Experiment by Wren
FeatureSummary:

I thought this story was very different from anything I'd read before. Very well written and could have easily been in the show. -SunshineSally

This was written immediately after S3 ended. It's canon friendly and deals with the aftermath of Stockwell's defeat and Brian's financial situation.


Categories: QAF US, Admin Pick Characters: Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor
Tags: Anti-Michael
Genres: Alternate Canon
Pairings: Brian/Justin
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 25 Completed: Yes Word count: 141816 Read: 235679 Published: May 29, 2016 Updated: Dec 16, 2016
Story Notes:

 

 

This was my first long fic.  I'd never considered writing a fic longer than a few pages.   The first chapter was written in response to a challenge, and the another challenge came along that triggered a follow up, and then another and before I knew it I'd got to six chapters and the story just took off.

DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

1. The Alternative Lifestyle Experiment by Wren

2. The Experiment Continues by Wren

3. Offers and Offences by Wren

4. Newsflash by Wren

5. Results and Conclusions by Wren

6. Footnote by Wren

7. Chapter 7: Saturday Chores by Wren

8. Chapter 8- Side Effects by Wren

9. Chapter 9: A Hard Night's Work by Wren

10. Chapter 10: Experiment #10 by Wren

11. Chapter 11: Partnerships by Wren

12. Chapter 12: Dinner and Dialogue by Wren

13. Chapter 13: Car Trouble by Wren

14. Chapter 14: Tangled Web by Wren

15. Chapter 15: Calvary Charge by Wren

16. Chapter 16: Test Drive by Wren

17. Chapter 17: Baby Makers by Wren

18. Chapter 18: Like A Virgin by Wren

19. Chapter 19: Shadows of the Past by Wren

20. Chapter 20: 'We,' Us,' 'Our' by Wren

21. Chapter 21: Update by Wren

22. Chapter 22: Hit and Miss by Wren

23. Chapter 23: Quite A Ride by Wren

24. Chapter 24: Gifts and Givers by Wren

25. Chapter 25: New Beginnings by Wren

The Alternative Lifestyle Experiment by Wren
Author's Notes:

 

 

This was meant to be a one off short fic written in response to a challenge "for the boys to experiment with something".

 

 

Brian is trying an experiment with an alternative lifestyle. He needs Justin’s help.

 

Brian’s Report:

Well, okay so this is just an experiment. I just want to see if I can do it, see what it’s like. It’s not a big fucking deal. No one needs to even know that it’s happening. Least of all Justin. Because he’d make it into a big deal. I think. Or maybe not. Once he would have, but now maybe not. I just don’t know, and the last thing I need is any pressure, so I’m going to just keep it to myself.

But I want to do it properly, which means recording things as I go, so that I’ve got some sort of record of what happened throughout the experiment. That way, if it goes off the rails, I can at least prove to myself that I tried.

So here goes.

Day One: Thursday

Nothing to report. Perhaps a trace of anxiety, but I guess that’s natural. Everything else is pretty normal. Justin was here last night, which I have to admit helped. With no car, he’s been staying here more. It saves hassles. So that means he’s on hand if I need him. Shit! when I need him. Because I did. And I will, the longer this experiment goes on. But it’s only for a week. So I’m sure it’ll be okay. I want to see if I can do this, and having him here just makes it easier.

Day Two: Friday

So far no problems. Well, there was one moment at Woody’s where I wasn’t sure that I could handle it, but then Ben made a great pool shot, and that distracted me, so it was okay. Justin turned up a bit later and we went home and had an early night. Well, we got to the loft early, but it was a while before we got to sleep.

It’s funny. He’s always been a little hottie, right? I mean, I was never going to spend any time with some troll. But tonight when he walked into Woody’s I thought “Fuck! He is so fucking gorgeous!” I just wanted to drag him back to the loft right away. Even the backroom wasn’t going to do it for me. I wanted time to savor him, not some quick fuck up against the wall. That just wouldn’t have been enough, so when we did get back here I wanted to make the most of it.

We’d fucked twice before we ever made it to the bed, and after that it was long and slow and torturous, and so fucking good. I’d always thought that being with the one guy over and over would be paralyzingly boring, but I’d never envisaged anyone like Justin. He’s not only as hungry for sex as I am, he knows all my sweet spots and just what to do with them to drive me crazy. And the sounds he makes when I stroke his can drive me over the edge all on their own.

The weird fucking thing is that to be honest (and I might as well be honest here, right?), from the moment he walked into Woody’s tonight I forgot all about the damned experiment.

Day Three: Saturday

We got home from Babylon at about two this morning and I fucked Justin into the mattress. It was hot as usual. Then he insisted that he wanted to have me. He has this thing about needing to top occasionally for whatever reason; and lately, if he wants to do it, I seem to be the one he expects to bottom for him. Normally I guess I’d just tell him to find a trick and go to the backroom and get it out of his system before we go home or else go without, but I … well, lately I don’t really feel like sending him off with a trick for some reason. And I guess I know that I’m going to need his full attention if this experiment is going to work out, so I can’t fucking do that anyway while the experiment is on. So, last night, that meant letting him have his wicked way with me.

For someone of his body type, Justin has a big cock. Hell, Justin has a big cock, period. It’s just really unusual for someone with his body type. I don’t bottom often, so I’m pretty tight, and after a session with him, I am very aware that I’ve been well fucked. This morning I was still feeling sore. Not that I’d ever tell him that. Hell! he can take it as often as I can get it up, and my cock’s bigger than his. I’m not going to squeal about how sore I am after one fuck like some pussy little fag. But I have to admit it might be one reason why I haven’t let him top me all that often.

After last night, though, I might have to rethink that, because it was certainly worth a bit of soreness this morning. We did it on that ratty old couch that his mother dug up from somewhere. (Personally I’d rather go without than have that thing in the loft, but it does have its uses.) I was on my knees on the seat, which put my ass at just the right height for Justin, and gave me the back of the couch to brace myself against; which, God knows, I had to do. He rimmed me first, and took his time opening me up with two or three well lubed fingers. He even took his time pushing his surprisingly large thick cock into me. In fact, I was ready to start screaming at him to fucking hurry up.

But once he got started he more than made up for the slow start, ramming me hard and fast, and then slowing it down to the point where I wanted to beg for more (I didn’t, but I had to bite my tongue to stop myself), and then, when he was ready, it was wham! bam! while I held onto the back of the couch and prayed it didn’t give way. When he decided it was time for me to come, he didn’t even touch my cock, just made sure his brushed over my prostate on a couple of thrusts, so that I went onto overload, and then pulled back and gave it two tiny nudges and I came so hard we might never get the stains out of the couch.

This morning we blew each other in the shower before I went to the gym. He did the supermarket shopping while I was out and I got home before him. I jumped his bones as soon as he walked in the door but he made me wait till he’d put the cold stuff away, then we gave the couch another work out. Unfortunately, we were due at the Munchers’ so we didn’t have time for more, but we made up for that when we got home.

Day Four: Sunday

Okay, so it was my own stupid fault for leaving this lying around. I just needed to go to the bathroom. When I got back, Justin was packing it into his bag with his sketchbooks. He said he thought it was some of his school stuff. Of course, when I claimed it back he got all curious. And this is Justin, right? The single most persistent person on the planet. I knew he wasn’t going to let it go until I told him what it was.

I guess I could have made up some bullshit. Or even just told him it was a journal, or an ideas book, or something, but … it’s not like I’m ashamed of it.

Be honest, Kinney. The truth is, maybe I did want to let him in on it. Just him, though. I made that real clear to him. That I trust him to understand, and not to rag on me about it, but he’s the only one I can trust that way. And I did my best to make it clear that it’s just an experiment. For a week. One week. That’s all. Just to see. The thing is, though …

He tried so hard to stay real cool about it, but I saw the look in his eyes.

Shit! Damn! Fuck! I knew that he was going to read something into it.

But he says it’s okay. He insists that he’s fine with it. That he knows that it’s just a sort of personal dare. That after the end of the week it will be business as usual. He laughed and said, “I know you, Brian. I told you. I know what I can expect from you. I know this is just a personal thing that you’re doing for you. It doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m okay with that and I’ll still be okay with it next week and the week after. Don’t worry about it.”

The thing about that is, that I don’t know whether to be relieved or pissed off.

Isn’t that a killer?

So maybe that was why I did something totally out of character and took him out to dinner. True, finances being what they are, it was only to the Chinese place down the road (within walking distance, how pathetic is that?) where the food is good but the décor’s pretty cheap and nasty. But I have to admit, it was a date of sorts. We even walked there and back hand in hand. I knew this whole relationship shit would turn me into a fucking dyke!

Maybe it was the date thing, or maybe the experiment is getting to me, or maybe it’s just Justin who’s getting to me, but when we got back, all I wanted to do was climb into bed and make … Shit! see what I mean? “make love” for fuck’s sake! It’s fucking. Just fucking. Isn’t it?

Anyway, whatever you want to call it (a fuck by any other name would feel as hot?) I just wanted to do it slow and sweet and fall asleep all curled up round him. And he seemed to be feeling the same way, so that’s what we did.

The thing is, thinking about what we did last night, doing that, with Justin, that’s hotter than any sex I’ve had with any trick. Or, not hotter, exactly, but more satisfying. That’s it. I feel more satisfied after a quiet fuck like that with Justin than after the wildest sex with any trick I’ve ever had. Fuck! I am turning into a dyke. And I am so not going to let him read this entry. I should never have written it down. Except that I do want to know, at the end of this experiment, what I was thinking and feeling while it was going on, and how can I do that unless I’m honest in what I write down here?

Day Five: Monday

Justin insisted on going back to Daphne’s this morning. He said he’d come over tonight “if you really want me to”. Like I’m going to call him after that and ask him to come over. Shit!

Maybe he’s just ramping things up for the experiment. I bet that’s it, the little fucker! He figures him being here makes it too easy for me. Well, I can do this with or without that little bastard.

Who am I kidding? I kept myself occupied during the day by researching some companies that I’m going to contact about possible openings for an advertising genius who’s so talented he managed to take on a client and place him on top of the heap and then knock him right off again just to show I could do it. Whatever.

Anyway, just like normal when I’m working, I was fine and focused till it was time to turn off the computer and think about food and playtime. Only then my playmate wasn’t here.

So the options were to go over to Deb’s or Mikey’s or the Munchers’ or to say to hell with the experiment and just go out and play.

Yeah, alright, I guess I could have gone to Woody’s or to Babylon and continued with the experiment, but shit! that would have been just asking for trouble.

And the problem with going over to someone’s place, is that they would have wondered why I wasn’t either with Justin or at Woody’s or Babylon or the Baths looking for some trick. And they would not have wondered in silence. Not that crew. They would have gone on and on about it.

So in the end I decided to catch up on my pop culture and watch some TV.

Justin didn’t call. I thought he might. Okay, I hoped he might. But I guess he didn’t want me to feel like he was checking up on me. So eventually I called him.

Hell, now that he knows about it, he’s my research assistant, so I have to keep him updated on the results, don’t I?

I guess the phone sex part was a given, really, and it was surprisingly hot. But it really wasn’t the reason I called.

Partly I guess that I did want to let him know that the experiment was still progressing, even without his presence.

But a lot of it was just that I wanted … yeah, okay. A lot of it was that I just wanted to talk to him; to hear his voice.

Is that what this experiment is doing? Turning me into a total dyke?

Maybe. But if that’s it, how come I feel so good about it? Even … good about me. Jesus! where did that come from?

But you know, I do. I’m sitting here totally beyond broke, in debt up to my long sexy eyelashes, without a job – a total deadbeat. And talking to this little twink makes me feel … No, see, that’s it. He’s not a little twink any more. If he ever was. He’s this incredibly beautiful, sexy, intelligent, talented man who wants me. Who wants to be with me. Who chooses me. Every night at Babylon he could have just about any guy he wants, and he chooses me. Even when he ran off with the fiddler, in the end, he chose to come back to me.

So when I’m talking to him; whether he’s here or whether it’s like last night and we’re on the phone, just laughing about something dumb someone said (with our friends, there’s always something) or making plans for how we’re going to handle this mess our careers are both in, or just comparing notes on some dumb TV show and should they really have tried to get that overweight straight guy into that shirt?; whenever we just relax together, I feel good. I feel good about me. About who I am. Just because of how he sees me. Like, I don’t have to be some ultra- smooth successful suit, or some super-stud, or some kind of super hero.

Just Brian is enough for him. Which means that, for the first time in my life, I feel like just Brian is okay. He may not be the greatest guy in the world, but he’s okay.

Day Six: Tuesday

I was getting maudlin so I stopped last night. Honesty is one thing, drooling drivel is something else.

After going without all day yesterday, (the phone sex hardly counts), I thought today was going to be tough, but it turned out okay.

I went to the diner for breakfast. Nothing to do with the fact that a certain non-twink was working the early shift. Just that Deb takes pity on the poor and makes sure that I get endless refills on the coffee and tries to load me up with carbs as well, without troubling the cash register over much.

Anyway, I was hoping to persuade him to come home as soon as his shift finished, but, wouldn’t you know, he’d “promised Lindsay I’d help hang some stuff for the GLC art show”.

I can not believe that that’s come around again. It feels like they have one every couple of months. Anyhow, I know I’ve got no chance of competing with that, but I decide if I tag along I can at least spend some time with Gus while the two banes of my existence share their little artsy moment.

I guess maybe one side effect of the experiment, especially after being Justin-less all day yesterday, is that my usual calm and placid demeanor is a bit more easily ruffled than usual, because the fucking cretins at the GLC took only about 10 mins to drive me to swear at them long and loudly and cart Gus off to the park. Of course, without a car, it had to be the nearest one to the Center, and I wind up getting cruised by about fifty guys in the space of a couple of hours. Seriously. Not to mention the dykes falling over themselves to hit me up for sperm donations.

You’d think at this stage of the experiment that I’d be at least tempted (by the cruising, not the dykes!) but it was pretty much a turn off. I mean, I had Gus with me. What did they think? I was going to park him in his push cart outside the toilet block while I let some guy suck my dick inside? Or did they imagine I’d use them as a sex ed demonstration for my two year old?

Whatever. There sure as hell wasn’t any risk that the experiment was going to be scuttled by any of those losers (although some of them were kinda hot).

Actually, I just kept wondering how long it was going to take before I could drag Justin away and get him back to the loft.

Once we finally got there, I had him pressed up against the door as soon as he pulled it shut. I grabbed his hands and pinned them over his head and ground my pelvis into his so that he could feel my hard on while I just stared into his eyes for what seemed like a long time. I was already really hard and from the feel of what was jutting into me, he was pretty much the same way. Eventually he pulled one hand free and wrapping it round my neck, pulled me down to kiss me.

I’d been so intent on being the aggressor, that I hadn’t really considered that he would be as horny as I was. It was touch and go who got rid of whose clothes faster, and by the time I’d managed to get a condom out and roll it on my cock, he already had his back to me and was shoving his fingers up his ass to lube it ready for me. I damn near came on the spot just watching him.

That first fuck was really wild. He was shoving back against me, and making this incredible noise – sort of guttural and shrill at the same time, and I felt like I couldn’t get enough, couldn’t get deep enough, even when I was buried in him up to my balls. I remember that at one stage I hooked my arm round his waist and hoisted him off the floor just in an effort to plough deeper into his ass.

We wound up down on hands and knees rutting like a pair of fucking animals. Literally. It was amazing.

Afterwards, I pulled out of him and he just collapsed onto the floor. He’d been taking most of our combined weight and his arms just gave way.

I got rid of the condom and helped him up and then suddenly I was holding him, and he was holding me, and it felt so damned good.

The sex had been great and I knew I’d want more soon, but for that moment, just holding each other felt so perfect.

Then he turned his head and kissed me. Just gently, not like the wild biting and sucking of a few minutes before, just his lips pressed so softly against mine. And the feeling went from perfect to even better.

Yeah, I know. Dyke.

Or maybe not. I told him once that I’d wanted to make him the best homosexual he could be.

Maybe now he’s helping me make myself into something; something more than I was.

See, that’s the thing. I always felt that being with one person, being “monogamous” meant being something less. Less than the super stud. Less than the guy who could pull any trick he wanted. Less than the Brian Fucking Kinney legend.

But just maybe I got it wrong.

It’s too early for me to say that. Too soon to let go completely of what I’ve believed for so long. But I am beginning to wonder …

Anyway, Justin cooked something and we ate, and we discussed the companies I’d researched yesterday, and talked about what Justin’s options might be if PIFA don’t rescind his suspension.

I think they will. He’s too talented, and, honestly, he could kick up too big a stink about them caving in to political pressure. He’s finally going to contact Senator Baxter, which I’ve wanted him to do ever since it happened. Political pressure can work both ways and it’s time he got some mileage out of that connection. I reckon they’ll be glad now the election’s over to just quietly take him back.

We even tossed around some ideas about the future, about maybe one day being able to start our own marketing company. Until I can get the debt sorted, it’s a bit of a pipe dream, but it’s something to think about. We are a good team. We work well together, because we respect each other, but we challenge each other, too. That’s healthy, I think.

We talked for hours, and by the end we were on the computer (the one I bought him – he wants to sell it, but he’s still going to need it when he goes back to school, so we’ve agreed to share it) arguing over company names and designs for a logo, and shit and all of a sudden we just stopped talking and looked at each other and bingo! we were tearing off each other’s clothes again and rolling around on the floor.

Who knew talking could get you so hot?

Day Seven: Wednesday

After last night’s talkfest, and the fuckfest that followed, we had a quiet start to the day. A lazy sixty-nine session followed by a long nap and then coffee and pancakes. (He’s killing me and I don’t even have the treadmill anymore to work it off.) Justin was working the evening shift tonight, so after he’d left for work I did a bit more research on demographics and stuff for our possible future company and then headed down to the diner for a late dinner.

Mikey and Ben came in about nine and wanted me to go with them to Woody’s, but I told them I hadn’t finished eating and that I’d catch them there later.

Then Emmett came in and we talked for a while. He’s really working hard at building up this party planning business, so we tossed some ideas around about marketing it more effectively. He actually wants to pay me to put together a sort of mini campaign, but … that would just be too weird. He can pay Justin to design a proper logo and stuff if he wants. Not that Justin would take money from a friend. Hell, I had to fight to get him to take money from the GLC.

Anyway, that kept me occupied until Justin was finished. We did go over to Woody’s for a while then, but it wasn’t a lot of fun.

Money, of course, is an issue. I’m allowed to buy one round of drinks for Justin and I, and he’ll do the same, but after that if I even think of heading for the bar, I get this feeling in the back of my neck and when I turn around, there he is, giving me that look.

It’s hard to describe the look. It’s not exactly disapproving, or threatening; it’s not even really a frown. It’s more a sort of anxious look. No, not anxious, concerned. He worries. He worries about what’s going to happen to me. He tries to take care of me. He’s not like Mikey, all “Brian can you really afford …?”. He doesn’t say anything. He’s just there, looking out for me, and caring.

Once that would have driven me straight into doing whatever it was that he was worried about me doing. But for some reason, that just seems dumb now. Mind you, back then he probably couldn’t have resisted saying something to try to stop me either. I’m not the only one who’s got smarter.

So now when he gives me the look, I just take a breath and let the warm feeling I get from having someone care about me like that, from having Justin care about me like that, wash over me.

And after that, all I wanted to do was take him home and … show him I care about him, too.

You know, at that moment, that really was what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world - just to find a way to show him. So I did. Several ways, in fact.

I still may not say all the stuff he used to think he wanted to hear, but I think he’s getting the message, just the same. He seemed to last night anyhow, from the appreciative noises he was making and the way he held me afterwards, all warm and sticky in his arms, till we both fell asleep.

And that was the end of the week.

Which means, I guess, that the experiment was a success.

I wanted to know if I could go a whole week without tricking, and I did. No problem. In fact, looking back over it, it was kinda weird, because I didn’t even think about it much. I mean, there’s hardly anything in here about the tricks I missed out on or stuff like that. It’s mainly about Justin.

So I’m thinking that maybe a week wasn’t really that much of a test.

A month, now …

The Experiment Continues by Wren
Author's Notes:

 

 

Another challenge, another chapter.

This one was written for the Moonshadow $100,000 challenge - to write a bj fic that had something to do with that amount (it coincided with us celebrating 100,000 hits on the site). At the time it seemed natural to follow on from where I'd left off with The Alternative Lifestyle Experiment.

 

 

 

Justin

Last night was amazing.  Well, the whole of the last week’s been pretty amazing, but last night felt really special. Like Brian was really trying to tell me something. It was hot, sex with Brian is always hot, but it was tender, too. Like we really connected. It’s happened before, or at least it’s felt that way, and then afterwards Brian would just roll over and go to sleep. Sometimes, if I was lucky, he’d fall asleep before he rolled over, and I’d get to drift off with my head on his shoulder, or his chest. But last night… last night it was him who snuggled up close to me and put his head on my chest and let me hold him. He never does that, and it felt … it felt good. It’s just ironic that it happened when it did; just when his “experiment” with not tricking was coming to an end, I mean.

Not that I’m complaining about how things are with Brian this time round. I meant what I said to him in his office. I do know what to expect from him, and I am absolutely okay with it. I don’t mind about the tricks or the orgies or the fact that he just doesn’t want to see himself as being in a relationship. I no longer take that personally or see it as meaning that I’m not enough or that he’s ashamed to be with me. I understand him a lot better now.

God only knows what possessed him to try out his experiment. In some ways I’d like to think it’s a sign that maybe he’s ready to start slowing down a little with the tricking, but that’s the way to drive myself crazy. It’s not like he’s suddenly going to jump into a “committed” relationship. He’d have himself committed first. And anyway, it’s not all that important. Not really. It’s not what has been most important to me these last few days.

What I do want to keep from the last week is the way we talked to each other about stuff … about hopes and dreams and how we’re going to handle the mess things are in at the moment. That’s what made the last week really special. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the sex was especially hot. The non-tricking itself was just icing on the cake.

But that doesn’t mean that after having him all to myself for a week, it’s not going to be hard to take when he goes off to the Baths or Babylon tonight and starts making up for everything he’s been missing out on while he was experimenting.

This morning we fucked in the shower, and I think Brian wanted me to stay, but I had to get going. I’d promised Daph that I would at least drop in today sometime, and I’ve promised Brian that I’ll contact Senator Baxter.  I feel dumb about doing that. I don’t know what Brian thinks it can achieve. But he says that if PIFA are wavering and feeling a bit dumb post-election that maybe a gentle push is all they need to see the sense in letting me back in.

I wouldn’t bother except that there were a couple of subjects I was doing this semester that I felt were really helping me, ones where I really felt I was learning something useful to me, and given that unless some sort of miracle happens, this will be the last semester I’ll be able to attend – well, I just want to make the most of it. Not waste Brian’s money.

He’s insisting that it will be alright, talking about me going back as if the money for next semester will be there. But that’s not really likely right now. And I know that Brian knows that and feels bad, and that it’s going to be worse come next semester when we don’t have the money for the fees. But if I can at least get back in this semester, it might make it easier to defer for a year or so, and then go back when I’ve earned some money and can pay the fees myself. Maybe even part time if I can get a decent job in the meantime. But if I let them carry on as if my suspension’s permanent, then that won’t happen.

Shit! Damn! Fuck! All these homophobic arseholes who are intent on taking away from me even the right to an education – Hobbs, my father and then Stockwell. And the Dean. What a prick! So maybe enlisting the Senator’s help isn’t a bad idea at that.

Brian

I was hoping he’d stay around this morning, but he insisted he had to get over to Daph’s and get some clean clothes. Hell! he could start leaving some things at least here so that he wouldn’t have to keep heading off just when …

It’s not like we have a car, even. He has to take the damn bus and it all takes so fucking long. It’s such a lot of fucking about. I don’t know why he doesn’t just move back in. Well, I haven’t exactly asked him, I guess, but …

I guess I’m scared that he’d say no. I think he would. Damn! I know he would. And I don’t want to hear that. Things are good right now. He’s probably right not to want us to fuck it up. Okay, well, me to fuck it up. Although last time around I had help. If he’d just been half as up front with me then as he’s prepared to be now … Well, that’s all shit anyway. It’s over. Been. Gone. Now is now. And now is pretty good.

I haven’t told him yet about extending the experiment. I guess I should. Or not. I just don’t know. I don’t even know why I’m doing it. Hell! I don’t know why I started it, let alone why I want to keep going.

That’s the really scary thing. I want to keep going. He’s not putting any pressure on me. Fuck! He doesn’t even seem to care. I care. I want to … I want to keep things the way they’ve been this last week. I want him here with me, and I want to be here with him, and I want … I want to go out with him, and know that we’ll be coming home together and that when we get back here we’ll fall into bed together and …

Well, that’s it then, isn’t it? Brian Kinney, official dickless fag. Dyke of the Year Award coming up. Hell, I might as well join the G.L.C.

Except, fuck that. No one knows. No one has to know. And it’s none of their goddam fucking business anyway.

Justin’s the only one whose opinion is worth shit, and he’s okay with it. Okay with however it goes. So it’s just up to me, right? I can do whatever the hell I like.

And if I decide that what I want to do is to see if I can go without tricking for, say, a month, then no one else’s candy-assed opinion is going to change my mind.

I just hope Justin heard what I was telling him last night. About how special it was. How special he is. How special we are, together.

*****

Justin

Well, I called Senator Baxter’s office. She was in a meeting, or at a function or something, and I didn’t really want to “explain my problem briefly” to the voice on the phone, so I just left a message that I called. She’s so not going to remember who I am and if she does, she’ll probably think that I want something. Fancy that! Still at least I can tell Brian I called. I left the loft number and my cellphone.

I wanted to get rid of the phone - I don’t really need it. Brian will need his when he starts job hunting in earnest, but I could do without. But he talked me into keeping it. He says that if I’m traveling everywhere by public transport, he at least wants to know he can call me. What he means is, he wants to know I can call if there’s any trouble, but he doesn’t say that. We compromised. We both switched to a plan where you pay a really low monthly rate, but high for calls that you make. That way, as long as we don’t actually use it except in emergencies, we can still afford to be contactable.

The internet connection, however, goes at the end of this month. That will kill Brian. No more order-on-line sex partners. More importantly, he won’t be able to do the sort of research he’s been doing into possible job leads unless he goes down to the library or something.

Well, maybe it won’t come to that. Maybe one of us will find something that pays enough to at least keep food on the table and the internet connected.

I dropped in at Deb’s on the way back to the loft. Mainly to see Vic. I haven’t seen a lot of him since he started all the catering for Emmett’s business, but he said he’d be around today. We talked for a while and then Deb got back from the early shift at the diner and loaded me up with left overs out of her fridge. Two different types of pasta, and some cheesecake that’s a new recipe Vic was trying out.

Which means that at least we’ll get lunch. I’m joking, but it is a bit scary. At least with the money I get from the diner I can afford to pay my share of stuff at Daph’s, and still have some left for food, and the occasional night out.

Brian is supposed to be talking to someone today about some investments and stuff that he’s got. Now that Mikey’s back, he’s going to sell the corvette. And with the other stuff he sold, and the investments, that will get the debt down to manageable proportions.  If he could just get a job, then he could mortgage the loft, or get a personal loan for the rest. It’s having it on those damned high interest credit cards that’s a killer.

Of course, the thing about Mikey being back is that now he and Ben need money to pay for some hot shot lawyer who Ben went to see while Michael was hiding out with Hunter. Of course, they could have talked to Mel, but Michael went apeshit about putting her under any stress because of the baby.

Laying stress on Brian by making him feel guilty about taking back his car so that he can sell it to clear some of the debt he incurred trying to save all our asses seems to be okay. Not to mention letting him feel bad that he’s not in a position to just pay for the damned lawyer. I was kind of hoping they’d throw dear Mikey’s ass in jail for a while. Well, okay, not really, but something. But all three of them (Michael, Ben and Hunter) just insisted that Hunter had run off when he’d heard his mother wanted him back and Michael had gone after him and had just taken a while to persuade him to come home. Like neither of them knew that his mother had involved the police. So that sort of went away.

Then the lawyer managed to get an injunction to stop Hunter’s mother taking the kid. And, amazingly, they’re even letting him stay with Michael and Ben while it gets sorted out. Provided that he stays in school and has a curfew, which he hasn’t stopped griping about. But I think he got a really big scare and he seems to be keeping to the deal. He knows when he’s on a good thing, and, apart from his so called mother, he doesn’t want to go back into the system, or wind up back on the streets. Brian says they’re only letting him stay there cos no one gives a shit, let alone wants to deal with a diseased gay kid. He might even be right. But if it’s discrimination at least it’s worked for once to get a good outcome.

Now if we can just get the money thing sorted, and preferably Brian into a decent job, then we’ll all have come out of this okay.

*****

Brian

It’s fucking typical, that just when you need Ted, he’s in fucking rehab. Talking to some stranger about all the shit that’s gone on in the last few weeks was … well, it wasn’t pleasant, boys and girls.

He seems to think that I’d have a show of suing Vance over the way my contract was terminated. Seems that the clause in the contract relating to “behavior likely to bring the practice into disrepute” can’t be applied to political activities as long as they aren’t seditious. And no one would be game enough to argue that sticking up posters attacking someone with a reputation as shaky as Stockwell’s currently is, was seditious - freedom of expression, guaranteed under the constitution and all that. He says I should seek legal advice.

So I’ll have to consider that carefully. It might be worth it. It might just add major legal fees to the debt I’ve already got.

I could talk to Mel … Jesus! There’s an option! Fuck!

I’ll talk to Justin about it first. See what he thinks.

Which is another argument for having Justin around as much as possible that has nothing to do with his other attractions, many and various as they may be: he can actually think.

I know there are people (the list is probably headed by Deb, or Mel, but there’d be a fair few names on it) who believe that I only think with my dick. And I guess to some extent they’d be right. But maybe they believe that because I don’t waste a lot of time talking to them about stuff that they just wouldn’t get.

Justin gets it. I can talk to him about anything, because he’s as smart as he is sexy. Hell, it’s one of the things that makes him so sexy. I knew that the first night. I mean he babbled like a total twat when he first came into the loft, but that was just nerves. I didn’t have to be any sort of genius to figure out that he had more brains than most of the people I know put together. Just the fact that he was ready to stop me and insist on a condom told me he was smart.

Of course, by the time we got to the “1500 on my SATs speech” I really knew it. If I hadn’t, the way he sprung me over the news that he’d applied to out of state colleges would have laid it out for me in spades. Too damn smart for his own good, was the way I looked at it then. Too smart for my peace of mind is what I meant.

Now, I’m glad that he’s smart enough to see through me, most of the time. And stupid enough to keep coming back for more. Or not so stupid. Things have been better this time. For him, too, I hope.

Anyway, that’s not the only thing that we have to talk about.

Senator Baxter’s office called. They wanted to set up an appointment for him. Apparently the senator remembers him very well (damn right she does, it got her face on tv and in the papers) and she’d love to meet with him. He should call back and set a time.

Then there’s the money stuff. Seems things aren’t quite as bad as I thought. With the money from the “grand clearance sale”, and what I should get from the sale of the corvette, and the fact that I have full equity in the loft, the guy I saw today thinks I should be able to combine all the debt into one loan. I didn’t think I’d have a hope in hell of getting a loan while I’m currently unemployed, but he says all I have to do is become self employed. He reckons with my business record (the Stockwell incident aside), if I can sign just one decent client, then I won’t have any trouble in securing a loan to cover the whole hundred grand, and then some. So I could use that to pay off the cards, and use the rest of my capital to finance a small business.

It sounds crazy to me, but he talked about the tax breaks I could get from the government, who are keen to help develop businesses in Pitts, and from using the loft as my office.  My head is spinning. He says that if I employ even one other person, that I get all sorts of subsidies, and if I offer a student an internship, I can get all sorts of others.

He’s checking out all the details for me, and I’ve got everything he said written down to go over with Justin.

Hell! yesterday I was on the scrapheap, and now I could be starting my own business. It’s crazy. But maybe …

And then I got home and there was a call from someone I never thought I’d hear from again - Adam Lyons from that fucking firm in New York. Seemed he’s heard all about the Vanguard fiasco on the grapevine and called to see if I’d be interested in doing some freelance copywriting for them. I’d get no name credit on any of it, and it’s certainly a few major steps backwards, but he says they know how good I am, and are willing to pay well above the odds just to have my skills.

He quoted an hourly rate that I could hardly believe. Okay, it’s not what I was pulling in at Vanguard, but it sure as hell will keep the wolf from the door. And the real beauty of it is that precisely because I don’t get name credit means that I don’t have to deal with any of the clients. So I can do it all from here. They’ll send me the stuff, and I’ll just work on it and send it back. I guess we’ll have to keep the internet connection, but at least we’ll be able to pay for it.

Jesus! I wish Justin would get back.

*****

Justin

Well, I got back to the loft with our left over lunch, and Brian was on the phone. He was talking to Michael. Of course. It sounded like they’d just started, so I put the stuff in the oven to heat, rather than the microwave. As long as you cover it properly, it’s a better way to reheat pasta cos the microwave makes it go a bit slimy.

But Brian hung up practically straight away. I looked at him a bit surprised, and he handed me the phone.

“You have to call the senator’s office. They want you to make an appointment to see her.”

Then he walked up into the bathroom.

I called the number, and they put me through to her. I’d sort of expected her secretary to make the appointment, so I was a bit rattled. I hadn’t had time to think about what I was going to say.

She was really nice. I know Brian says you can never trust politicians, and all that. But I do like her. I mean, I know that she’s likely to want to make political mileage out of stuff, but at least it’s the right mileage, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, she asked how I was going, and all that. I told her that there was a bit of a problem about PIFA and that I’d like the chance to talk to her about it, to get her advice. But then I got a real shock, because she already knew. Not just that I’d been suspended, but why. She said she’d just found out, because was involved in a senate hearing in Philadelphia over the election period and was a bit out of the loop, but that she’d really like the chance to talk to me about what happened. She even knew about Brian’s involvement. Not about the ad, I don’t think, but about him losing his job at Vanguard.

We talked for a couple of minutes about Stockwell, and she said that Pittsburgh had had a really lucky escape and that they should all be thanking whoever had put that ad on the air.

So I told her who did. I’m not sure that Brian won’t be pissed at me about that. Not a lot of people know, and he’s certainly not going around bragging about it, but I figured if she only knew half the story, she might think Brian was a total sell out. I needed her to know what he’s really like.

He came back then, so it was a good thing that I’d already got past that bit, and moved on to me needing to try to get PIFA to change their minds.

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say, but it wasn’t “I’d really like it if you and Brian could join me for dinner one night, Justin. I have tonight free. Or next Monday. Would one of those suit you?”

I could only stammer at her. Brian gave me the weirdest look, so I excused myself, and put my hand over the phone and said “She wants to have dinner with us!”

I’m sure my voice squeaked. I was so surprised. I was even more surprised when Brian just shrugged and said, “Sure. Why not?”

“Tonight?” As soon as I said it, I wanted to bite my tongue off. Of course he wasn’t going to want to have dinner with some straight female senator tonight, he was going to be out on the prowl. So I nearly fell over when he said, really calm, really casual. “Okay. Where and when?”

I sorted that out with the Senator and arranged to meet her at the Grand Concourse. More than a bit old fashioned and conservative, but the food’s okay. A good choice for dinner I suppose if you’re a senator having dinner with two gay guys. Sort of lends a feeling of respectability at least, till you see if there is any mileage in it. God! I’m getting as cynical as Brian.

Then I went over to the guy who was standing Brian’s loft, wearing Brian’s clothes and demanded, “Okay, who are you?’

He gave a funny sort of grin and hooked his elbow round my neck and dragged me close enough to kiss. Which he did. Thoroughly.

Then he pressed his forehead against mine. I slipped my arms around his waist, and he draped his over and loosely around my shoulders and sighed.

“I’m glad you’re home.”

I felt my breath catch in my throat. I didn’t know what to do or to say. I just tightened my grip a little because it felt so damned good to hear him say that. Even if it wasn’t absolutely true. I have no intention of moving back in right now. But in another way, it is my home. If home is where the heart is then it is absolutely my home as long as he’s in it, and to hear him acknowledge that …

I had to kiss him again quickly so that he wouldn’t get a chance to see the tears I felt stinging my eyes. Shit! I thought I’d gotten past this. Past the point where him saying things like that mattered so much to me.

So I kissed him and that took a while, long enough for my damned eyes to stop leaking anyway. But then he took my face in his hands and, looking down at me with this weird expression on his face, he brushed away the traces of the tears with his thumbs. Then he smiled a strange little smile and said, out of nowhere, “The experiment’s still on, you know.”

*****

Brian

I hadn’t meant to say that. Hadn’t meant to tell him. But he was standing there looking so … so like he used to look, sometimes, when I’d done or said some stupid thing that he took to mean …

Okay, yeah, I’d say something like that, and he’d take it to mean that he meant something to me, that I had some place in his life, and then I’d freak out and say something cutting, or do something deliberately cruel just to let him know he was wrong. He wasn’t wrong, of course. But I had to make him believe he was. Make him believe he meant nothing.

By the end, by the time the fiddler came along, when I said something like that, he’d even stopped hoping it meant something, he’d just get this look in his eyes … fear, that was the look. He was afraid of what he knew was coming next.

And when I looked into his eyes today, it was there again. Just a trace, but enough. And I couldn’t bear it.

So this time I said something that maybe told him that it’s not like before. I hope so. I hope that’s what he heard. I hope that’s what he wanted to hear.

I think it was. I think he heard me, and I think it made a difference.

He smiled, anyway, and hugged me just a little.

Then he let go and turned away to go and get the plates out for lunch, and I was left following him into the kitchen.

“So what did the Senator have to say?” I’m not sure I was all that interested, but it was as good a subject as any to give us both time to get back our balance.

He scrunched his nose up the way he does when he’s really thinking hard about something that’s confusing him.

“She already knew about me being suspended.”

“Yeah?” For a moment I was surprised, then I shrugged. “Well, I guess when you called she might have got her staff to do some sort of check.”

“I guess. Anyway, we talked a bit about what had happened.”

He stopped and I knew there was more.

“She knew about you and what happened at Vanguard too.”

“Uh -huh.” For some reason I felt something else coming.

“And she mentioned the ad.”

No need to say which ad. Around here lately there’s only one ad. The Ad. The one that I just had to do, couldn’t just let go, couldn’t stand back and just say well, I tried. I had to throw everything, including Justin’s future, into that ad.

No regrets, I know. But maybe I can allow myself just that one. That it might be because of me that Justin has to give up his dream.

No. No. That’s not going to happen. As long as we can get him get accepted back in then I have till next semester to sort things out. And after today, that’s looking a lot more likely. I realise that I have all that still to share with him, and can’t help smiling and reaching for him again.

He holds me off a little and I can feel it coming. Whatever it is he’s worried about telling me, it’s about to come out.

“I told her you’d done it. All of it. How much it cost. What you had to sell. All of it.”

And I am pissed off with him. A bit.

But this isn’t the boy Justin who would have done the same thing but would have stood there all defiant waiting for me to cut him down, and then argued my ear off about it. This is Justin now. And he’s standing there waiting to hear what I have to say about it, but he’s not going to argue and he’s not going to back down. He’s just letting me know how it is.

Meeting those blue eyes, looking at me so earnestly from under the mop he calls a hair cut, suddenly my pride in him takes over and I can only grin at him like a fool and reach for him again.

This time he plasters himself against me and then his tongue’s stroking mine and I gladly forget all about the Senator and PIFA and everything except the reality of him, here, and as hungry for me as I am for him. I lift him, and his legs twine around my waist. Somehow we make it to the pile of cushions on the floor and it’s a good thing that he turned off the oven, because it’s quite a while before we even think about lunch.

*****

Justin

I can not believe he said that.

Well, I can’t believe that he’s doing it at all - extending the experiment, I mean. Or that he told me that he’s doing it. But that he said it then …

I guess subconsciously I was waiting to get shot down in flames after the “glad you’re home” line. Because that’s what always used to happen. Always.

Just escaping that would have told me how much things have changed between us. But to have him offer even more … And that’s what he was doing. He did it deliberately. To make sure I knew that things have changed. That something in him has changed …

While I was trying to get my head around that, he asked me about the Senator. I told him what she’d said, that she knew about most of it already. I half expected him to throw a Kinney fit when I told him I’d spilled to her all about the ad. But the other half of me expected him to do exactly what he did, smile at me and pull me back into his arms. And that did it.

I just threw myself on him. Suddenly I didn’t want any more words. I just wanted him. Wanted to feel him against me. Over me. Inside me.

Holding me. Fucking me. Loving me.

I wanted to tell him how much I love him. So I did. In the way that we communicate best. Not just with words tripping off our tongues, but with our whole bodies. Every part of us touching, loving, joined.

Afterwards we just lay there, our sides touching all the way from our shoulders, down our arms, then from our thighs down to our heels, our fingers tangled together somewhere in the middle.

Then my stomach rumbled and he laughed and smacked my thigh. “Up and fetch me lunch, wench!”

I got up and wiggled my ass at him. “Who are you calling a wench?”

He came up behind me and snaked a hand down round my hip to stroke my cock.  “Mmm, my mistake,” he purred using the deep sexy voice I love. I smacked his hand away though, and put the pasta in the microwave. We’ll just have to put up with the sliminess. If I put it back in the oven to heat, we’ll wind up getting distracted again and it will probably burn.

Once I’ve turned it on I manage to get past him to get my clothes. He just laughs and starts pulling his jeans on.

He seems so relaxed, I can hardly believe it. Things must have gone okay with the investment guy this morning.

I’d really like to know, but I don’t ask. If he wants me to know, he’ll tell me. Otherwise it’s not really my business. I try not to be like Michael, thinking he should tell me everything. I used to be like that, and between us we must have just about driven Brian crazy. No wonder he lashed out occasionally and tried to set some boundaries. Michael doesn’t seem to recognise any boundaries at all where Brian is concerned. Hell! even Deb doesn’t. And Brian of all people needs his privacy. I try now not to be so clingy and needy.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t care. Or that I’m not really happy when he says as soon as we sit down on the couch to eat, “Aside from the Senator’s call, there’s some other things I have to tell you about from this morning.”

He opens one of the bottles of vintage wine out of his “cellar” so I know the news must be good, and starts telling me all about what the investment guy had said. By the time he finishes we’re well into Deb’s pasta. And then he tells me about Adam Lyons’ call. I’m a little less pleased about that, because I’m pretty sure that Brian fucked him at least once, and I’ll bet that this Adam guy wants more. Who wouldn’t?

But we’ll worry about that later. In the meantime, it sounds as if things are looking up.

“So would that count as a job, then?” I ask.

*****

Brian

Shit! He is smart. Because I missed that. I was so busy thinking that it was a really big risk to take on more debt on the strength of trying to start my own business, when he comes along with the obvious. It could count as a job, especially if I could get Adam to maybe put something in writing to indicate that there’d be regular income. And then I could use most of the sales money, including what I get for the car, to pay off most of the debt, and only have to borrow enough to finish paying off the cards. I probably wouldn’t even have to touch the investment money - which would be great. If nothing else, it would mean that was available for Justin’s tuition, if we need it.

So we eat our way through two lots of pasta discussing all the pros and cons of everything. Thank God my gym membership is paid up till the end of the year. I’ll have to spend some time there tomorrow, or by the time I get a fucking job I’ll have to buy a whole new wardrobe cos nothing will fit me any more.

In some ways I’d love to just say fuck it all and have a go at my own business. But this is not the time. Not until all the hoohah about the Stockwell thing has died down. And it’s not like I’d have to think of this offer of Adam’s as my new job. But it would give me breathing space to wait it out until the right job comes along.

And by the sound of the conversation that Justin had with the Senator, she may well be willing and able to help him with the PIFA situation. Hell, yes, now I come to think of it she must be, because otherwise there’s no way that she’d be inviting us to dinner. If she wasn’t ready to do something it would be all, “sorry but the senator’s very busy this week, perhaps if you send her a letter”, not personal phone calls and a dinner invitation.

I share that insight with Justin and he nods. I know that he prefers not to think about people, especially ones he likes, in those terms, but he needs to sometimes. Needs to be aware that everyone has their own agendas.

Then he surprises me.

“You’re right. I did think that. Actually, I’ve been trying to work out what she wants.”

I raise an eyebrow at him, reminded yet again that he’s no longer anybody’s little twink.

“Well, she could have just talked to me on the phone. Or got me to come into her office. It seemed to me …”

He broke off then, and looked at me with a bit of a frown, like he was trying to remember exactly what she’d said, and how he’d heard it at the time.

“I think that she wanted, really wanted, you to be there. She wants to talk to you.”

I look at him consideringly. Maybe I’m just making him paranoid. Maybe she was free for dinner and just felt like some pleasant company. And had to invite me to get him to agree to go.

Or maybe not. Justin’s smart and I need to listen and think about what he’s saying.

Then I shrug.

“Well,” I tell him, “either way we get a free meal.”

And his eyes sparkle amused mischief at me and I can hear something about “no such thing as a free …” without him saying a word.

*****

 

Offers and Offences by Wren
Author's Notes:

 

 

I think this one was another challenge, although I can't remember what the topic was now. I have a notion it was an "include these three words" type of thing.   Again - it seemed to logically flow on from the end of the last one, so the story grew a little more.

In this chapter we find out what's on the Senator's agenda.

 

 

Justin

By the time we’d finished up the pasta and the wine even I decided to pass on the cheesecake for a while. We were in that drowsy, lazy, mid afternoon after a big lunch sort of state, so we headed for the bed. Not that we intended to sleep.

But I guess we must both have been more tired than we thought, or maybe it was just the wine, because, although we started making out a little, in the end we just sort of snuggled up and went to sleep.

Brian is hilarious when he wakes up. He's all ‘if you tell anyone about this’ and mumbling about ‘dickless fags’. I start laughing and then he gets seriously pissed off. He goes stomping into the bathroom with his hair all standing on end and I hear him clanging about and then the shower coming on.

I gie him a couple of minutes, and then gofter him. It's funny to me, but I know that he feels really threatened by anything that he thinks might undermine his self image - age, me, having a “boyfriend” - if that’s what I am. Anything.

So I go in and he’s in the shower but when I join him the water’s nowhere near as hot as he’d have it if it was just for him, so I know he was waiting for me. His back is to me, so I scoop up a handful of the gel he uses instead of soap and start rubbing it over his shoulders and down his sides. He takes a breath and lets it out in a woof, then just relaxes under my hands, putting his head forward and letting all the tension slip out of his shoulders and neck.

I love his neck. It’s one of the most beautiful things about his body, one of the things that make him such a perfect model for an artist, his long elegant neckline. I run my hand up the very back of his neck into his hair, and then draw my fingers down, caressing each vertebrae on the way, all the way down his spine.

He hisses as I reach his tailbone and sucks in another breath. I keep my hand going, sliding my fingers down his crack, across his hole and down further. He hunches a little and spreads his legs as my hand keeps moving down between his thighs till I can cup his sac in my palm. I squeeze gently, and juggle his balls a little. He gives this little grunt of satisfaction as if that’s just what he was wanting and I feel myself smiling.

I kiss his shoulder blades while my hand continues to squeeze him in soft rhythmic pulses for a few seconds, then I let go so he can turn to me and I can get what I really want.

When he does turn, though, he takes both my hands and pulls them to his chest, just holding them there for a moment. Then he slides his hands up my arms and tangles them in my hair and then we’re kissing and the world expands to be just him and me and the sound of the water and the taste of each other’s mouths. We’re outside time, and outside space, and those are the only things that exist, that are real.

Then his cock touches mine and suddenly it’s all urgency and need, want, must have, must have now.

We’ve got shower fucking down to a fine art. If there was an Olympic event, we’d be gold medallists for sure, with a different routine for every day of the week. This time it’s routine number three. I grab the condom and start rolling it on his cock, while he reaches round me with the lube and starts opening me up. Then he lifts me. I press my shoulders against the slippery tiles, and wrap my legs firmly round his hips, while he lowers me onto his cock.

This is my favorite position for shower sex, and he knows it. But it takes a lot of energy, so it’s not one we use a lot. I don’t know whether he feels like he has something to prove after his nap, or whether he’s just woken up refreshed and raring to go, but either way I’m not complaining.

I feel his cock at my hole and then it’s pressing up into me. His shoulders are straining with the effort of not just letting me slip down onto it until I’m ready, but today that doesn’t take long and I feel the initial stinging give way to a jolt of pure aching pleasure as his cockhead nudges my prostate on the way in and then I’m fully impaled and his pubes are brushing my ass and I can take most of the strain with my thighs now as I lift up and then sink down again, slowly, so slowly, and it feels so damned good.

I catch at the walls, at the top of the screen, trying to take some of the weight, but he’s not worried about that. He’s bucking his hips up into me as I ride him and I can’t believe the strength in his thighs and calves. He looks skinny, but slender as he is he’s all muscle.

I’m working myself up and down on his cock, angling myself to make sure it hits me in just the right place each time and meanwhile squeezing hard as I pull myself off him to make sure that he’s getting as much pleasure as I am.

I meet his eyes and he grins at me, an almost feral grin of pleasure and lust and desire and it drives me wild. My thighs are screaming off somewhere where I can hardly hear their message as I drive myself up and down on his cock, harder and faster and harder. My cock is pulsing and I am close, so close.

He comes first and I feel his cock jerking inside me and for some reason that does it for me and my cum joins the water that’s running down between his chest and my belly. He somehow finds the strength to lift me off him and we lean into each other and prop each other up and just breathe for a few moments.

I don’t know about him, but my legs feel like jelly and I can hardly stand upright, but he’s there and as I ease the condom off him and toss it out the shower to the bin he’s touching me - soft stroking caresses over my arms and chest and back and thighs and then I’m in his arms and he’s in mine and we’re trying to climb inside each other’s mouths and then with a sort of laugh he reaches for the shampoo and starts washing my hair. My head falls forward against his chest and I let him while my lips and tongue lazily caress whichever bits of his skin come within reach.

Until a streamlet of shampoo winds up in my mouth and I splutter and toss my head back. He moves back a little as well and we stand just looking at each other for a moment, and words are beyond unnecessary. We both know. We know what we feel, and what we have and this time we’re both heading in the same direction. Together. And choosing to be. That’s all that matters really.

*****

Brian

He turns off the water and then takes my hand and leads me out the shower, and I follow like … I was going to say like a puppy dog, or a sheep, or something else fucking pathetic. But it doesn’t feel pathetic. It feels like - sometimes I lead, and he follows, and sometimes it’s okay for him to lead. And okay for me to follow.

Especially when what he leads me to is a warm fluffy towel that wraps around me and dries all my little nooks and crannies and then gives way to a warm wet mouth that touches some of those nooks and crannies in a way that should probably be illegal - shit! it already is in some States - and gets me hard again much faster than is reasonable and then spends aeons or a few seconds, I’m not sure, bringing me off again.

I want to return the favor, but he shakes his head and says we don’t have time. I try to persuade him that there’s always time for a blow job, but he gets all prissy about keeping the Senator waiting.

That’s the first time that I realize just how long we slept and I begrudgingly accept that we have to motor if we’re going to get to the restaurant on time.

The Grand Concourse isn’t the sort of place that I’d normally go if left to myself (and anyway, it’s better for brunch than dinner), but it’s okay. At least the food will be good and enough of it to fill the bottomless pit, him with the hollow legs and arms and backside. (I swear his body uses that bubble butt of his to store excess food to get him through the unbelievably long time between supper and breakfast!)

It’s heart breaking to take him to a new restaurant and find out it’s one of those places where you get a tiny portion of meat on a spinach leaf set in the middle of a huge plate. His face drops and he scarfs it down as if he hopes he’ll get more if he empties his plate, and then the same sort of thing happens with dessert and you wind up filling him up on McDonald’s on the way home. I know, because it’s what happened when his mom took us out for his birthday a few weeks back. Molly and Daph were there as well as Jenn, Justin and I and we all wound up at McDonald’s. I have to admit even I ate a few fries. Justin force fed them to me, of course, but they went down okay. If I was still ready to eat more, he must have been starving.

At least that won’t be a worry tonight. I’ve taken some of our more conservative clients there a few times and the serves are big enough to satisfy even Justin.

Anyway, by the time we both get ready we have no choice but to take a cab to the restaurant. Justin is huffing and puffing about it, but it does make sense. Anyway, after today I feel like maybe the money thing is going to work out all right and tell him to stop fucking fussing.

He looks at me for a moment and then takes a deep breath and smiles. “You’re right. Let’s have a good night out, and just relax and enjoy ourselves.”

I raise an eyebrow at him. With the Senator? But he just grins. “We can go to Babylon later,” he promises.

As it turns out that’s just what we do, because she gives me a lot to think about, and I don’t feel like doing that tonight. So we head for Babylon and have a few drinks and I get a bump off somebody and for a few moments I think ‘to Hell with the experiment’. But then I see this incredibly hot guy on the dance floor being hit on from all sides and I realize that what the Hell, I’ve got the hottest guy in the place anyway, and why the fuck would I want to settle for second best? So I stalk in and stake my claim just like I did that night a million years ago, and he turns to me and gives me that smile and I can’t wait till we get home.

We head for the back room and I have him up against the wall, hard and fast, amid all the grunts and sighs and groans from the other losers there who aren’t the ones fucking him, aren’t the ones who are going to take him home and have him all night long, aren’t the ones who’ll wake up tomorrow with him lying close alongside and ready to start all over again.

The losers who aren’t the one he loves.

So when we finish, before I even get the condom off, I pull him round into my arms and kiss him long and deep, so he knows … what he needs to know.

*****

Justin

It’s funny how sometimes things feel so familiar and yet they’re so different. Brian was still sleeping when I woke up and my mind started going through all that happened yesterday, so I knew I’d never get back to sleep. I crawled out of bed like I used to do all the time and got my sketchpad and started to draw him. Just as I’ve done what seems like a million times before.

But that was back then.

Back when I was either ‘the trick who wouldn’t go away’, like Michael used to call me; (or ‘adopt a trick’; or ‘your little stalker’: anything to dismiss me and make me feel not important, not welcome, not a part of Brian’s life). Or else I was the pathetic little fag I felt myself become after the bashing. I couldn’t even draw, let alone be strong enough to deal with really being part of Brian’s life. Yet I had to pretend I was; had to hang on at all costs. He was the only thing I had. My family had split up, my dad hated me, my sister blamed me, and I didn’t even have my art. Well, except for the fragments that Brian rescued for me with the computer, and he pissed all over those. Brian was the only thing I had left. So I hung on desperately, letting myself become more and more pathetic until Ethan happened and the whole pretence that I was okay, that I was fine, that I was capable of making a real relationship with Brian fell apart. It went to Hell in a handbasket and that was the best thing that could have happened.

This time it’s very different. I don’t have to fight to be part of Brian’s life now. I am. I have my own place inside the Kinney fortress, and don’t have to keep storming the walls. What’s more, he wants me here. And we both know it’s where I belong.

So this morning while I sat and sketched him, it was the same as before, but totally different at the same time.

Just as he’s the same, but different.

The same Brian. Babylon. Drinks. Drugs. Backroom.

But this time it was me he took to the back room. And me he took up against the wall. And me he took in his arms afterwards and kissed and kissed and kissed until our lips were swollen and red and I’d forgotten totally where we were.

I think he had too, because when we finally fell apart, desperate for air, he looked round sort of dazed.

He wasn’t the only one. People were staring at us.

In the backroom at Babylon where nobody takes any notice of anything that is not directly related to the current fuck, people had stopped what they were doing, literally stopped, to stare at us. Well, to stare at Brian.

I know what they were seeing too. They were watching Brian Fucking Kinney kiss someone like it meant something. Like he felt something, other than another twitch of his cock. Like I meant something. Because I do. I know it now. I know that’s what he was telling me.

I thought he might freak out a bit then, but he just laughed. Really laughed. And pulled me against him and kissed me again before he got rid of the condom and did up his pants.

I got dressed and we left then, and got a taxi home. I didn’t even protest. It wasn’t far. And we needed to get home.

We fucked again when we got home of course, but we haven’t talked yet. Not really talked about what the Senator had to say. I hope we can today, because there’s a lot to consider.

The Senator wants him to work for her - either to join her Campaign Committee or to take her on as a client. She says that the combination of his talent and his integrity make him the ideal person to shape her next campaign. He tried to tell her what he thought of politicians in general, but she headed him off by saying that if there was anything about her policies or her practices that he didn’t like, and didn’t feel comfortable promoting, she would discuss it with him, and if they couldn’t agree, he could opt out, no hard feelings, no contract problems, nothing. Coming on top of the stuff today about the opportunities that would open up for him if he could sign just one decent client, I know it gave him a lot to think about.

I have my own thoughts about it, but it’s his decision and I’ll be there right beside him no matter what he decides. And I’ll fight anyone who tries to stop me. Brian included.

*****

Brian

The damned phone wakes me. Who the fuck …? 

Mikey. Of course.

I cut him off yesterday when he called because Justin got home and I needed to talk to him. So of course he thought he’d punish me by calling first thing in the fucking morning.

Well, ten o’clock, but that’s first thing when you’ve been at Babylon till after one.

Of course, Mikey wasn’t at Babylon, he was at home with the hubby and the kid.

I let him tell me all the latest shit in the Hunter saga while I lie there trying to wake up. He's rambling on about needing the car for a few more days because the lawyer’s office is up on Mount Washington. Hell! take a taxi. Take a bus. Take the fucking incline.

I was just going to let it go. A few days is hardly going to make a difference in the scheme of things, but then he says in a that snarky voice he uses when the subject turns to the one person he shouldn’t talk about at all, “Or does Justin need it to run errands?’

And I lose it. Just lose it. The way I never do with Mikey.

Well, once. I did once.

And I do again today. For the same reason. He just can’t keep his mouth shut where Justin is concerned.

I thought of Justin uncomplainingly taking the fucking bus to and from that shitty job at the diner. And to Daph’s. And dragging bags back from the supermarket to save the fucking delivery fee. Using the hand that still isn’t strong enough for that shit. And I heard Mikey coming out with yet another of his bitchy little comments trying to make Justin out to be some sort of spoiled fucking princess, and I just let loose.

Among other things I tell him that he's a selfish fucking prick who doesn’t have a clue what friendship and loyalty are really about. That he spends more time worrying about how it would look if he and Hunter have to go to the lawyer’s by bus than he does worrying about whether I might lose the fucking loft if I can’t pay off some of this debt. That the whole fucking world does not revolve around him and if he wants a car he could go on ebay and sell of some of his fucking collectables and pay for one of his own. And that I don’t want to hear him mention Justin’s name again until he can do it with respect because Justin is worth a dozen of the lot of us.

Then I hang up.

I guess Justin must have heard me yelling because when I look up he's standing in the doorway to the bathroom. He looks shell shocked. His eyes really are like saucers - small ones, anyway. And they’ve gone that dark dark blue that they do when he gets freaked about something.

I must look pretty freaked myself because after a moment he comes and sits on the bed beside me and puts his arms around me. That’s when I feel myself shaking.

Shit! What have I done? Poor Mikey. He must be wondering where that came from. I don’t really know myself, except that I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t be in the middle. Justin never puts me there. Never has. But Mikey … he wants Justin gone so much. Still.

He has Ben and even Hunter, but he still doesn’t want me to have anyone.

And I just … I need … I need …

I feel Justin’s hand on my hair, but suddenly I can’t sit there any longer. I get up and step away.

God. Away. I don’t want to walk away. I turn and look at him, and he just looks worried. It’s that look again. The concerned look. The “I care” look.

I feel my face smiling at him.

“Come and scrub my back,” I say.

He looks at me and he smiles and I smile back, and suddenly the world is spinning again and everything is okay.

“Don’t ask,” I say as we get into the shower.

“I wasn’t going to,” he says.

I sigh and start kissing him. He seems willing enough to let it go, so it must be sheer perversity that makes me stops and say, “He’s still jealous of you.”

He nods, kind of sadly. “I know.”

Then he turns away to reach for the shampoo.

“He’s going to have to get over it, Justin.” I pull him round to look at me. “I don’t plan on changing things any time soon.”

He's trying not to smile then. Trying not to let me see how glad it makes him to hear that. Which is sad. Truly sad. And my fucking fault, of course. Shit!

So I smile wide enough for both of us and letting my tongue touch my lips briefly, ask, “What about you?”

His attention has focused on my tongue, and when he looks up his eyes are already glazing over in that way they have, “Huh?”

I smack his butt to get his attention off his cock, which I can feel thickening against my thigh.

“Are you planning on changing things any time soon?”

He looks into my eyes then and must like what he sees there, because he smiles, a genuine Sunshine smile, and says softly, “Not a thing, Bri.”

What else could I do after that except slide down to my knees and show my appreciation?

When I’m done, I send him out to get the paper.

The Senator said a lot of things last night, and Justin and I still need to talk about them. But the last thing she said was the strangest. She told us to watch the papers in the next few days, because there could be something that would interest us.

*****

Justin

I didn’t hear most of what Brian said to Michael. I just heard him yelling. I stayed in the bathroom till he stopped to give him some privacy.

When I came out he looked so shocked. Like he’d just murdered someone and couldn’t believe he’d done it. That’s the worst thing about any fight he has with Michael, it just kills him afterwards.

I sat down and put my arms around him and he really started to shake. I thought for a moment he was crying. Then suddenly he stood up and moved away, away from me, and it hurt. It literally physically hurt somewhere in my chest. Because it brought back so many bad memories. All the times that something bad would happen, something would upset him, and rather than let me share it, or hell! even let me see it, he’d walk away. Usually to Mikey. Or to the Baths or the backroom or …

I was telling myself that it didn’t matter. That even if he did that, things were different now. That this time round I was not going to take it personally. That I could …

Then he stopped.

He turned and smiled at me; and suddenly the pain gone. There was just this warm glow inside me instead.

Because this time he hadn’t walked away or shut himself off. He’d somehow hung in there with me, for me. And damn! that felt good.

What he said later, in the bathroom, just before he gave me that totally mind-blowing blow job, that was the nearest thing to a commitment that I ever expect to hear from Brian Kinney. But somehow it was the earlier moment, when he could have walked away and didn’t, that’s the moment that meant more to me, the one I want to remember. I guess I finally have learned that it’s actions that count, especially where Brian is concerned. Words are just optional extras.

Anyway, after he rocks my world I leave him to finish his shower and get the coffee on and I go down to get something to eat and the paper. We both want to know what the Senator meant.

Of course, with all the stuff I have to carry, the bagels, and the muffins for Brian (I'm hoping he’ll eat two, and if he doesn’t I can always freeze one), and the milk for his coffee, and some more guava juice and the paper, I don’t get much of a chance to check it out before I get back to the loft.

So we spread it out on the floor - one thing about no furniture is that there’s lots of room - and can’t find a thing that might have been what the Senator meant.

I leave him to go through the jobs pages, and turn on the little portable TV that I used to have in my room at home. Mom unearthed it from some storage bin somewhere. You’d think she’d have gotten rid of it by now, but she’s as bad as Debbie about hoarding things.

Anyway, I'm just channel flipping to see if there's anything interesting on when I hear Stockwell’s name mentioned. I click back onto the channel, and there he is, leaving Police Headquarters and hustling into a car, dodging cameras and reporters as he goes.

And the tickertape across the bottom of the screen reads …

Shit! Brian!

 

Newsflash by Wren
Author's Notes:

 

 

So what was Justin so shocked about at the end of the last chapter?

 

Oh ... and remember, I don't like Mikey.  This fic has an anti-Michael warning which should be taken seriously.

 

Brian

I'm deep in my quest for the perfect job in the Professional Appointments pages (that’s a laugh) when his screams nearly make me choke on the second damned muffin (I knew I shouldn’t have eaten two).

“What the fuck?”

“It’s Stockwell. He’s resigned.”

I crawl over to where he’s sitting hunched over that tiny damned screen and we both peer at it unbelievingly.

“Just to update you on the breaking news story, former Chief of Police Jim Stockwell has this morning tendered his resignation from the post that he has held for the last three years. Former Chief Stockwell has been the subject of speculation ever since this advertisement appeared during his failed mayoral campaign.”

And they run the ad, my ad. Our ad, I think, as I find myself reaching for Justin’s hand. His fingers squeeze mine and we settle back to get more comfortable as we watch in amazement.

“While Stockwell himself has refused to comment about the reason behind his resignation, this statement was made this morning by a representative from the Mayor’s office.

“ ‘It would be entirely inappropriate at this stage for the Mayor or any other member of this city’s council or police department to make any comment on the reasons for Mr. Stockwell’s resignation since the matter is under police investigation.’ ”

“Holy shit!”

“Fuck!”

The phone rings just then and we both nearly jump out of our skin.

I’d totally forgotten about the fucking blow up with Mikey this morning, so when I hear his voice, I just ask if he’s heard the news. He seems a bit put off that I didn’t say anything else, but he admits that they haven’t seen the papers and haven’t had the TV on. I tell him to switch on right away and that I have to call Deb.

So I call Deb at the diner. And then Vic, so he can switch on, maybe tape it for her. And meanwhile my cell rings - Lindz. And Justin’s - his mom. And he calls Daph, I think.

Normally, I wouldn’t get caught up in all this shit, but hell! this is big. This is … this is something we’d done.

Justin and I.

Fuck!

*****

Justin

Poor Mikey. He certainly picked the wrong time to have a crisis with Brian. Any other time he could have guilted Brian out for weeks about what happened this morning, but this time in the scheme of things it just got lost in the shuffle.

I learn later from Em (who heard it from Mikey and Ben and Deb) that after Brian had yelled at him, he started calling everyone to let them know what an asshole Brian had been to poor little Mikey. Like he always does.

But of course Michael, being Michael, hadn’t realized that people’s perception of Brian has changed a bit lately, and he didn’t quite get the sympathy he expected. He apparently ranted about what a shit Brian was at Ben, who told him Brian was quite right to want the car back, and they didn’t need it, and that he should perhaps think before he spoke where I was concerned.

Then he called Deb expecting sympathy, but she told him that he should be ashamed of himself for not having given the car back as soon as he got back and why was he holding onto it when he knew how much Brian needed the money? And just what did he say about Justin? And wasn’t it time he got over all that?

So then he called Emmett who was in the middle of a party panic and didn’t have time to listen, and gave him hell when he realized what he’d rung up to whine about.

So then he’d decided that Brian must just have had a morning head, and he’d rung at a bad time, and he’d be magnanimous and call and give him a chance to apologize.

As if.

To top it all off, he called back just when the news was breaking and we were trying to get our heads around what was happening and let people know that they should turn on the news and all without missing anything that was going on. So basically Brian ushered him off the phone again.

I know it’s petty in the context of what’s happened in the last day or so to be gloating over Michael, but he gets me that way because where Brian is concerned he is always so petty about me. He is always making these sly little digs about me being a princess or about Brian’s tricking or anything that he thinks is likely to belittle or hurt me. And it gets tired. It really does.

Everyone thinks he is so friendly and so generous, and you know what I think? I think he’s a shit. Not because it hurts me, but because he doesn’t care what it does to Brian.

But Brian loves him. And Brian needs him, because for a long time Mikey was the only one he had, the only one he knew loved him, and that means a lot to Brian. So I put up with it all, and never say anything to Brian about it and just tell myself all the time that it doesn’t matter.

But I’m not a saint, I don’t pretend to be, and when, like today, he comes unstuck, I need to gloat at least a little. (Which I did with Daph later. And with Em, who’s a bit pissed off with Michael himself since Michael has hardly been there for Em at all while all the stuff with Ted has been going on. He was too busy playing Happy Families with Ben and Hunter to give Em more than a passing thought. And of course since the great Hunter crisis, he hasn’t had a thought for anyone else at all. Whereas Brian … I’m not sure what Brian did that night at Babylon, and Em hasn’t said, but he what he did say was that Brian really came through for him and stopped him making a huge mistake and that he’d never forget it.)

Anyway, the phone frenzy has died down, and the news team have given up trying to pry comments out of anyone else, and have run dry on speculation, so the station has gone back to normal programming. We're making another pot of coffee and doing some speculating of our own when the phone rings again.

This time it's the Senator.

“So, Justin, have you heard the news.”

“Yes, Senator, we’ve just been watching.”

“I asked you last night to call me Dianne.”

I'm silent, because I don’t feel right using her first name, but then she goes on. “Between you, me and the gatepost, this will all die down. They won’t charge him because it would cause too much of a scandal and, candidly, Deekins doesn’t have the equipment to insist that they do it.”

The balls, she meant.

“So they’ll cut a deal with him that they’ll let it drop as long as he doesn’t seek public office again. Oh, and they’ll probably suggest that Miami is a nice spot to retire to.”

“So it will just get swept under the carpet?”

It doesn’t seem right. A guy had died.

“Well, I should think that there’ll be a finding from the coroner’s office indicating that …” there was just the tiniest pause “Jason Kemp was murdered by an assailant who has since committed suicide. And that will be that.”

I sigh. It's something I suppose.

Brian has realized who I'm talking to, and is giving me some space, but he must see the look on my face, because he comes and slips his arm around me.

“So, has that gorgeous other half of yours thought any more about my offer?”

I feel myself go red. God, if Brian had heard that he’d have conniptions.

“Um, no. I don’t think so. We went out last night, and …”

“Well, you tell him no hurry. The offer’s there, whichever way he wants to approach it. Just get back to me as soon as you can.”

“Okay, I’ll tell him.”

“And I haven’t forgotten what I promised about PIFA. You let me know what happens when you talk to the Dean next week, and drop my name if you have to. If that doesn’t sort it out, I’ll give him a call myself. There’s a funds allocation meeting coming up soon, and I think he’ll see the benefit of having you back in school before then.”

“Thanks, Senator. Um, Dianne.”

“Thank you, Justin. It was good to see you last night. Good bye for now.”

I mumble goodbye and hang up and look up at Brian. He gives me one of those patented Kinney raised eyebrow looks and I tell him what the Senator had said. About Stockwell, and about the murder.

He pulls a face, but shrugs. “Well, if we get him out of town, that’s still something. And thanks to Deb at least the dead guy’s grave has a name on it. Like Deb says, celebrate the victories.”

I take a breath and go on, “She wants to know if you’d thought any more about her offer. She says no hurry, just to get back to her when you’ve decided.”

I move away to get more coffee cups, more milk, anything to make it seem like I’m not pressing for him to talk about it.

But I can’t resist sneaking a look at him and when I do he’s rubbing his nose.

I can’t help grinning then, because it’s one of the things that Brian does that’s really - God, he would so kill me - cute.

He does it sometimes when he’s relaxed and thinking about something. He puts his head on one side and scrunches up his nose, and rubs it while he gets this goofy look on his face. I’ve sketched it a couple of times, but I haven’t quite got it right yet, and of course, he’s never never going to pose like that, so I just have to lock it away in my memory every time I see him do it and then bring it out later to try again.

*****

Brian

I'm trying to figure out what to say about the fucking Senator and her offer when I glance at him and catch him looking at me with this great grin on his face. What the fuck?

He looks away, but I can see the grin get wider. I pounce.

I move quickly up behind him and, pinning him against the counter, I start to tickle him. Strictly speaking it’s against the rules, and he’ll make me pay for it later, but I’m not putting up with that little shit laughing at me.

“Brian! No! Stop!” He wriggles and giggles and squirms and I have him at my mercy. His ass is brushing across my groin and I start to press harder against him and the tickling stops and the giggles stop and he twists his neck so that I can find his mouth and then turns in my arms and …

The fucking phone rings. I swear to God I’m going to personally have it disconnected. After I’ve ripped it out the wall.

He reaches for it. Of course. Heaven forbid that the phone should go unanswered.

“Um, yeah, he’s here,” he stutters.

He sounds a bit unsure, and I look a question at him.

“Cynthia,” he mouths back.

What the fuck?!

I take the phone. “Hi, there, Cyn. To what do I …”

“Brian, Vance wants to talk to you. His secretary just asked for your home number. He’ll be calling any minute. I thought I should give you a heads up.”

“What the fuck does he want?”

“I don’t know.”

Her voice drops real low so I have to strain to hear her.

“I heard that a few of the clients are less than happy that you’re not here. The guys from Brown stalked out of a meeting yesterday saying very loudly as they left that if that was the standard they could expect from Vanguard now that Kinney’s left, they may well have to reconsider their options. And someone in the elevator heard one of them say that they should find out where Kinney’s working now.”

“Shit!”

“Brian, they’re not the only ones. The woman from EyeKoniks is even pissed that Justin’s not here any more. She says he had the best eye or something.”

“Geez, Cyn, don’t let him hear that. I’d never hear the end of it.”

The little shit who has been trying not to listen pricks up his ears at that just like I knew he would. I grin at him.

This is just making my day.

Stockwell and now Vance.

She says she has to go now and then “I could make an appointment for you next week, if you let me know what days you’ll be in town.”

So I guess someone has come into the office.

I thank her and get “Well, just give me a call when you know, and there’ll be no problem.”

I have to admit she’s smooth. I hang up.

Justin is looking at me and suddenly it’s all a bit too much shit to take in.

I go over to him and put my arms around him and he seems to know what I want, what I need, because he wraps his around me tightly and just holds me.

*****

Justin

I don’t know why Cynthia has called, but it really seems to bring Brian undone.  One minute he'd grinning at me like an overfed cat, and the next minute he'd wrapping himself around me and holding on like grim death.

All I can do is hold him, and rub his back. And just be there.

Eventually, thank, God, he lets go and rubs his hands across his face.

Then he walks back to the phone and takes it off the hook.

“I need that coffee,” he announces.

So I pour the coffees and we take them over to the couch, and he props himself at one end and pulls me down close and half facing him.

I don’t really want the coffee, so I put it down, and put my hand on his thigh. He gives this really big sigh, and then looks straight into my eyes.

“So, Sunshine, am I going to go into politics? Or am I going to let Vance woo me back? Or am I going to say to Hell with the fucking lot of them, and take my chances with whatever else might come up?”

What I want to say is ‘What do you want to do?’, but it’s no good asking Brian questions like that. He’d just shrug it off, and go off at a tangent, or clam up completely. So I don’t say anything. Just let my hand rest a bit heavier on his thigh.

