The Coming Then Going challenge says to write a perfect ending for the series. We decided the perfect ending was not an ending at all, but rather a beginning.

Brian learns he has a destiny. He promptly rejects it.

Contains spoilers for all of Season Five.


Brian Like Me
by eleveninches and mlefay

 

Part One

The visions start a week after Justin leaves. Brian isnít sure what they are at first, because they start out simply as weird flashes of pain in his head. But when the mannequin in the front window of Torso starts talking to him ("Hey you, hey you --") and the street gets bendy and starts to sparkle in the sunlight, Brian figures it out.

He has a brain tumor.

"A fucking brain tumor," Brian mutters.

He shakes his head. First testicular cancer, then a broken collarbone, then syphilis -- shit, maybe itís the syphilis, heís going crazy like King George now - and Michael pokes his arm.

"What did you say?" Michael asks. He looks amused, and for a second Brian wants to tell him about the visions, say it out loud and make it real.

"Nothing," says Brian.

Brian looks one more time at the way the sun glints off the pavement in coruscating waves, and very carefully ignores the provocative gesturing of the mannequin in the window display. Then he puts on his sunglasses. "Iím starving. We still going to the diner?"

*

"I still canít believe you and Justin broke up again."

Brian glares at Michael over the top of his coffee mug. "We didnít break up."

Michaelís mouth twitches. "And after all the two of you have been through!" he adds.

"Weíre not --" Brian cuts himself off and looks at Michaelís face more closely. Michael seems to be trying desperately not to laugh. "Ha, ha. Shut the fuck up."

"Your face," wheezes Michael. "Oh god." He collects himself and clears his throat. "So how long before you go after him?"

Brian inspects the menu. "Go after him?"

"Yeah." Michael leans over the table. "When are you going to New York? I mean, you do love Justin. He knows it. Hell, everybody knows it."

"Yeah, well, that still doesnít mean I have to go wherever he goes," says Brian. "Besides, I canít leave Kinnetik in the hands of Ted. Heíd probably hire an underage art supervisor and get Cynthia tragically addicted to --" Brian stops mid-sentence and shudders.

"Crystal?" says Michael.

"Opera." Brian shakes his head. "Not happening. So Justin and I are going to try that thing -- whatís it called?"

Michael looks at him blankly.

"Where you live apart from each other, but you act like it doesnít make any difference. That thing." Brian furrows his brow and props his menu behind the napkin dispenser.

The saltshaker on the table perks up. "A long distance relationship?" it supplies helpfully.

"Yeah, thatís the one," says Brian.

"What?" says Michael.

Brian looks at the saltshaker, then takes his sunglasses off and looks at it again. As far as he can tell, itís an ordinary saltshaker. He puts his sunglasses back on.

"You should be paying more attention," the saltshaker says cryptically. Its voice is high and raspy.

"Are you listening to me?" asks Michael. "Brian --"

"Yeah," says Brian. "Yeah, what? Iím listening."

"I was telling you about the new --"

"Hold on a second." Brian picks up the saltshaker, and places it carefully on the empty table behind them. After a momentís consideration, he puts the silent peppershaker next to it. They giggle quietly.

Brian turns back to Michael. "You were saying?"

*

The oddities continue. For a couple of days, the loft is a refuge. As soon as Brian steps across the threshold, his mind stops playing tricks on him. The floors stay level, and coffee mugs donít twirl across his desk without provocation.

Brian supposes he should be more concerned about hearing voices and seeing things, but heís still telling himself itís an easily-operable brain tumor -- or better yet, maybe heís just getting an acid flashback. A flashback thatís lasted four days now. He wonders if thatís possible. Maybe he should look it up on Google.

Brian doesnít notice anything different about the naked guy painting -- to be honest, itís been hanging on the wall so long he really doesnít notice it at all anymore -- until heís already toed off his shoes and gotten a bottle of water from the fridge.

The painting shifts in the corner of his vision, and Brian stops breathing a little. He very carefully swallows his mouthful of water.

"You arenít even curious?" asks the naked guy painting. One brushstroke-eyebrow rises skeptically.

Brian blinks at it, sees how the steady rise and fall of the naked guyís breathing makes the paint blur around the edges. "Curious about what, exactly?" Brian asks.

"Youíre supposed to be impressed," says naked guy painting. "Inanimate objects have been speaking to you. Youíre sensing auras. Youíre seeing a layer of a world that few have seen before you. Do you realize how incredible this is?"

"Honestly, I would rather have just seen the image of the Virgin Mary in the shower steam today," says Brian. "Or something I could sell tickets for. Have you got anything like that up your sleeve?"

Naked guy paintingís smile freezes, and it takes Brian a second to realize itís not trying to be aggravating, itís actually stopped moving altogether.

Brian hears the creak of someone stepping up behind him, and inhales sharply.

"Itís just me," says Vic.

"Just you," says Brian. He casts his gaze heavenward. "Just you. Right."

"Thought it might be nice for you to see a familiar face." Brian doesnít look at him, but can tell Vicís grinning from the tone of his voice.

"I would be glad to see you, Vic, but youíre dead. By the way, doesnít that put even the slightest crimp on you butting into my business?"

"Not really, no."

Brian turns around. Vic is dressed like a giant green leprechaun, and for a moment Brian considers forgoing medical treatment for his brain tumor and just shooting himself in the head.

Vic smiles at the way Brianís eyebrows pinch. "Oh, the green? I think it sets off my eyes."

"Okay," says Brian. "This is... really fucking weird."

"Itís good to see you, too," says Vic with a laugh. "Youíre looking better since the last time I saw you. When you had the --" he gestures at Brianís arm.

"No," Brian says. "No, see, that was a dream. A fucked-up dream because I was high on painkillers."

"And now?"

"And now youíre a figment of my imagination. But your green outfit makes me want to stab out my eyes with a fork, so maybe you should see about de-figmenting. Youíre dead."

Vic shakes his head kindly. "Look, Brian. They sent me because we had a history. I know youíve been having visions. Or as the portrait stated so aptly, youíre seeing a new layer of the world -- surely youíve noticed?" He raises his eyebrows at Brian somewhat theatrically.

"Yeah, sure, but thatís just a brain tumor," says Brian dismissively. He turns to pour himself a drink, and hopes absently that perhaps ghosts are allergic to the smell of alcohol, or maybe weird hallucinations go away when youíre really, really shitfaced, because heís planning on becoming so.

"You know it isnít."

Brian fills the shot glass almost to overflowing, then ignores it in favor of taking a swig straight from the bottle. He swallows, warmth already starting to collect in his chest. "You seem awfully sure of what I do and donít know," he says finally.

