Author's Note: This is the fallout of the Curt and Brian break-up and the publicity shooting, from Brian's POV, because we don't really get to know anything that happens to him during those ten years. It's focus is the impact Curt had on his life, and his choices, as I'm very much about the Curt and Brian pairing--angsty as it is.

-----

There's nothing more exhilarating for him than watching Curt Wild on stage--even being on stage himself doesn't quite compare, it isn't even close to the same. If Curt Wild and Maxwell Demon are both fictions, it's Curt Wild that comes closest to the truth. Brian has known that from the moment he laid eyes on him, because what Curt does with music, it's too wrenching to be an act. There's too much pain in his voice, too much mischief in his eyes, too much irreverence to be anything other than completely and utterly him.

Put him on stage and he doesn't care if the people are screaming his name or calling for his blood. They can love him or hate him and he'll still get the rush he needs, either way, like they aren't there and don't matter anyway. Curt would tell his adoring masses to fuck off if they were slowing him down, or in his way, and he didn't really think about consequences or past the performance of the day.

Brian has never had that kind of freedom, and he knows it. He needs to be adored, and if he let himself go, there was always the chance the audience would stop seeing what they wanted to be there. Brian knew his life was a carefully constructed act--that everything he said held a purpose, would set off a chain reaction he had already planned in his mind. The only chance he had ever taken was the one he took on Curt, and all the world knew how that had ended.

Curt Wild couldn't be controlled, nor tamed, and Brian Slade craved control. And Maxwell Demon, well, he needed it. It started out easily enough, of course, as most romances do. Curt may be impartial to fame, but he knew how to work a spotlight when he needed to, and he was damn good at it.

Jerry called it publicity. They called it love.

-----

He'd asked him once, after a concert, back before the death of glitter--he let the fa├žade slip just enough long to get out the words. "How do you just let go like that?"

Curt had been breathless from the encore--this beautiful mess of eyeliner and leather and glitter. "I don't know. I mean, I go out there, just going along, and it's fine, normal, okay? Then the music starts and everything else just fucking fades away, you know?"

He didn't know. He didn't have a clue. He said, "Yeah, yeah I know," anyway, because Maxwell Demon always says what needs to be heard.

Curt had smirked, seen right through him, and then he had run a hand through his hair and spilled glitter all around them. "You don't," he said, "but stick with me and someday you might."

-----

He can still see Curt, in the sound booth, screaming, pointing right at him. Curt could have sung that song perfect even strung out and half-awake had he wanted to, but he was tired of the neat practiced structure that had appeared in his life along with Brian, and as Curt always did when he was feeling locked in--he rebelled.

"Fucking space queen, on your fucking high horse, and all your fucking henchmen!"

The words didn't faze him. Curt had said worse and with more truth before that--what broke him was that he could see it ending right in front of his eyes and he didn't know what to do to stop it. He knew Curt was going to leave him. He was gone by morning, as it turned out, but it wasn't the kind of quiet way he'd drifted apart from Mandy, not at all. There was heat enough that he was still screaming even as Curt started towards the car--more words he couldn't take back, more things he hadn't meant to say.

His heart was breaking and he wanted to ask Curt to come back, something in him even wanted to beg if that's what it would take. Maxwell Demon didn't beg, didn't need anyone, and his last words were 'fuck you too' instead. Brian would have given anything to keep him there, but Brian was already half-dead and he wasn't calling the shots anymore, if he ever had.

Curt looked back up at him once before he got in the car. He had never looked more beautiful.

-----

He'd actually told himself, the first couple days after Curt left, that he was better off. He had no one holding him back, he'd tell himself, no one left to disappoint. It wasn't long before he realized Curt hadn't so much been holding him back as holding him up.

That's the way it goes, of course. One never knows how much one needs someone until they're no longer there.

Mandy might have picked up some of the slack if he had let her. He's sure she had thought Curt leaving might bridge the gap he had put between them, but it only pulled them further apart. He loved her, he did, but not enough. It had never been enough, and with Curt, it had always been far too much.

So instead he filled the empty pieces of himself with cocaine and seductions. He could color in all the cracks in his mask easily enough, really, if he had to. He didn't shatter for anyone.

-----

It wasn't until a few weeks later that the enormity of what had taken place crashed down around him. He'd lost his muse. Music had lost its reason.

He was losing sight of everything, losing himself in white powder, and even his facades were slipping--it was all too much to juggle and he could no longer find himself. That was when he knew he would have to die for it to end.

Or rather, Maxwell Demon would.

It was all rather spectacular, really. It all plays back as flashes of white and yellow and blue. And red. All those people who loved him believed every moment of it, and they cried for him--but it would be the last time he had the sympathy of anyone.

