So this story is based on two lines from the song There's A Hole in The World by The Eagles. It goes through both Justin's and Brian's journeys to and through life and love.
They say that anger is just love disappointed.
Brian stopped believing in love when he turned six years old. It was the first year that Clair didn't come home on time, the first year that Joan spent the entire night drinking glass after glass of scotch and repeating Hail Mary's to herself, ignoring both her children. It was the first year Jack hit Claire instead of Joan or Brian. It was the first year that he got no "Have a good birthday, Kid. Be glad you were fuckin' born" from his father, no cookie from his mother, no hug from his sister. He spent the entire day in his room, emotions flipping between sad self-pity and a bitter anger that would not abate. After a while, he decided on the anger. It seemed to work better, and settled comfortably in his stomach. From then on he never expected love, only disappointment and anger.
Even after he met Mikey, told him "You know, Mikey, I love you," he wondered how much of those words was just a hurried façade in order to keep someone, anyone by his side. He almost found it strange that it was Michael, but he realized that he had chosen the boy because he was weaker than Brian, because Brian could be mad or sad or happy and Michael would still follow him like a puppy, because Brian could get made at the people who beat on Mikey instead of the people who beat on him. He had chosen Mikey because he could never disappoint Brian, and because Brian could never return all his love no matter Michael wanted it.
High school was worse for both of them. Brian had no idea how many nights he spent out late, sneaking out of his window by moonlight and tearing down the streets in torn pajama pants and a dirty wifebeater, running out to the train tracks in the dark and following them down until all that surrounded him were abandoned buildings and empty storage containers, stopping and raising his head and screaming out his anger until he could feel the muscles in his neck and arms and legs straining and pulling, until he was red-faced and hoarse, until he collapsed and laid on the ground in the dirt and rocks and rubble and panted for breath, until he clenched his hand into a fist and swallowed the anger again and walked home, pretending to breathe normally again.
Brian wasn't sure whether to be thankful for Michael or not during high school. Those four years together mostly consisted of him pulling Michael's head out of toilets, or his homework out of trashcans, or his comic books from his singed locker. Most of the time he wanted to kill the stupid jocks, the troglodyte stoner kids who wanted so badly to be anarchists, but couldn't go all the way for fear of expulsion, the geeks who looked at him funny because he was smart but also clever and good-looking, despite his lankiness. When he found the diagram, the build-a-bomb how-to and brought it to chemistry club, he thought maybe he'd finally get what he wanted, the assholes at school would finally feel the pain and anger he and Mikey and all the others felt every day. But then Michael looked up at him with pleading puppy-dog eyes, asked him what he was doing and he couldn't go through with it. He couldn't blow up the school because he'd be blowing up Michael's chance at a future. He rode out the next two years on drugs and dancing and screaming at the sky in the early morning hours and somehow managed to get good enough grades to go to college and get a degree.
It was easier in college to ride out the anger, less bullying and more concentration on work and competing to do his best, to come out on top, which he almost always did. The wrath and disappointment over his parents never supporting him, over never having any time to do much but work and school, constantly simmered low in his gut, even after he graduated. He learned to ride it out on anonymous guys' asses or mouths.
When Justin appeared in his life, the anger seemed to shift and dissipate and change, and that scared Brian and made him angrier. He took it out on the twink, not only for the reason that he was furious at the kid for barging into his world, but also because he was afraid that he was coming to like this boy, and what if Justin saw him for who he really was, saw the fuming screaming creature that lay beneath the calm surface? What if he left and Brian was left with disappointment and fury all over again?
And then Justin left him, left him because he didn't believe in love, because he couldn't convince himself to believe after years of anger and disappointment in place of what should have been affection. And when he left, Brian's anger boiled over, turning him scorching, and then his disappointment oozed over that and left him a mist, a fog that was dull and numb with pain. He fucked as many tricks as he could, but there was an emptiness in his life that he could feel and could not fill, and he didn't know what it was or why, and that just pissed him off.
He was no less angry when Justin came back. The flames that licked at his heart and made his temper simmer moved to his belly, filling it with overprotective fury and righteous wrath. He never wanted to let Justin go, never wanted to lose him again. Anger was what drove him, never love.
Even after he saw that, though, Justin didn't seem to mind. And he continued his attempts to prove that not everything ended in disappointment, that not everything had to be reacted to with anger. His love for Brian cooled the fire in his gut and seemed to put out the glowing coals, making the smoke blind his eyes until real smoke cleared them and suddenly, his anger was gone. He realized what it was that he and Justin had, realized that the anger wasn't necessary to feel alive, because he loved Justin, and though he was sometimes saddened or afraid or disappointed, they were still together, and he didn't need to live in fury.
They say that love is just a state of mind.
When Justin was six, he thought that love was when his Mommy gave him ice cream on a regular day for no reason at all. He thought that love was when Daddy let him perch high on his shoulders or took him to the zoo to look at the 'amninals.' He thought love was when Grandpa would read him stories, doing the voices and letting Justin run his fingers over the artwork on the page. He thought love was when Mommy would let him make cookies and wouldn't get mad when he got flour everywhere.
When he was nine, Justin though that love was attention. He thought for a while that the cooing and singing and lullabies his parents gave his new baby-sister-thing meant that they loved her more than him. In time, he found that love maybe meant family, and he realized that he loved his sister quite a bit, even if she was annoying and cried all the time.
In fifth grade, Justin found a different kind of love. He met a new girl, Daphne, who had just moved there from Philadelphia. She had waved at him from her newly-claimed seat beside his, giving him a toothy, braces-supported grin and nodding her head as she introduced herself, her curly hair vibrating and puffing about her face like she'd stuck a finger in an electric socket. They'd hit it off wonderfully, and he realized that he adored this new friend. Daphne was the first person Justin had found who loved him for him, and who he loved for her. He had a feeling he wouldn't be forgetting her any time soon.
