An alternate take on 4x05, the episode where Justin decided to leave the Pink Posse.


The Pink Posse and I
by eleveninches

 

Justin had said Brian would be sorry when they broke up. Something about the heteros coming after them next -- Brian had sort of stopped listening to Justin's paranoid ranting once he had realised Justin was actually storming out again. It was only a matter of time before Justin realised running around the streets dressed in pink was the stupidest idea ever and came home, but it had been two weeks already, and he didn't even know where Justin was staying. Since that night, he had figured Justin had meant he'd be sorry emotionally; it wasn't like Brian hadn't had the whole sad and angry thing down pat ever since he had first found out Justin was a member of the Pink Possums, or whatever they called themselves.

However, being held at gunpoint in his own parking garage at seven 'o' clock in the morning was a bit unexpected.

"Call for help and I'll blow your head off."

Sometimes Brian really hated his life.

Without turning around, Brian dropped his arms to his sides. "If you take my 'vette I'll hunt you down and shove that gun so far up your ass you'll be shitting bullets for weeks."

"Er," the guy said. He had a whiny voice Brian didn't recognise. "I... I don't think you're supposed to be threatening me."

"Look, I have fifty bucks in my wallet," Brian offered.

"Get in the fucking car," the voice hissed, pushing the gun harder against the back of his neck. Biting back an irritated sigh, Brian started towards the driver's door, but the man stopped him. "No, I'm driving. Get in the other side."

"You're not-- Are you kidnapping me?"

"I said get in the fucking car."

"Yeah, sure, getting in the car," Brian replied, holding up his hands in defeat. He went to the passenger side and climbed in. He didn't know what the hell was going on, but he didn't like it. The other door opened, and he clenched his fists; he could probably get in a punch or two before the guy knew what hit him. If he made it back to his building he could lock the door behind him.

But the person sliding into the seat was just a scruffy-looking kid, with a short beard and short-cropped dark blond hair.

"Jesus," Brian said, "are you skipping school to kidnap me?"

The guy looked at him blankly. Brian closed his eyes and sighed.

"Keys," his kidnapper demanded. Cringing, Brian dropped them into his open hand.

"You'd better know how to drive a stick," he muttered.

"Put your seatbelt on and lock the door."

When the car jerked forward Brian cried, "Holy fuck!" The kid glanced at him sheepishly, then pulled out onto the street. Scrambling to get his seatbelt on, Brian snapped, "Well done, you little shit."

He found himself with the pistol in his face. "Shut the fuck up," the guy screamed. Brian stared at him until the gun lowered. "Fuck, no wonder Taylor dumped your ass."

"You know Justin?" Brian asked sharply. He eyed the gun and the short hair. "Of course you do. What did he do now?"

There was no answer, only the kid's face darkening with rage.

The gun worried Brian only long enough for them to make it to the highway. He held his breath as they easily slid into the morning rush hour traffic.

"So what's up, Snoop Dog?" he asked, as the kid merged into the fast lane.

"What's up is you're going to shut your mouth."

Of course Justin couldn't have any connections to nice people. He was probably bleeding to death in some darkened alley somewhere. And worse yet, Brian was being kidnapped -- kidnapped! -- by someone who didn't even know how to drive a stick. Brian had been in some pretty ridiculous situations in his life, but this was really taking the cake.

Brian bit the inside of his cheek. He started, "Listen, this whole kidnapping thing--"

"No, you listen," the guy snapped. "Me: kidnapper. You: kidnappee. If anyone is asking questions around here, it's me. You just sit there and think about how I could blow your head off at any second. You're expendable. Remember that."

"No, I'm not," Brian pointed out calmly, "or else you wouldn't have gone to trouble of kidnapping me."

The kid frowned. "Yeah, well... shut up, or I'll start mailing your fingers to Taylor. Or your toes. Or, like, something else important... like your nose!"

It was probably a good thing Justin didn't have many friends.

As the car slowed due to traffic, his kidnapper struggled to get something from his jean pockets. Brian's hand eased towards the door handle. Before he could do anything, the kid pulled out a set of handcuffs and tossed them in Brian's lap. "Handcuff yourself to the door," he ordered.

Brian winced. "I really don't think of you in that way."

The hand holding the gun twitched. Brian quickly cuffed himself.

"What's your name?" Brian asked. The guy threw him an appalled look. "If we're going to be spending a lot of time together I have to know what to call you."

He seemed to accept this. "Alright, you can call me... Call me The Detonator."

"I'm not calling you The fucking Detonator."

"It's all you're gonna get," he shouted.

"I'm just going to call you Tim until you give me a real name," Brian scoffed. The kid let out a frustrated gasp. Brian crossed his arms over his chest and smirked. "So, Tim, where're we headed?"

Tim gritted his teeth. "You'll find out soon enough."

*

Every morning since they split, Justin woke with the name "Brian" on his lips. If their last three-month break up had failed to keep Brian from his thoughts, then this breakup was killing him; two weeks into the single life and he felt like he was dying. He hadn't seen Brian once since he had fled the loft in a fit of rage. At least last time Brian had still graced the diner with his presence; now it seemed like he had given up. Justin didn't know whether to be pleased Brian seemed to be as devastated as he was, or guilty he had made Brian... whatever Brian was.

Justin had a new routine in the mornings that had nothing to do with long, luxurious showers, or mutual blowjobs. Every day he would wake, jerk off quickly in the shower while thinking of Brian, then get dressed in something comfortable. He would work for a few hours before dashing back to Daphne's. After a fast run he would prepare for a grueling night of training and patrolling.

Tonight, Justin dug through a pile of semi-clean clothes, searching for a shirt. He found a tight white t-shirt and an old pair of jeans under what he hoped was clean boxers. He quickly changed and grabbed his new boots.

Lastly, he pulled on his black leather jacket. Daphne had sewn a 'J' onto the back for him last week.

He flexed his biceps. Now he was ready.

The Pink Posse used to meet in an old gym to work out. In the few weeks Cody had been in charge, Justin had loathed going there. Now they met at a warehouse a bit closer to Liberty Avenue. It wasn't exactly the best working conditions, but at least it didn't smell like old gym socks. There was loud laughter and chatter coming from the building when he entered, intermingled with the now-familiar sounds of boxing, but as soon as his men noticed his presence they quieted down.

