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for paddies - fic - The New Black [Brian/Jennifer (friendship)] [Mar. 31st, 2005|09:48 pm]
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The New Black
For paddies

Pairing: Brian/Jennifer friendship
Summary: 5 things that did happen to Brian and Jennifer.



the new black


1.

It starts the moment it falls apart; she accepts the intractability of his presence in their lives the same moment she resolves that her son will never see him again.

She knows everything from his face, before she speaks to any doctors or listens to any ragged words of consolation. Brian’s face and his shirt – there is blood on his shirt, and it isn’t his but she wishes it was – tell her more than she wants to know. His eyes are glazed and shining but he isn’t there, he’s retreated somewhere inside of himself.

No, she wants to say. You don’t get to do that, you don’t get to hide, you have to experience every moment of what you’ve done. Michael sits awkwardly beside him.

‘We don’t know anything yet, Mrs. Taylor, we, just, we—’ He stops and clears his throat. But she knows everything, and she can’t take her eyes from Brian’s face.

She wants to tell him that this is his fault, and he has no right to be there. She wants to tell him that she doesn’t deserve this; she has been endlessly patient, she has loved Justin unreservedly for every day of her life, and he’d always been safe until he met Brian.

She doesn’t say this. ‘You can go now,’ she says, and the voice doesn’t sound like her. ‘Thank you for waiting, but you can go now.’

Brian shifts his eyes to her face as if he’s only just noticed her, but doesn’t move, and in an instant she realises that now, after this, he’s always going to be a part of their lives. He could get up and walk away and move across the country, but how to explain the scar on Justin’s head, the memory of this night? (That’s all there’ll be, she tells herself. A small scar, a memory.) Her son’s blood is on Brian’s shirt and now he’s always going to be part of her family, even just as a memory, an invisible presence that she tries to ignore but can’t. He has smashed his way in. He did this. They will never be able to forget him.

The first time she met him, that’s all she wanted. For him to be a phase, a bad phase, like the time Molly wanted her nose pierced. It would pass, and they would all forget it. Brian would slip out of memory and she’d never have to think about him again.

No chance of that now.

Later, her anger will subside, will gently rise and lapse like waves at odd moments when she thinks about him - but right now she hates him because she will think about him, will think about him every day. It is no longer possible to erase him from her life.

Brian still hasn’t spoken. There’s no sound but her heart pounding in her ears and footsteps. The doctor is walking up the white corridor to meet them, shoes squeaking against the floor, coming to tell them if Justin is alive.

2.

He tells her: ‘I met this guy.’

He’s visiting, and she’s in the kitchen chopping vegetables. ‘Oh?’ she says, trying to keep her voice neutral. Justin shifts his weight from foot to foot and looks worried, and she doesn’t know what he wants her to say. ‘That’s nice,’ she says.

‘His name’s Ethan, he’s a music student, he plays violin.’ His words trip out on top of each other, and a quiet hope flares in her chest. He’s a student; he will go to student parties and worry about homework. He will be young and safe.

She meets Ethan. She likes Ethan, although somehow she knows it won’t last. But why should it? Justin’s too young to settle down. Brian was a learning experience, and although Justin probably learned a little too much, she’s got things to be grateful to him for. They both have.

That’s the only reason she feels a twinge of something – not guilt, but something not entirely pleasant – when she sees Brian in the diner, and she insists on buying him coffee. He accepts with a dry smile.

‘He’s nothing to do with me anymore,’ he says. ‘You don’t have to pretend to like me.’

She doesn’t know what to say, so she pays for the coffees and holds hers carefully in her hands, watching the steam rise from the top.

‘Well, this has been delightful,’ says Brian. ‘I think I’ll take mine to go.’

‘He seems happy,’ she says, and Brian hesitates.

‘Good.’ He says flatly, and looks at the door. ‘Thanks for the coffee.’

