Dedicated to righteoustmk for Daphnecons, to make us smile hugely and be very, very inspired. *huge, massive hugs*
by Mairead and jenn
She sits at the counter, mouthing a plastic spoon, too nauseous to put anything on it. A quick movement, and arms are around her waist, squeezing her, and she giggles despite herself.
“You okay?” She wonders again, as his chest rumbles against her back, at how deep Justin’s voice is.
“Yeah,” she says hoarsely. They both know she’s lying, and so he just stays there, pressed against her back, listening to her heart, listening to her uneven breathing. She feels fuzzy, like her whole body is dissolving, fraying at the edges.
“Valerie called,” he comments, moving to the refrigerator and pulling out a carton of mango juice. He drinks the weirdest things, and she thinks he does it to remind him of Brian, and not because he actually likes avocado-guava protein shakes at three in the morning. “She said to say hello.”
“Yeah,” is all she eventually manages to force out between her floppy lips. Numbness has set in, broken only by occasional jolts of panic radiating from the pit of her stomach. She pokes the spoon around in the cereal bowl, and then wishes she hadn’t moved, because she doesn’t have the energy to lift her arm again, but needs something to set her teeth against.
“I think she liked you.”
“She’s nice,” Daphne answers mechanically, sifting through the piles of photographs on the counter, focusing on her and Justin’s cotton-candy-stained mouths, grinning like kids, even though it had only been this summer. Then there are pictures of Brian, sleeping, tangled in the white sheets, arm thrown over his face, flipping off the photographer. She’d remind Justin that this is her camera, but he’d just grin and promise to get her doubles.
“Daph—“ He’s scrutinizing now, and she thinks she’d be terrified, but his hair is sticking up all on one side and his shirt is stained with dribbles of mango juice, and so she just feels like sobbing. She pushes away from the counter, slowly and calmly, throws her arms around his neck, and pulls her face against his chest.
“Daphne…” His voice brims with surprise, and she takes that opportunity to slip away, into the bathroom, feeling obscurely comforted.
Ten minutes later, she pads out of the bathroom, rubbing her face drowsily, and is met by Justin’s implacable blue eyes. He sits on the couch, flipping through a graphic design book, but really waiting for her.
She’s too tired to argue, so she slumps on the couch next to him, burying her face in a pillow. The taste of stale cigarettes lingers on her tongue, but if she drinks any more water she thinks she might vomit, so instead she licks the roof of her mouth and sticks out her tongue a few times. Justin watches, a slow grin forming on his face, and she grins back.
“Hey…it’s okay, you know?” He says it suddenly, and because he blurts it with a smile and ducks his head shyly, it is okay. She says nothing, just kicks his shin, and he chuckles.
"I'm fine." She's lying, and he knows it, and he won't let it go, but that's their way, so she's okay with that. She leans into the couch, eyes closed, and God, Val's still in odd places in her mouth, a memory of a taste that sets up little sparks all over her body.
"Was it good?" He's curious, and she supposes he has every reason to be.
"I think so." Is she supposed to know? Seriously. Staring at her hands, she watches them twist in her lap, giving her away.
"I swear to God, you give me the Kinsey scale lecture, I'll tell everyone in Babylon you fucked a girl once." Justin hides a laugh under a cough, blue eyes dancing. He's such a bitch. "I know. It's perfectly normal. It's college, I'm nineteen, don’t freak out. I get it. No afterschool special need apply, kay? Just--go fuck your boyfriend. Or whatever you do these days."
Justin has this annoying habit of not answering these days, letting silence be the weapon, and it's a good one, because she can't stand silence. He gets up to get more juice and she closes her eyes and leans her head back into the couch. The cold edge of a glass rests briefly on her forehead and she opens one eye to stare at him. "You're so not cute."
Daphne stares at him. "And say what? Thanks for the orgasm and all, you were a nice experiment, see you 'round?"
"No," Justin says comfortably, settling down beside her. "Just dinner."
"You're high." Or something.
Reaching across the space between them, Justin wipes at the condensation the glass left on her forehead. "It can't hurt."
He *is* high.
Getting up, he paces to her room, disappearing inside, and she follows because he's like this now, where instead of chasing, he makes others chase. This might be why Brian's looking so perpetually exhausted these days. She sympathizes.
"Justin, I'm not--"
"Like you said, you're nineteen. And she turned you on. What's wrong with it?"
There's a lot she could answer to that, starting with her parents, her friends, and a lot of examples in their shared past, but she stops. Justin doesn't rush a problem head on so much anymore. He's learning how to sidle by it and leave little crumbs for others to follow. It's actually kind of cool, if she wasn't the target. He's saying, either way's fine, but don't stop because you're scared.
Do it or don't, but be sure why. Leaning into the doorway, she thinks on everything he's not saying and then, everything else that he won't. "What if it was just a one-time thing?"
"Then it was just a one-time thing."
That’s not what scares her. "What if it's not?"
Justin looks up from contemplation of a variety of long sleeve t-shirts. "Then it's not."
“I can’t think about this now,” she spits, suddenly furious at the way he’s being the calm, rational one. That’s her job, and sorry, but there are no vacancies.
“So don’t think,” he presses. “Just call her.”
“Why do I have to decide now?” It was supposed to be an accusation, but it comes out like a desperate question, and she hates that she expects him to have the answer.
“Because if you don’t do it now, you never will.”
“Would that be so terrible?” She sounds desperate again, even though she meant to be offhand. He just stares at her, suggesting the answer with those fucking knowing eyes, and she has the absurd urge to call Brian and bitch at him, because Justin never used to be calm and wise and omniscient like this, and she’s sure it has something to do with learning to untangle the twisted inner workings of the Kinney mind.
Bastards, both of them.
“Give me the fucking phone.” Her voice is trembling like that last pathetic leaf clinging to a wind-battered tree, and Holy God, what did she just say? Then the phone is in her hands, and she can’t think anymore.