n e a r l y   t h e r e

Once upon a time, Brian absently believed what everybody said behind his back. That he loved Michael and Michael loved him and that really they should be together, but Brian kept fucking up the process. He didn’t think about it a lot, but occasionally when particularly high, he’d roll his joint between his fingers and think, ‘Yeah, they’re probably right.’

It takes a few years with Justin to figure out that if it might be his destiny to be with Mikey, might be written in the fucking stars, but if that’s true then fuck destiny and fuck fate because Brian Kinney will do whatever the fuck he wants, and he wants Justin.

It takes another year for him to figure out that Michael was never his destiny to begin with. That Michael can be a lot of things, his best friend and the person he’s loved longer than anything in the world, his sidekick, his superhero, the ground beneath his feet. Michael can be love. Justin can be so much more than that.

Pretty much by the time Brian fucks Michael in the yard at their old high school, he’s already figured out it’s a fucking bad idea.

--

Justin knows. Not that he fucked Mikey, specifically, but knows something, and Brian hears it in the absent, unstable treble of Justin’s voice on the answering machine. It’s been three days since they last spoke, and Brian misses him even more than he did before, with an infantile ferocity that overrides all the saner voices in his head.

He didn’t fuck Michael because he misses Justin. That’s the excuse of pussies, like that two bit fiddler Justin ran off with a while ago. He hangs out at Deb’s to watch television because he misses Justin. He works insane hours because he misses Justin. He spends close to nine hundred dollars a month on long distance phone calls because he misses Justin.

He fucks other men because he’s Brian Fucking Kinney and he can. He fucks Michael like something he’s always meant to do, but never quite got around to. Like he’s working his way through some fucked up to do list, miles to go before he sleeps.

He listens to Justin’s message three times because Justin says I love you and at some point, Brian became pathetically grateful for that fact. Then he goes to bed.

--

Brian dreams that Michael moves into the loft and wants to put his giant Captain Astro over the entrance way, and a cardboard cutout of Rage in the bedroom. Michael’s comics where the art books should be, Michael’s stupid pajamas in the closet. In his dream, the loft smells different, and Brian can’t find his way around in the dark.

Brian wakes in a sweat at 3:47am. The loft is silent, but somewhere out on the street a drunken man is singing show tunes, or some variation thereof. Brian can’t stay in his bed a fucking moment longer. He showers, swigging from a bottle of Beam beneath lukewarm water. He leans his forehead against the wall, and for one of few moments in his life, he wishes he wasn’t such an asshole.

--

As usual, Justin doesn’t react the way Brian expects him to. After four and a half days of avoiding all his calls, Brian finally sits down with a joint and a bottle of Tequila and dials Justin’s number.

It turns out he doesn’t need the Tequila.

“Jesus, Brian!” Justin says. “You fuck! I thought you were going to tell me they found more cancer, or something.” He sounds relieved, and Brian mostly feels what he felt before, which was guilty. “I even called Michael to interrogate him, but he was weird too. At least now I know why.”

“Was he?” Brian says. “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t talked to him.”

Justin is silent, and Brian feels something close to panic struggling within his chest. “I’m sorry,” Brian says.

He’s glad when Justin doesn’t say, ‘Sorry is bullshit’ another parrot-like recitation of the laws of a time Brian barely remembers.

Instead, Justin says, “I never really thought you’d do it.”

Brian did, once upon a time. Not in any tangible way, not in any kind of thought he could capture in his mind, but in a transient, unintelligible way, he’d always thought it would happen one day. One day when Brian finally decided it should. He’d always known he would make the first move.

He doesn’t tell Justin any of that, but he thinks maybe Justin knows. He’s a pretty smart kid.

“So where do we stand?” Justin asks, and Brian hears the telltale flick of a lighter, a puff in, a puff out. Justin only smokes when he’s stressed out.

For a minute, they’re both silent. “I wish it didn’t happen,” Brian says. “It was … unproductive.” He means the sex was bad, and Justin knows it.

Justin exhales heavily, and Brian imagines his right hand shaking around a cigarette, and winces. “Brian,” Justin says seriously. “If you tell me I’ve got nothing to worry about, then I’ll believe you.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about.” He means it. He thinks Michael might hate him a little now. He thinks that’s why it never happened before.

“Okay,” Justin says bravely. “Okay.”

“Are you?” Brian says. The sound of Justin’s voice is making his throat ache, and he lights a cigarette of his own. “Okay?”

“I think so, mostly,” Justin says. “I might be crying a little bit.”

Fuck. Fucking, fuck. Son of a fucking fuck fuck fuck.

“Justin,” Brian says desperately.

“No, no,” Justin says, and laughs a little. “Better now than when I’m actually around to queen out and murder you both.” He sniffles a little, and he’s so much braver than he used to be. No allergies for Justin Fucking Taylor. “Are you okay?”

Brian thinks he might have died a little in Michael’s eyes, but that’s okay, mostly. He couldn’t be a god forever. The sex was bad, and Michael was disappointed. That’s okay.

