Title:  Once Upon a Mattress

Author:  YummySushiToo (sushi3579@yahoo.com)

Summary:  In which Brian realizes what he's been missing, and he and Mikey go shopping.

Disclaimer:  Wish I owned them, because they'd be together.  Unfortunately…

            "What a waste of time," Michael groused for perhaps the fifth time since climbing into the Jeep.  "I have no idea why I let you talk me into these things."

            "Now Mikey," Brian said in his most persuasive voice, "you know I can't possibly make such an important decision without you.  You're my best friend.  It goes with the territory, remember?"

            Michael knew that Brian would play the best friend card to his advantage.  Still.  "I really don't think this qualifies as an important decision," he returned.  He crossed his arms over his chest and looked out of the passenger window.  He wouldn't look at Brian.  He wouldn't.

            Brian risked a sidelong glance at Michael.  Jesus! He was so cute when he pouted – that lower lip stuck out just so….  With a start, Brian realized that he was once again thinking about Michael in That Way. 

            It was like yesterday. So fresh and clear in his mind.  Twenty years from now, he would still remember with perfect clarity the very moment when Everything Changed.

**********

            The typical weekday breakfast at the Liberty Diner was like any other.  He, Mikey, Ted, and Emmett all sat in their usual booth and traded quips and insults over various breakfast foods.  Emmett had just finished a story about a particularly flirtatious customer, and Brian rolled his eyes at Michael.  Michael shared his look, eyes laughing, and a goofy grin on his face.  A silent conversation passed between them:

            'Emmett is such a Drama Queen.'

            'Yeah, but he's a funny Drama Queen.  You're a serious one, Brian.'

            Toast halfway to his mouth, the truth hit Brian like a ton of bricks:  He was in love with Mikey.  And not only that, but his Mikey was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.  The toast clattered to the plate. 

            Concern filled Michael's eyes as he looked at Brian.  Who, of course, was still staring, his mouth partway open, hand poised as though it was gripping the now-missing toast.  "Bri…" he began, but Brian was up like a shot, sprinting towards the back of the diner.

            "Gotta… bathroom," he mumbled as he went.

            Slamming the door and locking it behind him, Brian stumbled over to the sink.  He turned on the faucet and splashed cold water onto his cheeks, then dried off.  Looking up into the mirror, he took in his shocked appearance.  "C'mon, Kinney," he coaxed his reflection, "snap out of it."

            As he stared into his own eyes for a good two minutes, Brian made a few realizations.  First, his love for Mikey wasn't something shocking; it was more of an oh-yeah-I-knew-that thing.  And it certainly wasn't sudden.  It had been going on for – Brian made a quick calculation – seventeen years.

"And the award for the world's longest delayed reaction goes to…" he muttered.

            Just then, a knock sounded on the door.  Without asking, he knew it was Michael on the other side.  Brian opened the door and walked out.  "Hey, you all right?" Michael asked, laying a gentle hand on Brian's arm.

            "Yeah.  I – I just felt a little sick to my stomach there.  But I'm okay now.  Really," he stressed, off of Michael's look of disbelief.

            "If you're sure…."

            "Yup.  Now let's go.  I'll give you a ride.  Don't want you to be late," said Brian, putting a friendly arm around Michael's shoulders.  "That boss of yours can be a real asshole."  He grinned at Michael, knowing fully well that Mikey was the boss.

            "But he's such a good-looking asshole," Michael said in a mock-wistful voice.  He loved it when Brian joked around with him like this.

            "You're absolutely right," Brian said, very seriously.  His face betrayed no emotion when Michael looked at him though, which made him wonder.  But he soon dismissed it, assuming that Brian was playing another game.

            All day long at work, Brian thought of Michael.  His dark chocolate eyes, his soft hair, his brilliant smile that was only reserved for Brian.  He bemoaned the fact that he wasn't able to just tell Mikey that he loved him; he had to show him.  If not, Michael was apt to think Brian was just playing more games.  Which was unfortunate in and of itself, because Brian had played with Michael's heart too much already.  He had to devise a perfect, fail-proof plan.  But what?

