after.midnight // v.naked
Title: Falling Away
Summary: Justin knew, the minute he told Brian about Brett's offer, that Brian would be an asshole about it.
Disclaimer: The boys belong to Cowlip.


==

Justin knew, the minute he told Brian about Brett's offer, that Brian would be an asshole about it.

If he had been able to tell Brian before the whole moving in thing, his impending departure to sunny California would have gone over better. Sure, Brian would have still been an asshole about it, but he would have been less of a jerk.

But, no. Brian had dared to be vulnerable in front of him, putting his pride and his heart on the line, and instead of the jumping-for-joy-and-smothering-him-with-kisses response Brian had obviously been expecting, he got Justin moving to LA instead.

And, as predicted, Brian was an asshole about it.

It started, innocently enough, at the diner the next morning. Brian had been full of good cheer, telling any and every one who would listen about little Sunshine's shot at the big time. And while the diner erupted into cheers and Justin was smothered in hugs of congratulations, Brian sat across from him, smirk in place, calculating look in his eyes.

When Brian announced the going away party, Justin knew Brian had gone over to the dark side and transformed from asshole to evil rat bastard. Justin just wished Brian wasn't so cavalier about humiliating him in public. Oh, and that he was a little less predictable. Not that he wouldn't have understood if Brian had, say, thrown the party at Woody's instead.

"I'm not going," Justin said to Daphne as they sat in the diner, his tone steely.

Daphne frowned at him, swiping a few fries from his plate. "You have to go. It's your party."

Justin shook his head, determination in his bright blue eyes. "I'm not fucking going."

His determination obviously didn't mean shit, though, because a week later he was leaning against the bar in Babylon, farewell party in full swing, nursing a drink and a serious, almost overwhelming urge to commit a violent crime against his lover.

Only Brian Kinney would throw his boyfriend a farewell party and circulate a list for the numbers of all the tricks he'd be filling his time with while said boyfriend was gone.

"You were right," Daphne said as she watched man after man sign his name to the list, which was conveniently placed on each end of the bar and at all entrances to the backroom. "We should have stayed home and played Scrabble."

Justin wholeheartedly agreed.

It wasn't until the second going away party, thrown by Deb at the diner, that Justin decided enough was enough. Brian strolled into the diner forty minutes late, a tall, hunky brunette plastered to his side, looking freshly fucked and more than ready for more.

Justin knew Brian was just acting out because Brian was scared to death he would leave Pittsburgh, fall in love with California, and never come back. He knew that Brian was trying to convince himself and all of gay Pittsburgh that everything was fine. He knew that Brian had spent the last four weeks distancing himself to lessen the pain of Justin's leaving. And, despite all the bullshit he was pulling, Justin knew that Brian was really damn proud of him.

He knew this, knew it all because he knew Brian and the way he operated. But Justin was fed up; Brian wasn't the only one hurting, dammit, and he wasn't the only one scared. And he sure as hell wasn't the one leaving everything he'd ever known behind, everything safe and familiar, to forge a new path somewhere completely different. He was leaving in the morning and whatever joy he'd gotten when Brett had first offered him the job had died the moment he'd opened his mouth and told Brian, because that was the moment when it all became real.

He was tired and disappointed, and whatever game Brian was playing, Justin was bowing out.

So, he walked up to Brian, kissed him gently, and gave him a sad smile. "I'll see you at home," he said softly. And then he walked out the door.


===

Brian comes home an hour later, looking vaguely contrite, but prepared for confrontation. Justin can see it in the rigidity of his stance, the blanknes in his eyes, and as much as he'd like to yell and scream and maybe, just maybe get Brian to talk to him about what the hell's going on in his head, he has a flight in nine hours and he's too damn tired of the drama. So, he sets aside his anger and disappointment, something he's becoming far too used to, and leads Brian to the bedroom.

Everything else may be going to shit, but for the next few hours nothing else matters and everything wrong between them slips away. But after, as he lies in bed, staring at the ceiling, Brian wrapped tightly around him, it all comes rushing back, his leaving and Brian's inability to deal with it, and he has no idea how to fix it.

He doesn't bother waking Brian when he leaves.


===

They talk to each other five times in three months and each conversation is shorther than the last. He does most of the talking, filling the silence with tales of his adventures, which are fewer and much less exciting than most people would believe. Brian listens, laughing in all the right places and commenting when appropriate, and tells him that Kinnetik is fine and Gus is fine and everything is just fine, fine, fine.

It's far from the truth. Things between them were fucked before he left and they haven't gotten any better with three thousand miles between them. He tries damn hard not to think about that, because watching his relationship die a slow, tortorous death will only depress him and there are already a hundred other things in LA waiting to do that, he doesn't need another one.

So, when Brian comes to LA on business, Justin thinks that maybe they can get things back on track. And for a couple of hours, things are good, better than good. The sex is hot, the feel of Brian inside him the best thing he's felt in twelve weeks. There's kissing and touching and in between they talk and everything is just good.