He gives a twisted sort of smile then, and says, “It’s not like my first excursion into politics was such an overwhelmingly enriching experience.”

I shrug. There are riches and riches. But I still didn’t say anything.

He looks at me for a moment and grins. “Yeah, well …” he gestures around the loft. “It sure as fucking hell stripped things down to the essentials.”

He looks straight into my eyes, and I actually feel myself start to blush, because that is definitely Kinney-ese for ‘you’re one of the essentials’.

“Cyn says that Vance is going to call me. Apparently some of the clients are rioting at the prospect of having Brad and Bob managing their accounts.”

I give a snort of laughter because I don’t blame them. I’d always thought Brian must have exaggerated how incompetent those two were, until I worked there and saw it for myself.

“So, if he’s calling, it either means he wants to make sure I’m not going to contact any of the clients and make myself available, or he’s going to offer to let ‘bygones be bygones’.”

He does an almost perfect imitation of Vance and I laugh again.

“The question is do I want to go back and work for that prick again?”

I look at him and finally say something.

“The question is what would you get out of it if you did?”

He looks at me a long time and then laughs and nods slowly and I can see the wheels starting to spin, and then he nods again and now he’s in full gear.

He gets up and fetches some paper and a pen. Then sits back down. He pauses for a moment and then takes my hand and puts it back on his thigh.

“It helps me think,” he says quietly and starts writing.

*****

Brian

See what I mean about smart?

He just nailed it. Flat out fucking nailed it.

What would I get out of it?

So … what do I want to get out of it?

And that’s a fucking easy one to answer. Or at least to start to answer. I get up and get something to write on.

When I sit down, he’s still sitting there like … shit, I don’t know. Like he belongs there. That’s the only way I can fucking put it.

So when I sit down, I take his hand and put it back where it had been.

For once, having his hand on my thigh isn’t a sex thing. It's just … a connection. A way to let me know he’s here with me in this. So putting it back … I guess that’s my way of saying I want him here with me in this. Or something.

For a moment I think he’s going to start blushing again. I’m tempted to see if I can get that to happen, just for the hell of it, and because … well, because.  Because I knew when I said the line about stripped down to essentials and he blushed it meant he’d really fucking heard me. Heard what I was saying to him.

But we’ve got work to do, so I just pat his hand and then start writing.

By the time we’ve put our heads together over it, it’s a fucking long list. Some of it is stuff that Vance is going to have to agree to, some of it is what you might call fringe benefits. Once I’ve got it all down, and we’ve both run out of ideas, I take a deep breath.

We’ve got the campaign mapped out, now I just have to pitch it.

But not today. Let Vance sweat for a while.

I get up and put the phone back on the hook, but switch off the ringer and let any calls go to the machine.

Then I come back to the couch to claim my prize, my one essential. And he comes into my arms like he’s claiming me. And I’ve got a newsflash for anyone who has a problem with that - I don’t give a shit.

This is what I want. This. The feel of his heart beating against my chest. The taste of his mouth. The scent of him, sweet and salt and pungent all at once.

Anything I can win from Vance or the Senator or anyone outside this loft is nothing compared to this. And I know it now. I might not be ready to admit it out loud. But I fucking know.


Results and Conclusions by Wren
Author's Notes:

 

 

This chapter was where the story was meant to end.  It really was.  Only somehow it didn't.

Resolutions to some of the issues in the preceding chapters.

 

 

Justin

Brian switches off the phone and comes back to me, and suddenly all thoughts of jobs and money and PIFA just go out of my head and there isn’t anything else in the world but the need to hold and kiss and touch him. And from the way he grabs me and starts kissing me like it has been days since we’ve fucked instead of a few hours, it seems like he's in the same space.

I think it's going to be hard and fast, but instead we wind up on the rugs and cushions on the floor and it slows right down.

For a long time we just lie there gently stroking and kissing as we look into each other’s eyes. When we're finally ready to go further, he rolls me onto my side and slides into me so slowly that it nearly drives me frantic. When he's all the way in he stops moving and takes time to kiss my neck and my shoulders till I’ve calmed down a little. Then he reaches around and begins stoking my cock.

I can hear myself moaning, and as I press back against him, I feel his laugh rumble all the way through me. Then he begins slowly pulling out and rocking back into me, brushing my prostate with each stroke, and all the time his hand works my cock in the same slow rhythm.

Whenever we get close he just stops and gives us both time to get a little control back, then he starts again. It is amazing and frustrating as hell all at the same time.

Finally, he begins to speed up, and at first I'm filled with relief, but this is just a wonderful new form of torture. Now he alternates the speed and rhythm, thrusting fast and hard and taking us both right to the very brink and then slowing it right down again.

I don’t know how many times he takes us there, but by the end I'm permanently in that zone, riding the edge of orgasm, and the pleasure is so intense it really is painful. He must know that for me, at least, it's time, because he suddenly thrusts deep and hard and his thumb taps twice against my piss slit and that's it - I come so hard I nearly faint. Three jets of cum soak into the cushions before I'm finished, then from somewhere off in the ether I hear Brian moan my name and I feel him jerk against me and then we both lie quiet and spent with his arms wrapped around me and mine wound around his.

He has to pull out of course before I'm ready to be separated, to dispose of the condom. That’s one of the real downsides to safe sex. But then he presses back up against me, and I turn into his arms. He grins at me and kisses my forehead, and we just lie there for a while. Being together.

It’s times like this I wonder what the fuck I was thinking back when I went off with Ethan. But, you know, I’m glad I did. Because somehow things are better now than they’ve ever been.

Daph says it’s because Brian is trying harder because he knows now that he doesn’t want to lose me. And I guess that’s partly it.

But a lot of it is me.

What Michael said that day about Brian only letting me stay with him because he felt guilty, that only hurt me because it was already what I was feeling, my deepest fear.

And I felt like that because I knew how weak and pathetic I was, and couldn’t believe, not really believe, that there was any real reason that Brian would want me to be part of his life; couldn’t see that I had anything to offer him except sex and he could get that anywhere.

That’s why I was so threatened by the tricks back then. And why I’m not now. I mean, I don’t love it that he still tricks. But it’s Brian. And I do love Brian.

The tricks don’t matter now, because I know that this time he’s chosen to be with me, because I’m what he wants. For sex, yes. The sex is great.

But for other things as well.

Like this morning. Sharing the news about Stockwell, and then working together to come up with a plan for the future. That was the sort of thing I’d never even have dreamed of back in those post-bashing, pre-Ethan days. It was what I’d always needed in this thing that Brian and I have, but back then I felt like it meant that Brian would have to pay me a respect that a little twat like me just wasn’t worthy of. So I tried to substitute romance, flowers and floor picnics, for fuck's sake, for the respect and equality I really needed. Fuck, no wonder things turned into such a mess. Or that Brian didn’t understand what I wanted, what I needed from him - I didn’t know myself.

The really ironic thing is that I think he was ready to give me all that I needed back then, I just wasn’t ready to take it.

But I am now. I know now what I want and what I need. And Brian is giving me both. 

We’ve just gotten up and I'm making us some lunch when Vance’s call comes. Brian lets it go through to voice mail, although he does turn up the speaker. Vance sounds a little miffed, says he’s been trying to call all morning, and could Brian return his call as soon as possible, that he’d like to meet this afternoon.

Brian raises an eyebrow at that. It sounds as if Cynthia was right, and Vance is about to make some sort of move to either get Brian back, or at least make sure that he isn’t going to be any sort of competition.

When we check the machine, there's actually an earlier message from Vance’s secretary, asking Brian to call. It must have come through while we were so occupied we didn’t even hear it. I know that the way Brian had been making me feel, I might not have heard the last trump.

“Sounds eager, doesn’t he?” Brian comments dryly.

He sucks his lips in for a moment, then says, “I wonder which it is - get me back on board, or push me under completely.”

We’d discussed both those options, and how to handle them. But then something occurs to me. “Brian … was there anything in your contract with Vance to say you couldn’t leave and start up in direct competition to him?”

He looks at me, frowning, trying to remember. Then he walks over to the box where he’d put all his papers out of his desk, and starts going through it. He finds the contract and scans it thoughtfully.

“Justin, can you give Mel a call? Ask her if she’ll be at home this afternoon, and up for giving a bit of legal advice.”

*****

Brian

We get a warmer welcome than I expected at Muncherville. Apparently Lindz and Michael between them have been hovering over Mel like a pair of fucking mother hens to the point where they are really starting to piss her off. All ‘let me do that, dear’ and ‘you shouldn’t be doing that, it’s bad for the baby’ till she is actually glad to see someone who wouldn’t give her any of that shit - even if I was included in the package.

Gus is having his afternoon nap when we get there, and Lindz is at work, so that means Justin and I can sit down with Mel and go through with her some of the stuff that the investment guy had said about possibly suing Vance over my dismissal and what there was in the contract in the way of non-competition clauses. She’d helped to write it, so she's the best person to give me that sort of advice.

Mel looks dubious about the first bit, but said she’ll go through her copy of the contract more closely over the weekend and let me know what she thinks. She grins like a feral dog when I mention the non-competition clause, though. One of those moments when I almost like her.

“Oh, no. If he tries that, he’s fucked. I was very careful about what went into it in that area.” She sounds very fucking pleased with herself.

I stick my tongue in my cheek, and look at her, waiting for her to get over her little moment of personal triumph and share.

“I knew he’d insist on having some sort of non-competition clause, he would have been crazy not to.”

She gives me a look then that says that is as near as I'm going to get to hearing her say that I’m damned good at what I do, and Vance would be right to be scared of me as competition.

“But I wasn’t going to let him set you up so that when he was ready he could manufacture some reason to get rid of you, without having to worry about you starting up your own agency and taking your clients with you.

“So the contract specifically states that the non-competition clause only comes into effect if the partnership is dissolved by mutual consent, or if you decide to void the partnership agreement. In any other circumstances, such as Vance firing your ass, you can open an agency on his doorstep and there’s fuck all he can do about it.”

Justin gives a little ‘woof’ of satisfaction and I take a moment to grin at him. He is sitting next to me, and I find myself taking his hand and squeezing it tightly.

Then I turn back to Mel. “Thanks.”

I mean it too. She has really covered my ass.

She's looking at me like I’ve grown another head, and I realize that I'm still holding Justin’s hand. I know she's expecting me to drop it, like I would have a year ago. But that was a fucking long time ago, and now I just go on holding it, rubbing my thumb over his fingers as I meet Mel’s eyes.

She might have said something, but just then there's a thump over our heads and then a wail and she starts to get up. “That’s Gus.”

I stand, maybe more quickly than I want her to notice. “I’ll get him.”

It means letting go of Justin’s hand but I head up the stairs two at a time to collect Sonnyboy.

He's standing next to his bed blinking and looking confused, with tear tracks on his face. When I go in he holds up his arms to be picked up and when I do he pushes his face into my neck and holds on like I'm his only comfort. Poor fucking kid.

“Dweem, Dadda,” he says.

“You had a bad dream?”

He nods against my neck and gives a wet sniff. I look around the room and find some tissues. I manage to mop him up a bit, and wipe my neck as well. Then I sit down on the edge of his bed with him on my knee, rubbing his back like I used to do with Justin when he had nightmares.

Fuck! how do you handle this shit?

At least he’s stopped trying to fucking strangle me. He still has his head on my shoulder though, and I find myself kissing his hair.

“You okay now?” I ask hoping that he is because I sure as shit don’t know what to do about it if he isn’t.

He nods and smiles up at me.

“All better, Dadda,” he says.

“You want to go downstairs now?”

“Jus here?”

For a moment I feel stabbed. There had been too many times he’d asked me that when I’d had to say ‘no’ and watch his face drop. Somehow knowing he was hoping to see Justin and I together and was disappointed every time we weren’t, had made it even shittier. Then it hit me that this time I didn’t have to disappoint either of us.

“Yep. Jus is downstairs.”

He gives a squeal of excitement and wriggles off my knee, heading for the stairs.

I swoop him up into my arms and he gives another squeal and then starts to giggle as I toss him up into the air.

“Should we go down and play with Jus?”

“Yes, Dadda. Jus. Now.”

So I carry him downstairs to where Justin is waiting for us both.

He's in the kitchen with Mel making coffee and as soon as he sees him Gus launches himself from my arms to Justin’s. Fortunately Justin is used to dealing with him and is expecting it. He catches him and hugs him.

“How’s my Gus, today?”

“I good. How’s my Jus today?” the little brat asks. ‘His Jus’ indeed. Then he laughs and launches himself back at me. I'm not expecting it, but I manage to catch him which was just as well with Mel standing there ready to fry my ass if I’d dropped him.

But she seems surprisingly mellow. Maybe being pregnant agrees with her. She gets milk for Gus, and a biscuit, and then we all sit down at the table and have our drinks and Gus gets his crayons and draws pictures while we go through a few more thoughts about the contract.

With those things sorted out, I figure it's time to phone Vance. It’s Friday today, and I have no intention of meeting with him till Monday. I want him to stew over the weekend. But I don’t want Justin to have to worry all weekend about which tack Vance is going to take, so I need to get that out of him today.

I ask Mel and she waves me to the phone, then they take Gus into the other room, to give me some quiet. Justin gives me a quick kiss for luck on the way out and I feel it on my face as I dial the number.

His secretary asks me to wait, but I’m not putting up with any of that shit, and tell her that unless Vance can speak to me now, he can call back on Monday.

He comes on the line.

“Brian, how are you?”

“I’m just fine, Gardner. And yourself?”

Stay calm, Kinney. Calm, charm and, if necessary, smarm. Then, when the time’s right, go for the jugular.

“I’m glad to hear that, Brian, really.”

There’s a pause, but I stay silent. He’s the one who wanted to talk. Finally he continues, “I suppose you’ve heard about Stockwell.”

“I have, yes.” Then I decide to give him something to think about. Something to make sure he knows I’m still a player. “Actually, I’d already had a hint that something was in the wind.”

Which was true enough. He doesn’t have to know how vague the hint was.

“Oh?” He sounds a little surprised and maybe just a little rattled.

“Yes, a well-placed source, as they say.”

That’s all. No need to let him know who the hint was from. Not yet. Time to name drop later. Time later to let him know I’ve had other very tempting offers. For now, just wait for him to give something away regarding what he wants.

“Well, Brian, I’m sure that you understand that the situation with Stockwell, with the rumors about his involvement in some very suspect dealings, they place a completely different complexion on your involvement in his election defeat.”

“They don’t change what happened, what I did,” I push. “He’s still a client, isn’t he?”

“No, Brian. No longer. We can’t afford to have the company name associated with … well, with anything shady. That hardly helps our reputation.”

Fuck! Suddenly it’s very clear to me what’s going on. He does want me back. He not only wants me back, he wants to parade me to our other clients as a model of integrity, the one who was willing to give up his career rather than support Stockwell. Shit! Justin is so not going to believe this. Well, for that matter, no one is going to fucking believe this.

“So what’s the deal, Gardner?”

“Well, Brian, I understand that you haven’t yet found another job, and in light of what’s happened …”

“I haven’t actually been looking, Gardner. I decided to take some time out to spend with Justin. You remember Justin?”

I let the anger I feel that this fucker is as much to blame as anyone for Justin’s suspension come into my voice.

Gardner is silent for a moment, then he says, “Ah. Yes. I remember Justin. That was all most unfortunate.”

So now he knows that whatever deal is struck, Justin is going to be part of it. And if that means that Vance has to use the sort of pressure he put on PIFA to get them to suspend Justin in the first place and this time use it to put the squeeze on them to make them take him back, well, so be it.

“Well, I’m sure that now the dust is settled, there’ll be no impediment to his returning to his studies. In fact, if he wants to resume his internship …”

“That’s up to Justin. You should talk to him about it.”

“Yes, yes, well, I will. However, we were talking about you, about what your plans are.”

“Were we?”

“Well, I rather hoped … you know our clients, here, Brian and they know you. Starting out cold in a different agency with a different approach than you’re accustomed to …”

“Well, you know me, Gardner. Always up for a challenge.”

There wis dead silence then for a few seconds and I know I’ve rattled him.

“Well, of course your contract had a non-competition clause, which means that should you wish to stay in advertising you’d have to leave Pittsburgh, Which seems a pity just as young Justin is getting back into college.”

“Gardner, I’m sure you know as well as I do that the non-competition clause doesn’t apply in these circumstances. I’m quite sure your lawyers have explained all that to you.”

He actually laughs then, and I find myself, as I so often have done, almost liking him.

“Yes, you’re right of course, they did,” he says cheerfully. “Look, Brian, I’ll cut the bullshit. This situation doesn’t benefit either of us. What would it take for you to come back?”

Got him! Got him by the fucking balls, thanks to Justin, and to Mel, for fuck’s sake.

“Well, Gardner, I’d need some time to consider that.”

And now we’re both on familiar ground and we know that there’s room to talk, and to negotiate, and that if we want we should be able to strike a deal. Provided it’s in our best interest to do it. And I know that he needs me. But he doesn’t know about my other options. Which very definitely gives me the edge.

“I was rather hoping we could meet today and discuss it. Or perhaps over dinner tonight.”

“Sorry, Gardner, I have family commitments this evening.” Which again is true enough. Deb had called just before we left the loft demanding that we both attend a family dinner tonight to celebrate Stockwell’s downfall.

“Well, Monday then.”

“Monday it is.”

“Good. And if you have any thoughts in the meantime, perhaps you could send me an email so that I can have a response prepared.”

“I can probably do that, yes.”

“Good. I’ll see you on Monday, then. Shall we say ten?”

“Fine. And perhaps in the meantime you should make a call to the Dean at PIFA and explain how your views have changed.”

Again he laughs. “I’ll do that, Brian. See you Monday.”

I let go of the phone and suddenly I need to sit down. I slump onto one of the bar stools and then Justin is there with his arms around me and I let my forehead rest against his shoulder. He doesn’t say anything, just rubs my fucking back, like I was doing for Gus not so long ago. And I must be just like a fucking two year old, because it does make all the bogies go away.

The negotiations with Vance should go well from here. But even if they don’t I have this.

I wrap my arms around his waist and hug him tightly.

I have Justin.

*****

Justin

It's good to see Gus again. And even Mel. I can tell that she wants to ask me about how things are with Brian, but to her credit she doesn’t. For once she even manages not to criticize him. She must be more bored at being stuck at home than I’d realized. Anyway, we seem to reach this silent agreement that I won’t ask her about how she's feeling if she doesn’t ask about Brian. We play with Gus and talk about other things - about Stockwell, and PIFA and just things generally. But all the time I'm watching the phone, waiting for the light to go out that will tell me he’s hung up the other extension.

Once it does, I go straight out to the kitchen. To Brian.

I see him slump down onto the stool and for a moment I think things have gone really badly. I go to him and hold him and rub his back. I feel so awful, so inadequate, but then he hugs me and suddenly I know everything is alright.

He sits up and looks into my eyes and gives me that tongue in cheek smirk that sometimes makes me want to hit him and sometimes makes me want to kiss him and always makes me want to fuck him.

He still doesn’t say anything. He gives me one quick kiss, then stands up, and taking my hand, goes back into the other room.

To my surprise - and I’m damned sure to hers - he bends down and gives Mel a kiss on the cheek. “I owe you,” he says.

She looks shocked and sort of pleased all at once. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say she almost blushed.

However, she’s resilient is Mel, and she just brushes it off.

“So I take it you think you’re going to get what you want out of Vance?”

He smiles, then turns to me, and nods.

“I think so, yeah.”

He sits down and Gus crawls onto his knee demanding that Dadda help play with his toy robot.

Brian doesn’t say anything else about the call, and neither Mel nor I push him. We both just sit and watch as he marches the robot along the back of the couch to attack the “bad” cushions, urged on by Gus’ squawks of encouragement. Then they get down on the floor together and built a fortress of bricks for the robot to demolish. I'm wishing that I had my sketch pad, when Mel hands me one of Lindsay’s and some pencils.

I guess living with an artist you get to know that look.

Eventually we have to get ready to leave which provokes a bit of a storm from Gus who hasn’t had us both here together for a long while and doesn’t want us to go.

After a few sad cries of “Dadda! Jus!”, Mel of all people suggests that we should wait and drive over to Deb’s with them.

“I would have asked sooner,” she says, “I just forgot that you don’t have the fucking car.”

So we wait till Lindz comes home and we keep Gus amused while the girls change (and tried very hard not to think about what else they might be doing up there) and then we all pack into their car and go to Deb’s.

I don’t know if Brian has thought at all about the row he’d had with Michael, I know I haven't. We're crammed into the back seat next to the child seat. I'm more or less sitting on Brian’s knee and he's holding me very tight, and I just feel happy, really really happy. I feel like things are coming together for us. Like it's really going to be alright. I should have known better, I guess.

Anyway, we get to Deb’s and everyone else is there, and you can tell that they are surprised that we came with the girls. They don’t say anything, but they all sort of give each other these looks.

Brian goes over to Michael and gives him a kiss as usual. Michael looks like he wants to say something but then Emmett interrupts.

“So what’s all this goss I’ve been hearing about you two?”

We're all milling around chatting and getting drinks like you do at Deb’s and suddenly everyone falls silent.

Shit! What can he have heard? There isn’t anything.

I feel suddenly cold. Please don’t let there be anything.

“Something about steaming up the backroom at Babylon with the hottest kiss the old place has ever seen?”

Oh, Em, no! Shut up!

Don’t push Brian on this, please.

Everyone is staring at Brian, except Michael who is glaring at me like I’ve done something fucking terrible. I guess to him I have. I might actually have put a dint in the Brian Fucking Kinney legend.

To my dismay, Emmett keeps going, and it gets worse.

“My sources tell me it was a moment of sheer ro-mance,” he drawls in his best Southern Belle manner.

Fuck! That does it. That’s all Brian needs.

He’s pretending not to listen, of course. Pretending that it has nothing to do with him. Helping Gus off with his coat, and getting him a drink.

Emmett saunters over to me. He’s got that look he gets when he’s shit-stirring.

“They also tell me that a certain Mr. K has been spectacularly absent from all his usual haunts for the past week or so.”

He looks at Michael, and I know that he’s saying this for Michael’s benefit, to try to make a point. But I wish he’d stop. Brian is going to … well, I’m not sure, but it probably won’t be good. But it’s too late now, and I can only try to take Brian’s lead, and pretend that it’s all nothing to do with me as Emmett puts his arm around me and goes on.

“Seems Mr. K is losing his taste for the backrooms and the Baths.”

Brian stands up then, and meets Emmett’s eyes. For a moment I honestly believe he’s going to walk out. And no prizes for guessing where he’d go.

Instead he walks over to us. He sticks his tongue in his cheek and, takes Emmett’s arm from around my shoulders.

“I haven’t lost my taste for the backroom. Not at all. As long as I’m with the hottest guy in the place, as always. Just like the other night.”

And he looks straight into my eyes to make sure I’m hearing him.

I manage to give him a little smile, and he takes my hand.

“Shall we show them what they missed?”

Before I can answer, I’m in his arms and he’s kissing me. At first it’s like a demonstration. Sort of technically good, but not real. Just a show for all of them as they gape at us.

But then they fade away, and it’s just Brian and I, and the feel and the smell and the taste of him, of us. And now it’s real. Now it’s the most real thing there is.

When we finally break apart, he rests his forehead against mine for a moment and smiles at me. 

They’re all still gaping at us and I can feel myself starting to blush. Brian laughs. Michael is still scowling, but everyone else is smiling, and Deb says, “Well that’s the fucking floorshow over, so now you’d better all sit down and eat.”

Then they're all sitting themselves down at the table, and I'm helping Deb to serve and not really all that aware of what's going on, when I hear Michael say something like, “Brian, what is this? You won’t talk to me and now you don’t even want to sit next to me. What’s going on? What has he been saying?”

Because of course, if thing’s are bad between him and Brian, it has to be my fault. Not like it could be something he’s done or anything.

I look up and Brian is standing at the table. He's ignoring Michael, while Mel and Lindz get up and move, and move Gus. Then Brian sits down again on the other side of the table. That's when I realize what had happened. Gus, of course, had demanded to sit next to his father, and Michael had pounced into the vacant seat on Brian’s other side.

No regard to my feelings, of course, that’s a given. But none for Brian’s either. Or Ben’s. Because Vic was already sitting in the seat next to that, so that meant Ben wouldn’t be sitting with Michael. Now that everyone has moved, there's an empty space where Brian had been sitting, and then there's Lindz, then Mel, Gus, Brian, a space for me and another space, then Emmett, Hunter, and Vic.

Ben pointedly sits in the space next to Emmett rather than the one next to Michael.

Deb looks as if she's going to say something about that, but amazingly she doesn’t, just plonks down the last plate and sits next to Michael herself.

Emmett, bless him, tries to cover up the silence that's coming off Brian in waves. He picks up his glass and says “Let’s have a toast. I think we should …”

Not sure what he was going to drink to, because Michael butts in with, “No. I want to know. I want to know what that little slut has been saying about me.”

I freeze. I don’t know what I’d expected, and God knows I should know always to expect the worst from Michael, but I can’t believe he’s said that, said it in front of my friends, my family.

But worse, I can’t believe he's doing this to Brian.

Things were so good. Couldn’t he just let go long enough for Brian to have one night of being happy?

Under the table, I reach out and touch Brian’s thigh. Then his fingers cover mine, and we hold hands tightly. He's pale and obviously furious. If I were Michael, I would be running for cover.

There's a chorus of shocked “Michael!”s. And Deb smacks him on the back of the head.

“What’s the matter with you? What crawled up your ass and died?”

“Look, this has nothing to do with anyone else, Brian’s my best friend and …”

“Not any more.” Brian’s voice sounds dreadful.

“Brian!”

“Mikey, enough. Don’t do this. Don’t make me …”

He breaks off then, but we all hear what he doesn’t say: ‘Don’t make me choose.’ It is a plea from the heart, but Michael ignores it.

“What’s the matter with you. He’s just a fuck. He might be a good fuck, but that’s all he is. A trick you picked up on a corner of Liberty Avenue. He was just looking to get laid. He would have gone with anyone. And you were stupid enough to let him hang around and sponge off you and then he …”

But that is as far as he gets. Brian gives a sort of growl and starts to get up, but it is Ben who makes it to his feet first.

“That’s it. That’s it, Michael. This time you really have crossed the line.”

He takes a deep breath while we all stare at him. Even Michael is shocked into silence.

Ben sighs really deeply, like something in him is breaking. I feel dreadful for him, and I know everyone else does too.  Except Michael, maybe.

“I’ve watched and waited for you to get over this … this obsession you have with Brian.”

And, absolutely fucking amazingly, Michael actually starts his mantra again.

“He’s my best …”

“Friend,” Ben finishes for him. He nods sadly. “I know. We all know. But you know something, Michael? You’re not his. If you were, right now you’d be happy for him. You’d see how …”

He breaks off then and looks at Brian and I for a moment.

“You’d know he’s happy, and you’d be glad for him. But you just can’t do that. Because it’s not with you.”

He moves away from the table.

“And I can’t hang around anymore hoping one day you’ll get over this … this thing you have, that won’t let you see Brian happy with someone else without trying to ruin it for him. Hoping that one day it’s me that you’ll want. Me you’ll dream about.

He shakes his head, takes another breath and starts towards the door.

“I’m sorry everyone. Deb … the food looks great. I …”

Then he just turns and leaves.

Deb smacks Michael on the head again. “What the fuck’s wrong with you? Go after him.”

“What’s wrong with me? I haven’t done anything. All I’m doing is looking out for Brian. He’s …”

“Fuck!” erupts from Brian explosively. He does get up then, and looks at me. “Are you coming?”

To add to the drama, Gus starts to cry.

Deb stands up and waves at Brian. “You sit down. You’re not going anywhere.”

He looks as if he's going to argue and Deb gives him one of the looks that can stop even Brian in his tracks.

“You attend to your son.”

Mel has picked Gus up, but he's reaching out to his father, and after a moment Brian takes him and sits down again with Gus on his knee.

“It’s okay, Sonnyboy,” I hear him whisper. “Dadda’s here.”

Gus stops crying then and just buries himself in Brian’s arms, as if they're a haven of peace and comfort. I know just how he feels. I want to do exactly the same thing.

“And I’ll attend to mine.”

It's Deb’s voice again, coming from a long way away, as Brian looks at me and smiles. It's a little sad, but still a smile. Then, reaching out one arm, he pulls me close and kisses me.

“Jus hurt?” comes a little voice.

“Yeah, Gus. Jus is hurt. He needs us to kiss him better.”

Gus sits up and holds out his arms to me. I lean in towards them both and they both kiss me. It works, because I immediately feel better. I kiss them both back and they smile at me. That identical special smile, warm and sweet and open, that hardly anyone gets to see on the older Kinney man. And he's smiling it just for me. So is Gus, and I feel so full of love for both of them that I’m sure if the room was dark you could really have seen the glow.

I'm vaguely aware of Deb dragging Michael away from the table and bundling him into his coat. He's arguing with her, but she pushes him out the door and shuts it hard behind him. Then she walks back in to us.

She comes round the table to Brian and I, and drops a set of car keys in front of Brian.

“So don’t drink too much,” she says gruffly.

Then she gives me one of those Debbie hugs that has me smothered up against her so hard that I can’t breathe. Then she kisses me and walks back to her place and sits down.

There's a moment of stunned silence and then Vic says calmly, “Lindsay, could you pass the pepper shaker please?”

That seems to break the dam, because everyone starts chattering now, trying to pretend that nothing has happened.

But it has, and I can feel it in the silence of the man beside me.

Not that Brian ever talks a lot at these dinners, but tonight it's a rigid sort of silence. It aches. I know that somehow he's finding a way to blame himself for this, and my heart hurts for him.

“Dadda hurt?” Gus says suddenly.

It seems to break whatever spell has been holding Brian captive and he looks down into the hazel eyes so like his and finds them gazing up at him with love and concern. He smiles again then, and nods a little. “I think I need a kiss.”

With great tenderness, Gus reaches up and kisses him. Then he looks at me.

“Jus kiss better too,” he demands.

What can I do? I lean over and kiss the man at the corner of his mouth. He turns his head and returns the kiss, gently, on my lips.

Then Gus demands another turn.

We spend a little while fooling like this, while everyone kindly ignores us.

Even Hunter. Poor kid. After all he’s been through, now he gets to watch his “parents” on the verge of divorce. Emmett and Vic are both trying to look after him, though, I notice, without making a big deal of it and setting his back up. Just talking to him and joking, and making sure that he gets whatever he wants to eat.

Eventually, Brian and I concentrate on trying to get Gus to eat some of his food, which gives me a chance to eat mine and even encourage Brian to eat a little of his.

We start talking about Stockwell, and what the Senator had said (which of course sets Debbie off). But we agree that at least he's gone, which is a pretty big achievement, and it finally starts to feel like a celebration.

Then I tell them about how the Senator is going to help me get back in to PIFA, and Brian even tells us about what he and Vance have agreed about that. So that is more to celebrate.

Then, of course, Brian has to explain why he’d been talking to Vance, and although he doesn’t say much, even what he does say is enough to let everyone know that Vance wants him back, so that there is at least that job there for him if he wants it.

By this time, we’ve drunk a bit of wine (although Brian really doesn’t drink much, to my surprise; he went and got himself a bottle of water instead) and we're starting to relax and enjoy ourselves.

Gus has fallen asleep in Brian’s arms, and we lie him down on the couch, with a blanket over him and a chair next to him so that he won’t roll over and fall off.

Then Deb makes some coffee and we all sit around and start talking about the future - about Gus starting playschool, and the new baby. We sort of steer around Michael’s involvement in that, although you can tell that Deb is just busting to be a grandmother. And she’ll be great at it.

We talk about the Em’s party planning business, and how the catering side is really taking off, and he and Vic are thinking about hiring a commercial kitchen so that they can look at taking on some bigger affairs, even hiring extra cooking staff, so Vic would be head chef.

We talk about Lindsay’s job at the gallery, and how they are encouraging her to find young artists, so that if PIFA let me back in, she might contact them and see if they’d be interested in having a student show.

And slowly, quite hesitantly, they talk about Brian - well, about the election and the ad. About how proud they are of him for what he’d done. And each of them offer to help him with the money thing. Not openly, in front of the others, but one by one, as the night went on, they come up to him and talk to him, and I think he suddenly realizes something that I’d always known, but I don’t think he did.

They love him.

He’s difficult and can be a total asshole at times. But they love him. And he’s always been there for them, always. And now they want to be there for him.

Maybe it was seeing how Michael hurt him, or maybe it was seeing him with Gus and I, seeing the real Brian, like hardly anyone ever does, I’m not sure. But it's like they’d been afraid to offer before, and now somehow they can.

It feels so good, watching him realize that he might have a total prick for a “best friend”, and his “real” family might be a pack of assholes (who so don’t deserve him), but that he does have a family who love him, and who want to be there for him.

It's after midnight before we know it, and the girls start yawning and saying that they have to get Gus home, and Em wants to go home and get a reasonably early night because Saturday is a busy day in the party world, and Deb has work so she needs to get some sleep.

As we all get up and start to get ready to leave they sort of look at us, and finally Emmett says, “What about you boys, are you off to Babylon to celebrate in style?”

I wish he hadn’t asked, hadn’t put that thought out there, because with all that has gone on today, I figure Brian will be only too keen to hit Babylon and get drunk and wasted and … laid. Find a trick, probably a string of tricks, and get his dick sucked, and sat on and otherwise put to uses that would be better kept for me. I know he’d said that the experiment was still on, but hell! that seems like forever ago. And after what he’s been through today, I can hardly begrudge him anything that would let him forget it all for a while.

He looks at me and raises an eyebrow. I shrug, like it doesn’t bother me.

He puts a finger under my chin and looks into my eyes. His are still a bit sad, but they hold a spark of mischief too, that I am very glad to see. He runs the tip of his tongue over his lips and says softly, “Where’re you headed?”

I feel my heart give one huge thump as I answer with a happy grin, “No place special.”

He laughs out loud. “I can change that,” he promises.

Then he hooks an arm around my neck. “We’re going home,” he announces.

Deb demands a kiss goodbye from both of us. Then to everyone’s amazement, Brian, after kissing Lindz and the sleeping Gus, bends down and kisses Mel’s cheek.

After that he seems to figure what the hell, and kisses Em and Vic as well. So of course Hunter fronts up for one. To his total disgust, Brian kisses his forehead, and dodges skillfully when the little shit angles for more.

We walk down the path with our arms around each other, and actually have a car to get into, for now at least, and I figure that, despite Michael, it has been a really good night.

*****

Brian

When it happened I felt like they say you do when you’ve been shot. Like you’re so shocked that you don’t even feel the pain.

Then I just felt ball bustingly angry.

He was attacking Justin. Again. But this time in front of everybody. Shit! what is his fucking problem? He can’t still be thinking that he and I are ever going to be anything other than what we are, but he just can’t bear to see me with Justin.

Of course Emmett hadn’t helped. And I guess I made if fucking worse. I hadn’t meant to rub Mikey’s nose in it, I was just happy. And I should be able to kiss my fucking boyfriend for fuck's sake without my best friend getting pissed off about it.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he took it out on me, but to attack Justin, that’s just fucked.

I tried to ignore the first round, but when he called Justin a slut - Justin! Jesus fucking Christ. He’s sitting at the table with me and calling Justin a slut! How fucked is that?

Shit!

I was going to ream him out in a way that neither of us would ever have been able to get past, when Ben stepped in.

I don’t know whether to be glad or sorry about that.

Poor bastard. I really hoped it would work for Mikey with Ben. He’s a great guy (well, when he’s not steroid Mary, anyway), and I trusted him with Mikey. Despite the HIV thing, despite the Dr Dave fiasco, despite our little fling at the White Party. I trusted him.

It didn’t fucking occur to me that Ben was the one who was going to get screwed.

The weird thing is that after all the drama has died down, the night sort of turns out okay.

I mean, I can think of things I’d rather do than sit around and fucking talk all night. But it's okay.

And of course, he loves it.

He's sitting there with the light shining on that fucking mop of hair and his hand on my thigh, or my arm, or somehow tucked into mine, and chattering away like there is fuck all else that he’d rather be doing.

If I don’t watch out, between him and Deb they’re going to turn this into some sort of regular thing, and I don’t know how much family fun I can take.

Still, it's good that it made him forget about what Mikey said. And I have to admit that it does make it easier for me, when he does the talking for both of us. It means I don’t have to say anything, and can just zone out for a while without anyone really noticing.

I guess I should be pissed off that it seems like everyone accepts that he is doing exactly that, speaking for both of us, but shit! if it makes them happy and gets them to leave me in peace … Who am I kidding? We’re moving into coupledom. He is speaking for both of us. Most of the time, anyway. I’m turning into a fucking dyke and the fucking scariest thing about that is that … it feels so damned good.

This is what Lindz has been trying to tell me for years. Well, ever since Justin came along, anyway. I wonder if we could ever have made it before … if I hadn’t been so stubborn and so determined to fight it, I wonder if we could have got to this place, without having to go through all the shit we went through.

I guess not. He needed to grow up, and I needed … to grow the balls to be able to not run screaming from the feeling of letting someone so close to me.

Closer than Michael.

That’s what set Mikey off, of course.. He knows that Justin is the one I’ve been turning to, the one I share my life with. That it’s never going to be him that I run to first anymore - hell, until Justin, he was the only one I’d ever run to when things went wrong, the only one I ever let see behind the fucking Brian Kinney mask.

And now it’s not him, it’s Justin.

Except that Justin is closer than Mikey ever was. Because we fuck. Because Justin’s smarter than Michael and understands some things that Mikey would never get.

But mainly because part of Mikey wanted me to be his hero. Even when he’d seen me beaten like a fucking dog, and crying my heart out over what my asshole father had done to me, part of him still needed me to be his hero.

“You’re Brian Kinney for fuck’s sake!”

I think maybe that’s when I understood that my friendship with Mikey was in trouble. That part of it was based on a lie. It was based on Mikey wanting to believe, needing to believe, in the fucking myth.

Justin never bought the myth for a minute.

“I’m on to you.”

That was Justin. Still is.

And I am so fucking grateful for that. Because I don’t have to be anything for Justin except me. Just myself.

Sometimes when I’m with him, I feel like a hamster that’s finally been allowed to get off the fucking wheel. For a while everything keeps spinning, but then it slows right down and I can stop. I can rest. I can just be with him and rest.

I never knew how good that would feel.

Just like I never knew how good it would feel to have people like Mel and Emmett and even Vic come up and offer to help me out with the money.

Shit! if you’d asked me, I would have said that it would make my stomach heave to have them offering me help, like I was some sort of fucking charity case.

But when it happens, that isn’t how it feels at all. It feels like … like maybe that’s how family feels. I wouldn’t know. But maybe that’s what it’s like. Like there are people who will watch out for you and try to be there if you need them.

See, once I never would have admitted to needing anyone or anything. And I don’t really need them now. Not while I have Justin. So somehow, that makes it all right to need them. That’s fucked, but it seems like that’s the way it is.

Of course, I can’t take their money. The girls need it for Gus, and for the new baby. And Vic and Emmett are just starting this business, they’ll need every fucking cent they can scrape together to make it work. Especially if they want to take on staff and have to pay fucking insurance and all that shit.

But the thing is that they make the offer.

I’ve never had anyone do that for me before. Maybe it seemed like I never needed any help. Or just that it seemed like I’d fucking kill them if they offered it. Which I might have done.

But tonight they offer.

Shit! maybe it is a case of pathetic dickless fag strikes again and everyone sees what a sorry fucking mess he is and they all take the chance to rub it in by offering him help.

But that isn’t how it feels.

Fuck! I would love to have a photo of Mel’s face when I kiss her. Maybe Justin can draw it for me. Or the looks on the others’ faces. I’m guessing they think the fucking apocalypse must be on its way.

At least we’ve got the fucking car to get us home tonight. Whatever happens with the job, I somehow have to scrape together enough to get some kind of car, even if I can’t keep this one. I’m not sure that I want to anyway. It’s not like I can use it to drive Gus around in, and anyway, you can’t fuck in it. Well, you can, but not without risking impalement on the gears and the handbrake and various other things that manage to get into unbelievable places. The jeep was a lot more practical.

And now we’re nearly back at the loft, and I have to break the news to Justin that I need to go and look for Mikey.

If he’s at home, fine. I’ll call first and see and if he’s there that will be the end of it. But if he’s not, then he’s in trouble and I can’t just leave him out there somewhere.

He’d go looking for me.

*****

Justin

I can feel him gearing himself up for something, and I’m bracing myself not to react, because I think he’s going to say he wants to go out, to the Baths or Babylon, or wherever he can pick up a trick.

Of course I should have guessed what it would be. I am so dumb.

So what if Mikey called me a slut and accused me of lying about him to Brian. Poor little Mikey might be out there all alone, so of course big brave Brian has to go and rescue him.

But I bite my tongue. Again. And tell him that I understand. Which is true. And that I don’t mind. Which isn’t. Exactly.

But I mind less about him going than I would about him not going and fretting, and blaming himself, especially if anything did happen to the little prick. And I wouldn’t put it past Mikey to make sure that he had some sort of accident just to pull Brian’s strings.

So when we get inside I kiss him, and tell him I’m going to have a shower, so that he has the privacy to call Ben and Michael’s place.

When I come out of the shower, he’s sitting on the bed.

I’m surprised that he’s still there, and that must have been obvious, because his face twists up a bit as he says, “He’s at home. They’re talking.”

“Oh,” I say. Then I have to ask, “why didn’t you join me in the shower then?”

He looks at me and his face is tired and sad and sort of scared.

“I wasn’t sure you’d want me to.”

He says it very quietly, and it nearly breaks my heart. I go to him and pull him into my arms and hug him tightly against my chest.

“Brian, I might not like Michael very much, but I know how much he means to you. I would never try to come between you. And even if I minded you wanting to go out and look for him, and look after him, I love you for wanting to do it.”

It’s not the sort of thing that I would ever normally say to Brian, but hey! it’s been anything but a normal day. And I mean every word of it.

He wraps his arms around me really tightly, and we just hold each other for a while. Then he says, “Do you mind if I don’t have a shower tonight?”

I realize then just how tired he is, and I push him down on the bed and start taking off his clothes. He sighs and just moves enough to help me get his jacket and shirt off, and then his pants. When he’s naked, I tug the covers out from under him, and sort of push him further onto the bed. Then I climb in beside him and pull the covers up over us both.

A bit tentatively I nestle up against him, and his arm comes round me and we both snuggle a bit closer and then he’s asleep. Just like that. I lie there for a while just enjoying how it feels to be there with him that way. But it’s been kind of tough day for me too, and it’s not long before I follow him to sleep.

When I wake up in the morning, it’s to find myself face down, ass up, with Brian rimming me. Fuck! what a way to wake up!

He seems determined to make up for falling asleep last night because we fuck twice before we even get to the shower, and then he insists on getting out some beads that he wants to put in me while we we’re in there. I tell him that it’s his turn, and to my surprise he lets me win the argument.

So he lies on the bed with a pillow under his hips while I slowly feed them into him. He’s on his back, so I can see his face, and he gets very flushed and starts stoking his cock. I knock his hand away. “Not yet,” I tell him.

The last two are kind of big, so it takes a little time to work them in, and once they are in he starts sucking his breath in hard. I rub his belly, and then take the opportunity to lick and suck at his thighs. He lets them fall further apart to give me better access and I take full advantage of it, finally giving him a hickey right up at the top of his thigh. He smacks my head, but he doesn’t say anything, so I know he doesn’t mind. I’m tempted to start a blow job, but if I do, we’ll never get into the shower, so I stand and help him up.

He walks into the bathroom very cautiously. There are rules when we play with these sorts of toys, and he knows that if he lets any of the beads slip out of his ass before I start pulling them out, that he’ll have to pay a forfeit - of my choice.

When I was first with him, and just learning about all this stuff, I had a hard time keeping them all in and he thought up some really diabolical forfeits. Now he knows that I haven’t forgotten and that I’ll be only too glad to pay him back in kind if he gives me the opportunity.

I make him keep them in while we wash and shampoo our hair. He’s breathing fast and his cock is rock hard, jutting up as if it’s trying to stretch up to his chin. I finally take pity on him and kneel in front of him. He gives a sort of purr of satisfaction and leans back against the tiles, bending his knees a little and spreading his legs wide.

I stroke his sac and play with his balls for a moment, then run my fingers across the soft skin behind. He grunts, and I slip a finger through the plastic ring on the end of the string.

He braces himself, but I’m not quite ready yet. I wrap my other hand around his cock and lick the tip like a lollipop.

His breath hisses out through his teeth, and that’s when I pull the first ball out.

He gasps, and I feel his cock throb in my hand. My own is really hard by now as well, but I force myself to focus on him.

Again I lick the tip, this time pushing my tongue into his slit. I tongue fuck it two or three times then give a little jerk of my wrist and pull out the next ball.

He gives a sort of growl, and before my eyes a tremor runs across his belly. I feel his cock pulse again, and I wonder how much control he has. The fact that he’s come twice already this morning should make this fairly easy for him, but judging by his reactions, that’s not necessarily the case. There are seven altogether on this string and I wonder if he will last.

Of course, he’ll have to pay a forfeit if he doesn’t.

With my cock leaking pre cum, it’s not hard to figure what that might be.

I begin to fist his cock firmly and just as I pull the next ball out, I tug my hand right up over the head and then push it down again.

He makes a sound like he’s cutting off a scream, and I know he’s really close.

I try something different now, giving tiny teasing tugs to the string, while I suck gently at the tip of his cock, then as I deep throat him, I pull hard on the string, tugging not one but two balls out.

That does it. He comes hard. It jets down my throat, and despite my best efforts, some spills from my mouth.

He pulls me up and licks himself from my lips, then turns off the shower. Carefully, he tugs out the last two balls and then he bends forwards over the sink.

“Hurry.”

His voice is still husky with arousal and I realize that even though he’s come he’s still wanting more.

I pull on a condom as fast as I can and reach for the lube. “Justin, just … fuck me.”

Yes, sir! I push into him. The beads have opened him up nicely, but he’s still tight. Oh God! When he’s fucking me that’s all I ever want. But once I get inside him I remember how good that feels, and for that moment, that’s all I want.

I fuck him hard and fast because I am really close, and sure enough I come quickly.

Normally, I’d be embarrassed about that, but I guess this time it’s a good thing.

It’s as I’m pulling out that I remember the other thing, the thing that makes the difference. I love fucking him, don’t get me wrong. But somehow, afterwards, it’s never as good as when he’s fucked me. It never feels as warm and safe and wonderful as I feel after he’s had me and I’m lying there in his arms.

But it still feels pretty good.

He stands up while I get rid of the condom, and props himself on the edge of the sink which makes us about the same height. So when I come to him and take him in my arms, he’s just at the right height to nuzzle into my neck and I can hold him and stroke his hair and generally feel … I don’t know. Like I’m taking care of him, for once, and maybe making him feel warm and safe and wonderful in my arms. I hope so.

We pull on some sweats and go into the kitchen. We make coffee, and he agrees to pancakes for breakfast because it means that we don’t have to go out to get something.

I’m sort of wondering how long it will be before he calls Mikey, when there’s a knock at the door. Before we can answer it, it slides open.

It’s Michael, of course.

*****

Brian

The problem of course, is that I’ve taught him too fucking well. Little shit!

Still, it's a good fuck and afterwards, when he holds me, that is more than good. I hope he knows how it feels when he does that. How good he makes me feel. Like I’m safe; for the first time in my life, I’m somewhere safe.

Of course, I'm left to bask too long in the afterglow, because Mikey turns up.

Once I knew he was safe last night, I could just go back to being fucking mad at him. Even madder, in fact, because I had to risk screwing things up with Justin to go out and find him. Well, okay, I didn’t actually have to go out, but that’s not the fucking point.

He could have phoned. Once he’d got home he could at least have called to let his mother know he was home and with Ben and they were trying to work things out.

He could have fucking called me.

But no. He turns up here this morning, and comes in without even waiting for me to open the door. When he must have known Justin would be here. Shit! If he’d come fifteen minutes earlier he would have walked in on Justin fucking me. I bet he would have loved that. Stupid fuck! Why can’t he stop and think for once instead of just barging ahead?

He must see that I'm still angry, because he straight away turns on those puppy dog eyes that nearly always work on me.

“Brian, I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”

“It’s not me you should fucking apologize to!”

“No, I know. Justin … I really am sorry. I don’t know what made me say anything like that.”

Justin simply stands looking at him. At first, I think he's not going to say anything. Then he says really quietly, “Yes, you do. We all know.”

Then he moves past the breakfast bar and towards Mikey and says even more quietly, “And for myself, I don’t give a flying fuck what you say about me. You just don’t matter enough.”

Then he steps right up to him and finishes, “But if you ever put Brian through anything like that again, I’ll make you wish you’d never been born.”

Then he steps back and smiles at me. “Brian, I’m going to get dressed and go over to Daph’s. I need some clean clothes, and I need to tell her what’s going on with PIFA and stuff.”

I’m reminded yet again how fucking strong he is.

I nod at him, and then say, “Don’t bother about getting dressed. Take the car.”

Mikey is staring - at him, at me, at us, as I hand Justin the car keys and kiss him goodbye.

“Later,” he mouths at me.

“Later,” I say, pulling him back for another quick kiss, so fucking proud of him and glad to have him on my side, at my side, that I wanted to fucking take out an ad.

Then he leaves, and I pour myself another coffee, and one for Mikey, and set to work to find out if there is any way that I can salvage a fourteen year friendship.

Because I have to try. But I also have to let Mikey know that if he ever puts me in that position again then it will just be over. I have to make it clear to him that it isn’t a matter of me choosing between him and Justin. There isn’t a choice in that. Justin is a given.

So it's really a matter of Mikey choosing to accept that - or not.

And if he can’t, then there isn’t any way that we can stay friends. I don’t think I could go on feeling friendship towards someone who feels free to treat Justin the way he did last night. It would be like trying to be friends with that fucking Hobbs.

*****

Justin

Brian calls my cell about an hour later.

I'd been filling Daph in on all the goss. She was furious with Michael, and really pissed off that she hadn’t been there to take him on herself.

I had a picture of her going at him and had to laugh. It’s good to know that Daph is there for me. I’m lucky. She’s a much better friend to me than Michael is to Brian.

Apart from that momentary weirdness after our misguided fuck, she’s never begrudged me being with Brian. Although she hated Ethan from day one.

I should have listened to her.

Anyway, apparently Michael has left and gone home to Ben. It seems they’re going to try to work things out. I hope they can, but I don’t know.

Brian asks me what I want to do for the rest of the day. I feel kind of guilty, because I have his car, but I say that I’d like to check in with my mom.

He says that's okay with him, that he wants to work on the email to send Vance. We’d talked very briefly about that this morning before Michael arrived. He asks if I can get home around mid afternoon so that we can go over it together. Like I'm going to say no to that!

Mom is pleased to see me, but a bit shocked and nervous about me driving that car. I guess that’s a mom thing.

We talk for a while. She’s really pleased that it looks like I’m going to be able to get back in to PIFA. She even says that she is putting money aside to make sure that I will have next semester’s fees. I try to tell her not to worry about that, but she insists that it's the least she can do.

“I feel that I’ve let you down so badly, Justin, by not making sure all that was taken care of in the divorce settlement. It just never occurred to me that your father would really refuse to pay.”

“I know, Mom, I understand. I can’t really believe it myself.”

We look at each other and share a wry sort of smile.

“I wish I had the money on hand right now. I’m sure Brian could do with it. I do have a few thousand, if that would help. If he’d accept it from me.”

I hug her and thanked her, but tell her I think we're going to be alright.

“Well, if you need it, Justin, it’s there. Don’t let Brian’s pride make things more difficult for you both than they have to be. It might not be much, but every little will help with the interest payments.”

I hug her again and tell her that I need to get home, because Brian and I had to work out exactly what is going to go into his letter of demands (because that’s really what it is) to Vance.

She looks at me a bit funny when I say that, as if she doesn’t quite believe what I have been telling her about how things are now between Brian and me. But she must see in my face that it's the truth because suddenly she stops looking worried and really smiles.

“Justin … I’m glad. Glad that you’re back with Brian. Glad that you’re finding the way to be happy together.”

I almost feel my allergies kick in then, because I don’t think I’d ever expected to hear her say that.

Then I leave and go home to Brian.

*****

Brian

We get through the weekend somehow.

We fuck a lot.

We eat too fucking much. Make a few phone calls.

We sleep a bit.

Oh, and we collect Friday’s mail from the box.

Then Monday comes and it's like old times - the times just a few weeks ago that fucking seem like they happened to someone else.

The alarm goes off. We have a quick fuck in the shower.

I get dressed in my dazzling best, and he makes me breakfast.

Then he pulls on some halfway decent clothes and drives me downtown.

Pathetic, I know, but however this is going to go down, I want him close by afterwards. So we arrange that he’ll wait in the coffee shop across the street.

But when the time comes, I can’t wait even the five minutes it will take to get down there. I'm calling him from my cell almost before I leave Vance’s office.

As I walk out of the elevator, he runs into my arms and without any regard to where we are I pick him up and spin him around. Then I dip him and kiss him, right there in the lobby. Let all the fucking breeders take notes on what a kiss should be like.

When we finally come up for air, he's laughing at me, the little shit. “I take it it went well then?’ he giggles.

I take his hand and pull him out the door.

“I got it all,” I announce proudly.

He stops dead, then, so I have to stop with him. He's staring at me. He looks … he looks so proud of me, that it almost brings me fucking undone.

“Oh, Brian.”

I think for a moment that he's going to start crying.

“Now don’t go all lesbionic on me. You’re a fag, for god’s sake. Get a grip,” I scolded.

But all the time my hands are clutching his, and I'm smiling down into those blue eyes, and if he is proud of me, I'm even more proud of him. Because he was the one who really got us here. He was the one who stood by me and helped me see who I was, and then, when the chance came, made me see who I could be, what I could achieve, if I had the guts to reach for it. And I had them alright … I borrowed them from him.

We decide, well, he decides, that the news is too good to keep to ourselves so we head for the diner. While he drives, I call Mel and she promises to come and bring Gus and to see if Lindz can join us. Then I call Vic, and Emmett’s there so they promise to meet us. Of course they fucking try to pry out of me what all the news is first, but this is big, and I don’t want to spoil it. Besides wanting to see their faces when I tell them, I need to share the moment with Justin.

Then I call Mikey. His cell’s turned off and the kid at the store says he and Ben have gone away for a few days.

I’m actually relieved because I wasn’t sure if I wanted him there. I don’t, if it’s going to upset Justin. After the talk we had on Saturday morning, I’m hoping that Mikey can find a way to be around Justin without all the snide remarks, and little spiteful fucking things that he does, but it’s probably just as well not to have to put it to the test so soon.

Eventually the rest of the crew arrive. It takes a while, and although Deb is a bit pissed off that we won’t tell her what’s going on till the others get there, she also has news of her own.

It seems Ben has told Mikey that he thinks the only way they can have any hope of making things work is to go away together. Not for a few days, but to live.

Seems Ben has been offered a position at Boston University and he’s been trying to work out whether he should take it. Now he thinks it’s a good opportunity for them both.

The worst thing is, I think he’s right. I think it probably is their only chance.

But I also think Michael and I need to be apart for a while. We need to have the chance to grow up and that’s hard when all our common experience pulls us back to when we were fourteen years old, and we were best friends.

That’s a lot of old history to overcome, and a lot of old habits to break.

It might be that our friendship never is the same. That might even be a good thing. It might develop into something better, a real friendship, not just a push-pull relationship of mutual need. What do they call it? Fucking co-dependence. That’s it.

Anyway, they flew out this morning to Boston, to check it out. So I hope that it works out for them. I know Deb’s upset, but she’ll Hunter’s going to be staying with her, and soon she’ll have another baby to mother. Justin and I will keep an eye on her and Vic. They’ll be okay.

All of that goes out the window when the others arrive. Even Lindz manages to make it.

Mel is grinning like a cat, and asks as soon as she walks in, “So how did it go? Did the famous Brian Kinney sales skills come out on top?”

She had some idea what I was going to go for from our talk on Friday and yesterday’s phone call. She sees the look on my face and says, “Fuck! He bought it.”

I just grin at her and wait till everyone is quiet. Then I put my arm around Justin and say, “You are looking at the full partner and co-owner of Vanguard Kinney Enterprises.”

“What!”

“Fuck!”

“You’re shitting me!”

They’re all stunned and I don’t blame them. I’d never admit it, except to Justin, but I’m still a little stunned myself.

It’s a while before they all shut up enough to hear the rest, and even longer before they take it in.

The partnership thing was a given. From the time that Justin and I sat down and drew up the list, that was always going to be my key demand.

The co-owner thing came about for two reasons.

The first was that when Mel looked closely at the contract, it seemed like my investment advisor was right on the fucking ball. Vance didn’t, under the terms of the agreement, have cause to sack me. Or at least, it was a highly debatable legal point. Which meant that I was in a good position to sue for a fucking truckload of money.

Given the debatable nature of the case, his lawyers would almost certainly advise him to settle, which might not bring in as much as I’d get in court, but it would still make a sizeable dent in his profit margin. That gave me a lot of leverage.

Then there was the letter which we found yesterday morning, when we finally stirred down to get something to eat and remembered that we hadn’t checked the box on Friday.

It seems that in the wake of Stockwell’s resignation, some of Deekins’ advisers were a bit worried that word would get out that the Concerned Citizens for the Truth had approached that gutless bastard Deekins with the little tape about Stockwell, and he’d refused to do anything with it. This being the case, these fucking bozos figured that the best way out of that bind was to offer, a bit fucking belatedly, to help pay for the ad.

The letter contained a check for $95,000, backdated of course to the day before the election.

Payable to B. Kinney, as representative of The Concerned Citizens for the Fucking Truth.

Part of me would have liked nothing better than to tear it up and send it straight back to them with a note saying “Eat shit!”

But fuck that! What does it matter now? I don’t care who gets fucking credit for the ad. I never did. The only person whose opinion matters to me knows the whole story, better than anyone. And he was sitting right beside me when I opened the envelope, just like he’s sitting beside me now.

He was the one who saw straight away the possibilities this opened up, of course.

It meant a few phone calls - to Mel, to the investment guy, to a banker he knows. But we managed to pull the whole lot together.

The letter containing the advice of my lawyer that I had a good case to sue for unfair dismissal. The offer of a business loan from the bank. The offer from the Senator, which would make her my first client. The letter from Deekins’ advisers. All of it. Everything that would make it clear as fucking crystal to Vance that I had serious other options.

Of course I’d sent the email to Vance off on Saturday, so first thing I had to do this morning was apologize for misleading him.

Then I spelled out the situation he was in. He was at risk of losing at least two of his major accounts. He was about to find a serious rival with a history with all his clients, and major political pull into the bargain (Jesus how did that happen?) on his doorstep. And he faced a possibly ruinous law suit.

Then I just had to sell him on the solution.

We finally agreed that my back pay for the time since I was dismissed plus $50,000 of Deekins’ money would pay for half the agency (unofficially factoring in the amount I would be likely to get in a law suit).

The rest of Deekins’ money, with the sale proceeds, including the car, will be enough to pay off my debts. I’ll be starting out with a clean slate (well, with a bit of money still in the investments, as a sort of fucking cushion if the bubble bursts and we crash again). And Justin. Oh, and a company car as part of my partnership agreement. There won’t be any need to take up the business loan offer.

What Vance gets out of the deal is that with me on board he, or rather we, can keep clients like Brown Athletics. We also get the Senator (and all those contacts with her pals in high places, maybe even Deekins’ pals, which Vance will love). And most importantly, he hasn’t got me starting up in competition with him right next door, which I’m now in a financial position to do, if I wanted.

What I get, apart from the partnership and half the firm, is a stable client base, an established art department, etc., who know me and know how I work, and vindication. I get my fucking reputation back.

Oh, and a certain intern gets his job back, if he wants it. Vance wanted me to tell him, but I insisted that he call Justin himself, and discuss it with him. In some ways it doesn’t have anything to do with me. It’s up to Justin to decide. I know the art department will be fucking glad to get him back. He’s the most talented person they have.

To Vance’s credit, he’d called Justin on his cell before we’d even reached the diner. He made the offer, and Justin told him he’d need to think about it. I almost laughed out loud when I heard him say that. Vance has got no idea. He thinks I’m a tough sonofabitch to deal with. I’m a pussycat compared to this delicate vanilla-looking little shit that’s sitting beside me.

Apparently Vance even offered him a full time job if he decides not to go back to PIFA. I did laugh when Justin told me that. Not that Vance had offered the job, but the way he put it. Maybe he is getting the message about Justin, after all.

The funny thing is after all that’s happened, I think that Gardner and I are going to be able to work together.

In a fucking weird way, I think I came out of this respecting him more than I did before.

I won’t forget that he tried hard to find a reason not to fire me.

Or that he came straight to me as soon as the Stockwell thing blew up. He could have got on the phone to everyone he knows in the business and badmouthed me. That might not have helped him keep Brown and the like, but it would have made it hard for me to get into a position where I could go after them either.

He didn’t do that. He had the balls to come to me. So maybe this will work.

The contract still needs to be finalized, but with Mel riding shotgun on it, I’m not worried about that. There will be all sorts of things in the agreement about the circumstances under which the partnership can be dissolved, and how, should that occur, we each keep the clients that we’ve signed, etc. But I’m hoping that is stuff I don’t have to worry about. Not for a long time, anyway. I’ve had about as much as I want of this high powered fucking wheeling and dealing for a while.

Right now, all I want to do is lay claim to the prize that really matters and take him home and fuck him senseless. And then ask him to come home to me.

And if he’s not ready to do that yet, I’ll ask again tomorrow.

And the next day.

He’ll say yes eventually, even if it’s just to stop me asking.

*****

Justin

We're sitting around discussing all the news when suddenly Brian asks, “What time are you supposed to be seeing the Dean this afternoon?”

There’d been a phone call first thing this morning, while we were getting ready to leave, asking me to come in for an appointment to discuss my “status”. I’d been so caught up in the whole thing with Vance that I’d almost forgotten.

I realize that I'm going to be late if I don’t motor. Brian insists on driving me. He even parka the car and says he’ll wait for me, which is great. Somehow knowing he is there makes me a lot less nervous.

The interview with the Dean is almost funny. It's like he’d been placed in the position where, despite his own wishes, he’d been forced for the good of the school to suspend me, and now he's just delighted to be able to offer me my place back.

Nothing to do with the fact that Vance had called him, of course. Or that I drop the Senator’s name and tell him that I’d gone to her, as a friend, for advice.

(That’s what she told me to say, and I can see it rattles him. He goes pasty white and starts to sweat. I guess the idea of her asking awkward questions about political influence affecting student issues before the upcoming funds allocation meeting really does make him nervous.)

I'm tempted to tell him to take his placement and put it somewhere painful, but that would have been beyond dumb. So I smile, and play nice, like the good little middle class twink I was brought up to be. He talks about the arrangements he’s made with my tutors to help me make up my classes.

We even shake hands when I leave.

So that’s it. As simple as that, after all the angst and shit they put me through.

I have to admit though that it does feel good to have my life back. I’m almost running as I get back to the car.

Brian doesn’t say anything, of course, just waits till I get in and takes off with a squeal of rubber, but he’s got that grin all over his face that means that he’s feeling pretty good.

We get back to the loft, and I’m keen to get in and show him that I’m feeling pretty good myself.

But he stops me outside the door.

“Justin, wait.”

He looks serious, and I get scared for a moment. Not now. It can’t be anything bad now.

He rubs his tongue over his lips, and pulls them in and sucks on them in that way he does when he’s debating what to say. Then he takes my hands and pulls them against his chest.

“I want you to come home.”

Whatever I was expecting, that was not it.

“Brian …”

I honestly don’t know what to say. I want to be with him. He knows that. But I’m sort of enjoying having some independence too. I’m not sure that I want to give that up yet. I’m not sure that I’m ready to.

And of course, the real thing is that I don’t know if I can deal with what living with him would mean.

I know that the “experiment” seems to be working right now, but I don’t expect Brian to be monogamous for ever. And dealing with the tricks when I can just walk away from it is one thing, having them in my face, hell! in my bed, that’s something else.

I just stand there and he sighs and gives a funny little nod, almost like I’ve said all that out loud.

“I know that it will mean some changes. I mean, the experiment is going okay, but we both know that sooner or later I’m going to fall off the wagon.”

I nod and meet his eyes so that he can see that I do know that, and I’m okay with it. It’s not the real issue.

He sort of grimaces and goes on, “I don’t want any more fucking rules.”

It’s my turn to grimace, because he wasn’t the one who broke the rules. I was the one who fucking shattered them, and our lives for a while into the bargain.

He shakes his head, and then touches his forehead against mine for a moment.

“We don’t need them. If we can’t fucking trust each other by now, then there’s no point.”

I nod again, but I’m a bit doubtful, and he knows it. And he knows why.

“I’m telling you that if you come home to me, that’s it. That’s what it is. Our home. Which means you and I. No fucking visitors waltzing in as if they own the place.”

He means Mikey.

“And no tricks.” He takes a deep breath, and I realize that I need to as well. Somehow, we’ve both forgotten to breathe for the last few minutes, this is so important to us.

“I can’t promise I won’t ever fuck anyone else. But not here. Not ever here. Not in our home, and not ever in front of you. When you’re with me, you’re the one I’m with.”

I stare into his eyes and I hardly know how to express what I’m feeling.

I pull my hands away so that I can cup them round his face. He smiles, and leans towards me, and then my arms are around his neck and we’re kissing.

And just like that I’m home.

I have to laugh, though, when he pulls the door open and insists on carrying me across the threshold.

He trips over a stray cushion and nearly fucking drops me.

But we make it to the bed okay.


 

Footnote by Wren
Author's Notes:

Another challenge that triggered an idea that followed on from the story so far.  I told myself it was just a footnote.

Brian has an encounter with a technician that triggers some thoughts about how to deal with violence.  It started out as a piece of froth, but turned into something else.

Justin

Shit, it’s been a hard week. By the time I get home Friday night I’m exhausted. I really hadn’t needed the hassles I’d had on the way home. I hope Brian’s here. Or maybe not. Maybe I need a bit of time to get myself together.

I suppose he’s going to want to go to Babylon tonight. Fuck!

I am so tired. I just need some down time, especially after this afternoon. But if I don’t go …

He’s promised ‘never when I’m around’. But if I don’t go tonight, and he has a few drinks, and probably even a bump or two, there is no way that he’s going to … or rather not going to …

It’s stupid. I don’t really mind him tricking. I don’t. But just knowing that it’s been two weeks now since he’s been with anyone else … it means something to me.

Tough shit, Justin. If you go out tonight, you’re going to be wrecked tomorrow. And you are so going to have to study this weekend. Which is okay, because Brian is probably going to be working as well.

At least I know that I can safely walk into the loft without having to check for tricks first. That’s not a small thing to me. I pull back the door, which isn’t locked, so hopefully Brian’s home.

He’s home alright, standing in the middle of the room, right there with the guy in the tight tee and the jeans worn in all the right places.

I nearly lose it. Vaguely, I take in the boxes piled on the floor, but I’m too intent on my mission to heave that intruder’s ass out of here and have it out with Brian. A week! It’s been a fucking week since he made that promise, and I …

I feel my allergies attack. On top of this afternoon’s adventure it’s just too much. Then Brian looks up and sees me.

“Fuck! What happened to you?”

I’d hoped he’d be here. I needed him. But …

Then the guy turns round and my gaydar goes peung! and I realize that he’s a total breeder. I see the clipboard in his hand and realize he’s just here to deliver whatever’s in those boxes. . By the look on his face as Brian comes to me, he’s also a fucking fag hater, which is the last thing I need right now.

Then Brian’s arms are around me and suddenly the world looks a lot better, and feels a lot safer.

“Justin?”

“It’s nothing. I’m okay.”

I don’t want to go into it. Not right now. Not with that guy in the room glaring at us with contempt.

Brian turns and catches the guy’s look. For a moment he’s silent, then he steps in front of me protectively.

“You’ve got a problem?”

The guy looks at him for a moment, and starts to sneer. Then he really looks at him, at his taut body, and his height and reach, and thinks better of it. He shrugs.

“I just need to get this signed and I can get out of here.”

“Not yet, you can’t. I paid to have this lot installed as well as delivered.”

“Well, I don’t have time. I’ve got other deliveries to make. Maybe tomorrow someone can come out and …”

Brian steps towards him and his voice goes very quiet.

“You set it up, and get it all working to my satisfaction or you can take it away and explain to your boss why you lost the sale. While I go to another company that will do what’s agreed.”

He paused for a moment to let that sink in.

“Understood?”

The guy heaves this great put upon sigh, and starts ripping open the boxes.

“Where do you want it all to go?”

“Over there - all the connections you need are along that wall. Now you get on with it, while I look after my partner.”

The guy gives some sort of snort at the word, and I nearly choke.

Partner?

Then Brian is touching my face. He seems to realize that I don’t want to get in to it while the guy is only a few feet away, because he ushers me up the steps and into the bathroom.

Brian props me against the sink, and opens the medicine cabinet.

“Brian, I don’t need anything. I’m fine.”

“What happened?” His voice is soft and his hands are so gentle as they undo my jacket and help me ease it off.

“Just a bit of pushing and shoving. Nothing really.”

To my horror, I hear my voice waver.

Brian just nods.

Gently, he checks me over. I have a bruise and a red scrape on my face where it hit the wall, and sundry other bruises on my ribs. He gets out some antiseptic and bathes the scrape, then puts something on it which stings a little at first, but then feels cool and soothing.

“No headache?”  he asks. I shake my head.

Then he notices my hands. I have cuts and grazes on the knuckles, and he raises an eyebrow.

“What? Do you think I was going to let them beat the shit out of me without fighting back?”

I can tell he’s hiding a grin at the thought of me putting up my fists, and I punch his shoulder. Then I regret it.

He wisely doesn’t say anything else, just bathes my knuckles and puts more of the cream, whatever it is, on them.

“You want to talk about it?”

“I missed the bus, so I walked over to the other side of campus to take the other route.”

“Justin …”

“Don’t. Don’t say it. I know. But shit, Brian. It was broad daylight.” My voice wavers again and he touches my face. The unbruised side.

“So … some thugs jumped you,” he says matter of factly.

I nod. “Only two of them. They were making comments, and when I didn’t respond, they grabbed my bag. I wouldn’t let go, and that’s when they started pushing me. They shoved me into the wall, and punched my ribs a couple of times.

I gulp in some air, and as I go on, I feel my voice get stronger. “But I stamped on one’s foot, and that surprised them and they both let me go. I punched the other one in the mouth and then grabbed my bag and swung it at them. It hit one of them in the head and then I saw the bus coming so I ran and caught it and … that’s all. I’m okay.”

*****

Brian

I could only stand and stare at him.

He is so fucking amazing.

No wonder they let him go when he started to fight back. They probably got the shock of their fucking lives. They must have thought he was such an easy mark - a delicate little pansy boy. And then they realize they’ve taken on a fucking tiger.

He never ceases to fucking astound me.

I don’t know which emotion is stronger, my pride in him, and the desire to it shout out to the world.

The desire to pull him into my arms and never, ever let anything threaten him again.

Or the desire to fucking pulverize the assholes who dared to touch him. Dared to threaten him. Dared to try to put him back into the fucking hospital.

Dared to try to take him away from me. Suddenly I start to shake. He realizes that, and puts his arms around me.

“Brian, I’m okay.”

Fuck! He’s the one who gets beaten up and he’s comforting me. How fucked is that?

I press my forehead against his.

“Why don’t you take a shower, and maybe lie down for a while.

He looks as if he’s about to argue, but then I guess he remembers the asshole in the other room and nods.  “Okay.”

I touch his face again.

“You know you’re fucking incredible, don’t you?”

His eyes light up then, and he gets that look, like a kid who’s just been given the greatest present.  Shit! it is so easy to make him happy. Why the fuck was it so hard before?

I have to kiss him now. So I do. And then we hold each other for a while.

I guess we should call the police. That’s what Deb would say. Hell, she’d fucking demand it. But this is real life for faggots. Sometimes we get beaten up. Occasionally we die from it. That’s how it is. It’s not right. And it does make me fucking angry. But it’s still how life is.

I help him to get undressed and then go to check on our not-so-friendly delivery guy.

He has the TV set up now, and is hooking up the DVD and video.

Justin will probably have my ass for getting this stuff so soon, but hell! We no longer have to live like a couple of paupers, and he loves to watch TV. Fucking Powder Puff Girls and all sorts of shit.

Besides. I didn’t really want to go out tonight. We’ve hardly seen each other all week except to fuck and sleep. I just want to lie around with him, order in some food so neither of us has to cook, and relax. Maybe a DVD. Okay, definitely a DVD. I bought him The Two Towers. He loves those movies. He’ll talk for hours if you let him about the designs, and how the director mixed live action and models and CG and shit. He’s already got the first one, but when this came out we couldn’t fucking afford it. We fucking can now, so I got it for him.

But he can’t watch it without a player. And it would be fucking useless on that tiny piece of shit we’ve been peering at, so …

But he’ll still have his say about it, no doubt.

The guy looks up at me and then asks, “Is he okay?”

I shrug. I don’t want to go into it with this breeder, and I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to feel the anger. Or the fear. I just want to have a good night with Justin.

“What happened?”

I’m ready to lose it. This guy is probably just like the fucking assholes who jumped him, who … I feel the shakes start again, and go over and pour myself a Beam.

Then I turn back to the guy. He fucking wants to know? Fine.

“Some fag hating fuckers jumped him and tried to fucking punch him into next week. But they picked the wrong faggot this time because he took them on.”

He gave me a look. I guess he didn’t believe me. Well, I can understand that, I suppose.

“What? You think a little fairy like that would just curl up and let them kick the shit out of him? You want to see his knuckles?”

The guy’s face changes and I can see a look of something close to admiration come into his eyes. Fucking right!

“But he’s okay?”

I nod. “This time.”

He looks at me.

Then for some reason I say, “This time one of them didn’t have a baseball bat.”

