The Answer


Author's Note:  This is not exactly an AU - more a what if … what if Justin didn't wait for Michael to explain why Brian had pushed him away?  It seems to me that it's something Justin's more than capable of working out for himself.  Takes place immediately after the scene at Kinnetik where Brian tells Cynthia to get a restraining order if Justin shows up there again.




"And if some asshole named Vic Grassi calls from Hell, tell him I'm in a meeting!"

Brian stalked into his office. At least, he'd like to think that he stalked, although it felt more like a hobble.

He sat carefully behind his desk and listened. To his relief, there was no further outcry from Justin or Cynthia, so he supposed that the little shit had finally got the fucking message.. With a deep sigh - partly relief, partly pure pain, and not just from his groin, he bent his head over the layout on his desk. He was due to start chemo the next day and from what he'd read, that was going to make the discomfort he felt right now look like a picnic. They had a client presentation tomorrow afternoon, he had to make sure everything was ready to go today. That way, he could maybe just fake it through the presentation. If the material was good enough, it should sell itself.

Outside the office, Cynthia tried not to stare at Justin, who was clearly fuming.

"Justin, I …"

He waved her off and stormed through reception, into the crisp air outside.

"Fucking idiot," he fumed. "Well, he needn't think he's fucking won. This is a long way from over."

He decided to go get some lunch. For a moment he toyed with the idea of paying Brian back for his general assholeness by betraying his little secret to Debbie. She'd be all over him like a rash and it would drive Brian insane. Serve him damned well right.

But he thought better of it. Debbie would try to elbow him aside and take on the role of Brian's primary caregiver herself and damned if he was going to let her or anyone else do that. That was his job. It was his fucking right. Even when Brian was behaving like a complete twat. Especially then. Because Justin knew only too well that the worse Brian behaved, the more he tried to push him away, the more scared he must be. Fuckwit!

What did he think, that because he wasn't `perfect' anymore, Justin wouldn't want him, wouldn't love him anymore? Like he'd ever been fucking perfect. Hot yes. Beautiful, even. But a long way from fucking perfect in a whole variety of ways. So what? Brian was Brian. Cancer or no cancer. And to prove it he was behaving in typically self destructive Kinney ways. Dickhead!



Although he enjoyed letting Michael know just what he thought of him, his flare of temper in the diner made Justin realize that he needed some time to regroup.

He decided to head for Daphne's - well, his place, he guessed, since he still technically lived there. He needed to spend some time on his computer and do some study so that he'd know what he and Brian were in for. But before going to Daphne's apartment, he made a brief detour to the loft. He wasn't surprised that Brian hadn't changed the access codes. He hadn't asked for his key back either. In fact, drama queen antics aside his attempts to bar Justin from his life had actually been pretty pathetic. Justin grinned to himself a little, as he methodically checked the answer machine and the pad next to it. Although there were no messages on the machine, the pad, as he'd hoped, held the imprint of Brian's scrawl. Careful shading with one of his soft pencils brought up the time of some sort of appointment at the local hospital, and the name of the doctor Brian was to see. That probably meant …

Justin rang, pretending he was Brian and that he just wanted to check the time of the appointment. As they confirmed the details, he knew he'd been right with his guess. It was Brian's first chemo session.

He headed straight back to Daphne's and logged on.

The descriptions of how the chemotherapy was likely to affect Brian made him bite his lip in pain. He hated that Brian was going to go through this, knew how badly the physical weakness was going to affect his fiercely independent lover; knew just how Brian would kick and scream and try to prove to himself and the world that he was fine and didn't need anybody. Knew that he was going to have to fight Brian's defense mechanisms before he could even begin to offer comfort. Tried to work out a way to make that easier on both of them.

The real question was when were they going to have that battle. The `you're an asshole, but you're my fucking partner and don't you dare try to shut me out' one.

He thought about leaving it to the next day, after the chemo, when Brian would be too sick to really challenge him. But decided that in some ways that would just be worse for both of them. So gathering his courage and his determination, he headed to the loft.