"Word on the street is that the Pink Posse wants the block around Babylon," he said loudly, crossing his arms behind his back. He smiled grimly. "But since we haven't had any final word yet from their boss, I think it's fair game. Once you've finished training, that is."

"We're ready," someone yelled.

"The Pinks are just a bunch of pussies," one guy cackled. Everyone started to guffaw.

Justin didn't find it funny. None of these guys had any idea of what they'd gotten into; he knew hardly any of them had endured more than a few harsh words from straights. Yet they all thought the world owed them something. It made him sick. A handful of them had been with Justin in the Pink Posse before he split, and had eagerly followed him because they thought Cody was batshit insane. They preferred Justin's planning and preparation to Cody's complete lack of... well, sanity. But that didn't mean he trusted any of them -- especially with the responsibility of working as a team. He couldn't take the chance they'd slip up and get themselves or anyone else in trouble. He didn't want to be reckless like Cody.

"You're not ready," he shouted. The laughter died down. "You don't know what it's like out there on the streets. It's dark, and it's cold, and sometimes people have baseball bats. In here you may be a hotshot, but out there? Out there you're the victim."

He glared at them each one by one. Some shifted uncomfortably; others met his gaze head on.

One of the men in the back of the crowd loudly cleared his throat. "So... that's a no-go on the beating people up, right? Because if we're going to get in trouble, I definitely didn't have anything to do with that attack on the Pink Posse last week. Oh, and neither did Bobby. We were definitely doing something else that night."

Thankfully, before Justin ordered them to throw themselves into traffic, his cell phone rang. "Yeah?" he answered, turning away.

He recognised the loud thump-thump in the background as Babylon. "Justin? It's Michael."

That was someone he hadn't expected to hear from. Since the breakup, Michael had chosen pretend Justin didn't exist, even going so far as to sit in a different part of the diner during Justin's shifts, despite the fact that Justin was certain Brian hadn't told anyone why they had split. Although, to be fair, Justin hadn't gone out of his way to contact any of his friends either. Seeing them only reminded him of Brian. Linoleum reminded him of Brian, really, but at least linoleum didn't come with awkward silences. "Michael? What the fuck?"

"Listen, I wouldn't be calling if it wasn't important, but--" Michael hesitated.

"Did something happen?" Justin asked, stomach dropping. "Is Brian alright?"

"I'm sure he's okay. He was supposed to meet me for breakfast, and Cynthia says he didn't show for work today, and he's not at Babylon or Woodys. Maybe he just picked up a trick and lost track of time."

"Maybe," Justin muttered bitterly. He looked back over his shoulder and found his crew straining to hear their conversation. Scowling, he snapped, "Hey! Go shave the new guy's head or something."

"Where are you?" Michael asked.

"Church," Justin replied.

"Don't use that sarcastic tone with me, young man," Michael scolded. Justin let out a surprised laugh. Michael added, "Uh, sorry. I'm slowly turning into my mother."

"Call me if Brian shows up," Justin said. He bit his lip. "Or if he doesn't. Just call me, okay?" When he hung up, everyone looked away sharply, as if they hadn't been eavesdropping.

It was probably nothing. Brian was always drinking too much, fucking too often, and staying out too late. Michael was probably right about it being a delayed trick. Even still, Justin dialed a familiar number. "Brian," he said after the voice mail beep, "um, Michael was worried, so I'm just checking up on you. Give him a ring when you get this so he doesn't have a heart attack."

"There a problem, boss?" one of his men, Joseph, asked. "You want us lookin' into it?"

"No," Justin replied slowly. "I'm sure it's nothing."

He left his cell on when he and a handful of core members went patrolling that night. They helped a couple of drunk teens home and watched a car of straight boys fuel up at a gas station, but Brian didn't call.

*

After about four hours of driving south, Tim pulled onto an exit that led them eastwards on a thin, winding road. Soon they came to some stick town Brian had neither heard of nor ever wanted to see again. It was about four streets wide and two streets long. A lone Stop 'n' Shop marred the homogeny of small, shabby houses. It was a creepy place, almost a ghost town except for the bright lights of the gas station.

Brian raised an eyebrow at Tim, who just drove on in silence.

They parked in front of a tiny, green house. Tim stopped the engine and just sat there, staring out the windshield.

"Where the hell are we?" Brian asked.

"Home," Tim said darkly.

Brian said, "I can see you need a minute alone. I could just--" Tim picked up the gun again. "Sit here until you're ready to go."

Tim aimed at his head. "I'm going to uncuff you, and then we're going to walk into the house real quiet-like."

As he stepped out of the car, Brian glanced around, blinking against the bright mid-day sun. The neighbourhood was empty. There were a few cars parked in driveways, but overall the whole street was silent. He had no idea where they were, only that it wasn't Pennsylvania. There was no point in trying to run away; he'd get shot before he could make it as far as the next lawn. The other car door slammed shut, and Tim nodded at him, brandishing the gun despite broad daylight.

The inside of the house was poorly decorated and smelled like mothballs. Before Brian could get a good look at anything, Tim pushed him down a damp stairwell. Brian soon found himself in a basement. There was a tiny television, a moldy couch, and a few rotting chairs.

"Great club house," Brian drawled.

"It'll do," Tim sniffed.

"Is your mom going to make us lunch?"

"Cody?" a woman's voice called from upstairs.

Brian raised an eyebrow. "You're Cody? Breeder-hating, pink-wearing Cody? I should have known."

"Shit!" his kidnapper exclaimed. "Uh, down here, Mom."

"Fuck," Brian said, laughing, "I was kidding. We're at your parents'?"

"I'll kill--"

The door opened, bright light filling the basement. Brian squinted as a woman in her fifties slowly made her way down the steps. She had a pleasant, round face and greying blonde hair. Tim-- no, Cody, Brian remind himself -- quickly hid the gun behind his back.

"I thought I heard someone down here," she said warmly. "Cody, you should have told me you were bringing a friend over. Can I get you boys anything to snack on?"

As she moved closer, Cody took a few steps backwards and tucked the gun into the pocket of his jeans.

