DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything, though if the show's going off the air, can
I get them off Ebay? Maybe?
SUMMARY: Reunions are rarely straightforward.
RATING: R (Language, sex)
Brian was just getting out of the Corvette when his phone rang. After a quick glance at the caller ID to make sure he wasn't about to embarrass himself, he answered, "What are you wearing?"
"Nothing but a smile," said Justin from the other end of the line. "Did you leave work yet? This a bad time?"
"I'm getting out of the car as we speak," Brian said, holding the phone out just enough so that Justin could hear the car door slam shut. "What does that have anything to do with you being naked?"
Justin laughed. "Just wanted to make sure I wasn't interrupting anything."
Brian wasn't going to say it, but Justin knew it would have to be something really important for him to not take one of these calls. He left it at "Uh huh."
"So how was your day, dear?"
They'd gotten into the habit of talking at least every second day, and somewhere in the conversation, Justin always asked this. It wasn't irritating anymore. "One step closer to taking over the world," Brian answered as he stepped into the elevator. "Yours?"
"Let's just say I'm really glad to be home," said Justin.
"Poor baby. You should have someone hot rub your feet."
"I might," Justin agreed, "but I think I'm going to stay in tonight."
"You're doing that a lot lately. I'm beginning to worry about you."
"It's only because I haven't been around my bad influence. Are you home already?"
"Are you writing all of this down or something? Five forty-five, Brian unlocks his front door..."
Brian unlocked his front door, hung up the phone, and placed it on the counter next to his car keys. "You said you were naked," he said accusingly.
"I lied," answered Justin, standing from his position on the sofa. "I was waiting for you before I got to that."
If Justin wasn't smiling like that, it might have been easier for Brian to pretend he wasn't pleased as all hell to see him. As it was, he was having a hard time keeping the grin off his face. "You're here," Brian said, as though it wasn't obvious.
"I know how you are with birthdays, and since every once is a little bit closer to forty-"
"Leave my property."
"-I thought I'd come and keep you distracted," Justin finished. "Maybe not in that order."
This time Brian did smile. He crossed the room to close the space between them and wrap his arms around Justin and kiss him almost tentatively, not for any other reason than to make sure he still felt and tasted the same. Despite Brian's concerns, he was still familiar, still Justin, and he was still far too clothed.
It had only been a couple of months, but it was enough time to miss him. It was enough time to feel that thrill in stripping off Justin's clothing and running his hands over bare skin and feeling Justin smile against his lips. It was enough time to feel desperate to remember exactly what that spark felt like when ignited, and why Brian could go off and fuck every man on Earth and still come home every night to this one. This was real.
So real, in fact, that he didn't even realize he had Justin pinned beneath him on the floor until Justin stopped abruptly. It took Brian a second to figure out why, until he felt fingers graze his chest while clasping the chain around his neck.
Brian was going to tell him not to say a thing, but Justin was faster. He lifted the chain over Brian's head to remove it. "I'm here now," he explained. "Did you miss me?"
"Now why," Brian said, "would I do a thing like that?"
If it hadn't been for Ted and Emmett passing by Brian having Justin pressed up against the wall of the building next door, they might not have made it inside, opting instead to head for the nearest car or alley or wherever. Having been caught, they had to go inside, where Debbie spent a good long time gushing over Justin and how well New York must be treating him.
He was finally able to slide into the booth beside Brian, who placed his hand on Justin's knee. It was automatic, and Brian knew he was doing it, but he didn't care to stop. He felt a compulsive need to touch him at every possible opportunity, and Justin seemed to feel the same way. It didn't matter if it was over flesh or fabric, casual or inappropriate or knowingly intimate, just as long as they were in contact.
"When did you get in?" Debbie asked sweetly, flipping off a customer who was demanding his order.
"Friday afternoon," Justin answered. His own hand began grazing Brian's inner thigh, fingers rubbing against denim so gently it almost tickled.
Debbie looked suddenly stern. "You've been here two days and this is the first I'm seeing you?"
"He's been otherwise occupied," Brian told her.
"I bet," Emmett said, and followed that with a quick, "How long are you here for, Justin?"
"I've got a flight out next Monday morning," Justin answered. "Wanted to be sure I got as much time as possible."
It had been a question Brian had avoided asking. He hadn't wanted to know the answer. Apparently understanding this, Justin's hand settled on Brian's, interlacing their fingers together.
"Sweetie, you are not allowed to tease us by coming back and then leaving right away," Emmett said. "We need time with you."
"You all are invited to visit me," said Justin. "Though you might want to look into a hotel because I live in a shoebox."
"You let him live like that?" Debbie asked Brian.
Sometimes Brian wondered many times would Justin have to strike out on his own until everyone decided he didn't need a keeper. "Justin's a big boy. He gets to live however he wants."
"Thank you," Justin said, emphasizing that with a kiss.
When they pulled away from each other, everyone else was pointedly looking away, though Ted was smiling as he concentrated on stirring his coffee.
"I'll get your order," Debbie told them, and ruffled Justin's hair as she walked off.
Fine. So Justin was going to leave again. Brian wanted him to. It wasn't that he wanted him gone, but he wanted Justin to have every opportunity available to him, and New York gave him that. No need to be weird about it.
Instead, Brian hooked his right ankle around Justin's left and splayed his fingers on Justin's knee, and Justin sort of leaned further against him. They stayed just like this through lunch, making small talk with Ted and Emmett and Debbie until it wasn't rude to make an escape.