As he’s leaving, coffee in hand, she says, ‘Brian,’ and he stops and turns. ‘If you ever – if you ever want to come for dinner, or—’ She falters. She knows it sounds insincere, and she doesn’t want Brian to know she feels – what? Sympathy for him? After a few strawberry daiquiris, Debbie has told her horror stories about Brian’s own mother, which she pretended to take interest in only for the sake of knowing what Justin was getting into. The truth is, she’s a little fascinated by Brian. He didn’t just drop out of the sky and into their lives, he had a life before that, a childhood, parents. Something turned him into the person he is.

And she has what Debbie calls the universal mother instinct. She hates to think of someone uncared for, eating dinner on their own. Even Brian. He’s an inescapable part of her life, and she wants him to come to dinner so she can find out who he is, without the distraction of worrying about what he’s doing to Justin.

He won’t come, of course. ‘I’ve got a lot of work right now,’ he smirks. ‘I’m sure our boy and Ian would appreciate some home cooked food, though. Can’t be easy living on tinned soup.’

He’s gone before she can respond, the bell on the door jingling behind him. It doesn’t matter. She knows she’ll see him again. Justin can’t slice him out of his life any more than she can.

3.

She knows Brian isn’t telling her everything.

‘This Cody,’ she says. ‘He scares me.’ Where is his mother, she wonders.

‘His fashion sense scares me,’ says Brian, but he isn’t smiling. They’re at the loft, in the kitchen, and Jennifer is pretending to help Brian with the papers for the new office.

‘Listen, you would tell me if Justin was getting into something he couldn’t handle,’ she says. ‘You would know, Brian, you live with him and eat with him and sleep with him—’

He raises an eyebrow.

‘And you would know before me, Brian. I don’t know anything anymore.’

‘You know plenty,’ says Brian. ‘And he can handle it.’ His voice is calm and steady and he looks at her evenly. He’s trying to reassure her. They are allies; they have the same objective. Cody is the new intruder, the threat, the boy she hopes she’s going to be able to forget.

‘It’s not that I don’t understand,’ she says. ‘I get angry too, I understand.’

He nods. They both understand. They have a shared experience.

‘I just think he’s having too much influence. He’s – he’s too angry.’

Brian takes two beers out of the fridge and offers her one. She accepts.

‘Are you alright?’ she says, tilting her head and studying him. ‘You look like you’re getting sick.’ There’s something, something no one would notice, like a gray shadow hovering over him. She saw it on Justin three weeks before he got pneumonia in ninth grade. It’s an instinct.

‘I’m fine,’ he says. ‘I’m fabulous.’

She shakes her head and clears the image.

‘Justin had this friend in middle school,’ she says. ‘Dylan. Dylan something.’

‘That’s – nice.’

‘And they cheated on a test together, they found the answers and cheated. And the principal guessed they’d done it, but he didn’t have proof, so he took them separately and told them if they turned their friend in then they wouldn’t be punished.’ She’d forgotten this story until now, but she suddenly remembered how much she’d disliked Dylan. ‘So Justin, assuming Dylan would do the same, said he didn’t know what the principal was talking about.’

‘But Dylan turned him in and Justin took all the blame,’ Brian finishes, rolling his eyes. ‘Sucker.’

‘The point is,’ she says, and bites her lip. ‘Sometimes – sometimes Justin isn’t a very good judge of character. He puts too much faith in people.’

‘I know, I know,’ says Brian, sounding tired and giving her a wry smile. ‘He chose me, right?’

She looks up quickly. ‘Yes,’ she says. ‘But sometimes he’s a better judge of character than I’ll ever be.’

4.

It starts when Justin doesn’t come home, it starts after the seventh month when it becomes obvious he’s not coming back. The postcards have stopped, have turned into phonecalls and letters; you don’t send postcards from the place you live.

She gets a new address book at Christmas and after a moment’s hesitation, doesn’t bother rewriting the number of the loft by Justin’s name. She writes his number in LA, his number at the studio, where he always seems to be.

