London was everything Justin had dreamed of. They played tourist on some days, shopped on others. Brian went through every store on Bond street, ordering custom tailored Armani and Zegna suits to be shipped home, buying small gifts for family and friends. Justin's favorite shopping excursion had been the search for their trinkets, as Brian liked to call them.
They had tried Cartier, but found nothing that they really liked. Or rather, Brian had found a very nice attaché case, but they hadn't found their trinkets. So they had moved on to Tiffany's. There Brian had found a bracelet that he insisted was perfect for Justin. It was made of midnight titanium and consisted of five curved bars of the two toned metal, with silver titanium links holding it together. On the center bar was the Tiffany signature. Brian had demanded that they buy it and have it engraved with their initials and the date of their ceremony.
Justin had just smiled and nodded. He was quite pleased with Brian's selection. He was even more pleased when Brian chose a bar pendant for himself. It too was midnight titanium with the Tiffany signature on the front and hung from a long titanium chain. He told the clerk to have the same inscription engraved into the back of the pendant. What Justin didn't point out was that the two items matched, despite Brian's insistence that there be no matching.
Brian did not refrain from pointing out that their initials were BJ, so if anyone ever saw the inscription they would assume that the jewelry was the commemoration of a really great blow job. Justin hated to disillusion his lover, so he kept his opinion about that to himself as well.
They had spent hours at Fortnum & Mason. When Justin had asked why there and not Harrods, Brian's reply was a snort of derision. "The riffraff shop at Harrods. The queen shops at Fortnum & Mason." That was the end of that discussion.
Justin had talked a very reluctant Brian into spending one evening at a show. In return, Justin agreed to try a nightclub in SoHo. Both nights were trying. The first because Brian was not a musical theater fan and made comments about the actors and storyline throughout the show. The second because Justin was nervous and tense even before they had arrived at the club. Both had survived their ordeals, and Justin had even realized that the club hadn't been all that bad. They had danced together and had a few drinks and by the time they were ready to leave, he knew that he could make a stab at going back to Babylon when they got home. He might never feel as comfortable there as he once had, but he could go and have a good time.
Their only real argument had been over Justin's desire to visit Windsor Castle. Brian had no desire to go there, and Justin really wanted to see the place the Queen of England called home. In the end, they had split up for the morning. Justin went to the Castle and Brian went shopping. By the time they each returned to the hotel, they were apologetic and fucked for hours before finally ordering room service and fucking all night.
Justin had called his mother twice while they were in London, once when they arrived, and once the night before they were scheduled to fly home. The first call had been relatively easy, but the second was not.
"Mom," Justin said after working up the courage while his mother had been telling him the latest news from home. "I... I need to talk to you about something important when we get home. Brian and I have made a few decisions and I want to share them with you, but you have to promise to keep what I tell you to yourself. We're not ready to talk to everyone else about them. That goes especially for Debbie. If you tell her, the whole of Liberty Avenue will know within an hour."
"Justin, what's going on?" Jennifer asked, a tinge of worry in her voice. "What's wrong?"
Justin laughed nervously. "I'm sorry Mom. Nothing's wrong. Everything is fine. It's great actually. But I need to see you when we get home. I'll explain everything then, I promise."
"Alright honey, if you're sure."
"You won't say anything to Debbie or the others will you?" Justin pressed.
Jennifer laughed. "Since I don't really speak to anyone but Debbie, and since I don't really know anything to tell her yet, I'm sure I can keep my silence."
"Thanks mom." Justin sighed. "Um, does Debbie know that Brian and I are over here together?"
Jennifer was quiet for a minute. "Honey, I know you think that Debbie blabs everything she knows to the world, but she really doesn't. From what I gather, most of Liberty Avenue believes that you and Brian broke up last summer, since they never see you together. But Debbie knows that isn't true. She's known all along and hasn't said anything to anyone, including you. And yes, she knows you are on vacation together. You told her you were taking a vacation for Spring break, and then Brian mentioned leaving town for the week. She put two and two together. But I know for a fact that she hasn't even told Vic about it."
Justin sighed. "I should have talked to her about it. But I just hate getting into it with Michael. And I don't want to put her in the middle of everything. As long as Michael believed that Brian and I were apart, he could just ignore my presence the few times he came into the Diner when I was there."
"I'm sure she understands, but I think you might want to have a talk with her when you get home, as well."