"I would kill for some coffee," Brian said. Behind his mother's back, Cody startled, flashing the gun at Brian. "Um, not really kill kill. I-I would like some coffee. Or you know what? I'm actually good."

"Mom, this is Brian," Cody said hastily.

If she noticed Brian was in one of his best suits, or if he was at least ten years older than her son, she didn't comment. She shook his hand, and Brian coolly muttered, "Nice to meet you," keeping an eye on the psycho. So much for informing the woman he was being held there against his will.

"Any friend of Cody's is welcome here," she said. Her voice dropped. "It's been a while since he's had anyone over. We've been sort of worried about him."

"Mom," Cody moaned. "Can you go now? We have stuff to do."

"Alright," she said. "Nice to meet you, Brian."

He winced. "Nice to meet you, er, Mrs-- Cody's mother."

"Call me Mrs Bell, sweetie," she replied.

Cody shouted, "We're in the middle of something."

Mrs Bell patted Brian's arm. "We have plenty of juice in the fridge if you run out. Just help yourself, dear."

Brian managed, "That sounds, uh, lovely."

She trotted back up the cement steps. The door clicked shut, and Cody groaned loudly.

"Now you see why I have all this rage," he hissed, hands clenching.

"Yeah, it really sucks having a nice mom," Brian said. "All that love can really bring you down."

Cody made an exasperated sound. "You're really cocky for a hostage."

"It's part of my charm," Brian said. He spread his arms. "So what now, Cody Bell?"

Cody sat on the faded brown couch. "We wait."

Not seeing any other option, Brian slowly eased himself into a rickety chair. He really could have used that coffee.

About ten minutes of quiet passed before the curiosity got to the best of him. "And what exactly are we waiting for?"

Cody shot him a sour look. "For your fucking boyfriend to catch on you're gone."

"That might take a while," Brian drawled, "considering we haven't spoken in two weeks."

"I'll make sure he finds out."

The way Cody said it made Brian go cold all over. "If you or any of your-- posse touch him, I'll kill you," he warned.

Cody looked away. "No one's going to get hurt," he replied slowly. He glanced back at Brian quickly, lip curling. "Unless you make me. Don't think I won't shoot you just 'cause you're hot."

Brian laughed incredulously. "You think I'm--?"

"Because you're my hostage, I mean," Cody interrupted. He pushed himself to his feet and began to pace.

"Fabulous," Brian muttered.

This was ridiculous; Brian wasn't going to sit here in silence waiting for Cody to decide Justin needed an extra nudge and started slicing off appendages. From the first time Justin mentioned the Pink Posse, Brian had known it was a bad idea. Now he knew he had been right when he had told Justin to leave the group -- even if Justin had left him instead.

"Are you at least going to tell me what this--" Brian gestured to both Cody and himself. "--Is about?"

"The Pink Posse," Cody spat. "That's all you have to know."

Brian rolled his eyes. "Has anyone ever told you how fucking ridiculous that name is? If you really wanted to strike fear in the hearts of the heteros, you shoulda tried for something a little more intimidating."

"Fuck you!" Cody screamed. Brian blinked at the outrage in Cody's tone. "There's hardly even a Pink Posse left anyway."

Cody paced faster, waving the gun in the air. "Your fucking boyfriend stole most of my men."

"For what?" Brian asked, confused.

Ignoring him, Cody continued, "The Pink Posse is hardly enough to even make a difference. The J Crew runs the streets now."

Brian stared. "You're saying Justin is the Godfather of the fucking gay mafia?" he demanded.

"They fucked up two of my guys last week," Cody ranted, shaking his head. "Do you know how long it took me to get this shit set up? And Taylor took it away from me, like, overnight. Just because I wasn't 'organised' enough for him."

So Justin wasn't just going around with some knuckleheads looking for trouble; he was leading them into trouble. A bunch of scrawny kids with guns and fists looking to beat up anyone in their way, even each other. Justin couldn't handle that. Justin was an artist, for God's sake. He could barely stand to watch violent movies. Brian put one hand over his mouth, imagining Justin waving a gun around. He wanted to go home now.

Brian looked at Cody, and at the look of rage on his face, and at the gun in his hand.

"If this is about Justin, why am I here?" Brian asked.

"When Taylor finds out I have you, he'll know I mean business. I want him out of Pittsburgh. He can pull his mutiny bullshit in some other town."

Brian held up a hand. "Wait," he said, laughing in amazement, "you kidnapped me so Justin will leave Pittsburgh? You don't know Justin at all, do you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Cody asked sharply.

*

Michael said quickly, "Don't freak or anything, but no one knows where Brian is."

"What?" Justin demanded. He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, pressing his phone against his ear to hear over the loud, "Hey!" and "Watch it!" coming from the patrons behind him. Pulling off the sidewalk to stand in front of a shop window, he repeated, "What?"

"He sort of didn't go to work today either. I'm kinda worried. Brian wouldn't skip work for some trick, especially since he just got Kinnetik up."

"Shit," Justin breathed. This was bad. This was very bad. "Did you try his cell?"

"Only, like, a million times. I was wondering if you could try some of his hang-outs I don't know about."

That caught Justin off-guard. "You think he's shown me places to fuck that he hasn't shown you?"

"Well, yeah." Michael sounded sheepish. "You're his boyfriend, aren't you?"

Justin took a deep breath. "Michael," he said tersely, "Brian and I aren't together anymore. I don't know anything. You have a better chance of getting in touch with him than I do."

"Okay, fine," Michael snapped. "I don't know why you two broke up anyway, but I guess it must be your fault, since Brian didn't say anything. Forget I even asked you. Go back to-- to church, or whatever the hell you've been so secretive about."

He hung up. Justin resisted the urge to throw his phone against the wall. He didn't know what to do. Nothing good could come from Brian's disappearance; for all they knew, Brian had overdosed in some club and no one had noticed. Maybe Justin and Daphne could start asking around at Babylon later. Or maybe he could get the J Crew to go searching. He could tell them it was a training exercise. A scavenger hunt, even. 'Find the possibly comatose ex.'

He was still deep in thought when a familiar voice called, "Justin!"

Ben and Hunter were crossing the street. Ben looked as he usually did -- smiley and calm -- while Hunter just scowled.

"Justin," Ben greeted, "it's been a long time since we've seen you."

