"Dinner was fantastic, Justin," Frank said as he set his rumpled napkin aside. "Where on earth did you learn to cook like that?"
Justin smiled. "My mother taught me some things, but I took a couple classes in college. PIFA has an agreement with Pittsburgh Culinary Academy and they allow students to take electives from the other school."
"You never told me that, Sunshine," Brian said as he helped clear the table.
Justin gave him an impish grin, "I can't give all my secrets away at once, now can I?"
Frank and Jack chuckled at the banter. "I have to tell you Brian, no matter how the presentation goes tomorrow, I am glad that I met you. You and Justin are just…so unique."
"That's one way to put it," Justin said ruefully. But then he gave Brian a fond smile. "But we work, so I guess that's all that matters."
"Any plans to make it official?" Jack asked
Justin had to slap Brian on the back a few times because he had choked on the scotch he'd been swallowing when Jack voiced his completely…outrageous question.
"Knowing Brian, I doubt it," Justin said as he glared at Brian. "You could look a little less disgusted by the idea, though, Brian."
"I… I'm not…" Brian glared at Jack. "This is your fault. Fix it."
Jack just laughed at Brian's predicament while Justin continued to stare down his partner.
"Fine!" Brian huffed. He walked from the kitchen area to the bedroom. The others all listened as Brian opened a drawer, shuffled some things around, and then slammed it closed again. He stomped back down the stairs and handed a blue velvet box to Justin. "Here."
Justin stared at Brian with confusion creasing his forehead. He looked from the box to Brian to the box and back to Brian again. "What?"
Brian's anger seemed to have disappeared in an instant as he smirked at his lover. "I was going to wait for the perfect moment. But I hate all that sentimental shit. So? You gonna open the fucking box or am I taking it back to the jewelers?'
"I…" Justin swallowed and shook his head. He looked down at the box in his hand once more. Very carefully he used his other hand to lift the lid. Inside were two identical platinum rings. Each had a design etched into the polished center band, with brushed metal bands on either side. And there was a large single diamond set into each ring as well. "Are those cowry shells?"
Brian shrugged. "I like cowry shells. They represent prosperity, life and luck. "
Justin nodded. He knew that. "Is this for real?"
"As real as it fucking gets Sunshine," Brian said quietly.
Justin nodded again and looked at Brian with steady eyes. "Then yes."
Brian swept Justin into his arms and they forgot for a few brief moments that they weren't alone. When they did finally break apart for air, they realized that there were people clapping. Right.
Brian turned to Jack and Frank and for the first time looked flustered. "Um…"
"It's fine Brian," Jack assured him. "But we should toast to the newly engaged couple!"
"Do we have any champagne?" Justin asked.
"There are a couple bottles at the bottom of the wine cooler," Brian said. "They won't be ice cold, but at least they're chilled."
Minutes later, the four men each had champagne flutes and were drinking toasts to Brian and Justin. Justin served the chocolate and strawberry torte and they finished the evening on a much brighter note than it had begun.
Justin waited impatiently for Brian in his office at Kinnetik the next evening. They were scheduled to go out and celebrate tonight, but Brian's meeting had run over time and Justin was getting anxious. It was now after seven and Brian and Frank and their various people had been in the conference room since ten that morning. Justin couldn't be sure if that was a good or bad sign. Had Frank liked the concepts? Could they really make the whole plan work? Or would they delay their celebration over the engagement because the deal fell through? Justin had no delusions that Frank would push the deal through out of friendship, no matter how well they all seemed to get along. He hadn't made it to where he was today by letting his personal life interfere with business.
When the door to Brian's office opened and Frank came in with Brian, both with wide smiles on their faces, Justin had to sigh in relief.
"Justin, you have yourself a very smart man," Frank said. "That was one of the best, most creative and innovative concepts I have ever seen. He's going far in this world."
"I know a good thing when I see it," Justin said. "Then again, I'd probably take him even if he was a pauper."
