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Trivial Pursuit

Layla V


Pairing: Brian/Justin
Rating: NC-17
Codes: Post-513, Angst, Romance
Summary: A chronicling of events that take place during three years of Brian and Justin’s lives after Justin moves to New York.


Thank you to darksylvia for being a splendid beta as always!

*********



Pittsburgh

The first time you kiss him after you packed your entire life into a suitcase and left to pursue a career in a strange city, is at exactly twenty-five minutes and twelve seconds after midnight on a Saturday morning.

It’s been precisely four weeks and three days since you last touched him, and the ache in your gut has never been this piercing. You calculated the moment of your reunion down to the nanosecond, for you will not jinx it by showing up on a Friday night falling on a thirteenth.

You leave your bags at the loft and follow your instincts to the Diner, where you find the ‘vette parked across the street. You know Michael and the boys routinely drag him out to entertainment these days—keeping his evenings busy, eventful. You know because you keep tabs on him through the extended family, and feel little remorse in doing so. If asked, he himself would never give you anything less than a fabulous account of his well-being, so you have to use other channels. No one exactly says the words, but you know that he’s lonely. As lonely as you are.

So you lean back against the ‘vette and you take out your cell and punch in his number. He answers on the third ring and his voice is the most beautiful sound you have ever heard in your life. Hey, he breathes, and you ask him to come out to the ‘vette. The surprised pause only lasts three seconds before you hear the muted fuck, move! on the line, as he makes his way out of the booth probably blocked by either Michael or Em. And then he’s out of the Diner and in the warm spring night, standing right in front of you.

You watch the smile slowly spread across his face and you know it matches the grin on your own, and then he takes two strides and suddenly you’re in his arms—your back pressed against the ‘vette’s door, his mouth pressed against yours. His lips are soft and moist, and you breathe in his scent, letting it warm your insides, as you kiss him hard and frantic—making up for all the emptiness of the past four weeks.

When he pulls back and his questioning eyes look into yours, you smile and stroke your fingers through his hair. “I told you we’re going to see each other all the time,” you say, and the answering flicker in his eyes makes your throat turn tight. He remembers, of course, the promise you made to him. And suddenly you have your answer. His loneliness has been as real, as achingly deep as your own.

That night he lays you down under the muted lights above his bed, covers your body with his, and worships you with his lips and his mouth and his hands. You moan and arch against him, your body aching for his touch, as his hands wander your arms and legs and stomach, and his mouth travels down your body—his tongue laving a path from your neck down to your chest, past your sternum, dipping in your navel, and finally wrapping around your throbbing cock. He milks you for all you’re worth and after you’ve come inside his throat from the most amazing blowjob you’ve gotten in over a month, he grabs your hips, wraps your legs around his waist and slowly slips inside you.

He fucks you hard and fast, panting in your face, his silky dark hair plastered over his forehead. He stares into your eyes, watching you closely, his eyes twinkling with emotions you have only recently started to read in them—pain, anguish, loss, hope—and when you pull at his shoulders to bring him down into a kiss, he obliges, letting you plunder his sweet mouth with your desperate tongue. His hips piston against yours faster and faster and when his teeth tug at your upper lip, you moan and come again, your fingers tangling in his hair, pulling hard at the strands—and he soon follows you into his own release, sighing your name against your neck.

You feel depleted, broken, devastated and you want nothing more than to crawl into his arms and tell him you can’t do this, that you can’t be without him. You want to say that he must let you come back, please let me come back. And just as your arms tighten around his neck and the sob builds in your chest, you feel his long fingers running through your hair soothingly, and his lips brush against your hairline and then he’s looking into your eyes—his gaze loving, steady.

"You’re going to be all right, Justin," he tells you. "Always know this: we made the right decision. Never doubt yourself. You are destined to go places no one has ever gone before and I know that everything will be just fine." A sad, rueful smile tugs at his lips and then his eyes sparkle with hope. "Christ, you’re going to be absolutely fantastic—I know it."

And that’s when you know you can’t come back. Not before you’ve fulfilled your ‘destiny’. He’s wrong. You and he didn’t make the decision. Only you did. You decided to get out into the world and make a career for yourself.

And you must finish what you started.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Ginelli

You knew making it in New York would not be an easy task and you’re not surprised to find that you were right about that.

You had, however, made some contacts while in Pittsburgh, many of them courtesy of Lindsay. So when weeks have passed and you are tired of struggling, you finally decide to use the names in your little black book—and find yourself at a small gallery on 57th Street.

