q_dicted (q_dicted) wrote,

Stronger - Part 4

Title: Stronger ~ Part 4
Rating: Hard R/NC 17 depending on the chapter.
Genre: Angst. teh Love. More Angst. I hate fic warnings with a passion. But more than that, I hate the thought that I might inadvertently cause pain to an unsuspecting reader. So I'm compromising and putting a gentle warning behind a spoiler. Read if you must.[Spoiler (click to open)]If you've read this far (and if I've done my job), then you already realize that this is indeed a cancer!fic. The only way I could write it is to commit to portraying it as accurately and respectfully as I can. I feel I owe that to those who have fought this loathsome disease, and to those who have fought along side someone they love. I'm not a health-care professional in any way, but I have researched as thoroughly as I possibly could. I have taken dramatic license when absolutely necessary, and all mistakes are mine.
Characters: Brian, Justin & their non-defined, non-conventional family.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except my thoughts, and even then sometimes, I rent.
Timeline: Post-513 All canon assumed.
Summary: That which does not kill us...
Author's Note: This is a work in progress. I am a slow writer - there's no getting around that - but I promise that it will be completed. Comments feed the muse. Just sayin'. My heartfelt thanks to my friend pet0511 for her patience, wisdom, and invaluable help, and to camelhaircoat for new-found friendship and a fresh ear. :-)

Parts: 1 | 2 | 3

* * * * * * * * *

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
                                                                                                                                      -- Lao Tzu


Hillman Cancer Center - Pittsburgh, September 2008

Sitting in the sprawling, communal patient reception area at Hillman, waiting for Brian’s name to be called, I can’t help but think of the weeks I spent at Allegheny Memorial, though it could hardly look more different. Hillman is all comfortable sofas and padded leather chairs, where AMH was filled with cheap-but-functional chrome and hard plastic. There is actual artwork hanging on the walls and I’m pretty sure the sculpture in the lobby is a Mosely. No institutional white paint here, or harsh fluorescent lights overhead to make even the healthiest person look pale and washed out. It’s nothing but soft, pastel colors and indirect lighting. It’s quiet and soothing, and I’m absolutely certain that Brian loathes it to his core.

It’s strange to think that I’ve never been here before, considering I know as much about Brian’s medical history as he does. More, probably. Back when I overheard the phone message from Johns Hopkins, I thought I’d go fucking crazy. Is there a scarier word in the whole English language than ‘cancer’? And then when I foolishly let Michael convince me to let Brian keep his secret, I couldn’t even talk to him about it, so I did the only thing I could do to keep from losing it: I educated myself.

The endless hours of research were both reassuring and terrifying, but the main thing I learned was how important it is to be your own advocate - to be involved in your own care, to ask questions and to keep records. Since Brian was interested in doing exactly none of those things, I made it my business to do it for him. After I made him his fucking-chicken-soup, he was decidedly more agreeable to my being involved in things. He made sure I got copies of everything I asked for - lab reports, scans, the works. If I had a question for the doctor, he made sure he came home with an answer. I recall him saying something about the radiation doing a good enough job knocking him on his ass without me doing it, too. Damn straight.

He had thirteen more treatments following our little... discussion at the loft. Everyone reacts differently to radiotherapy; some people go through it with almost no side effects at all. Brian wasn’t so lucky. He spent most mornings at the office, and most afternoons either on the toilet, or on his knees in front of it. But not once, no matter how exhausted he was, or how angry I got, or how much I whined or begged or threatened his remaining testicle, not once would he let me come with him. The last few days he didn’t go to work at all, and still, the stubborn son-of-a-bitch insisted on going to treatment alone. The most I got from him was a promise that he would at least take a cab there and back, and that was after I came home from my shift at the diner to find him asleep in the Corvette with the fucking engine still running. Jesus.

But as much as I wish I could have been here with him, I knew allowing me to see him through the aftermath was the most he could do at the time. Knowing Brian Kinney, that was a hell of a lot.

I see now just how little I really understood back then. Yeah, I had all the facts. I knew exactly what was wrong and how they treated it. I knew how hard it was for him to deal - not just with having cancer, but having that cancer, one that literally hit him where he lives. No fucking wonder he lost his mind when he found out I knew. Ask me how much it sucked that Michael had to be the one to point that out to me. Anyway. His fear-induced moment of madness notwithstanding, he dealt with the whole thing in typical Kinney fashion, with no room for sentiment or pity, self or otherwise. Even his temporary... lack of staying power didn’t faze him for more than a few days. I still don’t know exactly how Brian got his groove back, but he did, and from that day on he never looked back. At least, that’s what I let myself believe.

I steal a sideways glance at him; he looks as though he’s ready to crawl right out of his skin. I realize now I can never fully comprehend how it was for him. How it felt to come here as a patient, to sit every day and wait for his name to be called, so he could receive a treatment he knew was going to make him sick long before it made him well. Then later, through all the follow-ups, wondering each time if there was another reprieve waiting for him behind that door, or if the odds had caught up with him at last. To look around and wonder if the person sitting next to him is living with, or dying from, the same disease that brought him here, and to realize that, sadly, sometimes it’s all too easy to tell. To wonder if he’s next. Not just this time, but every time. Fuck me. Fuck that.

I take a chance and slip my hand under his, carefully avoiding any eye contact, and when he silently threads his fingers through mine, I make myself a solemn vow. He will never wait alone in this room again. He can hate me if he wants to, but he’s going to have to do it while I’m sitting right here beside him.

An involuntary shiver runs through me when the receptionist finally calls his name and I give myself a mental shake. For today, my only goal is to make sure he stays.

* * *

“I read that this is a really aggressive type of cancer… that the tumor could potentially double in size every thirty days. Is that true?”

“Yes. It doesn’t mean it will, but potentially, yes, that’s true.”

“So you can’t guarantee that delaying the start of his treatment won’t make any difference?”

I respect the fact that Dr. Keppler doesn’t look at Brian before he answers. He meets my eyes and responds in the same compassionate but candid way he’s answered all my other questions. His answer is nothing less than I expected, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make my heart sink even further.