They'd gotten halfway to Jennifer's before Justin asked, "Would you rather you woke up one morning and I wasn't there?"
Brian considered lying, and instead said, "You just got here. We've only fucked... I think we're still in the double digits. A timeline means we can't go at our own pace."
Justin watched him for a minute, and cocked a grin.
Justin pressed his hands against the slippery shower wall to push himself away from it, and Brian kissed the hinge of his jaw before letting him go. One day they would actually manage to finish this shower. One day.
"So when are we doing this again?" asked Justin, turning to face him.
Brian smirked. "You mean this is supposed to be more than a one-week stand?"
Justin placed his hand on Brian's shoulder to shove him playfully, not that Brian budged. "Seriously."
"Plans fall apart. Let's not set a date."
By the look on Justin's face, he was considering the meaning behind the comment, though there wasn't any fucking meaning. "Stop," Brian told him. "I'm not giving you the shaft."
A wicked smile crossed Justin's face. "If I ask nicely?"
"We can always get you on a later flight," said Brian, but they both knew that wouldn't happen. There was something really wrong with being reduced to fucking visits with Justin. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Turning off the water, Brian asked, "Are you sure you don't want a ride to the airport?"
"My mom's going to take me," Justin replied. "She says she hasn't gotten enough time with me."
"Can't imagine why..."
Justin tried not to smile, but wasn't doing a very good job of it. "I'll be fine," he said, and opened the shower door.
Brian left it at that, got ready for work as usual, and kissed Justin within an inch of his life as a goodbye.
Justin heard when the door opened, and he heard the startled "OhmyGod," but at this juncture, there wasn't much he could do about it. He settled for a breathless "One minute!" before the door immediately slammed shut again.
Dan could probably hear them finish, but stayed in the hallway regardless. Finally sitting up and twisting his upper body, Brian winced, "You need an actual bed."
"You need to learn actual patience so we can get to your fucking hotel room first," Justin countered.
"Don't make this about me. You need a bed that doesn't fold out from a sofa, and a bedroom that doesn't have a kitchen in it, and a roommate who's not going to give you shit about fucking in front of him."
"It's his place," Justin reminded him.
"You pay rent, don't you?"
A fucking lot of rent, actually, but it was still the best Justin could do, given the starving artist lifestyle plan. "Be nice to the poor guy. He's a total prude. He's probably having a coronary out there right now," Justin said.
Brian answered that by rolling his eyes.
Justin was with him on that one, but he wasn't going to say it. Dan probably only had sex in bed. With the lights off. Missionary style. Every time. He'd probably go into catatonic shock if he knew the sort of things that happened in the back room of Babylon, or that Justin had ever participated in any of it. Justin had no plans to tell him.
Brian rolled out of bed- well, off of sofa bed- and opened the front door. "It's safe to come in now," he said.
"You're still naked," said Dan as he came inside, not looking down if his life depended on it.
"You've got a dick, right? Then it's nothing you haven't seen before."
Justin stood, pulling on his jeans and looking for his shirt. Due to the size of the apartment, it was no surprise that it was located on the kitchen counter.
"You're Dan, right?" Brian asked.
"Yeah," Dan answered.
"Brian." He held out his hand for Dan to shake, and though Dan did shake it, he dropped it as if terrified to guess where that hand had been. Justin hid his smile behind his shirt as he pulled it on over his head. He knew Brian was only doing it to make the guy uncomfortable, but Dan had been annoying enough lately for it to be okay.
"I'm going to be staying with Brian for a couple days," Justin said.
Dan looked relieved that he wasn't going to be walking in on this sort of thing anymore. "Okay. Um, you've got messages. You really should look at them if you're not going to be here to answer your calls," he said, and with that darted into his room, closing the door. He was probably looking for evidence to make sure they hadn't fucked on his bed.
Justin didn't even look over at Brian because he knew what the expression on his face must look like, and picked up the stack of individual Post-It notes that had been left for him on the counter. They were mostly from his mom and Daphne, as usual, but he went through them anyway.
"Who's Bill?" Brian asked from over his shoulder. He was still buttoning his jeans.
"Some guy I met," Justin said. All the message said was Call back, so he put it to the bottom of the pile.
"Is this a business guy, or a guy you fucked?"
Justin turned his face towards Brian's. "Jealous?" he asked, noting the tone.
"No," Brian said, but he backed away. "Curious what you're getting up to without me to encourage you."
In reality, there was no real encouragement on this subject. He went out, sure, but it wasn't like it used to be, when they made a game out of who they could fuck and how much they were wanted. He wasn't sure Brian actually wanted to know if that's what he had been doing. Given how little he was hearing of Brian's exploits, Justin didn't know how much Brian was doing himself. "He's neither," Justin told him. "I met him through a friend. He's interested, but he's one of those relationship types."
"You mean one of those annoying, romantic-minded twats that won't stop following you around after one fuck?"
"So you know the type," joked Justin.
Brian shrugged. "Heard of them."
Brian was still on his cell phone when he returned to the room. "Hang up the phone for real this time, okay? You remember how to do that?... Good boy-" He pulled the phone away from his ear, looking confused for a second.
From the sofa, Justin asked, "What was that?"
"My brilliant son has discovered how to use the telephone," Brian announced. "He just hasn't mastered how to hang it up yet."
"Do Mel and Lindsay know Gus is calling you from Canada?"
