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The Long Way

Keira & Tinkerbell



Spoilers for 513.

*******


Chapter One


Brian’s first clue is the link to the article that Justin emails him.

It’s all in French – which he remembers from college, but just barely – and yet, he can translate enough to figure out why Justin’s sending it. The name “Justin Taylor” in the list of exhibiting artists would have told him what he needed to know anyway.

He glances at the date of the show and waits for his cell to ring.

*

He calls that night, and Brian briefly considers letting voicemail get it before remembering his passive-aggressive days are over.

“It’s a new surrealism thing,” Justin says after their initial “hey”.

“What the fuck is that.”

“Oh, just a name they give to the new generation who consider themselves surrealists, which I never really did, but Julio who runs the gallery says my work ‘highly resembles’ it. I guess.” He sounds pleased even while playing it down.

“So off you go to Paris, then.” He clicks a button on the mouse and tries to sound distracted.

“Yeah, um. Your birthday and everything, Brian, damn.”

He snorts. “Like thirty-six will be any fucking different than thirty-five. Or thirty-four.”

“But I was with you for those,” Justin says, his voice taking on the low, wistful tone that makes Brian hard despite himself.

“When do you come back from gay Paree? And let’s hope it lives up to its name.” He wonders distractedly if he can coerce Justin into talking dirty.

“End of April. I think USAir will let me reschedule my flight to Pittsburgh. You think?”

Brian lets him ramble for a while, making the appropriate “mm”s and “ahh”s where necessary, keeping one eye on the redesign of the ad on his computer. He likes Justin’s more talkative phone calls; they let him get a lot of work done.

“You’re not listening,” finally penetrates, and Brian snaps back to attention.

“You’re right,” he grins into the phone, and hears the huff of frustration on the other end.

“I’m leaving in four days. I’ll call my mom too, but can you mention it if you see her? She barely answers the phone lately and she never checks her email. She must be swamped at work.”

“A personal message board I’m not.”

“Bri-an,” he pleads.

“Fine. May I be excused? If you’re not coming home, I need to go sow my wild oats somewhere else.” He punctuates his remark with a put-upon sigh.

“Oh, God, go. If you’re not proud of me or anything.” The sullen tone carries well over the phone and Brian can’t help grinning.

“Why, Sunshine. I never said I wasn’t proud. I’m just busting at the seams to think of my partner strolling down the Parisian boulevard, his ass – I mean, art - on display. Don’t forget to report on the quality of European cock, all right?”

“Jackass,” Justin snaps, and hangs up.

Brian calls him back in an hour and talks him through some pretty spectacular phone sex.

*

He’s right, turning thirty-six is not different in any way from thirty-five, including the impromptu party Michael throws him at his house.

“You’re not surprised,” Michael accuses, and Brian raises an eyebrow.

“Maybe if you skipped a year, I’d be surprised.”

“You miss Justin,” Michael says seriously, and puts a comforting hand on Brian’s shoulder.

Brian shrugs him off. “Oh, Jesus. Like it’s been an eternity. He was just home two months ago!”

Michael looks like he’s about to deliver more platitudes when he’s interrupted by the timely arrival of Jennifer. “Go greet your mother-in-law,” Michael directs. “You want another beer?”

“Bourbon, neat. Unless it’s that shit that your husband bought.”

“Another beer coming up,” Michael smiles winningly, and shoves him in the direction of Jennifer.

She gives him a tired smile and presses a kiss to his cheek. “Happy birthday, Brian. Sorry I’m late, I can’t seem to get myself together these days.” She looks harried and mussed, so Brian takes her coat and steers her to the couch.

“Where’s young Tucker?” he asks, not really caring but thinking it’s probably the appropriate thing to say.

“I hear he’s out in Las Vegas,” she says evenly. “With the showgirl he met.”

Brian raises an eyebrow but she stares him down.“What do you want to drink?” he asks instead, knowing she’s going to say white wine, and wondering what it means that he knows Justin’s mother’s preferences almost as well as Justin’s.

She doesn’t surprise him with beverage choice, so he brings her a glass and takes a seat next to her. “You get his email?”

“Yes,” she sighs. “I’m sorry he didn’t make it home this time, but Paris! Who would have ever thought!”

Brian makes a noise that could either be agreement or not and takes a long pull of his beer.

*

He’s past buzzed and well on his way to stumbling drunk when his cell rings. Brian knows it isn’t Justin before he even looks at the display. Justin had already called this morning when Brian was still dripping wet from his shower, shouting something similar to ‘happy birthday’ along a horrible connection, and Brian stood naked in the bedroom and rolled his eyes.

So it isn’t Justin and he knows it, and it makes no sense that he wants it to be. Brian blames the alcohol.

But it’s Gus, which is almost as good, and suddenly Brian is sober. “Hey, son,” he smiles into the phone, and elbows his way through Debbie’s crowded kitchen to the back door.

“Dad, it’s your birthday?” he asks, and his voice has lost its babyish quality. He sounds like a seven-year-old.

“Who told you,” Brian sighs, and Gus laughs.

“Mom, duh. You get a present?”

He thinks briefly of the expensive leather bondage ties Justin had sent, wrapped around a bottle of French lubricant and a box of condoms. “Yeah, I did. Something to play with.”

“Like an Xbox? I got an Xbox.”

He snorts. “In a way. Endless hours of amusement. How are your mothers?”

“I dunno. Good. Are you coming to visit?”

“Yeah, kiddo, soon. As soon as work stops reaming me up the – uhm. Soon, all right?”

“You always say ‘soon,’” Gus grumbles. “Mom wants to talk to you.”

And then he’s gone, his interest only sustaining him so far, and Brian can hear Lindsay call after him, “Enough video games, go pick a book off the shelf! Mel, tuck him in, and I’ll be right there. Brian?”

“How goes the legal homosexual life?” he asks, feeling his buzz again.

“Happy birthday,” she says warmly, and Brian knows the pang of missing her.

“Birthdays are life’s little joke.”

“I miss you too,” Lindsay replies, and Brian can tell she’s smiling.

*

Babylon is predictable and boring. He only goes because he’s always gone on his birthday, and he refuses to frequent stupid Popperz because it has a ‘z’ in its name. Ted pointed out the ‘k’ in Kinnetik, but Brian knows that’s not the same at all.

A less than passable blowjob sends him home early.

He jolts out of a sound sleep a little past four in the morning, hard as a rock and clinging to the last vestiges of his dream. He can still feel Justin’s hair tangled in his clenched fingers, still hear the grunts Justin made when Brian pushed him face-first into the pillow and pounded into him. Brian can see behind closed lids the red marks his own fingers had left on the soft skin of Justin’s hip, and can still taste on his tongue the bite he had sucked into Justin’s shoulderblade.

Apparently he’s a little more annoyed at Justin than he had previously thought.

He jerks off quickly, not using lotion or lube. The burn of skin on skin is not uncomfortable. He comes hard enough to wrench a groan from the back of his throat and does not go back to sleep.

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