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Genre: Angst, romance
Author's Note: Justin and Brian are confronted with a physical reminder of prom.
Five – Focus
Many things flipped Brian’s switch, flooding his body with lust
and desire and stiffening his cock with purpose. A black dildo attached
to a glitter harness, was one notable – and recent –
example. Groomed eyebrows. A nice, muscular neck. Hard pecs. Maroon
speedos. The smell of sandalwood. Some of his turn-on triggers were
odder than others – as the glitter harness attested to –
but he was sure none was stranger than the rush of fire he felt pooling
in his groin just watching Justin eat. It stood to reason, too: the
blond’s approach to a meal was similar to his approach to sex: He
dove right in with no reservations, made occasional grunts and sighs of
contentment as he satisfied his appetite, licked his lips when he was
done, and then, five minutes later, was ready for seconds.
Brian gripped the stem of his wine glass until his knuckles turned chalky, eyes locked onto Justin’s face. The urge to lick the oil from the blond’s flushed lips was as overwhelming as the smell of tahini and garlic in the air, and the older man could do nothing but stare and swallow hard when Justin chose that moment to meet his gaze and, in a slow, deliberate movement, swabbed his own glistening lips with his tongue. Brian met Justin’s teasing smile with as casual a smirk as he could muster, and glanced at his watch, wondering just how long it’d be until his balls would return to their normal color.
They were lying on their stomachs in the living room, a feast of tongue-twisting, Middle Eastern delights spread out between them – every one of which Justin had attacked with gusto, sometimes not bothering to refer to the little menu for a translation of just what it was he was putting into his mouth. Brian, silently admiring the way Justin’s ass filled out the Penn State sweatpants he’d let the blond borrow, stuck to the more pedestrian rice and chickpea dishes, avoiding anything that made his eyes water, had too many onions, or looked like it could be or once had been an endangered species. It was strange . . . Brian had tasted, and enjoyed, Middle Eastern food before, but what they were eating now was billed as Middle Eastern cuisine with a “Pittsburgh” flair . . . and being that Pittsburgh had very little in the way of flair, Brian was understandably leery of their dinner selection. But Justin, ever the culinary adventurer, was cajoling Brian to try this or that, using those bottomless blue eyes and supernova smile to his best persuasive advantage.
“Brian, come on. Just have one bite. One.” Justin speared a chunk of meat with his fork and held it out. “It’s really, really good. Didn’t your mom teach not to waste food?”
“Get that shit away from me.” Brian pushed Justin’s hand away. To him, the seemed to be glowing, and Brian was sure the lighting in the room had nothing to do with it. “And don’t get any of it on the blankie. It might eat right through the fucking floor.”
With a derisive grin, Justin popped the morsel in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. “Baby.” Delivered from those smiling lips, the word seemed more endearment than taunt. “It’s not even spicy. Don’t you have a sense of adventure?”
“Yeah, and I have a sense of smell, too. And neither of them want to play tonight,” Brian said, tearing his eyes away from that tantalizing mouth long enough to glance around them and ponder just how they’d made it to their present location. When the food had arrived, Brian had been willing to eat in the bedroom, where Justin had been camped sketching and staring at their picture. But Justin, fearing for the safety of the new sheets, and a little more skeptical than Brian had been about the stain-resistant claim, had insisted that they eat in another part of the loft, which Brian had agreed to after five seconds of trying to persuade Justin to “forget about the fucking sheets and eat something.” They’d both dismissed the dining room table as too formal, and had wandered over to the couch, lining their food up on the coffee table. But they never got quite comfortable on the roomy sofa – too little legroom for them both, and the many containers and bottles barely fit on the table; they couldn’t hope to even reach for one carton without everything falling down.
Through a series of events and negotiations that Brian couldn’t quite remember, but none of which had involved speaking out loud, they had ended up on the floor, their food resting on an old tablecloth Brian vaguely remembered using during Mickey’s fateful 30th birthday bash. The hardwood surface didn’t seem suited to lie on, exactly, and there was something about seeing their dinner spread upon the white sheet as if they were at a picnic that was vaguely familiar and unsettling to the ad exec, but Brian had to admit that it was pretty decent there on the floor. Whether that was because his legs had free rein to stretch or because, as in the bed, the way they were situated allowed them to be able to see all of each other, Brian couldn’t say. In any case, he was reasonably comfortable, and judging by the way Justin was plowing through the offerings, the blond didn’t have any complaints, either.
