Author's Note: I hated the ending of S4 - truly hated it. IMO it's inevitable that from that point Brian will head off looking for another damned cliff to shove Justin off. He'll go right back into the "he's going to leave me sometime so it might as well be now" space. And Justin, because he's procrastinated about telling Brian about the job offer (which is as near as makes no mind to deceiving Brian into believing that things are still in the same place between them as they were when he left) is in no position to head that off. So I've had a go at rewriting it to something I find easier (read lest angsty) to live with. PS The fact that if it had been filmed this way we would have had much more bj in that episode is purely coincidental LOL.
One further note: When I was re-watching the ep to get the details I needed for this, I became conscious of something that has nagged at me as being not quite right since the first time I saw it, without my mind being able to pull it into focus. It's the fact that, while on the ride three days pass, in California only there are only two. The day that Brett gets word that the movie has been picked up, he says to his assistant that Justin will be traveling home tomorrow, they go to a party that night, Brett makes the job offer, and Justin has his most excellent adventure; then next morning Brett tells him the car is ready to take him to the airport and he tells Brett he's staying - 2 days. On the ride (right after the "film picked up" scene) we have the wedding party, the next day Brian falls off his bike, that night he practices riding with one hand, and next day completes the ride- 3 days. All this means that I feel entitled to playing with the timelines myself a little.
"How long would I be out here?"
Justin hoped the shake in his voice wasn't obvious to Brett. He wasn't sure if it came from excitement or fear. Or maybe it was caused by the idea of being away from Brian for an extended period of time.
At that thought, he felt his heart squeeze and had to pull himself back from the brink of a full blown panic attack to take in Brett's response.
Six months! He couldn't be away from Brian for six months. Not right now. Brian was just getting over a bout with cancer. He was still in the recovery stage from the horrors of the radiation treatments that had left him so sick and wasted that skinny as he'd always been, he'd become almost gaunt enough to be a CK model. He needed someone there to encourage and support him; to make sure he ate properly, and slept. He needed Justin.
Quite apart from that, Justin knew how Brian would react. He knew that Brian would be the first one to insist that Justin accept the job offer; but he'd also go into a tailspin and convince himself that their breakup had always been inevitable anyway, so it would be best for both of them to get it over with now.
Justin sighed. He'd really need to think about this, and work out a strategy for dealing with it. Because he wanted the job, but damned if he was going to risk losing Brian by taking it. Either he worked things out with his partner, so they both accepted that this would be a temporary separation, or the job could go fuck itself. If Brett wanted his input it would have to be as a consultant - from Pittsburgh.
He let the noise and movement of their surroundings cover his lack of response to Brett, and considered ringing Brian. But 10 pm Pacific, was 1 am Toronto, and he had to hope that Brian was well asleep by now, he needed all the rest he could get. Besides, he'd rung him earlier to tell him about the movie being picked up. Brian had been typically laconic, but Justin could tell that he was both pleased and proud.
If he rang again now, though, Brian would immediately think that there was something wrong. So the conversation would start out on the wrong note right from the beginning. Justin decided that he'd just have to set his alarm to wake up early enough to call Brian before he'd started the day's ride.
Meanwhile, he'd just had a movie picked up, dammit. And Brett was right, it was time to celebrate. Meeting Connor James again, and taking in the look in his eyes, made his choice of celebration easy.
Groggily, Justin turned off the alarm. What the fuck? He'd just fallen asleep.
Fuck! Brian. The movie. Brett.
He sat up and took a deep breath. He didn't know what time Connor had left, had no memory of him leaving at all, but was resoundingly thankful that he'd gone.
He got up and went to the bathroom, taking an extra moment or two to splash water on his face. Then, knowing that there was no point in putting things off, he picked up his cell and hit Brian's number.
"This had better be important, Sunshine," Brian grunted at him.
'Great,' Justin thought. 'He's in a mood.'
"I just wanted to tell you something," Justin began.
