Title: Periphery Originally posted 3/31/05 Fandom: QaF (US) Pairing: Daphne/Justin, Brian/Justin Timeline: *Very* loosely based on the S5 promo; now AU after s4 Disclaimer: Not mine Written for edenmalfoy for cue_the_pulse on livejournal.
Justin channels his pain, but when he breaks it’s artistically violent, with bright passions and color spills that burn and stain. It’s extravagant, but the build is slow, and Daphne’s one of two people who can ever see it coming. Justin himself doesn’t see the approach, though he’s still standing when the smoke clears, older and resigned, but characteristically resilient. It’s everyone else who’s left reeling and breathless by the crisis.
And crises there have been: Chris Hobbes, Ethan, the pink posse, the ongoing romantic drama of Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor that leaves her awed.
Justin thinks she hated Ethan but it isn’t true. She hated him for Justin, certainly, but Ethan, for all of his raw talent and confidence, was dull compared to Justin, cast in shadow. She felt nothing but condescension and maybe pity because Ethan was a pit stop. She knew it when Justin didn’t, and was only proved right when he showed up at her apartment, melodramatically angry and disgusted, insisting it was over forever without a second thought or a fight. Justin fights for what he wants. Ethan deserved pity; he never stood a chance.
She compares that night to this.
It’s three o’clock in the morning and raining. Logically she knows that this is just coincidence, but a small part of her brain points out that this has been coming. He could have left Brian on a warm night, or during the day, but it isn’t Justin if it isn’t as dramatic as possible.
He’s dressed for Babylon as he brushes past her to stand uneasily in the middle of her living room, soaking wet, covered in glitter, a little wild-eyed and high on God knows what. He’s quietly, dangerously angry, but sad at the same time, sad more than anything and she doesn’t want to ask because she knows already, but it’s expected of her.
He fades a little at that, running both hands over his face and up through his wet hair and then sitting down hard on the couch.
“I’m done, Daphne. It’s done,” he sounds shocked and winded, and she’s at his side then, one arm up around his neck and over his shoulders, but he doesn’t turn towards her to be comforted.
Brian and Justin hadn’t been okay, not since Justin got back from California. It was obvious for months in the strain in his voice over the phone, and even more so in the tension he wore around his eyes when he got back. Daphne didn’t understand and wasn’t sure she wanted to. All she knew was what she saw at the loft, both of them edged and waiting, cracking silently under the weight of whatever the experience of Rage had meant for Justin, frustrated when the steps of their old dance weren’t enough anymore.
Brian started tricking more, again, then Justin did too; he tightened, resigned himself, threw himself into the promise of his vibrant and flashing future. Justin is defiant when he’s angry, confident when he’s self-righteous and self-destructive when he’s in pain. She’s watched all three build, and though she can’t necessarily read Brian, she knows that Justin can, and so believes him as he curls up on her couch, stubborn and inconsolable and says, “He’ll never stop me from leaving.”
“Justin . . .”
“No,” he insists, “he’s so convinced, so utterly convinced, that I’m leaving someday; he would rather push me away, kick me out, rip us apart, than admit to taking the slightest risk . . .”
“He loves you.”
“He needs your persistence, that’s what you said.”
“I know what I said. I know what he needs.”
“Then fix it,” she shakes her head, confused. Justin prides himself on his ability to handle the legend of Brian Kinney.
“It’ll only break again.” Justin looks up at her, defiant and frustrated, “Maybe he doesn’t know what I need.”
“He’s been great to you, Justin.”
“Yeah. He believes in me like no one else ever has, but I don’t know that he’s ever believed in us.” Justin barks a laugh. “This can’t keep happening. It can’t fall to me all the time. I’m tired, Daph. I’m so fucking tired.”
He looks it, and she has no response.
He says he’s getting his own apartment, but instead ends up taking over half of her rent. She expected that to happen, and she’s glad of it. It gives her time to figure out what to make of Justin Taylor, rising star.
She wasn’t expecting the arrangement to last for long. She was expecting his stubborn self-preservation to kick in and she figured she had about a month before Brian looked at him just right over the Liberty Diner counter and the world righted itself. She really wasn’t expecting what happened next.
The first time they ever fucked it was for her, a favor he did because he loved her completely, in every way but the way she was afraid of loving him. He knew that, even later. When he asked her to prom it was with a certain apprehension, and she couldn’t accept with assuring him that the weirdness was definitely over. Then he smiled and she really almost meant it. The weirdness was totally over - as far as he was concerned.