"Not long enough," Hunter scoffed. Ben gently shook Hunter's shoulder.

"Feeling's mutual," Justin said dryly.

"What's with the lame-o jacket?" Hunter asked.

"Did you manage to find Brian?" Ben cut in as Justin was about to snark back. "Everyone's been pretty worried. Michael's close to calling the police."

"Yeah, I was just talking to him. I'm going to Babylon tonight--"

"Shit!" Hunter exclaimed. He tugged on Ben's sleeve. "It's those Pink Posse freaks again."

Justin's gaze snapped to where Hunter was looking, and sure enough, two men dressed in pink shirts and cargos were strolling on the opposite side of the street as if they owned the neighbourhood. Their matching scowls and smooth, muscular arms were impressive. If they caught Justin he was a dead man, but if he took off now Ben and Hunter would be suspicious, and the last thing he needed was his friends butting into his business. Telling Brian had been a costly mistake, and Justin wasn't willing to repeat that.

"What has Liberty Avenue come to," Ben sighed, shaking his head. "One minute we're having parades, and the next, gangs."

Hunter snorted. "Gay gangs. Have you ever heard of anything more stupid? Michael says there's two of them now, too."

Justin laughed nervously.

"I hope no one we know is involved in that mess," Ben added.

"I have to go," Justin said, taking a few steps back. "I'm looking for Brian. I'll see you guys--" He stepped on his heel wrong, and a blade shot out of the front of his left boot.

The three of them stared at the weapon protruding from his foot.

"I had no idea that was in there," Justin lied.

The knife he had strapped to his forearm slipped out of its brace and clattered to the ground.

Ben's brow furrowed in concern. "Justin, are you in some sort of trouble?"

"Yeah," Justin said, "someone put knives in all my clothes! What's up with that?"

Hunter was looking at him oddly. Ben simply frowned. Feeling panic rising, Justin scooped up the knife and slipped it into the inner pocket of his jacket. He pushed the blade back into his boot. The two Pinks were rounding the corner now, heading towards a small bar Justin knew Cody liked.

"I should go," Justin said. "You know, Brian being possibly dead and all..."

"Dead?" Hunter exclaimed.

Ben said, "No, no. Of course not. Well, maybe. Okay, probably yes."

Justin left while Hunter was still wailing. He hurried down the same path the Pinks had gone. It wasn't rare to see someone from his rival gang on Liberty Avenue (they all hung out there, after all), but if he could catch up he might be able to get some info on their next plan.

He turned the corner and--

Threw himself back against the wall. The same Pinks he had seen a few minutes ago were standing outside the bar, smoking. So much for getting to his sources; even if he could ditch the tell-tale leather jacket, his face could easily still be recognised. Cody had been pretty pissed off when Justin had left the Pink Posse. Justin didn't doubt Cody had instilled the same anger in his own people.

"--he was having some problems with Kinney," one of the Pinks was saying.

Justin stilled. Shocked, he strained to hear their conversation.

"Oh yeah?" the other asked. "I thought Kinney was supposed to fix everything. Cody better not fuck this up. I'm sick of those J Crew shitheads getting us at every turn."

The first guy spat onto the ground. "Don't worry, Cody said his plan's gonna fix everything."

Justin flattened himself against the wall once more. Brian and Cody? What the fuck? The Pinks went inside the building, but Justin couldn't seem to move. This meant Cody knew where Brian was -- and Cody was fucking nuts. Brian couldn't know how absolutely off his rocker Cody was.

Justin fumbled for his cell phone. He called Joseph from the J Crew; like him, Joe had been in the Pink Posse, and he knew what Cody was like. "It's Justin. Has anyone heard anything about Cody lately?"

"Uh," Joe said. It sounded like he was flipping through papers. He must have been at work. Sometimes Justin forgot the other guys had lives too. Vaguely, he wondered if they had boyfriends or exes or family who worried about them running the streets. "Not since some of those Pinks got the shit beaten out of them last week. Why?"

"If you were Cody Bell, where you would be?" Justin muttered. He bit his thumb thoughtfully.

"That gross old gym we used to have to meet at?"

Cody worked full time at a bookstore. Cody had two stoner roommates. Cody had no real friends. Cody thought everyone was out to get him.

"His mom's house," Justin said slowly.

"I thought he said his parents disowned him?"

"He also said pink was a threatening colour used by moths in the Amazon," Justin pointed out.

"Oh right," Joe said. "Sometimes I forget he's crazy."

*

He had planned to stay up all night and sneak away when Cody fell asleep, but sometime in the night he had stopped to rest his eyes and ended up opening them several hours later. The excitement of being kidnapped and dragged across the state must have fatigued him. The first thing he found when he woke up was Cody standing before him, holding a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other.

"For you," Cody said.

Brian took them tentatively. He sniffed the coffee, but it smelled okay. He was munching on the bagel when Cody said, "By now Taylor knows I've got you."

Suddenly Brian wasn't hungry anymore. He wondered if Justin had told Michael. All of his friends were probably laughing over how he'd been captured by a Pink Possum. Especially Ted. That was so like Ted, making fun of his suffering. Mostly Brian wondered if there was any chance in hell this could end well.

Cody studied him. "Aren't you going to say anything?"

"Yippie?" Brian replied sarcastically.

Cody sighed. He sat down on the couch next to Brian, who eyed him wearily.

"So what's a good-looking guy like you doing with a spaz like Taylor?"

Brian snorted. "We're not together anymore. He thought it was more important to keep the world safe from heteros."

"Whatever," Cody said airily. "When he joined up I thought he'd be our best member, but he has some issues, doesn't he? He flat-out refused to see the guy who fucked him up, that Hobbes guy, you know him?"

Brian flinched, spilling coffee on the floor. "Chris Hobbes?" he asked in horror.

"He got really pissed off, saying I was forcing people to move too quickly. That we were jumping into situations without a plan." Cody laughed bitterly. "My bad for not realising we're the Marines. He kept saying we were going to get ourselves killed if we didn't start organising. Fucking ridiculous, if you ask me. I function in the moment. He just didn't get that."

"Is there something seriously wrong with you?" Brian asked.

Cody looked at him in surprise. "Dude, don't piss off the guy with the gun."

