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Experiment by Wren

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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.

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