“No, I can’t,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m afraid there aren’t many guarantees in this line of work, Mr. Taylor.”

“But you can tell him that the cancer is either going to respond to the chemo or it’s not,” Brian chimes in. “A few more days isn’t going to change that, isn’t that true, Doc?” They’re pretty much the first words he’s uttered since we sat down. This visit is as much for my benefit as his, and since explaining that when we first came in, he’s let me take the lead. This time Keppler does turn to him though, fixing him with a look I recognize well. That resigned, ‘Brian Kinney is too fucking smart for his own good’ frown.

“Also true,” the doctor says, and I can see Brian’s triumphant smirk without even looking. But then Keppler goes on, “I understand why you want to wait, Brian. However, I can’t, in good conscience, encourage this decision. At the moment the tumor appears to be stable and you are remarkably symptom-free, but that can change quite rapidly. Chest pain, difficulty breathing or swallowing, even hemorrhage or pulmonary embolism - as the tumor grows, the threat of all these things grows along with it. And of course, every day that passes increases the possibility of further metastases as well.”

There is complete silence as that sinks in, though I’m surprised neither of them can hear my heart hit the floor. Jesus fucking Christ. I’d read about all those complications and more, but somehow hearing it out loud is so much fucking worse.

“Brian, please...” Please what? Please listen to him? Please don’t take this crazy chance? Please don’t fucking die? I know why he wants to put it off. I know it’s only a week. Only. Fuck me. We went around and around about it yesterday without getting anywhere. I promised him that I would abide by his wishes if he’d just talk to Dr. Keppler again before making a final decision. So now what? Brian won’t even look at me.

“Mr. Taylor... Justin, these are only possibilities. As a doctor, it's my responsibility to make sure you're both fully aware of the risks, and to offer my advice. The greatest danger lies in allowing it to spread further, but the fact is, what Brian said is true. A few more days won’t determine the chemotherapy’s ultimate effectiveness on the disease itself. However, it could very well affect whether or not he remains asymptomatic.” Keppler looks solemnly back and forth between the two of us, then focuses his attention on Brian again.

“We're making amazing strides in the battle against this disease. The advances in the last few years alone are nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion. Clearly, getting your treatment started as soon as possible is ideal. But I also believe that mindset is as vital to the fight as any drug we have in our arsenal. At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you. Either way, we’ll be here when you’re ready.”

He stands up and walks around the desk. “I have rounds, so I'll leave you two to talk. Please, take as long as you need and then let Grace know what you decide. She will coordinate the schedule and answer any questions you may have regarding the treatment. Please don’t hesitate to call if you want to speak with me directly - my door is always open.”

And with that, Brian and I are alone. I’m still searching for something to say when he stands up and starts for the door.

“You coming?” he asks without turning around.

“What? Where?”

“You heard the man. We’re outta here.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I get up and grab his arm as he’s reaching for the handle.“Did you hear him? We’re not going anywhere except out there to see if they can still start your treatments today! You promised you’d listen to him.”

“No, you promised you’d abide by my decision if I listened to him. I listened. Nothing’s changed.” He turns the doorknob and I fucking. lose. it.

“Are you fucking kidding me? Everything’s changed.” I yell. I’m sure everyone in the entire fucking perfectly pastel building can hear me, but I don’t care. “Don’t be a fool, Brian!”

He just huffs out a breath and opens the door.

“Gus wouldn’t want you to do this. If he knew...” It’s a shitty tactic, I know, but I’m desperate. He stops in mid-stride and very carefully closes the door again.

“But he won’t,” he says, his jaw tight with barely controlled anger. “Gus will never know a fucking thing about this, will he?”

"Maybe not." I swallow hard, fear and frustration trumping reason and compassion. I play the only other card I have. "Maybe he won’t, but Gus isn't the only child you have to think about now. What about our child, Brian? What about us?"

“You don't want to go there,” he says, turning around slowly.

“How can you be so fucking selfish?” Fuck. Even as I utter the words, I realize just how far over the line I’ve stepped.

"You really think that?" His voice drops into that ominous zone that’s a hundred times more intimidating than my shouting, but it’s the naked fear in his eyes that knocks what’s left of the wind out of my sails.

I sit back down heavily in the chair and shake my head, “No.” But it’s barely more than a whisper as I press my face into my hands. A moment later I feel a gentle squeeze on the back of my neck.

“Don’t you get it? I need time, Justin.”

I can’t look at him. I don’t want to see how much I just hurt him. Because I do get it. Finally.

And if I hadn’t been half out of my mind for the past three days, I would have known all along. It could never have only been about a fucking baseball game.

Liberty Air Sky Club Lounge, LaGuardia Airport, NYC – September 2008

It’s a thirty minute ride from the hotel to LaGuardia and I spend every second of it trying to figure out how to broach the subject of Brian’s treatment, or rather, his insane declaration that he wasn’t going to do it. Turns out, I could have saved myself the effort. We’re barely seated at a table in the Sky Club when Brian brings it up himself.

“You know, you could have just stayed here and come home with me after the game instead.”

Since it seems to have become my default in the last thirty-six hours or so, my first reaction is what the fuck?  Actually, I suppose what the fuck *now* is probably more accurate. Before I can verbalize my oh-so-eloquent thoughts, our server appears, a fresh-faced young thing, dressed in the familiar red & white Liberty Air uniform and openly staring at Brian like he’s never seen anything like him before. I can relate. While Brian orders us two lattes (and eye-fucks the smitten server-boy, just because he can) I have another moment or two to consider what he just said. The game? What game... fuck. Gus’s birthday.

Well, not exactly. His birthday was last month. I had a couple of new pieces debuting in a small, but important, show in Soho and I couldn’t make it to Toronto, but Brian did. Gus nearly deafened me over the phone when I called to wish him happy birthday. “JUSTIN!!! Guess what Dad got me! HOLY SHIT!!!” I could hear Brian laughing in the background and Lindsay fussing at Gus about his language, but the kid was practically euphoric and beyond caring. I heard Brian say something and then Gus again, “Oh, I mean Dad *and* you. Thank you SO MUCH! This is the BEST BIRTHDAY, EVER!”