Brian snapped, "Justin and I aren't together because of your fucking anger management issues. You should've saved us the trouble and just gone to therapy instead of acting like you're tough shit for being able to hit people. Straight people can hit too; it doesn't make you fucking special." He threw the remaining bagel. It bounced off Cody's head and rolled on the cement floor. "And I don't eat white bread, you retard."

Cody stared at him. Abruptly, he bent and snatched up the bagel. He stalked up the stairs, and Brian heard the door open, close and lock.

"Christ," he muttered. He was stuck here with a complete lunatic. What a moron, insisting Justin see Chris Hobbes. Justin had absolutely no sense of character. He couldn't be normal and just become a crystal queen like Ted.

Just then Brian spotted a small, high window on the far wall of the basement.

Brian sighed. Cody was really fucking stupid.

He squeezed his shoulders through the window. Grabbing handfuls of grass and pulling, he slowly he managed to drag himself up to the ground. He slid the rest of his body out, then crawled to flatten himself against the house. It would be fucked up if Cody looked out the first floor window and spotted Brian sneaking away.

Now all he had to do was hitchhike his way back to Pittsburgh. That shouldn't be that difficult.

He was still trying to remember which way led out of town when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder.

*

Carrying a newly-made turkey on wheat sandwich, Cody trekked back down to the basement. Stupid Kinney and his stupid eating habits and his stupid talking. Cody was getting really fucking sick of his questioning. People in the movies didn't argue with their kidnappers. Normally, Cody would just blow off his kneecaps, but he figured Taylor would be less inclined to leave Pittsburgh if his boyfriend came back limping. Plus, as much as Cody hated to admit it, Kinney was too hot to permanently disfigure.

"I got you a sandwich," he called to Brian.

There was no response.

The basement was empty.

Cody's eyes narrowed.

*

"Brian Kinney?" an unfamiliar voice asked.

Brian's heart hammered in his chest. He glanced over his shoulder and spotted a beefy guy about Justin's age in camouflage. "Are you trying to give me an aneurysm? Where did you come from? Who the shit are you?"

The guy tilted his head. He had black streaks painted under his eyes like something from an army flick. "I've come to rescue you. Taylor's orders."

Great, Justin had sent one of minions. Brian shoved past the other man, sneering, "Thanks, but no thanks."

"You don't want to get out of here?" the guy asked flatly. He looked at Brian like Brian was the crazy one.

"I want to go home," Brian snapped. "I don't want to be your new currency. You can tell Justin to call me when he's got his rage sorted out."

"Dude, Cody'll break your kneecaps," the kid said.

Suddenly the J Crew guy's eyes rolled back, and he crumpled to the ground. Standing in his place was Cody, holding a rock in his hand.

Brian goggled. "Oh shit."

Cody grabbed Brian's arm roughly and started to pull him towards the driveway. "Your boyfriend knows where we are. My plan is fucked!"

"W-what about him?" Brian asked, pointing to the collapsed J Crew boy.

"Either he'll wake up or Mom'll bury him in the backyard," Cody replied. "Move."

The next thing Brian knew he was handcuffed to the door as they sped down the highway.

"I thought you wanted Justin to find us," Brian said, jiggling the handcuffs. His arm was falling asleep. He was never going to be able to appreciate bondage again.

"No," Cody replied, sounding exasperated, "he's supposed to figure out you're kidnapped. Then he's supposed to get in contact with my people and find out what the ransom is. Then he's supposed to leave and never come back."

"Yeah, I can't figure out how that could've possibly gone wrong," said Brian.

"Shut up!" Cody screamed. "I'm trying to think! Shut up!"

Brian leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the window, watching the countryside speed past. So Justin knew he was with Cody; he wasn't sure if he was relieved or worried.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

Cody scowled. "Back to Pittsburgh. I have a hideout."

Which turned out to be some skanky gym on a sidestreet off Liberty Avenue Brian would never have gone to in normal circumstances. In the centre was a huge boxing ring, used for God knew what purpose. Three teens in pink sat inside the ring, smoking a joint. One of them noticed Cody and jumped to his feet.

"I've been to bath houses cleaner than this," Brian said in disgust.

"This is Brian Kinney," he told them, patting Brian's chest.

Brian looked at the hand, then at Cody. Cody quickly dropped it.

"I thought you weren't coming back until Taylor was out," the standing guy said.

"Change of plans," Cody replied.

Unexpectedly, he pulled out the gun and aimed at his posse. The three kids stumbled to their feet, backing away. Brian tried to move away as well, but Cody's other hand clamped down on his wrist.

"So which one of you told the J Crew where I was?" Cody asked calmly. His facial expression hadn't changed in the slightest. If Brian had had any doubt Cody was insane before, this would have settled it.

"Shit," one guy gasped. "Cody, man, we're on your side."

"We didn't say anything," another insisted.

Cody pointed the gun at Brian's temple and smiled. "What do you think?"

"You shouldn't play with that," Brian said. "Someone could lose an eye."

Cody took a deep breath, then put the pistol back in the waist of his jeans. "Someone go get something for Brian to sit on," he barked. Two of the guys hurried away. Cody smiled. "Just think of this as your home away from home for the next few days."

*

The day after Justin overheard the Pink Posse, he stationed members of the J Crew all along Liberty Avenue. It was most of the team's first assignment. As Babylon's usual hundreds of patrons walked from their cars to the club, they were awarded with the sight of leather jacket-clad teens manning their ground.

Other than the usual order to protect the innocent and help the needy, Justin had told them to be on the lookout for anyone with a shaved head and a pink shirt. It had been over a day since he'd sent Jed out to Cody's parents's place in West Virginia, and still no word from him on Brian. He had passed nervous about twenty hours ago and was definitely in the territory of frenzied.

Joe pulled him aside during workouts. "If the Pink Posse has your boyfriend it means they're officially declaring war," he said seriously.

"I know," Justin said, biting his thumbnail. "They want the area around Babylon, what el--" His cell went off. Justin flipped over the phone; the display read 'Private number.' Maybe it was Brian calling from a pay phone.

"You know where Brian is," someone said accusingly.

It took five heart-stopping seconds for Justin place the voice. "Hunter, how did you get this number?" he asked, waving Joe away.