Each month spills into the next and Jennifer reads the letters and the newspaper clippings and knows Justin is walking into great opportunities on every corner, and isn’t coming back.

With this realisation, she goes to the loft to see Brian, who looks at her blankly.

‘Of course he’s not coming back,’ he says. ‘Did you ever think he would?’

‘I—yes. Of course. After six months.’

‘To Pittsburgh?

She feels like she’s walked in halfway through the movie. ‘You knew he wasn’t coming back?’

‘L.A. is the new black,’ he drawls. ‘No one’s coming back from that.’

L.A. is the new black, the new Brian, the new force to take her son away.

‘I’d have been disappointed if he did,’ adds Brian. He smirks. ‘You want some coffee?’ She’s got him out of bed - what did she expect at 9am on a Saturday? He leans across the counter in only jeans, hair spiking in ten directions and dark circles around his eyes.

‘I don’t understand,’ she says. ‘It’s over?’

Brian picks up the coffee pot and turns away from her. ‘It’s never over,’ he says. And she believes him. She wants to.

In Justin’s absence, they sometimes have dinner together, and Brian always buys wine. Half-drunk, they both talk more than they should, beginning with how happy they are for Justin, and then – after Brian signals for the second bottle – they turn dark and talk about murderers and strange drugs in L.A, and the evils of the movie industry. Los Angeles is the new Cody, the new Brian, the new threat to the thing they love most. They know they’re being ridiculous, but in dark corners of restaurants with no one to know, they allow themselves.

Brian always pays, takes her coat and holds the door open, smiling that charmingly sarcastic smile that’s meant to disguise any mutual recognition that he’s doing something nice.

If I was ten years younger, she sometimes thinks, and then blushes and laughs at herself. It’s a ridiculous thought, not just because Brian is gay and her son’s boyfriend, but because apparently ten year age gaps aren’t the obstacle they once were. She’s starting to learn that.

5.

He calls her two months later. ‘I’m going to L.A. I need you to look after the loft. You’re the only person left with any sense.’

She goes to the loft. ‘You’re going to visit him?’

‘Nope,’ says Brian. ‘I’m going to go and get him.’

‘Brian, you’re – you can’t bring him back. He’s happy.’

‘I’m not bringing him back,’ says Brian, looking at her steadily. ‘I’m not coming back.’

She opens and closes her mouth.

‘He followed me around for long enough,’ he says. ‘He deserves someone who’s going to follow him for a change.’

She doesn’t know what to say, so instead she helps him pack up, putting everything into boxes that he’s going to send for.

‘That’s the plan, at least,’ he says. ‘If he kicks me out I’ll be back next week and we can unpack all this shit again.’ He’s joking, but she hears something fragile in his voice, hope, and for the first time in her life, she hopes that Justin doesn’t hurt Brian. She doesn’t think he will.

She sorts through papers and books and then gets deeper, into all the evidence that Brian was a real person long before she knew he existed. School reports and tense family photographs, and already cynical job applications. She flips open a photo album and finds a bag of pot taped to the inside.

‘Wow,’ says Brian mildly. He’s standing behind her. ‘Wonder how long that’s been there.’

She slams it shut and turns around. ‘You could at least lie to me. Tell me it’s not yours, just pretend that you and my son have never sat around this place taking drugs together.’

Brian looks solemn. ‘We don’t take drugs together,’ he says. ‘We do decoupage. That’s oregano.’

She wants to smile, but forces herself not to. ‘Thank you.’

He laughs, and wanders away.

‘You know, Brian, most people try and impress their in-laws. They’re on their best behaviour.’

Brian says nothing about the in-laws comment, and suddenly she likes the idea of being someone’s mother-in-law. She’d like to introduce Brian as her son-in-law at civilised parties and watch the reactions.