My contribution to the best birthday ever consisted of a signed Thurman Munson rookie card and a new catcher’s mitt, but I knew that tucked inside that mitt was the reason for the newly-minted eight year old’s excitement. Brian had managed to get tickets to the Yankee’s final home game of the season. Not just tickets, seats behind the dugout, for the game that would also be the last one played in old Yankee Stadium, ever. Gus talked about it for three solid weeks during his visit this summer, and it was scheduled to take place next Sunday. Brian intended to be back in New York next weekend. Holy shit, indeed.

Server-boy is gone and Brian is looking at me, his lips rolled firmly in between his teeth as he tries to determine if the penny has finally dropped. I never did have much of a poker face.

“You can’t be serious, Brian.” It comes out louder than I expect and I get the eyebrow to go along with the patented Kinney lip-roll. I lower my voice, yet somehow it manages to get proportionally higher as the implication of this latest mindfuck sinks in. “Tell me you are not talking about refusing chemo because of a fucking baseball game.”

“Don’t be a drama-princess,” he pauses as server-boy comes back with our lattes, but this time his eyes never leave mine, “I never said I was refusing anything.”

I have to think about that one for a solid minute. Well, fuck me.

* * *

And technically, he hadn't. Strictly speaking, when he'd told me he 'wasn't going to do it', he had been talking about starting the treatment immediately, as the doctors had advised. Strictly speaking, when he'd said it was best if I stayed here, he'd meant stay here because he'd be back next weekend anyway.

Strictly speaking, I wanted to kick his smart ass into next weekend.

It didn't take me all that long to figure out that he had probably done it deliberately - given me something to chew on, a focus for my fears. At best, he’d let my misinterpretation stand. But as much as I hate being manipulated, it wasn't all that hard to forgive him this one.

That didn’t mean I was prepared to just let him off the hook completely. As relieved as I was to realize he meant to have the chemo, even putting it off for a week was out of the question. We argued about it some before we boarded the plane, and I tried again after we were in the air, but he flatly refused to discuss it any further. I opted to let that slide until we got home, but by that time we were both exhausted and I was getting more pissed by the minute every time I thought about it. Nothing good could come of confronting him while I felt more like fucking strangling him than talking. Brian spent an hour on the phone with Cynthia and another with Gus, and I spent the entire evening online, making myself completely crazy.

There was only a fraction of the information about this type of tumor out there compared with what there had been about his ball, but each article I did find was more terrifying than the one before it. By the time I shut down the computer I was pretty sure I was never going to let him out of my sight again. It was still fairly early by our standards, but he was already in bed waiting for me when I crawled in beside him. Lectures and recriminations could wait until morning - all I wanted was to put my arms around him and never fucking let go.

He was awake, dressed in sweats and sitting on the terrace when I woke up. There was fresh coffee made so I filled my cup and grabbed one of the warm cinnamon rolls that had magically appeared on the counter overnight, taking a huge bite of the sugary treat as I stepped outside to join him. He had the Sunday Times spread out in front of him, which explained the cinnamon rolls. The local gas station-slash-general store sold the paper, and the woman who owned it also made the awesome pastries, but only on weekends; both were usually sold out by the ass-crack of dawn. I wonder if he slept at all.

I set my coffee and roll down and leaned in close, nuzzling his neck from behind. His skin was warm and salty on my tongue, his hair damp and curling at the nape and I realized he’d been working out. He turned his face up to me for a long, lingering kiss and then pulled me around onto his lap. He grinned as he licked a stray bit of sticky cinnamon from my bottom lip, tugging gently at it with his teeth before dipping his tongue into my mouth again. His arms felt pumped as I ran my hands over them, his belly lean and flat against my hip, his thighs strong and firm beneath mine. His clean but musky scent filled my senses and suddenly I found myself fighting tears, overwhelmed by the thought of him so fit and healthy looking. It was all just so monumentally unfair.

We continued kissing until the ache in my throat eased enough that I could speak without betraying myself and then I pushed back from him. I figured I still had twenty-four hours to make him listen to reason, and I intended to use every minute of them. Maybe one day I’ll learn my lesson about making plans for Brian Kinney.

“You know you can’t do it, don’t you?” I say, slipping off his lap. He immediately reaches for my crotch, deliberately misinterpreting my words.

“I beg to differ,” he says, poking his tongue out as he gives the bulge between my legs a gentle squeeze and tries to pull me back to him. “I’d say I do it rather well…”

I turn out of his reach, laughing softly, “Nobody will ever accuse Brian Kinney of not being able to get a man hard.” He gives me that enigmatic half-smile of his, then turns back to his newspaper in a blatant attempt to avoid where we both know this is going. I sit down in the chair facing him and wait. I sip my coffee and finish my sweet roll; five full minutes pass before I try again.

“You can’t put off your treatment over a fucking baseball game. It’s crazy.”

He just keeps thumbing slowly through the pages, never takes his eyes off them in fact. I’d give him a thousand dollars if he could tell me even one thing that was written on any of them. “Actually, I can,” he says, turning another page.

I promised myself I’d stay calm and rational, no matter what his argument -- nothing shuts Brian down faster than a drama-princess -- but how the fuck do you even argue with *that*? Jesus Christ. I snatch the paper out from under his hands and toss it on the ground. “Goddamnit, Brian, you can’t! Do you have a fucking death wish or something?”

So much for calm and rational.

But he doesn’t even flinch, just leans back in his chair, watching in silence as two or three pages blow across the lawn and disappear into the trees. I pull my chair closer to his, reach for his hands, but he folds them under his arms like a petulant child. I take a deep breath, maybe two or three.

“I’m sorry, that was a shitty thing to say.”

He only shrugs and watches some more of the newspaper fly away.

“I made a promise,” he says, after a while. Oh, Brian.

“Gus will understand. He’ll be disappointed, but he’ll understand.”

At that, he turns my way again. “Maybe I don’t want him to understand, Justin.” He shakes his head as though he can’t believe he has to explain this to me. “I spent half my fucking life ‘understanding’ the things my father did. It fucking sucks.”

