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Title: Rule of the Jungle, Chapter 1 (Part 2) (Nanowrimo story 2008)
Author: Layla V
Pairing: Brian/Justin
Fandom: Queer as Folk US
Time-line: Post-513 future
Summary: Justin thinks he knows Brian. But there are some things which can still surprise him to no end.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Don't own them; just love them very very much

"Rule of the Jungle, Chapter 1 (Part 2)"

In the end, the shelter on Monroe street in Murrysville turned out to be an okay choice after all. A man named Crosby greeted him when he took the kitten there and asked him to sign over the cat's relocation papers—a formality he said the shelter asked to be fulfilled whenever a new entry was brought in. Which Brian was happy to do so.

After everything was done, Brian nodded to the man. "So this is it. It has a home now."

A small look of bemusement appeared on the man's face. "Well, not yet. But hopefully it will have a home soon."

Brian looked at him. "Well, they all do, right? Find a home, that is?"

The man spread out his hands in front of him. "The fortunate ones do, yes."

What did that mean, exactly? "The fortunate ones?" Brian asked.

The man looked at Brian closely. "Yes. As you can see, we get stray cats and dogs by the dozens every day. The place is overflowing with unwanted animals. The fortunate ones of these will have someone choose to take them home as their pets."

Okay. He really did not want to get into this discussion. But for some strange reason, Brian couldn't help asking. "And what happens to the rest?"

"They are..." The man looked at Brian carefully, his words cautious, "....taken care of."

This was beginning to feel exactly like extracting teeth, not that Brian had ever had his teeth extracted, but he again prodded. "How?"

"Taken care of." The man made a sad moue. "Put to sleep."

Brian stared at him in shock. "YOU KILL THEM?"

The man shrugged. "Unfortunately, as distasteful as you may find it, we often have no other choice."

"But... how can you kill them?" This was not what he wanted to hear. "You're supposed to take care of them." It was a shelter, wasn't it?

"Yes, that's true." The man looked into his eyes. "But, Mister.... ?" he paused.

"Kinney," Brian offered.

"Mr. Kinney." The man nodded. "As much as we would like to make sure all our animals find a loving home, there aren't enough people willing to adopt unwanted pets."

Fuck. Brian looked down at the kitten he had handed over to the shelter and found it staring up at him in confusion. It probably wondered why it kept being taken from one new place to the next to the next. He looked at Crosby. "So what will happen to this one?"

The man waved a hand at the rows of cages lined up against the wall with every denomination of canine and feline species mewling and growling in there. The place was a veritable zoo. "As you can see, there already are dozens of other cats, and dogs, and other animals, waiting to find homes." He looked down at the kitten and made a face. "And I'll be honest; this one has a disadvantage. She's sick."

"It's not really sick." Brian was exasperated. "It just has a little cold."

"Yes, I can see that." Crosby nodded his head as he looked up at Brian. "You have shown me the instructions for the administration of her medicine. Every four hours until the cold clears."

Brian felt indignant. "It's only the sniffles."

The man stared at him. "And for some, even that can be a bit bothersome. People want healthy pets."

"But killing it..." Brian paused as he against looked at the kitten. "'s a her?"

The man affirmed. "Yes, it is."

Brian sighed in frustration. "Killing her...isn't that a little extreme?"

The man shook his head. "As unfortunately as it may be, we simply don't have the resources to do anything else."

Brian felt his teeth grit. "What about all those people who are supposed to love animals? Where the fuck are they?"

The man looked into Brian's eyes. "They're people like you and me, Mr. Kinney. People who are too busy with their lives to have time for an unwanted pet. And we can't blame them, can we? There simply is no way for all these stray animals to find people who can keep them. Sometimes, ending their lives can be the most merciful thing."

Brian stared at Crosby, as a strange, unfamiliar feeling filled his heart. "So you really have no other choice?"

"I'm afraid not."