“What?”

I pour myself another drink. Then stop. Justin will not be happy if I get pissed. I don’t want to leave it there, and I don’t want to look like a fucking twat by pouring it back into the bottle, so I offer it to the guy.

He looks surprised, but he takes it.

“Todd,” he says.

I look at him. I care what his name is? Then I figure, what the hell? “Brian.”

“Thanks, Brian.”

He takes a sip and squats back down to hook up some more fucking cords.

“Someone hit him with a baseball bat?” 

He sounds … he sounds shocked. He looks up at me, and I see it in his eyes. He is shocked. He’s fucking appalled.

He should be.

I nod. “He was in a coma for three days. Therapy. Damaged the motor center of his brain. Nearly lost the use of his right hand.”

I stop for a moment, and then it comes out.

“He’s an artist.” My throat is tight and I can hardly get the words out.

Because that had been the worst. The fucking worst. Worse even than the fact that he can’t remember the one fucking romantic thing I ever fucking did for him.

Because this was like losing himself. His soul. And all I could do was watch while it tore him apart.

“Shit!”

He looks up at me again, and this time the admiration is plain.

“He must be a brave little fucker.”

I meet his eyes, and I nod proudly.

“Yeah. He is. He’s fucking incredible.”

He smiles at me. “I’m glad he’s okay.”

I nod and have to turn away. It must be all the dust from the packing or something because my eyes are stinging.

Then I hear the TV come on and I turn around.

He’s got it all set up and he flips through the channels to make sure the TV is working and then tries out the video, and the DVD.

He stands up, and dusts off his hands.

“All set to go.”

I nod as he packs up. “Looks good. Thanks.”

He turns back to me. “Sure. If there’s any problem, my cell number’s on the delivery sheet, just give me a call. I’ll be around all weekend and I can come over and fix it.”

I meet his eyes. “Okay. Thanks. I will.”

He moves to the door and then stops. “Ah, Brian …”

He breaks off and looks awkward, “I’m sorry about your … friend.”

“Partner. He’s my partner.”

He grins self consciously as he says, “Your partner. I’m glad he’s okay. I hope they find the pricks who roughed him up.”

I laugh harshly.

“What would be the point? The fucker who hit him with the baseball bat and damned near killed him got community service.”

Now he really looks fucking shocked. “That’s terrible. What the fuck’s that about? Jesus, you’d think that the courts would have at least thrown his ass in jail for a while. If it were up to me, I’d let fuckers like that rot. Who needs them on the streets?”

I walk him to the door, nodding in agreement. Somehow having this breeder getting angry on Justin’s behalf made me feel better.

We shake hands at the door, and I lock it behind him. For tonight, at least, anything that can harm him is on the other side of that door. In here, he’s safe. And we’re together.

*****

Justin

I don’t go to sleep. Just drift. I can hear Brian actually talking to that prick. I’m not really listening but suddenly I hear “baseball bat” and my heart starts thudding and I feel my palms go sweaty.

He’s telling that fucking prick about that. Why would he do that?

I’m listening now, all right. I’m angry. I don’t want every fag hating fucking breeder to know ...

“He’s an artist.”

I hear the pain in Brian’s voice and it almost brings me undone. I remember him giving me the computer, trying so desperately to help me. And I remember what I total shit I was.

“… a brave little fucker.”

I find myself grinning a little. Well, maybe. Or maybe just stupid. But I had hit the guy, at least.

“He’s incredible.”

I can not believe how Brian sounds. Like … like he’s so proud of me. And he’s saying this to a total stranger. A straight stranger at that.

Then I hear other noises and at first I’m confused, but then I realize. A TV. He’s bought a fucking TV.

I don’t know whether to laugh or get up and hit him.

Less than a week away from total penury and he’s bought a TV. Not a table and chairs so that we can actually sit down to a meal. Not a decent couch, so we can get rid of that moth eaten thing Mom leant us. Oh, no. A fucking TV. At least it’s not a new fucking suit, I suppose.

He doesn’t even watch TV. Well, the news sometimes.

Then it hits me.

He hasn’t bought it for him.

I get up and pull on some sweats and go into the bathroom to wash my face, because I don’t want him to see me with my eyes all swollen from those damned allergies.

When I come out, the guy is gone. Brian is just closing the door.

He locks it and sets the alarm, and I find myself breathing a sigh of relief.

He looks over to me and smiles as he walks toward me.

I come into his arms and we kiss for a long long time. Then he grins, and turns me towards the TV. That’s when I realize that he’s bought a whole entertainment system. Huge flat screen TV, video, DVD, and monster speakers.

I just stand and stare at it.

He walks over to the kitchen counter and picks up a couple of menus.

“Thai or Chinese?”

“Pizza?” I ask hopefully.

He gives a huge sigh. “Okay, pizza. Just this once.”

I grin at him. He picks something else up and holds it behind his back as he comes to me.

I go to put my arms up around his neck, but he pulls back and instead waves something in my face. Then I take in what it is.

“Brian!” I hear my voice squeak, but I don’t care.

I reach for him again and this time he comes into my arms. I hug him fiercely.

“Thank you,” I say, and I hope he knows that it’s not just the things he’s bought that I’m thanking him for.

He presses his forehead against mine, and for a while we just stand there and hold each other. And it’s okay. It really is okay.

*****

Brian

Later, we’re sprawled together on the futon, backs propped against the couch, as the film finally gets close to the fucking end.

“What can men do against such reckless hate?”

For a moment the words seem to echo round the whole fucking loft..

“Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.”

We say nothing, but our eyes meet, and we know. We both know that’s the answer. You have to take a stand. Each time. Every time.

He took his today, and I am so fucking proud of him. I took a different stand with Todd, and maybe that built a bridge or two.

I’ve got a meeting with Senator Baxter on Monday.

Maybe it’s time she thought about her stand on hate crimes.

 

Chapter 7: Saturday Chores by Wren

 

 

Saturday Chores


Brian

I feel like a total shit for making him go off to the supermarket by himself, but it had to be done. This situation has gone on long enough. I need to do something about it today. I just hope the guy gets here so we can do what needs to be done, and I can get him out of here before Justin gets home.


Justin

I can not believe that Brian flatly refused to come with me to the supermarket. Okay, I know he hates going there on Saturday. We both prefer to go at night during the week. But last week neither of us had the time, it's probably going to be the same next week, and there's no food in the house. Not even his guava juice.

It's okay for him to say that he has to work. So do I. I have a shit load of study that I have to get through this weekend, and now I have to get all our groceries as well. If I'd known he was going to do this, I could have ordered them on line last night. But now they wouldn't deliver them till Monday, and we do need some fucking food no matter what he thinks! And it's going to take forever. If we'd both come, we could have split up and it would have taken half the time.

He's just in a shitty mood because we kept getting interrupted this morning.

First of all Deb marched in demanding to know if he'd heard from Michael because they're not back yet and he hasn't called her since Monday. Ben has called a couple of times, to talk to Hunter, so she knows that he's alright, but she just wants to know what's going on. So she barged in on us just as Brian was starting to rim me. We were on the couch, not even in the bedroom.

Shit! I was so embarrassed, and her going on about ‘nothing she hasn't seen before, Sunshine' did not make me feel any better.

She'd only been gone about half an hour and Brian was just starting to make me feel much better, only this time with his mouth on my cock instead of my ass, when Lindsay pranced in, wanting to know if we can take Gus tomorrow so that she and Mel can do some family lunch thing.

Fuck! I hate it that everyone feels they can just come in and out of the loft like it's some sort of hotel lobby. Shit! Lindz and Mel even charged in one night when Brian was spanking me. It was months before we heard the end of that - not until I'd gone off with Ethan. And then Mel actually mentioned it in front of Ethan once. Making it out like Brian was some monster who beat me and that I was lucky to escape. When actually, we'd only been playing and if they hadn't arrived it would have been really hot.

And now after such a shitty morning, I'm stuck here. It's times like this I wish I was back at Daph's. At least we'd do this together and laugh about all the straight couples and their terrible kids and it wouldn't be so bad.

Still, I guess with all the screaming kids here, it's probably just as well Brian didn't come. He wouldn't have last five minutes without getting really prissy about it and making comments about the kids and then the parents would get all antsy, and it would just be more aggro. I'm probably better off doing it on my own.

At least I can buy whatever I want without him pulling faces because it's not the fat-free variety.

And if I get some icecream, maybe he can make it up to me when I get home.

He'd just better be there when I get back is all. I suppose I should be grateful he made me take the car. At least that probably means he won't be going out. And he's promised, no tricks in the loft.


Brian

Well, that's done.

I know he's going to be pissed with me when he gets back, but hell! we are not some fucking pair of breeders who have to be joined at the hip. If that's what he thought he was getting when he moved back in, he can just ...

Okay, stop right there, Kinney. Don't do that ... don't do it to him. Don't do it to yourself. You asked him to move in because you want him here. Don't fucking push him away again as soon as you start to feel like people might actually consider that the two of you are a fucking couple.

You are. Get used to it.

Fuck! Why is this so fucking hard?

I do want him here. I want him to know that I want to be with him.

I just don't want anyone else to know.

How fucked is that? Since when do I give a shit what other people think?

Since forever, you sack of shit. Like the crack some dickhead in a supermarket made that time about "used to be a real stud" that made you take the zucchini man home. That proved you were still a stud, right? And burst the bubble of Justin's little ‘relationship' fantasy, didn't it? Taught him his place.

Yeah. Yeah, Kinney. That worked out real well. So well he took off with the fucking fiddler and that was just what you wanted. Got your fucking life back didn't you? Except that it turned out the only life you really wanted was the one with him in it. Which you'd fucked up royally.

You can't do that this time round. If you do, if you fuck this up, that's it. You'll never have another chance at this.

He's your chance.

Don't fuck it up.

I won't. This time I won't.

 

 

Justin

He's down here almost as soon as the car pulls up. He must have been watching for me. He'd deny it if I said anything, the shit, but he must have been. For some reason, that makes me feel better, but I'm not going to let him off the hook. I am still seriously pissed off with him for pulling this shit.

He doesn't say anything, just takes the bags out of the car. He takes nearly all of them and when I try to get some off him he just shrugs.

We get into the elevator and he grins at me.

"Get everything we need?"

I nod. Thinking about the super rich chocolate icecream. And the mango. And the French vanilla. I couldn't decide. I find myself licking my lips, and when I look at him, he's watching my tongue. I can feel myself start to get hard, and although I want to play hard to get, it's a lost cause. I can't wait to get inside.

We get to the door, and I try to fit my key into the lock. I'm really impatient now, and the damned thing just won't go in.

He puts down the bags, and takes his keys out of his pocket.

"You might need this."

He hands me a key and I stare at it. It's brand new. I look at him trying to work this out.

"Aren't you going to open the door?"

Automatically I put the key in the lock and it turns easily. That's when it finally sinks in. Why he sent me off alone to the supermarket, making me mad as hell with him, and why he had to be home alone, the twat.

I turn to him and meet the eyes of a man who has done this to please me. A man who hopes that he has; hopes that I'm getting his message about who is on the inside of his life, and who he's prepared to push away a little. His message about whose home this is now.

My heart does a major flutter. I guess under the circumstances I'm just going to have to forgive him. I'd like to get the message across to him that he could have just told me, that he doesn't have to make everything a big production number, and spring surprises all the time. But that's Brian. This is going to be life with Brian. He likes to do things that way. Maybe it's to make up for all the nice surprises he didn't get when he was a kid. Who knows? It's just how he is, and I might as well get used to it.

Just like he's going to have to get used to the idea of eating carbs after seven and sharing tubs of non-fat-free icecream every now and again. Compromise. That's what it's all about.

I throw my arms around him and he grins down at me and then presses his forehead to mine.

"Just us," he promises. "No more interruptions."

Then he kisses me and it's a while before I remember that the icecream will be melting. Then I figure, let it melt. It's better when it's soft anyway.

Now where are the spoons?

 

 

Chapter 8- Side Effects by Wren

 

 

Side Effects

 

 

Justin

Brian has been really impossible the last few days.

I don't know if it's work, or his damned experiment, or maybe it's just me. Maybe it was too soon for me to move back in. Maybe there are just too many changes going on at once. I don't know. I just know that I have to do something, because otherwise I'm going to seriously have to consider killing him.

Sunday was fine. Mel and Lindz had some family thing with Mel's cousins, so we had Gus for most of the day. We took him to the Zoo, and that wore him out, so he slept for quite a while in the afternoon which gave both Brian and I a chance to catch up on some of our work. After the girls had picked him up, we still had lots to do, so we just had a quick dinner (well, okay, we fucked and then had dinner), and got on with it. I've got a test this week on stuff I've hardly even looked at yet, and he has two big client meetings, plus the first meeting with Senator Baxter and her campaign committee.

I don't think either of us realised how much work we would have just to catch up. And, in Brian's case, repair the damage that's been done to the relationship with important clients. It seems like they all want to meet with him to reassure themselves that he is back on board, and that their accounts are being looked after by him personally. But all those meetings leave him hardly any hours in the day to do the work. So all that's left are the hours in the night.

It's Tuesday now, 8pm and he's still not home. I don't think he's out tricking. In some ways it would be better if he were, at least then he'd come home more relaxed.

As it is, we haven't even fucked since Sunday, just after the girls picked up Gus. We both had stuff to do Sunday night and he was still at the computer when I finally went to bed, doing some research on the Senator's previous campaigns.

We forgot to set the alarm - well, I thought he would, and he thought I had, so yesterday morning he was running really late. Then last night I was working at the diner till nearly midnight and by the time I got home, it was all I could do to get my clothes off and fall into bed. He didn't seem to mind, or maybe he just wasn't interested.

I don't know. Maybe he was out tricking while I was working, so he wasn't really up for it. Except that he was snaky again this morning. He started on about how dumb it is for me to be working at the diner, and that I don't need to and all that shit; but until I can get all my schoolwork on track, I just can't commit to the sort of hours I'd need to be available for work at ... I was going to say "Vanguard" but it's Vanguard-Kinney now. I get a buzz out of that; I can only imagine what it's like for Brian. If he ever had time to stop and appreciate it.

He was going on about me working as many hours at the diner as I would in the art department and not getting paid as much, but that's not true. With tips, I actually make more at the diner per hour. And anyway, I can fit the diner in around my extra classes, and study groups more easily. I'm not tied to office hours there.

We finally got so pissed off at each other that we had separate showers. And then he said he didn't have time for breakfast and just rushed out.

It's just so not Brian. At our worst, the sex has always been great.

Apart from that time right after the ... thing. Right after the bashing. It's weird how even now my mind sort of steers away from that word. From anything that actually says what happened. We all seem to do it. Mom calls it "the incident". Daph says "the Chris Hobbs thing". Everyone else, if they mention it at all, talks about the Prom, when what they mean is what happened after. The Prom was the best night of my life. Even if I can't remember it, I know that's true. That Brian came at all, but that he danced with me the way Daph describes it ... and kissed me, right there in front of everyone. I just wish ...

Well, right now I wish I knew what's going on in Brian's head.

 

Brian

By the time I got home last night he was in bed asleep.

I'd spent all night standing over those dickheads in the art department to make sure that this time they got the designs for Brown and Liberty Air at least vaguely the way I wanted them. Fuck! I wish he was still working there. At least then I could maybe get my designs close to right the first time round instead of wasting so much fucking time.

I was so horny, I nearly woke him up. But he's exhausted. I want him to quit the diner, but when I even mentioned that yesterday morning he went into full drama princess mode.

Well, no, I guess that's not fair, but he made it clear as fuck that he wasn't intending to quit any time soon. Kept on about needing the money, and needing to be independent, and all that shit.

Fuck!

My family have been sponging off me for years.

Mel and Lindz have their hands out on a regular basis. (I mean that's okay. I told Lindz that she shouldn't have to worry about money, and I'd never want Gus to go without. But how come I'm only his father when they need more money, or a baby sitter?)

And Mikey, ... well, I don't want to get into thinking about Mikey ...

But the one person that I actually want to take care of won't hear of it. Goes ballistic at the very idea.

Fuck!

Then it occurred to me that he should be getting some money at least from Rage. But when I asked him about that, he practically laughed in my face.

Said that there hadn't been anything from the last two issues. He just shrugged it off. Like he wasn't expecting anything.

I guess that they might not be selling. I haven't really asked. That's Justin's business. And Michael's.

And right now I just don't want to have to deal with Mikey.

He and Ben got back Monday and he was straight on the phone to me. Told Cyn it was an emergency and had her put him through to me in the middle of the fucking meeting with Dianne Baxter. Just to discuss "the situation".

Like it's any of my fucking business where he and Ben decide to live.

I got him off the phone by promising to meet him after work, but I wish I hadn't. I should have just told him I was too busy.

We met at Woody's and had a drink and talked. He talked, anyway. About all sorts of shit. And then he wanted to go to Babylon. Fuck! Like I had the time or the energy for that. He got really pissed off when I wouldn't and started saying stuff about how he supposed I had to get home to the wifey and I just got up and left. He's been leaving messages, but I can't talk to him right now. If I said what I really want to say, then that would mean ...

I was hoping to talk to Justin when I got home, but of course he was working extra fucking hours at the diner wasn't he? And by the time he got home, he was out on his feet.

So yesterday morning we had a fucking row about nothing, about that stupid fucking job.

Last night I had to work.

And this morning he pulls this fucking shit about me fucking tricking. Fuck!

As if I'd had fucking time! Or the energy, but I'm not going to tell him that.

Said that if the fucking experiment was making me so miserable I should just fucking forget it. Like I need his permission, or something.

This is so fucked up. This is why I don't do relationships. This is what I didn't want to happen this time round.

See, if you just don't communicate, and accept that, then everything's fine. But as soon as you start, you have to keep going and it's all such a complicated load of shit.

Now he's pissed off with me, and he thinks I'm tricking again, which is pissing me off, because I'm not. But I don't just want to tell him that because ...

Well, okay, there probably isn't a good reason. I just don't. I shouldn't have to justify myself to him.

He says I've been so fucking cranky the last few days. Shit! We haven't fucked since Sunday, what does he expect? So how come every time we just might have a chance to fuck, we have a fucking row instead?

Think, Kinney. Think.

If you don't figure out how to fix this, you're going to fuck it up again.

You're going to lose him.

Fuck!

 

Justin

I can not believe him. I just can't.

I got home from PIFA today at about 5. There's no way I expected him to be there. All the way home I was trying to work out whether I should call him and see if I couldn't get him to come home for dinner, or if I should just clear out for a while.

Things have been so bad this week. And I know it hasn't just been Brian. It's been me as well. I got angry this morning. I don't care if he's tricking. I really don't. I just want him to be honest with me, and with himself. If he is, I want to hear it from him, not from one of our friends. And if he's not, but he wants to, then he should be honest about that too. That's all I was trying to say. But somehow it all came out wrong, and I sounded like a total jealous housewife. No wonder he got pissed off.

I thought maybe I should move back to Daph's. At least till the end of the semester. Till I get all this work out the way, and get caught up, and maybe then ...

I was thinking about that all the way home on the bus. He sold the Vette at last, a guy came over on Sunday afternoon and handed over a check on the spot, and he hasn't even had time to pick out a new company car yet, so I'm bussing and he's taking taxis. He says I should too, but fuck that. I am not living off his money. I won't. Well, no more than I have to when we're living in his place, and using his furniture. What there is of it, because we haven't had time for that yet, either.

By the time I got home I was so miserable, I just wanted to crawl under the covers and sleep and hope it would all just go away. But I knew it wouldn't and I had to try to decide. I just wished we could talk to each other without these rows.

Then I opened the door, and Brian was there.

The first words he said were, "I have to go back to work," and I wanted to scream at him to just go, and sorry I'd come home when he wasn't expecting me and all sorts of stupid shit.

But then he said, really quiet and sad, ‘I just needed to see you."

And all of a sudden all I wanted to do was to throw myself into his arms. But I didn't. Because although I wanted to, it was no good. That wasn't enough anymore.

I went over to him, and he said, "I thought that maybe if you got home we could have a quick .."

And I was ready to cut him off, and tell him that fucking wasn't going to solve our problems. It hadn't last time, and it sure as shit wasn't going to this time, when he finished:

"... talk."

And for a moment I thought that I just must have heard wrong, because Brian Kinney could not have said that.

But he cupped one hand round the back of my neck, and pressed his forehead against mine, and said, "I know I've been ... "

"Impossible," I put in, and fucked if he didn't grin at me. That tongue in cheek grin that he knows gets me so hot.

"Yeah," he agreed. "Impossible."

I butted my forehead back against his and said, "So've I."

He sort of laughed then. "Yeah, you have."

"Bri ...," I tried to tell him then what I'd tried to say this morning only to have it all go wrong, but he shushed me.

"No, listen." He sucked his lips in and then huffed out a breath. Then he said, "It's not you. Okay? It isn't you, Justin. And it's not about the fucking tricking. There's something else on my mind, and I do want to talk to you about it, but .. "

"Brian ... whatever it is. You don't have to, if you don't ..."

"Justin, I want to. I do. But it might take me a while," he grinned again, and somehow I knew that he really did want to share whatever was bothering him with me, and I couldn't help but slide my arms around his waist and hug him. He put both arms around me then, and touched his forehead against mine again.

"I'm new at this shit. I need time to sort of work up to it. Okay?"

I can only give a little nod. I feel so relieved. And so fucking happy. So why the hell I also felt like crying I've no idea.

He kissed away the tears from the corners of my eyes without saying anything. Then he hugged me hard. While I pressed even closer into his arms, he said, "Look, I have to get back to work."

I sigh and nod and move away. "Yeah. And I've got that test tomorrow and I still haven't looked at half the stuff I need to."

He nods. "Okay. But this weekend's Easter, so you probably won't have any classes on Friday, right?"

I nod slowly. "But you'll still have to ..."

"No. I'm just about on top of everything with the major accounts. Between tonight and tomorrow, I should have them nailed. Anything else can wait till next week. I thought ...,"

He broke off and looked sort of embarrassed and confused. I just stared at him and waited. God knows what he had to be embarrassed about. But part of me couldn't wait to find out. I found myself having to fight not to laugh out loud at the look on his face.

He stood up straighter and half turned away before he went on, "I thought if we both finished up early tomorrow we could ... gooutfordinnersomewhere."

The last words came out all in a rush, but there was no mistaking what he said. My God. He wanted to take me out to dinner. I don't know if it counts as a date when you're living together, but still!

I said slowly. "Yeah. That sounds good."

I was trying not to sound as thrilled as I felt, but I didn't fool him for a minute. He turned back to look at me and gave that tongue in cheek grin again. He didn't say anything, but I knew he was onto me. I could only smile at him like a fool.

He laughed, and grabbed hold of the front of my sweatshirt and pulled me against him. He put his mouth close to my ear and whispered, "I thought we could eat."

He paused and just allowed his breath to tickle my ear.

"And talk."

This time, he blew into it gently. My breathing started to get very heavy, and the only consolation I had for the way he was affecting me was that by the way his cock was starting to jut into me, it was affecting both of us.

He gave a deep throaty laugh when he realised how turned on I was getting, and that made my cock harden even faster.

I'd put up with all the teasing I was going to put up with. We hadn't fucked since Sunday for god's sake!

I grabbed him round the neck with one hand and bit at his lips, while I forced the other hand down inside his pants. I squeezed his cock a couple of times, and then ran my thumb over the slit. Precum seemed to gush across my fingers.

Before I could even stop to get his pants undone so I could go on with the job properly, he had mine undone and was pulling them down. For a moment I thought he was going to bend me over the stool and fuck me right there, and I wouldn't have objected to that at all.

But he grabbed my hand and started dragging me to the bed. When he realised how hampered I was by the pants that were down round my ankles, he just heaved me up over his shoulder, carried me to the bed and dumped me on it.

He pulled off my shoes, and I kicked my pants off while he toed his shoes off and undid his pants. He didn't even stop to take them off, just grabbed the tube of lube and reached for my ass, while I grabbed a condom and reached for his cock.

He was buried inside me faster than I would have thought possible. I think we set some sort of world record. Then he stopped for a moment to make sure I was alright. When I bucked up against him, he grinned down at me and then finally, finally! fucked me hard and fast, fisting my cock at the same time, so that I wound up coming first, although he wasn't far behind me.

After he'd finished, he rolled onto his back and got rid of the condom into the bin we keep near the bed. Then he stretched out his arm behind my head, so I lifted it, and he slid his arm down under it. I put my hand on his thigh.

"Fuck! I needed that."

He nodded. "Yeah."

I turned my head and met his eyes. They were smiling now like they hadn't been all week.

I stretched over to kiss him and he rolled on his side to meet me and the kisses went on for quite a while. Finally he groaned.

"I really have to get back to work."

I sighed, but nodded.

"And you have to study."

"Yeah."

We both got up, and he went into the bathroom to clean up. When he came out, he'd taken off his pants. We both grinned. "Messy, aren't we?" I said.

He laughed and nodded while he pulled out a pair of tailored slacks. Even after hours, I guess he has to keep up the "partner" image. He pulled them on, then stood still for a moment while I looked round for my other shoe.

"Justin?"

He sounded serious and I looked up.

"Will you do me a favour?"

"Uh, sure." My heart was beating a bit. I'd do whatever he asked, when he asked like that, so serious that I knew it was important to him.

"Will you not take on any shifts at the diner this weekend?"

I was silent, and he went on.

"I know how you feel about the money. I do. But we need to spend some time together when one or both of us aren't fucking exhausted."

I look at him. He meets my eyes straight on. He means this. This is important to him. He's asking me to put him first.

Looked at that way, there's only one answer.

I nod at him. "Okay. It's a deal. You don't bring any work home, and I won't work at the diner."

He nods. "Okay."

Then I realise that I have an essay due next week.

"Brian ..."

"It's okay. I know you might have some study to do. That's different. We can work around that."

I smile at him, and the words ring through my head: ‘We can work around it. We.'

I go to him and he comes to meet me. We kiss, quick and light.

"I'll try not to be too late, but it might be a while."

"Okay."

"If I'm not home, don't study too late. You'll be useless tomorr..."

"Yes, mom," I tease him.

He swats my ass. Then he pulls me close again for a minute.

"And just so you know," he says, and kisses me lightly on the nose, "the experiment is still alive and well."

Stupidly, I have to fight back tears again as he goes down the steps and towards the door. I want to run after him and hug him and tell him ... tell him ...

He stops at the door and I move towards him. Then I stop. If I touch him now, I won't be able to let go. He'll have to tear my arms away from him to get to work.

He smiles at me, that wonderful sweet Brian smile. Then he sucks his lips and finally says, really quietly, but so seriously that I know he means it. I know this is a promise and one he won't break. "Justin ... if that changes ... you'll hear it from me first."

Then he smiles at me again and he leaves and all I can feel is ... too much. I feel too much for this man who can break my heart with a word, and mend it again with a breath.

And I understand him now. This is how he feels. This is why he's afraid. This is what he's fought against all this time. Because he feels the same way. And it's fucking terrifying.

Or would be, if it were anyone but him.

Because I'm finally realising how fully I can trust him.

The question is, does he know he can trust me?

No wonder he's been scared. After the way things went last time, the way I lied to him, and deceived him and finally left him, I can't believe he has the strength and the courage to take me on again. And I resolve to do better this time. Not to fuck it up. Not to give him cause to doubt me, to doubt himself, to doubt us.

I'll do better. I have to. I am not going to let us fuck this up again. I'm going to fight for us, just the way he has today. When things go wrong I'm going to stop being a drama princess and find a way to make them right again.

Because we are right. We belong together. Sometimes he's hard work. So am I. We both need to be prepared to work hard at us. He is. And I will too.

As I sit down to go on with my study I suddenly feel like between us we can take on the world. Hell! if we can deal with each other, no one else stands a chance.

 

Chapter 9: A Hard Night's Work by Wren

A Hard Night's Work

 

Brian

I went back to work fighting to keep the smile off my face. It's okay. We're gonna be okay. Another fucking crisis averted. And of course, it's just when I'm feeling relaxed and ... okay, happy, that something happens.

I walked in to the conference room where the team were putting together this fucking pitch, and came face to face with the hottest thing I'd seen since ... well, since I left the loft, but I'm not thinking that right then. Face it, Kinney, you weren't thinking anything, except with your dick.

Turns out he's been doing some freelance work for us in the art department since we're short one intern. He'd seen the layouts and had made some suggestions that everyone thought I should hear. So they'd brought him along.

He doesn't look like an artist. He's tall and tanned and taut, just the way I like them. And, by the way he was looking at me, he liked what he saw, too.

So I listened to his ideas, and, of course, I had to stand real close to him, brushing against his ass, while he pointed out the things that he'd change with the fucking pitch. And he brushed back, just enough to let me know he was interested, without it being all that obvious to the dickheads I work with. And fuck me if I'm not seriously considering a toilet break so I can fucking drag him off and feed my dick down his throat - at least as a first course, with more to follow later back at ...

Fuck!

I am such a fucking twat.

And what really makes that clear to me - later, at least - is that the first fucking thing that came into my mind then was, ‘Fuck Justin. He'll just have to put up with it.'

Fuck!

It's been less than two weeks since I told him ... okay, promised him ... that I would never do that to him again. And the first time ...

Fuck!

I am an asshole. A total fucking asshole.

I moved away from the guy so fast that there were damn near skid marks on the fucking carpet.

***

It was fucking weird when I got home. I felt fucking weird. I felt like I was some cheating fucking husband.  I'm not a husband. And I'm free to fuck who I want, so how can I fucking "cheat"?

But I feel so fucking bad about what I was thinking - or not thinking. And I don't want him to know what a shit I am.

Except that he already does know, God help him. Better than anyone. And for some reason he still fucking stays. He still fucking loves me. And I don't ... I can't lose that. I can't. And I don't fucking know what to do.

Once I would have gone to Babylon on the way home and got drunk and wasted and fucked my brains out and come home at four in the fucking morning and said, "So what? I'm a fucking free agent, Sunshine. Fucking live with it."

And partly the reason I don't is that I'm afraid he won't. I'm so fucking afraid he'll leave again. But you know what? If it was just that, I'd go ahead and do it. I'd make fucking sure that he left. Left now. Left on "my" terms.

But it's not that. That's not the main thing driving me anymore.

What drives me now is that I don't want to disappoint him.

Hell, I don't want to disappoint myself.

See, last time round Justin loved me, but he didn't like me very much. He had no fucking reason to. But I did. Like him, I mean. From the first night. I didn't fucking fall in love with him that night. But I guess I did fall in like.

That's why I took him to the hospital. Asked him to name Gus. Let him stay the night. Hell, even told him about the most famous shower scene since Psycho.

Because I sort of wanted him to like me too. How fucking pathetic is that?

I got over it. Well, I made myself get over it.

The night down by the car I burned my bridges. I couldn't have some silly kid hanging around, thinking that we could be lovers; couldn't let myself think that we could be friends. No matter how cute and smart and funny he was.

And after that it was all a fucking mess, and I gave him so many fucking mixed messages that his mind must have been like a fucking salad sometimes.

But this time round it's different. This time he's starting to like me. He's starting to feel like he can trust me. He's starting to believe in me. In a way that no one else does. No one else ever has. Not Mikey, not Lindz. No one.

And I don't want to lose that. That's why I didn't go to Babylon to throw a "fuck you!" in his face. That's why I don't know what to do now. If I tell him that I almost fucked up in the most major way, will that count as me being a total prick? Or will it count as me being honest?

I'm fucked if I know. God, I hate this relationship crap.

 

Justin

It wasn't all that late when Brian got home. Maybe eleven. He was in a weird mood, too, when he did. Very quiet and thoughtful.

I guess I'd expected that we'd pick up where we left off. I mean, I'd studied hard all the time he'd been gone so that when he got home we could fuck our brains out, but he seemed ...

Weird.

He came in and seemed to sort of hesitate when he saw me. Then he came over and kissed me really quickly on the cheek and said, "I need a shower."

And I guess that's when it hit me. Because I knew that look, then. I'd seen it in the mirror after the frat boy incident, after the first time with Ethan. A sort of ‘what have I done?' look. And part of me wants to sit and cry like the stupid little faggot I used to be, and part of me wants to sit out here and not react, not do anything, until he tells me. Because he promised, he fucking promised he'd tell me.

But mostly I just want to go to him and make sure that it's alright, that we're alright. And the only thing that stops me is that I don't know how to do that.

And all of that goes through my head in about half a minute, and then he stops on the steps and looks down at me and I try to look at him ,look him straight in the eye; I am so determined I am not going to fucking cry because it doesn't matter. Some meaningless fucking trick doesn't matter and I am not going to let it matter. Not going to let it fuck this up for us. And I don't know how much he saw in my face, but suddenly he smiled and said, "You going to come and scrub my back?"

And all I could do was stare at him. At least, I thought that's all I could do, but my body seemed to have other ideas because it was up the steps to him and then we were kissing and his arms were tight around me and there was only him and me and the feel of us, of our bodies and our hearts thumping against each other's skin and somehow we're out of our clothes and in the shower and I don't remember how we got here.

But it doesn't matter.

Because suddenly he's not quiet or thoughtful or sad or anything even remotely like that. Suddenly he's laughing and teasing and looks like the man he was meant to be. The man I've always known he was. He's happy and loving and for some stupid fucking reason that makes me really want to cry. Because he's those things because he's with me. I do that for him. Me.

 

Brian

It only took till I got as far as the bedroom steps to know that I was fucking up. He had gone really quiet and was sitting at the computer with a look on his face that said, "I know you've got something to tell me, so are you going to fucking spit it out, or are you going to fucking pretend that nothing's wrong, everything's fine and you haven't been dicking around like some useless fucking asshole who doesn't have a clue what he's got right here at home waiting for him?"

Well, okay, maybe I was projecting a bit there. But he was onto me, just the same.

So that made it easy. Now I had to tell him. And once I knew that, I suddenly felt like ... like it was okay. I might have come close to fucking up in the worst possible way, but I hadn't. I'd seen what I was doing and fucking stopped myself. And then I'd avoided the whole go out and get yourself wasted so you don't have to deal trap. I'd come home. I'd come home to him. And he was here. And ...

Just like that I could feel this big goofy smile on my face. I asked him if he was going to come and scrub my back and he was up the steps so fast I only just had time to open my arms to catch him, grab him, hold him against me.

I don't remember our clothes coming off. I don't remember getting into the bathroom or turning on the shower, but somehow we were there and it was all warm and wet and clean and happy. Suddenly we were happy. I felt like a little kid.

Well, okay, a little kid with a big fucking dick that hasn't had nearly enough action this week. But then his mouth was all over it, and I just leaned back and thanked ... someone, something ... that it was his mouth. That somehow I'd actually managed to keep my fucking dick in my pants for once, till I could put it in the place it belongs. Well, one of the places, because once he's got me hard and dripping he stands up and turns around, and braces himself and the condoms are just where I need them and the lube and then I'm inside him and this is even better.

I want to tease him, to take it slow, but hell! we can do that later. He's rocking back hard against me, practically jamming his ass onto my cock and he's so tight and hot and for some reason I'm suddenly aware of the amazing texture of the skin on his back. It's like no one else's that I've ever known. It's milky pale; even when, like now, he's aroused and the skin of his neck and the side of his face are flushed and hot, his back is still smooth and white and so fucking beautiful it takes my breath away.

So beautiful that I can't stand it and I come.

And then I pull out of him and he's making this mewling noise of frustration and disappointment, till I spin him round and drop to my knees in front of him, jamming my fingers hard up his ass and deep throating his cock so that before he can even finish shouting my name, he's there and my mouth is filled with the salty sweetness of his cum.

We kiss then, long and deep, and I know, I fucking know, that when we dry off and climb into bed I can fucking tell him what happened tonight and he won't be disappointed. He'll understand. And he'll understand what it means for us. And he'll go on loving me. He'll go on liking me.

Hell, he might even be sort of proud of me.

Fuck! Don't get carried away, Kinney.

You haven't fucked up. And you haven't lost him. And you haven't lost his respect. Or your own.

That's pretty much enough, don't you think?

I'd say that makes it a pretty fucking good night's work.

 

Chapter 10: Experiment #10 by Wren
Author's Notes:

 

Warnings: Again - not particularly Mikey friendly. Sorry about that, but I can only call `em like I see `em.

Justin

We were drying each other off when he dropped the towel he'd been rubbing over my chest and cupped his hands around my face.

"Justin … nothing happened."

I just shrugged a little, because I really didn't want to go into it right then. We'd been laughing and happy and that's how I wanted to go to bed.

But he tilted my face and made me look at him. So I took a deep breath and did, staring straight into those amazing hazel eyes. And he looked straight back at me.

"There was a guy - at work, someone they've got in to do some freelance art work - and I was … he was hot." 

He pulled his lips in then and his eyes dropped for a moment; then they met mine again.

"But nothing happened. I thought about it, and … it wasn't worth it."

I fight to keep my eyes from spilling tears, and he must know, must see, but he doesn't say anything, he just lets go of me and picks up the towel again. As he's hanging it up, he says, "I nearly went to Babylon on the way home, but I didn't do that either."

And there's something about his voice. Like he's a bit defiant as if he's waiting for me to dare to challenge his right to go to Babylon and get totally wasted and fuck his brains out with anyone who comes along; but also like … he's proud.  Like he's proud of himself for not doing any of that; proud that he came home to me.  And, yeah, he's embarrassed as well to be feeling that. But mainly he sees what he did tonight as an accomplishment; and he wants me to be proud of him too.

That's when it really hits me. He's telling me something huge here. And it might be even more huge that he's telling me. 

For some reason I suddenly flash on all the times when he was a kid that he must have come home after a day at school, proud of himself because he'd aced a test, or won some race. And got nothing from those asshole parents of his but scorn and criticism, if he was lucky; or the shit beaten out of him if his dad was in the mood. So he stopped coming home with those expectations that his parents would be proud of him, stopped ever exposing himself like that. And the `don't give a shit what you think' Kinney myth was born.

Except that here he is, telling me this amazing thing. And all over again I feel myself falling in love with him. He's the bravest person I know.

I don't really know how to react. I want to show him, tell him somehow that I've heard him, what he's said and all that he hasn't put into words, but I'm not sure how. Because making a big deal over this will make him close off again as much as ignoring what has happened here.

I touch his shoulder and he slowly turns to me again. He's looking rattled and like he doesn't quite know what to do now either.

I touch his face, stroking the fingers of each hand down from his temples to his chin and then I stretch up and kiss him.

"Thank you," I breathe against his mouth.

He shrugs, like it's no big deal. But then he smiles too, his sweet beautiful Brian smile. And the smile tells me that he's heard me, that he knows that he's been understood.

I hang up my towel, and he switches off the light and our hands find each other's and we make our way to bed hand in hand. Then we're lying close together in the bed that now belongs to only us. and gently, tenderly we find ways tell each other how we feel although the only comprehensible words are `yes' and `more' and the crying of each other's name.

Later, we find other ways, that aren't what you could call tender or gentle, but are thorough and satisfying and we fall asleep spooned together, me plastered to Brian's back, while he clasps my hand against his chest, and it is all, all, good.



Brian

As soon as I'd opened my mouth and told him that nothing had happened, I felt as if … I felt fucking terrified. As if I'd given him … everything. As if now he'd be able to …

Shit! I don't know. I only know I've never been more fucking scared in my life. 

So why the hell I heard my voice telling him that I hadn't even had the balls to at least go to Babylon and get laid I don't fucking know. That's right, Kinney, I thought. Just hand yourself over to him. Give him all the fucking keys to your psyche so that he can fucking pull you apart.

But then he touched me and I turned to look at him, and he stroked my face and somehow then it was okay. Because it was Justin. And I'm safe with Justin. Or if I'm not, then I'm fucking doomed anyway. If he turns on me, if I lose him, then … I am so completely fucked that it doesn't matter how much I try to pretend, there won't be anything of me left. So there's no point trying to fucking hold back. I have to go for fucking broke this time. Because there won't be anything, anything at all, if this falls apart.

Except maybe, to know that this time it wasn't because I was too much of a fucking coward to go for it.

So instead of making myself pull away, and heading for the Beam, I let myself feel … happy. Happy that he has heard me, has understood me.

Then I take him to bed. Or he takes me. It doesn't matter. And although I know that I should make sure that he goes straight to sleep, because he's got that damned test tomorrow, we fuck twice and if it wasn't for the test, I would have been up for more, because it felt so damned good. 

And after he has gone to sleep I lie there for a while thinking about that. About how I could have had a quick fuck with that guy and another, or more than one at Babylon, but that none of them would have felt like that. 

So why bother? I'm Brian Kinney for fuck's sake, and I never settle for less than the best. And the best is sleeping right beside me.

It's somewhere about there that I fall asleep.



Justin

At least we didn't sleep in this morning. Since the episode on Monday, I make sure to set the alarm when I get home from school, or the diner, so that it doesn't matter if we get distracted later. 

I half expected Brian to have pulled back a little after last night, but instead he went into mother-mode, making sure that I had breakfast (the solid kind in addition to the high protein I got during our shower) and insisting on driving me to school. We were both clowning around a lot though, so I guess we both needed to keep it light this morning.

Last night would have been amazing at any time. Coming after the week we've had it's made me feel like … like I'm living with someone I don't really know. I'm not sure that this is the man that I thought I was moving in with.

But what's really weird is that he's a lot like the man I thought I was falling in love with when I was seventeen. The man I was sure existed behind all the Brian Kinney bullshit. The one I was "on to". Maybe I wasn't as dumb and naïve back then as people thought. Hell, as I'd thought, looking back. Maybe all the time that seventeen year old kid really did see right into Brian. 

This time, I was prepared to accept Brian with all his limitations because I love him, and because life with that Brian is still infinitely better and more exciting and more fulfilling than life with anyone else could ever be. It's so typical of Brian, that just when you think that, just when you're prepared to say, okay, this will do, I know who you are now, and I'm not going to keep expecting you to change, or be something else, he fucking turns it all around and suddenly starts turning into who you thought he was in the first place.

Shit!

And while I'm thinking all this, I should be trying to get my head together for the test. But while I'm pulling out my pens and shit, I can feel this big stupid smile on my face, and part of me wants to say `Justin, be careful, don't expect too much' but the rest of me is saying, `fuck that. Last night was how we can be. And that's what I'm going to fight for.'

And I am. Brian being Brian, and me being me, it isn't always going to be like that, but that doesn't matter. Because at least I know now that sometimes it can be, and sometimes it will be, and when it isn't, I'll have that to hold on to.

And for some reason, it's that knowledge that makes me decide to go to see Michael to ask him about the Rage money. I've been kind of avoiding that because I feel like if we have some sort of argument about it, then Brian's going to be stuck in the middle again. But today, although I don't want that to happen, it doesn't seem to matter so much, and once the test is over I have the rest of the day free, so it's the perfect time.

There were a few people in the shop when I walked in the door, and so I just browsed through some of the comics, checking out the competition, I guess. Michael served a couple of people and then the only ones left were the ones who weren't in any kind of hurry, young kids mainly, just browsing and reading the comics off the stands, and fuck me if the first thing he says to me when he's free isn't, "So, have you finished the drawings for the next issue?"

I just stared at him a moment, and then I said, "No, not yet. I told you that it would be a while. I have heaps of stuff to catch up with for school, and I still have to work."

"Why? I mean, Brian's partner now. You can't need the money."

I look him right in the eye. "I don't live off Brian, Michael. I pay my own way. Or try to." 

I'm about to tell him that Brian might be partner, and he might be out of debt, but he's still only just started to draw a salary again, and we have a home with no furniture, and right now we don't even have a car. The company might make a good annual profit, but it won't be till the next financial year that Brian sees any of that money, and in the meantime he's poured just about everything into buying the partnership. He's not exactly cash rich at the moment.

But I don't. Because all that is Brian's business, and if he wants to share with Michael, that's up to him, but it's not my place to spill all his business to anyone. Not even Michael. Well, okay, from my point of view, especially Michael.

So I bite my tongue, and say, "About Rage … I wondered how the sales of the last three issues have gone."

And he goes sort of quiet then, and looks away, and starts fiddling with things behind the counter, so I know that he's hiding something.

"Well, you know … the first one did okay, `cause it was a novelty, I guess, but you can't expect that it'll really take off straight away."

"So how many copies did they sell?"

"Well, I don't remember the exact figures. A few. But of course, there are the publishing costs, and stuff …," he trails off.

"Michael," I say firmly, trying not to let the anger that is starting to build up inside me make my voice shake, "if there's any money coming, I need it."

He sighs in that exaggerated, put upon way he has when he's being a total martyr-prick and says, "Okay! I get it! I'll check out the books tonight and if there's anything, I can maybe let you have something next week."

And this is where I am really grateful that Brian made me get a contract drawn up when we first started to work on Rage. I'm not sure who he was trying to protect at the time, me or Michael, but I'm so glad now that he did it.

"I tell you what, how about if I get Mel to look at all the paperwork, and she can work out what we should each be getting?"

I try to say it really calmly, not like I'm accusing him, but just like I'm trying to be helpful, but he hits the roof.

He starts on this whiny tirade about how he does all the hard work, and deals with the publishers, and I just think that I can waltz in and take money that I haven't even earned, and all that kind of shit. Including, of course, that I'm just a spoiled little brat, and anyway why do I need the money when I can just get anything I want out of Brian? And about how he knows that I'm only using Brian, and Brian will wake up to it one day, and … well, a lot more of the same.

I don't let him throw me. And I don't start screaming back at him. I just say really quietly, "I think it would be better if we got someone independent to check out where things stand with the money, that's all. I'll organize something."

Then I leave.

I'm shaking with anger, and at the same time really upset. It's horrible having someone say that sort of stuff to you, even when it's Michael and I should know better than to let it get to me. And I can't even talk to Brian about it. That's the killer. Because I won't, I will not, put him in the middle of this. 

I might think that Michael's a total prick, but I've seen how much Brian loves him, and I won't put that at risk for him. So I'm just going to have to deal with this on my own. Except that I've just realized I don't really know how. And that going to ask Mel for help is not fair to her either as she's expecting Michael's baby (something I keep trying to forget). And Ted's not around, and I don't exactly know a lot of other people who fit that sort of bill. I could ask my Mom if she knows someone, but I don't want to throw things between her and Deb either. Deb has helped Mom a lot, dealing with me, and who I am, and all that shit, and it's not fair to mess that up for her.

So I call Daph and she's free so we get together and I can let it all out, all the joy from last night (well, the bit about how Brian was there when I got home, and how he wants to take me out to dinner and that stuff, anyway) and all my frustrated fury with Michael and we abuse him so much his ears must be just about ready to burst into flame and then my phone rings.

I checked the number and it was familiar, but I couldn't quite remember it, so I answered cautiously. "Justin Taylor."

"Hello, Justin?"

It was Cynthia. Suddenly my heart contracted. "Is something wrong? Is it Brian?"

"No, no, Justin, nothing like that. It's just that apparently the partnership contract is finally ready to be signed and Mr. Vance (and by the way she says that I know, somehow, that there is someone else there listening) wants to make an announcement about it, and have a bit of a celebration, so he asked me to call you and see if you could make it down here this afternoon. Say around four?"

I'm not quite sure what to say, but then her voice changes and I can sort of tell that the other person has gone. "Justin, it's okay. It's just that it's a sort of surprise for Brian and Vance really thought that he'd like it if you were there. Vance's wife's coming, and I think he wants to show that he knows that you and Brian are… well, you know …"

I do know what she means, and that's exactly the problem. Even after last night, maybe especially after last night, I don't want to take things for granted with Brian, and I don't want to push. Or make him feel trapped in any way.

I try to figure out what to do.

While I'm thinking, there's a bit of a noise at the other end, and I hear Cynthia say, "Oh, hi, Brian."

He says something, I'm not sure what, because it's suddenly very muffled, and I'm guessing that she's covered up the phone. Then abruptly Brian is on the line.

"So, Sunshine, are you coming to our little celebration?"

He sounds a bit edgy, so I say slowly, trying to think, to work out how to deal, "Well, I guess I could, but …"

Then he sort of sighs, and somehow I can hear him grinning, and he says, "Well, thank God for that then. At least I won't be by myself with all the fucking breeders clucking about. How did the test go?"

And it was that simple.



Brian

I suppose that Vance thought he could keep this little party a surprise, but it only took about ten minutes after Mel called to let me know that the contract had finally been fully agreed before I'd sussed it out. I went and asked him what the fuck was going on, and he came clean with a laugh. 

It was good to let him know that it's not that easy to put one over on me. But I have to admit I was a bit surprised when he said he'd asked Cynthia to invite Justin.

I knew the little shit wouldn't be sure whether he should come or not, so I made it back to her desk pretty fast to make sure that he knew it was okay, that I want him here to share this.

Hell! if anyone should be sharing at this celebration, it's Justin. In some ways, he's the mastermind behind the whole partnership thing. I sure as fuck don't think I'd have gone for it without his support. 

I've never really had anyone believe in me like that before. And hell, yes, I know that it's partly that he's young enough not to know better. But it's not like life hasn't kicked him in the teeth a few times already. He knows that things aren't always easy. That sometimes you can be disappointed in people, that shitty things can happen. But he doesn't let that stop him. And he makes me believe that it doesn't have to stop me either.

I can't believe how fucking good it feels to have him to share all this with. I've never had this before. Not with Mikey, not with anyone. This degree of support and understanding and … love. 

Mikey has always loved me. But there have always been things about my life - especially my work life - that he could never share with me, because he didn't understand them. So he'd support me, but he'd fucking undermine me at the same time, because he'd look at things from the sort of vantage that you have when you all you know is having a nine to five job at somewhere like the Big Q, and you never take risks and you never want to. So no matter what the situation, whether it was a smart risk to take or not, he'd always be there with his `Brian are you sure?' `Brian, it's a big step', so I'd get confused about what was smart and what wasn't and in the end I stopped talking to him about those things; and in many ways, I stopped taking the risks.

The truth is, there were risks I could have taken, moves I could have made, that I didn't. Because if I had, it would have meant leaving Mikey behind. And he was all I had. Not that I would ever have admitted that to myself back then. But I can now.

Because now there's Justin, and Justin - Justin is smart and savvy and he'll be right there beside me in anything I do, any career move I make. With him, there's no question of having to leave him behind because he can't keep up. Hell! he fucking leads the way. And he understands the risks, can help me weigh them up, help me decide, work with me to shape our future. Our future. 

So, fuck yes! I want him here this afternoon. I want him right beside me, where he belongs. Just like, when it's the other way round, I want to be right beside him. And that will be soon enough. He'll be the one taking on the world, and I'll be so fucking proud of him …

Fuck! Can it, Kinney, or you really are going to turn into a fucking dyke. Or a wanna-be breeder, like those losers at the GLC.  But all the same, I'm sitting here with a big smile on my face, and looking forward to having him here when we sign the fucking deal, and looking forward even more to taking him to dinner afterwards.

Shit! I can feel the threat of dykedom hovering and I still can't stop fucking smiling. 



Justin

I can hardly punch the off button when the call ends because I am so excited. I'm trying not to be. I'm trying to be calm and not let all of this get to me, but that is so hard when this is all I've ever wanted coming at me. I'm back in school, I have Brian … and Brian wants to be had. He's even okay with people knowing. I look at Daph and somehow manage to say calmly, "There going to be signing the partnership agreement this afternoon. That was just my invitation."

But this is Daph and she knows me way too well. She gives a little squeal, and says, "So, you're going as Brian's partner, right?"

I nod. And she must see how overwhelmed I am right now, and she just hugs me without saying anything else. So I hug her back and hold on for a few minutes because while this is all great it's also a bit scary, and having her here, and knowing she's on my side, no matter what is really really good.

Mom's on my side if it doesn't involve Brian (although she is trying to accept that I'm back with him, she still isn't exactly thrilled).

Deb's on my side if it doesn't involve Michael. But the problem is that mostly she interprets being on my side as criticizing Brian, as if I never get anything wrong, and he never gets anything right. So I can't ever really go to her, because she'll just be all over Brian, and a lot of the time she doesn't understand.

And that pretty much applies to everyone else as well. 

But Daph knows me, and I tell her more about what happens between Brian and I than I'd ever tell anyone else. (Not everything, not things like what happened when he got home last night, that was too personal, too … it would leave Brian too exposed to have anyone else know about that, and what it meant; that's just between us.)

She knows that I'm not always the `good' one, and that I make huge, fucking huge, mistakes sometimes. And she won't exactly get on my case about them, but she will tell me. Like she did with Ethan. And then she'll just go on being on my side. Even when I'm wrong and stupid, she'll do her best to straighten me out, but if she can't, then she'll be there when I finally figure it out, or it all comes crashing down. And she won't say `I told you so' (or not a lot). She'll just hug me and let me know someone still loves me even when I fuck up. And then she'll encourage me to find someone else.

And that's a good kind of friend to have.

That's the kind of friend that I wish Michael was to Brian. 

But he isn't.

Because the difference is … when I was with Ethan, and Daph thought I was crazy, she told me; just like I'm sure Michael tells Brian that I'm a mistake. But once she'd made her point, and I stuck to it that Ethan was wonderful and all that shit, she just backed off. She let me find out for myself. She never tried to make me choose, to put me in the middle. She sure as hell wasn't in there constantly trying to make things crash and burn between Ethan and I. (Although she did point out once or twice that Brian wasn't really the monster that Ethan and I pretended that he was, but hey! even my Mom did that.)

Whereas Michael never stops. Never stops sniping at me. Never stops demanding Brian's attention. Never stops catching Brian in the middle. 

So I decide that the best thing for me to do right now, is to get something to eat, and to go home and have a shower and change into something that makes me look at least a little bit like the … whatever I am, of the firm's new partner and co-owner, and put all the shit with Mikey right out of my mind at the moment, so that I can focus on Brian. And on us. Because I am not going to let Brian see that that little shit upset me. I am not going to let anything spoil today for him.

And then I remember that he's taking me out to dinner tonight, and I can feel a big smile on my face again and Daph punches me in the arm, and tells me, "Stop thinking about sex!"

And I tell her to get her mind out of the gutter, and we both laugh. Then she drives me home, and helps me pick something to wear before she heads off to her afternoon class.



Brian

I suppose that it's fucking ironic that it's because I feel so good that I decide to go and see Mikey.

I should know better.

Because as soon as I walk in the door he starts off with, "Oh, I suppose the little shit has asked you to come down here and demand his money for him."

And I know I'm in for a shitty visit with my best friend.

And I don't want to be in the middle. I don't.

But I know Mikey. And I know when he's up to some sort of bullshit that he doesn't want me to know about. And I'm getting that fucking feeling really strongly right now.

And there's a part of me that just wants to walk out the fucking door and not come back. Just go. And enjoy the rest of my life. And part of me wants to grab him and try to shake some fucking sense into that thick skull of his. 

But I'm Brian Kinney, aren't I? The one who can always be relied on to step in and somehow sort out other people's fuck ups (it's just my own that I'm fucking useless at sorting). And there are a few things that I obviously need to make clear here. So I say quietly, "The `little shit' has a name, and I think it might be better if you used it."

"Don't give me that Brian. Don't tell me that little …"

"Mikey!" I say and he must hear the warning in my voice.

Because he says, spits out, "Justin, then! Don't tell me dear little Justin didn't get right on the phone to you as soon as he left here and tell you that he thinks I'm cheating him."

From here on, it was strange. It was like watching someone you love disappear over the horizon and there's nothing you can do to stop it, and you're devastated. But at the same time your brain keeps working on all sorts of other levels.

One part was thinking about the money, and about how there is something very fucking unkosher going on here.

Part of me was thinking, why now? why today?

And, while the pain of what was happening to my friendship with Mikey was cutting me open, somewhere part of me was just thinking of Justin, and about how he hadn't said anything, would never say anything, would never do this to me; and knowing that once this was over, he'd be there. And just wanting him to be here now, because I needed him. And at the same time being very glad he wasn't.

"Are you cheating him, Mikey?"

My voice sounds strange to me. I don't want to have this conversation. I do not want to be here, talking about this, hearing this.

"No! I just … Look, you have to explain to him …"

"What, Michael. What do I need to explain?"

He must at last hear that there's something wrong with my voice, because he finally looks at me. "Brian! You know I would never cheat him. You know that."

I nod. "So what is happening? What do I need to explain that you couldn't explain to him yourself?"

"He wouldn't listen. He just came in here, asking about the money. Hell! he wants to get a lawyer or someone in to look at the books. There's no need for him to do that."

I perch on the edge of the counter and take a deep breath. "Mikey, this is me." His eyes meet mine. "So stop bullshitting me, and tell me what's going on."

I swear I didn't hear the door open then, and I guess he didn't either, because he put his hands on my arm, and said, "Brian, it's not like you need the money any more. And as long as you've got money, then he doesn't really need it either."

I roll my tongue into his cheek. There are so many things wrong with what he's just said that I hardly know where to fucking start, but I figure that it's best not to argue, to just let him go so that I can find out what the fuck he's done.

"So?"

"Well, I do. We do. Ben and I. There's the lawyer for Hunter," here he takes a breath and then he fucking says, "and I know that when all that happened you couldn't help out with it, and I don't blame you for that …" 

And I'm not sure that I heard the next part, because something in me was screaming "I'm not your fucking partner! I don't have to be there for you that way. You shouldn't … I shouldn't… I'm not just a fucking wallet!"

But I let it go, and he's going on, "But now we're moving, and that means that I have to decide what to do about the store. So I've either got to pay someone to run it for me, or I have to sell it, and look at buying something in Boston. And there's the shipping costs for the stock, and the taxes, and I'll have to get a new mortgage and … I just really need that money right now."

I don't say anything as I feel it all crashing around me … all those years of friendship that I'm about to blow out of the water, because he's never going to forgive me for what I'm about to say, he'll never forgive me for taking Justin's side.

Chapter 11: Partnerships by Wren
Author's Notes:

 

Warnings: Again - not particularly Mikey friendly. Sorry about that, but I can only call `em like I see `em.

Partnerships

 

 

Brian

"Are you fucking crazy?" The words explode past me and blow my hesitations to shreds.

We hadn't realized anyone else was there and we both fucking jump a mile high. The voice is loud and shrill and one that I know all too well, and I brace myself for the usual abuse. I'm not up for it today, but Mel won't care about that.

But then I realize that it's not me she's after this time. She's stalking towards the man behind the counter.

"You do realize that you could go to jail for what you're doing, don't you, you stupid little faggot?"

Mikey is staring at her. He's never really been on the end of one of Mel's ball-breakers before and he looks as if he wants to duck down under the desk and hide.

Except that she is right up to him now and in his face.

"And as for all that crap about lawyer's fees! What a crock of shit that is. You know as well as I do that Laurie is doing that work pro bono - for Hunter, not for you. Hunter's her client and there is no way that she'd let any kid go back into the shitty system without fighting it to the death. She sure as fuck isn't looking to be paid for it - by him or by you or by anyone else."

She gives me one glance and I'm ready to run and hide, but she just puts out her hand and touches mine. 

"And what? You were planning on taking money off your best friend were you? To pay for what, Michael?"

"Mel, there's a lot of things I need money for. ... The baby ..."

"Bull Shit! Don't you fucking use my baby as your excuse, you little prick."

"Mel, Justin's got Brian, he doesn't need ..."

"Michael. Forget Brian. Brian isn't part of this. Can't you fucking get it? IT'S NOT YOUR FUCKING MONEY!!!"

She's screaming now. Mel's bad enough, god knows at any fucking time, but throw in the hormones and she's just ... 

But she's rubbing my hand now, like I'm the one that's been hurt here. And like she fucking cares.

"It's not your money," she repeats more calmly. "It's Justin's. And that poor fucking kid who just can't seem to cop a break is working all the hours god sends at the fucking diner while you sit on his money."

"But ..."

"Michael. You will provide all the accounts to me this afternoon. All of them. And I will get one of my firm's accountants to go over them, and when I've worked out what Justin has coming you will write him a check. And if that money isn't in his bank account by Monday, I will be advising him to sue. For the money, for interest, and for damages - for all the hours he's had to put in working while he's trying to get his schoolwork up to date."

Michael just stares at her now and nods. "Okay. Okay."

"And you will - you will, Michael, sign over your parental rights to Lindz."

Now he starts to get angry, and I just want to get out of there, but Mel is still holding onto my hand. Which adds the final touch of weirdness to the whole thing and makes me wish, really wish that Justin was here to help me fucking deal with this, because it's all too much for me.

"You said I didn't have to. You said that you understood that I wanted to be part of my baby's life. You said ..."

"You said you were fucking going to be around!" she hisses at him.

He stops and stares at her.

"That's why I came down here. To find out what the fuck's going on. And what I find out is that not only is my baby's father a fucking criminal but he's about to skip town. Just when did you plan on telling me, Michael? When did you plan to mention that you were moving to another fucking state? Or was I just going to get a post card?"

"Mel ..." and now he looks at me, turns those big puppy dog eyes on me, "that's not settled yet."

And now I am out of here. That's it.

I pull my hand away from Mel and she looks at me like she knows just what is going on here. Then she does the last fucking thing I'm expecting. She hugs me and pulls me down so that she can kiss my cheek. "Give my love to Justin," she says. "Tell him not to worry about the money. Michael and I will sort that out."

I mumble some sort of thanks and get myself out the door, without even a goodbye to Michael. As I open it, I hear his, "Briiiann!" but I'm gone.



Justin

I'd finished my shower and was just getting dressed when the phone rang.

"Hey!"

There's something about his voice that worries me a bit, but I can't help smiling at the phone.

"Hey!"

"I've ordered you a taxi. It'll be outside the door at 3.30."

Somehow, I know better than to argue about this one. "Okay, Brian. Thanks."

"All right then."

He sounds a bit surprised, like he hadn't been expecting such an easy victory.

"Is everything okay?" I ask a bit cautiously.

"Sure. Why not?"

"Um ... no reason."

I don't know where to go with this. I'm sure something has happened, but if he wants to tell me, he will. Except that sometimes it's like he's waiting to be asked exactly the right question. As if you have to find the key before you can get in.

Then he sighs, and says, "I had a scary run in with Mel today, but I'll tell you about it later."

I sigh too. Lindz and I both keep hoping, but those two... they are way too much alike for their own good and for our peace of mind. The really really frustrating thing is that when the chips are down they both come through for each other. And they both know that. But sometimes that just seems to make them worse all the rest of the time. And Lindz says Mel is really moody lately because of the baby, so the thought of any run in they might have had is scary.

"Brian, you know that at the moment Mel is ... you shouldn't take too much notice of what she says, right now," I offer pathetically. Like I know what I'm talking about with all this women's stuff. Right.

He knows it's complete bullshit too, because he laughs. "Yeah, I know. You just get yourself down here safely looking pretty. Okay?"

"I do not look pretty," I say firmly. "Handsome, yes. Devastatingly attractive even. Pretty, I don't think so."

He laughs even harder. Then says softly, "Sure you do. My pretty little boy. And you know what I do to pretty boys."

His voice is pure seduction now, damn him, and I feel my cock hardening.

"Brian! Not now!" I try to regain control, but I'm disappointed when I'm successful.

He laughs again, and says, "You're right. Later."

And this `later' is full of promise. Like ... like ... 

Like something I've heard before, and I try to catch it but the memory remains elusive.

"Later," I say.

And we hang up.



Brian

I get off the phone wondering how such an inane conversation can make me feel so much better. It can not be just the sound of his voice. It fucking can't.

But I don't have much time to think about that, because there's all sorts of stuff that I have to get off my desk if I'm taking tomorrow off, and now there's this fucking "announcement" bullshit that's cut a huge chunk out of the afternoon.

But thanks to Cyn, and the fact that I seem to have scared the shit out of the art department so that they're actually producing what I ask for the second or third time around instead of the fourth or fifth, somehow by the time he waltzes into my office, I'm ready. It's all done. And I can have from now till Monday all to myself - well, myself and Justin.

So I stretch back in my chair and smile at him. Then I get up and come round and sit on the corner of the desk.

He gets that look in his eyes, that look that completely belies the sweet innocence that most people see in his face. It's a look made of mischief and laughter and pure lust and I might be the only one who's ever seen it. Somehow I can't imagine the fiddler bringing it out in him - hell! it would have sent a dickless moron like Ian running for cover. Because it's not innocent at all. It's the look of a dangerously sexy man, not an innocent boy. It's the look he saves for me.

It's there now because he knows exactly what I'm doing, exactly what replay I'm setting up here. He closes the door and comes to me. We kiss.And of course, the fucking buzzer goes off, and Cyn's voice cuts through the haze of sex and lust: "Brian, they're all waiting in the boardroom."

Fuck!



Justin

So we go into the boardroom, and the lawyers are there, including Mel. Of course I'm expecting some sort of sparks between her and Brian, but she just pats his arm as he sits next to her with me on his other side. Vance is on the other side of the table, with his wife and his lawyer, and the rest of the staff, it seems like just about all of them, are crammed in anywhere they can get. The most senior ones get seats, but everyone else is standing. Brian looks around and makes sure that Cynthia has a seat. That's the sort of thing that he does without anyone noticing usually. Except me. 

Mel is whispering something to Brian and he nods at her, but they don't look like they're about to take pieces out of each other, so I relax a bit.

In fact, I think, as I see Brian smile at her, they look unusually pally. What the fuck is going on here? 

Shit! Maybe Mel was actually nice to him, and that's what scared him. He probably thought it was a sign of the apocalypse.

Vance waves his hand a bit, and everyone goes quiet, and then he says, "As most of you will already know, this is something of an historic occasion."

There's a bit of murmuring, then everyone goes quiet again.

"Brian Kinney is without doubt the best advertising executive this company has ever had. His work is exemplary and it needs no words from me to tell you how good he is."

Brian is stuck between trying to look as if all this is pretty much what he expects to hear, and wanting to be just about anywhere but here.

I find myself reaching to touch him under the table, and he must have been reaching for me too, because our hands meet, and his fingers tangle round mine and hold on tightly.

What most people just don't get about Brian is that one of the reasons he behaves the way he does is that it is really hard for him to accept praise. Hardly anyone would believe that, but it's true. I guess because he had so little growing up, that he just doesn't know how to act, how to react. So this is actually hard for him to hear. 

But it's good too. After all the shit he's been through in the past few months, he really does need to hear this.

I smile gratefully at Vance and he smiles back and goes on, "He's not only the best exec in this company, he's certainly the best in Pittsburgh, probably in the whole state. And he's right up there with anyone from any of the biggest agencies in the country."

There's a round of applause here, that seems to surprise Vance a bit, and makes Brian shift in his chair a little. He is so embarrassed. Not that most people would ever realize that. But I know.

"So I am absolutely delighted to formally announce, although I know that it's been water cooler gossip ever since Brian returned to us, that this afternoon Brian and I are signing an agreement which makes him full partner and half owner of the Vanguard Kinney Agency."

This time he expects the applause, and smiles at everyone like a sort of benevolent gnome. I know he's a tough bastard. but I like him anyway. And I know that Brian has way more respect for him than he ever had for Marty Ryder.

There's some paper shuffling then, while they both sign all the papers. Mel runs her eyes over them one last time before she lets Brian sign, just to be sure they haven't snuck in any changes, I guess.

After it's all done, everyone sort of breathes a sigh of relief and starts to shuffle about ready to leave. It's crowded, and getting hot with so many people, and the ones standing must be pretty uncomfortable.

Then Vance says, "There's just one more thing."

And everyone stops, and looks at him, and Brian looks a bit worried.

"You all know the circumstances under which Brian left here."

Everyone is a bit tense now, especially Brian and I, wondering what is coming next. I get a glimpse of Mel past Brian and she looks like she might take a piece out of Vance if he tries to pull anything here. I'd be worried if I were him.

"Brian found that he couldn't, in all conscience, support the policies of someone that the agency had as a client. As a private citizen, he exercised his right of protest against those policies. The client protested, and I succumbed to the pressure he put on, and asked Brian to leave."

Which is a very lame way of saying he fired his ass and had him escorted from the building by security guards, but I'm interested to hear where Vance is going with this.

"That is a decision that I came to regret deeply."


Brian gives a little snort, then, and I can tell he's thinking that Vance sure as shit regretted it, because it nearly cost him all his best clients, I squeeze his fingers and he goes quiet again.

"Brian was prepared to stand up for what he believed in. That is something that I admire deeply."

He looks across the table at Brian, and for some reason I suddenly believe that he's sincere about this.

"He put everything at risk to finance an ad to challenge ... " he pauses then, and I wonder if he'll actually name names.

"Jim Stockwell's bid for the Mayoral office."

I glance at Brian and catch him looking at me. One point to Vance, neither of us thought he'd have the guts to actually say who the "client" was. Not that everyone didn't know, but that's different to discussing it openly.

"That ad was the deciding factor in the election campaign."

There is another round of applause here that surprises Brian and I as much as Vance.

"I need hardly say that Brian designed and produced the ad himself."

Everyone laughs a little, and there's a bit more applause.

"What may not be as obvious is that he put everything in hock to do it. Other interests have since picked up some of those costs, but Brian did not know that at the time. He risked everything he had, in the cause of what he believed in."

I hear Brian whisper, so softly that I was the only one who could have heard it, "Not everything."

I grin at him, and squeeze his hand again.

"That is the sort of passion and integrity that Brian Kinney brings to the table as partner in this agency."

There is more applause and I can tell Brian really wants to crawl under the table now.

"It's up to the rest of us to match it. Not to let him down."

There's a bit more applause, but it dies away when Vance stands up. He walks around the table to Brian, who stands also. Vance holds out his hand and Brian shakes it.

When they let go, Brian is left with something in his palm. It's a set of car keys, and they look sort of familiar.

Vance grins at him, then turns so that he's facing most of the people. 

"One of the things that Brian gave up was that very flash car that we'd all got used to lusting over in the car park."

He takes a breath and smiles at Brian who's staring at him.

"Under the terms of the partnership agreement, Brian is entitled to a company car, which, should the partnership dissolve at any time, becomes his property. It presents a very good image for our new partner to have a fabulous vehicle to drive to client meetings and the like. More importantly, I wanted to be able to show Brian how much I value the opportunity to work with him again. Last weekend, a friend of mine purchased the car on my behalf. It's been freshly serviced and detailed, and is waiting again in the car park for us all to envy."

He stops and smiles at Brian.

"Brian - enjoy your car. Thank you for coming back to us. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to work together to become *the* best agency not only in Pennsylvania, but in the whole of the north east. Welcome back, partner."

There is more applause then, and a few whistles.

Brian is still holding on to my hand, and I can feel his shaking.

He mumbles something, and for a moment I think he's going to lose it. I seriously think that he might just bolt. Then takes a breath and stands up straight.

"Thank you, Gardner." He looks around. "Thank you all."

Then he grins.

"It's good to be back," he says. "And it'll be even better when I get a drink."

Everyone laughs and they all start moving out the door. I stand up.

Brian stands still for a moment, looking down at the keys in his hand. Then he looks up.

"Seriously, Gardner. Thank you."

Gardner just shakes his head and smiles. Then he looks at me. 

"Justin."

I nod at him. "Hello, Mr. Vance."

He grins. "I think, between ourselves at least, you'd better make it Gardner."

He gestures his wife over and introduces her. He doesn't refer to me as Brian's partner or anything, but he somehow makes it clear that we're together all the same. I realise that for all his apparent rough edges, he's a smooth worker.

"Let's go and get that drink," he says.

Brian and I are about to follow him out, but Brian stops to thank Mel for coming and to see if she wants a drink or something to eat.

She shakes her head at him, and says, "I'm fine. I just want a quick word with Justin before I go."

There is definitely something going on here, because Brian gives her a long look and a nod, and then says, "Don't leave me alone out there for too long, Sunshine, or I will not be responsible for any deaths that may occur."

Then he kisses Mel on the cheek, as if that's the most natural thing in the world, and goes out to the party which is spilling out of the foyer and into the various offices.

I look at Mel, and I'm about to ask her what the fuck is going on when she smiles at me and stands up.

"I just wanted to tell you that I spoke to Michael today. He happened to mention that you wanted someone to check the accounts for the comic. We both thought it was a good idea, so I took them and dropped them off for someone in my office to go over. Don't worry, she owes me a favor, so there won't be any charge. She'll let me know in the next day or so how it all stands, and whether you should have any money coming."

I stare at her. She packs up her papers and puts them into her bag while I try to work out what to say.

One of the things I want to ask her is if Brian was at the comic shop when she went there, and if he asked her to get involved. I hope not. I so don't want him to have had to do that. But I can't ask either. That's a Brian-Michael thing and I can't butt in there. If Brian wants me to know, he'll tell me. Otherwise ...

She must realise by the fact that I haven't said anything that I'm trying to work out what is going on here. She stands up straight and looks at me. "Don't worry about it, Justin. Michael was just a little bit confused. I think I managed to straighten him out - about a few things, I hope."

"Mel, I really didn't want to get you involved. I mean, I know that things are ... I mean, with the baby and everything, I don't want to cause ..."

"Justin," she cuts in, "You didn't cause anything. There's only one person at fault here, and it certainly isn't you. Don't worry about it."

I sigh and she gives me a hug. "I mean it, sweetie. Now you go out and keep Mr. Kinney out of mischief while I get home to my wife."

I really do want to get to Brian so I just say thank you and give her a hug, and messages for Lindsay and Gus, and then I go to find him.

On my way, though, I'm buttonholed by Vance. I can see Brian talking to some of the newer staff who either don't know his reputation or think it's exaggerated. I want to get to him before they find out it isn't, but Vance seems determined to talk to me. I sigh, and remember that I'm a well brought up little WASP and must not be rude to my par ... well, to Brian's boss. "Justin. I was hoping that we'd get a chance to talk this afternoon."

"Mr. Vance ..."

"Gardner."

"Gardner. If it's about the internship ..."

"No. No. It's something quite different."

He manages to find a fairly quiet spot in a corner, and people sort of steer away from us a bit. I can still see Brian and I just figure that I'll hear Vance out, but if Brian looks like losing it, I'll excuse myself and dash to the rescue of whoever's been unlucky enough to piss him off.

"Justin, now that the company has a new name, we desperately need a new logo. Well, a new look, really. Business cards, stationery, presentation folders, everything."

