The name Justin Taylor was synonymous with great art, maybe not to everyone's taste, but give anyone a piece of art to view and everyone's a critic. Justin couldn't believe he was finally where he wanted to be. He had the freedom to create whatever he wanted without the limitations of finding money to pay the bills or painting what someone else told him to paint.
The first couple of years in New York had been the hardest of his life, and that's comparing to the time it took him to recover from the bashing. Of course he had Brian there for that time period, no matter how rocky their non-conventional non-relationship was then. Their relationship was still non-conventional, but it worked, it more than worked, even if it wasn't what Justin originally thought he wanted.
There were times, late at night, when the lights were out and everything had stopped, that he missed Brian fiercely. But there were other times when Brian was visiting, or he visited Brian, or even when he was in the middle of painting his next piece that he knew what he was doing was right, and he was right where he should be.
They had talked about Justin coming home, soon, but he didn't know how soon that would be. It didn't matter right now, though, Justin had just finished his second solo show, selling most of his pieces, and he was packing up the few pieces he chose to keep to be part of an exhibit at the Sydney Bloom Gallery.
Lindsay and Mel had moved back from Toronto when Gus was 10, and JR was 5. They had made a life for themselves, and they had been happy, for the most part. Lindsay's working for the gallery before they moved helped in her finding a steady job at a gallery in Toronto. However, Mel couldn't practice law without going back to college, and they didn't need those bills, so she worked as a paralegal. The kids made new friends, and they lived comfortably, and then they realized how lucky they had been to have so many friends and family so close for help, for advice, for babysitting, or anything else.
Lindsay had been offered a job at the Sydney Bloom Gallery shortly after they moved back, and while Mel was hired by a different firm, having international legal experience was a huge plus. Lindsay and Justin didn't contact each other often, but Justin did talk to Gus as often as he could, which was less often than he'd like. Gus was looking more like Brian every time he saw him, and even though he knew Gus was nothing like Brian when Brian was 17, Gus was definitely becoming a ladies man.
The few times they talked during Gus's high school years Gus always had a different girlfriend, but blushed at any implication that their relationships went beyond hand holding, or as Gus liked saying, up to second-base. Gus told him about JR and the little princess she was becoming. Only 12 and everything had to be pink, or sparkly, or frilly, and she had more accessories to put in her hair than he could think to use. Justin had a sister, he knew what that was like so could sympathize.
On the plus side, having a little sister made Gus her protector and defender, even if he did feel like killing her at least once every other month. Which, of course, Justin convinced him was perfectly normal, he loved Molly but could have happily strangled her a number of times. He and Molly got along great now, and he was very sorry he missed her growing into the young woman she was, but she was more understanding and accepting of Justin and his career and lifestyle than either of his parents. His mother had come around eventually, but Molly was accepting the moment she understood what Justin had gone through.
For a while they kept in contact only through email, but now that she was a college graduate and had a career of her own they called regularly and she even made it to his shows. Justin reassured Gus that if he loved JR now then they would always have that bond and at some times after puberty slows down he wouldn't feel the need to kill her. Gus wasn't sure, but he would trust Justin.
Justin had seen pictures of JR that Gus had sent him, and she was a little princess. She was cute, with Mel's self-assuredness and Michael's girl next-door looks, and she would be knocking them dead when she grew up, whomever she decided she liked. Justin wasn't one to assume and he wasn't about to assume all the pretty in pink meant that JR would be straight, or lesbian. For as much as Brian might not like Mel, he was holding out hope that JR would be gay since his own son wasn't. He had given Lindsay a hard time, for a couple of years after finding that out. Not seriously, because he would be there for Gus no matter what, but it was fun, for Brian, to see Lindsay's reaction.
Although that teasing stopped right after Gus asked him to stop. Not that Gus had a problem with his parents teasing each other, he remembered and heard a few arguments, comments, innuendos, and insults over the years. However, no matter how much he couldn't stand his sister at times she had asked him to ask Brian to stop, without explanation, and while Brian still wanted an explanation, he would do anything for Gus.
Justin had only seen Gus once in person since his move to New York, about a year after Lindsay and Mel moved back to Pittsburgh. Brian had been visiting Gus and finally convinced the munchers to let him take Gus with him to visit Justin in New York. Justin is still sure that they only agreed because Justin would be staying in the hotel with Brian, but he didn't ask. He was just glad that he was able to see Gus.
