He floated into a hazy half-aware dream, warm, safe, just drifting… oh, ohh, yesss… the feel of lips and tongue right there… drifting closer to awareness from out of the surrounding thickness of sleep, dark lightening slowly to brightness, the sensation of bodily presence washing over him, and now with that caressing touch against his skin, still encased in sleep’s heavy warmth and comfort, and gently coaxed upward by the added, pleasant, more than pleasant sensations washing over him, lifting him out of the pool of unconsciousness, surfacing, and then… cumming, his entire being focused on the gathering intensification, and the tightening, tightening… and being washed outward on slow but intense throbs, nerve signals coursing to the tips of his fingers and toes, tingling. He emerged into full consciousness with such little disruption between his sleeping and waking state that he couldn’t be sure he wasn’t just still dreaming. His hands moved down, to entwine in Justin’s hair. Silky. Fingertips skimming the skull beneath the softness sliding through his fingers. Felt real. Brian opened his eyes, took in the blue gazing back at him, the cocky grin that greeted him. “Good morning,” Justin whispered, moving up Brian’s body, to kiss his jawline, his lips.
When they parted, Brian moved his head back and raised an eyebrow. He asked, his voice still husky with the remnants of sleep, “What was that for?”
“Setting the tone for the day,” Justin answered, sitting up.
Oh, yeah. The funeral.
“What time is it?”
“Time to get up.”
Brian put his forearm over his eyes, knowing Justin was right, but denying any immediate response. Get up. He had been up. Now he was definitely back down. He peered out from underneath his arm, watching Justin’s naked backside move toward the bathroom.
“Come on, Brian. We gotta be at the church in two hours.”
Ugh. That place. Brian smirked, remembering.
“And I’m not gonna be able to picture anything but you and that altar, it just isn’t right…” Justin’s voice came to him from the bathroom. The shower was turned on.
Brian sat up, smiling despite a gathering dread in the pit of his stomach that Justin’s wake-up call had dissipated somewhat. That was pretty funny, Justin was still freaked out. Wonder if he’d be bringing that up years down the road? Probably. Brian chuckled slightly, even as he wondered how Justin did that, read his mind, then say just the right thing to get him into or out of the moods that ran through him. Well, he wasn’t going to think about it now, not when there was a cascade of nice hot water calling to him, to say nothing of the nice hot body it was pouring over…
He sat in the corner of the limo, staring out the window, waiting for Claire, who was shaking the hands of a couple of old women at the doorway to the church. Thank god that was over. How long had that fat priest rattled on, how many of Claire’s ridiculous sobs had he counted? He’d stopped at sixty-something. One a minute. Was she timing them? Wouldn’t surprise him.
Justin reached out, took the hand which had been lying on the seat between them, picked it up and squeezed it. He then released his grip, but Brian found himself tightening his own hold, and resting their clasp on Justin’s leg. “How’s it going?” Brian asked.
“That should be my question to you.”
“Ah, beat you to it.”
“Doesn’t get you out of being asked.”
There was a silence, and Brian watched Claire detained by an old man. Wait, it was Uncle Mike. Wow, he was looking his age. And Christ, would that woman never get down here so they could get this show on the road?
Brian didn’t look over, but knew Justin waited for an answer to his implied “how you holding up?” He shook his head, not in refusal, but out of uncertainty as to how to answer. Finally, he managed, “I just keep remembering Vic’s funeral. I felt… sad. Like I knew how much I’d miss him. All this is, is relief.” He could feel the features of his face harden as he said this, and realized he felt a kind of sadness in the fact that this was so. How fucked up was this? When would it be over?
Justin leaned into him, and brought his free hand to Brian’s jaw line, turning his head away from the scene outside of the car. “You can feel that way, you know. It’s perfectly fine.”
Brian shrugged. “I know. But… still.” But still, he leaned his face toward Justin’s caress, as the young man’s thumb slowly traced a pattern on the skin just beneath his cheek.
“Love is only given without thought by children, after that, it’s gotta be earned. It’s not wrong to feel nothing for people who don’t deserve it.”
“You should take your own advice.”
“I do,” Justin replied with a slight smile, and leaned forward to kiss him. Brian allowed himself the brief comfort of his partner’s soft lips, but broke away just as the comfort began to yield to something else. Brian smiled slightly. “Don’t you think it would be inappropriate to seduce me in the limousine in the middle of my mother’s funeral?”