The owners are a middle-aged married couple named Vincent and Maria Ginelli, both in their late fifties, who started this gallery twenty-two years ago and who are now looking for someone to help them manage their small establishment. You meet them and they love you at first sight. As it turns out, they have a son in the Navy exactly your age, whose current posting has him stuck on a freighter somewhere off the coast of Turkey, and who hasn’t been home for five months. Maria Ginelli says, you remind her of him and they want you to start right away.

That night you call to tell him of your new job, and he laughs on the phone. “What did I tell you?” he asks. “I knew you’d be fine, Sunshine. You always are.”

And you want to tell him that you miss him and that you wish he were there with you or that you were in the loft with him. But you don’t. You know the task before you. You have to succeed, you have to prove that you indeed will be fine.

This is only the first step. The first step in finding your way back to the man you love.

The man you’re determined not to lose. Ever again.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Fiber

You always knew that he loved you. You knew before he ever caught a clue himself. You knew during the breathtaking highs of your non-relationship, and you knew during the soul-crushing lows. It showed in the way he looked at you, and in the things he did for you, even when he couldn’t say the words.

You would be a liar if you didn’t admit that you also lost sight of this pertinent fact a couple of times during the past five years or so. Thankfully, you always came to your senses before it was too late.

But you can also feel that it’s different this time. That he is different. He’s more open and vulnerable and although you suspect that he always was vulnerable with you, this is the first time he has let you see it willingly.

And seeing him vulnerable and open fills you with a tenderness you never felt before, and at the same time scares you shitless. Because this time you know the reins of your entwined lives are in your hands and you must not fuck this up.

When Brian Kinney finally scaled down the walls around his heart and bared his soul to you, he meant it with every fiber of his being. He did everything you knew he was capable of and gave everything they said he would never give you. He opened up his heart and told you he loved you and then never went back inside the shell again.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Fool

You find it heartwarming to realize that, for some inexplicable reason, your mom has sort of adopted him.

She was the only one who made an attempt to talk sense into you, in that roundabout way she employs when it concerns your love life, the last time you walked out on him. Your mom: Brian Kinney’s defender. It might have been funny if you had been coherent enough to actually recognize her tactic for what it was at the time: a mother’s concern for her son making the wrong decision about the right person. Like you said, it might have been funny.

Now, though, it only leaves you with a feeling of respite, like having found a port in the middle of the waves of uncertainty. Knowing that your mother is making sure your lover knows he’s part of the Taylor fold, even if the resident Taylor is on a career hunt elsewhere, is a reassurance you desperately needed.

She tells you that she now recognizes Brian for the man he is. He’s the man who was always there for her son whenever he needed him. He’s the man who’s probably the only one who has ever loved her son unconditionally, and never expected anything in return.

She says she’d be a fool not to keep him close this time.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



New York

The first time he shows up in New York after you made it your home is exactly six months and fourteen hours to the day you left.

He says it’s for business and that he’s scoping out some big name clients that had been pursuing Kinnetik for the past few months. And you know it’s true. Kinnetik has made a reputation for itself as the quintessential boutique ad firm from Pittsburgh and is now being tracked by the bigwigs from across the nation. And it’s all because of Brian Kinney; the Clio winning, hard playing, advertising star with his own success story. He’s the coolest thing to come out of Gay Pittsburgh and you know that if there is anyone who can cater to the big names in the business industry, it’s Kinnetik.

But you also know that a big part of why he came to spend two weeks in New York City and kept the nights open for you was because he wanted to spend time with you. He even spent two nights in your one-room hovel—it’s too small and crappy to be called an apartment—in Greenwich Village, which you can now just barely afford with the paycheck from Ginelli’s. After that, you couldn’t exactly refuse him when he dragged you to the Luxury suite he’d booked at the Marmara for his stay.

Not that you wanted to complain very much.

Gorgeous rooms. 24-hour room delivery and concierge. Spacious bathroom with in-house Jacuzzi. A Rooftop lounge with a breathtaking view of Manhattan from its 360 degrees wraparound terrace.

Nope, not much room for complaining there.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Superhero

57th Street is a Hub of famous art galleries in New York City. And you make sure Brian knows this fact by dragging him to all your favorite places one weekend. St. Etienne. Norma Haime. Danese. It’s a testament to his utter patience and fondness for what you do that he lets you indulge to your heart’s content. You’re also immensely pleased to see him fascinated with the works from Gornik’s and Weegee’s collections, but of course he has always had an eye for good art. That’s what makes him such a good ad man.

