Title: The Other Foot

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: PG-13 language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Chapter One

Whenever something like this happens they always say that they didn't plan it, that they would never have done it in a million years if they'd had any idea where it would lead and what the repercussions would be.

I swear to God that I never planned this.

I didn't think it would happen, at least not to me.

I mean, shit. It took me thirty years to fall in love the first time. Who know that the second time would be so much quicker?

Eight months earlier

I was in the diner with Ben about seven on a Saturday night. He was waiting for Mikey to close up the store. Since I didn't really have anything better to do at that point, we were both just sitting there waiting before we'd order some diner shit to eat.

Justin was busing that night and I have to tell you, he looked like shit warmed over.

He was wearing clothes that had pretty obviously been slept in—or not judging by the circles under his eyes. He hadn't cracked a smile all night and he wasn't wearing that cheap ring the Chinrat had given him.

OK, this wasn't hard to figure out.

My only question was whether it was just a bit of a tiff or was this really the breakup I'd been expecting?

When he came over to hand us some glasses of water I made some comment, something about how he was wearing the same stunning outfit he'd had on the day before. He snarked back that he had slept at Daphne's and I sort of got the idea that he wouldn't be going to any violin concerts for a while.

OK.

You want to know something? I wasn't 100 happy about that.

Now, don't get me wrong. I had known that the two of them wouldn't last, just like I knew that Mikey and the Doc weren't destined to live happily ever after. It was just that he looked so damn—what?—devastated isn't the right word. Disappointed? No, that's not it, either. He looked like he knew it would happen, that he'd end up hurt and here it was and it was worse than he'd expected. He was sad. I know, that sounds like a kid who lost their kitten, but that's how he looked. Like he had just found out that sometimes things weren't fair and he had always heard that they should be.

Whatever had happened, whatever had caused the break up must have been a big one.

I felt sorry for him, OK?

I know. I know.

Look, I love him and I want him to be happy. I wanted him to be happy with me but if that wasn't in the cards, I wanted him happy—somewhere with somebody and now he was miserable.

The path was clear for me now. I just had to decide how to make my move when I thought that he was ready to accept delivery.

Well, we know what happened, don't we? A couple of weeks later he showed up at Vanguard one day as the new intern. Fuck me. He actually called me 'Mr. Kinney' with a straight face.

Within days we were doing it in my office and a couple of weeks after that his shit was back right where it had been in the loft. His computer was back on the desk, his clothes were back in the drawers, his crappy soda was back in my fridge and he was back in my life.

This time is was different. We were more careful with one another. It was like we both knew what we could have and we both knew how shitty it was when we had screwed it up the last time.

Fuck me. You should have seen the looks on the boy's faces the night we walked into Babylon together for the first time. You'd have thought that we were parting the waters or something. It was like returning royalty.

I don't know how many times we laughed about that.

Then there were the reactions from the family. Linds was thrilled, threw her arms around him and kissed me. Mel snarked, but who gives a shit? Debbie screamed and actually kissed him then told me not to fuck it up again—I didn't tell her that he was the one who had left me the first time, but it didn't matter. Mikey got that constipated look he gets. You know the one. Well, he'll just have to get used to it.

Jennifer looked sort of pained, but I think she knows that we're fairly solid this time around. I know she's not thrilled about it, that she thinks I'm a bad influence on Justin, and maybe I am, but fuck—we belong together and that's just the way it is.

Molly is still waiting for me to get over Justin so that I can take up with her. You know what? I like the kid. Oh, and Daphne, she's always been in my corner. I think it has something to do with the fact that she's seen me naked a few times.

So things settled down after a few weeks. We were living our lives. I went to work every day, he went to classes. You know the drill. We saw various friends and his family. We made a point of spending time together. I tried to do some of the shit that he thought he wanted. I brought home flowers a couple of times to surprise him and we had a couple of romantic dinners either at the loft or at some little places I knew about.

The third or fourth time we did that he seemed quiet about it, not unhappy, but not really pleased, either. He didn't say anything though and I decided not to pursue it. Maybe he had a headache or something.

A few days later I stopped of and got a bunch of flowers and a decent bottle of wine to celebrate his latest report card—he made the dean's list, that scamp.

Anyway, I walked in with the stuff and he just looked at me then said, quietly, a little sadly that he knew what I was trying to do and he loved me for it, but it was alright. He had thought once that he needed the flowers and all of that, but that after Ethan he knew that it didn't really matter. What mattered weren't the flowers, but the idea that I was thinking about him. He didn't care about the wine, though he'd be happy to drink it—he cared that it had occurred to me to consider that he might like it and that he mattered enough to me that his accomplishments were worth celebrating.

Fuck me; I loved him more when he said that than I thought I could love anyone.

After that we just kind of fit together.

Oh, sure, we argued and we fought now and then, but we both knew that they weren't going to break us up or anything. We argued, we made up.

The sex—did I mention the sex? Do I even have to?

Amazing, mind blowing, incredible, frequent, exhausting, and fabulous sex.

After a while I noticed something about that, too. I knew, I'd known for a long time that what we had in bed—or in the shower or on the couch or wherever—was better than just good fucking. It really is different, better, with someone you care about. I cared about his satisfaction, about whether it was good for him. I used to care because my own rep was at stake, now I cared because I wanted his to have the best fucking orgasms of his life. It was like a gift I could give him and something that we could share with one another and no one else.

With no one else.

I saw you raise your eyebrow at that. Yeah. It's true. I did it. I agreed to stop tricking. He didn't even ask me, but one day he came home early because some class was cancelled and I was fucking some trick when he walked in. He didn't say anything about it, either then or when the guy left, but I could see the look on his face and I knew that I'd hurt him.

Before, that would have pissed me off. Who the Hell was he to dictate what, who I could do?

The thing was that he didn't dictate, he didn't even ask. He was hurt and I knew it and I was the one who had hurt him.

So I stopped tricking. It was as simple as that.

I didn't say anything to him about it, it's not like I told him or anything but he knew. He figured it out and he was just so happy after that. He would come up behind me and put his arms around me or he would wrap himself around me in bed or just look at me across the room and get that sunshine smile on his face and I just knew how good it all was.

That's the killer in all this. We were so Goddamned happy and it was just going so well. I was even starting to think that his hints that we should go up to Vermont or even just stay around here and gate married—legal or otherwise—might not be a bad idea. I was seriously starting to think that maybe over Christmas or something we would do that.

OK, so it didn't quite turn out the way I planned.

Six months earlier

It was a nothing Tuesday at work; I was looking over the storyboards for the new campaign for Mellon Bank that I had to pitch the next morning when Vance wandered into my office.

"So, Brian, I need you go to New York on Thursday"

Gardner was known to do this sort of thing to try to throw me. It never worked. "Why? What's in New York?"

"You know that I've been talking with Steve Brenner for a few weeks now, right? Well, it seems that Brenner, Inc is available for the right offer. I'd like you to go, spend a few days there, tell me what you think of the operation and then we'll discuss it when you get back on Monday."

"Do you want to buy them outright or merge?"

"I haven't decided that yet. I'm leaning towards a merge, though. I'll name him a full partner—don't worry, you'll get the same title—then he can still run the New York office for us, we can go back and forth and we'll expand ourselves with a ready made client base."

"Why is he selling? If his place is worth having, why doesn't he just keep it?"

"He wants to cut back on his hours and throw some of the pressure onto us. If we have overall control, and I would want a controlling interest or nothing, then we can call the shots and he can do most of the legwork."

"If the place is worth having."

"That's for you to form an opinion on."

"Would you expect me to do the commuting back and forth?"

"Well, Brian, I know that you'll find this difficult to believe, but Brenner seems to think that I'm hard to work with. Perhaps he'll find you more amenable."

Well, whatever. If it worked out it would be a good business move, at least on the surface.

"Fine. I'll have Cynthia get the tickets—I'd like her to come with me—we'll leave here tomorrow night so that we can get in a full day with them on Thursday."

Vance was already half out the door. "Good."

I remember thinking at the time that there was more here than Vance was telling me. If this thing went through, and with it as far along as it seemed to be, it was probably a done deal. Someone would either have to be spending half of every week going back and forth or one of us would have to likely move there at least for the transition period.

And guess who the most likely candidate would be for that, boys and girls.

Well, there would have to be some serious bonus bucks for me to do that and Justin would just have to understand that it was business.

I told him about it that evening and he actually took it pretty well. He told me that he was really busy with school and he had some big projects coming up over the next few months and that we'd just have to spend as much time as we could together while I was home. Maybe he could come to New York a few times to gallery and museum hop while I was working.

It wouldn't be forever, and he'd be alright.

I gave a mental sigh of relief when he said that. I was expecting one of his tantrums, but since we'd gotten back together and were solid they had been happening less and less frequently.

Thank God.

That night we made love in the shower.

I remember it especially because it was the first time he had me there. I'd done him countless times up against that glass, but he'd never done me there. I had to bend my knees a little because I'm so much taller and my legs got tired, but I tried not to let him know. He had topped me a few times in the bed and on the sofa, but never in the shower and I think he really liked it. I hoped that he did. Maybe it was just the idea that I'd let him or something, but after we were in bed he wanted me to do him, sort of like a payback, I guess.

He held onto me all night and in the morning he wanted me to have him again before we had to get up.

He dropped me off at the office since I wouldn't need the car. Cynthia and I would be taking a limo to the airport from work. He kissed me good bye—a few good ones that threatened to turn into a make out session right on Forbes Avenue, but I cut it short with him laughing at me.

He told me that he loved me when I got out and I told him the same thing. He said that he'd give me a homecoming that I could look forward to. He was laughing as he pulled back into traffic.

We were met by the driver at Newark Airport and were taken directly to our hotel. Brenner had sprung for the Plaza with park views. Either he was trying to impress us or get us off guard.

Neither would work.

There was a message from him when I checked into my room. Could we meet him for dinner so that we could get acquainted under informal circumstances? Sure, fine with me.

I called his number and we agreed to meet at O'Henry's at seven. Cynthia should come, too. It wouldn't be fancy, dress was comfortable.

At exactly seven we walked into the restaurant. It was fairly crowded for a Wednesday but the hostess had already seated Brenner and took us right over to the booth. Standing, we shook hands and made the introductions.

OK, let's get the obvious out of the way right now. The man was as attractive as anyone I've met and that's, as we know, saying a lot.

Oh, and he was gay. Did I mention that?

He wasn't handsome in the classic sense, he didn't have movie star looks or resemble a Greek god, but he had charisma that you could have sold stock in. He had this smile that even made Justin's look a little dim—like I ever thought I'd see that happen. He had these eyes that absolutely held you. They were black, you know how that looks and I've always been a sucker for nice eyes. He had that black Irish look about him. He looked to be around thirty-five, maybe forty but you could see that he worked out. He wasn't overdone like Ben, he was just right and he was about the same height as me, too.