"That you love me madly," Brian drawled. "That there aren't any guys in Hollywood half as hot as I am. That you want my cock up your "
"Brian!" Justin cut in. He couldn't afford to let Brian go off on that tangent, or he'd get totally distracted and never tell him. And he needed to. He needed to be sure that Brian understood that this situation was something that they were going to handle together, as partners; it wasn't a threat, it was just part of their lives together. He had to let Brian have time to take it in, so that by the time they were both back in Pittsburgh, he'd have got past his knee jerk reaction, and be ready to talk about it, to work it out together.
"It's Brett " he began, and felt, right through the phone, Brian tense up. "He's offered me a job for six months, working as an assistant art director."
There was silence for a moment, then Brian said coolly, "Well, so you are going to be a Stah! Congratulations."
"I haven't said yes, yet," Justin pointed out.
Brian let out a harsh laugh. "Well, you should be talking to Brett then, shouldn't you?"
Justin could tell he was about to disconnect, and said firmly, "Brian, if you hang up, I'm just going to have to keep calling you back."
"I knew you'd think I should take the job. And I do, too. But you and I are going to have to work out how we're going to manage it."
"Whatever," came the answer in the bored voice that let Justin know he'd been spot on the money with how he'd thought his partner would react.
He forced the sick feeling in his stomach down, and said calmly, "Take it easy on the ride today, and I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah, well, whatever you should stay and score with a movie star."
"I already did, but I'll tell you all about that tomorrow."
Justin could feel the shrug through the phone.
"I love you, too, Bri," he said, softly. The only answer was silence, but it was a moment or two before the call disconnected. Justin took encouragement from that.
All things considered, the conversation had gone better than he'd hoped.
He packed, and after talking with Brett, headed off to the airport.
On the plane home, Justin re-ran that conversation in his head a number of times. He couldn't tell if Brett's "how very Rageian" had been sarcastic, or admiring, or if it was just a smart-assed comment.
He supposed that his attitude to marriage did seem Rageian. There would have been a time when he would have been all starry eyed over Michael and Ben's wedding, and secretly dreaming that maybe one day Brian would whisk him across the border and surprise him with a proposal.
But he supposed that he must be becoming more and more like Brian, because the idea no longer held any great attraction for him. He was glad for Michael and Ben, if that's what they wanted. He hoped they'd be happy.
But he just didn't see how a ceremony that didn't even have any legal status in the States was anything but a fairly meaningless ritual. He certainly didn't feel that it was something he and Brian needed to go through. They knew what they meant to each other, and if they didn't, saying some damned words in front of a judge certainly wasn't going to make it clear.
Which brought his thoughts back to the fact that there were some things that he was going to have to make very clear to Brian, and he'd better have a plan of attack laid out, because the stubborn son of a bitch he was in love with was definitely going to put up a fight. Justin grinned. Brian had fought him before, and lost. Mainly because, somewhere deep inside, Brian wanted to lose. This time wasn't going to be any exception.
Wearily, Justin made his way out of the shuttle carriage. He was deeply thankful that he only had a carry on. As it was, by the time he got home it would probably be too late to call Brian.
He'd decided to spend the night at the loft. That way he could make sure that everything was ready for Brian when he got back tomorrow. He could ensure that the sheets were clean, the bed ready and inviting, and that there was plenty of food in the fridge and freezer, so that they didn't have to move outside the loft for several days.
He knew that Brian was going to be exhausted. He hadn't at all been surprised to get the call from Deb to tell him that Brian had joined the ride, but he really wished he hadn't. At least, not without Justin there to keep an eye out for him. He debated whether he could borrow Daph's car and drive up tomorrow to meet him, but decided that that would only make Brian pissed as hell. Well, at least by tomorrow night, he would be safely home and Justin could begin work on ironing out the latest wrinkles in the complicated fabric of their relationship.
Walking out of the terminal he switched on his cell. Fuck! Five messages. Not like Brian to leave so many. He hoped that there was nothing else wrong; he was going to have enough to do in the next week or so before he left for LA in dealing with Brian's reaction to him going.