I nod, still not paying full attention because I'm watching Brian.

"I wondered if you'd like to take on the initial designs."

I finally hear what he's talking about and stare at him.

He holds up a hand. "I know that right now you're swamped with school work and the like. But we'd set it up as a freelance contract. I'm sure it would pay better at an hourly rate than what you're currently earning, and will be more useful to you professionally as well."

My head is spinning now, but it's also starting to buzz with ideas.

"I've heard only the most positive things about your work in the art department, and I believe that a fresh young eye is just what we need to give this company a fresh image. After all, who better to capture the sort of energy and passion that Brian brings to his work?"

I look straight into his eyes to see if he's being snide, but he just smiles, and I realize that's his idea of a joke.

I can only nod. "Well, it's certainly something I could be interested in."

"You'd need to discuss it with Brian, of course. But I don't think he'll have any problems with the concept. The art department advise me that they'd expect the initial look - draft logo, colors, the general style of the thing to represent around 60 hours work. At say forty dollars an hour."

I nearly drop the glass someone has just handed me.

Shit! That's over two thousand dollars. 

"I see," I say carefully, trying not to look as excited as I feel.

"We'd need to discuss deadlines with you, of course, but I think we'd be looking at about a month. So ...around 15 hours a week. Does that sound as if it would fit in with your schedule?"

I shrug. "Sure. But ..."

"I know. You need to talk to Brian. And you'll want to think about it yourself, of course. Why don't you think about it over the weekend, and call me on Monday. If you're interested, we can set up a meeting with Brian and myselfand the head of the art department to toss around some ideas and set the guidelines. Then we can get your friend Ms Marcus to help us with the contract."

I nod, and when he holds out his hand, I shake it. "Thanks, M.. Gardner."

"Thank you, Justin for taking the time out to listen to my proposition. Now get going. I know that you want to share this little celebration with Brian."

Feeling like I've wandered into some weird dream where everyone you expect to act like a shit suddenly turns out to be totally nice, I walk over to Brian.

Thank God, for Mikey, I think. At least he does what you expect.



Brian

I wasn't sure what Vance was talking to Justin about, but the little shit was looking pretty damned happy about it. I can only hope that it means that he's going to fucking come back here to work where at least he's doing something that is vaguely like what he's meant to be doing and will help his studies a bit as well; instead of that fucking job at the diner that's just nowhere and wears him out into the bargain.

I just wished they'd get whatever the fuck it was settled so I could grab him and go home. 

He comes over to me finally with this big smile on his face, and he's so fucking hot that I think "Stuff them" and pull him close and kiss him right there in front of whoever is still hanging around. He blushes, which gets me hotter, and wraps his arms round my waist. "Is it too early for you to leave yet?"

He's fucking asking me? He's the one who knows all that shit. Who cares, anyway?

I shrug at him, and he grins. "Let's go then."

I take his hand, and we go to say goodbye to Vance and his wife. I could say that Justin made me, but the truth is it's the least I can do after the stunt with the fucking car. I still can't believe he did that. I mean, I was already coming back. The partnership deal was all worked out, he didn't have to ... 

If he fucking thinks it means I owe him anything, he can think again. But maybe he really did just want ... 

Shit!

See, this is why it's easier to keep people at a distance. Because then you don't have to worry about this stuff. You don't have to try to figure them out. You just assume the worst, and let them think you're a total asshole and you're fine.

Anyway, when we've played nice, and said goodbye and thank you and all that shit, and we're just about to walk away, Vance says out of nowhere, "Oh, and happy birthday for Sunday, Brian."

I start to turn around to glare at him, but Justin nudges me and I wind up just mumbling some sort of bullshit thanks.

We're walking down the hallway to the elevator and I'm trying to work out how the fuck Vance would know about that when Cyn appears.

She's actually got a fucking present for me. Fucking shiny silver box, with a black satin ribbon. I stare at her and she pushes it firmly into my hands. I want to drop it on the carpet, but I know that Justin would have my balls, so I mumble some sort of thanks at her, and then he nudges me again and I have to fucking kiss her and she says, "Bye Justin." All chirpy. And then "Happy birthday, Brian."

So then of course some other shits hear that and while we're going down in the fucking lift it's all "Happy birthday!" and one cow even has the nerve to ask what I'm doing for my birthday. Shit! And of course the little shit beside me pipes up with, "Oh, we're spending it with the family. There's going to be an Easter Egg hunt for Gus in the morning, and we'll have lunch there and then maybe go out to dinner."

I am so totally fucked.



Justin

I thought Brian was going to have conniptions. If I hadn't said anything, he'd have absolutely annihilated that poor woman from accounts and she didn't mean any harm.

But I know that now he's seriously pissed, and he is so not going to want to do any of those things now on Sunday. He'll probably head off to Babylon on Saturday night and I won't see him till Monday.

Oh, well, Sunday's still three days away. I've got time to work on him.

We walk out the door and get to the car. He gives it a look over before he opens the door. Whoever has done the detailing has done a really good job. It looks great. 

We get in, and there's a new CD player and new air-conditioning. It's awesome. Brian just sits with his hands on the steering wheel for what seems like a long while. It's as if he still can't take it in that someone has done something so nice for him. Because it was nice of Gardner. It was something that he didn't have to do, and something that shows that he understands how much Brian loves this car. It was personal. A personal gift. Well, not a gift exactly. But him doing it, that was the gift. Going to all the trouble of getting his friend to buy it, and then having it refitted, that's something really thoughtful.

Then there was Cynthia with her gift; the people in the lift, the way people clapped through Gardner's speech, like they really are glad he's back, even though he'll give them hell; like they're really proud of him. Hell! even Mel was civil to him. 

Brian isn't used to people treating him that way. He almost looks as if he's in shock. Not to mention having me invited there, sitting with him, like I'm ... with him. That's pretty shocking by itself, I guess. 

It's like he really needs to sit and be quiet for a while so that he can take it in and work out how to react. So I just sit there too, and don't say anything. I can only hope that when he does figure it out, he's not just going to head for Woody's or the Baths.

Suddenly he starts the engine, and says, "So we're going to the Munchers' on Sunday, are we?"

He doesn't sound pissed off anymore, and when I look at him he's got this funny sort of smile on his face. 

Before he puts the car in gear, he looks at me and says, "You're a little shit, you know that, right?"

But he's grinning at me when he says it, and I put my hand on his thigh and bat my eyelashes at him. 

"Don't think you can flirt your way out of this one, Sunshine," he growls, but there's laughter under the growling.

"Oh, please, Brian, don't be angry," I beg in a wimpy little voice. "I'll be good. I promise."

He chuckles then. "You'd better be. Anymore trouble from you tonight, and ... well, you know what happens to naughty little boys."

I'm torn between pointing out that I'm not so little, and going along with the fantasy. Lust wins out and I say, "Oh, no, please. I'll be good. I promise."

While all the time I'm wondering just what trouble I can find to get into so that we can play this little game right out. Especially now that there are locks on the door and no one is going to burst in on us in the middle.

I mean, we have to go home anyway so Brian can change. It's been a seriously weird day; we could both use a little play time. And it's still early. There should be plenty of time before we have to be at the restaurant.



Brian

Today has been just one fucked up weird assed thing after another.

Michael fucking screwing over Justin for the Rage money. I'm not a total fucking moron. I know that he's doing it to punish Justin for being back with me. I guess he wouldn't exactly like it no matter who I was with, but for some reason the fact that it's Justin ... he just can't accept it. He's never stopped resenting Justin, not since the first night. 

Most of the time I've just shut that out. But lately he's just gone too far. I talked to him after the thing at Debbie's. I tried to make it as clear as I fucking could that Justin is in my life, and I want him to stay there. I told Mikey that if he couldn't deal with that then he should seriously consider getting a new best friend. I practically fucking begged him to understand and not make me fucking choose. And he promised. He fucking promised!

And all the time ...

Just when I'm about to do and say the things that would have ended our whole friendship, who should fucking ride to the rescue but Mel. Of all the fucking unlikely cavalries! More like the marines, I guess. Jesus! she was pissed. I don't know what she said after I bailed, but fuck! I'm just glad that I wasn't the one she said it to.

Apparently she's got all the paperwork and she's given it to some other dyke to check over, so at least Justin should be getting some money. It's just as well some fucking good came out of this, because I sure as fuck am not looking forward to the next little chat that Mikey and I have.

Then there's Gardner with his fucking celebration. Even inviting Justin for fuck's sake, like he's my "other half".Shit! 

So why did I want him to be there? I knew how everyone would read it. I knew how he would read it, although he's trying not to. Fuck!

Well, you made sure that he was there, Kinney. And why did you do that? Because you wanted him there, you twat! You wanted him to be there to hold your hand (fucking clinging onto his fingers like a little kid, or some scared nelly queen!). You wanted him to be there to share it with (fucking "sharing" this and "sharing" that, pair of fucking dykes!). You wanted him to be there because ... 

Well, just because. 

Because I wanted him there. That's all.

Because he'd earned the right to be there. That's why.

Because ...

Because when he's with me I'm better, and stronger and I can fucking do anything. But I am never ever going to tell him that.

Or at least, not till later. Not till we've showered, and gone out to dinner and talked about all the fucking shit that I need to talk to him about. Then when we get home, and we're in bed, and it's just us, then maybe...

Maybe then I'll tell him.

Somehow.

After I finish reaming him out about the birthday shit. 

The stuff with Gardner and Cynthia was bad enough, he didn't have to encourage those fucking heteros in the lift. But mainly, especially, I'm pissed off with him for going behind my back with my so-called friends to set Sunday up. Fuck!

How many times do I have to tell all of them that I do not see any cause for fucking celebration in adding another fucking year to my age?

And now he's just sitting there waiting. He knows I'm pissed. He knows that I'll probably go out and do exactly the opposite of anything they've got planned for me. But he's not talking about it. Not arguing. 

He's probably biding his time. 

Or maybe he's just hoping.

Hoping that for once I'll prove him wrong, prove all of them wrong, when they expect the worst from me. 

Shit!

I want to bounce my head off the steering wheel. But I might damage it. The steering wheel, I mean. My head's made of concrete. It must be or I wouldn't be such a fucking stupid prick. My ... friends. My friends, including Justin, want me to have lunch with them on Easter Sunday. My kid's going to be hyper as hell after all the fucking Easter eggs and they want me there to share that special moment with them (and probably help wipe up the vomit after he throws up everywhere). And I'm behaving like the biggest drama queen since Barbra. 

I get this sudden image of myself singing fucking "People" and that's enough to get me out of my bad mood. Even I can laugh at myself if the picture is funny enough.

I start the car.

The car. Now there's another weird assed thing. Whatever made Gardner ...?

Shit! It doesn't matter. Tonight, none of that shit matters. Tonight, we're going to go out to dinner. And talk. About stuff that he needs to hear. He needs to hear it from me; and I need to tell him. 

Just like I need to let him know that it's okay about Sunday. That for once, I won't let him down. I won't make it so he has to apologies for me and have everyone feel sorry for him because he's with such a prick.

"So we're going to the Munchers' on Sunday, are we?" I say.

Chapter 12: Dinner and Dialogue by Wren

 


 


Justin


We get home to an answering machine full of messages. Seriously. They must have taken up the whole tape. Mainly from Michael. For Brian, I guess. Not sure because as soon as Brian heard the voice he just deleted each message.


Towards the end there were a couple of others. One from Lindz asking me to call her - about Sunday, I guess, although she didn't say. One from Deb, for Brian, which, as it started out, "Asshole! What the fuck's going on now?" he also deleted without listening to the rest.


We'd been giggling and fooling on the way up in the elevator, but all this sort of killed the mood more than a bit and I felt kind of guilty. I was the one who'd insisted on finding out why the light was flickering so fast you could hardly see it blink. I'd argued that it might be some sort of crisis with Gus.


But of course it was the other, much more demanding baby, who was apparently having a crisis. It didn't take much to guess that it was to do with the money, and maybe Mel's involvement. Or that Brian knew exactly what it was about. I didn't say anything, though. What would be the point?


After hitting the delete button like twenty times, Brian gave a really deep sigh, and rubbed his hands over his face. He unplugged the phone, and took his cell out, turned it off and tossed it on the bench. Then he got some water from the refrigerator and took a long drink. After that he started up the steps to join me in the bedroom.


He offered me the water bottle and I took a few swallows. Finally he said, "We can talk about it at dinner. Or after. But for now ... can we just fuck?"


I stole a look at him and he was looking almost desperate. Desperate enough to be thinking ‘Fuck dinner. Let's go to Woody's'. Or maybe not. Maybe some other bar, where everyone would be a stranger.


Which in a twisted way, gave me an idea.


"You are direct, aren't you? You pick up many guys with a line like that?"


He gave me a ‘what the fuck?' look.


"Guys usually at least buy me a drink before they try to fuck me."


I toss my head back and stand with my hips pushed forwards a bit, the goods on display.


He catches on then, and gives me that slow tongue rolled into his cheek burn of a look that always makes me hot.


"Is that right?"


I shrug. "Sure."


He comes close and touches my chest, letting his fingers trail down.


"Maybe you're not worth the price of a drink," he says as his fingers brush softly over my flies.


"Oh, I haven't had any complaints," I respond, letting the tip of my tongue touch first my top lip, then the bottom. But I make no attempt to touch him. Tonight he's the hunter. I'm just the quarry.


He kicks it up a notch, stroking his thumb across the mound of my cock. I pant a bit, letting my mouth fall open a little, and my tongue flick across my lips a couple of times.


I drift my eyes down his body, and it's obvious he's beginning to enjoy himself as well. With hardly a pause in the rhythmic stroking of his thumb, he shrugs out of his jacket. Then, abruptly, he grabs mine and pulls it roughly off.


I let my breath catch, and say huskily, "Careful, mister. I don't like it rough."


His eyes widen and then they flare with laughter and lust.


"Too bad, little boy. You should have picked another trick for the night."


"Oh, please," I murmur, pretending to fight him as he pushes me down on the bed. He places his knee on the bed between my thighs and undoes my pants.


"Too late. You've been teasing me all night. Now you're going to get it."


He pulls my pants down and moves only enough to pull them off. Keeping in character, I try to get up which gives him the chance to push me further up the bed. Then he's on me, dragging my legs up and apart.


"Let's have a look," he leers, holding me like that, fully exposed to him and looking down at me. By now I'm really hard, and he's still fully clothed. Damn!


He pushes my legs back over my head and bends to poke his tongue at my hole.


I writhe. "Oh, no! Mister, please. I don't do that."


He licks me and then says, "Well, what the fuck do you do?"


"Just like... with my mouth. I don't let anyone fuck me."


"Well, you are tonight."


Then he licks me again, and pushes his tongue inside. I moan loudly.


"See, you like that. And you're going to like having my big fat cock shoved up there even more."


"Oh, please," I gasp. And even I'm not sure if I'm still playing reluctant whore or if I'm begging him just to get on with it.


He reaches for the lube and the next thing I feel him push one finger into me. He immediately realises that I'm already up for more and shoves another in with it. They stroke right across my sweet spot and I arch off the bed so hard, I nearly lose them.


"Oh, no, mister," I manage to gasp out, "please don't."


"It's way too late for that boy, I am going to fuck your arse so hard you won't sit down comfortably for a week."


He moves his fingers again and I moan in pleasure.


"And you want it, don't you boy?"


"Oh! Oh, no!"


They stroke my sweet spot again and I moan and writhe trying to get more.


"Yes, you do. You want it."


Once more and I'm nearly ready to start begging.


"No."


"Do you want me to stop?"


"Oh, no, please. God, please."


"Say it then."


With a bit of help, he finally has the condom on thank God, and I know that soon, soon ...


"Tell me you want me to fuck you.," he breathes, leaning down over me now and licking at my lips, while his fingers are still working their magic up my ass.


"Oh, oh!"


"Say it. Say it boy. Say you want my big fat cock up your hole."


Another finger joins them, and once more I arch up hard, trying to get more.


"Oh, yes. Yes please. Please mister, fuck me.


"Beg me. Tell me to fuck you hard."


"Oh, God yes. Now. Fuck me. Shove your big cock up my ass and fuck me hard. Now!


With a throaty laugh, he obeys at last, pushing into me maybe a little too hard and fast for comfort, but it's not comfort that I'm looking for right then.


It's a rough wild ride, just the way we both like it sometimes. I cum all over his shirt, of course, and wonder if he'll bitch about it, but when he's done he just collapses beside me on his belly saying nothing. I roll onto my side facing him and rub my hand up and down the back of his neck.


He gives a sort of growling purr, and I drag myself up and straddle his hips so that I can rub his back properly.


I know how tired and tense he must be when he just lays there and lets me do it. At some point he wriggles out of his shirt, but apart from that he hardly moves as I do my best to work some of the tension out of him.


My hand gets a bit tired after a while, but I try to ignore it.


Eventually he says sleepily, "If a drink earns a blow job, then I guess dinner earns more than one fuck, right?


"Dinner?" I ask.


He starts to roll over, so I get off him and kneel on the bed beside him.


"Sure dinner," he says, looking at me as if he can't believe I've forgotten.


"Gee, I'm sorry, mister, but you see ... I don't do dates. I just ..."


I don't get any further because with a cry of "You little shit!" he's on me and we roll around on the bed laughing for a while till the laughter turns into kisses, and they go on for a long time.


He doesn't seem to want to take it any further right now though, and I don't mind. I'm more than content to save some for when we get home from the restaurant.


Eventually, he clambers up.


"Come on, you!" he says.


So we head for the shower, and although we wash each other down with great care and attention, it seems like just touching, just enjoying the freedom to caress each other's bodies is enough for the moment and we towel each other down and get dressed without the need for anything more.


We take the stairs down, and on the way, he suddenly snakes an arm around my waist. When I look up at him he smiles and touches his forehead to mine.


"That was hot," is all he says, but he kisses me lightly and bumps his hip against mine, and all the way down to the car, he keeps his arm wrapped tightly round my waist.


 


Brian


I should be scared shitless that he can read me like that but for some reason I'm not. That he can take me on when I'm right on the edge of shoving him away and running off to somewhere that no one knows me and no one is interested in anything much except my face and my body and no one wants anything from me except what is in my pants. That he can look into my face and see all that and not pout or argue, just see past it to how much it means I ... need him. And somehow find a way to make it alright.


That's the best thing I've ever had in my life.


As we get into the car (thank God for the car, just about any car, so that tonight we can go out and not fight about the bus or have to fuck about with taxis!), I have to reach out and touch him again. I take his hand and rub his fingers.


Suddenly I think of those hands of his working their magic on the Gordian knot that my back had become and I reach for the other one.


He gives me a look as I rub it.


"Is it okay? Did you let it ...?"


"Brian!" he says a bit huffily, "It's fine. Really."


I go on rubbing it for a minute, and he gives a bit of a sigh, but then he smiles. "That feels good."


I smile back and kiss him while I go on massaging his hand. Then another kiss. Then I kiss the palm of his hand.


And start the car.


See? Sometimes I can even give him what he needs.


 


Justin


I hate it when anyone notices something wrong with my hand. Anyone. But somehow this time, it feels good. It feels like ... like this is how it is when you're a couple. And that is such a dangerous thought that I try to put it right out of my mind.


But it's such a seductive idea that banishing it isn't easy. And the rest of the night doesn't make it a lot easier.


For some reason Brian insisted on us taking our heavy coats and gloves. One of the best bits about having the car again is not having to cart all that stuff around. But I guess he knows what he's doing. Maybe we can't park anywhere near the restaurant.


We drive up Liberty and across the bridge and up to the Mount Washington side of town. Brian has chosen a small restaurant called Isabella with an amazing view down across the three rivers and the Golden Triangle. It's more of a family, hetero sort of place than I would have expected him to pick, but the food is great. Spicy and varied and lots of it.


We talk over dinner, but mainly work stuff. He tells me about how his accounts are shaping up, and I tell him about Vance's offer. He looks almost as excited as I am about it.


"Shit, Justin! That is the best news I've had all day. Does that mean the diner's history now?"


I shrug. Partly because I hate the thought of letting Deb down, but also because I kind of like working there. But I know that it's not the best use of my time, so I say, "Well, I might still pick up a Saturday lunch shift or something, but ... yeah, I guess so. At least ..."


He raises one eyebrow at me when I hesitate.


So I go on. "You don't mind, do you? I mean, it won't seem weird to you ... me designing stuff for ... you know ..."


I can't articulate what I want to say to him: that I know how much the partnership and the new company name mean to him. That I'd totally understand if he wanted to ... keep it for himself ... not somehow sort of have to share it with me, because I was doing the design on the logo. But I know that there are so many problems with what I'm trying to say that I should just keep my mouth shut.


First and foremost is the lame idea that just by doing the design I somehow share in the whole deal. That's really fucked. Or desperate. And I thought I'd got past being so desperate to share in his life that I clutched at straws like that.


He sits and looks at me for a few moments with his head on one side a bit and his fingers up to his mouth. Then he says, "You really want to hear this?"


I don't. I don't want to hear what he's going to say. But it's not about what I want. It's about what we need. And we need to be honest with each other, especially when it's hard to say, or hard to hear. We did way too much dancing around each other before. We can't afford to go down that path again.


I nod. "Yes."


He gives a little nod himself, like he's acknowledging where I'm coming from, and I force myself to keep meeting his eyes, then he says, "You're asking me if I'd rather have the logo for my company ..."


He pauses there for a split second and for just a moment we grin at each other because that sounds so damned good.


He rubs his tongue over his lips as if he's tasting it, tasting those words, then he says, "If I'd rather have the logo designed by an outsourced firm who know nothing about me, or what I do, or the way I'd want to present myself; or by the dickheads downstairs who can't even get a design right when I spell out for them in words of one syllable exactly what I want; or by someone who understands me, understands the sort of style that I'd like to bring to things, knows exactly how I like to present myself ..." (again there's a moment while we share the levels of meaning in that sentence) "...and is incredibly talented into the bargain.?"


As he speaks I feel my heart start to thump. I don't think he's ever paid me a greater, more precious compliment and I have to swallow hard and take a sip of my wine to get rid of the lump in my throat.


He sticks his tongue into his cheek and looks at me like he doesn't expect to have to spell out the answer to that one. Then he grins at me, "Justin, when have I ever not wanted the best?"


Our eyes meet again and I can feel myself blushing, which makes him grin even wider. Just looking at the sexy knowing look in his eyes makes me start to get hard. Then he drops his eyes and starts playing with his dessert fork.


"Of course, there is another side to it," he admits. "I mean, if you design the fucking look for the company then every single fucking thing that comes out of our office will have that look all over it. And every time I look at anything we produce, I'll have to think of you."


He looks up at me again, serious now. I stare into his eyes, trying to read him. Finally I see the smile in them. Then he grins at me again, the shit.


"What, you think I'd find that a bad thing?"


I shrug, trying not to let all this affect me too much. But it means so much to me that I'm not sure I'll be able to keep my face calm and not let him see ...


Then he reaches across and touches my hand. He doesn't say anything more, just tangles his fingers round mine, but suddenly it's okay. More than okay. It's fucking wonderful, and I smile at him then and let him see, let him really see, how happy he's made me by what he's said.


 


Brian


I knew what he was trying to ask me. I knew it was about him not being sure how much I wanted to share with him; because he knows that my "boundaries" are out in the fucking stratosphere, and he didn't want to cross them. I guess I was hoping he'd give me an out, when I asked him if he really wanted to hear what I was going to say. Turn it into a joke or something. I should fucking know better. I should know by now what a brave little shit he is. Much braver than me.


He tilts up his head like he's fucking bracing himself to hear me announce that I don't want to share any part of my business with him. Stupid faggot! But I can't have him thinking that, feeling that, not again, not now.


So I break every rule in my life and actually tell him what I feel. Well, I don't go into the lesbionic fucking details. I don't tell him that just the idea of having the whole company handing out his logo on cards and letters and every presentation we do damn near makes me come in my pants. I don't exactly say that the very thought makes me so proud of him that I'm scared I'm going to want to tell every fucker I give a card to, ‘my boyfriend designed that'.


Shit!


But I think I get the general idea across to him, because suddenly he's smiling at me like ... like ...


Fuck!


Like he did on that night nearly two years ago.


For a long time I thought he'd never smile like that again.


Then I thought he'd never smile any smile for me again.


And now he's sitting there, smiling that smile at me, and I hardly know how to deal with all the fucking feelings that brings back. Things about that night that I thought I'd forgotten. Things that I never wanted to remember.


I don't mean Hobbs and the bat and the blood. I mean the good things. The way he looked. The way it felt to hold him, dance with him, kiss him in front of the whole world. The way it felt to have him look at me the way he did that night.


Because I'd lost it. It was all fucking gone. And I could never get it back.


Even if I'd wanted to there wasn't anyone to share the fucking memories with. Daphne, I guess, when it came to the dance. But she's Justin's friend, not mine. I hardly know her. And I couldn't let her see, let anyone see what it cost me to remember.


And no one else was there during those moments in the parking garage; we'd been alone in the world, just him and me. "Best night of my life," he'd said.


And I'd wanted to say, "Mine too."


I didn't of course. Fucked if Brian Kinney would ever be that stupid. That brave. So I'd just made some crack about it being ridiculously romantic.


But he'd understood me. I'm sure he had. He'd looked straight into the places inside me that no one, not even Mikey, has ever seen, and didn't run screaming from what he saw. For a moment I'd been almost too scared to even fucking kiss him, so I'd hesitated, like I was waiting for permission or something. Then, I don't know, it was like he ... gave me the courage to lean in and touch my lips to his.


And then, like the fucking fool I am, I let him go, and ...


I can feel my heart squeezing, and he sees something's wrong, because he looks almost scared and says sharply, "Brian!"


I can only tighten my grip on his hand, and he reaches the other one across to me as well. I hold on to them as hard as I can. For a moment I feel like I'm drowning, then I look over at him.


And I hear myself saying, "You haven't smiled at me like that since the night of the Prom."


Fuck! What did I have to say that for? As if he fucking needs that to deal with right now. Especially since the only fucking thing he can remember is the bat coming at his head.


But amazingly he smiles again, and stokes his thumbs across my fingers.


"I wish I could remember," he says. "I bet we were amazing."


He doesn't wish it half as much as I do. But it isn't going to fucking happen so I just smile at him somehow and say, "You'd better fucking believe it, Sunshine."


He gives my fingers another squeeze then lets go and picks up his glass.


"Well," he says, "here's to us going right on being amazing. And if the straights don't like it ..."


He pauses and looks at me with a grin, and we clink glasses and say together, "Fuck ‘em!"


 


Justin


We didn't talk too much after that. Just had dessert and coffee. Well, I had dessert and Brian had coffee.


But that was okay. I didn't really want to talk. I just wanted time to take in what he'd said. And what it meant that he'd said it.


Not the fact that he mentioned the Prom. Which he never does. Never has. That's something I want to take home and think about later. It's almost too precious to examine too closely. The memories that Brian has of that night, they're all I have, all I'll ever have probably. And they're so painful for him that he never talks about them. So when he does, I just want to hoard the few precious glimpses he gives me. It's almost as if I'm afraid that by thinking about it, somehow I'll wear those fragile images away.


No, I didn't mean that. I meant the other stuff.


If there's one thing that tells me we're in a totally different place to where we were before I lost my mind, or my balls, or both, and fell into the fucking lake of bullshit that was my relationship with Ethan, it's not that Brian says things that he would never have said before. Or that I can say things that I didn't feel free to say before. It's not that he's fighting as hard as I am to make this work. It's not even that he doesn't run screaming or start making snide remarks every time we're treated as a couple.


What tells me things are really different is this look he gets when he says or does something that he wouldn't have done before ... it's like he expects the sky to fall in or something, and when it doesn't, he gets this look that's like ‘fuck! that was okay. I'm okay.'


He looks kind of surprised, and then he looks ... happy. He just looks happy.


Like maybe he's actually starting to believe that it's alright, that he can afford to let someone close to him without them taking advantage of it, or using it to hurt him. That he can afford to let someone, let me, close enough to love him.


Every time I see that look, I think I fall in love him a little bit more. I'm damned if I'm going to let anyone spoil this for us. And if anyone tries, they should look out. Because nothing and no one counts as much with me as the need to protect Brian, to protect us.


When we leave the restaurant, Brian puts on his coat and his gloves, and helps me into mine. I don't say anything, maybe he wants to drive with the top down. But he doesn't head for the car, instead he starts walking alongGrandview towards the Incline. I stroll along beside him, and he reaches out and takes my hand. Even through the gloves I can feel the warmth of his hand on mine and I'd feel really happy, except that I know that now he's ready to talk. Now he's going to tell me what's been eating his guts all week. Why do I have the feeling this won't be good?


We walk along on the river side of the road, admiring the view. There must be a Pirates game on at PNC Park, that side of the river is lit up like a carnival, and below us the riverboat restaurant floats in a glow of light on the dark water. It's cold, and there are a few clouds, but from up here with the lights of the city refected in the rivers evenPittsburgh looks almost romantic. I move a little closer to Brian, and he puts an arm around me as we walk along.


Then we come to one of the seats that are scattered along here so the tourists can take in the view and he sits down and pulls me with him.


We sit without saying anything for a few minutes, his arm round my shoulders, my hand on his thigh. Then he rubs his other hand over his face and says with a sigh, "Monday night, when you were working, I went to see Michael."


I try not to stiffen, try just to be there for him the way he needs me to be. If I only knew exactly how that was.


"He rang me as soon as they got back. I was with the Senator," he sounds bewildered and exasperated and exhausted all at once. Just the tiredness in his voice, and the strain, is enough to make me want to do serious damage to Michael.


"Anyway, he kept saying he had to talk to me, so ... so I met him at Woody's."


He stops and takes a breath, and lets it out in a harsh whoosh of air.


"He was going on about Boston and Ben and how he doesn't know what to do. I ... I tried to tell him that it's his life. He has to ... he has to get on with living it."


Again he stops and I find a way to press closer against his side. I feel his face rub against my hair.


"He ... he told me he'd stay if I ... if I asked him to."


His voice cracks on the last few words, and this horrible cold feeling of pure fury comes over me. I seriously want to mash Mikey's whiny little face. Want to hit it so hard and so often it just turns to pulp and melts away.


Fuck! Shit! Fuck!


No wonder Brian has been so fucking tense all week. That little asshole who keeps calling himself his best friend has tried yet again to make Brian fucking responsible for his whole life's happiness. Now if he goes to Boston and it doesn't work and he's miserable, that's Brian's fault for not getting him to stay. And if he stays, he's making Brian responsible for him losing Ben.


He always used to pull this sort of shit. Like, it was Brian's fault when things got rocky between him and the doctor. Not like Mikey was just stringing poor David along because he couldn't have Brian and thought he might as well make do. Not to mention maybe make Brian jealous. Oh, no! Nothing like that, because sweet little fucking Mikey would never do anything so fucking manipulative.


Or like he wouldn't dump Ben in a heartbeat if he thought that Brian ...


Fuck! Brian.


I take a deep breath, and try to figure out what to do, what to say.


I have to believe that Brian hadn't done it; hadn't asked him. No. I know he didn't. I know because I know Brian wouldn't. But also because if he had Mikey would have found a way to let me know it yesterday. He wouldn't have been able to help himself. He would have had to gloat, at least a little.


While I'm trying to figure out how to react (I'm not sure that Brian wants or needs to hear what I'm thinking about his "best friend" right now), Brian lets out a big sigh, and leans back against the seat.


"I didn't know what to do, Justin. Why ... why did he have to do that to me? Why can't he ..." his voice cracks again, "why can't he just let me go?"


He looks at me with bewildered hurt in his eyes. "If he really loves me ..."


He breaks off without finishing the sentence, and now I really don't know what to say. If I say he's right, that if Michael really loved him he'd just want Brian to be happy, then that's saying that all these years, all the love that Brian had counted on, had held on to when he had nothing else, it was all just a fantasy, an illusion.


I can not do that to him.


"He ... some people just aren't good at loving, Brian."


He gives a sad sort of laugh. "Like me, huh?"


I touch his face and make him look at me. "No, not like you," I tell him seriously. "You might not be good at saying the words, or doing the easy things, but ..."


My own voice cracks and I put both arms around him and hug him hard. I want to tell him that he's better at loving, really loving, than anyone I know, but I can't get my voice to work.


It's true, though. He's a stubborn, arrogant asshole, but I'm not sure there's anything he wouldn't do for the people he really loves - Gus, Lindz, Deb, me ... and Mikey. He'd been ready to tear his own heart to shreds so that Michael could have a chance with Dr. Dave. And what he gets back is ... I hug him even tighter.


He gives another awkward laugh, then he wraps his arms around me and buries his face in my shoulder. I hold on to him tightly, and feel his breath coming in shuddering gasps.


"Justin, I couldn't do it. I know he really wanted me to, but ..." he sounds now like he's almost crying and I loosen the grip of one hand enough to stroke the back of his neck.


"You did the right thing, Brian. It's Michael's decision to make. He has to decide for himself. If he doesn't want to be with Ben enough to leave Pitts, then it's up to him to deal with that."


For a few moments he stays like that, his face in my neck, letting me hold him, then he pulls away, sitting up straight and rubbing his hands over his face and then through his hair. Then he puts his arm around my shoulder again and just sits looking out at the lights for a few minutes. I put my head on his shoulder and he tightens his arm around me.


"Is it my fault?" he asks. "Deb says ... Deb says that I just keep giving him enough to keep him hoping."


He sighs. "I think I used to do that. I don't know if I meant to. I just ... I thought ... I thought there'd never be anyone ... anyone that I'd ever want to be with. So, if he didn't want anyone either, then it sort of didn't matter. When we got old an ugly and no one wanted either of us any more, well, then, maybe ... But meanwhile, I thought we were both just having a good time the way things were."


He sighs and then gives a sort of laugh. "Then one night under a fucking street light ..."


I grin and look up at him and find him looking at me. There's not all that much light, but there's more than enough to show that he's smiling now as he touches his forehead to mine.


"How the fuck could I have known you'd come along?"


 


Brian


I find myself looking down at him in fucking amazement. Because it is fucking incredible that somehow, someway, for some reason this extraordinary beautiful man came into my life and just fucking refused to leave, no matter what I threw at him. Even when he was with the fiddler, he was still there, still part of my life. He didn't leave me completely, not ever. He didn't run off and cut me out of his life no matter how much Ian would have liked him to.


Hell! he even let me pay for his tuition. I wasn't sure he would. I know what a proud little fucker he is, and I wasn't sure he wouldn't rather throw it all in rather than have me keep to our bargain. But he didn't. That told me more than anything else that he didn't hate me. That no matter how bad things had been, how badly I'd fucked up, I hadn't made him hate me.


He saved my ass over the thing with John. Then he let me talk him into working on the Carnivale poster, even came to the loft to go over the drafts with me. That was when I first started to feel some sort of hope ... not that he'd ever come back to me. Not that. But that we could still have something.


I mean, I knew the thing with the fiddler wasn't going to last. I thought that I'd just have to watch while he went through the same fucking thing with a whole lot of other guys.


I think I'd realised by then that Justin was always going to want the relationship shit. That he might trick occasionally, but that he liked having someone at home who meant more than just another trick.


I'd thought that the rest of my fucking life was going to be spent watching him in "relationships" with a shitload of guys, none of whom were ever going to be good enough for him. And I was okay with that.


I wasn't what he wanted, what he needed, and all I could do was hope that while he was going through all these guys, looking for Mr. Fucking Right, that I could somehow have maybe ... something. Friendship, maybe. I don't know. Just something. So I didn't have to really fucking lose him. Not completely.


Except that ... one day I walked into fucking Vanguard and there he was. My stalker was back. And I still don't know how I stopped myself from dragging him up to my office and locking him in and making damned sure he never left again.


Instead of which I panicked and tried to sack him, and when he called me on my shit, I just played right into his hands.


Which I guess was okay. I mean, it was pretty much where I fucking wanted to be anyway.


And now, here we are, sitting on a fucking bench above the river looking at all the pretty lights like a pair of ... Like a couple. We're sitting here like a fucking hetero couple, arms around each other, fingers twined together, an occasional soft kiss on the hair or the neck or the throat. The whole deal. And I've just been spilling my guts out about a whole lot of shit that I should probably just have kept to myself. Except that somehow it doesn't seem to feel that way. I feel ...


Relieved. I feel relieved. And somehow I feel stronger. Because he hasn't fucking gone into drama princess mode. But he hasn't made me feel like a fucking queen, either. He's just sitting here with me, holding me, letting me hold him, and he understands; he understands that it hurt. When Michael said that, it fucking hurt like hell that he would try to manipulate me that way.


And Justin understands that I've been trying to deal with that pain all week, trying to work out if there's some way that I can salvage something out of a friendship that's lasted more than half of my fucking life. And somehow him understanding makes it okay for me to feel bad. Like I don't have to pretend that I'm untouchable, that it's okay not to be invincible, that it doesn't make me some sort of pathetic fag because my best friend said something that hurt so much I wanted to fucking cry.


When Michael told me that he'd leave Ben, let Ben go off to Boston alone, if I wanted him to, it ... it was like he'd punched me in the gut. It left me feeling sore inside and confused and pissed off. And fucking scared. Because I think that means it's over. I think that it means that there's no fucking way that Michael can ever really deal with just being my friend; forever, just my friend. And if he can't deal with that, can't fucking accept that the only person I am ever going to be in a fucking relationship with is Justin, then ... there's no where for us, Mikey and me, to go.


I don't want it to be over. I thought Mikey and I would be friends forever.


But, apart from all the shit he's always pulled over Justin, there's been a whole new level lately to the fucking games he's playing.


There was the scene at Deb's the other week, and our conversation after it, when he'd promised me he was sorry, fucking swore that he would never do anything like that again, that he'd never try to come between Justin and I, would never try to make me choose.


Then he went off with Ben and as soon as he got back, he pulled this shit. Trying to make me say I wanted him to stay. Not just because he's too gutless to make the decision for himself, but because if I didn't ask, he could tell himself it was because I was afraid to, and that could only mean one thing, in Michael's fucked up mind, anyway. And if I did ask him to stay ... Jesus! you can just imagine how much he'd enjoy making sure that Justin knew about that.


And then there was this morning's fucking mess ...


Shit! I need to tell Justin about this morning.


He's not stupid. He will have figured out something went on. So I can either say nothing, just like I would have done back then, back before it all crashed and burned, and leave him trying to deal with all of that, all that it means that I cut him out like that, or I can fucking talk to him about it.


I'd rather have fucking root canal work, but ...


"I still haven't told you about my scary moment with Mel."


 

Chapter 13: Car Trouble by Wren

 

 

Justin

We just sat together on that bench for ages. Not speaking; Brian had told me all he wanted to get off his chest. He didn't need me to comment on it. He just needed me to know, and to understand. 

I understood all right. I more than understood what a total prick his "best friend" is. God! I wish I'd been there when Mel laid into him. I know that Mel and Brian don't exactly get along, and sometimes to be honest I think she can be a real bitch. But she's an honest bitch. And she would never take kindly to someone cheating one of her friends. Especially after what her and Lindzwent through with Ted.

Emmett told me about that. He was so upset about it, and he paid back all the money, but I think Michael pulling the same sort of stunt must have just about sent Mel into orbit. I so wish I'd been there.

But right now, I really wouldn't want to be anywhere but here. Brian's arm is warm around me, and mine is still tucked behind him, holding him while we just sit and enjoy being together. The clouds have cleared now, and you can see the sky. The stars are bright, and there's the tiniest sliver of a new moon reflecting in the dark water of the river. It's getting colder and I guess we should move soon, but this is just ...

"Ridiculously romantic," I hear myself saying.

He stiffens beside me and I realise that I should never ever have used the "r" word - well, the other "r" word.

"Wh ... what?"

"Brian, it's okay. It was a joke. I mean I know we're not some het couple, c'mon!"

He sits very still for a moment, and very silent. His silence is so deep it could drown the world. 

Then he says, "I said that, those exact words. The night ..."

He stops, but I know which night. There's only one night he would ever have used those words. It's a killer that it's the one night of all those that we've spent together that I can't remember.

I rub my face against his shoulder, but don't say anything. I'm not sure that my voice would work, and besides, there's nothing to say.

He turns his face to me, and our mouths find their way to each other without our brains seeming to have anything to do with it. It's a long kiss. Sweet and wet.

Then he huffs a little sigh and says against my lips, "Ridiculously romantic."

And kisses me again.

Then, as one, we stand and take each other's hand and start the walk back to the car.



Brian

I can't believe he said that. I don't know if it means that he's starting to remember, or if it was just a fucking fluke.

I don't know if I want him to remember.

As long as he doesn't, then we can go on from where we are now. Maybe if he remembered, he'd ... we'd ...try to go back to how it felt then, and that would be such a huge fucking mistake. Things are good now. Better than they were then. That night might have been romantic, but this is real. This is ... this is how our lives can be. Every day. Every night. Not all happy sappy like some hetsitcom; not all drama all the time like some damned soap. Just ... life ... good bits, bad bits. But together.

Which makes even the bad bits okay.

I'm going to need enough help not to fuck this up without trying to recapture that night. Maybe he is too.

But ... I know he feels cheated. I know damned well that's why he pushed so hard before with all the romance shit ... because he couldn't remember that night, and he wanted it back. And I refused to give it to him. To even try.

Except that I did try. With Daph at the loft, and later in the parking garage. I did try. And it nearly killed me. It tore me apart all over again. I just couldn't go back there.

I realize that I've put my arm around him and pulled him close to me as we walk. His arm is round my waist now, so I guess I'm stuck with walking like this all the way back to the car.

Shit! the car. I still have to talk to him about the car. As if I haven't fucking talked enough tonight.

But I want to go looking tomorrow, while we both have the time, so I guess it's either tonight or tomorrow morning.

If I put it off till then, then at least I'll be sure of getting some tonight. But he'll be even more pissed with me tomorrow.

Funny how I'm so sure that he's going to be pissed with me.

Maybe I can find a way to spin it. I mean, this afternoon changed things a bit. And I'm Brian Kinney for fuck's sake. I should be able to sell this to him. 

Except that he usually sees right through all my bullshit, almost before I start. Still, I have to try. And I've surely racked up some brownie points tonight. So even if he is pissed, he might still come across. Hell! he'll be as horny as I am after just sitting close like that for fucking hours. This is probably the best time. Get him a bit hot and bothered, and tell him then while he's a bit distracted. That way ...

"Brian, what are you thinking about?"

Shit!



Justin


Normally I would never ask him a question like that, but I swear as we walked back to the car you could practically see the wheels turning. There's this look that he gets when he's planning something and he's not sure I'm going to be thrilled about it, and that look was all over his face. I figured whatever it was, it was better to get it out in the open.

Maybe he just wants to go to Babylon or Woody's.

I'm not really up to it, but that's okay. He can go. I know he'll come home to me eventually.

It's funny, you'd think that after feeling so close to him tonight, the thought that he might want to go out tricking would just about kill me. But it's sort of the opposite. I know, really know, that it just wouldn't mean anything more than that he's had a rough week, and needs to relax a bit.

He gives me a sort of "sprung!" look, but we get to the car just then and so there's a few minutes while we get in and turn the heater on, and get rid of our coats, that he gets not to answer.

Then he starts the car and says just about the last thing I'd expected to hear. "I was thinking about going looking for a car tomorrow."

He's driving around again in his dream car and he ... shit!

"No, Brian," I say firmly. "No. Not happening."

He is so not buying me a car.

"Justin ..."

"No!" I don't even let him get started. That's the only way with Brian. He's all too good at talking people into things

"Justin, please. At least listen."

I fold my lips together and just stare out the window. I will not be his little boy toy. I will not.

"Look ... when I bought this car ... Michael called it boyfriend replacement therapy, and I guess it was in a way."

I can't believe he said that. I turn my head to stare at him. We pull up at some lights just then, and he gives me a look. Then he shrugs.

"Justin ... you know ... you know how I am. When you left, I ..." his voice fails for a moment and I have to touch him. I put my hand on his arm and he gives a little grin as the car moves forward again.

"Anyway, I went into ... you know ... back to being ..."

"Bad Boy Brian?"

He laughs a bit and nods. "Yeah. That's it. So having a car that only had room for me and my trick de jour, that was ... it was part of it."

I nod. "Yes, okay, I see that. But what ..."

"That's not exactly who I am though any more. Is it?"

I fall silent, not quite knowing how to answer that. Not without setting off major hissy fits anyway.

He laughs again and reaches out to squeeze my thigh.

"Justin, I need ... we need ... a car that we can use to take Gus out with us. We can't do that in the `Vette."

I bite my lip. I hate to admit it but that does make sense.

"I thought when I picked my new company car I could choose something ... you know."

"A family car," I giggle. I can't help it. It's too good an opportunity to tease him.

"Fucker!" he says, but there's no anger there.

I grin at him.

"So you want to go shopping for a family saloon."

"Fuck no!" he shudders. "Another Jeep maybe. I don't know. Something like that. Something big enough for you and me and Gus ... and the new baby, I guess, later on. But not ... shit!"

"Okay, something big enough, but still cool and sexy."

"Exactly."

"So we use that whenever we want to take Gus anywhere, and the rest of the time it sits in the garage."

He sneaks a look at me.

"Well ..." he says.

"Brian!"

"Justin," he says back.

"Brian everyone will just think that you bought me a car. I hate that. I hate it that ..."

"Not everyone," he says quietly. "Michael."

I blush because he's hit the nail on the head with what my real problem is.

We arrive home then, and once more there's a pause in the conversation while we get ourselves out of the car and into the building. This time, I'm the one who gets the extra time to think up a response.

In the elevator he pulls me close and starts kissing my neck, sucking on the pulse spot just below my jaw which he knows drives me crazy. I push him away.

"Just tell me one thing," I demand.

He rolls his tongue around his cheek, but nods.

"Never mind the `Vette. Were you planning on buying a second car anyway?"

He sucks his lips in for a moment, then as the elevator arrives at the top, he nods. I sigh. At least I can rely on him to be honest about that sort of stuff. Well, about most things; unless the biggest lie he's telling is to himself - like with all that `I don't believe in love' bullshit.

We get the door of the loft open, and he starts again, "Justin, listen ..."

"No. I've told you. I won't have it, Brian. I won't."

"Look, before, when we didn't have the money, then you wasting time you don't have, riding all over town on the damned buses, made some sort of sense. But now that we do ..."

"I don't."

His head goes up and back like I've slapped him. He takes a deep breath, and then says steadily, "*We* have the money. *We* do. Or what's the point?"

I stare into his eyes for a long moment while my heart and my brain fight it out. My heart is saying, `Yes! Yes! Yes! He's right.' and my brain is saying `this is too much, too soon, slow down'.

Somehow, I shake free of both of them and move into a clear space where all the possible paths our relationship could take from here seem to spread out before me, branching in so many different directions it should be nothing but confusion, but for some reason the right path is suddenly really obvious.

The right path is the one that doesn't hurt Brian. The one that doesn't throw back in his face all that he's trying so hard to give me. I don't mean the damned car. I mean his trust, his love, hiscommitment to me, to us. The right path is the one that doesn't sacrifice all that in no better cause than my false pride.

I smile at him a bit shakily, and he relaxes and I see in his eyes that he knows it's alright. That he knows I've heard what he's saying to me. And that I agree. 

It is *we*. It has to be *us*, or what we're doing, everything we've been through doesn't make any sense at all.

His eyes get that glow in them then and he sticks his tongue in his cheek again.

"Besides," he drawls, "the `Vette might be as sexy looking as hell, but it's fucking useless when it comes to real action."

I go to him and, taking hold of his belt, pull him forward against me. He gives me the same tongue in cheek grin and I grab his shoulders and push down on them hard. He sinks to his knees and kneels there, looking up at me.

Slowly, I undo my pants. 

His eyes aren't on my face anymore, and his tongue flicks over his lips. I feel my cock jump just at the sight of it.

Without using his hands at all, he leans forward and mouths and licks at my cock until it hardens. Then he presses his open mouth against the underside of the shaft and I can feel his tongue fluttering against the largest vein. It feels incredible and I let out a little moan.

His mouth moves up to cover the head and he suckles it gently. I reach down and start fisting myself while he goes on suckling and I feel the precum start to weep from my slit. I'm getting close, and I don't want to cum like this, but I don't want him to stop, either.

He takes the decision from me, slurping up the precum with his tongue and then standing and kissing me deeply so I can taste myself in his mouth.

He kisses me again, his hands cupping the back of my head and tangling in my hair. Then he drops a little kiss on my nose.

"Bed," he says. "It's too fucking uncomfortable out here."



Brian

We fucked each other damned near into a coma and now we're just lying here together and nothing in my whole fucked up life has ever felt this good. 

I don't want to think anymore. Especially not about the moment when I thought it was all about to go to Hell. The moment before he smiled at me and saved me. Again. But there is one more thing I have to make sure he knows.

While he's curled against my side with his head in the hollow of my shoulder, I say, "Justin. I understand about the need to feel independent, to stand on your own feet. I do."

I want to tell him that he more than stands on his own feet, more than pulls his own weight, that he's fucking carrying me plus all my baggage half the time, but I don't know how. So I just say, "Let's go tomorrow and look for a car. We'll insure it for both of us, but after that I'll leave it up to you whether you want to drive it."

He gives a sort of chuckle, his breath tickling my bare skin.

"You won't pout if I decide not to?"

"Probably," I answer sleepily. 

He kisses my shoulder. 

"Sometimes it's sexy when you pout," he says.

"Mm," I grunt. I'm relaxed now that I've told him. I'm almost asleep.

His arm wraps around me a little bit tighter.

"Thanks, Brian."

I'm not sure what he's thanking me for exactly. I don't know if even he's sure. But it doesn't matter. None of that matters. Only this. Only this place that's us together. Only this warmth and safety and peace.



Justin

We wake up fairly early in the morning, and, instead of just fucking the extra time away, we decide to get up and get going. Without talking about it, we both know that we want to be out of the loft before anyone can come round to visit. They can't barge in on us anymore, at least, but that's not going to stop them trying to hammer the door down.

For the same reason we don't go to the diner. Neither of us want to deal with Mikey - or with Deb, who is bound to stick her nose into it on dear Mikey's behalf. God only knows what he's told her about it all, but it doesn't matter. No matter what's happened, what Michael has done, how many people he's hurt - Ben, me, Mel, Brian - it's going to be all Brian's fault, and I just can't hear that this morning.

Suddenly I'm really glad that I can quit my job at the diner. I love Deb, and hell, yes, I'm grateful to her. But she ... she's Michael's mom. When it all comes down, that's the thing that counts. Which is okay. I mean, everyone's got a right to expect their mom to be on their side. But it seems like it's always at Brian's expense. She can't accept that darling Michael might behave like an idiot or a total little shit because that's what he is, so it has to be Brian who has "made" him act like that. 

Jesus! He's over thirty, and he's still getting away with blaming his friends for leading him astray. My mom wouldn't let me get away with that when I was five. She would never have let me get away with blaming any of my actions on someone else. I guess I should thank her for that, because I sure as hell wouldn't have wanted to grow up into Michael.

That thought makes me chuckle as we get out of the elevator, and Brian quirks an eyebrow at me. 

I can't explain, so I just nudge him with my shoulder and say, "So, are we looking for another Jeep, or something a bit less ..."

"Less what?"

"Oh, I dunno. Gay?"

He gives me one of his patented Kinney you're on thin ice looks and I laugh again. 

"Well, macho-gay, then."

"Shit!" 

"C'mon, Brian. You know it. It's every gay boy's dream to have a car like that to strut their stuff in. It might as well have a "I'm a big horny Top" sign on it."

His eyes twinkle with laughter then, and I grin at him, happy to see it.

"Now that might be an idea. Except that I won't be the one driving it. We'd need to paint a "I'm really a sweet and soft little Twinkie bottom" sign to go on the back."

As we walk to the car I punch his arm.

"I was hard enough for you last night," I retort. 

"I made do," he grins.

"I seem to recall that I did the making ... I made you pant," I back him up against the car, not caring if anyone sees us, and rub one hand over his crotch, while I put the other up round his neck.

"And I made you moan," I kiss him, and slide my arm around him so that my hand leaves his crotch, and cups his ass.

"And I made ..."

Kiss, squeeze.

"You ..."

Kiss, squeeze.

"Scream ..."

Deep kiss, harder squeeze, grind up against him.

"And beg ..."

Deep and deeper kiss. Hardly any breath now. His hands holding my head at just the right angle for his tongue to stroke the roof of my mouth, both my hands on his ass now, pulling him harder against me.

"Me to fuck you."

The last words take up all my breath and after that there's just the sounds our mouths make on each other's.

Then he pushes me away.

"Fuck!" he says. Appreciative and exasperated and frustrated all at once.

"Later," I say, opening the car door. "We have to get the fuckmobile first."

As we drive off it suddenly comes to me that I'm going to drive the car, our car. I'm not only going to drive it, I'm going to flaunt that I'm driving it.

Michael can interpret that as another example of my using Brian all he wants.

I know what the real interpretation is. Brian and I both know what it really means. It means we're `we'; we're `us'. It's as much a symbol of that as if he'd put a fucking ring on my finger. And a hell of a lot more practical.

Now I can hardly wait to find a car. And to show it off.

Maybe we should have lunch at the diner on the way home.

Chapter 14: Tangled Web by Wren
Author's Notes:

 


 


So sorry - somehow Chapter 13 got posted twice and I hadn't realized it.  Have now updated to the correct chapter 14.

 

 

Justin

Of course the argument about what type of car starts as soon as we pull out of the parking garage. I’d thought second hand, Brian insists on new. His rationale is that there is a reason that someone has got rid of any second hand car, and it’s likely to be something that the new owner is going to suffer over. He figures he doesn’t want to buy someone else’s past problem. (I try to ask how this fits with getting the ‘Vette, but he brushes this aside - apparently ‘classic’ cars are different.)

He’s possibly right about the probable risks, though, and since neither of us want to be driving Gus around in a potentially unsafe car, and my argument on the depreciation on new cars the moment you drive them out of the sale room doesn’t go anywhere, we reach an agreement that new is the way to go.

Then we get into the type of car. Brian has his mind made up already. A Jaguar XK8 convertible. Preferably red. Leather upholstery. Four seats. 5 speed manual. Room, he argues, for Gus in the back, but still classy, still smooth. Still sexy as hell.

I dig my toes in.

It’s nothing like what I want, or what I would feel comfortable driving. Parking that at PIFA would be an invitation to have it broken into every second day. Hub caps, stereo, you’d never be able to keep anything. Even if they left you the car. Besides, if ever anything screamed “Kept Man” it would be a fucking car like that.

Not to mention that Brian would have conniptions over every scratch, every mark on the upholstery. And with my lifestyle, climbing into the car in paint stained jeans, and wanting to be able to eat a Big Mac without worrying if the sauce escaped and dripped on the seat - no. Simply not happening. Not to mention that even if a child seat could be fitted for Gus, he’d only have to spill something for the anal label queen over there to throw major hissy fits. Which just isn’t fair. Gus isn’t a messy kid, and he does his best, but he’s only little. I want something that he feels comfortable in as well.

We argue all through breakfast, but without getting anywhere. Finally I say, “Brian, who is going to be driving this car most?”

He huffs. “Well you didn’t want to drive it at all,” he pouts.

“Okay. If you don’t want me to drive it, then get your Jag.”

He glares at me.

“But if you do want me to drive it. And feel comfortable driving it.”

He looks at me from under his lashes.

“And feel like it really is our car - and mine to drive …”

He sighs, and turns his head to check out the waiter who’s nothing special, just a way to make a point, he thinks.

“Then I want something that fits my lifestyle. That is what I need,” I finish, refusing to let him phase me.

He sucks his lips in and gives the waiter the eye for just a second before he looks back at me.

“So what do you need?” he asks.

I rub my foot against his calf under the table, and his lips twitch, but he pulls his foot away.

“Stop that shit, and tell me what you want to get,” he orders.

“I like the new Honda 4 wheel drive - the Element.”

Mr. Label Queen rolls his eyes at the word ‘Honda”, but I persist.

“Brian, it’s perfect for what I need. For what we need.”

He gives me the ‘I’m so totally unconvinced’ look, and I have to grin at him.

“Look. It’s got doors that open out from each other so it’s easy to get to the back seat. Which means a lot less drama getting Gus in and out of his child seat than in any normal four door - let alone a two door.”

He wriggles a little, which pretty much equates to a ‘yes, okay’ in Kinney-ese..

“It’s got wipe clean upholstery …”

“Jesus, Justin!”

“Yes, alright. But that’s important for me - with all my paint and shit. I don’t want to have to worry every time I get into the damned car that I’m going to mark the upholstery.”

He meets my eyes full on then, and nods. I relax, because he’s really listening now, really hearing me.

“It’s got lots of room if I have to cart canvases or sculptures around.”

Again he nods.

“It’s got a sunroof, so you can at least open that, even if it’s not fully convertible.”

He just grins at that.

“And the seats lay right back - all four of them. So there’s lots …” my foot brushes his ankle again, and this time he doesn’t move it, “… and lots of room.”

“For your artist’s supplies,” he says with the tongue in cheek grin that always, always gets me hot.

“Mm-hm,” I nod, running my tongue over my lips. And for other things, but I don’t have to say that. It’s very clear in both our minds.

He looks down at his coffee cup for a moment. Then he looks back at me. His eyes are strangely vulnerable now.

“So … that means you’re going to drive it?” he asks off-handedly.

“Yes,” I say. “That means that I’m going to drive our car.”

He looks down again for a moment, as if he knows how much I can see in his eyes. Then he looks back up and he’s smiling almost shyly at me.

“Good,” is all he says, but it makes me reach my hand across the table to touch his and he smiles again , his lips tucked in, but his eyes shining.

God! I wish there was a way to show him, really make him know, how much I love him.

But from the look on his face, maybe I just did.

*****

Brian

The little shit. It should scare the bejesus out of me that he can read me like that, but instead …

I guess I’m starting to learn that the only time I have to be afraid with Justin is when he can’t read me. It’s when he stopped seeing past all my usual bullshit that we crashed and burned last time. So long as I can see that he’s ‘onto’ me, then everything’s okay.

Fuck, better than okay. Much, much better.

We’re just about done with breakfast when his cell rings. He answers of course.

“Oh, hi, Lindz,” he says.

So I settle down again and signal for another coffee. She left a message last night, so if she’s chasing him already, it’s likely to be her idea of urgent.

I try not to listen. It’s probably about Sunday, and I don’t want to have to be reminded of all that shit today. Fucking birthdays.

I watch him though, so I see when his face changes, and he gets this look that tells me he’s … not upset, that makes him sound like some little pussy faggot … mad. To be honest he looks madder than hell, and trying not to show it, not to scream at her, not to draw attention to himself in the middle of this diner-away-from home. Trying to behave like the good little WASP boy his mother reared. When I see that look I stop even pretending not to listen.

“Look, Lindz. I think you and Mel should do whatever you think is best about that. It’s your house.”

I was right. He does sound pissed. I raise an eyebrow at him. He ignores it, and turns away a little.

“Lindz, I am not going to be the bad guy here. If you and Mel can’t agree … No! No, fuck that!. No. Look Lindz, I have to go. You … it’s up to you. Bye.”

He prods the ‘end’ button savagely, as if he really wants one of those old receivers that you could slam into place and let the phone at least know how you felt.

I don’t say anything. If he wants to tell me he will. I’m guessing it’s about Sunday. I’d even bet I’ve got a good idea what Lindz the ‘let’s see the best in everyone’ and her partner might be disagreeing about, and for once it’s not me.

But Justin’s right. It’s up to them.

He looks as if he might say something for a minute, then he shrugs it away. He’s picking at the few crumbs he left on his plate while I finish up my second coffee when his cell rings again. For once I think he’s going to do the smart thing and turn the fucker off, and he looks as if he’s seriously considering it, so it must be fucking bad. But then he answers, good little WASP that he his. Not to mention curious as a cat.

“Hi, Mel.”

I grin.

“Yeah.”

Pause.

“No shit!”

He sounds excited and happy. Must be good news about the money.

“What?!”

Now he sounds rattled.

“Yes, I see.”

Shit! Now he’s just flattened like a pancake. What the fuck? What has that bitch said to him?

“No, I know. Yeah. Okay.”

All in a string, like she’s talking real fast and he can hardly squeeze the responses in there.

“Yeah, I know that. Okay. We can talk about it on Sunday.”

He sounds sad and tired. What the fuck has she said?

I raise an eyebrow at him. This one he needs to tell me. I need him to tell me.

He picks at his empty plate. Then he says, “” Mel says …”

He looks up at me and his eyes are dark, angry and sad at the same time.

“The money from Rage … there should be about four thousand dollars.”

“Fuck!” I stare at him. I’d had no fucking idea it had been selling that well.

“Apparently Michael has been shipping it to stores all over the country. Even to Europe.”

“And that’s bad news because …?” I ask cautiously.

Because my friend has ripped my lover off for his share of the proceeds. But we already knew that. There better not be any loopholes in that fucking contract. I will not stand by and see Justin cheated. Least of all by my so-called best friend.

Justin sighs. It sounds like defeat.

“Michael’s been using all the money to pay off Deb’s mortgage.”

Shit!

****

Justin

I didn’t want to tell him. I don’t want him to have to deal with this shit, but I know him. I saw the look he had in his eyes when I was talking to Mel, and I knew then he wasn’t going to let this drop. So it’s best just to get it said, and out there, and then we can deal.

Except how do you deal with this?

How can I tell Michael ‘sorry, but I need that money, and if that means that you have to re-mortgage your mother’s house, too bad’? It would be bad enough if it weren’t Deb. But it being Deb makes it impossible. Both Brian and I owe her so much. More than a few thousand dollars could ever repay.

Mel says it was still my money and he had no right. And I guess that’s true, but … he did it. And what the fuck can I do about it now without being the biggest jerk in the history of the planet? Sue him?

What’s worse, is that I know Brian is going to try to fix it. He’s going to want to find the money, and give it to me, and say that Michael can just owe him. Which is the last thing Brian needs. The last thing we need. And it’s not what I want. It’s just not right. I don’t want him involved in this. Well, anymore than he has to be because one of the people who set up this mess is his ‘best friend’ and the other is … his partner. I’m his fucking partner. Whether he ever says it or not, that’s what it means when he talks about ‘we’ and ‘us’. No matter what anyone else thinks or knows or what the fuck… we’re partners.

I have to look away from him for a moment because I can feel my eyes stinging. I’m angry. And frustrated as hell. Only Michael could manage to cheat someone out of thousands of dollars and come out of it making it look like he’s the victim if they want it back. He is such a …

I take a deep breath. This isn’t going anywhere, and Brian is being frighteningly quiet.

I shake my head a little to clear it.

“Look. It doesn’t matter. Not really. I didn’t have the money yesterday, and I was okay. I’m okay today.”

He looks at me and nods, and then he totally blows me away.

“I think we need to talk to Deb,” he says.

I stare at him.

“Justin … she’s going to find out. Mel knows, Lindz probably knows. Emmett is living there for fuck’s sake. You think he’s not going to find out? And he works with Vic … Deb’s going to hear about it. It concerns her, and it’s best that she hears about it first from you. Not as part of a parcel of gossip and God knows how it’s going to sound.”

He sighs. “Once she knows, we can deal with Michael.”

“Brian, I can’t,” I hear my voice shake and I despise myself, but I can’t help it.

He gets up and comes round to me, so I stand up too. He tangles his fingers in the back of my hair.

“Justin,” he says quietly, ‘you haven’t done anything wrong.”

I shrug. “Maybe I have. I left it all to Michael … maybe I should have … “

“Justin … the contract isn’t a fifty-fifty split is it?”

“No. I get thirty five percent of any profit, but …”

“Michael gets the extra thirty percent for doing the sales.”

“Fifteen,” I correct.

“No. You each get thirty five percent for your work on the comic. If anything, you should get more, because the drawings are more work than the words.”

“But he has to think up …”

“Justin, I’ve heard you two … it’s not like he comes up with the ideas and the story, and all you have to do is draw. You work out the basic idea together, you draw, he puts the words together, and for that you each get thirty five percent. That’s seventy percent. The other thirty percent is his fee for doing the sales work. You were entitled to leave that to him.”

“Well, but I should have …”

“What? Checked up on him?”

I shrug and then nod.

“So what you did wrong was to trust someone who is supposed to be your friend, my best friend and your business partner?”

I look up at him now and his lips twist into a rueful grin. “I don’t think that ranks high in the catalogue of unforgivable sins, Sunshine.”

I punch him. He only uses that nickname now to tease me.

He grins. “Come on. If Deb’s on the lunch time shift at the diner we can catch her before she leaves. Let’s get this over with and then go back to our day.”

I nod. He’s right. Deb’s going to be really upset about this, and I don’t want her to hear it as some sort of back-stabbing gossip. I want to be up front with her. It’s not like I’m going to demand the money back. I just don’t want her to hear it from someone else first.

And on the way to Deb’s I can work out if I need to do something about the other problem that Lindz tried to drop in my lap.

Mel doesn’t want Michael at Brian’s birthday lunch on Sunday. She is really pissed off with him over this, and over the business about Boston. After all the fuss he kicked up about his parental rights, I don’t blame her for being furious that he’s thinking about going so far away without even talking to her about it. Except, of course, that he’s not really thinking about it. I know Brian didn’t say anything to her about it, but she seems to have worked out that Michael is expecting Brian to ‘stop’ him from going.

Lindz doesn’t really want him there either, she says. Mel has said that she doesn’t trust him not to make another scene like he did that night at Deb’s, and Lindz agrees. She just thinks that Brian might be hurt if he’s not there. And, of course, she doesn’t want to have to face Deb and explain why they haven’t invited him.

So she wants me to say what I think they should do. Or, even better, ask Brian.

Fuck that! They are so not making him responsible for this mess. If they want to invite Michael, fine. I will try to remember my manners, and I will remember that it’s Brian who’s going to be caught in the crossfire, he’s the one who’s going to be hurt. And I will keep my tongue between my teeth and just get through it.

Or if they don’t want Michael there, that’s even better. But either way, I am not making the decision for them. Much less let them palm it off on Brian. Because if I do, we can’t win. If Brian says, ‘let him come’ and it’s all shitty uncomfortable which it’s bound to be, then it will be all ‘oh, we didn’t really want to invite Michael, but Brian wanted him here’, and if he says ‘no’, then when Deb goes off her rocker about it, it will be ‘oh, Brian thought it would be better for Justin if he wasn’t here’. So either way, Brian is the asshole who’s to blame. And there’s only one person to blame here, and it sure as shit isn’t Brian.

Mind you, I guess that after this visit to Deb’s she’ll at least know what part of the problem with Michael is.

*****

Brian

I could kill Mikey right now for creating this fucking mess. We get to the car and get in and I turn to look at Justin. He’s still looking tired and sad and pissed off all at once.

I want to fucking hold him and comfort him and find a way to tell him that everything will be okay. But I’m no good at that shit. And … it’s easy for me to say. As long as he’s sitting right here, then everything is okay for me.

But for him?

He’s staring straight ahead of him as I start the car. His lips are pinched together and I can tell he’s mad as hell and I don’t have a fucking clue what to say. Then he turns to me.

“Bri…”

I look over at him and he puts his hand on my arm.

“I don’t want you to get caught in the middle of this. You should just stay out in the car and I’ll go in and talk to Deb.”

Fuck that! That’s my first reaction. Then I hear what he’s really saying to me. He’s not mad at Mikey because of the money, or because he’s behaved like such a little asshole. Well, he is. But that’s not the real issue for Justin. Justin’s mad at Mikey because of me. Because he … because he knows that this hurts. All this shit hurts. It hurts to be losing my best friend.

That’s a joke.

My best friend is sitting here in the car with me. And as long as he is, as long as he’s with me anywhere, I’m okay. I just have to figure out a way to let him know that. I take a deep breath.

“Besides,” he says. “She’ll go easy on me. If you’re there, she’s just going to …”

He breaks off then, but it’s clear what he was going to say. My being there is going to make it worse is what he’s telling me. And he’s probably right. It’s sure as hell not going to help. But I don’t want him to have to face this alone. I’ve left him to face so many problems alone when I should have been there for him. I don’t want this to be added to the list.

“Just be waiting for me okay?” His voice sounds a little shaky, and I want to hug him so fucking badly…

“Count on it,” my voice sounds strange and he looks at me and gives me a little smile.

“I am. I do.”

I pull up the car then, right outside Deb’s door, and he leans over and kisses me.

“Wish me luck,” he breathes.

I grab him and kiss him properly. Well, as well as I can in this stupid fucking car. He leans against me for a moment, then he opens the door.

“Should I keep the motor running?” I ask.

He gives a bit of a laugh, and says, “Might be an idea.”

He’s halfway out when he stops and says, “I might be a while, Bri.”

I just nod. Then I say, “If you’re not out of there in thirty minutes, I’m coming in.”

This time he nods. “If I’m not out by then I might need the cavalry …”

“I’ll be there.”

He leans in to give me another kiss, then he closes the door. I see him straighten his shoulders and off he goes up to the door. Alone.

Who needs Rage? There goes a real fucking super hero.

*****

Justin

On the way to the front door I should be working out what I’m going to say to Debbie, but all I can think is that I can’t believe that Brian’s letting me handle this. I was sure he was going to argue, sure that he’d insist on at least coming in with me. But I’m glad that he’s not. Deb would only find a way to blame him for all this, and it has nothing to do with Brian. Well, except that everything Michael does seems to have something to do with Brian, but that’s not Brian’s fault.

I’m not stupid. I know that when Deb says that Brian kept Michael on a string that there’s some truth in that. But what she doesn’t seem to get is that Michael’s had Brian on a much tighter one. I know. I’ve watched him jerking on it.

But not this time. This time it’s between Michael and me.

I just wish that Deb wasn’t involved.

Vic opens the door. From the look on his face when he sees me I realize that he already knows something.

“You’d better come in,” he says in that calm, resigned sort of Vic way.

As I walk in I hear Deb’s voice, loud and with an almost frantic edge, saying, “So what are you saying? If he sues … if he sues I could lose the house?”

Fuck!

I walk into the room and they both turn to look at me, Debbie and her son. It’s all I can do not to just punch him in the face. What the fuck has he told her that’s got her so upset?

Michael practically snarls at me, “What do you want? Where’s Brian?”

“Brian’s not here,” I say firmly. “This has got nothing to do with Brian.”

“The fuck it hasn’t!” Deb shouts. “It’s always about Brian.”

I stand and wait till she stops. Then I say quietly, “I just came to tell you … I didn’t want you to worry. That’s all.”

Her face crumples then and I see her clearly for the first time and realize that she’s been crying. I go and put my arms around her and she holds on to me so tightly I’m afraid my ribs are going to crack.

“Deb, it’s okay. You know that … that I would never …”

“Oh, Sunshine, I know. I’m just so worried.”

“Ma, there’s nothing to worry about. I told you. Justin doesn’t really need the money …”

She lets go then alright. She rounds on him and hits him. Not just a love tap, either. She really slaps him hard. His head jerks back and that side of his face is now dark red.

“How the fuck would you know what Justin needs? He’s got his school to pay for and clothes - everything. How could you think I’d let you steal money from him to pay my mortgage?”

She starts crying again then and mumbles something to me about being sorry, but it’s all so damp and smothered that I can’t really hear it.

Michael just stands there, and says, “Brian will get him anything he wants. He pays for everything anyway.”

That does it. I go up to him and get right in his face. “Is that what you were telling yourself two weeks ago, Michael? When Brian was broke and out of work and had debts up to his eyeballs. While you had my money that we could fucking have used to just put food on the table, let alone try to pay of some of the debt. Were you telling yourself then that we didn’t really need it?”

He backs up a little and says, “Well, we all knew he’d get his job back.”

“No. We didn’t.”

Surprisingly, that comes from Vic.

Michael and I both turn a little to look at him and Debbie goes to say something, but he goes on, “And anyway, this must have started months ago. Before Justin got back with Brian. While he was still on his own.”

He looks at Michael and I realize that he’s really angry. I’ve hardly ever seen him angry before. Except when that cop had him arrested, but this is different. This is with one of the family. I’ve never seen that before.

By the look on his face Michael hasn’t either.

“Uncle Vic …”

“Back when Justin thought he was going to have to drop out of school, because he couldn’t pay the fees. There would have been money then that might have helped.”

“But Mom needed …”

He doesn’t get any further, because he has to dodge quickly as Deb’s hand snakes out again. “Don’t you dare!” she shouts. “Don’t you fucking dare pretend this is about me. This is about Brian. Because you want him to fucking sweep in here and lend you the money so that you can keep … keep …”

And then she starts crying again, and we’re all silent because there’s not a lot to say. She’s right. She’s absolutely right. But if that’s what Michael’s counting on, he’s in for a shock.

“No, Ma!” he protests, trying to put his arm around her, but she pushes him away. “I was just worried about you. You were working so hard. And since I took on the shop, I haven’t been able to do as much …”

Her head comes up then. “Since you left with David, you mean.”

His mouth opens, but nothing comes out.

“You left with David, and the whole time you were gone, we managed, Vic and I. We managed just fine. And now that Vic and Emmett are doing so well,” her voice gets wobbly, and she looks across at her brother. He gives her that rueful little Vic smile, and she smiles back at him proudly, “They’re doing great and Vic’s paid a fucking lot off the mortgage. You’d know that if you’d bothered to ask. So don’t you pretend that all that isn’t just some sort of excuse.”

Her voice breaks then and she says pitifully, “Michael, what’s wrong with you? You’ve got Ben now. And he’s … he’s so good to you. He’s … why isn’t he enough?”

“Ma, Ben and I … we …”

She waves her hand like she’s brushing away a fly. “No. No. I don’t want to hear it.”

Michael sighs. That fucking martyr sigh that makes me want to punch him so hard his teeth will rattle. “Look, Brian’s my friend. I’m sure if Justin really needs the money then Brian can …”

I’ve had enough.

“No, Brian can’t. Brian won’t. He’s not getting involved in this.” I push my face into his again and say real quiet but as forcefully as I can, “You’re not getting him involved in this.”

