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Blank Canvas

Layla V


Timeline: Post Season 5
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: None
Genre: Angst, romance

Author's Note: Written for qaf_anon. Thanks to severina2001 for looking at it at the last moment. You rock!

Part 1

1.


Itís the smell of freshly brewed coffee that pulls you out of your slumber.

The loft is still filled with shadows, the blinds on the bedroom windows pulled down, making sure no errant sunrays come inside to disturb you. But when the slow tick-tick-tick of the bedside clock makes you turn your head to check the time, you realize itís too early for that. Five forty seven am. More than enough time to go back to sleep if you wanted to.

You can hear Brian moving around the kitchen. Opening cabinets, closing shelves. How intriguing that you wake up to the same sounds now as you did last night. The sounds of Brian tending to the last chores around the loft, locking doors, turning lights off, before he came to join you. Before he admitted that your freaking out at Gusí birthday party had freaked him out too. How hard was it to believe that for that one unruly moment, before you let him touch you? Before you saw his hesitancy and reached out for him with your own hands, urging him to heal you.

How hard.

And yet how soft was his touch. His hands soothing on your skin, his fingers caressing you carefully, tenderly. That sweet ache still resides inside you, the evidence of Brian being there, loving you, taking care of you, as if you were fragile and delicate and had to be handled with caution and unprecedented care.

And yet he was the one who...

You suddenly sit up on the bed and frown into the semi-darkness. The only light in the loft is coming from the kitchen and itís not enough to make your surroundings that easy to see. Still you look down at the floor besides the bed and then push yourself off the bed to stand up and look on the other sides. Nothing. You think of pulling back the bedclothes to see if it is there but you know it isnít.

You look through the slits of the bedroom blinds and can make out the outline of Brianís form, sitting on a barstool in his blue silk gown. Your eyes following his every move, you slowly sit back down on the bed and observe him quietlyówatching his fingers idly play with the rim of the coffee mug, sitting deep in thought, as he slowly sips coffee at this ungodly hour.

Itís gone.

The scarf that had lain hidden under his shirt all these weeks, stained with your dried, crusty blood, is gone. You pulled it from around his neck last night, its brittle weight like a dirty, shriveled reminder of that night you canít really remember, as you freed him from its unwelcome burden.

You wonder if he has hidden it somewhere or if itís been disposed off for good while you were sleeping.

You know this must be the same scarf that Daphne said he wore the night of the prom. For some inscrutable reason, you are almost sorry itís gone. For a fleeting moment, you even wondered if you could get it cleaned up for him so that he could wear it again.

Except the memory of your blood on it comes back and you realize that you canít even begin to comprehend what made him wear it for days and weeks under his shirt like that. You know guilt was part of it but was that all? Do you even want to know? How the hell do you assuage someoneís guilt over something you canít even remember yourself?

Well, itís gone now. Itís better this way. It was only bad memories. Better to bury them, away and out of sight, than to keep thinking about them.

You canít help but wonder, though, if you would ever see it again.


*********


2.


Itís the need to relieve your bladder that pulls you out of your slumber.

You lie cocooned in the nest of pillows and blankets, your back against Brianís chest, his nose buried in your skin. Heís snoring softly, his warm breath fanning the back of your neck, his arms wound securely around you even in sleep.

You let the memories of last night wash over you. After claiming Brian once again for yourself at his office, and then letting him lay his mark on you once more with a long, hard fuck on his desk, the two of you came back to the loft. To sights and sounds of this place that youíd called home for so many months, and then the taste of his skin beneath your tongue. Everything was like a breathtakingly cool downpour of rain after months of draught.

After months of Ethan.

The past few months suddenly seem like an easily forgotten memory, as if Ethan didnít mean anything of consequence, of importance. You now realize that he really didnít. Ethan was the kind of mistake you vow never to repeat again. You will never again fall for an illusion built on falsehoods and deceit, on empty words and stupid lies. You feel like a world-class idiot for being so naÔve, for falling for all that bullshit in the first place Ė to quote Brian.

But it doesnít matter anymore. You have Brian now and he took you back. That is the only thing that matters.

