"I'm beat," Michael sighed as he yawned.
"Me, too. Who would have thought that signing autographs and sitting at a convention with a bunch of comic book geeks would be so tiring? I'll take an all-nighter painting any day," Justin admitted as he opened his mouth for a full yawn.
"Why Justin, you're one of the comic book geeks," Brian teased as he pulled him in by his shirt, giving him a hard kiss.
Justin smiled at Brian after the kiss. "I guess you like comic book geeks, seeing as how you agreed to spend your Saturday with us," he teased.
Brian stood up tall, shaking his head. "I had to protect my investment. Mikey would have bought every action figure that predated 1980 and you would have purchased every painting in the dealer's room. All the money that I've put into Rage would have been squandered at this little soiree," Brian gently explained. He lifted up the box and placed it on the chair. Grabbing the tape gun, he closed the box and then placed it beside the other three on the floor of their booth area. "It's been a long day and I promised Gus I would take him to the new Alien movie tomorrow."
"You didn't tell me you were going to the movies with Gus," Justin chastised his partner.
"So… I'm telling you now. We're going to the movies tomorrow. Would you like to join us?" Brian snarked, half-seriously.
Shaking his head, Justin said, "No. I am meeting my mom for lunch and taking her to the new Chilhuly exhibit at the Botanical Gardens."
"Twat," Brian retorted as he taped the last of the boxes closed. "Let's load these in the SUV. I guess you were right when you said that an SUV is more practical for your needs, but I will never like being seen in it. It is butt ugly."
Justin carried out a box to the car, clicking on the key fob to unlock and open the trunk without having to put down the box. He shivered in the cold and wiped a few snowflakes from his face. After three trips, the car was loaded and the men were ready to go.
Brian took the snow brush out, clearing the windshield and side windows of the white powder. "I'll drive. The two of you are worn out. All I did was play fetch and look at all the geeky customers all day," Brian teased.
"Lots of those "geeky" customers paid you a few compliments and I saw a number of them trying to get you to join them in a little action on the side," Michael teased him.
"Of course they did. I'm Brian Fucking Kinney. I'll never grow old or so some people tell me," he said, tongue-in-cheek.
"Don't encourage him, Michael. He's got enough of a swelled head as it is," Justin warned.
"I thought you liked my swelled head." Brian pulled Justin in for a quick kiss and a pat on his ass.
"Quit it, you two. I swear, you're like newlyweds and you've been together forever." Michael opened the car door and got in the back seat, saving the front one for Justin.
"You're just jealous as the professor is out of town and you don't have anyone to play with you," Brian reminded him. Brian got in the driver's seat and put on his seat belt. He remembered when he never wore one, but to placate Justin and Gus and their damn PSA's, he started wearing one when Justin returned from New York.
Justin got in the passenger seat, leaned over, and kissed Brian. "Let's go home. I'm beat."
Brian backed out of the parking space and made his way to the highway. The roads were still clear and they were making good time returning home. Justin had closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep.
"Thanks for coming, Brian. You helped out a lot," Michael leaned forward and spoke softly so as not to disturb Justin. "I found some original Bionic Woman action figures and the guy only wanted $20.00 for each of them. I got them for a steal." His smile was almost as big as one of Justinʼs.
"Those cons are dangerous. Youʼre like a kid in a candy store," Brian teased. "Mikey, Iʼm going to go to the Cum and Go by the house. Justin asked me to pick up some milk yesterday and I forgot-got busy with a meeting at work. Heʼll be really pissy if he doesnʼt have milk for his Oreos in the morning."
"Sure. I'm still pretty excited about the con. I promised Ben I would call when I got home to tell him about it," Michael gushed. "I'll take a few zzz's while you get the milk."
Brian turned the car toward the convenience store and was stopped at a light when a car sped through the light, ramming into the passenger side of the car, knocking them into the middle of the intersection. Brian was slammed into the driver side door as he yelled, "Justinnnnnn!"
Brian woke as the rescue paramedic was tapping him on the shoulder.
"Sir. Sir. You've been in an accident," the man repeated.
Brian had been slammed against the door and then fell forward on the steering wheel of the car. He sat up and immediately felt his head, bringing his fingers in front of him to check for blood. Concentrating his thoughts, he tried to remember how he got there and the night's events cascaded through his brain.
"JUSTIN! JUSTIN," he screamed as he frantically looked in the passenger seat for his partner.
"Sir, he's been taken by ambulance to Allegheny General," the paramedic said soothingly.
"Is he…?" Brian couldn't put his thoughts into words.
"We don't know anything, sir. He is alive and so is the passenger in the back."
