After Brian's admission, they stayed at the loft a few days, blocking out everything and everyone.
Slowly life returned to normal.
Brian took his 'Kinney Personal' box back to his office, and put the frame with Justin and Gus's picture on his desk. He also called his lawyer's office to stop all the property transfers, and to modify every paper into both their names, so that Justin wouldn't have to deal with those papers again if something really did happen to him.
Everything was fine for almost two weeks, until Michael called to say that Ben was at the hospital. He was sick; he had pancreatitis.
After they left Michael's apartment, Brian dropped Justin at PIFA and headed to his office. He knew that Justin had an exhibition, but Brian had to excuse himself. Vance had set up a last minute meeting with the people from the steakhouse account, and he probably wouldn't be able to get there. Justin was a little sad, but Brian had already seen all the pictures he would show, and he found them exquisite.
Justin tried to act as if the show was no big deal, but it was the best students from the fine arts section. Daphne was there for moral support, but he dismissed all the praise she gave him. Then he heard someone say, "She's right, your stuff is the best." It was the violinist who had performed in the concert he'd attended on his birthday. The one who had given him the CD and whom Justin had hunted down in the music department to say thanks. The one who had openly hit on him by saying, "If I were your boyfriend, I'd give you a birthday you'd never forget, like bringing you breakfast in bed. Then I would play for you, something noble and sentimental. And then we'd make love a couple hundred times, all that before lunch." At the memory, Justin flushed and turned to thank him again.
The musician smiled at Justin and immediately asked who Daphne was. Justin told him she was a friend from high school; he didn't know why, but he needed to explain that to the young musician. Ethan asked him, "How much for this picture?" They joked about the price and suddenly Justin told him it was free, for a song. It was out before Justin even realized what he had said. Moreover, Ethan jumped on the opportunity saying, "Why don't you come over later and collect it."
He left Justin dumbfounded standing in the middle of the gallery. He never thought that he would ask that, he didn't even know why he had asked for a song. He knew the musician was interested in him; he had made that clear.
Then suddenly here they were later that afternoon, in Ethan's apartment, eating an impromptu picnic on the floor, speaking about nothing and everything.
Ethan told Justin that his grandfather taught him how to play the violin, and that he had been a famous violinist in the Berlin Philharmonic before he was arrested and become a prisoner in a concentration camp. Justin was taken aback with the story, and mostly from the fact that Ethan could speak so easily about his family. At one point in Ethan's story, a shadow passed over Justin's features. Ethan had just told him that the only thing that kept his grandfather alive was his music. Justin knew that feeling, because no matter how shitty things got, he always had his art. It was the only place he could go and feel safe. A flicker of surprise passed in his eyes, and he told Ethan that he had never told that to anyone, not even to Brian.
Justin felt suddenly exposed and tried to change the subject. He asked Ethan, "Do you have a boyfriend?"
"No changing the subject," chuckled Ethan.
"Come on. I'm curious," continued Justin.
Playing along with the game, Ethan answered that he was once madly in love with this guy, and that they were together for about a year. He loved going to clubs and partying, and bringing guys home.
Justin looked closely at the man in front of him; it was as if he was telling his own story. He tried to clear his mind when he heard Ethan continue, "It was fun, but it wasn't what I really wanted." Justin was charmed, "What do you want?" he asked Ethan. Without blinking, Ethan said, "I want to be with somebody who only wants to be with me, who doesn't need to see other people, or to be on the scene every night. I want to be with somebody who I can have picnics on the floor with, and tell things to that I've never told anyone else."
Suddenly Justin felt incredibly uncomfortable; he stood up, grabbed his vest, and headed out, without looking back at Ethan.
I came home from that fucking hospital feeling more exposed than ever before, and I immediately spotted the cushions, the food and the candles on the floor.
I was pleased with his attention, but I couldn't tell him that, I needed to unwind and asked, "What the fuck is that?"
"It's a picnic," Justin said finishing lighting the candles.
"A picnic," stated Brian.
"Yeah, I went to the Gourmet shop, and I got a lot of cool and expensive stuff," continued Justin, "Brie, pate, French bread …" until he was cut off by Brian's sweet and tender kiss. Brian broke that by pushing Justin slightly away from him.