Shit.

Cynthia saw the look I was giving him and just shook her head enough for me to see. It was a sort of 'don't do this' headshake.

He was looking right back and I knew then and there that we had trouble right here in River City.

We sat down, him across from us. The waiter showed up, we ordered drinks, but nothing too hard since we all knew that, jeans or not, this was a working dinner.

The talk was general and we all ordered steaks. He offered to get us tickets to whatever Broadway show we were interested in for the next night and Cynthia said that she had been dying to see The Producers, if that might be possible. He agreed, saying that he had already seen it, but it was so funny that he'd be happy to join us if we wouldn't mind.

The talk wandered along, he mentioned that he was single, having just suffered through a breakup and when he asked about me Cynthia saw the look on my face and threw in that I was with the most wonderful young man and that we'd been together for quite a while. She just loved Justin to death.

I was about to snark something to her when she gave me this innocent smile like she was just sharing, what was my problem?

Thanks, bitch, if I wanted a nanny I'd fucking hire one.

Steve caught what was happening as well as we did and it was awkward when the dinner was over and we were all about to leave.

I've experienced my share of sexual chemistry, but this was a lot even for me.

Normally, if Cynthia hadn't been there—Hell, even if she was it didn't used to make any difference—I would have taken him up on his offer for a late drink somewhere. OK, a late drink at his place, I know that was what he meant. We all knew that was what he meant.

Biting the bullet, I thanked him for dinner and his generous offer, but said that I wanted to be sure that I was rested for the next day and that we'd all see each other in the morning.

He understood, Cynthia looked relieved and we took separate cabs when we left. Cyn and I went together to the Plaza, Steve to wherever his place was.

When we got upstairs I called Justin, but got the answering machine. He had told me that he might be late tonight, working a late shift at the diner. The pisser is that I had no doubt that was where he was. If I called him there, he would have come to the phone. I left a message about how I was sorry that I'd missed him and would try again the next day.

After taking a shower I pulled out a book I'd brought with me and settled in to read myself to sleep.

I know, who would have thought I'd do something like that?

I made a mental promise, though, after I finally turned out the light and was ready to nod off. I knew that one of the things that had destroyed Justin and Ethan was that the prick had screwed around when he was away for just one night. He couldn't restrain himself for even twenty-four hours and that had about killed Justin.

I wouldn't do hat.

I wasn't going to fuck up what I had for a fuck.

I wasn't.

TBC

4/27/03

Title: The Other Foot, chapter two

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: PG-13 language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Chapter Two

The next morning Cynthia and I were at Brenner Inc at nine sharp.

It was housed in a four-story townhouse down in the Village and consisted of a large number of small rooms and steep stairs. I actually found it charming.

The staff impressed me as fairly competent, if a little nervous around me. Evidently the grapevine had warned them of our arrival and they had an understandable concern for their job security. I chose not to say anything other than to ask suitable questions. Cynthia just hung back as my assistant and made sure that anyone who wondered knew that I was a partner in another firm and that we had worked together for years.

She was just so good at playing the polite bitch.

Steve had met us when we were shown up to his office and had obviously been waiting for us. He suggested that Cyn go off with his own assistant and that the two of us could take a private tour together.

As we moved from one department to another, I asked the questions that needed to be asked but what I was really doing was looking around. It wasn't so much the physical space that concerned me so much as the people he had working for him.

I was impressed by them. Yes, I know that they were on their best behavior for me, but still, I'm used to seeing through the bullshit and they were good at their jobs.

They were, almost without exception, young, bright and seemed to be producing good work.

The other thing I caught was how much they really liked Steve.

I mean they really liked the guy and he seemed to like them back. The people who worked for me back home didn't like me, not that I cared. They knew I was good and they knew that working at Vanguard was the top of the local pile, but they though that I was a prick and as far as they were concerned, they were right.

Steve wasn't like that.

One of his Ad Execs asked me if I had ever worked anywhere other than Pittsburgh—making the place sound like a disease. I told him that I'd been with my current agency for about ten years and, yes, always in Pittsburgh. The fuck actually had the balls to smirk at me.

I ignored him, but figured that his ass would be grass soon enough that he wouldn't be worth breaking a sweat over.

An hour later, after we had moved on to another floor the same asshole came up to me and asked if I was the same Kinney who had come up with the Brown Athletics campaign that he heard had come out of Pittsburgh. Yup. Tripled their sales in six months.

Then Steve chimed in with the info that I had also done Poolboy and a few others that made his ears (and God knows what else) perk up.

That shut the fucker up.

So much for the rube from the fucking sticks.

If he's not hot shit, he's history and he probably knows it. In fact, he might be toast anyway. He pissed me off.

So Steve had a nice operation going. The product his people put out was good, their rep high and he had the loyalty of his employees and seemed to have their respect. He greeted every single one of them by name and answered everything they wanted to know. He was open and honest with them and I really just liked the man.

Shit.

After we finished with the walk about he steered me back to his office, closing the door behind him and sitting behind his desk. I took one of the easy chairs in front and it was time to talk some turkey.

"So, what did you think? This look like something that you and Vance might be interested in?"

"We're already interested, Steve, you know that. You also know that you have a top notch operation going here and that we could merge the two companies with a minimum of disruption to either office."

"There's a 'but' coming, isn't there?"

I remember that I paused while I tried to figure a tactful way to put this. "I'm curious. You're a young man" He smiled at me at that. "And you know what you have here. I would like to know why you're willing to sell controlling interest in something that's yours when you could reasonably expect to run it yourself for another twenty or thirty years."

"Brian, I've been doing this without a break for almost twenty years now. Between you, me and the walls, I have enough money that it's not a concern. The problem is that I'm too young to retire without being bored but I don't want to work the sixty-hour weeks anymore. It's really pretty simple: In exchange for part of my business, you'll be here to run the day to day for me and I can come in and work on just the accounts that interest me."

Hell. That was something I hadn't counted on. "Steve, you do realize that I live in Pittsburgh. I would be here fairly often, but I don't know that I'd actually be moving to New York, at least not right now." What the fuck are you saying, Kinney? Two years ago you were dying to make the move.

"Vance told me that you'd be put in charge of this office. That was part of the deal."

Vance, you fuck.

"Maybe we could talk about that."

"No. We can't. Either you agree to run this office, or there is no deal." I guess I hesitated a second too long. "Cynthia said last night you have someone you live with or something. Is that the problem?"

"No, Justin would be willing to move if I did, I guess." Oh, screw it. "Look, this is the first I've heard of this being one of the conditions and I'm not ready to make that sort of decision without even a phone call."

"Vance didn't tell you? Right—now you know why I want to work with you instead of him."

Shit, shit, shit.

"OK, look. Why don't you go back to your hotel or take a walk in the park or whatever and give this some thought. We have tickets for the show tonight at seven thirty. I'll pick you and Cynthia up at the Plaza at five thirty, we can have a decent dinner and you can tell me what you've come up with. Sound fair?"

I pushed myself up to my feet. "Yeah, that's fair." I turned to leave; he rose to see me out.

"Brian, I think that we would work well together. I think that we're similar in a lot of ways and we both know that this is good business for both of our companies. Let's try to work this out, alright?" He had put his hand on my arm and was rubbing it slightly through my clothes.

Shit. I've been on the receiving end of enough passes and come ons to know when I'm being hit on, thanks.

Relocating wouldn't be the only problem here.

The pisser was that I liked the man. He was smart and successful and had the same interests that I did and was even close enough to my age that we seemed to relate on all kinds of things. We just sort of clicked.

Fuck and fuck me again.

"I'll see you at five thirty, Steve."

We were walking down the stairs to the street when he added, "You know, you'd get my office. I'd take one of he smaller ones." He was joking. I knew that, but I was wondering just what the Hell else Vance had promised him.

Ah, shit.

I tried to get Justin as soon as I got back to the room, but he was still in class or something. I called again after I'd showered and changed.

The second time I had managed to catch Justin in.

"Look, I know that it's a big change, but I think that it could be good for both of us."

"It sounds great, but I can't right now. It's too late in the semester to transfer and if I quit I'll lose all the tuition and all the credits."

"Fuck. Are you sure?"

"Brian, accept the condition and go ahead with the merger if you think it's a good idea. You stay in New York and we'll see each other on weekends and stuff. It's only for a few months."

"You really want to do that? It sucks."

"Of course I don't want to do thatâ€Like I said, it's only for a few months and then I can transfer to one of the New York schools."

"Justin, we just got back together a few months ago. I don't want you living hundreds of miles away."

"I know, I hate it, too, but it will be alright. It's not like it's for years and years and you'll be really busy with the new job. It's too good for you to turn it down, Bri."

"You trying to get rid of me, twat?"

"I'm trying to keep you, old man."

"Ahhâ€shit, Justin. I hate this.

"I know. Me too. When are you coming home?"

"I'm not sure. Probably Saturday, I guess."

"I told you, I'll make it worth you while."

"I know you will. Fuckâ€Justin?"

"Yeah?"

"You sure that you're OK with this? Maybe we could work out something else. Maybe we could delay my move until you could join me or something."

I could hear the silence coming over the line. Justin knew something was up. "What else aren't you telling me?"

"Nothing, I'm just not sure that this is the right time for this in relation to us. We're still new back together."

He knew I was lying. OK, I wasn't lying; I just wasn't being completely honest. He knew.

"Bri, we'll be alright. We love each other, remember?"

"Yeah, I know that. I'll call you later, OK?"

"I'm going to a party at Daphne's. I'll be late. Call me in the morning, OK?"

"Yeah, sure." He was hanging up the receiver when he heard, as an afterthought, "Hey Bri? I love you, OK?"

"Yeah, me too."

Oh, fuck. Well, shit, Kinney. Just because he can't be hanging on your arm every day doesn't mean that you're going to screw this up.

You'll be OK. We'll be OK.

Shit, this was too good a deal to fuck up.

We'd be OK.

We would see each other on weekends and talk all the time. We could do this. I could do this. It was only for a few months.

Fuck me.

Steve came up to my room at about quarter after five, apologizing when he came into the room.

I offered him a drink, handing it to him as he sat by the window. I took the chair next to him.

"I was hoping that you'd had a chance to get your thoughts in order about this. Did you talk to you—whatever he is?"

"Justin. I think that we can work out whatever problems there may be. If it's alright with you, I'll call Vance in the morning and have him start on the contracts."

"Well...excellent. Are you sure that you don't need more time to think this through?" I remember the look on his face when he said that. He told me later that he thought that I would back out or ask for ore time or something. I surprised him with my answer.

"It's the right thing for all of us. I don't see any reason to delay a decision that's obvious." I drained the JB I'd been working on for a while.