------

He probably should have called them, warned them or something. He hadn't really thought enough about it, though, to realize that they might still care.

He was surrounded by glitter and feathers that night, and he didn't bother to look for familiar faces in the crowd. All he had left was Jerry and Shannon, and that thought scared him, because he'd lost everyone that actually meant something--including himself.

They dragged him off the stage while he stayed still. Jerry whispered, "good job" and then he was being helped up, changing, washing off fake blood. He put on jeans and a blue jacket. No one noticed when he slipped out right through the mourning crowd.

Curt called him the next morning, after the papers got wind of the hoax, screaming bloody murder before hanging up the phone. He couldn't return the call. Not unsurprisingly, he hadn't left a number he could be reached or a forwarding address--but he'd heard rumors he was in Berlin with Jack Fairy, and he wondered if he was fucking him.

He closed his eyes, listened to the fall-out on TV--the protests and outrage--and decided it didn't matter. It wouldn't last, if they were together. Curt Wild was not to be kept by anyone.

-----

Mandy told him once, all false smiles and cigarette smoke, "The thing is, darling, you both leave your mark on everyone you meet--but it's different with Curt, understand? We all know he's fucked up, and we accept it, but you hide behind this perfect mask." She had paused then, sighing like she shouldn't have to explain to him, of all people, what he and Curt were like. "You take us all by surprise in the end, is all--you rip our hearts straight out."

Her hair had been blonde that day, that first time he'd seen her since the death of Maxwell Demon. It was in a loose ponytail, pulled together at the base of her neck the way Curt used to wear his. Sometimes he wondered if maybe they had become nothing but pieces of each other.

Maybe none of them were whole anymore at all. Maybe they never had been.

-----

They called it the death of glitter, and he can't figure out if that's Curt's doing or Jack's. It seems like something either of them might have thought up--each for different reasons. Curt would like the morbid who-gives-a-fuck air to it, and Jack would enjoy the poetic metaphorical allusions.

He doesn't know why he went. He wore black like it was a fucking funeral, and maybe in a way it was. He leaned in the doorway, but stayed out of the light. Curt was on stage, debauched in blue, and he knew once he saw him that he was why he was there. He could see him one more time, after all--he could allow himself that much at least.

Curt had sung Gimme Danger, and Brian couldn't make it through the whole song. It was too much, like always. Curt's emotion bled out through the microphone and tore him apart, so he wandered outside, to safety, and listened to the echoes as he sat on the back steps. Curt had looked as beautiful that night as he had when he left, and just as far away.

He sat there for hours, waiting to catch a glimpse of him as he left. He never came out, and Brian knew him well enough to know where he had gone instead.

-----

Curt was made to perform--even more so than him, he was destined for this life, and he supposed that the very reason why was that Curt wasn't working at it. Things just happened to Curt, he didn't make them, didn't manipulate anything to get wherever he happened to be.

He'd lived through hell, no doubt, but it couldn't be denied that he was charmed. He walked into fame without changing himself, without turning himself into what people wanted. Instead, he made them want him without even trying to, and if someone sought him out and asked him if he wanted a record deal, he'd say cool and flash a smile.

He'd leave just as easily.

-----

He had thought killing Maxwell Demon would set him free, but it didn't, not really. It just alienated the people he loved that little bit further, and turned his fans irrevocably against him. Jerry broke his contract the very next day. "Nothing personal," he had said.

Brian had said nothing, and Jerry had shrugged. "Well, the tour's done with, anyway, like you wanted, huh? You can do whatever you'd like now."

He could do anything, sure, go anywhere--but whatever it was he did, he would be doing it alone.

Shannon was still around, of course, but he hardly counted her. She bustled around him, the eternal personal assistant. He had a vague recollection that she was supposed to be a costume designer and not his nursemaid, but he never really asked her exactly what her job description was, and he couldn't really remember paying her for months.

He doesn't know why she doesn't leave, but he has his suspicions she doesn't stay for him.

-----

"You just don't fucking get it," Curt had shouted, that last day in the studio. "I don't give a damn about being famous. I'd leave it all behind, right now, if you asked me to."

"That's a lie," he'd said calmly. "You need this as much as me, I know you, I know that you do."

Curt wouldn't meet his eyes. He chipped at the black nail polish on his left thumb, working away at it until it cracked. "Then ask me to leave," he had said, "and you'll find out if it's a lie or not."

They both knew he would never have asked. Curt left anyway.

-----

Mandy tells him she and Curt had lunch together last week, like it's no big thing. He was the reason he signed their divorce papers without a tear, but Mandy had apparently forgiven Curt that--she had not, however, forgiven Brian Slade anything at all.