"Probably not. But if he's going to be there, he can call me as much as he fucking wants. I'll probably end up paying the bill anyway." He sat beside Justin, kissing him hello.
"Where were you?" Justin asked, hoping he didn't sound as clingy as he thought he might. He'd gotten used to waking up next to Brian again, and it had been an uncomfortable shock to see his side of the bed empty. It worried him for many reasons that his first thought had been to wonder if Brian was with someone else. "You were out early."
"I had some work stuff to take care of."
"I'm not just here for you, you know," Brian said.
For a second Justin let that sting, but pushed the hurt down so far that he couldn't feel it. The last time he'd been home, he'd dragged Brian everywhere to see everyone. And Brian's previous visits to New York had been all about him, as far as Justin knew. Since he couldn't keep going home, Brian came to him.
"What kind of work stuff?" asked Justin, shrugging it off.
Brian repositioned himself to rest against the arm of the sofa, and pulled Justin by the wrist to lay over him. "Nothing big yet," Brian said, letting Justin lick his earlobe. "I've got an idea."
"Mm hm," Justin breathed, trying not to concentrate too hard on Brian's hand sliding under the waistband of his pants.
"We could scare some hotel guests."
Half the fun was just sneaking around the upscale hotel with Brian, looking for a good place to fuck. It was one of the reasons Justin loved having Brian around: it was fun. It was that half-giddy, lightheaded feeling as they passed through doors they weren't supposed to and got dirty looks from cleaning ladies that caught them making out, and letting Brian finally press him up against the wall of the empty fitness center, not caring if anyone walked in. They were the only ones lucky enough to be with each other right now, and the more people that were aware of this, the better.
Gus was the real reason for the tree. Brian had managed to wheedle Lindsay and Melanie into giving him a few days with Gus before Christmas when they came to visit, and he had every intention of spoiling the hell out of the kid while he could. Apparently that called for a Christmas tree.
It was artificial, of course, and pre-lit. Justin argued against both of these things, but Brian refused to have pine needles and sap anywhere in his loft. Gus was allowed to decorate whatever branches he could reach while Justin did the rest. It was easy to tell who did what. When Gus became convinced that there weren't enough ornaments, Justin helped him make some more in what Brian deemed the arts and crafts project from hell.
For Brian's part, he watched, occasionally taking pictures, because every time he saw Gus, he had doubled in size. It was becoming a little scary. He was already growing up and Brian wasn't there for it. He doubted he would ever paper his walls with the photos, but at least he had them.
He spent the rest of the time being freaked the fuck out by the scene in front of him. This was the closest he was ever going to come to Norman fucking Rockwell, and amazingly, he didn't hate it. It was almost comfortable, Gus tottering over to show his dad what he made and Justin lying that he had nothing to do with it. All they needed was a yule log and Bing Crosby.
It was fucking weird.
Sometime after the tree was decorated more or less to everyone's liking, and Brian had managed to wash the glue out of the hair of a squirming five-year-old, said five-year-old was put to bed. Complete with bedtime story, though Brian's stories were a little different than the ones Gus was probably used to hearing. It proved difficult to tuck someone in when they were sleeping in a tent in the living room.
"What's up with that?" Justin asked, joining Brian on the bed.
"It's either that, or build a second bedroom for a kid who's probably only going to be here once or twice a year. If that," said Brian.
Justin smiled. "He adores you, you know."
"He's young. He'll learn better."
"You're too fucking hard on yourself," said Justin, leaning over to kiss him.
Brian wasn't going to get into this, especially on Justin's first night home. "I'd rather just be fucking hard."
Justin nodded towards the living room. They were completely exposed here. "What about..."
"Shit. We could be really quiet," Brian suggested, but knew that would be wrong. Normally he didn't care who saw what, but Gus was another story.
"Ha," Justin said. He paused. "Shower?"
"We can do that," agreed Brian, and grimaced. "We're really discussing where to fuck so we don't wake the kid?"
"Yeah. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I hope not."
"We sound really fucking married."
In actuality, that was exactly what Brian had been thinking, but he would be damned if he would admit it.
There were times that sucking Justin off was all Brian needed: his lips and tongue around him, the taste and feel of him, the pattern of Justin's breathing and his fingertips scratching against Brian's scalp in an effort to grip his hair... Brian could focus solely on making him feel good, and he knew exactly how to do that. Really, it was an ego stroke. Really.
"You're going to fucking kill me," Justin said during the cleanup, because the Corvette was going to stay as spotless as possible given some of the things that happened in it.
"Is there a better way to go?" Brian asked.
"This is revenge for the married comment, isn't it."
It was, but Brian just smiled and said, "We have a fucking lot more sex than married couples."
They were presentable by the time they walked into the diner. They were the last to arrive, but Brian ignored their pointed comments about how late they were in conjunction with the flight time. Gus had to sit next to him, so Brian helped him onto the seat so he could finish coloring there. Mel and Linz would have the kids on a plane within a couple hours, and this was the last chance Brian would get to see any of them for a while. While Brian knew he'd be on a plane to Toronto inside of a month, it was getting harder and harder to let go. Michael was at the counter, playing with JR, apparently thinking along the exact same lines.
Justin knelt in the booth behind them, draping his arms around Brian and holding a conversation with Lindsay about her new gallery job. Brian almost made a comment about whether this meant he could stop paying their rent, but didn't. The truth was, the little boy next to him was worth making sure they had everything they needed. Besides, as long as he was doing that, he still had some leverage. Just in case.