It was seven thirty five pm on Friday evening, when Justin Taylor crossed the Welcome to Westmoreland County sign on the freeway and turned at the junction which would lead him to Murrysville. He'd spoken to Brian just before turning on Interstate 76 and he had still been at work at the time. The last two days had flown by for Justin, with meetings with both the galleries and Collins Designer Inc going wonderfully well. He'd signed contracts for three shows and an agreement with the designer firm to do a series of montages for their corporate offices in Manhattan.

However, Justin was a more than a little curious of what Brian had been up to while he'd been away this week. They'd spoken each day on the phone but for the past couple of days, he could feel something was a bit off with Brian. He could hear it in his voice. He sounded distracted, his mind obviously wandering—as if he was not quite there hundred percent. And then there was that flat denial that anything was wrong when he was called on it. Of course, the denial was a classic Kinney maneuver – he never really admitted something was bothering him. You had to pull it out of him with figurative pliers.

Take yesterday, for example. Brian had called him in the morning to ask about his meeting with the Collins people and when Justin had asked about his schedule for the day, Brian had mentioned a lunch with a client somewhere. But then, at two o' clock, when Justin had suddenly remembered that he needed to remind him urgently about the safety deposit box keys he was supposed to pick up from the bank that day, he realized Brian was not having lunch with any client but was out shopping. At a mall, of all places. At least, it had sounded like a mall. Because when he'd asked him which high-end designer store he was hounding during his lunch hour instead of meeting with his client, Brian had floundered for a second before snapping out a non-answer about ‘just shopping, fucker'.

All lies. Brian never went ‘just shopping'. He always had a plan and a particular place to go to. And he was picky as hell. He didn't go to malls just out of the blue. Justin knew that very well because he had to literally drag him to the malls for Christmas shopping every year and Brian always made a major fuss about it. He was an elitist sonofabitch who looked his nose down at retail outlets and was absolutely proud of it.

So what the fuck was he doing out at a mall yesterday? Must have been buying something for Gus. Yeah, he would and did do these out of character things for his son. But then why try to hide it from Justin? That made no sense.

As he turned the Bentley onto his street and then into their driveway, Justin felt himself relax without even trying. Brian had the tendency to act weird sometimes but that was part and parcel of the Kinney package. On his home turf, Justin could handle anything. He parked the car behind the corvette already in the driveway and turned off the engine. Good, Brian was home. He got out of the car, took his luggage out of the trunk and took his keys out. Wheeling his bag behind him, he climbed the stairs and opened the front door.

"I'M HOME." He called out as he put the keys on the table next to the door and set his bag down against the lounge chair. He looked around the foyer, into the lounge, saw nothing amiss. Except ... the kitchen lights were on, and so were the den's and the living room's to his right, and – yes, he looked up and confirmed – the passage on the first floor landing was lit as well. That was a lot of lights on. Much more than Brian usually went for when he was home by himself.

It was also nice and toasty inside the house. Brian must have turned up the heat when he came back from work – which was another peculiarity. Brian was the one who always complained when Justin turned up the heat too much. Frowning, Justin unzipped his jacket and had taken several steps towards the den, when the man in question appeared at its door.

"Hey." Brian looked almost surprised as watched him for a moment, his eyes searching his face for something – Justin didn't know what – and then a smile broke on Brian's face as he moved purposefully towards him.

"Hey," Justin managed to answer before he was wrapped up in strong arms and Brian's mouth descended onto his, his hot tongue deftly and lovingly exploring his mouth. He laughed when he felt Brian's hands creep inside his open jacket and hold his hips in their grip as the embrace was tightened and he felt that toe curling warmth spread through his frame. Christ. That never stopped. That mouth, that touch, that spicy, sweet scent—everything about Brian ignited this flame in his blood, torturing him exquisitely, making the longing grow in his being with every drawn breath. He grinned as he felt the familiar fingers taking inventory of him from his shoulders down to his ass. "Mmmm, find everything to your liking?"