"I will," Justin promised. "Listen I have to go finish packing. Brian bought so much shi... crap that he's trying to sneak some of his stuff into my suitcase, which is already too full. Our flight gets in at two, and we'll head straight to the loft from the airport. Brian's shaking his head emphatically, but you could come by tomorrow afternoon so we could talk."
Jennifer laughed. "Tell Brian that I'll be by around six. That way he has plenty of time to unpack and come up with an excuse to be gone when I get there."
"Thanks Mom," Justin smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"You are so going to pay for that Princess," Brian growled.
"Oh, cool your jets," Justin laughed. "She doesn't expect you to be there. In fact, she said she would wait until six so you could make up an excuse to be gone when she got there. Besides, you said that you wanted to meet up with Michael to break the news to him gently. It's perfect."
Brian sighed thinking about the discussion coming between him and Mikey. "He's not going to be happy."
"No, he's not," Justin conceded. "Especially once he learns that Debbie has known we've been together this whole time. Mom even said she figured out that we were on vacation together."
Brian raised an eyebrow at that as he refolded a shirt to try to make it fit into his suitcase. "She did?"
"Well I told her I was going on vacation for spring break and then you told her you were going to be out of town at the same time." Justin shrugged. "Not hard to figure out."
"And how does she know we're still together?" Brian asked.
"My guess is it has something to do with the fact that I didn't come crying to her for advice," Justin said. "That and the fact that you have spent less and less time with the old gang."
Brian smirked. "Who'd want to waste all of their time with those losers?"
"You, until you met me and learned what quality is," Justin teased.
Brian glared, but Justin just laughed. Brian shook his head and turned back to his packing. "I think I'm going to have to buy an extra suitcase."
The flight home was uneventful, if long. Their layover in New York was blessedly brief and they made it back to Pittsburgh on time the next day. When they were close to the loft, Justin noticed that Brian had been unusually quiet the entire ride from the airport.
"I'm sure I'll love it," Justin said, correctly guessing that Brian was nervous about showing him the other apartment. Brian glared at him and grunted. Justin smiled, knowing he was right.
A few minutes later, they had pulled up in front of the loft and Justin got out to remove the luggage from the trunk while Brian paid the driver. They went in and took the elevator up to the loft together. Once inside, Brian dropped the luggage by the door and walked over to the back corner of the loft. Justin followed him and noticed that there was now a wrought iron spiral staircase leading down to the floor below.
"Can we go look?" Justin asked. "Or do you want to wait?"
Brian shrugged. "Why wait? Let's get this over with."
Justin followed Brian down the stairs and waited for him to flip the newly installed light switch at the base of the stairs. The apartment lit up and Justin looked around happily. It was laid out similarly to the upstairs loft, though the ceilings were only about ten feet and the kitchen wasn't quite as nice. But the big spacious and open feeling remained the same. Justin noticed that the area where Brian's bedroom should be was completely closed off with three doors along the wall.
Brian followed his gaze and commented. "Two bedrooms and a small bath in the middle. We could tear the walls down if you want, but I thought it might be good to have the extra bedrooms in case Gus stays over when he's older, or you want Daphne to visit when she's home from school."
"No, this is great. Perfect." Justin grinned as he wandered around the space, already picturing in his mind where he would put his easel and painting supplies. The front window faced south, so it would have the most light. And he could set up his computer and near the staircase and maybe a seating area in the middle near the kitchen. "This is wonderful, Brian. Thank you."
"Well, if you want to renovate, we'll have to wait a couple of years until we can pay the principal down on the mortgage," Brian told him. "By then we should have a good idea what works in the space and what doesn't."
Justin nodded and said, "I wish I had my paints and canvases here now. I feel so inspired in this space."
"I think you should take that inspiration and channel it into something more worthwhile," Brian told him as he wrapped his arms around Justin. "Like thanking me properly."
Justin grinned. "Take me to bed you sex fiend. I'll show you gratitude."
Brian left the loft just as Jennifer was arriving. "Good evening, Jennifer."
"Good evening Brian," Jennifer said, barely holding in her amusement. "I take it you found that excuse?"
"I happen to have plans with Michael," Brian smirked, "which Justin knew about before inviting you over. He was just being a little shit."
"Of course," Jennifer agreed. "I'll show myself up?"
"Justin's still unpacking, but he's expecting you," Brian told her as he held open the door.
"I'm sure I'll see you again soon," Jennifer said.
"Sooner than you might think," Brian said and walked towards his jeep.