"Alright, then—I'll have our legal staff get in touch with yours in the morning after we let Vance know that it's been agreed on. You do know that part of the deal is that you're promoted to senior partner, don't you?" He had some of his Chivas. "There should be a nice bonus and raise for you. New York is expensive and that needs to figured into your package."

"I assumed as much. Neither you or Vance would want it known that a junior was running things here." I stood up; it was almost time to meet Cynthia. "If you could recommend a good realtor, I'll start looking for a place."

"Yes, good. I know a one I think you'll like."

So—done deal, or close enough. We went to get Cynthia.

We ended up at Le Circe to celebrate the merger agreement. It was, as to be expected, fabulous. The show was as good as such things get and Cynthia was dazzled, as she was supposed to be. The kick line of little old ladies using walkers one of the high lights and I delighted in picturing dear old Mom among the group on stage

During the dinner Steve was attentive enough to make his attraction clear but not enough to be obnoxious or obvious. Cyn caught it, of course, and she threw me a few looks—especially when I failed to respond.

After the show, over drinks at Saardi's, Steve took Cyn's trip to the ladies room as the opportunity to ask.

"Brian, I don't want to overstep, but it's apparent that we're attracted to one another. I know you have someone at home and I want you to know now that nothing will happen between us—ever—unless you say you so."

"Iâ€thank you."

"It's serious then?"

"Me and Justin? Yes, for three years now."

"You two live together?"

I nodded.

"And you must love one each other."

I didn't answer. What would I say? Of course we loved each other.

"Will he be able to join you here when you make the move? Does his work allow for that?"

Shit.

"He won't be able to move here for a few months, maybe three, I think. We'll see each other on weekends until then."

"I'm sorry. That will be hard on both of you."

I shrugged. "We've been through worse. We'll be alright." He was staring at me. I knew he had just gone through the break up of a long-term relationship.

"Well, I just wanted you to know that I won't be a problem for you. We'll be working together closely and I don't want the personal side of things to get in the way. My company is too important to me for that and so are my employees. I won't jeopardize anything."

"I'm glad to hear it. I don't want to jeopardize anything either."

That's when Cynthia came back. "So what have you two been talking about?"

I think I was looking at Steve when I answered her. "Avoiding problems."

TBC

4/28/03

Title: The Other Foot, chapter three

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: R and language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Chapter Three

That was a strange time for us, the time when Brian was moving to New York to head that office and I couldn't go with him. I wanted to go, I guess. I just couldn't right then. I had to finish out the semester.

I wasn't worried about us at all. I mean, we'd had problems, lots of them and we still fought but we both knew that we loved each other and that we were solid. Besides, I knew that I'd be able to go to New York almost every weekend and that he'd be back most of the times I couldn't get there. We e-mailed a lot and I think we probably should have gotten our own eight hundred number, we spent so much time on the phone.

I missed him like crazy, though and I know he missed me. I could tell when he called that he was lonely and I know how much he hates sleeping alone. Me, too. I hate it.

I'd gotten so used to going to sleep wrapped around him and waking up with his arms around me that I had trouble sleeping for a while. I don't know how many times I called him at like two or three in the morning just because I needed to tell him that I loved him. He never got mad at me when I did that.

Oh, he didn't like being woken up, but he always sounded happy to hear that it was me and, I don't know—he sounded sort of relieved. I guess he was afraid that I might find another violin player or something.

I didn't want to, though. I wasn't looking. I just missed him like crazy and the loft was just too fucking big without him to fill it up.

I missed sex with him and I know he missed it with me. OK, I know, like duh, but it was more than just feeling him inside of me or occasionally being inside of him. It was the connection between us, the closeness that I missed. I tried to tell him that once and he laughed and told me that I'd been spending too much time with the lezzies.

I did, though, I missed that closeness of making love or even just fucking and then holding him and feeling him kiss my neck or something. I missed him pressing up against me in the shower or coming into the kitchen to ask what I was making for dinner this time. I just missed him so damn much.

I'd watch a movie or something on the big screen TV and think about how he would let me use him as a pillow when we were on the couch and how he's kiss my neck or the top of my head as we just lay there.

I loved it when he did that.

I hated those months waking up in that big empty bed in that big empty loft and knowing that he was like four hundred miles away and I wouldn't see him until Friday night.

A lot of nights he'd call me just to make sure that I was alright or to ask how my day was going or to say good night to me.

He called me more than I called him, which surprised me. I mean, he was super busy getting settled into the new job and the pressure on him was pretty intense.

New York is a whole different ballgame than Pittsburgh and even though Brian is as Type A as you can get, it was a lot even for him.

You see, it wasn't just the new job and being in charge, there was a lot more going on and he didn't want to talk about all of it to me. That's Brian, though. I know that about him.

One of the things we would do in the beginning of his time in New York was to go house hunting together.

By then we had made the plans for me to transfer to Parsons at the start of the fall semester and that we would spend the rest of the spring and the summer just getting settled into the new place and getting to learn the city.

We looked at all kinds of places and with what Brian was being paid on top of his bonus, we could look at some pretty nice stuff.

I had my heart set on something near the park, but he told me pretty fast that he was just a partner, not a fucking owner and the park would have to wait. Then I thought that it would be fun to own a townhouse on some quiet little street, but they were going for like a million dollars and up, so that idea was dumped.

Well, anyway, after about a month or six weeks of looking we finally decided that the triplex we'd found about four blocks from the agency would suit us, at least for now. It was in a decent sized town house that had been completely restored with the original wood and all of that. There was even a small garden out back that was ours. We had the top three floors with the bottom floor being taken up by a doctor's office. The business and living floors were completely sealed off from one another and the doctor—a sweet old guy in his sixties— was sort of semi retired with limited office hours, so it was almost like he wasn't there. Besides, when he was with patients, we usually weren't even home. It worked out really well.

I had the use of the back half of the top floor as a studio since it had a skylight and big windows facing the back. I loved that place. Brian had the rest of that floor as his office and he'd brought his exercise equipment in there, too.

The floor below was our bedroom and bathroom. Huge and fabulous. You wouldn't believe the shower. It was double headed and had this sort of bench in thereâ€well, you get the idea.

The main floor had the living room with a working fireplace and the kitchen and another bathroom. The whole place had high ceilings and I just loved being there. There were even trees on the street outside.

Oh, and we could use the roof, too. On nice days I'd sometimes go up there and just hang out or read or paint. It was so great.

It was a really terrific place and we spent most of the summer pulling it together. Brian had sold the loft and most of his furniture and we started with all new stuff.

Oh, yeah—he gave Mom the exclusive listing for the loft. I think the commission went a long way to keeping her solvent that year.

OK, that was the summer, after I moved to New York. The three months I was still in Pittsburgh were hard on both of us.

Sometimes I think that Brian was getting worried about us while we were in the two different cities. I know how badly I hurt him when I had the affair with Ethan and I swear to God that I'd never do that to him again—even if we were breaking up or having really bad problems, I'd never do that to him. I'd come to him and tell him that I'd met someone and that it could become a problem, but I'd never cheat on him like that again.

Never.

I swear that and he knows it. I've told him that.

I wish he'd believe me but I know he still worries about it.

He never says anything about it and never brings it up, but I just wish to God that he'd trust me again as completely as he used to—like the way I trust him.

It kills me to know that he has doubts in the back of his mind about us. It really kills me and I don't know what to do about it other than show him every day how much I love him.

The first time I went to New York to visit him was amazing.

He met me at the airport and took me back to the hotel he was staying at since we hadn't even started to look for a place of our own yet.

It was the fucking Plaza Hotel. I mean the fucking Plaza right on the corner of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue and the two agencies were paying for it. We went in and I could hardly keep my hands out of his pants in the elevator up to his—our—room and he was laughing and we were both so damn happy.

So we got to the room and he was pulling my shirt off and his hands were like fucking everywhere. I remember that we were naked on the bed and he was on top of me and he was on every inch of me with his mouth and his hands and even his feet. He was rubbing his chest across mine and his cock was pressing against me and I almost couldn't stand it because we hadn't been together in almost two weeks.

God—it was incredible. Even after he came he just kept moving on top of me and kissing me almost like he was in some kind of a trance or something and then I came and he came again and this time I started laughing and he called me a twat and kissed me. Half an hour later we moved things to the shower and when I caught a look in the mirror I saw all these hickey's on my neck and my chest and I hadn't even noticed when he was doing it because I was just so into the whole thing.

It was like he was trying to mark me or something and the whole weekend he could hardly take his hands off of me—even just walking down the street he held my hand and when we went to his new agency so that I could see it, he practically raped me in his office when no one was there.

It was like he couldn't get enough of me, he was saving up memories or something for when I wasn't there and like he couldn't stand to have me more than a few inches or feet away from him, almost like he was afraid of something.

Later, on Sunday afternoon when he took me to the airport to leave he kept looking at me with an odd expression on his face. It was—I don't know, it's hard to explain, but it was like he was looking for some kind of answer or something, or like he was trying ask me a question and couldn'tâ€or maybe he was afraid of the answer.

I knew what he was thinking, at least I thought that I did, so I kissed him at the gate and told him that I love him and told him not to worry, that I'd be back the next weekend and I'd call him later that night.

He hugged me then, which isn't like him surrounded by strangers in a public place like that, but he did. He hugged me so hard and he kept his arms around me. I could feel that he was upset about something but he wouldn't say anything and when I was going to break the hug he tightened his arms so that I couldn't.

I just said "Brian?" and he didn't answer, just shook his head with his arms still holding me.

Finally, a couple of minutes later they were calling for boarding so he lowered his arms took a sort of shaky breath and whispered that he loves me.

That's what threw me.

I know he loves me and I know that he missed me as much as I missed him, but it was weird to have him come out and say it like that in front of everyone—especially a bunch of staring breeders.

I knew that he was under a lot of pressure and that the separation was hard on both of us, but that was when I realized that there was more going on than he was letting on.

I started wondering if there were problems with the merger or if his job was in any danger. God, Vance could be such a prick.

I had to get on the plane then but I told him that I loved him and that I'd call him later. I kissed him, he squeezed his hand and I left.

The whole flight I wondered what that caused his reaction and I realized that he was worried about us. He was worried that I'd find some twink to fill the time while he was gone, until I could get to New York.

Fuck.

I knew that. Better than anyone I knew that. Under all that armor and under all his masks and behind all his walls, Brian is as scared as anyone that he'll screw up or get hurt and—shit—I was the one who had hurt him the last time.

As soon as I got back to the loft I called him and we talked for like an hour and a half.

I told him how much I loved him, how much I was looking forward to being together in a new place with him. I told him how I slept with his pillow so that I could smell him and I told him that he had nothing to worry about, that I wasn't looking and I just wanted him.

