Throw it back to you
Sometimes Justin wondered if Brian had some psychic ability he'd been unaware of. It was uncanny how he could predict what would happen even when Justin insisted he was wrong. He thinks about those things a lot these days.
When he isn't trying not to think about them.
"Whether we see each other next weekend….or next month…never again…it doesn't matter, it's only time."
He had wanted to roll his eyes and tell Brian to stop queening. That he knew they would be fine. But the words had stuck in his throat and then they'd clung to each other desperately…and he'd ignored the whisper in his mind that told him Brian might be right…
He had gotten on a plane, met Daphne's friend, Janice, at the airport and come back to the shit hole they called an apartment. He'd called Brian immediately and that voice had disappeared because - no. This was them. It would be fine.
Brian had flown up two months into his move and he'd met him at the airport. Standing on tiptoes to look over people heads and his heart had tripped over itself when he saw that familiar form walking toward him. Ten minutes later, he was digging his nails into Brian's back, legs wrapped around Brian's hips, his head hitting the bathroom stall's wall…Brian inside him…hot and hard…and it had felt so good…They'd fucked between bouts of sightseeing…the little diner Justin worked at…the studio he shared with about ten other people…his favorite place in Central Park near The Dakota and Strawberry Fields. Brian had joked that he really had a thing for the Beatles.
It was everything he thought it would be…and he'd known then, somehow, it was the last time they'd be that way. The week had ended too soon and he'd kissed Brian goodbye….like the first time….like the last time…
He was supposed to go back for the opening of the new hip, chic restaurant that Emmett and Darren now owned. But he had to work double shifts and couldn't make it. He had almost bought his tickets to return for Thanksgiving but his manager, William, told him about a small New Year's exhibit at NYU that featured up and coming artists that had been interested in displaying one of his works. So he had stayed through the holidays to create it. They hadn't picked his but William had assured him it had been worth trying and they now had him in mind. He had to miss Hunter's graduation due to a storm that came in the night before and had grounded all the planes.
Each time he called Brian to tell him he wasn't coming, there would be the slightest pause before Brian would simply say. "It's okay, Sunshine. Maybe next time."
If he had looked closer at it, he would have seen what was happening. That he hadn't wanted to go back. Not that he didn't love them all…especially Brian…but the city had captivated him…sunk inside his skin and it now owned him. He loved it…the sounds, the smells, the way he felt at once liberated and trapped…it inspired him. Ran through his veins…electrifying and burning…it was the way he felt with Brian…except it wasn't. He loved it more for that.
If he let himself, he would have felt that gaping hole that wanted Brian…wanted home. He would have remembered that he left behind the love of his life, everything he ever wanted…and he couldn't. Because this was his destiny. This was why he had moved to New York. And he had to try.
He'd met Morgan somewhere in all that…and they'd become good friends. Both new to the city…both trying to make something of themselves. They shared passion for art and music…laughed at the same stupid jokes…and one day Justin looked up…and realized he hadn't spoken to Brian in two months…
He'd called him that night, unsure of what to say. He mentioned he'd met someone…
Brian had laughed a little. "I kind of figured that, Sunshine." He'd cleared his throat. "Is he hot?"
Justin had sighed. "I guess."
They'd gotten away from that subject and onto life in the Pitts and New York. Work, life with the boys, art, the fucking inflated prices in Manhattan…Justin had promised that he would call the following week.
"I might have another chance at that NYU exhibit."
There was a pause and when Brian spoke, Justin had heard the warmth in his voice. "Congratulations - Justin."
"Thanks." The knock on his door had surprised him and when he looked at the clock he'd remembered he was supposed to have met Janice and Morgan at the bar an hour ago. "I have to go, Brian."
He hadn't called the next week or the one after…life had taken him for a ride and he'd found there wasn't enough time…and when he let himself think about it he'd realized it had been a year….
A year after Brian last spoke to Justin, he woke up to find two strangers in his bed and a hangover that was threatening to be the mother of all goddamn hangovers. He blinked at the harsh light and rolling out of bed, he glanced back…wondering what the hell he'd been thinking sticking his dick in those. He'd thrown pants and shoes that weren't his at the pair and told them they had until his shower was over to get the fuck out.
