Here's the next chapter for your enjoyment.
I would like to thank shadownyc for her wonderful quick beta. THANK YOU!!!!
And also, look, skywalkersdream made me a pretty banner!
Thank you! I had been wanting a banner for this story so it came at just the right time.!!!!
******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<
Chapter 22 Brian shoots the shit with Joe
"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.
As soon as the three men received the call from Jo, they climbed into the Jeep and sped over to the shoe repair shop, Brian parking the Jeep in the red zone in front.
"We're here!" Brian announced.
"So I see. Nice to see you again Mr. Kinney, Mr. Novotny and," Jo said with a smile as she faced Justin, "Mr. Taylor."
"Um...we've never met," Justin said surprised.
"No, we haven't. But I do know who you are," she said as she pointed her finger at him, "And I would just like to add that's it nice to see that circumstances have changed." She finished by winking at Justin.
Justin regarded the woman and smiled. "Yes, it is, isn't it?" It was obvious to Justin that this woman was not a charlatan or a fake. She knew things. Hell, she probably knew everything. "You're going to switch both Brians, today?"
"Yes, well, me and my counterpart over there. We can communicate with each other. That's how I knew it was time," Jo said as she turned on Brian. "That...and other things."
"What exactly made it the time?" Michael asked.
"Lots of things Mr. Novotny." Jo walked up to Brian and peered closely at the man. "He's ready," she said as she pointed to Brian, "Even though he thinks he isn't." She then turned to face Michael and Justin, "Your Brian is ready. Very ready, indeed."
Justin and Michael stepped forward. "He knows now," Justin asked excitedly, "Where he is?"
"Not only does he know where he is," Jo said and lifted one eyebrow, "But he was most insistent about crossing back over. Most insistent," Jo laughed and walked behind the counter. "You know, he threatened my counterpart with bodily harm," Jo said and chuckled again.
All three men looked at the small woman incredulously.
"That doesn't sound like me," Brian said with furrowed brows. "I'm not into threatening little women, half my size," he said sarcastically.
"Oh and you think you have all the answers," Jo scoffed.
"See?!" Michael said as he whacked Justin upside the head.
"Owww," Justin exclaimed as he rubbed the side of his head. "Taking lessons from Debbie?"
Justin, for the first time, in as long as he could remember, smiled. His true smile. The one Debbie had nicknamed him for.
Brian wanted to come back.
He was most insistent.
He even threatened the nice little lady.
Which sort of bothered Justin but he didn't really want to think about it.
"So when does this happen?" Justin asked, unable to contain himself.
Jo regarded Brian again, "I don't know, when does this happen Mr. Kinney?"
Brian looked at everyone in the shop. "Justin," Michael said, "It's not that easy. There are risks."
"I know, you said that before, I mean...how bad...are they in actual danger?" Justin asked, almost pleading with Jo to tell him differently.
"If there are any reservations Mr. Taylor, about crossing back, any fear or doubt, the guardians will pick up on it and it will most likely be disastrous," she warned. "This is not an easy thing. We're creating a doorway here, it requires a guardian to be here to take them back."
"Well, where's a doorway?" Justin asked simply.
"It doesn't work that way," she replied.
"But it did for them!" Justin said as he screamed, pointing to Brian. "It's not fair."
Jo smiled, "I agree Mr. Taylor, but you more than anybody should realize how life is not fair."
"I'm scared," Brian said in a very small voice. Yes, he had admitted an extremely 'pussy' thing. But now was not the time to mince words.
"I should think you would be," Jo said as she turned her full attention on Brian. "Anyone would be. But maybe I haven't made myself clear. It's your ability to confront that fear, to face it which could lead to total success or dismal failure."
Brian swallowed and looked at Justin.
Justin loved Brian, he knew he didn't have a place here with him and besides, you couldn't just swap places. They had a history together that he could never intrude upon.
He had his own set of friends, his own life. This life was not his.
But he was scared.
His father's ghost and the image of his mother kept popping into his head, taunting him with his lack of courage. He could never confront anything and his parents had made sure to convince him of that. That he could never measure up.
Measure up to what, he never did figure out, but it put enough doubt in his head.
"Then I'll go," Justin said.
"What?!" Michael and Brian screeched.
"No Justin, you are not going over there," Michael said emphatically.
"See? It's perfect!" Justin said, trying to justify his crazy plan, "I go over, both Brian's can stay where they are. I'm the only one putting myself at risk."
