Brian was drunk, that wasn't new, lately Brian was drunk a lot, it felt good, well, not good but better. It had been three months since he'd said goodbye to Lindsay, and to Gus, and to Justin.

He lay on the mattress, it had been delivered to the house a couple days after the wedding had been scheduled, but he'd never bothered to have them set up the bed, he'd simply gestured towards a room, he hadn't even been paying attention to which room… so now, when he passed out in bed, he was in the room that he had planned to be Gus's.

The house had too many rooms. "I used to live in one big room that had everything," he thought now I live in a hundred rooms with nothing. And nothing was only a slight exaggeration. He had sold a lot of the furniture with the loft, modern Italian leather wasn't really the style for a Tudor country manor, and so, when he left the loft, a few hours after Justin had, he's taken his clothes, and little else.

The movers came and packed up what he hadn't sold with the loft and delivered it…

It was all in boxes in the room closest to the front door, he hadn't bothered to unpack a thing. Sometimes he felt like he was living in the castle in Citizen Kane, and sometimes, he was too drunk to think about it.

A couple of times a week Mikey stopped by and brought food from the diner, and lemon bars, which was convenient because then he could throw out the old food from the diner, and the stale lemon bars that were still sitting on the counter from the last time he'd visited.

Brian worked hard, and then worked out after work, and would sometimes stop by Mikey's for dinner, but mostly he just did anything to avoid coming back to the house, the big empty house that he lived in…alone.

He drove by Mel and Lindz's a few times, but they were gone…they called, and he talked to Gus, who was at a chatterbox age, and he smiled then as he listened to stories about t-ball and his friend Sam, who it turns out is imaginary, and then he hangs up the phone and stops smiling.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

He stops by Mikey's tonight, he just can't go back to the house yet (he just can't think of it as home either). He's already half buzzed from the joint he was smoking in the car when he knocks on the door.

Michael answers, and Brian leans in and kisses him, "hi honey I'm home, what's for dinner"

"Brian" Michael whines, "You're stoned"

"Yes, good point, so got any cheetos?"

Michael looks back at Ben apologetically and Ben just shrugs, somewhat understanding how lost Brian is.

Brian collapses on the sofa in an easy sprawl

"So, how bout a drink?" he looks at Michael

"Don't you think you've had enough to drink lately? Christ Brian, you look like hell"

"I look beautiful" Brian rubs his face; "I mean, I think so, Christ, did remember to shave today?" he's mumbling now, in that way he has.

"Never mind, I'll get it myself" he pops up with surprising agility from the sofa and finds a bottle of vodka in the freezer…

"I can always count on Mikey to have cheap vodka in the freezer, I love you Mikey"

Michael is aggravated, but sad for his friend, who is taking a very long pull straight from the bottle.

He looks at Ben and shrugs "I guess he's sleeping here tonight" Ben smiles and gives Michael a peck on the cheek,

"I'll go finish dinner, when he finds out its tofu and beans, he'll be less interested in eating anyway"

Brian, having heard the conversation takes out his phone and makes a call, he orders two large pizzas to be delivered to Mikey's and then settles onto the Sofa, which for all it's lumpy faults, isn't in that stupid ass house he hates.

NEW YORK.

Justin hates having roommates, he'd lived with Brian, which was…well, never easy, but had it's perks, and he and Daphne had been friends for so long that sharing a place with her was pretty easy, but sleeping on someone else's sofa while trying to find a place that wouldn't cost him more than 600 a month to split was killing him, and there were already three people living here, four fags, one bathroom, this s not a happy equation.

The guys were interesting enough, but they were young, well, okay they were exactly the same age he was, but they were just discovering some of the things that Justin was already bored with. They went out every night, coming home in the early hours of the morning laughing and joking about the men they'd seen, and done.

The tricks they brought home were laughable…well, maybe not, but to Justin there was nothing but Brian and he was trying to clear his mind of that. He did so by working. He found a studio space. He shared it with two other artists. One worked with classical techniques, painting Italian frescos on pieces of concrete, the other was a woman who worked with "found metal" she picked up pieces off the street, welded them together and called it art.

Justin painted, he was working on large canvases, and covering the cost of the studio space, and paint and supplies was digging deeply into his funds, but he had a couple of meetings with galleries this week, and was hoping to sell some pieces.

He missed Brian.

Justin shook his head, the idea was to NOT keep thinking that, and each time the phrase "I miss Brian" shot unwelcome into his head, he doubled his efforts to succeed, to be able to afford a place of his own, with studio space, a place where he could work, and build a life, and not feel like he'd made a huge mistake.

"I've made a huge mistake" he shook his head again, and stood back from the canvas he was working on to take it in more fully, only he knew what it was.

Most people who had seen it (about half a dozen that had wandered into the studio as friends of his "studio mates" had called it abstract but intense.

The canvas was huge, brown, almost black, with stripes of hazel, and gold emanating from the center. It was Brian's eyes, when the looked at him just before he was about to come…or yell at him, it was that stormy darkness with the light behind it that only Justin knew, well, Justin and a hundred thousand other men in Pittsburgh but only Justin had ever had the chance to really study it, most of those men, had never seen that color, they'd been in the dark, in a back alley, in the baths, they hadn't seen him in broad daylight, his eyes wide with anger, or fear, or lust, Justin had, and this is what they looked like, or would look like if they were ten feet tall and 7 feet wide.

The pattern was burned into Justin's brain, and now, it was coming to life on the canvas.

ONE MONTH LATER

Justin came back from the show very satisfied, he had sold ALL of his pieces. It had been a multiple artist show, he wasn't ready for his own show yet, but he made money, good money, enough money to get a place, and…there was a knock at the studio door.

Brian was in his office. Ted was rambling something about money, and taxes and… he tuned out, and continued to consider the copy in front of him for a new line of men's accessories, but nothing was jumping out at him.

"Brian" Ted tried to get his attention.

"Brian!" louder this time.

"What Theodore"

"I um, need you to sign these" Brian signed his name wherever the red arrow told him to. It and Ted started to walk out of his office…

"WAIT"

Ted stopped dead in his tracks.

"What did I just sign?"

"Nothing major, mortgage insurance, life insurance for Gus, a 10 salary increase for your top level executives."

"A what? For who?"

Ted had known it couldn't be that easy, but Brian hadn't been listening to him. "Brian, you're impossible"

"Thank you Teddy, I appreciate the input"

"No Brian, listen to me, you're im-poss-i-ble, you're driving everyone insane, you work 90-100 hours a week, on a slow week, you're here all the time, you're cranky, and snippy, and if you don't start shelling out some extra incentives we're gonna lose our talent pool"

Brian looked at Ted, and saw the logic to what he was saying

:"Cyn's getting a raise too?"

"Of course"

"And you Teddy, did you take care of yourself?"

"Brian, I'm one of the top execs, I am included in the package"

"Fine, but give Cyn a 20 raise, and you, well, make it 25"

"Brian are you sure?"

"Do you want to talk me out of giving you more money Ted? I thought you were a better accountant than that"

Ted smiled "right, not another word, I'll put the paperwork through"

Brian sat back down in his chair and collapsed his head onto his desk. He vaguely remembered mornings of fresh clothes in his office after he's spent the night at Mikey's he'd never really questioned how they got there. He considered the mornings he'd woken up on the sofa in his office, to find coffee and juice, or even more amazing, hot scrambled egg whites from the diner. Cynthia had been putting in more than her share of hours lately he realized, and Ted had probably been covering his ass in ways he couldn't imagine when it came to the business.

"Kinney" he said to himself, "it's time to get your head back into the game"

NEW YORK

Justin answered the door to find Jason Ranston, the owner of the gallery from the show last night.

"Mr. Ranston, come in" Justin was confused as to the mans appearance here today. They had already made arrangements for him to pick up his check at the end of the month once the pieces had been delivered.

"All of your work sold Mr. Taylor"

"All of it?"

"You're the only artist in the show who doesn't have a piece left"

"Really?" Justin was smiling and he couldn't help it, it wasn't about the money, it was about…well, it was a little about the money.

"Do you think you're ready for your own show?" he asked

"I'm not sure I have enough pieces yet" Justin answered truthfully, and gestured towards his space in the studio, which had about a half a dozen finished canvases, the rest were only partially complete, or blank.

"Mr., Taylor, here's my proposal, I'd usually take you out for coffee, at least to pitch this but I'll be honest, I'm a busy man, and there are going to be others knocking on your door today, I wanted to get here first. I need to keep your name, and your art in the public eye, so I'll take what's complete now, and I show them throughout the next few months, a few pieces at a time, and in nine months, That would be December, we feature you in your own show"

"that's very generous Mr. Ranston"

"Bullshit, I'm not being generous, I'm being proprietary, I gave you your first show, and you're going to be big, HUGE, and I want the show, I want my gallery to remain the one who discovered you, I want my gallery to be the one that reaps the profits, shared handsomely with you of course"

"Of course" Justin tried not to smile too wide.

An idea occurred to him, it was an idea he KNEW he should push back into the depths of his brain, and simply shake the mans hand, sign the papers and get to work.

"Mr. Ranston? Do I need to paint in New York"?

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, I find I've done some of my best stuff in Pittsburgh, so my thinking is, if the idea is to have a spectacular show in December, I go back to my studio there, and create where I do it best"

Now Justin was just lying, he didn't have a studio there, but he could get one, and he could be in Pittsburgh, with his mom, and Molly, and… Brian.

"I need you at the shows Mr. Taylor"

Justin's heart sank, and then bounced back

"You want your studio to show my work, and you want to reap the benefits of my success, well, you will, and I will guarantee you three appearances at showings within the next eight months, keeping my name on everyone's lips, but not over exposing myself, but in the meantime, I work in Pittsburgh, where I know my discipline is at it's best, and my concentration at it's most precise"

The studio owner offered his hand and Justin shook it.

"Do you have a lawyer?"

Justin's heart twinged a little, he used to, he used to have Mel, but now…

"I'll get one"

"Good, I'll have the contracts messengered over today"

Justin wanted to call Brian immediately, but he didn't, they weren't like that anymore…were they? He was never sure where he stood with Brian these days, he always seemed so distant on the phone the few times they'd talked.

He called Mel instead, told her the good news and listed while Lindsay gushed and Mel gave him a heat felt attaboy, then they put Gus on the phone and Justin smiled so widely his mouth hurt as he listed to Gus tell him about Sam and t-ball, and his baby sister, and then Justin asked him to hand the phone back to momma, and Mel was on the line.

"The thing is Mel, the studio is sending over the papers, and I don't have a lawyer, I was wondering if you still knew anyone in New York or even Pittsburgh whom I could trust.

Melanie thought for a moment, and rattled off a couple of names.

"You'll come for the show?" he asked

"We wouldn't miss it kiddo" Mel replied, and Justin got off the phone to make another call.

Two days later he was on a plane, and back in Pittsburgh, his mother picked him up at the airport.

PITTSBURGH

"Justin, you look great sweetie," his mom said as she greeted him.

He hugged her back genuinely happy to see her.

Neither said anything much while he picked up his luggage and the walked to her car. Once she had cleared the airport she turned to look at him

"So, where am I taking you?"

Justin shrugged and then gave up the pretence of nonchalance,

"I need to see Brian, so, I guess the loft"

"Honey, he sold the loft"

"Sold it? I figured after I left he'd take it off the market"

"No, I was at the closing myself, he sold it, and kept the house"

"THE house? is that where he's living?"

"I guess so" his mother shrugged, it's never been re-listed" she glanced over at Justin "I check every once in a while to see"

"Well, I guess take me to the house then"

"Justin are you sure?"

"I'm sure mom, I'm finally sure"

Jennifer's car pulled into the empty driveway, "Justin, sweetie, I don't think he's home"

Justin approached the front door, taking a deep breath, the door was locked, but Justin had a hunch and punched in the old loft alarm code into the number pad, and the light went from red to green, he opened the door.

He walked back to the car and kissed his mother on the cheek, "I'll call you soon" and he walked back into his country estate.

Brian was exhausted, sleep only came lately when he was too drunk or stoned to think, and then it seemed all too soon after he lost consciousness that he was pulled back to reality by his alarm. It had been a long day, and it was well past 11 pm when he finally turned off the lights in his office and headed back to the house.

Justin had gotten to the house at around seven, since then he'd been wandering the empty rooms, he found the bed, not in the master suite, just lying on the floor, and he found a room full of boxes, dusty and unopened. There were clothes, fresh from the drycleaners hung meticulously in the closet, some things never changed. There were also piles of dirty laundry and discarded cigarette packs laying everywhere. Justin had imagined Brian still in Pittsburgh a thousand times, sometimes a thousand times in a single day, he had never pictured him pacing the rooms of an empty house like Mrs. Haversham, he didn't know whether to be touched, worried, or aggravated.

His feelings varied depending on the debris he found, the several empty cases of scotch left him aggravated, as did the cigarettes, but the bed, looking so sparse, left him feeling touched, and well, worried was a bit of a constant.

He was worried about a lot of things; specifically what Brian was going to say when he found him here.

He pulled a sketchbook out of his backpack and started to draw the bed, the empty, crumpled sheets, the single pillow, the discarded cigarette boxes and overflowing ashtray, he was sketching intently when he heard the car pull into the driveway.

The minute Brian pulled in he sensed something was wrong…the lights were on, he knew he didn't leave the fucking lights on, and was the door partially open? He got out of the car and carefully swung the door inwards, but the alarm had not gone off. For a moment, a thought flickered, and he pushed it away. Then he laughed, even if someone had broken in, what the fuck were they gonna steal, a couple of stale lemon bars and a half empty pack of cigarettes? He walked into the house and stopped dead in his tracks.

"Justin"

Justin smiled; he hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath 'til he let it out

"Brian, I'm back"

"What the fuck are you doing here?"

Justin was somewhat prepared for this, he wasn't silly enough to think that the sentimental Brian, who had been so open with him before the wedding would remain once his heart had been broken, but as prepared as he had been, it still saddened him to think about how much reinforcement Brian had probably put into the wall around his heart…shit, that fucker was probably steel rebar and poured concrete at this point.

Justin was wrong.

"Never mind, doesn't matter" Brian said, "You're here"

Brian decided not to process the information further than that, Justin was smiling, arms around his neck, hugging him…whatever this meant, wherever it lead, he didn't care right now.

He leaned in and kissed Justin's neck, and then possessively covered Justin's mouth with his own, his desire taking over any more thought as his tongue mapped out the terrain inside the younger man's mouth.

Justin had been prepared for a lot of greeting scenarios and while this was the one he had hoped for, he hadn't really expected it, but he responded, instantly. He felt Brian's hot breath against his neck, and then was bending backwards as the taller man took his mouth like enemy territory being reclaimed.

They pulled apart for a second, long enough to inhale, push Brian's jacket off his shoulders, where it fell in a pile behind him, his tie was next, and Justin was being backed slowly up the foyer stairs into the great room.

Brian was pulling at Justin's shirt, trying to reach skin. Justin held his arms above his head, and Brian removed the offending garment, they were at each other's flies next, grasping desperately, separating their mouths for only moments at a time, and even then, they stood, forehead to forehead, not wanting to lose contact, not even for a split second. Justin kicked off his shoes, Brian did the same and soon they were both naked, pressed against each other, standing skin to skin.

Justin started to kiss down Brian's neck, until he was even with his nipples, he took one in his mouth, licking and sucking, until Brian pulled him back up and kissed him again, Justin wrapped one leg around Brian's waist, and Brian used his hands to gesture that he should do the same with the other. Brian was holding him now, his legs wrapped around the taller mans waist as he continued to kiss him, his hands kneading Justin's ass, his mouth needing Justin's breath, he took him upstairs and fell on top of him onto the bed.

Brian raised himself up on his arms, and stared into Justin's eyes, and Justin returned the look and realized he had a million more paintings to do, because he hadn't gotten it right, nothing he'd done came close to what he was seeing. Brian leaned down and kissed him again as if his life depended on it, while his other arm searched around beside the bed…

"Dammit, he thought to himself, there's got to be one here somewhere" he had never brought a trick back to this house, but a Brian Kinney bedroom without a condom…not feasible. Then he remembered where there was one. He crawled over Justin, and the young blonde lifted his head to kiss the passing parts of Brian's torso as it moved towards the head of the bed. Brian reached over to a pile of rumpled clothes trying to find his jeans, as he stretched searching franticly for them, his cock was directly over Justin's face. Justin didn't miss a beat, his tongue shot out, licking the sweet drops of precum from Brian who groaned and almost came right then. He moved back down, his jeans in hand, kissing Justin again, and searching the pockets until he found what he was looking for.

He held up the packet with a smile as if it were a winning lottery ticket. Justin wriggled beneath him, creating a delicious friction. He ripped the package open with his teeth and got back to the matter at hand.

Justin's legs were wrapped around him, and Brian put his hands behind him on the boys ankles and pulled his feet up to his shoulders…he slowly started to enter him, it took all of the restraint he had not to just pound into him as hard as he could, and Justin's eyes were still locked on his, as he pushed slowly, the plan to go slow was shot to hell when Justin bucked his body onto Brian's cock, impaling himself.

Brian pumped him hard, bending him in half to lean in and kiss him. Justin's hands were clawing at Brian's back, trying to get closer, to pull the man inside him, inside his skin where they could never be separated again, the friction of Brian against him, Brian leaned back a little, his hands finding Justin's and intertwining their fingers, he leaned back in, and they both shot, Justin into the small space between their bodies and Brian deep into the condom inside Justin.

Brian literally wanted to pinch himself to make sure it wasn't a dream, but it wasn't, and if it was…well, he just never wanted to wake up. He pulled himself off of Justin, reluctantly; he wasn't trying to crush the life out of him. As he pulled out, he watched the beautiful blonde face show that small twinge of longing that he always showed when he was left feeling empty, that small moment before he would curl up against Brian and cling to him.

Brian flopped onto his back on the bed, removing the used condom and dropping it inside a half crumpled cigarette box. Justin moved closer to Brian, settling his head on Brian's shoulder.