Justin was in middle school when he found out that who you loved mattered. He was in his fourth month of sixth grade when he found out what the word "faggot" meant. Some kid called him that during PE when he wanted to sketch instead of playing football; he looked it up in the big dictionary on the shelf when he got home. He wondered why being homosexual was an insult, it didn't seem like a bad thing to him. Although he didn't understand why a man loving another man was bad, he learned to ignore any insults thrown his way. He had the distinct impression that the kids didn't really know what they were saying, anyway.
At fourteen years old, Justin kissed another boy. It wasn't really a kiss, just a small, almost accidental peck on the lips, but Justin had felt a jolt of lightning rightness at the sensation. The two of them didn't really know each other, but got along well, had been horsing around during class and sent outside to think about their disruption. Instead of doing as told, they continued to play, finding the bleachers by the baseball field more interesting to run around on than sit and contemplate on. They chased each other up the clanging silver steps, laughing. When the other boy took a wrong step and began to fall backwards, arms pinwheeling wildly, Justin had grabbed him by the shoulders and yanked forward, causing them to clash together, bodies close, mouths touching. They had paused together for a moment in shock before the other boy jumped back, shaking his head, apologizing quickly. Justin had lifted his hand to his still-tingling lips, contemplating. He shook his head to clear it, and to the boy quickly dismissed the kiss as a mistake, though his heart held a sort of comfortable familiarity to the sensation. He never told anyone about that, though, because being a fag, and loving other men was for some reason the biggest offense.
In high school, Justin discovered different kinds of love. He knew that he loved his parents, even though they bugged the shit out of him sometimes. He knew that he loved Molly, even if she was a little brat who tried her hardest to annoy him. But he loved to read her bedtime stories or sketch her while she concentrated on her homework. He knew he loved Daphne, that he'd probably do anything for her. He thought he loved Grandma Fosterman, his mother's mother, but she was kind of mean sometimes and always told him to get a haircut, so he wasn't really sure what to think of her. He loved school, loved learning. But more than anything, he loved art. He could feel the energy pulsing through him when he drew, a wonderful feeling that bubbled up and encompassed him as he created.
His senior year of high school, Justin stepped under a light post and met Brian. He was nervous as hell, but when Brian had taken him in and taken his virginity, telling him that he wished he could stay in him forever, telling him that he loved him, Justin became enamored. This beautiful man whom everyone said was impossible to tame simply became another challenge. Justin loved him, he knew he did. It wasn't something he could explain to Daphne or to his parents, he just knew, automatically, that he and Brian were meant to be. Of course, convincing Brian of this was a different story.
When he came out to his father, Justin was expecting the love he'd always known from the man who had always been his hero. When Craig yelled at him, slapped him, made him make a choice, Justin was devastated. The second night of living at the loft, Brian closed Justin's textbook at pulled him up, telling him to get his shoes on, no questions. They drove out to the train tracks. Brian led him through a hole in a fence and they walked for a long time in silence until the only thing around them were old, broken down cargo boxes and crumbling buildings where junkies probably stayed. Brian pointed to the tracks, indicating that Justin should go stand there. Then, with a small gesture, he simply said, "Scream." Justin looked at him curiously, and when Brian just nodded, he threw his head back and yelled and shrieked his frustration to the sky, flapping his arms and beating on his chest with his fists until he bent in half, leaning on his knees, and gasped for breath. Brian arm snaked over his shoulders and they walked together back to the Jeep. "Feel better?" Brian asked him. Justin nodded. Brian loved him, he knew it. He really did.
Prom was the night everything was at its most wonderful and its most terrible. The dance. God, the dance. Justin had been amazed that Brian had indeed come to his prom, and even more amazed when Brian asked him to dance. But they had never once looked away from the other's eyes, and Justin could see the open vulnerability, the admission, the love in his Brian's expression. He could feel in the way that Brian touched him, in the small chuckle and purse of his lips when Justin tripped a little. He could taste it on Brian's tongue when they kissed, and knew the words were there, dancing just out of reach in his mouth. He knew it in Brian's hesitation when they kissed by the car. And then the grin and sunshine was wiped off his face as a baseball bat slammed into his head.
After the bashing, Justin's idea of love and his automatic knowledge of Brian's love for him, were changed. He was less aware of Brian's small signals of affection, and instead wished for grand symbols of adoration. When Brian did not give him what he wanted, he decided that meant that there was no longer love between them.
Ethan was what Justin thought love was. He was artistic, romantic, a starving artist with wild fantasies of movie-star romances and candlelit dinners on the floor. He was what love was supposed to be; flourishing words and chocolate truffles and roses for breakfast, arias dedicated to a single person and silver rings marking unity.
When he returned, tired and jaded, love was simply there. He wasn't sure exactly what it was, but he knew he could feel it, and it was comfortable. Then love was caring for Brian while he went through treatment, yelling at him to eat his soup, and not letting him go through his pain alone. Love was supporting another person and letting them know they had someone to lean on. And then love was something entirely different. Love was wanting the same things, love was moving in the same direction at the same time. And because Brian didn't want what he wanted, he left, again.
When Brian's arms encircled him, a warm, familiar, solid entity in a world of smoke and confusion and pain, something seemed to come together. But the Brian's arms released him and disappeared as he followed Michael to the hospital, and suddenly Justin had time to think. He wanted to know what that embrace had meant. Hours later, he found out as Brian again clutched him to his chest, told him about the frantic fear he'd felt. And then Brian said the words. And though they meant quite a bit, Justin realized that really, he had known it all along. Love was just something that changed as your experiences and point of view changed. He realized that love was simply the way he saw things, and love was always and would always be there between them, in any and every possible form.