Once, when they were all at Babylon, very drunk and very high, Justin and Michael got into a conversation about super-powers. Which would be coolest, x-ray vision or the ability to read minds? Invisibility or super strength? Justin doesn’t remember what he picked as the “coolest” superpower, but as soon as he hears Daphne’s groggy voice on the phone, he knows what his answer should have been.
The ability to turn back time.
Too late now.
“Uh. Hey Daph.”
Daphne doesn’t answer for so long that Justin is sure that she’s simply going to slam the phone down -- well, she can’t actually slam a cell phone, but the intent would be there, for sure -- and never speak to him again. When she does answer, he almost wishes she had.
“Justin. It’s--” a muffle while she looks at the clock, and Justin squints his eyes closed and thinks that maybe if he tries really really hard, he’ll be granted a teeny little superpower just this once -- “1:57 a.m. I have lab at SEVEN a.m. So Justin--” and now her voice gets low and soft, and Justin knows this is the most dangerous time of all -- “this had better be fucking important.”
Justin decides that he hates Michael, comic books, and all superheroes and their stupid superpowers.
“Brian...” And then Justin stops. Because fuck, what is he going to say? Brian went home with a guy tonight? Big deal. They have an open relationship. They fuck who they want when they want. And that’s exactly what Daphne will tell him. Then... what? That he’s... scared?
“Tell me you didn’t call me to whine about your boyfriend.”
He can picture her now, sitting up in bed, sleep blurring her eyes, and feels like the biggest fuckwit in the world. And definitely not a very good friend. Probably the worst friend.
“No, I... I’m sorry I called, Daph. Go back to sleep.”
He slides the phone away from his ear and has his thumb hovering over the End button when her voice sounds tinnily from the cell. “Justin?”
He should hit End. He really should. Because that would mean he was being a good person and letting his best friend get some much needed rest so she can ace her lab or whatever. He should hang up.
Justin lifts the phone back to his ear. “I’m here.”
He hears the scratch of flint from her lighter, an intake of breath. Then, “What’s going on?”
“Did you hear about that guy that got murdered?” The words are out of his mouth before he’s even aware he’s going to say them, and he really didn’t want to talk about this, not at all. Not with Daphne, who already carries mace in her purse and takes self-defence classes twice weekly at the Y. Who’s single and pretty and attends labs that start at practically the buttcrack of dawn that she has to walk through near-empty parking lots to reach.
Then he realizes that she’s exactly the person he should talk to.
“The one they found in the dumpster?” Daphne says, and Justin can almost see her shuddering. “Yeah. That hits a little too close to home. Oh man. You didn’t know him, did you?”
“No. I mean, I danced with him once, but...”
“But it freaked you out.”
“Brian went home with a guy tonight.” He doesn’t mean to blurt it out, but seems to have lost the ability to censor what pops out of his mouth.
“Ohhh-kaaaay,” Daphne says. “But you’re cool with that, right? You fuck whoever you want and he--”
“They haven’t caught the guy!”
“Oh. Ohhhhh.” There’s a rustle from Daphne’s end of the line, and Justin closes his eyes and pictures her leaning across to her little nightstand and crushing out her cigarette. It occurs to him that he never even gave a thought to the fact that she might have company of her own. Just always expects her to be there for him when he needs her. And he makes a mental note to thank her for that, to tell her what she means to him... someday, when he’s not so fucking terrified.
“Justin, Brian knows what he’s doing. I’m sure he’ll be okay.”
“You can’t be sure of anything!”
“When is Brian not in control?” Daphne points out. “And it’s not like this hasn’t happened before. You went home with Brian. Alone. And you didn’t know him at all.”
“That was different,” Justin says softly. He doesn’t know if everybody remembers their first time as clearly as he does. Maybe he only remembers everything so precisely because it was more than just his first fuck. It was his first love. His only love. And he doesn’t give a shit if Brian thinks such thoughts are “lesbianic” -- Justin knows how he feels, and nothing changes that.
“I knew that Brian would never hurt me,” he says. Oh, he was scared shitless. Of taking that step, that big step, that final step that would forever change who he was and how he thought and what he felt. He was scared that he’d do something wrong, hell, that he wouldn’t know what to do. Scared that he’d say something stupid. Scared of the pain, and scared of the pleasure, too. But scared of Brian? Never.
“Then trust that Brian has the same instincts that you do,” Daphne says softly.
If only it were that easy.
“Thanks for listening, Daph.”
“Anytime,” she says, as if the sleep-deprived monster who answered the phone was just a figment of his imagination. “And don’t worry. Okay?”
Justin knows that Daphne is probably right. But probably doesn’t do a lot to soothe the anxious knots in his stomach or the throbbing vein in his head. Justin also knows that much as he wants to keep hearing her voice, to let her soothe him until he hears the whine of the elevator that signals Brian’s return, he has to be a good friend. For once.
“Okay,” he lies.
Justin hits End and sets the phone down. Pushes away from the counter. And resigns himself to becoming thoroughly acquainted with every squeak of the floorboard over the next hour.