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Time and Time Again by Tagsit

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Finally - The final, ridiculously romantic chapter. I've had endless computer problems but I have persevered for you, dear readers, so that I could post this final installment to the fic that would not end. I hope you like it. Enjoy! TAG

 

 

Chapter 21 - The Prince and The Palace.

 

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<15.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

*Beepbeepbeep, Beepbeepbeep, Beepbeepbeep*

 

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I yell as the fucking alarm goes off and it feels like my head is going to explode.  

 

I roll towards the far side of the bed and flail around for at least a minute trying to find the fucking alarm to shut off the noise before I finally realize that the annoying sounds are coming from behind me. When did I put the alarm back on the nightstand on my side of the bed? I roll back to where I started with a groan, since the motion makes my head spin one direction and my stomach spin the opposite way. I pat at the area of the nightstand where the horrible sound is emanating from for several seconds before I hit the alarm snooze button by sheer accident.

 

The sudden silence is so welcome that all I can do is sigh and sink back into the pillows. Why the fuck do I have this pounding in my head and the queasy feeling in my stomach? What the fuck was I doing last night? I try to focus my mind enough through my hangover to remember what brought on this latest round of self-abuse. Nothing comes immediately to my foggy mind, though, so I decide to roll over and try for more sleep, hoping it'll be clearer the next time I wake.

 

I roll to the left and reach out, expecting to find a warm, willing little blond who likes to snuggle, but the bed next to me is cold and empty. This fact pierces through the alcohol haze instantly. I sit up abruptly, causing a wave of nausea to break over me. I fight it down, though, much more worried about my missing twink than whether or not I'll keep my dinner down.

 

"Justin," I call out, wincing as the sound of my own voice jars against the inside of my skull. "Justin, where the fuck are you?"

 

There's no answer. The loft is eerily silent and feels somehow barren. I can sense that he's not here without even looking around. Something is very wrong here.

 

Just then the snooze alarm goes off. *Beepbeepbeep, Beepbeepbeep, Beepbeepbeep.* The sound is wrong, somehow. Did I get a new clock? I look around at the offensive little noisemaker and, instead of the slightly beat up clock radio that I bought when I first moved into the loft after college, I see a sleek, brushed steel, modern-looking clock/MP3 player.

 

"Shit!" That's the wrong clock. I don't buy that clock until later. The old one finally gives up the ghost just after Justin leaves for L.A. I'll buy that clock as its replacement. How can it be here now?

 

Still in a hungover daze, I reach towards the questionable contraption and finally shut off the incessant alarm. Without the noise blaring in the background, I can now think, so I try to piece together what I remember from last night to figure out what's happening.

 

The last thing I remember is Justin. He was here, in my bed. We'd made love again and then we fell asleep. I wasn't drinking. Nothing bad happened that I can remember. Nobody hit me or ran me over with a car and I didn't pass out drunk or stoned. I shouldn't have triggered another 'reset'. I should be waking up with Justin in my arms, ready to start out on another try at our life together. So, why isn't Justin here? And, why do I feel like I drank half a distillery last night?

 

The overwhelming sense of wrongness suddenly overcomes me and I feel the sloshing contents of my stomach beginning to heave. I stumble off the bed and almost fall into the bathroom, just barely making it to the toilet before I start to vomit. After coughing up several vile deposits into the porcelain bowl, I collapse back onto the cool tile floor. The cold seeping up through the flooring helps calm me and feels good on my overheated skin.

 

"Think, Kinney," I tell myself as I lay there and try again to collect my thoughts.

 

"Okay, yesterday was another reset day," I'm talking aloud to myself, the noise helping to drown out the unnerving silence. "I woke up and . . . Justin was there, of course. . . . I remember going back to see Ben, to ask him more questions . . . I went back to the loft and fucked Justin again. . . And then we fell asleep. Right? That's all, right?"

 

"So where the fuck is he? Maybe he left already this morning? Would he leave without saying goodbye? Did I screw up again? Did I say something to scare him off?"

 

I lay there on the cold tile floor musing for a while longer, trying unsuccessfully to recall something I might have done or said this time around to alienate my blond. I apparently doze off for a bit, waking with a start at some later time and realizing I'm freezing cold now. My hips are screaming in pain from sleeping on the hard, chilly floor. But, at least my stomach seems to have settled a bit. I manage to push myself up into a sitting position and, after a moment or two of gathering my resolve, I climb to my knees and crawl back to my bed.