"Listen, kiddo, youíve been given these abilities for a reason." Vic shrugs, but looks at Brianís face intently. "God, the higher-up, the powers that be, whatever you want to call it -- thatís what did this. You can use your skills to help people."

"Thatís nice," says Brian.

"Itís your destiny." And Vic sounds so utterly, earth-shatteringly serious.

Brian wants to laugh. He really does. He wants to laugh, and laugh, and wake up in the morning and not remember any of this.

He also wants not to believe any of it. But Brian went outside earlier and felt the sidewalk bend just a fraction under his feet, and his lunch had been way too interactive, and a bit pissed off at the prospect of its impending doom and digestion. Things are far from normal.

"What do you mean, itís my destiny?" Brian says finally.

Vic moves a little closer, but doesnít touch him. Brian wonders if Vicís hand would just go right through.

"Itís an incredible calling," says Vic. "Truly incredible. Although it can be a bitch to keep up with. I can be your guide, here for you every step of the way. Scoutís honor. What do you say?" He waggles his eyebrows.

"Oh, thatís reassuring, seeing as you were never a boy scout. Besides, I donít want it."

Vic blinks. "Youíre joking."

Brian grits his teeth. "I donít want it. Find someone else."

"Brian," says Vic, "Iím sorry, but I donít think you realize this isnít something you can just turn down. Thatís kind of what Ďdestinyí means, you know."

"No, I think you donít realize Iím just not fucking going to do it," Brian says, with the slightly condescending tone of someone explaining the stock market to an idealistic child. "I have enough going on in my life, and trust me, youíd be better off with someone who actually gives a shit. Iím not going to do something just because something Almighty tells me to do it."

Vic sighs. "Okay."

"Okay?" Brian repeats.

"Okay, Iíll see what I can do," Vic says, overly enunciating his words. "I do always look out for you, Brian. More than you apparently believe."

Before Brian can even respond, Vic looks concerned; then he looks distracted. He glances at the far wall of Brianís loft, but Brian gets the feeling thatís not what heís looking at.

"I -- have to go," says Vic. "Weíll have to continue this conversation later."

"I canít wait."

He lets out a breath once Vic has evaporated, and takes another swig.

*

Brian sets his coffee mug on the desk, and eyes it for a second to make sure it doesnít twitch. It stays where it is, and Brian sits down with a sigh of relief.

Itís been a relatively ordinary morning. The streets were normal, not even the slightest bit sparkly, and Brian hadnít even realized how used to that sparkle heíd become until he found himself overcorrecting his driving.

"Hey," says Cynthia, sticking her head around the door. "A couple of accounts called, I left their messages on your desk for you. Also, Cohenís Lollipop Company has a complaint about our proposed slogan. Apparently they think ĎSuck On Thisí is too forward for their intended market."

Brian finishes glowering at his mug, then looks up at her. "What market, five-year olds? I told them theyíve got to aim for the easy spending cash. That means teens. That means sex."

"Their CEO showed the campaign mock-ups to his youngest daughter and she started crying. He wants to speak to you personally."

Brian rubs his temples. "Right. Iíll give them a call."

Cynthia smiles brightly. "Okay, boss. Thatís all for now. You have a good morning!"

She bounces away, letting the door swing shut behind her, and Brian groans and leans back in his chair. He knows Cynthiaís only happy in order to annoy him.

He hears a faint rattle, and glances quickly at his coffee mug. Itís starting to vibrate, jittering against the glass surface of the desk.

"Shit," mutters Brian.

A flash of green out of the corner of his eye, and Vic is standing next to him.

"I already told you I wasnít interested," Brian snarls. "Canít you take a fucking no for an answer?"

Vic shakes his head, his expression sympathetic. "Sorry. Itís completely out of my hands now. Do you have any aspirin handy? Advil?"

"Why do I need asp --" and Brian canít get the rest of the question out, because suddenly it feels like a particularly pissed off sports utility vehicle is backing over his forehead, stabbing pain is radiating through his brain and everywhere else, and his stomach cramps, sending him curling forward, his face into his hands --

The image is blurred, almost indistinct at first, but the harder Brian concentrates the more it comes into focus. Itís Justin, standing on a sidewalk. He glances at Brian, smiles widely, then steps into the street to cross. He doesnít see the car heading right for him, and Brian canít move --

"Are you okay?" asks Vic, which seems like a spectacularly dumb question. Brian is shaking all over, and he clutches at his throbbing forehead only to find that heís practically dripping in a cold sweat.

"No," says Brian. "Not okay. What the fuck was that."

Vic looks at him solemnly. "Thatís your cue."

Brian shakes his head, slowly, as if not to dislodge anything. "That was a vision? Like, of the future? Thatís going to happen?"

"Youíre being given a chance to stop it," says Vic.

"You --" Brian stares at him, wordless, and punches the intercom button. "Cynthia, can you get me on the soonest flight to New York?"

Vic nods at him. "Youíre doing the right thing."

"Itís Justin," says Brian, and wills the trembling in his hands to stop. "If itís real - I canít not do something."

"Yeah," Vic says. "I know."

*

Brian canít get a full breath, and his hands are still shaking. He exits into the main terminal of the airport and looks around for signs. First heíll get out of there, then heíll grab a taxi and find Justin. He has the address for Justinís apartment carefully folded in his wallet.

The floor squeaks under his heels. Brian looks down, and the tile starts to jitter beneath his feet. Shit. A glance to the side, and some womanís purse gives him a flirty wink.

Trying to ignore all of it, Brian keeps his eyes straight-ahead, walks briskly, and ends up flinching when Vic suddenly appears beside him.

"Itís just me," says Vic.

"Fuck off and die again," says Brian pleasantly.

"Thereís something you should know."

Brian stops walking. "What now?"

Vic looks uneasy, brow furrowed. The green of his leprechaun outfit is more putrescent than usual. "You see... itís like this. Justinís not really in trouble. Thereís no accident. There will be no accident. Heís gonna be fine."

Something in Brian sags in relief, and all his nervous energy nearly drains away. Luckily, another part of him compensates for the sense of relief and gets really fucking pissed.

"What?" Brianís teeth are clenched, his entire body vibrating along with the floor. He is calm. He is fucking zen.

"Technically, I shouldnít be telling you this," says Vic. "But I couldnít stand to see you so..." he trails off.

Brian turns and keeps heading for the exit, his head throbbing. Vic has to scurry to keep up, or float, or whatever it is that ghosts do.

"It was the only way to get you here!" Vic says emphatically. "We knew you wouldn't stick your neck out for just anyone. And Iím really sorry that we used your caring for Justin against you, but I cannot stress enough how important --"

"No," says Brian. "Iím not fucking doing whatever you want me to do."