He felt soft lips linger on his chin, his left cheek, nibbling gently on his earlobe before he was pushed back and Brian was staring at him intently, his clear eyes surveying him from head to toe, a knowing smirk on his lips. "Yeah, I think you'll suffice."

Chuckling, Justin hit him on the chest, and then gripped the lapels of Brian's shirt, pulling it out of his pants. "I missed you too, asshole."

And he absolutely had. It didn't matter if the trip was only for five days. Every hour away from Brian felt like an ache inside his gut after his years in New York. And when that ache simmered under his skin, only one thing could assuage it. A fast, hard fuck against the wall. Or on the stairs. Or on the couch. Anywhere, really. He needed Brian's cock in his mouth, right fucking now. He eyed the kitchen door behind them and pushed Brian through it, his fingers deftly working open the buttons of Brian's pants.

"Easy." Brian laughed quietly as they both barreled inside the kitchen and he was pushed against the marble island in the middle of the room, his arms holding Justin steady as he took on an onslaught of wet, biting kisses against his long throat. "I'm not...mmmm... going anywhere."

"Yeah, I know." Justin grinned and gripped Brian's hands firmly as he stood on his tiptoes and nipped at Brian's lips, his arms winding around his waist. "But if I don't come soon, I'm going to..." His eyes fell on the cat sitting on the low lying stool in the corner next to the pantry and stopped.

Justin blinked. He had to be hallucinating.

Brian's hands gripped his face in his hands as he leaned down and kissed him on the mouth. "Mmmm, tell me what you're going to do?"

There was a cat sitting on the stool. A small cat. A small white cat with black patches on its fur. He blinked rapidly again, hoping the hallucination would go away. But it didn't. The cat stayed sitting on the stool.


Brian only murmured as he continued kissing him but Justin was not kissing him back. Justin was still looking at the cat. And he knew the cat was looking at him. A cat that was in the kitchen. In their house. That Brian had bought.

"Brian." He shook his lover and pointed to the stool. "There's a cat in the room."

Brian nibbled at the corner of his lips. "Oh, is there? I must've missed that." He nuzzled his neck. "Come onnnnnn."

Justin felt exasperated as he watched the cat watching him and pulled back from Brian's lips. "Brian!"

"Justin." The impatience was evident in Brian's voice as he made one last ditch effort to make Justin focus on what he was supposed to be doing – kissing him.

But Justin was having none of that. "WAIT." Justin pushed him back, his eyes on the cat.

Brian sighed, and straightened up. "I thought you wanted to fuck."

"Yes, but, there's," he pointed at the cat again, "there's..."

Brian rolled his eyes. "Yeah, there's a cat in the room." He straightened his shirt and effectively changed mental gears as he turned away. "Aren't you hungry?

Justin gaped at him. "Yes, but..."

"Good, because I'm starving," Brian said. "Let me call that Thai place."

"But, Brian." Justin put a hand on Brian's arm as he reached out for the kitchen drawers where they kept their takeout menus. "There's a cat in the house."

"I know." Brian shrugged off his hand and looked through the papers, his eyes on the contents of the drawers. "It's a stray. She's from the garage at Kinnetik."

Justin stared at him. "You got a cat home from work?"

"No, I didn't." Brian sent a fleeting glance at him and then picked up the menu card. "She somehow got inside the car, and it was raining and I didn't realize she was hiding inside until I'd already gotten home."

Oh. "So it was all a mistake." Justin felt he could breathe easier. "She came here by accident." That's it. Made perfect sense.

"That's right." Brian picked up the phone. "Do you want Pad Thai or Khao Soi?"

"Both." Justin watched him dial, looking through the Thai Palace card. "So, when did you accidently bring her here?"

"A day or two back." Brian answered him before the line connected and he spoke to whoever was on the other side. "Yes, I want to place an order; yes, that's right, you know the place. Two Pad Thais, one Khao Soi, one Green Curry, one Gai Yang." He looked at Justin. "What else?" Justin shrugged so he continued, "Add those stir-fried veggies to the side." Justin made a face, so Brian added with a sigh. "And one Fried Banana with Ice cream, please. Forty-five minutes. Great."