‘Apparently my sister fucked her father-in-law after she met him,’ Brian says. ‘That’s the rumour. Could be why Billy Bob didn’t stick around too long. Or could be he realised he married the spawn of Satan.’

He stops in the kitchen and leans on the counter, tapping a teaspoon against the surface. She watches him, smirking at his own joke and looking at his reflection in the spoon.

‘Brian,’ she says. ‘You’re every mother’s worst nightmare.’

‘Including my own,’ Brian says, with a hard grin that doesn’t reach his eyes. She hesitates.

‘You were,’ she says. ‘You were my worst nightmare.’ He was: he was drunk drivers and meningitis and paedophiles and everything else that kept her awake at night, and all the new, half-formed threats that gathered in the corners when she knew Justin was gay, AIDS and homophobes and children with baseball bats.

There’s a long pause. ‘And what am I now?’ He isn’t looking at her, eyes averted in case she notices that he genuinely cares what she thinks.

She smiles, and looks around the loft. ‘Are we done?’ She looks around for items straying from their assigned boxes, but the floors are clean and the boxes are sealed and neatly stacked.

‘We’re done,’ he says.

‘This is really an amazing space,’ she says, trying to view it dispassionately, but every surface is infused with Brian. This space could never belong to anyone else. ‘It’s so – it’s so—’

‘Me,’ he says.

She nods, and doesn’t look at him. ‘It’s wonderful. When I first saw it I thought it was too sparse, there was nothing warm about it.’

‘But now?’

‘I don’t know. You start to love it, don’t you?’

He grins at he, grabs the keys from behind him and tosses them to her. ‘Well, he says. ‘Have it. Keep it safe for me.’

‘I’ll try.’

In the end he leaves with only one bag slung over his shoulder. ‘I’ll be sending for the rest,’ he repeats, and she nods, and kisses his cheek.

‘I know you will,’ she says.

‘So don’t sell my loft,’ he says. ‘I’ll be back.’

Of course he will. He’s walking away and moving across the country, but she can’t get him out of her life.
linkReply

Comments:
From: lardencelover
2005-04-01 09:35 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is excellent fic. No idea who it is, though.
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[User Picture]From: cempakasari
2005-04-01 09:49 pm (UTC)
I love this. I'm a one trick pony, I guess. Can't bear to read all those Brian/Emmett and Brian/Debbie? So, this is just perfect.

‘Wow,’ says Brian mildly. He’s standing behind her. ‘Wonder how long that’s been there.’

She slams it shut and turns around. ‘You could at least lie to me. Tell me it’s not yours, just pretend that you and my son have never sat around this place taking drugs together.’

Brian looks solemn. ‘We don’t take drugs together,’ he says. ‘We do decoupage. That’s oregano.’


Love.*points up*
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: sogay
2005-04-01 10:57 pm (UTC)
So very mojokid. If it is not, I will pledge all my money to the Republican party and shoot myself in the mouth.

Proof: The quasi-run on sentences. The numeral seperation, the '' for quotes instead of the standard "". Not to mention the British versions of such words as rumour and paedophiles.

Also, it is excellent, so it must be my wittle kittykat. ♥ ♥ ♥
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: quinn222
2005-04-01 11:50 pm (UTC)
OMG I love this! I'm awful at guessing but I'm thinking Mojokitten too.
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[User Picture]From: chelsea193
2005-04-02 02:28 am (UTC)
Lovely, just lovely. Mother Jen picking up on something not being quite right about Brian in the third part was a nice touch.
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[User Picture]From: sparkledark
2005-04-02 02:50 am (UTC)
wow, this was amazing. really really.
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[User Picture]From: ayesakara
2005-04-02 05:31 am (UTC)
God, I absolutely totally LOVE Brian-Jennifer friendship fics. This made me sniffle at many places. Totally to die for!!!
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[User Picture]From: anneliz_a
2005-04-02 05:59 am (UTC)
Wonderful fic!
I love a story that explores the friendship between Brian and Jennifer, 'cause they were just so great together in 401, you just know they'll hang out together even after that :)
My guess would be mojokid.. we'll see!
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[User Picture]From: twistinside82
2005-04-02 06:16 am (UTC)
Dear jesus. Number five ... the whole thing. So beautiful. I've always loved the dynamic between Jennifer and Brian.