A planter full of blue fabric geraniums hisses at Brian, but Vic gives it a glare. "No, let me handle this," he tells it.

Vic starts talking to him, but Brian tunes out his explanations. His brain is buzzing too loudly to hear them anyway. He has to find a cab. Justinís address is in his wallet, and itís time he did something about it.

*

Justin opens the door, and judging from his expression, is only moderately surprised to see Brian. He pushes past Justin into the apartment and dumps his briefcase and travel bag on the floor.

"Right. Hello to you too," Justin says, but warmly. "You didnít tell me you were coming."

"No, I didnít." Brian turns around, and freezes for a moment, just staring. Justin is wearing a worn T-shirt and cargo pants that are baggy in all the wrong places. His hair is flattened down on one side like heís been sleeping on it all wrong. From the vague squint Justin aims Brianís way, he thinks maybe the sleeping was pretty recent.

Brian wonders first of all what time of day it is, because he has no earthly idea; and second of all, how can Justin look like shit and really fucking gorgeous at the same time?

Justin grins at him. "Is this one of those things?"

"Those things?" Brian says rather weakly. "What -- what are you talking about?"

"You know, one of those crazy totally-not-romantic grand gestures that you make. Like -- well, like showing up when you say youíre not coming. Or showing up when you donít say you are coming. Grand. Gesturely." Justin yawns and rubs at his eyes. "God, do you know what time it is?"

"No," says Brian, "No, I really donít."

Justin blinks. "Oh. Me either. I think itís afternoon, actually."

"And you were asleep?"

"Yeah," Justin shrugs. "You want some coffee?"

Brian takes a few steps forward and presses a kiss to Justinís forehead. He meant it to be brief, but he lingers there a moment, just breathing in Justinís space, smelling him. Justin tilts his head toward Brianís mouth a little, and curls warm fingers over Brianís wrist.

"Coffee sounds good," Brian says quietly.

Justin nods, squeezes Brianís wrist a little, then lets go. He walks over to the tiny kitchen counter and empties the old filter from the coffeemaker. Brian shuts his eyes for a second and exhales. Finally, their hellos have been said.

As Justin runs water into the pot, Brian looks around at Justinís apartment. Itís warm and homey, and Justinís added his own personal touch to the dťcor -- and his own personal clothes are all over the floor and the back of the couch, which is the most hideous shade of blue Brianís seen in his life. Itís probably from Justinís mom.

Not one to judge a living space on a little clutter, Brian glances at the rest of it. He swears he sees cracks in the ceiling, maybe even some water damage. No question about it, the place is a shithole.

"This place is a shithole." Brian sits down gingerly on the arm of the sofa.

"It isnít," Justin retorts. He flips the coffeemaker on, and leans against the counter to more comfortably stare at Brian. "Well, okay, but itís my shithole. And no remarks. Iíll make you sleep on the couch."

"I like your shithole," says Brian with a raised eyebrow. "Just not your apartment."

Justin covers his face, chuckling despite himself. "See, that's really awful. I didnít want to make you sleep on the couch."

"It'll never happen, that couch is the ugliest thing Iíve seen in my life. By the way, I thought you were dead," and Brian thinks he got out that nugget of information without too much fanfare and unneeded drama. He congratulates himself, then notices Justin looks a little pale.

"What the fuck are you talking about, Brian?"

Brian shrugs carelessly. "Just thinking of some visions sent from a higher deity. Strange voices, objects coming to life, optical illusions, foreseeing horrible fates. That kind of thing."

"Thank god. For a second I thought it was something serious," says Justin.

"Nah. Besides, youíre not really going to make me sleep on the couch," says Brian. "Iím pretty sure I would have foreseen that."

Justin snorts, and then gives Brian a look rapidly approaching "sultry". "If you do sleep in my bed, you have to do me a favor."

"What?" Brianís already moving toward him, can practically feel Justinís skin beneath his fingertips just from his memories of their last night together.

"Fuck me first," says Justin.

Brian can do that.

*

At least, he thought he could.

"What are you doing?" Justin asks for the sixth time.

"Iím..." Brian trails off, and gives a suspicious look to the tiny carved turtle on Justinís dresser. "I just donít want anything watching us."

"Brian," says Justin patiently. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"You know Iím all for healthy exhibitionism," Brian tells him, "But there are some lines that just shouldnít be crossed."

He picks up the turtle and shoves it in a drawer, where it joins his previous suspects: A couple of sketches, a picture frame, and a ratty old teddy bear. Surveying the room one last time, he turns to Justin, whoís looking increasingly concerned.

"Yeah," Justin says faintly. "Right." He blinks. "Are you sure youíre okay?"

Brian ignores Justinís question, and luckily Justinís a smart, multi-tasking lad who can quiz Brian on his mental health and have sex at the same time. He strips off his shirt and starts unbuttoning his jeans, and Brian inhales.

"Iím good," says Brian. "And now Iím even better," and itís such a corny line, he leans in and kisses Justin, wonders why he didnít just take Justin off to bed the second he came in the door. Heíd wasted time on coffee and niceties, when he could have already been far up Justinís ass by now, couldíve already been here.

Justinís mouth is wet and familiar, and Brian feels queasy at the thought of ever, ever losing this. He hears someone clear their throat behind him, and doesnít know if itís Vic or the sketchpad at the foot of the bed. Either way, Brianís not listening. Heís busy.

"Missed you. Missed you," Justin whispers it against Brianís mouth, and it makes Brian tighten his grip, shove sloppily at Justinís pants to get them all the way off.

"Yeah," Brian mutters back, his heart seizing for a second like it always does. "Yeah, me too. Missed you."

"Good," says Justin, and winds his fingers through Brianís hair. "You missed me. Yeah. Yeah, of course you did, you sonofabitch."

Brian laughs softly. "Of course. You know that."

He finally gets Justinís pants off. And Brianís not sure how he knows it, but he can tell that he and Justin are alone now, no annoyingly non-inanimate objects, no weird visions, no Vic lurking in the corner.

Itís just him and Justin. Brian makes the most of it.

*

Justin is curled around him, still catching his breath. Brian strokes his hair, smoothing back the sweaty blond tufts, and tries not to think about anything else but this.

"Tell me," Justin says quietly.

Brian swallows. "It sounds insane."

"Everything with you sounds insane, Brian. Tell me."

He nods a little, rubbing his forehead against Justinís. "Okay. Iíve started having these weird visions. Stuff talks to me -- random stuff, like toothbrushes. And Vic, too. Heís started showing up and... telling me things. Things I need to do."