Brian snorted but remained silent as he grabbed clean clothes from his closet and headed to his private bathroom to change.
"Brian said you were going out tonight to celebrate your engagement," Frank said. "Now you'll have two things to celebrate."
"I'm so glad," Justin said sincerely. "Not just because of the business. I was really hoping that you and Jack would have an excuse to come see us again, and now you do."
"Well, we have my goddaughter's party tomorrow afternoon and we fly out in the evening," Frank said. "So we won't see you again this trip, but I can promise you that Jack will insist on coming to visit again. And I know you are in New York often for your shows. You'll have to let us know when you're in town and we'll return the favor. Jack isn't as good a cook as you, but he does have a few tricks up his sleeve."
"We'd love that," Brian said from the bathroom doorway. He was now out of his Armani suit and into tight fitting black jeans and a black tank.
"I take it when you said you are celebrating, you didn't mean dinner at a fancy restaurant," Frank asked with some humor.
"We're going to Babylon," Justin said with a bright smile. "We met right outside of the club the first time. And we really do love to dance."
"Among other things," Brian said suggestively and he stood behind Justin, closer than was probably appropriate given their location and company.
"Well, you have fun," Frank said. "And maybe Jack and I will have to check out this club for ourselves next time we're in town."
They said their goodbyes and parted ways.
"We have one stop to make before we hit the club," Brian told Justin.
Justin wasn't too surprised when they headed in the direction of Debbie's place. Justin had told his mother of their engagement over lunch earlier in the day. Now it was time to tell Brian's de facto mother.
"Sunshine! Brian! What are you doing here?" Debbie asked when she found them on her doorstep. Then she frowned. "Is something wrong? Somebody die?"
"Let us in the fucking house and we'll tell you," Brian groused. "It's cold out here." Debbie slapped his arm but stepped back.
"So?" Debbie asked. "You two never come over here unannounced. What gives?"
Brian looked at Justin and the blond shrugged. This was his to tell. Brian scowled, but then turned a sunny smile back to Debbie. "We're getting married."
"What?" Debbie's voice raised several octaves. "You're shittin' me!"
"Nope," Brian denied and pulled the chain out of his shirt so she could see the band there, waiting to be placed on Justin's finger whenever they got the ceremony arranged. "He's got one too. Show her Sunshine."
Justin rolled his eyes. He knew that Brian was trying to deflect over to Justin the death hugs that were certain to come. But he pulled his matching chain from his t-shirt and let Debbie inspect it.
"Fuck these are gorgeous," Debbie whispered. She looked up at Justin and asked, "You're really getting' married?"
"We are," Justin confirmed.
And there it was. Justin could hardly breathe as Debbie tried to crush him with her love and affection. Just when he thought he might pass out, however, she let go and went after Brian. He bore his turn stoically and then patted Debbie's back as she began to cry.
"My boys are all growing up," Debbie said. "And you! I never thought I'd see the day you settled down Brian Kinney! And now you're getting married to Sunshine. I knew he was going to turn your world upside down the minute I saw him."
"Me too, Deb," Brian said as he looked Justin in the eyes. "Me too."
Babylon was alive with people, even on a Thursday night. Brian had called their friends and told them all that they had to go out tonight, so the whole gang had come out, including Mel and Lindsey. They were gathered at the bar under the catwalk when Brian and Justin finally walked in, twenty minutes late. It was obvious they had stopped some place to fuck. But that wasn't anything new.
"Why are we all here?" Lindsey asked after everyone had exchanged hellos.
Brian smirked, "To drink, to dance, to have a good time?"
"I think she wanted to know why you asked us to come," Ted said dryly.
"Oh, that," Brian shrugged. "To celebrate with us."
"Did you get that big account?" Lindsey wondered.
"Yes, but that isn't the news," Brian huffed and turned to Justin. "They don't listen to me. You tell them."
"They're your friends," Justin said wryly.
"We're both your friends, Honey," Emmett said, his voice filled with meaning. "Now tell us what the big news is! I can't stand the suspense!"
