Sunflowers in December

R.C. McLachlan


A uthor's Notes: well, here it is. After much deliberation, I've decided to end the Sense of Liberty Arc with this story. The other story i had planned… really didn't matter. In fact, it probably would be very out of place after this one. So, thank you to everyone who read this little arc and enjoyed it.

And as for the story idea i raved about the other day…I totally forgot what it was. Completely forgot the entire idea. I'm kicking myself for not writing any of it down. So, yeah. It's probably for the best.

Dedicated to Jo. Because she's incredible. And paddies. because she encouraged me to keep writing qaf… and how can i refuse gio anything?



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

Brian's being weird as shit and it's starting to worry you. At your feet, Trojan sniffs at a streetlight and whines low in her throat, and you release a little more of the leash and cross your arms. Liberty Avenue is busy with queers and drag queens and leather daddies, all who pass you by and smile or wave or flash a sultry look of invitation. You smile and nod, sometimes say 'hi', and you wait for Trojan to take a piss already.

It had been a joke, the name Brian had picked out for the stray dog you'd brought home one rainy afternoon, but it eventually stuck and the mutt learned to respond to it. Of course it did. Why wouldn't it? When you'd given Brian free reign to name the dog, you never imagined Brian would name it after a brand of condoms.

"It's a perfect name, Sunshine! It suits the mutt. Trojan: not the strongest one in the bunch, but close enough for government work."

You aren't sure why you were so surprised.

But yeah. Brian. You purse your lips in thought and try to think what could be the culprit of Brian's sudden shift in moods. He'd been fine three days ago, affectionate and insatiable… he even refrained from calling Trojan names. Like 'Spunky'. Or ask her to 'come' with a demented cackle. Though that one never fails to make you snicker. Hell, he'd even called Debbie himself to tell her that you two would be there for a family dinner. Usually you have to hold him at gunpoint to do such a thing.

He had been fine… until he came back from Woody's. The door to the loft had slid open slowly, and you'd looked up from the computer where you'd been writing a reply email to a large gallery that wanted to showcase your work to find him standing in the shadows of the doorway, watching you. It reminded you of the days before Ethan, when he didn't know how to approach you and would instead only stare.

It gave you shivers, but you greeted him normally. He didn't speak to you for the rest of the night. And gave only grunts and half-answers for the next three days.

It's driving you up the fucking wall.

A drag queen with a long feathered boa around her neck sashays by, and Trojan perks up at the sight of the long, pink tail that flows in the queen's wake. With a yip of excitement, she lunges after it, dragging you behind. It's a sorry sight.

You finally take control of the dog and walk her to the diner, where Debbie spots you from behind the window and motions you inside enthusiastically. You gaze down at Trojan and are pretty sure that this violates every health code ever. But instead, you grip the leash tightly and lead Trojan inside, where the poor thing's immediately ambushed by Debbie.

"How's my pretty girl today?" Debbie coos, and Trojan's tail thumps against your leg. "How's the baby? How is she? You being good for Sunshine? You're such a good girl! Yes, you are!"

You'd never in a million years guess that Debbie would have taken to your dog as much as she did… and then spoil the thing like nothing else. It's probably going to end up one of those mysteries lost to the ages.

"Debbie? I thought you retired," you say, swallowing hard at the glare she sends your way. You'll learn one of these days that Debbie Novotny is going to live for all eternity… and will keep the Liberty Diner open for just as long. She stands up and shoves an accusing finger in your face.

"What? You don't think I can cut it? You think I'm old or sumthin', Sunshine?"

That red nail is too close to your eye. Gouge-it-out close.

"Um… I didn't say that," you whimper. "But didn't both Carl and Michael ask you to retire?"

She sniffs disdainfully and Trojan woofs at her, sitting on her haunches and tail still wagging. Debbie's exuberance will never age, but her body continues to do so. The wrinkles on her face, crows feet and laugh lines, have deepened, and her omnipresent wig looks out of place now. She's getting old. You're all getting old. You can only thank the small miracle granted to you when Brian hit forty and didn't pitch himself off the Seventh Street Bridge. He's pushing fifty and seems for all the world… like he's okay with it.

Now that you've just jinxed it…

"I'll stop fucking working when I want to."

You decide to say nothing more on the subject.

The door to the diner swings open, and Trojan turns her head to greet the newcomer, tail going a thousand miles an hour as Michael walks over to you and Deb with a smile. He presses a kiss to his mother's cheek and claps a friendly hand on your shoulder in greeting.