Brian smiled, "so, how long you in town for?"

Brian could feel Justin smiling against his shoulder "how long do you want me for?"

End chapter one.

Chapter Two

Brian awoke, feeling rested for the first time in months. It was the first time he'd slept, not passed out, since Justin had left, and he felt…well, he felt warm, actually hot, and sticky, and Justin had apparently crashed as well, he could only see the top of his blonde head without moving, and if he moved he'd wake him, so he stayed still, and tried not to focus on the fact that the kid was drooling on his shoulder.

His right arm reached out beside the bed, discarding several crumpled boxes before finding the half full pack of cigarettes, he maneuvered one out, using only his right hand, as his left was somewhat trapped under the very hot drooling kid that may now be permanently attached to his side. He found a lighter on the floor, lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply.

"How long do you want me for?" those were the last words Justin had said before they had both fallen asleep… what did that mean? Was he back for good? What was he giving up to be here? Brian realized that while he would never give up an opportunity to fuck Justin, he would always pass on the opportunity to fuck Justin over, or let him fuck up his life just to be with him. His head began to spin and he lazily took another drag from his cigarette. He was startled when Justin removed it from his mouth and took a drag himself.

"Morning" Brian said with a half smile as Justin rolled onto his back.

Belatedly Justin realized that he had been drooling, on Brian's shoulder yet, he was embarrassed, as Brian took the cigarette back and Justin wiped his mouth with his hand. He searched around the bed for something to use to dry Brian's shoulder and came up with a tissue; Brian moved his hand away before he used the wrinkled Kleenex.

"Trust me, your morning drool is cleaner than whatever's in that"
Justin, understanding dawning flicked it away and just lay back on the bed

they lay in silence, passing the cigarette back and forth as if it were a joint. And then Brian lit a second one, and they did the same, and then a third.

Justin, inhaling from the fourth cigarette in a row finally got the nerve to speak

"Are we going to just lay here getting lung cancer or should we eventually talk?'

He turned to his side, to see the flicker across Brian's face and belatedly remembered that lung cancer, hell, cancer at all was probably not the best topic for sarcastic banter, but Brian recovered quickly, he stood up and leaned his head into his own armpit.

"god I stink, I need a shower"

Justin stood as well,

"I'll make something for breakfast"

He wasn't ready yet to fall back into the easy rhythm of showering together. Brian smiled

"Good luck" and took off for the bathroom

Justin searched for something to wear; he wasn't comfortable enough in this house yet to walk around naked. While it was obvious Brian didn't have a maid, he had no idea who may or may not be expected. He tiptoed downstairs wearing one of Brian's t-shirts and found his duffle bag, where he grabbed a pair of sweat pants and padded off to the kitchen.

Brian showered quickly, when he found his phone he made a quick call to the office to tell them he wouldn't be in today, Cynthia assured him there were no dire meetings scheduled, and all would be well, and he headed to the kitchen where he was greeted with an aggravated young blonde.

"There is nothing to eat here."

Brian, his hair still wet gave a shrug and a smile, "I know"

Justin surveyed the inside of the fridge, and it was exactly as he remembered Brian's fridge to be, empty, save for poppers, a few bottles of beer, and a box of baking soda…there wasn't even an avocado

He had been hopeful about the Styrofoam containers from the diner, but the food looked old, and dried up, and the lemon bars in the box on the counter were better used as percussion instruments than foodstuffs. The cabinets were bare, no pasta, no canned goods… Brian had never been to a grocery store since moving here. It became more and more clear with each moment just how much Brian had left his life on hold while Justin was away.

"Okay then" Justin said, turning to face Brian, we're going out for breakfast, I'll be down in a few minutes.

Brian sat on the bench at the end of the kitchen, it was a built in, and thus, one of the few seating options in the house. Then he heard the shower running.

The thought of Justin, naked, wet, soapy, went straight through him, and he stood up, walked slowly upstairs, and removed his clothing outside the bathroom door, he let himself in, and pressed his chest against the young mans back, snaking his arms around his waist.

Justin leaned back, his head resting against Brian's shoulder as he allowed the taller man to take the soap from his hand.

"God I'm starving" Justin said, reaching for the shampoo. Brian took the bottle from him, and squeezed some onto his hand, and then commenced lathering up the blonde hair, massaging the scalp. Justin groaned.

"Just tell me there's someplace decent to eat around here and that we don't have to drive all the way into the city"

Brian shrugged, "haven't actually explored the town yet myself, but there must be something. Don't worry sunshine, I won't let you starve" and with that he spun the boy around, kissing him while the water sluiced over both their bodies, covering them with the sudsy shampoo residue from Justin's hair.

The kissing became more intense, and each felt their desire growing.

"This'll work" Brian thought, "we'll just keep fucking and then we'll never have to talk, hell I did that for 29 years before I met the kid, I'm sure I could do it again"

Justin was thinking along similar lines.

Turns out, he was comfortable with their morning shower routine. More than comfortable, and only when they were completely out of hot water, did the two emerge from the shower significantly cleaner, and a little more tired than they had been when they had first entered.

Eventually Brian was dressed again, and Justin had dug up a pair of cargo pants and a long sleeve t-shirt that wasn't too covered in paint. When he emerged Brian laughed.

"What?"

"You're covered in paint"

Justin looked himself over; there were a couple of smudges on his elbow, and a few small areas where he'd used his pants to wipe the paint off his fingers.

"I've been working really hard, this is as paint free as I get" he shrugged and kissed Brian while pulling him out the door

"C'mon, I'm STARVING"

"Yes" Brian said "food"

They'd been driving for about five minutes in complete silence when Brian spoke first. "So, why are you here?"

Justin took a deep breath and began at the beginning, with the shared apartment and the studio space. He left out almost no detail of his life in New York as he regaled Brian. They had found a diner, ordered, and eaten half of their breakfasts before he was finished.

"So my mom dropped me off at the house and then I waited for you and you were there for the rest of it"

Brian put down his fork,

"So you're really back for good?"

"Yeah, I mean, like I said, I've got to do a couple weekends in New York over the next couple of months but I'm gonna be based out of Pittsburgh from now on. Oh, and I'll probably have to spend a couple weeks in New York in December, once we're setting up for the show"

"So you're really back for good?" Brian asked again, trying to stop smiling like a pathetic retarded idiot.

Justin looked up, and wondered if Brian's face had possibly broken, he'd never seen him smile like that. "Yeah, I'm back for good"

There was a lot to discuss, in theory, they both knew it, and yet, in a seemingly mutual and unspoken decision…today wasn't the day.

Brian paid the check and they got back in the car.

"There's a shopping center down the street, we should go to the market, unless you're willing to live on poppers and single malt scotch. I've been doing it for a while, and it's not half bad really."

Justin gave him one of those looks that ONLY Justin, and maybe Debbie could get away with and he nodded "right, to the market"

Chapter Three

Brian grabbed a cart and braced himself, he hated grocery shopping and doing so with Justin was going to be a lesson in patience, he already knew that about him.

He headed off to the left, and Justin grabbed the cart and pulled in the other direction. "All the frozen food and refrigerated stuff in on the left, you have to start on the right or the ice cream will be melted before we get to the checkout."

"Who said we're buying ice cream?"

"Brian, this way" Justin pulled the cart

"Christ, you really are a good little housewife"

"And you love me for it" Justin stood on the bottom of the cart and leaned over to kiss Brian. They moved on to the produce section.

"You know" Justin said "that was probably a bad idea"

"The grapes" Brian asked, "I thought you liked grapes."

"Not the grapes you dope, the kiss, we're not exactly on Liberty Avenue anymore"

"No we're not" Brian said as he walked around the cart and pulled Justin closer, "but that's not going to get me to stop kissing you"

"Brian" Justin giggled as he felt the hot breath on his neck.

"Fine" Brian said, "no touching" and he continued to walk the produce section, tossing a few things into the cart, pretending not to notice Justin pouting behind him.

"I didn't say NO touching"

Brian turned back and pulled Justin closer again and whispered in his ear "I don't do anything halfway"

Justin nibbled his earlobe and whispered back "and I love you for it."

They meandered through the aisles buying everything a kitchen might need, spices, oils, flour, sugar, all the basics, and while doing so they were chatting amicably about the house.

"So, we should really have the bathroom remodeled" Justin said

Brian raised an eyebrow, but listened

"We should get a double headed steam shower"

"Is the honeymoon over already? You can't stand being close to me in the shower?"

A customer pushed her cart by them and gave them an odd look, Justin leaned in closer to Brian and kissed him again "I love being close to you in the shower, but at some point, we may have to admit that we do need to get clean and leave said shower"

"We did, we did that today"

"Once all the hot water was gone"

"How does this make a double shower head steam shower thing you're talking about more efficient as far as time goes?"

Justin scrunched up his face trying to come up with a reasonable excuse for wanting one and finally he found it

"Because I want one!"

Brian laughed, "that is the best reason you've given me yet…I'll call the contractor tomorrow."

"Really?" Justin was literally jumping up and down like a little kid.

"Yeah, really, the house needs a lot of work, ugh" Brian rolled his eyes "and furniture, I think we're gonna have to buy some furniture"

Justin laughed, we definitely need at least a sofa and a bed…or if not a bed a second pillow, I can't drool on your shoulder every night" he blushed at the memory

Brian stood stock still, his breath was suddenly shallow, but he shook it off, it was just a moment, but seeing the boy blush, he had forgotten he still did that, it was something he wasn't sure he'd ever get used to.

"Yeah, we need to get you a pillow" If it were up to Brian, the kid could drool on his shoulder every night, but he could see the basic common sense in having more than one pillow on a bed for two."

"And the stables"

"What about them?" Brian asked

"Well, I figured they'd get the best light, so I could put a studio up in the stables, but it has to get done kind of fast, cause I have got to get some work done. Or I guess I could just rent a space somewhere."

Brian smiled, not ready to reveal all the houses surprises just yet. "We'll get it done fast"

While unloading the groceries and trying to decide where everything should go the continued to amicably chat about possible renovations.

"Really, that's Gus's room?"

"Yeah" Brian replied, "at least I always figured it was"

"Then why is your bed in it?"

"It was the very first door at the top of the stairs"

"And the boxes in the parlor?"

"Parlor?"

"Yes, that's the official name for a formal sitting room, which is what that's supposed to be"

"Oh, well, the boxes are there because."

"Let me guess," Justin cut him off "it was closest to the door"

Brian smiled, "got it in one"

"So, you switched from Jim Beam to single malt scotch, and other than that, have made not a single change in your life or this house?"

"Oh I made changes to my life, just no changes to the house, and Christ, my decorator called daily for three weeks before I finally had to tell him to fuck off… um, Justin, I think we're gonna need a new decorator"

"You tell lots of people to fuck off, surely you can apologize"

"I'm not so sure, he caught me at a really bad time"

"Brian, what did you say to him?"

"I honestly don't remember exactly, but there was an implied bestiality reference, and a mention about finding nicer crap at target than what he could provide"

Justin doubled over with laughter. In the several changes the loft had gone through over the years Justin had run into Brian's decorator on a few occasions. He made Emmet look straight, and a Spanish telenovella seem low key on the drama, Justin couldn't stop laughing as he pictured the mans reaction to Brian telling him that target had nicer stuff. When he finally wiped his eyes of tears he pulled it together long enough to agree "we're gonna need a different decorator…or"

"Or?"

"Or, we could do it ourselves"

"Fuck that"

Justin approached Brian, leaning into him, kissing his neck, and whispering, "it could be fun"

"Lots of things are fun, haggling with contractors and furniture suppliers are not on that list, plus you have to concentrate on your show, and I still have a business to run, we're getting another decorator, I'll have Cynthia find someone"

"Shit, Brian, I have to get art supplies, I'm gonna have to rent a van, there's no way it'll fit in your car"

"Justin we're in the suburbs, we're gonna have to get you a car period"

"Okay, we'll get a second car but I'm paying for it"

"The fuck you are"

"Why cant' I pay for my own car?"

"Because I don't want some piece of shit leaking oil on our lovely driveway or breaking down on the turnpike all the time"

"And of course I'd buy a piece of shit. Brian, do you have any idea how many canvasses I sold when I was in New York, or how much they went for?"

"Yes, I do, you sold all 14 that were ever up for sale, at an average cost of $6500.00 per piece, after taxes, and gallery commissions your net worth is somewhere in the area of fifty thousand dollars, almost enough to pay back your school loan, but hardly enough to buy a car and the supplies you'll need for the show.

Justin stared at him

Brian shrugged "Ted's your accountant, and teddy works for me"

"So he broke client confidentiality?

"No, I just searched his files"

"So you were checking up on me"

"All the damn time"

Justin wanted to be mad, but he wasn't.

Justin pouted, "you're going to ask me to pay back the loan rather than buy the car and supplies I need?'

"No, but you do need that money for art supplies, and…"looking Justin up and down, "some clothes that are NOT covered in paint. I'll tell you what; we'll buy the car together. You make the down payment, and I'll cover the payments"

"Fine, but only because I'm gonna need a lot of supplies, they want at least 40 pieces done by October, and I've got a few already planned, in multiple media"

"Shit, Brian, I'm gonna have to rent studio space, there's no way the stables could be done in time"

"You're right, the stables will never be done in time, but come here"

"Where are you taking me?"

Brian tucked two fingers through the waist of his pants and pulled Justin forward. They walked through the kitchen to the utility room, with a washer and dryer and huge sink, beyond that was another door; Justin hadn't paid any attention to this space when he had been examining the house. He had ducked his head in, noticed a laundry room and ducked his head back out. But Brian led him through the door into the most beautiful space he'd ever seen.

"They called it the sun room, but I had it renovated a little, it was going to be your wedding present"

"The room was perfect, warm tile floors, and light coming in from every angle.

"Look" Brian pointed out, the shades are on a remote, so you can vary and filter the light anytime you want, plus, Enormous amounts of storage, a huge sink, and my personal favorite feature…"

He led Justin further into the depths of the room where there were already a few easels and some un-stretched canvases waiting for him. In the corner next to the large industrial sink was another door, and inside was a small bathroom, with a shower, a full steam shower that shot from twelve different points along the wall

"This way, you don't have to traipse through the house covered in paint."

Justin was in tears "you did this for me?"

"I do everything for you, I thought you were on to me about that"

"I thought I was, but you keep fucking surprising me"
"so, do you think you can work here? There's a stereo in the corner, and…"

Brian's verbal tour of the room was truncated by a passionate kiss from Justin.

Justin turned on the new shower, and got the water as hot as he could stand it, and then he dragged Brian, clothes and all into it with him. And together, they christened the new shower, and then the new studio space. And when they were sure they were completely exhausted, they threw their wet clothes into the washing machine, and then christened the utility room.

Brian found the pack of cigarettes he'd rescued from his jacket pocket, they had been protected from the shower by the leather of his jacket. He lit two and gave one to Justin.

He sat on top of the washer, Justin hoisted himself onto the dryer and they sat together in silence for a few minutes.

"So tomorrow, we buy a car."

"Justin smiled, and today, we go back out and buy a pillow"

Brian groaned but he knew there was no getting out of it…

"Right, as soon as you can walk again, we're off to shop for a pillow, a waterproof one."

Justin blushed again, and Brian talked himself down from christening the hallway outside the utility room.

They spent the rest of the day catching up on the little things in Brian's life since the non-wedding incident.

End chapter three.

Chapter Four

The bed now had seven pillows. In a classic Kinney act of over indulgence, once the found the down pillows he was looking for, they bought six. And then there was the one pillow that had been there previously. Brian couldn't remember the last time he'd slept so well, and he was genuinely amused to find that all of that pillow testing, and all of the ways they'd used them last night to prop up their bodies, for better angles and better lines of vision at what one was doing to the other, the one thing that hadn't changed was where Justin chose to lay his head. The kid was drooling on his shoulder again, and he was actually pleased. "I really have changed" he though to himself as he lay his head back on his pillows and once again lit a cigarette one handed.

Justin awoke to the smell of cigarette smoke, and the feeling of being well rested, it was something he hadn't felt in a while, lumpy couches in loud dorm like settings were great, if you were into that, but laying here, resting your head on the shoulder of the man you loved that was…

Suddenly he became aware that he'd done it again, and pulled himself off of Brian embarrassed.

Brian put his cigarette out quickly and leaned over to kiss his boy wonder. "If you're gonna get upset every time you wake up your head on my shoulder we're going to have a lot of difficult mornings" he continued to hold his body over the younger mans and leaned in to kiss him. Justin knew it had to be love, because the taste of Brian's kiss was wonderful, and morning breath, mixed with scotch, cigarettes and a faint taste of himself, why was that so erotic? The answer was simple, because it was the taste of Brian.

Brian felt Justin responding to the kiss and pulled back just a bit to give him that obnoxious and knowing smile that only he could pull off without seeming like the worlds biggest asshole.

"You can drool on my shoulder anytime Sunshine." And he watched the boy blush. Brian secretly hoped that Justin would never stop being embarrassed about something so stupid. Being able to make him blush like this was something Brian truly enjoyed.

Justin covered his face with his hands to hide his embarrassment. They slowly moved up to his hair as he arched his back and responded to Brian's hands which somehow seemed to be everywhere on his body at once.

Justin then wrapped his arms around Brian and rolled him over, staring into his hazel eyes he shook his head slowly back and forth and smiled "my turn" he began to kiss down Brian's neck, stopping once in a while to thoroughly hit a particular spot. He moved further down his chest, his hands blazing the trail his mouth would soon follow. He stopped at Brian's nipples and licked, and sucked, and then bit, pulling the nipple with his teeth until Brian's back arched following Justin's mouth. When he let go Brian whimpered, and Justin smiled. He was planning on taking his time.

Each movement was slow, and deliberate. He kept his mind focused because if he thought too much about what he was doing, he would be sucking Brian off in a matter of minutes.