I even told him that I knew I'd screwed up the last time and it wouldn't happen again. I promised him that. I told him that he didn't have anything to worry about on that score.

Anyway, after we finished with all that I think he was feeling a little better.

I told him how much I loved him and he told me that I was being a Goddamned drama queen again and that I should get my beauty sleep. Then I teased him and told him that he didn't need his since he was always beautiful and he laughed and said "Fucking A".

It was OK.

TBC

4/29/03

Title: The Other Foot, chapter five

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: PG-13 language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

Title: The Other Foot, chapter four

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: R

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Chapter Four

"So, Brian, I was wondering if you want to join me after we're done here? Unless you have plans, I mean."

"No, I'm not doing anything, that would be great. We'll get dinner."

"Good. Come by my office when you're done."

Brian nodded and turned back to the work piled on his desk. He'd been here in New York for two months now and he and Justin had decided on the townhouse as a place to live. A few necessary changes and renovations were underway and would be finished in a couple of weeks. In the meantime he had been staying at the Plaza and he and Steve were establishing a working relationship that moved smoothly and with a minimum of problems. They worked well together and got along easily.

Brian still suspected that Steve was attracted to him—OK, he knew damn well that he was— but the man knew that he was in a solid relationship and that his lover visited almost every weekend. The two had never met and Brian rarely mentioned him, but Steve realized that he was there and never overstepped the line in any way.

They were becoming that rarity for Brian—friends. He really had so few people he felt comfortable enough with to relax and talk and drink and socialize and let most of his walls down with.

The two of them had fallen into the habit of leaving the agency together and stopping for dinner on the way home at one of the thousands of restaurants in New York City. They had sampled everything from holes in the wall in Chinatown for the best stir-fry Brian had ever had to the Mom and Pop places in little Italy. They'd done the occasional four or five star restaurant and they'd eaten sandwiches in bars. They took in an occasional movie together and had spent a few evenings wandering through the galleries of some of the great museums, the Met, the MOMA and the Guggenheim. They had similar tastes and seemed to naturally gravitate together.

Two or three times a week they went to Steve's club and served as each other's workout buddy. They were of a similar build, though Steve wasn't quite as slender as Brian. The used the same machines and would either trade off or spot one another or work side by side.

So far there had been nothing overtly sexual between them and while part of Brian was relived, part of him was slightly disappointed.

It was there, though, just under the surface and they both knew it.

A couple of hours later Brian was leaning against the doorframe while Steve finished up one last call. He was a pro dealing with the company president on the other end of the line. This was one of the accounts he wanted to keep under his own watch—a small but outstanding vineyard in California that happened to produce the best rose Brian had ever tasted.

They were designing a label to promote a new line of Chablis that would hit the market in about six months and there were some questions about colors that they wanted to settle this week.

While he was waiting for him to finish the call, Brian took a seat in one of the easy chairs, picked up a layout and pretended to look it over while he actually looked over Steve.

Dark hair, at forty-three older than Brian had thought, almost as tall as Brian was. He was strong and intelligent, sophisticated and funny. On top of that, he was just plain—nice. They were both good at their jobs, both established in their field, both loving their work and understanding the demands and the hypocrisy of the business. They both enjoyed living well. They were both gay. The liked each other. They were friends.

Shit.

"Brian? You ready?"

"He started slightly. "Yup, let's go. What are you in the mood for?"

Steve laughed. "Too easy. Let's just get some dinner, OK?"

Cynthia caught them just as they were about to head out. "Brian? Justin just called. He said that he's sorry, but he can't make it this weekend, he has some project to finish. He said that he'll call you tonight." Nodding, he thanked her.

The two men walked down the street, headed to a small Japanese place they both liked. It was a pleasant evening and the walk felt good after being in the office all day.

They were seated immediately and knew what they wanted. The tempura, teriyaki and Kiren beer were ordered quickly.

"So, Justin is the boyfriend you spend your weekends with?"

"Weekends for now. He'll be moving here in another month or six weeks."

"Do you mind my asking about him? I'll change the subject if you want."

Their beers arrived.

"No, it's alright, what would you like to know?"

Steve laughed. "Everything. I'm curious about the man who's managed to win your heart."

Brian smiled. He liked that phrase—won his heart. "Justin and I have been together, on and off, for about three years now. We've had some rough patches, but the last year or so things have been good. He's as smart as I am and brave and he loves me."

"And you love him too, right?" Brian gave his half smile. "So what does he do? Is he another ad man?"

"He's a college student, studying art and illustration. This fall he's transferring to Parsons; he just got his letter of acceptance a couple of weeks ago. In fact, one of the modifications I had made to the townhouse was a studio for him to work in."

"Did he go back to school late or is he young?"

"He's twenty now—I know, but he's not a typical twenty year old. He's been through some things that have made him grow up fast and he's tough when he has to be."

"What sort of things?"

"He was bashed a couple of years ago. It was bad, he was almost killed. No—he's better now, but it took along time and then about a year or so ago we had some problems, there was a lot going on and we broke up for a while. He found someone who he thought would give him what I wasn't."

"You're back together now, though, right?"

"Yeah, we are now. In a way being apart ended up being good for us. It was a bitch at the time, but it, I don't know—made us look at each other and think about what we had."

Their food arrived, they settled in to eat before continuing the conversation.

"You're solid now, though? I wouldn't think that he'd be transferring on a whim."

"Well, I'm not buying rings, if that's what you mean, but yeah, I guess we're solid." They ate in silence for a minute.

"I just broke up with the man I'd been living with for the last eight years." He looked across the table. "I figured you'd have heard. Peter had been after me to get married for a couple of years. Finally he decided that if we didn't get married within six months, he would be moving on. It was an ultimatum. He took a job in San Francisco five months ago."

"Are you sorry that you didn't marry him?"

"â€Yes and no. I think that we had pretty much run our course. I'd be lying of I told you that I'm not lonely, though. I miss having someone to say goodnight to."

"That's how I felt when Justin left—and I knew that I wanted him back. I was pretty sure it wouldn't work out with the other guy, but I wasn't sure that he'd want me after the other thing fell through."

"So you called him?"

Brian smiled. "He got himself an internship at Vanguard through his school. I walked into the art department one day and there he was."

"So your eyes met across a crowded room?"

"Well, I fired him first after he screwed up a presentation, then he came to my office asking for his job back."

"Ah, and you interviewed him all over?"

They were quietly laughing. "Something like that."

"I take it he got the job."

"Yeah, he got that, too."

The waiter came by with the check, after paying the two men left the restaurant and started strolling, talking.

They told each other about their families, Brian mentioning his nightmare childhood and his hopes that Gus would be happier than he had been, Steve told him of his parent's divorce and remarriages and the shuffling between homes. The told each other about some of their hopes for their futures, their jobs, their dreams and the things they both still had to accomplish. They talked about where they would like to be in twenty or thirty years.

An hour and a half later they finally found themselves on Fifth Avenue close to the Plaza.

They stood in front of the main entrance awkwardly. The night had brought them closer, breaking down some reserves about themselves that they both had and they both knew that this was a deciding point for them. After a pause Brian was the one to break the logjam.

"It's not late, would you like to come up?" His intent was clear.

"Brian, look, we don't have to do this. I know you're with someone."

He looked down at the sidewalk, gathering his thoughts; his eyes met Steve's. "You know I have Justin and I don't want to lose him, he'll be here next week. I'm not going to lie to you about that." He took a breath and thought how odd this was. A year ago he wouldn't have thought twice about this. "I don't want to sleep alone tonight any more than you do. We both know what this is and we both know that it probably won't be repeated, but we can give each other this."

"If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with?"

"If you're not comfortable with it, there are plenty of cabs over there. You can go home if you want. No hard feelings."

"No problems at work?"

Brian shook his head. "We're friends. We're adults."

"Yes, we are." Taking Brian's arm gently Steve leaned into the foot separating them and kissed Brian full on the mouth, gently, carefully—a first kiss. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

By answer, Brian took his hand and led him across the street to the main entrance. They went in, walked over to the elevators and were in the room in minutes. Brian picked up the phone, ordering champagne. It arrived quickly but when Brian started to peel the foil off the top, Steve put his hand on his fingers.

"Later."

The single work raised the hairs on the back of Brian's neck, but he ignored the feeling. He turned so they faced one another, his hands starting on Steve's shirt buttons while they kissed, Steve's hands returning the favor.

Naked, they moved over to the bed and Brian couldn't help but automatically note the differences between Justin and the man beneath him. He was larger, taller and stronger than Justin. Their own legs and arms and torsos the same size, the same length. There was hair on his chest and some gray around his temples. His skin was more weathered, less soft and a darker shade, his hands larger. He seemed, despite his age, to be less experienced than Justin was, or perhaps he was just less aggressive. There was more kissing, more caressing, more feelings of fingers and even palms gliding over his skin than he was used to with his lover. There was more a feeling of romance, of being seduced and valued for more than just his abilities in sex.

The moment that thought entered his mind he began to mentally apologize to Justin. That wasn't fair, Justin loved him, he was just young and his needs were more immediate, it was understandable that he had less control. Besides, they had much more than just sex, they made love and they had an entire relationship outside of the bedroom.

Steve's voice cut through his thoughts, his moaning as Brian rubbed his cock against his own while he suckled his nipples. He could feel legs coming up around his waist, pulling him closer, opening himself, asking. Reaching for the condom and lube he had thought would be used with Justin, he made the preparations, entering Steve in one careful movement.

Rocking together, carefully, almost gently, they prolonged it for longer than he would have though they would be able, finally coming with sighs instead of groans.

The afterglow was one of kisses and the feeling of Steve's hands lightly rubbing his back, holding them together. Raising himself up onto his elbows, taking his weight off Steve's body, Brian was pulled down to more gentle kisses.

Usually when a trick would attempt to turn a fuck into romance he would have none of it, getting up, throwing them out.

But he didn't because—Steve wasn't a trick.

He was a friend and what they had done was to share their bodies, they had made love.

Pulling just slightly away with another kiss, using the champagne as an excuse, Brian knew.

He was fucked.

TBC

4/29/03

The Other Foot

Chapter Five

"Brian, would you like me to leave?"

He poured the two glasses of champagne, giving himself a minute to sort himself out. "â€No, stay." Naked, turning back to the bed, he handed Steve a glass, sitting beside him.

"Second thoughts?"

He carefully put the glass on the table beside the bed, his hand moving to rest on Steve's shoulder where it joined his neck, caressing slightly. "No, not about you or this, it's just that this isn't what I expected."

Steve laughed at that. "No? What did you think would happen?" His own hand coming up to rest on Brian's.

"I thought that it would just be a fuck and it's—not. I think this is going to be a problem." He was serious, ignoring the joking.