The blue eyes sparked with wrath at the words, at the teasing tone, and Justin drew in his breath, no doubt, Brian knew, to lecture him on appropriate behavior in the shadow of this very church, yup, still freaked out, but just then the door opened, and Claire moved in, John and Peter preceding her. Peter shoved John across the seat, but John just moved over, staring out the window toward the street, ignoring the vehicle’s other occupants, lost in his own world.
“You timed that,” Justin grumbled.
“How could I? I was looking at you,” Brian returned, and turned his attention to his sister, who was wiping the tears from her cheeks and straightening the veil on her hat.
“Poor Uncle Mike. He really misses her.”
“Same as you, huh?”
He received a glare for that from his sister, and another squeeze of his hand from Justin. He paid attention to only one of the two.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” Father Tom’s voice droned on. The bright sunlight made Brian glad he had an excuse to wear his sunglasses so he could eye the battle lines drawn across the gravesite without anyone knowing that he had even taken note of them. On this side, Brian and his cohorts, his lover, his cousin, his best friend and the best friend’s mother, the mother of his own child, and then Emmett and Ted. On that side, Claire, looking oddly right in place among the aging crowd of his mother’s cronies, Peter and John standing next to her. Peter looked bored, fidgeting, and John just looked spaced out, his face pale as he stared at the casket. Brian was amazed that he was actually paying attention, that this meant something to him. Well, what the fuck did he know about the little shit? Not a lot, and he planned to keep it that way. And, of course, Uncle Mike, standing on Claire’s other side, gripping her arm. Claire had her hat’s veil drawn down over her eyes. He could imagine them gleaming behind its shadow.
He glanced over at Justin, who was squinting up at the fat priest behind Tom. Definitely needed to get him sunglasses, maybe what? Ralph Lauren? Versace? Nah, since Gianni’s death, the line had gone to shit, even the accessories…
“Hey, Brian, how you holding up there?” Mikey’s voice, all concern, and Brian realized the service was over. Over, over. Thank god. Only Claire’s little post-service gathering at Mom’s house to get through. Well, not even that, he had the perfect excuse of going through his stuff, so he’d be able to duck out for the upstairs as soon as he’d had one cup of coffee and twenty or so “thanks for coming, yes, it’s sad, thank you, thank you…” Claire’s thank-you’s. He’d probably just keep his mouth shut. Then back to the loft. He had plans that involved making his eyes all big and troubled, and gaining the sympathy of a certain blonde ex-twink. Not that he was that calculated. He did feel, well, off. And he did need distraction, damn it. Sure, he could just tell Justin to drop trou and bend over, but there was some sort of extra… shit, he didn’t know, some extra something in that morning’s blow job, the caress on his jaw in the limo; he wanted a replay. Besides, Justin didn’t necessarily ask how high to his commands to jump anymore. And what, was he supposed to tell Justin, no rough stuff tonight, honey, I want your gentle touch… He shuddered, just thinking of those words coming out of his mouth. Uh-huh, no. Ain’t gonna happen. The bambi-eyed thing would work just as well. Besides, Justin would think he was kidding if he actually said something like that. Not that he ever would. And he didn’t need to make excuses for himself, did he? Shit, no. He was Brian fucking Kinney. Bambi eyes, here we come.
“What?” he asked, realizing Michael was waiting for him to say something, and Deb hovering just behind him, concerned looks plastered on their faces.
“I asked how you were doing.”
“Fine,” Brian replied, shortly.
“Justin told me you were hoping for help in sorting out your stuff?” Despite himself, Michael couldn’t help but light up at the mere consideration of going through Brian’s old crap. He tried to maintain that sympathetic look, but he just couldn’t do it.
“Yup,” Brian replied. “We get to see what goes on the bonfire.” They began walking away from the gravesite, as the others trailed in their wake.
“Brian! Hey, if you’re just going to burn it, I get to keep some of it, then, don’t I?”
“All that old high school shit? Why would you want to?”
“High school was great!” Michael replied. “Well, it was for me. I know you didn’t have fun.”
Brian flung an arm around Michael’s shoulders. “That had nothing to do with you. But I think Justin wants some of that shit kept around in case Gus wants memorabilia of his old man.”