He continued his slow decent, kissing along the line of Brian's abdomen, stopping with his mouth directly over Brian's hard cock. He breathed open mouthed, his hot breath making Brian twitch, and smiled, and then with a single lick, moved lower to Brian's thighs. Brian groaned. He knew exactly what the kid was doing; he was torturing him, not entirely unfairly, as Brian had taught him this technique through his own usage of excitement/denial pairing.

Justin was an excellent pupil, he had learned well. He was licking and sucking the inside of Brian's thighs, his hands stretching up to pinch a nipple or rub against his chest.

After what seemed like an eternity Justin moved his head up to lick lightly at Brian's balls, which only made him buck harder, but Justin put his hands on Brian's hips and held him down against the bed as he concentrated all of his energies on prolonging this moment.

Brian tried not to move, but his head was thrown back, and his mouth open, taking deep raspy breaths. "Justin, just fucking suck me off," he panted. Justin stopped completely. He crawled back up the bed until he was face to face with Brian. "No talking. Now I have to start all over again" and to Brian's amazement he did, starting again at the neck, when he moved down to his nipple again, completely ignoring his cock Brian couldn't help himself "you've got to be fucking kidding me." Justin moved his head back up to kiss Brian, not at all, and see, now I've got to start AGAIN." he smiled evilly and began again on the taller mans neck. Brian finally got the message, but he wasn't sure how long he could hold out if Justin was serious. But he was, and it was quite some time later, and at least two other restarts before Brian and Justin both got what they wanted.

Justin crawled back up to lay next to Brian, the taste of him in his mouth, his own come all over Brian's chest. He considered licking it off of him but honestly, he tongue was tired; Brian had taken longer than he expected to learn the lesson, and thus, they really should get a move on if they were going to shower.

"That was so fucking HOT" Brian said

Justin just smiled, and rolled over to get a better look at Brian, who was as beautiful to him in full lust as he was in sated exhaustion.

"Well, I learned from the best."

Brian laughed, and now, I teach you the art of the deal, C'mon kiddo, we've got a car to buy.

Justin groaned. "Today? Couldn't today be a 'stay in bed, read the paper, kind of day'?

"When did you start reading the paper?"

"Do you even get the paper delivered?"

'No, so if you want to read the paper, you have to get up"

Justin pouted

"Yeah, that pout has always worked with me" Brian threw over his shoulder sarcastically.

Justin heard the siren call of the shower and padded across the hall to join him.

"So" he said while washing Justin's hair "what kind of car do you want sonny-boy?"

Justin's knees almost buckled, he had missed being called that. He took a deep breath and laughed.

"I don't know, something practical, that will fit paint and large canvases"

"A mini van?" Brian had that half smile he used when he was trying not to seem mocking, yet needed to make it clear that he was TOTALLY mocking someone.

"No, don't be stupid, I'm not a soccer, mom, I'm an artist. I was thinking a regular van, or a pickup truck, with a cap."

"So you're not a soccer mom but you're willing to be a lesbian?"

Justin laughed, "don't be gross"

"They finished their shower and moved on to more interesting things to do with soap and naked bodies, and hot water.

When the hot water ran out, Justin kissed Brian and shaking his head of excess water said, "we need a bigger hot water heater"

"No shit"

"Well, just make sure we tell the contractor"

"Absolutely" Brian said while he towel dried the blonde's hair. It was easy, and comfortable this morning routine, they'd fallen back in the rhythm quickly.

In the kitchen Brian mentioned again that Justin needed clothes that were paint free, and Justin just stuck his tongue out at him and opened the fridge. He took out carton of juice and the eggs, and then stopped dead.

"What?" Brian said, immediately worried, Justin looked upset,

"Oh shit, I wanted to make you breakfast" there was a tear coming down Justin's cheek, he wiped it, but not quickly enough, Brian saw it

"Did something happen" he asked quietly, "Are you okay? You can make me breakfast if you want."

"We didn't buy any pots or pans or glasses, or bowls, or silverware, or …"

Brian didn't hear the rest of what he was saying, he pulled him close and held the kid who honestly seemed about to cry. As for himself, Brian was trying not to laugh.

"There will be plenty of time to make me breakfast."

"But I wanted this morning to be perfect."

"Yeah well, nothings perfect, haven't you learned that by now"

"Jesus Brian, do you always have to be such a shit, I was trying to do something nice for you."

"And you did, several times already this morning." He took the carton of eggs from Justin's hand "eggs are not the definition of perfect, in my book"

Justin leaned back from him, looking into his eyes "you don't like my eggs?"

Brian wasn't sure if he was going to laugh or…no he was going to laugh.

"I love your eggs, I just don't NEED you to make me eggs in the morning for it to be a perfectly perfect morning, but the more I think about it, a double headed steam shower with mega capacity hot water heater might do the trick" he kissed the boy, pulling their bodies together. Now, lets go find a bagel or something and buy you a car"

Justin followed him out the door, "okay, but we have to buy pots and pans and stuff today too."

Brian pinched the bridge of his nose and then looked up and smiled "if that's what makes it perfect for you" and with that, they were off.

Once at the auto mall they drove past a couple of dealerships. Trying to decide what they wanted to look at first.

"I should get something used" Justin said

"You're not getting a fucking used car."

"Why not, it's practical, and it can still be reliable, and the inside is just going to get covered with paint anyway, everything I own ends of covered in paint these days."

"I noticed, but I don't want a car someone's already had sex in. This is our car to christen"

"I thought it was MY car"

"It is, but were you planning of christening it with someone else?"

"No" Justin laughed, I'm just saying, we have like a gazillion rooms in the house, why is it important that the car be." Brian cut him off

"Cause you deserve a new car, so we're getting you a new car, end of this conversation."

Justin was touched, but also a bit confused, the old Brian, the Brian who had a tendency to react like an asshole based on emotions no one could possibly understand, sometimes not even Justin, was rearing it's head. Justin shook his head to clear his thoughts.

Ooh, pull in there.

Brian looked at him as if he'd just asked for them to make a quick stop at the goodwill for furniture. "Here?"

"Yeah, Toyotas are reliable"

"And boring"

What, should I go buy a jeep like your old one?

"There was nothing wrong with my jeep"

"And there's nothing wrong with the 'vette, except it seems to be the least fuckable space you own"

"And a Toyota would be better?"

Justin leaned in and whispered in Brian's ear, "it's not for you, it's for me."

Brian shrugged and pulled into the dealership.

After being schmoozed by a salesman who was trying desperately not to notice that he was selling a car to a couple of fags, they took one for a test drive.

"What do you think?" Justin asked of Brian

"I still think it's boring, but now I can add ugly and uncomfortable too"

Justin took the first turn the salesman pointed out. "It's got automatic seat warmers, you're ass will never be cold"

"I've never been accused of having anything other than a hot ass" Brian replied

The salesman was turning fourteen shades of red and Brian leaned forward behind the drivers seat and whispered something into Justin's ear. Justin laughed out loud and smiled, they took the car back to the dealership and stared at it.

"It is really ugly"

"I already told you that"

"And expensive for something that ugly"

"So we move on?"

"We move on"

They got back in Brian's car and headed down the road a short ways when Justin saw it.

"THERE!" it's perfect

Brian looked at him, hoping to go he was kidding "that is the ugliest thing I've ever seen"

"I love it"

"You would'

They walked into the dealership and started playing with the inside features.

"Christ, it's a fetish car, the entire inside is lined in rubber"

"That makes it perfect, it'll be easy to get the paint off the floor and doors, and look, the doors open like it's a barn door, that's ideal"

"Ideally ugly"

"Brian, you said it was my car"

"I didn't know you were going to pick the ugliest car ever produced"

"Well, we can't all drive around in little green penises"

"Fuck you"

"Later, right now, I have to drive this car"

The salesman gave them the keys and they took off to test drive the Honda Element.

"The sound system rocks" Justin pointed out

" The floor is made of rubber," Brian countered

"The seats lay all the way back"

"Well, there's nothing wrong with that"

"It will serve my purposes perfectly"

'Have I mentioned that this is the ugliest car I've ever seen"

"No it isn't Brian said smiling, this is the blue one"
"what's your point?"

"I'm getting the orange one" Justin smiled, it was his "I win" smile, he rarely got to use it on Brian, it was something he used more often with molly, but the look on Brian's face when he realized that this kid was going to buy and orange box as his new car… it was too much fun for Justin not to revel in it.

Brian made a few quick phone calls while they headed back to the dealership.

"What are you doing"?

"Making sure you're insured so you can buy this fucking ugly piece of shit"

"Really, you're gonna let me have it?"

"Is this the car you want?"

"It really is Brian"

"Then you can have it, but you have to park it in the garage. I can't come home every night and have to look at that thing, I'll be too nauseated to eat"

"Right Justin nodded, I'll park it in the garage, which, ahem, means that you'll be leaving the 'vette, outside all winter long?"

Brain moaned, "anyone ever tell you how aggravating you are"

"Mostly just you, but I know you don't mean it"

"No, I mean it"

The next couple of hours were the most boring Justin had ever spent, Brian seemed to be actually having a good time negotiating for the car, Justin just wanted it, but of course, Brian couldn't just sign a paper, he had to do a bazillion other paperwork things first, and so when all was finally said and done, the car was insured, and paid for, and the title was transferred and the new tags put on, and they handed the keys to Brian, who handed them right over to Justin.

"It's your car now" he leaned in and kissed the blonde boy who right now looked more like Gus's age than his own.

"C'mon, lets go get some lunch" I'll drive

Brian looked hesitant "you want me to drive around in that thing?"

"Yeah, your car will be safe here for a few hours, and we have to get stuff, and there's more room in here and a thousand logical reasons but mostly, I want to play with my new toy."

Brian laughed, he was eventually going to have to stop indulging Justin's every whim, but that wasn't gonna be today, so he climbed in the passenger seat, and as they took off he lit a joint.

He handed it over to Justin, who waved it away "Brian, I'm driving"

"I know, but we have to do boring shit, lets make it less boring"

Justin took a hit "fine, but I'm not getting totally stoned with you, we never get anything done when we're totally stoned"

"Well, we do each other"

"That's not what I meant" Justin took another short toke and Brian took the spliff back and inhaled deeply.

"Food"

Justin smiled, and pulled into the mall parking lot.

"There's a food court"

"Is there food there?"

"Brian you're totally stoned"

"I know, that's why I need food, and why I'm letting you take me to a mall in the suburbs, and why I'm not spanking your for suggesting we eat at the food court"

"Brian I came here cause there's a Williams Sonoma, so we can get kitchen stuff, or else all the food we bought yesterday is useless, we can't even eat the ice cream, we don't have spoons"

Brian started to laugh

"Christ you're really stoned"

"I know, get stoned with me"

"If I get stoned with you…"

Brian cut him off with a kiss, that was actually a transfer of smoke from his lungs to Justin's."

"Do it again"

Brian did

And soon they were both so stoned that the in fact did eat at the food court, from several different vendors. And then made their way up to Williams Sonoma, but on the way they passed the Godiva store.

"I fucking love this shit" Brian practically yelled

Justin was too busy laughing to even shush him.

A half hour and about $200.00 later, they left Godivas with a bag in hand, and chocolate on their tongues.

"You missed a spot," Brian said, as he leaned in and licked a small amount of chocolate off of Justin's lips. Justin giggled.

When they finally got to Williams Sonoma they had decided that they needed to seem more normal, so they walked in, trying to look very serious. It lasted about five minutes and then Brian held up a Mexican hand painted dish with a large chicken on it

"Should we go for the big cock pattern?"

Justin couldn't stop laughing, so they moved themselves to the back of the store.

"Brian, this is serious, we're gonna have to look at these dishes all the time, we should totally pay attention and pick something that we like, and I can't concentrate if you're going to continue nibbling on my ear like that." Brian stopped.

"Okay now I can't concentrate because you're not nibbling on my ear and I miss it."

Brian rolled his eyes in mock martyrdom, "anything for my little sonny boy" and he pulled him against his chest, and rested his chin on Justin's shoulder and together they studied the place setting options.

Brian pointed to one

"You are obviously very stoned" Justin said, and pointed to a contrasting set in vibrant colors

"Yes, because I've always wanted dishes that looked like I bought them at wal-mart"

Justin sighed, how 'bout these, they're pretty classic? "They were white with an intricate but small blue pattern around the edge, the salad plates and coffee mugs that went with them were in that blue.

"They match your eyes, lets get them"

"We can't buy plates because they match my eyes"

"Why not?"

"Um, because it's 'ridiculously romantic"

"No, it's just easier, then when anything else has to match I don't have to worry about it, cause I can always pick out the color of your eyes"

Justin looked at him, and realized that he was too stoned to know that what he'd just said was unbearably sweet, so he kissed him, hard.

"Mmmmmm, you taste like chocolate"

They went on to choose silver ware, and glasses and a set of all-clad cook ware and bake ware, and a juicer, and well, every stupid device that makes people go "why would you need one of these" and then you either make up a reason, or say "maybe the person who buys those is high"

And so when everything was loaded into the back of the car, they were both mellow but no longer actively stoned, and were suddenly laughing because they had just purchased moose shaped pancake shapers, and seriously, how stoned do you have to be to think those are a good idea.

Justin was still happier than he'd ever been.

He dropped Brian off at his car, and headed back towards the house.

Brian got into his car, lit a cigarette and took a minute to smile before heading back to the house.

Each of them tried not to feel weird not being within arms reach of the other, but it was the first time in 48 hours that they had been apart, and it brought back memories for the both of them.

End chapter 4

Chapter Five

Brian was driving back to the house, back home and trying not to think. Thinking was bad, thinking lead to ideas, ideas led to sharing the ideas, that led to conversation, conversation led to discussion, discussion led to conclusion and a conclusion could end up being not what you want.

Brian had never liked things that weren't what he wanted so he was concentrating fiercely on not thinking.

Justin was thinking, he liked thinking. Thinking led to ideas, which lead to new concepts, which led to trying new things, ideas were fun.

They both reached the house within moments of each other, and Brian said nothing when Justin pulled his car into the garage, and Justin said nothing when Brian pulled his car in next to it.

"It's still ugly"

"I still love it"

Brian leaned in to kiss him against the ugly orange box with rubber trim and…Justin's phone rang.

"Hi Deb"

"Sunshine, your mom told me you were in town"

"And I am"

:"Well it's Friday night, family dinner, and you will be there, I don't want to hear another word about it"

"ummm, I'm not sure Deb," he said, as Brian manipulated the young mans body in ways that made debs rigatoni the very last thing on his mind, "I might have some…" he gasped and tried to wriggle out of Brian's grasp but only succeeded in entangling the two bodies closer together "erm, some stuff to do." He finished lamely.

"Bullshit, you have all the time in the world to do stuff, tonight you're coming to dinner"

"I'll try Deb, I really will"

"You'll do more than try sunshine, I haven't seen you in ages, you're probably skinny as a rail"

"Deb, I said…"

"Great, I'll see you at seven"

He closed his phone and half moaned at the feel of Brian kissing the skin he'd exposed on his belly by pushing his shirt up, and half groaned at the concept of Deb's patented Friday night family dinners. He was about to mention it to Brian when Brian's phone rang.

Brian smiled and answered

"Hi Deb"

'Hey asshole, dinner tonight, no excuses, you haven't been in weeks, and you're coming"

"I may have… stuff to do" he said, raising his eyebrows suggestively at the broadly smiling blonde who was now unbuttoning Brian's shirt and kissing each new piece of exposed flesh.

"You'll be there or I'm never serving you coffee at the diner again"

"Yes, and I'm sure I'd die without those cups of black poison you've been serving me for years" he tried not to moan, as he ineffectually tried to remove Justin from his left nipple

"You would and you know it, so seven o'clock, and don't be late your majesty"

"I'll try Deb" but she'd already hung up.

Justin continued his ministrations but Brian's head wasn't in the game. Justin noticed his lack of response and leaned back against his car, "so what's up?"

"Family dinner, as I'm sure you've heard."

"Yeah, I've kind of missed those"

Deb always made pasta on Fridays and there was a standing invitation to all who were a part of their extended family.

Emmet still living with Debbie was there whenever there wasn't a party to give. Ted and Blake were pretty reliable, Michael Ben and Hunter were a given and back in the day Mel, Lindz, Gus and JR were pretty regular guests themselves.

Since Vic was gone, even with Carl around, these dinners were more important to Debbie, so most of them made an effort to come at least a couple of times a month.

When Mel and Lindz were still around Brian made more of an effort, he loved seeing Gus, and it was one of the few chances he got to see him without feeling like an intruder in the muncher's happy home life.

And Justin had enjoyed them in his day, but now that they were … what were they? Back together…trying it again, something, and Brian wasn't sure he was ready to go public.

"We could get out of it" he exhaled a stream of cigarette smoke as he looked at Justin trying to decided if the kid wanted to go or not.

"We could" Justin agreed, "or… we could go, and just get it over with in one fell swoop, hell, once Deb and Michael know, it will be no time at all until everyone knows and then it's there, out in the open"

"Is that where we want it? Fuck out in the open, behind closed doors, or well, in a back room or an alley has always seemed to work for us"

Justin took a step forward, taking a drag from Brian's cigarette and scrutinizing his lovers face "what are you so afraid of, we almost got married"

"Yeah," Brian said ruefully, "almost"

"But we both decided it wasn't what we wanted"

"Sure as hell not what I wanted"

The words hurt Justin, but he said nothing

"So why is it so wrong to come out and admit that we're together again"

"Because that never works for us"

"Brian being apart is what has never worked for us, being together…we do that well" with that Justin leaned in to kiss Brian, who turned his head away

"Being together works for me" he said it quietly, Justin almost didn't hear him

"It works for me, but every time you leave me, every time I…."

Justin waited while Brian seemed to be gathering his thoughts or his courage "every time I push you away, you end up stronger, more successful, better"

"I want you with me, but you're going to leave again, and I'm okay with that, I'll take what I can get from you…yeah, this time it's me accepting the compromise, but I won't do it publicly, I won't walk into the diner to those pitying looks and, Christ, I won't be treated like a grieving widow again"

Justin had never questioned that he had hurt Brian when he left, but the depths to which Brian felt it, that was new territory for him. And Justin wasn't planning on leaving again. He started there.