 

Just as I'm lying down and start to pull the duvet back up, my cell phone, which is sitting on the table next to the bed, begins to play the tune of that annoying aria from the opera Carmen that I always associate with Ted. Each ring feels like it's piercing a new hole through my aching skull. I locate the damn phone without having to crack open my eyes after only a few tries and somehow manage to hit the right button to answer the call.

 

"Kinney," I croak, barely recognizing my own raspy voice.

 

"Hey, Boss," Ted's overly cheerful voice blares out. "I just wanted to let you know that the contracts for the new Bronian Motors account came in this morning. That should equate to a cool two million in profits over the next three years. Great going, Brian."

 

"Yippee," I say sarcastically. "Marty Ryder will be so pleased."

 

"Ryder?" Ted's voice conveys his confusion. "Why would Ryder care? Did you steal that account from Ryder? I didn't know that."

 

"Huh? What the fuck are you talking about, Theodore?" I moan into the phone as another stab of pain slices through my head. "Never mind. I'll figure out whatever you're trying to tell me when the guy with the jackhammer lays off drilling into my skull."

 

"He, he, he. Michael did mention that you'd showed up at his house late last night and appeared to have tied one on. Sounds like it's a whopper! I'll tell Cynthia to make sure she has the extra large bottle of aspirin waiting next to your latte this morning. Well, I'll let you go, Bri. I just thought you'd want to hear the good news first thing. See you at the office later, Boss."

 

Ted hangs up before I can get in another word. What the hell is going on this morning? Usually even when I'm hungover things make more sense than they are this morning. The only thing I know for certain is that I need to find Justin.

 

I crack open my eyelids, exposing my dry-as-dirt eyeballs to the glare of sunlight coming in through the unshaded windows in the main room. I eventually manage to focus on the keyboard of the phone and punch in the numbers for Justin's cell phone, thankful again that one of the first things I did when I started reliving my lives was to memorize his old high-school era cell phone number. If I'd had to get up to find the number this morning, it might have killed me. It seems almost too much to lie here and hold the phone to my ear while I wait for the call to go through.

 

"The number you have reached is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please recheck the listing and try dialing the number again," says the mechanical voice that answers when I hit the 'Call' button.

 

"What the fuck?" I yell, immediately entering the number again.

 

After the fourth time I dial the number and get the same recording, I admit defeat and angrily toss the phone to the floor, collapsing back onto the bed. Why is everything going wrong this morning? Why do I feel like the thumpa, thumpa from Babylon has taken up residence in my brain when I can't remember actually drinking last night. And, most importantly, where's my fucking Sunshine this morning?

 

I'm not sure how much later it is when the phone rings again, but I've obviously been dozing. It takes me more than a few rings to wake up and figure out where I tossed my phone. I finally locate it on the floor next to the bed and just managed to hit the 'answer' button before it goes to voicemail.

 

"Kinney," I rasp out again.

 

"Brian? It's Jennifer. Is Justin there with you?" her suave, sophisticated voice seems blaringly loud as it issues through the small speaker on the cell phone.

 

"Huh?" is my eloquent reply.

 

How the hell did Jennifer Taylor get my cell phone number? How the fuck would she even know my name, let alone where to find Justin? I only just met him two nights ago - at least it was only two nights ago in this timeline, right? This isn't how the scenario goes. Jennifer isn't supposed to find out about us for weeks. Something is not right here.

 

"Are you okay, Brian? You sound a little . . . distracted," Jennifer pauses briefly but then continues when she doesn't get any further response from me. "Justin left me a message earlier this morning - something about looking for an apartment? I can't get through on his cell phone. I'm not trying to interfere, but . . . he sounded upset. Dare I ask, what's going on with you two?"

 

Alarm bells begin going off in my head. Little wheels and cogs click into place. A tiny metaphorical lightbulb goes on somewhere. The haze of my 100-proof hangover finally clears.

 

The new alarm clock with the different sound located on the wrong side of the bed . . . Ted calling me 'Boss' and seemingly confused when I commented about Ryder . . . Jennifer calling my cell phone to find Justin and asking if there's something wrong between us . . . AND, Justin isn't here. Justin ISN'T HERE.

 

FUCK!

 

The hangover that shouldn't be - the hangover that's so fucking bad it's as if I spent the entire night drinking and drugging. Which is exactly what I was doing the night Justin left . . .

 

I'm BACK! Not back in the past again. I'm back in the present. This isn't another 'reset' life. This is MY life. I've finally got my real life back!