"You've got your work cut out for you, Justin," Michael announces, grinning in what you can only interpret as sympathy. "Brian's on the warpath."

Oh, great. "What makes you say that?"

"What makes that different than any other day?" Deb mutters. You're warmed by the affection in her tone, by the unconditional love she has for your lover.

"I called him at work today," he explains earnestly, and Trojan yawns and flops down at your feet, huffing in boredom. "And, whew! Did he sound pissed! I mean, really mad. I haven't seen anything set him off like this! Not even the fiddl--"

His cheeks burn bright red, and you sigh. Huh. Ethan. Haven't thought about him for over a decade. You wonder for a fleeting moment what he's done with his life, if he ever reached his dream of fame or is miserable with pretending to be straight, before you decide you don't care.

"Anyway…" You urge, crossing your arms and shifting impatiently. Michael blinks.

"No, that was it."

Super. Brian's pissed… for no reason. You should be used to this shit by now.

"He didn't say why?"

Michael shakes his head. "Nope. But, I'd be careful around him today. I mean, he hung up on me. When has that ever happened? I mean, really!"

Debbie rolls her eyes, kisses her son on the temple, and goes to serve coffee. Trojan lifts her head and watches her go with a whine. Michael shrugs and offers you a 'what are you gonna do?' smile, taking a step back and turning to sit at a counter, shouting to Debbie to pour some water for Ben, who's on his way. You'll never get over that, but you shouldn't be surprised. Ben will probably outlive everyone… even Debbie and the Liberty Diner.

You shouldn't be surprised about anything anymore.

Trojan regards you with soft eyes and you smile. "C'mon."

==//==//==//==


The door slides open with a thunderous bang, and you flinch, looking up from the computer screen to where Brian strolls in, tossing his briefcase onto a counter and going to the fridge to hunt for a bottle of water. He walks around to the counter facing the loft and leans against it, watching you. Trojan bounds over to welcome him home, and normally Brian would scratch behind her ears and call her 'fucking mutt' with such affection, but not today. Today, he doesn't even glance at her.

Well, only one way to go about this.

"How was your day?" You know that Brian hates that domestic shit, even after all these years. You may be exclusive now, but he will always remain steadfast in one belief: you aren't some housewife with nothing more to offer but a dust rag and a hole. But even your teasing fails to get a rise out of him. He continues to stare at you in that unreadable way.

"My day?" He echoes, opening his water, then waits to gauge your reaction to whatever he's about to say. "You'll never guess who came looking for a job at Kinnetic."

You blink. This is today's news. What about the news of three days ago? "Who?"

"Kip Thomas, that guy who filed the lawsuit against me."

Today's horoscope made no mention of anything hitting a 12.5 on your 'OH SHIT!' meter.

"Uh," you begin, but he hurtles the water bottle across the room before you can get the next word out. It slams into the floor and water scatters all over the wood. Trojan rushes over to investigate and proceeds to clean up, tail swaying in subdued victory.

"He didn't realize I owned the company, you know," Brian goes on, hands balled into trembling fists. You almost remind him that this happened almost twenty years ago, but the shock of it might kill him. So you sit silently and let him talk. "Which is completely fucking stupid, because how could he not know I own Kinnetic?"

You have to agree with him there. Kinnetic's only the ad agency on the nation's lips constantly. Kip should've fucking known.

"So, he comes in for an interview and is totally fucking floored to see me. And then, get this: he called me a child molester."

Here it comes.

"And I ask him what the fuck he means by that, and then he tells me about how this cute blond kid threatened him with his psychopathic father -- since he's underage and all -- unless he drops the suit against me. And he proceeds to rip into me, because I "got a fucking kid to do my dirty work" and how I "ought to be fucking ashamed of myself for taking advantage of said kid's feelings for me to do that". And you know how much I hate to be ripped into, especially by someone I do not like."

You nod. What else can you do?

"So, after I had security haul his ass out of my office--"

Ouch.

"-- I sat around and… thought to myself. I think I might've hit Nirvana during this, but who knows what that is? And then, it hit me. I just wanted to know one thing."

Well, that can't be too bad.

"You want to know what I want to know?"

Then again…

"WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING?!" He rears back and slams his hand against the counter and you wince as the bowl of fruit next to his hand quakes. Brian's eyes are wide and glittering with fury. True rage. You've never seen him like this. His cheeks are flushed, mouth open and glistening with spit, hair mussed from most likely spending the afternoon raking his fingers through it.