It was a short ride over to Woody's where Michael was waiting for him, but Brian felt like it took forever. He was nervous. He knew that this conversation could change his life. If things went badly, he might even lose his best friend. And even if he didn't things would probably never be the same again. In a way, that was good. Brian was happy with where his life with Justin was taking him. On the other hand, he'd relied on Michael as his touchstone for so long he wasn't sure what he would do without him.
Michael was waiting like an eager puppy in a booth near the back. He had ordered Brian a beer, so Brian went directly to the table. "Mikey."
"Brian!" Michael grinned and got up to hug his friend. "How was your trip? Pick up many hot guys? I want details."
Brian shook his head. Mikey just didn't get it. "There weren't any hot tricks, Mikey. It wasn't that kind of trip."
Michael deflated. "Oh, so it was work related?"
Brian took a long swig of his beer and shook his head. "No."
Michael looked really confused now. "So what kind of trip was it?"
"The best kind, Mikey," Brian grinned, remembering.
Brian's grin faded. "Mikey, there's something I need to explain to you. Something I should have cleared up a long time ago, but... well, I was afraid of how you might take it."
Michael looked worried now. "What is it? Did I do something?"
"No, it's more... complicated than that." Brian shrugged. "Mikey, I went to London with Justin."
"Justin? But I thought that twink was gone for good?" Mikey pouted.
Brian frowned. "And that's why I haven't talked to you about him. He was never gone. At least not from my life. He had trouble with large crowds after the attack, so he avoided a lot of our usual haunts, including Babylon. But he and I never broke up. In fact, I've been trying to talk him into moving back into the loft for a while now."
"What? Why?" Michael still didn't get it, and Brian wasn't sure he could explain it to him.
"Because that's where he belongs, with me."
"But, you can't... You haven't..." Michael looked like he was going to throw up.
"I can and I have, Mikey," Brian contradicted. "You just didn't want to see it. You have got to let me go, Michael. Peter Pan has grown up, whether you wanted him to or not. And I've found someone special... Justin means the world to me Mikey and I almost threw that away. I almost lost him because I had to keep pretending to be the boy who never grows up. I won't let that happen again."
"This is entirely his fault," Michael ranted. "Everything was fine until he showed up!"
"No it wasn't fine, Mikey," Brian said. "I was self-destructive and reckless. You should know that better than anyone. I had nothing to live for but physical pleasure-whether that came from sex or drugs or both. That's not happiness, Mikey. And you know it. Otherwise you would be out there living that life instead of playing it safe and looking for the right man."
"I never said..." Michael frowned. "Justin's filled your mind with all kinds of negative shit, hasn't he? He's been running me down, or else you would never talk to me this way."
Brian smiled sadly. "Justin has never said a negative word about you, Michael. He knows how I feel about you and would never ask me to give up my friendship with you. But Mikey, you've asked me to give up Justin in a thousand ways, some direct, some not so direct. Every time you insult him, every time you asked why he was along, every time you tried to break us up, you asked me to choose between him and you. I've avoided this conversation for more than a year because I didn't want to have it, Mikey. I don't WANT to choose. But I will if you don't give me any other option. And I don't think you'll like the outcome."
"You'd choose that little shit that you've only known for a year over me?" Michael asked, hurt and anger lacing his tone.
"Don't make me choose," was Brian's response. "Mikey, I don't want to lose you. But I won't give up Justin for you or anyone. I won't go back to the way things used to be to make you happy. And I won't let you hurt Justin anymore."
"When did I ever hurt that fucking twink?" Michael ground out.
"Every time you open your god damn fucking mouth around him!" Brian shouted, losing his temper. "You do nothing but insult and belittle him. He may shrug it off, but I can see the way it hurts him. And I won't allow it. I won't allow anyone to hurt him again, do you understand me?"
Michael looked at the rage in his best friend's eyes and backed down. "Yeah, I understand."
It took a minute for Brian to regain his composure. "Mikey, Justin will be living with me from now on. We've made a promise to each other to make a go of this-and we will make it work-which leaves you with two choices. Accept him and me-the way I am today, not the boy you want me to be-or..."
"Or?" Michael still wasn't getting it.
"Or it's over." Brian said flatly. There was no other way to explain it to him. "Figure out if you can live with the way things are, Mikey. And let me know."
Brian got up and left the bar. He ran into Emmett on his way in.
"Brian! Good to see you home," Emmett said. "Coming to Babylon later?"
"I can't," Brian said shortly, but then stopped and looked at Emmet. "Hey Em, Mikey could really use a friend right now."
Emmett gave Brian a long searching look and nodded. "I'll take care of him."