The pounding of the water on his head was enough to make him want to retch but the heat was making his aching muscles relax and to him, that was more important. He soaped up, taking extra care to clean certain parts today and making a mental note to set up a doctor's appointment. It was time again to get checked up. Remembering the two in his bed…he also noted that it was time to cut back on the fucking Beam.
When he came out they were gone and he let out a sigh of relief…he wasn't in the mood today. He needed to hit the gym, then stop at the diner before getting in some extra hours at Kinnetic. Looking for a missing shoe in the back of his closet, his hands closed around something smooth. He fingered it, brow furrowing as he tried to figure out what it was…a box. He pulled it out and froze when he recognized it.
Drop it, Kinney. Throw it away. Out the window. Down the fucking disposal.
He never listened to his better judgment, why the hell start now? He opened it, his eyes falling on the tasteful, silver rings inside. He remembered laughter and fights…plans and futures…that word he never believed in….things he'd forced himself to forget. His breath hitched, chest constricted against a sudden ache, strong and sharp, and he flailed his way to his bed, taking a seat on it. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
He was sitting naked on his bed, fighting off an anxiety attack and breathing like he was in fucking labor because a fucking twink had taken his heart with him. His hands clenched on the box…in a drunken rage he'd thrown it at the closet door the day Justin stopped calling. He'd broken picture frames, and torn up drawings, and ripped up clothes, stuffed them in garbage bags and set them outside.
When he'd woken up the next morning, he realized what he had done and tried to get them back. They had been picked up already. He could have sworn he'd thrown the rings in there too.
But they were here.
He stuffed them inside his bedside drawer, pushing them all the way back. He stood up, got dressed and got the hell out of his loft. Deciding against the gym, he walked to the diner in the cold, crisp fall morning. Leaves crunching under his feet, he remembered fall had always been Justin's favorite season. He'd called it nature's splattered canvas.
There was that damn constriction again and Brian shoved thoughts of sunshine and blue away. He'd never been so happy to see the diner in his life. He was even looking forward to Debbie's incessant chatter. Anything that kept his mind busy.
He fell into the warmth and noise of the Liberty Avenue crowd, nodding at Kiki as he passed her by. He noticed Emmett sitting alone at a booth and plopped down opposite him. He received a quick smile before Emmett looked back down at the boards spread across the table. Brian leaned over, forehead crinkling when he spoke. "Emmett?"
"What are you doing looking at boards?"
Emmett glared at him. "Take a guess, genius."
"Well if you're looking to advertise, I think your best bet is the bathroom at Babylon. But there's already a whole fucking wall dedicated to the King Bottom of Liberty Avenue in there." Brian smirked at him. This was what he needed. Normalcy…distraction….
Emmett returned the smirk. "Todd know?"
Brian grinned at him. "Aha. So is that an admission of something, Nelly?."
Emmett stuck out his tongue. "Not everyone has to always be in control, Brian. That's your freaky malfunction." He paused, taking a sip of his coffee as he watched Brian, his face softening as he continued to stare at him, to the point where it became uncomfortable.
"Did I say something?"
Debbie stopped at their table before Brian could respond. "Well, if it isn't the two Studs Muffins of Liberty Avenue. What can I get you, sweeties?" She flipped open her notepad, but stopped when she glanced at Brian. Her face wore a sudden mask of concern and Brian wondered what the hell was wrong with the two of them. Or why the hell his ability to keep them at bay wasn't working today.
Brian threw up his hands. "What?"
Debbie shook her head. "Nothing, baby. I'll bring you guys the special."
Brian glared at her as she left. "What the fuck am I missing?"
"That's a loaded question if I ever heard one."
Emmett reached his hand over to cover Brian's, pining it to the table when he tried to pull away. "You look like shit."
Brian rolled his eyes. "Thanks."
"You can't keep doing this, Brian."
Brian schooled his face, blank stare in place. "I have no idea what you're babbling about, Emmy-Lou."
"He's not coming back. Not for a long time."
Brian pulled his hand away, ignoring the comment and looked away to the counter. There was the new waiter, early twenties…hot ass…and Brian tried to think of an excuse that would get the twink into the bathroom and Brian inside that ass.
"Make it worth it, Brian."
His eyes shifted back to Emmett who was still staring at him. "What the hell is that supposed to mean, Em?"
