|for jasperq - fic - New Beginnings [Justin/Emmett]
||[Mar. 30th, 2005|11:14 pm]
Summary: AU. After being away from Pittsburgh for more several months, Justin returns and tries to get his life back on track. (Assumes all canon through 122.)
Justin snuggled deeper into the plump sofa pillows and rifled through the Pittsburgh Post Gazette until he came to the help wanted section of the classified ads. There were a couple of possibilities, and he reached for a pen to jot down the business names and numbers in a small notebook that he had acquired for just such a purpose.
“Phone actor?” his best friend and now roommate Daphne read over his shoulder. “You’re going to do phone sex for a living? You realize you’d probably be ‘acting’ for fat, old, straight women, right?”
Wrinkling his nose in disgust, Justin crossed that possibility off his list.
“You should just go back to the diner. You know Debbie would give you your job back,” she suggested, not for the first time.
Justin sighed. “I can’t Daph. You know I can’t. What if I see him? I wouldn’t know what to do.”
“Yeah, well, if you don’t come up with your share of the rent, I don’t know either of us is going to do.”
“I’ll find something,” he assured her, although he wasn’t so sure it was true.
Since his not-so-triumphant return to Pittsburgh, he’d had a hell of a time trying to find work. Having missed out on an entire semester of college because of repercussions from the bashing, Justin had jumped in over his head now that he was finally able to attend school. His advisors had warned him that a first semester course load of 19 hours wasn’t the best idea – especially considering the problems he still had with his hand. They hadn’t counted on his tenacity, though. What he hadn’t counted on was the astounding lack of jobs in Pittsburgh that he could work around his full school schedule.
Frustrated but determined, he picked up the phone and started calling about the job openings he had found.
A week later, Justin still hadn’t found work. He was beginning to feel…well, desperate. Desperate enough to call about the phone actor job, only to find that they were no longer hiring. Maybe even desperate enough to go back to the Liberty Diner.
Debating his dilemma, he found himself standing in the middle of the student center at Carnegie Mellon perusing a bulletin board in hopes of finding a job lead that would steer him away from the diner. He had already tried the university’s career center and online resources, and didn’t hold out much hope of finding anything here either.
“Anything interesting?” a deep voice said from somewhere just over his right shoulder, causing Justin to jump slightly and whirl around. “Whoa, easy. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Professor Bruckner,” Justin said, taking a deep breath to calm himself. “It’s okay. I guess I was kind of lost in thought.”
Justin leaned back against the wall with a sigh. “My best friend is going to be forced to kick me out of our apartment because I can’t find a job, but other than that, everything’s great.”
The professor quirked a smile at Justin’s wry humor. “I know someone who’s always looking for reliable help. If you don’t mind working nights and weekends, I could put in a good word for you.”
“Really?” Justin’s face lit up in a megawatt smile. “That’d be great. What’s your friend do?”
“Catering, event planning. I think they’re looking for waiters.”
“If you have some time now, I could introduce you.”
Justin’s answered with another brilliant smile.
When Ben moved to open the door of Red Cape Comics some twenty minutes later, warning bells sounded in Justin’s head – though he wasn’t certain why.
“Hey, Ben,” a familiar voice greeted. “Michael’s in the back.”
“Actually, I came to see you,” Ben replied. As he moved away from the door, he stepped out of Justin’s line of sight, and the blond found himself looking into the surprised but welcoming face of Vic Grassi.
“Justin!” Vic cried, and the teenager found himself engulfed in a slightly toned down version of Vic’s sister’s trademark bearhug. “It’s good to see you. Does Deb know you’re back in town?”
Justin shrugged one shoulder and opened his mouth to speak, but had no idea what to say. Fortunately, Ben stepped in to save him.
“I see you two have met,” he remarked lightly.
“Oh, we go way back, Justin and me,” Vic teased.
Michael, drawn by Vic’s outcry, smiled awkwardly from the door to the storage room at the back of the shop. “Hey, Boy Wonder.”
