First off, I would love to thank the wonderful shadownyc for her beta work on this chapter!!
So here's the next chapter for your reading enjoyment.
******SPOILER WARNING*******This is about two parallel worlds. One which we know about and another that our Brian has found himself in. There will be a major character death in the other world - actually - there already has been. There is nothing squicky, per se. It's just a dark story. Our boys will still be together in the end and no, they won't be dead but very much alive - this is the best way I can think of to show once and for fucking all how much Brian Kinney wants to be with Justin Taylor. Just trust me but yes, this will get angsty. *******SPOILER WARNING*********
Title: Through a Mirror Darkly
Pairing: Brian/Justin - duh!
Warnings: Character Death but not what you think.
Summary: Takes a strange turn at the end of Episode 217, when Brian goes to tell Justin about his new partnership.
Disclaimers: I don't own Cowlip or the boys.
Author's Note: For the purpose of this story - Justin never went on the trip to Vermont since Mikey was a good friend to BOTH Brian and Justin and convinced Justin to stay and wait for Brian.
Author's Note #2: You can pronounce Cthulhu ka-too-la.
Chapter 1 Brian comes home from Chicago
Chapter 2 Brian tries to get some answers
Chapter 3 Brian confronts the blond in his loft
Chapter 4 Brian runs into Kip
Chapter 5 Brian learns who Justin is
Chapter 6 Brian and Michael learn more
Chapter 7 Brian gets some answers from Justin
Chapter 8 Brian goes back to the loft
Chapter 9 Brian talks to Lindsay
Chapter 10 Brian goes to the diner
Chapter 11 Brian reflects on the situation with Ben
Chapter 12 Brian keeps looking for answers
Chapter 13 Brian learns some hard truths
Chapter 14 Brian remembers something
Chapter 15 Brian fucks up
Chapter 16 Brian talks to Daphne
Chapter 17 Brian finds out about Justin
Chapter 18 Brian gets help
Chapter 19 Brian reaches out to Justin
Chapter 20 Brian goes to the Baths
Chapter 21 Brian talks to Mikey
The other Brian, someone just like him, the same wants and desires.
Was there, in the other world.
With his Justin.
His beautiful, strong, devoted, adoring, 'I'll do anything you ask, Brian' Justin.
"I need to get back and now," Brian said, looking directly at Joe.
The thoughts and images running through Brian's head at the moment were too much to bear. Another man, no, not another man, but him, was there with Justin. He always thought that Justin might be happier with someone else, and it seemed he was with someone else now.
But he hadn't meant trading himself for...
What were they doing at the moment? Had the Brian of the other world taken one look at Justin, fucked him and then threw him out of the loft? Had he taken him and then taken him again and decided this was a cozy little set up?
"Yeah, I fucking hear you on that one, loud and clear," Joe said, interrupting Brian from his thoughts. "Especially knowing what I know," Joe finished by crossing his arms over his chest and lifting his eyebrows suggestively.
"What do you know?" Brian asked, focusing all his attention on the little man in front of him.
"Word has it, he doesn't want to cross back. I mean it could be nerves," Joe shrugged, "It's not going to be an easy cross over, ya know?" Joe scoffed, "And then there's the fact that he just doesn't fucking want to really go."
"What else do you know Joe?" Brian asked, his voice indicating he didn't want to hear anymore bullshit.
"Word has it your little blond boy toy doesn't know who he is either," Joe said, wincing as he said it.
Brian stopped to gather all the information he now knew and he was pretty sure that Joe wasn't just goading him.
His mental checklist started to click off in his head.
Someone just like him.
Only before Justin had come along.
Someone with the same opportunistic qualities and wants and needs.
Justin completely in the dark and wanting only to please Brian.
And now the new wrinkle, the other one doesn't want to come back.
Well fuck, Brian thought, why would he?
But Justin's not dumb. He would know the difference, wouldn't he?
Sure he would, especially since Brian had been acting like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the past few months. Oh yeah.
Brian grabbed Joe by his shirt lapels again.
"You have to send me back. Now!" Brian growled. "I don't give a rat's ass about the right time and all that shit."
"Whoa! Whoa, Tarzan! Down boy. I said I'd get you home," Joe reasoned, trying to pry Brian's arms away from him. "Seriously though, it's not the right time. I can't just send you back now."