There was a long sigh. "You know -- I fucking respect you, Brian. Don't look at me like that. I do. Not to say that I don't think you can be an asshole. Cause you can but…You always lived your life the way you wanted and fuck all what anyone said." Emmett lowered his cup to the table, the clink of it preceding his next words. "And I'm not stupid. I know you changed. Whether you want to admit it or not. So make it worth him leaving."
Brian raised an eyebrow but said nothing, allowing him to continue.
"You grew up. It doesn't matter that the reason is no longer here. You did and you can't go back. Fuck. I don't think you even want to." Emmett laughed, empty and sad. "It's hollow now, isn't it? All the fucking and sucking?" Something in his tone revealing…too much.
Brian swallowed, pushing away the burn in his eyes. "I wouldn't exactly call it hollow, Emmett. Actually the exact opposite."
That received a short bark of a laugh. Brain hoped it would be the end of therapy, Emmett-style. But no such luck. And when Emmett spoke again, he aimed where it hurt.
"He almost died twice, Brian. You almost lost him forever. Twice. At least now, you know he's out there. Happy. You deserve that too. Fuck them all, Brian. Fuck what they think you need to do. Fuck who they think you need to be. You're ready, sweetie. Stop hurting yourself…stop hurting us."
Brian met Emmett's gaze at that. "I'm not…"
"Not intentionally, no. But we love you, Brian. It hurts us to see you like this. So…you know…" Emmett reached across the table, softly slapping Brian across the cheek. "Snap out of it."
Brian almost smiled and when Debbie returned with his breakfast, he squeezed her hand when she gave him the plate. She smiled softly, leaning in to kiss his head before getting back to work.
There was something cracking inside him…breaking loose and allowing him to breath. He wasn't sure what it was or what it meant or if it would last but…it felt…good. That missing space that was shaped like Justin was still there…still hurt…but it didn't cripple. He could do this. He could stop hiding.
"So, Honeycutt, what's with using some other company to do your advertising?"
"Well, Brian-honey, I can't afford the Great God Kinney's prices." He scowled at him as he added. "And don't call me Honeycutt."
Brian laughed then…for the first time in a long time…in two years to be exact….
Two years since he'd last heard his voice, Justin could still hear the sounds that Brian made as he came, inside his head. It happened all the time. Sometimes in the middle of a painting, he'd hear them and have to refocus. Or when he was reading something and that halting laugh he'd gotten used to would force him to close his eyes. And once, when Morgan had started to kiss him, he swore he heard Brian say his name.
It wasn't often but when it happened, Justin would get angry. At himself. At Brian. They hadn't talked in a long time. He wasn't sure whose fault it was…he suspected it was his own. He knew he shouldn't still remember what it felt like to touch him…what he smelled like in the morning…the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled, something he only did for him, most times.
He was lucky. His name was growing in the art world. No solo shows but he'd had two shared exhibits at NYU and one up and coming in a Soho gallery. He'd scored a job with a just starting illustration company and he'd been able to quit his crappy waiter job. The commissions that came in paid enough for his rent, food and art supplies. It was all he needed.
Six months before, Morgan had moved in to help with the expenses and even though Justin missed his space, it was nice to have someone there. Morgan would tell him he loved him and wouldn't run when Justin choked on the words. He gave him room…didn't ask for more than he was willing to give.
And sometimes, Justin wished he could give more. He could be the boyfriend that Morgan needed.
Sometimes he'd even convince himself that he was over the Pitts, Liberty Avenue…Brian.
And then something or someone would remind him what a fucking liar he was.
He still talked occasionally to Michael or Ben, called Debbie for Mother's Day and the holidays, even managed to drop by the previous Christmas after he'd heard Ted saying that Brian had almost missed his plane to Canada…where he was visiting Gus. He and Emmett kept in touch…but not as often as Justin knew he should have.
No one ever spoke about Brian.
Which was fine by him.
It had been months now since Justin had let himself think about Brian. The anger he'd felt at him seemed to fade away. He knew it made no sense…but Brian had left him as much as he had left Brian. So he'd pushed emotions, and dreams, and things he ached for aside. He figured he'd conquered whatever it was that he felt for his ex-whatever the hell Brian had been.
It was easier that way…better that way.
And if sometimes he woke up calling his name, it was ignored.