"Mikey. Oh my God. Mikey and Justin. I…" Brian started to get out of the car, but the paramedic stopped him.
"Sir. We need to bandage your head and you should be checked for a concussion. A stretcher is coming to get you and we'll send you to the hospital."
Brian took several deep breaths and leaned back in the seat. "Just get me to the hospital so I can be with Justin."
The paramedic bandaged Brian's head and the stretcher came, taking Brian to Allegheny General. They wheeled Brian into an exam room and he received five stitches on his forehead. The doctor performed a neurological exam on him.
"You don't appear to have a concussion, but I'd like to keep you overnight to monitor you since you were unconscious. I'll have the nurse call to get you a room."
Brian watched as the doctor left the room, then stood up to leave and search for Justin and Mikey. He got as far as the door when the nurse walked in.
"Mr. Kinney, you need to rest. You were in a bad car accident and shouldn't be walking around," the nurse chastised him.
"I can't rest. My partner and my best friend were in the car. I need to be with them," Brian pleaded.
The nurse handed him a small cup with two tablets in them. "Take these and I'll see what I can find out. You need to rest," she attempted to reassure him.
Brian dutifully took the pills, attempting to lay down on the small bed. She returned shortly to Brian's room.
"Are they okay? Can I go sit with Justin? I promise to just sit in the chair and not move, but I have to be there. This is killing me." Brian gave a half-smile, hoping that would sway the nurse.
Shaking her head, she informed him, "I'm afraid that is not possible. They are both in surgery right now. I'll see what I can do about having you transported to a room. They should be in their rooms by tomorrow and then you'll be able to see them."
"SURGERY! MOTHER FUCKING SON OF A BITCH DRIVER. What kind of surgery? What's wrong with them?"
"I'm sorry. I don't have that information, but I'll check on them and let you know when they get out. Is there anyone you want me to contact for you?"
"SHIT!" Brian looked at the time, seeing that it was 4:00 am. He knew he should tell Jennifer and Ben. "Where's my cell phone? I'll call the people that need to know."
The nurse reached under the cot where Brian's belongings had been stored and handed the bag to him. Brian fished around the bag, locating his cell and punched in the number for Ben.
"Hello?" a sleepy Ben answered the phone.
"Ben…" Brian hesitated a few moments. "There's been an accident and Michael's been hurt. He's in surgery."
Ben woke up quickly when he heard his spouse was in an accident. "Where are you?"
"I'll be on the first plane. Tell him I love him, Brian," Ben directed.
"Okay." Brian hung up the phone, realizing he didn't tell Ben about himself or Justin. Time enough for those revelations. Now to call Jennifer.
He punched in the familiar number, briefly wondering when he had programmed her number into his speed dial which meant she was part of his immediate circle. She picked up right away.
"Jennifer. There's been an accident. Justin was hurt and he's in surgery. We're at Allegheny General," Brian said tiredly.
Jennifer gasped. "OH MY GOD. WHAT HAPPENED? WHEN? HOW? I'LL BE RIGHT THERE," she said as fast as she could, jumping out of bed and putting on her robe. She shook Tucker and he rolled over.
"Jen, you really are insatiable," he softly mumbled as he tried to pull her in for a kiss.
"Tucker, Justin's been in a car accident. I need to get to the hospital," she replied frantically as she walked to the closet to pull out clothing.
Tucker jumped out of bed, running his hands through his hair. "Of course. Iʼll take you." He quickly threw on some clothing, grabbed his keys and wallet and they were in the car less than fifteen minutes after the phone rang.
Arriving at the hospital, they went to the admission's desk.
"I'm Jennifer Taylor. My son Justin was brought in earlier. He was in a car accident," she explained as the tears ran unchecked down her cheeks. "Can you tell me what room he's in?"
The clerk looked in the system. "He's in surgery. He hasn't been assigned a room yet. You can go to the surgery waiting area and the nurses will keep you informed." The clerk pointed to the elevator. "Take those elevators to the third floor and turn to the left."
"Thank you," Jennifer said as she quickly made her way to the familiar area. She looked around for Brian and was surprised not to see him there. She walked toward the nurses' desk to obtain an update. Before she could ask, she overheard another nurse talking.
"Mr. Kinney would like an update on Mr. Taylor and Mr. Novotny. Is there any news?"
"Excuse me," Jennifer addressed the nurses. "I heard you say Mr. Kinney was asking about Mr. Taylor and Mr. Novotny. Mr. Kinney is my son-in-law. Is he hurt too?"
The nurse nodded. "Is there any news on the two men?" she repeated her question.
"They're still in surgery. I'll call down when they get out."