He's as fucking gorgeous as he ever was. Your cock stirs at the sight, but you will it away, because now really isn't the time… even if angry sex sounds fantastic.

"In my defense," you pipe up sweetly as he pushes away from the counter and stalks toward you. "I was a naïve and very idealistic young man at the time. And very much in love with an asshole, who -- by the way -- so didn't deserve what I did for him."

His eyes flash and his steps become heavier. Trojan, abandoning the spilt water, bounds over and dances around Brian's feet. Brian snarls at her and stops before you, glowering down at you. You smile brightly at him, because it'll only serve to piss him off further. His teeth clench, and your cock jumps. Woof!

"Brian--" He stops you with a kiss that pours liquid fire into your veins, tongue lashing against yours, teeth bumping. He kisses you like a starving man, like you're the only thing that will keep him alive. He kisses you until your lips are so swollen that each subsequent touch is painful. You clutch at his back, your denim-covered erection grinding against his Armani slacks, and he breaks away from your mouth with an audible sound to attack your throat. He suckles at the skin, drawing blood just underneath the surface. You gasp and pant and grunt and make a note to take out a turtleneck for tomorrow.

"I don't know whether to kill you or fuck you," he growls against your neck, and the vibrations are enough to finish you off. You throw your head back and come against him, in your jeans. Rich, warm chuckles drift over your ear and you shiver, your skin hypersensitive. "Why would you ever do something like that? Do you know how fucking dangerous that was?"

"Yes," you murmur, slumped against him, in his arms. Warm and sated. You sigh.

"And you did it anyway." His voice is soft now, the anger having left when your orgasm did.

"Yes."

He rocks slowly against you, breath growing increasingly harsher in your ear. "I didn't warrant that kind of… devotion. Not then."

"Yes, you did," you whisper against his jaw, tongue darting out to taste him. He turns his head to meet your swollen lips, and he kisses you again. Gently. In gratitude.

He steers you away from the computer and up the stairs to the bed, pushing you down and following, settling on top of you. The weight is a welcome one, and you lie back against the sheets and enjoy it fully, wrapping your arms around him and pulling him down until his head rests against your shoulder. His erection burns through the denim and you close your eyes. He hums, and doesn't seem to be in a rush for sex.

That's raising little red flags with you.

"Tell me," you whisper, and he snorts.

"Subtle."

"I know." You can feel his smile and you're smiling, too. It's at times like this when it hits you like an eighteen-wheeler that it's been almost two decades since you saw this man from beneath a streetlight, watched him approach you with the air of someone who had the world at his feet. Since he touched you in a way that no one else had, physically and emotionally. Since you fell in love.

And two decades later, you haven't fallen out. You don't think you ever will.

Stroking his hair, you prompt, "well?"

He sighs and rubs his nose against the tender flesh of your throat, against the mark he made. "I know I've been impossible the last three days…"

You say nothing during his pause, just simply wait for him to continue, still running your fingers through his hair.

"I want you to marry me."

Who in the what now?

"Shut the fuck up. I know." He's back-pedaling now, and you can feel his heart pounding against you. "I just… I want it. With you."

You know you must have the most dumbfounded look on your face. And the starry-eyed teen inside of you is doing cartwheels.

Today's horoscope made no mention of pleasant surprises, either. You should look into getting a new sign.

"Any reason?" You inquire softly, resuming the petting, watching with fascination as your fingers sift through the chocolate strands. He hums again.

"Not really. I was just giving it a lot of thought." Brian pauses. "I want to have that title. Husband. And fuck everyone else."

A smile blossoms across your face. "Random."

"Fuck you."

"I have a headache," you tease, winning a chuckle.

"It starts," he moans dramatically. "For the sake of my sex life, maybe we shouldn't."

"For the sake of your sex life, you're walking down that aisle with me, because you'll never see me naked again if you don't."

Brian lifts himself off of you and you whine in protest until he props himself up with an elbow and traces your cheekbones, gazing at you with something you can't name… but it makes your heart slam and your face grow hot and your stomach flutter.

The mattress at your feet dips heavily as Trojan clambers up to join you. Brian laughs and skritches her behind the ears; she nuzzles at his hand and gives his fingers a few good swipes with her tongue.

Brian looks… free.

You watch this man, your life, and suddenly feel... this sense of liberty. It bubbles inside of you, something snapping and giving way, and you laugh, tackling Brian to the bed, grinning widely against his lips.

"Yes."



that's the price that we all pay
our valued destiny comes to nothing
i can't tell you where we're going
i guess there's just no way of knowing

End