The next weekend, he makes sure you understand where he stands in the context of true entertainment by dragging you to all the top gay bars and night clubs—both in the Village and beyond. And you let him, because you could never tire of dancing away the night as long as his arms are around you—especially if half the patrons in the clubs watch you enviously and don’t even get a raised brow from him in return.

Brian finds Greenwich village both amusing and entertaining. He makes endless fun of your choice of living in the bohemian gay-friendly nucleus so very popular with the nonconformists of the West and says he never thought he’d see you as a pretentious artsy type. You tell him he should’ve known your snob origins—you’re the ultimate country club gay boy who came out in high school with a literal bang, helped bring a corrupt and homophobic politician down, joined a gun-toting gay vigilante group and then went to Hollywood to make a movie based on a gay superhero. You’ve always been a pretentious artsy type.

Brian only snorts at this and pulls you close with an arm around your shoulders, as you smile and steer him towards the Washington Square Arch.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Christmas

The first Christmas after you leave Pittsburgh comes with only one week of holidays and a promise to the Ginelli’s that yes, you’d be back before New Year to help them prepare for the Morris Hirschfield exhibition coming up on the sixth.

The week goes by in a blur. Brian has always said that he’s not much for Christmas but he only half-glares at your knowing smile as he lets you haul him from dinner at your mom’s, to a midnight cap at Michael’s, and then Christmas feast the next day at Deb’s—where all your friends and family are invited.

There’s Babylon too, and the Christmas Under the Sea theme is a hit with all the patrons—a Christmas tree decorated with faux seaweed and seashell garland, and mermans and scuba-diving hunks dancing over the catwalks and stands. As in New York, Brian only has eyes for you—and you can’t imagine life being any better.

But the last night of your stay in Pittsburgh, Brian surprises you with a visit to the House. You are at once thrilled and agonized to be there. It is the place he bought for you, to make you happy, to seal his fortunes with you—once and for all. And it is one of the things you left behind when you left for New York.

It starts snowing hard by the time you reach the place and he grabs your hand firmly as he locks the car and both of you hurry inside with the bags of groceries and hot takeout food.

As he turns on the lights and your eyesight adjusts, you realize the hallways are no longer empty or filled with old dusty furniture covered with sheets. You can see he has taken time to work on some of the rooms, and the furniture has at once his Brian stamp of modern taste and yet is nothing like what he has at the loft. Warm rugs that go with the mahogany of the walls cover the wooden floors. Dark leather sofa sits snugly in front of the gently crackling fire. And a fully equipped kitchen with all the modern amenities you could need. Even at the loft, when you only saw Brian cook three times in all the years you’ve known him, he always kept a perfect kitchen.

"The bedroom isn’t finished yet," he says, taking you out of your thoughts. You turn to look at him, hearing the wind blowing hard outside the window, and the look on his face is of calm anticipation. "There are clean sheets and blankets in the closet. We can sleep in here."

You walk over to him and taking his face in your palms, you kiss him softly on the lips and the chin and the nose. "Yeah, but first you have to feed me." You smile, watching him smile at you in return. "I am starved."

The two of you settle on the couch in front of the whispering fire, ensconced in layers of soft blankets, and feed each other shrimps and fried wontons from the takeout cartons. After that, you just snuggle together, listening to the hissing winds, and tell each other ghost stories, and laugh—remembering Michael’s hissy fits over Hunter’s antics at the party on Monday.

Later on, you push him back into the nest of blankets, and slowly suck him off. His fingers tangle in the strands of your hair and you hum around his beautiful cock, tracing his throbbing vein with your tongue--his taste filling your senses, intoxicating you.

After he comes, you wrap your arms around his waist, rest your cheek against his thigh, and vow never to lose this place ever again.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Dragons

Yes, he kept the rings and the House.

It is this act that showed you he has kept alive the hope that one day you and he would be together for good. The act that not only told you the ball’s in your court now, but also that he’s a willing participant in the game this time.

That he’s not running, not hiding anymore.

But every time you leave him to go back to NY, to go back to the art and the shows and the hunt—or he leaves you to go back to the Pitts, back to the same ol’ grind of meetings and clubs and work and the gang—he lays you down on the bed, looks into your eyes, entwines his fingers with yours, and makes love to you as if doing it for the very last time.