"How is he?" he had said, casually, like it was just pretense and he wasn't actually concerned.

She glanced over at him, taking a drag--smirking when she saw through the mask. It was thin these days, and she no longer had any trouble seeing through it. "He's the same as he always is," she said. "What do you expect?"

"I mean is he happy?" Brian had asked, strangely desperate for any kind of connection. He couldn't dare ask Curt that himself.

Mandy brushed a few stray blonde hairs out of her eyes, and opened her mouth to release a stream of smoke. "Oh, darling," she said, "people like us are never happy."

-----

He dreams of spotlights and screams. He's on a stage, at first, and then he sees Curt, near the back of the audience, turning away.

He shouts his name and drops down into the crowd, trying to follow him, but his fans hold him back, calling his name and touching whatever part of him that they can.

Curt always smiles before he disappears, and he doesn't come back even as he starts to suffocate underneath the hundreds of hands. He never sees her, in this dream, but Mandy's laughter is always the last thing he hears before he opens his eyes.

-----

She doesn't want to, but he hasn't lost all affect on her, and he manages to sweet talk the number from her. She scribbles it down with a black pen, on a napkin, and pushes it at him with a frown. "Don't come crying to me if he hangs up on you," Mandy tells him, "this is the last favor you're getting out of me."

He doesn't watch her as she leaves. He stares at the number instead, watching it until it blurs. The voices of the dining patrons around him seem to disappear, fade away, and he wonders if this complete and indescribable focus is what Curt feels when he's on a stage.

-----

He answers on the fourth ring. "Yeah?" he snaps, like he's being interrupted. His voice is harsh and cold, but it's the best sound Brian has heard for years.

"Hey," he whispers, and the other end of the line goes silent.

He doesn't know how long it takes for Curt to finally respond, but it stretches so long he can feel the ground shift beneath his feet.

"Hey," Curt finally says, warily, and Brian knows there's no need to address himself. Curt knows exactly who he is, and it's a strange kind of comfort, really, how easily he recognizes his voice. "How did you get this number?"

"A friend," he says evasively.

"Mandy then," Curt says, but he sounds almost amused, and not angry. "I hear she's the only one that'll even talk to you."

Brian gave a wry grin. "You're talking to me."

"Imagine that," Curt says, and his voice is almost warm by now, like all these superficial pleasantries have thawed the ice alone, and time has muffled all the pain.

Brian doesn't say anything for a minute or two, just absorbing his words, his voice. Curt's voice has always been able to ground him--it's always been the only thing to remind him of what matters. The first wake up call had come from behind a screen of flames, and this one from the other end of a telephone line. "I miss you," he says eventually, and he doesn't sound like himself, his voice is weak, strained, and maybe as honest as it has ever been.

He can hear Curt sigh. "Yeah, well, you know I miss you too," he says, "it's just--it's been seven years, Brian."

"And if I'd called seven years ago?" he asks.

"It would still have been months too late," Curt says, quietly. "You had to have known from the start we would end up like this."

"I always knew I would end up like this," Brian corrects. "I just thought you would be with me."

"I had to leave," Curt snaps. "God, Brian, you know I had to."

"Maybe," Brian admits, "but why didn't you come back?"

It's Curt's turn to fall silent, and Brian closes his eyes, bites his lip, and waits.

"Some things are too good to last, and you can't really rewrite history," Curt tells him softly, "--we're not who we were then, and we can't go back."

"I know I should have called you," he said, trying to find his balance, "before the publicity stunt."

"It would have helped," Curt says coolly, "but I've always known you were a selfish bastard. I'm not surprised you forgot." The warmth has slipped away again, and Brian knows he should have ignored that particular issue altogether.

"Right then, I guess that's it," Brian says, but letting it be over is the last thing he wants. Even when he's cussing and vulgar, Curt's voice can still steal his soul.

"Hey, wait," Curt tells him softly. "You know I still love you, right? No matter how much we both fuck up, I always will."

"I love you, too," he whispers, and thinks all the while that this is a very strange way to say goodbye for good.

------

He tries to be himself for years, tries to find himself in everything, but as Curt had told him so bluntly, there's no going back. That the curves of his lips could rewrite history is a lovely sentiment, but they aren't in their fairy tale anymore--they aren't even together. And there just isn't enough of Brian Slade left to start from scratch.

"So make someone new," Shannon had told him, off-handedly, while flipping through some fashion magazine.

A new mask was tempting, and as he looked back at Shannon's magazine, at the well-groomed, casual man on the cover a new mask began to take shape in his mind. No one wanted Brian Slade anymore, anyway--he had made his amends far too late. He might as well bury him along with Maxwell Demon, and all of his glitter and gold.

The End.