"Oh. My. God."
It's not the pain, though that's hit some levels he hadn't known existed since leaving the hospital that first night without a morphine IV drip. It's not even the fact that Emmett is practically sleeping on him, nuzzled up against his shoulder and making sounds like a dying bear being tortured in some really far out woods. It's not even the fact that he still has his shoes on beneath the duvet that Emmett must have thrown haphazardly over them before falling into bed with him, probably to make sure he didn't die in the middle of the night and therefore being left to explain to Brian, Debbie, and Mom why exactly Justin isn't among the living.
No, it's the look on Daphne's face that makes Justin want to laugh and then crawl under the blanket and never come out again.
"It's not what it looks like, I swear. Closing his eyes, Justin tries to believe this is a dream, but DreamDaphne wouldn't wear that combination of lime green and red, no one with eyes would. "And how did you get in?"
"The door was unlocked."
Thanks, Emmett. Eyes closed, Justin wonders if asking her to get him more Advil, please, would lead to more explanations than he's up to giving. "Go away."
"I have never wanted a camera so much in my life," Daphne says, and Justin hears her cross the floor to the side of the bed in stereo surround sound, and wow, that hurts. Her hand touches his back and there's no way to hide his wince. "What happened? Are you okay?"
"Yep. Super." That he grinds it out between his teeth is probably the reason she doesn't believe him, and she pulls back the blanket without even asking, which would usually piss him off but he really can't think enough to get pissy. "Jesus. What *happened*?"
Goddammit. "What does it look like?"
"Do you want an honest answer to that, considering who is sleeping with you?" The edge of humor just isn't welcome this early in the morning. "Do you need anything? You look like shit."
Thanks. "For you to leave?"
Her fingers flick his nose, and he opens his eyes, but she's reaching for the Advil that was thoughtfully left on the bedside table. "Marry me, Daph."
"Bite me, cocksucker. Can you sit up? And tell me what happened? I thought you were making an early evening so you could do more inventory."
Inventory.... Shit. "What time is it?"
"Eight." Daphne eases herself down on the bed beside him, opening the child proof lid effortlessly to spill a few pills into her palm. "Take these and--"
"Eight?" Oh God, he's late. Struggling up on his elbows, Justin hears himself gasp. "Oh God, I have to--"
Four tiny white pills are stuffed into his mouth before he can continue. He swallows automatically and then lets himself collapse back down. "I--have to--"
"Call Ben and tell him that the shop is going to be closed until noon. Justin, there's no way you're going to be able to do anything yet. And God, do you need a shower." From this angle, he can't see her nose crinkle, but he can feel it anyway. "Why is Emmett--"
"He was helping me with something." Maybe she won't ask. Which is like saying, maybe the sun won't rise.
Justin keeps his eyes resolutely closed. "Some stuff."
"Debbie wondered if you were okay when I stopped by the diner." Her voice is so off-hand that Justin can't read it. That makes him nervous. "She introduced me to Mikey's great buddy James. I could make up some stuff to explain everything, but wouldn't you rather be the one that sets me straight?"
"You *are* straight."
"You're not getting out of this. I'll start the shower. You--undress or something."
Wouldn't that require moving? Groaning softly, Justin shifted away from Emmett, who didn't so much as stir, before carefully rolling onto his knees on the platform. He bites back the gasp with an effort, the sound of the shower coming on hopefully drowning out the sounds.
"Jesus." Daphne, small feet pounding over the floor before she stops just behind him. "Did someone--did he *beat* you?"
"Emmett?" Justin laughs and regrets it instantly. "Oh God, don't do that again. I can't--"
"No, you idiot. That--James guy. Okay, stupid question."
"Really stupid and where would you get an idea like that?" Breathing lightly, Justin braces both hands on the mattress, pushing himself up. It's not easy, and his knees buckle, every muscle in his body rebelling. Like magic, something catches him, and it's not the floor.
He's too surprised to even try to catch his balance. "Justin! Help me here! I'm not that strong!"
Right. Daph. Well, he hadn't known she was that strong either. Gathering his legs under him, Justin lets her guide an arm around her shoulder and braces himself. They're close enough in height that it's not too bad, and she moves slowly, careful of him, one arm circling his waist, her hand spread flat on his hip after running in a slow circle around his back.
He can feel the warm humidity of the shower like a balm over his skin, and he barely pays attention when he's leaned into the sink and Daphne disappears after bracing his left arm behind him on the sink's edge. His shoes vanish as if they never existed at all, but the feel of her small hands on his jeans stops him. "Uh, Daph."
"You're shy *now*?"
Well. Yeah. "You know--"
"I've seen everything and then some." The brisk, businesslike tone cuts through his voice like a knife. "You're just all stiff. At least, I hope so. I didn't feel anything broken or anything."