“Glad you’re enjoying dinner, Sonnyboy.” Brian cast an amused look at the rapidly emptying food cartons, satisfied that things between them were finally beginning to settle into familiar patterns. “Just don’t lick the plates, okay? We can order more stuff, if you want.”
“Sorry . . . I haven’t really had anything solid since before class yesterday.” Justin smiled guiltily, spooning more rice onto his plate. “Daphne forced me to eat part of some gyro thing, but it seems like that was a long while ago.”
Brian frowned. That didn’t sound like the kid who could eat three helpings of Deb’s chicken lasagna and still have enough of an appetite to graze from other’s plates. “Since when has someone had to jam food down your throat?”
“I wasn’t really hungry. I was kinda drunk most of the night.” Justin ducked his head guiltily, attempting to hide his red face behind a bowl of couscous. “Daphne’s roommate is this total boozehound and she keeps all sorts of shit under her bed. She drinks so much she never knows how much she has, so me and Daph went through her stash.”
“You didn’t sound too hung over this morning.” Brian opened a container of something orange and oily, sniffed it cautiously, and set it back down again, put off by the fluorescent color. Brian wondered briefly if he’d glow in the dark if he ate any, and quickly and silently indulged an amusing fantasy about fucking Justin with a dick resembling a light saber. “Those all-night cram sessions teaching you to hold your liquor better?”
“Maybe. But really, the stuff I drank didn’t have much effect.” Justin dragged his fork through the rice on his plate, scattering it around. “I just felt the same kind of numb I felt when I first got to Daphne’s. Nothing helped much. Not even talking about it . . . or trying to. Daph kept me from going off the deep end, but I just felt so . . .” He trailed off, shrugging weakly. “It’s like I couldn’t feel my brain anymore. The picture, the article . . . everything sort of hit at once and it’s like my mind overloaded and I just had enough left in me to just listen . . . and breathe. But sometimes, it seemed like I forgot how to do that, too - breathe, I mean. But that might have been allergies . . . they've been acting up lately.”
A groove appeared in the space between Brian’s eyebrows, and he stared a moment at the strands of hair falling into Justin’s eyes. He’d noticed the longer hairstyle right off, and had been more than a little surprised that he liked it – a lot. It made Justin seem less like the callow, Abercrombie clone Justin had seemed to him when they first met, and more like the impressive, intelligent man Brian had always known the teen would grow into. Yet now, he seemed so innocent, with his hair nearly covering his eyes, and the earnest despair that had stolen into his voice, made him sound much like a schoolboy who’d forgotten his homework and was waiting to get reamed out by the teacher. Brian’s hand shot out before he’d realized it and hovered above the golden hair, fingers itching to bury themselves in the sunny strands. With an inaudible sigh, Brian brought his hand down on the teen’s shoulder instead, comforted by the solid warmth beneath his palm.
“Daphne’s a good friend. You’re lucky to have her.” Brian said quietly, giving Justin’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “But you could have called me, Sunshine. I was around . . . we could have . . . talked.”
“You could’ve, maybe, but I couldn’tve. I wasn’t thinking in complete sentences until about 10 this morning.” A glimmer of a smile crossed Justin’s face, and he pushed his hair out of his eyes. “But I think I’m over that now. There’s so much I want to say . . . and even more that I want to ask . . .”
Brian swallowed reflexively, sensing the shift in Justin’s tone. Here it was, the moment they’d been building up to since the day the doctors came out and announced to the waiting throng gathered outside the IC unit that Justin was going to live. It was time for the conversation.
“Great.” The exec cleared his throat, and massaged the back of his neck. Maybe I should eat some of that orange shit after all . . . if I’m lucky, maybe it’ll melt my fucking vocal chords, end this farce before it gets started. On some level, Brian found his reluctance to talk – he wouldn’t call it fear – pretty uncharacteristic. He wouldn’t have survived a minute in the advertising world without his ability to talk his way into a client’s heart – and wallet. Selling out-there concepts to CEOs who were anything but visionary required a persuasive mind and more than a rudimentary grasp the art of conversing.
That he was now sweating over the prospect of a conversation with a teenager, who, had, on numerous occasions, screamed his name in ecstasy, was almost laughable . . . and no one who knew him would ever believe it could be true – Brian himself couldn’t believe it was true, but there it was – the reticence, the hesitation. Not fear. On this, Brian was firm. He was not afraid. Just a bit reluctant, that was all . . . and being horny as all hell certainly didn’t help matters, but he was determined not to let that, at least, get out of hand . . . or out of pants. Yet.