"Vic?" Justin blinks again. "Well, that makes sense. That you would think of him, I mean. I know the two of you were closer than you ever let on, and to lose him so suddenly --"

"Justin."

"-- must have been really tough for you, especially since you were going through so many questions about your own mortality at the time, what with the cancer -- it seems only natural that your unconscious mind would fixate on -- Huh?"

"Iím starting to think itís not in my head," Brian says slowly.

Justin bites his lip a little, and nods warily. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why do you think itís not in your head?"

"I canít really explain it," says Brian. "Only that I donít think my subconscious is capable of being that infuriating."

"I donít know about that," says Justin lightly, and kisses him, probably eager to change the subject back to fucking.

Brian doesnít really have any objections to that.

*

After they fuck two more times, itís pitch black in the room. Itís the middle of the night, and Justin apparently hasnít caught on to Brianís habit of installing light fixtures so you can always tell where the fuck you are. Brian hates being in the dark, and he feels weirdly discombobulated.

"So are you staying here?" Justin asks sleepily.

"Of course," says Brian.

Thereís a pause. "Really?"

"Well, I was kind of assuming that you wouldnít just throw me out on the street."

"Hmm," says Justin. "Wow. Okay. We need to talk more about this, obviously. Thereís a lot more to discuss." He snuggles into Brianís shoulder. "But this is a good beginning. Iím glad that we can..."

"Wait," says Brian. "What are you talking about again?"

But Justin is already asleep.

*

"I donít give a flying fuck about Cohenís Lollipop Company, Cynthia." Brian takes an angry half step, but realizes if he starts pacing now, heíll never stop.

"We need a new catch-phrase," Cynthia says. "Or theyíre going to drop us. This contract is crucial, you said that yourself."

Brian considers just hanging up the phone. Justinís going to be back any minute with takeout, and he really doesnít want to deal with imbeciles more than he has to.

Cynthia sighs over the line. "Brian, I really wish I didnít have to bug you with this. But itís important, and youíve already been gone two days."

"Two days? Really?" Brian squints at Justinís ugly ĎHang In There!í kitten calendar. "Huh, I guess we really have been fucking for a while. Cynthia, tell Mr. Cohen Lollipop that he can eat me."

"Iím sorry, sir," says Cynthia primly, "But weíre already using ĎEat Meí for that new brand of sausages."

"You know what I mean. You and Ted can handle this one all by your little lonesomes."

"You really -- me and Ted?" She sounds almost surprised. "Youíre not going to go all control freak on us and come back here in a snit?"

"Yes. No. Forget it, just do what I tell you. Itís what I pay you for," Brian snarls. He hears Justinís key in the lock. "Now get to it. And donít let Ted say anything to you about opera, I swear itís a fucking disease."

"Thereís nothing wrong with a bit of refined culture," says Cynthia.

Brian stiffens in alarm. "Heís already gotten to you, hasnít he."

Cynthia just laughs and hangs up on him.

"You really need to learn some manners," mutters the phone.

"Fuck off," says Brian, and punches the ĎENDí button viciously.

Justin comes up and dumps a couple of takeout bags on the kitchen counter. Looks like Chinese tonight. "I take it that went well?"

Brian leans into Justin, kissing him heavily. He runs his hands up the sides of Justinís face, feeling the slight drag of near-invisible stubble, and angles Justinís chin upward.

Justin makes an Ďmmmí sound that makes Brian go hard. Justin presses a little closer to Brian, trying to get deeper into his mouth, and Brian lets him -- wet and rough and sweet and Justin tastes a bit like eggroll, which makes Brian realize heís hungrier than he thought he was.

"Hey," says Justin when he breaks away. He raises an eyebrow. "What are you trying to tell me?"

"Nothing," says Brian, "Nothing," because heís busy trying to convince himself that he canít actually stay in the crappy apartment with Justin indefinitely.

Justin grips Brianís shoulder and nuzzles against his neck for a moment. "We never talked more about it. Are you staying here?"

"I... Iím not living in this place," says Brian, with a wary look at the ceiling. It looks less cracked and water damaged today, but heís sure itís just a trick of the light.

"That wasnít my question. And hey, whatís wrong with this place?"

"Too many faults to list in one sitting."

Justin raises an eyebrow. "I donít see you apartment-hunting. Or are you still convinced youíll be going back to Pittsburgh anytime soon?"

Brian really doesnít want to think about it, so he shrugs, which has the added benefit of getting Justin more snugly situated in his arms. He wonders why he canít seem to stop touching Justin lately. Itís like heís a fucking newlywed or something.

"Thereís something terribly ironic about it, isnít there?" says Vic brightly.

Vicís perched on the kitchen counter, giving him and Justin an insufferable grin. Brian flips him off.

*

The very next day, Brian gets the vision again. Heís on his way to meet Justin for lunch, and the abrupt vision and subsequent splitting headache of doom nearly send him tumbling into oncoming pedestrians. A couple of lesbians give him a death glare for bumping against them.

Finally, after evading a few more people, Brian collapses on a bus stop bench. "Fuck," Brian pants. "Fuck." The images whirl through his head, bouncing and spinning off the inside of his skull.

"You should tell Justin," Vic says from behind him. "Donít you think that would be best in the long run?"

"Yeah, what do you know," Brian mutters, then gets up. Justinís waiting.

"You have to save him," Vic calls after him. "Heís only four months old! And heís going to be the President of the United States someday!"

"Itís not my problem!" Brian shouts back. He walks more quickly.

*

Well, the dinerís cute, Brian will give it that. Itís not even too ragged looking, and that means maybe Justinís finally getting over his "Itís a real authentic New York City dive, with actual filth!" phase.

"Youíre late," Justin says, leaning against the wall outside. Itís fairly busy in the area, actually. People keep walking by, on their way to or from someplace terribly important.

"But only fashionably so," Brian replies. Then he glances across the street. "...Shit."

"What?" Justin looks warily confused. "What is it?"

"That sign," Brian says. "Bubbles and Go. Iíve seen it before."

Justin is silent a second or two before Brian realizes heís expected to explain further. And -- hell. Okay. Brianís not going to lie. And Vic has a point.

Here goes: "I thought you were dead because I saw it happen," says Brian. "In my head. But it wasnít you, they were lying so they could get me in New York. It was someone else, a kid. A baby."

A pause. Heís not looking at Justinís face, he realizes, and maybe thatís for the best.

"Brian," says Justin, and his voice sounds weird and choked.

"No." Brian shakes his head, "No, no, no, I am not joking. And Iím not making it up, that laundromat sign -- thatís the one I saw in the vision. Itís going to happen here! Some womanís baby carriage is going to roll out in the street when sheís not paying attention, and a car is going to come along and --"

"What kind of car?" Justin says.