"I'm not going anywhere"

"You've said that before"
"this time I mean it," the words sounded empty even to Justin.

"Brian, I was a kid, a stupid kid, who kept running, looking for something, something that YOU kept convincing me was out there, success, opportunity, "

"Love" Brian interrupted

"Yeah, love, but I was dumb, I was pathetic, I was insane, I was blind, I know what love is now, it took me a while, and it took a lot of mistakes but I know what love is now, and it isn't pretty words, and it isn't sacrificing, and it isn't …" Justin took a breath

"Fucking A Brian, it isn't anything but YOU, you and ME, US, together, that's what love is to me, what it's always been, since that first moment you approached a stupid pretty, and naïve boy under the streetlamp 'til now, everything we've done has been about love, about the fact that you love me, that I love you and that's the only reason to be together, and the real reason it's scary. If I didn't love you, I wouldn't care, and if you didn't love me, I couldn't hurt you, and you wouldn't be scared, but I do and you are and that's just something we're gonna have to get used to because it's a constant part of our relationship.

You care, and are scared and you hate both of those feelings, and you know what, I don't care, anymore that you hate loving me, because you may hate it, but you still do it, and that's all I care about, so go ahead, keep us in the relationship closet, and we won't tell anyone, and pretend that I'm gonna leave someday if it makes you feel safer, but I'll tell you something, and I can't make you believe it, I can only prove it to you every day that you wake up with me drooling on your shoulder, I'm not fucking going anywhere."

This last part was said in a pure full drama queen hissy pitch. And Justin stormed out of the garage and into the house, or at least thought he had, but he had chosen the wrong door and found himself in a utility closet full of cans of paint and a ladder, and a perfectly appointed pegboard full of tools. He just stood there, fuming, and trying not to cry.

Brian was dumbstruck by what Justin had just said, all of it, but as he was trying to process it he watched the kid stomp off into the closet and realized what had happened. He was trying not to laugh, trying really really hard not to laugh, he put his thumb on his cheek and his fingers over his eyes, covering his face in that patented way that meant he was afraid to look, but the door didn't re open.

He finally gave up and opened the door, took a step forward and wrapped his arms around Justin's waist, pulling his back towards Brian's still partially exposed chest.

"Well, you really won't be leaving if you can't even find your way out of the garage"

Justin could hear the smirk in his voice

"Fuck you, you're the one who bought a house that 's too big with too many doors, I never got lost in the loft"

"Yeah well, that's what was great about the loft, I could always keep an eye on you"

"Yeah well, now you're gonna have to just trust that when I'm in another room I'm not packing"

"Trust isn't my strong suit"

"And you have no reason to trust me"

"I have one"

"Is one enough"

"It's gonna have to be, isn't it?"
Justin shrugged, "up to you"

"I'm gonna let it be enough, but I need to tell you something, and it's kinda important"

Justin turned around in his arms, and looked into his eyes which were dark, and serious

"This is the absolute last time, if you get some itch, any itch, that you think I can't scratch, and you don't talk to me about it, if you just walk out…I will understand, but I will never ever ever accept your trust, your love or your apology again"

Justin looked at him, "so I can get itches scratched so long as I tell you about them?"

"That's the deal that's always worked best for us, but no one comes back to our home, understood?"

"And you?"

"I'm not all that itchy these days, but I'm a guy, and I'm not gonna make you a promise that will make me lose you, so lets just say that we're honest, and careful, and at the end of it all…" Brian took a deep breath; there were still things that were very hard to say

"I love YOU"

Justin smiled and kissed him

"We have to get all that shit into the kitchen now you know, we cant just leave it in the back of the car".

Brian groaned

"And we're going to dinner at debs" Justin added, if you're going to trust me, you're gonna have to trust me in public"

"I thought you said we could stay in the relationship closet"

Justin looked around them at the tool shed/utility closet the were standing in an wrinkled his nose "you really want to stay here?"

Brian laughed "fine, dinner at Debs"

"Now can we get this stuff unloaded, because I am dealing with an urgent need to fuck you till you see stars."

Justin reached inside Brian's jeans and massaged his already erect cock…"the stuff in the car can wait"

Chapter 6

TORONTO CANADA

Mel opened the envelope, and called Lindz on the phone. "We got an invite to Brian and Justin's house warming, it's in three months."

"Do you think we should go?"

"Gus would love to see his new room"

"And his dad" Lindsey added

"Yeah, and his dad"

"Well, it has been a while since we've been down, and Brian has said the house has plenty of guest space, so we won't have to stay in some hotel. He's even put a room together for JR"

"You've been talking to him a lot"

"Mel, stop, you know Brian and I talk, he has a lot of extra time on his hands with Justin working so hard on getting the show together, I think he really misses us"

"He misses you"

'And Gus"

"He has a funny way of showing it":

"Mel, he's running his own agency, he's trying to renovate a house which, from all accounts is enormous, and he and Justin are still in that newlywed stage, he can't exactly drop everything to come up here"

"Christ it's cold, is the furnace working"

"I don't know honey, I'm at work, why don't you go check the furnace"

"Why are you talking to me like I'm five years old."

"I'm not"

"Whatever, so we'll go"

"I'll be home late but make sure you give Gus and JR a big kiss for me"

:"Yeah of course"

And they both hung up. Lindsay was excited, she was looking forward to going back and seeing everyone, and she was worried, Melanie had become more and more distant and angry lately. She'd always been angry, it was one of the things Mel did best, but the weird distant thing, that was troublesome.

PITTSBURGH

"Explain it to me again"

"Brian, we've been over this a thousand times"

Brian and Justin were sitting in the "den" it was the only room in the house other than the studio that was even remotely livable, as everything else was under construction.

"Look Brian, we've got hardwood floors, and this room which looks suspiciously like a loft I used to know" Brian smiled, Justin wasn't wrong.

Most of the furniture in the den was streamlined and modern, the home theatre system was state of the art and the his computer was living here until the study was done, so they had moved into a huge house, to go back to essentially living in one room while the rest was being deconstructed and reconstructed.

"I understand that this room is…lets just say "loft like" right, but the house is a traditional Tudor, so the whole thing can't look like one big Ikea showroom. "

"Like I've ever fucking bought anything from Ikea."

"You know what I mean"

Justin was practically sitting on Brian's lap at this point as they both pored over the style samples that the new decorator had left them. It can't all be white. You know, you have a son, who will be here sometimes, and he's at that stage where he has sticky fingers"

"Gus has started shoplifting?"

"Actual sticky fingers, the kind with dirt and jam and… I don't know…kid goo on them"

"Kid goo?"

:"Brian, seriously you know what I mean"

"I do, but…I like this one", Brian held up a design board with varying shades and textures of white.

"This one looks exactly like the last one, but with a tiny bit of… what is that?"

"That? it's actually an ash from my cigarette"

"So it is EXACTLY the same"

"Not exactly, this one has more detail in the wainscoting"

"Brian we're not pulling down all that beautiful HISTORIC wall paneling to put up some shiny white sculptured wall"

"We're not?"

"I give up, go with this one and remember that I'm not christening any rooms with you that I haven't approved. Now I have to get back to work"

"You were supposed to be taking a dinner break."

"I did"

"You didn't eat"

"Not hungry, I'll eat later," he turned his head and kissed Brian. "Think about the sage and honey combo, I like that one best.

"Sounds like a lesbian tea flavor"

Justin kissed him again, "really think about it."

Brian smiled, "I'm thinking"

Justin smiled and headed back off to his studio. Once inside he locked the door and stood pondering the canvass he was currently working on. It was 8:30

He had installed the lock last week, and it wasn't Brian's favorite thing ever, but the interruptions were counterproductive to his…productivity.

Sure, the great shower and the airy light space, and the fact that he was in here a lot made the room appealing to Brian, but he really needed to work, and Brian was an expert at distracting him. Thus the lock. Brian wanted a key, but that would defeat the purpose and so they'd argued and Justin had won. Justin seemed to be winning a lot of the arguments lately, but that was not something he was going to question, after all, Brian had won his fair share as well.

The Bed, Brian had won the argument about the bed.

Well, not won so much as made a very very convincing argument that the custom designed headboard wasn't bizarre or too "modern art" but that's because you had to know how to work it. It looked like a extraordinarily uncomfortable place to rest one's back, or head, and in fact, it kind of was, but, each swirl of in the clean light wood, each knob, hook, twist, and turn of the carving on the had a purpose. Basically, there were about five hundred ways to be tied to that headboard…so far they'd only tried about twenty, but both were looking forward to experimenting with the others. And as an added benefit, it looked like art… just so long as your goal wasn't to sit up and read in bed, it was perfect.

The master bath was another issue entirely; it was clearly made for far more than grooming. The shower, 14 stream steam jets on either side with dual rain shower heads was made for luxury, and the jetted tub was built for two…or more, and had the one selling point that had made the decision easy for both of them, it had a re-circulating heater, which meant the water never got cold. They'd also added a second high capacity water heater for the shower. Mornings were long and unproductive, and they both preferred it that way.

The bedroom itself, had the bed, and that's it, they were breaking through to the adjoining room to build two large walk-in closets, but they had yet to pick colors or design styles. Justin knew it would be another struggle to get Brian to go for something that didn't look exactly like his loft…. he'd already suggested that the bedroom doors be glass… Justin and the designer had sighed and moved on.

The new designer, this was their third, may actually have be making headway, Justin wasn't sure, but Brian had almost agreed to think about a couple of club chairs that weren't white or black leather, so he had hopes. He surveyed the canvass again, and began working on the next step of this project. He was working on a five-piece set and this third would be crucial for the transition. He was so completely wrapped up in what he was doing that the next time he looked up it was three in the morning. Exhausted, and at a decent stopping point, he headed up to bed.

Brian looked through the boards again, the sage and honey looked like the exact color scheme of Mel and Lindz old house, which made him miss her. He picked up his cell and dialed her number.

"Lindsay."

"Brian, it's great to hear from you."

"Yeah, I was just thinking about you…and Gus, and thought I'd call"

"I'm glad you did"

"So how are you?"

"Oh you know, working at this new gallery is a challenge, the owner wants to show more classical pieces but the market is calling for things that are more modern and then he gets upset when sales aren't where he'd like them to be, so, you know, same old same old"

"And Gus, is he up?"
"Would you like to talk to him?"

"If he's up"

"Gus, Gus, it's your daddy"

Brian's heart melted just a little tiny bit

"Daddy"

"Hey sonny-boy"

"Daddy, you'll never guess what happened to me yesterday, I was in the park and me and jenny was playing on the swings and then Sam started to push jenny but I pushed him away cause I protect jenny she's my sister so Sam said that I was a baby and I pushed him again and he said he could jump higher than me on the swings and I said he couldn't and so we both started swinging really really high and when I was almost gonna go all the way around I jumped and Sam broke my arm."

"What?"
"Sam broke my arm, but the doctor made Sam say he was sorry, and gave me a blue cast with a green stripe and now I don't have to take a bath for a MONTH"

"Put your mother on the phone"

"Lindz?"

"Yes Brian"

"I'm not sure which parts of that story to believe, mind filling me in"

"Oh the Sam stuff is still imaginary, and Gus likes to play tough…and yeah, we had a scare yesterday but it's just a hairline fracture, which at his age isn't that serious, and he's fine now, and he can't get it wet for a month, which he has decided means no baths, but I promise to bathe your child Brian"

"Why didn't you tell me"?

"There really wasn't anything to tell, it's all kind of part and parcel of having a four year old boy…boys do stupid things like jumping really high off the swings."

"I would have liked to have known"

"And you do, today, I was going to call you Friday if I didn't hear from you. Besides, Justin tells me you're busy gutting the house, Mel and I can't wait to see it"

"Yeah well, if it's ever done, you'll all get to see it, until then, you'll let me know if he breaks anything else right?"

"Brian I'm sorry I didn't tell you"

"It's okay, not your fault, is his cast really blue with a green stripe?"

Lindsay laughed, "yeah, it is, but I put the stripe on there for him, he was pretty upset when it first happened, now he's happily blaming Sam"

"And you're telling me we shouldn't be worried about the imaginary Sam?"

"No, nor should we worry about Shelby, Sam's imaginary dog, I promise, it's all part of normal development"

"Thank you Lindsay"

"For what Brian"

"For being his mom, you're good at it"

"Brian, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm great. How's Mel doing?"
"She's aggravated, she spent all that time and energy to become a lawyer, and it's not really a valuable commodity up here, an American lawyer, so she's trying to do what she has to in order to practice up here, but you know Mel, everything's a roadblock, everyone's out to get her, everyone's trying to keep her from getting what she wants…she wants it to happen NOW."

Brian laughed, "yep, sounds like Mel to me"

"Brian, Jenny's got to get a bath, and Gus needs to be in bed, I really have to go"

"Absolutely, I'll talk to you later.

"G'night Brian"

"G'night Wendy"

Brian hung up and poured himself a double… it was the only limitation he'd set on his drinking, after a rather heated debate with Justin, he would not, on a regular basis, drink straight from the bottle anymore. He wasn't sure why that was an issue but he shrugged it off. Little things to make Justin happy were easy, the big things, they took time and energy and money and… Christ, he looked at the sage and honey color scheme again, and possibly a blindfold.

He smoked another cigarette and finished up some of the busywork he had left to do for the new chain restaurant account they'd picked up last week. It would be millions in revenue, which was a good thing, the place was as cookie cutter as chains get, and Brian was trying to find a way to differentiate the place, so far, he hadn't come up with anything. He was pacing and still had nothing at one in the morning when he gave up and went to bed. It looked like Justin would be spending another night in the studio, the kid was getting positively nocturnal, but he was also apparently getting a lot of work done, at least he was if one could judge by the amount of paint on his clothes at the end of a long night painting.

Brian was asleep when Justin made it up to bed, he dropped his pants and shirt in a pile next to the bed and crawled in, he moved himself closer to Brian and instinctively Brian reached out an arm and drew him against his chest. Justin smiled to himself; he was almost asleep when he realized he was hungry. He debated extricating himself from the bed to get something to eat but realized he'd be up in a few hours and there was plenty of time to eat tomorrow, in the meantime, he was almost done his third canvas of the set, he moved just a smidge closer to Brian, feeling the warmth of his skin against his back and legs, and slept.

When Brian heard the alarm he hit it fast. He had a no idea what time Justin had made it up to bed, but he didn't want to wake him. It was odd, Justin was a heavy sleeper, slept like the dead, but lately, he woke up at slight sounds. He seemed not to be sleeping much at all, Brian remembered being in his early twenties, when three hours of sleep was enough to get him through an entire day, and late into the next night, he liked at least six, hours these days. So he was careful not to wake Justin if he could help it.

He got out of bed, glancing back he looked at the sleeping boy… man, "I have got to stop thinking of him as a boy" Brian thought to himself, but laying there, sleeping, his lashes against his pale skin, the dark circles under his eyes from too many nights of painting with no sleep, somehow made him seem younger not older. He headed towards the shower, putting the water on as hot as he could stand it.

He was trying to think of some way to make a crappy uniform chain restaurant seem hip, trendy, fun, sexy or even remotely interesting when he felt the cold draft of the shower door opening, and then the warm feel of Justin's skin against his.

He turned around, soap still in his hair, and leaned his head back to rinse it out while pulling Justin closer to him. He leaned his head forward again and opened his eyes. "Good morning sunshine"

"mmmmm" was all Justin had to say as he leaned in for a kiss. Justin's hot mouth was suddenly all over him, and Brian was again reminded of one of the many benefits of being with a horny 23 year old, he was insatiable.

Before he could fully fixate on what Justin was doing, his cock was against the back of the blonde's throat. He looked down, and marveled. One of the things that always turned him on about Justin was not that he gave great head, although he did, it was how much he genuinely got off on it. Just loved it, Brian could, kiss, stroke, suck, nuzzle and fuck Justin all night long, and little he did turned Justin on as much as when he was allowed to take control with his mouth. His tongue, his lips, the way he used the back of his throat, as another method of caress, the kid was a genius. Brian gave himself over to the feeling, allowing the jet streams of water to spray across his back, as the water from the rainhead soaked the both of them in hot water, and Justin's mouth and hands worked their magic. It wasn't long before Brian was shooting down Justin's throat, and the Justin was swallowing as if it was all he had been craving. When he finished, Brian was leaning back against the glass wall, and Justin stood up and leaned his entire body against Brian's and kissed him, letting Brian taste himself on Justin's tongue.

Brian was kissing Justin now, preparing to return the favor, in spades, when Justin shook his head, "I've got to get back to the studio, I was really just taking a cat nap, but a little high protein breakfast is a great way to start the day"

Brian didn't believe him, not for a second. Justin had played this game a few times before, but he always eventually gave in to Brian's attentive ministrations. If he thought about it long enough Brian would probably conclude that Justin enjoyed the chase, liked to feel that Brian WANTED to blow him, or rim him, not that it was simple reciprocity. But today was different, Justin slipped out of the shower, pulled on the clothes that he had dropped on the floor the night before, without even drying off, the shirt sticking to his back, and the thin cotton of the cargo pants molding to his perfect ass as he jammed his feet into a pair of sneakers and made his way to the studio.

He finished showering, got dressed and headed down to the den for his laptop and briefcase. Music was already blaring from the studio, and the construction guys were starting to file in to complete the renovations to the upstairs bedroom.

The worst part for Brian of all the renovations was that it was no longer safe to walk around the house barefoot, and he always had to make sure he was wearing shoes before he left the bedroom, or den. He couldn't wait 'til the renovations were completed so that he could forego shoes again.

He tried the studio door, it was locked. He swallowed his anger and knocked on the door…no answer. He knocked again, and Justin came to the door, a paint smudge already on his cheek. Brian laughed,

"Muse hit hard today?"

"Came to me in my sleep"
"mmm, what else came to you in your sleep"?