"Look, if you want me to leave, I will. I just told you that. Outside we said we were both adults and that this would be alright when we get back to the office on Monday. You think we were wrong?"

"Yeah, I think we were wrong."

"â€I think you're right."

"Fuck."

"We just did."

"And now we're fucked."

"Brian, you're being a queen. I know you've got a boyfriend and I know you love each other. It's alright. Like I said, I'm a big boy and we're both adults. This will be OK."

He seemed to gather himself, taking the glass from the bed stand and holding it to Steve's mouth, feeding him the wine, forcing a small smile, making himself climb out of the mood he was sinking into. "You're right, I was being a twat. No problem."

"Well, then, I think this calls for some extreme measures. Have you ever done it in the shower?"

Brian gave him a real smile. "I think maybe once or twice"

The two men ended up spending the weekend together. It was perfect spring weather and they took advantage of it, going to the park, an art street fair down in Soho and a concert at the Lincoln Center shell. It was a jazz presentation, there were no violins. They found that away from the office where their similar perspectives and opinions were obvious, they seemed to mesh even better. They shared tastes in food, music, art, films—they even found that they liked the same sort of clothing and accessories, agreeing that selling themselves, looking good, was part of their jobs. They had the same dry sense of humor and laughed at the same things.

Not pushing each other in any way, they each realized that they were headed for serious complications with both feet moving forward and their eyes wide open. Steve made a point of not mentioning Justin and Brian did what he could to put the youngster out of his mind, though with limited success.

After Friday, that first night which they had spent together over at the Plaza, they spent most of their indoor time at Steve's. Brian went back to the Plaza to change his clothes and little else.

It was partly because Steve's home was more relaxing than the hotel and partly because Brian knew that Justin would be calling him and he didn't want to deal with it quite yet. On Sunday afternoon he went to his room to get fresh clothing for the office in the morning the desk clerk had told him that he had a large number of phone messages and would he like to see them? He politely declined, saying that he was taking the weekend off and would deal with them with the new week. He left his cel off and didn't bother to pick up his phone messages until Monday evening when he returned from the day's work at the agency—and dinner with Steve again.

Sunday night they stayed home at Steve's, a duplex at Trump Tower. They had eaten dinner earlier at a small Italian place they had happened upon and were laying on the couch in front of the TV, the weird sci fi film, 'Gattaca' ignored on the screen.

"So what happens tomorrow when the weekend is over?"

"Shit. I know that Justin has been trying to get me. I have to talk to him."

"And what are you going to tell him?"

"â€I don't know. Look, Steve, you know—I know—that I love him, but this has been incredible. I'd like us to" He trailed off, unsure.

"You'd like to have your cake and eat it, too, right?"

"Yeah, I guess that's it."

"No." Brian looked down at him as he used Brian's lap as a pillow. "We know what we have here, or what we could possibly have, but you're tied up with someone else and I'm not a piece on the side."

"I know that. I just—fuck, I don't know."

He turned his head, kissing Brian's hand and smiled a bit. "I think the word you're looking for is 'conflicted'."

Brian took his hand, rubbing his hands over it, almost lost in thought. "It took me thirty years to fall in love and then another year and a half before I could admit it. It was almost six months later before I could say it out loud." He paused, searching for words. "I love Justin, but being with him is just so hard sometimes, there's always drama, conflicts, arguments. His friends come over and I feel like his fucking father telling them to use coasters and clean up their shit, to turn down the music." He looked down at Steve again. "This is just so easy. It's so comfortable."

Reaching his hand up, Steve pulled him down so that they could kiss. "I know."

"He's still a kid in a lot of ways and that's one of the things I love about him but you're an adult and I like grownups."

"And grown up games."

"This isn't game, Steve."

"Yes, it is, Brian. And you're the prize."

Making love again that night, Brian felt like he was with a lover, a partner. They knew, almost instinctively, how to please one another. When that understanding flashed into his mind, it was all he could do to finish the act.

Fuck.

The next morning, Monday, they made a point of taking separate cabs to the agency, and different routes so that they wouldn't arrive at the same time.

He had barely sat down at his desk when Cynthia came in. "Justin is on line six. He sounds upset." Nodding he asked her to close the door as she left.

"God, I've been calling you all weekend, are you alright? I've been really worried about you."

"Justin, I'm fine, I was just working and didn't want to be disturbed. You know how I get when I'm in the middle of something."

"But I left like a million messages and you never called and your cel was off the whole timeâ€you could have called. I was getting scared."

"I'm sorry, OK? I should have called, I know, but I have a deadline and you know how it is when I have to get stuff out."

"Brian, I was really worried about you. I was e-mailing and you never even checked that. You always check your e-mail."

"Justin—I said I'm sorry, OK? I should have checked my messages but I was too fucking busy. It won't happen again."

"Brian, I was really worried. I thought that something might have happened to you."

"Nothing happened. Now, stop queening and just calm down. What did you do this weekend?"

"I told you, I had a project I had to finish."

"Did you get it done?"

"Yes."

The twat was pouting now. Shit.

"Did you do anything else? Did you get out?"

"I had dinner with Daphne last night and I worked two shifts at the diner."

"Anything else?"

"I told you, I was working on a project and trying to get a hold of you."

"Fucking drop it."

"Screw you, Brian. I was fucking worried about you and now you're pissed off that I was upset. Well fuck you."

"I'm not going to get into this with you now."

"Fine."

"â€Don't you have a class about now?"

"It was cancelled."

"â€Are you coming next weekend?"

"Don't you have some hotshit account you have to work on?"

"Fuck this. I have work to do. You can call me later when you fucking calm down." He was about to hang up when he heard Justin's voice, the tone contrite.

"â€Brian?"

"What?"

"I love you, OK?"

"Yeah, I knowâ€I love you, too." They broke the connection.

Shit.

There was a knock and Steve walked in.

"Trouble at home?" Steve paused in the doorway when he saw Brian's face.

Brian leaned back in his chair, tired at only nine thirty in the morning. "He tried to get a hold of me this weekend. He was afraid that something had happened." He saw the look he got. "I mean to me."

Closing the door behind him as he walked into the room, Steve sat in one of the chairs by Brian's desk.

"We can still stop this. We're friends and I'd like to keep that, but we can put the brakes on the rest of it. I'd understand and there'd be no hard feelings. We can still work together and spend time together if you want."

"You could do that?"

"I didn't say that I want to, I said that I could if it was what you want." There was no answer. "Brian?"

When he spoke it was slow and deliberate. His voice was quiet. "I want—to see you. I would like us to be friends and to work together. I enjoy going over the day with you after work and relaxing with dinner. I would enjoy spending time with you and I would like us to be lovers. I want—I would like—fuck—I think that we might have something and I don't want to throw it away until we know what that is."

"What about Justin?"

"â€I don't know."

TBC

4/30/03

Title: The Other Foot chapter six

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: PG-13 language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Chapter Six

That Friday afternoon Brian surprised me when I got off the plane in Newark when he handed me a single red rose.

I started laughing and put my arms around him and kissed him and said, "You're not still mad at me?" Brian didn't say anything but he smiled and took my hand and walked me out to the car.

I'd been worried since Monday about that. I knew when I'd called him that he would be pissed. I knew that, but I was worried about him when I couldn't get a hold of him for like all weekend. I don't know how many messages I left at the hotel and with his voice mail. I know I e-mailed him like twenty times and even tried the agency, but there was no answer anywhere.

Shit. I was afraid that he was sick or had been mugged or something. OK, I knew that was a long shot but I was scared since I'd never not been able to get a hold of him before.

Then I started thinking that he was out tricking and he might have been—we don't have an exclusive thing, even though we really are together now—but I don't know. If he were it wouldn't have been all weekend. That would only take a couple of hours.

Shit.

I know. I was being a twat and a fucking housewife. When he said that he'd been working I thought at first that he was bullshitting me but I know that he's under a huge amount of pressure getting the merger to run smoothly while still having to bring in big accounts and make some kind of a mark in New York all at the same time.

I know, don't say it. I was an asshole.

I had the weekend to make it up to him, though.

The drive into the city was a fast one and I was happy that the visit would probably go well. I felt like I could breath again.

I knew there was something bothering him, we had been sort of distant all week on the phone since we'd had that sort of argument Monday, but I figured that he was just under a lot of pressure and I hoped that I might have some ideas to help him unwind. I had lots of ideas, in fact.

Anyway, we get back to the Plaza and went upstairs and within like thirty seconds were naked and on the bed and he was inside of me and it was just so damn good to be back together where I could hold him and touch him and kiss him—God I just love him so fucking much that I can't fucking believe it half the time.

I look at him and I can't believe that he loves me—ME. I mean, he's smart and gorgeous and he could have anyone he wants and he wants me.

Even after the shit I dished with Ethan, he still wanted me.

I still can't fucking believe that.

Jesus, that just blows me the hell away.

I know how badly I hurt him and he forgave me and took me back. A couple of times I've wondered what I would do if the positions were reversed and I honestly don't know. I mean, I think I'd take him back if he had an affair, but it would be hard.

Now, I'm not talking about some trick or some twink or something. I'm talking about a real affair of the heart, like what I thought I had with Ethan.

Say that happened, what would I do?

I've thought about it, sure. I mean, how could I not with Brian looking the way he does and living in New York while I'm in Pittsburgh. I know he goes out—Hell, I want him to, I guess. I don't want him just going to work and then back to a hotel room day after day—but what if he fell in love with someone else?

It really scares me, you know? I want him to be happy and if that's what it would take, then—I don't know.

If it happened and then he wanted to come back after it ended, what would I do?

I'd—take him.

I think.

I love him, you know? And I want to be with him, but if he wanted someone else—shit.

Anyway.

We'd fallen into a routine when I was in New York visiting. We would spend a few hours in bed and then we'd get cleaned up and head out for dinner and maybe a show or something.

It was after the shower, which had taken another hourâ€you know how it is, and he was still primping so I said that I would go down and pick up a New York magazine so I could check out what exhibits were on at the museums. God, I love the exhibits in New York.

I was walking thorough the lobby when the desk clerk called me over. I'd been there enough that I knew some of the workers there and he asked me if I would be seeing Mr. Kinney and would I mind taking up his messages for him. Every time they asked him about them he just said "Later."

I didn't care, but when the guy handed me a stack that was like two inches thick I guess I got a look on my face and he said that Mr. Kinney hadn't picked them up in a few days.

That was odd. Brian is pretty compulsive about stuff like that since it could have been business stuff. I said something like that to the guy and he just shrugged and said that Mr. Kinney hadn't been in and out too much that week and I told him that Brian had been working a lot of hours on a new project. He smiled, nodded and that was that. I glanced through them on the way up to the room and most of them were personal and from the 'family' or me, asking him to call and where was he. There wasn't much business stuff. I guess that Cynthia stays pretty much on top of things for him at work.

