Chapter 3: A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
Brian laughed as he followed his friends out of Woody’s and paused to light up a cigarette. The air was crisp and clean as summer finally gave way to fall. The late September sky was lit by a harvest moon that made Brian smile for no real reason. He found his mind going to Justin, as it tended to do at the least provocation, even after more than seven years. The last night they were together, the moon had been full and hung low in the sky, much like it was tonight. Brian fingered the cowry shell bracelet that Justin had given him for his college graduation.
“For prosperity, and fertility,” Justin had snickered a little with that one but then sobered, “and love.”
Love. There had only ever been one person who could make Brian Kinney believe in love, and it had been Justin. Brian often regretted not telling the twink before he left.
“Brian?” Mikey had come back to see what keeping his friend. “You okay?”
Brian smiled sadly but nodded. “Yeah. I am. I just remembered something.”
“Well, we’re heading to the diner, are you coming,” Mikey asked, oblivious to Brian’s mood.
“Yeah,” Brian agreed. “I’m coming.”
Brian followed his friends, allowing their high spirits to wash over him. His mind was still lost in those final days with Justin. They had been the best days of Brian’s life. It was the only time in his life when he had been monogamous. It hadn’t been a conscious choice. He’d just wanted to spend every minute with Justin that he could and there hadn’t been time for anyone else. Even Mikey had complained for weeks after Justin had gone about the months that Brian had ignored him.
Justin had been his world from the moment that he’d first spied him peeking around the greenhouse. After they had made love for the first time—and Brian could admit that was what it was because he had never experienced anything before or since that compared—Justin had no longer been just his world, but his whole universe. Everything had revolved around the kid. It hadn’t mattered that it was only for a few months. It hadn’t mattered that he knew that he was going to hurt more than he could imagine when it ended. The only thing that had mattered was seeing Justin smile and holding him in his arms. He had enjoyed every second of their time together.
And then it had ended and reality had slammed into him. It had hurt. It had hurt more than the physical blows his father had given him as a kid. It had hurt more than his mother’s scorn. It had hurt more than anything he had ever felt.
Debbie, the woman who should have been his mother, knew her boy and she knew when he was hurting. She gave him time to lick his wounds and then she had come over and let him talk things out. She was the only person he had ever told about Justin. She was the only person who knew that Brian Kinney, Stud of Liberty Avenue, had once loved and been loved deeper than most people have dreamed. And that he had felt the heartbreak that went along with love that deep.
“If you had known how much it would hurt in the end, would you have turned away from that love?” Debbie had asked him after a long night of talking and pain and booze and tears. “Would you have turned him away?”
“I can’t imagine giving up a single second of the time we had,” Brian whispered. “No matter how much it hurts now.”
And that was the crux of the matter. He loved Justin more than he hated the pain of losing him. Even now, his feelings for the fucking twink hadn’t diminished at all.
“Brian!” Mikey yelled, calling him out of his thoughts.
Brian smiled and kept moving. “I’m coming.”
They hadn’t kept in touch, but Brian was grateful that Justin was somewhat famous, at least for being rich. He’d been able to catch snippets online about how he was doing. He knew when he had his first show at Columbia’s gallery. He knew when he had his first show in a SoHo gallery. He knew when he had graduated. He read about the estrangement with his father in the gossip columns. He knew when Craig’s wife left because she refused to stay with a man dying of cancer and Justin had moved home to care for the dying man who had never cared for him. And he knew when Craig Taylor died.
They had very little contact since saying goodbye seven years ago. Justin had sent Brian an invitation to his graduation. Brian had been in the midst of a huge project that was supposed to guarantee him a partnership in the agency and hadn’t been able to get away. Instead, he sent his regrets and a cowry shell bracelet just like the one Justin had given him for his graduation. There was a small note that said For prosperity, for fertility, and for love. Brian. And the last time they had corresponded had been after Craig’s death last spring. Brian had sent flowers and his condolences. He hadn’t been sure if Justin would ever even see them, considering half of Manhattan had attended the man’s funeral. But a couple weeks later, Brian had received a personal thank you note from Justin.
As he had read the words from his former lover, Brian felt like no time had passed at all. He could picture Justin’s face as he had admitted to his father’s callous treatment that first Christmas Eve. Justin had mourned the loss of his father long before he died and his note reminded Brian of that fact.