He was working at the light table on a drawing for Rage when Brian came in. Before Brian could say anything, Justin got to his feet.

"Don't even fucking think about it," he warned, grateful that his misguided stint with the Pink Posse had, if nothing else, given him a reasonable chance to outmaneuver Brian physically - at least in his lover's current state. "I'm not that weak little twink any more. I can give you a run for your money when you were a hundred per cent fit - right now, I could take you easy."

Brian stared at him, sticking his tongue into his cheek and aiming for his trade mark sarcastic smirk. But he could feel it eluding him. He was sore, he was tired, he was scared … and not just of the cancer; not even mainly of the cancer, of the disease itself. He was far more scared of all that it meant; and most of all, of what it was costing him … what it had already taken from him, and what it was like to steal from him sooner or later. Not least of which was this fucking blond menace standing so defiantly in front of him. How many times did he have to …

"Brian, this is no different to when you first got back from fucking "Ibiza"," Justin said earnestly.

That was so fucking ridiculous, Brian just shook his head and started towards the steps up to the bedroom.

"Nothing has changed," Justin argued.

"Everything's fucking changed," Brian snapped.

"What? You only had one ball then, as well. The only difference is that now …"

He fell silent and they stared at each other. The only difference was that now Justin knew … knew about the cancer, knew that Brian was human, mortal. And that made all the difference in the world. To Brian at least.

"You're a fucking asshole," Justin told him. "And you need to get your head out of your ass."

He walked up to his lover, and after a brief struggle while Brian tried to shrug him off, helped him out of his coat.

"You've never been, Mr Perfect, Brian. I've never expected you to be. So one fucking ball more or less isn't going to make that much difference. In fact, it's the least of your imperfections."

That was so true that Brian could only huff a laugh.

Justin reached up to touch his face, and Brian dared a look at him.

Justin smiled at him, but there was menace behind the smile. "If you ever try to fucking shut me out like that again, you'll have no balls at all," he said softly, holding his lover's eyes.

Brian looked away, but Justin slid his arms around his neck, and forced him to meet his eyes again. "I love you, you asshole. I'm your fucking partner and you will treat me that way, you hear me?"

"Yes, dear," Brian mumbled in the fake falsetto he used to mock het couple clichιs - and to cover up his emotional confusion over the fact that sometimes even he had to admit at least to himself that they bore a disturbing similarity to being a `real' couple.

He moved away, up the steps and into the bedroom, and Justin let him. He knew he'd made his point, knew he'd won. This round at least. He followed Brian up the steps and then went past him into the bathroom.

Justin splashed water on his face and took a moment to steady himself. He knew that the war was far from over, but at least he'd won that skirmish. He stayed in there for a few minutes to give Brian some time to adjust to that knowledge as well. He knew that it was important that Brian still feel in control of at least some things in his life, when so much was beyond his control right now. For Brian, more than most, that would be almost the worst part of this nightmare. So Justin figured that he needed to find a way to make sure that he gave Brian at least the illusion of control about as many things as he could. Without letting him get away with any of his usual self destructive shit.

Finding that balance was going to be a load of laughs, Justin could tell. He heard the phone ring, and dallied even more, giving Brian some privacy to answer it.

When he came out of the bathroom, Brian was sprawled on the bed, just putting down the phone.

"Why the fuck did you have to go running to fucking Mikey?" he complained.

Justin shrugged.

"You weren't going to tell me anything. I thought you might have told him."

Brian lifted his head a little and gave him an incredulous stare for a moment before letting his head flop back down onto the pillow.

For some reason Brian's look of astonished disbelief at the very idea of him sharing this particular news item with Michael, made Justin feel much better.

He moved to the end of the bed and pulled off Brian's shoes. The only reaction was that Brian stretched and arched his feet, so Justin tugged off the socks as well, and then gently began rubbing his feet. That brought a soft grunt of appreciation.

"How often are the chemo sessions?" Justin asked.

Brian sighed and pulled his foot away, carefully curling onto his side. Justin, after one quick glance at the man's averted face, bent and picked up the socks and shoes, opening the closet and putting the shoes in the rack and the socks into the laundry bag. He didn't say anything else, and finally Brian answered, "Every two days."