Fuck me. He picks up his empty cup and walks back into the house with me following on his heels.

“This is nothing like what happened with your dad,” I say, trailing behind him as moves around the kitchen. “You are nothing like him.” He’s ignoring me again, rinsing and refilling his cup. When he sets the pot back down, I move in until he has no choice but to look at me. “Gus loves you, and he knows you love him, Brian. You don’t need to fucking prove anything!”

He huffs out a bitter sounding laugh and picks up his coffee, leaning back against the counter as he blows across the top of the steaming liquid. “It’s not just Gus. In case you’ve forgotten, I have a business to think about, too. I can’t just drop everything.”

“Fuck the business.”

“Really. Fuck the business. I see.” He nods and starts walking again, down the hall to his office as he goes on, “Fuck Cynthia and Theodore, too? And Sid and Janelle and the two dozen other people whose livelihood depends on me? Fuck ’em all?”

“That is such bullshit! Ted and Cynthia can handle things for a while and you know it. They’ve done it before,” I counter.

“Yes, they can. And they will,” he says, and I almost breathe a sigh of relief before he adds, “Starting next week.”

“This is *insane* Brian! You have to know that…”

“Enough, Justin,” he snaps, sitting down at his desk. “And you can quit fucking questioning my mental status every other time you open your mouth any time now.”

“But it IS crazy! For fuck’s sake, Brian...” Despite my best efforts I can hear my voice getting huskier by the second. I walk around behind the desk and turn him in his chair to face me. “There’s a reason they want you to start treatment right away. This...” Fuck I hate saying the word out loud. “This... cancer. It’s aggressive and it’s brutal, but it *is* curable. I read a lot about it last night. All those stats... they’re improving all the time. More and more people are liv... are beating it.” I feel the tears start to spill as I remember all the other things I read last night, but I can’t think about that now. “But you’ve got to fight, Brian. You have to.”

He doesn’t say anything for a minute, just reaches up and wipes away the moisture on my cheek. He cups my chin and rubs his thumb over my lips, then pulls me down onto his lap again. “I will,” he says softly, pressing his mouth to my ear, “I am. But you have to let me do it my way.”

He really breaks my fucking heart, you know? Because as much as this is killing me, I know that it’s a thousand times harder for him. But I can’t just pretend this is okay. I can’t just let him gamble with his fucking life.

“Can we please at least talk to Dr. Keppler first? You already have the appointment tomorrow anyway, right?” I lean back, imploring him with everything I’ve got. If logic and reason won’t persuade him, I’m fully prepared to lie. “Please? Just listen to what he has to say and then I promise, I’ll support whatever you decide.”

Some fucking support. I’ve said some pretty shitty things to Brian in the past, but until this moment, I’ve never been ashamed to look him in the eye. “I didn’t mean that, Brian. I’m sorry,” I whisper, my face still buried in my hands. He cards his fingers into my hair and then tilts my head back until I’m looking up into his face.

“Sorry’s bullshit,” he says, his lips curving into a sad little smile. “Besides, you’re not wrong.”

“You’re the least selfish person I know. Whatever else might be true, that’s not. I should never have said it.”

He scrubs a hand over his face, drawing in a long breath, his shoulders sagging as he lets it seep slowly out between his fingers. “I’m fucking scared, Justin.”

“I know.”

“No, I mean I’m fucking scared. As in, I can hardly fucking breathe when I let myself think about what’s next.” He shakes his head, “I’m not afraid of the pain, you know. I can take pain. It’s not about puking all day long, or losing my fucking hair...” He starts pacing around the small office like a caged animal.

“Brian, don’t,” I try to stop him, to tell him he doesn’t have to explain himself to me, but I’m not so sure he’s even talking to me anymore.

“This chemo… The fucking list of side effects is two pages long. Permanent hearing damage, organ damage, nerve damage, memory problems. These things aren’t just possibilities, they’re probabilities.” He stops his pacing and turns to look at me again. “Do you understand that? Once I start down this road... even if the treatment works, there’s a good chance I will never be the same person again. Gus is only eight fucking years old. What do you think he’s going to remember about me?”

I don’t know what to say to that; even if I did, there’s a lump in my throat so big I couldn’t speak if I tried. All I can do is wait for him to go on, and he does.

“But you know what scares me the most?" He closes his eyes, rolling his lips inward as if the thought causes him physical pain, and when he opens them again, they are dark with a despair I can't even imagine. "If it doesn't work... it will all be for nothing. I won’t see Gus graduate college, or make it to the big leagues if that’s what he wants. I won’t get to see you get all gray-haired and paunchy.” He reaches down and strokes my hair, smiling wanly. “I probably won’t see our kid born " He drops into the chair beside me, the ache in his voice a palpable thing, "The motherfucking bitch of it is, I'm going to put us all through hell, and the odds are I'll die anyway."

I want so badly to tell him he’s being a drama-queen, and that none of those things will happen, that fighting right now is all that matters, but I can’t. Everything he’s saying is true, and it’s ripping my fucking heart out. I can’t even cry.

“I need this, Justin. One week, and I swear to you, I’ll fight this fucking thing to the bitter end.”

I’ve been in love with Brian since I was seventeen years old, but I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the true meaning of the word before now. If I could take his pain away by bearing it myself, I would do it in a heartbeat. But life doesn’t work that way, so I offer him the only thing I can.

“Let’s go home.”

* * *

Britin - September, 2008

‘It’s only time.’ I remember saying those words to him once. Maybe I even believed them. It’s easy to say that time doesn’t matter, until something comes along to remind you that it’s not just a concept, not an abstract theory or an open-ended promise. It’s real. It’s fleeting and it’s finite, and it matters. It matters very fucking much.

Justin’s foray onto the information highway has given him just enough insight into what lies ahead to scare him shitless. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he knew everything the doctors at MSK told me, he would have tied me to the chair in Keppler’s office this morning and put the needle in my arm himself. If this chemo works and they’re able to operate, there is a chance I’ll survive this thing, whatever that may mean. If it doesn’t work, I maybe have six months, a year max, during which I’ll probably only wish I was dead. Right now, all I care about is the next seven days. It’s only time. Fucking bullshit.