And you don’t know why that is. You don’t know how to deal with it. And you can’t beat the bleakness that pervades your being at that moment.

Even after six years of loving him and knowing him and being flabbergasted by him and being given everything that you ever asked for to the extent that you feel yes, you’ve finally slayed all the dragons and know his heart and his soul, he does something that makes you realize that he will always be the most beautiful and the most irritatingly enigmatic creature you will ever come across.

Sometimes you wonder if that’s a blessing or a curse.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Business

Right after New Year’s, Brian gets busy with campaigns for a couple of new clients and you don’t hear from him for several weeks except for an email he drops every weekend when he has some spare time to focus on something other than a poster or a story board or a new slogan. He tells you that Remsen has been calling him as well, begging to be taken back, but that if he chooses to work with him again, he would at least make him squirm for a few weeks.

Things are happening at your end as well. After the Ginelli’s went through your portfolio, they were so thrilled by whatever promise they saw in you that they gave you exclusive use of the studio on the first floor at the back of the gallery and you’ve been painting like crazy since then. The ideas come to you in the middle of the night, when you’re lying in your bed, missing Brian’s touch—and what you can’t finish at your apartment, you drag to the studio and work on during breaks at the gallery.

Your new portfolio is coming along nicely and with Vincent’s intervention, you are soon approached by a few galleries, specifically focusing on young and emerging artistes, who are interested in showing your work—and you’re ecstatic by this development.

"Honey, I am so happy for you," your mother gushes when you call her that night to tell her.

"Wow, Justin," Daphne squeals. "This is totally awesome!"

"I told you, Sunshine," Brian smiles over the phone from Chicago, where he is currently stuck in presentations for one of Brown’s campaigns. "The sky’s the limit."

You bite your lip. "But I have to finish at least fifteen canvases in the next two months, out of which they’ll choose something like five."

"You’ll do fine," he assures you. "Tell Vincent to give you some extra time."

"He already agreed." You smile. "He and Maria seem even more excited than I am."

"See, I told you!" Brian repeats. "You’re going to be just fine."

You hope he is right and then you remember the reason why he’s in Chicago. "How’re the presentations coming along?"

“Boring and tedious, but of course Leo loved them,” he drawls. “I also met three other companies and will probably have to come back to pitch to them over the next couple of weeks.”

You’re happy to know that Brian will be keeping busy over the next few weeks. This way, you decide, that if you miss a couple of your trips to Pittsburgh in the next two months, you won’t feel too guilty.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



The show

However, when March comes, you find Brian still busy with the new accounts. In fact, he has been going out of Pittsburgh so often that the last time you took two days off to go home and thought you’d surprise him by showing up unannounced, he wasn’t even there.

"Shit, Justin, you should’ve told me," he answers the phone from San Francisco, when you call his cell from the loft. "Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?"

"I thought I’d surprise you since I couldn’t make it the last time." You sigh. "I had no idea you weren’t going to be in town."

"If I had known..."

"What?" You snort. "You couldn’t have cancelled the meetings. You had to be there."

“No, but I could’ve tried… moving them.”

"Yeah, right." You snort again, as you let yourself fall over the bed and watch the ceiling. "The Invitrogen people gave you a timeslot and you would’ve asked them to move it. Sure." You’re not that clueless little kid anymore who thought fucking romance takes precedence over business. Romance is for shit anyways. Unless it’s coming in unexpected ways from Brian Kinney.

"Twat." He huffs fondly.

"It’s okay." You sigh. "You do your thing and dazzle them. Just..." You pause.

"What?"

"Try to make it for my show." You swallow hard.

"Wouldn’t miss it for the world," he says with a smile in his voice. "The twenty-second, right?"

"Yep." Just three weeks from now. You smile at his promise and breathe a little easier.

Of course, life has a way of screwing you over in ways you never imagined possible.

By the time the twenty-second rolls around, Kinnetik’s San Francisco clients are nipping at Brian’s heels, demanding they want the preliminary designs done now and not a moment later. You receive Brian’s frustrated phone calls from the client’s San Francisco offices and listen to him try to juggle the projects in the impossibly short timeframes they’ve been given. Of course, they wouldn’t be global giants if they didn’t think the whole fucking world revolved around them. But when Brian tells you fuck this, he’s bringing Theodore in and going back to the Pitts because they can snap at Ted’s ankles and leave him the fuck alone, you tell him to stop.