‘He followed me around for long enough,’ he says. ‘He deserves someone who’s going to follow him for a change.’

:(( :(( :(( :X:X:X
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[User Picture]From: eleveninches
2005-04-02 06:17 am (UTC)
So, so, so good.
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[User Picture]From: msjudi
2005-04-02 06:32 am (UTC)
Oh my. I love this.
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[User Picture]From: aurora_84
2005-04-02 02:25 pm (UTC)
Dear writer,

why are so incredibly brilliant?? This was just perfect. I love Brian/Jennifer (FRIENDSHIP!) and wrote the best B/Jen story ever.

Brian shifts his eyes to her face as if he’s only just noticed her, but doesn’t move, and in an instant she realises that now, after this, he’s always going to be a part of their lives.
bawling here...

L.A. is the new black, the new Brian, the new force to take her son away.
and Angeles is the new Cody, the new Brian, the new threat to the thing they love most.
I like the echo in these. And very very true.

Brian looks solemn. ‘We don’t take drugs together,’ he says. ‘We do decoupage. That’s oregano.’
She wants to smile, but forces herself not to. ‘Thank you.’

Perfect!
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[User Picture]From: paddies
2005-04-02 07:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow!

This is so good! Seriously, I'm in awe...thank you, thank you, thank you!! ♥

I don't know who you are even tho mojokid seems about right to me... but I love you anyway. So brilliant. :D

*loves*
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[User Picture]From: ewanmax
2005-04-02 11:49 pm (UTC)

The New Black

Bein a mom, I can so relate, loving two people who love Justin was made completely ossible by this wonderful fic.
Smiled/ached through the whole thing.
Colleen
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[User Picture]From: _alicesprings
2005-04-03 11:53 am (UTC)
here here. very, very fantastic and funny (the oregano linewas perfect) and a beautiful ending. Love it.
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[User Picture]From: luceononuro
2005-04-03 07:30 pm (UTC)
I found this story breath-taking......just exceptionally well-done
wonderful, wonderful work
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[User Picture]From: xhaleslowly
2005-04-03 09:09 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this fic - some fantastic lines that just completely summarize the Brian/Jen relationship. The second piece - Jennifer's compassion towards Brian now that he was out of Justin's life was so powerful. And I loved them bonding in the fourth piece - it somehow touched on the "sonny boy" feelings that we know Brian has for Justin. The fifth piece had that bittersweet, "damn, that hurts, but still so full of hope" sense to it and I really felt it inside, you know?

Great fic - you just brought so much insight into their relationship.
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[User Picture]From: strlite913
2005-04-03 09:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow! This was amazing! I loved it from start to finish, but the last part really got me. I love Brian and Jen's relationship and this was a wonderful take on it. It was so beautiful and full of a lot of emotion. Loved it!
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[User Picture]From: juteux
2005-04-03 09:40 pm (UTC)
Perfect. I love it so much.
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[User Picture]From: luckycharm_13
2005-04-04 12:02 am (UTC)
:X:X:X:X

I love so much. B/Jen friendship is the best. Awesome job. Awesome.
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[User Picture]From: cindybaby
2005-04-04 01:27 pm (UTC)
So warm and original.

Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: mcfeste
2005-04-04 04:00 pm (UTC)
I'm generally bad at guessing because I don't know everyone's style as well as I'd like, but hey, I was thinking mojokid even before I read comments, so go me. :D

The first and fourth sections just bit into me. Both Brian and Jennifer are so sensitively rendered throughout, and I love this story so very much.
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[User Picture]From: bluegrace61
2005-04-05 01:38 am (UTC)
Oh wow! This is beautiful...I *love* Jennifer, she is absolutely one of my favorite characters...and I'm such a fan of fics about nonromantic pairings, especially involving Brian.