Justin grinned as his lover put the phone down. And then it occurred to him. "Wait a minute." He stared at Brian. "You said it was raining that day. It rained in Pittsburgh, Monday and Tuesday. When exactly did you bring the cat here?"

Brian looked into Justin's eyes. "Are you sure those were the days it actually rained?"

Justin stared back at him. "Yes, I've been checking the weather every day."

"How intriguing?" Brian raised one brow. Then he narrowed his eyes as if trying to remember. "I believe it was..." he slowly nodded, "yes, it was Tuesday."

Justin felt a frown form between his brows. "So how come the cat that you accidently by mistake brought home from work on Tuesday... is still here on, let's see, what is today..." He looked at his watch. "...oh that's right, Friday?"

Brian pressed his lips and looked at him. "Her cold hasn't cleared yet."

Justin looked at the cat. "She has a cold?" It was a kitten. Not a full cat yet. Just a little kitten.

"Yes." Brian explained, "And since I was inadvertently responsible for the displacement of her cat family when I asked Theodore to call the SPCA on Monday after the cat infestation was discovered in the garage by yours truly, and because, of course, that directive caused the SPCA people to successfully search for and remove approximately two dozen cats of various sizes and breeds from the garage but somehow still managing to miss out this little one in all the chaos, and thus causing her to be abandoned, resulting, of course, in that terrible cold she ended up with, I thought I'd sort of..." He shrugged. "...take care of her while she recovered. That's all."

Justin looked at the kitten which apparently had listened to Brian's speech quietly enough and had suddenly realized she didn't want to be ignored any further as she jumped down from the stool and walked towards them. "She's been here all this time?"

But Brian was not looking at him. "What is it?" He bent down to pick up the kitten. "Are you hungry?" He brought the kitten close to his face, heard her answer him with a tiny mewl. "You are, aren't you? OK. Hold on." He opened the fridge and took out a small glass bowl from inside. "Here. Let me warm this up for you. There you go." It was milk and Brian was putting it in the microwave. Justin watched in absolute astonishment as Brian chose the lowest settings and stood back as the appliance whirred into action.

Justin stared at his lover, the man he'd known for ten fucking years, in shock. "You're microwaving milk for a cat." he said slowly, wonderingly, a strange feeling settling in his gut.

But Brian had either not heard him or was choosing to ignore the obvious. He held the cat up in the air. "Do you think her eyes are a little glassy?" he asked Justin. "She was coughing and sneezing really bad two days ago. The doctor gave her some drops and I've been trying to give them to her but I'm not sure it's working."

Justin looked at Brian. "Her eyes are fine. And she's not sneezing or coughing." He looked at the cat. "Brian, there's a pet shop in Clifton, maybe we can take her there."

"I've already been there." The microwave beeped and Brian took the glass bowl out. Justin felt his jaw drop as he watched Brian test the milk temperature with his finger before setting the bowl in front of the cat on the marble top. "The doctor said I could give her a bath once her temperature is normal. I did wipe her down with a wet towel, she was so filthy. Weren't you, little cat?" he said to the kitten who was now lapping away at the milk eagerly, purring happily.

Watching his lover tend to this small animal in a way he'd never seen him take care of anything or anyone before – except may be for his son when he was an infant – Justin felt astounded beyond all comprehension. "Brian," he sighed.

But the kitten had finished the milk and was now looking up at Brian with what Justin thought were adoring eyes. So Brian asked her gently, "Is that enough? Not hungry anymore?"

"Brian," he tried again.

"You want to get down now?" Brian picked up the kitten and let her drop to the floor. "OK, go."

Justin reached out and gripped Brian's arm. "Brian?"

Brian looked at him hastily. "Why don't you put your stuff away? And take off your jacket, for chrissakes," he said as he made to turn away.