He was over him.
Until he called his mother's house to wish his sister a happy sweet sixteen…he felt like shit for not being able to make it up but the newest book he was working on was killing him with a deadline and he had to finish it. As he dialed his mother's, he steeled against having to chat with Tucker. They never really got along but Justin knew he was a part of the package now.
The phone rang four times before it was picked up and Justin got ready to ask what the delay was, but froze when he heard Brian's voice.
"You know, I'm not your receptionist, Mother Taylor."
"Brian, please. Last time, I promise."
Justin heard Brian sigh, mumble something under his breath before finally speaking into the phone. "Hello?"
Justin tried to form words…tried not to let his heart race at the sound of that voice….
"Hello?" Brian said with more force. "Is anybody there?" Another pause. "He-llo?"
There was a moment where Justin wanted to talk, to say all those things inside. To yell at Brian for not trying harder…to tell him how sorry he was he'd left him behind…to let him know he still loved him…but he couldn't. It was all he could do to quietly hang up the phone. His head fell in his hands and he felt the hot tears fall. "Fuck."
Yeah. He was over Brian.
Not a fucking chance.
Justin snorted, wiping away at the wetness on his cheeks and taking a deep breath. He would be fine.
He would be fine.
Three years…he'd made it three years now. Away from home….away from…everything.
Three years after last seeing Justin, Brian thought he was losing it. It was the only explanation for the fact that everywhere he looked, he'd see the little shit. Blonde hair rushing past and he'd do a double take, shaking his head at his own stupidity. It wasn't like Justin couldn't be in town. It was the holidays. Brian knew he was visiting Jennifer.
And that he had brought Morgan with him.
Which was why Brian had dropped off Jennifer and Molly's presents the day before Justin was supposed to arrive. He had also made his excuses to Debbie and called Mel and Lindz in Canada to see if they had an extra place for him.
Debbie had been pissed but when he'd looked away at the mention of Justin, she shut up, gave him a hug and sent him home with a casserole. Mel, who had mellowed considerably since moving up to the great North and who he could surprisingly hold a civil conversation with now, had told him he was welcome. And that he had better fucking behave himself when he got there.
Okay. So she hadn't changed that much.
He'd told her to kiss his ass and get his kid ready to see him.
Apparently he hadn't changed either.
He only had one more thing to do before he could go home, pack and get the hell out of Dodge before he ran into…people. The boys had decided to meet at Woody's to reminisce and share a holiday drink or two or ten before they all went their separate ways. Emmett was meeting Drew in Florida. Ted was going to Blake's this year. And Brian….was running the hell away. If he stayed for an hour, he had enough time to hit Babylon for a quick backroom fuck before he had to leave for the airport.
He stepped into the bar, catching sight of the others at a table in the corner, counting five bodies instead of four and he froze. He couldn't make out the person sitting next to Ben.
The closer he got he noticed that the hair on the mystery guest was dark and he breathed a sigh of relief. Shit.
Ben introduced him as Daniel. He was an old friend, ex-student from the days Ben had been a TA and an aspiring writer. Brian was so relieved it wasn't…someone else that he forgot to be rude and actually shook the guy's hand. He took a seat between Writer Boy and Emmett, and ordered a shot of Beam and a beer. He had some catching up to do.
They talked about their plans, Brian suppressing the urge to roll his eyes every time Emmett said "Drewsie" in that tone of his. He caught Daniel looking at him and he met his eyes. He wasn't half bad. Actually he was pretty hot. Dark hair, almost black, green eyes…intelligent looking. There was something there too…something that reminded Brian of what he saw when he looked into the mirror at his own reflection. Brian blinked. Where the hell had that come from?
Daniel seemed to sense his thoughts and grinned. He leaned over and said, so only Brian could hear. "Try not to get that constipated look every time he says it."
"Is it that obvious?"
"It's gotten to the point when he says it, I swear someone must have just offered you pussy or something."
Brian let out a laugh at that. He caught Ben staring at him in surprise and looked away. When he glanced back, Ben was smiling slightly and he could have sworn he saw him poke Mikey in the side.
Daniel excused himself a few minutes later, happy to have met them all and hoping to see them again now that he had moved back to the Pitts. He shook Brian's hand, holding it for a fraction longer than necessary. Brian watched as he walked out the door.