“Where is he?” the asshole asks again suddenly. “What have you told him?”

“I’ve told him exactly the truth Michael. That I trusted you to handle the sales for Rage, and that according to Mel you owe me around four thousand dollars. And that you seem to have been using my money to make payments off Deb’s mortgage.”

“Four thousand?” Deb and Vic say together, and I realize that he might have told them some of the truth, but apparently not all of it.

Debbie is just staring at him now, like she can’t believe it. Like she doesn’t recognize him. “You … you owe Justin four thousand dollars?”

He shrugs. “Well … some of that is mine for the work …”

“No!” I say firmly. He’s not getting away with that shit. “No, Michael. You got paid for the sales work. That was the other thirty percent. This is just the thirty five percent that I get under the contract.”

He shrugs again. “Whatever.”

Debbie sinks down onto a chair.

“Justin, honey, I had no idea …”

“Deb, it’s okay. We’ll work it out.”

“We could extend the mortgage maybe …”

“No, Deb! That’s not what I want.”

Vic comes and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Justin, a few hundred is one thing. But four thousand …”

He turns again to stare at Michael. “All that time that Brian was in all that trouble with money, and you owed Justin …”

“Well, it’s not like Justin would have given it to Brian …”

“Of course he would!”

To my surprise Deb jumps straight to my defense.

“If the asshole would have accepted it,” she adds. She’s known Brian a long time.

“And that’s not the point,” Vic says firmly. “The point is that it would have been Justin’s choice. But you took that choice away from him.”

“Look, I know what I did was stupid. But I’ll pay Brian back …”

“It’s not Brian you owe the fucking money to, Michael!” Vic roars, before I could say anything. “Why can’t you get that through your head?”

“Well, Brian can …”

I spin him round to face me. “Michael, I’ve said. Brian won’t. Will not.”

He’s just looking petulant, so I continue. “He couldn’t, even if he wanted to. Where do you think he’d find the money?”

“Well, he … he’s back at work. He owns the company …”

“Yes,” I nod. “But he’s just paid for it. And paid off his debt. He doesn’t have a shit load of cash lying around. He hasn’t even had a salary check yet. Won’t for another week or so.”

We’re living off my money at the moment, and racking up the credit cards a little for stuff like last night’s dinner, but there’s no need to tell Michael that.

He stands staring at me. I guess he’s so used to Brian having all the money he could need, splashing cash around like water, always being the one to buy the drink and the drugs and always ready to hand over cash if Michael needed it for anything, that he just can’t it in take in that things have changed.

“Well, he could get a cash advance …”

“Michael!” Deb’s not shouting now. She’s got control of herself, and she’s gone into that ‘I’m a mother, don’t fuck with me’ mode that makes all of us watch our steps around her, even Brian. “That’s enough. Justin’s right. This is not Brian’s problem. You shouldn’t be expecting him to fix it for you. You need …”

Then, fuck me, he says it; the line that drives me crazy.

“He’s my best friend. We’re always there for each other.”

That’s it.

That’s absolutely fucking it.

“Deb, Vic, could I have a moment to talk to Michael, please.”

Deb looks as if she might argue, but Vic nods at her and they go into the other room. Michael pouts at me.

“I still don’t see why you’re making such a big deal of this. It’s not like …”

“I need the money,” I nod. “I do need it. But that’s not the point, Michael, is it?”

He shrugs.

I nod again. And take a deep breath.

“Shall I tell you what’s going to happen?”

He looks at me warily.

“You are going to go to Boston with Ben. Or not. I don’t really give a fuck. But you are going to leave Brian alone.”

“He’s my …”

“He’s going to be what he wants to be, Michael. That’s all. You will not call him. You will not come around. You will leave him the fuck alone.”

He sneers at me, but I expect that.

“Because if you don’t, I’m not only going to sue your ass for the money, and for damages, I’m going to take Mel’s advice and file criminal charges for fraud.”

He’s not sneering now. He’s just staring at me like he can’t believe what he’s heard.

I nod one last time. “I mean it, Michael. You are going to keep the fuck away from Brian. If he wants to call you, see you, hell, if he wants to fuck you, that’s up to him. But until he calls, you stay the fuck out of his life or I swear I will do it.”

He’s still just standing staring at me, so I get into his face again. “I told you once before that if you hurt Brian again I’d make you pay for it. You didn’t believe me, but you’d better believe me now. Because I mean every word of it.”

He’s still gawping at me, but then his face changes. One minute he’s looking like he’s going to be sick, the next he gets this totally smug smirk on his face. He’s staring over my shoulder, and as I turn I already know what … or rather who, I’m going to see.

I guess the cavalry got impatient.

Chapter 15: Calvary Charge by Wren

Cavalry Charge

 

Brian

By the way his head goes up and he looks as if he's getting ready for battle, I'm guessing that he already knows I'm there when he turns around.

I can sort of see Michael somewhere in the background and I'm sure he thinks I'm the fucking cavalry come to rescue him, but I don't really give a stuff. I'm too busy staring at this little blond brat who has more balls than anyone else I've ever known.

I should be mad as hell that he's interfering in my life this way. I should be reaming him out and comforting Michael, I guess. Or just turning my back on the whole fucking mess and heading off to the Baths. Instead, I want ... I want him. I want this. I want to know that every time my life gets hard or difficult, I'm going to have him right there beside me. Fuck! You'd think I'd have got the message by now. He won't be beside me, he'll be way in front of me, leading the charge to put things back on track. I can't fucking imagine how I'm ever going to keep up with him, but I'm sure as hell not letting him get away from me again.

I suppose somewhere a part of me is falling apart, but most of me just wants to make sure that he knows that I .. that I ...

Shit! I have never had anyone go into battle like that for me before. Never. I can feel tears stinging the corners of my eyes, and I'm trying to blink them away. Michael is saying something, but I can't hear him. All I can hear is my heart pounding as Justin steps towards me.

"Brian ... I think it's ..."

"Are you ready to go?"

Our voices cross each other. He looks at me for a long moment and then he smiles. It's just a little twist of his lips at first, but when I pull my lips in and let my eyes smile back at him, like Michael isn't there, like no one else is there, like he's the only thing in the world that matters, which he is, it turns into a full Sunshine smile.

"Yes." He nods. "Yes, I think I've said everything I came to say."

"Brian!"

Michael's voice is so strident now, that Deb and Vic both spill back into the room.

"Hello, Brian," Vic's voice is calmly friendly, like always. I nod at him.

"Asshole!" Deb snaps at me, but then she hugs me hard, so I know I'm not really the one in her bad books. Suddenly I don't envy Michael. If there were three people I'd do my best not to get pissed off at me it would be Mel, Deb and Justin. And he's managed to strike the jackpot with all three of them. Of course, the one he has to worry about most is the sweet looking little blond who's hugging Vic and Deb goodbye. I wonder if Mikey realises that yet. He's never understood about Justin. I wonder if he's starting to get the message now.

"Brian ... you can't let him ... "

I look into the eyes of the man I thought I'd have for a friend forever. "He's right, Michael. I can't ... Don't call me. Don't ... come near me. Just leave me the fuck alone for a while!"

My voice cracks so that it comes out sounding like I'm begging him. Maybe I am.

"Brian!"

Vic comes up to him then and pulls him back. "Leave it, Michael," he says firmly. "It's time to let go."

"But Brian ...!"

His voice is desperate now and I can't stay here any longer. I just walk out the door and down the steps. Justin is right behind me and I stop at the gate and hand him the car keys. I'm not sure that I can see to drive.


Justin

I'm shaking a bit as I get into the car, but I'm nothing like as bad as Brian. His eyes are all red and he looks like he's just taken a kick in the balls. I guess he has. I feel like I should say something to him, but I don't know what to say, so I start the car.

He's just staring out the side window, so I pull out carefully. I've driven the ‘Vette before, but not very often. He still doesn't say anything, so I finally clear my throat and force out, "Brian ... if ... we could leave looking for the car, if you want."

He turns to look at me.

"Backing out of the deal, Sunshine?"

His voice is so slurred he sounds drunk or drugged.

I shake my head. "No. But ... you know. If you'd rather ..."

"What ... go home and fuck?"

He gives me a leer, but it's a pretty half-hearted effort.

"I thought you might want to go out," I say quietly. He knows what I mean. He's hurting. Maybe he just needs to get away from everything for a few hours. Me included. Just take a break. And if he does, that's okay. I just want him to know that it's okay.

He gives a sort of choke of laughter, but it sounds more hurt than anything else.

"Yeah," he says. "I guess that's me. Brian needs pain management ... so bring on the drink, the drugs and the dirty sex."

His voice is definitely hurt. Worse, it's full of self-disgust.

"Brian ..." I didn't mean to hurt him. Fuck! that's the last thing I wanted to do.

He laughs again, but it's still that harsh, hurt sound. "S'okay. Sounds good, in fact. So what did you have in mind? You drop me at the Baths and go and see Mel and Lindz to tell them what a totally gutless little faggot I am? That I have to have you fighting my battles for me, and still can't deal with the fucking aftermath? That I had to run off and get wasted and get my dick sucked just to get past the fact that my so called best friend is a total asshole who's doing everything he can to ..."

He breaks off and just shakes his head. "Is that what you had in mind, Sunshine?"

I bite my lip. I hate it when he gets like this. I don't know how to deal with it. Especially this time, because I've caused it. I was trying to help, to be supportive, but all I've done is somehow make him think ...

I stop then, and really think about what I was doing, what I was saying to him.

I was saying exactly what he's just spat back at me. I was saying that as soon as things get tough, I expect him to just fall apart and go back to his old pain management techniques. I was saying that I don't trust him to have developed past them. To maybe have other ways to deal now. Or at least to be looking for other ways to deal, and to need my help finding them. To need me not to do what every other asshole in his life has always done, and go out of my way to tell him what a weak self-destructive, self-indulgent fucker I think he is.

Except that I don't think that. I truly don't.

I pull the car over to the curb and turn to face him.

"Brian, I'm sorry. That was a really stupid thing for me to say."

He shrugs and turns to look out the window again. Then, to my horror, he opens the door of the car.

"Brian!"

Shit! I think. I sound like Michael.

He ignores me and walks off. Then he stops and comes back. He stands next to my window, but not too close.

"I ... I'll call you," he says.

Then he strides away and I'm left sitting there feeling as if the bottom has fallen out of my world. And it's my own stupid fault.


Brian

I've only gone half a block when I realise that I'm behaving like a complete Drama Queen. Hell, I could give Emmett lessons. It's too late to go back now. He's probably gone anyway. Or else he's sitting there trying not to damned well cry, and I just can't face that. Because it's my fault.

I made him feel bad when all he was trying to do was make sure I knew he wasn't going to make a big deal of it if I threw a hissy fit and went off to have my cock sucked.

It's just ... it hurt, that he would think I'd do that. And I know that's fucking unreasonable. Not just because it's what I've always done, it's who he knows I am; but because I've defended so fucking hard my right to be that person.

It's just ... it isn't who I want to be any more. And I don't want him to be thinking that way about me. Even though I'm the one who's always insisted he had to see me that way if he wanted to be with me. Fucked up, much?

I go to pull my cell out of my pocket to at least call him, and realise that it's still on the bench in the fucking loft. So I start looking for a pay phone, but by the time I find one, I'm nearly back to Deb's anyway.

I toy with the idea of taking care of business and then calling him, but I know he's hurting and that's ... it's not fair. So I dig around in my pockets and manage to find some change and go into the box to make the call.

It smells the way they all seem to, of piss and desperation, but at least it works. That's one fucking thing that's gone right today.

He takes a while to answer, and when he does, I can hear both the tears and the curiosity in his voice. He doesn't recognise the number of course, and can't think who'd be calling him from a fucking payphone.

"Hey!" I say.

"Brian," he breathes, like the sound of my voice is the best thing he's heard in his life.

I rub my tongue over my lips and while I'm getting together what I'm going to say to him, he says again, "Brian?"

But this time there's an edge of fear in his voice, he's scared that I'm off somewhere doing something truly stupid. Well, I am. But it's not what he thinks.

"I'm sorry," I find myself saying.

"Brian, ... it's me who should ... please, please just ..."

"Justin!" I have to break in on him before he works himself into a real panic. "I'm okay. It's okay. There's just something I have to do."

I hear him take a deep breath and then he says slowly, "Okay. So ... um, should I ..."

"It won't take all that long. Can you maybe have a coffee or something and I'll call you in a while."

I hear him give that little huff that means that he's relieved and pissed all at once. Suddenly, just picturing him so clearly, I feel better.

"You can come and get me and then we can forget all this shit and get on with our day. Deal?"

He knows then; somehow I can tell. He knows where I'm headed, if not why. There's a pause, and then he says carefully, "Sure. I need to pick up some things anyway. But I'll leave the cell on, no matter where I am. Just call when you ... want me to come and get you."

When you need me, he was going to say. I'm almost tempted to tell him that if I called when I needed him I'd never be off the fucking phone. But I'm not that lost to all sense of queer decorum. Not yet.

"I'll call," I promise. "Soon."

Then I hang up the phone and go to take care of what needs to be done.

Vic answers the door, and gives me a ‘what the fuck are you doing back here?' look. I can hear Deb as I go past him into the house. She's still going on at Michael about how stupid he's been, and how angry she is with him.

"I need to see Mikey," I say.

Even through Deb's tirade he must have heard my voice because suddenly he's there in front of me.

"Brian!"

He's all lit up like a Christmas tree. I stare at him and realise that he thinks this means something. He thinks that I'm here because ...

He thinks I've chosen him.

Deb stares at me. "Brian, what the fuck ...?"

Maybe she thinks the same thing, but by the tone of her voice at least she knows that it would be the wrong choice.

"Brian wants to see Michael," Vic announces, as if that's some big surprise. Maybe it is, considering.

She looks from me to Michael and back again. I can tell that she's reluctant to leave us alone, but she gets up. "Okay, well ..."

"It's okay," I say quickly. "It's nothing ... personal."

Michael is looking at me a bit strangely now. He's still got that smirk that means he thinks somehow he's won, but he's starting to wonder.

I prop myself against the bench. "I just wanted to make sure that Michael knows I expect him to pay the money back to Justin."

He nods. "I will, Brian, you know that. I mean, it might take a while, but ..."

I shake my head. "No, Michael."

Deliberately I force myself not to use the name I usually call him. This isn't another rerun of the Brian and Mikey show and he fucking needs to get that.

"I mean ... now. In the next few days."

He stares at me. So do Deb and Vic.

"Brian!" Deb starts to protest. "You know that ..."

"Brian," he says, his voice taking on *that* tone. "You know I would if I could, but ..."

"You can," I tell him. "And you will."

Again he lights up and I realise he's still not hearing me properly. He still thinks this is about him and me.

"Well, if you lend me the money ..."

I stare at him, really seeing him maybe for the first time in a long while. I wonder if he's always been this fucking weak, and this manipulative, and I was just too needy to see it. That would be a real fucking joke, wouldn't it?

I shake my head. "No can do, Michael. I don't have the money, and even if I did ... I wouldn't. This isn't about me."

"But ..."

"You can get the money any time, Michael."

He stares at me, trying to figure out what I mean. Fuck! this has never even occurred to him.

"All you have to do is sell some of those fucking toys of yours."

There! I said it. I dropped the little bombshell of my expectations. And I did it in front of Vic and Debbie so he's got nowhere to run on this and no place to hide.

"What!?"

He can't fucking believe it, the asshole. He's stolen Justin's fucking money, the money he needed so badly he was even willing to go to Craig and beg money for his fucking tuition, and he's never even considered doing this.

Deb and Vic are staring at me now, like I've lost my mind.

"What toys?" Deb asks. "What do you mean?"

I'm sure she thinks I'm talking about some weird kinky contraband. Well, I guess it is kinky enough in its own nerdy way.

"Michael knows what I mean," I say. "I'm talking about things like the original batwoman that cost you what? ‘A whole week's salary'", I quote.

"Wonder Woman," he corrects automatically. The world as we've known it since we were fourteen years old might be falling apart in front of us thanks to his fucking stupid jealousy, but god forbid I should get the fucking cartoon character wrong.

It's not me Deb and Vic are staring at now.

"You mean all that shit's worth money?" Deb asks, as if she really can't believe this. Suddenly I feel really shitty that I've made her the witness to this. I didn't have to. I shouldn't have.

"Deb," I say, a bit late, but better late than never, right? "It's okay. I'll talk to Mikey about this."

"Oh, no!" she says. "Not on your fucking life. What the fuck is he talking about Michael?"

She is pissed. I thought she was angry before, but I'm not sure that I've ever seen Deb this mad.

"Ma!" he squeaks. "I can't sell that stuff. It's for the shop."

"Then sell it in the fucking shop!" Her voice reaches shriek point and I want to head for the door. But I still need to make sure that he really understands.

"But ..."

"Michael," I cut in before Deb can say anything else. I'm not shouting. I'm not screaming. But he hears me now. He looks into my face and he really hears me.

"I don't care if you sell it in the shop, or sell it on ebay, or sell it on the fucking street corner. But you will sell it. And you will give Justin his money. By the end of next week."

I don't make any threats. I don't have to. Michael knows I can't be bothered with all that shit.

His face falls. "Bri ..."

I shake my head. I just want out of there now.

"And you'd better listen to what Justin said. Don't call me. Don't come round. Don't expect ..."

To my horror I hear my voice break then. I stand up, needing to get out of there in a real hurry.

Before I can get to the door, Deb is there. I brace myself, but all she does is touch my face.

"You tell Sunshine ..." her own voice wobbles, but then she goes on, "you tell Sunshine not to forget that you two are still part of this family. I expect to see and hear from you. You hear me?"

I nod at her. I guess there's something I should say, but I don't know what, and I'm not sure I could anyway.

She does hug me then, but just gently and then she lets go.

"We'll see you on ..." then she stops. Busted!

Somehow I manage to grin at her. "Sunday," I finish for her. "At the Munchers."

She gives me a look, and I shrug, pretending like it's no big deal. "It's okay. Justin told me."

She grins. She knows damned well that it is a big fucking deal. I'm letting that little twat drag me to a fucking family lunch to celebrate my birthday. Shit!

I want to tell her to keep her mouth shut about it, but who am I kidding? Every fag on Liberty Avenue is going to hear about this by the time her shift ends today. I am so fucked. So why in hell do I have this big grin on my face now?

But then, just when I was starting to feel better about life, Michael joins us. Deb glares at him, and then gives a filthy look at Vic who's hovering in the background. I guess he was meant to keep Michael at bay.

Michael is angry now. I guess the suggestion that he should actually give up some of his precious fucking collection is enough to get him mad, let alone that it's to pay the money to Justin.

"I don't want to hear it, Michael," I say tiredly.

"You wouldn't expect Justin to sell anything if it was the other way around," he whines. "Oh, no. Not your little wonder boy. Or is that just wonder butt?"

Before I can react at all, Deb's hand cracks across his ear.

Then I get in his face.

"Justin doesn't try to take what doesn't belong to him," I hiss at him. "And, in any case, what the fuck do you think we've got left to sell?"

They all three turn to stare at me then. And I realise what I've said.

‘We'. I said ‘we'.

"I wasn't talking about you," Michael whines louder. "Just about ..."

I stare at him a moment, and then I think ‘fuck it', so I say it.

"If you're talking about him, you are talking about me. We come as a package deal."

For a moment they all just go on staring at me. Then Deb drags me towards the door. On the way she kisses me again, and whispers, "I am so fucking proud of you."

Then she bundles me out the door, and I guess goes back to deal with her offspring. I only hope she can convince him that both Justin and I meant what we said. But at the moment, that's not what's on my mind.

‘We'. I said ‘we'.

Walking down the path I find I can hardly wipe the stupid smile off my face.

It's fucking crazy, and I'd deny it under torture ... but I'm suddenly damned proud of myself.


Justin

At least I know where he is, dammit! I just wish I knew why.

I am so pissed off, but I don't know whether it's with him or with myself.

I wanted him to back me up on this so badly; I wanted him to trust me, trust my judgement. Instead he's just ... blowing it all apart.

But at the same time ... if things between Daph and I had somehow gotten into this big a mess, I know how fucking mad I'd have been if he'd come galloping in to the rescue. If he'd done what I tried to do today. I'd want to fucking strangle him.

But it's different. I don't know why it is, but it is. He needs me to do this. He needs someone to protect him from Michael. Even if he doesn't know it. He needs someone to be the bad guy so that he doesn't need to be. Because he can't be. Not to Michael. And I understand that, I do. But ...

Oh, shit, Justin! Stop thinking about it. Go find some decent candles for his damned birthday cake like you promised Lindz you would, and stop being such a Drama Princess.

Drama Queen, dammit! I have at least graduated to that.

Shit! I am so losing it.

Maybe I should just drive over closer to Deb's. Maybe ...

It's such a relief when the cell finally rings that my hand is shaking too much almost to answer it.

"Hey!"

Well, his voice sounds okay. In fact, he sounds fucking pleased with himself. Asshole.

"Hey!" I say.

And I want to sound pissed with him. But I am so fucking relieved that he called me. That it's only been an hour or so, and he's called me, and ...

"You ready to come get me?" he asks.

Only to the Moon, I think. I'd only go to the Moon. Or Mars. Or Jupiter.

Shit! I didn't say that, did I?

No, I can't have, because now he's saying, "Justin?"

Like he's getting worried; like he's not sure I haven't hung up on him.

"On my way," I croak.

"I'm in the call box," he says. "On the corner."

"I'll be about 5," I tell him.

"Hang up and drive," he orders.

When I pull up the care I want to leap out into his arms, but I don't. I wait and let him get in.

He sits down and he's got this stupid grin on his face that all of a sudden makes me what to scream at him. I am pissed off and at the same time very, very glad to have him sitting here beside me.  Both feelings are so intense that I feel like between them I might explode.

Or burst into tears. I have to breathe hard to stop that happening, and he finally seems to realise how mad I am, because he puts his hand on my arm before I can start the car and says, "I had to talk to him, Justin."

I just nod. Shit! I really do have to fight hard now not to cry like some little faggot. Just like I've fought so hard to get where I am with him, only to have Michael undermine it, undermine me, yet again.

No! I am not going to think of it that way. I'm not going to give him that much power over me, over us. At least Brian hasn't told me that it's none of my business, so that's something, some small thing that I have won out of all the battles. I swallow hard and say, "I understand."

Brian sits there and does that sucking the lips in thing he does when he's thinking carefully about his response.

Then he touches my face, turning it towards him.

"I doubt it," he says.

I give a gasp of sheer exasperation. "Brian, he's your best friend. I get that."

"No," is all he says.

"What? You don't think after all this time, hearing him say it every fucking day for two fucking years that I don't get it?"

I turn my head to look at him. I hadn't meant that to come out that way, but I'm still pissed off. I fight to control my anger. We are not going to fight over that little bastard. We are not.

He looks out the window for a moment and then he looks back.

"No. He's not my best friend," he says simply.

And the whole world changes - for both of us.


Brian

He just sits there and stares at me for a while. He's heard me. He's heard what I'm telling him.

Then he takes a deep breath, and starts the car.

"So ... are we going to go look at fuckmobiles, or what?"

I breathe a sigh of relief, and relax for the first time since the munchers started calling this morning. I could use a drink. Or a joint. Anything. Something. But I'll settle for a coffee.

"You hungry?" I ask.

He gives me a sideways look. I poke my tongue into my cheek and grin at him and manage to get him all flushed and panting with just a look.

"I meant for food, Justin. Jesus!" I admonish.

Sure I did.

He gives me another look. He knows he's been played.

"Oh, food," he says. "Well, then ... yeah, I suppose so."

God! His metabolism must finally be slowing down. Either that or he snacked while I was dealing with Michael.

"I could do with a coffee," I announce.

"Okay. Um ... where?"

We find a place. It's small. It's quiet. This late in the morning the mid-morning crowd's gone and the lunchers haven't arrived yet. We sit down in a window booth. The windows are curved outwards and the bench follows the curve, so we sit side by side and rub shoulders together while we take the first sip of our drinks.

He's got this damned donut that's going to drip jam everywhere as soon as he bites into it. Suddenly what he said about the car makes sense. I can just see him and Gus tucking into those things together and I have a vision of jam smeared all across the leather upholstery of the Jag. Dumbly enough, though, the thought makes me smile. Shit!

Lezzie love muffin, that's me.

I wait until he's swallowed most of it, and mopped up the mess, then I say, "Justin ..."

He tenses up immediately, and I realise that, although he'd deny it till the fucking cows come home, I am not the only one who sometimes avoids ‘serious' conversations. But I need him to hear this.

"Thank you," I say quietly, to start things off.

He raises an eyebrow at me. Little shit. That was pure Kinney. He learned that from me. I can't help but grin at him. Then I touch his hand.

"Justin ... he had to hear it from me, as well."

His eyes open really wide. Shit! I knew he was mad at me for going back there. What the fuck did he think I'd gone back to say? He's the one who's supposed to be onto me.

"Bri ..." He stops and runs his tongue over his lips. Even in the middle of this conversation, I can't help but watch it. I shift a bit in my seat. His eyes get this look. He was onto that little twitch alright, anyway.

"I know ..." he goes on. "I know he's important to you, alright? If you tell me to back off, I will. I just ..."

He breaks off, gulps, and then blurts out, "I hate it that he can hurt you the way he does."

He looks away from me for a moment, and then back. "And you ... you just have no defences where he's concerned."

I suck my lips in, then I smile at him a little, feeling ... warm, feeling ... fuck, alright ... feeling loved. So I'm a lezbo. Sue me.

"I do now," I say.

He blushes. I love that I can do that to him.

I lean back in my seat, playing it cool. Right. Except that somehow his fingers have got tangled up with mine. Damned if I know how that happened. Ah, well. I pick up my coffee cup with my other hand and take a sip. Then I start on what I really brought him here to say. He knows there's something I want to get off my chest, and he's silent, just letting me take my time. It hits me suddenly how much of a relief it is not to have to shove all the barriers up every time I want a minute to myself just to work things out. He just knows. Even when he must be bursting to hear what went on, he doesn't push any more. He just lets me get to it when I'm ready. When I can.

I find myself rubbing his fingers as I say, "I told him I expect him to sell off some of his shit and pay back the money. By the end of next week."

Well. Whatever he was expecting to hear, it sure as shit wasn't that, because his mouth has just dropped open about a fucking foot.

I grin at him again. Never think you've got me completely sussed, Sunshine. Not even you.

"And when he whined that I wouldn't expect you to sell anything if you needed money, I asked him what the fuck he thought we had left to sell."

Okay! he got it. Yes, Justin. You heard right. I see tears swirling in that fucking blueness again, but I guess it's alright this time because now he's starting to smile. Wait for it, Sunshine. Just wait for your cue.

"And when he said he was just talking about you ..." I pause, stringing out the moment.

Then I deliver the punchline.

"I told him that when he talks about you, he is talking about me. I told him we come as a package."

He stares at me for a moment, and then he launches himself into my arms. We're not on Liberty; hell! we're probably in the heart of breederville, but I don't give a fuck. I pull him to me and kiss him like I've been wanting to ever since the car pulled up to collect me.


Justin

Fuck! Oh, fuck!

I don't know how to feel this. I don't know if I can feel this. It's too ... too much. Too everything. Oh, fuck! Fuck!

Then things seem to slow down and we're sitting there in the window, with people gawping at us from both sides of the glass, but it doesn't matter.

He's here with me, and his forehead is pressed against mine, and that's all.

That's all.

He's just given me the thing I desperately needed, and didn't even know it. I didn't understand how much I needed him to choose me. Not just choose me to go home with, or choose me to fuck. Or even choose me to love.

I needed him to choose me to be his ... his person. His ... oh, god, he'd kill me ... significant other. I needed to be The One for him. Even if it's just this once. Just this one time. I needed to know that at least one time, I came first.

We get up and pay the bill and get out to the car somehow. Maybe we said some things. I don't know. I just know he was there with me. And I was there with him. And we were together in a way we'd just never been before.

There is one more thing I need to clear up with him though.

We get into the car. I don't even really register that I'm getting back in the driver's seat. He doesn't seem to mind. Or to care. Or maybe even to notice.

I take a deep breath and say quickly, "Bri ... about before. About what I said ...before you got out of the car."

He shakes his head, trying to shake me off, but he has to hear this. I have to say it.

"Bri ... I didn't mean to hurt you. But I know I did."

His face is tight now. Shit! Maybe I should just have let this go. But I don't want him to go back to it, and worry over it, and let it fester. This needs to be got out the way.

"I shouldn't have ... expected that that's what you'd do."

He shrugs, twisting his face away from my hand. I grab his chin and force his face round to me again. I look straight into his eyes. They're dark and stormy and his jaw is clenched like he's in pain. I have to fix this. I cup my hand around his face.

"Please, Brian. I need you to know that ... it's not really what I expect from you. Not any more. But I don't want it to be a big deal if it happens, either. It's not important enough to matter."

He looks at me and gives that choked laugh that's so self-mocking that it cuts me in pieces. I don't know how to go on. How to tell him what I feel about him. How much I admire him. How much I admire the man he is, and the man he's fighting to become. How much I appreciate the battle he's putting up for us.

I stroke my thumb across his lips.

"I'm sorry," I whisper.

It's so fucking inadequate. I know now why Brian says sorry is bullshit.

But this time it seems to mean something to him, because he takes in a deep breath and buries his face in my neck. I wrap my arms around him as well as I can. It's fucking awkward, because the gear lever and the brake are in the way, and his long legs are twisted up with no room to move them much.

I feel him laugh against my skin; a proper laugh this time. He kisses my throat and then my chin and then he sits up.

"We need to get a car that we can do this in without fucking dislocating things!" he announces, rubbing his knee.

I reach out and rub the knee myself. Then I let my hand stray up his thigh a bit.

"Sounds like a plan," I say.

He grins and removes my hand firmly.

"Yeah, well..." his tongue goes into his cheek and he gives me *that* look and I can feel myself getting hard. Damn him!

"You just keep your hands to yourself till we get the fucking car and I can have my way with you," he says. "And you'd better have a pocketful of condoms and some lube because after the way you've been teasing me all morning, your ass is mine as soon as we have the space for me to claim it."

I grin back at him. "Maybe *my* condoms only go on *my* dick," I tease.

He laughs.

"Don't even think it," he advises. "You might be a hot shot little tycoon with money coming in from all over, but don't think that I still can't make you beg for it."

I'm about to dispute that when I realise that would be asking for trouble. He's right, he can make me beg, and he knows it. He's still got more control and patience than I have, and he could make me wait all afternoon if he wanted. Fuck that! I want his cock inside me soon.

I turn and run my tongue over my lips and pout at him.

"Lucky for us I'm a good boy, then, isn't it, and don't mind sharing?"

He laughs and leans in and kisses me. At first it's just a wet, sexy kiss; his tongue forcing its way into my mouth, me surrendering to him and him taking what he wants. Then he stops. He looks at me for a moment, his face so close to mine that I can see all the tiny flecks of color that make up those amazing eyes.

Then he leans in again. This time his lips tease and caress my mouth and I'm the one who is impatient to taste his tongue against mine. My hand goes up to pull him closer and his is tangled in my hair and the kiss goes on for a long long time. Somehow this time we don't notice how uncomfortable the car is; there's just us, talking to each other in the language that we both speak fluently.

When he sinks back into his seat this time, he's fighting back a smile.

Me, I don't make any attempt to hide mine.

The morning pretty much started out for shit, but it got one hell of a lot better. Somehow we've managed to come out of this okay. Better than okay. All odds to the contrary, we're fucking fabulous.

Now, if we can just hurry up and find a fuckmobile, the day is going to get better still. Brian has taught me well; I never leave the loft without a pocketful of condoms and some lube.

 

 

Chapter 16: Test Drive by Wren

Test Drive

 

Brian

It seems like a fucking miracle, but by the time we both settle back into our seats, he's got this smile plastered all over his face and I'm pretending I don't.

I don't know how or why things seem so right when so much is well and truly fucked up. We're heading off to buy a car I'm probably going to hate on sight and at some point this weekend I not only have to turn up at a fucking family lunch, but I have to face another damned birthday. Oh, and I'll have to be on my best behavior at the fucking birthday ‘celebration' or the my damned partner will be prissy with me for the rest of the day. Not to mention all the shit with Mikey and the fallout that's going to have in all directions.

I should be somewhere between totally pissed off and out of here.

Instead, I'm sitting back, feeling like the world is finally going right for once and trying to pretend that I'm not grinning from ear to ear. That damned little shit knows it, too. For some reason that's part of what's right.

He's started the car and driven four blocks before I even realise I'm not in the driver's seat.

Fuck!


Justin

Brian's really relaxed on the way to the dealership, and somehow, so am I. I mean things are really fucked up. And we still have to deal with all the Mikey shit. And I somehow have to get Brian to the Munchers' on Sunday. But ... we're okay. We've somehow come through it all so far, and we've done it together. Even though we both tackled things in our own way, and on our own, somehow, we still did it together. Which is really something to think about. Meanwhile, he's sitting beside me, with that look on his face which means that he's trying so hard not to smile, and I feel like laughing out loud with sheer happiness.

I totally expect him to queen out on me, though, when we finally make it to the dealership and he actually sees the car. He sort of stands there with a look on his face like he thinks maybe he's got the date wrong and it's still only April 1st.

I'm trying to be cool about the car and not let the sales guy see how much I like it, but I really want Brian to understand why to me it's ... not the perfect car, I don't mean that, but the car that's perfect for what we need. For what I need. I knew it would be, because one of the guys that I partnered with on a project early this semester had just got one. He specialises in found object type sculptures and he said that it was perfect for carting all his stuff around. Not to mention that he and his girlfriend found it very useful as he shared a two bedroom appartment with four other people and she was still living at home. He'd driven me in it a couple of times, so I knew it would suit me fine.

If there's one thing that the past with Brian has taught me, it's that I have to be really clear about what I need. And I have to be prepared to tell him, to make sure that he understands. If I don't, I have no one to blame but myself when my needs don't get met. That's what he was telling me that day at Vangard when he told me to get some balls, not just to walk away. He was right. For a long while I did back away from things that I thought might cause confrontations between us. I can't afford to do that anymore. He's relying on me not to do that anymore.

So I get him to walk around the car, and I open the doors to show him how easy it would be to get Gus in and out of the car. Not to mention all my shit. He's still looking really prissy about it, like he thinks he's going to lose major points on his style meter if he even touches the thing, but at least he's still listening.

The salesman damned near loses him when he starts being helpful. He can see Brian's not impressed, but he's got the message by now that I'm going to be the one driving it most, and he can see the ‘Vette sitting outside, so he knows what Brian drives and he starts saying, "Well, of course, it's a young person's car."

That nearly fucks the whole thing of course, but just when I think Brian is going to annihilate him, and probably me too, and stalk out of there, the guy has to take a phone call. I don't say anything. I don't look at Brian. I just keep walking around the car, poking my head in and touching things, and finally he comes over and starts peering in the windows and doors and he doesn't say anything either, but he rubs up against me a couple of times and I know the hissy fit's been averted for a while at least. As long as that moron doesn't say anything else helpful.


Brian

I can't believe it when we get to the dealership and he points out the damned car he wants to get. It is the most ugly assed thing I have ever fucking seen. But he's wandering around it, pointing out all the good bits - like anything that ugly could have good bits, and I'm about to make it really clear that it's just not happening, when the fucking sales guy says something like "Well, sir, of course it's a young person's car" and I damned near walk out on the spot.

But he gets called away to the phone, and Justin doesn't say anything, just keeps looking at the damned thing, and I look at him, and realise the guy is right. It is a young person's car. That's what it's going to be. And if it's what he wants ...

So I go over and start really looking at it and I realise that it will be a good car for us. Not just because no one seeing Justin driving that damned thing will think his sugar daddy bought it for him ... sugar daddy's have more fucking taste. But because he'll be able to get his stuff in and out of it easily, without putting any unnecessary strain on his hand, and he'll have plenty of room for everything, so he can bring his work home to do in the loft and not have to leave it all at school and try to work in their tiny cubicles just because he can't get the stuff home easily.

When we start getting down to the details about colors and features, I'm braced for him to want the fucking red one, but he goes for the darkest color, which is near enough to black, so that's something.

When the sales guy realises that we're ready to sign the deal on the spot, he becomes almost frisky, and starts suggesting every damned feature known to man. Of course, Justin wants every gadget going, up to and including remote locking so the guy heads off to make some calls to see if he can get us just what we want today. The one thing I tell him I want is that it should be an automatic.

Justin gives me a look, because he knows that the ‘Vette is a manual, and so was the Jeep, but the truth is that watching him drive over here, I realised that shifting gears is just one more thing that might put unnecessary strain on his hand. He's fine, most of the time. But it still gets tired if he's been drawing or painting too much, so why not get what's going to be easiest for him? But I don't want to make a big deal out of it, because if I do, he'll probably demand a manual just to prove that he's up to driving it. Twat!

He doesn't say anything, though. Just, when the guy is off making his calls, he nudges his shoulder against my arm.

"I know it's not a Jeep," he says.

I just grunt.

He nudges me again. "Brian ... if you'd really prefer it, we could forget this, and get another Jeep"

I grunt again. "Not so good for Gus," I say.

He grins. "Or for us," he promises.

I take a look again at the amount of space that's created when all the seats are laid flat and start working out where we can test it out. That fucking prick better hurry up and find us one.

Justin

Okay, so the guy says they can get one brought over from their other dealership that's just what I want and it'll take about an hour and meanwhile, would we like to take the one on the lot for a test drive while he prepares the paperwork and makes the necessary credit checks?

I look at Brian and he's got this look on his face, that tells me just what sort of test drive he's got in mind, so Brian hands over his credit card and gives the guy all the bank details and shit and off we go.

I want him to drive but he says there's no sense in that so I get into the driver's seat. Brian does claim back the keys to the ‘Vette first, though.

He directs me through the streets till we come to this place that's like an abandoned warehouse or something. We park in the lot in back. The place is closed in and feels completely private. Almost as if no one else even knows it's here. He turns to me and runs his tongue over his lips.

Then he leans in and runs it over mine.

Shit! My cock throbs and I feel a pulse deep in my ass as if it knows what's coming and just can't wait for it to arrive. Then he pulls back, rolls his tongue into his cheek and, staring straight into my eyes, starts reclining his seat.

It takes us a few minutes to get them all flat. And even then, they're not completely flat, but it's near enough. I pull the lube and condoms out of my pocket and he kisses me.

"Good boy," he breathes into my mouth, as he pushes me onto my back and lowers himself over me..

I want to hurry. I want him inside me now. But he's teasing me; squeezing the bulge of my cock through the material of my pants and sucking on my bottom lip. I'm trying to get his pants undone, but he laughs and grabs my hands and forces them back over my head.

"Leave them there," he orders, and my cock hardens further at the lust in his voice.

I do as I'm told and he slowly pulls up my sweater, then my shirt until my nipples are exposed. He licks each one and they stiffen as the cold air hits the moisture. He pulls down my pants and jerks them off over my feet. Then he kneels between my legs and just looks at me for a moment. I can feel the sticky wetness of precum spilling from my slit, and I think I'm blushing a bit, realising how wanton I must look, lying there so exposed just waiting for him to take me.

Slowly, he wriggles out of his pants, and pushes them to the side. I guess he doesn't want them soaked with cum this time.

He's hard, his cock red and thick and curving up towards his belly. I almost lunge forward, desperate for the taste and smell and feel of it, but he doesn't give me a chance. He pulls on my hips, pulling me towards him as he kneels there between my legs, so that the back of my thighs wind up resting on his. He stares into my eyes, running his tongue over his lips again as he opens the lube and coats his fingers with it. First one, then two, then three.

I suck my breath in. I know this means I'm in for a hard fast ride and I want it. I want him. I manage to plant my heels and arch my hips up.

He huffs a soft laugh. "Patience, Sunshine. Patience."

Then the first finger pushes into me and it's all I can do not to buck so hard that I lose it. He's stroking me and working me and I can feel the flush that covers my face and floods down my neck. He's still staring at me and I want to hold eye contact with him, but now another finger has joined the first and I have to close my eyes in sheer ecstasy and need. When the third finger pushes into me I nearly arch right off him again. He's scissoring them all apart, stretching me, and every now and again one brushes my prostate and I can only lie there and moan and pant as the feeling builds and builds in me. And he hasn't even touched my cock.


Brian

He's lying there in front of me, all spread and ready and wanton and I've never seen anything so beautiful in the whole of my fucked up life. His face and neck are flushed, and he's sweating a bit, and all over him there's that beautiful sheen of sex and lust. He just fucking glows with it. I go on tormenting him a little, twisting my fingers in his ass, just so that I can watch that glow intensify. I know that once my cock gets inside him, I'm going to lose all power of coherent thought, so this is my best chance to see him like this. To memorise this moment.

"Bri ... Brian ... please ..."

Oh, fuck! The need in his voice goes straight to my cock, and before I can even think about it, I've pulled my fingers out and smoothed a condom over my dick and then I'm pushing into him and although I know he's been well stretched by my fingers, I still want to take my time, don't want to hurt him, never want to hurt him, but he bucks up against me and I can't stop, can't slow down and he grunts and then grabs my ass and pulls me harder against him and then I'm home. Home. This is home.

His hands are clutched into my hair and he drags me down to kiss me. His tongue is urgent in my mouth, fucking me, demanding that I open for him, let him in, give myself to him while my cock is making the same demands of him. So we have each other, take each other, give to each other and all the time he's making these amazing sounds, growling and mewling and begging ‘more' and ‘there' and ‘oh, yes, there, don't stop, don't stop'.

So I don't. I manage to get back enough control to take most of my weight on my arms, and then I can work him better, angle the thrusts, twist my hips so that I hit the places he needs to be hit and claim him; claim all of him; make sure that his ass is never ever going to forget the feel of my cock because I will touch him everywhere, touch him in places no one else will ever have the chance to find, and mark him as mine. Mine. As I am his.

For some reason, it's that thought, the thought that once would have had my dick go completely soft, that this time does it for me and my balls tighten and my cock pulses and the condom fills with the sudden flood of my cum.

And then as the blood starts flowing to other parts of my body, I hear my own voice.

"Justin," I'm saying. "Justin!"

Breathing it, sighing it, over and over, like it's a mantra or a fucking prayer. Like it's some kind of magic spell that, if I say it often enough, for long enough, can make the whole world better. Shit! Maybe it can. My whole fucking world, anyway.

I'm about to reach for his cock to finish him off when he grunts my name and I feel the warm stickiness spurt over my chest and belly that tells me I don't have to. All I have to do now is hold him, kiss him, tell him ...

Tell him ...

"Justin," I breath again, and he smiles at me and nuzzles against my face.

"Brian," he sighs happily.

So I know he's heard me.


Justin

We lie there for a while, just sort of getting our breath back, and it strikes me that this is the bit of Brian that is just mine. I don't know that he's never done this with anyone else. Maybe sometime in the dim dark distant past. But I know he hasn't often, or in a long time, and that none of his tricks, none of the hundreds of men he's fucked since he became the Brian Kinney that everyone thinks they know, have ever shared this with him. This is mine. And has been since the first night we spent together.

I didn't realise then, of course, what it meant that he let me stay after Mel's phone call. How differently he treated me, right from the first, no matter what he said. No matter how much he tried to make both of us believe I was just another trick.

Even when we first lived together, I still didn't get it. I was too busy trying to make him into my "boyfriend" in the hetero sort of way that he mocks so harshly, and at the same time, too inexperienced and too busy trying to prove to him that I could handle things, could deal with anything he sent my way to appreciate what these quiet moments meant. And later, after the bashing, I was too insecure, too unable to believe that I had much to offer him apart from great sex, to believe that these quiet, nothing really sort of moments held the key to everything I ever needed to know about whether he really wanted me around.

I'm smarter now, more experienced. Now I have done some of the stuff that he does every night. Well, that he used to do, and probably will again soon. Maybe. Anyway, now I've had the ‘fuck them and leave them' experiences and I have some point of comparison. It's not what I want for myself. I can't ever imagine really getting off on it the way Brian does. But it does mean that I understand the difference now between what he does with his tricks, and what he does with me.

Part of it is in the sex itself. It's different between us because we know just how to move, just what to do, where to touch, how to touch. The sense of discovery is still there, but it's different. It's about finding new ways, trying variations, not about each time being new and different.

With his tricks he doesn't give a fuck. He pleasures them, because he's good at sex, but not because he seeks out ways to do it. He just goes with what he's feeling at the time, and because he's a natural, it works for them. But with us, with me, it's as much about my enjoyment as it is his. And I can feel that when he's fucking me. Again, although I was too young and dumb to understand, that was another thing he gave me from the first night.

Shit! it's no wonder I fell in love with him so hard and so fast; he was giving me so much that he never gave anyone else. I might not have had the experience to know that with my head, or to understand, but my heart knew it. Something did, anyway, no matter how much he denied it, something inside me knew that it was different between us. I guess I just tried to analyze it all too much, instead of trusting my instincts. But then, post bashing, my instincts about stuff were pretty much for shit. I was so scrambled for a long time. Maybe the time with Ethan was more about letting the dust settle so that I could see clearly, than it was about anything else. Maybe I just needed some perspective.

Whatever.

All I know is that after all that shit, we're here together and I know enough now to appreciate what these moments mean.

They mean he loves me.

He may never say those words.

I may never actually say the words to him again.

But every time he holds me after sex: every time he takes the time and the effort to make sure that it's good for me as well as for him; every time he breathes my name ...

That's what he's telling me.

And when I lie there beside him, and whisper his name back to him as if it's the most wonderful sound on earth, that's what I'm saying right back to him.

Of course, it's just at this moment, while I'm basking in the afterglow and enjoying all the loving, that he says, "So, Sunshine, did you bring something we can use to try out this fucking wipe clean upholstery, or do we use your shirt?"

"Fuck off!" I say, pushing at him so I can sit up, before he just rips it off me.

We don't have anything of course, so we drive to a nearby service station and use the men's room to clean up a bit. Then Brian decides he wants to try the car, so he drives to a supermarket and we get some handywipes and in the parking lot we manage to wipe up any spills and clean ourselves up a bit more. Then we open all the windows and the sun roof. Although it's fucking cold we start off again with the wind whipping through and hopefully the car will air out enough so that the sales guy might have his suspicions about what we've been up to, but at least the car won't completely reek of it.

By the time we get back to the dealership, it's not too bad, so we close the windows again and drive in as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Which I guess it hasn't. Not for us, anyway, although I'm not sure how many other test drivers would be quite so thorough.

Anyway, we get the paperwork organised. I try not to react when Brian insists that the papers are in both our names. He makes some joke about me having to pay it off if the deal with Vance goes sour, but I know he sees how much it means to me, because he finds a way to wrap his hand around mine even while we're signing the papers and I just hang on.

Then we say goodbye to the sales guy and walk out together to take possession our new car. Our car.

That's when it hits that we now have two cars. Which means that we have to separate long enough to drive them both back to the loft.

Right now, that's not such an appealing idea at all.


Brian

I can actually see the moment the realisation that we have to separate for a while hits him. His face sort of twists, and then his head comes up in that way it does when he's faced with something that he just has to do, no matter how much he might not want to. He braces his shoulders and then turns to look at me.

"So," he says. "Do we just drive straight back to the loft, or do you have some other stuff you ... "

He hesitates then, realising how I might hear that. It pisses me off that he has to be so fucking careful all the time of what he says to me. I'm such a fragile little faggot that if he doesn't watch what he says, I might break. Or at least go off in a hissy fit.

"I mean ... maybe I could do the supermarket shopping on the way home, or ..." he goes on.

I look at him, trying to judge whether what he really means is that he wants to show off the car to his mom or Daph, or his college friends. Or if he's still just trying to give me space.

While I'm trying to work that out, he says, "I mean ... I guess you have things ..."

His voice trails off again. I pull him against me. He comes to me easily enough, but he still looks a bit worried.

"Today was about us spending time together, remember?" I tell him.

He looks at me and must see that I mean exactly what I'm saying to him, and he lets me know it's what he wants too with one of *those* fucking smiles. I can't help myself, next thing I know I'm rubbing my nose against his. Little shit! Making me behave like some breeder or lovesick lesbian in the middle of the fucking street.

"I've had an idea about that," I say.

"Oh, yeah?" he responds, putting his hands on my hips and brushing his lips across my jaw.

"Mm-hm," I confirm. And then I let him in on what I've been thinking.


 

Chapter 17: Baby Makers by Wren

Baby Makers



Justin

So Brian explains his idea, and I have to admit that it sounds good. But I make a couple of small alterations. He gives me a look, just like I expect, but then the corners of his mouth twitch and I know he's alright with it. We spend a bit of time working 
out some of the details. Finally he says, "Okay - well, go get in your car, and when you're ready, call me."

I'm about to walk off when we both realize the problem with that. His phone is still on the kitchen bench. I hand him mine.

"I'll call from the loft," I say. "And I'll pick yours up there, so if you need me, call on that."

He nods. Then he gives me one last kiss. His eyes have that glint of lust and mischief that is an unbelievable turn on and I think how right he was to suggest this. This is going to be fun.

Now all I have to do is to get it organized. First stop is the Marriott. This is the part Brian wasn't too happy about, but he agreed anyway. I didn't really expect him to, or not without a whole lot of drama, anyway, but he really only put up a token resistance. Maybe it was because it could be his birthday present, or maybe it was because of the car thing. I don't know. I'm just glad that he is okay with it.

I pull up at a phone box first and call them. I tell them that I want a room for tonight - the best that they have. They say that they have business rooms, but I tell them I want better. They mumble, but finally say that there's a suite vacant, but it's $600 
for the night. I say fine. I'll be there soon to check in. They say they'll need a credit card. That's fine, too.

So that's okay. I drive there and check in. They scan the credit card and it comes up okay. It should. It's got a limit of three thousand and there are no charges on there. They're maybe questioning who books for one night with no luggage, but they have the sense not to say anything. I tell them that the suite's other occupant will be checking in sometime during the 
afternoon. 

They take me up to the suite, and I look around - it's okay, but there's something wrong. I can't quite get what it is, and then I realize it's the heating unit - it's making this faint whistling noise. It will drive me nuts, and Brian ... well, he would either not notice it at all, or totally queen out over it.

I tell them they either have to fix it, or get me another suite.

I get another suite.

This one is better - bigger everything, including the bath, and with much better furniture.

I graciously admit that this is satisfactory.

By now I should think that I'm heading their obnoxious guest list, but I tip the bellhop really well, and he promises to look after my guest when he arrives.

I ponder about making dinner reservations. The restaurant downstairs is great. It's one of the main reasons we chose the Marriott. But they will send food up to the rooms, so I decide that that will probably be a better option.

Just thinking about food makes me realize I'm starving. But I have things to do before I meet up with Brian, so I head back to the loft.

Once I'm there, I check quickly through the messages - amazingly there are no new ones from Mikey and only one from Deb to say that she's told Michael that things being the way they are, he should forget about going to the munchers' on 
Sunday. Whether he'll listen is another matter, but at least she's trying.

There's also one from Lindz saying that she'd called and spoken to Ben and told him that maybe Michael should think about staying away, and apparently Ben agreed. Well, he would. Poor Ben. But that doesn't mean that Mikey will listen to him either. And then there was one from Mel saying she hadn't been able to reach Michael yet (well, I wouldn't be taking her calls either, if I were him, not knowing how pissed off with him she is) but that she'd left a message saying that he's not invited on Sunday. 

Shit!

She also said that Lindsey was mad at her and thought that she'd been a bit harsh, but, Mel said, if it was the other way around no one would have any hesitation in telling Brian to stay away, so why shouldn't she do the same to Michael when he was 
being such a shit? 

That really rocked me. I mean, Mel's right. But that she of all people would see it that way just amazed me.

There were two other messages, one from Em just to say `hi' (well, probably really wanting to catch up on all the goss, but still ... at least no dramas), and one from my mom saying that she'd had a phone call from Deb who sounded really upset and kept 
telling her I was an angel not to be throwing her out into the street and what the hell was going on?

God! poor Mom. Deb in full drama queen mode. I look at the time and it's nearly twelve thirty (no wonder I'm starving), which means that Mom, with any luck will be on her way to tennis. I call her condo and get the machine, so I leave a message 
saying that Brian and I are going away for a couple of days, but that everything's okay, and Deb's just over-reacting and I'll talk to her when I get back.

Then I finally get to call Brian. Before I do, though, I take a deep breath and spend a couple of minutes getting into the right frame of mind. Then I dial.

I'm not sure where he is when he answers the phone, maybe a store. There's really cheesy music playing so it could be a bar somewhere. 

Anyway, I switch gears and start playing my part. It's not as hard as I might have thought, because I really am feeling both nervous and excited. Which makes me wonder what it's going to be like later on. 

"Um? Hello? Is that Brian?"

His drawled "yeah" sounds both sexy and bored.

"Um, they gave me this number to call you. About tonight."

"So, you're Justin?"

"Yes."

"Well, Justin ... I'm told you want the whole night, is that right?" His voice is still sexy, but briskly professional now.

"Ah, yes'" I find myself gulping down air, trying to get the words out. Somehow this little game is really getting to me already.

"They've told you how much?"

"Yes."

"And that I don't make house calls." 

"Yes. I've booked the hotel room. It's a suite at the Marriott downtown."

"Good. Now is there anything else I need to know? Anything that you particularly like?"

"Um ..." 

From somewhere in my brain, my memory dredges up the sound of my voice babbling inanely about TV and video games and I cringe. Why on earth he didn't just kick me to the curb right about then is beyond me. He must have thought I was totally 
clueless. Well, I was. But it must have been so, so obvious. What on earth did he see that made him keep me around, even after Mel's phone call gave him the perfect out? It can't just have been the prospect of sex ... he could, and can, get that any 
time.

"Justin?"

His voice calls me back to now, and I say, "Oh, I ... you know. Anything really."

"Justin," his voice is lower now, even sexier, still professional, but just a tiny bit amused. "They told me you are a virgin. Is that right?"

I gulp. 

The memories of that night are coming fast and hard now, with the emphasis on hard. Especially standing here in the loft and listening to his voice.

"Y ... yes. Sort of."

"You've never done it with anyone?"

"Well ... " 

Before I can get anything else out, he goes on, "Never had another man's cock in your hand?"

"No," I breathe, my own responding to his voice, and to the memories.

"Never had a cock in your mouth. Never tasted cum?"

"No," I have to touch myself, I have to. But he knows me too well.

"Not yet," he orders gently. "Save it. Save it for me."

"Oohh!" I moan softly down the phone at him. But I keep my hands away from my cock. He's right. We want to savor this.

"Never had a man's hot hard cock up your tight little ass?"

"No," I whimper.

"Well, you will soon."

He breathes the promise down the phone to me, and I damn near cum right then without touching myself at all.

"Give me the room number and I'll check in by two. After that, the clocks running. You get twenty-four hours. You understand?"

"Yes. Yes. I'll be there as soon as I can after that."

I tell him the room number and I'm about to hang up when he says, suddenly, sounding really amused now, "And Justin ..."

"Yes?"

"Check my messages."

Then he hangs up.

I figure he means the messages on his cell, so I check them. There were a whole heap from Mikey from last night and early this morning that I just delete. And a couple from Mel and Lindz that I skip. 

Then there's one from him: "For fuck's sake get some lunch before you go to the hotel. I don't plan on stopping to let you refuel any time in the first few hours."

I laugh, and turn to the refrigerator to get myself something to make a sandwich, when the banging starts at the door.

I figure it's either going to be Mikey or Deb and I don't really want to deal with either of them. But better me than Brian, so I go to the door.

It's neither Deb nor Mikey, though. It's Mel and Lindsey.



Brian

Fuck that conversation was hot! 

Just the thought of bedding a juicy little blond virgin is making me think of that night, of how amazing he was. I still can't believe that he had the guts to go for it the way he did. Let alone the stamina to keep up with me. He must have been so fucking sore the next day, but not a squeak out of him, and he was as eager for another joust in the shower as I was. 

I have to admit that his idea of turning it around so that I'm the very very expensive whore that he's hiring for the night to divest him of his unwanted cherry is much hotter than having him as my hustler. As for him paying for the hotel - I should have kicked up about that, I know. But ... he wanted to. And I wasn't lying when I told him last night that I understood his need to be independent. 

I did and do. So ... I'll find a way to pay him back for this. But without making a big deal of it. Maybe just restock all his art supplies for him for a while. They're expensive, at least the best ones are. And what's the point of trying to do good work with less than the best? Plus, he doesn't count that as me `keeping him'. Buying art stuff for some reason counts as an acceptable present. I can never figure this fucking stuff out. But in Justin logic there's a difference between me buying petrol for his car, or 
paying all the supermarket bills, and buying him new canvases and paint. I guess he figures the art stuff is more personal, so it's ... I don't know. More like buying flowers or shit. Anyway, it's something that he needs, and will accept from me, especially if I give it to him the right way. Like it's a gift thing. You know, candy, flowers, paint brushes. 

Fuck! And people wonder why I avoided all this shit for so long.

But knowing that I have that way of making up the money to him without him feeling that his damned pride has been hurt, means that I can relax and enjoy this fantasy all the more. Especially as I have a few things planned that he doesn't know about 
yet. Which is why I am in one of Liberty Avenue's more liberal establishments checking out the latest in sex toys and flavored massage oils. They have a very interesting line in leather, too. My little `virgin' is going to definitely have some new experiences 
tonight, whether he knows it or not.

Of course, I have to be very mindful of the fact that whatever I introduce him to he's going to want to try out on me eventually. So I avoid things like cock rings with feather ticklers on them which just drive me nuts. I don't get them at all. But there are some very interesting ridged condoms which I think he'll like. We usually just go for smooth and strong, because these ridged things have been known to split and sometimes you don't even notice till it's way too late. But we can always double up, wear a standard with one of these over it. Not as much fun for the one wearing it, but that's okay. If I know Justin, we'll be taking turns doing the wearing anyway.

The place also has a new line of glass dildos that are almost works of art. They're supposed to be super safe - dishwasher proof even. But that's not the selling point. To anyone who likes cock, likes the shape of it, the curves, the swell, these things are beautiful. I buy him one that has swirls of blue that almost match those fucking amazing eyes of his. I don't know that we'll ever use it, but it can sit on display and shock the munchers. And I pick up a few other little surprises as well. 

With the way things have been lately, this is the closest thing we're going to get to a holiday for a while, so I plan to make sure we both enjoy ourselves.

And fuck everyone else. They can all just back off and leave us alone for one night at least.



Justin

Lindsey looks seriously pissed. I look past her to Mel, who is holding Gus, and who just shrugs. I take Gus off her. Surely she shouldn't be holding anything that heavy while she's pregnant? 

I'm about to ask what the little visit is for, when Lindz bursts out, "Why doesn't my key work? Have you changed the lock?"

Shit! she sounds just like Michael. I take a deep breath and try to stay calm. Brian's on the verge of losing one long time friend, I don't think he'd deal well if I piss Lindsey off as well.

"Hi, guys!" I say with a smile, as Gus pats my face. "Brian had the locks changed a couple of weeks ago."

"Well, I need a new key, then," she says.

I bite my lip and try to figure out how to deal with this. It should really be Brian who tells her where she can look for her new key, but on the other hand, I don't want him to have to deal with it.

"Well," I say, playing for time and hoping I can think of something. Then I realize. There was a reason Brian changed the locks. And I'm part of that reason. We live here together now. And that means that I have a say in who has a key to my home. It's not just up to Brian anymore. That's what it was all about.

So I tilt my head up at her and say calmly, "Brian and I figure that now we're living together, we're really the only ones who need keys."

She stares at me like I've just spoken to her in Swahili and it's totally incomprehensible to her.

"But ... I need one."

"Why?"

"Well, because sometimes I have to be able to get to Brian. Because of Gus."

"You can call. You can knock on the door. If we're here, we'll usually answer. Eventually."

"But ..."

"Lindz," Mel interrupts, but Lindsey brushes her aside.

"Justin, I know that you think that you and Brian are a couple now. But you have to be realistic."

I can feel my eyes narrow, and I put Gus down on the floor and turn on the TV so he can watch some cartoons. I make sure he's settled, then I walk over into the kitchen area, where we can still keep an eye on him, but where, if we talk quietly, he won't hear what we're saying. The things that Mel and Lindsey both say about Brian in front of Gus make my blood boil.

"Lindsey. Brian and I are a couple now. It mightn't last. Who knows? But right now we're together, and whether you understand this or not, we are entitled to our private life together. We're entitled to be able to make love or fight or just hang out without anyone who feels like it being able to walk in on us without even knocking."

She's staring at me again. Mel is too, but she's looking a bit ashamed, as if she's remembering some of the times that they have just barged in on us in the past. Lindsey just looks pissed.

"Justin, you might as well give me a key now, because Brian will when I ask for one."

I look straight into her eyes. Then I shake my head. "I don't think he will. But, Lindsey, I'm asking you, don't do that to him. Don't pull a Mikey and put him in that position."

"Justin, I've known Brian ..."

"A lot longer than I have. True. But what's that got to do with it. Does he have a key to your place?"

She gives an irritable shrug. "Well, of course not, but that's completely different."

"Why?"

"Well, because ... Justin, it just is."

"No, Lindz, it isn't," Mel finally manages to get a word in. "Justin's right. I wouldn't like it if you gave Brian a key and he felt free to come barging in whenever he wanted to speak to you. I get pissed off enough when he knocks at the door!" 

The last is said with a grin. She's trying to take the sting out of this and make Lindz see the funny side of the very idea of what Mel would do to Brian if he charged in while they were in anything similar to some of the positions that Brian and I have been in when we've been interrupted. 

Lindsey stares at her. "Look. That's completely different. Brian and I ..."

"Are old friends," Mel acknowledges. "But I don't see that gives him the right to come barging into my home."

"Yes, but you and I are together. It's *our* home. It's not like that for Brian ..."

She breaks off, and now I'm staring at her. All this time, I've thought she was my friend. I thought she supported Brian and I. I thought she liked us being together.

She meets my eyes, and all of a sudden she looks horrified. 

"Justin! I'm sorry! I never meant it to sound like that."

I shake my head and turn away. I feel really sick, suddenly. Dizzy, almost, as if the world has suddenly started spinning.

"Justin," she puts her hand on my arm. "Justin, I'm truly sorry. It's just ..."

I look at her.

"What, Lindz? Are you like Michael? Just think I'm with Brian till something better comes along? Or do you think I'm a silly little faggot that he just keeps handy to fuck when he can't be bothered to go out looking for anything better?"

"No! Justin, no. That isn't what I think at all."

She sinks down onto one of the recycled bar stools that I wouldn't let Brian throw out until we'd replaced them, and stares at me, like she's seeing me for the first time. Like she's seeing me as Brian's partner for the first time. I feel hurt and angry, but 
I'm damned if I'm going to back away like some little pussy. This is how it is now, and they might all fucking well get used to it. So I just stare back at her. It's sort of like a cat competition.

For what seems like a long while she just sits there with this weird look on her face. It takes me a while to realize that it's shock. She looks like she's just run head on into a brick wall that she didn't know was there.

Then, suddenly she smiles. Really smiles. And gets up and hugs me. It's like a Debbie hug and it goes on for a while and I think I'm going to pass out if she doesn't let go soon.

Mel must realize, because she says softly, `Ah, Lindz, honey. I think you should let Justin go now."

So she does and I get a good look at her face and there are tear tracks on her cheeks, but she is looking like a little kid who against all the odds has just got their biggest Christmas wish ever personally delivered by Santa Claus.

She touches my face and there's no need for her to say anything because it's all right there in her face. In that moment I realize how much she really does love Brian, in a way that Michael just doesn't seem capable of. Because she is really, really happy - not for me. But for Brian. She's happy that he's finally found someone. She's happy that he's finally let himself be with someone. She knows Brian. She knows it mightn't last. But at this moment she sees me being here for what it is, for what it means, and she's glad right down to her toes.

I smile at her, and just as Brian would have done, Mel breaks up the moment. "So, is his lordship here?"

Lindz and I grin at each other. I'm sure she's thinking the same as I am about how alike those two are.

"No, ah, he won't be home for a while. I have to get moving, I'm meeting him in town."

They look at each other. 

"Well, it's about tomorrow."

I stiffen up. 

Lindsey goes on, "Deb rang, and she says that he knows about it."

I nod. "I told him."

Lindsey smiles, "Probably just as well. Brian doesn't take too well to surprises."

Mel snorts. "His fucking birthday is hardly a surprise! Not unless he's even more deeply in denial about his age than we know about."

We both sort of ignore her. We're used to screening out the comments Mel and Brian make about each other.

"So we thought that if he already knows, then we could ask him what he wants to do about Michael."

Mel gives an exasperated huff, and I look at her, and this time it's she and I who are in synch here. 

"Lindz, I told you. I won't put Brian in that position. I won't."

"Well, but ..."

"Lindsey, he's right."

By the tone in Mel's voice I can tell this argument has been going on for a while. Probably since last night.

"Look, Lindz, it's up to you who you invite to your house. And I don't want to put you in the position of having to take sides. If you invite Michael, that's fine. Brian and I will both cope with that ..."

"Fuck that!" Mel interrupts. "I don't want to see that little prick until I've had some time to calm down."

Lindsey goes to say something but Mel cuts over the top. "No, Lindz, I mean it. And if you want our son exposed to another scene like the one at Deb's then all I can say is, you've lost your fucking mind!"

She raises her voice a bit, and Gus looks up. I smile at him and wave, and he grins and puts his finger over his lips before he goes back to his cartoons. God! That was so cute. I have to remember to tell Brian. He'll shrug it off, but he'll file it away in his 
mind, too, like a little treasure. Even if he wasn't here to share it.

Lindsey sighs. "Well, I suppose that's true."

"Damn right!" Mel huffs.

Then she sinks down onto one of the stools. I suppose I should offer them coffee, but I want them to go. I have things to do, and Brian to meet.

"Fucking Kinney!" Mel grumbles.

"Excuse me?" I say, a bit shocked. I mean, yeah, yeah. Mel. Brian. We all know. But where did that one come from.

"Biggest fucking mistake I ever made," Mel says quietly, suddenly looking tired and not very well. Lindsey turns and puts her arms around her, and Mel rests her head on Lindsey's shoulder. 

"I put up with all the stalking shit ..."

Brian!?

"... and the emails telling me what I should and shouldn't be eating."

Not Brian.

"Hell! I even put up with him wanting to know all the fucking details of when I was sick, and what my fucking weight was ..."

Very definitely not Brian. Michael? Michael was bugging her like this?

"And when he made that big song and dance about his parental rights, I sort of went along, even though I knew it could cause problems later, because ... because at least he seemed to care ..."

She sounds really upset now, and I don't know what to do. Hormones. I know, I've heard. But what do you do about them?

"But then ... he just decides that he's going to leave. Just like that. Without even telling me."

Her voice is really wobbly now. Lindz rubs her back and says, "Mel, honey, it's okay."

"And it's all fucking Kinney's fault."

I stare at her, trying to work this out.

"If he hadn't been such a prick when he found out I was the one who was going to be having the baby then it all would have been alright."

Because Brian would have been the father.

I realize what she's saying, and I feel terrible. I look at Lindsey and realize that suddenly the three of us are on the verge of tears over something that it's way too late to do anything about now. Well, except pray that the baby doesn't take after his 
father as much as Gus does. Because suddenly Gus has decided that everyone's attention has been off him for far too long and that he's going to do something about it. He's heading towards the new TV, entertainment system, whatever the hell the 
thing is, and is about to start drooling all over it, if nothing worse.

I head off to rescue him ... it ... whatever. And that sort of gets everyone moving, and then they're leaving. Mel gives me a hug, and says, "Just ignore me, Justin. Sometimes ..."

I nod. I really, really do not want to get into a women's thing discussion right now. It could turn my dick soft for the whole afternoon and that is so not the plan.

Lindsey gives me a bigger hug. "Justin, sweetie, about the key ..."

I meet her eyes and she smiles at me. "I'm glad, baby. Really, really glad."

I nod. "I know."

"And about what Mel said ... she's thinking that way at the moment because she's so pissed off with Michael. But ... it wasn't just about how Brian reacted. She ..." she wrinkles her nose. "Brian. You know."

I grin at her. I know alright. Mel. Brian. 

"I know Lindz," I say. "At the time she was probably having nightmares at the very thought of having Brian's baby."

Her mouth drops open and I wonder what I've said. Then she giggles.

"You're right. She was."

Suddenly that seems very funny and we're both laughing as I close the door.

I lean against it for a moment.

I really need some time to think about all this, and work out what happened here. But there isn't any time.

Not if I'm going to be at that hotel anywhere close to two o'clock.

At that thought, everything else seems to fade into the background and I start rushing round to get the things I want. Now, if only I've remembered correctly about where the things I need are tucked away. I rummage in the back of the closet, and I'm 
right. They are there. 

Now I just have to gulp down some lunch before I get changed.

I feel myself grinning. Brian is going to get such a surprise.

 

Chapter 18: Like A Virgin by Wren

Like a Virgin

 

Justin

It's just a little after two when I knock on the door of the suite. I'm clutching a bag, and if I really were the preppy virgin I'm playing my heart could hardly be pounding any harder. It's a minute or two before Brian opens the door, and when he does my heart somehow finds a way to increase its pace. I guess it needs to pump more furiously because of all the blood that's pouring into my cock.

He's wearing a pair of black jeans that are so tight they leave very little to the imagination and a crimson shirt, cut loose and falling in such soft drapes that it must be silk. It's half unbuttoned, and I can see the column of his neck and the smooth planes of his chest. My eye is caught for a moment by the shadowed hollow of his throat and then I look up and am lost in a flood of memories.

His lips shine with the dark glow I remember from those first moments under the light. He stood so close to me that I could feel his body heat, and I could hardly tear my eyes away from the promise of his mouth. It's the same now.

His tongue flicks out across his lips and I feel my cock twitch. Then finally I meet his eyes.

They're wide with surprise, but then they narrow and go dark with lust. This time his tongue's journey across his upper lip is slow, deliberately seductive. He stands back to let me enter the suite, but only a little, so that I have no choice but to brush against him. I can feel the heat radiating off him. My hands are shaking as I turn to face him.

His tongue rolls into his cheek, and he takes the bag from my hands and puts it down.

Then he spreads his arms and poses. "You like what you see?"

His eyes travel slowly down my body. "Yes, I can see you do."

It's hardly a secret. My cock is trying to find a way to burst through the material of my pants. They were tight enough to start with, now they're really uncomfortable.

He reaches out and runs one finger down under the lapel of my jacket.

"I hadn't realised you were quite so young," he says, his eyes full of mischief. "I knew you were a virgin, but I wasn't expecting a schoolboy."

His voice is deep and husky and I know that he's really turned on by my choice of clothing. He reaches out and begins to gently loosen my tie, saying, "Are you sure you're old enough, little boy? I wouldn't want to break any laws."

I don't answer, just gaze at him with lust and longing. I run my tongue over my lips and watch his eyes follow the movement. Without warning he grabs my tie and pulls me closer. I clutch his hips to steady myself and his eyes lock with mine. Still holding the tie, he slides the other hand behind my head, tangling his fingers in my hair, and gripping me firmly. His eyes wide open he lowers his mouth to mine. I try to keep my eyes open, but the feeling of his mouth moving against mine is so amazing, is bringing back so many memories, that between past and present I'm overwhelmed with emotion and sensation, and feel my eyelids droop slowly till all light is shut out and then there is only feeling and taste and scent and sound.


Brian

Little shit!

I can't believe it when I open the door and he's standing there in his fucking school uniform. Shit! My cock gets rock hard just looking at him. I have to resist the urge to drag him into the room before someone comes along or to snatch him away from me or throw my ass in jail.

God he is so hot. And that damned uniform is tighter now than it was two years ago. He's filled out in all the right places and I have to reach out to touch him. I slide my finger down the lapel of his jacket and his eyes get that glazed, caught in the spotlight look they had that first night. Shit! what he does to me. I hear my voice say something, I'm sure it's sexy and witty but I have no idea it is. He doesn't answer, just looks at me with those eyes dark and hazy with lust and memories and suddenly I have to at least taste him. I grab his tie and pull him towards me. Of course, the moment that his hands touch my hips, I'm lost.

I stare down at him as I find his mouth. It opens for me so sweetly and I possess it, claim it, as I watch his eyelashes slowly flutter down to lie across his cheeks. Then my eyes close and all there is is the feel of Justin and the scent of him and the taste of his mouth and the sound of the soft moans that are coming from somewhere deep inside him.

I want to get back to the game, the fantasy, but this ... I have to hold onto this awhile. This sense of belonging, of being so familiar with his body, able to read its needs as easily as my own. I never thought I'd want this, never understood how good it could be to have it. Now, I never want this to end. I don't want to have to go back to the beginning with him. We've struggled so hard to get this far. I don't want us ever to be strangers to each other again, and I'm making the most of everything I know to deepen the kiss, to somehow draw us closer.

That's why I notice the instant that something changes. His breathing catches, and his fingers clutch at my shirt and I know ... I *know* he's somewhere that I don't want him to be, somewhere he doesn't want to be. Without breaking the kiss, I pull him right into my arms and hold him close, using my hands to caress and sooth him. When I feel him still fighting off whatever emotion has darkened this moment for him, I move my mouth from his to press his face into my neck while I lick and nibble at his ear, blowing into it softly in the way he likes.

His breathing steadies and he lifts his head. I press my forehead to his and find myself rubbing noses with him. Fuck! Like I said - what he does to me!

But it works because he gives me *that* smile and I find myself smiling back.

"Hey!" I say.

He smiles some more and kisses my chin. "Hey!" he answers.


 

Justin

I don't know what made me suddenly feel like I was going to freak out completely, or else burst into tears like some totally tragic little faggot. Just ...

Suddenly it was all way too much like the first time. The first time I'd been kissed by a man, ever. And it was Brian doing the kissing. Fuck! He'd said to me later when he was about to shove his cock up my ass that he wanted me to remember it, that no matter who I was with, he'd always be there. He was about three hours too late. He'd already branded me as his the first time he kissed me.