But it doesn't take him long to realize that "business in LA" is just that, business, and not just an excuse to see him. Brian's tied up in meetings all day long and after that first night he never sees him. If his bags weren't taking up space on his bedroom floor, he'd hardly even know Brian was there.

By the time Brian's been in town three days, Justin has given up. He works twelve hours during the day and has studio execs to impress at night. He has to deal with Brett needing his vision, his mother's constant worry, and Michael wanting to know every single detail of what's going on, not to mention his own homesickness and loneliness. He doesn't have time to deal with Brian's issues as well. And when he catches Brian, followed soon after by some dark-haired waiter, coming out of the bathroom stall at one of LA's trendiest restaraunts, Justin figures Brian feels the same way.

It does make it easier, though, to accept the inevitable. Brian walks around on eggshells, doing his best not to rock an already capsizing boat. Justin wants to tell him not to worry about it, that he's not upset or even disappointed, really, but the phone rings and Brett needs him at the office and he just doesn't have the time to hash it all out.

When Justin gets home completely exhausted twelve hours later, it's to an empty apartment and a note from Brian tacked to the fridge. It reads, "I miss you - B" and it's so like Brian that it makes him smile. He knows that once upon a time a "miss you" note would have meant the world to him, but now it just makes him sad. As much as he misses Brian, and he does, so much so that it aches, he doesn't miss all the shit that comes with him.

He goes to bed and wonders how long it will be before Brian accepts the inevitable, too.


===

He comes back to Pittsburgh, adding his time in LA as further proof that the person writing the script for his life really fucking hates him. He doesn't regret it, because parts of it were fun (at least the parts where he wasn't fetching coffee) and interesting and he had learned so much, but he couldn't help thinking that his time could have been better spent in Pittsburgh, finishing up his degree, living his

He shows up unexpected and unannounced on his mother's doorstep in the middle of the afternoon, and spends two days reassuring her that no, California hasn't changed him, and yes, he's still the same old Justin, if only a little wiser and with a little more money in his pockets. He doesn't mention he's a little sadder as well, he's sure his mother can tell. He spends hours with Molly, arguing about nothing and listening to her talk about school, her friends, and the drama that is her pre-teen life. He hangs out with Daphne, telling her all the things he couldn't tell his mother, about the parties and the sex and the fact that his relationship has gone straight to hell, the kinds of things you can only tell your best friend.

When he finally makes his way to the diner, he's been in town for four days. He walks in in the middle of breakfast rush and isn't at all surprised when Deb stops dead in the middle of the diner, stares at him for a second in shock, and yells, "Sunshine!", pulling him into a hug so tight he can hardly breathe. It's all so familiar, the greeting, the hug, the smell of eggs and bacon and coffee warring with the scent of spearmint gum and discount perfume, and he can't believe how much he's missed this place and these people, his family.

It's crowded in the diner, but the guys are sitting at their usual booth and he endures another round of hugs and kisses before he manages to slide in next to Emmett and Ted. He spends forty minutes answering all their questions while Deb sets plate after plate of food in front of him, telling them stories about this party and that celebrity, all the while feeling Brian's eyes on him. Despite that, it's all very relaxed and he's feeling really good when Brian opens his mouth and speaks.

"When did you get back?" he asks and Justin knows by the tone of his voice that he already knows. He blames Daphne, who can't seem to keep her mouth shut when Brian looks at her or speaks to her or enters a room she happens to be in. He makes a mental note to take back all the stuff he bought her in LA until she can learn to keep a secret.

"Tuesday," he replies softly, his eyes meeting Brian's defiantly across the table. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a crumpled piece of paper, and tosses it in Brian's direction. "I was sneaking into town. Sneaking out is more your style."

Brian acknowledges the hit with a nod and goes back to drinking his coffee. As the conversation continues on, no one else at the table realizes that they just witnessed something significant, something life-changing.

Things are silent between them after that, tense and uncomfortable, even when they're fucking, in a way they haven't been in years. They speak only when necessary, monosyllabic answers in reply to muttered questions and breathless whispers as they move together in the middle of the night, but never more than that. The silence is stifling, the lack of communication all too familiar.

After two days, when Justin wonders how much longer they're going to do this, act like nothing's wrong, that things haven't been wrong for months, Brian decides not to pretend anymore.


===

It's not as hard as he thought it would be, the break up. At first, he's too busy doing the hundred different things his return home requires to think about it. He has an apartment to find and classes to catch up on, five shifts a week at the diner he has to work and a comic book he has to draw. But, weeks later, when things settle down and he still doesn't feel anything, he wonders if loving Brian Kinney had sucked every ounce of feeling out of him, leaving him completely drained and totally empty.

He's not angry, he's not sad, but he's not happy either. At best, he feels numb and he finds that that isn't nearly as bad as it sounds.

He doesn't see Brian until ten weeks after the break up. He's heard about him, knows some of what he's doing. He knows that Brian visits Gus almost daily because whenever Justin sees him, Gus talks about the visits in detail, complete with action figure and stuffed animal re-enactments. He knows that Brian fired half the art department at Kinnetik because he got the boards for three of Brian's latest campaigns from Cynthia by courier with the note, "Fix these! Please!" When he gets a check in the mail, with an extra fifteen hundred dollars tacked on because Brian always overpays him, he knows Brian hired them back.