You run your fingers over the top of his right hand resting on your stomach, caressing his fingers, and turn your face to nuzzle his shoulder. He stirs in his sleep at this, his long lashes fluttering, and you quickly drop an apologetic kiss on the same shoulder. God, you love the way he smells, the way he moulds against you, the way he tastes. You missed him so fucking much. You donít want to wake him up at this hour, though. You look at the bedside clock: itís only five thirty two am.

You carefully disentangle your limbs from Brianís, pulling the covers back up around him to conserve the heat, as you roll out of bed and go inside the bathroom to do your business.

As youíre washing your hands and rubbing your wet palms over your face, you suddenly realize there is something that is somewhat out of place. You frown as you pull your hands down and stare at your reflection, your breathing fluttering for a few long moments.

Then, with a quiet determination, you turn around, walk out of the bathroom and stand at the foot of the bed to look at him. Brian is still ensconced inside the blankets, snoring softly, unaware of your scrutiny. You leave him like this and walk over to the bedside table, silently inspecting his things: Wallet, keys, watch, a little loose change. A crumpled receipt from the takeout place close to his office. A paid traffic ticket. You feel your frown deepen.

You move to the other side of the bed, sitting down on your haunches as you carefully open the drawers. You rifle through the clothes and things there, careful so as not to wake him up, but you feel yourself getting dismayed as you close each drawer and open the next and not find what you are looking for.

Finally defeated, you get up and settle back down on the bed.

Itís gone.

The cowry-shell bracelet Brian got from Mexico, that he always wore on his right wrist, is gone. Now that you think about it, the last time you saw it on him was the night you got it back from his asshole nephew and returned it to him. You put it back on his wrist yourself. You remember how merely touching his wrist had made your heart rate speed. You remember heíd told you to go back to your boyfriend.

And now itís gone. You stare at his sleeping form, his arms clutching the pillow youíd abandoned tightly to his chest, and try to shake the web of confusion suddenly entangling your thoughts. What has Brian done with the bracelet? Did he get rid of it, and if yes, why? Did it not hold significance to him? Wasnít that why heíd worn it for all those years? Why did he stop wearing it after you brought it back to him? You bite your lower lip in worry, trying to steady your breathing. Could you even ask him?

You pull down the duvets and climb back into the bed again, this time moulding yourself against his back. He mumbles as he stirs awake but you press yourself closer to his warmth, kissing his neck sloppily. "Go back to sleep," you tell him as your wrap yourself around his body. "Itís early." He links his fingers through yours, shifting close to you, and promptly falls back asleep.

You listen to his breathing, feeling the steady rise and fall of his chest, and tell yourself to stay calm. Everything is all right. You have Brian. He has you. Nothing else matters.

Still, as you snuggle close to him, you have to wonder if youíre ever going to see that bracelet again.


*********


3.


Itís the sound of a police siren going off in the streets outside that pulls you out of your slumber.

You realize you had fallen asleep on top of the covers, wearing the same clothes youíd worn all day. There is no bedside clock in this room so you check the time with your wristwatch: Five thirty nine am. Itís the morning after your first full night in New York. You wonder what Brian is doing at this moment. Probably asleep. Hopefully, at least.

A gust of cool wind makes itís way inside the room through the half-opened windows and you shiver. It was not as cold when you went to sleep, but itís freezing now. You kick off the shoes and then reach over to close the window, muting the sounds of the street below.

New York weather, unpredictable just like the City itself.

You settle back under the bedclothes this time, even though you know trying to go back to sleep would be futile. Your thoughts are too jumbled, too chaotic, too much on edge. There is so much to do, to prove, to accomplish. You realize more than anyone else that conquering the art world isnít going to be the piece of cake everyone has made it out to be. You are going to have to work your ass off.

Youíre starting from scratch. You donít have a college degree. What you do have is your own capabilities, an article by a dubiously renowned critic, and perspective.

You also have a man who loves you and who thinks you can triumph over the world just by sheer perseverance and being in the right place. He thinks New York is that place for you, and so do you. Everyone has hammered this into your heads so much now that you know you are going to have to make it work somehow. It only helps that Brian is willing to stand by you as you take on this venture. Just as heís always stood by you in the past. Never making a big deal out of it, just supporting you, quietly, without fanfare.