"I said I don't fucking care," Brian growled again, not letting go of Joe.
"Look, put me down and we'll fucking discuss this like two rational people. Come on," Joe laughed, "We had a rapport thing going here, hey...amigo?" Brian put Joe down. "I can't just fucking send you back. It would be instant death. It has to be at the exact same time that he's ready to come back and we summon them at the same time. Then you can do the cross over. Actually, one of the guardians would take you back." Joe looked around nervously. "And like I said before, I won't be fucking held responsible for what'll happen at that time. But if I summon them now, knowing what I know? Well, I'm just not fucking doing it."
"Then fine, make him ready," Brian said, as if it made all the sense in the world. "You've got special powers or something. Make him do it!"
"So you want me," Joe said as he pointed to himself incredulously, "To make the other one, in the other world, just cross over, willingly."
"Yeah," Brian shrugged. He was hoping maybe goading the strange little man would make him do something.
"Sure why not," Joe said as he threw his hands up in defeat. Joe put his fingers to his temple and started concentrating, his brows furrowed, his eyes shut tight. He then started murmuring words Brian had never heard before.
Brian looked at the little man and sighed. "You're fucking with me right now, aren't you?"
"I like to think of it as humoring you and yeah, I am. I can't make him do anything," Joe said as he shook his head. "Just like I can't make you do anything. You have to be ready, which I'm still not sure of and he has to be ready and we then can do it at the same time. I can tell you when these things have been accomplished, but I can't make anybody do them. Free will and all that bullshit. Hey if I could, I'd have Angelina fucking Jolie sitting on my fucking face, ya know?"
"Who are you, really?" Brian asked, peering more closely at the man.
Joe chuckled and wiped his forehead. "I'm your only fucking hope Kinney. That's what I am. Feel better now?"
"I need to get back. I need to know when it'll be time...the right time. What?" Brian said in exasperation. "Does Mercury have to be in retrograde or some such shit?"
"Nothing as simple as spiritual mumbo jumbo, believe me," Joe said. "That would be too easy. I don't think you know what you're up against. These guardians, they feed off fear. They feed off man's inability to confront that fear."
Brian's head shot up. The story Father Tom had related to him about the girl in Central America suddenly came forefront in his mind. The girl who had mumbled about the walls feeding off her. Her living in constant fear of her stepfather. It didn't take a rocket scientist to piece these facts together.
"All kidding aside, they're not loving creatures Kinney. They guard the doorways, but some of them have their fun while they're at it and feed off what they can," Joe shrugged. "And some of them don't. And then some of them just don't give a shit one way or the fucking other. They'll take what comes along. They're opportunists. But that's not something you would know anything about, would you Kinney?" Joe smirked.
"I used to," Brian said sadly. "That's why I need to get back."
"Oh yeah," Joe mocked. "To save the virtue of your little blond boy ass. How fucking noble."
"His name is Justin!" Brian yelled.
"Oh look, you can fucking remember it. You didn't that morning, now did you Kinney?" Joe shot back.
Brian stopped to look at Joe.
"But you did remember," Joe continued, not at all phased by the incredulous look Brian was giving him. "Didn't you? You just made him think you forgot."
Brian looked away.
"Oh this is priceless," Joe laughed. "You want to confront the guardians and you can't even confront the truth about yourself and what Sunshine means to you." Brian turned to face Joe at the mocking tone he took when he used the moniker. "What are you afraid of? I know all your shit and so do you," Joe said as he pointed directly at Brian. "Why go back? Why risk your life, your sanity, for him. You got it made here. No Justin. You'd just be going back to the old ball and chain right?"
"I...I don't think of him like that," Brian said.
"What, you love him? You would cross over into the other world for him? You would do that? Why, so you could go back and play more fucking mind games Kinney? Make his life even more miserable. Show him how he'll never be in control. How he doesn't really mean much? Always make him doubt what he means to you?" Joe shot off in rapid fire, getting into Brian's face.
Brian looked backed at Joe. "You seem to have become more eloquent and coherent Joe," Brian shot back.
"Yeah, well I don't want to play any more games with you. And neither does Justin," Joe pointed out.
"Stop! Please," Brian pleaded.
"No! You wanted this. I'm nothing compared to them. What do you want Kinney?" Joe said, getting farther into Brian's space. "No more bullshit. What do you want? I'm not helping you for shit unless you tell me."