He’s sitting at my desk, his nose buried in the computer again and I can tell from the slightly nauseous expression on his face what he’s doing. Fuck that. I walk over and wrap my arms around him from behind, effectively forcing his hands away from the keyboard as I trap his arms at his side.

“Briaaan! I’m trying to read,” he protests. He tries to squirm out of my embrace but it’s a half-hearted attempt at best when I lick a path up the side of his neck and suck at his earlobe.

“School’s out for today, Mr. Taylor,” I breathe the words directly into his ear, circling the shell with my tongue. He lets out a soft groan as I flick at his lobe again and pull it into my teeth.

“Uhhnnn...five more minutes. I just want to finish...”

I cut him off with a sharp nip on his ear. I reach out and close the laptop with one hand while I run the other down his chest, slipping it inside the front of his jeans.

“No more minutes.” I run my tongue along his jaw and lick the corner of his mouth. His head falls back against my shoulder -- he’s always been a slut for my tongue anywhere on his body -- and he lets out a sigh as I wrap my fingers around his warm cock. “I’ll finish for you.”

His hands free again, he uses one to open the button on his fly and winds the other one up into my hair, pulling me around for a kiss. He runs his fingertips down my arm, sliding his fingers in on top of mine as our tongues meet and we stroke his growing erection together. He’s still semi-soft when I break the kiss and turn the chair round so he’s facing me. The disappointed little sound he makes at the loss of my hand is quickly replaced by a breathy moan when I spread his legs apart and drop to my knees between them.

He lifts his hips so I can take off his jeans, but I shake my head no. I want him just like this. I open his pants and slide his underwear down just enough to free his cock. I see him bite his bottom lip, gripping the arms of the chair in anticipation as I lower my head and take him in all at once. I don’t move my head at all, just massage him with my tongue, swallowing around him again and again. Feeling him lengthen and grow in my mouth is unbelievably erotic; the contrast of his velvety soft skin and the rough denim brushing my cheeks only makes it hotter.

He arches his back, tries to raise his hips, but I hold him firm and continue my slow, gentle torture.  When he’s hard as a rock and leaking on my tongue, I suction my mouth tightly around him and slowly pull up the length of his shaft. I feel him trembling with need as I reach the head and I release the pressure for just a fraction of a second before taking him to the root again, and he lets out a throaty cry.

“God, Brian!”

From the corner of my eye I see his fingers go white from clenching the chair so hard. I slide up his length again and repeat the pattern, over and over, just barely releasing the head each time before I dive back down. His hips are straining against my hands and he’s panting with the need to thrust. I bob my head once more, then pull back and slide my hands under his ass. He takes the cue and immediately drives his hips upward with a growl that comes all the way from his toes as he glides back in between my parted lips. His thrusts are frantic at first, shallow and needy, but he soon finds his rhythm, rolling his hips in long, smooth strokes.

His balls are trapped in the confines of his pants, his concentration centered only on the hot, wet suction on his dick. I give them a firm squeeze through the denim and he breathes my name again. And then his hands are in my hair and he’s fucking whimpering, and I have to concentrate on not coming in my pants as he rocks in and out of my mouth. I know he’s close when his breath quickens and his thrusts begin to grow erratic again. I hook my fingers in the belt-loops on his jeans and wait for him to draw back one last time, then I hollow my cheeks and pull him up hard. His cock slams into the back of my throat and he comes with a sharp, surprised cry, shooting so hard it’s gone almost before I can taste it.

I hold him there until I feel the last spurt on my tongue and he collapses back into the chair, gasping for breath.

“Jesus...” His fingers are still tangled my hair as I move up and capture the word from his lips. I slip my tongue into his mouth and he sucks greedily, savoring his own taste. I kiss him until his breathing calms and his body is as limp as rag doll. He looks at me through heavy-lidded eyes, his mouth curving in a satisfied smile. “That... was...”

“Aaaa-mazing,” I finish the thought for him, giving him one last, quick peck on the lips as I stand up again.

He softly laughs his agreement and reaches for my fly. My erection is straining painfully against my jeans, but I shake my head, catching his hands, and pull him to his feet instead.

“Come with me.”

I drag him down the hall and through the kitchen, stopping to grab a bottle of wine from the fridge before I lead him out through the French doors and across the terrace to the pool. The late afternoon sun has already dipped below the tree-line, but the air is still warm and the light is soft and clear. I set the bottle of wine down on the deck and pull my shirt over my head, tossing it aside. My pants follow quickly and he watches me with hungry eyes as I slowly push my underwear down and kick them away, freeing my aching cock at last.

His pants are still undone and they fall easily off his narrow hips as slip my hands inside them again, this time cupping his firm ass and pulling him to me. He stretches up for a kiss before pulling off his own shirt and making quick work of his underwear, and then he’s sucking eagerly on my tongue again in what I hope is a preview of things to come. I break the kiss and reach for the wine, taking a long drink right from the bottle before I offer it to him. He takes it and does the same, but instead of putting it down, he tips it back in my direction, holding it while I take another swallow. A little spills over my lips and he quickly catches the droplets with his tongue, then with an evil little grin, he tips the bottle again. I hiss out a breath as a thin stream of the cold liquid splashes on my skin, running in rivulets down my chest and into my pubes.

He lowers his head and follows one of the trails, lapping the wine from my skin. His teeth graze a nipple and he pauses there for a minute, teasing the tiny nub to a stiff peak before moving on. He stops when he reaches the mark on my chest, concern filling his eyes as he looks up at me.

“Enough of that,” I say quietly. He only hesitates for a moment, then he smiles softly and continues his downward journey. My abs ripple and twitch as his soft, warm tongue whispers over my skin, and my knees nearly buckle when his stubbly cheek brushes the shaft of my hard cock. He swirls his tongue around the base, lips tugging at the wiry curls, and I have to bite my lips to keep from groaning as he bypasses my dick completely, flattens his tongue, and licks a wide swath all the way back up the other side of my torso. As he kisses the hollow of my throat, I grip the back of his neck.