The first time they ever fucked, it was almost a terrible mistake. She was grateful for it later, that she had that with him when they could still chalk near disaster up to being crazily young. It wasn’t that they didn’t know better, it was that they didn’t really care about knowing better. She realizes a little bit too late that they still don’t.
The second time they fuck it’s for him. She knows that with absolute certainty, despite the fact that she starts it. It’s his fault, after all. He’s the one who comes home late from wherever the fuck he goes now instead of Babylon, smelling like whiskey and cigarette smoke, looking elegantly tragic. He’s the one who wakes her up the night before her bio midterm so she can talk him down the fading side of a very strange acid trip.
He’s the one who gets her high and, when she kisses him, kisses her back.
She’s not the virgin she was the first time, but it’s impossible to read his mood in the dark afterwards. They lie there in silence, though his hand absently traces up and down her arm like the physical contact will help them both ignore the fact they have no idea what to say.
“You do too many drugs lately,” she finally says, “it isn’t like you. It’s like Brian.”
“Daph. . .” his protestation starts sharply, but she cuts him off with a firm kiss on the mouth, immediately regretting saying anything. It’s neither the time nor the place for a Justin Taylor drama queen moment. Getting up is too awkward, so she stays there, but neither of them sleep for awhile.
She wakes up early, but still groggy, and it takes her second to remember where she is and another to realize that she’s alone. He’s making waffles in the kitchen, and the coffee’s already brewed; it’s her coffee too, the french vanilla light roast he insists tastes like vanilla flavored water. Today he doesn’t comment, so she doesn’t have to counter that someone who makes a living slinging Liberty Diner coffee has no room to judge. They watch each other for a second until he holds out her favorite pink coffee mug as a peace offering.
She drives him to class and then aces her midterm. Things are okay between them, but they don’t talk about it.
About a week later, Justin starts bringing Chris the sculptor around. Chris is their age. He’s cute, with sandy hair and freckles. He’s talented and sensitive, emotionally stable and remarkably sane. He lacks the self-assurance and attitude that even Ethan had. The second night Chris sleeps at their apartment he has class before Justin does and Daphne waits until he’s gone. She goes into Justin’s room and sits cross-legged on the foot of his bed, staring at him silently until he cracks one eye to look at her.
“You’re going to destroy him,” she says conversationally. Justin pushes himself up in bed and wrinkles his nose at her, looking confused and misleadingly innocent.
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you two monogamous?”
“The last thing I need is a boyfriend,” Justin scoffs.
“Uh-huh. He can’t handle you, Justin.”
“I’m not going to hurt him,” Justin insists, but he sounds suddenly wary. Daphne raises her eyebrows.
“You won’t mean to.”
About two weeks after that, she’s the one fielding Chris’ phone calls while Justin’s at his replacement club. Finally one night she gets tired of it and tells Chris to call late. She hands Justin the phone as he walks in the door.
“You were with Brian too long,” she hisses, “you’re ruined for all other men.”
If Daphne has defended Brian Kinney, it’s because she knows too well what he’s up against. If she has supported him, well, that’s actually for Justin’s own good. Lesser men are confounded by Justin Taylor, and Justin deserves someone who won’t be.
Justin takes the phone and goes to his room. Chris never calls again, and the next night, Justin goes to Babylon.
She has a party to go to that night, but she’s still surprised that he’s home before she is. He’s sitting in the dark leafing through one of her old photo albums. She sits down beside him to look over his shoulder and realizes when she puts her hand on his arm that he’s trembling slightly.
Her parents insisted on taking an entire roll of pictures before the prom. Daphne hasn’t looked at them in years, but she remembers being amusedly irritated while her parents babbled about rites of passage and babies growing up. In the pictures, Daphne and Justin are smiling and laughing, looking happy and crazily young. The pictures are all at Daphne’s house; there are none of the prom itself, and of course there are none of Brian, but she asks anyway, “Did you see him tonight?” Justin bites his lip, but doesn’t answer.
The third time they fuck it’s for both of them. They drink an entire bottle of cheap red wine while sitting in the dark with the photo album. This time, he kisses her first.
Hazed by the wine and the shared memories it’s softer than it was before, less scary and less needy. It’s less awkward in the aftermath.