"I want to go back," Brian said.
"Because, I need to be with Justin," Brian said.
"Why? To keep the other one away from him? Is that it? Some other dog pissing on your tree? That all this is?"
"Yes...no...that and," Brian started.
"Yeah, I'm waiting," Joe said, not giving an inch.
"I want him. I want to be with him."
"You care for him?" Joe asked as he lifted his eyebrow.
"Care is such a pathetic word. People care for other people all the time."
Brian looked at Joe a long time.
"You still can't say it. You still have yourself convinced that love is not something you can ever admit, something that the great Brian Kinney would never fall prey to. What the fuck am I doing?" Joe scoffed while shaking his head and furrowing his eyebrows. "Talking about love with you. I just hate the fact that you can't even admit a tiny little thing like that."
"It's not a fucking little thing! It means something to me," Brian yelled. He couldn't hide it anymore. He tried hiding it from Justin and it just pushed him farther away. He tried to hide it from Debbie, Michael and the gang and they just looked at him as if he were full of shit. He tried to hide it from himself but it just made him do stupid shit that drove Justin even further away.
And if he didn't admit it now, to the only person in the whole world who he probably couldn't hide it from anyway, and the only person in the whole world (well at least, this one) who could send him back, he would probably be stuck here. Brian sighed in defeat. "I love him, okay? The word seems so trite for what I feel. I just want him to be happy," Brian said while shaking his head. "He'll never be happy with me. I'm damaged goods and I don't think I could ever give back as much as I think he wants."
"Bullshit! And there's an old saying, 'you can't bullshit a bullshitter.'"
"I'm getting just this side of tired of all the old sayings," Brian droned.
"You know what would make him happy. The truth for starters. And he doesn't want that much. You only think he does. You're the one with all the romantic ideals Kinney," Joe said as he pointed toward Brian.
"That's...What?!" Brian laughed.
"It's true," Joe said. "You think the minute you say anything, you have to be a different person. He doesn't want that," Joe finished off while crossing his arms over his chest. "I've had enough of this talking love bullshit. You're cramping my style here. Any minute now we'll join hands singing 'Kumbaya' while daisies spring out of my fucking ass. Now, the truth. What would make you happy."
"I want him for myself," Brian started. "I don't want to see him with someone else."
"Better," Joe said, smirking, "Would you cross over? Risk everything? I'm not shitting you here. You cross over and you have any reservations, they'll smell it on you. They'll feed off it. They'll have a fucking field day with your fucking carcass. Would you risk it? For him?"
Brian looked at Joe.
There was only one answer rolling around in his head. He could stay here, live this life, get Lindsay and Mel back together, solve everyone's problems, hire hustlers who looked like Justin, three to four times a week, knowing Justin was okay in the other world, but there would still be an empty place in the loft.
And in his heart.
And the sad truth of it was, if there was a Justin here, it still wouldn't be his Justin.
The one who he had met under a street lamp over a year ago.
The one who called him on his shit.
The one who was willing to accept Brian just as he was, even if it meant having to give in to certain things.
So would he risk it all for Justin?
As Joe would say, 'in a fucking heartbeat.'
"Yes, I would. Because if I stay here, I'm dead anyway," Brian said, straightening his shoulders and standing taller. "I'd risk it all."
Joe looked at Brian and smiled. "I believe you would." Joe pointed at Brian, "You're ready."
Brian stopped and looked back at Joe. "Then let's do it," Brian said excitedly.
Joe laughed. "Did you ever think you'd say anything like that to a regular schmoe like me? I told you already, I can't until he's ready."
"And when will he...?"
"I don't know, that's up to the people on the other side. That's all I can tell you Kinney," Joe finished with a sigh. "I'm...I'm sorry."
"That's not acceptable," Brian said.
"Well it's going to have to be. This isn't one of your underlings of yours where you can say shit like that and snap your fingers and things get done. I'm not Cynthia. I can't make shit happen because you demand it. You have to wait."
Brian slumped against the counter, no longer surprised at anything Joe knew about him. "I can't sit still. I can't just wait. I want..."
"You have to go anyway. When I call you, when it's time, you have to bring a friend," Joe said matter-of-factly.
"Why?" Brian scoffed. "Human sacrifice? If that's the case, I think Ted might have a clear schedule..."