“Oh. Right. Of course.” Michael grimaced at himself. Why didn’t he ever think of those things? He glanced over his shoulder, to where Justin and Deb were trailing behind them, deep in conversation. Justin looked up, flashed Michael a smile, which Michael couldn’t help returning. He was good for Brian, that was for sure. And that was the only important thing, right? Right.
“But,” Brian was continuing, dropping his arm as they reached the cars, “I suppose we might be able to let you have something.”
Michael smiled, shook his head. “Nah, I don’t need any of your stuff.”
Michael nodded. “Yeah, I got the memories. Justin should have access to the pictures and stuff, since he wasn’t there. And Gus, when he grows up. But it’ll be fun to go look at, anyway.”
That got a smile from Brian. He leaned in and surprised Michael by kissing him on the cheek. “You really are a good friend, you know that?”
Michael frowned up at him. “Has grief addled your brain?”
Smack! Shit! “Ma!” Michael cried, rubbing the back of his head. He turned to Deb. She shook a finger at him.
“Have some respect, Michael.”
He rolled his eyes.
“It’s okay, Deb,” Brian answered. He nodded at Lindsay as she passed him and smiled. “Are you coming to Claire’s little thing?”
Lindsay shook her head, wrinkling her nose. “No, I really do need to get back to my wife and kids. Mel’s still not feeling up to par. And your son is a real handful.” She headed off to her car.
Deb patted Brian on the hand. “I gotta go work, myself, honey. But come by later, okay? Before you go out?”
Brian nodded, and felt Justin’s hand at his back. “Ready?” He nodded in reply.
“This is your old room?” Justin asked curiously, looking around. The walls were yellow, with a border of vine-work applique traced just beneath the ceiling; a white eyelet coverlet lay over the bed with a yellow blanket at its foot, the lamps white with white lace shades, prints of pussy willows, lilies, white roses, one print on each wall. He looked at Brian, and raised an eyebrow. Brian rolled his eyes, and took off his jacket, tossing it over Justin’s head, his tie falling in his lap. Justin smirked as he pulled the jacket off and placed it behind him on the bed, throwing the tie over it.
Michael answered for Brian, who moved to the window and lifted the shade, letting the sunlight in. “Well, it used to look a lot different. Blue.”
“I came back from college to find my room converted into a guest room. All yellow,” Brian spat, ignoring the décor and heading for the closet. He slid open the door, and pushed aside some random shirts. “Damn, they should have put in a light…” Justin heard him say as he disappeared into the part of the closet that stretched off behind the wall. “Shit, damn it…” He backed up, carrying a box. “Here’s one. Probably old high school stuff. Claire said there’s also a couple of boxes up in the attic, that’s probably the baby books, elementary crap. Who knows.” He set the box on the floor, and squatted down, ripping the duct tape off. On the side, block letters read, “BRIAN.”
And then the oddest look crossed over his face. He stared for a moment, and then reached into the box. He pulled out a very strange stuffed animal. It was a… dog? Horse? Definitely not a teddy bear. Violent purple. With black ears. Only one eye, a black shiny button hanging by a thread. Most of the, uh, fur, was worn down; the thing looked moth eaten. Justin wrinkled his brow, looking at it.
“Oh my God!” Michael cracked up. “Booboo!”
“Booboo?” Justin smirked, eyeing the ratty thing.
Brian looked up, a small smile on his face. “Don’t make fun of Booboo, he’s older than you are. I got him when I was four.” He held the thing in his hands, staring down at that dangling eye.
“So it’s, what? 30?”
“Twenty-nine!” Brian insisted. “That thing was my only friend for years.” He glanced over at Michael. “Until I got a real one. Then Booboo…”
“Slept with you at night,” Michael supplied.
“Hung out on the window seat,” Brian corrected, scowling. He stood, and put Booboo down on said window seat, before moving back to the box.
Justin eyed the stuffed animal. “I can’t believe your taste was so… bad.”
“Actually, Claire picked him out,” Brian answered.
“Really? Claire did something nice for you?”
He shrugged. “She was seven. I was in the hospital. Concussion.” That last was muffled as Brian turned back to the box. Justin took a breath, ready to ask, but Michael caught his eye, and grimly shook his head.