As you play around with the hem of the duvet, you look at your hands and are struck by their stark bareness. You touch the empty patch of skin around the place where your ring finger meets your hand and feel a not so familiar yearning tug at your heart.

Itís not familiar because itís not yearning linked with uncertainty at your place in Brianís life, as it sometimes used to be in the past. Now you know you have him for good and you know youíre never losing this place again. You also know that you have the commitment that you always needed from him, the lack of which always confused you and filled you with doubts in the past. You know you are bound together for life now. You may not have been able to convince him of this last night as you packed your life and bid that sweet and heart-achingly loving farewell to him, but you are as sure of it as you are of the fact that Brian Kinney loves you with all his being.

Still, knowing that you left the rings back with him in that box makes your heart flutter with a strange pang of uncertainty.

Should you have taken your ring with you? Should you have put his on his finger and yours on your own? Was that why heíd left them out in the open? You canít help but marvel at the fact that Brian didnít try to keep them hidden, didnít try to act as if they didnít exist. That he hadnít bought them for you and had asked you to marry him. As if putting his heart on the line for you like that hadnít taken everything in his soul to go against every principle he had ever stood for.

He had laid himself bare for you, vulnerable and open. And you left the rings on the fucking table.

But you told him you donít need rings or vows to know that you love each other. Youíve learnt how meaningless those symbols can be. Brian showed it to you with his selfless actions. He also knows you love him. Those rings are inconsequential, just an empty symbol of a dream you thought was yours. But now you know better. You donít need that anymore. Neither of you do.

Still, as you hug yourself in the strange, lonely bed, feeling his suddenly overwhelming absence right in your gut, you canít help but wonder if youíre ever going to see those rings again.


****
*********
****





New York turns out to be as unpredictable and difficult to tame as you had predicted.

First you realize that living on instant noodles is every bit as boring and tedious as your fellow starving artists had made it out to be. At least in Pittsburgh, even when you were living in that ramshackle first-ever apartment of yours, you didnít have the high costs of New York living to consider. You got decent food at the diner, and you had money to spend even after paying the rent. Here, however, it seems every last cent you make waiting tables at the small cafť around the corner of Jamaica Bay, gets spent paying rent of the two bedroom apartment.

This is of course after you meet Daphneís friend, with whom you are to share said apartment. His name is Alphonse Edmund Ermenegilde, who turns out to be a six feet nine inches tall West Indian exchange student from Jamaica. Sheíd told you sheíd met him while going to Penn State. She never said the guy speaks fluent Dutch, French and a dialect of English that was obviously never meant to be spoken outside of the Caribbean. The English part of his lingual repertoire is torturous to your ears at best and you have no doubt this was the reason why he quit Penn State and absconded to Crown Heights to be with his fellow countrymen.

Whatís worse is that while heís not completely, irrevocably obnoxious, heís still loud and wild and overly animated and youíre more than a little scared of him. After all, heís so fucking tall. Daphneís apparently told him all about you, though, and he makes endless efforts to make nice with you. He plays lurid, rambling songs on his Spanish guitar and sings them in his broken English to cheer you up when he thinks you are feeling homesick, making you want to wrench the offending instrument out of his hands and throw it out of the window. Only heís so fucking tall.

The only good thing about the whole experience is the large window in your bedroom that overlooks part of the Flatbush Avenue, and lets in beautiful sunlight that would be perfect for the times youíd like to draw.

Right now, though, it feels as if you left your muse back in the Pitts. The only time you even feel the faintest stirrings of inspiration is when you speak to Brian at night. Hearing his voice fills up the little gaping holes in your heart and gives you your only reason to smile after the long, tedious days.

When you tell Brian you miss him, he doesnít hesitate even for a single second and repeats the words back to you.

You realize youíre really very fucking glad to have him with you. So what if heís in Pittsburgh? Even three hundred miles away, heís your one constant. The one who never lied to you. The only one who never let you down.


*********


You are not really surprised to find that the New York art world doesnít embrace you with the warmth that was predicted.