"Brian. Listen to me." Justin held his arm tight and attempted to walk around him.

"Hey, watch where you step." Brian gripped his hand and stopped him from stepping on the kitten as she rubbed against Brian's leg in obvious appreciation before running off to the corner.

Justin looked at her skidding to a stop against the wall and then take off at full throttle at the other corner, skidding to a stop there. "Brian." He looked at him as he shrugged off his jacket. "Do you... maybe, kind of... want to keep this cat?"

"Give that to me." Brian took the jacket from him and put it on the chair.


Brian spun on him irritably. "Can we stop talking about the fucking cat?"


"I thought you liked animals." Brian scowled. "Don't you?" And then his eyes widened. "Fuck. It's your allergies, isn't it? You're allergic to cat hair?" Brian closed his eyes as his teeth gritted. "Oh dammit, I should've known."

"No, Brian, I'm not allergic to cats." Justin laughed. "And yes, I do like them." He looked into Brian's eyes. "The question is, since when do YOU like cats?"

Brian stared at him, suddenly expressionless. "I don't like cats."

Justin felt his brows rise. "Oh, really?"

"I don't," Brian insisted. "I'm just taking care of her. I told you."

Justin pressed his lips together. "Right."

"And she had a cold. You should've seen her that night, she looked so pathetic."

Justin looked at the kitten who was now playing with a small rubber ball he hadn't seen earlier. "She looks fine now."

"Does she?" Brian sounded unsure. "I can't tell. She's so tiny."

"Yeah, I noticed." Justin looked up at Brian again. "So you're going to take her to the pet shop eventually?"

"They don't want her." Brian moved to the living room and Justin followed him. "Neither do the animal shelters I've checked out." Justin heard scurrying sounds behind him and turned to see the kitten hurrying after them, intent on not letting them – or at least Brian – out of her sight. "Did you know they destroy the animals that don't get adopted after a few days?" Brian sounded irate, incredulous. "That's fucking insane. What's the point of having a fucking animal shelter when you're going to put them all to sleep? That's not right."

Justin sighed. "I know it isn't."

Brian threw up his hands as he dodged the running kitten from running into in his feet. "And if I hadn't called the SPCA, she would be with her mother."

Justin felt a smile threaten to break on his face. "So you're keeping her."

Brian scoffed. "I don't want to talk about it."

Jesus Christ! "Brian." Justin gripped his hand, stopping him from moving towards the stairs.

"What?" Brian sounded annoyed.

He let the grin show now, wide and proud, as he shook his head. "You never cease to amaze me."

Brian looked at him disbelievingly. "That's good to know."

Laughing, Justin threw his arms around Brian's neck and kissed him soundly. He felt Brian's arms come around him as the kiss deepened and he felt the axis of the world tilt in a wholly strange and new fashion and gripped Brian tighter. A cat. Brian had gotten a fucking cat.

In the middle of the kiss, he looked into Brian's eyes, and a question popped in his mind. "Hey, what's her name?"

Brian looked at him as if he'd grown another head. "She doesn't have a name."

"What do you mean?" Justin stared at him. "Every pet deserves a name."

"She's not my pet." Brian looked away. "She's just... she's just..."

"She's just a kitten you adopted."

"I haven't adopted her." Brian shook his head firmly "I'm just taking care of her."

Justin rolled his eyes. "Right." Then his eyes fell on something on the den floor. "Oh my God. Is that a litter box?"

"Very observant, Sunshine," Brian said sarcastically.

He looked up at Brian. "A litter box in our den?" This sealed the whole deal, didn't it? Brian had gone out and purchased a litter box for the cat. Jesus. That's what yesterday's shopping trip was all about, wasn't it? It wasn't to the mall. It was to a pet store.

"Of course." Brian shrugged. "I don't want her making a mess anywhere, you know."


"What now?" Brian huffed.

Justin smiled. "You're fucking adorable."