"No Justin, no! I forbid you to cross over!" Michael stated.
"You forbid me to cross over? You really are taking lessons from Debbie, aren't you?" Justin asked with a raised eyebrow.
Brian watched the whole scene taking place and was just about to say something when Jo interrupted the argument.
"Mr. Taylor," Jo said, "You can not do this. The balance would be off. You're already over there. The guardians would kill you on contact."
"But I'm not over there," Justin said. "I'm dead over there!" Justin said as he indicated the wall. For all he knew, 'over there' could have been anywhere.
"But you are," Jo sighed. "There are the...the remains."
Justin shivered as she said the word. His entire life, well not his, but his counterpart's, reduced down to 'remains.'
It made him appreciate what he had all the more.
But he would still give it all up for Brian.
"And please," Jo said as she lifted one finger threateningly, "Do not suggest what I think you plan to suggest. To switch the Brians would set the balance completely right once again. To switch you, would still throw off the balance."
Yes, Justin realized, this woman did indeed know everything.
Brian regarded the three people arguing in front of him.
The boy, no, not a boy, the man, for that was the only word he could surely call someone who was brave enough to do this, was willing to sacrifice himself.
It almost made him ashamed to be so afraid.
If someone like Justin could do this, could face these things, so could he.
It was time.
It was time he grew up. It was time he stopped running.
It was time to confront not only the guardians, but the voices in his head that told him he couldn't do it.
"I'm ready," Brian said, "Let's do it."
Jo walked up to Brian and peered up at the man. "Ready to risk it? Ready to cross over and risk insanity or death? Are you truly?"
Brian took a deep breath in, looked over at Justin and smiled, "Yeah, I am."
"I do believe you are," Jo said with a smile. She then turned around and addressed the men before her. "Mr. Taylor and Mr. Novotny, over on the other side of the shop. Whatever you do, do not look at the guardians after they come. I repeat...do not look at them," Jo said as she glared at Justin. "They have driven people mad for centuries, with just one glimpse. When I say so, you must cover yourself...hide...close your eyes. But do not look at them. Mr. Kinney," Jo said as she faced Brian, "When I summon them, you too must not look at them. You will stand here and let them come to you. Do you understand?"
"Come to me?" Brian asked.
"No matter what you feel, no matter what you are thinking, do not project fear. Do not radiate it. They can smell it. Your only hope is that you show that you are willing to confront them. Do you understand? There is no backing down now."
Brian swallowed. He then nodded in understanding.
Jo smiled, "Good luck Mr. Kinney."
Michael and Justin ran up to Brian. "Good luck Brian," Michael whispered as he hugged the man to him. No matter what, this was still Brian.
"You're the best friend I was always hoping for," Brian whispered back. And he was. No longer the lackey, the best friend who followed him around blindly, who put his entire life on hold for the sake of his whims.
They disengaged and Brian was left looking at Justin. Justin smiled and launched himself at Brian.
Brian held on tight and then disentangled himself from Justin's arms. "I guess this is the last time I'll be seeing you," Brian smiled.
"You could always see me in your dreams?" Justin said and laughed, covering his face with one hand. "Sorry, that was bad." Justin had tried to add levity to the situation. No matter what had transpired between the two men, he was still Brian, maybe not his Brian, but Brian, and he knew of the wonderful things the man before him was capable of.
Brian laughed, "Sounds like something I would say." He stopped laughing then, "Unless I already did?" He smiled again and lifted Justin's face by placing a finger under Justin's chin. He then placed a chaste kiss on Justin's forehead, looking down into the blue eyes he would never see again.
It didn't matter what these guardians looked like, because a glimpse at them would never be as scary as the glimpse he was given into a life he could have had with Justin and all that brought with it, and how it was taken away.
Michael and Justin moved away from Brian as he faced the wall.
"Are you going to summon them," Michael asked and swallowed, "Now?"
"Yes, it is time, but we must wait. I must do it at the exact same time as my counterpart. I'll know," Jo assured them with a wave of her arm before the two men could further protest. "I'll know."
And in the other place, roughly some time before...
"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.
Brian had exited the alleyway at a frantic pace, looking back only once to see if Kip had made it out. He didn't see hide nor hair of the annoying man.
Maybe he went the other way Brian thought. After all, the guardians were after him, not Kip. He soon found himself on Liberty Avenue before he knew it and he saw the diner straight ahead.