Getting noticed among the art circles in New York is no easy feat. Itís certainly no deed that could be accomplished on the strength of one mention in an art magazine. What you told Lindsay was true. You can paint anywhere in the world. It could be Pittsburgh, it could be New York, it could be fucking Timbuktu. The reason youíre here is to make your efforts while being in the place that is happening. Brian said finding success depends mostly on being in the right place at the right time and you agree with him.

Painting in Pittsburgh was like dipping in the small pond. Making it in New York is like surfing in the Atlantic Ocean. Itís what, you suspect, real success would feel like.

Thus you make it a point to browse one gallery every evening after youíre done with your shifts at the cafť. You become a constant presence on the various joints on Wooster Street, Hudson Street and the many breathtaking places on the 57th. You love mingling with the crowds, hearing their opinions, and talking about the techniques used in the various pieces with the enthusiasts. You may not be painting for these galleries yet, but you are at least hearing what the crowds want.

Each night after youíre finished with the gallery of the evening, you change two trains and take one bus to finally make your way back. Walking down from Eastern Parkway to Washington Boulevard, and then turning on to Crown Street, you come across small neighborhoods of various ethnicities, before the dark West Indian faces become noticeable. Every night you walk through small streets, with loud, cheerful murals painted on the chipped walls and small dark-skinned children playing in the alleys. They stop to stare at you every night as you pass them. You wonder how you must look to them. A white boy in a neighborhood filled with West Indians on one side and the biggest community of Hasidic Jews in the world on the other.

One night during your fifth week in New York, as youíre walking back to the apartment, you notice a group of artists working on a mural on a wall. You halt in your step, and shuffle closer to observe what theyíre painting. As you watch them closely, it becomes apparent to you that they are not painting a new mural, but are in fact restoring an old one. It is one of the pieces that youíd noticed before which was in particularly bad condition. The wall is cracked from one side and the cement is chipping away from most of the places, taking away with it part of the mural that was undoubtedly very lovingly painted many years ago. You watch them work for a long time that night: sandpapering old peeling paint, cleaning the dust and grime plastered onto the wall. They arenít repainting it at the moment, only cleaning the surface, seemingly making it ready for the actual restoration process.

When you come back to your room that night, itís almost after midnight, but youíre buzzing with a strange, new energy. You sit down on your bed for a minute and then you get up and move to the window to stare out at the moonlit night, the streets still alive with the sounds of a New York night. You move to the side table and aimlessly open and close drawers, not knowing what you are actually looking for. You sit on the bed again, your thoughts flying without direction. You frown at the wall in front of you for a second, before standing up again and this time moving to the easel placed in front of the window. Brian had sent this as a gift three days after you moved here and it has been standing here since then Ė untouched.

You stare at the covered canvas for a long moment and then taking a deep breath, you lift the plastic sheet away, baring the blank canvas for the first time. Your eyes move to the window again, as you think of the beautiful mural and the artists restoring it -- cleaning the surface, sandpapering the flaws, removing the grime. Your hands lift to touch the canvas as your eyes close, your thoughts filled with the image of the mural as your fingers trace a seemingly random pattern on the unblemished surface, as if painting an image only you can see.

That moment passes, and you open your eyes and stare at the canvas. Itís still empty, the brush strokes you made existing only in your head. But you still feel a smile beginning at the corners of your mouth.

Itís only a blank canvas. But you have the means to make it anything you want it to be.

Itís all in your hands.


*********


Seven weeks after you leave Pittsburgh, Brian surprises you with a three days visit to New York.

You havenít been back to the Pitts even once, although youíve spoken to Brian every single night. Itís not even been two months and youíre already broke, still stuck in the hovel with Alphonse. You have no face to show back in the Pitts at this point in time, you feel. So when you see Brian at your door on a Thursday night, you canít help but throw your arms around him and kiss him repeatedly, your heart bursting with happiness. You canít wait for Brian to make some snide remark about the general state of your existence and then whisk you away to some luxury hotel suite where you can soak your bones in a hot Jacuzzi and sleep on an actual bed. To your utter disbelief, however, Brian seems to have neither such plans nor any apparent reservations about crashing on your single bed with you.