"In case everything goes to shit, and someone has to deal with the," Joe winced, "You know...the remains."
Brian shuddered and nodded his head in understanding.
To say it was a bit of a reality adjustment to think about having to go from partner of a prestigious advertising company with a glamorous loft and a hefty bank account, who had a beautiful, smart and talented lover waiting for him at said loft, to possibly nothing more than 'remains,' was an understatement.
This was indeed the weirdest couple of days of his life.
"So you'll call...as soon as it's time," Brian asked Joe again.
"No. I thought, as soon as I found out, I'd take a trip to the park, maybe the zoo, ya know?" Joe shot back, while scratching his head.
"You're...fucking with me again," Brian said, not quite sure.
Joe laughed. "Nothing slips past you, huh?" Joe watched as Brian made to leave. "Hey Kinney!"
Brian stopped to look back.
"It's okay, ya know," Joe shrugged.
"What's okay?" Brian asked, brows knit together.
"To feel relieved," Joe said.
"I don't know..."
"Are we gonna play fucking twenty questions again? I thought we got past that. You're relieved...that it's not your Justin that's six feet under right now."
"I shouldn't feel that way," Brian said sadly. "Maybe I am as callous as everyone thinks."
"Fuck that shit. Deep down, whenever they see something on the news, when something happens to someone else, when they see an accident along the side of the road, people are always, 'isn't that tragic.' But deep down, they're all the same. 'Thank God that wasn't me or someone I loved and cared about,' you know?"
"But still, it's a world without Justin. He's still dead here," Brian said.
"Look, I'm not the kind of guy who goes in for that 'do you see the glass as half full or half empty shit,' okay? I think...fuck it!" Joe said while waving his arms about wildly. "I get the whole fucking pitcher of beer and before I'm even done with it, I'm three sheets to the wind. But look..."
Brian looked at Joe, "You're going to tell me to look at this in a good light?" Brian scoffed.
"What if I were to tell you that maybe, just maybe, Justin was supposed to go to his prom in both worlds, and that he was supposed to get hit by Hobbs in both worlds, and that he was supposed to die in that parking garage in both worlds but maybe, just maybe," Joe said looking directly at Brian, "Because something that was never meant to happen, that thing being that your phone was off in your world, happened, so bingo bango boom, you meet Justin and you go to his prom with him, and hey! Look, he's still alive in one of the worlds."
Brian stopped to look at Joe again, "You're saying that..."
"Yeah, I'm saying that. I'm saying that maybe, just maybe Justin Taylor wasn't meant to fucking outlive his prom, and maybe there aren't any 'maybes' here. I'm just saying that," Joe sighed, "Isn't it kinda nice that he's at least alive in one of the worlds?"
Brian had to admit, it was. And he wanted to be in the world with Justin in it.
"You'll call me?" Brian asked and then almost kicked himself.
"No matter what, I'll call. We just gotta wait."
"Who the fuck are you?" Brian asked once more.
Joe continued to look at Brian and laughed. "You just wouldn't fucking believe me if I told you. Look, sometimes, shit happens, someone fucks up, and someone has to clean up after them. I'm doing a favor for an old friend. I'll call you. Go," Joe said as he indicated the door. "You're bad for business."
Brian walked out of the shop, taking one last look back at Joe, who was still looking out after him, almost daring him to continue on with his life until it was time.
Brian walked away from the shop and to his Jeep.
Which wasn't there.
"Fuck!" Brian yelled. "Mother-fucking..."
Maybe he'd been hanging out too long with Joe.
And maybe one of the guardians took it for a joy ride to further fuck with him.
"Excuse me," an old lady said who was standing at the bus stop.
"Yeah," Brian said curtly. "Sorry. Yes?"
"Were you driving that black Jeep?" the woman asked.
"Yeah," Brian said with trepidation.
"The nice policeman came by and had it towed since it was in the red zone," she said.
Of course he did.
Because that's what nice policemen do.
Brian started to walk in the direction of Liberty Avenue. It wasn't far from the shoe store. If he kept walking, he could get to Ted and maybe borrow his car. Or call the impound yard and get his Jeep out.
When he rounded the corner, he knew the long, dark alleyway he came to was a short cut into the Gay district.