“So . . . school’s going okay?” Brian decided to start off slow. If they could handle the polite small-talk that he generally hated, then there was a decent chance they wouldn’t stumble much when they tackled more serious subjects. Besides, he genuinely was curious about Justin’s studies: Linds had told him the blond had made the dean’s list first quarter, and Brian had heard fifth-hand and after the fact that there’d been an exhibit of PIFA students’ art at the Frick, and Justin had shown a piece or two. “Has my cock come up in any of your work lately?”
“No, sorry. But it couldn’t come up, even if I wanted it to. That’d be considered porn, and I’d get a zero.” Justin grinned and ripped open the aluminum foil that contained their dessert – a dense, rich-looking cake crusted with walnuts. “In Life Art, we cannot ‘depict the male genitalia in any state of protuberance.’ Says it right in the syllabus. And if, like, out of nervousness or something, the model gets a hard-on, we all have stop drawing while the guy takes a break and gets things together. It’s happened a couple times. The students are totally cool about it, and so’s the professor, but the model always gets freaked out . . . like he’s afraid he’s gonna get fired on the spot.”
“Don’t blame them for being nervous. It’s a cushy gig . . . especially for college. Stand in one place for an hour, show your dick, look good, get paid – you don’t have to get your hands dirty. Or your knees.” Brian fondly remembered Lindsay’s Life Art classes at PSU in which the male nude was the only subject that was covered. Dicks galore, and some in very full protuberance – the teachers there seemed to understand the concept of the hard-on as work of art. No artist, but a connoisseur of the male physique, Brian had enjoyed sitting in on the classes immensely, and after class, many of the models had enjoyed sitting on his cock immensely. A sly grin curved his lips. “Ever offer to give any of these poor, flustered models a hand?”
“No . . . I’m too busy concentrating on my art.” Justin cut a huge chunk of the cake, setting it on a napkin in front of Brian. “And except for a couple in the beginning of the semester, I think they’ve all been straight.”
“That’s what they all say.” Brian looked askance at the slice of cake, giving it an exploratory poke with his fork. “Do you want me to eat this or do bench presses with it? It’s like a fucking brick.”
“It’s good, and you barely ate anything,” Justin countered, pointing his fork at him in accusing manner. Brian watched in amazement as Justin’s portion of cake shrank to a half and then a quarter of its original size with startling rapidity. “It might be a little too sweet. It’s still good though.” Two more seconds, and the quarter became a sliver.
What the fuck . . . at least this is a color I recognize. With a casual shrug, Brian tucked into the honey-glazed square without another word. Ignoring Justin’s self-satisfied grin, Brian downed a substantial forkful, and felt his heart rate immediately speed up as the substance dissolved on his tongue. If drinking that hot chocolate earlier had been like mainlining sugar, eating this stuff was like freebasing it. Brian felt the sugar convert into a hot burst of energy that traveled right to the area of his brain that allowed him to form coherent sentences. One good thing: Brian figured he’d be able to blame any conversational snafus on his part on being on a sugar high, recalling Justin’s earlier declaration that sugar “fucked him up worse than E.” An added bonus: chewing the damn thing would keep his mouth occupied while he thought of something of substance to say.
The exec made a noncommittal noise, careful not to go in for another bite too quickly. Damn his sweet tooth, and damn that coy little half-smile on Justin’s face – it was as mind-numbing as the cake was. “It’s not bad.”
Laughing, Justin poured them both another glass of wine. “You know, it took me a long time to realize that for you, not bad is, like, the highest form of praise – except when it comes to sex, maybe.” Justin’s mouth softened and his hand moved in an absent-minded – and, for Brian, a distracting – way up and down the wine bottle. "Not that you actually say anything – you kind of moan under your breath at first, and then you make these little growling noises . . . kinda like a cross between a snore and a gargle. When I’m going down on you, I can hear you and I can feel you – you’re like a cat purring.”
Brian noticed that in this recital, in addition to caressing the bottle of Abarbanel, Justin was using the present tense, making it sound more as if the boy were fantasizing than reminiscing. Brian was right there with him, imagining himself and Justin naked in bed, the blond head bobbing between his thighs as if moving in time to a favorite tune. Justin’s point of comparison was interesting, Brian thought, because the teen made cat-like noises of his own while feasting on his lover’s dick. They were hot, hungry, guttural sounds made low in his throat, reminiscent of a jungle cat stalking in the tall grass of the savanna for his dinner. That, and the way the blond pressed his entire body against Brian’s, rendering him practically motionless, almost helpless – made the older man feel much like prey at the mercy of a ravenous, blond tiger.