Brian looked up from Gus' masterpiece to see a young man, about twenty-five, standing next to the table. He was good-looking and dark-haired, though not Brian's type. He didn't like the way the guy was looking at him.
"Bill," Justin said, pulling one arm from over Brian's shoulder. "What are you doing here?"
"I had a couple days off. Thought I would come down and surprise you."
Bill. It suddenly clicked in Brian's head. Bill.
"Who's this?" Bill asked suspiciously, his eyes lingering uncomfortably long on Brian.
Brian studied Justin, who looked surprised and confused, but the expression that was really easy to pick up on was the one that said oh, shit.
"I'm the ex," Brian answered, shrugging Justin's shoulder off of him.
He couldn't get up and walk out without moving Gus, and he wasn't going to fucking let anyone think he was upset anyway. Because he wasn't fucking upset. They didn't even live in the same state anymore. They saw each other for a weekend, a week, a day or two at a time. Justin could fuck whoever he wanted to. Brian did. He didn't do it nearly as much as he used to, but he wasn't a saint and he didn't expect Justin to be.
But no one was going to track Brian down in New York to spend some time off with him.
Brian focused on helping Gus remember the names for the crayon colors and then saw the happy family out to the cab because they wouldn't let him drive them to the airport. Lindsay hugged him goodbye harder than she would have otherwise, and even Melanie was being disturbingly nice. That only made it worse.
"Are you okay?" Michael asked when the cab pulled away from the curb.
"Perfect," Brian said. "I'll see you later."
"You don't want to even try to get an explanation?"
"I don't need one. Justin can do whatever the fuck he wants. He's not my husband. He's not even my fucking boyfriend unless we're together. No harm done."
Brian shut him up by kissing him, and giving him a little smile. "I'll talk to you later."
He didn't want to have the talk with Justin yet, so he stopped at home just long enough to change clothes and throw back a couple shots of whiskey, because numb would be fantastic right about now. None of the clubs were open yet and he wasn't going to sit behind the bar at Babylon drinking alone, so he spent a couple hours at Woody's, lamenting the fact that his tolerance was so fucking high. He couldn't feel hurt and upset if he didn't feel anything at all. And if he managed to black out, well, then the day would just be over that much sooner.
By the look on his face, Justin didn't appreciate coming home to see Brian fucking another guy in their bed.
When Brian finished proving his point, he rushed the trick out of the loft and pulled his pants back on. It was difficult, given his level of inebriation. The zipper was okay, but his fingers seemed too thick to work with a button, so he left it undone.
"Will you listen to me?" Justin asked.
"I haven't said anything," said Brian, sitting back down on the bed. Sitting was good. He didn't wobble when he sat.
"Bill... isn't my boyfriend."
"I don't think he got the memo."
"The lovely Billiam is the guy you didn't want to fuck because he wanted a relationship," Brian droned. "I remember. And you fucked him anyway."
"Yeah," Justin admitted.
"Several times? You didn't shove him out the door after the first time? It was so good you had to keep going back?" God, he didn't want to know the answer. He stood and walked to the kitchen, trying not to fall over or waver because Justin didn't get to fucking see that. He didn't get to see how much this hurt, because it did, no matter how high his blood alcohol level rose. He twisted off the cap of the Jack Daniels bottle, taking a swig. It didn't even burn his tongue and throat.
"You don't need any more of that," Justin protested.
Justin sighed. "Bill is a friend with benefits. Nothing more."
"He came to Pittsburgh on his day off to see you, and fucking acted like I was the fucking bad guy," Brian reminded him.
"I'm setting him straight."
Justin pursed his lips, looking hurt. Good. He should be hurt. Except that the expression on his face only made Brian feel worse. "You're back to fucking random guys now?" Justin asked.
"Was I supposed to stop? You're having... relationships with them," said Brian, leaning heavily on the counter, because he wasn't sure his legs were going to hold him forever. "And him? You're a hot piece of ass, Sunshine. You can do better."
"Fuck off, Brian. It wasn't even a mistake. It was his mistake."
"No, it was my mistake," Brian shot back, and suddenly his words were no longer words, but independent beings capable of action that didn't have to worry about stupid things like mental filters anymore. "The whole fucking thing. A mistake. A big one. I should never have picked you up. I should never have fucked you. I should never have let you worm yourself into my life because I was fine before that!"
"Because this isn't the first time!"
Brian wanted to stop talking. He really did. He didn't even mean it, only he did, but he didn't, and he didn't know what he was even talking about anymore. "Because I shouldn't have taken you back, but I was a fucking idiot and I wanted you back, and what the fuck do you want me to do now, Justin? Should I tell you I love you to get you to stay? Because that didn't work!"
It was difficult to see anything without the blurry corona, but Brian could clearly make out Justin's face. Hopefully it was the alcoholic haze, but it almost looked like he might cry. Brian doubted he could handle it at this point if he did.
Brian took another drink and tried to slam the bottle onto the counter, but missed and sent it crashing onto the floor. It didn't break, but Justin flinched like it did. Brian looked at it, then fumbled for his car keys.
"You're not fucking going anywhere. You're drunk," Justin said.
"No," Brian said, "I'm done."
Justin seemed to understand exactly what that meant.
"I'm not your problem anymore," he said, and was surprised when Justin didn't stop him from leaving.