"It’s business, Brian." You swallow your disappointment and try to talk sense into him. "You can’t fuck with that."

"Justin..."

"I know they’re difficult. But you are an expert at dealing with difficult people all the fucking time."

"Difficult, my ass. They’re pretentious assholes."

"Well then, you should be used to that. You lived with me for years." You smile. "Your very own pretentious artsy type."

He snorts and then sighs over the phone. "Fuck, Justin."

"It’s going to be all right," you reassure him, trying to quell the swell of frustration that is attempting to take over your own mood. "Just wish me luck."

The opening night of your show at George Adams Gallery, you find yourself surrounded by friends and family. Lindsay and Mel spoke to you on the phone this afternoon, apologetic for not being able to make it because of Gus’ school, but supportive all the same. The rest of them are here, however. Your mother flew over with Molly and Daphne the previous evening. Emmett drove Deb and Carl this morning, while Michael and Ben took the afternoon flight. Ted is, of course, in San Francisco with Brian.

The response to your pieces is more than encouraging, the art crowd is buzzing with excitement about the new arrival, and it humbles you. The only thing missing is Brian, of course, but you can’t be upset at that, and you won’t allow anyone else to make you upset about it either. Everyone sips champagne and eats caviar and makes appropriate noises of sympathy at his absence—everyone except Deb, of course, who feels it’s her obligation to call Brian on his shit for giving precedence to his business over yours. You politely and humbly ask her to can it, please. You completely understand why he couldn’t make it, you tell her as you hand her another caviar tart, and you certainly don’t want anyone giving him any shit over something he couldn’t control.

The joke’s on them, however, because an hour before the show is about to wrap, everyone’s eyes turn to the entrance and widen with surprise. Brian, you hear them say. And you turn around to watch him walk into the gallery, dressed in his best Armani—looking more beautiful than you’ve ever seen him.

You stand in the middle of the gallery, stunned at his appearance, as he comes over and wraps his arms around you.

"Hey Sunshine," he whispers in your ear, his voice husky. "Surprise!"

"But you were in," you stammer, "You said..."

"The afternoon meetings were cancelled until tomorrow because the CEO had to fly out to LA for a family emergency," he clarifies. "So I took the one-thirty flight. Came here straight from the airport. Couldn’t break a promise, now, could I?"

That’s when you notice the tiredness around his eyes. He’s been on a plane for six hours straight just to make an appearance at your first show in New York. Even though he’d been up for the past three nights working nonstop over the campaign with Ted and two other members of the Kinnetik team. You feel your throat tightening with gratitude.

"Thank you." You kiss him on his soft lips, and when he grins, you have to kiss him again because he’s here and he came and he just made your fucking night and you have never loved him more than you do at this moment. "When do you go back?"

"Flight’s at six-forty five am," he replies. "But you have me till then." And he kisses you on the side of your neck and you want to squeeze him and kiss him and possibly strip him and make love to him right there and then—but the entire gallery is looking at you and you know you have to make a good impression on your first show in the City, at least.

Besides, the look on Deb’s face is a mixture of pride and regret and you feel a thousand times better already. And like Brian said, you have him for the night. You can do with him as you please when the show ends.

As the night unfolds, you do a whole lot more.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Dream

Seven of your paintings are exhibited at the show and all seven of them are sold out before the night is over.

With the money you get from the show, you are able to pay the lease for a slightly better apartment in a slightly better neighborhood in the Village, with an extra room—a room that gets beautiful sunlight through the windows and which you decide to use as a studio—and quickly move in.

One night when Brian is visiting you and you’re lying tangled in the bed with him, his head on your chest, as he lightly snores—his hot breath hitting your breastbone, his presence warming you as always—you soothe the soft skin on his back with your palm and construct a dream in your mind.

You dream of a beautiful apartment, or perhaps a townhouse, or maybe a luxurious condominium in a high-rise building in Manhattan—a place you’d call home with Brian. A place that you will share with him in all ways that count—when he no longer has to constantly take care of every little need you have. A place you’ll find when you’re both equals, professionally and personally—and Brian will be proud to call you his partner, his lover, his companion.

It’s a dream that fills you with hope and wonder. It’s the dream you left Pittsburgh to achieve

It is your goal, your ultimate destiny. And you swear never to lose sight of it.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Toronto

You accompany Brian when he visits Gus during the summer.