I handed him the messages, he took about thirty seconds to thumb through them and we went out to dinner. He said that there was this great Japanese place he'd discovered that he thought I'd like. It was about forty blocks away, so we let the doorman to get us a cab and as we were pulling away from the hotel I looked at the hansom cabs lined up to take the tourists through Central Park and thought that it would be fun to do that—you know, just the two of us and the driver with a horse. It would be great.

I didn't say anything about it, of course. Brian in a horse drawn carriage? He'd snark and call it lezzie. No, don't even go there.

The restaurant was good, no surprise, and I love Japanese food, which Brian knows. Afterward we cabbed back to the hotel and, since it was still early, he put his arm around my shoulders and steered me over to the horse carriages.

I never thought that that he'd ever do that and when I saw the hansom that had the rainbow flag tucked into the front seat; I knew it would be OK.

That has to be one of the best hours of my life. Actually the guy liked us—OK, he liked Brian, let's not be stupid here—so we got to stay out for like an hour and a half. We didn't really go anywhere, just wandered around the paths that snake through the park. Brian had his arm around me and we were holding hands. We kept kissing and I kept telling him how happy I was and how much I loved him and that I was sorry about the stupid argument on the phone.

He was so fucking—romantic. He kissed me and he was stroking my hand and my arm and it was like he wasn't thinking about sex or getting laid later, but that he was just enjoying being with me. He asked me about what I was doing without him, about school and my friends. He asked me if I had gone to the clubs or the bars or anything like that. I told him the truth, that I'd been out a couple of times with the boys, Em and Ted and Michael and Ben, but mostly I just danced and had only been to the back room once, which he didn't mind at all. I mean, Hell—this is Brian we're talking about here. In fact, he laughed and asked me if it had fallen off or something and he'd have to check that out when we got back up to the room,

He was really listening to what I was saying, too. He seemed to want to know what I was thinking about things and what was going on in my head.

God, I love it when he does that.

I asked him about his work, too, but you know Brian. He just says everything's fine and not to worry. I asked him if the people were nice and had he made any friends (God! I felt like a mother asking about how school was going—"Are you wearing clean clothes everyday and do you have your lunch money?") but I didn't like to think about him alone.

I know, he projects that loner image, but he really craves being with people.

He said that some of the people were alright and sometimes a couple of them would go out to grab dinner or a movie or something but that there was so much work to do that he was pretty tired when he was done for the day and usually just went to sleep.

Shit.

I know he works hard. I feel like I'm a drag on him sometimes, but I know that he loves me and that it won't always be this way. When I graduate and get a real job, I'll be able to contribute. We both know this.

So, we finished the ride, which was fabulous and headed back to the room.

Speaking about fabulous. I'm surprised that I could walk the next day.

We didn't get up early—OK, we did get up early, so we stayed in bed til like eleven, ordered a brunch thing and then headed back across the street back to the park and rented roller blades, spending just about the entire afternoon on the paths with the crowds.

Back to the hotel after for a shower, sex and then out again for dinner and a show.

God, have I told you how much I love this man?

Sunday I really wanted to hit one of the museums since it was raining and the outdoor stuff was out of the question. There was this incredible thing at the Met—Da Vinci's sketches, shit. After that we just roamed around the place, which is enormous and checked out the Tiffany window's over in the American wind then headed up the stairs to see the Sargents and the Homers and a few of the other kids.

Fuck me, I could get hard just looking at those paintings.

We held hands the entire day, just about and I was just so loving him.

We got an incredibly overpriced lunch at the cafeteria there then Brian said he had to stop at the office to get some report or other he had to go over that night after I left to go home.

He used his keys to let himself in and when we got up to his office Cyn said, "So, you couldn't wait til tomorrow to see me?"

Shit, I jumped so high I thought that I was going to have a heart attack. She scared the shit out of me.

Brian went into his office to get whatever it was he needed and I asked Cyn if they worked every weekend. She kind of looked at me funny and said that this was the first one, she just wanted to clear a few things before the morning, but no one worked weekends that she knew of.

"Brian did. He said he was working here all last weekend."

She gave me a funny look then said, "Honey, the place was being fumigated last weekend. No one was allowed in at all."

Then Brian came out of his office with a couple of files, told Cynthia that he'd see her in the morning. We went downstairs and took the cab to the airport.

On the ride out to Jersey Brian was quiet, so was I. I mean shit—what had happened just then? Everything was going along so great and then it fucking popped like a balloon. He knew what I had said to Cyn and he heard her answer. The door was open and he was only like ten feet away.

I couldn't help it. I should have just kept my fucking mouth shut, but I couldn't. "Where were you really?"

We were looking at each other and I knew that he didn't want to answer and I was hoping to God that he'd just tell me that he was working in his room and had the phone turned off.

"Justin—I've met someone."

Ah, shitâ€Fuck me.

TBC

5/1/03

Title: The Other Foot chapter seven

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: PG-13 language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Chapter Seven

Sunday afternoon

"Are you in love with him?"

I remember that we looked right at one another and Brian sort of hesitated before he answered, like he either wasn't sure or didn't want to tell me.

"I don't know. I might be. I don't know."

"Who is it?"

"Justin, what difference does it make?"

What a fucking kind of answer was that? "It makes a difference to me. Who is it?"

"â€Steve Brenner."

"The head of Brenner, Inc. That Steve Brenner?" He didn't even answer, just looked at me.

We were at the Goddamned airport. Shit.

"You'll miss your flight. I'll call you tonight, we'll talk about this."

"No. I'll call you. Will you be at the hotel?" Brian nodded. Asshole, hope it didn't mean he'd have to change his plans.

We didn't kiss goodbye. He didn't get out of the cab. I didn't look back when I went into the terminal.

Shit. Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Shit. Fuck.

That's all I could think until I got on the plane. Then I began to picture Brian making love—that's right, making love—to some faceless guy.

The pisser was that I could imagine it really easily, like a movie playing in my head. I could picture how they would look and move, I could even hear the sounds they made.

Fuck.

Sunday night

"You lied to me, you let me go there this weekend and fucked me and pretended that everything was fine and that you love me and you knew that when I left that he"

I was so angry, so outraged that I couldn't even shout or yell. I was breathing hard, but my voice was calm, well, pretty calm. "You motherfucker."

He didn't say anything. He didn't apologize, he didn't ask me to understand or tell me that he'd end it or even that he loved me.

"How long?"

"Justinâ€."

"No, I want to know just how much of an idiot I've been. Did this start when you flew there to meet him a few months ago? Was it after you moved there, was it last week, last year, in fucking college?"

"We met a couple of months ago, when the merger was in the works. We've become friends. We just like one another and work well together. When I got here we enjoyed each other's company and started having dinner together so that we wouldn't both have to eat alone. Then we started doing things together after work—movies, galleriesâ€it only moved to other things a couple of weeks ago. Before that we were just friends."

"And you have the balls—shit, the lack of balls to tell me when we're pulling into the Goddamned airport?"

"When should I have told you? In bed? Before you got on the plane?"

"How the fuck can you even begin to throw this on me? You're the one who's screwing around this time. You're the one who wants—wanted—me to move to fucking New York City and change schools and be your fucking housewifeâ€am I still moving?"

"Justin, fucking stop. I didn't plan this and neither did he. It happened. These things happen—you sure as fuck know that."

Fucker.

"Do you love him? You didn't answer me."

"I told you the truth. I don't know. Maybe."

"Does he love you?"

"I don't know that either. Maybe."

"And what the fuck do you expect me to do? Sit back while you two figure it out?"

"That's what I did for you."

"That was a crappy thing to say. I'm tired and I'm going to bed. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Call my cel, I don't know where I'll be."

"Motherfucker."

"â€Justin" He trailed off. "â€I do still love you." God, he sounded so fucking sad. Just like me. Not anger just—sadness and loss.

"â€I know. I love you, too, Brian."

"Later."

"Yeah." The connection was broken.

Turning away from the big windows Justin went over to the CD player, hitting the play button and knowing what he'd hear.

"Oh, I know that the music's fine,

Like sparkling wine,

Go and have your fun.

Laugh and sing, but while we're apart,

Don't give your heart to anyone.

Cause don't forget who's taking you home

And in whose arms you're gonna be

†Darling, save the last dance for me"

I knew, OK—I suspected that something like this might happen at some point.

I mean, shit, sure Brian and I love each other. That's not the question here.

The problem is everything else.

Brian and I are just too Goddamned different to make it work for long.

I keep picturing us like a couple of people walking, running, dancing in a crowded room. Sometimes we manage to come together and we touch and it's terrific and sometimes we're forced apart and maybe out the door—maybe out different doors. Maybe we'll find our way back in and maybe we won't. Maybe we'll meet up in the parking lot and maybe we'll end up going home with other people.

I'm just so—sad right now. I don't know how to compete with this, with this guy. I don't know if I can or if I even want to.

I looked him up on the net and he's fucking amazing. He's the guy Brian should be with.

He's handsome and rich and smart and sophisticated and he's in Brian's field and they couldn't have more in common if you'd fucking cloned them. He's won every award that's worth having for advertising. Everything even says that he's a nice guy. He's well liked; he gives money to the Goddamned ASPCA, for shit's sake.

He's the man you would expect Brian to be with and Brian is just what you'd think Steve (Steve? When did I get to be on a first name basis with him?) would be coming home to—or going to Paris for the weekend with or something.

I could see them sitting in front of a fireplace sipping perfect wine and relaxing, chatting about their day and listening to some classical music together.

Just no violin music.

Shit, this is who Brian should be with, not a Goddamned college student who's friend's idea of a party is getting a keg.

He said that he didn't plan this, that he wasn't looking for anyone, and I believe him, I really do. I even believe that he loves me and I sure as shit know how much I love him.

I can even understand how he was lonely and stressed and this guy was there and they hit it off and became friends and ended up as lovers. I can. I can understand that.

What I can't wrap my brain around is how he could let me visit him, spend a fabulous weekend together and then just drop that fucking bomb in the car.

If he had told me when I arrived or on the phone—no, not on the phone—but if he had just come out and said to me that he thought that he might be falling in love with someone elseâ€shit. I don't know.

What's better? Blindsiding someone or hitting them when they can see you coming.

Oh, God.

I don't know what to do.

I can't just pick up and go there to keep an eye on him or to keep him company or something. I have to finish school and he'll be pissed if I don't. I can't let him think that I'm following him or whatever.

If he wants this other guy then—I guess that he has to decide what he's going to do.

I walked out once and I thought that we had both learned how much that hurts and that we wouldn't put each other through that again. I thought that we had learned that. I know I did.

I feel like crying again.

Monday mid-morning

Steve walked into Brian's office to find him sitting behind his desk, jacket off, feet up and looking out the window, lost in thought and unaware that he was even there until he spoke. Closing the door behind him, he sat down.