"Nothing--broken." She's fast, pulling jeans and underwear down to puddle at his ankles, and he pulls his own feet up because this really is embarrassing enough. "Jesus, I feel like shit."
"You look it, too. I'm guessing this has something to do with why our good friend James is wondering where you are?"
Justin opens one eye. "What would I know about that?"
"Mud all over the back of your shirt." She's relentlessly observant. Bitch. "Talk. No, wait." She steps back, kicking the clothes aside, then Justin hears the unmistakable sound of her kicking her shoes off. Opening his eyes, he watches in stupefaction as Daphne toes off her socks and strips her sweater, leaving only the thin lime turtleneck and jeans. "Daph--"
"What, you're able to walk in there on your own? Let's see it."
Fuck. "I can."
Daphne waves a hand toward the bliss of the shower. Justin thinks he can actually *feel* it on his skin. "Go right ahead. I'll watch."
Pushing himself up, Justin locks his right hand against his leg so she won't see it shaking and takes a step. It's possible. It's perfectly possible. Swaying, he manages a second step, then stumbles, grabbing for the shower door. Instantly, she's under his arm, pulling him up, adjusting his weight enough for him to find his balance. He notices, unfortunately, that the jeans are gone. Following his gaze, she shrugs. "It's not like I can change clothes here. Come on."
The hot water *is* bliss, *is* nirvana, and this would be even better if the absolute humiliation of being held up by his best friend wasn't part of the deal. But he's Justin and can work with this. Leaning into the shower, he lets the hot water pound into his back and it's *good*, even though God, it hurts like hell. Gasping, he forces himself to relax, aware of Daphne beside him, probably trying to figure out what else to do. Or wondering, like he is, if this moment was something she could have possibly imagined when she got up this morning.
Turning his head, Justin takes in damp, frizzing hair and bright eyes. "Thanks."
She shrugs, sprinkling water in a fine spray. "That's what friends are for. What happened?"
"Fell off the roof."
He thinks it may say something about their relationship that she doesn't even blink. "Where?"
"Deb's. Back porch. I--had to get something."
"That required you to climb the roof?"
"No." Justin shifts so the water hits some new places. New vistas of pain, but it's easing, relaxing, and he can feel his bones wanting to melt already. Maybe the Advil's kicking in. "No, I just--it's a long story."
Daphne snorts softly, then reaches for the soap. There's a horrified second where he thinks she's going to actually try to *wash* him, but she only picks up his left hand and drops it in. "We have a long time. Spill."
"I leave clothes here," Justin explains when Daphne's eyebrows raise as he pulls out clean shirts from a drawer. "Don't you have class?"
"Clever boy. Uh, no. Free day. That's why I went by the diner to see you. Wanted to see if you would like to go to a movie." Taking the offered turtleneck, she disappears into the bathroom in a weird display of modesty, considering circumstances. Or maybe that's for him, since he's pretty sure the redness of his skin has a lot to do with the fact he was just naked in the shower with her.
He's fucked her and slept over at her house, and right now he lives with her, and they've pretty much lost every mystery between them *ever*, but still. Showering is--intimate.
Oh wow, he doesn't even want to *try* to explain this one.
The Advil's dulled but not really done much else. Moving stiffly, Justin pulls on clean jeans, glad they're so loose and easily buttoned and zipped with one hand. The shirt is more tricky.
The bathroom door opens in a small cloud of steam, and Daphne's irreproachable and a lot less painfully colored in muted grey and jeans. There's got to be a way he can lose that lime shirt before she gets it back. "Here, sit down." Giving up on the remains of his dignity, Justin sits still and lets her pull it over his head. As long as he doesn't try and move his right hand, everything's good to go, and he's moving easier already. "You're going to be sore. Have any muscle relaxants?"
"Yeah, but they'll just knock me out. I have to do stuff."
"You have to rest unless you want everyone and their mamma Debbie asking what on earth you've been up to."
Justin looks up as she pulls the shirt over his head. "Deb wouldn't believe it."
"Deb isn't the one you need to be worrying about."
She's got a point. "This sounds like a bizarre paranoid fantasy, doesn't it?"
Daphne nods solemnly as she picks through his drawer and pulls out a pair of tube socks. "Pretty much, yeah."
"And you're just going along with my trip into hallucinatory conspiracy theories?"
"Yep." Sitting beside him, she pulls on a sock, checking the fit. Justin blinks and stands up, slowly, but balance is back and yes, he hurts, but he can deal. He *has* to deal. And take more Advil.
"Any reason why?"
Daphne lifts her head from contemplation of her outstretched foot. "I'm bored?"