After the marathon reunion sex that lasts nearly the whole night, you expect Brian to wake up complaining of his aching neck and cramping joints for having to sleep in the tiny bed, mocking the peeling paint on the walls, and grumbling about the greasy food you undoubtedly consume nightly and which he would surely be afraid youíd poison him with soon enough.

Again, to your shock, he does none of these things. Instead, he drags you to the kitchen and tells you to make him breakfast.

You feed him sugar-coated, high-in-calories, cocoa and nut crunchies just to spite him but he only glares at you for two seconds before mumbling something about burning them off on your ass tonight as he grabs a spoon.

You are pouring coffee for you both when the door to the other bedroom opens and Alphonse comes out. You watch in some amusement as Brian pauses for a split-second during mid-bite as they size each other up, undoubtedly shaken by the West Indianís size. There is a fishy leer on Alphonseís face as he looks at first Brian, then you, and you feel your eyes narrow in suspicion. You know the leer is not because your boyfriend is drop dead gorgeous and the Jamaican has any kind of interest in him, but for some altogether different reason you havenít been able to grasp as yet. You notice Brian looking at you from the corner of your eyes and that is the exact moment he relaxes, lifting his spoon to starts eating again, one brow raised in quiet enquiry.

"Please," you mumble. "Heís as straight as they come."

Brian snorts as he reaches for his coffee, watching the tall man open the fridge door. "Thatís what they all say."

Suddenly Alphonse turns around and gawks at the two of you. "Is which one a unnu heat mi hegg?"

You roll your eyes as you consider how you are going to attempt to decipher the alien query this time. It is the same thing every morning. Alphonse apparently can understand every word you say but youíd be damned if you could decipher even fifteen percent of what he blabs out to you during the course of a normal day. How to handle this now, you wonder?

"Mmm." Brian looks at him curiously and then shrugs. "Neither of us."

Huh? You look at your boyfriend. "What did you say?"

"He was asking if weíd eaten his eggs," Brian tells you. "I told him we hadnít."

Your mouth drops open. "How the fuck did you know he said that?"

Brian stares at you. "I just listened to what heís saying, Sunshine."

"But it makes no sense what he says," you try to explain.

You see his lips twist in amusement. "It would if you were paying attention."

"Cuyah," Alphonse speaks again, his voice rising in excitement as he points at you animatedly. "He gwan like he nice eee."

Brian starts chuckling. "Yeah, I know, he does."

"I what?" You stare at him in disbelief. "What did you tell him?"

"Um," Brian pauses, a grin playing on his lips, as he considers. "Uh, he said you always say such nice things to him, Sunshine."

You know heís bullshitting now. "He didnít say that."

"How would you know?" Brian shrugs. "You just said you canít understand what he says."

You hit his hand with your spoon. "Because I never say nice things to him."

"Hey." Brian pulls his hand back, a mock-frown on his face. "Youíll pay for that!" he growls.

It doesnít help that Alphonse considers all of it to be some kind of a joke and starts laughing. "Yu man begs fa jooks," he says, chuckling, his big white teeth visible. "Im des fi a slam."

You stare at him dumbfounded as Brian snorts next to you.

"Bad like yaz, mon!." Alphonse guffaws, slapping his thighs at the hilarity of it all.

You feel your teeth grit. "What the hell is he saying now?"

"How the fuck should I know?" Brian chuckles unabashedly.

"BRIAN!" You reach out to hit him with the spoon again but he grabs your hand instead and pulls you closer.

"My guess is," he whispers in your ear. "Heís saying he now knows how hard you beg for me to fuck you."

Jesus. "No, he isnít." You feel like rolling your eyes again.

"Sunshine," Brian drawls. "He heard more than he wanted to last night."

You look at him, a wicked smile playing on his face, and then you look at Alphonse, whoís laughing at both of you, now making outlandishly vulgar gestures with his big hands, and you suddenly realize that Brian is right. You were so fucking horny to see him last night, it never even occurred to you that the walls in this apartment are even thinner than the ones in Debís house.

"Fuck!" You shake your head. "I mean..." You stare at Brian and repeat. "Fuck."

"That..." He smirks at you as he puts his mug back on the table. "...seems like a very good idea." He takes your spoon out of your hand, puts it on the table, takes your hand and leads you back to the bedroom.