He must have called Michael, though, because by the time Brian was able to find where his car was parked, he was there. "Hey," Brian greeted him, his fingers not cooperating when it came to the door handle on the Corvette. "Want to join me?"
Michael shook his head, coming over to easily pry his Brian's hand from the door handle. "Christ, Brian. Aren't you freezing?"
Confused, Brian looked down and only now realized he was still wandering around in the middle of the night in January without a shirt. He wasn't sure about shoes. His vision didn't go that far.
"Why don't you let me drive?" Michael offered.
"I have the cooler car."
"Can I drive the cooler car?"
The one tiny part of Brian's brain that hadn't keeled over in a drunken stupor knew Michael was trying to keep him from getting belligerent. He let him take the keys without a fight.
It wasn't until Michael was helping him into the house that Brian said, "This isn't Babylon."
"Yes, it is," Michael said quickly, trying to avoid knocking Brian into anything, "it's just like Babylon."
He sat Brian down on the sofa, and seconds later Brian had slumped into a laying position. It was dark, but he knew the ceiling was spinning. "Me and Justin are over."
Michael sat down to pull Brian's shoes off his feet. "You had a fight."
"No. No. You were right, Mikey. Was all a bad idea," slurred Brian. "'Cause he just goes an'..." He made some sort of gesture that made perfect sense to him, but Michael looked ready to get him something to bite down on in case of seizure. Brian sighed. "You're better 'n me at this."
"I really am," said Michael. "I'm going to get you some water. I'll be right back."
Brian thought he might have blacked out at that point, because the next thing he was aware of was Michael force feeding him water while Ben was on the phone, telling someone he was fine. "He'll be gone when I get back," Brian mumbled.
"You're not going anywhere," Michael said. "You can't even open your eyes."
"Not now. Tomorrow. Atlantic City. New Orleans. Anywhere but here. Fucking Pittsburgh."
Michael put the water back to Brian's lips, but Brian backed away. Ben asked something Brian didn't understand, and Michael replied with something about "check to make sure he's still breathing."
"And," Brian said, probably interrupting. "This time? I left him." Only that still didn't make it better.
"Is he gone yet?"
Justin sighed, slumping in the armchair. "Yesterday," he answered, holding the phone between his ear and shoulder. "Thank God."
"You should celebrate," said Michael, who was probably smiling on his end of the line. He was probably mentally doing a little dance at the news of the breakup.
"I'm too exhausted from pushing Bill out the fucking door."
Justin had tried. He had. Brian had ended things while plastered out of his mind and then left the state the moment he was sober enough to get behind the wheel. He didn't come back until after Justin left. It had been impossible to get in touch with him after that. He'd even tried enlisting Ted's help, which, if Ted was to be believed, nearly got him fired. Justin hoped he was being overdramatic. After a month of constant rejection, Justin gave up, because the effort was breaking him.
He tried to give Bill what he wanted, and it lasted five months. Two of those months were spent trying to get Bill to move out of the apartment. It meant Justin was scrabbling now to find a roommate who wasn't Dan or Bill, but peace of mind was worth the financial hardship.
"We'll take you out for a drink next time you come home," Michael said.
"Might be a while," said Justin. "Christmas, probably."
"I can't afford to take off work to get down there," Justin said. "Especially paying for this apartment myself."
"When we go up to see JR next time, we'll have to stop by," Michael told him. "Give my mother a lock of your hair or something to prove you're still alive."
Justin smiled, but the mention of Canada and the kids was the perfect opening to ask, "So how is he?"
"Brian? He's... okay, I guess."
Of course he was. "Out on the town a lot?" he guessed.
"Um, out of town a lot, actually," Michael corrected. "He's always visiting Gus or he's up there by you."
For a split second, everything stopped. "What do you mean, up by me?" Justin asked.
"The office." Michael paused. "Fuck. He never told you about the New York office."
Oh, God. The frequent visits, the side trips for work... Justin hadn't pressed the issue, but... "Fuck," Justin agreed. "When did this happen?"
"Earlier this year. He's been going back and forth between here and there while things are getting settled. You know, if he would stop this secretive bullshit and tell people things-"
"I think it was going to be a surprise."
There weren't many places for the conversation to go after that, and after hanging up, Justin began pacing around his closet of an apartment. Brian had been shopping for office space or something in New York, and Justin wasn't dumb. He wouldn't believe for a fucking second that it had nothing to do with him. Now it probably didn't.
Yeah, Brian had overreacted to the Bill thing. But Justin also knew it had to be a huge blow for him, having Bill walk into the diner like that and look at him like he was doing something wrong. He thought Justin had chosen Bill over him, not that it was a contest because Brian always won everything, and when he could still bring up Ethan... Fuck.
Justin spent a long time trying to finish off the piece he'd been working on, but it all quickly turned to shit. Brian was in New York. Or at least he was here regularly. He could even be here now. Damn him.
Brian's style hadn't changed, and with an address of where he worked and stayed when he was in New York, Justin could figure out which clubs he would probably frequent. It still took three nights to find him.
Brian was making out with some guy right by the bar when Justin found him, and yes, it made Justin jealous. It had been six months since he'd kissed Brian like that. Six months since they'd fucked, since they'd touched or even seen or talked to each other. There was a chance Justin would leave here disappointed, but he wasn't planning on letting that happen.
He made sure to knock Brian's arm hard on the way to the bar, and sure enough, Brian stopped tonguing the guy to tell the asshole that bumped into him to fuck off-
Brian did a double take. An honest to fucking God double take.