Justin gave a sly grin, "lots of things, but this idea is too brilliant to ignore"

"Don't work to hard"

"Never"

"See you tonight?"

"Where else would I be?"

Brian leaned in to kiss Justin, who kissed him back, but carefully so as not to ruin his suit with paint.

"Tomorrow, we're getting you some clothes that aren't covered in paint"

"Why?"

"Cause I'd like to take you out to dinner without your looking like a homeless starving artist with no taste"

Justin stuck out his tongue at Brian.

Brian leaned in and licked the pink appendage and smiled "see you tonight"

And he was off to figure out how to make just another chain look like someplace someone might want to go to eat.

Chapter 7

Brian came home to find catalogs strewn across the coffee table. Post it notes marked a few pages. He went upstairs and quickly changed into jeans and a black t-shirt and made his way downstairs to find out what it was Justin thought they should buy now.

When he looked more closely at the catalogs he laughed. They were for clothes, Justin was telling him, in his own passive aggressive way, that he was NOT going clothes shopping. Brian knocked on the studio door.

When Justin opened it he looked tired, he was covered in paint, and the entire room smelled like chemicals sweat and stale cigarettes. Brian wasn't sure he'd ever seen Justin looking so fucking cute.

He kissed him lightly on the nose, and then held up the catalogs with a menacing look in his eye. "We're going shopping, I'm not ordering your clothes through the fucking mail."

"Why not, look, they've got everything I need in the lands end catalog."

"Lands end, I thought I raised you better than that"

"Brian, everything I own ends up covered in paint, or in a heap on the floor, I'm pretty sure your head would explode if I did that to things with labels like, Armani, or Prada, or…" he exhaled slowly as he leaned in closer to Brian as if these words were the most erotic ever, "Dolce and Gabana"

Brian leaned in, breathing in the air Justin was exhaling, "I'll fucking kill you if you get paint on your new Prada shoes, but it doesn't mean I'm not buying you a pair."

Justin was almost finished with the third canvas, he kissed Brian more deeply and said, "Fine, you're the sugar daddy, you win, as soon as this canvas is done, I'll let you dress me up like a little toy."

Brian wanted to balk at the image, but in truth, he found it sexy so he just smiled. "Time for a dinner break?"

Justin frowned, "not right now, I've got to keep working, grab something without me, I'll try not to make it too late of a night"

"I owe you something for this morning, Brian whispered, biting at Justin's earlobe in a way that made Justin all too aware of what he meant."

"And I plan on collecting. I just need to get a little more done before this layer dries."

Brian shrugged, your loss if you don't make it up to bed in time."

"Trust me, I don't plan on losing anything, except maybe this hard on" and with that he moved Brian's hand lower so that he could feel how much the mere thought of him, just his presence so close, affected him"

Brian smiled, and backed away from the studio door, he popped in a movie and turned on his computer.

It was a full 24 hours before Justin emerged from his studio. He was tired, exhausted actually. He had showered to avoid dragging paint through the house and was wearing only a robe when he tiptoed past the den to the bedroom, it was only 7 pm and he knew Brian was working, he'd heard him come home, he was vaguely aware that Brian had stopped to say good morning to him about 12 hours ago, but he had been so involved in what he was doing he had barely noticed.

"STOP." He heard Brian's command. He turned around and smiled, his wet hair still spiky and uncombed.

"Hi"

"What's up?"

"Nothing, just hit a good stopping place, thought I'd take a nap"

"mmm hmm, how bout some dinner first."

"Brian I'm too tired to cook anything."

"I figured, I brought home a pizza."

Justin was torn, pizza vs. sleep…they both sounded too good to pass up

"I'll reheat it when I wake up, I swear Brian, I'm about to fall over"

Brian looked at Justin and realized he wasn't exaggerating, the circles beneath his eyes were darker, and deeper, and suddenly he saw him sway on his feet.

"Jesus Justin, have you eaten anything today?"

"Sure, I had a high protein breakfast."

Brian looked at him oddly, "That was yesterday."

"Was it? Wow, I really lost track of time."

Justin was trying to back away, he honestly felt like he was about to fall over, he needed to rest, but he was dying to finish the work he was doing.

Brian approached him slowly, trying not to be worried, hell, at Justin's age, a couple of sleepless nights were harmless, he was working hard to convince himself of this when Justin's knees buckled.

Brian moved fast and cat like, catching him before he hit the floor, "Justin, …Hey, Justin" more panicked now "Justin!"

Justin looked up, Brian's face was directly above his, his hazel eyes dark with…what, worry? Anger? Something."

He reached up and ran a hand through Brian's hair "told you I was tired."

"You're more than tired, you're worn out"

Justin tried to wriggle out of Brian's embrace, "That's why I'm going to bed, I just need some sleep."

"and some food" Brian added

"Yeah, when I wake up, I'll eat, I promise" and with that he kissed Brian's nose and turned to walk away. Brian pulled him back by the sleeve of his robe, and lifted him up "Why don't you just let me put you to bed."

"This is silly." Justin said, settling his head against Brian's shoulder and wrapping his arms around his neck.

"So I'm silly, I've been called worse."

Brian tucked Justin in the same way he would with Gus, well, maybe not EXACTLY the same, but with care, and a tenderness Brian rarely showed in the bedroom, and Justin was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.

Brian piled enough pillows against the headboard to make himself more comfortable and just sat, watching Justin sleep, and trying to recreate the timeline of the past couple of weeks. When was the last time he'd seen Justin sleep for more than a couple of hours at a clip, or eat really anything at all?

When he was sure Justin was dead to the world he crept out of bed and down to the studio, as he had hoped, Justin had been to tired to remember to lock it.

The place was a mess, but he had figured that, it was littered with full ashtrays, "Christ the kid smokes more than I do these days." he thought to himself. The rest of the debris was from paint, brushes, paint thinner, about a hundred empty water bottles but no food wrappers, no half eaten sandwiches, no plates, nothing to imply that he ever ate in here at all. Brian stood back and looked at the canvas prominently displayed on the easel, it took his breath away.

It could be considered abstract, if you didn't know what it was, but the pattern was all to familiar to Brian, each deep wrinkle, each brownish red blotch, it was a ten foot replica of that fucking scarf. There was silk, painted painstakingly, the texture and pattern seeming to come off the canvas in 3 D and the fringe, dirty, with… Brian moved closer, a bloody fingerprint, HIS bloody fingerprint, pale but there. This is what Justin was working on? This is what Justin has been practically possessed by? He wasn't sure if it was a healthy purging of a bad memory, or a sick obsession, all he knew was that as ugly as the memory was, as ugly as the actual object was, Justin had made it a powerful piece of art. Some may never understand it to be anything other than an abstract expression of texture and movement but Brian knew it to be much more than that.

He backed out of the studio slowly and locked the door behind him.

Justin woke up three hours later and climbed out of bed.

"what the fuck are you doing?"

"I got some sleep, I'm going back to work."

"You said you'd eat something."

"I will, but not 'til I..."

"You will, now."

"Brian, I'm not hungry"

"Bullshit, I've never known you not to be hungry"

Justin's stomach tensed, his whole body tensed, he needed to be back in the studio, he knew he was being obsessive, recognized it, but couldn't help it, he was drawn to finishing this, if he could finish this then… what? He didn't know what came next he just knew it had to be finished.

"I just need to finish this" he said it out loud but in almost a whisper

"Who's stopping you?"

"You are."

"No, I'm stopping you from making yourself sick, ending up in the hospital, not from finishing your work. I promise, it will be there in the morning, but until then, you're not leaving this bed."

"Fuck you" Justin half laughed with a smile on his face, "You can't keep me here."

Brian raised his eyebrows and glanced at their headboard, "I'll tie you to the bed if I need to, but you're going to get some sleep."

Justin looked at Brian, he wasn't kidding, and he was only half flirting, mostly he was demanding.

Justin tried again, heading towards the bedroom door, "Brian, I'll sleep, and I'll eat, I promise, I just need to…"

Brian was in front of him blocking the door before he knew it "finish this canvas?" Brian finished the sentence for him.

"I thought you hated it when couples finish each others sentences."

"You know what I hate more?"

"What?" Justin smiled and wrinkled his nose, trying all of his best tricks to get Brian to give in.

"taking care of a sick kid, so why don't you just be a good little boy and lay back down in bed." Brian's tone was mocking, but his eyes were serious and his body language said that he was clearly not in a teasing mood.

Justin weighed his options. He could fight, then he'd never get to the studio, Brian let him win some fights, but only the ones he was willing to, and Justin knew Brian well enough to know that in the end, he'd never win a power struggle with the older man. The pretty blonde sighed. "fine, I'll go back to bed, but…"

"Uh uh, no negotiating, you're going back to bed."

Justin took off his pants and crawled back into bed.

"Do you want me to reheat some of that pizza for you? Brian asked

"Really not hungry" Justin said, and Brian lay back in bed as well. Justin curled up around him, using him like a body pillow and resting his head on Brian's shoulder.

"You know this means you're gonna wake up with drool on your shoulder again" Justin said.

Brian smiled, "I'm looking forward to it."

Justin smiled too, and was soon back asleep, trying not to let his mind race about what he had left to finish in the studio.

Brian sighed and lit a cigarette, smoking and thinking while the younger man curled around him further, he wasn't sure how worried he should be, but in the small hours of the morning, he allowed himself to worry deeply, about Justin, about Gus and his arm, about Lindsay and how she didn't sound okay lately, and about this stupid new account and why he couldn't come up with a sexy way to sell a chain restaurant. He finally started to doze around two am. At three he felt Justin stir, and then felt more than saw him slowly extricate himself from Brian and sneak out of bed. Brian opened his eyes and simply stated "Back. In. Bed. Now."

Justin knew that tone and sighed, his plan hadn't worked; he crawled back in bed and was asleep within minutes. When Brian was sure he was really asleep he let himself sleep again, a plan formulating.

Brian awoke at seven am. Justin was still sleeping. Brian breathed a deep sigh of relief that the obsessed little artist hadn't snuck back down to the studio Throwing on a pair of jeans and shoes Brian grabbed his phone and made a few calls.

By the time he returned to the bedroom Justin was in the shower, and Brian smiled. He quickly lost the shoes and jeans and went to join him. Justin turned around and flashed him his patented sunshine grin. "I'm sorry about last night."

"Don't be sorry, just start taking care of yourself sunshine, you're no good to me dead."

"Brian, it was hardly a near death experience, he said as he massaged Brian's scalp while shampooing his hair."

"yeah, I guess not" Brian said, lets just say we all have our drama queen moments and forget about it.

"Deal" Justin said as he leaned in and kissed Brian. "Now, if I recall, you owe me something." Brian smiled, a wicked grin and pushed the boy against the glass, kissing the spot between Justin's shoulder blades that made chills run down his entire body. "his fucking shoulder blades" Brian thought, "who has an erogenous zone between their shoulder blades?" Justin did, and he moaned as he felt Brian's hot wet mouth move lower. Brian's hands were moving up Justin's thighs and his mouth was moving down his back, it was as if Brian's entire body was closing in on Justin's dick and Justin was having trouble thinking about anything, and so he stopped thinking.

Brian loved the taste of Justin, clean, but spicy, the kid was honestly like a drug to him, he could never get enough, he stopped his movements as his hands lightly grazed Justin's hard and practically weeping dick, and then moved lower again so his hands were flat against the top of his thighs, so close to where Justin wanted them to be, and yet, so far, he continued his descent until he hit the small of Justin's back, and then stopped there, kissing and nuzzling the small spot until Justin was moaning, practically begging "Brian" it was almost a whine. Brian waited a moment and then moved his mouth lower, running his tongue gently along the crack of that perfect ass. Justin pushed back, trying to get more, but Brian wouldn't let him. He tried to spread his legs wider but with Brian's hands still firmly on his thighs there was nothing for it. All he could do was let the sensations wash over him, just like the hot water was. Finally Brian moved his hands to pull apart Justin's beautiful ass cheeks, his tongue flicking at Justin's puckered hole, Justin moaned again as water ran down his back and Brian's hot mouth mixed with the feel of the hot water became almost more than he could bear.

Then Brian's tongue was inside him, flitting in and out, and Justin was concentrating on holding still, he wanted to push back, to impale himself on Brian's tongue, but he knew from experience that if he moved too much Brian, in an expert effort to prolong the exquisite pain of being on the precipice of orgasm would stop. So he held still, as Brian took full advantage of Justin's compliance.

When Justin was sure he could take no more, he moaned Brian's name, and Brian, hearing it, pulled back a little and turned Justin around. Justin's hands were flat against the glass of the shower wall, his face turned to the side. The hot water was now falling directly on his throbbing cock, and Brian slid his tongue out and applied a small amount of pressure to his slit, licking the precum and hot water from it. Justin was beyond thought now. He was begging. "Brian PLEASE" Brian looked up at him. "please what? What do you want me to do?"

"Suck me, Fuck me, I don't care just please let me come" Brian laughed, pleased that he had cleared the kids head for a few moments, pleased that Justin was still so sensitive to his touch, pleased that Justin was his.

He took Justin into his mouth, slowly, agonizingly slowly. Justin tried to thrust forward but Brian put his hand flat against Justin's belly in warning, and Justin restrained himself. Brian's tongue swirled around the head of Justin's engorged member, hitting the sensitive spot just below the head, and then as he took him fully in his mouth he let his tongue trace the vein that ran down the bottom of his beautiful cock. He opened his throat, and removed his hand from Justin's belly, giving him the permission he was looking for Justin began fucking Brian's mouth. Brian loved to feel the passion, the need, and as he grazed his hand against Justin's balls, he felt Justin shoot into his throat, and he swallowed. He continued to hold Justin in his mouth, as Justin's breathing slowly returned to normal. Brian finally stood up, kissing Justin, just as Justin had done to him a few days ago, letting him taste himself on his lovers tongue.

Justin leaned his head against Brian. "you know…we never get clean the first time we shower in the mornings" Brian laughed

"yeah, but we get off, and that's far more important"

this time Justin laughed, and the two of them actually went about the business of showering for the sake of cleanliness.

When they both emerged, dry and clean Justin went to put on a pair of paint-splattered pants, and Brian just shook his head.

"Not today sunshine, today we're going shopping"

"Brian, you said if I slept I could work more in the studio"

"And you can, but first, we need to outfit you in a manner that suits the lord of the manor."

"I thought you were the lord of the manor"

"Yeah well, then you're the prince, whatever, no one even remotely connected with the manor can dress like a chimney sweep all the time, c'mon."

"where are we going?"

"I told you… shopping"

"then why the duffle bag?"

Brian smiled, "It's a surprise."

And with that, he threw Justin a pair of khaki pants that weren't too paint encrusted and leant him one of his very own shirts.

They had been driving for almost forty minutes when Justin started to really wonder where they were going, they weren't heading into the city, and the malls around the house were just as good as ones in other suburban areas.

"Where are you taking me?"

"We're going to the nearest place to find the most fabulous clothes ever."

"It's seeming kind of far."

"We'll be there in not time sunshine"

"Brian" Justin was anxious to get back to the house, back to the studio, he was starting to feel anxious about this sudden sojourn "this is taking forever, which is why I said we should order anything I need."

"We are not buying you an entire wardrobe of the worlds ugliest clothes from Land's end."

"So where are we going?"
Brian gave him a patented grin and said, "Straight to hell, but first, we're going to heaven."

"You're a dork."

"No, but I'm dating one."

"Does he have a hotter ass than I do?"
Brian just looked at him, "No one has a hotter ass that you do, except maybe me."

"well that is true" Justin nodded sagely

"You know" Brian said, "We need a word"

"Erm, have you seen the dictionary, there's tons of them in there."

Brian shot Justin a nasty look.

"No, a word for us, what we are, cause we keep dancing around the stupid words that breeders, and quasi breeder wannabes have coined…I mean think about our options,"

"Partner" Justin said

"Only if we're in business together."

"Loverrrrsss" Justin drew the word out showing his distaste for the term.

"That's just nobody's business but ours."

"Spousal equivalent?" Justin said

"Right, like we're trying but we'll never be real, I think not"

"Husband?" Brian just looked at him, "getting married will NEVER work for us."

Justin nodded his agreement. There was a time when he would have been hurt by those words but he knew them to be true now, and that meant that every moment they were together was because of love, and desire, and caring and not a legal obligation. He considered other options to define their relationship.

"Special friend?" Brian and Justin rolled their eyes in unison.

How about "Us?"

Brian looked at him…"what?"
"We are 'Us'. We are 'We" as far as our relationship, fuck it, people ask 'who's that' I'll say 'that's Brian' that's all they need to know."

And when they ask, "Is he your boyfriend?"

"I'll smile and let them wonder."

"So you don't think we need so possessive relationship description?"

Justin sighed; he so very much wanted to be back in the studio, not having this conversation.

"Brian, it's never worked, trying to use conventional terms of any kind to define our relationship to others, and once we try, we end up feeling defined and claustrophobic, or not close enough and it's bullshit."

"Brian," Justin started over "let me ask you a question." Brian grunted in acknowledgement

"Do you give a fuck what anyone else thinks about us being together?"

"No, you know I don't"

"So fine, we're "Us', you're Brian, I'm Justin and leave it at that. I'm tired of trying to be anything other than what we are, two people who love each other more than either is willing to admit."

Brian looked at him, "You think I love you that much"

"I know you do." Justin was wearing his teasing smile, it was his safest bet when he got this close to the truth of their relationship. Keeping it light was the key, he knew that now.

"So we're Us, we're We, and if anyone asks if I have a boyfriend I say, no, but I have a Justin"

Justin laughed, "Works for me."

Excellent, I'm so glad that's decided, and look we're here."

"We're at the airport."

"Wow, that college education really paid off."

"Why are we at the airport?"

Brian grabbed their bag, locked his car and they headed to the gate, his e-tickets had been arranged by Cynthia, so had the hotel room. It was time Justin learned the glory that was Barney's in New York.