Just then his cell phone rang.
"Hey chucklehead," Joe said into the phone.
"Joe?" Brian asked into the phone.
"It's time, get over here. Bring a friend," Joe said and hung up.
It was time.
He was going home.
He was going to see Justin very, very soon.
It was as if he had those butterflies flying through his middle all over again, like the night he showed up at his lover's prom.
And he didn't care how lesbian that sounded, even to himself.
He needed to find Michael.
Brian rushed head long into the diner. "Debbie," Brian panted, "Michael, where's Michael?" She stood there staring back at Brian, stopped midway through her gum-smacking.
"Bathroom," Debbie said as she pointed toward the back. Brian looked at the three people staring at him. Emmett and Ted were sitting at the booth, stopping their eating progress to take in the man panting before them. Debbie started chewing her gum again.
"You okay baby?" Debbie asked, as she went to run her hand down Brian's cheek.
"Fine, never been better," Brian laughed as he picked up Debbie and swung her around. "I'm going home!" Brian said excitedly. "Isn't that great?"
Ted looked at the man. "Um...yeah...if that means you're going to go home and take a shower and shave and you know, change clothes. Brian?" Ted laughed incredulously, "Are those the clothes you had on two nights ago?"
"What? Oh yeah, they probably are," Brian said distractedly. "What's taking him so fucking long in there!?"
"No offense sweetie," Emmett said, "But you look like shit."
Brian waved Emmett away. "Don't care...there'll be time for showers when I get home."
"Maybe that's why he's so excited about going home?" Ted asked.
"Oh, I always love a good hot shower. Gets me all excited too," Emmett gushed and mock-shivered.
"Where is Michael? I can't go home until he gets here!" Brian made to go to the bathroom when Michael emerged from the back.
Michael took one look at his best friend and ran up to him. "Brian? What the fucking hell happened to you?" he screeched.
"Nothing. Everything! I don't have time for this. You need to come with me. We have to go," Brian said excitedly and stopped when he took in the shocked faces of everyone sitting at the booth. He then lowered his voice and looked directly at Michael. "We have to go do this thing."
"A thing? What kind of thing?" Michael asked.
"A thing," Brian said again and rolled his eyes.
"Is this the thing that'll get you home?" Ted asked.
"Yes!" Brian exclaimed as he pointed to Ted, as if he had just won the grand prize.
"What do you know about this thing, Teddy?" Emmet asked.
"I don't know anything. I'm just going with what I know," Ted shrugged.
"It's a thing only Michael can help me with," Brian said as he took hold of Michael's arm. "Well, bye! Have a nice life!!!" Brian called back.
Michael stopped all forward motion. "Wait Brian. What thing is it we're doing!"
"I don't know if I like this thing," Debbie said as she sat at the booth next to Ted.
"You shouldn't. I may not come back from this thing. Or I may, but not very sane. Okay? It's a dangerous thing! Happy now?" Brian asked in exasperation. "But Michael'll be okay, it's only me that's in mortal peril."
Debbie rolled her eyes. "Smart ass," she said as she got up and slapped him upside the head. Debbie went over to another table to take their order.
"So, let me get this straight, this thing is dangerous and you might not come back from it?" Ted asked.
Brian nodded his head in the affirmative.
"Well, good luck," Ted laughed. "Don't forget to pack an extra pair of underwear."
Brian grabbed a hold of Michael's arm again and dragged him out of the diner.
Michael stopped in his tracks as they exited the diner. "No Brian. You need to tell me what's going on and I don't want any bullshit now. We're alone."
"Look, I'm going home. You need to be there. It's time."
Michael stood staring at Brian.
"What? What the fuck are you talking about? Does this have to do with Justin?" Michael asked seriously.
"Yes, it does. I'm going home, so come on," Brian said as he continued to walk, stepping up the pace. Michael then had to run to catch up with Brian.
"Look Brian, after I talked with you yesterday, I did some research. That Justin kid. He...he died less than a year ago," Michael said as he put his hand on Brian's arm to stop him.
"I know he did...here. But not where I'm from. Walk with me. I don't have time for this because it's time now," Brian finished as he pulled away from Michael and started walking again.
"Brian, you're not making any sense," Michael said, panting to keep up with his best friend.