Brian quickly rolled onto his stomach, wincing slightly when he banged his knee against the hard floor. The jolt of pain knocked the images out of his mind, but his cock’s muscle memory was working again. Brian pressed his hips into the floor, trapping the traitorous organ between the shining hardwood and his own desire. Taking a deep, soundless breath, Brian grimly polished off his chunk of the fortifying cake, keeping watch on Justin in a series of furtive glances, hoping the blond didn’t notice him wiggling his hips in attempt to ease pressure on an erection that threatened to bore a hole in the floor. Justin had fallen silent, but the teen was looking at him, still fondling the bottle and cranking up the heat on his ‘Sunshine’ grin. The impact that the curving lips and flash of white teeth had on Brian was immediate and definite. Scooping up the last crumbs of his dessert, Brian wondered just how something as simple as a smile could make him feel as if he’d eaten a bowl of feathers.
Still smiling, Justin looked around, poking at various containers. “This has been really cool. This whole day, us together – everything. I’d forgotten how much fun it could be when it’s just the two of us.”
Lips pursed in silent agreement, Brian reflected that he, too, had not remembered how . . . effortless it was to be around Justin. There was no hysteria, no need to be “on,” no pretending to be interested in pointless bullshit, just this ease of just being. With Justin, Brian didn’t feel as if there was some adjective attached to him defining him in terms he himself didn’t always understand: Savior Brian, Unrepentant Asshole Brian, Advertising God Brian. With Justin, he was simply, unapologetically and fully allowed to be . . . himself; just Brian . . . no pithy adjectives required.
“Yeah,” Brian mumbled, finding it difficult to look up into the happy blue gaze of his companion. “I’ve . . . enjoyed the company.”
“And we still haven’t even kissed – not on the lips, anyway.” Justin licked his, as if to remind Brian that his were still there. Brian quickly found somewhere else to look. “You’re sure you still want to talk?”
Talk. Brian breathed in deeply, wondering where all the oxygen in the room had gone. What the fuck was it about that word that it made his stomach drop just to hear it? “That’s the plan.”
Justin smiled briefly, but his expression clouded, making him look much too serious for a person who had just moments before been feeling up a bottle of mediocre white zinfandel. “I don’t know. I just . . . I don’t want to break the mood, I guess. There’s just so much shit that’s happened, and I don’t know if we can talk about it without getting pissed off at each other.”
Brian said nothing. He had a feeling Justin was referring to something or things specifically, and he wondered what they could be. “We did some pretty heavy talking earlier . . . and it turned out all right.” Hazel eyes flicked over to the bedroom area. Maybe we should go back to bed. If nothing else, it was more comfortable than the floor. But maybe the comfort of the bed would prove problematic . . . it might become just a little too comfortable, a little too easy to slip his arms around the blond, too easy to slide their pants off, too easy to reach into his stash of condoms and lube and concentrate on getting Justin to “open” up to him in a different way than he’d envisioned . . . and in several different positions, too . . . He braked that line of thought immediately, staring at his reflection in the hardwood floor. One thing at a time.
“That was different.” Justin’s low voice brought Brian out of his musings. “That was about the bashing, and how we’ve both been kind of messed up from it without saying anything to each other. What I think we need to talk about is stuff that . . . one or both of us screwed up on because we were so messed up.” He paused. “Like the ‘rules,’ and Vermont and me going away without you. Or you . . . and the way you acted when Michael and I started Rage.” The artist glanced up, the hesitation in his eyes darkening them to a shining cobalt. “And Ethan . . . and how I . . . how things got to be what they were with him.”
Tales of fuck-ups past. Great weekend evening entertainment. “Super.” Brian reached for his glass of wine again. A free and open discussion about their sins was not exactly what he’d had in mind – for one, it would take forever to go over every thing that had derailed their relationship, and also, there was the possibility, as Justin pointed out, of their remembering incidents that had been specifically bad, and having a repeat of the last real “talk,” if it could be called that, that they’d had before Justin decided where he wanted to be was with the Fiddler.
Ethan Gold was a good example of a potential conversational minefield, in Brian’s opinion. While he halfway understood the Fiddler’s appeal to Justin, he didn’t particularly want to think back to the night Mikey had given him not-so-subtle hints about the artist’s activities and his later confirmation that the blond had broken their rules in a huge way. Then there was the Vermont thing; it still rankled at Brian because he’d been, he thought, clear with Justin about the entire situation, and the blond still acted like a spoiled twat. And as for Rage, well, Brian still felt like the world’s biggest asshole for what he’d done to Justin and Michael, too, so doubtless Justin would be holding on to some anger. On some level, Brian understood that maybe, like with the immediate aftermath of prom, getting their anger out in the open would probably go a long way toward healing the rift, or whatever the fuck, but Jesus . . . did they have to do all that emoting now, after they’d had such a decent day together – the first he’d had in quite some time? Couldn’t they just do what they were doing for a while longer? Talk and share a meal and just generally enjoy each other’s company? The angst would be there later for them to pick at, Brian knew. That wasn’t going to change anytime soon.