“Here, Michael,” Brian said, handing him a high school year book. “Get it over with.” He leaned back, and watched as Michael grinned, and sat on the bed next to Justin, opening the year book to pages he already knew, having an identical copy at home. “Here, that’s me,” he told Justin, pointing to a picture of a goofily smiling man with hair a bit too long. Next to his picture was written, in big, loopy writing, “Hey asshole, I’m not going to write anything since you aren’t getting rid of me just by graduating!! Yr best friend, you know who!”
“Original,” Justin observed, looking up at Michael, who punched him in the arm, and flipped back a few pages, to Brian’s picture.
“You wouldn’t believe how hard the photographer tried to get him to smile,” Michael said.
“I didn’t do that.” Brian put in his comments, pausing to watch Justin’s reactions.
“Too cool for school?” Justin glanced up only briefly before turning his gaze back to the young man, unbelievably thinner than Brian was now, but with those high cheekbones, the lush lips, the “fuck you” expression.
“Something like that.”
“Here,” Michael said, flipping through yet again, to the sports section. Justin would have liked to have looked a little more closely, but he knew he had time, later. He glanced over at Brian, who grimaced, but didn’t look too terribly upset by all this. “There,” Michael directed Justin’s attention to the page.
Wow. On the soccer page was a black and white shot of Brian in his uniform, taken from the side as he moved into a kick as an opponent approached; arms out to the sides balancing for the kick, the leg all muscle, the focus of his gaze upon the ball all-consuming. Then Michael was pointing to a smaller, color shot in the next page of Brian again, ball in hand, the other hand on his hip, relaxing on the sidelines, a beautiful, beautiful boy. “I think the photographer was in love with him.”
“Everybody was,” Brian said, and Justin and Michael both made gagging noises, Michael shutting the book, placing it in Justin’s lap. “Anything else interesting?” Michael asked.
“Varsity letters, some old pictures… a couple notebooks, those can probably go. Hey…” Brian stood up with a couple of comics in his hand. “Here.” He handed them to Michael.
“Oh my god! Robot Man and Infinity Zone!” Michael looked at them, turned them over, shook his head at the flakes of paper that fell away. “Too bad these weren’t put in plastic, they’d probably be worth something. What do you think happened to the rest of your collection?”
“Might be up in the boxes in the attic,” Brian answered.
“Oh?” Michael’s voice was so hopeful.
“You want to go check that out? I’ll be up in a sec.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want,” Michael answered, unable to keep the eagerness out of his voice. He moved out of the room.
Justin opened the yearbook as Brian dug back into the box., He opened the yearbook back up to the soccer page and gazed down at the picture of the kid in the number 11 jersey, holding the soccer ball, glancing sideways into the camera with that arrogant sneer that had apparently attracted the photographer’s eye for good-looking, smart, athletic, and untouchable. Brian had had the formula down, even back then. But Justin knew, that was also the start of that veneer he wore as he wore Armani now, a hard cover over the child who had learned that softness was deadly, and love didn’t exist, and to exist without pain in the world you had to give up everything you really wanted, close yourself off. To not know joy, to only know pain, a pain that made you want to burn through the world, desecrate the altars of life, take everything it had to offer to try to and fill that hole inside that could only be satisfied by the one thing you sensed existed, had heard existed, but never experienced for yourself. Justin felt a prickle at the back of his eyeballs, a tightness clamping around his temples. A single drop fell onto the laminated page, and he wiped it idly away, passing his hand over teenage Brian’s picture.
Damn it, he thought as he felt the mattress dip underneath Brian’s weight. He didn’t want Brian seeing him this upset for the kid his lover had once been. But his chin was caught by Brian’s hand, his head raised. Brian took the book from Justin’s lap with his other hand, and set it aside. Justin took a deep breath and blinked, willing the tears away. “You were so young,” he tried to explain. “You seem so… hard already. Angry. You were what. Seventeen?”
“I had to be,” Brian started, hesitated, seeming to search for the words. “For my mom, love was something you dole out so people gave you what you wanted back. All that shit I was doing, the grades, the soccer, it was to get out of their house but…” He hesitated.
“I was hoping if I was really good, then they’d love me. But they just thought they weren’t doing anything wrong, because I was making them look good. They got what they wanted. And I got shit. Nothing I did was ever good enough. Joan told me all the time, there was something wrong with me. I was unfeeling, cold. Unnatural.” He snorted. “Bet she loved it when she found out I was gay. She had been right, all along, as far as she was concerned. She hadn’t done anything wrong, it was all me.”