I can't explain what it is about Brian's kisses. It's partly the technique, I guess. I mean, anything he does with his mouth or tongue is incredible; kissing among the rest. And it's partly his Brian-taste: I would know that taste anywhere; cigarettes and JB and coffee and the deep mint toothpaste he uses; and Brian. And part of it is just his mouth. He has the most amazing mouth - made for kissing.

But there's something else. It's as if all the things that he could never, would never say, are somehow there in his kisses. All the ‘you're wonderfuls', all the ‘you're so hot's, all the ‘I want you's. They're all there in his kisses.

I guess that's why I made up that lame rule. I was trying to keep all those things to myself. So dumb.

But for my first kiss from another man to be one of those kisses from Brian ... that truly changed my world. That's the moment that all the things I sort of knew about myself came into focus, and I really understood myself as a gay man. Young, maybe; naïve, and very, very horny. But complete, somehow. That first kiss, those first kisses, changed everything for me.

But now is not then, and I don't want to go back to then. I don't want to go through all that again. I don't think I'm strong enough now to face all that again. I don't know where I found the courage then to fight for him the way I did, to fight him the way I did. I don't know how I got through all that pain, all that anguish. I know that there was joy, too. And elation. And pleasure, God the pleasure! But it all came at such a high cost and I just can't ...

I guess somehow he knows something is wrong, because he pulls me into his arms, and now it's not the hustler kissing some schoolboy; it's Brian, and he's kissing me. Me, Justin. I know he is because when he stops, he starts playing with my ear, biting and licking it and blowing into it the way he knows I love and I feel myself relax into his arms. We're not back at the beginning. We're here. And we're playing and we're going to have a good time.

I pull back a little so that I can look up at him and he touches his forehead to mine. Then he rubs his nose against mine. My heart turns over when he does that. It's such a goofy thing to do. It's cute, and Brian *so* doesn't do cute. But he does this sometimes. With me. He does it now, and suddenly the world is just so fucking wonderful and I realise that I don't regret one single twinge of the pain that long ago Justin went through. Because all of them, added up, somehow got me, got us, here.

And here is right where I want to be.

I smile at him.

"Hey!" he says goofily.

"Hey!" I answer, kissing him on the chin.

He looks into my eyes for a moment, then he does that tongue in cheek thing and I know we're *on* again; we're back in the game.

"So, little boy," he says. "Are you ready to play?"

And just like that everything else seems to fade away in the need to get his hands, or his mouth or something around my dick.

I nod, suddenly breathless again, and he wraps my tie around his hand and, staring into my eyes, he backs into the bedroom, pulling me with him.

I'm so horny now, I want to jump on him the moment we're anywhere near the bed, but he stops me. He grabs my arms and holds me till he's sure I'll stand still. Then, licking his lips while he does it, he pulls my blazer down off my shoulders, to half way down my arms. He doesn't take it right off, just leaves it there, so that it's pinning my arms behind me. Then he slowly, slowly unbuttons my shirt. He spreads it apart, pulling it back to almost join the jacket. Then he just stands there, his eyes caressing my throat and my chest. The feel of those caresses on my nipples is enough to make them harden, without him ever touching them, then his eyes moved down across my stomach to where my cock is tenting out the front of my pants so far it's a wonder it hasn't burrowed through.

He looks back up into my eyes then, and holds them while his hands undo my belt and finally, finally! my pants. Still giving me that so sexy grin, he tangles his hand in my hair again and kisses me, eyes wide open to watch my reaction as his hand slowly, deftly wraps itself around my cock and strokes it gently. I feel the stickiness of precum spilling from my slit, and he takes it and smoothes it over my cock, jerking me in earnest now. One, two, three strokes and I feel my balls tighten. No! no! not like this, not so soon.

"Sssh!" he murmurs into my mouth. "Let's just get you off, then we can get comfortable."

His hand flexes again, and then again.

"C'mon now," he says. "Cum for me. I want to feel you spilling all over my fingers. I want them all wet and sticky so that I can suck you off them."

And that does it, and the next time his hand moves on my dick I cum.

I hear his soft laugh and feel it deep in his chest as he pulls me against him and lets me lean into him while I get my breath back.

Shit! that was hot!.

And all he did was jerk me off. Fucked if I know what the rest of the night is going to be like.


 

Brian

I so have to laugh at the expression on his face. He truly does look like that mortified schoolboy who came all over my new duvet. I pull back a bit and let him watch me lick his cum from my fingers. Then I drop to my knees in front of him and pull down his pants and lick up any stray strands from his belly and pubes. He sighs, and already his cock is starting to harden.

I get up and guide him towards the bed. His arms are still caught in his blazer and he struggles a bit to free them, but I push him down on his back on the bed. I get his shoes and socks off and pull his pants down to his feet, but leave them tangled there. Then I force him further back onto the bed and lift his feet up onto the edge. I push them closer to his body, so that his knees are well bent, then I spread his legs.

His arms are still caught, and his feet are trapped in his pants and he's spread out in front of me completely at my mercy.

He realises it too, and his eyes widen. I watch him closely to make sure he's okay with it. His tongue runs over his lips, and his cock is close to fully hard now and looking into his eyes, they're wide and dark and he's got this grin on his face like he knows he's in for the ride of his life and he can hardly wait.

But waiting is just what he's going to have to do.

I strip slowly, peeling the red shirt down off one shoulder, then another, finally I pull it off and drag it across his belly and cock before I toss it on the floor.

I unbutton the jeans. Buttons are not only safer than fucking zips, they're a hell of a lot sexier. His eyes follow my fingers and his tongue flicks wetly across his lips. I pull the pants down slowly, and then turn, so that he can watch as I slide them down over my ass. He groans and I take advantage of the fact that my face is away from him to grin in satisfaction.

‘You might be getting older, Kinney, but you definitely still have it,' I think to myself. Then I realise that maybe it's just with him. Maybe for him, I'll always be able to make him feel like this. I push that thought aside as something I don't really want to deal with now, but somehow I feel it burrow down inside me and fuck! but it feels good.

Fucker! If he starts making me feel like a fucking lovesick lesbian right now I will fucking kill him!

I step out of the pants and turn back to the bed. He's laying right where I put him, wanton and beautiful.

I spread his knees even wider and stroke the inside of his thighs and he starts panting hard. My fingers brush his balls and he sinks his head back with a soft moan. I play with his balls, rolling them between my fingers and he hisses, his head tossing back and forth. He writhes a little, and I realise that with his arms trapped halfway under him like that he's uncomfortable. That is not the plan, so I sit him up and pull off the blazer and the shirt. Then I have to kiss him. By the time I pull away, his lips are swollen and his face is flushed and sweaty. I bet mine matches, too.

I pull away and urge him further up the bed. I push the pillows. I take his hands and place them on the thick rails that form the bed head. He grasps them obediently. Then I take the largest of the pillows and put it under his hips. I tug off his pants and once more pull his knees up and spread them. Before I get settled, I reach down beside the bed and pull up the bag I'd placed there. I put it on the bed behind me, so that I can reach it, but he can't see what's in it.

Then I kneel between his feet and survey my client, my prize, my ... lover.

His cock is fully erect again now, and precum is dripping like sticky silk from the tip to his belly. He's completely naked, except for that damned school tie, and somehow that makes the sight of him even hotter.

I begin stroking the insides of his thighs once more.

"Now," I say, slipping once more into character. "You have to tell me what you want. I'm here to pleasure you, but you have to tell me what you want."

His mouth opens and his tongue presses against his lower lip.

"Everything!" he pants. "I want everything."

I smile at him slyly. He's not getting away with that, and he knows it."

I cup his balls in the palm of one hand and say, "I need to know exactly what you want. What you like."

I juggle his balls a little while the fingers of my other hand trace circles on his the sensitive skin of his inner thigh in a way that I know drives him crazy.

"I want you to fuck me," he says.

Little shit!  He'll learn.

"You have to say it. Tell me exactly what you want me to do."

He does get it then and he groans and lets his head fall back for a moment. Then he props himself up a little on his elbows and says, "I need you to touch me."

"Where?" I ask silkily. "Say it."

His eyes meet mine and for just a moment I'm ready to believe that he is that little virgin once more. They plead with me, and just like that night, I can't resist them.

"Do you want me to touch you here?" I ask, and, leaving his balls, let my fingers trail down the soft sensitive skin till they drift across his anus.

He sucks his breath in sharply. "Yes," he breathes. "Oh, yes."

I smile at him again, and slide my hands under his knees, pushing, till his thighs rest on his chest. Then I stroke my fingers oh so lightly over his buttocks.

"Here?" I ask.

"Oh, shit!" is the only response I get. I cup his buttocks in my hands and the swell of them against my palms for some reason makes me suddenly want to end the game and just fuck him senseless. Time for more games later.

I reach behind me and find the lube. Remembering that night, I don't bother to warm it, just coat my fingers, and then touch his asshole.

"You want my finger up here?" I ask.

Well, I have to prepare him anyway, might as well have little fun doing it.

"Yes," he hisses.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes!"

This time the word is snapped out and I stifle a laugh. Instead, I push one finger into him and he blinks up at me.

"It's cold," he says softly.

I find myself really smiling now, the way I only ever smile at him.

"It'll warm up," I say. I move my finger around, stretching him carefully; just like I did that first night, and he gives a gratified moan.

It's a weird thing. When I woke up the next morning I didn't even remember that Lindz had had the baby, but I could remember every single word that passed between us, every touch, every sigh, every kiss, every moan. Still can.

I add another finger, then another. His hips are bucking a little now. Again, just like that first night. Fingers aren't enough now, just like they weren't then. Then he wanted it, without really knowing what he wanted.

Despite the fear, despite all the taboos, he knew there was something and so he went looking for it; went looking for what he wanted, what he needed. And what he found was me. Fuck!

But then I remember the feel of him under me, once he'd gotten past that initial pain; the way he moved with me, bucked up against me wanting more, wanting harder, and the look of astonished bliss when he came, jetting against my stomach, spurting all over his chest, and I suddenly realise that despite what anyone else might think, he could have done a lot worse.

A lot worse. I have to turn my mind away from what might have happened to him that night, from what he might have wound up with, because otherwise ... His hands come up and clasp my face and for just one moment I stare down into his eyes.

He found me. I found him.

One hand leaves my face to fumble with his jacket, and then he has a condom package between his teeth, and he's ripping it open.

"Good boy!" I breathe down at him, scissoring my fingers apart and then rewarding him with a brush across his prostate. "Put it on me."

He grins at me and does it - a lot more efficiently than he did that first night.

Then I'm moving his legs into just the right position on my shoulders and staring down into his eyes as I slowly push inside. I know the moment he feels the pinch, and I pause and wait. When he's ready there's the slightest tilt of his hips and I move into him again. I feel his calf muscles flex near my ears and then I'm over him and into him and his hands are clasping my shoulders, fingers digging into me so hard I'll have bruises tomorrow.

And the dance begins.


Justin

It is intense. It is so fucking intense that afterwards we can barely move. Brian wriggles off me a little so that I can get my legs down at least and then we just collapse in a tangled heap. He's half on top of me, his head on my chest, and my leg is hooked up over his thigh and we're just holding each other. He huffs into my neck and says, "Fuck! that was hot."

"Mmph," I grunt in agreement. He pulls himself up and I mumble a protest, but he's just pulling the covers up off the floor. He must have stripped the bed before I arrived and I was so focused on him I didn't even notice. He drapes them over me and then slithers under them to join me. I sigh happily and open my arms and he comes into them, kissing my shoulder and my neck and then my lips. Then he lays back and gives a very contented-sounding sigh. I can't help smiling.

His arm stretches out across the pillow above my head, and I choose to interpret that as an invitation. I move closer and rest my head against his shoulder and his arm somehow slips down around me, and if either of us were asked, we'd deny any knowledge of how it got there. At least, he would, which makes it smart for me to do the same.

But we know. We both know.

I feel his cheek rub my head, and I want to ask where he went. What he was thinking for just that moment when his eyes suddenly went blank and his face turned into a mask of ... what? Fear? But I don't. He came back when I reached for him, and whatever it was that he thought of, there's probably no point in digging it up now.

"You were a fucking idiot, you know," he says out of nowhere.

"What?" Okay, he's taken a leap into the Kinney stratosphere, and I'm having some trouble keeping up.

"You have no idea what might have ..."  he bites off the rest, but I can feel the tension in him again.

"Brian, I'm not stupid, I ..."

"Justin ... " for a moment I think he's going to say more, then he stops, takes a breath, and I almost *feel* the effort he puts into shrugging it off. "Never mind. It doesn't matter."

Something tells me that it does, but there's nothing I can do if he doesn't want to talk about it. I guess he's thinking about that first night, that I could have picked someone to go with who would not have looked after me the way that Brian did. I turn my head and kiss his shoulder. He's silent for a moment, then abruptly he gets up and walks into the bathroom, shutting the door.

I lie there for a few minutes, but when he doesn't come back, I quietly push the door open. He's leaning with his hands on the sink, staring into the mirror. Eventually, his eyes meet mine in the reflection. He looks away, then back, then his eyes drop.

"The first guy I ever fucked was a virgin," he says. "So was I. I mean... there'd been hand jobs, and blow jobs, but ... not that. I had no fucking idea what I was doing. I mean, I knew the theory. Knew enough to use lube and a condom, but ... that was it."

He straightens a little, and rubs his hands over his face. "I really hurt him. He bled. Not badly, but ... there was blood. And he wouldn't even let me take him to a doctor. Was too fucking afraid someone would find out."

There's nothing I can say to this, so I don't. I just stand there, and wait. His head comes up and he meets my eyes in the mirror again. "Justin ..."

"You didn't hurt me," I tell him.

"Liar!"

I force a little smile and take his arm and turn him to face me.

"Okay" I admit, "You have hurt me. There have been times when you've shredded me. Just like there've been times when I've shredded you. But not in sex, Brian. Never."

"You said ‘it hurts'," he reminds me.

I have to stifle a smile at how much of that night he remembers, the shit. This is more important.

"And it did, a little, the way it always does, just like you said."

He looks sceptical, so I grin and rub my hands up his arms.

"Alright, maybe more than a little, that first time. But you were so gentle, so careful with me. You took it so slowly. I remember telling Daph later how lucky I was."

He cups my face in his hands and looks into my eyes for a long, long while.

Then he smiles.

"I guess you could have done worse, huh?"

I wind my arms up around his neck and he lets me pull him down to kiss him. So I do. Thoroughly. Then I smile at him.

"I could do a lot worse," I say.

He hears the change of tense and sucks his lips in. I know that look. It means he's thinking very carefully about exactly what to say and how to say it. Then he just smiles and bumps his head against mine.

"So could I," is all he says.

But it's enough. It's way way more than enough.

 

Chapter 19: Shadows of the Past by Wren
Author's Notes:

 


Notes: I experienced some angst over this one. This chapter has been planned almost since the beginning. But after the wonderful job that Cael and Randall have been doing with similar subject matter, I wasn't sure whether I should scrap this completely. But ... it goes in quite a different direction to the path they've taken, so eventually I decided to go ahead. I want to thank them, though, because their work has been amazing, and truly inspiring.

 

 

 

Shadows from the Past

 

 

Justin

I need him to go back to sleep. But I know he won't until I do. Or at least until he thinks I have. So I lie here trying to relax and make my breathing steady and somehow, somehow convince him that he can go off duty now; to make him believe that he doesn't have to stay awake beside me to guard my sleep. I need him to switch off so that I can think about what happened without dredging it all up again for him.

Well, anymore than I already have anyway by starting to scream the place down in the middle of the night.

I can't believe I had another one of those nightmares. It's been so fucking long since I had one. Why now? Why the fuck did it have to happen tonight? This was our ‘holiday'. This was our time away from all the work and the worries and the constant bullshit drama that always seems to be part of our lives. Once I would have been ready to cry like some wussy little faggot about how unfair it is. But now, I'm just mad as hell.

I want to strip myself apart to find the part that is so fucked, so defective that it has to self-destruct the first chance I get to just relax and really be happy with Brian.

The first chance Brian and I have had to relax and be happy together. And I blow it apart by bringing back all that shit into our lives. Like it wasn't bad enough the first time. It fucking tore us apart then - slowly. I won't let it wreck things again. I won't.

Fuck it!

 

Brian

Stupid little shit. He's lying there trying to sucker me into believing that he's gone back to sleep again and everything's fucking fine. As if it's all just going to fucking go away and tomorrow we won't talk about it and it will all just be ...

Fuck!

Fucker!

He's doing just what I fucking taught him to do. All those nights ... all those times he woke me up, and I was back there in that fucking parking garage and ...

It was all happening again, and there still wasn't anything I could do.

Except try to hold it together while I held him, rocked him, tried to make him believe he was safe. That I could keep him safe. That I could help him and make his world better again.

What a load of fucking bullshit! It was all I could do not to start screaming with him. Except I was afraid that if I started I'd never stop. So I'd hold him and soothe him, and when he'd finally fallen asleep I could lie in the dark holding him and fight not to come unglued. Fight the tears and the fear and the guilt and the anger that were trying to make me fly into a million pieces.

Again.

Like I had the night before. And the night before that.

I couldn't let him talk about it then, because I had to be strong for him. And if I'd let him talk about it, let him take us back there, back then, back to the soft innocent swoosh as he fell to the concrete floor, to the dull thud of the bat hitting his head, and the sound of my voice screaming his name - too late, always too fucking late ...

If we'd talked about it then I would have fallen completely apart - or gone on a bender that would have made the time I spent drunk and drugged and fucked out of my mind while he was in rehab seem like lifestyles of the sober and abstinent. And I couldn't afford to do either. He *needed* me. For the first time in my life someone was really depending on me. Not just someone. Justin.

Justin was depending on me. There wasn't anyone else. His fucking father was nowhere to be seen, Deb ... well, with the best will in the world, she couldn't help, Jen ... she'd been so quick to snatch him back to her nice suburban home, but even she'd had to admit she couldn't help him, so she'd had the sense to toss him back to me. I was the one who could. Me.

So, despite all the years I'd fought ever having anyone rely on me, despite all the time I'd spent making sure that everyone knew they couldn't rely on me... this was Justin, and I had to come through for him. I swore to myself that I wasn't going to let him down.

Except of course that I did. Maybe if I'd made him get some therapy then for his head and his heart the way I made him do all those exercises for his hand; hell! if I'd even made it alright for him to get therapy, made him feel like it was just the same as the physical therapy he needed, then maybe he wouldn't be lying here now still trying to deal with shit that's nearly two years old. Shit that could and should have been dealt with then - for both of us. If I hadn't been too chicken shit to do it.

Well, like they say, that was then ...

I press myself against him and kiss his ear.

"Justin ... we should talk about this."

"No!" His voice is adamant and defiant.

I run my hand down his back. Okay ... the apocalypse is coming and he doesn't want to talk. Well, tough shit. He needs to. And if the only way to get him to do it is to start things off, then that's just what I'm going to have to do. If I can.

I can.

I have to.

It's for Justin.

So I just have to do start and hope that once the words begin to flow I won't fucking bleed to death from them.

I pry my mouth open and say, "I need to talk about it then. Is that okay? Will you listen? Just listen, that's all I'm asking."

He goes absolutely still in my arms. His fucking breathing stops. Then he rolls on his back to look at me.

 

Justin

I can only stare at him. He wants to talk about it?

He never fucking wanted to talk about it!

Back then, when I needed ... needed someone to hear me, someone to help me make sense of it all, he fucking led the charge in not fucking talking about it.

Now, now when all I want to do is get back to our ‘holiday', now he fucking wants to talk about it?

I roll over so ready to rip him a new one, but seeing the look on his face, I can only stare at him.

Shit!

I knew it had been bad for him, but not this bad ... oh, God! not this bad.

I put my hand on his face, and find it wet. I don't think he even knows he's crying. I press closer to him and slide my arm under and round him. He's propped up on one elbow looking down at me, but as soon as he feels my arm around him, he sort of collapses down on top of me, his face in my neck. I put my other arm around him and hold him for a long time.

When he first starts talking, it's hard to understand the words, but gradually he calms down and they become clearer.

"I never meant to make you bottle it all up," he whispers. "I never meant to make it harder for you."

"Brian ... " I hear the pain in his voice and all I can do is hold him and ache for him, for us. "You were the one who saved me."

He shakes his head of course, denying it.

"You did," I insist. "I couldn't even walk down the street ..."

He huffs something that might be a laugh. "Sure you could. You got yourself to Woody's, and to the loft ..."

"Only because I was looking for you. Only because I ..."

‘Needed you', I want to say. But that, I know, is something he never wants to hear.

"You needed me," he says, and I wait for the sound of the trump of doom.

"And .." He sighs and pulls himself off me. He sits up and props himself against the head of the bed, staring straight ahead of him.

"I had to be there for you. Had to. Had to be strong for you. You were so fucking brave ... the nurses told me how hard you worked every day at those damned exercises, and then when you walked into Woody's that night ..."

He breaks off and shakes his head.

"You were so brave," he says again, "and I had to match you. Had to be what you needed. I *had* to, Justin."

I put my hand over his where it lies beside me on the bed. He makes a harsh sound, a self mocking laugh, but as his face twists into that bitter grin I know only too well, his fingers tangle with mine. I hold tightly, and he goes on.

"The thing is ... I'm not ... not brave, not strong, not anything like you. I am such a pussy fucking coward ..."

His voice chokes and he's silent for a moment. I want to say something, to disagree, to argue, to tell him what bullshit he's talking, but I don't dare interrupt. So I lie beside him, and hold his hand, and try to will him to know how much this means to me, to hear this from him. Not because he's right, but because he's trusting me ... oh, god, I can hardly breathe with how much it means to me that he trusts me with this.

"But I had to be ... had to somehow hold it all together to be what you needed me to be."

He looks down at me with that wry look that can tear my heart out. It's the look he had on his face when he gave me the ‘so I'm a rotten father, are we surprised?' line all those centuries ago. He sees something in my face though, because his eyes soften. I take that as an invitation, and pull myself up to sit next to him, our hands still tangled together. It might be accidental, but it feels like he moves slightly, because suddenly our shoulders are touching. He pulls our hands out of the sheets and places them on his thigh, squeezing my fingers hard.

"It was okay when you were in the hospital. I could run off and get wasted every night before I ..."

He breaks off abruptly. Then, carefully, as if he hopes I'm not noticing that little snippet, he goes on, "But once you were living with me ... I had to be together all the time. Had to. There was so much ... I just had to be on my game, all the time. And ..."

He swallows and looks down at our hands, " ... I know that maybe it would have been better if you'd talked about it. I know that. But I didn't dare, Justin. I just didn't dare. If I'd tried ..."

His voice chokes off and then he says, softly, sadly, making it sound like defeat, "I had to keep it together. Had to. Had to be strong for you."

There's a long pause, while I try to work out if he's finished what he needs to say. Then, even more softly, even more sadly, "I'm sorry I let you down."

Oh, Brian!

Emotions, thoughts, things I need to say flood through me and clog my tongue. I can't say anything. I need a space to get a grip on this. I've waited for this chance so long. No, not waited, that's not right. You wait for something you expect to happen. I never expected this. Never.

But somehow this is happening, and I need ... *need* to say some things to this stupid, beautiful idiot who not only saved my life, but against all the odds helped me claim it back. This amazing, patient, loving jackass who helped me heal, enabled me to let myself to touch and be touched, and gave me back my art. This solitary, guarded, damaged cretin who turned his whole life around so that I wouldn't be alone, so that I didn't have to stumble my way back to life alone. Which I don't think I could have done, by the way. And who somehow thinks he failed me. Fuck!

I somehow have to find the way to show him, make him really know, what he did for me. But first I need a moment or two to pull myself together. And, knowing Brian, he probably does as well. Besides, we might as well get comfortable. It looks like this could take a while.

 

Brian

I don't know what the fuck I'm expecting him to say. Maybe that he understands, at least. I don't know.

But he doesn't say anything. He turns his head and kisses my shoulder, then pulls my hand to his lips and kisses it. Then he gets out of bed. He leaves the bedroom and through the door I see him walk over to the mini bar and pull out a couple of beers and some nuts and chips and stuff. Then he puts on the fucking coffee maker and grabs some cookies. Then he goes into the bathroom. When he comes out, he's wearing one of the hotel robes.

I stare at him for a moment, then realise that he's probably right. I make my own trip to the bathroom and am about to go back to the bed when I realise that the robe is maybe a good idea. It's not all that warm in the suite - neither of us like overheated rooms, so we turned the thermostat way down. I pull it on and head back into the bedroom.

"Let's take this out there," he suggests. So we do. He puts all the stuff on the coffee table, and then takes my hand and pulls me down next to him on the couch. It all seems fairly surreal, sitting around in fucking hotel robes in this hideously expensive suite, raiding the mini bar and settling in to ... talk. Jesus. Just when did I become a lesbian?

But we need this. He needs this.

Which means I need to give it to him.

And, okay, maybe I need it as well.

 

Justin

I can hardly believe that he's going along with this, but he's right here on the couch beside me, so I have to make this good. Or at least, I have to try to say some of the things that I've never said to him about that time. The things he'd never let me say. Maybe that's why I sort of forgot them in the whole Ethanesque delusional stage.

But how do I start? How do I make him recognize all that he did for me without him going over and over the things that he didn't do.

But I have to ... even if this gets bad. Even if he winds up just clearing out of here. Even if it takes us weeks ...

We have to deal with this. This is our chance. He was strong for me when I needed him to be. He didn't let his own fears and failings stop him from trying to give me everything, every damned thing, that I needed from him. Except the fucking words.

Now I need to give him the words.

 

Brian

He sits there without saying anything and I'm just wondering if I still have to say something else, still have to rip away more layers, when he finally opens his mouth.

"I still don't really remember the dance. Our dance. Sometimes I sort of get glimmers, like an image of lights moving, or I'm moving. Faces swirling by. But it's like remembering parts of some old movie ... it's not like remembering something that really happened to me."

My heart squeezes. It's all I can do not to double over in pain.

He tightens his hold on my hand and turns a little to face me.

"I sort of remember something about the parking garage ... before ..."

I stiffen at his side and without even seeming to realise he's doing it, he pulls my hand to his mouth and kisses my fingers. Then he looks into my eyes.

This is not the boy who looked at me so happily, so lovingly, that night. He's come way beyond that now. I don't believe he'll ever again feel that unshadowed happiness. It's that thought that catches the breath in my throat and makes my damned eyes sting.

He touches my face with his free hand.

"I remember ... a feeling ... like ... like ..."

He stops and looks away.

"You have to let me say this, okay. I mean, I know ... I know how I remember it probably isn't how it was. And anyway, just because I felt it ... I know it's not ... anyway, it was a long time ago ... I just need to say it."

I nod, and then realise he's still looking down at the floor, and so I touch his face.

"Just fucking say it."

It sounds harsh, but he looks up at me and smiles and for some reason the band around my chest loosens a little.

"I only started sort of remembering this part a few months ago ... when I was living at Daph's. I think I had a dream one night, not a nightmare, just a dream ... about you. And when I woke up ..."

I'm about to growl at him to spit out whatever it is he's going to damned well say, but I can't. I have to let him do this his way. Have to.

"It's like ... it feels like ... I felt really happy. And I felt like we were ... beginning."

He crinkles his nose, as if that's not really the word he wanted, but he can't quite get one that's any better. And fuck me if I don't want to reach out and kiss him because it's so fucking cute! Shit!

I'm fucked if I'm going to do that, so I just stick my tongue into my cheek.

He reads me too damned well, though, because he immediately knows there's something going on. He raises one eyebrow and says, "Brian!"

Like it's a warning. I grin at him. Then, when I see the storm clouds gather, I touch his face again, trying to find the words to let him know that he's not fucking delusional. To let him know that however vague this might be, however pale a glimmer of the brightness of that moment, it's still real. It's still a real memory, maybe the only one he'll ever have, of the ‘best night of his life'. I have to give him that much.

"We were," I manage to get out.

He looks puzzled for a moment, and then ... his eyes go wide and dark and for a moment I think he's going to faint or have another of those fucking panic attacks. Then they flood, and I brace myself. But this isn't my little drama princess anymore. This is a man who is tougher than I ever have been.

He blinks the tears away and just nods, gulping a little, but determined not to let me see him fall apart. And I'm reminded once more that no matter what all those fucks who call themselves my friends think, I do have a heart, because right now it's hurting so much I think maybe it's going to break all over again. The way it did that night.

I pull my hand out of his and wrap both my hands round his face so that he is looking straight into my eyes. I don't have words for this. There aren't fucking words for this. So I give him the only thing I can. I let him watch as the tears spill out of my eyes and run down my face. He stares at them for a moment and then gives a great shuddering sob, and his own tears spill and he reaches for me and for a long time then we just hold each other and slobber all over those damned hotel robes.

We wind up wrapped around each other, his head on my shoulder, my cheek against his hair, and somehow it's okay. Somehow it feels like ... like this is where we belong. I'm exhausted and so fucking tempted to let it go now. To pull his robe apart and see if I can't tempt him back to bed. But I know that's not right.

I know it.

So I hug him and say, "I could use a fucking drink."

He gives a soft little laugh and sits up a little.

"There's Beam in the bar."

I look at him. But that's not the way to go either. So I sigh and stretch.

"Coffee," I say.

He fucking beams at me like I've just done something fucking wonderful and hugs me again. Jesus! does he want to do this or not, because he's going the right way to force me to forget all my good intentions and just drag him back to bed.

Then he gets up and I don't know whether to be pissed off or relieved.

"Coffee it is," he says. And goes to make it.

It will probably taste like shit and I'm tempted to ring room service. But even suppose that they're actually awake down there, the chances of there being someone who can make a decent cup of coffee are probably around zero so I resign myself to drinking whatever shit it is they put in those damned baskets.

He brings the coffee back and I get up and go find my bag. I bring out a packet of his favorite cookies and his eyes widen.

"I know you and your midnight munchies," I smirk.

He grins and tears open the packet.

Coffee and cookies in hand we settle back into our places, his body fitting so smoothly against mine. I take a sip of the coffee. It's not bad. I look at him. He's watching me carefully. There's something there ...

"Better than I would have expected," I say, and his eyes light up. Little shit! He's brought some of my coffee from the loft.

I nudge him with my shoulder so he knows that I'm onto him, and hear him smile. I swear it. I could hear his smile in the little huff of air he puffed out, and read it in the way that his shoulder settled more comfortably against mine. Then his head comes down onto my shoulder, and I know we're off again.

 

Justin

I know I have to try to find words, but for once in my life, that's really hard. I rest for a moment with my head on his shoulder and just enjoy the feel of it, the feel of being with him. Then I sit up and twist around a little so that I can face him. I take his hand and begin.

"You know what I remember most about the time after the bashing?"

He gives me one of those Kinney looks, the ‘I don't play these games' kind, so I go on, "I remember waking up in the hospital every morning and hoping that today would be the day when you would come to see me."

His face tightens and I know I've hurt him, but this has to be said. He has to understand.

"I wanted so much to see you. To have you ... I wanted you to need to see me."

I have to stop for a moment because my voice goes wobbly. Shit! I thought I'd gotten past all this. I thought I was over it. His face is tight with pain and I reach out to touch him.

"Brian ... this isn't meant to hurt you. I just need you to hear this, so that you understand what ... how it was later."

He nods and I stroke his cheek. Then I take a deep breath and go on.

"The thing is ... if I'd woken up and found you sitting next to my hospital bed and all that ... all the things I thought I wanted, thought I needed at the time ... I mightn't have worked so hard at getting well. I mightn't have pushed myself so hard. Because it hurt, Brian."

A muscle in his face twitches and I touch him again. "No, I don't mean you not being there. Although it did. I meant the exercises. They really hurt. If I'd had any leeway about not doing them, I probably would have taken it. And ... if I'd done that, I may never have got the use of my hand back. The doctors all told me I wouldn't draw again, remember?"

Brian looks into my eyes, his own dark pools of painful memory, and I stretch out and kiss him gently on the lips.

"They were surprised at how well I did recover. But they all said that it was because I worked so hard in those early days. That it's those first few weeks that can really make a difference. So in a weird way, you not being there helped me."

He is still staring at me, and then he gives the ghost of a smile, and reaches out and brushes the hair back from my face.

"You don't have a clue, do you? Justin ... whether I was there or not, you're just too damned tough to take the bullshit they dish out and let it ride. You would have worked just as hard. You just would have had ..."

He stops and sighs and looks away and looks back. "I didn't know how to help you. It was killing me. There you were ... and you needed ... something ... and there wasn't anything I could do, except ..."

I meet his eyes head on.

"Except sneak in to see me every night and stand guard over my sleep."

He sucks his lips in tight, his eyes locked to mine, wide but shadowed, trying even now to guard his secrets. Then he gives a little sigh. A tiny grin appears as his tongue curls into his cheek and he nods.

I let out an exasperated little huff. I want to pursue this, I want to slap him, I want to demand why he never told me, never told anyone. But I don't. I don't have to. I understand. Sort of. It's Brian.

So, having let him know that I am so onto him, I squeeze his fingers in mine and start off again.

"Brian ... I don't want to go through all the things that happened between us after I got out of hospital, but there are some things that I do need to say. And I need you to hear me. I need you to promise that you'll listen to me. That you won't start trying to fix things, or taking blame for things. That you'll just listen. Okay?"

 

Brian

I stare at him. I really don't want to do this. But we need to. He needs to. So I take a breath and nod, and try to hold myself together. He's going to talk about all the ways I hurt him. All the things I did or didn't do, or did badly. And I need to sit and listen without feeling like ... like I'm so afraid that I haven't learned anything, like it's only a matter of time before I fuck it all up again. I have to listen.

"In fact," he starts off, "I don't want you just to listen. I need you to hear me. Do you understand? I'm asking you to stop being you for a minute. To stop trying to take everything I say and work out how you could have fixed it, and blaming yourself because you didn't. I'm telling you now most of what went wrong between us ... it just happened. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't mine. I was a mess ... and that doesn't mean that you failed because you didn't fix me. It just means that I needed time. Do you hear me?"

I stare at him. His eyes are peering straight into me. I want to break the contact; I can't let him see me, but he does. He always has and ...

He reaches out and touches my face.

"Brian ... you ... you have to trust me. And you have to let me take responsibility for my own fuck ups. Okay?"

I stare at him and he's giving me that raised eyebrow look I taught him. I find my lips twisting into a grin and he smiles at me.

"Okay," I agree.

Justin gives my hand a squeeze, then lets go and reaches for the beer he took out of the fridge an age ago. He opens it and takes a deep swallow. I figure he's got the right idea so I reach for mine. He hands it to me and picks up a packet of some salty shit and opens it. He stuffs a handful into his face, and then leans forward to feed me some. I let him push a couple into my mouth and then pull back a little. He laughs and finishes the handful himself.

When his mouth is finally food free, he says, "I guess that from the time I first woke up I felt like there were this whole batch of emotions that were trying to burst out of me. Pain and fear and ... sadness, because you weren't there."

I try not to wince at that. I have to stay calm, stay clear so that he can talk. If he thinks I'm getting upset he might stop, and I don't want him to. I don't want to do that to him again.

"And anger," he says. "Beneath all of it was the anger. And I just didn't have the strength to deal with any of it, so I sort of pushed it all away. Shut it all down."

I bite my lip. It's a battle to do as he has asked, and not just to take the responsibility for not helping him with this.

And he sees, he knows. He touches my face again.

"Brian ... I wasn't ready to deal with it. It was such a battle just to deal with all the other stuff. And if it hadn't been for you .."

His voice chokes and his eyes go very dark, as if he's seeing some image that really scares him. I tighten my hold on his hand, and he's suddenly back with me again.

"If it hadn't been for you, I don't think that I would have made it. I know you don't want to believe that, but I believe it's true."

I shake my head a little in denial, but he stops me with a look. "Brian ... this is about how I see things, and I'm telling you ... I might have got over my fear of being touched without you - eventually. I might even have been able to go back into crowds and stuff. Who knows, I might even have found a way to work on my art. But it would have taken a lot longer, and I think that by the time I found a way to do all those things, I wouldn't have been Justin any more."

I want to tell him that he's so much stronger than he's giving himself credit for, but I've promised not to interrupt. To hear him. So I try to take in what he's saying without letting myself disagree. To just hear him. God! who knew that listening would be so fucking hard?

 

Justin

I'm so grateful to him for his silence. I know that he wants to say things, or at least to deflect what I'm saying, but he isn't. He's hanging in there with me, and that means more to me than anything right now. But now I have to say some of the really hard things. I take a breath, and another swig of beer. Then I go on.

"The thing is, that all that clamping down on those emotions ... it left me kind of numb. Like I could hardly feel anything. It was weird. And I think ..."

I pause for a moment and look at him.

"I think that for a long time I went out of my way to create ... dramas ... just so that I could feel something."

His eyes have never left mine, but now they've narrowed a little, and I know that he's really trying to take in and process what I'm saying.

"I think that all the shit ... the threeways and the baths and the Vermont trip and the with Sap and the rules ... I think they were all just ways to make myself feel something."

His eyes are very wide now, and darkly shadowed. He knows what's coming next and he's bracing himself for it. I twine my fingers more closely with his, as if that frail link can hold us safe through all the torrents I'm about to unleash.

"I think that's what the Ethan thing was mainly about."

He's shaking his head. I knew he wasn't going to want to hear this. He wants it to be his fault. But it wasn't. Maybe a little. But mostly not. Mostly it was me. I was the one who fucked up; and there were reasons that I did, but very few of them were to do with what he'd done or hadn't done. Which is why he doesn't want to hear it. Because if it was him, then in some way he was in control. Is still in control. If it was about what he did back then, then if he can just not do it this time we'll be okay. In Brian logic.

But I won't let him take that on. I won't. He's just going to have to deal with not controlling every fucking thing in the universe.

I touch his face.

"Bri ... I know you think that if you'd been the perfect boyfriend things would have been different. I'm telling you that's not true. I was fucked up. And no, that doesn't mean you should have seen it and got me help. It just means that I needed some time for all that shit to sort of ... heal. That's all.

"The thing with Ethan ... remember how I said I had all this anger? It was simmering inside me, all the time and I had nowhere for it to go. It was all bottled up in me, and you were ... I could let it all focus on you, because it was safe. I knew you'd never hurt me. So all the anger, all the frustration ... I could put it all on you. Not consciously. I don't mean that. But inside ... whenever I needed to feel something, it was safe to let myself feel angry with you. All the frustration and resentment ... there you were. Sometimes it came out, but mainly, I just bottled it up and let it seethe inside me.

"Then Ethan came along, and ... it was exciting, all the sneaking around. And it was a way to punish you ..."

I touch his face. I have to make sure he hears this.

"Not for anything you'd done. But ... I couldn't punish anyone else. Not Hobbs, not St James, not my fucking father. I was so powerless. Except where you were concerned. You, I could punish."

Brian's beautiful eyes are shiny with tears now, and I lean forward and kiss the corner of his mouth. It's killing me to say this to him, but he needs to let himself off the hook. He needs to know how badly messed up I was so that he understands the difference in me now. So that he knows this isn't the same asshole that fucked things up so badly.

"And I could punish me."

His head snaps up at that, and I go on.

"Brian ... I was such a mess. I hated myself some days. I felt like I was a total reject, and ..."

This isn't the time to tell him Michael hadn't helped that at all.

"And while I was creeping about behind your back with Ethan ... it was like a way of saying to myself, ‘this is what you are, this pathetic lying cheating little sack of shit'. It sort of validated how badly I felt about myself.

"I mean, that's not how I thought about it then. Then it was all about what a mean shit you were, and how you wouldn't do this, or you did that ... but none of that was real, Brian. None of that was what was really going on."

I stop and have another swig of beer. Bottle's nearly empty and I debate getting up to fetch some more, but I don't want to stop here, so I make do.

I run my tongue over my lips and go on.

 

Brian

There are knives in my chest and I feel like I'm going to puke, but I have to sit here and keep calm. Have to. Must.

It's for Justin.

Christ! when does it get to be for me?

I can't hear this. I can't.

But I grit my teeth and let him go on.

"With Ethan ... I think mainly it was just a relief. With him, it didn't matter if I didn't feel too much. He was so emotional, throwing feelings around all day and all night that I could sort of take a back seat."

Not like me, he means. Keeping everything to myself. Never even trying to tell him ...

Stop! Kinney. Stop. You promised him you wouldn't do this. Just hear him. God!

"But ... I was numb. I was trapped in some sort of limbo. Brian ... you have to understand, if I'd stayed with Ethan, there's no way I could have fought against Stockwell. There wouldn't have been enough of me, the real me, to do anything. I probably wouldn't have even cared."

I give him a look. That one I am so not buying. But he touches my knee.

"Believe me, Brian. I know what I'm talking about. I was so confused, so ... not me ... all the time I was with him. He talked so much about how wonderful I was, and how I was his muse, but ... I wasn't real to him. I was just ... just part of him, of his image of himself. I wasn't Justin. And the longer I was with him, the harder it would have been to have been Justin."

He looks into my eyes, and wrinkles his nose and smiles at me. God! that's why I'm sitting here listening to this. That's why I'm letting him make me feel all this shit all over again. All the agony and self contempt I felt when I let him leave me. Because I want him to smile at me like that. How fucking pathetic is that?

"I know you don't want to hear this. But you were the one who saved me."

I stare at him, and some remnant of my old defence mechanisms creeps in. "Memories of how a good fuck felt, huh?"

He grins and pinches my thigh. "No. I mean it. You made me feel like I mattered."

My eyes meet his full on again and his are soft and shining. He touches my face.

"That day at the munchers' ... in the bathroom ... what you said ... it made me feel like what I wanted mattered."

"I thought ..." the words are out before I can stop myself. Surely the whole damned thing with the fiddle fuck was about Justin getting what he wanted - or at least, what he thought he wanted. He smiles at me a little sadly.

"What I wanted never mattered to Ethan. Not really. There is no way, if things had been the other way round, that he would have said something like that to me. You have no idea, Brian, no idea at all, how much that meant to me."

All of a sudden I want to smash the fiddle fuck's face in. I want to pulverize him completely - not for what he did to us, but for what he did to Justin. For treating him like some kind of toy or trophy. For not letting him be Justin. For not seeing how incredible Justin is and giving him the fucking respect he deserves. Just in this moment, I truly want to hurt that little fucker in a way that I never did over him taking Justin from me.

Then Justin smiles at me again, and the rage just sort of evaporates.

"Brian ... that's what I mean. He never gave me one iota of the respect that you have always given me. You haven't said all the flowery words, but always, always, you have treated me as if my feelings mattered. Not in the bullshit ‘I'd do anything to make you happy' way. But in the ‘you have the right to do what you need to be happy even if I'm not' way. And that's much more ... real. It's more ..."

He looks at me a moment with a look compounded of nervousness and guilt and mischief and says, "It's more loving."

The heavens don't rain fire down on his head (in other words, I keep my fucking mouth shut for once), so he grins and goes on.

"All through that time, you made me feel like I mattered. Me. Justin. Things you did for me. The tuition. The poster."

I'm trying not to shake my head, to shrug this away, but I ... it's hard to hear. Harder than hearing him talk about the fiddle fuck. He sees it too, the little shit, because he leans towards me and kisses the corner of my mouth again. I press my forehead against his for a moment, and somehow that ... I don't know. It helps, is all.

He says softly, "It made me know that I had value to you that wasn't just about being a good fuck, or even being your friend. That I had value just for being me. Not for anything I gave you, anything you got from me. Not as your muse. Just as me.

"With Ethan ... I never had that. And everyone else was treating me like I should be so grateful, and so glad to have Ethan. They all seemed to believe that I was so much better off with him. Which made me even more confused."

Then he stops and gives a little giggle. "Well, except for Daph. She never liked him. Not from the beginning. And after the ‘cousin' thing ..."

He must see the confused look on my face, because he shrugs and says, "After he decided there was nothing noble about being poor ..."

Our eyes meet for a moment, and I really want to cringe. I'm not sorry that I said what I said to Ethan, and I still think I was right - with his fucking ego it would have spelt disaster for them, he would never have let Justin forget what he'd given up for him, and Justin wouldn't have been able to forget it either. But the ‘blond boy ass' comment - that I regret. I was hurting. And I didn't want him getting on to me about interfering and trying to run his life. I was just trying to deflect him. But I hurt him. He didn't hear what I was trying to get him to see about his place in the fiddler's life, he just heard it as how I viewed his place in mine. I saw that in his eyes as the words went home, but there was fucking nothing I could do. He wasn't mine anymore to try the only ways I knew to comfort him, to show him how I really felt. Although, I guess, in the circumstances, using those ways would only have made things worse anyway.

I grimace at him, and he taps my thigh and says, "Brian, stop beating yourself up over that. It was Ethan's decision."

"Not that," I mumble. And damned if he doesn't give me one of those smiles.

"Oh, you mean the blond boy ass thing?"

I sort of nod, and he smiles wider and rubs his hand up my thigh. Shit! does he want to finish this or not?

"Brian, considering what you did because of what some piece of blond boy ass said about things ..."

He breaks off there, and I can actually feel myself fucking blushing. Fucking little shit!

The fingers of one hand are still tangled round mine, but he takes the other hand and cups it round my face so that I have to look at him. His touch is so gentle, cool and warm at the same time. Cool and soothing like water when you're dry and parched, but the warmth of it is comforting the cold lonely place inside me. The place of non-feeling. The place I banished myself to when I lost him. Does he truly think I don't know how that place feels? How fucking scary and lonely and isolating it is?

It scares the shit out of me that he must have been teetering on the brink of that for so long, and I did nothing to help him.

Except that he says I did. He says that even my pathetic attempts to make sure he was still part of my life ... or rather that I was still part of his, he was always going to be some huge part of mine, even if it was only the emptiness of him not being there - he says all that helped him. So maybe I didn't totally fuck things up, didn't totally fail him.

I manage to meet his eyes again, and he's got this teasing grin on his face, like he has when he is really onto me, and I find myself grinning back. He laughs and squeezes my hand.

"Anyway," he says, taking in a deep breath, ‘after he'd signed that damned contract, he was interviewed by some journalist and introduced me as his cousin and Daph as my girlfriend."

He stops and grins again, "That was it, as far as Daph was concerned. She was so pissed. He was history after that, really."

I raise an eyebrow, and he looks exasperated.

"I kept trying, Brian. There's no way I was going to admit that I'd made such a huge fucking mistake. I had to keep trying, but ... it was all over, really."

He sighs and says thoughtfully, "See, that's when I first really noticed the difference."

He looks at me and says, "Everyone thought it was hard for me, you being my first. My first lover and my first love. And it was, but not in the way that they meant. The thing is that you taught me to take certain things more or less for granted. You taught me about great sex, you taught me about taking care of myself, and you taught me to expect honesty. Harsh, maybe, but honest. Or at least ..."

He stops and seems to think about it for a moment. "You mightn't always have been honest, but if you weren't it was always in the ‘promise less, deliver more' sort of way. Not ever the other way round. Ethan, on the other hand ..."

He sighed, but it was a ‘his loss' sort of sigh, like he was sorry for the fuck for being such a dick, "Ethan just fed me bullshit.

"It wasn't him signing the contract that hurt me, or made me angry with him, whatever ... it was the whole, ‘oh, I'd never want to lie about us' thing, and *then* he signed the contract. Without even talking to me about it. Like I was supposed to not only swallow what he'd done, but just forget all the bullshit promises and declarations he'd made the day before. Like they'd never happened. He just couldn't see ..."

He shook his head, and looked at me. His hand went up to brush some of the hair out of his eyes, and in some ways he looked about twelve. But in others he looked so much older, so much a man who has been through shit, has suffered, and has learned some lessons. And he's still only twenty fucking years old. Shit!

"That's what made it hard for me that you were my first. All I'd known was your honesty. I had no way to really read the bullshit until that all happened. I know I should have been smarter, but ..."

"You're young," I say provocatively, wondering if he'll remember. Like there was a chance that he wouldn't. Mind like a steel trap for any fucking stupid thing I've ever said. He pinches my thigh again.

"Like I said at the time, you're so damned smart?"

I grin at him and he grins back.

Then he moves and stretches. "After that ... it was just a matter of time, really. The cheating was just ... I don't know. Inevitable, I guess. And he even tried to bullshit his way through that."

I nod. I can understand that. Justin has a rock solid integrity that Ethan must simply not have seen, or not understood, because there is no way he would have tried to go on bullshitting him if he'd understood it. Even I was never that dumb.

Well, I fed him some bullshit along the way, but by the sound of the ‘promise less, deliver more' comment, he's pretty much onto that as well.

He sighs. He looks tired and I realize how much all this must be taking out of him. Maybe it's time we called it quits. For now, at least.

 

Justin

I can hardly believe that he's still sitting here with me. But he is, and things are ... it feels ... okay. It feels as if he's okay with what I've said. As if things really are okay between us.

I stretch a little and then I say, "If all that had happened, and you weren't still ... you know ..."

"Around," he says. I have to touch him again, so I stroke his hand.

"Around," I agree. "If you hadn't been showing me that you still wanted me around, I don't know what I would have done, Brian. I think ... I think I would probably have stayed with him and just let him go on bullshitting me, because I don't think I would have believed I deserved any better."

That gets his attention. Suddenly his eyes are like lasers, boring into me.

"But ... like I said, you'd showed me that I meant something. So ..." I shrug. "I left him. And for while it was like going back into limbo, but not really. It's more like it took me a while to come out again. To come back to being me again. And when I did ..."

Brian looks at me, and gets this slightly smug look. Well, so he should, because what I did as soon as I came to my senses was go after him. Of course. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to let him get away with that look. I pinch him again, harder this time.

He gives a silent ‘Ow!' and I look straight into his eyes and let him know that I'm not putting up with any shit from him.

"When I did," I repeat, "it hurt. Because I'd lost you. I'd made the biggest fucking mistake I could ever make in my life, and I'd lost you."

Brian smiles, a slow, sweet smile and shakes his head.

"Not really," is all he says, but suddenly I'm blushing like some dumb kid and I have to fight not to throw myself into his arms. God! if I ever find myself doubting again why I should be with Brian Kinney, I'll think of this moment, and know.

He looks down, and up at me through his eyelashes in that way he has when he's trying to say something, but doesn't have the words, and just wants me to know. I give up, and move to sit beside him, putting my arm across him and my head on his shoulder. He lets go of my hand for a moment, and puts that arm round me, then he curls his other hand round mine. I sigh and nuzzle closer.

"Tired?" he asks

"A little, but ..."

"Justin, we could talk tomorrow."

"No ... I want to finish."

He doesn't say anything, but I feel his face brush my hair.

I take a deep breath.

"It wasn't just about you, though. I mean, somehow, from the time I started working and Vangard, I really started to feel like me again. Like I was almost back to who I should have been all along. Does that make sense?"

I want to crane my head to look up at him, but I feel him nod, and that's enough. I relax back onto his shoulder.

"And then the Stockwell thing happened, and everything, and I felt like ... it made me know who I am again."

I feel him nod again. Then he says, "So why now? Why the nightmares now?"

I turn my face up so that I can see his eyes. He's so close to me that I almost go crosseyed, but it's okay.

"Before ... when I had the nightmares, it was always just the pain, and the fear."

I see the look in his eyes, and go on quickly, "But this time, mainly it was anger. I was just so damned angry. I felt like I was going to explode with it. Even when I woke up."

Brian's eyes are intent on mine. He's listening, but he doesn't really understand why it's different, or at least, what the difference means. I try to explain. And I hold tightly to him while I do. This is the really tricky part.

"I think it's because ... these last few days, how things have been with us. The dinner, the car, Michael, everything really ..."

He's looking worried now. No, not worried, scared. He is so afraid of what I'm going to say, and I don't know if saying it will make things better or worse, but it's too late now.

 

Brian

Fuck! I feel hot and cold all at once, as if I have a fucking fever. And I want to throw up. What is he telling me? Is he saying that things have become such a fucking mess that the whack on the head he got from Chris Hobbs hardly counts now in the scheme of things?

Shit!

I can't hear this. Can't. Must. Have to.

Christ, Justin. No. Not tonight. Give me tonight.

I want to get up, to throw him off and walk out the way I would have once. But that's not an option any more. At least I know that much. I force myself to sit still. I feel his arm tighten round me.

"I think the way we have been with each other ... it's what he would have wanted. It's what he did want ... and so ..."

My heart is thumping so hard I think it's going to implode. What is he saying? What who would have wanted?

He must realise I'm not getting it, because he starts again.

"I think that I'm back to where I was trying to get to before the Prom. I think that this is what he ... that Justin, the boy who asked you to his Prom ... this is what he wanted to have with you. I feel like we're back to where we would have been if the bashing hadn't happened."

The words fall into my head and the pattern they form makes sense to me. He sees the recognition of that in my eyes and smiles at me. Somehow that smile becomes part of the pattern and it all makes even more sense.

"In fact, it's probably better, because no matter how romantic all that was ... we probably would have stuffed it up. I wasn't really ready for this back then ..."

I stifle a laugh and he says in a voice a lot like that boy would have used, "Well, neither were you!"

And ain't that God's own truth? He's right. We almost certainly would have fucked it up. It would have been different anguish, but anguish we would have had, just the same. And who knows? It might have ended so badly that we could never get it back together. We might never have got here, to this point. I tighten my hold on him, and he nuzzles my neck.

"So," he breathes into my ear, "it's like ... all that anger that I had inside because of what was stolen from us ... I can let all that go now. It doesn't matter anymore."

I want to believe him, but the dream ...

He gives a little shrug and holds me tighter. "I think the dream was just sort of getting the last of it out of my system. I feel like ..."

He put his head on my shoulder and gives a happy sounding sigh.

"I feel free of it. Free of all of it."

Damn! I can feel tears flooding out of my eyes and he's got my arms and hands all tangled around him and there's fuck all I can do about it.

I just hold him for a while, while I get wetter and soggier, and eventually he sits up. He takes a fold of his robe and wipes my face. The little shit even makes me blow my nose on the tie. Gross!

Then he says, "I think maybe it's time for bed now."

I shrug and try to look like I haven't been fucking coming unglued, and he gets up and holds out his hand.

I want to do a Brian Kinney and either smack it away or ignore it, but what would that prove? He fucking knows how filleted I am by what he's said. I don't know why relief, why happiness, should make me feel so fucking overwhelmed, but it doesn't matter. For now all that matters is that he's right. Somehow, against all the fucking odds, we've found our way to where we were supposed to be.

I let him help me up, and he winds his arm around my waist as we walk into the bedroom. It takes a couple of steps before I realise that I have both arms wrapped tight around him. It doesn't make the walking any easier, but I don't know how to let go.

We're settling down into the bed, too exhausted to even think about fucking, when he says quietly, "Brian?"

"Mm?" I grunt.

"In the parking garage, did you say to me ... did you tell me it was ‘ridiculously romantic'?"

My heart squeezes, but I find the way to answer him.

"Right after you told me it was the best night of your life," I say, wrapping myself firmly round him, and pulling him even closer against me.

He's silent for a moment, and I know that no matter what he says, he's always going to feel pain that he can't remember that night properly. Just like I am.

Then he says, "Brian, there's one more thing I have to say."

I sigh. I'm tired. I'm worn out dealing with all this. I need to get to sleep just to get a break from it. But ...

"Okay," I say.

He wriggles out of my arms and turns to face me.

"You're going to hate it," he warns.

I sigh again. "Fuck it, Justin, just spit it out. I can suck it up. I'm still fucking here, aren't I?"

He smiles into my eyes and nestles close to me, his arms going round me in the semi darkness. "It's ... you're going to really hate it. But sometimes I need to say it, that's all. And you're just going to have to put up with it."

I stare into those innocent seeming blue eyes. What the fuck?

He smiles again and rubs his nose against mine. I find myself smiling back. I just can't fucking help it.

He kisses the corner of my mouth once more.

"I love you," he breathes.

Then he settles down into my arms and closes his eyes.

My arms wrap themselves round him but it's a while before I can say anything. Finally I manage to get my voice to function enough to mumble some sort of response.

"I don't hate it," I croak and I feel him smile against me in the darkness.

As I drift off to sleep, my main feeling is amazement. Astonishing as it seems, what I said is true.

I don't hate it at all.

Chapter 20: 'We,' Us,' 'Our' by Wren

 


 


 


'Us', 'We', 'Our'


 


Justin


I wake up slowly. I'm vaguely aware that I'm not in the loft, but the bed is big and comfortable, so I'm not at Mom's or Daph's or Deb's either. And Brian is here; I can feel his body heat and hear the soft wuffle of his breathing and smell his morning-Brian smell. So, if he's here, then wherever I am, it's where I should be and I relax, ready to drift back to sleep.


But my cock has other ideas.


‘Brian's here' is a message that my cock interprets in its own damned way.


I wriggle a little, trying to overcome the signals it's sending to other parts of my body. Messages about ‘touch', ‘feel', ‘want', ‘need'.


Aside from anything else, Brian is sleeping and I don't want to wake him. We've both been through the wringer this week, and he must be worn out. Especially after last night.


Last night.


And, just like that, the memory of what happened between us last night washes over me, and suddenly the demands of my cock are lost for once; drowned out in a flood of emotions that are so tangled it's difficult to work out exactly what they are, exactly what I'm feeling.


Wonder. That's one element. It's so damned hard, in the light of day, to believe that Brian and I sat on the couch out there (my brain is awake enough now to remember we're at the hotel) and talked for what seemed like hours about things that we never talk about. Things that it has always been tacitly understood as forbidden to talk about. It was a totally amazing thing for us to have done. For him to have done.


Anxiety. There's a bit of that. Will he hate me this morning? ... no, no, Justin, don't go all drama princess over this. Will he just want to forget it all this morning? Will he want to pretend that it didn't happen, that we didn't say the things we said. Especially the last thing I said. He told me then that he didn't hate it, but this morning ... will he have changed his mind? Well, probably. To all those things. I'll just have to deal with that. But that's okay. He was with me last night. He let me talk, let me say things that have been trapped inside so long. And now they're out, I'm free of them, and I can lay them aside and get on with my life.


Gratitude. That's definitely part of the mix. A soul deep gratitude that he was ready to put aside his need to forget that time, to not to ever think of it, because I needed him to go back there, back then, with me. In fact, he was the one who took me back, I realise. I'd been the one who had wanted to just go back to sleep, or try to, and not talk about it, not think about it. He was the one who had started talking. Remembering that, I feel my heart clench.


I don't quite know what this emotion is. It's not pain, it's not anger, it's not sadness that is making my eyes tear up and turning my stomach to mush. But whatever it is, it's strong. It is almost taking my breath away. It's making me want to lay my head on Brian's chest and just sob. But he's sleeping still, and I am not some pathetic little fairy, so I turn my face into the pillow while the tears fall. It's only when they finally stop that I realise what that emotion was.


It was relief. It's over. At last, it's over.


I will probably never remember the rest of that night, and that will always hurt a bit. But the trauma, the anger, the feeling of helpless rage - they're gone now. I have finally been able let them go. Now, hopefully, I can heal. And if I do, maybe Brian will too.


And with that thought, immediately, all the other emotions are swept away by the love I feel for Brian. The love I've always felt for Brian, except now it's grown, matured, as I have; as he has. It's grown not just in depth, but in wisdom, and compassion. It's much wiser than it was, but it's also strong and deep and full of passion, just like it always was.


I know that everyone believes that I'm kidding myself when I say that I fell in love with him that first night. Everyone says that I fell in lust, or that I had a crush on him, and that it was only later, maybe even not until the Ethan thing was over, that I really came to love him.


They don't know what they're talking about. Of course I fell in lust - who wouldn't? And, yes, I had a crush on him as well.  But underneath both those things, there was what I - the real me, not teen-aged, horny, know nothing twink, but the real Justin - felt for Brian - the real Brian, not the god-stud of Liberty Avenue, but the man. And just because there was lust and teenaged crush in the mix, does not mean that I didn't love him as well.


I've always seen Brian, the real Brian. From that first night. And from that first night, I've loved him. There were things about him, right from the beginning, that touched some place deep, deep inside me. Things in him, that somehow helped me to recognise, to find, myself, the real Justin.


The way he looked at me under the lamplight; the way he *saw* me, saw what I needed, what I was so desperate to find. I don't mean sex. I mean me. I needed to find myself, as a gay man. And he saw that in me right from those first moments, and did his best to help me do it.


The way he recognised and catered for my inexperience, but never treated me like a child. He treated me, if not as an equal, then at least as another man. So, for him, with him, I always tried to be one. More, I was always free to be one. Not tied down by everyone else's desire for me to be sweet little Justin. That isn't how he saw me. And through his eyes, I saw something in myself that no one else let me see. I saw someone strong and determined and confident, and that gave me ... it gave me a belief in myself that I'd never really had till then.


The way he let me into his life; even seemed to welcome me in. Not that he would ever have admitted that, but it's true. I was never just another trick to him, even that first night. I didn't really understand until much later how wide he opened the door for me - sharing the story about his first time, taking me to the hospital, letting me see him with his friends, with his son, letting them see *me* with *him*, and, of course, asking me to name Gus.


That is so *not* how Brian behaves with his tricks.


He'd say he was drunk, or high, or stoned. That's bullshit, and he knows it. He's nearly always drunk or high or stoned when he's with tricks and it doesn't mean that he suddenly lets his guard down with any of them. Just the opposite. His automatic pilot comes on, and that's set to ‘fuck them and get rid of them'. I should know, I saw it in action when we were living together and having date nights, and playing the game - doing threeways and all that shit. I know the look he gets when he's in that place, the way his eyes are slightly clouded, and he's not really there, he's in some other place where he can't really be reached, can't really be touched.


He didn't go to that place with me. He wasn't, as he often does with tricks, just going through the motions to get off. He was completely there in the moment with me. Absorbed in me. As I was in him. No matter what he said then, or says now. Twat!


And then there was the way he was with Gus.


If Gus hadn't chosen that night to be born, maybe I wouldn't have seen Brian the way I did, and then maybe I wouldn't have fought so hard to be with him. I don't know. Maybe it would all have been lust and first crush and eventually I would have got over it. Maybe. Or maybe, if I'd been persistent enough, I'd have been admitted to the ranks of his friends, but kept, like the rest of them, except maybe for Lindz and Michael, at arm's length.


But Gus was born, and, as he held his son for the first time, I saw Brian clearly for a moment - all his defences down, no barriers, no bullshit - just Brian. And that was it for me. Because Brian, himself, the inner core of him that he keeps so well covered, is ... beautiful. Not the way he's beautiful on the outside, all swagger and confidence and sheer sex and charisma. On the inside he's beautiful in a different way - more tentative, much less assured, much, much more vulnerable. But ... something in him glows. There's something in him that is ...


Well, Brian. That's all. And I love him. And, for better or worse, I finally told him so. Which might be a good thing, or today might totally freak him out.


Whatever way it goes, right now, I have to piss. And I'm starving.


I know that if I move out of the bed, the chances arethat I'll wake Brian, but I really don't have much of a choice. As carefully as I can, I slide out of the bed, replace the covers and head for the bathroom. I guess if he wakes up, I'll at least find out how he wants to play this. I'm betting on, ‘let's pretend it never happened' and that's okay. But Brian is full of surprises, so who knows? In a world where Brian Kinney willingly sits up half the night talking rather than fucking, any damned thing is possible.


 


Brian


In my sleep, I'm aware of him getting out of bed, and both my mind and my body set up such a fucking protest over it that I wake up.


Shit!


While he's in the bathroom, I lie there thinking about last night and trying to work out how he's likely to be this morning. I wouldn't be surprised if he's totally fucked up. We dragged up a lot of shit, and, now that the dust has settled a bit, he might not be as okay with it as he was last night.


I have to fight back the urge to get up and follow him. I need to see his face. I need to look into his eyes and see what's there. I try to work out what's the best thing to do. If he needs to see a therapist, I have to find a way to persuade him that that's okay. I hate that idea. Hate that he might need to talk to some stranger about things that have gone on between us, things I've done and haven't done. Not that I care about what some prick of a shrink thinks about me, but Justin will have to deal with it all, and he'll try to defend me - again - and it will all be just so much fucking shit. But if it's what he needs, then we're just going to have to do it. Maybe I could go with him. The first time, anyway. If it's something he sees as helping us, something I'm willing to do to make things better for us, then he'll feel that ...


Then the bathroom door opens and he comes out, and all those thoughts go out the window. He's smiling a little and he looks ... damned if he doesn't look a lot like that fucking kid who used to hang around me all the time and drive me nuts trying to get rid of him.


He looks up and sees me and he wrinkles his nose. I can feel myself starting to grin at him like a fool, so I suck my lips in and wait for him to join me in the bed.


"I didn't want to wake you up," he murmurs as he crawls back under the covers with me.


He moves up close, and I roll over to face him. We just lie there for a moment, looking into each other's eyes, trying to read each other. I'd expected this to be ... I don't know ... solemn and intense ... like in some movie where they suddenly kill the cheesy soundtrack music to let you know that it's a big moment. But instead we start to grin a little, and then he smiles, one of those fucking Sunshine smiles, and I can feel myself smiling back at him and suddenly, for no reason at all, we're laughing and he's in my arms and his face is pressed into my neck, and mine is buried in his hair and we're cackling like a pair of fucking ganders. And in that moment, just before our bodies take over, and it all becomes heat and touch and want and need, just in that moment, I give myself an early birthday present.


"I love you, Justin," I say.


 


Justin


For one moment, after he said it, we looked into each other's eyes, and I felt ... whole. Completely whole. As if every part of me, every part of my life, all of it, all my past, all of my future, was held perfect and whole in that tiny moment of time. And of his. And of ours, together.


It didn't last, it couldn't. But it happened. And I will never, never forget it. Two thousand bats to the head couldn't make me forget it. The memory of it is ingrained in blood and muscle and nerve ends, into every cell of my body. That moment, now, is part of who I am, and who I will be, who I was meant to be.


There's nothing I can do to repay the gift he's given me, except to accept it easily. So I smile and he smiles back at me, and then ducks his head the way he does when he's embarrassed by his emotions. Then he looks at me again and gives me that tongue in cheek grin that says that he knows I'm fighting not to whoop and holler and suddenly we're both laughing again, and then we're kissing and touching and stroking and then he's inside me and I'm holding him and we're moving together the way we were born to do.


For a while it's all panting and sweat and ‘yes!', ‘more!', ‘now!' until I come all over our chests and stomachs and he lets himself follow. We separate, slowly, and he gets rid of the condom, and we use the corner of the sheet to clean up a little. Then for a while after that it's just lazy touching and holding. Cuddling, I guess, though he'd never admit to that.


"Brian," I murmur, turning to him and burying my face in his neck. "Brian."


"Justin," he whispers. "Justin, Justin."


And every time he says it, I hear what I should always have heard. I hear him say ‘I love you'.


 


Brian


Okay, so I said it. Now it's official - I'm losing my fucking mind. Or not. Whatever. At least he didn't make a big deal out of it. I mean, it was a big deal, I guess. But he didn't make me feel like ... like a fucking loser lesbo-wannabe. He just gave me that smile and ... it was okay. I feel okay about it. And the sex was fucking hot. I don't know why it's better with him, but it always is.


Maybe that's part of the love thing. How the fuck would I know? It was just hot. That's all.


We don't get to bask in the afterglow for long though because, of course, he's starving; and even if he doesn't say anything, his stomach's sounding like a damned percussion section on speed.


So we get up and order room service and shower. We don't even really get into it in the shower. Just wash each other and shampoo each other's hair. I bend my neck so that he can reach mine, and his fingers on my scalp feel so damned good that I wish there was a way to bottle that feeling. Would beat sales of Beam any day.


When we get out, we're fooling around, drying each other off when the food is delivered. He pulls on a robe, and goes to let them in. I'm standing there in only a towel, and his robe is slipping off his shoulder and it's pretty obvious what's going on between us, but damned if the stupid ass straight chick who delivers doesn't start flirting with him, fussing with the tray and tossing her hair. If it were up to me the only tip she'd leave with is how to recognise a pair of fags, but of course, little miss country club has to find his wallet and give her a big tip.


Fuck! I have to get him past that. Good service gets you good tips, not just doing the job you're fucking paid to do. Having good manners is one thing, allowing people to get away with shit just so that you don't look like an asshole is something else.


Anyway, we sit down to eat our breakfast. We start at opposite sides of the dinky little table that's part of the suite's furnishings, but it's so fucking small there's hardly enough room for the food, let alone our coffee cups and my legs barely fit under the table at all.


So we move it all to the coffee table and sit together on the couch and feed each other bits and there is no fucking way that any of this is ever being told to anyone outside this fucking room.


I tell him that and he grins at me. He puts his head on my shoulder and looks up at me and bats his eyelashes.


"Can I just tell them that you ate waffles with syrup and everything?" he purrs.


Little shit. I didn't eat the waffles - he pushed them into my mouth. And most of the syrup I licked off his chin because he was dribbling it everywhere. I look down at him and don't know whether to kiss him or spank him, because he's obviously going to use this to play me.


Then he smiles and I'm lost. My lips find his without me even seeming to think about it and, although I'd die rather than admit it, the sweetness of the kiss has got nothing to do with the damned syrup.


The kiss ends, eventually, and he strokes my face, staring into my eyes for a long, long time. I want to look away - at least, I feel like I should want to look away. Instead, I just look back into his.


Nothing is said. Nothing needs to be said. We both just know now. Really know. This is who we are. This is what we want. And we both want us. I admit it to him now, I let him see it. I want this. I want this with him.


Now we just have to keep finding ways to make it work.


 


Justin


I don't know how long we sat there. By the time we sort of came out of it the coffee was cold. So we give up on breakfast and get ourselves up and moving. Funnily enough, fucking didn't seem to be on the required agenda for either of us. We got dressed, and packed up our stuff and decided to check out early.


If I'd been able to somehow read ahead in the script and find out that this overnight holiday would result in only one fantasy session, and only one morning fuck, that between those I'd have another Prom nightmare, and that we'd be checking out of the hotel early, I would have thought that something had gone terribly wrong. That we'd really crashed and burned somehow. And that I'd be so desperately miserable that even packing my bag into my new car wouldn't help.


Which just goes to show.


Because the reality is I'm having trouble setting one foot in front of the other I'm so giddy with sheer fucking happiness.


All the time we're dressing and packing, as we go down to reception and as we walk out to the cars the valet parkers had brought round for us, we're constantly touching. Arms brushing as they reach together for something. Shoulders and hips bumping as we walk close together. Hands touching, stroking lightly across backs and chests and faces.


When we get to the cars, we stand facing each other.


Another separation.


No matter how short it will be, I'm not looking forward to it, and I don't think he is, either. He stands looking at me for a few seconds, then he says suddenly, "This is fucked!"


He walks away and starts talking to the concierge, and next thing I know, he's throwing his bag into the back of the Element and climbing into the passenger seat. 


I stare at him for a moment, but then, as the valet parking attendant drives the Corvette back to the garage, I get in the car. I'm not going to question his change of mind, I'm just going to enjoy the fact that he's here with me.


"We have some errands to run," he says. I start the car and he puts his hand on my thigh. Not making moves on me, just ... touching. I smile at him and he grins and tells me to keep my fucking eyes on the road because I'm paying for any fucking repairs. That just makes me laugh. So he does too, and then we argue about the cd I've got in the player, and that makes us laugh as well.


He directs me through town and we wind up at this not-so-trendy place that sells baby gear. Not exactly what I was expecting. Shit! Label queen that he is, he might just implode when he walks through the door. I'm biting my tongue over whether to say something when he says, "Don't queen out on me. We need to get a child seat if we want to be able to take Gus out anywhere. That was part of the reason you wanted this fucking ugly car wasn't it?"


Then he directs me to a parking lot in back of the store. I'm too happy to argue, so I just stick my tongue out at him and follow him inside.


He approaches one of the counters, and the slick-looking, thirty-something woman starts to preen at him, but when I walk up and stand close, she shuts down, and starts looking as if there's an unpleasant smell under her nose.


"Can I help you?" she says disdainfully.


Brian gives her a look, but then he says, pleasantly enough, "I placed a special order, and someone called yesterday and told me it had arrived."


‘Yes?" she says. Almost like she doesn't believe him. "What name was the order in ... Sir?"


That's delayed long enough to make it almost an insult, and I can tell Brian's starting to get antsy. I touch his back, just lightly, and he relaxes a bit and gives her his name.


"And the order?"


"A Britax Marathon car seat."


I'd thought she'd looked like she'd caught a whiff of some bad smell before, now she looks like she swallowed a lemon; her whole face creases up and she stammers, "But that's a child's seat!"


Brian gives her that look that says he's about to unleash one of the infamous Kinney diatribes, so I step in.


"Yes, that's right," I say sweetly. "It's for our son."


Brian will probably kill me for that, but it will be worth it because the look of horror on her face was priceless. Brian gives a snort of laughter, and her frown gets even more pronounced. She picks up a phone and dials and says to whoever picks up, "There's a Mr. Kinney here looking for a special order."


Then there's a pause, and she says, "Yes, well, I'm sure that will be alright."


Then she hangs up.


"The stock boy will bring it down in just a moment. *Mr.* Kinney."


Again the tone in her voice is enough to set my hackles up, let alone Brian's. But this morning is way too special, way too happy, to let some ignorant homophobic wanna-be WASP bitch ruin it. So I put my arm around Brian's waist, and he looks down at me for a moment. I grin at him and raise my eyebrow and he gives me that tongue in cheek smirk and I know he's wondering how far I'll go, because this isn't exactly Liberty Avenue.


So I let my arm drop away from his waist, and slide my hand down to squeeze his ass, and suddenly he's laughing and so am I and now she's such a tiny blip on the radar it doesn't matter.


The "stockboy", who has to be pushing forty, arrives with this gigantic fucking box, and says, "Are you sure you're going to be okay to install this?"


The woman looks as if she'd like to slap him, especially when Brian looks up, and staring straight into her eyes says, "I was advised that someone here could assist with that."


She fumbles around with the payment slip, and avoids looking at him again, and the guy says, "Sure thing. Where are you parked?"


"Out the back."


"Okay, not a problem. It shouldn't take long. These things are really easy. Does your car have LATCH?"