"What?"

"Brian, you sound fucking nuts, you know that. Iím trying to not -- I want to believe you. What kind of car?"

"I donít know," says Brian. "Black, smallish. Dented front bumper."

He finally turns to Justin, but now Justin canít look him in the face. Brianís breath seizes in his throat. He -- Justin doesnít believe him. Not at all.

Justinís eyes flick over Brianís shoulder, seeking distraction, then widen. "Brian," he says tightly. Urgently.

Brian doesnít ask what, just whirls around, already knowing where to look. A woman is struggling with her car keys, and sheís left her infant sonís baby carriage parked on a slightly inclined part of the sidewalk.

"Fuck," says Brian, and goddamnit.

For a split second he entertains the thought of doing nothing. Maybe the assholes Up There would finally listen to him and give the destiny to somebody else. Brian could go back to normal, and regain what amount of sanity he had left. Itís tempting. For a split second.

But Justin knows what Brianís seen now, knows whatís coming, and thereís no way Brian would ever do something that fucking cowardly in front of Justin. Or himself.

Besides, Brianís already moving, before he even began to think things through. Heís already breaking into a run.

*

Brian looks at the mangled remains of the baby carriage, and thinks heís obviously not processing everything correctly. Aside from his heart hammering like hell, heís fine, the baby in his arms is screaming its fucking head off, so itís probably fine too, and damn it all to fuck, he just saved a baby from oncoming traffic. (Including one smallish black car, with a dent in the front bumper.)

Brian absently cards through the kidís fine blonde hair with his fingers, and it -- he - actually quiets down a little. A couple seconds later, his mother runs up, red-faced and hysterical, and yanks the kid from Brian.

"Shhh, shh," she whispers urgently. "Mommyís here. Are you okay, honey? Oh my god. Shh. Itís gonna be okay." She spares Brian a quick glance, stammering "Thank- thank you," then turns back to the baby.

Brian takes a faltering step away, then another, and jumps when someone touches his arm.

"Sorry! Sorry," says Justin. "Itís just me. Letís get out of here, okay?"

Brian nods mutely.

"I did totally see that, right?" Justin sounds awkward, and heís gripping Brianís elbow too hard while steering him away from the street.. "You just saved that babyís life, and - and it happened exactly where you said it would --you knew. You really did."

"I wasnít lying to you," Brian says tiredly. "And Iím not crazy. Apparently. Well, not much."

"Wow," says Justin. "I mean... god. Brian."

He shakes his head, and his tight hold on Brianís elbow loosens. Theyíre far enough away now that no reporters will think to come near them, and Brian wonít get his face in any newspapers. As Brianís mind slowly catches up with the rest of him, he realizes that Justin was right in getting him away from there. Heíd gotten more than his fill of media attention back when Justin was bashed.

"So is -- are you okay? Is anything talking to you now?" Justin asks curiously.

"Yeah, Iím fine. Just a bit rattled. Letís head home, shall we?" Brian summons a hazy smile, and ignores the other question Justin asked.

On his other side, Vic beams at him. "You did good, kiddo," he says, and sounds almost exactly like Debbie at her proudest. Must be a family thing.

"Thanks," Brian says quietly.

Vic just nods at Brian and disappears. The carefully planted street trees around them rustle for a moment, and seem to crystallize at the corners.

"Youíre welcome," says Justin.


Part Two

"What do they look like?" Justin asks.

Brian looks up from the computer screen, where he's been studying apartment listings for the last half hour. Everything in Justin's area is within his price range, but everything in Justin's area is also crap. "What do what looks like?" he asks, although he already knows the answer.

Justin sort of creeps forward, as if worried Brian might crack any second. Brian's pretty certain he's already crazy, but it's nice Justin's giving him the benefit of a doubt. "The things that talk to you. Do they have mouths? Teeth?"

"What do they look like?" he repeats. Nothing's moved for him since-- the thing. With the baby. Earlier, he jumped when a pencil rolled across the desk, but that just turned out to be the fault of uneven legs. "They look annoying."

"Oh," Justin says, shoulders slumping in disappointment.

"Except for Vic," he adds, checking the prices for two bedrooms on Park Avenue, "he looks like a giant leprechaun. But I'm pretty sure he just does it to piss me off."

Justin shoots Brian a glance like he doesn't know whether or not to believe him.

A few days later, Justin asks him to draw a picture of what he sees. "I'm not an artist," Brian says, tentatively accepting the offered sketchpad. But when he puts pen to paper, the lines dance around on their own, and he ends up handing Justin a blank page.

*

Justin knocks over a potted plant while building a giant canvas.

Brian helps clean it up, touching the broken pot pieces gently, making sure to brush up every speck of dirt. "That was the only one I liked," he says almost sadly.

*

When Brian starts sneaking out in the middle of the night, Justin isn't really concerned. He supposes it was only a matter of time, and they haven't really figured out where they stand yet, even though he knows Brian keeps their never-used wedding bands in the back of their sock drawer.

But there are little things, like Brian drinking a lot more coffee than usual, at all hours. The dark circles under his eyes. The way he can sit and stare off into space for hours if Justin doesn't interrupt. Ted and Cynthia start calling a lot more, leaving angry messages on the machine when Brian misses video conferences and deadlines. Justin thinks Brian is using sex to distract himself from his new destiny, but when he tries to voice this, Brian just brushes him off.

One day, Justin comes home early from work to find Brian dead asleep on the couch. His face is smushed in the corner, and he's clutching a throw pillow to his chest. An empty mug sits on the coffee table. Justin's sudden rush of tenderness is shaken off by a realization: Brian hasn't been slipping out to trick.

"Holy shit." He grabs Brian's arm and shakes.

Brian raises his head. His eyes are bloodshot. "Huh?"

"You-- you're saving people at night!" Justin nearly shouts.

"No, I'm not," Brian growls, batting him away. "I'm out fucking anything with a dick."

He says it in such a snide, cruel way, Justin knows he's lying.

"You're ashamed," Justin concludes. He sits in the cushion space between Brian's arm and torso. "Ashamed of being Batman."

"I thought I was Rage," Brian mutters, not meeting Justin's eyes.

"No," says Justin sweetly, "Rage would own up to rescuing people. Batman's the one who does everything in the cover of darkness."

"Isn't Batman crazy?" Brian asks.

"If by 'crazy' you mean 'spends his entire life preparing for the day he'll dress up as a bat and carry out revenge for his parents' death,' then yes."

Brian lets out an exasperated gasp. Abruptly, he sits up and hurls a pillow at the bookshelf. Justin winces when a picture frame shatters on the floor. "Shut the fuck up!" he yells at the shaking books. He glances back at Justin, almost looking embarrassed, and says, "They were laughing at me."