“You’re not cold, Brian. There’s nothing wrong with you. And you’re even more gorgeous than you were then,” Justin flattered, glancing down at the picture and back up to the present-day Brian, who was rolling his eyes, but looking pleased. “Like when you’re with Gus. And I know you were an asshole to me in the beginning, but that first night… you let me in. You did. Even then, I knew that attitude was covering something else. Why do you think I stuck around? You let me see you. And that’s coming out more. Maybe that’s why you had to build up angry-boy, because you really did know what love is. Your mom never did. You do things for me that show me you love me all the time. You’re not unfeeling, and you’re not cold.”
Brian hesitated, and leaned his forehead to rest on the other man’s. “Yeah. Shut up. Okay, listen. I want to say this.” He straightened again. “When I do things for you… it’s because, well, I want things for you, not for myself. I know you feel that way about me, I just didn’t know that’s what you meant when you blathered on about your ‘feelings’.” Justin swatted him, and Brian leaned back. “Look, Justin, if I could, I would just say the stupid words. But for better or worse, all of this is who I am,” he nodded around the room, at the high school yearbook. “If I say it, I want it to be as right as the feeling is. And it is.”
“I know,” Justin replied. “I love you too, Brian.” Brian smiled, and leaned forward, but Justin pulled back. “Can I ask you something? If it’s out of line, just forget it.”
“If it’s not natural to you, how come you can say you love Michael?”
Brian froze, then abruptly straightened as if bitten.
Justin wished he hadn’t asked; he had known the question was a mistake. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ask you that.”
“No, I’m just…” Brian stared at him, hard. The silence stretched out.
“Seriously, Brian, forget it, I shouldn’t question your relationship with Michael, it’s not my place.”
“Fuck worrying about your place. You know you should just ask me if something’s bothering you.” Brian took a deep breath. “Look, what I’m going to tell you… I don’t want it to go beyond this. Michael wouldn’t understand. And I’m not proud of this.”
Justin nodded. Usually, if Brian didn’t want something repeated, he would keep it to himself. And he knew he didn’t have to tell Justin not to take out public announcements on their private conversations.
Brian stared hard at him, then said, “I told Michael I loved him the first time he let me retreat to his house. I think I said something like, I love you guys, to both him and Deb. It didn’t really mean anything. Glib bullshit. Learned the game from Joan. But he gave me this look… No one had ever been that happy at something I’d said, ever. I was, what? hooked maybe. And I didn’t say it so much after that, as agree with him when he said he loved me.” Brian hesitated, then continued. “Once, right around that whole Stockwell mess, Michael accused me of wanting to take off to New York without a backward glance, and I told him that no matter what, I’d always love him. He just said ‘bullshit,’ and I almost laughed, I was so pleased he was finally clueing into my crap.”
“But you do love Michael,” Justin insisted softly.
Brian returned, equally insistent, “It’s different. I love him, but I don’t ever give back as much as I get.” He saw Justin’s look, twisted his lips, and continued, “Anyway. I want those words to let you know what I feel *for* you, not what I get *from* you. With Michael and you, it’s different. How I love him, it’s not how I love you.”
Then, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, saying it wouldn’t sound right. That sounded okay to me.”
“Only because you were challenging me,” Brian answered, slightly disconcerted at how easily the words had slipped out.
Justin chuckled. “So you can only tell me you love me when we’re arguing. That sure sounds about right for you.”
Brian just stared at him, making Justin laugh harder. “Oh, my god, you’re totally freaked out, aren’t you? If it makes you feel any better, I’ve known all along.”
“Twat.” But Brian relaxed, and let Justin lean into him. “So that sounded okay? Only okay?”
“Well… I don’t want to panic you by using words like ‘amazing’ or ‘heart-stopping.’ You look like a deer caught in the headlights as it is.”
“A deer? You’re comparing me to a deer?”
“Yes, my dear,” Justin replied, laughing as Brian groaned at the pun. “It sounded more than okay, and you know it. Is your ego stroked adequately?”
“It’s not the ego that wants stroking…”
But Justin only stood, and moved to the window, much to Brian’s displeasure. “Later. Besides, Booboo needs a lot more stroking than you do, after what, 20 years in a box?”
