Title: Turning Points
Disclaimer: I don't own Queer as Folk.
A/N: I know this has been done about a million times before, but the plot's in my head, and it's not leaving until I personally kick it out, so that's what I'm going to do. It's dark, and angsty, and a little outside my comfort zone, but I guess challenge is a good thing.
There are some things that divide your life into a before and after. Some turning points that, once you reach, you can never go back. You start to think such things as "Oh, right, that happened back before..." or "That hasn't happened since..."
And things are just never quite the same. No matter how close they come to it, no matter how much normalcy you weave back into your life after the fact, some things just change it forever. Or is it that they change you? Make it so that you don't feel things the way you used to? You don't see life, people, yourself, in the same light. You don't feel the same because you aren't the same.
Things happen. Life changes. Sometimes permanently.
It was the middle of the night, and I'd woken up to a desperate banging that I eventually recognized to be someone at my door. Wondering who it could possibly be at—I checked the clock—three thirty-six in the morning, I went to answer it, peering through the peephole.
I threw the door open immediately. "Justin!?"
At once, despite the lateness of the hour, I was awake. Intense alarm did that to you. And alarm was the exact emotion coursing through me like fire, burning away any last residue of exhaustion.
A blind bat could see that something was wrong with him.
He had been crying. His eyes were swollen and red, and his cheeks glistened with dried tear tracks. He looked up at me hopelessly when I opened the door, and I don't think I've ever seen someone look so fucking lost.
"Can I come in?" his voice was low and pleading. Wordlessly, I stepped aside to let him pass, and shut the door behind us.
"What happened?" I demanded. He had his back to me, and I could tell by his sniffling and the way his shoulders shook that he was crying again. I stepped closer and laid a hand on his shoulder, and he jumped at the contact. "Justin, what happened?"
"Can I stay here?" he asked, turning to look at me. I nodded.
"Yeah...yeah, I'll get you a blanket. You want the couch?" I offered.
He shook his head. "Thanks."
I looked at him. Really looked at him, as though trying to find out what was going on just by staring. "Justin..."
"Please?" I wasn't sure what the 'please' was for. Please what? Please don't ask questions? Please let him stay? I didn't know, and I didn't ask.
"Did Brian do something?" I guessed, not moving an inch toward getting that blanket.
His head snapped up. "Brian? No."
But I'd known him far too long, and there was something about the way he answered that. "Justin, if he did something..."
"Did you find him fucking someone again?"
"No! Brian didn't do anything," he assured me, his breathing beginning to quicken, coming in sharp, panicked little gasps as he tried to calm himself. I hadn't seen him have a panic attack since right after the bashing, and I was grateful when he mostly managed to get his breathing back under his control on his own.
However, I still wasn't satisfied with his answer. Something wasn't right here.
"Just...don't tell him I'm here, okay?" he pleaded, eyes wide and imploring.
"Okay," I agreed softly. But I was getting scared now. Why would he not want Brian to know he was here? "But, Justin...look, if he..." I hesitated, not sure if I should go here. "If he...hurt you or something...I mean, in a...different way than..."
"He didn't do anything!" Justin snapped. "Just don't tell him I'm here, please, Daphne. I can't go home."
We stared at each other. His eyes desperate and begging me to understand, mine pleading with him to help me do so.
"I'll get you the blanket."
He went to sit on the couch while I went and found a spare duvet for him to use, my mind racing. Justin was here, crying and plainly upset. Justin was here, and not at home with Brian. Justin obviously didn't want Brian to know anything about this. Why did he not want Brian to know? What was he so afraid of?
Well, there was one thing...
I tried to tell myself that it was ridiculous. I didn't want to believe it of Brian, and I didn't want to think of it happening to Justin. Besides, Brian would never hurt Justin, right? He may be an asshole a lot of the time, but Brian would never hurt him. Not physically, at least.
I wasn't sure why I was even thinking that, it was pretty ridiculous, when you considered it. It was just...weird. Justin showing up here in the middle of the night, crying and looking nothing short of completely distraught. He hadn't even been this way when we'd walked in on Brian fucking zucchini man. He'd been upset, yes. He'd cried, sure. But something else was off, here.
Returning to my living room, I discovered Justin curled up on the couch, eyes closed but tears leaking out from under his eyelids. He opened them quickly when he heard me approach.
"Thanks," he said quietly when I draped the blanket over him. He had his knees pulled up to his chest, and suddenly seemed so much smaller than I ever remembered seeing him. Usually, he was lively and, despite his physical size, larger than life, but now he just seemed so incredibly small and scared and sad. This wasn't Justin. At least not the Justin I'd grown up with. Not the Justin I knew and loved.
"Thanks, Daphne," he said, sniffing again. "Thank you."
Coming to a decision, I knelt down on the floor in front of him. "Look, what's wrong? What happened?"
"Bullshit. You show up at my door at three thirty in the morning, crying, and you tell me you can't go home. What's going on?" I demanded gently.
Another sniffle. More tears. "Just go. Go back to bed."
"I'm not leaving you out here like this," I said firmly. "Now tell me what happened. I'm not leaving till you do."
He closed his eyes again, as more tears wet his lashes. He gave a nearly silent sob, his body lurching with the force of it. "I can't."
"You can't tell me?" He shook his head no. "Why not?"
"I just can't, Daphne. Please..."
"Look Justin..." I began again. "Just let me call Brian."
"No!" he shot me down immediately, fear washing over his features. "Don't call Brian."
Well, I was getting something out of him, at least. Maybe not answers, but it was better than him denying anything was wrong at all. "Why not?"