"I'm fucking not." Brian frowned at him. "I'm not adorable. "

Justin looped his arms around Brian's waist. "Yes, you are." He kissed him on his cheek. "So adorable."

"Fuck you." Brian pouted.

Justin rubbed his crotch against Brian's hip. "Is that a promise?"

Brian looked down into his eyes and smirked. "Always."

Justin kissed the side of his mouth. "Adorable."

Brian bristled. "If you call me that one more time, I promise I will not fuck you for the... for the rest of the weekend."

Justin hugged him in happiness. "As if you could resist me for that long."

Brian playfully ruffled his hair before burying his nose into it. "Rest of the night then."

Justin ran his hands up his back and smiled. "Not a chance."


They both looked down to see the kitten sitting at their feet, watching their antics with much interest.

Justin elbowed Brian in the ribs. "I think she approves."

Brian kissed him on his neck and sighed. "She'd better."


An hour later


"What the fuck now?"

"There's a litter box in our guest bedroom."

"Of course, there is. I don't want her having any accidents while she's upstairs."

"How many others?"

"Just the two you saw. For both floors."

"I see."


Half hour later



"Is that my favorite white t-shirt in the cat box?"

"You mean the ugly old thing that I hated with pure passion?"

"I loved that t-shirt. And you gave it to the cat?"

"Yeah, she loves it too. You both have hideous taste in clothes, apparently."

"I hate you."

"Try to remember that when you're trying to fuck me later tonight."


"Cat got your tongue, Sunshine?"

"Hold on to that thought. I'm coming."

"Yeah, that's what you always say."


Much, much later that night

After their fourth round of reunion sex – Justin called it reunion sex even if they only parted for a day or two – the pace having slowed down considerably since the first three marathons, including one where he had indeed gotten to top, Justin suddenly sat up in the bed and blinked into the semi-darkness. "Have you taken her to the vet? She needs to be given shots, you know."

"I have the appointment for tomorrow."

"Oh." It appeared Brian had thought of everything. Like everything else he turned serious about, Brian was going after this taking care of a kitten thing with his single-minded determination. "Wow."

"Well, don't sound so flabbergasted."

"I'm not flabbergasted." He looked at his lover's long, lithe, naked form snuggling into the silk duvets. "I'm..... I'm..... okay, I am flabbergasted." He shook his head, his heart suddenly bursting with a tenderness he hadn't felt in a long, long, long time. "Brian. OH BRIAN."


He swooped down to lay a kiss on a bare shoulder. "I fucking love you."

"Why?" Brian's voice was lazy. "Because I rescued a stray kitten?"

"Because.... you never cease to fucking amaze me." He kissed Brian's warm neck, feeling the onslaught of the giggles close in and fought to keep it at bay. "And because you let me top tonight." He smiled. "And because you love cats."

"I don't love cats." The impatience was no longer in Brian's voice, as if he knew Justin's exasperation was expected. Instead, there was an eerie calmness in his voice that made Justin want to laugh even harder. "I told you I don't."

"Uh huh." Silk. Brian's skin was like silk and he so loved the feel of it. Justin laid his head on a broad chest and looked into twinkling hazel eyes. "So have you ever kept one at home before? When you were a kid?"

"Are you kidding?" Brian made a face. "Joanie and Jack would never allow it. And Claire was allergic to cat hair so she always screamed about keeping them away from her." He looked into Justin's eyes. "And besides, I don't..."

"Yeah you don't like cats." That was fucking besides the point. He had the evidence right in front of him, even if Brian had somehow managed to keep all this cat-love a dark deep secret from the rest of humanity. "So did you interact with cats when you were a kid?"

Brian watched him from behind hooded eyes. "Define interact."

"Feed them," Justin offered. "Play with them. Take care of them."

Brian sighed and laid his head back on the pillow. "I. Don't. Like. Cats."

"Right." Justin grinned.

Brian was such a fucking tool. Well, this was no longer a secret. Brian Kinney liked cats. He was not a completely heartless asshole.