"M'am, I'll take you to Mr. Kinney. If you'll follow me."
Jennifer felt her stomach roil at the thought of Brian also being hurt. At least he was conscious. She hoped he would be able to tell her what happened.
The nurse knocked on the door and a gruff, "Come in" was called from the room.
Jennifer entered the room and immediately went to Brian, clasping his hand in hers. "You didn't say you were hurt too. I was looking for you at the surgery waiting area and I overheard the nurse asking about information on Justin and Michael. What happened? Have you called Debbie and Ben? "
"I called Ben, but not Debbie. Guess I'm not thinking too straight. We were coming home from the Comic Con and a car broadsided us. I woke up when the paramedics roused me. I have no idea what happened with Justin and Mikey-just that they are in surgery." Brian hung his head, the reality too unimaginable to contemplate.
Jennifer wanted to hug him, tell him everything would be okay, but knew Brian was not one for platitudes. Instead she squeezed his hand and kissed him gently on the forehead. "The nurse in the surgery waiting area said she would call your floor nurse when either of them got out of surgery. I'll stay here with you and wait. It's always better to wait with someone." She looked at her watch. "It's five a.m.; I'm going to call Debbie. She'll want to be here when Michael wakes up."
Brian nodded in agreement and then allowed the pain medication to do its job, closing his eyes, and falling into a turbulent sleep.
Jennifer called Debbie, who in turn called Emmett, Melanie, and Ted. Ted offered to pick up Deb and Mel and take them to the hospital, and Em offered to pick up Ben from the airport. Lindsey stayed home with JR. By eight the next morning, all of the Liberty Avenue family except Ben and Emmett were in the waiting room.
The nurse came in to check Brian's vitals. "How are you feeling this morning, Mr. Kinney?" she asked as she wrote the information in his chart.
"I'd be a lot better if I was with Justin. Can I leave now? I'm fine," he responded.
"I'm sure the doctor will be here shortly and you can discuss that with him," she assured him. "The aide should be in with your breakfast in a few minutes. Why don't you eat and wait for the doctor?"
"Whatever. I feel fine. I'm getting dressed," Brian bristled as he got up to locate his clothing.
Jennifer came in to the room just as the nurse was leaving. "I took the liberty of buying you a running suit. Sorry it's not Prada, but they don't seem to carry it in the gift shop," Jennifer joked as she handed him the bag. "Your clothes were ruined and I didn't think you'd want to be running around in a hospital gown. Tucker helped me pick it out, so you can blame him if you don't like it. He had to leave to teach a class; unfortunately, there were no subs available."
Brian took the bag, opening it and pulling out the clothing. ʽBlack is always a good color," he half-joked. Taking the bag into the bathroom, he changed and returned to the main area. "Any word on Justin or Michael?" he asked hopefully.
Shaking her head, she replied, "I checked with the nurse before I came up."
"Damn doctors. I should be down there. He better come soon, or I'm leaving regardless of what they say," Brian announced as he started to pace the room.
The doctor entered the room. "Good to see you up, Mr. Kinney. If you'll take a seat, I'll examine you." The doctor pointed to the chair by the bed.
Jennifer announced, "I'll be outside, Brian."
Brian sat in the chair and allowed the doctor to complete his exam. "Can I go now? I need to be with Justin. I just got a little jarred."
The doctor wrote some additional notes in Brian's chart. "Yes, you are released. I'll send a wheelchair for you. If you experience any double vision, nausea or vomiting, please go to an emergency room immediately."
"Look Doc, I'm not leaving the hospital. Justin is still in surgery and so is my best friend. I'm just going to walk to the fifth floor. I don't need a wheelchair."
Shaking his head, he announced, "Rules. We still have to take you to the entrance in a chair and then you can go wherever you like. I'll let the nurses know to release you." The doctor left the room and Jennifer returned.
"Let's go," Brian said as he started to walk out the door.
The nurse entered the room, carrying his paperwork. "Mr. Kinney, you must sign these forms and I must take you out in a wheelchair. The aide is bringing the chair as we speak. I'm sorry, but it is policy."
"Fucking policy. Just give me the damn forms," he yelled.
She handed him the forms and he quickly scribbled his name. "There. I'll wait ten minutes and if there is no chair, I'm walking out of here no matter what you say," he announced.
Two minutes later, the aide brought his chair and wheeled him down to the entrance to the hospital. Jennifer walked by his side, quiet in her support. He was wheeled outside where he promptly stood up and walked back into the hospital. Walking quickly to the elevator, he pushed the button for the surgery floor. Brian and Jennifer got off the elevator, walking toward the anxious group.