“Fine… I’m going to check on my best friend, make sure he doesn’t end up drooling on my old comics.”
“You’re going to give them to him anyway,” Justin returned.
“Probably. There’s one more box in the closet, by the way. If you feel the urge to pry more into my past…” With a slight smile, Brian left the room.
Justin’s hand came off the stuffed animal, and he moved across the room. Hm, what else could be hiding in the back of this closet? Considering the possibilities, he walked in and shoved aside the shirts, barely able to make out the small box that huddled against the far wall. “Shit!” he said, tripping over a pair of old boots on the floor, catching himself on the wall.
And heard voices behind him in the room, the sound of the door closing. He froze, as he recognized the fat priest’s voice.
“John, you need to calm down.”
“I am calm! I’m fine! But… but…” John seemed about to cry.
I really should say that I’m here, Justin thought, but before he could speak, Father Steven’s next words changed his mind.
“She’s dead, isn’t that enough for you? Your hysteria isn’t going to change that, it’s only going to make it worse. Worse for you.”
“But it’s my fault! She saw… she saw…”
“And look what happened. What do you think is going to happen if you open your mouth about this? Who are you going to tell?”
Justin heard the door open as he sat, frozen, in the back of the closet.
“Father Steven? What are you doing?” Father Tom’s voice.
“Nothing, Tom. John was upset, we were just having a little talk.”
“John, your grief is understandable, but death is beyond all of our control. You do remember what I told you?”
“Yes, Father Tom, I remember.” John’s voice, sounding drained of its usual belligerence. Mechanical. The small hairs on the back of Justin’s neck prickled.
“Why don’t you go share your sorrow with your mother? She is equally distraught.”
The door opened and closed again, and Tom’s voice turned from its soothing tone to something much harsher. “What are you thinking?”
“He was getting hysterical. I was just reminding him of how much trouble his speaking up would cause.”
“Tell me you weren’t threatening him.”
“Of course not! I was merely reminding him…”
“Do me a favor and shut up. Take your own advice. Be grateful all I’m doing is moving you out of the parish.”
“You know I am grateful for your charity.”
“You need help, Steven, the Lord will punish you as he sees fit. It’s bad enough that we’ve had to go against Joan’s will, bad for the parish. The house could have done a great deal of good. So don’t forget how lucky we are that that boy’s mother is as interested in avoiding a scandal as we are, and keep your mouth shut. Don’t let me see you alone with that boy again, ever! One more week, is that too much to ask?”
Father Steven replied, “Of course not…”
And the door’s click as it opened was heard, and the priests’ voices faded. Justin waited a minute or so before peering out into the now-empty room. He walked over to Booboo, picked up the little animal and unthinkingly hugged it to his chest. “Holy shit,” he whispered, and then laughed slightly but with no humor at the appropriateness of that phrase. He repeated it, “Holy fucking shit.” What the fuck were they going to do? This was… Holy shit.
He put Booboo down and left the room, intent on finding the attic and Brian, but before he reached the stairs at the end of the hall, he heard broken sobs coming from a room on the left. He pushed the door open, to see John sprawled across the bed. “John?” He alerted the kid to his presence before approaching.
John snapped to attention, springing out of his fetal position, upright. “What… what the fuck do you want?”
Justin remained standing a few feet away. “I heard what Father Steven said to you,” he said, coming straight to the point.
“It’s nothing! It was nothing, nothing happened.”
“No! Nothing happened, nothing…” And then John’s face crumpled, and he turned his back, hugging his knees to his chest, and burying his face down, curled up in a ball, hyperventilating. Justin moved to sit on the bed, and reached out to touch his shoulder.
John uncurled, springing back to the headboard, as if shot. “Don’t fucking touch me!”
“Did your grandmother know?”
“Why do you think she’s dead!” John was moving into pure hysteria, tears streaming down his face, his breath catching somewhere in his chest and not expelling. His face was red, twisted out of shape.
“What the fuck is going on here?” Brian came into the room, having heard Justin’s voice. He had been on his way to his old room, to find out how Justin was doing with the rest of his stuff.
“All of you, you’re all… All of you! All of you!” John yelled, pushing past Justin, then Brian, who stumbled back against the doorframe with the force of John’s egress. They heard his noisy progress down the stairs. Then Brian looked back at Justin. “What the fuck was that about?”
Justin took a deep breath.