“Fucking tease!” I wrap my other arm low around his waist, then bend my knees and gather him in, rutting my leaking cock against his belly. He’s still got the bottle of wine in one hand and he takes a mouthful, letting it wet his lips before he swallows and offers his mouth up to me. I trace the outline of his lips with my tongue. They’re swollen from kissing and chilled from the wine, and I taste each one slowly, deliberately, first the top, then the bottom, so ripe and full. As I shove my tongue in between them, he arches into me, pushing my erection harder against his flat stomach, and I groan into his mouth. God, I need to fuck him.

But not yet.

I take his free hand and lead him to the edge of the pool, guiding us both down the shallow steps. The salt-water system I had installed cost me a small fucking fortune, but it was worth every penny and the water is soft and warm as we wade in. I take the bottle from him and set it aside, then pull him to me, walking us in deeper as our mouths come together again. His arms wind around my neck and I slide my hands down his slim waist, then around to cup the cheeks of his ass. Lifting him is effortless in the shoulder-high water and he wraps his legs firmly around my waist.

Sex in a swimming pool is highly over-rated if you ask me. Water is not lube and fucking underwater hurts. Unless you’re being paid to star in a porno flick, it’s just not worth it. On the other hand, making out in the water is fucking amazing. There is something incredibly sensual about feeling both weightless and strong at the same time, of wet skin on skin and the contrast of cool air and warm water surrounding you. He’s kissing my throat, my neck, my shoulders, and when our bodies press together and our cocks bump into each other under the water, my head falls back and I gasp a little, a shiver of pure ecstasy running up and down my spine. But I need more. Now.

I swim us over to the side of the pool and pull one of the foam Baja lounges into the water. Prior experience has made us amazingly efficient at maneuvering into place, and in seconds, I’m on my back with my legs straddling the floating chair, and Justin is lying between them, his mouth poised over my throbbing dick. It’s just buoyant enough to keep my hips out of the water and to support Justin so he can do what he does best. His perfect, round ass is floating just beneath the surface, his arms are wrapped firmly around my thighs, and when he takes me into that hot, wet mouth of his, I throw my head back again, close my eyes, and try not to scream out his name. Jesus Christ! I can suck cock with the best of them, but Justin Taylor could make a grown man cry.

He brings me to the edge quickly, then expertly pulls me back, mercilessly alternating long, slow draws from the base of my shaft to the tip, with feather-light kisses and strokes of his tongue. I feel his fingers on my shaft, his soft tongue wetting them as he slides them up and down its length, then teasing at my hole. He pushes one spit-soaked finger deep inside, all at once, as he wraps his lips around the head again. I try to thrust, to make him take it all, but he moves with me, sucking only on the tip while his finger strokes across my prostate. When I can’t take one more fucking second of his torture, I grab his face in my hands, tip it up until his eyes meet mine and grunt out a demand for release, right fucking now. He grins wickedly and lowers his head again, deep-throating me until I’m cursing his name and coming in waves that just about make me see stars.

Before I can even catch my breath, he’s got his tongue in my mouth and his hands in my hair. We both know it won’t be long until I’m ready to fuck him and he seems determined to make sure it’s as soon as humanly possible. The water splashes over us as he grinds his ass in my lap; he sucks purposefully on my tongue, and reaches back with one hand to stroke my balls with the same, sensual rhythm. Soon enough we’re both hard again and he pushes back from me, wild-eyed and panting.

“Fuck me, Brian. Fuck me, now.”

Before I can even respond, he’s sliding off me and swimming for the steps. By the time I follow him out of the water he’s fumbling in his jeans pocket. When he doesn’t find what he’s looking for, he curses mildly and throws them aside, then reaches for mine instead. He practically whimpers when his search of my pockets also comes up empty.

“Jesus Fucking Christ, Brian! We don’t have a condom out here? Shit!” He does everything but stamp his feet and I almost laugh, but I’m afraid he’d probably slap me or something. I step in close and take him by the arms.

“Patience, young grasshopper,” I say, risking a smile.

“Fuck patience! How the hell do *we* not have a fucking condom?!” he says, half laughing himself now. I lean down and kiss him, just a soft brush of my lips against his, and he looks up at me and just... smiles. I stare down at him, at his ocean blue eyes and smooth, pale skin. His hair is a little spiky from the water, his smile wide and open. In the half-light of early evening, he could easily pass for seventeen again. I’ll never stop wondering how I got so fucking lucky. “What?” he asks with a self-conscious little laugh, clearly puzzled by my apparent lack of distress over our ‘situation’.

I’ve been thinking about this for days. Weeks. Fucking months. Long before any thoughts of cancer or chemo or fucking shitty prognoses, although I’m not so sure he’s going to believe that now. Doesn’t matter though, because I know it’s the truth. Fuck it. It’s the truth.

“Maybe we don’t need one.”

“Wh... what?” he repeats, looking more than a little dubious. Not surprising, really. We have met, after all.

“I said, maybe we don’t need one.” I drape my arms over his shoulders and rest them there, breathing lasciviously in his ear. “After all, we’re already knocked up.”

I thought I’d anticipated every possible reaction he might have when I finally told him I was ready for this. Joy, anticipation, maybe a little trepidation. We’re both clean  – getting tested was the first thing we had to do when we started the surrogacy process, and then again right before the procedure. He knows I would never put him at risk, but I’m sure he had his doubts that I could handle even three months of monogamy, let alone this. I expected a healthy dose of skepticism, so the flash of uncertainty in his eyes doesn’t offend me like it would him.

But somehow I didn’t expect that he’d be looking at me like I just set fire to a box full of puppies.

“You are fucking unbelievable.

“It’s true, I am,” I say, taking one more shot at diffusing whatever the fuck this is, but he shrugs my arms off. I reach for him again. He just shakes his head, his eyes narrowing as he takes a step back. I have to say, of all the ways I imagined he might respond, open hostility never crossed my mind.


He grabs his jeans up off the ground and pulls them on, turning his back on me. I can see his shoulders rise and fall from the effort he’s making at controlling himself. “Damn you, Brian,” he says, his voice small and tight. And then he’s gone.