            As he stared out of the window, deep in thought, the inspiration came from the very man he was trying to get.  He was Brian Fucking Kinney, for Christ's sake.  When he wanted something in the boardroom, he came up with a brilliant campaign, followed it, and always got what he wanted.  This, in essence, should be no different. A huge, self-satisfied smile spread across Brian's face.

**********

            That very night, Brian put his Get Mikey Plan into action.  The plan included phasing out tricking, drinking, drugs, and smoking, and phasing in much more quality Mikey time.  He felt that in order to truly deserve Michael, and keep him forever, he would have to make some minor changes to his lifestyle.  Okay, major changes, but ones that were necessary.

            Of course, they all still went to Babylon, but Brian no longer tricked in the back room.  Instead, he danced the night away with Michael, and talked with Emmett and Ted.  Well, as much as he could stand, anyway.  A man can only change so much. 

            Other nights were spent in Michael's company, at his apartment.  They would sit around and eat junk food and riff on old cheesy late night movies, or play Remember When and laugh hysterically over old memories.

            "Hey, Brian, remember when we went to see that old horror movie marathon at the theater, and Mark DelGarbino sat right below us with his ugly girlfriend – "

            "Paula Arnold.  Yeah, and you were so high off that joint we smoked that you spilled your popcorn all over them – "

            "And, and you said, 'Oops! Let me wash that off for you!'  And you – "

            "Poured both our drinks on them! Man, I swear you shit your pants, you were so scared!"

            "And you just fuckin' laughed and laughed.  But he didn't do anything.  Do you remember why?"

            Brian snorted laughter at the memory.  "Because she was sucking him off, and he wanted her to finish before he killed us.  And when she did, he came so hard, he didn't give a flying fuck what we did to them!"

            And they both laughed loud enough to wake the neighbors.

            Brian also spent more time at Lindsay and Melanie's house with Gus.  He realized that part of being a better man for Mikey was being a better man for his son, as well.  He even spent a few precious Friday nights with Gus so that Lindsay and Melanie could have their time alone.

            The first time he offered, both women stared at him, mouths open.  "You're drawing flies," he blandly stated, closing their jaws with a finger under each chin.

            "But – but you – you're not…" Melanie sputtered.

            "Are – are you certain you want to do this, Brian?" Lindsay asked, recovering quicker than Melanie.

            "Christ, Lindz, it's not like I'm donating a kidney or anything.  I'm offering to hang out with Gus tonight.  Is that a problem?"

            "But it's Friday!" Melanie exclaimed, then winced, knowing she sounded stupid, even to herself.

            Strangely enough, Brian ignored the comment, and continued, "I just thought you two would like to have a … date, or… whatever it is lesbians do on Friday nights."

            "Well, I don't know," Lindsay began, but Melanie cut her off.

            "Let's go, honey.  You know an offer like this only comes along once in a very great while."  She turned to Brian.  "Thank you for the offer.  I'm sure Gus would love to have some time alone with you.  You have a great time!" she called, already pushing Lindsay out of the door.

            Brian even became a regular at Pasta Night at Debbie and Vic's house.  He was grateful to once again experience the loud, boisterous conversations and wonderful companionship the twice-monthly dinners afforded.  Plus, he got to spend extra time with Mikey, which was always a benefit.

            After the second visit, Debbie became suspicious and pulled Brian aside.  "What's the deal, Kinney?"

            "Nice to see you too, Deb," Brian responded, grinning.

            "Cut the crap, kid.  What are you trying to pull?  You and I both know that you never come over anymore unless you want something.  So what is it you want?"

            He suddenly became serious and leveled a look at her.  "I think you know what I want, Deb.  And I am not going to let anyone stand in my way.  I'd rather have you with me on this than against me."

            Debbie's hand slowly rose up and covered her mouth.  "You're serious?" she whispered.  "Because if you're not – "  The threat hung unspoken in the air between them.