"Because. I can't..."
"You can't what?" I prompted, laying a hand on his arm. My stomach twisted uncomfortably as I realized he was shaking. "Justin, why don't you want to see Brian? Are you guys having a fight or something?"
He shook his head again.
"I just...can't...with him," he muttered.
"You can't what?" I asked again. I desperately wished I knew what to say or do to get him to start talking, instead of going in circles with these repetitive, unhelpful answers he was giving me. It wasn't much to go off of. All I knew so far was that he was hurt in some way, and he either didn't want Brian to know he was here, or didn't want him to know he was hurt. He didn't want Brian involved at all, which was unusual in itself.
"Justin, please," I begged softly, rubbing his shoulder gently. "Please, talk to me." I soothingly rubbed down his trembling arm, running my fingertips over the light skin poking out from under his jacket. "You want to take that off? Come on, I'll help you..."
"No!" he shouted, jerking his arm away.
I jumped, surprised and confused. "You don't want to take your jacket off? What, are you going to sleep in it? Come on, I'll put it in the closet for you."
"No," he moaned, burying his face in my couch.
"Okay, okay," I whispered. "Hey, maybe we can go shopping tomorrow?" I suggested. So it was an exceedingly lame attempt to cheer him up, but I was trying. "That jacket looks like its seen better days."
"It's not mine," he mumbled, his voice muffled by the couch.
A crease formed between my eyebrows as I frowned. "What do you mean, it's not yours? Who's is it?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I just grabbed it."
"You stole it?"
It took a moment for him to get his crying under control enough to answer me. "I guess. I couldn't find my shirt, and this was laying there so I just took it."
"Why couldn't you find your shirt?" I asked, starting to feel like we were getting somewhere, though I was becoming increasingly certain that that place wasn't somewhere I wanted to go.
But I needed to. For him.
"I took it off. He wanted me to take it off."
"Who did?" So there was a he? And why was he, whoever he was, wanting Justin to take off his shirt? It didn't sound like he was talking about Brian...
He sobbed into the cushion, still not looking up at me. I was definitely scared, now. Not that I wasn't before, but a definitive sense of dread had coiled itself inside my stomach, twisting my insides in its vice-like grip.
I frowned. "Who's Sa...wait, your boss?"
What did that sleaze have to do with this? Justin had mentioned his new job dancing at Babylon a few weeks ago. All about the job, the rough hours, the way Brian hated everything about it and made sure Justin knew it. And from what he said, Gary Sapperstein, better known as the "Sap," sounded like a complete scumbag.
He nodded miserably. "I was decoration. Or I was supposed to be."
I forced my racing heart and churning stomach to calm themselves, taking a deep breath before speaking again. "Okay...I need you to start at the beginning. What exactly happened, Justin? You need to tell me right...right now," my voice broke painfully on the last word.
He took a shaky breath of his own. I waited in silence for him to speak, for so long that I thought he'd fallen asleep. But finally, he spoke.
"There was a party. At Sap's house. I had to go." I didn't say anything, just waited for him to go on. He sniffed again. "So I was there, and...God, I was so stupid, Daph!" he cried suddenly, surprising me with his outburst. "I was so fucking stupid."
"Shh...it's okay...tell me what happened."
"I took a joint off him. I didn't want to, and I knew it was stupid, but I did it anyway. Only I don't think it was just a joint. There was something else...and then he gave me a drink..."
He paused here, desperately trying to control his sobs enough to continue. "So I took the drink... and...he said he wanted to show me around his place."
I squeezed his arm, silently urging him to go on.
"There was a room," his voice was deadly quiet now, and I could tell we were nearing the reason for all of this. Whatever had Justin so fucking miserable, I was about to hear it. "There was a...a swing..."
"A swing?" I repeated.
"Sex swing," he choked out.
I literally felt everything in me go blank. I forgot to breath, forgot to think. Everything in me just froze at those words.
"Justin..." I said weakly. Please, I begged to whoever was listening, please don't let it be that...don't let it be what I'm thinking...let me be wrong...
"He wanted me to go in it," Justin continued, sobbing harder than ever. "I told him I didn't...I didn't want to, but..."
"Oh God, Justin..." I had tears in my eyes, now. Any hope of getting anything else out of him was lost, drowned in his sobs as he continued to shake and cry on my couch. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around him as best as I could from that position, and he returned the hug gratefully, clinging to me like a lifeline.
"Justin..." I moaned. "Oh, Justin..."
He still hadn't told me exactly what had happened. He didn't need to. I knew. It was obvious what had transpired. I knew what had been done to him.
We laid there for a long time, me holding him, both of us crying into each others' shoulders, until he finally fell asleep. There was room enough for both of us on the couch, so I pulled the duvet up around us and snuggled in beside him.
He awoke twice, screaming and thrashing and crying. And if I had gone to sleep that night, I was sure I would've had nightmares, too. As hard as I was trying to keep the images out of my mind, I quickly discovered it was impossible. They came, unbidden and unwanted, and once they were there, they refused to leave.
So all night, I lay there, feeling him breathing next to me, seeing him being tortured in my mind's eye. I had stopped crying, but my mind had since filled with a black, dark rage like I had never known before. He was my best friend. My sweet, bright, wonderful Justin, whom I loved. And I wanted nothing more than to murder the person who had hurt him.
So rather than focus on the terrible images in my mind, I tried to force my imagination on something more darkly satisfying and productive. Mainly, the hundreds of ways one could murder someone using the most painful methods known to humans. Ways to ensure that fucking piece of shit paid for what he had done to my best friend.
It was well past dawn before I finally fell asleep.