“I miss you,” Brian says instead of answering.

“I know,” Justin replies. “Come visit me soon.”

--

Michael lets himself in using his key. Brian is reading a magazine on the bed, and Mikey walks slowly up the stairs, standing beside the platform and staring impassively at Brian’s face. The colored lights over the bed make shadows across Michael’s cheeks. . It’s incongruous with the way Brian feels starkly lit, like he’s been split wide open. Like he’s on the operating table again, giant fluorescent lights burning overhead. The lights were the shape of Michael’s eyes.

“Hey,” Michael says. He’s looking at Brian as if he’ll have some answer as how to fix this whole fucking mess.

“Hey,” Brian says. He’s got no clue.

“We… really fucked up,” Mikey says. “I can’t even look at Ben. Justin called the other day, I felt like the world’s biggest cunt.”

“Don’t worry about Justin,” Brian says.

“Fuck you!” Michael crosses his arms tightly across his chest, his fingers making white moons against his biceps. “I’m not the kind of guy that is comfortable fucking his friend’s boyfriend!”

“Maybe you’re just not comfortable fucking me!” Brian says. “The feeling is fucking mutual, trust me.”

Brian throws his magazine to the side. Michael’s mouth is hanging open a little, and his arms clench impossibly tighter. “I didn’t think it would be that…”

“Terrible?” Brian offers. He taps a cigarette free of the deck and lights it, trying not to watch Michael’s shifting feet.

“Awkward,” Michael finishes.

“Terrible,” Brian repeats. “Sit down.”

Michael does. On the floor. Like a fucking five year old. At Brian’s look, he balks. “I’m not getting into bed with you!”

Brian stares. Michael’s arms clench across his chest. Beneath his blue t-shirt, he’s starting to get cleavage. Brian arches a brow.

“Have you told Ben?” Brian asks patiently.

“Have you told Justin?” Michael retorts, and he looks like Debbie in drag.

“Yes.”

Michael stops at that, mouth slack. He blinks. “Fuck.”

Brian shrugs.

Fuck.” Mikey repeats. “He’s going to think I sent him halfway across the country just so I could like, seduce you or whatever!”

“Didn’t you?” Brian asks.

“Fuck you, Brian. You’re the one that bought that fucking shit.”

“It was just E, Mikey. Just E.”

“Yeah, well.” Michael rests his head in his hands. Brian wonders if he has slept recently, and feels a little bad for torturing him.

“Justin is fine,” Brian says, and doesn’t add that they’re fucking lucky that Justin is fine. That Justin could have been a whole lot fucking worse, and two years ago, he would have been. Brian doesn’t tell Michael they made Justin cry.
Michael’s sigh of relief is almost comical. “He just … didn’t care?”

“It has nothing to do with him,” Brian says, but that’s not what he means.

Michael’s snort of disbelief is less funny.

“I didn’t fuck you because of him,” Brian says. “I fucked you because –“

“You’re an asshole?”

“Because I’m an asshole.”

“I’m an asshole too.” Michael scrubs his face with his small hands. Brian remembers them clenching hard around his dick. Too fucking hard. “The first week we met, Justin told me I was waiting for you to finish jerking me off. I keep thinking he’s right. Maybe I have been waiting to get that handjob.”

Brian smiles a little and hands Michael a cigarette. Michael stares at the cigarette as if
he’s not quite sure what to do with it. “Maybe I’ve been waiting to give it to you.”

“We’re so fucked up.”

“Call it an extreme case of blue balls,” Brian drawls. “If I’d just fucked you fifteen years ago, we would have been fine.”

“Why now?”

Brian blinks. “I guess I had to do it some time. Michael,” he says. “I fucked you because of you.”

Michael nods slowly. “Then I guess we’re fine anyway.”

They are fine. But Brian knows they’re different.

--

If Brian spends the next three weeks in Hollywood, it’s not because he’s avoiding Michael. Or Ben. Not completely, anyway, because at least seventy percent of it is Justin, and Brian’s need to – not grovel, exactly. Reassure.

Justin seems okay.

Michael says Ben isn’t okay, and Brian would feel worse if he’d ever considered it happening again. He hasn’t. Not for a single fucking second. Not after Michael came all over his hands on that dark basketball court. Not before that, either. Brian would feel worse if he didn’t think Ben would get over it.

Justin introduces him to movie stars and the lead singer from The Strokes. Mostly, though, he seems to want to stay at home on the couch with Brian. Brian wouldn’t mind, except Justin has a really fucking uncomfortable couch.

He wants Justin to come home.

The second week of his visit, Mikey calls, and Justin answers the phone. Brian can feel the impending silence aching in his teeth, and he has the urge to grab the phone, to save them from whatever the fuck is about to happen.

Justin just says, “Hey,” and asks about their comic.

Brian wonders how the fuck he got so lucky, and when Justin got so fucking mature. Probably when he was waiting around for Brian to catch up.

Brian takes the phone and talks to Michael, hears Ben in the background, and thinks he’s nearly there.

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