"How did the visit go?"

"He knows about us. He suspected and I told him. I spoke with him on the phone last night and he's—shit." He shook his head without continuing.

"Brian, I'm sorry. I've told you before, if you want, we can go back to just being friends."

He spread his hands in a gesture of confusion. "I don't know what to do here. I love him, I know he loves me but I think that you and I have something that could become important and I just don't know what the fuck to do." He swallowed. "I'm hurting him and that kills me."

"We can step back, forget dinners together, you could find other friends. I won't force anything, you know that. Is he demanding a decision, is there an ultimatum or something?"

"No, nothing like that. I suspect he feels the same way I do about this—just sad at the hurt that's being caused. The hurt I'm causing him. We went through this about a year ago. He met someone his age, a musician. He moved out, went with the other guy but after a few months that ended and a month or so later we were back together." He looked at Steve for the first time since he'd come in. "I know what it feels like and I'm doing the same thing to him." He just shook his head at himself. "Shit, he's transferring schools, I've sold the loft we lived in, he's giving up his friends and his family to be with me and now it's all fucked."

Steve spoke into the silence. "Brian, there's another thing to consider here that you're ignoring. What about you? What—or who would make you happy?"

"You make me happy, Justin makes me happy."

"I'm not into three ways." Brian managed a ghost of a smile.

"Sometimes I think he's too young for me—I'm too old for him." His eyes flicked to Steve. "We're the same, I feel comfortable with you, we understand one another, we speak the same language."

"He was a virgin when you met him, wasn't he?"

"How did you know that?"

"The way you're so protective of him. You're his teacher, his mentor. I suspect you're the first one who let him be gay without any criticism. And you're his first love."

"In a lot of ways, he's mine, too."

"Look, I think what might help would be for you to be by yourself for a few days and try to sort this out without either of us interfering. I have a cabin about three hours from here in the Berkshires. Take my car, go up there and just think."

"â€You know I can't do that. We have four major pitches this week and Vance is expecting me to"

"Fuck Vance. And I am capable of pitching a client, thank you. Get you things together, take some work with you if you want, and go this afternoon. There are connections for a computer in the living room and the phone works just fine. In fact, go now and you can beat rush hour."

"Steve—I can't do this, I'm supposed to be working"

"And you're useless to the company the way you are now. Take the time and get yourself straightened out about this." He stood. "Come on."

Knowing that he was beaten and hoping that it might work, Brian agreed.

Tuesday Afternoon

"Hello, Cynthia? Is Brian available?"

"I'm sorry, Justin, he's away for the rest of the week."

"Away?â€But he didn't sayâ€Do you know where he went? Is there anyway I could get in touch with him?"

Steve was passing by when he heard Cynthia say Justin's name. He whispered a question, she answered and he told her that he'd take it in Brian's office.

"Justin?"

"Yes? Who is this?"

He tried to be kind to the youngster on the other end of the line. "This is Steve Brenner. Justin, Brian is away this week to try to sort this out. I've agreed not to try to get a hold of him or interfere or try to influence him in any way. I can give you the number where he is if you want, but I think he'll call you when he's ready."

"Where is he?"

"I loaned him a cabin I own in Massachusetts. He went alone to try to figure out what he wants out of this."

"Why would you agree to leave him alone in your cabin?"

"Because he has to make up his own mind or his decision will be worthless."

There was silence as Justin absorbed this.

"Do you love him?"

"We haven't known each other very long, but I think that I might, yes."

"Do you think that he loves you?"

"I don't know. I hope that he does, but I'm not sure if he knows yet himselfâ€Justin? Are you still there? I do know that he loves you very much and is concerned about you."

"â€Yeah, I know. Thanks."

Thursday afternoon

Brian lay on the end on the dock in a hammock hanging from a stand. There was a family of mallard ducks he had been watching paddling about in the shallows for the last half hour. He had tried to do some work while he was here and had actually gotten some done, but he realized that he was using the projects to escape from what he needed to think about and so had put them aside.

Two lovers and he had to make a decision then hope that they would accept it and him.

He wondered when his life had become a cliché and how the fuck a cliché could be so fucking complicated.

Whatever he decided, someone would be hurt. He loved Justin. He had loved Justin since that first night under the streetlamp.

Justin loved him.

They'd had problems, had resolved them and were happy and becoming closer to one another. They had a new home, he had a promotion, a raise and respect in his work. Justin was doing well in school and would undoubtedly land a good job in due course.

It all seemed good.

Hell, it all was good.

Steve was everything he wanted and hadn't realized until it had hit him over the head. He was smart and kind and strong and sophisticated and tough and a fabulous lover.

Steve was—Steve was, shit, he was Justin in twenty years.

Fuck. No wonder he was attracted to the man.

Now all he had to decide was which one he wanted and he knew he had to decide quickly or he could well lose them both.

TBC

5/2/03

Title: The Other Foot chapter eight, conclusion

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: PG-13 language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Chapter Eight

Brian called Justin late Thursday. The youngster was lying in the large bed, unable to sleep.

"Can you come to New York this weekend?"

"Do you want to see me or do you want me to get my shit out of the Plaza and fuck off?"

"I want to see you. Will you come?"

"â€I'll be on the six o'clock flight. If there's a change, call meâ€Brian? Is it over?"

"No—I don't want it to be. You'll come? We do have to talk, but I want you and I want to go through with the plans we made for the townhouse and your transfer and the rest of it."

"What about Steve?"

"Justin, I don't want to have this conversation on the phoneâ€We'll talk tomorrow, OK?"

"â€Yeah. Sure. I love you, Brian."

"I know that you do. Good night. I'll see you tomorrow."

A few minutes after the call ended Brian locked up the cabin, got into Steve's Jag and headed back to the city.

Justin spent a sleepless night wondering if he was flying to New York to be told, politely, to please have a nice life and now fuck off.

Brian walked into his office at eight the next morning, knowing that Steve had covered for him all week, but wanting to get back into work. Around nine Cynthia saw him through the open door, welcomed him back and asked if she could get him anything.

Was Steve in? No? Please ask if Brian could see him in private when he arrives.

About a half hour later Brian's phone rang.

"Brian? I have a message that you'd like to see me. Shall I come over?"

"That's alright, I can come to your office. I'll be right there."

Three minutes later he was sitting on Steve's couch with Steve a couple of feet away in a chair.

"Thanks for letting me use your place." He smiled. "It's like you, quiet and solid and unpretentious."

"I thought that you'd be comfortable there."

"I was."

"You should use it when ever you want, it just sits empty most of the time. I'd love to show you some of my favorite spots up thereâ€What?"

"I've asked Justin to come this weekend. I'm going to tell him that I want us to move into the townhouse in a couple of weeks when it's ready."

Steve took a breath. "I see." He wanted to say more. "Are you sure?"

"Steve, look, I'm not. That's the problem. I spent the entire time up there trying to imagine what would happen if either scenario played out—with either you or Justin and the thing is that I want you both and I know that neither of you would be able to live with that."

"Brian, if you're still not sure, why are you moving him in with you?"

"I do love him and I know he loves me. We understand each other. Besides, at this point he's committed to moving to New York. He's transferred to Parsons and that's something that's important to him. He did that on my account, I can't just abandon him."

"But you told me that you're more at ease, more at peace when we're together. That must count, for God's sake."

"I think I'm more comfortable with you than I am with anyone I've metâ€but the fucking truth is that I want both of you, and I know that I can't have that."

"Are you asking me to wait and see what happens with you and the kid?"

"I'm asking you to not completely shut the door. At the very least, I want your friendship. I want that very much."

"Will Justin be able to accept that?"

"He'll have to."

"So, as you see it, we can work together and remain friends, but you'll live with Justin at least until you see if that's working and if it's not, I get my chance at bat. Does that about sum it up?"

"Steve, this is hard for me, too. I can't just dump Justin and you told me that you thought that we could be friends. Have you changed your mind?"

"I think that it's going to be difficult. I think that we could be damn good together and I think that you might be making a mistake, but if that's what we have for now, then I'll accept it—for now."

The two men exchanged a long look. They both knew what they had and what it could have become if they had let it, what it might still become.

"Steve, are we still friends?"

Getting up he leaned down and kissed Brian on the lips, chastely, mouth closed. "Yes, we're still friends." He wasn't going to ask, but he had to. "You love me, don't you?"

He caught his breath and inhaled before answering. "Yeah, I do, but I love him too." Brian stood, facing him, his hand coming up to his neck in a caress. "Thank you." He gave Steve a kiss in return then, having said everything that he could, went back to work.

Justin arrived later that day and was met by Brian with a kiss and a single yellow rose.

"Why yellow?"

"So that you'd know it's different than last time."

Relieved, Justin, wrapped his arms around Brian, laughing about his allergies and happy enough not to notice that Brian hadn't really smiled since they had seen one another

A few weeks later the two of them moved into the townhouse. It was beautiful and a showplace and Justin and Brian enjoyed decorating it and showing it off to the friends from Pittsburgh who showed up for visits now and then during the summer.

Jennifer brought Molly and exclaimed over the cost of everything and the pace of New York. Justin was embarrassed by thinking that he had come from a family of yokels until Brian told him to behave himself. After hat they all seemed to relax and simply enjoy one another. One day they arranged to meet Brian at his office so that they could all have dinner and, arriving early had been given a tour. Molly was impressed and giggled when everyone called him 'Mr. Kinney' and Jen was impressed by the caliber of the work she saw being done.

When they encountered Steve in the art department, Jen smiled politely when he joked about her being the 'mother in law' and noticed that his eyes followed Brian as he moved about the room. She didn't say anything, but she saw that he and Justin seemed to take one another's measure and Brian subtly moved them along.

Something was going on that Justin hadn't told her about and she suspected that it involved this man. She had believed for years now that Brian would hurt Justin and now she thought that she knew how it would happen. She wondered if she should say something before she left but, knowing that they had to work this out themselves, kept her own counsel.

Fall

The two men, Brian and Justin moved into an easy routine of work, school and explorations of the city. They were starting to make friends, Justin at Parsons and Brian through his contacts at work. Things were settled and comfortable and they went through their days with a minimum of turmoil beyond the stress of their normal lives.

Brian's handling of the merger had been a success and Steve had been able to cut back his hours as he had originally hoped to do. He now could be expected in the office only two or three days a week and often spent time up at his cabin, usually alone.

He and Brian tried to maintain a friendship, but—not surprisingly—it was awkward. They would still lunch together when they could and hit the gym a couple of nights a week, but the easy comradie, the comfortable silences and general feeling of joy in being together was strained.

The attraction was still there and hadn't lessened in any way, but neither acted on it.

Perhaps that was the problem.