As he walked down the alleyway, he heard something behind him and turned around quickly, expecting it to be a tree where it shouldn't have been or the wall, to take him away.
It was just Kip.
"What? You following me now Thomas? Do you know how pathetic that is?" Brian asked in exasperation, his hands thrown up at his sides.
"You owe me Kinney! Gardner won't take me back. Said I never did shit for Marty before," Kip yelled, advancing on Brian.
"Well, I underestimated good ole Vance. He did do his homework. Look, I...I can't deal with this shit right now. I'm dealing with much, much bigger things than your prospective job offers," Brian said and turned to walk away.
Kip advanced on Brian further and spun him around.
"Fuck you Kinney. You're going to help me!"
"Or what? Huh? You gonna tell everyone what terrible things I did to you a year ago?" Brian yelled in Kip's face. "What, and now you decided to come forward when hey...look, you just got fired? That is so laughable. It'll just be sour grapes. Now fucking let go of me," Brian growled and went to get out of Kip's hold.
Kip made to hit Brian but Brian side stepped the shorter man and then grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. Brian looked at Thomas, drew his fist back and hit him square in the jaw.
"That's for fucking with me in this world Kip," Brian said, his eyes wild and manic. "Sure, it may not have been me, but it’s the fucking principle of the thing. And you know the best part Kip? Are you listening...Kip?" Brian said while shaking Kip. "When I get back to where I belong, I'm gonna fucking enjoy looking up your sorry ass and doing this all the fuck over again for daring to touch Justin because I know you must have."
Yep, Joe was definitely rubbing off on him.
A stunned Kip kept shaking his head back and forth. "What the fuck are you on?! What do you mean...not you?! Who the fuck is Justin?"
"Good answer," Brian said as he came in very close to Kip, their noses almost touching, his breath hot and heavy on Kip's face. "What are you afraid of Kip? You afraid you can't make it in the big bad advertising world?" Brian whispered.
"Actually, I'm kinda afraid of you right know. You don't look so well," Kip said nervously.
"You should be more afraid of me now. Grow some fucking balls," Brian said and released Kip harshly and turned away, Kip falling to the ground. Brian walked further down the alley. Just then, the wall on one side started to display a ripple effect.
"Now you wanna make sure they don't get to you first before you cross over all official like."
Those had been the words Joe had said.
"Oh fuck!" Brain yelled. "Run Kip. Get the fuck out of the alley! Now!" Brian yelled back as he ran down the alley, toward the light that indicated the busy street.
Kip continued to nurse his broken cheek. "You're insane Kinney...you know that?" Kip yelled after the running man.
As Kip was getting up, he noticed the slight movement in the wall. "What the fuck?" he said in confusion.
He heard a squelching sound behind him and as he turned around, he saw the thing that had come out of the wall.
He didn't have time to scream before the thing took him in its cold embrace.
And at the comic book store in the other world...
"Justin!" Michael yelled. "How long..."
"Long enough," Justin droned. Justin looked directly at Brian with narrowed eyes. "Now who the fuck are you and where's Brian?"
Brian took in the form of the boy standing in front of him, his entire body vibrating in anger. Brian had only two words running through his head.
"Justin," Michael started.
"Don't Michael! Don't," Justin said as he pointed his finger at Michael. He turned to Brian. "Did you hear what I just asked you?" Justin asked again, his voice very steady and brooking no argument.
"Yes, Justin. Look, I," Brian started, "If you heard the conversation, than you know what and who I am."
"I want to hear you say it," Justin said, his arms folded across his chest.
"And you know where Brian, your Brian is," Brian continued.
And still, Justin stared Brian down.
Brian sighed and rolled his eyes. "I'm the Brian from the," Brian winced, "Other world and your Brian is there. Happy?" Brian asked as he threw his hands up in the air.
"There," Justin said calmly and smiled, "Was that so hard?"
"No, no it wasn't," Brian smiled. So the kid wouldn't go ballistic. Maybe everything would be okay. He took in Justin's beatific smile.
"Um...Brian," Michael said, and what exactly was he supposed to say.
It was the calm before the storm.
"Was it that fucking hard to say it the first time you saw me? Huh?!" Justin screamed. "Did you think it was so fucking funny to pull one over on me, the stupid, gullible kid, is that it?! Answer me! Answer me!"
Justin stood vibrating, his rage a tangible object hanging in the shop's atmosphere.