He made the connection to his message bank as he piled his bag into a cab, and then nearly dropped the phone. He could only stare at the driver in something close to panic when he asked for an address. Finally, he stuttered a direction, and then, trying not to let himself be sick, he replayed the message.
It was from Michael. Again he caught the words "Brian" and "accident", but this time he managed to make out that it wasn't all that serious and that Brian was okay, but in a fair amount of pain.
"He keeps saying 'It hurts like a motherfucker'", Michael's voice said, and Justin, hearing that, relaxed a little. That sounded like Brian queening out more than anything. Justin had no doubt he was in pain, but he also knew that if it was really serious, Brian wouldn't be saying anything, wouldn't be admitting to even the slightest twinge. That was the only way Brian knew how to cope, to be strong; by never admitting to any weakness.
That was something Justin had known, forgotten, and learned again: Brian in deep pain was silent.
Next message, Michael again: Brian was back in the camp and had his shoulder strapped up.
Next message, Ben this time: Don't panic but (immediately Justin's heart started beating a tattoo, and as they drove through the tunnel, the flash of the lights seemed to mimic the pulsing of his own vision) Brian was planning on riding again tomorrow, and maybe Justin should call and see if he could talk him out of it.
Justin sat there stupified, terrified and becoming more angry by the minute.
Damn that motherfucking son of a bitch to hell! This was just the sort of self-destructive shit that he'd been afraid of. Although by the sounds of it, Brian had found a whole new way to implode. The worst Justin had been afraid of had been a binge of sex and substances, this was new territory even for Brian.
Still fuming, he hit the button for the next message.
Deb this time: she also thought that maybe Justin could ring and talk Brian out of riding tomorrow.
Fuck! Did these people not know Brian at all? Having Justin try to pull some mother hen stunt would simply make damned well sure he fucking rode.
The cab pulled up, and Justin climbed out, paid the guy and hit the next button.
Brian. At last.
"Hey, Sunshine," his voice slurred. "Deb tells me that you're going to be on my tail if I ride tomorrow." He giggled. Justin realized that right at that moment, Brian wasn't feeling a lot of pain at all. "Sounds like a plan to me. But a man's got to do " There was silence for a moment, then, "See you tomorrow, Sunshine."
The last was said quietly, sadly. Justin's heart ached. He wondered if he could borrow his Mom's car. If he drove all night
He unlocked the door to the loft, and then slid it closed behind him. It felt cold, empty. He was struck suddenly by the thought that this was what Brian faced for the next six months: coming home to this emptiness every night.
Well, he could always fill it with tricks, Justin supposed, but he suspected that however many men Brian filled it with while he was away, that it would still feel empty.
He wished there was a way to do something about that, but couldn't think of anything. All he could think of at the moment was that his partner was tired and hurt and missing him (even if that wasn't what he'd said, Justin knew it was in the message he'd left all the same).
Impulsively he dialed. He knew it was late, and maybe with the drugs Brian would already
"Hey," Brian's voice came softly, intimately, it was hard to believe that he wasn't right there with him.
"Hey." Justin suddenly found it difficult to talk.
"So did you call to talk me out of the ride?"
"No. I called to tell you that you're a stupid fuckwit, but you already know that. And that I love you, but you already know that too. So mainly I just called to tell you that I'm home, and that I'm waiting for you."
He heard the soft huff of air as Brian laughed. Then a soft grunt, as if the laugh had hurt. Probably it had, Justin thought. His inability to do anything about that frustrated the hell out of him.
"What I really need to know, need you to think about, is if you're prepared to wait for me."
He hadn't meant that to come out. Not right now. But maybe Brian needed them to have this discussion now. To at least start it. To know where Justin was coming from. What he wanted. What he expected.
By Brian's silence, Justin knew how deeply his question had struck home. He took a breath and went on, "Because I'm telling you now, Brian, that I don't want to have to choose, but if you make me "
"There is no choice. You take the fucking job. That's not up for discussion." Brian's voice was harsh, but Justin refused to let it panic him.