Well, fuck.

* * *

I find him sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace with his knees drawn up and his forehead resting on his folded arms. He doesn’t acknowledge the light touch of my hand on the back of his neck, but he doesn’t flinch or tell me to fuck off, either. I’ll take that as a win.

His hair is dripping water down his bare back and I can see the fine goose bumps on his skin from the chill. I flip the switch on the fireplace and it roars instantly to life - another investment well worth the money. We may own a country manor, but pioneers we are not.

I pour us each a generous shot of Beam from the antique brass bar cart that sits to one side of the hearth, a wedding gift from the Novotny-Bruckners that Mikey refused to take back after the aborted nuptials. He said I could call it a housewarming gift instead - as if that would make me want to vomit any less. Twat. But it actually suits this room (no doubt it was chosen by Ben) and it holds vast quantities of alcohol. I dealt.

I take the drinks and sit down beside him on the thick carpet. I have to nudge his shoulder with the glass twice before he looks up. I’m sure he’s going to refuse it, but he takes it from me and tosses it back in one swallow, and then puts his head back down on his arms. Okay then.

The quiet stretches out until I want to grab him and make him say something. Anything. Brooding silence is my modus operandi, not his, and frankly, a silent Justin scares the shit out of me. I know too fucking well what happens when Justin stops talking. But this is his show, not mine. So I wait. After the bombshells I’ve dropped on him over the past few days, I owe him that much.

I get up to refill our glasses and notice my little silver canister is also sitting on the cart. At least one thing is going my way today. I roll myself a nice, tight joint from my stash and light it before I sit down beside him again. I’m almost halfway through it when he finally speaks.

“You shouldn’t be smoking,” he says, without looking up. I take another long hit off the joint, inhaling deeply and letting the buzz crawl over me before answering.

“I’m afraid that’s at the bottom of a very long list of things that shouldn’t be, Sunshine.” I stretch out beside him and prop myself up on one arm. I finish both the joint and the rest of the Beam before he speaks again.

“I’ve wanted this for so long, Brian,” he says. “But not like this.” He raises his head then, shaking it slowly, “It wasn’t fucking supposed to be like this.”

“And what exactly do you think ‘this’ is?” I’m pretty sure I already know the answer, but I have to ask.

“It’s...” He shakes his head again and huffs out a frustrated breath. “Never mind.”

“Fuck never mind.” I sit up again. “Answer me, Justin.”

“Damnit, Brian. I wanted it to be because I’m enough for you. When we finally... It was supposed to be because you only want me, not because...” He hesitates, then clamps his mouth closed. His righteous indignation seems to have abandoned him, doubt and insecurity rushing in to take its place. I know he doesn’t want to finish the sentence. As upset as he is, he doesn’t want to hurt me.

“Because I’m sick? Because I’m afraid I’m going to die?” He flinches when I say the word, biting at his lower lip. I take his chin in my fingertips, turning his face toward me. “Is that it?”

He just shrugs, a world of unhappiness in the simple gesture.

“That’s part of it,” I say softly. His eyes narrow with pain and I’m suddenly reminded of another time I said those words to him. The first time. There was pain then, too. But then so much pleasure.

‘Does it always hurt?’

‘A little.’

“It’s part of the reason I’m telling you now, but that’s just my fucked up luck.”  Another image flashes to mind, just one in a series of badly timed moves on my part when it comes to Justin. ‘As for the times when you’re not around, I wouldn’t particularly mind it if you were.’ He was on a plane to Hollywood a week later. Nothing was really the same after that. “Timing has never really been on our side, you know?”

He cocks his head at me, trying to make sense of what I’m saying, but he’s clearly at a loss and he looks away again. I take a deep breath and for a split second, imagine I can feel this fucking thing inside me, pressing on my heart. I’m sure that must be what this ache in my chest is. I turn him back, make him look at me.

“I’m telling you now because next Monday morning they’re going to start pumping me full of poison. Once they do, we’re going to have to use a condom again until it’s over, because apparently the universe really does hate me. I’m telling you now because I know we’re both clean.” His eyebrows go up at that and I give him the same in return. “Unless there’s something you’d like to tell me?”

He huffs out a self-conscious little laugh despite himself. “No.”

He’s chewing on his bottom lip, and I reach up and brush my thumb across it, pulling it out from between his teeth. I lean and kiss it softly, and he makes this small sound in his throat that just about ends the conversation right there. But there are things he needs to hear. Things I need to say.

“Listen to me.” It occurs to me that I’ve probably said more words to him in the last three days than I have in the last eight years put together, but he deserves to hear them. I take his face in my hands. “Are you listening?”

He nods, his eyes locked on mine now. “I’m listening,” he whispers.

“This not a checkmark on some fucking bucket list. I know the timing is for shit, but I can’t help that. I was always going to tell you after we got our last tests back, but the fucking world got in the way again.” I pause for just a second, not because I’m unsure, but because I find my own voice a little wrecked. I slide my hands around to the back of his neck and press my forehead to his. “I love you, Justin. You’re enough for me. I don’t want anyone else.”

His eyes are wet, and he reaches up and pulls my hands from his neck, and there’s a moment where I’m really not sure how this is going to end. But then he squeezes them hard and brings them to his lips.

“You really are unbelievable, you know,” he says, and his mouth curves into a smile that could probably be seen from space. I have a feeling that if I looked close enough into those shining blue eyes, I’d  probably see that mine could, too.

He chokes out something that might be my name, and then suddenly, he’s everywhere at once. His hands are in my hair, his mouth is on mine. I can still taste myself on his tongue as it sweeps across my lips and then plunges inside. He pushes me backwards as he climbs on top of me. My breath whooshes out as my back hits the floor, but I barely notice since he breathes it right back into me, with no sign of concern whatsoever for the poor cancer patient. I wonder if he can feel me smile with his tongue this far down my throat?