It was the holidays…and he fucking missed…
He missed Justin.
But Justin had his own life. He was gone.
He glanced at the closing door again and realized, not for the first time, how alone he was. Felt the grip of it on his heart…the cold way it spread though him…
He watched Ben and Michael talking quietly together. Noticed Ted's eyes light up when Blake walked in the door.
He felt Emmett's gaze on him and met it with his own, raising one eyebrow.
"It's okay to miss him."
Brian cleared his throat. "Mind your own fucking business, Emmett."
He saw him smile, that sad smile he only saved for him. "It still is." Emmett brushed one hand across his hair as he said, "And it's okay to want something more. It's okay to not want to be alone." He picked up Brian's empty glass and took it back to the bar for a refill.
He hated when Emmett was right.
And he was.
Brian needed more…Justin had taught him that. He needed Justin…but that wasn't happening…not now…maybe not ever….
His gaze fell to the door again…four years had been a long time….
Over four years since he'd last had any contact with Brian and Justin wondered what he was doing at that moment. It was a game he played in his head sometimes. Guess where Brian is…The baths? Always a possibility. The diner? Maybe. The office? Definitely. He would get the clearest picture of him and it never failed to make him smile…or make him ache.
He glanced across the table at Morgan, who was strumming on his guitar, writing a new masterpiece, Justin was sure. He caught him looking and smiled. Justin returned it and went back to studying the contract his agent had sent over.
After five years in New York, he was seriously being considered for a solo art show at the Agora Gallery in Chelsea. It was what he had worked so long for. He had sold every piece he'd ever presented in a show. This was the hugest space he'd ever seen and he knew he had some serious work ahead. They wanted the exhibit to open in less than a year. He had several pieces ready but he would need more.
Justin worried his lip with his teeth…his inspiration had been lacking and he had the fleeting thought that maybe he could take a couple of days and go back to the Pitts. See his Mom…Molly…Debbie and the boys…
Warmth spread through him then. He had the contract in his hand. He had almost made it. It was possible, that dream he'd had to be the best…to become his own man, make his way in the world. It was within reach and it made Justin giddy. He could have it all.
His art…his career….and Brian.
Maybe it wasn't too late.
It's only time.
It was okay to let himself hope now.
He glanced up guiltily at Morgan. They had been together for more than three years but Justin had refused to commit completely, his heart always elsewhere. He glanced down before Morgan noticed him staring, re-reading the contract and highlighting sections he wasn't sure about. Maybe he could fax a copy to Mel…she might be able to explain it best…
There was a quiet, halting, familiar laugh behind him and Justin's hand paused as he reached for his drink, shaking his head at his first thought. It couldn't be…
No fucking way.
He turned his head slowly, glancing over his shoulder and his heart dropped to his knees. His eyes soaked up the sight, and before he could stop it, there was a wide smile tugging at his lips. He vaguely heard Morgan ask him a question but it was drowned out by the rushing sound in his ears.
Here…in New York.
Justin shifted his focus slightly, noticing that Brian wasn't alone.
Brian was here…with someone…else.
He was smiling at him, chuckling at whatever was being said and Justin's smile fell, his initial happiness fading and…he wanted to punch something…or more specifically someone. Hard.
When it finally registered that Morgan was asking him who he was staring at, he answered quietly.
And as soon as it was out of his mouth, Brian's eyes found his across the expanse of the café. He blinked once, twice and from nowhere, he gave Justin such a disarming smile that he was convinced he was dreaming. Brian raised a hand in greeting, waving and Justin found himself returning it. He forced a grin, heat and red licking inside his soul. His eyes kept focus on the back of Brian's companion's head.
He wasn't a trick.
Brian wouldn't ever eat with a trick.
Justin watched as the guy glanced back…he was beautiful. All tanned and green-eyes and muscular. He was gesturing to Brian, who kept shaking his head. Mr. Native Island Boy, as he suddenly became known in Justin's head, kept nodding, reaching over to rest a hand against Brian's cheek…the touch familiar it seemed, natural.
Justin wanted to kill him.
He glanced at Morgan who was watching him carefully through narrowed eyes. At the moment he could care less. He would deal with that later.
Brian was here with…oh god…was that his…Justin couldn't even think it. No. No.