            "You've known me for seventeen years.  When have you ever seen me not get what I want?  And when have I ever not been serious about getting it?"

            "You don't deserve him, Brian."

            "Yeah, I know.  But for some reason, he believes in me and thinks that I do.  So I'm trying my hardest to at least partway deserve him.  That should count for something, right?"  For the first time since she met him, Brian's mask was off and she saw him look uncertain and vulnerable.  She realized that his feelings were true.  But, that didn't mean she was going to take pity on him.

            "All right, Brian.  But if you fuck up in any way…"

            He held up his hands in a placating gesture.  "Don't worry, I won't."  Secretly though, he worried that he would fuck up.  However, Debbie was not to find that out.  No way in hell.

**********

            All stages of the Get Mikey Plan had been very successful so far.  A gradual change here, a slight difference there.  The subtle changes over the months ensured that no one was the wiser.  Brian realized that not only did his friends treat him differently, but he felt better about himself, as well.  The next-to-last stage involved some decorating changes.  He wanted all traces of his former lifestyle gone from the loft, and more touches of Michael brought in.  That way, when Michael moved in (as Brian was sure he would), he would feel more at home.

            The changes were easily made, and Michael never knew, because they always hung out at his apartment.  Brian claimed the place was more comfortable, and he wasn't afraid of dropping crumbs on the floor.  "Yeah, because you don't have to clean it up," Michael would always say.

            The loft was now painted in bright primaries, which fit Michael's comic-book style.  Somehow, it perfectly meshed with Brian's minimalist Italian furniture.  The simple color change gave the place a warmer, lived-in look, while retaining the sophistication.  A perfect blend.  Just like Brian and Michael.

            One Saturday morning, Brian called Michael and made a special request.  "Mikey, I'm going mattress shopping.  I need you to go with me."

            "Why?"

            "What do you mean, why?  I need your opinion, that's why."

            "Why do you need my opinion?  It's your mattress."  The words I'm never going to sleep on it were unspoken, but Brian heard them nonetheless.

            "Just come with me," he said softly.  "You know I can't make such a big decision all by myself."  And before Michael could protest, Brian continued, "Good.  I'm picking you up in ten minutes."  And he hung up.

            Michael glared in frustration at the phone in his hand.  "Dammit, Brian."

            When the Jeep pulled up in front of the apartment building, Michael was already waiting outside.  He climbed in and said, "This is a waste of time, Brian.  You know this right?"  He looked at his best friend, fully expecting an answer, but Brian just grinned at him and drove on.

            They arrived at the store and Brian immediately found a cute salesgirl and turned on the Kinney charm.  Michael rolled his eyes.  "I want something comfortable, firm and supportive, yet soft," he told her.  "Do you think you can help me out?"  Cue sexy smile.

            "Of course, sir," she answered, blushing.  "We have several excellent models right this way."  She led Brian over to what Michael assumed to be the "expensive" section of the store.

            "C'mon, Mikey, let's go," Brian coaxed, tugging on Michael's sleeve.

            Michael heaved a huge sigh and followed Brian and the salesgirl.  "Dammit, Brian," he thought, for the eighth time that day.

            "… has top-of-the-line support springs and a pillow top for added comfort," the salesgirl was saying.  "Why don't you lie down and test it?"

            "Twist my arm," Brian said, grinning like an idiot.  He flopped on the bed, turned this way and that, finally ending up on his back.  "What do you think, Mikey?"

            "Looks okay," Michael said, bored and disgusted with the whole ordeal.

            Brian rolled his eyes in mock-exasperation at the salesgirl.  "'Looks okay,' he says.  C'mon, you gotta get the full effect.  Hop on," he said, patting the mattress beside him.

            Michael heaved another huge sigh and reluctantly lay down on his back, stiff as a board.  "Sure.  Yeah.  Great."  He made to jump up again, but Brian dragged him back down.  "Now what?"

            "You didn't really test it.  Spoon me."