"For being Batman?" Justin asks.

"I'm not--" Brian pinches the bridge of his nose. "The visions are getting worse." The lines around his mouth tighten, and for the millionth time, Justin wonders just what the world looks like to Brian now. "I try to ignore them, but it's sort of hard to when your head feels like it's about to crack open."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Justin asks. "You let me think you were out tricking."

Brian looks down at the floor. "It just seemed easier that way."

Justin's not going to let him get away with this. They aren't going to go back to being roommates who have a lot of sex. "Remember that time you had cancer and didn't tell me? And we had that talk about what it means to be partners?"

"Remember that time inanimate objects started talking to me?" Brian counters sharply. "I think the rules changed the day my best friend's dead uncle told me I have to save the world."

He has a point. Wincing, Justin says, "I still wish you'd talk to me."

Brian's expression softens. "I just need some more time to figure things out. I told you everything when I came to New York, didn't I?"

"Yeah," Justin says, "but I thought it was a delayed symptom of, you know, the syphilis."

Brian snatches the coffee cup off the table, curling his fingers around the brim like one might cup a child's ears. "I didn't want them to know about that," he hisses.

*

Brian weens himself off saving people. The first step is limiting the number of people he rescues. He gets better at doing it. He can do it on his lunch break; makes sure he keeps someone from crossing the street here, or getting into a cab there. Changes their fate without them ever realizing. He never has to get involved. It's so easy, he can pretend it's not even happening.

Once he stops helping completely, Vic shows up again. He walks with Brian down the street. They share cab rides. He goes to Brian's meetings, critiques his mock-ups, leers at Justin. It's like having his own personal undead stalker.

(He once tried to talking to Justin about Vic's bright green attire.

"Maybe it's your subconscious," Justin said.

"So, subconsciously, I've always thought of him as a leprechaun?"

"Maybe it's symbolic. Don't leprecauns grant wishes or something?"

Brian raised an eyebrow. "No, they're supposed to give you their gold if you capture them. Haven't you seen Lucky Charms commercials? Magically delicious?"

"Oh." Justin rubbed his chin. "Then I've got nothing.")

He wakes to find Justin spooned against his back, one hand wrapped around Brian's wrist, as if trying to keep him there. But Brian's throat is as dry as a bone, so he carefully slides out of Justin's grasp.

He's walking quietly to the kitchen when it happens. Something hard and plastic screams when he steps on it -- and the pain shoots up from his foot, through his leg, and zooms towards his head. He doubles over in agony as every muscle in his body clenches and a bright light flares behind his eyes and then--

A blur of colors come sharply into focus. A little girl cries as a robed man binds her hands behind her back. He finishes and steps back, pulling out a weapon. Brian sees stars.

When the vision fades, he's looking up into Justin's worried face. Somewhere between the stumble and the space monk, he must've fallen. Justin combs his fingers through Brian's hair, and, as the ache in his head bleeds away, Brian decides he wouldn't mind staying just like this. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, and this time when he opens them, Vic is there too.

"That must've hurt," Vic says good-naturedly.

"Did you see something?" Justin asks.

Brian groans as he pushes himself up. "I'm always seeing something." He looks directly at Vic. "Go the fuck away."

Justin jumps, looking around worriedly.

"I'm just here to make sure you get it," Vic says.

"This is going to sound crazy," Brian says, turning back to Justin, who snorts. "But I saw a little girl being kidnapped by a monk. In space. He had this long, red glowing sword."

Justin's mouth opens and shuts a few times. "Oh my fucking God. She was kidnapped by a Jedi?"

"This is what happens when you spend too much time with Michael," Vic cracks, while Brian looks around for something to draw with that costs less than fifty bucks. Nothing ever moves on its own when he really needs it to.

"But Jedi don't kidnap people," Justin says, sounding distressed. "They're the good guys. Are you sure he wasn't rescuing her? You know, I could deal when you told me random objects talk to you. I could handle being told Vic came back from the dead to be your spirit guide. But I don't think I want to live in a world where the Jedi are evil."

While Justin has an existential crisis, Brian manages a quick sketch. "This one's the Jedi, or whatever," he explains, pointing.

"You mean the stick figure?"

Brian glowers. "Do you want me to share or not?"

"Sorry. Go on."

He points to the shooting star in the background. It has five sides and a tail that curls out to a point. "This is exactly how it looked. It's not just my drawing skills."

Justin sits at the computer and starts typing rapidly. "Did the monk guy look like this?"

Brian joins him. He's pulled up some website, and even though Brian's vision was blurry -- "Yeah," Brian says in surprise, "exactly like that."

"Okay," Justin says, biting his thumb, "we have a little girl, a Jedi, and a star. Are your visions usually this cryptic?"

Brian glances at Vic, who's being unusually quiet. "Yes. Minus the Star Wars theme."

"How are we going to stop this?"

Vic smiles. "Yes, how are you?"

Brian feels cold all over. "I'm not. We're not."

Justin frowns. "Huh? Why?"

"I haven't acted on a vision in a month."

"What?" Justin demands, as Vic says, "You were chosen to do this."

Brian pushes himself away from them. "Which is exactly why I'm not. Pulling people out of the path of moving cars or making sure they don't get mugged is one thing, but I'm not sticking my neck out for some bullshit vision about space invadors."

"A kid could die," Justin shouts.

He feels sick to his stomach. He can't do this. A girl might die, but he can't be the one to save her. "I'm not a hero," he yells back. "I'm not Batman or Superman. I'm not even Rage. I'm just some random guy who can happen to see things he shouldn't. We haven't even figured out if I'm crazy or not."

"You have to save this child," Vic says, almost threateningly. The hunter green of his clothes seem to shrivel into something almost grey.

"Shut up," Brian spits. "Shut up. I didn't ask for this."

The disappointment in Justin's face stings. "Brian," he says sadly, "you don't have to be a hero to do the right thing."

*

In some of the weirdest two days of Brian's life, both Vic and Justin stop speaking to him. Plants, animals, and objects visibly recoil when he comes close. Brian enjoys the silence as much as anyone with an angry boyfriend and a bleeding ulcer can.

Sometimes he wonders why he couldn't have gotten this power when it mattered. Maybe he could have stopped himself from some horribly scarring high school moments. Maybe he could have helped the people he loved, instead of strangers.

If he's honest with himself, he knows he'd give up everything just to have been able to stop Chris Hobbs.

He sits on Justin's building's steps and smokes. Literally out of nowhere, Vic comes and sits beside him.

Brian blows out a stream of smoke. "You know, I don't believe in God."

"That's okay," Vic says, "I don't either."