Finally, one day in early November He walked into Brian's office and told him that he would be going to London for a couple of months. He would be visiting friends, mostly, but he would also be checking out the possibilities of opening a London office.

Nodding, understanding why he was doing this, Brian wished him all the best—and meant it. Shaking hands as he was about to go, he leaned towards Brian and asked him to leave the doors open.

Nodding, Brian restrained himself and kept their contact to the simple handshake.

With Steve gone from his daily life, Brian concentrated on Justin. They had more time together, saw more movies, had more dinners out, saw more shows and exhibits and worked longer hours. When calls or faxes came in from Steve, he would deal with them and take whatever action was appropriate, but acknowledge nothing beyond the business end of things.

Seeing all this as clearly as she saw everything involving Brian, Cynthia said nothing until the day she asked him why he just didn't call the man so that they could have it out, get things settled and let the poor man move on.

Refusing to engage, Brian gave his standard reply of "Fuck off" and that was the end of the discussion.

Knowing that his main competition was out of the picture, at least for now and feeling that Brian was back emotionally, Justin was happy again, in an uncomplicated way. He smiled more, wanted to make love more and produced more and better works for school.

Brian worked longer hours, as the man in charge, and looked forward to the down time the two of them had alone together.

They were happy, they were successful and they were in love.

It was a good time for them.

Around the second week of December Justin came in with that look on his face that Brian knew meant that he'd had some idea, probably a lameass one and wanted to run it by.

"What?"

"I was thinking today, you know, we didn't have a house warming and"

"A house warming? That is so fucking faggot."

"Fuck you. We didn't have one and it's almost Christmas, we should have a party."

"And what do I have to do?" Actually, he'd realized that he should have one for the employees and was about to dump it on Cynthia the next day anyway.

"Nothing. Just show up."

"And pay for it."

The sunshine smile. "Right."

Brian had Justin get a hold of Cyn and the two of them made all the arrangements—caterers, flowers, and servers, all of it. Since it was given by the boss, nearly everyone knew they had to make an appearance and a few were curious enough about Brian's personal life to look forward to being in his home.

The night of the party the townhouse was filled, the music was good, the food fabulous, everyone had dressed and the wine flowed. Brian had even agreed to a Christmas tree as long as it wasn't obnoxious or overdone. Seeing that as a challenge, since Christmas trees are always overdone, Justin came up with a minimalist theme that actually worked. Justin's friends mingled well with the crowd, knowing that there were potential job contacts around, and the office people were comfortable enough to enjoy themselves.

It had that noisy, feel that good parties have when it's gelling and Justin found Brian in the living room to hug him and kiss him in thanks for his cooperating with the whole thing.

It was going well and looked like it would last for a while.

"I'll thank you better later."

"Count on it. Or we could go upstairs now for a while, no one would notice."

"That is so fucking tacky."

"Wasp twat. When the fuck did you get self conscious?"

"Later. I'll make it up to you."

"Fucking A, bitch." Hugging, kissing and Justin laughingâ€it was a good party. The crowd was growing, almost everyone having brought someone and more people kept arriving. Justin lost track of who was there. He heard one of Brian's art directors calling him. "Brian! You won't believe who the cat dragged in—get over here!"

About eleven thirty, with the party still in full swing and the two men busy being hosts, Justin opened the pantry to get another case of wine for the wait staff.

Pushing open the door he surprised the two men who were embracing, kissing and pressed so fucking close together that he was surprised that they could breath.

Brian, Steve.

Startled, they looked at him.

"â€Back from London for the holidays, I take it?"

"Justin"

"Don't let me interrupt. Please, go on." Taking the wine, he closed the door behind him, gave it to the waiters and headed directly upstairs to the closed off bedroom.

That was where Brian found him a few minutes later.

"Is he back for good now?"

"Yes."

"I'll leave in the morning."

The End.

5/3/03

Title: The Other Foot

Author: Simon

Pairing: Justin/Brian, natch

Rating: PG-13 language

Summary: Brian is tempted

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Yes

Feedback: Hell, yes.

The Other Foot

Epilogue

I walked into the kitchen to the expected sight of Steve cooking something fabulous for dinner.

It was one of his hobbies, cooking, I mean and he's good at it. He enjoys it and I enjoy seeing the pleasure he gets from a fabulous soufflé or a steak seasoned and grilled to perfection. It means a few extra hours at the gym, but that's alright. His cooking is worth it—Hell, he's worth it.

He smiled when he saw me and I kissed him. I love him. I love him deeply and we're happy together. In fact, we've been happy for the last ten years. It will be our anniversary soon and we've decided that Paris would be the place to see in the next decade. We leave in three weeks.

"How was the presentation this afternoon?" He only spends a day or so a week at the agency now and I've been given the title of president. Vance retired a couple of years ago and it's pretty much my football now. The agency has grown, adding an office in San Francisco five years ago. It's doing well and so are we.

"It was fine, we got the account."

He smiles again and kisses me, happy for me. "I know how hard you worked on that one. I'm proud of you." He pulled back slightly to look at me. "What?"

I just shook my head. "Nothing. I just love you. I always thought it was bullshit when I'd hear someone say that their wife or kid or someone made them happy, but now I can understand it. You make me happy."

He smiled at me, pleased with my words. Squeezing my arm, he turned back to the stove. "It will be ready in about half an hour if you want to get cleaned up."

Later we were in the living room, he was reading and I was doing some clean up work on the laptop.

"I got a call today."

"Oh?"

"It was Justin. He's opening a show at MOMA, some group thing with rising artists and asked if we would like to attend the opening as his guests. He's here for a week or so from London for the set up and wondered if we would like to have dinner or something."

Steve was looking over at me, calm as ever. "What did you tell him?"

"That I'd ask you how you felt about it, but that I'd go. Would you rather skip it?"

"No, I'll go with you if you want. Unless you'd prefer seeing him alone?"

"I don't think it matters one way or the other. I'd like your company. If you'd feel uncomfortable I'd understand."

"I'm sure it will be fine. Let me know when."

That night, in our bed, Steve rolled onto his side, facing me. "Are you sure you're alright seeing Justin again? "

"It's water under the bridge. All that happened ten years ago. He's moved on with his life and so have I—so have we. I wouldn't worry about it." We kissed, settling in for the night. Our sex life was still pretty good, but it wasn't a nightly thing any more and that was alright. Steve was fifty-three now, I was forty-one.

Occasionally I would wonder at the symmetry of the difference in our ages. Twelve years, the same difference between Justin and me. Try as I might, I couldn't find any real significance in that, it just struck me now and then.

What Steve and I had together was solid. We loved one another and I could think of no reason why we would ever split up—other than the obvious one. That wouldn't, with any luck happen for a long time and I found that I treasured the time we shared.

That's an odd choice of words for me, I know, but that's how I feel about him. I have more money than I need, a home that's been featured in magazines, a successful career that affords me the respect of my peers, but what matters is the man falling asleep beside me.

The next day at the agency I sat at my desk after my first meeting of the day had ended, jus sitting and daydreaming. Cynthia was still with me, but was now in charge of the day-to-day operations of the New York office. She had married about eight years ago, but it hadn't worked out and I kept at her to tell me to fuck off and find herself a stud. I hope that she does one of these days. We had gotten in to the habit if having a cup of coffee together around midmorning. It was a nice break for both of us and gave us a chance to touch base on whatever was going on.

She walked in without bothering to knock.

"You have a visitor this morning. Look who I found being harassed by your new secretary."

Justin.

Of course.

I stood up, watching as he walked across the room, watching him looking at me, making the same mental comparisons to ten years ago that I was making. He looked good, which didn't surprise me. He was still blond, of course, still slender, though not quite as much so. He still looked younger than his age, but I could see the beginnings of laugh lines near his eyes and he looked—I don't know—I guess the thought that comes to mind is 'hard used'.

I moved around to the front of the desk to greet him and we went through the ridiculous ritual of shaking hands. He told me that I looked well; that the place was impressive and he knew it was successful. He said that he had been following me and the agency in the business section of the various newspapers and web sites devoted to such things.

He was happy for me. He knew that Steve and I were still together. I think I might have nodded and said that we had been lucky, that we had a good life together.

I told him that I had heard that he was carving a name for himself, that he was shown in the better galleries, that his paintings were in demand and that he was becoming well known. I said that I wasn't surprised, that I knew he would do well.

Cynthia made an excuse to leave, to let us have some privacy.

Finally I asked into the awkward silence that had come over us after she left.

"Are you with someone, Justin? Are you happy?"

He seemed interested in the pattern the milk had made in his coffee cup.

"I was with Jeff for seven years. He got sick, died about a year and a half ago. It's getting better now, though. I work a lot and people seem to like my stuff, so that's good."

"â€I'm sorry."

"No, it's OK. I'm OK with it now. It was good until the last few months."

"How are your Mom and Molly? I tried to find out a few times, but I guess she pretty much washed her hands of me."

"Yeah, she kept telling me that you were a shit to do what you did. She was pretty angry with you for a while there."

"Is she alright?"

"She's fine. She got married about three years ago, so did Molly. They were joking that it would be a double wedding, but they didn't go through with it. They're good." He finished his coffee and looked like he was going to leave. "I know you're busy. I just wondered if you wanted to come to the opening, maybe get some dinner or something."

"Yes, to both. Steve would like to join us if that's alright with you."

"Of course. I think what pissed me off was that he's such a nice guy. I knew that you two were perfect together and I wanted you to be happy so I couldn't hate him." He put his cup on the edge of my desk "Tomorrow night?"

"Fine. You pick the place." I wanted to say more. "I didn't plan what happened with us. I would have done anything to avoid hurting you, you know that."

"Yeah, I do. After I calmed down and could think about what had happened without crying, I started to understand that you just fell in love with each other and you did what you had to."

"I did love you. I always will care about you. You know that if you ever need anything—you know."

"I know, and thanks." He brightened. "I've met someone new. I think it might work out. So far it's almost perfect." He gave me a little of that smile.

"Good. I hope it does." He looked like the old Sunshine sitting there. "He's not a fiddle player, is he?"

"Fuck no. He's an honest to God doctor. No, not a chiropractor, a real one. I met him at an opening in Denver about a year ago. I'm going out to see him after I leave New York."

The intercom buzzed. "Mr. Kinney? Mr. Whiting is here."

"Thank you, I'll be right with him." Justin stood up to go. "Come to the house for dinner tomorrow, around seven—unless you'd rather go out."

He smiled again, this time the full monty. "No, I'd rather go to your place."

I started to put my hand out to shake but he took it, reached up and kissed me on the cheek.

"It's OK, Brian. Remember what you said that first night? Always remember it so that you'd always be with me? I do remember and you are." He walked over to the door, put his hand on the knob, turned back to me and said it. "Later."

He was alright.

And so was I.

5/5/03

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