 

Justin isn't here, but if I'm right, then I know where he is and I'm going to find him. I might not have been able to change the past. I had to learn to accept it because my past is what made me who I am now. But, I can change the future. I'm not going to let my Sunshine go. This I can fix.

 

"Brian? Brian, are you still there? What's wrong?" Jennifer's increasingly frantic voice eventually gets my attention once again as I start to make a plan.

 

"Sorry, Jennifer. I'm here," I respond. "Um . . . Justin isn't here right now, but I'll be seeing him shortly and I'll tell him you're trying to reach him. In the meantime, forget about that apartment he asked you about. Instead, I need you to get on something else right away. . . "

 

<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>

 

"What the fuck are you doing here, Brian? This better not be another repeat of last night. This time I'm not going to simply step aside and let you berate Michael. Haven't you already done enough? You've managed to drive away pretty much everyone who fucking loved you. You should stop and think before you make it even worse," Ben is blocking the doorway with his body as he pontificates, but I interrupt before he can get too far into the lecture.

 

"Good evening to you too, Professor. Here, these are for your lovely husband," I say, as sweetly as it's possible for me to say anything, batting my eyelashes and smiling inanely while I whip out from behind my back a bouquet of purple hyacinths, bluebells and violet geraniums.* "I promise I'm not drunk and I'm not here to yell at anybody this time. Now, be a good boy and tell Sunshine I need to speak with him. . . Pleeeeassse."

 

Ben just stands there for several moments, the slightly crushed flowers held loosely to his chest, as he surveys my demeanor and verifies that I'm truly not drunk or acting violent. Then he steps back hesitantly, holding the door open until I've stepped through. I move slowly and try not to make any threatening motions, because Ben still looks like he doesn't trust me fully. While he's generally a peaceful guy, and I may have an inch or so of height on him, he's got several pounds of muscle more than me and I don't want to put his pacifism to the test.

 

"Wait here," Ben says at last and moves towards the stairs.

 

I'm nervous as fucking hell and I can't just stand here waiting. I find myself apprehensibly bouncing on the balls of my feet. In order to stop myself from such an undignified spectacle and quell my nerves, I turn to pacing instead. It feels like I've been waiting here for hours, not just minutes.

 

First I hear the sound of footsteps on the floorboards overhead. Then, the footsteps move towards me and eventually I hear them on the stairs. Slowly, feet upwards, he's revealed to me as he starts down the steps, grabs the railing when he reaches the landing, and haltingly turns to walk down the last few stairs to meet me.

 

I haven't seen THIS Justin in so long. The sight literally takes my breath away. He must hear the gasp I make as I try to catch my breath since he looks up at me with a slightly worried frown. But his look of longing and concern certainly doesn't help me and I have to struggle to get my emotions back under control before I can go on.

 

That hot little twink I met five years ago under a street light was admittedly gorgeous. No one could argue that he wasn't probably the hottest thing ever to set foot on Liberty Avenue. He's always had that sassy, pert, pretty boy thing going for him. But, the man standing before me today is even more exquisitely beautiful than the youth I first encountered.

 

Justin's corn silk blond hair is longer now - perfect for running my fingers through it. The shaggy bangs droop over his brow and blend on the sides with the longer sideburns he now sports. His face has filled out some giving him a more mature air, even though he somehow still looks younger than his twenty-one years of age. His lithe, compact body is still trim but he's put on a bit more muscle over the years. He's still got that adorable dimple, annoyingly cute turned up nose and his skin is still as soft and creamy looking as always. However, there's even more self-confidence and determination in the way he moves now, which has always been the biggest turn on for me.

 

I guess what it all comes down to is that Justin isn't a boy anymore. He's a man. He's the man I love. And, I've never in my life met anyone who's half as beautiful as he is to me right now.

 

"Hey, Sunshine," I say as I openly admire the tight, worn-looking jeans and black v-neck pullover he's wearing.

 

"Brian. I'm not sure this is a good idea . . ." Justin starts to protest as he takes a step nearer.

 

I note that we have an audience now - Ben and Michael are on the landing waiting and listening raptly for what I'll say next. I'm not going to be deterred by unwanted spectators, though. After all I've been through, I'm not going to be put off by the fear of those two witnessing my vulnerability. I've seen, and done, a lot of scary things over my past lives. Emotion alone no longer scares me.

 

"I do want the same things, Justin. I want to move in the same direction as you," I tell him with conviction, able now to actually continue the conversation he started a few nights, or is it a few years, ago. "I just couldn't see it before, Sunshine. I wasn't able to tell you before, but I know now that I do want those things, as long as I can have you, too."