“But you know what? I don’t really want to talk about those things,” Justin said after a pause, pushing wayward bangs out of his eyes. “Well, I do, and I know we should, but it just seems wrong to do it today, you know? Since I found the picture, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the prom. There’s so much about that night I want to know . . . not about the part about Hobbes . . . not even just about the way we danced. I want to know everything – all the details.”
“We can do that,” Brian said slowly, his mind shifting gears. “But I thought you said Daphne tried that with you last night and didn’t help. And . . . the first time we tried to talk you through the night, it didn’t work out too well.” Brian even now could feel Justin’s stiff, awkward form in his arms as they tried to recreate their dance, and later, in the parking garage, the look of utter incomprehension on the teen’s face when Brian recounted the last few good moments before the bat made its mark on Justin’s temple and their lives.
“Yeah, but I think that was mainly me still being in a little pain still, and just generally being a twat.” Justin began dissembling the fort of food containers between them, putting them off to the side. “I think I was so pissed that I couldn’t remember anything that I couldn’t really appreciate what you and Daph were trying to do for me. And last night, I was in total shock, so Daph could have been drawing little figure eights on my ass, and I wouldn’t have noticed . . .”
“Figure eights?” Brian raised a brow. Well, that was totally random . . . maybe the sugar was affecting Justin, too.
“Just giving you an idea of how out of it I was. Anyway, I’m ready now. I really want to hear about that night.” The artist sounded eager. “Maybe it’s not the same as having my own memory back, but if you’d let me borrow yours, I guess that’s the next best thing, if, you know, the offer still stands.”
Brian grimaced, ignoring the pounding below his waist that indicated something was standing, all right. Justin wanted to talk about the prom . . . pre-garage . . . pre-kiss . . . pre-bat. Good idea or not a good idea? He wavered for a moment, mulling it over before deciding to just go for it. The worst that could happen would be that Justin would get re-frustrated over not remembering anything, and Brian knew he could deal with that. This was what Justin wanted, what he needed. And maybe, Brian admitted grudgingly, it was he needed, too.
Decision made, Brian’s head tilted in a slight gesture of acquiescence. “What do you want to know?”
“Really?” The blond sat up straight, his slightly open mouth and high-arching eyebrows giving him the stunned look of a kid who’d expected socks for his birthday and was handed the keys to a Porsche instead. “Okay, wait a minute . . . let me think . . . let me think . . . first question . . . um . . .” He closed his eyes. Opened them a second later. “Uh . . . when did you know you were coming?”
That was quick . . . the little fuck knew I was gonna go for this. Brian grinned lasciviously, grinding his hips. “I thought you were always able to tell.”
“I mean coming to the prom, asshole.” Justin rolled his eyes and smiled. “When did you decide you’d be there after all?”
Fuck. Brian’s jaw went slack for a moment. Start out with the easy questions, why don’t you, Sonnyboy? Telling Justin the truth about his decision to go to the prom would more than likely involve mentioning that he’d been one orgasm away from joining his dad in the family plot at St. Adelbert’s. Brian wasn’t sure if Justin was ready to hear that or if he himself was ready to relive that.
“You turning me down at Babylon is one of things I remember best about what happened right before prom.” Justin said, oblivious to Brian’s new round of squirming. “And I remember thinking that you meant it. It wasn’t one of your ‘maybe’ no’s or ‘I’ll think about it later’ no’s, or the ‘ask me again after I come, and maybe I’ll say yes’ no’s. It was a ‘no’ no. You shot me down, totally.”
“I didn’t know I had more than one no.” In spite of his discomfort, Brian found himself amused by Justin’s serious expression. “I thought only straight frat boys believed in that trick. How do you know which is which?”