"If you know where Brian is you need to tell Michael before he reports Brian as a missing person," Hunter threatened. There was a strange echo behind his voice. "He's already freaking out. Tonight Ben made meatloaf that isn't meatloaf again, and Michael was all, 'This was Brian's favourite food to make fun of!' and he got all emotional. It was weird."

It wasn't difficult to get Michael to have a panic attack, but that was overdoing it a little.

"What did you tell him?" Justin demanded.

"Okay, somehow Michael got the impression Brian was dead," Hunter said.

Justin rubbed his temples. "Why would you tell him that? What's wrong with you?"

"If Brian's dead I want to take revenge."

"Brian's not dead," Justin shouted.

"Then why are you assembling an army?"

"I'm not--" Suspicious, he asked, "Where are you?"

"I'm calling from inside the warehouse," Hunter whispered.

Justin glanced over his shoulder. Against the right wall there was a shadow of someone kneeling behind a crate. Justin could feel a headache coming on. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand. "Trey, John," he called, nodding to where Hunter was hiding, "we have an intruder." To Hunter he said, "Oh no. You monster. What have you done."

He heard a loud, "HEY! Let me go!" and Hunter was dragged before him.

"Should we take care of him, boss?" Trey asked.

Justin pretended to consider it. Hunter's eyed went wide. "No," he said finally, "he's my ex's best friend's adopted kid. I'll deal with him."

"Family," John said. "I get it."

"Please," Hunter scoffed, rolling his eyes.

At Justin's nod, Trey and John dropped Hunter's arms, and he rubbed his left shoulder, glaring at them.

"What's going on here?" Hunter demanded.

"My friends and I are playing a big boy game," Justin drawled. "You should go home before you get in trouble for being out late."

"I want in," Hunter said, flipping his bangs out of eyes. He stuck out his lower lip indigently.

"Give me one good reason," Justin said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Hunter glared. "I'll tell Ben you didn't let me join your secret club," he sneered, "and then he'll tell Michael. And Michael'll tell Debbie. After he calls the police on your gangsta ass."

Justin winced at the mental image of Debbie stopping his team on patrol and scolding him. "I--"

"Taylor!"

Two of his guys were coming forward, each holding the arm of a struggling man dressed in pink. It was one of the guys Justin had seen on Liberty Avenue, the one who had been complaining about the J Crew. He didn't look too impressive now, with a black eye and dried blood on the collar of his shirt.

"We caught this fucker lurking around the building. He says he has some info for you."

"It's important," the Pink choked.

"Right, and we're supposed to take the word of one of the Pinks?" Justin asked dryly, raising his eyebrows. He nodded at his men. "Just get rid of him."

He was walking away when their captive called: "Your boyfriend's missing, ain't he?"

Justin froze.

*

No one suffered the way Brian did. First the incompetent Pink Posse couldn't find any guava juice, and then someone gave him an issue of last month's GQ. The gym smelled like piss. It was so hot he had to remove his coat and shirt, leaving him in just a tank top and his black trousers, and he kept feeling Cody's eyes on him.

He was leisurely studying the new Fall line when Cody threw a pen and a notebook down at Brian's feet. Brian raised an eyebrow. "What's this?"

"You're going to write Taylor a letter telling him if he doesn't leave town in three days you're going to die," Cody said simply.

"Now why would I do that?" Brian asked.

"Because I will shoot you in the head," Cody replied.

Brian really couldn't argue with that. Sighing, he turned to a blank page of paper. There was no way in hell Justin would keep away because Cody wanted him too. If anything, it would make Justin do the opposite. 'Justin,' he wrote, 'get the fuck out of the Pitts or our next family dinner will be at a funeral home. Brian. PS: I told you you'd get in trouble.'

Cody squinted. "What's that?"

"My letter," Brian said.

"This might be the last time you ever talk to him." Cody obviously hadn't considered telephones or email. "He's your boyfriend. Aren't you going to tell him you love him?"

"We don't talk to each other like that," Brian said. He frowned. "Not... directly, anyway. And we're not boyfriends."

"He said you were." When Brian snorted Cody asked, "Oh yeah? Then what do you call it?"

"Partners."

Cody laughed. "That sounds more serious than 'boyfriends.'"

"It's none of your fucking business, alright?" Brian snapped. He wasn't going to talk to some teenage lunatic about his thing with Justin. It wasn't like they were going to die; Justin would realise the gang thing was ridiculous, and he and Cody would reach a nice agreement that didn't involve weapons, and everyone would go home happy. Or else Brian would make them. He hoped Michael wasn't worrying about him; if Justin knew where he was he'd tell the others too.

When Cody walked away Brian quickly scribbled, 'PPS: Don't be a hero. Please.'

Cody returned a few minutes later with a sixpack and a pizza. He handed a beer to Brian.

"Where's the posse?" Brian asked sarcastically.

Cody shrugged. "Went clubbing. It's just you and me."

Brian didn't like the way Cody was looking at him.

"We could make out," Cody suggested.

Brian rolled his eyes. "That's the worst idea you've ever had. And yes, I'm including the kidnapping."

"Well," Cody said, clearly offended.

"Does Justin know where I am yet?" Brian asked.

Cody opened the pizza box. "Not yet. We'll let it leak tomorrow that you're with us, and by nightfall Taylor'll know. We have, like, an underground network."

*

Justin knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy, so he was able to procure five handguns for Operation: Save Brian within twenty four hours. "What do I get to do?" Hunter had asked as soon as Justin informed him guns were out of the question, as Michael was really whiny and Ben was really huge. Justin had put him in charge of the walkie-talkies, so Hunter fiddled with his new toys while Justin and five others loaded the guns.

The J Crew was excited and giddy. Justin seemed to be the only one who understood this was a life or death mission.

"Our goal is to get Brian out safely," Justin said. "We don't want anyone dead. But if you have to, aim for Cody. Any questions?"

"Which one's Cody?" one of them asked.

Which is how Justin ended up instructing them to take position outside the old building, while he did the actual rescuing. However, when he stood on the lower roof of the building next door and peered through the dirty window, he couldn't see anyone inside. Only an empty boxing ring like the one at Cody's previous hideout. He wondered if this was a set-up, that Cody had sent that man to give them false information, but he couldn't risk the chance that Brian was in there, suffering from one of Cody's psychopathic rages.