"Now, you know I don't eat fat, …" Brian replied grabbing a piece of bread, "Or carbs, after seven."
"I know, but… I thought that maybe just this once," Justin continued.
"We could dine on the floor?" chuckled Brian while letting himself drop on the floor.
"This is Pittsburgh, not Japan," stated Brian.
"Oh, come on," continued Justin, kissing Brian's neck. "It'll be romantic."
Feeling suddenly uncomfortable, Brian cleared his throat and stood up, grabbed the wine bottle and said, "You know I want to go out, I've had a for shit day and I need to unwind."
"You can do that here," asked Justin hopefully.
"We cannot do that here," replied Brian, as he moved toward the bedroom stopping on the bench in front of the windows panels. "Now come on."
Justin tried once more to get his attention. "How about cheese and crackers? I'll make it for you."
"Cheese and crackers aren't going to cut it," answered Brian. "Now come on, get up, get dressed!"
Justin put the cheese and crackers down, and turned around moving toward the bench, and grabbed Brian's left hand, "Can we please stay home, for one night? Just the two of us?" he pleaded.
Brian bent down, putting his head against Justin's and kissed him on the tip of his nose, "You're too young to settle down."
"You're too old to fuck around," smiled Justin back.
Brian pulled the bottle of wine and took a long drink, then he bent down and kissed Justin again. "Now I'm going to Babylon, you can either come with me, or you can stay here, it's your call," he finished caressing Justin's cheek and kissed him again.
Justin, defeated, turned around and put out the candles he had lit only a few minutes before.
Brian was in the bedroom, getting ready for Babylon, black tee and tight black jeans. A few minutes later, he left the loft without looking back at Justin who was still sitting on the floor.
He came home just before the curfew they had agreed on. Justin had cleaned up the picnic, but was sleeping on the futon cushions in the living room area, a blanket over him. Brian moved slowly into the bedroom and found a note on the bed.
"Hope you found what you wanted at Babylon. I didn't want to interfere in your plans, I just wanted to spend time with you, like you, I had a shitty day too. You know, home is still where you are. Love,
You know, home is still where you are.
Brian sighed deeply. Once again he had fucked up things between them, it was as if all they had said over the last few days was forgotten, all the promises, all the deals, everything, didn't exist.
He went into the bathroom, took a quick shower and then grabbed the duvet and moved with it toward the sleeping form of his lover. He quietly moved the duvet over his sleeping form and lay down near him.
Justin moved instinctively in his sleep into Brian's arms, which spooned the younger boy, and brought him closer to his chest.
"I'm sorry," whispered Brian. "I should have listened to you," he finished and kissed the top of Justin's head just over his ear.
"Mmmmh it's 'lright," came the sleepy reply.
"Yeah," replied Brian kissing the top of his head.
The next morning he was up first and made breakfast, or at least prepared everything for Justin, and woke him up just before leaving for work.
The day before he had left the steakhouse meeting without explanation, and with the help of that bear and the twink on his knees at Babylon, he had come up with a new slogan. He had planned to fix everything and wrap up this fucking campaign today. As soon as he got to the office, he wrote a note telling Cynthia to schedule a new meeting for three in the afternoon. The sooner he was done with this campaign, the better. The staff of the steakhouse accepted the meeting. Now it was three, they were all sitting in the conference room, and Brian was leading the show. As soon as Cynthia turned the boards, he knew somehow that he had nailed the account. They just needed a little more convincing to get them to change their traditional image into something more modern. They exchanged a few words and signed a contract. Once that was done, Brian called Justin, but got his voice mail. He left a message asking him to be at home around six.
Justin woke up to hear the door of the loft close. He stood up, took a shower, and grabbed his breakfast from what Brian had prepared for him. He smiled at the note on the counter "Sorry, see you tonight."
Once finished, he cleaned everything, took his backpack and coat and headed for class, without forgetting to set the alarm and lock the door.
The day was way too long for him, and he was glad once it ended. It was almost six as he stepped into the loft when he saw that he needed to buy some food. He headed out again leaving his backpack at the loft.
He went to the grocery store, and while walking down the aisles looking at the food, he noticed that he had left his backpack at home.