Michael knew that if Justin had been a weather front, his shop would have been leveled and FEMA would have been called in.
"I...I didn't know when I first...and then there was Mysterious Marilyn...and Michael said we shouldn't," Brian babbled.
"Shut up!" Justin said.
"You wanted an answer," Brian winced.
"Shut up, Brian," Michael whispered. Justin turned his attention on Michael and narrowed his eyes.
"And you! You knew all this time?!" Justin screamed as he turned his rage on Michael.
"I...yeah...but I did it...cause I knew...and then...Bob was all," Michael stammered.
"Oh for the love of...," Justin exploded, "I know you guys can cover up way better than that!"
Michael and Brian stood staring at Justin.
"Fine! Whatever Michael. I get you. You're just like all the others." Justin then lowered his voice a few octaves. "'Let's not tell Justin,' or 'let's tip toe around poor little Justin because you know, after all he's been through, he can't handle shit anymore.' You all think I'm so fucking weak."
"No Justin, that's not it at all, we could never think that...none of us would ever think that," Michael laughed nervously. "Oh God, Justin, you're the last person we would ever think that of. We just thought, well I did, that everything you'd been through..."
Justin threw his hands up in the air again and glared back at Michael.
"Poor choice of words, okay?" Michael said.
"And you," Justin said as he turned back to Brian, who was backing up against the counter while Justin advanced on him. "So you thought nothing of fucking me, knowing all that time that you weren't the Brian I thought you were."
"I needed to keep up appearances, you would have expected that of me," Brian shrugged.
"That is so laughable. I mean fuck! Try again please and cut the bullshit!" Justin yelled at Brian.
"I wanted it, okay?" Brian said, looking directly at Justin. "But, I felt really bad about it."
"Oh my God. You felt bad about it," Justin stated incredulously. "Yeah, I could tell by the way you were in the shower in the morning and when you...you. Oh God," Justin said as he stepped back from Brian. "You tried to fuck me raw."
Brian lifted his hand to make his point clear, "But we're both negative."
"No, my Brian was negative. Oh God," Justin said, clutching at his stomach.
"I got my test results right before I left for Chicago. Please Justin...you know how careful your Brian is...I'm not any different, really," Brian reasoned.
"So you're negative," Justin prompted.
"Yes, I'm not that stupid. I've done stupid things..."
"You two aren't really that different after all," Justin said mockingly.
"I'm sorry for that Justin, really, I just saw that we were both negative and...I'm sorry," Brian sighed.
"Stop saying that!" Justin yelled. "You're sorry. He's sorry!" Justin yelled pointing to Michael. "Why?" Justin yelled once more as he threw his hands in the air in defeat. "Why try to fool me? You thought I wouldn't notice something wrong? I live with Brian! I sleep with Brian. I fuck Brian! Or I should say, he fucks me." Justin looked down at the ground. "That's it, isn't it Michael," Justin said as he turned to the man, "I am just Brian's fuck buddy, the annoying kid who over-stayed his welcome. I wouldn't notice anything. You could replace my Brian with this one," Justin said as he turned to Brian, "And it wouldn't matter, right? Right?" Justin yelled.
"No Justin, he wasn't supposed to do anything," Michael said as he was trying to reason with Justin while turning to glare at Brian.
"That was my fault," Brian said. "I took advantage..."
"Then you're not like Brian!" Justin said. "Brian's not like that!"
Michael sighed, "Justin, the Brian we know now, might not, but the Brian before you two met, before you two became more involved, would have."
"Bullshit! My first time, our first night, he was so good to me! He...I couldn't have asked for a better first time," Justin said, remembering that first night and how he had fallen in love with Brian after that. Justin rubbed furiously at his eyes. He would not cry now.
"Of course it was great!" Michael said incredulously. "But he knew he shouldn't have done it. He felt bad about what he had done. How he had mislead you. Do you know how shitty he felt after that Goodfuck guy left?"
"So, he is sorry he met me," Justin said, trying to hide the hurt in his eyes.
Brian chuckled, "I'm sure he's not sorry he met you."
"Justin! He'll never be sorry he met you!" Michael said as he ran up to the younger man. "He just felt bad for how it happened. But after everything, he's not sorry about it. And believe me when I say, and I can admit this now, none of us are sorry he met you."