Brian didn't say another word but interlaced his hand with Justin's and together they walked to the gate.

When they arrived Justin saw the departure and return information and looked at him oddly, "We're going to New York for clothes?"

Brian leaned in and kissed Justin, ignoring the few odd looks from other passengers. "Next stop, Barney's."

Justin swallowed hard, said nothing and got on the plane.

Chapter 8

"Do you know what the problem is with these little tiny bottles?" Brian asked

"That they're too small"

"That is exactly right sonny boy, they are too fucking small, and so you have to drink many many many of them to be as drunk as if you just had one big bottle"

Justin nodded at Brian, humoring him, he'd been drinking little tiny bottles of Jim beam for about a half hour, and the plane was landing in just 15 minutes, Brian was very drunk.

"Well" Justin said, "it's a good thing they provided you with so many bottles then, because you got to drink many many many of them"

"That's because I hate flying."

"You do?"
"Of course I do, we're up in the air, we could crash and die and I don't think I'd be as pretty if I were all broken into a hundred pieces and on fire"

"You'd be on fire too?"
"Well sure, that's why it's called crash and burn"

"Aaaah, I see, so you'd be in a hundred flaming pieces, and you think this will make you less attractive to people"

"Yes, yes I do. Would you still love me if I were in a hundred pieces and on fire?"
"Brian, don't even talk like that, the plane isn't going to crash, we're almost in New York"

"I know, and we're going to have a wonderful time, as long as I'm not in a hundred pieces of fire."

"Brian?"
"Yes Justin?"
"Did you take something before we got on the plane and drank those many many many small bottles?"

"Just a small amount of something so that I wouldn't have to think about hundreds of pieces of me being on fire"

"What did you take Brian?"

"It had letters in it"

"A lot of letters or a few letters?"
Justin was trying to narrow it down, He wasn't particularly worried, but he also wasn't in his element not knowing where they were going once in the city, or what Brian had planned, but it was kind of nice to know that even the indomitable spirit of Brian Kinney could be endangered at the mere thought of flying. He wondered idly if Brian's fear of flying had anything to do with him never coming to see him in L.A.

"It had some letters" Brian finally replied

Okay, they'd ruled out E, and K, so the odds were either GHB or an actual drug with an actual name.

"Did the letters spell anything Brian?"

"They spelled something long, but it's okay, because I didn't need to say it too many times in order to get it"

Justin heard the captain come over the intercom and announce that they would be descending in five minutes and be at La Guardia in 15 Minutes. He sat back and pinched the bridge of his nose in a very Brian like manner, Brian was tweaked out, and he had no idea where they were headed other than Barney's and he wasn't taking Brian to Barney's or anywhere else in this condition.

"Shit, pull it together Kinney."

Great, now Brian was talking to himself, but it seemed to work. He sat up a little straighter, and held Justin's hand. Justin was pretty sure it was going to be okay until Brian lifted Justin's hand to his lips and lightly kissed it

"Fuck" Justin thought, he's really wasted.

It took some maneuvering, Brian leaning a little heavier on Justin than he would have liked, but they made it off the plane.

"Thank you for not crashing and turning me into a hundred pieces of flaming me." Brian said to the flight attendant as they disembarked, Justin shook his head and gave her an apologetic glance. She smiled.

Once they got to exit Justin pulled Brian's phone out of his pocket, not as easy as it sounded as Brian kept swiveling around so that Justin was fishing for more than just a phone.

He got the phone out but Brian saw something that appealed to him, grabbed Justin by the shirt and pulled him towards it.

Justin had their travel bag over his shoulder and was just trying to keep up when he saw where Brian was headed.

"Brian, this is a bad idea"

Brian said nothing, he was walking resolutely Justin's shirt twisted around his hand, forcing him to follow.

He continued pulling him until they were safely ensconced in a bathroom stall in the men's room.

Brian was pushing him against the wall, kissing him hard his tongue searching for something. Justin gave up, and kissed Brian back.

As soon as Justin responded Brian turned him around, pulling Justin's pants down, kissing his neck, holding the blonde boys hands above his head with one hand. He pulled a condom out of his pocket with the other.

The moves were practiced and automatic, and still made Justin so hot, even if Brian was probably unaware of WHO he was fucking at this very moment, he never lost consciousness of HOW he was fucking, and his technique was impeccable, moving slowly at first, and then faster and harder, his hand jerking Justin off as he fucked him. All too soon, Justin shot against the stall wall and Brian feeling Justin's ass squeezing around him, came quickly after. He then stood up straight, and turned Justin around, straightening his shirt and pants. Kissing him hard, and ushering him quickly out of the stall.

"I'll be right there" he said, "I just need to throw up."

"How very romantic" Justin replied, as he continued straightened his clothing.

When Brian finished, Justin handed him a bottle of water he'd taken from the plane. Brian drank some, swished some in his mouth and spit it out, and then leaned over and kissed Justin.

"You back with me?" Justin asked

"Of course sonny boy, I just hate flying"

"Is this what you do every time you get off a plane?"

Brian thought about it for a minute, "pretty much, yeah" he smiled

Justin shook his head, "Whatever it takes. So where are we going?"

"You have my phone."

"What does that have to do with where we're going?"

"Cynthia left a message with all the information, I don't know where we're going unless I have my phone…hey, Why do you have my phone?"

Justin looked sheepish, "because I was going to call Cynthia and ask HER where we were going since you didn't seem able to tell me."

Brian laughed, "See, I'm perfectly able to tell you, as long as I have my phone."

Brian took his phone from Justin and they headed towards the cab line. Brian was still a little unsteady on his feet, but had come down for the most part. He hailed a cab and rattled off and address.

"Is that where Barney's is?" Justin asked

"No, it's where the hotel is" Brian responded as he leaned over and began to kiss Justin's ear and neck. Justin leaned his head back, enjoying the sensation until he suddenly fully processed the information.

"HOTEL?"
"Did you think I was going to make you sleep on the streets of this big cold city?"

"I thought you were going to make me buy some clothes and then take me home." Justin was trying to calm down, not to be too upset but he wasn't ready for a night away from the house, he wanted to be back in the studio, working, not wasting time in New York, he'd wasted enough time in New York in his life.

"Justin relax, you've been obsessing over your work for weeks, you deserve a couple days R & R"

"Brian, I don't WANT to rest, or relax, I want to finish…"

"That fucking canvass, I know, it's all you ever say these days, well guess what, for two days…"

Justin's eyes got wider and he opened his mouth to say something but Brian interrupted him.

"For two days, you will do nothing but relax in a great big bed, in a great big hotel, with your great big…Brian."

Brian looked into his eyes, it wasn't anger, he was seeing there, it was fear, why was Justin afraid to be away for two days, in a hotel, with him. Which part of that made him scared, or was it all of it? Brian was determined however to pamper Justin for a couple of days, weather he liked it or not. Justin would laze about in bed, eating, and sleeping, and fucking and NOT driving himself to the point of exhaustion working on a painting of that fucking scarf.

Justin smiled, although Brian noticed that it wasn't his normal 1000 megawatt version, but it would do for now.

Justin tried to smile, tried to seem okay with it, he should be thrilled, he knew he should be thrilled, New York WITH Brian, which was the way he'd always wanted to be in New York. Being swept off on a romantic weekend was the kind of stuff that he used to dream about doing with Brian, and now that he was here, his ass still sore and mouth still bruised from the airport men's room, Brian sitting next to him all he could think about was their bed at home, the studio, the paintings he had yet to finish. He was anxious, scared, nervous, fucking terrified, and he had no idea why.

He breathed deep the way they'd tried to teach him when he was first recovering from the bashing and would wake up with nightmares, or have sudden panic attacks, but those made sense. This one didn't. He leaned his head on Brian's shoulder. Brian threw his arm around Justin and pulled him close and Justin thought to himself "maybe it will be okay"

Brian paid the cab driver, and dealt with the hotel check in, all the while Justin simply clung to Brian's hand and tried to remember to breathe.

Brian kept glancing over at Justin; the kid had a death grip on his hand, and seemed to be physically attached to his arm. He hadn't seen him act like this since those first few weeks after he'd gotten out of the hospital, when just walking down the street was an exercise in bravery. Brian was confused, had something happened in New York that Justin hadn't told him about.

He felt the bile rising and tried to get the thought out of his head. "If something had happened, if someone had hurt him, he'd have told me" Brian told himself. We've been honest with each other since we got back.

He looked at Justin. "Do you want me to find a different hotel?"

Justin looked at him blankly "what? No. Why?"

"Never mind" Brian said and took the two key cards from the guy at the front desk.

"Top floor" Justin said, "swanky"

"Only the best"

"Of course"

Brian opened the door to the room, Justin seemed a little more relaxed, and even more so once he'd shut the door behind them.

Suddenly Justin was all over him. "Brian, thank you, this place is beautiful."

"How many times do I have to tell you I'd do anything for you?"
Justin wrinkled his nose and looked at him thoughtfully, "at least a half a dozen more"

Brian laughed and backed the playful blonde onto the bed; leaning over him he started kissing his neck.

It was several hours later before either one of them was able to concentrate on anything but bare flesh and extraordinary sensations.

They were in their favorite post coital position Brian on his back; Justin curled against him, head on his chest. It calmed Justin to hear Brian's steady heartbeat in his ear; it was one of the things he missed most when Brian wasn't around.

Brian reached out to the folder on the nightstand "room service?

"Mmmmmm" Justin moaned, "food."

Brian let out a deep breath, he hadn't heard Justin actually express an interest in food in so long, but he had been right, all he needed was some rest and a change of scenery.

They ordered and lay back down, both too exhausted to do much more than brush a hand idly through the others hair, or make lazy circles against the bare skin of the others shoulder. It was a companionable, comfortable silence, which lead to a companionable comfortable light doze.

They awoke when the food arrived, Brian signed for it, and they sat and ate in bed. Brian watched Justin, trying not to make an issue of it, but he was soon relieved. No food issues, the kid was back to eating everything in sight. He finished his steak, and fries, and then went to work on Brian's shrimp.

It was only five pm when they were finished dinner, and they discussed the concept of going out, and realized that the discussion was more effort than was ready to give let alone actually dressing and leaving. And so they lay back, all appetites sated, and the lazy doze became REM sleep for them both.

It was hours later that Justin awoke in a panic, sitting bolt upright, he thought he might be having a heart attack. He was sweating and couldn't seem to catch his breath. He got up and made it to the bathroom just in time to revisit everything he'd eaten for dinner. He took a moment, splashing his face with cold water and then returned to bed, sliding in quietly.

Brian felt him leave the bed, and heard the sounds of him losing his dinner; he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When Justin returned to bed, he pulled him close again, feeling the cold clamminess of his skin. Justin pulled away, "Brian, I'm not feeling to well, give me a minute okay?"

"Sure, you alright?"

"Yeah, just bad shrimp or something"

"I had the shrimp I'm fine"

"I'll be okay"

Brian put his hand flat against Justin's back, the kid was breathing fast and his heart was racing, he pulled him back towards him again, wanting to hold him, to comfort him.

"Justin, you're heart's going faster than the back beat at Babylon, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, just a little night terror, I guess, my body isn't used to this much food and this much rest these days" Justin tried to smile, to make it sound light.

"Well, we'll have to work on that, you should always be used to the good life"

" Ugh," Justin groaned, "that is so corny"

Brian smiled "you're right, I'm sorry, we'll continue the haunted starving artist routine for as long as you'd like, but once in a while, can we come back and visit the corny world with room service and great big soft beds?"

"Sure" Justin replied, glad this wasn't going to become a big drama thing. "I'm just really tired, maybe I did work myself a little too hard"

"Shhhh, go to sleep sonny-boy" Brian soothed as he stroked Justin's hair.

Brian awoke to the sun and the unmistakable sound of New York coming up from 11 stories down. It's odd how no amount of soundproofing can block that noise he thought randomly. He got up and glanced over at Justin, who was still sound asleep, he closed the blinds and returned to bed.

Justin made a soft groan in his sleep and rolled over, Brian had returned Just in time as the blond found his favorite spot to drool and planted his head, his arm casually thrown across Brian's chest, leg now entangled with Brian's. Brian lay back and closed his eyes, it was only six in the morning, they had plenty of time.

By ten Justin was awake, stretching and looking slightly apologetic for the drool on Brian's shoulder.

"Good morning"

"Is it morning?" Justin asked

"Yes it is, you slept for a long time"

"Christ I was exhausted"

"Which is what I was trying to tell you"

"Okay, you're dying for it, so here it is. You, Brian Aiden Kinney, Were Right."

Brian smiled, "if you would just accept that from the start, things would be much easier"

"You're not always right you know" Justin said

"Don't ruin this moment"

Justin just smiled, you know, there's a Jacuzzi in there, his head nodding towards the bathroom.

"Really?" Brian cocked an eyebrow

"Really" Justin said, nodding knowingly

"Well, we'll just have to forgo our morning shower I suppose.

Justin pretended to pout

"Don't worry sunshine, I'm sure we'll find SOMETHING to do in that big ole' tub"

Justin laughed, and they both headed into the bathroom, it was noon before they actually got out of the hotel.

They stopped and got a couple of bagels and Brian hailed a cab and instructed the driver to take them to Barney's.

"So what's so great about this place anyway?" Justin asked

"You'll see"

Justin made a face; "you know I hate clothes shopping."

Brian dropped his head in his hands in despair, "and you said you were working on being the best homosexual you could be."

"I am, but I don't see the point in spending so much time shopping, and thinking about shopping"

Brian just shook his head, "well, I'll have to teach you, and here I thought I'd already taught you everything you needed to know"

Justin blushed and Brian bit his earlobe, and then whispered, "Besides, have you ever been blown in the leather department, everything smelling like fine leather and expensive shoes?"

Justin laughed out loud "oh my god, I never knew you and Emmett had so much in common"

"Take that back" Brian said, his eyes dark, but his smile gave him away

"No, I think this could work, you and Emmett will be a beautiful couple, you're both so…tall"

Brian found the sweet spot on Justin's ribs, the spot that was so ticklish he avoided it on the occasions when girlish screams and giggles weren't what he was going for. Today, he showed no mercy "Take it back."

"Brian stop." Justin squealed, giggling uncontrollably.

"Take it back."

"Okay, okay," he said, breathing hard and wiping the tears from his eyes "you and Emmett would not make a perfect couple… he's far to butch for you."

And with that Brian attacked him fully, laying him out in the back of the cab and pressing his body against Justin's, tickling his ribs and feeling him writhe beneath him.

He leaned down to kiss the boy and Justin leaned up to kiss him back, when Brian lifted his head he whispered "so who's too butch for whom?"

Justin kissed him again, "you're very butch, almost as butch as Melanie."

Brian laughed, and sat up, just as the cab came to a halt in front of Barney's.

They were greeted by Alfonse, a pretentious and tiny man, who while annoying and snobbish, also had impeccable taste and had been helping Brian for years, especially when new items came in that Brian wouldn't have the time to get to see, he often trusted Alfonse just to ship him the cream of the new line. Alfonse was Brian's secret weapon in his ability to always look amazing.

"Mr. Kinney, this is the friend you're helping?"

"Yeah, this is Justin, he looks like shit, we need to fix that." Although Alfonse always stayed formal and supercilious, Brian never understood the need as a customer to remain the same.

"Brian" Justin said, "I don't look like shit"

"You look like a starving artist"

"I was"

"You were never starving"

"What are we arguing about"?

"I promise you I have no idea, we're here to buy you clothes, so go over there… He pointed to the three way mirror in the private dressing room, and Alfonse and I will tell you what to wear."

Justin pouted and dragged his feet to the dressing area, bored already.

Alfonse took Brian to a rack where he had set aside some items he thought might be appropriate for the boy. Brian pointed to a few, and showed an obvious dislike for some others.

When he brought the first outfit over, Justin looked at him with a pout too similar to Gus's to be overlooked.

He leaned in and bit at Justin's pouting bottom lip. "You see" he began, "the key to dressing well, is planning and the key to shopping is to make the planning part interesting. For example, what do you think of these?"

Justin Shrugged "look like pants"

"Yes, but feel them"

Justin looked at him as though he might be a bit insane, but reached out to feel the pants. Justin shrugged again "they're soft"

"Right, you see, now, imagine, if you will, that we're at a dinner party at say, Michael and Ben's, and you're wearing these very soft pants, now imagine that you're not wearing any underwear, and that my hand is marveling at the softness of said garment." Brian was now suggestively rubbing the fly and crotch area of the pants, which were still on their hanger.

He glanced down and was amazed to find that Justin was actually responding to his sales pitch. He watched the boy shift in his chair and smiled. Now try them on, with this shirt, that, you may notice, has many tiny buttons which means that while it is a stylish and attractive garment, you will most likely have to remove it over your head in the bathroom so that I can get to your nipples more readily"

Justin grabbed the clothes from Brian, eager now to try them on. Brian smiled evilly; he hadn't even introduced him to belts and ties yet.

The day went on like that, Alfonse showing Brian collections or pieces of them, Brian making lascivious comments to Justin about how and when and where he might remove said garments, and Justin looking amazing in almost everything, due to the fact that he was a well built young guy with amazing shoulders and a perfect ass.

It was well after five when they had finished with Alphonse. Justin thought he might pass out, Brian had been keeping him in a state of barely controlled arousal all day, and he had tried on what felt like half the store. A tailor came in to take Justin's measurements so that everything could be fitted to him, and Justin did everything in his power to talk himself down from the seemingly day long hard on he'd had. The tailor, ever the professional, ignored it, and made his notes quickly and efficiently.

The clothes would be delivered to the house in Pittsburgh next week, after the alterations had been done, but Brian still had a few things he felt Justin needed.

Before they left the store Justin had an entirely new casual wardrobe as well, jeans that fit, shirts that skimmed his waist and brought out the blue in his eyes, belts that didn't "look like he cut them out of an old tire" as Brian so eloquently stated, and shoes, more shoes than he needed. He didn't understand the shoes but he let Brian have his fun.

