d i s c o v e r y   c h a n n e l

Michael watches them. He tries not to, and when that fails, he tries to be covert about it, but most of the night his eyes are fixed on them, watching Justin’s body blanketing Brian’s, Brian’s hands twisting in the belly of Justin’s shirt, Justin’s teeth grazing oh-so-lightly against Brian’s neck. He knows that Ben catches him staring a couple times, gives him a quizzical look, but it’s okay, because that’s Ben. Brian’s too wrapped up in Justin to notice, or care.

Michael isn’t jealous. Not anymore. He can admit to himself that he wanted Brian for a long time, wanted Brian in that carnal fuck-me-now way. He can admit that when Justin showed up he wanted to tear the little shit’s head from his body and carry it around Babylon on a pike. He can admit that, for a while, for was a complete and utter shit about it.

Now, he can also admit that he never wanted Brian, but the idea of Brian. The way Brian walked and talked and fucked. The idea of being the one to tame the wild beast.

An image of leading Brian through Babylon on a leash flickers through Michael’s head, and the idea of it is nauseating.

So he’s given up on the idea of the Great Brian and Michael romance, but he still can’t stop staring at Justin all stretched out on Brian’s lap, and it’s not jealousy. Or, not much, anyway. There’s that little bit of envy lurking in his brain because Justin seems capable of being everything to everyone in a way Mikey himself has never even attempted. He’s Deb’s cherubic son and Emmett’s dancing buddy, Vic’s kitchen hand, Ted’s wet dream, Brian’s fucking boyfriend. All these things that Michael used to be, wanted to be, sometimes still is, but with Justin it’s like it’s all effortless. Sometimes it’s like Justin doesn’t have to try at all.

But Michael isn’t jealous. Not tonight. Tonight he’s got Ben’s arm wrapped around his shoulder and the taste of his mother’s pasta on his lips, he’s sleepy and sated and fucking fascinated by how weird the two of them are. Weird because Brian refuses to eat the garlic bread but is quite content to shovel it down Justin’s throat, weird because Justin is all tipsy giggles and Brian doesn’t seem to care, weird because they’ve been snuggling all night and Brian still insists he doesn’t love the kid.

They’re just strange. And Michael knows from strange, what with the freaks that flood his store at regular intervals.

Together, they’re more likable than they are apart, though it pains Mikey to admit it. Since Justin came back, Brian’s relaxed again, the set of his jaw looser, the curve of his lips more pronounced. Since Brian took Justin back, he’s calm and wise and sometimes Michael wants to kill him for how confident he seems. Michael remembers being nineteen, and he thinks it is unfair that one person be that self assured that young when the rest of the world has to struggle through that stage of interminable awkwardness.

Despite this, Justin’s better when he’s with Brian. He’s funnier and he’s calmer and he doesn’t seem to have the perpetual stick up his ass that marked the fiddler’s presence. He remembers the days of Justin’s dour expression, Justin’s snappish responses to the simplest questions, and he feels a flood of relief that he doesn’t have to work with that anymore.

Michael watches as Brian murmurs in Justin’s ear. That massive smile spreads across Justin’s lips, and he leans back, twists his head to bite his lover’s jaw.

“Mm, you taste like snow,” Justin says, and if Michael hadn’t been sitting three feet away, he wouldn’t have heard it.

Brian smiles indulgently at him. “It’s summer.”

“I know.” Justin settles back against Brian’s chest, reaching down to twist their hands again. “So where’d you get snow?”
“Probably the same place you got all that wine,” Brian chuckles against the side of Justin’s face.

“Deb’s kitchen?”

“Yes. In Deb’s kitchen, it’s practically a winter wonderland. You should go make snow angels.”

“Snow devils.” Justin’s head rolls on Brian’s shoulder. “Angels don’t fuck.”

“Technically, neither do you.”

“You love it when I fuck you,” Justin murmurs so quietly that Michael has to read his lips just to make it out. He feels both his eyebrows shoot up of their own volition, because the thought of Justin topping Brian is probably the weirdest thing yet.

Brian captures Justin’s lips, kisses him long and hard, probably just to get the shit to shut up. Michael of all people knows that Brian’s not above using diversionary tactics.

Justin doesn’t seem to have tamed Brian. When Brian pulls away, he still has the eyes of a wild thing, only now he has Justin to match him. Justin is panting, grinning, and Michael remembers when they used to prowl through Babylon together, picking off the tastiest of the herd and devouring. He knows Justin isn’t into that anymore, but it’s a pity, because they were so damn good at it. Fluid and graceful, suave, where others - such as Michael himself - were stilted and clumsy and awkward.

He imagines them fucking, as much as he tries not to, and he knows there is something primal, violent, visceral between them, beyond the softness that they share in this moment, in Deb’s living room. He knows this because he’s seen Justin’s hickeys, the scratches down Brian’s neck, their swollen lips when they leave the backroom, not touching but for the light slide of Brian’s hand on Justin’s neck. He knows this because it hangs there in the air wherever they go.

Michael loves Brian. He even loves Justin to some extent, like an annoying little brother that sometimes acts older than he should be, older than Michael feels himself. But he’ll never love them like they love each other, in that sharp, painful way, so it’s probably best that he has Ben. Ben who needs to be loved gently but fiercely, Ben who is the kindest man Michael has ever met.

Michael’s not jealous of Brian and Justin. He’s just fascinated by them - like a documentary about lions on the Discovery Channel.

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