A hundred years later, he breaks away from my mouth, sliding his lips along my jaw, kissing my ear, my cheeks, my eyelids. His warm breath flows over my skin as he pulls back slightly, his fingers fumbling with the buttons on my fly as he kisses down my throat, along my shoulders. When he has my pants open, I lift my hips and let him pull them off, then he makes quick work of his own and kneels between my legs again. I feel a bead of moisture leak from the tip of my dick, leaving a faint trail where it rubs against him as he kisses his way back up my body. When he reaches my lips again, I wrap one arm around his shoulder and roll us over so he’s on his back beneath me. He opens his mouth as though he’s going to object, but I slip my tongue in before he can form the words.

His smaller body molds perfectly into mine as I stretch myself out over the length of him. I kiss him deeply and he hooks one leg around my thighs, arching into me and grinding our cocks together. My hips begin to thrust of their own volition and I hear myself groaning into his mouth. Jesus. I’ve felt his bare cock against mine a hundred times, but this... knowing that I could just keep going, push inside his tight little ass just like this... fuck. I have to slow down or I’m going to come before I even get inside him.

I raise myself up on my arms and let my mouth drift off his, sliding it down along his throat. I find his pulse point and suck the soft skin around it into my teeth. His heart is beating so wildly against my lips I actually lift my head to make sure he’s okay, only to find him staring back at me. His eyes are glittering, his tongue caught between his teeth and he’s panting softly. He’s so beautiful... so fucking young. I really have no right to ask him to take this chance with me. He had it right - I am a selfish bastard. I blame him. He’s the one who made me need him so fucking much.

“Justin...” I have to ask. I have to know. “Are you sure? Is this really what you want?”

“Brian?” He reaches up and takes my face in his hands, his eyes suddenly dark and serious, “I honestly never thought I’d say these words to you.” All I can do is hold my breath as he pulls me down until our mouths are nearly touching again. I can feel the heat of his smile even as he speaks. “You talk too fucking much.”

* * *

“I love you, Justin. You’re enough for me. I don’t want anyone else.”

I feel like I’m going to burst. Into flames. Into song. Into a million fucking pieces.

I slide his hands off my neck, wrap them in mine - mostly because I need something to hold on to, something to keep me from flying apart altogether. Tears prick the backs of my eyes as the sheer enormity of what he’s saying sinks in. He didn’t just amend the sacred Kinney dogma this time, he tossed it right out the fucking window. For me. For us. And I know without a doubt, it’s the truth.

I raise his hands to my lips, just hold them there for a long moment while I try to figure out how to apologize for being a selfish twat. But as I look into his eyes, as open and unguarded as I’ve ever seen them, I feel like maybe he already knows. Maybe,  just this once, the words don’t matter.

“You really are unbelievable, you know?”

And then he smiles. Really smiles. The kind I don’t think anyone else has ever seen but me. The kind that’s love and lust and promise and hope and home all at once. The kind I could live inside forever.

“Brian...” The sound of his name mingles with the soft gasp he makes as my hands find the back of his head and I pull him hard up against my mouth. The taste of him still lingers on my tongue as he sucks it eagerly into his mouth. I straddle him, my fingers twisting in his hair as I push him back onto the carpet. His breath rushes out when his back hits the floor. I should probably feel bad about that, but all I feel is desire, pure and powerful. I kiss him deeper, steal his breath and feed him mine, until the blood is pounding in my ears and I’m dizzy with the need for more.

My hands work the buttons on his jeans as my lips slide from his, tracing every curve of his face, feathering kisses over his eyes, his cheeks, along his jaw, down his throat. I sit back to open the last button, licking my lips in anticipation as he raises his hips and lets me pull his jeans off his long, beautiful legs. I shimmy out of my own and then drop back down between his knees, brushing my fingers lightly up the insides of his thighs.

His legs spread a little further at my touch, his cock rigid and leaking little drops of pre-come on his stomach. I flatten my hands and run them up and down the long muscles of his thighs, reveling in the way his cock twitches and strains toward me each time my thumbs brush the nest of wiry curls at its base. I lower my head and let my warm breath play over his skin as I lap the droplets of moisture from his belly. I feel more than hear the guttural sounds he makes when the head of his cock brushes against me as I slowly kiss my way back up his body.

Before I can even register his arm wrapping around me, I’m on my back again and his tongue is in my mouth. I feel his other arm slip under me, then his fingers digging into my skin as he wraps his hands over the tops of my shoulders. He stretches out over me, his long slender body covering mine completely, drawing me in until there isn’t a bit of me that isn’t touching him. He groans into my mouth, shuddering as I hook one leg around his and arch my back, bringing us somehow, impossibly closer.

He rolls his hips, slowly, so slowly I’m not even sure he’s aware he’s doing it, and oh fuck me, he’s making these small circles with them and I feel each ripple of his abs against my cock. I gasp when his mouth slides off mine, trails down my throat. And then he’s sucking on my skin, teething it as his hot, silky, bare cock presses into mine, and oh fuck, oh jesus, please don’t stop,  please... Please...

Brian raises his head slightly, just enough that I can see his eyes; there is the tiniest flicker of... something. Doubt? Regret? Please, God, no.

“Justin...” Whatever it is, his voice is heavy, rough with it.

“Are you sure? Is this really what you want?”

Oh God. I truly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved him more.

“Brian?” I take his face in my hands, “I honestly never thought I’d say these words to you.” I swear he’s holding his breath and it’s all I can do not to smile. I pull him down close and whisper the words against his lips. “You talk too fucking much.”

He lets me kiss him but I feel the little sigh he makes as he pulls back again, this time raising himself up on his elbows.

“I’m serious, Justin. You need to be sure. You have your whole fucking life ahead of you...”

Shit. Shit.

“So do you, Brian, and don’t you fucking forget it.” I still have my hands on his face and I have to resist the urge to give his head a shake. “I’m sure, okay? I’ve never been more sure of anything in my entire fucking life, except the fact that if you stop now, I am going to have to kill you. Now will you please, please shut up and fuck me?”

It takes a moment, but then his eyes go soft again and his mouth curves into that slow, half-smile of his.

“Bossy little twat,” he mutters, as his mouth closes in on mine. I hold him off just long enough to make sure he hears my answer.

"Don't you forget that, either."

* * *

Tags: fanfic, stronger
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