He jumped slighting, craning his neck to look up at Brian, standing in front of him now, a smile on his face. Justin stood up slowly, unsure what to do.
It was another second before he was enveloped in a hug, warm and full and smelling of Brian…expensive cologne, cigarettes and that scent of sex and sweat that was only his. He closed his eyes for a moment and choked back his protest when Brian pulled away.
"Well…this is fucked."
Justin laughed, hard and long, sunshine smile that gave him his namesake in place and nodded. "What the fuck are you doing here?"
Brian shrugged. "I had a business meeting with one of our New York clients." His eyes roamed Justin's face and he seemed to have to tear it away to introduce himself to Morgan.
They nodded, pleasantries of names the only thing the two could say to one another. Justin doubted Morgan could or even wanted to make small talk at that moment. Aside from "So you're the reason my boyfriend won't love me."
Justin smiled over at Brian. "I can't believe you're here."
"It's not my first time, is it?"
Justin left that hanging, what went unsaid heavy in the air between them and gestured toward the papers on the table. "I got my first solo show offer." He was the first person Justin had told.
Morgan's glare was on him now but he ignored it.
He saw pride light Brian's eyes. "Congratulations, Sunshine."
Brian was staring at him, something lurking in those hazel eyes and Justin swallowed past the lump in his throat. The moment was lost when Native Boy appeared at Brian's side.
"I'm sorry to interrupt." He smiled at Justin, warmly. Which just made Justin hate him more. Apparently he had been talked about. "The car is out front, Brian. I'll meet you there."
Brian held onto Native Boy's wrist and Justin saw red this time.
"Justin, this is my good friend Danny. Danny, Justin Taylor and Morgan Jackson."
Justin politely shook Danny's hand, resisting the urge to squeeze it hard and he watched as Morgan did the same. Danny grinned at him and Justin understood what Brian saw. The guy was hot. Beautiful even. He watched as Danny excused himself, touching Brian's shoulder and leaning in to whisper something. Brian nodded and Danny turned, walking out the front door.
Justin stood facing Brain…and there was so many things he wanted to say to him but he had no idea how. And then it was too late. Brian was hugging him again. Nodding to Morgan before bringing eyes back to Justin. He smiled, that same secret smile he only used for him. "It was good to see you, Sunshine."
Justin nodded. "You too."
Brian looked away, then back, something unreadable on his face. "Later."
"Later." Justin replied and watched Brian walk out of the door and out of his life…
Fuck…Five years…it had mattered after all…
New York had once fascinated Brian…the lights, the rush, the men…it was where he had believed everything good would happen to him. Where he had fucking belonged. Back when he had thought he knew it all.
Well, okay he did. It was true.
But once upon a time he thought the city held the secret to his happiness. If he was honest he would admit it still did.
New York had seemed like everything before bashings, cancer and bombs had opened Brian's eyes. Now…all it stood for…all it symbolized for him…was the loss of five years and of the one thing he never knew he wanted. The one person he knew he could never have again.
He watched Justin talking with a reporter from the New York Times, according to what Emmett had told him. How he had found that out Brian could only guess. That fairy was the fucking Queen of Gossip.
Their Sunshine was a huge, fat, fucking success. Not that Brian had doubted it. He knew the little shit had talent to spare. He smiled into his drink as he watched Debbie scare the hell out of some yuppie with her tales of life outside the splendor of Manhattan.
"Holy crap. Eight fucking bucks for a Pepsi." Hunter complained, halting next to him and sipping said Pepsi slowly. Very slowly. Brian stared at him and Hunter grinned, shrugging "At that price, I'm making this bitch last, okay?"
"What bitch are we taking about?"
Brian turned and smiled at Justin's beaming face. "Hunter."
"Oh fuck you." Hunter laughed, shoving Brian gently. "Asshole." He glanced between the two, his lips quirking into a smile before excusing himself. "I have to get Debbie away from that poor guy."
Brian turned back to Justin. "You did it." He gestured to the room. "Justin Taylor, artist."
Justin grinned. "It's amazing, isn't it?"
"Not at all. I knew you could do it."
Justin's gaze lingered on Brian's lips for a second, before returning to his eyes and when he spoke it was quiet, breathless. "I'm glad you came, Brian."