Brian shook off his melancholy and jogged to catch up to his friends. Just before he reached Mikey, Emmett and Ted, however, he saw… a halo of blond hair glowing under a street lamp. It couldn’t be. He froze, unable to tear his eyes from the man standing there, looking as nervous and unsure as he had the first time they had spoken.
“Brian! Oh for fuck’s sake,” Mikey swore and turned to the others. “He’s spotted some twink. He’s a lost cause. Let’s go.”
Brian ignored them and crossed the street to where his angel stood. He didn’t bother with words. As soon as he reached Justin, he pulled his lover into his arms and covered his mouth with his own. It was like coming home at last. He couldn’t believe he was there. He could taste him and feel him in his arms. Eventually Brian had to pull back, but he rested his forehead against Justin’s.
“I love you.”
Justin’s eyes filled with tears and yet he smiled and laughed at the same time. “I know. God, I’ve always known. I love you too.”
“Good,” Brian said. “Fate had better not fuck this up this time. I can’t let you go again.”
“I’m not going anywhere without you,” Justin said.
Brian kissed him again. “What happened? Why are you here?”
“I would have been here right after the funeral, but… well, it took longer to settle everything than I thought it would,” Justin said.
“Your former stepmother…”
Justin nodded. “She contested the will. She said because we had been estranged that it couldn’t be right. I would have let her have it, if it wasn’t for the fact that she was trying to take the money he left to the servants and charities too.”
“I saw you won, though,” Brian said.
“And then I sold off every share of his company and gave every penny he left me to charity,” Justin said.
“But…” Brian was shocked. Justin had just given away millions of dollars.
Justin laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m still loaded. My mother’s family used to own half of Alberta, Canada before they moved down to the US. The money my father left me was… an insult. He couldn’t give me what I needed when he was alive; he can’t buy my forgiveness. I don’t want his money anymore now than I did when I was a kid.”
Brian chuckled. “I don’t really care about the money. But I know you want to paint, and that money will let you do that without worrying.”
“It will,” Justin agreed. “It will also let me invest in a brand new advertising agency.”
“No,” Justin said. “You can argue, but I’ll win. That bastard you have for a boss has been dangling a partnership for four years and has yet to follow through with it. And you’ve brought in almost all of their major clients.”
Brian smirked and took a step back, though he didn’t let go of Justin. “And just how would you know that?”
Justin blushed. “You kept tabs on me, I kept tabs on you.”
“Everything I know was public knowledge,” Brian said. “Not even Mikey knows about the partnership.”
“Okay, so I might have made a few inquiries over the years,” Justin said. “That’s not the point though. You deserve better than his shit. So I’m offering to be your silent partner so you can open your own agency.”
“I’ll accept the business partnership, Sunshine,” Brian said. “But only if you agree to a personal partnership.”
Justin laughed. “No problem. I was kind of hoping that might be part of the deal.”
Brian kissed him again and they garnered a few wolf whistles from the men passing them on the sidewalk. Brian pulled back and looked down at Justin. “I can’t believe you’re really here.”
“Believe it Stud,” Justin teased.
“Brian?” Debbie’s voice called out from the Diner across the street. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Want to meet Debbie and Mikey?” Brian asked.
“I’d love to,” Justin smiled and laughed as Brian took his hand and pulled him across the street behind him. He was like an excited kid wanting to show off his new toy. Or a man in love.
“Hey Debbie,” Brian said with a wide smile.
“What are you up to, Brian Kinney?” Debbie asked suspiciously.
Brian gave her an innocent look. “I’m not up to anything. I just ran into an old friend. Debbie, I’d like you to meet Justin.”
“Nice to meet you…” She stopped and looked between Brian and Justin. “Justin? As in Sunshine?”
Justin laughed when she used Brian’s nickname for him and Brian bit his lips and blushed. “Yeah, that’s me. It’s nice to finally meet you, Debbie.”
“Holy fucking shit Sunshine!” Debbie squealed and grabbed the blond into a tight embrace. While she squeezed she took the opportunity to whisper in his ear. “Don’t hurt him again. He loves you kid.”
Justin pulled away and nodded. “I know.”
“Enough,” Brian said and pulled Justin to his side. “Let’s go eat. Justin has to meet the boys.”
They entered the diner side by side with a bemused Debbie following behind. This was certainly going to be interesting. Brian led Justin to the table next the one where the other boys were sitting and waited for them to notice. They sat on the same side of the booth, as though they couldn’t bear to stop touching even long enough to eat. Debbie had seen the aftermath of Brian’s feelings for this kid, but this was the first time she was seeing Brian Kinney in love. It was a truly sight to behold.