“You said it to me enough . . . I kind of learned to differentiate.” He flashed the exec a lopsided smile. “But you showed . . . what changed your mind?” Justin set aside the bottle that rested between them, and reached out to Brian, running his fingers along the underside of the exec’s arm. “Daph and I were talking about that last night. She thinks that you were gonna come the whole time; that you were just jerking me off at Babylon so that I’d be surprised. She said there’s no way that you had something like what you wore just laying around. I told her that maybe if it were anybody else, I might buy that, but you would definitely have something awesome in your closet, pressed, tailored and ready to go. So I said it was probably a spur-of-the-moment thing. So I want to know which of us is right.” Justin’s eyes narrowed in thought. “What you had on . . . it looked like Armani. Or was it Boss?”
“Cerrutti.” Brian said quietly, somewhat amused that someone who’d once worn the same pair of no-name jeans could seem such an authority on designer suits. You’ll be a label queen yet, Sunshine. “Got it in York, of all fucking places. I had to go down there, scout out some rustic farmhouse that a client wanted to use for a location shoot. On the way back to the train home, I was passing this men’s store . . . some guy was in the window, putting this ugly-ass beret on one of the mannequins. Nice look, good presentation, decent package. I didn’t think I’d come across something like that in York.”
“The guy or the mannequin?”
“The guy . . . But the mannequin would probably’ve been a better lay.” Brian sneered at the laugh Justin tried to disguise as a cough. “It was York, Sunshine. Not like there was anything else to do there.”
“I guess you have a point there.” Justin nodded. “Go on.”
“I went in,” Brian said, “I had some time to kill . . . so I decided I want to yank his dick a little before I got my cock involved in anything. I told him my firm was giving a huge event . . . and I wanted something that would charm the balls off the clients.” Brian smirked in remembrance of the clerk’s question as to the gender of these clients Brian was looking to impress, and of the wide grin and flash of lust in the handsome man’s eyes when Brian simply smiled in answer. “I figured the guy would show me some Tommy Bahama bullshit or maybe some Men’s Warehouse rejects. But he went in back and came back with this ass-kicking Cerrutti. He said they’d just gotten it in – it was gonna go in the window the next day – and that he could tell it’d be perfect for me. Some patronizing bullshit like that. Suffice it to say what was coming out of his mouth wasn’t all that interesting to me.”
Brian squinted, dredging the garment from his memory, recalling the well-made jacket, and the soft nap of the dark material beneath his hand, the crisp, knife-edged pleats in the slacks, the subtle detailing overall. It had been well worth its price . . . even if he had worn it only once. “Tried it on. Liked it. Bought it. Fucked the salesguy. In that order.”
“That’s some commission.” Justin rolled down the floor, resting his head on an outstretched arm. “But I guess you don’t find that level of service just anywhere.”
“True. I didn’t even have to pay to get the stains steamed out of he pants I was wearing. Salesguy’s roommate worked at a dry-cleaner’s down the street from the store. He wasn’t bad, either. I might have fucked him, too, but it was little crowded in there. And I had a train to catch,” Brian said wryly. “I guess York does have some redeeming qualities.”
“I’ll have to remember that next time my mom drags me and Molly down there to visit our Great-Aunt June,” Justin said. “I could stop by that store . . . if I start saving now, maybe I’ll be able to get a pair of socks or something.”
“I’d save the money and take a couple of suits to the dry cleaner’s. He was hotter.”
Justin smiled, but didn’t answer, just gazed at him, inching slightly closer. “You looked awesome. Not that I can really remember, but I bet you were the best-looking and best-dressed guy at my prom. So much cooler than me, and what I was wearing. I wore that tux to my cousin’s wedding last summer. Emmett helped me get dressed . . . I kind of remember him going through my entire closet to find something decent . . . and I think he said something like when he was done, I wouldn’t even recognize myself.”
“This from a man whose idea of formal attire is glitter and taffeta,” Brian murmured, shaking his head. “He held back . . . you looked normal enough that I would have thought somebody straight had dressed you.”
“I promised Daph no weirdness,” Justin said. “And I think my mom sort of scared him. Em said she kept going on about wanting me to have a ‘classic’ look, and when she was talking to him, she was cutting up vegetables for the crudités tray and was waving this knife around. I guess she looked kind of demented.” The blond leveled a querying gaze at him. “So . . . you haven’t answered the question. When did you decide to come? And how?”
“That’s two questions.” Brian countered Justin’s skeptical look with an innocent smile. “All right . . . let’s just say you’re closer to the mark than Daphne is on the when part . . . but the how is kinda complex.” He met Justin’s skeptical look evenly. “Ask something else, Sonnyboy. I promise I’ll tell you all about the whens, the how’s, and maybe even The Who’s.” He hummed a few lines from Behind Blue Eyes, grinning at Justin’s puzzled glance. So much for retro being in with the kiddies.
