I’ll say yes to the first part, and no to the second. Yes, absolutely, Justin challenges Brian in entirely new ways. He understands him in a way few others do, and is able to very quickly see there is more than met the eye with Brian Kinney and, as Debbie said, gets in under the wire. He pushes, challenges, and inspires Brian in brilliant ways and obviously had a profound impact on his life. Absolutely zero argument from me there.
But Brian’s friends also have a profound impact on his life. They also support him and push him and inspired him. They are there for him to celebrate his successes and to support him in his times of need. They cheer him on but also call him out when necessary. They aren’t afraid to stand up to him and challenge him. And sure, maybe there are times they buy into Brian’s image – but let’s remember, when the series began, Brian only really seemed to be especially close with Lindsay and Michael and was still developing his relationships with the others. Of course it’s going to take them some time to see the man beneath the sex god persona – that’s often all Brian would let them see. But don’t worry, dear anon. They catch on. And they may have played along, because they know that Brian is never one to reveal his inner emotions and he’s more comfortable keeping up that facade, but they know. They knew what an incredible man Brian is and how much he loves them. They know everything he’s capable of. They know he’s far more than an oversexed club boy. They love him and believe in him. And it’s because of all their support that Brian not only survived, but thrived. The Brian we saw in 5x13, so much more emotionally mature and content and at peace with himself, with a great deal of his self-loathing and insecurities erased, would never have been possible without all the love and influence of all his friends. And they love him because they know him.
Now, I realize somebody could hand wave that all away as just talk, so I decided it would be fun to back it up with some cold, hard facts. Below the cut I have listed all the times Brian’s friends either challenged him or revealed they could tell there was more to him than the image he presented of himself. Because this list is quite lengthy, I actually limited myself (GASP) and did not include the instances where they revealed how much they cared for him, because if I did, there’s a good chance this list would be twice as long as it already is. But if you want to see some proof of that, I highly suggest checking out one of my favorite QAF gif sets of all time. Ready for the evidence? Here we go.