 

Justin's initial response is an unconvinced, almost angry, snort. He closes his eyes, shakes his head and bites at his lip, clearly more annoyed at me than anything else. Then he reaches up, covers his eyes and rubs at his temples with his right hand before wiping at his face and then visibly stiffening his spine in order to confront me.

 

"Brian," he starts out with a disbelieving and exasperated tone to his voice, crossing his arms as he stares me down. "Do you really expect me to believe that you've completely changed your mind about everything you've ever said to me in just one night? What happened to the man who told me flat out, only two nights ago, that he WON'T give me a house or family or any of the other things you know I want? You don't expect me to just accept this apparently miraculous change of heart, do you?

 

"No, I don't," I answer, rolling in my lips to hide my smile when his response is exactly as I predicted it would be. "I'm still fucking lousy at talking about shit, Sunshine. And, I didn't think you were just going to believe me right off. That's why I'm going to show you what I mean, instead of trying to tell you. Come on."

 

Before he can protest further I grab his wrist, pulling him backwards towards the door. He doesn't resist but he's not going with good grace either - the scowl of disbelief hasn't left his facade. All I can think is that he's fucking adorable when he's annoyed at me like this.

 

Tripping only slightly as I walk backwards out the door and down the front steps, I guide Justin after me until we reach the sidewalk and he finally sees the black stretch Hummer limousine waiting for us at the curb. His annoyed frown eases a little, replaced by curiosity. I just keep smiling as I turn to nod at the chauffeur who trots around to hold open the rear door.

 

"Brian?" Justin asks with a disapproving tone. "What are you up to?"

 

"No good, Sunshine, as always," I joke, trying to lighten the mood.

 

"Where are you going to take me, Brian?"

 

"I just want to show you something, Sunshine. You'll like this. I guarantee. Trust me, please. Now, be a good little twink and hop your perfect blond boy ass up there so we can get going now. We're running a tad late. Hurry, hurry."

 

Justin purses his lips up and shakes his head as if he's humoring an unruly spoiled child, but he lets me help him up into the limo nonetheless. I wave goodbye to Mikey and the Professor, who have followed us out and are standing on the walk, smiling at our retreating backs. Then, I follow my blond into the car and the driver closes the door behind.

 

I quickly scan the interior and happily note that everything seems in place. The AdMan in me, who's always aware how much of a part presentation plays in any campaign, silently approves of the tableau I've carefully prepared. Inside the limo, there's a lush padded bench seat down one long side. On the other side, there's a low table with a built in bar and entertainment center behind. I steer Justin to a seat halfway down before I gently press him to sit. On the table in front of where we're sitting is a bouquet of pale yellow roses tied with a gold fabric bow. The champagne bucket next to the flowers is full of a chilling bottle of sparkling wine and two glasses are waiting in holders to the right. There's soft Jazz music playing in the background and only dim bluish colored lighting illuminating the interior.

 

I pour two glasses of wine and hand one to the incredulous man sitting at my side just as I feel the vehicle start to drive away. Justin is finally smiling outright - a full-wattage Sunshine smile - and my heart melts the way it always does whenever I see that beaming beauty.

 

"Brian, what is all this? Where are you taking me?" Justin demands as he sips his wine, still smiling. "You're completely unbelievable - you know that, right?"

 

"It's true. I am," I reply with a smirk, reaching to grab hold of his free hand. "I'm not telling where we're going, though. It's a surprise. You'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime . . ."

 

I lift the cover off a compartment built into the table, revealing a refrigerated well containing a silver dish full of chocolate covered strawberries, a platter of several types of sliced fruit and a small bowl full of coconut covered vanilla ice cream balls.

 

"Is it true that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, Sunshine," I ask as I pick up the largest of the ripe red berries and bring it to his sweet pink lips, laughing as he bites into the luscious chocolate covered fruit and a trickle of juice escapes to drip down onto his chin.

 

He giggles a bit and raises his hand to wipe his chin. I know he's still a bit angry at me but I can't resist. I grab his hand before it gets far and move instead to lick the syrupy sweet juice from his slightly stubbled chin. The taste of the strawberry, the chocolate and Justin together is overwhelming.

 

My hand, of its own volition, moves to the nape of his neck and I pull him towards me, claiming those chocolate smeared lips in a deep sensual kiss. He doesn't resist for even a moment - proving that the strawberry has done its job. His mouth opens to me, allowing my tongue entry. There's absolutely nothing sweeter than my lover's kisses, except maybe his kisses combined with strawberries. I'm not sure which sensation elicits the moans I hear breaking from deep in my chest as I devour Justin's soft, sweet lips.