“All right.” The blond’s stare and the press of his lips told Brian that they were going to be revisiting that question in the very near future. “Um . . . where’d you learn to dance? I hear we were pretty good . . .”
“You sound surprised.”
Justin frowned slightly. “I guess I am . . . I’m not sure why, though. You’re always at some big-deal dinner or ceremony, so it would make sense that you could.” He looked up at him. “Maybe it’s that I’m so used to Babylon that I can’t imagine us doing anything else.”
“We managed somehow, Sunshine.” The exec considered that a moment: At the clubs, what he and the blond did seemed less to him like dancing and more like fully clothed, synchronous foreplay set to a techno beat, both of them knowing just how to rub and grind against each other in a way that was pleasurable for them both, and not too obvious to those around them. At the prom, it had been the same deal, just to a waltz and not Moby; they were teasing each other, using their closeness to tantalize and arouse . . . it wasn’t where they were that mattered, Brian realized, or the music playing or what they were wearing. It was them . . . they were just in sync that way . . . connected. “But to answer the question, I learned at good old State. You go to PSU, you get a well-rounded education,” Brian said, a sarcastic edge to his voice. “And that meant a lot of requirements for everyone . . . math, science, public speaking . . . and three credits of ESACT.”
“ESACT?” The way Justin mouthed the word made Brian’s head swim. “What is that? Foreign language?”
“Exercise and Sport Activity.” Brian was amazed he still remembered any of the garbage from his college days other than his major and GPA. Everything else about Penn State and State College, Pa., was certainly forgettable – especially the men. “Everything from archery to jai alai to racquetball. Each class was a credit and a half so you had to take at least two to meet the requirement. And since that applied to every-fucking-body, it was bitch to find any open sections of anything decent. I had to wait ‘til I was a senior before I had any shot at getting in. I managed to talk my way into a closed section of soccer . . . but I needed another ESACT class. So . . . I picked ballroom dancing.”
“You took a ballroom dancing class?” Justin looked suitably incredulous. “You must have really been desperate.”
“Well, it was either learn to polka or forget about waltzing down the aisle in May.” The ad exec shrugged. “I could’ve gone with weight lifting or lacrosse, but one of my roommates had taken ballroom the semester before . . . told me it was pretty easy, the tests were a joke, and there was a section of it that never met on Fridays. So it fit in with my grand scheme to have a built-in three-day weekend my final semester.”
Thinking back on it, Brian wasn’t sure how or why he’d been so hot to carve out an automatic three-day weekend for himself. When football season was over, the campus was all but dead, and heading home for the weekend was never something he looked forward to – whether it was dodging his dad and his drunken, sniping comments about his “collegiate” offspring or being sucked into Mikey’s latest adventure with a new guy or the Big Q. But it had seemed like a good idea at the time. That was a nice, neat, blanket excuse for just about everything he’d done at college – including some of the guys.
“Did you ever dance with any hot guys? Were there a lot of other queers in the class?”
“No more so than there were on the football team.” Brian shrugged. “And guys didn’t dance with other guys. Girls made up 70 percent of the class, so guys always had a girl to twirl around the floor with. And anyway, I seem to remember that the hottest guy in there was me . . . and I’ve fucked myself plenty of times. No mystery there.” He raised his wine glass in mock salute and downed the rest of the liquor.
“It served its purpose. I met the requirement, got an A, and learned to do a respectable waltz, which has come less in handy than you might think, Sunshine.” Brian stared into his glass, grimacing. “Latin dance is all the rage at the huge industry functions. Trust me, Sunshine – you haven’t lived until you’ve seen white bread CEOs and their Stepfords shaking their nonexistent asses to Tito Puente.” Brian was quiet a moment. “But I guess I can’t complain . . . I got to use what I learned when I needed to . . . which is more than I can say for the German classes I took.” He looked at Justin, whose eyes were half-closed in quiet concentration. “What about you, Sunshine? Where’d you get your skills?”
“Karenna Miller,” Justin replied, unblinking. “She babysat for me before Molly was born. I have no idea where my parents knew her from. I think she was the daughter of one of my mom’s classmates, back when she was taking real estate courses at Chatham. She was this really nice, smart girl. Kind of weird, though. We got along really well . . . I was always glad when she came over.”
“You had a thing for her?” Brian pulled a face. “Ooh, Sunshine, they could revoke your queer card if that got out.”
“Fuck no. I mean, I liked her, but not like that.” Justin looked appropriately scandalized. “I was, like, six or seven . . .”
“Uh-huh. Already knew you liked cock at so young an age?”