Shrugging, she picks up her sweater, nose wrinkling at the dampness from sitting on the shower floor. Justin stares into the closet, wondering which of Brian's sweaters will be least likely to cause Brian to order his death when he finds out Justin borrowed it. He goes for blue. "Maybe because you're my friend and if it's that important to you, it's got to be something?"
Coming back to the bed, Justin sits down, letting out a breath in relief. This day is going to suck.
Without words, Daphne takes the soft cashmere from his hand, standing up. "Arms up, Boy Wonder."
"I hate that."
"I think it's cute." Grinning, she waits while he obeys, then carefully lowers the sweater over his head. "Anyway, I'm not so hot for James myself. Creepy guy. Reminds me of--" She stops, or maybe that's the sweater that's drowning out her voice, he's not sure. Coming up for air, she's shaking her head. "Deb really wants to see you. Wait here. I'll call Ben and tell him you can't come in today."
"No." Though Justin has no clear idea how he thinks he's going to do anything today but stay reasonably still, preferably horizontal. "No, he'll ask why."
"And I'll tell him the truth. You hurt your hand trying to finish up a project and need to go to the doctor."
"That's nowhere close to the truth. That's not even in the same zip code."
Daphne smiles at him from the doorway. "Truth is what everyone believes, not necessarily what actually happened. You know that. Just rest, okay? And tell Emmett to get up, unless you plan to leave him here for Brian to find. Speaking of the devil--"
"He's in New York."
"Good deal. Though I'll be honest, I'd pay money to have seen his face if he'd seen what I saw when I came in." She disappears down the steps whistling, and Justin feels all the blood drain down to his feet.
Wow. That would be--would be--
Letting himself lay back, Justin hisses softly, but a few seconds of adjustment and a slow roll to his stomach help. Reaching blindly with one arm, Justin shakes Emmett's leg. "Em. Wake up."
"Not now, Ted."
Oooh. Ewww. Gritting his teeth, Justin tries again. "Em. Get up. Come on."
"Teddy, stop." Emmett rolls over, and Justin hisses softly as a knee comes in contact with his wrist. Wow, he could lose the use of both hands today so easily. "I'm not in the mood."
"You're always in the mood," Justin mutters to himself, pulling his elbow under him. One more try. "Emmett! Brian's here!"
That does it.
Sitting up straight, Emmett throws off the blanket. Lycra pants and sequined shirt. It looks even scarier in the full glare of morning sunlight. "Nothing happened!"
Heh. Giggling softly, Justin lowers himself back down, burying his face in the duvet. "Psych your mind."
From above him, Justin can hear Emmett's enraged huffing. "That is *so* mid-eighties." A pause. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I wish I were dead."
"He's fine." Daphne's voice from the door. "Hey, Emmett. How much would you pay me for the negatives?"
Justin giggles harder, and *ouch* but also, heh. "Stop it, Daph." Emmett shifts off the bed in a huff, and Justin lets his body just lay boneless and unmoving, which is probably the best thing that's ever happened to him, right after discovering mint-chocolate cherry ice cream and multiple orgasms. Just incredible. "What did Ben say?"
"That he's sorry you feel crappy and that he'll take the store this afternoon." Sitting beside him, she picks up his right hand, pressing her thumb into the center of his palm. "Okay, tell me how to do this again--"
"Hey, we all got the instruction from your Mom--I'm just rusty. Lay still and let me pamper you a little." Slowly, her fingers remember, and Justin lets her because he just can't be bothered to do it himself. "You have that cream stuff still that you rub in?"
"You're sure you don't live here anymore?"
Justin snorts into the blanket. "Brian's obsessive-compulsive." And keeps things that by rights he should have thrown out a long time ago. Justin still trips over things he would have thought Brian would have burned after he left. A sketchbook that he barely remembers, filled with sketches of Liberty Avenue from his first months learning the street. A variety of half-forgotten prescriptions Justin had used the first six months after being released from the hospital. Three anti-convulsants and epi shots for emergencies. The neatly typed list of Justin's specialists still taped to the inside of one of the kitchen cabinets. The supply of prescription valium. A blue-green cashmere sweater in the back of the closet. Tiny, easily escapable reminders that should have been like nails on a chalkboard every time Brian saw them.
His favorite cereal in the cabinet, stale and musty, but Justin remembers staring at it for eternal minutes when he'd been looking for coffee one morning with Brian in the bedroom throwing a fit because he couldn't find his favorite tie.
For some reason, his hand is relaxing more every second.
"Hey. You think you're ready to go?"
Justin turns his head, almost surprised to see Daphne beside him. "Go?"
"To the diner." Her smile is slow and not a little malicious. "Doncha think we should stop by to get that missing account book?"