"What do you mean by that?" Justin asked.
"You just said that the Brian you know wouldn't have done the things that this Brian did. That's because Brian has changed. You did that," Michael said.
"Yeah, I changed him," Justin said in defeat. "I didn't mean to. That's probably why he's better off where he is now."
"What?!" Michael and Brian screeched at the same time.
"What the fuck do you mean by that?" Michael asked, more calmly.
"I've changed him. I've turned him into something he always hated," Justin said, looking at Michael, tears starting to form in his eyes.
"No! He's grown up, that's all! I've grown up! He's a better person since you've come along, don't you get that?" Michael asked. He couldn't believe all this time Justin had felt this way. "And what do you mean he's better off where he is?! He's probably going fucking nuts not knowing where you are!"
"But," Justin started.
"Justin," Brian said as he stepped forward. "There are so many things that are different here than from where I'm from. That's because of you," Brian said as he looked directly at Justin. "Me and your Brian, we're the same person, only he's different now, because he met you. See? He's someone who's put other people before his own gain. He's the person," Brian sighed, "He's the person I should be."
"You are right. You're not him. He wouldn't ever admit to something like that," Justin said as he shook his head.
"And neither would I, but I think circumstances have changed and you deserve to know the truth," Brian said intently. "I owe you that." Thoughts of turning lesbian seemed laughable right now. He couldn't hide the truth any longer.
Justin regarded the man before him. Was that true? Is this the person Brian was before and was his Brian happy with who he was now?
And was Brian really going crazy in the other world, because he wasn't there?
"Justin," Michael said as he stepped forward and took hold of Justin, "Brian is not happy in the other world. If anything, I'd say he's anything but."
"And you know this because of some cosmic type of telepathy?" Justin shot back incredulously.
"No," Michael laughed, "I know because I know Brian. He doesn't know where he is and you're not there and...oh shit!" Michael took a step back and swallowed. "How much did you hear? Really?"
Brian looked at Justin warily.
"Justin?" Michael said again.
"I heard enough," Justin shrugged as he toed the ground.
"Justin," Michael said as he went to hug the boy.
"Don't," Justin said as he stepped back. "Don't okay? How did it happen?" Justin addressed his question at Brian.
"At your prom," Brian said.
"No one was there to stop it, right?" Justin asked.
"Yeah," Brian swallowed.
"Because you weren't there," Justin said as he looked at Brian.
"No," Brian said as he looked at the ground, not being able to confront the boy in front of him.
"That's why you didn't know me. Because we never met...or," Justin said as he thought of something else, "Maybe you did fuck me over there and just forgot me."
"I've never seen you before, really. I wouldn't have forgotten you," Brian smiled. "My phone was on the night Gus was born, I never made it to Babylon so I never met you."
Because a phone was on instead of off, he didn't exist in the other world.
Justin shivered as he felt someone had just walked over his grave. And maybe someone had.
Maybe it was Brian.
He never told anyone, but when he and Daphne had been twelve, they had visited the coast of Jersey with her parents that summer. One of those palm readers had been there and Daphne had convinced him they should get their fortunes read. The woman had taken Daphne's hand and had gushed about her prosperous career, her handsome husband and her perfect children.
She had taken one look at Justin's hand, dropped it and said she couldn't read it; that it wasn't readable. She then shooed them out of the tent and told them the reading was free.
They had left the tent, Daphne looking back with furrowed brows, "Well that was weird."
"What? The part about you marrying someone handsome or your perfect children?" Justin laughed.
Daphne hit Justin playfully about the shoulder. "Yeah, I know. She probably couldn't think up any interesting bullshit to tell you."
"Shit Daphne!" Justin said as he looked down at his hips where his sweatshirt had been tied. "I forgot my hoodie back at the tent. Go on and get a cone, I'll be right there."
Daphne headed off in the direction of the ice cream stand and Justin made his way back to the tent.
As he entered, he noticed the woman cleaning up. She stopped immediately when she took notice of Justin. "What do you want?" the woman said testily. "I'm done for the day."
"What...what did you see? About my future?" Justin asked timidly.
"Nothing. I saw nothing," the woman shot back.
"Well, even if it's nothing to you, it might be something to me," Justin shrugged.
The woman looked directly at Justin and sighed. "I saw nothing. You have no future. If events do not change, I see no future for you. Please leave," the woman said while indicating the door. "I only like telling good fortunes."