The plan literally comes together within days—for him as well as for you. One moment you are wrapping up work at the gallery and there is a slight lull in activities before the next big show is to begin, when Brian calls you to ask if you could get away for a week. You know Gus has been asking for him a lot and the last time Brian saw him was at Christmas. Right now, he has about a week free and he doesn’t know when he’ll next be able to get out of engagements, so he really wants to go. And he wants you to come with him.

You ask Maria and miracle of miracles, she says yes, and the next morning the tickets for that afternoon’s flight to Toronto arrive at your desk. Brian joins you on the flight and you can’t think of a better reason to get out of work than to see Brian spend time with his son.

Gus is delighted to see his Dada and Lindsay is thrilled to see both of you. She has kept tabs on your progress at Ginelli’s and is very excited about the prospects that have opened up for you in the last six months. Mel is Mel; loving to you and barely tolerating Brian. But he doesn’t give a shit and you decide as long as she doesn’t do anything serious to hurt him, you won’t worry either. Besides, even she can’t deny the love he has for his son, or how much Gus adores his father.

Brian loves playing ball or catch with Gus, who himself is a very hyperactive child and loves being outdoors—always running around at full speed all over the backyard—and you can’t help but be caught in the middle of the two of them, rolling around in the dirt over Lindsay’s and Mel’s vociferous protests, and then jumping into the small wading pool in the backyard. It’s fun and happy and totally exhilarating—and it’s a side of Brian you’ve never seen before. You doubt anyone else has, either. Maybe Michael has, back in the days when they were fourteen or fifteen years old.

So you ignore Mel’s enraged yells and instead back up Gus and Brian as they play Water Limbo in the plastic pool and splash water all around the backyard. But the sun is shining and it’s hot and wonderful and the water feels great, and in the end, even Lindsay laughs and joins the three of you, while Mel stomps away fuming—and Brian kisses his son and laughs into your ears, yelling, life's good, Sunshine!

And you can’t help but tackle him back into the water and agree.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Los Angeles

After the Invitrogen fiasco, you vowed never to let so much time go by without seeing Brian again.

Nevertheless, when September comes, Brian is stuck in LA with three new accounts and with the tired phone calls you receive from him late at night, you know he hardly has time to even scratch his head. You know you should be happy that he’s busy because you yourself are so engrossed with your work for the two upcoming shows, that you don’t even have time to think.

Before you know it, though, two months have passed—and you realize that the last time you saw Brian was in July. Whatever happened to the see-each other-at-least-once-every-month promise you made, you wonder—before it occurs to you that it was you who made the promise, not him.

You ask yourself if it’s always going to be like this from now on? Would it always be you running after Brian and trying to keep up with his schedule and making sure you got together with him?

And then you remember the night of your first show when he flew back from San Francisco to be with you for seven hours before flying back to attend the second day’s meetings—and you want to kick yourself for even doubting him. This has always been your problem. You always need constant reassurances that things are all right with you, that he is all right with you, that he is still on board and that he still loves you. Even though he has never doubted your love for him.

All you know is that you don’t want to doubt anymore. You just don’t. But when you call Kinnetik one afternoon to ask if the painting you had sent for Brian’s offices had been delivered, you find that neither Cynthia nor Ted are there and further enquiry reveals that they are both with Brian in LA for meetings. You put the phone down, thinking, of course, they are all out there. The boss has been flying to and fro from LA to Pittsburgh for the last two months so it must be important. They are there to support him.

But that night when you make a random call to your mother, she reveals that Brian and Ted are possibly looking for rental places to set up a small satellite office in LA to coordinate any future client queries. Brian’s California contacts have been growing by leaps and bounds and the clientele there has been most receptive to his campaigns.

And you wonder how come you never knew this. You want to ask your mom the same question. But then you stop because what the hell kind of relationship would she think you have with Brian if she thought you didn’t even know Brian was setting up offices in LA.

A satellite office, you remind yourself. Doesn’t mean he is relocating there. It’s only a relay office to cater to the immediate demands of his west coast clients.

Would be a fool not to keep him close this time, your mother’s words from months ago reverberate in your ears.

And you wonder which fool she really was talking about.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



The House

Things calm down a little around Christmas and Brian takes advantage of the slight calm on the business horizon by inviting Lindsay, Mel, Gus and JR to spend Christmas with the two of you at the House.