On some strange, previously unknown level, Justin almost felt validated.


The next morning, in the kitchen

"Hey, what is this? Where's the good coffee?"

"You mean the Brazilian blend you got me addicted to?"


"You're the one who forgot to stock it before you went to New York."

"But you had five days to replace it. Don't tell me you've actually been drinking this instant crap for the past five days."

"Actually, I've been ordering from the Starbucks across the block at Kinnetik, so no, I haven't been drinking this instant crap. And I've been kind of busy to replace it. This is your job."

"Well, I'm not drinking this coffee this morning. I'd rather go to the Diner. In fact, that's a great idea."

"Drive half an hour into Pittsburgh to eat breakfast at the Diner? No, thanks."

"Oh, come on, it's been a while since we saw Deb. And I know this is her working Sunday. Let's go."


"Get dressed, Brian. We're going to the Diner."

"It's fucking Sunday morning. You're going to regret it, I know."

"No, I am not."


Forty-five minutes later

"Awwww. That's so sweet." Justin watched as Deb cried in delight. "You always wanted a cat, didn't you?" She lovingly scuffed Brian on the face. "Oh, I remember that."

Justin stared at her in shock. He looked around the diner but no one else was paying attention to them. He looked at Brian who was resolutely staring at his coffee, and totally not looking at him. Justin looked at Deb again. "Brian always wanted a cat?"

"Of course." Deb stared at him as if he was out of his mind. "He was crazy about little fluffy kittens, he used to talk about cats all the fucking time when he was fourteen."

He stared at Brian accusingly, and then asked her, "And you knew about that?"

Brian picked up the coffee mug and groused. "I've fucking never liked cats"

"Oh, hush." Deb slapped Brian at the side of his head. "You don't have to act the scrooge all the fucking time, Brian Kinney. You love cats and I know that to be the truth and there's nothing you can do to deny that." Then she smiled dreamily as she sighed, her eyes sparkling. "Awww, I bet she's adorable. Wait till Gus sees her. He's going to be so fucking happy his Daddy got him a little kitty!"

With a huff, Justin dug into his pancakes. "Something tells me Daddy didn't get the kitty for Gus."


Two days later, he was working in his studio when Michael showed up with the story outline for the next RAGE issue. Justin was surprised at the lack of surprise Michael showed at the existence of the cat, but perhaps he shouldn't have.

Considering how he had been betrayed by his own damn partner.

"Brian has always loved animals." Michael said and Justin should've known this was coming as well.

"Uh huh."

"Yes." Michael said cheerily, ignoring the snit Justin was obviously in, or perhaps all the more happy for it. "When he was a kid, he used to feed the neighbors cats and take the stray puppies to the vet when they needed to get their shots done with his pocket money."

"Right." Justin gritted his teeth.

"You know I've known Brian way, waaaaaaaay longer than you have." Michael gloated. "I've known him since before you were born."

"Shut up," Justin snapped. "That's not true."

Michael laughed. "You don't have to be jealous, you know. Brian has always been fond of animals."

This was a game to him. To all of them. They'd known Brian's love for pets and he hadn't, so pooh pooh on poor Justin for not having known this pertinent fact. "So how come he's never had pets before now?" he asked hotly.

Michael shrugged. "That's cause he's just such a neat freak."

"And he isn't anymore?"

"Sure he is." Michael gestured at the whole expanse of the living room. "Do you see any disarray? Any disorder? Any dirt? Any bad odors? Any hairs on the couch? Any muddy paw prints on the carpet? Any chewed up toys glistening with cat saliva on the floor? Any---"

"All right, all right!!!" Justin stopped him in the middle. "I get it. So he's a neat freak."

"And he's a damn good trainer, obviously." Michael shrugged. "He's trained his little cat the way he needed it to be. He's got good control." A snooty smirk appeared on his face. "Look how well he's trained you; you're almost respectful."