Boots, brown, black, lighter brown, loafers, lace ups, he wore sneakers, all the time, what the hell did he need seven pairs of shoes for? He figured he'd never actually have to wear them, and picked his battles.

Ties. He hated ties. He'd worn a tie every day for years at St. James Academy, and he'd vowed once he got into art school he'd never wear a tie again, and rarely did, but Brian insisted on ties. Justin got quiet while Brian was picking them out.

Finally, he just broke down, tired, and very much in need of a good blow job, he grabbed Brian at the tie stand and kissed him hard, then twisting Brian's shirt around his neck until he could feel it tighten he said "I wore a tie for years at that stupid school, I'm an artist, not a fucking MBA from Dartmouth, I'm not wearing a fucking tie"

Brian was surprised, not by the kiss, although Justin was sometimes hesitant about Public displays of affection away from Liberty Avenue, but when he felt him stretching and pulling at his shirt he started to get aggravated. When the shirt actually began choking him he got downright angry, and when he looked at the anger matching his in Justin's eyes, and heard him growl about not having gone to Dartmouth he understood, and dropped the tie issue.

The kid had given up a lot, granted he had given it up for the right reasons, but he was right, he didn't have to wear a tie if he didn't want to.

Brian pulled back away from him and straightened out his shirt.

"Fine, so no fucking ties. How do you feel about sweaters?

Justin laughed, "I have no dilemmas, moral or otherwise regarding sweaters, but I hate wool, it's itchy."

They moved on.

By the time they got back to the hotel, loaded down with shopping bags, and a brand new suitcase to get all the stuff home in, they were both hungry, horny and tired, they discussed in the cab which took precedence. And were happy to come to the same conclusion, horny first, then hungry, then tired.

And so once the bellman had delivered all of the new purchases into their room and been tipped well, they were both dying to take another swim in the Jacuzzi. Both had fingers resembling prunes by the time they re emerged, but they had crossed item number one off their list.

Brian ordered room service again, this time opting for lighter fare, hoping Justin could keep it down.

Justin sat down in front of the bed and turned on the TV, he was flipping through the channels when he landed on male figure skating championships.

"You've got to be kidding me," Brian said

"I love this" Justin replied, "look at them, so graceful so strong"

"Such big baskets" Brian added

Justin looked at him, standing naked next to the bed. His blue eyes darkened and he crawled across the floor towards Brian, moving slowly but deliberately, never taking his eyes off of Brian's cock which, he noticed to his deep satisfaction began to twitch as he approached, before he even touched it.

He was holding on to the small of Brian's back now, taking small childlike licks at it, as if it were a melting ice cream cone, but there was nothing soft or melting about it now. Justin still refused to take it into his mouth for a few more moments, licking at it, and then moving away, kissing the soft hair above it, running his tongue quickly along Brian's balls, until he heard Brian groan. Success. Brian's head was back, his mouth open and Justin put two of his fingers in his mouth, wetting them completely, and then took Brian's cock entirely into his mouth, at the same time his fingers found their way between Brian's ass cheeks and he heard Brian moan again. Justin began pumping, both at once, as his fingers went in his mouth pulled back.

Brian wasn't surprised that Justin was ready for another go already, the kid was always up for it, well, unless he was working in the studio, but this was…and then he stopped thinking completely.

Each time Justin thrust his fingers into Brian's ass and pulled them out he wanted more, wanted to push back on them, but then he'd be removing his cock from that lovely hot and sweet mouth, he finally just gave in and surrendered control to Justin, who was astounding Brian again with his formidable talent. He groaned, and Justin groaned as well, sending the vibrations from the head of his cock to the base. When Justin felt him twitch again the kid actually started humming, just vibrating his throat, all the while pumping two fingers in and out of his ass until Brian could hold out no longer and he came down Justin's throat, his knees almost giving out from the sensation.

Justin continued to pump his fingers into him while he came, making this climax last longer than he thought he could take. When it was finally over he realized that Justin had spontaneously come. He fell onto the bed, mind blown.

Justin returned to his spot at the end of the bed on the floor and watched the next competitor in the men's long program, with a very satisfied smile on his face.

"So what time does the plane leave tomorrow?"

"Not 'til around three in the afternoon" Brian croaked, his voice still raspy from the amount of gasping he'd just done.

Can we go to Renton's gallery, I should probably check in.

"Yeah sure" Brian said unable to process any information at the moment.

Justin answered the door when the food came, and they ate in companionable silence, although Brian noticed that Justin wasn't eating a whole lot, he was eating, and he seemed to be doing better.

They fell asleep with the TV on, and didn't awake until ten the next morning.

Chapter 9

"Why are we eating here?"

"Because I have to find some way to sell the idea of this ugly ass restaurant as a wonderful and fulfilling dining experience."

"Well, wouldn't that be easier if we didn't actually have to be here?" Justin looked around, there is nothing attractive about this place, and it looks like every other stupid chain restaurant ever."

"Yes, but this one is paying for the marble tile in the foyer and that hideous color scheme you chose for the great room." Brian said as he draped his arm around Justin's shoulders and kissed the side of his face.

"You said you liked the color scheme."

"I would have said anything to get you to shut up about it."

Justin gave him a look and said, "well, if they're paying for all that, I guess we can eat here, ONCE."

Brian laughed and followed the hostess to their booth.

"Its not the diner"

"Nothing is, the diner isn't about food, it's about…" Brian trailed off

Justin looked at him…"it's about?"

"Justin, did you know you're brilliant?"

"Yeah, actually I did. Anything in particular make you come to this sudden realization?"

"I think I know how to market this shithole."

"If anyone can do it, you can, so do we still have to eat here?"

"Shut up and order, we can't eat at home, everything's covered in dust."

"The renovations are driving me insane you know."

"The place is going to look great when it's done."

"But right now, they're banging away all day, I can't concentrate on my work, and the place is always so dusty, plus all those construction guys, with their big tools"

Brian cocked an eyebrow, "that's a problem?"

Justin smiled "it's a distraction."

"But you finished the third canvas."

"Yes, I did, and now I'm working on the fourth."

"And will I ever get to see these masterpieces?"

"If you come to my New York Show."

Brian seemed to consider it, "But we were just in New York."

"It's not for 6 months Brian, by then the spring collections will be in."

"I thought you hated shopping."

"I'd never been properly introduced to its more interesting side."

It was Brian's turn to smile. "Well, I'll see if Cyn can clear my calendar for your show."

"Well okay then."

The food really was mediocre, but the pie was good, the place was known for its take out bakery, even more than for it's food, or generic atmosphere, or lack thereof.

When they got back home Justin kissed Brian quickly "I'm gonna work a little more."

"Bed by three." Brian said

Justin smiled, "five at the latest, I promise." Brian kissed him harder "three" and Justin went back to the studio, stripping off his paint free clothes and pulling on an old pair of sweats, he started mixing colors, searching for just the right shade of green.

Brian was in the den, working on the ideas he'd had at dinner. It was a departure from his usual pitch style, but he thought it might work. He tried not to focus on the fact that Justin's work habits hadn't changed once they'd returned from New York. And Brian knew he was going to have to address how the kid was taking care of himself, and soon.

He had convinced himself in New York that the eating thing had been stress, and work, and maybe it was, but it hadn't changed upon their return. Justin had barely touched his dinner tonight, he cooked Brian breakfast on the mornings he wasn't in the studio, but Brian never saw him eat. Yes Justin always swore that he ate while he was cooking, but…

Brian poured himself a scotch, drank it, and then poured himself another. Justin wasn't starving, he was fine, and he had been getting a bit more sleep, no more 24-hour marathons. Maybe the worst was behind them.

He was so engrossed in the work he was doing he lost track of time himself. When he did look at his watch it was 2:30 in the morning, he'd finished his pack of cigarettes, and half the bottle of scotch. Turning off the computer he walked over to the studio and knocked on the door.

"Half hour 'til lights out." he sing songed, trying to keep it light, he wasn't Justin's keeper.

"Be up soon." Justin called back, and Brian walked a little unsteadily upstairs and collapsed into bed.

Justin was curled up against him when he woke. "See" he told himself "nothing to worry about."

He had only been at the office for twenty minutes when his cell rang, it was Justin

"Hey"

"Hey yourself."

"You were supposed to wake me."

"For what?"

"I was gonna make you breakfast"

"You needed your sleep, besides, I think Debbie gets upset if I don't show up at least one morning a week for her bad coffee and nagging"

"What's she nagging about now?"

"Guess"

"She wants to see the house."

"We have a winner."

"Everyone wants to see it. Daphne's been hinting around for a preview too."

"It'll be done in time for the party in ten weeks, they'll all see it then"

"Is it actually gonna be done? 'cause at this rate, I'm thinking we go with urban dilapidated chic."

Brian laughed, "it'll get done or I'll have jimmy buried under our floorboards by the contractor I hire to replace him."

"Ooh, violent this morning."

"Yeah well, I almost stepped on a fucking nail."

"That's why you're supposed to wear shoes."

"I hate shoes in the house, you know that. So I have a meeting with creative in ten minutes, do you need something?"

"No, just wanted to say good morning."

"And a good morning to you too"

"Want me to bring home something for dinner?"
"I'm gonna be working, I'm getting a late start, I wouldn't count on me eating"
"I never do" Brian mumbled, more to himself than to Justin

"What?"
"Nothing, grab a pop tart, and get to work, if you don't finish these paintings soon I'm going to have to forbid you to be a creative artist type and send you off for a business degree."

Justin laughed, "you wouldn't do that, you'd miss my creativity."

"Yeah, paint and turpentine is such a heady combination, what would my life be without it?"

"So you want me to become an accountant?"
Brian smiled, "No, I've got one of those, how 'bout you become a doctor, then you can write me all the oxy prescriptions I need."

"Doctors work worse hours than artists."

"Good point, I guess you can stay creative, for now."

Justin laughed again. "Love you"

"See you tonight."

Brian closed his phone and smiled, he actually got turned on by the smell of paint and turpentine these days, but he'd wasn't about to admit it.

Justin breathed deeply, pulling himself together.

He would never tell Brian the real reason that he called, he felt like too much of a baby, and after all that Brian had done for him, he wasn't gonna fall apart now. But he felt like he was falling apart.

When he woke up, with a start, finding Brian gone he panicked, that same sickening feeling he'd known in New York, the same feeling he'd gotten when he had woken up with nightmares, after the bashing.

Sure that Brian was dead he had been unable to breathe. He had considered calling 911 but at that very moment hadn't really cared if he lived or died, Brian was gone he was absolutely certain.

That's the thing about panic attacks, they're not rational, and so once it subsided somewhat, Justin gathered all his nerve and called Brian. He, of course, was fine; he was even in a good mood. Justin knew these episodes were silly, he also knew he never had one in the studio. And so without even showering, he went back to work on canvas number four.

Brian's meeting with the art department went well, they figured they could get the art done and boards together by Monday, which meant he'd have tons of time to revise all their mistakes before the meeting on Wednesday. He glanced at his watch 12:30

"Cyn, I'm heading to the diner for lunch." he called over his shoulder as he walked the few blocks. He took a deep breath, bracing himself before opening the door, He'd been scarce around the diner lately, and didn't see any way of avoiding questions and nagging.

Michael was sitting with Emmett at a booth, he joined them.

"Afternoon boys."

"Brian, honey it's been ages, you look…well rested"

"Hello Emmett and NO, I did not go away to have work done as you're implying, Justin and I took a shopping trip to New York."

"Well, as long as you're keeping him you might as well be keeping him in style" Michael said.

"I'm not keeping him, I'm fucking him, and letting him sleep next to me, and buying him things, in what sick twisted way is that keeping him?"

Michael rolled his eyes, "Jesus Brian, I know you're good at denial but really."

"Mikey?"

"Yeah?"

"Any chance we're ever going to agree on this?"
"I doubt it."

"Then how 'bout you shut the fuck up about my life." and with that he leaned over the table and kissed Michael on the mouth.

Michael smiled, "fine, we'll agree to disagree. But I still don't see why I can't come and see the house."

"Ooh," Emmett added, "I am dying to see it, I hear it's fabulous"

Brian sighed loudly, "at the moment it's more frightening than fabulous, but don't worry, it'll all be done by in time for the housewarming party."

Emmet clapped his hands "I love a good party."

"Yeah, and when we get a little closer to this whole thing, I'm gonna need you"

"Anything you need Brian"

"Thanks"

"Hey Deb, any chance I can get a…"

Debbie arrived at the table and placed a plate in front of Brian "turkey sandwich, whole wheat, no mayo, and fries."

Brian smiled, and put his hand on Deb's

"Thanks Deb."

"No problem, so where's sunshine today?"

"He's working, he's been spending a lot of time in his studio, the new show should be spectacular."

"Well we all knew that kid was special, first time I saw him I knew it, didn't I Michael."

"Yes, mom, you knew he was the golden child."

"Awe, my baby's just jealous."

"I'm not jealous now stop kissing me at the diner, I'm not 12 anymore either."

Debbie just laughed and dropped the boy's checks on the table, moving to pick up a few more orders to take to the lunch crowd.

"So, what's new Mikey?"

"Not much, I was just telling Emmett that I'm going up to see JR, and Mel and Lindz this weekend."

"Yeah I need to get up there, Gus broke his arm"

"I heard."

"Hey Brian, has Melanie talked to you lately?"
"Why the fuck would she do that?"

"I don't know, she seems off lately, weird, angry."

"Lately? She's always been weird and angry, she's a lesbian, they're born weird and angry."

"Brian I'm serious I think something's wrong."

"If something were wrong Lindz would tell me."

"Yeah I guess you're right."

"Besides you're going up to see her, talk to her then"

"I don't want to talk to her, she scares me."

Brian laughed, "She scares all of us."

Emmet laughed too and scooted out of the booth, "see you all later, I have an appointment with a couple who want a cowboy themed wedding"

"A gay couple?" Michael asked

"No, that's the really weird part" Emmet did a full body shudder, threw a couple of bills on the table to cover his lunch and headed out.

"So you and Justin are back where you started?"

"Mikey, I asked you to drop it."

"Right, sorry, anyway, I was asking because if you're past your fear of looking like a couple, Ben and I were thinking the two of you could join us for dinner on Thursday."

"As far as I know we're both free, count on me, and if Justin can make it, we'll both be there."

"If Justin can make it? What the fuck would he have to do, he doesn't have a job."

Brian pinched the bridge of his nose and wondered why he didn't hit Michael more than once a decade. "He has a show in 6 months, he has a job and a lot of work to do."

"Whatever. I've got to get back to the store."

"Bye Mikey."

Michael leaned over and kissed Brian on the cheek before leaving.

Once they were gone Brian was actually relieved, and surprised at how much he'd been dreading facing them, maybe because it was harder than he'd like to admit to keep up the front that everything was perfect. Each day he was getting a little more concerned about Justin, and in a patented Brian Kinney method he was going to fix this, but he just hadn't figured out which patented Brian Kinney method he was going to use.

He contemplated this while he finished his sandwich, and most of the fries. He was still sitting and contemplating when Deb slid into the booth across from him

"Christ my fucking feet are killing me today"

"Well, you could be a lady of leisure."

"Fuck leisure, so, what's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"Mmmmmm hmmm, so if nothings wrong, why'd you eat the fries?"

Brian looked up at her "comfort food asshole. You think I don't know my boys. Mikey is upset he thinks about changing his hair, you…you go for the French fries."

"Deb, can you do me a favor?"

"Sure kiddo, anything, you know that."

"Yeah, can you call Justin, use your powers of persuasion, and get him to join you for lunch or something, get him out of the house."

"You sick of him already? Brian If you're tricking around on that kid again…"

Brian cut her off with a look. "He spends too much time in the studio, doesn't seem all that interested in getting out of the house, for anything, I'd just like to get him pulled back into the fold, he's too young to become a creepy old hermit."

"You really worried?"

"No, I think he could just use the company, but Deb, don't take no for an answer okay?" "You got it Brian. Now, when am I going to get to see that house of yours?"

Brian smiled at her, "when everyone else does, so meet him someplace else."

"Well you can't blame a girl for trying." The bell rang and Debbie got up to pick up the completed orders. "Take care of yourself Brian"

"You know me"

"Yeah, I do"

Brian placed a twenty on the table, tipping Debbie somewhere in the vicinity of 110 of the bill, but he always did that, and headed back to the office.

Justin was sitting in the studio and smoking, considering what to do next, canvas four needed a day to set before he could start the next step, and he had an idea for a smaller piece but he'd have to actually stretch the canvas for that one, and he wasn't in the mood. There was a canvas ready for a portrait he'd already sketched out but he wasn't sure his hand was up to doing the detail work.

"The scarf" as he'd entitled the third canvas, had given him a lot of trouble. He was always careful to run his hand under the shower jets for a long time after working on it, so that Brian wouldn't see his hand cramped up like a gimp again. He knew that if Brian saw that he'd be even more insistent on the whole more sleep less painting thing and right now, it felt like the only thing keeping him from being a raving lunatic was the time he spent in the studio.

He grabbed a bottle of water out of the mini fridge, and continued sitting and staring off into space, contemplating his next project when his phone rang.

It was Debbie.

He tried every excuse in the book, and she accepted none of them. There was no way to get out of it; he was having lunch with her tomorrow at her house. Justin tried to settle the knots in his stomach and couldn't. He had no idea why he would be nervous about going to Debbie's house but he suddenly was. He opened the studio door, found Brian's stash in the den and rolled himself a joint. He took it back to the studio and sat on the floor, door locked, letting the buzz wash over him.

Chapter 10

Justin forced himself to go to lunch at Deb's, Emmett was there too, and he suspected an ambush when Ted and Blake stopped by as well.

"Shouldn't both of you be at work?"

"Took the day off" Ted said, "We're house hunting."

"So then shouldn't you be off house hunting?"

That's when Debbie smacked him "Sunshine stop being rude, they came to say hi, you've been hiding yourself away in that house you won't let us see."