That's like another language to me, I have no fucking idea what he's talking about, but I'm not surprised when Brian answers confidently, "Yes."


"Great!" our stockboy (who's name turns out to be Ron) says, and we head out to the car.


He was right about it being easy. Ron installs it while we watch, and then Brian takes it out again and we both practise fitting it in under the Ron's guidance. Even with my hand it only takes a few minutes. The LATCH thing means that you don't use the seat belts, there are fittings on the actual seat frame that you clip the seat to. Apparently it's safer and more stable.


Mind you, the damned seat is huge. Brian says Gus will probably be able to ride in it till he's about five, and it looks like it.


Hell, I think I could ride in it.


We're almost done when this guy comes out of the store and walks towards us. He's all shirt and tie and looks maybe like the manager.


"Mr. Kinney?"


I feel Brian tense up again, but he nods. The guy holds out his hand, "Mal Jenkins. I'm the manager. I just wanted to make sure everything was all right. My staff are looking after you?"


Brian smiles that wolf smile of his, and says, "Well, certainly Ron is."


That's all, but it's real clear that while Ron has done okay, there's someone who's pissed him off. If I didn't know better, I'd swear the manager went pale.


"Oh, well, that's good. And the seat is satisfactory?"


Brian nods and motions me to get in the car, whilehe slips a note or two from his wallet, and into Ron's hand.


"The seat's fine, Mal," he says, as he gets in the passenger side again. "But you might want to sign that fucking cunt with the bleached hair up for some classes in gender sensitivity. They run some at the GLC. Tell her that the guy who pays her wages is the biggest fag in Pittsburgh and a personal friend of mine."


Then he flicks a look my way, and I start the car and we peel out of the car park, leaving Mal standing there looking like a twat. I glance in the mirror as I'm about to pull out of the drive, and see Ron waving at us, grinning. Maybe he doesn't like the bitch either. She seemed like someone who'd love giving the blue collar staff a hard time. Well, maybe she just picked a real bad day to piss someone off, because Brian is pulling out the cell I returned to him last night, and making a call. Something about picking up his order, and the service he'd received.


Then he clicks off and I say, "Where to now?"


"Diner," he says. "It must be time for you to eat again."


That rocks me a bit. After all the drama yesterday, I thought maybe he'd want to avoid anywhere he might run into Michael. Or even Deb. Then I realise that this is his way of drawing the line. He's showing that we haven't got anything to hang our heads about, and that we're not going to let what's going on with Michael affect what we do or where we go.


So I laugh and he grins, and stretches, enjoying the leg room, I guess, after the ‘Vette.


Then he says, "Our son, huh?"


Uh-oh. I had a feeling he wasn't going to forget about that.


I sneak a look at him as I slow to turn a corner. He raises an eyebrow. I shrug.


"Seems like certain little twinks are getting a bit above themselves. I might have to think up a suitable punishment."


His voice is soft and lazy and goes straight to my cock, of course. Damn him!


Then, as I pull up to the curb, across the street from the diner, I feel his hand on the back of my neck, tangling in my hair and tugging it gently.


I turn to look at him, and he pulls me towards him and we kiss.


He pulls away from the kiss and touches his forehead to mine. He smiles, and sits just looking at me for a few moments. I put my hands either side of his face and look into his eyes. He kisses me on the nose, and gets out of the car. I follow, and he hooks his arm around my neck as we walk across the road.


"You can have him when he's crying, hungry and needs changing," he says. "I get all the good bits."


I elbow him in the ribs.


"Not fair!" I protest.


"Okay," he says. "We'll let the munchers deal with the crying, feeding and changing. You can take him to the museum and the zoo, and I just get to supervise."


We're both starting to laugh again, now.


"I don't think it works that way," I argue, as we walk in the door, "and even if it did, I don't think Mel and Lindz would go for it."


He's starting to assure me that he can sell Lindz on anything, when *that* voice grates over us, "Brian! You got a new car! What happened to the ‘Vette?"


He sighs. "The ‘Vette's fine. This one's not for me."


"But .." the fuckwit waves a hand towards the Element on the other side of the street, and Brian starts to say something, but before he can, I cut him off.


"It's for me, Michael," I say, and I have to admit I enjoy saying it. "We bought it yesterday."


I think for a moment that he's going to burst a blood vessel. He stares at me, goggling, and then, of course, starts on Brian, "You bought him a fucking car!"


Brian sits in a booth, and pulls me in with him. "*We* bought it, Michael. Didn't you hear Justin?" *We* needed another car, so *we* went out and got one that suits Justin, because if it suits what he needs, suits what he wants, then it suits *us*. It's *our* car that we bought with *our* money and it's really none of your fucking business, so butt the fuck out of my life!"


He's almost shouting now, and Michael gives him one long look, like he's somehow hoping all that was just some horrible mistake. Brian meets his eyes straight on and all of a sudden Michael turns and runs, straight past Deb who's coming over, of course, to see what the ruckus is, and out of the diner.


Brian sighs and leans back. Deb opens her mouth and he waves her off. "Turkey sandwich, whole grain, no mayo, coffee, and hold the fucking lecture."


She pushes into the booth so that she's opposite him and smacks him gently across the ear. Then she smoothes down his hair, and says, "I'll get you a lemon bar as well, and you'll eat it. You hear me?"


He looks up and meets her eyes, and I look away. He looks almost as if he wants to cry, and she pats his face. He gives a half laugh then, and says, "Yes, Mom."


She pats his face again and moves out of the booth. "And what do you want, Sunshine?"


I want this morning back, but I can't say that, so I order and she heads off.


I don't want to look at Brian, so I stare at my hands. Then I feel his shoulder rubbing mine.


I peek at him out of the corner of my eyes, and he huffs a laugh, and wrapping his arm around my neck again, he pulls me close.


I turn into his embrace and slide my hand up round his neck. We kiss. Slow and deep and wet.


"Oh, my! You two should really get a room," Em says as he slides into the booth opposite us.


"Or charge to watch," Vic adds as he joins him.


"Hey, Em!" I say happily. "Hey, Vic!"


Brian grunts, but he grins, too..


Deb brings our food - with four lemon bars.


The diner buzzes around us.


We sit and eat and rub thighs and shoulders and think about what we're going to do when we get home, and wonder when we'll get a chance to take Gus for a ride in his car seat, and Em tells us a story about some tragic queens who want to have a "Ritz" party and hire a drag queen to dress up like Rita Moreno, and I don't understand what he's talking about so they have to explain it to me, and we all wind up laughing and having a good time.


When we leave, we all walk out together. While Em is asking Brian where the ‘Vette is parked, I pull out my keys. Brian waves towards the car and says, "Our new fuckmobile - we've road tested this model, and are happy to announce that it's well named."


I blush, but Em squeals and they cross the street with us to inspect the car. Vic is nodding, and clearly taking note of all the features (and what can be done with them) and Em is squealing and gushing, and Brian is just standing there grinning, and somehow it all feels like family again. Then of course, Deb comes over to see what's going on. She hugs me and squeals a bit too, but then she sees the car seat, and she gets this look on her face and goes over to Brian and gives him a big hug. She's smiling at him like she's so proud of him, like somehow that damned child seat being there really means something to her.


He lets her hug him, too. In fact, he hugs her back, but I'd never try to get him to admit that. Finally, he opens the passenger door, climbs in and stretches back, so I get in my side, and we drive off, leaving them waving, and Deb shouting at me to drive carefully, like I'm going on some hazardous long trip, for God's sake.


Brian and I go home, and do some chores, and fuck, and eat and shower. In the shower we suck each other off. We're thinking about going to Babylon, but neither of us is really in the mood, and then Brian remembers that he meant to punish me, so we play that scene out which winds up with us both on the floor laughing so hard we can hardly fuck, and eventually we go to bed.


We're lying there, nearly asleep, when Brian says, out of nowhere, "You know that thing I said this morning?"


And I can't help it, I go cold. Because I'm so scared that he's going to say, ‘forget it', or ‘it's bullshit' or ... something. That he's going to shoot me down in flames the way he used to do when I got too close. I know things aren't the same now, but I'm still bracing myself, when he says, with a total full on pout, "You didn't say it back."


So I roll onto my side to stare at him, and he sucks his lips in, but even in this light I can see that his eyes are laughing at me. So I let him dangle a bit, and then I grin and turn onto the other side, away from him, and press back against his body. Reaching for his hand, I drag it across me, tugging till he's pressed close up against me, and getting myself all cozy and comfortable before I finally say, "Back."


I can feel him chuckle as he settles himself more comfortably around me, and for a moment before I drift off to sleep, I think that I was right last night. This is what that Justin was aiming for. The Justin who met a man one night under a lamppost and was foolish or smart enough to let him take him ‘someplace special'. This is what that Justin wanted all along.


But more importantly than that, this is what *this* Justin wants. It's what *I* want.


And now that I have it, it's what I'm going to fight to keep.


From now on, it's ‘us', ‘we', ‘our'. And anyone who doesn't like that had better get out of our way.


 

Chapter 21: Update by Wren
Author's Notes:


Notes: Just a short one. Thanks to LeAnn - a question she asked set my mind working
Update

Brian's Journal

Sunday 20th April - my fucking birthday

It's early in the morning, and he's still asleep. He's lying curled up on his side and he looks about twelve years old. When he's sleeping, the longer hair somehow makes him look even younger than he used to. It's only when he's awake that you can see the marks of experience in his face, in his eyes. When he's sleeping he looks like that no-so-innocent little virgin I picked up under a streetlight.

I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to get up and make him breakfast for a change. But it's still really early - outside it only started to get light half an hour ago - and after the week we've had, he could probably use the sleep. So instead, I put the coffee on and for some reason I got this out and started writing.

I haven't written anything about the famous "experiment" over the past couple of weeks. Hell! I haven't even really thought about it. It's fucking weird ... it was such a big deal when I started it. It meant a complete change to the way I'd lived my life for the past ten or eleven years. It meant finding a whole new way to operate; it meant even thinking of myself in a different way.

Now ... and it's only a few weeks later, not even a month ... now that all seems to have faded into the background. It's trite to say it seems like a dream but it does. It's hard to remember what I thought the big deal was. I mean, I remember. And part of me thinks, yeah, fuck! it was a big deal. It is a big deal - Brian Kinney turning into some sort of monk. Except that that's not how it was. Or is. I mean, when I think about never fucking another guy, I still get ... crazy, sort of. So I don't. I don't think about it. Not that way. I just think that right now, this minute, I don't want to. And I'm not sure why I ever did. At least, once I had Justin. Why settle for anything but the best, right? Why hurt him, over and over, for the sake of my fucking pride? 

I look back at the stupid fucking shit I was when Justin was with me before, and I can't believe I could have been that much of an idiot. I mean, my IQ's high enough. I've been around enough to develop some sort of a clue, you would have thought. But maybe it's that thing they say, where you can have ten years experience, but it's really only the same year, ten times over. Fuck! in my case it was probably the same fucking month, one twenty times over.

I'm not saying that I'm never going to find myself with some stranger sucking my cock again. But if it happens, it sure as fuck won't be because I think that's what I have to do because I'm Brian Kinney and the whole fucking world as I know it is going to fall apart if I don't fuck half a baseball team every week, with the catcher and the refs and the guy who sells fucking popcorn as an encore on Saturday nights. If it happens it will just be because like every other guy I've ever met, I can't always be relied on to keep my dick in my pants if the temptation comes along.

And, no! when I do trip over my hormones, I sure as hell won't be buying him any damned fucking roses to try to worm my way back into his good books. I'll just have to hope that if ... when ... I fuck up, he'll find a way to get over it. Just like I'll have to get over it if he ... strays. Not that I don't think it might cause us problems. It could. He's a romantic little twat, still, and I'm damned sure that it means something to him that I'm not shoving my cock up anyone else's ass or down anyone else's throat. So, no matter what he says, no matter how honest he thinks he's being, it's gonna cause fucking ructions if I fall off the wagon. But that's okay. I know that. I know if I fuck up, there are going to be consequences, and I'm going to have to deal with the consequences. Well, *we're* going to have to deal. 

But I hope, I know, that he does understand me enough now to know that ... it's got nothing to do with not being satisfied with him. It's just ... I'm a fucking guy, and we're all shits sometimes. Anyway, the thing is that I'm okay with him being pissed about it. That's what's so different now. Back then, just the idea that he might think he had any shadow of a right to be pissed off at me for fucking someone, that was enough to make me go out and do it, just to show him that I could, and he didn't. 

Now ... now if he honestly didn't care at all ... fuck! that would really smart. That's what I don't think I could deal with now. If he didn't want the right to care any more ... that I don't think I could fucking deal with. Maybe a lot of that is because that would mean I didn't have the right to care either, if he went out and started getting it elsewhere. I mean, hell! I've watched him fuck other guys. I've watched other guys suck him and fuck his face. I've fucked them while he's sucked them off. But now ...

Now I don't have any idea how I did that. Let alone why the fuck I would want to do that. I guess I thought it was hot. Maybe I thought that he'd want to get it on with a whole lot of guys just like I always had, and that was okay as long as I was part of it too. I'm fucked if I know. I know that if he ... if it happens, if he finds someone else that he wants to fuck, then I'm going to find that a hell of a lot harder to deal with than he will if I go off and get my cock sucked. 

Partly that's just because I'm a selfish shit, and just because I want the right to slip it to someone else occasionally doesn't mean that I want to let anyone else near him. But a lot of it's because of what happened with the fiddler. Of course. I try not to think about what it was like when ... how it felt the night he walked away from me. How it felt through all the fucking years after that before he came back to me. I guess if I'm ever fucking tempted to stuff things up, then all I have to do is remember those feelings, because there aren't many things that would make my cock go soft faster.

I wonder sometimes what I would have done if I'd known when I first saw him how much my life would change because of him. My bet is that I would have faked an interest in some dick hanging around the alley, or faked passing out in the jeep, or anything to keep from heading towards a future that included buying butt ugly cars and fitting them with baby seats. A future that included Saturday nights when instead of heading off to Babylon, I was curled up in bed asleep by midnight. A future where this morning I'm planning to take my partner, lover, boyfriend, whatever the fuck he is, breakfast in bed.

Which just goes to show, boys and girls, that even terminally dumb pricks with their heads up their asses are capable of learning something, because I'm sure as fuck a lot smarter now than that dickhead was back then.

For the first time in the whole of my fairly fucked up life, I'm happy. I feel like I matter. I feel like me being happy is okay with the universe. Like the whole thing isn't going to fall apart at the fucking seams because Brian Kinney is happy. Like I can trust that everything isn't going to turn to shit just because I've had the fucking gall to think that maybe there might be a time in my life when it was okay to be ... happy. 

Content.

In love.

Fuck! maybe I should just break out the fucking ... no, not violins! Never again with any fucking fiddles. Well, not unless they're playing a damned Irish jig and not that pretentious arty shit that ... shit! don't go there, Brian. 

So I'm in love. So what? Like it's okay for the rest of the world, but not for me? Well, fuck that! I'm putting in for my share. And yes, I remember the guy who said he didn't believe in love. I told you he was a dickhead. Mind you, he hadn't had a lot of chances to know any better. I know it seemed like I was a totally callous shit who kicked tricks to the curb on a routine basis without compunction or remorse. And I was. But you want to know the truth? There weren't too many of them who were begging to stay around for more than one more fuck. 

They just wanted to get their rocks off and then go dish to all their friends about what it was like to take it up the ass from Brian Kinney. Not too fucking many of them actually gave a rat's ass about Brian Kinney himself. As long as they got brownie points from my reputation, that's all they cared about. And yes, I'm sure there were guys out there who might have been interested in the long haul, but who were put off by that same reputation. But if they were so chicken shit scared that their feelings might get hurt they wouldn't have made the grade with me anyway.

It took a little twink who was brave enough to fall in love right off the bat, dumb enough not to know better, tough enough not to let anything I did or said put him off (well, except for a small detour that I don't want to think about today), and smart enough to know that most of that was bullshit anyway, to ... to make me admit that most of what I was saying was such fucking crap. 

The thing is, I believed it at the time. Or I believed that I believed it. I honestly thought that trying to have any sort of ‘relationship' was just copping out to the harsh reality of life as a gay man - the theory of reality that said being a gay guy was all about getting your cock serviced; that said the only things that should stay in your closet were the rest of your designer clothing and your heart. 

But although I honestly believed it at the time, looking back now I can admit to myself, at least, that most of it was bullshit bravado. What else was I going to say? Yes, I believe in love. Yes, I want to have it. But no, I don't have the balls to go looking for it, because my fucking family taught me that no one, no one, was ever really going to love me. That I'd sure as shit better make myself believe that I didn't want it, didn't need it, didn't believe in it. That the only hope I had was to find a way to keep going without it, cos I sure as hell wasn't going to find it anytime soon. 

Except from Mikey.

Which would have been great, except that ... even if I'd felt any sort of spark at all, I would probably have been too gutless to go for it. But as it was, that question never really arose because much as I love ... yeah, I guess I do still love him ... much as I love Mikey, there was never anything there. I know there was for him, but for me ... nada. I mean, I tried sometimes. I tried kissing him drunk, sober, tweaked, tired ... but ... it just was never going to happen. And maybe some people can make their dicks feel what they want them to feel ... fuck! Ted and Emmett seemed to. But ... I knew, I always knew, that it would never be enough. That if I'd been with Mikey, I would never have stopped tricking. Never even have paused. Because I need the heat. I need the rush. I would never have got it with him, no matter what he thinks it means that we once jerked off over Patrick Swayze. Jesus! we were fourteen! We got hard every time we got a glimpse of some guy's butt, or anyone mentioned a boner. It wasn't anything to do with the fact that I was sitting on the bed with *him*. I just got hard, and he was there, and ...

Maybe Justin's right. Maybe if Deb hadn't come in then, things might have been different. Or maybe they would have been worse. Whatever. As it was, dickhead though I might have been, at least I had some sense, because Mikey could never have been enough for me. And that would have ... well, it would have led to a worse mess than we're in now, which is saying a shitload.

Justin, on the other hand ... Justin ... Justin is almost more than enough. 

Justin makes me feel like ... like you feel after you've had the perfect meal, and you know there's another one just as good, even better, coming along tomorrow, or even later today, so you can really relax and enjoy and savor the feeling of being satisfied. Because you don't have to start looking for the next one as soon as you've finished this.

That's how Justin makes me feel.

Well, he also gets me hot and horny as hell, and can drive me totally nuts, and get me to the point where I want to heave him out the window, and make me act like some lovesick lesbo, but ... that's all good too. Because the main thing that Justin makes me feel is loved. 

And safe. 

And happy.

So against all the odds that anyone would ever have given against it, today I'll go meekly off to my fucking birthday lunch and sit down and play nice and do all the fucking ‘family' things that are so important to the little shit that I live with. And I won't even complain. Much.

Ker-ist! Thirty two fucking years old and I have to start learning to live like a family man. We've bought a fucking child's car seat for God's sake!

As for the experiment ... I know I said I'd try a month, but ... it seems kind of pointless, just for the sake of saying ‘I made it through a month'. I don't intend to fuck up anytime soon. I mean, I might. I might fall off the wagon tomorrow. But if I do, I'll just take my licks and climb back on. 

So I think I'll just declare the experiment a success, and implement those findings immediately.

Now all I have to do is find a way to tell the little twat that without him thinking it means we're on our way to fucking Toronto.

Meanwhile, I'd better get my ass moving if I want to get his breakfast ready before he wakes up. 

Shit! I am so turning into a damned dyke. Or some hetero hubby. 

Fuck! too late. He's starting to thrash around a bit, so I guess he's already awake.

Oh well, I guess we can fuck first and then make breakfast together. It's my birthday, after all. Surely that earns a birthday fuck or suck or both. Maybe we'll just have a snack later. If I know the Munchers they're going to force feed us almost as much as Deb would at lunch time, so we don't have to waste a lot of time eating ... well, food anyway.

Now he's calling me. And the sound of his voice goes straight to my balls. 

"Coming, dear!" I answer, all high pitched and prissy. But I bet I'll come close to breaking the through-the-loft speed record getting up those damned stairs.

Like I said.

I'm in love.

Sue me.

Chapter 22: Hit and Miss by Wren

 

Hit and Miss

 

Justin

 

Brian's not here when I wake up. I mean, not in bed beside me. The sheets where his hot body should be are cold. I struggle to sit up and call his name. I don't know why I'm anxious, I mean, he might just have been taking a slash, anything. But I guess subconsciously I'm thinking 'it's his birthday and anything could happen'. He hates birthdays. Hates the necessity of getting older. But at least, I think, or hope, that he no longer thinks there are better alternates.


He told me once about the scarfing thing that he'd tried on his thirtieth. He was really drunk, and pissed off because some queen had made a crack about him being a chickenhawk. This was back in the post bashing pre Ethan phase and I don't think I really took in what he was telling me. Maybe I was drunk as well, or tweaked. Anyway it all just seemed to pass over my head at the time. Later, though, I thought about it a lot. It really scared me. Last year, when I was with Ethan on Brian's birthday, I got really freaked and wanted to ring him a hundred times during the day to make sure he was okay. I couldn't though. I didn't have the right. I could only hope that his other friends kept some sort of eye on him.


This year, though, he's mine again to guard and protect and he's not here, so I wake up and like the little drama princess he calls me I immediately start calling out his name. He comes bounding up the steps full of energy and I can bet that he's spoiling for a fuck. Well, he's going to have to wait long enough for me to pay a visit to the bathroom. Before he can jump on me, I slide out of bed on the side nearest the bathroom door and head off.


"Hey!" he pouts. "Get your ass back here! It's my birthday!"


Well, that sounds healthier than him brooding about it anyway. I finish what I need to do, gargle some mouthwash and dance back into the bedroom. I stand near the bed wiggling my hips at him. I can feel my cock getting heavier, it sways with my movement, but is definitely not really dangling now.


He's sprawled on the bed, but he sits up when he sees me and reaches for me. I laugh, and sway out of his reach. He settles back on the bed, propping himself against the pillows.


"Ooohhh, yeah," he purrs. "My very own birthday show."


So I put on a show for him, bumping and grinding, turning my back and waving my ass at him, looking back at him over my shoulder.


He pushes a hand down inside his sweats and starts stroking himself. I feel myself get harder watching him, so I mirror him, standing at the foot of the bed, slowly rubbing my cock.


His eyes gleam and he wriggles out of his sweats, kicking them off his feet. He still has his sweat shirt on, but as I start using my other hand to caress my nipples, he mirrors me, pulling the thick cotton up over his head and tossing it out of the way and baring his nipples to his touch.


I rub mine for a moment and then tweak them - left first, then right. They're standing out stiffly from my chest now, and as I watch he does the same and it has the same affect.


Then he spreads his legs wide, and moving his hand slowly down his body (all the time keeping up a slow rhythm on his cock with his other hand) he slides it down between his thighs to cup his balls. I pause for a moment, this isn't something that it's easy to do standing up with any sort of grace whatever, so I climb onto the bed, kneeling between his feet.


I spread my knees apart and sit back on my heels, then I let my hand trail down. I watch his eyes follow it and the look in them when I finally start fingering my balls gives me a jolt of pleasure as strong as if he'd touched me.


I want to make sure though that he's watching the next bit, so I tilt my head back and lick my lips. I swear I can feel the moment his eyes move to my face. I feel my skin flush and I realise how slutty I must look. Knowing that gets me hotter, and I take my fingers from my balls, and brush them over the now-dripping head of my cock. Then, staring straight into his eyes, I take them from my cock and bring them to my mouth. As I slide my tongue out between my lips to lick the precum slowly from my fingers, his tongue, runs once and then again over his lips. His eyes have left mine now and are fixed on my mouth. I lick my fingers once more, then flick my tongue over my lips before snaking it back into my mouth. I let my lower lip pout out at him a little. I know how that gets him going.


Then, while his eyes are still caressing my mouth, I open it a little, and push my first two fingers inside.


His eyes go dark suddenly and his hips jerk. I suck on my fingers, moving them in and out of my mouth, while I arch my own hips forward, coming up off my heels to push my groin towards him. I think of how I must look and for some reason that makes me go even further.


I sit back onto my heels and then I let myself lay back on the bed. My head is almost over the edge, but that doesn't matter. I move my feet out from under my ass, but keeping my knees bent I let them fall wide apart. Then I lift my feet off the bed completely and pull my knees up so that my asshole is fully displayed to Brian. I take my hand off my cock, and reach down and use those fingers to stroke over the hole while I keep sucking on the ones in my mouth.


I hear him moan softly and then the sound of the condom wrapper being torn so I bring those fingers down and start pushing the first one into my hole.


That's when he moves.


He takes hold of my hips and pulls me towards him. so that I'm no longer in danger of falling off the bed onto my head. Then he's over me and lifting my ass to his cock. I feel it press against me and then slowly, so slowly, he enters me. It burns a little, stings a little as I stretch for him, then he's past that first tight ring and he pauses, making sure I'm ready, giving me all the time I want to adjust. I take a deep breath and push down in just the right way and he knows, and moves to match me and then he's sliding deep, deep inside me, hitting all the right places on the way.


I put my hands up to his shoulders and he knows what I want, what I need, and he presses deeper inside, and folds me up more and then his mouth is within reach, so I kiss him.


"Happy birthday," I murmur against his lips.


He sucks his lips in and gives me a look for a moment. Then he smiles, and nods.


Which makes my heart feel like it's overflowing because he's saying something so amazing to me - he's telling me that he is happy. That it's a happy birthday for him because of this, because of me.


I don't know what to do, so I kiss him again and say his name.


"Brian," I breathe. "Oh, Brian!"


Then there's no need to say anything else because our bodies are saying everything that could ever need to be said and although it's slower and more gentle than it usually is with us, somehow it's just right, too.

 

 

Brian

 

It's a funny thing. I was so damned ready to pride myself on how I'd try anything sexually, but I've never tried this before. Never tried having sex with the same partner over and over till you're so familiar with their body and they with yours that you know exactly how to give each other the maximum amount of pleasure in any given fuck. So familiar that you know just by the sounds, by the breathing, how close, how soon. So in tune that you can read each other's moods, you know intuitively just what sort of fuck you're both looking for - hot and hard, or slow and sweet or anything in between.


That level of familiarity should be boring, predictable. But somehow with him it's not. With Justin it never is. He loves to tease me, surprise me. He loves to be teased, surprised. So part of the giving pleasure thing is in the games we play before the serious sex starts, it's in the anticipation as much in the act. But whereas with tricks the hunt, the anticipation is often the only thing that makes the fuck even vaguely interesting, with him that really is just the prelude, the overture. And once the full production starts, it's a show stopper every time.


Today, when he wiggles his ass out of the bathroom, putting himself on display for me, he looks so fucking hot! And when I start to jerk myself off, nice and slow, he doesn't jump on me and try to get into the act, like just about any trick would; he just stands there, mimicking me till I'm ready to shoot just watching him. Then he kicks it up a notch, and then another, and another. Till we're both so close that we have to pull back a bit or risk coming way too soon. Then when we're ready, when we do let go, it's ... right. Hell! it's ecstatic.


If I still had any of the belief my mother tried to cram into me, I'd say this was what I think Heaven would be like. I'd say Heaven isn't some fucking field full of flowers, or any of that angel-on-a-cloud shit. Heaven is that moment when I'm inside him, and I come, and he's right there with me, gasping my name as I shout out his; or maybe the moment after, when the endorphins are still flooding through my system and he's in my arms and I'm in his and ...


Well, that's what Heaven would be like.


As for Hell, where my mother would say I'm going - I've got news for her. I've already been to Hell. I've seen it. Felt it. Hell is kneeling on a cement pavement watching your whole life, all the love and warmth and hope in your life, bleeding out of the broken shell of a beautiful boy who should never have met you. And you'd let it all go, give it all up, all of it, everything, if the bleeding would just stop and he'd look up at you and be all right. But it doesn't, the blood keeps spilling, soaking everything so that for days, weeks, everything seems to smell of his blood. And Hell is watching his face go colder than any stranger's as you meet his eyes across a great cavern of emptiness, empty despite all the gyrating bodies, empty because he's already gone. Hell is watching him walk away from you. Hell is a half-empty closet and a silent cave that used to be your home, the home you once shared with him. I've been to Hell. I've been there twice. I'm not going back. I can't. I won't. I will not lose him again.


I'm smarter this time; like they say, older and wiser, and I'm not going to let my stupid fucking pride prevent me from fighting to keep him any more.


"I've decided to end the Experiment," I blurt out.


 

Justin

 

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!


I knew he'd gone somewhere weird in his head. I could feel his arms sort of tighten round me, but ... his mind was a long way away. And not in any place good. I knew it. I could tell.


Fuck!


Not this morning, Brian. Not after what just happened between us. Why does it have to be now? Why did you have to pick now, to pick this morning, to tell me this?


Today's going to be a shit-heap of a day. Mel and Lindz are probably still fighting over the Mikey thing. The little shit might still turn up at their place, and if he doesn't, then Deb and probably the others as well will be all over it, talking and probing and prying and probably pissy about it.


You're going to be pissy anyway because someone is bound to make a crack about your age, so it will be up to me to charm and cajole you into getting over it, and playing nice, because it's your fucking birthday and they all want a chance to celebrate it with you. But that won't stop them harping on your bad attitude and picking you to pieces like they always do if I can't keep things going smoothly. Except this time if it gets out of hand it will be worse, because of all the damage Michael has done. In some ways they will all be looking for ways to make you the bad guy, because that's what they've always done, that's what's easy, that's what's safe. So today I have to work really hard make sure that they don't have any excuse to do that.


And that's a hell of a lot for me to deal with, trying to keep you happy, or at least not totally miserable, and tryng to find a way keep things smoothed over with everyone else Trying to make sure that what Michael's been up to doesn't completely destroy all of this little family that you need very badly whether you want to admit it or not.


So why the *fuck* did you have to pick today to tell me your little ... game was over. A game. That's all it fucking was to you. Just a game. One that you wanted to win, like you want to win every time, but once it's over ... you can just walk away. You proved to yourself you could do it. You could give up tricking if you wanted to. So now it's not about whether you don't have the strength or the will, you've proved to your own satisfaction that you do. And now you've done that, there's no reason, no reason at all to stop.


And I know I said I understood. I know I said I was okay with it. I know that.


I was.


And I will be ... but right now ...


I'm not. Right this minute, I'm not okay with it. I'm just not!


I loved knowing I was the one ... the one you came to, the one you ...


I loved ...


I get up before I start crying. That's all it would fucking need.


I'm headed for the bathroom when he catches my arm and pulls me back towards the bed. I try to pull away but he holds on and he's strong and I feel so fucking weak, because ...


So I try to choke back the tears, and I feel his hand on my face.


"Justin, I'm sorry."


"Sorry's bullshit," I choke out, slapping his hand aside and pulling away so hard that he's surprised and lets go. I stumble and nearly fall, but then he's up off the bed and gripping my shoulders and when I won't, can't look at him, he pulls me into his arms.


It makes me feel like I did that time he was leaving for New York, and I lost it, and he held me, and he let me cry. Which was all the concession he would make to the fact that my fucking heart was breaking. Or I thought it was. So he held me, and I let him.


But I'm not that fucking little twink any more and my heart is *not* breaking, not over this. No! It's not important enough to let it matter this much. So I fight to get a grip. But I'm still mad at him, although I don't know if it's his cavalier decision just to go back to tricking without a backward glance or even a second thought, or his pitiful sense of timing that's pissing me off more. So I try to push him away, and when he won't let go, I pinch him; hard, near the ribs where he's got no flab and it will hurt.


And he laughs, the fucker! He doesn't let me go, he just fucking laughs!


 

Brian

 

He pinches me again, the little shit, so I reach behind me and grab his hands and pull them away from me, although I make sure I keep my body pressed against his.


"Justin, calm down!"


"I am calm!" he spits, not so calmly.


I push his hands back behind him where he can't do any more damage and grab them both in one of mine. Then I cup my free hand round his face and make him look at me.


Sure enough, there are tears sparkling on his lashes and pooling in the corners of his eyes. He blinks hard to get rid of them.


Fuck it, Kinney! you are such an idiot.


"Justin, I put it badly. I'm sorry ..."


He snorts. "Brian, you put it just fine. I get it."


Okay, so now I'm tempted to just let him have his fucking little hissy fit. To pull on some clothes and just go stomping out of here while he sulks all he wants. Shit!


The only thing that stops me is that I know that's exactly what I would have done last time around. Hell! last time round I would have gone out and picked up the first half-decent trick I could find and dragged him back here so that by the time Justin got out of the shower he'd find me fucking someone else in his bed. Just so that he'd really know his place.


But he does know his place. And so do I. His place is right here. With me.


I stroke his face with my thumb and then I bend my head and kiss him. He tries to twist his head away at first, but I keep it gentle, soft, the way he really likes it and eventually I feel him relax against me. So I let go of his hands and wrap that arm around him properly.


Then ... I'd deny it on a string of fucking bibles, but then I find myself kissing away the tears.


"That's not what I meant," I breath into his ear before I start back to his mouth, and give that some more attention. God! his lips feel so silky and soft against mine. I suck on them both a little, softly, bottom first, then top.


Then I pull back so I can look right into his eyes while I say it.


"I meant ... I figured ... as an experiment, it seemed to work so ..."


He stares at me, his eyes are open very wide now and the sun must be shining on them or something because suddenly they're full of light.


It's moments like these ... it's like seeing him again for the first time. And he is still as fucking beautiful ... more ... than he was that night. I find my arms tightening around him, as our bodies press together, skin smoothly gliding over skin.


He's biting his lip, but he can't quite bring himself to ask the question, so I answer it anyway.


"I'm not saying I'll never fuck anyone else, but ..."


I shrug.


"I won't be out looking for it."


It's the best I can do. I won't make him promises I can't fucking keep. All I can do is try.


He gets this look then, like he wants to throw his arms around my neck, and do a whole girly scene. But he's smarter now, too.


So he just gulps, and nods. Then he nods again. And finally he smiles, and I swear, I need shades.


So I stick my tongue in my cheek, and let myself grin at him.


Then, only then, he puts his hands on me; he pulls my face down to his and he kisses me. Just tiny kisses, almost nibbling at my mouth with his lips. I last about a minute then I pick him up and toss him face down on the bed.


Fuck that! He knows what that fucking does to me. He knows that each of those little nips with his lips goes straight to my cock. He knows that it gets me so hot for him that when he does it at Babylon we wind up in the backroom so fast that anyone who gets in the way is in serious danger of being trampled. He knows just what it does to me, the little shit, and he loves to tease me with it just to see how long I can hang out. He fucking knows all that; so he is definitely asking for it, and now he's going to get it.


I climb on top of him, determined to make sure he pays in full for being such a pricktease, but he's way ahead of me. He's found what we need, and he passes me the condom while he takes the lube, and, drawing his knees up under him, fingers his own ass.


Fuck!


By the time I've opened the pack and rolled the condom over my cock, he's thrusting three fingers up his ass and already panting.


"Fuck me!" he orders. "Now, Brian! Fuck me!"


So I do.


He's already loosened up from our earlier fuck, and his fingers have done their job as well. I thrust hard into him with one long stroke and he moans, a deep guttural sound that makes me pull out quick and thrust in again harder. He bucks back against me this time and then we're fucking like animals. He's cursing me and telling me "harder! harder!" and I'm telling him what a bitch-whore he is and scraping my nails over his belly and his nipples. The sweat is pouring off both of us and I can feel his arms trembling from the strain of taking most of the weight, so I pull them out from under him and push him down so that his face is pressed to the bed, and I can use my hands on his hips to position his ass at just the right angle. I twist my hips with each stroke to make sure that I'm hitting the spot he needs and he stops saying anything coherent then, just gives these hoarse little yelps of pleasure with each thrust. When I feel my balls pull up and that burning tingle at the base of my spine I reach round and jerk his cock twice and he gives a short harsh scream and comes hard. His ass clamps down on my cock and I'm there, coming inside him, and it feels so good it fucking hurts.


I don't want to pull out, but I'm guessing he's not all that comfortable in that position, so I do, then I drop the condom beside the bed and roll to the side as I collapse beside him. He rolls onto his side to face me then his face is in my neck and somehow my arms have got round him and his are round me and we don't have to fucking say anything to know where we are with each other. We're just there. So we lay there for a while, not saying anything in words, while our temperature gets back to normal and our heart beats even out. I rub soothing fingers over all the scratch marks I made on him and his hands are pressed against my back, clinging and caressing and holding me, holding me like he's never going to let me go, while our lips wander all over each other's faces but keep coming back to press together with an intimacy that no words could ever convey and our tongues do all the talking they need to do in each other's mouths.


Then suddenly he bites my neck, hard enough to leave a mark, the twat, and climbs over me to get to the bathroom. I grab his hand on the way past so he pulls me up and we go in and shower and then we come down and make coffee and he has something to eat and we don't talk about it, we don't have a whole fucking dialogue over it and analyse it to death. We don't have to. We just know. And if he seems to want to touch me maybe a little more than he normally would, or if I have to get him back for the bite by marking his skin the way he marked mine, well, that's okay. That's part of how it is. And how it is, is ... amazing.


Why the fuck did I have to wait so long to find this?


Well, I know what he'd say to that. He'd say we both had to wait until I was grown up enough to deal with him.


He's probably right at that.

Chapter 23: Quite A Ride by Wren

Quite a Ride

 

 

Justin


It's almost surreal, this feeling. Maybe it's just that Brian and I have never seemed to have much time to simply hang out together and be happy. There's always something. And there probably will be today, too, but right at this minute somehow it feels as if we're both floating so high that nothing could shoot us down. It feels like ...


I feel myself go cold then, and I have to hang onto the bench to keep from falling off the stool. Brian says something, some smartassed comment about having me swooning over him, or from all the fucking, I'm not sure. But then suddenly he's there, his hands on me and I realise that I'm gasping for breath and my heart is thudding so damned hard it feels like it will burst out through my rib cage.


"Breathe!" he orders. "Just concentrate on your breathing. Breathe with me. In. Out. In. Out."


His voice is calm, almost hypnotic; he's using the techniques they taught us to get through the panic attacks I used to have in those months after the bashing. It's only when that dawns on me that I realise that I'm having another one now, and I swear and try to push away from Brian.


For the second time that morning, he just laughs at me and wraps his arms around me. "Not a chance, Sunshine. You aren't going anywhere."


I lean my forehead against his shoulder.


"It's okay now. I'm okay," I mumble. He strokes my hair without saying anything.


"I just ..." I pull away enough to be able to look into his face and he lets me. "I think I remember how I was feeling that night ... like everything was perfect and nothing could spoil that moment."


His mouth twists, and I kiss his neck. "Sorry, I'm okay now."


He lets me go and steps away. He stands at the end of the island, saying nothing. His stillness and silence are so deep they feel like they're going to swallow the world.


Then he turns to me.


"There'll always be some asshole trying to fuck things up for us, Justin." He gives a bitter grin. "Half the time it will be me."


I want to respond to that, but I can't. I have to wait and let him finish. He looks at me and his grin softens into something kinder.


"Or you."


I take in a deep breath and meet his eyes. Fuck! How can he have the courage to do this, to trust me again, after Ethan?


He smiles at me, that beautiful tender Brian smile.


"We can't fucking let them, that's all. We can't let anyone take this away from us, no matter what they do, how fucking hard they try, how much it ... how much it costs."


That's when I hear what he's really telling me. It's not about our fuck ups, it's not even about Hobbs, it's about today. And when he says it, I realise that it was the thought of today, more even than the memory of what happened back in that parking garage, that triggered the panic. It was the fear of losing what we've fought so hard for because the price of keeping it was too high to ask him to pay.


I slide off the stool and walk to him, wrapping my arms around him and wishing that I could hold him forever safe from all the hurts that are lying in wait for him no matter how this lunch thing goes. He puts his arms around me and presses his forehead to mine. He doesn't say anything else, but he doesn't have to.


"We could just blow them off," I suggest.


He grins, and I know he's tempted, but he just kisses me on the nose, and, taking my hand, leads me up the steps to start getting dressed.



Brian


It's all hitting him all at once - the memories, the fucking shit with Mikey, the stress over today. And of course to make it absolutely perfect, tomorrow will be the fucking anniversary of the Prom.


I know he's worrying about me. About how I'm going to deal with the whateveritwas fucked up thing I had with Mikey imploding. I used to think it was a friendship. I really did. But it was obviously never that to him. Or if it was, that wasn't what he wanted, and the friendship thing was just a way to hang around so he could cling on to the fucked up idea that one day ...


I told him once he was like my brother. Ain't that the fucking truth? One more fucked up family tie to add to the tangle that's my fucking life.


I don't ...


I feel bad that things are in this mess. I never wanted Mikey to get hurt. Never.


But ...


He ... he just couldn't leave it alone.


Even after I flat out told him how things stood. How I felt about him. How I feel about Justin. Even after I begged him to just give it up ... he can't seem to let it go; and I can't let him hang on anymore. I have to cut him loose. I keep hoping that I've done it, keep believing that. And then he comes back. It's like a fucking mosquito buzzing round you in the middle of the night, you flail around and you think you've got it, and you lay down and try to relax and then you hear that whine again.


Up till now, I've been trying to get it done without bloodshed, but not anymore. Justin and I have both been through too much to have to put up with any more shit from someone who fucking refuses to get a clue. I won't have him put through any more. If Mikey pulls anything today ...


It won't be pretty, boys and girls. It will not.


But meanwhile, we've got this lovely party to get ready for, and I want to get over there early enough that maybe we can take Gus out for a short ride in the new car.


I come out of my thoughts and see what this twat that I live with is planning to wear and I swear I am ready to queen out completely. But then I get a good look at his face and realise that he's playing me. He is so going to pay for that later. But right now I don't plan to start anything I don't have time to finish so I just give him a swat on the ass and try to find something to wear that will cover up the damned bite mark he left on my neck. Well, at least, hide it a bit.


Fuck! You'd think we were a couple of high school kids, giving each other hickeys yet. Oh, wait! He is. Well, almost.


He grins as he pushes the other shit back into the closet and I sneak a couple of looks at him as he pulls on a decent pair of jeans, a shirt and a dark grey sweater. The sweater's not cashmere, but it's not crap either, and the dark color makes his skin and hair and eyes glow. I grab the front of it and pull him against me. He comes into my arms like there's no where else he'd ever want to be, and it's all I can do, when the kiss finally ends to let him go.


No, this isn't any kid. This is the guy who has always been man enough to take me on and together we can take on the fucking world.


He nudges my jaw with his nose and then he grins at me. He reaches into the back of the closet and pulls out a gift box. Little shit!


My heart is beating a little faster for some reason as I sit on the bed to open it. It's dumb, but I can feel my eyes stinging. I try to steady myself, because I know that if I don't like whatever it is I am going to have to put on a fucking Academy Award performance. I'm not totally stupid. I know this means a lot to him, and that means it has to be important to me too.


There's no wrapping paper, the box itself, black with a faintly metallic sheen, is the wrapping. There's no elaborate bow; only a band of pewter ribbon across diagonally opposite corners to hold the lid in place. There's no fancy card, only a small square of black cardstock on which is written in pewter ink, B from J. I hold it in my hand a long while. Through a sort of haze I can see my hand shaking. It's hard to explain. I don't want to explain. Don't, thank God, have to. But I know. Deep inside me I know how much this simplicity means to me. As a kid, it wasn't that I didn't get gifts or presents. Are you kidding? and let the neighbours think that the Kinneys couldn't afford nice things for their kids?


Oh, no. I got them alright. Correctly wrapped, with cards that said just the right things. It just doesn't mean a lot when you know that there's nothing there behind the words, when you know that the first mark, the first scratch, on the nice thing you've just been given is going to be taken out of your hide seven times seven. And when you know that you'd give all of it, all the cards with their nice words, all the gifts, everything, for one day, one hour, of feeling loved and wanted.


So now I sit here like a fucking helpless faggot shaking and on the verge of tears for fuck's sake, because he knew ... he knew not to give me all that shit. Knew me well enough to know that's not what I want from him. He touches me on the hand, "Bri?"


Shit! he hardly ever calls me that. I must look fucking bad. I force myself to look up and smile at him. He smiles back and that's all I need. I put my hand behind his head and kiss him. Then I open the box.


It's quite heavy I realise as I lift it to remove the ribbon. I'm intrigued now, wondering what he has got me.


I open the box, and fold back the tissue paper, and pull out what's nestled in the folds. It's a shirt, silk, green ... no, emerald, but so dark as to be almost black. Only where the light falls on it just right does it release the color. It's beautiful. Truly beautiful. And must have cost a fucking bomb. I'm torn between real pleasure and a desire to smack him silly. He's been struggling to find money to pay for bus fares and he's bought this?


I look at him, my lips folded between my teeth and he laughs at me. "Brian, don't go there with me. I bought it with ... some money I got ... that's all."


Fuck! With his birthday money, he means. I know Jenn gave him some, because he told me. I think he was disappointed that she didn't buy him some useless junk. I gave her credit for having sense enough to know what he really needed. Yeah, right. Money to buy this for me. I don't think that's what mummy had in mind, Sunshine.


He sits on the bed next to me and rubs his face against my shoulder. "Brian," is all he says, but I hear the rest. It's right on a par with the whole 'let me pay for the hotel' thing. I hate it that he feels he has to prove himself somehow. But I understand it too.


I don't say anything for a moment, just let my fingers tangle with his where they sit on my thigh. Then I kiss his hair.


"If I wear it today and Gus gets cake and shit all over it, I'll probably queen out over it bigtime," I warn him.


"I'll be there to protect you," he promises.


I huff a laugh, appreciating that he's not just talking about the cake, and pull the shirt out of the box. That's when I realise that there's something else there. Something under the tissue paper. Some kind of book.


"Why don't you leave that till we get home," he suggests.


I look at him and raise an eyebrow. He shrugs, but he's also looking a bit embarrassed.


"It's kind of ... more personal," he offers. I figure he's not talking sex toys by the look on his face.


I'm about to say something about him just wanting to tease me, and make me wait, when I suddenly flash on the conversation that is bound to take place at least once today. The 'what did Justin give you?' one. The one that will have all these fucking smirks and knowing looks associated with it. As things stand I can just flash the shirt and brag about the sensational sex. Whatever else he wants to give me, the personal thing, that I don't really know anything about, so I can't talk about it and don't have to hide it. It's safe here; protected from all their fucking jibes and curiosity, from their jealousy and spite. It can lay here, hidden, a secret treasure for only the two of us to share.


Fuck! Talk about pathetic. But I put the lid back on the box. Then I give him a kiss on the head and get up.


"What should I wear with the shirt?" I ask.



Justin


I'm still not sure that I shouldn't have just sprung the other gift on him too, so that if he doesn't like it, if it's too personal, if it spooks him, we'll have all day to get over that and a lot to distract us along the way. But ... I think he'll like it. If he doesn't ... if he doesn't then we're really in trouble, because I put all I know and love about him into that thing and if he can't see it, or doesn't want it ...


I have to pull myself up. This is crazy. I made the right decision and so did he. It means that no matter what hell erupts today, when we get home there will be this. And we will have something quiet and intimate and just ours to share.


Meanwhile, he's pulled on an old pair of soft black jeans, and the shirt. His hair is still mussed from the shower, and he's got no shoes on of course, and he looks ...


I just sit and stare at him.


He must feel me looking, because he glances across at me and gives me that eyebrow raised look. The expression on my face must tell him what I'm seeing because that look gives place to the tongue in cheek smirk.


His hair has dried all anyhow, and has lights in it that you don't see once the styling products go in. His skin looks a little paler than normal. Maybe that's just the light, or that it's simply winter pale and I haven't really noticed till now. His lips are somewhere between cherry and cinnamon, and as always, as soon as I focus on them I want to taste them. And his eyes ... his eyes ...


His eyes are always beautiful, but today ... today they seem larger and more expressive even than usual and the lashes around them seem longer and smokier - almost as if he's wearing just a hint of kohl. The color ... God! the color! They usually swim between green and a sort of greenish peaty-brown. The peaty tone is slightly more noticeable in one eye, the green more noticeable in the other. But today, they seem to shine with a myriad of green tones - like looking at the shifting greens of a canopy of trees as the leaves are tossed by the wind. And the green is lit with specks of gold, glowing like little suns.


The shirt has a fairly deep collar that frames the beautiful column of his neck. The silk drapes his body beautifully, and falls softly to his hips where it's gathered into the dark denim. I find myself running my tongue over my lips as I study the way the denim hugs his ass and his crotch and before I even know it, my hands are stretching out to pull him within reach of my mouth.


He evades my hands and laughs.


"Save it!" he recommends. "If we start that we'll never get out of here."


I sigh, but realise he's right.


I stand up and find a pair of boots that won't reduce him to hissy fits, and he pulls on his damned Prada. Of course.


I'm on my way out the door when the catches up with me and drops the keys to the Element into my hand. I feel myself flushing. I'm not used to the idea of having a car yet. let alone the idea of me driving it. Leaving with Brian means he is going to be the driver. But the 'Vette is still at the hotel - Brian has arranged to pick it up tomorrow morning - and anyway, he wants to take Gus out to try out the new car seat.


I hope Mel doesn't make that a problem. There are going to be enough today without her and Brian getting into a turf war the way they usually do.


I expect him to be quiet and withdrawn on the way over, gearing himself up for the day, but instead he's in one of his goofy moods. As soon as we get into the car, he tilts his seat back till it's touching the child seat behind. Then he stretches out.


"To the Munchers', James", he orders and I can't help but giggle.


"Yes, sir, and may I say that I'm so glad you chose to ride me .. er ride with me today. Sir."


I sneak a look at him and he's laying back with his eyes closed, grinning.


"I hope that you have no complaints about the service. Sir."


He brushes a lazy hand along my thigh and chuckles.


"Save it till we get home, Sunshine," he recommends. "I'm sure I'll be requiring even more servicing by then."


"Yes, sir!" I breathe fervently.


He laughs again. "We should buy a uniform," he says. "Or at least a cap. You could suck me off with the cap on. That'd be hot."


I grin in agreement and wonder if there's anywhere that would be open today where I could get a cap. Maybe I could sneak out at some point and get one and surprise him with it later.


He's light hearted and goofy all the way to the Munchers', which is totally not what I expect. But it makes me feel goofy too, and just plain happy to see him like this.


It's early, still not eleven o'clock when we get there and as we wait for someone to answer the door bell we can hear Lindsay's voice saying soothingly, "Mel, of course it won't be Brian. Not at this ..."


Then she opens the door and there we are.


"Surprise!" Brian says chirpily as she stands there with her mouth open.


I give her my best, most disarming smile and say, "Hi! We thought that maybe ..."


But before I can get any further, there's a delighted squeal and suddenly Brian has an armful of toddler as Gus launches himself down the last of the stairs.


"Dadda!" Gus shrieks. "Dadda! Dadda!"


"Hey, Sonnyboy," Brian greets him. "Calm down."


Then he kisses him and blows a big raspberry against his cheek. He tosses him up into the air and then hands him to me. Gus resists for a moment, struggling to get back to him, but Brian says, "If you're nice, Justin is going to take us both for a ride."


"Wide!" Gus hollers, and now he's struggling to get to the door.


Lindz stands casting nervous glances up the stairs. "Brian! What on earth are you doing here so early? Justin, I thought we said ..."


"We've come to take Gus for a ride," Brian says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. "Haven't we, Sonnyboy?"


He takes Gus again and holds him over his head, to Gus' great delight.


"We thought we could get him out of your hair for a while," I say quickly. It's not exactly true that we'd thought of that before, but I have now, and it seems reasonable.


Gus gives another squeal of joy and impatience. "Wide! Wide!. Go with Jus and Dadda."


Lindz tries to take him from Brian. "Brian you know ..." she begins.


"You can't fucking take him anywhere in that fuck machine of yours!" Mel's voice cuts in. "Haven't you got any fucking sense at all!"


Brian smiles at her mock-sweetly. "I wasn't planning on sitting him on Sunshine's knee and hoping for the best, you know. We've made other arrangements."


"What? You're going to strap him to the bonnet?"


Mel's voice is still snarky, but she's curious too, and she comes down the stairs. Brian smirks at her and I can see why she gets so infuriated with him.


"Well, come and see," he says.


She's at the bottom of the stairs by now and she give a snort. "What? You've bought another damned jeep?"


He just smirks some more, and we all traipse out of the house to where the new car, my new car, sits. And it must be just me, but I think it looks self- conscious, as if it's aware that it's the object of everyone's scrutiny.


"Brian!" Lindsay gushes, "it's beautiful. When did you get it?"


This time Brian and Mel both snort, and then they share a look as if acknowledging their respective partners' complete lack of aesthetic sensibilities.


"It's Justin's," Brian announces. "He picked it out."


Thus making it quite clear that his label queen reputation was not to be tarnished by the possession of what he insists on calling 'that butt ugly heap'


Mel gives a little grunt that might be a laugh and Lindz turns to me.


"It's terrific, Justin. And you've already got a child seat."


"Brian picked that out," I tell them, making it clear that it was Brian's priority to have something that we could safely use to drive Gus around in. Then I can't help bragging a little, to drive the point home. "It's top of the range."


Mel gets a funny look on her face that I can't quite track, but Brian does, because he says very casually, "Guess we'll be getting another one eventually. Probably should have got it at the same time, they might have given us a better deal."


Mel shrugs, but she looks happier, too. I suddenly realise that for all that she bad mouths him and curses him, and despite the fact that one of her little bursts of spite against him made her go off and get Mikey to father her kid, it's somehow important to her to know that Brian will be there for her baby. I guess she's realised finally that relying on Mikey is pretty much a dumb ass idea. Plus, no matter what she says, she knows deep down that Brian will always come through for anyone he regards as family.


His way of coming through might be unexpected. He may never admit that that's what he's done. But when you really need him, Mr. "You Can't Count on Anyone But Yourself" can always be counted on. Mel knows that. Hell! Brian was the first one she ran to when their wedding looked like imploding.



Brian


Gus is about to explode with excitement and he's trying to climb out of my arms to get to the car, so the Munchers finally agree to let him come with us for a while. Justin, the twat, volunteers to stay behind and help get things ready, but they laugh and push him towards the car. Maybe they want some Mummy time, but I don't want to think about that.


We take a few minutes to get Gus securely fitted in the seat, and adjust the straps properly, then off we go. There's a moment there when I want to snatch the car keys out of Justin's hand and take the wheel, because I suddenly have this flash that the two most precious things in my life are in this fucking car that neither of us is familiar with yet. But I can't do that to him. I have to trust him. To trust life a little. So I get in the passenger seat and just concentrate on being out and about with my two boys.


It comes to me that this is the first time that we've done this. It's the first time since Gus was old enough to sit up and take notice that we've hung out together at all. And it makes me feel like ... there are things I haven't tried yet. For some reason that thought gives me an incredible high. These two, these two make me feel like I can do anything, be anything.


Justin gives me a sideways look and I know he's wondering what I'm thinking. I don't even want to imagine what the expression on my face is like. I try to plaster my poker face back in place, but I can already feel the silly smirk coming back even as he opens his mouth. But to give him credit, he just takes it in stride.


"Where to?" he asks. "The park?"


I shake my head at him. "Incline, " I manage to say.


He raises an eyebrow but takes a turn that will lead us back to the river, and we cross it and turn off to the parking lot.


Gus is still excited. Whether it's the novelty of being out with us, or that he's catching my excitement, or just that he's in desperate need of some 'boy time' away from all the women, I don't know.


"Park, Dadda!" he shrieks.


"Maybe later," I say.


He starts to pout, but Justin pulls up then, and I get out and open the other door to rescue him from the seat. "We're going on a ride first," I tell him.


"Wide!" he says happily.


"Right up there," I say, holding him in one arm and pointing up to where the slope of Mt Washington rears up behind us.


His eyes go wide and his starts bouncing in my grip.


"Up!" he says. "Up!"


Justin walks around to us, and we start towards the ticket booth.


"Walk!" Gus demands. So I put him down and with one of us holding each of his hands he toddles determinedly onwards.


I realise that we must look just like those pathetic hetero-wannabes I'm always sneering at. But I don't give a fuck. I'm not them. I'm me. Right now I'm having kiddy time with my son, and my partner. Later, there'll be the feeding time at the zoo scenario of my birthday lunch with my friends -well, most of them. Then my partner and I will go home and fuck each other into the mattress. Then maybe we'll go to Woody's and Babylon and drink and dance and suck and fuck. Or we might go out for a decent meal, just the two of us. Or even stay home and cuddle and watch a dvd. And tomorrow I'll go to work and be fucking brilliant.


And no matter what we do, what I do, I'll still be Brian Kinney. Because I can do anything. I can play with my kid, spend some time with my friends, party all night, dazzle my clients and then come home to the best fuck I've ever had in my life. And it's all, I realise, because of him over there. The one who's distracting my son so I can pay for the tickets. Him. He's the reason I'm free to be anything, do anything, have everything. All the things I thought I'd never have, he's given me.


All of which means that I don't care what happens this afternoon. Well, not much. Whatever happens, happens. We didn't create this situation, we can't fix it, and right now in the scheme of things, it just doesn't matter very much. For the first time since I was fourteen years old, Mikey doesn't matter very much. Which, for me, is a good thing. A healthy thing. I have other people in my life now. So does he. It's Ben and the little hustler he should be thinking about. Not me.


That doesn't mean that I don't wish it were different. But ... as long as I can feel the warmth of the arm that Justin slips around me now that I've picked Gus up and am carrying him into the little pod that we'll go up in, I'm okay. Better than okay.


I'm fucking fabulous.

Chapter 24: Gifts and Givers by Wren

 

 

Gifts and Givers

 

 

Justin


I can't really get a grip on where Brian's head's at today. I'd expected him to be stressed and pissy all day and he's not. He's relaxed, smiling ... dammit! he's happy. He's really happy.


I thought that when we took Gus it would just be for a quick drive around, or maybe to the park for a little, or even shopping to get him some clothes. (Brian hates the way Lindz dresses him.)


At a pinch I could imagine him going to the zoo. Maybe.


But the last thing I would have expected is that he'd want to ride up and down the Monongahela Incline. It's a good choice though, I realise, watching him old Gus up so that he can see out the windows as we rise slowly to the heights above the Golden Triangle. Gus loves it. He has his face pressed close to the glass and is telling us everything he can see ... people and cars and water and boats. He's starting to talk fairly well now. You have to listen carefully, but you can usually work out what he's talking about.


I watch them, and it occurs to me for the first time how different Brian is with Gus. I don't mean that he's kinder or any of that. That's a given. I mean how tentative Brian is where Gus is concerned. Almost shy. It's as if he's not quite sure what to do, and very much afraid of making a mistake. When I think about it, I guess that's not all that strange. I mean, his own family were pretty much a dead loss ... there's no way he would learn anything positive from them about how to treat a child. And I'm guessing he hasn't spent a lot of time hanging out with breeders or other couples with kids, so how would he learn?


It's really sad. It's as if he's always holding back a little. Not because he doesn't want to be with Gus, but because he doesn't quite know how to be, so he thinks maybe Gus is better off without him being around too much. He just doesn't believe in himself where Gus is concerned. It's sad for Gus, too, because Gus adores him. Sometimes he goes a bit shy when his father's around, but as soon as Brian pays him some attention, he's all over him. I'm not saying Brian's ever going want to be a full time dad. Maybe not even a part time dad in the 'carpool the kids to swim practice' sort of way. But he loves Gus, and loves to spend time with him, and they are good together. Gus is good for him, and Brian will always be there for Gus, no matter what; even if the thought of that level of responsibility scares the shit out of him.


That thought makes me smile and, just when I do, Brian turns his head a little to look at me. He knows me too well, because one eyebrow goes up in that 'what the fuck are you thinking about?' look of his, and I just grin at him. He runs his tongue over his lips, then gives his attention back to Gus who is demanding if we're there yet.


Of course, as soon as we exit the pod, Gus wants to get right back in. But Brian persuades him to walk with us, and we stroll along the path with Gus stomping along in the middle, his little hands safely clasped in ours. In a strange way, it's even more intimate, makes me feel more connected to this wilful, beautiful, maddening wonderful creature that I love than if Brian and I were holding hands. Every now and again we lift our hands and swing Gus between us, which brings on shouts of glee and "More! Again!"


Brian doesn't even flinch from all the noise his kid is making, just laughs and signals me to swing him again. We come to a seat and sit down. Gus is clearly thrilled to be out and about and is curious about everything, saying "What's that, Dadda?" over and over again.


Brian answers him every time with more patience than Mel or even Lindz would ever give him credit for.


While Gus learns the word for 'bridge' and 'worm' and 'ladybug', I reach into the pocket of my coat and pull out the small sketchpad I always keep there. I start sketching the two of them, my two Kinney men, and Gus sees me and then of course he wants to draw too. Brian distracts him by standing up and carrying him over to the railing so that Gus can look down on the shopping precinct and have a better view of the river.


We must be close, I realise suddenly, to the bench we were sitting on the other night. Was it really only three nights ago? Somehow we seem to have come a long way since then.


For the first time I let myself thing about what Brian promised me this morning. Not that he'll never trick again. That would be what my Gran used to call a "piecrust promise" - made to be broken. But that he won't be out looking for it. Won't be cruising Woody's or Babylon or the Baths for tricks.


The enormity of that promise suddenly hits me and I feel my heart squeeze. That he would promise me such a thing is so huge it's almost inconceivable. But he did it. And I don't think it's because I've pressured him about it. I've tried very hard not to. Tried to make sure that he knew it stopped being an issue for me that night I stood in Ethan's grimy apartment and said "I never forgave Brian. I never had to."


And remembered all the non-promises Brian had made and come through on. Realised that with all Brian's tricking, he'd been 'faithful' to me, to us, in a way that someone like Ethan, who scattered promises and vows around so freely, simply didn't have it in him to be. Saw that Brian offered an inner fidelity, a fidelity of heart and soul rather than of body, that was worth 'a million times' anything an Ethan had to offer. And understood at last how I'd let myself be cheated, not by Ethan's breaking his bullshit promises, but by my own need to have someone make such vows to me in the first place.


Of course I realise that even now Brian isn't promising eternal monogamy. I think I would have laughed in his face if he had.


Or cried.


He's promised, though, that he won't be looking for it. Which in one way isn't all that big a deal. I mean, it's not as if he's ever really had to go looking for it. Opportunities for sex find Brian almost everywhere. A guy walked past a few minutes back who was seriously cruising him - with him holding Gus and me sitting right here. So just because he isn't looking doesn't mean that his chances to have it find him are going to drop off all that much.


But in another way ...


It somehow laid balm on a wound that I didn't know I had, until he said that and healed it.


I told Brian when I came back to him that I understood now what to expect. And I did. I was, and am, okay with his tricking. I would never have gone after him again, otherwise. Because I didn't, and don't, expect him to stop. Not completely. Not while his dick still works. For that matter, I'm not sure that I won't have the desire to occasionally stick my cock where it doesn't rightfully belong.


I know that. Understand it. Accept it. Am fine with it. And, which is the big difference, I guess, I'm fine with my acceptance of it. I no longer feel lessened, diminished by that acceptance as I think I did before.


Now, in a weird way, I feel empowered by it. The scared boy who had to cling to Brian so tightly, who was threatened by losing his attention for even as long as it took him to get blown in the back room is gone. I know now what we have. I know what I mean to him. And that knowledge empowers me. Now I am not less because I have to accept his tricking, I am more because I know how meaningless it is by comparison.


But somewhere inside I was still carrying the wounds dealt to that 17 year old boy who didn't understand why, when I was available, and ready, and the sex between us was so hot, that night after night, Brian would walk away from me to go after some trick. The boy who didn't understand why he wasn't enough.


I got over it. Came to understand Brian better. Came to understand some of the impulses that drove Brian in myself. But somehow, despite that, the hurt was still there.


And now suddenly, it's not. He has healed me.


Because what he told me this morning, back in that room where I'd lost both my virginity and my heart to him, was that now, I'm enough. Now I'm what he needs, all he needs.


Other men might happen, but he doesn't need them any more. Doesn't need the chase, the thrill, the conquest. Something in what we have together has taken away those needs, as his words took away that young boy's hurt.


And as that realisation floods through me I realise that I can't see him anymore, can hardly see the sketch book in my hands.


I fumble with the pencil, and then he's there, looking down at me, lips pulled in that way he has when he's figuring out just what to say.


But he doesn't get a chance to say anything, because Gus wriggles out of his arms, to stand beside me and I feel his little hand on my knee as he looks up at me with his father's eyes.


"Jus'n sad?"


And I gasp for breath and laugh and pick him up and hug him.


"No, Gus," I shake my head emphatically, realising just how far from sad I am. "Justin's not sad," I tell him. "Justin's happy."


My voice chokes and my eyes fill with tears again for no reason except that maybe Brian's right and all this emotional stuff does turn you into a lesbian. I must be past help though, because I hug Gus again, and hear my voice saying shakily, "Justin feels faaab-ulous"


His father sits down next to me and lays his arm lightly across my shoulders.


We should get you seen to. Those damned allergies are a bitch."


I elbow him, and he takes my chin in his fingers for a moment, looking deep into my eyes. Then he gives me a grin and touches his forehead lightly to mine. I smile and Gus pats my face. I hold the palm of his hand against my lips and blow a raspberry into it and he laughs. So do I. And I can feel Brian's silent chuckle vibrate through my shoulder.


He ruffles Gus's hair and kisses my forehead.


"C'mon, boys," he says. "It's time to face the music."


"What moosic?" Gus asks.


"We have to sing Happy Birthday to Dadda," I say.


He nods and starts piping something that might be Happy Birthday. Or not. It's kinda hard to tell. But he sounds happy. Brian stands, and helps us up, and we walk back along the path to the Incline. Gus is still singing, and the feel of him in my arms, the feel of Brian's arm round me, the feel of the three of us together is something so right that my whole being seems to relax into it.


There's still drama to face. Probably always will be. We're queers for God's sake. It comes with the territory. But right now, I feel like we can do anything, be anything, because we've found something up here that makes us whole, makes us one, in a way that no ceremony, no damned piece of paper could ever do.


I resolve to somehow get Brian up here again. This is a special place for me, now. After this morning, and our talk the other night, this is a place I know I will always want to come back to, together. So I just have to work it so he doesn't realise what I'm doing. Or why I'm doing it. If he knew I'd become that sentimental about it, I'd never get him back here.


Except, I think, as we climb into the pod, that it was him who wanted to come here this morning. I look at him as he makes a face at Gus, and wonder just why that was. It couldn't be something like romance, could it?


As his eyes meet mine with just a hint of a question in them, I smile at him. It doesn't really matter, I realise. Whether it just seemed a good place to take Gus, or whether he wanted to revisit the scene of our first real date, in bringing me here he gave me something I needed. Yet again. Something profound and indefinable. I suspect that whatever it is, maybe it's something we both needed. When I see him smile, see the happiness in those eyes that are often so sad, I realise that I'm right.


All I can do is smile back at him with all the happiness and love that's in me.



Brian


The little twat is smiling now. God knows what brought his "allergies" on. One minute he's fine. I take Gus over so he can see down to the shopping complex and get a better view of the river and when I turn back to Justin, my damned partner is sitting there with tears running down his face for no fucking reason that I can figure out. But he told Gus he was happy, and he's smiling up at me now like ... like the Sunshine I call him.


I just wish he was wouldn't fucking scare me like that. I don't want him sad or scared or worried. He's been through enough. And try as I might to put it out of my head, I'm very much aware that tomorrow is the anniversary of the 'best night of his life'. Except that it turned into the worst. The worst night ...


Even the ghost of a thought of that night makes me feel so damned protective of him.


He says that he's dealt with his anger, that he can let it go now, leave it behind. But maybe I haven't dealt with mine. Maybe that's partly what is fuelling my anger against Mikey.


Because, fuck it, Mikey knows. He was there outside Babylon the night that asshole who calls himself Justin's father told his teenaged son that if he wanted to come home he had to give up being Justin. He was there when I, like a total asshole, tore the poor kid to shreds and threw him out on the street for making a simple mistake. He was at the hospital when they came and told us that the beautiful young man who'd danced in my arms, who'd become part of all our lives, was in a coma with the probability of permanent brain damage. He's been there while Justin has fought to master the shakes in his hand enough to draw that damned comic. He's seen more than most of the horrors Justin has been through, and he still stole from him.


Stole not just money, but his independence. Put him in a position where he had to go to that asshole Craig and beg for money to continue his studies (silly little twat!). Put him in a position where he had to submerge his pride and let me help him. And then tried to steal even his right to complain by mixing Deb up into it.


And all of it not because Mikey really needed the money; but to punish him. Punish him for having what Mikey couldn't have; for being what Mikey was never going to be. With me.


Fuck!


Of course, the other thing that is fuelling the anger is guilt. Not over the Prom, although I guess to some extent that will always be there. But guilt over all the shit that I've let Mikey pull on Justin. All the snide remarks and spiteful little digs that I never did anything about. Well, never in Justin's hearing, anyway. And I could tell myself that was because Justin's a big boy and should stand up for himself; or tell myself that it was because it was all just a joke, and everyone knows that Mikey sometimes just doesn't know where to draw the line.


But all of that is bullshit. There's one simple reason that I never called him on his crap ... I was too fucking scared to.


Not just scared of losing Mikey, and his friendship, although that was part of it. But scared of losing ...everyone. I knew if it came down to it, if I made a scene and forced people like Em and even Lindz to choose between sticking to their nice cozy little images ... Mikey, good; Brian bad ... and actually opening their eyes to take a look at what was really going on, then I could only be the loser. All that would have happened is that I would have burned my bridges and wound up with nothing. Hell! probably even Justin wouldn't have thanked me for it. Cos I wouldn't have fucking known how to do it cleanly, or gently. It would have been some full blown fucking drama and they all would have taken sides ... except there would only have been me on my side. And Justin. And I couldn't have let him do that. I couldn't have let him lose his new family, not after I'd already cost him his old one.


So I would have driven him away, too. I would have been alone.


And I just couldn't fucking do it.


So ... like the scared little faggot that I am inside most of the time, I let Mikey get away with all his shit, let his spiteful little digs go on, let my partner bear the brunt of them. Because Justin wouldn't call him on it either ... for my sake.


And I think of all this as we climb out of the pod and make our way back to the car, and I'm ashamed.


But no more.


Not today.


Not any day from now on.


No matter what it costs, it stops now.


In some ways, I hope Mikey does show his face today so that I can tell him that.



Justin


Brian's a bit quiet on the way back to the car, and I guess that he's starting to think about the party, but he lightens up once we get moving. Gus wants to sing and he wants Brian and I to join in, but neither of us knows what he's trying to sing, and he starts getting a bit cranky, so eventually I start singing "Old McDonald". Gus loves it. There is much squeaking and mooing and baaing and unbelievably Brian gets right into it. I have to try to keep from laughing too much, partly because I have to drive and partly because I don't want him to get pissed and stop.


But while they're singing I can think a bit about the party. Well, about what to do if Michael shows up. I wish I could help Brian more with that. I wish his "best friend" wasn't such a jealous spiteful little shit.


And I really wish I'd figured out a way to deal with his jealousy long before now. Maybe if I had ...


I love Brian and it's killing me to know that however it goes, he's going to be hurt over this. I blame myself for at least some of it. And I want to kill Michael. I don't think I've ever felt such anger towards anyone; not even Hobbs.


The worse thing is, I can't even express my anger towards Michael without making everything worse for Brian. That's the most frustrating part of all.


We pull up outside the Munchers' and get Gus out of the car. He runs up the path and starts climbing the steps. Brian and I follow quickly and as we reach the steps, Brian touches the back of my neck. I look at him and he gives bumps his head against mine quickly. Then he swoops Gus up in his arms and we reach the door and ring the bell.


Lindsay opens the door with a big smile, and gives each of us a hug. The house is quiet. No one else is here yet and Lindz is taking Gus' coat off and motioning with her head towards the back yard. Shit! The Easter egg hunt. In all the excitement of taking Gus for his first ride in the new car, we forgot about it. Lindz carries Gus, who is trying to tell her about the car, and the ride, and what he saw from Mt Washington all in one breath, upstairs, and we go out the back. Mel is staggering around trying to hide the eggs. Not really an easy job in her condition cos they all have to be hidden near ground level where Gus can find them. So we help her do that.


Brian wanders off towards the very back of the garden and plays about there with something. Mel is doing an "I said/she said" about the ... discussion ... she and Lindz had about inviting Michael and I can't leave her to go to see what Brian's up to. But he joins us again just as we're about to go into the house.


Gus comes running out and Brian picks him up.


"Down, Dadda!" he demands. "Mommy said the Eater Bunny's been. And he maybe left EGGS! Choc'late ones."


The last is said in almost an awed voice. I remember playing this game ... by myself and then later with Molly.


"I think Mommy's right," Brian says. "I was just gonna come and get you and see what you think of this ..."


As he's been speaking, he's carried Gus down to the back of the garden. Curious, Mel, Lindz and I all follow him.


In the earth of the flower bed that runs along the fence, there's something that looks kind of like a paw print. A big rabbit-shaped paw print. Well, sort of. I could probably have done it better, but it's big, and it makes Gus' eyes go so wide they seem to take up his whole face.


"And look at this," Brian says, and points. On the wood of the fence there's a wisp of something white. Brian reaches over and picks it off the fence and together he and Gus study it. "I think the Easter Bunny might have left some of his tail behind, Gus. What do you think?"


Gus nods frantically and touches it with one finger.


"Mama!" he shrieks. "Mommy! Look!"


Brian hands him the scrap of what looks a lot like absorbent cotton, and puts him down and he runs to his mommies to show them.


I find myself staring at Brian. It was cotton. Must have been. And Brian so does not carry bits of cotton around in his pockets. And he hasn't had time to pick any up from the house. I realise that he must have planned this, must have prepared for it, and I walk over, wrap my arms around him and plant a long wet kiss on his beautiful mouth. Sometimes, little things that he does make me so damned proud of him that I have to express it or burst. And words ... words can't always say what you want them to say. I have to be sure he hears me. People who don't know him, even most who do, would find it hard to believe, but Brian really has trouble accepting any sort of praise, but sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right way to say it.