“You’re kidding, right? I knew that happened way before I was six or seven.” Justin grinned. “Anyway, we – hey . . . you know who Karenna sorta reminds me of? Remember that friend of Mel and Linds’? The one we met at their place when they were having that party for Linds’ parents?”
Brian’s brow furrowed. “Leda?” If Justin hadn’t been smitten by a girl who looked like a young Leda, Brian was willing to talk with Jennifer Taylor and hunt down her dickslap of an ex-husband and tell them they should stop blaming themselves for Justin’s being gay – there had never been any hope at all.
“No, not her . . . the other friend. She was tall – taller than you – really muscle-y . . . had a flat top and a tattoo of Storm from X-Men on her right arm.”
“Oh. The caterer.” Brian wondered how he’d missed the tattoo. “Your parents let someone like that watch over you during your formative, developmental years, and they wonder why you grew up wanting to take it up the ass and suck cock?”
“The thing was, Karenna wasn’t a dyke . . . I don’t think. She reminds me of Mel and Linds’ friend personality-wise. Cool, but kinda weird.” Justin looked thoughtful. “She went to East Allegheny and had a couple of brothers. I remember that. And she was crazy about ballroom dancing . . . it was almost all she talked about. She wanted to do it professionally. I think she said her uncle did it or something.” The blond smiled gently. “She’d come over with all these videos of old Fred Astaire movies . . . Gene Kelly, too . . . and she’d make me this kick-ass French toast and ice cream thing if I let her practice some of the dance moves from the movie with her. Plus it was kind of cool. She didn’t tell me to go play with trucks like this other sitter I had did.”
In his mind’s eye, Brian saw the young blond whirling and a girl who, at least from the description he was getting, sounded as if she could play in the Steelers’ front four, around the Taylor living room in just a slightly less-demented rendition of the “Night and Day” scene from The Gay Divorcee. And people said the suburbs were boring? “Were you Fred or Ginger, Sunshine?”
“Well . . . Karenna usually led . . . but she was taller! And older! I was just sort of standing in for . . . whoever.” Justin’s tone was defensive, Brian guessed, in reaction to the laughter he was sure Justin could see him trying to hold back. “But I got to lead when the girl in the movies was doing the more complicated steps . . . so after about a year, I could lead and follow.” The blond sounded so inordinately proud of this accomplishment.
“Versatile at so young an age.” Brian poked his tongue into his cheek. “A nice dry run for the life you would someday lead.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Justin smiled wanly, idly tapped his fork against his plate. “I really don’t remember being anything except dizzy, because she kept spinning me around and around doing all these weird twirly moves and weird twists . . . I don’t think I learned much at all.”
Brian recalled his turning Justin during their dance, and the bottle-top precision with which he executed those spins, even during the moments in their dance when they changed direction totally . . . the passage when they’d traveled the length of the floor and Justin whirled like a top throughout, never missing a beat. “I think you soaked up more than you know, Sunshine. You were pretty good out there.”
“That’s so weird to hear,” Justin murmured. “Karenna stopped coming around after mom got pregnant with Molly and stopped school, and I sort of forgot all about dancing and her. I got more into my art. There’d be times, like at weddings, where I’d have to waltz with some old lady, but it was nothing fancy, no spins no promenade moves. No dips . . .”
“Dips?” Brian recalled the subtle shift of Justin in his arms as he lowered the teen near to the dance floor . . . felt Justin’s leg edge up his hip as the blond allowed himself to be bent backward, total trust radiating from those blue eyes, as if he knew Brian had everything in control . . . that he was safe in his arms . . . that Brian had no intention of letting him fall . . . of letting him go. Never crossed my mind, Sunshine. Brian blinked, and the memory faded, leaving Brian a little disoriented as he tuned back into Justin’s voice.
“. . . Nothing fancy . . . it’s not one of the things I figured I’d remember, but I guess it all came back to me. I must have just followed your lead. I . . .” Justin sat up suddenly, getting to his feet in an instant. “Hold on a second. There’s something I noticed when I was looking at our picture that I wanted to ask you about.” Deftly avoiding the maze of food cartons, Justin strode quickly headed toward the bedroom. Brian watched him go, admiring the easy, sexy strut of the teen’s body, the little pivot of that bubble butt as it disappeared into the bedroom area. The exec sighed, grabbing the nearest containers, deciding some of his pent up energy would be best served clearing the floor and putting away the food. He had a feeling that if the conversation took the turn he thought it might, he and Sunshine might have need of the extra space on the floor; whether for dancing again or something else entirely, however, remained to be seen.
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