Brian tore his eyes away from Justin's and shrugged. "Of course I did. You worked hard for this. Put your soul into it. "
"Sacrificed everything I wanted." Justin kept his eyes on him.
Brian cleared his throat and scanned the gallery. "Where's Morgan?" Nice, Kinney.
"He left early."
Brian furrowed his brow. "Early? But it's your big night."
Justin shrugged. "He has a gig tonight he needs to get ready for. He and Dwayne came by for a few minutes to give me some support but they took off before it got too crowded."
"Dwayne?" Brian could care less who that was but whatever kept them from talking about everything Justin had sacrificed, was good enough reason to ask.
Brian nearly choked on his wine. He played it off well, managing to only need to clear his throat before responding. "Oh. That's new." He refused to ask what happened, even if it killed him. If Justin wanted to tell him he would.
"They met about six months ago, a few weeks after Morgan and I broke up." Justin sipped his own wine, canvassing the crowd as he did. "They're good together."
Brian nodded mutely. That was all Justin seemed to need since he kept talking.
"It was easier for Morgan to be with Dwayne."
That piqued Brian's curiosity enough to ask. "Why easier?"
Justin met his eyes when he answered. "Because he isn't in love with someone else."
Brian blinked. There it was…that shifting inside…that easing in his chest…and he could breathe…
Justin coughed, looking at him cautiously. "Um…so how's Danny?" It seemed like he choked on the name.
Brian regrouped, smirking at Justin. "He's fine. At home."
Justin's face fell just slightly and Brian almost wanted to laugh at the pout that formed on his lips. "Why didn't he come? I made sure his name was on the invitation."
Brian nodded. "He wanted me to thank you for that. He had a writing assignment to finish. Then he's getting married."
Justin didn't fare as well with surprise announcements and he promptly did choke on his drink. Brian patted his back hard a few times until his face no longer had a purple tint. After another few minutes passed, enough to regain his composure, he eyed Brian…menacingly.
"You motherfucker. You did that on purpose."
Brian looked at him innocently. "Did what?"
Justin set his glass down on the nearest table and crossed his arms. "How long has Danny been engaged?"
"Ah…almost a year."
"So…when you guys were down here…"
"Oh no. He'd just gotten back together with Matt then." Brian brushed imaginary lint from his suit jacket. "They got engaged about two weeks later."
Justin clenched a fist. "I see. So you and him…never.."
Brian nodded. "No we did. For about a year." He caught the attention of a passing waiter, snatching another glass of wine. He swallowed a large gulp before continuing. "I guess we had the same problem you and Morgan had. Except, you know, we both had it."
Justin's face paled and Brian decided to stop fucking with him right then and there. "Hey Sunshine, you okay?"
Justin shook his head. "So you were never…I mean…what the fuck…"
Brian led him to a chair, ignoring the curious glances thrown at them. "It was the reason we even started…whatever the hell we had. No threat of either of us getting hurt. You can't break a heart that doesn't belong to you." Brian touched Justin's cheek, running one finger over his skin softly.
He sighed. "It was never going to happen to us."
Justin placed his own hand over Brian's. "Because?"
Brian grimaced. "Do I have to say it, Justin?"
After a long moment, Justin grinned, leaning forward to kiss Brian, breathing in…hands grasping what he could reach. He pulled back, foreheads touching. "Fuck, I missed you."
Brian crushed him in a hug, burying his face in Justin's hair as he whispered. "Missed you too, Sunshine." He felt the grin against his shoulder and resisted the urge to laugh.
"You were the one that was supposed to save me all along."
Brian pulled back. "I think that's the other way around, Sunshine."
Justin buried his face against Brian's neck, mumbling. "Next time we decide to be stupid for six years, let's do it in the same city, okay? That way we can have angry sex."
Brian snorted at that. " I like the way you think, Mr. Taylor. And hey. At least we didn't wait seven years to catch a clue…"
Seven years, two months and he'd lost count of the hours and minutes since the day he'd first left Pittsburg, Justin sat in the back of a luxury Lexus, staring out the window at the falling snow, drumming impatient fingers against his carryon. They sped along the quiet road that led from Pittsburgh International Airport to West Virginia.
He was home.
Today was going to be the day that his life started again. He had gotten enough buzz from his first solo and William had booked a new show for him in March. Three months….