 

We make out like silly teenagers for most of the rest of the drive. I really can't help myself - I'm so thrilled to be back in my right life at the right time and with Justin by my side where he belongs. Somehow, though, I eventually find the willpower to pull back. I know I have more to prove to him tonight than just what a fabulous kisser I am. I don't want to overshadow the true importance of what I'm trying to do tonight with simple lust. Instead, I spend the last few minutes of the ride plying him with food and wine. I assume that since he doesn't put up much of a fight, that it's working and that romantic heart of his is softening up just as it should.

 

Just as I empty the last of the wine into our glasses, the limo slows and then comes to a halt. The driver knocks discretely at the rear door. I slide over and pull the door latch, cracking the door open slightly to let him know we're ready.

 

"Ready, Sunshine?" I ask as the chauffeur holds the door open.

 

Justin climbs out and looks around at the wooded countryside, snow covering the ground and the pine trees. "Where the hell are we, Brian?"

 

"Technically, we're in West Virginia. But, it's less than half an hour outside Pittsburgh," I answer, smiling at his confusion.

 

"When you said you had something to show me, I didn't think it would be in West Virginia." Then Justin turns around and notices the large half-timbered Tudor styled building we've parked in front of. "Wow. What is this place? It looks like a fucking palace. Who lives here?"

 

"We do," I answer. "Or at least we will, I hope. I put an offer on it today."

 

I unlock the door and pull a scoffing blond inside. He's mumbling and shaking his head as I lead him into the living room where there's already a fire blazing in front of a small sofa. I sit him down on the couch and then move to stand next to the carved wooden mantle. In my pocket I can feel the small velvet covered box that is holding two matching platinum rings. Justin is looking up at me expectantly.

 

"The other night when I accused Michael of 'infecting' you with all sorts of romantic ideas, I was wrong," I start off hesitatingly. "It's the other way around, Sunshine. I'm the one who's been infected with all those ideas that I always thought I could never believe in. But then, five years ago I saw this beautiful, intrepid twink standing under a lamp post as I was coming out of the club and I was immediately corrupted, even though I refused to admit it."

 

"Since that night I've watched you almost die, I've almost died, we've fought, broken up and got back together. We've both hurt each other, numerous times, through stupidity or inaction. You've driven me almost literally crazy. I've tried repeatedly to drive you away. But, thankfully, here we are, still together and still in one piece. And, you know what? I wouldn't change a goddamned fucking thing, Sunshine. Because if it hadn't been for each of those fucking painful, horrendous experiences, I wouldn't have made it here today. I wouldn't be the person standing here that's finally ready to tell you how much I truly DO love you."

 

"Time and time again I thought it couldn't possibly be worth it. But, now I know that it was always worth it so long as I end up with you. I love you, Justin Taylor. I want to marry you. I want the house and the family and even the fucking golden retriever with you. Because you are worth everything I've ever gone through and all I know is that I couldn't go on without you. You infected me with all these romantic ideas and I've finally succumbed, Sunshine. So, what do you say? Will you marry me so we can be ridiculously romantic together?"

 

His sunshine smile lights up the room around us. He jumps up and I catch him in my arms and we kiss again. I close my eyes briefly to enjoy the sensation. I'm going to assume that this means 'yes' and that phase one of my campaign to win back my love is complete.

 

My plan from here on out is quite simple: First, I kiss him until he's breathless, then I spend the rest of the night making love to him in every room of this place.

 

And then, first thing tomorrow morning, we buy a new alarm clock - one that doesn't 'beep'.

 

The End.

 

*According to the Texas A&M,  'Aggie Horticulture' website, "The Language of Flowers", Purple hyacinths mean, 'I'm sorry, please forgive me', bluebells stand for, 'humility', and geraniums are for 'stupidity or folly'. Brian may not do apologies, but his florist apparently does.

 

 

Info:

 

Boy, this fic took wayyyyyyy too long to write for some reason. I got too distracted in the middle by writing a second WIP - sorry. I'm also sorry that there's no real good B/J action in the last chapter, but with all that romantic drivel, I just ran out of room. Oh well, for better or for worse it's done and I can move on now to my next brilliant story idea that's been eating at my brain - but which I wouldn't let out until I forced myself to finish this story. Thank you to all my readers who stuck with me through this one. I adore all of you and truly appreciate all your comments and reviews. Thank you, thank you, thank you - time and time again!  TAG

 

 

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