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, he was being ambushed, he was going to fucking kill Brian, there was no doubt in his mind that Brian was behind this, he was too happy about Deb's lunch invitation last night. Justin pasted a smile on his face and made it through lunch. He left as soon as he could without evoking more of Debbie's wrath. Truth be told it wasn't so horrible, except for the fact that all he wanted to do was get back to the studio. It wasn't until he shut and locked the studio door that he began to relax. He felt like he'd been holding is breath since he'd left the house early this afternoon.

When Brian returned home he was less than surprised to find a steady thumping beat coming from the studio. He tried the door, it was locked. He knocked; Justin opened it, and grabbed Brian by the shirt, pulling him forward as he danced.

Brian put his arms on Justin's shoulders, falling into the familiar rhythm of dancing with Justin. Foreheads together, legs entangled Justin's hands roaming. Brian smiled, and Justin looked up at him, his smile wide, his eyes…black.

"You're very high" Brian said, "No fair not sharing."

Justin reached into his pocket and in a move he'd learned from Brian, put the E on his own tongue and then leaned in to kiss Brian. The kiss was intense, and Brian swallowed the pill and continued dancing. He hadn't seen Justin this happy in a while, but apparently lunch at Deb's had been a good idea, and of course, being chemically altered had helped.

It was hours later; they were both coming down, naked, entwined on a probably ruined Armani suit. Neither one cared. Brian kissed the top of Justin's head. "I missed you today Sunshine."

Justin looked up at him "you were only gone for a few hours"

"Ten hours, felt like a lifetime today."

"Is the cold cruel world of advertising treating my Brian roughly?"

Brian let out a chuckle "nothing I can't handle. Oh, and your mother called."

"My mother called you?"
"Yes, it seems somebody is being a bad son."

"She thinks you're being a bad son?"
"Stop being retarded, you need to call your mother before she tracks me down and has me arrested for kidnapping."

"She can't do that anymore, I'm like a grown up or something."

"Yeah, well let me explain something I learned from Debbie, mothers, don't understand the concept of 'grown up' when it comes to their children, so don't make me say this again, Call. Your. Mother."

Justin settled his head against Brian's chest. "Fine"

The two of them lay for a little longer, Justin reached behind him and grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge, he drank half in a single gulp and handed the bottle to Brian who finished it off.

Brian was enjoying the comfortable silence and hated the words that came out of his mouth before he said them, but he had to try "so, should we order something in, or do you want to go out?"

"Uggggh, food."

Brian looked down at him. Justin had his patented crinkled nose "I ate too much at Debbie's to ever consider eating again."

Brian couldn't argue with that, carbo-loading was perfected at Deb's kitchen table.

Justin searched around for his pants, pulling a joint and lighter out of his pocket. He took a hit and passed to Brian.

Two days later Justin was less than happy about dinner obligations with Michael and Ben. "I don't see why I have to go, I really wanted to work some more tonight."

Brian sighed, "you don't HAVE to go, but you haven't seen Michael or Ben in a while and since I'm not having anyone over here until the place is done, I say we suck it up and go."

Brian was trying not to push the issue too much but he had gotten calls from both Jennifer and Daphne today asking if Justin's phone was broken because they'd both left several messages, none of them had been returned. Justin was behaving oddly and Brian wasn't sure why, but it was worrisome. He never left the house, he got up, went to the studio, came back to bed, for a few hours, and then was back at work. The power struggle was getting tiresome and the kid was getting bigger dark circles under his eyes.

Here he said, choosing one of the ensembles they'd chosen on their New York adventure. Justin pouted but put on the shirt, and then caught the pants Brian had thrown towards him.

Brian watched wondering to himself how he was now a person who found the sight of a man putting clothes ON sexy. It was the way Justin moved, it was graceful, but with something extra, he had a half grin on his face, which disappeared once Justin had finished zipping and buttoning the fly. Justin was swimming in the clothing. Well, okay, not exactly swimming but the waist of the garment was obviously too big. The pants sat on his hips loosely making him look like he was all dressed up in daddy's clothes. The shirt was too big as well.

"Jesus Christ, Fucking tailor."

"What?" Justin looked up, thinking Brian was talking to him

"No, not you, the tailor, at Barney's he totally fucked up the sizing."

"No he didn't, these fit fine."

"They're falling off you, didn't you try these on when they got here"

"Yeah I did, don't you remember?"

And Brian did, Justin had given him a fashion show, an agonizingly long fashion show that had ending in a very long night of Brian showing his appreciation for just how beautiful Justin looked in and out of clothes. The clothes had fit then.

"Justin, what the fuck, come here."

Justin was suddenly scared. "What?"

Brian walked over to him, putting his large hands on Justin's slight hips. He noticed for the first time how closely his hands came to meeting when he rested them like this. He took a step back, looking critically a Justin, seeing for the first time that his cheekbones were a little more prominent, his face a little less round.

"Do me a favor, take your shirt off" Brian said

Justin tried to keep the mood light "absolutely, this is a much better way to spend an evening than at some dinner party with the Novotny-Bruckners."

Brian smiled, trying to keep his eyes blank, Justin took off his shirt and Brian eyed him carefully, seeing for the first time the thin blue lines on his arms, he pulled him forward and ran his hand down to the small of Justin's back, feeling each vertebrae as he went.

"Christ Justin, you've lost a lot of weight"

"You think so?" Justin shrugged away from Brian, putting his shirt back on. "That's probably a good thing, I mean I'm getting too old to still be eating like a kid and not worrying about it."

"Yeah" Brian agreed, keeping his expression neutral. "C'mon we're gonna be late"

Justin headed to the car and Brian went back in to grab a bottle of wine. He picked up the wine and then rested his forehead against the doorframe out of sight of Justin. He took a deep breath. He had been fooling himself, the kid wasn't eating, he was making himself sick, not eating, barely sleeping, and from the looks of it living on water and cigarettes. He shut his eyes and concentrated on keeping things light.

If he came at Justin with this hard the kid would bolt again, he had tried, so many times in the past to keep Justin from making mistakes, and had learned from experience that the subtle approach was the ONLY one that worked with his little blonde twink.

The problem was sometimes the subtle approach took months, he wasn't sure he had months, or even weeks before Justin collapsed.

He idly wondered how long one really could live on nothing but cigarettes water and the occasional narcotic.

Shaking his head he readjusted his expression to one of boredom and got in the car.

Dinner was actually far more relaxing than Brian would have thought. It was just the four of them, and Michael had moved beyond his annoying pretentious dinner party stage. Ben cooked, and between the four of them they polished off almost six bottles of wine… They were happily buzzed and comfortable when they moved to the living room for coffee. Brian sat and Justin leaned against him sighing contentedly.

Brian was just comfortable enough to not be too upset over the small amount he'd seen Justin eat at dinner. But he had eaten, and he would eat more in the coming days, because Brian wasn't….

Brian wasn't gonna think about it tonight. He wrapped a hand around Justin's waist pulling him closer, but carefully, he could feel the boy's ribs under the finely woven cotton of his dress shirt.

"So Mikey, when are you leaving for the Toronto?"
"My flight leaves tomorrow at seven."

"That's good, hey, give this to them for me." He pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to Michael"

"Sure, what it is?"

"It's a letter to Gus, and one to Lindz"

"Why don't you just mail it?"

"Why don't you just give it to them"

"Brian there's cash in here"

"Is there?"
"Brian, why are you…"

"Can you just give it to Lindsay for me?"

"Yeah sure, whatever, but you think there's something wrong too don't you?"
"I think I want to make sure my son has everything he wants, that's all."

Justin was only half listening to the conversation, the wine had gone straight to his head, and he was feeling extremely relaxed, his head leaning against Brian's chest, hearing his heart beating in a slow steady rhythm, feeing his chest rise and fall as he breathed, feeling the vibrations through his body when he got more agitated with Mikey. His eyes closed and before he knew it he was asleep.

Ben glanced over to see the blond contentedly sleeping against Brian. "Looks like Justin's been working pretty hard."

"Yeah" Brian agreed, "he has, I'm surprised he lasted this long without crashing tonight, he's been in the studio night and day getting the show ready."

Ben looked at Brian and then his eyes shifted down to Justin. He took in the dark circles under Justin's eyes, and noticed that he did look thinner, and made a mental note to talk to Justin about good nutrition and some relaxation methods, he looked like he could use them both.

They continued talking good-naturedly for another half hour or so when Justin suddenly sat bolt upright.

He was sweating, breathing shallow. "Brian lets go home."

Brian put a hand on his back, rubbing lightly, "Hey Justin, you okay?"

"Yeah, fine, but it's late, I'm ready to go okay?" There was an odd urgency in his tone. He was obviously not okay, but it seemed a bad time to call him on the lie, "Sure."

Justin stood up, "I'll meet you out front." And without another word walked out the door.

Brian shrugged "Time to get princess home, he's about to turn into a pumpkin."

"He okay?" Ben asked?

"Yeah, he's just probably tired" Brian lied

He grabbed his and Justin's jackets and headed out to the car, Justin was around the side of the house, obviously vomiting what little food he had eaten. Brian tried not to react, and in truth, if he were going to react, he wasn't exactly sure what appropriate response would be.

Anger wouldn't work, he was fairly certain Justin wasn't doing this on purpose.

Concern, but he was never all that good at expressing concern.

In truth his first instinct was to go with outright panic, but that just wasn't a very Brian Kinney like reaction, so he shoved that down and went with studied nonchalance and light humor.

"Hey, I know Ben's cooking isn't exactly to everyone's taste but isn't it a little rude to leave it on their lawn like that."

Justin looked up at him and smiled, just suddenly felt a little ill; he shrugged and walked to the car.

Ten minutes into the silent ride back Brian broached the subject again "Wanna tell me what's going on?"

"Nothing, I was tired, and had way too much wine"

Brian nodded, "yeah, we must have polished off at least a bottle each tonight"

"Add that to the…what the fuck were we eating?"
Brian laughed, I have no fucking idea, it wasn't bad though"

"Too much tofu" Justin wrinkled his nose, Ben needs to eat more meat

Brian laughed, that's a personal issue between Ben and Mikey, I'm not gonna get involved. This time it was Justin who giggled.

Brian's hand was resting on the stick shift, and Justin put his hand on Brian's, "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For not making this a huge issue. I know I haven't been eating right, I know I've been working too hard, I promise, promise, promise, that I'll be good from now on."

Brian looked over at him and raised an eyebrow "Who said I want you to be good?" he licked his lips suggestively moving his hand to Justin's thigh

"Brian, you know what I mean."

"Yeah I do, and don't make promises, just do it, okay, just eat, and sleep, cause you know, I need your energy levels high if I'm gonna fuck you into the mattress" and with this Brian leaned his head over and whispered hot into Justin's ear "all night long."

Brian's hot breath, and the memory of the first time Brian had ever said those words to him made Justin shiver, in a good way.

"Maybe we should stock up on some energy bars, I wouldn't want to disappoint you"

Brian smiled, "Good idea, I hate disappointments."

And they left it at that for the night. The rest of the drive home was spent discussing such mundane topics as the possible need to bring in the cleaning service three times a week rather than the twice-weekly schedule that they were now on. They also came to the conclusion that Saturday they would go shopping for a table and chairs for the den, since they spent most of their time in there it made sense to have a place to sit and eat.

It was Tuesday before Brian made it back to the diner for lunch, he'd been busy with the new campaign for Rapkins Restaurants and the pitch was tomorrow but he needed a break, he was starving, and he wanted to see if he could catch up with Mikey, get the news from the Canadian front.

"Ted, I'm gonna grab lunch at the diner, you coming?"

Ted looked up, surprised, his relationship with Brian was different these days but lunch invitations were rare. Ted was smart enough to know that there was a reason for the invite, probably needed a buffer between himself and Michael, but he was also smart enough to know that if he wanted to know what was going on, and not piss Brian off, it was best just to acquiesce.

"Sure Brian, just give me a minute to close out this file"

"They walked in together and Ted slid into the booth next to Michael, Brian sat across from them."

"So, how's my sonny boy?"
Michael looked up and smiled, "Gus is getting so big Brian you wouldn't believe it, and he has decided his cast is the ultimate weapon against evil, he wields it like a light saber"

"Mikey if you turn my kid into a geek I will never forgive you."

Michael looked hurt

"It's not my fault that the kid has the brilliance to see the inherent cool in the way of the Jedi"

Brian buried his face in his hands for a second…"how the fuck does a four year old know the way of the Jedi?"
"Well I couldn't bring gifts for JR and nothing for Gus could I?"
"So you bought him…"

"The original three, the classics, and Brian the kid loved them!"

"Great, and now he's wandering around telling people 'may the force be with you' Mikey, he's already got two mommies, isn't' that enough to get him beat up on the playground, do you have to make him a complete nerd too?"

Michael just rolled his eyes "you saw return of the Jedi SEVEN time in the theatres, didn't seem to damage your cool factor."

Brian just gave him a look of contempt in a way that only Brian fucking Kinney could get away with.

"Well anyway, I have pictures, want to see?"
"Sure"

Michael handed him a stack of pictures, most of them were of JR, she was a year old now, and turning out to be quite a cute little kid, Gus was growing so fast it was frightening. It looked like he'd inherited his fathers height. Mel and Lindz were in the background of most of the pictures but as Brian scanned through them he noticed something, they were never in the pictures together.

"So Ted" Michael turned his attention away from Brian for a moment, "have you two found a place yet?"

Ted sighed, Blake wants house, I don't see why we don't just get a nice condo clean, new, no yard to mow.

Michael laughed, "Didn't you already do this once with Emmet…you know you're going to give in a buy a house, why don't you stop fighting it?"
"Because if we get a house Blake is going to want a dog"

Brian actually looked up from the pictures for a second. "Teddy, are you saying you have something against puppies?"
Ted shrugged "of course I do, they're messy and they leave hair all over everything and they turn into dogs."

Brian snorted, "Teddy's afraid of dogs."

"I wouldn't say afraid exactly, lets just say, that I don't need some big untrained sloppy wet nosed animal sniffing at my crotch as soon as I get home"

"I thought that's what attracted you to Blake in the first place" Brian said, and Ted just rolled his eyes.

"I don't like dogs okay? I had a bad experience when I was a kid"

"Have you told Blake you don't want a dog?" Michael asked.

"No, how do you tell someone that you're against puppies, without sounding evil?"
Brian smiled to himself, and handing the pictures back to Michael took a bite of his sandwich.

"So how are Mel and Lindz?"

"Oh, you know, they're Mel and Lindz, they bicker and make up and bicker and make up"

"Christ, lesbians."

He finished his lunch, laid a few bills on the table and kissed Michael goodbye.

"Oh and teddy, you should really consider getting a puppy, I hear they really bring a couple closer together."

Ted just rolled his eyes. "See you back at the office Brian"

Brian left

As soon as he stepped out of the diner his cell phone rang, it was Lindsay.

"Hey"

"Hey Brian" her voice was shaking,

"What's wrong?"
"What? Nothing, I was just calling to see how you were doing, and tell you Gus had his check up for his arm today"

"Is Gus okay?"
"The doctor says he's healing fine and should be able to take the cast off in a couple of weeks. Gus is very disappointed, he wants to keep the cast"

Brian chuckled, "yeah, I hear he's also practicing his Jedi mind tricks"

"Brian he loves those movies."

"I'm going to have to kill Mikey."

"I'll help you, I've seen empire strikes back about a dozen times in the last three days"

"Well, remember your obsession with Ghost, you must have made me watch that film a couple of hundred times junior year."

"As I recall you weren't so very upset about."

"Patrick Swayze."

"riiight"

"So how are Mel and JR?"

"They're good, JR is growing up so fast, and Mel is still working on being licensed to practice law up here."

"Good."

"Brian."

"Yeah?"
"I wanted to thank you for the gift"

"Don't mention it"

"It was too generous, you know I can't really accept it"

"It's for Gus, he's gonna need stuff, and while Mel's not working…"

"Mel won't be happy about it"

"Since when has Mel ever turned down my money?"
"Since she didn't ask"

"Lindz, that's why it's cash, you don't have to tell her"

"Oh I already told her, we don't keep secrets from each other"

"Well, yeah, that's one way to kill a relationship"

"BRIAN, you know you're not that jaded"

"I do?"
"I've seen you in love now you know, you can't pretend with me anymore"

"Yeah well, then consider the gift an act of love and just take it okay, my kid may end up being Canadian but he can at least be well dressed, none of that flannel, and no hat with earflaps, you hear me?"
Lindsay laughed, "I promise, and thank you"

"Talk to you later Lindz."

"Love you Brian."

"Yeah."

Brian considered calling Justin to make sure he was okay, but with no pressing reason to assume otherwise at this moment he dismissed the thought and went back to the office to yell at the creative team, who had, as expected, fucked up the boards for the restaurant pitch.

Justin was standing in front of the bathroom mirror in the studio. He turned his head and tried to see if he looked any different. He had lost weight, because lately he felt like he could barely hold anything down, and he knew it, but he didn't look bad. If anything, maybe he even looked a little better, a little more like a man and less like a boy. His cheekbones being more prominent made his eyes look almost catlike. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and lit a cigarette.

He wandered around the studio aimlessly, trying to decide what to work on next; he flipped through his sketchbook, searching for an idea that would inspire him. He came across a sketch he'd done in New York, and realized that was the perfect subject for his next piece.

Inspired again he started preparing a relatively small canvass, this was going to take a little more effort and precision, he flexed his right hand a couple of times and realized that he'd have to be careful. Most of the time his hand was fine but too much detail work could make it cramp into a claw. It frustrated him still, but for the most part he worked around it, alternating between detail work and larger movements on larger projects.

He was exhausted when he finally felt like he was at a reasonable stopping point. He locked the studio and went to bed.

It was 4:30 in the morning when Brian heard Justin come upstairs. He'd gotten used to seeing him less and less in the evenings, as his work in the studio seemed to be at a crucial point. When Justin crawled into bed, he pulled him closer, not cuddling, because he didn't cuddle, just, keeping the kid warm that's all.