It’s awhile before Daphne breaks the silence.
“You’re not too bad at that. You know, all things considered.” He snorts indignantly and pushes her away, but even in the dark she can tell he’s smiling. She curls up against his side, and eventually he slips his arm back around her shoulders. She tips her chin up to look at him. “We should be careful. The first time can be an accident and the second time is just to make sure the first time happened, but by the third time it’s kind of starting to be a habit.” He shakes his head.
“I promise you one thing, Daphne. You’re the only girl for me.”
“I better be.”
He laughs into her hair and she falls asleep with her head on his shoulder.
She wakes up alone again, but when she sits up she finds the sketch on his bed side table. It isn’t done hastily; he took his time and she isn’t sure how he managed without waking her. People are supposed to look younger when they’re asleep, but she looks older and more beautiful through his eyes than ever through her own. She knew already that it wasn’t really about sex, but she gets it then. It isn’t about sex at all; it’s about the bond they share. They knew each other way before all of it, before they had to grow up too young.
She meets him at the diner for lunch and things are just off normal. He still eyes her nervously and talks a little too fast Finally, she reaches out to grab his hand where he’s fidgeting with the napkin by his plate.
“Justin,” she catches his eye, “Weirdness. Over.” He relaxes visibly and when he smiles at her and she’s warmed without melting, she’s a little surprised to realize that she means it completely.
He wakes her up when he gets home from Babylon the next night.
“You know I have a test tomorrow. Again,” she rubs her eyes sleepily, trying to concentrate on what he’s saying as he paces back and forth.
“He wants me back.”
“Did he say that?” No need to ask who.
“Yes.” He sounds desperate and slightly panicked, like he’s unsure how to handle a spoken expression of affection from Brian Kinney. He can handle it. She’s pretty sure he’s queening out just for the sake of queening out.
“Are you getting back together?”
“Justin,” slowly, patiently, “does ‘no’ mean ‘yes’?”
“Yes.” He drops his head into his hands and Daphne rolls her eyes. Whatever. Like this hadn’t been coming. Brian and Justin find each other. It was just a matter of time. “So he came after you. He does know what you need.”
“Brian never goes after anyone,” Justin shakes his head.
Daphne snorts, it’s the Brian Kinney code of conduct bullshit and if she knows better then Justin really should. She sometimes forgets that Justin can occasionally lose all perspective when confronted with Brian’s dick.
Brian Kinney does not do boyfriends.
He does not come after lovers who have left him.
Sometimes she wonders what else on that list is eventually going to happen anyway.
When Brian proposes and the rest of Liberty Avenue including Justin drops dead from a collective heart attack, she’s going to be laughing. She would never - ever - say that to either of them.
The ridiculous part of the whole situation is that it was Justin who really taught her to see past the Brian Kinney facade. She remembers Justin at seventeen, with bravado and sure-fire confidence, who somehow made Brian love him through sheer persistent force of will. She remembers him a year and a lifetime older assuring her that things had changed, Brian was different. She remembers him post-Ethan showing up two days after the Vanguard version of operation: seduce Brian Kinney, looking too fucked-out to even gloat properly. He draped himself over her couch and smugly lit a cigarette, assuring her Brian really did love him and it was “all over but the shouting.” He actually said that. Nobody says that.
Daphne’s pretty sure that’s been the case all along. It’s just that there’s been so much shouting.
Tonight she just looks at him and quietly asks,
“What do you want?”
“Brian.” Like the only answer there ever was, as if there was the possibility she was expecting a different one.
Like a sign, his cell phone rings and he looks at her apologetically. She mouths, “I told you so.”
When he finally comes back to the apartment three days later, she’s left his suitcase on the bed. He raises an eyebrow at her when he sees it.
“Did you ever have any doubt in your mind?”
She pretends to think.
“Nope, I know you too well.”
“Better than I know myself?” he teases lightly. She just nods.
“Apparently. At least we didn’t have to resort to stalking this time.”
He turns away, but she grabs his arm to catch his attention.
“Justin,” she begins seriously and he stops to look at her. “Try not to ever have to move in with me again.”
They look at each other for a long moment, and it should almost be tense, but it isn’t. It’s just them, like it’s always been. After a second Justin nods, smiling a little, conceding her point. She kisses his cheek, and then pulls away to help him pack.