance has changed. It's stupid to get alarmed--women survive moving around normally during pregnancy all the time--but he still stands up, hand automatically touching just the small of her back, ready to steady her if she stumbles.

She gives him a look from beneath loose dark hair, pushing it back, and he's not sure what makes her bite her lip like that when she looks at him, but he thinks he can guess.

"Fuck 'em," he murmurs, and it's the easiest thing in the world to pull her into a careful hug. She feels entirely different--he hasn't touched her since before--before he knew. Bones that feel frailer beneath a thinner covering of flesh, but--he almost lets go when he feels something that definitely is movement and it's not hers.

Her hand goes to her mouth, and he looks up, eyebrows raised. "It's--um, he moves alot. Now." She pulls away a little, maybe feeling how stiff he is. "I--need to get--"

"Wait." He's okay now. Justin thinks of Gus, and how much he wishes he'd known Lindsay back then, when she was carrying him. Not quite letting her go, he takes a careful step back, looking down at the small projection of her stomach. "That was him?"

"Yeah." One hand flutters down, then pauses, like she's not sure what to do. "Especially at night."

Justin can't help grinning. He also can't quite help wanting, just for a second. "Can I--"

"Um. Sure." She's flushed all the colors of the sunset, and Justin almost stops, but she's also trying not to smile, and yeah. Sometimes, you can forget.

She takes his hand, guiding it down--Justin can honestly say this isn't one of the things he thought he'd ever be doing--and then something hits flat against his palm.

"Oh God," he murmurs, and presses a little more firmly. Another kick, like someone's really pissed and showing it. "How do you sleep through that?" Though this would explain all those random naps.

"You get used to it."

Thank you God for not making me a woman. "I'll take your word for it." Another sharp kick--Justin guesses that's a please-stop-touching-my-residence-okay? kick and moves his fingers reluctantly, looking up to see her grin at him. Amused and embarrassed and pleased all at once.

The ring of the phone jerks Justin's head over, and Justin can feel Daphne tense instantly. The dark eyes drain of humor, color vanishing in a sallow wash. Reluctantly, she turns to the door, and Justin reaches out, catching her elbow.


Once, a million years ago, Brian held him down in bed and fucked the ringing of the phone out of his ears. Justin remembers how Brian made him watch him, them, filling up every place in Justin's sight and mind with himself, intense and sharp and almost painful.

"Justin--" she pulls at his arm. He remembers how Brian pinned his wrists to the bed and went down on him, hot wet mouth and the barest threatening scrape of teeth. "They're my family."

He'd thought then that Brian was just using sex as novacaine, pure sensory overload to wipe out pain and thought and anger, that this was just another way for Brian to make him shut up and stop being such a fucking pussy.

Now, he knows better. "No, they aren't."

"I can't--"

"You don't *need* them." You'll learn that. It doesn't mean you'll ever stop wanting. But it does mean you know you can live without them. I know, Daph. "Let's eat."


He doesn't know why he can't let her answer that phone. He can't watch her pull herself into pieces for all the things she is, let anyone tell her what she should be. He just can't. "You don't need them. You don't--"

"I don't have anyone else."

It stops him. Justin stares at her, thinking of all the time he could have said that and all the times he would have been wrong. Of Lindsay and her low-key excitement, no matter much she tries to hide it in front of him. Of Brian and the way his silence says everything. And he thinks of himself.

"Yes, you do." Holding on, he looks into frightened brown eyes and all the meanings that family can have, all the ways he learned what it was. He wouldn't give that up for anything. "You have us."
Tags: fic: queer as folk, qaf: stumble and fall
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