I kiss him again just to be sure he's got the message, and he gives me a really sweet shy smile so I know he has.


Gus comes running back to hand his treasure back to Brian to look after for him, and Brian says, "I think you should start looking for those eggs, you know, sonny boy. Don't want them to disappear or get stolen."


So we spend a while watching Gus running back and forth, and with a few hints, and a bit of help from Dadda and Jus'n, he finds all the ones we've hidden and we all troop back into the house.


Lindz and Mel have been snapping away with the camera, and Lindz is promising to make sure we get copies when the front door bell rings. Showtime, I guess.



Brian


All through the morning I've been trying not to think about how all this was going to go down. How people would react. By now Deb will have found a way to blame me, I guess. She always does. But then, I've always let her.


I think back to how things have been with Michael and I, and I realise that Deb and I between us probably have been to blame for a lot of how Mikey has turned out. She, because it was easier for her to blame me for everything that ever went wrong in his life than see that her beloved son wasn't perfect and make him take responsibility for himself, for his own actions. And me because it was easier, safer at least, to let her blame me and then forgive me than risk permanently alienating the only mother I've ever really known by refusing to accept the blame and forcing her to realise some unpleasant truths about her son.


Between the two of us he never did have to learn how to take responsibility for himself. She was always pushing that responsibility onto me, and I always let her.


And I guess everyone else took their cues from us. Michael good. Brian bad.


Till Justin.


And even as I think his name, I realise that he's not by my side and then I see why. Of course he's not by my side. He's heading for the door. He's placing himself in front of me, and is determined to take on whoever's on the other side of it, single handed if he has to.


Little fucker! He never ceases to amaze me.


I hope for Michael's sake he has the sense to stay away today. Justin's in no mood to go easy on him. Not any more. He's always backed away from confrontations with Mikey because he didn't want to put me in the middle. But I think he's had enough. And I know he thinks I've had enough. Which is true.


I'm tired. So fucking tired.


But then Lindz appears and opens the door and it's not any of the Novotnys, it's Emmett. And he's all "Oh, Sweetie!" and hugging Justin for way too long, as usual, so I quietly move up beside him to make sure he gets his hands off my lover and then I'm suddenly being smothered in fucking orange feathers because the silly queen is all over me. And damned if I don't find myself hugging him back. Fuck!


I've warned Justin about all this talking shit and how it turns you into a damned lesbian.



Justin


I'm vaguely aware of a flash of light and hope to hell that Mel got a shot of the look on Brian's face when Emmett was hugging him.


And the look on Em's face when Brian hugged him back.


Emmett's talking nineteen to the dozen as usual. About how Vic will be here soon, but he had a small disaster with something for the party they're catering tonight. And how Deb is on her way. But he doesn't mention Michael.


Then Lindz is ushering us all inside and Mel is pouring drinks, and Brian, Brian! goes over to help her and Em pulls me aside and asks if we've heard from Michael. I shake my head and glance over towards Brian.


Em leans in close to whisper, "Well, I heard that ..."


Then Brian is there, like he always is when he thinks Em is too close to me, and, interested though I was in what Emmett had to say, I have to laugh at him. So he grabs me and plants a kiss on me, and Em says, "Oh, my manners!"


He reaches into the huge bag he's got slung over his shoulder and pulls out a present wrapped in turquoise with a deep green ribbon. It's actually almost tasteful. Well, for Em. Brian takes it like he thinks it might explode or something and I nearly laugh again at the look on his face. Then Em is exclaiming over his shirt and Brian shrugs but I can tell he's glad someone noticed it. Lindz joins in and Em demands to know where he got it, and Brian gives a goofy sort of grin and waves towards me.


Mel is sitting down by now, but she chimes in with "Well, Justin always could get your eyes to turn green."


Brian sticks his tongue in his cheek and looks down at her like he's about to come out with one of his usual snarky comments, but then he just laughs and actually nods and I nearly fall over.


The doorbell rings again then, just as Brian, urged on by Gus, is about to open his present. I want to go check who it is, but I don't want to miss the look on Brian's face when he sees whatever it is that Em's bought him, so I stay where I am, just moving closer to Brian. He sits down on the couch, with Gus standing at his knee helping him open the present. As Gus is pulling at the ribbon, Brian's hand snakes out to grab mine and tug me down beside him. I sit close, leaning against him, and he turns his head for a moment to smile at me.


Then Gus gets the paper off the present and his face sort of freezes, prepared for anything, the Kinney mask in place.


That's how he looks when Deb walks in, saying loudly as she does, "Well, I hope you're happy, asshole, because you don't have to worry about Michael turning up. He's gone."



Brian


I hear the tone, more than the words, and know that I was right about how Deb has turned this all into my fault.


I feel Justin tense up next to me, and put my hand over his, trying to keep him silent.


I feel him shaking with the effort not to respond, and see Emmett open his mouth and Lindz looking shocked and Gus' little face crinkle up and that just about does it, but before I can open my mouth, Mel is there, in Deb's face.


"You shut your mouth. My son is here, and I'm not having him put through any more of this fucking nonsense. Do you hear me?"


Deb's eyes narrow and she looks like she's about to take a piece out of Mel when Gus pipes up.


"Who's gone, Dadda? Gone where?"



Justin


That stops Deb and she takes a gulp of air, and I realise, we all realise, that she's been crying. So Lindz gets up and takes her coat while Em gets her a drink and before she can say anything else, the doorbell rings again so I go to open it and it's Vic, with the little hustler in tow.


"Sis here yet?" Vic asks, straight away.


I nod and he sighs, and moves past me into the room where everyone is trying not to stare at Deb as the tears start to slip down her face again. She moves over to Brian and puts her hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, sweetheart," she says. "Just ignore me. It's just all a bit sudden is all."


Then she sinks into a chair and Vic sits on the arm and takes her hand as well all stare at them. Hunter is awfully subdued and just sinks down onto the floor near Deb's feet. Vic takes a deep breath.


"Michael and Ben left for Boston this morning," he says. "They won't be back for a while. Ben is taking the job there, and Michael is going to look around for a good location for a new comic store."


I feel the pain go through Brian. Feel it. Hate it. Can't do anything about it. But I slip my arm around his waist and fumble to take his hand with my free one and his fingers tangle with mine and grip so hard they hurt. He takes a deep breath and nods. Then he says harshly. "Did he fix up about Justin's money before he left?"


"Jesus, Brian!" Deb sputters. "Is that all you can think about? The money?"


He's turned a little away from me to face her and I'm glad that I can't see his face right then. Because I know how it must look, and I hate seeing that wooden look he gets when he's really hurt and too damned proud to let anyone see. I open my mouth to say something, anything, to direct her fire away from him and towards me. I mean, I'm the one that Mikey had a problem with. I'm the one he chose to steal from to punish me. It's not Brian she should be laying into over this. If anyone other than Michael is to blame, it's me.


But before I can make my voice work, Mel says quietly, "Justin, why don't you and Brian take Gus and make sure that you didn't miss any of those eggs?"


I look at her and go to shake my head, but then I see Gus' worried little face, and I smile at him and say, "That sounds like a very good idea, what do you think, Gus?"


"Yea!" he says. Then he looks at Deb and goes on, "The Eater Bunny camed to Gus house."


He holds out his hand to her and when she doesn't immediately answer, he says in an awestruck little voice, "He left his tail! My Dadda fouwnd it."


By now his eyes have gone wide and dark again and she looks into them and then up into that other pair of eyes, so much like Gus'. She takes a deep breath and then gets up.


"That I have to see." she says and walks over to where we sit together on the couch. She holds out her hand, but it's not to Gus. Brian stares blankly at it for a few seconds, and then takes it and clasps it tightly. She pulls him up and into her arms and for a long moment they just hold each other.


"It's the best thing, kiddo," she tells him softly. "It will give him and Ben a chance. It's the best thing."


I see Brian's shoulders shake, and she holds him even more tightly. Then he straightens and looks down at her.


"It was time," he says.


And she nods.


Then, each holding one of Gus' hands, they go outside together.


The rest of us stand looking at each other for a moment, then Mel shoves some more tiny eggs into my hands, and says, "Hide these, quick. While they're looking at that damned pawprint."


So I run outside and manage to scatter the eggs around quickly while the three of them stand at the back of the garden, staring at the "Eater Bunny's" pawprint.


I hear Gus' voice telling Deb excitedly all about how his Dadda had found the pawprint, and demanding that Brian show her the bit of tail. I have to sneak close then to see the look on his face as he fumbles in his pocket for the scrap of cotton . He is so damned embarrassed. I have to stifle the urge to laugh hysterically.



Brian


I can hear the little gasps he gives when he's trying not to laugh at something, so I know he's close. Then I feel his hand on my back as I finally find the fucking bit of "Eater Bunny" tail and hand it over to Sonnyboy to show to Deb. I slide my arm back and round his waist and pull him close and his arms come round me and my son is smiling up at me with his eyes glowing and somehow it's alright.


Mikey's gone, and I feel like I'm never going to see him again. Well, that we're never going to be the same with each other again. And somehow, although that still hurts, it's alright.


I feel ...


Free.


I finally feel free of him. Of his wants and his needs and his fucking jealousy and all that went with it.


Free to be me.


And maybe other people will be free to see me. See me just as Brian, and not as the guy who was always such an asshole to poor little Michael. Because I wasn't that. Not all the time. And yes, I know I can be a selfish shit. Living alone with no one you can count on to really be there for you will do that to you.


Michael would say that he was always there for me. And he was. In a way. But it always came with a price tag. I always had to repay him for even the smallest kindness. Pay him with my love and my loyalty. Most of all I had to pay him by making myself unavailable to everyone else, except for him. By handing over my right to love anyone to him. By never letting anyone else as close to me as he was. By being alone. By staying alone. By always being lonely, only allowed to turn to him. Never to anyone else. On pain of losing the one love that I'd come to believe in.


He held me hostage for so many years.


Then Justin came along. And Gus. On the same night. And things were never really the same between us again.


Because Justin taught me about other kinds of love. He taught me about love that didn't try to hold me back from other people. Taught me about love that rejoiced in me loving Gus, loving Deb, even loving Michael. No matter what his problems were with Mikey, or with me, and my crippled heart, Justin never ever tried to pull me away from Michael. Never tried to make me choose. Would never have wanted to. All he ever asked of me was to love him. He never tried to limit my loving to just him, the way that Michael always has.


I cup my hand around his face and, pulling him even closer, find his lips with mine. His mouth opens and his tongue slides against mine and it's only when Deb grates out, "For fuck's sake, get a room!" that I remember where we are.


I look at her and she's shaking her head, realising what she's said in front of Gus, but neither of us has to worry, because he's caught sight of a glint of gold in the bushes and is off after the eggs that seem to have sprouted from the grass. Justin is grinning at me, and I resign myself to another hands and knees crawl through the garden making sure Gus doesn't miss any.


But this lot seem to have been not so much scattered as dumped, as if the "Eater Bunny" was in a big hurry this time round, so we find them all quickly and can head back inside. Where my son soon reminds me that I haven't opened my present yet. And is beside himself with excitement when he finds more waiting for us on the couch.


"Look, Dadda!" he says. "More!"


And hands Em's to me again, the wrapping starting to fall off as he does.


"Open it!" he demands.


Oh joy!

Chapter 25: New Beginnings by Wren

New Beginnings

 

 

Justin


Brian opens Em's present like it might contain a bomb - or at least a dead rat. Emmett's taste and Brian's don't exactly match. Brian somehow gives the impression he's handling it with fingertips and would like to be using tongs, but Gus is right in there, "helping", and Brian winds up watching Gus more than looking at the present.


Until Gus finally gets the lid off the box and wrinkles his nose up, trying to work out what it is. Well, what they are, since there are six items in the box: two small carved animals and two sets of chopsticks made from some beautiful dark wood. The handles have a delicate inlay of what I think at first is mother-of-pearl. Brian knows better, though. He picks one up and caresses the light, slightly yellowed characters. "These must be old," he says.


That's when I realize that the inlay is ivory. And so are the two small tortoises with slightly flattened backs, intended to be used as rests, which are nestling between the chopsticks.


Brian looks up at Em who is trying to be cool, but is in fact buzzing with excitement. Brian gives him a tongue in cheek smirk, and says, "Doing it with some old Chinese guy, now?"


Em looks shocked and a little hurt. "I got them from a supplier I've been working with for my Asian-themed parties," he says with dignity. "They belonged to his great something or another. The tortoises are supposed to bring long life. Waga-san says they worked for his great-whatever, because he lived to be nearly a hundred. He says they're a very auspicious gift for a birthday."


Brian just sort of smiles and ducks his head.


"Not bad," he mumbles.


Which, as I hope Em knows, is Kinney-speak for "They're beautiful, Emmett, thank you."


Emmett gives a big smile, so it seems he's got the right interpretation. "Oh, good! I hoped you'd like them. When I saw them I thought they'd be just fabulous for dinner in the loft."


He's right. They will be. For once Emmett, the unqualified mistress of outré, has managed to restrain himself and find something that suits Brian's minimalist style.


Gus pounces on the next present then and everyone is distracted, so most of them don't see Brian's hand snake out to pat Em's orange leather-clad thigh. Em feels it, though, and pats Brian's shoulder in return before loudly demanding a drink.


He's saying something about how nerve-wracking it is buying presents for a true diva, and everyone laughs, and drinks circulate as Brian watches Gus tear the wrapping from the next gift.


It's obvious that everyone has put some thought into choosing the gifts, as if they want Brian to know that they do care about him, that he means something to them. Deb gives him a soft black silk scarf, and another smaller gift that I only catch a glimpse of. Later I find out that it's a pewter key ring, made like a Yin/Yang symbol, but the two halves of the symbol slide apart and inside it's a sort of locket with an old photo of Brian and I in there - one from that first art show at the GLC; but for now, Brian looks at it, and smiles, and then it disappears into his pocket). Vic gives him a CD by some Irish jazz and blues singer named Mary Coughlan which is apparently really hard to get and which Brian nods his head over in a way that tells me he really likes it. And Lindz and Mel present him with two gifts.


One is a framed photo of Brian and Gus. I haven't seen it before, but something about it makes Brian's eyes cloud over. Gus looks a little younger than he is now, and he's standing, holding onto his father's hands. Mel watches Brian closely as he looks at the photo, and seems satisfied, but maybe a little surprised, by his reaction.


"It was taken the afternoon Gus took his first steps," Lindz explains. "Brian was here when it happened. Gus tottered a few steps, and then sat down, looking really surprised, and then terribly pleased with himself. We were all so shocked, but Mel ran and got the camera and a few minutes later he took off again and toddled over to Brian. Then he just kept following Brian around."


Brian is nodding slightly and smiling at the photo. Gus taps it. "Gus," he says proudly to me.


"That's right," I answer.


"And Dadda," Gus says happily. "Look, Dadda. Dadda and Gus. Us"


He beams up at his father, and suddenly I can hardly see. Damned allergies! I look at Brian and see that he's not much better off. But he smiles back at Gus and runs his hand over his son's head and gently down his face. "That's right, Gus," he croaks out somehow. "That's us."


Gus gives him another happy smile, and picks up the second half of the present. It's a largish envelope, fairly thickly stuffed. It's too hard for Gus to open so he hands it to Brian, who opens it and pulls out a sheaf of cards - individual pieces, some slightly larger than others. And with them a stiff sheet of what looks like parchment, filled with flowing script.


Brian stares at them in puzzlement, and Gus is clamoring to know what they are, so I take the parchment and start to read it aloud, while Brian studies the pieces of card. The writing on the parchment seems to be in some kind of legalese, so it's my guess that Mel wrote it, and as I start to understand what the words mean, I wonder what Lindz had to do to persuade her. Then I look at Mel and she wrinkles her nose at me and shrugs, but she's kind of smiling too, so maybe Lindz didn't have to twist her arm all that hard.


Basically, the paper is a sort of contract, signed by both Mel and Lindz, saying that in recognition of Brian's role as Gus' father, they are granting him guaranteed access rights, to include, but not limited to, those covered by the accompanying redemption vouchers. Brian is looking at the "vouchers" which each have a small drawing. The ones I can see are of Gus playing at the loft and another of him and Brian in the park. But there are lots. There must be at least fifty.


I'm trying to read it calmly, but I can't get my voice to co-operate. I choke to a halt after the first couple of lines and Brian looks at me strangely for a minute, then twists his head to try to read it. I angle the paper so he can read it more easily and let my head slip onto his shoulder. I don't want to make a big thing of this, not in front of everyone. But I know, I know deep in my bones, how much this will mean to Brian.


I doubt it would stand up in a court of law if it had to; but what it's saying to him is that after all the shit Mel has heaped on him all this time, she is recognizing, not just his right to be in Gus' life, 'cause that would mean fuck all to Mel, but Gus' right to have Brian in his life. And that means that she's recognizing that having Brian in his life is good for Gus.


I can't think of any gift anyone could give him that would mean more to him.


I can only press as close as I can to him as I hear him take in deep shaky breaths, trying to let him know that I understand.



Brian


Fuck!


Fuck!


It's fucking stupid but I can hardly breathe. It's just a piece of fucking paper, for chrissakes. Doesn't mean a damned thing. Not really. But ...


Fuck!


I can feel Justin next to me, and I swear that's the only thing that keeps me flying into a million pieces right there.


I guess they're all waiting for me to say something, but I don't fucking know what to say, even if I could be sure my voice would work.


But I'm not some fucking teary dyke, and I have to do something.


I look up. At Lindz first. That seems safest. She's going to know anyway what this means to me. She smiles at me, and I nod. That's all I have to do. She understands.


Fuck! Now the other one.


I gear myself and look at her. The one who's always hated me, always resented me. What the fuck did she want to do this for? It can't be just Lindz. Lindz has tried to get her ... well, get us, to behave civilly to each other for years, and it's never worked. Why has she suddenly ...?


I meet her eyes and she's almost glaring at me, and for a moment all I see is the bitch who's never had a good word for me in all the time I've known her. Not when I signed over my rights to my son to get her and Lindz back together, not when I saved the day with their fucking dyke wedding, not when I agreed to father a child with her, though God knows the last fucking thing I wanted was to be tied for life to someone who can barely say my name without spitting; and a shitload of thanks I got for that. All she did when I finally caved was to throw it back in my face and choose Mikey. Her mouth is tight now, and she's glaring at me just like usual.


But that's bullshit. Underneath that glare, she looks tired, and scared, and suddenly I don't see the bitch dyke from Hell, I just see a woman who hasn't had it easy, someone who's had to fight tooth and nail for every little crumb of respect, every little scrap of recognition, for everything she's wanted. And I see someone who loves my son, and who wants to do the right thing for him.


So that's when the fucking walls come crashing down and the ceiling caves in on me, because she's fucking telling me that spending time with his father, spending time with me, is the right thing for Gus; and I don't think I can deal with that here in front of the whole fucking family.


I can feel fucking tears swelling in my eyes, and I don't know how to stop them falling, but Justin's pulling me round to face him, and under guise of one of our patented public make-out sessions, he's kissing them away and I fall into his mouth, and, as the world rights itself, I hear Gus saying, "Look, Dadda! Look Jus! Me and Dadda and Jus eating icekweem!"


I look at him, and he's waving one of those damned cards, with a drawing of the three of us slurping at huge icecreams. Of course, that's the one he would pick out. I swear, if he looks like me, he somehow fucking takes after Justin in some things. Food, being one of them. Then, of course, Sonnyboy wants to know if there are icecreams on the horizon. Everyone chirps up that there'll be lunch soon and birthday cake, and then they decide that it really is time to make that happen, so they start fucking about and getting things out of the oven and all that, so that eases Sonnyboy's food anxieties for now and gives me a chance to get up and go over to Mel.


I'm not sure what to say to her, so I poke my tongue into my cheek and wait for inspiration, but then when it comes, what comes out of my mouth isn't what either of us expect.


"You do fucking realize," I hear myself saying, " that you're stuck with me now. I'm not going to let this slide." I wave the cards I'm holding, to make my point, and then find myself saying, "And I'll be claiming a share of the new one, too. Don't kid yourself that just because Mikey's taken off to fucking Boston, you won't have to deal with a father for this one. So be ready to duke it out."


"Bring it on," she says, but her voice chokes off, and she gives a gasp, and then she starts fucking crying and all I can do is to kind of put my arms around her and pat her on the back hard enough to encourage her to stop.


Dykes! It's fucking catching.



Justin


I'm so happy for Brian that I want to dance and shout and throw streamers, but, I also want to play this very cool so that Brian has some protection, some refuge from the exposure of the feelings he's always so fucking determined to keep hidden away from everyone. Something I'd have to say he hasn't been too successful with so far today. Which makes it even more important that I stay calm.


When everyone starts fussing over lunch, he gets up and goes over to Mel. I don't hear what he says to her, but all of a sudden she's crying on his shoulder and he's sort of holding her and patting her on the back. I've never seen him look so awkward. It strikes me as hilarious I have to fight really hard not to laugh.


I glance at Lindz and she gives me this look. I can guess some of what she's thinking. The last thing either one of us would ever expect is for Brian and Mel to suddenly be burying the hatchet, and sniveling in each other's arms like a pair of drunken drag queens, but there it is, right in front of our eyes.


And at the same moment we realize that it's in front of everyone else's eyes as well, and we both swoop in to rescue our partners.


Lindz draws Mel out of Brian's arms, and helps wipe her face and whispers to her. I hear something about "lay down", so maybe she's suggesting that all this is down to tiredness and Mel should rest. At the same time, I snake one arm round Brian's waist and run the other hand down his arm to clasp his hand.


He squeezes my fingers and then turns and pulls me full on into his arms. He rests his face in my hair for a moment and I just hold him.


Then I hear Mel's voice. It's doing a fair impersonation of her usual snarkiness, but you can hear something different there, all the same.


"Come on, Kinney. Are you going to eat this fucking lunch or not?"


We go to sit at the table, everyone being very careful not to refer in any way to what's just been happening in front of them. By the extent of their silence on the matter, you can tell how much they're going to be chattering about it later. But for now, thank God, they leave Brian and Mel to get themselves back together with some semblance of dignity.


We've just got Gus into his highchair, (which he fusses about a little; he thinks he's a big boy now and should be able to sit in an ordinary chair), and Brian is sitting down when I see Deb nudge Hunter. He sighs, but sidles over to Brian with a wrapped gift. He holds it out and then pulls it back when Brian reaches for it. "Do I get a kiss?" the little shit says.


Brian pulls his lips in and looks at him, then stands. Hunter's eyes light up and you can practically see him drooling all over Brian's new shirt. Then Brian cups his hands round the brat's face and the little shit clamps his hands on Brian's hips and tries to pull them towards him. Brian gives him a quick peck on the tip of his nose, and then pushes him back and sits down.


Hunter is not happy; he tries to seat himself next to Brian, in my seat, but Deb smacks him across the head and he sighs and moves to the other side of the table, tossing the present at Brian as he goes.


By the size and shape it's either another CD or a DVD, and I watch without much curiosity as Brian unwraps it. Then, just as Brian goes completely still beside me, Hunter pipes up with, "It's from all of us. Michael picked it. Ben thought it was okay, but I think it's fucking lame. I would have got something much hotter."


He leers at Brian as usual, but I hardly notice. I'm too intent on Brian's reaction.


He lets the DVD drop to the table, and reaches across to put some food onto Gus' plate. On the surface, he seems calm enough, but I can almost feel him vibrating, he's so wound up.


I move the wrapping aside and glance at the DVD. Dirty Dancing. I should have fucking known. Trust dear little Mikey. Even when he's hundreds of miles away, taken off without even a word on his "best friend's" birthday, he somehow finds a way to push all of Brian's buttons, finds a way to remind him of how much he "loves" him, remind him that they've been together forever, make him feel ...


Well, not today. My eyes are stinging and I'm so angry I can hardly contain it. I want to scream and curse Michael. Curse all of them for not protecting Brian from that manipulative little shit.


I pick up the DVD, not sure what I'm going to do with it, but before I can do or say anything, it's snatched out of my hands.



Brian


I don't even have to look at him to know how mad he is. How upset he is.


Well, fuck that!


I grab the DVD and toss it to Lindz.


"Put that in the trash. Hunter's right. It's lame. It's a tired old movie that should have been left on the shelf years ago."


They're all staring at me, aware that they're missing something here, but not sure what. Stuff them. Let them stare. The only ones who fucking matter are sitting either side of me. Gus is saying something about wanting more gravy and Justin is ... Justin is ...


I leave Lindz to deal with Gus, and reach out and wrap my hand around the back of Justin's neck. He turns to me, and I see anger in his eyes, watery anger, but still anger. But it's anger for me, not at me.


I'm angry myself. For him. I swore I wasn't going to let Michael mess things up for him again.


So I let the anger go, and touch my forehead to his. He knows, I realize. He knows the messages Michael was trying to send me with that damned DVD. My mind flashes back to a much younger Justin saying something like "that movie's so old", and suddenly I find myself grinning.


It strikes me that if ever I think about "Dirty Dancing" again, it won't be about jerking off with Mikey, it'll be about a brash seventeen-year-old making me feel like a fucking old man.


And about my partner sitting right at my side, willing to take on the world for my sake.


Maybe I should rescue the movie. We could watch it together. See if Patrick Swayze still seems hot. But that's probably not a good idea. Things are hardly ever the way you remember them. Seems it's finally sank into my skull, at least, although apparently not Mikey's, that you have to grow up sometime. Have to let go of the past. Or at least, let it be the past.


Seems like I'm finally fucking ready to do that. Let it go, and move on with my life.


My son is trying to get my attention and my partner is now smiling at me. My family are sitting round the table sharing my fuck-the-thought birthday lunch; even my son's mother's husband is treating me like a worthwhile human being for once. And if my old best friend isn't around, well, my new one more than makes up for that loss.


"That movie's so old," I murmur to him, under my breath, so no one else will hear.


He looks puzzled for a moment, then he remembers. His eyes light with laughter. "How old *are* you?" he murmurs back provocatively, just like he did that night.


"Old enough to spank your ass," I mouth at him, as Lindz tries to catch his attention so she can pass him a plate of food.


He grins at me, and then the food button triggers and he's reaching for everything in sight, shoveling food onto his plate, and onto mine.


I make a protest, for form's sake at least, and he just pauses long enough to give me a quick kiss and goes back to serving us both, while I turn to answer my son's chatter; and right then I can feel it, I can feel my life shift and move off in a different direction.


What's fucking amazing is that for once I don't fight tooth and nail to keep it the same, I just let it happen, let the new things come. I'm not even scared. Not as long as my partner's there next to me, and my son is smiling at me like I'm someone absolutely fucking wonderful, instead of the piece of shit I thought I'd be as a father.


As long as new beginnings come in forms like these, bring them on.



Justin


I'd been ready to kill Mikey when I saw that damned DVD, but then ... then Brian ... he made it clear that it didn't matter anymore. That somehow Michael didn't matter any more. I felt like I'd been given the birthday present. And the best one I could have asked for. Not because it meant that the thorn in the side, the stone in the shoe, the fucking pain in the ass, and every other likely cliché, that is Mikey was out of my life; but because it meant he was out of Brian's. That Brian was finally free of him. Or, at least, as free as he can be of someone who's been such a big part of his life for so long, someone he's shared so many memories with.


But you can keep the best of those memories and still let go of trying to keep things the same between you. It's not easy. I had to do it with my Dad, so I know. But once you do you can move on. You don't have part of you held in place by their expectations of you; by what they want you to be. The moment when I faced my Dad and told him that it didn't matter what he wanted me to be, that I was proud of who I am, was one of the most liberating of my life. It was like having some huge growth torn out by the roots: it hurt like hell, but it left me feeling so much lighter, and it left me ready to heal. I have scars, but they're clean ones now, not the weeping sores they were before that.


I hope, I believe, that that's how it will be for Brian. I could see the pain in his face when he tossed that thing aside; but I could also see the look of relief. Once it was gone, it was like ... he's been more relaxed, more openly happy than I've ever seen him - at least around other people. And everyone ... it's as if they finally understand some things about Brian, because they seem openly happy to be here sharing his birthday with him too.


There was a moment when Brian first threw the DVD to Lindz that Deb looked like she was going to weigh in on her absent offspring's behalf, but I saw Vic grab her arm and shake his head and miraculously she kept her mouth shut. Now, as she watches Brian with Gus, sees him relaxed and laughing, it seems to dawn on her at last, that if she wants dear Mikey to be free to move on from Brian, she has to be ready for Brian to move on from Mikey too; she can't keep on demanding that he puts Mikey's feelings first. Which means she has to let go of that part of Brian as well. Eventually she starts smiling and giving us both her "proud Mom" look.


No one mentions Michael again, now wanting to upset Deb, or Mel, or Hunter, or Brian. But it's not awkward. His absence doesn't seem to be a big deal. It's as if he moved away months ago. Brian, Mel, Hunter, even Deb, they're all kicking back and having a good time.


So, after all my fears, now I can relax as well and enjoy the day. Enjoy seeing the look on Brian's face when they bring out the cake with the candles; enjoy seeing him have to suck it up because Gus is sitting there all excited and begging to help him blow them out. I'm still not sure that Brian isn't going to say something snarky so I lean in and whisper promises to blow something else entirely and he gives that tongue in cheek grin of his and the danger moment passes.


Most of all I can enjoy watching him with Gus, watching him know that, against all the odds, he's a good father; enjoy watching the knowledge sink in that even Mel thinks so. He looks kinda thunderstruck, but ... happy. Just happy.



Brian


After eating way too much we all sit round in the yard for a while, just yakking. I help Gus onto the swing and then have to stand there pushing him for hours because he won't let anyone else do it, and whenever someone volunteers to take over it's "No! No! I wan' Dadda to puss me!" I notice Em and Justin are having some secret little pow wow and would love to know what that's about, but I'll pry it out of young Sunshine later. Em disappears for a while, but he's back by the time the herd have moved on to grazing on coffee and some fancy assed cake that Vic made which has got more carbs in a slice than I'd eat in a week. By then, I'm fucking bored, and my feet hurt and I'd just walk away but every time I suggest doing something else, my Sonnyboy says "Jus' one more, Dadda. Peese?" So of course I give in like the fucking pussy I've become. But that beats the hell out of being the evil shit that Jack was, so I guess I'm still ahead of the game, at least as far as Gus is concerned.


When Justin finally bribes Sonnyboy away from the swing with some milk and cookies, Lindz tells me that I spoil him, but I just shrug her off and she gets this look like she's going to get all dykey sentimental on me, so I figure it's time to get out of there. Gus fusses a little, but we promise to drop by soon and take him for another ride in the car.


Everyone gets all fucking huggy-huggy, but I guess that's a small price to pay for getting out of there in one piece. I stop long enough with Deb to tell her that if she needs anything she should just call, and Justin, fuck him, tells her we'll be by for dinner one night this week, and he'll call her and work out which night and she damn near smothers both of us, but we finally get out of there still breathing so I guess we did okay.


So we're on our way home, and I'm trying to summon up some enthusiasm for the idea of going out tonight and, if not celebrating, then fucking drowning my sorrows in style, when the little shit pulls over and reaches into the back, into the bag with my presents in and pulls out a fucking chauffeur's cap. He plops it on and grins at me from under the brim.


"Does Sir have any instructions about this afternoon's ride?" he says.


Well, Sir can think of one or two.



Justin


It was totally worth handing over the last of my birthday money for Em to get the cap to see the look on Brian's face when I put it on. I could tell he was about to slip into some idiotic fucking "oh, shit it's my birthday and I'm getting old" bullshit, but that all just goes away as soon as he realizes there's a game on. He's in full predator mode in two seconds flat.


He tells me to drive back to the parking lot where we'd "road-tested" the car. Then he orders me to strip ... well, except for the cap of course. Then he tells me to put the seats right back and straddle him and give him a show.


So I do. I give him a lap dance he'll be a long time forgetting, then, while he watches, I stretch and lube myself, then I ride him till we both come so hard it seems like we forget how to breathe.


We lay there panting for a while, and he's giving me these lazy kisses, that to me have always been almost the best part 'cause I know that he so doesn't do this with anyone else. Finally he says, "You owe me a blow job."


I'm ready to start right then, if he's thinks he's up for it, but he shakes his head and tells me to get dressed. I have to straighten out the cap, 'cause he'd pulled it off while we were snuggling so he could get to my hair, and we'd rolled on it a little. But it's okay.


He has me drive him to our favorite alley, and, although it's broad daylight, we find a place behind a dumpster and I blow him right there. It's hot. He lets me keep my pants on this time, but he takes my sweater and shirt off. He likes me to rub my nipples on his thighs or across his hips when I blow him. For some reason it really gets him going.


After that, we drive to a Starbucks so I can usher him inside, and find a table for him, and take his order to the counter for him. He says he might as well make the most of having his own servant for the day. The cap doesn't really go with the rest of my clothes and people keep giving us these weird looks, so he says next time he'll hire a whole uniform. I tell him it's his turn next but he just laughs at me. Then he kisses me and tells me he plans to let me do some more driving once we get home. That he's looking forward to being taken for a ride.


Bastard! My dick had finally started to go down after the blow job I gave him in the alley when I hadn't got off, and now it's hard as a ... well, it's damned hard!


And we're in the middle of Starbucks. He's so fucking lucky that it's his birthday or he would so not be getting any tonight. Well, not until he'd made this up to me anyway!



Brian


He's sitting there with a big fat woody and I can tell he's royally pissed and I can only laugh at him. I swear it's the damned caffeine, because I'm sitting here giggling like a fucking schoolgirl. Maybe I'm high; maybe I'm having some weird-assed flashback. Whatever it is though, it's all good, because suddenly he's laughing too. He punches me in the arm and mutters "asshole", but his eyes are all shiny bright and his smile is putting all the lighting in here to shame.


Fuck!


It really is catching, all this hetero-lesbo shit. But he's happy, and, I realize, so am I.


So fuck it!


We get home and I know he's going to want to claim on the promise I made in Starbucks. I'm tempted to tease him and make him wait, but I don't get much chance, because as soon as we get in the door he's on me. And if he's a bossy little bottom, he can be a very demanding top when he gets in the mood.


So I let him have his wicked way with me. Partly because it's easier. Partly because it feels so good sometimes to give up control to him, knowing I'm safe, and it's okay to do that. But a lot of it, although I'd never admit this for a minute, is that I know he'll hold me afterwards and nothing, nothing feels better than that. Nowhere is safer than that place. There is no better place to be than lying safe in Justin's arms after he's just shown me once again that I don't have to be super stud Kinney with him; that I don't have to be all powerful, all conquering; that just Brian is fine with him. There is no feeling better than that. Unless it's the feeling after I've fucked him into the mattress and he crawls into the hollow of my shoulder like it's home, and my arm folds round him and he's there and that's my home.


That's pretty fucking good too.



Justin


It's much later and we've gone through a few variants of the chauffeur and the boss scenario. We're laying together, quiet and comfortable. I somehow know that Brian doesn't really want to go out again tonight, but I also know that if I suggest staying in, he's likely to get all antsy and decide that he should be out partying on his birthday just to prove whatever the Hell he thinks it would prove.


I figure I could start small, with maybe a suggestion that we order in for dinner, but as soon as that thought crosses my mind, my stomach starts making the most amazing noises.


It cracks Brian up and, after laughing at me for about five minutes, he gets up and fetches all our menus. "Pick something, for God's sake," he orders.


I'd love pizza, but it's his birthday, so I pick up the Thai menu. He laughs again, and says, "Thai won't quiet that beast. Get some pizza. And garlic bread. And some of that muck you like."


That translates as it's his birthday and he figures he can indulge himself for once, and he wants tiramisu. So I order from our local and they promise delivery in 20-30. That usually means 15-20, 'cause the delivery guys know that they'll get a bigger tip if it gets here fast, and it's just around the corner.


Meanwhile, I go to the bathroom, and when I come out he's in the kitchen getting out a beer. He hands me one and goes to sit on the beat up old sofa Mom gave us. We really have to get around to finding some furniture, aside from the home entertainment system. I move to sit next to him, and he lifts something off the seat to make room for me, and I realize that it's his present box.


I swallow a little nervously and wonder if we should wait until after dinner. Or at least until after he's had a few more beers, but he's taking off the lid, and lifting out the book that's in the bottom of the box.


It's a strange shape for a book, I guess - almost square, about 30 cm high and around 28 wide and it's heavy. He sits looking at the cover for the longest time. It's soft dark green leather with a device embossed into it. Not colored or gilded, just done so that it's raised softly from the surface. He studies it for a long time, and runs his finger over it.


Then he looks at me and gives me a sort of suspicious smile. It's a very Brian expression. I know it means that he likes it, but he can't work out what it means that I'm giving it to him. I just smile. He's going to have to figure that out for himself.


The outside of the design is a large intricately woven circle of celtic knots. In the center is the design which the Irish call the Claddagh: two hands cupping a heart and on top a crown. He knows what the design means. He just can't figure out if he should be freaked by the symbolism of me giving it to him. But fuck it! It's not a ring. It's not even a damned bracelet. Nothing that he has to wear. And when he finally opens the book it will make more sense.


"It looks hand-crafted," he says. "I didn't know you were taking book-binding classes, Sunshine."


I sigh. "I'm not. But I know someone who is. She wanted a painting of her and her baby to give her boyfriend, and so we did a deal."


He nods.


Then, finally, he opens the book.


The pages are parchment-like. Thick and heavy.


The front page just says, "In celebration ..." in elaborate mediaeval style lettering that took me hours to do with my gimp hand. He looks at it and gets a funny look on his face, and I know that he's remembering all the "only celebrate achievements" crap and the series of fiascos that led to, from the birthday hustler to meeting Ethan.


I move a little closer and he moves just enough to brush his nose against my hair, then he turns back to the book and turns the page.


The next page sets the pattern for all those that follow.


Each has a fine border of the celtic knots pattern, with the Claddagh woven into it somewhere, although it's in a different place on each page..


Then, down the left hand side in a strip about 10 cm wide are drawings or water color paintings. Sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three or more small ones. The rest of the page is blank with very faint lines. It's intended to be used as a journal. But he can use it for shopping lists if that's what he wants. Up to him, now.


The first drawing is of him and Gus, done from the photo Mikey took the night Gus was born. It's mainly a charcoal sketch, with just a hint of coloring through Brian's hair and in the red of his lips and Gus'. Although the photo was just of his torso, the drawing continues down the long line of his body. Tucked away in the bottom corner, small, and close to the edge of the border, so you almost have to be looking for it to find it, is a tiny drawing of a street lamp.


He sees it, I know, because I see his lip start to twitch. He gives me a look and then says, "So how come there's no annoying little twink standing under it?"


I grin at him and nudge him to turn the page.


When he does, he sees himself standing under the lamp. I've drawn it from my perspective, looking up into his face as he bends slightly towards me. The light from overhead spills down and makes his face a wonder of light and shadow, and I've tried to capture the moment when his tongue flicked out of his lips in invitation. It's a moment I still dream about sometimes.


He gives a soft huff of laughter and moves his leg so that it's pressing closer to mine.


He keeps turning the pages and there are many, many scenes there - from our life together, but also from other times. One of him and Mikey that I drew from the photo in Mikey's room. I debated about that one, but I didn't want to invalidate Michael's place in his life. I never have. Who knows, if he hadn't had Mikey through the really bad times when he was growing up, I might not have Brian now.


There are others, too. One of him and Vic from a photo taken at Brian's first Pride march when he was around seventeen; one of him and Lindz from a college photo; one of him and Mikey after their high school graduation with Deb; and another of him and Lindz in the caps and gowns from their college grad.


There's a drawing of him signing over his rights to Gus, which has tiny sad pictures of Mel and Lindz separately at the top, and then another of them together and happy at the bottom. There's a montage of their wedding, with Brian dressed as a ringmaster in the middle cracking a whip, and everyone else scurrying to make it happen. There's a page with Ted working at Ryder, and also Ted clutching a "Get Out of Jail Free" card while Brian hides in the background. One of my favorites is of Michael being pushed off a cliff, with the Captain Astro comic in the background; and another is a small painting of Brian and Emmett dancing together at Babylon. I don't know what Brian said to Emmett that night (although it was obviously about Ted), but whatever it was, I know it meant a lot to Emmett. And in a way, to Brian, too. He so rarely feels able to show his friends that he cares about them; show them openly, I mean. So, although he'd never fucking admit it, it's a big deal to him too when he finds a way to do that.


For his work, there's one of him making a client presentation (I made it Eyetronics just to tease him); one of him working at his computer with logos from some of his major clients in the background and one of him with a Clio award. I'd pestered everyone for photos, even Cynthia. I guess they thought I was putting an album together.


Then, of course, there are the drawings of us. Some are of us in the bed under the lights, blue or gold; some are of us with Gus; some are just Brian relaxing around the loft. There's one of him tossing me a ball, and another of him walking me down the street when I was too scared to go out by myself. There's one of Rage and one of him helping me put up the Stockwell posters.


I tried to put into the book as many of the things about Brian that I wanted to celebrate as I could. His successes as a man, as a friend, as a father and as a lover. Now I just have to hope that he doesn't hate having it all on display.


He takes a long long time going through the book, and I'm worried about it.



Brian


For once I'm completely fucking speechless. Not even one smart assed comment to get me past the moment. But he's sitting waiting for me to do something, say something, so I have to make some sort of fucking gesture to let him know ...


I grope for his hand, and finally find it which somehow centers me, makes some sort of response possible. I turn my head so he can see my eyes and then I don't have to say anything because he sees there what I want to tell him; more than I've ever had the balls to come out and say, and he smiles.


He wraps his arm up round my neck and then we're kissing, hard and deep and thank the fucking lord, there's no need for words.


We don't hear the downstairs buzzer, but I guess someone must let the pizza guy into the building because suddenly he's banging on the door. We break apart and Justin goes to the door, while I put the book safely aside. Fucked if there are going to be any nasty fucking accidents with pizza sauce or greasy fingerprints. You treat a work of art with respect, dammit.


When I turn to look at him, he's put the pizza boxes on the floor, and is leaning out the door to pick something up. The thought that we really have to get our fucking act together and do some furniture shopping crosses my mind, but then it's banished by the sight of him carrying in a parcel that looks suspiciously like another damned birthday present, and yet another fucking cake. Where the fuck did this lot come from?



Justin


My mother! I am so going to get killed for this. My goddamned mother! He's coped with the whole birthday thing amazingly well, but I somehow think that a present from my mother might just push him over the edge ... not to mention a fucking cake! I am going to have a sore jaw for weeks making this up to him.


And God alone knows what she's bought him. It could be anything. Oh, God, don't let it be underwear. Or kitchenware. Or ... shit! I can't think of one thing she could buy him that might just be considered an acceptable gift from ... oh, God, his mother in law. Or whatever he calls her. However he thinks of her, I'm willing to bet my ass that it isn't as someone who should be buying him birthday presents.


I am so dead.


I walk over and put the gift and the cake on the counter in the kitchen. I can feel his eyes boring into the back of my neck and I know the longer I put off telling him who it's from, the more time I'm giving him to build up the snarkiness level.


I take a deep breath and carry the present over to him.


It's in a box, so I have no idea what she's bought. I can only hope that it's not something totally lame and embarrassing. I wonder if there are words that I can use to tell him who it's from that will somehow head off the hissy fit I can feel looming, but there aren't any, so I don't say anything, I just hand him the box.


He looks at me for a minute, but I start opening the pizza boxes, and pretend not to see. I keep one eye on what he's doing, though, so I see him reveal the contents of my mother's gift. My heart drops. Socks! She's bought him fucking socks! I've told her how fussy he is about his socks, just so that nothing like this could ever happen.


I hope I get a chance to kill her before Brian finishes me off.



Brian


He knows who it's from, alright, I can tell. He looks as if he's going to have a cow. Or, at least, as if he thinks I'm going to. So my money is on mommy dearest. His. Not mine.


I take the box and give him a look. He pretends he doesn't see it and starts fussing with the pizza.


I open it slowly.


Socks! Fucking socks. No one has ever bought me socks. Not even Ted.


But at least they're not plastic. I cannot, and will not wear anything but pure cotton socks. And they have to be ...


Well, I'll be damned! CK - soft and fine and pure cotton, and black, of course. Always plain black.


I shoot a look at him. He must have told her. There's no way his straight arrow mom would know unless she had a hint or two the size of an elephant.


He's still pretending that all he's interested in is the pizza, but he's only taken one bite and he looks as if that's going to choke him.


There's something else, under the socks, but I leave that for a moment, while I open the card. More to torment him with the delay than anything else. I can feel him squirming, and, perversely, I love it. I am going to get so much mileage out of this. I have to fight really hard to keep the grin off my face.


His mommy has bought me a birthday present. And a cake. I bet she made it. She's the type. So's he. I bet he always had home made cakes for his birthday when he was a kid.


And it's just when I'm thinking that, and my thoughts are straying where I don't, where I never, want them to go, that I pull the card out of the envelope.


I feel myself go hot and then cold and then hot again. I think for a moment I might be sick. I try to take a breath, but it sticks in my throat.


I knew he'd been watching me, and I was fucking right, because all of a sudden he's there. He's got his hands on my arms, my face and he's saying my name, calling me, calling me back to him. I manage to get my lungs to work, then; get my throat to open enough to let the air through. I'm panting and sweating and my hands are trembling. Fuck! Shit! I can't ...


I don't want to think about this. Don't want to explain it. Don't ask me, Justin. Please don't ask me. Please.


I know I haven't said that out loud. I couldn't get the words out. But he touches my face once more and gets up and moves away. He's back in a moment with a glass in his hand and I take it and gulp it down and feel the burn of the liquor flow through me and soothe me and cool me down.


I put the glass down carefully on the floor and pick up the card.


His sister must have made it. Molly. On the front across the top and bottom it says "Happy Birthday". Between the two lots of lettering is the outline of a big red a heart, and inside that a drawing of a woman with yellow hair, who has to be Jenn, and a smaller one, a girl I guess, with sort of orangey yellow hair who must be Molly. When I open it, it says in rainbow colored letters "To Brian, we heart you". And they've both signed it.


I can feel the salt stinging my eyes and I don't want Justin to see. But, at the same time, I do. I want him to see. I want ... I need ... no, not need, don't need, can't afford to need, but I do ... I need him to see. I need him to comfort me. I need from him the comfort that nobody gave me back then.


And with that thought I'm lost and I lose it, fucking lose it completely. I start shaking all over, and I can feel the tears seeping out from between my eyelids, no matter how tightly I squeeze them shut.



Justin


Fuck! Fuck! What is this? I don't know what this is. I don't know what's wrong.


He was fine with the socks. He never said a word, but he had this little sort of grin that he gets when he's secretly pleased but damned if he's going to admit it. And that gleam in his eye that said he was going to get all the mileage out of it that he could. Then he opened the card and started falling apart.


I don't know what to do.


Normally, I'd get him another drink or just let him get himself back together and pretend I hadn't noticed anything. But ...


Shit!


I sit next to him and start rubbing his back. He turns to me a little, and I know what to do then. Somehow I know.


I pull him into my arms and hold him and kiss his hair and tell him it's okay, and I love him, and I'm here and I think at one point I even say something like "there, there" and he doesn't fucking kill me he just presses closer, so I know this is something really bad.


This has to be about them. The ones we don't ever mention. The Kinneys.


This is about something they did to him.


He only ever really loses it like this when it's about them.


I hold him, and hold him and in the end I just find myself saying over and over again, "I love you, Brian. I love you."


That's when he finally stops shaking.


And then we just sit there for a while, holding onto each other, with me still telling him, still saying the words to him, for him, "I love you. I love you, Brian. I love you."



Brian


I don't know what to do now.


I don't know who I am. Who I will be after this minute. Who I will be to him.


I'm afraid to move, afraid to look at him, afraid I'll see something different in his eyes.


But at the same time ...


I feel ... free, in some way. Freed.


Freed from having to pretend.


This is who I am, Sonnyboy. This sorry assed faggot who is so fucking pathetic that he can't let go of how daddy hurt him so many fucking years ago that it shouldn't mean jack shit any more. But somehow it does. Somehow I'm still waiting to be hurt some more. Still trying to fend it off. Still trying to hide it from the world. Still afraid. Still ashamed.


Still such a fucking baby-assed pansy boy that I'm crying my eyes out, crying my heart out, over something that happened before you were born.


This is who I am. And now at least you know it. I don't have to be afraid any more of you finding out. I just have to deal with what happens now that you have. And although I've fought to prevent this ever happening, now that it's come, I know somehow that I can face it.


So I sit up and rub my hands over my eyes.


Then I look at him. Look straight into his eyes and let him see me. And watch him react.



Justin


When he pulls away and sits up, I expect him to pull all the walls into place around him again, and I'm sort of working out how to help him do that; how to help him protect himself, even from me, when he turns to face me.


His eyes are red and the lids are swollen. He has tear tracks down his face, and he really needs a tissue. Or maybe a whole damned box.


But he's looking straight into my eyes, into my heart.


More, he's letting me look straight into his. And, as I've always known, even with all the scars and the damaged places, he's even more beautiful inside than he is on the outside.


I feel my heart swell, and I want to reach for him, to kiss him, to smother him with kisses. But I don't want to break this spell; so I resist. I just sit there and try to let him see how I feel about him, about this moment that he's given me; to see all the love I have for him in my face, in my eyes.


He must see it, because his face loses that tense, waiting-to-be-hurt look that it gets whenever he's trying to let me in, but feeling totally vulnerable because of it. He relaxes a little, and gives me a small grin. Then he takes a deep breath, and after he's let it out in a whoosh, he gets up and goes into the bathroom.


When he comes back, he's mopped up and bullied his hair into the just-fucked look that makes me hard just looking at him, so I wonder if he's thinking about going out now after all. But he sits down next to me, real close, and reaches for Mom's gift again.


"You told your mother what fucking socks I like to wear?" he asks, as if it's the weirdest thing anybody ever did.


Maybe it is a little weird.


But at least it meant that if (when, with my Mom), she bought him socks, she got the right ones. So I just shrug.


He gives me one of those looks then. One of those lips sucked in tight, holding his mouth closed till he's worked out exactly what he wants to say looks. Then he huffs a laugh.


"Damned pizza'll be cold and greasy as shit," he says, but his knee is pressed against mine and he's wiggling his bares toes over my foot.


I grin at him and pick up a piece and take a big bite.


"Tastes okay to me," I say.


He snorts, as if to say that means absolutely nada because I have zero discrimination when it comes to food (that's only sometimes true), but he picks up a piece, and starts eating, holding it with one hand while with the other he carefully moves aside the socks.


That's the first time I realize there's something else in the box.



Brian


Melt down over. And, amazingly, I can still look him in the eye. More amazingly still, I can even let him look into mine.


I'm so grateful to him that I have no way to express it except by not behaving like a total asshole, and/or heading off into the night, the way the shit-headed idiot that I was not all that long ago would have done.


So I sit down next to him on that ratty couch and pretend that nothing has happened, and I didn't just make a complete idiot of myself. All the while trying to let him know how overwhelmingly grateful I am that he's here, and that he ... that he's mine, by making sure that at least some part of us is touching at all times. Because I don't have the words, and I don't want to just fuck him right now. He deserves more than a fuck, more than what I'd usually do, even at my best, so I have to try something else. To be honest, I don't know if I'd even have the strength to fuck. I feel totally wiped out.


I can't fuck him; and I sure as hell can't talk about it. Not yet. Maybe later, but not right now. So the best thing I can do is just be there with him. Not pull away, not run away, not hide. And keep close, close beside him, so he knows ... he knows that I'm not running, not hiding. That I'm trying my best to share. Even if my best is a totally pathetic effort.


Besides, I'm curious to know what else Jenn has put into the box. Part of me is afraid it might be another bomb that will explode in my face the way the card did, but I can't resist knowing what the very proper (but not quite as proper as I once thought she was) mother of my ... partner ...


Hell! she's near as fuck to being my mother in law. And what does a mother in law buy for the fabulous much-older-than-her-baby-son fag-who-has-everything?


A framed photo of him and her baby. That's what.


I pick it up and study it.


It was taken a few weeks back, at the restaurant we went to for Justin's birthday. I hadn't wanted to go, but it was in the post losing my job, pre Stockwell defeat era and we were going through a ... thing. I was frustrated over what had happened with my job, and he felt guilty because he felt it was his fault I'd got fired. He was frustrated over how well Stockwell was doing in the polls and I felt guilty because there was no fucking way Jimbo would have been doing that well if I hadn't had to fucking prove what a genius I am by selling the world a piece of total shit and convincing them it was caviar.


So we were both a little antsy anyway; and then, of course, his birthday brought back all the memories of what a total fuckup his birthday last year had been, so when Jenn rang and asked me ...


See, he'd been oh so fucking careful not to make any big deal of it, went out of his way to make it clear that this year he truly did not expect anything, that he'd learned that I really suck at all that shit, so it's better left alone. Which, of course, made me determined to show him that I'd learned something as well. And what better way to do that than to give him the one thing that he would least expect, never ask for, but really wanted, maybe even needed? So when Jenn invited me to dinner with them, I agreed to go.


It was just the four of us; and, to be honest, it was an okay evening, even if the serves were so skimpy that we all wound up at McDonald's later. Jenn is smart, and can cut through the bullshit with the best of them, so sometimes she says things that you'd never guess would come out of that proper Mom mouth. I like that. I like people who can be unpredictable in a good way. Make you look at them differently. Challenge your assumptions.


I guess that's one of the things that I've always seen in Justin.


Molly was bearable. She flirted with me a little, and when that didn't work, she flirted with the waiter. Could have told her she needed to develop both her taste buds, and her gaydar, but it kept her happy, and he scented a big tip, so he flirted back just enough to be acceptable with a young girl who had her mother sitting right there. And I only had to give him one death glare for him to get the message that if he wanted to keep his balls, let alone get a fucking tip, he'd better keep his eyes off my partner.


Justin, of course, apart from mourning the lack of food, was as happy as a clam in chowder, the little shit.


We all (well, except for the little menace) had quite a few glasses of wine; which is probably why I'd forgotten about the photo. Now that I'm seeing it, I remember the greasy photographer coming around. I would have sent him packing, but Jenn wanted some photos taken. One of all of us, one of the three of them, and this one, of Justin and I.


We look relaxed together. My arm is draped across his shoulders, my fingers curled around his arm a little, just enough to show that the embrace isn't just a buddies thing, enough to say 'he's mine, so go fuck yourselves if you don't like it'. He's beaming into the camera - that pure Sunshine smile that once I thought I'd never see again. But I'm not looking at the camera; I'm looking at him.


I swallow hard when I see the look on my face. Jenn has given me this as a gift. And I understand what the gift is.


It's not the photo. It's the look.


She's showing me, letting me see, how I feel about this man by my side. Because it's all there in my face. The love, the pride, the joy. The fear is there; and right along with the fear, the trust. Fear because I know what hell losing him would plunge me into; trust in him to somehow save me not only from that, but from my past, the small personal hell of my childhood. But what I mainly see there is belief: belief in Justin, belief, at last, in us. In the possibility of us lasting. In the possibility of happiness. That's what's in my face.


That's what Jenn has given me for my birthday.



Justin


He's silent for so long after he uncovers the photo that I wonder if he's been turned to stone. I mean, aside from whatever it was about the card that set him off (and he'll tell me about that sometime if he wants to, or not; but I won't ever ask), this whole 'present from the mother in law' thing must be traumatic for Mr. 'I-don't-do-relationships'. Let alone that she's seen fit to not only give him socks (I mean, it's such a Mom thing to do), but to give him a photo of us, and one taken on a night that he'd probably prefer not to remember he ever got cornered into. I mean, dinner with the in-laws on my birthday! It hardly fits the super stud loner image that he still likes to cling to.


I don't know whether to laugh hysterically, or just keep absolutely quiet and hope that he's not going to take this out of my hide.


I guess after his freak out earlier I should be worried, but he's got this look on his face that says that he's thinking about what he's holding in his hand, and that he's not hating it.


When he looks up at me at last, I can see him fighting a smile again. He's not going to let me off the hook, of course, his eyes have that gleam - the 'I am so going to give you hell over this' one. But that's okay. As long as he's not having hissy fits over the whole Mom thing, as long as he's okay.


He gives a little nod, finally, and seems to remember that he has a slice of pizza drooping dangerously from his fingers. He snags half of it in one bite, and then finishes off the rest. His eyebrows rise, as if he's surprised that it's all gone. He licks his fingers and I feel the phantom touch of his tongue on my own skin. I shift a little in my seat and immediately I get that grin, the one that lets me know he knows the effect he's having on me.


He says nothing, though, just reaches for another slice of pizza. This time he makes a big play of biting it, letting the cheese stretch from his teeth to the remaining crust, using his tongue to pull it all into his mouth.


Asshole!


To give myself a break, I get up and fetch us more beer. And, to punish him, I put the cake on a plate and bring that and a knife as well.



Brian


Little fucker. Like I'm going to eat some of Mommy's cake after all the damned pizza. Dream on, Sunshine. He doesn't say anything, just hands me the beer, and picks up another piece of the disgustingly cold pizza.


I'm not quite sure what to do next. There's still some of that muck that he likes so much. Or I could nuke some of the pizza. I put the photo down on the floor, then think better of it. There's nowhere out here to put it, except on the kitchen counter, and it will only get something spilled on it there, so I take it up into the bedroom and put it next to the bed. It's too private, anyway. I don't mind having some photos of us around the place later, when we get some furniture. But not this photo. This photo is too revealing.


I wonder if he sees in it what I see. I wonder if he knew that Mommy Taylor had this little surprise in store. But then I think back to the look on his face earlier, and know that he didn't. He was shitting himself. I grin, I can't help it. The thought of making him pay for this is irresistible.


I go back down the steps and he's clearing up the pizza and stuff. The cake he's put back on the counter. I finish my beer and go over to put the bottle in the waste bin. We brush past each other once, and then again as he opens the fridge. I wait till he's put the left over pizza and the other stuff away, then I snag fingers into the waistband of the sweats he pulled on when we had to break off other activities to quiet the ravening beast that lives in his stomach. Other people might think he has worms the way he eats and eats and never puts on any weight - little bastard. But I know that it's no worm, it's a full grown dragon; I've heard it growling often enough.


I tug, pulling him towards me. He resists for a second then comes into my arms with a rush, his hands going up to tangle in my hair and drag my head down so he can reach my mouth.


When the kiss finally ends, we rest for a while, leaning against each other, foreheads pressed together. It's quiet and peaceful, and I feel all the tensions leaving my body as I run my hands gratefully up and down his back, relishing the feel of him in my arms.


I kiss him again, and stroke my hands through his hair.


He pulls back a little and smiles at me.


"You want some of your birthday cake, now?" he asks sweetly.


Before I can even swat him on the ass, he's off, out of the kitchen area, over to the TV.


"It's your birthday," he says, "You get to choose the movie. But please, can we have something from this century at least?"


He stands there laughing at me, the little fucker. He is so going to pay for all this. And I know just how to make him. I turn to the kitchen drawers, to find what I need, but I've hardly got the first one open, when he's there again. He doesn't look so fucking cocky now. He looks downright nervous, as well he should.


"No, please, Brian. I'll be good," he promises in that soft husky voice that goes with this role - and goes straight to my dick. "See," he purrs, sliding to his knees in front of me, in front of my rapidly hardening cock, "I'm a good boy."


He pops open the single button that's holding my jeans together, and gently draws out my cock. Tongue lolling hungrily from his mouth, he looks up at me for a moment from eyes gone hazy with lust. I've no doubt mine are the same. As his talented mouth begins its work, I clasp my hands in his hair and lean back against the counter, pushing the drawer closed, the spatula I wanted to threaten him with entirely forgotten.


Given our earlier activities, it takes a while for me to come; but he doesn't seem to mind, even though he's kneeling on the hard floor. In fact, when one particularly delicious swipe of his tongue into my piss slit nearly makes me, he mumbles, "Not yet, not yet," and deep throats me, so that when I do, I must nearly choke him. But he doesn't seem to mind that either, because afterwards he goes on kneeling there while he licks up every drop that escaped onto his fingers and down his chin.


Then he tucks me away tenderly and tries to get up. That's when he finds out how long he's been down there, because his knees nearly give way on him. I haul him up, and hold him till he's steady. Then I kiss him, so I can maybe taste a little of me on his tongue.


"Thanks," I say, lamely, not knowing how else to even start to say what I'm feeling. But his eyes get that look they do when I make him really happy, so I guess that was enough. For now, at least.


So I go in to pick out a movie. We've been trying to find time to watch Latter Days for weeks, and I figure now is as good a time as any.


He insists on cutting some of the damned cake, and takes that in to sit next to the couch. I pour myself a glass of Beam and hold up the bottle towards him. He smiles at me, and nods, so I pour him one as well. It's not often that we drink Beam together in the loft. Normally when I reach for it here, it's because I'm in pain management mode, and not looking for company. But lately we've occasionally share a glass or two when we're feeling really good, really comfortable together, and that's been a whole new experience for me.


I thought I knew all there was to know about drinking. Angry, violent drinkers, like my old man, guzzling down as much as he could afford, and more, to try to get over the rough deal he'd got from life when he knocked my mother up and had to marry her. Bitter, secret drinkers like my sainted mother, sloshing the stuff down to anaesthetize herself from the pain and shame of being married to Jack Kinney. Party boys at college and later at clubs like Babylon, drinking and drugging their way to the ultimate orgasm ... or something they could pretend fit the bill, anyway. And those like me, of course, pathetic little losers trying to stop themselves from feeling anything. Does it hurt? Drown it in a little Beam, and if that doesn't work, snort or swallow something to soak it up and try again.


But I'd never known the simple pleasure of kicking back in my own home, feeling good, and having a quiet drink or two to just add a tiny buzz. Of course, the secret ingredient to that recipe, doesn't come in the bottle. Instead, he's wriggling himself between my legs, as I lay stretched out along the couch, propped up against one end, with one leg pressed against the back of the couch, and the other draped now around his hips, with my foot hooked up onto his thigh.


He leans back against me and asks, as he always does, "Are you comfortable? Am I too heavy?"


I laugh and twine my arm around his neck, pulling him back so I can kiss him. He smiles and gives me another little peck, then turns to the telly and switches on the movie.



Justin


He laughs at me, of course, when I get all misty-eyed at the bit where Christian drove to Aaron's house and has that confrontation with Aaron's mom. It makes us both laugh, though, when Brian asks all of a sudden what it is about straight women and feeding queers, 'cause it makes some sort of weird-assed comparison between Jacqueline Whatsit, who might not be any sweet young thing, but still looks so cool and elegant, and our Deb. That's enough to make me giggle through about ten minutes of the movie, 'cause I keep imagining Deb in her role. And at the end, we just look at each other and crack up all over again. Not only does the whole Thanksgiving thing makes the Deb comparison even stronger, but we'd just finished our third shared slice of the cake my mother made.


I know he likes the end, though, because his arms come round me tighter, and he nuzzles into my hair and rocks me a little in his arms, the way he does when he's really happy.


I don't expect him to mention the whole freak out thing, but when we're going to bed, he picks up Molly's card, and takes it up with us and puts it in his drawer. Then he sits on the edge of the bed for a minute or two without saying anything.


I move around the loft, turning out the lights and stuff, then go into the bathroom, and when I come out, he says quietly, "Claire made me a card, once."


By the deadness of his voice, I know he doesn't really want to talk about it, but maybe he has to, maybe it's something that he needs to get out and face.


I crawl up on the bed behind him and start rubbing his shoulders, so if he needs me to hold him, all he has to do is lean back a little.


He lets his head fall back and rolls his neck around as I rub; then he sighs, and says, "It was my fifth birthday, sixth maybe. So she would have been around six or seven. She ... she didn't mean ..."


He breaks off, and I rub my face against his hair.


"She just drew me what she thought was something nice, that's all. But it was flowers. The front had a heart and a big bunch of flowers. Jack saw it and said it was a card for girls and was I a little girly?"


He breathes a deep sigh, and is silent for a moment, then he goes on. "Jack said that only little girly boys would ever want flowers. He snatched it out of my hands and tore it up, and Claire started to cry, so I did too, and Jack ..." he gives a strangled sound, sort of like a horrible laugh, then, "Jack told me that I was a little cry baby, and I needed to toughen up, and it was time I started to learn to be a man."


His voice has absolutely no life, no emotion, as he says, "Then he took off his belt and taught me."


I let my arms slide round him then. I picture someone doing that to a little boy not much older than Gus, a little boy who probably looked just like Gus, and I don't understand it. I simply don't know how someone could do that. But I know that it happened. I've seen the scars - not on the outside, but the ones deep inside.


I tighten my arms around him and breathe into his ear again the mantra that seemed to help earlier. "I love you, Brian. I love you."


He says nothing at first, just puts his hands up over my arms. Then he says, so quietly I hardly hear him, "I know."


It should be funny, I guess. Like in Star Wars, when it happens between Han and Leia. But it's not funny, it's ... it's amazing. It might be the most amazing thing he'll ever say to me. It's so brave, so courageous, that it takes my breath away.


All I can do is hold him in my arms and kiss his hair and his neck and finally, when he turns his face towards me, his cheek.


He pulls away then and goes into the bathroom, so I get into bed.


When he comes back, he climbs into bed beside me, and, for once, we're not all over each other. We just move together into the middle of the bed, and curl around each other, and kiss a little. Finally, while I lay with my head on his shoulder, and his arm heavy across me, I feel his face rub my hair, and he says softly, "It was almost okay, today. Having a birthday."


Which, of course, is Brian-speak for "I had a fabulous day" and "Aren't our friends great?" and "Thank you" and a whole lot of "I love you"s. So I turn into his arms to kiss him one more time, and that ends up with us making love slowly, strongly, and then, all wet and sticky, we curl around each other again and drift into sleep.


EPILOGUE


Brian


Journal, April 21st 2003


He's still asleep. But I woke up early, and for a while all I wanted to do was lay there and look at him. Treasure him.


Then I needed to take a piss, and getting up, I saw that photo from Jenn, and it got me thinking. So I thought I'd start putting down some things about this new life I have now that the Experiment is over.


Yesterday was ...


It sounds so corny that I could only write it in here, but it was the best day of my life.


I spent the day with my family. My friends. And for the first time, I feel like they are my friends, not just Mikey's friends who put up with me for his sake.


I spent time with my son. That's a kicker still, to me. That I have a son. Not something I ever thought I'd have. Or want. But now ...


Now my life is so much richer, because he's in it. And because, through Gus, I'm learning at last that I don't have to be Jack. I can make other choices, be another kind of man. Jack chose to hate me because he blamed me for his miserable life. But I love Gus, and I know that my life is so much happier because of him.


There was sadness, yesterday. Some pain. The thing with Mikey ... well, that's come to an end. It was time. More than time, probably. I can let go now, and I hope he can too. For his sake, and for Ben's. I hope they make it.


But there was so much joy. I never knew what it was to have joy in my life. I'd lived nearly thirty years without even catching a glimpse of it.


And now ...


Now it lives with me, shares my life, shares my bed, drives me crazy and keeps me sane.


Justin.


Justin.


There aren't words, even here, where it's safe; here between the pages of this beautiful thing that he made for me, this amazing "day in the love" that he's created for me, even here, I can't find words for Justin.


But I know that all the other things that have come about are somehow linked to what he's brought me, the gifts he's given me.


And speaking of gifts ...


I woke up and saw that fucking photo on the stand next to the bed, and I had an epiphany of sorts.


It was about the gifts, my birthday gifts.


And what they said, about me, and how people see me, but even more about the people who gave them.


Emmett first.


He ... see Emmett has always given me jokey gifts. He's never felt close enough to me, never been confident enough of our friendship to try to find something serious (mainly because I would probably have crucified him with my rapier wit, asshole that I am). But this year, he did. He put himself on the line and gave me something that he really thought I'd like. He was right, I did, and do. But what he really gave me is his friendship. And a future with that friendship in it.


Deb gave me something beautiful and practical, and something sentimental. But she was telling me something too. She whispered in my ear later that I should put my door key on the chain, and look at it every time I took to wondering whether or not there was any thing worth staying at home for. Guess I took it to heart, because I had no interest in going out to party last night. None. She'll love that, when she hears, because that's what she was trying to get me to see, what she was trying to do for me. She was doing what she could to give me a future with Justin.


Vic - he gave me something that ... it was a tape that I'd had years ago. My father was always going on about his Irish heritage, and decent Irish music; he'd dragged me off to some bar to drink with him on St. Pat's Day, and they were playing this tape. I would have been twenty, maybe. By some kind of miracle we both fucking liked it. Well, he hated some of the songs, and I hated others, but there were some that we honestly both liked. We sat in the bar and got roaring drunk together and sang along with our songs, and kept asking them to play the tape again till we got thrown out.


It was one of the few good times I had with my father.


I tried to buy the tape after that, but it was an import and hard to get and Jack said we couldn't listen to it in our house, because The Warden would have a fucking fit. He was right too. There's a song on there about prostitutes, and one that mentioned gays. We would never have heard the end of it.


I sort of forgot about it for a while, but when Vic got back from New York, he had it and I was always after him to play it. We kept saying we should make a copy, but never got around to it. Vic used to joke that I wasn't old enough to truly appreciate it anyway, and when I was grown up and ready to really understand what some of the songs were about, he'd get me my own copy.


And now he has.


He was trying to show me, that he sees me as a grown up now, as a man. More, he was trying to help me see that a future which features me being grown up, being a man, is okay. Once, I wouldn't have believed him, once I would have hated what he said to me with that gift. But I have grown up, at least a little. And I'm ready to be a man, now. To leave my fucking Peter Pan years behind.


Lindz and Mel ... I still can hardly believe what they have given me ... it's so ... generous that I can only hope I find the way to pay them back one day. I'll be there for them, at least, for both of them. I guess Mel and I are both finally growing up, and we might even stop snarling at each other long enough to learn to like each other. She's a strong woman, and she loves Lindsay, and my son. That means a lot to me now, and their gift means so much more.


What they gave me was to share their son with me; and to make sure that I know that they see me as his father. And an okay father, at that, or all Mel would be giving me is my balls on a platter. Instead, she and Lindz have given me ... respect. Respect for my role in Gus' life. Respect for me as the father of their son, and a sign that they see that role continuing and growing. They've given me a future with Gus in it.


Jenn ... ah, Jenn ... Jenn has given me a sign that she sees me as the future in Justin's life. That she accepts that her baby boy and I are going to be together, and that, now, she maybe doesn't hate that. Now, maybe she sees me as part of their family.


She's trusting me with Justin, and Justin's future, and that's a gift I didn't expect, and once would have run a mile from. But I'm ready now.


See the theme here?


Everyone (and no, I haven't forgotten Justin, I'll get to him) everyone this year did their best to give me things that show that they think of me ... differently, somehow. That they don't just see me as Asshole Kinney, the way they used to, but as Brian; as a lover, as a man, as a father, as a friend, even, God help us, as a son in law. Their gifts were all about how much I've grown up, about how I've changed, about the future.


The one glaring exception was the person who for so long has called himself my best friend. He gave me something that was intended to bind me to my past, to the persona I've carried like a fucking weight on my heart for all these years. His gift was all about trying to drag me back to my past, back to him, at whatever cost for my future.


Or his.


I think now that maybe that's why it was so easy to throw his gift aside.


I'm not going back.


Oh, I'll find new mistakes to make. New ways to be a complete and utter asshole. New ways to totally fuck up sometimes.


But that isn't going to fucking stop me from trying, from growing, from taking risks, and allowing myself to change.


And the freedom to do that, is what Justin gave me. Gives me. Every day.


I was ready to freak out when I saw the design on the front of that book and realized what it was. But when I looked at the images inside, it made sense to me. The circle, which is about present and future, as well as the past, on the front; and on each page, all the key people in my life held inside the circle. (Well, yeah, he put that damned love symbol in there as well, but ... that's okay. I can live with that.)


See, he put all these images from my past, our past, into a book that's intended to record my future, our future. Justin isn't asking me to renounce my past, he's giving me the room to value it, and to take the best bits into the future with me.


That's how much faith he has in me.


In us.


And thanks to him, I'm starting to have a little myself.


He'll be waking up soon, and I'm going to make him the breakfast in bed I tried to make yesterday, before he woke up and seduced me.


Because today is the day to take the past and turn it on its head. Everyone else might have forgotten that it's the anniversary of the Prom, but I haven't, and neither has he.


So today, I'm going to give him a gift. I'm going to give him a glimpse of the future, not let either of us dwell on the fucking past.


I'm going to give him breakfast in bed, and the best blow job he's ever had, then I'm going to walk with him down to his new car, and let him drive me to work, and meet him after work at the hotel. My damned car's still there, so we might as well go back there tonight.


We are going to get that suite again (and this time I'm paying) and we are going to fuck each other's brains out. Then we're going to dine, and dance if we feel like it (Vic's CD will be good for that) in the privacy of our room, and then we're going to fuck some more.


And we're going to plan to do something like that every year. So that from now on, this anniversary won't be about pain and blood and loss of innocence, it will be about us; about being together, being happy, loving each other, and knowing, every year when this anniversary rolls around, that it's bringing us another year of all those things.


That's the gift I'm going to give him today - the gift of my belief in our future. He's fought for that all this time. Fought all the things that stood in the way. Me. Our ages. Me. His Dad, even his Mom. Me. Mikey. Me. Hobbs, Stockwell and all their fucking kind. Me. His own romantic fantasies. Me.


Did I mention how hard he's had to fight me? Dragging me kicking and screaming every step of the fucking way to this point?


But he said it himself the other night. This is where he, that other, more innocent, Justin, the one that fear and ignorance put paid to with a baseball bat, this is where he wanted to be, what he wanted us to have.


So today, we're going to enjoy each other, and tonight, we're going to drink a toast to him, to his courage and his perseverance, and we're going to fucking celebrate the fact that we're here, that we made it this far; and then we're going to plan on a future together. We're going to go further than anyone, even that annoying little twink ever dreamed we could.


Today's a new beginning, boys and girls, so I'd better start on his fucking breakfast, before the little shit wakes up.


Fuck! Too late. He's awake.


Oh, well, fuck it! There's always tomorrow.


The End

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