“Hi, Michael.” Justin turned to Ben. Opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again. Turned away, crossing his arms across his chest. Glanced back once, shook his head, and then fled.
For a moment, Justin considered pretending to be asleep. Only a few people had his phone number, after all, and only one of them ever called him. And he really didn’t feel like talking to his mother right now.
Sighing, he dragged himself from the book he hadn’t really been studying and made his way into the living room. “Who is it?” he asked as he reached for the phone, despite his certainty that the caller was his mom.
Daphne shrugged as she surrendered the phone. “Some guy.”
A puzzled frown drew his brows down as he brought the phone to his ear and gave a hesitant “Hello?”
“Justin, it’s Vic.”
“Oh. Hi,” Justin responded stupidly. He slumped onto the arm of the sofa. “Um…I’m sorry about…you know. Just running off earlier.”
“It’s okay, Justin. I know it must have been quite a shock.” He paused. “Ben and I talked after you left. Between the two of us, we managed to figure out what happened this afternoon. He gave me your number. I wanted to make sure you were all right.”
“I’m fine,” Justin said. “Like you said, it was a shock. Just…a lot of memories hitting me at once.”
“I understand. And I’m glad you’re okay. Listen, Justin…there’s another reason I called.” Justin braced himself, unsure what he was about to hear but certain it wouldn’t be good. “Ben told me you’re looking for a job. You’ve got one if you want it.”
“Really?” Justin asked, nearly tumbling off the arm of the sofa in shock. “But…thanks.”
Vic gave Justin some information about the work he’d be doing and told him where and when to report to work. They exchanged small talk for a few minutes, and then said goodnight.
As Justin headed back to bed, he was unsure whether to curse or thank whatever or whoever had led him right back into the midst of the very group of people he had most wanted to avoid.
The next night, Justin dressed carefully and caught a cab to a large, swank hotel on the other side of town. He made his way to the grand ballroom, as directed, and began asking around for Vic. A lean, dark, and extremely sexy man gave Justin a lingering once over before taking his arm and gallantly leading him across the room.
“Emmett, sugar….fresh meat,” the man called through an open doorway.
A moment later, Emmett Honeycutt walked through the doorway. Justin felt certain he must have gone to sleep one night and woken up in the Twilight Zone. Shit like this only ever happened to him.
“Justin! Oh, it’s so good to see you, baby!” Emmett cried as he quickly moved to hug Justin and kiss his cheek.
“It’s good to see you, too, Em,” Justin replied honestly.
In the next instant, Emmett had taken the other man’s place at Justin’s side. He gave him a quick introduction to the other men he’d be working with, as well as a run down of his duties and other things he needed to know. The whole process left Justin slightly confused and a little worried; there was no way he’d be able to remember everything Emmett had just told him, and he didn’t want to let his friends down.
Just then, Emmett gave him another little squeeze. “Just stick close to Mitchell. He’ll show you the ropes.”
So that’s what Justin did.
Mitchell was a good teacher, and Justin a fast learner. His first night on the job went smoothly. Before he knew it, the event was over and cleanup complete. He had snagged his jacket from the backroom and was headed to the front desk to call a cab when Emmett caught up with him.
“Well…what did you think?” Emmett asked.
“The party was amazing! You should have been doing this years ago,” Justin replied, beaming a smile up at his friend as they walked down the hotel corridor.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Em replied. “But I meant what did you think of your new job.”
Justin grinned. “It’s great. The money’s good, the other guys seem really great….”
“No ‘but.’ I really like it.”
Emmett flashed Justin his best smile. “Good. Mitchell said you had a phenomenal first night and to make sure you didn’t get away.”
The two men stepped outside into the chill night air before Justin remembered that he hadn’t yet called a cab.
“So…where you headed?” Emmett asked.
“Home, I guess.”
“Which is where exactly?”
“Daphne and I have an apartment near the college,” Justin explained. “On the other side of town,” he added. “I should probably go find a phone so I can get a taxi.”