Justin grumbled. "Fuck you."

Michael chuckled. "No, thanks, I don't want Brian to kill me. Or you."

"Brian won't kill me," Justin asserted passionately. "I can fuck anyone I want."

"I know." Michael said drily. "Just don't try to fuck me. Or I'll barf on the carpet and then Brian will get all mad."

Justin picked up the scripts and started leafing through the papers. "Get out."

Chuckling, Michael picked up his bag as he made his way to the door. "Try to relax, okay? I don't know why you're so worked up. Pets are supposed to be good for your health."



It was Sunday night while Justin was working on a sketch in the TV room when his phone rang. He looked at the display; it was an out of state number he didn't recognize. He pressed receive.


"Hey Justin, what's up?"

"Daph." He laughed. "Where have you been? It's been ages since I last spoke to you."

"I know. I'm in Chicago on a visit with a group of Andrew's friends. Justin, I have so much to tell you." Daphne squealed on the line. "But first, tell me how are things with you?"

"Great. The same old, you know. Back and forth between New York and Pitts." He smiled. "What about you?"

He heard the tiny pause of suspense before Daphne blurted out. "Andrew is taking me to Paris. For three whole months."

"What? That is awesome." He laughed. "When?"

"On the fourteenth." Her happiness was evident in her voice.

He felt genuinely happy for her. "That is amazing!"

"We were planning to come to Pittsburgh first because I wanted to meet you and mom and dad wanted me to stay home with them for a bit but it doesn't look like it'll happen, I have so much to do." He heard the sigh over the phone. "I hate not seeing you. It's been so darn long. We have so much to catch up on."

"Oh yeah, I know what you mean."

"How's Brian?" Daphne asked, her voice giddy, just as Justin looked up to see Brian enter the room. "As gorgeously hot and sexy as usual."

Justin watched the tight fitting black t-shirt and the low-riding jeans Brian was wearing as he set his laptop on the coffee table in front of sofa. "Oh, way hotter than you can imagine, Daph." He grinned.

"You loser." Daphne laughed. "You so don't deserve him."

"And you totally don't deserve Andrew," Justin retorted cheerfully as he watched his lover sit down on the sofa, intent on his task. "He's one fine specimen too."

"Justin Taylor, keep your eyes off my boyfriend and I won't tell Brian about that embarrassing childhood incident where you lost your shorts inside the mud bath." Daphne giggled.

"Let's not talk about embarrassing events, Daph, because I have a few of your own to tell." Justin grinned. "I can totally ruin you."

"Oh, shut up." Daphne sounded gleeful. There was a slight pause and then she asked, "What's that sound?"

He looked at Brian and saw the kitten playing with his bare foot, mewling in satisfaction as Brian wriggled his toes unconsciously as he worked, and she grabbed and pulled at them playfully.

"Oh nothing," Justin said quickly. "It's just..." He picked up the remote, "... the TV." He switched it on.

He was not going to tell Daphne about the cat. No way. Not right now, at least. Because, first... she was going away for three months and he absolutely deserved that time to... come to terms with these new developments. Second, what Daphne didn't know, she couldn't tease him about.

Yes, that was it. There was no need to bring Daphne into the mix right now. She'll find out when she came back to Pittsburgh. Three months later.

He watched as Brian picked up a ball and threw it across the room and the kitten ran after it, skidding across the carpet, kicking the ball as it rolled from one corner of the room to the next to finally come to rest near his feet. He bent down to pet the kitten on her head as she came barreling towards the ball and she paused to paw him in the hand and mewled contentedly. He increased the volume on the TV.

"I'm kinda sad I won't be able to see you before I go away." Daphne was saying. "But I'm thrilled about Paris so much. God, I'm so happy, Justin."

He had been given three months of time to be prepared for the teasing he was sure he was going to get. He was totally going to make the most of them.

He laughed. "Oh, so am I, Daph. So am I."

After all, not much more could happen in three months, could it?

Not much for sure.


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