He was hoping he'd be able to see Gus more often now that Brian was going to be coming to New York more. Brian had been working the last few years setting up a Kinnetik New York, and the apartment that he had in the third floor of the building that was now Kinnetik 2 (as Justin liked calling it) was perfect for Justin to stay with Brian when he was in town and to see Gus, when he would eventually start NYU next year.
Brian had originally asked Justin to move into his apartment once the building was officially Kinnetik's, but Justin liked his freedom too much to give it up. Brian and Justin had maintained their long distance relationship, and they were exclusive, when in the same town, but when they were apart, they could fuck who they wanted and sleep where they wanted. Justin had no problem staying in Brian's hotel room when Brian visited, or staying in Brian's loft on the occasion he visited home. The thought of living with Brian again was very tempting, but he didn't want to fall in the same trap they had been before he moved.
He was always relying on someone else, with the exception of the dump he lived in before the infamous proposal, and he appreciated his freedom and independence more than he thought he would. Not to mention the fact that since the apartment was indeed Brian's, he had no interest in ever walking in on Brian with someone else. He knew Brian didn't trick like he used to, and Brian was more mellow than he used to be, but it wasn't above Brian to use a trick to prove a point, even if it would almost seem out of character now.
Brian reluctantly agreed that Justin might have a point at having their own space. Brian did travel for work and there were times that Justin wasn't available to visit when Brian went to New York. Justin agreed to stay with Brian in his new apartment when Brian was in town, but not live there. Brian stayed with Justin a couple of times and regretted it both times. Not because waking up next to Justin was a hardship, but since Justin lived in Chelsea in a brownstone that seemed to be more artists than anything else it was like living in an artist commune. Justin happily called Brian a drama queen and label queen until Brian tackled Justin against his tacky bed and fucked him until he could barely walk into his ridiculously eclectic bathroom. It would feel weird being in Brian's place when Brian was back home anyway.
Justin was looking forward to going home for his next art show… he still thought of the Pitts as home, no matter how much he enjoyed New York. The Pitts held too many memories, more than half of his lifetime of firsts, and of course, Brian. He never had tried to convince himself that Brian wasn't the one for him, he was, and he was certain, that sometime in the future that he and Brian would be together in every way they could possibly be.
There were those in the art world who thought him taking part in an exhibit in Pittsburgh was a step in the wrong direction, but he couldn't turn his back on where he started. He'd only had a couple of solo shows, but his first official exhibit was at the Bloom, and he was honored to take part in a new exhibit of abstract modern artists. There would be some local artists, and some nationally and internationally renowned artists, and part of the proceeds would benefit a local organization that helped kids heal through art, something he had personal experience with and could completely sympathize.
Sydney Bloom had sent a letter to all the artists he invited to take part in the exhibit, because of their experience, their talent, their status in the art world, and they had all been previous exhibitors and artists at the Bloom. Lindsay had gone the extra step and called him to ask personally, partly because she wanted to make sure he got the letter (and to accept), and partly because it would be an honor to the gallery and to show everyone where he came from and look where he is now (in other words to show off that she knew a famous artist at a level she could never get to, even though she would never admit to any of that).
Everyone in the Pitts was looking forward the Bloom's exhibit, although those in the art community were probably looking forward to the art more than the artist. The artist's family and friends were much more excited about the artist. His career in New York kept him very busy. When he first started he had to work two part time jobs to make ends meet and barely had the time to paint. With a little help from Brian, albeit after twisting his arm (and a few other body parts... he should never debate offers for help when in bed with the man), he was able to cut back a few hours from one job to have enough time to paint a bit in a shared studio and look for an agent.
Once he found an agent willing to represent up and coming artists, he was able to get his name and work around more. It started with a few pieces as part of other shows, which led to a few small commissions painting what the customer wanted. He still had his pieces from his original show at the Bloom, and they helped pave the way into a few larger galleries, provided he used those exact paintings, along with a few new ones.
It took more years than he thought it would, and he and Brian had a couple of rough years when he first moved. Having Brian in his life went a long way to helping Justin prove that he made the right decision. And of course Brian was convinced that Justin wouldn't have been as successful without his move. Whatever might have been, he wouldn't change what he had now for anything.