Justin didn't even pretend he didn't know exactly what he was doing. He looked straight at him, continued to the bar, ordered a drink, and waited to see if Brian would abandon the trick for him.
It took a minute for him to do just that. He wandered over to Justin and asked, "What the fuck are you doing here?"
"Good to see you, too," Justin responded.
Brian looked ready to walk away. "What the fuck are you doing here?" he repeated.
"You don't hold a monopoly on gay bars in New York, you know."
"Give me time."
"I tracked you down," Justin said honestly. "I had no idea you spent so much time up here."
"That's because it's none of your fucking business," Brian snapped.
"I wanted to see you. I've wanted to see you for a long time, Brian."
Brian outstretched his arms. "Happy?"
"There are other things I could be doing here."
He would leave Justin here. He wasn't flirting. He was pissed and annoyed and wasn't going to take this for very long.
So Justin took a gamble and reached up to kiss him, just like that, his hand on the back of Brian's neck to keep him there. It was hard and slow, and it took Brian a moment to start kissing him back.
But he did kiss him back.
And his hands were in Justin's hair, putting his arms at an angle that would keep the close. And his tongue was busy in Justin's mouth, so deep it was hard to breathe but that was okay. And his hips pressed against Justin's, rubbing against him to create the tiniest bit of friction. Justin slid one hand down Brian's back and under his shirt, up the muscles of his stomach, and against the chain dangling against his chest-
Justin didn't know who broke the kiss first. Both of them, maybe. "Look," Brian said, his voice tense, "if you want to fuck, I'm up for it. But that's all you're getting from me."
Justin wanted to answer, to say fucking anything that would keep him there, but he was too shocked to speak. So Brian turned away and returned to the envious trick he'd left earlier.
He was wearing the ring. Six months later, Brian was still wearing the wedding ring on a chain around his neck.
Well. That was encouraging.
"You should talk to him."
Brian looked up at Michael over the coffee table. "Who?"
"Don't play games. Justin," Michael said.
"I don't want to talk to Justin," Brian said. "I have no need to talk to Justin. I'm not talking to Justin."
He knew he'd have to deal with it. Sometime on the visit, Brian had been holding Jenny Rebecca when she grabbed onto the chain around his neck and wouldn't let go. Brian was pretty sure Michael was the only one that saw it, and while he didn't say anything then, he knew that wouldn't last. He was right.
"You miss him," Michael said.
"He's always fucking around. How do you miss someone who never leaves you alone?"
Michael frowned, his beer halfway to his mouth. "You've seen him?"
God dammit. Brian had known that Michael and Justin talked on the phone a lot, so he'd counted on Justin having told him this. "He's stalking me," Brian admitted.
"Is it working?"
"Brian... You're miserable."
"I'm doing pretty well for myself," Brian said, because it was basically true. The New York office was bringing in bigger clients and more revenue, and it was good to be able to leave Pittsburgh every now and then to experience something new.
Michael took a drink and put his beer back on the table. "The Bill thing wasn't what it looked like. Not exactly. It isn't like he knew he was cheating on you."
Brian winced, though he didn't mean to. That was part of it right there. Brian Kinney did not put himself in the position for anyone to cheat on him, except that he'd done it twice. Justin kept choosing other people over him, so Brian would let him go. Let them both get on with their lives.
"Michael?" Brian said calmly. "I need you right now to shut the fuck up."
Michael did so.
Brian stood, taking the empty bottles to the kitchen. "I need to kick you out."
"Shit, Brian, don't get like this-"
"I have somewhere I need to be," he said.
"Oh." Michael stood. "Anything good?"
"I have a date."
For a long moment, Michael stared at him before he started laughing. Just as abruptly, he stopped laughing when he saw that Brian didn't start. "Oh, shit, you're serious?"
Brian nodded. "He's successful, he's hotter than hell, and he's a great fuck. Tell Justin that the next time you talk to him."
"Brian..." Michael's mouth opened and closed a couple times, trying to find the words. "What the hell are you doing?"
"What everyone keeps telling me to," Brian said. "I'm moving on. Now. If you'll excuse me..."
Michael didn't look comfortable about leaving, but Brian didn't care. What was worse than the people telling him to move on were the ones telling him to go running back to Justin. Since he didn't see that as an option, he'd take the first.
And he wasn't going to tell anyone that the only real reason he was bothering wasn't because he was looking for that special someone. He was just taking the opportunity to get to know someone who seemed to genuinely want to be around him. It was proof that Justin left because it was Justin's issue, not because Brian was or wasn't something he should or shouldn't be. He suspected that in the extremely unlikely event that anything ever actually happened with Seth, he'd eventually only stick around out of obligation, just like everyone else.
He almost took the chain off when he was getting dressed. Wearing a wedding ring around his neck on a date wasn't exactly a sign of better things to come, but he rarely took it off. It wasn't that he felt naked without it. He felt exposed without it, and he wasn't sure why. He didn't want Justin back. It wasn't about that. He just wasn't sure what it was about.
And when Seth came to the door, Brian could take pride in the fact that there was no resemblance to Justin at all. Hair, eyes, face, height, clothes, mannerisms, voice... It was all different. Nothing reminded him of Justin except the fact that nothing reminded him of Justin.