Justin nodded.

"Okay … well, I guess we'll just have to see how it goes. Tomorrow's the first one, right?"

Brian made an exasperated noise, so Justin simply went on. "I'll come over tomorrow afternoon, then, and make sure there's something light you can have for dinner. Even if you're sick … it's better to have something on your stomach."


Justin went down and fetched both his coat and Brian's and hung them both up. By then, Brian was struggling with the doona, so Justin helped tug it out from under him, and wrapped it over his shoulders. Then he lay down on the bed behind him, gently sliding one arm around Brian's waist, and allowing his cheek to rest against the back of Brian's shoulder.

He could hear Brian's breathing, harsh and a little uneven, and knew just what that meant. He was fighting back tears himself. Fucking shit of a thing! If this fucking cancer thought that it could defeat them, break them apart after all they'd been through … it could fucking think again. His arm tightened slightly round Brian, and eventually he felt Brian's hand touch his, and then those long, beautiful fingers tangled around his own and he had to fight even harder to keep the tears from spilling.

"You don't owe me anything," Brian said.

"Don't be fucking stupid!"

"I mean it, Justin. Anytime you want out …"

"There are no locks on the doors," Justin chanted mockingly. "I fucking know that one Brian, learn a new song."

There was silence for a moment, and then Brian said in the soft voice that he used so seldom. The voice he used to express his real feelings, the one he used when the doors were open and the walls were down, and he was letting Justin as close as he dared.

"I need you to promise me …" he said painfully. "I need to know that if you want out, if it gets too fucking much and you just don't want to do it any more that you'll walk. I need you to promise me that."

"Brian …"

The dark head moved on the pillow, a sideways motion of negation. "Justin I need to know that. I can't …"

Justin stretched forwards and kissed the side of his jaw. "If I want to go, I will, alright?" he said. "I promise I won't stay with you out of pity or guilt or any of that shit. Okay?"

This time the head gave a slight nod, and Justin heard a bone deep sigh - almost a groan. Once more his lips caressed his lover's jaw and lingered there.

After a moment, Brian turned his head slowly and their lips met briefly. Then with an easier sigh, one of … resignation, almost contentment, he nestled his head back into the pillow.

"You always were the most persistent fucker I've ever met," he said.

"Lucky for you!" Justin muttered.

There was silence for a moment, and then, to his astonishment, Justin heard a soft voice mumble, "Yeah, lucky for me."

Then there was silence and he realized that Brian had fallen asleep.

Justin lay there for a long time, determinedly making plans.

First on the list, was to somehow get Deb's recipe for chicken soup without making her suspicious. The last thing Brian needed was either of the Novotny's fussing and fuming around him. He needed space and peace and quiet if he was going to beat this thing. And he fucking was. They were. Together.

So tomorrow he'd get the soup recipe, and he'd come over here and make some. And force it down Brian's throat if he had to. The web sites had all said that the patient should try to eat light meals at least, even if they threw up most of the food.

So he was going to make the soup and Brian was going to eat it and then the next day … well, they'd just keep going. Till the treatments were over, and the cancer was gone, and then … then they'd have won.

And they'd still be together.

He'd promised Brian he wouldn't stay out of pity or guilt.

And he wouldn't.

He'd be here because Brian was his fucking partner, and because he loved him. And for the first time, maybe, Brian needed him. It wasn't that Justin felt like he had to pay back some sort of debt, or that he felt like he had to stay. It was that for the first time, he had a chance to be the strong one, the one taking care of things. And that made him feel more like Brian's real partner than ever. For some reason, Brian needing him, Justin, to look after him, and to run interference, and to deal with all the things that he wasn't going to have the energy to deal with himself, and that made him feel Brian's equal in a way that he maybe really hadn't before.

No one and nothing was going to take that away from him.

Least of all some pathetic illness.

Chicken soup, that was the answer.

Before he could quite work out the answer to what, Justin found himself asleep, his arm still draped protectively, and very lovingly, over his partner.

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