Justin walked out of the tent, pulled his hoodie over his head, the one he had left there on purpose and made his way to Daphne, pretending as if nothing had transpired between him and the woman.
Although he didn't believe in such things, the words still stuck in his mind for awhile, and as time wore on, they became less and less important, but they were still there, somewhere in the back of his mind, reminding him of his mortality. He had almost forgotten them after he had met Brian, because the older man had given him a reason to still believe in a future.
"Justin?" Michael asked, breaking Justin out of his recollection.
"Is it...is it wrong for me to feel relieved?" Justin asked, pleading with the men before him to tell him it was okay. "Does that make me a bad person?"
"No Justin, no," Michael said.
Brian walked up to Justin. "It's okay."
Justin took a deep breath in and let it out. He then furrowed his brows when he suddenly remembered something. The thought of him not existing in another world could wait when he thought of something more important. "So...Brian doesn't know where he is?"
"That was the last thing we heard from Jo," Michael said.
"And Jo would be?" Justin prompted.
"The person who'll summon the guardians...," Brian started.
"The guardians?" Justin asked.
Brian sighed. "She'll summon the guardians, who by the way, are some of the most unpleasant creatures you'll ever meet, and then we can switch...cross over...whatever," Brian said.
Michael and Brian mentally counted the seconds before the questions would start coming in rapid fire from the teenager.
"So how bad are these guardians? Why aren't we summoning them now? How come Brian doesn't know?" Justin shot off excitedly. "Why are we just standing around? Let's go get this 'Jo.'"
"Justin, calm down. The guardians are the creatures that guard the doorways, between the two worlds," Michael said.
"Well, why weren't they guarding it when they went through?" Justin yelled.
"Don't know," Brian said. "We can't summon them until it's time and we don't know when the right time'll be," Brian finished.
"So when it's the right time, we can get our Brian back," Justin said, a question more than a statement.
"Yes," Michael said, "But there's going to be risk."
"What kind of risk?" Justin asked, getting scared all over again.
"Death? Insanity?" Brian winced. "You know, standard type risks," Brian mocked.
"Oh Fuck!" Justin yelled. "And Brian doesn't know?"
"As of the last time we talked to Jo, he didn't know. That was yesterday," Michael said, feeling inadequate in his knowledge.
"So we go talk to Jo again," Justin said defiantly. "This time we get more answers...find out when and how we can make it the right time."
"It doesn't work that way," Michael said. "You can't just fix this Justin."
"You said the same fucking lame ass shit when Brian was faced with that sexual harassment suit by Kip! And I did something then!" Justin yelled.
"Yeah, well, what are you going to do? Huh? Justin? Offer to sleep with one of the guardians?" Michael yelled back. "It won't work that way."
"There has to be something...and Brian, shit!" Justin exclaimed as he thought about Brian, in a world he had no idea what was going on in. Not only was he going crazy, but he probably thought he was crazy.
"Don't worry," Brian said as he advanced on Justin and took the younger man in his arms, "You'll be okay. Brian'll be okay. In the meantime, I'll take care of you, okay?"
Justin looked up at the man.
He looked like Brian.
He was Brian.
But he wasn't his Brian.
And if what Michael said was true and what Brian, this Brian, was confirming was the truth, then his Brian was sad, scared and alone.
Justin loved Brian. He loved him with his entire being. He loved him too much to stand by and accept a cheap imitation, no matter how nice the man in front of him seemed to be, even if he was a bit misguided.
Justin stepped out of Brian's arms and looked directly at both men.
"We need to do something."
Brian took in the man before him. He now knew his place in Justin's life.
And that there was none.
It was at that very moment his cell phone rang.
Because it was on of course.
"Yeah?" Brian said angrily into the phone.
"Mr. Kinney?" the woman asked.
Brian knew, though, the woman knew good and God-damned well who it was on the phone.
"Hello Jo," Brian said.
Michael and Justin's heads shot up at the greeting.
Brian listened intently to what Jo had to say.
"Okay, thank you Jo," Brian said and clicked the phone shut.
Michael and Justin stood staring at Brian, waiting for him to clue them into what he just learned.
"It's time," Brian said.
You all know how I feel about fb.
Okay, so do you want me to beg?!