"HQ, this is Nightrider," he whispered into the walkie-talkie. "Charlie in the trees. Repeat, Charlie in the trees. Over."

"Dude, speak English," Hunter said.

"You're supposed to say 'over,'" Justin said. "Ugh, nevermind, I'm going in. Team, if you hear gunshots come running. Over."

"If you get shot my mom's gonna kill me," Trey moaned. "Uh, over."

Justin threw a rock through the window. He had expected it to shatter into tiny pieces like it did on tv, but there was just a large hole where the rock had gone through. Carefully, he kicked out the rest of the glass with his boot. He slid inside very, very gently, trying not to catch his coat on anything. This wasn't the rescue mission he'd wanted; he was supposed to be bursting through the window suavely. Cody would cry and Brian would think he was hot and want to fuck him.

He dropped to the floor. When he had regained his balance he found Brian sitting on a mountain of pillows, flipping through what looked like Vogue.

Brian closed the magazine angrily. "Did you just crawl through the window? What the fuck are you doing here in the middle of the night?"

Justin blinked. "Um, rescuing you?"

Brian looked like he was about to say something vitriolic, but then he stopped and glanced at Justin from head to toe. "Wow, Fonzie, is your hog parked out back?"

"This is my uniform," Justin said.

"Well, I see you didn't listen to me," Brian sneered. "As usual."

Justin snapped, "What the fuck? You're being held hostage. What was I supposed to do?"

"Uh, how about leaving town before your psycho ex-friends kill you?"

"What?"

Static erupted from the walkie-talkie. "Jus-- I mean, Nightrider, can you wait until you're safe before fighting?"

"Is that Hunter?" Brian demanded. "If Cody doesn't kill you, Michael sure as hell will for getting his little hustler involved."

One of the doors on the side slammed open, and out walked Cody, eating what looked like a burrito. He had another one in his hand. When he saw Justin, he froze.

"How did you find us?" Cody demanded.

Justin snorted. "It's right next door to your headquarters. Duh. Oh, and one of your men ratted on you."

"I knew it," Cody seethed. "I'll blow off their kneecaps!"

"Not to break up the reunion, but since Justin has the advantage here, G, I think he and I will be going now," Brian said.

"What advantage?" Cody challenged. "It's just us three."

Justin pulled out his pistol and aimed at Cody's face. "This one."

"Justin!" Brian snapped. He gazed at the gun worriedly.

Cody rolled his eyes. "Whatever, you won't shoot me. You wouldn't even use it on fucking Chris Ho--"

Justin let off a warning shot over Cody's head.

"The one day I don't take Betty with me to the toilet," Cody muttered, raising his hands. He dropped the burritos to the floor.

"You know," Brian said to Cody, "only serial killers name their guns."

"I'm a defender of the people," Cody insisted.

Justin yelled, "HELLO! Guy with gun! Brian and I will be going now."

Brian scoffed. He looked at Justin like he had grown a second head. "I'm not going with you when you're carrying that. You-- you're very disturbed, Justin. I'm almost starting to wonder if your Mom had the right idea when she wanted you to go to therapy."

"My mom wanted me to go to therapy?" Justin asked.

Cody stepped closer to Brian. Justin followed his movements with the gun. Cody said gently, "Brian and I will leave together. You can have Pittsburgh."

Justin snapped, "Brian isn't going anywhere with you."

"He doesn't want to leave."

"For once I would like a teenage psycho to not fall in love with me," Brian said. "Three is sort of pushing it."

"Shut up," both Cody and Justin shouted at him.

"Brian is coming with me," Justin said.

"Let's see what he wants to do," Cody sneered, crossing his arms over his chest.

"I hate you," Brian told Cody. Cody's face fell.

"Ha!" said Justin. "Brian, let's go."

He and Brian stared at each other. Justin smiled expectantly.

"I... love you?" he added.

"It's not that I don't," Brian finally managed, "it's that you're dressed like someone from Grease. It's like I don't know you anymore."

"Patrick Swayze," Justin said simply.

Brian scowled. "I choose Cody."

Cody whooped. "See, Taylor, you're just like every other weak, useless queer who can't stand up for himself. Your fucking boyfriend can't even stand to be around you. No wonder--"

"Shut the fuck up," Brian snarled.

"No wonder Hobbes went after you. He probably knew you'd never be able to get him back."

Justin aimed the gun at Cody's temple.

"Fuck," Cody whispered, going still.

"I'm going to kill you now," Justin said.

"Justin, put the fucking gun down," Brian shouted.

"Why?" Justin yelled. "So he can go back to patrolling the streets? He'll just keep pushing people around until someone stops him. That's what this whole thing is about, isn't it? Getting to them before they can get to you."

He was tired of people thinking he was just some weak little fag. It seemed like he had just been getting over feeling like that when Darren had been bashed, and he had realised how chickenshit he'd been for letting Hobbes get away scott free. Cody was no better than the queer-bashing heteros; he loved violence for the sake of violence. He didn't realise there was more to keeping people safe than beating the shit out of random people.

"Killing Pink boy over here isn't going to make you feel better," Brian said calmly.

He laughed bitterly. "How do you know? Have you ever shot someone?"

"Because he's not the person you're mad at," Brian said slowly.

"He sort of kidnapped you," Justin said. "So yeah, I'm pretty pissed off at him specifically right now."

A bead of sweat slid down Cody's temple. Cody said to Justin, "Okay, man, I really wasn't going to hurt him. Much."

"That's really reassuring," Justin said dryly.

"You took my men, so I took your boyfriend," Cody went on. "I think we're pretty even now. So I'll just go and--"

"I think you should shut up before he kills you," Brian growled.

Cody snapped his jaw together with an audible clink. Justin took a step closer, the gun steady in his hand.

"Justin--" Brian began.

"Shut up," Justin snapped.

"Fine," Brian said. "If you're going to kill him, then kill him."

"What?" Cody squealed.

"Just don't bullshit yourself into thinking this is some noble act, 'cause it's not."

Justin faltered. "I'm not a coward," he said weakly.

Brian tentatively took a step closer, like he thought Justin wouldn't notice. "No, you're not. You're the bravest person I've ever met."