*

Justin keeps the tv on the channel one news for two days, but there's no mention of a kidnapping. That means, he concluded, the little girl hasn't been grabbed yet. So maybe Brian's vision wasn't telling him to save her; it was telling him to prevent her from being taken.

Justin feels very clever for figuring this out, until he remembers he's still not any closer to deciphering Brian's vision.

They creep around each other with limited interaction. Their meals are silent; Justin hangs around the galleries as long as he possibly can, and Brian comes home late, reeking of liquor. They don't touch in bed. The whole thing is ridiculous, because he knows Brian is better than this. He knows Brian is just saying fuck you to Vic and Fate and-- God, or whoever. Gods, maybe. Justin's not sure.

He's busy making breakfast when he notices Brian's been staring at the newspaper for at least ten minutes. "What is it?" he asks, half curious, half annoyed.

Brian turns the page sharply, lips pressed in a thin line. "Nothing," he snaps.

After he leaves for a meeting with some airline company, Justin snatches the paper up, searching for whatever Brian was looking at. It turns out to be an image of a middle-aged man and his daughter. "Electronics billionare Adrien Groesbeck celebrates a merger between Beck, Inc. and--" He scans the article quickly. "The festivities will begin tonight at Groesbeck's New York townhouse, where his family (daughter pictured right) will be in attendence."

The hair on the back of his neck stands up. Feeling light-headed, he digs into the cheap cabinet where he keeps all the art supplies he isn't using.

Under a pile of charcoal paper, he finds an old digital camera he bought with one his first diner paychecks.

He flips it over. Carved into the silver paneling is a five-pointed shooting star and the words 'Beck, Inc.'

*

"Gimmie your sandwich," a pigeon tells him.

Brian snorts. "No way."

It coos menacingly. "Bitch, gimmie your sandwich!"

"What're you going to do, peck me to death?" Brian scoffs.

When the pigeon opens its mouth and screeches, his cell rings. "Yeah?" he answers lazily.

"I know who's being kidnapped," Justin says.

Suddenly, Brian's not hungry. He tosses his lunch over to where the bird is sulking. "How many times do I have to tell you I don't care?"

"Until I believe it," Justin tells him.

Brian hangs up.

*

For a billionare, it's strangely easy to find Groesbeck's townhouse on the internet. Unsurprisingly, it's on the upper west side, and Justin only has to change subway stops twice. The sun's already disappearing behind the skyscrapers. He just hopes he's not too late.

Just be confident, Justin thinks, and approaches the big, beefy guy blocking the front door.

"Hey," he says, hoping he sounds out of breath. He puts on his cute-college-kid face. "I'm a server. I'm totally late. I was at an audition and then my bus got held up in--"

The man waves his hand. "Downstairs, second left, then right."

Three guys, dressed in identical long robes, stand on the street and smoke. Their costumes are pretty good; they look straight out of the movies. Justin remembers Michael bidding on similar ones, including the fake lightsabers, on Ebay. (He lost miserably.)

"Thanks." Justin steps inside, then pauses. "Um, this is first time I've been to one of these. So, like, what's with all the Luke Skywalkers?"

"He makes all his security guys dress up like that because if something happens, he wants to be saved by a Jedi." Justin freezes, and the guy snorts. "Yeah. Crazy."

*

Brian's in a bad mood for the rest of the day. After Justin's phone call, he tears his Pittsburgh staff a new one, screams at Lindsay over the phone, and bitches out the girl at Starbucks for not giving him enough foam (to which his styrofoam cup exclaimed, "It's a latte, get over it!").

He ends up at a gay bar near Justin's place. There are so many hot men in New York, he notices from the bar counter; he wonders why he didn't move here sooner. He decides to sample the goods as soon as possible.

At his elbow, the napkin dispenser tries to get his attention -- "Psst! Tell the dude I'm empty again." -- until he shoves a dirty napkin in it. Over the music and low murmurs of the patrons, he can hear the posters on the wall exchanging conversation. There isn't enough liquor in the world to deal with this. The room starts to sparkle, and Brian walks up to the first guy he sees alone, and asks, "Are you a mannequin?"

The man laughs nervously. "Um, no? Are you?"

"Backroom." Brian doesn't ask, he states, with a sexy lift of his brow.

For a second, it looks like the guy's about to say no, but then his eyes flicker from Brian's head to toes, and he nods, as if deciding Brian's hotness outweighs his insanity.

*

The Groesbecks are so rich, they have a seperate stairwell for the help. It leads from the lowest floor to the first, and Justin finds it by diving into the first empty room he can find near the kitchen. Heart pounding in his chest, palms sweating, Justin sneaks upstairs. In middle and high school, before he decided he didn't want to be such a pussy, all he wanted was to get through the day without getting beaten up. He used to dart through the mass of other students without being seen. He tries applying those same skills now, walking casually and avoiding going in any direction people exit, hoping he looks like he knows what he's doing. He's not sure what he'll do if he gets caught.

Eventually, he makes it to an empty floor. The walls are trimmed in gold paint, and the carpet is a deep burgandy. What he assumes is the master stairwell is on the opposite side. There's a series of doors, all shut.

Justin closes his eyes, does eeny-meany-minnie-moe, then opens the first door on the right.

"What the hell?"

When Brian said there was a little girl in trouble, Justin assumed she was seven or eight years old. Not fifteen. The tiny, back and white photo in the paper made her look a lot younger than she is in person. Said girl is wearing a simple black dress, and she was obviously brushing her hair, since she's paused mid-stroke. Her mouth opens in a tiny "O."

Justin says, "I thought you were-- you know what, nevermind. I forget Brian's old."

Her brow furrows. "Who are you, and what're you doing in my room?"

He puffs up. "I'm here to rescue you."

*

There is no backroom. Brian doesn't know what the hell kind of gay bar this is, but he isn't going to let the lack of space get in the way of an anonymous blowjob.

The man follows him out the back door and into the alley. Brian leans against the wall and breathes deeply, pressing two fingers against the throbbing vein in his temple. The guy, on his knees, looks up and gives a reassuring smile. Brian wants to punch him in the face.

"You might want to give him some warning," says Vic, to his right.

Brian jumps. "What--?"

The vision hits with its usual intensity. Justin and the kid from his latest vision are dead. Just like last time (oh God, what if this time it's for real?), Brian's gripped with an emotion almost too strong to handle. But if he can stop it, he needs to see-- they're in a bedroom--? That Jedi guy from before stands over them. Brian doubles over, and the guy ready to put Brian's cock in his mouth falls backwards, catching himself on his hands.

Brian demands to Vic, "Is this really going to happen, or are you fucking with me?"