"Damned right it's up for discussion. If you think that our relationship is so damned fragile that a long business trip is going to wreck it, then I'm not fucking well putting it at risk I won't be going anywhere."
Again there was silence, then, "Long business trip, huh?"
"That's all it is, Brian. My home is right here. I don't plan on changing that. I have to go away to work for a little while, but I will be home as soon as I can. Hell, I can probably make it home every weekend if I have to, if that's what it takes."
"Don't be fucking stupid."
"I won't be, if you don't make me be."
"But I'm warning you, Kinney. If you pull one of your famous "it's the best thing for him" scenes on me, and try to break it off while I'm away, I'm just going to have to come home and start stalking you all over again."
That got another soft laugh, and another grunt of pain.
"Okay, well, some of us have to be up early to hit the road, and some of us have to make sure that there's enough food in the fridge to feed us while we have crazy reunion sex. Which we could be having tonight, by the way, if you weren't so fucking "
"Justin, I need to do this."
It was his turn to be silent for a moment. Then he said, trying not to sound plaintive, "Why, Brian? Why is it so important?"
A sigh. Then, so softly Justin had to strain to hear. "If I can do this, if I can get through this I can get through anything."
The specter of a six months separation suddenly seemed a small thing compared to the specter Brian had been fighting, was still fighting. Justin fought to keep his voice steady to say, "Then you'll get through it. I know you. I know you can do it. When things get tough out there tomorrow, just remember that."
This time the silence had a different quality, as if Brian, like his partner, was having to fight to get his voice under control.
"I'll be waiting for you."
Faintly, just before Brian disconnected, Justin heard, "Me too."
So far, so good, was the best thing that Justin could say about how things had been between him and Brian since his partner had finally staggered off his bike into Justin's arms. It was hard to say who'd been more worn out by the day - Brian, past the edge of his strength and in pain; or Justin, who'd felt that waiting for hours as the daylight faded and all the other riders had arrived while all the time he'd become more and more worried, more scared, than he'd ever been in his life, had taken years off his own life.
During the day he'd at least had time to ring Brett and explain that he wouldn't be leaving Pittsburgh until Brian's shoulder had healed enough for him to be able to manage one handed. He hadn't actually told Brian exactly when Brett had been expecting him, so that was one argument that they didn't need to have.
They'd both been too exhausted to talk much last night. Then they'd slept in and had had to rush to get to the ceremony at Vic Grassi House. Justin felt again the glow of pride that the unveiling of that name plate had given him in his partner.
But right now he'd hoped that Brian was going to be serious when he started talking about how he was going to make some changes in his life, but if the best he could come up with was to redecorate
Justin didn't know whether to snap at him for being so superficial, or to hope that Brian kept it light, and that he wasn't trying to find a way to convince him that they'd be better off apart. He hadn't forgotten Brian's words on the phone, but he'd had a while to think about it since then, and maybe, on top of his illness, and now his injury, the separation looked all too hard.
He reconsidered, though, when Brian started talking about Gus. Although the words were still flippant, Justin knew from his tone that Brian was seriously making a commitment to spending more time with his son.
His heart pounding in his ears, he waited.
"And I thought that maybe "
Brian broke off, and Justin had to resist the urge to take him by his injured shoulder and shake the fucking words out of him.
"Maybe you should move your stuff in here before you go. I mean, you won't want to take all your winter stuff to sunny California, and Daph will probably need the room so she can get another roommate, so "
Justin held his breath. Was he really hearing this? Because if he was, then it meant His damned allergies threatened to kick in as he realized that his relationship with Gus wasn't the only one that Brian was prepared to make some sort of commitment to.
"What about it, Sunshine should I make room in my drawers for your drawers?"
Justin realized that Brian wasn't going to be coming home to an empty loft, after all. It was going to be filled with Justin's things, with reminders that Justin was just a business trip away, and that he'd be home as well, as soon as he could get there.
He lifted his head and smiled at his partner.
He didn't need to say anything then.
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