"BAD LIKE YAZ, MON!" You hear Alphonse call out to Brian as you kick the door closed and lock it.

"Fuck," you tell Brian as he pushes you back against the closed door, grins widely and then covers your mouth with his own.



*********



You tell Brian you havenít gone dancing in ages and feel like doing tonight, so the two of you head out to Chelsea.

You hop bars and clubs on 6th, 7th and 8th Avenues all night long, all the places filled with beautiful, hard-bodied jocks and hot naked men cruising you both. You dance with Brian under the piercing laser beams, flashing lights and falling confetti, grinding against him as he kisses you hotly, and then let him fuck you against a dark moldy wall in a backroom made up like a dungeon.

You drink more than you should and dance longer than youíd planned, and when youíre feeling too hot and high, and your senses are buzzing, and sweat is prickling down your neck and back, and you can feel Brian rubbing his crotch against your ass at the bar, you grab his arm and lead him back to the apartment. You strip in record time, kissing him hungrily, his teeth biting your lips, and you push him down to the bed and ride him so hard that you almost pass out when you come.

You wake up with your tongue plastered to the roof of your mouth, your drool pooling on Brianís chest, and the biggest hangover youíve ever had splitting your head.

You hear Brian groan as he stirs awake, pulling the pillow over his eyes to hide from the offending sunlight and know heís doing no better than you.

You run your hands down his arms, the silky hard feeling of his muscles the only pleasure you can endure at this moment, and mumble,

"We must do this more often."



*********


That evening, you drag Brian to a showing on indigenous art from the Americas at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and he lets you.

Youíre kind of surprised that Brian has basically let you do anything you have wanted to since heís come. He hasnít complained about the food, the housing, or anything else. He hasnít made any demands of any kind whatsoever.

Itís after youíve done the museum tour and are taking a walk along the boundary of Long Meadows that he nudges you with his shoulder, slipping his left arm around your waist.

"You happy here?" he asks.

You glance at him as you match his strides, covering his hand with yours. "In New York?"

"Nah." He shakes his head. "I mean this neighborhood." He looks at you for a second and then forward again. "It isnít exactly the safest place to be, you know."

"Oh." You think of Alphonse playing his stupid songs to make you smile. You think of the busy street corners and the dark-skinned children stopping their games to stare at you as you walk through them. You think of paint and varnish, cleaning rags, grime filled walls and dark hands carrying sandpaper and brushes. And then you look up Brian and smile. "Yeah. I like it here."

He stares at you closely, his eyes staring into yours deeply, as if analyzing your statement. Then he slowly nods, a strange look on his face. "Okay."

He pulls you closer as the two of you continue walking through the streets.


*********


The last evening of Brianís stay in New York, you take him to see the mural.

He keeps quiet and out of your way, simply observing from a distance, as you join the other artists on the pavement. You take out your supplies from your messenger bag: brushes, varnish, paint, cleaning rags. In the past few weeks, theyíve moved on from sandpapering and cleaning to applying a base coat on the entire layer of the mural. Itís a long, hard process, considering how many places the wall has been chipped and will need the cracks to be filled in with a mixture of plaster of paris and cement.

…douard, one of the more experienced conservators Ėyou find not all of them are artistsĖ a stocky ruddy-skinned, white haired man from the Czech Republic, shows you a section that has been recently filled, and you set down to cover it with the base coat. You spend a couple of hours on the section -- almost forgetting that Brian is there with you, so engrossing the work is. When you finally look up, you find Brian sitting on the steps of a small store, watching you intently, a smile playing on his lips. You straighten up and stretch, smiling at him, a quiet feeling of content filling you.

Youíre not sure whether its because of the nightís work or because of the fact that Brian sat there waiting for you with so much patience. But youíre pleased for it nonetheless.

Later that night, you show him the painting youíve been working on for the last week or so. Itís not complete but as you explain to him, inspiration has hit you in a hurry in the last few weeks and youíve made some very fast progress on it in very little time.