He couldn't remember the last time he hadn't felt helpless -- he'd even let Hobbes walk away from him a third time, that night when Cody had handed him a gun and told him to take revenge. Hobbes had taken so much from him. He wasn't going to let anyone do that ever again. Justin backed away from Cody and Brian, still holding the gun at the same angle.

"I wasn't brave when some asshole beat my head in with a bat. I wasn't brave when he told me to get AIDS and die. Fucking Chris Hobbes-- I felt like he was right, that I was just a stupid faggot. I can barely draw. I still have nightmares. I almost lost you. Some days when I walk down the street I start to panic, like there is something bad about to happen. It's pathetic. I don't want to be pathetic anymore, Brian."

Above the blood rushing in his ears, he could hear his own voice, loud and trembling. Brian had the same look on his face from the time Justin had tried to open up to him after the bashing. Back then all he had read was fear and pain, but now he saw understanding.

"Okay," Brian said nodding.

"What?" Cody screeched. "No 'okay'! How is that okay?! He's gonna fucking murder me!" He looked at Justin wildly. "I'm not Chris Hobbes, Taylor. I didn't hit you in the head. I was trying to help you -- I thought you were someone like me."

Justin stared at him. Then, slowly, he lowered the gun.

"Get out of here," he said. Cody seemed shocked; out of the corner of his eyes, Justin saw Brian's shoulders sag with relief. "If you come near me or Brian or any of my friends again I'll kill you."

Cody nodded. He took a few steps back, then made a 'call me' gesture at Brian. When Brian growled he took off running.

Hunter's voice exploded from the walkie-talkie. "Wow," he cried, his voice bouncing off the empty gym walls. "That was fucking awesome!"

Justin switched it off quickly. He didn't know what to do now. Somehow nearly killing Cody hadn't been in the original plan. Not to mention in it Brian had been relieved Justin had come to the rescue, but that had been shot as soon as he'd walked through the door. He felt sick to his stomach.

Casually, Brian removed his linen shirt and jacket from a hook on the wall. He wasn't looking at Justin.

Justin swallowed nervously. "Brian, are you..." He searched for the right word. "Disappointed in me?"

"Disappointed you didn't kill Cody?" Brian asked dryly.

Disappointed he had fallen into Cody's madness.

Brian smoothed out the wrinkles in his suit jacket, biting his lip. "You were-- I'm--" He shook his head. "I'm glad you were able to do what you had to. Even if it was stupid. Next time you queen out can you make friends who are into nice, safe things, like basket-weaving?"

"Brian," Justin whispered. He cleared his throat. "Why did we break up?"

"You brought a gun home and started terrorising the neighbourhood."

"Oh, that," Justin said flippantly. "I'm over it. Vigilante groups are so passe."

The walkie-talkie crackled again. "Dude, I'm standing here in your secret lair holding a Colt .45. If you're going to lie to your BF at least tell a convincing story."

This time Justin made sure he turned it off. They stared at each other.

"Is this the part where we break out into song?" Brian asked.

Justin smiled. Brian smiled.

"I told you I knew what I was doing," Justin said, closing the gap between them.

"Yeah," said Brian, "you did."

Justin took Brian's face in his hands and kissed him.

*

Within a few days, both the J Crew and the Pink Posse were disbanded; Justin later said none of his lackeys had really put up much of a fuss. Brian had personally taken Justin's leather jacket to a thrift shop, although he couldn't get Hunter to give up his. (Somehow Justin managed to convince Michael and Ben he and Hunter had just been playing a war game.)

Brian's and Justin's non-relationshipy relationship picked up pretty much where it left off. Even though Justin was somewhat jittery -- as if he was trying to keep himself calm -- and Brian had sworn next time Justin made friends he was doing a complete background check.

A week later, checking his mail after work, Brian found a dead cat in a box addressed to him. 'I would die 4 u,' was spray-painted in white on the cat's side.

"Ugh," Brian muttered. He closed the box.

"Something smells good," Justin called from the couch. "Is that dinner?"

"I'll be right back," Brian said.

Leaving the loft, he crossed the street, making sure to dump the box with the cat in the dumpster. He stopped before a large tree. Walking around the trunk, he bumped into Cody, dressed in a long black trench coat.

"You should know," Brian said, "I can see you from my window."

Cody choked, nearly spitting out his cigarette. "I wasn't doing anything," he sneered. "Just passing by. Is it illegal to stop and have a smoke?"

"It is when you've been doing it every night for the past week," Brian replied. "Did you forget Justin said he'd kill you?"

Frowning, Cody stabbed his cigarette out on the tree. "God, here I am, minding my own business, and you have to start threatening me."

Brian took a step foward. Cody leapt back. "Look," Brian said, "fuck off. Stop sending me shit. I don't think of you that way. In fact, I don't think of you at all."

"Lies," Cody gasped.

Brian pinched the bridge of his nose. "Justin's--."

"I could break his kneecaps for you. For us."

"No," Brian replied, putting up his hands. "No. Psychopaths don't turn me on, okay?" Cody just looked at him. "Justin's getting better. He hasn't had a rage blackout in three days. He's done with the J Crew."

Cody looked crushed. Brian almost felt bad.

"One day you'll find a nice, gun-totting lunatic," Brian told him. "And you'll have a good time running from the law. But me and you isn't happening. Ever."

He watched Cody skulk off. By now he could probably write a book on how to reject interested teenagers. Nearly four years ago he had stood in front of his building and told Justin he didn't believe in love; it was sort of funny how change had crept up on them. And back then he had thought Justin was crazy...

Brian went back to the loft. When he got inside Justin was holding a piece of paper and frowning.

"What?" Brian asked.

"Why did I get a letter from you saying you're going to die in three days if I don't leave town?"

He tried to lean across the bar to grab it, but Justin held the letter away from him. "Forget it," Brian said. "Cody made me write it when I was his hostage."

"Fucker! I'll kill him!" Justin paused, looking down at the counter. "I mean, if I ever see Cody again we will have words."

"Tomorrow," Brian said, tearing up the letter, "I'm buying you a stress ball."


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.

Huge thanks to Erinface, Cait, Rachel Anton, and Sam for all their encouragement, beta reading, and plotting. Without them this fic would never have been finished.

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