He cursed and started walking back, but his walk brought him to the front of Ethan's building, it was near seven. He stepped into the building and headed upstairs, he could hear the young man practicing his violin. He was good, really good.
He was about to knock on the door when his cell phone rang. He looked at the display, Brian. He sighed and sent the call to voicemail. He waited until he got the call back to say he had a message and dialed his voice mail. "The principle of a cell phone is to keep it on, where the fuck are you? I'm home, like I told you in the message I left before. Later"
Justin looked at Ethan's door and then back to his phone, he turned around and headed back home to Brian.
He pushed the door open and was surprise to see that the loft was bathed in dimmed light, soft music was playing on the stereo, and the coffee table was set for two.
As Brian heard the door, he stepped out of the kitchen, "You're home."
"You noticed," came Justin's reply, "You asked me to come home in your message, Why?"
"To surprise you?"
"You don't do surprises," answered Justin.
"Yes I do, see …" Brian gestured to the table, the candles and the kitchen.
Justin looked at Brian. He was wearing a black wife beater over black sweatpants, and was barefoot.
Justin walked to the bedroom, "Do I have time for a shower?"
Brian nodded, "Dinner is almost finished, 15 minutes, and we can eat."
Justin smiled sadly and walked to the bathroom. He shed his clothes and looked at himself in the mirror.
He stood near the bathroom cabinet and replayed the evening in his head. He'd gone to Ethan's building to see him. He'd almost blown everything Brian and he had worked so hard for in the last few weeks.
He looked at himself and for a split second hated what he saw. He made a fist and swung into the mirror.
Brian stopped washing the salad when he heard the commotion in the bathroom. He dropped the salad in the sink, ran to the bathroom door, opened it and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the scene in front of him.
Justin was crouched on the floor trying to pick up the shards from the mirror scattered around him. His right hand was bleeding.
Brian pulled on his running shoes and walked into the bathroom. Without a word, he took Justin in his arms and put him on the bed.
He returned to the bathroom, took a wet cloth and a towel from the rack. He came back, cleaned Justin's hand, and wrapped the cloth around it.
"Don't touch it, I will clean the bathroom, and then we'll take care of that , all right?"
While Justin sat on the bed, Brian took the broom and the dustpan and began to clean the bathroom.
Once Brian had cleaned the bathroom, he came back to the bedroom, took Justin in his arms again, carried him back into the bathroom and sat him on the cabinet, on the left of the sink.
Brian turned on the faucet; he took Justin's hand and removed the cloth. Justin winced when it finally came off. Brian looked at the hand, Justin had some scrapes just under his knuckles and a long cut on his palm, not too deep, but still enough to bleed, because he'd tried to pick up the shards off the floor. He looked up and saw Justin wince, "Does it hurt?"
"No, yes, it's just …" Justin stopped and looked up, "It's the right hand," he whispered.
"I know," whispered Brian back. "Come on, we'll clean it and then take care of the cut. Once that's done, you can tell me why you broke the mirror."
Justin opened his mouth, but Brian put his finger over it, "Shhh. Later."
After testing the water, making sure it wasn't too hot or too cold. He took hold of Justin's hand and let the water wash the remaining blood away.
Once the wound was clean of all blood, Brian looked closer to see if there were any remaining bits of glass in it.
Seeing nothing, he took the gauze, the antiseptic lotion, and disinfected the wound. Once clean, he put on some band-aids to keep the wound closed and wrapped the whole hand with a bandage.
They didn't say anything while Brian took care of Justin's hand. Once finished, Justin slid to the floor and followed Brian into the kitchen.
"Oh, is dinner ruined?"
Brian shook his head. He looked up, and asked, "Do you still want to eat something."
After a moment, Brian walked to the kitchen sink and resumed his earlier task, while Justin moved the bread and the bottle of water on the coffee table.
Justin sat on the floor and waited for Brian to come with the plate from the kitchen. He made something simple, salmon with rice and vegetables. Justin loved the rice, and Brian loved the vegetables.
Dinner was delicious, and Brian smiled when Justin took half his rice from his plate.
"I didn't know you could cook," whispered Justin.
"I can, just a few things, and this is one of them."
"I love it," answered Justin with a small smile.
"You're welcome," Brian replied. "Want to tell me?" he asked while gesturing toward the bathroom.