Brian's been avoiding him, not coming into the diner during his shifts, bowing out of dinners at Deb's, dropping his mail off at Michael's store twice a week. Since he's going to such great lengths to keep from seeing him, Justin helps him out by staying away from Woody's and limiting his trips to Babylon to Tuesdays and weekends when Michael informs him that Brian's out of town. He never has time for the place now anyway.

But when the weather gets cooler, the leaves turning from green to yellow and red, and he can't find a sweater to wear, even though he owns plenty, he risks a confrontation. If he catches pneumonia and winds up in the hospital, he'd just end up seeing Brian anyway. He might as well make it easier on both of them.

He shows up at the loft at ten o'clock on a Monday morning, pretty sure Brian's at the office and the chances of running into him are slim. He's talking to Michael on the phone, listening to him gush about Jenny-Rebecca's latest developmental achievement, when he walks in the door. He strolls into the kitchen, grabs a bottle of water from the fridge, and makes his way towards the bedroom, only to stop dead in his tracks at the bottom of the steps at the sight of Brian standing there at the top, wrapped in nothing but a loosely knotted towel and still dripping wet from his shower.

He stands there for a moment, phone clutched in one hand, water bottle pressed against his lips, and he knows he shouldn't be surprised to see Brian standing damp and half naked in his own home, but he is, shocked and stunned and every other word of the same meaning. As he stands there, he realizes that maybe Brian had the right idea, avoiding him, because he is suddenly very much aware of the fact that he is not ready for this.

He's spent the last 93 days numb inside. One look at Brian and all the feelings come rushing back.

Brian takes a step towards him, removes the phone from his hand, and says something to Michael before ending the call and tossing the phone on the bed behind him. In the process Brian's fingers brush against his cheek and Justin's pretty sure his heart skips a beat, and the effort it takes not to gasp returns him to reality.

"What are you doing here?" he asks, and it sounds as stupid out loud as it did in his head.

He expects something sarcastic in reply, but Brian just shrugs and says, "Didn't feel like going in today."

"I need my sweaters," he explains, though Brian doesn't ask him why he's there. "It's getting cold outside."

Brian doesn't reply, other than a slight nod of his head, and he has nothing else to say, so they stand there staring each other in silence. The quiet is uncomfortable, though not nearly as awkward as he thought it would be, but the longer he stands there, the more ridiculous it seems. Four months ago, they would still be in bed, Brian's lips trailing down his chest, his fingers clutching the sheets, the sounds of sex banishing the silence. So many things about this would have been different, four months before.

He's nervous, though he doesn't know why, and Brian looks as cool and calm as usual, but there's something in his eyes, something sad and vulnerable that he can't quite keep hidden, no matter how hard he tries. That look gets to Justin every single time and just when he thinks he can't stand the silence for one more second, Brian reaches out and touches him. He flinches, the feel of Brian's fingers on his wrist sending a jolt of electricity through him, but he doesn't pull away, lets Brian tug his closer until they're pressed against each other, touching for the first time in what seems like forever.

Brian's lips, when they finally connect with his, are softer than he remembers, the grip of his hand on the back of Justin's neck a little tighter. His tongue, as it enters his mouth, is a little hesitant, his moan when Justin finally kisses him back a bit needier than it's ever been before. Everything about him is a little different than it was, every feeling a little more intense than he remembers.

He's felt more in the last ten minutes than he's felt in weeks, and he wonders why he thought being numb was okay.


===

Hours later, when they're lying in bed amidst crumpled, sweat-soaked sheets and Justin's pretty sure that what just happened was a huge mistake, Brian talks to him. He finds out that everything he couldn't make himself feel, his anger and disappointment, regret and resentment, was taking up space in the loft and crowding Brian's head. It's the first time in all the years they've been together that they've actually talked, really talked, and he never knew how much they'd been holding back. There's laughter and plenty of tears, angry words hurled and a few home truths revealed. Justin knows they'll probably never do it again, but hopefully one major bitchfest will be enough to get them to open up when it matters and avoid any major drama in the future.

It's taken the better part of four years to get them to this point. Justin's smart enough to know that it won't happen overnight. But it will happen. It has to, because he knows he can't, he won't, go through this again.

Six weeks later, Brian asks Justin to move back in. He refuses. He has a one year lease on his apartment, an alcove in the living room with windows facing east, and neighbors he actually likes, an older gay couple who dote on him as if he was their own. They bring him coffee and bagels in the morning and fix him dinner twice a week. He likes it there, likes the feeling of really being on his own for the first time, paying his own bills, taking care of himself.

Brian hates it, they argue, and spend three days in their separate corners, nursing wounds both real and imaginary. On the morning of the fourth day, Brian shows up on his doorstep with a two liter of Mountain Dew and a box of donuts, which Brian knows is the true way to his heart, his own nonverbal apology. They fuck and make up and, three months later, they do the whole thing over again.

Justin doesn't think things between he and Brian will ever be easy. As long as they're together, they can handle anything.