Whoever you are, well done!
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[User Picture]From: redbrickrose
2005-04-05 06:51 am (UTC)
Love the Brian/Jennifer friendship. I would love to see them interacting like this on the show. I also love Brian going after Justin; perfect.
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[User Picture]From: quinn222
2005-04-06 12:30 am (UTC)
Oh wow, I guessed one right for a change! This does nothing to change my opinion that mojokid is one of the most talented people in the fandom, if the the most talented.
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[User Picture]From: thelionforreal
2005-04-06 05:48 am (UTC)
I totally have a sekrit fetish for Brian/Jennifer = friends fic. (It ranks right on up there with Ted and Brian are Sort Of Friends fic and the bracelet tying in 3.4)

Fantastic.
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[User Picture]From: mariana_wpu
2005-04-06 10:09 pm (UTC)

Awwww, that was the best!! LOVED it!
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[User Picture]From: lucie_inthesky
2005-04-07 07:13 am (UTC)
OK, you consistently remain my favorite writer here in QAF land. The way you just grasped the Brian and Jennifer dynamic so perfectly is amazing... the growth from strong dislike and blame to realizing he is indeed family for good got me RIGHT THERE *clutches heart*. Thanks so much for this, and of all the pulsefic thingies I've read so far, this is DEFINITELY my favorite.
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[User Picture]From: bigboobedcanuck
2005-04-10 05:15 am (UTC)
OMG, seriously brilliant.

She gets a new address book at Christmas and after a moment’s hesitation, doesn’t bother rewriting the number of the loft by Justin’s name.

Man, that really got me. It's just a little moment, but it's so significant.

‘It’s never over,’ he says.

This may or may not have caused me to well up.

He’s joking, but she hears something fragile in his voice, hope, and for the first time in her life, she hopes that Justin doesn’t hurt Brian.

And here come the tears!

Just wonderful, I adored this from start to finish, thank you.

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[User Picture]From: kitkatbyte
2005-04-12 10:38 pm (UTC)
I love this! Of course I think it's wonderful that Brian is going to LA for Justin, but at the same time I feel for Jennifer, having both of them gone.
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[User Picture]From: nyias
2005-08-08 04:28 am (UTC)
This story is really gorgeous. Thanks for writing, and for sharing.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-09-12 05:32 pm (UTC)
I wandered over from crack_van, and I'm not all that familiar with QaF, but this is a wonderful story! I loved the way you did the mom's pov.
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[User Picture]From: morbidmuse
2006-04-24 10:38 pm (UTC)
*whimper* I am in love with this story. The relationship between Brian and Jennifer has always interested me and you nailed it in its various stages through time. Excellent job with each piece. You really kept them in character.

*saves to memories*
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[User Picture]From: bookstorequeer
2006-04-26 04:20 am (UTC)
Ahhh, curses. You made me cry. I liked it. I just... liked it.
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[User Picture]From: singyourmelody
2006-10-07 11:54 am (UTC)
Aw, I love it. :)
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[User Picture]From: sexy_pumpkin
2007-12-09 10:49 pm (UTC)
Fabulous fic, teared up a few times & smiled alot as well, I love B&J fics & its about time he went & got him, Im sure he was there waiting,,thanks so much, I loved this.
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[User Picture]From: fever_play
2009-03-11 03:31 am (UTC)
This is really great. There are too few fics that deal with Jennifer's opinion and relationship with Brian. This makes up for it, though. I love this line: "Los Angeles is the new Cody, the new Brian, the new threat to the thing they love most." To me, that explains both of their lives. It's so strange that two seemingly unrelated characters would have such a huge common denominator, but you've managed to write that perfectly. Great job!
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