Justin comes home one night to a silent Brian who shies away from his touch and answers his questions with mono-syllabic grunts or simple, one word answers. He wants badly to know what's wrong, but he knows he cant push it, so he lets Brian sit at his computer and work, and he goes off and sits at the coffee table to sketch.

He draws Brian, again and again. In his mind, he is going over scenario after scenario of why Brian might act this way. His pencil freezes when his thoughts land on one subject and tears start to well up in his eyes. What if Brian is sick again? What if the cancer is back? What will he do?

He shakes his head to rid himself of tears. He cant queen out in front of Brian, not about this, especially if his lover doesn't want him to know. Brian will just push him away faster. He bites his lip. Fuck that. He's going to ask him. He looks up from his sketchbook to speak just as Brian gets up and walks into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

Justin sucks in a breath and goes back to drawing. He's already naked and in bed when Brian gets out of the shower. He gets in and lies down on his back, closing his eyes. Justin sits up and puts a hand on Brian's arm peering down at him.


"What?" Brian's eyes are still closed.

"Please tell me the truth. Please. Are you sick again? Did the cancer come back?" He cant help the hitch in his throat, the way his voice gets frantically higher and higher, choked and squeezed out with worry.

Brian's eyes snap open. "What the fuck? No! I'm fine. What the hell?"

Justin fights tears of relief and confusion, but manages to hold them back. "Then what's going on? Why are you acting so strange? What the hell is wrong?"

Justin wants to curl up into Brian's body, to hug him with relief, but Brian rolls away on his side. His hazel eyes are hard, and his mouth is a straight line. He points to a dark shape on the steps just outside their bedroom.


Justin frowns and peers at it through the darkness. Then he turns.


"Are you leaving again?"

Justin stares at Brian for a moment, then throws his head back and laughs. He kisses Brian's head. Still chuckling, he gets up and goes over to the steps, picking up the beaten and worn black duffel bag and dropping it on the bed. Brian stares at it like it's the worst thing in the world, like it's inflicted pain on him and he doesn't want to go near it, like it'll bite.

"Get that thing away from me."


"Get it away. If you're leaving, just fucking go."

Justin crawls onto the bed. He's kneeling between Brian's legs. "Brian. I'm not leaving you. I promise. I'm not."

"Then what the fuck is that doing there? Every time you take the fucking thing out it means you're going. You took it to Debbie's, when you were with Ian, every fucking time you leave, all your shit's in there. It just…I don't want to see it."

"Brian, I found it in the closet. I was going to throw it away."

Brian looks at him, a strange emotion in his eyes. Then he looks at Justin softly and pulls him down, tugging Justin onto his chest and tucking his head beneath his chin.

"All right, Sunshine. But I don't want to see that thing ever again."

Justin nods, a small smile on his lips. He hates Brian's insecurity, his fears, but sometimes they reassure him that Brian really does truly love him.