Justin's features clouded, and he looked over at Brian, trying to judge if he was angry. Brian didn't look away when Justin's eyes locked with his, knowing that Justin was searching for some answer there.
If Justin thought Brian was judging him, he couldn't find any evidence of that in the hazel eyes holding his stare; the only thing he found was love, concern, and maybe fear.
He lowered his head, "I … came home early, to make dinner." Brian nodded, "But we didn't have any groceries and I thought I could buy something."
Justin stopped his explanation and Brian frowned.
"I began to walk and ended up at Ethan's house, you know the violinist whose concert Mel and Lindsay took me to." Brian nodded, and Justin continued, "I walked the street and ended at his building. He went to the show, you know, the one you saw before everyone else." Brian nodded, he remembered of course, they made love all night under the finished canvases. Justin continued, "We talked, a funny banter between us, until he bought one of my paintings for a song."
Brian eyes narrowed at Justin's statement, "He hit on you?"
Justin nodded. "PIFA canceled some classes one afternoon, and he invited me over to his apartment. I got the picnic idea from him, I thought it was romantic."
"I see," stated Brian coldly, fighting his need to stand up and get drunk.
"I … he's not … well I'm not … you know."
"No I don't know, but what I want to know is why you destroyed the bathroom mirror."
Justin nodded and began to tug on the bandage over his wound. Brian grabbed his hands and held it in his, "Go on, and stop tugging on your bandage."
Justin nodded, "The last few days were, well, you know, kinda hard on us, and I remembered that he was nice, I thought that maybe I could … you know, clear my head, and have someone listen to me. I was in front of his door when the phone rang, and I got your messages."
Brian nodded and asked out of nowhere, "Do you like him, does he make you hot?"
Justin shook his head, "No, no, I don't like him." Justin continued to shake his head, "I thought that maybe, no I hoped," he looked helplessly at Brian, "I wanted to give you some space, I wanted to matter to someone … I wanted to …"
"You matter, Sunshine," whispered Brian, thinking to himself 'More than you can really imagine.'
"I know!" replied Justin, "It's just after everything we went through… but you shut me out, you turned your back on what we tried to do."
"I know," answered Brian, he stood up and moved in front of the windows. "I had a shitty day, and I didn't want to vent. I should have explained it to you, but…." Brian shrugged, "I'm not good with words." He passed his hand over his neck, "That evening, when I told you… when I told you, Home is where you are, I meant it," Brian turned around, and looked directly at Justin. "I meant it, Justin, 'Home is where you are'; to me, my home is you, Justin."
Justin's breathe hitched at Brian's admission. He looked up, and Brian saw his teary eyes, he walked toward him, and took him in his arms.
"Justin, are you listening?"
Justin nodded. "I want you here, I want to come home to you, I love seeing your art lying all around the loft. I love going to bed with you, and more than that, I love waking up with you. I … Christ is it always that difficult?"
Justin smiled and nodded, and Brian continued whispering, "You are my home, Justin, I wouldn't change that for anything."
Justin nodded, and whispered back, "I love you too, Brian."
Brian looked at Justin eyebrow raised, "I didn't say that."
Justin smiled, "No, you told me more."
They stayed in their embrace, taking comfort in each other.
"No more violin music?" asked Brian just above a whisper.
"No more violin music," stated Justin.
Brian sighed in relief, and walked them both to the bed; he pushed the covers away, and began to undress Justin, who began to help Brian undress too. Once naked, Brian took Justin in his arms and they lay on the bed. Never in his life had Brian thought that he would be happy 'cuddling' with another man, in his own bed.
Justin sighed contentedly, as he felt Brian relax behind him, he moved his hand and found Brian's, linking their fingers together.
Justin whispered, "I love you."
Brian inhaled deeply and whispered back, "You too, Sunshine, you too."
That night, they slept in each other's arms, taking comfort from each other's presence.
They weren't monogamous, but as Brian said, home is where Justin was. They learned to communicate, and to speak more openly. Justin never went to see Ethan again.
They found their own way to live together.
Sometimes love is more than just a name, for Brian, Justin was his everything.
- Finis -
I based the fiction on two songs : Diana Krall – Love is Where You Are and Speedwagon - I can't fight this feeling anymore.