He came to the alleyway that he had used to take a short cut with earlier. This time, Brian decided to stay away from alleyways. He was too close now; he wouldn't risk it again so he continued down the busy street.
"Brian, you're not thinking of killing yourself or something dumb..."
Brian stopped. "I'm going home. Look Mikey, I just found out, there are two worlds out there. Parallel worlds." Just then Brian stopped as he took in the musician on the corner who was playing his violin.
"Oh hey Ethan!" Brian said and dropped a one hundred bill in Ethan's case.
"Freak," Ethan muttered and then looked down. "Hey! Thanks!" he yelled after the retreating men.
"Brian! You just gave him a hundred. Are you insane?" Michael screeched.
"Yes! No! For the first time in forever, I'm thinking clearly. Okay Mikey? As I was saying," Brian began again.
"Yeah, yeah I heard you," Michel said, "Parallel worlds. Jesus, Brian! You don't really believe this shit, do you?"
"Joe can explain it to you," Brian said off-handedly.
"Who the fuck is Joe?"
"My new best friend," Brian said and laughed.
Michael stopped walking. "What?!"
Brian stopped long enough to placate his friend. "It was a joke. It's a joke," Brian laughed. "He's going to get me home."
They continued walking.
Brian and Michael arrived at the shoe shop, and entered. Joe was standing behind the counter, going over some books.
"Hey Tarzan's back! And look," he said as he indicated Michael, "You brought Cheetah with you."
"Who the fuck are you?" Michael asked the little man snidely.
"Oh the monkey has fucking teeth. I'm Joe."
"Very funny, very funny, it was so funny, I forgot to laugh," Michael said.
"Laugh while you can monkey boy," Joe said in a bad Italian accent, "He's a-going home!"
Michal looked at the man again in confusion.
Joe rolled his eyes. "What movie's that from?"
"Um, Buckaroo Banzai, but," Michael said indignantly and with just as bad an Italian accent said, "The line is 'Laugh while you can monkey boy, I'm a-going home.'"
"Yeah, but it wouldn't fucking fit the context here," Joe reasoned back.
"Shut up, both of you!" Brian yelled. "God! It's like geek in stereo!" Brian rubbed his temples.
"Brian?" Michael started as he walked up to Brian.
"What do I do, where do I stand?" Brian shot off his questions at Joe, ignoring Michael.
"Over there. But shouldn't we explain to Cheetah over there what's going on? He looks like he's about ready to burst a blood vessel," Joe said, indicating a fuming Michael standing off to the side.
"Joe, could you?" Brian asked of the man.
"Look, Mikey," Joe said. "I can call you Mikey, right? Better than monkey boy. Anyways, your best friend here fell through an open doorway between the two worlds. So did your Brian. So now, I'm gonna mutter some words, and some ugly motherfuckers are going to come and switch them back. Got it?" Joe peered closely at Michael. "Actually," Joe said as he looked back at Brian, "I think he does."
Michael's head shot up. "What, whaddya mean by that?" Michael asked.
"You believe it, don't you? You know this isn't your Brian. You knew something was wrong ever since the night Mysterious fucking Marilyn took off outta Woody's. You knew the minute you saw that photo of Justin in Brian's hands. You do believe that strange things are possible. That's why you looked up the Taylor kid."
Brian looked at Michael. "Mikey?"
Michael stared at both men with his mouth agape. "Okay, I did believe something was up here, especially after Mysterious Marilyn. But parallel worlds?" he scoffed.
"Doesn't it make more sense than the time line?" Brian said as he shrugged his shoulders.
"Who is this guy...really?" Michael said as he pointed to Joe. "Can we trust him? How does he know everything?"
Joe laughed. "I'm the only one who can help him now. I'm the only one who'll make sure that lover-boy here gets back to his boyfriend."
"Brian doesn't do boyfriends," Michael said as he crossed his arms over his chest.
"Wow, look you've got your monkey trained real well here. Get him some accordion lessons and a fez and you got something here."
"Fuck you!" Michael shouted angrily at Joe.
"No, I don't think so," Joe said as he walked up to Michael. "How'd the date go with Ben last night?"
"Brian! You told him..."
"He didn't tell me shit," Joe continued. "You have something there. Don't blow it. Look, it's great to make yourself believe that Tarzan here will never let anyone else but you in behind his walls. It'll always make you feel special, am I right?" Joe didn't wait but continued on. "The problem is, when you help someone build their walls so no one else can scale them, you're stuck behind that wall too," Joe said as he pointed at Michael.