            "What?"  Michael yelped.  He looked at the salesgirl for help, but she seemed to be rather blasé about the request, as though the phenomenon of two men who tested mattresses by spooning occurred every day.

            "I said, 'spoon me.'  So I know what it's like."  Brian's eyes shone with humor at Michel's discomfort.

            "For Christ's…" muttered Michael as he complied with Brian's request.  "All right.  There.  Happy?" he asked in a louder, slightly hysterical voice.

            Brian made a great show of snuggling into Michael's arms.  He was silent for a few moments, then: "Nope.  Don't like it.  Next!"  And he was up like a shot, following the now-amused salesgirl to the next selection.

            Michael helped Brian "test" a few more mattresses, until he finally said, "I kinda like this one, Brian.  It's really comfy."

            "I think so, too," Brian said, looking at Michael in surprise.  Then he looked at the salesgirl.  "We've found a winner.  Let's start filling out paperwork."

**********

            A week later, Brian called Michael at the store and asked him to come over after he was finished for the day. 

            "Sure, Brian, what's up?"

            "Nothing.  Can't I have you come over without some ulterior motive?"

            "Yes – I mean, no – I mean," a sigh.  "I'll be over, okay?"

            While counting the till, Michael thought about what Brian could possibly want.  His opinion on something, no doubt.  Brian had been doing that quite a bit lately.  New clothes – what do you think?  Different hairstyle – better, or worse?  This restaurant – you like the food there, or hate it?  He was even consulted on presents for Gus and – shocker of shockers – ideas for the firm.  The mattress was the last in a long line of "big decisions" that Brian simply could not make without Michael anymore.

            Whatever.  As Debbie would say, "that's a load of crap."  Since when did Brian Fucking Kinney need anyone, let alone Michael, to help him make any kind of decision at all? 

            He played the last few months over in his head.  Brian had been acting differently lately, but not so much that he would be noticed.  Except to those who really knew him, like Michael.  He hoped that this wasn't another of Brian's games.  Even though Michael loved his best friend dearly, even after all the years they had known each other, he didn't think he could handle any more games.

            Finally, he closed the store and headed over to the loft, letting himself in with his set of keys.  He stood in awe of the changes that he noticed.  Brian had had the walls painted in bright, bold reds and blues, with yellow accents.  The lights were dimmed to accommodate the dozens of candles lit around the loft.  Soft music played on the stereo, and the smell of delicious food filled the air.  Michael's eyes filled with tears as he realized what this was.  A scene set for seduction, and Brian wanted Michael's opinion on it.  He felt his heart break into a thousand pieces.

            Michael turned to leave, his hand on the door.  "Why, Brian?" he whispered in a choked voice.

            "Because I love you, Mikey," came the whispered answer, from directly behind him.  "This – all of this – the changes, everything – this is to show you how much I love you.  I just hope I came close."

            Michael turned around and met Brian's eyes with his own.  "This – this is for me?"  he asked in disbelief.

            Brian leaned forward and touched his forehead to Michael's.  "You're so pathetic, Mikey," he said fondly.  "Who else would it be for?  You're the only one I have ever loved.  Always have, always will.  I just hope I'm not too late."  He looked into his Mikey's eyes, his own full of love and hope.

            A huge smile spread across Michael's face; Brian's special smile.  "No, Brian.  You're not too late.  I love you, too.  So very much."  Tears of happiness spilled down his cheeks.

            "Thank you," Brian said softly.  And he leaned in and captured Michael's lips in the sweetest kiss ever.  It was like a first kiss, the first of many.

            They broke apart, slightly dazed and out of breath.  "Are you hungry, Mikey?" asked Brian.  "Please say no."

            "No, not right now, why?"

            "Because I don't want our dinner to burn while you help me christen my new mattress.  Sorry.  Our new mattress."  And Brian left Michael standing there in shock while he took the food from the oven, then made his way to the bedroom.  At the top step, he turned to Michael.  "You coming up here, Mikey?  Or do I have to come and get you?"

            "No, Brian," Michael said in a voice full of love, "you already got me."

HeHeHe