If asked whether he thought he was getting obsessed, Justin would have to admit that it was a possibility. He was able to get Brian's travel schedule from Ted, and on the nights he knew Brian was in the city, Justin would be sure to go out to the clubs. He would have thought that Brian would avoid him, but he was either softening or was determined to live his life despite Justin.
"Are you going to stalk me all the time, or do I get a night off?" Brian asked, sidling beside him at the bar.
"I want to talk," Justin answered.
"We did that."
"I want to really talk, Brian. Just once. You hear me out, and if you want, you never have to see me again."
Brian watched him for so long that he was probably just doing it to make Justin uncomfortable. It was working. "Fine," he said.
It worried Justin that he could say yes so quickly.
In the end, Brian agreed to come with Justin to his apartment. Justin didn't want Brian to be able to blow him off or kick him out, and Brian probably didn't want Justin knowing where he was staying. Upon stepping inside, Brian remarked, "I thought the studio was bad."
"Starving artist, remember?" Justin asked. "Do you want anything?"
Brian's answer was his mouth on the back of Justin's neck, kissing his jaw. It was unexpected, but not unwelcome. While Justin wanted to just let Brian do whatever he wanted, he said, "I meant actual talking."
Brian's lips were practically on Justin's ear when he said, "Oh," and pulled away. Justin didn't know if Brian had really misinterpreted him, but his quickness in coming here was suddenly a good thing. "So," Brian said with a hard-edged smile, "how'd old Billiam?"
"I wouldn't know. I wasn't lying to you."
"It doesn't matter anymore," Brian shrugged.
"No, it does," Justin insisted, sighing. "Bill wanted to go out, and I got tired of saying no all the time. We went out, and we fucked, and it was convenient, and he and I had different ideas on what the relationship was."
"You don't have to explain anything."
"I am anyway, so shut the fuck up and listen."
Raising his eyebrows, Brian sat in the armchair, the only seating in the room. "I hear Billiam was living here."
Justin knew exactly where he'd heard that, and vowed to kill Michael later. "You wouldn't even talk to me," he reminded him, "so I decided if I was going to ruin everything, it would be for a reason. And it was fucking ridiculous. The second he moved in, the sex sucked, and he was annoying and boring and I started to think prison would be worth it if I could just... suffocate him in his sleep. Maybe it would be fun to be someone's bitch. Stop smiling."
Brian bit his lip.
"And I kept thinking how it wasn't that way with you."
Brian made a gesture, as if wiping a tear from his cheek. "That was touching. Sorry to break it to you, but my life does not revolve around you. I moved on."
"To the next guy in line to worship your cock?" Justin asked.
"I dated someone."
Justin's jaw dropped. "Not funny."
"Same guy twice," Brian said with an air of self-satisfaction.
That was... unexpected. "Tell me you ended up fucking the waiter."
"Second date, as an exit strategy," Brian confessed. "The guy was clingy as hell."
It wasn't until Brian smiled that Justin did. "Are you serious?" Justin asked him.
Brian nodded. "One weekend of my life I'll never get back."
Justin didn't know why he found that to be a good thing. He hated this guy that he would never meet, but... He knelt in front of Brian, between his legs, sliding his hands over Brian's thighs and feeling the muscles twitch. "Tell me you don't love me," Justin said.
Brian's response was immediate: "Fuck you."
"Tell me first."
Justin could feel Brian's legs tense under his palms. "You know," Brian said slowly, "when your boyfriend, or fiance, or random boy toy leaves you repeatedly, you start to get the hint."
"I always come back."
"And the cycle continues. I'm fucking tired of it, Justin."
"Then say it. Say it and I'll go away."
Brian wasn't going to say it. Amazing. Four years of waiting to hear the words and now he couldn't take them back. Justin stood, leaning close to him. "I love you," he said.
"Fuck you," Brian repeated.
"Okay," Justin agreed, "but it won't just be fucking."
Brian stared at him.
"Have you ever known me not to get what I want?" Justin asked him.
And there it was, the tiniest hint of a ghost of a smile. Permission.
Justin angled his lips to Brian's, but didn't kiss him. He wasn't going to do all the work here. He worried for a moment that Brian would find the balls to lie and say he wasn't in love with Justin anymore, to push him away and walk out for good, but then Brian was kissing him.
Justin's stomach lurched as he deepened the kiss, not even sure of where his hands were or what they were doing. He didn't care, as long as he was touching Brian. He let himself go to memory and instinct, nibbling on Brian's neck and hoping it would bruise and serve as a sign that he belonged to someone, that Brian was his. Brian's hands slid across Justin's back, pulling him into an uncomfortable angle on top of him, but it was fine. Justin would deal with it.
When undressing became too difficult in the confines of a thrift store armchair, they attempted to make it into the bedroom. They were so involved that the little things, like accidentally ramming into a doorway or difficulty in stepping out of one's pants while moving or damn near missing the bed didn't even register. It didn't matter. They'd wake up bruised tomorrow, marked with proof of love-drunk stupidity, and they would deal with it and move on.
Eight months wasn't long enough for Justin to forget the way Brian liked to kiss or where his hands tended to wander first. He got to relive the memory of what Brian's hot breath felt like on his neck, how it could send shivers through his body. He could never forget what Brian looked like when they were fucking, the way his head tilted forward and back or that slightly distracted look of concentration on his face or the way he said Justin's name, half-grunted and half-murmured. This, right now, was what everyone in the world spent their lives striving to reach, and Justin had it again, at least for a little while.