The road they drove was winding and Justin held his breath as the house came into view. Lights led the way, blinding him slightly, but he was still able to make out the cars parked in the - his - their driveway. He smiled at that.
He and Brian hadn't mentioned to anyone that they'd reunited. Mostly just enjoying not having the constant questions that came with that. But it appeared tonight, they would have to fess up.
The car pulled up to a stop and Justin tipped the driver, one of the regulars he'd gotten used to seeing in the last year. Brian had flown him in…a lot. Wanting to make up for lost time. Justin had only allowed it if he got to pay for half the trips. There had been no argument. "Merry Christmas, Andre."
"Merry Christmas, Mr. T. Wish Mr. Kinney the same."
"I will." Justin pushed the car door open, his shoe crunching on the freshly fallen snow. He slammed the door shut, watching the car track back to the road before adjusting his bag and making his way to the front door. He pounded loudly, aware of the music that came from inside and not willing to freeze until someone found him. He had lost his keys while he had been packing up all his things. The door swung open and Danny stood in front of him.
His eyes widened and he grinned. "Justin! Hey. Come in. Come in. It's fucking freezing out there."
Justin stepped into the foyer, dropping his bag unceremoniously on the floor. He'd gotten to know a lot about Danny in the last year and even though there was a primal part of him that hated the idea this man had touched Brian, Justin knew that Danny had been there when Justin couldn't be. For that he was grateful. He turned to greet him when a rather large and very handsome man joined them. "Who is this now?"
Justin smiled at the accent and stuck his hand out. "Justin Taylor. I own the house."
There was pause and then the large man started to laugh. "It's the Justin bloke, then? Good to meet you, mate." He shook Justin's hand vigorously. "Kinney can't say anything but good things about you." He wrapped one large hand around Danny's waist. "Danny's husband, Matt."
Justin nodded. "I figured as much. It's a pleasure to meet you, Matt." He glanced into the crowded sitting room. "Jesus, is everyone here?"
Danny nodded. "Pretty much." He gestured into the room. "Last time I looked, he'd been suckered into a game of chess with Carl."
Justin made his way into the room slowly, eyes searching out Brian and finding him in the far corner, brow furrowed in concentration. From the looks of things Carl was kicking his ass.
There was a loud gasp and before he knew it, Debbie was cutting of his air supply in a hug. The room was a cacophony of exclamations and questions. Person after person insisted on hugging him or shaking his hand, asking what he was doing there and how long he was staying.
He finally found Brian standing in front of him with that gleam in his eye that told Justin he was going to pay for not telling him he was coming home. "Yes, Sunshine. What are you doing here and how long are you staying?"
Justin grinned. "It's Christmas, isn't it? You're supposed to spend Christmas with family. And I'm staying…for good."
Brian grabbed him by the waist and before he could say anything, Justin felt lips on his, and breath…and Brian's scent…and he ignored the surprised sounds and cheering from the Peanut gallery…concentrating on losing himself in Brian…
Hours later, laying in their bed, sated, legs tangled with Brian's and his head resting on Brian's stomach, Justin started to laugh.
"Hey." Brian poked his shoulder. "What's with the laughing? I'm going to be insulted if you don't stop."
Justin giggled again, glanced up at Brian, and dropped kisses on his stomach, sliding tongue over skin, tasting salt and sweat…until he reached Brian's mouth, hovering above it for a moment before dropping one, two, three kisses across his lips. "I was just thinking."
"Never a good sign. Ow!" Brian rubbed at the tingling spot where Justin had just hit him. "What's the so brilliant thought you were having?"
Justin leaned his chin on Brian's shoulder, drawing circles across Brian's chest and ignoring the twitching he could see starting under the covers. Brian was so easy. "I was just thinking that you might have some psychic powers or something?"
Brian, in the process of taking a long drag from his cigarette, choked with laughter, and coughed out a, "What the hell are you talking about, Sunshine?"
"It's only time, remember?"
Brian smiled, grabbing the back of Justin's head to pull him closer. It was all there…the years…the promises…everything. Turning away from Justin for a second, he reached into the bedside table drawer, pulling out the box he'd kept hidden for so long. He returned to Justin, seeing the recognition in his eyes as he handed him the box. He kissed Justin long and hard, pulling back and quietly he answered.