Debbie served their drinks and took their orders and the boys still hadn’t noticed that Brian and Justin were there, so Brian crumpled up his straw wrapper and threw it at the back of Mikey’s head.
“Hey!” Michael turned around and saw Brian with the same blond twink he’d chased after. “Brian…did you have to bring the trick with you?”
Brian frowned. “Mikey, this is Justin. My partner.”
“Nice to meet you,” Justin said and held out his hand, but Michael didn’t take it. “Or not.”
“What the fuck do you mean, partner?” Michael asked, ignoring Justin completely.
“Partner, lover, significant other,” Brian listed and turned to Justin. “Can you think of any other synonyms?”
“Boyfriend,” Justin said in a teasing tone that only Brian found amusing. “Beau, paramour, flame, inamorato, sweetheart, beloved…but I like partner best.”
“I know what partner means,” Michael scowled at the two men. “I mean… since when? You don’t just pick up a man on the street and—bang—you’re magically partners!”
“That’s true,” Brian said and turned to Justin. “He does have a point. You can’t just fall in love at first sight.”
“Why not?” Justin asked. “I did. I knew I would love you for the rest of my life the very first time I saw you.”
“I can’t say that,” Brian said. “I knew that you were going to change my life, but I couldn’t imagine being in love with anyone then. I didn’t think I was capable of love like that. I’m glad you showed me that I can.”
Justin leaned in and kissed Brian tenderly. “So am I.”
“What the fuck?” Michael demanded. By now both Ted and Emmett were watching the interaction with great interest. Debbie came over with Brian and Justin’s food and set it in front of them. “Ma! Tell Brian to knock off whatever prank he’s trying to pull. It isn’t funny.”
“Michael,” Debbie sighed. “He’s not joking. This is Justin. Brian’s been in love with him since… god, it’s been seven years since he left, hasn’t it? And then four years before. So eleven years.”
“That’s right,” Brian agreed.
“Hah! See now I know you’re lying,” Michael said as he moved over to the seat opposite them so he didn’t have to lean over the seat back. Ted and Emmett shuffled around and took his place leaning over the seat. “This kid would have been…a kid eleven years ago.”
“I was 13 when we met,” Justin said.
“And rather small for his age at that,” Brian said. “But he was precocious.”
“Eleven years ago, you would have been 18,” Emmett said. “13 seems rather young, even for you.”
Brian rolled his eyes. “I didn’t fuck him when he was 13. God! What do you people think I am? I waited until he was 17.”
“I’m still trying to grasp the concept of Brian Kinney in love,” Ted admitted.
Michael was still shaking his head in denial. “This is bullshit. If you had been in love you would have told me.”
“I couldn’t even admit it to myself until after Justin left,” Brian said quietly.
Justin took his hand and squeezed. “I knew though.”
Brian smiled at him and then looked at Mikey again. “That’s why he’s perfect for me.”
“Look!” Emmett squealed. Everyone around him winced, but looked where he was pointing. “They have matching bracelets.”
Michael looked at Brian. “You never would tell me why that bracelet was so special.”
“Justin gave it to me the day he left for Europe,” Brian said. “It was my graduation present. I gave him his for his college graduation.”
“I’ve never taken it off,” Justin said softly. “It kept me going through some pretty tough times, knowing you were here and that you loved me.”
Brian stroked Justin’s cheek before leaning forward to kiss him. “I told you. It was just time.”
“And now our time has finally come,” Justin said with a bright smile.
Michael stared at them. “You aren’t lying.”
“No,” Brian said and he turned to his friend with a smile that Michael had never seen before. Brian was happy, truly happy. How could Michael begrudge him that?
“I’m happy for you,” Michael said sincerely. He turned to Justin and held out his hand. “I’m Michael. It’s nice to meet you Justin.”
“Ohh,” Emmett said. “You have to tell us everything! I love a good romance!”
“That will have to wait,” Brian said as he got up and handed Debbie some money for their food. “Justin and I are going to Babylon to celebrate.” He turned to his lover. “If that’s okay?”
“There’s a time to mourn and a time to dance,” Justin said with a smile. “This is definitely a time to dance.”
Brian captured Justin’s lips and pulled him into a tight embrace. He whispered in his ear. “And later, it will be time to fuck. I’ve missed your sweet ass.” When he pulled away, Brian saw that Justin’s face was lit up with a blush and he was grateful to see that time couldn’t change some things.