More renovation has been going on in the last six months and if the place was beautiful before, now it’s turning out to be breathtakingly gorgeous. Not surprisingly, it’s your mother who has been keeping tabs on the renovations for Brian. She has contacts with many interior designers and renovators, and Brian trusts her instincts. He made you help him with the preliminary choices, though, and you were more than happy to assist him during trips to Pittsburgh.

You doubt the House would ever be a permanent home for either of you. It’s the kind of place you always dreamt of having as a holiday getaway. Somewhere you’d retreat to paint away during the summers, being too much of an urban creature yourself. Brian loves the city too much himself to ever want to live at a place like this for too long. But it’s his gift to you and you love it with all your being, and you are now happy to share it with Lindsay and Gus for the holidays.

Again, not surprisingly, Mel chooses to stay at Michael’s, citing JR as the reason—but you know that it’s because of Brian. She can tolerate Brian when the time calls for it, but no matter how much things change and how much time passes, she would never come and stay inside his domain of her own volition.

Brian doesn’t care because everything else comes together perfectly. Gus loves his room and the stables and the swings and Lindsay falls in love with the grounds and the pool and the studio.

On Christmas eve, you and Brian host the most magnificent party for your closest friends and family—the ones who matter anyway—and as you remember last year’s trip to the House, you wonder if every Christmas here would be as wonderful.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Italy

In April, something happens that makes one of your biggest dreams come true for you.

Your life’s been hectic the last couple of months. You had a show in the middle of March and another one scheduled for the first week of April. Brian, in the meantime, has been traveling all over the US, pitching to newer and trendier clientele every day. In the last week of March, when you’re neck deep in canvases, getting ready to scream with nerves over the upcoming show, Brian shows up in NY for a day. Over dinner at Gobo’s, he asks how you’d like to accompany him to Italy.

You stare at him, slack jawed with shock. Italy, you ask, are you fucking kidding?

He grins. "Have you ever heard of a firm called B&B Italia?"

"Are you serious?" You snort. "Half the furniture at the loft probably comes from that place."

As it turns out, Brian is meeting with the top executives at the New York offices of the exclusive Italian Designer Furniture manufacturer. And if things go well for Kinnetik—and you are very well aware that when it comes to delivering professionally, things usually do go well for Kinnetik—he’s pretty sure they’ll call him to the Novedrate offices. Since the trip might take over a week to finish, he wants you to go with him.

“But I have a show next week.” You pout. “How would I be able to…”

He raises his hand to halt your progress. “Keep your pants on.” He grins. “Or don’t. But remember: it probably won’t happen until the fourth, so you have time. You’ll just be wrapping things up at the gallery so you can get away.” He notices the smile spreading on your face and raises his left eyebrow. “Just think of all the galleries and the museums and the art.”

“And the shopping,” you drawl and he chuckles in response—and you know this is a dream come true for him as well.

As it turns out, he gets called to Novedrate on the third and your show is on the sixth, so you can’t get away until the next morning. You finally join him that weekend at the B&B Italia Spa, the headquarters of the exclusive firm in Novedrate. They’ve arranged for a suite for the two of you at the company’s exclusive Villa on Lake Como and when you walk in there, it’s literally like walking into the lap of luxury. Lush, immaculately manicured green lawns, sparkling black stone floors, marble statuettes adorning the ceilings and the doorways, exquisitely decorated rooms, and staff to cater to your every need.

The meetings have obviously gone well and they’ve approved Brian’s proposal for the campaigns needed to introduce their 2007 designs in the US market. Cynthia will probably be coming with one of the Art Directors and his team sometime over the next couple of weeks. The management here can coordinate with the Kinnetik offices through their New York liaison, so things will likely happen fast during the next month.

Brian’s last meeting is on Sunday and the next morning, the two of you catch the train to Milan.

Milan is a beautiful city with much to explore and you have to see it with your own eyes to believe it. Climbing on top of the Piazza Duomo and looking out at the Alps from the rooftop, with the view of the entire city spread out before you. Shopping at the Fashion District—something which Brian had obviously looked forward to. And looking at some of Italy’s finest treasures of art, by masters like Rafael and Rembrandt, at the Pinacoteca di Brera.

You even make a two day stop in Venice, where you stay at a small but extremely beautiful hotel, and the memories of visiting Saint Mark’s Basilica, and making out with Brian on a gondola over the Grand Canal are etched forever in your mind.

Sometimes you feel that for all his denials and renunciations about never doing romance, Brian Kinney really is the most romantic man you’ve ever met.

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