"Michael," Brian said as he looked at Michael and smiled. "I do do boyfriends, well, one boyfriend, and everything that comes with it. Okay?"
"You are definitely not my Brian," Michael snickered but he couldn't find anything funny about it. "Well, why did I have to come?"
"In case everything goes belly up," Brian said.
"Why do you say that?" Michael asked genuinely scared.
"Look," Joe said, "The only way for him to go back is if a guardian takes him back."
"Are you a guardian?" Michael asked.
"Do I look like a fucking guardian?" Joe scoffed. "I actually fucking resent that!"
"Joe," Brian warned. "He doesn't know what the guardians look like. Come to think of it, neither do I."
"You're into horror comics, aren't you?" Joe asked.
"No I've only read the super hero comic books," Michael said innocently.
"Bullshit. You always snuck to the back of Buzzy's to look at the Tales form the Crypt and Eerie. You'd look through a couple of pages and then wet yourself cause you got so scared," Joe shot back.
"How did you know...hey!" Michael exclaimed. "I did not wet myself!"
Joe laughed. "Gotcha! Remember the ones based on the creations of Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos?"
"Yeah," Michael said slowly.
Joe could swear he saw the light bulb come on. He then mentally counted down. 3...2...1...
"Those are the guardians?" Michael screeched. "Oh Brian, you can't do this," Michael pleaded with Brian, taking hold of Brian's arms. This may not be his Brian, but it was still Brian. "Come on. You have everything here. It can be just like..."
"No Michael," Brian said, as he took Michael's arms off him. "I don't have everything here. I don't have Justin." Brian smiled, "How did it go with Ben last night?"
"Good," Michael smiled and shrugged. "I forgot how much I liked being with him."
"Good, don't forget that," Brian said as he hugged the man to him. "It's time to grow up Michael," Brian whispered into Michael's ear.
"Aw," Joe said mockingly, "This is very touching. Can we fucking get to it now, before I spew all over my stylish yet affordable shoes?"
"What do we do?" Brian asked.
"You face that wall. Remember no matter what happens, don't let them sense any fear on you. They can smell it. Confront it. Confront them. You're the one in charge here. Well, you're not," Joe shrugged, "But you need to make them think that. And for God’s sake, don't panic! Got it?"
Brian nodded in understanding.
He could do this. Justin was waiting for him.
On the other side.
He would for the first time in his life, confront something and not back down.
"I'll stand over here and summon them. They're waiting for me on the other side to start the incantation," Joe said. "And you monkey boy," Joe said as he pointed to a gobsmacked Michael.
"Yeah?" Michael said.
"Close your eyes the minute the guardians start coming."
"Guardians? It only takes one, right?" Michael asked nervously.
"One for each side," Joe clarified. "Just close your eyes and huddle in the corner."
Michael did as Joe said.
"Everyone ready?" Joe asked.
Michael stood against the back wall and nodded.
Brian looked at the wall. He took a deep breath in and let it out. "Oh yeah," Brian said and then stopped to look back at Joe, "Um...tell Brian I'm sorry about the loft...and the...um...Jeep."
Joe looked at Brian with one raised eyebrow. "Good thing we're not Greek. Got it. Here we go!!!"
Joe stood in the middle of the room and started to chant words Brian couldn't understand.
He wasn't a linguist who specialized in dead languages, but somehow he just knew. These were the kind of words that were kept in heavy tomes, that when opened, a dank musty smell emanated from within.
This time Joe was not fucking around.
It started slowly, a ripple effect started on the wall facing Brian.
This was nothing new to Brian.
"Joe?" Michael said, his voice shaking slightly.
The ripple effect started to grow and consume the ceiling and the flooring, Brian being able to feel a slight water-bed sensation as it passed under him.
The wall's rippling effects grew to a large rolling wave.
He'd seen that at the Music building back at the Art Institute.
The waves started growing and then the walls started to creak and groan.
This was definitely new.
"Joe?" Michael yelled again.
Brian stepped back slightly from the walls as he took them in. The wall was being punched out from the inside, as if something were trying to get out, the moaning and groaning and creaking of the walls becoming extremely loud.
Joe stopped chanting and looked over at Brian.
"They're coming," Joe said and shook his head back and forth, "And man, are they pissed!"
I'm really loving all the wonderful fb! It made the past few days bearable.