"Hey, man, I don't want any problems." The guy edges away slowly, looking over his shoulder towards the bar door.

"I wasn't talking to you," Brian snaps, clenching his shaking hands.

"Would I trick you?" Vic asks sweetly. Brian doesn't have time for this shit. The smile fades from Vic's face. "Think about it. You didn't think Justin would forget all about this, did you?"

Of course. Justin's such a goddamned troublemaker; he can never leave these things alone. But Brian can't deal with watching him die over and over. He has to stop this.

Brian pushes himself off the wall and heads towards the street.

"Whatever, psycho!" he hears from behind him.

There's a flash of green out of the corner of his eye, and Vic is dashing along beside him. "Where are you going? You don't even know where he is."

Brian stops. "I..." He looks in the direction of their apartment. "I can find out."

*

Brian sits at Justin's desk. "I need to know where Justin is," he tells the sketchbook.

"I haven't seen a thing," the sketchbook insists.

Eyes narrowing, Brian pulls a pair of scissors out of the drawer. The lamplight glints off them evilly. "I'm only going to say this once: Where. Is. Justin?"

*

They only made it through two flights of stairs before they were caught.

Michael was the one who first introduced him to Star Wars. Back in his early days of living with Debbie, Michael was horrified when, one night at dinner, Justin told him he'd never seen the movies. They'd both sighed over the rogue brashness of Han Solo and agreed it would be awesome to be able to use the Force. It was the first time he and Michael had ever really gotten along on their own.

Michael is going to die when Justin tells him he was almost killed by a Jedi. If he makes it out alive, that is.

"I can't believe you knocked that guy out," the girl says. "I didn't think you had it in you."

Justin nudges the unconscious security guard with his foot. "I used to be in a gang," he murmurs, picking the gun off the floor, from when the guard dropped it. "Look--"

"Adrienne," she supplies.

He grabs her hand. "Okay, Adrienne-- Wait, your dad's name's Adrien, and your name's Adrienne?"

"It's unisex," she says defensively.

"Frank?" calls a deep voice from the stairwell.

Justin grabs her hand and darts into a room.

*

Brian's completely, one hundred percent ready for a knock down, drag out fight between him and some security guards when he arrives at the townhouse, but there's no one watching the doors. He feels cheated, but relieved. Inside, the party's in full swing.

"Where to now, cowboy?" Vic asks.

The large, ornate staircase darkens, curling inward. It looks creepy and gross, but Brian has a feeling he's supposed to go that way.

Two stories up, Brian catches three of the Jedi guys poking what he hopes is an unconscious person. "They were here," one of them says. They all pull out guns and head into the nearest room.

"They're hiding on this floor," a potted plant whispers to him.

Brian can't take a bunch of big guys with guns and fake plastic swords, no matter how dorky they are. He bites his lip, thinking. He needs to get them away from Justin and give the cops time to get here...

He remembers seeing a bathroom on the floor below. If possible, Vic pales.

*

A loud boom rocks the entire townhouse. Brian presses himself against the wall right against the doorway. Sure enough, someone shouts, "What the fuck was that?" and four guys dressed in Star Wars outfits scurry out the room and down the stairs.

Brian exhales deeply, then calls into the room: "Justin?"

He hears a muffled, "Brian?" The wardrobe opens, and out step Justin and a young girl. The looks on Justin's face is a combination of worry and elation. He beams up at Brian, going, "I knew you'd do the right thing, Brian, I just knew it. The bad guys are the security. We have to--"

"They took off as soon as the bomb exploded," Brian interrupts. "They went down the other stairs."

"The what?" Adrienne says.

He grabs Justin's arm, feeling like he wants to vomit. "You're such a little shit."

"You made a bomb?" Justin asks. He squeezes Brian's hand. "I'm sorry you were worried," left unspoken between them.

"They practically give you the instructions right on the bottles," Brian says. "Don't change the subject."

"I'm going to go find my dad and tell him he needs to have those guys arrested," Adrienne says. She frowns. "Or something. Actually, I'm not too sure what just happened here."

"Neither am I," Brian and Justin say simultaneously.

"I had to do something," Justin insists, as soon as Adrienne disappears down the master stairs. He crosses his arms over his chest defiantly.

Brian shakes his head. "No, you didn't. It's not your deal, it's my deal." Suddenly, Brian feels like he's getting something. "There's no one who can do this but me."

Justin touches his face gently. "You know, it doesn't matter if it's actually your destiny. You might as well accept it, because there's nothing else you can do -- you really do have the chance to save the world. How many guys get to say that? Plus," he adds, smirking, "it's pretty hot."

"'With great power comes great responsibility'?" Brian asks wryly, but maybe, just maybe, Justin's right.

Justin playfully socks in him in the arm. "I thought you fell asleep during that!"

He can hear sirens in the distance, growing louder. "We should get out of here before someone does a head count."

"Hey," Justin asks, as they descend down the back stairs, "does this make me Robin?"

Brian glances down at their joined hands. "If what I've heard about Batman is true, then yes."

*

"Michael?"

"Hey!" Michael cries. "What's going on? How's New York? How's Brian?"

Justin traps the phone between his jaw and shoulder, as his hands fly over the page. The images are coming with such clarity. He fleshes out the side of JT's face, darkening the lines between the brow to show JT's determination. Above JT's head, he draws a speech bubble and scrawls, "I solved the mystery!"

Justin smiles. "I think I have some permenant changes to make to the comic. Rage has a new sidekick."

*

It might be pollen weeping from the trees, but to Brian, it looks like spun gold. By now, he can barely remember how the world looked before he was given his "gift," and he's not entirely sure he can say things changed for the worst. Not many other people can say birds sing real songs to them, or appliances tell when they need to be fixed.

Like when he saved the baby, for a few days after the Groesbeck incident, Vic stays out of sight. Brian's walking home -- now when he thinks of home he thinks of Justin's shitty apartment, not Pittsburgh -- from the corner grocer when he feels familiar steps beside him.

"I'm glad you've decided to work with us," Vic says.

Brian snorts, not looking at him. "Watch the ego. I'm not doing this for you."

They walk in comfortable silence for a few minutes. The wind blows gently, and Brian thinks he can hear the trinkling sound of windchimes.

"By the way, we think you and Justin make a good team," Vic says casually.

Brian glances at him. "Do you now."

"But I guess you already knew that." Vic rubs his hands together, and the sidewalk begins to glitter. "Are you ready?"

Brian slips on his sunglasses. "Hit me."


In case it wasn't obvious, this a crossover/fusion of Queer as Folk and Wonderfalls. The title comes from "Dead Like Me."

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Cowlip Productions and the Showtime Network. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

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