Justin smiled and said, "Brian and I are getting married."
There was absolute silence from the group. As the silence lingered, Brian's smirk slowly transformed into a scowl. "Let's go Justin."
"Wait!" Emmett cried out. "Don't leave. We were all just surprised. It's wonderful news! Congratulations!"
He hugged Justin and then Brian and soon the others were all taking their turns congratulating the couple.
"Christ Justin," Mel said when she had her turn with the blond. "I don't know how you did it."
"Did what?" Justin asked.
"Tamed the beast," Mel said. "Turned Brian into a semi-decent man."
Justin chuckled. "I haven't done a thing. Brian's still the same guy he always was."
Mel looked to Lindsey who was listening to their conversation and the blond shook her head. "No, Mel's right. Brian's… softer now. He's spends more time with Gus. He's more considerate."
"He still drinks too much by most people's standards," Justin pointed out. "He still tricks. He's still ruthless in business. He's still the same man I fell in love with."
"Well, yeah," Mel said. "But he's got this softer side too."
"He's always had that," Justin said and looked at the women as though they should know that. And perhaps they should. "The first night we met, it was my first time. Brian was so… gentle and affectionate. Do you really think I fell in love with him after one night because he looks good and can fuck like a god? I loved him because he made love to me and showed me a side of himself that apparently even his closest friends don't get to see."
"I knew he could be tender with me and Gus sometimes," Lindsey said. "But I just…"
"Never thought he could be that way with anyone else?" Justin asked.
Lindsey shrugged and Mel looked like they were both crazy. Brian came over then to steal Justin away.
"Dance with me," Brian said.
"Only if you promise to fuck me like an animal when we get home," Justin said loud enough for their friends to hear.
"Always, Sunshine," Brian promised.
They hit the floor and danced in a way that had every head turning toward them. They were free and in love and they exuded happiness and sexuality in a way that could not be ignored.
Back at the bar, however, one particular person was still in denial. "He had to have tricked him into it."
"Michael," Ben said in warning. "You know that isn't true. Brian is perfectly capable of making a rational decision. And if he hears you talking like this, he's going to call off the truce you've come to. Let it go. For your sake. For our marriage's sake. Let him go."
Michael looked at Ben as though seeing him for the first time. "Our marriage? But…"
And then it finally hit him what he had done to Ben. He may never understand the pain he put Justin through, but he could see what he was doing to Ben and he was ashamed. "Oh, god. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Ben hugged his husband and let him work through his emotions in his own time. Maybe this would be the way for Michael to finally get over Brian or maybe he'd be back to his old ways next week. Ben didn't know how it would all turn out, but he was willing to see it through to the end, whenever that end might be.
Brian had Justin in his arms as they swayed to the soft music drifting through the doorway. They had closed Babylon down, drinking, dancing and fucking (each other and a few choice tricks), but continued their celebration back at the loft. They were slow-dancing on the deck and watching the sun rise over the city while the dogs danced at their feet, enjoying the easy mood and the music.
"I love you," Brian told Justin. He didn't say it often, but he always meant it when he said it.
"I know," Justin said with a small smirk. "I love you too."
"I know," Brian said, returning Justin's smirk with a grin before capturing his lover's lips. "So, what do you think of a Christmas wedding?"
A/N: Well, that's the end of this QaF story. So you don't get too discouraged or go into withdrawl, I'm going to post a one-shot called Gunned Down today as well as starting to post a House fic tomorrow called Baby Mikey (I love that story...it's really worth the read even if you aren't the biggest House fan). And then I'll begin posting another QaF fic called Running after I finish posting my HP fic called Nesting (should only be 5 more days). Let see, Gunned Down is a sad fic... I lost count the times I cried writing it. I cried writing the beginning of Running too, but I think that was just hormones. After that... well, I don't actually have anything else close to being completed right now. I'll have to get back to finding good plot bunnies. Thanks to all of you for reading and a special thanks to those who reviewed! It really is appreciated. Jules