Brian studies it closely, his face set in concentration, and you feel your heart thumping in anticipation. It is an abstract image, a blending of bold strokes in vivid colors that called to you in a way no image has ever done before. If you look at it at just a glance, it seems like nothing more than a striking fusion of reds and blues and orange, bordered by dark grayish strokes on the bottom to give it perspective. But is that all there is to see? Is that all that Brian would see?

You watch him intently, his head tilted to one side, as he looks at every stroke, his eyes seemingly following the same journey your brush had taken, noticing the lighter shades and the darker hues. Suddenly, after what seems like long moments, his eyes sparkle and he takes a step back, recognition finally dawning on his face.

"Itís the mural," he exclaims. "Itís the painting of the mural you were working on."

A smile breaks on your face as you step forward to take him in your arms, kissing him thoroughly for understanding.

"Yes it is," you murmur against his throat and let him hold you, standing in the middle of the room in front of the half-done canvas.

A blank canvas is whatever you make of it.

And you intend to make yours worthwhile.


*********


After Brianís trip, it becomes easier to go back to Pittsburgh to visit.

You make use of each and every public holiday to hop the greyhound and show up on Brianís doorstep. Fourth of July. Labor Day. Thanksgiving. Deb leaves a place for you on her table on every occasion that you can show up at and on some that you canít.

You fail to make it on Christmas because you lose your job two weeks before the holidays and canít make even the bus ticket, let alone that monthís rent. You feel too embarrassed to tell anyone about it and decide just not to show up. Afterwards, when you speak to everyone on the phone, your mother is understandably upset. However, itís Deb who berates you for so long and so loudly that you vow never to make the same mistake again.

Brian tells you to stop acting like a fucking princess and let him cover for you at times like these and you realize you must not be only one who was berated by Deb.


*********



In the second week of February, after your job has been restored and you are feeling somewhat back on your feet, Brian takes you to London with him for two days. He has a presentation to give to a large fashion house and says you could use a break. You canít help but agree with him.

Itís not the first time youíve been to London. You remember a childhood vacation you took with your parents when you were very young, before Molly was even born, but you barely have any memories of what you did.

This time, though, even though Brian is busy during the two days with his clients, you decide to explore London on your own. You know you donít have enough time to see everything but you can hit some of the highlights if you are smart enough.

So you get day passes for the London Underground for the two days, and hit the streets on foot. Walking around Leicester Square exploring the music stores and small pubs along its four sides, browsing through the art supplies and antiques stores on Oxford Street, and visiting the Tate Modern on the South Bank of the Thames, you feel like youíre in heaven. London is beautiful and itís devotion to the last Century through art even more so.

At nights, before hitting the clubs, you and Brian check out the fashion stores on Bond Street and the world famous haunts around Knightsbridge, because he proclaims he simply canít go back to the Pitts without doing some serious shopping.

Brian is the biggest label queen you have ever come across and itís always fascinating to watch him in serious shopping mode. You follow him from one designer label to another, watching him buy something from every single place, the cartons and bags piling up as you exit each store. You wonder how much overweight charge heíll have to pay to take everything back home.

You try to wriggle out when he forces you to try on designer jeans and beautiful shirts at Canali and Pal Zileri but he simply tells you to shut up as he pays for three pairs of jeans, six shirts and a pair of dress trousers.

He says you will need better clothes than your fucking chinos and worn out track pants when you start making the rounds of the big galleries in Manhattan.

You punch him on his arm as you make your way out of the shop and tell him you wonít need any clothes at all for what you want to do with him tonight, and he smiles.



*********


Brian gets the London account and lands a meeting with a big New York catering firm in the same week, and comes to celebrate with you.

That same weekend, you are introduced to the owner of a small, chic gallery on 23rd Street. She looks at your work, paying close attention to your more recent stuff Ėher gaze especially lingering on the mural paintingĖ and tells you that if you come back to her when you have a few more pieces to show, she would consider giving you a spot at her gallery. There are a few exhibitions coming up at her place in the next few months, she says, and there could be some possibility for showing some of your work there.

Your senses thrumming with excitement, you greet Brian with an extremely hot blowjob that night in his hotel room. He says you should meet more gallery owners when he visits you.

You tell him he should just visit you more often, thatís all. Good things happen to you when heís around.

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