“I’ve got a better idea,” Emmett replied. “You can share mine, which appears to be pulling into the parking lot right now. And if you come to the diner with me for a very late supper, I’ll even pay the whole fare.”
Justin grinned again. “Deal.”
The cab pulled away, leaving the two men standing in front of the Liberty Diner. Justin fidgeted for a moment, wondering if this had been a bad idea.
“Justin, honey…if you’re worried about running into him, don’t be.”
Justin looked up, confusion written on his face.
“This may not be what you want to hear, but Brian isn’t here. He’s gone.”
“To New York. He left right after you disappeared.”
Not knowing what to say, or even how the news made him feel, Justin nodded dumbly. He let Em lead him into the diner and into a booth in their usual back corner. They placed their orders, but Justin immediately lost himself in his own thoughts again.
“He never came to see me,” he said at last, the words surprising him. He hadn’t intended to speak them aloud.
Emmett looked down, one finger tracing an intricate pattern on the tabletop. He sighed. “Actually, he did.”
Justin’s head came up, and Emmett raised his own eyes to meet Justin’s.
“Brian went to see you every night. Late, after hours, when no one else was around. It was the only time he could see you.”
“What do you mean?”
Emmett suddenly found the tabletop interesting again. “You have to understand that I don’t know any of this first hand. I heard it from Michael, who heard it from Brian who was –surprise, surprise—more than a little drunk at the time. But Michael said that Brian said that your Mom wouldn’t let him see you. That she blamed him for what happened at the prom and was determined to keep him as far from you as possible. Even if that meant leaving Pittsburgh.”
“Fuck.” Justin stared, shell-shocked. He had long suspected that the move to Ohio had more to do with the bashing than his mother’s sudden desire to be near her own parents. But to hear that she’d uprooted him and Molly just to keep him from Brian….
The sudden loud thud as Justin banged his hand against the table made Emmett jump.
“I shouldn’t have told you,” Emmett worried.
Justin absent-mindedly reached across the table to pat Emmett’s hand, his thoughts obviously somewhere else. “Not your fault.”
Emmett turned his hand over so that it was palm to palm with Justin’s and grasped the younger man’s hand firmly, giving it a reassuring squeeze. Justin drew himself out of his reverie enough to give Emmett a tired smile, and then the waitress was at their table with their order.
As the two dug into their meals, Emmett turned the conversation to safer topics: parties he and Vic had planned; the hot guy he’d seen at Babylon the night before; the latest celebrity gossip. Eventually, Justin began to relax, and the two friends managed to start the long process of catching up on each other’s lives.
They continued that process over the days and weeks that followed. Slowly but surely, Justin was drawn into the tight-knit circle of friends that had once been his second family. He found himself at Deb’s family dinners, going with Lindsay and Gus to the park, and hanging out with ‘the boys’ at Babylon. Sometimes he even dragged Daphne along with him.
Emmett came to consider Justin his new best friend. The friendship came along at exactly the right time, just as his old best friend, Ted, checked himself into rehab. Justin was there for Emmett right when Em needed him most.
In fact, the two were always there for each other when things got rough. They were there, too, to share life’s little victories. Slowly, they both began to realize that this is what had been missing from their lives.
Even with this dawning comprehension, Emmett was taken completely by surprise when Justin kissed him.
The evening it happened started out the same as many others had; the two men were curled up on the sofa in the apartment that Em still shared with Michael, Justin’s head leaned against Emmett’s shoulder while they watched some sappy old movie that had them both in tears. Justin furtively dried his tears, and then turned to say something to Emmett. Whatever comment he had been about to make died on his lips as his hand rose to gently wipe the tears from Emmett’s cheek. And then he was leaning forward and covering Emmett’s mouth with his own.
Shocked to stillness, Emmett didn’t respond. Justin pulled away, obviously embarrassed and a little hurt at Emmett’s seeming rejection. But in the next instant Emmett’s hand was wrapped around the back of Justin’s neck and he was pressing their lips together once again.
It was their first kiss.
But it wouldn’t be their last.