For a moment afterwards, Justin held his breath, waiting for a reaction. There was a possibility that Brian would just leave, and Justin knew that if he did, he'd have to let him go. Only he didn't want to let him go.
"We're fucking idiots," Brian sighed, his face still buried in Justin's neck.
Justin had to agree with him there.
Brian lifted his head, the beginnings of a smile on his lips as he brushed Justin's damp hair away from his face, and Justin could only finally breathe again, because Brian wasn't going to leave. "No more dating anyone," Brian said. "We're fucked up enough, we don't need help."
"Agreed," Justin said.
"And we're never allowed to go that long without doing that again."
Brian didn't answer that, but Justin hadn't expected him to. This didn't fix everything, but it was a start. Justin turned onto his side, using his left hand to reach to Brian's neck and pull the chain off over his head.
"I've never liked carpet," Brian said, frowning at the floor.
From the window, Justin frowned at him. "What's wrong with carpet?"
"Rug burn," he answered.
Candy the realtor very smartly didn't say anything. "Would you like to see the kitchen?" she asked.
Brian's first comment about the kitchen was, "A lot of surfaces... plenty of room..."
Justin, reading between the lines, just smiled and shook his head.
"All the appliances are new, and they're included," Candy informed them. "The cabinets are brand new."
"There is a lot of room," Justin noted, opening cabinets and looking around like a good little home-buyer. "Which is good, since you're too thin to be eating right."
Brian raised an eyebrow. "Maybe you're just a good source of aerobic activity."
Candy laughed, trying to cover it with a cough. Brian had been purposely trying to crack her all morning, but she didn't get the slightest bit offended at anything he said. It was both impressive and annoying.
A trip into the smaller bedroom revealed another problem. "There's not enough room for the tent," Brian said.
"Tent?" asked Candy, looking confused.
"My son likes to sleep in a tent," Brian explained simply. In fact, Gus had decided that he would only sleep in a tent, because he was young enough to do that sort of thing. Melanie and Lindsay were still a little peeved about the Brian-bought tent, saying that it spoiled Gus and he couldn't get everything he wanted. The way Brian figured, the kid was going to have enough disappointments in his life. For now, he could have whatever Brian could give him.
"Are you upgrading him to a bigger one?" Justin asked. "If by some miracle, it doesn't fit, we can put the tent in the living room and keep Gus' stuff in here."
"He should have his own space," Brian said.
"Will he be living with you? There are some terrific schools in the area," Candy said.
"All the more reason for the tent to be a non-issue," pressed Justin. He and Candy exchanged a glance, a subtle exchange that pissed Brian off anyway. When Justin wandered out of what would be Gus' room and into the master bedroom, Brian took it as a sign to follow him. Candy didn't. "I don't know how you can have a problem with a fucking penthouse," Justin said.
"How can you not?" Brian countered.
"It's a fucking penthouse!"
"There are other fucking penthouses!"
"What's wrong with this one?" asked Justin, folding his arms over his chest.
Brian looked around the room, trying to find one thing he could harp on that wouldn't make him look petty. "It's not us."
"Of course not. We don't live here yet. If you're having second thoughts-"
"No," Brian assured him immediately. All that was changing was that he'd be primarily living in New York, since he still had Babylon and the Pittsburgh office to attend to. It wasn't as if he'd never lived with Justin before. It had even been his idea to look for a place together that would really be theirs. "It's just not right. That's all."
Justin let his arms fall to his sides. "I hate to tell you like this, but the penthouse and I are talking about running away together."
"Good luck finding a state that'll recognize that marriage as legal."
"We rip up the carpets, we figure out a solution for the tent, we get rid of those God awful crown moldings, and it's us."
"We haven't even seen the bathrooms," Brian protested. "We might not be able to fuck in the shower."
"We can fuck anywhere," Justin said.
At this point, Brian was just enjoying watching him go. Justin really did love this place.
"It's close to your work, I can pick up the subway line right there so I can get to the studio, and there are a thousand places to go..."
It wasn't that bad a place, really. There wasn't anything outwardly wrong with it, though Justin was right about the crown moldings that made it look like something was perched on the ceiling. "You sure you want this?" Brian asked.
"Are you sure you don't?" Justin countered. "If you don't, I'll live. But just... look at the closet first."
Brian frowned, but turned around to look into the closet. "Yes, there is one."
"It's huge. Can you think of a better excuse to have more shoes?"
He looked over at Justin, who was grinning. Brian had to laugh, and kissed him lightly. Letting him go, Brian walked around the room, trying to imagine it. He'd bought them a house before, but it was something he'd bought and Justin would have to acclimate to. This really was partnership. This was knowing that after everything, he was still committing to a life with Justin.
Brian stood by the wall that faced the window. "Bed. Right here."
Justin stood next to him, leaning against the wall. "Yeah, right where the neighbors can look-"
Brian was already smiling when Justin looked over at him. "What better way to introduce ourselves to the neighbors?" he asked.
"Do you really want this?" Justin asked seriously. "Not just because I want it. If you're not happy with it, we look at our six hundredth apartment and it's fine."
Brian had decided to look at it this way: Fuck romance, fuck vows and rings and guest lists, because in whatever capacity, Justin made life better. And a happy Justin easily made for a happy Brian. He could give in one a couple things. Besides, he was sure they'd be able to find interesting uses for paint once they redid the living room, because it was not staying that color.
"I'm already decorating in my head," Brian said. "But if I'm not satisfied with the shower, I take it all back."